George Zimmerman probably won’t get convicted of murder, many experts say. But prosecutors still made a compelling case this week that he profiled and stalked 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Prosecutors’ closing arguments focused on discrepancies in Zimmerman’s story and on the hateful language he used on the phone with a 911 operator before killing Martin. The state says this language shows Zimmerman had the “ill will, hatred, spite, or evil intent” necessary for a second-degree murder conviction.
To prove second-degree murder, the prosecution also needs to show Zimmerman didn’t really think Martin was going to kill him or badly hurt him. Here’s what the prosecution has going for it:
- George Zimmerman’s 911 call. Martin was apparently minding his own business when Zimmerman first spotted him around 7 p.m., but Zimmerman told the dispatcher “this guy looks like he’s up to no good.” He later said on the call, “These arseholes always get away” before muttering “f—ing punks.”
- There’s evidence Zimmerman was following Martin. Trayvon was on the phone with a friend right before he died, and that friend testified that the teen asked “Why are you following me?” While it’s not illegal to follow somebody, the friend’s testimony shows Zimmerman was the aggressor, not Martin, prosecutors argue. “Is it really self-defence when you follow somebody?” lead prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda said. He also called Zimmerman a “wannabe cop.”
- Zimmerman allegedly lied about following the teen on foot. Zimmerman says he left his car because he went to check the name of the street where he spotted Martin. Prosecutors say he got out to follow the teen, and that he likely knew the street name. There were only three streets in the housing complex, where Zimmerman was head of the neighbourhood watch, they pointed out. How could he not know the street name?
- Prosecutors say Zimmerman lied about Marting grabbing his gun. Zimmerman says he shot Martin when the teen tried to grab the gun, but prosecutors say that’s not possible. Martin couldn’t have seen the gun in Zimmerman’s waistband, in the dark, prosecutors say. And none of Martin’s DNA was found on that gun.
- Zimmerman can’t back up the key part of his self-defence claim, prosecutors say. His claims that Martin slammed his head onto the pavement 25 times is pretty compelling. A person is justified in using deadly force if it’s necessary to prevent “immanent death or great bodily harm.” But prosecutor John Guy projected a picture of Zimmerman’s head, which showed a few bloody spots but no big gashes. He pointed out that Zimmerman told a physician’s assistant that he didn’t even have a headache the next day. “Was he injured? Yes. Was he injured seriously? Not close, not close,” Guy told the jury.
To be sure, the prosecution still has a hard task in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was guilty of second-degree murder. Their closing arguments didn’t make him look good though. At one point, Bernie de la Rionda pointed out that Zimmerman didn’t try to give Martin CPR after he shot him even though he claimed to not know he was dead.
“Did he attempt to render the same aid that those heroic officers from the Sanford police department did?” de la Rionda asked. The answer to that question was no. As de la Rionda spoke, Zimmerman stared ahead, stone-faced.
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