The mothers of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman faced off in court Friday, each testifying that the screams heard in the background of a 911 emergency call were her son’s.
On the ninth day of the Zimmerman murder trial, the prosecution rested, the defense began its case, and each side turned to a mother in the hope of leaving the six-woman jury thinking about the losses of each family.
Who is screaming could be important for the jury as it seeks to figure out who was aggressor in the altercation in Sanford, Fla. on the rainy night of Feb. 26, 2012.
The court first heard from Sybrina Fulton, the mother of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, fatally shot by Zimmerman. The neighborhood watch volunteer is charged with second-degree murder and says he fired in self-defense.
In the afternoon, Zimmerman’s mother, Gladys, took the stand. Each mother, looking anguished, insisted it was her son screaming — and not the other woman’s — on the recording of a neighbor calling police about the confrontation.
As defense attorney Mark O’Mara played the chilling 911 recording, Gladys Zimmerman put her hand over her mouth and appeared to be listening intently. Asked who was screaming, she replied: “My son, George.”
“Are you certain of that?” O’Mara asked.
“Because he’s my son,” she replied.
Under cross examination, she testified she had never heard her son scream for his life, but she was adamant that she knew that voice. “What I’m sure is that that is George’s voice. The scream — I haven’t heard him like that before. But the anguish … the way he is screaming, it describes to me anguish, fear. I would say terror,” she said.
“And is that the anguish, fear, terror without question of your son’s voice?”
“Yes, sir,” she said.
Fulton’s appearance carried the drama that had been forecast. Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda started by asking whether she had any children. Fulton replied in a clear, slightly quavering voice: “My youngest son is Trayvon Benjamin Martin. He’s in heaven.”
She then gave details of Martin’s tattoos, noting that her son was right-handed and had two tattoos. One was on his right upper shoulder and showed praying hands with his grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s names.
The other tattoo was on his left wrist. “He had my name there,” she said.
De la Rionda played the 911 call of a neighbor reporting the sounds of screaming and then a gunshot. Fulton blinked over and over and shifted slightly as the sound of the cries filled the courtroom.
“Do you recognize that?” De la Rionda asked.
“Yes,” she replied, before saying firmly that it was the voice of her son.
Under cross examination, Fulton resisted suggestions from defense attorney O’Mara that she hoped the screams were her son’s because if they were not, they would have come from Zimmerman.
“I heard my son screaming,” she insisted.
“And in your mind, as his mother, there was no doubt it was him screaming, correct?” O’Mara said as the questioning continued.
“Absolutely,” Fulton said.
Other relatives from both families also testified, backing up their respective families.
Earlier in the trial, an FBI expert testified that science could not definitively identify the screams because the recording was too short. Someone more familiar with the voices might be able to identify the screams, he said, but he warned about listener bias.
Moments before the prosecution formally rested, the defense moved for an acquittal of the murder charge against Zimmerman, a motion that Judge Debra S. Nelson rejected: “The state has sufficient evidence to allow the charge to go to jury.”
[For the record, 10:14 p.m. July 5: A previous version of this story said Trayvon Martin was 19. He was 17.]