Zimmerman investigator returns to witness stand
ABOVE PHOTO: Adam Pollock, right, a central Florida gym owner and trainer, addresses the jury during a demonstration with defense attorney Mark O’Mara, left, during the George Zimmerman trial in Seminole Circuit Court, in Sanford, Fla., Monday, July 8, 2013. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen, in 2012.
(AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool)
By Mike Schneider and Kyle Hightower
SANFORD, Fla. — The lead detective in George Zimmerman’s second-degree murder case testified Monday that Trayvon Martin’s father told him that screams for help on a 911 call weren’t his son’s.
Officer Chris Serino was called by the defense to testify about a meeting with Martin’s father in the days after the Miami teen was fatally shot by Zimmerman last year.
At the meeting, when Tracy Martin listened to the 911 recording and was asked if it was his son, Tracy Martin said “no,” Serino said.
“He looked away and under his breath he said ‘no’,” Serino said.
Tracy Martin was in the courtroom as Serino recounted the meeting.
Under cross examination, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda suggested that Tracy Martin may have been in denial about his son’s death and uttered, ‘no.”
“It could be perceived as denial,” Serino said.
The investigator’s testimony was just the latest effort to determine who was crying for help on the 911 calls. Convincing the jury of whose voice is on the tapes is important to both sides because it would help jurors decide who was the aggressor in the confrontation that left Martin dead. Relatives of Martin’s and Zimmerman’s have offered conflicting opinions on previous days about who is heard screaming.
Another investigator, Office Doris Singleton, backed up Serino’s account of Tracy Martin’s initial reaction to the 911 call.
A series of Zimmerman’s friends on Monday testified that the screams on the recording were their friend, and the 911 call was played multiple times in the courtroom.
After the call was played for Sondra Osterman, defense attorney Mark O’Mara asked who it was.
“Yes, definitely. It’s Georgie,” said Osterman, who testified she first met Zimmerman in 2006 while working with him at a mortgage company. Osterman and her husband, Mark, describe themselves as the best friends of Zimmerman and his wife.
The emergency call captured the confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin shortly before Zimmerman fatally shot the teen. Zimmerman’s mother and uncle testified last Friday it was Zimmerman screaming. Martin’s mother and brother also took the witness stand last Friday to say the voice belongs to Martin.
Zimmerman himself once said during a police interview that the screams didn’t sound like him, though he and his family later said the screams were his.
Prosecutors had wanted to introduce as witnesses two audio experts who said the voice belonged to Martin and ruled out Zimmerman’s voice. But Judge Debra Nelson prohibited the audio experts from testifying, saying their methods were unreliable.
Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and says he shot Martin in self-defense during a scuffle in the townhome complex where he lived. Martin was there visiting his father and his father’s fiancee.
Prosecutors contend that Zimmerman was profiling Martin and perceived the teen as someone suspicious in the neighborhood, which had been the site of a series of break-ins.
Prosecutors were also seeking Monday to stop defense attorneys from presenting an animated depiction of the fatal fight. Their motion requests that the animation not be mentioned or played at Zimmerman’s trial, claiming it would only confuse jurors. They said the animation doesn’t show a murder weapon, only approximates positions based on witness accounts and artificially depicts lighting conditions.
Defense attorneys hadn’t immediately filed a response. Prosecutors said in their motion that the animation commissioned by the defense was created by employees of the animator re-enacting the fight wearing motion-capture suits.
Under cross-examination, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda implied that Sondra Osterman and her husband, Mark, had a stake in the outcome of the trial because they had written a book about Zimmerman’s case and were donating the proceeds to their friend.
Mark Osterman took the witness stand after his wife to testify about how Zimmerman had chosen and purchased his firearm. He testified that Zimmerman could shoot with both hands, and he also said he recommended keeping the gun loaded.
He said it was Zimmerman’s voice screaming when the 911 call was played for him in the courtroom.
Former co-worker Geri Russo also testified it was Zimmerman yelling on the call, as did John Donnelly and Leanne Benjamin, a married couple who became good friends with Zimmerman and his wife.
The prosecutor also played for Sondra Osterman a nonemergency police call Zimmerman made to report Martin walking through his neighborhood. In the call, Zimmerman uses the words, “F------ punks. These a-------. They always get away.” Sondra Osterman identified the voice as Zimmerman’s.
When asked by O’Mara if she detected ill will, spite or hatred in his voice, she answered no.
Prosecutors must show that Zimmerman acted with ill will, spite or a depraved mind in order to get a second-degree murder conviction.
Defense attorneys also called the owner of a gym where Zimmerman had gone to lose weight to explain to jurors the mixed-martial arts fighting method called “ground and pound.” Defense attorneys have said that Martin slammed Zimmerman’s head into the sidewalk while he was on top of him in “a ground and pound” maneuver. To demonstrate the move, gym owner Adam Pollock straddled O’Mara on the courtroom floor. Pollock testified that Zimmerman trained in the form of fighting known as grappling but was an unaccomplished fighter.
“He was about a 1,” said Pollock when asked to rank Zimmerman’s athletic skill on a scale of 1 to 10.
+ Top Story
With the holiday season in full swing, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), joined by a local worker and advocates, will call for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for over 700,000 Pennsylvania workers.
Wayne County, Mich., prosecutor Kym Worthy has charged Theodore Paul Wafer with second-degree murder in the death of Renisha McBride, a 19 year-old Detroit woman, who sought help following an automobile accident in Dearborn Heights, Mich.
Alabama’s parole board approved of granting posthumous pardons in the infamous “Scottsboro Boys” rape case on Thursday morning. The board made the decision during a hearing in Montgomery for three black men whose convictions were never overturned in a case that came to symbolize racial injustice...
Cleveland Cox, 49, and Lisa Cox, 52, are charged with nonsupport of dependents. Authorities allege the Middletown couple left boy with children’s services after saying he was displaying aggressive behavior and earlier threatened the family with a knife. Trial is scheduled for Feb. 10.
Another milestone is passing in America’s racial journey: The next mayor of New York City is a white man with a black wife. Even in a nation with a biracial president, where interracial marriage is more accepted and common than ever, Bill de Blasio’s marriage to Chirlane McCray is remarkable...
Common Pleas Judge Lawrence O’Toole has appointed former retired U.S. District Bankruptcy Judge Judith K. Fitzgerald to manage the financially troubled August Wilson Center for African American Culture. As conservator, Fitzgerald will oversee the center’s operation and...
The NAACP announced the members of its search committee for the Association’s new president and CEO last week. The members are a distinguished group of leaders from a variety of fields. The committee includes both members of the national board and key stakeholders.
Typhoon-ravaged Philippine islands faced a daunting relief effort that had barely begun Monday, as bloated bodies lay uncollected and uncounted in the streets and survivors pleaded for food, water and medicine.