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George Zimmerman Trial: Trayvon Martin "viciously attacked" former neighborhood watch volunteer, defense says in opening statement

George Zimmerman, left, arrives in Seminole circuit court, with his wife Shellie, on the 11th day of his trial, in Sanford, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2013. Zimmerman is accused in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool) Joe Burbank

Zimmerman trial photos
George Zimmerman, left, arrives in Seminole circuit court, with his wife Shellie, on the 11th day of his trial, in Sanford, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2013.
Joe Burbank

(CBS/AP) In opening statements Monday, defense attorneys portrayed murder suspect George Zimmerman as a citizen looking out for his neighborhood when he was confronted and attacked by Trayvon Martin, a stark contrast to prosecutors' picture of a vigilante who profiled the Forida teen.

PICTURES: George Zimmerman in court

READ: Trayvon Martin Shooting: A timeline of events

Zimmerman, 29, a former neighborhood watch volunteer, is on trial for second-degree murder in Martin's shooting death. Zimmerman claims he shot the teen in self-defense during an altercation in a Sanford, Fla. gated community in February 2012.

"George Zimmerman is not guilty of murder," said defense attorney Don West during opening statements Monday. "He shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense after being viciously attacked. The evidence will show you how and why it happened the way he did.""

VIDEO:Zimmerman trial: Prosecutor opens with profanity

West described the case as "sad," and said, "there are no monsters here."

"[Martin's mother] Sybrina Fulton and [Martin's father] Tracy Martin are grieving parents. Without question, they have a right to grieve," West said." They have a right to feel how they feel."

Using diagrams, West led jurors in detail through the defense's version of the events of Feb. 26, 2012.

After calling a non-emergency dispatcher to report a suspicious person, West said, Zimmerman got out of his car to give the dispatcher more information about where Martin was going. When the dispatcher told him not to follow Martin, West said, Zimmerman stopped.

In a contrast to the state's version of events, West said Martin was the first to confront Zimmerman after the phone call ended.

"Trayvon Martin decided to confront George Zimmerman instead of going home. He had plenty of time, but he chose not to do that," West said. "...He turned to George Zimmerman, out of the darkness, and said, 'Why are you following me?'"

VIDEO: George Zimmerman trial: Self-defense, murder at case's core

Martin, not Zimmerman, was the aggressor on the confrontation that ensued, West said. He said a witness would testify who saw Zimmerman and Martin struggling - a neighbor who said he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman in the moments before the fatal gunshot.

"[The neighbor] called it a 'ground and pound.' That's the words he used," West said. "A ground and pound is when you're mounted on someone, they are helpless, and you are basically beating them senseless."

West also showed the jury pictures of Zimmerman bleeding from the face after the altercation and played a recording of a neighbor's call to 911, in which screams for help can be heard in the background.

The disputed tape was the subject of much pre-trial wrangling, with defense experts arguing the quality was too poor to reliably analyze who was screaming on the tape. A state expert who said he heard Martin screaming in the background of the call was banned from testifying at trial by a judge.

"What we know, everyone will agree to this...those are the screams of someone in a life threatening situation," West said. "Someone screaming repeatedly, over and over and over again for help, needing desperately for someone to come to their assistance."

In their opening statements earlier on Monday, prosecutor John Guy implied that it may have been Trayvon Martin screaming in the background of the call.

"Listen carefully please, to that call. Listen carefully ... when the gunshot goes off, Trayvon Martin was silenced immediately," Guy said. "When the bullet the defendant fired passed through his heart, when that gunshot rings out on the 911 call, the screaming stops."

Guy portrayed Zimmerman as a vigilante who profiled Martin as someone who was about to commit a crime in his neighborhood, followed him, confronted him, and decided to take the law into his own hands.

"'[Expletive] punks,'" Guy said, recounting Zimmerman's words in the call to non-emergency dispatchers. "'These [expletive,] they always get away.' Those were the words in that grown man's mouth as he followed in that dark a 17-year-old boy who he didn't know....those were the words in that man's chest when he got out of his car armed with a fully loaded semi automatic pistol and two flashlights to follow Trayvon Martin, who was walking home from a 7-Eleven armed with 23 ounces of Arizona brand fruit juice and a small bag of Skittle candies."

In sharp contrast to Guy's opening statement in which he dramatically quoted Zimmerman's obscenity-laced remarks, West included a "knock - knock" joke in his remarks.

"Knock, knock, who's there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? All right good, you're on the jury. Nothing? (audience laughs) That's funny," said West.

The court was on recess for a lunch break until 1:30 Monday, when the defense was expected to continue their opening statements to the jury.

Complete coverage of the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case on Crimesider

  • Erin Donaghue

    Erin Donaghue covers crime for CBSNews.com's Crimesider.

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