Defense winds down case in George Zimmerman murder trial

Zimmerman charged with murder in death of Trayvon Martin

SANFORD, Fla. - Defense attorneys are finishing up their case in George Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial in Sanford.

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Defense attorney Mark O'Mara says the defense will wrap up their presentation on Wednesday and rest its case. The state will call at least two rebuttal witnesses and then closing arguments will begin.

The defense's last witness was Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman Sr. Robert Zimmerman testified that he first listened to the 911 call with the screams in the background was at the state attorney's office.

"I told them absolutely it's my son, George," Robert Zimmerman, Sr., said.

The defense called law enforcement expert Dennis Root as its first witness. According to Root's website, he specializes in self-defense and "stand your ground" issues.

Root said he trained fellow law enforcement officers about use-of-force issues. He said he reached out to O'Mara after seeing the Zimmerman case on TV and offered to help. Root testified he examined police reports, crime scene photos, Martin's autopsy and witness statements.

Root testified that conflicting statements are normal, even among people directly involved in an event. The state objected to Root commenting on witness testimonies.

Zimmerman's "injuries were consistent with a fight, a physical fist fight," Root said, adding that he spoke with Zimmerman's trainer at the boxing gym, who described Zimmerman as a nice person and not a fighter.

Root said he believes Zimmerman was lacking in physical ability compared to Martin. He also testified about firearm safety.

"A firearm is as safe as the person holding it," Root said, adding that there's nothing unusual about pre-loading a round in the chamber of a gun as Zimmerman had done.

Prosecutor John Guy cross-examined Root, bringing out a mannequin to use as a prop in questioning Root about what he thinks happened in the altercation.

Guy asked what Root would do if he were in Zimmerman's situation, to which Root said he would have done many things differently.

Guy asked Root about what information he used to determine Martin was physically active, possibly opening the door to discussing Martin's past.

During redirect, O'Mara asked if Zimmerman demonstrated ill-will or spite. Root said he believed Zimmerman showed more frustration.

The defense then called Olivia Bertalan, a former neighbor of Zimmerman. Bertralan described a break-in at her townhome at the Retreat at Twin Lakes on Aug. 3, 2011, where two young African-American men broke into her townhome.

"I was hiding in room with child in my arm and armed with rusty scissors," Bertalan said, adding the burglars stole her camera and laptop.

She said the crime caused her to move from the neighborhood.

During the state's cross-examination, O'Mara objected and jurors were led away for the proffer by the state.

It's not clear if Zimmerman will testify in his trial. In a testy exchange between defense attorney Don West and Nelson, Zimmerman said he hadn't decided if he was going to testify.

Judge Debra S. Nelson first ruled on Wednesday morning that the defense will not be able to use an animation that depicts Zimmerman's fight with Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager who was fatally shot in February 2012 in a gated community, as evidence. Nelson said the defense can use the animation for demonstrative purposes, meaning the jury may see it in closing arguments.

Nelson also ruled Martin's text messages that purportedly deal with fighting and guns will not be able to be used in the trial. She has yet to rule on a potential defense witness sequestration issue. 

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder. The former neighborhood watch volunteer has pleaded not guilty, claiming he shot and killed Martin in self-defense.

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