Trayvon Martin Case: The Defense Opens

George Zimmerman's attorney claims the defendant was fighting for his life during the deadly encounter on February 26, 2012

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Defense attorney Don West makes opening statements to the jury in George Zimmerman's trial on June 24, 2013.

In a much more deliberate and plodding approach compared to the fiery tone of the prosecution, the defense team for George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch captain on trial for the second-degree murder of teenager Trayvon Martin, took more than three hours to deliver its opening remarks. “There are no monsters here,” said attorney Don West. Here are five key points that West presented to the jury during his lengthy opening statement in the Sanford, Florida courtroom:

1. Trayvon Martin attacked George Zimmerman first. West, a criminal defense expert who joined the defense team last June, said: “Little did George Zimmerman know at the time in less than 10 minutes from him first seeing Travyon Martin that he, George Zimmerman, would be suckered punched in the face, have his head pounded on concrete and wind up shooting and tragically killing Trayvon Martin.”

2. Zimmerman was intimidated by the teenager. The defense attorney read part of a transcript of the call between Zimmerman and a police dispatcher from the night Martin, 17, died back to back this claim. In the call, Zimmerman: “…Now he’s coming towards me. He’s got his hands in his waistband…something’s wrong with him…he’s coming to check me out…there’s something in his hands.”

3. Martin chose to confront Zimmerman. West argues to jurors that Martin had several chances to go home and avoid conflict. “Choosing not to do that, he hid in the darkness to see about this guy who was following him,” West said. “And turned to George Zimmerman and asked him ‘why are you following me?’ ” West contended that the teenage girl Martin was on his cellphone with heard these final words before the call cuts off.

4. Zimmerman, once engaged in conflict with Martin, was in a potentially lethal fight. The defense’s entire case hinges on the premise that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense. West says that the audio evidence of the 911 call shows that Zimmerman was screaming for help until a clear single shot rang out, resulting in Martin’s death. “I hope that you listen 1, 5, 10, 50 times if you need to,” the defense attorney told the jury. “What we know obviously, and everyone agrees to this … all of the witnesses agree those are the screams of someone in a life-threatening situation.”

5. At least one witness says Martin was beating Zimmerman up. A witness who lives only a few yards from where the fight happened says he clearly saw Martin, wearing a charcoal-colored hooded sweatshirt, on top of Zimmerman, wearing a red jacket, beating him in a mixed martial arts “ground and pound” style position. “He heard Zimmerman say ‘help me, help me.’ Trayvon Martin kept on hitting,” said defense attorney West. “You could hear the cries for help until the moment of the shot and there’s not more cries for help. Why would there be?”

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