Return to Transcripts main page
PIERS MORGAN LIVE
Gunshot Expert Testifies; Interview with Judge Alex Ferrer; Interview with J. Cheney Mason
Aired July 9, 2013 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: This is PIERS MORGAN LIVE. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Breaking news tonight, the judge in the George Zimmerman trial is still hearing arguments about what evidence she'll admit hours after the jury was dismissed for the day. That comes after a dramatic day of crucial testimony. Does the whole case come down to this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. VINCENT DI MAIO, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: This is consistent with Mr. Zimmerman's account that he -- that Mr. Martin was over him leaning forward at the time he was shot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: A top expert on gunshot wounds takes the stand and supports Zimmerman's story, again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON WEST, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE CO-COUNSEL: Is this injury consistent with Mr. Zimmerman's head having impacted a sidewalk?
DI MAIO: Yes, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: And again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEST: Is the injury you see in this exhibit consistent with having been punched in the nose?
DI MAIO: Yes, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: The prosecution did hit back and as the defense prepares to rest, what does the jury think? I'll break it all down with my legal eagles.
Plus my exclusive with the man who defended Casey Anthony. How he thinks George Zimmerman's defense team is doing.
But first I want to bring in CNN's Ashleigh Banfield outside the court in Sanford, Florida. She joins me live.
Ashleigh, a really dramatic day because so significant, wasn't it, the testimony of this man, Dr. Vincent Di Maio could be absolutely crucial.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, CNN'S NEWSROOM: Boy, I'll say so. And what a day -- Piers, what a night. I have not been here this late with the lights on behind me. And courts still in full session . All those people working in there are on overnight. This is a sequestered jury so they are getting as much done as fast as they can and they accomplished so much today with that witness you just talked about. Dr. Vincent Di Maio.
Heard of him? Probably. He's like the grand daddy of forensic pathology. He is a professional witness. He testifies all the time. He was the medical examiner at Bear County in Texas. He is no joke. He is great on the stand and he made some incredible arguments, Piers. Essentially eviscerating so many of the key points that the prosecution has made in the two weeks of this trial.
Just have a listen to this first part where he goes after what the prosecution has said. First of all, if George Zimmerman tried to lay out Trayvon Martin's hands after he -- you know, just before he died, after he'd shot him, then why were Trayvon Martin's hands under his body? If George Zimmerman said that Trayvon Martin said, you got me, or something to that effect, how is that possible after being shot in the heart? Listen to his explanation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DI MAIO: Even if I, right now, reached across, put my hand through your chest, grabbed your heart and ripped it out, you could stand there and talk to me for 10 to 15 seconds, or walk over to me, because the thing that's controlling your movement and ability to speak is the brain, and that has a reserved supply of 10 to 15 seconds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: That is powerful stuff, Piers. You cannot argue with this guy's focusing demeanor, too. You see where he was sitting? He was looking right at the jury and telling them his explanation.
MORGAN: The second thing that was, I thought, very significant was he testified that Zimmerman's injuries also fit his account involving being stunned. Tell me about that.
BANFIELD: Oh, this is huge. Because if it's second-degree murder, they have to determine if these injuries were bad enough, that this defendant can say I was fearing for my life. I thought I was going to die. I had no other option, Piers. I had to shoot him.
Well, the prosecutors have said those injuries were kind of minor. Really. Not even much to show. Yes, it was a bit of blood but the scalp bleeds a lot. These weren't intense injuries. Ah, now listen to Dr. Vincent Di Maio about just what it's like when you get your bell rung.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DI MAIO: You know, you fall and you hit your head, and you can get a mild concussion. A concussion. You don't lose consciousness. You just appear stunned. I know this is not a medical term but it's like stunning goes to concussion goes to getting worse. I think the best thing is stunned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: So look, Piers, that's critical because if George Zimmerman had his head banged around and this witness said up to six times, he also testified even if it doesn't show on the outside, the injury and the stunning, you know, impression that can be -- that can be actually experienced by the victim who's getting his bell rung could lead you to actually fear for your life, even though it might not show it in the photos afterwards.
MORGAN: Now he was obviously very effective for the defense but the prosecution got into him as well. Under cross-examination, Dr. Di Maio admitted he didn't know how the fight had started and that in itself could be really important, too. Who threw that first punch.
BANFIELD: Look, that's a huge deal. We have had weeks of testimony, we've had arguments, we've had -- you know, what I like to call the molecular smoking gun, with experts coming on right down to the DNA as to who touched what and when.
But when it comes right down to it, what this jury may have to determine is who threw that first punch and did anyone cry uncle? Because if you do throw the first punch, Piers, and then you find you're on the losing end of the fight and you cry uncle and you trying to get away, things change. All of a sudden, you do have a right to defend yourself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, PROSECUTOR: Now, Doctor, you're not saying -- you're not testifying here as to who started what led up to the death of Trayvon Martin?
DI MAIO: That's correct, sir.
DE LA RIONDA: And you're not saying as to who attacked who, whether it was George Zimmerman who attacked Trayvon Martin or whether it was Trayvon Martin who attacked George Zimmerman? You can't say into that, correct?
DI MAIO: That's correct, sir.
DE LA RIONDA: In fact, you can't testify as to who threw the first punch? DI MAIO: That's correct, sir.
DE LA RIONDA: In fact, you can't really testify whether there was a first punch thrown?
DI MAIO: That's correct, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: You know what, Piers, I got to say, when I was listening to the direct examination of Dr. Vincent Di Maio, I thought what on earth is that prosecutor going to do to mop up the damage that's being done by this defense case with this witness? But he did a masterful job and I will say this on the record, early and often, these are masterful lawyers that work in there.
Bernie did an incredible job of trying to mitigate the damage, but in the end, it was a very long set of facts that, you know, these defense lawyers were able to strike down in the prosecutor's case.
MORGAN: And, Ashley, we're expecting -- I have Mark O'Mara suggested it may be as early as tomorrow that they rest the case, the defense. What happens next procedurally in the trial?
BANFIELD: This is the nitty-gritty. Really we're coming down to sort of the last few moments that are so, so critical. Opening statements are super important, evidence obviously critical but then you get towards the closings. When Mark O'Mara wraps the defense case then you've got a rebuttal case, probably fairly brief. I don't expect it to be more than a day perhaps where the prosecutors get the final word with their rebuttal case, and then charging conference.
Those lawyers have to go into chambers with this judge and decide what are we going to ask the jury to do? Second-degree murder. OK, that's there, but what about the lessers? Can we give them some lesser options if they're not prepared to go all the way? Can we give him some lesser option?
Maybe the prosecutors will assess their work so far and how their work has landed in this live courtroom, and maybe they'll decide, I don't think we can get this far. Maybe we've got to give some lower options. Maybe the defense attorneys will say, we're not interested in any lower options. Go for broke, see how you do. But this is the most amazing part of a trial. You got to really assess how has the case gone so far, how did our witnesses perform? Do we think we can go all the way?
MORGAN: Ashleigh Banfield, thank you very much, indeed.
Also outside the courtroom, HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell has been watching every moment of this case.
Jane, they're still in there late at night in the courtroom. What is going on, do you think?
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, ANCHOR, HLN'S JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, this is an epic battle and at its heart, Piers, is whether or not they're going to put the dead, young man, the victim on trial here, and the defense wants to take text messages and Facebook posts that make Trayvon Martin look bad, that indicate that maybe he was talking about fighting or talking about firearms. And introduce that before the jury to try to basically smear the victim.
And I certainly think that that's not really what this case is about but the defense often tries to do that. They try to essentially put the victim on trial, and that's what they are arguing about right now.
MORGAN: We also heard evidence today from Eloise Dilligard, George Zimmerman's neighbor, took the stand via video because she wasn't feeling very well. But how significant do you think was her testimony?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, she's an African-American lady who testified via Skype and I think the unspoken message from the defense was look, George Zimmerman has an African-American neighbor with whom he is friendly. She has no problems with him. He has no problems with her. So the unspoken message is well, look, he is not this racist who was profiling Trayvon Martin.
So I think that was the main message, but what she said verbally was that when she was shown a photograph by law enforcement of George Zimmerman that his face was very disfigured, particularly his nose was bloodied so that she knew what he looked like normally and that would go to the defense argument that he was beaten up.
MORGAN: She also said that she recognized George Zimmerman's voice as being the one screaming on the 911 tape. And it does prompts the question, if this so convinced the defense that that is their man on that tape, and he's still alive unlike Trayvon Martin, why don't they try and recreate it? Why don't they tape him screaming at top of his voice so that we can compare? We can hear them both?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You mean have him go to the very spot and issue that yell and then record it and try to play it before the jury? Well, they've gotten one better, Piers. They put together this animation, this extraordinary movie using technologies that is normally used in movies like "Iron Man" that basically just tells George Zimmerman's side of the story and those who agree with George Zimmerman.
And they want to introduce that before the jury. There was that monumental battle that went on for hours over it. The judge has reserved her decision but essentially the only person who has not given their opinion and weighed in on that animation and offered his insights is the dead young man who cannot to do so. Certainly, they didn't include in their animation, the insights of his friend, Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with Trayvon.
So she -- said that she heard Trayvon screaming get off, get off, but the animation doesn't show any of that. So essentially the defense wants to introduce it, the prosecution says it's absolutely unfair, and these jurors are going to play it over and over again in the jury room, and hypnotize themselves to believing George Zimmerman's version of events.
MORGAN: Jane Velez-Mitchell, thank you very much indeed.
Alex Ferrer is back with me tonight. He has a unique perspective on the case. He's a former Florida Circuit Court judge. He's of course also the host of television's "Judge Alex."
Well, Judge Alex, this is getting down to the real nitty-gritty now, isn't it?
ALEX FERRER, HOST, "JUDGE ALEX": Yes.
MORGAN: This animation video, I mean, it's pure propaganda, isn't it?
MORGAN: For Zimmerman's case.
FERRER: Absolutely. There's no -- there's absolutely no reason that the defense or the prosecution will put in an animation that helps the other side. They are seeking to put in an animation that tell the story that they believe happened. So for the prosecution to get in and say well, you know, this doesn't have the parts that we think happened, well, of course it doesn't. And if you create your own animation, you're not going to put in, you know, Trayvon beating up George Zimmerman because that's the defense's theory, not your theory.
Still I think it come -- it should come in as a demonstrative aid. For them to use at closing but not go back to the jury as evidence. Because there are a lot of holes in it that have to be filled by the person creating the video because some things haven't been testified to.
MORGAN: This evidence from Dr. Vincent Di Maio, on the face of it, could be crucial. He seemed very credible. He's obviously incredibly experienced but there were holes in it that the -- I thought the prosecution got into right at the end there very skillfully. Take it in totality, what did you think of it?
FERRER: I thought it was devastating. I mean I thought that this was an M.E. The doctor we saw last week, the state's doctor, Dr. Bao, he was not the way that you're used to seeing medical examiners testified.
Dr. Di Maio is not just a well-known, he's world renowned. He is the guy who wrote the book on firearms -- on firearm evidence. But he's a great forensic pathologist and you saw how he testified. And he hit all the key points. He talked about the powder, the powder tattoos indicating that the shirt was two to four inches away from the body consistent with Zimmerman's testimony that Trayvon was leaning over.
I don't think it was necessary. I mean, up until now we've heard the testimony of an eyewitness who said as much. Wet grass on the back of George Zimmerman, on the knees of Trayvon --
MORGAN: But hearing that from him --
FERRER: In a forensic sense.
MORGAN: Forensically saying, look, this world renowned guy saying --
MORGAN: -- to me, this is consistent with what George Zimmerman said.
FERRER: And he hit many other things. He hit the key points about the absence of bruising on the knuckles which to me was a big point. I've heard M.E. testify about it. I knew it was coming.
MORGAN: And he said it doesn't happen after you die. Right?
FERRER: Exactly. He said you lose blood pressure. The bruising does not occur. So that gave the defense something to argue to the jury about that. Now the prosecution did get up and try to score points on it but I really disagree that they scored points on them. Saying to the medical examiner you don't know who threw the first punch when you don't know who threw the first punch is not very effective. The prosecution does not have one witness who says George threw the first punch.
MORGAN: Right. But nobody knows Florida law better than you. Is that not the big question because to win a successful self-defense argument, doesn't George Zimmerman have to establish in the jury's eyes that he was attacked first?
FERRER: That's a good way to start because if you're the attacker then obviously you have a lot more to do in order to be able to claim self-defense. You have to withdrawal, you have to try to back out. And remember there is evidence that George threw the first punch from George's mouth. OK? I mean, Trayvon through the first punch from George's mouth.
Now obviously he's biased, he's on trial, but you need to have something to rebut that and the prosecution does not. The real key issue is not who threw the first punch, the real key issue, and this is where the jury could convict George Zimmerman of manslaughter. The real key issue is what he's on his back, when Trayvon is on top of him, is he in a position where he fears for his life or for serious bodily injury and --
MORGAN: Is that all that matters in the end?
FERRER: At the end, that's all that matters.
MORGAN: Under Florida law, that's the moment.
FERRER: Because --
MORGAN: What happens before, after really is irrelevant.
FERRER: Not totally irrelevant but that's the key point. Because if at that point he is in reasonable fear for his life and that's what Dr. Di Maio helped him a lot by saying look, these injuries, he should have gone to the hospital. The police could have been sued if he died in the police station.
If a guy has -- and this was his quote, if a guy has the injuries that he had, you take him to the ER because this little minor cuts on the back of his head are not dangerous but they're indicative of a serious impact on the head which could brain swelling, bleeding, and things like that. And that's the point the defense is going to make. They're going to say how does George know? If his head is getting hit on the pavement, if his nose is getting broken, how does he know if the next hit is going to crack his skull? And that's what they're going to rely on.
If the jury buys it, it's a not guilty because it's self-defense. If they don't, it's a guilty of manslaughter e. I just don't see second.
MORGAN: Judge Alex, thank you very much indeed.
FERRER: Thank you.
MORGAN: When we come back, my exclusive with the man who defended another controversial client, Casey Anthony's attorney, J. Cheney Mason. I want to ask him how he thinks the defense did.
And later my favorite TV newsman, the man behind Will McAvoy, Jeff Daniels, of HBO's "Newsroom" is in "The Chair" with me tonight.
MORGAN: Court still in session tonight in the most explosive criminal case in America since Casey Anthony was found not guilty of killing her daughter Caylee. A legal drama that also unfolded in Florida. Just a county away from the Zimmerman courtroom.
Her defense attorney, J. Cheney Mason, has lots to say about the Zimmerman trial, and he joins me now for an exclusive interview.
Welcome back to you, Cheney. What is your take? As we approach the absolute final moments now of the defense case, what is your thought about where this case is going?
J. CHENEY MASON, CASEY ANTHONY ATTORNEY: Well, I don't think that the state has proven a case of second-degree murder or, frankly, even come close to it. They can't always choose their witnesses. You've heard me say that before. But I think one of the bad things they had was that medical examiner was the prosecutor's witness, then the defense comes along with Dr. Di Maio, who is a phenomenal witness, and I think that that was a very good day for the -- for the defense.
MORGAN: And in terms of Dr. Di Maio and his testimony, as you say, he's incredible imminent, very world renowned. I thought he spoke in a language that would be extremely -- effective to a jury. If you've got ordinary people sitting there listening to this guy, you found him really credible today, I felt.
MASON: Well, he is credible. And what he had to say, I didn't get to see all of it but what I did see was rational. It made sense. He was responsive. He was intelligent, he was articulate, in comparison with the state's medical examiner who was just horrendous.
MORGAN: I mean, that is true. I want to play you a clip. This is from when the prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda challenged Dr. Di Maio about Zimmerman's claim that Trayvon placed his hand on his nose and mouth. Let's take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: The photograph that was taken at the scene.
DI MAIO: Yes.
DE LA RIONDA: I'm sorry, of the defendant, I apologize, where he's got blood there, right?
DI MAIO: Right.
DE LA RIONDA: OK. I put a hand over that, right?
DI MAIO: OK.
DE LA RIONDA: What do you expect my hand to have on it?
DI MAIO: Blood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: You see, I thought that, too, was a big moment because I don't understand how in this new world of DNA where you can dredge people out of rivers and still find DNA on them. You can find people buried and still DNA on them. Why would there be no DNA whatsoever on Trayvon Martin that related to the gun or to George Zimmerman?
MASON: Well, I have no problem with there being no DNA from a gun because it was handled and probably not handled the best way. It is certainly curious that there was no blood on the hands or clothing, apparently, of Mr. Martin from Zimmerman. That's what I heard. The part that's been shown to me.
A bloody nose and the bleeding he had, you would think that there would be some transfer of evidence, some blood that would be on Mr. Martin's clothing but from what I saw, apparently there wasn't.
MORGAN: But --
MASON: So I don't know that's true -- MORGAN: Cheney, I mean, let's cut to the quick with this. If there is absolutely zero DNA on Trayvon Martin of George Zimmerman's blood and no evidence that he's actually hit anybody, that anyone can find, why should we believe the defense theory that he punched Zimmerman in the face and then repeatedly smashed his head into concrete? It just doesn't really fly, is it?
MASON: Well, all you have is the evidence that you have. You have photographs taken the night of the incident by police officer or people there with their cameras, their cell phones taking picture. No time to stage or plan that and there it is, those are the facts as they were. There is still question that Mr. Zimmerman had injuries. The question is, were they severe enough to cause him to reasonably fear great bodily harm or death?
All -- you know, Monday morning quarterbacking of that in the world is not going to help. What's important is what was in his mind and at that time, if it was reasonable. If he had a reasonable fear of great bodily harm or death, then, you know, he had -- he had a right to defend himself and unfortunately to shoot. That's going to be the jury question.
There is no who done it here? There is no question of who, what, when and how? And so it's a matter of why. And if Mr. Zimmerman -- if the jury finds that he was in reasonable fear for great bodily harm or that there is a reasonable doubt as to whether or not he had that reasonable fear, then they would be compelled to follow the law and find him not guilty, that is as to second-degree murder.
There is still a necessarily lesser included offense of manslaughter that I've not heard much conversation about, but I'm sure it will be instructed to the jury because it's required of the instruction to the jury.
MORGAN: You see I thought that Dr. Di Maio, the way he was at his most effective, if you like, was when he talked about the forensic medical evidence that he believed was incontrovertible that made Trayvon Martin be on top of George Zimmerman because of the way that the gunshot had gone into him. Thought that was very powerful because that would play to George Zimmerman's version of events that Trayvon was on top.
But in the end, you are still left, aren't you, with unanswered questions, and the big question for me and I think many people is, if there are so many unanswered questions, will the jury be able to let him just walk free?
MASON: I don't -- he's cutting out. Sorry, Piers, you cut out. I couldn't hear your question.
MORGAN: I'll make it shorter, Cheney. Here's the point really is that you can have all this evidence that says look, it looks like Trayvon Martin was on top, et cetera, et cetera, but in the end, is it right, do you think -- and I asked this question last night -- that George Zimmerman should be acquitted, allowed to walk free given that we now know he shot an unarmed teenager? Because that's what it comes down to.
MASON: Well, it does come down to that. It's a very hard decision to make. I can tell you, as you know, I've been involved in handling homicide cases for 40 years among others, juries usually like somebody to be responsible for and pay for where there is a death. Where there is a death there's just no question of who did it, when they did and how they did, and where they did it, now they have to just deal with why.
And I can tell you that my feelings right now from what I have seen, and I certainly have not been able to see all of the proceedings because I still work for a living with other cases, what I have seen, though, I think there at least is a significant reasonable doubt as to whether or not Mr. Zimmerman was justified in what he did based on the fear of great bodily harm.
Now, you know, I have listened to today's hearing, all this stuff back and forth about who hollered, who was screaming, I don't know that that really matters because as many people saying that it was Mr. Martin as there are Mr. Zimmerman.
I don't know whether that's going to carry a date with the jury or not. I think they are more inclined to look at the injuries and determine whether or not the justified with a reasonable belief of fear of great bodily harm and then go from there.
No one saw the first punch. No one knows how it started, as I understand it, even as of now, and there was a fight and there are some witnesses saying one was on top and one -- and another was. All we know for a fact is that this young man was killed, and that's tragic.
MORGAN: Cheney Mason, as always, thank you very much indeed.
MASON: You're welcome.
MORGAN: Coming next, reasonable doubt. Has the defense created in the minds of the jury? And what their reaction would be if Zimmerman is found not guilty. Lots to talk about tonight on "Law and Disorder." That's coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK O'MARA, ZIMMERMAN DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Was there any conversation with law enforcement before that as to how to accomplish or finding the tapes for these witnesses before it happened?
NORTON BONAPARTE JR., SANFORD CITY MANAGER: At that point they weren't witnesses, they were parents.
O'MARA: The mayor just decided on your own as to how they would be played?
BONAPARTE: The decision was made to make them public. The purpose of showing them to the Martin family so they heard it first as a courtesy to the family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: A fascinating moment in the trial today as the defense grilled the Sanford City manager for its decision to play the 911 call for the Martin family without law enforcement in the world. The Martin family says the screams heard over the court are Trayvon's. But is that credible? Let's talk about it tonight in "Law and Disorder."
With me now defense attorney Shawn Holly and Marc Lamont Hill, Columbia University professor and host of HuffPost Live.
Welcome to you both.
MARC LAMONT HILL, HOST, HUFFPOST LIVE: Good evening.
MORGAN: What do you think about it, Marc? I mean, it was a curious set of events, wasn't it, after Trayvon Martin died?
HILL: Absolutely and I think part of it was a political response to, you know, what was beginning to be civic unrest. People are saying this is not fair, this is the most fishy. There were serious problems with the investigation. I think part of why people allowed the parents to hear the tape outside law enforcement was because they wanted the console the parents, they want to comfort the parents, they want to placate the parents. I don't think that was to say a big problem, but it was certainly an issue that raises the eyebrow.
MORGAN: Shawn Holley, I mean, have politics taken over from law enforcement here?
SHAWN HOLLEY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, if so, it really was just a response to what -- how this whole thing started. I mean, there was almost civil unrest because it was outrageous in my opinion that Mr. Zimmerman wasn't arrested immediately, and all of this stuff that were fairing out now isn't fairing out later. So if anything it was simply a response to the political decision that I believe had been made initially which was not to arrest Mr. Zimmerman.
MORGAN: And Marc, in terms of the trial in totality, the general legal view seems to be that the case for second-degree murder has not been met by the prosecution, but there may be a good argument to present to a jury of manslaughter.
MORGAN: The problem with that is because of Trayvon Martin's age, if George Zimmerman is found guilty of manslaughter, he could still get 20 to 30 years, which seems to me for a manslaughter conviction, extreme onerous.
HILL: I don't think so. Not in light of all of the events. We're not talking about something that was unavoidable, something that was a momentary slip of judgment. We're talking about someone who essentially was a self-deputized neighborhood vigilante who pursue a young man when being told to stand down by police.
This is a fundamental problem. This is someone who has a record of just -- of basically harassing anyone who came in the neighborhood who he thought didn't belong which is dangerous and loaded.
MORGAN: But let me ask you this. If we assume that what he says is right and Dr. Di Maio today was pretty compelling in his testimony, so if you assume that George Zimmerman is on the floor, Trayvon Martin is on top of him, and has already punched him hard in the head, and has banged him perhaps six times in the concrete, causing injuries -- excuse me. Causing injuries to the back of his head and to his nose. If we assume all of that is correct.
MORGAN: And we assume that he was stunned, if that is all right, was he justified given he's legally allowed to carry a firearm, and he's stunned, he's incoherent, is he justified in self-defense in using that weapons?
HILL: Let me first say that I don't concede that that hypothetical is not also counter functional. I would suggest that what the expert testified to does not necessarily bear that out. So I don't want to -- even hypothetically I don't want to put that in the air. However, if that's all true, that still doesn't negate the fact that there's still a moment where we have to decide and where jurors have to decide whether or not Zimmerman had the opportunity to leave, whether Zimmerman had a moment where he no longer felt in danger for his life, and still pursued and escalated the violence.
That's a question that jurors have to answer and that -- that point isn't negated by the fact that he was on top.
MORGAN: Shawn Holley, I mean, this comes down to so many aspects of American life, doesn't it? It comes down to class, to race, to violence, to guns, to self-defense. What will the ramifications be of this case, do you think?
HOLLEY: Well, I don't know that there will be any ramifications. I think what is so interesting about this case and the reason that it's captivated all of us is that there are all of those issues you described, but at the end of the day, we have to focus on the evidence. I think it would not be unreasonable for us to presume that the juror have a pretty good sense of what happened.
This was a neighborhood vigilante. He was profiling Trayvon Martin. I believe that all of those things are true, and I wouldn't be surprised if the jury thought that was true, but that's really not the issue. The issue is, was this case proved beyond a reasonable doubt when focusing on the evidence, and I don't think that it's been.
HILL: Yes, I agree.
HOLLEY: And it's unsettled. MORGAN: But, Shawn, let me ask you this -- Shawn, about the jury itself. We've got six women, five of them I think are mothers. And to me, when Sybrina Fulton gave her evidence, that was incredibly powerful. I've also seen her walking out repeatedly from the courtroom unable to see or hear certain parts of testimony involving her son. That's got to hit home with mothers. Hasn't it? I mean that has to, I think, at some stage hit home.
HOLLEY: Well, you know, as you know, I was a part of the O.J. Simpson defense team, and where I sat every day was right in front of the Simpson family and the Goldman family, and they were visibly moved every single solitary day. And everyone in that courtroom felt for them but at the end of the day you have to put that aside if you're going to follow the judge's instructions and I believe that most jurors do, and focus on the evidence. You can feel for those parents and of course you do. But that's not what their charge is.
HILL: And there's another piece of this, which is that there are five mothers, also five white people, and one of those things was five white people have to consider is, as well as the one Latino, is if I were on that street and I saw Trayvon, how would I feel? And what the defense team has done a masterful job of doing is putting Trayvon on trial, on the stand, so that we continue to see Trayvon like we see many young black men, as a threat -- as a civic threat of terror --
MORGAN: What if Trayvon -- what if Trayvon had been a young black woman? And she had been scared by being followed by this guy? Because Trayvon was only 150 odd pounds.
MORGAN: It could have been a young black woman walking home and she had turned around and punched him in the face, for argument's sake.
MORGAN: We wouldn't be having this conversation, would we?
HILL: Well, I don't know.
MORGAN: And he would have been convicted.
HILL: Yes. Absolutely. I think he would have been convicted but somehow because we have this history of seeing black male bodies as dangerous and threatening and always worthy of lethal force. We saw that in the case of Shawn Bell, we see it with -- we see it all the time because they always seem worthy of lethal force because we see them as so violence, and we never consider them as victims of violence, only purveyors of violence.
It's easy to believe that George Zimmerman was justified. And so those jurors may see Trayvon in their mind and say you know what, I may have made the same decision and for that reason, they may have -- they may find reasonable doubt.
MORGAN: Marc Lamont Hill, Shawn Holley, my apologies for sneezing there.
I've got a perfect guy to talk to about it after the break.
HOLLEY: God bless you.
MORGAN: Jeff Daniels is here from "The Newsroom." I'm going to ask him, have you ever sneezed live on air in the newsroom in that embarrassing manner?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF DANIELS, ACTOR, "THE NEWSROOM": And you know, all those times the two of you asked me why I'm a Republican as if that's something that needs an explanation?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what the hell --
DANIELS: I've never heard either of you ask anyone why they are a Democrat. What's right here, the purposeful suspension of common sense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Treason is a crime you ought to be found guilty of it before you could be punished.
DANIELS: The White House counsel, the DOJ, there is a legal analysis. There is a memorandum that allows the president to do this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Great, can we see it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: The smart and brilliant news anchor is here and so, of course, is Jeff Daniels. My producer had smug arrogant news anchor but I refuse to be so belittled by my own team.
Jeff, how are you?
Still you got a terrible night. Twitter has blown up with the fact that I sneezed live on air. And --
DANIELS: I thought it was a brilliant moment, I really did. And I --
MORGAN: Did you feel for me as Will McAvoy?
DANIELS: I have not -- I didn't feel for you at all, but I -- you can expect to see that in season three.
MORGAN: What have you learned about perhaps the difficulties of the job that I do and other news anchors do from doing now two seasons of "Newsroom"?
DANIELS: Well, having to do all the homework on -- like for the Zimmerman trial, like you just did, I mean, you really have to become an expert on whatever the issue is of the day. The other thing that I've really become -- come to admire about all the networks, all that you guys do is when news breaks, whether it's Boston bombings or the San Francisco airplane crash on the Montreal train.
I mean, there -- and how you guys go on the air and stay on air and have to hang on to just what you know. You can't speculate. You can't wonder if and what if and what if. You really have to stick to the facts. And that's really difficult to do when you've got to stay on the air for another 20 minutes or something. That's hard. And I admire you guys. That's where you earn your money.
MORGAN: What do you make of the Trayvon Martin trial? Because it has in a strange way, it's gripped many Americans, others think, you know, that the networks are going to be gone this and in the end it's just another murder case or many other in America every day, but I think it says more about America, but what do you think?
DANIELS: I agree. Yes, I think it says a lot about America and it's similar to the O.J. thing. There's race. Race is in it. I mean, that may not enter the trial but that's a big part of what everybody is watching, and, you know, reasonable doubt is a hell of a thing to overcome.
MORGAN: What about self-defense, guns, the right of an American to carry one in the first place in that situation and to use it, and potentially he may well walk away a freeman?
DANIELS: Yes, well, I'm one of the guys that goes back to the Second Amendment and just goes, you know what, it was a different time and now we're into the Sandy Hooks and the -- you know, all of that and whatever happened between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin that night, only they know.
One of them had a gun, and they're real easy to get and I'm one of the guys that would go, let's 90 percent of America said background checks, let's do a better job of policing it, and I know the gun -- the gun enthusiasts get bent out of shape about that, but it's a different world now.
MORGAN: You see it's interesting to me because I thought what would it take for something to change in America, and I was absolutely convinced it was going to be Sandy Hook. When I saw that happen, I thought this will be the tipping point and then within six months, it turned out it wasn't at all. Nothing changed.
DANIELS: But it goes back to we're so divided, we're so divided as a country. And it goes back to what Aaron Sorkin wrote in the first episode of the first season when Will McAvoy goes on this rant about we're not the greatest country in the world. And oh, man, I mean, you'd think we, you know, declared communist or something.
DANIELS: You know? It was just -- but that's part of what even a Sandy Hook can't bridge the chasm, the divide that this country is in right now.
MORGAN: So what is the answer? How does America come through this and be better?
DANIELS: I -- well, I think it's at the voting booth. I think -- I think that America sits in the middle there. On some issues they're to the right, on some issues to the left. They are the -- they're the people -- I love when the politicians go, you know, you know, the American people say you don't know what the American people say. You're saying what your lobbyist, your special interests are saying, so knock it off.
The people are sitting in the middle going, where is Tip O'Neil. Where is Ron Reagan? Get in a room, don't come out until you get a deal. Obama, Boehner, don't come out until you have a deal. Lock the door, don't send them any food, no water, nothing.
Do that. That's what you used to do. That's what they've been doing for, you know, several hundred -- you know, couple hundred years and we don't do that anymore. And that would be a start, and if not, then see it -- see you at the voting booth.
MORGAN: Tell me about season two of "Newsroom." I watched the first episode last night. And it was -- it looked to me like Aaron Sorkin, and for everyone is now into their stride about what this show is and what it's about. One of the big story lines coming up that you think will resonate most?
DANIELS: I think Aaron did a really great job of -- in season one. We really spend a lot of time on Will, establishing Will at the center of the program and all of that. It was also, though, a first draft. Now you got a guy like Sorkin who if you go into his office you need to wear sunglasses because of all the awards.
DANIELS: There are lights on them. I mean, it's the guy -- the guy --
MORGAN: He's a genius.
DANIELS: Yes. He's where he is for a reason. But it's still a first season. It's still a first draft. He's getting used to the actors, getting used to what this is. This is "Newsroom." What is it? Maybe I'm going this way, maybe I'm going that. And he -- you know, now we're into the second season and he did a smart thing, he went straight for a story that involves -- that is triggered by the six or eight of us, the characters in the show, that chased this one story about Genoa, and about a drone strike, and we chased and chased it and we make some horrible, horrible journalistic mistakes. We're not going after FOX, we're not going after CNN, we're not going after MSNBC as we're accused of doing.
We're really just -- what these people did and what we do, what anyone else has done in the real world of cable news pales in comparison. So I really like that he really went fictional. For us, it's also the second season and it's just like with Aaron, OK, now we know what this is. We got this. I know who Will is. I walk out, he's there. Cast all the way down the cast, everybody knows what they're doing and what their purpose is and who they are. And Aaron knows how to write for it. I think that second season it certainly felt like our third or fourth.
MORGAN: I have an amazing story that Aaron Sorkin did the first three programs. She filmed most of it. And went to HBO and said, I'm not happy -- I read it and the Hollywood reporter himself revealed the story. That he said, I'm not happy with this. I want to redo most of it and they agreed.
MORGAN: They actually went back and they just redid.
MORGAN: Three episodes. Now you as the star of the show, what is that like when you put all this graft into making these episodes and then you get told, we're doing it all again?
DANIELS: Well, after I threw the tantrum?
DANIELS: After that?
MORGAN: Please tell me you threw a tantrum.
DANIELS: The table went up and over. No, he won, he goes, you know, it's a writing problem. I -- I have gone to HBO and the days of a network or a studio going, you know what? Strap the first two and he probably scrapped 80 percent of the first two episodes.
DANIELS: About six weeks of work and then we came back in January and basically started over, but he had it. It was a structure thing.
MORGAN: How did you feel as an actor in that situation after putting all that work in? DANIELS: I go back to "Purple Rose in Cairo" with Woody Allen. And Woody, I'll bet will re-shot 40 percent of it. That was back in the days when Orion Studio would give them money to do that and Woody would look at I, and go, you know, I don't think so. And we'd come in and we'd shot it. So for me, it was like, all right, well, what can I do to help you, Aaron? What can I do to support you and we get another shot at it? I didn't care.
MORGAN: Amazing. Amazing. Let's take a short break. Let's come back. I want to talk about your great friend. The late great James Gandolfini.
MORGAN: Back now with Jeff Daniels from HBO's "The Newsroom." He's also a great friend of James Gandolfini. Obviously a devastating blow to everyone. You knew him really well. You did many, many shows with him. What was your reaction when you heard that he died at 51?
DANIELS: I couldn't believe it. He -- he was a great guy. He really was a great guy. You read a lot about celebrities, and Jimmy had his issues, but what you don't read about is what kind of father he was and the generosity he exhibited to the "Sopranos" cast on a few occasions regarding money. And that's that. But he did the same thing with "Carnage." When we -- we're doing "God of Carnage" on Broadway with Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, and Jimmy and I and -- when we extended he -- and he got to play me, he's the reason we were there, and he said we're going to extend it and everybody gets paid the same.
MORGAN: It seems that he didn't find the mantle of fame very comfortable. That wasn't why he got into acting and when he became so stratospherically famous through the "Sopranos," he just found it difficult to deal with.
DANIELS: He -- And I say this with great respect to him, he lacked technique. He was most comfortable when he could just go. And the theater is all about technique and craft and repeating it night after night after night for month after month. And he had to learn how to do that and be comfortable in that. He resisted that for a while. And I remember talking to him and just going, just, you know, straightened him out and just go, follow me, it's OK, it's OK.
And he did. And the four of us came from four completely different places, acting styles and careers. And we came together and we were wildly successful in the show. At the time it was on Broadway, it was the thing to see, way beyond what we thought. And so I'll always remember the four of us.
I'll remember the four of us the two or three minutes where we were back behind the curtain and you can hear the 1200 people buzzing with excitement because they got tickets and they're going to see it, and where -- it's just the four of us. And we talk about this or that. But I'll never -- that's -- I'll always remember that. The four of us together for those two or three minutes before the curtain came on. MORGAN: Yes. He's an amazing guy. Brilliant actor. I'm getting inundated with tweets. This is a classic. This is from Violeta Gonzalez saying, "Piers Morgan, I'm thinking Jeff Daniels should be a permanent co-anchor on your show." She's the only one to use the word "co."
DANIELS: Wow. Yes.
MORGAN: Just tell me you're not going to go in the news business.
DANIELS: No. I'm --
Is it Victoria? Yes. I'm fictional. I'm not even here right now.
MORGAN: The trouble is, you're just too damned convincing. People do want you to do this for real. You have to come and stand in for me one night. And that would be good TV.
DANIELS: That would be fun.
MORGAN: The second season of "The Newsroom" premieres this Sunday on HBO. I've seen the first episode and it's brilliant. He is unnervingly good. Please do not come into my business.
Jeff Daniels. Nice to see you.
DANIELS: Thank you, Piers. Pleasure.
MORGAN: We'll be right back.
MORGAN: Tomorrow night, what could be the most dramatic day yet in the Zimmerman trial. The defense is expected to rest. Who will Mark O'Mara call as his last witness? All the latest from the courtroom. That's tomorrow night.
That's all for us tonight. Anderson Cooper's CNN special, "SELF- DEFENSE OR MURDER: THE GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL" starts now.