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Continuing Coverage of the George Zimmerman Trial; Morsi Delivers Statement on Social Media

Aired July 3, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": It looked real good for the prosecution off the bat. They won key rulings and motions before trial testimony even began. Ten came the witnesses, laying out one by one, guess what, this defendant knows a whole lot about the law. This defendant knows a whole lot about self-defense. This defendant knows a whole lot about Stand Your Ground.

Is it because the prosecution wants to say this defendant knew how to crack the story the minute the cops got there? Thus we have the story we're talking about in this courtroom today.

Well, it's been pretty unbelievable the way the defense attorneys have been able to cross-examine and turn it back around.

Let me just show you for one moment what a law instructor by the name of Captain Alexis Carter, fantastic witness for the prosecution, what they were able to do with this law instructor who was supposed to say that George Zimmerman knew all about this law.

And, instead, they got this instructor to teach the jury what might have been going through George Zimmerman's head at the moment that he fired the shot. Have a look.


CAPTAIN ALEXIS CARTER, TAUGHT CLASS FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: We also talked about imperfect self-defense where you may have started out being the person that was attacked, but for whatever reason, you took it a step forward, and now you're the aggressor.

So that dynamic between, you know, two people involved in a fight or a scuffle, that could change.

DON WEST, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You used the term "imperfect self-defense."

CARTER: Right.

WEST: Is that the notion that sometimes the tables can turn?

CARTER: It means that, or also means that the person didn't -- acted unreasonably in countering the force that was applied to them.


BANFIELD: George Howell is here with me, a CNN correspondent, gavel- to-gavel coverage of this.

When I saw this witness take the stand, I thought, oh, boy, this is going to be bad for George Zimmerman.

And then I saw Don West start spinning this around in a lesson for the jury about how it doesn't matter if you have an injury.


BANFIELD: It matters if you think you are going to get an injury when you want to apply the self-defense rules.

Were you surprised that they went this way so fast?

HOWELL: You know, and it was interesting because they went into this concept of imperfect self-defense, so, you know, this concept that you start the fight, but for some reason, you start losing the fight, and then you feel your life is in danger.

So that was interesting that he brought that up in the case.

BANFIELD: Because the defense is contending he didn't start the fight. And yet they're bringing up if he did ...

HOWELL: Yeah, they suggested that could have happened, right there.

BANFIELD: Well, and, listen, this happens in trials. We cover them all the time.

A lot of times defense attorneys are forced into a situation where they have to accommodate for a jury who might think, well, maybe it went this way, or maybe it went this way, and how do we determine?

And, sometimes, defense attorneys concede they have to give you two different theories to think through on their side, but were you surprised to see that the defense had very little time to handle what was coming here?

This was all handled, by the way -- these witnesses, we weren't sure they were going to hit the stand until the judge ruled, OK, this is fair game.

HOWELL: And it seemed like Don West was surprised when Francisco Carter went through exactly how he teaches this class.

He teaches the practical application of "stand your ground," these Florida laws. He even shows YouTube videos to show different scenarios, what you should do in different cases.

It did seem that Don West was surprised when he brought that into play.

BANFIELD: Something else, George, and I see a lot when we cover these cases, and maybe they don't always make it on TV, but there are moments of levity even in murder trials. There are moments of levity. There are brief moments where people laugh. I remember Casey Anthony catching a lot of flak for laughing at one point during her murder trial, but I want to play for you this moment of levity only because there were some specific things said that were very important and germane to the defense's case.

This is Don West, again, questioning Captain Francisco Alexis Carter. I'm just going to call him Alexis Carter, if that's OK, Captain Carter on the stand about how fearful you have to be without injury in order for a reasonable person to think, you know what I'm going to lose my life, and maybe I need to do something about it. Have a listen.


WEST: You don't have to wait until you are almost dead before you can defend yourself?

CARTER: No, I would advise you probably don't do that.

WEST: And I take it when you're under attack, you never really know where that moment will be?

CARTER: No, unfortunately, you don't.


BANFIELD: All right. Perfect example of how that's a real witness, speaking in real terms, asking -- you know, being asked a real question about how far do you leave this before you need, as a reasonable person, to determine you're in trouble?

HOWELL: And did you see George Zimmerman? Typically, we see a very stoic, you know, straight-faced Zimmerman throughout this court hearing, this trial.

But that time we saw him laugh. And we saw that several different times where he cracked a smile, even laughed at some of the things that were said.

BANFIELD: So, just quickly, I want to catch you up to speed on what's happening here in court.

This is such a weird situation. You're seeing a prosecutor talking on his smartphone right there at the (inaudible).

What they're trying to do, essentially, is establish a Skype setup for the next witness.

HOWELL: Right.

BANFIELD: And this next witness is actually, I think, hiking in an area that's ...

HOWELL: Having trouble getting to him.

BANFIELD: They had trouble getting to him. It's a witness who -- again, it's all about the education of George Zimmerman. Let's listen in for -- wait a minute. Nope.


JUDGE DEBRA NELSON: OK, let's go ahead and bring the jury in.


BANFIELD: OK. As they're bringing the jury in, the cameras go everywhere. When you bring the jury in, you've got to make sure you don't catch a shot of the jury.

But everyone stands in the criminal -- a lovely deference, I always really appreciate that. Not all jurisdictions do it. People stand for the jury, always stand for the judge, but sometimes they stand for the jury, as they do in this jurisdiction.

And as they bring the jury in, the Skype connection with this next witness. I'm just going to have to get someone to remind me the name of the next witness because I have forgotten it. It's not at my grasp.

But it's critical to this particular line of questioning that the prosecution has been going down today, and that is the education of George Zimmerman when it comes to law enforcement.

I think his name is Gordon Pleasant. He was one of George Zimmerman's instructors from what I recall. And the Skype, it was embattled because I think the defense didn't like the fact that he wasn't there in person to do the cross-examination.

HOWELL: Right. They wanted to make sure that they could talk back to him. And I think they'll get that opportunity here.

BANFIELD: But I don't think I've ever heard, George Howell, someone standing at the lectern with a smartphone, setting up.

But, listen, it's 2013. You know, we talk on the run. We talk at the bus stop. We talk -- you know, some people talk on the way to the bathroom. But this is the way it is.

They're trying to get everybody they can, and it's very last minute. These motions only passed this morning. Let's listen.


NELSON: Mr. Mantei, call your next witness.

RICHARD MANTEI, PROSECUTOR: Thank you, your honor.

We call Professor Scott Pleasants.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Raise your right hand, please.

Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony you shall present will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God. PROFESSOR GORDON PLEASANTS, ZIMMERMAN'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROFESSOR, EX-POLICE OFFICER: I do.


MANTEI: Professor Pleasants, would you go ahead and make sure you spell your last name for us, please?

PLEASANTS: It's Pleasant, P-L-E-A-S-A-N-T-S.

MANTEI: And I understand you are testifying remotely at the moment. Where are you at, sir?

PLEASANTS: I am in Delta, Colorado, west side Colorado in Delta ...

MANTEI: Can we get that fixed?

And, Professor, can you still hear us OK?


MANTEI: Professor, where do you teach courses at?

PLEASANTS: Seminole State College.

MANTEI: How long have you been a professor there?

PLEASANTS: Three years.


And do you teach a course that is variously entitled "Criminal Investigation?"


MANTEI: I'm holding up a green-and-blue book. Can you see it?

PLEASANTS: Yes, I can.

MANTEI: Is that a copy of the course book that you routinely use in the course.

PLEASANTS: That is one of the books, yes.


And previously I've shown you what's state's exhibit 201. Is this just a packet with some excerpts from that textbook?

PLEASANTS: Yes, it is.


Do you remember teaching the course in terms of 2010?

PLEASANTS: Actually, it's 2011, summer of 2011.

MANTEI: Summer of 2011, is that when you had a student named George Zimmerman?



And specifically, simply as it relates to the course, what sorts of things do you cover?

PLEASANTS: Oh, we cover various aspects of criminal investigations, of the duties of a criminal investigator from the constitutional issues surrounding criminal investigations and, basically, different aspects of different types of crimes.


Your honor, I would move state's exhibit 201 into evidence.

NELSON: OK, 201 will come in as state's exhibit 201.

O'MARA: I make the previous objection where (inaudible), your honor.

NELSON: Yeah, pursuant to the court's order.

MANTEI: And, Professor Pleasants, the course that you teach, is that sort of an in-classroom course or is it a different type?

PLEASANTS: No, this is a course (inaudible) we teach it online, and requires (inaudible) activities by the student that is based on the coursework in the book.

MANTEI: I'm sorry. Would you go ahead and repeat that, starting from the beginning?

PLEASANTS: Yes, the (inaudible) -- is it coming across?

MANTEI: Go ahead.

PLEASANTS: OK. Could you repeat the question?

MANTEI: Sure. Is this an in-room course, or is it a different type?

PLEASANTS: No, this is a distant-learning course, where the students are online and I facilitate the class through the textbook, discussions and workbook exercise.

MANTEI: And how do you facilitate those types of discussions?

PLEASANTS: Basically, having (inaudible) form that is (inaudible) ...

MANTEI: Start again, please. Start that answer again.

PLEASANTS: We have weekly discussions, starting with an introduction discussion where the student introduces themselves of what types (inaudible) to go for, what their career goals are.

And then each week, we have discussions.

(Inaudible) those discussions are based on different topics.

MANTEI: OK, and as I understand the excerpt in state exhibit 201, there are chapters on how to testify, how to testify as a witness, as well as on psychological or criminal profiling?

PLEASANTS: Yes, sir.

MANTEI: OK. Thank you.

No other questions, your honor.

NELSON: OK. Cross?

Is that his phone? (Inaudible).

MANTEI: It's someone calling the destination, your honor.

(INAUDIBLE) just hit decline call.


BANFIELD: OK. I need to explain for those who may not be too familiar with Skype, what's going on here. And, look, even the witness is laughing at this point.

I think all of these people are calling either the prosecutor or they're calling the witness to say, dude, I see you on TV.

It's troublesome here. I'm not sure they're going to be able to actually carry on with this Skype testimony. And I'm only laughing because I've had this happen to me before.

I want to bring in Jeffrey Toobin, our CNN legal analyst. Jeffrey, you have been a lawyer for a very long time. I have not seen a lot of Skype testimony. I have seen a lot of, you know, video testimony.

But even you are laughing. I can see all these people calling.


It's actually a good thing to be able to use Skype. It makes ...


TOOBIN: It gives you access to people who may be unable to come to court, but, you know, because the trial is televised, I assume these are just people who want to make trouble and ...

BANFIELD: It's either that, or they want to call to say, I'm watching you on television right now. And they're not realizing, guess what, this is the line I'm using to be on television right now. So perhaps they will be able to disable this in their preferences, but really, just quickly, Jeffrey Toobin, I want to get a quick break-in, but not before I get your feel on this morning and the critical nature of the testimony suggesting George Zimmerman knows a thing or two about the law.

TOOBIN: Oh, now? I thought you want to go to a break?


TOOBIN: No, I actually thought ...

BANFIELD: No, I want to get it now and then after I'll get a break in. No, no, you go ahead and talk now and I'll fit in the break ...

TOOBIN: Well, I thought this morning's testimony with Captain Carter, the instructor -- he was an extremely appealing witness. I think the judge made a complete mistake by allowing it at all.

I thought it was irrelevant. It was confusing. It was not something the jury should have heard in that way.

In terms of the effect on this case, I doubt it will have a big effect at all. It does show that Zimmerman knew something about the law, but on cross-examination, the defense showed that, in fact, self-defense was potentially a broader concept than many people might have expected.

But that's the kind of information I think should come from the judge in this case. I don't think you should have part-time law teachers giving legal instructions to the jury.

So I thought the whole testimony was irrelevant and shouldn't have been allowed at all. So ...

BANFIELD: That's interesting. I had a totally different take on it. I had a completely different take on it.

I thought, wow, look, there they go, showing that this guy could have easily got up after shooting Trayvon Martin and crafted a very quick self-defense, "stand your ground" theory in his mind and then started recounting it over and over and over again.

I think seven different times now we've had accounts from George Zimmerman, whether they were police accounts, statements that were written or television interviews.

Jeffrey, stand by, if you will, for a moment, live in New York City. I'm live in Sanford, Florida, right now where they are definitely trying to work out the bugaboos from what we just witnessed.

Obviously, the Skype line wasn't working too well because everybody's friends were calling in and interrupting the line. They're going to work out a speakerphone situation.

We're going to fit in a quick break while they get that all worked out. You won't miss a moment of any of the testimony.

Back after this.

Oh, and you know something else? We're going to get you back to Egypt after.


BANFIELD: So we're back live in Sanford, Florida. I'm Ashleigh Banfield coming to you live from the trial of George Zimmerman. And all those weird Skype bug-a-boos have been worked out. The decision has been made to go by a speakerphone. That's pretty simple and old school.

So let's listen to some of the cross examination that this was obviously a very quick examination that Mark O'Mara is doing with Professor Gordon Scott Pleasants.


MARK O'MARA, ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There is another one that talks about strategies for excelling as a witness. Was that discussed in coursework at all?

VOICE OF PROF. GORDON PLEASANTS, ZIMMERMAN'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROFESSOR, EX-POLICE OFFICER: I think that might have been a discussion topic, but (inaudible).

O'MARA: The second half of that question, again, sir? The answer?

PLEASANTS: I said I need to check. It might have been one of our discussion topics.

O'MARA: OK. And can you testify -- can you testify here today whether or not George Zimmerman was even present for any of that discussion on the online course?

PLEASANTS: He participated in all of the discussions that we had.

O'MARA: And how is that documented, just so we know?

PLEASANTS: It's through the Sakai (ph) management system and any of the discussions that we have (inaudible), they are maintained and can pretty much go back to any comment board post (ph).

O'MARA: I'm sorry. The last half of that answer, sir?

PLEASANTS: Sakai (ph) could go back at any time and look at those discussions that the students had made (ph) again.

O'MARA: OK, and are those records somewhere available to you?

PLEASANTS: Yes, they are.

O'MARA: OK. You don't have them with you today, though?

PLEASANTS: I actually have printout of the discussion. That's what I'm looking through right now to see if we covered (inaudible).

O'MARA: OK, well, maybe we'll take a moment to see if you can review those and then tell us about that.

BANFIELD (voice-over): So while the witness now, he calls himself Scott Pleasants - his name is Gordan Scott Pleasants - while he is reviewing his documents, just quickly, George Howell, his critical analysis, for what reason is he important? What did he teach?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, basically, he taught criminal investigation. And again, this goes to show George Zimmerman had information, had knowledge about the law in the State of Florida. We're learning here through this testimony exactly what he taught in that class and you know, Ashleigh, keep this in mind. You remember about a year ago, George Zimmerman had a nationally televised interview where, when asked if he knew anything about the Stand Your Ground law, he said he didn't. So this goes directly to that.

BANFIELD: Is that a part of the interview -- the Hannity interview that played already?

HOWELL: That was that interview.

BANFIELD: OK, let have a listen.


O'MARA: I'm sorry, I'm going to ask the question again because I couldn't understand your answer, understanding again that we have audio difficulties. Was there any discussion about testifying or acting as a "how to be a witness" in your coursework, yes or no?

PLEASANTS: Like I said, it was a part of the required reading but we didn't address it in the discussions or the actual course.

O'MARA: OK. It was in the book, correct?

Sir, it was in the book, correct?


O'MARA: OK, but it was not discussed in any of the coursework, is that also correct?

PLEASANTS: It does look like it was not discussed.

O'MARA: OK, thank you.



BANFIELD: So let me get you up to breaking news. I'm live in Sanford, Florida, for the George Zimmerman trial. You're not missing any ttestimony right now. But there is a very critical moment that's developing right now in Egypt's political crisis. A deadline was set for 11:00 a.m. and those people mean business. The army set the deadline for their president. Mohamed Morsi. to step down. But it's expired. It's like 20 minutes old right now and he has now shown he has no intention of stepping down but is saying, via Facebook, that he does want dialogue.

I'm going to read to you exactly the statement that he put out on his Facebook page. "The presidency of the Republic renews the emphasis of the road map and calls on all forces to engage in dialogue and in comprehensive reconciliation. This call would meet the demands of the public and will absorb all of the national and political forces and remove the political crisis Egypt is witnessing today."

You just saw Reza Sayah, who's popping up on the screen with me. Listen, Reza, while this looks somewhat peaceful and loud, we have 23 people who have died because there have been some protests that have been violent. But how are these protesters reacting to this information from their president, or do they know about it at this early stage?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you can be sure many of them know about it, but it's not clear what the implications are. There are so many twists and turns to this dramatic conflict, the latest twist coming on Facebook, no less.

As you mentioned, the president delivering a statement that he's taking the necessary steps to establish a coalition government. And he says once that coalition government is established, he's going to call for parliamentary elections. That seems to suggest that Egypt, the president, is prepared for wholesale changes within the leadership. That suggests that perhaps the prime minister is going to change.

Now, the big question -- is that enough to staff the armed force's ultimatum delivered two days ago to the president, to the opposition faction, the ultimatum ordering all sides to fix this conflict? Is the president's statement enough to satisfy the very loud people behind us who've demanded for President Morsi's ouster? It's important to note that in his statement, he gave no indication that he plans to step aside. And, of course, last night, in his televised address, he clearly said that he plans on staying and clearly said that he plans on giving away his life if it means he has to defend what he calls the legitimate transition to democracy.

But that certainly is a significant development, his statement suggesting that he's willing to make some concessions. We'll see how the opposition reacts. We'll see how the armed forces react in the coming hours.

BANFIELD: It's so incredible, Reza, to see armed forces on the side of those protesters when, just a year ago, they were charging through the protesters and killing them on behalf of that president that was ousted and is still on trial. Reza Sayah, keep an eye on things for us, if you would please, for us, live in Cairo. I want to get us back live into the testimony in Sanford, Florida, courtroom. It has just resumed and now on the stand is Amy Siewart, who is a Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab analyst. The reason that you're seeing a box on the stand -- inside that box is a gun. It is the gun in question and she is a firearms analyst.


JOHN GUY, PROSECUTOR: And what type of firearm is it?

AMY SIEWERT, FIREARMS ANALYST, FLA. DEPT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT: It is a .9 millimeter Luger caliber, Kel-Tech model PF-9, semi-automatic pistol.

GUY: And what do you mean by semi-automatic?

SIEWERT: In very basic terms, semi-automatic means that a pull of the trigger is required for each shot to be fired.

GUY: And what do you mean specifically by .9 millimeter?

SIEWART: .9 millimeter is the caliber of ammunition the firearm is designed to fire.

GUY: Are you familiar with that brand of firearms, the Kel-Tech brand?


GUY: How so?

SIEWART: I've had the opportunity to tour their manufacturing facility twice, as well as I have examined many of them over the course of my case work.

GUY: And did you examine the firearm to determine whether or not it was in working order?

SIEWART: Yes, I did.

GUY: How did you do that?

SIEWART: I did a general firearm exam. I took note of the make, model, and serial number, looking at the overall condition of the firearm to determine if it looked safe to test fire. After determining it was safe, I used laboratory and evidence ammunition, and the submitted magazine, to test fire the pistol.

GUY: And what did you find when you test fired the gun?

SIEWART: It was functional.

GUY: Your honor, may she step down to demonstrate for the jury?

JUDGE DEBRA NELSON: Yes, she may. GUY: Ms. Siewart, if you could step down with - I'll grab the exhibit. Your honor, there is a gun lock on the exhibit. May I remove that so she can explain the function to the jury?

NELSON: Yes, you may.

GUY: All right. If you would, just --

NELSON: Make sure to bring it to the deputies (ph) to declare the gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was going to ask that and I was going to ask if I could move to a --

NELSON: You may. You may do so.

DEPUTY: It's safe, your honor.

GUY: All right. Ms. Siewart, if you would explain to the members of the jury how that firearm and anything else you need in terms of the magazine, how it functions.

SIEWART: Absolutely. I'm going to start real quick with basic definition for you. Right here is what we call a cartridge, that's commonly referred to as a bullet but it contains at the top of the bullet, the cartridge case at the head of primer and, inside of it, gunpowder.

Now, these cartridges are loaded into a magazine, which is essentially a container for these cartridges designed to feed into the firearm itself. So cartridges are loaded one on top of another in the magazine. The magazine is then inserted up the magazine well of the pistol. And then the user -- typically this is closed -- the user will pull back on the slide and release. And as they release, the top cartridge from the magazine will be removed from the top and loaded into the chamber and the pistol will be ready to fire.

In order to fire a shot at this point, all you need to do is pull the trigger.

GUY: All right, and is there a way to load the firearm so that you don't need to pull the slide back to chamber a round?