After two long weeks of jury selection, the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman is finally starting.
Last week, in addition to choosing the jurors, the judge ruled in favor of the defense when she excluded the audio experts from the trial who identified the screams on the 911 audio as Trayvon’s.
Today, jurors will hear opening statements from both sides about what happened the night Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed Trayvon Martin in February 2012. The six jurors and four alternates that were chosen last week are expected to hear starkly different versions of the story, as the defense paints the picture of a troubled teen looking for a fight and the state makes the point that Zimmerman murdered an innocent, unarmed 17-year-old.
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson ruled last week that the state can use several phrases in opening that Zimmerman’s defense team had argued were too inflammatory:
- Prosecutors can say Zimmerman was a “wannabe cop,” or a “vigilante,” the judge ruled. – They can say Zimmerman “confronted” Trayvon.
- The state can say Trayvon, a black teen from Miami Gardens, was profiled by Zimmerman, though she instructed prosecutors to avoid the phrase “racially profiled.”
Earlier today, Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, spoke to the media about the emotional day ahead.
LATEST UPDATES FROM THE COURTROOM:
4:49 PM EST: Judge Nelson tells Witness 4 to come back the next day for testimony and questioning. Court recesses for day.
- Attorneys will pick up argument about whether to let jurors hear Zimmerman’s earlier 911 calls that involve many black individuals.
4:25 PM EST: The fourth witness of the day takes the stand, Ramona Rumph, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, communications division.
- Rumph explains the difference between 911 call & non-emergency calls.
- She also explains to the court how date/time stamps work in call system. 911 call initially coded as routine. Can change during course of the call, was upgraded in this case.
- Court plays an older 911 tape where Zimmerman is mentioning a recent burglary, says he saw someone who matches the description. The call from 08/03/2011 was listed as non-emergency.
- O’Mara moves to strike old-call testimony unless state can show relevance. Judge Nelson moves jurors out of court to discuss with attorneys.
3:35 PM EST: The next witness takes the stand, 911 dispatcher Sean Noffke who answered Zimmerman’s calls on the night he shot Trayvon.
- Noffke explains to court how 911 calls are handled. Specifies the call that night as a “non-emergency call.”
- 911 call was played in the courtroom.
- Noffke tells court that he tells callers to avoid any confrontation. Noffke asks Zimmerman which way that Trayvon went, but Zimmerman can be heard getting out of his truck to follow Trayvon. Can hear the chime when he opens the door.
- From 911 audio: Noffke, “Are you following him,” Zimmerman, “Yes.” Noffke, “Okay we don’t need you to do that.”
- During cross examination, O’Mara asks Noffke if Zimmerman sounded upset after he told Noffke Trayvon ran. Noffke says no.
- State comes back for questioning and asks if words like “asshole” which Zimmerman could be heard saying on the call indicated “ill will.” Noffke: “yes.” O’Mara objects.
- Noffke says words could also indicate hostility.
3:16 PM EST: State’s second witness takes the stand, Andrew Gaugh
- Gaugh was the clerk at the 7-Eleven store that Trayvon visited before he was shot dead.
- State shows video of Trayvon Martin in the 7-Eleven store, buying a drink and Skittles. Gaugh can be seen ringing up the purchases.
- Defense starts cross examination
- O’Mara asked Gaugh if he talked to Trayvon after the transaction. He asks Gaugh if he remembers the transaction. O’Mara makes the argument that he’s just saying that it’s Trayvon on the video because he was told so.
- O’Mara makes Gaugh come off stand to ask him how tall he is. Asks him if he was the same height just a year ago. O’Mara ends cross examination without further explanation.
3:13 PM EST: Cross examination for witness one begins:
- Mark O’Mara delivers cross examination. Asks Chad how many hours Trayvon was playing games with him.
3:05 PM EST: State’s first witness takes the stand, Chad Joseph.
- The first witness met Trayvon Martin through Tracy Martin. Is 15-years-old and lived in Sanford.
- Tracy Martin is Chad’s mother’s boyfriend.
- Chad tells state that he and Trayvon were playing Play Station 3 when Trayvon went to 7-11. He asked Trayvon to get him some Skittles.
- He said he talked to Trayvon briefly on the phone, he tried calling Trayvon’s phone again after he didn’t come home. No one answered.
- Said he didn’t hear anything because he was in the room playing the game (with heaphones on)
- He did not learn that Trayvon was killed into the next day after school
2:48 PM EST: Judge rules that Trayvon’s family can stay in court
- Benjamin Crump, Trayvon’s family attorney, will not be allowed, however.
2:38 PM EST: Defense asks that Trayvon’s family be removed from court room. Friend of Zimmerman family accuses Trayvon’s father of obscenities.
- Tim Tucholski accuses Tracy Martin of cursing at him while court was in session. Apparently said “motherfucker” under his breath. Defense attorney Mark O’Mara asks Tucholski to point him out
- Bernie de la Rionda now questioning family friend.
- BDLR finds out from Tucholski that the exchange happened two weeks prior. He told George Zimmerman’s wife, S
hellie, about the curse word.
2:30 PM EST: Don West argues that Trayvon was, in fact, armed.
- Says Trayvon was armed with a concrete sidewalk. “No different than picking up a brick.”
1:30 PM EST: Court resumes
- Attorney Don West gets back to opening statements. Makes a comment regarding the knock-knock joke from earlier:
“No more bad jokes I promise. I really think it was the delivery, I think the joke was funny.”
- West says that the shot was a “contac shot” BUT it didn’t touch Zimmerman’s body, only his hoodie.
- “He [Zimmerman] just gets it out enough that it touches the fabric” of Trayvon’s hoodie.” Says he only shot after he was head and nose were smashed.
- Shows photos of Trayvon’s pants as circumstantial evidence. Says Trayvon’s clothing “was placed in plastic bags and sealed… improperly.” Says there was dirt on Trayvon’s knees, supporting the argument that he was straddling Zimmerman.
- West talks briefly about voices on 911 call. Says that it’s hard to determine who is who. Says Trayvon’s mother “certainly wants it to be his (Trayvon’s) voice” on calls.
- Objection sustained after state argues that defense opening statements are closer to closing statements.
12:30 PM EST: Court recesses until 1:30 PM EST for lunch
- Judge stops defenses opening statement
11:05 AM EST: Zimmerman listens to the 911 audio for the first time during trial:
- On audio you can hear Zimmerman say that Trayvon looks suspicious. “He looks like he’s on drugs…something’s wrong with him.”
- “He’s got something in his hands.”
- 911 call reinforces prosecutor John Guy’s opening statements. Zimmerman can be heard saying “these assholes always get away.”
- West says Trayvon had plenty of time” to get back to house, but chose not to do that, “confront.” Says a second-degree murder charge for Zimmerman requires “ill-will, hatred…”
- West plays 911 audio of one witness where you can hear screams in the background. West says “those are the screams of someone in a life-threatening situation.” But doesn’t specify who.
- Sybrina Fulton leaves the courtroom to avoid hearing 911 audio of her son’s last screams for help.
- West says one witness says they saw person in dark clothes “mounted on the person with the red shirt.” Says Zimmerman was wearing the red and Trayvon was wearing the dark.
- West also says that the position of Trayvon’s body suggest that he was straddling Zimmerman.
- Talks about Zimmerman’s injuries after being “beat down.” West says the next day Zimmerman was “emotionally and physically beaten.”
10:45 AM EST: Defense starts opening statements. Don West opening.
- Defense setting up audio and visuals. Said to show Zimmerman’s bloody face.
- “This is a sad case. A young man lost his life, another is fighting for his.”
- State objects to West personal comments. Nelson: Opening “supposed to be what the evidence will show.”
- West tells a “knock knock” joke to the jury. Then tells the jury that George Zimmerman is innocent.
- West shows visual of neighborhood, said that Zimmerman was appointed Neighborhood Watch and that crime was on the rise.
- Tells jury that the knowledge that Zimmerman followed Trayvon after being told not to is untrue.
- References phone calls with Witness 8, the friend on phone with Trayvon before he was shot. Comparing them to times of Zimmerman’s 911 calls.
10:10 AM EST: Court takes a 15-minute recess for defense to prepare
10:00 AM EST: John Guy sites multiple evidence that Trayvon did not attack Zimmerman:
- The shot by Zimmerman into Trayvon’s chest was a “contact shot” according to the DA. That means the gun was pressed into Trayvon’s chest.
-The only other injury to Trayvon was a small abrasion on his left ring finger. Trayvon was right-handed.
- Guy also talks briefly about Zimmerman’s MMA fighting background.
- “Neither of the two lacerations needed a single suture.” John Guy on the extent of Zimmerman’s injuries from scuffle.
- Tells jurors that they will hear a “bone-chilling” 911 call where Trayvon can be heard screaming. “Trayvon Martin was immediately silenced,” after gunshot went off.
9:50 AM EST: The family of Trayvon weeps in court as Guy recounts how police found Trayvon dead:
Zimmerman sits emotionless:
9:35 AM EST: John Guy starts with opening statements:
- “Fucking punks, these assholes always get away.” West starts with George Zimmerman’s words right before he shot Trayvon Benjamine Martin.
- “The truth about the murder of Trayvon Martin will come straight from George Zimmerman’s mouth.”
- “George Zimmerman thought that it was his right to rid his neighborhood of anyone he believed didn’t belong.”
- When he got into the neighborhood, George Zimmerman was riding around “with a Kel-Tec 9 mm… in a ready to fire” position.
- Guy tells court how Trayvon went to 7/11 to pick up an iced tea and Skittles for friends. Tells how Trayvon wasn’t alone as he was talking to Witness 8, a young friend from Miami, on the way home. She heard him ask Zimmerman, ’What are you following me for?’”
9:27 AM EST: Judge Nelson rules on witnesses, addressed jurors on rules:
- Nelson rules that any potential witnesses can not listen to trial, watch news on trial, etc.
- Also debating with attorneys about whether Zimmerman defense can use his early statements to neighbor & cop. State calls them self-serving hearsay.
9:00 AM EST: Court resumes
- Judge and attorney’s discussing who can be in court room. Trayvon’s parents and their attorney, Benjamin Crump are asked to leave as they are potential witnesses
- Judge argues that Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman defense attorney, had more than a month to depose Crump (to have him testify) but O’Mara did not.
- Prosecutor John Guy to open for state. Don West to open for defense.
8:30 AM EST: Trayvon’s parents address the media just minutes before the court hears opening statements.
- ”I ask that you pray for me and my family,” Sybrina Fulton, Trayv
- “We believe that the evidence is overwhelming” to holdaccountable in Trayvon’s killing,” Benjamin Crump, family attorney
- ”We ask that you all continue to pray for us,” Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father.
HERE’S WHAT YOU MISSED LAST WEEK:
- The six jurors and four alternates were chosen after two weeks of pretrial publicity questioning. See who made the cut below:
B-76: A white, middle-aged woman who said Zimmerman had an “altercation with the young man. There was a struggle and the gun went off.” Has been married 30 years, and is unemployed. She formerly worked with her husband in his construction company. Her 28-year-old son is an attorney in Seminole County. She also has a daughter, 26, has been a victim of non-violent crime and rescues “a lot of pets.” The state tried to strike her, but was denied.
B-37: A middle-aged white woman who has worked for a chiropractor for 16 years and has many pets. She described protests in Sanford as “rioting.” Her husband is an attorney. She has two daughters: A 24-year-old dog groomer and a 27-year-old who attends the University of Central Florida. Girls 24, grooms pets. She used to have concealed weapons permit, but let it lapse. Her husband also has one.
B-51: A retired white woman from Oviedo who has a dog and 20-year-old cat. She knew a good deal about the case, but said “I’m not rigid in my thinking.” She has been in Seminole County for nine years, is unmarried and has no kids. B-51 previously lived in Atlanta, and used to work in real estate. She also ran a call center in Brevard County which she said had 1,200 employees.
E-6: A young white woman and mother who used to work in financial services. She used this case as an example to her two adolescent children, warning them to not go out at night. She has lived in Seminole County for eight years, and is married to an engineer. E-6 was arrested in Brevard County, but said she “was treated completely fairly.” Her husband has guns. The state tried to strike her from the jury, but was denied.
E-40: A white woman in her 60s who lived in Iowa at the time of the shooting. She heard national news reports and recalls the shooting was in a gated community and a teenager was killed. She described herself as safety officer, is married to a chemical engineer and loves football. She has a 28-year-old son who’s out of work. She said she’s very well versed in cell phone technology, and has been a victim of crime.
B-29: A Hispanic nurse on an Alzheimer’s ward who has several children and lived in Chicago at the time of shooting. She’s married. She said she doesn’t watch the news, preferring reality television: “Right when we got here, I got cable… I love my reality shows.” During jury selection, she said she was arrested once in Chicago.
The alternates are as followed:
E-28: A middle-aged white woman who works as a nurse. She knew little about the case and has no opinion about Zimmerman’s guilt.
B-72: A young Hispanic male who does maintenance at a school and competes in arm wrestling tournaments. He said he avoids the news because he does not want to be “brainwashed.”
E-13: A young white woman who goes to college and works two jobs. She heard the shooting was a “racial thing.”
E-54: A middle-aged white man with a teenage stepson who wears hoodies. He recalled seeing photos of Zimmerman’s head and face that show injuries.
- Judge Debra S. Nelson ruled that the state’s audio experts would be excluded from the trial.
- For a full recap of each trial day, see below: