George Zimmerman portrayed as vigilante in Florida murder trial

George Zimmerman waits for his defense counsel to arrive 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)

Pool Orlando Sentinel

George Zimmerman waits for his defense counsel to arrive 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)

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.

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.

The second 911 call, from a witness, captures screams in the distant background from the struggle between Zimmerman and Martin. Martin's parents said the screams are from their son, while Zimmerman's father contends they are his son's.

Circuit Judge Debra Nelson ruled last weekend that audio experts for the prosecution won't be able to testify that the screams belong to Martin, saying the methods used were unreliable.

On Monday, one of the first witnesses for the prosecution was a custodian of police dispatch calls. During the witness' testimony, prosecutors started playing police calls Zimmerman had made in the months before he shot Martin. The defense objected, arguing the calls were irrelevant.

The judge said she would address the matter Tuesday and sent the jurors to the hotel where they are being sequestered for the duration of the trial, which could last several weeks

Other witnesses who testified Monday included a convenience store clerk and the 911 dispatcher who took Zimmerman's call when he was following Martin. Martin had gone to the convenience store to buy Skittles and a can of iced tea.

The 911 dispatcher, Sean Noffke, testified that he had advised Zimmerman not to follow Martin.

Randy McClean, a criminal defense attorney in Florida with no connection to the case, called the prosecution's opening statement "brilliant" in that it described Zimmerman's state of mind. But he described the knock-knock joke as less than stellar.

"If you're defending your client for second-degree murder, you probably shouldn't start your opening with a joke," McClean said.

___

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KHightower

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

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Comments » 20

August8 writes:

From what I have seen, he's not guilty plain and simple.

WMissow writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

RayPray writes:

in response to August8:

From what I have seen, he's not guilty plain and simple.

Sanford cops say Zimmerman is dead guilty!

That's good enough for me!

Only cop-haters like you would doubt the shrewd judgement of Sanford cops....

greathornedlizard writes:

He's toast.

August8 writes:

in response to RayPray:

Sanford cops say Zimmerman is dead guilty!

That's good enough for me!

Only cop-haters like you would doubt the shrewd judgement of Sanford cops....

mule, I hardly qualify as a cop hater in an manner what so ever. Sanford Police did no such thing and if they thought that they would never say that.In fact, I believe the Chief was dismissed for not making an arrest.
Dude, you are clueless and your guilty of that !!

WMissow writes:

Let us wait for the jury to decide this case.

What bothers me, though, regarding this going to be circus, is all the publicity for one case when there have been dozens of other, equally or more racially motivated, cases that the press could not care about.

You are right, Hascle, there will be riots and loud mouth hate instigators all over this.

2themoon writes:

Martin would never even gotten to the jolley bridge..lol

August8 writes:

in response to 2themoon:

Martin would never even gotten to the jolley bridge..lol

Ignore the photo the media posts of Martin, and he is no angel

2themoon writes:

If i see one more photo of cute little Treyvon im gonna puke!
Show the recent photos of him as a hardened gangbanger, show his texts of him bragging of crimes and how he sells and uses drugs.
Yes Zimmermen was a fool for opening the door but can we have a fair trial in this country with left wing activist judged perched atop the appeals and superior courts in this country?
If Zimmermen gets cleared get ready for some serious riots in this country.

26yearsonmarco writes:

I predict this trial will end just the opposite of the recent trial in Orlando where Inept Prosecutors failed to convict Casey Anthony of murdering her Daughter.

In the Zimmerman case, we see an Inept Defense Team who opens their remarks with a joke that not one person thought was funny, including, I hope, Zimmerman.

If Zimmerman wants to save his life, he needs to declare a mistrial, find himself a new legal defense team, or represent himself.

RayPray writes:

in response to August8:

mule, I hardly qualify as a cop hater in an manner what so ever. Sanford Police did no such thing and if they thought that they would never say that.In fact, I believe the Chief was dismissed for not making an arrest.
Dude, you are clueless and your guilty of that !!

You're saying then Sanford police arrested a man they knew to be innocent?

That would make them even less qualified than our Marko Keystone Kops.

If Sanford cops arrested Zimmer, then ipso facto, Zimmer must be guilty.

I'm with Sanford cops!

Only you a cop hater would attack Sanford cops this way....

greathornedlizard writes:

This is a no brainer; Zimbo was playing cowboy, (unauthorized so far as I can tell,) and he went and shot and killed a teenager.
Now he wants to fuggedabout it.

Hang him, electrocute him, whatever.

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to greathornedlizard:

This is a no brainer; Zimbo was playing cowboy, (unauthorized so far as I can tell,) and he went and shot and killed a teenager.
Now he wants to fuggedabout it.

Hang him, electrocute him, whatever.

Watch this video of other "innocent teenagers" in action:

http://miami.cbslocal.com/2013/06/25/...

WMissow writes:

26, It is not getting any better when we have a man in the W.H. making the quote that Martin could have been his son. What does that tell people who recognize the tats and gold teeth in Martin's most recent pictures. Not the ones the liberal media are still showing of an innocent looking child.

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to WMissow:

26, It is not getting any better when we have a man in the W.H. making the quote that Martin could have been his son. What does that tell people who recognize the tats and gold teeth in Martin's most recent pictures. Not the ones the liberal media are still showing of an innocent looking child.

I was most impressed by the 19 year old Star Witness for the Prosecution, who said she signed a document written in cursive, after she said she could not read cursive.

I guess this is what is known as a DUHHHHH moment, and scares the living “H” out of me, when you realize this person votes.

WMissow writes:

The whole prosecution is falling apart. Another of THEIR witnesses today said that he actually witnessed Martin on top of Zimmerman. Is that the best the prosecution has to offer?

The prosecution may also now be saying that they have no proof that Zimmerman acted in a racial context and that they do not want race to be an issue in this trial.

No wonder we haven't seen the likes of Sharpton or Jackson around the courtroom shouting their racial comments as occurred with Tawana Brawley.

My gosh, what happened to those childhood pictures of Martin that the media was presenting from day one?

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to WMissow:

The whole prosecution is falling apart. Another of THEIR witnesses today said that he actually witnessed Martin on top of Zimmerman. Is that the best the prosecution has to offer?

The prosecution may also now be saying that they have no proof that Zimmerman acted in a racial context and that they do not want race to be an issue in this trial.

No wonder we haven't seen the likes of Sharpton or Jackson around the courtroom shouting their racial comments as occurred with Tawana Brawley.

My gosh, what happened to those childhood pictures of Martin that the media was presenting from day one?

I believe the Jury of six women will convict Zimmerman out of fear for their lives, due to the media hype about riots, and not because they think he is guilty.

I heard one reporter mention the many “tweets”, from “Those People”, talking about preparing for riots.

Hopefully the IRS, NSA, Homeland Security, etc., are listening in on these conversations instead of the Tea Party.

RayPray writes:

in response to WMissow:

The whole prosecution is falling apart. Another of THEIR witnesses today said that he actually witnessed Martin on top of Zimmerman. Is that the best the prosecution has to offer?

The prosecution may also now be saying that they have no proof that Zimmerman acted in a racial context and that they do not want race to be an issue in this trial.

No wonder we haven't seen the likes of Sharpton or Jackson around the courtroom shouting their racial comments as occurred with Tawana Brawley.

My gosh, what happened to those childhood pictures of Martin that the media was presenting from day one?

If she is as dumb as you think, how do you explain her shrewd FaceBook page?

https://www.facebook.com/rachel.black...

WMissow writes:

in response to 26yearsonmarco:

I believe the Jury of six women will convict Zimmerman out of fear for their lives, due to the media hype about riots, and not because they think he is guilty.

I heard one reporter mention the many “tweets”, from “Those People”, talking about preparing for riots.

Hopefully the IRS, NSA, Homeland Security, etc., are listening in on these conversations instead of the Tea Party.

After the O.J trial anything could happen. I am thinking a hung jury or mistrial. Either way, win or lose, riots will, most likely, occur. Some sociologist might even say it is part of their "culture" in justifying it.

Now isn't nice that we live in a world in which when some group does not "get their way", right or wrong, their best showing is to riot.

Maybe if we took away their "Bamaphones" they would not be given an easier way to communicate their intentions to do so.

I wonder if those "Bamaphones" are being tracked or traced to who they call?

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to WMissow:

After the O.J trial anything could happen. I am thinking a hung jury or mistrial. Either way, win or lose, riots will, most likely, occur. Some sociologist might even say it is part of their "culture" in justifying it.

Now isn't nice that we live in a world in which when some group does not "get their way", right or wrong, their best showing is to riot.

Maybe if we took away their "Bamaphones" they would not be given an easier way to communicate their intentions to do so.

I wonder if those "Bamaphones" are being tracked or traced to who they call?

"Bamaphone" users are not Right Wing Extremist Tea Party members, and are never tracked.

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