(CNN) — A Florida judge put the fate of George Zimmerman into the hands of a six-woman jury Friday, setting the stage for what could be the final chapter in a legal saga that began with Trayvon Martin’s death and highlighted sharp divisions over race and gun control in the United States.
The jury began deliberations moments after Judge Debra Nelson finished reading instructions about the laws they must consider.
“It is up to you decide which evidence is reliable,” Nelson told the jurors. “You should use your common sense.”
She told the jury that Zimmerman exercised his legal right not to testify, and they cannot “view this as an admission of guilt.”
“It is not necessary for George Zimmerman to prove anything,” Nelson said.
Police in Seminole County and elsewhere steeled for the possibility of violent reactions to the verdict, while the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. called for a calm response to the jury’s decision, no matter what it is.