George Zimmerman: The Witness 8 Interviews
Of particular interest to me are the issues surrounding Witness 8, aka "Dee Dee", Trayvon Martin's phone friend who reportedly was speaking with Travyon in the minutes leading up to the shooting. The media has referred to her as "Dee Dee", but her true identity is protected by court order (so please don't speculate on it here, that's not the point of this post.)
When Martin family lawyer Benjamin Crump held a press conference in Ft. Lauderdale on March 20, to introduce the nation to the existence of this witness, he played a tape recording of a telephone interview he conducted with her the day before. He said the interview shows George Zimmerman's version of the events leading up to the shooting are not believable. The transcript of his press conference is here. Crump announced he would send the recording to the Justice Department. Video is here (part 1) and here (part 2.) [More...]
The state interviewed this witness on April 2, after getting her phone records. The state released recordings of both its April 2 interview and the copy of the Crump interview in discovery. While the recording of the state's interview with witness 8 on April 2 is fairly audible, the Crump interview it provided is mostly unintelligible, which the defense complained about at the hearing on Friday and in a motion.
The defense stated at the hearing that ABC News aired clips from the recording of the Crump-Dee Dee interview, which ABC reporter Matt Gutman said he obtained exclusively. Curiously, the Gutman aired clips are perfectly clear. See here, as an example. Also see the Gutman clips Diwataman has assembled.
Martin's father, Tracy Martin, and mother, Sybrina Fulton, listened to the call, along with ABC News, ashen-faced.
It turns out Matt Gutman says he spoke with Witness 8 several times the week of March 19. From his appearance on MSNBC's Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on March 28 (transcript available on Lexis.com):
O`DONNELL: Matt, quickly before you go, you talked to her. What`s your assessment of her credibility?
GUTMAN: I think she`s credible. I don`t think she has anything to hide here. We`ve been talking to her for days now. This is not the first time that I`ve heard her speak. I have no reason to believe that she`s lying.
Obviously, you know, at some point, this may or may not go to court, and she could be subpoenaed. But at the very least I think that it`s obvious since her number is in the phone record, which is how we got to her, that the police should have talked to her, at least interviewed her. But they never have.
O`DONNELL: They still haven`t?
GUTMAN: That`s one of the most surprising things about this case.
O`DONNELL: Matt, the police still haven`t talked to her?
GUTMAN: No. [Ap]parently prosecutors plan to meet her next Monday, but that`s only because the new set of prosecutors just came in.
Why has the state not bothered to subpoena Gutman's copy of Crump's March 19 interview with Dee Dee, or Gutman's other interviews with her? Does it not want to know if her statements are consistent with what she said in her interview with the state's attorney on April 2?
The Court on Friday ordered Benjamin Crump be made a witness for the purpose of having his deposition taken about his interview with Dee Dee. It also ordered him to tell the defense within 10 days who else was present during his recorded interview with her, and to bring the phone to the deposition if he still has a copy of the recording on his phone,.
But nothing further was discussed at the hearing about the Gutman interviews of Dee Dee. Again, it's not just the recording Gutman has of the March 19 Crump interview, but his own conversations with her after that date.
As I mentioned above, the states attorney's office did not obtain Dee Dee's phone records until April 2, the same day prosecutor De La Rionda interviewed her. On that date, it subpoenaed and received her phone records with 11 pages of data in an Excel spreadsheet, showing call details from Feb. 26 to April 2. According to the state's report, the phone records for her phone had no name or subscriber information because it was a prepaid phone. The state provided the records to the defense on a CD in May, 2012.
When Gutman reports he got her number from the phone records, it seems he is referring to Crump's media-handout of the records Tracy Martin gave him, which were not phone records, but a printout Tracy Martin made by going on the internet, logging onto his account, and printing out the record of calls and texts since his last bill on his four phones. (You can even see the "Welcome, Tracy" on the bottom of page 3 of records with the reference to four phone lines.)
Dee Dee's statements are very relevant. She is referenced in the state's affidavit for probable cause for Zimmerman's arrest for second degree murder. The state has listed her as a witness against Zimmerman. I think the defense is entitled to discover her other statements to seek impeaching material. The Court didn't disagree.
If the state is going to call "Dee Dee" as a witness, given its subpoena power and ABC's public release of clips from her interview with Crump (and at least one other with Gutman), why would it not seek ABC's additional recordings and transcripts from ABC and Gutman, if for no other reason, to assess whether she is consistent in her accounts and prepare for any attack on her credibility at trial?
While Mark O'Mara writes he's spending the week preparing to fight the state's second request for a gag order, I hope Don West is working on getting the ABC interviews.
On a secondary note, during the hearing argument on the defense subpoena to obtain Witness 8's twitter records, prosecutor De La Rionda told the court he had disclosed her real name to the Defense, but challenged the defense's conclusion she is a juvenile and she was the author of the tweets O'Mara is seeking. On being a juvenile, BDLR asked several times, "Has that been proven?" Was he referring to whether Witness #8 is a juvenile or whether the person whose tweets O'Mara is seeking is a juvenile? O'Mara seemed to think he was referring to Witness 8.
Here is some history on the Martin Family and their lawyers' discovery of Dee Dee from phone records, their interactions with Dee Dee and account of what Dee Dee relayed to them, and their and Gutman's assertion she is a juvenile:
1. From Crump's 3/20 press conference, linked above:
This young lady details it completely, the tone of the conversation and the nature of the conversation, and what was happening the last minutes of his life. I will ask you -- her parents does (ph) not in any way want to reveal her identity. She is a minor. Her parents are very worried about her. She is traumatized over this. This was her really, really close personal friend. They were dating. And so it's a situation where to know that you were the last person to talk to the young man who you thought was one of the most special people in the world to you, and know that he got killed moments after he was talking to you, is just riveting to this young lady.
In fact, she couldn't even go to his wake she was so sick. Her mother had to take her to the hospital. She spent the night in the hospital. She is traumatized beyond anything you could imagine. (my emphasis)
2. On March 28, on ABC News Tonight with Diane Sawyer GUNNED DOWN; NEW IMAGES (via Lexis.com) (video here)
MATT GUTMAN (ABC NEWS )(Voiceover) Tonight, ABC News spoke exclusively with Martin's 16-year-old girlfriend, Dee Dee. She describes being on the phone with Martin as he described Zimmerman following him.
On March 29, ABC aired a report by Gutman (video here) in which he plays a clip of what appears to be Dee Dee's response to a statement George Zimmerman's father had made on a local affiliate that had recently aired about what Trayvon had said to George during the encounter. Gutman doesn't play the question posed to Dee Dee, only her answer. She says "Trayvon did not say that at all." It seems like she's denying what George's father claimed Trayvon said. Since the clip aired before the state's interview with Dee Dee on April 2, and Robert Zimmerman gave the interview after Crump's 3/19 interview of Dee Dee, it seems she's responding to a question posed to her directly by Gutman.
TRAYVON'S GIRLFRIEND (FEMALE)
Trayvon did not say that at all. The only thing that Trayvon told that man was, why are you following me? (my emphasis)
ABC even blew up her answer in a screengrab.
3. On April 2, the same day the state interviewed Witness 8 and got her phone records, Tracy Martin told the states attorney's office that he learned about Dee Dee when looking through his phone records. He said he called her and told her his lawyer would be calling.
4. In a separate interview on April 2, Sybrina Fulton told the states attorneys' office that she learned of the phone call with Dee Dee in March and called her. She said she also spoke to Dee Dee's mother and told her Dee Dee needed to speak to the police. She then met with Dee Dee at her (Fulton's)apartment and drove Dee Dee home afterwards. She said they didn't discuss what Dee Dee and Trayvon discussed on the phone. Dee Dee told Ms. Fulton that she had to go to the hospital the night of the viewing because she was so distraught. (The viewing was March 2, and the funeral was March 3.)
5. Crump has said several times that on Sunday night, March 18, Tracy Martin discovered the records and called him late at night. On March 19, in the evening, Crump conducted his phone interview with Dee Dee (at which others were present.) On March 20, Crump held his press conference, holding a recording device up to the microphone and playing parts of his interview with Dee Dee for reporters. He said he would be turning the recording over to the Justice Department.
Mr. Martin, on Sunday evening, was working with his cell phone account, trying to figure out Trayvon's password. And he looked on it, and he saw who the last person was that Trayvon Martin talked to while he was alive.
He called me late Sunday night and told me that he had called the young lady, and he told me, and I was just utterly shocked when he told me the time that they talked. They had talked all that day, about 400 minutes, starting that morning to the afternoon.
It was on March 5 that Officer Santiago called Tracy Martin and asked him for the pin number to Trayvon's phone. Martin told Santiago he'd have to check with his lawyer before releasing that information. Ultimately, it appears the state issued a search warrant (not a subpoena) for Tracy's phone records, for the period 1/1/12 to 3/1/12.
6. Benjamin Crump and Sybrina Fulton interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show, March 21, 2012 (available on Lexis.com):
LAUER: This is not a recorded phone call, Mrs. Fulton. The young lady--the police in Sanford asked anyone with information to come forward if they had that. This young lady, according to our reporting, had not come forward. And we're now getting her version of this phone call. Can it be trusted?
Ms. FULTON: Yes, it can. She was distraught because of the situation that happened with Trayvon and that--the fact that she was on the phone with him when he--when the incident occurred--right before the incident occurred. So she was very distraught. She had to go to the hospital. She was hospitalized. She also mentioned to us that she had feelings for Trayvon, so it hurt her dearly to know that he has passed away.
LAUER: Mr. Crump, though, as an attorney, does it worry you that really what this is, is hearsay evidence?
Mr. CRUMP: It really doesn't because she is a 16-year-old teenager who just lost a person very special to her. Her parents are very concerned. They did not want her to get involved. And it wasn't till Mr. Martin found the phone records and saw that she called him at 7:12--the police got on the scene 7:17. He was shot and dead on the ground. Five minutes.
7. From RadarOnLine (mostly gossip):
"The day after his wake, Trayvon's family attorney, Benjamin Crump, who had been conducting his own extensive investigation because cops had determined the shooting was in self defense, told Trayvon's girlfriend she was the last person to talk to him," a source close to the situation tells RadarOnline.com. "George [sic] had reviewed Trayvon's cell phone bill and it was revealed that she was on the phone with him in the moments before Trayvan was shot.
"His girlfriend became absolutely inconsolable and had trouble breathing so her mother took her to a nearby hospital emergency room. She had never seen her daughter this upset before, ever. She had a battery of tests, including an EKG, and was there for over 12 hours. Doctors ultimately told her that she was going to be ok, but advised her mother to keep a close eye on her and try to minimize the stress around her."
8. Again, the phone records Tracy Martin found were not actual phone records, or even a phone bill he got in the mail, but an internet printout of Tracy Martin's account he got from logging on to his T-Mobile account. It says the last bill was 2/24/12, and lists the calls and text messages on his four phone lines since the date of the last bill. The actual phone records were obtained by the state (seemingly through a search warrant rather than a subpoena), and turned over to the defense, but are not available publicly. If they were obtained via search warrant, it's possible the records include cell cite locator/GPS information for the beginning and end of each call. Here's a list of the phone records obtained by the state.
It seems to me Matt Gutman and his interviews of Dee Dee are critical to assessing the credibility of Dee Dee and the consistency in her accounts of what happened in the moments before the shooting. The circumstances of his interviews are also relevant. Why would her parents allow her to be interviewed separately by Gutman on multiple occasions if they were so determined to keep her identity a secret? And why is the state raising the issue of whether O'Mara, to whom it disclosed her true name, is correct is assuming she's a juvenile?
Some other Dee Dee matters that O'Mara likely knows but we don't: What school did Dee Dee go to at the time of the shooting? Was it Krop, Carol City or Miramar? Another puzzler: Why did Crump hold his 3/20 press conference in Ft. Lauderdale rather than Miami, and did he only interview Dee Dee by phone on the 19th, or did he meet her in person earlier in the day. Here's a little map showing the distances between Krop, Carol City and Miramar. Here's a map showing the distance between Ft. Lauderdale, Miramar, Miami Gardens and Miami. Ft. Lauderdale is 20 miles from Miramar and Miami Gardens and 15 miles from Ives Estates, where Krop is located.
Since Don West made such an issue at the hearing of wanting the state to disclose Dee Dee's address for investigative purposes, it sounds like he doesn't know her present address, perhaps because she's moved. (Again, I'm not interested in finding her address and commenters here may not speculate on it.) Did the state not disclose her parents' name to the defense, or make a report of the circumstances under which Dee Dee was interviewed on April 2? The state must have spoken with her parents to arrange the interview, but there's no report in discovery as to this. If the defense has her parents' names, it should be able to find her address on its own, without the state's help. If it doesn't have those names, why not? Is the state withholding some of its reports?
Finally is the defense laying a foundation to subpoena testimony, as well as recorded interviews, from Matt Gutman? Crump will be deposed about the circumstances of allowing Matt Gutman to be present and obtain a recording of the March 19 interview. Gutman has broadcast that he spoke with her several times. Is he protected by Florida's shield laws? I haven't researched this, but it may be complicated.
The shield law provides a qualified privilege, which means that a court may force you to reveal information in some circumstances, even if you are covered by the statute (above). In order to compel disclosure of the identity of an anonymous source or unpublished information, a court or other legal body must find that three conditions are met: (1) the information is relevant and material to unresolved issues in the case; (2) the information cannot be obtained from alternative sources; and (3) a compelling interest exists for requiring disclosure of the information. The results of this kind of balancing test would be different depending on the facts of the particular case.
The same test applies in criminal and civil cases and whether or not you are a party to the lawsuit. As a practical matter, courts may be particularly inclined to order disclosure when the person trying to protect information is a party to the lawsuit in question or when a criminal defendant seeks information to mount a defense.
The statute is here. To be continued at a later date.
Again, please do not speculate on Dee Dee's identity, or include links to any Twitter accounts that provide a name for her.
|< A Humble Foreign Policy | Mitt Romney Gets Overflow Crowd at Red Rocks >|