— SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — Past police dispatcher calls made by George Zimmerman should be presented to jurors at his second-degree murder trial since they show his state of mind and provide context to his fatal encounter with 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a prosecutor argued Tuesday.
Prosecutor Richard Mantei told a Florida judge that the five calls are central to the prosecution's argument that he committed second-degree murder since it shows his growing ill will at people he viewed as suspicious who were walking through his neighborhood.
The calls made in the six months before Zimmerman fatally shot Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, reflect the neighborhood watch volunteer's growing frustration with repeated break-ins at his gated community of townhomes and plays into the prosecution's theory that his view of Martin as a suspicious character was "the straw that broke the camel's back," Mantei said.
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara argued that the calls were irrelevant and that no previous incidents matter except the seven or eight minutes prior to when Zimmerman fired the deadly shot into Martin's chest.
"They're going to ask the jury to make a leap from a good, responsible, citizen behavior to seething behavior," O'Mara said of the prosecution's depiction of Zimmerman's actions.
Judge Debra Nelson said she would make a ruling after reviewing prior cases. The lawyers presented their arguments with the jury out of the courtroom.
Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder for gunning down Martin as the black teenager, wearing a hoodie on a dark, rainy night, walked from a convenience store through the gated townhouse community where he was staying. Zimmerman is pleading not guilty, claiming self-defense.
The case took on racial dimensions after Martin's family claimed that Zimmerman had racially profiled the teen and that police were dragging their feet in bringing charges. Zimmerman, who identifies himself as Hispanic, has denied the confrontation had anything to do with race.
The prosecution began opening statements Monday 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.
Prosecutor John Guy portrayed the then-neighborhood watch volunteer as a vigilante, saying, "Zimmerman thought it was his right to rid his neighborhood of anyone who did not belong."
Defense attorney Don West told jurors a different story: Martin sucker-punched Zimmerman and then pounded his head against the concrete sidewalk, and that's when Zimmerman opened fire.