George Zimmerman Trial: Judge to Rule on Key Evidence as Tension Mounts

Zimmerman's defense wants to end case with animated replay.

July 9, 2013 — -- The Florida judge presiding over the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman walked out of court as a member of the Zimmerman defense team angrily complained about the long hours and lack of time the defense had to go over evidence it said the prosecution withheld.

"I'm not getting into this," said Judge Debra Nelson, appearing fed up at the building acrimony between both sides. "Court is in recess."

"Judge, I'm not physically able to keep up this pace much longer," responded defense co-counsel Don West as Nelson literally walked out of the courtroom.

Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second degree murder for shooting Trayvon Martin, 17, on Feb. 26, 2012. Zimmerman maintains that he shot Martin in self-defense.

Catch up on all the details from the George Zimmerman murder trial.

Tuesday's courtroom tension started to build soon after jurors were dismissed, with both sides sparring over an animation commissioned by the defense that defense attorneys wanted to admit as evidence.

The motion-capture animation was a snapshot of what the defense said happened the night Martin died. The animation showed Martin walking up to Zimmerman and punching him in the face, as well as Martin straddling and punching Zimmerman. It was built using Zimmerman's account of what happened and estimations of witnesses who called 911 about the altercation the night Martin died.

Prosecutor Rich Mantei questioned the animation's creator, Daniel Schumaker, over how the clip was created, calling the animation "speculative and irrelevant evidence."

"They say they use this for the movies," said Mantei, referring to the technology. "Great, this is a murder trial."

Judge Nelson seemed to question the accuracy of the animation, pointing out that certain witnesses did not give precise times about what happened the night of Martin's death and that Martin was using his left hand to punch Zimmerman but was right handed.

Following the animation hearing, the defense moved to submit as evidence text messages made by Martin to his friends in which he talked about fighting. The state argued the text messages had no relevance.

An expert who extracted the texts, Richard Connor, read a few in court. Among them was one in which a female friend was telling Martin that he should stop fighting.

Connor testified that he also found images of a gun and naked teen on Martin's phones. He said he believed the texts and pictures were deleted on purpose.

Defense co-counsel West said the texts and images were "compelling evidence" of Zimmerman's self-defense claim.

"To deny Mr. Zimmerman the right to present this information violates both the Florida and United States Constitution," West argued.

The defense alleged that the prosecution withheld knowledge of the text messages and pictures, and that the defense did not have enough time to review the material.

"I would offer him the opportunity right now to apologize to me for suggesting that I stood by silently with information that I did not have," said prosecutor John Guy during the final minutes of the hearing, which lasted so long the lights in the courthouse temporarily went off.

Nelson is expected to rule Wednesday morning on the admissibility of both the animation and the text messages. She is also expected to look into whether or not the defense violated witness sequestration rules after it was revealed that a defense witness sat in the courtroom against court rules.

The acrimonious hearing followed the testimony of renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Vincent Di Maio, who seemed to back up Zimmerman's account that Trayvon Martin was on top and leaning over the former neighborhood watch captain when Zimmerman shot the teen.

Di Maio, who was paid $400 an hour by the defense, said that the pattern of powder burns on Martin's sweatshirt and skin indicated that his shirt was two to four inches away from Martin's chest when he was shot, suggesting, he said, that Martin was hovering or leaning over Zimmerman.

"The medical evidence is consistent with his statement," Di Maio told the Florida court.

The George Zimmerman Case in Pictures

Di Maio said that the pattern of powder burns on Martin's sweatshirt and skin indicated that the shirt was two to four inches away from Martin's chest when he was shot by Zimmerman.

"Mr. Martin was over him, leaning forward," he said.

"If you are lying on your back your clothing is going to be against your chest," said Di Maio. "The clothing is consistent with someone leaning over the person doing the shooting."

Zimmerman maintains that he shot the teenager in self-defense during an altercation in which the teen had knocked him down, was hovering over him and banging his head into the concrete sidewalk.

Di Maio, who was put on the stand by Zimmerman's defense attorneys, contradicted the testimony of the prosecution's expert, Dr. Shiping Bao, on another point.Bao told the court earlier in the trial that the bullet pierced Martin's heart and would have instantly incapacitated Martin, disputing a key assertion from Zimmerman that the teen sat up and said "You got me" after he was shot.

The prosecution said, at one point, with the jury out of the room, that Bao's testimony raised questions about Zimmerman's credibility.

Jurors furiously took notes as Di Maio, who said he reviewed the autopsy, toxicology, and medical records of both men, said that Martin most likely died within one to three minutes after the shooting. Bao had told the jury Martin could have lived for a painful 10 minutes after being shot.

Zimmerman's legal team also tried to their bolster contention that it was Zimmerman on his back during a fight with Martin on top of him.

Di Maio looked at pictures of Zimmerman's injuries and said that it was possible to receive severe head injuries without visible external injuries.

When asked if the abrasions of the back of Zimmerman's head could have been caused by concrete, Di Maio responded, "Yes."

Looking through photos of Zimmerman's injuries on his face and head, Di Maio told the jury, "You have six identifiable injuries."

Earlier Dr. Valerie Rao testified for the prosecution that Zimmerman was struck as few as three times during the fight with Martin and that his head slammed on the concrete once.

Rao called Zimmerman's injuries "insignificant" and "non-life-threatening."

One of the last witnesses in Zimmerman's murder trial testified that the screams heard on 911 calls moments before Martin was shot and killed came from Zimmerman.

Zimmerman's lead defense attorney, Mark O'Mara, said that he expected to rest his case Wednesday.

Before concluding for the day, he had Eloise Dilligard, an African-American neighbor of Zimmerman, testify from her home on a large screen in the courtroom.

Dilligard asserted that the voice screaming for help in the background of 911 tapes was Zimmerman. Her testimony could be significant in the racially charged case.

Who is screaming for help has been a major contention in the trial since prosecutors claim the voice is that of Martin, and defense claims it is Zimmerman.

Determining that it was Zimmerman's voice would bolster his self-defense claim.