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How prosecutors portrayed Zimmerman as a predator

In closing arguments presented to an all-female jury in Florida Thursday, prosecutors in the Trayvon Martin case accused George Zimmerman of profiling the black teenager and lying about the events leading up to his death.

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The prosecutor also paraphrased Martin Luther King Jr. in defending witness Rachael Jeantel, a young woman of Haitian and Dominican origin who was on the phone with Martin when the teenager encountered Zimmerman.

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Jeantel underscored the racial divide in the case by using what de la Rionda called "colorful language," such as when she quoted Martin as referring to Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, as a "creepy ass cracker." She also testified that Martin told Zimmerman to "get off," suggesting Zimmerman initiated the confrontation.

"I had a dream that a witness was judged not by the color of her personality but by the content of her testimony," de la Rionda said.

Considering that legal analysts have generally portrayed the prosecution case as weak, de la Rionda received positive reviews.

"He has to work within the confines of what he's got, and he was animated," said Alison Triessl, a California-based defense lawyer who has followed the trial closely. "I loved the question about who was the one who was really scared here."

Attorney David Weinstein of Clarke Silverglate in Miami saw the prosecutor as effective, such as when he showed the last picture taken of Martin - an autopsy photo.

"He walked the jury through the evidence and pointed out the inconsistencies with the defense's arguments," he said. "He was confident in the job that his team has done and he ended with a sympathetic tug on the jurors hearts. He was not overly dramatic."

Earlier on Thursday, Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson gave jurors the option of convicting Zimmerman of the lesser charge of manslaughter. Prosecutors wanted the sequestered, all-female jury to have the option of choosing a lesser offense that still carried a potentially lengthy sentence.

If convicted, Zimmerman could be sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder and up to 30 years for manslaughter.

The defense preferred an all-or-nothing choice of second-degree murder, confident it had shown Zimmerman acted in self-defense and concerned the jury might opt for what lead defense lawyer Mark O'Mara described as a "compromise verdict."

When police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman, it provoked street demonstrations throughout the United States as critics blamed Zimmerman for pulling out his Kel Tec 9mm pistol, which was fully loaded with hollow-point bullets.

Backers of liberal gun laws have rallied behind Zimmerman and helped fund his defense, seeing him as a persecuted hero whose need for self-defense demonstrated the importance of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

(Additional reporting by Tom Brown and Kevin Gray; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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