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MailTribune.com
  • Zimmerman portrayed as vigilante

    Opening statements begin in Florida trial
  • 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 in their opening statement 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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  • 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 in their opening statement 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.
    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 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. "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. The first was a call Zimmerman made to a 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.
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