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Deliberations continue in US murder trial

Murder trial of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black teenager, which caused controversy throughout the US, proceeds

Last Modified: 13 Jul 2013 00:25
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George Zimmerman, 29, says he shot Martin in self-defense after he was attacked on the rainy night last year [Reuters]

A US jury has returned for a second day to decide its verdict of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

The Florida jury continued deliberations on Saturday after the judge instructed them to begin the process the previous day over whether Zimmerman acted in self-defence, and with justifiable use of deadly force, when he fatally shot Trayvon Martin last year.

Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson told the panel of six women jurors on Friday that they can also consider the lesser charge of manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years.

The 29-year-old former neighborhood watch volunteer could face up to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder for shooting Martin through the heart at point-blank range during a confrontation in a gated community in this central Florida town on Feb. 26, 2012.

Lead defense lawyer Mark O'Mara attempted to shift the blame to the unarmed, black 17-year-old whom Zimmerman shot dead.

O'Mara told the jury there was "factual and undeniable evidence" that Zimmerman should be found not guilty. 

With the defense concluding its closing arguments, the case, which has captivated and divided much of the US public, now goes to the jury.

Six anonymous women from central Florida's Seminole County, sequestered since the trial began last month, will try to settle a case that has dominated U.S. media, sparked street demonstrations and raised questions about race and guns in the US.

After reading instructions, Judge Debra Nelson sent the jurors off to reach a unanimous verdict on one of three options: second-degree murder, manslaughter or acquittal. A deadlocked jury would result in a mistrial, possibly leading to the whole courtroom drama unfolding once again.

Zimmerman, 29, says he shot Martin in self-defense after he was attacked on the rainy night of Feb. 26, 2012. Prosecutors contend Zimmerman was a "wannabe cop" who tracked down the teenager and shot him without justification.

To convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder, which could lead to a sentence of life in prison, the jury must find he acted with ill will, spite or hatred.

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