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George Zimmerman Trial Continues; Analysis of the Day's Testimony

Aired July 9, 2013 - 15:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You may proceed, yes.


Good afternoon, sir.

State your name, please.


O'MARA: And your occupation.

BONAPARTE: City manager, city of Sanford, Florida.

O'MARA: How long have you been so employed?

BONAPARTE: A year-and-a-half.

O'MARA: And you were employed then back in February of 2012, when this event happened, correct?

BONAPARTE: That is correct.

O'MARA: I want to focus your attention, if I might, on a very particular event, and that is the event that surrounds the playing of a -- what we now know to be a 911 call to Martin family. OK?


O'MARA: I understand that there were some decisions that were made getting us to that point. We are not concerned or going to inquire into the reason. I only want to talk to you about the actual event. OK?


O'MARA: I would like you to focus on that.

My understanding is -- and if I might be given some leeway to lead a slight bit to focus the witness?

My understanding is that you were -- a decision was made to play the tape for the Martin family, correct?

BONAPARTE: The decision was made to play a number of tapes.

O'MARA: Correct, including -- there were several tapes that were played. Those were police evidence tapes of the investigation surrounding this event, correct?

BONAPARTE: It was 911 at the nonemergency number.

O'MARA: Yes, several of them, correct?

BONAPARTE: That's correct.

O'MARA: OK. I want to focus your attention particularly on one, although I realize that several were played. When the decision was made to play those tapes, who actually took care of the process of playing the tapes?

BONAPARTE: It was the mayor's office and it was myself and the mayor.

O'MARA: OK. So both you and the mayor actually did the physical playing of the tapes, correct?

BONAPARTE: To the best of my recollection.

O'MARA: OK. Was there any conversation with law enforcement before that as to how to accomplish the playing of the tapes for the witnesses before it happened?

BONAPARTE: At that point, they weren't witnesses. They were parents.

O'MARA: Is that a no?

BONAPARTE: Please repeat the question.

O'MARA: Yes, OK. The question was whether or not you had any conversation with law enforcement as to how to play these tapes to these people. You say they weren't witnesses. Let's just call them people. Were there any conversations with law enforcement as to how to accomplish this playing of the tapes, yes or no?


O'MARA: OK. So then you just -- did you and the mayor just decide on your own as to how they would be played?

BONAPARTE: The decision was made to make them public. The purpose of showing them to the Martin family so they heard it first as a courtesy to the family.

O'MARA: Absolutely. I understand both the courtesy and the sensitivities that you were dealing with, sir. My focus is a little bit different than that, however, OK? Here's my focus.


O'MARA: When the actual decision to make the tapes -- play for the Martin family, was it your decision, was it the mayor's decision as to how that would occur?

BONAPARTE: The decision was made just to allow them to hear them.

O'MARA: OK. Was there any consideration given to the idea of playing them to those individuals separately, one separate from the other so as to not infect their view or what they heard one to the other?

BONAPARTE: No, there was not.

O'MARA: So the way that it occurred, then, we know from other testimony, was that the tape was played -- and again, I know there were several tapes. The tapes were played with the entire family present in one room, correct?

BONAPARTE: That is correct.

O'MARA: And were you the one playing the tapes?

BONAPARTE: I don't recall exactly who was playing it. We used a computer.

O'MARA: Well, if you would, give us the setting as to who was doing what with the tapes.

BONAPARTE: It was a disk that we were using, a laptop so that they can hear the tapes.

O'MARA: Yes, sir. And who was doing what?

BONAPARTE: I don't recall specifically. It was either myself or the mayor.

O'MARA: Who was present?

BONAPARTE: The mayor, the Martin family, and the attorneys, Mr. Crump and Ms. Natalie Jackson and Trayvon's brother. And then there was another individual and I don't know his name.

O'MARA: Was there any law enforcement present?


O'MARA: Was that a decision that you and/or the mayor made to keep law enforcement out of the room?

BONAPARTE: We had asked the family -- I asked the family if they wanted law enforcement. They said they'd rather have law enforcement not in the room at the time. So we obliged their request.

O'MARA: And did you discuss that with Chief Lee in regard to his desire to be in the room?

BONAPARTE: At that point we just informed the chief as well as the other officers to not be in the same room.

O'MARA: Do you recall how many times the tape was played? BONAPARTE: Which tape?

O'MARA: Let's focus on the 911 tape that had the screams for help on it.

BONAPARTE: No, I do not.

O'MARA: Were you there for all the times that it was played?

BONAPARTE: I was in the vicinity. I wasn't always in the room.

O'MARA: OK. Was either you or the mayor -- and that's Mayor Triplett, correct?

BONAPARTE: That is correct.

O'MARA: Was either you or he in the room at all times the tape was being played?

BONAPARTE: I don't recall.

O'MARA: How many times was the tape played while you were in the room?

BONAPARTE: I do not recall.

O'MARA: More than one?

BONAPARTE: The tape that has the screams, yes, that was played more than once.

O'MARA: And was that at the request of anyone in particular?

BONAPARTE: I believe it was at the request of the family.

O'MARA: Anyone in particular in the family?

BONAPARTE: I do not recall.

O'MARA: Did they give you any reasons for why they wanted to hear it more than once?

BONAPARTE: I think they just wanted to hear it again.

O'MARA: Did they make -- did you record or take any notes as to any responses they had regarding what they heard on the one tape of particular concern?

BONAPARTE: No, I did not.

O'MARA: Did you record the event of this happening in any form or fashion so that law enforcement or others might have it?

BONAPARTE: No, we did not.

O'MARA: Was it recorded by audio or video? BONAPARTE: No, it was not.

O'MARA: Was anyone there, like a court reporter, just to document exactly how it occurred?

BONAPARTE: No, it was not.

O'MARA: Was any consideration given by you or the mayor at all to do it in a fashion that could record it should law enforcement or anybody else need it for future purposes?

BONAPARTE: We were releasing it to the media that evening. We just wanted the family to have the courtesy of hearing it first. And we did not have it recorded.

O'MARA: I'm sorry, sir. I don't mean to banter with you. My question was fairly specific as to whether or not you gave any consideration to the concept of recording it so that if law enforcement or anybody else in the future needed it, it would be recorded, that event of the first time half a dozen family members listened to that tape was recorded at all. Is that a yes or a no?

BONAPARTE: It's a no.

O'MARA: Just a moment, Your Honor.

And just to be clear, the attorneys that you say were present were not city attorneys. They were the Martin family attorneys, correct?

BONAPARTE: That's correct.

O'MARA: The only two people representing anybody in Sanford from law enforcement to the police -- I'm sorry -- law enforcement to the administration was yourself and Mayor Triplett.

BONAPARTE: That is correct.

O'MARA: Nothing further, Your Honor. Thank you.





DE LA RIONDA: Mr. Bonaparte, the bottom line was that it was the decent thing to do to play it to the family before it was released to it the public.

BONAPARTE: That was our intent.

DE LA RIONDA: And that's why it occurred the way it did, is that correct? BONAPARTE: That is correct.

DE LA RIONDA: Thank you, sir.


O'MARA: No, Your Honor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. May Mr. Bonaparte be excused?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much, sir. You are excused.

Please call your next witness.


O'MARA: I need to approach. There's a witness who may want to appear in a unique way. I want to talk to the court about that, if I might.


O'MARA: This might be a time for the jury to take a break.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why don't you approach first?

So I'm trying to listen to the bits and pieces here, but so much happened so quickly. They are at a quick sidebar dealing right now with the potential upcoming witness who they did not name. We will find out in a moment. But this was strong, because no matter how you cut this case it has race-infused. People across this country are glued to it because there is a very large element of race infused into this case.

This may be one of the first witnesses to really bring that out without so much saying it but saying what happened while the case was being investigated.

I want to bring in Mark NeJame, who is a profoundly wise criminal defense attorney here in Florida.

This is such a critical witness in this case. Let me explain why for a moment. The city manager in this case brought that entire family into a room to listen to the 911 screams and let the family determine as a group who it was screaming.

There has been a lot of argument over whether that is bad investigation, bad practice because in any kind of police lineup it is an individual thing so that others don't influence one another. In this particular case, was the defense trying to quietly get towards all of this has to do with politics and pushiness? Is that where they were going with this without so much as saying it?

MARK NEJAME, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Of course. Let's just ask ourselves, when do you ever have a city manager and a mayor sitting in a criminal investigation and kicking the police officers out when there is a homicide investigation taking place?

It doesn't happen. Never heard it happening in the decades we have been practicing. It doesn't happen. When do you have a mayor and a city manager, politicians, these are not law enforcement, kicking out law enforcement and then taking control of an investigation on their own, and not even recording it properly? I'll tell you, Chief Lee brought this out. He has taken a lot of fire.

BANFIELD: He's the one who ended up fired.


NEJAME: He stepped down over all the controversy and everything else.

I have to tell you he stayed very quiet. But I think that he is from what I am hearing been very exonerated. He wanted to do the right thing, wanted to conduct a proper investigation. But when your bosses tell you no.


BANFIELD: You're a prosecutor. I was waiting to find out how this masterful prosecutor, Bernie de la Rionda, would cross-examine on this. And it was awesome. And it was short.

He had a perfect explanation for it. He said it would be the decent thing to do to let the family hear a tape before the media gets ahold of it. That is pretty powerful stuff, Stacey.


I understand completely what Mark is saying. I know that the vibes around it is politically charged. But Bernie had to do what he had to do. He had to cross-examine this witness because he had to let the jury know what he was doing was proper, proper in the mind of the mayor and the city manager to let these people listen to this and not have law enforcement involve, not ask any questions and not ask them specifically what is going on or what do you think happened, just to be decent human beings. Their son was killed. This was the final tape, and to allow them to almost grieve by themselves in that room.

But while it takes on an effect of it is a politically charged prosecution, Bernie did the right thing by bringing it back home. It is the decent thing to do. Bring some humanity into it.

BANFIELD: And, Stacey, no redirect after that. It just hangs there. Right now I'm going to show the great seal of the state of Florida because the great seal is all we have to go on right now. And it is likely the jury sitting and thinking about what they just heard, that very powerful, cross.

I have said it a few times. I am going to say it again. I see a lot of stinkers for lawyers in trials. And these lawyers are great. I might go so far as to say these might be some of the best that I have seen litigate a criminal defense trial. This is just amazing. All right, quick break. Stacey, stand by. Also, Mark NeJame is with me. He will stand by. I have got a couple of highlights for you. If you missed any of this trial today buckle up and come right back.


BANFIELD: Other news to bring to you today, Vice President Joe Biden is speaking right now honoring the 19 firefighters who were killed in that Arizona wildfire.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Confident, committed, determined, trust worthy, passionate.

BANFIELD: Some of the live pictures of the music being played in tribute. These are just thousands of people who decided to attend this private service at an arena in Prescott, Arizona. Thousands more people are watching this service on giant TV screens that have been positioned outside the arena. All of this because these elite Hot Shot firefighters, most of them in their 20s, died while battling the Yarnell Hill wildfire. It was the deadliest day for firefighters since 9/11.

Also making news today, it is hard to imagine what it must have been like to have been a passenger on board Asiana Flight 214 when that doomed jet smashed down on to the runway, sudden impact, the dust, the fire, the frenetic, crazy trying to escape a plane. And now you see in this video what was a desperate scramble to get out of that burning plane.

In fact, we have some video that shows the attempt to actually get down the emergency slides. This is some of the aftermath that you are seeing right here at San Francisco airport. But to add to the terror, we're now hearing -- there you go -- look at that. Jumping out and going down those chutes that you hear about during the announcements before flight time all the time. Rarely do you see it. Almost never do you do it.

We are also hearing these reports that one of these slides actually did not function and instead deployed inside the plane. What happens then? The door gets blocked. People got trapped inside. Three young siblings who were on that plane know all too well what this was like because they tell CNN about this terrifying brush with death.


ESTHER JANG, PLANE CRASH SURVIVOR: Just craziness. It was like we were all bouncing all over the place. I just remember there being dust everywhere. And I was freaking out. And then it just stopped. After everything stopped, it was a relief.

JOSEPH JANG, PLANE CRASH SURVIVOR: When we all reunited, like, my family and I, I was really glad, so I started crying.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BANFIELD: I will bet. Those kids looked over and actually saw their parents on the floor because their seats had actually given way and were on the floor. The question now everybody wants to know, what does the pilot who was at the helm of this plane have to say about the crash?

The NTSB is telling CNN they want to know as well. And they are planning to question that pilot when they get the chance a little later on today, remembering of course he was still technically, technically learning to captain the Boeing 777.


DEBORAH HERSMAN, CHAIRWOMAN, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: The 777, it will require this pilot to take some specific training. So when we look at that transition training for him, we want to understand that. We want to understand how different not just the 7- 4, but other cockpits that he flew, what his experience was in those, what his expectations were.

Getting this initial operating experience, this really on-the-job experience in the 777, is really the last part of that before he is going to be a captain.


BANFIELD: So all of the other three captains who were on board, three pilots I should say who were on board because this is a long haul flight and they have to do shifts, they have already been interviewed. Stand by as we wait to get that information from the NTSB.

Also making news, they describe a journey through hell and back. Three young women breaking their silence two months after they were freed from the Cleveland home where they say Ariel Castro tortured them and held them captive for nearly a decade.

CNN's Pamela Brown has the story.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a four-minute YouTube video, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight are speaking publicly for the first time to simply say thanks.

AMANDA BERRY, FORMER KIDNAP VICTIM: I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through entire ordeal. Everyone who has been there to support us. It ha's been a blessing to have an outpouring of love and kindness.

GINA DEJESUS, FORMER KIDNAP VICTIM: I would say thank you for the support.

MICHELLE KNIGHT, FORMER KIDNAP VICTIM: Thank you, everyone, for your love support and donations, which helped me build a brand new life.

BROWN: More than $1 million has been donated to the Courage Fund to help the women heal after a decade of alleged abuse in captivity by Ariel Castro. Castro is charged with beating, raping and starving them, forcing the miscarriage of a baby he fathered. Yet in the video made last week the women seemed upbeat, not bitter.

BERRY: I'm getting stronger each day and I'm having my privacy has helped immensely. I ask that everyone continue to respect our privacy and give us time to have a normal life.

KNIGHT: Be positive. Learn that it's important to give than to receive. Thank you for all your prayers.

BROWN: Michelle Knight held the longest, appeared to suffer the worst abuse. Here she hints at the pain of the ordeal and what she learned from it.

KNIGHT: I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation. I don't want to be consumed by hatred. With that being said we need to take a leap of faith and know that god is in control.

BROWN: They were once known only as silent victims. Now Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight want the world to know they have a voice and have reclaimed their lives.


BANFIELD: And our thanks to Pamela Brown for compiling that report. She has done great work following that story. You will probably know by now Ariel Castro is in a whole lot of trouble. He is accused of 329 charges. If you think that sounds like a lot, wait for it, because it is not unlikely that there may be more charges added to that count, including one count of aggravated murder right now that he is facing as well, that because of the allegations that he caused Michelle Knight to miscarry when she was pregnant allegedly with his baby.

In court last month, he pleaded not guilty to everything. His lawyers went out on TV saying he is not that bad a guy. Yes, that's what happened. His next pretrial hearing is coming later this month.

Speaking of hearings and court hearings, you are not missing a moment of the testimony here in Sanford, Florida. It has been a riveting day, a riveting day, because science was in the spotlight today, hard and fast science. Sometimes it is very difficult to cross-examine science. But you know what? These are good prosecutors. We had one prosecutor stand up and take Vincent Di Maio to task, the granddaddy of all forensic scientists in this country. Vincent Di Maio went head to head.

Coming up after the break, you will see what happened.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial. I'm Ashleigh Banfield reporting live in Sanford, Florida. Behind me, Seminole County Criminal Justice Center, where you are missing any of the live testimony . They took a brief break in this courtroom. They are trying to figure out how to handle the next witness. And it is a little bit of a mystery because there is some special way that this witness who remains unidentified is going to testify.

Nobody is saying who the witness is, what the witness is going to say or how the witness is going to say it. It's all very exciting.

In the meantime, though, if you missed this, it's awesome. It's Vincent Di Maio, the former medical examiner of Bexar County, Texas. Listen, he has testified in almost every top trial in the country. I have certainly seen him on the stand too many times, too many to count, usually for the defense, like in Phil Spector, Scott Peterson. He is no joke. This guy is smart. Knows how to testify, does very well. He still knows the science. He wrote several books on the matter.

He was testifying about how long a person can stay alive and talk and move after being shot in the heart. He gave some amazing testimony and the cross-examination was -- have a look.


DR. VINCENT DI MAIO, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: 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 is controlling your movement and ability to speak is the brain.

And that has a reserve supply of 10 to 15 seconds. Now, that is minimum. That assumes no blood is going to the brain.

DE LA RIONDA: Now, did I understand you correctly that if you came over here and you pulled my heart out that I could sit there and walk and talk for how long?

DI MAIO: Fifteen -- about 10 to 15 seconds. Yes.

DE LA RIONDA: OK. So if you pulled my heart out now, I could keep talking and just keep talking and talking and talking for -- and just talking and talking and talking without a heart?

DI MAIO: That's right.

DE LA RIONDA: OK, for about 15 seconds or so.

DI MAIO: Right. It's between 10 and 15 seconds. It's dependent on the oxygen supply.


BANFIELD: OK. I told you Bernie de la Rionda is a great prosecutor. He is.

Mark NeJame, have you ever gone up against him? Would you ever want to?

NEJAME: Well, I would be happy -- I would love to, but credit where credit is do. He continues to make lemonade out of lemons, to sound cliche.

But I wished we had played a little bit more of that clip. This doctor is just spectacular though as well. Bernie was hitting every point he could to try to twist this thing around, but then also the doctor throws in at the very end and that is why the SWAT team shoot for the head, instead of the heart, because that way, it's going to disarm a potential person.


BANFIELD: That's why some professional witnesses are better than others.


NEJAME: He hits the point. And also that brings it back home. That is why SWAT hits you in the head because you can't fight back for another 10 or 15 seconds.

BANFIELD: Because ten or 15 seconds can mean all the difference.


BANFIELD: It can mean getting shot or I think where they were going in the defense is, getting your hands under your body because that is where Trayvon Martin's hands were found.

And George Zimmerman had said he had spread his hands out.

Stacey Honowitz, this is a great prosecutor. Every time I think he is just not going to be able to make it he slam dunks it. But did you think he did enough? Look, Mark NeJame said he got lemons. Has he made the lemonade?

HONOWITZ: I think you should be the president of his fan club, Ashleigh, because you adore him.

BANFIELD: I know, right?


HONOWITZ: I think a lot of people feel the same way you do.


BANFIELD: You can't -- no, listen, I like great lawyers. I like people who do their homework. I like people who show up with their game face.

And I'm going to tell you right now, not only Bernie de la Rionda, but I'm going to say right now I think Mark O'Mara might be one of the finest defense attorneys I have ever witnessed, not just from his homework, but his disposition. He is a nice guy. He is not rude, he's not mean, he doesn't rattle people. But he gets what he needs out of his witnesses.

HONOWITZ: Look, you're 100 percent right. I have been prosecuting cases for 25 years, for a very long time. When you are sitting there and you're watching professional great guys -- and these guys are -- and you see a doctor like Di Maio take the stand, you don't sit there as a prosecutor and say, oh, he is lousy. He's a paid lawyer and he doesn't know what he's talking about.

You have to take it and let the people know that he is a good guy. You don't fight the credentials. There is no way to fight the credentials. He had a lot to say. He had to really back up Zimmerman's story. It is the job as a prosecutor to say, wait a second. You didn't talk to this witness. You're only talking about the gunshot wound. You don't know what this witness -- you didn't take this into consideration. You weren't there. You didn't do the autopsy, the standard things that you cross-examine an expert about.

Now, whether or not the jury bought into every single he said or whether or not Bernie made some points is up for debate. I sit here for a prosecutor and I say he did a great job. He hammered Zimmerman's story to a tee. The flip side to that is, there are certain things that he doesn't know about.

He is a paid witness. Now, I know that that sounds funky. Well, listen, he is a great guy. He's been around for years. He is still a defense paid witness. He did not do the autopsy. So, these are things that you argue to the jury in closing argument.

BANFIELD: You're -- you are right. It is one of the first questions that came out of the gate as well. How much are you paid? $400 an hour. How much have you been paid so far in the case?

And this is where I was surprised, only $2,400. And, again, he zinged it with this was a sort of open-shut. This was a simple case.

I actually have to squeeze in a quick break because I'm watching the Great Seal of the state of Florida. I do love to watch the Great Seal, but I really like the live testimony more.

So quick break, guests stand by. Audience stand by. The mystery witness is coming up.

We're back right after this.