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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
George Zimmerman's Attorney Speaks to Media; Judge Orders Written Explanation from Justice Department of President's Remarks Regarding Supreme Court; Councilman Hires PR Firm to Tweet for Him; Military Trial For 9/11 Mastermind, Four Others; University Shooting Suspect Charged; New Manson Photos Released; Study Links Genes To PTSD; "Rapid" Diet Drug Seeks FDA Approval; Zimmerman's Defense; Adapting To The Times; Chaos Erupts At Student Protest
Aired April 5, 2012 - 06:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: Hey, good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, George Zimmerman's defense. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, FATHER OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: It's clearly him on the tape. There's absolutely no doubt about who it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: That is George Zimmerman's father. And (inaudible) the attorney today, telling his son's version of the events the night that Trayvon Martin was shot and killed.
Plus you see these pictures? These are college students pepper sprayed at a school board meeting. Some of them were hospitalized and say there was no warning. The question today is did police overreact? We're going to talk to one of the students who was sprayed.
In our "get real" this morning, it's your tax dollars at work, an elected official spends tons of money to outsource his tweets. So you would expect it would be witty. It would be brilliant. It would be erudite. Not so much. We're going to talk about that in our "Get Real." It is Thursday, April 5th, and "starting point" begins right now.
O'BRIEN: Is this your pick? Stedman graham joins us this morning. We're going to talk a little bit to Stedman about his new book, which is called "Identity." I feel like I'm showing people's books on this show every day. "Identity: Your Passport to Success."
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think there's a hole in the market for a book club -- I'm not sure.
O'BRIEN: I know. Huh. Huh. (CROSSTALK)
O'BRIEN: Thank you, Will Cain. My people will call your people later. We'll work on that. We're glad to have you join our panel this morning. We appreciate it. Also joining us, Will Cain, of course, columnist for TheBlaze.com, and John Fugelsang is with us as well. He's a political comedian. Nice to have you.
Our STARTING POINT is a story that really is not going away. It's the Trayvon Martin story. It has been very interesting to see, I think, every detail that's added as more people come forward. Now there's a new attorney joining George Zimmerman's case.
STEDMAN GRAHAM, AUTHOR: About time.
O'BRIEN: That's kind of interesting. He did have a representative at first but now the two of them will jointly represent George Zimmerman. His father also really sat down to talk about his son's version of events the night that Trayvon Martin was shot and killed. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S FATHER: He was walking back to his vehicle. Trayvon came from his left side, asked him, did he have a -- did he have a problem? George said no. At that point, Trayvon said, well, you do now. He punched him in the nose, knocked him to the concrete, and started beating him. George was there yelling for help for at least 40 seconds. It's clearly him on the tape.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Joining us this morning, Lou Palumbo, retired Nassau County police officer and director Elite Intelligence and Protection Agency. I'm having trouble talking one minute, 30 seconds into the show. It's nice to have you. We've spent a lot of time now talking about this particular case. We're now getting the version of events fleshed out not only by George Zimmerman's father but also his attorney as well. What kind of things are you listening for and you want to know from their perspective?
LOU PALUMBO, RETIRED POLICE OFFICER: Unfortunately I don't think there's much from their perspective that's going to influence me at this point. What I would be more inclined to do is review some of the crime scene investigations, forensics, autopsy reports. His explanation for his son's actions don't really change the merit. My opinion remains to be that he used excessive force. He precipitated this. He volunteered that to us in a 911 tape where he indicated he was following him.
O'BRIEN: The lawyer would say that's not correct, that when he was told to stop that he said, OK, or don't follow him, he said OK and that it wasn't a direct order. It was a guy in the dispatch. It was not official police order. The lawyer, who was talking to Piers Morgan last night, Hal Uhrig, he said there is a reason Trayvon Martin is dead and it is this. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAL UHRIG, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: The reason that Trayvon Martin is dead is not because he was black or because he wore a hoodie or because he was walking in the rain. It's because that 6'3" young man made a terrible decision and a bad judgment and he decided to smack somebody in the face and break their nose, jump on them and smack their head into the ground, and in doing that, put him in reasonable fear for his safety. You're going to find that there was a dispute as to what happened with the gun. He was absolutely entitled to defend himself. And that's why Trayvon Martin is dead, not because of racial profiling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Clearly setting up the case, right? You could see in addition to the narrative, he's also throwing in sort of the legal perspective.
PALUMBO: We're not questioning he had a legal right to defend himself. We're just discussing now to what extent. We're not saying you didn't have a right to fight back. Clearly, you did. This is all about the use of deadly physical force and did it apply in this case? And is it justified? Simply stated it isn't.
I don't think Trayvon was 6'3". To correct the record, I reviewed a police report that described him as six foot. So let's get our facts a bit more accurate. And the bottom line is this. How mysteriously did Trayvon and Mr. Zimmerman end up in such proximity to each other if he wasn't being followed? Maybe what Trayvon did, when he realized he was being followed, as he articulated in the phone call to his girlfriend, was position himself in a manner that made him more comfortable and alleging him to confront this person, who he didn't know, and say who are you? Why are you following me? The rest of this is just Zimmerman's justification for what he did.
CAIN: Lou and I have had several conversations over numerous mornings now. This is an interesting point to focus. We focused in on who was the pursuer, that being the question in this case. Who was the aggressor in the actual confrontation? That's been a point of focus. You now have focused in on the use of deadly force. Was it justified? I think that's a very legitimate question. That entire question will hinge on did George Zimmerman really feel his life was in jeopardy? Do his injuries support that feeling, and on and on?
PALUMBO: The question I have is if I'm carrying a concealed weapon, nine millimeter handgun and you're not and I feel like I'm in imminent fear for my life, what do you feel like?
CAIN: We agree then, these are the analysis that people will be going through, police, lawyers, this is what they'll be focusing on, whether or not it was reasonable to use deadly force. Am I wrong?
O'BRIEN: Clearly, I've seen from the father's comments and also from the lawyer that there is going to be a conversation about a struggle for a weapon, right?
CAIN: He certainly hinted at that.
O'BRIEN: -- A narrative that at that point there was a struggle for the gun. Ultimately, is it going to look at, I guess, forensic evidence to see if there was a struggle for the gun? The one party in this, who would be able to answer that, is dead.
JOHN FUGELSANG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If there ever is a trial. That's the real point here. Most people that are protesting this aren't saying lock the guy up or give him the chair. They just want a trial. And the media and the people of America are already trying him. They're waiting for the justice system to catch up.
PALUMBO: We want to review the facts and the reality of the situation is that if, in fact, there are -- there is a palm print, for example, on this weapon, and for your own edification, polymer framed weapon, which wouldn't necessarily give you that print you're looking for -- it's not that this is academic. If you came up to me -- I've taken guns off people in recent years. And I know you've got a weapon and I can tell you shouldn't have one, I take that weapon off you. I've done this numerous times. I have a whole different set of skills. I've had formal training, extensive experience.
And your whole mode of thinking when you see a weapon and you don't have one and you don't know who this person is that's following you and you're unsettled is you might want to disarm that person. Part of the issue here is, how concealed was that weapon in his waistband? I've carried a weapon responsibly for 39 years. In one instance I've had one law enforcement agent approach me with my jacket off to ask me whether or not I was legally carrying it? I carry it concealed. You don't brandish the weapon. Part of the responsibility in carrying a concealed weapon is to keep it concealed.
O'BRIEN: All the issues they'll be talking about as they look through this case. Thank you, Lou. Appreciate you joining us.
We have other headlines to get to. Christine has those. Good morning.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. A new satellite image reveals new and increased activity at a rocket launch pad in North Korea. U.S. experts say this image shows, quote, specific activity at a launch pad and at a rocket assembly facility. Vehicles and other objects are seen parked outside the launch tower. Possible fuel containers appear uncovered, stacked behind a fuel system.
The Justice Department preparing to take America's toughest sheriff to court. Administration officials say they'll sue Arizona's Joe Arpaio after settlement talks broke off. The two sides were trying to resolve allegations of racial discrimination by Arpaio's office against Latinos. Sheriff Arpaio refused to accept an independent monitor, something the Justice Department calls non- negotiable.
Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky is due in court in less than two hours. Sandusky faces 52 counts for sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. His attorney, Joe Amandola, is asking the court to dismiss many of these charges, saying the accusations of abuse are vague and the statute of limitations has run out. Sandusky has pleaded not guilty and is currently on house arrest while out on bail. That hearing in two hours.
The JetBlue pilot who suffered an apparent breakdown during a flight may never face trial. Captain Clayton Osbon will undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he's competent enough to understand these charges against him. A detention hearing set for today has been postponed until after doctors get a chance to examine him.
And it's the last word on the death of singer Whitney Houston, the L.A. coroner's office releasing its final autopsy report. It says Houston drowned face down in a tub of hot water about a foot deep. Investigators found white powder and a spoon with white residue in her hotel room. CNN's Dr. Drew Pinsky says the full report casts doubt that Houston had a heart condition as preliminary findings suggested.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN HOST: The fact is that this autopsy report shows she had nominal, nominal heart disease, not sufficient to explain what happened to her. You mentioned she was found face down in water. How do you have a heart attack or take too much medication and slip into the water and drowned and end up face down? The way that happens is seizure. And I add the entire score up and I get seizure here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Dr. Drew says the autopsy suggests Houston may have been using can he cocaine just minutes before she died.
A cloud of pepper spray ends a student demonstration in California. Now the investigation begins. Three Santa Monica college students were taken to the hospital, 30 others treated at the scene. About 100 students were demonstrating against a pilot program to create a two-tiered tuition plan. The college says police acted with restraint. We'll speak with Kayleigh Wade, one of the students who was pepper sprayed. That's coming up later in the hour on STARTING POINT, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Yes, we're looking forward to talking to one of the student.
ROMANS: Have you been sprayed by pepper spray?
O'BRIEN: No. Will Cain has. Was it --
O'BRIEN: He was protesting, a campus protester. We knew it.
CAIN: Protesting for the rights of the one percent.
O'BRIEN: At least it's something you believe in, Will Cain.
CAIN: That's right.
O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you.
Google has come one step closer to turning people into their smart phones. They've got this new thing called "project glass." And they've got this new concept video right here that shows how these Google glasses could work. It performs tasks that would be normally handled by your smart phone, like scheduling your meetings, taking pictures, checking the weather, getting directions, placing a video call. You can do all of it by verbal commands. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. What's up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to see something cool?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sure. Is that a ukulele?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Here it goes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's beautiful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: "That's beautiful." That's a concept video, right? That's actually not how it really works at this moment. They're trying to get people's input so that they can weigh in on what they would like the glasses to be able to do. I think that video is so odd. A ukulele over a railing, like the coolest glasses ever?
FUGELSANG: If you watch the entire video he goes and buys a how to play a ukulele book before. What it doesn't show is the fact that this will allow you to get ads delivered directly to your skull.
O'BRIEN: And it's not exactly shocking.
Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a federal judge spars with President Obama over the president's remarks that he made in a press conference about the Supreme Court's upcoming decision on the health care law. We'll bring in Jeff Toobin, talk about what's really going on. Jeff says actually this is kind of a pissing match. And if you spent $28,000 for someone to tweet for you, it should be brilliant, it should be erudite, it should be urbane. Well, this elected official's tweet kind of missed the mark, and taxpayers got to pay for it. We'll share that story with you.
And if you're about to head to work you don't need to miss the rest of the show. Go to our live blog at CNN.com/startingpoint.
Let's get right to John's play list this morning, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, "Roadrunner."
O'BRIEN: That's Jeff Toobin's play list, "Mystery Dance" Elvis Costello. Glad to have you here.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Great to be here.
O'BRIEN: The Obama administration is scrambling to meet this deadline now. It comes from a federal appointed federal judge, and those judges want answers in writing after the president made kind of a controversial remark about the Supreme Court's upcoming decision over his health care law. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So that was what the president said in a press conference. Some people say the president was warning the justices not to overturn the law. It didn't sit very well with the three-judge panel hearing a different challenge to the same law. Here is what one of those judges, his name is Jerry Smith, said in court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY SMITH: Obamacare to what he termed a broad consensus of majorities in both houses of congress. That has troubled a number of people who have read it as somehow a challenge to the federal courts or to their authority, or to the appropriateness of the concept of judicial review. And that's not a small matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Hence, Jeff Toobin, CNN legal analyst. I said you call this a pissing match, but I got that wrong. You called this a hissy fit.
TOOBIN: It's a hissy fit. I think what these judges have done is a disgrace. What President Obama said was entirely appropriate. There is nothing wrong, nothing controversial. He said I signed a law that was passed by the democratically elected Congress and I think it's constitutional.
And then these judges give the justice department a homework assignment, a three-page letter, single spaced, explaining what the president said. They don't have to explain what the president said. That was a perfectly appropriate comment by the president and it just shows how some of these Republican judges are just deranged by hatred of the president.
O'BRIEN: But isn't the role of the Supreme Court to overturn stuff that's unconstitutional?
TOOBIN: If they find it.
TOOBIN: And there's nothing that Obama said that was contrary to that. The president has no leverage over the Supreme Court. He can't threaten -- what's he going to threaten to do? If you rule this way, I won't -- if you rule this way, I'm not going to invite you to a state dinner.
CAIN: This is where I must step n I totally agree with you, Jeff. This is a very odd requirement.
O'BRIEN: Hissy fit.
CAIN: Three-page letter, single spic spaced to explain the president's view on judicial review.
That being said, I find the president's statement that was the predication for this, really I find that unprecedented as well. You find it completely normal. Judicial review has been a 250-year-old concept that the country has lived by. Obamacare was extraordinary and unprecedented before the Supreme Court made their decision. It's hard not to see this as influence, warning, intimidation.
TOOBIN: To do what?
CAIN: Rule in his favor.
TOOBIN: His administration wrote a brief asking them to rule in his favor.
O'BRIEN: Everyone knows they want the justices to rule in his favor.
CAIN: He continues to call it extraordinary exercise of judicial power, an unelected group of members. He is putting a lot of language in here, Jeff, to suggest it would be totally off base of the Supreme Court to apply judicial review to his favorite law. TOOBIN: And that's what his Justice Department said to the justices last week. There is no secret about the Obama administration's position on this issue. I don't see why the president saying it, the attorney general saying it, the solicitor general saying it --
CAIN: Because it calls into question the legitimacy of their decision, not his disagreement but the legitimacy to make their decision.
TOOBIN: He didn't say anything about the legitimacy. He said my interpretation of the law is the following. He is an American citizen and he has the right to express his opinion.
O'BRIEN: So bigger picture. How is really a political statement at a press conference becoming sort of a judicial statement, right? Shouldn't the two of them really --
TOOBIN: Well, I think what I have devoted my career to attempting to prove is that the line between law and politics is essentially nonexistent. When you have cases like this, when you have cases like abortion, affirmative action, these are essentially political decisions being made by individuals who wear black robes, but they are, in essence, political decisions. And I think the more we recognize that and the more we eliminate this artificial line, this sort of idealistic but really meaningless line between law and politics, the better, because I think that's the way the world works.
O'BRIEN: I want to ask you a question about the Trayvon Martin case for a moment. Have you been surprised, any of you guys been surprised there has not been a big named lawyer that's jumped in to represent George Zimmerman? You know, we talked about a billion cases over the last ten years or so where three days goes by and then some bold-faced name jumps in to start doing it because they use all the media as an event in a way.
FUGELSANG: If he was hotter Gloria Allred would have jumped in already. You think it would be a defense attorney's dream to represent him.
O'BRIEN: Have you been surprised by that, Stedman?
GRAHAM: I have been pretty surprised by that. I think -- I've been surprised by a lot of things.
O'BRIEN: In that particular case?
GRAHAM: In that particular case, yes. I think we have to wait and see all the evidence and see how it works out.
TOOBIN: I don't know. I actually am less surprised. This case polarizes people along racial lines.
O'BRIEN: It's highly risky for --
TOOBIN: And I think in a high-profile person, that's the kind of thing you don't want to get involved in, unless you know -- unless you know the facts really well, and no one knows the facts really well.
FUGELSANG: And there's plenty of Caucasians and nonblack folks who are demanding an arrest and a trial.
O'BRIEN: You don't mean racial lines in terms of the potential lawyers, you just mean the case is about race?
TOOBIN: The case is about race.
O'BRIEN: As we had talked about, always kind of an icky thing for people to tackle, and high risk actually. We have to get to commercial break for a second. Jeff Toobin, thank you very much. Again, hissy fit -- I misquoted Jeff Toobin. He said hissy fit.
TOOBIN: Train wreck and a hissy fit.
O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, your tax dollars at work. You know whenever we say that what follows will be unpleasant. A Philadelphia councilman spending nearly $29,000 tweeting. It better be good tweets, right? Well, not so much.
Also Will Cain has a playlist selection for us, "Unchain my Heart," Joe Crocker.
CAIN: That's right.
O'BRIEN: I like that. You're watching STARTING POINT.
O'BRIEN: You got to love a show that's playing Nirvana off John's playlist "Molly's Lips." You can check out our playlist at CNN.com/startingpoint.
Our "Get Real" this morning -- usually it's my favorite story of the day. Today is no exception. Philadelphia starts with a tweet back November 8th, Election Day. A local lawyer there, his name is Jared Klein, tweeted this. It's Election Day, people. Get out there and vote for -- he listed a couple of people to vote for.
FUGELSANG: So creative.
O'BRIEN: Yes. Third guy is Councilman Jim Kenney. Jim Kenney responded to the tweet with his own tweet that said this "I'm not on the ballot today, but I thank you for the support and for supporting my friends." Except he was on the ballot. So Jared Klein realized something was a little bit wrong. It turns out, of course, it seems Kenney was paying an outside media company called Chatter Blast nearly $30,000 a year to update, monitor and tweet for him. They have had tweets like this. It's April fools. Someone tell me a joke.
O'BRIEN: And this "Kind of looks like a snow globe outside. And this one, "I'm giving up smiling for lent." So I thought I could get a new gig tweeting for the councilman instead of $29,000, I will do it for $25,000. My tweets are much more creative and I can probably get him some followers, too.
FUGELSANG: I've got 50,000 followers. I will do it for $20,000. The company was also doing Mr. Kenney's Facebook as well. He said I'm 53, out of touch and this is the way of the future. It's actually the way of the present.
O'BRIEN: He said "I have no clue how to tweet. I still don't understand the mechanics of it. It's a thing of the future."
FUGELSANG: He wanted to do it to communicate with younger constituents. Anthony Weiner could have shown you how to do that for free.
O'BRIEN: Do you tweet?
GRAHAM: Little bit.
O'BRIEN: Will is tweeting during the show.
CAIN: I tweet right now. That's right.
O'BRIEN: The whole entire concept, right, is one on one contact with the people you're reaching out to.
FUGELSANG: But a lot of people do this. And a lot of celebrities do this. A lot of people in my entertainment field do this as well.
O'BRIEN: Ergo the risks.
FUGELSANG: This is lose/lose for this guy because a celebrity isn't using taxpayer dollars.
CAIN: That's the key, taxpayer dollars funding his tweeting outsource.
O'BRIEN: Yes, but what I find actually even more annoying than that if you are a councilman and someone is tweeting "I, I, I" and it's not him and I elected him, that would really annoy me.
FUGELSANG: I disagree. You have someone write speeches for you that says "I, I, I" --
O'BRIEN: That annoys me, too.
CAIN: That's what they say, John. We actually type it in. It's no different than if someone dictates a letter to someone.
FUGELSANG: Yes. You say give up smiling for lent.
O'BRIEN: I hope he didn't dictate I'm not on the ballot today. Maybe someone just went ahead and tweeted it for him. Who would say that if they're on the ballot that day? Anyway, my favorite story today.
FUGELSANG: Your tax dollars not hard at work.
O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, Charles Manson, believe it or not -- how many times have we done this story? He's up for parole again. That's what he looked like the last time we saw him back in 2009. There is a new photo that has been released. He looks a lot different.
Also George Zimmerman hires a new attorney, getting out his side of the story in the Trayvon Martin shooting. You can hear from that attorney and a live response from the National Urban League, straight ahead.
You're watching STARTING POINT. We got to take a short break and we're back in just a moment.
O'BRIEN: That's off the playlist of Marc Morial. He's the president of the National Urban League and that's James Brown "Papa Don't Take No Mess." He's going to be joining us in just a few minutes to talk about the Trayvon Martin case.
First though, we have headlines and Christine has got to look at those for us. Good morning.
ROMANS: Good morning, Soledad.
More than a decade after the 9/11, the admitted master mind of the attacks and four alleged co-conspirators have been ordered to stand trial in a military court.
The Obama administration abandoned plans to prosecute Khalid Sheik Mohammad and the others in a civilian court. The five will soon be arraigned at the Guantanamo Bay. If convicted, they could all get the death penalty.
California prosecutors filing formal charges against the man suspected of killing seven people in a campus shooting spree there. One Goh is now facing seven charges of murder, three of attempted murder in that rampage at Oikos University in Oakland.
A prosecutor says Goh wanted his tuition back after dropping off and was gunning for a school administrator. He is being held without bail. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
A week before his next parole hearing, California prison officials released new pictures of Charles Manson. Manson is now 77, looks a lot different from the last photos three years ago when his head was shaved. The tattooed swastika on his forehead is still there. He has been denied parole now 11 times.
In today's "A.M. House Call," a new study reveals two genes may be linked to post traumatic stress disorder. Researchers from UCLA studied Armenian victims of the 1988 earthquake that killed thousands.
The study found that those who carried genetic variations that are commonly associated with depression were more likely to suffer long term PTSD. Researchers stressed the genes are quote, "relatively very small contributors to a person's vulnerability to PTSD."
A new weight loss drug is awaiting approval from the FDA after it was rejected back in 2010 over safety concerns. Qnexa is designed for people who are obese or overweight with health issues such as high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes.
The company says people using the drug shed 10 percent to 11 percent of their weight in a year. Supporters say it also helps to reduce diabetes and lower blood pressure.
But research shows the drug caused increased heart rate in some patients and increased the risk of cleft lip in newborns whose mothers were taking that drug.
And FDA committee says this time around it had more data to understand the weight loss benefits of the drug compared to its overall health risks, Soledad, so denied in 2010, but given a chance this time.
O'BRIEN: But cleft lift in mother's newborns? Wow!
ROMANS: Well, that's one of those things. Whenever you're pregnant or nursing, you really have to be careful what kind of drugs you're taking even if you don't know what the side effects are.
O'BRIEN: All right, Christine. Thanks for that update.
George Zimmerman's family and his defense team trying to change the public perception of the man who shot and killed 17-year- old Trayvon Martin. His new attorney was on Piers Morgan last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAL UHRIG, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: The reason that Trayvon Martin is dead is not because he was black or because he wore a hoodie or because he was walking in the rain.
It's because that 6'3" young man made a terrible decision and a bad judgment and he decided to smack somebody in the face and break their nose, jump on them and smack their head into the ground and, in doing that, put that in reasonable fear for his safety.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Joining our panel this morning is Marc Morial. He's the president and the CEO of the National Urban League. It's nice to see you, Marc.
MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Thank you, Soledad. O'BRIEN: So when you hear what I think is clearly an out-of-the- box legal strategy that we're hearing from. That is Hal Uhrig. He is the new attorney for George Zimmerman. What do you make of that?
MORIAL: Just yet another changing story. I mean, George Zimmerman's sort of offensive has been clumsy. I think it's been contradictory because we've heard so many things.
I think we need to focus on the fact that the chief investigating officer who looked into this incident when it occurred recommended the arrest of George Zimmerman.
And somehow, someone higher in the state's attorney's office blocked that arrest. We need to keep a focus on the facts. And I think what you now have is an effort by this defense attorney to deposit yet another story.
I've lost track of the facts, but what I think we do have is we do have 911 tapes. And I think those 911 tapes are particularly revealing. We have a call that --
O'BRIEN: And not all the facts are out. I don't know that we can lose track of facts when really, I think everybody who has studied this case would say the facts -- we're all trying to piece together some of the facts.
The facts really haven't been officially revealed yet. There is some evidence. Certainly the 911 tapes included. Let's talk about racial strife. The lawyer last night, Hal Uhrig talking to Piers Morgan said outsiders who are coming are causing racial strife. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UHRIG: The morning of February 26th, we had a peaceful community where blacks and whites went to church together, stood in line at the grocery together and didn't think that we had a problem.
After some folks came to town and had their little rallies and made irresponsible speeches about murder and racial profiling -- he's not a racist. It wasn't profiling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: He says outside agitators --
MORIAL: He's out of bounds. He sounds like an old-time southern sheriff talking about outside agitators. In this case, it was the local NAACP leadership, local ministers, a local lawyer, a local urban league leadership. Our leader, Alec Braswel who asked national organizations to come in and support what they felt was a travesty of justice.
And I would discourage him to stand off from that outside/inside rhetoric. We are one nation with a single constitution. And I think an embrace of justice.
This issue has galvanized people because in the 21st Century, because of the social media and the media there is, indeed, a focus on that. I don't think that that rhetoric from the lawyer is indeed helpful.
O'BRIEN: Marc, hold on one second. I want to bring in Stedman Graham into this conversation. A lot of what you write about in your new book "Identity" is about race and perception of race, and how that can frame not only how you feel about yourself, but how everybody else around you is interpreting you.
When you hear a comment like what the new lawyer, Hal Uhrig has said, which is outside agitators are coming in. This was a very nice, happy and peaceful town before these others came in and created a scene. What do you make of that?
STEDMAN GRAHAM, AUTHOR, "IDENTITY: YOUR PASSPORT TO SUCCESS": This is indicative of a major issue, which is lack of education for black men across the country. You have 57 percent dropout rate in a big city. You got 25 percent graduation rate in the whole city.
You got a 16 percent one state graduation rate among black men. So I would ask Marc Morial, what is the bigger message here? After this case goes away and after everybody settles down, you know, we still have killings all over the country.
Young men and young women are being killed by their own people. We are not graduating folks through our school system.
O'BRIEN: So what is the urban league's plan? I think that's a great question. I mean, obviously at some point this case will be decided. It may not be for a year. It may not go to trial. However it is, what is the step after that?
MORIAL: I think in the context of this case, it raises a lot of larger questions and a lot of -- an opportunity to focus on some of the very important work.
I think that the urban league and others are doing with after-school programs, with efforts for job training and advocacy that the nation needs to do more.
One of my great concerns, Soledad, is the culture of violence in the nation. It's black-on-black crime, yes. But this is also part of that cultural violence where people feel they need guns to protect themselves.
Where we see a person because of the way they dress and the way they look, simply because of that, we feel threatened. There are a lot of larger question questions that I think we have to discuss.
But what I've really been focused on is making sure that we don't prematurely take attention away from justice for Trayvon Martin. But I think, and I hope, that there's going to be an opportunity to point to.
And also do something about many of the important statistics that Stedman just talked about. Urban league, we're on the frontlines down in Florida with job-training programs, with after-school programs.
We just don't touch enough people and we need more support to do more work like that in these challenging times.
O'BRIEN: Marc Morial from the National Urban League. Marc, nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.
MORIAL: Thanks, Soledad. Thanks.
O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, students caught in the cloud of pepper spray, protesting tuition hikes. We'll talk to one woman who was injured. We'll see if she thinks the cops went way too far.
Also, we talked about Stedman's new book. It's called "Identity." We're going to talk to him about some of those specifics. He said is the centrepiece of what makes you successful. We'll ask him why.
We'll leave you with a song off his playlist, Marvin Gaye "What's Going On." You're watching STARTING POING.
O'BRIEN: Covering the range this morning musically, I would like to say. I'd like to point out that Smokey Robinson "More Love." We want to talk this morning about Stedman Graham's new book.
It's called "Identity: Your Passport to Success." And really, a self helpful, kind of people can be successful. They just sort of figure out the nugget of their life, you say, that nugget, that centrepiece is your identity. Why is that so critical?
GRAHAM: Well, it's important because that's your foundation for development. That's the way that you think. Without one, you're lost. You don't know where you're going. You don't know how to get there. I think all your problems result from a lack of identity.
You know, racial identity, gender identity, all of those things are socially constructed to make you think that you're less than. So if you don't know who you are, if you have no purpose in life, if you have no foundation for growing, learning and developing.
Essentially you're going to be a follower for the rest of your life as opposed to a leader. You're going to be a slave as opposed to an owner. You're going to be a consumer as opposed to producer because you can't own your own self.
You have no voice. You have no foundation for growing and developing. That's why it's so important.
O'BRIEN: How did you figure it out for you, personally? GRAHAM: Well, I figured it out --
O'BRIEN: That could be like years and years of therapy.
GRAHAM: Years and years, it's a long journey. I grew up in an all-black town surrounded by a white community. I was labeled. You know, in a relationship with Oprah for a number of years and I'm labeled -- stuck in a box based on that.
So I got a chance to really figure out where the freedom is. I realize that freedom is not on the outside. Freedom is on the inside.
O'BRIEN: What do you mean?
GRAHAM: Well, most people don't know who they are. They have no foundation. They have no passion. They have no -- they hate themselves or they don't understand that the first step in self actualization is finding out what your purpose is, finding out what you love.
Finding out what your strengths are, what your talents are, what your skills are and developing that. In that process, I realized it's not about how other people define you. It's about how you define yourself.
The question is, do you have the tools to define yourself? Are you able to navigate the system? Are you able to assimilate? Are you able to take the world's resources and make it relevant to who you are in the 24 hours that you have, which makes us all (inaudible). Everybody has 24 hours.
O'BRIEN: John has a question.
JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: Well, yes, it seems like in many ways the book is as much about individuality as it is identity or individuality leading to the pathway to identity.
And in a culture where we're so often lumped into pack mentalities, especially for men, do you think it makes it more difficult for someone to have a true sense of self when you've got media, when you've advertising, when you've got an overall mentality telling you what you are?
GRAHAM: Well, most of us are stuck in the box. We're doing the same thing over and over every single day. If you did the same thing you did yesterday that you did today, as you would do today, you will have done nothing.
The educational system teaches us to memorize, take test, repeat information back and get labeled with (inaudible) and what they learn. Two weeks later, they say I don't know.
So nothing from nothing is nothing and so the missing piece is we don't think. We can't take education information and make it relevant to our skill set, to our talents, to what we do, to our passion, to develop ourselves.
O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question about an interview that Gayle King did with Oprah the other day. She was saying that, you know, why didn't you just -- why don't you just go quit?
Like you could just go and leave all the stress of the new gig and leave and quit and Oprah basically said that you would tell her that would last about two weeks and then she would be losing her mind. She went on to say this. I think we have a clip of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, FOUNDER OF OWN: I believe that I am here to fulfill a calling. That because I am a female who is African- American, who has been so blessed in the world, there is never going to be a time to quit. I will die in the midst of doing what I love to do. And that is using my voice and using my life to try to inspire other people to live the best of theirs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: She was talking about a lot of the stress around launching OWN and talked about some of the mistakes that were made. In that interview, I thought, she seemed really vulnerable. How do you advise her? A lot of what she's saying about figuring out who -- why you're here is really what you're writing about.
GRAHAM: Well, she's -- you don't want to lose your voice. Where is your voice? Are you able to (inaudible) your potential? And as a leader, are you able to help other people? So her mission is to help women all around the world. How do you do that? You do that by having own a platform.
O'BRIEN: Not quitting and --
GRAHAM: You do that by your own personal example, by taking content and make it relative to growing people's lives, and if you miss that opportunity, how many Oprahs are there. So to me identity is the passport to success and also the freedom.
O'BRIEN: The passport, you know you gave me this passport this morning. But actually that it's a real passport and I for a moment thought I was going on vacation somewhere. Stedman, nice to talk about your book.
GRAHAM: You can travel all over the world once you understand who you are.
O'BRIEN: "Identity: Your Passport To Success." We got to take a short break.
Still ahead this morning, there was chaos at a California college, police had to use pepper spray to bring to an end to the protests. We're going to talk to a woman who is in that demonstration.
You're watching Starting Point. We'll take a short break. We're back in just a moment.
O'BRIEN: That chaos is amateur video of a student protest that happened at Santa Monica Community College. It started with roughly 100 people that had gathered outside of a board of trustees meeting.
They were protesting tuition increase on summer classes. Demonstrations pretty quickly got out of hand. Campus police were waving batons and they sprayed pepper spray.
In the end, 30 people needed treatment including a little girl, 4-year-old girl. Just people heard just sort of randomly by standing as well,
Kayleigh Wade also had to be treated. She's a freshman at Santa Monica College. She was protesting. Nice to see you, I thank you for talking with us. You were there to protest these tuition hikes. It a two tiered system that's being proposed. What exactly about that made you so mad?
KAYLEIGH WADE, PEPPER SPRAY VICTIM: I feel that this program would basically just divide the classes at the college and it goes completely against what the mission statement of a community college is supposed to be, which is equal opportunity and equal education for all. This makes popular classes more expensive so that those who can't afford it will transfer out of there quickly. So it just seems really unfair to me.
O'BRIEN: So the officer, we can see in this amateur video looks like it was shot off somebody's cell phone or something, sprayed pepper spray toward roughly 100 people who are trying to get in that door and get into that meeting. Can you tell me exactly what happened?
WADE: I was at the very front and in the beginning, it was really compliant, he was trying to be really neutral and passive. I feel like he was trying to build like a trusting relationship with the students.
He was trying to get us to hear him out and everything. He told us that they're going to let in a select number of students to which we responded that we wanted everyone to be able to go into the meeting and say their piece and stuff.
Before I know it, just things got a bit rambunctious because when they opened the door to let people in, we all tried to go in. And then he held one of my friends in a choke hold and it was all women in the front.
And he got one of them and he held her in choke hold. I tried to grab her and another officer pinned arms back and you know, they started -- they pepper sprayed us. It was completely unprovoked, they didn't warn us at all.
O'BRIEN: I would stop you for a second because you can see everybody rushing on the door. I'm not sure unprovoked would exactly be the right word on that.
But do tell me what that felt like, sprayed and a bunch of other people we can see in those pictures, that everybody suddenly starts grabbing their faces. What is it felt like to be sprayed in the face with pepper spray?
WADE: It's kind of excruciating honestly like. It's the weirdest sensation. It's like burning completely, I felt like my skin was on fire and it was in my mouth and on my lips and in my eyes. Everybody retreated and we went all outside. We had to pour milk on our faces and in our eyes to combat the effects of the pepper spray. It was really terrible.
O'BRIEN: The college president whose name is Chui Tsang said this, "Although a number of participants at the meeting engaged in unlawful conduct, Santa Monica College police personnel exercised restraint and made no arrest." What happens for you next?
WADE: We're proposing a referendum and if they don't respond to us by Sunday, we're going to escalate after our spring break.
O'BRIEN: All right, thanks for joining us. I'm glad you're feeling a little bit better now that the pepper spray has worn off. Appreciate it.
Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, opening rounds of the Masters, but could it be finally be ladies day? That the old boys club (inaudible) I don't know about that.
Plus, new details about Jackie Kennedy's reaction on the day that JFK was shot and killed. We're going to hear from a secret service agent that was just inches away from the president on that day.
You're watching STARTING POINT. We got to take a break. We're back in a moment.