Also, Trayvon pot smoking to come into evidence via toxicology report
There were some big wins for the defense today, including several important rulings just before the Court recessed for the day.
By far the biggest news, however, is the utter implosion of the State’s “scream” narrative into which they had invested the heart and soul of their theory of the case. There’s a reason that the State’s last witnesses before resting were Trayvon’s mother, Sabryna Fulton, and half-brother, Jaharvis Fulton, both of whom claimed that the screaming voice on the Jenna Lauer 911 recording was that of Trayvon Martin.
The screamer, the State was essentially claiming, was the victim in this confrontation. If the screamer was Trayvon Martin, he had in effect been begging for his life for 40 seconds before George Zimmerman shot him with a depraved mind, killing him. It wasn’t much of a theory of the case given the enormous quantities of inconsistent evidence–such as Zimmerman’s injuries– as well as Jaharvis’ testimony as to his uncertainty about the matter, but it was just about all the State had left after the debacle that was the nearly two weeks case presentation to that point.
Defense Chops Away at State’s Scream Case with Increasingly Compelling Testimony
As described in the mid-day post, the defense spent the morning chopping away at the State’s scream cae with increasingly compelling testimony, culminating in the powerful combat-sourced testimony of John Donnelly just before the lunch recess. You can view the mid-day wrap-up here:
The killing blows to the State’s scream case would come immediately after lunch, with the combined and terribly destructive of Officers Singleton and Serino (the lead investigator on the case before being demoted), followed by the faltering and palpably incredible contrary testimony of Tracey Martin, Trayvon’s Martin.
Police Officers Chris Serino (formerly lead Investigator) and Doris Singleton
Right after lunch the defense called Officers Serino and Singleton, both of whom testified that when Serino played the Jenna Lauer audo recording for Tracy Martin and asked him if the screaming voice was that of Trayvon Martin he responded, “No.”
Police Officer Doris Singleton
Tracey Martin, father of Trayvon Martin
Immediately after this the defense called Tracey Martin himself. He disputed the testimony of Serino and Singleton, saying in a stumbling, rambling response that he told them at the time that he was uncertain if it was Trayvon. He further testified that after he had listened to the recording perhaps 20 times he concluded that the voice was in fact that of his son. The only reason this testimony wasn’t the least credible of the trial is because the trial has seen a great deal of incredible testimony.
With the collapse of the State’s claim that a family member’s familiarity with a loved one’s voice was a reasonable way to identify a person screaming in extremis, the totality of direct evidence (John Good) as well as circumstantial evidence as to the identify of the screamer shifted solidly to the Zimmerman side of the scale.
On his final re-direct of Tracey Martin, Mark O’Mara asked several rather cryptic questions along the lines of whether Mr. Martin had instructed his lawyer Ben Crump to lie about the police statements that Mr. Martin had not identified the screams on the Lauer tape as having come from Trayvon, and whether he had told Crump to lie about Mr. Martin having been able to make a scream identification after acquiring a cleaned or enhanced copy of the Lauer recording.
Mr. Martin denied both allegations, saying that he never told Crump to lie about anything, but the nature of the questioning and the fact taht Crump was finally deposed by the defense this past weekend makes me wonder if perhaps Mr. Crump said something foolish while under oath for the deposition. We’ll keep our eyes on this issue.
(Former) Police Chief Bill Lee
Finally there was former Police Chief Bill Lee, one of the several law enforcement casualties resulting from this case. He testified that the Martins had identified the voice on the Lauer 911 recording as that of Trayvon in a group meeting at the Mayor’s office, with no law enforcement present. Lee testified that the identity of the screamer was still an issue for the investigation, and best practices in law enforcement would have been to have each family member listen to the recording separately, so that their reactions could be obtained without the influence of others. The manner in which the Martin identification was made, therefore, was inherently tainted.
Adam Pollock, Gym Owner
Next up was Adam Pollock, the owner of the “MMA” gym at which Zimmerman had enrolled for much of the year prior to the shooting. The State had argued in its opening statement that this gym membership proved that Zimmerman was skilled at bare handed fighting and need not have used a gun that night against an “unarmed” Trayvon Martin. In fact. Pollock described Zimmerman’s initial fighting ability when he enrolled at the gym as a 0.5 on a scale of 1-10, a skill level that had increased to a mere 1.0 or 1.5 in the month before the shooting. He further described Zimmerman as hard-working and very nice, but physically “soft” and lacking ins strength. Asked if he ever allowed Zimmerman to fight in a ring, he answered “Absolutely not, I wouldn’t put him in harms way.”
There also a couple of important end-of-day rulings that favored the defense, and a third that was at worst neutral to the defense.
Trayvon Martin Toxicology Results to be Admissible
First, the Court removed its in limine exclusion on Trayvon Martin’s toxicology report. Now the defense will be able to introduce his blood levels of THC into evidence and have an expert opine on their signifiance in this case. (Thank you, Dr. Bao.) You can review the Trayvon Martin autopsy report, including the THC tox levels, here:
Effort by State to Strike Morning Testimony by John Donnelly Denied
Second, the State belatedly tried to get the very compelling testimony of John Donnelly struck from the record. Their argument was that the defense was aware that he was going to testify about his war service and how that allowed him to better identify the screams as being those of George Zimmerman, and failed to so notify the State. This was indeed a violation of discovery, the Court decided, but because there was no prejudice to the State that resulted she declined to strike the testimony.
Testimony by Use of Force Expert Rout to Remain Limited
On a third matter the Court sided with the State. The defense wanted to bring to court a use of force expert (Mr. Rout) to testify, among other things, that Zimmerman had acted in compliance with Florida law and had been in reasonable fear at the time he shot Martin. Those are matters, the court decided, that are in the province of the jury to decide. However, Rout will be allowed to testify on other matters–such as how the trauma of having been involved in a shooting event affects people–subject to objection by the State in the normal course.
Admissibility of Defense’s Animated Video to be Determined in Daubert Hearing
Finally, there is the matter of the animated video created by the defense. The State had objected to large parts of it, and the defense is seeking to address these complaints by changing much of the animation to still images. The parties are still discussing the matter as I write this, and will present the results of those discussions to Judge Nelson for a ruling this evening.
Those issues aside, there were other important events today in terms of testimony, as well as rulings.
That’s it for today, don’t forget to join us again tomorrow for our all-day live coverage of the court testimony, all public hearings, and our scrolling Twitter feed of selected contributors.
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. Take advantage of the 20% “Zimmerman trial” discount & free shipping (ends when the jury returns a verdict). NRA & IDPA members can also use checkout coupon LOSD2-NRA for an additional 10% off. To do so simply visit the Law of Self Defense blog. (Coupon works ONLY at www.lawofselfdefense.com.)
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