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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Zimmerman's Language Examined, City Mourns 19 Lost Firefighters; Battle Against Yarnell Hill Wildfire Continues; Snowden's Hopes Of Asylum Dwindling; Morsy Rejects Army's Ultimatum; Soon: Saint John Paul II
Aired July 2, 2013 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: While the lawyers take a quick sidebar, let's talk about the case with our legal experts Jean Casarez and Marcia Clark. Marcia, it seemed like the forensic expert from the sheriff's office, Kristen Benson, who's testifying right now, is again going to be providing information that is inconclusive one way or the other. She's saying it's possible that Trayvon Martin touched the gun and didn't leave a fingerprint. What is the jury supposed to make of that do you think?
MARCIA CLARK, LEGAL EXPERT: I'm going to hope the jury makes nothing of it. When you have a latent print that can't be identified, that's the bottom line. It can't be identified. It could be George Zimmerman, it could be Trayvon Martin, we don't know because she couldn't make it, and that's that. Why call this witness? Because you know the jury is going to wonder did anybody try to lift prints, were there prints? And so the prosecution is answering that question. We did try, this is what happened.
TAPPER: Jean, your thoughts?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL EXPERT: You know, here's the amazing thing, George Zimmerman, we know, he shot that gun, he had it in his hand. And his prints aren't even on the slide that was tested for DNA. It just shows how fragile prints can be.
TAPPER: All right. Let's take another look at one of the clips from - actually, we're not going to do that. We're going to take a quick break, and when we come back we're going to talk more about the case. And then once court resumes, we'll go live back to the court. We'll be back right after this.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD and CNN's continuous coverage of the Zimmerman trial. Attorneys in that trial are in a sidebar right now with the judge. We'll go back to the courtroom as soon as they're finished, but let's continue to go over the events of the day with our legal experts.
One question that has come up several times in this trial is who was the aggressor? Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman? Part of the prosecution's argument is that Zimmerman continued to follow Trayvon Martin, that he could have avoided the confrontation. Let's listen to this exchange between Zimmerman's defense attorney and the former lead investigator in the Zimmerman case, detective Chris Serino.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK O'MARA, ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: And in your investigation, is there anything at all to suggest at that time that Mr. Zimmerman continued to follow Mr. Martin?
DET. CHRIS SERINO, FORMER LEAD INVESTIGATOR ON ZIMMERMAN CASE: At which point, sir?
O'MARA: At the point that the officer said or the 911 emergency operator said we don't need to do that, and Mr. Zimmerman said okay.
SERINO: I would say there was.
O'MARA: What evidence would you have?
SERINO: His end location.
SERINO: His end location. The location where the incident ultimately ended.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Jean, what's your sense on which side is being more effective on the aggressor question, the prosecution or the defense?
CASAREZ: You know, it's the entire prosecution's theory, the confrontation, the initial aggressor. This case is going to be determined on the law because when you look at the initial aggressor, they cannot then avail themselves of self-defense because they're the initial aggressor.
But the case law in Florida clearly shows that to be the initial aggressor that you have to have adequate provocation toward a Trayvon Martin. And it can't be mere words. It's got to be adequate provocation to show that you are that aggressor. Following is not adequate provocation. Following is not illegal. There has to be more than that.
TAPPER: Marcia Clark, your thoughts?
CLARK: I think they have put across a fair amount of evidence to show that George Zimmerman was indeed following Trayvon Martin and was perusing him initially. And based on a mindset, if you will, that Trayvon Martin was behaving suspiciously and was likely a burglar in the neighborhood, which was part of the story that he gave, that he told right away.
The problem is that Trayvon Martin doesn't appear to have been doing anything. And early on in the dispatch, Zimmerman is saying Trayvon Martin appears to be running, and running away from him. And even the lead investigator confronted him with that. He seems to be trying to get away from you, which is exactly what Rachel Jeantel said. He was - Trayvon was complaining to her about this creepy guy who was following him and he was going to try to lose him at one point, and he was running at one point.
So, I think that does tend to indicate that Zimmerman was the aggressor. And if that's true, would he provoke the confrontation? It all kind of falls into place from there that he initiated the confrontation, knowing he was the one that had the gun, knowing he was the one who could win the fight. And whatever Trayvon Martin has done to defend himself doesn't justify Zimmerman's ultimately shooting him.
TAPPER: The lawyers are in a sidebar with the judge, and the jury has been dismissed. You see that on the right side of the screen. As soon as the court resumes, we will take you back there. We're going over some of the key moments of today's testimony with our legal experts. Let's listen to what else lead detective Chris Serino had to say under cross examination on this whole issue of who was following whom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'MARA: Anything -- did you think that there was anything wrong with him following him to see where he was going?
SERINO: Legally speaking, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Legally speaking, no. There was nothing legally wrong with George Zimmerman following Trayvon Martin. Marcia, do you think that hurts the prosecution's argument?
CLARK: No, that's the beginning. He's correct. There's nothing wrong with following somebody. If you're not trying to provoke them or doing anything more than simply shadowing them, then no problem. The problem comes in when you go further and you not just pursue but then you confront. And it sounds like from what Rachel Jeantel testified to that that is what happened. Trayvon Martin saying get off me, get off me. And then she hears that thump in the headset sounding like he's been attacked and then silence, that the phone appears to be out of his control. And that all seems to be consistent with a confrontation initiated by Zimmerman which goes beyond the following stage.
TAPPER: The state has claimed all along that George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin before this case began. The prosecutor and defense attorney, Mark O'Mara, touched on this issue with the lead detective on the case. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I were to believe that somebody was committing a crime, could that not be profiling that person --
O'MARA: Object, your honor. Leading.
JUDGE: Overruled as to leading.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you understand my question, sir?
SERINO: Yes, I did. It could be construed as such, yes.
O'MARA: If you were driving an unmarked car past that at that precise moment and saw Trayvon Martin there standing between two buildings at night in the rain, not moving, maybe even looking into a window, would you have stopped and talked to him?
SERINO: Not just based on his presence, no, I would not.
O'MARA: And why not?
SERINO: He might live there.
O'MARA: But the question is would you stop and ask him?
SERINO: Not just based on what you observed, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Marcia, the fact that the defense attorney Mark O'Mara could not get the detective to say he would have found Trayvon Martin's behavior suspicious that night, that has to be considered a score for the prosecution.
CLARK: Yes, it is. I mean, again, not huge, but it's good. What Serino was indicating is that I don't see, even taken in his best blush what Zimmerman described in Martin's behavior, I don't see that as suspicious. I don't see that as something worth persuing or following up. And that's important.
And here's something that it ties into, Jake. Early on in the case, the prosecution played earlier 911 tapes, calls, by Zimmerman - five or six of them, I believe -- where he's reporting burglars or suspicious behavior in the neighborhood. And those go to establish a mindset, motive if you will. Because he repeatedly calls, feels nothing is being done, feels the police are not doing their job. And then by the time that it comes to the phone call on the night in question with Trayvon Martin, you hear him actually saying these punks always get away with it - or words to that effect, showing motive. He's so frustrated he's going to take the law into his own hands.
And so Serino's testimony plays right into that in that he's looking at behavior that is not suspicious, that should not cause anybody's antennae to go up. And he's teeing off of that. And a trained police officer wouldn't even follow up on that kind of behavior. And that shows there's a hair-trigger mentality involved with Zimmerman. And I think that was the point of all of that leading up to this testimony with Serino.
TAPPER: Jean, your thoughts?
CASAREZ: That's true. It's amazing how you can - there's two sides to all of this. The state of mind of Serino was not the state of mind of George Zimmerman. He was the neighborhood watch captain. And he had been trained by the police department. They had said if anything looks suspicious, and that's the word they used, you should call the non-emergency 911, which is what he did. And the mindset that two weeks ago, they had had a burglary in the area of someone who looked much like this person, and this person was standing in the rain. Is that profiling or is that someone being a neighborhood watch captain doing what he's supposed to do?
TAPPER: OK, I want to move on to another item that we haven't had - an item of tape from earlier today. The prosecution -- the state also -- the prosecution also replayed those 911 calls that you were referring to earlier, Marcia, where Zimmerman talks about punks always getting away with it. He uses some other explicit language during the call with the operator. Listen to how police used those calls when questioning the lead detective in the case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question is, Mr. O'Mara, on behalf the defendant, defense counsel, asked you some questions about anger and disdain. You remember that? About ill will, hatred, all that stuff? Do you remember him asking you a series of questions regarding that?
SERINO: Somewhat, yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I'll first play from the nonemergency call the defendant made.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ZIMMERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) (EXPLETIVE DELETED) they always get away.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that something you would use in reference to somebody that you're going to invite over for dinner? Would you call them these (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?
SERINO: No, sir, I would not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that seem to you like a friendly comment about somebody else?
SERINO: No, sir, it's not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Jean, why is the language that Zimmerman used so important in this case?
CASAREZ: Because it's an element of the crime. Hatred, ill-will, spite or evil intent. The prosecution has to show that depraved mind of George Zimmerman. The way they want to do it is through those words of George Zimmerman and that 911 call. He had used the same words in previous nonemergency 911 calls. So, just as Marcia said, the prosecution's theory was building and building and building, and he had never left his house. He had never followed somebody before, but finally on the 26th of February, he couldn't take it anymore. And he did, and he committed second-degree murder.
TAPPER: Marcia, why is it significant what Zimmerman said on that 911 call, at least according to the state?
CLARK: Well, everything he said in that 911 call is significant because that is going to be not only his rendition of what was going on at the time but it also has to jibe with the rest of the case and to the embassy at any time that it doesn't and there are inconsistent statements, it shows he's fabricating to set up a claim of justifiable homicide. He does claim that he was running and then later claims he was leisurely walking. That's important.
Because if he's running and is running away from Zimmerman, what is Zimmerman doing to cause him to run away? That's important. Why is Zimmerman claiming later he was leisurely walking and looking into houses? Something he didn't say before, which once again trying to frame up Trayvon Martin to look like someone who was suspicion looking, up to no good. All of these statements indicate a state of mind by Zimmerman and an effort to justify further behavior on his part in terms of pursuing and confronting Trayvon Martin.
TAPPER: Marcia, you've been watching the case and the trial from the beginning. What's been the biggest day, do you think, for the prosecutors?
CLARK: There have been a couple -- I know that people disagree me about Rachel Jeantel, but I think he was a really important witness for the prosecution and I think a very, very credible one, albeit she was a little rough around the edges or a lot. I thought see had very credible evidence. She didn't hesitate to say things about Trayvon that weren't necessarily the most helpful in terms of the language that she attributes to him.
Creepy white cracker and that sort of thing, the manner in which she described this man who was pursuing him, but that to me is all the more credible, she is telling you exactly what happened that night and she experienced it. She wasn't happy to be there, she was a most reluctant witness, but I thought compellingly credible and made it pretty clear that Trayvon was the one being pursued, that Zimmerman was the aggressor. So to me that was really very key testimony. The other one I would say --
TAPPER: Let's go --
CLARK: I'm sorry.
TAPPER: No, go ahead.
CLARK: The police statements showing all of the inconsistencies were key also, that day when they did that. And then I think the coroner shows the injuries were not consistent with the thumping that Zimmerman described.
TAPPER: Let's go live now to CNN's Martin Savidge who is outside -- he is Sanford outside the courthouse. Martin, I believe the court has adjourned for the day. What are we expecting for tomorrow? MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a couple of things, Jake. First and foremost, they had to basically stop doing testimony today because one of the witnesses the prosecution wants to bring is a former professor of George Zimmerman for a local community college, actually literally right next door to the justice system here and apparently we know that George Zimmerman was taking courses pertaining to criminal justice.
As a result the prosecution wants to hear from this professor exactly what was it that George was learning and is it possible some of what he learned he may have been able to use to his advantage, especially when being interrogated by authorities? That issue is still being worked out because apparently that professor is on some trip where he's sporadically in and out of touch.
And I would expect to hear from the medical person who conducted the autopsy on Trayvon Martin's body. We want to hear from the medical examiner because clearly the body of that young man is going to have a lot of evidence to bring in for both the defense and also for the prosecution. And on top of that maybe, maybe I stress, we're still waiting for Trayvon Martin's parents, especially Sabrina Fulton to testify about the voices heard screaming and she would say it was her son.
TAPPER: All right, Martin Savidge in Sanford outside the courthouse there, thank you so much. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we're going to talk more about the Zimmerman trial. We are also going to go live to Arizona where we're following other stories, of course, including that massive wildfire in the state of Arizona that killed 19 firefighters. We have new details on the tragedy and a look at what we know about the men who were lost. We'll be right back.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We're bringing you continuous coverage of the George Zimmerman trial. Court has been dismissed the day. Before we go to Arizona for the latest on that tragedy involving the 19 firefighters who were killed the other day, let's get some final thoughts from our panel, Jean Casarez and Marcia Clark on the day's event. Jean, let's start with you.
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, the day to come is going to be really important. I think everybody should watch tomorrow because a former professor of George Zimmerman, he was getting a criminal justice degree and the courses he took on Florida law and stand your ground law and self-defense law and police techniques, the prosecution is going to try to show through these courses he took he had the knowledge. And the minute he shot Trayvon Martin, almost initially what came out of his mouth was very programmed because he knew exactly what he should say and what she should do.
TAPPER: Interesting. Marcia Clark?
CLARK: I agree. It's really important that he took that class and he even said to the police in the interrogation, they say you studied criminal law and you know what is justifiable and what is not justifiable homicide, he said, yes, I do. One of the first words outs of his mouth after the shooting was "I shot him in self-defense." The fact that he has the ability to frame the events in accordance of the law that's extremely important and I want to hear about the trajectory of the bullet, was it angled across and any defense wounds on Trayvon's body, I'd like to hear about that. I think that may prove to be key.
TAPPER: All right, Marcia Clark and Jean Casarez, thanks so much for joining us today.
We want to turn to another major national story. To the outside world they were a band of elite firefighters, but in their hometowns they were fathers and sons, brothers, dear friends. These 19 members of the Hotshots team traveled to Yarnell, Arizona to help contain a wildfire out of control. But erratic conditions from wind patterns to dangerous terrain led to a tragedy.
Their deaths made Sunday the deadliest day for U.S. firefighters since the 9/11 attacks and today we started to learn about their lives and the community they died to protect. The youngest, Kevin Woy Jeck was just 21. Woy Jeck wanted to be a firefighter just like his dad who he spoke to just hours before he died about traveling to Yarnell.
The oldest, Eric Marsh was 43. Marsh wanted to be a firefighter from the time he was a boy. His uncle called him the bravest man he knew. Andrew Ashcraft, 29 years old, also died in the fire. He had four children with his wife. Andrew texted her a picture of the fire but then his texts stopped. It wasn't until she watched the news later that night with her children that she learned of his death.
The military is now sending four planes to help firefighters on the ground. The fire is more than eight times the size it was Sunday and the struggle to contain it continues. Our Brian Todd is in Prescott, Arizona right now. He joins us on the phone. Brian, are firefighters making any head way at all?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): They're making a little bit of headway, Jake, but this fire is still really out of control, more than 8,400 acres burned, more than 200 structures destroyed. They are getting some help today from four specially outfitted military C-130 aircraft coming from the Air Force in Colorado. These can drop 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant for seconds and they're coming in today, if they haven't already arrived, to come and help the fire fighting efforts on the ground.
So that will be boon for them, but the conditions here are still very hot, very dry, and virtually no rain today. There was very little yesterday. It's very tough for these firefighters and of course they're doing it with heavy hearts, the loss of 19 of their comrades. We're told a few hundred firefighters are still on the ground and battling very hard.
TAPPER: Is there any word, Brian, on whether or not the firefighters who are still battling this fire are taking extra precautions or are they doing -- do they consider what happened to be a freak accident, one of those things that happen when you enlist in a very dangerous and risky profession?
TODD: Everything that we're hearing, Jake, from officials and from relatives of the firefighters indicates that they will not do anything different right now, that what happened on Sunday was really kind of a freak occurrence that, you know, can happen but it was a convergence of events, it was a convergence of wind shifts and other conditions, very dry conditions. One official described it as monsoon-like conditions, not describing rain but of course monsoon-type wind.
That's really what converged on them at that point and it was a freak occurrence. That's what we're getting now. This is still under investigation. We're looking at everything involved, the escape routes and everything in place and they're going to be interviewing of course the one person who did survive this, a man by the name of Brandon McDonough. He's the one member that did survive this.
TAPPER: All right, Brian Todd, he'll be live on "THE SITUATION ROOM" in the next hour. Brian Todd, thank you so much.
In world news, Edward Snowden's hopes of finding a port in the storm are dwindling by the day. Three of the 21 countries where he has asked for asylum have denied him outright. Eleven say they will not consider his request until he shows up on their borders including Iceland and Ecuador, those are two of the ones he hoped to have been granted asylum from.
The NSA contractor who has been spilling intelligence is still stuck in the transit area of Moscow's International Airport where he has been since leaving Hongkong nine days ago. Snowden is technically a free man, but he's unable to travel without his passport. He withdrew his request for asylum from Russia after President Vladimer Putin said he would have to stop leaking sensitive U.S. data in order to stay in that country.
Two countries that have said sign me up for the Edward Snowden sweepstakes, Venezuela and Bolivia both say they would be willing to help Snowden, but he has yet to apply for asylum in either country.
As we reported earlier, the clock is ticking for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy. The Egyptian military gave Morsy 48 hours to quote, "meet the demands of the people" or the army will take matters into its own hands. But Morsy is digging in, sending out a tweet calling on the army to withdraw their ultimatum.
He says he is committed to the legitimacy of Egypt's constitution. The White House has warned Egypt's army that U.S. aid to the country could be cut off, according to senior administration officials. Those officials also say the White House is urging Morsy to call early election, though a State Department spokeswoman is denying all of that.
The world knew him a pope, but Catholics soon may be referring to him as Saint John Paul II. A Vatican source tells CNN the committee considering his canonization voted today to credit him with a second miracle vet and a final sign off by Pope Francis are seen as the final hurdles. Pope John Paul died in 2005. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you now over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.