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George Zimmerman Trial; Zimmerman Gains 120 Pounds

Aired June 26, 2013 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: It's a case that's riveting the nation. Today, for the very first time in the George Zimmerman trial, we're hearing from this neighbor who witnessed a scuffle with Trayvon Martin.


SURDYKA: I see the person right now. I see him like walk -- walking. There's a man coming out there. He's coming out with a flashlight. Oh, my God, I don't know what he did to this person.


BALDWIN: I'm Brooke Baldwin. Special CNN live coverage starts right now.

And here we go on this Wednesday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Good to be with you.

We begin with voices in the night. Two figures wrestling in the rain. One voice dominant, agitated, male. The other voice softer, answering the first and then crying out. And then suddenly this pop, pop, pop. The killing of Trayvon Martin as described by a woman who saw it from the vantage point of a second story bedroom window.

Take a look at this. In the very same townhome complex where George Zimmerman lived and overlooking the courtyard where Trayvon Martin died. Today, that neighbor became the very first person to tell these six female jurors what she witnessed on that rainy night.

Jane Surdyka is an unemployed recreation therapist and former middle schoolteacher. She says she heard voices, turned off her bedroom light, witnessed this confrontation as she was crouched down by her bedroom window.


JANE SURDYKA, WITNESSED KILLING OF TRAYVON MARTIN: Looking down there was one person on top of each other. They were vertical. And it was kind of like you can hear scuffling. You know like a -- they're moving back and forth. You know I didn't see arms swinging or anything like that, but just, you know, that they were on the ground and they were wrestling or shuffling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell us what then you observed and what you heard.

SURDYKA: When I saw the two men on the ground -- or two people on the ground -


SURDYKA: And shuffling, I thought, oh, my gosh, something horrible is happening. So I had my cell phone right on the side where the light was. So I just grabbed the cell phone and, you know, brought it to me and started pressing 911.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And in the process of calling 911, was there additional sounds that caught your attention?

SURDYKA: Yes. As I was pressing 911 is when I heard very clearly that -- that I say the two yells for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. In terms of the two individuals, the voices that you've described, one a more dominant or aggressive, and the other one -- what word did you use to describe the other one?

SURDYKA: Higher pitched groans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. The yells for help that you heard at that time, could you identify whether it was the dominant, louder voice or the higher pitched one?

SURDYKA: Well, in my opinion, I truly believe, especially the second yell for help that was like a - you know, a yelp. It was excruciating. I really felt that it was a boy's voice. After hearing the yelps for help, I still was staring down out the window and I just know it was still one person on top of each other. Then I heard like a -- from my window, pop, pop, pop. And, you know, I don't - I didn't - I don't know what a gun really sounds like, but I just know it was like a -- three popping noises.


BALDWIN: First voice I want to bring in here is that of Martin Savidge. He is covering the trial for us there in Sanford, Florida.

And so, Martin, this woman, this first witness out of the gate today, Jane, we hear her describe these voices, right? And ultimately one, you know, yelling in her own words, the yelp was, as she said, the boy's voice. Was the defense able to counter that on cross?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they certainly tried. I mean she was a very powerful witness I think you could say. An ear witness for the state. And as you point out, she was strongly maintaining that she heard two voices, one of them a dominant, strong, aggressive voice and then the other one she said was this kind of softer, lighter voice. And she was emphatic that the stronger voice, she felt in this particular case, or the lighter voice, the one that was calling for help, was Trayvon Martin.

And, you know, this has been at the key of the debate here because, of course, if you determine who's calling for help, then you pretty much know who is under attack and who is the aggressor. So that's why this kind of testimony is so critical here. But, yes, on cross, then it was Don West's turn and he tried to get her to alter, maybe waver. Here's some of what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Knowing that Trayvon Martin was shot in the chest, are you able to reconcile in your mind what you think you saw with the facts?

SURDYKA: That's what I saw. And that's the only thing I can tell you is what I saw and hearing the shouts and he was face down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Surdyka, you obviously were traumatized by this. And you made certain assumptions, correct?

SURDYKA: Assumptions? I just said exactly what I saw to the best of my ability, and heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, one of the assumptions, for example, that you made was that the voice or voices that you heard five or 10 minutes before were the same people that you later heard arguing.

SURDYKA: True. I thought they were the same people because the time was close and it was the same location.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you don't have any more information other than that circumstance?

SURDYKA: No, I do not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You also assumed that the confrontational voice, the one that was aggressive, was George Zimmerman's?

SURDYKA: Yes, because he was the -- a man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you don't have any independent evidence of that, correct?

SURDYKA: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You therefore then assumed that the other voice, the one that was softer, less dominant, was Trayvon Martin?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you sort of reached those conclusions because you, at some point, learned that Trayvon Martin was 17 years old?

SURDYKA: No. When I heard the voices, I definitely thought it was a man's loud, aggressive voice and the other voice just sounded like a -- you know, a higher pitched, lighter voice. Someone -- could have been a smaller man. Could have been -- but it sounded more like a boy to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or it could have been a man who has a higher voice?

SURDYKA: It sounded more like a boy to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, but it could have been a man with a higher voice?

SURDYKA: I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just like the more aggressive, dominant voice could have been a 17-year-old with a strong voice? Or more mature voice? Correct?

SURDYKA: I guess so.


SAVIDGE: It went by really quick here, Brooke, but there was a point that Don West sort of implied that the woman's emotions might have impaired her memory in some way. The reason for that is her 911 call. That was played in court today. There were a lot of calls that were made that night. Hers, by far, has to be considered the most emotional. Just take a listen to some of it.

BALDWIN: OK, let's listen.



911 DISPATCHER: (INAUDIBLE) an officers is there. He has somebody at gunpoint.


911 DISPATCHER: They're going to - they're going to handle the situation from here.

SURDYKA: Oh. Oh, my gosh. Someone's been shot.

911 DISPATCHER: It's probably going to be best if you stay inside your home for the time being, OK?

SURDYKA: I know but I can see somebody's killed. He was (INAUDIBLE). Why didn't someone come out and help him?

911 DISPATCHER: Listen, we don't know if they've been killed, OK? We know they've been probably -

SURDYKA: He just said he shot him dead. The person is dead, laying on the ground.

911 DISPATCHER: Just because he's dead on the ground -

SURDYKA: Oh, my God!


BALDWIN: So you hear this 911 call. Martin Savidge, do me a favor and stand by. I want to come back to you momentarily. But let's parse through some of what we've heard so far with our panel. Criminal Defense Attorney Page Pate is here with me in Studio 7. Also forensic scientist Larry Kobilinsky of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who was on Casey Anthony's defense team, also joins me today from New York.

Good to see you, sir.

And Criminal Defense Attorney Mel Robbins in Sanford, Florida.

Page, to you first, because I was sort of watching you react to some of what this eyewitness number 10, Jane, was saying. In a hearing Don West, one of the co-council - defense co-council and some of his questioning when it came to - to her interpretation of this dominant voice versus a soft voice. What was your impression?

PAGE PATE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think the defense attorney is making a mistake.


PATE: If you try to confront an eyewitness, or in this case an ear witness, if you will, and you're not successful, you're just reinforcing that witness's testimony. We get to hear that witness say again and again, yes, it sounded like a man's voice. Yes, I think it was aggressive. So it's very risky for a defense lawyer to try to go head to head with a witness like this.

BALDWIN: But you understand why he tried to do it?

PATE: Well, I guess I do. I mean what he really needs to do is try to establish that maybe she wasn't in the best position to hear this. Maybe her vision was not clear. I mean try to call into question her ability to perceive the events. Don't go head to head with her. I think that's a mistake.

BALDWIN: Mel, do you agree that Don West was unsuccessful in his attempts on cross-examination there?

MEL ROBBINS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: One hundred percent. We've got to realize that in a trial like this, it's typically about three steps forward and two steps back. It's like climbing a sand dune. And this was by far - I was in the courtroom when this was going down -- by far the best witness for the prosecution. She was compelling. She was emotional. And here's a very important piece. She was corroborated by her own 911 call. She started crying. Sybrina Fulton looked down and was wiping away her tears. And so the 911 call itself made her even that much more believable.

But one of the things that Don West Did that was successful in sort of dismantling her testimony is, he did get her to admit that she had never heard Trayvon Martin's voice, had never heard George Zimmerman's voice and that, yes, in fact, it could have been a man who just had a higher voice. So he did get the doubt inserted.

BALDWIN: Larry, as a forensics guy here, as a forensic scientist, I mean you're very well versed when it comes to, you know, the science of voices. Was this a successful attempt here? LAWRENCE KOBILINISKY, FORENSIC SCIENTIST: Well, let me - let me put it to you like this. Everybody's heard of the Innocence Project. As of today, there are about 309 people that have been exonerated. The vast majority of the wrongful convictions were due to misidentification. The issue is whether you're an ear witness or an eyewitness, the issue is one of reliability and whether or not we should trust the conclusions of this witness who was emotionally wrought. I don't know, I wasn't there, but I think we have to be very, very careful paying attention to this kind of evidence.

BALDWIN: I think it's an important point. And, Mel, I want to go back to you because of your unique perspective having been in this courtroom. And you bring up, and we saw the picture of Trayvon Martin's parents here during this very emotional 911 call. And I'm sitting here and I'm wondering about these six jurors. None of whom who we get to see. But I'm wondering if you saw them in that courtroom and how they're reacting to the last, you know, two days here. Initially yesterday, on day two of the trial, we know that very early on the body of Trayvon Martin was, you know, up on this massive projector screen and that was, obviously, difficult for them. And here we have, you know, this emotional call. How does that affect jurors?

ROBBINS: Well, you know, Brooke, it was - I was in the courtroom yesterday as well when they showed those horrific, tragic photos of Trayvon Martin. And, you know, I got to tell you, he just looked even younger than he was in those photos. He's got a baby face. And, in fact, Sybrina Fulton left the courtroom before those went up on the huge screen. But the jurors in that instance were just stone faced. They almost kind of sat back a little bit because of the impact of those photos.

Today when that first -- or the first witness, rather, was on the stand, they were leaning forward. You got to remember that this is a jury of six women, five of whom are mothers. And so to see another woman getting so emotional on the stand and basically pushing back on the defense saying, it was a boy, it was the boy, it was the boy, they were so engaged and hanging on every single word.

BALDWIN: Yes. We're going to continue our conversations with all of our different voices here, but I just want to dip in as this trial is underway right now in Sanford, Florida. Let's just listen in. Here he is, George Zimmerman. They're playing these 911 calls. This was key because just this morning this judge said, yes, it is OK to play these 911 calls. Not calls that pertain specifically to the night in which Trayvon Martin was killed, but dozens of calls George Zimmerman made to police over the course of years over what he deemed suspicious activity in his neighborhood. Let's listen.



GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Told us to report anything suspicious. And since it's late and they usually don't have their garage door open all night.

911 DISPATCHER: OK. George, what is your last name?

ZIMMERMAN: Zimmerman.

911 DISPATCHER: And what's your telephone number in case we need to call you back?

ZIMMERMAN: 407-435-2400.

911 DISPATCHER: OK. Are there any cars in the garage or the driveway just so we can make sure we're going to the right --

ZIMMERMAN: There's - yes, there's -- in the garage there's a silver Nissan Xterra.

911 DISPATCHER: OK. We've already got an officer heading that way, sir.

ZIMMERMAN: Thank you, ma'am.

911 DISPATCHER: Sure, thank you.

ZIMMERMAN: Have a good night.

911 DISPATCHER: You, too. Bye-bye.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Rothford (ph), is the next call and date and time in chronological order, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: October 1st, 2011, at 0053. That would be at 12:53 a.m.

911 DISPATCHER: (INAUDIBLE) Sanford Police. (INAUDIBLE) speaking.

ZIMMERMAN: Hi. I was just calling because we've had a lot of break-ins in our neighborhood recently and I'm on the neighborhood watch. And there's two suspicious characters at the gate of my neighborhood. I've never seen them before. I have no idea what they're doing. They're just hanging out, loitering.

911 DISPATCHER: What's the address?

ZIMMERMAN: 1111 (INAUDIBLE) Circle. And that's Sanford, Florida.

911 DISPATCHER: (INAUDIBLE) Twin Light (ph) townhouses?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes, ma'am. No, but (INAUDIBLE).

911 DISPATCHER: So, yes, that was Twin Light (ph) townhouses?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes, ma'am.

911 DISPATCHER: OK, great. Can I get your name and a call back number?

ZIMMERMAN: George. And it's 407-435-2400. 911 DISPATCHER: And, George, can I get a last name?

ZIMMERMAN: Zimmerman.

911 DISPATCHER: OK, Mr. Zimmerman, can you describe the two individuals?


BALDWIN: So, as you sit and look at the man who is in this courtroom in Sanford, Florida, who is the person who is on trial for second degree murder, we are hearing his voice over the course of several years calling into police, reporting some sort of what he deems suspicious activity. We're going to talk about whether or not the fact that this judge made this ruling of making these calls admissible, if this is a win possibly for the state or not.

Also, we are awaiting what could be key testimony from the girlfriend of Trayvon Martin there in Sanford, Florida. Do not miss a moment of this show. Our panel will be right back.


BALDWIN: Welcome back to special coverage of the George Zimmerman trial underway here, day three in Sanford, Florida. I want to re- introduce my panel here. We have Page Pate, criminal defense attorney, constitutional attorney. Joining us also Mel Robbins, HLN contributor, criminal defense attorney. And Larry Kobilinsky, a forensic scientist in John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was on the Casey Anthony defense team.

So what we just heard live playing out in this courtroom, these 911 calls that the judge just today said, OK, this is OK to play these calls that George Zimmerman made in the, you know, several years leading up to the night that he killed Trayvon Martin. And the question I have, Page, I'm going to start with you here in the studio, the question I have was, could this be - how could this be helpful for the state side?

PATE: Well, it's really important for the state if they're going to prove their theory of what happened in this case to show that George Zimmerman is a wannabe cop. He's someone that wants to report suspicious activity in the neighborhood. He's someone that wants to be aggressive. He wants to respond. It's really important for the state to show he's that type of person because that's going to make him more likely to overreact in a situation like what occurred.

BALDWIN: Larry Kobilinsky, do you agree? How did they do that (ph)?

KOBILINSKY: I don't agree. I just don't. I think what we see here is somebody has a job. His job is to be a community watch person. He was doing his job to increase security in the community. That was his job to make these phone calls and report in what's going on. Of course, he's not supposed to react. He's supposed to call the police. But he's doing his job. That's all it tem tells me. BALDWIN: So far today we have heard on the stand eyewitness number 10, who we heard, Jane, who talks about hearing this as she perceived this more dominant voice and then this softer voice. And we heard the cross-examination back and forth. There was another eyewitness as well, a former neighbor, who saw, I think she described some sort of scuffle.

We are awaiting Trayvon Martin's girlfriend, Mel, to you, since you are there and have been in the courtroom and are in the weeds, really, on this whole trial. This girlfriend, as we all recall covering the case initially, the story when it happened, this girlfriend was on the phone with Trayvon Martin when this whole thing happened. What should we expect from her?

ROBBINS: Well, you're going to expect very emotional testimony. She's just a teenager, for crying out loud, and she's an ear witness. She was on the phone with Trayvon as he was walking home. He told her, reportedly, that, you know, some guy was following him. She told him to get out of there.

She also heard the initial confrontation. So she's going to say that she heard Trayvon say, why are you following me, and then the phone went dead. But I really doubt we're going to see her today because they haven't even deposed Benjamin Crump yet and they need to do that before they would question her. So, you know, I don't - I don't think we're going to see her today, but it's going to be emotional when she arrives for sure.

BALDWIN: Let's talk also about George Zimmerman because something so many people have noticed over the course of this year plus is his change in physical appearance, the weight gain. On the other side of the break, I want to ask all three of you, is this strategy or is it merely stress? That's next.


BALDWIN: And welcome back to our special coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial here.

I want to talk about George Zimmerman's weight gain. Here he is, live pictures inside this courtroom in Sanford. He was in much slimmer condition. He was in shape at the time of the shooting. But as you can see now, he has gotten bigger. And that could impact the jury's opinion on who had the upper hand during his fight with Trayvon Martin. With that, here's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is George Zimmerman when he was first questioned about shooting Trayvon Martin. He was 5'8" and weighed 194 pounds. That was February 26, 2012. Back then, Zimmerman was fit. Just look at his mug shot and his early court appearances.

But watch as his look changed over the last year or so. His body ballooned. Zimmerman's lawyer says he's gained about 120 pounds. Does this look like the same man to you? We asked Patti Wood, a body language expert, to tell us what she sees, then and now.

KAYE (on camera): This is a skinny George Zimmerman -


KAYE: Appearing in court. What do you see?

WOOD: Well, here we see he's very comfortable. See how he elongates his torso here? He's very proud. He feels very powerful and strong. Even in shackles. That's very interesting. So he's very comfortable in his body. That's important to know.

KAYE: Do you see that same - that same attitude here?

WOOD: Yes. Obviously his walk is stilted. But, again, notice how elongated he is. Often I see in this situation downcast, shoulders over, very, very burdened. In this case, he's not. He's feeling really comfortable in his body.

KAYE (voice-over): And when we showed Patti the heavier set Zimmerman, who now weighs about 300 pounds?

WOOD: He's agitated. He's much more upset. But what's remarkable to me is that he's actually comfortable with this excessive weight. So that actually tells me something else, that he's comfortable and not feeling guilty.

KAYE: How does she think the jury will respond to the more plump George Zimmerman?

WOOD: Weight gain, excessive weight. We have a lot of negative connotations to it. So it can work against him. On the other hand, before he looked like a lean, mean fighting machine and very young and fit. So we say, well, why did he need to pull out a gun? So it may work for him in an odd way.

KAYE: And that's led to some speculation the weight gain might be a deliberate defense strategy to make Zimmerman appear less threatening. But on Piers Morgan's show, Zimmerman's attorney explained his client's weight gain was less about strategy and more about stress.

MARK O'MARA, ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He's gained an enormous amount of weight. Over 120, 125 pounds I think because he's sitting in a house, stressed, trying to deal with the -- the moniker that's been put on him that he's the most hated man in America for taking the life of somebody when he really feels that he needed to.

KAYE: Fat or fit, during the next few weeks, George Zimmerman, along with the rest of us, will be on a steady diet of courtroom drama.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Atlanta.


BALDWIN: All right. We're going to talk about this change in physical appearance in just a moment. But here we have - I want to direct your attention to these live pictures. Mel, it looks like she is about to testify. This is the girlfriend of Trayvon Martin.


BALDWIN: This is the young woman who was on the phone with him that night about a year and a half ago. Let's take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon, ma'am. Could you state your name for the record and spell your last name?

RACHEL JEANTEL: Rachel Jeantel. J-e-a-n-t-e-l.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miss Jeantel, what is your date of birth?

JEANTEL: February 1, 1994.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you are how old right now?

JEANTEL: Nineteen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Have you previously gone by the name of Diamond (ph) or Dee Dee (ph) nicknames?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And you currently live in Miami?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where were you born?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Where did you grow up?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Is your family originally from where?

JEANTEL: Haiti and the Dominican.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Haiti and the Dominican Republic?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Was your mother born in Haiti?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you live with your mother?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to school at this time?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what school are you going to?

JEANTEL: Miami Senior -- Miami Northern Senior High.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And what grade will you be in starting in the fall?

JEANTEL: Twelfth.