PoliticsNation   |  July 11, 2013

Prosecution begins closing arguments in Zimmerman trial

Legal experts Lisa Bloom, Faith Jenkins, Ken Padowitz, John Burris, and Marcia Clark join PoliticsNation to discuss the prosecution’s closing arguments in the George Zimmerman trial.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> thanks, michael. and thanks to you for tuning in. tonight's lead, the state's closing arguments in the george zimmerman second-degree murder trial. this afternoon, the prosecution gave the jury its summary of the case against mr. zimmerman . a dramatic, emotional presentation. he believes he profiled, followed, and gunned down trayvon martin . it came just hours after the judge ruled that the jury can also consider the lesser charge of manslaughter. a decision that could have a huge impact on how the jury decides this case. lots to talk about. but we start with the closing arguments. the prosecution reminding the jury of what their case is all about.

>> good afternoon. a teenager is dead. he is dead through no fault of his own. he is dead because another man made assumptions. that man assumed certain things. he is dead not just because the man made those assumptions, because he acted upon those assumptions. and unfortunately, unfortunately, because his assumptions were wrong, they von benjamin martin no longer walks on this earth. unfortunately, this is one of the last photos that will ever be taken of trayvon martin . and that is true because of the actions of one individual, the man before you, the defendant, george zimmerman .

>> assistant state attorney bernie de la rionda then walked the jury through what the prosecution has called zimmerman 's web of lies. how did he not know the streets of his own neighborhood? did he exaggerate his injuries? if trayvon martin really grabbed mr. zimmerman 's gun, why was none of martin 's dna on it? all together, it was an effort by the prosecution to deliver on what it has called mr. zimmerman 's web of lies. an effort to undermine his truthfulness in the eyes of the jury. the defense will deliver its closing arguments tomorrow. then george zimmerman 's fate will be in the hands of the jury. back with me now is my all-star legal panel, msnbc legal analyst lisa bloom , former prosecutor faith jenkins, defense attorney ken padowitz, defense attorney john burris, and former prosecutor marcia clark . she is also author of "killer ambition." thank you all for being here.

>> thanks for having us.

>> thank you, thank you.

>> marcia, let me start with you. why was the prosecution so focused on what they called zimmerman 's web of lies in these closing arguments?

>> because this is a key aspect of the proof of guilt in this case. if all you did was simply get out of your car to look at the street sign , to repeat the name of the street to the police and you didn't follow trayvon martin , and you didn't become the aggressor, and you didn't start the confrontation, and then escalate it to the point of hooting him, if none of that happened, then why did you lie? why do you need to lie if what you did was innocent, if you did nothing wrong? and that's really kind of the whole theme of things. and it all started with the mind-set that trayvon martin was somehow up to no good, and that he was somebody that had to be watched and was behaving suspiciously, when inspect we know based on all of the evidence put together, trayvon martin was doing nothing more than walking home with skittles and iced tea .

>> let me go around my expert panel. give me a general assessment of how did the prosecution do today in your judgment. let me start with you, lisa bloom .

>> i'm sorry to say, i think it was a poor presentation. he had a lot of the falcons, but it was a meandering walk through the evidence, instead of making declarative statements. i don't know why he was asking so many questions. questions are doubt. questions are what the defense raises.

>> let me ask you, faith.

>> i disagree with lisa on this point. there are questions because the only other eyewitness to this encounter is dead. so obviously there are going to be questions. and on rebuttal, i'm sure the state is going to get up and say don't reward this defendant for killing the only other eyewitness. i thought the prosecutor did a great job of painting a narrative today. why are we here? who started this? who profiled? who pursued in who had a gun? who had all the power? one person, and that was george zimmerman .

>> john?

>> i think it was true he was powerful and he talked about who trayvon was and why he was being profiled and all that. but i have to tell you, i didn't like the questions that he was always leaving up to the juries. and at the end of the day , i don't think he was that strong on whether or not he himself had proven the case for second-degree murder. overall, i thought he could have done a better job putting forth and punctuating those issues that proved the case as opposed to raising questions for the jurors to answer.

>> ken, you have done 35 murder cases in florida. tell what's you think.

>> well, it was a good closing argument for the prosecution, but it was not a great one. i mean, these rhetorical questions is effective if used sparingly to show the jury that you're a minister of justice, you're not just a salesman. but he used so many of these question, leaving them unanswered, some of them, that i think it was too many. i would say it was good. he had an effective use of demonstrative aids. he knows the defense is going to use computer animation , which by the way, i did the first one in the state of florida in 1993 in state versus pierce. so i know how effective that animation can be. and the prosecution's answer to that animation was using these visual aids, using the tapes and the statements made by zimmerman and showing the jury piece by piece by piece throughout the closing. so i think it was effective. i think it was good, but they have a stronger manslaughter case, not second degree. and i would have liked to see more arguments towards manslaughter. and he didn't really touch upon it as much as i'd like to see.

>> i don't think he wanted to do that, honestly. he didn't want to make the argument around manslaughter because he knows that's a fallback position. he had to be as strong as he could be on second-degree murder. now his rebuttal argument may be stronger on manslaughter. but not at the first instance. i think he had to walk a fine line there.

>> marcia? you've been a prosecutor. give me your general assessment.

>> i thought he did a good job. i actually thought it was a powerful -- and more powerful to me in the beginning than in the end.

>> right.

>> in setting the stage, in setting the mind-set that zimmerman started with. that's so important to set all the wheels in motion. you have a man profiling a boy, a young boy who is walking home in the rain. and thinking these things about him. and therefore acting upon them. and then, getting out of the car to follow him. and all of that gets all the wheels in motion, if you will. it all started because of zimmerman 's mind-set. i thought that was very effective. i too thought there was a little bit too much of the rhetorical questioning. a little bit goes a very long way. and it's okay once in a while . say really? could you really belief this? and if it's truly rhetorical, that's fine. it's not bad to seem even handed. the defense will say this or accommodate what they're going to say, and answer it. you're a prosecutor and that means you have a slightly different role than a pure advocate that a defense attorney . and i agree with john, very much, that they can't talk about manslaughter yet. not yet. right now is the big push for second degree. in rebuttal, you can say look, if all else fails and you don't see ill will , and we don't know why you wouldn't, then you can get to manslaughter and discuss it there, but not now.

>> let me come back to you, lisa . let me show you this. they made this point about the street . the only three streets in the closed community, and they raised zimmerman 's use of looking for the street . watch this.

>> that's why he kept talking about, oh, i didn't know the name of the street . i was looking for an address. by the way, there is only three streets. how difficult can it be? he is the neighborhood watch guy. he has been living there four years. he takes his dog down to that dog walk. but he doesn't know the names of the street ? he doesn't know the main street that you go in? because see, when he admits something like that, then it proves one thing, that he was following him. that he had profiled him and he was following him.

>> because he cut down here and made a right against twin trees lane.

>> did you catch that? did you catch him in one lie right there? he originally told the police over and over , before and even after this interview, he didn't know the name of the street . and when they kind of let him talk, he gives the name right there.

>> how plausible is that excuse, lisa ?

>> this is one of the best lies the prosecution has to work with. and he put it out there, and there is no question about it. the defense has said since opening statement , george zimmerman followed trayvon martin . i think the prosecutor spent a lot of time on this because this is easy picks for him. this is the low-hanging fruit. i'm thinking the entire time, and i think the jury was too, get to self- defense . get to the fight. prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this was a murder case. he is not on trial simply for making improper assumptions and profiling trayvon martin . that is a part of the case. he needs to spend some time on that. but he needs to spend his time more effectively and get to the crux of the case, get to the killing. show the jury why this is beyond a reasonable doubt a murder case. we never got a prosecution theory of the case. all we have is the defense theory of the case, that zimmerman is down, trayvon is on top. how did zimmerman sustain the injuries to his face? did he punch himself in the nose? did he walk into the tree? did he fall face-down into the concrete. ? we have never heard a prosecution theory how that happened. i don't think we.

>> faith, wait, wait, wait, wait. faith, let me show you this. the prosecution made a point about zimmerman saying and played that he said that he touched a gun. let me show you this.

>> he's got this gun in his holster, and you'll see in a few minutes, maybe more than a few minutes, one of the things that he does, he demonstrates to the police where he had the gun. and it wasn't right here in the front. it was towards the back. and it was hidden. and he'll demonstrate to the police out there where it was. look at the gun. look at the size of this gun. how did the victims see that in the darkness? where was it? it wasn't outside. it was tucked in behind. and he'll demonstrate to the police where it was. how did the victim see this gun?

>> now, faith, that is a point that lisa bloom has been making, the holster point, the fact where it was and all. but doesn't that also answer lisa concern about addressing self- defense , because if he lied about him touching the gun or knowing where the gun was, doesn't that punch a hole in his saying i feared for my life?

>> yes. and here is the thing. the prosecutor, they're not going get up and say oh, this is exactly what happened. this is when the gun was pulled out. they don't know. it's not clear. but what they're saying is we may not know this, but we know this person, the defendant, is lying about it. there are two people involved here. one is dead. the other is a a liar. look at the lies he is telling. the small lies, not knowing the name of the street , to the big guys, trayvon martin going for the gun, putting his hand on the gun, being inconsistent about those two things. he told two different stories about that. so that's one of the inconsistencies, one of the lies. that's huge, because it's based on what the defendant has said, the prosecutor is arguing today it is physically impossible for trayvon martin to have done what george zimmerman said he did.

>> ken, what do you think?

>> remember, the prosecution had two choices here at the beginning of this trial. they could have put on no statements of zimmerman and forced the defendant to take the stand on the defense side of the case. but they elected to go with this web of lies theme. and by putting on all the video and all the statements of zimmerman , their theme in this case is web of lies. so they have to stick with that. and they're showing in the closing argument here, there are all these lies. one lie after the next lie after the next lie. ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you can not believe the snake zimmerman would cut off his head. he is a liar. the rest of the snake dice, meaning you can't believe zimmerman , therefore you can't believe self- defense . and therefore he is guilty of murder. that's their argument, and they're sticking to this theme of this web of lies.

>> all right. our legal team is staying with us for the full hour tonight. and there is so much to talk about