Prosecution, in Rebuttal, Tries to Raise Doubt About Zimmerman's Story

Assistant state attorney John Guy delivered the prosecution's rebuttal to the defense's closing argument in the George Zimmerman trial on Friday, focusing on attacking Zimmerman's credibility in an attempt to debunk his argument that he acted in reasonable self-defense in shooting Trayvon Martin last February. 

It was a reversal of traditional roles. Usually, the defense attempts to raise doubt in the prosecution's case, as defense attorney Mark O'Mara did on Friday morning. On this occasion, however, Guy declared that he would not attempt "to fill gaps" in the story; rather, he set out to raise doubts about Zimmerman's claims.

In both rebuttal and closing argument, the prosecution aimed not at proving each element of the crime, but at contrasting Zimmerman and Martin's respective fates. "Trayvon Martin didn't kill himeslf," Guy said, adding that Zimmerman had acted "with hate in his heart" in following 17-year-old Martin, a "child."

Guy went on to describe his definition of "reasonable doubt," prompting an interruption from O'Mara, who approached the bench to state his objection. Judge Debra Nelson appeared to have agreed, because she told the jury that she would ultimately explain the applicable state law in providing their instructions.

The prosecution has the burden of proof in criminal trials, but with evidence so weak that local authorities initially declined to bring a case, the state chose to frame the case as if that burden fell on the defense. That gave an opportunity to the defense to describe events in detail, using an animation in its closing argument.

Yet the prosecution's approach also amplified the political pressures that had brought the case to trial in the first place, with state attorney Bernie de la Rionda referring to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his closing argument Thursday. Much will depend on how the jury understands the state's burden, and its role.


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