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Continuing Coverage of the George Zimmerman Trial

Aired July 11, 2013 - 12:30   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back live to Sanford, Florida, everyone.

We're going right back live into that courtroom in just moments, but right now, you've got the great seal because there is a brief break, but the arguments are expected to be fiery after this break as well, so we're going to get you back in there live just as soon as they start back up.

In the meantime, it is the jury that is also due at this courthouse at 1:00. That was their report time today, a bit of a reprieve because every other day they've had to be ready for 9:00 a.m. arguments, and 9:00 a.m. testimony to start.

So they're coming in at 1:00 today, and these jurors are a mixed bag, even -- I know you've heard six jurors. That's -- usually you're 12, but here you can have a criminal trial with six. It's not a capital trial so you can have six jurors.

These six, and then there are alternates, they are five, white women and one woman who is described as either black or Hispanic. There are two alternates who are women and one alternate is a man.

But the core jurors, they range in their ages between 30 and 60-ish. When we say we don't know the exact ages, but they look to be in their 30s to their 60s. Most of them have been married and for years, in fact, at that.

Jean Casarez is live with us now, and, Jean, what I wanted to ask you is -- you are in the courtroom, gavel-to-gavel. I often say there's so much that we miss by watching the monitors.

You can hear it all, but there are the unspoken things that matter, the body language, the reactions from people.

Give me a feel for your assessment of the jurors as you looked at all nine of them, those alternates and the core jurors

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: You're so right. There is just a feel you get from sitting in there that you just can't get anywhere else.

When I look at the jurors, you know, you see constants in jurors. They're devoted. They're dedicated. They're taking notes. They're looking up, demeanor.

Let me tell you what's unusual about this particular jury. They want to get through this. I mean, I can't tell you how many days the judge has said, all right, are we ready for the morning break? Nope, no morning break.

So we go straight through until many times in the afternoon. They will say the same thing. Yes, Ashleigh, they don't need a break which is interesting.

But they are so diverse and we know a little bit about them because sat through jury selection, heard all of that and they're have I diverse, and just obviously dedicated to the responsibility they know they have.

BANFIELD: So, Jean, I want to go over a little bit about their occupations because you don't get to know a lot about their backgrounds. You just get the technical stuff.

One of them is a nursing assistant. One of them owns a construction company along with her spouse, and another is a former chiropractor.

Yet another one is retired from real estate, and another worked in financial services, which is kind of a very unique collection of jobs.

There is that blonde who is on the upper left of the top row who I keep looking at who seems to take copious notes and the only one, and correct me if I'm wrong, Jean, the only one addressed the judge several times.

Judge, I can't hear. Judge, we're having a difficult time with this witness. Judge, we need to you do something about these tapes. We can't hear them. That makes me think she may end up as the foreman.

CASAREZ: We'll see. Yes, she is very devoted. Her husband is an engineer. She is not employed.

She must have a child, a very young years because she volunteers at her children's school. She is into babysitting and gardening, and her husband has a .38 and her husband has a rifle for hunting, so she comes from a gun family.

BANFIELD: It is excellent to get your perspective.

Just to remind our audience, Jean is also an attorney, so she is looking at this from several different angles. Jean covered court for longer than all of us, so she knows what she is doing.

When we come back after the break, I'm keeping an eye on the monitor just to see if there is any activity in the courtroom. You're going right back in the minute they start back up.

But we have boiled down for you in what has amounted to so far a two- and-a-half, almost three-week, trial by this point to the actual strategies in a nutshell of the prosecution and the defense.

That's coming after the break.


BANFIELD: So we're counting down until these attorneys and the judge come back into this courtroom live in Sanford, Florida.

I'm Ashleigh Banfield, reporting live, and you won't miss a moment of this action.

There has been light and heat yet again this morning in the courtroom as the attorneys fight hard. This is the last fight they're going to have with this judge about what the jury is going to know about the law when they hear the closing arguments and go in and start deliberating.

And as the state gets ready to present the closing argument in George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial, one of the big questions on the books, did the state go too far? Did it over reach when it decided to go after second-degree murder charge?

Also, what about the lessers? Will this new lesser charge of manslaughter that's been put on the table today, will that be a point in George Zimmerman's favor? Probably not because there's a very lengthy sentence that goes along with it.

There was really never any doubt, though, that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. That's almost stipulated to at this point. It's, why?

It's been the defense team and its contention, the defense team headed by Mark O'Mara and then second-chaired by Don West -- it's been their job to show that he pulled the trigger in self-defense. That is his side of the bar.

Our Anderson Cooper had a chance to talk to Mark O'Mara. Have a listen to how that conversation went.


ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR, "AC 360": For you, what's the most important thing you need to convey to the jury?

Have you already mapped out your closing argument?

MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: The most important point, I think, is to make sure that this jury looks at this case and decides whether or not George acted in self-defense.

I think there is overwhelming evidence that he did act in self- defense, and there is very little evidence that he didn't.

And if the jury listens to the instructions that are given by the court, looks at the evidence, and compares the two -- not to do anything else, don't give us more than what we deserve with the facts and the law -- then they're going to conclude that George acted in self-defense. My fear is that because of some bias or sympathy that they may get from the state's closing arguments where they try and bring up the expletives, the way they yelled them instead of the way George yelled them, and they sort of mentioned these loss of this 17-year-old, that the jury may consider a compromise verdict.

We don't want a compromised verdict, just like we don't want a jury pardon. We want based on the facts and the law and that's an acquittal.

COOPER: And have you already written it out, or is that something you do just in the final hours?

O'MARA: I don't write it out. I know what I want to say. I just -- I'm not good at writing things out.

Hopefully I'll be able to communicate verbally what I want to because I'm just going to get up there and talk to them.


BANFIELD: One thing I can tell you is that all morning long Mark O'Mara has not been at the defense table, so this may be an opportunity for him to start mapping out that strategy, or at least the framework.

If he wants to ad lib that closing argument, terrific, but I know he doesn't want to miss anything. So he may be making a few of those notes just to follow, but he's not been present in these arguments today.

The defense, by the way, has been able to really tear some of the state's witnesses right up. I mean, right in front of a live audience.

They've been discrediting them or they've been doing a pretty good job of turning the arguments around to suit them, although you will see other people say not at all. Those witnesses were strong for the prosecution.

But did the prosecution team of Bernie De La Rionda and John Guy, in the center of your screen, and then Rich Mantei, on the right-hand side of your screen, did they do a good job in presenting their case, in picking witnesses, in getting the narrative out, or did the witnesses end up boosting the case for the other side, for the defense?

I want you to have a listen to what Don West was able to do with what was really considered to be their start witness, the prosecution's star witness. It was a friend of Trayvon Martin, Rachel Jeantel, and her testimony.


DON WEST, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: Describing the person is what made you think it was racial. RACHEL JEANTEL, WITNESS: Yes.

WEST: That's because he described him as a "creepy cracker."


WEST: So it was racial, but it was because Trayvon Martin put race in this?


WEST: You don't think that's a racial comment?


WEST: You don't think that "creepy ass cracker" is a racial comment?



BANFIELD: All right.

I want to bring in our guests today. Faith Jenkins is a former prosecutor and she's live with us in New York, and Danny Cevallos, he's been live with us as well throughout this trial, a defense attorney.

And you both have been very good with your analysis. I've been watching, and actually I've been quite surprised. And I think Danny, last night I saw you agreeing with Sunny Hostin at one point, which was a big surprise to me because it seems like there doesn't -- there's no gray area.

I feel in this case there's no gray area. Some commentators are absolutely in line with the prosecution, saying it's been masterful, other commentators saying it's been a debacle and the prosecution case was really the defense's case.

Danny, I want to start with you and I want you to comment on that.

DANNY CEVALLOS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: OK, first of all, the prosecutors, the defense attorneys, you don't get to choose your facts.

The prosecutors have done a terrific job with what I think anybody would say are very, very difficult facts. So I think the prosecution has done a terrific job. The defense has done a terrific job. They've got a hill to climb.

However, you notice with Mark O'Mara's interview right there, they're focusing on that self-defense. That's what they have to hammer home.

That's their get-out-of-jail free card. They need to focus on that to negate the prosecution's case.

Look, I mean, you can criticize the prosecution for choosing to call their witnesses. They had to call those witnesses to get that out in the open.

The defense, though, was able to do something that's very rare, and that's make their case out during the prosecution's case, and that's always a good thing for the defense.

BANFIELD: Yeah. This isn't a legal novel. You don't get, you know -- you don't get to write the script the way you want it. You takes your witnesses as you gets them.

I often say that. They don't always say everything you want, and sometimes even when you think they're your witnesses, something happens. It's why live trials are so dramatic.

By the way, Faith, as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, how many times have you been up there and trying to present a case and realizing. I had no idea it was going to go like this. I never planned it to go like this. It just happens.

FAITH JENKINS, ATTORNEY: It happens because you have so many witnesses, so many different pieces of evidence coming into trial and sometimes things will turn. But I will tell you, in this case, Ashleigh, I don't think the prosecutors are aware to any particular succinct theory about what happened when Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman met. They're going to base -- and you're going to see this in their closing arguments this afternoon, a consistent theme with them. There were two people involved in this altercation, one is dead, the other is a liar. They're going to really go after George Zimmerman's statements. They're going to hammer those statements. He's lying, that's consciousness of guilt because he murdered Trayvon Martin. You're going to hear that repeatedly.

BANFIELD: OK. Stand by if you will, Faith and Danny. You're both so smart. And I just -- I'm so glad that you've been with me on this to try to get inside of what really happens in a courtroom, because it's not a John Grisham novel and I'm sure John Grisham will be watching and thinking, it could be one though. It certainly has been a twisty, tourney case.

Stand by if you will. When we come back after the break, and I'm still watching the live -- the live court action. Still the great seal of the state of Florida. Yes, it's great. And, no, that's not a mistake. It is the great seal, not the great state, apparently. That's the way it goes. But they're going to return any moment and still litigate over those jury instructions and that third degree felony murder charge. That's something that prosecutors want, the defense attorneys do not want, with an underlying felony of child abuse.

Coming back after the break, though, there have been no shortage of highlights from this case that have stunned and shocked people watching. Sometimes even the attorneys in the courtroom. You're going to see them next.


BANFIELD: Welcome back live in Sanford, Florida. In 12 days we have seen some of the most explosive moments in a courtroom that you will probably ever see. And it really started out of the gate on day one, opening statements. Take a look at this.


JOHN GUY, ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) punks. These (EXPLETIVE DELETED) punks, they always get away. Those were the words in that man's chest when he got out of his car armed with a fully loaded semiautomatic pistol and two flashlights to follow on foot Trayvon Benjamin Martin, who was walking home from a 7-Eleven armed with 23 ounces of Arizona brand fruit juice and a small bag of Skittles candies.



DON WEST, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Knock, knock. Who's there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? All right, good, you're on the jury. Nothing? That's funny.


BANFIELD: Well, no, actually a lot of people did not find that to be very funny and the defense attorney, Don West, who's a terrific attorney, ended up having to apologize for that later on. Certainly a lot of other key moments that almost made us forget that opening, the testimony from the neighbors. They witnessed the fight. Well, at least parts of it. And they called 911. And we ended up hearing screaming in the background and the gunshot that ended Trayvon Martin's life.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he look hurt to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't see him. I don't want to go out there. I don't know what's going on, so --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're sending them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you think he's yelling "help"?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, what is your (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's gunshots.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's two guys in the backyard with flashlights.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there's a black guy down. It looks like he's been shot and he's dead.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's laying and there's multiple people calling right now I'm thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I have several officers going out there, OK?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Bye-bye.


BANFIELD: It is really hard to hear that, but that is what this case is all about, there is a young black man down and it looks like he's dead. And you saw his parents as they listened to that testimony. The witness was sitting and listening to himself in the 911 call. It's very painful for a lot of people in this courtroom to remember, this is Trayvon Martin's life we're discussing here.

I want to show you something else that happened yesterday. And again the life of Trayvon Martin almost reduced to a foam mannequin. But this was critical for the prosecution. John Guy brought a gray foam dummy to the front of the courtroom. And in the well of the courtroom, he put it down on the ground and he straddled it to show what he thought happened and how it couldn't have been the way George Zimmerman suggested. But on the right-hand side of your screen, Mark O'Mara took that same demonstrative prop and used it to his advantage by demonstrating just what George Zimmerman said happened to him.

And both of them seemed so plausible. Both seemed, if you look at John Guy on the left, where his knees are, that would be covering the gun holster. How could -- how could Trayvon Martin have grabbed for the gun if his legs and knees were covering it? If you look on the right, look at the kind of injury that George Zimmerman could have sustained on the back of his head after dealing with a thrashing like this. An incredibly effective moment for both sides in this case. I don't think you can deny that.

Looking at the live courtroom now, the great seal of the state of Florida, still our image, but we are getting very close now to those attorneys returning from their break and deciding how they are going to fight with each other and sometimes with the judge to get that jury instruction the way they want it when it comes to the third degree felony murder underlying felony child abuse. Back live in just a moment live in Sanford.


BANFIELD: Welcome back live in Sanford. The jury is getting ready to file back into this courtroom momentarily, but not before those lawyers come back into this courtroom and battle over this final jury instruction. That's all going to come on to your screen live in just a moment. Don't go anywhere. In the meantime, this is a great opportunity on get the whip around from our experts on an essential question that these jurors are going to have to discuss and deal with.

Number one, doesn't a 17-year-old black man, young man, have the right to walk around in the rain without fearing being shot? Number two, doesn't a neighbor have the right to help protect his other neighbors? What kind of jurors are they? Where are they going to fall in that argument?

Faith Jenkins, to you first. Their mothers, they're between their 30s and 60s. Where do you think they're going to fall? Real quick.

JENKINS: Five mothers -- five mothers on that jury. And the prosecutors aren't just going to argue the law. They're going to argue the emotion in this case. At the end of the day, mothers expect that they can send their child to the store --


JENKINS: And they're going to make it back and be OK. And that's what the prosecutors are going to focus on.

BANFIELD: Danny Cevallos, whip around. I've got less than 40 seconds. Danny.

CEVALLOS: Yes, the prosecutors need -- prosecutors need to argue emotion. Defense has the facts on their side.

BANFIELD: OK. Mark Nejame, what are your thoughts on that one?

MARK NEJAME, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This case, as in any case, prosecutors have to prove their case. They simply haven't done so. There's reasonable doubt at every turn in the case, to the extent that the prosecution has even changed its course of prosecution just a day or two ago. No.

BANFIELD: I still wonder about those mothers because, you know what, there are mothers who will look at being a mother to Trayvon. There are mothers who will be a mother to George Zimmerman. How do you know what they're going to be?

NEJAME: Well, you don't and you don't ever know that.

BANFIELD: Wow (ph).

NEJAME: But mothers are going to be people, like fathers are people --


NEJAME: And they've got to follow the law. And if they follow the law, there will be an acquittal here.

BANFIELD: We're going to get you live back into that courtroom. Thanks for watching, everyone. I'll be back live at 3:00 Eastern. In the meantime, live from Sanford, Florida, I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Live coverage of the Zimmerman trial continues after this.



Closing arguments set to start soon in the George Zimmerman murder trial. We, of course, bringing it to you live right here on CNN. You're not going to miss a thing here. Here's what we expect.

The prosecution is going to present its closing argument which will take about two hours. Then tomorrow Defense Attorney Mark O'Mara delivers his closing as well. That's going to be followed by a prosecution rebuttal. Then the jury gets the instructions and the deliberations will begin. The six woman jury will decide if the 29- year-old neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in self-defense or was it second degree murder?