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Prosecutors can say ‘profiled’ at Zimmerman trial

Judge Debra Nelson announced her ruling in Sanford, Fla.

Gary W. Green-Pool/Getty Images

Judge Debra Nelson announced her ruling in Sanford, Fla.

SANFORD, Fla. — Prosecutors can argue in opening statements that George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin based on factors such as age or clothing before he shot the unarmed 17-year-old, but they cannot say he was profiled based on race, a judge ruled Friday.

Judge Debra Nelson made the ruling ahead of Monday’s expected opening statements in Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial.

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Defense lawyers had asked the judge to prohibit prosecutors from using words in opening statements that they deemed inflammatory. Those words included “profiled,” “vigilante,” and “wannabe cop,” and contending that Zimmerman had confronted Martin, who was black. Zimmerman is Hispanic.

The judge said all those statements may be used, provided that race is not discussed if the issue of profiling is brought up.

Prosecutor John Guy had argued that there were a number of ways someone could be profiled other than race.

‘‘That is not a racially charged term unless it’s made so, and we don’t intend to make it a racially charged term,’’ Guy said. ‘‘There are a number of avenues someone can be profiled in any one way or combination. We don’t intend to say he was solely profiled because of race.’’

Defense lawyer Mark O’Mara said he was concerned using the word ‘‘profiled’’ would ‘‘infect’’ the jury with a racial component that shouldn’t be there.

‘‘I want to be very, very cautious,’’ O’Mara said.

Six female jurors were chosen Thursday for the second-degree murder trial of Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer who said he fired on Martin in self-defense last year in a gated community in Sanford. Zimmerman is pleading not guilty.

The judge has yet to rule on whether a prosecution expert can testify that screams for help on a 911 call came from Martin.

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