June 20, 2018
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Florida jury hears watchman’s account of killing Trayvon Martin

George Zimmerman, accused in the Trayvon Martin shooting, arrives in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Florida, June 7, 2013.
By Barbara Liston, Reuters

SANFORD, Fla. — Jurors on Monday heard neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman’s account of how he shot unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin as his Florida murder trial moved into the second week of testimony.

Zimmerman gave several statements to police, including one just after he shot Martin during a fight in a gated community in the central Florida town of Sanford on Feb. 26 last year, and another taken during a videotaped re-enactment the next day.

Prosecutors are hoping to use the statements to highlight any inconsistencies in Zimmerman’s account of what happened in the racially charged case that triggered civil rights protests and debates about the treatment of black Americans in the U.S. justice system.

In his first taped police interview after the killing, parts of which were played for the jury in a Seminole County criminal courtroom, Zimmerman said Martin circled his car before their fatal confrontation.

But he did not say it while he was on the phone with a police dispatcher he called to report what he identified as a suspicious youth walking at a leisurely pace through the rain at his Retreat at Twin Lakes Community.

Zimmerman, 29, also told police he got out of his car because he could not tell police the name of the street where he had last seen Martin before he lost eye contact with him, even though the Retreat at Twin Lakes housing complex has only three streets.

Zimmerman also told Sanford police investigator Doris Singleton, who testified in court on Monday, that Martin jumped out of the bushes before punching him to the ground and slamming his head into the concrete walkway repeatedly.

But a Google map of the area where the attack is said to have occurred does not appear to show any bushes near the spot, and Zimmerman was unable to tell Singleton if Martin jumped out from in front of him or from behind him.

Though Zimmerman shot Martin through the heart at point blank range with his 9mm Kel-Tec semi-automatic pistol, killing him almost instantly, Zimmerman also told police that the youth continued to talk after being shot.

“All right, you got it, you got it,” Zimmerman quoted Martin as saying as he lay dying.

He also quoted Martin as telling him “You’re going to die tonight,” just before attacking him, but none of the witnesses who have testified so far have reported hearing any threats.

Zimmerman, a fair-skinned Hispanic, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and could face life in prison if convicted. He says he killed Martin, 17, in self-defense. It is not yet known whether Zimmerman will testify at his trial.

The trial resumed on Monday morning with testimony from an FBI voice analysis expert, Hirotaka Nakasone. He testified that a recorded 911 emergency call “is not fit for the purpose of voice comparison” to determine who was screaming for help — either Zimmerman or Martin — during the scuffle that ended with Martin’s death.

The trial is scheduled to run through Wednesday then take a break on Thursday for the Independence Day holiday. Circuit Judge Debra Nelson said court would resume on Friday.

Martin was a student at a Miami-area high school and a guest of one of the homeowners. He was returning after buying snacks at a convenience store when he was shot in the chest during a confrontation with Zimmerman.

Zimmerman was a member of the neighborhood watch and called police to report a suspicious person. Prosecutors claim he profiled Martin and chased after him vigilante-style rather than wait for police to arrive.

In order to win a second-degree murder conviction, prosecutors would have to convince the six women on the jury that Zimmerman acted with “ill will” or “hatred” and “an indifference to human life.”

Four former neighbors testified last week about what they could see and hear during the fatal argument on a rainy, dark night. Three said they thought Zimmerman was on top during the scuffle and one said Martin was on top.

None said they heard a crude death threat that Zimmerman says Martin made moments before he shot him.

Jurors also heard from a childhood friend who was talking on the phone with Martin moments before his death. She quoted Martin as saying a “creepy” man was following him and that she heard Martin yell “get off, get off” before the call went dead.

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