Screams in the background of a 911 recording made moments before 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot to death in a gated Florida community prove nothing because the voices can’t be identified, lawyers for accused murderer George Zimmerman are set to tell a judge.
In a hearing four days before Zimmerman’s trial for second-degree murder is scheduled to begin in Florida state court, defense lawyers today will seek to bar a prosecution witness who would tell jurors Martin can be heard on the call saying “I’m begging you.” The witness, an acoustics consultant, didn’t employ scientifically accepted methods, Zimmerman’s lawyers argue.
The recording, in which the screams end with the sound of a gunshot, could be pivotal to the prosecution’s case, in the absence of eyewitnesses, that Zimmerman, 29, was the aggressor. Zimmerman told police he acted in self-defense after Martin punched him in face, knocked him to the ground and threatened to kill him.
“It’s a critical piece of evidence for the prosecution,” Kendall Coffey, a former Miami U.S. Attorney, said in a phone interview. “If the prosecution can convince the jury that it is the voice of Trayvon Martin, the jury might conclude that Trayvon Martin is the true victim and George Zimmerman is the killer.”
The Feb. 26, 2012, shooting triggered protests in several U.S. cities and drew comment from President Barack Obama after officials initially declined to arrest Zimmerman, saying it appeared he had acted within the bounds of the state’s Stand Your Ground law, which allows individuals who feel threatened in a public place to “meet force with force.”
The furor centered on the racial aspects of the shooting — Martin was black while Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is Hispanic. Prosecutors say Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, profiled, pursued and then murdered Martin, who was carrying a can of iced tea, a bag of Skittles and $40 in cash at the time of his death.
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