How should the Court deal with Serino telling witnesses that Zimmerman was the person they heard screaming for help?
Should that evidence be admitted or excluded, and why?
To assist the discussion, I am going to provide context with an example that may come up during the trial.
Let us assume that Serino is the witness and O’Mara is cross examining him.
Q: When you interviewed the witness Mary Cutcher, you told her that the person whom she heard screaming for help was the person who survived, didn’t you?
Q: And that person was George Zimmerman, correct?
The prosecution is going to want to clean up this mess on redirect and here is an example of how that might be accomplished.
Q: Do you recall testifying on cross examination that you told the witness Mary Cutcher that George Zimmerman was the person who screamed for help?
Q: Were you right or wrong about that?
A: I made a mistake. I was wrong.
Q: Please tell the members of the jury when and how you realized that you made a mistake?
A: I listened to a recording of a 911-call that I had not previously listened to and when I did, I could actually hear two different voices. Based on what I heard them say, I realized that I was mistaken.
Q: Showing you what has already been identified and admitted into evidence as State’s Exhibit 125, a recording of a 911-call that night, can you identify this recording?
A: Yes, State’s Exhibit 125 is the recording that I listened to when I realized my mistake.
Your Honor, may I play the recording for the members of the Jury.
The Court: You may.
Note that this potential scenario explains Serino’s error as an innocent mistake. For whatever reason, and he will supply the reason, he believed George Zimmerman was the person screaming for help.
What happens if he independently decided, or he was ordered to decide that George Zimmerman was the person screaming when he knew that was not true, or unlikely to be true?
Even if this scenario is what actually happened, I do not expect Serino will admit it and when you think about it, I do not believe the actual truth matters to the outcome of the Zimmerman trial.
In other words, even if Serino independently decided to attempt to convince witnesses that George Zimmerman was screaming for help, or he was ordered to do that, the identity of the person screaming does not change.
There are only two possibilities. Either Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman uttered that terrified shriek and the jury can decide who it was by listening to the recording.
There really is no doubt and there never was any doubt because only two voices can be heard, one threatening and one pleading, and the shriek is punctuated with a solitary gunshot to the heart.
Therefore, police opinions and the expression of those opinions are not relevant. That is, they are not probative of Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence.
Therefore, you might reasonably expect the State to file a motion in limine (i.e., at the beginning of the trial) to prohibit the defense from mentioning or questioning witnesses about Serino’s efforts to persuade witnesses that Zimmerman was the person screaming for help.
If I were the judge, I would grant the State’s motion absent evidence from the defense that Serino’s error is relevant.
Note: I am not saying the issue of why Serino did what he did is not important. I believe it is very important and worthy of investigation to determine if it were an innocent mistake or evidence of a decision not to charge Zimmerman before the investigation was completed. There is more than a hint of corruption here and an investigation is warranted.