SANFORD, Florida (AP) -- A jury on Friday began deliberating the fate of neighborhood watch volunteer charged in the killing of black teenager in a case that provoked protests in the U.S. and a wide ranging debate over issues of race and self-defense.
Before the jury got the case, George 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 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in self-defense.
Attorney Mark O'Mara used the slab to make the point that it could be used as a weapon. He showed 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.
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He said prosecutors hadn't met their burden of proving Zimmerman's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, he said, the murder 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 one of fear as Zimmerman followed him in a neighborhood of townhomes on a rainy night 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 will have to sort through a lot conflicting testimony from police, neighbors, friends and family members. 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 police emergency 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.
RELATED: Trayvon Martin case brings self-defense laws into focus
Allowing the jurors to consider manslaughter could give those who aren't convinced the shooting amounted to murder a way to hold Zimmerman responsible for the death of the unarmed teen.
With the verdict drawing near, police and city leaders in Sanford and other parts of Florida said they have taken precautions for the possibility of mass protests or even civil unrest if Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Hispanic, is acquitted.
There were big protests in Sanford and other cities across the country last year when authorities waited 44 days before arresting Zimmerman.
Guy told the jury the case wasn't about race.
"It's about right and wrong," he said. "It's that simple."
©2007 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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