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George Zimmerman Trial: Sanford Police Officer Testifies As Audio Interview Is Played For The First Time

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GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL
George Zimmerman arrives for the 16th day of his trial in Seminole circuit court, in Sanford, Fla., Monday, July 1, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.(AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool) | AP

SANFORD, Fla. -- Jurors in the George Zimmerman murder trial on Monday heard a recording of the neighborhood watch volunteer describing his fatal encounter with 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to a police officer soon after it happened.

Zimmerman said in that first police interview that he saw Martin walking through his neighborhood on a dark, rainy night while Zimmerman was driving to the grocery store. He told Officer Doris Singleton that he didn't recognize Martin and that there had been recent break-ins at his townhome complex.

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"These guys always get away," Zimmerman told Singleton, a statement similar to one that prosecutors have used previously to try to show that Zimmerman was increasingly frustrated with the burglaries and his encounter with Martin was a breaking point.

Zimmerman told the police officer that he lost track of Martin and got out of his truck to look for a street name he could relay to police dispatcher. When the dispatcher suggested Zimmerman didn't need to follow Martin, Zimmerman started to head back to his vehicle. At that point, Zimmerman said Martin jumped out of some bushes, punched him and he fell to the ground.

Zimmerman said that Martin began hitting his head against the sidewalk as Zimmerman yelled for help and that Martin told him, "You're going to die tonight."

With Zimmerman's shirt and jacket pushed up during the struggle and his holstered gun now visibile, he thought Martin was reaching for his firearm holstered around his waist. Zimmerman told the officer that he shot Martin and the teen said, "You got me."

Prosecutors played the police interview Monday after calling an FBI audio expert to the witness stand. Prosecutors called FBI expert Hirotaka Nakasone to focus on the issue of who was screaming for help on 911 calls during the confrontation. Jurors were played the 911 calls several times last week.

The recordings are crucial pieces of evidence because they could determine who the aggressor was in the confrontation. Martin's family contends it was the teen screaming, while Zimmerman's father has said it was his son.

Even though he was a pre-trial witness for the defense, prosecutors called Nakasone to set up later testimony from either the teen's mother or father that they believe it was their son yelling for help.

During his pre-trial testimony, Nakasone testified that there wasn't enough clear sound to determine whether Zimmerman or Martin was screaming on the best 911 sample, an assertion he repeated Monday.

"It's not fit for the purpose of voice comparison," Nakasone said.

Nakasone also said guessing a person's age by voice is "complicated" in general, and it was impossible to determine with the 911 sample he heard.

The FBI expert said that it's easier for a person with a familiarity of a voice to identify it than someone who has never heard it previously. That is especially true if the recording is of a subject screaming and the person trying to identify the voice has heard the subject under similarly stressful circumstances previously, Nakasone said.

But under cross-examination by defense attorney Don West, Nakasone said there was a risk of increased listener bias if people trying to identify a voice are listening to a sample in a group, as Martin's parents did, rather than individually.

"There might be a risk of bias included in the end results," Nakasone said.

Nakasone's pretrial testimony, along with other defense experts, helped keep two prosecution audio experts from testifying. One prosecution expert ruled out that it was Zimmerman screaming on the 911 call and the other thought it was the teen.

Judge Debra Nelson ruled that the methods used by the experts aren't reliable.

More than 20 witnesses last week testified during the opening week of a testimony in a trial that has opened up national debates about race, equal justice, self-defense and gun control.

Zimmerman has said he fatally shot the teen in February 2012 in self-defense as the Miami-area black teenager was banging his head into the concrete sidewalk behind the townhomes in a gated community. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder and has pleaded not guilty.

Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. The state argued during its opening statement that Zimmerman profiled and followed Martin in his truck and called a police dispatch number before he and the teen got into a fight.

Zimmerman has denied the confrontation had anything to do with race, as Martin's family and their supporters have claimed.

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The family attorneys have finished speaking.

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"Please respect their privacy," Crump said of the Martin family.

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"Jurors were given packets of letters from the media containing interview requests. They expressed no interest at this time," Kennedy said.

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"Anonymity order is still in effect... Any attempt to identify jurors is a violation of the current order," said Michelle Kennedy, Public Information Officer for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit.

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"For Trayvon to rest in peace we must all be peaceful," Benjamin Crump said.

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"We are very, very saddened," Darryl Parks said.

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"Jury has no desire to speak to media," said Michelle Kennedy, Public Information Officer for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit.

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The defense has finished talking.

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"[Martin's family] suffered a tragedy ... Nothing can bring back Trayvon Martin ... But I'm not going to shy away from the fact that the evidence showed George Zimmerman did nothing wrong," O'Mara said.

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(Washington, DC)— Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence today called the verdict, “part of a tragic event that could have easily been prevented.”

Gross said, “There is sharp disagreement over the verdict, but there can be no disagreement over the reason why Trayvon Martin is dead. George Zimmerman had a gun that night, and the state of Florida allowed him to carry it virtually anywhere despite a violent history. Virtually anybody roaming our neighborhoods with hidden handguns is the gun lobby's vision, but it is not the vision of the rest of the American public, truly committed to safer communities. We will work as long, and as hard as it takes to prevent more tragedies like Trayvon Martin's. We recognize, at the end of the day, this is an enormous tragedy and a young man lost his life. Our sympathies continue to go out to Trayvon’s family.”

The Brady Campaign has been one of the leaders in fighting against “Stand Your Ground” or so called, “shoot first” laws like the one in Florida. As evidenced by the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin, these laws have deadly consequences. They promote a dangerous mentality and misperception about weapons, by overemphasizing their value in self-defense relative to the other dangers that they pose.

In the end, George Zimmerman's mentality, and what emboldened him to approach Trayvon, may be debatable. What is not debatable, though, is the fact that Trayvon Martin is dead because Zimmerman had a gun. Zimmerman was given a concealed carry permit by the state of Florida despite an arrest record and a history of violence, as a direct result of the influence of the gun lobby, and if it weren’t for that, this tragedy never would have happened.

The Brady Center, the legal arm of the Brady Campaign, has been at the forefront in fighting concealed weapons laws. They recently filed an amicus brief along with the parents of Trayvon Martin, asking the entire United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to review and reverse a 2-1 decision that held Illinois law restricting the public carrying of firearms unconstitutional.

“Allowing deadly semi-automatic weapons on the streets does not make a community safer. By arguing for a broad constitutional right to carry hidden handguns, the gun lobby wants to deprive law enforcement of the tools it needs to keep guns off the streets. The American people should be allowed to decide whether they want people like George Zimmerman carrying loaded guns in public places where their children walk home,” said Brady Center Legal Action Project Director Jonathan Lowy. “Most courts have properly recognized that reasonable public safety laws do not infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. Courts should listen to the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, who lost their sons to people whose states entitled them to carry guns in public.”

The brief was filed on behalf of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence; Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, parents of Trayvon Martin; Ron Davis and Lucia McBath, parents of Jordan Davis; Major Cities Chiefs Association; and International Brotherhood of Police Officers by attorneys with the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and the firm Hogan Lovells US LLP. More information on this can be found at http://www.bradycampaign.org/?q=brady-center-victims’-families-law-enforcement-urge-federal-appeals-court-to-review-and-reverse.

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O'Mara said the case should have never became a "focus for a civil rights event."

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"He needs to get on with his life," O'Mara said of Zimmerman.

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O'Mara said we'll have to wait and see "how many civil law suits are filed as a result of this fiasco."

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O'Mara said he hopes, "everyone will respect the jury's verdict, as they should."

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West just defended his knock-knock joke. He said, "I still think the joke was funny ... I'm sorry that I didn't tell it better."

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West said he felt the prosecution of ZImmerman was "disgraceful."

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"We are ecstatic with the results," O'Mara said.

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O'Mara's letter to Eslinger expressed his "sincere thanks and appreciation" for their handling of the Zimmerman trial.

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The State has finished their presser. O'Mara and West are now up.

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"I believe the focus needs to be on how the system worked," Corey said.

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"I am disappointed ... This is only my second murder case I have lost," De La Rionda said.

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"You had a 17-year-old kid who gets accosted ... followed by an individual who wants to be a cop," De La Rionda said.

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"Trayvon had every right to be on the premises ... as [did] George Zimmerman," Corey said.

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Huffington Post senior crime reporter David Lohr is live blogging today. You can follow David on Twitter at https://twitter.com/David_Lohr or on Facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/david.a.lohr.

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Corey said the prosecution team has not yet spoken with Martin's family about the verdict.

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"We charge what we believe we can prove ... so that's why we charged second-degree murder ... We did everything we possibly could," Corey said.

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"I am disappointed, but we accept it," De La Rionda said.

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The jury took 16 hours to reach their verdict.

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