Zimmerman Trial: A Mother Speaks

Emotional testimony from Trayvon's mom caps a dramatic day as state rests its case and defense begins.

(The Root) — After calling nearly three dozen witnesses over nine days leading up to the dramatic moment when Trayvon Martin’s mother took the stand, the prosecution on Friday rested its second-degree-murder case against George Zimmerman. 

Did the state prove Zimmerman’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? That seems as improbable as parts of his account of fatally shooting the Florida teen in self-defense.

Prosecutors held the most highly anticipated testimony until Friday, hoping Trayvon’s mother and brother and the results of his autopsy would deliver a powerful final impact for the jury. Sybrina Fulton’s compelling comments about her son got the state off to a solid start, but the uneven, at times odd testimony of a medical examiner seemed to bring the prosecution’s case to a sputtering end.

Fulton on the stand marked the emotional peak of the trial. As she listed her children by name, she came to her youngest: “Trayvon Benjamin Martin. He’s in heaven.” She described his tattoos: praying hands on a shoulder with the names of his grandmother and great-grandmother, her own name on his left wrist.

Assistant State Prosecutor Bernie de le Rionda played the 911 call from the night of the shooting that includes screams of help in the background.

“Ma’am, that screaming or yelling, do you recognize that?” de la Rionda said. 

“Yes,” Fulton said. “Trayvon Benjamin Martin.”

On cross-examination, defense attorney Mark O’Mara asked Fulton, “If it was your son screaming, as you testified, then it was George Zimmerman who caused your son’s death?”

“Correct,” she said.

If it was Zimmerman’s screaming, O’Mara asked, would it mean that Trayvon was responsible for his own death?

Fulton said she didn’t understand the question and after a brief exchange, said, “I heard my son screaming.”

O’Mara got Trayvon’s older brother, Jahvaris Fulton, to concede that he told a reporter that he initially wasn’t sure that Trayvon was screaming on the call. Jahvaris Fulton said he’d been in a “cloud of denial” and had hoped it wasn’t his brother’s voice before deciding that it was. He said he has listened to the tape about 10 times.  

The screams arguably are the most penetrating evidence in the case, but the voice hasn’t been identified with technological certainty. The judge barred expert testimony about the voice’s identity. Zimmerman has told police he screamed for help as Trayvon slammed his head against the concrete. But when investigators played the screams for him, Zimmerman said the voice “doesn’t even sound like me.”

After the state rested, the defense opened its case by calling Zimmerman’s mother and uncle to counter the testimony of Trayvon’s relatives.

“Whose voice was it?” O’Mara asked Gladys Zimmerman, after playing the 911 call.

“My son, George,” she said. Asked why she’s certain, she replied, “Because he’s my son.”