Judge: Zimmerman can't make 'statement' without cross-examination
The judge in the case of George Zimmerman brushed back a defense attempt to have his client make a statement to the court without being cross-examined by prosectors.
Mark O’Mara presented evidence during a second bond hearing Friday that he said proved the weakness of the second degree murder case against Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin. But Judge Kenneth Lester rejected what he called an attempt to put on a “reverse Arthur hearing” — presenting evidence that Zimmerman acted in self-defense when he shot and killed Martin on February 26th, rather than focusing on the reason Zimmerman’s bond was revoked earlier this month.
Prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda focused on that aspect of the case, cross-examining a forsensic accountant called by the defense, about multiple transfers of funds from a Paypal account Zimmerman set up, and accounts controlled by him and his wife, Shellie.
Adam Magill said he was hired by O’Mara to examine the funds in the PayPal account and both George and Shellie Zimmerman’s bank accounts between April 12th and the 25th, when all but $700 was placed in a legal defense fund controlled by a trustee.
Magill testified that of $205,000 collected through Zimmerman’s websites from supporters ($197,567.91 after PayPayl fees), more than $130,000 was transferred in a series of transactions, all under the 10,000 limit imposed by PayPal, to George Zimmerman’s credit union accounts. From there, funds were moved in installments equal to the PayPal withdrawals, ofte $9,999 – just shy of the limit, to Shellie Zimmerman’s account at the same credit union.
De La Rionda on cross examination suggested that those transfers, plus another $43,000 given in cash to Zimmerman’s sister, were an attempt to conceal the money from the court.
Magill refuted the notion that the transactions were proof of an attempt to deceive the court. “You conceal money through cash, not bank transactions,” he said.
Magill’s testimony was among the few instances where the Zimmermans’ concealment of funds — the reason his bond was revoked and the source of perjury charges against Shellie Zimmerman — were prominent.
Much of the two-hour hearing was devoted to O’Mara’s presentation of evidence he said proves the weakness of the prosecution’s case.
O’Mara played for the court part of the walk through Zimmerman did with Sanford police at the shooting scene, in which he describes his injuries, and he called the EMT who treated Zimmerman at the scene, who testified his head was “45 percent covered with blood.”
“Did you have a chance to treat the other person?” De La Rionda asked the EMT, Kevin O’Rourke, of the Sanford Fire Department. “What were his injuries?”
“He suffered a gunshot wound to the chest,” O’Rourke said.
As O’Mara cued up audio of one of the 911 calls from the night of the shooting, in which the gunshot and screaming can be heard, Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and his brother Jahvaris, left the courtroom. Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin’s father, and the family’s attorneys remained in the courtroom.
They returned as the audio was played again, this time for Zimmerman’s father, who testified that he believed the screaming to be from his son, after listening to the audio “in headphones” after not hearing it clearly, and then hearing it again at the state attorney’s office.
Asked by De La Rionda if he had heard his son scream like that before, Robert Zimmerman said “lots of times,” prompting muffled laughter in the courtroom. De La Rionda also asked whether he was aware of George Zimmerman’s claims that Martin had his hands over Zimmerman’s nose and mouth, and whether that would be consistent with Zimmerman being able to scream out – a rare glimpse into the case prosecutors plan to put on when the case goes to trial.
“I think my son’s injuries show Trayvon Martin didn’t just have his hands on his mouth,” Robert Zimmerman said.
As the hearing wound to a close, O’Mara asked the judge if Zimmerman could make a statement – but that he wanted that statement to be directed at Judge Lester, and not subject to cross-examination by the prosecution.
“We took a chance” O’Mara said of his client’s apology to the Martin family for the death of their son, which Zimmerman offered during his first bond hearing in April, when he briefly took the stand.
Lester would not allow it.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the court” the judge said, rebutting O’Mara’s claim that as the wronged party, he alone should question Zimmerman.
The judge reminded O’Mara that his client could choose to testify or not, “just like anybody else.”
“I’m not going to allow him to pick and choose” who cross-examines him, Lester said, sustaining De La Rionda’s objection.
The hearing closed with an empassioned statement from De La Rionda, who objected to a still image of Martin in the 7-11 where he bought iced tea and candy just before his fatal encounter with Zimmerman.
“Is it that because he was wearing a hoodie, this victim can be seen as a criminal,” De La Rionda asked? “That clerk treated him as a customer.”
O’Mara countered that the image was solely intended to depict Martin’s size.
The prosecutor dismissed the evidence of Zimmerman’s injuries, saying with no skull fracture or concussion, the medical evidence is inconsistent with his statements about being “bashed” into the concrete. He said prosecutors have witness testimony about one person chasing another, and said that is anyone had a self-defense claim, it was Trayvon Martin.
O’Mara, citing Zimmerman’s loss of faith in the system after complying with police, only to have “a prosecutor in another county charge him with second degree murder,” and now facing life in prison, said his client should have spoken up about the money. “I don’t know what goes through the mind of a 28 year old” under the pressure Zimmerman faced — and the sudden influx of money from “strangers.” He asked that, having admitted to his mistake, Zimmerman not be further punished by being made to languish in jail pending trial.
The hearing ended without Zimmerman taking the stand.
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