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Zimmerman on Trial; Analysis of This Morning's Testimony

Aired July 9, 2013 - 12:30   ET



DR. VINCENT DI MAIO, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Yes, I told you that, you know, also in addition -- you know, the head wasn't cleaned of blood in some of the photographs.

All I can say is there's definite evidence of six impacts. That does not mean that there were only six, but the six I can say.



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: So I love this picture. Looking at the prosecutor, Bernie De La Rionda, as he leans forward to take a note because I cannot wait to see what he's going to do. He's an incredible, incredible lawyer.

Now they're going up to side bar, so this is an awesome, awesome opportunity to look at the scores that were made by this defense attorney.

This defense team, can I just tell you, in the hundreds of trials I've covered, I've seen some real lousy lawyering and I've seen some really great lawyering and this is really great lawyering.

Want to bring in another really great lawyer. He's a famed defense attorney here in central Florida, and in south Florida, Mark Nejame.

You and I have been shaking our heads like holy cow. This is a textbook strategy, moment by moment, point by point attack on the prosecution's case with science and with a nice scientist.

MARK NEJAME, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He comes across as very engaging, very knowledgeable, and he explains it in terms that the jury can understand.

When he talks about that somebody could be alive, if they reached in and pulled their heart out and they could still be alive for 10 or 15 seconds, that graphic example just sets it where you can understand somebody can be alive and do all the things that he's saying that they can do because he wrote the book.

He wrote the book called "Forensic Pathology." That's the book that he wrote, and he ... BANFIELD: And he's got quite a bibliography, too. The guy, he's -- when I say he's a famed forensic medical examiner and pathologist, he has testified in some of the biggest trials.

So even that, trying to come back at him under cross-examination, and say, you know, you're a crazy scientist, your creds are no good. You can't do that with this guy. He's just too good for that.

Hey, you are looking at George Zimmerman standing, his defense attorney, Mark O'Mara, about to cross your screen.

This is the moment where they're trying to assess whether they need to take a break and get this jury a moment to maybe grab a bite to eat, refresh, think what everything they've heard because it is a lot.

It is a lot to digest, and they might have to digest some lunch in the meantime.

We're going to squeeze in a quick break before we find out what the court's going to do because there's a lot of motions that they still have to deal with as well.

Quick break, back right after this.


BANFIELD: Welcome back, live, everyone, in Sanford, Florida, at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, reporting live on the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial.

And there you have it, the Great Seal of the state of Florida, a brief break inside this courtroom, but it has been riveting testimony from the granddaddy of all forensic pathologists out there, the former medical examiner of Bexar County Texas near San Antonio.

He's been on the stand all morning, point by point taking every piece of the prosecutor's case and essentially eviscerating it. It has been absolutely remarkable to watch this man at work.

How does the jury respond to this? You'll find out shortly, but here was the moment that stood out to so many because a big part of this case was, if George Zimmerman said he was trying to pin Trayvon Martin's hand's down after sustaining a big old beating, then why was Trayvon Martin found face down with his hands under his body after a gunshot to the heart?

Wow, Dr. Vincent Di Maio had quite the explanation for this. Look how he put it to this jury.


DI MAIO: Even if I right now reached across, put my hand through your chest, grabbed your heart and ripped it out, you could stand there and talk to me for 10-to-15 seconds or walk over to me because the thing that's controlling your movement and ability to speak is the brain, and that has a reserve supply of 10-to-15 seconds. Now that's minimum. That assumes no blood is going to the brain.

WEST: From what I understand you to say then, for at least 10-to-15 seconds after Mr. Martin sustained the shot, he would have been capable of talking and of voluntary movement?

DI MAIO: He could, right. Some people just lose consciousness immediately. It's psychological. It's not physical, but he has the potential for 10-to-15 seconds, minimum.

WEST: Right. Which could include, then, moving his arm from an outstretched position to underneath his body?


NELSON: Sustained.

WEST: Could that include moving his arms from an outreached position to underneath his body during that 10-to-15 seconds?


WEST: At the time that one loses consciousness, I take it they then lose the ability for voluntary movement?

DI MAIO: Oh, yeah. Once you're unconscious, you don't have voluntary movement.

WEST: And you would not be feeling pain?

DI MAIO: That's correct.


BANFIELD: Unbelievable, remarkable testimony, especially as you watch Dr. Vincent Di Maio.

Look, medical examiners are not always the most dynamic people in the world. That one bucks the trend.

He's facing right over to the jury of almost all women. He's explaining this in a folksy manner. He's even cracking jokes and getting the court to laugh about being bald.

This is an unbelievably expert witness, and he's a real "get." He's a real "get" for the defense.

And you're going to hear that on cross-examination. What did it cost to get you? Mark my words. It happens every time.

I want to bring in some of the best experts on the case right now, Faith Jenkins, former prosecutor, current criminal defense attorney, and Danny Cevallos, criminal defense attorney, that last shot where you could see Don West at the podium asking his questions under direct, and you could see Bernie De La Rionda, the prosecutor, almost shaking his head in his hand. Faith Jenkins, I know you could feel the pain and suffering of that prosecutor and the elation, I'm sure, of the defense attorney.

FAITH JENKINS, FORMER CRIMINAL PROSECUTOR: Right. Because, Ashleigh, the prosecutor, they know that in order to get a conviction in this case they have to paint a picture of George Zimmerman as a liar. Repeatedly, he's lied, repeatedly.

He's given a number of inconsistent statements, and one of the things they wanted to argue, they still want to argue, is that George Zimmerman lied about what he did with Trayvon Martin's hands after he shot him, that he spread those hands out. But when the police got there, Trayvon Martin was face down in the grass and his hands underneath him.

Now the defense have given George Zimmerman an out on this because they brought in Dr. Di Maio who said, Trayvon Martin, it's very possible -- possible -- that he could still move and he moved on his own. So it will be very interesting to see what the prosecutor does on cross-examination with his testimony.

BANFIELD: Well, and Danny Cevallos, I mean, look, Bernie De La Rionda is -- he's no joke. He is phenomenal. I've seen direct examination where I thought, oh, lord, he's finished. What could you possibly say to that when you get up to do a cross? And he comes out with masterful cross-examination.

I'm not going to suggest for a moment that you're going to guess what his cross is, but go ahead and guess. What can he say to this?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I mean, he's going to have to attack on cross some of the foundation for his conclusions. I mean, that's the best I can surmise. I mean, he's not -- no expert is infallible. However, there has to be something that he said inconsistent or something that he'll try to exploit. But, remember, it illustrates an interesting thing. The prosecutor is usually stuck with whoever their M.E. is, employed by the state.

The defense, if they have the money, they can go out like the NFL draft. They can shop around for the best money can buy, and it looks like they got bang for their buck in this instance.

BANFIELD: Yes, and you know what? Here is my guess. You're going to be hearing, you weren't the M.E., were you? You weren't there doing the examination of Zimmerman's head that night, were you? All you had to go on were the photos and other people's reports. But you know what? It happens in a lot of cases as well. You get experts up on the stand and that's all they have to go on.

Guys, stand by for one minute because another huge point that was made in this case by the prosecution was the gunshot wound. Was it a contact gunshot wound? Was that muzzle of the gun right up against Trayvon Martin's skin, or was it up against his clothing and was that clothing drooping down because possibly was the victim on top of George Zimmerman?

It is a huge debate. He gives his answers after the break.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, reporting live in Sanford, Florida, at the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial. And that is the status of the trial right now. You are not missing any live testimony, and we're going to get you right back into that courtroom as it activates once again.

They're on a brief break, but this gives us a great opportunity to show you what you may have missed. And there has been some remarkably stunning testimony in this courtroom this morning.

I want to bring in Mark Nejame, one of the famed criminal defense attorneys here in Florida. You were watching along with me as Dr. Vincent Di Maio, the former medical examiner of Bexar County, Texas, and, listen, an expert extraordinaire in criminal trials across the country, as he took one big point of the prosecution's case and that was where was the muzzle of the gun when Trayvon Martin was shot to death?

Because if Trayvon Martin was on top of George Zimmerman, it could have been very different than if Trayvon Martin were on the bottom and George Zimmerman were effectuating that MMA-style beat down.

Explain why he made the point he did.

NEJAME: Forget what George Zimmerman has had to say. Forget what the prosecution has to say. Listen to the science. The science tells it all. Forget everything else.

It tells you, very simply, that there was a separation between the gunshot and the body.

But we know that the gunshot penetrated the clothing and then entered the body, at four inches -- exactly.

BANFIELD: Two to four inches separation between the clothing and the actual skin, correct?

NEJAME: And scientifically it shows you that Trayvon Martin was leaning atop George Zimmerman and there is no other way that that shooting could have occurred.

BANFIELD: Because, if you flip the scenario -

NEJAME: Bingo.

BANFIELD: And if you have Trayvon Martin on the bottom, and George Zimmerman firing the gun down, you would not have that separation of -

NEJAME: There would not be a separation of clothes from the body.

BANFIELD: And what the - what this medical examiner and forensic pathologist is saying is that the - that - oh, I hated seeing it, the ice tea, the Arizona watermelon flavored fruit tea that was very heavy in his hoodie -

NEJAME: Weighted it down.

BANFIELD: Was weighing it down, (INAUDIBLE) as he was -

NEJAME: Exactly right.

BANFIELD: You know what, you have to hear how he framed this answer and how he explained this to the jury. He's just masterful at it. Take a look.


DI MAIO: The medical evidence, the gunshot wound, the tattooing, is consistent with his opinion, with his statement as to that. And the reason it is, is - don't forget, the simplest thing is, the gunman is (INAUDIBLE) right hand. So if you're going to shoot somebody and you're right handed and you're really close to them, the - this - the natural inclination to, with a twist, the hand, that the bullet will tend to go from the state's (ph) left to his right, OK. But that's a minor point.

The most important point is the nature of the defect in the clothing and the powder tattooing. That is, if you lean over somebody, you would notice that the clothing tends to fall away from the chest. If instead you're lying on your back and somebody shoots you, the clothing is going to be against your chest. So that the fact that we know the clothing was two to four inches away is consistent with somebody leaning over the person doing the shooting and that the clothing is two to four inches away from the person firing.

WEST: You may consider, in your opinion as well, that the clothing was wet. Mr. Martin's shirt was described as being damp, that it had been raining that night and that when it was photographed at the medical examiner's office's the next day it was obviously wet in places.

You may also consider that the responding officers found an unopened can of a beverage in the front pouch of Mr. Martin's hooded sweatshirt. This is in evidence as exhibit 148, an unopened 23 ounce can of a fruit beverage.

DI MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: Do you find those facts consistent with what you saw, as well as consistent with what Mr. Zimmerman said happened?

DI MAIO: This would tend to re-enforce because the reason that the clothes, as you bend forward, the clothing falls away from the body is gravity. Now, if you have wet clothing, clothing's heavier and there's going to be a greater tendency to fall. And if you have something in the front pulling the shirt down as you lean over, again, it tends to pull away from the body. So the wound itself, by the gap, by the powder tattooing, in the face of contact of the clothing, indicate -- indicates that this is consistent with Mr. Zimmerman's account that he - that Mr. Martin was over him leaning forward at the time of the shot. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: And you can be guaranteed the prosecutor is taking copious notes figuring out during this break, what do I do to dismantle that? Coming up after the break, all of the things you missed, even if you were glued to that testimony. There is a very big courtroom and the cameras don't catch much of it, including what the jury is doing. But guess who did? Jean Casarez, our CNN correspondent who is gavel to gavel in that courtroom. She's just run out from the courthouse. She's going to give us the full report of everything you didn't see in just a moment.


BANFIELD: Welcome back, live in Sanford, Florida, at the courthouse. Guess who was inside the courthouse? You're not missing testimony. Jean Casarez is not missing any testimony. She's run out to give us the play by play inside the courtroom.

So we miss a lot, Jean. Even when we're glued to the testimony, we miss a lot. All the things you saw. Tell me what I missed.

JEAN CASAREZ, HLN CORRESPONDENT: Well, when -- he just started giving his credentials, Dr. Di Maio took the stand the jury just sort of like became focused and affixed on him. And as he testified, they took notes, but they looked up. Notes, looked up. And he had pictures right to his side many times that he was diagraming, and they would be looking at those pictures. They were intense. At the moment - really at the beginning when he said, I have always had an extreme interest in gunshot wounds, Sybrina Fulton stood up right then and she walked out and she walked out very, very defiantly. And we can't blame her because who would want to be in the courtroom to listen to this testimony about your son.

BANFIELD: I agree. I remember thinking, wow, we're so clinical with a medical examiner, a forensic pathologist, talking about the trajectory of a bullet and the stipling (ph) and the injuries. And it is really painful to remember, especially when you see that bottle of ice tea, it's a kid. There's a kid who died here. And somebody wants justice. Both sides want their justice.

Jean, stand by for one moment, if you will, because there was another moment that Vincent Di Maio was able to bring out on this stand, and that was the argument that the prosecutors have been making that George Zimmerman's injuries just weren't severe enough to be in fear for his life, hence bring up this whole self-defense. I need to yank a gun out and shoot Trayvon Martin in the heart. Well, listen to Vincent Di Maio as he talks about what happens when you get your bell rung. Take a look.


DI MAIO: Impacts of the head, when it's hard surface like concrete, say, what you worry about is the internal bleeding and some axonal (ph) injury. More likely the intracranial bleeding than axonal injury, to be honest. And so it's always dangerous. The thing, it's like, if you hit your head here on the floor, it's carpet, it absorbs. Concrete doesn't yield. When your head hits concrete, your head yields, not the concrete. So it's dangerous.

Could you kill somebody? Sure, if you banged them hard enough. But its -- if you don't - but even if you don't do enough to injury the brain significantly, you're going to have some stunning effect. That's what concussion, you know, these football players who get the concussion, what it is, it's axonal injury. And, you know, some can take it, some can't. Sometimes there's (INAUDIBLE) down the line. But you can get a very mild concussion just banging your head - not just banging your head on a cabinet, that doesn't do it. But, I mean, you know, you fall and hit your head and you can get a mild concussion. You don't lose consciousness. You just aren't (ph) -- appear stunned. I know this is not a medical term, but it's like stunning goes to concussion goes to getting worse. I think the best thing is stunned where you may not have any significant visible injury to the brain, but you are stunned just from the impact. Stunning is a good term instead of the concussion.


BANFIELD: Faith Jenkins, Danny Cevallos joining me live.

I can't - I lost count of the times that this witness said "stunned," "stunning," "stunning," "stunned," It was so powerful.

Faith Jenkins, do a quick whip around. Tell me the power of what he said.

JENKINS: Well, there's a huge difference here between what Dr. Di Maio was saying the injuries that George Zimmerman could have sustained, and the fact that he could have been stunned, and the injuries that he did sustain because, at the end of the day, he only need band aids to the back of his head, not sutures, not stitches. And the defense knows that's a problem for them here because his injuries are still minor. Even though the doctors say it could have been -

BANFIELD: Spoken -

JENKINS: Several more significant, they simply weren't.

BANFIELD: Spoken like a good former prosecutor.

Danny Cevallos, put on the defense attorney hat. Give me your quick whip around. Ten seconds on the power of what he said. We all have had our bells rung before.

CEVALLOS: Yes, if you thought scratches and scrapes weren't enough, then, boom, now we've got actual cranial injury inside, without the exterior injuries to show for it. He explains away a lot of problems.

BANFIELD: OK. All right. Last word to Mark Nejame, whose sitting here with me and watched how many shots of the prosecutor doing one of these. What are your thoughts about what they're dealing with over lunch?

NEJAME: I think that they're stunned.

BANFIELD: Ha, ha, good point.

NEJAME: You know, this pathologist expert is one of the top in the world and he -- I think he just stunned them.

BANFIELD: Do not count out these prosecutors.


BANFIELD: They're some of the best in the business.

NEJAME: They're excellent. They're excellent.

BANFIELD: I cannot wait. We're going to continue our live coverage here on CNN. The Zimmerman trial continues after this break.