SANFORD, Fla. — Several times in six months, neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman called police to report suspicious characters in the gated townhouse community where he lived. Each time, when asked, he reported that the suspects were black males.
On Tuesday, the judge at Zimmerman’s murder trial in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin listened to those five calls and weighed whether to let the jury hear them, too.
Prosecutors want to use them to bolster their argument that Zimmerman was increasingly frustrated with repeated burglaries and had reached a breaking point the night he shot the unarmed teenager.
The recordings show Zimmerman’s “ill will,” prosecutor Richard Mantei told Judge Debra Nelson.
“It shows the context in which the defendant sought out his encounter with Trayvon Martin,” Mantei said.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara argued that the calls were irrelevant and that nothing matters but the seven or eight minutes before Zimmerman fired the deadly shot into Martin’s chest.
The prosecution is “going to ask the jury to make a leap from a good, responsible, citizen behavior to seething behavior,” O’Mara said.
The judge did not immediately rule on whether to admit the recordings.
Prosecutors played the calls with the jurors out of the courtroom at the beginning of a day in which a former Zimmerman neighbor testified about what she saw of the confrontation.
Also, prosecutors presented graphic photos of Martin’s body, a police officer described trying to revive Martin as bubbling sounds came from his chest, and a police manager described how she helped Zimmerman set up the neighborhood watch.
In the calls, Zimmerman identifies himself as a neighborhood watch volunteer and recounts that his neighborhood has had a rash of recent break-ins.
In one call, he asks that officers respond quickly since the suspects “typically get away quickly.”
In another, he describes suspicious black men hanging around a garage and mentions his neighborhood had a recent garage break-in.
Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder for gunning down Martin as the young man walked from a convenience store. Zimmerman followed him in his truck and called a police dispatch number before he and the teen got into a fight.
Zimmerman has claimed self-defense, saying he opened fire after the teenager jumped him and began slamming his head against the concrete sidewalk.
Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Hispanic, has denied the confrontation with the black teenager had anything to do with race, as Martin’s family and its supporters have charged.