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Jurors hear Zimmerman's account of killing Trayvon Martin

George Zimmerman arriving at the Sanford police station on the night of the Trayvon Martin shooting is projected for the jury in this State
George Zimmerman arriving at the Sanford police station on the night of the Trayvon Martin shooting is projected for the jury in this State

By Barbara Liston

SANFORD, Florida (Reuters) - Jurors on Monday heard George Zimmerman say he never tried to identify himself as a neighborhood watch volunteer to Trayvon Martin before fatally shooting the unarmed black teenager.

"I was scared," Zimmerman said in a taped police interrogation three days after the killing in this central Florida town, which was replayed at his murder trial.

The six-member, all-female jury in Seminole County court listened to a tape of the February 29 interrogation, during which lead police investigator Chris Serino suggested that Zimmerman had several opportunities to defuse his fatal encounter with Martin before it ended in bloodshed.

But Zimmerman acknowledged he never sought to identify himself to the youth, who was a stranger never before seen by Zimmerman and aroused the neighborhood watchman's suspicions as the youth walked through the housing development on that rainy night.

At one point, Zimmerman told police Martin approached his vehicle, which had been following him, partly circling it on foot before coming to a stop about a car length away. But Zimmerman rolled up his car window and ignored Martin, while speaking with a non-emergency police dispatcher.

"He wasn't within ear shot and I didn't want to confront him," Zimmerman said, when asked why he hadn't used that opportunity to say he was a neighborhood watchman.

"Did it ever occur to you to actually ask this person what he was doing out there?" asked Serino, who noted Martin may have perceived Zimmerman as a threat because he was following him.

"No sir," Zimmerman said.

Serino told Zimmerman he did not seem to be acting in "fear" when he decided to jump out of his car to see where Martin went after he dropped out of sight.

But Zimmerman told Serino he only got out of his car because he could not tell police the name of the street where he had last seen Martin, even though the Retreat at Twin Lakes housing complex where he lived has only three streets.

"To be honest with you, I have a bad memory ... A terrible memory," Zimmerman said.

He also told Serino he couldn't remember how many times Martin allegedly punched him in the nose at the beginning of the fight that ended in Martin's death.

INCONSISTENCIES?

Zimmerman told police that he didn't even know he had killed Martin, with a lone hollow-point bullet round pumped into his chest at point blank range, until he was brought into police headquarters for questioning.

Prosecutors are hoping to use Zimmerman's statements to police to delve into any inconsistencies in his account about what happened in the racially charged case that triggered civil rights protests and debates about the treatment of black Americans in the U.S. justice system.

On the stand, Serino said there were "things that didn't quite add up," about Zimmerman's account, including his failure to remember the names of the three streets where he lived.

Though Zimmerman shot Martin through the heart with his 9mm Kel-Tec semi-automatic pistol, killing him almost instantly, Zimmerman also told police that the youth continued to talk after being shot.

"You got me," he quoted Martin as saying, moments after he was shot. "He was still talking and I was on top of him," he added.

Zimmerman, a fair-skinned 29-year-old Hispanic, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and could face life in prison if convicted. He says he killed Martin, 17, in self-defense. It is not yet known whether Zimmerman will testify at his trial.

The trial is scheduled to run through Wednesday then take a break on Thursday for the Independence Day holiday. Circuit Judge Debra Nelson said court would resume on Friday.

Martin was a student at a Miami-area high school and a guest of one of the housing development's homeowners. He was returning to the home after buying snacks at a convenience store when he was shot in the chest during a confrontation with Zimmerman.

Zimmerman was a member of the neighborhood watch and called police to report a suspicious person. Prosecutors claim he profiled Martin and chased after him vigilante-style rather than waiting for police to arrive.

In order to win a second-degree murder conviction, prosecutors would have to convince the jury that Zimmerman acted with "ill will" or "hatred" and "an indifference to human life."

(Writing by Tom Brown; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Bernard Orr)

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