George Zimmerman trial recap

It was called the “Trial of the Century,” with media outlets flocking to Sanford, Fla., as a jury decided whether George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, should be convicted of second-degree murder in the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Monday, June 24

The trial began with opening statements by both the prosecution and defense, the former repeating obscenities Zimmerman used in a conversation with a police dispatcher the night Martin was killed. The defense opened with a knock-knock joke about the case’s difficult jury selection.

Tuesday, June 25

On the second day of the trial, the judge weighed whether to let the jury hear Zimmerman’s previous calls to police. Prior to Martin’s killing, Zimmerman had called police several times in six months to report suspicious characters in his gated community. The Associated Press reported that Judge Debra Nelson did not immediately rule on whether to admit the recordings.

On Tuesday, jurors saw graphic photos of Martin’s body and the bag of Skittles that Martin had been carrying the night of his death. They also heard testimony from a former neighbor of Zimmerman’s. Selene Bahadoor testified that she saw arms flailing in the dark, and later, a body on the ground, on the night of Martin’s death.

Wednesday, June 26

By the end of day three, jurors had heard testimony from more of Zimmerman’s neighbors, who described hearing “yelps” and “howling” the night that Martin was shot. They had also listened to testimony from Rachel Jeantel, a 19-year-old Miami high school student who says she was talking to Martin on the phone moments before the shooting.

Thursday, June 27

Rachel Jeantel continued her testimony about the phone conversation she had with Martin on the night he died. Jeantel said she believes the encounter between Martin and George Zimmerman was racially charged. Exchanges between the 19-year-old and defense attorney Don West were noticeably testy as West questioned Jeantel about inconsistencies in accounts she gave to Martin’s mother, the Martin family attorney and in a telephone deposition.

After Jeantel’s testimony, a mobile phone manager took the witness stand to testify about Martin’s cellphone records. Jenna Lauer, a former neighbor of Zimmerman, also testified, saying that she heard yelps for help outside her home the night Martin was shot, but couldn’t tell who was screaming.

Friday, June 28

A police officer and two neighbors of George Zimmerman took the witness stand Friday, giving accounts that supported the prosecution’s contention that Zimmerman was being straddled by Trayvon Martin during the confrontation. The reports conflicted with earlier testimony from other neighbors, whose testimony portrayed Zimmerman as the aggressor.

One neighbor, Jonathan Good, said that a dark-clothed person, who he believes to have been Martin, was “raining down blows” and appeared to be using mixed martial arts techniques. A physician’s assistant who had treated Zimmerman testified that Zimmerman had been practicing mixed martial arts in an effort to overcome sleeping difficulties.

Monday, July 1

Jurors listened to a series of audio and video police interviews with George Zimmerman after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. In the days after the shooting, Sanford police investigators Doris Singleton and Chris Serino suggested that Zimmerman pursued Martin before the confrontation. Serino testified that they had used a tactic called a “challenge interview” to make sure Zimmerman was telling the truth. Serino said Zimmerman did not seem angry when talking about Martin.

Prosecutors called FBI audio expert Hirotaka Nakasone to help clarify whether it was Zimmerman or Martin screaming for help on 911 calls that jurors heard last week. As he had done in a pre-trial testimony, Nakasone asserted that there wasn’t enough clear sound to determine who was screaming.

Tuesday, July 2

A prosecutor tried to pick apart the statements of Sanford police Detective Chris Serino, who returned to the witness stand Tuesday. Judge Debra Nelson told jurors to disregard Serino’s statement that he thought Zimmerman was credible when he described fighting with Trayvon Martin.

The prosecution focused on discrediting Zimmerman’s claim that he acted in self-defense when he shot Martin. They asked the judge to allow them to introduce school records that show Zimmerman took a class addressing Florida’s self-defense law. Mark Osterman, a friend Zimmerman called after shooting Martin, testified under cross-examination that Zimmerman told him Martin had grabbed the gun during their struggle, but that Zimmerman was able to pull it away. Prosecutors also called  Valerie Rao to the witness stand. Rao, a medical examiner, testified that Zimmerman’s injuries were insignificant, noting that the doctor who treated him decided that stitches weren’t necessary.

Wednesday, July 3

A law enforcement expert testified that Trayvon Martin’s DNA was not found on the grip of George Zimmerman’s gun. Anthony Gorgone also testified that Zimmerman’s DNA was not found under Martin’s fingernails.

The prosecution called two witnesses who taught criminal justice courses taken by Zimmerman in an effort to show that the neighborhood watch volunteer wanted to be a police officer and had knowledge of Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law. Alex Francisco Carter, a military attorney who taught Zimmerman in a college course, explained the legal concepts behind self-defense. Seminole County State College professor Scott Pleasants was the instructor in an online course. Plesants’s testimony, which he gave via Skype, was interrupted by an inundation of calls.

Judge Debra Nelson ruled Wednesday that prosecutors can show the jury Zimmerman’s applications to a police agency and to ride along with Sanford Police.

Friday, July 5

Prosecutors rested their case at the end of the trial’s second week. Earlier Friday, the state called Trayvon Martin’s mother and brother to the witness stand. Both testified that they believe it was Martin screaming on a 911 call from the night of the killing. The prosecution also called Shiping Bao, the medical examiner who performed Martin’s autopsy. Bao testified that Martin was alive for one to 10 minutes after being shot.

After the state rested, the defense asked Judge Debra Nelson to acquit the defendant, claiming that the state hadn’t proved its case. Nelson denied the request.

The defense called Gladys Zimmerman, George Zimmerman’s mother, as its first witness. Her testimony — that it was her son George Zimmerman screaming on the 911 tape — countered that of Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton.

Monday, July 8

Jurors again heard a 911 call from the night of the killing. The call features screams, though witnesses have offered conflicting testimony on whose voice is heard screaming on the tape — George Zimmerman’s or Trayvon Martin’s.

Sanford police investigators Chris Serino and Doris Singleton testified that during an interview with police shortly after his son’s death, officers played the tape for Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, and he said the voice was not his son’s. During testimony at the trial, Tracy Martin testified that he never denied it was his son’s voice, though he originally told officers that he could not identify the screaming voice. He testified that after listening to the tape 20 times, he concluded it was his son’s voice.

The defense also called several friends and colleagues of Zimmerman’s. The witnesses testified that the voice on the tape was Zimmerman’s.

Tuesday, July 9

gunshot wound expert hired by the defense testified that George Zimmerman’s account that Trayvon Martin was on top of him when he shot and killed the unarmed teenager is consistent with forensic evidence.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Vincent DiMaio, the former chief medical examiner in San Antonio, pointed to photographs of Zimmerman to identify six separate points of impact to Zimmerman’s face and head, saying he believed Zimmerman’s nose had been broken.

Under cross-examination, DiMaio said that the gunshot could also be consistent with Martin pulling away from Zimmerman, noting that he hadn’t factored in statements from neighbors and that witness accounts are often unreliable.

Judge Debra Nelson considered a request by the prosecution to bar the defense from showing animation depicting the fight between Martin and Zimmerman. They argue that it isn’t an accurate depiction.The defense called Daniel Schumaker, who created the animation, to testify. He said he went to the crime scene with employees in motion-capture suits to re-enact what happened based on photographs and a report from the coroner, police reports and depositions from witnesses.

Wednesday, July 10

The defense rested its case Wednesday afternoon and George Zimmerman told Judge Debra Nelson that he would not testify at his own trial.

Nelson ruled Wednesday that the defense could not show jurors text messages from Trayvon Martin’s cellphone. The texts in question referred to fighting and guns, according to a computer forensics expert who testified for the defense during the evidence hearing. Nelson also denied the defense’s request to show an animated reenactment of the fight between Zimmerman and Martin.

Defense attorneys called Dennis Root, a public safety consultant, who testified that Martin was in better shape than Zimmerman. As the prosecution cross-examined Root, prosecutor John Guy used a life-sized mannequin to simulate the body positions of Zimmerman and Martin at the time of the shooting.

Thursday, July 11

Prosecutors finished their closing arguments, asserting that George Zimmerman was a “wannabe cop” who profiled an unarmed Trayvon Martin based on “incorrect assumptions.”

Bernie de la Rionda’s arguments were at times punctuated by emotion, at times shouting. Occasionally, his voice cracked and he paused to compose himself.

Judge Debra Nelson ruled that the jury may consider a manslaughter charge, a setback for Zimmerman, whose attorney Don West had argued that second-degree murder was the only charge that should be put before the jury of six women. Nelson did not allow the option of a third-degree murder charge, a request of the prosecution, based on the claim that Zimmerman committed child abuse because Martin was a minor.

The jurors will have three options when they start deliberations, which could be as early as Friday: guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of manslaughter and not guilty.

Friday, July 12

At 2:30 p.m., jurors began deliberating whether George Zimmerman is guilty of second-degree murder. They can also consider the lesser offense of manslaughter.

In closing arguments, defense attorney Mark O’Mara told jurors that the only conclusion they could reach about Zimmerman is “innocence. Pure unadulterated innocence.” He said that prosecutors hadn’t proved his client’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Saturday, July 13

At 9:47 p.m. on Saturday, court officials announced there was a verdict. Shortly after, the jury acquitted George Zimmerman of charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Read the full story here.

Bethonie Butler is a producer and a reporter on The Post’s engagement team. She oversees online comments and has also contributed to The Style Blog and She The People.
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