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Entries in Witnesses (4)

Thursday
Jan032013

James Holmes’ Defense Witnesses in Colorado Shooting to Testify on ‘Mental State’

Joshua Lott/Getty Images(AURORA, Colo.) -- A judge ruled Thursday that public defenders for accused Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes can call two unidentified witnesses at next week’s preliminary hearing to testify about the defendant’s “mental state.”

Arapahoe County, Colo., prosecutors had sought to keep the witnesses out of court, but Judge William Sylvester ruled that the now-25-year-old accused killer has a right to call the witnesses at a preliminary hearing.

The Jan. 7 preliminary hearing will essentially be a mini-trial in which prosecutors will present witness testimony and evidence to convince the judge that there is enough of a case against Holmes to proceed to a trial.

Witnesses to be called for the prosecution include the Aurora police lead detective, first responders, the Arapahoe County coroner and likely a computer forensic specialist, according to prosecution sources who declined to be identified, citing a gag order in the case.

A top priority, the prosecution sources say, will be showing that Holmes acted with premeditation when he allegedly murdered 12 people and wounded 58 on the night of July 20 during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.

Defense attorneys may pursue a legal strategy to show that Holmes was not in his right mind at the time of the shooting.

Holmes, who has not yet entered a plea, has been repeatedly described in court by his legal team as mentally ill. While a graduate student at the University of Colorado, he was in the care of a psychiatrist.

Prosecutors say they will also present photos, video and 911 calls during the hearing, which is expected to last all week.

It’s not clear what the two witnesses’ relationship is to the shooting, or to Holmes.

Prosecutors, Judge Sylvester’s order says, contend that “neither witness has personal knowledge of the events at the Century Aurora 16 Theater.”

Sylvester said the witnesses are non-expert “lay witnesses” who have so far chosen not to be interviewed by defense investigators but have been cooperating with law enforcement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May232012

George Zimmerman Knew Several Sanford Police Officers Before Shooting

Trayvon Martin, 17, was fatally shot by neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman. (ABC News)(SANFORD, Fla.) -- George Zimmerman, who was not initially charged by police in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, was familiar with some of the officers in the Sanford, Fla., police department, having gone on several "ride alongs" with the cops, he told the city's mayor last year.

But Zimmerman, a criminal studies major, was harsh in his criticism of the cops he had met on the Sanford force, calling their on-the-job conduct "disgusting."

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, voiced his opinion at a January 2011 city commission hearing that included then Mayor-Elect Jeff Triplet.

One officer "showed me his favorite hiding spots for taking naps, explained to me that he doesn't carry a long gun in his vehicle because -- in his words -- anything that requires a long gun requires a lot of paperwork and you're going to find me as far away from it," Zimmerman said.

He added the officer "took two lunch breaks and attended a going away party for one of his officers."

These rides, along with new video showing Zimmerman roaming the police department unescorted just three days after the shooting, are reviving old questions of Zimmerman's relationship with the department that decided against charging him with a crime on the night of the shooting.

When ABC News asked the Sanford Police force in mid-March whether Zimmerman had any contact or relationship with the police force, the answer on more than one occasion was no.

"We do not have specific dates Mr. Zimmerman may have ridden or with whom he rode, if in fact he ever did ride with SPD," Capt. Robert O'Connor of the Sanford Police Department said in a statement Wednesday.

Zimmerman was later charged by a state prosecutor with second-degree murder in Martin's Feb. 26 shooting death.

These revelations come as a number of witnesses who claimed to have seen or heard parts of Zimmerman's fatal confrontation with Martin apparently changed or expanded their testimony in the weeks after the shooting.

In a March 13 ABC News article on possible police missteps in the investigation, it was also noted that some of the witnesses felt that police had "corrected" their testimony.

Given that Zimmerman's trial may not take place for a year the memories of the dozen or so witnesses that dark rainy night -- memories that possibly influenced evolving coverage of the case in the news -- would likely be hotly contested in court.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
May182012

Trayvon Martin Witness Believes 'He Intended for This Kid to Die'

Trayvon Martin, 17, was fatally shot by neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman. (ABC News)(SANFORD, Fla.) -- A closer look at the witness statements and audio testimony taken in the immediate aftermath Trayvon Martin's death provides the first insight into George Zimmerman's behavior after he shot the unarmed teen.

A man listed as witness 13 was one of the first people to approach Zimmerman minutes after the shooting. He saw him bleeding from the back of the head and nose. Zimmerman asked the unidentified man to call his wife for him.

"Let her know what's happening, been involved in a shooting and will be held for questioning," the witness told the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. "He was more like, talking like he was having a hard time, looked like he just got his butt whipped ... not like he was in shock, not like, 'I can't believe I just shot someone,' but like, 'Just tell my wife I just shot someone,' like it was nothing."

A woman identified as witness 5 walked out of her home after hearing the altercation to find Zimmerman standing over Martin's body. She said she asked him what was going on and he curtly said just, "Call the police."

The woman told police that Zimmerman, 28, examined Martin's body as he slowly paced back and forth when the police arrived. She watched as they checked the teen's body and turned him over, eventually starting CPR. But he was already dead for five or 10 minutes, she said.

"I do honestly feel that he intended for this kid to die," witness 5 told investigators. "If you're in self defense, shoot him in the leg. He's a 17-year-old, scrawny little kid. You get into a physical fight with him. ... I think the kid was running for help."

Zimmerman is charged with second degree murder for the Feb. 26 killing.

Martin was in Sanford, Fla., while serving a suspension from his Miami school for being caught with an empty marijuana bag. At the time of the shooting, he was staying at the home of his father's girlfriend. An autopsy found THC, the intoxicating chemical in marijuana, was in his system.

At 7:11 that night, Zimmerman, a member of the area's neighborhood watch, had called 911 to report a suspicious teenager. Minutes later, the police dispatcher told Zimmerman to stop follwing Martin. Moments later, Zimmerman got out of his car. That's when the two met and Martin was killed.

Zimmerman has claimed that when he shot the 6-foot, 160-pound teenager he was on his back and Martin was astride him pounding away.

The key problem facing investigators is an 80-second gap between the time Zimmerman hung up with police at 7:15 p.m. and when the first 911 calls from terrified neighbors began flooding in.

A man identified only as witness 6 told investigators that he heard a commotion coming from the walk behind his residence. He witnessed a black male wearing a dark-colored "hoodie" on top of a white or Hispanic male who was yelling for help.

Police said the witness elaborated by saying the black man was mounted on Zimmerman and throwing punches "MMA" style, meaning mixed martial arts style. The witness stated that the man on the ground yelled out for help.

Witness 6 said he was going to call for police when he heard the "pop" of Zimmerman's gun.

"When I looked down, I saw the person that was on top was laying in my grass in a sprawled position," witness said. "Saw another guy with his hands in the air, saying, 'The gun's on the ground, I shot this guy in self-defense.'"

Police said they believe Martin noticed he was being watched and "was in fact running generally in the direction of where he was staying as a guest of the neighborhood."

Multiple witnesses and injuries sustained corroborate Zimmerman's account that he was involved in a serious altercation with Martin, one that police say could have been avoided if he did not leave his car as directed by the 911dispatcher. The investigator said the tragedy was avoidable.

Witness 3 said the timing was terrible.

"I saw the police arrive. And they were literally like 5 seconds too late -- like right after the gun went off. Like, they were literally that, that, that short a distance late," the witness said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr122012

John Edwards’ Lawyers Seek Financial Records of Key Witness

Sara D. Davis/Getty Images(GREENSBORO, N.C.) -- A federal judge overseeing the criminal trial of former Sen. John Edwards has scheduled a hearing for next Monday to determine if the defense team will be given access to a trove of detailed financial information from key prosecution witness Andrew Young, the former aide to Edwards who authored a tell-all book about the scandal.

Edwards’ efforts to obtain the records were first revealed in court documents filed late Wednesday.

David Harris, an accountant for Young and wife, Cheri, filed a motion to quash a subpoena served on him earlier this month.

“Compliance with the [s]ubpoena is unreasonable and oppressive,” Harris’ motion states, because the Youngs have not given consent to produce the materials, and there is no court order requiring the accounting firm to comply.

The subpoena seeks tax returns and details on the Youngs’ income and assets dating back to 2006.  The defense team is also asking for any records of money or gifts the couple may have received from Fred Baron and Bunny Mellon, the two donors who allegedly funneled more than $900,000 into the cover-up of Edwards’ affair.

In pre-trial motions over the past several months, Edwards’ defense team has strongly signaled its intent to aggressively attack Young as a biased witness with a profit motive and a vendetta against his former boss.  They have noted in court filings that the Youngs controlled the money and used some of it to help build their “dream home” on a wooded hilltop overlooking Chapel Hill.

Young’s book, The Politician, was a hot seller in 2010 -- and the Youngs have sold the movie rights to their story to Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.   Edwards’ subpoena seeks all financial documents related to the book and movie deals.

In the book -- and in subsequent interviews with ABC News -- Young has acknowledged that he and his wife spent some of the money on themselves, but claimed it was all done in furtherance of the cover-up -- with the aim of keeping Edwards’ political future viable.

“It all went into a mixed pot,” Young told ABC in January 2010.   “A lot of the money went into the house, a lot of it went into the care and feeding of Rielle.  I mean, having a baby is very expensive without health insurance.”

As the Iowa caucuses approached, Young eventually went so far as to falsely claim paternity of Hunter’s child.  Then Young, his wife and three children secreted away with Hunter on a cross-country odyssey, flying on private jets and staying in luxurious homes and hotels -- all paid for, Young says, with money from Baron and Mellon.  The indictment alleges that, in all, more than $900,000 was spent to keep Edwards’ pregnant mistress under wraps.

“There was money being spent all over the place,” Young says. 

"But unequivocally, everything that I did, in terms of procuring money, spending money or where monies went, was done at the direction of  Fred Baron and John Edwards.  And for anybody to say that I misdirected funds is ridiculous.”

Edwards, 58, has pleaded not guilty to all charges in a six-count federal indictment for allegedly soliciting illegal contributions from Baron and Mellon to help hide Hunter during the 2008 Democratic Presidential primary campaign.  Jury selection in the highly-anticipated trial got under way Thursday morning in Greensboro, N.C.

U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles addressed nearly 200 potential jurors Thursday reminding them that this case “is not about whether Mr. Edwards was a good husband or politician.  It’s about whether he violated campaign finance laws.”

Edwards -- who built a successful and lucrative career trying cases in front of North Carolina juries -- took care to smile and make eye contact with the jurors as the judge introduced him as the defendant in the case.  Edwards’ eldest daughter, Cate, and his parents, Wallace and Bobbie, sat quietly among the spectators.

The trial is scheduled to begin on April 23 and could last six weeks or more.  Andrew Young is expected to be the first witness called by the prosecution.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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