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Screams on 911 recording were Trayvon Martin's, mother testifies

July 05, 2013|By Michael Muskal and Tina Susman | This post has been corrected, as indicated below.

The mother of Trayvon Martin testified Friday that it is the voice of her son heard screaming on a recorded 911 call during his confrontation with George Zimmerman, charged with second-degree murder in the death of the unarmed teenager.

Sybrina Fulton took the stand in Zimmerman’s murder trial and said it is her son on the tape. Jahvaris Fulton then followed his mother on the stand and also testified that the screams belonged to his brother, Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman, then 28, and Martin, 17, had a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012. Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense when the teenager attacked him.

GRAPHIC: Who's who in the Trayvon Martin case

A neighbor called 911 to report the fight. In the background, screams can be heard, but it is unclear who is screaming. An FBI audio expert testified that science could not definitively identify the voice, but someone like a relative who was very familiar with the voice might be able to say who it was. The expert also warned against listener bias.

Fulton had been expected to testify it was her son’s voice, and her appearance on the ninth day of the prosecution putting in its case carried the drama that had been forecast. Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda kept Fulton on the stand only a few minutes in her initial appearance, but the moments were emotional.

Asked by De la Rionda if she has children, Fulton replied in a clear but slightly quavering voice: “My youngest son is Trayvon Benjamin Martin. He’s in heaven."

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She then gave details of Martin’s tattoos, noting that her son was right-handed and had two tattoos. One was on his right upper shoulder and showed praying hands with his grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s names.

The other tattoo was on his left wrist. "He had my name there," she said.

De la Rionda played the 911 call of a neighbor reporting the sounds of screaming and then a gunshot. Fulton blinked over and over and shifted slightly as the sound of the cries filled the courtroom.

“Do you recognize that?” De la Rionda asked.

“Yes,” she replied, before saying firmly that it was the voice of her son.

Under cross-examination, Fulton resisted suggestions from defense attorney Mark O’Mara that she hoped the screams were her son’s, because if they were not, they would have come from Zimmerman.

“I heard my son screaming,” she told O’Mara.

“And in your mind, as his mother, there was no doubt it was him screaming, correct?” O’Mara said as the questioning continued.

“Absolutely,” Fulton said.

Jahvaris Fulton took the stand after his mother and echoed her statement that the voice calling for help was that of his brother. But under cross-examination, Jahvaris Fulton, 22, conceded that he had at one point told a reporter that he wasn’t certain it was Martin’s voice.

“How do I explain?” he said, struggling to respond to O’Mara’s cross-examination. “I guess I didn’t want to believe it was him. ... I guess listening to it was clouded by shock and denial and sadness.”

The identifications were certainly emotional, but it was unclear how the six-woman jury would deal with the identifications. One witness has testified that he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman and heard screams from Zimmerman.

In addition, Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, initially told authorities that he did not believe the voice on the tape was his son's.

After the family members testified, Dr. Shipping Bao, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Trayvon Martin, took the stand.

Martin was alive for a time after he was shot, Bao said in his initial testimony.

“His heart was still beating,” Bao testified. “He was still alive, he was still in pain.”

The defense objected and Judge Deborah S. Nelson agreed.

The prosecution is expected to rest later on Friday.

[For the Record, 1:20 p.m. PDT July 5: In an earlier version of this online article, Jahvaris Fulton was in one instance referred to as Jahvaris Martin.]

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