Heated exchanges highlight hearing in Zimmerman case



SANFORD, Fla. - It took more than five hours, but the George Zimmerman trial looks like it's back on track for a Monday start.

George Zimmerman is going on trial, charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. He is pleading not guilty, claiming he acted in self-defense.

During a hearing in a Seminole County courtroom Thursday morning, the judge in the case denied a defense motion to keep several witnesses anonymous.

And then the hearing grew heated as both sides argued over whether or not the prosecution had hidden evidence from the defense.

In the hearing, the defense told the judge it needs more time to prepare because of the state's alleged discovery violations and alleged lies to the court.

But Circuit Judge Debra Nelson shut down the defense hearing on whether the state should face sanctions when the defense called prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda to the witness stand.

"I call Bernie de la Rionda," said Zimmerman attorney Mark O'Mara.

"I'm not going to testify," said de la Rionda.

At that point Nelson stopped the sanction hearing.

During testimony over sanctions, de la Rionda's own information technology director testified that de la Rionda seemed indecisive about whether he was going to turn over reports generated by the IT director on photos of guns, drugs and naked, underage girls, and texts on Martin's cellphone to the defense.

Normally soft-spoken defense attorney Don West raised his voice and lashed out at de la Rionda.

"We caught you withholding the information, confronted you about it and we still haven't gotten that information," said West.

Late Thursday afternoon the focus shifted to whether experts should testify about who was heard screaming for help in the background of a 911 call made the night Martin was shot and killed Martin. There is debate over whether it was Martin or Zimmerman screaming.

An FBI speech recognition expert was called by the defense and said there's no scientific way to tell who was screaming.

“When it comes to comparison, the voice comparisons, interpretation is completely subjective,” said FBI expert Dr. Hitotaka Nakasone.

On Thursday Nelson also denied a defense request to let a handful of witnesses testify confidentiality during George Zimmerman's trial for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin.

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara asked that the witnesses be allowed to testify out of the public eye because of concerns for their safety about testifying at the trial, which starts next week. He said their testimony could impact the jury's decision.

Prosecutors and attorneys for media groups objected to the request.

The hearing will continue on Friday morning.

Follow Kathi Belich on Twitter at @KBelichWFTV for gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial.