SANFORD, Fla. – With hardly anyone noticing, George Zimmerman's attorneys persuaded a judge to forbid prosecutors from using the word "profiled" in their opening statement.
That means the theory that was the backbone of the state's case — that 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was racially profiled — is now something prosecutors cannot mention as they launch into their case against the former Neighborhood Watch volunteer.
It is a major pretrial victory for Zimmerman, 29, who in the days and weeks immediately after Martin's death was denounced as a racist, made into a social pariah and became the subject of a federal civil rights investigation.
The decision to forbid the word "profiled" or any variation of it came one week ago, on the first day of Zimmerman's trial, but Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson handled the issue quickly, and there was almost no discussion of it in open court.
"I don't have any objection to not mentioning these words," said lead prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda, and the judge quickly moved on to jury selection.
De la Rionda was referring not only to "profiled" but also five other words or phrases that defense attorney Mark O'Mara had asked the judge to ban in a motion he filed May 30, asking her to prohibit several "inflammatory terms."
The others are "vigilante," "self-appointed Neighborhood Watch captain," "wannabe cop," and the phrases "He got out of the car after the police told him not to," and "He confronted Trayvon Martin." Nelson has not yet issued a formal ruling on the matter.
Two of those phrases appear in the probable cause affidavit that prosecutors used to persuade a judge to jail Zimmerman on a second-degree murder charge in April 2012.