Judge Denies Defense Request for George Zimmerman’s Acquittal

The state rested its case, after Trayvon Martin's mother and brother testified earlier Friday

The judge in the George Zimmerman trial denied a defense request to acquit him Friday.

“The court finds that the state has presented sufficient evidence, both direct and circumstantial, to allow his charge to go to the jury,” Circuit Judge Debra Nelson said.

The jury was then brought back into the courtroom, and the state formally rested its case shortly thereafter, after calling more than three dozen witnesses over two weeks.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the February 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, 17, of Miami Gardens. He has pleaded not guilty, saying he acted in self-defense.

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara argued a motion for a judgment of acquittal Friday afternoon, saying prosecutors had not proved their case.

"What is before the court is an enormous amount of information my client acted in self-defense," O'Mara told Judge Nelson.

O’Mara 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 that Zimmerman had changed his story, that his account of how he shot Martin was "a physical impossibility," and that he exaggerated his wounds.

After Mantei finished his argument against the defense motion, saying the state believed it should be denied, O’Mara argued his position again before the judge gave her ruling.

Relatives of Martin testified earlier Friday that screams for help heard in the background of a 911 call came from the Miami Gardens teen. Later, Zimmerman’s family members testified that Zimmerman was the one screaming for help on the same call.

The audio of the call, which came from a neighbor near the scene of the shooting, was played before prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda questioned Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton.

"Ma'am that screaming or yelling, you recognize that?" de la Rionda asked.

"Yes," Fulton replied.

"And who do you recognize that to be?" he asked.

"Trayvon Benjamin Martin," Fulton said.

Under cross-examination, defense attorney O'Mara questioned Fulton about what she heard in the call.

"If it was not your son screaming, if it was in fact George Zimmerman, then you would have to accept the probability that it was Trayvon Martin who caused his own death, correct?" O'Mara asked.

"I don't understand the question," Fulton responded.

"If you were to listen to that tape and not hear your son's voice, that would mean that it would have been George Zimmerman's voice, correct?" O'Mara said.

"And not hear my son screaming?" Fulton said.


"Is that what you're asking?" Fulton said.

"Yes ma'am," replied O'Mara.

"I heard my son screaming," she said.

Martin's brother, Jahvaris Fulton, also testified that the screams heard on the call were from the teen, but O'Mara questioned why he had told a reporter last year that the screams came from Martin.

"I guess I didn't want to believe that it was him. That's why during that interview I said I wasn't sure," Jahvaris Fulton said. "I guess it was, listening to it was clouded by shock and denial and sadness, I didn't really want to believe that it was him."

O'Mara asked to play the television interview for jurors, but Judge Nelson denied his request for the time being.

Jahvaris Fulton's testimony was broken up by efforts to unlock the evidence room adjacent to the courtroom. Unable to open it, court officials called a locksmith with a drill to help them out.

Before testifying, Sybrina Fulton posted on Twitter "I pray that God gives me the strength to properly represent my Angel Trayvon."

After the mother and brother testified, the doctor who performed an autopsy on Martin took the witness stand. Associate Medical Examiner Shiping Bao started describing Martin as being in pain and suffering after he was shot, but defense attorneys objected. The judge sustained the objection, and Bao was directed away from that line of questioning.

He later estimated that Martin lived from one to 10 minutes after he was shot, and 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.

Under cross-examination, defense attorney Don West questioned why Martin's hands weren't covered in order to preserve evidence on his fingers and why it took three hours to remove the body from the scene. West and Bao talked over each other at several points, requiring the judge to tell everyone to speak one at a time.

With jurors out of the courtroom, Bao acknowledged under defense questioning he had changed his opinion in recent weeks on two matters related to the teen's death — how long Martin was alive after being shot and the effect of marijuana detected in Martin's body at the time of his death.

Bao said last November that he believed Martin was alive one to three minutes. He also said Friday that marijuana could have affected Martin physically or mentally; he said the opposite last year.

The judge ruled before the trial that Martin's past marijuana use couldn't be introduced, and so the jury did not hear Bao's opinion about the drug's effect.

After the state rested its case late Friday afternoon, the defense called its first two witnesses. The defendant’s mother, Gladys Zimmerman, and uncle Jorge Meza both said that George Zimmerman was screaming for help on the 911 call.

Gladys Zimmerman told O’Mara that the voice was her son’s.

The attorney asked her if she was certain of that.

“Because he’s my son,” she replied.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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