(SANFORD, Fla.) — With opening arguments set to begin Monday in the trial of George Zimmerman, the Florida neighbor watch captain accused of second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin was given a major legal victory on Saturday.
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson ruled that prosecutors cannot bring two audio experts to the stand who claim they heard the unarmed 17-year-old screaming for help in 911 audio moments before he died.
According to the court order, “there is no evidence to establish that their scientific techniques have been tested and found reliable.”
The ruling is a key boost to Zimmerman’s defense that he shot and killed Martin after a life-and-death struggle ensued in which the defendant claimed that he was the one crying out for help.
As a result of the ruling, jurors will be able to hear the 911 call, but will have to decide for themselves who was screaming in the brief audio.
A six-member, all-female jury was selected last week and will be sequestered for the length of the trial, which could last between two and four weeks.
Prosecutors accuse Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, of profiling Martin, an African-American, who was staying in the Twin Lakes Retreat subdivision in Sanford, Fla., while serving a suspension from a Miami high school.
They allege Martin was walking through the gated community on his way back to the home of his father’s girlfriend after leaving a convenience store when he was spotted and followed by Zimmerman.
Zimmerman admits to killing Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, but says he did so in self-defense. When Zimmerman reported Martin to a non-emergency police dispatcher, he was told not to follow the teen and that they were sending a patrol car. What happened next remains unclear.
Zimmerman claims that he did not follow the teen and that Martin confronted him and knocked him down. He claims Martin banged his head on the sidewalk several times and that the two struggled over Zimmerman’s gun until he pulled the trigger.
However, Nelson ruled late last week that when opening statements begin, prosecutors will be able to tell the jury that Martin was profiled by Zimmerman although they should avoid characterizing the profiling as “racial.”
They can also say Zimmerman was a “wannabe cop,” use the word “vigilante” and say that he confronted Martin.
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