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Stand Your Ground?
Aired April 16, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Here we go.
Do "Stand Your Ground" laws protect whites over African-Americans? This man says yes, but the NRA is standing its ground and says, no way.
PINSKY: Welcome to the program.
George Zimmerman stands charged with second-degree murder for gunning down Trayvon Martin. The question now is how big of role will Florida`s "Stand Your Ground" law, so-called, how big of role will this play in his trial?
Law was enacted in 2005 by then-Governor Jeb Bush. Now, I`m going to read to you exactly what this law says. Here we go.
"A person who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."
Now, when Zimmerman was first released after shooting Trayvon Martin, police said he was protected under that statute. The question is, was he?
With me to talk about the relevance of this law is the Martin family attorney, Daryl Parks, also Kenneth Klukowski, special counsel for the Family Research Council, and U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Michael Yaki.
Michael, you recently called for an investigation into the "Stand Your Ground" law to se if there are perhaps racial biases built into this law. Explain that.
MICHAEL YAKI, U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSIONER: Well, thank you very much, Dr. Drew. It`s a pleasure to be on your show.
I called for this investigation because there`s a lot of questions around "Stand Your Ground" laws that need to be answered. But here are some facts. The facts are since these laws have been enacted, you`ve seen basically a big jump in justifiable homicides in this country. In states like Texas, Florida, and Georgia, it`s been 200, 300-time increase since they`ve been enacted.
The second fact, this is the most disturbing, is that when you look at the data, and these are just data reported to the FBI, black people, a black person is five times more likely to be the victim of a justifiable homicide by a white person than if you just look at homicide stats as a whole. That is extremely disturbing.
Add to that the fact that these statutes vary in terms of whether or not the prosecutor or the police -- and in this case, as we saw -- the police made the initial determination it appears that George Zimmerman was protected under the "Stand Your Ground". Absent what the Martin family did, absent social media, this would be an unreported statistic that would never have seen the light of day.
That`s why I want the Commission on Civil Rights to investigate it, do some fact-finding, shed light on this very important issue because the implications on race in this country, and whether or not we created a system of vigilante justice that has a veneer of race under it, on top of it, is something that I think really needs to be explored.
PINSKY: Ken, what do you say to those concerns?
KEN KLUKOWSKI, SPECIAL COUNCIL, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, I would say that Michael is wrong on two counts.
First of all, there is no victim in a justified homicide. A justified homicide is where one human being takes the life of another in a situation where the law says his actions are justified. Such as someone tries to kill you, you fight back in self-defense, and the attacker dies. That is a justified homicide. So there is no victim in a justified homicide.
Secondly, the "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida, since obviously that`s what`s driving this discussion is not at all at issue here. All it does is remove from a person the duty to retreat when possible.
In order for "Stand Your Ground" to apply, there must be two things. First of all, you cannot be assailant or the attacker. You must be the intended victim. And secondly, retreat must be an option.
The issue, thus, becomes that you don`t have to retreat. Under either version of the facts here, because obviously there`s two different sides here as to what the facts are. You and I don`t know what those facts are.
Under either story, "Stand Your Ground" does not apply. If, in fact, Mr. Zimmerman was the instigator of a confrontation, then he is not protected by "Stand Your Ground".
On the flip side, if the other narrative turns out to be true, that he was on the ground with someone on top of him, obviously if you`re on your back on the ground, you can`t run away, so there is no duty to retreat. "Stand Your Ground" does not apply because retreat is impossible. And the situation would instead just be governed by normal self-defense laws. Not "Stand Your Ground". That does not apply under anyone`s version of the facts in this tragedy in Florida.
PINSKY: Ken, I`m not sure that the idea of retreat is as concrete a concept as you need to be able to back up in space as if your back is against the grass you can`t retreat. You can certainly crawl away.
But, Michael, I wonder if you have a response to Ken.
YAKI: Well, first of all, I think ken is wrong on two points. One, "Stand Your Ground" is implicated in this because the Florida police initially let Zimmerman go because of the "Stand Your Ground" issue, number one.
Number two, he also said there was no victim here in a justifiable homicide. That`s a tautology. That absolutely begs the question, which I`m trying to -- which I want to investigate, which is whether or not these charging decisions, these ability to raise this defense, in and of itself has a race element to it in the first place.
There is a victim here. It`s Trayvon Martin. How that gets resolved in the courts will be something that the courts will have to decide.
But the fact of the matter is, is that absent people raising this issue, George Zimmerman would have been free and would still be free under "Stand Your Ground" and that`s the important point of why we need an investigation. Because when you look at these statistics, when you look at the fact that black people, black men or women are much more likely to be the victims of justifiable homicide than if you just look at normal homicide statistics, there`s something we need to take a look at here. There`s something that demands further investigation.
PINSKY: And, Ken, I don`t think I heard you really address the race issue in your response. You want to have at that again?
KLUKOWSKI: Well, my issue would be people regardless of race have the right to defend themselves. My co-author on this piece, Ken Blackwell, was a former undersecretary at HUD and the mayor of a big city.
And as we talked through this city writing the column together that that started this conversation, it`s -- he grew up in the projects and we talked about the importance of people in public housing, many of whom are minorities, disproportionately so, having the same Second Amendment right to defend themselves and to be governed by reasonable self-defense laws like everyone else. This is to protect everyone regardless of race or gender.
All this law is, is that if you are attacked, if you are a would-be victim, you do not need to turn your back 180 on your attacker, exposing your backside as you attempt to flee, where it`s much harder to defend yourself, if you choose to stand and fight if you believe that that`s the safest course for you, this law simply says you have the right to do so.
But I want to make a very important point here. That`s the majority rule. That is the law in the majority of states. "Stand Your Ground" laws were only passed for a small number of states where that was not the rule. But most states in the United States have always said that if you`re attacked, you are not legally required to turn your back and run away from your attacker while he is attacking you.
PINSKY: Daryl, I have last than one minute. I want to give you last comment. Let me give Daryl a chance to ring in here. Go ahead, buddy.
DARYL PARKS, MARTIN FAMILY ATTORNEY: Let me say this here, in most situations the law -- the facts drive the law. In this particular case, the facts of this case will drive the law as well.
It`s important in this case that we know that this was provoked by Mr. Zimmerman. That`s important because the statute, one word that`s clear in the statute, if you`re the provocateur, no way that you can claim this defense.
So, all evidence in this case, both the 911 calls, as well as the eyewitnesses that tie it together, clearly point out that Mr. Zimmerman was the person who provoked this situation.
PINSKY: Well --
KLUKOWSKI: Well, we don`t know the facts, gentlemen. That`s what the jury process is for and that will be determined in a courtroom. Not in the media studio.
YAKI: Dr. Drew --
PARKS: No, that`s wrong. We do know the facts.
PINSKY: Gents, last word, Michael. I`ve got about 15 seconds.
YAKI: The crazy part about this, the person that could have invoked this would have been Trayvon Martin. But he brought a bag of Skittles to a gunfight that he didn`t know about.
PINSKY: Gentlemen, thank you. Commissioner Yaki, thank you. Thank you for joining me.
Up next, famed victims right attorney, Gloria Allred, will join this conversation. So, please stay with us.
PINSKY: Welcome back.
We`re discussing the so-called "Stand Your Ground" law as it pertains to George Zimmerman`s trial in the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman stands charged with second-degree murder. Prosecutors must disprove his claim of self-defense and show the shooting is in hatred or ill will. If convicted, Zimmerman could go away for life.
Joining this conversation is victim`s rights attorney Gloria Allred.
So, Gloria, you heard the civil rights commissioner talking about the fact there`s a racial bias in the "Stand Your Ground" law. Do you agree with that?
GLORIA ALLRED, VICTIM`S RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, I agree with the facts that he stat stated.
PINSKY: Five times more likely to affect an African-American than a Caucasian.
ALLRED: Well --
PINSKY: That`s stunning.
ALLRED: It is very stunning. And there`s just interesting aspects of what I think is a stunning change in the law -- across the nation with more than half the states or approximately half the states now adopting "Stand Your Ground" laws.
Let`s talk about it for a minute because it`s really important. Why do we have this "Stand Your Ground"? Well, basically, there was a duty to retreat and the reason for that duty to retreat in the law was to try to deescalate the violence that`s out there.
This is really notching it up -- the right of a person to in a sense escalate the violence rather than to try to defuse the violence. And that is a concern.
Also, in this "Stand Your Ground" law, the individual --
KLUKOWSKI: The first point isn`t exactly correct.
KLUKOWSKI: A majority of states have no duty.
ALLRED: -- has more rights than a police officer would have.
PINSKY: Ken, how do you respond to that? Go ahead.
KLUKOWSKI: Well, first of all, a majority of states have no duty to retreat.
I mean, that was the majority rule that the Supreme Court unanimously endorsed in 1895 in Beard versus U.S. by Justice Harlan who was a great advocate of racial equality for African-Americans. He famously dissented from the separate but equal holding in Plessy v. Ferguson. In 1921, in Brown versus U.S., Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, another great progressive justice, endorsed the concept of "Stand Your Ground".
So it`s deeply rooted in American law, and a majority of the states of the country had it.
These new statutory changes in "Stand Your Ground" were targeting this relatively few number of states that imposed this wrong-headed duty that a person under attack, whether they`re a woman, whether they`re a racial minority, that they would then have to turn their back on their attacker and expose themselves to greater danger.
And because of that I think all Americans should applaud the National Rifle Association advocating this common sense measure that just restored the self-defense rights that a majority of Americans enjoyed under the majority rule that most states followed all along.
ALLRED: Well, Dr. Drew, a lot of -- the Brady Group, for example, calls it a shoot first law. In other words, shoot first, ask questions afterwards. Is that what we want?
KLUKOWSKI: That is not at all in the law. You know, Mayor Mike Bloomberg in New York --
ALLRED: The National District Attorney -- the National District Attorney`s Association has issued statements about the fact that this really allows a sweeping immunity for certain individuals. I mean, even if -- there`s going to be a hearing, Dr. Drew, where the judge gets to decide if George Zimmerman can assert this "Stand Your Ground" law.
PINSKY: Is that the Arthur Hearing what they call that?
ALLRED: Yes. If he can, then the prosecution still has a right to appeal.
PINSKY: So, he`s trying to get immunity at that point --
ALLRED: Yes, there will be no trial.
ALLRED: There will be no trial.
PINSKY: If the judge grants that.
ALLRED: If the judge grants that. And so, in other words, if George Zimmerman wins --
ALLRED: If it`s upheld on repeal --
PINSKY: One at a time, guys.
PINSKY: Ken, I have something for you. But, Ken, hold on a second. Now I`m talking.
I love the history lesson. I really did. But you keep slipping past this issue which gets my attention, which is that African-Americans are five times more likely to be affected by this law than Caucasians. What do we do with that?
KLUKOWSKI: Well, I think that that`s certainly a challenge. As I said, my co-author, who was mayor of Cincinnati and is African-American is in a big debate with Mayor Mike Bloomberg on "Huffington Post," debating exactly that issue. The reality is that racial minorities are at greater risk of being victims of violence, so they even have a greater stake in laws being clear that they have the right to defend themselves just like any other American.
ALLRED: But, you know, he`s going to have to show, George Zimmerman is going to have to show that he had a reasonable belief, not just any belief, but a --
KLUKOWSKI: I agree with that completely, Gloria.
ALLRED: That it was necessary -- OK. I hate to --
PINSKY: I got it. I`ll take care of you, Gloria. Go ahead.
ALLRED: He has to have a reasonable belief, Dr. Drew, that it was necessary, not just desirable, but necessary to use that deadly force in order to prevent death to himself or serious bodily injury or the commission of some forcible felony against himself. So the question is, was it necessary, and was it a reasonable belief?
PINSKY: Just out of curiosity, what if he said -- because he only shot once. When people are using deadly force, they`ll shoot a couple times. That`s what my understanding is, when people they`re threatened. What if he took a random shot, and I ended up killing this kid, I didn`t mean. What happens to the situation?
ALLRED: I don`t know what he`s going to say in reference to that, because, again, it`s fact specific. We`re going to have to know what the facts are, see what his defense is.
But it`s so broad, even if he prevails at this hearing prevails on appeal, that even Trayvon`s parents aren`t going to be able to sue him civilly. You`ve seen in a lot of criminal case, sometimes the defendant is acquitted but the parents can sue in the civil case. This is what happened in the O.J. Simpson case.
But he`ll have complete immunity even from a civil case by the parents.
PINSKY: Daryl, I want to go to you. You heard what Ken was saying. Can you put a button on this for us? How do we understand all this?
Let`s step away from George Zimmerman for a second and just back to the fact this seems to disproportionately affect African-Americans. What do we do with that?
PARKS: Well, I think we have a problem here because when you have the situation that Trayvon found himself in, it was very convenient for Mr. Zimmerman to claim this defense and to set his facts up so that he could defend himself using this statute.
However, there`s a real important point I think we have to go back to. I think we have ample facts here that show that Mr. Zimmerman provoked the situation. He trailed Trayvon. He said he was suspicious. He said he looked like he was up to something. All -- I mean, he called him a punk or a coon.
All those things show he was following Trayvon. He got out of his vehicle. He walked beside the townhouse that was there, down into the alleyway.
All those things clearly show he was the person that provoked this situation.
So we don`t really get into what happened in the fight, itself, because once all these facts come out that show the provocation and the witnesses who saw the incident and who are on the 911 tapes make it very clear. It`s important, because every time you hear anyone who wants to side with Zimmerman, they go straight to the altercation.
There are plenty of other facts. If we ever hear a word from Zimmerman about what happened leading up to that. So, yes, I`m sure he`s going to say some things that are very self-serving to him. There are plenty of other facts out there as well.
KLUKOWSKI: Well, and, Dr. Drew --
PINSKY: All right. Guys, thank you.
KLUKOWSKI: -- please let me clarify that.
PINSKY: Ten seconds, Ken. Ten seconds, buddy.
KLUKOWSKI: Absolutely. I don`t know -- George Zimmerman may be guilty of a crime. If he is, I hope he`s punished and I hope the Trayvon Martin family gets justice.
KLUKOWSKI: We`re on the law here. Not this case.
PINSKY: Fair enough. This conversation is not going to end today.
Thank you, Gloria, Daryl, Ken. I appreciate it.
PINSKY: And it is now time for on call. You can ask me anything and everything. No topics are taboo as we like saying.
I`m joined by my "Loveline" co-host, Mike Catherwood.
Let`s get right into it. There he is.
Let`s see. We got Kartie of Riverside, California. You got from a question about pain and rheumatoid arthritis, right? Go ahead.
KARTIE, CALLER FROM RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA: Hi. First time caller, longtime listener.
KARTIE: Thank you.
I suffer from severe rheumatoid arthritis for 11 years now. I`m 28 now. I stopped taking Vicodin and other narcotics because of the pain and side effects I`m getting from it. So, I turned to medicinal marijuana. I`m using it for seven years very --
PINSKY: Is it working? Is it working?
KARTIE: It helps with my appetite. It helps like immediately stops the pain automatically.
PINSKY: So, how is it not working? You say it is working.
KARTIE: Well, it is working, but the thing is I don`t want to be dependent on it. And I`m starting to feel like I`m being dependent on it like I was --
PINSKY: All right. Got it. Hold on a second. These are really -- Mike Catherwood, join me on this.
And, Mike, you`re a recovering guy.
MIKE CATHERWOOD, CO-HOST, "LOVELINE": Yes.
PINSKY: So -- and you and I handle these calls all the time on "Loveline" where people are using medicines appropriately and then get addicted. The question is, in a situation like this, is she addicted or she`s just using a medication a lot that she needs?
CATHERWOOD: I mean, correct me if I`m wrong, but rheumatoid arthritis is a painful deal.
PINSKY: Absolutely. And so, it`s appropriate for her to be getting pain medication. The question is, has she triggered a second problem? Did she trigger it with the Vicodin? And now, is she continuing it with the marijuana? Or she`s appropriately using a medication?
CATHERWOOD: It`s tough to call. But one thing we do is that if you`re going to weigh the scales of justice between opiate-based painkillers and marijuana, take marijuana any day of the week.
PINSKY: I agree with Mike on that, Kartie. So, you know, the fact is -- but what makes you feel that you got trouble with it? Are you having consequences? Is it affecting your mood and other things?
KARTIE: No, it actually makes my mood a lot better. It just like I just notice I only get a -- I only get a little get much on Social Security disability, so I don`t really get a lot. I feel like most of my money is going to medical marijuana because I need a higher dose, a higher tolerance.
PINSKY: Well, Kartie, I would just say, you know, I think it`s appropriate what you`re doing and it`s appropriate also to use as little as possible. But I don`t know how you solve the problem of getting --
CATHERWOOD: Just watch your fast food consumption.
PINSKY: Watch the yummy foods.
Candace in Maryland, what`s on your mind there?
CANDACE, CALLER FROM MARYLAND: Dr. Drew, actually, you just answered my question. I was calling to ask what your opinion of medical cannabis was.
PINSKY: Well, I didn`t get into the details of it. Michael, I let you get to -- you want to know what I think about it? It`s a very complicated answer. Go ahead, Mike.
CATHERWOOD: I think -- people make the mistake on both ends of the spectrum with marijuana. You know, big proponents like to say it`s not addictive and has no de deleterious effects to the body. That`s not necessarily true.
But then people two off the deep end in the other direction and say, look, you`re funding terrorism if you take a bong load. Realistically, it`s not that harmful.
PINSKY: For somebody like Mike, cannabis is bad news. If you start using pot again, what`s going to happen to you?
CATHERWOOD: I will be using cocaine in a week. That`s a guarantee.
PINSKY: That`s just the way cannabis is, if you are an addict. If you`re not an addict like maybe Carter, the last -- or Kartie, the call we had, it may be appropriate to use it. My concern about medical marijuana is that it`s using my profession to promote a legal agenda. And I really have grave concerns about that.
That to me really -- if people want to work on legalizing it, that`s what they should work on. Not using my profession to foist an agenda. That`s all I`m saying.
Thank you for your call. I`ve got to take a break.
Mike, thank you for joining us.
CATHERWOOD: Always my pleasure, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: I`ll se you tonight on "Loveline." Of course, I have more questions, comments and calls straight ahead.
You can get in-depth coverage of all of our topics at HLNTV.com.
Stay tuned. I`ll be right back.
PINSKY: You guys are still fired up about the Trayvon Martin case. Let`s start up here with Bill in Colorado. What`s going on, Bill?
BILL, COLORADO: Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Hi, Bill.
BILL: I think there very well may be an innocent man in jail, and I`d like to pose this to you.
BILL: Around 7:13, George Zimmerman sees Trayvon Martin running toward the back gate. The back gate is very near where Trayvon Martin is staying. Instead of going home, he reencounters George Zimmerman at 7:16 when the incident occurs.
BILL: Why isn`t this self-defense when Trayvon Martin could have avoided the conflict?
PINSKY: Why isn`t it -- let me flip it around, Bill, and say, what if you were walking through a neighborhood that was unfamiliar to you and somebody in a van started following you and you thought about going home, and he seemed to keep -- he seemed to get out of his van and you were concerned. You didn`t know what he was up to. He was going to come after you.
BILL: Well, if he was going to come after me, I would get the hell away from him.
PINSKY: Or would you stand your ground, which is really what this whole conversation has been about. You know, whether or not people should be -- and by the way, one of the problems with these stand your ground laws is that it encourages people to stand -- this is what Gloria Allred was talking about. It tends to encourage the escalation of violence.
Maybe, maybe Trayvon -- I`m not sure he maybe didn`t, maybe he did know about laws like that then, but you know, he may have been -- I don`t know. I think I put myself in his position, I would have been pretty freaked out about a guy following me and I might have turned and run, but I might have stood my ground. I don`t know.
I just don`t know. It`s hard to -- the witness, unfortunately, is dead. That`s the really sad part about all this. I got to take another call. Thank you, Bill.
I`ve got Facebook from Sueellen who writes, "How does this whole Trayvon/Zimmerman situation keep bringing up Black and White? Zimmerman is not White."
I`m not sure that it brings up Black and White so much as if Zimmerman were clearly African-American, how might he have been treated? And the fact that stand your ground laws are disproportionately affecting African- Americans and the fact that this man, after killing somebody, murder or otherwise, seemed to have had no real consequence and people are wondering about that.
And you have to ask, is there something about the bias against an African-American walking through that community? It`s a psychological bias, perhaps, or maybe it`s an explicit bias that led to somebody getting killed. I think that`s a conversation we got to keep having here.
Elizabeth tweets this, "The stand your ground law seems unreal. No one knows the whole Zimmerman story, but now, I`d be afraid to stand my own ground."
God! People are so funny on this thing. So, you`re saying that you`d be afraid to stand your ground for fear that if you hurt someone standing your ground, you`d be held accountable. But, you know, if the stand your ground laws weren`t there, you`d still have the same concerns, right? I mean, the idea is you defend yourself. You don`t necessarily use lethal force.
I -- listen, I feel uncomfortable. I`m not a legal expert. I`m a doctor. I`m supposed to be helping people get through situations like this, avoid situations like this, and understand, this is why I keep putting the focus here, how our biases affect our behavior and how, by the way, I brought this up on a number of occasions, if we treat somebody as though we expect hostility from them, there`s research that shows they will respond in kind.
They will be hostile to us. And then, we`ll say, huh, see, they`re hostile. I`m justified now in escalating things further. That`s really where this conversation I hope needs to stay.
Well, shifting gears, let`s go to Kristin online from New Jersey. You got a question about -- what do you got Kristin? Relationships and family.
KIRSTIN, NEW JERSEY: Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Hey, what`s going on?
KIRSTIN: My mother physically abused me for 15 years. I no longer speak to her, but I have this absolute hatred towards her. I need some advice on how to let go of this anger, pain, and resentment so that I can move on and build a relationship with my 18-month-old daughter. Now that I see her grow, it`s hard for me to accept my mother`s actions.
PINSKY: Oh, Kirstin. I mean, you know, the ghosts of our past always s affect our parenting in the president. And whether it causes us to completely avoid how our parents were or repeat the mistakes our parents made, either end of that spectrum tends to ill-serve the child. what your child needs is your ability to be fully emotionally present with him or her as they struggle with coming, you know, becoming an autonomous individual.
And the problem is, this gets a little complicated, but there`s theories about how mothers attach to their babies. And if you`ve been through that kind of trauma, the probability is your child is going to have insecure sorts of attachments to you. Your anxiety, all these feelings that are left behind. Our children, particularly, babies, are absolute sponges. That`s how they communicate.
They don`t have language, they don`t have logic. They have what they absorb emotionally from the environment and from their parents. And if you`re not able to be clear and present, as, you know, in this day and age, people are in a lot of stress, it makes it difficult for the child to attach. So, what I`m advocating here for you, my dear, is therapy.
Somebody you go talk to about this. It`s not about just the anger and resentment. It`s about dealing with the trauma and attaching to somebody else, the therapist, so you can then attach to the child. You get that?
KIRSTIN: I do. Thank you.
PINSKY: Thank you.
New study of over 5,000 Oregon eighth graders show that 6.1 percent said they tried the so-called choking game. This is an incredibly dangerous stunt that involves deliberate choking. Don on Facebook writes, "Kids will try to do anything other kids try just to fit in. They think they`re invincible at that age. It`s just sad they think this is a game."
Well, Gina wants to know, is that Gina? Yes. She says, "Very scary, where did they learn this from?" It`s on the Internet. I`ve seen the "jackass" guys do things like this, and the fact is, this can be a fatal game. There`s people out there. Look it up online. There`s a whole campaign to raise awareness about this. The choking game is no game.
It`s something that, look, just think about it. You can cause the heart to stop, the blood supply to the brain to be cut of and you can`t -- you can`t be assured that it will be restored. You can go just a little too far, and suddenly, you have a stroke. You have somebody whose heart`s not beating, and this is not a game.
Please educate your kids about this. This is something -- think about it, six percent of those kids that`s nearly one in ten, let`s say it`s one in 20, have done this and whose life, therefore, is in danger. Be very careful about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Had there not been pressure, there would not have been a second look, and I think that that credit should go to the nameless, faceless people. Black, White, Latino, and Asian all over this country that put hoods on and said, take another look at this, and that look has led to where we are tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: George Zimmerman spent weeks in hiding before being charged with second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin. Outraged African-Americans already filled with a deep-seeded distrust between themselves, police officers. They organized protests and marched nationwide advocating for an arrest. The establishment argued to let the system work.
Did people power pressure authorities and force an arrest or were racial tension raised as a result?
Joining me, Bob Tur. He was the helicopter pilot who videotaped the attack on Reginald Denny during a Los Angeles riots 20 years ago. There`s the tape right there. We also have MSNBC contributor and editor of Politic365.com, Jeff Johnson, and Armstrong Williams, a conservative newspaper columnist.
Armstrong, was protesting by the likes of Al Sharpton and Jeff Johnson the reason why George Zimmerman is in jail?
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, RADIO, TV TALK SHOW HOST: Absolutely. That`s part of the reason. And it`s more of an indictment of law enforcement than it is the case, itself. Obviously, law enforcement dropped the ball. George Zimmerman should have been arrested long ago, and he should face the music and let a court and jury of his peers determine his fate.
You know, my only concern here is this. There`s no doubt in my mind, I agree with you, Dr. Drew, that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, and that`s unfortunate. And I think Trayvon`s parents have been an incredible example of what parents should be, especially after losing their son.
But, it`s the emotional reaction by American Blacks overall to George Zimmerman versus O.J. Simpson almost few (ph) years ago. O.J. Simpson allegedly killed Ryan Goldman and Nicole Simpson. And, the emotional outrage was, they didn`t care about the evidence. As it unfolded, no matter what was said. If the glove did not fit, acquit.
They wanted O.J. to walk free. And when the jury reached the verdict, which shocked me that he was found not guilty, not saying he was innocent. I mean, you could talk to people, there were kids in classrooms around the country jumping up and down hooraying for the fact that O.J. Simpson was released.
My thing is, if George Zimmerman goes through a jury by trial and just for some reason that we cannot figure out, like in the case of Casey Anthony, George Zimmerman is found not guilty, will many Blacks in this country have the same emotional reaction and there will be no violence or anymore protests and they accept the verdict as many Americans had to do in the case of O.J. Simpson?
PINSKY: Jeff, what do you think about that? Is there likely to be a reaction? Go ahead.
JEFF JOHNSON, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, POLITIC365.COM: One, I think that Armstrong is reaching by trying to compare this to O.J. Simpson. I think even if we look within the last six months, we saw people rallying all over the country -- a large number of African-Americans, but there were those that were also White, Asian, Latino, for Troy Davis.
Many people believe that there was evidence that created a reasonable doubt. Many people were aware of what that evidence was. People were mobilizing all over the world, not just in the United States of America. People were at the Supreme Court. I was one of those people at the Supreme Court when he was put to death.
And when that happened, people did not begin to riot even though they believe that the justice system did not serve them.
I agree with Armstrong in the fact that I think that there`s a great deal of emotion around this case, but it is not an all -- it`s not driven down racial lines the way O.J. Simpson was. I marched with students from Daytona to Sanford, and they were Black students, White students, Asian students, Latino students.
People have been able to see the humanity in Trayvon. And as a result of that, they have responded. I think this arrest taking place will be able to create some calm. I think the process of the trial will be able to create some calm.
And I think we just have to wait and see if people believe the justice is served or not regardless of what the outcome is. But this is a very different kind of environment that I think we saw during O.J. Simpson.
PINSKY: Well, I think you`re right, but Bob, you were actually there when one of these violent eruptions occurred.
ROBERT A. TUR, VIDEOTAPED REGINALD DENNY BEATING: I also found O.J. Simpson.
PINSKY: You found him?
TUR: I found him down in Orange County. I was the first to find him.
PINSKY: Oh, interesting. Does this feel in any way the same? I mean, somebody brought up earlier this evening -- let me just say, there are extreme types on both sides, both on the George Zimmerman side and on the Trayvon side right now. Could those people, the fringe, start to collapse with those of us that are trying to push this conversation to a higher ground are doing?
TUR: It could. I think this case is more similar to April 29th, 1992, the L.A. riots, where you had, you know, this polarizing effect with the Rodney King trial. Really, what we`re looking at is a prosecution, George Zimmerman`s prosecution, did a great deal to defuse community anger and prevent a possible riot.
PINSKY: So, you think, they`re speaking up yesterday when they presented their case.
PINSKY: That was a good move. They didn`t seem gleeful or glib or some other words I`ve heard tossed about about how they seem -- they`re celebrating their action.
TUR: Not so good for George Zimmerman, however, it was great for the community, because it really saved and spared the community from civil unrest. Really, we had all the ingredients if you look back in history. And I was there at Florence and Normandy, April 29th, and I saw the very spark of the worst rioting in U.S. modern history.
A billion dollar damage, 55 people killed. I saw and see the same ingredients here in Florida had this man not been --
PINSKY: We`re looking at it right now. The footage with the --
TUR: Yes -- had this man not been charged and with the media attention, the constant playing of the tapes, and people speculating about the facts and rumors and things of that nature. You could very well have seen civil unrest, rioting.
PINSKY: Armstrong, are the African-American leaders -- I`ve got less than a minute here -- are the African-American leaders who are stepping up and taking, making this as an opportunity to bring these issues back to the fore, are they stirring up a hornet`s nest unnecessarily?
WILLIAMS: I don`t think they, themselves, are working to stir up a hornet`s nest. I think that Reverend Sharpton and Reverend Jesse Jackson, what they represent and the reputations of the past and what they find themselves associated with, people cannot forget that symbolism and the images with that.
And so, the images in and of itself stirs up controversy. You just cannot separate one from the other. And it is a fact that these leaders pick and choose where they decide to show up and advocate justice, and that`s something you can`t argue.
JOHNSON: But this can`t continue to be a referendum on Reverend Sharpton and Reverend Jackson. They have been involved in this case, in particular. You`ve had almost 40 days of protests of some form --
PINSKY: We have to take a break here, Jeff. I`m sorry to interrupt.
JOHNSON: No violence, no arrests.
PINSKY: We`ll be right back to keep this conversation going. Sorry, Jeff.
PINSKY: I am back with my panel. And Jeff, I`m sorry, I had to interrupt you as we went off to break there. You want to finish what you were saying?
JOHNSON: No, sure, I mean, there`s been some form of protests for over 40 days. None of it has been violent. Even when some of those fringe groups have attempted to come in and incite violence, the leadership of those like Reverend Jamal Bryant, Reverend Sharpton, has been able to create a sense of calm even in the midst of great frustration.
And that`s why I don`t see this being the same, but that`s why I also believe that these protests and these mobilizations in Sanford and around the country really did help shine the light that was necessary to bring about, I think, this indictment sooner than we may have seen it, otherwise.
PINSKY: But Jeff, the concern is what if he`s found not guilty or what if he gets off on the Arthur hearing that he has? How are people going to react then? Could it be a tinderbox?
JOHNSON: Well, sure, but at the end of the day, let`s begin to talk about the precedent that`s been set in this scenario. In this scenario, all of the protests have been positive. In this scenario, even while pushing for justice, there`s been a request for calm. In this scenario, even now, you have leaders that are saying, let`s see this process work itself out.
And so, I think leadership has been responsible from the national level to the local level in making sure that we even expectations about what`s possible, about what needs to happen, about trusting the justice system and, again, I think that we saw just a few months ago with Troy Davis the same level of emotion that did not erupt in the violence when the outcome was not what they wanted it to be.
WILLIAMS: Listen --
PINSKY: Jeff, although your words are reassuring, I`m not sure Armstrong agrees with you. Go ahead, Armstrong.
WILLIAMS: Jeff knows I have tremendous respect for him. I`m just shocked that we are wearing kit gloves on this topic. The centerpiece of this case is the issue that is race, as it was with O.J. Simpson.
WILLIAMS: And in the emotional -- and I`m talking about the emotional reaction to O.J. Simpson and that killing of two people. They could have care less about the evidence. The fact that he killed two people, it was just an opportunity that the justice system was going to work against a man and finally a brother was going to get off.
And the fact that O.J. Simpson was acquitted, people were jubilant about it, and for you not to face the fact that that was the case, and my issue is, and you said it could be --
JOHNSON: I`m sorry, I didn`t say that wasn`t the case. I`m saying that you --
WILLIAMS: No, no, it is a comparison. But it is. If it could be a scenario, it should be a scenario because of this. If Black people were willing to be jubilant about the fact that O.J. Simpson was acquitted on his murder charges, they should have the same tone, the same reaction if George Zimmerman is acquitted.
PINSKY: Armstrong, I`m going to interrupt you. I`ve got less than about 45 seconds. Jeff, finish it up.
JOHNSON: Armstrong, you`re talking about a case that was over almost two decades ago. We`re talking about a different Black community, a large number of young people, a large number of community people that don`t want to see their communities torn up. They want to see their communities fixed.
What I see happening is not people going negative or people using this as a Rosa Parks moment to be more active in their communities even if this doesn`t go the way they want to. Let`s look for the best, not the worst.
PINSKY: I want to leave it positive. Armstrong, Jeff, I think well articulated. I`m going to leave it positive. Bob, I suspect you agree with that?
TUR: I do.
PINSKY: You`re a little bit hesitant?
TUR: I really think that --
PINSKY: We`ve got five seconds.
TUR: Five seconds. Time will tell.
PINSKY: Time will tell. I want to believe Jeff`s view of the future. Thank you, Armstrong, thank you Bob, thank you, Jeff, and also, thank you for watching. We`re going to keep this conversation going. I want to bring Jeff, Armstrong, and Bob back. See you next time.