Zimmerman’s statements after the shooting are not admissible

June 21, 2013

Friday, June 21, 2013

Good evening:

Don West filed a written motion this afternoon identifying the defendant’s statements that he claims are admissible pursuant to the res gestae exception to the hearsay rule.

The statements are hearsay and not admissible pursuant to the res gestae or any other exception to the hearsay rule.

Mr. West describes the statements as follows:

Witness 13 and his wife heard a commotion in the back of their townhome. They heard yelling and then heard a shot. Witness 13 grabbed a flashlight and went outside to see what had happened. Within seconds of the shooting, W13 approached Mr. Zimmerman who was staggering, bleeding and breathing hard. The witness observed blood on Mr. Zimmerman’s face and the back of his head consistent with someone having been injured in a fight. Mr. Zimmerman asked W13 if he was bleeding? Witness 13 said “Yes” and W13 asked Mr. Zimmerman what had happened? Mr. Zimmerman told W13 that the other person was “beating me up” and he shot him.

Within a minute or so, Sanford Police Officer Tim Smith arrived on foot at the location where Mr. Zimmerman and W13 were standing. Officer Smith spoke with Mr. Zimmerman at the scene upo his arrival. Mr. Zimmerman acknowledged being the person who fired the shot and that he had a firearm on him. Mr. Zimmerman spontaneously stated that he had yelled for help and that no one helped him.

The defense bases its argument on Alexander v. State, 627 So.2d 35, 43-44 (1st DCA 1993), where the Court stated,

We conclude that the trial court erred in excluding the testimony of witnesses to the shooting that described appellant Alexander’s exclamations and actions immediately after firing the shot that killed the victim. This testimony was admissible under the res gestae rule now codified in sections 90.803(1), (2), and (3), Florida Statutes (1991), which define the conditions for admissibility of (1) spontaneous statements, (2) excited utterances, and (3) then existing mental and emotional conditions of the declarant. The statements about which these witnesses could testify were made almost simultaneously with the act of shooting, a period of time too short to support a finding of fabrication that would destroy the apparent trustworthiness of this evidence. The mere fact that statements are self-serving is not, in and of itself, a sufficient evidentiary basis for their exclusion from evidence. No legal principle excludes statements or conduct of a party solely on the ground that such statements or conduct is self-serving. State v. Johnson, 671 P.2d 215 (Utah 1983); State v. Wallace, 97 Ariz. 296, 399 P.2d 909 (1965); Commonwealth v. Fatalo, 345 Mass. 85, 185 N.E.2d 754 (1962). See also United States v. Dellinger, 472 F.2d 340, 381 (7th Cir.1972), cert. denied, 410 U.S. 970, 93 S.Ct. 1443, 35 L.Ed.2d 706 (1973). While exculpatory statements of the accused generally are excluded from criminal cases because of their hearsay character, 29 Am.Jur.2d Evidence ยง 621 (1967), the courts of this state have long recognized an exception to this general rule where the statements form a part of the res gestae of the alleged offense. Jenkins v. State, 58 Fla. 62, 50 So. 582 (1909); Lowery v. State, 402 So.2d 1287 (Fla. 5th DCA 1981); Watkins v. State, 342 So.2d 1057 (Fla. 1st DCA), cert. denied, 353 So.2d 680 (Fla. 1977).[2] Furthermore, Florida has followed a liberal rule concerning the admittance of res gestae statements. See Appell v. State, 250 So.2d 318 (Fla. 4th DCA), cert. denied, 257 So.2d 257 (Fla. 1971). Accordingly, we do not see any basis on this record for concluding that this testimony was lacking in apparent trustworthiness and probative value. Thus, we are impelled to conclude that the exclusion of the proffered testimony of res gestae statements in this case was an abuse of discretion and, under the circumstances of this case, cannot be treated as harmless error.

(Emphasis supplied)

Accord: Stiles v. State, 672 So.2d 850 (4th DCA 1996).

Therefore, the critical question for Judge Nelson to decide is whether the statements “form a part of the res gestae of the alleged offense” such that the Court can find that there is no basis to conclude that “the testimony [is] lacking in apparent trustworthiness and probative value.”

Contrary to the defense assertion that “within seconds of the shooting,” the witness saw the defendant “staggering, bleeding and breathing hard,” the evidence will show that the witness described the defendant as “calm and collected” and within a few minutes all of his vital signs were normal when an EMT checked him. Indeed, he was cool, calm and collected.

With the exception of a few minor injuries that did not require stitches, a trip to the ER or even a bandaid, the defendant did not even appear to have been in a fight. Moreover, the only witness who described seeing a fight subsequently retracted that statement.

The evidence also will establish that the terrified death shriek ended when the defendant fired the fatal shot and both of the state’s expert witnesses have excluded the defendant as the person who uttered that haunting scream.

The evidence will show that, at the time he uttered the statements, he knew that the police were on their way and due to arrive any second.

Finally, the evidence will show that, instead of using his cell phone to call 911 for an emergency vehicle and attempting CPR until medical assistance arrived, he mounted Trayvon, placed his hands around his throat and subsequently stood up and had a casual conversation with a neighbor about the type of gun and ammunition he used to shoot Trayvon.

Under these circumstances, unlike the two cases cited by Mr. West, there is no basis for Judge Nelson to conclude that the statements “form a part of the res gestae of the alleged offense” such that the Court can find that there is no basis to conclude that “the testimony [is] lacking in apparent trustworthiness and probative value.” In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Here is Wiki with a little more information on the res gestae exception, in case it remains unclear:

Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, res gestae is an exception to the rule against hearsay evidence based on the belief that, because certain statements are made naturally, spontaneously, and without deliberation during the course of an event, they leave little room for misunderstanding/misinterpretation upon hearing by someone else (i.e., by the witness, who will later repeat the statement to the court) and thus the courts believe that such statements carry a high degree of credibility. Statements that can be admitted into evidence as res gestae fall into three headings:

Words or phrases that either form part of, or explain, a physical act,

Exclamations that are so spontaneous as to belie concoction, and

Statements that are evidence of someone’s state of mind.

The defendant’s statements establish that he was in a full cover-up mode knowing that the police were en route and due to arrive any second.

Therefore, the cases cited by Mr. West do not apply and the defendant’s statements are inadmissible hearsay.

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Expert opinions about the death shriek are admissible at trial

June 9, 2013

Saturday, June 9, 2013

Good afternoon:

The defense presented the testimony of two expert witnesses yesterday, Dr. Peter French from the UK and George Doddington from the United States, who agreed with Dr. Nakasone of the FBI Crime Lab that there is insufficient information in the background of the recorded 911 calls with which to form an opinion regarding whether Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman uttered the terrified death shriek.

The three experts also agreed that there is insufficient information to support an opinion regarding whether there are any identifiable words or phrases in the background of those calls.

Note that the three experts have described the prosecution and defense effort to rely on expert witnesses to identify the source of the terrified death shriek, as well as any words or phrases that either of them might have used, as an absence-of-evidence problem. That is, they agreed that the methodologies used by the prosecution experts are generally accepted by audiologists and neither novel nor new.

This conclusion is all that is required to satisfy the Frye rule, since the rule is a counting-heads test that establishes a threshold requirement or legal foundation to introduce an expert opinion that is based on a novel scientific theory or new methodology. The expert’s conclusion is irrelevant.

In other words, there was no need for a Frye hearing since the prosecution experts based their opinions on long accepted methodologies. Therefore, their opinions are admissible.

How much weight should be accorded to those opinions is a separate issue that only the jury can decide.

Defense counsel have focused their effort during the Frye hearing on attacking the validity of the opinions expressed by the prosecution experts. They are going to have to repeat that effort during the trial.

I predicted long ago that expert opinion regarding who uttered the terrified death shriek would not play a significant role in the outcome of the trial.

If I were arguing the State’s case to the jury, I would emphasize the strength of the circumstantial evidence that proves Trayvon Martin uttered the shriek. I would briefly add that the conclusions reached by the prosecution experts independently confirm the circumstantial evidence.

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Prosecution experts exclude the defendant as the source of the death shriek

June 7, 2013

Friday, June 7, 2013

Good evening:

The Frye hearing is developing much as I expected it would, although I am surprised by how far afield the testimony has wandered.

The scope of the hearing should be confined to determining whether the methodologies used by the experts are generally accepted by forensic audiologists. Dr. Nakasone, Tom Owen and Dr. Reich agreed that they are and that resolves the Frye inquiry.

The defense presented evidence questioning the accuracy of the results due to the very short (3-second recording) length of time in which the death shriek is not competing with other sounds. However, that argument and the rest of the defense arguments affect the weight that should be given to the results rather than the admissibility of the evidence.

Therefore, we basically watched a full dress rehearsal of the defense case challenging the accuracy of the opinions expressed by Tom Owen and Dr. Reich.

They agreed that the defendant did not utter the death shriek and indeed the circumstantial evidence independently confirms their opinions.

I confess that I had a difficult time hearing what the experts were saying because the audio was fuzzy and cutting in and out.

West’s monotone and stubborn nitpicking instead of focusing on the general acceptance issue, which is the purpose of the Frye hearing was quite annoying.

I think the defense committed a potentially serious tactical error by asking for a Frye hearing this close to trial because they have little or no chance to win and the hearing creates an opportunity for the State to remind everyone that their experts have excluded the defendant as the source of the death shriek.


What to expect tomorrow at the hearings in the Zimmerman case

June 5, 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Good morning:

Except for RZ, Jr.’s unsupported claim that Dr. Alan Reich’s opinions are based on voodoo science, nothing new has been reported in the press today about the case.

Speaking of new, the purpose of a Frye hearing is to determine whether a new or novel scientific theory or methodology is generally accepted in the scientific community. If the answer to the question is “No,” evidence obtained using that theory or methodology will be excluded and the jury will never hear about it.

If the theory or methodology used is not novel or new, the evidence will be admitted and objections to the accuracy of the results will go to weight and not admissibility. In other words, the jury will determine how much weight to assign to the evidence.

I think the defendant’s objections go to weight rather than admissibility, since the technology used is not novel or new.

Therefore, I am predicting that Judge Nelson will deny the defense motion to exclude testimony by the defense audiologists, including Dr. Reich.

The other motion scheduled for tomorrow is the defense motion for sanctions and a judicial review of alleged prosecution discovery violations. This will involve a continuation of the hearing that began last Tuesday with Wesley West on the stand. West, the former Nassau County prosecutor who resigned due to differences of opinion with State Attorney Angela Corey last December, represents whistleblower Ben Kruidbos, the Fourth Circuit Director of Information Technology who is going to testify that Bernie de la Rionda had photographs and video from Trayvon Martin’s cell phone that he did not disclose to the defense.

As I have said before, “Who cares?”

BDLR turned over the BIN file to the defense back in January, but the defense did not hire anyone to extract it or purchase the software to do it themselves.

In addition, the information on the phone is not relevant, admissible or exculpatory and, in light of Mark O’Mara’s lie about a video supposedly depicting Travon laughing as his buddies beat up a homeless person, O’Mara should have the decency to withdraw the motion and apologize for filing it.

He will not do that, of course.

I would deny his frivolous motion and fine him, if not jail him for contempt, but Judge Nelson is nicer than I am, so she will just deny it or hold off on issuing a ruling until after the trial, which is what she did with the last defense motion for sanctions.

The testimony from the audiologists should be interesting and worth listening to. After they are finished testifying, I think O’Mara will deeply regret having asked for a Frye hearing.

This is a golden opportunity for BDLR to inform the jury panel, the nation and the world on the eve of trial that Trayvon uttered the death shriek.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 am EDT.

We will live blog on the road via livestream from a motorcycle somewhere deep in Tennessee.

Ciao, baby.

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Please keep those donations coming.

We’ll need the gas money to get home.

Many blessings to all of you from

Fred and Crane


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