THE BLOG

Day 12 of the Zimmerman Trial: The Defence Rests

07/11/2013 12:33 EDT | Updated 09/10/2013 05:12 EDT

1) George Zimmerman Doesn't Testify

The defence rested its case after calling Robert Zimmerman who identified his son's voice crying for help on the 911 telephone call. He was the ninth defence witness to identify George Zimmerman's voice on the call. Prior to resting its case, Zimmerman informed Judge Debra Nelson that after consulting with his attorneys, he decided not to testify at his trial. The decision was not a surprise given that the jury has a number of recorded statements and a video re-enactment where Zimmerman's account of self defence in his struggle with Trayvon Martin is fully established. Zimmerman had ignored legal advice when he gave a damaging pre-trial interview to Sean Hannity of Fox News and he learned from his mistake.

2) Break-In in Zimmerman's Neighbourhood

Olivia Bertalan, a former neighbour of Zimmerman's, testified about a terrifying break-in in her home six months prior to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Bertalan hid in her upstairs bedroom carrying her child and a rusty pair of scissors as two young black men entered her home and stole her laptop and camera. Zimmerman checked on her after the break-in, gave her a new lock for her door and invited her to stay with his wife for comfort. Bertalan's evidence was important to the defence for two reasons. She proved that there was a serious problem with crime in the area and portrayed Zimmerman as a caring and responsible participant in the neighbourhood watch program and not as a vigilante.

3) The Changing Prosecution Theory

The prosecution theory advanced during the trial was that George Zimmerman was the aggressor and was on top of Trayvon Martin prior to shooting him. In his opening statement, prosecutor John Guy told the jury that Zimmerman spun a web of lies when he claimed that Trayvon Martin had punched him and knocked him to the ground. On the 12th day of the trial, John Guy cross-examined a defence witness, Dennis Root, an expert on defensive use of force. Using a grey foam dummy as a courtroom prop, Grey attempted to demonstrate that if Martin was straddling on top of Zimmerman, Zimmerman would have been unable to reach for his gun holstered at his waist. The purpose of the demonstration was to show the jury that Trayvon Martin was on top of Zimmerman but was attempting to leave the fight when he was shot. Such a dramatic shift in the prosecution's theory after 56 witnesses completed their testimony was a sure sign that the prosecutors recognized that they were losing the trial.

4) Ruling on Text Messages

Judge Nelson ruled that a series of text messages located on Trayvon Martin's cellphone relating to guns and fighting were excluded from the trial because they couldn't be authenticated. One of the text messages attributed to Martin indicated that he lost the first round of a fight but won the second and third rounds. In another message a friend wrote, ''Babe, why you always fighting?'' The judge's ruling was a setback to the defence. The text messages could have erased the jurors' possible doubts about a slender teenager's ability to win a fight with George Zimmerman.

5) Manslaughter and Aggravated Assault

The prosecution informed the judge that it is seeking a ruling leaving the two less serious charges of manslaughter and aggravated assault as possible verdicts in the case. The defence will argue strenuously against the prosecutors' request at a hearing this morning. The judge's anticipated decision to allow the additional charges to be left with the jury will be followed by the lead prosecutor's closing address this afternoon. The defence is properly concerned that the lesser charge of manslaughter provides the jury with a path to a compromise verdict. The sentence for manslaughter in a case where a gun is used in the crime attracts a heavy penalty similar to second degree murder. In a case where the evidence overwhelmingly supports self defence, the three prosecutors in the case have likely concluded that manslaughter is their only attainable goal.

6) Trayvon Martin's Parents

Trayvon Martin's parents made a gracious public plea for a non-violent response through their lawyer urging everyone ''not to take the law into their own hands.'' The sequestered jury will begin its deliberations on Friday afternoon and a verdict should be reached by the weekend.

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