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Zimmerman murder trial to resume as prosecution presses case

July 01, 2013|By Michael Muskal

George Zimmerman's murder trial resumes Monday with the prosecution continuing its case against the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with killing unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

Still to be heard from are the lead police investigator, Christopher Serino; the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Martin; and Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, parents of the teenager killed in a confrontation with Zimmerman at a gated community in Sanford, Fla., on the night of Feb. 26, 2012. Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second-degree murder. He argues that he shot Martin, 17, in self-defense.

In a week of testimony from about 20 witnesses, the prosecution has portrayed Zimmerman as a frustrated crime-fighter who spotted Martin, a stranger walking through the Retreat at Twin Lakes. Martin looked suspicious, Zimmerman told the emergency operator, who advised the volunteer to let police deal with any problem. Zimmerman profiled and followed Martin, prosecutors maintain.

GRAPHIC: Who's who in the Trayvon Martin case

But the defense scored points as well, especially in dogged cross-examinations of witnesses including Rachel Jeantel, the state’s star witness. Jeantel, a friend of Martin’s, was speaking to the teenager on a cellphone as Martin complained that he was being followed.

Even though the prosecution called them as witnesses, two residents of the gated Florida community and a police officer described how Zimmerman appeared to be on his back during the confrontation with Martin, testimony that might support the neighborhood watch volunteer’s description of events.

Neighbor Jonathan Good said it appeared that Martin was "straddling" Zimmerman, while another neighbor, Jonathan Manalo, said Zimmerman seemed credible when he said immediately after the fight that he had shot Martin in self-defense. Sanford Police Officer Tim Smith, the first officer on the scene, testified that Zimmerman's back was covered in grass and wetter than his front.

PHOTOS: The controversial case in pictures

Zimmerman and Martin started out in a vertical position, then moved to a horizontal position on the ground, Good testified. The person on top wore dark clothes and the one on the bottom wore white or red and had lighter skin, he said. Zimmerman wore red that night while Martin was in a dark hooded sweat shirt.

“It looked like there were strikes being thrown, punches being thrown,” Good said.

Under cross-examination, Good said that the straddle looked like a mixed-martial arts move known as “ground and pound.” When defense attorney Mark O'Mara asked him whether the person on top was Martin, Good said, “Correct, that's what it looked like.”

Good also said it was his opinion that the person on the bottom yelled for help. That could be important because the identity of the person who cried for help is under contention, with the prosecution maintaining it was Martin while the defense has indicated it believes that it was Zimmerman.

Manalo, whose wife had testified earlier in the week, was the first neighbor to get to the scene and took the famous cellphone photos of Zimmerman, with blood on his nose and two lacerations on the back of his head. Manalo also took photos of Martin’s body.

Manalo said Zimmerman was calm and composed as police arrived and handcuffed him. Under cross-examination, Manalo said when he asked Zimmerman what happened, the neighborhood watch volunteer told him, “I was defending myself and I shot him.”

“From what you could tell at that moment, that seemed completely true?” asked defense attorney Don West.

“Yes,” Manalo said.

Under renewed questioning from lead prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda, Manalo agreed that he did not see the actual shooting and said he had “no inkling” about Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.

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