Trayvon Martin is dead because George Zimmerman profiled the teenager as a criminal, a prosecutor said in closing arguments in the Florida trial of the Neighborhood Watch volunteer charged with second-degree murder.
“He profiled him as a criminal,” Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda told jurors today in Sanford, Florida. “He assumed certain things. That Trayvon Martin was up to no good.”
“He’s dead not just because another man made those assumptions but because the man acted on those assumptions,” de la Rionda said. “Unfortunately, because those assumptions were wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks upon this earth.”
Zimmerman, 29, told the police he acted in self-defense on Feb. 26, 2012, after Martin, 17, punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and threatened to kill him.
“Is it really self-defense when you follow somebody?” de la Rionda said, referring to Zimmerman’s admission in a recorded call to police the night of the shooting that he was following the youth.
The defense will make its closing arguments on Friday.
Jurors may also consider convicting him of the lesser charge of manslaughter in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, a judge ruled on Thursday.
In a victory for Florida state prosecutors, Judge Debra Nelson issued her ruling before prosecutors were scheduled to deliver closing arguments Thursday in the case which has captivated and polarized much of the U.S. public, and which generated a wave of street demonstrations last year.
Nelson denied the prosecution attempt to offer a second option of third-degree felony murder based upon child abuse. Martin, at age 17, was a minor.
Defense lawyer Don West objected to the child abuse charge as a "trick," based on some evidence that Martin was pummeling Zimmerman in a fight before Zimmerman pulled out his gun.
West also complained that prosecutors had proposed the third-degree murder option early on Thursday. As of Wednesday afternoon, prosecutors had indicated they would seek a second option of aggravated assault.
Nelson's ruling on manslaughter was a victory for the prosecution, which wanted the sequestered, all-female jury to have the option of choosing the so-called lesser included offense, which still carries a potentially lengthy sentence.
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 on second-degree murder, confident they 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."
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