Trayvon Martin death 'no fault of his own' - prosecutor
- 12 July 2013
- From the section US & Canada
An unarmed black teenager was shot dead "through no fault of his own" but because a neighbourhood watch volunteer deemed him a criminal, a prosecutor has said near the end of a murder trial.
Florida prosecutors said George Zimmerman, 29, lied about what happened the night he killed Trayvon Martin, 17.
The accused says he shot the teenager in self-defence during a fight.
He is charged with second-degree murder, but the judge has ruled the jury can convict him of manslaughter.
Defence lawyers for Mr Zimmerman are expected to make their closing arguments on Friday, following 12 days of testimony.
Mr Zimmerman could face life in prison if convicted on the murder charge. If found guilty of manslaughter, he could face up to 30 years in prison.
On the night of 26 February 2012, Martin was walking from a convenience shop to the home of his father's fiancee in Sanford, Florida, when the fatal confrontation ensued.
Mr Zimmerman, who was legally armed with a pistol, had been sitting in his vehicle on a dark street when he saw Martin and believed he was up to no good. Mr Zimmerman telephoned police, then left his vehicle in apparent pursuit of the teenager.
Moments later, Martin was dead of a gunshot wound to the chest.
Mr Zimmerman claimed he had shot Martin in self-defence when the teenager tried to grab his gun. In the absence of witnesses contradicting his account, police did not arrest him until six weeks later, following mass protests across the United States.
'Who started this?'
After 12 days of testimony in Mr Zimmerman's murder trial, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda gave the state's closing remarks on Thursday.
He described Mr Zimmerman as a "wannabe cop" and said the neighbourhood watch volunteer had followed the teenager with a gun and provoked him into a fight.
"[Trayvon] is dead through no fault of his own," he told the jury of six women.
"He is dead because another man made assumptions. Because his assumptions were wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin will no longer walk on this Earth."
Without explicitly bringing up race, Mr de la Rionda said Mr Zimmerman had "profiled" the young black hooded sweatshirt-clad teenager as a criminal.
"Who started this?" Mr de la Rionda asked the jury to consider. "Who followed who? Who was minding his own business? And of the two, who was armed?"
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Mr Zimmerman had lied in his account of the confrontation and that Mr Zimmerman, not Martin, had been the aggressor.
Martin's parents told the court the voice heard screaming for help on an emergency call during the fight was their son's.
And a prosecution witness testified none of Mr Zimmerman's DNA had been found on Martin's body - especially under his fingernails.
Meanwhile, Mr Zimmerman's defence team said that Martin had attacked the defendant unprovoked, pummelled him and slammed his head against the concrete pavement and made a grab for his gun, while he struggled for his life and ultimately fired his gun in self-defence.
Mr Zimmerman chose not to testify. But his lawyers showed the jury a video recording of Mr Zimmerman explaining to police his version of events.
The lawyers dwelt on Mr Zimmerman's injuries, which they said showed the teenager was severely beating him before the fatal shot.
Both of Mr Zimmerman's parents, as well as friends and an uncle, told the court the cries heard on the emergency call were those of Mr Zimmerman.
And forensic pathologist testified that Mr Zimmerman had fired his gun from beneath Martin, evidence, the defence said, that the teenager was beating him up.
Florida community leaders have appealed for calm as the trial heads towards its conclusion, fearing outrage if Mr Zimmerman is acquitted.
"It's all right to be vocal, but we don't want to be violent," said the Rev Walter Richardson, chairman of Miami-Dade County's Community Relations Board, according to the Associated Press.
"We've already lost one soul and we don't want to lose any more."