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Defense Rests Its Case In Zimmerman Murder Trial In Florida

George Zimmerman, right, accused in the Trayvon Martin shooting, appears in Seminole circuit court with his defense attorneys Mark O’Mara, left, an unidentified assistant, and Don West in Sanford, Fla.

George Zimmerman, right, accused in the Trayvon Martin shooting, appears in Seminole circuit court with his defense attorneys Mark O’Mara, left, an unidentified assistant, and Don West in Sanford, Fla.

SANFORD, Fla. — Lawyers for George Zimmerman rested their case on Wednesday without calling the former neighborhood watch volunteer to testify, setting up the final stages of his closely watched murder trial for the shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

"After consulting with counsel, (I have decided) not to testify, your honor," Zimmerman said in response to questions from Florida Judge Debra Nelson.

Nelson also rejected a defense motion to dismiss the second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman, a routine and expected step in a criminal trial.

The defense used less than four days of testimony to present its case, after prosecutors spent nine days putting on witnesses.

Jurors are likely to begin deliberating later this week, after prosecutors call at least two rebuttal witnesses and both sides make closing arguments.

The shooting, which occurred in the central Florida town of Sanford, sparked protests and controversy throughout much of 2012 as it raised questions about racial profiling, guns and bias in U.S. law enforcement.

Zimmerman was licensed to carry a concealed handgun fully loaded with hollow-point bullets. Defenders of liberal gun laws said Zimmerman was being persecuted for exercising his Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Zimmerman, 29, remained free for more than six weeks after killing Martin because Sanford police initially declined to arrest him, accepting his claim he shot and killed the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense.

A special prosecutor brought the charge of second-degree murder against Zimmerman after a public outcry in Sanford, major U.S. cities and other small towns.

Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, faces up to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder, although either side can request that the jury also consider the lesser offense of manslaughter, with a maximum penalty of 30 years.