911 calls become the focus of trial
SANFORD, Fla. — Swaying jurors about whose screams are on a 911 call that captured the fatal struggle between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin has become the primary goal of prosecutors and defense attorneys in Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial.
Defense attorneys called five of Zimmerman’s friends Monday to testify that it was the neighborhood watch volunteer’s voice yelling for help on the call, and they played the recording five times for jurors. Zimmerman’s attorneys also called two police investigators who contend Martin’s father, after hearing a recording of the call, initially said it wasn’t his son. Zimmerman’s attorneys then put Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, on the witness stand, and he denied ever saying the screams for help weren’t his son.
Later in the day, the judge ruled that defense attorneys may present evidence to the jury that Trayvon Martin had marijuana in his system when he died.
The teen’s father testified that he merely told officers he couldn’t tell if it was his son after his first time listening to the call, which captured the audio of a fight between Martin and Zimmerman.
“I never said that wasn’t my son’s voice,” said Tracy Martin, who added that he concluded it was his son after listening to the call as many as 20 times.
Before Tracy Martin took the witness stand, the lead investigator probing Martin’s death testified that the father had answered “no” when the detective asked if the screams belonged to Trayvon Martin. Officer Chris Serino played the 911 call for Tracy Martin in the days immediately following Trayvon Martin’s death in February 2012.
“He looked away and under his breath he said ‘no’,” Serino said of Tracy Martin.
Convincing the jury of who was screaming for help on the tape is important to both sides because it would help jurors evaluate Zimmerman’s self-defense claim. Relatives of Martin’s and Zimmerman’s have offered conflicting opinions about who is heard screaming. Zimmerman’s mother and uncle testified last Friday it was Zimmerman screaming. Martin’s mother and brother also took the witness stand last Friday to say the voice belongs to Martin.
Zimmerman himself once said during a police interview that the screams didn’t sound like him, though he and his family later said the screams were his. Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and says he shot Martin in self-defense during a scuffle in the townhome complex where he lived. Martin was there visiting his father and his father’s fiancee.
Prosecutors contend Zimmerman was profiling Martin and perceived the teen as someone suspicious in the neighborhood, which had been the site of a series of break-ins.
Late in the day, Judge Debra Nelson made a key ruling out of the presence of the jury.
The judge denied a prosecution request to keep out parts of a toxicology report that shows Trayvon Martin had small amounts of marijuana in his system. Prosecutors argued the information would be prejudicial. But defense attorneys said it was relevant since Zimmerman believed Martin was under the influence at the time he spotted him in his neighborhood. Nelson had ruled before the trial that mention of marijuana wouldn’t be allowed in opening statements.