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Zimmerman on Trial; Defense Witnesses Cross-Examined

Aired July 8, 2013 - 12:00   ET



BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, PROSECUTOR: OK. Did you hear that language? Do you want me to play it back or -

MARK O'MARA, ZIMMERMAN DEFENSE ATTORNEY: (INAUDIBLE), your honor, I'll object. It's a mischaracterization of the evidence, the added words that didn't exist on the tape.

DEBRA NELSON, JUDGE: Sustained. If you want to --

DE LA RIONDA: You want me to play it back for you?


DE LA RIONDA: Did you hear that?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. Would you agree that based on your experience in his voice, he's a little more excited than previously?

DONNELLY: No, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: You think he's just the same manatone (ph) -- monotone?

DONNELLY: Everybody has different tones to their voice -


DONNELLY: As their speaking, much like I am now.

DE LA RIONDA: Right. Right.

DONNELLY: But he's speaking to law enforcement and he's trying to give them information.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. And so you had not heard that before?

DONNELLY: I hadn't heard that part before, no.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. And - and I don't need to play the whole thing. You heard another part dealing with where he uses the words -- some other derogatory words? You had not heard that before?

DONNELLY: I may have heard snippets of it, sir, but I'm hearing everything pretty much fully today.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. So you would try to become familiar with his voice. I guess you were already familiar with his voice but you were trying to compare it to just the 911 recording on Saturday?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. You didn't go back and listen to any other recordings?


DE LA RIONDA: OK. That's what I was trying to get. You didn't compare it to any other voices that he had made prior calls or anything like that?

DONNELLY: No, sir, I didn't need to.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. OK. Because you already knew his voice?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. All right. Now, on that recording that you listened to, the 911 operator -- I'm sorry, they're calling it the (INAUDIBLE), the one that Mr. O'Mara played for you. I'm not going to play it again. You know which one I'm talking about?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: The one you listen to Saturday. I apologize.

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. It was similar to the one that was played in court, correct?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. And you heard the person you believe is George Zimmerman yelling "help, help, help" continuously, correct?

DONNELLY: That was absolutely George Zimmerman.

DE LA RIONDA: Right. And he was yelling, no doubt in your mind, you believe it's George Zimmerman?

DONNELLY: There's not a single doubt in my mind, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. All right. And he was yelling over and over "help, help, help," correct?

DONNELLY: Yes. And I heard other - there's like other screams help, but the screams in particular, I could tell, I knew that that was George Zimmerman.

DE LA RIONDA: So you heard other screams too that you weren't sure of? DONNELLY: There was "help." There was other ones. I -- those particular emotional -- obviously when someone is in dire straits, whether it be combat or anything else, your voice obviously changes. I've heard a 250 pound man, I mean, sound like a little girl -


DONNELLY: Screaming and you -- but before you get there, you either - you know who he is.

DE LA RIONDA: Right. So you had -- you believe there were some that were definitely George Zimmerman and others you heard you couldn't make out who it was? Did I understand you correctly?

DONNELLY: The voices I heard screaming and for help were George Zimmerman. There was other voices -


DONNELLY: On top of that in the tape. There's 911 operator. There's other stuff which, oddly enough, I'm familiar with because in the din of battle you have a lot of extraneous other noises going on at the same time, who I guess --

DE LA RIONDA: Other people yelling or other people, whatever, speaking?

DONNELLY: Other people yelling. At the same time you've got small arms fire. You may have mortars, rockets. You've got people screaming. But you still have the ability to pick out the ones that you have to run to as a medic.

DE LA RIONDA: The ones that you're familiar with, in other words, the other people if you weren't familiar, if some guy had shown up that day in the company and you had never heard his voice, you wouldn't be able to pick out his voice as easily as the person you're familiar with, correct?

DONNELLY: That's correct, sir.


DONNELLY: The voices that, of course, we've been together, most of us, for a period of months and we all knew -


DONNELLY: Each other's voice and who it was.

DE LA RIONDA: Right. But my question is, if there had been a person who had just shown up that day and God forbid there was a fire fight out there and there was a shooting or whatever, you would not have been able - if you had never heard his voice, you wouldn't be able to pick up that person's voice?

DONNELLY: No, sir. After February we had a lot of new guys. DE LA RIONDA: Right. OK. In this case the only voice you're able to pick out is George Zimmerman's voice, correct?

DONNELLY: The voice screaming on the tape is absolutely George Zimmerman, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. All right.

Thank you, your honor. I just have a matter to bring up to the court and we can do it however (INAUDIBLE).


O'MARA: Can (ph) we finish the examination, your honor.

NELSON: I didn't know if it had to do with before that or not so -

DE LA RIONDA: I think we can do it right after.

NELSON: OK. Any re-direct?

O'MARA: Please, your honor.

Just to clear, as you listened to the 911 tape, I thought you were saying that some of the screams were --

DE LA RIONDA: Objection as to leading.

NELSON: Sustained.

O'MARA: When you listened to the 911 tape, were all of the screams that you heard, those that said "help" and those that were just screaming, was that all from George Zimmerman?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: OK. And there were other - other voices like the 911 operator, Ms. Lower (ph), and others. But the background noise, who was -- was it one person or was it more than one person in the background?

DONNELLY: That was one person. It was easy for me, just based on my past experiences, very easy for me. That was George Zimmerman.

O'MARA: OK. And did you ever discuss with your wife this nonemergency call?

DONNELLY: No, sir.

O'MARA: OK. You had listened to this tape on Saturday, two days ago?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: When did you contact me?

DONNELLY: I believe I called you Saturday afternoon.

O'MARA: Right after you had done this?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: Is that the first time that we talked about your testifying regarding the 911 call at all?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: OK. Was that a difficult decision for you to make?

DONNELLY: Extremely.

O'MARA: Was it an emotional conversation that you and I had regarding having to deal with this issue?

DONNELLY: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: Are you coloring or changing your testimony at all simply to help Mr. Zimmerman in what you might perceive to be a time of need?

DONNELLY: Not at all, sir. This courtroom is about truth. At some point in time, even though this is personally very hard for me, this is the place truth is supposed to come out.

O'MARA: Is that why you decided to deal whatever demons existed from 45 years ago and still testify concerning this event and those events here today?


O'MARA: Nothing further, your honor.

DE LA RIONDA: Whose idea was it to listen to the recording Saturday?

DONNELLY: It was my own, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. Thank you sir.

NELSON: May Mr. Donnelly be excused?

DE LA RIONDA: Yes, your honor.

NELSON: Thank you very much, sir. You are excused.

Counsel, approach the bench.



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: So you haven't missed a moment of testimony in the George Zimmerman murder trial. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, everyone, reporting live in Sanford, Florida, at the Criminal Justice Center.

While the attorneys are discussing, it's been just a remarkable day of witness after witness getting up on that stand and identifying a 311 call and a 911 call. The defense asked them to identify the screaming on the 911 call and then the prosecutors cross examine by playing a 311 call filled with profanity, f'ing punks and these a-holes always get away and asked them to identify. It's been really just a remarkable battle of the tapes.

In the meantime, the judge is on the bench right now. Let's listen as she - I think she's going to dismiss us for lunch here.


NELSON: No television or newspaper reports about the case. You're not to use an type of an electronic device to get on the Internet to do independent research about the case, people, places, things or terminology. And you're not to read or create any e-mails, text messages, twitters, tweets, blogs or social networking pages about the case. Do I have your assurances that you will abide by these instructions?

JURY: Yes, your honor.

NELSON: OK. So put your notepads down and follow Deputy Jarvis (ph) back into the jury room.

BANFIELD (voice-over): And as he does every day, George Zimmerman is watching the jury file out of this courtroom. The entire courtroom stands for the jury, indifference of the jury. Not everybody does. Every jurisdiction's different. But here in this Florida jurisdiction they sure due and it's a good thing because that jury has now been sequestered for over two weeks. They're going into the third week. Their holiday, July 4th, was spent sequestered. And the judge has just recessed. Let's listen if they're going to do any motions.


NELSON: Thank you. Court is in recess.


BANFIELD (on camera): And no they are not. Everybody needs a lunch break. Certainly by 10 past 12:00, they have been hard at work since 9:00 this morning. And this deferential judge continues to ask the jury, do you need a break or do you just want to power right on through? And almost every single time this jury says, power on through, judge.

I've watched them in the courtroom before and as she looks over to them I often think, and I got to be honest with you, when I first saw this jury of nine people, one man and eight women, I thought, it almost looks like an airport lounge where some are looking at the monitors, some are looking down, some are paying attention to one person whose speaking, the others are paying attention to another, but they all seem to be looking at different places at different times. This is a very focused jury, though, make no mistake. Many take notes. Many listen intently. And they always watch that monitor when it plays something critical. While the focus is on the great seal of the state of Florida, we're going to squeeze in a quick break. And when we come back, you are going to hear from Sandra (ph), Mark, Gerri, Lee Ann and John. All of those witnesses testifying to the sounds on tape. And you're going to hear them in a moment.


BANFIELD: Welcome back, everyone, to our live coverage of the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial. I'm Ashleigh Banfield coming to you, once again, live from the Criminal Justice Center here in Sanford, in Seminole County.

You're not missing a moment of this testimony, and we're going to get you right back into that courtroom, live, once the testimony resumes.

But the cameras go to the great seal for a reason. The mikes are dead. It gives us a great opportunity to recap what's happened this morning in case you missed some of these incredibly dynamic witnesses.

Our George Howell, CNN's correspondent, gavel-to-gavel coverage on this case since the beginning, standing by live, sum it up for me, George. What have we seen and how powerful has it been?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, absolutely. What a busy morning, three hours, five different witnesses so far, all of them testifying, first of all, to that 311 audio that you mentioned that's being played by the defense and then the 911 audio, some of the expletive-laden audio clips that they're listening to, but all are testifying pretty much on George Zimmerman's behalf.

I want to tick through the list real quick for you. First of all. we heard from Sandra Osterman, who is a close friend, even married the Zimmermans, and she herself is married to Mark Osterman. Mark Osterman says that he's the best friend of George Zimmerman.

Next we have, Geri Russo, a co-worker who works at Digital Risk, the same place that George Zimmerman worked. They considered themselves friends; Lee Ann Benjamin, a friend who donated a lot of money to George Zimmerman, donated money, clothes and wanted to do whatever she could to help out; and then her husband, John Donnelly. We heard from him last.

He's the combat medic who gave very emotional testimony about what it was like to be in a combat situation to listen to screams and, in his belief. the scream that he heard just last Saturday, he believed it was George Zimmerman when he first played it.

I want you to hear these different witnesses and exactly what they said about that 911 and 311 audio. Let's listen.



911 OPERATOR: Do you think he's yelling help? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

911 OPERATOR: All right, what is your ...

O'MARA: Do you know whose voice that is in the background screaming?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, definitely. It's Georgie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was George.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I heard the tape, my immediate reaction was, that's George screaming for help.

O'MARA: And whose voice is it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: George Zimmerman's voice.

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've 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.


HOWELL: That last person there, John Donnelly, drawing on his experience as a combat medic remembering what it was like to hear screaming, to hear people yelling for a medic.

He says that when he played that audio tape, Ashleigh, he knew right off the start that was George Zimmerman.

And all of this goes back to what we heard from the audio analyst, Hirotaka Nakasone, that audio analyst, just last week, when he said that a person could identify that voice if it's a family member, a close friend, but that person would also have had to heard the voice in a similar circumstance, a similar scenario.

So in this particular case, where you have a combat medic testifying, he says without a doubt that the voice was George Zimmerman.

BANFIELD: And then George, my gosh, I mean, a combat medic in Vietnam gets up on the stand, he's the first person to wipe his eyes and show some tears when identifying that voice, and we've had two mothers, both on the stand, saying it was their sons and yet no tears, which has been really remarkable.

George, stand by, if you will, because after the break we're going to find out the more important question, how did the jury react to all of that?

Our Jean Casarez is racing outside from the courthouse to give us all of the reaction. She watched that panel as they took in all that testimony. She'll tell it to you in just a moment.


BANFIELD: Welcome back. Live in Sanford, Florida, I'm Ashleigh Banfield at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center. You're not missing any testimony. They're in a brief break in that courtroom.

But in the meantime, it's a perfect opportunity to get you up to speed not only on what's happened, but what it all means. And I want to bring in all my colleagues who are working hard not only to watch every moment of this testimony, but then break it down in legal terms, what it means for the outcome of this case.

Our CNN legal correspondent Jean Casarez is live with me here in Sanford, Florida. She's been gavel-to-gavel on this story. Our CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Mark Nejame is also live with me here. He's been watching this, gavel-to-gavel, as well and providing an enormous amount of insight. And also joining me is legal defense attorney and CNN analyst Paul Callan as well as Danny Cevallos who joins us, a defense attorney coming to us live as well.

OK, first things first, Jean Casarez, I know you spent the better part of the morning in court, and I know you've had to step in and out, but you're the best gauge of how this jury is digesting this information, especially when the more poignant moments when those I.D.s of who is screaming have been coming on the stand. How has it been going for them?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, that 911 emergency call was played more times than I can count this morning before the jury, and I watched them so closely. And every single time it was played, witness after witness, I would see them going like this. I would see them going like this. I mean, just listening so intently to see if they would hear something new.

And for the very first time today, we heard the prosecutor inject with a question, was that a continuous scream, or did it stop and start? It was obvious the prosecution wanted it to be a continuous scream. The defense countered that with having it stop and start, so then as it kept being played, you listened to that.

And don't forget the non-emergency 911 call. That was played for the jury, too, and then the defense asked, based on the rule of completeness, for the whole tape to be played.

So I think the focal point this morning has been that jury just listening and re-listening intently to every piece of audio tape.

BANFIELD: It's been the battle of the tapes.

I want to bring this Mark Nejame on this very point because this is exactly the strategy. Let's play again that moment when John Donnelly, a former combat medic from Vietnam, who said I recognize screams because I did a lot of that in the battlefield. I had to recognize the screams of colleagues who needed help.

And then he had to listen to the 911 call with the screams and identify it. Let's play that. I want to tell you why in particular I'm focusing on that one.


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've 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 is George Zimmerman. And I wish to God I did not have that ability to understand that.


BANFIELD: And I wish to God I did not have that ability to recognize that, and he wipes his eyes, very emotional.

There's a strategy playing out. Mark O'Mara wants one witness after the other to identify that that's George Zimmerman and then the prosecutors want to counter with the 311 tape which they continue to play over and over. Why?

MARK NEJAME, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You've heard them, them being the prosecution, saying, was it a continuous noise or did it break up? And the reason is ...

BANFIELD: The 311 call is George Zimmerman's voice on the tape to the dispatch and what are they trying to prove with this?

NEJAME: Well, they're wanting to show the ill-will, the malice. They're wanting to show that he's ...

BANFIELD: The swear words.

NEJAME: Yeah, the swear words.

BANFIELD: (Inaudible) language.

NEJAME: And you notice the prosecutor saying it over and over. Why? Because when the jury gets charged with the jury instruction, they're going to be told you've got to show depraved mind. How? By ill-will, hatred, any of those type of things.

And they want to show that he's a foul-mouthed person and he had an intent to get somebody because this person that he was after was a bad person and he was, by golly, going to get him. BANFIELD: Paul Callan, score for score, pretty darned clever. If you're going to cross-examine someone who is I.D.-ing over and over again that this is George Zimmerman's voice on the tape, why not bring another tape up that's filled with expletives and nasty language which, by the way, our audience was not allowed to hear.

And it's unfortunate that those expletives couldn't be played live over the air because they are germane to the case. Do you think this worked?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It adds another item to the reasonable doubt pile that the defense is hoping they're establishing.

In my view, the two most important witnesses so far are the two Johns, actually. John Good who was, you know, close to the scene and said the guy on the bottom was screaming for help -- that would have been Zimmerman, according to his testimony.

And this last witness Donnelly, John Donnelly, I thought was very, very compelling, telling the story about Vietnam because with the mothers testifying, saying -- or the fathers testifying or the relatives testifying, I think the jury's going to discount that.

I think in the end they're going to say they're all trying to help their own person. They're going to look for quasi-independent people, and really, there's only one truly independent one, Jonathan Good, and this John Donnelly's got a little bit of experience.

So I think that's how things are going to play out ultimately.

BANFIELD: All right, I'm going to get Danny Cevallos to weigh in in just a moment. After the break, Danny, I'm going to get you in on this argument as well.

In the meantime, though, we have a lot of other news that we're going get to you after the break, specifically some exclusive video that CNN has of that plane crash that landed in San Francisco at the airport.

You can see the remnants on your screen, but what happened moments before that 777 ended up like that? You're going to see it as it happened, and maybe you can witness something that perhaps the NTSB will also be seeing.

It's all coming up, next.