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Day 9 of the Zimmerman Trial: The Defence Case Begins

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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.

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