Police Officer Testifies in George Zimmerman Trial

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  • SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — Jurors in the George Zimmerman murder trial on Monday heard a recording of the neighborhood watch volunteer describing his fatal encounter with 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to a police officer soon after it happened.

    Zimmerman said in that first police interview that he saw Martin walking through his neighborhood on a dark, rainy night while Zimmerman was driving to the grocery store. He told Officer Doris Singleton that he didn’t recognize Martin and that there had been recent break-ins at his townhome complex.

    “These guys always get away,” Zimmerman told Singleton, a statement similar to one that prosecutors have used previously to try to show that Zimmerman was increasingly frustrated with the burglaries and his encounter with Martin was a breaking point.

    Zimmerman told the police officer that he lost track of Martin and got out of his truck to look for a street name he could relay to police dispatcher. When the dispatcher suggested Zimmerman didn’t need to follow Martin, Zimmerman started to head back to his vehicle. At that point, Zimmerman said Martin jumped out of some bushes, punched him and he fell to the ground.

    Zimmerman said that Martin began hitting his head against the sidewalk as Zimmerman yelled for help and that Martin told him, “You’re going to die tonight.”

    With Zimmerman’s shirt and jacket pushed up during the struggle and his holstered gun now visibile, he thought Martin was reaching for his firearm holstered around his waist. Zimmerman told the officer that he shot Martin and the teen said, “You got me.”

    In a written statement, Singleton read in court, Zimmerman refers to Martin as “the suspect.”

    Prosecutors played the police interview Monday after calling an FBI audio expert to the witness stand. Prosecutors called FBI expert Hirotaka Nakasone to focus on the issue of who was screaming for help on 911 calls during the confrontation. Jurors were played the 911 calls several times last week.

    The recordings are crucial pieces of evidence because they could determine who the aggressor was in the confrontation. Martin’s family contends it was the teen screaming, while Zimmerman’s father has said it was his son.

    Even though he was a pre-trial witness for the defense, prosecutors called Nakasone to set up later testimony from either the teen’s mother or father that they believe it was their son yelling for help.

    During his pre-trial testimony, Nakasone testified that there wasn’t enough clear sound to determine whether Zimmerman or Martin was screaming on the best 911 sample, an assertion he repeated Monday.

    “It’s not fit for the purpose of voice comparison,” Nakasone said.

    Nakasone also said guessing a person’s age by voice is “complicated” in general, and it was impossible to determine with the 911 sample he heard.

    The FBI expert said that it’s easier for a person with a familiarity of a voice to identify it than someone who has never heard it previously. That is especially true if the recording is of a subject screaming and the person trying to identify the voice has heard the subject under similarly stressful circumstances previously, Nakasone said.

    But under cross-examination by defense attorney Don West, Nakasone said there was a risk of increased listener bias if people trying to identify a voice are listening to a sample in a group, as Martin’s parents did, rather than individually.

    “There might be a risk of bias included in the end results,” Nakasone said.

    Nakasone’s pretrial testimony, along with other defense experts, helped keep two prosecution audio experts from testifying. One prosecution expert ruled out that it was Zimmerman screaming on the 911 call and the other thought it was the teen.

    Judge Debra Nelson ruled that the methods used by the experts aren’t reliable.

    More than 20 witnesses last week testified during the opening week of a testimony in a trial that has opened up national debates about race, equal justice, self-defense and gun control.

    Zimmerman has said he fatally shot the teen in February 2012 in self-defense as the Miami-area black teenager was banging his head into the concrete sidewalk behind the townhomes in a gated community. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder and has pleaded not guilty.

    Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. The state argued during its opening statement that Zimmerman profiled and followed Martin in his truck and called a police dispatch number before he and the teen got into a fight.

    Zimmerman has denied the confrontation had anything to do with race, as Martin’s family and their supporters have claimed.

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