Sanford Police Officer Chris Serino.
(Photo: Pool Getty Images)
SANFORD, Fla. (USA Today) -- The judge in George Zimmerman's murder trial agreed Tuesday to strike from the record the lead investigator's testimony that he found Zimmerman's account of his fight with Trayvon Martin credible.
Citing case law, Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda said it was harmful for a witness -- especially a police officer -- to tell the jury that he thought Zimmerman was telling the truth.
Judge Debra Nelson agreed that the jury should decide whether Zimmerman is telling the truth, and that a police officer's testimony about truthfulness would be given improper weight by the jury. She told jurors to disregard the statement Detective Chris Serino made Monday.
Serino had testified Monday that he believed the defendant's account that race was not a factor in the killing. On Tuesday, Serino added that the medical examiner's report supported Zimmerman's claim that Trayvon was on top of him when Zimmerman shot him.
On his second day on the stand, Serino agreed with the prosecutor that Zimmerman saying "a-- holes" and "f--king punks" after spotting Trayvon could be interpreted as ill-will, spite and hatred. All three elements factor into whether or not Zimmerman committed second-degree murder.
In trying to make the point that Zimmerman harbored ill feelings that caused him to murder Trayvon, de la Rionda replayed parts of Zimmerman's interview with Serino where Zimmmerman is asked about why he thought Trayvon was suspicious and who "these a-- holes were." The jury heard Zimmerman say again, "People that victimize the neighborhood."
Later however, Serino said Zimmerman's anger seemed pointed at a general group of people rather than personally at Trayvon.
De la Rionda said that there was no evidence Trayvon was committing a crime the night he got shot and that assuming someone was about to commit a crime could be a form of profiling.
Zimmerman's lawyer, Mark O'Mara, focusing on the medical examiner's report, asked Serino whether any evidence supported a prosecution claim that Zimmerman pressed his gun up to Trayvon's chest.
Serino said there was no evidence to support that claim. Instead, the medical examiner's report supported how and where Zimmerman said he shot the teen.
He admitted that parts of Zimmerman's story of that night raised some flags but that Zimmerman's story was largely supported by evidence and witnesses.
Meanwhile, de la Rionda, loudly and dramatically, continued to query Serino about the fact that Trayvon was not committing a crime.
"Are you saying it's against the law to wear a hoodie?" de la Rionda asked. "No," Serino replied.
Most jurors took and seemed to pay close attention to Serino's testimony. By the end of Serino's time on the stand, the officer seemed to help the cases of both defense attorneys and prosecutors.
On Monday, Serino said Zimmerman, 29, told him shortly after the shooting that he wasn't following Trayvon, 17, because he was black. Serino later recommended Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter; prosecutors charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder.
The shooting and speculation that Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, profiled, followed and murdered Trayvon sparked racial controversy and protests across the nation last year. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, claims that he acted in self-defense when Trayvon jumped him in a gated residential community on Feb. 26, 2012.