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Judge's ruling on tapes awaited as Zimmerman murder trial resumes

June 26, 2013|By Michael Muskal and Tina Susman

The judge in the George Zimmerman murder trial could rule as soon as Wednesday on whether to allow a series of telephone calls the defendant made to police that the prosecution maintains shows his ill will and provides insight into his thinking on the night he shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager.

The third day of witness testimony will begin Wednesday morning as the prosecution continues to concentrate on forensic evidence.

On Tuesday, a Sanford, Fla., police sergeant who was one of the first officers at the shooting, dramatically described his efforts to resuscitate Martin. Also taking the stand was a crime scene technician who described how evidence was gathered and identified the now-famous bag of candy and can of soft drink that Martin was carrying back from a convenience store when he and Zimmerman had their confrontation.

GRAPHIC: Who's who in the Trayvon Martin case

The defense could point to some victories on the second day of testimony. Defense lawyer Mark O’Mara staged a grueling cross-examination of a former neighbor at the gated community where Zimmerman lived and where he shot Martin.

Selene Bahadoor testified that she heard part of the struggle. She described the sound of movement from left to right outside her townhouse and said she heard what sounded like someone saying “No” or “Uh.”

She said that when she looked out a window she saw arms flailing, then heard a gunshot. The next time she looked out her glass doors she saw a body on the ground, she said.

O'Mara accused Bahadoor of never mentioning the left-to-right movement in previous interviews.

"I don't know, I can't remember," Bahadoor said, later adding that it was possible she had never mentioned it before taking the stand.

Bahadoor also acknowledged that her Facebook page had indicated she signed an online petition calling for Zimmerman's arrest, but she said she felt for both families.

PHOTOS: The controversial case in pictures

Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Martin, 17, on Feb. 26, 2012, in the gated community in Sanford. The prosecution maintains he profiled the teenager, who was black, and followed him. Zimmerman argues that he shot Martin in self-defense after the teenager attacked him.

In its opening statement, the prosecution emphasized that the recorded calls illustrated what was going on inside of Zimmerman’s mind and heart. It has tried to introduce five calls to police in which Zimmerman, when asked, tells police that the suspects he is watching are black males.

Prosecutors contend the calls show that Zimmerman was frustrated with repeated burglaries. The recordings reveal Zimmerman's “ill will,” prosecutor Richard Mantei told Judge Debra S. Nelson on Tuesday.

“It shows the context in which the defendant sought out his encounter with Trayvon Martin,” Mantei said.

Defense attorney O'Mara argued that the calls were beside the point. All that matters is the moments before Zimmerman fired at Martin.

The prosecution is "going to ask the jury to make a leap from a good, responsible citizen behavior to seething behavior,” O'Mara said.

With the jury outside the courtroom, the calls were played. Zimmerman identifies himself as a neighborhood watch volunteer and says his neighborhood has had a rash of robberies. In one call, he asks that officers respond quickly since the suspects “typically get away quickly.”

Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Peruvian, has denied that the confrontation with Martin had anything to do with race, as Martin's family and supporters have charged.

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tina.susman@latimes.com

Twitter: @tinasusman

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