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Coverage And Analysis Of George Zimmerman Trial

Aired July 2, 2013 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Continuing this live coverage of the George Zimmerman trial here in Sanford, Florida.

Let me just roll back and sort of explain to you what you have just seen or if you're just joining us. What they're doing now, they've just come back from this lunch recess. And for the last 10 minutes or so they have been showing inside this courtroom different pieces of this Sean Hannity interview. Sean Hannity, a host on Fox News Channel. This interview with George Zimmerman happened the 18th of July, which hasn't even been a year since then, in which Mark O'Mara, his defense attorney, and George Zimmerman sat and gave this sort of explanatory back and forth with Hannity.

And so now we're waiting. Again, the guessing game. We watched the doors open to see who then authenticates the tape that we just saw. So we're going to learn together and I'm going to stop talking here in just a minute. Quickly though, Carrie Hackett, criminal defense attorney, joining me in studio. Mike Brooks (ph), HLN law enforcement analyst. Been watching in the weeds this trial as we all have.

So we wait. It's interesting in this trial, in particular, where we don't know. A lot of times we get, you know, witness lists. We don't here. Why?

CARRIE HACKETT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, there is a prospective witness list, but we don't have a list of everyone that will come on, in what order they're coming on. And it just varies from state to state. So, Florida, you have to tell the other side exactly who you may offer as a witness but not when and exactly who.

BALDWIN: OK. Let's listen.

DR. VALERIE RAO, CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER: District 4. We have three counties, Duval, Claire and Nassau.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And are you the chief medical examiner in your district?

RAO: Yes, I am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long have you been a medical examiner in total?

RAO: Thirty-two years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And are you also a licensed physician and surgeon?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how long have you been so licensed in the state of Florida?

RAO: Since 1981.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you summarize for the members of the jury please your educational and professional background.

RAO: Yes. I got my degree in medicine in 1971. After which I went to London. I spent a year and a half doing pathology at two hospitals, one Saint Heliers (ph) Hospital in south London and the other Saint Andrews Hospital in East London. After which I came to the U.S. and I did residency five years totally, two years doing clinical pathology at Berkshire (ph) Medical Center, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, two years doing anatomic pathology at Albany Medical Center, Albany, New York, one year doing forensic pathology in Baltimore for the state of Maryland. I am board certified in anatomic, clinical and forensic pathology.

I then spent a year in Tucson, Arizona, where I did medical examiner work.


RAO: Sorry.


RAO: I was medical examiner for a year.


RAO: One year as medical examiner. After which I went to Miami, where I was an associate medical examiner for a total of 19 years. I then took a chief position in district 5, where I was there for three years. I went to the University of Missouri in Columbia, where I was associate professor for two years and then came to Jackson Hole, where I've been here for about seven years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just briefly, what are your duties as a medical examiner?

RAO: In the state of Florida, we're required to investigate sudden, unexpected, unnatural death and ultimately to sign the death certificate, cause and manner of death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is meant by the term pathology?

RAO: Pathology is the study of disease in the human body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what is meant by forensic pathology?

RAO: And so in forensic pathology what it comes under the umbrella that -- where the sudden, unexpected, unnatural death cases come under the forensic pathologist. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And have you ever been qualified as an expert in the courts of the state of Florida in the field of forensic pathology?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Approximately how many times?

RAO: Hundreds of times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you also have experience examining injuries to living people?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And explain what that experience is.

RAO: OK. So when I was in Miami, where I was an associate medical examiner, had the opportunity to work there at the Rape Treatment Center for 18 years where I saw several thousand living patients, examination and treatment of these victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what types of injuries would you see when examining those victims?

RAO: In some of the patients that came were also physically assaulted, so there were injuries that come under the category of blunt force trauma. There were patients that were stabbed so that's sharp force injury. Some of the patients were strangled, but did not die, so we saw this gamut of cases in living patients.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what are blunt force injuries?

RAO: So blunt force, the term is to distinguish it from sharp force, meaning that the instrument that's being used, a -- for example, a bat would qualify as a blunt weapon. A stick, if I was to bump myself as I came in here on the corner of this table, I would suffer blunt injury if it was severe enough to cause injury. Whereas, sharp force is injury that is caused by a sharp weapon, a knife, a bottle that is broken and then the sharp edge used to inflict trauma. So this is the difference between sharp force and blunt force trauma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Within blunt force trauma, are there different types of blunt force trauma?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what are those?

RAO: So the first part of it, let's look at the progression of severity. A bruise. We're talking about a small bruise. It is where the skin is intact and the blood vessels under the skin are injured and they bleed under the skin and get what you know as a bruise. The skin is intact.

Then you have a scrape, where the skin is compromised and it's, you know, for example, a rug burn would qualify as an abrasion. Then you have the lacerations, where not only the skin is torn but the underlying tissue is also torn, exposed to the outside. And depending on the severity of the laceration, you will get varying degrees of bleeding and trauma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Are bruises also known as or referred to in your field as contusions?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. And then scrapes is the same as a laceration?

RAO: Abrasion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, abrasion.

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then there's laceration.

RAO: Yes. Which is basically -- laceration is a tearing of tissue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Have you ever been qualified in the courts of the state of Florida as an expert in the area of conducting rape examinations and all manner of injuries associated with rape victims?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, again, approximately how many times?

RAO: Hundreds of times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During your tenure as a medical examiner in Miami, did you also examine other categories of sets of living victims?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And explain what you mean by that.

RAO: So, for example, somebody alleging police brutality, the medical examiner, we just were housed directly across a very large hospital in Miami, Jackson Memorial Hospital, so the police would ask if we could go and examine to see if the allegations were actually borne out by the trauma. So we would go across the street. We would photograph. We would put out a report and those reports come under consultation.

Also child abuse cases. Especially if the clinical people thought that the child was going to die, they would ask us to come and take the photographs and do the interpretations. So we basically practiced forensic medicine, not really forensic pathology, where you're only looking at dead people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your honor, at this time I would tender Dr. Rao as an expert in the area of pathology and forensic pathology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think that's necessary under the current case law in this state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She'll be able to testify in those areas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, your honor.

Were you asked to examine some evidence in the state of Florida versus George Zimmerman?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And specifically, what were you provided in regards to that case?

RAO: OK. So I was given a whole - a whole series of things (ph) that I asked for the -- whatever is available, because I'd like to do the consult having as much as possible in the database before I formulated an opinion. So what I received was a reenactment of the incident involving the fatal shooting. This was recorded on the 27th of February, 2012. I got a set of 36 photographs taken of Mr. Zimmerman documenting the clothing, the injuries, the medical records from the Altima (ph) Family Practice Clinic and, of course, there were two records from this clinic. One was on the 27th of February and the other one was on the 9th of March, 2012.

I got a DVD labeled "Sanford PD lobby" and others. It showed the vehicle going to the police department and Mr. Zimmerman being taken by the police into the department to be booked. A DVD labeled "medical examiner report and photographs." And this included the medical examiner report, the body diagrams, the autopsy photographs, 26 autopsy photographs were taken, the toxicology report and then a report that states two individuals were involved in a physical altercation in the yard and one of them fired a handgun and the decedent fell to the ground. And the other items in the same folder were the medical examiner autopsy report, the toxicology report. So this is what I received.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you also receive two photographs of the defendant at the scene the night of the event?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when you said reenactment, when you referred to the reenactment, was that an interview where he conducted a walk through and led investigators through the scene and explained to them what happened?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After reviewing all of those items, in terms of severity, how would you classify the injuries to the defendant's head?

RAO: They were not life threatening. They were very insignificant. They did not require any sutures to be applied to Mr. Zimmerman. So as I would refer to them, insignificant injuries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you observe any lacerations to the back of the defendant's head?

RAO: Yes.


RAO: Two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And were those lacerations depicted in the photographs that you reviewed?

RAO: Yes. They were -- there was bleeding, so I was not able to look at them after they were cleaned because subsequently when he went to the Altmont (ph) Clinic they were covered by band aids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And were you also provided the reports from the Altmont Family Springs Clinic describing the injuries as they were viewed by physician's assistant the next morning?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. You honor, would you assist me with the lights?

Dr. Rao, let me show you first state's 79. Was that one of the photographs from the scene that you were provided?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And state's 76, was that a photograph from the scene you were provided?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me show you state's 57. Were you also provided that photograph?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your honor, may I approach the witness?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Rao, let me give you this pointer. You need to press that button. If you would explain for the benefit (ph) of the jury where the lacerations are located that you observed and that were referred to in the family clinic report.

RAO: OK. So we have one small injury right there and one injury right there. Where the blood is streaming from. So these were the two lacerations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. In the Altimont (ph) Family Clinic report, were you also provided with the measurements of each of those lacerations?

RAO: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And are either of those lacerations life threatening?

RAO: No.


RAO: Because (INAUDIBLE) they were -- they were so minor that the individual who examined and treated Mr. Zimmerman told him that the sutures were not required, so she put a band aid on each of them and that was the extent of the treatment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Are there also some contusions or a contusion on the back of the defendant's head?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And can you show the members of the jury where that is in the photograph?

RAO: Right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And is that a life threatening injury?

RAO: No.


RAO: Well, you know, the reason I asked for everything was I then looked at the entire case file and when he walked from the police car to the police department to be booked, he was not incapacitated in any way. He was very alert and walking, you know, in pace with the officers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are the injuries that you observed to the back of the defendant's head consistent with his head having made contact with a concrete surface?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why do you say that?

RAO: So, you know, I've looked at the other areas that were photographed and they have sort of a pattern that were punctate (ph), meaning that they were little areas which came into contact with a rough surface. But -- so looking at the concrete area, again, the reenactment that I was given, it's consistent with his head having come into contact with that rough surface.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And are the injuries on the back of the defendant's head consistent with one strike against a concrete surface?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why do you say that? RAO: Because if you -- if you hit the head one time, it is consistent with having gotten those two injuries at that - that one time, because it's an area where it is protruding because the head is -


RAO: Protruding because the head is a round surface and so that one impact could result in the two lacerations that you see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And are the injuries you observed to the back of the defendant's head consistent with his head having been slammed repeatedly into a concrete surface?

RAO: OK. So I'm going to give you my -- what I think based on the dictionary definition of slammed is. There are two definitions from two different dictionaries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me object, your honor. If she's going to define a word from a dictionary, that would be hearsay.


BALDWIN: All right, let me sneak a quick break in. You're listening to the chief medical examiner talking specifically about the lacerations which perhaps the state will try to say, hey, this is inconsistent with what George Zimmerman was saying as far as his head being slammed against the concrete. Quick break. Back after this.


BALDWIN: The chief medical examiner here on the stand testifying that based upon George Zimmerman's injuries it did not appear that his head was repeatedly slammed against the concrete.

RAO: On the bridge of the nose right there. It's a very small little punctate at the tip of the nose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you circle that with your laser, if you would?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or just indicate it.

RAO: Right there.


RAO: And right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And are any injuries in this photograph life threatening?

RAO: No.


RAO: He has no loss of consciousness whatsoever. It -- you know, he didn't have to go to the hospital. He went to a clinic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were there any contusions or abrasions that you noted in this photograph?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Can you, again, show -- just show us where those are?

RAO: Yes. Right there and right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you characterize or classify the contusions, the severity of the contusions, or abrasions to his face?

RAO: Very small.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could all of the injuries that you observed in that photograph have come from a single punch or a single blow?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why do you say that?

RAO: OK. So if you look at the distribution of where the injury is, and let's take that I'm the one inflicting the blow. If I was to punch myself right about here, I would get the injury on the nose and on the -- few contusions on the forehead. So one blow would be able to inflict these injuries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are the injuries that you observed to the defense based consistent with the defendant having been beaten a dozen times or more in the face?

RAO: You know, if he was beaten repeatedly but with no resulting trauma on the face, then, yes. But if the force is such that you get trauma, then only one time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you observe contusions to both sides of the defendant's head?

RAO: On the sides. Yes.


RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Let me show you state's 75. Was that a photograph you were provided?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And can you circle the area of contusion that you observed in state's 75?

RAO: Yes. So one has to disregard this dried blood, because it is coming from the laceration on the back of the head that I had demonstrated earlier. So we are looking at the contusion here. And there are very, very fine punctate abrasions that you need to have a close-up photograph to really see them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, again, explain for the jury or define for the jury what's a punctate abrasion.

RAO: A punctate means like a little spec, like a spot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Are any of the injuries depicted in state's 75 life threatening?

RAO: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And in terms of severity, how would you classify the contusions or abrasions in this photograph?

RAO: They are very small injuries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could all the injuries exhibited in state's 75 have come from a single blow?

RAO: Yes. One impact against concrete, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me show you state's 73. Is that also a photograph you were provided?

RAO: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what injuries are depicted in state's 73?

RAO: OK. So here again you have to disregard the dried blood that's coming from the laceration to the back of the head and so you can see very, very faint again punctate, small abrasions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are any of those abrasions life threatening?

RAO: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how would you classify the abrasions depicted in state's 73?

RAO: Very insignificant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could those abrasions depicted in that photograph have come from a single blow?

RAO: Single impact, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. And why do you say that?

RAO: Because the surface area of the side, if you look at my head, and I was to bang - get, you know, on the concrete, I could get all those injuries from one impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You also mentioned that you viewed video clips of the defendant getting out of a police car and walking through the police station that evening. What did his appearance in that video demonstrate to you regarding his injuries?

RAO: He was not incapacitated in any way. He walked on his own power and he was also conversing with the police officers during this reenactment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Thank you, doctor.

Judge, that's all I have.



MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: Yes, thank you, your honor.

Good afternoon, ma'am.

RAO: Good afternoon.

O'MARA: You got your appointment to your present position because Ms. Corey, the prosecutor in this case, appointed you, correct?

RAO: Correct.

O'MARA: OK. So she's sort of your boss?

RAO: Not really, no.

O'MARA: But it was because of her, I mean she appointed you to this position, right?

RAO: She -- she actually sent my name up to the governor. So if you want to call that an appointment, well then so be it.

O'MARA: Well, why don't we do this. I'm going to read a letter to you. Tell me if you consider this an appointment. Pursuant to section 406.15, I hereby appoint --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I object - I object to this.

O'MARA: I'll approach and let her review it maybe. I just have it electronically.

RAO: It's OK. I can explain.

O'MARA: OK. So let me -

RAO: If I could.

O'MARA: Let me ask the questions.


O'MARA: Is what I'm looking at a letter signed by Ms. Corey where she says that she appoints you to that position? Yes or no.

RAO: That was the interim position. I can't say yes or no because I have to explain to you. That's the --

O'MARA: Well, I'll tell you what, I'll walk you through it.


O'MARA: I'll walk you through it, OK.


O'MARA: That was a yes to that, she appointed you to the interim position?

RAO: Yes.

O'MARA: And you had another position as a medical examiner in the state of Florida, too, correct?

RAO: Yes.

O'MARA: That was with the fifth district?

RAO: Yes.

O'MARA: But you were not reappointed to that position by the governor, were you?

RAO: I did not seek reappointment. It was tabled.

O'MARA: And that was because - I'm sorry?

RAO: It was tabled. I did not seek reappointment.

O'MARA: And that was because of some of the problems that existed in your administration in that office, was it not?

RAO: Correct.

O'MARA: OK. Yet you got the job with Ms. Corey's office, or actually in the same district where she prosecutes, correct?

RAO: She's the state -- yes. Yes.

O'MARA: How much of your work is on behalf of the state attorney's office in that district?

RAO: Well, the medical examiner really does not work for the state attorney. We are separate. But most of the time we are called by the state. However --

BALDWIN: Got to pull away for two minutes. Back after this.


BALDWIN: Analysis is Mike Brooks, Carrie Hackett here in the studio with me, then I promise we will take you back. First question to you is, we're just wondering, why are we hearing from a woman, chief medical examiner, who never actually physically examined George Zimmerman?

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's a great question. All she has seen has been pictures. But now Mark O'Mara, she's trying to say that she may be biased because she works and was a pointed by Special Prosecutor Angela Corey.

BALDWIN: And Angela Corey was brought in from Jacksonville and brought the murder two charges against George Zimmerman.

BROOKS: Right, Duval County.

BALDWIN: So, quickly, to you. We noticed that -- because here she was with the state saying over and over so insignificant, minor injuries to George Zimmerman's head based upon these photographs, but then it was the zing that Mark O'Mara was trying to take out of that testimony by saying what?

CARRIE HACKETT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That's right. He's saying that she's prejudiced, she's biased, she's a tainted witness and that the jury should not listen to her, that she's not credible, because the state is essentially paying her.

BALDWIN: All right, Dr. Rao, let's let her continue.

O'MARA: Is it any more consistent or any less consistent than the fact that there was one shot?

RAO: I'm sorry, I didn't get that.

O'MARA: I'm sorry. You said earlier that those injuries could be consistent with one shot.

RAO: Correct.

O'MARA: And now I think you may have said it could be consistent with two shots?

RAO: If -- if the way it's depicted, like you have depicted, yes.

O'MARA: Well, you don't -- just so we're clear, you don't know how Mr. Zimmerman was hit by Mr. Martin, correct?

RAO: Correct.

O'MARA: So you're saying it's consistent with one, potentially, yes?

RAO: Yes.

O'MARA: And it also is consistent with two, correct?

RAO: It's the way it was portrayed, yes.

O'MARA: Which you don't know? RAO: Correct.

O'MARA: So could you just say is it consistent with two as well?

RAO: It could be, yes.

O'MARA: OK. And it could be consistent with one?

RAO: Yes.

O'MARA: But -- OK. And it actually could be consistent with another couple of hits with a palm or, as you said, another couple of hits with a fist that just didn't leave visible injuries?

RAO: Yes.

O'MARA: So you're certainly not telling this jury that Trayvon Martin only hit Mr. Zimmerman in the face one time?

RAO: I'm just telling you what the injuries are and what it's consistent with.

O'MARA: OK. Did you notice in those pictures the cuts on Mr. Martin's knuckle on his left hand, both on the ring finger and a slight one on the pinky?

RAO: OK, those are not cuts. Those are abrasions. So -- because cut suggests sharp force injury and they are actually where the skin has rubbed off on Trayvon Martin's hand, correct.

O'MARA: But that was a yes, you did notice them?

RAO: Yes.

O'MARA: OK. Are those consistent with striking somebody?

RAO: Yes.

O'MARA: So we have some injuries, the only injuries, as a matter of fact, besides the gunshot wound, are two injuries on his knuckles, correct?

RAO: Correct.

O'MARA: Curious, since you had a chance to look at the autopsy, were there any other injuries on Trayvon Martin at all?

RAO: No.

O'MARA: Any bruising injury?

RAO: No.

O'MARA: Any laceration injuries?

RAO: No. O'MARA: Any punctate injuries?

RAO: No.

O'MARA: So you know for a fact that Trayvon Martin's head, or any part of his body, was not in contact with cement, correct?

RAO: Well, I didn't see any injuries. You can have a contact, but without producing trauma that's visible. So -

O'MARA: As Mr. Zimmerman could have, correct?

RAO: Correct.

O'MARA: A dozen of them even, right?

RAO: Sorry?

O'MARA: A dozen even, correct?

RAO: A dozen what?

O'MARA: Other impacts.

Let's get more specific. We've now talked about the potential of two -- you even admit -- let me ask you this. Is there a possibility that with a swat or a hit or a fingernail or something that even this abrasion on his nose could have been a third?

RAO: Anything is possible.