On Tuesday, the jury in the George Zimmerman trial heard testimony and evidence again from Chris Serino, the Sanford police detective who led the homicide investigation, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao, federal air marshal Mark Osterman, a Zimmerman's friend, and Kristen Bentsen, Seminole County Sheriff's Office Latent Print Analyst. All witnesses were testifying for the State.
Early in Tuesday’s court proceedings, Seminole County Circuit Judge Debra Nelson tossed out Detective Serino's statement from Monday that he found George Zimmerman credible in his description of fighting with Trayvon Martin. That court ruling seems to help to rehabilitate the State’s attempt to discredit the Zimmerman's self-defense claims. Prosecutors tried to pick apart the statements of the man, who had been their witness, because some of the resulting testimony by Serino appeared to help the defense. Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda argued the statement was improper because one witness isn't allowed to evaluate another witness's credibility. Defense attorney Mark O'Mara argued that it's Serino's job to decide whether Zimmerman was telling the truth.
Ultimately Judge Debra Nelson told jurors to disregard the statement in what is called a “curative instruction.”
To earn a 2nd Degree murder conviction, the State of Florida must prove there was ill will, spite or a depraved mind by the defendant. The moves by prosecutors Tuesday were aimed at showing inconsistencies in Zimmerman's statements and to try to recover from any damage as a result of Monday’s testimony that the jury heard.
Prosecutor de la Rionda played back Zimmerman's call to police to the jury reporting Martin walking through his gated community. In the call, Zimmerman uses an expletive, refers to "punks" and then says, "These a——-. They always get away."
Detective Serino conceded to De la Rionda that Zimmerman's choice of words could be interpreted as being spiteful.
Prosecutors have argued that Zimmerman profiled Martin from his truck and called a police dispatch number before he and the teenager got into a fight. The Zimmerman defense has denied the confrontation had anything to do with race.
The State also asked the judge to allow them to introduce school records showing Zimmerman took a class that addressed Florida's self-defense law. They say it will show he had knowledge of the law, even though he claimed he didn't in an interview with talk show host Sean Hannity that was also played for jurors Tuesday.
Zimmerman Defense Counsel O'Mara objected, saying the records were irrelevant calling the attempt at the introduction of them into evidence by the State of Florida "a witch hunt."
The judge said she would rule later in the week.
The prosecution also called Mark Osterman, Zimmerman friend who spoke with Zimmerman after the shooting.
Under questioning by de la Rionda, Osterman said that Zimmerman told him Martin had grabbed his gun during their struggle, but that Zimmerman was able to pull it away.
That account is different from what Zimmerman told investigators in multiple interviews. In those interviews, he only said it appeared Martin was reaching for his gun prior to the shooting. He never told police the teen grabbed it.
Prosecutors also called a medical examiner who had reviewed evidence for them to the witness stand. Dr. Valerie Rao, now the medical examiner for Florida’s Duval County, testified that Zimmerman's injuries were insignificant, bolstering the prosecution's claims that Zimmerman's life wasn't in jeopardy during his fight with Martin. Dr. Rao was not the medical examiner who autopsied Martin.
"They were so minor that the individual who treated and examined Mr. Zimmerman decided stitches weren't required," Rao said.
Kristen Bentsen, Seminole County Sheriff's Office Latent Print Analyst testified that none of Martin's prints were found on the gun. She testified that she didn’t find anything usable and she testified that prints can be harmed or destroyed by the elements.
ANALYSIS: Tuesday was a much better day for prosecutors than Monday, as they have effectively rehabilitated their case in chief with the “curative instruction” from Judge Nelson for the jury to disregard the testimony from Monday from Chris Serino. On Monday, the Sanford police detective aid that he found George Zimmerman credible in his description of fighting with Trayvon Martin. Now with Judge Nelson’s order to disregard, that testimony must not be considered by the jury. However, one can also argue that you cannot “un-ring the bell.”
Additionally, the prosecution hammered away at Zimmerman’s credibility Monday’s by getting Serino to concede to prosecutor De la Rionda that Zimmerman's choice of words could be interpreted as being spiteful. The testimony of Dr. Valerie Rao helped the prosecution testifying that Zimmerman's injuries were insignificant. Her testimony reinforces the prosecution's claims that Zimmerman's life wasn't in jeopardy during his fight with Martin. However, the testimony of Dr. Valerie Rao was only limited to the photographs she reviewed that were also shown to the jury on Tuesday. Dr. Rao never actually examined the body of Trayvon Martin.
A licensed attorney in Orlando, Florida, Joseph Haynes Davis is also a broadcaster with over 30 years of broadcast media experience. He is also the legal analyst for the State of Florida v. Zimmerman trial for the Doug Banks Show, the Andre Michael Eggelletion Show and several other national radio programs. Follow him on Twitter: @sivadmedia and @con_speaking and check out his website and political blog.
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