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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Closing Arguments Continue in George Zimmerman Trial
Aired July 11, 2013 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ZIMMERMAN: I thought he would take -- he had -- after he couldn't hit my head on the concrete anymore, he started to try to suffocate me.
And I continued to take -- push his hands off of my mouth and my nose, particularly because it was excruciating having a broken nose and him putting his weight on it.
That's the point in time he started telling me to shut up, shut up, shut up.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": Why did he tell you to shut up?
ZIMMERMAN: I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, PROSECUTOR: Where's all that blood on Trayvon Martin's hands? So is he screaming or not? Because why would, allegedly, Trayvon Martin tell him to shut up, if he's not screaming?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: When did he first see your gun?
ZIMMERMAN: After we were on the ground, I shimmied with him on top of me, and it made my jacket rise up. He, being on top of me, saw it on my right side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: He's got to explain how this dark gun that is concealed, which is concealed in his backside there, how all of a sudden it just became exposed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: And were you able to get to the grass?
ZIMMERMAN: Yes, sir.
HANNITY: And how did you do that?
ZIMMERMAN: I guess you could say shimmy. He was straddled on me with his full weight. (END VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: At that point he's able to just kind of shimmy. Before, he's incapable of fighting back, as he claims the victim's bashing his head over and over. But at this point, he gets, I guess, some strength and kind of shimmies. And then what does he say?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZIMMERMAN: I feel that it was all God's plan, and for me to second- guess it or judge it...
HANNITY: Is there anything you might do differently in retrospect now that the time has passed a little bit?
ZIMMERMAN: No, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: I don't know if I need to comment about that. It speaks for itself.
And, again, you just heard it, so I will just put it up there, just other parts of the same interview.
Mr. Osterman, his best friend, wrote a book about this experience, about the defendant, says the victim had a slender build. The victim saw the defendant using the phone, followed him in his car first, then he got out and then didn't know the name of the street and tried to established initial contact, within arm's reach, et cetera.
Straddle means knees on the armpit and punching. I guess I might as well do what everybody else (OFF-MIKE)
But do you see what he's saying now? He's saying that -- armpits. How does he get the gun out? Armpits. How does he get the gun out? The truth does not lie.
Earlier, he showed you, he showed the police where that gun was. So how does he manage to get out and great perfect shot to the heart of a 17-year-old man, teenager? He doesn't say he grabbed the holster. He grabbed the gun between the rear side and the hammer. Now, these are two individuals -- that is, Mr. Osterman, who is a trained federal agent and who is trained to defend in terms of firearms -- so they know what they're talking about.
In fact, he suggested the perfect gun to get. He describes in detail what part of the gun the victim touched. No DNA. Only the defendant's DNA. I guess that got washed away, too? Or is it another lie that he tells? Pivoted at 90 degrees, et cetera.
Why did he not try to get up again? At some point, he goes, I wasn't sure whether he was dead, but then he holsters the gun. All right, let's talk about ill will in terms of one of the elements in terms of murder. And I'm going to through this real quickly, at least (INAUDIBLE) (INAUDIBLE) police officers, dreams of hunting fugitives. Those were some of the documents that were submitted that I don't know yet if you have had an opportunity to read or review.
Learns all about self-defense law, exactly what you have to say. Talking about here in terms of the fact that the stucco man has actually been involved in catching somebody, so he wants to get credit for it to. He doesn't want to be left out. After all, he's the neighborhood coordinator.
Of course, he wants to make Trayvon Martin a criminal, and he couldn't find the address. Recall how he's trying to mislead the police? Oh, see, there's no address in the back of these. Why? He's not doing anything wrong in following an individual. Why does he have to lie about it?
Common sense. How many arms did Trayvon Martin need for punching, moving to the sidewalk, grabbing the head, smothering the mouth and nose, grabbing for the gun all at the same time? How many arms did he need? How much supposed activity can be packed into 70 seconds? That's what we're talking about.
The shooting, it began immediately after the Rachel-Trayvon phone call. It moves, what, 40-plus feet from where he claims it started? Man, somebody there's the Flash. Well, he claims Trayvon Martin hits 25-plus (INAUDIBLE) 25 slams.
How is he alive? How is the defendant alive? Or is he exaggerating that to justify in his mind what he had to do? The wrist-lock that he describes, how did he learn that technique? Perhaps it was at the mixed martial arts that he kind of went three days a week or two days a week, three hours, but he really didn't get much training.
Think about the time frame here. Does the evidence agree in terms of the physical evidence and the testimony? I will submit it does, in terms of the guilt of this defendant.
Do you recall Mr. O'Brien, the HOA president there at RTL, what he talked about in terms of the procedures they're supposed to follow in terms of neighborhood watch, et cetera? Do you recall Ms. (INAUDIBLE) about you don't follow people? Follow the police.
Second-degree murder. State's got to prove three elements. The victim unfortunately is dead, the death was caused by the criminal act of this defendant, and that there was an unlawful killing of Trayvon Martin brought on by the act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life.
And that includes a series of related actions arising from and performed pursuant to a single design or purpose. "I am not going to let this F'ing punk or these A's get away." He's a criminal. An act is imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind if it is an act or series of acts that a person of ordinary judgment would know is reasonably certain to kill or do serious bodily harm. I am following this guy, I'm armed, and I'm going to make sure he doesn't get away before the police get here. It's done from ill will, hatred, spite or evil intent.
The defense is going to claim, oh, he didn't have any -- he was just a little upset. Why is having to utter those things? Why is having to lie about the whole thing? If he wasn't doing anything wrong in following this victim, why does he have to lie about him? Why won't he admit that he went to follow him?
Why does he have to come up with this I don't know the street, I didn't know the address? Doesn't that kind of show his mental state?
It's (INAUDIBLE) that the act itself indicates indifference to human life. And in order to convict for second-degree murder, it is not necessary to prove the defendant had an intent. It's not first-degree murder. We're not saying that he intended to go and kill him.
What he does for a moment there may speak volumes of his choices. Isn't that the truth? Isn't that the truth?
The victim really didn't get to choose anything or anyone. The state has -- the instruction that the court will read to you will tell you in part that the state has charged this defendant with second-degree murder. If you return a verdict of guilty, it should be for the highest offense which has been proven. And there's a lesser included.
And Hurricane Katrina wasn't just a thundershower. In other words, your duty is, if you find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the highest crime, then, if not, then you go to a lesser crime. Manslaughter, he committed an intentional act, which resulted in the death (INAUDIBLE) excusable or justifiable.
You will get those instructions through about no accident or misfortune, et cetera. And the court is going to read the whole instruction to you. I just was -- in terms of how you decide -- and we talked briefly about that -- to the evidence entered (INAUDIBLE) alone, the case must be decided only on the evidence and the instructions.
What the lawyers say is not evidence, and you are not even to consider it as such. You may not decide because of your bias or sympathy or anger at anyone or feel sorry for anyone. Why do we have such rules?
What if? That's not a lack of evidence. Could always be more. That's not reasonable. You will not hear, because a lawyer or a Hollywood screenwriter can imagine something more that could be done, you must find the evidence lacking.
You know, we don't have a big animation of how it happened. Did anybody see it out there? The defendant told the police, this is what happened. There were no eyewitnesses to the actual shooting.
Doubt? And, again, what's not reasonable? Self-defense, this is what the defendant applied to Virginia, hunt down fugitives -- and we will see the letters, e-mails, et cetera. Isn't that true? And the key point is that injuries really are not required, if a person is legitimately in fear for their life. But why exaggerate them, unless he's lying about the whole thing?
Again, no DNA. Fingerprints also were not on the gun. Blood wasn't there. Credibility? But should you believe the defendant, think about this. What a coincidence. Does that make sense?
Think of the jacket as he's claiming he's going -- he's going down an angle. Which way would it go? Would the gun be exposed or just the opposite?
Think about this.
Doesn't that speak the truth? What a coincidence, the shot, all of a sudden the yelling stops.
You see where some of those injuries are? Did he pick up the sidewalk, did he turn them upside down? Or is it just by scrubbing (ph) and rolling and fighting out there? They both were.
I'm wrapping this up believe it or not. I thank you for your time and your patience. I ask you to come back with a verdict that speaks the truth, a verdict that is just.
You heard from many people in this case and I've summarized some of them. There's a lot more actually that you heard. We know you paid close attention throughout all these proceedings. Some of the people you heard from were the parents of both the victim and the defendant.
Unfortunately, the only photographs left of Trayvon martin are those M.E. photographs. I mean, they've still got other photographs, you saw some from football and his younger days, but they can't take any more photos. And that's true because of the actions of one person, the man before you, the defendant, George Zimmerman, the man who is guilty of second degree murder.
JUDGE DEBRA NELSON, SEMINOLE COUNTY, FL: Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to recess for the evening. Before I let you go and while you're getting your note pads to be ready to place face down, I'm going to give you my instructions.
You're not to discuss the case amongst yourselves or with anybody else. You're not to read or listen to any e-mails, text messages or social networking pages about the case. You're not to create or read any of those. You're not to get on the Internet to do any independent research about the case, people, places or events, or you're not to read or listen to any newspaper, radio or television reports.
Do I have your assurances that you will abide buy these instructions?
We will be in recess until 9:00 a.m. Please put your note pads face down.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The jury is in recess.
Welcome to our viewers. I'm Jack Tapper. This is THE LEAD. You've been watching our continuous coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial, which has brought a renewed focus to issues of race, racial profiling and self defense and captivated the country.
You were just watching a very impassioned, forceful and methodical prosecutor, Bernie de la Rionda, laying out his case to the jury why the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was not self-defense by George Zimmerman but rather, in his view, second degree murder.
The state began its closing arguments today with an emotional reminder to the jury about the victim in this case, Trayvon Martin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: A teenager is dead. He is dead through no fault of his own. He is dead because another man made assumptions. That man assumed certain things.
He is dead not just because the man made those assumptions, because he acted upon those assumptions. And, unfortunately, unfortunately, because his assumptions were wrong Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks on this earth. Unfortunately, this is one of the last photos that will ever be taken of Trayvon Martin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's go live to CNN's Martin Savidge in Sanford, Florida.
Martin, you were in the courtroom. What was the most compelling moment in this closing argument?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, remember, this is closing argument part one. There will be a part two that will continue tomorrow after the defense makes its closing argument.
But inside the courtroom, I think that maybe -- there were a lot of moments. It's very hard to try to pick just two. But it might be two very obtuse, very different pieces of evidence that Bernie de la Rionda used effectively.
Number one, he pulled the gun that was used by George Zimmerman to kill 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. And he questioned them very forcefully how could this gun -- how could it be possible that Trayvon reached this gun? How could he get it if, as George said, it was behind hit back? So, there you've got a weapon.
The next thing he picks up is this bag of Skittles, this bag of candy. And so, the juxtaposition that this 17-year-old, all he had, all he wanted was the candy versus the man who had the gun. That was powerful because you just see these two very different items and the messages at that they convey.
TAPPER: And, of course, the defense will have its chance to make the argument defending their client tomorrow. But in the meantime, Martin, when you were in the courtroom, you were looking at the jurors in a way that we cannot here at home.
TAPPER: Did you notice any reactions from the jurors at any point during this strongly presented case against George Zimmerman?
SAVIDGE: You're right. We do all study the jurors. That's why primarily we're there to look and try to read in their faces.
Again, very astute. Not initially a lot of note-taking when Bernie going was into his closing argument. There were a few times, especially when you watch the playback of the statements made by George Zimmerman, that some notes were taken.
But for the most part, they watched. They did not seem to be doing anything like nodding heads in agreement with statements. They are just drinking it in. They are listening carefully, as they have done.
I don't know if you can really read a whole lot other than to say you know they take this very seriously.
TAPPER: All right. Martin Savidge in Sanford, Florida, thank you so much.
Coming up, we're going to continue our coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial. What does our legal panel think about the prosecution's closing argument? That's coming up next.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. And you're watching our continuing coverage of the Zimmerman murder trial.
Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda just wrapped his closing argument just a few moments ago.
Here with us today to break down his presentation to the jury is our panel, Tom Mesereau, a criminal defense attorney and a former attorney for Michael Jackson's team, criminal defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden, who was on Casey Anthony's legal team and defended Phil Spector, and in Sanford, Florida, CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor Sunny Hostin, who's been inside the courtroom, watching every minute of this case.
I want to hear what all of you think about this closing argument.
Linda, we'll start with you. Your initial thoughts on Bernie de la Rionda's closing arguments.
LINDA KENNEY BAKEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, Jake, when you give a closing argument, you have to give the jurors the points that your jurors can take in and argue. And I didn't feel that, I didn't feel like it had one, two, three, four, five. And I feel it kind of meandered about and then quickly went to PowerPoint. But yet, some of the facts were very compelling, like the draw string on the sweatshirt being pulled down. So, I thought the facts were compelling in and of itself, and the truth doesn't lie. But I thought the presentation left a lot to be desired.
TAPPER: Sunny, what do you think? Do you think it was an effective presentation?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, I thought it was a very effective presentation. I was in the courtroom for it. I watched that jury very, very carefully.
You know, they were with him, they were watching, they were listening. Even the ones that normally take these copious notes just listened. And towards the middle and end of his presentation, then they started taking notes. And they were taking notes, Jake, when he was pointing out the inconsistencies of George Zimmerman's statements.
What was so effective in my view was the way he started by changing the narrative of the defense. The defense has been about self defense. They wanted this case to be about self-defense.
Well, the prosecution took control of the narrative and said, this is about who started it. This is about George Zimmerman making assumptions that were wrong, chasing, tracking an innocent young boy. And I thought that was very, very effective.
TAPPER: Tom, what do you think? Is there anything he could have done any better? Were there any doors that he left wide open for the defense team and their rebuttal? What are your thoughts?
TOM MESEREAU, REPRESENTED MICHAEL JACKSON: It's very typical of prosecutors to withhold things in their closing argument and bring them up in rebuttal, because the defense doesn't get a chance to rebut what they say in rebuttal. So, it's very typical strategy that you don't say everything you could say in your closing, that you withhold certain things and you let the defense guess as to what you might be withholding for rebuttal because they only get one shot. That's their closing argument.
The way a trial works is the prosecution typically does the closing, the defense does the closing and the prosecutor, because they have the burden of proof, get to rebut. But the defense can't rebut them. So I think he's withholding a lot of things for his rebuttal.
I thought it was a very passionate closing argument. I agree with Linda, the whole purpose is to give the jurors that are in your favor a lot of ammunition to go into the jury room and argue your case effectively.
For that reason, even though it seemed to meander a bit and get bogged down a bit in all the inconsistencies, the reality is you don't know what's going to affect certain jurors. Every time you talk to jurors after a verdict, you're surprised as to what they focused on, what was most significant to them, what they found insignificant. So, by laying out every inconsistency, even if it was somewhat pedantic, I think he was doing himself a good service. I thought it was a good closing argument. You can nitpick anything anybody does in the courtroom, but I thought he's a very passionate advocate.
He really believes in his case. I think the jury knows that. And I think he gave them a lot to think about in the jury room.
TAPPER: Let's take a listen to how the prosecutor addressed another huge issue in this case, the accusation that George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin before the confrontation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: He profiled him as a criminal. He assumed certain things, that Trayvon Martin was up to no good, and that is what led to he is death.
You know, this wasn't at 2:00 in the morning or partying somewhere. Not that that would in any way minimize it, but he was just doing a normal every day thing. He went to the store, got something, got some Skittles, and some tea or drink and was just walking back. It was raining, he was wearing a hoodie -- last I heard, that's not against the law.