Teen's final moments described in racially charged case in United States

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 June, 2013, 3:39am

A friend speaking to Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by phone moments before he was shot to death heard him say, "Get off, get off", jurors were told in the murder trial of neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman.

Rachel Jeantel, 19, testified in court that she had spent several minutes on the phone listening to the unarmed black teen describe his efforts to get away from Zimmerman, until the line suddenly went dead.

Jeantel said Martin, 17, "kept complaining that the man was looking at him", as he walked back to the house where he was staying with his father in the central Florida town of Sanford.

Zimmerman, 29 and part Hispanic, was a neighbourhood watch volunteer in the Retreat at Twin Lakes community in Sanford at the time of the killing in February last year. He has pleaded not guilty to seconddegree murder.

The racially charged case triggered civil rights protests and debates about the treatment of black Americans in the US justice system, since police did not arrest Zimmerman for 44 days.

Martin was a pupil at a Miami-area high school and a guest of one of the homeowners. He was walking back to the house after buying snacks at a nearby convenience store when he was shot in the chest during a confrontation with Zimmerman.

Martin family lawyer Ben Crump has long asserted that Jeantel's testimony would help undermine Zimmerman's claim that he acted in self-defence.

The prosecution portrays Zimmerman as a man with a concealed weapon who committed a vigilante-style killing.