Months of police calls by Zimmerman are weighed by judge

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SANFORD, Fla. -- Several times in six months, neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman called police to report suspicious characters in the gated townhouse community where he lived. Each time, when asked, he reported that the suspects were black males.

On Tuesday, the judge at Mr. Zimmerman's murder trial in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin listened to those five calls and weighed whether to let the jury hear them, too.

Prosecutors want to use them to bolster their argument that Mr. Zimmerman was increasingly frustrated with repeated burglaries and had reached a breaking point the night he shot the unarmed teenager.

The recordings show Mr. Zimmerman's "ill will," prosecutor Richard Mantei told Judge Debra Nelson.

"It shows the context in which the defendant sought out his encounter with Trayvon Martin," Mr. Mantei said.

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara argued that the calls were irrelevant and that nothing matters but the seven or eight minutes before Mr. Zimmerman fired the deadly shot into the Martin youth's chest.

The judge did not immediately rule on whether to admit the recordings.

Prosecutors played the calls with the jurors out of the courtroom at the beginning of a day in which a former Zimmerman neighbor testified about what she saw of the confrontation.

Also, prosecutors presented graphic photos of the teenager's body, a police officer described trying to revive the Martin youth as bubbling sounds came from his chest, and a police manager described how she helped Mr. Zimmerman set up the neighborhood watch.

In the calls, Mr. Zimmerman identifies himself as a neighborhood watch volunteer and recounts that his neighborhood has had a rash of recent break-ins. In one call, he asks that officers respond quickly since the suspects "typically get away quickly."

In another, he describes suspicious black men hanging around a garage and mentions his neighborhood had a recent garage break-in.

Mr. Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder for gunning down the Martin youth as the young man walked from a convenience store. Mr. Zimmerman followed him in his truck and called a police dispatch number before he and the teen got into a fight.

Mr. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense, saying he opened fire after the teenager jumped him and began slamming his head against the concrete sidewalk.

Mr. Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Hispanic, has denied the confrontation with the black teenager had anything to do with race, as the Martin family and its supporters have charged.

On Tuesday, day two of testimony, prosecutors called to the stand a former Zimmerman neighbor, Selene Bahadoor, the first witness to say she saw part of the struggle.

She described the sound of movement from left to right outside her townhouse and said she heard what sounded like someone saying, "No" or "Uh."

She said that when she looked out a window she saw arms flailing in the dark. She said she left to turn off a stove and then heard a gunshot. The next time she looked out, she saw a body on the ground, she testified.

In cross-examining her, Mr. O'Mara accused Ms. Bahadoor of never mentioning the left-to-right movement in previous interviews.

Mr. Zimmerman contends he lost track of the Martin youth and was returning to his car when he was attacked. But Ms. Bahadoor's testimony appeared to suggest Mr. Zimmerman was moving away from his vehicle.

A Sanford police sergeant who was the second officer to arrive on the scene also testified. Sgt. Tony Raimondo said he tried to seal a bullet wound in the young man's chest with a plastic bag and attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

During Sgt. Raimondo's testimony, prosecutors showed jurors a photo of the Martin youth face-down in the grass, another of his body face up with his eyes slightly open, and a third of the bullet wound. The Martin youth's father, Tracy Martin, walked out of the courtroom during the testimony.



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