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Skype Takes Center Stage at Zimmerman Trial

The power of technology and its users was on display Wednesday in the trial of George Zimmerman.

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    A witness’ testimony via Skype was bombarded with unsolicited calls, in what appeared to be pranksters’ attempts to interrupt the testimony.

    Scott Pleasants, a criminal justice professor at Seminole State College, had been called to testify about Zimmerman taking an online criminal justice course in 2011. About one minute into Pleasants’ testimony, delivered from Colorado, an onslaught of incoming Skype calls began to pop-up on the television screen in the courtroom, which interfered with the testimony.

    Apparently, Pleasants’ Skype username was visible on the television screen in the Sanford, Fla., courtroom, as well as to everyone watching the trial across the country, prompting the slew of prank Skype phone calls accompanied by the service's trademark “ping” sounds.

    Toward the end of the prosecutor’s examination, the calls had become so numerous that the judge had to intervene and order Pleasants to end the Skype call.

    “I got to tell you, there’s now a really good chance that we’re being toyed with, just so you know.” Zimmerman defense attorney Mark O’Mara said as the calls stacked up.

    Pleasants is seen balancing a cell phone in one hand and attempting to close several pop-up windows of the incoming Skype phone calls, as Circuit Judge Debra Nelson and the attorneys try to figure out what to do.

    “I don’t want those up on the screen,” Nelson said. “Let’s find another number that we could call Professor Pleasants on.”

    Pleasants’ testimony continued, but was conducted via a more traditional telephone connection.

    Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old unarmed teenager. Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty, saying he acted in self-defense after Martin attacked him on Feb. 26, 2012, in the gated Sanford, Fla., community where the two encountered each other. Martin died of a single gunshot wound; Zimmerman was photographed by police that night with a bloody, swollen nose and wounds to the back of the head.

    Zimmerman alleges Martin straddled him after punching him in the nose and banged his head repeatedly against the sidewalk, warning him before Zimmerman fired a shot at him, “You’re going to die tonight.”