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 § 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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Witness 8’s (Dee Dee) alleged lies do not matter

March 7, 2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I write today to remind everyone that DD is not a critical prosecution witness because they can win this case without her testimony and her alleged lies about her age and whether she went to a hospital, instead of the funeral, probably are not admissible.

She is not a critical prosecution witness because the physical evidence, forensics, location of Trayvon’s body and the spent shell casing, and the defendant’s conflicting and inconsistent statements bury him beneath a mountain of evidence.

Although we will not know until trial, I am anticipating that the defendant’s interlocking phone calls with others before and after he killed Trayvon will eliminate any lingering doubt that anyone might have about his guilt. Even if it does not, I do not believe the prosecution’s case will be in any jeopardy.

BDLR will likely wait to call DD until late in his case after he has put in all of the evidence that he believes he needs to introduce in order to convict the defendant. With everything else in place, her testimony will merely confirm what everyone on the jury already knows. The jury likely will believe her because her testimony will be self-authenticating. That is, even though she had never been to the RTL, everything that she says Trayvon told her will be confirmed by the interlocking phone records of the calls she had with Trayvon, the physical layout of the place and the weather.

Because most of Trayvon’s statements to her are inadmissible hearsay, unless he was relating a present sense impression or excited utterance, which are two exceptions to the hearsay rule, I expect her testimony will be limited to he told her that,

(1) he was afraid of the creepy guy following him in the car;

(2) he ran to get away from him; the creepy guy suddenly showed up on foot; and

(3) he asked someone why he was following him;

Then she heard an older male voice respond, “What are you doing here?”

Then she heard what sounded like physical contact followed by Trayvon shouting, “Get off me,” and the phone went dead. She attempted to call him, but he did not answer.

That’s it. She does not know anything else.

The defendant’s supporters with considerable support from the lame-stream U.S. media and various lawyer-pundits who should know better have been saying things like, “The prosecution’s case is crumbling,” because Witness 8 (DD) lied or committed perjury,

(1) about her age; and

(2) when she claimed that she did not attend Trayvon’s wake or funeral because she was not feeling well and went to a hospital.

The prosecution’s case is not crumbling.

First, even assuming she lied, and I do not believe that she did, she most certainly did not commit perjury because neither of her statements are about matters that are material or important to the outcome of this case. Since materiality is an element that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to convict someone of perjury, there is no basis to charge her with that offense.

Second, the two alleged lies do not make it more or less likely that she is an untruthful person since a truthful person may lie about their age or when providing an excuse for not attending a funeral.

The rules of evidence permit Judge Nelson to exercise her discretion in deciding whether to permit the defense to cross examine DD about these two alleged lies.

The relevant rules of evidence are 608(b) and 403.

Evidence Rule 608(b) prohibits evidence of specific instances of the misconduct of a witness for the purpose of attacking her credibility, unless those specific instances of misconduct concern her character for truthfulness or untruthfulness.

(Emphasis supplied)

Evidence Rule 403 provides that even relevant evidence may be excluded if the judge finds that its probative value “is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury.”

(Emphasis supplied)

I can see Judge Nelson deciding that the slight probative value of the two alleged lies that she is an untruthful person is overwhelmed by their potential prejudice, since the alleged lies have nothing to do with any issues in the case, and her testimony is self-authenticating.

The admissibility of evidence about these two alleged lies probably will be the subject of a motion in limine by the prosecution for an order to prohibit the defense from mentioning them in front of the jury or cross examining her about them.

Even if Judge Nelson denies that motion, the prosecution can minimize the potential damage of that evidence by bringing it out on direct and asking her to tell the jury why she did not tell the truth about those two matters.

The defense would have to be careful cross examining her because the jury might not like it, if they do not treat her in a respectful manner.

When all is said and done by the witnesses and the lawyers, and the jury retires to deliberate on a verdict, I doubt that DD’s credibility will be a matter of any concern or discussion regarding whether the defendant killed Trayvon in self-defense.

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