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Jury meets again in trial of US black teen's killer

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The six-woman jury in the racially-charged trial of a US neighborhood watchman accused of murdering unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin resumed its deliberations on Saturday.

George Zimmerman, 29, a volunteer night watchman, is accused of pursuing Martin through the gated community of Sanford, Florida and shooting him during an altercation.

Zimmerman's lawyers insist he acted in self-defense after Martin, 17, wrestled him to the ground and started bashing his head into the pavement.

"He's not guilty of anything but protecting his own life," lead defense attorney Mark O'Mara said in his closing statement Friday, before jurors adjourned for around three and a half hours.

The jury resumed its deliberations at around 9:00 am (1300 GMT) Saturday.

Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Peruvian, has denied any racial motive, saying he was suspicious because the neighborhood had seen a string of recent break-ins.

But prosecutors say Zimmerman, who pursued Martin against the advice of a police dispatcher, instigated the confrontation.

"He profiled him as a criminal. He assumed... that Trayvon Martin was up to no good. And that's what led to his death," prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda told jurors in his closing arguments Thursday.

Judge Nelson reminded the jury on Friday that citizens have the right to kill in self-defense, and that the burden was on the prosecution to prove Zimmerman committed murder.

Zimmerman faces possible life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. The jury could alternatively find him guilty of manslaughter, which carries up to a 30-year sentence.

The February 2012 killing ignited widespread controversy after police initially declined to press charges against Zimmerman.

The trial has received close to non-stop coverage by all three major US cable broadcasters.

Supporters of Martin, who had no criminal record and was walking back to a family friend's house after buying an ice tea and candy, insist he was targeted because he was young, black and wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

The "hoodie" has since become a symbol of opposition to racial profiling, with black US congressman Bobby Rush wearing one on the House floor during a March 2012 speech denouncing the initial handling of the incident.

President Barack Obama also weighed in on the controversy, calling the shooting "a tragedy" and suggesting that, if he'd had a son instead of two daughters, "he'd look like Trayvon."

Community leaders on Friday called for calm regardless of the eventual verdict.

"If Zimmerman is convicted, there should not be inappropriate celebrations, because a young man lost his life," Reverend Jesse Jackson, a prominent civil rights activist, said.

"If he is not convicted, we should avoid violence because it will only lead to more tragedies."

Zimmerman's family also appealed for calm on Friday, in a statement expressing confidence in the justice system.

"Though we maintain George committed no crime whatsoever, we acknowledge that the people who called for George's arrest and subsequent trial have now witnessed both events come to pass," the statement said.

"We hope now that as Americans we will all respect the rule of law, which begins with respecting the verdict."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130713/jury-meets-again-trial-us-black-teens-killer