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CNN NEWSROOM

Live Coverage of the George Zimmerman Trial

Aired July 10, 2013 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DENNIS ROOT, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: I do know that, yes.

JOHN GUY, PROSECUTOR: OK, so the term ...

(AUDIO BREAK)

ROOT: I think that people like to give a little bit too much weight because, if you look at it in the context in which it was stated, his reference in that statement was addressing his -- clearly, addressing his frustration from previous calls in which the individuals got away.

His verbiage chosen may not be the most appropriate but I don't necessarily mean just because somebody has said that means they mean ill-will.

GUY: But the target of his frustration, you understand, was Trayvon Martin?

ROOT: I would have to say the comment, in my opinion, the comment, that frustration was being voiced at the fact that he's made numerous calls.

The fact that he -- I mean, the other alternative is to go, wow, these fellows always get away.

I don't know what his general speech pattern is like in regards to how he refers to everybody else, so in and of itself, I don't see that variable as being -- showing ill-will.

GUY: All right, let me ask you, you had a conversation with the defendant, did you not?

ROOT: I did.

GUY: Did he ...

(AUDIO BREAK)

ROOT: I don't recall if he was asked specifically about that.

GUY: No, no, no. In his conversation ...

(AUDIO BREAK)

ROOT: ... he used to me, he did not call me that. GUY: All right, and did I understand you to say that the most important factor about the safety of the -- of any firearm is the responsibility of the user?

ROOT: Sure.

GUY: So an irresponsible person can be really, really dangerous?

ROOT: Absolutely. Any person that is reckless with their firearm can be dangerous, sure.

GUY: I want to talk for a moment about your connection with this case. You told the jury that you actually reached out to the defense, right?

ROOT: Correct.

GUY: And tell the jury when you started your consulting company, that is, what you're doing now.

ROOT: I started doing consulting work at the -- I want to say it was 2011, 2012 through Tactical Advantage Solutions.

In 2013 I started Dennis Root and Associates which is a private investigations and expert witness firm.

GUY: Dennis Root and Associates, you started earlier this year?

ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: OK.

You understood when you contacted the defense in this case that this case was getting national, if not worldwide attention?

ROOT: Of course.

GUY: And you understood that there would be live coverage of this trial if you testified, is that right.

ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: And assuming those cameras are working, you're on live television, assuming those cameras are working.

ROOT: As far as I know, yes, sir.

GUY: And the name of your company is on live television, right?

ROOT: I believe so, yes, sir.

GUY: So that's good for your company. You would agree with that, right?

ROOT: I see where you're going. It's good for my company, but there wasn't really other options as far as approaching the state in the same way.

GUY: Didn't you think that you being a witness in this case might do your company some good, that is, you'd get your name out there?

ROOT: There is no question anybody that anybody that's seen anything about this case would be aware of the fact that it's getting media coverage.

But anybody that does their homework about me knows the fact that I'm dedicated to finding the truth and supporting the truth.

When I approached Mr. O'Mara about it, it's because I knew that the state would be able to gain access to somebody just like me with no issue.

If I had approached the state about this, and let's say I determined whatever, that it wasn't going to be supported for the state or it would be -- let's say, just for instance, that I found that I wouldn't be supportive, I now could not be in any way of assistance to the defense.

However, if I reached out to the defense and I provided them with the opportunity and I found that, whoa, wait, I can't be of any assistance to you, I have not hindered the case in any way, and I could walk away without any problems and affecting in either way.

So the fact that I gained some kind of media coverage from it isn't my fault because those of us that are dedicated to the truth, those cameras are here. That's not why I'm here.

GUY: And isn't it true you've advertised the very fact that you are a witness in this case?

ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: I mean, you've tweeted that out, right?

ROOT: Tweeted? I haven't tweeted it.

GUY: How did you advertise it?

ROOT: When I was put on the case, every attorney that I know knew about it. Obviously in the fields that I go in, the attorneys, just like every other profession, talk.

And then just this morning, I let -- I texted my friends to let them know I would be testifying here today.

GUY: And, in fact, you haven't been paid yet, have you?

ROOT: No, sir.

GUY: Your agreement is, you may get paid; you may not. Right?

ROOT: That's correct, sir.

GUY: OK, but that's not your normal practice, right?

ROOT: Actually, sir, it -- depending on the case that comes through, and if you had looked at my background, you would know that I've done some things for free.

I've done some things for some people for $20 an hour and I've gotten paid up to $175 an hour.

I really base it on the case that's presented to me.

GUY: Right, but didn't you provide me with an invoice sheet or the way that you bill clients?

ROOT: For the expert witness, sir?

GUY: Right.

ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: OK, well, that's what you're doing here today.

ROOT: Yes.

GUY: And it's $1,500 initially and then $125 an hour after that?

ROOT: Yes. The way it breaks down, basically, is if I'm hired in as an expert, my general fee schedule is there's a $1,500 deposit, and my hourly rate is $125 an hour. That is for a case prep and review.

Then on the dates that I testify, either by deposition or I testify in court, my hourly rate is $175 an hour and that includes travel time and wait time.

GUY: And actually you've never testified before a jury before, have you?

ROOT: Excluding ...

GUY: ... in a court like this.

ROOT: You mean, excluding grand juries?

GUY: Correct.

ROOT: Yes. This is the first time that I've actually testified before a jury on a criminal case in an expert capacity.

I've testified, obviously, as an officer in a criminal case numerous times.

GUY: Right, you've testified against police officers, right?

ROOT: Testified against police officers?

GUY: Yes, sir.

ROOT: I have been presented with cases that I found that the officer was wrong, yes, sir.

GUY: And you've testified to that?

ROOT: That went through deposition, not trial.

GUY: Correct. I mean, under oath.

ROOT: Oh, yes, sir.

GUY: All right.

But you've never testified in a case like this where one person -- and I mean, in court -- where one person shoots another and the shooter is claiming self-defense?

ROOT: No, this was the first time I was ever presented with something like this.

GUY: And you yourself have never been involved in a police shooting, have you?

ROOT: I'm fortunate enough that, no, I've never had to shoot anyone.

GUY: In fact, you've never had to discharge your firearm in the course of your career, have you? I mean, other than at a range.

ROOT: Right, other than training sessions, scenario-based training, things like that, I've never had to discharge my firearm in the line of duty.

GUY: And you've never had to use any other type of deadly force in your career, have you?

ROOT: Explain deadly force, sir. I mean, the things that I've had to do to people, I've caused injury and things like that. And remember, deadly force just isn't about killing somebody. It's about causing serious bodily injury or death.

GUY: All right, but you've never caused someone else's death during the course of your career?

ROOT: No, sir.

GUY: All right.

(END LIVE FEED)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Ah, the classic cross of an expert witness. You are paid to do this. You came looking for the fame here.

This happens all the time. Does the jury believe it? Or does the jury believe what he said?

All of this we're going to continue with this expert witness, Dennis Root, a use-of-force expert, fascinating stuff. Back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The light and heat start sparking back up in this courtroom. That's because we're under cross-examination right now.

And there is this masterful cross-examiner, the prosecutor, John Guy, going after the defenses expert witness, a use-of-force expert.

He's had a lot to say about the discharge of a weapon, about the physicality of the two people involved in that fight that night Trayvon died, and now he's being taken to task.

Have a listen.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

ROOT: ... the evaluation of the case because, just like the gentlemen said, I can't base it all off somebody that may make self-serving statements.

But the concept of time that everybody constantly gets hung up on is the fact that, whether it's 15 seconds, 30 seconds, a minute, whatever the case might be, everybody's concept of time is different.

So I don't make a huge deal out of what his perception of time would be for this given period.

GUY: But you would agree with me that the only person that you interviewed that had first-time information from this event from the start to the finish was the defendant, right?

ROOT: Yes, sir. He was the only one that I actually spoke to in person outside of Mr. Pollock (ph).

I did interview Mr. Pollock (ph), but unfortunately, our schedules were such that I had to do it over the phone. I called him and spoke to him over the phone.

GUY: Right. But I mean, you listened to a bunch of other statements (inaudible).

ROOT: Oh, absolutely.

GUY: You read their written statements, right?

ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: Nobody other than the defendant had a firsthand account from start to finish, did they?

ROOT: Well, no. there was only one person there that is, unfortunately, still here with us that can do that.

GUY: Are you aware that it was actually two minutes between the time he hung up with the dispatcher and the time that Trayvon Martin's phone went dead? Were you aware of that fact?

MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Let me object, your honor. That would be a mischaracterization of the evidence.

JUDGE DEBRA NELSON, SEMINOLE COUNTY CIRCUIT JUDGE: OK. Rephrase your question.

GUY: Do you know what time Trayvon Martin's phone went dead?

ROOT: Can you explain to me what you mean by "went dead," sir?

GUY: Yeah. When it cut off. And did you see the phone records in the case?

ROOT: Yeah. Are you referring to when the call ended?

GUY: That's right. Did you see that?

ROOT: I believe -- I don't -- the phone records from Trayvon Martin's phone?

That one I can't -- I think I saw them, but I don't know that I saw that particular variable in there. I don't want to say I saw something I didn't see.

GUY: OK. Well, you thought you were provided everything?

ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: OK, do you know if you were provided Trayvon Martin's cell phone records?

ROOT: There were cell phone records there. Again, I did not -- the cell phone itself to me myself, when I was doing my evaluation, the actual cell phone, I didn't see the weight that it had when using the actual use of force event.

So the timeline that you're relating to me, I can't speak directly to.

GUY: All right, did you have the testimony of a woman named Rachel Jeantel?

ROOT: Rachel Jeantel?

GUY: A young girl from Miami was on the phone with Trayvon Martin.

O'MARA: Your honor, just not to interrupt, I don't know if he'd know her by that name.

NELSON: Well, to the extent that that's an objection, overruled.

GUY: OK. I'll rephrase it. ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: Did you hear the testimony of the woman who claimed to have been on the phone with Trayvon Martin?

ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: And did you hear her say in her testimony that the phone went dead shortly after -- right after she heard a bump when she was talking to Trayvon Martin.

ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: OK. And create your timeline. You said timelines are important, right?

ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: Did you put together that it was two minutes from the time the defendant hung up with the dispatcher and the time that Trayvon Martin's phone went dead?

ROOT: Using those timelines and evaluating on timelines, there's a lot of questions that that timeline creates and being able to compare when the dispatcher's phone went -- because I'm not really -- I can't comment on how they were geo-synced or GPSed or anything like that for the accuracy of the times, both by the provider and dispatch.

But there's a lot of things that even Miss Jeantel said were taking place during that time that don't seem to line up either.

So I want to be cautious how I just restrict myself to your timeline for that two minutes when there's other variables that if they were played out the way that it was elicited from her would have a different outcome.

So I just want to be very cautious in how I answer you with that.

GUY: All right, I'm asking you to be cautious, or the opposite. I'm just asking you, did you take note of the fact that there was a two- minute gap between the end of each of those calls?

ROOT: I did not give that weight, no, sir.

GUY: All right. And in your conversation with the defendant, he described this whole event to you, right?

ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: You didn't have him mark on a diagram where he claimed -- or an aerial photograph where he claimed the confrontation began.

ROOT: No, sir.

GUY: And you didn't have him marked how it progressed from where he claimed it started to where it ended. ROOT: I didn't require Mr. Zimmerman to create any kind of drawings or mark on a picture or anything.

GUY: The defendant did not describe for you from what direction he claimed that Trayvon Martin approached him.

ROOT: I don't rec -- as far as the direction, that would have been my failure not to ask. He said he was approached, and I didn't specifically ask was it -- if you mean by direction, north, south, east west, that would have been my failure not to ask that.

GUY: I'm not talking about geography. I'm talking about front, back, side.

ROOT: I got the impression he approached him from the front. During our conversation, it was pretty clear that he approached him from the front.

GUY: You didn't ask the defendant what hand Trayvon Martin used to punch him, right?

ROOT: No, sir.

GUY: You didn't ask him how long it was between the time he got punched as he claims and the time he went to the ground.

ROOT: I didn't ask him for specific times. Again, I reference back to what I already said. When I interview somebody for a force event, or if I review a force event, time is so fluid, actually saying to someone was it five seconds, ten seconds. There's a period of time that took place. It's fluid, it's movement, it's evolving. The presumption that once it begins their concept of time becomes less relevant. So I don't lock anyone, anyone, into a specific time line in that regard.

GUY: I know, but the time line is important to you, right?

ROOT: The overall time line, yes, sir.

GUY: The defendant didn't describe for you how it was they moved from where he claimed the confrontation started to where they ended up?

ROOT: No. There was no explanation as far as how they transitioned --

GUY: That fact doesn't speak to you about the level of the confrontation?

ROOT: Understanding the dynamics of a combat event or a fight, you know, there's a lot of things that spoke to me about what he said and the other witnesses said in this case. And when you evaluate it and look at it and how did you get from here to here, how did you end up on your book, why weren't you on top, the evolution of the event itself and the imperative part that it comes down to is when the actual physical confrontation began and when it intensified. Where they transitioned being in combat events myself, being in fights, and knowing that they start here and up over here, well how did you get there? We were tussling, we were struggling.

(INAUDIBLE)

Oh -- I apologize.

We were involved in this person-to-person conflict. How they transition from one spot to the other spot given there was no major event that took place at that point, I didn't try to narrow him down on a time for that.

GUY: You didn't ask him, not just time, you didn't ask him how they got there, what happened in between?

ROOT: The fight started here and ended up on the ground there. I did not inquire from him specifically how he got from this point to this point.

GUY: Right. As in whether or not they were rolling over there, or whether or not they were fighting standing up to get over there, right?

ROOT: I would presume based on the physical evidence, I wouldn't presume they were rolling over there. Whatever the struggle took place I personally didn't inquire about that, no, sir.

GUY: Okay. You were asked --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: So live at the Seminole County criminal justice center. The trial continues with this expert. He's a use of force expert. His cross-examination by this prosecutor, John Guy, is all about getting your head slammed into the concrete. Let's listen to where he goes with this.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

ROOT: -- face and his head striking the concrete.

We can put weight to various things, and as an expert, each and every one of these things in and of themselves may not account for everything. It's the totality of everything. What causes the head to strike the concrete, it's clear his head was in contact with a hard surface based on the injuries on the back of it's had head.

The striking of the face, could that be what caused him to hit the concrete? Sure. Was he being pushed down? You know, another option is if we think about Mr. Good's statement, Mr. Good's statement, because Mr. Good's statement adjusted from when he initially gave his statement, if it was not always striking but pushing if Mr. Zimmerman's trying to rise if he shoved back. Even if it was a pushing down motion, could that result in his head striking the concrete? Absolutely. Regardless from my perspective as an expert looking at it, there's a variety of ways in which his head could have impacted the concrete. It's clear he was struck and his head did he make contact with the hard surface. GUY: I think you said you reviewed some medical records.

ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: Did you review the medical record that -- where the woman measured the longest laceration on the back of his head as two centimeter?

ROOT: I don't want to quote -- they weren't that large if that's what you're asking.

GUY: Two centimeters is less than an inch.

ROOT: I'm not good with that if I have to be honest. Two centimeters, I'll say yes. If that's less than an inch --

(CROSSTALK)

GUY: Half a centimeter, does that sound right?

ROOT: (INAUDIBLE) Okay. Yes, sir.

GUY: You didn't ask the defendant about whether any blood from his nose got into his eyes or his mouth, did you?

ROOT: Well, I didn't need to ask about the blood getting into his eyes because at the time the photographs were taken they seemed pretty fresh and there was no blood around his face. As far as in his mouth, I didn't ask that, no, sir.

GUY: You didn't ask the defendant whether or not he tried to cover his face while this was going on?

ROOT: No, sir. I asked him to tell me what took place.

GUY: You didn't ask the defendant whether or not he tried to strike Trayvon Martin?

ROOT: I didn't spend a lot of time asking him a lot of things.

GUY: The defendant never told you, did he, what he was doing with his hands while this was going on?

ROOT: No, sir. I don't recall him saying anything.

GUY: You talked about vantage point.

ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: You'd agree with me that out of all the people you heard from, either talked to or have written statements or audio statements, the person with the best vantage point would have been the defendant, right?

ROOT: Of course. He was there through the entire thing. He was an active participant. GUY: Right. You would agree if Trayvon Martin had lived, his vantage point would be important, too?

ROOT: Sure. Absolutely.

GUY: The defendant told you in his statement that Trayvon Martin was straddling him. Right?

ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: And you understood that from the context of your conversation that Trayvon Martin was over the defendant's belly button, right.

ROOT: Over his waist area.

GUY: Didn't you say previously over his belly button?

ROOT: During our conversation we had in deposition. I was not provided with a transcript. I'm just going off memory here. I believe we discussed it and we identified it could be the waist. I mentioned a high mount. It can be over the waist, the belly button area but we also discussed in that I mentioned it could be down around the waist, upper thigh area.

GUY: Would it refresh your recollection to see a transcript of your deposition since you haven't had one to refresh yourself on what term you used?

ROOT: Sure.

GUY: Council, page 53.

O'MARA: Just interject to the attempt of impeachment.

NELSON: He's having him review it first.

O'MARA: Question was answered.

NELSON: He's entitled to show him the deposition.

O'MARA: If he suggested he can't answer the question, he doesn't remember it. He answered it.

NELSON: If the answer is different.

GUY: Judge, I'm entitled to refresh his recollection.

NELSON: Okay. Can you please state the date and time of the deposition.

GUY: Mr. Root you will recall it was a week ago Saturday, right?

ROOT: Yes. Saturday morning.

GUY: We all appeared on a conference call?

ROOT: Yes, sir.

GUY: You were under oath at that time.

ROOT: I was.

GUY: Council, page 53, lines 10 through 16 if I may approach. Let me ask you to review those -- that highlighted portion and see if that refreshes your memory as to what your understanding was as to where Trayvon Martin was specifically straddled on the defendant.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Welcome back live to Sanford, Florida, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, bringing you live coverage of the George Zimmerman second degree murder trial. Can I tell you, there are moments in a courtroom that live in posterity forever. They make themselves known on subsequent trials because they are full of drama, emotion and sometimes the picture's a little too crazy for words.

When we went to break, that happened. And so I'm not going to put you back into live testimony right. What I'm going to do is play to you what happened when we went to commercial break. Because let me just put it this way, sometimes you get demonstrative aides, sometimes you get evidentiary aides in court, and sometimes a dummy shows up. I don't mean an idiot, I mean a real dummy.

John Guy, who is no dummy brought out a dummy because so much of this case focuses on who was on the top, who was hitting whom. And this is what John Guy wanted to get out of this expert who's on the stand right now.