Murder trial begins in earnest in Trayvon Martin case

Judge Debra Nelson is pictured on the second day of jury selection in the murder trial of George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida in this file photo taken June 11, 2013. Credit: Reuters
George Zimmerman faces second-degree murder charges in Trayvon Martin’s shooting death.
Credit: Reuters

The murder trial of George Zimmerman, whose fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin triggered nationwide protests last year, began in earnest Monday in a Florida courtroom.

Opening statements from lawyers outlining the basic facts in the case, and what they believe the evidence will show, were set to start 9 a.m.

This follows two weeks of jury selection which ended last week with a panel of six female jurors chosen to decide Zimmerman’s fate. Due to intense media interest, the judge ordered the jury sequestered for the duration of the trial.

Zimmerman, who is 29 and part Hispanic, was the neighborhood watch captain in a gated community in Sanford at the time of the killing on Feb. 26, 2012. He has pleaded innocent to the charge of second-degree murder and could face life imprisonment if convicted.

Martin, 17, was a student at a Miami-area high school and a guest of one of the homeowners in the Retreat at Twin Lakes community. He was walking back to the residence after buying snacks at a nearby convenience store when he was shot in the chest during a confrontation with Zimmerman.

Because Sanford police initially failed to arrest Zimmerman, on grounds that he acted in self-defense, many saw the killing as an example of second-class treatment of black victims in the U.S. criminal justice system.

That set off civil rights rallies and cries of injustice across the United States throughout much of last year. It also threw a spotlight on gun use and Florida’s controversial self-defense laws.

Much of what happened during Martin’s fatal encounter with Zimmerman is still a mystery. Neighbors who witnessed the scuffle and the fatal shot, albeit on a rainy night, are expected to testify.

Zimmerman claims Martin was the aggressor, but Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda, who is the lead prosecutor, says the younger man would be alive today had he not been profiled by Zimmerman as “a real suspicious guy.”

Setting the stage for a possible fiery opening to the trial, presiding Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson overruled objections from the defense last week and said prosecutors could use such inflammatory terms as “vigilante” and “wannabe cop” in referring to Zimmerman.

She also ruled that prosecutors could say Zimmerman “profiled” Martin and “confronted” him, language suggesting that he initiated the altercation that led to Martin’s death.

There is a high bar for the prosecution in a case that will center on Florida’s aggressive self-defense laws, however. Under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which was approved in 2005 and has since been copied by about 30 other states, people fearing for their lives can use deadly force without having to retreat from a confrontation, even when it is possible.

In instructions on “justifiable use of deadly force,” that Nelson read to potential jurors last week, she noted that anyone in fear of grievous bodily harm or death is entitled to shoot and kill an assailant rather than back down.

“The danger facing the defendant need not have been actual,” Nelson said, suggesting that mere perception of “danger” was enough to make it reality.

“If the defendant was not engaged in an unlawful activity, and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and a right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he reasonably believed that it was necessary do so,” Nelson said.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.