Day 12, the last day of the defense’s case began with rulings on two of the three issues from yesterday.  The defense animation was ruled admissible only as a demonstrative aid and the phone evidence from Trayvon Martin’s phone was ruled inadmissible.  The first witness of the day was Dennis Root.  He is a law enforcement expert, specifically on the use of force and self-defense.  He told the jury that he was a police officer for 22 years before retiring.  While he was a cop, he attained several certifications and positions.  He worked in almost every unit from traffic to homicide to canine handler.  He worked in the juvenile detention system, as well.  He became the lead instructor in his department for defense tactics.   He testified that he was the ancillary instructor of many areas including canine handling, but most of the areas focused on defensive tactics, for example weapons, hand to hand, baton, etc.  He was a use of force specialist and as such investigated all use of force incidents for his station.  He also attained a degree in criminal justice and eventually became an instructor for defense tactics in that capacity as well.  In addition, he acquired a firearms instructor license.  He has created many programs over the year in and out of his police capacity, including verbal judo, which is a non-aggressive communication technique.  He started his own training company recently and now trains civilians in weapons systems self defense and he also teaches 4 courses to instructors.  He testified that his philosophy is that if you learn to teach others something, you can do it better yourself.  He told the jury that when he was 13-years-old he started in martial arts.  He also was a semi-pro superfight kick-boxer.  He told the jury he has testified in 6 grand juries involving police shooting cases.

He testified that he saw the case in the media and had a unique interest and perspective.  He contacted Mark O’Mara.  It was his belief that if he could help come to a realistic conclusion he would assist them, if there were an interest in his services.  If he reviewed the material and couldn’t help the defense then he would just leave and not impede the proceedings.  He testified that he picked the defense because he knew the state could easily get experts.  He told the jury that everyone has their own perspective.  It is according to your background, upbringing, current life, etc.  You must look at the complete picture and that isn’t guided.  It isn’t an expert’s job to skew their findings to match a point of view.  It is their job to base their findings on the totality of the circumstances and unbiased evidence.  He told the jury he received everything he requests and everything he would generally need.  “I can’t think of anything that I wasn’t provided.”  He reviewed witness statements written and interview, transcripts of depositions, the entire police file, pictures of both Zimmerman and Martin, autopsy report, scene drawings made by police, the prosecution’s neighborhood posters, audio-video-written statements from Zimmerman, and the Hannity interview.  He testified that the information in the case is usual for this kind of incident.  “These events have a lot of data.”  He told the jury that as with any issue perspectives are biased.  It doesn’t mean someone didn’t see something they said they saw, it just means it came from their interpretation of what they saw.

“It’s very fluid, accuracy is based on perspective.”

He testified that initial interviews lack outside influences therefore they are the best place to get untainted information.  Witnesses should always be separated for this reason. Especially considered that if an incorrect witness has a very persuasive personality, they can convince a correct witness to change their mind.  He described the “hot pot theory” to the jury.  If you stick a pot in the fridge and then put it on a stove and ask someone to get it for you.  The sudden shock of unfamiliar cold will feel hot because of the expectation.  External stimulus and influences affect people’s views.  He testified that many things affect witnesses such as their emotional state, the lighting, the weather, and distance.  He testified that you need to look at an event from the witness’ perspective and then combine all of the perspectives to come to a reasonable conclusion.  He told the jury that conflicting statements are normal, even from people actively involved.  High stress events cause everyone changes in their body, both psychological and physiological.

“There are people who want, honestly, to live in a bubble.”

Some people won’t accept what happened, so their view would be skewed.  He told the jury you try not to get hung up on small changes, big changes are different, but differences between witnesses can just be due to perspective.  He testified that an example is the witness in this case who heard 3 shots.  We know that did not happen, it doesn’t raise concern especially because the shot was in a small area and there was the possibility of reverberation as well as perspective.  He stated that there are perceptual distortions.  He told the jury some people may even second guess themselves.  It is natural for humans to think they might be wrong if others disagree.  The high stress events repeat themselves over and over for these people as they are “trying to make sense of it the best they can.”  This can also cause distortions in their memory.

“You have to be able to match things up…do these make sense?”

When you have a dynamic event (an altercation) then you have to analyze everything from A to Z.  “If I was in those shoes at that time, what would be my perception?”  He testified that it was raining and dark that night, so dark that the police photographs flash barely lit anything.  “When I looked at the photos (of Zimmerman’s injuries) they were consistent with the information (Zimmerman’s statements).”  He testified that the location of Zimmerman’s keychain also lines up with his descriptions.  It is an indicator, in the totality; something caused him to drop that item?

“Based on the injuries I saw…they are consistent with a fight…”

When you look at the force continuum, you look at individual factors, like age, training and experience, background, physical abilities, gender, etc.  Mr. Root testified he consulted with the gym owner and records to determine Zimmerman’s abilities, but had nothing, but police data like the autopsy to base his opinion on Martin’s abilities.  There are naturally born athletes and some people can learn.  You deal with the warrior mindset.  He testified that George Zimmerman took classes of convenience.  In grappling you can tap out and you can say I quit, not in boxing.  He didn’t have the physical prowess of boxing another person.  He didn’t make it past shadow boxing.  In grappling he made it to a partner, but that’s it.

Mr. Zimmerman “really didn’t have any” fighting abilities, he was described as a “really nice person.”

Looking at the physique and size of a person is more telling than age.  “There was nothing that indicated to me Mr. Martin wasn’t physically capable.”  He was physically fit.  He testified that compared to Mr. Zimmerman, who wasn’t of physical prowess or physically fit, he was losing weight, but he wasn’t fit, Mr. Martin was much more capable.  “A picture can’t tell you everything,” about a person.  A paramedic estimated Mr. Martin as in his 20s.  He testified that he’s never seen Martin in person, so he doesn’t know his presence; witness testimony is better than any picture or video.

“It’s my opinion that in physical abilities he (Zimmerman) would find himself lacking when compared to Mr. Martin.”

He testified that in his experience, there is a rule if you haven’t won in 30 seconds you must change tactics.  When you find yourself in a physical altercation you can only do so much.  The longer the fight, you are diminishing on return physically. This incident was 40 seconds.  He testified that listening to the sounds on the Lauer call, they indicate a high level of stress and fear, “that’s my interpretation”.  He told the jury that people don’t conceptualize time right.  They think 40 seconds that’s not long, but it is.  Laypeople don’t truly understand what that amount of time means in a situation.  He gave the example of police training with stun guns. Officers are stunned for 5 seconds and always report it feeling a lot longer.  He testified that the gun was fired within 6 inches or at close range.  There was only one shot.  He told the jury that your memory will evolve over time as you work through things in your mind and it may take time to give a complete and accurate statement.  Best practice in shootings would be to give up to 72 hours before interviewing in depth.  A general statement should be taken right away.  He testified that police officers are given this benefit of the doubt.  In addition, police officers are given PBAs and attorneys at all statements or interviews.  He testified that while he worked in investigating police shootings, the investigators didn’t want to misconstrue what an officer meant so they advise all officers to wait to give voluntary statements.  He also testified about firearms, firearm safety, and hollow point bullets.

On cross-examination, he testified in Zimmerman’s 911 call you have to look at context.  In his opinion, he is clearly expressing frustration based upon his previous calls that resulted in nothing.  He testified he didn’t think it was ill will.  He didn’t agree that Martin was Zimmerman’s target of frustration.  He testified that he doesn’t know George Zimmerman’s normal verbiage, but those words don’t always mean that.  He agreed that any person who is reckless with a firearm is dangerous.  “A firearm is only as safe as its user.”  The prosecution asked Mr. Root about a potential marketing bias for his business.  He responded that anyone who knows about the case knows there’s media coverage, but if he was approached by the state and they didn’t want him to testify he couldn’t be of use.  If he had disagreed with the defense he would have walked away, there would be no issue.  “I knew that the state could get an expert like me with no problem.”  The prosecution pointed out the cameras.  He also told the jury that it wasn’t his fault there was media coverage, it wasn’t up to him.  He told the jury anyone who does their homework on him knows he is dedicated to the truth and only wants to support the truth.  He testified that he isn’t getting paid in the case, but that isn’t unusual it depends on the case some cases he does free, others he charges $20 an hour, etc.  He testified,  “I’ve fortunately never caused the death of a person” in my official capacity.  He clarified that George Zimmerman’s statements were a small portion of his analysis.  He stated that he couldn’t base his analysis on someone who may be giving self-serving statements.  The prosecution asked him about the 2 minutes between George Zimmerman’s call and Trayvon Martin’s call.  He responded that he didn’t give much weight to it because there are other questions with what occurred before the end of the call.  He testified that from the evidence, it was his opinion, that George Zimmerman was approached from the front.  He testified that when he interviewed Zimmerman, he didn’t ask for specific times of anything because time is fluid.  He testified that he didn’t ask a lot of questions, he just wanted George Zimmerman to tell him his story.  He told the jury you can’t lock someone into a timeline about the event because the high stress causes a misperception of time.  In addition, he told the jury that perceptual distortion explains George Zimmerman’s overestimation of his injuries.  He also testified that you can’t put weight on specific things, it’s the totality that matters.  For example, the injuries could have been caused by a multitude of instances, such as being punched and falling to the concrete, Trayvon Martin pushing George Zimmerman into the concrete, or striking him in the face could have forced his head back.  The injuries show it had to happen, how isn’t known except for Zimmerman and possibly Good’s statements.

The prosecution brought a mannequin out and demonstrated several things on it. One of these things was how George Zimmerman could have got his firearm if what he told Osterman was true?  Mr.. Root testified that the demonstration was inaccurate because it assumes Martin isn’t moving at all.  In a dynamic event, that’s unlikely.  In a fluid situation, you can’t assume that both people aren’t moving.  Mr. Guy demonstrated several hypotheticals on the 90-degree angle of the gun shot.  Mr. Root stated that his demonstration was again inaccurate because the bodies must be relative to one another, not just the gun.  He testified he looked at Mr. Osterman’s statements, but he didn’t consider hearsay very highly.  He didn’t witness anything.  He also stated that you have to consider male ego as well.  It is usually women, in his experience, who can keep composure when telling their account and don’t feel as though they have to prove themselves.  He further testified about perceptual effects on witnesses.  The human mind likes to fill in the blanks.  The creative side of our brain will add to experiences.  That’s why you can’t wait too long and allow witnesses to be affected by outside stimuli.  I can’t take into account too much of what a person says who wasn’t there, their interpretation of what happened is less important.  He testified that if someone is disengaging, not to change weapons, but backing away, giving up, that is a deescalation.  He disagreed that Zimmerman had any other options.  He told the jury that everyone can sit around all day and come up with different things that may have been options, but reality is what was actually happening.

“Any one of these things don’t tell the whole story.”

Mr. Root testified that Trayvon Martin yelling cannot be inferred because of Mr. Good’s eyewitness account.  Martin never acknowledged him, why wouldn’t he?  “I can only say what is in the evidence, I wasn’t there I can’t say it was Zimmerman, but it is consistent.”  He told the jury that there was evidence that the defendant tried other things before shooting.  He resisted the head injuries, he tried shrimping, he was moving around, and perhaps he even yelled for help.

You can’t draw a conclusion on what he could have done according to his abilities, “he didn’t have any.”

He told the jury, in crime prevention the golden rule is see something say something.  Zimmerman had a history of that.  He testified that how long Zimmerman trained is mute because he made almost no progress.  The end point was basically the same.  He testified he gave minimum weight to what the defendant said because the only way to come to a neutral understanding is to do that.  Unfortunately sometimes some information can only be found there.  He was asked about how the defendant didn’t tell the operator about his gun.  He testified that there is no law that says you have to, “I guess it would be nice.”  But he told the jury everyone should be sure to inform an officer in person whether it is a traffic stop or something more serious that you have a firearm, just to be safe.  He testified that suspect is also a crime prevention term.

On redirect, he testified that what happened was a culmination of force and resistance.  Mark O’Mara also used the state’s mannequin for several demonstrations.  He testified that the injuries were “indicative of an ongoing combat battle.”  He testified that the injuries to his temples could have been caused by pushing or punches that drove that side of the head into the cement.

“I have no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Martin was backing off.”

Mark O’Mara demonstrated 4 different ways the 90 degrees could have happened.  He testified that he didn’t have a lot of confidence that Zimmerman could explain how the gun got in his hand, it is common that the person doesn’t remember exactly due to stress.  He testified that anything could be a weapon.  He didn’t see anyone evidence that Martin was struck with any weapon or anything else, just an injury to the hand.

Mark O’Mara:  How do you explain in those 40 seconds that Mr. Zimmerman couldn’t land nary a blow?

Mr. Root:  If he is the individual screaming, it can be concluded that Martin was the aggressor.  Zimmerman was physically incapable.  “How can you be the aggressor and not hurt somebody?”

It’s clear during his 911 call he becomes concerned about Trayvon Martin. He even voices his concerns to the operator.  He doesn’t get out and be confrontational at that point.  He had concern about his safety.  He didn’t get out of his car until Martin left or ran off.  He struck me as the type of person that will tell you he’s a jerk, but not him, Root testified.  He testified that his experience as a law enforcement officer has allowed him to see expressions of hatred and that George Zimmerman, in his experience, was expressing frustrations, not at an individual, but in general.  Based on the evidence, “I don’t believe he did” have any other option than shooting.  He testified he hasn’t testified as a self-defense expert before, but has testified a lot for the state as a police officer during his career.

Root on getting the first punch in:  “you let the person know you’re for real and it’s devastating.”

He testified that a criminal justice degree is the “book end” of the system, just how it works.  He told the jury that, our number 1 recommendation is to avoid confrontation, if you can, but there are so many variables, distance, aggression level, ability, environment, etc.  Use of force ranges from verbal “all the way up to and including deadly force.”  On re-cross, he testified that based upon George Zimmerman’s capabilities, he didn’t have other options. “My opinion is based upon what he said in combination with all the other variables.”  He told the jury he considered the fact that options can depend on what the other person in the incident does, but that if everything lines up and makes sense, then that’s the totality of circumstances.  He told the jury that in his expert opinion, based upon the evidence, this is what makes sense and is most likely.  The perception of any individual involved is important in a force situation.  He told the jury that the statute itself is a systematic approach to the continuum of use of force.  He testified he didn’t know when George Zimmerman was punched, but he was obviously punched repeatedly.  If the concrete caused all his injuries the abrasions on the face would be similar to those on the other parts of his head.  If people don’t have the internal fire, then they aren’t going to fight; someone with the warrior mindset will beat them.  In a case with both people who have that, they both will be damaged badly because neither will quit.

He testified, “Anything is possible, but not probable”.

He told the jury that it isn’t likely that angling the gun caused the 90-degree angle because it is difficult to shoot that way and the average person would normally use the grip to fire.  It is much more difficult to get leverage like that.  He stated that in the 911 call made by George Zimmerman that his frustration audibly subsided when Martin disappears because the perceived danger is gone.  Then he realizes he lost sight of him and has no idea where he is.  The concern returns when he doesn’t want to give out his information.  The prosecution asked him if during his career he ever waited to interview someone?  He testified that in reasonable force cases you should, he didn’t, but he thinks that officers get that extended to them and so should other people.  He testified when he was an officer totality of circumstances was used to make arrests and that you shouldn’t rush an arrest unless you have to for some reason.  On re-redirect, he told the jury that in his opinion, George Zimmerman doesn’t have the want to test his skills against others.  He based this upon the injuries to George Zimmerman and the lack of injuries to Trayvon Martin.

The next witness was Olivia Bertalan.  She was a victim of a home invasion at the Retreat.  She choked up a little throughout some of the testimony.  She told the jury that she was home alone with her 9-month-old son and someone began ringing her doorbell repeatedly.  She didn’t have a peephole, so she went upstairs to check whom it was.  It was two, young African Americans, she didn’t know.  She stated that she didn’t know what to do, so she called her mother.  The two men left and a little while later, she went back upstairs to check again.  She saw them approach her house and break in.  Her son had woken up, so she ran into his room and locked her and him in there.  She told the jury she grabbed a pair of scissors as well.  She called 911.  She could hear noises downstairs.  The men tried to get into the room where her and her son were, but they couldn’t.  They escaped before police arrived.  The incident occurred on August 3, 2011.  They stole a camera, a laptop, and attempted to steal a TV, but couldn’t get it.  One of the men was caught, Emmanuel Burgess.  She moved from the neighborhood because of this.  Her testimony was proffered out of the presence of the jury for cross-examination, but was presented exactly the same to the jury.  She testified that she had contact with George Zimmerman following that.  He had given her his phone number that evening.  He had heard she’d been a victim.  She told him it was two African American males who looked young, she assumed late teens.  She told the jury they talked about 20 times after that.  She spoke to several people about the concern she had over there being no arrest.  It was confirmed by police that one of them lived in the neighborhood by the back gate.  He was eventually arrested in December of 2011, but released due to being underage.  He was rearrested sometime later, but she couldn’t recall the date.  She had already moved out and received a letter in the mail.  He was rearrested sometime in early February 2012.  She was also questioned about watching the trial; she stated that she watched it briefly.  She stated she didn’t tweet about the case.  She admitted to following Mark O’Mara and George Zimmerman Legal Case on twitter.  She stated she appeared on Nancy Grace over a year ago.  On redirect, she told the jury it wasn’t strange or intruding that George Zimmerman came to her, she was “appreciative.”  He offered his hand to her and told her she could spend time at his house with his wife if she was too scared to be home alone.  “We were extremely scared.”  She told the jury she attended an HOA meeting about the break-ins.  The whole experience was traumatic.  She testified that George Zimmerman brought her a lock for her sliding glass door.  She was very grateful.  That was how the men got into the home.  The police had advised she get a dog, so she also did that.

She told the jury that George Zimmerman wasn’t too involved; he was “very helpful”.

The last defense witness was Robert Zimmerman Sr. He told the jury he has lived in Central Florida for 7 years.  He is the father of George Zimmerman.  The first time he heard the Lauer call was at the courthouse in the Office of the State Attorney using headphones.

“I told them absolutely, it’s my son George.”

On cross-examination, he told the jury he’s listened “at least 6” times since then.

The defense rested their case after this.  Some evidence matters were handled.  The defense timeline was entered into evidence; some photographs were entered (aerial, Trayvon Martin at the 7-11, George Zimmerman’s injuries, etc.)  A more accurate weather report was substituted in for the one entered by the State and a weather report was also added for the next day (Feb. 27th).

It was a bit strange, the judge tried to ask George Zimmerman the usual questions to ensure he is making the decision to testify or not voluntarily too early.  She asked him before the defense had rested, in fact, they still had two witnesses.  George Zimmerman looked a bit confused by this, as did Don West.  He tried objecting and telling Judge Nelson, but she became angry and yelled at him that she was talking to Mr. Zimmerman and she had a right to ask these questions.  She ended up giving more time in the end.  George Zimmerman decided not to testify.  Usually, a judge will ask the questions to the defendant either when they are about to be called as a witness or when the defense rests, not somewhere toward the end of their case.

The defense renewed their request for a judgment of acquittal.  The judge denied it again saying that the jury should decide.  The prosecution got ready to present their rebuttal case, consisting of three witnesses.  The defense told the court that they had concerns that this wasn’t really a rebuttal case.  True rebuttal cases must present a rebuttal of a defense claim and not just be cross-examination.  Judge Nelson said they could object.  The first witness in rebuttal was Adam Pollack, the gym owner.  The prosecution asked him if he was marketing the training of George Zimmerman on his website?  He answered, “Absolutely not” and that he could explain.  The defense objected to inappropriate rebuttal, a long sidebar and a few legal arguments later.  I researched the gym’s site and found this:

zimIt appears to be a FOIA type request form where you can solicit information about what George Zimmerman learned not about learning the same thing as him.  Perhaps his inbox was inundated with requests so he set up a section on his website for inquiries?

The judge ruled that the case law shows that this isn’t appropriate rebuttal.  It doesn’t rebut anything.  The prosecution withdrew their second witness and said they weren’t sure if their third would testify.  The defense asked for a summary because they had objections.  The prosecution argued that it was the ATF agent that was involved in arresting George Zimmerman and it is to rebut that George Zimmerman can’t fight.  The defense objected to improper bad act evidence and irrelevance.  The defense argued that the event happened 8 years ago.  The officers were undercover and they drug his friend from a bar.  He went out to see what happened and the officer got mad he was asking questions and arrested him.  The prosecution immediately dropped the case to a misdemeanor.  If it were a real case of police victimization, it is required not to be downgraded.  It was then diverted and the program successfully completed, so all charges were dismissed.  It was a case of overcharging and it isn’t probative, in fact it’s ancient and the system decided it was a non-event.  Mark O’Mara stated that he could call the 30 people who were questioned in the FBI’s “are you a racist?” investigation as surrebuttal witnesses if necessary to testify to George Zimmerman’s peaceful and friendly nature.  The judge argued that everyone was an experienced lawyer and that they know what they should and should not do and it is unnecessary to do a ‘tit for tat’ argument.

“Each side presents whatever case they want at their own peril.”

The jury was excused for the day.  After court, the Sanction Hearing was held about Mr. Donnelly, a defense witness, being in court.  The prosecution argued the combination of the sequestration violation of Mr. Good, Ms. Bertalan, and Mr. Donnelly should result in the striking of his testimony.  The defense clarified that Mr. Good never spoke to Mr. Shoemaker for the animation he spoke to Mark O’Mara.  The judge stated that Mr. Good is not named in the motion so he isn’t an issue and that witnesses are allowed to talk to attorneys.  She then stated that Ms. Bertalan isn’t an issue because the prosecution cross-examined her about the issues.  Judge Nelson also announced that she was investigating another witness who wasn’t called, but named in both witness lists, for a possible violation of sequestration.  She expressed concern about the alleged violations.  Judge Nelson ruled that the court was concerned on the one hand about the rule and witnesses and counsel not abiding by it.  However on the other hand, Mr. Donnelly wasn’t aware of the rule before watching testimony and when he became aware he left.  She stated that it is insurmountable with a witness list as large as the one in this case to notify all witnesses about the rule especially if they are not planning on being called.

She ruled, that the court “cannot make the finding that Mr. Donnelly knew” about the rule of sequestration and broke it.  She also ruled that “I will not make the finding that the testimony witnessed changed his mind.”

Basically, the testimony he witnessed while in court did not have a substantive effect on what he would have testified to had he not heard the testimony.  Then the attorneys went over the jury instructions.  The charges were named as follows:

– Second-degree murder

– Possession of a firearm, discharge-causing death

– Lesser included:  Manslaughter

– Lesser included:  Aggravated assault

— Enhancement firearm, discharge-causing death

Court will return tomorrow at 9 am for the continuance of legal arguments on the jury instructions and the trial will continue at 1 pm.

  1. Lon Spector says:

    I come from the N.Y.C. metro area. While I was growing up many people believed that Florida was an idyllic place to live, where they could leave behind all thier problems, so they began moving there in droves. People have the common misperception that a change in the physical enviorment equals a change in the emotional environment. The wealthy parents of Jon Benet Ramsey must have felt that when the resided in “The People’s Republic of Boulder CO.” Nothing bad is suppost to happen there. Casey Anthony’s parents must have assumed the same thing when they abandoned the frigid wastes of Ohio were “bad” things happen. (George Anthony crashed his cop car into another, while responding to a pool drowning killing two people. He thought it would be good to live in Orlando, home of Disney World were all is magic.) About the only thing these resort communities have in common is their ineapt policing. Boulder CO.’s police department was ill prepared to investigate the Jon Benet “kidnapping.” John and Patsy Ramsey “lawyered up” very quickly and stalled the investigation. Events like Jon Benet don’t typically happen in Boulder so the police were in over thier heads. The same goes for the “paradise” of Orlando Fla. People’s fondest wish is to go to Disney World, were they can escape this crummy world. We needn’t replay all the stupid mistakes that the Orlando’s finest commited in trying to find Caylee Anthony. People are unprepared to handle these “black swans.” Wealthy people don’t murder thier children, they protect them. Middle class mothers, who have most of thier child care needs attended too, would have no need to harm their children. But you have to understand that is NOT the exterior locality that you live in as much as the INTERIOR locality. If the exterior locality is idealic, that has no bearing on the interior state. Therefore I maintain that people would be advised to gear up for horrific roits that are soon to take place for the sake themselves and their children. “Get” while the “gettings” good!


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