July 12 (Bloomberg) -- Trayvon Martin is dead because George Zimmerman profiled the teenager as a criminal, a prosecutor said in closing arguments in the Florida trial of the Neighborhood Watch volunteer charged with second-degree murder.
“He’s dead not just because another man made those assumptions but because the man acted on those assumptions,” Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda told jurors yesterday in Sanford, Florida. “Unfortunately, because those assumptions were wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks upon this earth.”
Zimmerman, 29, told the police he acted in self-defense on Feb. 26, 2012, after Martin, 17, punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and threatened to kill him. At the time of the shooting, Martin was carrying a can of iced tea, a bag of Skittles and $40 in cash.
“Is it really self-defense when you follow somebody?” de la Rionda said, referring to Zimmerman’s admission in a recorded call to police the night of the shooting that he was following the youth.
The defense is scheduled to make its closing arguments today.
The killing triggered protests in several U.S. cities after officials initially declined to arrest Zimmerman. The furor centered on the racial aspects of the shooting -- Martin was black while Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is Hispanic.
The shooting spurred President Barack Obama to comment that if he had a son, the child would have looked like Martin.
In the absence of eyewitness accounts that Zimmerman was the aggressor, de la Rionda used Zimmerman’s own comments to police to portray him as a vigilante whose story about what happened the night of the shooting can’t be trusted.
“Unfortunately there are only two people who knew what happened out there and he, the defendant, made sure the other person couldn’t come to this courtroom,” de la Rionda said.
For about 2 1/2 hours, de la Rionda took jurors through the government’s case. He showed them pictures of Martin, both alive and dead, and he brought out the gun Zimmerman used to kill him.
He played video recordings of interviews Zimmerman gave to police and Fox News host Sean Hannity, pausing them throughout to point out inconsistencies or implausibility in Zimmerman’s version of the shooting.
De la Rionda portrayed Zimmerman as a police officer wannabe with martial arts training who followed Martin through the gated community. He played Zimmerman’s call to police to report Martin, highlighting Zimmerman’s remarks that criminals always get away.
“He wanted to make sure Trayvon Martin didn’t get out of the neighborhood,” de la Rionda said. “The rest of them would flee and this defendant was sick and tired of it. That night he decided he would be what he wanted to be: a police officer.”
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson yesterday denied a defense request that the six-woman jury consider only the second-degree murder charge when it deliberates. Jurors may also consider a verdict on the lesser charge of manslaughter, she ruled.
Second-degree murder carries the possibility of a life sentence. A manslaughter conviction might result in 30 years in prison, according to Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara.
De la Rionda urged jurors to focus on Zimmerman’s actions just after the shooting, noting that he never attempted to revive Martin and then remarked to a police officer who he asked to call his wife, “just tell her I killed him.”
“Those acts, those actions, speak volumes of what occurred that Sunday evening,” he said.
The case is State of Florida v. Zimmerman, 1712FO4573, Florida Circuit Court, 18th Judicial Circuit, Seminole County (Sanford).
To contact the reporters on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Christopher Boyd in 18th Judicial Circuit Court in Sanford, Florida.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at email@example.com.