In Closing, Zimmerman Defense Attorney Urges Jury Not to 'Connect the Dots'

A jury of six women will now decide the fate of George Zimmerman, on trial for the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. In his closing argument, defense lawyer Mark O'Mara insisted that Zimmerman acted out of self-defense. He urged the jury not to let their sympathy influence the verdict. Judy Woodruff reports.


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JUDY WOODRUFF: The testimony is over, closing arguments are done, and now it's the jury's turn. Six women in Sanford, Fla., began deliberating this afternoon in the case of a neighborhood watch volunteer accused of murdering an unarmed teenager on Feb. 26, 2012.

MARK O'MARA, attorney for George Zimmerman: I have never said this in a criminal trial before. I have never heard it being said before. I almost wish that the verdict had guilty, not guilty, and completely innocent, because I would ask you to check that one.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Defense attorney Mark O'Mara used his close to insist again that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense and to reject any suggestion that he had it in for Trayvon Martin.

Instead, O'Mara argued it was Martin who went looking for trouble that night. He pointed to the four minutes between the time the 17-year-old initially ran from Zimmerman and when he stopped running.

MARK O'MARA: The person who decided that this is going to continue, that it was going to become a violent event was the guy without didn't go home when he had the chance to. It was the guy who decided to lie in wait, I guess, plan his move, it seems, decide what he was going to do, and went.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Martin was unarmed but the defense lawyer argued the teenager still had potential weapons at his disposal and that he used them.

MARK O'MARA: But that is cement. That is the sidewalk. And that is not an unarmed teenager with nothing but Skittles trying to get home. That was somebody who has used the availability of dangerous items, from his fists to the concrete, to cause great bodily injury.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The prosecution says Zimmerman profiled Martin, assumed he was a criminal, and actively pursued him, leading to the fatal shooting.

But O'Mara told the jurors that the case is full of could-have-beens and maybes, and he warned jurors not to do the prosecutors' work for them.

MARK O'MARA: You can't fill in the gaps. You can't connect the dots for the state attorney's office in this case. You're not allowed to. This is their burden. They have to take away reasonable doubt.

They have to look at this case and say to you, ladies and gentlemen of this jury, hi, we're the state. We have proved this case beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt, because we have connected every dot that fall into line that leads to nothing but conviction.

And they just didn't.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ultimately, said O'Mara, the killing of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy, but he said the jury must not let sympathy influence the verdict.

In his rebuttal, prosecutor John Guy acknowledged the case and the evidence may not be perfect, but, he argued:

JOHN GUY, Florida District attorney: It is enough, with your common sense. It is enough. And I'm not asking you to fill gaps. I'm asking you to do what you do every day. Start from the beginning, get to the end, and apply your common sense.

JUDY WOODRUFF: With that, it fell to Judge Debra Nelson to instruct the six-woman jury on the main charge of second-degree murder or the lesser charge of manslaughter.

JUDGE DEBRA NELSON, 18th Circuit Court of Florida: In considering the evidence, you should consider the possibility that although the evidence may not convince you that George Zimmerman committed the main crime of which he is accused, there may be evidence that he committed other acts that would constitute lesser included crimes.

Therefore, if you decide that the main accusation has not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, you will next need to decide if George Zimmerman is guilty of any lesser included crimes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The case then went to the juror to sort out the often conflicting testimony, and the waiting began. Law enforcement and community leaders in Sanford, Florida, have called for calm, no matter what the verdict turns out to be.