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Closing arguments expected Thursday in George Zimmerman trial

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Updated: 7/10/2013 7:47 pm
SANFORD, Fla. -- Judge Debra Nelson said closing arguments will begin Thursday at 1 p.m. in George Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial.

Zimmerman never testified about the fatal struggle with Trayvon Martin, but jurors saw repeated video recordings of Zimmerman telling his story to investigators.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are now working work out the jury instructions before presenting closing arguments. The judge will then send the case to the six female jurors.

The defense started its case last Friday, and it presented about half the witnesses and took half the time as the prosecution before resting on Wednesday.

[Special coverage: George Zimmerman Trial]

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and says he shot Martin in self-defense.In the days before the defense finished, they called Zimmerman's friends, mother and uncle to testify that it is Zimmerman screaming for help on a 911 call that captured the fatal fight between Martin and Zimmerman.

As its last witness, the defense called Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman Sr., to the stand. Robert Zimmerman told the court that it was his son who can be heard screaming for help in 911 calls that have been played numerous times throughout the trial.

He also testified how he was under oath at the Seminole County State Attorney's Office when he heard the 911 call.

"They asked me if I recognized the voice," said Robert Zimmerman.

"And what did you tell them?" asked defense attorney Mark O'Mara.

"'Absolutely, that's my son, George,'" said Robert Zimmerman.

Earlier, a public safety expert called by the defense said Zimmerman's physical capabilities were inferior to those of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Former police Officer Dennis Root testified that Martin was in better physical shape than Zimmerman and that the neighborhood watch volunteer wasn't any athlete.

"He would find himself lacking when compared to Mr. Martin," Root said of Zimmerman.

Martin was unarmed and returning from a store when he was fatally shot by Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, during a struggle on a dark, rainy night in February 2012.

Root is a former law enforcement training instructor who now acts as a consultant to analyze whether the use of force is justified.

Root testified repeatedly that in cases of deadly force, a person has to get inside the mind of the shooter to determine whether they had the reasonable fear of great bodily harm or death.

WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said the state went too far in its questioning of Root, and it backfired.

"That opened the door for O'Mara to ask: Was there any other option? The answer to that was no," said Sheaffer.

"Did Mr. Zimmerman have any other options?" asked O'Mara.

"Based on my understanding of him, the environment, the situation, totality of everything, I don't believe he did," said Root.

Root said for people in a fight, time is of the essence.

"If you haven't won fight in 30 seconds, change tactic," Root said.

Root testified that it's not just the gun that poses a threat.

"A firearm is as safe as the person holding it," said Root.

Prosecutor John Guy zeroed in on that point.

"An irresponsible person can be really dangerous," said Guy.

Root said he approached the defense to help in the case, but the state questioned whether he did it to help his business.

Earlier, Judge Nelson ruled that Martin's cellphone texts on fighting and a defense animation depicting the fight between Martin and Zimmerman won't be introduced as evidence at Zimmerman's trial.

Nelson made her ruling Wednesday, a day after she heard arguments on the matter.

The judge said the animation can't be introduced as evidence that can be reviewed by jurors during their deliberations, but defense attorneys may be able to use it during closing arguments.

A defense witness said he made a recreation of what happened the night Zimmerman killed Martin. He said he used Zimmerman's account and information from attorneys to create the video showing Martin in a hoodie punching Zimmerman.

The judge said she agrees with prosecutors' objections to introducing the 17-year-old's text messages.

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