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Friday, July 5, 2013

Trayvon Martin's Mother Testifies At Zimmerman Trial

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of slain teenager Trayvon Martin, testified this morning in the ongoing trial of George Zimmerman. Zimmerman is charged with second degree murder in Martin’s death. Martin’s parents have been in the court every day of the trial.


  • Russell Lewis, NPR’s Southern Bureau Chief



And we want to take a few minutes now to update the George Zimmerman murder trial. He's claiming self-defense in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. At the heart of the testimony today, a 911 recording from a resident as Zimmerman and Martin scuffled. NPR's Russell Lewis joins us. And Russell, the big question has been who is yelling help on that recording, Trayvon or George? Trayvon's mother testified today, highly anticipated. What happened?

RUSSELL LEWIS: Yeah, it was certainly highly anticipated, the first witness of the day, called to the stand, sitting there very stoically, answering questions. And, you know, as you say the question is was it Trayvon Martin screaming for his life, or was it George Zimmerman? And prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda was subdued in his questioning of Martin's mother after the tape played. Here it is:


BERNIE DE LA RIONDA: Ma'am, that screaming or yelling, do you recognize that?


RIONDA: And who do you recognize that to be, ma'am?

FULTON: Trayvon Benjamin Martin.

LEWIS: And, you know, that was pretty much it. And she says that is my son. And what mother hearing a scream wants to hear that it is her son? And that really is sort of what this case has sort of zeroed down on. But an FBI audio expert testified a few days ago, basically, that he could not determine who was screaming and that it really could only be done by someone who knew the victim.

That said, when that same recording was first played for Trayvon's father, he said that it was not his son screaming.

YOUNG: Yeah, so there's some complications there, as well. But also today, Trayvon Martin's older brother took the stand. Did he speak about the screams? What did he say?

LEWIS: Yeah, it was his older brother, Jahvaris Fulton. He's a student at Florida International University. He was with his family and attorneys when he first heard the tape, and later he told a television reporter, soon after hearing it, that he wasn't sure that it was his brother's voice on the phone. But today on the stand, Jahvaris Fulton testified that he was in denial at that time and that he had hoped that it was not his brother's voice on the tape. But he did say today that he now believes that it was Trayvon Martin on that recording.

YOUNG: I know you also want to tell us about a key moment from yesterday, or Wednesday, actually. Yeah.

LEWIS: Yeah, it was on Wednesday. Jurors heard testimony from the medical examiner, Valerie Rao. She studied the injuries that Zimmerman had received during the fight with Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman had told police that Martin had repeatedly bashed his head on the sidewalk. And here she is questioned by prosecutor John Guy.


JOHN GUY: In terms of severity, how would you classify the injuries to the defendant's head?

VALERIE RAO: They were not life-threatening. They were very insignificant.

LEWIS: And so, there's actually been a lot of conflicting testimony since this trial began. Even some of the prosecution's own witnesses have sometimes contradicted each other.

YOUNG: Yeah. So, how long before you think the prosecution will wrap up, and what's the sense of the defense's case?

LEWIS: Well, we're expecting the prosecution to wrap up later today. And in terms of the defense, you know, I mean, that's a good question. Legal experts believe that the defense has made some headway in its case just by questioning some of these inconsistencies in the prosecution's witnesses. So it's possible that they may decide to call fewer witnesses and actually shorten their case.

It's really hard to say how long the defense will go. We should remind folks the six-member jury has been sequestered since the trial began. The real question is whether the defense will decide George Zimmerman to testify on his own behalf. And if convicted, we should remind folks that Zimmerman faces up to life in prison.

YOUNG: NPR's Russell Lewis, who's been following the George Zimmerman trial. Russell, thanks so much.

LEWIS: You're welcome. My pleasure.

YOUNG: All right. We'll take a break for the latest news. That's next, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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