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Medical Examiner On Zimmerman's Wounds

Aired July 2, 2013 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


MARK O'MARA, ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE LAWYER: -- you would 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?

DR. VALERIE RAO, CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER: Anything is possible.

O'MARA: Well, you're here as an expert.

RAO: Yes.

O'MARA: So I want you to give us your opinion. Is that possible based upon your level of knowledge?

RAO: OK. So I will ask this. I know I'm not supposed to ask you questions but --

O'MARA: Go ahead.

RAO: -- so then the next issue will be that each of the punctate marks on his head could have been caused by, you know, a fingernail scratch. That would be the next question posed and you're looking at the preponderance of the evidence and the opinion rendered thereby so, you know, we can continue this.

O'MARA: Let's move on. Let's move on.

RAO: Yes.

O'MARA: But we'll spend a moment on the nose. So you saw on Mr. Zimmerman's right side there was a protrusion to his nose, correct?

RAO: What does that mean? I don't know.

O'MARA: I'm using the word protrusion. There was the first photograph, let's see if we can take a look at this. Do you see you have -- we both have one. You have a pointer, correct?

RAO: Yes, I do.

O'MARA: Do you see that spot right there?

RAO: That's the abrasion, yes.

O'MARA: No, right below. That little swelling spot right there, do you see that? RAO: I don't see a spot, but I see swelling. Yes. Yes.

O'MARA: Swelling. That swelling to an uninitiated view, it looks like there's a bone over there, doesn't it? But we know it's not, correct?

RAO: There is a bone, yes.

O'MARA: But the swelling is not movement of bone, is it or is it?

RAO: I don't follow that.

O'MARA: Let me just ask you to explain, what is that swelling on the right side of the nose from?

RAO: So that's trauma injury.

O'MARA: OK. And what happens is the body reacts to it by rushing lymph fluid to it and all of this stuff and sort of tried to take care of the site of injury, right?

RAO: Yes.

O'MARA: That recedes pretty quickly, doesn't it?

RAO: It depends on the extent of trauma, yes.

O'MARA: Well, we know in this case, you acknowledge the trauma and swelling there, right?

RAO: Yes.

O'MARA: You notice in the pictures after it that the swelling has receded, correct?

RAO: Yes.

O'MARA: So it does recede after a few hours?

RAO: Depending on the severity. Here it was not severe so the swelling rapidly declined.

O'MARA: And you know that there was blood coming out of the nose as he was standing up, correct?

RAO: Correct.

O'MARA: Where do you think that that was bleeding from?

RAO: From inside his nose.

O'MARA: Where was that go if he was laying on his back?

RAO: Where would what go? I'm sorry.

O'MARA: The blood. RAO: Well, it depends. If you are alive, it would go back into your throat and you would cough it out.

O'MARA: Or swallow it?

RAO: I don't know.

O'MARA: I mean, it's going back down your throat, isn't it?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Have to take a quick break. On the other side we'll continue to hear from this chief medical examiner, more on the injuries not just of George Zimmerman, but on Trayvon Martin as we're learning about how he was injured in terms of his autopsy, based upon the photos and based up what this woman knows. Quick break, back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Let me get you back to Sanford, Florida in just a moment. I'll tell you, analysis from our legal experts is absolutely fascinating. Sunny Hostin, I want you to put your prosecutor hat on for me and Darren Kavinoky joining me as well.

Sunny, first to you though, you hear this chief medical examiner. She's testifying specifically on the injuries of George Zimmerman specifically. You hear Mark O'Mara trying to go back at her, sort of try to debunk maybe some of the answer she gave Mr. Guy earlier. How successful is she as a state witness here?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I think she's OK. She's not the medical examiner that conducted the autopsy on Trayvon Martin. She was only asked to testify as to the extent of George Zimmerman's injuries. I think everyone has agreed that his injuries were just insignificant, they weren't that significant. We're talking about two very, very small lacerations and some bruises.

BALDWIN: Why do we care?

HOSTIN: We care because it's important to note whether or not he really had a reasonable belief of imminent death or great bodily harm and that would allow him to use self-defense with this type of force.

BALDWIN: OK.

HOSTIN: I mean, he shot Trayvon Martin.

BALDWIN: Darren to you, everything you've heard so far here, both in the questioning from the state and also here during cross from this particular chief medical examiner who never did actually examine Zimmerman or physically see Trayvon Martin. What do you think has within said that the juror's ears have been piqued?

DARREN KAVINOKY, HOST, "DEADLY SINS" ON INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY: Well, it's really on that last point that Sunny just mentioned. To give this context and this is the vital, vital point to understand that a person can use reasonable force to defend themselves. But if that force is deadly force, when this turns from a fist fight into a gun fight, the legal justification has to be that Zimmerman feared death or grievous bodily injury, and if his injuries, if Zimmerman's injuries are insignificant, then the prosecution can make a compelling argument that there is no legal justification even if Trayvon Martin is getting the better of him in the fight. That's what's really going on here.

BALDWIN: We will take you back to that testimony in just 2 minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Back to the cross examination of Dr. Valerie Rao, still on the stand. She is the chief medical examiner here talking injuries.

RAO: -- there was something there, we would be able to see it really well. And we -- you know, I have to strain to look and to see what you are suggesting so I don't -- I can't answer that question.

O'MARA: I just want to be clear because the jury will have not even these photographs, but they will have much better photograph to view and to study, but as I do that I want to point out to you to see if we can focus you. Is it your testimony that this -- this coloring here, this darkening in this way is a natural occurrence on his skull and not evidence of a bruising? Yes or no?

RAO: I don't see a bruise there, but I did see -- I also have very good photographs which you can see clearer. There are very fine punctate abrasions.

O'MARA: Let's speak a moment for what you do see then, the punctate bruising.

RAO: Not bruising, abrasions.

O'MARA: Is that the abrasions you see over here?

RAO: Again, the photograph is so poor that, you know, I have to look at my own photographs.

O'MARA: Let's take a moment.

RAO: OK.

O'MARA: Can I have some lights, your honor. I'm going to leave these out but let's coordinate with the doctor the photograph you did look at. May I approach the witness?

JUDGE NELSON: Yes, you may.

BALDWIN: OK, as they are pausing and looking at some information on the stand, Mike Brooks, let me bring you back in. The issue here is the defense -- his claim was self-defense, right?

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right.

BALDWIN: So if he has all of these -- if he has light wounds, then it goes to the point why would he need to use lethal force --

BROOKS: Deadly force, right, to defend himself. That's what it comes down to, self-defense. At the time that he shot Trayvon, was he in fear of his life at that moment. You know, then as will is there a possibility that Trayvon could have gotten his gun had he gone unconscious? These are all things the jury has to consider but, still, it seems that the injuries were relatively minor.

BALDWIN: That's what the chief medical examiner keeps saying. Quick break. Back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Let me just bring you back and get some analysis before we listen again to this chief medical examiner here. She is physically looking at some of the photographs from George Zimmerman, from his head. She talked two lacerations, one contusion. Again, she's saying not serious injuries, not entirely significant. Carrie, to you, why would the state bring this witness to the stand to testify? You gave me two reasons.

CARRIE HACKETT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right. I think it's certainly a twofold reason for putting her on the stand. One is to discredit George Zimmerman and to show that, in fact, his story about being slammed --

BALDWIN: Multiple times on the concrete?

HACKETT: Exactly. That he should not have been in fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm. That's an interesting question. In Florida law, we're looking at the person's perception. So we don't know what Zimmerman was thinking at that time or what was going on during that altercation and whether he had that reasonable fear.

BALDWIN: How can we, Darren Kavinoky, how can we know what George Zimmerman was thinking, to Carrie's point about his perception. Not perceiving that he could be killed just perceiving that he could be seriously injured is what is sort of the litmus test in Florida, how can the jurors know that?

KAVINOKY: Well, number one, if he does choose to take the witness stand, as he has absolute right to do, then we'll know it from his own mouth. Otherwise, we have to look at the surrounding facts and draw a reasonable inference from those facts and the absence of injury could be something that would be helpful for the prosecution. Although what's interesting is this would seem to fly in the face of the actual eye witness testimony, specifically John Good who's talking about the man on top who we believe to be Trayvon Martin actually raining down blows -- exactly.

BALDWIN: Right. Sunny, as we're looking at these photographs here again of a bloodied knows and back of the head here George Zimmerman, have you to think and assume that we're going down this path where we also -- I say we, the court, the jurors will be seeing pictures of Trayvon Martin of a body of a 17-year-old and, again, I am reminded not just of the jurors sitting in that courtroom, but of Sabrina Martin who has to see the body of their child.

HOSTIN: Yes, I'm sure that that's coming. I'm sure the medical examiner will tell the victim's family what's coming up so that they can prepare themselves for being in the courtroom or make the decision not to be in the courtroom. Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin at different times in the courtroom have left because they felt some of the testimony was too graphic for them. I suspect they know when that's coming.

BALDWIN: I've heard also when you're coming into the courtroom, there is a certain number of seats for the public. You can't have any major facial expressions, no eye rolls. Just as a heads up, obviously I think the roles are loser for the parents. That's how serious this is. The ramifications this is murder too. Quick break. Back to the testimony in 2 minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: And, again, we're back to this testimony from the chief medical examiner. They are continuing to discuss and parse through these photographs of George Zimmerman's head, the lacerations. They are talking swelling. It's getting very specific. Let's listen in.

RAO: You've got the bruise which, you know, if you want to say, wow, this is a swelling but there is no bruising there and if the swelling was so severe that you're looking at on the left side, then we would have a significant bruise and we don't see that. Whereas, that's a small bruise but you can see the swelling. So you can't -- you can't separate one from the other so it's together.

O'MARA: Look at number 70, which we've talked about already, and tell the jury which bruise you believe that swelling is connected to.

RAO: I think it's that one because --

O'MARA: You think -- I just want to be clear. You're thinking to the one that is behind the ear. You pointed to the one that is two inches or so behind the line of the ear?

RAO: I think because that's such a distorted photograph. Because we are able to see very well the right side so why are we looking at a photograph of the left side and trying to draw that conclusion? I think that is extremely unscientific.

O'MARA: And I apologize for that.

RAO: It's not your fault.

O'MARA: I care about one thing. It is your testimony here today that the swelling that's on the 69 on the right side of the midline of the scalp, that is the bruising that is the same bruising as exists with what you've identified now as a bruising behind the ear line on state's 70, correct?

RAO: It could be. It could be. But like I said, it's very difficult for me to, you know, give an opinion on the photograph, which is so distorted.

O'MARA: Got it. Could it be a completely separate bruise?

RAO: Which one?

O'MARA: This one, the one on 69.

RAO: Well, if it was, why are we not able to see it from the right side?

O'MARA: Let's take a look at 71 then and see what you see on that photograph.

RAO: OK. So this is, again, the punctate abrasions that I talked about. That is the bruise that we are -- we have to overlap.

O'MARA: And let me show you just at the very top of the crown of the head there, almost out of the top of the picture, is that not the bruise that we see -- or the swelling that we see on 69?

RAO: You know, I find it difficult when half the photograph is cut to give an opinion. I would like to see what the injury is before I tell you that that's the injury. So why are we looking at distortion and half photographs when we have the full side to be able to look at and to render an opinion?

O'MARA: Well, I certainly only want to do and have you give us as good an opinion as you can. Do you have a photograph that better shows the injuries that we've now seen by looking at 69 and shows the swelling that seems apparent?

RAO: No, I have the same, but I have -- they are the same photographs but they're different.

O'MARA: I'm asking you as you're here today to tell me what picture you have of the right side of his scalp that shows or doesn't show the swelling that was apparent in state's exhibit 69.

RAO: OK. So I have the same photographs you have except mine was, like I said, copies. So this is the photograph that you are describing?

O'MARA: I'm trying to find one that's in evidence if I might have a moment, your honor.

JUDGE NELSON: Yes, you may.

O'MARA: Let me ask you to compare, if you would, the picture you were just showing with state's exhibit -- you identified it as 70. Do you have that one?

RAO: I'm looking. No, I don't.

O'MARA: Thank you. So the least number of contacts between scalp and cement were three, correct?

RAO: Correct.

O'MARA: And as many as how many?

RAO: That's some -- that's a scenario that you posed so you would know how many.

O'MARA: Well, if you were to look at this from a medical perspective and try to come up with not the minimum number but the maximum number, give us your opinion.

RAO: I told you three.

O'MARA: That's the minimum, correct?

RAO: Correct.

O'MARA: My question is, tell us in your professional opinion how many it could have been as a maximum.

RAO: I don't know.

O'MARA: Why not?

RAO: Because you were presenting the scenario about various, you know, possibilities so you have to tell me and I will tell you yes or no.

O'MARA: Well, as I -- as I said to you, there could be a possibility that those two bruises were two different ones, correct?

RAO: On the head, yes.

O'MARA: Two bruises on the right head of the skull -- scalp.

RAO: Correct.

O'MARA: I want you to include that. We want you to include the possibility that you two lacerations could be two different hits, correct?

RAO: Correct.

O'MARA: So I want you to include that. What other -- and we talked about the nose and the forehead being two separate ones, correct?

BALDWIN: Quick break. I promise we'll be right back. More on the science of all of these injuries, the swellings, the cuts, what does this mean? Back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: We are near the top of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Great to see you. I know you're watching as we continue to cover gavel to gavel of this George Zimmerman second degree murder trial. Here you have under cross examination the chief medical examiner, Dr. Valerie Rao, speaking specifically here with Defense Attorney Mark O'Mara about George Zimmerman's injuries. This is getting very specific. Take a look.

RAO: It's possible.

O'MARA: OK. We see two of the bruises, right? They could be separate, right?

RAO: Possible.

O'MARA: Then we see the punctate abrasions. That could be another one, right?

RAO: It's possible.

O'MARA: Then we see the swelling that you say may be connected with one of the bruises but that could be separate, correct?

RAO: I don't think so because underlying the bruise you have the swelling. It's so -- it's -- it's so impossible to get a bruise and the swelling and say, well, that was two different sites. Now the swelling is separate from the bruise, yes, but they are one injury.

O'MARA: Presuming that the bruising on state's exhibit 69 and 70, that the bruising that we see matches up in the jury's mind with that point of swelling, correct?

RAO: It does.

O'MARA: You're making it --

RAO: It does.

O'MARA: OK. In your opinion --

RAO: Well, you can see it.

O'MARA: OK. And the jury will of course make that determination, right?

RAO: Correct.

O'MARA: And then there could be -- how many