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Prosecutor Makes Closing Argument in George Zimmerman Trial

Aired July 11, 2013 - 19:00   ET


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: Tonight fireworks in the climax of the George Zimmerman murder trial. An epic battle in court as the prosecutor delivers a dramatic and theatrical closing argument, often yelling. But was it enough to seal a conviction of second-degree murder against Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17- year-old Trayvon Martin?

Good evening. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, coming to you live from right outside the courthouse. Yes, right back here in very, very, very hot Sanford, Florida.


BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, PROSECUTOR: Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks on this earth.

DON WEST, ZIMMERMAN`S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Just when I thought this case couldn`t get any more bizarre.

MARK O`MARA, ZIMMERMAN`S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Someone doing this on the ground.

DE LA RIONDA: The defendant silenced Trayvon Martin.

WEST: Judge, this was a trick.

DE LA RIONDA: He is dead through no fault of his own.


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


DE LA RIONDA: He went over the line!




VELEZ-MITCHELL: Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda was ferocious: shouting, demonstrating, skipping, even slamming Skittles. Check this out.


DE LA RIONDA: "They always come around at nighttime." They being, what in the language (EXPLETIVE DELETED), or (EXPLETIVE DELETED) punks that are committing these burglaries.

Again, going back to that assumption that he made originally when he profiled a 17-year-old boy that had Skittles. That`s the crime he committed that evening. Skittles that he didn`t even steal from 7-Eleven. He legitimately bought.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The prosecution`s ultimate point was to paint George Zimmerman as an overzealous wannabe cop who played a deadly game of cops and robbers with an unarmed teenage boy. Listen to this.


DE LA RIONDA: Why does this defendant get out of the car if he thinks that Trayvon Martin is a threat for him? Why? Why? Because he`s got a gun. He`s got the equalizer. He`s going to take care of it. He`s a wannabe cop. He`s going to take care of it. He`s got a gun. And my God, it`s his community, and he`s not going to put up with it. If the police are taking too long to respond, he`s going to handle it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What do you think of his closing argument? You at home, I want to hear from you. Call me: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586- 7297.

Straight out to the Lion`s Den. Let`s grade the performance of this prosecutor. Was it brilliant or was it a bust? And wow, we have got quite a team tonight, starting with Kelly Saindon, former prosecutor out of Chicago.

KELLY SAINDON, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I think he did a terrific job. I think that he made it exciting.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s it? He made it exciting? Is that enough?

SAINDON: No, he made it exciting. It`s not enough, but it keeps the jury interested. And he`s tying it together. He`s showing the inconsistencies. He showed motive. He showed opportunity. He met the burden for at least manslaughter, put it in front of the jury, and said, "Hey, this is exciting. And remember, there`s a teenager that was doing nothing wrong that lost his life."

So I think he kept it engaging. They`d been sitting there for a while. He made it so it was tied together, and he once again reminded everyone the purpose of this was justice for somebody that died. And this isn`t a race issue. This is the fact that Zimmerman is a wannabe cop who had a gun, whose story doesn`t add up, and he`s going to get the jurors` conviction, I think.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Janet Johnson.

JANET JOHNSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It was a bust. It was like in "Peanuts" when the parents are talking and the "wah, wah, wah, wah." It went on and on, and he kept that anger that it was so elevated you started to tune it out.

And quite Frankly, he was just trying to argue what a defense attorney would argue. That there is reasonable doubt. Yes, there`s inconsistencies. That doesn`t point to guilty. That points to reasonable doubt. And that`s exactly the defense point.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: J. Wyndal Gordon.

J. WYNDAL GORDON, ATTORNEY: I think that -- I think the inconsistencies pointed to the lies that George Zimmerman has been telling from day one. And I think the prosecutor did a great job in bringing out in exquisite detail all the inconsistencies or lies that George Zimmerman has been accustomed to telling ever since this case began.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Frank Taaffe, former neighbor of George Zimmerman and supporter.

FRANK TAAFFE, FRIEND OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Well, I thought the closing argument was quite salacious, convoluted and a true obfuscation of the truth.

I think de la Rionda really stretched it out today with this equalizer. The point being that George didn`t have the weapon drawn. It was still concealed. And if Trayvon -- anybody could have jumped George in that dark corner there. So I didn`t know where he was going with the equalizer unless he wanted to be on that TV show again.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor.

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Look, on a spectrum of pure fantasy to pathetic, I would grade this guy a big fat limp noodle. I thought it was at times pure comedy. Look, and it`s not that he`s not skillful; he seems to be a very good lawyer. But you cannot make a silk purse out of a cow`s butt, or whatever that saying is.


MURPHY: I mean, there simply is no evidence to argue. And you know the argument, you know, if you don`t have the facts, argue the law. If you don`t have the law, argue the facts. If you don`t have either, pound the table. This was all table pounding, and it was embarrassing. It was embarrassing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, listen, here`s what -- here`s what I wonder. What happened that dark and rainy night when George and Trayvon actually made contact?

Now, the defense has offered a very clear version of events with George telling his side of the story. We`ve seen it so many different ways. Video, audio, writings, TV interviews. He basically said Trayvon punched him and got on top of him and then he shot him in self-defense.

Critics are saying today that the prosecutor, despite talking for more than two hours, essentially dropped the ball by failing to paint a clear- cut alternative theory, even though he dragged out a dummy in his closing arguments. Let`s check it out, and then we`ll debate it.


DE LA RIONDA: How does he get the gun out? Armpits. How does he get the gun out?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So he`s asking a lot of questions. But there he is getting on top of the dummy as if he is Trayvon Martin straddling on top of George. Again, does that present a visual that Trayvon was the aggressor?

Meanwhile, the defense has a very clear 3-D animation that shows their version of the confrontation. We expect to see this played during the defense closing arguments tomorrow.

Prosecutors, did they present a clear-cut version of what happened? So let`s go back into the Lion`s Den, starting with Eric Schwartzreich, criminal defense attorney out of Miami. Was this the state`s biggest blunder?

ERIC SCHWARTZREICH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Jane, big problem. More questions than answers. Questions, those are for defense attorneys. Answers, that`s what prosecutors are supposed to have.

The problem is that the prosecution has been selling a Mercedes the whole time. This is a Mercedes, a Mercedes, a Mercedes. Then they switch. No, wait a minute. We`re selling you a Hyundai. Was he on top? They committed in opening statement who was on top. And now they`re changing it, and when they`re changing their strategy. Was it Trayvon Martin on top? Was it George Zimmerman on top? They`re losing their credibility. And I think that the prosecution has a real problem, and they were really scrambling today in their closing argument.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But wait a second. Kelly Saindon, isn`t it possible that, while they may not have made it crystal clear. Like, I can`t really visualize exactly what the prosecution is saying happened that night, but they did suggest that maybe, well, the reason why you have these conflicting versions of who`s on top and who`s on bottom is they were rolling around. And one second one was on top, and the next second the other was on top. So it was something where they were rolling around and trading the position, Kelly.

SAINDON: Sure, I think that you just nailed it. I think that`s the point he was trying to make. And while he could have given this version of events, the facts don`t support it. There`s so many conflicting witnesses. There`s conflicting eyewitness testimony.

And Zimmerman has been painted a liar. He`s told different versions himself. And he wasn`t able, through all these interviews and everything that came in.

So I think the prosecutor had to say, "Hey, we weren`t there. The only person that was there is a liar. The dead guy can`t tell you what happened."

JOHNSON: You can call him a liar but that doesn`t make him a liar, just saying he`s a liar. And that`s reasonable doubt, conflicting stories.

SAINDON: It makes him a murderer. It makes him a murderer. He`s a wannabe cop who had a gun. His version of events doesn`t add up. And the prosecutor has to say...


SAINDON: ... he had the intent to kill this guy.

MURPHY: No. No, no, no, no. Yes, he was proved guilty of making inconsistent statements. I`ll even agree he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of wanting to be a cop, and he wasn`t.

TAAFFE: So what? So what?

MURPHY: But there was zero evidence of murder. Zero evidence of manslaughter. If he`s convicted on that closing argument I will eat the shoe of everyone on this panel.

TAAFFE: I want to go...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to see that.

TAAFFE: I want to go back. I`d like to go back to the dummy.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Frank, Frank, Frank.

GORDON: ... there is overwhelming evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

MURPHY: I hope they`re chocolate.

TAAFFE: I`d like to go back to the example. First of all, the depiction in the courtroom is converse to what was happening that night. It was -- so it wasn`t a static situation.

SAINDON: You weren`t there, Frank.

TAAFFE: I was there. Excuse me. I live in that community. Whoa, whoa.

SAINDON: You were not there at the time of the murder. No kidding. You weren`t outside. You didn`t watch him get shot.

TAAFFE: I know -- I know. Please.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let Frank have his say, and then we`ll move on.

TAAFFE: Let`s advance this, OK. I know the area. I know how wet the grass is. The situation was not static...

GORDON: ... see in the courtroom (ph)? Supposed to be rolling around in the grass.

TAAFFE: Please, let me finish. Thank you.

JOHNSON: But that`s not the point.

TAAFFE: The situation is...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: J. Wyndal. I want to hear what J. Wyndal has to say. Then we`ll finish with you, Frank.

GORDON: Yes, I would like to know, since Frank brought up the jacket, that`s a very interesting point. None of his jacket was wet. He`s supposed to be...

TAAFFE: Excuse me.

GORDON: ... rolling around in wet grass.

TAAFFE: Hold on. Time out. Time out.

GORDON: Look at the back of his head. There was no blood on his jacket. Where is the blood?

TAAFFE: Excuse me. On testimony on the police report, Officer Tim Smith noted in his report that the back of his jacket was wet, and it was full of all leftover...

GORDON: Well...

TAAFFE: It`s in the police report.

GORDON: ... we saw photographs of his jacket. The Instagram, the grass.

TAAFFE: It`s in the police report.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Frank, shush. Let J. Wyndal Gordon speak. You`ve made your point. I want to hear his response.

GORDON: There`s so many things wrong with the case. There was no wetness on the back of his jacket. If the back of his head is supposed to be bleeding so profusely, where`s the blood on the back of his jacket? I mean, the blood just doesn`t hang on the back of his head. There should be blood on his jacket, on his clothing. How does Zimmerman escape this confrontation or this altercation without any bloodstains whatsoever? It`s totally incredible. I mean, Zimmerman...

SAINDON: His head was barely bleeding.

MURPHY: There were pictures of his bloody head.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have to take a break.

MURPHY: There`s a picture of it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We need to take a short break. We`re back in the Lion`s Den in just a moment. Stay right there. And we`re playing your calls. We`re going to play more of the key closing arguments by the prosecution today. Stay right there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via phone): Does he look hurt to you?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via phone): I can`t see him. I don`t want to go out there. I don`t know what`s going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell them to call the cops.



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


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, what is your...





ROBERT ZIMMERMAN SR., GEORGE ZIMMERMAN`S FATHER: They asked me did I recognize the voice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what did you tell them?

R. ZIMMERMAN: And I told them, "Absolutely. It`s my son George."

TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN`S FATHER: Basically, what I was listening to my son`s last cry for help.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A big moment in the state`s closing was when the prosecutors told the jurors, six women, that Trayvon`s body provided the key to proving Zimmerman was lying about what happened that night. Listen to this.


DE LA RIONDA: There`s only two people who knew what really happened that day. And he, the defendant, made sure that other person couldn`t come into this courtroom and tell you what happened. He, the defendant, silenced Trayvon Martin. But I will submit to you even in silence his body provides evidence as to this defendant`s guilt. His body speaks to you. Even in death. This defendant is lying about what happened.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: For example, he says even though Trayvon tried to suffocate him by covering his bloody nose with his hand, no blood was found on Trayvon`s hands. That`s just one example. Straight out to Susan Constantine, jury consultant and body language expert. You were in court for the closing. What were the six female jurors doing? How were they reacting?

SUSAN CONSTANTINE, JURY CONSULTANT: In the first row all of them have made up their mind. They were seated back. Normally we have two of them leaning forward. I saw them leaning back. It`s like when you make a business deal. They`ve already made up their mind. They`ve already started to lean back. It`s already done.

They tilted their head. So they`re in good listening position. They were still listening to the information. The two jurors in the back, those two are still pondering. I think they`re strong defense -- excuse me, strong prosecution, because they were noting all the events all the...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wait, wait, wait. Who were they for? Susan, you say a lot of them made up their minds.



CONSTANTINE: The first two have made up their minds. Well, I don`t know exactly who they`re voting for in the first row. But what I can tell you is in the second row those are pro-prosecution jurors. Because what I`m noticing is what they`re noting. Every single key issue. You know, he`s a punk. You know, they`re showing the autopsy reports. All of those they were noting, they were still noting so they`re still pondering. So they haven`t made up their mind, pro-defense or pro-prosecution.

But what I can tell you is that the first juror, 60-year-old juror, she is going to be our foreperson. I have no doubt in my mind. She has all the leadership skills, and I think that this jury is going to -- is actually going to respect her a lot and have her take the lead.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Now the prosecution claims that this crime began when George Zimmerman began pointing out and profiling Trayvon Martin. The defense says something entirely different. So listen to what was said on the 911 call.


G. ZIMMERMAN: This guy looks like he`s up to no good or he`s on drugs or something. It`s raining and he`s just walking around looking about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Is this guy -- is he black, white or Hispanic?

G. ZIMMERMAN: He looks black.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see what he was wearing?

G. ZIMMERMAN: Yes, a dark hoodie. Like a gray hoodie.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Straight out to the Lion`s Den. Does it all boil down to the jurors deciding when this crime began? Did the crime begin, as the prosecution contends, when George Zimmerman first began profiling, as the prosecutor says, Trayvon Martin, or did it begin when the fight actually started, as the defense contends? And we`ll start with Janet Johnson.

JOHNSON: Well, it`s reasonable doubt. The defense is going to hammer it home. They`re going to have that reenactment. And if the jury says, you know, I think it was before and they split on whether it`s before or after, that is reasonable doubt. And that`s what`s going to, I think, determine this. If they say, "Look, we can`t decide, but we know that he got punched. There`s blood on his face."


TAAFFE: This goes back to the original. The state`s 172 where he made a call where the prowler or the burglar is looking in my house and he was apprehended three days after February 2, three weeks prior to the shooting.

His name is Emmanuel Burgess (ph). He was apprehended due to George`s efforts.

Now let me ask you -- let me go back to something here real quick. When Trayvon first -- when he first sees Trayvon he`s in the same exact spot up in my house exactly where Emmanuel Burgess was. So on his way out to Target that night, you know, he wasn`t on patrol. He wasn`t on watch. He was merely going out to get some groceries, as he stated many times in his testimony. But, you know, it`s like deja vu all over again. He sees Trayvon up in my house looking in my windows. So if anybody`s going to...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Whoa! There is absolutely no evidence, Frank Taaffe, that...

TAAFFE: There is.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Excuse me. I`ve got to stop you right there.

TAAFFE: It`s in the police reenactment.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Because we don`t want a source of misinformation. Kelly Saindon.

TAAFFE: It`s in the video.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Kelly Saindon. Kelly Saindon.

SAINDON: That`s ridiculous.

First of all, I want to say this flat out, there is absolutely no evidence -- the defense agrees on this -- that Trayvon Martin was doing anything but coming home with Skittles and a soft drink. End of story. Take it away, Kelly Saindon.

SAINDON: The prosecution nailed it by saying that he was profiling. That Zimmerman was checking out Trayvon. His story doesn`t jive, they said. Trayvon walked around his car and looked in. He was so scared. He was fearful. Remember, he forgot he had his gun. He got out of his car in front of somebody he`s scared of.

The prosecution did the right thing saying that Zimmerman necessarily didn`t go with the intent to kill Trayvon. But he profiled him. He followed him. His story doesn`t match up. The evidence doesn`t match. His injuries are inconsistent with his version of events, and Trayvon is dead.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Quick rebuttal. Quick rebuttal from Wendy Murphy.

MURPHY: Well, look, I think he did profile him. And I think the jury will forgive him for that because of the history of robberies and break-ins in the neighborhood. The jury is not going to worry about that. They`re going to be instructed no matter who made the first offensive move, whether it was Zimmerman moving towards Trayvon, Trayvon saying, "What are you doing here?" moving toward him, the bottom line is they`re going to be instructed that the whole mess of legal questions goes away when the hand starts to be slammed against cement, because that`s when you can shoot with lethal force, end of discussion. That`s why...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As long as it`s not illegal.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: On the other side, your phone calls, more key moments from this closing argument. And of course, tomorrow it`s the defense`s turn. Stay right there.


RACHEL JEALTEL, FRIEND OF TRAYVON: I told him, "You`ve got to run." He had told me he already -- he almost by his daddy`s fiancee`s house. The headset. And then I kept calling, Trayvon, Trayvon. I started hearing a little bit of Trayvon saying, "Get off, get off."




DE LA RIONDA: To quote the defendant, and pardon my language, he was one of those (EXPLETIVE DELETED) that get away. Pardon my language. He was one of those (EXPLETIVE DELETED) punks.

Now, the defendant, Mr. Zimmerman, didn`t scream that out. So the defense will argue, well, that shows he didn`t have any ill will or hatred. But I would submit to you that he uttered it under his breath, and that itself indicates ill will and hatred.

G. ZIMMERMAN: They always get away.

DE LA RIONDE: That wasn`t information that he was providing to the operator like, OK, he is a pardon my language, (EXPLETIVE DELETED). So when the officer comes he can go, pardon my language (EXPLETIVE DELETED) where are you? That wasn`t a description.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In order to prove murder two, which is what the state is seeking, even though there is a lesser included of manslaughter. The state needs to show that the shooting was done from ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent.

Straight out to the Lion`s Den. Do George Zimmerman`s use of words like bleeping punks, bleeping assholes, they always -- excuse my French. I apologize. It`s one too many bleeps. My apologies for using that profanity accidentally, which was actually used in the case. I undid that. My apologies.

Bleeping you know what. They always get away. Does that show -- does that show ill will, spite, hatred, which is the criteria for murder two, and we`ll go to Janet Johnson?

JOHNSON: No, I mean, if "punks" is the best he could come up with. You know, this is moment of rage when he`s going to say the worst things. And if they`re saying profiling, and the worst he can say is "punks," my big brother called me worse than that, and that, I don`t think, is enough for ill will, spite or hatred. That`s a high bar, and they are not there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: J. Wyndal Gordon, attorney out of D.C.

GORDON: I completely disagree. Under the circumstances -- he didn`t say that in a back room. He said it in the midst of stalking a kid. George Zimmerman is a child killer. And that statement provides a motive as to his intent to kill Trayvon Martin on the evening in question.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Eric Schwartzenreich.

SCHWARTZENREICH: Jane, if we`ve all said "F" bombs like that we`d all be doing a life sentence. Every one of us on the panel would gain a life sentence. Saying "f" bombs is not ill will. It`s not hate. It`s not spite. It`s not a racist comment.

George Zimmerman was a -- George Zimmerman was a Neighborhood Watch captain. He called the police first. He dropped some "F" bombs. He said some curses. These jurors, even though they`re women, I`m sure their children, their husbands, I`m sure they`ve heard worse.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, wait a second. Let me say this.

SCHWARTENREICH: We`re all guilty of cursing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: As a Neighborhood Watch person don`t you have a responsibility to behave in a respectful fashion toward everybody in the neighborhood?

SCHWARTZENREICH: He called the police. Dropping "f" bombs, I don`t think there`s a manual on how to be a good Neighborhood Watchman.

JOHNSON: There is. There is. There actually is.

SCHWARTZENREICH: I don`t think the manual would say no cursing. You can`t say the "F" word. And you can`t say the "S" word. And if you do, you`re going to be found, if you have a firearm, guilty of murder two. He called the police.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. This is -- this is a wonderful debate. We`re going to continue this debate on the other side of the break. Stay right there.

Angela in Texas, I promise, I promise I will get to you.


SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON`S MOTHER: Our son is your son. I want you guys to stand up for justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George was viciously blind-sided by a nose- breaking attack.

MARTIN: Trayvon Martin did not have a gun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: George has never said that Trayvon touched the gun.

MARTIN: I pledged I would not let my son die in vain.




GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, ON TRIAL FOR DEATH OF TRAYVON MARTIN: I just felt like something was off about him.

Something is wrong about him.

BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, PROSECUTOR: Assumptions. Incorrect assumptions.

SYBRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: The heart has no color. It`s not black. It`s not white.

DE LA RIONDA: He bought Skittles and some kind of water melon or ice tea or whatever it`s called. That was his crime.

ZIMMERMAN: He said, "You have a problem?"


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are getting to the climax of this extraordinary trial. I am here live in Sanford, Florida. The courthouse right behind me, that`s where the prosecutor gave a very emotional, very passionate, often shouting, closing argument. Tomorrow the defense gets its turn, and then after some housekeeping, jury instructions, the rebuttal by the prosecutor, the jury instructions, and then the jury gets the case.

Now George Zimmerman is claiming self defense. But in his closing argument the prosecutor suggested that maybe Trayvon Martin was the one trying to defend himself. Listen to this and then we`ll debate it in "The Lion`s Den".


DE LA RIONDA: Trayvon Martin at that point which was about - what -- 25, 30 second or so before the shooting, was he trying to protect himself from that gun? Is that what the struggle was about? That at some point, this defendant had the gun?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now George Zimmerman sustained some bloody injuries during his fight with Trayvon. But was Trayvon aggressive because he was defending himself because George Zimmerman was pointing a gun at him? This is the possibility that the prosecution raised today.

And I want to throw it out to J. Wyndal Gordon. First of all, why wouldn`t the prosecution had kind of really painted that picture a long time ago?

J. WYNDAL GORDON, ATTORNEY: Well, you know, they have to make split second decisions sometimes when it comes to your closing argument. You have to kind of marshal all the evidence and see which theory fits the best. But I think that`s a very -- that is a viable theory.

We do know that Trayvon had to defend himself. Trayvon certainly wasn`t a punk or anything like that -- he was anything but. In fact Zimmerman was the punk or the coward in this situation and Zimmerman came out armed for a fistfight. He brought a gun to a fistfight. He got beat up. He got embarrassed and he killed Trayvon. That`s why Trayvon is not here today.

JANET JOHNSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: They`re prosecuting. Shouldn`t they have had this theory a year ago? I mean this is their case. And the possibility or probability of the jury is going to be told that`s not enough to convict. That`s reasonable doubt.


GORDON: You want to always forget about what happened before the struggle. You have to look at what happened before the struggle and then you get to the struggle.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, hold on Eric, let J. Wyndal finish.

GORDON: And if you take into account what happened before, Trayvon had every right to defend himself. And that`s what he may have done. We don`t --


GORDON: Nobody knows how it actually turned out.

JOHNSON: That`s mutual combat. It was a fight. That`s ok.

GORDON: That`s not a fight. That`s Trayvon being attacked by a 204- pound man and 158 pounds. He`s a boy. He`s not a man.

ERIC SCHWARTZREICH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The prosecution lives by the sword -- they die by the sword. They decide what charges to file. They went with murder two. Then all of a sudden they want to ask for this lesser -- which you`re allowed to in Florida -- they now want manslaughter.

GORDON: So what? They have the right to do it.

SCHWARTZREICH: They`re changing theories.

GORDON: So what? So what?

SCHWARTZREICH: They may have a right to do it but the credibility of a trial lawyer is everything.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. All right. Gentlemen, I have to ask you to cease and desist, gentlemen. We`re going to allow Wendy Murphy to have her say on this.

MURPHY: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Come on Wendy. Look, I think what`s important here is that the prosecutor was saying, was Trayvon trying to defend himself? That`s a question. Prosecutors are supposed to say the evidence shows that Trayvon was defending himself. And the reason the prosecutor didn`t do that is because that`s right, there`s no evidence of that. You can`t argue what doesn`t exist.

If the best case the prosecution has is a question that is all but a concession of defeat. There`s no evidence of Trayvon Martin defending himself. We can theorize all day long. But that`s not state`s evidence and that is not proof --


GORDON: Then how did Zimmerman get punched in the nose?

SCHWARTZREICH: Wendy is right.

MURPHY: -- of guilt.

SCHWARTZREICH: Prosecutors need answers. Questions are reasonable doubt.

GORDON: If some 204-pound man walks up to a 158-pound boy in an aggressive manner, what do you expect any person to do whether you`re a boy or a man?

MURPHY: You can`t make evidence up. You cannot make evidence up. That may be true, but there`s no evidence.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on a second.

GORDON: It may be true? It is true.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on a second. Having just sat through the Jodi Arias trial, one thing I notice is the defense teams can pretty much say anything the heck they want.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But isn`t there a higher standard for the prosecutor?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So everybody is saying wait a second, the defense has laid out a theory with an animation they say exactly what happened.

The prosecution has been sort of waffling and they haven`t -- well, isn`t it true that the prosecution can`t just pull out a story and scenario out of thin air? They can`t do what the defense can do.

MURPHY: That`s right.

SCHWARTZREICH: They have the proof. They have to prove it, Jane.

MURPHY: You need evidence when you want to take away someone`s liberty -- that`s right. That`s called due process.

GORDON: Well, I think they -- I think they demonstrated that.

SCHWARTZREICH: And it didn`t really work in the Jodi Arias case, you can tell.

GORDON: You have to always pay attention to what happened before the confrontation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m going to ask everybody to speak one at a time. Please let`s not interrupt.

Today the defense lashed out at the prosecution for what Don West called basically a "trick" -- a "trick". They said basically they sprung this new lesser included charge on them in the 11th hour -- no longer asking for aggravated assault but for third-degree felony murder based on, of all things, child abuse. It didn`t happen. The judge didn`t allow that. But take a look at this exchange. It is nasty.


DON WEST, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Just when I thought this case couldn`t get anymore bizarre. The state is seeking third-degree murder based on child abuse. Is the court going to give this any serious contention or consideration because if so, we have a lot of talking to do?

We can start with Mr. Mantei he dumped all of this on us some time around 7:30 this morning. There was an e-mail. Oh by the way, we`ve changed our lesser included request from aggravated assault to third-degree murder based on child abuse. And put 10 or 15 cases that obviously he has spent hours if not days, if not in fact maybe more than a year plotting for this moment when he can spring it on us and the court.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: "Lion`s Den" panelists, think of this question. There`s clearly no love lost between this judge, Debra Nelson, and the defense attorneys. If there is animosity between the judge and the defense team and if George Zimmerman is convicted, either of murder two or manslaughter and the judge is the one who decides how much time he serves which depending can be for manslaughter 10 to 30. For second-degree murder, 25 to life, is it possible that she could slam him? And throw the book at him?

We`re going to debate that at the other side of the break. Stay right there.


DE LA RIONDA: He uses the word suspect to refer to Trayvon Martin.

ZIMMERMAN: He said you`re going to die tonight (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

And he reached for it. I felt his arm going down to my side. I grabbed it and I just grabbed my firearm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said "He`s dead?" And I asked him -- I said to him, "I thought you knew that."



VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, to set up our debate we`re talking two possible charges: second-degree murder -- George Zimmerman, if convicted, you get 25 to life in prison; and then there`s manslaughter, which is up to 30 years. So we`re going to debate on the other side, wow, what could the judge do with this?

Stay right there.


M1: He`s saying this man Trayvon Martin is circling his car. He`s in such dire strait or fear that he gets out of the car to go follow him? He claims that he went to for the phone. Because he`s got to then explain why he being a 5`7", 204-pound perfectly healthy 28-year-old man is overpowered by this 5`11", 158-pound kid. And he being the one that is tracking him or following him, he`s on guard. He`s got two flashlights. He`s got a gun. This kid is the one that`s scared because this guy is following him.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Let me go out to "The Lion`s Den and repeat my question. It`s a little bit complicated. But look, there`s two possible sentences if convicted: second-degree murder, which is 25 to life; and manslaughter which is up to 30 years. Now these penalties were enhanced because a gun was involved. There`s a law in Florida "use a gun and you`re done" is what they call it.

I want to go to Janet Johnson. Here`s my question. It seems that the judge and the defense team pretty much despise each other. Now she`s the one who gets to sentence George Zimmerman if he`s convicted. Could that be the basis for an appeal since they`ve exchanged such harsh words if she does throw the book at the defendant? If he`s convicted, could he turn around and say, look, she hates me.

JOHNSON: Well, yes. I mean she seems to hate Don West. I don`t know if she hates George Zimmerman but as a Florida defense attorney with 10, 20, life there isn`t that much discretion that the judge can do but there would be an appeal. And I think what would be probably successful for the defense is the judgment of acquittal that was denied. I think that would get reversed on appeal anyway, and it would all come back.

She may throw the book, but it may not matter in the end.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wendy Murphy, here`s what I think a lot of people are wondering about because there are these two possibilities -- murder two and manslaughter. Could the jury decide, well, we`re going to give a compromise verdict? We`re going to give manslaughter, and regard it in their minds as a slap on the wrist having no idea with manslaughter you can get up to 30 years behind bars?

MURPHY: Yes, I`ve seen irrational verdicts in my day, and compromised verdicts are not uncommon, even if they make no sense. If the jury did say guilty on manslaughter, number one it would get flipped on appeal probably the next day because there`s no evidence, period. I wouldn`t buy it even if the jury did it because they feel bad.

But if the judge whacks him and you can make, you know, a fair argument that the judge did it because she doesn`t like the defense attorney, boy, that`s grounds for judicial ethics complaint. I hope she`s a bigger person than that. I think she`s been inappropriate at times with the defense. I don`t think she would punish George Zimmerman because she doesn`t like his lawyers and I don`t think she should be acting like she doesn`t like his lawyers.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: J. Wyndal Gordon, I just want you to weigh in on both of those issues. The idea that this would be overturned on appeal if he`s convicted and the idea that maybe she could throw the book at him extra hard because of the animosity between the defense team.

GORDON: First of all, it would not be overturned on appeal. If the jury renders a verdict based upon the evidence that`s been presented in this case, that`s going to be a solid conviction and George Zimmerman will go to jail.

And in terms of -- what was the other issue you said?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The other issue is that the jurors are in there, and they have two choices -- murder two or manslaughter. But they are operating with their blinders on. They don`t know that manslaughter is up to 30 years behind bars. They may regard it as a slap on the wrist, as a lesser included. But it ends up being decades behind bars possibly.

GORDON: Well, first of all that`s not even their consideration. They are not there to determine what the sentence is going to be. They are there to determine whether or not there is guilt or innocence for either of the charges.

In terms of the manslaughter, you know, this is a manslaughter case. I think it`s a second-degree murder case. But I think reasonable minds can disagree upon whether it`s second-degree or manslaughter. But I expect and predict a conviction on at least one of those two offenses.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, we`ll do some more predictions on the other side, and we`re going to take your calls, we promise. We`re going to get to it all. More of today`s stunning closing argument by the prosecution.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And someone`s yelling, two doors down from me, screaming, hollering "help, help, help". Boy, that was scary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you think someone`s been shot?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gunshots rang out in the backyard. A gun just went off and they said call 911.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, god. I`m here looking at a person that`s dead. Oh God.




SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Why do you think that he was running then?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, I`m -- maybe I said running, but he was more --

HANNITY: You said he`s running.

ZIMMERMAN: Yes. He was like skipping, going away quickly. But he wasn`t -- running out of fear.

DE LA RIONDA: Defendant realizes, oh, doesn`t look good. Guess that means I`m chasing him. That means Trayvon Martin is the one that`s scared. That doesn`t look good for me. So what does he say? Oh, he`s skipping away. La la la.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, the prosecutor actually skipped in court. Best and worst moments for this prosecutor -- Bernie de la Rionda. Wendy Murphy.

MURPHY: You know, I think by far the best moment, which was a bit irreverent was when he said about Rachel Jeantel, remember, ladies and gentlemen -- ladies of the jury, you live in a country where people should not be judged by the color of their personality. I thought that was actually very good.

The worst moment I think by far, it made me cringe, when he was talking about Trayvon Martin, and the Skittles. And he said and all he had was a bag of Skittles and he didn`t even steal them. And I thought that sounded so inappropriate to me. I know he didn`t mean it the way it came across, but boy did that strike me as a bit off-color, if you know what I mean.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s go out to the phone lines. Angelic, the most patient woman in Texas -- your question or thought, Angelic.

ANGELIC, TEXAS (via telephone): Hi there. I wanted to comment on the fact that he was in those criminology classes and he already knew the rules of engagement and he knew exactly what to do, what to say, how to act and react. That`s why he is so calm and collected.

And also, too, he acted as if like following is ok. If he was really actually following a little girl or something, that would not be ok. And it would have went a whole different type of way. As well as two, he had - - his parents all in the legal system. That`s why they ended up going ahead and letting him go for the day.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Angelic, you make an excellent point. In fact, the prosecutor put up -- in his PowerPoint presentation a list of the cop lingo that George Zimmerman liked to use and actually did use as part of his argument that he was a cop wannabe.

A short break -- we`re back with more in a moment. Live from Sanford, Florida.


DE LA RIONDA: Look at the gun. Look at the size of this gun. How did the victim see that in the darkness?

ZIMMERMAN: That`s when my jacket moved up and I had my firearm on my right side hip. And he saw it. I feel like he saw it, looked at it. I felt his arm going down to my side, I just grabbed my firearm and I shot him.

DE LA RIONDA: It was tucked in behind. And he`ll demonstrate to the police where it was. How did the victim see this gun?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s go out to "The Lion`s Den". I thought this was one of the most effective moments for the prosecutor today, where he made the point, since George Zimmerman said that the gun was sort of behind him, toward his back pocket, and it was dark, how did Trayvon see the gun if it was hidden behind his body? And I want to go to Eric Schwartzreich on that.

SCHWARTZREICH: It`s an excellent point. And I do concede that it`s a great point the prosecution made because they`re arguing it was concealed. That it was hidden. That it was in the back. So Trayvon Martin might not have not been able to grab for the gun. And I thought that was very effective.

But I do believe that it`s a day late and a dollar short and the prosecution`s case from the beginning has gone up in flames and it`s sad, it`s tragic that Trayvon Martin lost his life. But this should never, never have been a murder two.

And you`re starting to see the wheels fall off the wagon here and you`re starting to see the prosecutor back-pedal with their theories, with what happened, adding things, making things up.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what? This is a fascinating debate. And ladies and gents, tomorrow we will continue it. The defense closing argument tomorrow -- it`s going to be a humdinger. And we will be right back here. I am live in Sanford, Florida for the duration.

Nancy Grace is up next.