Prosecutor opens with Zimmerman's obscenity - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Prosecutor opens with Zimmerman's obscenity

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Courtesy FOX News Courtesy FOX News

The prosecutor cursed and the defense attorney told a joke as both sides laid out opening arguments in the murder trial of George Zimmerman, the man who killed Florida teen Trayvon Martin in what his lawyers say was self-defense and authorities say was a case of fatal profiling.

The all-female jury of six took in both unconventional statements, alternately stunned, taking notes and at times appearing to nod in agreement. Jaws in the jury box dropped when prosecutor John Guy electrified the courtroom with a short, but profanity-laced and impassioned argument that sought to paint the defendant as an angry and out-of-control vigilante who was stalking Martin when he shot the teen in the gated community in Sanford, where he lived.

"F---ing punks," prosecutor John Guy said in open court, quoting Zimmerman's own words to a 911 dispatcher. "These a--holes, they always get away."

The language -- rare for open court -- appeared to stun the six female jurors who must decide whether Zimmerman shot and killed the 17-year-old African-American teen in self defense, or if he stalked the youth and provoked the deadly confrontation.

"Those were the words in that grown man's mouth as he followed, in the dark, a 17-year-old boy who he didn't know," continued Guy, as jurors in the Florida courtroom listened intently, some taking notes. "And excuse my language, but those were his words, not mine."

When Guy said Zimmerman "made a decision that brought us all here today," the juror identified as E6 nodded her head in apparent agreement

Guy discounted the expected defense version of events, that Zimmerman was on the losing end of a violent confrontation and pulled his registered gun in self-defense, calling it a "tangled web of lies." 

The prosecutor said Martin had no blood or DNA from Zimmerman on his hands or under his fingernails, and he wrapped up his statements in about a half-hour, telling jurors Zimmerman "did not shoot [Martin] because he had to, but because he wanted to."

Don West followed with opening statements on behalf of Zimmerman, offering a knock-knock joke that fell flat before the stone-faced jurors.

"Who's there?" West said. "George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? Okay, good. You're on the jury."

West pivoted from the failed attempt at humor to a somber version of events, one that portrayed his client as a victim who acted to save his own life.

"The young man lost his life," West said. "Another is fighting for his. The evidence will show that this is a sad case. There are no monsters here."

In the courtroom, the Martin family sat next to their lawyer, Benjamin Crump. Zimmerman's mother, father and wife also were present, but were later escorted out after prosecution lawyers invoked sequestration rules, which bar witnesses from courtroom proceedings until the state concludes the case. 

Zimmerman's defense team responded by asking Circuit Judge Debra Nelson to order the Martin family and Crump to leave, but they were allowed to stay. Mark O'Mara argued with Nelson over the decision, calling it "prejudicial."

Nelson also allowed the defense to use remarks in their opening statements that Zimmerman made to a police officer and neighbor immediately after he shot Martin.

Prior to the opening statements, Martin's mother asked for members of the public to pray for her family.

Sybrina Fulton said Monday that she didn't want any other mothers to have to go through what she is experiencing.

Zimmerman is pleading not guilty, claiming he shot Martin in self-defense.

Prosecutors say Zimmerman racially profiled Martin as he walked through the community where Zimmerman lived and often patrolled. Martin was returning from a convenience store on a rainy night in February 2012, wearing a dark, hooded shirt. The two eventually got into a fight and Zimmerman shot Martin.

Circuit Judge Debra Nelson ruled last week prosecutors will be able to use the word "profiled" in their opening statements, as long as their description isn't limited to racial profiling. Prosecutors will be able to describe Zimmerman as a "wannabe cop" and "vigilante" and will be able to make the claim that it was Zimmerman who confronted Martin.

"We don't intend to say he was profiled solely because of race," Guy said last week.

The defense is expected to argue race played no part in the case, which became a national story after the initial decision by local authorities not to charge Zimmerman. Civil rights leaders and others accused the police in the central Florida city of Sanford of failing to thoroughly investigate the shooting because Martin was a black teen from Miami. Martin was visiting his father in Sanford when he was shot.

"We're trying so hard in this case not to make it what everybody outside the courthouse wants it to be," O'Mara said.

On Feb. 26, 2012, Zimmerman spotted Martin, whom he did not recognize, walking in the townhome community where Zimmerman and the fiancee of Martin's father lived. There had been a rash of recent break-ins and Zimmerman was wary of strangers walking through the complex.

The two eventually got into a struggle and Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest with his 9-mm. handgun. He was charged 44 days after the shooting, only after a special prosecutor was appointed to review the case and after protests.

"I ask that you pray for me and my family because I don't want any other mothers to have to experience what I'm going through now," said Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother, shortly before the start of opening statements.

Two police dispatch phone calls will be important evidence for both sides' cases.

The first is a call Zimmerman made to a non-emergency police dispatcher as he followed Martin walking through his gated community. At one point, the dispatcher tells Zimmerman he doesn't need to be following Martin.

The second 911 call captures screams from the confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin. Martin's parents said the screams are from their son while Zimmerman's father contends they belong to his son.

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 the experts used were unreliable.

Story from FOX News.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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