cross-examination of Jeantel. The witness seemed reluctant to remain in Sanford,
responding with a wide-eyed "What?!" to West's announcement he would need more
time and saying on the stand, "I'm leaving today."
Jeantel, previously described at times as Martin's girlfriend although she said Wednesday that's untrue, is important for state prosecutors hoping her testimony will help unravel Zimmerman's self-defense claims. Based on what Jeantel said she heard, Zimmerman could be viewed as the aggressor, pursuing Martin.
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Her role in the case came to light when Benjamin Crump, the Martin family attorney, revealed that through cellphone records he had found a young woman who had been talking to Martin from Miami. Jeantel and Martin, a student at Dr. Michael Krop Senior High, had been talking and texting that day, including a series of nine calls in less than two hours right before his death.
Zimmerman, 29, faces up to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder as charged.
The case sparked protests and marches in the 44 days between Martin's shooting death and Zimmerman's arrest. It also led to vigorous debates about race and Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law, which does not apply to this case. A six-person, all-female jury will decide Zimmerman's fate.
(EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE)
In other testimony on Wednesday, jurors heard 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, 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 on Feb. 26. She described the voice as being angry and agitated as she continued to listen.
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 Martin.
"Someone is screaming for help, and I heard, like, a bang," she told the dispatcher.
Jurors also heard from another neighbor, Jeannee Manalo, who remembered hearing a howling sound and cries for help. She also saw two bodies on the ground outside, one on top of the other.
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, which were played for the jury Wednesday, he reported seeing people he described as suspicious and black. There had been a rash of break-ins and burglaries in his community during that time.
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.
(Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.)
(c)2013 The Miami Herald
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