Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Zimmerman prosecutors give closing arguments; defense goes Friday

SANFORD — Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda spent nearly four hours Thursday trying to convince the jury that George Zimmerman was a lying, racist, paranoid, wanna-be cop who stalked 17-year-old Trayvon Martin through a gated community because he thought the teen was a criminal.

The prosecutor tried to use Zimmerman's own words against him, highlighting for the jury parts of a call Zimmerman made to police before he shot Martin dead.

"These a--holes," Zimmerman had said during the recorded call. "They always get away."

"A teenager is dead. He is dead through no fault of his own. He is dead because another man made assumptions," de la Rionda said during his closing arguments. "Because his assumptions were wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks on this earth."

The prosecution's goal was to convince the jury of six women that Zimmerman showed ill will, hatred or spite that night, which is necessary to win a second-degree murder conviction. The jury will have another, lesser charge to consider as well: manslaughter.

Judge Debra Nelson ruled earlier Thursday that the jury could consider the lesser charge, which was a blow to Zimmerman's defense team. She did not allow the state to present the jury with a third charge: third-degree murder. A manslaughter conviction requires only that prosecutors prove Zimmerman, 29, killed without lawful justification.

Because of the way Florida law imposes longer sentences for crimes committed with a gun, manslaughter could end up carrying a penalty as high as 30 years in prison.

Zimmerman got into a scuffle with Martin after spotting the teen while driving through his gated townhouse complex on a rainy night in February 2012. Zimmerman has claimed he fired in self-defense after Martin sucker-punched him and began slamming his head into the pavement. Prosecutors have disputed his account and portrayed him as the aggressor.

"He was wearing a hoodie," de la Rionda said of Martin. "Last I heard, that's not against the law. But in this man's eyes, he was up to no good."

The prosecutor pointed out that Zimmerman, who has said he didn't know the teen was dead, did not provide first aid or CPR to Martin after the shooting.

Time and again he talked about fear as a way to challenge Zimmerman's claim of self-defense, arguing that it was Martin who tried to run away and Zimmerman who followed.

"Is it really self-defense when you follow somebody?" he asked. "When you . . . think about it, who was more scared? Trayvon Martin, unfortunately, can't come into this room and tell you how he was feeling."

He asked the jury to test Zimmerman's actions against their understanding of fear. He told them Zimmerman had already made up his mind about Martin, that he had spent 18 months training in martial arts, that he was older, heavier and carried two flashlights and a Kel-Tec handgun, fully loaded with one in the chamber. He asked them to consider why Zimmerman didn't roll his window down, introduce himself as a neighborhood watchman and ask Martin what he was doing.

He also recounted the testimony of Rachel Jeantel, who was talking on the phone with Martin the night of the shooting. Jeantel testified that Martin told her he was being followed by a "creepy-a-- cracker," and that she took that to mean pervert and encouraged her friend to run. De la Rionda asked whether Martin had the right to his own self-defense.

"He wants you to let him off," de la Rionda said, "because he killed the only eyewitness."

De la Rionda presented a new puzzle to jurors as well. Zimmerman has claimed from the beginning that he felt Martin reaching for his gun, which is why he feared for his life. But the prosecutor wondered how Martin, in the darkness, would have even seen the weapon, which is small and black and was allegedly holstered inside the waistband of Zimmerman's pants, near the rear of his hip.

He replayed parts of a television interview Zimmerman did with Sean Hannity of Fox News. In the interview, Hannity asks Zimmerman if he ever considered that Martin was afraid of him, and ran away because he thought he was in danger. Zimmerman says Martin wasn't really running away, but "skipping." De la Rionda stopped the video and skipped across the courtroom, sarcastically.

Zimmerman's attorneys are expected to deliver their closing arguments this morning, followed by the prosecution's rebuttal.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story. Ben Montgomery can be reached at bmontgomery@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8650.

Zimmerman prosecutors give closing arguments; defense goes Friday 07/11/13 [Last modified: Friday, July 12, 2013 11:04am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84

    Nation

    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General

    Crime

    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  5. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest

    Nation

    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.