News / USA

Zimmerman Trial Wrapping Up

Zimmerman Trial Wrapping Upi
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July 11, 2013 9:45 PM
An emotional criminal trial in the southern U.S., that has put the issues of race and guns in the crosshairs is drawing to a close. Jurors are expected to start weighing the evidence on Friday ((are weighing the evidence)) in the case against George Zimmerman, charged with killing a black teenager a year and a half ago. VOA's Jeff Seldin reports the repercussions may extend far beyond the courtroom.
An emotional criminal trial in the southern U.S., that has put the issues of race and guns in the crosshairs is drawing to a close. Jurors are expected to start weighing the evidence on Friday in the case against George Zimmerman, charged with killing a black teenager a year-and-a-half ago.  The repercussions may extend far beyond the courtroom.

For nearly two weeks jurors have been hearing what happened in this gated Florida community the night George Zimmerman went on patrol as a neighborhood watch coordinator and encountered 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Police dispatchers in a phone call told Zimmerman to back off.

There was a fight.  Trayvon Martin lay dead. George Zimmerman claimed it was self defense. And for a time, there were no criminal charges.

After angry protests, the state charged Zimmerman with murder.

“Race is unfortunately still a very close to the surface issue in this case," said Jennifer Page, who has been a prosecutor and is now a criminal defense attorney.  

“The prosecution and the police did not charge George Zimmerman for 44 days which to the black community in Florida was taken as a sign that the life of this young black man did not count for much," she said.

During the final days of testimony, Zimmerman's attorneys bolstered the self-defense claim by demonstrating to jurors how they say their client was forced to fight for his life.

"Were the injuries on Mr. Zimmerman, the back of his head, consistent with someone doing this," asked his lawyer.

Prosecutors argue Martin was visiting his father's fiancée and that Zimmerman picked him out for the way he was dressed - in a gray hoodie similar to this one - deciding then and there that Martin was a dangerous black man who had to be stopped.

Zimmerman faces life behind bars if convicted.  But with a case that has touched on racial sensitivities, some Florida police departments are preparing for more protests - and even violence - if the verdict goes the other way.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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