George Zimmerman Hearing in Sanford Thursday

Prosecutors and defense attorneys back in court for what could be one of the final hearings before the second-degree murder trial

Just days away from the start of the second-degree murder trial, prosecutors and attorneys for George Zimmerman were back in a Sanford courtroom Thursday for a hearing.

Zimmerman was in attendance at the hearing before Circuit Judge Debra Nelson, who denied a defense request to let some witnesses testify confidentially at the trial.

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara said the witnesses have concerns for their safety about testifying at the trial and said their testimony could impact the jury's decision.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012. He has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense. The trial is scheduled to begin June 10.

Much of the morning session of Thursday's hearing focused on the testimony of former State Attorney's Office employee Wesley White and State Attorney's Office IT director Ben Kruidbos related to what defense attorneys describe as delays in turning over evidence from Martin's phone.

During Thursday's hearing, White said he came forward with the evidence after learning of it from Kruidbos. The defense has asked Nelson to sanction prosecutors for the alleged delays, claiming they only learned of the evidence recently.

Phone and email messages left at the office of the Fourth Judicial Circuit State Attorney weren't immediately returned Thursday.

At Thursday's hearing, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda grilled both White, his former co-worker, and Kruidbos, his current co-worker, regarding the evidence.

Zimmerman attorney Don West testified in the afternoon concerning when the defense received the evidence. But when O'Mara called de la Rionda to the stand, Nelson decided to suspend the hearing regarding sanctions until after the trial, saying she was concerned that if it continued, the trial wouldn't start on time.

"I think that the court's time on this issue is better taken up post-trial," Nelson said.

On Thursday afternoon the judge also heard testimony about whether a voice recognition expert will be allowed to testify at the trial. Prosecutors have hired voice recognition experts who have given mixed opinions on whether screams for help on 911 calls were those of Zimmerman or Martin.

FBI voice expert Hirotaka Nakasone, who was testifying for the defense, said there wasn't enough clear sound on a 911 recording to determine whose voice it was.

Nakasone also said the concept that individuals have unique voice prints that could identify them was misleading.

"No one can speak in the same way twice," he said.

Nelson didn’t issue a ruling, and the hearing resumes Friday at 9 a.m.

George Zimmerman has sued NBCUniversal, the parent company of this site, for defamation. The company has strongly denied his allegations.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us