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Defense's Turn In Zimmerman Trial


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

It has been an emotional week inside the courtroom in Sanford, Florida, where George Zimmerman stands trial for the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The mothers of both Zimmerman and Martin took the stand, each claiming that it was her son acting in self-defense during the nighttime standoff in the Sanford neighborhood, in the winter of last year. The prosecution rested its case on Friday. Tomorrow, the defense continues presenting witnesses.

NPR's Greg Allen has been following the trial and he joins me now.

Greg, where do things stand now?

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Well, we had two weeks of testimony, Rachel, from the prosecution. And what they did was to try to undercut George Zimmerman's story that he was acting in self-defense that night when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. What Zimmerman has contended is that when he pulled the trigger that Trayvon Martin was slamming his head on the concrete and that he feared for his life. And under Florida's self-defense law, the one that's known as Stand Your Ground, in those circumstances deadly force can be justified.

So what that means is that for prosecutors to get a conviction, they have to show Zimmerman was not acting in self-defense when he pulled the trigger. One of the prosecutors said in opening statements that Zimmerman shot Martin not because he had to but because he wanted to. And that's what they need to prove.

MARTIN: As we mentioned, the prosecution has now rested its case. How have they tried to make this case against Zimmerman?

ALLEN: Well, Zimmerman's story from the beginning has been fairly consistent, that he was on the way to a store when he saw someone he thought was suspicious. He called the police, and then defense did concede this week that Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin, although the question is how far did he follow him? Zimmerman has contended that Martin started the fight by sucker-punching him and knocking him down.

But jurors heard from a young woman from Miami who raised some questions about that. Her name is Rachel Jeantel. She was someone who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin when she says the fight got started. She said she heard Zimmerman say: What are you doing around here? And then she heard a bump and sounds of a struggle. So she suggested that, in fact, it might have been the neighborhood watch volunteer who actually started the fight.

MARTIN: There has been a lot of emotional testimony during this trial, as well. I wonder if you could recount some of the more significant moments.

ALLEN: Well, we heard this past week from Trayvon Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton. Prosecutors played for her the 911 call that has been the source of much controversy. It's a call in which you hear someone in the background repeatedly calling for help; those cries for help end when there's a gunshot. And the question has been all along, whose voice is that that's calling for help.

Well, prosecutors played that tape for Sybrina Fulton. She said it was, indeed, her son Trayvon Martin calling for help. But then, in just a few hours later, the defense began their case. Their very first witness was Gladys Zimmerman. And she's George Zimmerman's mother. They played the tape for her. And then George Zimmerman's lawyer, Mark O'Mara had a question. Here it is.

MARK O'MARA: Do you know whose voice that was screaming in the background?


O'MARA: And whose voice was that?

ZIMMERMAN: My son, George.

O'MARA: And are you certain of that?

ZIMMERMAN: Because he's my son.

MARTIN: And explain this, Greg, because this is an important question, whose voice is on that tape, who made that call.

ALLEN: Right, well, early on the judge in that case ruled audio experts would not be able to testify about whose voice that was. So it's really left up to family members and friends to testify. And what we're getting are competing versions of whose voice that is.

MARTIN: So what happens next? Is it expected that George Zimmerman might take the stand?

ALLEN: That's not clear but I don't think it's likely at this point. The defense has suggested that they would bring George Zimmerman forward if they needed to. I don't think they feel that that is necessary at this point. But we will have to see.

MARTIN: NPR's Greg Allen, reporting from Miami. Greg, thanks so much.

ALLEN: My pleasure, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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