Yamiche Alcindor, USA TODAY
SANFORD, Fla. - The trial of George Zimmerman focused Tuesday on whether the former neighborhood watch volunteer targeted others for alleged suspicious activities.
Zimmerman, 29, faces life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. The former criminal justice student has pleaded not guilty saying he shot Trayvon Martin, 17, in self-defense after being attacked by the young man on a dark rainy night in Sanford, Fla.
The case gained national attention last year when Trayvon's parents and their attorneys said the black teen was racially profiled and murdered because of the dark hoodie he wore the night he was killed. The family launched a public campaign to get Zimmerman arrested and claimed the Sanford Police Department was letting a man get away with killing an unarmed teenager.
Zimmerman was eventually charged by state prosecutors, who said Zimmerman confronted, profiled, and murdered Trayvon. Zimmerman, whose mother is Peruvian and whose father is white, denies race had anything to do with the shooting.
Zimmerman was in charge of recruiting block captains for a neighborhood watch program and, after having been asked, was also part of a group to enforce parking rules in his community.
The president of the homeowners association for the community where the shooting took place testified that he didn't think a neighborhood watch program was needed and that Zimmerman was in charge of the community's program from the very beginning.
Donald O'Brien stressed that the homeowners association had nothing to do with the neighborhood watch program but that he did attend a meeting to start it. Residents were told to "stay away" from suspicious people and call police, O'Brien said.
He said he once text messaged Zimmerman with praises for a group of workers who followed a burglar. Their actions led to the arrest of a young black man, who was charged with burglaries in the neighborhood, O'Brien said.
O'Brien added that police indicated it was acceptable to follow suspicious persons at a safe distance. He also said he signed an agreement with police to increase patrol of the area and to tow illegally parked cars.
The Twin Lakes Homeowners Association settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Trayvon Martin's family. Court documents show the family rejected a $1 million offer from the association before settling for an undisclosed amount.
An FBI report shows Zimmerman had a pattern of calling authorities about criminal activities and safety issues in his neighborhood. In one of the calls to Sanford police, Zimmerman complained about children playing and running in the street. Four calls were about black men he said he witnessed in the neighborhood after break-ins, according to the report, release by the state attorney's office.
Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei argued Tuesday he wants the jury to hear the calls to show that Zimmerman had a growing frustration and that in the past he had not approached people. Something changed on Feb. 26, 2012, Mantei said, and the jury should hear that Zimmerman took action in a way he never had before.
Zimmerman attorney Mark O'Mara said the state is trying to improperly introduce character evidence against Zimmerman. "They have nothing and they want to make a stealth argument," O'Mara said, explaining Zimmerman wasn't doing anything wrong in the calls.
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson said she would make a ruling after reviewing prior cases.
Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman acted "imminently dangerous" and demonstrated a "depraved mind without regard for human life" - Florida's definition of second-degree murder. Zimmerman says he acted in self-defense.
In testimony Tuesday, Wendy Dorival, who worked as the volunteer program coordinator for the Sanford Police Department, said she made a presentation to facilitate a neighborhood watch program in 2011 for residents of Retreat at Twin Lakes, where Zimmeran lived and Trayvon was visiting a friend of his father's on the night he was killed.
Assistant State Attorney John Guy showed the jury a slide show that Dorival used at neighborhood meetings. The presentation warned citizens against being vigiliantes and urged them to work with police - be the eyes and ears of the community and report suspicious activity. "They're not supposed to take matters into their own hands," Dorival said.
Dorival said she doesn't discuss whether residents should carry firearms while participating in neighborhood watch program.
She added that she believe Zimmerman was a professional person who wanted to make a change in his community, which had been targeted by burglars. Dorival said she tried to recruit Zimmerman to a citizens patrol program, but that he didn't want to participate.
Zimmerman lawyer Don West asked Dorival whether a person walking in rain between houses without a particular purpose - a description of Trayvon the night of the shooting - was suspicious. Dorival said yes and added that she encourages neighbors to know who doesn't belong and to call police.
Graphic photos of Trayvon Martin's dead body including a close up his face, eyes still opened, were shown to the jury several times Tuesday. Prosecutor John Guy was the first to display the images as he called Sgt. Anthony Raimondo, who said he arrived on the scene of the shooting within five minutes.
Raimondo described in great detail how he tried to save Trayvon's life. When he first walked over to the scene he told Guy he saw Trayvon faced down on the ground with his arms underneath him.
Raimondo tried but found no pulse for Trayvon. He then turned Trayvon over and without a protection mask tried to give him mouth to mouth CPR. He said didn't wait for a mask because the situation was dire and he knew the teen needed immediate help.
Through CPR, Raimondo said he heard bubbling coming from the teen's chest. The sounds made him try to seal the young man's chest, which had a the bullet wound, with plastic. Looking for an exit wound, Raimondo sat Trayvon up and searched his limp body.
Later, he laid the teen down and continued CPR until rescue workers arrived.
After, Diana Smith, a crime scene technician with the Sanford Police, testified that she took the photos of Trayvon's body, the crime scene and later Zimmerman's injuries at a police station.
Several of Smith's photos of Trayvon's dead body were shown: a photo of the teen laying on his chest, a photo of the teen laying on his back, a closeup of the teen's face, and a close up of a blood filled bullet hole in Trayvon's chest.
Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father, walked out of the courtroom as photos of his son's body were shown. Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother, remained during the pictures but looked down and away.
Later, Smith testified that she checked several items for DNA and prints including Zimmerman's gun, the bag of skittles Trayvon was holding, the teen's iced tea and Zimmerman's flashlight.
Smith also held up the actual gun Zimmerman used for juror after Guy asked. In response, several jurors stared intently at the weapon taking notes.
She also went over several pieces of evidence and showed jurors, on a state's mark up of the crime scene, where items were found and where she took photos.
During Tuesday's testimony, several of the jurors looked visibly upset as photos of Trayvon's body were shown. Some also leaned in and looked intently as photos of evidence and actual items were held up for them to see.
In his opening statement Monday, Guy moved quickly to try to jolt the jurors by using the "f-word" followed by "punks" in quoting from Zimmerman's conversation by cellphone with a police dispatcher as he followed the unarmed Trayvon.
Guy told the jury they would hear from a young woman who was on the phone with Trayvon the night of the shooting, as well as police officers who arrived shortly after and emergency personnel who tried to save Trayvon's life. He also said a medical examiner and residents who live near the shooting site will testify.
West countered that Zimmerman shot Trayvon in self-defense after he was viciously attacked by the Miami-area teen.
He told jurors that Trayvon had thrown a "sucker punch" at Zimmerman after possibly hiding before the struggle. "Trayvon Martin decided to confront George Zimmerman," West said. "The evidence will show this is a sad case. There are no monsters."
West showed enlarged pictures of Zimmerman's injuries to the jury as well as Trayvon from the 7-Eleven surveillance camera, where he is seen wearing a dark, hooded sweatshirt.
On Monday, prosecutors called four witnesses including the police dispatcher who took Zimmerman's call the moment he spotted Trayvon.
Sean Noffke, a 911 operator who also answers non-emergency calls, testified that it is police policy not to give orders to callers. He said he told Zimmerman he did not need him to follow the teen.
"It's best to avoid any type of confrontation," said Noffke, who described the call as routine.