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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Protests in Egypt; George Zimmerman Trial Continues
Aired July 2, 2013 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
You're watching live, continuous coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial, a trial that has brought a renewed focus to issues of race, racial profiling and self-defense and captivated the country.
They are in a recess right now. In a few minutes, the recess will be over, the trial will resume, and we will take you right back to that trial.
George Zimmerman, as you know, faces second-degree murder charges for shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed. But all along, Zimmerman has said the shooting was in self-defense. Prosecutors are trying to show Zimmerman not only profiled Martin, but that he followed the teen and misled police about how the fight with Martin went down.
The state started out today fairly strong with key testimony from the lead investigator on the case, but things fizzled fast when prosecutors called an unusual witness to the stand, George Zimmerman's best friend. Then came a crucial account of George Zimmerman's injuries from the chief medical examiner.
Before we show you some of the highlights from today's testimony, let's bring in Marcia Clark, former lead prosecutor for the O.J. Simpson murder trial and author of "Killer Ambition." She's live for us from Los Angeles and she is joined by CNN legal correspondent Jean Casarez, who is live in Sanford, Florida, just outside the courthouse.
I want to thank you both of you for being here.
Let's go over some of the key moments of today's trial. It's a crucial part of George Zimmerman's defense. He says he felt threatened, that he feared for his life and that was Trayvon Martin was attacking him when he shot him. In the state of Florida, Zimmerman had the right to use deadly force if he reasonably believed that his life and safety was in danger as a result of an overt act or perceived threat committed by Martin to him.
So, it's no surprise that much of today's testimony revolved around the injuries that George Zimmerman sustained that night. A medical examiner, Valerie Rao, was asked to look at the photo evidence of Zimmerman's injuries. Let's play some of that from the case earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are any injuries in this photograph life- threatening?
VALERIE RAO, MEDICAL EXAMINER: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are any of those abrasions life-threatening?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how would you classify the abrasions depicted in state 73?
RAO: Very insignificant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could those abrasions depicted in that photograph have come from a single blow?
RAO: Single impact, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Marcia Clark, she repeatedly referred to his injuries as minor and earlier in the day the lead investigator said he was not convinced of the severity of the fight between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Let's play that, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were asked specifically about exaggeration. Did you feel he had exaggerated the manner in which he was hit?
CHRIS SERINO, SANFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Marcia, how effective do you think that was?
MARCIA CLARK, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Pretty effective, Jake. You know, I don't think there's going to be any one particular piece of evidence in this case that's going to be, oh, the slam-dunk smoking gun, that's it.
But that is one piece of the puzzle that is extremely important, because the jury has to determine whether or not George Zimmerman reasonably believed his life was in imminent danger. That's extremely difficult to prove with injuries that are insignificant.
When you have the lead investigators as well as the coroner saying these were pretty minor injuries in the grand scheme of things, not only does that tend to undermine the claim that he reasonably believed he was in danger of imminent death, it also undermines specifically what George Zimmerman said, which is that Trayvon Martin had him by the head and was pounding his head repeatedly into the ground and then raining blows on him in a mixed martial arts style.
It tends to refute all of that, that the wounds do not back it up, and that's an important piece of evidence for the prosecution.
TAPPER: Jean, the state got a doctor and a police detective to minimize the extent of Zimmerman's injuries. I'm guessing this will go on their highlight reel, this will be brought out in their summation as well?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No question.
I think factually what the medical examiner said -- and, by the way, she is the medical examiner of Jacksonville, Florida, where the prosecution team is. The defense tried to bring that out, that aspect. But she was saying that all the injuries on the head, and they were contusions, abrasions and lacerations, but they all could have been consistent with just one blow on the head, so just once that his head met the concrete, but then she seemed to vacillate on that saying it could be up to three but the contour of the skull, she did not say that it was pressure and swelling.
She tried to say it was the natural contour of his face and skull.
TAPPER: Let's take a look at what happened on that exact point. Let's take a look at what happened when defense attorney Mark O'Mara pressed chief medical examiner Rao on her claims that Zimmerman's do not suggest that his head repeatedly hit the concrete. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK O'MARA, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Is there any medical evidence that would exclude the possibility that that skull was hit on the left side four times?
RAO: That's not my opinion, but it could be. It's possible.
O'MARA: OK. Nothing to exclude it?
RAO: Nothing -- sorry?
O'MARA: Nothing to exclude that as a possibility?
RAO: It's possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It's possible.
Marcia, that could be significant. We're talking about a reasonable doubt here. By getting her to back off her assessment, even just a little bit, that could have an effect on the jury, right?
CLARK: Sure. Absolutely. Like I said, this is a close case, Jake. This is not going to be a slam dunker for the prosecution. I think that much is very clear by now.
To the extent that she said it's possible, yes, that can be one of the building parts that goes into reasonable doubt. Or it may not. A lot of these things are ultimately going to be decided in a layperson's commonsense view of things. Jurors are going to look at these wounds as they will be able to do and say this doesn't look that bad to me or conversely it looks pretty bad. And if she says it's possible it could have been four times, then that is repeated banging on the head.
At the end of the day, the jury is going to bring their own life experience to bare on whatever they hear in the courtroom. So, yes, it could really make a difference or not.
TAPPER: Jean, your take?
CASAREZ: What the jury will think about is that 911 call and all the screams. I can't tell you how many times we have heard that in the courtroom and it just rings in the four walls. And somebody is desperately crying for help not just once, and I think they will also think about that during deliberations.
TAPPER: Interesting. Those two things almost contradict each other, if one assumes that it's Zimmerman screaming, although there is even some contention about that.
Let's go on to one there subject. Of course, if you're just joining us, the Zimmerman couple is in recess right now. As soon as they're back, we will join them back live in the court. But we're reviewing the case with our experts.
Prosecutors today also called Mark Osterman. He referred to himself as Zimmerman's best friend. Osterman is a former Seminole County sheriff's deputy, who let Zimmerman lay low at his home for a time after the shooting. He also wrote a book about Zimmerman called "Defending Our Friend: The Most Hated Man in America."
In Zimmerman's account to police, he did not say that Trayvon Martin actually touched the gun, yet in the account in Osterman's book, he depicts Martin as grabbing the gun and the prosecution today tried to pick away at that inconsistency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't refer to the holster when you wrote that it in the book? Just put gun?
MARK OSTERMAN, FRIEND OF ZIMMERMAN: Correct.
OSTERMAN: The holster is -- that's exactly the place where the holster holds the firearm in place. So whether it was actual firearm or a holster, I didn't see a difference. If someone grabs ahold of the holster or grabs ahold of the gun, their intent is probably the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, Marcia and Jean, this to me -- and I'm not a lawyer -- but seems somewhat like hearsay. I was confused why the prosecution would call the witness to begin with and enter it into the record.
CLARK: Yes. The reason is they're trying to show many inconsistent statements. The more they can show Zimmerman being inconsistent in his rendition of what happened, the more they can point to fact that there's a guilty conscience here and he's building on and building on more and more activity by Trayvon that appears to be life-threatening in order to make his claim of justifiable homicide.
However, I'm not sure that this particular witness was one that could be that compelling in that respect. To the extent that he made a statement about Zimmerman's claim that seemed inconsistent with what Zimmerman has said before, in this case, touching the gun, actually being able to touch the gun with a holster, that is not what Zimmerman has ever said to authorities that we know of so far. That seems inconsistent.
On the other hand, this man was his friend, he was not a cop, he was not required to write things down or record anything that was said. So to the extent that he gives an inconsistency, I'm not sure it's going to be all that impressive. He also was interested in writing a book and so perhaps a little bit of exaggeration creeps in order to make it a more exciting book.
So, yes, it's an inconsistency. Whether it's of any moment to anybody, that's highly debatable.
TAPPER: All right, we're going to take a quick break and we will be back with more from the George Zimmerman murder trial, which is set to resume in just a few minutes. We will go back live to the courtroom as soon as it does.
Until then we will review the day's events in the courtroom with our experts.
Plus,we're watching another major story with a deadline looming. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is facing thousands of protesters who want him to respond to their demands. We will go live to Cairo. That is coming up next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're waiting for the George Zimmerman trial to resume in just a few minutes.
In the meantime, we're going to turn now to our world lead. It's an incredibly scene in Egypt right now. A deadline is fast approaching for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Protesters are filling Tahrir Square, just like they did during the 2011 revolution which put him in power.
This time, however, it's Morsi whom demonstrators want to step down and Egypt's military gave him until tomorrow to -- quote -- "meet the demands of the people."
Senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is live in Cairo.
Ben, thanks for joining us.
State media says seven people have been killed in clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi groups. What are you seeing in Cairo?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, we're hearing those reports, but what you're seeing behind me is this massive and continually growing crowd in Tahrir Square.
It really looks like a celebration. I'm just going to step out of the way. There are fireworks and somebody is projecting on to this massive government building a laser message which says in Arabic (SPEAKING ARABIC, which means go. And that's what we're hearing chanted all day long and much of the night as well, directed at President Mohammed Morsi, who until now has been largely deaf to those calls coming from Tahrir Square.
It appears he and his Muslim Brotherhood movement prefer to hear the chants of support coming from the other large demonstrations that are being held in Cairo in support of the Egyptian president.
But as we watch our watches, as the clock ticks and the end of that army deadline comes closer and closer, what we're seeing is not just more demonstrations, but more violence. That is the real worry, that the differences between these two diametrically opposed camps will spill over into even more violence -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Ben Wedeman live in Cairo, Egypt.
Coming up, we will return to the courtroom as soon as testimony continues in the George Zimmerman murder trial.
We're also following some other news, including that massive wildfire in Arizona that killed 19 firefighters. We have new details on that tragedy. Stick around.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
We're waiting for the George Zimmerman trial to resume. The judge and attorneys are in the room. The jury is still not in the room. As soon as they're back in the court, case resumes, we will take you back there live.
Earlier we were talking about Mark Osterman, that's Zimmerman's good friend who testified as a prosecution witness earlier today. During questioning, Osterman said he took no notes when Zimmerman was telling him his version of events in the hours after the shooting. He wrote his book, "Defending Zimmerman," using just his recollection.
So, this exchange with the defense might seem significant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK O'MARA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: How many months until you decided to recount this in a book form?
MARK OSTERMAN, WITNESS/FRIEND OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: At least four months.
Did you have any conversation with Mr. Zimmerman to corroborate that what you recall happened or that what you recall him telling you happened was, in fact, accurate?
OSTERMAN: We were not able to contact each other after he was arrested the first time. So, there was no contact.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: We're talking to our legal experts Marcia Clark and Jean Casarez about the events in the courtroom today earlier today and currently.
Jean, I want to ask you, that seemed important to me because they're trying the prosecution is trying to pick apart Zimmerman's story, saying he's inconsistent. But in the end, we're really talking about Osterman's recollection in this line of questioning, not Zimmerman's, right? How well he remember --
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly.
TAPPER: Yes, how well he remember the conversation from four months before.
CASAREZ: So, it's his credibility that's -- yes, it's his credibility that's on the stand right there because he was driving the car, he said it was a 15 to 20-minute discussion with George, he never talked to him about it after that and then four months later he writes a book solely from his memory of four months ago because he never took a note. And the inconsistencies are very, very important because he says that George Zimmerman said that Trayvon Martin got his knees up so far as he was trying to shimmy away from the cement that his knees touched George's gun and then he saw Trayvon reach for and touch the gun according to this witness and we have yet to hear from the DNA expert, and that will be an inconsistency right there if it's true.
TAPPER: Marcia Clark, your take?
MARCIA CLARK, FORMER O.J. SIMPSON LEAD PROSECUTOR: If I'm on the jury, Jake, I don't care about this. I don't give it a whole lot of significance. As Jean has noted, he didn't and as the defense brought out, he didn't take notes, it was during a car ride, he was riding a book and he couldn't confer with George Zimmerman to make sure of what he said. I give it very little weight to tell you the truth.
TAPPER: We are waiting for the jury to come in and then after the jury comes in, we're expecting a witness to take the stand. As soon as that happens, we'll bring you the case live. We're chewing over what has happened earlier today with our legal experts, Jean Casarez and Marcia Clark.
Let's turn to another interesting moment from today. The prosecution made this move this morning before the jury was seated. They asked that one question and answer in yesterday's testimony from lead investigator in the Zimmerman case, detective Chris Serino, be stricken from the record. Let's play that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'MARA: Is there anything else in this case where you got the insight that he might be a pathological liar?
DETECTIVE CHRIS SERINO, WITNESS: No.
O'MARA: So if we were to take pathological liar off the table for the purposes of this next question, do you think he was telling the truth?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Do you think he was telling the truth and then the detective says yes. That seemed rather significant and though Judge Debra Nelson sided with the prosecution, telling the jury to disregard detective Serino's answer, Marcia, can you really ever unring a bell like that?
CLARK: No. You really can't, Jake. And I have to say, the minute Mark O'Mara said that, do you think he was telling the truth? Objection, objection, he's not a lie box, he's not a lie detector. How does he know?
Yes, detectives have certain amount of experience that we don't, they talk to people, and they also get lied to a lot, but they also miss it a lot. They don't always catch them.
So, if George Zimmerman is a good liar, there you go. I mean, he didn't detect it. His opinion is nothing more than his opinion. And no greater way that what the jurors believe.
So, the jurors can assess for themselves whether they think he's telling the truth. And the minute I heard that line, you know, do you think he was telling the truth -- my question was, so what? I don't care what he thinks. His opinion is his opinion, I've got my own.
So I have to say, it should have been objected to right there but what can you do? These things always happen. I don't think the jury's going to forget about it, no.
TAPPER: All right. Now, let's take a listen as we have a new witness testifying in George Zimmerman trial. We go live to the courtroom right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell the members of the jury briefly what your duties are as a latent print examiner?
KRISTEN BENSON, LATENT PRINT ANALYST: I examine items of evidence for the presence of latent prints. I also perform comparisons of latent prints to known standings, and I issue reports with my findings.
TAPPER: This is Kristen Benson. She works for the sheriff's office. She is just introducing herself, giving her statistics to the courtroom.
We're going to take a very quick break and then come back for her testimony.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, and CNN's live, continuous coverage of the George Zimmerman trial.
We're listening to the testimony right now of Kristen Benson. She's a forensics analyst with the state and she is talking about fingerprints. She's under questioning from the prosecution.
BENSON: I'm then going to do a side-by-side comparison with the known inked print. I'm going to look for similarities and differences. I'm going to look for things that may be in agreement or not in agreement.
And after a thorough examination and comparison is completed, I'm then going to determine that it either was identified with that known print or not identified with that print.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did you have an opportunity to examine a latent print card in the case of the state of Florida versus George Zimmerman?
BENSON: Yes, I did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your Honor, may I approach the witness?
JUDGE: Yes, you may.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Benson, let me show you state's 183 already in evidence and ask you do you recognize that?
BENSON: Yes, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that a card that you examined in this case?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And can you just kind of hold it up for the jury from where you are and just explain it to him, explain the latent card to them?
BENSON: OK. This is a latent lift card that was an area of interest was developed and they placed a clear -- whoever lifted this print placed a clear piece of cellophane tape on top of the latent and placed it on top of the latent print card on the opposite side that you see here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did you examine that card to determine whether or not there were any latent prints of value?
BENSON: Yes, I did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Explain to the members of jury how you went about that.
BENSON: I used a hand-held magnifier to examine the lift areas that were present on this latent lift card.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you find any prints of value on state 183?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Benson, did you have any further involvement in the case?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for your time.
BENSON: Thank you.
O'MARA: Good afternoon, ma'am.
BENSON: Good afternoon.
O'MARA: How are you?
O'MARA: Do you even know from looking at that document you have in front of you where that print was lifted from?
BENSON: There is a lift location that was filled out that showed -- that says where it came from.
O'MARA: And where is that location?
BENSON: The lift's location says the slide of a firearm located within item TS-1.
O'MARA: OK. And, in fact, taken from a firearm, correct?
BENSON: That's what's indicated on the lift card, yes.
O'MARA: And did you only get one latent print to review?
BENSON: Yes, I only received one latent card to review.
O'MARA: And you had mentioned that environmental effects can have a negative effect on latent print, correct? BENSON: Yes, it can damage latent print.
O'MARA: And I think you mentioned that rain itself can?
BENSON: It can.
O'MARA: Because what is left as part of the latent print or the make of the latent print are oils from the skin?
BENSON: It can be, yes.
O'MARA: And other debris, but it allows for the waste (ph) determination because a fingerprint can leave a minute amount of oily substance that actually is the print itself, right?
O'MARA: And water can wash that away?
O'MARA: So that fingerprints may have existed on an item that you would lift a latent from and there be no latents whatsoever, correct?
BENSON: That's correct.
O'MARA: Even though the gun's been handled by one, two or three people?
BENSON: That's correct.
O'MARA: Any other latent work or fingerprint work that you did have anything to do with the Zimmerman case?
O'MARA: Great, thank you.
Nothing further, Your Honor.
JUDGE: Any redirect?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, your honor.
JUDGE: OK, thank you very much. May this witness be excused?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She may.
JUDGE: Thank you. You are excused. Counsel, approach for just a moment, please.
(END LIVE COVERAGE OF THE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL)