SANFORD, Fla. — He wanted a badge. He wanted desperately for the people wearing badges to like him, to respect him. He wanted to be one of them.
Such was the needy portrait of George Zimmerman painted by a state prosecutor Thursday in closing arguments.
Zimmerman never became a police officer, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda told jurors, but on the night he shot an unarmed teenager, he was every bit the “wannabe cop,” surveying his neighborhood with a mind muddied by “incorrect assumptions.” He profiled Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old African American who Zimmerman killed on a rainy night in February 2012, as a criminal, as a threat, de la Rionda said.
But Zimmerman, the aspiring lawman, was the dangerous one, the prosecutor said. To illustrate his point, the prosecutor displayed two photos side by side. One showed the Kel-Tec 9-mm handgun Zimmerman was carrying. The other showed what Martin was carrying: a bag of Skittles.
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At times, de la Rionda’s voiced cracked with emotion and he had to pause to compose himself.
Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, lifted her glasses off her nose and wiped away tears as de la Rionda pleaded with jurors. Across the aisle, the defendant’s mother, Gladys Zimmerman, leaned into the shoulder of his father, Robert Zimmerman Sr.
The defense will get its chance to rebut the portrait during closing arguments Friday; jury deliberations also could begin Friday.
Zimmerman, whose mother is Hispanic and whose father is white, is claiming self-defense. He says Martin attacked him after he got out of his vehicle to look for a street name while calling a police nonemergency line. Zimmerman did not testify, but de la Rionda sought to sway jurors by pointing out possible inconsistencies or seemingly illogical statements that the defendant made in taped conversations with police investigators and during a nationally televised interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
“If he’s really in fear, why does he get out of the car?” de la Rionda asked the six-woman jury and three alternates. “Who started this? Who followed whom?”
De la Rionda, his voice dripping with sarcasm, asserted that it makes little sense that Zimmerman would be looking for a street name: There are only three streets in the Retreat at Twin Lakes, the gated community where the shooting took place. The prosecutor scoffed at testimony by a gym owner who testified for the defense that Zimmerman was “soft,” an assertion critical to the defense claim that Martin overpowered him.
Zimmerman, 29, who has gained considerable weight since the shooting, was a fit-looking 5-foot-7 and 204 pounds the night he shot Martin, who was 5-foot-8 and 158 pounds, de la Rionda said.
Jurors will consider charges of second-degree murder — which requires prosecutors to prove Zimmerman had a “depraved mind” and “ill intent” — and the lesser offense of manslaughter.
But Judge Debra Nelson blocked a prosecution attempt to add the option of a third-degree murder charge based on the claim that Zimmerman committed “child abuse,” because Martin was a minor.
If convicted of second-degree murder, Zimmerman could face up to life in prison. If found guilty of manslaughter, he could be sentenced to up to 30 years.