The trial of George Zimmerman is underway in Florida. Prosecutors have portrayed him as a vigilante who profiled and then killed Trayvon Martin. The defense contends that Zimmerman was attacked by Martin and shot him in self defense. In the middle is testimony from witnesses who claim that Zimmerman didn’t follow protocol as a neighborhood watch volunteer, and that this recklessness led to the shooting.
The trial of Zimmerman began on Monday. The opening phase involved statements from both legal teams and led to the prosecution presenting its witnesses. Those witnesses, unfortunately for the defense, reinforced the idea that Zimmerman was a vigilante and did not follow procedures.
One important witness was Wendy Dorival, who was the coordinator of the Sanford Police Department's neighborhood watch program. She testified that she had helped Zimmerman set up a watch program in his neighborhood. The watch program training included telling participants not to follow nor engage with suspicious individuals. Program participants were to provide information to the police who would then respond.
Another witness was Seat Noffke who was the 911 dispatcher working with Zimmerman that day. Noffke testified that Zimmerman said he was following Martin. Noffke responded by telling Zimmerman, "Okay we don't need you to do that." Noffke also testified that he never told Zimmerman to follow Martin and just wanted the location to pass on to officers.
Two other witnesses provided information on the confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin. Rachel Jeantel stated that she was talking to Martin while he was being followed. She stated that she heard Martin ask why he was being followed and that a male voice, in return, asked what he (Martin) was doing. She also heard Martin saying “get off, get off” to other man. Jayne Surdyka, a neighbor, testified that she heard two men arguing outside her house with one man asking for help. Upon hearing gunshots, Surdyka called 911.
In other words, the prosecution's argument is as follows: , Zimmerman was told not to follow or engage people that were suspicious. He was also told by his dispatcher that it wasn’t necessary to follow Martin. Zimmerman confronted Martin and an argument ensued. In the end, Zimmerman shot Martin.
It is difficult to have sympathy for Zimmerman when he decided to follow and engage Martin after being explicitly told not to do so. Photographs of Zimmerman after the altercation do show that he was involved in a fight. The defense may bring forward witnesses that support Zimmerman’s claim of acting in self defense. Unfortunately, at this point in the trial, it is difficult to have sympathy for Zimmerman because of his actions. While he has not been convicted, it is clear that Zimmerman should have stayed in his vehicle and waited for law enforcement to arrive.