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Moms duel as Trayvon trial nears conclusion

AFP-JIJI

The anguished screams on a 911 call echoed through a Florida courtroom Friday as prosecutors wrapped up their case in the Trayvon Martin trial.

The mother of the slain 17-year-old Martin testified to prosecutors that the cries on the recording were her son’s, who was shot dead by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, 29, in February last year.

But just hours after Sybrina Fulton’s gripping testimony in the racially charged case, Zimmerman’s defense countered by calling the defendant’s mother, Gladys, to the stand. She insisted the screams picked up in the recording were those of her son, who says he shot Martin in self-defense after being attacked by the black teen.

Asked whose voice Gladys Zimmerman thought she could hear, she replied: “My son George.” Asked if she was certain, she added, “Because he’s my son.”

The identity of the person screaming on the 911 call has become a pivotal piece of evidence in the trial, which is being widely followed in the United States.

Prosecutors say the screams belong to Martin, backing their case that Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, was the aggressor in the incident. Defense attorneys have argued it is the accused on the tape, backing their client’s claim that he acted in self-defense.

Martin’s mother however told jurors earlier Friday she was in no doubt that it was her son after being played the tape. Asked who she thought the voice belonged to, she replied, “Trayvon Benjamin Martin.”

The dead youth’s older brother, Jahvaris Fulton, 22, also said he was certain the person heard shouting was Martin.

But defense attorney Mark O’Mara replayed a statement tape during a deposition in which Fulton said he was not entirely sure who was yelling.

“I guess I didn’t want to believe that it was him, that’s why during that interview I said I wasn’t sure,” Fulton said when asked about his earlier statement. “Listening to it was clouded by shock and denial and sadness.”

Judge Debra Nelson meanwhile denied a defense motion for an acquittal after the conclusion of the prosecution’s case. O’Mara had argued the case should be dismissed on the grounds that the evidence was “at least 98 percent circumstantial.”

Prosecutor Rich Mantei fired back immediately, noting that only two people were involved in the case. “One is dead, the other is a liar,” he said.

Martin was visiting a family friend in the neighborhood and was returning from a convenience store just before the altercation with Zimmerman, who said he shot Martin only because he feared his life was in danger.