Prosecution Can't Use Race As A Factor In Zimmerman Case

The judge in the murder trial of George Zimmerman — who has been charged with killing Trayvon Martin — says the prosecution can use several terms the defense wanted to exclude. In talking about Zimmerman, prosecutors may use the terms "profiled," "vigilante," "wannabe cop" and that he "confronted Trayvon Martin." Opening statements begin Monday, but the court still has to rule on some key testimony: Which, if any, audio experts will be allowed to testify about who is heard calling for help on a 911 tape.

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In Sanford, Florida, this coming Monday, opening statements are scheduled to begin in the murder trial of George Zimmerman. He is the neighborhood watch volunteer charged in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin. And before the trial starts, the judge hearing the case has to rule on some potentially pivotal testimony, as NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: It involves one of the key pieces of evidence in the case: Who was heard yelling for help in this 911 call.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEPHONE CALL)

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Do you think he's yelling help?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: All right, what is your (unintelligible)?

ALLEN: The call was made by a neighbor the night George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin. Prosecutors say Martin was the one calling for help and have two experts on audio analysis prepared to back that up. The defense also has a team of experts prepared to testify that they believe it's not possible to say whose voice is heard on the tape. Judge Debra Nelson will rule which, if any, of these experts can testify.

In court today, Judge Nelson ruled in favor of prosecutors on another matter. She rejected a defense request that certain terms regarding Zimmerman be off-limits for prosecutors in opening statements: profiled, vigilante and wanna-be cop. The judge said those terms would be allowed, and further, that prosecutors can assert that Zimmerman confronted Trayvon Martin.

JUDGE DEBRA NELSON: He confronted Trayvon Martin, that statement? That is the state's case, and so they will be allowed to do that.

ALLEN: That question, who confronted whom and started the fight that ended with Martin's death, is at the center of the case. It will ultimately be decided by a jury of six that was chosen and sworn in yesterday. It's a jury of six women, five white and one Hispanic. During jury selection, prosecutors struck one African-American, a man, from the pool. The defense struck two African-American women and in court explained the reasons.

Zimmerman's lawyer, Mark O'Mara, said one of the women had connections to a witness in the case. The other is a secretary for a pastor who has taken an activist role in supporting the Martin family's version of events. O'Mara says the court proceedings show race was not a factor in jury selection.

MARK O'MARA: While people can look at it and have this reaction there's no blacks on the jury, or there's no this, or there's no that, or there's no men on the jury, tell me that we did something wrong in the process and I'll agree with you. If you can look at that process and say it was done fairly, then the result is fair.

ALLEN: Opening statements get underway Monday. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

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