Motion to Strike Key Serino Testimony Most Damaging to State
The Court opened today with a request from Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda, before the jury was present, to ask Judge Nelson to strike perhaps the most telling blow from yesterday’s testimony from former Investigator Chris Serino. You can see our analysis of that testimony from yesterday here:
I say “former Investigator” because it turns out that although Chris Serino remains with the Sanford Police Department he was demoted from Investigatory to Partrolman a few months after the shooting for the apparent reason that he was willing to support a charge of manslaughter but not second degree murder: see here for details:
BDLR argued that when O’Mara asked Serino if he believed Zimmerman to be telling the truth, Serino responded that he did, that such a testament of a law enforcement officer of a defendant was inappropriate and must be struck. He “ambushed” the defense with a detailed motion the State’s office had presumably spent much of the night preparing, and Judge Nelson required the defense to evaluate and respond to the motion while standing in court. O’Mara did the best he could under the circumstances, but Nelson elected to side with the State. When the jury was brought into the courtroom she played the audio of that part of O’Mara’s cross, and instructed the jury that the evidence was struck and not to be considered by them.
Frankly, it seems to this observer is that all that was accomplished by this maneuver is that after hearing the statement as the last thing before being sequestered for the night and having a chance to sleep on it, the jury heard it again first thing in the morning to set the tone for the day ahead. It struck me as an odd maneuver, and odd timing of the maneuver, by the State (but then so much of the State’s case has).
Former Investigator (now Patrolman) Chris Serino, Sanford Police Department
On the stand today Serino seemed notably more ambivalent in his testimony in the sense that he appeared to be making an effort to provide both the State and the defense with information useful to them in answering their questions. He was agreeable with BDLR’s suggestions that the use of phrases like “f@cking punks” and “those @ssholes” suggested ill-will, hatred, spite, the conditions for a “depraved mind.” On the other hand, when questioned by O’Mara he was asked if Zimmerman had barked out the words as BDLR had done on direct, and Serino replied he had not. When asked his perception of when he heard Zimmerman speak the words Serino replied they seemed to convey a sense of frustration.
In the end, Serino’s testimony today was ambivalent between the State and defense, as opposed to strongly in favor of the defense yesterday. Nevertheless, ambivalent testimony from a State witness is a clear win for the defense, given the State’s need to meet its burden of persuasion beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mark Osterman, Federal Air Marshall, State Witness & Zimmerman “Best-Friend”
After Serino the next State witness was Mark Osterman, a Federal Air Marshall, and self-described best friend of George Zimmerman. Osterman had written a book recounting his knowledge of the events, much of it based on his personal conversations with George in the days immediately following the shooting.
Hearing Osterman testify was extremely surreal. It was almost like having Zimmerman himself on the stand, except without the opportunity for the State to cross-examine the actual defendant. Osterman’s testimony was 100% consistent with Zimmerman’s own recounting.
The only portion that might arguably have favored the State’s position is that Osterman recounted in his book that Zimmerman had told him he had moved Martin’s “hands” away from his body. Martin’s hands were photographed under his body in photos taken on the scene, and BDLR may feel he’s (finally) identified an inconsistency in Zimmerman’s recounting. In fact, it is my recollection that Zimmerman’s statement was that he moved Martin’s “arms” away from his body. He could well have put his hands on Martin’s elbows and pushed them away from Martin’s body, thus moving his “arms” away but not his hands.
If that WAS BLDR’s goal, he spent a great deal of time getting there, all the while replaying Zimmerman’s narrative of self-defense. It simply didn’t strike me as any way for the State to advance substantive closer to their goal of proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
OK, court is back in session. More to follow in the end-of-day wrap-up.
Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense,” now available in its just released 2nd Edition, which shows you how to successfully fight the 20-to-life legal battle everyone faces after defending themselves. UPDATE: July 5, 2013 is the LAST DAY to take advantage of the 30% pre-order discount, only $35, plus free shipping. To do so simply visit the Law of Self Defense blog.
BREAKING: “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition” is now also being carried by Amazon.com, at list price but with a commitment for 2-day delivery. A Kindle version to come within a week or so (I hope).
Many thanks to Professor Jacobson for the invitation to guest-blog on the Zimmerman trial here on Legal Insurrection!