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Police questioning of Zimmerman grew more pointed

SANFORD — Jurors in the George Zimmerman trial on Monday listened to a series of police interviews during which detectives grew more pointed in their questioning of the neighborhood watch volunteer's account of how he came to fatally shoot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Prosecutors played audio and video recordings of the interviews that Zimmerman had with Sanford police investigators Doris Singleton and Chris Serino in the hours and days after he fatally shot the Miami teen.

In an early interview, just hours after the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting, Singleton recounted that Zimmerman noticed a cross she was wearing and said: "In Catholic religion, it's always wrong to kill someone."

Singleton said she responded, "If what you're telling me is true, I don't think that what God meant was that you couldn't save your own life."

But in an interview several days later, Singleton and Serino suggested that Zimmerman had been running after Martin before the confrontation. They also asked the neighborhood watch volunteer why he didn't explain to Martin why he was following him. The officers insinuated that Martin might have been "creeped out" by being followed.

"Do you think he was scared?" Singleton asked Zimmerman in one video interview.

Under cross-examination, though, Serino said Zimmerman seemed straightforward in his answers. Serino said the increasingly pointed questioning was a tactic known as a "challenge interview," in which detectives try to break someone's story to make sure he's telling the truth.

Zimmerman has said he shot the teen in self-defense because Martin was banging his head into the sidewalk behind the townhomes in a gated community.

Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. The state argued during its opening statement that Zimmerman profiled and followed Martin in his truck and called a police dispatch number before he and the teen got into a fight. He has denied the confrontation had anything to do with race.

In his first interview at the police station, Zimmerman said he saw Martin walking through his neighborhood on a dark, rainy night while Zimmerman was driving to the grocery store. He told Singleton that he didn't recognize Martin and that there had been recent break-ins at his townhome complex.

"These guys always get away," Zimmerman told Singleton, a statement similar to one that prosecutors have used previously to try to show that Zimmerman had grown increasingly frustrated with the burglaries.

Zimmerman said he lost track of Martin and got out of his truck to look for a street name he could relay to a police dispatcher. When the dispatcher suggested that Zimmerman not follow Martin, Zimmerman started to head back to his vehicle. At that point, Zimmerman said, Martin jumped out of some bushes and punched him, and he fell to the ground.

In a written statement Singleton read in court, Zimmerman refers to Martin as "the suspect." Singleton said it didn't appear that Zimmerman showed any anger when talking about the teen. Prosecutors must show that Zimmerman acted with ill will or a depraved mind in order to get a second-degree murder conviction.

Police questioning of Zimmerman grew more pointed 07/01/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 2:04pm]
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