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George Zimmerman trial: Defense team makes its final pitch to jury

6:25 AM, Jul 12, 2013   |    comments
George Zimmerman. (Photo: Pool Getty Images)
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Yamiche Alcindor, USA TODAY

SANFORD, Fla.-- George Zimmerman's attorneys will get one last chance Friday to convince a jury that the former neighborhood watch volunteer killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in self defense.

Mark O'Mara, one of Zimmerman's lawyers, was expected to argue in a closing statement that his client is a conscientious citizen who fired a fatal bullet into a teen while fighting for his life. Prosecutors gave part of their closing arguments Thursday and will also likely get to present a statement Friday after O'Mara wraps.

"Self-defense is self-defense," O'Mara has said. "What happened out there was not a crime."

Following the closing statements, the jury will then decide whether Zimmerman, 29, charged with killing Trayvon, 17, in a gated community, should be acquitted or convicted of second-degree murder or manslaughter. The murder charge carries a potential life prison term and the maximum penalty in Florida for manslaughter is 30 years.

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda told the jury Thursday that Trayvon was an innocent teenager who is now dead because Zimmerman wrongly assumed the teen was a criminal and murdered him. Prosecutors throughout the trial have portrayed Zimmerman as a lying "wanna-be cop" who followed Trayvon even after a police dispatcher told him via cell phone that pursuit was not necessary.

"A teenager is dead. He's dead through no fault of his own," de la Rionda said to jurors. "He's dead because another man made an assumption."

Zimmerman's defense team maintains that Trayvon was the aggressor and that Zimmerman shot him in self-defense during a struggle in which the teenager repeatedly bashed Zimmerman's head into a concrete sidewalk.

The case has gripped the nation since the shooting happened on Feb. 26, 2012 and Zimmerman initially was not charged with a crime.

Protests ensued in several cities, including New York, by supporters of Trayvon's family. Many protesters voiced the opinion that Trayvon was targeted and killed for racial reasons. Trayvon is black and Zimmerman is Hispanic. Later, State Attorney Angela Corey stepped in and charged Zimmerman with murder.

USA TODAY

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