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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

George Zimmerman Trial Continues; Trayvon Martin's Father Testifies; Former Sanford Police Chief Testifies

Aired July 8, 2013 - 16:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

You're watching live continuous coverage of the Trayvon Martin murder trial. The defense has called Trayvon's father, Tracy, to the stand. Let's listen.

TRACY MARTIN, FATHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: Yes.

BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: OK.

And was it still hard to believe that your son was dead?

MARTIN: It's still hard to this day that he's dead.

DE LA RIONDA: OK.

And officers had come to your house, I believe, on the 27th and told you that your son was dead, right? First, they wanted to verify that was your son, because he didn't have an I.D. with him, so they wanted for you to verify that he was the person that they found out in the courtyard of that retreat at Twin Lakes, where Brandy Green lived, right?

MARTIN: Correct.

DE LA RIONDA: OK.

And I gather you went and got a picture of your son, just to show them who your son was. Or did they show you a picture of a person that at that time was just described as an unknown person out at the courtyard, they showed you a picture of the body there on the ground, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection, Your Honor. May we approach?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

TAPPER: There's been an objection and the two lawyers are approaching the bench right now.

I want to bring in two of the attorneys we have to talk about this case, Christopher Darden, the former O.J. Simpson prosecutor, and Diane Tennis, a Florida criminal defense attorney.

Chris, very quickly because we don't know how long this sidebar will last, what do you think of the trial so far today? It seems as though there have been some big blows to the prosecution. Right now, we have Trayvon Martin's father trying to rebut a point made by Officer Serino. Officer Serino said Trayvon Martin's father initially said that it was not his son Trayvon's voice on the recording and the father is saying that's not in fact what he said.

How do you think that it plays with the jury?

CHRISTOPHER DARDEN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, I think it places the prosecution in a terrible, terrible position.

This is a classic scorch-and-burn defense by the defense. They are attacking every witness and they are attacking each and every bases upon which the prosecution claims this is a murder vs. an excusable or justifiable homicide.

TAPPER: And, Diana Tennis, Florida criminal defense attorney, what's your take on the day's events so far?

DIANA TENNIS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. Certainly hearing from the people who love George Zimmerman, it's hard to think of him not as a good guy at this point. So, yes, the defense has made some inroads.

TAPPER: All right. Let's see what's going on in the courtroom right now as they continue the questioning of Trayvon Martin's father, Tracy.

DE LA RIONDA: Mr. Martin, I was asking you about the 27th. Detective Serino or Investigator Serino has come and showed you a photograph, is that correct, you identified it as being your son, correct?

MARTIN: Correct.

DE LA RIONDA: OK.

Now we move to the 28th, where they ask you to go down to the police station, correct?

MARTIN: Correct.

DE LA RIONDA: And you go down with your fiancee at the time, Brandy Green, correct?

MARTIN: Correct.

DE LA RIONDA: And at that time they played several recordings to you, correct?

MARTIN: Yes, they played a series of the 911 calls.

DE LA RIONDA: OK.

And these were calls where neighbors had called in, regarding what you now knew was the death of your son. Correct?

MARTIN: Correct. DE LA RIONDA: Right, and the recordings were of people calling and explaining that somebody had been shot and I'm sure you listened to the person now identified as Ms. Surdyka, the lady who went hysterical on the 911 call. And you were listening to all of that, is what I'm saying.

MARTIN: To my recollection, I don't think Detective Serino played each call in its entirety.

DE LA RIONDA: OK.

MARTIN: He played some of the -- to my knowledge, he played some of each call leading up to the last call, with the fatal shot.

DE LA RIONDA: All right. So they played the call then of the cries for help and then you actually hear a shot, is that correct?

MARTIN: Correct.

DE LA RIONDA: And am I safe to assume that you still at that time were in denial in the sense of not wanting to believe that your son was dead?

MARTIN: Correct.

DE LA RIONDA: And this was an emotional time for you, would that be fair to say?

MARTIN: Very emotional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I must object and refer to your previous ruling.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're now on to the day of the phone calls being played. Overruled.

DE LA RIONDA: This was a very emotional time for you while this was going on, in terms of -- I'm talking about the day the recording was played for you at the Sanford Police Department, correct?

MARTIN: Correct.

DE LA RIONDA: And you listened to the recording, and as you stated, describe to the jury, you pulled your chair back in disbelief that you were actually listening to voices for help and also, more importantly, also, a shot.

MARTIN: Correct.

DE LA RIONDA: You realized that that was the shot...

MARTIN: That killed my son, yes.

DE LA RIONDA: Did you really know what to do, at that point?

MARTIN: No. I was -- my world was -- from that point, until today, my world has just been turned upside-down.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. Let's focus on that day, then, after you heard the cries for help or the recording, that's been referred to as the Lauer recording, and then also the shot, at that same town, you were right there, Investigator Serino asked you about the recording, if you could recognize the voice, correct?

MARTIN: Correct.

DE LA RIONDA: And I'm assuming that was difficult for you to even contemplate identifying or not identifying the voice, is that correct?

MARTIN: Correct.

DE LA RIONDA: And as best you could, you attempted to answer Investigator Serino, is that true?

MARTIN: Yes.

DE LA RIONDA: OK.

Now, as was pointed out, there was a lot of commotion in that recording, wasn't there, the yells for help, the person calling, and then most importantly, the shot too. In terms of your mind, what was going through your mind, can you describe to the jury what was going through your mind when you were listening to that?

MARTIN: Basically, what I was listening to, I was listening to my son's last cry for help. I was listening to his life being taken. And I was coming, trying to come to grips that Trayvon was here no more. It was just tough.

DE LA RIONDA: And as Mr. O'Mara pointed out, the subsequent time, you were present when that recording was played again at the mayor's office, is that correct?

MARTIN: Correct.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. And I believe your former wife, Ms. Fulton, was present, correct?

MARTIN: Correct.

DE LA RIONDA: And I think you said you wanted to listen to it. Did you listen to that recording and then other recordings at that time too?

MARTIN: I can't remember. I can't remember if it was all of the 911 calls or was it just that last 911 call, but I do remember that I took control of the mouse or the clicker or whatever it was that they had and I was able to rewind that same tape over and over again.

DE LA RIONDA: Did you want to, I guess, hear your son's voice over and over, just to -- did that bring you any comfort, I guess, is what I'm trying to...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to object again, same relevance, same objection as before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Overruled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE)

DE LA RIONDA: I will be glad to rephrase the question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

DE LA RIONDA: You were playing that recording over and over. You were still dealing with this? His death?

MARTIN: Yes.

DE LA RIONDA: Now, this was back, this was -- God, it was some time in March. It was later. It wasn't like days later. You were still having to deal with his death?

MARTIN: Correct.

DE LA RIONDA: And you played it. You said -- did you actually write down, one, two, three, four, five or you're estimating that you played at least 20 times?

MARTIN: I'm estimating that I played it maybe 20 times.

DE LA RIONDA: And you played it over and over, why? Were you trying to deal with this? Why were you doing that?

MARTIN: It wasn't as much that I was trying to deal with it. I was just trying to figure out on that night of February 26, 2012, why did the defendant get out of his vehicle and chase my son?

MARTIN: And you weren't there when it happened, correct?

DE LA RIONDA: Correct.

MARTIN: And this recording, I guess, is one of the last things in terms of hearing the voice and the shot, and you were trying to as best you can figure out what happened or why it happened?

DE LA RIONDA: Yes.

MARTIN: Thank you, sir. No further questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any redirect?

MARK O'MARA, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Yes.

Do you believe that the police lied when the two officers said that you said no about it being your son?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection, Your Honor. It's improper to -- about what somebody else is saying.

O'MARA: Foundation question for another one, Your Honor. I think this is necessary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you will have to rephrase your question, because it's not proper to have a witness comment on another witness' testimony.

O'MARA: I will do it this way, then. Did you ever instruct your attorney, Ben Crump -- you didn't have Ben Crump when you listened to the tape on the 27th, on the 28th, did you?

MARTIN: No.

O'MARA: He was not your attorney at that point?

MARTIN: No, he wasn't.

O'MARA: Later, did you instruct him to say that the police lied when they said that you couldn't tell when they said that you had said no about it being your son's voice? Did you instruct your lawyer to say that?

MARTIN: I never instructed anyone to say anything.

O'MARA: You never instructed Ben Crump to say the police had lied about that?

MARTIN: I never instructed anyone to say anything.

O'MARA: Did you instruct your lawyer, Ben Crump, to say that the audio has since been cleared up and now you can hear it better?

MARTIN: No, I didn't.

O'MARA: Nothing further, Your Honor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: May Mr. Martin be excused?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Your Honor, subject to recall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. O'Mara, may Mr. Martin step down?

O'MARA: Certainly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, you may step down.

Call your next witness, please

TAPPER: As Trayvon Martin's father, Tracy Martin, steps down, we're going to take a quick break. We will be right back with more from the George Zimmerman murder trial.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's live continuous coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial. We're now hearing testimony from the former chief of police, William Lee, who was forced to resign from that position about a year ago. Let's listen. BILLY RAY LEE JR., FORMER SANFORD POLICE CHIEF: From May of 2011 to June of 2012.

O'MARA: Did you say that you came out of retirement as far as your deposition?

LEE: I retired from the Seminole County Sheriff's Office and took a position with Seminole State College as their director of the Center for Public Safety. We provided training, certificate training in the areas of law enforcement, corrections, firefighting, and paramedic and EMT services and also a two-year degree program in each of those disciplines.

O'MARA: And were you then sort of recruited from that teaching position to get reactivated in law enforcement as the chief of Sanford P.D.?

LEE: That position came available while I was still at the sheriff's office and I applied for that.

O'MARA: Particular to this case, then, I presume that you were not -- were you hands-on or were you just in a supervisory role over the investigation over the George Zimmerman case?

LEE: I was in supervisory or administrative role at the police department.

O'MARA: But you -- did you have particular focus on this case as well as time went on, from February 26, during the time that you still had involvement in the case?

LEE: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: Did that also include the playing of a 911 call for the Martin family members? Were you aware of that decision? And I want to focus you at this point, simply were you aware that that decision had been made, that the tape was going to be played for the Martin family?

LEE: My recommendation was that the 911 --

O'MARA: I want to be careful a little bit, that's why I focused the question. I don't want to spend a lot of time dealing with the decision to play the tape. I want to focus once that decision was made and we'll talk about from that point forward. So you were aware, were you not, that a decision would be made that the tape would be released to be played to the Martin family; is that correct?

LEE: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: OK.

Once that decision had been made, I want to focus you on the way that the recording was played for the Martin family. OK?

LEE: Yes, sir. O'MARA: So generally speaking, with your experience in law enforcement, within the context of what we will call lineups or whether that be a visual lineup or audio lineup, what is the -- what are the best practices as to how to handle lineups generally?

LEE: Generally just as in, for example, a photo lineup, you would show that photo array or that piece of evidence to a potential witness in a case individually.

O'MARA: OK. And what is the purpose of doing it individually rather than in a group?

LEE: So their decision is not influenced.

O'MARA: One from the other? One witness influencing another witness?

LEE: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: So if in fact you were showing, as an example, a photo lineup to this jury and asked them if they could pick out me, would you do it as a group as a jury, or would you do it individually one juror at a time?

LEE: You should do it individually.

O'MARA: And the purpose of doing it individually as opposed to the group?

LEE: So their identification would not be influenced by others.

O'MARA: Is that a similar process, then, to what would be done with an audio lineup?

LEE: Should be, yes, sir.

O'MARA: An audio lineup similar to a photo lineup is just having someone listen to a piece of evidence to see if they can identify anything in that piece of evidence?

LEE: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: And that's what was going to happen in this case once the decision was made to play it for the Martin family, correct? That it was going to be played for them?

LEE: It was my understanding that one member of their family had already listened to that tape, you know. Again, my recommendation --

O'MARA: Right. We're going to talk -- I don't want to talk about your recommendation as to anything other than once a decision was made, what was your recommendation as to how the tape should be played for the family members?

LEE: It should be played individually.

O'MARA: Do you know the result of how it was played? Was it played individually or as a group?

LEE: It's my understanding it was played in a group setting in the mayor's office.

O'MARA: Was law enforcement present?

LEE: No, sir.

O'MARA: In your years of experience, how is -- is that normally an event that would be handled by law enforcement?

LEE: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: May I have a moment, Your Honor?

In this particular case then, did you ask to be present during the time that the recording was to be played for the family?

LEE: I offered to be present, yes, sir.

O'MARA: And that was accepted?

LEE: No, sir.

O'MARA: Were you excluded from the room?

LEE: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: Nothing further, Your Honor.

JUDGE DEBRA NELSON, SEMINOLE COUNTY: Thank you.

Cross?

BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, PROSECUTOR: Good afternoon, sir.

LEE: Good afternoon.

DE LA RIONDA: The mayor made a decision not to have you in there; is that correct?

LEE: I believe I asked the city manager if he wanted me to be in the room and they declined.

DE LA RIONDA: The city manager was your boss?

LEE: That's correct.

DE LA RIONDA: So is the mayor, I'm assuming, too, by virtue of that?

LEE: In my position, my contract, it was with the city manager.

DE LA RIONDA: OK, all right.

And the recording itself was played in the mayor's office, correct?

LEE: Yes, that's correct.

DE LA RIONDA: I apologize. Did I interrupt you?

LEE: No.

DE LA RIONDA: Did you finish answering?

LEE: I did.

DE LA RIONDA: OK, thank you.

And you were not present when the recording was played, correct?

LEE: I was not in the mayor's office.

DE LA RIONDA: You were in the same building, but not in the mayor's office when that was played?

LEE: That's correct.

DE LA RIONDA: Did I have that right?

LEE: Yes.

DE LA RIONDA: OK.

Now, you were asked about the lineup. And just so the jury knows, in case they haven't heard of a lineup, what you're talking about is, you don't want to have it suggestive, in other words, you don't want to have -- normally a lineup includes six photographs, right?

LEE: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: And have you a person look at the lineup and then identify if they know one of the individuals that did something to him or was a witness or whatever; is that correct?

LEE: That's correct.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. What you don't want to do is show them a photograph, just one by itself, correct?

LEE: That's correct.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. Now, also in a lineup, you don't want a potential witness to a crime to have seen something on TV saying this is the person and this case is about this and here's a photograph. You don't want to do that either, correct?

LEE: Preferably not.

DE LA RIONDA: Right, because that would be kind of tainting it, correct?

LEE: Correct. DE LA RIONDA: So, in other words, in your experience, you have a case and witness say. "Oh, I saw the photograph on TV" or "I heard a voice on TV and they broadcast the voice of Joe," Joe is the suspect, and that would be tainted, correct?

LEE: Possibly.

DE LA RIONDA: OK.

And the reason is because the person potentially was influenced by the fact that the case dealt with Joe and they knew Joe was arrested and there's a photograph of Joe that now would be tainted potentially, correct?

LEE: Possibly, yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: And that also would apply to voice, correct?

LEE: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. I mean, voice and photo lineups you kind of do the same thing, correct?

LEE: If you can, yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: And when you say a voice lineup, you would actually have six separate recordings, to be fair, in terms of completely accurate, you would have six separate voices, would you have a person actually listen to all six and then say, you if you did it similar to a photo lineup, would you have the person say, which one do you recognize, correct?

LEE: If you could -- if you could have six audio recordings that were similar in nature when you prepare a lineup, there's supposed to be certain characteristics of that person that is the subject of that photo lineup that is similar to all the other photographs in the photo array.

DE LA RIONDA: Right. Just like if you had a photo array, you wouldn't pick if the suspect had a beard, you wouldn't put one person with a beard and the other people without beards, correct?

LEE: That's correct.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take a very quick break. We'll be back with more live, continuous coverage of the George Zimmerman trial.

DE LA RIONDA: So, in other words, you don't want somebody potentially --

(COMMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Good afternoon. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We just heard from the father of Trayvon Martin, Tracy Martin, who was called by the defense. Then, we heard from detective Chris Serino, former lead investigator in the Zimmerman case, he was called back to the stand today by the defense.

But right now, we're watching the former police chief from Sanford, Florida, William Lee, leave the stand. We're going to review some of the things that happened earlier in the day. Specifically here is a question about defense attorney Mark O'Mara, asking Chris Serino, former detective, about when the father first heard the 911 call.

Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'MARA: OK. And what did you ask him?

CHRIS SERINO, WITNESS: I believe my words were: is that your son's voice in the background? Or something, I think I said it a little differently than that, but I inquired if that was in fact his son yelling for help.

O'MARA: And what was his response?

SERINO: He -- it was more of a verbal and nonverbal. He looked away and under his breath, as I interpreted it, said no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I want to bring in our legal experts, Chris Darden and Diana Tennis (ph).

And just so you at home know, court has recessed for the day. So we're going to go over some of the key moments in today's trial.

Christopher Darden, Tracy Martin testified. He said that the call -- listening to 911 call -- was very emotional for him, that he didn't say, no, that wasn't his son's voice, despite that that's what the police officer recollected. Where does that leave the jury? Do they disregard what Serino, detective? Do you think that it's just a model (ph)? Where do you think they go from there?

CHRISTOPHER DARDEN, FORMER O.J. SIMPSON PROSECUTOR: Well, certainly, some of the jurors can assume it is just a model, since Mr. Martin supposed said no under his breath and as he turned away. But what this does is it pits the Martin family against the police department. Are they telling the truth? Are the police officers lying?

And juxtaposed that against the fact that these detectives believe or at least the lead detective testified that he believed Zimmerman was telling the truth earlier on in the trial. This type of evidence is -- this testimony I think is devastating. I think we're at a point in the trial where it not just what witnesses say, it's also what they don't say. There was a lot to be interpreted from the testimony Mr. Martin gave.

TAPPER: What would you interpret? DARDEN: Well, when you take Mr. Martin's testimony and then you follow it up with the former chief of police, it appears that the politicians have taken control over this homicide investigation. The person responsible for conducting the investigation, the chief of police, has been excluded. So that this perhaps is in fact a political prosecution.

TAPPER: Interesting.