Zimmerman Trial: Prosecution Scores

Prosecutors extracted testimony that Zimmerman profiled and followed the 17-year-old.

Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda (R) demonstrates a scenario while questioning Chris Serino (Joe Burbank/Getty Images)
Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda (R) demonstrates a scenario while questioning Chris Serino (Joe Burbank/Getty Images)

(The Root) — If you’re keeping score in the second-degree-murder trial of George Zimmerman, mark Tuesday’s court proceedings as a narrow victory for the prosecution.

The exercise has no bearing on Zimmerman’s fate for fatally shooting Florida teen Trayvon Martin, of course. But after a few days of arguments in which defense attorneys neutralized the state’s witnesses, prosecutors extracted key testimony that the neighborhood-watch volunteer profiled and followed the 17-year-old with “ill will and spite” — an element required for a conviction under Florida law.

Zimmerman, 29, claims he was attacked by Trayvon, who was unarmed, and shot him in self-defense.

Much of the critical testimony came from Chris Serino, the lead Sanford, Fla., police investigator of the shooting. Serino supported the prosecutor’s suggestion that Zimmerman profiled Trayvon as a criminal when he described the teen as a “[expletive] punk” to a police dispatcher. Zimmerman also said “these assholes, they always get away.”

Assistant State Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda played a recording of Zimmerman’s comments from his phone call to the dispatcher in which he reported Trayvon as “suspicious” while walking through a subdivision in Sanford.

“If I were to believe that somebody was committing a crime,” de la Rionda said to Serino, “could that not be profiling that person?”

“It could be construed as such,” Serino said.

Serino said he found nothing suspicious in Trayvon’s behavior that night. Asked by de la Rionda about Zimmerman’s use of “[expletive] punk” to refer to Trayvon, Serino replied: “That is ill will and spite.”

To obtain a conviction for second-degree murder, the prosecution must prove Zimmerman acted with ill will, hatred, a depraved mind, malice or evil intent toward Trayvon.

Still, Zimmerman’s attorneys continued to skillfully raise doubts about the state’s case on Tuesday. They have been especially effective at turning the testimony of state witnesses to their advantage during cross-examination.

They did so with Serino, as when defense attorney Mark O’Mara got the officer to concede that he’d found no “major” inconsistencies in the statements Zimmerman gave to police. That cuts hard against the prosecution’s chief strategy to highlight holes in Zimmerman’s account.

Serino resisted an effort by O’Mara to suggest that Trayvon was behaving suspiciously when first spotted by Zimmerman. Asked if he would have approached and questioned Trayvon for “standing in the rain, at night” and looking into a house — as Zimmerman claims — Serino said, “No.”