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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

George Zimmerman Murder Trial Continues; Evaluating Today's Testimony; NTSB Looking At Plane's Pilots; Two Killed, 305 Survive Asiana Crash; Egypt's Crisis Deepens; Big Questions Left In Zimmerman Trial

Aired July 8, 2013 - 16:30   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Diana, walk us through why the defense called the former chief of police, Bill Lee, we just heard from him. What was the defense trying to establish? Is it what Chris just said?

DIANA TENNIS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oh, yes. I mean, Christopher put it -- put it beautifully. The jurors came in this morning already knowing what they believed about whose voice it was. There wasn't going to be any changing anybody's mind on who was trying help. They gave up -- the ability to have two breaks this morning because they just wanted to get on with it.

So what we've being seeing today is the defense pretending that this is about whose voice it is. It isn't. It's about showing the jury how wonderful George Zimmerman is by bringing to them this grouping of responsible, nice, heartfelt, good people who clearly believe 1,000 percent in George Zimmerman. That was the purpose for the lay witnesses and Christopher is exactly right.

When you have the family and the mayor in a closed meeting that you take away the police, if you uninvite law enforcement to this meeting with potential witnesses and a huge piece of evidence and this case gets born on the couch of Sybrina Fulton, Rachel Jeantel, there without law enforcement, you know, bringing this out to the open and doing the things the right way, it really does smack of a political process.

And the issue is at what point does the defense have enough of that out there that they can argue that in closing argument? Because right now we're getting a smear of it but I don't know that they necessarily have enough to go -- you know, get down and dirty in their closing. But that certainly where they're headed

TAPPER: Let listen to one witness who was particularly noteworthy, I thought, a friend of Zimmerman's. His name was John Donnelly. He told the jury that he served as a medic during the Vietnam war. That experience enabled him to recognize the screams of people he knows well. Donnelly was played the 911 call and he had no hesitation in identifying the voice. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN DONNELLY, FRIEND OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that is George Zimmerman. And I wish to god I did not have that ability to understand that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Diana, with that story, do you think that Donnelly is a more credible witness about whose voice that is screaming on the 911 call than say Zimmerman's mother or Trayvon Martin's mother? Does Donnelly and his professed expertise make a difference you think?

TENNIS: Well, assume for a minute that the jury is not making up their mind about the voice I.D. based on other evidence, which is what I suspect. But assume that they're really trying to figure this out through these people saying it this voice versus that voice. To me the most impactful witnesses have not been the moms because, frankly, neither one of them honestly came across as that emotional or there wasn't enough to hold on to to feel like you really got to know them during their testimony.

But George Zimmerman's uncle, who we heard from on Friday and this Vietnam vet friend who considers him like a son both were impactful, emotional. George Zimmerman showed actual emotion when they were testifying for the first time ever. These guys, not only do they clearly believe to their tippy toes, law enforcement, military toes that this was George Zimmerman's voice, but they believe in him as a person and love him.

I just think that goes a really long way. I mean, just -- I think that goes a really long way. Because what the defense is worried about is we win on the law but we lose on the hearts of the jury and they say I just can't let this thing pass, let's do a compromised verdict or I just can't let this go. They -- the defense wants them to want to acquit George Zimmerman and that's what they're working on to today.

TAPPER: Christopher, do you think the jury will end up saying look, there's no way at all that I can identify this voice, these people can't come to an agreement. And ultimately disregard that? And if that is ultimately what they conclude, that I suspect would be a much bigger blow to the prosecution than in the past?

CHRISTOPHER DARDEN, FORMER O.J. SIMPSON PROSECUTOR: It would certainly be a much bigger blow to the prosecution. I think the whole voice evidence issue just shows the difference between prosecution and defense counsel. You know, the prosecution, they bring a brother, they bring a mother. The defense, they think outside the box. They bring a whole variety of different people. And the suggestion isn't just that it was Zimmerman's voice, it is that there was no question, there is no doubt that is Zimmerman's voice. And anybody that knows Zimmerman knows that it's his voice.

TAPPER: All right. We're going to take a very quick break. And when we come back, more analysis of the day's events at the George Zimmerman murder trial that has been a day full of moving and consequential testimony. Back in one minute after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We're continuing our wrap-up of the day's events in the George Zimmerman murder trial with our legal experts, Christopher Darden and Diana Tennis.

One of the honor moments today came when the defense called to the stand Zimmerman's trainer at a gym, Adam Pollack. Pollack teaches people to fight including mixed martial arts. He went to great lengths to describe some of the training he does, which apparently required him to mount defense attorney Mark O'Mara. But since he trained Zimmerman on and off for about a year in boxing and what's called grappling, something similar to wrestling, the defense felt that Pollack could grade Zimmerman's athletic prowess at the time of the shooting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'MARA: But just in general, athleticism, I think you've identified that you have a feel for where people fit in their abilities based upon their history in athleticism? On a scale of one to 10, where would Mr. Zimmerman fit?

ADAM POLLACK, TRAINED GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Like I said about a one. He's still learning how long to punch. He didn't know how to really effectively punch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Diana, I found this rather curious. The prosecution didn't bring this up. Zimmerman's training. Why would the defense call attention to here's a guy with a gun, you know, having this conflict with this unarmed teenager. Why would the defense call attention to the fact that this guy wasn't in shape or, as his trainer referred to him, fat, one -- you know, 1 percent, .5 percent on a scale of 1 to 10. Why bring it up?

TENNIS: Well, I think that, you know, the state did talk about this in their opening. And even when nobody brings in evidence of what they've said and the jury is told that that's not evidence, I think the -- I think the defense still felt like they needed to say this guy was big, certainly bigger around than Trayvon Martin, but he was not in shape, he was not athletic, he was not somebody who would be able to take him in a fight.

And as the injuries seem to support, it doesn't appear that Zimmerman got a blow in prior to drawing the weapon after sustaining injuries himself. So I don't know that it was necessarily necessary at this point and certainly George Zimmerman's got to be a little bit embarrassed. I mean he's called obese one day and he's called a pansy the next. But at any rate, the defense felt that they needed to go that far.

TAPPER: Christopher Darden, he said that Zimmerman -- effectively said he didn't know how to throw a punch. Does that help the defense's case that Trayvon was the aggressor? One could argue that it maybe meant, it maybe suggests that he was more willing to use his gun. I'm just thinking as to what the jury might interpret from this and whether or not this was a good idea for the defense to call this witness.

DARDEN: Well, I mean I think it cuts both ways. But to show that, you know, Zimmerman is essentially a nonphysical person, and nonphysical specimen, I think that helps -- it helps the defense. Now certainly a semiautomatic pistol is an equalizer and --

TAPPER: Keep going.

DARDEN: And I suppose the notion is that he's too fat to fight. He's too fat to defend himself, he's too out of shape, you know, he punches like a girl. He -- you know, what else can he do when his head is being rammed into the sidewalk 25 times?

TAPPER: And I think the suggestion not so likely from the defense is that he wouldn't have started it, although I don't know that the jury will take that from the testimony.

DARDEN: Well, we know he started it because he followed him.

TAPPER: Right. But I mean actually starting the punching and the fighting.

DARDEN: Sure, sure.

TAPPER: An emotional moment came in the trial today from the defendant when Zimmerman's friend, John Donnelly, who we were referring to before the break, the former medic in Vietnam, he was testifying about how well he knew Zimmerman. We've seen lots of emotion when it came to people talking about Trayvon Martin, some very poignant moments today from Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin's dad. Here -- let's take a look at Zimmerman's reaction to Donnelly talking about him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONNELLY: One time he came down and asked me to show him how to tie a Windsor knot in a tie. And that just touched a very little personal part of my heart. And he's always been there ever since.

O'MARA: So we credit you for the tie he's wearing?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: OK. Matter of fact, we can probably credit you for more than just the tie, I understand; is that correct? Do you help him with some clothing to get ready for his trial?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir. I took George down and I believe I bought him three suits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Diana, this may be the most emotional we've seen Zimmerman during this trial, telling the story about, I taught him how to tie a tie, I bought him clothes. How does this affect the jury, do you think? TENNIS: Well, it's got to be huge. I mean it's pretty typical that a jury would not get to know a criminal defendant at all, particularly in this case where we know that the defense has absolutely no reason to call him to testify for factual issues. All they're going to get to know of George Zimmerman is through these witnesses. And it's just the bizarrity of this case where this whose voice is who, is an issue. That's the only way the defense is able to parade all these people and they're substantiating the "I know his voice" by substantiating how well they know him. And that is what is allowing all of this.

Normally you would not have any of this characteristic stuff out there. But yes, they're doing it. They're doing it very well. I feel like the prosecution has meant a few dozen objections today because I feel like the defense is really just ridden this horse around the tent many times more than they probably have a right to. But, you know, if the state's not objecting, you're going to go into the sweet tie story. Why not, you know?

TAPPER: And, Christopher, as a -- as a prosecutor, would you have been objecting as they brought up -- you know, you bring up this avuncular guy, former Vietnam veteran, talking about teaching the defendant how to tie a tie. Would you have been objecting if you had been working for the state?

DARDEN: Absolutely because he's not really offering anything helpful in terms of what happened. But what he's doing, this witness, is he is humanizing Zimmerman so that not only is he a person who ought to be saved from a murder conviction, but he is a person who is worthy of being saved from it.

You know, when I look at the defense witnesses today and excluding Trayvon's dad, I mean, these witnesses are really selling Zimmerman's story. You see the emotion, you see the conviction, you go back to Zimmerman's dad. He's basically being accused of being a liar and he's sitting there calm and collected without emotion. If we were scoring this fight, you know, the defense would be ahead by several rounds.

TAPPER: All right, we're going to come back and get some thoughts about what we can expect from the George Zimmerman murder trial tomorrow with our legal experts.

Plus, some other news in the world today. Of course they found chunks of the plane in the seawall as well as in the -- in the water in front of the runway and we're digging for answers after that plane crash in San Francisco. Some breaking news. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. You're looking at live pictures from San Francisco. We're, of course, going to turn to that other major national news story, crashing, spinning, burning, and breaking into pieces. CNN now has exclusive video of the moment the Boeing 777 crashed into the runway in San Francisco. It's one of many pieces of evidence investigators are using right now to try to figure out what went so terribly, terribly wrong. The flight data recorders are already telling them that the flight was coming in too low and too slow for landing, forcing the pilot to try to abort a little more than a second before impact. Asiana airlines says this was the 9th time this particular pilot had flown a 777, but it was his first attempt at landing it at SFO, which has unique challenges, like narrow landing strips, right at the water's edge and unpredictable winds.

And on this day there was an added challenge, as you know, the NTSB chairwoman told us that pilots could not rely on an instrument landing system as a backstop. The navigation devices for the runway were down for construction. Looking at the burned out hunk of the fuselage that's still sitting there, it's hard to believe that all, but two of the 307 passengers and crew survived.

And 123 of them amazingly, miraculously walked away on their own. Still 182 were hospitalized. Some were paralyzed and for many life may never be the same. Sara Sidner is outside San Francisco General Hospital where some of the victims are recovering. Sara, what's the latest you're hearing?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you that some sad news for many of the families here because at least two of the patients that are in the hospital here have been paralyzed according to doctors. And so their entire lives changed by just something that happened really in a split second.

Also there are 17 patients here still recovering, six of them critical, one of them a small child. We can tell you that of the two patients that died, the two people that died there out at the crash, we know that the Chinese consulate because there were two 16-year- olds, coming to have fun at a summer camp, the Chinese consulate who showed up here at the hospital, they told us, look, we are trying to get their parents here.

And that many of the parents from China, because there was a large number of students and some teachers on that flight from Shanghai in particular, that those families are actually heading here to San Francisco, that many of them have left China and that the consulate is helping to get them here and get them in touch with their family members who were victims of this crash -- Jake.

TAPPER: And Sara, of course, we know that the San Francisco Fire Department has said that one of those girls who were killed may have survived the actual crash and then it was possible that something else happened. Please tell us what the latest is on that.

SIDNER: I have never heard this before, but one of the things that we did hear from fire officials today is that they do believe that one of the emergency vehicles came out trying to save people, trying to save lives ended up coming into contact, their vehicle, with one of the victims, one of the victims you mentioned just now, one of the 16- year-old students who died. Now the coroner is trying to figure out how that person died, whether she died from the actual plane crash, an injury she sustained from the crash or whether she was killed after being run over -- Jake. TAPPER: Sara Sidner in San Francisco, thank you so much.

Our "World Lead" today on THE LEAD is the complicated, chaotic and deadly state that Egypt is in right now. You're looking at live pictures of Tahrir Square. That's part of a story of a sea change that's turning in a maelstrom in the Arab world's most populated country. More than 50 people were reported killed in a battle between security forces and protesters who support deposed President Mohamed Morsy, each side blaming the other for the bloodshed.

The U.S. government is not sure how to deal with the situation or even what to call it. Is a coup? Not a coup? White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today would not call it a coup. If he did legally, the U.S. would have to cut off about $1.5 billion in foreign aid to Egypt. Carney said cutting off aid is not in best interest right now, but he did seem to leave the possibility out there.

We're continuing to bring you all the latest in the trial of George Zimmerman. When we come back, there's a lot of dramatic testimony from today to digest. We'll continue to talk about it with our legal experts. We're also going to look at where the defense could take their case tomorrow. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We're here with Criminal Defense Attorney Diana Tennis and the former prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial, Christopher Darden, with some final thoughts about today's proceeding in the Zimmerman murder trial. Chris and Diana, let's go over some of the big questions still hanging over the trial. First of all, Diana, do you expect that George Zimmerman will testify?

DIANA TENNIS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I would expect he will not testify. Honestly the defense has absolutely no good reason to do that. George Zimmerman through his statements has told his story, his friend Osterman has told his story, and his ex-professor has told him how his story fits into his version of self-defense. I think that's an absolute no, that won't be happening.

TAPPER: Christopher, what are your thoughts after today's proceedings?

CHRISTOPHER DARDEN, FORMER O.J. SIMPSON PROSECUTOR: Well, you know, I got to tell you. If I'm a juror sitting here watching, there just about everything the prosecution has asserted in this case has been addressed by the defense and refuted. If the prosecution knew the forensics were messed up, the medical examiner didn't do a good job, if they knew two out of three members could not identify the voice as Trayvon's, if they knew the chief of police was excluded from the interviews and politicians had hijacked the investigation, you have to wonder if you're a juror sitting on this case, why was this prosecution brought in the first place? And the answer to that question is not a pretty answer.

TAPPER: You think they're going to ultimately vote to acquit? DARDEN: Looking at this today, as I said here today, yes. Now, certainly the prosecution will have an opportunity to try to tie some of these loose ends up in summation, but summation is not evidence. It's not evidence. I mean, there are just huge, huge holes in the prosecution's case.

TAPPER: Diana, the jury keeps turning down breaks. Reading the tea leaves I guess I mean they want to wrap this up. I can't blame them. They've had their 4th of July holiday ruined. Do you think it means that they think they've heard enough of this, they know how they're going to vote?

TENNIS: I mean, I've never seen that kind of rushing by a jury. I think that they certainly know what they think about the voice I.D. issue and knew that prior going into today. I'm betting that their minds are getting more and more set. As Christopher said, you know, we have a rule of law, we have a very high burden in criminal cases for a reason, no matter what the color of any party and in the USA you don't get convicted typically on evidence that is not better than this.

So I think it going to be a not guilty verdict likely, unless they feel pressured to split the baby, maybe come back manslaughter. But I think the defense did a really good job today of probably inoculating themselves against a compromise verdict.

TAPPER: Diana Tennis, Christopher Darden, thanks so much to both of you. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." We'll see you tomorrow, 4 p.m. Eastern, 1 p.m. Pacific. Thanks for watching.