25 Jun 2013

Florida race trial begins

8:09 am on 25 June 2013

Opening statements have been heard in the trial of a neighbourhood watchman who shot dead an unarmed black teenager in Florida.

Prosecutors on Monday told a jury of six women that George Zimmerman, 29, shot Trayvon Martin, 17, "because he wanted to".

But defence lawyers said the accused acted out of self-defence after he was attacked by Trayvon in Sanford, a suburb of Orlando, in February 2012.

The BBC reports the case fuelled debate about race, as police took 44 days to make an arrest.

Prosecutors contend that Mr Zimmerman, who is accused of second-degree murder, presumed Martin was up to no good because he was black.

"George Zimmerman didn't shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to," prosecutor John Guy told the court.

"He shot him for the worst of all reasons: because he wanted to."

Mr Zimmerman has told police he lost sight of the teenager and was attacked as he went back to his car. But prosecutors say it was the defendant who started the argument.

Neither prosecutors nor defence lawyers dispute that Mr Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest with a 9mm handgun, and that the teenager died at the scene.

The accused had a concealed-weapons permit.

The trial is expected to last between two and four weeks.