SANFORD, Fla. - The judge in the George Zimmerman murder case abruptly suspended a pretrial hearing on Thursday over whether the state concealed evidence and lied to her in court, saying the matter can be handled after the trial is over.
The move came after Zimmerman defense lawyer Mark O'Mara tried to call to the stand lead prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda, who stated we was not going to "subject myself" to questioning.
At that point a clearly irked Judge Debra Nelson said, "I think the court's time on this issue is better taken up post trial" and then she suspended "the rest of this hearing."
FBI experts began to testify on Thursday afternoon to discuss their reports on the voice quality of the 911 call. First up was Hirotaka Nakasone, an FBI voice-recognition scientist.
Nakasone said the FBI issues reports as investigative guidance, but usually experts don't testify in court about speech identification. He also said the state's expert's "technique has run out of time to show its utility," adding that some of it is "completely subjective."
The court recessed after Nakasone's testimony and will reconvene Friday at 9 a.m.
While Nelson said the motion for sanctions sought monetary damages from the state to cover time wasted due to the state's alleged discovery violations, O'Mara noted it sought potentially more: a judicial inquiry into whether de la Rionda committed direct criminal contempt by hiding evidence from the defense and lying to the judge about it.
O'Mara also hinted at filing another motion for trial delay, but Nelson shut down the inquiry Thursday afternoon and said she is going to start jury selection on Monday.
Attorney Don West took the stand on Thursday to discuss his exchange with the state about Martin's cellphone evidence. West said more than 1,000 pages of evidence have been "dumped" on them two days ago after the defense claimed the state hid evidence in violation of the rules.
"We caught you hiding the information and confronted you about it and you never gave it to us," West told the state, raising his voice on the stand on Thursday, adding that the defense called witnesses to testify to prove that the state "misrepresented" the information to the judge.
Nelson was considering sanctions against the state after Zimmerman's attorneys said they did not receive reports on photos and texts extracted from Trayvon Martin's phone that the state had in January.
Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Martin, was in the Sanford courtroom on Thursday morning for the last pretrial hearing, wearing a dress shirt and tie with a beige sport coat.
Zimmerman's attorney and former Local 6 legal analyst O'Mara wanted the judge to sanction prosecutors for what the defense describes as delays in turning over evidence. O'Mara says the state concealed reports they had in January revealing the contents of Martin's phone.
The state said the defense had everything in the source file, which was turned over, but the defense said the state lied in April when they told the judge the defense had all of the information it had.
Wesley White, former employee for State Prosecutor Angela Corey, revealed his concerns last week and re-took the stand on Thursday so Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda could question him. White is a former Duval County prosecutor, who said his client generated a report from Cellbrite software that may not have been turned over to the defense, including pictures of a gun and drugs.
White said he was "castigated by Miss Corey" for his role in bringing the Martin case to her circuit.
De la Rionda tried to elicit testimony showing White and his client, IT director for Corey Ben Kruidbos, are biased against Corey. Kruidbos was placed on leave after he came forward last week.
"If it was brought to light that the information should have been shared, that we knew about it, I'm sure that I--I suspected that everyone involved would probably be in trouble to some degree," Kruidbos said.
Kruidbos said the concerns he has from disclosing the information is that he will lose his job, but says it's worth it.
"I think all of the information being shared is important in the process to make sure that it's a fair trial," said Kruidbos.
Kruidbos testified at the hearing about Martin's cellphone, saying he felt the need to come forward to be sure that all the information is being shared for a fair trial.
"I had mentioned to investigator that I had concerns that we didn't have all of the information," Krudbois said, to what the investigator replied, "Let's call Bernie."
Krudbois said de la Rionda's response was, "Well the information exists then we have to deal with it."
Corey left the room as O'Mara questioned Kruidbos, who said he was suspicious when no deleted information showed up in the forensic analysis of Martin's phone done by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, prompting him to seek more.
Kruidbos said the FDLE report on Martin's phone had 1/23 of the information he recovered when he ran the report, and that he recovered 35 times more much data than the actually on the phone and he ran a report that was 35 times larger than the FDLE report.
Kruidbos' findings included deleted large photos, including pictures of handgun and drugs, along with text messages, and what he described as photos of naked underage girls.
"There were images of Trayvon Martin blowing smoke. There were images of pot plants," Krudbois said. "There was an image of a hand holding a gun. There were images of what appeared to be underaged females that were naked and there were images of a clump of jewelry on the bed."
The voice recognition expert issues have also not yet been discussed at Thursday's court hearing. Prosecutors have hired voice recognition experts who have given mixed opinions on whether screams for help on 911 calls were those of Zimmerman or Martin.
Nelson first denied the defense's motion to keep three witnesses anonymous. O'Mara said he wanted the three witnesses, including one eyewitness to the Martin and Zimmerman encounter. O'Mara said a screen should be blocking the witness box when they are testifying.
Thursday's court hearing, which is being streamed live on ClickOrlando.com, will tie up several loose ends before the start of the former neighborhood watch leader's murder trial next week. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense. A delay in Zimmerman's arrest led to protests nationwide. Martin was black. Zimmerman's father is white, and his mother is Hispanic.
The trial is expected to last more than a month.
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