Return to Transcripts main page


Live Coverage And Analysis Of George Zimmerman Trial; Federal Government Takes Command Of Massive Arizona Wildfire

Aired July 2, 2013 - 15:30   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Didn't also at some point in time -- this could be very relevant -- didn't he want to be a police officer?

MIKE BROOKS, CNN ANALYST: Right. And that's why they called him a want-to-be cop because that was the opening statement by Mr. Guy for the prosecution, and he referred to him as a want-to-be cop. And he was taking courses in criminal justice.

But one of the other things, though, you had the volunteer coordinator from the Sanford police department helped him organize the neighborhood watch group there in his community.

She asked him to be involved in the COP program, Citizens On Patrol, which would have gotten him even closer, endeared him more with law enforcement, but he refused.

BALDWIN: OK, thank you.

So this is a little bit of the back and forth, which is what's happening right now. So, therefore, they have these -- the jury is out of the room. They don't want the jurors views to be colored --

BROOKS: Right.

BALDWIN: -- based upon, you know, X, Y, and Z, what they want introduced and not introduced here in this courtroom.

In the meantime, as they're marinating on that, and, guys, just jump in my ear as soon as you start seeing a witness, let's go back to Detective Serino.

A couple of points he made this morning. One, let me just play for you the sound bite where he was questioned.

You know, a lot of this is whether or not he was following Trayvon Martin, right? And so he's being questioned about the legality of one following another individual. Watch this.


MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: Now let me also ask you that you were questioning Mr. Zimmerman on the fact that he was following Trayvon Martin, correct?


O'MARA: And Mr. Zimmerman said --

SERINO: Words along --

O'MARA: He said, yes, right? He said, wait a minute, were you following him? And in the interview, his word was yes, right?

SERINO: In one of the interviews, yes.

O'MARA: He acknowledged to you that he was following him at one point, correct?

SERINO: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: Anything wrong with following somebody like that?

SERINO: That --

O'MARA: Let me ask it this way. Anything illegal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection. I've asked that (inaudible).

O'MARA: I'm sorry. I'll let him answer that one.

SERINO: Repeat it please.

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.

O'MARA: OK. Matter of fact, it was -- and you heard the nonemergency call, right?

SERINO: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: OK. And it was twice on that that the nonemergency operator asked Mr. Zimmerman, tell me if he does anything else.

SERINO: Yes, I believe that was said.

O'MARA: Right?


O'MARA: Does that indicate that he wants him to keep an eye on him?

SERINO: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: And you said following him is not legally improper, correct?

SERINO: It's not illegal, no.

O'MARA: Even approaching somebody is not legally improper, is it?

SERINO: That's open for interpretation.

O'MARA: Tell me what crime you believe would occur if I were to walk up to you on street and say, hi.

SERINO: In that manner, none whatsoever.

O'MARA: How about, what are you doing here?

SERINO: None whatsoever.

O'MARA: How about, get the hell out of here?

SERINO: None whatsoever.

O'MARA: How about, I don't like the way you're dressed? I don't like the fact that you have gray on, get out of my face?

SERINO: That could be construed as confrontational.

O'MARA: Sure.

SERINO: Not illegal.

O'MARA: But is that a crime?

SERINO: No, sir.


BALDWIN: Darren Kavinoky, what was the point of that? What he was he trying to get out of him?

DARREN KAVINOKY, ATTORNEY: Well, it's where exactly you draw the line between something that is just innocent conduct of preserving the safety and sanctity of the neighborhood versus where it becomes this tracking somebody, which is, of course, the prosecution's theory of the case, that Zimmerman was actually a predator that was hunting down Trayvon.

And so what O'Mara is trying to do is take the wind out of the sails and, candidly, he did a very effective job in my view.

You raised the point earlier, Brooke, which I think is a great one, that is that the way that this detective finished on the stand yesterday, even though those remarks may have been stricken today, you can't un-ring that bell.

And, once that's heard by the jurors, once that's out there, it's not going to be erased from their brain.

And that, I think, is one of the most important things to come out of this witness, and lawyers know that and they play on that all the time. Don't ask questions that are objectionable.

BALDWIN: I'm glad we're coming back to this one. I'm trying to think. If I were sitting in this courtroom, if I were a juror and I heard something so significant, so stinging that it elicited this visceral reaction in me, and they say, OK, never mind.

You know, forget you heard that, go home, have dinner, and we'll see you in the morning?

You've got to be kidding me? Right, Ryan Smith? I thought you --


They've got it in their heads now. And it's one thing to say, hey, you know what? You're supposed to disregard that, and some people do, but at the same time, you know, it's coming in the back of your mind.

You're saying, wait, this is a guy who is in a position of authority. He's the guy who works for the state, and he's saying he's truthful.

What does that do to the self-defense claim? Kind of makes it go away.

For a lot of people it makes it say, wait, there's got to be some credence to that self-defense claim. So I think that's a really tough break for the prosecution and when you sit on that for a day it really sinks in your head.

BALDWIN: And, again, just a quick reminder to you as we're marinating over some of what happened earlier in the day, there is a hearing going on, trying to determine whether or some of this evidence can be introduced, whether or not perhaps George Zimmerman was familiar with the stand-your-ground law.

You know, he told Sean Hannity one thing. It sounds like, based upon his criminology schooling, he knew something else.

So here's this judge sort of reading through some of the legalese trying to find out what's OK while the jury is -- speaking of the jury, you know, out of the room and can't really see what's going on.

So quick break, when we come back, we're going to take you back to some more testimony from this lead detective this morning, Detective Serino, because a lot of this case -- obviously, the thrust of it, if this guy is going to be charged and convicted of murder in the second degree, they have to prove spite, hate, ill-will, this depraved mind.

And some of the testimony this morning from this lead detective speaks to that. Whether it works or it doesn't, this is huge. That's next.


BALDWIN: All right, just a quick reminder as we eavesdrop and take a peek, here's Mark O'Mara, defense attorney.

Still this hearing is under way inside this courtroom, back and forth with the judge. The jury's out of the room, so we're just waiting for that next witness to take the stand.

We don't know who it will be. This is all sort of a guessing game for all of us. So we'll just roll with it as soon as we see someone take to the stand.

In the meantime, as I talked about before the break, I want to play a little bit more of the testimony this morning from Detective Chris Serino. He was this lead investigator.

He was the one who took George Zimmerman out to the crime scene that next day for that reenactment, without a lawyer, mind you. So let me just play this moment from today.

Pay attention to the language he's talking about George Zimmerman using and the way in which he used these words. Here you go.


BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: Did you hear that last comment, the defendant stated, and pardon my language, these (inaudible) punks?

SERINO: Yes, sir.


Is the word, pardon my language, again, (inaudible) punks something you would refer to, something good about people when you reference them.

SERINO: No, sir, it's not.

DE LA RIONDA: In your opinion, calling somebody, reference them as, pardon my language, (inaudible) punks.

SERINO: That is ill-will and spite.




O'MARA: When Mr. De La Rionda said to you, I think he said (inaudible), didn't he?

SERINO: That sounds --

O'MARA: Yeah.

SERINO: -- approximate.

O'MARA: Did you hear my client say that word (inaudible) on the tape? We can play it again.

SERINO: I heard him say it.

O'MARA: OK. He didn't say it with the screeching voice that Mr. De La Rionda did, did he?

SERINO: No, sir.

O'MARA: He just sort of said (inaudible), right?

SERINO: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: Did he -- the way he said it, not the way Mr. De La Rionda just said it, let's put that aside for a minute, and speak more importantly, about the way my client said the word (inaudible).

Did that give you any cause for concern as to the way he said it?

SERINO: No, sir.

O'MARA: Didn't show any ill-will, or hatred or spite when he said these (inaudible) always get away, did it?

SERINO: If I may, not towards the individual. It seemed more like a generalization.


BALDWIN: I know. It's a lot of bleeping, OK, but here's a reason for this, folks. We're CNN.

There's a reason why we're talking about this colorful language and also the tone that was used on behalf of George Zimmerman, which, I think, is the point that Mark O'Mara was trying to make.

Ryan, first to you, why is the language and the way he's using these words, why does that matter?

SMITH: It's a nuanced argument about hatred, ill-will or spite, which is part of second-degree murder.

BALDWIN: Which is what he's facing.

SMITH: Right. So the prosecution is trying to bring out this idea that George Zimmerman had this hatred, this ill-will, this spite, and it comes out in his words, and the way he uses those words.

So they're trying to make this point, you know, he's using these words with anger, with hatred, and that shows you he had the hatred, ill- will or spite.

Then you heard Detective Serino mention that at the very end there of the direct, but on the cross, you see what O'Mara's doing. He's trying to soften it a little bit.

If you soften it, maybe it's a guy who's just commenting on the situation. So it becomes a little bit of a nuanced argument.

But here's the problem I have with all of that. When you talk about having hatred, ill-will, or spite, every time you have anger, or hatred, or ill-will to somebody, you don't always necessarily have to scream, or have to yell, or have to be excited. I know a lot of people who say, I don't like that guy, and they've got that look in their eye. And that's how you really know they don't like that guy.

So that's -- O'Mara is trying to do a nuanced thing by saying he didn't have that. But still, the jury could read that and say, no, the words or the way he said it do mean something.

CARRIE HACKETT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, and I think eventually the defense is going to try to put it into perspective, into context that Zimmerman in the past as the neighborhood watch organizer has seen a lot of break-ins in this neighborhood, that he has seen it repeatedly and that this has been a pattern.

He, essentially, is not necessarily profiling Martin,. but that he's trying to protect the neighborhood, not that he has the ill-will or hatred against any particular person, but that he's doing his best to protect his neighborhood.

BALDWIN: OK, so again, this is all coming from Detective Serino, coming out this morning.

I want to come -- let me take a quick break. When we come back, I want to talk a little bit more about this best friend of George Zimmerman.

And we'll talk a little bit about his back story, who he is, why he's significant, a little bit about this book that he wrote, and the significance of the gun used in this case and his connection to that and George Zimmerman.

Stay with me.


BALDWIN: Want to give you a little backgrounder here on this man by the name of Mark Osterman. He testified after the detective today.

He is -- consider himself George Zimmerman's best friend. He is the reason why George Zimmerman ultimately purchased and carried this gun.

But here's a little bit more about him. This is from David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When George Zimmerman was worried about an aggressive neighborhood dog in 2009, he decided to buy a gun and went to his friend, Mark Osterman, for help.

MARK OSTERMAN, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S FRIEND: He had felt that, once you -- one he gets married -- once you get married, you kind of -- he said that he possibly changed his perspective in life and that he was responsible not just for himself anymore, but for his wife.

MATTINGLY: Osterman, a federal law enforcement officer, helped Zimmerman weigh the pros and cons before he settled on a thin, lightweight nine-millimeter.

It was easy to conceal, easy to carry, and acting on Osterman's advice, Zimmerman carried it everywhere.

OSTERMAN: Always. He carried it always, and I -- the one thing that I did tell him for the reason for doing that was, if it is on your person, it can't be anywhere else.

MATTINGLY: It was on Zimmerman's person the night he encountered Trayvon Martin, and he told Osterman how Martin grabbed the gun during their fight.

OSTERMAN: According to what he told me was, when the head bashing on the concrete stopped and Trayvon reached for the firearm that was at his side, grabbed a hold of it.

MATTINGLY: Osterman wrote about it in a book, quoting Zimmerman. "Somehow I broke his grip on the gun, where the guy grabbed it, between the rear site and the hammer. I got the gun in my hand, raised it towards the guy's chest and pulled the trigger."

And this is where the problem lies for George Zimmerman because comments quoted by his friend Osterman do not match what Zimmerman told police.

Listen to what he says as he walks investigators through the crime scene.

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, DEFENDANT: And he reached for it. He reached. 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.

MATTINGLY: In multiple recorded interviews, Zimmerman never tells police that Trayvon Martin ever touched his gun.

DNA testing seems to agree. There was no trace of Trayvon Martin's DNA on the gun's grip.

Prosecutors list Osterman's book with Zimmerman's conflicting account as potential evidence, possibly to challenge Zimmerman's credibility.

As for his connection to the gun Zimmerman was carrying, Osterman says it's hard to answer the question, does he feel regret.

OSTERMAN: He didn't have it to go out and commit a crime of hunting someone down and harming them. It was for self-protection, and I'm glad that that firearm was used to protect George.

MATTINGLY: Mark Osterman could appear as a witness for the prosecution and for the defense.

As far as what he has to tell them, Osterman says he sees no difference in a case of self-defense if someone is grabbing your gun or grabbing for it.

David Mattingly, CNN, Sanford, Florida. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: David Mattingly, thank you. As we now know, he testified today.

Darren Kavinoky, to you, do you want to talk about why Zimmerman's friend was so sweaty? Do we know why now?

KAVINOKY: I don't know. You know, with friends like that, Brooke, who needs enemies?

I mean, well, first of all, as far as the sweatiness factor, maybe he just felt like he was on the hot seat and before I start getting hate tweets and so on, God forbid the guy has anything medically wrong with him, but I can just see the "Saturday Night Live" skits now.

I mean, that was like, oh, my God, I just felt for the guy as he's mopping his brow on the witness stand.

But you know what, he should be sweaty because what he is saying is just horrible for his friend. And I'm sure they're friends. He didn't set out to do this.

But let's remember, and there's an important legal ruling in all of this, that generally what people say out of court, what Zimmerman told to his friend, generally that's considered to be hearsay, and it's generally unreliable and doesn't come into evidence.

But there's an exception to that hearsay rule called an admission. And that's a word or an act by a party to a case that's offered against them. That's how the prosecution is able to get these statements that Zimmerman gave to his friend into evidence.

And it's conflicting, it looks bad for Zimmerman, it affects his credibility and so it's quite understandable why he would be sweating.

BALDWIN: Why he's wiping the brow.

Darren, thank you.

Let me just bring you back -- everyone up to speed as far as what's happening right now inside this Sanford courtroom.

Right now, again, this hearing is under way. Those jurors, they're out of the room because this judge right now is talking specifically about the stand-your-ground law in Florida and whether or not what is admissible here in the court as far as evidence goes as far as George Zimmerman's knowledge of this law, and what is not.

We're going to talk about that, and why that's clearly significant in this trial, after this.


BALDWIN: Sunny Hostin, former federal prosecutor, CNN legal analyst, you tell me, when it comes to the stand-your-ground law and what is admissible as far as what George Zimmerman says he knew and what he says he didn't know coming into this night back in February of last year, remind us of this law.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, stand-your-ground law is peculiar to a couple of states.

What it basically does is it takes your right inside your home to protect yourself out into the street.

For a long time this "castle doctrine," as we used to call it, if somebody breaks in your home, you can defend yourself . You don't have a right to run and hide and retreat.

But the Florida law takes it to the street. If you're not doing something that's illegal, you can defend yourself. You can stand your ground and you don't have any duty to retreat.

BALDWIN: Nicely done, lawyer, in 60 seconds. I'm impressed.

HOSTIN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: The issue now is whether or not he was aware of this because he told Sean Hannity of Fox News one thing and apparently he's taken classes that show the other thing.

SMITH: The issue is when he came up on Trayvon Martin, it all deals with George Zimmerman's perception, was I in fear?

The question is, did he know this law? If I pull out my gun and shoot this kid, even if he's not doing anything, then I can be protected, immune from trial because of the stand-your-ground law?

That's what the state seems to be trying to bring up.

BALDWIN: To do, right this very minute.

Quick break. Back after this.


BALDWIN: Before I let you go, the federal government has taken over command of the deadly fire north of Phoenix, Arizona, the one that claimed the lives of 19 firefighters Sunday, 19 firefighters, each a member of the Prescott fire department's Granite Mountain Hot shots.

These are elite, the elitist of the elite firefighters here, and today -- look at this. This is how it looks outside their home base, the Prescott fire department, a makeshift memorial growing by the hour.

Two days later, this community's loss is still sinking in.


REP. MATT SALMON (R), ARIZONA: There aren't any real words to express the kind of sadness that we feel today. It's beyond comprehension. CRAIG BROWN, FIREFIGHTER SUPERVISOR: When I received the news that 19 of our brave firefighters have been taken from us, I was beside myself.


BALDWIN: Hundreds of people jammed inside this Prescott university gym, this was last night, to pay their final respects, firefighters there gathering at the end of the ceremony offering hushed words of comfort among themselves.

Questions remain, though, as to how this happened. You have these 19 highly trained, highly skilled men trapped in a fiery dead end from which there was no escape.

Why they unaware of the storm rolling in? That dramatic surge of wind that turned this fire into this monster and, crucially, may have changed its direction?

Fourteen of the fallen firefighters were still in their 20s, among them Andrew Ashcraft, age 29, a father of four.


DEBORAH PFINGSTON, MOTHER OF ANDREW ASHCRAFT:B because I always would text Andrew when he was out on a fire, be strong, be wise, be safe.

I said, OK, God, I don't understand it, but thank you that he wasn't alone, thank you that he was -- that they were together.


BALDWIN: Four hundred ground firefighters are still out there.

THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts now.