News Column

Zimmerman's 'Innocence' Proved to Jurors, Defense Asserts

July 12, 2013

The defense attorney in the George Zimmerman trial told jurors Friday he would prove to them his client was "innocent."

In closing arguments before the jury begins deliberations, Mark O'Mara said it's "more important that innocence be protected than that the guilty be punished," the Orlando Sentinel reported.

While the state had to show Zimmerman was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, O'Mara said he was going to "take on the obligation of proving to you that my client is innocent."

He showed the jury a computer-animated re-enactment of what the defense contends happened the night Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin.

Admitting the animation was "somewhat made up," O'Mara said it "does give an idea, a perspective, that at least is consistent with the evidence presented in the case."

Judge Debra Nelson had earlier ruled the animation could not be presented as evidence during the trial, but allowed the defense to show it during closing arguments as a visual aid.

O'Mara urged jurors not to make assumptions, cautioning them not to "fill in any gaps" that might favor the state's case.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Friday afternoon, and Florida police say they are poised to quell any violence arising from the verdict.

"We've got great sheriffs, police chiefs, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement," Gov. Rick Scott told WPEC-TV, West Palm Beach.

"I've been in contact with them. They're ready for whatever happens," he said.

The jury of six women -- five of them white -- must decide if Zimmerman, 29, committed second-degree murder or manslaughter or acted in self-defense when he killed Martin, 17, who was black, in a gated community on a rainy night Feb. 26, 2012.

If convicted, Zimmerman could face life in prison for second-degree murder and a possible 30 years for manslaughter with a firearm.

Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson Thursday ruled the jury would be able to consider manslaughter as a lesser charge.

Martin, walking from a convenience store to the home of his father's fiancee, was unarmed. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was carrying a gun.

O'Mara's closing was expected to last 3 hours, followed by a prosecution rebuttal.

The jury would then begin deliberating following instructions from Nelson.

Jurors heard the closing argument from Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda Thursday.

De la Rionda's argument was that Zimmerman, who is presumed innocent by the court, did not give the same benefit of the doubt to Martin.

Zimmerman "automatically assumed that Trayvon Martin was a criminal," de la Rionda told the jury in a 2-hour closing statement in the Seminole County Courthouse. "And that's why we're here."

Martin "was wearing a hoodie," de la Rionda said. "Last I heard, that's not against the law. But in this man's eyes, he was up to no good."

He pointed out Zimmerman had called police, saying he believed Martin was suspicious and noted there had been break-ins in the neighborhood.

"The defense may say, 'Oh, he was just angry,'" de la Rionda said. "Well, you decide. I would decide that's more than a little angry. That's frustration, ill will, hatred. You've made up your mind it's a criminal, and you're tired of criminals."

Martin "is dead," de la Rionda said. "He is dead through no fault of his own. He is dead because another man made assumptions. Because his assumptions were wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks on this earth."

Source: Copyright UPI 2013

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