SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors in the George Zimmerman trial want to introduce recordings of non-emergency calls he made to law enforcement to prove the former neighborhood watch leader is guilty of second-degree murder in shooting Trayvon Martin last year.
Prosecutors planned to try to convince Judge Debra Nelson on Tuesday that a series of calls Zimmerman made to authorities about suspicious people in his central Florida neighborhood in the weeks and months before the fatal shooting are indicative of the state of mind he had that night.
State attorney John Guy said in his opening statement Monday that Zimmerman thought Martin was one of the “F—— punks” who “always get away” whom he’d observed previously in his neighborhood and called police about.
But late Monday, defense attorneys objected to the introduction of the previous calls during the questioning of a witness, saying they were being used to show prior bad acts by Zimmerman. The defense maintains this should not be admissible under the rules of evidence.
The judge said she would address the matter Tuesday and sent the jurors to the hotel where they are being sequestered for the duration of the trial, which could last several weeks.
The prosecution began opening statements in the long-awaited murder trial with shocking language, repeating obscenities Zimmerman uttered while talking to a police dispatcher moments before the deadly confrontation.
The defense opened with a knock-knock joke about the difficulty of picking a jury for a case that stirred nationwide debate over racial profiling, vigilantism and Florida’s expansive laws on the use of deadly force.
“Knock. Knock,” said defense attorney Don West.
“Who is there?”
“George Zimmerman who?”
“All right, good. You’re on the jury.”
Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder for gunning down Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, as the unarmed black teenager, wearing a hoodie on a dark, rainy night, walked from a convenience store through the gated townhouse community where he was staying.
When Zimmerman initially wasn’t charged in the fatal shooting, Martin’s family claimed Zimmerman had racially profiled Martin and police were dragging their feet in bringing charges. Zimmerman, whose mother is Hispanic and whose father is white, has denied the confrontation had anything to do with race.
Randy McClean, a criminal defense attorney in Florida with no connection to the case, called the prosecution’s opening statement “brilliant” in that it described Zimmerman’s state of mind. But he described the knock-knock joke as less than stellar.
“If you’re defending your client for second-degree murder, you probably shouldn’t start your opening with a joke,” McClean said.