George Zimmerman enters the courtroom for his trial in Seminole circuit court June 25, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. (Photo by Gary W. Green-Pool/Getty Images)
Yamiche Alcindor, USA TODAY
SANFORD, Fla. - Police Officer Christopher Serino, the lead investigator in the Trayvon Martin shooting case, testified Monday that Trayvon's father had listened to the 911 calls placed during the confrontation and had said it was not Trayvon heard screaming for help in the background.
Friends and former co-workers of George Zimmerman also testified, saying it was George Zimmerman's voice screaming for help on a key 911 call.
The testimony of the witnesses, called by the defense, could be crucial as Zimmerman's lawyers try to show that Trayvon was the aggressor and that Zimmerman shot him in self-defense.
"I have no doubt in mind that's his voice," said Geri Russo, a former co-worker of Zimmerman, echoing testimony of several other defense witnesses.
Later Monday, Trayvon's family issued a statement saying that Zimmerman, just day after the shooting, told Serino it was not his voice crying for help on the 911 recording.
The defense case has taken center stage in the trial of former neighborhood watch member Zimmerman, accused of second-degree murder in the February 2012 shooting of Trayvon, 17.
The defense case represents the second part of a trial in which for two weeks prosecutors cast Zimmerman, now 29, as an aggressor who profiled and murdered Trayvon. The jury will weigh the prosecution version of events against the defense story of a man who, while trying to be a good neighbor, was attacked by the teen and shot him in self-defense.
"There's enormous evidence that my client acted in self-defense,'' Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's attorney, said last week. "There is no other reasonable hypothesis."
The defense case drew controversy almost before it began. Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei asked Circuit Judge Debra Nelson for a hearing about one defense witness, not identified in the legal motion, who Mantei says plans to present a "computer animated 're-enactment'" of the shooting.
The defense witness revealed in a July 2 deposition that he or she had created the animation and showed prosecutors still frames of the creation. The animation does not "represent a complete or accurate record of the evidence," Mantei wrote, adding that the state thinks the animation is "speculative and irrelevant."
Mantei said the animation doesn't accurately depict the lighting on he night of the shooting, "deliberately fails to show or even symbolize the murder weapon," and relies on Zimmerman's version of events for the positioning of bodies during the struggle.
Mantei also said the animation was completed by Zimmerman's defense team using employees wearing "motion capture suits." The animation includes audio from 911 calls, assumed positions of witnesses, and fails to include witnesses who contradict Zimmerman's story, Mantei said.
The state prosecutor argues the animation, if admitted, would be "prejudicial and confusing to the jury." It had not been announced if the animation would be allowed in court.
O'Mara said Friday that he didn't know whether his client would take the stand.
"I said I would have to convince myself first that the state has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt before I decide exactly how to handle that," O'Mara said. "I'm still considering that. We are going to start presenting our witnesses and we'll see if that includes George."
The defense began Friday with Zimmerman's mother, Gladys Zimmerman, briefly testifying that it was her son screaming for help in a 911 call that recorded the fatal shot. "That's George's voice,'' she said.
She said Zimmerman was terrified before shooting Trayvon. "The way he is screaming describes anguish, fear," she said.
George Zimmerman's uncle, Jorge Meza, also testified that the voice screaming belonged to George Zimmerman.
Meza knew his nephew had been involved in a shooting, he testified, but he said he knew nothing about a 911 call until he heard it on TV at home and immediately recognized Zimmerman's voice.
"It was George Zimmerman screaming for his life," Meza said. "I felt it inside of my heart that it is George."
Earlier, Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, and his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, testified that the voice heard screaming belonged to Trayvon.