BY MIKE SCHNEIDER
and KYLE HIGHTOWER
SANFORD, Fla. — Two neighbors and a police officer gave accounts Friday in George Zimmerman’s murder trial that seemed to bolster the neighborhood watch volunteer’s contention that he was on his back and being straddled by Trayvon Martin during their confrontation.
Neighbor Jonathan Good said it appeared the unarmed teen was straddling Zimmerman, while another neighbor, Jonathan Manalo, said Zimmerman seemed credible when he said immediately after the fight that he had shot Martin in self-defense. Officer Tim Smith testified that Zimmerman’s backside was covered in grass and wetter than his front side.
All three were called as witnesses for prosecutors who are trying to convict him of second-degree murder.
Good, who had perhaps the best view of any witness, said he did not see anyone’s head being slammed into the concrete sidewalk, as Zimmerman claims Martin did to him. Good initially testified that it appeared “there were strikes being thrown, punches being thrown,” but during detailed questioning he said he saw only “downward” arm movements being made.
Zimmerman has claimed that he fatally shot 17-year-old Martin last year in self-defense as the Miami-area teen was banging his head into the concrete sidewalk behind the townhomes in a gated community.
Under prosecution questioning, Good said he never saw anyone being attacked that way during the fight between Zimmerman and Martin.
“I couldn’t see that,” Good said moments later while being cross-examined.
Good said he heard a noise behind his townhome in February 2012, and he saw what looked like a tussle when he stepped out onto his patio to see what was happening.
He said he yelled: “What’s going on? Stop it.”
Good testified he saw a person in black clothing on top of another person with “white or red” clothing. He said he couldn’t see faces but it looked like the person on the bottom had lighter skin. Martin was black and was wearing a dark hoodie. Zimmerman identifies as Hispanic and was wearing a red jacket. Good was back inside calling 911 when he heard a gunshot.
“It looked like there were strikes being thrown, punches being thrown,” Good said.
Later, under cross-examination, he said that it looked like the person on top was straddling the person on bottom in a mixed-martial arts move known as “ground and pound.” When defense attorney Mark O’Mara asked him if the person on top was Martin, Good said, “Correct, that’s what it looked like.” Good also said the person on the bottom yelled for help.
Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. Zimmerman followed Martin in his truck and called a police dispatch number before he and the teen got into a fight.
Zimmerman has denied the confrontation had anything to do with race, as Martin’s family and their supporters have claimed.
Manalo, whose wife had testified earlier in the week, was the first neighbor to step outside and see what happened with his flashlight after he heard a gunshot. He took cellphone photos of a bloodied Zimmerman and Martin’s body, and those photos were shown to jurors on Friday. Manalo also described Martin’s hands as being under his body.
Manalo said Zimmerman didn’t appear shocked and acted calmly. After police officers arrived and handcuffed Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer asked Manalo to call his wife and tell her what happened.
Manalo started to tell Zimmerman’s wife that her husband had been involved in a shooting and was being questioned by police when “he cut me off and said, ‘Just tell her I shot someone,”’ Manalo said.
Under cross-examination, Manalo said when he asked Zimmerman what happened, the neighborhood watch volunteer told him, “I was defending myself and I shot him.”
“From what you could tell at that moment, that seemed completely true?” asked defense attorney Don West.
“Yes,” Manalo said.
Smith, the police officer, testified that when he saw Zimmerman after the shooting, the neighborhood watch volunteer’s backside was covered in grass and wetter than his front side, bolstering defense attorneys’ contention that Martin was on top of Zimmerman.
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.