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Closing Arguments in Zimmerman Case

Aired July 11, 2013 - 13:30   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: And Code for America -- it is kind of like, think of Peace Corps for geeks. It is the next thing coming on "The Next List. And Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains what it is.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Meet Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America, a Peace Corps for geeks.

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This Saturday, 2:30 eastern, on "The Next List."


MALVEAUX: Stay with us. We'll be back in just a few minutes. We'll take a quick break. We're watching, live, George Zimmerman murder trial, expected to be back in the courtroom -- the jury will be back in that courtroom in about a couple of minutes or so. After the break, closing arguments set to start.


MALVEAUX: We're watching live -- there you see inside the courthouse George Zimmerman trial. The closing arguments will begin, under way in just a couple of minutes away.

I want to bring our legal analysts back in.

Natalie, you are one of the attorneys for the Trayvon Martin family. The prosecution is about to rest its case essentially, the closing arguments. What do you expect?

NATALIE JACKSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I expect them to try to refocus the jury, refocus them on the totality of the circumstances from the time Trayvon Martin was first spotted by George Zimmerman until George Zimmerman was arrested. The defense has done a pretty decent job of making sure to try to keep the focus tight on just the middle of the struggle to the shooting, and I think that the defense, the prosecution is going to try to reopen their minds on totality of circumstance, and I also think they're going to point out the five different statements and all of the inconsistencies in these statements from George Zimmerman.

MALVEAUX: Are we expecting any surprises, anything that we haven't necessarily heard or is this about weaving it altogether?

JACKSON: I think it is about weaving it altogether. I think there was some criticism of the prosecution for not finishing some question that people had.

MALVEAUX: Like what?

JACKSON: How can George Zimmerman be screaming when there is blood going down his throat? Why aren't the screams garbled? If he is being smothered, why aren't the screams muffled? I think will you hear those type of arguments from the prosecution.

MALVEAUX: And, Mark, what are you listening for?

MARK NEJAME, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think all of those issues that were just discussed are very easily resolved, and they'll be resolved now that the defense even has a duty or responsibility to do so because the state made a fatal error in my opinion. They charged second-degree homicide rather than charging this straight up as manslaughter, where they would have been able to make a better argument that George Zimmerman over reacted, that it was irresponsible and this was a manslaughter case. They spent 90 percent of this trial, starting with opening argument until about two days ago, trying to make everybody believe that it was, in fact, George Zimmerman who was a top Trayvon Martin, and when they finally came to the conclusion that should have done a year and several months ago, that it was, in fact, George Zimmerman on the bottom, now they're trying to come up with this alternate theory that maybe there is a 90 degree angel and maybe Trayvon Martin was trying to get away. They really made a fatal error in that regard and they'll have to try to clean that up and argue -- I think what you will hear is mainly an argument that really addresses a manslaughter because that is their best hope in a very, very difficult situation.

They made representations at opening argument which they're simply unable to prove, and all the more by their acknowledgment, because when they straddle that dummy, that was a reenactment of George Zimmerman being on the bottom. They never did a re-enactment with Trayvon Martin being on the bottom. They all but conceded that point. And that's a credibility issue that I don't think they can recover from.

MALVEAUX: Mark, we know that Natalie was shaking her head.

We'll get a quick break in and get back to Natalie so she can go ahead and react to some of those things you put out there. We'll be right back.


MALVEAUX: We're watching live coverage there inside of the courthouse. Closing arguments will begin in just a moment. We are watching this, as you have been as well, George Zimmerman murder trial, a lot of attention. This is really a critical moment in this case. And, of course, we're going to bring it live.

But I want to bring in Natalie here to talk a little bit about the family of Trayvon Martin.

And we were getting notes from inside the courthouse that Trayvon Martin's parents are there. George Zimmerman's parents are also seated. They are bringing in the props, some of those props we've see before, the mannequin, as well as the hoodie.

Paint a picture for us, if you will. You talked to this family. You have gotten to know them very well. What do you think is going on now?

JACKSON: They're a peaceful, prayerful family, and I know that Sabryna has probably had her Bible with her and had it with her the whole time. And they're listening intently.

The whole thing is to see the evidence against George Zimmerman and to see the evidence and really try to piece together what happened that night in their mind with the evidence.

MALVEAUX: Are they satisfied they have a real understanding of what happened that evening.

JACKSON: I think they are. They know their son, Trayvon. And they know that the objective evidence he was walking home from the store, excited about seeing the NBA all-star game and so, for them, it makes no sense that he will turn into a raging homicidal maniac, which is what he is being painted as.

MALVEAUX: We have actually seen his mother walk out several times, that there were points where she just could not take some of the things that were being said and the photos and likewise some of the materials there. How does she feel now in terms of how this is presented to both of them and sometimes kind of a sterile and sometimes controversial environment?

JACKSON: I think what we have seen and I think the feeling has been from people who are really emotionally invested in this, is it is a trial about Trayvon. It was about the trial of Trayvon Martin.

MALVEAUX: All right.

Let's listen in.

DEBRA NELSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE: The attorneys will not present their final arguments. Please remember that what the attorneys say is not evidence or your instruction on the law. However, do listen closely to their arguments. They are intended to aid you in understanding the case. Each side will have equal time. But the state is entitled to divide this time between an opening argument and a rebuttal argument after the defense has spoken. And just so we know, Mr. De La Rionda will let us know when would be a good breaking time for a recess during his argument. We will take a brief recess in the middle.

You will let us know when.


NELSON: You may proceed.

DE LA RIONDA: May it please the court, Counsel.

Good afternoon.


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.

The defendant in this case, George Zimmerman, acted upon those assumptions. And because of that, a young man, a 17-year-old man, barely 17-year-old man, I think three weeks past his birthday, is dead.

Unfortunately this is one of the last photos that will ever be taken of Trayvon Martin. That is true because of the actions of one individual, the man before you, the defendant, George Zimmerman, a man, who after shooting Trayvon Martin, claims to not have realized that he was dead. And what did he do? Do you recall what the testimony was about what he did after? Did he render or attempt to render the same aid that the heroic officers from the Sanford Police Department did, who didn't wear the mask they normally would wear, but gave mouth to mouth, performed CPR, in an attempt to bring life back into that young boy? Did he do that?

Recall also what happened when Mr. Manalo came out. And recall also what happened when the officer came out, and that they handcuffed him. And recall what he told Mr. Manalo, "Please call my wife." And then apparently Mr. Manalo was taking too long or something and he said, "Just tell her I killed him," just kind of matter of fact. Those acts, those actions speak volumes of what occurred that evening, Sunday evening. And they speak volumes of this defendant's actions, Sunday, February 27th -- sorry, February 26th, 2012, at 7:09 p.m., at the retreat at Twin Lakes town homes.

Now, are you obviously aware that the shooting actually happened minutes later? I think because of the recording that was made we were actually able to precisely determine when that fatal shot occurred. It occurred at 7:16 and 55 seconds. I would submit that the events leading up to this murder actually occurred not just earlier that Sunday evening, but months before.

Why do I say that? Even though Trayvon Martin wasn't there months before, why do I say that the events leading up to this occurred months before? You recall the testimony, of several people, but most importantly, the evidence you heard from this defendant's mouth when he was being interviewed by Investigator Singleton, when she first said something to the effect of, well, tell me what happened out there, I wasn't out there, I haven't gone to the scene, and what did he first say?



OK. I am going to keep quiet and you tell me the story. You tell me what happened that night. OK?


SINGLETON: Whatever led up to this, anything you want to tell me about what happened and why it ended up what it ended up to, this boy got shot. OK?

ZIMMERMAN: The neighborhood has had a lot of crimes. My wife saw our neighbors get broken into, and she got scared.

SINGLETON: Are you talking about the residence or the vehicles?

ZIMMERMAN: The residence, while it was occupied. So I decided to start a neighborhood watch program in my neighborhood.

SINGLETON: What is the name of the neighborhood?

ZIMMERMAN: Retreat at Twin Lakes.


DE LA RIONDA: Now, those actions weren't anything sinister or terrible or evil or of ill will. Those were actions that occurred throughout the United States in many cities, unfortunately, where crimes occur in a neighborhood and people get together and form neighborhood watches or other associations to deal with it. There is nothing sinister or wrong with that.

In this particular case, it led to the death of an innocent 17-year- old boy. He profiled him as a criminal. He assumed certain things. That Trayvon Martin was up to no good. That is what led to his death.

Trayvon Martin, he was staying -- he was there legally. He hadn't broken in or sneaked in or trespassed. He was there legally. He went to the 7-Eleven store earlier that evening. He bought what? What did he buy? What was his crime? He bought Skittles and some kind of watermelon or iced tea or whatever it's called. That was his crime. He had $40.15 in his pockets. He was wearing a photo button. And he was speaking to a girl in Miami. He was minding his own business. But apparently, this defendant decided that he was up to no good. That the victim was up to no good. What had Trayvon Martin planned for that evening? Watch a basketball game with his younger -- I guess you'd call him stepbrother or friend -- the son of his father's fiancee. That's where he was headed back home. 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 wasn't -- he was just doing a normal, everyday 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. But in this man's eyes, he was up to no good. He presumed something that was not true.

Now, what's ironic about this neighborhood watch -- and you heard from officers, again, that's a respected thing that we encourage citizens to do. But in this particular case, he didn't even bother to find out if he thought he was up to no good. He called the police, the nonemergency number. But then he followed him. He tracked him. Because, in his mind, in the defendant's mind, this was a criminal. And he was tired of criminals committing crimes out there. Again, that's not a bad thing. It's good that citizens get involved. But he went over the line. He assumed things that weren't true. And instead of waiting for the police, instead of waiting for the police to come and do their job, he did not. Because he, the defendant, wanted to make sure that Trayvon Martin didn't get out of the neighborhood.

You might recall the prior testimony about the prior incidents. What happened? They would commit some kind of crime, apparently. And they would all flee. By the time -- I think there was one guy that was caught. But the rest of them would flee. And this defendant was sick and tired of it. So that night, he decided he wanted -- he was going to be what he wanted to be, a police officer.

Now, police officers are trained. Recall one of the questions that was asked of Investigator Serino by the defense. "Sir, if you were driving by and somebody was in the front yard and looking through a window, wouldn't you stop your car and kind of investigate that"? His first -- my recollection is that his comment was, his answer was, "I would think maybe he lives there." But, see, in this defendant's mind, because of the prior crime out there, he automatically assumed that Trayvon Martin was a criminal. And that's why we're here. That is why we're here. Because the defense is going to argue to you that this was self-defense. And they're going to say, what actually happened at the time of the shooting? And I'm going to talk about that, obviously. But you can't just take that in a vacuum. It's not like this defendant was just walking home and some guy came out of nowhere and just started beating him up. I mean, when you think of it, when you really, honestly think about it, who was more scared? The guy, the kid that was minding his own business and going home that was being followed by another guy in a truck, in an SUV, that kept following him -- recall what he told Rachel Jeantel? "This guy, he's following me." She said something to the effect of, well, maybe he's like a sex pervert or something. That's when he referred to "He's a cracker," whatever word he used. And he used the "N" word, too. When you think of it, that is the person that was scared, I would submit.

Now, Trayvon Martin, unfortunately, can't come into this courtroom and tell you how he was feeling. And that's true because of the actions of one man -- the defendant.

Let's talk about the defendant that night. No dispute that he lived there at Retreat at Twin Lakes. No dispute that he was part -- maybe he was the neighborhood watch. But, again, that's perfectly good. That's a good thing. But he was upset that burglars got away. That's also a good thing. That's good that people get involved. And apparently, according to his statement, he was driving to Target. Now, he's driving to Target. It's raining. And what does he do? He calls the police with something suspicious. Then he tracks this guy down. He tracks Trayvon Martin. He doesn't just call the police and, OK, stay in your car. He keeps following him. Then he goes even further. He gets out of the car. So he sees the victim. He's suspicious of the victim. He calls 911 non-emergency. Now, all those actions, no crime has been committed there. There's no crime right there. But it's important to realize this is what led to Trayvon Martin being dead.

The defendant, 28 years old, 5'7", 204 pounds, and armed. Now, let me stop right here. He had the right to bear arms. We live in this great country. The Second Amendment allows people to carry a firearm. And he had a permit. He had a right to have a concealed permit, to have a concealed firearm. Again, he is not violating any law.

The victim in this case, 17 years old, 5'11", 158 pounds. He was unarmed. Well, I guess if you would consider Skittles or the tea a weapon. I'm not trying to make light of it. Defense is saying, oh, it's that concrete, you know, like -- and we'll talk about the concrete. But what started this? Assumptions. Incorrect assumptions on the part of one individual.

Again, that's the last photograph we have of Trayvon Martin. This innocent 17-year-old kid was profiled as a criminal. To quote the defendant, and pardon my language, he was one of those "(EXPLETIVE DELETED) that get away."

(INAUDIBLE). So the defense will argue that shows that he didn't have any ill will or hatred. No, I would submit to you that he uttered it under his breath. That, itself, indicates ill will and hatred. Because he was speaking to the 911 or non-emergency person, but what he was doing is he was verbalizing what he was thinking. And that's why that's important. Because in his mind, he already assumed certain things. That Trayvon (AUDIO PROBLEM).

You recall the prior calls? We brought in five -- I think defense put on another one, six -- within the last five, six months where crimes had been committed in the neighborhood. He was sick and tired of it.

But the law doesn't say, OK, you know, take the law into your own hands. Oh, I'm sorry, I got the wrong guy. Oh, I'm so sorry, I thought he was a criminal. Mr. Martin, Tracy Martin, Sybrina Fulton, I am so sorry. I made a mistake. I didn't realize that Trayvon Martin was up to -- was minding his own business. I am terribly sorry.