News Column

Zimmerman Jurors Hear Frantic 911 Call

June 26, 2013

The third day of testimony in the George Zimmerman murder trial began with a hysterical 911 call from a neighbor who reported hearing screams and a bang outside her window.

"Oh, my God, I don't know what he did to this person. ... The person is dead laying on the ground," Jayne Surdyka told a 911 dispatcher. "The young boy. I have never seen anyone killed."

As Surdyka's frantic voice played in court Wednesday, she wept in the witness stand. Jurors took notes throughout the 911 call; several took deep breaths after it ended. The victim's mother, Sybrina Fulton, trembled throughout the call from her seat in the courtroom gallery.

Surdyka testified that she had her television muted, waiting for a program to start, when she heard a "loud, dominant" voice about 25 feet outside her window the evening of Feb. 26, 2012. She described the voice as being angry and agitated as she continued to listen.

"It was different than just a conversation," said Surdyka, a former teacher and recreational therapist. She said she then heard "a little higher-toned, softer voice" talking back to the dominant voice.

She turned off her nightlight to get a better view in the outside darkness, and she saw two bodies "wrestling or shuffling" on the ground. She reached for her cellphone and dialed 911. Her call connected seconds after the single gunshot that killed Trayvon Martin, 17, of Miami Gardens.

"Someone is screaming for help, and I heard, like, a bang," she told the dispatcher.

Before testimony began for the day, Seminole Circuit Judge Debra Nelson ruled in favor of the state to allow into evidence audio recordings of five previous calls George Zimmerman made to police. In most of them, he reported seeing people he described as suspicious and black.

The judge also announced Wednesday that one of the alternate jurors, a young man who competes in arm-wrestling tournaments, was dismissed for "reasons completely unrelated" to the case. Three alternate jurors remain, available to step in if one of the six main jurors cannot fulfill her duties.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon. He faces up to life in prison if convicted as charged.

Trayvon, who had been visiting his father in Sanford's gated Retreat at Twin Lakes neighborhood, was returning from a convenience store the night of his killing. Zimmerman, now 29, was a neighborhood watch volunteer in Twin Lakes who claims he shot Trayvon in self-defense after the unarmed teen attacked him.

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Source: Copyright Miami Herald (FL) 2013