National News

Jul 9, 2013 11:04 AM by Associated Press

Judge Considers Use of Animation at Zimmerman Trial

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) - A central Florida judge was considering Tuesday whether to allow defense attorneys to use an animated depiction of the fatal struggle between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman at Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial.

Judge Debra Nelson held an evidence hearing Tuesday on the piece of animation commissioned by defense attorneys. Jurors were out of the courtroom during the hearing.

Prosecutors object to the animation, saying it isn't an accurate depiction.

Defense attorneys called the man who created the animation to testify. Daniel Schumaker explained he sometimes places people in motion-capture suits. It's the same type of technology used in films such as "Avatar."

To recreate the fight, Schumaker went to the crime scene and had employees in motion-capture suits re-enact what happened based on coroner photographs, police reports, the coroner's report, witness depositions and photos taken by responding police officers, he said.

The fight took place on a dark, rainy night in February 2012 and there were no eyewitnesses who saw the entire fight. Several witnesses saw and heard parts of the struggle that left Martin dead with a bullet in his heart. For a timeline, Schumaker relied on a 911 call made by a neighbor reporting the struggle, he said.

The judge, frustrated by how long the evidence hearing was taking with jurors in a waiting room, postponed the rest of the hearing and her decision until the afternoon.

Defense attorneys then called to the witness stand a forensic pathologist with an expertise in gunshot wounds. Dr. Vincent Di Maio began his testimony by explaining that if clothes taken into evidence are wet and packaged in plastic bags, and not paper bags, it can ruin the samples since "bacteria multiplies and you get mold and it stinks to high heaven."

Defense attorneys contend DNA evidence found on Martin's hooded sweatshirt and undershirt was degraded since the clothing wasn't packaged properly.

The hearing on the animation was held as another piece of evidence has emerged as the most important in the trial: a 911 call that captures screams from the struggle between Martin and Zimmerman.

Swaying jurors about whose screams are on the 911 call has become the primary goal of prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Defense attorneys called five of Zimmerman's friends Monday to testify that it was the neighborhood watch volunteer's voice yelling for help on the call, and they played the recording five times for jurors. Zimmerman's attorneys also called two police investigators who contend Martin's father, after hearing a recording of the call, initially said it wasn't his son. Zimmerman's attorneys then put Martin's father, Tracy Martin, on the witness stand and he denied ever saying the screams for help weren't his son.

The teen's father testified that he merely told officers he couldn't tell if it was his son after his first time listening to the call, which captured the audio of fight between Martin and Zimmerman.

"I never said that wasn't my son's voice," said Tracy Martin, who added that he concluded it was his son after listening to the call as many as 20 times.

Before Tracy Martin took the witness stand, the lead investigator probing Martin's death testified that the father had answered "no" when the detective asked if the screams belonged to Trayvon Martin. Officer Chris Serino played the 911 call for Tracy Martin in the days immediately following Trayvon Martin's death in February 2012.

"He looked away and under his breath he said 'no'," Serino said of Tracy Martin.

Officer Doris Singleton backed up Serino's account.

Convincing the jury of who was screaming for help on the tape is important to both sides because it would help jurors evaluate Zimmerman's self-defense claim. Relatives of Martin's and Zimmerman's have offered conflicting opinions about who is heard screaming. Zimmerman's mother and uncle testified last Friday it was Zimmerman screaming. Martin's mother and brother also took the witness stand last Friday to say the voice belongs to Martin.

Zimmerman himself once said during a police interview that the screams didn't sound like him, though he and his family later said the screams were his.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and says he shot Martin in self-defense during a scuffle in the townhome complex where he lived. Martin was there visiting his father and his father's fiancee.

Prosecutors contend Zimmerman was profiling Martin and perceived the teen as someone suspicious in the neighborhood, which had been the site of a series of break-ins.

Late in the day Monday, Judge Debra Nelson made a key ruling out of the presence of the jury.

The judge denied a prosecution request to keep out parts of a toxicology report that shows Trayvon Martin had small amounts of marijuana in his system. Prosecutors argued the information would be prejudicial. But defense attorneys said it was relevant since Zimmerman believed Martin was under the influence at the time he spotted him in his neighborhood. Nelson had ruled before the trial that mention of marijuana wouldn't be allowed in opening statements.

___

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://twitter.com/khightower.

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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