(SANFORD, Fla.) — The George Zimmerman murder trial began with a prosecutor telling the jury that Zimmerman killed teenager Trayvon Martin “because he wanted to,” while Zimmerman’s lawyer told the court it was a “sad case” but that “there are no monsters here.”
The jury heard several tapes, including Zimmerman’s initial call to police as well as 911 calls made by people who heard a fight outside with someone in the background screaming for help.
The racially charged case began with fireworks as prosecutor John Guy opening the trial with the words, “F***ing punks.” Guy, quoting from Zimmerman’s phone call to police reporting a suspicious person the night of the shooting, continued: “These a**holes always get away.”
“Those were the words in the defendant’s head just moments before he pressed the pistol,” the prosecutor told the jury of six women.
Zimmerman, 29, is on trial for shooting death of Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old who was killed by Zimmerman in February 2012.
Martin’s parents wept and Zimmerman sat stoically as Guy described the teenager as an innocent victim minding his own business when Zimmerman confronted him.
The prosecutors laid out a case in the second-degree murder trial against Zimmerman by saying he overstepped his role as a neighborhood watch captain. He argued that he profiled, followed and, ultimately, killed a 17-year-old high school student who was walking to his father’s girlfriend’s home after leaving a convenience store.
Guy said that after the shooting, Zimmerman lied to police in the days ahead. The jury listened often with their hands clasped together over their mouths.
Defense lawyer Don West opened with a map of the Twin Lakes Retreat Subdivision where Martin was killed. He told jurors about recent crime in the community, and how Zimmerman and others in the neighborhood were instructed to report suspected crime.
“Residents would ask him to phone in something and to report something,” said West. “There was an attempted break-in just a couple weeks before.”
West played the call made by Zimmerman to police as he reported a “suspicious” teenager. The jury listened intently as the call was heard in the courtroom.
The lawyer tried to explain away Zimmerman’s comments about “these a**holes always get away” as words made not by a man consumed with ill intent, but as someone who had been the point person in a community dealing with rising crime.
“You will see the evidence proves at least one thing. Trayvon Martin hadn’t gone home,” said West. “He had plenty of time, but choosing not to do that he either left or just hid in the darkness to see about this guy who was following him and turned out of the darkness and said why are you following me.”
The defense showed photos of Zimmerman’s head bloodied shortly after the shooting, which West said was the result of Martin banging Zimmerman’s skull against the pavement, evidence that Zimmerman shot Martin in self defense, he said.
Key to the trial will be determining Zimmerman’s state of mind nearly 16 months ago when the shooting took place.
The case has gripped and divided the central Florida community of Sanford from the beginning. The Seminole County courthouse instituted a lottery for the public interested in watching the case, and set up protest areas for those looking to vocalize their opinion. But only a handful of protesters showed up during the nine-day jury selection.
The six jurors and four alternates are now isolated, away from their homes, with minimal contact with family and friends until the trial ends.
Both sides say sequestration will help eliminate juror exposure to outside influence as this controversial case kicks off. It’s one of the few areas of agreement between all sides.
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