Day 8 of the prosecution’s case began with final legal arguments on the admissibility of George Zimmerman’s school records.  The defense wasn’t given much time for their argument.  The prosecution was given a lot of time for their argument before her.  Mr. Mantei even made an entire PowerPoint, which he presented to the judge explaining that they believe George Zimmerman’s motive is his frustrations combined with his life ambitions and while his ambitions are a good thing, they can still show the jury his state of mind at the time of Trayvon Martin’s death.  Additionally, they stated that it didn’t matter how much time passed because it was a series of actions that led up to that night.  He also argued that the jury would see that George Zimmerman wanted to be a police officer, but couldn’t become one.  Needless to say, the judge made the same decision she said she was going to make yesterday before allowing the attorneys to explain the issues to her.  She admitted the school records of George Zimmerman along with the application for becoming a police officer and the ride-along information.

The first witness was Sonja Boles-Melvin, the registrar for Seminole State College of Florida.  She laid the foundation for the redacted transcripts to be entered into evidence.  George Zimmerman entered the legal studies program and was set to graduate in the spring semester of 2012.

The second witness was Lt. Scott Kearns of the Prince William County police in Virginia.  He laid the foundation for the redacted application to be entered into evidence.  He worked at the time the record was created in the administrative division of the police department.  He testified that their rules are to only keep application records for 3 years before they are destroyed and a summary record is created instead.  George Zimmerman applied in 2009 and was rejected by a standard rejection letter on July 8, 2009.  The reason for rejecting him was that they either could not establish what his credit was (due to age or no credit, etc.) or he had a problem with his credit (owed money, etc.).

The third witness was Capt. Alexis Carter.  He testified that he works as a prosecutor for the U.S. Army in the JAG Corp.  In the spring of 2010, he taught at the college as a side job to working as a public defender.  He taught one-class only and worked the night shift as a public defender.  He testified that he liked teaching and wanted to become a professor full-time.  He stated that as a professor, you always remember the good and bad students and that George Zimmerman was one of the better students he had.  He testified that the college’s legal department recommended the book, but it wasn’t Florida law specific, so he tried to infuse Florida law specifics into the class himself.  He laid the foundation for several documents including excerpts from the book to be entered into evidence.  He testified that he wanted his students to have practical knowledge of Florida law.  He told the jury he wanted to equip his students with things they could use in their life.  He testified that they did discuss stand your ground and self defense in the class.  It is an affirmative defense and as such, is difficult to understand because it is so complex, so he stressed that he reiterated throughout the class.  He stated that it was something that was so practical and important that his students were very interested in it.

On cross-examination, he testified that the class was from January to May of 2010.  He explained to the jury what he taught to the class in a summary form.  He stated that all facts are significant in a case and you have to look at the totality of the circumstances.  On top of that you must apply common sense or what is called the reasonable person or belief test or standard.  He testified that there are within the totality, certain facts that can change the outcome and that those facts are usually decided through law.  He testified that the book was general and only compared the majority of states to the minority of states and he wanted to focus his students on Florida.  He explained that a statute is a law passed by the legislature and codified by the Governor.  He told the jury that his class included an explanation of the history and meaning of self-defense laws in Florida.  The castle doctrine became the stand your ground law through case law and codification.  In the castle doctrine, you have no duty to retreat within your own home and are allowed to meet force with force.  In other words, before stand your ground, you were required to, when you were anywhere other than home, look for options of escape before using force to defend yourself.  The doctrine evolved into a statute that is nicknamed Stand Your Ground, which broadened the no duty to retreat clause to other areas, such as your car.  He testified that he told his students that reasonable fear, a requirement of deadly force when defending yourself, is subjective and objective.  The first question is was the person in fear; the next question is was it reasonable?  Reasonable apprehension of fear of bodily harm is based upon the circumstances as well as the person, such as lighting and threats or surprise, etc.  The second part of the entire thing is the trier of fact must determine was all of that lawfully reasonable.  In other words, subjective meaning your individual viewpoint and objective meaning the unbiased analysis of reasonableness.

During most of this questioning, the prosecution kept objecting and the judge kept interjecting to the jury that they would be instructed on the law they are to follow at the end of the trial and kept reminding the defense that they can only ask questions about what he taught.  The defense responded that it is assumed that is what they are asking and Capt. Carter responded affirmatively.

Capt. Carter testified, “The law that applies isn’t static.”

Law is fluid.  A situation that doesn’t appear deadly initially can turn deadly in a snap of your fingers.  In addition, it’s imminent fear of death or injury, not actual injury.  So, the presence or absence of wounds is null.  The absence of wounds doesn’t prove, in and of itself that a person wasn’t in reasonable apprehension of fear.  The presence of wounds can serve to support a fear of life.  He testified that he told his students it is unfortunately very difficult to judge when you should defend yourself with severe force or when to act in general.  He also taught in the class, the concept of imperfect self-defense.  This is where the attacker and victim switch roles.  In other words, “the person acted unreasonably to the force that was applied to them.”  An example would be if someone pushed you and you hit him or her over the head with something.  You cannot act disproportionately to the force applied.  He also testified that he told his class that if a person who attacked you gave up and essentially “backed out” that a continued assault would also create an imperfect self-defense scenario.  He also testified that George Zimmerman got an A in the course.

The next witness was Jim Krzenski, an administrator for Sanford.  He is in charge of some records keeping.  He laid the foundation for the authentication of the ride-along application that George Zimmerman filled out.  He testified that under reason Zimmerman wrote, to solidify “my chances for a career in law enforcement.”  He did his ride along in 2010.  There are hundreds of ride along records in the system.  On cross examination, Mark O’Mara attempted to ask the witness about a report George Zimmerman made about the actions of the officer on the ride along, but Mr. Krzenski was unaware of that record, “I only have this record.”

The next witness was via Skype because he is in Colorado.  Professor Scott Pleasants testified from the Delta County District Attorneys Office.  He taught at the Seminole college for the last 3 years and he taught the class of Criminal Investigation when George Zimmerman took it in 2011.  The class and the book went over duties of investigators, Constitutional issues, crime elements, etc.  Foundation was laid for the admittance of excerpted chapters of the book about profiling.

Before cross-examination could begin, some idiots across the web decided to mass call the Skype in an attempt to get on TV.  I don’t know how it makes you cool that you interrupted a second-degree murder trial, but they’re probably proud of themselves in some sick way.  Way to go, you trivialized Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman’s lives as well as the Constitution, America, and the court’s time.  The testimony was moved to just phone for the jury.

On cross-examination, Mark O’Mara questioned the professor on what they actually went over in the class.  It was an online course.  He testified he couldn’t guarantee that all the material was covered or even read by the students.  He knew that George Zimmerman did participate in discussions online.  There was no coursework on profiling.  He originally testified that excelling as a witness and on cross-examination was a discussion question, but he refreshed his memory and figured out that it indeed was not anything covered in the class; it was just in the book.  He also testified that in the introduction discussion he asked his students to explain what their career ambitions were.  George Zimmerman did not say police officer; he stated that his future ambition was to become an attorney and eventually a prosecutor.  That was written on June 23, 2011.

The next witness was Amy Siewert, an FDLE firearm analyst.  She was entered as an expert in firearm identification and function.  She testified that she first examines firearms to ensure they are safe to fire and then after ensuring they are safe to fire, uses lab ammunition to fire a test shot.  This allows her to gauge functionality.  She determined that George Zimmerman’s gun was functional.  She then explained to the jury how a gun works.  She went on to testify that there were 7 cartridges in the gun, which means that there was “one in the chamber”, for a total of 8 cartridges.  She testified about the safety mechanisms and features of the gun.  Zimmerman’s gun has an internal safety and is double action only.  This means that the hammer block prevents the hammer from touching the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled and that there is no cocking function, the gun cocks automatically when the trigger is pulled.  She testified that the gun is a semiautomatic; this means that the trigger must be pulled for each shot to be fired.  She stated that the trigger travel distance is longer than average and that this minimizes accidental discharge.  She testified that she tested the trigger pull, which is the force necessary to fire the gun by using a series of weights placed on the trigger until it fired.  The results indicated that the trigger pull was 4.5 to 4.75 pounds.  She testified that she also received one spent cartridge and some bullet fragments.  She used lab ammunition to test fire a bullet from the gun in order to microscopically compare the two cartridges for markings.  She determined that the cartridge was fired from Zimmerman’s gun.  I assume since this is not in dispute by the defense that is the reason they did not make this into a Frye hearing because tool mark analysis is a known unreliable forensic science.  It has a pretty high error rate.  Of course, here because we know who fired the gun we can see that it is one of the few accurate results.

She examined the bullet fragments in the same way, but could not determine if they were the same because the fragments were too destroyed.  She also received Trayvon Martin’s hooded sweatshirt and the sweatshirt underneath.  She testified to the jury that when a gun is fired a cloud of burned and unburned particulate lead, smoke, and other gases will leave a pattern on clothing and other items as well as some other effects.  She conducted distance testing on the clothing.  She looked for gunpowder, blackened, singed, or melted areas, and soot.  She removed portions of the back of each of the shirts, so that she could test fire rounds into it for comparison.  She layered the two shirts and fired one round from George Zimmerman’s evidence rounds into the two shirts for comparison.  The hooded sweatshirt hole was 9 inches down from the shoulder and 7 inches in from the arm seam.  The under sweatshirt was 7 inches down and 7.5 inches in.  She examined the tears as well.  She testified that the clothing displayed residue that is “consistent with” a contact shot.  Her findings are “consistent with” the muzzle of the gun touching in some fashion the outer sweatshirt and the inner sweatshirt touching the outer sweatshirt.

On cross examination, the defense attempted to point out that who fired the gun and whether it was an accident or not is not a legal issue in the case, but the prosecution objected to the defense’s assertion that it was not a legal issue and the judge sustained.  She testified that single action firearms (the gun in this case is a double action) have lighter pulls and they have external safeties because of this.  Travel distance on a single action is also shorter than a double action.

“This gun, again, in working order is safe in terms of it will not fire unless the trigger is pulled,” Siewert testified.

She stated that she found nothing in the gun that stated it was unsafe to carry in the ready fire position (meaning one in the chamber).  The defense pointed out that a gun used for self defense isn’t much use if you have to take off a safety before using it.  Siewert agreed that a gun if not ready to fire isn’t much use.

“No indication that anything on this pistol was malfunctioning…” Siewert testified.

She clarified that she lined the bullet holes up for her testing purposes, but she does not know and she is not suggesting that the bullet holes lined up on Trayvon Martin when he was shot, just that they were made by the same bullet at the same time.  The defense questioned Siewert on the contact shot scenario.  She testified that “it was consistent with the muzzle touching,” but she also stated that it is possible that had the gun been pressed up into something like clothing that it could fold back and a pattern be left from say the cartridge ejecting.  She testified that she can’t tell if the muzzle was just touching or being pressed because either way it is a contact shot.  She stated she never tested the distance of the shot from the body and she doesn’t analyze wounds only clothing.  The prosecution on redirect pushed the point about the gun not having an external safety to engage.  They also had Siewert demonstrate the gun being fired, so that the jury could see how much pull weight it takes to pull the trigger.

At this point, the defense wanted to bring up an issue about Benjamin Crump and scheduling conflicts.  The judge had a massive attitude about it and ordered that the conversation be ended and brought back up later.  She complained that she wanted the State’s case to be over today (it wasn’t).  The defense was requesting that either Benjamin Crump be ordered to give his deposition tomorrow or court be recessed for Friday (when the defense is scheduled to begin their case).  The judge didn’t want to recess on Friday because of sequestration and the holiday being on Thursday.  She stated that no one requested this before and they’ve had about a month to do this.  Don West explained that everyone has been busy (obviously).

The judge didn’t want to hear it and exclaimed: “end of discussion.”

Benjamin Crump wanted to be deposed on Sunday in the evening.  The issue was most likely discussed at the sidebar at the end of trial.

The last witness of the day was Anthony Gorgone, an analyst in the FDLE’s Biology Unit.  He explained to the jury how he does his examinations and how he uses positive and negative controls to calibrate his machines and make sure the procedures are working properly.  He stated that the Intake Department receives the materials to be tested from a police department and they check the packaging and label it and assign it numbers, then it is assigned to a department and passed through the necessary departments.  In each department, a technician is assigned to test the materials for whatever requested tests.  He testified that he performed STR testing, where short segments of DNA can be extracted and repeated (or quantified/amplified) in order to create a profile, which can be compared to a known profile.  A profile is a set of numbers.  He stated that normally you want there to be 1 to 1.5 nanograms of DNA present, but that partial testing can be done that yields limited results and that data can still be helpful in certain instances.  He testified that there is no minimum DNA that needs to be present, though he has had plenty of times where he couldn’t glean any information from the profiles.  He normally tests for between 13 and 15 loci.  He testified about the difference between a full and a partial profile.  He also explained to the jury that sometimes he can’t make any comparison, but with a partial profile he may be able to exclude a person, in his opinion.  The unknown samples are referred to as question samples.  He testified about the difference between single source DNA and mixture DNA.  A single source is when only one person is present and a mixture is when more than one person is present.  When there is a mixture, it is sometimes possible, according to his testimony, to separate information into major and minor (or lesser) contributors in order to compare to known samples.  However, in certain cases, when DNA overlaps in may be impossible to separate to any degree of accuracy.  In those instances, the mixture is compared to known samples in an attempt to exclude.

“If I feel they are represented, I can include them as a possibility.”

Sometimes, he testified, that you cannot include or exclude a person.  He explained further that he uses statistical relevance to make a match.  This means that a random probability calculation is done according to the ethnic population statistics in the FBI Database (in the middle of the case the FDLE switched to the Butler database).  The second part of the calculation is to apply the product rule, which will test the frequency of a possible occurrence.  In other words, the random match probability is multiplied by the number of loci in the profile.

The prosecution showed the jury the known samples of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman and explained the alleles (what the loci numbers mean, such as gender).  He testified that he received swabs from the gun.  It had a mixture of DNA.  The major contributor matched the complete profile of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was excluded as from the undetermined minor contributor.  He also received swabs taken from the trigger.  This yielded limited results, which were non-interpretable and there was too little data to make any determinations in comparison.  He received and tested swabs from the slide of the gun.  This also yielded limited results and he could not make any matches, but was able to do limited comparisons.  He determined that in his opinion, he couldn’t include or exclude either Zimmerman or Martin.  He also tested swabs from the holster of the gun.  This yielded a mixture.  He was able to resolve out a major contributor and it matched George Zimmerman, but a minor contributor couldn’t be determined and Trayvon Martin couldn’t be included or excluded.  He also received the fingernail scrapings from Trayvon Martin.  He referred to this as an intimate sample.  The right hand sample didn’t have any foreign DNA and had Trayvon Martin’s DNA, but the left hand sample had no DNA.

He also received a swab from the Skittles bag and the flashlight.  He yielded a presumptive blood positive from the Skittles bag and there was a partial DNA match.  He stated that he looked for 15 loci, unlike all the other tests where he looked for 13 loci.  He determined that the partial profile matched Trayvon Martin.  The flashlight yielded no results at all.  He made cuttings from 3 stains on the hooded sweatshirt.  The results were as follows:

No testing was done around the bullet hole area because the area had to be preserved for firearm analysis.

  • (Front lower) Stain A:  presumptive positive for the possible presence of blood, partial DNA profile, Trayvon Martin match
  • (Left sleeve) Stain B:  presumptive negative for the possible presence of blood, no further testing performed
  • (Back) Stain C:  presumptive positive for the possible presence of blood, no DNA suitable for analysis

He also testified that he swabbed from the elbow to the cuff of both sleeves and the cuffs of both sleeves.

  • Right:  presumptive negative for the possible presence of blood, no foreign DNA
  • Left:  presumptive negative for the possible presence of blood, no foreign DNA

Trayvon Martin’s under sweatshirt was also tested in several stained areas.  The results were as follows:

No testing was done around the bullet hole area because the area had to be preserved for firearm analysis.

  • (Lower left side) Stain A:  presumptive positive for the possible presence of blood, complete single source profile matched to George Zimmerman
  • Stain B:  presumptive positive for the possible presence of blood, complete single source profile matched to Trayvon Martin
  • Stain C:  presumptive negative for the possible presence of blood, no further testing performed
  • Stain D:  presumptive positive for the possible presence of blood, mixture profile that could not be accurately separated, both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman could be included as potential contributors (he determined this using the combined probability of inclusion method).
  • (Side bottom) Stain E:  presumptive positive for the possible presence of blood, complete single source profile matched to Trayvon Martin

Again, he also swabbed from the elbow to the cuff of both sleeves and the cuffs of both sleeves.

  • Right:  No foreign DNA
  • Left:  A mixture profile, he assumed the presence of Trayvon Martin, and George Zimmerman could not be excluded as a potential contributor

George Zimmerman’s outer jacket was also tested and cuttings were made from several stains.  The results were as follows:

Legend –> Stain ID is letter given for stain, pos/neg is whether or not there was a presumptive positive or negative for the possible presence of blood, source is single or mixture profile, and matches were his results.

Stain ID Pos/Neg Source Matches
A Pos Single George Zimmerman
B Pos Single George Zimmerman
C Pos Single George Zimmerman
D Neg
E Pos Mixture Zimmerman (major), Martin not inc./exc.
F Neg
G Pos Too limited for analysis
H Neg
I Pos Mixture George Zimmerman (major), Trayvon Martin excluded
J Pos Single George Zimmerman
K Pos Single George Zimmerman
L Pos Single George Zimmerman
M Pos Single George Zimmerman
N Pos Mixture George Zimmerman (major), Trayvon Martin (minor)
O Pos Single George Zimmerman
P Pos Single George Zimmerman
Q Neg
R Neg
S Neg
T Neg
U Pos Couldn’t resolve/separate Trayvon Martin included, George Zimmerman excluded
V Pos Limited Couldn’t include or exclude either
X Neg
Y Neg
Z Post Too limited for interpretation
AA Neg
BB Pos Mixture Couldn’t resolve – Zimmerman inc., can’t inc./exc. Martin
CC Neg
DD Neg
EE Neg

The prosecution then went over the locations for all the spots with Trayvon Martin’s DNA.

  • E location = back right shoulder
  • N location = front right shoulder
  • U location = bottom right cuff, Velcro area

Mr. Gorgone testified that he can’t tell with a mixture profile whose blood it is when it is a presumptive positive.  He stated that it could be one person’s blood and another person’s saliva.  He further told the jury that when there is only one source of DNA then it is safe to assume it is that person’s blood.

George Zimmerman underneath shirt was also tested all positive matches were a complete single source profile that matched George Zimmerman.

Stains A – H were located on the front and stains J – P were located on the back.  Stains A – F had presumptive positives for the possible presence of blood, as did I – P.  Stains G and H had no presumptive positives.

On cross-examination, he testified that DNA may not always be left behind and it can also be destroyed.  It can be wiped away or replaced by other DNA.  Environmental factors can degrade it such as humidity and rain.  These factors cause the DNA strands to chop up and in STR testing they can then not be duplicated or repeated for analysis.  He also testified that handling can effect the DNA potentially left behind.  On a hard surface, like a gun, DNA, such as skin cells, lay on the surface and therefore is more easily destroyed, which makes hard surfaces terrible for collecting DNA.  In the opposite, on materials, such as clothing, the DNA can stick or absorb in.  He further testified that packaging and storing DNA could degrade, distort, and destroy samples.

The defense went over the results again with him.

He clarified when he cannot exclude them, “I can’t say that there is no way they contributed to that.”

Exclude refers to when, in his opinion, there is enough of an absence of data matching that “I can say that I don’t think they were part of that data.”

He further told the jury that he couldn’t say that someone didn’t touch the item or they never touched the item.  He can just say “I feel there is no way they contributed to that data.”  In addition, he cannot say when or how the DNA got on there, hours, days, etc.

“I just know whatever is on the stick when I swabbed it.”

He testified that he doesn’t take the swabs and doesn’t know where the swabs were taken, for example, he doesn’t know where on the slide or even the holster the swab was taken from.  He testified he isn’t privy to what happens to the evidence before he receives it.  He doesn’t know how long it sits in an office or how long it is stored for or whether it is stored correctly until he gets it.  All of which affect sample reliability.  If it is wrong, then the damage is already done.  There were questions on whether or not all of Trayvon Martin’s fingernails were scrapped.  There were only two scrapers, one for each hand and the package stated fingernail not plural.  He testified he was not asked to process Trayvon Martin’s pants.  He told the jury a bit about accreditation and how all of that works for a biological lab.  He testified that the chain of custody in this instance was Trace Evidence first, they repackaged it, sent it to him, he did his testing, and then repackaged and sent it to Firearms Analysis.  He stated that the materials were not packaged appropriately in this case.  Trayvon Martin’s clothes, specifically, were placed in plastic, red biohazard bags knotted and then inside paper bags, which were taped.  Ideally, all biological evidence should be placed inside paper bags as they allow the evidence to breathe and dry out.  Plastic retains moisture and increases heat on the evidence.

He testified that he did note in his report that when he opened the hooded sweatshirt bag there was a “pungent odor” almost like a mold or ammonia smell, like “gym equipment”.

He couldn’t be sure what the odor actually was.  In addition, the evidence was still wet.  He testified that he attempted to dry the items out before testing them, but he had to repackage them before too long in order to send them to firearms analysis.  He had to do so while they were still wet, which was a couple hours later.  He again clarified his procedure to the jury about what he puts chemicals on and the use of filter paper for rubbing and cotton swabs for swabbing.

On cross-examination, I’m not quite sure what Bernie de la Rionda was doing, but he demonstrated a punching motion in front of the witness to emphasize that George Zimmerman’s cuff possibly had Trayvon Martin’s DNA on it.

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Comments
  1. Lon Spector says:

    This is nothing but the reign of terror revisited all over again. Land of the free and home of the brave? In name only. I’d like to know where I could go, but the rot affects the entire world. “freedom” exists only in the mind.

    Like

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