Zimmerman tells judge he won’t testify
(CNN) — George Zimmerman told the judge on Wednesday that he would not testify in his own defense in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
At the beginning of the afternoon session, Judge Debra Nelson questioned Zimmerman — over the repeated objection of defense attorney Don West — on whether he had decided to testify. He said that he had not. When asked how long it might be before he decides, Zimmerman said, “Depends on how long the recesses are.”
Then, later in the afternoon, Zimmerman told the judge he would not be testifying.
Zimmerman’s defense attorneys finished with their last witness, which was the defendant’s father, Robert Zimmerman. He testified that it was his son who was screaming on the infamous 911 recording of the fatal altercation that claimed the 17-year-old Martin’s life in 2012.
Robert Zimmerman joined his wife, Gladys, in testifying that they believe it was their son George.
By contrast, Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said she was “absolutely” certain that the panicked voice was that of her son Trayvon, with the late teenager’s brother, Jahvaris Fulton, making a similar determination.
The defense team, which consumed most of the day on testimony from a “use-of-force” expert, also called one of Zimmerman’s neighbors — Olivia Bertalan — who spoke of being appreciative of Zimmerman’s support after a home invasion at her house.
In one memorable moment Wednesday, attorneys from both sides grappled with a foam dummy on the floor of a Florida courtroom, working to demonstrate to rapt jurors their competing versions of what happened the rainy 2012 night Trayvon Martin died in an altercation with George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman, 29, is accused of second-degree murder in the February 26, 2012, death of Martin, a 17-year-old from Miami who was staying with his father in Zimmerman’s Sanford, Florida, neighborhood.
Defense attorneys argue Zimmerman shot Martin in self-defense after the Miami teenager charged him. Prosecutors argue he followed Martin through his neighborhood and shot him without provocation.
To that end, Assistant State Attorney John Guy brought out the dummy in an effort to demonstrate that it would have been difficult for Zimmerman to retrieve his handgun from his pocket with Martin straddling him, as defense attorneys have argued was the case.
The fatal gunshot, Guy reminded defense witness Dennis Root, was fired at a 90-degree angle into Martin’s body.
“Wouldn’t that be consistent with Travyon Martin getting off of George Zimmerman and George Zimmerman raising the gun and firing it?” Guy asked Root, a use-of-force expert.
“It could be consistent with any kind of movement … We weren’t there so the info that we have is George Zimmerman’s statement,” he said.
Later, defense attorney Mark O’Mara straddled the dummy himself, pounding the back of its head against the carpeted courtroom floor, demonstrating how he says Martin gave him the head wounds seen in police photographs from the night of the shooting.
He later asked Root — a former police officer with extensive training in firearms and self-defense — if it would have been possible for Zimmerman to reach around Martin’s body to get at a gun located near his hip.
“Yes, sir,” Root replied, minutes before Judge Debra Nelson called a lunch break.
Earlier, Root testified the apparent fight between Zimmerman and Martin went on for a relatively long time — some 40 seconds — and was clearly marked by a high level of fear and anxiety.
“I have personally sat there and timed it myself, where it is about 40 seconds of time. That’s a very long time to be involved in any type of physical altercation,” Root said.
“We have a golden rule,” he told defense attorney Mark O’Mara. “If you have not successfully completed the fight, if you have not won the fight in 30 seconds, change tactics, because the tactics you are using are not working.”
A prosecution rebuttal is expected to follow.
Before Wednesday’s testimony, Nelson dealt two blows to Zimmerman’s defense, ruling they could not introduce pictures and text messages from Martin’s phone or present during testimony a three-dimensional computer re-enactment of how the defense believes the altercation played out.
The photos and text messages recovered from Martin’s phone include apparent references to efforts to buy a gun, as well as discussion of a fight. They won’t be seen by jurors.
However, it appears that the animation could still be used during closing arguments.
The defense said Tuesday that the animation would help the jury understand how the confrontation between Martin and Zimmerman unfolded. The prosecution argued the animated re-enactment makes assumptions, and it’s not based on evidence in the case.
HLN’s Graham Winch, Jonathan Anker and Anna Lanfreschi and CNN’s John Couwels and Greg Botelho contributed to this report.