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TODAY   |  July 11, 2013

Zimmerman trial closing arguments to begin today

After 56 witness accounts and 12 days of testimony, both sides have rested. The accused will not take the stand in his own defense, and the case could be in the hands of the jury as early as tomorrow. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports and NBC legal analyst Lisa Bloom and former prosecutor John Q. Kelly discuss the case.

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>>> this is a big day , the trial of george zimmerman . after 12 days of testimony closing argue middle school are set to begin. nbc's kerry sanders is in sanford for us. good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. closing arguments indeed set for this afternoon and if everything follows the judge's schedule the case could be in the jury's hands as early as tomorrow.

>> defense would rest.

>> reporter: after 56 witnesses and 12 days of testimony, both sides have rested. the accused, george zimmerman , will not take the stand in his own defense .

>> mr. zimmerman , please stand up. is it your decision to not testify in this case?

>> yes, your honor.

>> reporter: in court wednesday the defense called their final witnesses. among them, dennis roots, an expert on the use of force . he was asked if zimmerman had any other options but to shoot 17-year-old trayvon martin.

>> i don't know what else he could have done based on his ability. he doesn't seem to have any.

>> zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of trayvon martin but maintains it was self- defense . he has pled not guilty. also wednesday prosecutors brought out a life sized foam mannequin.

>> this appear to be anatomically correct?

>> reporter: and asked the witness what may have happened just before the shooting.

>> were you aware the defendant described to his best friend that when he slid down the defendant slid down that trayvon martin was up around his arm pits? were you aware of that?

>> no, i've not heard that, no, sir.

>> where would the gun be now?

>> now the gun would be behind your left leg.

>> reporter: zimmerman 's lawyer used the same mannequin to demonstrate other ways the attack may have happened.

>> could it happen this way?

>> yes.

>> could it happen this way?

>> yes.

>> could it happen that mr. martin is reaching back with his hand for yet a final strike or something like that? could it happen right there when he is coming back over?

>> as long as the alignment of the bodies stay within that relative position where they are within that access of movement, it is a possibility.

>> reporter: each side has been given three hours for closing arguments. the state will use two hours today then tomorrow the defense will use its three hours. the remaining hour the state has will then be used and the prosecutors will give the jury a last word. savannah?

>> kerry sanders as the trial is wrapping up, thank you. lisa bloom is today's analyst. john q. kelly a former prosecutor. good morning to you.

>> good morning.

>> good morning.

>> the first question, there is a legal decision the judge will make this morning and it could be incredibly consequential whether or not jurors will be given the option to convict of a lesser charge than second-degree murder, whether they'll be given a manslaughter instruction. the defense has said we don't want it. basically it's all or nothing. is that smart, john?

>> i think it is. there is no way the prosecution has demonstrated a depraved mind or ill will on their part. the evidence would support a manslaughter charge at least if not a conviction.

>> the defense is saying we're afraid the jurors will compromise. if we give them the option they might compromise.

>> it shows the defense has a lot of confidence in their case and are willing to take the all or nothing risk, either life in prison or george zimmerman walks.

>> let's show you a piece of tape from yesterday. the judge and one defense attorney getting into it. take a look.

>> i have not seen your client questioned.

>> i object to the court inquiring of mr. zimmerman as to his decision about whether to testify.

>> your objection is overruled.

>> lisa, tell us about that. basically the judge was asking george zimmerman do you plan to testify. this happens all the time in trials but what was the issue here?

>> what doesn't happen is an attorney objecting to the judge's question. you object to the other side. i think what the defense attorney was expecting was two more witnesses later and was just caught off guard.

>> basically the defense attorney felt the judge was rushing him too much?

>> the judge was a little bit out of line. she should have addressed it to counsel and not the defendant.

>> okay. well, look. they'll get three hours to make their closing arguments each side. i'll give you each 30 seconds. how does that sound? john, you be the prosecutor. what is the strongest evidence, the strongest argument you can make for a second-degree murder charge?

>> mr. zimmerman initiated an unprovoked attack or confrontation with mr. martin after being told not to follow him. he brought the instrument to the attack, the nine millimeter to the confrontation. the only person that would have been screaming for their life on that tape would have been the 17-year-old that had a gun pulled on him unexpectedly not the grown man who had the gun.

>> lisa bloom , you are the defense attorney .

>> check your politics at the door. this is a criminal trial and it is only about the evidence. george zimmerman has always behaved like a reasonable man. fully cooperating with the police from the beginning, answering every question on audiotape and videotape telling a consistent story. the best witness in the case? john goode , a neighbor who didn't know anybody in the case and said in the final moments before that shot rang out zimmerman is down. trayvon martin is over him. pound and ground mma style assaulting him. he took out the gun which he had a legal right to carry, shot once in self- defense . it is a reasonable doubt case.

>> i'll give you five seconds to answer if you could pick either side to be on right now who would you rather be?

>> i'd pick the prosecution side even though you asked me to do the defense .

>> john?

>> prosecution on the lesser included charge of manslaughter.

>> all right. great to get your perspectives. thank you. here's matt.

>> thank you.