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George Zimmerman Trial Continues; Olivia Bertalan Testifies

Aired July 10, 2013 - 15:00   ET


JOHN GUY, PROSECUTOR: Did you describe the age of the people?

OLIVIA BERTALAN, FORMER ZIMMERMAN NEIGHBOR: I didn't know the age for sure. But I'm sure I told him I assumed they were late teens. They looked that age.

GUY: And after that, you and he continued to talk about that very case, right?


GUY: Yes?


GUY: OK. Approximately 20 times? Is that fair?


GUY: And you and he discussed that the person or persons involved had not been caught, right?


GUY: And you discussed that it was your belief, I say your collectively, you and him, that that person responsible or one of the people actually lived in the Retreat at Twin Lakes, right?

BERTALAN: It was confirmed by the police.

GUY: That they lived inside?


GUY: And you discussed that with the defendant?

BERTALAN: And other neighbors.

GUY: And you discussed that that person lived in Retreat at Twin Lakes near the back gate, right?


GUY: And then it's your understanding that at some point that person was arrested?


GUY: And released prior to February of 2012?

BERTALAN: Correct.

GUY: You -- have you watched the proceedings in this trial?

BERTALAN: Briefly.

GUY: What parts did you watch?

BERTALAN: I believe I saw his uncle testify.

GUY: Who else?

BERTALAN: I don't know any by names. I haven't watched very much.

GUY: Have you tweeted about this case?

BERTALAN: Not since -- no, I have not.

GUY: Not since what?

BERTALAN: Maybe last year, when it first happened.

GUY: You haven't tweeted about this trial?

BERTALAN: I don't believe so.

GUY: This week?

BERTALAN: I don't believe so.

GUY: You do have a Twitter account, correct?


GUY: And you follow -- you actually follow Mr. O'Mara, do you not?


GUY: And you follow an account or a site called Zimmerman Legal Case, right?


GUY: And you have been on "Nancy Grace"?


GUY: In regards to this case?

BERTALAN: Over a year ago, yes.

GUY: May I have just a moment, Your Honor?

Ms. Bertalan, thank you for your time.



Just a few follow-up questions, ma'am. When Mr. Zimmerman came to you to talk to you about having been victimized by a home invasion, did you consider that strange?


O'MARA: Were you appreciative of his efforts to help you out?


O'MARA: Tell me about that.

BERTALAN: We were terrified when this happened.

And we came home after we were having car troubles, and we came home and he was just saying that he wanted to make sure we were OK. We weren't home. My sister was. And she didn't answer the door because she was scared because of what had gone on. So I was just appreciative that he was offering his hand and had told me I could spend time with his wife if I needed to go somewhere during the day, because I was so afraid.

O'MARA: He told you that his wife, Shellie, was a nursing student, correct?

BERTALAN: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection as to hearsay.

NELSON: Sustained.

O'MARA: Did he tell you -- what did he tell you about his availability, if any, of his wife to be there for you if need be?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge, I object to that as to hearsay and relevance.

O'MARA: It's...

NELSON: Well, I'm not really having any problem with the relevance.

O'MARA: I was just following up on -- OK, Your Honor. I will just focus it again.

Were you aware that Ms. Zimmerman was there for you as well if need be?

BERTALAN: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: Did you then at some point shortly thereafter go to the homeowners association and discuss the issue of the home invasion? BERTALAN: I don't believe I went. My husband did.

O'MARA: And then in addition to your conversation with George Zimmerman, did you talk to other people about what happened to you?


O'MARA: Who was that?

BERTALAN: A couple of my neighbors, a neighbor named Pete, another neighbor, Chris.

O'MARA: Was this home invasion then something of a point of conversation because of the trauma that you had with it?


O'MARA: Matter of fact, did Mr. Zimmerman -- after the homeowners association that started neighborhood watch, did he bring to you a lock to help you with the sliding glass door?

BERTALAN: Yes, he did.

O'MARA: Did you consider that weird or unusual or strange?

BERTALAN: No. I was very appreciative.

O'MARA: Were you made aware that there was an issue with problems with the sliding glass doors in your neighborhood?

BERTALAN: I don't believe so.

O'MARA: Was that actually how they got in the house, the sliding glass door, or no?


O'MARA: So, they actually came in through the back sliding glass door?

BERTALAN: Mm-hmm, yes.

O'MARA: Did this lock then help secure that problem?

BERTALAN: Yes. It sits behind it and it locks it tight so they can't pull it open.

O'MARA: And before you moved out, you even -- what, didn't you get a dog to help?

BERTALAN: Yes, we did.

O'MARA: Was that part of trying to just stay more secure in a neighborhood where you had been burglarized or invaded?

BERTALAN: Yes. The cops told us to get a dog. O'MARA: Do you know the person who arrested -- who was arrested was Emmanuel Burgess, you said?


O'MARA: And that he was released?


O'MARA: Did you know that he was rearrested on February 6 of 2012?

BERTALAN: I didn't know when. I got a letter after we moved out. So I didn't know exactly when he was arrested.

O'MARA: Did any of your interactions with Mr. Zimmerman in this regard leave you with some impression that he was just -- just too involved in trying to help you out?


O'MARA: Did you think that his behavior was helpful to you?


O'MARA: Still have the dog?


O'MARA: Thanks very much.

Nothing further, Your Honor.

NELSON: Thank you. May Ms. Bertalan be excused?

GUY: She may.

O'MARA: Yes, Your Honor.

NELSON: Thank you very much. You're excused.

Please call your next witness.

O'MARA: Defense would call Robert Zimmerman Sr., Your Honor.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And, as this witness leaves, Olivia Bertalan, in through those doors will be the father of George Zimmerman.

This could be the final witness in the defense case. This is George Zimmerman's dad. He has not been present in this courtroom. There's a witness sequestration rule. They are not allowed to sit through proceedings. But as you just heard Olivia say, she's been watching some of them. There's no rule about watching it on television. Here comes Robert Zimmerman. Let's listen as he swears in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you solemnly swear or affirm that your testimony in these proceedings will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?



NELSON: You may inquire.

O'MARA: Thank you, Your Honor.

Good afternoon, sir. State your name, please.

R. ZIMMERMAN: Robert Zimmerman.

O'MARA: And you live here in Central Florida, correct?

R. ZIMMERMAN: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: How long have you lived in central Florida?

R. ZIMMERMAN: Almost seven years.

O'MARA: OK. You know -- you know George Zimmerman, as your son, I imagine?

R. ZIMMERMAN: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: Understand, of course, that he's here on a second-degree murder charge?

R. ZIMMERMAN: Yes, sir.

O'MARA: I'm going to limit my questions to you to an event where you had an opportunity to hear a -- what we have been calling a 911 tape or Ms. Lauer's 911 call. Do you know what I mean when I ask you about that?

R. ZIMMERMAN: Yes, I do.

O'MARA: It is a tape that includes in it some screams and a gunshot. Have you heard that tape?

R. ZIMMERMAN: Yes, I have.

O'MARA: We have it available. The jury has heard it dozens of times now. I will only play it for you if you need to hear it again. But do you have a memory of it such that you remember listening to it and forming an opinion as to who you heard?

R. ZIMMERMAN: Yes, sir, I do.

O'MARA: If you would just tell me the setting of the circumstances around the first time that you heard it.

R. ZIMMERMAN: I believe the first time I heard it, it was on the third floor of this building. It was in the state attorney's office. I was there. I was put under oath. They asked me some questions. As I was getting ready to leave, they asked me if I would mind listening to this tape.

I said, certainly. So they took me to a really small room where there was a computer. They provided me headphones. And they reminded me I was still under oath and would I listen to it? I said, yes. So I listened to it. And then they asked me, did I recognize the voice?

O'MARA: And what did you tell them?

R. ZIMMERMAN: I told them, absolutely. It's my son, George.

O'MARA: Is that an opinion that you still have through today?

R. ZIMMERMAN: Certainly.

O'MARA: Nothing further, Your Honor.

NELSON: Thank you.



R. ZIMMERMAN: Hi, sir.

DE LA RIONDA: I think you have listened to it six times. Is that correct?

R. ZIMMERMAN: I'm sorry?

DE LA RIONDA: I think you have listened to that recording six times, correct?


DE LA RIONDA: You have not?


DE LA RIONDA: OK. If I may have a moment, Judge.

R. ZIMMERMAN: I have listened to it a number of times. I have no idea if it's six or...


R. ZIMMERMAN: I would probably say at least six, but I...

DE LA RIONDA: More than six times?

R. ZIMMERMAN: I would guess at least six.


R. ZIMMERMAN: But I really...

DE LA RIONDA: Thank you very much.

R. ZIMMERMAN: ... can't be accurate.

DE LA RIONDA: Thank you, sir.

NELSON: Any redirect?

O'MARA: No, thank you, Your Honor.

NELSON: May Mr. Zimmerman be excused?

O'MARA: Yes, Your Honor.

DE LA RIONDA: Subject to recall, Your Honor.

NELSON: Thank you.

You're excused from the courtroom subject to being recalled, sir. Thank you.

Call your next witness.

O'MARA: I think this might be a good time for a break, if I might, Your Honor.


Ladies and gentlemen, we will take a 15-minute recess. If you will please put your note pads face down on the chair and follow Deputy Jarvis back into the jury room.

BANFIELD: And there goes Robert Zimmerman out of that courtroom. It was all of three minutes, the father of the accused.

And there was only one issue this defense attorney wanted to get out of this father. Whose voice was that on the 911 call? Robert Zimmerman said quite clearly, after listening to it in the state attorney's office with headphones, obviously, that's my son. He was certain of it, he said. He's listened to it more than a dozen times. Now they're going to a recess. So you're not going to miss anything.

Let's just listen to the judge.

NELSON: ... witnesses that you wanted your attorneys to call on your behalf, sir?

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, DEFENDANT: No, Your Honor. For this hearing?

NELSON: For this trial.

G. ZIMMERMAN: Oh, the trial.

NELSON: You have been here through the trial. And we have had -- let's see. We have had 40 witnesses that were called by the state and 19 witnesses called by the defense. Some of them were called -- I'm sorry. I'm talking to Mr. Zimmerman. Some of them were called a couple of times, such as Ms. Singleton. So, it's really less than 19.

My question to you is, Mr. Zimmerman, were there any other witnesses that you wanted your attorneys to call on your behalf at this trial?

G. ZIMMERMAN: No, Your Honor.

NELSON: OK. Thank you very much. When we get finished with the recess, I'm going to ask you about whether or not you're going to testify. So, take the time you need to talk to your lawyers.

G. ZIMMERMAN: Thank you.

NELSON: OK. Thank you very much. Court will be in recess.

BANFIELD: George Zimmerman looks a little bit bewildered. I have to say, I have not seen in many cases a judge addressing a defendant three times in one day about specific questions as to the process of the case and the progress of his case.

And the bewildered face might be because he's not exactly sure if that's the answer he's supposed to give. Listen, I need a little help here.

Mark NeJame is a criminal defense attorney who practices a lot in this state, not in front of this judge, necessarily.

But is it just me? I felt -- I felt it was very unusual to see this constant questioning of a witness who looked confused -- or rather a defendant who looked confused who seemed to need the help of his attorney. And the attorney was being told in no uncertain terms, stop. I am talking to the defendant.

MARK NEJAME, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I have been in front of this judge.

BANFIELD: Oh, you have?


NEJAME: Yes. I just haven't had any trials in front of her.

But I have been in front of her. And she runs a very tight courtroom. And as you have seen throughout, she's very knowledgeable. But she's just covering all of her bases. She's going to make sure that if he, in fact, does not testify, that he's knowingly giving up his rights to do so.

BANFIELD: Mark, I just don't understand why a judge would ask a defendant, are there any other witnesses you would like to bring forth at this time? Doesn't he need to ask his attorney if we're done?

NEJAME: It's to anticipate, in the event he's convicted, an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, that he participated fully in his defense, that he was asked about it, and that he went ahead and knowingly said that I don't want anybody else, I don't want to testify, whatever, because if he gets convicted, what often happens is after an appeal, if you lose on your appeals, then you go off the lawyers.


BANFIELD: Look, I'm not a lawyer, and you are. It felt odd to me that this witness looked confused and seemed -- and look, I don't know. But it seemed to me, the casual observer, he needed some help. He needed to confer with his attorney to say, what do I answer here? And he wasn't being given that opportunity.

Is there any issue there that could be, oh, I don't know, appellate?

DARREN KAVINOKY, ATTORNEY: I don't see it as an appellate issue, per se. But I'm a little bewildered by his bewilderment. It's almost as if he hasn't been actively participating in this trial for these many weeks now.

But what this is all about is the judge protecting the record to make sure it's absolutely clear if anybody's looking at this in the future that it's crystal clear that he was properly advised of his absolute right to remain silent or to testify.

BANFIELD: So, that's it. Darren...

KAVINOKY: Yes, of course.


BANFIELD: I would be bewildered. Darren, I cover court. I have been in court.

KAVINOKY: You would not be bewildered, Ashleigh. I know you.

BANFIELD: I would be. I would be. I would be bewildered if the judge was asking me to go on the record in my murder trial, my murder trial, and give an answer that's definitive before I had a chance to double-check with the experts, the guys who know the law.


KAVINOKY: And that's the thing that's been so unusual about this. Frankly, my headline for this is unnecessary roughness. This all could have been handled in a much more elegant way for the judge to simply inquire whether or not he's made his final decision about whether he's going to testify, because it impacts scheduling.

It impacts obviously making the record. She could have been much kinder about it. Obviously, we had a moment with Don West earlier where he could have handled that situation in a much more effective fashion. But at the end of the day, what this is all about is making sure that the record is crystal clear, because Zimmerman has the absolute right to keep his mouth shut or to take the stand and tell his story. BANFIELD: Well, you know what? We have had three shots right now at this apple so far. She has asked this defendant three times since we opened on the gavel this morning if he's going to testify. Number one was think about it because I'm going to ask you. Number two, are you going to do it, at which point his lawyers were trying to say, Judge, we are not even finished our case. You're overruled. Sit down.

And now, number three, once again, have you got any other witnesses you want to bring?

Listen, I'm going to squeeze in a quick break. Darren, stay seated for a second.

The great seal of the state of Florida is what is consuming the lens of our live camera in that courtroom right now, which means you're not missing any live testimony. They will resume any moment. And guess what they're going to resume with? The answer more than likely to that question. Mr. Zimmerman, do you plan to speak on your own behalf and take the stand in your own second-degree murder trial or do you want to remain silent? You have every right to remain silent.

We're back hopefully with that answer after the break.


BANFIELD: Welcome back, live in San Francisco, Florida, at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

You are not missing any testimony. There was a brief recess called in this courtroom, but I emphasize brief, because there's one issue that has yet to be resolved in this case. And that is will or won't George Zimmerman take the stand in his own defense in his second-degree murder case?

He's got, oh, I don't know, about eight more minutes left to make that decision., if he hasn't already. Here's the question. Don't they make that decision early on? Or do they truly wait until the very end to determine if a defendant should take the stand in his own defense? Once again, no testimony at this moment. It's about to resume at any moment with the answer to that question. And you will likely see this judge, Debra Nelson, once again, for the fourth time today asking this defendant to stand and answer the question.

Are you going to do it, George? She will put it a different way, far more eloquent than I just did. But here's what happened at about 1:45 this afternoon. It was the second time that this judge addressed George Zimmerman about the issue of taking the stand. And it didn't go well. Have a look.


NELSON: Have you made a decision, sir, as to whether or not you want to testify in this case?

DON WEST, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Your Honor, I object to that question. NELSON: OK. Overruled.

Have you made a decision as to whether or not you want to testify in the case?

WEST: I object to that question. I think that's...


NELSON: Overruled. The court is entitled to inquire of Mr. Zimmerman's determination as to whether or not he wants to testify.

Mr. Zimmerman, have you made a decision as to whether or not you want to testify in this case?

G. ZIMMERMAN: No, not at this time.

NELSON: OK. And when is it that you -- how long do you think you need before you make that decision?

WEST: Your Honor, may we have an opportunity to speak? The case isn't concluded yet.

NELSON: I understand that. And I have asked Mr. Zimmerman if he needed more time to talk to his attorneys. And if he does, I will afford it to him.

Mr. Zimmerman, how much more time do you think you're going to need to discuss this with your attorneys?

G. ZIMMERMAN: I assume it would depend on how long the recesses are, Your Honor, at the end of the day.

NELSON: OK. Well, if your attorneys have finished with two witnesses before the end of the day, do you think that you would then know whether or not you want to testify?

WEST: On Mr. Zimmerman's behalf...


NELSON: I am asking your client questions, please, Mr. West.

WEST: I object to the court inquiring of Mr. Zimmerman as to his decision about whether or not to testify.


NELSON: Your objection is overruled.

Mr. Zimmerman, I will give you more time, sir, to discuss this with your attorneys. Thank you very much.


BANFIELD: Whew. That's what you call uncomfortable, especially if you're a defense attorney. You need to confer with your client and you cannot stop the judge from asking your client questions that he may not know the answer to just yet.

Ryan Smith, HLN anchor, a guy who watches trials for a living, I have never before seen four different questions on the same day about will you or won't you testify and is your case done to the defendant. Is it unusual to you?

RYAN SMITH, HLN ANCHOR: It is a little bit unusual, because usually the defendant just answers. But I will say it's also a little bit unusual for her to be asking before the defense's case is completely over.

So what that was doing is it was putting Don West in an uncomfortable situation. He thought his client might have to say at that moment whether he was going to testify. But what I heard from the judge, she's trying to get the timing down. She's trying to get a sense of whether or not he has made the decision. And I think Don West jumping in made her change a little bit. And that led to that uncomfortable moment.

But, Ashleigh, you and I both know the defense already knows whether or not they're going to testify or not. They just don't want to say it just yet until that case is completely over in case any curve ball comes in that forces them to change strategy.

BANFIELD: And that is their province. Come on, he's trying to defend himself from a life in prison. He should have the right to keep the strategy that every other defendant walking through court has.

I found it very unusual that you don't just allow the case to actually be completed, the defense case in chief, and then ask the defendant the way it always goes, kind of by rote. I just expect it to happen that way.

Hey, hold on for one second. There is one thing that our viewers should know if they don't know already. That is that this judge is performing two roles. She's the judge. But she's also effectively the lawyer for the jurors. There are nine people who have not gone home for two-and-a-half weeks. Do you remember what you did July 4? They were here. Do you remember what you did three weeks ago? They were getting ready to be here.

And they want to go home. Their only advocate really in this courtroom is her. So if you think she's being tough on these lawyers and making them go fast, there's a very good reason, nine people that need to get back home to their families. It's a long time. Just think back to what you were doing all that time.

I'm going to squeeze in a break while the great seal is what you're watching, because that's kind of boring, the great seal, honestly. We're going to get back into this courtroom because the answer to the question we have been waiting for for a year-and-a-half, will George Zimmerman take the stand and plead in his own defense, why and what he was doing that night when Trayvon Martin was killed, or will they stop talking and move on? We're back after this.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to the Criminal Justice Center in Seminole County in Sanford, Florida. I'm Ashleigh Banfield reporting live.

The players are filtering back into court. It was a brief recess of about 15 minutes. The decision has to be made. Will George Zimmerman take the stand or not? Mark O'Mara is speaking. Let's listen.

O'MARA: ... momentarily and then not have an objection. That would be the last one that's going to be entered in by stipulation.

NELSON: So, that would be Composite Exhibit 30?

O'MARA: Yes. Actually, yes, it's just -- it's one -- it's only one document. It's just seven feet long.

NELSON: Oh. OK. What is it?


O'MARA: It is a timeline.

NELSON: OK. Defense timeline?

OK, Mr...

DE LA RIONDA: Your Honor, we just want to verify some of the times on there. It will take us a little while, but you're -- other than that, we won't have an objection, assuming it is accurate. I'm not saying that it is, but we just want to be able to have some time to verify it.

O'MARA: There are only two other slightly loose ends. I'm sorry.

NELSON: Whoever wants to speak first.

O'MARA: Go ahead. No, no, no. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) Those items contain item 30. But we were already up to item (INAUDIBLE)


NELSON: I'm sorry. I don't understand what you just said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They had me mark them for exhibits. And then they stipulated them to be entered in as evidence. They haven't been marked into evidence. So, I marked them items 30 through 38.

NELSON: OK. I don't understand what you're saying they are, because what Mr. O'Mara showed me is a long line.

O'MARA: I'm sorry. If I might, these are now in evidence as 30 through 38.


O'MARA: And we will identify those from your list. You want me to go through them?



NELSON: Thirty being?

O'MARA: Give me -- OK.

I will take care of it.

Thirty, Your Honor, is a picture of the back of Mr. Zimmerman's head.

NELSON: Thirty-one?

O'MARA: Thirty-one is the front of Mr. Zimmerman's head.


O'MARA: Thirty-two, a still photograph of Mr. Martin in 7-Eleven, 33, a picture of Mr. Martin's pants, 34, a second still of Ms. -- Mr. Martin at the 7-Eleven.