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Adam Pollock, Kokopelli's Gym owner and chief instructor
Adam Pollock, Kokopelli's Gym owner and chief
instructor, who provided basic martial arts and
conditioning training to George Zimmerman.
The defense team in the George Zimmerman murder trial continued questioning witnesses Monday. The prosecution rested its case Friday after hearing from 38 witnesses. Many close observers of the trial are saying that the state has already lost its case even though the defense has scarcely begun. Some chalk this up to the prosecution's having a weak case to begin with. Others say prosecutors took a strong case and botched it by letting too many assertions of its own witnesses pass without solid follow-up questioning and a connecting of the dots for the jury. But many a wager has been lost predicting how a jury will decide.

The second to the last Friday witness was Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin who Zimmerman shot to death in February 2012. She testified that the voice she heard screaming for help that was captured on the audiotape of a 911 call was that of her son. Jahvaris Fulton, Trayvon's older brother, also testified that the voice on the tape was his brother's.

But as the defense began its half of the case Friday afternoon, Gladys Zimmerman, George's mother, and his uncle, stated fervently that the voice they heard was Zimmerman's. On Monday morning, other witnesses also said they were certain the screaming voice was his. Among the witnesses:

Adam Pollock, a gym owner and a trainer in the mixed martial arts and its component disciplines, testified that he had taught the "physically soft" Zimmerman some elementary grappling, boxing and conditioning classes for about a year. He said Zimmerman was a "rank beginner" whose overall skills he would rate as "point-5," less than 1 on a scale of 1-to-10. Zimmerman, he said, was diligent in practice, lost weight and got into better shape. But because of his lack of previous athletic prowess, Pollock testified, he only reached about a 1 before ending training in January 2012. He said Zimmerman never became skilled enough to fight in the ring. Pollock explained the MMA term "ground and pound" means getting an opponent on the ground, straddling him and then striking him repeatedly after he is prone. He subsequently demonstrated the technique as well as defensive maneuvers for the jury. That testimony matters because a prosecution witness, John Good, testified that he saw the darker-skinned, darker-clothed person in the clash between Zimmerman and Trayvon using a "ground and pound" technique during their struggle. That would indicate that Trayvon was on the top hitting him, as Zimmerman has claimed. Other witnesses have testified that they thought Trayvon was on the bottom.

Chris Serino, the lead investigator in the case for the Sanford PD. He had previously testified for several hours. He said Monday that when police played the 911 audiotape, Trayvon's father, Tracy Martin, quietly said "no" when asked if the screaming sounded like his son.

Doris Singleton, the other investigator in the shooting, agreed with Serino in her testimony. She said Martin was very emotional, something she identified with as a mother. "I just felt really bad for him."

Tracy Martin testified that he never said to Serino that the screams on the tape were definitely not Trayvon's voice on the tape, only that he could not tell for certain. He later testified under the prosecution's questioning that he had felt when he subsequently played the tape as many as 20 times that he was hearing his son's last cries for help.

Please read below the fold for testimony of other witnesses and rulings on prosecution motions by Judge Debra Nelson.

Sondra Osterman, a friend and former co-worker of Zimmerman, said, "Yes, definitely, it's Georgie... I hear him screaming." She also testified that she didn't hear any ill will, hatred or spite in Zimmerman's voice on the 911 call he made to the Sanford Police Department when he reported a suspicious person walking in the drizzle in the gated community of modest homes where Trayvon was visiting with his father. Those terms matter because a requirement for a conviction of second-degree murder is that the killer exhibited a "depraved mind." Zimmerman and his wife lived briefly with Osterman and her husband after the shooting. She and her husband, who testified earlier in the trial, wrote a book favorable to Zimmerman titled Defending our Friend; the Most Hated Man in America.

Mark Osterman testified that there was "no doubt" in his mind that the screams were Zimmerman's. Osterman said he helped Zimmerman choose the kind of semi-automatic pistol to buy and to get a concealed-carry permit. He said he advised Zimmerman to get a gun without an external safety and to carry it with a bullet in the chamber, ready to fire. Guns made this way can be fired with a simple squeeze of the trigger. A bullet in the chamber, Osterman explained, is typically how law enforcement officers carry their firearms. He conceded, however, that Zimmerman is not an officer. Police officers throughout the nation carry a variety of firearms, some with and others without external safeties.

Leanne Benjamin, who worked on a local political campaign with Zimmerman and had heard him yell previously, said the screaming was his. She too saw no ill will, hatred or spite in his use of profanity in the 911 call.

John Donnelly, Benjamin's husband and another close friend of Zimmerman, testified that he learned how to identify screaming voices in his duty as a Vietnam War combat medic. "There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that it's George Zimmerman," he said of the screams on the tape that he heard for the first time July 6 Donnelly said he had donated $3,000 to Zimmerman and bought him suits for his court appearances.

After the jury was sequestered for the evening, Judge Debra Nelson ruled against a prosecution motion to strike Donnelly's testimony because the defense violated discovery rules by not conveying to the prosecution ahead of time that Donnelly had listened to the 911 tape over the past weekend.

Nelson also ruled against the prosecution's motion that allowing the jury to hear the toxicology report indicating a small amount of THC and marijuana byproducts in Trayvon's bloodstream would be highly prejudicial and not probative. The defense argued there was enough THC in his blood to impair Trayvon's judgment and alter his behavior and that this is relevant to Zimmerman's self-defense claims. Citing case law, the defense said that a homicide defendant should be granted wide latitude in what is allowed into evidence regarding drugs when self-defense claims are at issue.

Nelson ruled for a prosecution motion to prevent a former police officer from testifying on his opinions expressed in a deposition that Zimmerman did not violate the law, exhibited restraint in his actions and was justified in defending himself with lethal force.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 02:13 PM PDT.

Also republished by Trial Watch and Daily Kos.

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