Prosecutor opens George Zimmerman trial with obscenity

4:15 PM, Jun 24, 2013   |    comments
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SANFORD, Florida (USA TODAY) -- In its opening statement in the Trayvon Martin murder trial, the prosecution Monday portrayed defendant George Zimmerman as a trigger-happy, police wannabe who saw the teenager as a suspicious person and considered it his right to "rid the neighborhood of anyone that he believed didn't belong."

"The truth about the murder of Trayvon Martin is going to come directly from his mouth, from those hate-filled words that he used to describe a perfect stranger and from the lies that he told to the police to try to justify his actions," prosecutor John Guy told the six-woman jury.

Guy moved quickly to try to jolt the jurors by using the "f-word" followed by "punks" in quoting from Zimmerman's conversation by cellphone with a police dispatcher as he followed the unarmed teenager through the gated community where he lived.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida.

Prosecutors say Zimmerman acted "imminently dangerous" and demonstrated a "depraved mind without regard for human life" -- Florida's definition of second-degree murder.

The neighborhood watch volunteer says he shot Trayvon in self-defense after being attacked.

A 911 call that recorded screaming and the gunshot will be a key part of the trial. However, Circuit Judge Debra Nelson ruled Saturday that prosecution experts who said the voice screaming was Trayvon's will not be allowed to testify. Witnesses familiar with the voices of Zimmerman and Trayvon can testify to whom they believe is screaming, the judge ruled. That means Trayvon's and Zimmerman's families may testify.

In the opening statement, prosecutor Guy called the killing a "product of two worlds colliding."

One world, he said, was a 17-year-old boy visiting his father and walking home after buying a fruit drink and Skittles at a local convenience store.

In the other world, the prosecutor said, was a 28-year-old adult, a neighborhood watch coordinator, who was patrolling the area at night with a semi-automatic pistol tucked in his waistband in a "ready to fire position" with one live round in the chamber.

"When he saw Trayvon Martin, he didn't see a young man walking home," the prosecutor said. "As he told the (police) dispatcher, he saw someone that was 'real suspicious,' someone who looked like he was 'up to no good,' again, to use his word."

The prosecutor noted that in his conversation on a cellphone with the police dispatcher, he made the comments that "these a--holes, they always get away."

In explaining the state's case against Zimmerman, Guy, often pointing directly at Zimmerman sitting down, repeated those words several times saying Zimmerman wrongly profiled a 17-year-old walking home as a criminal.

"Those words were in his chest," Guy said. "Those words were in the defendant's heart before he pressed a pistol to Trayvon Martin's chest."

Guy said Zimmerman had spun a web of lies when he said Trayvon punched him, and knocked him down.

Guy said police officers from the scene, emergency personnel, a medical examiner and several residents who live nearby the shooting will testify.

"No one heard or saw this from start to beginning to end," said Guy, explaining that witnesses saw slices that don't fit with Zimmerman's version.

The state will also show evidence that Zimmerman applied to be a police officer, wanted to go on a police ride along, was a criminal justice student and initiated a neighborhood watch program as captain, Guy said.

He added that at least a year before the shooting Zimmerman was taking martial arts and self defense classes at a gym and learning how to fight.

Guy pointed out that none of Zimmerman's blood or DNA was found on Trayvon's body, clothing, or under his nails. Zimmerman's gun also didn't have any of Trayvon's blood or DNA, he said.

"It's physically impossible the way he explained it," Guy said, explaining Zimmerman's gun was "ready to go."

Guy said medical personnel tried to save Trayvon who was found faced down with his hands on his chest. Photos of Trayvon will be shown to the jury.

He said the jury will hear the 911 call and that the screaming stops instantly when the gun goes off.

"George Zimmerman did not shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to," Guy said. "He shot him for the worst of all reasons because he wanted to."

Zimmerman's lawyers followed with their opening statements.

Shortly before opening statements, the family of Trayvon Martin and their attorney asked for prayers.

"As the court proceedings continue, we as a family look and cherish the memories that Trayvon left us with," said Trayvon's father, Tracy Martin, adding that memories of his son's smile was giving him strength.

The teen's mother, who remained quiet during two weeks of jury selection, also spoke.

"I don't want any other mother to have to experience what I'm going through now," Sybrina Fulton said. "I ask that you pray for me and my family."

Fulton said she plans to attend the trial everyday to offer support for her son's memory.

Trayvon's brother, Jahvaris Fulton, as well as the late teen's grandmother also attended court.

The family's attorney Benjamin Crump said while murder trials are emotional, the jury will need to do its duty and listen to all the facts.

"There are two important facts in this case," Crump said. "George Zimmerman was a grown man with a gun. Trayvon Martin was a minor with no blood on his hands."

Moments before court began the family of Zimmerman sat quiet waiting for the trial to begin.

The courtroom's public seating area which had been almost empty during Friday hearings was full with people wanting to see opening statements in person.

State prosecutors asked Circuit Judge Debra Nelson to ask Zimmerman's family to leave the courtroom for the duration of the trial because they are potential witnesses. Nelson agreed and Zimmerman's mother, father, wife and several others left the courtroom.

Trayvon's family can stay because Florida law allows the victim's family to stay.

Mark O'Mara wants Benjamin Crump out of the courtroom because he may be substantial witness, he said.

The judge asked Crump to leave the courtroom but said she would make a final decision about Crump's presence over lunch. Crump is the family attorney so he may get to attend trial.

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