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Continuing Coverage and Analysis of the George Zimmerman Trial; Aaron Hernandez Again Denied Bail

Aired June 27, 2013 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's add Ryan Smith to the panel here, Ryan Smith joining us today alongside Holly Hughes. Good to see you ...


BALDWIN: ... as we continue this conversation, continue watching what's happening playing out in Sanford, Florida.

I want to talk about a couple things that this key witness, Rachel Jeantel, had mentioned. She was basically describing, this was yesterday, it started yesterday and came back today during cross- examination.

She was -- as you pointed out, she was an ear witness. She was relaying to the courtroom what Trayvon Martin had said to her in describing who we now know was George Zimmerman because he believed he was being followed and so he called him a "crazy" -- well today it was a "crazy, creepy cracker," something to that effect.

The issue is the word cracker.

SMITH: Right.

BALDWIN: She said that this was -- that he was being targeted because it was a race thing, but then she said the word "cracker," itself, wasn't racial. Did you hear that?

SMITH: Yeah. It made total sense to me. You know why? A lot of black folks all over the country, for a lot of Southern folks, nothing wrong with that statement.

There is a cultural divide that is going on in this trial that played out between Rachel Jeantel and Don West. He's an older white guy, she's a teenage ...

BALDWIN: Could not be further difference.

SMITH: And she's explaining, this is what he said to me. And that's how kids talk to each other. And that's what they say when somebody is coming after them and look creepy.

Now is he trying to say something about George Zimmerman and his race? No.

I think that we tend to think about it too deeply. Kids out there are just saying, no, this guy's this, that guy's that. And that's what she was trying to relay.

And I think, when I keep hearing that comment come up, I think the problem with this trial right now is that people -- you wonder if that jury is going to get caught up in those words. Five of those six jurors are white, and are they going to take offense to that? Really that was Trayvon just describing a situation.

BALDWIN: Interesting you bring that up. I grew up in the South. And hearing the word -- I would never -- that is absolutely an offensive term if I were to hear that.

SMITH: But he's not saying it to be offensive to George Zimmerman.

BALDWIN: He's not being pejorative.

SMITH: He's being distributive of what he sees.

BALDWIN: And also uses the "N"-word in describing. He uses "cracker" and the "N"-word both to describe this.

SMITH: And that's another cultural divide because in the black community, that word is going to be used from time to time to describe somebody who's coming at you, to describe a bunch of different things, but it's not meant to be offensive to somebody else.

In other words, put yourself in Trayvon Martin's shoes. He feels like somebody is following him. He doesn't know why. It's late. This is a person of another race.

For a lot of black folks, that makes him uncomfortable. We're not going to stay, this wonderful gentleman seems to be following me and I can't quite understand why. Nobody talks like that, and she's conveying that point.

HOLLY HUGHES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think one of the big distinctions, and Ryan kind of snuck it in there, but I want to make sure people catch it is he was not saying it to George Zimmerman. He wasn't saying, hey, "cracker," are you following me? He's talking to his friend.

And, you know, it was like we were saying earlier, the language you might use with your friends at the dinner table is not how you're going to address another person.

And what strikes me, and I said this last night and got tons of hate tweets. You know, I said, "cracker" doesn't concern me as much as the word "creepy" concerns me because what it gives us, Brooke, is a glimpse into the mind of Trayvon Martin when this is all happening.

For a young teenage boy to say someone is creepy, and he's talking to a woman who he probably wants to impress, he's not saying, oh, some punk cracker is following me. I'm going to find out what his problem is.

He's like, hey, this creepy guy is following me. So you can tell his mindset is one of fear, one of is this guy stalking me?

And let's all be real frank about this. He's not a cracker. He's a Hispanic fellow. OK? So, I mean, we've completely missed the mark here.

And I'm not excusing what language young people say. Of course we want to raise our young people to be respectful.

SMITH: Yeah, but it's spur of the moment. The guy's coming after him. He's concerned. He uses this language.

HUGHES: He wasn't saying it to Zimmerman.

BALDWIN: Let me hit pause on this conversation quickly and just veer back to the trial, and what's happening right this moment.

Again, this woman is on the stand. She is testifying. She was an eyewitness that night. She's a real estate agent who lives in the neighborhood. They're playing a 911 call.

After she heard something happen, she picked up the phone. Here's the call.


911 OPERATOR (via telephone): You're in Sanford?

JENNA LAUER, WITNESS (via telephone): Yes.

911 OPERATOR (via telephone): OK. And is it a male or female?

LAUER (via telephone): It sounds like a male.

911 OPERATOR (via telephone): And you don't know why?

LAUER (via telephone): I don't know why. I think they're yelling help, but I don't know. Just send someone quick.

911 OPERATOR (via telephone): OK. Does he look hurt to you?

LAUER (via telephone): I can't see him. I don't want to go out there. I don't know what's going on, so -- they're sending.

911 OPERATOR (via telephone): You think he's yelling help?

LAUER (via telephone): Yes.

911 OPERATOR (via telephone): All right. What is your ...

LAUER (via telephone): Just, there's gunshots.

911 OPERATOR (via telephone): You just heard gunshots?

LAUER (via telephone): Yes.

911 OPERATOR (via telephone): How many?

LAUER (via telephone): Just one. Jeremy, get down. No, come here.

911 OPERATOR (via telephone): Is he no longer yelling?

LAUER (via telephone): No one's -- I don't know. Jeremy, get in here now. Jeremy, get up here.

911 OPERATOR (via telephone): All right. Is he right outside 1211 twin tree lane?

LAUER (via telephone): Yeah, pretty much out the back, yes.

911 OPERATOR (via telephone): Is he in front of it or behind that address?

LAUER (via telephone): He's behind my house.

911 OPERATOR (via telephone): OK.

LAUER (via telephone): Just stay away from the windows.

911 OPERATOR (via telephone): I don't hear him yelling anymore. Do you hear anything?

LAUER (via telephone): No, I don't because I'm hiding upstairs. There was a gunshot right outside our house.

You obviously sent somebody, right?

911 OPERATOR (via telephone): Yes, it's in dispatch. What's your name and phone number?

LAUER (via telephone): My name is Jenna Lauer.


BALDWIN: All right. So you've been listening to this 911 call which they played not too long ago in court. She's still on the stand. So this is Jenna Lauer. And you're hearing the screams.

SMITH: Right.

BALDWIN: What are you -- are you hearing help?

SMITH: Yes. In those screams, you hear somebody yelling for help repeatedly. And then you hear the altercation going on in the background.

So this is the actual moment. This is what the jury now is listening to and trying to figure out who is screaming for help.

This goes all the way back to the evidence that's not going to be allowed in. Nobody is going to testify about who was screaming for help. The jury is going to have to hear this, hear each witness, and make that choice for themselves.

BALDWIN: It's for the juror.

HUGHES: No expert is going to testify.

SMITH: Right. No expert.

HUGHES: Because what happened was, they had all these what we call Fry hearings in the law, which is just basically the judge is going to decide, is this scientifically reliable evidence?

And she said, no, the test that the experts used to say, it's Trayvon or it's George, aren't scientifically reliable.

However, we will see lay witnesses take the stand. You know, I expect Trayvon Martin's parents to take the stand, and they will say, I believe that's my son.

And then, of course, we may see the defense put somebody up to say ...

BALDWIN: That's why I'm also curious if that would be beneficial to put George Zimmerman on the stand so finally the jurors could hear his voice to be able to deduce, themselves.

SMITH: But will it be the same? That's a heightened state. There he's talking. But this is where the rubber meets the road in this case.

HUGHES: And will the defense have him scream in court, do a re- enactment? I want you to scream at the top of your lungs, George.

And that way it comes down to the jury says, it is, it isn't, it sounds like, it's not.

BALDWIN: A lot happening in a courtroom in Sanford, Florida. A lot happening in a courtroom in Massachusetts today.

A lot of development in the shocking case of this former NFL star who was dropped by the Patriots just yesterday. He was arrested. Now he faces murder charges.

We're getting word of text messages sent by the man you're looking at there, sent by Aaron Hernandez's alleged victims moments before he was shot and killed.

Plus CNN has learned police are investigating Hernandez's potential involvement with a double murder that happened in Boston last year.

Lots to catch you up on today. We're going to be talking to "Boston Globe's" NFL writer, next.


BALDWIN: Breaking news today in the Aaron Hernandez case, the ex-NFL star will remain in jail until he is tried for murder. A judge today, the superior court judge, agreed with the district court judge yesterday. He was denied bail just a short time ago. He is accused of murdering this 27-year-old man by the name of Odin Lloyd.

Also a source close to this investigation tells CNN today that Hernandez now is also being investigated in connection with a 2012 double murder in Boston last July.

Plus, this, we are hearing reports of these chilling text messages from the victim, himself, from Odin Lloyd in the final moments of his life.

"Boston Globe" is reporting that Lloyd texted his sister after 3:00 in the morning while Hernandez allegedly drove him down this dark dirt road.

And let me just read you some of these texts. He texts this to his sister. "Did you see who I'm with?" Minutes later, he texts these three letters, "NFL." His final text, "Just so you know.

I want to bring back in "Boston Globe" NFL reporter Ben Volin who's been all over this. Ben, you've cover Boston sports. You actually covered him down when you were working in Palm Beach as he was at Florida.

But the big news today, the fact he was denied bail, no real surprise?

BEN VOLIN, "BOSTON GLOBE" NFL REPORTER: No. Really not a surprise when you factor in the seriousness of the charges. Murder one is about as serious as it gets and then you factor in that Hernandez is a millionaire NFL player, has the means to travel and get out of the country. So he's clearly a threat to flee at this point.

So, not surprised at all to see that the judge denied his request for bail. So he's going to be in jail throughout this trial process now.

Just, you know, not a good day for Hernandez. Now, as you said, he's being investigated for another double murder, you know, and his NFL career is pretty much over at this point. So, not a good day for Aaron Hernandez.

BALDWIN: I was following very closely the "Boston Globe" and the "Boston Globe" tweeting today. And I know you've been all over this story. A couple of your colleagues have as well.

Because when I was reading more about this double murder that now he's being investigated for, part of this article described that this now, this victim, Odin Lloyd, might have had some information, according to you guys at the "Boston Globe," might have some information on Hernandez as far as his involvement in that double murder in 2012. That was news to me.

VOLIN: Yeah. And that could tie into the motive a little bit more because right now there are a couple weaknesses in the investigators' case. One is they don't have the murder weapon yet, and two is they don't -- you know, the motive is a little weak right now. They say that the victim, he was associating with people in a nightclub that Hernandez already had a disagreement with and that led to a murder.

So that's a little bit of a flimsy motive right now. However, we're reporting today that investigators believe Odin Lloyd might have some information pertaining to the double slaying from last year that they're now investigating Hernandez about. So possibly there's a connection there.

Certainly that's very interesting. Aaron Hernandez said you can't trust anyone anymore. That's what he allegedly said right before the events of two weeks ago unfolded.

So this is just a long, twisted case, and I think we're kind of finding out now that Aaron Hernandez has had a lot of trouble with getting in fights with people at clubs and then being reckless with guns.

He's had a lawsuit now where he's being sued for firing a gun. He had an incident in college where he was questioned. So clearly he's had a problem with some guns dating back several years.

BALDWIN: Wow. Ben Volin with the "Boston Globe." We'll follow it along with you here as he's denied bail yet again, facing, as you point out, this murder one charge.

Ben, thank you.

We're going to take you back to Sanford, Florida, here in just a moment. As this George Zimmerman trial is under way.

He is faced with second-degree murder. You are looking at 19-year-old Rachel Jeantel. She was on the stand for the majority of the day today.

We're going to talk about her demeanor on the stand and her demeanor specifically with the defense attorney, a lot of questions about that, next.


BALDWIN: OK. Let's take you back to Sanford, Florida. We've been following this trial.

Pretty stunning testimony the last couple of days, specifically from this 19-year-old, Rachel Jeantel. She was on the stand the majority of the day today, and she was asked many, many questions by this defense co-counsel by the name of Don West.

So let me just play you one snippet of what they discussed today really just about the racial nature of the case. Here you go.


DON WEST, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: And you don't have any information from the news that this was a racially charged event?

RACHEL JEANTEL, WITNESS: No. I had told you I don't watch the news.

WEST: OK. Are you OK this morning?


WEST: You seem so different than yesterday. I'm just checking. Did someone talk with ...

JEANTEL: Is that a question?

WEST: Yes. Did someone talk with you last night about your demeanor in court yesterday?

JEANTEL: No. I went to sleep.

WEST: Could you tell me how wet grass sounds?

JEANTEL: Wet. Rolling all over it.

WEST: When you describe the sound as you could hear wet grass, what is it that you actually heard that led you to make that opinion?

JEANTEL: Somebody rolling all -- rolling on top of the grass.


BALDWIN: Asked what wet grass sounds like, that was Don West, asking this question of this young woman today.

Holly Hughes, Ryan Smith and also Mark Nejame joining me from Florida. And, Mark, let me just begin with you here. And we just played -- we're going to continue to play a little bit more.

But I just -- we've asked so many different people, and I'm so curious, your opinion. Let's just being with the questioning and, specifically, those questions from Don West, the "have you talked to someone."

Because clearly her demeanor was very different than what it was yesterday. And this question about "what was does wet grass sound like?" Was that fair?

MARK NEJAME, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I think it's very fair. It's cross-examination.

You've got a young man, a young teenager, who has lost his life and you've got another person who may send the rest of his life in prison. I think that this is exactly what cross-examination is supposed to be about.

She said that she heard wet grass. That's just not believable.

She also said today that nobody coached or talked to her about her testimony today versus her testimony yesterday. I'm sorry, what she's saying today is exactly the way you train and you teach and you get the witnesses ready for trial. You tell them you don't answer anything other than is asked of you.

So yesterday she went into a long dissertation and today she's doing exactly what she was supposed to do. And her demeanor changed as well.

No, I think she was talked to and I don't think she was being truthful again.

BALDWIN: What about also just the role of race in this trial? I think I heard Sunny Hostin say it yesterday. Race is really just sort of the elephant in the room, and it was the defense team specifically who fought and fought to have the word "racial" removed from "racial profiling."

Yet it seemed to me and in talking to some legal experts today, the fact that, you know, this whole discussion opened up, opening the door into race in this trial when she was discussing her phone call with Trayvon the three little words that she said that Trayvon Martin used to describe George Zimmerman.

What was your -- how did you perceive that?

NEJAME: I think there's two areas there. The first is is that the state has been -- I think it's a great state prosecution team. I think they're excellent lawyers.

With that said, they've been very artful in their approach on the race issue. Remember the judge's pretrial ruling. She's saying that they can use the word profile, but they can't just talk about race, but race is one part of the overall profiling.

So we know now that the five other calls that Zimmerman made are coming into evidence from the judge's ruling, and four of those specifically identify a black male as the people that he was calling in.

So the state's been very artful to really raise the issue of race, but to do it through the back door. So I think then what the second part of that is is that I think that the defense is in fact starting a bit of a character assassination on Trayvon Martin.

They're trying to portray him not as the, you know, sweet, Boy Scout that many have picked up the idea from the media over the last year, but, in fact, that he was something different than that, and by his colorful language and the people he was associating with and the way he was talking is something that will, I think the defense hopes, not endear him stronger to the hearts of the jurors.

So I think it's a twofold process that the defense is attempting to do there.

BALDWIN: There was another word she used today, Mark Nejame, and I want to ask you about this on the other side of the break, along with these two here in studio with me, the "R"-word.

She used the "R"-word when she was speaking to Don West, saying, and I'm quoting her, "Are you retarded?"

How did that go, and how did that sit with these six female jurors? That's next.



WEST: Maybe if he decided to assault George Zimmerman, he didn't want you to know about it.

JEANTEL: That's real retarded, sir.


JEANTEL: That's real retarded to do that, sir, when you don't know the person.


BALDWIN: Mark Nejame, let's begin with you. Quick thoughts, the "R"- word used here, another offensive term. Your thoughts?

NEJAME: Yeah, I mean, what else do you say about that? She's used a slew of offensive terms, and either the jury is going to forgive her, realizing that's just her, or they're going to say this is unacceptable and she doesn't have the credibility to prove somebody guilty beyond a reasonable doubt with her testimony.

And I've got to believe that, in light of the juries that have picked -- the jurors that have been picked, two are in their 30s, two are in their 40s, and two are -- excuse me, two are in their 30s, two are in their 50s, two are in their 60s.

I just can't believe that they're going to find this to be acceptable conduct and that she's going to have any credibility.

BALDWIN: Do you agree? You talked credibility earlier. With this word specifically ...

HUGHES: Right.

BALDWIN: Does that hurt her?

HUGHES: Right, very specifically to this, just because she's not likable doesn't mean that they can't find her credible.

These are mothers. They understand you try and teach your children manners. We would like them to always be polite and say the right things. Just because they don't necessarily describe things properly doesn't mean they're not telling a true story.

It comes down to likeability versus credibility. I think they can dislike her and still find her credible.

BALDWIN: Holly Hughes, thank you.

HUGHES: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Mark Nejame, my thanks to you here.

Quick break. More live coverage of the George Zimmerman trial out of Sanford, Florida, after this.


BALDWIN: I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me today. I'll see you back here tomorrow.

You're watching the CNN. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.