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Building A Case Against Zimmerman; Police: Ammo Found In Hernandez's Apartment; Don't Call It A Coup; White House Treads Softly On Egypt; Upholding The Founding Fathers' Words

Aired July 4, 2013 - 16:29   ET



In other national news today: jurors in the George Zimmerman trial are spending the holiday not in the courtroom but sequestered until the trial resumes tomorrow. Here's hoping someone at least dropped off some hot dogs and sparklers. Today's break comes after some of the most dramatic testimony in the trial to date and we still have yet to hear from Trayvon's mother. She could testify tomorrow as the prosecution is expected to wrap up its case.

Joining me now is Jean Casarez, CNN legal correspondent. Jean, thanks so much for being with us. A lot of big developments this week. The prosecution is expected to rest tomorrow.

Do you think they've made a strong case? How much work do you think the defense has cut out for them?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, this case is going to come down to the law and it's going to come down to the jury instructions given to the jury. I mean, we've heard early on that the prosecution's case is confrontation, that George Zimmerman confronted Trayvon Martin. So, he was the initial aggressor. I think they've really shown that he was the aggressor, initially because he followed Trayvon Martin.

But, Jake, there's more than that. You have to have adequate provocation to not be able to then claim self-defense. So George Zimmerman had to do something to Trayvon Martin for Trayvon to then hit George Zimmerman and punch him and bash him into the sidewalk. Well, the prosecution has got to find some evidence of what that adequate provocation is, the aggression. It can't be mere words, it can't be following. That's not illegal, can you do that. So there has to be a little bit more.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We heard Zimmerman's voice this week. He didn't testify, but we heard both video and also the audio of his police interview shortly after the shooting. I want to play some of that.


GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, DEFENDANT: When he said "you're going to die tonight," I felt his hand go down on my side and I felt he was going for my firearm. So I grabbed it immediately and as he banged my head again, I just pulled out my firearm and shot him.

DETECTIVE DORIS SINGLETON, SANFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT: OK. And then what happened? Did he -- you were both on the ground? Is he on top of you?

ZIMMERMAN: I'm on my back. He's on top of me. He's mounted on top of me. And I just shot him and then he falls off and he's like, all right, you got it, you got it.


TAPPER: According to the people we heard testify yesterday, no DNA of Trayvon Martin was found on the gun or on the holster and that none of Zimmerman's DNA was found under Trayvon Martin's finger nails. Does that undermine Zimmerman's side of the story in a significant way?

CASAREZ: I think this is so interesting because, first of all, George Zimmerman never said he touched the gun. That best friend that wrote the book, he said that George said he touched the gun, but George in all of these statements he never said he touched the gun. He said Trayvon appeared to be reaching for it.

Do you know what we found out with the DNA evidence? On the holster you had George Zimmerman's Dna, but they could not exclude Trayvon Martin's dna from the outside of the holster. I find that extremely interesting right there and that actually goes to support George Zimmerman's statements.

TAPPER: The lead investigator in the case, Chris Serino, testified this week. One part of his testimony was ultimately thrown out, with the judge telling the jury to disregard it. I want to play that exchange.


MARK O'MARA, ZIMMMERMAN'S DEFENSE LAWYER: Is there anything else in this case where you got the insight that he might be a pathological liar?


O'MARA: So if we were to take pathological liar off the table as a possibility just for the purpose of this next question, do you think he was telling the truth?



TAPPER: Do you think he was telling the truth? Yes. Now, the judge told the jury to disregard that, but it was almost a full day afterwards. Do you think ultimately that is going to weigh on what the jury decides?

CASAREZ: You know, they know they're not supposed to regard that as testimony to consider when they're deliberating, but he said it, right? And what they can consider are other things he said, that the statements that he made were consistent with the other witness statements and statements George Zimmerman made consistent with the evidence that they had received on the case. So it's basically the same thing, right, a distinction maybe without too much of a difference.

TAPPER: There's also the fact that we saw Trayvon Martin's hoodie for the first time. It's unclear how much of that was brought out for forensic reasons and how much it was brought out for psychological reasons in the courtroom. Do you think it was significant?

CASAREZ: It was really something to see that, but let me tell you some back story on this because this is interesting, too. You know, when law enforcement takes clothes, and you probably know this, Jake, they have to if they're wet dry them out. They're supposed to put them in a paper bag. It was raining that night and the clothes were damp. They put the clothes in plastic bags and sealed them.

And when they finally opened them up to do analysis on them, they were still damp and they smelled and they could have biohazards on them because of that. And DNA can disintegrate in those conditions. So how much should the jury rely on this DNA evidence? So what they had to do, Jake, was they put it in these big frames.

I've never seen anything like it before, with two panes of plastics glass and two people basically had to carry it to mound it for the jury to see. It's quite a visual, though, in that courtroom.

TAPPER: Yes, it is indeed. It kind of brings to life the idea of this person who is not in the courtroom obviously, the victim, Trayvon Martin. We're expecting Trayvon Martin's mother to possibly testify tomorrow and we expect that she will say on behest of the prosecution that the voice yelling "help" on that 911 call overheard in the background is her son. Do you think that she will have an impact? Obviously, she is somebody who has a vested interest in the verdict here.

CASAREZ: That's true, but I think she will have a big impact in this courtroom because she will bring Trayvon Martin to life. I mean, how much have we heard about Trayvon Martin? And the senior audio engineer from the FBI, he said the best person to really testify as to whose voice that was on the screaming would be someone that was familiar with the voice, that maybe they had heard them scream in the past.

My guess is she'll talk about maybe other times, possibly in his childhood that she heard her son screaming and those screams matched the screams on that 911 call. I think it will be extremely emotional.

TAPPER: I agree. We're looking forward to tomorrow. Jean Casarez, thank you so much.

CASAREZ: Thanks.

TAPPER: Coming up in the "Sports Lead," what could say America better than consuming 25,000 calories in 10 minutes in a sporting event? Joey Chestnut shoves his way into the competitive eating record books again. So how many hotdogs did it take to win today?

And books to stuff into your beach bag this long holiday weekend, some can't-miss reads coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. It's time for the "Sports Lead." Only in America can this become a sport. Joey Chestnut did it again. Jaws won his seventh consecutive Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest today in record fashion, beating his personal best by a weiner, forcing down 69 hotdogs and buns in 10 minutes. That's more than a day's worth of calories for every minute of the contest.

On the women's side, Sonia Thomas, known as the Black Widow of competitive eating defended her crown with more than 36 dogs and buns. Congratulations to both of you and of course, to your parents as well. They must be very proud.

Authorities in Massachusetts were fed a huge tip in the Aaron Hernandez murder case and they are still digesting. An acquaintance of the former football star told police about a secret apartment Hernandez was renting about 10 miles from his house and the place is apparently a treasure trove of evidence. Investigators say they found the same kind of bullets used to kill his friend, along with a sweat shirt and ball cap that Hernandez was seen wearing that night. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to pre-meditated murder.

And now it's time for the "Lead Read." Many of you have just started your long Fourth of July weekend and you can't eat hotdogs the entire time so how about a good book? How about three? I got some recommendations from essayist and author, Matt Klam.


TAPPER: Matt, so nice to you have here. You're going to tell us some books we should be reading.

MATT KLAM, AUTHOR AND ESSAYIST: Yes, Jake, these are three books I really love and I think you should rush out and buy them.

TAPPER: They're new ones.

KLAM: The first one is called "The Peripatetic Coffin." It's by Ethan Rutherford. It's a short-story collection, strong, strong collection, a lot of variety and really humane characters.

TAPPER: Not just him or it's only him writing.

KLAM: It's his. It's a debut of short stories that he wrote, yes.

TAPPER: What do you like about it?

KLAM: I love the killer opening paragraphs, great last lines, wild settings. Three or four of the stories take place on ships of sorts. One on a submarine during the civil war, one on a futuristic whaling voyage and one on a sailing trip trapped in the arctic ice.

TAPPER: Are you a seafaring man? Is this something that interests you or not particularly?

KLAM: Yes. I love to go out and spot the Norwell.

TAPPER: So what's next?

KLAM: The next one is -- the first book has a kind of a dark comic flair. This book is by Jessica Blau called "The Wonder Bread Summer." She is highly comic. She's really funny. She's a Southern California writer. She's got some sunshine in her voice. It's the story of ally. A 20-year-old college student for a very good reason steals a wonder bread bag full of cocaine and she goes on a romp.

TAPPER: There's a good reason for that?

KLAM: There is a good reason. She's been working at a clothing store and doesn't realize it's a drug front. She's hasn't been paid, she's getting evicted and is about to be kicked out of school. So she goes on this romp around L.A. and other parts of California. And the book has -- it nods to "Alice In Wonderland." If you're an "Alice In Wonderland" fan, you will see some stuff in there and people do ingest strange substances.

And change size and shape although not literally. The way this book opens is this is the beginning of Chapter One. Ali was in a footing room with a 33-year-old man named Jonas pulling pinches of cocaine out of a wonder bread bag three quarters full. It was the first time she had tried coke, her heart was radatatting and her limbs were trembling like a small poodles. Clearly this had been a poor decision.

TAPPER: That sounds great and what's the last one here?

KLAM: The last book here is called "You Are One Of Them." It's by Elliott Holt and I literally could not put this book down. It's the story of Sarah Zuckerman, who is a well-to-do Washingtonian -- it's set in 1982 or '83 and she's kind of from a shattered family. And the girl across the street, who is from a perfect family, together they write a letter to the Kremlin. It's the height of the cold war. If you were around then, it was easy to imagine nuclear annihilation. They wrote to the Kremlin asking for peace. It really happened with a girl named --

TAPPER: Samantha Smith.

KLAM: In this case the other girl was chosen. She comes home, becomes an international celebrity, goes on a book tour and dies in a plane crash. And then the book picks up where Sarah is out of college, she's in Moscow as a journalist, but she's also looking for resolution to her friend's death and also because she's received some pretty good information that this death may have in fact not been an accident and in fact her friend might still be alive.

TAPPER: Wow. So this is -- OK, Elliott Holt, "You Are One Of Them," about the little girl during the cold war. "The Wonder Bread Summer" by Jessica Blau about the bag of cocaine and the "Peripatetic Coffin" and other stories by Ethan Rutherford. Professor Matt Klam, thank you so much for the recommendations. I'm going to read them all.

KLAM: OK, great.


TAPPER: Coming up in the "Politics Lead," a coup or not a coup? Does it really matter? Actually yes. Why President Obama is stopping short of saying that four-letter word.

Plus hash tag your it, "Life, Liberty and The Pursuit Of Happiness," are among the unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence. That and getting a free cone when your kid drops his, do you have any others. We'll read your best tweets coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for our "Politics Lead." Don't call it a coup, necessarily. Mohamed Morsy is not coming back to lead Egypt anytime soon, however, whatever you call it. The White House released a statement just this hour saying the president continues to meet with members of his national security team to monitor the latest developments.

But before Morsy was deposed, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz took out his sharpest tipped pen writing on foreign of the president's handling of the Egypt's situation, quote, "The United States is entrenched as the partner of a repressive, Islamist regime and the enemy of the secular pro-democracy opposition."

Now that Morsy is gone, more Republicans ease up or are they going to take a page from Mr. Cruz's book. Let's bring in our political panel to talk about it, Democratic strategist, Julian Epstein, host of "In Play," the "Washington Post" new online political show, Jackie Kucinich and senior editor for "National Review" and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Ramesh Ponnuru.

Thank you one in all. Happy Fourth. Jackie, this seems like a matter not if Republicans go on the offensive against President Obama on this issue but when.

JACKIE KUCINICH, HOST, "WASHINGTON POST'S IN PLAY": Well, yes. I mean, Congress though has a big decision to make, too. Because of what the law says, if this is a military coup, they've got to start pulling back funding. Congress has already because of concerns because of the now former government there they had frozen some of the aid that Obama had promised so until there's a new, solid president or not there, they need to figure out what to do because the clock is ticking.

TAPPER: We went into this earlier in the show, but the White House being very, very cautious, very circumspect in their words. Are they in a difficult situation here in terms of going forward or do you think they've handled it exactly right? JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think both are true. They're in a difficult situation and they've handled it well. They can't come out and call it a coup or side with one of the factions for obvious reasons, the foreign aid issue and also because the administration doesn't want to take the position it's opposing a democratically elected government in Egypt.

That said, at the end of the day this will probably be a good thing for the United States. The Morsy government was a disaster. Not just because the economy was in tatters, but because the Muslim Brotherhood refused once it got into power to share any of that power with the other losing factions in Egypt and that made the government ultimately ungovernable.

What now has to happen is the military has to at some point in the near future call for elections and it's not just the election that's important, but it's what happens after the election. And Fareed Zakaria has pointed out you have to have institutions in place that guarantee the rights of minorities or it won't work. We saw Zakaria's predictions played out in real time.

TAPPER: And Ramesh, where do you see Republicans going with this after the Fourth of July recess is over and they come back? Is it going to be a lot of eye told you so, Obama administration, you picked the wrong horse? Where do you see this going?

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, look, this administration has managed to be perceived by the people of Egypt as allied to two repressive governments in a row and I think there will be a lot of criticism from Republicans. But I think at the same time, Republicans are going to understand perfectly well that the public is not going to treat what's going on in Egypt as a big voting issue.

EPSTEIN: Not only that, Republicans understand there is not -- notwithstanding the comments of Senator Cruz, there is not a lot of light here between the Republican and the Democratic Party. Both parties recognize the importance of a democratic Egypt and having elections that, as I just said, will work, will share power with other minority factions.

If Egypt collapses and the economy collapses, if they fall into the hands of Muslim extremists, that is a disaster for this country. So the statesmen in both parties understand what's at stake and understand the importance of making this succeed ultimately. You're not going to see a foreign aid cut off.

KUCINICH: But some of those funds are still frozen for propping up the debt issue there because Congress wasn't sure about --

EPSTEIN: And that's correct. Jackie is absolutely correct about that, but there are legal ways of getting around that answered think you will find the administration and Congress working together. This may be an exception to the rule.

TAPPER: But some of the most outspoken Republicans on this have been the Rand Pauls, the Ted Cruzs, not the quote/unquote, "statesmen." And I think there's going to be probably it would be my guess there's going to be some deference to them given how it all played out. Do you think --

PONNURU: They've taken a leading voice on this issue so it stands to reason they're going to be the ones to say, as you mentioned earlier, we told you so and trying to direct policy going forward.

TAPPER: Jackie, just give us a preview, when they come back from the Fourth of July recess, where do you think the debate on Egypt goes? What is going to be the first thing that Congress starts discussing? Obviously, there will be hearings and we have to wait and see how it all shakes out, but where do you think it goes?

KUCINICH: It's funny. You saw the congressional reaction to this sort of start a little bit slower --

TAPPER: Very slow. We couldn't get anybody on the show or on the phone yesterday. They were all just waiting to see.

KUCINICH: But it seems like Senator Leahy put out a statement talking about the aid issue and really sussing this out. So, yes, I think you'll see hearings. That said, I don't see this overshadowing immigration. I think Congress is maybe not in the House, I think all eyes are going to be on that. You'll see movement on this definitely especially with Rand Paul. I can't imagine we won't be hearing about the foreign aid issue when he takes the floor.

TAPPER: All right, Jackie, Julian, and Ramesh, thank you so much. Happy Fourth. Hope you have a wonderful holiday.

When we come back today, we not only celebrate America's independence, but also we remember those who regularly risk their lives to make this country what it is. We'll take a moment to salute those heroes next.


TAPPER: Finally today, 200 years ago today the Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence, perhaps most famously declaring "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Lesser known is the last sentence in the Declaration of Independence, "And for the support of this declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."

There really are not that many of us who actually walk that walk, who truly pledge our lives and our sacred honor for this country and for what it endeavours to represent not just independence from Great Britain and King George III, but from the old order. Yet every day we hear of those who do pledge their lives.

Two days ago in Afghanistan, Army Specialist Hilda Clayton from Augusta, Georgia was killed. The married 22-year-old was the most recent soldier in a long line of tens of thousands to die serving this country and what it endeavors to represent namely liberty and freedom.

No less heroic, no less pledging their lives are those 19 elite firefighters who perished on Sunday in Arizona or the Hood County Texas Sheriff's deputy who died a day before while answering a disturbance call and so on.

So as we honor and thank our founding fathers today, the 56 signatories on the Declaration of Independence and more, we here at THE LEAD also want to thank all of those who continue to uphold that sacred pledge, who enable to us live in this amazing country, where we exercise those certain unalienable rights.

Happy Fourth of July. Hash tag, you're it. We asked you earlier to expand upon the Declaration of Independence and send us a few more unalienable rights. God bless America. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now leave you in the very capable hands of Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."