By Hal Boedeker
12:54 PM EDT, July 10, 2013
On mount-your-dummy day at the George Zimmerman trial, legal analysts were stunned by the wide-ranging testimony of a use-of-force expert.
That expert, defense witness Dennis Root, gave everybody a lot to talk about.
"What hasn't he talked about?" WESH-Channel 2 legal analyst Richard Hornsby asked.
In TV's wall-to-wall coverage, Root was a godsend. The most dramatic moment Wednesday was Judge Debra Nelson's questioning Zimmerman -- and tangling with defense attorney Don West -- about whether the defendant would testify. Zimmerman later said he wouldn't.
But witness Root dominated the day, when the defense rested. WOFL-Channel 35 Diana Tennis said she thought that Root was going to be a terrible idea, but then he "morphed" into "this jack-of-all trades expert."
"I've never seen anything like it. I can't believe the defense got by with it," Tennis said. She reiterated that Zimmerman's story again was told by someone better able to communicate it than Zimmerman. "It really blew me away," Tennis said. She later added that Root's performance was amazing for a first-time witness.
WFTV-Channel 9 legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said Root put Zimmerman's oft-quoted expletives in context. Root suggested that Zimmerman was talking out of frustration, not ill will or spite, Sheaffer said.
WOFL legal analyst Aramis Ayala faulted the prosecution for not objecting more during Root's testimony. "They let this person ramble on and become more than he should have been for the defense," she said. Root gave a narrative during direct examination and cross examination, and narratives are a no-no, Ayala said.
Who was the winner in the use of a dummy to demonstrate the fight between Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin? Not the state, most analysts said.
WESH's Hornsby sniffed that prosecutorJohn Guy mounting a dummy was clearly no Jason Guy, a plug for the WESH morning anchor.
WOFL's Tennis noted that defense attorney Mark O'Mara got to mount the dummy, too, which produced laughter in the studio.
The state brought a mannequin, and O'Mara took it and used it for his purposes, WKMG-Channel 6's Mike DeForest said.
O'Mara re-enacted the defense's version of the crime in front of the jury, WOFL legal analyst Bob Fisher said. And that was another possible setback for the state.
Tennis said Guy's cross examination fell off the rails when Guy accused Root of grabbing for media attention, then allowed Root to wax on about reasons for helping the defense. Tennis didn't think Guy was on target for the rest of the cross examination.
Root would help the defense, Hornsby said. "He [Root] was the closing argument before the closing argument for the defense," Hornsby said. The cross examination was like a debate, and prosecutor Guy had lost that debate, Hornsby said.
On CNN, Mark NeJame was incredulous at the state's trying to set up a new hypothesis that Trayvon was trying to leave the fight with Zimmerman. NeJame said viewers were seeing the state go back and try to change it up because it is losing.
But CNN's Paul Callan, a former prosecutor, said Root was the first big error by the defense because Root's testimony allowed prosecutors to explore possible inconsistencies in Zimmerman's story. The defense should have rested after testimony from the medical examiner on Tuesday, Callan said.
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