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Closing arguments set in US teen’s murder trial

July 10, 2013

SANFORD, Florida (AP) — Closing arguments were set to begin Thursday in a U.S. murder trial that raised issues of race and self-defense gun laws over a deadly confrontation between a neighborhood watch volunteer and an unarmed black teenager.

George Zimmerman’s defense attorneys rested their case Wednesday. Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, saying he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense during a nighttime scuffle in February 2012 in his gated community, where Martin was visiting family. Zimmerman did not testify.

The judge said the case could be sent to jurors late Thursday or Friday.

The case drew national protests after some civil rights activists argued that the 44-day delay in arresting Zimmerman was influenced by Martin’s race. Martin was black and Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

Jurors have seen repeated video recordings of Zimmerman telling his side of the story to police investigators.

One key question has been whether it was Martin or Zimmerman heard screaming for help on a police call that captured their fatal fight.

Defense attorneys called Zimmerman’s friends, parents and uncle to testify that it was Zimmerman screaming. Martin’s mother and brother had testified that it was Martin.

Determining who screamed would help jurors evaluate Zimmerman’s self-defense claim.

Prosecutor John Guy also used a life-sized foam mannequin in front of the jury to simulate the body positions of Zimmerman and Martin at the time of the shooting.

Defense attorney Mark O’Mara told reporters that Zimmerman wanted to testify but his attorneys felt he had already told his version of events in multiple police interviews played for jurors.

“I think he really wanted to be able to interact with this jury and say to them ‘This is what I did and this is why I did it. And as importantly, this is what was happening to me at the time that I decided to do what I had to do,’” O’Mara said. “So in that sense, yes, I think he wanted to tell his story.”

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