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Waiting for New Testimony in Zimmerman Trial; Asiana Pilot to Be Interviewed Today; Hostility Deepens in Egypt

Aired July 9, 2013 - 09:00   ET



Now to our viewers good morning. I'm Wolf Blitzer in for Carol Costello. We want to welcome you to this special edition of NEWSROOM, where we're watching the Zimmerman trial.

It's already begun actually right now, there's live testimony from key witnesses coming in this day 11 of the murder trial. It comes after a day of emotions and powerful defense arguments in the fatal shooting of the unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin.

Among those testifying yesterday, Trayvon Martin's father, it was the defense, though, not the prosecution, who called the grieving parent to the stand.

CNN's George Howell is in Sanford, Florida. He's outside the courtroom. I know they are going through this whole issue of whether to release an animation diagram, pictures, if you will, recreation of what happened on that fateful evening, but it comes a day after some really dramatic testimony, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, absolutely, and it seems that we're being set up for another day of dramatic testimony.

Right now in the courtroom, Daniel Schumacher, to what we understand, he does corporate presentations, creates these crime reconstruction animations. Basically puts all the information from police reports, ballistic reports, puts it all into the computer software, this system that he has, and creates a presentation for jurors to watch.

I want to go live into the courtroom right now. You can see Daniel Schumacher there, and we're waiting to see whether his computer animation will be allowed as evidence in this court. Just yesterday, Wolf, we heard from a long list of witnesses, many of them seem to be character witnesses, all vouching for the voice of George Zimmerman on that 911 audiotape.

And the defense team, they put Tracy Martin on the spot, on the stand, to explain what he meant when he apparently said that the voice was not that of his son. Let's listen.


HOWELL (voice-over): One after another after another, defense witnesses hammered home the same answer when asked who was screaming on this 911 call.



911: So you think he's yelling help?


911: All right. What is your --



MARK O'MARA, ZIMMERMAN DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Do you know whose voice that is in the background screaming?



GERI RUSSO, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S FRIEND: When I heard the tape, my immediate reaction was that's George screaming for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whose voice is it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: George Zimmerman's voice.

JOHN DONNELLY, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S FRIEND: There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that was George Zimmerman. I wish to God I didn't have that ability to understand that.

HOWELL: It was John Donnelly's testimony that even made George Zimmerman emotional. Donnelly told jurors he bought Zimmerman's clothes for trial and once taught him how to tie a Windsor knot.

The defense attorneys drew on his experience in combat, as a medic who routinely heard people scream for help to make their case that the voice screaming on the 911 call was George Zimmerman.

That set the stage for Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin's father. Defense attorneys first recalled two investigators who say Martin told him, no, the voice screaming was not his son. Then, they put Martin on the stand.

TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FATHER: I didn't tell them, "No, that wasn't Trayvon." I kind -- I think the chair had wheels on it, I kind of pushed away from the table and just kind of shook my head and said, "I can't tell."

O'MARA: So, your words were, "I can't tell"?

MARTIN: Something to that effect. But I never said, "No, that wasn't my son's voice." HOWELL: Defense attorneys also called up the owner of the gym where Zimmerman trained to lose weight. To demonstrate how a person could hold another down, Adam Pollock, got on top of attorney Mark O'Mara to show the jury.

But when describing his client's skill level --

ADAM POLLOCK, GYM OWNER: He's still learning how to punch. He didn't know how to really effectively punch.

O'MARA: On a scale of one to 10, where would Mr. Zimmerman fit?

POLLOCK: Like I said, about a one.

HOWELL: Finally, Judge Debra Nelson ruled that testimony regarding marijuana levels in Trayvon Martin's system will now be admitted as evidence for jurors to consider -- a critical ruling as this trial moves in to day 11.


HOWELL: Back live in the courtroom here in Sanford, Florida, you can see attorney Mark O'Mara and Daniel Schumacher making his case, explaining exactly what he does to the judge. The judge, we expect, will rule and decide whether this jury will see that computer animation that he created of the shooting on February 28, 2012.

Wolf, there was another big ruling that came in yesterday, that the judge decided that evidence of marijuana in Trayvon Martin's system, that it will be allowed as evidence in this case. Now, just a few minutes ago, I spoke with Daryl Parks, he's the attorney who represents the Martin family, about what that could mean to this case. Let's listen.


DARYL PARKS, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S FAMILY: Well, I think there's a problem, and I think if you listen to some of the statements that were made in court, there were traces of marijuana found in his system, some marijuana found in his system. You don't really know what the real effect of it was.

What it tends to do, though, once the jury hears it, they will probably be more prejudicial about it being in the case and the probative value will certainly not be as great. It will tend to mislead them and probably to cloud their judgment as a jury. So I don't really see the real weight that it brings to it, but the law allows for it to be presented because it was present in his system.


HOWELL: So, we're set up for Day 11 where we will hear, we could hear, about this evidence of marijuana in Trayvon Martin's system. Wolf, this comes a day after we heard from a long list of witnesses who had good things to say, favorable things to say, about George Zimmerman, as the defense lays out its case. BLITZER: And explain, George, why -- what's happening in the courtroom right now, this debate, this argument, between the defense and the prosecution over whether to release this computerized animation is important. Clearly, the defense would like to release it; the prosecution, not so much.

HOWELL: Well, certainly, and when you look at it from the defense perspective, you know, this animation that Schumacher has created certainly will explain their case. It will lay out all of the details that they've laid out in court, all of the information from the ballistics report, from the police report. It's highly favorable to the defense.

Prosecution wants to keep it out. Obviously, if they were to have a report, it would have a very different outcome, so we're watching right now to see if the judge will allow that in as evidence.

And Schumacher himself said he creates these animations so that jurors can basically digest the information. It's easy for jurors to understand and see. He's worked with many different attorneys on the same type of technology and you can see the defense here wanting to take advantage of that and show the jury to lay out their case.

BLITZER: All right. Hold on for a minute, George, because I want to bring in Page Pate. He's a criminal defense attorney. Page, what do you make of this debate that's going on in the courtroom right now over this animation, which is really, as described by Mark O'Mara, less an animation, more some still photos, if you will, to show what the defense insists was that Trayvon Martin was effectively beating up George Zimmerman. He was resisting, feared for his life, he took out his gun and then he shot and killed him.

PAGE PATE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, this type of evidence can be incredibly powerful for a jury. Up to this point, the jury's heard testimony, they've seen pictures, but they haven't really been able to put themselves at the scene of the incident. This type of testimony, this type of an expert, allows the jury to step inside the shoes of George Zimmerman, so it can be incredibly powerful for the defense to let the jury feel like they are George Zimmerman, feel like they are under threat at that point, and hopefully, for the defense's side, it will make it seem more legitimate, his claim of self defense.

BLITZER: And so what is the basic legal argument, and I want to briefly listen in, but Page, briefly, what is the basic legal argument that defense is making? Why should they allow this animation to go forward, which after all, is their side of the story, the defense's side of the story, a pro-George Zimmerman version of what happened?

PATE: Well, like any type of expert testimony, it's based on science and it's based on studies. We have this particular individual who created the animation or who created the stills testifying about the different points that he measured to make sure that it was all accurate and consistent with the evidence that's in the record so far -- and that's the challenge for the judge.

She has to determine that this evidence will, number one, be helpful for the jury and, number two, be consistent with the evidence that we know is already in the record. She's not going to let them create some story or put on some show. It has to be based on fact and it has to be based in science.

BLITZER: And the jurors are not in the courtroom right now. This is a discussion that's going on in front of the judge. The judge will make this decision. They're not going to see this animation. I don't know if they're going to show it to the judge right now. It looks like they are getting ready for something along those lines, but the reasons the jurors aren't in there, go ahead and explain, Page.

PATE: Well, at this point, the judge has not ruled that it's admissible, so you don't want the jury to see it until the court has first looked at it and determined that it has a proper foundation, it's not unduly prejudicial, and the once the judge makes that threshold ruling, then they'll bring the jury back in and they'll play the animation or show the stills.

BLITZER: All right. I think they're getting ready to show those stills or animations. If they are, I'd be interested in seeing them. They're looking up at that screen over there so maybe we'll show that to our viewers if we can.

Let's step in, for a moment, see what they are talking about. This is an important piece of potential evidence that may or may not be allowed in the courtroom.


MARK O'MARA, ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: One screen off, that one, so I may need some help from the clerk just to do an input change. Put it back in, see if that helps.


BLITZER: Clearly, they are having computer problems. That's Daniel Schumacher. He's the computer specialist who created this animation. This is from the defense's perspective, what they would like to be admitted as evidence in the courtroom when the jurors are there. The jurors are not in the courtroom right now. The judge has to make a decision whether or not this should be admissible as evidence.

The prosecution doesn't want it to be admissible because it's clearly favorable to George Zimmerman's side of the story that he was acting in self defense, and that's what this debate is under way right now. Clearly, they are having some problems.

Let me bring back George Howell and Page Pate as we await for the technical problems to be resolved. It's always surprising to me, George, you know, they've been preparing and preparing and preparing and they can't get the technology ready to show something like this from their computer up on the screen.

HOWELL: Wolf, just think about last week and that Skype interview. That didn't work out so well. I mean, yes, you can tell that, you know, even prosecutors, the defense, may not be so hot on the technology, but it seems that they get it working from time to time. It seems they're going to take some time to figure this out right now. I'm watching them take the computer up and seems to be showing --


BLITZER: George, you're right. They are going to show the judge on the little laptop there, the animation that Daniel Schumacher created, and he's standing there in front of that laptop. So they can't get it up on the screen.

Is this surprising to you, Page? You've been in a lot of these kinds of trials. You got technology. They've been getting ready for this for a year and they haven't figured it out yet. They've had a lot of technical glitches last week.

PATE: Well, it's not surprising. I don't think I've ever participated in a trial that lasted more than a couple of days where we didn't have at least some technical issues. You know, these days we're using technology a lot more in the courtroom than we used to. It's no longer showing a document to a witness or using even a document camera. We now have, in almost every courtroom around America, very sophisticated audio/visual type equipment so that an animation like this can be projected to the jury and the judge and where everyone else can see it. So with that kind of technology, you're going to run into problems from time to time.

BLITZER: Let me bring in another decision the judge, Debra Nelson, made last night, an important decision late in the day after the jurors were dismissed. The judge decided that she will allow results of Trayvon Martin's toxicology report to be admitted, which the defense claims is evidence that the teenager may have been impaired the night of the shooting.

An interview last night with CNN's Piers Morgan. Zimmerman attorney Mark O'Mara had this reaction, watch this.


O'MARA: The judge had initially said that we could not present that evidence until we were able to tie it up by terms of being relevant, and we knew that we would have the toxicologist come in or a medical examiner come in to say that any level of pot in his system could have some effect.

And of course, that falls in line with what George Zimmerman stated in his first couple moments with the non-emergency operator when he said that it looks like he's on drugs or something. So we sort of presume the judge is going to let this in.


BLITZER: All right so let's discuss this for a second while we await for them to fix up, fix their computer problems over there. Page, this toxicology report, the defense wanted it admitted. It says that there was elements of marijuana use shown in the autopsy, in the report there, but could it go backfire on the defense? PATE: I guess that's possible. I think still, on balance, the defense wants this type of evidence in. Perhaps not so much to show how Trayvon Martin was acting that evening, but perhaps for the bad character implications that the prosecution mentioned.

You know, a ruling like this is tough for a judge. He has to weigh the effect it's going to have on the jury, that prejudicial effect. Is it really relevant to what happened that evening, whether or not Trayvon Martin had smoked marijuana at some time in the past? But nonetheless, it's going to come in. I think it was the right ruling under the law, and the question is how much will the defense be able to use it? Will their expert actually be able to say that this amount of THC led to some type of behavior that justified the shooting? That's a totally different question.

BLITZER: Page, hold on for a moment. George Howell, hold on, as well. Once again, they are discussing right now whether an animation should be admissible in this court as evidence. The jurors are not in the courtroom right now. They're going back and forth, the prosecution and defense, before Judge Debra Nelson.

We'll monitor what's going on. Of course, we're going to bring you the trial once it resumes with the jurors present. So we're watching all of this unfold here in the CNN NEWSROOM. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: We're watching what's happening in the George Zimmerman trial. Right now, there's a hearing going on. The jurors are not in the courtroom. Mark O'Mara representing the defense. That's Daniel Schumaker (ph), he's a computer animator.

They've come up with a computerized animation, mostly still photos, according to Mark O'Mara, of what happened during those fateful moments when this man, George Zimmerman, who's in the courtroom right now, shot and killed Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman says in self defense. The state says second-degree murder.

They are trying to figure out what to do. The judge is hearing both sides. The prosecution doesn't want this animation admitted as evidence. The defense does. We're monitoring what's going on.

After the judge makes a decision on this piece of potential evidence, then the jurors will be brought in and the defense will resume its side of the story. They'll bring in more defense witnesses. We'll have live coverage of that coming up. So, stand by.

There's some other important news happening right now, as well, including this. The National Transportation Safety Board says investigators had interview the actual pilot who was at the controls of the Asiana Flight 214.

The interview will take place today. It hasn't happened yet. They have interviewed two of the other members of the flight crew. So far, about half of the four-member crew, as I say, two of the four have been interviewed.

Also today, the flight attendants will sit down with the federal investigators. Those, the flight attendants, they are getting a lot of praise right now for their roles. A lot of them heroic roles in evacuating the plane under awful, awful circumstances. One even carried a young boy on her back. She was one of the last to leave the aircraft.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is joining us now from San Francisco with more. These stories, Miguel, you've spoken to a lot of these people, these stories are really, really heroic.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's stunning that anybody survived this scene. The more we know about this, the more stunning it is. That interview today with the pilot will be absolutely critical to this investigation.

The big thing that the NTSB is looking at right now is how is it that this pilot, the co-pilot, perhaps two other pilots sitting in the cockpit at the time didn't understand what was happening to the plane and didn't understand how much trouble it was in. What were the other controls that they were looking at, what other devices do they have at the ready there?

Yoon-Hye Lee, a senior flight attendant on that flight, she describes the landing that it felt normal up until the time of the crash. She also talks about what happened immediately after the plane came to a stop.


LEE YOON-HYE, ASIANA FLIGHT ATTENDANT (through translator): First, after the plane stopped completely, I went into the cockpit to see whether the captain was alive or not. I knocked the cockpit door, the captain opened it, and I asked, "Are you OK, captain?" And he said, "Yes, I'm OK." I asked, "Should I perform evacuation?" And he told me to wait. So I closed the door and made an announcement, because the passengers were upset and things were confusing.

I said, "Ladies and gentlemen, our plane has completely stopped. Please remain seated. The plane will not move anymore."


MARQUEZ: Now, passengers became very agitated, wanted off of that plane. We eventually saw the video of the slides popping out and then one person comes down and then very, very quickly many other passengers get out of that plane.

NTSB today begins to talk to those flight attendants, as well. We don't know if they'll get through all of them. These interviews do take the time, because Korean in many cases is their language. So they sit down with a team of folks and talk to both the pilots and flight attendants through all of this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You see the people when they are running away from that plane, and running is critical, because later we saw a lot of the flames really develop. But what do investigators know about the seconds, the seconds, before the crash?

I know that Debra Hersman, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, she's walked through, but there are some specifics that you have.

MARQUEZ: Yes. They have put out information from the flight data recorders and from the voice recorders in the cockpit to try to piece together and at least give us raw data about what they know about what happened seconds before that crash. They say it was on a normal glide path now and that it was coming in too low and very, very slow, about 40 or 50 miles slower than it should have been. When at impact, it was doing about 121 miles per hour, but the engines were spooling up at that point, the plane was trying to gain altitude, but it was just too late -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Miguel Marquez on the scene for us in San Francisco, thanks.

Americans on that Asiana flight 214 could get more money than passengers from China or South Korea, if, and there's a big if, there's future judgments against the airline. Bloomberg News says international law could prevent Asian passengers from suing in American courts, where victims tend to get a lot more money.

One expert says passengers will probably get settlements of more than $1 million, even if they were not necessarily physically injured.

Let's get a check of some of the other top stories happening right now:

Osama bin laden's obscure and paranoid domestic life exposed in documents leaked to the Pakistani news media. The new 300-plus-page report details how the dead al Qaeda leader wore a cowboy hat while working in his Abbottabad garden in Pakistan, hoping the large brim would hide his face from spy satellites. He was also unable to watch TV or surf the web and killed time with vegetable growing contests with his children and grandchildren. CNN is working to confirm the authenticity of the report.

It's called the "Zero Option". The White House now is seriously considering withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan next year. That according to a senior Obama administration official. Plans focused on keeping a small force behind in Afghanistan after 2014 to fight insurgents, but in recent months, President Obama is said to have become increasingly frustrated with the Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Karzai, who has been very critical of U.S. troops over the last few years, has said he would like U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014. That might not necessarily happen. Indeed, the entire withdraw, still about 60,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan right now, still costing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars. Those troops remain, most of them, until the end of next year 2014, but that withdrawal could be accelerated given the friction right now that has developed between these two presidents, Presidents Karzai and President Obama.

Flooding leaves hundreds of passengers stranded for hours on a train in Toronto. Historic rains overwhelmed the city's drainage system and submerged the rail line. Police had to go out in boats and pull the commuters out one by one. The cleanup in Canada continues this morning and tens of thousands of customers remain without power.

The country singer Randy Travis is in critical condition at a Texas hospital this morning. The 54 year old is being treated for a viral heart infection. Travis apparently had been feeling fine until Sunday, according to a spokesman. It's not clear what caused his infection.

There are fears of renewed violence in Egypt today with funerals set for some of the Mohamed Morsy supporters who were killed in Monday clashes with security forces. At the same time, Egypt's interim leader is moving forward with election plans, angering backers of the deposed President Morsy.

CNN's Reza Sayah is following all this from Cairo, another potentially violent day out there in Cairo. Right now, these funerals taking place.

First of all, Reza, what is happening right now?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Egypt is bracing itself for another day of potential violence, and every day in this country seems like another intense round of fighting. In this conflict, we're on one side, you have the liberals, the moderates, the secularists, the supporters of the military, they seem to be winning. Momentum seems to be on their side. They seem to be on their way to establishing a new transitional government.

And on the other side, you have supporters of the ousted President Mohamed Morsy, the Muslim Brotherhood. They are angry and crying out for this process to stop and they are crying out for security forces to be held responsible for yesterday's deadly clashes.

And it's still not clear how these clashes started. The armed forces, security forces, they are blaming an armed group of terrorists. They are blaming protesters. Protesters have responded by saying, we didn't start this. It was security forces who fired first.

So you have this back and forth, critical questions remain, who fired first, and even if security forces -- even if protesters fired first, was the lethal force in response that killed more than 50 people, was that justified?

As you mention, funeral services today for some of the fatalities, so expect another highly charged, emotional day. In the meantime, this interim president, this interim government, is not waiting for any investigation to be completed. They seem to be pushing forward and establishing this all-important new government, Wolf.

BLITZER: Reza, in the past 48 hours, I've had some discussions with top U.S. Obama administration officials, as well as military commanders, U.S. officials who have been in close touch with Egypt, and their message to the Egyptians right now is simply this, "Help us help you."

In other words, show us that you're moving towards democracy, get a road map towards elections under way. Hopefully, stop the violence. U.S. aid, military aid, about a billion and a half dollars a year is not going to be stopped, that's going forward.

The U.S. is not calling this a military coup. There won't be legal questions about the continuation of U.S. military and economic assistance to Egypt. There would be if the U.S. decided to formally call that a coup. They are not doing that.

I assume this message is resonating with those who are in power in the military and their supporters right now. But what's the reaction to the Obama administration's position?

SAYAH: Well, look, there's no question that there's a big section of the population, these are the opponents of Mr. Morsy, that want stability, that want this new transitional government to move forward.

But standing in their way is the supporters of President Morsy, the ousted President Morsy, the Muslim Brotherhood. They don't like the way this process has been unfolded. They say this is a violation of the most basic principles of democracy.

And if you look at the possible scenarios, they all seem very unlikely. You can reach out and make peace with the Muslim Brotherhood, but they say short of reinstating Mr. Morsy, nothing will satisfy them. This transitional government can get aggressive and try to stifle the Muslim Brotherhood, supporters of the ousted president, but this is movement that has decades of enduring oppression. Most analysts say they're not going anywhere. You could plausibly wait for them to run out of steam, but at this point, that hasn't happened yet.

Lots of unknowns, lots of uncertainty that's only adding to the drama in Egypt, Wolf.

BLITZER: You see the crowds developing over there. They are still deep, deep animosity on both sides of this battle that's under way in Egypt.

Reza, we'll stay in close touch with you. Thanks very much. Let's hope it stays peaceful and quiet as they work out their problems in Egypt. So much at stake for all of us.

We're waiting for testimony to resume, once again, in the George Zimmerman murder trial. The jurors are not in the courtroom. You see George Zimmerman right there.

They are going through a procedural hearing with a judge whether to release as evidence an animation, a computerized animation. The defense wants it released as evidence, the prosecution resisting.

There you see Daniel Schumaker, he created this demonstration. We'll have full coverage of what's going on. That's coming up. Also coming up, for the first time, we are now hearing from those three women who were held hostage, who were tortured, for a decade in Cleveland.


MICHELLE KNIGHT, KIDNAPPING VICTIM: I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face.


BLITZER: Their inspiring message of hope about their new lives. That's next.