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George Zimmerman case goes to jury in Fla.

Police urge calm after verdict in trial

George Zimmerman listened to the judge Friday in the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, Fla.

JOE BURBANK/POOL

George Zimmerman listened to the judge Friday in the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, Fla.

SANFORD, Fla. — With police and civic leaders urging calm, a jury began deliberating George Zimmerman’s fate Friday after hearing dueling portraits of the neighborhood watch captain: a policeman wannabe who took the law into his own hands or a well-meaning volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin because he feared for his life.

Police in this Orlando suburb went on national television to plead for peace in Sanford and across the country, no matter what the verdict. ‘‘There is no party in this case who wants to see any violence,’’ Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said. ‘‘We have an expectation upon this announcement that our community will continue to act peacefully.’’

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During closing arguments, Zimmerman’s lawyers put a concrete slab and two life-size cardboard cutouts in front of the jury box in one last attempt to convince the panel that Zimmerman shot the unarmed black 17-year-old in self-defense while his head was being slammed against the pavement.

Lawyer Mark O’Mara used the slab to make the point that it could serve as a weapon. He showed the cutouts of Zimmerman and Martin to demonstrate that the teenager was considerably taller. And he displayed a computer-animated depiction of the fight based on Zimmerman’s account.

He said prosecutors hadn’t met their burden of proving Zimmerman’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

In a rebuttal, prosecutor John Guy accused Zimmerman of telling ‘‘so many lies.’’ He said Martin’s last emotion was fear as Zimmerman followed him through the gated town house community on the rainy night of Feb. 26, 2012.

Jurors had deliberated for 3½ hours when they stopped Friday evening.

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