The terms “profiling,” “wannabe cop” and “vigilante” will be permitted in opening statements Monday by prosecutors in the George Zimmerman trial, a judge ruled Friday.
Seminole Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson, however, warned prosecutors to stay away from the more specific term “racial profiling.”
Defense lawyers had asked that the prosecution be prohibited from using the terms because they were “inflammatory.” But the judge said prosecutors can describe what they believe the evidence will show.
“We don’t intend to say he was solely profiled because of race,” prosecutor John Guy agreed, pointing out people can be profiled because of age or attire.
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Nelson made the ruling during a brief court hearing Friday morning in preparation for Monday’s opening statements in the closely watched murder trial. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin of Miami Gardens.
Nelson did not issue what had been expected to be the most important ruling of the day: whether jurors can hear expert testimony about a key 911 recording that captures the sounds of the struggle that left Trayvon dead. State audio experts who analyzed the recording have suggested in pretrial hearings that it indicates the teen was crying out in fear.
If the experts are allowed to testify in full, they may be able to persuade jurors that Zimmerman, not Trayvon, was the aggressor during the bloody brawl in a gated Sanford community in February 2012.
Nelson is expected to issue the order on the expert testimony Monday morning. Opening statements are set to begin at 9 a.m.
Zimmerman, 29, is charged with shooting Trayvon, who was visiting Sanford with his father after he had been suspended from school. The unarmed teen was walking through the community after buying candy and a drink at a nearby convenience store. The older man, a volunteer neighborhood watchman, called police to report the teen as “suspicious.”
Zimmerman says he shot in self-defense, only after Trayvon attacked him.