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Neighbors offer conflicting testimony in Zimmerman trial

The boy in the hooded sweatshirt straddled the man in red, doing a mixed-martial-arts-style “ground-and-pound.”

Or the boy in the hoodie was on the bottom, crying out for help.

Jurors will have to sort through those seemingly contradictory images, offered Thursday and yesterday by neighbors who peered through the rain on the night that George Zimmerman fatally shot an unarmed African American teenager named Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., in February 2012.

In excruciating detail, prosecutors and defense attorneys have sought to establish who was on top and who was on the bottom in the seconds before Zimmerman pulled the trigger. Their positioning is critical because Zimmerman, the man in red that night, is claiming that he shot Martin, 17, in self-defense.

At first, neighbor Jonathan Good thought he was seeing a dog attack. But as he looked closer, he testified yesterday, he saw two figures locked in “a tussle” in the grass near his townhouse in the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community. The man on the bottom yelled, “Help,” Good told jurors.

The figures shifted to the concrete walkway, and that’s when Good says he saw the dark-clothed person – who he now knows was Martin – straddle the man in red. The figure on top was “raining down blows” and was using moves similar to a mixed martial arts (MMA) combatant, Good said.

Late yesterday, the references to MMA took on a new complexity. A physician’s assistant who had treated Zimmerman testified that his medical notes show that Zimmerman had been practicing MMA and training “intensely.”

But Good could not affirm a key defense claim: that Martin pounded Zimmerman’s head into the concrete walkway, producing the large bumps visible in photographs of the defendant shown to the jury.

Good’s testimony will be weighed against the memories of two other neighbors, who testified Thursday that the man in red was on top during the struggle. Jenna Lauer recalled a “surreal” scene, with “yelps” of pain morphing into screams for help.

She told jurors that the man in red was on top and that it was the figure on the bottom who was pleading for help. Those cries could be heard in the background of a chilling 911 call Lauer made. On that call, the gunshot that ended Martin’s life can be heard.

And Selma Mora, a construction-equipment saleswoman who testified through a Spanish interpreter, said she heard a “soft” crying in pain. The figure in red was on top, she said. What she saw reminded her of a jockey riding a horse.

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