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Defense Rests in Zimmerman Trial

Aired July 10, 2013 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: This is PIERS MORGAN LIVE. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Tonight, the defense rests and the closing arguments begin tomorrow. George Zimmerman's fate will soon be in the hands of six Florida women. They will begin deliberations on Friday. Will they find him guilty or not guilty of the murder of Trayvon Martin? A dramatic day once again in court, punctuated by the most we've heard from the defendant himself.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: did you now have sufficient time to discuss with your attorneys whether or not you wanted to testify in this case?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I don't need to know what was said, but after those discussions, have you made a decision?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what is your decision, sir?

ZIMMERMAN: After consulting with counsel, not to testify, Your Honor.


MORGAN: So he won't testify but his defense attorney Mark O'Mara is talking, striking a confident turn after today's dramatic session.


MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think that we have a very, very good chance with the jury right now and with the evidence as presented. He's already given his story or statement five, six, seven times now so the jury has that and we just decided that there was enough evidence in there that we don't need to present any more.


MORGAN: It's still down to the wire. Both sides using high drama to push their case with each holding a foam dummy to demonstrate the confrontation that ended in Trayvon Martin's death.

We begin with Martin Savidge outside the courthouse in Sanford.

Martin, pretty dramatic stuff with this dummy, wasn't it? And also, it seemed a very significant concession that by the state over who may have been on top.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Piers, yes, another really fascinating day inside the courtroom. I think you would have to say that the prosecution's case went through an evolution I suppose is maybe the kindest way. But clearly a change in the way that the prosecution has presented what happened.

John Guy getting up there, demonstrating with the -- maybe one of the strongest testimonies, this testimony, though, coming from something that is not alive, a dummy. He grabbed that dummy and essentially is now saying that the state is willing to concede that Trayvon Martin may have been on top of George Zimmerman, but they didn't just give up on that.

Listen to his explanation, fairly dramatic.


JOHN GUY, ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: If this person, this mannequin, were carrying a firearm on their waist, where would the gun be right now in relation to me?

DENNIS ROOT, USE OF FORCE EXPERT: Would be at your left inner thigh.

GUY: Right here, right?

ROOT: Yes, if he was right-handed it would be at your left inner thigh. Yes, sir.

GUY: Right, underneath my leg?

ROOT: Yes, inside your leg.

GUY: OK. Were you aware that the defendant described to his best friend that when he slid down, the defendant slid down, that Trayvon Martin was up around his armpits? Were you aware of that?

ROOT: No, I haven't heard that. No, sir.

GUY: OK. Where would the gun be now?

ROOT: Now the gun would be behind your left leg.


SAVIDGE: One of the things I should point out that the jury found all of this fascinating. In fact, those that sit in the back row were actually on their feet leaning over watching that presentation. They took great interest in that, Piers.

MORGAN: I mean, it seemed like a big concession, didn't it, Martin, because if you believe now as a jury Trayvon Martin was on top, you're more likely, I would think, to assume that the cries for help were coming from the person who is on the bottom.

SAVIDGE: Right, yes, no, this clearly is a change from what we initially have been told in opening arguments. Whether this is the state sort of saying all right, we may be headed for lesser charges, so this is a way to go after those is unclear.

A lot of this will be made more clear tomorrow, but quite striking to see that and also, you know, Mark O'Mara, he was not to be done. He quickly grabbed the same dummy. He jumps aboard and does his own rendition of what the defense says took place.

MORGAN: Right. And incredibly powerful it was, too.

Let's turn to the tensions between Judge Nelson and defense attorney Don West. He's not had by common consent a great trial. And it got very heated today even by their standards.

SAVIDGE: Yes -- no, these two really, their relationship I think has been dissolving since almost the first day, maybe even before the first day of testimony. I think Don West has been very frustrated. He was frustrated about evidence that the state was -- I'm sorry, that the defense was not allowed to present, and I think that that frustration just continues to grow. Last night they went very late arguing over, still trying to get evidence in, and then today you talked about it.

That showdown between Don West, and Don West really wasn't even supposed to be talking. The judge was talking to George Zimmerman, but boy, it didn't go over well. Listen.


JUDGE DEBRA NELSON, SEMINOLE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: Have you made a decision, sir, as to whether or not you want to testify in your case?

DON WEST, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Your honor, I object to that question.

NELSON: OK. Overruled. Do you have made a decision as to whether or not you want to testify in your case?

WEST: I object to that question, I think that's --

NELSON: Overruled. The court is entitled to inquire to Mr. Zimmerman's determination as to whether or not he wants to testify.

WEST: Your honor, may we have an opportunity to speak? The case isn't concluded yet.

NELSON: I understand that and I've asked Mr. Zimmerman if he needed more time to talk to his attorneys, and if he does, I will afford it to him. If your attorneys have finished with two witnesses before the end of the day, do you think that you would then know whether or not you want to testify?

WEST: I'll -- on Mr. Zimmerman's behalf this --

NELSON: I am asking your client -- your client questions. Please, Mr. West.

WEST: I object to the court inquiring of Mr. Zimmerman as to his decision about whether or not to testify --

NELSON: Your objection is overruled.


SAVIDGE: That is about as close to a judicial bam as you're ever going to get. Remember last night while Don West was actually talking the judge walked out on him. So yes, they might need some counseling when this is all said and done.

MORGAN: And quickly, Martin, what do we expect tomorrow and more importantly, can we expect the jury to go out as soon as Friday, perhaps?

SAVIDGE: Yes, we can. Real quick, tomorrow what they're going to go over in the morning is the attorneys and the judge working on the instructions. These are critical, really crucial information. This is what the jury will learn about what they can charge or what they can consider here. And then after that, 1:00 in the afternoon is when the closing arguments begin.

It will start with the state. They'll go two hours and then stop and the jury gets to go home at that particular point. They're still sequestered so that means they think all night about what the state said. Then Friday morning that's when the defense will pick up and counter that argument, but of course, the state will get the last word in, and then it will go into the hands of the jury, as you say, on Friday.

MORGAN: Dramatic stuff. Martin Savidge, thank you very much indeed.

Joining me now is Ben Crump, the attorney for the Martin family, and Natalie Jackson, co-counsel for the Martin family.

Ben Crump, you've not been able to talk. You're, we thought, going to give testimony. That didn't happen in the end. Now you are free to talk. I know you've not been heavily engaged in every day in the court, and so you have a more general view. But how do you feel the case has gone? Do you feel confident you've proven a case collectively that Trayvon Martin was murdered?

BEN CRUMP, MARTIN FAMILY ATTORNEY: Piers, you're right and I'm glad to be free from being sequestered so I can now talk about the case and I've been catching up throughout the day looking at different clips after it was determined they -- the defense was not going to call me to testify. But I've said all along, Piers, if the jury follows the evidence, George Zimmerman will be held accountable of killing Trayvon Martin because nothing has changed.

George Zimmerman followed, profiled, made a decision to get out of his car and chase Trayvon Martin. The 911 tape, clearly that objective evidence says that the young lady he was talking to on the phone clearly says that. There is nothing to contradict that. And so who threw what first punch if they were struggling and rolling on the ground, well, George Zimmerman started this confrontation.

And so we can never get beyond Trayvon Martin just walking home and a strange man chasing him, doesn't Trayvon Martin have the right to self-defense?

MORGAN: But here's the problem, Ben Crump, is that many people will have absolute sympathy with what you're saying, but at the same time you say chase the evidence. Today it seemed to me there was a real shift by the state case in saying look, we concede that Trayvon Martin was probably on top of George Zimmerman. Now if you're that jury and you hear that U-turn on such a crucial piece of information, then regardless of what happened in the build-up, we don't actually know who may have started the fight.

Regardless of that, you are now left with the jury that believed Trayvon was on top and they are more likely, are they not, to assume that the voice crying out for help is the person underneath?

CRUMP: Piers, it has always been our contention that there was some struggle and if Trayvon defended himself against a strange man who confronted him, he had every right to do so. But the cries for help, all of that is inconsequential when you think about who started this. Who was the initial aggressor? Are you telling me if your child is walking home from 7-Eleven and some strange man come following him, that you don't want your child to try to defend himself when that person does not identify --


MORGAN: No, no. I mean, no, and Ben, and my answer to you there is absolutely not. But the problem you face is Florida law is very specific, and I've discussed this all week with various legal experts. It doesn't really matter what happened up to the moment that they're in this confrontation. What matters is did George Zimmerman genuinely believe his life was in danger? If he did, he is allowed to use the gun by way of self-defense. So clearly the letter of the law I'm talking about here, it is hard to see how the prosecution have proven their case against Zimmerman.

CRUMP: Well, I'll clearly say to you, Piers, we have to all acknowledge that if you had the dynamic turnaround and you had Trayvon Martin kill George Zimmerman, the Stand Your Ground argument wouldn't work for Trayvon Martin. And that's the trouble with this whole thing. It's so subjective when you think about it. But I believe in my heart that based on your child being chased by a grown man with a .9 millimeter gun and we hear that 911 tape and then a couple of minutes later, he's shot in the heart and dead, I think those women on the jury have children and they have to think that this could be my child. This could be anybody's child. And that's what's so troubling about this case and that's why so emotional, Piers. People all over the country are saying, especially minority parents, what if this were my child? That's a horrible feeling to imagine your child do nothing wrong but walking home minding his business and somebody gets out their car and chases him.

MORGAN: Let me turn to Natalie Jackson because you've been in court. You've heard all this evidence. I mean, there clearly is going to be a lot of contention over whether the case for second- degree murder has been proven. However, many people believe that there is a much more compelling argument for manslaughter or aggravated assault.

Could you see a situation where George Zimmerman is convicted of one of those lesser charges, and would that be satisfactory if you couldn't get a murder charge against him?

NATALIE JACKSON, MARTIN FAMILY CO-COUNSEL: Well, what's satisfactory is what the jury decides in this case. We don't have a choice in that, we don't get to vote. I think that there is a case made for both murder two and for manslaughter because manslaughter is a lesser included offense of -- I'm sorry, yes, manslaughter is a lesser included offense of murder two. So that's why the jury will be given that option.

MORGAN: I mean, Ben Crump quite rightly feels very passionate about this. Many people feel very passionate about this. Emotions are running very high. But in the end, this jury will operate to Florida law and will be directed to do so.


MORGAN: And, you know, it's very clear to me, talking to Florida judges, in particular Judge Alex and others who've got great experience there, that really, it all comes down to George Zimmerman's state of mind when he pulled that trigger.

JACKSON: It comes down to whether or not his mind was reasonable to the average person. That would be -- so that's really crux of it. That's what the jury will decide, were his actions reasonable? And the actions don't start in the middle of a struggle. They start from the beginning of him getting out of the car armed with a .9 millimeter, following, and running after someone who's running away from him.

MORGAN: Natalie Jackson and Ben Crump, thank you both very much indeed for joining me.

JACKSON: Thank you.

MORGAN: This case will soon be in the hands of the six female jurors. How did they react to today's dramatic testimony.

Defense attorney and HLN contributor Mel Robbins was there and joins me now. Mel, you know, it's very -- getting very heated, very emotional now, both sides now realizing this is it. Now we're reaching crunch time, the jury likely to go out as early as Friday. What are you detecting if you can from the mood of this jury right now?

MEL ROBBINS, HLN CONTRIBUTOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, today was fascinating, Piers. First you had the defense witness by the last name Root who's the use of force expert who basically he wasn't even really giving testimony. He was kind of giving a warm-up for the closing argument for the defense.

And what was fascinating about his testimony, Piers, is that he would constantly look at the jury and you know what they were doing? They were looking back at him. It was like watching two people have a conversation across the room at a cocktail party. He was speaking directly to them and they were soaking him in.

But more importantly, Piers, when they brought out that kind of mannequin dummy thing and they were -- the attorneys were straddling, do you know what happened? The jury stood up. All five members on -- in the back row stood straight up. The four women in the front row, they leaned forward and they were taking copious notes and they were really paying attention, and just as you pointed out earlier, this was a turning point in the case.

The state acknowledged that Trayvon was on top and it seemed like the jury had this -- they were more alive today than I've seen them the entire trial, Piers.

MORGAN: There was also this extraordinary moment when the defense called a neighbor, called Olivia Bertalan who gave evidence about two young African-Americans who had intruded into her home. Let's watch a clip of what she said.


OLIVIA BERTALAN, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S FORMER NEIGHBOR: I saw two young African-American guys ring my doorbell repeatedly. They broke into my house. I heard bangs downstairs. The dispatcher told me to grab any weapon I had.


MORGAN: I mean, Mel, not to put too fine a point in it, this struck me as all right they've all agreed not to bring race into it. This was overtly making a racial statement. This was saying, look, the reason George Zimmerman was right to suspect this young black boy Trayvon Martin was because this white girl had been at home and two young black youths had intimidated her and broken into her home.

ROBBINS: You know, actually, Piers - you know, this was a -- this was a risk for the defense because they had her on the stand to actually have her testify about what an amazing neighbor George Zimmerman was, how he comforted her, how he checked up on her, how he brought a lock over for her, and I thought it was very risky when they did this because she obviously identified that the perps in this case were two young black guys.

And the prosecution was asleep at the wheel. They didn't hammer on this. Maybe they will in close but here is one more theory I was thinking, Piers. Where's the rebuttal case? What is the prosecution doing? It seems like they're phoning it in. Why don't they have 10 of Trayvon Martin's friends from school coming on the stand right now and giving emotional testimony?

That's my friend, that's the my friend. And so I sat there in court today and thought, my gosh, regardless of how you feel, you still have the Martins sitting here, and it's almost as if the prosecution is just like, you know, giving up.

MORGAN: I thought it was a very poor day for the prosecution and I don't think they had a great trial. I think that Mark O'Mara in particular for the defense has been extremely strong.

Let's take a short break, Mel, stay with me.

Coming next, Zimmerman's father was on the stand. How did that go over in the courtroom? That's coming up.



ROBERT ZIMMERMAN SR., GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S FATHER: Then they asked me, did I recognize the voice?

O'MARA: And what did you tell them?

R. ZIMMERMAN: I told them absolutely, it's my son, George.

O'MARA: Is that an opinion that you still have through today?

R. ZIMMERMAN: Certainly.


MORGAN: George Zimmerman's father testified today said the screams on the 911 call were that of his son. That tape was at the center of this case. Would it determine the outcome?

With me again, HLN contributor and defense attorney Mel Robbins, and defense attorney Tom Mesereau and Judge Glenda Hatchett, the host of the "Judge Hatchett Show."

And if you're watching at home and want to get involved, you can tweet me at piersmorgan.

Got a tweet here from the urbannatural who said it was pivotal what Ben Crump said. Basically under Florida law anyone can be walking through a neighborhood and get chased down.

Tom Mesereau, I mean, it's an interesting point, isn't it, is that taking this case to a natural extension that can happen to anybody and this could all happen again tomorrow?

THOMAS A. MESEREAU, JR., CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER: Well, Piers, the question is where does self-defense begin? If Zimmerman chose to follow him and confront him after the police told him not to, if Zimmerman chose to come after him with a deadly weapon after the homeowners association specifically forbade that kind of behavior, when does self-defense begin?

I think the key to this case, as far as the jury is concerned, is going to be what value they place on how things started. If they blame Zimmerman for causing this series of events, he's going to be convicted of something.

The whole defense is that self-defense began when Trayvon responded to Zimmerman. They say self-defense began when Trayvon ended up on top of Zimmerman. And I suggested that's not when self- defense began. Self-defense began when he chose to confront Trayvon and when it didn't go his way, he shot him to death.

MORGAN: Right. I mean, Judge Hatchett, you know, that is a view many people have and also they say to me, look, what about Trayvon Martin's right to defend himself?


MORGAN: Wasn't he engaged in a form of self-defense himself and where does his right to do that supersede George Zimmerman who's got a gun?

HATCHETT: Right, I tell you, I -- Tom has just articulated so perfectly. This is a man who was told to stay in the car. He has a weapon. I believe he confronted him. The question is going to really become whether the prosecution has proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt. But there is no question in my mind that he was the aggressor and in my mind, he has lost the right to say he was self-defending himself if he is the one who's the aggressor in the situation.

And you're right, Trayvon then also has rights in this matter. And this is a very complicated case and it's going to be very interesting to see what the jury ends up doing with this.

MORGAN: Mel, I can see you shaking your head vigorously. You've been in court. Why -- why are you so aggressively ante that statement?

ROBBINS: I'll tell you why. First of all, he wasn't told to stay in his car. He was told that we don't need you to do that, sir.

MORGAN: I think we -- let me clarify that.

ROBBINS: And he --

MORGAN: Let me clarify that because that's --


ROBBINS: It's true.

MORGAN: I can clarify that because I think that actually exactly what happened was that Zimmerman had got out of his car and was trying --

ROBBINS: Correct.

MORGAN: He said to find the street name and it was at that point that he was asked, are you following, and he said yes or whatever it is, and we don't need you to do that but he was actually outside the car.


MORGAN: So that is just one distinction we got.

HATCHETT: Correct.

MORGAN: I was under the mistaken impression --

HATCHETT: And my point is actually -- but it's an important one. It's a very important one.


HATCHETT: And I agree and I stand corrected on that point. But my point is, had he stayed in the car, had he followed the instructions not to follow him, we would not have a dead 17-year-old and that is the reality.

MORGAN: Right, and Mel, and Mel --

HATCHETT: Now whether that to be proved --

MORGAN: Mel Robbins --

ROBBINS: But see here's the problem, you've got him --

MORGAN: Mel Robbins. Mel Robbins.


MORGAN: That is an incontrovertible truth that I keep coming back to.

ROBBINS: Correct.

MORGAN: I come back to two things on this case, one is if George Zimmerman had just carried on driving home, this -- none of this would have happened. Fact one. Fact two, when they say he wasn't profiling Trayvon Martin, how else do you describe somebody who on tape tells authorities these f-ing punks, these assholes, they're always getting away with it.

What else is he doing to Trayvon Martin but profiling him as a bad guy that needs to be dealt with? ROBBINS: Yes, I think that's absolutely right. I mean -- but here's the thing and you've nailed in this, you and I have talked about it. There is a pathway to manslaughter. If you look at the totality of George Zimmerman's actions, all of which are undisputed. He got out of a car. He followed a kid on a rainy dark night. He had a concealed weapon on him and he didn't identify himself as neighborhood watch.

But here is the reason why I was shaking my head. Under the law, which you both know, you can even as the aggressor in a confrontation regain your innocence and claim self-defense successfully, and I think based on the evidence that's been presented, a jury would have a very hard time finding --


MORGAN: OK. Let me bring in Tom -- let me bring in Tom, because what the Florida legal people I've spoken to, Tom, told me repeatedly is that that is the crucial thing. It doesn't really matter what happened in terms of Zimmerman getting out of the car, walking, checking street names, whatever he was doing. None of that is materially important to the law in Florida, which is if Zimmerman genuinely believed that his life was in danger, a lot of the medical evidence that came in the last 48 hours is quite compelling that he may have been stunned and dazed by having his head banged and so, than he is allowed to defend himself and can use legally his gun.

MESEREAU: Well, Piers, I don't practice in Florida but I have to believe there's going to be a jury instruction on causation. In other words, if you commit a crime, you have to -- there has to be a causation element proven. In other words, you have to have caused what the crime was. An I have to believe these prosecutors are going to look at the jury and say, is it a Florida law allows someone to profile someone, disobey police instructions, bring a deadly weapon with them, confront someone, threaten them, assault them, and then when they respond, shoot them dead?

Is that self-defense in Florida? Ladies and gentlemen, you're going to decide that question. And I suspect it's not so simple.

MORGAN: Let's take a short break.

HATCHETT: I agree.

MORGAN: When we -- when we come back, we'll take a closer look at the charges the jury will be allowed to consider and the sentences that they could carry if George Zimmerman is found guilty.



O'MARA: Based upon your training experience and knowing what you knew about the facts surrounding the event that night, particularly at the moment of the gunshot, did Mr. Zimmerman have any other options? ROOT: Based on my knowledge and understanding of him, the environment, the situation, the totality of everything, I don't believe he did.


MORGAN: Dennis Root, a so-called expert of the defense on the use of force. He told the jury that Zimmerman had no choice but to use his gun against Trayvon Martin. Does it add up to murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault or none of the above.

Back with me now HLN contributor, defense attorney Mel Robbins, defense attorney Tom Mesereau and Judge Glenda Hatchett, host of the "Judge Hatchett's Show".

Tom Mesereau, this is a crucial thing now I think which is what directions will this jury, do you think, be given in terms of the breath of potential things they could convict on? Because I think there is a general sense that second-degree murder hasn't been established beyond a reasonable doubt but that manslaughter, aggravated assault and others possibly could have been.

MESEREAU: Well again, I don't practice in Florida but my understanding is that manslaughter and aggravated assault will be lesser included instructions that it's almost routine that these kinds of instructions are given and that's going to give the jury various options. They're going to get in the jury room. They're going to pick a four-person. They're going to start deliberating. They're going to work through the instructions.

And there may be some give-and-take and the stronger personalities may want to go one way, the weaker personalities another way, and you never know if a jury is going to compromise to end this thing and basically say we'll convict on assault.

MORGAN: And it makes a huge difference, because the --

HATCHETT: Huge difference.

MORGAN: We understand that in Florida, for example, second- degree murder has 25 years to life in prison. Manslaughter with a gun, 10 to 30 years, aggravated assault with a gun three to five years. So Judge Hatchett, I mean, a very, very different range of --

HATCHETT: Very different range.

MORGAN: -- potential sentences facing George Zimmerman there.

HATCHETT: And Florida really changed a lot about this whole bit of it being a gun involved in any of these. And what it says, basically, also if the victim is younger, and as Trayvon is, then the sentencing can even be higher in terms of that. But the jury won't know that, and that's what's very important to point out, that the judge will instruct them.

I'll be very surprised if the defense prevails because the defense doesn't want these lesser included charges. They want self- defense and they say that that will cover everything and they don't want it included because they don't want a compromised verdict on this.

MORGAN: Right.

HATCHETT: But that's -- I mean, that's a real, real big battle but we're going to see in the morning before the jury is instructed.

MORGAN: Right, and Mel, you see, I keep coming back again to this. Instinctively, and my belief about this case is, there has to be some punishment surely for George Zimmerman for the fact that he found out after the event Trayvon Martin was unarmed. He was an unarmed kid, 17 years old with a bag of Skittles on the way back to his father's house.

Now that we have that knowledge, surely it just isn't justice that he walks away a completely free innocent man with no punishment.

ROBBINS: Well, it certainly seems that way and, you know, as a mother of three kids, I -- you know, I sit in court every day and see the Martin family, and it's just a terrible tragedy, but the truth of the matter is, Piers, there is still a two-minute window where we don't really know what happened now, do we? We really don't know whether or not Trayvon looped around and confronted George and punched him and George fell to the ground, or if George walked up to him and shoved him as Rachel Jeantel said.

And when you really don't know what happened, you haven't proved what happened beyond a reasonable doubt. And without understanding that kind of initial confrontation, you got to really, really tough hill to climb in terms of being the prosecution.

Now the only thing that I see as a possibility here because I do believe that this jury will buy into the self-defense claim, and that wipes out murder two and it wipes out the aggravated assault, if you believe the self-defense. But again, as we were just talking, if this jury of six women, five moms, take a look at the evidence and they say, by gosh, exactly what everybody is saying tonight, there is something wrong with the -- with the idea that if somebody could get out of their car, profile somebody as a perpetrator, follow them in the dark, be armed and then shoot them dead and it's just a kid walking home to their parents' house.

HATCHETT: Right. Right.

ROBBINS: And so if they see that they could conclude that's culpable negligence and they could find a guilty verdict there.


ROBBINS: And it might overlook self-defense in that regard.

MORGAN: OK. But this --

HATCHETT: And that's why the defense is arguing so hard against these lesser included offenses.

MORGAN: Right.

HATCHETT: They don't want those charge.

MORGAN: Absolutely, yes. Got to move on quickly, just -- Tom, let me come to you about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of -- obviously the only surviving Boston marathon bomber pleaded not guilty today to 30 federal charges. What do you think the rational is behind what many view as a very surprising decision by him to say I had nothing to do with this?

MESEREAU: I think this is a formal aspect of a criminal case. The defense hasn't even had a time to investigate yet, to look into his mental state, to have him properly evaluated. This is a very routine, formalistic type of statement. I plead not guilty. It's done every single day. It's done by people who haven't committed crimes and it's done by people who have committed crimes.

I don't read too much into it. The defense lawyers haven't had a chance to do their job, to have him evaluated. It's just beginning.

MORGAN: Tom Mesereau, Judge Hatchett and Mel Robbins, thank you all very much indeed.

Coming next, more of self-defense, the Zimmerman trial, and also how race is playing into this case.


MORGAN: Zimmerman said it was self-defense and that he had no choice but to use lethal force to save his life. The prosecution calls it murder. What will the jury say?

David Webb is the host of "The David Webb Show" on Sirius XM Patriot, Charles Blow, "The New York Times" op-ed columnist and a CNN contributor.

Welcome to you both.

Charles, let me start with you. You've written a lot about this case, spoke a lot about this case. We're getting right to the end now. Race is an inescapable huge part of this, regardless of what has played out in court.

CHARLES BLOW, NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED COLUMNIST: I think that that's probably true, I think it's more true in the way that people are viewing it. We don't know whether -- how much race had to do with the actual incident itself. But I think one thing that is important to always remember about discussions about bias is that you don't have to articulate biases or even be aware that they are within you for them to be operational, right?

So that you can have -- you can think that you're completely egalitarian, you want to be that way, and that you can subconsciously act on biases. And so what we have to keep asking ourselves is what is it about Trayvon Martin on that particular night that activated a threat response in George Zimmerman?

And if you -- you know, in order to buy his explanation of it, which is that they had had break-ins before.

MORGAN: Right.

BLOW: And this was a strange person in the neighborhood, you have to believe that George Zimmerman could identify in a dark, at a distance everyone who lived in that apartment complex.


BLOW: And who might have been visiting. I lived on my block for 14 years, I can't identify everybody --

MORGAN: I wouldn't know (INAUDIBLE).

BLOW: So what is it? You know?

MORGAN: Let me ask you, David Webb, I mean, people like Bill O'Reilly have made the point, look, you know, there are -- in Chicago over the long holiday weekend, nearly 70 people were shot, many of them young black youths shooting each other, and it barely resonates on the national stage, yet here we are gripped by the Zimmerman- Trayvon Martin case.

Why has it gripped America? Why is the balance so skewed toward this case and not to 70 shot in Chicago?

DAVID WEBB, HOST OF "THE DAVID WEBB SHOW" ON SIRIUS XM PATRIOT: Or to Trevor Dooley who by the way is a black man who used Florida's Stand Your Ground law to defend himself when he shot a white man and this case is also down in Florida.

The fact is that when this white-shooting-black dynamic or white- on-black crime happens, it becomes a race charged environment when the special interest get involved for the first seven to 11 days of this incident. There really wasn't much coverage on many of the networks of this. This was an incident on going, then the special interest got -- as I can call them, get involved and then you get some of the people who -- well, they profit off race. They profit off pushing it --

MORGAN: But, but -- but let me stop you there because, although that is all true in terms of the way you described how the events played out, the reality is that the reason people were so exercised was that it looked like the guy had just shot an unarmed black teenager and been allowed to go home.

WEBB: Right.


MORGAN: Not been charged or anything. Just go home, and said, you're fine.

WEBB: If it ended with a black man shooting a white or a black on black it would have been a different dynamics --

MORGAN: Hard to imagine he would have been allowed to walk home. I mean, I don't know for sure but hard to imagine.

WEBB: Right, however, just like the Trevor Dooley case where he was allowed to go to work the following Monday after the incident, the problem we have here is that we're not talking about the incident. Profiling someone is not necessarily about race when it comes to Zimmerman. And we don't know what's in his heart. None of us really do.

MORGAN: I suspect he's not a racist.

WEBB: Right.

MORGAN: I suspect he's basically a thug profiler who --

WEBB: Profiled a potential criminal --


MORGAN: He wanted to be a cop. He carried a gun like the cops use. He was the neighborhood watch busy body, and he saw a young guy in a hoodie and thought trouble. He thought A-hole, f-ing punk, they're always getting away with it.

WEBB: Right. Profiling a thug is profiling on his what I call watch commander complex.

MORGAN: Right.

WEBB: To me these are two elements. If you look at it dispassionately, that should never have crossed each other's paths, and that's where this begins. What happened in those two key minutes and the incident is something that the jury will have to decide based on evidence put before them, not everyone who wants to surmise or summarize what happened. But what I don't want to see out of this in a country where we do have a problem with murders of black men or murders of anyone by criminals, or in any case like the Trevor Dooley case, where we have the due process being polluted by a circus that's brought in by outside interest.

Let the community, let the local law enforcement, let the process play out.

MORGAN: Well, I know, I agree with that. And Charles Blow, one of the problems here is that the Florida law is the Florida law. And it's the law of the state. And we can all huff and puff about how unfair it is but the reality is, this jury will be directed to follow the lesser of that state law.

BLOW: Right.

MORGAN: And that means nothing to do with George Zimmerman getting out of the car, walking along, being told as he's walking don't follow. None of that matters. What matters is did George Zimmerman think I'm going to die?

BLOW: Right.

MORGAN: I mean, we don't actually know, do we?

BLOW: Right. It's a matter of what he believes, right? And then -- to figure out what he believes, you also have to believe his story. Now in order to get to that point --

MORGAN: Do you?

BLOW: Well, here are the inconsistencies with that story. Right? In order for you to believe what George Zimmerman is saying, you have to believe that he did not unholster or reveal that weapon until the moment right before he shot Trayvon. No one has been able to testify to the -- to the validity of that being true.

MORGAN: Or against it.

WEBB: Or against it.

BLOW: Or against. Anyway, but you have to believe him in order to --

MORGAN: But -- but Charles, let me ask you this little question.

BLOW: So here's the problem --

MORGAN: Where has anybody directly contradicted evidentially something material and important that George Zimmerman has said?

BLOW: Well, this is -- and here --

MORGAN: In his statements from the very next day.

BLOW: Right. Right. So here are a couple, right? So there is the idea that in his walk -- in his initial interview he says that Trayvon jumps out of some bushes and attacks him. Right? He does the reenactment. He never mentions bushes and, in fact, we see the sidewalk where he says he's standing and where he says Trayvon is standing, there are no bushes to be seen anywhere.

In addition to that, George gets out with a flashlight, it's a small one on his key chain and a larger flashlight. He says that he loses track -- he starts to -- Trayvon starts to run, he loses track of where he is. How can you run away and be in bushes next to me if I'm going back?

There are just a lot of inconsistencies with the story itself. There is a --



BLOW: We're both bald. How do you grab a head and smash it if -- if I'm wet and it's raining outside --

MORGAN: Right. It's a good point.

BLOW: How do I -- how do I this? I mean --

MORGAN: It's a good point. But what I want to say --

BLOW: There's just real problems with (INAUDIBLE).

MORGAN: Right. But what I was saying, David, is that, you know, you're talking about if you believe Zimmerman's version of events, he's pretty well concussed.

WEBB: Right.

MORGAN: From the beating he says he got, he's not thinking straight, he's probably fired the gun --


WEBB: When you're in a fight --

MORGAN: There is the fog of wall that comes with all these. I think we all know that. You can ask -- we've heard from all the witnesses all saying different things. So it doesn't entirely surprise me he's not completely accurate, and if you do take everything he says at face value, the question then becomes, is he entitled to use his weapon in that circumstance?

WEBB: If you look at what exists as far as evidence, even the stains, the bruises, and you add this together, there is evidence that supports on one side the Zimmerman story, who was on top, who was on the bottom? The screams have been pushed aside. Those were all subjective and superfluous being brought into somehow create just like profiling, which by the way was not a tool in the instrument or in the charge but not to be used to charge.

MORGAN: The screams are important in this case and that the defense today got a big win because the prosecution suddenly seemed to concede that it was Trayvon on top.

WEBB: Right.

MORGAN: And I just don't think somebody on top is the one crying out help. Does that make sense?

WEBB: That's --

BLOW: There's only --


WEBB: That supports the position of Zimmerman, however.

BLOW: There's one --

MORGAN: Right. But it's a position that the --

BLOW: But there is one circumstance under which it could --

MORGAN: The prosecution seemed to endorse.

BLOW: There's one circumstance under which that could be true. Number one, it fights against the idea that he unholstered the weapon while he was on the ground, which is he's the only person saying that, no one has been able to corroborate that. And what the prosecution was trying to do was to say, it is virtually impossible for these to happen as he said, that Trayvon would have seen a gun behind his back and that Zimmerman would be able to unholster and move the weapon up to the chest and to fire. That -- I think that that was what the prosecution was trying to do, not necessarily to change their story.

MORGAN: Final -- (INAUDIBLE). Final question, what do you think they're going to do?

BLOW: I have no idea. I won't -- I just don't know these jurors. I don't know how they will consider the evidence and I don't know what the instructions will be from the judge. I just can't.

MORGAN: David?

WEBB: I think the prosecution has not made the case for second- degree murder.

MORGAN: How about manslaughter or aggravated assault?

WEBB: Possibly down and depends on the instructions but they have not made the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

MORGAN: David Webb, Charles Blow, I thank you both very much.

The George Zimmerman trial at times feeling stranger than fiction. What does a man behind "Burden of Proof" and "Presumed Innocent," and a practicing attorney think of it all? Scott Turow is next.


MORGAN: Breaking news from San Francisco tonight. Family members of the two victims who died in the plane crash of Asiana Air Flight 214 are arriving at the wreckage. They're going to be at the site where their daughters lost their lives.

Back now to the George Zimmerman trial -- murder trial, which is true-life twists and turns you expect in legal novels and in the movies.

Scott Turow has written a string of courtroom thrillers including "Presumed Innocent." His new book "Identical" comes out this fall. And Scott Turow joins me now, live in "The Chair."

Scott Turow, I mean, this is the stuff of a thriller in many ways but is very much real life. And a lot at stake here. What do you make of this trial?

SCOTT TUROW, AUTHOR, "PRESUMED INNOCENT": Well, you know, I look at it first as a lawyer and the legal issues I think have been articulated pretty well on many of your programs. It looks like a classic reasonable doubt case, where it's very hard to tell what happened. And people have to remember that the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what occurred.

But the larger cultural significance of the case is probably where the novel and the books that would -- will be written about this matter, that's where the heart of the matter lies and really why you've been covering it. And --

MORGAN: I mean, here's the question I think that, you know, someone just raised to me during the break there, which is that if George Zimmerman hadn't had the gun on him, would he have felt empowered or courageous enough to have got out of his vehicle and to have started walking in the direction of this tall young black teenager?

TUROW: Right. Now I made the same remark to one of your producers. If you want to have conceal and carry laws, and we have them now in every state in the country, then things like this are going to happen and they are going to happen repeatedly. Because I don't care who was on the bottom in that fight, you would take out your gun and shoot, because you'd be afraid for your life.

And, you know, if you want to have conceal and carry, then you have to face the fact that these kinds of things are going to happen. And that you're going to have an unarmed, young man at the beginning of his life, losing his life.

MORGAN: I mean, the problem is, I mean, they didn't actually bring Stand Your Ground into this case in the end, although they thought about it. I mean, there are lots of cases now in Florida, and numerous cases now. And you've even got gang leaders using Stand Your Ground defense to justify blowing away other gang leaders, saying my life was in imminent danger. And they walk free.

TUROW: Right.

MORGAN: I mean, the thing is a total farce, isn't it?

TUROW: Well, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. The other thing, though, when you stand back from this case, you know, you have two young men, both of whom thought in their own minds that they had good reason to be frightened of the other one. To Trayvon, he was being followed by some creepy cracker. George Zimmerman saw Trayvon as a thug and a punk.

And, you know, that says a lot about the American situation that both of these men, with some reason, viewed each other in this light. They profiled one another.

MORGAN: How important do you think will be the fact that the jury is entirely female and five of them are mothers? TUROW: You know, the classic learning on this, I think that the prosecution is hoping that they see Trayvon as their child, and they may. But the classic learning is that female jurors and mothers are going to think about the idea of sending Zimmerman to prison for this, and that they don't tend to believe in the hard and fast application of rules without some lenity. So it could go -- it could go either way.

MORGAN: And in terms of the performance of the two teams, I think the general consensus that I'm picking up on is the prosecution have been not very good. The defense have been very good in part, particularly Mark O'Mara, since he became more dominant, in the sense that they've managed to certainly today was a crucial day I felt to get this jury to now be thinking that Trayvon was on top and therefore may not have been the one screaming.

I mean, that in itself could tip a jury to saying that George Zimmerman should be acquitted.

TUROW: Well, let me just say this in defense of the prosecutors. This is a case that the local prosecutors didn't want to bring. The special prosecutor brought it. And they are bringing this case and the evidence forward to let a jury decide. They -- and so they're letting it all hang out, and they may look bumbling, and they may look like they're contradicting themselves.

But they are, you know, following a classic strategy for particularly state court prosecutors who are just saying we're going to put it all on and let the jury make sense of it. Because that way they can't be blamed for not trying to show the jury everything.

MORGAN: If we -- if we got to the last page of a book you'd written about this case, Scott, would you have guilty or not guilty?

TUROW: I don't think Mr. Zimmerman is going to be convicted. But I also think that doesn't -- that doesn't answer the larger cultural questions that are involved here. It's an unhappy situation when both men have reason to be afraid of one another. And you know, that's where they were at in Sanford, Florida.

MORGAN: Right.

TUROW: And, you know, we still have a lot of work to do.

MORGAN: Scott Turow, great to talk to you. Thank you very much indeed.

TUROW: Thanks, Piers.

MORGAN: That's all for us tonight. Anderson Cooper and CNN's special, "SELF-DEFENSE OR MURDER: THE GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL" starts in just a few moments.