George Zimmerman's neighbors take the stand

4:40 PM, Jun 26, 2013   |    comments
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Defense lawyers for George Zimmerman on Wednesday questioned the testimony of two of the defendant's former neighbors who said they heard cries for help the night of the shooting, arguing that neither of the women clearly witnessed what transpired during the confrontation that led to Trayvon Martin's death.

Jane Surdyka, who lived in the Twin Lakes neighborhood and placed a 911 call the night of the Feb. 26, 2012 shooting, said she heard a young person cry out and that she heard multiple gunshots.

"I truly believe the second yell for help was a yelp," said Surdyka during the third day of witness testimony. "It was excruciating. I really felt it was a boy's voice."

Surdyka's emotional emergency call was played for the court, prompting Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother, to bury her head in her hands as the tape played.

But while Surdyka said she heard multiple "pops" the night of the shooting, lawyers for the defense countered that Zimmerman fired only once in self-defense. And while being questioned by Zimmerman's lawyers, Surdyka said she had never heard the voice of either 17-year-old Martin or 29-year-old Zimmerman before that night.  

"You don't know who had the higher voice, or who had the stronger, more dominant voice," defense attorney Don West asked of the unemployed hospital worker.

West used his cross examination to question Surdyka's conclusion that she heard a younger male yelling for help.

"So when you say you heard Trayon Martin's voice before, you're saying that it was your opinion that you were listening to his voice as the softer of the two in the argument?" he added.

Another neighbor, Jeannee Manalo, also testified to that she heard a cry for help and heard a gun shot on the rainy February night last year.

Manalo said she witnessed two men on the ground struggling near her home, though at the time she could not identify either of the two, originally telling investigators she could not even identify their genders.

After seeing news reports that showed the two, Manalo said, she could identify that it was Zimmerman on top of Martin as they wrestled on the ground.

"I believe it was Zimmerman, comparing the size of their body," she told the court.

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara then asked what picture of Martin she used to judge the teenager's size, to which Manalo pointed to the frequently published head shot of Martin wearing a hooded sweatshirt similar to the one he was wearing the night of his death.

O'Mara pointed out that the photograph of just Martin's head would not be a good way to judge the size of Martin's body.

Also on Wednesday, Judge Debra Nelson ruled that jurors in the second-degree murder trial will be allowed to hear phone calls Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, made to a Sanford Police non-emergency line in the months prior the shooting. The calls were placed between August 2011 and February 2012.

Prosecutors pushed for the calls to be admitted as evidence, arguing they show the ill-will Zimmerman harbored in the months leading up to the shooting from a growing frustration over crime in near his home.

Zimmerman's defense team argued the calls are irrelevant and the only issue before the court is what happened in the moments leading up to Martin's death.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges, claiming he was acting in self-defense and that Martin jumped on him and began slamming his head into a sidewalk.

Editor's note: George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation.

NBC News

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