Zimmerman trial turns emotional as friends, Martin’s father identify 911 screams
(CNN) — The Florida judge presiding over George Zimmerman’s murder trial ruled Monday that jurors will be allowed to hear about marijuana found in Trayvon Martin’s system the night he was fatally shot.
Prosecutors argued the amount was so minimal that “we just don’t know” what effect it had on Martin. They also accused the defense of trying to “backdoor some very negative character evidence” into the trial.
But the defense said the amount found in Martin’s system would have affected his judgment that night and is therefore relevant to the case.
Judge Debra Nelson ruled she would allow the testimony about Martin’s toxicology results in front of the jury and told the prosecutors they would be able to cross-examine the defense’s witness and present rebuttal witnesses of their own.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for killing 17-year-old Martin in Sanford, Florida, on February 26, 2012. Zimmerman told police he was pursuing the teenager because there had been a rash of crime in the area. A confrontation ensued, and Zimmerman said he was forced to kill Martin.
Protests were held around the country, calling for Zimmerman’s arrest in Martin’s death. Zimmerman was eventually charged with second-degree murder in April 2012. The case has reinvigorated national conversations about race, racial profiling and self-defense laws.
Trayvon Martin’s father, Tracy, took the stand on Monday to describe what he heard in the background of a 911 call made by one of Zimmerman’s neighbor.
“Basically what I was listening to, I was listening to my son’s last cry for help. I was listening to his life being taken and I was trying to come to grips with that — that Trayvon was here no more. It was just tough,” said Martin.
Earlier in the day, the defense called the former lead investigator from the Sanford Police Department, Chris Serino, who said Martin told him “no,” under his breath, when asked if the voice belonged to his son.
Another investigator, Doris Singleton, also said there was no doubt Martin told them it wasn’t his son screaming for help on that 911 call.
“He was very upset, he was very sad, he hung his head, he cried,” said Singleton. “I was choked up myself. I had to stand back. I could feel how he must feel because I have children. I was choked up by it — I felt horrible for him.”
But Martin testified that he never said it wasn’t his son. He said that he pushed his chair away from the desk where he was listening to the call and told investigators he “couldn’t tell.”
The man who trained George Zimmerman how to fight also testified on Monday that the former neighborhood watch captain didn’t know how to throw a punch after training for almost a year.
“He was — and I don’t really like to use this terminology — soft, just physically soft. He was an overweight, large man — and a very pleasant, nice man — but physically soft,” said Adam Pollack.
Zimmerman started taking grappling classes where Pollack said trainers teach choke holds, arm locks and leg locks to students — “Basically make the person say, ‘Uncle,’” according to Pollack.
After his school schedule changed, Zimmerman moved on to boxing training, where he didn’t advance beyond learning how to jab, according to Pollack.
When asked what level Zimmerman was at right before the shooting, Pollack said, “He’s still learning how to punch. He didn’t really know how to effectively punch.”
“Did he ever get to the point where he could box somebody else?” asked defense attorney Mark O’Mara.
“Absolutely not,” said Pollack.
At one point during his testimony, Pollack stepped down from the witness stand to mount defense attorney O’Mara, who lay on the ground. O’Mara wanted Pollack to show what the technique “ground and pound” looks like.
A witness who saw the fight between Zimmerman and Martin testified earlier in the trial that it looked like a “ground and pound” and that Zimmerman was on the bottom.
Pollack showed how the person on top usually has the advantage in this position, which is associated with mixed martial arts fighting. Pollack demonstrated how his knees would be placed above the person’s waist and explained how gravity helps the person on top punch the person on the bottom.
In a continued effort to show Zimmerman was not the aggressor in the altercation, the defense also called a slew of his friends on Monday to identify the voice heard screaming in the background of the 911 call made by a neighbor.
John Donnelly, a former Vietnam War combat medic, grew emotional on the stand in the George Zimmerman trial Monday as he explained why he thought the screams for help heard on a 911 call made the night Trayvon Martin died were made by his friend, Zimmerman.
Donnelly was just one of a group of defense witnesses who testified on the trial’s 10th day about the controversial 911 call, which has become a key point of contention in the case.
Choking back tears, Donnelly explained that the reason he could identify the screams is because of his experience with the fog of war. During combat, Donnelly had to recognize the screams of his fellow soldiers and run to them when they needed help. He said he has heard a 250-pound man scream like a little girl.
“In the midst of combat, there are a lot people yelling and screaming,” said Donnelly. “Sometimes they are screaming for help.”
Donnelly told the court that he views Zimmerman as a “son,” but his close relationship with Zimmerman would not affect his testimony. Donnelly donated almost $3,000 to Zimmerman’s defense fund and spent $1,700 on suits for Zimmerman to wear during the trial.
Donnelly’s testimony Monday was preceded by that of four of Zimmerman’s other friends, who all said that they also recognized the screams on the 911 call as Zimmerman’s voice. During cross-examination, prosecutors focused on potential bias — due to their close relationships with the defendant — on the part of the witnesses.
The defense team told Nelson that it expects to introduce Martin’s toxicology reports sometime on Tuesday. Testimony is expected to resume at 9 a.m. ET.