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Analyzing the George Zimmerman Trial; Witness Testimony; Zimmerman: In His Own Words

Aired July 1, 2013 - 12:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: This is a sequestered jury for a reason, highly publicized case, a lot of information out there on the blogs, some of it wrong, some of it right, some of it so off-base.

That's what she's trying to protect this jury from. Don't consume the wrong thing. Listen to the people you're listening to on the stand.

A remarkable witness has just taken the stand, Detective Doris Singleton not only did an audio taped interrogation of George Zimmerman within the hour or two of the incident itself, but also took the written statement. And we not only heard the words of George Zimmerman, we saw and read the words of George Zimmerman.

This is just a quick break that the judge is now going to take, this recess, and we'll see the great seal -- there it is -- coming up, which signifies no more camera.

We're going to take a quick break, be back with what this all means and why it is so critical to the case, coming up.


BANFIELD: Welcome back the our continuing live coverage of George Zimmerman on trial for second-degree murder. I'm Ashleigh Banfield live in Sanford, Florida, at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center.

You're not missing any testimony. They're in a brief break inside that courtroom, but, man, was that significant what he heard today.

The great seal is the shot you're seeing now, but we're going to give you more testimony, and we're going to get you right back into the live action the minute it sparks back up.

In the meantime, I want to break down why this latest witness is so critical. Detective Doris Singleton has been on the stand for the better part of an hour.

Our CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Mark Nejame is live with me here, live in Sanford, Florida.

While we've been listening to this, Mark, there have been so many bits and pieces that maybe have escaped the general consumption, the media consumption, of this case, and they are the details that are the devil or maybe not, specifically, what George Zimmerman said he did after he shot Trayvon Martin.

Explain the wording and why it's critical.

MARK NEJAME, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, I think you framed it perfectly, Ashleigh. I think what so many have missed and what's so profound to me is that we're going to end up hearing the defense come forward and say, those witnesses, those first several witnesses who all said that they saw George Zimmerman atop Trayvon Martin -- they're going to end up bringing to the jurors that yes, he was on top of him at a certain time, but only after he was shot.

And then he laid him out and he was atop him, which then becomes consistent with all these first witnesses who came out running and looked through their windows and said that they saw George Zimmerman atop Trayvon Martin.

So that seems to have escaped everybody because, apparently, there was a moment in time where George Zimmerman, according to what we're hearing from Zimmerman, was atop him.

Now that's -- when you start putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, that becomes consistent with the defense theory that Trayvon Martin was atop George Zimmerman throughout, and then the shooting took place, but then after that, there was a rollover. Because remember, this all happens within a few seconds. So people get little smidgens, little look-sees and then that starts piecing the case together.

BANFIELD: And I want to bring in a couple of other of our guests as well. In fact, before I bring in my other guests, have we been able to isolate that particular moment of testimony that is so critical.

I want to replay it for you. I want you to listen really carefully to what this detective and George Zimmerman are discussing and the description of this moment in the fight. Have a listen.


GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, DEFENDANT: And as he banged my head again, I just pulled out my firearm and shot him.

DET. DORIS SINGLETON, SANFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT: OK. And then what happened? You're both on the ground?

ZIMMERMAN: I'm on my back. He's on top of me. He's mounted on top of me, and I just shot him and then he falls off and he's like, all right, you got it. You got it.

SINGLETON: Does he fall to the side and he stays laying on the ground or does ...

ZIMMERMAN: I don't remember. My vision was blurry.

SINGLETON: You didn't feel him fall towards you. He ended up to one side or the other? ZIMMERMAN: I don't remember. He -- I think when I shot him it might have pushed him back, but I remember -- I didn't know what -- it felt like he was hitting me with bricks.

So I remember I -- once I shot him, I holstered my firearm and I got on top of him and I held his hands out because he was still talking to me. And I said stay down. Don't move. And then somebody comes out and I couldn't see. It was a flashlight. And I asked if it was a police officer. And he said no. It was a witness and he was calling the police.

And I said the police are on their way. They should be here already because I had called. And he's like, I'm calling the police. And I said, I don't need you to call the police. I need you to help me with this guy.


BANFIELD: Interesting. I don't need you to call the police. I need you to help me with this guy is the testimony that you just heard from the audiotape the night of the killing of Trayvon Martin.

I want to bring in George Howell, my CNN colleague who is live with me here in Sanford, Florida, at the courthouse.

I'm not sure if this was surprising to you. I know that there has been so much in discovery in this case, George, but when you hear it from his own mouth within -- I don't know -- an hour or two of the actual killing it does sound, as Mark Nejame said, very profound.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, and you know, the thing that we're looking for as reporters, obviously, the inconsistencies from looking at the different elements of discovery.

When you look at the video, that video reenactment and you compare that to the statement, the few inconsistencies that you can find are the comments that Zimmerman says that Trayvon Martin made to him.

You see them on the written statement. You don't hear them in that video reenactment, and you don't hear them, rather, in that audio reenactment is what I meant to say.

So that's really what we're finding now, but keep this in mind. Again, Officer Singleton made the point that George Zimmerman was read his Miranda rights. He agreed to give his story without an attorney, and he knew all the while that he was being recorded.

BANFIELD: Not only that, he was very detailed in his audio-recording with the detective and then it matched almost moment-for-moment, detail-for-detail, his written statement, which was also read out in open court.

I want to bring in Joey Jackson and Danny Cevallos, our two legal analysts, who are going to help us also navigate through this, the critical moments in this case. And first to you, Joey Jackson, anything that you heard this morning in this courtroom that stood out to you as a moment that will stand out to the jurors?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Many, Ashleigh, and let me just say this. What we heard here is this. Many have been asking, will he testify? Will George Zimmerman take the stand? He just did in essence because his testimony was played and it was played relative to the time it occurred. And this is why I think this is critical here.

He was able to lay out in the prosecution's case, number one, his basis for following him. What did he say? The prosecution has to establish some ill-will, some spite, some wicked mind to establish the death.

What he's talking about in his statement, however, is about the break- ins in the neighborhood, is about the fact that it was raining and he was walking casually about, and that didn't seem so right to him.

And not only that, but the demeanor will be relevant as well, the demeanor with regard to how he's telling the story. Do you detect his demeanor being of the sense of a person who was agitated? Was there this build-up? Was he going to "get" Trayvon Martin?

And so this is very critical testimony, and I think that what will happen is is that the defense will attempt to use it to their advantage.

But there with more nuggets here, but the final thing I'll say, the critical thing, is that this was done without the benefit of him being cross-examined, so what the prosecution has to do is to point out any and all inconsistencies to establish that that is not a credible statement, and as a result of it, he's fabricating, and as a result of that, he's guilty and can't be trusted.

That's what the prosecution must do because I thought this was very much a defense witness here, obviously, George Zimmerman

BANFIELD: Yeah, I keep thinking I'm in a defense case, and I'm in week two of this trial right now, and it's very difficult -- Joey, you just nailed it. It is very difficult to cross-examine a tape or to cross-examine a written statement, so you're absolutely right, just fascinating stuff.

Danny Cevallos, I'm going to get you in a moment to weigh in on this, but first, there is other critical testimony that came out today, and that is about the screams heard on the 911 tape.

Whose screams were they? Who can best determine whose screams they are? You're going to find out what the expert has to say and why the expert thinks maybe his analysis isn't needed after all.

It's all coming up just in a moment in our special coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial, live from Sanford, Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 911: Does he look hurt?

CALLER: I can't see him. I don't want to go out there. I don't know what's going on, so ..


CALLER: They're sending him.


911: Do you think he's yelling help?


911: All right, what is your ...



BANFIELD: Live coverage of George Zimmerman on trial. I'm Ashleigh Banfield at the Seminole County Justice Center where they're in a brief break and you're not missing any testimony at all, live.

We're monitoring it for you, but right now, all we have for you is the Great Seal of the state of Florida, which means dead mikes in the courtroom, a break in the courtroom, but a great opportunity to highlight why this morning has been so critical inside this Florida courtroom and why it makes a difference to prosecutors and to the defense.

Strangely enough, we're in the prosecution's case, but the defense is getting lots of points scored not even when they cross-examine, strangely enough.

Here's why. There was a voice analyst, an expert who works for the FBI who was asked by the defense to have a listen to these tapes to determine who was it screaming in the background of those 911 calls.

Those screams were harrowing. They sounded to the average, reasonable person like someone screaming for his life, but there were two men, and who could determine who best screams they were, an analyst or maybe a family member?

I want you to listen to what the analyst said about that. His name is Dr. Hirotaka Nakasone, and he was speaking with the prosecutor just about what they had to work with, how little they had work with and why maybe a familiar person might be able to determine who was screaming. Have a listen.


RICHARD MANTEI, PROSECUTOR: So, do I get what you're saying? It would be better if you were attempting a familiar voice identification to have someone who has heard the potential subject here under a variety of conditions as opposed to talking to them back and forth in a courtroom or a meeting or something like that?


MANTEI: OK. And that that would be about the best approach you could take given this particular sound?

NAKASONE: Yes, sir.

When we hear on the phone someone's voice, say a young man's voice coming through and I may think, oh, this guy's very young, 20 years old, probably, but it can turn out to be a 55-year-old, you know, talking, or sometime a (INAUDIBLE) judge, I think everybody may have gone through this before too, you know, in your life, you may think that this - OK, this man is very old, maybe 30, 35, but he can turn out to be only 18 or 19. And this also depends upon the individual too. So guessing age is a little complicated.


BANFIELD: So, Danny Cevallos, I want you to come in and tell me why this is so significant given the fact that there are almost no exemplars of Trayvon Martin's voice to compare. We have plenty of voice of George Zimmerman. We just heard him on tape for an hour. But we have almost nothing. I think three and a half seconds of Trayvon Martin to compare.

CEVALLOS: Yes, this is some fascinating science. But the end conclusion is that the science can't help us. Why? Because in the quality of the recording and the fact that while men, women and children have different sort of registers. Their voices are at different levels. Once we get into screaming, everyone essentially sounds very similar. It's hard to tell apart.

So now this sets us up for having a parade of witnesses on both sides, Trayvon Martin's family and George Zimmerman's family, to come in and say, I'm familiar with that person's scream, not because I'm an expert, but because I know this person. And that sounds like either Trayvon Martin's scream or George Zimmerman's scream. And then it becomes a credibility determination instead of a science.

And given the prosecution's difficulty so far, that may be the best they can hope for is a straight up credibility determination. Do you believe Trayvon's parents or do you believe George Zimmerman's witnesses?

BANFIELD: And, Joey Jackson, look, if the foundation of that analyst was to, you know, lay some ground work for Trayvon Martin's mother to take the stand and say, that's my baby screaming for his life, then why wouldn't the defense use the same tactic and get Mrs. Zimmerman on the stand to say, that's my George screaming for his life?

JACKSON: Oh, you better believe they will. Now, in an ideal world, of course, what did we know? We know that the state wanted to call an expert to say, we examined it and it was, without question, of course, Trayvon Martin's voice. That didn't happen because of the hearing that the judge said it denied. Why? Because the science is not reliable.

Even though the science is not reliable, I think what we're going to find, Ashleigh, is that the human mind is not as reliable, the human condition is not reliable, because when you scream, it's not something that we're hearing all the time. We hear people. We speak to our family all the time, but are we screaming in high pitched voices, are we under duress, are we under stress?

So it comes down to reliability even though Trayvon Martin's parents will say, yes, it was him and George Zimmerman's parents will say, no, no, no, I was him. Could either of them be reliable? It cancels each other out. And that's why some of the other evidence is so important in terms of who is on top of who because finally, Ashleigh, if you conclude that George Zimmerman, of course, was screaming and fighting for his life because he was on the bottom, then you could reasonably conclude if you're a juror that the person who was on the bottom and in fear for their life was the one who was screaming. And that's what it may come down to, not this evidence, but all the other evidence that leads up to it.

BANFIELD: Well, and let me just tell you, we just had evidence that was given on 26th of February, that is the night of the killing within hours of the killing, George Zimmerman is telling this police officer, help me, help me, he's killing me. I was screaming. I was asking for help, but nobody came to my assistance.

JACKSON: Powerful.

BANFIELD: Very, very powerful given the fact that, by the way, nobody knew about this case on that day. This was not a media explosion. This was just George telling the cop without any other material to come in and make this bigger than it was that night. It has become so much bigger since.

JACKSON: Which goes to no basis to fabricate, Ashleigh, absolutely.

BANFIELD: There you go. So -

JACKSON: That's what it goes to, having no basis at that time to fabricate, which makes it powerful.

BANFIELD: As a lawyer, yes. You have got to look at that and say, that's strong, strong testimony.

By the way, guys, coming up after the break, not only are you going to hear about what George Zimmerman told that police interrogator that night, what he wrote down on his statement, but what he did the next day by volunteering to go with the cops back to the scene of the incident and do a walk and talk, navigate them through the exact moment, the exact places, the same spaces. So, what about inconsistencies? Does he keep the story straight? Coming up next.


BANFIELD: In the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman live here in Sanford, Florida. You're not missing a moment of live testimony. They're in a brief break in that courtroom and that's why you see the great seal. When the camera fixates on the seal, it means mics a dead, action stops.

But it also gives us an opportunity to put into perspective what you have heard and why it matters. Sometimes it seems weird why certain things are played out in court, but it is all a chess game and a puzzle and it is strategy, make no mistake.

This morning you may have thought that you were hearing a defense case, but you're not. You are still in the prosecution case. Last week you might have thought the same thing. You're still in the prosecution case. They could be headed somewhere very significant. And here's where they may be headed.

There is more evidence, videotaped evidence, that's coming in, likely today, probably this afternoon in this case, and it's George Zimmerman walking back to the scene of the incident, the killing the night before. The next morning, bandaged up with butterfly bandages on the back of his head. He walks police investigators back through the scene and he gives them his perspective, how it all played out moment by moment, word for word, words matter.

Let's listen to this particular moment where he describes that fight and how it came to an end and words that were used. And you see if you can pick out any inconsistencies. Have a listen.


GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, DEFENDANT: And I just -- I kept yelling, "help, help, help." (INAUDIBLE). He put his hand on his nose - on my nose and his hand -- other hand on my mouth and he said, "shut the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up." And - and I tried squirming again because all I could think about was, when he was hitting my head against it, it felt like my head was going to explode and I thought I was going to lose consciousness. So I tried to squirm so that I could get - because he only had a small portion of my head on the concrete. So I tried to squirm off the concrete.

And when I did that, somebody hear opened the door and I said "help me, help me." And they said, "I'll call 911." I said, "no, help me. I need help." And I don't know what they did, but that's when my jacket moved up and I had my firearm on my right side hip. My jacket moved up and he saw - I feel like he saw it and looked at it and he said, "you're going to die tonight (EXPLETIVE DELETED)." And he reached for it. And he reached -- I feel like - I felt his arm going down to my side. And I grabbed it and I just grabbed my firearm and I shot him one time.


BANFIELD: Well, there you have it. Listen to my untrained eye that sounds pretty darn consistent to what he said the night before to the investigator in the interrogation room and what he wrote down in his written statement that was played in open court just within the last hour. But I'm not the best at this. Mark Nejame is here. He's our CNN analyst whose tried a few cases in the state of Florida. And you've also been privy to so much of this case as well. You've been reading along with the discovery as it's been made public. I haven't been able to spot the inconsistencies that the prosecutor promised us would indict George Zimmerman, his own words that would indict him. But you're better at this.

NEJAME: No, and you're right, I do not see any material discrepancies. Never are you going to have two statements that line up and match perfectly.

BANFIELD: Because we're not perfect.

NEJAME: We're human beings. And the fact of the matter is, is that I don't see a single, major inconsistency that the prosecutor can say, look, he's lying. Maybe the prosecutor is going to be laying more out with witnesses, showing that the times that George Zimmerman said all of this could have happened, couldn't have happened because they're going to measure out times and distances and matters such as that. But with statements, no, he's been consistent from start to finish about how this played out.

BANFIELD: So you -- you do play by play with me. I mean we're always chatting away as we're watching this happening live. And the first thing you said to me, Mark, well, we were just watching that moment with - hold it, how on earth can you have your hand over your mouth and nose and continue a beat down, a ground and pound.

NEJAME: Yes, and those - and that's a very valid point because, remember, all this is happening within split seconds. And so - and here you heard him say that his mouth was covered, his nose was covered, which was consistent with his earlier statements. But you didn't hear any of the other witnesses saying, yes, that was what happened. So we did say - we did hear them say there was a ground and pound and I think it's going to be pretty clear when the forensics come in that it was, in fact, George Zimmerman on the bottom. Other -- the state's trying to make a case otherwise.

BANFIELD: Oh, he hit it (ph).

NEJAME: The state's trying to make a case otherwise -

BANFIELD: You hit it.

NEJAME: But I think it's weak, weak situation.

BANFIELD: Forensics.

NEJAME: Grass stains, forensics, distance of the shot.

BANFIELD: I got to wrap.

NEJAME: We'll get into that later as they (ph) (INAUDIBLE) unfold (ph).

BANFIELD: I can't wait for forensics. They tell such an incredible story. Mark Nejame, thank you very much.

To the rest of my guests also, thank you very much, Danny Cevallos and also Joey Jackson.

That's it for me. This has been a special edition of NEWSROOM and we're covering the George Zimmerman trial. You're going to go right back in for live testimony. And I'm back here again at 11:00 a.m. Eastern with more from Sanford, Florida. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Thanks so much for watching.