Jokes and Tears in Zimmerman Trial Opening

     SANFORD, Fla. – Cursing, bad jokes and accusations made up opening statements in the George Zimmerman murder trial, as both sides tried to sway the jury on a version of the night Trayvon Martin was killed.
     Prosecutor John Guy began his opening statement Monday by saying Zimmerman had revealed how he felt about the 17-year-old Martin when he spoke to a 911 dispatcher. Guy repeated obscenities Zimmerman, now 29, had spoken on the night he shot Martin to death in February 2012.
     “Fucking punks. These assholes, they always get away,” Guy said loudly. “Excuse my French, but those were his words. 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 define a total stranger. When he saw Trayvon Martin, he didn’t see someone walking home, he saw someone that was ‘real suspicious’ and ‘up to no good.'”
     Guy continued to try to convince the jury that Zimmerman profiled Martin and followed him after speaking to police
     “At the end of that phone call he makes a decision that has all of us here today,” Guy said. “Then he began his web of lies. He profiled him as someone who was about to commit a crime in his neighborhood.”
     Guy described how Martin was found lying face down in the grass with his hands clutching his chest.
     “George Zimmerman did not shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to, but because he wanted to,” he added.
     While Zimmerman claims that he killed Martin in self defense, under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, Florida aims to prove that Zimmerman profiled the unarmed 17-year-old as he walked home from a convenience store, carrying an Arizona-brand drink and Skittles in February 2012.
     If convicted of second-degree murder Zimmerman could face up to life in prison.
     The defense argues Martin circled back and punched Zimmerman, smashing his head on the sidewalk before attempting to reach for Zimmerman’s gun.
     Playing off the notoriety of the case, defense attorney Don West began his opening with a knock-knock joke:
     “Knock knock. Who’s there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? All right, good, You’re on the jury.”
     West went on to describe how Zimmerman shot Martin only after the teenager had thrown a punch and banged the defendant’s head into the concrete.
     The statement that Martin was unarmed is not true because “Trayvon Martin armed himself with a concrete sidewalk,” the defense attorney said.
     “This is a sad case,” West said. “There are no winners here. I think the evidence will show that there are no monsters here.”
     “He shot Trayvin Martin in self defense,” West added. “George Zimmerman participated in Neighborhood Watch. The neighborhood asked him to do that. He was a liaison with the Sanford Police Department. There had been a number of burglaries in the community.”
     While Zimmerman made a nonemergency call to report Martin as suspicious, 911 received another call that night as Zimmerman confronted Martin.
     West played a recording of both call and said Zimmerman can be heard screaming in the background of the second call while facing “a life-threatening situation.”
     “He had just taken tremendous blows to his face and head,” the lawyer continued. “George Zimmerman cooperated fully.”
     Audio experts who have concluded that the screams actually came from Martin will not be allowed to testify.
     
     Two Families
     Martin’s parents wiped away tears.
     Zimmerman sat looking straight ahead with no emotion.
     The courtroom was full of media, family members from both sides and members of the public.
     Zimmerman’s parents were not allowed in the courtroom because of rules of sequestration since they could be witnesses for the state. Martin’s family was allowed in because they are the victim’s family.
     Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson would not allow Martin’s family lawyer to be in the courtroom, however.
     Martin’s family attorney Benjamin Crump said it is an open-and-shut case.
     “A murder trial is a very emotional matter,” Crump said at a press conference before the trial began Monday. “The jury will have to hear all of the evidence. We think this is a simple case. No. 1: Zimmerman was a grown man with a gun. No. 2: Trayvon was a child with no blood on his hands. Literally.”
     Crump said Zimmerman’s DNA was not found on Martin.
     “We believe that the evidence is overwhelming,” he noted. “Now it’s time for the jury to do their duty.”
     Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, were also present.
     “I will be here everyday to get justice for my son,” Fulton said. “I don’t want any mother to have to go through what I’m going through now.”
     Tracy Martin added: “We hold on to his smile. That strengthens us. We ask that you all continue to pray for us.”
     After the opening statements, a friend of Zimmerman’s named Timothy Tucholski told Judge Nelson that Martin’s father cursed at him weeks ago when they ran into each other in the restroom.
     He claimed Tracy Martin mumbled “motherfucker” under his breath when he noticed his badge said “family of George Zimmerman.”
     Nelson discouraged emotional outbursts in the courtroom but said, aside from a few cell phones ringing, everyone had been well-behaved so far. She allowed Tracy Martin to remain in the courtroom.
     
     The Witnesses
     The state called four witnesses to the stand Monday.
     First was Chad Joseph, the 15-year-old son of Tracy Martin’s girlfriend. He was the one who asked Martin to bring back Skittles from the store.
     Joseph said they were playing Playstation video games before Martin left for the store, and that he never saw Martin again. He heard of his passing after school the next day.
     Andrew Gaugh, the 7-Eleven cashier at the store Martin went to that night, took the stand next. He said he didn’t remember any conversation or concerns about Martin.
     Next was Sean Noftke, the 911 dispatcher who took Zimmerman’s call. He said Zimmerman did not seem angry on the call, and there was nothing strange about the way he described Martin.
     Noftke said he only suggested Zimmerman not follow Martin because dispatchers could be liable if they give direct orders.
     Finally, Ramona Rumph, a spokeswoman for the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, discussed the difference between a nonemergency call and a 911 call.
     The state played another nonemergency call Zimmerman made. The defense objected to the call on relevancy. The state disputed, saying it was relevant to Zimmerman’s claim that “they always get away.”
     Nelson will continue the argument Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

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