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CNN NEWSROOM

Zimmerman Friend Testifies for Defense.

Aired July 8, 2013 - 11:30   ET

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


MARK O'MARA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Would you just give us a feel for how the friendship between yourself and Mr. Zimmerman and/or his wife has grown over the past several years?

JOHN DONNELLY, WITNESS & FRIEND OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Our friendship really started with George a lot of times coming to our offices. We always had refrigerators full of soda, food, microwaves. George took care of a lot of our insurance policies, all of our policies with the insurance company. George helped us out a lot with that. We just got to be good friends with George. He was a sharp guy. He stopped in, we would be there until 7:00. George would sit and talk to us, especially with the business stuff. He was very interested in business, how we were doing. And we just got to be very close to him. One time he came in 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 has always been there ever since.

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

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: As a matter of fact, we can credit you for more than just the tie, I understand, is that correct? Did 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.

(CROSSTALK)

O'MARA: Let me interrupt you because I didn't tell you as well -- we're very used to talking in familiar terms with our friends, George, Mark, whatever. In court, we need to use full surname, so the record is clear. I apologize to that I didn't mention that earlier. So when you mention George, please tell us his full name.

DONNELLY: Yes. I took Mr. Zimmerman down to the clothing store. I purchased him suits, ties, shirts, for the courtroom. I have been in and out of courtrooms many times, not testifying, which can be a terrifying experience, but I have been taught by my attorney clients when you come to the courtroom, you dress out of respect.

(CROSSTALK)

O'MARA: That was one of -- I'm sorry -- that was one of the ways you supported him, helping him out with clothing? DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: You also donated money to his legal defense fund, didn't you?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: You consider him a friend?

DONNELLY: A very close friend.

O'MARA: Can you tell the jury to the spectrum of voice that you've heard about George from conversational tones to laughing or yelling or whatever, you have a sort of experience level with his voice?

DONNELLY: Yes, I've have a very close experience levels with his voice, both from casual conversation, laughing, lunches, dinners. We were in several political campaigns for which my feet still hurt, and George and I would be holding up sign, yelling, so forth, during the campaigns.

O'MARA: OK. You had not listened to what we now call the louder 911 call until recently, is that correct?

DONNELLY: Yes.

O'MARA: When you were -- before you studied to become a P.A., had you had any medical experience before that?

DONNELLY: I was a combat medic in Vietnam.

O'MARA: Explain what that is.

DONNELLY: You are rendering medical aid to your men that are hurt, injured.

O'MARA: So it goes through, if you would -- and I apologize to an extent. We will bring you back to that. With that as a premise, if you would explain to the jury what a normal day is in the life of a combat medic in Vietnam.

DONNELLY: Well, apparently, if you will give me a little patience here. When you are in the army, you are with 60, 100 men, you eat, sleep, shower, with them on a daily basis. A lot of times you are sharing your bunks with them. I got in Vietnam if December of '67 and through December.

BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, PROSECUTOR: I apologize, sir.

I'll object as to relevance.

DEBRA NELSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE: Please approach.

(END LIVE FEED)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: So sidebar called. You are just getting the backgrounds of John Donnelly at this point. The most key point is that he is a friend of George Zimmerman. This would make the fifth friend to get up on the stand. Presumably Mark O'Mara is about to say, I want to play a tape for you, ask you who the voice is on that tape. But while they are in sidebar, we will fit in a quick break and be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Back to the George Zimmerman murder trial, on the stand, john Donnelly. Why was there a sidebar before we went to break? Because there was an objection about this man's background. He is a former combat medic in Vietnam. Guess what you hear in Vietnam? A lot of screaming. That was an issue, whether they were going to get into his war background and what kind of things he heard on the battlefield, and what kind of screams he may or maybe be able to identify.

He is back to testifying. Let's listen.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

DONNELLY: 40 to 60 depending on availability.

O'MARA: And then the medics are responsible obviously for the medical care for the combat troops?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir. For the men who get wounded and hit.

O'MARA: Now, when we talk -- is "company" the right term?

(CROSSTALK)

DONNELLY: Well, there is squad, company, platoons, basically, you might be in a squad search and destroy. You might be a full platoon search and destroy. You might need a full company.

O'MARA: OK. The 60 to the 100 combat soldiers that you were working with, can we come up with a term so we know what we're talking about? Can we call that the company or --

DONNELLY: Yes.

O'MARA: OK. So it might not be precisely accurate for the U.S. Army. For our purposes, we will call that group of combat, who is mostly men back there in the '60s, right?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: So it's calling combat men of that company?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: So you maybe with three other medics were responsible for medical care of that company?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: These were, were these people that you would be with throughout the day and throughout the week and the month and the year?

DONNELLY: You are with them through the year the night. You are with them at all times?

O'MARA: Did you have an opportunity to talk to them and interact with them?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir. When we were back at base camp, that's all you did was really take care of your equipment, talk, and, you know, the scuttlebutt that goes on in the military, mess halls and so forth. You talk all day long. There is really nothing else to do.

O'MARA: Until combat begins?

DONNELLY: And until you get sent out on a mission.

O'MARA: During those times and with all of those men in the company, did you have an opportunity to talk to them both conversationally, and what other forms of communication, yelling, screaming, laughing, anything like that?

DONNELLY: Well, obviously, the casual conversations, laughing, joking, sometimes drunk, and having 90-degree beers, but once you got into combat and, of course, the voices change.

O'MARA: So you had a chance -- and I know that timing isn't going to be right. But you would interact with the soldiers during the day, correct?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: Presuming that the missions were at night -- I know that wasn't always true -- but for our purposes, hanging out with them during the day, missions might occur at night, is that correct?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: Did you then have an opportunity where you would have to -- when do you do your own work? What happens that causes you to now have to be a medic and do something?

DONNELLY: Well, at base camp, you took care of the normal routine medical issues that come up from colds or people lacerations, or anything else that happens. Once you are in the field and once you get into combat -- and in 1968, I think everybody remembers, it was the Tet offensive. It started at the end of that January, and you could be fighting in the field for five, 10 days straight.

O'MARA: Did you then have an opportunity as a medic to have to attend to people that you knew during the day as they were wounded in combat?

DONNELLY: Yes.

O'MARA: And tell the jury about. It's a little difficult.

DONNELLY: Well, let me, if I might -- (CROSSTALK)

O'MARA: Let me --

(CROSSTALK)

O'MARA: I was just going to sort of see if I could meet him?

(CROSSTALK)

NELSON: There has been a request to approach the bench. I don't know what it's about. Please approach.

O'MARA: Yes, ma'am.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: So we're back live in the George Zimmerman murder trial. Perfect timing. John Donnelly is going to continue his testimony. There is one thing you missed. Seconds ago, Sabryna Fulton stood up and walked out of that courtroom with her Darryl Parks (ph), her attorney. Walked out, and not going to listen to the rest of this testimony. I don't know why. I don't know how long. But at least you know she is no longer listening.

Let's listen in.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

DONNELLY: Screaming. Sometimes they're yelling out orders, yelling for ammo. Sometimes they're yelling for a medic. Sometimes they're screaming for help.

O'MARA: OK. And based upon the year that you spent doing that, were you able to distinguish the yelling for help, the asking for a medic, and compare that to those people you lad heard the day, the day of, or the day before the regular conversation with them?

DONNELLY: When you're in a combat situation like that in the den of battle, for some reason, you develop -- I'm not sure what you would call it -- an ability. But when you hear that, you can distinguish the screams for help, distinguish the screams for a medic. You grab the rifle, you grab your medic's kit and your job is to run, you go to where they're at. But invariably, because you know the men you are with, you know the men that you eat, sleep with, you know who it's going to be before you get there.

O'MARA: You can tell that from hearing their voice screaming for help and comparing that to what you have heard in your every day life with them?

DONNELLY: Yes.

O'MARA: OK.

I had started this a moment ago by talking to you about the evidence in this case and whether or not you had listened to the phone call, the 911 call in this case? Had you listened to it, when was the first time that you listened to it?

DONNELLY: I had heard pieces of it inadvertently, listening to the news or wherever. I generally tuned it out, walked away. I really didn't want to.

(CROSSTALK)

O'MARA: Why -- tell the jury why you didn't want to listen to this tape?

DONNELLY: It can be very distressing.

O'MARA: So listen to a friend of yours scream for help, if, in fact, it was a friend of yours?

DONNELLY: Yes.

O'MARA: Is that why you didn't listen to the tape?

DONNELLY: That's why.

O'MARA: But you have listened to it recently, is that correct?

DONNELLY: I listened to it on this past Saturday morning sitting in my office alone, and I found it on the Internet somewhere and I played it exactly twice.

O'MARA: We're going to play it for you again, if I might. This is the tape that is in evidence. I'm thought sure what you listened to on the Internet. I will ask you if you listened to this. I will play it one time through to the end of the tape. Then if you want me to play it again, let me know. If you want me to go back to a certain point, let me know. At the end of which, I will ask you if you have an opinion on the tape.

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: Obviously, I am talking about the person speaking to the 911 operator, but the noise in the background, OK.

(BEGIN AUDIO FEED)

(SCREAMING)

OPERATOR: 911.

(SCREAMING)

CALLER: It may be both. I'm not sure. There is someone screaming outside.

OPERATOR: What's the address that they're near?

CALLER: 1211 Twin Tree Lane. (SCREAMING)

OPERATOR: Twin Tree Lane? Is this in Sanford?

CALLER: Yes.

OPERATOR: Is it a male or female?

CALLER: It sounds like a male.

(SCREAMING)

OPERATOR: You don't know why?

CALLER: I don't know why. I think they're yelling "help," but I don't know. Just send someone quick, please.

OPERATOR: Does he look hurt?

(SCREAMING)

CALLER: I can't see him. I don't want to go out there. I don't know what's going on.

(CROSSTALK)

CALLER: They're sending.

(SCREAMING)

OPERATOR: You think he's yelling help?

CALLER: Yes.

OPERATOR: What is your phone number?

(END AUDIO FEED)

O'MARA: Is that the tape or very similar to the tape you listened to last week?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: Do you have an opinion as to whose voice that is screaming in the background?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: Based upon your knowledge of your conversations with George Zimmerman and the life experience that you have now brought to the jury, whose voice do you believe that to be screaming for help?

DONNELLY: There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that it's George Zimmerman. And I wish to God I did not have that ability to understand that.

O'MARA: Nothing further.

DE LA RIONDA: Good morning, Mr. Donnelly.

DONNELLY: Hello, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: You recall I took the deposition of you back, I believe it was May, 9th of this year, correct?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: That sound about right?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: I think your wife was first or maybe you were first?

DONNELLY: My wife was first.

DE LA RIONDA: As it should be?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: We took yours and it was very brief, correct?

DONNELLY: Yes.

DE LA RIONDA: You never mentioned anything about testifying, about identifying the voice, or did you?

DONNELLY: I don't believe I did, sir. I don't believe it was asked. As I recall, everybody was hungry.

DE LA RIONDA: You think it was short or you didn't mention anything about that. Didn't I ask you what you would be testifying about?

DONNELLY: I don't believe -- I don't remember being asked if I was going to testify about it. At the time -- well, through this whole thing I didn't want anything to do with the tape.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. What you're saying is after the deposition on May 9th, 2013, you said it was last Saturday that you on-purpose listened to the tape, right?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: Your honor, I have an issue but I'll address that after we finish.

So after the deposition and between literally last Saturday, so we're talking about like on the -- I guess today's the 8th -- so we're talking about the 6th is when you listened to the recording?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir. It was Saturday morning.

DE LA RIONDA: And I apologize. We're talking about last Saturday, literally. DONNELLY: This last Saturday. A couple of days ago.

DE LA RIONDA: Right. Because my recollection, in the deposition, you had not listened to the recording or would testify about it?

DONNELLY: I may have heard parts of it, but I generally try to -- I always tuned it out. I walked away from it.

DE LA RIONDA: On purpose, I think you said?

DONNELLY: On purpose. It was distressing.

DE LA RIONDA: Two days ago, you on-purpose listened to it to see whether you could identify the voice and be able to testify in court, correct?

DONNELLY: I listened to it very purposely in a quiet setting because I think I just needed to before I came here today.

DE LA RIONDA: All right. I think you said you listened to it twice?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: Why did you have to listen to it twice if the first time you knew it was George Zimmerman's voice?

DONNELLY: I don't know. I just played it a second time.

DE LA RIONDA: Just to verify in your mind you could be sure you could come to court and say absolutely?

DONNELLY: No. It was an emotional experience for me. I don't know why I played it twice.

DE LA RIONDA: You were in a room setting where nobody else was present, correct?

DONNELLY: Yes.

DE LA RIONDA: I believe your wife retestified. And, of course, you weren't in the courtroom when she testified. My question is, prior to listening to that tape on Saturday, had you discussed it with your wife in terms of whether she listened to the tape at all? I'm not saying it was improper. I'm saying do you recall?

DONNELLY: Not really. We've never really tried to discuss much of anything with this.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. All right. You mentioned you had given money to the defense fund?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir, I have.

DE LA RIONDA: I think it was $2500 at that time.

DONNELLY: I gave a check for $2500 for his defense. I gave $500 to his personal website.

DE LA RIONDA: That was 3,000. And then after that you bought him suits?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: Do you recall how much money?

DONNELLY: About $1700.

DE LA RIONDA: That includes ties and shirts and all that other stuff?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir. They were on sale.

DE LA RIONDA: Was that at Joseph Banks? Do you want to plug where you bought it? No.

Did you get a good deal on those, I gather is what you're saying?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: You testified before, because people need to appear a certain way, properly?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir. It shows respect for the system.

DE LA RIONDA: You would agree there's a bias on your behalf of George Zimmerman, correct, because of your friendship?

DONNELLY: He is my very dear friend. I think of him as a son.

DE LA RIONDA: In other words, you contributed money to help his cause?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: You also as you mentioned clothing, et cetera?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: Is that it in terms of total? You said $3,000 and about $1700. That's about $4700, give our take a little?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir. Other than taking food to his home.

DE LA RIONDA: Yes, sir. Other than that, I'm talking about monetary?

DONNELLY: Monetarily, that's it.

DE LA RIONDA: Then did you listen to any other recordings, specifically the recording where George Zimmerman is speaking to the 911 non-emergency operator?

DONNELLY: I believe I heard part of that on the news.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. Was that recently or back, in February or March or April of last year?

DONNELLY: That was a ways back because we've tried not to watch anything.

DE LA RIONDA: On purpose? Is that correct?

DONNELLY: Yes.

DE LA RIONDA: I know you're nodding your head. So know the answer is yes --

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: -- but we need it for the record and so the jurors can see.

DONNELLY: I know better too.

DE LA RIONDA: You have heard parts of the nonemergency, only snippets, you think of --

DONNELLY: Probably snippets. I really try not to pay too much attention.

DE LA RIONDA: Those snippets, do you recall what was said in the parts you heard on the news?

DONNELLY: Not really, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. Let me do -- I want to play a recording for you, if I could.

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: For the record that's state's exhibit 173.

(BEGIN AUDIO FEED)

OPERATOR: Police department.

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER: We've had some break-ins in my neighborhood and there's a real suspicious guy at Retreat View Circle. The best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around looking about.

OPERATOR: OK. Is this guy --

(END AUDIO FEED)

DE LA RIONDA: Do you recognize the voice?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: Or one of the two voices?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: One of them is George Zimmerman?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: OK.

(BEGIN AUDIO FEED)

ZIMMERMAN: He looks black.

OPERATOR: Did you see what he was wearing?

ZIMMERMAN: Yeah, dark hoodie, like a gray hoodie. He had jeans or sweat pants and white tennis shoes. He's just staring.

OPERATOR: He's just walking around the area.

ZIMMERMAN: Looking at the houses.

OPERATOR: OK.

(END AUDIO FEED)

DE LA RIONDA: So far, is that a normal conversation you would have heard on a regular basis with Mr. Zimmerman, is that correct?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

(BEGIN AUDIO FEED)

ZIMMERMAN: Now he's just staring at me.

OPERATOR: You said it's 1111 Retreat View or 111?

ZIMMERMAN: That's the clubhouse.

(CROSSTALK)

OPERATOR: He's at the clubhouse now?

ZIMMERMAN: Now he's coming toward me.

He's got his hand in his waistband. He's a black male.

OPERATOR: How old would you say?

ZIMMERMAN: He's got something on his shirt. About late teens.

OPERATOR: Late teens, OK.

ZIMMERMAN: Something's wrong with him.

(CROSSTALK)

ZIMMERMAN: I don't know what his deal is. OPERATOR: Yeah, we got them on the way. Let me know if this guy does anything else.

ZIMMERMAN: OK.

(END AUDIO FEED)

DE LA RIONDA: Did you hear that?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: Did you hear that language? Do you want me to play it back or --

(CROSSTALK)

O'MARA: Your honor, I would judge from the mischaracterization of the evidence. He added words --