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The George Zimmerman Trial; Dr. Vincent De Maio Testifies

Aired July 9, 2013 - 14:30   ET


BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, LEAD PROSECUTOR: Objection, leading nature of the question.

DON WEST, ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE LAWYER: Setting the stage for the question.

JUDGE DEBRA NELSON: They are all still leading. You need to rephrase your questions.

WEST: Is the -- are the two lacerations with the valley in between on the back of Mr. Zimmerman's head consistent with at least two separate impacts on the surface like concrete?


WEST: And is it -- I'm trying to figure out a way to ask you about tree branches. Were there any big tree branches that you knew in the vicinity of where this happened that were on the ground that could have been used as a club?

DE MAIO: No. You have tree trunks but there are no tree branches that I could see. That is why when I first answered the question I said there were no tree branches.

WEST: For Mr. Zimmerman to have received those lacerations on the back of his head because of impact with a tree trunk what would have had to have happened if in fact that were possible?

DE MAIO: He would practically have to be upright sitting because you would have to hit the trunk. You would have to go back violently against the trunk on two occasions. So it would still be blunt trauma to the back of the head twice.

WEST: Or it could have been from hitting his head on the sidewalk.

RIONDA: Objection. Leading, argumentative.

JUDGE NELSON: Overruled as to argumentative. I'll overrule as to leading. Please rephrase.

WEST: Is that scenario much more plausible and consistent with the physical evidence?

DE MAIO: The cement is more plausible especially when you look at the injuries on the side of the head, which wouldn't be tree trunk because you have a pattern of abrasions. WEST: You commented, of course, that there is a different role that some professionals play in dealing with someone that's been injured.

DE MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: Whereas --

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: We will be back to testimony in the George Zimmerman trial right after this break.


WEST: Is it possible that maybe his nose wasn't deviated or if it fractured, it wasn't deviated or does that matter in the sense of whether or not he got punched in the face?

DE MAIO: No. He obviously has been punched nose and hit in the forehead.

WEST: That is the injuries up here you are talking about?

DE MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: The GCS scale of 15, is that a reference to a paramedic note? Is that what that --

DE MAIO: It is probably an area on the form where you know a 15 means they are walking and talking and breathing and they have a heart rate and they are not really bad. Once you start -- most people come into emergency rooms are 15s. Everybody in this courtroom is 15. To start going down you have to start getting into trouble.

WEST: I take it you are not claiming in some way that Mr. Zimmerman wasn't able to walk or talk that evening not withstanding his traumatic injuries.

DE MAIO: That is correct. What I'm saying is the type of injury he would get would be more of a stunning, not what most people think of as a significant concussion. That is why I tended to get away from the word concussion and went to the nonmedical word stunning-time injury.

WEST: The idea of a concussion that might lead to hematomas or may lead to death is something that happens after at some point in time after the actual impact.

RIONDA: Objection, leading.

JUDGE NELSON: Please rephrase your question.

WEST: Are the consequences of the blow those that develop over some period of time after the impact?

DE MAIO: Usually concussions show up immediately, but the problem is that they can be extremely subtle. And that is why sporting events like to have doctors there because lay people look at someone who has a concussion and will not pick up anything unusual if it is a mild concussion. As it gets more severe then it is become quite obvious.

WEST: When you're getting hit like that, are you feeling it?


WEST: Are you in some appreciation that you are being injured?

DE MAIO: Yes. I mean, if you get punched in the nose, believe me, you know it.

WEST: Does that continue to hurt for a while?

DE MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: How about when you get your head banged on concrete, does that hurt then and continue to hurt?

DE MAIO: Yes, especially if you have a lot of lacerations.

WEST: Would someone at that moment when this is actually happening to them be able to know whether or not what was happening to them was life threatening?

DE MAIO: No, because they are stunned and you know, you are in pain and you are in fear. So you can't interpret. Even looking at them outside can say they are all right. It happened all the time. People think they are all right and then they die a few hours later.

That's why police in this case should have taken Mr. Zimmerman to a hospital, not to the police station because if he had died in the police station they would have been sued and the family would have won the lawsuit because he had head injuries that means you take him to the hospital.

WEST: Even if there is not evidence of a concussion that he is stumbling or falling down or not able to talk.

DE MAIO: If you have head injuries like that you go to an emergency room. You don't play around. I mean, people die in jail like that a lot of times. The jails always lose the lawsuits. I will tell you that.

WEST: So if someone is in the process of being hit and having their head struck on surface like cement, they are having this stunning effect and the pain associated with it, in the moment of that not knowing when it is going to stop, are they able to say I can take three more of these before I need to do something about it?

RIONDA: Objection, leading and argumentative.

JUDGE NELSON: Sustained.

RIONDA: Speculation.

KEILAR: We will be right back to the George Zimmerman trial right after this break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WEST: If Trayvon Martin had put his hand over George Zimmerman's nose and mouth when it was in this condition, is it your testimony that there may have been some transfer of blood to his hand?

DE MAIO: Yes, sir.

WEST: I take it you would have no additional information as to whether or not Mr. Zimmerman's nose was actually bleeding at some point in time during the incident.

DE MAIO: That's correct. I mean, you get an impact to the nose you will eventually bleed but I can't tell you if you are going to bleed immediately or not. It depends on what hit you.

WEST: Where that blood goes may depend on the position that your head is in?

DE MAIO: Yes. It does.

WEST: Now, you have also talked quite a bit in cross, I guess, and direct about if you find something that is important but if you don't the absence of finding it doesn't necessarily make the absence of evidence important.

DE MAIO: Right. That's a general fact that is understood. Absence doesn't mean anything. Presence does because especially if you don't know the statistical probability. How often do you actually find something like a transfer of DNA? How often does it occur? You have to know that before you can give a probability. If you haven't done that you can't give an opinion.

WEST: Do you agree that environmental conditions can effect whether or not DNA is present on physical evidence?


WEST: For example, in this case you can assume that it was about three hours from the event until Mr. Martin's body was transported. And during that time while it may have been -- the body may have been covered with a blanket or covering on the outside there was a period of time when the body and his hands were exposed to the elements.

DE MAIO: Right. And that is also how you enclose the body. Do you wrap it tightly or do you put it loosely? Again, putting it in plastic containers, plastic tends to rub and be stiff. You know, if it's there it is significant. If it is not there that is significant.

WEST: You may also consider there has been testimony that the weather conditions varied from a light drizzle to a heavy rain during these events. And would the fact that it was raining to some degree, could that also affect whether or not there is biological DNA evidence collected from Mr. Martin's hands?

DE MAIO: That is true. You know how the hands were handled and things like that.

WEST: Or perhaps even if they may have been washed prior to being photographed?

DE MAIO: That's why the forensic pathologist is supposed to be with the body from the time it comes in. You should always be there. You should never leave the body even if you have assistants helping you. You don't leave the body.

WEST: You wouldn't trust your assistants to do -- well, I guess what you are saying is while you may trust your assistants to follow the protocol you would confirm and verify.

DE MAIO: Right. If you want the clothing removed you examine the clothing on the body before you say take it off And then you stand there as they take it off to see if they are doing things appropriately and not maybe throwing it on the floor. You throw it on the floor anything on the floor is now on the clothing and then you have it on a tray. You don't have the clothing piled on top of each other because if there is some material on one piece of clothing and then another piece on top of it you can get transfer. You are supposed to be monitoring this the whole time.

WEST: Let me show you what is marked as state's exhibit 28, which has been offered into evidence.

RIONDA: Objection, beyond the scope of cross examination.

WEST: I will ask the question. The State's Exhibit 28 has been offered into evidence and it represents a picture of Mr. Martin's chest taken at the scene by the crime scene technician and then I would like to show you State's Exhibit 95, which is in evidence and has been represented as a photograph taken at the time of the autopsy but before any cleaning or washing was done to the body.

KEILAR: Vincent De Maio renowned forensic pathologist and witness for the defense essentially bringing into question how investigators handled the evidence following the death of Trayvon Martin. We are back to the Zimmerman trial after a quick break.


KEILAR: Let's get some quick thoughts now from our legal experts in this case here, Tonya Miller and Drew Findling. You are watching Vincent De Maio who you described as sort of an untouchable forensic pathologist. He is well known. He is bringing into question how investigators handled the evidence.

DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely. The state has the burden of proof and the defense is going to drive that home. What they are saying is through De Maio through degradation of potential DNA evidence by putting evidence in plastic bags, which is unheard of, destroying potential DNA evidence by mishandling evidence at the forensic crime laboratory.

This evidence is missing from the trial, which is not only reasonable doubt, but evidence that was not brought to this jury that the state is ultimately responsible for. It is going to hurt the state of Florida in this prosecution.

KEILAR: Tanya, you said the defense is trying to have it both ways here on whether Zimmerman was bleeding from his nose.

TANYA MILLER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I did because the whole point that the prosecutor made when he stood up was this nose was bleeding. It was either coming out of his nose or going down his throat. If it is coming out of his nose according to George Zimmerman at one point Trayvon Martin was holding his nose.

You would expect to see some of that evidence on Trayvon Martin. It wasn't there. If the blood was going down his throat how can George Zimmerman be screaming for help so clearly on the 911 tape. It has to be one or the other.

KEILAR: We will get a quick break in and be right back to the Zimmerman trial in just a moment.


DE MAIO: So you know the techniques weren't exactly correct. Let's put it that way.

RIONDA: But you did rely on Dr. Bao's report in terms of his findings, correct?

DE MAIO: I had no other choice.

RIONDA: And based on your observations of the photographs they document what occurred in terms of --

DE MAIO: Right.

RIONDA: You are not disputing that.

DE MAIO: The photographs of the wound --

RIONDA: Do you have absence of evidence that anything was washed by the rain?

DE MAIO: It would have to be -- you would have to know how much it was raining there and you would have to have observation.

RIONDA: Pure speculation, correct?

DE MAIO: Yes, unless you were there and saw how much it was washing in the rain.

RIONDA: And there was an absence of vomiting, right? You were asked about John Good what he testified. Do you agree that a jury that heard John Good's testimony should rely on what he said on the witness stand?

DE MAIO: It is kind of interesting. If he has a good statement at the time and then he testifies something else on the witness stand you begin to wonder. I think that is up to the jury to consider.

RIONDA: My question is if John Good testified he neither saw nor heard any blows landing and either saw nor heard anything being slammed on the sidewalk, does the physical evidence, is that what you rely on?

DE MAIO: I didn't rely on anything on the statement.

RIONDA: You completely disregarded John Good.

DE MAIO: I disregarded the witnesses because what I was trying to do was essentially take Mr. Zimmerman's statement and see whether the physical evidence supported it or invalidated his statements. Because the witnesses, they are all over the place. You can't use the witnesses to make autopsy decisions.

RIONDA: But is it what George Zimmerman, the defendant, is relating to the police, is he a witness in terms of what happened?

DE MAIO: Yes. But that's why you don't believe him and you do the tests and look at the autopsy to check what he said matches what you find at the body.

RIONDA: Right. And what you did and you relied on one of his statements. The bottom line is what you can say is the gun was out and it was two inches from the body.

DE MAIO: Two to four inches from the body.

RIONDA: Thank you.

WEST: From this notion of the absence of evidence not being evidence of absence notion. If Mr. Good didn't testify that he heard George Zimmerman's head hitting cement like this in some way, does that in any way mean Mr. Zimmerman's head didn't actually get hit on the cement?


WEST: Same thing if Mr. Good didn't hear Trayvon Martin hit George Zimmerman in the head like this, does that mean George Zimmerman didn't get hit in the head to cause the injuries that you saw?


JUDGE NELSON: May Dr. De Maio be excused?

RIONDA: Yes, your honor.

JUDGE NELSON: Mr. West, may Dr. De Maio be excused? Thank you very much, Doctor, you are excused. Call your next witness, please. Your next witness is?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I had my ear to the screen hoping to hear that next witness because I can't wait to find out who comes next after an alarming day of point counter point from Dr. Vincent De Maio who has been on the stand.

Hi, everybody. I'm Ashleigh Banfield coming to you live from Sanford, Florida. Listen in, wait a sec. We are going to ask him who the next witness is going to be. It is fun to watch how this plays out especially when you don't get the witness list in advance.

This is one of those trials where we don't. So it is a surprise to everyone of us when they walk through the big old doors as to who is going to take the stand next in this trial. I will let you know the entire wrap up shortly.

But next up we are waiting on two key witnesses we know could be called, Benjamin Crump, the attorney for the parents of Trayvon Martin. He has been out of the courtroom this whole time because they may have him testify. It is not Benjamin Crump that's for sure. It is also not Mr. Robert Zimmerman who is another potential witness. Let's listen to find out who this witness is and what is he going to bring to this case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you swear the testimony presented will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God. Thank you.

BANFIELD: That didn't take long, did it? We are in a side bar before we get the witness up and running. The damage that was done this morning throughout the course of just a couple of hours to the prosecution's case cannot be understated.

The lawyers who are litigating this case are powerful and strong and smart, but that was a very tough cross to undergo because that witness that we had all morning is an excellent expert witness. Yes, we had the questions you have been paid and you do this sometimes for a living, but science is science. Let's listen in.