SANFORD, Fla. July 10, 2013— -- After nearly 17 months at the center of the highly charged case, George Zimmerman told a Florida judge that he would not testify at his murder trial.
"What is your decision sir," asked Judge Debra Nelson
"After consulting with counsel, not to testify your honor," Zimmerman replied.
The defense promptly rested its case.
Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second degree murder for shooting Trayvon Martin, 17, on Feb. 26, 2012. Zimmerman maintains that he shot Martin in self-defense. If convicted of second degree murder, Zimmerman could be sentenced to 25 years to life.
The judge's question came after a testy exchange earlier today in which Zimmerman's attorney Don West repeatedly objected as Nelson asked if he would take the stand.
She sharply cut him off saying, "I'm asking your client a question. Please, Mr. West. Over ruled."
It was the latest clash between the judge and Zimmerman's lawyer that has been increasingly tense as the trial nears its end.
The prosecution said it would present a couple of rebuttal witnesses.
The judge laid out a schedule of closing arguments and rebuttal that would put the case in the hands of the six women jurors on Friday afternoon.
Both sides sparred over what charges Zimmerman may face. The state wants him to face the possibility of being convicted of second-degree murder along with manslaughter and aggravated assault, but the defense objected. The judge is expected to hash out the range of charges the jury may consider with the lawyers on Thursday.
During the morning, prosecutors and defense attorneys took turns straddling a mannequin on the courtroom floor to reenact how Zimmerman shot Martin.
The rubber mannequin was introduced as Dennis Root, a law enforcement trainer, took the stand for the defense which tried to use his testimony to piece together the deadly confrontation.
"What information were you able to glean concerning Mr. Zimmerman's physical prowess?" asked Zimmerman's lawyer Mark O'Mara.
"Without sounding offensive, he really didn't have any," Root said.
Root said that from the case records he reviewed, Zimmerman's claims about shooting Martin in self-defense seemed to be credible.
However, during cross examination prosecutor John Guy brought out the mannequin as he attempted to demonstrate that Zimmerman's version of the fight may not be accurate. As jurors and attorneys stood to watch, Guy straddled the life-size dummy to demonstrate that it was possible that Martin was backing up when he was shot.
Guy was trying to establish through the demonstration that if Martin was leaning forward and punching Zimmerman, as Zimmerman maintains, it would have been difficult for Zimmerman to get his gun from his hip holster.
Root acknowledged that it was possible that Martin was sitting back.
O'Mara then straddled the dummy and banged its head on the floor to demonstrate how Zimmerman could have suffered abrasions to the back of his head.
The day began with Nelson ruling that text messages taken from Trayvon Martin's phone and an animation commissioned by the defense purporting to show the fight between Martin and Zimmerman cannot be entered as evidence.
However, the judge ruled that the defense can use the animation as a "demonstrative exhibit" in their closings.
The motion-capture animation was a snapshot of what the defense said happened the night Martin died. The animation shows Martin walking up to Zimmerman and punching him in the face, as well as Martin straddling and punching Zimmerman. It was built using Zimmerman's account of what happened and estimations made by witnesses who called 911 about the confrontation the night Martin died.
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The text messages will be barred altogether. The messages, taken from Martin's phone, include one in which a female friend told Martin that he should stop fighting as well as images of a gun.
The ruling followed an acrimonious marathon hearing Tuesday that ended with the judge marching out of court as West angrily called after her, complaining about the long hours and lack of time the defense had to go over evidence it said the prosecution withheld.
"I'm not getting into this," Nelson said Tuesday night, appearing fed up at the mounting tension between both sides. "Court is in recess."
As she left, West continued to address her saying, "Judge, I'm not physically able to keep up this pace much longer." Nelson walked out of the courtroom without responding to him.