Running updates from the Zimmerman trial

Story highlights

  • George Zimmerman, on the 12th day of his trial, says he will not testify
  • Dennis Root, an expert on the use of force, testifies Wednesday morning and afternoon
  • Zimmerman's father is the last witness before the defense rests
HLN, CNN's sister network, is covering the George Zimmerman trial, gavel to gavel. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. Here is testimony from Wednesday:
[Updated at 5:40 p.m. ET]
Defense attorney O'Mara asks if it makes more sense to do all of the closing arguments on Friday so they happen on the same day, instead of splitting them up.
"The reason I told you what schedule I wanted is because it makes sense to me," said the judge. She then dismissed the court.
[Updated at 5:38 p.m. ET]
The defense has requested that closing arguments be delayed. The judge delays them until 1 p.m. ET on Thursday. She says the prosecution will present its rebuttal argument on Friday morning, and the jury will be charged after that.
The judge tells the attorneys to return at 9 a.m. ET to go over jury instructions.
[Updated at 5:37 p.m. ET]
The prosecution and defense both say there are no additional special instructions they want included on the jury instructions (aside from the other issues they've reserved until tomorrow).
[Updated at 5:33 p.m. ET]
The judge says "justifiable use of deadly force" (stand your ground) will also be discussed tomorrow, in regards to the jury instructions.
[Updated at 5:32 p.m. ET]
Prosecutors want manslaughter and aggravated assault to be included as lesser charges in the jury instructions. The defense objects, and the judge says they will take up this matter on Thursday.
[Updated at 5:29 p.m. ET]
The judge wants to go over the jury instructions with the attorneys.
[Updated at 5:26 p.m. ET]
The attorneys are at a sidebar. Donnelly is a former Vietnam combat medic who testified earlier in the trial that he heard Zimmerman's voice yelling for help on the 911 call. His testimony will remain in.
[Updated at 5:24 p.m. ET]
The judge says the court is "very, very, very" concerned about the rule of sequestration. She also says the witness list was long and it's hard to notify everyone about the rule of sequestration, especially considering that most witnesses didn't end up testifying. She also says she can't determine if Donnelly changed his testimony based on what he heard the two days he was in the courtroom. The judge has denied the prosecution's sanctions against this witness.
[Updated at 5:15 p.m. ET]
The defense says Donnelly was present for the second and third days of trial. Defense attorney O'Mara goes over some of the testimony he may have heard and says the family wanted him present in the courtroom. When defense attorney West saw Donnelly, he says he told him he couldn't be in the courtroom because he was a witness. Donnelly reportedly told West he didn't know he wasn't allowed to be in the courtroom. West says this would be the attorney's fault for not telling him about the rule of sequestration.
[Updated at 4:57 p.m. ET]
Prosecutor Mantei is making legal arguments about why the testimony of a defense witness, John Donnelly, should be stricken from the record. He says Donnelly was in court for two days and observed the testimony of several witnesses.
Mantei also says John Good violated the witness sequestration order by meeting with the defense about their computer animation.
Olivia Bertalan, according to Mantei, also violated the sequestration order by watching some trial coverage on television.
Mantei isn't suggesting a remedy regarding Bertalan and Good.
[Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET]
The judge tells the jurors she's dismissing them until 10 a.m. ET on Thursday.
[Updated at 4:44 p.m. ET]
The jury is being seated.
[Updated at 4:40 p.m. ET]
The judge says she wants to tell the jury that closing arguments will begin Thursday. Both sides say they'll need three hours (For the prosecution, this would also include their rebuttal argument, which is after the defense's closing argument).
[Updated at 4:38 p.m. ET]
The judge says they can discuss the testimony of this agent in the morning, if he's available to testify.
[Updated at 4:37 p.m. ET]
Defense attorney O'Mara says Zimmerman's charge of battery on a law enforcement officer was dropped to a misdemeanor immediately. He also says the agents were in plain clothes and had grabbed one of Zimmerman's friends. O'Mara also questions this incident being called an "attack."
[Updated at 4:34 p.m. ET]
The prosecutor is now discussing the testimony of a witness he wants to call on Thursday. He's an agent who says Zimmerman allegedly attacked him.
"The defense has gone to great lengths that the defendant is... largely incapable of fighting. I think this agent would offer a different perspective on that," said Mantei.
[Updated at 4:32 p.m. ET]
The defense says it has some issues with the presentation of the prosecution's next witness. The prosecution tells the judge it won't be calling this witness now.
[Updated at 4:31 p.m. ET]
The judge tells the prosecution that it's calling Pollock, a prosecution witness, just so it can impeach him, which she won't allow in their rebuttal. The prosecution says the sole purpose of the testimony was to ask him about his website, so there's no reason for him to come back into the courtroom.
[Updated at 4:29 p.m. ET]
Defense attorney O'Mara says Pollock wouldn't have any financial interest in saying Zimmerman was soft and a "0.5" on a scale of 1 to 10.
[Updated at 4:26 p.m. ET]
The judge is back on the bench and prosecutor Mantei is presenting case law discussing how a witness's possible bias should be presented to jurors. He says he's not calling Pollack to impeach him, he wants Pollack to impeach the testimony of Root.
[Updated at 4:22 p.m. ET]
HLN found a section on Pollack's website, still active:
We believe this is what prosecutor Mantei is referring to when he asked Pollack if he's marketing the training he gave Zimmerman.
It says: "To receive information about the training George Zimmerman received at KOKOPELLI'S GYM, please email request by filling out the form provided below."
[Updated at 4:01 p.m. ET]
The judge has dismissed the jury and recesses court for 15 minutes.
[Updated at 3:56 p.m. ET]
The attorneys are still in a sidebar.
[Updated at 3:47 p.m. ET]
The prosecution has called its first rebuttal witness, Adam Pollack, to the stand. Pollack owns the gym where Zimmerman took grappling and boxing classes. He testified earlier for the defense and said Zimmerman had no fighting skills.
"Are you now marketing the training that you gave George Zimmerman on your website?" asked prosecutor Richard Mantei.
"Absolutely not," said Pollack. The defense has objected and the attorneys are at a sidebar.
[Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET]
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara says the defense has rested its case.
[Updated at 3:43 p.m. ET]
The jury is being brought back in. The judge tells the defense it needs to rest on the record, in front of the jurors.
[Updated at 3:41 p.m. ET]
The judge says there's substantial evidence, both direct and circumstantial, that allows this case to go to the jury.
[Updated at 3:37 p.m. ET]
The prosecution says it plans to put on a rebuttal case with at least two witnesses. Defense attorney O'Mara is making his argument as to why there should be an acquittal.
[Updated at 3:36 p.m. ET]
The judge asks Zimmerman what his decision is about testifying.
"After consulting with counsel, not to testify your honor," Zimmerman said.
[Updated at 3:34 p.m. ET]
The defense now wants part of an interview with Martin's friend, Rachel Jeantel, entered into evidence. The judge wants to verify if this was played in front of the jury. O'Mara says there seems to be an issue that they need to fix.
[Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET]
O'Mara is now going over photos the defense wants entered into evidence.
[Updated at 3:28 p.m. ET]
Our producer, who is inside the courtroom, says the prosecutors were huddling during this recess. The judge is on the bench and the defense is asking if the defense timeline can be entered into evidence. The prosecution says it wants to look at the times to make sure they're accurate but doesn't have any objections.
[Updated at 3:14 p.m. ET]
The judge asks Zimmerman if he wants his attorneys to call any more witnesses.
"No, your honor," Zimmerman says. She tells him that she'll ask him, after the recess, whether he plans to testify.
[Updated at 3:12 p.m. ET]
The judge has dismissed court for a 15-minute recess.
[Updated at 3:11 p.m. ET]
Robert Zimmerman says he has listened to the tapes "at least" six times. He has been excused but the prosecution says he is subject to recall.
[Updated at 3:10 p.m. ET]
The defense has called Robert Zimmerman Sr., George Zimmerman's father, to the stand. He describes where he first heard the 911 tape with the screams in the background and says he was still under oath when he was asked if the screams belonged to his son.
"I told them absolutely, it's my son George," said Robert Zimmerman.
[Updated at 3:07 p.m. ET]
The defense has finished its questions and Bertalan has been excused.
[Updated at 3:06 p.m. ET]
Bertalan says Zimmerman gave her a lock for her sliding glass door, which she didn't find weird. She says she was very appreciative for his help. She also says police told her to get a dog, which she did.
[Updated at 3:05 p.m. ET]
"Were you appreciative of his efforts to help you out?" asked O'Mara.
"Very, we were terrified when this happened. ... I was just appreciative that he was offering his hand and had told me I could spend time with his wife if I needed to go somewhere during the day," Bertalan said.
[Updated at 3:03 p.m. ET]
Bertalan says she heard part of the trial, where Zimmerman's uncle testified. She says she hasn't tweeted about the trial this week, says she follows defense attorney O'Mara on Twitter and says she was on Nancy Grace discussing the case in the past. Guy has concluded his cross-examination.
[Updated at 3:01 p.m. ET]
Bertalan says Zimmerman visited her the day the break-in happened. They didn't know each other before, he had just heard about the incident. She told him about the race, age and sex of the people who broke in. She says she discussed the case with Zimmerman about 20 times and says the police eventually told them one of the suspects lived in their neighborhood and was arrested.
[Updated at 2:57 p.m. ET]
The defense has withdrawn its objection to the prosecutor's line of questioning and the jury is being brought back in.
[Updated at 2:55 p.m. ET]
The judge has dismissed the jury while prosecutor Guy asks Bertalan about her conversations with Zimmerman. She says Zimmerman came to her home to talk to her because he had heard she was a victim.
[Updated at 2:53 p.m. ET]
The defense has called Olivia Bertalan to the witness stand. She used to live in Zimmerman's neighborhood and says a crime was committed in her home. She describes the incident, in which two young black men rang her doorbell several times and then broke in.
"I was locked in my son's bedroom and he was shaking the doorknob trying to get in. I was sitting there with a pair of rusty scissors and my son in my arm," Bertalan said. She said police came and the men eventually left. They allegedly took her camera and laptop and tried to take her TV.
The incident happened on August 2, 2011, and she eventually moved because of the break-in.
[Updated at 2:48 p.m. ET]
Root has been excused and the prosecution says he is subject to being recalled. The defense wants to discuss him being recalled in a sidebar but the judge says they'll talk about it later.
[Updated at 2:47 p.m. ET]
"Based on the information I received ... Mr. Zimmerman was not one to enter into the ring, he was not confrontational. Everything I reviewed in the case would indicate the opposite," said Root in response to a question by the defense attorney. He also said Zimmerman didn't have "that inner fire that compels you to be a fighter."
[Updated at 2:45 p.m. ET]
Prosecutor Guy has completed his questions.
[Updated at 2:42 p.m. ET]
Guy gets down on the ground to show how the gun could be shot at different angles as the shooter is laying on his or her back. Root agrees that anything is possible but it's about what's probable.
[Updated at 2:39 p.m. ET]
Guy makes the point that the wrist and hand move separately from the body, so can't that contribute to the angle of the gunshot wound.
"Anything is possible. That doesn't make it plausible," Root said.
[Updated at 2:37 p.m. ET]
After being hit in the nose, Root says, he would continue to fight because he's a fighter and that's what fighters do. He says he has also seen a hit in the nose stop a fight.
[Updated at 2:35 p.m. ET]
Root says this is the first time he's testified in this manner, for a criminal defendant, in front of a jury.
[Updated at 2:33 p.m. ET]
The defense has finished its round of questions and now prosecutor Guy is asking Root about the variables in this case.
"Do you know what Trayvon Martin was doing at the moment he was shot?" Guy asked.
"Yes," said Root.
"You do?"
"It appears clear through the evidence," Root said. "I personally was not there. ... I can only base my opinion on the totality of the evidence."
[Updated at 2:29 p.m. ET]
"My personal response, if you shoved me ... I would take a position of advantage and give you strong verbal commands and make sure it's clear that you made a mistake," Root said.
[Updated at 2:28 p.m. ET]
Root says if you're confronted with an aggressor, the first thing you should do is "try to avoid it if you can." But he says there are several variables involved.
[Updated at 2:25 p.m. ET]
Root says he enjoyed being a police officer, which he considers a noble profession. He says he would suggest the profession to a relative who is fit and could take on the stress of the job.
[Updated at 2:21 p.m. ET]
"Getting the first shot into the face, it can provide various outcomes. The primary thing is you let the person know you're for real and it's devastating, especially if you have a hard punch," Root said. He also says the person who controls the ebb and flow of the fight can have a better chance at winning.
[Updated at 2:18 p.m. ET]
Root describes what happens when someone gets hit in the nose: The eyes tear up, it could result in bleeding that fills the nose and it could stun the person.
[Updated at 2:14 p.m. ET]
Root says he his reason for taking this case was not that it's high profile. He also says the attention you get from the case is positive and negative.
[Updated at 2:05 p.m. ET]
"Was there anything in Mr. Zimmerman's use of his firearm that you would consider to be reckless?" asked O'Mara.
"No," said Root.
O'Mara asks him to explain, the prosecution objects and the attorneys are now at a sidebar.
[Updated at 2:03 p.m. ET]
In reference to Zimmerman saying on the non-emergency call that "those (expletive) always get away," Root says, "It was more of a frustration about the totality of everyone he's called in on ... not specifically one particular person."
[Updated at 1:59 p.m. ET]
The jury is being seated.
[Updated at 1:56 p.m. ET]
The defense still needs to finish with its current witness, Root, then they have two more potential witnesses after that. It is likely that the judge will then ask Zimmerman again if he wants to testify. The attorneys are still at a sidebar.
[Updated at 1:51 p.m. ET]
"Mr. Zimmerman, have you made a decision as to whether or not you want to testify in this case?" Judge Nelson asked.
"No, not at this time your honor," Zimmerman said. The judge told him she will give him more time to talk to his attorneys about testifying. The attorneys are at a sidebar.
[Updated at 1:47 p.m. ET]
The judge is back on the bench and defense attorney O'Mara is putting some exhibits into evidence, including a document showing Zimmerman's concealed weapons permit and the event report documenting another of Zimmerman's calls to the non-emergency line made in the months before the shooting.
[Updated at 12:08 p.m. ET]
Judge Nelson has recessed court for lunch. The live blog will pick back up when testimony resumes at 1:45 p.m. ET.
[Updated at 12:06 p.m. ET]
O'Mara just made the point that even if Martin was straddle over Zimmerman's belly button he could have still accessed his gun around his hip area
[Updated at 12:03 p.m. ET]
O'Mara has straddled a dummy and is slamming the dummy's head onto the floor. Root said the injuries to the back of Zimmerman's head are consistent with O'Mara's actions.
[Updated at noon ET:]
Guy has finished his questions for Root, and now O'Mara is questioning him.
[Updated at 11:59 a.m. ET]
Guy is asking if Root read Zimmerman's written statement to police and saw that he called Martin a "suspect." Root said he doesn't recall reading that, but he would take Guy's word that Zimmerman called Martin a "suspect" in his written statement.
[Updated at 11:56 a.m. ET]
Root is explaining how if someone is carrying a concealed weapon with a permit, that person is required to notify police officers about the weapon when interacting with them.
[Updated at 11:53 a.m. ET]
The attorneys are at a sidebar with the judge.
[Updated at 11:52 a.m. ET]
"There's a lot of things that if I was in that same situation I would have most certainly done differently," said Root explaining how he would have handled the altercation with Zimmerman.
[Updated at 11:49 a.m. ET]
Root said he Zimmerman had limited ability to fight back against Martin's attack, but he does think Zimmerman probably tried to defend himself.
[Updated at 11:45 a.m. ET]
Martin's parents have been in attendance for most of today's testimony. They appear to be paying close attention to Root's testimony.
[Updated at 11:42 a.m. ET]
Root said if someone was disengaging or backing away from a fight it would be a de-escalation of force.
[Updated at 11:38 a.m. ET]
Root said when he surveyed Zimmerman's neighborhood the sun had not set. So he never saw the scene at night.
[Updated at 11:35 a.m. ET]
Guy is asking Root how he can reconcile the fact the medical examiner said Martin was shot at 90 degree angle while he straddled Zimmerman around his belly button.
[Updated at 11:32 a.m. ET]
Root said in a "dynamic event" both people would be moving so the gun may have been accessible as Martin moved around.
[Updated at 11:30 a.m. ET]
Guy is straddling a dummy as he points out how Zimmerman may have had trouble grabbing a gun at his waist if Martin was straddled at or above Zimmerman's belly button.
[Updated at 11:27 a.m. ET]
Guy is going to refresh Root's recollection with his deposition regarding his statement about how Martin was straddled around Zimmerman's belly button.
[Updated at 11:24 a.m. ET]
Root said he did not ask Zimmerman if he tried to strike Martin, and he does not recall what Zimmerman said he was doing with his hands during the fight.
[Updated at 11:21 a.m. ET]
Guy is asking Root if Zimmerman explained to him how he lost his flashlight in the altercation. Root said no, he did not ask Zimmerman about what happened to his flashlight during the altercation.
[Updated at 11:18 a.m. ET]
Root said he did not ask Zimmerman about how the fight moved from one point to another.
[Updated at 11:15 a.m. ET]
Guy is asking Root if he took into consideration Martin's phone records and Rachel Jeantel's testimony or statements into his creation of his timeline of the shooting. Root said he did not consider the two-minute gap, between the end of Zimmerman's non-emergency call to the end of Jeantel's call with Martin.
[Updated at 11:11 a.m. ET]
Guy asked Root if he asked Zimmerman if he was concerned for his safety when he got out of the car the night of the shooting. Root said no, he did not ask Zimmerman that question.
[Updated at 11:08 a.m. ET]
"I have never had to discharge my firearm in the line of duty," Root said.
[Updated at 11:06 a.m. ET]
Guy asked Root about his normal fee schedule for his expert testimony. He said his normal rate to testify is $175 an hour, but he has an agreement with the defense that indicates he may not be paid for his services in this case.
[Updated at 11:03 a.m. ET]
Root is explaining that anyone who is reckless with a gun is dangerous.
[Updated at 11:01 a.m. ET]
O'Mara has finished his questions for Root, and now prosecutor John Guy is asking him questions.
[Updated at 10:59 a.m. ET]
Root is discussing different types of bullets, and what they do when they enter the body.
[Updated at 10:57 a.m. ET]
Root said that it is smart to get a round in the chamber if someone is carrying a gun for self-defense, because it will be ready to use.
[Updated at 10:54 a.m. ET]
Root is talking about the amount of pressure it takes to pull the trigger of Zimmerman's gun, and how it is a safe amount of trigger pressure.
[Updated at 10:51 a.m. ET]
Root is talking about qualities of the firearm Zimmerman used to shoot Martin.
[Updated at 10:49 a.m. ET]
O'Mara is talking to fellow defense attorney Don West.
[Updated at 10:47 a.m. ET]
"When you teach classes on force," Root said, "unfortunately, you have to teach them about how to use deadly force."
[Updated at 10:45 a.m. ET]
Root said people involved with high-stress events like shootings can have trouble remembering things.
[Updated at 10:43 a.m. ET]
Root said in all the evidence he reviewed in the case there was nothing he saw that indicated ill will or hatred from Zimmerman.
[Updated at 10:41 a.m. ET]
The attorneys are at a sidebar with the judge.
[Updated at 10:40 a.m. ET]
"In this particular case, just going off the timeline of the 911 call given the period of time, I have personally sat there and timed it myself where it is about 40 seconds of time. That's a very long time to be involved in any type of physical altercation," Root said.
[Updated at 10:37 a.m. ET]
"We have a golden rule. If you have not successfully completed the fight, if you have not won the fight in 30 seconds, change tactics, because the tactics you are using are not working," Root said.
[Updated at 10:34 a.m. ET]
A paramedic who was at the scene wrote in his report that Martin appeared to be in his 20s, according to Root.
[Updated at 10:32 a.m. ET]
Root is explaining that Zimmerman took some boxing training, but he had not to the skill level where he was ready to get in the ring with an opponent.
[Updated at 10:29 a.m. ET]
Root inquired into Martin's background and training with hand-to-hand combat.
[Updated at 10:26 a.m. ET]
"Based on the injuries depicted in the photographs, they were consistent with a fist fight," Root said.
[Updated at 10:23 a.m. ET]
Prosecutor John Guy objected to one O'Mara question as bolstering Zimmerman's statement he gave to police. O'Mara said he would reword his question.
[Updated at 10:22 a.m. ET]
Root is discussing the environmental conditions the night of the shooting. It was dark and rainy, and it was in an isolated area behind buildings.
[Updated at 10:19 a.m. ET]
The prosecution has objected to a Root comment on other witness testimony. O'Mara said he would reword his question.
[Updated at 10:16 a.m. ET]
"High stress events change the way we see things," Root said.
[Updated at 10:13 a.m. ET]
The attorneys are at a sidebar for the judge.
[Updated at 10:11 a.m. ET]
Root said stress can hurt an eyewitness's ability to report what they saw accurately.
[Updated at 10:08 a.m. ET]
"I used all that information to begin forming my opinions and to focus in my energy to evaluating what I thought may have taken place," Root said.
[Updated at 10:04 a.m. ET]
"This first I looked and listened to was the 911 call that came. Then I added that the initial interviews of the key witnesses," Root said. "The people with the most information that saw or heard the most."
[Updated at 10:00 a.m. ET]
Root said he received all the evidence in the Zimmerman case that he asked for to make his analysis.
[Updated at 9:58 a.m. ET]
Root reviewed witness statements, physical evidence and photographs in Zimmerman's case.
[Updated at 9:54 a.m. ET]
O'Mara has moved on to talk about the work Root has done on Zimmerman's case. Root said he saw the story unfold in the news so he reached out to O'Mara, because he could help.
[Updated at 9:50 a.m. ET]
O'Mara is asking Root about what kind of testimony he has provided to grand juries in the past.
[Updated at 9:48 a.m. ET]
Root has training in martial arts and boxing. He is also working on developing a style of martial arts that incorporates firearms.
[Updated at 9:45 a.m. ET]
Root has also received training in combat with knives.
[Updated at 9:44 a.m. ET]
When Root was working for law enforcement he would review "force events" for teachable moments for other officers.
[Updated at 9:39 a.m. ET]
Root is talking about NRA firearm training he has completed.
[Updated at 9:35 a.m. ET]
At one point, Root worked with juvenile offenders as a drill sergeant at a boot camp.
[Updated at 9:32 a.m. ET]
O'Mara is walking Root through his career in chronological order.
[Updated at 9:30 a.m. ET]
Root is a certified instructor in in different hand-to-hand combat techniques.
[Updated at 9:27 a.m. ET]
Root said police officers have to maintain training for firearms and weapons, and that training doesn't end until an officer retires.
[Updated at 9:24 a.m. ET]
O'Mara is asking Root about training he has received with different weapons.
[Updated at 9:23 a.m. ET]
Root is a specialist on the use of force. He is talking about his career in law enforcement.
[Updated at 9:20 a.m. ET]
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara has called Dennis Root to the stand.
[Updated at 9:18 a.m. ET]
The jury is being seated.
[Updated at 9:17 a.m. ET]
The judge will not admit computer animation as evidence. However, in an argument yesterday the prosecutor had no objection to it being used as a demonstrative aid -- so this will pave the way for the defense to use it in their closing.
[Updated at 9:16 a.m. ET]
Nelson has barred the jury from hearing about text messages from Martin's phone that seemed to indicate he engaged in fights..
[Updated at 9:14 a.m. ET]
Nelson is informing Zimmerman that he has the right to testify. She said wants him to take her notice under consideration and she will ask him later if he plans to take the stand or not.
[Updated at 9:12 a.m. ET]
Nelson said she was reading case law provided by the attorneys.
[Updated at 9:11 a.m. ET]
Nelson is reading a document right now.
[Updated at 9:06 a.m. ET]
It seems the attorneys are reviewing some materials before court gets under way.
[Updated at 8:59 a.m. ET]
Judge Debra Nelson is on the bench, and the attorneys have joined her for a sidebar.
[Updated at 8:57 a.m. ET]
Zimmerman is in the courtroom, and court should begin shortly.