By Graham Winch
John Donnelly, a former Vietnam War combat medic, grew emotional on the stand in the George Zimmerman trial Monday as he explained why he thought the screams for help heard on a 911 call made the night Trayvon Martin died were made by his friend, Zimmerman.
Donnelly was just one of a group of defense witnesses who testified on the trial's 10th day about the controversial 911 call, which has become a key point of contention in the case.
Choking back tears, Donnelly explained that the reason he could identify the screams is because of his experience with the fog of war. During combat, Donnelly had to recognize the screams of his fellow soldiers and run to them when they needed help. He said he has heard a 250-pound man scream like a little girl.
"In the midst of combat, there are a lot people yelling and screaming," said Donnelly. "Sometimes they are screaming for help."
If the jury believes Zimmerman was screaming on the 911 call, it could buttress his claim that he was forced to shoot the teenager in self-defense. On the other hand, if the jury believes Martin was screaming on the 911 call, the jury may decide Zimmerman murdered the teenager.
Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer, is charged with second-degree murder for killing 17-year-old Martin in Sanford, Florida, on February 26, 2012. He told police that night that the teenager looked suspicious and that there had been several break-ins in the neighborhood. The two got into a physical altercation, and Zimmerman said he was forced to draw his gun and kill Martin.
Donnelly told the court that he views Zimmerman as a "son," but his close relationship with Zimmerman would not affect his testimony. Donnelly donated almost $3,000 to Zimmerman's defense fund and paid for $1,700 in suits for Zimmerman to wear during the trial.
Donnelly's testimony Monday was preceded by that of four of Zimmerman's other friends, who all said that they also recognized the screams on the 911 call as Zimmerman's voice. During cross-examinations, prosecutors focused on potential bias -- due to their close relationships with the defendant -- on the part of the witnesses.
Prosecutor John Guy asked Zimmerman's friend Geri Russo if she actually hoped that it was Zimmerman's voice on the 911 call to confirm her belief that he had acted in self-defense.
Russo said no, that he had no doubt it was Zimmerman's voice.