Jury in Zimmerman trial stops deliberating for night

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — With police and civic

leaders urging calm, a jury began deliberating George Zimmerman's fate

Friday after

hearing dueling portraits of the neighborhood watch captain: a cop

wannabe who took the law into his own hands or a well-meaning

volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin because he feared for his life.

As the jury got the murder case, police in this Orlando suburb went on national television to plead for peace in Sanford and

across the country, no matter what the verdict.

"There is no party in this case who wants to

see any violence," Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said. "We have

an expectation

upon this announcement that our community will continue to act


During closing arguments, Zimmerman's lawyers put a concrete slab and two life-size cardboard cutouts in front of the jury

box in one last attempt to convince the panel Zimmerman shot the unarmed black 17-year-old in self-defense while his head

was being slammed against the pavement.

Attorney Mark O'Mara used the slab to make

the point that it could serve as a weapon. He showed the cutouts of

Zimmerman and

Martin to demonstrate that the teenager was considerably taller.

And he displayed a computer-animated depiction of the fight

based on Zimmerman's account.

He said prosecutors hadn't met their burden of proving Zimmerman's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, he said, the

case was built on "could've beens" and "maybes."

"If it hasn't been proven, it's just not there," O'Mara said. "You can't fill in the gaps. You can't connect the dots. You're

not allowed to."

In a rebuttal, prosecutor John Guy accused Zimmerman of telling "so many lies." He said Martin's last emotion was fear as

Zimmerman followed him through the gated townhouse community on the rainy night of Feb. 26, 2012.

"Isn't that every child's worst nightmare, to be followed on the way home in the dark by a stranger?" Guy said. "Isn't that

every child's worst fear?"

One juror, a young woman, appeared to wipe away a tear as Guy said nothing would ever bring back Martin.

The sequestered jury of six women — all but one of them white — will have to sort through a lot of conflicting testimony from

police, neighbors, friends and family members.

Jurors deliberated for three and a half hours when they decided to stop Friday evening. About two hours into their discussions,

they asked for a list of the evidence. They will resume deliberations Saturday morning.

Witnesses gave differing accounts of who was on top during the struggle, and Martin's parents and Zimmerman's parents both

claimed that the voice heard screaming for help in the background of a 911 call was their son's.

Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second-degree murder, but the jury will also be allowed to consider manslaughter. Under Florida's

laws involving gun crimes, manslaughter could end up carrying a penalty as heavy as the one for second-degree murder: life

in prison.

The judge's decision to allow the jury to consider manslaughter was a potentially heavy blow to the defense: It could give

jurors who aren't convinced the shooting amounted to murder a way to hold Zimmerman responsible for the killing.

To win a manslaughter conviction, prosecutors must show only that Zimmerman killed without lawful justification.

O'Mara dismissed the prosecution's

contention that Zimmerman was a "crazy guy" patrolling his townhouse

complex and "looking

for people to harass" when he saw Martin. O'Mara also disputed

prosecutors' claim that Zimmerman snapped when he saw Martin

because there had been a rash of break-ins in the neighborhood,

mostly by young black men.

The defense attorney said Zimmerman at no point showed ill will, hatred or spite during his confrontation with Martin — which

is what prosecutors must prove for second-degree murder.

"That presumption isn't based on any fact whatsoever," O'Mara said.

In contrast, prosecutors argued Zimmerman

showed ill will when he whispered profanities to a police dispatcher

over his cellphone

while following Martin through the neighborhood. They said

Zimmerman "profiled" the teenager as a criminal.

Guy said Zimmerman violated the cornerstone of neighborhood watch volunteer programs, which is to observe and report, not

follow a suspect.

Zimmerman's account of how he grabbed his gun from his holster at his waist as Martin straddled him is physically impossible,

Guy said.

"The defendant didn't shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to; he shot him because he wanted to," Guy said. "That's the bottom


But to invoke self-defense, Zimmerman only had to believe he was facing great bodily harm, his attorney said. He asked jurors

not to let their sympathies for Martin's parents interfere with their decision.

"It is a tragedy, truly," O'Mara said. "But you can't allow sympathy."

With the verdict drawing near, police and

city leaders in Sanford and other parts of Florida said they have taken


for the possibility of mass protests or even civil unrest if

Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Hispanic,

is acquitted.

Zimmerman's brother, Robert, said in a statement he hoped the public would remain calm.

"Though we maintain George committed no crime whatsoever, we acknowledge that the people who called for George's arrest and

subsequent trial have now witnessed both events come to pass," he said. "We hope now that as Americans we will all respect

the rule of law, which begins with respecting the verdict.

There were big protests in Sanford and other

cities across the country last year when authorities waited 44 days

before arresting


About a dozen protesters, most of them from outside central Florida, gathered outside the courthouse as the jury deliberated.

Martin supporters outnumbered those for Zimmerman.