The State has moved through one witness completely this morning, with a second now undergoing cross examination by O’Mara, when the Court recessed for lunch. We expect O’Mara will continue with this second witness after the lunch break. Both of the witnesses, Jane Sudyka and Jeanee Manaloo, were residents of Twin Lakes at the time of the incident, and both resided in townhouses that overlooked the scene of the confrontation.
Although direct was straightforward with both witnesses, Sudyka’s credibility was effectively destroyed by West on cross, and Manaloo seems on the road to a similar fate at the hands of O’Mara. Indeed, Manaloo’s testimony may open the door to the admission of some photographic evidence favorable to the state that might not otherwise have been admissible (although at this point that’s speculation on my part).
Sudyka lived in the row of townhouses at just above the upper part of the “T” formed by dog walk. Her testimony was largely centered on the 16 minute long 911 call she made that night, which can only be described is histrionic. Had I heard that 911 recording in a non-court context I would have assumed it to be part of a scene from a low-quality comedy movie in which the actress had been told to “overact ridiculously, the more exaggerated the better.”
More objectively, however, were observation testimony by Sudyka that was clearly contrary to facts known and accepted by everyone else involved in the case. On at least three separate occasions Sudyka referred to the “three shots” fired by Zimmerman–“pop, pop, pop”. No one but her has ever suggested that there was more than a single shot fired.
She testified that it was while she as on the 911 call with police that the shot was fired, sticking to that assertion vigorously. In fact, the 911 recording was played in court–yes, every single 16 minutes of it–and no shot was audible.
She also described the relative positions of Zimmerman and Martin at the moment the shot was fired as being such that the bullet could only have struck Martin in the back (that is, she describes him as laying face down on the ground at that moment, with Zimmerman above him). We know, of course, that Martin was shot in the center chest area, right over the heart, and the bullet did not over-penetrate.
Interestingly, Sudyka also stated several times that the rainfall at the time was quite heavy–‘buckets of rain” was the phrase she used, so intense that she needed to close a window to prevent rain from entering her home. This observation favors the defense, which has suggested that the rain may have washed away the traces of blood that several witnesses have said was not evident at the scene. Indeed, so damaging were these statements to the State that Mr. de la Rionda rose on re-direct for the sole purpose of inducing Sudyka to make corrective statements downplaying the intensity of the rainfall.
Sudyka also was insistent that she had heard two voices, one a loud, aggressive, confrontational, dominating voice and the other a softer, meeker voice. She attributed the confrontational voice to Zimmerman and the meeker voice to the “boy,” Martin. It emerged on cross, however, that she had never previously heard either Zimmerman or Martin’s voice, and was making her assignment based on assumptions of how they might sound, not on personal knowledge.
Near the end of cross West asked he if she had appeared on national television to discuss the case, and Sudyka denied this. Really? he asked
Sudyka: Well, just the one time on Anderson Cooper, but only on condition that I not be named or identified.
West: Weren’t you also on television another time?
Sudyka: Well, yes, I was videotaped by another journalist.
West: And that was played on TV several times.
Sudyka: I only saw it once.
West: So you were taped, and you saw yourself on TV, that second time?
And that was all for Sudyka (except for BDLR’s brief re-direct on the rain issue.)
Manaloo’s key testimony on direct was her identification of Zimmerman as the man who was on top during the struggle on the ground, contrary to all other evidence discussed so far in this case. She based this perception on the differing size of the two people, saying that it was the larger person who was on top. Obviously, if correct, this testimony is profoundly inconsistent with the defense’s theory of the case.
O’Mara is handling the cross of Manaloo, and has hit on three key points of attack so far. First was how dark the scene was that night, and how difficult it was for Nanaloo to make out what was happening. He successfully managed her to agree that all she was really able to see at the time was shadows, and even those only from inside her townhome, as she had never stepped outside.
The second line of attack is that her sudden ability to differentiate between the two people has emerged only today in court. In none of her prior statements, including one the evening of the attack, a later statement to investigators, and depositions to both the State and the defense, had she ever mentioned this ability to determine that it was Zimmerman who was on top. Her reason for not mentioning it previously? Nobody had ever asked her.
The third line of attack, and the one currently on pause for lunch, is to better understand the basis on which she judged Martin’s size. She did not know Martin prior to the shooting, and obviously could not have seen him afterwards except in photos. We all know, of course, that many of the photos distributed after the event show Martin as a much younger person than the 17-year-old, 6-foot-plus young man he was at the time of his death. O’Mara is midway through the process of pinning down which pictures she may have used for her assessment. Obviously pictures that showed only a portion of Martin’s body, such as just his face, and/or that showed him when much younger would result in a misleading perception on Manaloo’s part, effectively destroying the credibility of her testimony.
That’s it for the mid-day wrap-up, join us back live again immediately as the Court goes back into session.
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).
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