If you didn’t listen to the live streaming of the Zimmerman case, you missed the most astonishing cross-examination of a trial that has been hip-deep in astonishing cross-examinations. (Fortunately for you, we provide the video, below, if you need to catch up–it’s worth it.)

Chris Serino, Investigator, Sanford PD, Cross-Examination by O’Mara

Chris Serino, Investigator, Sanford Police Department, Cross-Exam, Part 2

Chris Serino, Investigator, Sanford Police Department, Cross-Exam, Part 3

On the stand was Chris Serino, who was the lead investigator for the Sanford Police Department on the Trayyvon Martin shooting. Defense counsel Mark O’Mara led cross-examination with his usual consummate skill, obtaining responses from this witness–remember, the State’s witness–that all but completely guts the State’s charge in this case.

Among the key revelations so far:

Zimmerman was always completely cooperative, open, and straightforward with all the police investigators over many weeks of multiple interviews, both in person at the police station and phone. The sense given is that Zimmerman demonstrated endless patience.

O’Mara noted that Serino was leading an investigative team, gathering and sharing evidence ,that included all levels of the Sanford Police Department up to the Chief, and even members of the 18 Circuit State Prosector’s office. Asked if there was ANYTHING that Zimmerman had said that contradicted the wealth of evidence possessed by Serino, the Investigator answered, “No, sir.” No physical evidence, no witness evidence, no officer statements, nothing? “No, sir.”

In fact, noted O’Mara, the evidence Serino had all fit into a self-defense theory, and Serino agreed that it did, and that his information supported self-defense. Serino would note this in the normal course of an investigation because in addition to investigating crime it was also his charge to investigate defenses, including self-defense.

Serino offered to help Zimmerman obtain help, including psychological help, for the nighmares and anxiety that he cautioned often followed a event as traumatic as having to take a human life in self-defense.

He noted that, “In this particular case, Zimmerman could have been a victim, too.”

O’Mara asked if Serino was familiar with such symptoms from having observed them in fellow officers who had had to kill in self-defense, and the question brought a quick, if tardy, objection from State prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda.

O’Mara also asked about Zimmerman’s affect at the time of the incident. Serino agreed that Zimmerman had presented a “flat” affect but put it down to trauma. When asked if Serino has perceived Zimmerman to seem uncaring or cavalier for having had to shoot someone beating him up, Serino’s response was beaten out by a quick BDLR objection.

When asked by O’Mara about the severity of Zimmerman’s injuries, the Investigator replied that they did not seem to him, a career police officer who has seen far worse, as life threatening, but that one also had to take into account the mental trauma of the event of having survived a life-and-death situation. O’Mara noted, however, that in fact the extent of injuries don’t matter for purposes of self-defense, and Serino agreed. “In fact,” observed O’Mara,” we don’t need to see life-threatening injuires, not any injuries, dow we?” “No, sir,” answered Serino.

Serino noted that in this particular case he was under quite a lot of external pressure to move the case forward.

There were also external concerns about racial profiling that he was required to get clarified.

Serino agreed that at no time had Zimmerman ever expressed, ill-will, hatred, or spite toward Martin, and indeed had seemed shocked when informed that Martin had died, exclaiming, “He’s dead?”

In seeking this clarification Serino observed no evidence whatever of any anger or disdain by Zimmerman towards Martin. When asked by Serino if Zimmerman would have acted in the same manner if Martin had been white, Zimmerman said he would have. When asked by O’Mara if Serino believed him, Serino answered, “Yes.”

For a more comprehensive sense of just how much pressure was under, see:

Zimmerman Trial: Evidentiary Flashback: Investigator Serino Tells FBI He Was Pressured to Bring Charges

At one point Serino was pressured to initiate a “challenge meeting” with Zimmerman, in which he would try to goad Zimmerman to making substantive changes to his testimony or to admit to a substantive omission from his prior testimony. The purpose of the “challenge meeting,” it was explained, is to try to break the suspects story and get to the truth. Indeed, the investigator might even pretend that some piece of incriminating evidence existed, or otherwise exaggerate evidence contrary to the suspect’s narrative, to try to find a chink in the suspect’s story.

The trouble, Serino recounted, is that he couldn’t really do an effective “challenge meeting” for the simple reason that “I just didn’t have much to challenge him WITH.” In this case, O’Mara asked, you didn’t have much to hit him with? “No sir,” answered Serino, “I did not.”

Nevertheless, the “challenge meeting” was held. In the absence of any real contrary evidence with which to challenge Serino, the Investigator pretended to have some ready to spring. They had discovered, he said, video footage of the events that evening. “And what did Zimmerman say when you told him that?” “He said, Thank God,” Serino answered.

The last O’Mara question of the day, the last words the jury heard to take with them into the evening recess, could only be characterized as catastrophic for the State’s theory of the case. Looking directly at the man who had been the chief investigator on the case, who had possessed access to ever bit of evidence of any sort, who had interviewed, and re-interviewed, and re-re-interviewed–applying increasing from each interview to the next–O’Mara asked him:

“Do YOU think George Zimmerman was telling you the truth?”

Serino succinct answer: “Yes.”

That ended today’s court session, but not Mark O’Mara’s cross-examination of Chris Serino, which will continue tomorrow morning at 9AM. Join again then for another day of all-day live video coverage of the trial, a rolling Tweeter feed of selected contributors, and both mid-day and end-of-day analysis and video of the day’s testimony.


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!

You can follow Andrew on Twitter on @LawSelfDefense (or @LawSelfDefense2 if I’m in Twitmo, follow both!)on Facebook, and at his blog, The Law of Self Defense.


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