Prosecutor John Guy delivers the final rebuttal on Friday in the George Zimmerman trial. (Joe Burbank/Getty Images)

(The Root) โ€” At last, the prosecution on Friday delivered for those demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. Before six women began to deliberate the fate of Trayvon's killer, George Zimmerman, the state's attorney, took them to church.

"The human heart," prosecutor John Guy began, "moves us โ€ฆ motivates us." To figure out what led Zimmerman to fatally shoot the 17-year-old, he told the jurors, "Should we not look into the heart of that grown man and the heart of that child?"

Accusing Zimmerman of having "hate in his heart," "hate in his mouth" and "hate in his actions," Guy preached a rebuttal to the defense's summation that was as dramatic and forceful as his opening argument a few weeks ago. Guy hardly took his eyes off the jurors as he leaned over the jury box, trying to emotionally connect with them. It's not clear if he succeeded, but he breathed new life in the waning hopes that Zimmerman would be convicted of second-degree murder.

Delivering memorable line after line, Guy seemed to ease growing concerns that the state had fumbled the case:

"Trayvon Martin may not have had the blood of George Zimmerman on his hands, but George Zimmerman will forever have Trayvon Martin's blood on his hands. Forever."ย 


"If that defendant had done what he was supposed to do, none of us would be here."

"In the end, this case is not about standing your ground. It is about staying in your car."

Guy countered the defense's claim that Trayvon started the altercation by sucker-punching Zimmerman (who claims Trayvon straddled and viciously beat him, forcing him to shoot Trayvon in self-defense), saying the problem began when Zimmerman profiled and followed the teen. He then gave one of his most powerful statements, obviously calibrated to resonate with a jury that includes five mothers: "Isn't that every child's worst fear, to be followed on the way home in the dark by a stranger? That was Trayvon Martin's last emotion."


Guy, who is part of the state attorney's team from Jacksonville, Fla., appointed by the governor to prosecute the case, lived up to his reputation as a closer. Some reporters and legal analysts in the courtroom nicknamed him "McDreamy."

But for all its passion, Guy's argument couldn't fill the gaping hole in the state's case: a clear account of how the fight between Trayvon and Zimmerman started up to the moments before Zimmerman fired his gun.

Guy reinforced the argument that Zimmerman profiled Trayvon as a likely criminal and followed him. The defense was forced to more or less concede those points. In their closing, the state went as far as saying Zimmerman "trapped" Trayvon.


Guy also reminded jurors that Zimmerman's reference to Trayvon as one of the "[expletive] punks" and "assholes" who always "get away" showed ill will, an element required for a second-degree-murder conviction.

But the state's narrative pauses there. When it resumes, Trayvon is dying from a bullet hole through his heart. For the jurors, what occurred in between is everything.

Who started the fight? As the struggle escalated, who was the aggressor? What about Trayvon's behavior proves he did not cause Zimmerman to fear great injury or death (which is required by Florida law for justified use of deadly force in self-defense)? Exactly what was happening in the altercation that proves Zimmerman unlawfully fired his gun?


The state offered no version of events that answered these questions convincingly enough to rule out all doubt. As Judge Debra Nelson told the jury before sending them to deliberate, "It is not necessary for George Zimmerman to prove anything."

The state, seeming to realize their case was faltering, changed strategies on the last day of testimony. Acting more as defense attorneys than prosecutors, the state tossed out several plausible versions of events to undermine Zimmerman's account, such as their assertion that Trayvon may have been pulling away when the shot was fired.ย 

"This only magnified the degree of reasonable doubt that exists," former Florida prosecutor Elizabeth Parker says. "The state did not meet its burden of proof of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt."


On Thursday, Guy's co-counsel, Bernie de la Rionda, rested the state's case by highlighting the many alarming inconsistencies in Zimmerman's statements. But he posed too many open-ended questions to the jury that he should have answered with a full, alternate account supported by the evidence.

The state's case was nothing more than "What ifs," defense attorney Mark O'Mara said in his closing argument on Friday. "I don't think they get to say to you, 'What do you think?' " he told the jurors. "No, no, no. No, no, no. 'What have I proved to you?' "

The thin evidence in this case isn't the prosecution's fault. There were no true eyewitnesses, it seems. But blame should be placed with Sanford, Fla., police for whisking Zimmerman in for questioning and releasing him while leaving Trayvon's body, and valuable evidence, uncollected at the scene for hours โ€” as rain probably washed away clues.ย 


Clearly, the prosecution worked against itself by "overcharging" Zimmerman. Filing the most serious charge is a tool "often used," Parker says, because prosecutors know juries likely will be told by judges to consider a conviction on lesser charges.

In this case, the state's safety valve is the charge of manslaughter. By convincing the judge to include manslaughter, the state rightly or not sent the message, "We might not have proved the crime we were supposed to, but trust us, Zimmerman is guilty of something."

For those who see this case as a reckoning for countless injustices against young black men, if the maneuver results in a conviction, so be it.


Corey Dade, an award-winning journalist based in Washington, D.C., is a former national correspondent at NPR and political reporter at the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and other news organizations. Follow him on Twitter.

Corey Dade, an award-winning journalist based in Washington, D.C., is a former national correspondent at NPR and political reporter at the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and other news organizations. Follow him on Twitter.