Challenges abound for both sides in Trayvon Martin killing trial, which starts Monday
George Zimmerman’s lead attorney will be walking a fine line as he tries to convince jurors that his client didn’t murder Trayvon Martin: He needs to show why Zimmerman felt threatened by the African-American teenager while avoiding the appearance that either he or his client is racist.
Because there is no dispute that Zimmerman shot Martin, 17, during a fight on a rainy night in February 2012, Mark O’Mara must convince the jury that Zimmerman pulled his 9 mm handgun and fired a bullet into the Miami-area high school student’s chest because he feared for his life and that the fear was caused by Martin’s actions, not his race.
Jury selection begins Monday in the second-degree murder trial, which is expected to last about six weeks. Martin’s killing drew worldwide attention as it sparked a national debate about race, equal justice under the law and gun control. If convicted, Zimmerman, who identifies himself as Hispanic, could get a life sentence.
Under Florida law, Zimmerman, 29, could lawfully shoot Martin in self-defense if it was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.
O’Mara has to be careful how he characterizes Martin, said Randy McClean, an Orlando-area defense attorney. “Mr. O’Mara’s challenge is to show Trayvon wasn’t profiled, that Zimmerman either saw something that looked suspicious or something else that caused him to make contact with Trayvon.”
The challenge for prosecutors trying to get a second-degree murder conviction, meanwhile, is that they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that while Zimmerman’s actions weren’t premeditated, they demonstrated a “depraved mind” that didn’t consider the threat his actions had toward human life.
McClean and another Orlando defense attorney, David Hill, predicted that prosecutors will attack Zimmerman, who was employed at a mortgage risk management firm, as a frustrated, would-be police officer who had a chip on his shoulder. Zimmerman had studied criminal justice at a community college and had volunteered to run his community’s neighborhood watch program.
“The state’s narrative is going to be ... Zimmerman was a powerful neighborhood watchman, a wannabe officer who liked to use his authority,” McCLean said.