The ninth day of the second degree murder trial of George Zimmerman was marked by the prosecution closing its case and the first couple of witnesses being called by the defence. The following are six take away points from Day 9:
1) The Conflicting Testimony of the Two Mothers
Sabrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother, testified that the distant high-pitched voice heard on the 911 call yelling for help on the night of the shooting was her son's. Gladys Zimmerman testified that she was sure that it was George's voice. The evidence of the medical examiner on Day 9 was that Trayvon's only injury was a small cut to a knuckle on his left hand. Will it make sense to the jury that it was an almost injury-free Trayvon Martin screaming for help or rather George Zimmerman, whose injuries are consistent with his head being beaten against a sidewalk?
2) The Risky Cross-Examination of Sabrina Fulton
The following exchange took place in the cross-examination by Mark O'Mara of Sabrina Fulton:
Q. ''You certainly hope, as a mom, that your son Trayvon Martin would not have done anything that led to his death, correct''?
A. ''What I hoped for is that nothing happened and he'd still be here. That's my hope.''
Mark O'Mara took an unnecessary risk with his question by suggesting blame be ascribed to the dead teenager. The issue of a mother's possible bias to help her son must be abundantly clear to the jurors. O'Mara's pointed question, however, could have led to the wailing cries of a grieving mother in protest that would have been very unhelpful to his client.
In a missed opportunity, Mark O'Mara might have elicited From Sabrina Fulton that it was law enforcement and the lead prosecutor's request to have her present during the questioning of the state's star witness, Rachel Jeantel. The mother's presence tainted the quality of Jeantel's previous statement.
3) The Medical Examiner Who Performed the Autopsy
The prosecution called as its final witness Dr. Shiping Bao, who had performed the autopsy on Trayvon Martin. He was the second medical examiner called by the prosecution and his evidence blunted the emotional impact of the evidence of Trayvon Martin's mother and brother.
Dr. Bao's argumentative and unprepared testimony was disastrous. He presented himself as biased by improperly speculating about Trayvon Martin's pain and suffering while still alive. He also relied on private notes on the witness stand which he inexplicably resisted disclosing.
His evidence also shifted on a number of material points such as testifying that the dead teenager most likely remained alive 1-10 minutes after being shot. In a previous deposition Dr. Bao's position was that it was likely 1-3 minutes.
In another change in his testimony, Dr. Bao indicated in cross-examination that Trayvon Martin may have been able to move about after being shot. This could resolve a potential contradiction in George Zimmerman's statement to the police about the positioning of Trayvon Martin's hands after he was shot. Zimmerman had indicated that the hands were pinned to the ground while a neighbour who discovered Trayvon Martin's body testified that his hands were found under his body.
4) The Marijuana Ruling
Dr. Bao testified outside of the jury's presence that traces of marijuana found in Trayvon Martin during the autopsy could have had a possible impairing effect. The judge ruled that questions relating to the effect of marijuana could not be asked at the trial. I anticipate that the issue will arise again during the defence and may be decided differently.
5)The Defence Motion to Acquit
Judge Debra Nelson quickly dismissed a defence motion to acquit and ruled that the state had presented enough direct and sufficient evidence for the case to go the jury. The predicted ruling doesn't reflect on the credibility of the prosecution's witnesses or the strength of its case. In a preview of his closing statement, the prosecutor advanced a specious argument that shooting a person in the heart is evidence enough of of ill will.
6) Reading the Jurors' Reactions
Legal pundits have attempted to interpret the reactions of the six jurors. It is a vapid exercise. In high profile cases jurors are careful not to expose any body language and avoid giving signals of their reactions to the evidence because they are keenly aware that they're being scrutinized by the press. The jurors' only visible reaction will be their "not guilty" verdict.
<strong>Feb. 19, 2012</strong> -- Trayvon Martin, 17, and Tracy, his father, travel from Miami Gardens to Sanford, Fla., to visit the elder Martin's fiancee in her townhome at The Retreat at Twin Lakes. <em>Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.globalgrind.com" target="_blank">globalgrind.com</a></em>
<strong>Feb. 26, 2012</strong> -- Trayvon Martin is walking to the home of his father's fiancee after purchasing items from a 7-Eleven store in Sanford. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, spots Martin at approximately 7 p.m. and calls police. "We've had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there's a real suspicious guy," Zimmerman tells police.
<strong>Feb. 26, 2012</strong> -- Roughly seven minutes after Zimmerman's call to police, authorities receive a 911 call from an individual reporting a fight. During the call, the dispatcher hears a gunshot in the background and sends police units to the location. Responding officers discover that Martin has been shot in the chest. The teen is unresponsive and pronounced dead at the scene. Police find no identification on Martin and label him a John Doe.
<strong>Feb. 26, 2012</strong> -- Questioned by police, Zimmerman informs them that Martin attacked him and he fired his gun in self-defense. Authorities confiscate Zimmerman's 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and take him to the Sanford Police Department for further questioning.
<strong>Feb. 27, 2012</strong> -- Following a lengthy interview, George Zimmerman is released from the police station at approximately 1 a.m. Hours later, Tracy Martin contacts police to report his son missing. Investigators soon connect the dots and inform the elder Martin of his son's death. After receiving treatment from a family doctor, Zimmerman meets with investigators and reenacts the events of the shooting at the crime scene.
<strong>March 8, 2012</strong> -- Tracy Martin holds a press conference, during which he criticizes the investigation into his son's slaying. "We feel justice hasn't been served," Martin tells reporters.
<strong>March 9, 2012</strong> -- Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump tells the Miami Herald he is filing a lawsuit for the release of public records in the case.
<strong>March 10, 2012</strong> -- Members of the New Black Panther Party, contending there has been a "miscarriage of justice," rally outside the Sanford Police Department.
<strong>March 12, 2012</strong> -- Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee holds a press conference, at which he claims that investigators were unable to arrest Zimmerman because he was protected by Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows residents to shoot someone if they reasonably believe they are being threatened. "There is no evidence to dispute Zimmerman's assertion that he shot Martin out of self-defense," Lee says. In response, Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, post a petition on the Change.org website calling for State Attorney Angela Corey to prosecute Zimmerman. The petition quickly garners support from multiple celebrities and receives nearly 900,000 signatures the first week.
<strong>March 13, 2012</strong> -- In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the NAACP expresses doubt in the Sanford Police Department's ability to appropriately handle the investigation, asking the Department of Justice to review the case. "The NAACP has no confidence that, absent federal oversight, the Sanford Police Department will devote the necessary degree of care to its investigation," the letter says. Sanford police announce the completion of their investigation and turn the case over to the State Attorney's Office for Brevard and Seminole Counties. "Trayvon Martin and his family, interested persons, and the public-at-large are entitled to no less than a thorough, deliberate and just review of the information provided, along with any other evidence that may or may not be developed in the course of the review process," State Attorney Norm Wolfinger's office says in a statement.
<strong>March 14, 2012</strong> -- Mary Cutcher, a woman listed in police reports as a witness who heard Martin's shooting, <a href="http://www.wftv.com/news/news/witness-sanford-police-blew-us-teen-slaying/nLSqk/" target="_blank">tells WFTV.com that police took only a short statement from her</a> following the shooting. "[The police] blew us off, and I called back again and I said, 'I know this was not self-defense. There was no punching, no hitting going on at the time, no wrestling,'" says Cutcher.
<strong>March 15, 2012</strong> -- Sanford police issue a statement calling Mary Cutcher's TV interviews "inconsistent" with her sworn testimony. Meanwhile, Zimmerman's father, Robert, tells the Orlando Sentinel that his son has been unfairly portrayed as a racist.
<strong>March 16, 2012</strong> -- Sanford police release eight 911 recordings in the case. One of the recordings includes a voice in the background screaming, "Help, help!" The screams are followed by the sound of a gunshot.
<strong>March 19, 2012</strong> -- The Justice Department and the FBI announce they have opened an investigation into the shooting.
<strong>March 20, 2012</strong> -- State Attorney Norm Wolfinger announces that a Seminole County, Fla., grand jury will review the circumstances of Martin's death.
<strong>March 21, 2012</strong> -- The Sanford City Commission votes "no confidence" in Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee and calls for his resignation.
<strong>March 22, 2012</strong> -- Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee holds a press conference and announces he is temporarily stepping down as police chief because his presence is a "distraction." State Attorney Norm Wolfinger recuses himself from the case and Florida Gov. Rick Scott announces that another state attorney, Jacksonville-based Angela Corey, will be replacing Wolfinger as special prosecutor in the investigation. Meanwhile, Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III and other civil rights leaders and politicians hold a justice rally at Sanford's Fort Mellon Park. They demand an arrest in Martin's shooting. An estimated 10,000 people attend the event.
<strong>March 23, 2012</strong> -- President Barack Obama tells reporters that the nation needs to do some "soul-searching to figure out how something like this happens." He adds, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
<strong>March 24, 2012</strong> -- Members of the New Black Panther Party offer a $10,000 reward for the "capture" of Zimmerman.
<strong>March 25, 2012</strong> -- Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks in Eatonville and encourages revisions to Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. "If it's a moment, we go home. If it's a movement, we go to war," says Jackson.
<strong>March 26, 2012</strong> -- Police release new details of the investigation, saying Zimmerman told them Martin punched him and slammed his head into the sidewalk several times. Acting Police Chief Darren Scott takes over as chief of the Sanford Police Department. Thousands of people gather in Sanford to mark one month since Martin was killed.
<strong>March 29, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman's brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr., tells CNN that medical records will prove his brother was attacked and his nose was broken.
<strong>April 3, 2012</strong> -- Florida State Sen. Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale) announces the formation of a task force to review the state's "Stand Your Ground" law.
<strong>April 8, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman launches the website "The Real George Zimmerman" to raise money for his defense.
<strong>April 9, 2012</strong> -- State Attorney Angela Corey announces her decision not to use a grand jury in the Martin investigation. The move eliminates the possibility of a first-degree murder charge.
<strong>April 10, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman's attorneys, Hal Uhrig (right) and Craig Sonner, announce that they will no longer be representing him.
<strong>April 11, 2012</strong> - State Attorney Angela Corey announces the charging of George Zimmerman with second-degree murder. Zimmerman turns himself in to police and is booked into the Seminole County Jail. Mark O'Mara announces his role as Zimmerman's new attorney.
<strong>April 23, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman's new lawyer, Mark O'Mara, enters a not-guilty plea on his client's behalf. Zimmerman is released from jail on a $150,000 bond. Per the conditions of his release, Zimmerman is required to wear a GPS monitoring device.
<strong>April 24, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman shuts down his website. According to his attorney, the site raised $200,000.
<strong>April 27, 2012</strong> -- Mark O'Mara launches the website GZLegalCase.com as the official site for Zimmerman's legal case.
<strong>May 8, 2012</strong> -- At Zimmerman's arraignment, Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. accepts his not-guilty plea.
<strong>May 17, 2012</strong> -- Prosecutors release police reports, witness statements, surveillance videos and other evidence in the case.
<strong>June 1, 2012</strong> -- Judge Lester revokes Zimmerman's bond, stating that his ruling is based on concerns that Zimmerman and his wife did not fully disclose their finances at the bond hearing.
<strong>June 3, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman is returned to jail.
<strong>June 12, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, is arrested on one count of perjury.
<strong>June 20, 2012</strong> -- The Sanford city manager fires Bill Lee from the police force.
<strong>June 21, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman's legal team releases discovery evidence on their client's website.
<strong>June 29, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman's second bond hearing is held. The judge does not immediately issue a ruling.
<strong>July 5, 2012</strong> -- Judge Lester grants Zimmerman a higher bond of $1 million.
<strong>July 6, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman is again released from jail.
<strong>July 19, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman relaunches his personal website.
<strong>July 27, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman's wife pleads not guilty to perjury.
<strong>Aug. 29, 2012</strong> -- An appeals court grants a request by George Zimmerman's defense team to dismiss Judge Lester from the case.
<strong>Aug. 30, 2012</strong> -- Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson is assigned the case.
<strong>Oct. 19, 2012</strong> -- Judge Nelson grants a defense motion requesting access to Trayvon Martin's school records and social media posts. The state is also granted access to Zimmerman's medical records.
<strong>Nov. 14, 2012</strong> -- Gov. Scott's "Stand Your Ground" task force concludes its final meeting and recommends no sweeping changes to the law.
<strong>Nov. 20, 2012</strong> -- Former Casey Anthony attorney Jose Baez announces that he is representing Sanford police Detective Chris Serino, the lead investigator in the shooting.
<strong>Dec. 3, 2012</strong> -- A new photo is released showing George Zimmerman with a bloody, broken nose on the night of the shooting.
<strong>Feb. 5, 2013</strong> -- On this day, Trayvon Martin would have turned 18.
<strong>Feb. 26, 2013</strong> -- Martin's parents hold a rally in his memory to mark the one-year anniversary of his death.
<strong>March 26, 2013</strong> -- Zimmerman's defense team releases its witness list of 134 people, including Sanford police officers and 56 unnamed witnesses.
Follow Steven Skurka on Twitter: www.twitter.com/legalanalyst