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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trayvon Martin's Friend Testifies; Aaron Hernandez Charged With Murder
Aired June 26, 2013 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN LIVE COVERAGE OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In that interview, you were describing for him what it was that Trayvon Martin said to the man, and you said --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He did not say that. He just asked what happened that night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. In response to that, you said that Trayvon Martin said to the man, why are you following me? And the man's response was what are you talking about?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never said that. I do not say that -- I do not recall saying that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then you changed it. Then you said what are you talking about?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn't -- in the Crump interview -- I really did not want to do the interview with Crump. So I hurried up on Crump because I really didn't want to be on the phone talking about the situation, the deadly situation, talking about death so -- I rushed it -- I had told you from when we med I had rushed and told the state I rushed on the Crump interview. The Crump interview don't mean nothing to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't take it seriously?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you weren't going to take it seriously, why didn't you just refuse to do it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm already there on the phone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you're at home, right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the closet. You think I wanted to be in a closet that long?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question was, if you didn't want to do the interview, why didn't you just say no? I'll talk to the police instead. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone was already there, I had already agreed to the interview, so why say no? It was already too late.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So at that point, you felt you were committed to it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you had to go through with it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you weren't taking it seriously?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wasn't paying attention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You weren't paying particular attention to what you were saying?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was. I was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So when you were telling Mr. Crump that Trayvon Martin said, why are you following me? The first response that you gave to Mr. Crump that's attributed to the other man, George Zimmerman is, what are you talking about? Then you changed it and said --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we could have a moment for the proper -
(END LIVE COVERAGE OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: While the attorneys take a sidebar in the murder trial of George Zimmerman, we're going to talk about the case right now the testimony of Trayvon Martin's Rachel Jeantel. She is really the star witness. Jeffrey Toobin, CNN legal analyst, what is the defense attorney, Don West, trying to achieve here, other than undermining her credibility talking about the lies that she has told?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's really two things, one is that she's simply a liar and not to be trusted. In addition, he is trying to portray her essentially as part of the Martin family, the prosecution, that she basically signed a -- --
TAPPER: Keep talking.
TOOBIN: -- that she basically signed on with the Martin family and said what they wanted her to say in the most incriminating way about George Zimmerman. That is the sort of larger purpose in addition to saying she's an unreliable person.
TAPPER: And something that the defense is trying to paint here, the picture they're trying to paint is, for want of a better word, the publicity machine that the Martin family has created to try to go after their client, George Zimmerman, in their view unfairly and when they're citing the ABC interview and other things, they're trying to paint this picture of this machine working forward that has nothing to do with justice?
TOOBIN: Right. You know, I don't know how effective that has been. In a way, her naivete, her difficulty expressing herself, seems to me in a way to help her.
TAPPER: Makes her more credible?
TOOBIN: She doesn't seem calculating person. She doesn't seem like she has a strategic vision of how to help her side of the case. She's just sort of trying to do her best and the jury may find that sympathetic.
TAPPER: And while the lawyer confer we're going to take a very quick break. We'll be back with more live coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD and our continuing coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial. We're going to go right back to the courtroom. It appears they're taking a 2-minute recess. I want to bring in Jeffrey Toobin, CNN legal analyst back. George Zimmerman, this is the witness that his team was afraid of the most. She is the one who was talking on the phone with Trayvon Martin right before the confrontation when he was killed?
TOOBIN: No doubt about it. She is the last person to speak to Trayvon Martin alive. It is through her that they are trying most of all to get the story that George Zimmerman was the aggressor in the confrontation between the two. She is testifying about that conversation. That's the core of her testimony, but certainly there's a lot of other thing she's testifying about, how she happened to come to testify and the various versions of the story she's told over the months, some of which she now acknowledges are false.
TAPPER: There were other witnesses. The trial started on Monday. There was a day of witness yesterday. They were ear witnesses, people who had heard the confrontation and called the police, but nobody who had seen the scuffle directly. Some of them said there was a loud, angry voice verse what sounded like a boy's voice. Did that do anything in the case? We don't necessarily know whose voice was whose.
TOOBIN: That's been a bone of contention in pre-trial proceedings. In fact, there was a big pre-trial fight over the issue of, can you have expert testimony listening to the 911 call where there's a scream in the background? The question is, could you have an expert say, I think that's Trayvon Martin screaming for help.
The judge I think quite properly excluded that testimony because that's not real scientific testimony. There is no science of identifying a voice from a 911 tape. So the jury is going to hear all this testimony including the scream on the 911 tape and make up their own minds about who is screaming for help, whether it's Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman. TAPPER: I want to turn to our Martin Savidge who is outside the courtroom in Sanford, Florida. Martin, walk us through the highlights of Trayvon's friend's testimony. What will the jurors walk away with?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's an extremely good question, Jake. I mean, what will they walk away with? It's extremely difficult to say. From talking to people in the courtroom -- I haven't been able to, because I've been waiting here, but they say watching the jurors expressions. There were a number of times that you can see the parents of Trayvon Martin emotionally upset listening to the testimony of this young woman.
Nobody on that jury, I'm told, was emotionally upset. That's not to say this testimony is not impacting them. It's just not impacting them in a way that people got emotional over. Then listening to it, there will be some conflict here. First of all, you have to remember, this is the most anticipated witness of the entire trial.
It has been talked about for days that this young lady was going to take the stand. I spoke to the O'Mara defense team yesterday, and asked, are you ready? They said they've been ready for days. They knew the cross-examination would be critical for the defense. They also know that her testimony is crucial for the state, because she is the one person who has said that definitely that it was George Zimmerman who was the aggressor and that it was Trayvon she heard over the phone at the time saying get off me, get off me.
So it goes completely in the face of self-defense, which is what the defense team has maintained all along. It's also why Don West is trying to get her nailed down on what she said and when. And as Jeffrey Toobin pointed out, there are concerns that she's too allied maybe is the word to Trayvon Martin's camp and perhaps she's traded in some reliability.
But as a teenager she might be saying things she thinks people want to hear rather than what she actually heard, which is again why Don West is trying to be careful here. I have to tell you, this could be a turning point, but just not sure which way it's turning.
TAPPER: Martin, what are we expecting to tomorrow?
SAVIDGE: First of all, I think this cross-examination has some time to go, unless whatever has happened in the courtroom here, and it seems like something has happened that I think Don West still has many questions. He is still walking her through how did you get in touch with the family? When did you get interviewed by the Crump legal team?
Not touching on exactly what has transpired that night. We have potentially hours. We have to see what happens after this recess to see if there's been some action that disrupts the flow, otherwise you go back to the phone calls introduced earlier. They're the ones that showed George Zimmerman had a history of showing suspicious people.
The state will say that goes to his state of mind. They'll want to imply that he was increasingly frustrated that the suspects, quote/unquote, "always get away." That's the state's point. That's why he went after Trayvon Martin.
TAPPER: Martin Savidge, we're watching the George Zimmerman murder trial. We'll go back to the courtroom right after this quick break.
Also ahead, another developing story, tight end Aaron Hernandez led away from his home in handcuffs and now charged with the murder of someone who was supposedly a friend. The New England Patriots show no sympathy for him. We're live in that courthouse as well.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We will return to the testimony of Trayvon Martin's friend in the George Zimmerman murder trial, as soon as that testimony starts back up.
For now we're moving on to our "Sports Lead," he was a rising star in the NFL who just last year signed a 5-year contract worth $40 million. Today he's out of a job and facing murder charges. Former Patriots tight end, Aaron Hernandez, was led out of his house in handcuffs this morning. He is charged in the death of Odin Lloyd, whose body was found last week not far from Hernandez's home.
Within hours after the arrest, the Patriots announced that they were dropping the star tight end from the team. This all comes after days of police searches at Hernandez's home. Hernandez has never commented on the investigation, but his lawyer says the evidence against him is circumstantial.
Let's go live now to CNN Susan Candiotti who is an Attleboro, Massachusetts. Susan, can you tell us about some of evidence that was revealed today at the arraignment?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, I tell you, this is simply a stunning scenario. If these charges are born out in court, Aaron Hernandez is guilty if again they are proven, of shooting to death execution style a friend of his. A friend by the name of Odin Lloyd, and all the this because of allegedly something that was said, some words by this friend of his at a nightclub that Aaron Hernandez simply didn't like.
As the prosecutor put it, Aaron Hernandez orchestrated the execution. That's what it was. Those are the works of the prosecutor, by putting five bullets in his friend, two of them in his chest as he was getting out of a car, shot him dead as he was trying to defend himself. The prosecutor laid all of this out in court and said he picked up his friend, Aaron Hernandez picked up his friend about a week ago, then they drove around and then went to this location that was near Hernandez' house.
He got him out of the car and shot him dead. Now they say they are tying him to this friend, because they found a car nearby -- excuse me -- because they found a wallet and keys on the victim's body. Those keys came back to a rental car that was rented by and registered to Aaron Hernandez. So a lot to digest here, but as I said, this is just surprising and almost hard to believe. Certainly a callous murder if these charges are borne out. TAPPER: All right, Susan Candiotti, thank you.
I want to bring in Mike Bello from "The Boston Globe." Mike, what are you hearing? What is the evidence against Aaron Hernandez?
MIKE BELLO, "BOSTON GLOBE": Well, there's a lot of surveillance video that ties Mr. Hernandez to the scene of the murder. It all begins early Monday morning on June 17th, where there's surveillance video that shows Mr. Hernandez, the victim and two other men in a car. That Lloyd is picked up then. He is transported through Boston, according to surveillance video, brought down to North Attleboro, where the alleged instance takes place, where the victim is shot several times.
There's video that shows -- there's a building in the area that apparently has video that shows that Hernandez, the victim and two other men go into the area and four individuals go in and then three individuals go out. According to prosecutors, there's also video at the scene at the house, near the house, which shows that Hernandez is clutching a handgun.
It also shows the three men going into the house so there's significant video the prosecutors unveiled the whole time line in court today. There's also ballistic evidence recovered from the scene. They've got five shell casings recovered at the scene. They think there were two fatal shots that hit the victim when he was killed so there's a whole timeline on that Monday morning that's been assembled by prosecutors?
TAPPER: All right, Mike Bello at the "Boston Globe," thank you so much. I want to bring in CNN's Rachel Nichols. Rachel, the news that the Patriots were releasing Hernandez hit the headlines around 10:30 in the morning, about the same time we first saw the images of him being walked out to a police car in handcuffs. This is hardly the first trouble Aaron Hernandez has gotten into. Did the Pats take a chance on an athlete they knew was trouble?
RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's interesting. You go back and look, and of course, in hindsight the simple answer would be yes. This was a guy who had questions going into the NFL draft. There were questions about marijuana use. There were questions about gang ties, some of his former affiliates, from where he grew up in Bristol, Connecticut.
But on the other hand there are hundreds of young men in the NFL who come from rough backgrounds. There are hundreds of young men in the NFL who are taught that violence is a part of their life. Then there's the questions of which ones do you take the chance on and what is going to happen going forward.
You mentioned the $40 million that the Patriots gave to him just last year. In that press conference, the past owner, Robert Kraft talked about what a good guy Hernandez had become. In fact he donated $50,000 of the check that he was getting to the Patriots charity. Everyone talked about what a nice act that was on his behalf so not necessarily something that you could predict. However, there's no question the NFL has looked at this as a larger issue. Right now, this very week, Jake, they're holding something called the NFL rookie symposium. The idea is toffee rookies coming into the NFL, who might not be equipped with the friends or background or judgment, to make the right decisions when put in different situations, with better decision-making and putting better people around them.
This is the 16th year of the symposium and you talk to people involved in it they said in some cases they see it's really working, in some cases it's not. We'll have to see how Aaron Hernandez's case works out.
TAPPER: All right, CNN's Rachel Nichols, thank you.
I want to turn to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin here in the studio with me. We will turn back to the Trayvon Martin -- George Zimmerman murder case in a second. We're expecting that trial to resume in just a few minutes. But before we do, your thoughts on the charges against Aaron Hernandez. They're pretty strong.
TOOBIN: First-degree murder, he's not getting out on bail. That's almost for certain. One critical part of this case that we don't know anything about is the two other men that he's accused of being with. Were they shooters? Were they involved? Will they flip against Hernandez? They obviously are key figures in this and we'll watch how that unfolds.
TAPPER: Fascinating stuff. We're going to turn to the other murder trial that we've been paying attention to, the George Zimmerman second degree murder trial, which is continuing right now. We're still waiting for the audio of the trial to come to us. Just to get your thoughts again. What is the worst case scenario for George Zimmerman if he is found guilty of second degree murder?
TOOBIN: Life in prison. I mean, you know, the stakes are enormous for him. He's not eligible for the death penalty, but he is eligible for life in prison, which basically focuses the mind a great deal. I think a lot of people were surprised when the prosecutor brought those charges, because that suggests intentional killing, premeditated killing.
Where, in a situation like this, you could see even if you believe Zimmerman committed a crime, that it was more in the nature of manslaughter, unintentional murder, but one of the key parts to keep in mind about this case is when it goes to the jury, will the jury be given choices of so-called lesser-included offenses. You can be sure when jury instructions come around, that will be something both sides give a lot thought to.
TAPPER: Since we're hopping around from Aaron Hernandez to George Zimmerman, what -- Aaron Hernandez is charge with first degree murder, George Zimmerman charged with second degree murder, what is the difference between the two?
TOOBIN: It's not really as big a difference as it seems. Each state, the Hernandez is Massachusetts, the Zimmerman case is Florida, each state defines these terms somewhat differently. New York state first degree murder is almost never charged. It's only the murder of a prison guard. In Massachusetts, first degree murder is intentional murder, premeditated. So in essence, it's the same charge as Zimmerman is facing even though it's called second degree murder in Florida.
TAPPER: Except he might be eligible for the death penalty under first degree murder, but not second degree murder?
TOOBIN: In Florida he could be, but Massachusetts doesn't have the death penalty, so that's not an issue there.
TAPPER: All right, the audio has returned from the courtroom where George Zimmerman's murder trial seems to be resuming. Any minute the attorneys have taken a sidebar.
The jury is coming back into the courtroom. They are now walking back in, as the Circuit Court Judge Deborah Nelson asks the attorneys to resume their questioning. That's defense attorney Don West stepping up to the podium to resume questioning of Trayvon Martin's friend, Rachel Jeantel, who is on the phone with Trayvon Martin the night that there was the deadly confrontation with George Zimmerman, the last person to talk to Trayvon Martin other than George Zimmerman.
(BEGIN LIVE COVERAGE OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL)
DON WEST, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Ms. Jeantel, I would like to direct your attention to page 209 of the deposition. I'm going to give it to you to read, and take as much time as you'd like. This is the question about what you told Mr. Crump at the telephone interview. Where Trayvon Martin said why are you following me? Are you oriented a bit? As you can see here --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to read it to yourself and let us know when you're finished.
WEST: You can start with line 14 or 15. That's when you tape itself was played. Do you remember that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
WEST: Remember in the deposition we asked about this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
WEST: We actually played a recording --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
WEST: For you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes.
WEST: OK, so just take your time to read it and I'd like to ask you a couple of questions. (END LIVE COVERAGE OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL)