Sanford Police Officer Chris Serino.
Florida (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
defendant George Zimmerman's account of his fight with Trayvon credible.
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.
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.
continued testifying Tuesday, had testified that he believed the
defendant's account that race was not a factor in the killing.
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.
Serino said there were no major inconsistencies in
Zimmerman's comments to police and that Zimmerman came off as
believable, even when pressured by officers. "I think he was being
straightforward," Serino said. "I kept an open mind that he (Zimmerman)
could be a victim."
The investigator also said witnesses the night
of the shooting didn't conflict with Zimmerman's version of events and
that he had information from interviews and evidence to support the
Also Monday, the first police officer to
interview Zimmerman after the shooting testified that Zimmerman appeared
"shocked" to learn the teen was dead. Officer Doris Singleton told the
jury that the defendant didn't appear angry or spiteful to Trayvon.
testimony came as a video of her interrogation of the defendant was
played to jurors, some of whom took copious notes. The video shows
Singleton asking Zimmerman to explain what happened that night.
says his neighborhood was dealing with an increase in burglaries, and
he started a neighborhood watch program. He says he had called the
police about suspicious people, but often they weren't stopped.
"These guys always get away," Zimmerman says on the recording.
says the encounter began when, while in his car, he saw Trayvon walking
in the neighborhood in the rain. Zimmerman says he called police and
pulled over before Trayvon started circling his car, then walked off.
says he got out of his car to find a street sign and to see where
Trayvon was going. Zimmerman says he was walking back to his car when
Trayvon, probably hiding in the bushes, came out and said, "You got a
Trayvon then punched Zimmerman and was banging
his head into the concrete, Zimmerman says. Within seconds, Trayvon's
hand was moving down his body toward Zimmerman's gun, Zimmerman says.
Fearing for his life, he says, he shot the teen.
In the interview, Zimmerman tells Singleton that Trayvon said, "You got me," then "Owww" as Zimmerman held him down.
following a prosecution request, read from a written statement
Zimmerman gave to police. De la Rionda pointed out to jurors that
Zimmerman repeatedly refers to Trayvon as "the suspect" in the statement
Singleton said she didn't ask Zimmerman to use
that language and that officers routinely refer to suspected criminals
as "the suspect." Singleton said Zimmerman referred to Trayvon as "the
suspect" only in written statements and not in conversations with
The issue is relevant because prosecutors may argue that
Zimmerman was a "wannabe cop" who liked to use police language. State
attorneys had to argue before Circuit Judge Debra to keep the option of
using the term "wannabe cop" at trial.