June 24, 2013

Zimmerman portrayed as vigilante in Trayvon Martin shooting

The Associated Press

SANFORD, Fla. — George Zimmerman was fed up with "punks" getting away with crime and shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin "because he wanted to," not because he had to, prosecutors argued Monday, while the neighborhood watch volunteer's attorney said the killing was self-defense against a young man who was slamming Zimmerman's head against the pavement.

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Don West, a defense attorney for George Zimmerman describes the shooting of Trayvon Martin to the jury while holding an evidence photo of a gun during opening statements in Zimmerman's trial in Seminole circuit court, in Sanford, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank,Pool)

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The father of Trayvon Martin, Tracy Martin, cries as he listens to the description of his son's death during opening statements in the George Zimmerman trial, with Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother, left, and Daryl Parks, a family attorney, right, in Seminole circuit court, in Sanford, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank/Pool)

Additional Photos Below

The prosecution began opening statements in the long-awaited murder trial with shocking language, repeating obscenities Zimmerman uttered while talking to a police dispatcher moments before the deadly confrontation.

The defense opened with a knock-knock joke about the difficulty of picking a jury for a case that stirred nationwide debate over racial profiling, vigilantism and Florida's expansive laws on the use of deadly force.

"Knock. Knock," said defense attorney Don West.

"Who is there?"

"George Zimmerman."

"George Zimmerman who?"

"All right, good. You're on the jury."

Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder for gunning down Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, as the unarmed black teenager, wearing a hoodie on a dark, rainy night, walked from a convenience store through the gated townhouse community where he was staying.

The case took on racial dimensions after Martin's family claimed that Zimmerman had racially profiled Martin and that police were dragging their feet in bringing charges. Zimmerman, whose mother is Hispanic and whose father is white, has denied the confrontation had anything to do with race.

Prosecutor John Guy's first words to the jury recounted what Zimmerman told a dispatcher in a call shortly after spotting Martin: "F------ punks. These a-------. They always get away."

Zimmerman was profiling Martin as he followed him, Guy said. He said Zimmerman viewed the teen "as someone about to a commit a crime in his neighborhood."

"And he acted on it. That's why we're here," the prosecutor said.

Zimmerman didn't have to shoot Martin, Guy said. "He shot him for the worst of all reasons: because he wanted to," he said.

The prosecutor portrayed the watch captain as a vigilante, saying, "Zimmerman thought it was his right to rid his neighborhood of anyone who did not belong."

West told jurors a different story: Martin sucker-punched Zimmerman and then pounded the neighborhood watch volunteer's head against the concrete sidewalk, and that's when Zimmerman opened fire.

Showing the jury photos of a bloodied and bruised Zimmerman, the defense attorney said, "He had just taken tremendous blows to his face, tremendous blows to his head."

West said the story that Martin was unarmed is untrue: "Trayvon Martin armed himself with a concrete sidewalk and used it to smash George Zimmerman's head."

The prosecutor, however, disputed elements of Zimmerman's story, including his claim that Martin put his hands over Zimmerman's mouth and reached for the man's gun. Guy said none of Zimmerman's DNA was found on Martin's body, and none of the teenager's DNA was on the weapon or the holster.

But West said that doesn't prove anything, arguing that crime-scene technicians didn't properly protect Martin's hands from contamination.

Two police dispatch phone calls that could be important evidence for both sides were played for the jury by the defense. Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, left the courtroom before the second recording, which has the sound of the gunshot that killed Martin.

The first was a call Zimmerman made to a nonemergency police dispatcher, who told him he didn't need to be following Martin.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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George Zimmerman stands as judge Debra Nelson arrives in Seminole circuit court for his trial, in Sanford, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool)

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In this undated photo provided by the Martin family, Trayvon Martin holds an unidentified baby. Martin, 17 of Miami Springs, Fla., was killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. as he walked from a convenience store in February 2012. Zimmerman's murder trial began on Monday, June 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Martin Family, File)

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George Zimmerman smiles as attorney Mark O'Mara questions potential jurors for Zimmerman's trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla., Thursday, June 20, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Gary Green, Pool)



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