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George Zimmerman trial opens with obscenities, knock-knock joke

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George Zimmerman waits for court to start on the 8th day of his trial in Sanford on Wednesday, June 19, 2013. (Photo by Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel) George Zimmerman waits for court to start on the 8th day of his trial in Sanford on Wednesday, June 19, 2013. (Photo by Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel)
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SANFORD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

A prosecutor began opening statements in the George Zimmerman trial Monday with obscene words he says the neighborhood watch volunteer muttered under his breath just before Trayvon Martin was shot dead.

John Guy's first words to jurors were "F------ punks. These a-------. They always get away," which he quoted from a call Zimmerman made to a police dispatcher as he followed Martin through the Sanford gated community on a rainy night in February 2012.

Hear 911 calls, see George Zimmerman trial pictures at ZimmermanTrialOnFox.com

Guy said Zimmerman was profiling Martin as he followed him.  A confrontation ensued, then Zimmerman shot Martin, Guy said.

Guy discounted the expected defense version of events, that Zimmerman was on the losing end of a violent confrontation and pulled his registered gun in self-defense, calling it a "tangled web of lies." 

The prosecutor said Martin had no blood or DNA from Zimmerman on his hands or under his fingernails, and he wrapped up his statements in about a half-hour, telling jurors Zimmerman "did not shoot [Martin] because he had to, but because he wanted to."

Defense attorney Don West's opening statements lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours.   He told jurors that Zimmerman was being viciously attacked and was sucker-punched by Martin before he shot the 17-year-old.

"He had just taken tremendous blows to his face, tremendous blows to his head," said West after showing jurors photos taken by Zimmerman's neighbors of a bloodied and bruised neighborhood watch volunteer.  

West told a knock-knock joke in his opening statements, hoping to illustrate the difficulty in picking a jury amid all the publicity.

"'Knock. Knock,'" West said.

"'Who is there?'"

"'George Zimmerman.'"

"'George Zimmerman who?'"

"'Ah, good. You're on the jury.'"

West later apologized for the joke, saying he was sorry if he offended anyone. 

He then proceeded to explain to jurors the sequence of events that led to Trayvon Martin's death.

"The young man lost his life. Another is fighting for his," West said. "The evidence will show that this is a sad case. There are no monsters here."

He displayed a map of the community where the shooting occurred, pictures of Zimmerman taken after the altercation and shooting, and played back calls between Zimmerman, a non-emergency dispatcher and neighbors.

In the call to the dispatcher, Zimmerman said Martin looked suspicious and "black," and noted that there was a string of recent crime in the neighborhood. The call was the one in which Zimmerman used the obscenities that Guy recalled.

As West played the 911 call a neighbor made -- which captured screams from the altercation -- Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, walked out of the courtroom.

"Tragically there was nothing that could be done," West said, referring to Martin's condition after he was shot.

On Monday afternoon, the prosecution began calling in their first witnesses in the case for questioning.

Chad Joseph, 15, who is the son of Trayvon Martin's father's girlfriend, said Trayvon left to buy Skittles for him while they were watching TV and playing video games on the night of the shooting.

Joseph said he briefly spoke to Trayvon over the phone as he was walking home from a 7-Eleven store, but did not talk to him after that. Joseph found out about Trayvon's death when he came home from school the next day.

The second witness, 20-year-old Andrew Gaugh, was working the cash register at the time Martin purchased the Skittles at the 7-Eleven. Gaugh said he did not see anything suspicious about Martin's behavior. 

Martin's family was seen inside the courtroom earlier Monday sitting next to their lawyer, Benjamin Crump. Zimmerman's mother, father and wife also were present, but were later escorted out after prosecution lawyers invoked sequestration rules, which bar witnesses from courtroom proceedings until the state concludes the case. 

Zimmerman's defense team responded by asking Circuit Judge Debra Nelson to order the Martin family and Crump to leave, but they were allowed to stay. Defense attorney Mark O'Mara argued with Nelson over the decision, calling it "prejudicial."

Just before opening statements began, Martin's parents issued a statement asking supporters to pray with them for justice, while Crump described the case as clear cut.

"There are two important facts in this case: No. 1: George Zimmerman was a grown man with a gun, and No. 2: Trayvon Martin was a minor who had no blood on his hands. Literally no blood on his hands," Crump said. "We believe that the evidence is overwhelming to hold George Zimmerman accountable for killing Trayvon Martin."

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Martin, who was unarmed and returning from a convenience store when he and Zimmerman got into the fight. Zimmerman is claiming self-defense in the shooting.

After almost two weeks of jury selection and interviews, six women were seated Thursday. Five are white, one is Hispanic. The court also chose four alternates. The jurors have been sequestered in hotel rooms, with limited access to newspapers, phones, television and the Internet.

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I'm just really glad we're moving this along. I like the pace," defense attorney Mark O'Mara said. "Now, we can move forward with the real stuff, the evidence."

O'Mara worked most of the day at his office Sunday, putting the finishing touches on his game plan. He said the state plans to use Zimmerman's homework from a criminal law class as part of their case.

"Our immediate reaction was that we were very happy with this jury. It doesn't have a racial component that can be talked about, on and on," said Natalie Jackson, an attorney for the Martin family. "It takes out the 'black versus white' question that many people have been trying to impose on this case."

Last week, Circuit Judge Debra Nelson ruled that prosecutors could not use testimony from audio experts who said that screams on a 911 call belong to Martin. Nelson said the methods the experts used to make that determination were unreliable.

"There is no evidence to establish that their scientific techniques have been tested and found reliable," the judge said in her ruling. The defense had argued that the screams were Zimmerman's and not Martin's.

A playback of the recording of the 911 call will be allowed in court.

The elimination of the audio experts may shorten the trial. The trial had been expected to last two to four weeks after opening statements.

However, Nelson will allow prosecutors to use the word "profiled" in opening statements, as long as it's not limited to racial profiling. They also will be allowed to use the terms "wannabe cop" and "vigilante" and will be able to say that Zimmerman confronted Martin.

Under Florida law, Zimmerman could shoot Martin in self-defense if it was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. O'Mara previously decided not to invoke a "stand your ground" hearing in which a judge alone would decide whether to dismiss the case or allow it to proceed to trial.

If convicted, Zimmerman could face a potential life sentence.

 

Information from The Associated Press and FoxNews.com was used in this report.

 
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