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Attorneys Spar Over Potential Evidence; George Zimmerman Trial Continues Today; Live Coverage of the George Zimmerman Trial
Aired July 10, 2013 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's it for NEW DAY, everyone. A special edition of CNN NEWSROOM with our Wolf Blitzer begins right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning, guys. Lots going on and CNN NEWSROOM starting right now.
Good morning, we want to welcome our viewers. I'm Wolf Blitzer in for Carol Costello.
This is a special edition of NEWSROOM. Lots of news happening. Stakes huge right now. Tempers are hot in the George Zimmerman murder trial. Attorneys argued until late last night over what could be key pieces of evidence. Listen to this rather testy exchange between prosecutors and Zimmerman's defense lawyers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON WEST, ZIMMERMAN DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's simply unfair for Mr. Zimmerman not to be able to put on his defense because of the state's tactics. It was a strategy, obviously, because they had it in January and kept it from us. Made us spent 10, 20, 30, 100 hours digging it out. Playing games with us, lying to this court, and now it's our fault? It's our fault?
Deny Mr. Zimmerman the right to present this information violates both the Florida and the United States Constitution. Thank you.
JUDGE DEBRA NELSON, SEMINOLE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: The state able to respond?
JOHN GUY, ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: Now it's substance, but because Mr. West said I would offer him the opportunity right now to apologize to me for suggesting that I stood by silently with information that I did not have.
WEST: All this nonsense --
NELSON: I'm not getting into this. Court is in recess. I will give my ruling in the morning. I'll see you at 8:00 in the morning.
WEST: Your honor -- maybe not --
NELSON: Court is in recess. It is -- WEST: It's 10:00 at night.
NELSON: 9:56. No, court is in recess. Thank you very much. With all due respect, we'll see you at 8:00 in the morning.
WEST: I'm not physical able to keep up this pace that long. It's 10:00 at night, we started this morning. We've had full days every day. Weekends, depositions at night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Wow. That was dramatic moment as you heard, 10:00 p.m. last night and now we're back in the courthouse. The session is about to resume where it started -- where it stopped last night. These are live pictures you're seeing from the courtroom right now.
Judge Deborah Nelson having a side bar meeting with the attorneys. You see Mark O'Mara, the criminal defense attorney for George Zimmerman -- on the left part of the screen, the other defense and prosecutors. They are there as well. She's going to get going momentarily.
I want to bring in CNN's George Howell right now. There are several very important issues on the agenda during this next hour without the jury present. She's going to make major decisions -- George.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, look. Here's what all the fighting is about. The defense is winding down its case, expected to rest its case today. And they want two pieces of evidence admitted into this trial. They want, number one, a computer reenactment of the crime scene and also they want text messages and photos from Trayvon Martin's cell phone.
The prosecution wants none of it. They don't want this in the trial and these attorneys, Wolf, they stayed up so late night arguing, even George Zimmerman had to stay out past his curfew.
NELSON: I'm not getting into this. Court is in recess. I will give my ruling in the morning.
HOWELL (voice-over): Court went a little later than expected Tuesday. Judge Deborah Nelson, the prosecution and defense, wrangled late into the night, 10:00 p.m., over whether to admit text messages and photos from Trayvon Martin's phone and a computer animated reconstruction of the crime scene that defense attorneys want admitted as evidence.
Judge Nelson questioned whether Martin actually sent the messages or someone else. Defense attorney Don West argued the text messages and photos weren't turned over by the prosecution in a timely manner.
After hours of arguing, the judge didn't rule on either issue. Adjourned court and walked off. Flashback to Tuesday morning. Famed forensic pathologist Dr. Vincent Di Maio took the stand. After examining photos and other evidence provided to him by the defense, Di Maio reached this conclusion.
DR. VINCENT DI MAIO, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: 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.
HOWELL: Di Maio told jurors that Zimmerman's account that Trayvon Martin was on top of him is consistent with the evidence he examined. It's because of the spray pattern around the bullet wounds, grains of powder that hit the skin, Di Maio determined the muzzle was two to four inches away from the skin. He also concluded Martin may have been alive one to three minutes after the shooting.
In cross-examination the prosecution got Di Maio to concede the scenario could have been different.
DI MAIO: I'm saying that the physical evidence is consistent with Mr. Martin being over Mr. Zimmerman.
BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: And is it not also consistent with Mr. Martin pulling away from Zimmerman on the ground and you would have the same angle he's pulling away and Zimmerman shooting him at that time?
DI MAIO: Yes.
HOWELL: Defense attorneys also called George Zimmerman's former neighbor to testify via video conference because she was too ill to appear in court. Eloise Dilligard told the court the night of the shooting she recognized Zimmerman's truck parked near the crime scene. O'Mara also asked Dilligard who she thought was screaming on the 911 audio from that night?
ELOISE DILLIGARD, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S FORMER NEIGHBOR: Based on the fact that I have only heard George's voice, and it's a light male voice, I would say that it was his.
HOWELL: So it was a long night last night and looking in the courtroom now, will we see the same fireworks today that we saw the other day? So far it looked so good, Wolf, you know, people seem to be smiling. Maybe they got some rest, hopefully it'll be a smooth Wednesday. We do know that court will start up here.
Within a few minutes we'll have that hearing without the jury present and then the jury will return around 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. That's when we expect to get started with testimony again.
BLITZER: But these judges -- the judge's rulings on these two issues over the next hour could really be significant on that computerized animation or re-creation, if you will, of the encounter between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Also the text messages, the photos from Trayvon Martin whether or not either of these or both will be admitted as evidence.
That -- those are pretty powerful pieces of evidence, potentially. And there are strong feelings the defense they want -- they want them admitted. The prosecution certainly doesn't want them admitted. So there could be some testy moments over the course of the next hour.
HOWELL: Absolutely, Wolf. When you talk about that video reenactment. Our own legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, said it best. Juries love that type of evidence. They love that type of information because they are seeing this basically play out from start to finish. And what you're seeing from the prosecution side, they're worried that that could bias -- that could influence jurors as they head back to make that decision.
And also, when it comes to the information in Trayvon Martin's phone, which is still unclear exactly what's in there, prosecutors just don't want that evidence in. You hear defense attorneys saying, hey, you know, you had this evidence a long time ago. You made it hard for us to get to, hard for us to find, we want it in the trial. The prosecution is saying that they did not withhold that evidence and that they don't want it in this trial.
BLITZER: Well, what's their answer to the prosecution, George, to the charge from the defense attorneys? They had this back in January and they refused --
BLITZER: -- or prevented under the discovery rules, if you will, the defense from even knowing that these video text messages, these video pictures or text messages, photos from Trayvon Martin's cell phone, or whatever, were available.
HOWELL: Well, you know, early on, Wolf, in this case, you heard the defense team raise this issue about discovery violations. There were several other issues that they had with the prosecution and this is one of them. To my understanding, the judge will rule on this and others later, but they've been raising this issue all along and this particular situation with the information on Trayvon Martin's phone, not really new when it comes to what they've been talking about regarding how the prosecution has passed evidence to them.
BLITZER: Yes. Prosecutor John Guy, he wanted an apology from the defense, I haven't heard an apology, at least not yet.
All right. We're going to monitor what's happening inside that courtroom. Very important decisions from Judge Deborah Nelson could happen over the course of this hour. We're watching this closely.
George, don't go too far away.
Just as tempers have flared inside the courtroom, local police are worried about a violent backlash to the verdict regardless of what the jury decides. One large swath of the population could be angered by the outcome of the racially charged trial. Here is one public service announcement put together by the Broward County Sheriff's Office. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Raise your voice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And not your hands.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to stand together as one. No cops, no guns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's give violence a rest because we could easily end up arrested.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know your patience will be tested, but law enforcement has your back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Law enforcement has your back. Let's back up and choose not to act up and deputies are with us, so no need to act up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let it roll off your shoulders, it's water off your back. Don't lack composure because in one incidence it could be over. So let's make the choice to raise your voice and not your hand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So let's make the choice to raise your voice and not your hand.
SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY: I'm Sheriff Scott Israel. And law enforcement does have your back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Broward County. That's Ft. Lauderdale area just north of Miami. Police say they're staying in close touch with activists and community leaders, as well as state and federal authorities. They say they know of no specific plans for violence, but they fear any protests could quickly get out of hand. Let's hope that doesn't occur.
Other news we're following right now. New details emerging about the crash of Asiana Flight 214 as crash investigators wrap up interviews today with the crew. We know it was a training flight for the pilot of the controls of the Boeing 777 aircraft. The pilot sitting next to him was serving as an instructor pilot for the first time. And it was the plane's main landing gear that hit the seawall at the edge of the runway in San Francisco.
CNN's Miguel Marquez is joining us now, he's got new information. All the latest information on what we're learning.
But, you know, Miguel, hold on for a moment. Save that thought. I want to go right to Judge Deborah Nelson. Listen to this.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED)
NELSON: The evidence but it may be used by the defense as a demonstrative exhibit. Based upon this ruling, the court does not need to do (INAUDIBLE) analysis. In regards to Mr. Conner, the defense is seeking to admit information from Mr. Martin's phone through Mr. Conner, pursuant to 90.803 subsection 3. The court finds that subsection does not apply. The state's objection to the admissibility of the evidence from Mr. Martin's phone is sustained.
At this time, Mr. Zimmerman, I need to advise you of some rights that you have. If you could please stand for just one moment?
In any criminal trial you have the right to remain silent. That means during this trial, you do not have to say anything, do anything or prove anything, you understand that?
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, DEFENDANT: Yes, your honor.
NELSON: You also have the right to testify, if you want to. And that's a decision that you, alone, have to make. I mean the final decision is yours. But I want you to make sure that you're having conversations with your attorneys about whether or not you're going to testify and I'm going to ask you again later whether or not you've had those discussions. I don't need to know what you talked about, but just that you had the discussions and then if you have made up your mind and I'll ask you some questions on that.
OK? Must be thinking about that now.
ZIMMERMAN: Yes, your honor.
NELSON: OK. Thank you, sir.
WEST: Your honor, one matter. To reference the text messages please. 90.8 or three was not the only basis that admissibility was sought. Specifically citing "Chambers v. Mississippi," and the notion that it is relevant evidence and there is no hearsay objection that could trump, if you will, the Constitution when such probative relevant, powerful evidence is offered by the defense. So the court hasn't addressed that.
NELSON: I'll address it now. The court have made a pretrial ruling about the admissibility of that evidence. So that ruling stands, as does the ruling today, even in light of "Chambers." OK? Is the defense ready to call your next witness? We'll have the jury come in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, your honor.
NELSON: Yes, please. I'm sorry. OK. Is the state ready for the jury to come in?
DE LA RIONDA: Yes, your honor.
NELSON: All right, let's bring the jury in.
(END LIVE FEED)
BLITZER: All right. So you heard the two decisions from the judge. That was quick. A lot more -- it was a lot faster than we thought it would occur. We thought the jury would come in around 10:00 a.m., but she ruled against, against the defense on both of these sensitive issues.
That animation will not be admitted as evidence in the courtroom. Neither will the text messages from Trayvon Martin's phone, those won't be admitted either. Two major setbacks for the defense right now.
Sunny Hostin is standing by. She's got her reaction.
Sunny -- Page Pate is with us, as well, the criminal defense attorney. These are big wins right now for the prosecution, these two decisions from Judge Debra Nelson.
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's right. I think we could see where the judge was leaning. Yesterday I was here until 10:00 at night, as well. A little bit past that.
And she had trouble with authentication when it came to the text messages. And that means, in our legal terms, that she wasn't sure they were actually Trayvon Martin's. She voiced her concerns how other people have access to one's phone and that she wasn't comfortable with that letting that in because of the authentication issues. So, I sort of understand that she was leaning that way.
In terms of the animation, she also had trouble with it. She felt and voiced some concerns about the data points that this witness was using when he put this animation together. You know, he seemed to be picking and choosing certain versions of events from certain witnesses in conjunction with the defense attorneys. So, she voiced some concerns about that.
Now, Wolf, I'm a little bit unclear because I'm getting some guidance from the courtroom. Of course, I'm not in the courtroom right now because I'm speaking with you here on set, but some folks are saying that the animation may come in as demonstrative evidence as opposed to substantive evidence. But I'm not clear on that because I couldn't hear everything the judge was saying.
BLITZER: Well, what's the difference between demonstrative and substantive?
HOSTIN: Sure. Demonstrative just means you get to use it as a demonstration. The jury gets to see it. You sometime use it in closing arguments, and it helps you explain the evidence.
Substantive evidence means you get to consider it as true, substance, as evidence of what happened that evening. There's a very big distinction in the law.
And so even if the defense can use it as demonstrative evidence, it's just an aid. It's just an aid to help the jury. Where substantive evidence means they can consider it as evidence of innocence or guilt. So, in any event, if the state or the defense rather cannot use it as substantive evidence, that's a big blow for the defense because they did want to use it as substantive evidence.
BLITZER: So, that's a significant difference.
Although for practical purposes, Page, if the jury gets to see that animation, they'll see it even though the judge will admonish them, they can't use that as what we just heard as substantive evidence.
PAGE PATE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right, that was the judge's ruling. The judge specifically said that she's not going to allow it in as substantive evidence but come in as a demonstrative aid if the defense wants to use it.
So, effectively, the jury is still going to see this animation. The defense can use it, perhaps, with a witness. But more importantly in closing argument when they try to tie together all their pieces of evidence and try to let the jury see what George Zimmerman saw that day and it is going to be real effective in a closing argument as a self-defense.
BLITZER: And the other thing that -- let me let page weigh in on this, those text messages and sunny makes a good point. The judge was clearly concerned and maybe somebody else had access to Trayvon Martin's cell phone and they can't authenticate that those text messages were actually written by Trayvon Martin. That is a significant blow to the defense right now because they wanted those text messages to come out, reportedly included some references to violence, maybe he wanted to get a gun, indications like that that could have undermined Trayvon Martin's credibility, if you will.
PATE: Right. Authentication was apparently a problem with those text messages, but I don't think that was the only problem. I think there was also an issue to relevancy. It's clear that he defense wanted to get those messages in perhaps not so much for what was in the text. But more again toe show potential bad character.
Trayvon Martin was into fighting. He had fights before. He was purchasing a fireman or looking to purchase a firearm. That's the kind of evidence that the defense wanted to get in and the judge this time said no.
BLITZER: All right. Let's go back into the courtroom. There you see Mark O'Mara, the criminal defense attorney, calling his first witness of the day and the jury is now in, and they are in place. And here comes that first witness. Let's get some information on what's going on. This could be potentially the last day of these witnesses appearing. Stand by.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED)
DENNIS ROOT, WITNESS: I do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
MARK O'MARA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Good morning, sir.
ROOT: Good morning.
O'MARA: State your name, please?
ROOT: Dennis Root.
O'MARA: Could you spell your last name?
ROOT: R-O-O-T as in Tom.
O'MARA: And tell the jury what is your occupation?
ROOT: Currently self-employed as a safety and law enforcement trainer, and also as a private investigator and expert witness.
O'MARA: OK. Is that the purpose that brings you here today, correct?
O'MARA: What I'd like you to do, if you would, begin, I guess at the beginning and tell us how you first got involved in law enforcement generally and we'll walk you through the steps of your career.
ROOT: OK, in April of 2011, I retired after completing just 22 years of law enforcement service. I began my law enforcement career with the city of Riviera Beach. While employed there, I performed duties primarily for road patrol.
I was also offered the opportunity to obtain an instructor certification for defense of tactics, which is the lead instructor's position for force-related hand-to-hand type training. I went to subsequent training courses for O.C., which is a pepper spray training and also impact weapons.
And I managed to become the elite instructor for defensive tactics with the city of Riviera Beach, while I was employed there.
O'MARA: Sir, if I might. I know some of the terms from having spoken to you before and my experience doing this, but I want to make sure that we -- that the jury understands when we use term like impact weapons.
ROOT: Oh, sure.
O'MARA: So, if you could, as you go through it, I may interrupt you once or twice more along the way. If you could advise the jury what you mean and sort of the science behind impact weapons?
ROOT: Sure. For the impact weapons, we're talking about the batons. Anything from a side handled baton to what most commonly carried now which is an expandable or collapsible baton, the ASP type baton. And they range from anything from a metal baton to wooden baton.
So, impact weapon is geared towards those weapon systems designed specifically for striking and blocking purposes. O'MARA: Are there particular ways to actually use those weapons as opposed to just striking somebody with it? Or how does a lay person know the basis for your training and how to use a weapon like that?
ROOT: For an impact weapon, for all the weapon systems in law enforcement, there are what they call basic certification operation courses that are taught to law enforcement professionals.
These courses are designed to teach them the laws surrounding the use of the weapon system. They're designed to educate them on how to carry, present and also utilize whether it's striking or blocking or some of the weapon systems and some of the techniques that they teach can be used for take downs and things like that.
The idea behind the basic operator certification is to educate the operator on target areas. What you can expect injury wise from a variety of target areas, strikes to muscle mass versus connective tissue versus what we would call deadly force or final targets, which would result in great bodily harm or death. So, the education course, the basic operator course designed to educate the operator through a minimum of usually about a four-hour class on how to properly utilize the weapon for defensive and offensive needs.
O'MARA: OK. I think you said you had gotten a level of proficiency that allowed you to train other officers?
ROOT: Yes. I became an instructor and then I eventually became an instructor trainer. And after completing my career in law enforcement, I designed and implemented also an instructor level course that I taught throughout the state of Florida and various other states in the United States where I now teach the instructor of the instructors. I do what they call a master level trainer where I do the instructor course so that the instructors can go out and teach other trainers.
O'MARA: Let me try to keep this chronological and identify what certifications you got along the way. You were speaking to us about your initial law enforcement career beginning with Riviera Beach.
ROOT: Yes, sir.
O'MARA: What else did you learn or what other proficiencies did you acquire during that work?
ROOT: While there, like I said, I became a defensives tactic instructor. I went to the required state course for gaining certification to teach open hand control techniques.
Striking, blocking, take downs, arm locks, things like that. I also became an instructor for pepper sprays. Pepper spray, again, just similar to impact weapons has a basic operator certification course and I went to the trainer's course to teach the basic course. That course involves proper deployment, target areas and so forth.
In a similar nature as you do with the impact weapons, it's just a lower level on the force continuum that's evaluated by those being either using it or evaluating its use. So, my instruction certifications while at the city of Riviera Beach were the initial level courses.
O'MARA: You had mentioned a term that I presume that's going to come up on your future testimony here today. So, I want to ask you to explain to the jury -- concept of force continuum. Does that, is that -- explain to the jury what that is.
ROOT: It's basically -- a force continuum is a systematic approach to the escalation and de-escalation of force options. It's basically looking at an event and saying that all events start, for example, with somebody being present.
So, that would be one of the first things that you would look for as you begin your evaluation. Who was there? How many were there? So on and so forth.
You evaluate each and every level, and you have to break it down for both the aggressor and you have to break it down in law enforcement terms, it's the aggressor or your subject and the officer. In civilian terms, it would be the aggressor and the defender. OK?
And what you do is you look at the various levels of options that are available to that individual taking into consideration a wide variety of topics ranging from personal information, subject factors like their age, their height, their weight, things like that, moving through background training, experience, weapon availability, environment considerations -- all these things come into a force continuum, which is a structured way of saying if I were to do "A," you would be permitted to do "B." And it's a structured system that allows to evaluate where the one person is on a force level in comparison to where the other person is permitted to be, or is what they really term to be accepted to be at.
O'MARA: And is that information that you both learned as a law enforcement officer and now teach?
ROOT: Yes. I started, first time you take a force course, one of the first topics they go over is the law and the force continuums because without a thorough understanding of how and when you can do something, there's no need to move any further into weapon systems and what you can utilize for that. So, it's a really basic foundation that everything else comes from.
And when you progress it through law enforcement, the options are quite different because there are so many things what I call the back belt. You know, police officer has gear wrapped around them from pepper spray, tasers, impact weapons, firearms. The average person doesn't.
So, the continuum, even though it could be taken down and looked at through other perspectives, legal means and so forth for an individual, the essence of the continuum remains the same, it's just the availability of options changes.
O'MARA: And was this something -- where does this training begin? Is this what you learn as a rookie, they call it? A plebe, somebody in the academy? Or --
ROOT: The training on force begins in the police academy. It's one of the -- what they call high liability courses that an officer must demonstrate proficiency in order to obtain their law enforcement certification.
So, it is one of the key base building blocks that starts in the police academy and never ends. Law enforcement agencies everywhere are required to maintain an ongoing level of training on all the various weapon systems, as well as communications, because that's also considered a opponent of use of force.
All the things that an officer can utilize during their career, they have to maintain a level of proficiency and that training never ends until the day they walk out of their career.
O'MARA: And we're talking now, to unwind (ph), about your work at Riviera Beach. You've talked now about some of the certifications, if you would continue with those.
ROOT: The other certifications that I went to, I was very into traffic. So, in Riviera, I became the -- basically the on-shift traffic unit. We had a small shift and we didn't have an active traffic unit and I became involved with teaching DUI, as well.
So, one of my other certification, I became certified with DUI stops and things and actually created a training program for the city of Riviera Beach that was approved through the state attorney office on how to conduct a DUI investigation and how to properly document it throughout the entire DUI process.
O'MARA: In the -- how long are you with Riviera Beach?
ROOT: Total about five years.
O'MARA: And any other specialties or training focuses that you had with Riviera besides those that you mentioned so far.
ROOT: The only other things that became certifications is while I was there, I did attend conferences geared towards defensive tactics. When I took my first certification case course in defensive topics, I kind of fell in love with the topic and knew right then and there that that was something I wanted to do and specialize in for the rest of my career, if not longer.
And I went and became an instructor for various techniques like vascular restraints. A lot of people call them chokeholds. They're not really chokeholds, but for layman terms, the police applied chokeholds for lack of better term.
Also in control points, which are the pressure points on the human body, I became a certify instructor with that. And I also became a certified instructor in, at the time, it was called ink pen knife defenses.