Florida Jury Deliberates Second Day In Zimmerman Case

by
Reuters
Relatives waited anxiously for a Florida jury huddled for a second day on Saturday to decide the fate of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in a murder trial that has sparked debate over race and gun violence.

Relatives waited anxiously for a Florida jury huddled for a second day on Saturday to decide the fate of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in a murder trial that has sparked debate over race and gun violence.

The panel of six women, sequestered since the trial began last month, is deciding among second-degree murder, manslaughter or acquittal for Zimmerman, who says he shot the teen in self-defense.

Zimmerman, 29, claimed Martin attacked him on the rainy night of Feb. 26, 2012, in the central Florida town of Sanford, where Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch coordinator in his gated community.

Prosecutors contend Zimmerman was a "wannabe cop" who tracked down the teenager, who was visiting the home of his father's fiancee, and shot him without justification.

Ronald Fulton, Martin's wheelchair-bound uncle who was close to the slain 17-year-old, said on Saturday that waiting for a verdict was one of the hardest things to do.

"It's like everybody wants to know the next step of what's happening, and that's why it's so tense," the 50-year-old Fulton told Reuters in a phone interview from his Miami home.

"If he is acquitted ... what would be the recourse from that?" Fulton asked. "These things are weighing on me heavily."

The jury, which must reach a unanimous verdict, heard 12 days of testimony and two days of closing arguments under Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson.

The panel deliberated more than three hours on Friday and began again on Saturday morning. On Friday, the jurors asked the judge for a full inventory of evidence in the case.

 

JURY HARD AT WORK

David Weinstein, a Miami-based defense attorney and former prosecutor, said it was too early in the deliberations to think the jury was doing anything other than taking its job seriously.

"This was not a simple one- or two-day trial," he said. "The fact that there have been no questions (about the case) means that they are still actively deliberating and that their discussions are productive."

The judge said she will allow the jurors to set their own working hours. The six women worked through lunch on Saturday.

To convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder, which could lead to a sentence of life in prison, the jury must find he acted with ill will, spite or hatred.

The jury could opt for manslaughter, which has a lesser burden of culpable negligence and carries a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

Zimmerman's family appealed for calm, whatever the verdict, saying they had complete trust in the U.S. justice system.

"As we await a verdict, we will remain hopeful and ask for the public to remain peaceful no matter the outcome," they said in a statement on Friday to CNN. "The judicial system has run its course, pray for justice, pray for peace, pray for our country."

The case started on the night in February when Zimmerman called police to report a suspicious person, who was Martin, and a fight broke out between the two.

Zimmerman suffered several head injuries in the tussle, which ended when he shot Martin once through the heart with a Kel Tec 9 mm pistol fully loaded with hollow-point bullets.

Police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman, believing his account of self-defense. That provoked demonstrations, which spread nationwide, accusing Zimmerman of racial profiling and demanding his arrest. He was charged with second-degree murder 45 days after the shooting.

The case drew the attention of President Barack Obama, who said, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."

Local Sanford police said they did not expect violence after the verdict but were prepared for any eventuality.