By Barbara Liston
SANFORD, Florida (Reuters) – Trayvon Martin’s mother said in court on Friday she recognized the voice of her son screaming for help in an emergency call on the night the black Florida teenager was shot dead by neighborhood watchman George Zimmermann.
Sybrina Fulton’s testimony came as the state was preparing to wrap up its murder case against Zimmerman after nearly two weeks of testimony. The prosecution has sought to expose inconsistencies in his account of the fight in Sanford, Florida, in February last year that ended with Martin’s death.
Fulton told jurors she was certain it was her son who can be heard screaming for help in the background of an emergency call made to police moments before he died.
“I heard my son screaming,” said Fulton, who added that she first heard the recording in the office of the mayor of this town near Orlando where her son died.
Testimony from voice-recognition experts has been ruled inadmissible in the trial on the grounds that it was impossible to tell from the brief, poor-quality recording whether it was Martin or Zimmerman calling for help.
In addition to Martin’s mother, the state’s final witnesses included his brother, 22-year-old Jahvaris Fulton, who said he too was convinced it was his brother who can be heard screaming on the recording.
Other witnesses on Friday, as the state ran through the last of dozens of people it has called to testify, included the central Florida medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Martin.
Dr Shiping Bao said Martin did not die instantly, even though the lone bullet from Zimmerman’s 9 mm Kel-Tec semi-automatic handgun pierced the right ventricle of his heart.
“It is my opinion that he was still alive, he was still in pain, he was still suffering,” said Bao, even as he stressed that the wound was something Martin could not possibly have survived.
TOOK UP TO 10 MINUTES TO DIE
“I believe that he was alive for one to 10 minutes after he was shot,” he added.
Bao’s testimony was accompanied by graphic photographs from the autopsy that were shown to jurors.
Once the prosecution rests its so-called “case in chief,” it will be the turn of the defense to present its case.
Legal experts said that before doing so, Zimmerman’s legal team could simply make an argument for acquittal on grounds that the state has failed to meet its burden of proof.
It is still unclear whether the defense will choose to put Zimmerman, who is 29 and part Hispanic, on the stand to testify.
The former neighborhood watchman contends that he killed Martin in self-defense. He faces up to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.
After the defense concludes its case, the prosecution is entitled to present a rebuttal.
In testimony on Wednesday, before a one-day break for the U.S. Independence Day holiday, jurors heard that Zimmerman was well versed in Florida’s self-defense laws before he shot Martin, despite his previous claim to the contrary.
On Tuesday, Judge Debra Nelson let the jury hear a television interview in which Zimmerman said he had no knowledge of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which underpins his trial defense.
But an army prosecutor who taught Zimmerman in a 2010 college class on criminal litigation, testified that he often covered Florida’s self-defense and “Stand Your Ground” laws in his 2010 course. Army Captain Alexis Carter said Zimmerman “was probably one of the better students in the class,” calling him an “A” student.
Under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which was approved in 2005 and has been copied in some form by about 30 other U.S. states, people fearing for their lives can use deadly force even if is possible for them to retreat from a confrontation.
The statute is central to Zimmerman’s defense in a case that has captivated the United States because police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman based on his self-defense argument and the right to use deadly force under Florida law.
(Writing by Tom Brown; Editing by David Brunnstrom)