First Witnesses Take Stand In Zimmerman Trial
SANFORD (CBSMiami/AP) – Opening statements have wrapped in the trial of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin.
Before the statements got underway, Circuit Judge Debra Nelson ruled that remarks Zimmerman made to a police officer and a neighbor immediately after he shot Martin could be used during the trial. Zimmerman told the officer and the neighbor that he was yelling for help but nobody responded during his struggle with Martin.
Arguments over whether the remarks could be used by the defense delayed the start of opening statements by a few minutes.
Prosecutor John Guy opened his statement by telling the jury that “The truth of what happened to Trayvon Martin will come from George Zimmerman’s own mouth.”
Guy repeatedly told the jury about a recording from the night of the shooting in which Zimmerman can be heard saying “F (expletive) punks. These (expletives), they always get away.” Guy went on to say the Zimmerman felt it was his “right to rid his neighborhood of anyone” he thought didn’t belong.
Guy told the jury that the state planned to produce evidence that Martin didn’t attack and punch Zimmerman.
Zimmerman’s claim that Martin had his hands over the neighborhood watch volunteer’s mouth is false since none of Zimmerman’s DNA was found on Martin’s body, Guy said. The prosecutor also said Zimmerman’s claim that he had to fire because Martin was reaching for his firearm is false since none of Martin’s DNA was on the gun or holster. He added that Martin didn’t have any of Zimmerman’s blood on his hands or under his fingernails, but Martin’s blood was on Zimmerman.
Guy said that the day after the shooting, Zimmerman “began to spin a tangled web of lies.”
According to Guy, Martin never told Zimmerman “You’re going to die tonight” as Zimmerman has claimed.
As for injuries Zimmerman suffered, the longest was a two centimeter cut which didn’t require any stitches.
Guy said Zimmerman racially profiled Martin and saw him not as a young man walking home, but as a threat.
“George Zimmerman didn’t shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to,” Guy said. “He shot him for the worst of all reasons: because he wanted to.”
After a short recess, defense attorney Don West told the jury that “I think the evidence will show this is a sad case and there are no monsters.”
West maintained that Zimmerman shot Martin in self defense.
West told the jury it was “absolutely untrue” that Zimmerman followed Martin and was told so not to do so by the non-emergency operator. He said Zimmerman was already outside of car when the dispatcher told him not to follow.
He then described how Martin “sucker punched” Zimmerman when he was confronted.
A neighbor, John Good, who reportedly saw the confrontation will take the stand and tell what happened, West told the jury.
West then walked the jury through the call each exchange at the time. He pointed out that Zimmerman asked the dispatcher to send police. West said Zimmerman was talking about crime in the neighborhood when he said “the (expletive) aways get away.”
Zimmerman was only following Martin in his car to let the dispatcher know his location, according to West.
West added that he has several things for the jury to consider later about the woman Martin was talking to when he and Zimmerman met up.
West said it was Martin who decided to confront Zimmerman. He then played the 9-1-1 call from a neighbor which included the shot that killed Martin.
Fulton left the courtroom when the call was played. This call also included screams which she has said were from her son. Zimmerman’s father has said the screaming heard was from his son. On the screams, West told the jury it will be up to them to decide who they are coming from.
As for witnesses, West said one couldn’t see their faces during the fight but could identify the color of the clothing each person wore. They said the person with the dark colored top, which West maintained was Martin, was ‘mounted’ on top of the other person.
West said Zimmerman was “out of breath” and “injured” when he talked to witnesses after the shooting.
The defense attorney then showed the jury several pictures of Zimmerman’s injuries and told them he “took quite a wallop” to his nose.
“He had just taken tremendous blows to his face, tremendous blows to his head,” said West who added that Zimmerman cooperated with police investigating the shooting instead of ‘lawyering up’.
As for the screaming heard on the 9-1-1 call, West said both Zimmerman family members and friends have heard the tape and said it was him. He added that Martin’s father told an investigator that it was not his son screaming during the call.
West is trying to taken advantage of the judge’s ruling last weekend which denied the prosecution’s used of a voice expert.
The defense attorney went on to refute the prosecution’s claims that Zimmerman was trained in martial arts. West said Zimmerman was “training” with a skilled martial arts trainer because he wanted to lose weight. He said Zimmerman never made it past “standing and hitting a bag” and the trainer will testify that Zimmerman was not athletic, rather “soft”.
West told the jury Martin played football, he was a linebacker, and would know how to take down a person. West said it was not true that Martin was unarmed.
“Trayvon Martin armed himself with a concrete sidewalk and used it to smash George Zimmerman’s head,” West said.
West then wrapped his presentation and the jury left the courtroom.
The two sides then held a hearing on whether Zimmerman’s parents would be allowed to attend the trial. Currently they are on the state’s witness list. The defense counters that Zimmerman’s parents should be allowed to attend the proceedings because Martin’s parents are allowed to attend because they are the parents of the victim.
The judge ruled that Zimmerman’s parents will be allowed to attend the court after they testify.
The first witness called to the stand was Chad Joseph, the son of Tracy Martin’s girlfriend. Joseph said he and Martin were watching television when Martin left to get them some snacks. Joseph said he talked with Martin briefly after he left the store. He testified when Martin failed to return, he called his cell phone to no avail.
The second witness was Andrew Gaugh, a convenience store cashier who sold Martin the Skittles and can of tea the night he died.
Next up was Sean Noffke, the 9-1-1 dispatcher who spoke with Zimmerman, the night of the shooting. He testified that the non-emergency call made by Zimmerman was designated non-urgent. Noffke said he only asked Zimmerman which way Martin was headed so he could update the officers. He testified that he never told Zimmerman to follow Martin. He added that he wouldn’t tell a person to follow or not follow someone because the dispatch would be liable if anything happened.
Noffke said he did make a suggestion for Zimmerman not to follow Martin. Noffke testified that Zimmerman remained calm during the call.
Before the start of the day’s proceedings Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, said his thoughts were with his son.
“As the court proceedings continue today, we as a family look to and cherish and hold onto the memories that Trayvon left us with. As we enter the courtroom today in seeking justice,” said Martin.
“I will be attending this court to try to get justice for my son. I ask that you pray for me and my family because I don’t want any other mother to have to experience what I’m going through now. ,” said Trayvon’s mother Sybrina Fulton.
On Feb. 26, 2012, Zimmerman spotted Martin, whom he did not recognize, walking in the Sanford townhome community where Zimmerman and the fiancee of Martin’s father lived. Martin, who was returning from a convenience store on a rainy night, was wearing a dark hooded shirt.
There had been a rash of recent break-ins and Zimmerman was reportedly wary of strangers walking through the complex. The two eventually got into a struggle and Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest with his 9mm handgun.
The initial decision not to charge Zimmerman led to public outrage and demonstrations around the nation. 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 black teen from Miami. Martin was visiting his father in Sanford when he was shot.
Two police dispatch phone calls will be important evidence for both sides’ cases.
The first is a call Zimmerman made to a nonemergency 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.
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