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NFL Player Charged With Murder; George Zimmerman Trial Continues
Aired June 26, 2013 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: But on that point, you did sort of hear one phrase she used, when she's describing this phone call, when she's on the phone with Trayvon Martin.
And she's describing this man. Trayvon Martin says it was a man who kept watching him. Man looked like a crazy "bleep" cracker.
VINNIE POLITAN, HLN HOST: Yes.
BALDWIN: What do you make of that language?
POLITAN: Well, it's good and bad for the prosecution. It's good and bad for the defense.
The last word you use, that's bad for the prosecution, good for the defense, because maybe it shows some sort of anger on the part of Trayvon Martin. But he also described him as creepy.
POLITAN: And what was really important for prosecutors to try to get out is that Trayvon Martin's trying to get home and he feels threatened to a certain extent. He feels like some creepy guy is following him.
And that's important to get in front of this jury, because, again, what the defense is saying is that Trayvon Martin is the attacker. Trayvon Martin is the one who at some point decided to hide in the darkness, lurch out, and attack and try to kill George Zimmerman. So this is the other side of it. So, this is a significant witness. Her credibility is so important for the prosecution.
BALDWIN: What did you think of that, Mel? Mel, you're standing by. You have been in the courtroom earlier today and yesterday.
BALDWIN: Are you with me, Mel?
MEL ROBBINS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oh, yes. I'm here. I'm sorry. They were asking me to check the mike.
BALDWIN: No worries. I hear you loud and clear. Tell me, what did you make of that testimony, Rachel Jeantel on the stand? ROBBINS: Well, first of all, I'm completely surprised they brought her in at this stage, because the prosecution has been bouncing all over the place. And typically you want to tell a comparing narrative.
Secondly, the fact that she dropped all of those racial slurs to me made her seem a little bit credible, if you will. I realize she's a terrible speaker. But, overall, I got to be honest with you. What I feel terrible about is, if she's telling the truth, I think that there's a large number of people that will discount her because she's a very poor speaker, was clearly nervous.
And I'm very nervous for her to see what happens on cross-examination, because she's clearly out of her element and unnerved and upset. And I'm sure it was very traumatic for her. But I think that this is a witness that's going to be very controversial. And if the prosecution's case hinges on her, forget about it.
BALDWIN: I want to get to the cross-examination in just a moment. But you could see in the courtroom even Trayvon Martin's family sort of wiping away some tears as she begins to cry, as she is asked, you know, why weren't you at the funeral of Trayvon Martin? And you hear her. And that's when she begins to get emotional, saying that she didn't want to see the body. And she had.
It was proven that she had lied initially, saying that she was at the hospital, and that was the reason why she wasn't at the funeral. And she admits to lying. And she said ultimately there on the stand that it was guilt. She felt guilty. She was the last person to have talked to him.
ROBBINS: Brooke, I don't think that you're going to see the defense go after her and try to decimate her based on the lies she told. She's a high school student who just lost her best friend in the biggest case in America at the time.
BALDWIN: So, what do they do? How do they handle this on cross?
ROBBINS: I have no idea, because you can't understand half the things that she's saying. I think they're going to have to just really tease out very slowly and use her own words to try to contradict the details.
Like, I kind of smugged and made a weird expression, Brooke, as I'm sure many of you did, when she said she heard the sound of wet grass. Really? What does that sound like exactly? So there were aspects to what she was saying that didn't seem credible.
And you're going to see the defense go straight at her and try to use her own words to trip her up, to get her to admit that some of the details are things that she maybe made up later or made up based on the news, as we saw with the witness that came before her. And frankly I'm surprised that -- go ahead. (CROSSTALK)
POLITAN: Mel, I think where they're also going to go is with Ben Crump, who's the family attorney who does the first interview with her. They're going to try to make all her testimony look like it was tainted and created by the attorney for Trayvon Martin's family.
So, I think that's the way they're going to try to attack her without actually attacking her, by really using her to attack Ben Crump.
BALDWIN: Let me bring one more voice in here.
Hang on. Hang on, Mel. Let me bring in senior legal analyst with us here at CNN Jeff Toobin, who I know also has been watching and listening.
And, Jeff, I'm sure you agree that this has been an integral witness thus far in this trial here on day three. What do you make of sort of the questioning from the state and also some of her language on the stand?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: She's unpolished, to say the least. And she is hard to understand.
But I have to say, I think it lends a certain authenticity to her testimony. She doesn't sound like someone who's making stuff up. And the gist of what she's saying, I think, is actually very favorable for the prosecution.
She's on the phone. They're talking about nothing in particular. And all of a sudden Trayvon Martin says this creepy guy, this cracker, he's following me around. Is that something she just made up? It didn't sound like it was something she made up. It sounded like a credible story.
And if the jury believes that, they believe that George Zimmerman almost certainly is the aggressor in the confrontation, which is the key issue in the whole case. So, even though she's not a conventionally effective witness, I actually think, at least this far, before cross-examination, she's -- she could make a helpful impression on the jury for the prosecution.
BALDWIN: Also, I think it's just important pointing out you heard the defense's attempts at objecting. And I was asking you, Vinnie, a little bit about that. And I think when I hear this judge's voice, this strong female voice, she's not messing around.
POLITAN: No. No, she isn't. And part of it was because no one was understanding what the witness was saying. So the defense wanted it to be repeated.
But the prosecutor can't lead the witness. So you can't just give her yes-no questions.
POLITAN: Yet she can't go off on a narrative. So, they were in a strange place there. but I think Jeffrey makes a great point. Her saying those things that aren't so helpful, that don't make Trayvon Martin look so helpless, actually bolster her credibility, makes the story sound like it's real.
POLITAN: The wet grass, they're going to go after that. And I think where also the defense is going to go after is, was Trayvon Martin saying get off of me? Because that's an important part of this, because if Trayvon Martin's saying get off of me, that direct -- contradicts what George Zimmerman said.
BALDWIN: Yes. I wanted to pull up precisely what was said on the stand. Let's see.
She had testified she heard Trayvon Martin saying, "Why are you following me for?" and heard a hard-breathing man say, "What are you doing around here?" and then heard Trayvon say, "Get off, get off."
Jeff Toobin, what do you think about the defense? How do they handle her next?
TOOBIN: Well, I think you -- you poke various holes. I don't think you can discredit the whole story.
But you establish that she is essentially part of the Martin family and that she was talked to by Mr. Crump, the lawyer for the family, that she's obviously sympathetic. And you suggest that she is tilting her testimony in that direction.
We want -- we're going to want to know what other versions of this story she's told. And, presumably, if there are contradictions, the defense will bring that out. That's sort of classic cross-examination material, that your story has changed -- changed over time. I think that's that's probably the best they can do. And it may be -- it may be good enough, because she is not a powerful presence on the witness stand.
She is -- she's mumbling. It's very hard to understand her. She's nervous. So they may be able to push her around. But let's see. The jury also may feel a certain sympathy.
POLITAN: I agree there. One other thing...
TOOBIN: She's just a kid.
BALDWIN: Going into the 12th grade.
TOOBIN: And she's in a very -- yes, in an unusually pressured situation with her friend who was just killed in cold blood.
POLITAN: I think one other point that they will bring out is that when she's initially interviewed, Trayvon Martin's parents are in the room.
So, I'm sure the defense is going to bring that out on cross- examination, again trying to make that link that, as Jeffrey says, she's part of the family. We will see how effective it is, though.
BALDWIN: OK. Let me have all four of you stand by, because, as mentioned, they're in recess. And then she will be cross-examined of course by the defense team.
In the meantime, it is certainly not a slow news day. We are now learning breaking developments here in this Aaron Hernandez story, now former New England Patriots tight end. He's since been released from the team because he now faces a murder charge in relation to what has been described as a friend, this man by the name of Odin Lloyd, found dead. More on this breaking story next.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BALDWIN: All right. Welcome back. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
The breaking news here continuing on CNN -- now we know pro football star, now former tight end of the New England Patriots Aaron Hernandez has been charged with murder. These are live pictures inside this courthouse. We're going to dip in, in just a moment.
But let me just give you a little bit of background. A short time ago, the former Patriot has been in court. He's accused of killing this 27-year-old man by the name of Odin Lloyd, who was found dead less than a mile from Hernandez's home there in Massachusetts.
Police had arrested Hernandez earlier today. They took him away in handcuffs. The Patriots released Hernandez just a short time after his arrest. Again, this is happening. He's being arraigned in court right now in Massachusetts. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Folks, we are still in session.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quiet, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Your Honor.
Your Honor, we would ask the court to enter an order restricting public comment on this case. We believe it is necessary, given the events (AUDIO GAP) both in the past week, the numerous reports that have been in the media that have been false, some of those reports attributed to (AUDIO GAP) we have discussed this with Mr. McCauley. And the commonwealth's point of view -- and indeed last week, I spoke with the district attorney about those reports. And the commonwealth shared my concern about what was being percolated into the public arena which has the potential to prejudice Mr. Hernandez and obviously prejudice any jury that would one day hear this case.
We have spoken with Mr. McCauley. Our understanding is that the commonwealth agrees that an order limiting -- restricting public comment on this case is appropriate for the court to enter at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) we concur.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, it sounds easy in principle.
In practicality, if I'm the defense, quite frankly, as I understand it, we have the obligation (INAUDIBLE) making this proceeding available to the public (INAUDIBLE) the court is a public forum.
Now (INAUDIBLE) the court issue an order restricting public comment (INAUDIBLE) how or whether the court has the constitutional authority (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would be happy to address that, Your Honor. (INAUDIBLE)
First, obviously, the rules of professional conduct apply to the lawyers in this case and address this issue quite clearly.
What we are concerned about is other parties that may have access to facts in this case as the grand jury process plays out, as the pretrial process plays out.
What we would ask is just a simple order that would issue from this court to note that anyone involved in this case, we're not seeking to restrict the press or media or anyone else or raise a constitutional issue. What we are asking for is that an order issue that would restrict individuals involved in this case, both on the defense side and on the prosecution side, which would include law enforcement investigators and the like, from releasing any comment or commenting about this case while it is pending so as not to prejudice this defendant's rights.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. McCauley?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your Honor, it's always our intention to only comment (INAUDIBLE) to say what's been said on the public record (INAUDIBLE) no comment (INAUDIBLE) any agent of ours, police officer, investigator, assistant DA, the civilians (INAUDIBLE) keeping them from commenting.
But that is not going to be coming from the government's case. I agree with (INAUDIBLE) certain things that are put forth are just factually wrong and they're not coming from law enforcement sources. They're just totally, totally inaccurate. So, we would agree to any order that the court would fashion that (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) I would be happy if the order was focused on, for example, the substantive evidence in this case, that is commenting on the evidence in this case, if that would help the court (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, certainly, the court has to be mindful in this case. (INAUDIBLE) attributed to certain matters to this court last week which we know not to be accurate. So, it is obviously a concern. The court has the power to make (INAUDIBLE)
BALDWIN: All right.
Obviously, the audio is kind of tricky there inside the courtroom. You're looking again, though, at live pictures in Attleboro, Massachusetts, of now former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez in that white V-neck T-shirt.
We're going to talk to two different people here.
Sunny Hostin, let me first just bring you in as a former prosecutor, CNN legal analyst.
Here, we have this man who is now facing a murder charge against this 27-year-old Odin Lloyd. This man was apparently friends with Hernandez, his body found with a gunshot wound less than a mile from Hernandez's home. Police have been searching in and around Aaron Hernandez's home over the last couple of day, a wooded area, also a strip club. And now here we have him arrested today. This is the arraignment, charged with murder. Your reaction.
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, this is remarkable.
Certainly, there wasn't a rush to judgment, right, because, as you said, several search warrants were executed at his home. He did have an attorney there. There were items taken out of his home. He relinquished, apparently, a cell phone that had been destroyed. There is evidence or reporting that he had destroyed his home surveillance system and had also hired a cleaning crew to clean his home shortly after the body was found.
And so, certainly, that would raise red flags. I will tell you, Brooke, what has surprised me is the fact that he did have a lawyer, and yet the police chose to execute the arrest warrant at his home, lead him on what we call a perp walk in front of the cameras. That tells me that they are very, very comfortable in the evidence that they have against him.
And so this is quite surprising to me, because it took quite a long time, right, for this to come to come to fruition. Earlier, we were talking about perhaps an arrest on obstruction of justice, which is nothing in comparison to an arrest on murder charges.
BALDWIN: Let me play some sound. This is the list of charges, including murder, that was read aloud in the courtroom that now Aaron Hernandez faces. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your Honor, the defendant is charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old man who lived at Fayston Street in Boston. He lived at that home with his family.
And he was last seen leaving in the company of the defendant on June 17, 2013, at approximately 2:30 in the morning. His body was discovered 5:30 p.m. by a jogger running in an area, secluded area in an industrial park.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Jeff Toobin, let me bring you in here as well, our senior legal analyst.
And the audio, it was difficult to hear some of what's being said there in this courtroom. But did I hear -- I heard the word media. Are they talking gag order?
TOOBIN: Yes. They were.
And the defense attorney was asking for a gag order that seemed way beyond anything that the Constitution allows. He seemed to be asking for a gag order for anyone talking about the case that seemed almost to include the news media.
Now, again, the sound cut out. But a judge is certainly within his rights to order the defense team, the prosecutors not to discuss the case with the news media. But you certainly can't stop the news media from reporting on a story. And so...
BALDWIN: How would that even work?
TOOBIN: I don't know. And it would be what's known as a prior restraint, which is something that is unconstitutional in basically every circumstance that you can imagine.
I don't think the judge is going to do anything like that. And defense attorneys are used to asking for a lot and maybe settling for a little. But in criminal cases, and we have all covered a lot of criminal cases, you know, high-profile criminal cases, there is sometimes a gag order on the people directly involved on prosecution and defense side.
But you certainly can't gag the Boston news media, the national news media, every possible witness in the case, the New England Patriots, the management. So I think if a gag order is granted, it will be considerably more limited than the one the defense attorney was asking for in court.
BALDWIN: All right, Jeff Toobin, thank you.
Stand by. We have a lot going on today. Sunny Hostin, thank you.
That just ended. More breaking news. Nelson Mandela, news on Nelson Mandela, the iconic Nelson Mandela. He was in prison under apartheid for 27 years in South Africa who has been in this hospital since the 8th of June with this recurring lung infection. He's been most recently in critical condition in Pretoria, South Africa.
And that's where we have Isha Sesay. She's joining me now with an update on his condition.
Isha, what have you learned?
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Robyn -- we have just been able to confirm, CNN has a short time ago just been able to confirm that former President Nelson Mandela is now on life support in that hospital just behind me, the Pretoria Heart Hospital.
Now, I must point out that throughout the day South African newspapers, South African media has been reporting that the former president was, indeed, in this state on life support. CNN has now been able to confirm it. CNN's Robyn Curnow being briefed by one of the sources that that is, indeed, the case.
The former president has now been in critical condition for four days. As you said, he was admitted to hospital on June 8. And it is worth pointing out to our viewers that this is his third hospitalization this year alone. South Africans are in a state of anxiety, Brooke, as you might imagine, given how much he means to them.
But there's also this sense that there's a kind of grim resignation that they are preparing themselves for the very worst, Brooke.
BALDWIN: OK, Isha Sesay with the news that Nelson Mandela now on life support in this hospital in Pretoria, South Africa. We have crews there obviously. If his condition changed in the lightest, we will update you on that.
But allow me to pivot back to Sanford, Florida, back to the George Zimmerman trial. We played for you live the testimony of a woman by the name of Rachel Jeantel, a friend -- that's what we're calling her, a friend of Trayvon Martin. She's the last person to have spoken to him on that night in February of 2012 before he was shot and killed. She spoke.
And she was being questioned about the state moments ago about that phone call and what he was saying, talking about a man following him. Now she's being cross-examined by the defense. Let's watch this.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did you become reacquainted because of Trayvon Martin would come into the neighborhood where you live...
RACHEL JEANTEL, FRIEND OF TRAYVON MARTIN: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... to meet up with some of his friends?
JEANTEL: We're friends, yes. We're friends.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That Trayvon Martin would come to your neighborhood with his friends?
JEANTEL: No. His friends live in my neighborhood.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So he would come into your neighborhood to...
JEANTEL: Hang out, ride bikes, play games.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mm-hmm. And is that how he met up with you again?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then right about February 1, on your birthday, is that when you and he began to talk and text frequently?
JEANTEL: Laugh around, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say again?
JEANTEL: Laugh around, yes, laugh around, playing around, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you would then talk with him on the phone quite a bit and text with him beginning about February 1?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you weren't in any way his girlfriend?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you hadn't ever actually gone on a date?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From February 1 until February 26, when he died, would you have seen him only two or three times in person?
JEANTEL: Three times? No. I saw him a lot, a lot, before he went out of town.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When did he go out of town?
JEANTEL: The week before he died.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So between February 1 and February 19 or 20, you saw him a few times?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But not in a boyfriend/girlfriend kind of way?
JEANTEL: No. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then when he went out of town, when he came up to Sanford, did you continue to talk with him on the phone and text him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did you do that on through Sunday, February 26, that we have been talking about here today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On February 26, did you text with him throughout the morning and early afternoon?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then also talked with him at some length during the day?
JEANTEL: I didn't hear what you said. What'd you say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then you talked with him a lot during the day itself?
JEANTEL: Yes, the whole day, text and talk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So basically all day you and he were on the phone?
JEANTEL: Yes, or somebody -- three-way. He had three-way. He put (INAUDIBLE) with some of my friends on the phone around that time while we was on the phone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So sometimes there would be more than just you on the phone with him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Your Honor, let me offer evidence 2-A into evidence by agreement or without objection.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. It's marked as 2-A?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what it says.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where would we get a 2-A?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (OFF-MIKE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I didn't know that...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (OFF-MIKE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody told me they have marked something up to -- and if it's stipulated into evidence, it would come in as 16.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (OFF-MIKE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no objection, Your Honor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. What you have pre-marked as exhibit 8-A will come into evidence as defense exhibit 16.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge, I misplaced the extra copy just for reference.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would be fine, so that the witness could take a look at this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You may approach her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just for the witness' frame of reference, it's been -- Ms. Jeantel, this is a list of the times, the beginning time and the end time of the calls between you and Trayvon Martin on February 26. Do you see what that looks like and you see what it says?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. I may ask you to use that to refresh your recollection to be able to pinpoint...
JEANTEL: There should be more.
JEANTEL: This call record begins at 5:09:36.
JEANTEL: Do you see that?
JEANTEL: I see it. But it didn't begin at 5:09. It began around 12:00-something.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Right. So, what you're saying is that there were more calls during the day between you and Trayvon Martin than what are shown here on this list?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the list only starts at 5:09:36 p.m. Do you see that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then the end time of the call is marked by the other column. There's a start time, and then an end time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, for example, the first call starts at 5:09:36 and then ends at 6:30:01. Do you see that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next call starts at 6:30:40 and then ended at 6:43:15. Do you see that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next one starts at 6:41:05 and ends at 6:44:32.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the next one starts at 6:45:01 and ends at 6:49:17.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next one starts at 6:49:46 and ends at 6:53:31.