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Florida braces for George Zimmerman trial verdict

Florida officials have appealed for calm as the trial of a neighbourhood watchman who shot dead an unarmed black 17-year-old enters its final phase.

 

Closing arguments have begun in the trial of George Zimmerman, 29, who is charged with the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin in February 2012.

A judge told jurors on Thursday that they could convict him of manslaughter, but ruled out another lower charge.

The accused says he shot the teenager in self-defence in an Orlando suburb.

Police took six weeks to arrest Mr Zimmerman after the killing, which stoked racial tensions and spawned mass, peaceful protests

‘Don’t be violent’

Community leaders in the town of Sanford, where the shooting occurred, say they have been working to smooth tensions in case Mr Zimmerman is acquitted.

“It’s all right to be vocal, but we don’t want to be violent,” said Rev Walter Richardson, a pastor and chairman of Miami-Dade County’s Community Relations Board, according to the Associated Press.

“We’ve already lost one soul and we don’t want to lose any more.”

Trayvon Martin was walking to the home of his father’s fiancee from a convenience shop when the fatal confrontation ensued with the neighbourhood watch volunteer in a gated community on a rainy evening.

Before the prosecution began its closing argument on Thursday, after 12 days of testimony, a judge gave instructions to the sequestered jury of six women.

Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson said they could also convict Mr Zimmerman for manslaughter…

Source:BBC

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