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Live Coverage of the George Zimmerman Trial

Aired July 9, 2013 - 11:00   ET


DR. VINCENT DI MAIO, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Yes, I performed about 9,000 autopsies, and then I reviewed the autopsies that were done under my jurisdiction, and that was about at 27,000, 28,000.

That meant I read the autopsies and said whether I agreed or not. And, as I said, the 9,000, I did autopsies until October of the year that I retired.

DON WEST, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: Would you typically, if involved in a criminal case, involving work that you had done be called by the prosecution?

DI MAIO: Yes. Yes. You know, of course, if I was medical examiner, I would testify in court about the autopsies I did and the other doctors testified about the autopsies that they did.

WEST: Meaning that you had a staff of other forensic pathologists at your medical examiner's office that also performed autopsy?

DI MAIO: I had four full-time physicians, plus I had one training physician. Our office, my office, former office, was approved for a program to train fellows in the field of forensic pathology. There was, I think, about 38, 39 offices in the United States approved to train in forensic pathology.

WEST: During the time that you were there, for lack of a better term, a ballpark idea of how many autopsies the office would do in the course of a year.

DI MAIO: Oh, we do 14 to 1,500 autopsies, I would say, and then we'd have about another equal number of 14 to 1,500 bodies that we elected, not to do autopsies, just external ones.

WEST: And you would, yourself, perform autopsies throughout the time that you were there?

DI MAIO: Right. I think the last autopsy I did was in October and then I retired in December. You can't work until the last day, because it takes weeks, if not a month or two, to complete all the details of an autopsy. So you have to stop a couple of months before.

WEST: Since 1981, when you began your work at the Bexar county medical examiner's office, were you also able to work as a consultant privately in other cases, outside Bexar county?

DI MAIO: Yes, sir. WEST: And what kind of work would you do that in regard?

DI MAIO: Mostly civil cases and then a few criminal cases. Outside Bexar County, I could testify for the defense. You don't do many private criminal cases, such as like I'm doing now. I run about two to four a year, at most.

WEST: You have been working as a consultant since the beginning of 2007, then, if I've done the math correctly -- I'm sorry, exclusively as a consultant, having retired from the medical examiner's office.

DI MAIO: Since January of 2007.

WEST: In other words, you've been in private practice as a consultant since January of 2007.

DI MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: And the majority of your work is in connection with civil cases?

DI MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: Does that sometimes still include gunshot injuries, though?

DI MAIO: Yes. Usually it's cases -- insurance cases involving alleged suicides, whether the case is a suicide or not. Occasionally you'll get a case of accidental discharge to maybe a defect in the firearm.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": So, real quickly, I just want to let you know what it is you're watching here with this brand- new witness, back up on the stand, second day of the week.

Vincent Di Maio is a legend. This guy has been in more trials than have been on television. Last big, big one as I recall, was Phil Spector.

This is the medical examiner, formerly from Bexar County, near San Anton, Texas, knows a thing or two about autopsy, packaging up evidence after an autopsy, trajectories of bullets, et cetera.

Mark Nejame joins me here. You know a lot more about why you use an M.E. when you're in a defense case and what they want out of this witness.

MARK NEJAME, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is the guy that wrote the book.

BANFIELD: Literally.

NEJAME: His book is called "Forensic Pathology," and it's getting ready to go into its third edition.

He was appointed by Governor Rick Scott of Texas to head up all of their forensic labs -- or, to oversee all forensic in the state of Texas. This is the guy that you go to.

BANFIELD: Not Governor Rick Scott, Rick Perry.

NEJAME: Rick Perry, excuse me.

BANFIELD: Rick Scott's your governor here in Florida.

NEJAME: We'll pass on that one.

BANFIELD: Listen, he is a great expert witness. He's used all over the place. He almost could get up on the stand and say, let's just bypass all the expert credentials.

NEJAME: Especially in contrast from what we've heard from the M.E. from Seminole County.

And now the jury is going to hear the M.E. from Seminole County who's performed a couple dozen.

BANFIELD: Quick checklist, distance of the bullet? He's going to hit this?

NEJAME: Yeah, I think so. Anything they talked about with the first M.E., he's ...

BANFIELD: Trajectory of the bullet, whether it was on an angle or straight ahead?

NEJAME: And the distance, exactly, because I think the first M.E. said anywhere from inches to a few feet.

And so the trajectory -- to try to do a reconstruction of where it occurred.


NEJAME: And this will also provide a bit of a foundation to the information the state's -- the defense is trying to put in.

BANFIELD: Real quick, real quick, they already touched on packaging. You put it in plastic, it stinks to high heaven and it degrades.

And guess what? We had testimony where it seemed as though the M.E. was really uncertain as to whether it went into plastic or paper, but we know about people who received the evidence from the autopsy, it was in ...

NEJAME: Even the M.E. himself ...

BANFIELD: Plastic.

NEJAME: But even the M.E. said, if anybody put it in plastic, they should lose their job. They should be fired.

That was the Seminole County M.E. who said that it would never be going in plastic. And, lo and behold, we know that it was put in plastic.

BANFIELD: So here's the deal. Even though he's a legend and we all know how great he is and we've watched him in many a trial, they're still not talking necessarily about this particular case.

So you're not missing anything. They're establishing his creds. He's got a lot of them, but you've got to get it on the record.

We're going to fit in a quick break so you don't miss any of his testimony as it relates exactly to the case against George Zimmerman.

We're back live from Sanford right after this.


BANFIELD: Welcome back live in Sanford, Florida, at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center.

I'm Ashleigh Banfield, reporting live on the George Zimmerman second- degree murder trial.

Witness number one, in front of the jury, anyway, is Dr. Vincent Di Maio. He's on the stand right now, and this guy wrote the book about CSI and forensic pathology.

Prepare to hear the science, what we call the molecular smoking gun, the defense hopes. Let's see where he gets and how far he gets. Let's go live.


WEST: ... followed by the bullet and then followed by the soot or the burning powder behind it.

DI MAIO: Right. And that's why blanks, people think blank cartridges are dangerous -- are not dangerous. You can kill yourself with them.

If you take a gun with a blank cartridge and put it against your chest, the gas formed will just tear right through your skin and muscle into your lung.

And people, you know, kid around and they'll will put it to their head. They could die. It goes right in.

You don't need the bullet to kill you with contact wounds.

WEST: Let's continue, though, with some of your experience and some of your writings. Have you written any articles about head trauma, in particular?

DI MAIO: Yes, I wrote one peer-reviewed article and then I've written a chapter in my book on forensic pathology on head injuries.

WEST: Head injuries meaning such things as blunt-force trauma to the head?

DI MAIO: Right.

WEST: I think you mentioned that you also have served as an editor of peer-reviewed scientific journals.

DI MAIO: Yes, I'm the editor-in-chief of "The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology."

WEST: Does that work include whether or not to accept a submission for -- by a researcher for publication.

DI MAIO: Yes, I have the final say. I receive the articles, they go out to reviewers, their reports come back to me, and then I read the reviews and decide whether to publish or not.

WEST: Let's talk about work that you may have done, specifically for entities outside the Bexar County medical examiner.

With reference to your expertise in firearms injuries, particular, have you done work for the United States government?

DI MAIO: Yes, about -- I think about two years ago, I testified for the U.S. attorney's office in some incidents in the -- in New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina, where police officers shot and wounded a number of people and killed one person. I testified for the U.S. Department of Justice in that case.

And I have done like one or two other cases and such.

WEST: Have you done any work for the United States Marines?

DI MAIO: War crimes, I testified for the Marine Corps in the prosecution of an individual charged with war crimes.

WEST: How about for the British government?

DI MAIO: Pardon?

WEST: For the British government?

DI MAIO: The Bloody Sunday Massacre that happened in Belfast years and years ago.

And the -- and I have another case going in about another two months in Britain, having to do with actually concussion head injury.

WEST: As well the United Nations?

DI MAIO: Yes. Yugoslavia war crimes, the (inaudible), the autopsies, whether -- determined whether they are valid or not.

WEST: And let's talk briefly about some of the jurisdictions in which you've testified as an expert in forensic pathology.

DI MAIO: I've testified in most states in the union, state courts, federal courts, testified in Canada, Colombia, South America, by video. I was able to testify, you know, by the computer and everything.

Let's see, South Africa, Israel.

WEST: I don't believe we've touched upon -- and that's in the United States in both state and federal courts?

DI MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: Have you received some professional awards as well?

DI MAIO: Yes, sir, from -- my medical school gave me the Master Teacher Award.

And then I got some outstanding service awards from The National Association of Medical Examiners, the Milton Helpern Awards from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and the Milton Helpern Laureate ...


BANFIELD: So we're two days into this week, likely possibly the last week of testimony in this case. We could be wrapping this thing up by the end of the week, if you can believe it. Or maybe you can, because you've been gavel-to-gavel on this, and that means you'll know what this picture is.

It's side bar. Mics are off. The courtroom hears static at this time. But on TV, you get to at least get a little perspective on what's been going on and what's coming.

Faith Jenkins and Danny Cevallos are those two experts who also join me live on this. Faith Jenkins, let's start with you since you're the former prosecutor and current defense attorney. Tell me this, my friend. When you get an M.E. who's going through his creds and he's about to go into the nitty-gritty of molecular science, how do you as a lawyer keep the jury intrigued and listening, because the devil is in these details and if you get sleepy, you lose these things.

FAITH JENKINS, FORMER CRIMINAL PROSECUTOR: Well, jurors in murder cases, Ashleigh, typically tend to be very riveted by this kind of testimony, because it is really the mechanics here and what's involved with a gunshot wound and a bullet wound.

And so you're going to hear Dr. Di Maio testify about the specifics of that. And as you know, both sides have debated here about how far away the gun was from the bullet wound, from Trayvon Martin's body or his sweatshirt. So this is why this testimony is key. I think the jurors know that at this point, so they're going to be honed in on that.

BANFIELD: Real quick, Danny Cevallos, ten seconds. Same question.

DANNY CEVALLOS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, look, it's just like she said, I mean this is always riveting testimony and it's really going to be, like always, a battle of the experts. Jury ultimately decides. BANFIELD: Amen to that. Well, this is a great expert. Let's continue to listen to his direct examination and see where they're going first with what they need of this witness. Vincent Di Maio, M.E.


WEST: Dr. Di Maio, let's turn to the work that you did specifically in this case.

DI MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: Would you describe the materials that you have received for review in this case, and if you have notes reflecting some of that information that you want to refer to, you're welcome to do that. Copies have been provided to the state. But just feel free to use your notes if you wish.

DI MAIO: Yes, sir. The material I reviewed were scene photos taken by the police and the medical examiner investigators; photographs of Mr. Zimmerman by the police and some civilians; the autopsy report, including toxicology and autopsy photos; the medical records of the EMS and a clinic regarding Mr. Zimmerman; a witness statement and a transcribed conversation, given by Mr. John Good; 911 calls; a reenactment tape of the incident by Mr. Zimmerman; DNA reports; a firearm examiner report; and the deposition of Dr. Rao (ph).

WEST: What I'd like to talk with you about, in terms of your findings -- well, let me ask you first. You did have an opportunity to review the video recording of Mr. Zimmerman in a sense reenacting the events immediately surrounding the shooting?

DI MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: And you've had access to some witness statements?

DI MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: Have you, to your knowledge, reviewed all of the witness statements?

DI MAIO: No, I haven't, because by the nature of this case, it's more about determining whether the physical evidence is consistent with Mr. Zimmerman's account, what he says happened. Because the witness statements tend to be, in most cases, all around, you know, vary greatly.

So the easiest way to hear it is to evaluate the physical evidence that you have on the body, in the clothing and such, and then compare it to the statements of the defendant, in this case Mr. Zimmerman, and see whether they are consistent. You know, if you say that the bullet came in the front and the bullet came in the back, well, obviously, they're inconsistent. So that's what you're essentially doing in this case.

WEST: And in doing that in this case, would you look at, in addition to what Mr. Zimmerman said happened on the video reenactment, you would look at the forensic evidence, which includes the pictures from the autopsy that might show the gunshot wound?

DI MAIO: Right.

WEST: Would that include looking at the report from the firearms expert who analyzed the clothing?

DI MAIO: That's correct. The two most important things in this case are the autopsy report, including the photographs of the wound, and the reports by the firearms examiner. And then, secondarily, the scene photographs and such. But what you're looking at mostly is the autopsy and the very detailed and excellent report by the firearms examiner.

WEST: So would your analysis include, for example, trying to reach an opinion as to the distance between the end of the barrel and the skin?

DI MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: Would it also include trying to reach an opinion from the end of the barrel to the clothing?

DI MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: Trying to reach an opinion what effect, if any, the clothing may have had in the appearance of the wound on the skin? Such things as that?

DI MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: We'll talk about some of those details in a moment. But some of the things that I would also like to talk with you about today is your opinion of how long Trayvon Martin may have been alive, and also how long Trayvon Martin may have been conscious, if those are different opinions.

DI MAIO: They're different opinions, because you can be alive and unconscious. So, right, they're two separate things.

WEST: We'll talk about that more. I also want to ask you some questions about the injuries that Mr. Zimmerman sustained that are reflected in the photographs taken by the Sanford Police Department. Did you have access to those photographs and the chance to review them?

DI MAIO: Yes, sir, I did.

WEST: I'll also want to talk with you a little about the injuries that you observed, through photographs or through reviewing the autopsy, sustained by Trayvon Martin, in addition to the gunshot wound itself.

So generally, that's the framework of what I would like you to talk about today. And let's more specifically talk about the gunshot itself and the mechanics involved in that. I know you've already touched upon mechanics of what happens when a bullet is fired from a gun when you talked about the microphotography and that the puff of gas followed by the bullet followed by the rest of the gas is essentially the sequence?

DI MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: So let's talk about the evidence in this case. Would you describe for the jury what you saw when you looked at the photographs of the clothing that Mr. Martin had, and the photographs of the wound to his skin, and the gunshot or the tattooing that was referenced in the autopsy report. Can you put all that together for us?

DI MAIO: Yes, sir. The photographs show contact discharge of a weapon against the clothing. And this I agree 100 percent with the firearms examiner. That at the time of the discharge, the gun was against the clothing, the gas came out, tore the clothing, there's a defect and there's tears from it. There's a deposit of soot all around it. So what you know is that the muzzle was in contact with the clothing at the time of discharge. And again, this is what the firearms examiner said and she also did, I believe, some experiments proving that.

When you look at the wound in the chest, there's a different picture. The wound in the chest was about an inch to the left of the midline, half inch below the level of the nipples, and what you had was a circular punched out wound, which is an entrance, but it lay in an area of powder tattooing, measuring 2 inches by 2 inches.

Now powder tattooing are marks on the skin due to powder burns that come out the muzzle of the gun. They're not powder burns, people use the term powder burns, but it means a whole bunch of different things. This is very specific.

When the powder grain comes out of the barrel and the barrel is close enough to the body, that grain of powder hits the skin and produces a mark and a reaction, a reddish color reaction, and these marks are called powder tattoo marks. Some people call them -- use other terms, but powder tattoo marks. They use the term stippling, but I prefer powder tattoo marks. And this indicates that a grain of powder has hit the skin and a person was alive at the time. You do not get true powder tattoo marks on dead people.

And there was a distribution measuring 2 inches by 2 inches, and a certain density in these tattoo marks. And this indicated that the gun was not against the skin. It was not a half inch away. It was more than an inch, and based upon the concentration of the marks and the size of the pattern, it's my opinion that the muzzle of the gun in this case was 2 to 4 inches away from the skin.

So the barrel of the gun was against the clothing, the muzzle of the gun was against the clothing, but the clothing itself had to be 2 to 4 inches away from the body, at the time Mr. Martin was shot.

WEST: Dr. Di Maio, I'm going to show you what's marked as State's Exhibit 96, which is a photograph taken at the medical examiner's office showing the entrance wound. It may take a minute to warm this up, so let me, if I might approach the witness, perhaps you can point out what you're seeing to the jury.

DI MAIO: If you look, what you see is the hole produced by the bullet. And that's essentially a punched out type entrance. And then all around the entrance, you see these all (ph) little marks, almost like flea bites or ant bites. Not fire ants, but regular ants. But little bite marks, all around, and these are powder tattoo marks. And because they're red and reddish brown, that indicates the person was alive.

And if you notice, there's a variation in the density, and there's a measurement of about 2 inches by 2 inches, according to the autopsy report. This indicates, again, that he was alive at the time he was shot and that the muzzle was not in contact, but had to be back.