Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother, talks to prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda during a recess Friday. (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel / July 5, 2013)
TV's legal analysts had sharply different reactions Friday morning after O'Mara cross-examined Sabrina Fulton. It was day 9 of testimony in the trial of George Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in Trayvon's fatal shooting.
WFTV-Channel 9 legal analyst Bill Sheaffer saw a misstep in O'Mara's questions and said the attorney kept her on the stand "much, much too long." O'Mara "should have not asked any questions at all," Sheaffer said. The defense's questions could be a turning point in the case, and not for the defense, Sheaffer said.
"Mark did a good job," said WESH-Channel 2 legal analyst Richard Hornsby. O'Mara was setting up his closing argument that, of course, Fulton would think her son is screaming on a tape because she doesn't want to think Trayvon was responsible for his own death, Hornsby said. The defense has to go down every path in questioning, Hornsby said, and O'Mara didn't go on forever.
WKMG-Channel 6's Tony Pipitone said Fulton did a good job of maintaining her dignity and holding her own against the defense's questions. O'Mara was simply trying to get the victim's mother to give him testimony that was helpful to the defense, Pipitone added.
Pipitone allowed that the questioning may have seemed harsh, but the jury didn't give any signals that they were having a problem with the questioning. "No one recoiled in horror," Pipitone said.
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WOFL-Channel 35's Diana Tennis ripped the performance of medical examiner Shiping Bao, who performed Trayvon's autopsy. "This was very, very odd," she said. Bao "takes the cake" for going out on a limb and saying the word "suffering," which is not a medical term, she said.
Tennis said to her "jaded lawyer eyes" that Bao was biased for the state.
Luis Calderon, legal analyst for WKMG, said the issue was Bao's going beyond the scope of the medical examiner's role to convey an emotion.
"How can you make this assumption that he [Trayvon] was suffering, that he was actually feeling pain if they're not even quite sure if he was really conscious?" Calderon said. "He went a little bit too far with the testimony, but I think it was premised on the question that he was asked about what his [Trayvon's] last few minutes were like."
WFTV's Sheaffer said it was clear that Bao, in reading from notes on the stand, "certainly marches to the tune of a different drummer." Dr. Jan Garavaglia, TV's Dr. G, wouldn't waffle the way Bao did on some questions, Sheaffer said.
WESH's Hornsby said Bao could unwittingly help the defense if the medical examiner put things in notes that were told to him by the prosecution or different from the autopsy. "That could really become a smoking gun for the defense in attacking the state's case," Hornsby said. "The way he's testified is just so out there. It blows my mind."
A witness cannot bring prepared testimony to the stand, Hornsby later explained, and if a person does, the defense team is allowed to look at the material. The notes could undermine Bao's credibility and suggest he came with an agenda, which no expert witness is supposed to have, Hornsby said.
WOFL's Tennis elaborated on bigger problems she sees with this trial. She said the entire trial needs to look like quality to the outside world. Tennis saw problems with the prosecution sitting the state's star witness, Rachel Jeantel, next to the victim's grieving mother when questioned by law enforcement.
"That is not right, and that unfortunately makes a lot of things look bad that may or may not be bad, including Rachel Jeantel’s testimony," Tennis said. And that puts into question whether Jeantel's memory was biased, Tennis added.
Tennis saw the same issue with getting everyone in Trayvon's camp together, in the Sanford mayor's office, to hear the tape with screams for help. That situation raises the issue of listener bias, Tennis said. Her verdict on what it says about the trial? "It looks bad," Tennis said.