“Juries are famous for coming back with compromised verdicts, which means they have different ideas about what the evidence is,” says Bob Dekle, a trial expert and law professor at the University of Florida, in Gainesville. “But even in those cases, what often happens is they work out a middle ground, which in this case could be manslaughter.”
According to Dekle, Zimmerman has a solid self-defense case, given injuries to his nose and face. But the jury, he says, may also, within the boundaries of manslaughter, find that he exhibited “culpable negligence” – in other words, that his negligent decisions set in motion a series of events that culminated with the death of a person legally defined as a child.
"What is that when a grown man, frustrated, angry, with hate in his heart, gets out of his car with a loaded gun and follows a child?” said prosecutor John Guy, who had the last word to the jury before they took the case Friday. “A stranger? In the dark? And shoots him through his heart? What is that?"
The defense says it was Martin who stalked Zimmerman after Zimmerman got out of his car to look for an address, sucker punched him, and then beat his head on a concrete sidewalk. Though he had gone to a boxing gym for 18 months, Zimmerman, who had 40 pounds on the 158 pound Trayvon, didn’t have the physical ability or technical prowess to fight back, witnesses said.
“How many ‘coulda beens’ have you heard from the state in this case,” defense attorney Mark O’Mara queried the jury. “Do not give anybody the benefit of the doubt except for George Zimmerman.”
Trayvon Martin, of course, could not testify, as the prosecutors maintained more than once. Zimmerman chose not to testify, allowing previously recorded interviews with police and media to speak for him in the courtroom. Judge Debra Nelson told jurors that they could not allow Zimmerman’s decision to remain silent sway their verdict.