The prosecution and defense in the George Zimmerman trial laid out their cases for the jury in Monday’s opening statements, with differences in both tone and message. The prosecution argued Zimmerman “profiled” and “murdered” Trayvon Martin; the defense argued that Zimmerman’s decision to shoot Martin was self-defense after he was “viciously attacked” by the teen.
Zimmerman faces a charge of second-degree murder and has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutor John Guy was the first to speak, and surprised many in the court by using profanity in his opening remarks.
Guy quoted Zimmerman as saying to a dispatcher, “F***ing punks,” and “These a**holes, they always get away.”
“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,” Guy continued, describing Zimmerman’s remarks as “hate-filled words that he used to describe a perfect stranger.”
Guy said that Zimmerman “profiled, followed, and murdered an unarmed teenager,” and described the defendant as “someone who believed it was his right to rid his neighborhood of anyone he thought didn’t belong.”
When defense lawyer Don West laid out his client’s case shortly later in his opening remarks, he took a different tone, saying that ”there are no winners here,” and making the case for Zimmerman’s not-guilty plea by arguing he shot Martin in self-defense.
“I think the evidence will show that this is a sad case,” West said. “There are no monsters here.”
Early in his remarks, he said that “sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying,” as he set up a joke. ”Knock knock. Who’s there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? All right, good. You’re on the jury,” he said. The joke was apparently a reference to the jury selection process, in which potential jurors were asked how familiar they were with the case. Later in his remarks, after a recess, he apologized, saying he wouldn’t make any more jokes.
Shortly after the joke, West made the thrust of his argument. “George Zimmerman is not guilty of murder. He shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense after being viciously attacked,” he said. He brought out diagrams of the neighborhood in which the shooting occurred and a picture of Zimmerman’s bloodied face taken shortly after the shooting.
He also played the 911 call recorded shortly before Martin’s shooting in which screams can be heard, saying that all the witnesses agree that “those are the screams of someone in a life-threatening situation,” suggesting it was Zimmerman yelling for help.
Note: George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company has strongly denied the allegation.