Dispute over who was crying out for help
SANFORD, Fla. – The mothers of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman listened Friday to the same 911 recording of someone screaming for help, and each said she was convinced the voice was that of her own son.
The starkly conflicting testimony on the potentially crucial piece of evidence came midway through Zimmerman’s murder trial in the 2012 shooting of the unarmed 17-year-old.
“I heard my son screaming,” Sybrina Fulton, the teenager’s mother, said firmly after she was played a recording in which distant, high-pitched wails could be heard in the background as a Zimmerman neighbor asked a dispatcher to send police. Moments later on the call, there was a gunshot and the crying stopped.
Gladys Zimmerman, though, testified she recognized the voice all too well: “My son.” Asked how she could be certain, she said: “Because it’s my son.”
The testimony came on a dramatic, action-packed day in which the prosecution rested its case and the judge rejected a defense request to acquit Zimmerman on the second-degree murder charge.
The question of whose voice is on the recording could be crucial to the jury in deciding who was the aggressor in the confrontation between the neighborhood watch volunteer and the teenager.
The identity of the person sharply divided the two families: Martin’s half brother, 22-year-old Jahvaris Fulton, testified that the cries came from the teen. And Zimmerman’s uncle, Jose Meza, said he knew it was Zimmerman’s voice from “the moment I heard it. … I thought, that is George.”
The prosecution rested after calling 38 witnesses throughout two weeks. Defense attorney Mark O’Mara promptly asked the judge to acquit Zimmerman, arguing that the prosecution had failed to prove its case.
O’Mara said an “enormous” amount of evidence showed that Zimmerman acted in self-defense, and he argued that Zimmerman had reasonable grounds to believe he was in danger, and acted without the “ill will, hatred and spite” necessary to prove second-degree murder.
But prosecutor Richard Mantei countered: “There are two people involved here. One of them is dead, and one of them is a liar.”
Mantei told the judge Zimmerman had changed his story, that his account of how he shot Martin was “a physical impossibility,” and that he exaggerated his wounds.
After listening to an hour and a half of arguments from both sides, Judge Debra Nelson refused to throw out the murder charge, saying the prosecution had presented sufficient evidence for the case to go on.
Earlier in the day, Sybrina Fulton introduced herself to the jury by describing herself as having two sons, one of whom “is in heaven.” She sat expressionless on the witness stand while prosecutors played the 911 recording.
“Who do you recognize that to be?” prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda asked her.
“Trayvon Benjamin Martin,” she replied.
The doctor who performed an autopsy on Martin also took the stand.
Associate Medical Examiner Shiping Bao estimated that Martin lived one to 10 minutes after he was shot, and said the bullet went from the front to the back of the teen’s chest, piercing his heart.
“There was no chance he could survive,” Bao said.
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