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PIERS MORGAN LIVE
Prosecution's Closing Argument; Jury Could Consider Manslaughter; Judge Clashes with Defense Team
Aired July 11, 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: Two families. The fate of George Zimmerman is almost in the hands of a jury. A jury that today heard impassioned closing arguments from the prosecution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: Trayvon Martin, he was staying, he was there legally. He hadn't broken in or sneaked in or trespassed. He was there legally. He bought Skittles and some kind of watermelon or iced tea or whatever it's called. That was his crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Six women, five of them mothers will decide if Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin or acted in self-defense. The judge says the jury may also consider the lesser charge of manslaughter. And that's important for the state and today hammered away at the notion that the unarmed black teenager was the aggressor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: Why does this defendant get out of the car if he thinks that Trayvon Martin is a threat to him? Why? Why? Because he's got a gun. He's got the equalizer. He's going to take care of it. He's a want-to-be cop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: We begin with Martin Savidge outside the courthouse, of course, as usual in Sanford.
Martin, what a day. Very, very dramatic, highly emotional that closing argument there from the prosecutor. I found it really gripping to watch and I have to say, if I was a member of that jury, very compelling.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Piers. You're absolutely right. Let me point out the significant difference between the way the closing statement by the prosecution differed from the opening statement. Because if you remember that, it was like almost a physical blow when they delivered that string of curse words at the beginning. But today the veteran prosecutor, Bernie de la Rionda, almost like he was delivering a sermon. It begins very methodically and he says a teenager is dead. A teenager is dead because a man made and acted on assumptions. Very strong. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: This defendant made the wrong assumption. He profiled him as a criminal. He assumed certain things, that Trayvon Martin was up to no good and that is what led to his death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: And that's exactly the point, that this was a teenager who had done nothing wrong, was walking through a community, he had every right to be in and it went on from there. But it was a strong beginning for the prosecution.
MORGAN: I also thought it was very effective by Bernie de la Rionda, was the way that he waved together all the statements that George Zimmerman had given and interviews he'd given to the media, pointing out inconsistencies and suggesting that he had been almost re-inventing parts of what happened according to the kind of questions he'd been asked.
SAVIDGE: Right. And this was a luxury that was provided actually by the defendant himself because he'd made so many statements. He made a number on them to police. A lot of them were audio tapes. He made videotape reenactments. He'd been on television telling people about what he did. So they took all those words in the trial and used it against him and Bernie summed it up again today. Only he called those inconsistencies something else. He called them lies and at times he screamed about them to that jury. Again, from today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: He's got this gun in his holster, and you'll see in a few minutes, maybe more than a few minutes, one of the things that he does, he demonstrates to the police where he had the gun, and it wasn't right here in the front. It was towards the back, and it was hidden and he'll demonstrate to the police out there where it was.
Look at the gun. Look at the size of this gun. How did the victim see that in the darkness? He's saying that armpit. How does he get the gun out? Armpits. How does he get the gun out?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: And it was a powerful moment, and he sort of backed that up by then later holding up the Skittles. It's the candy that Trayvon Martin had. In one hand he's got the gun that was used to kill the teen. In the other, he's holding the candy that the teen had gone to buy.
The jury really was listening intently, Piers. MORGAN: Yes, it was very, very powerful.
Martin Savidge, thank you very much indeed. Tomorrow, jut quickly for us, sum up what you think will happen tomorrow.
SAVIDGE: Well, of course, starting at 8:30 in the morning Mark O'Mara has to now come after this with the defense. He'll go for about three hours. He does not write it down. It's adlib. He's got it in his head. He's got a few bullet points. He will carefully watch that jury and at any point he thinks he's losing them, he'll shift, he'll adjust, he'll shorten if need be, but he's going to be very different than the way you heard Bernie de la Rionda.
MORGAN: Martin Savidge, thank you very much indeed.
With me now is Daryl Parks. He's a co-counsel for the Martin family.
Daryl, welcome back. Very dramatic day today. And as I said to Martin Savidge there, very compelling to watch. A lot of inconsistencies highlighted by the prosecution against George Zimmerman.
How do you feel the day went?
DARYL PARKS, MARTIN FAMILY CO-COUNSEL: I think the day was very strong, and Piers, I think you pointed out right the inconsistencies Bernie used that to show that this jury should not believe anything that he says and that at the end of the day Trayvon Martin did nothing to cause his own death.
MORGAN: At one stage the prosecution asked for a lesser charge of manslaughter in the third -- sorry, murder in the third degree to be introduced. What was the purpose of that because it got rejected?
PARKS: Well, as I heard, they were attempting to use that with the possibility that there was a lesser part of that involved child abuse that would have in essence given them a third bite at the apple in a situation. However, I think that what they did do was very good in that you have the possibility of second degree murder and a manslaughter, which will be charged tomorrow during the charge conference.
MORGAN: In terms of all the emotions running high around this case, Daryl, tell me about the family. You've been close to then as are other members of the legal team. How are they baring up with it all? Because to us this is a great trial to follow and analyze and debate. To them, this is about the death of their son.
PARKS: Well, it's very emotional and, you know, we have to always remember even as a legal team and although they're somewhat involved in the media I think not making any appearances right now, it's very personal to them and you may have seen they have with them Sybrina's mom is here, one of Tracy's very good friends is here. Sybrina's bother is also here, as well as the CEO of their foundation. Very personal for them. They are very tired at this point. It's been a very, very long enduring four weeks for them, and so they are trying to do their best to make it to the end. But as you know, there was a lot of emotional testimony this week, for example, to sit through the defense case and to hear people make statements that all of us knew were not true or lack good foundation was very tough for them.
However, today they were very encouraged by what Bernie de la Rionda did, a very powerful closing statement and they are anticipating equally good rebuttal closing by John Guy tomorrow.
MORGAN: Daryl Parks, thank you very much indeed.
PARKS: Thank you very having me.
MORGAN: Let's turn now to CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and former New York state Supreme Court justice, Leslie Crocker Snyder.
Welcome to you both.
Jeffrey, where are we?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I thought it was a really good opening of the summation. I thought, you know, putting in context not that this crime began on the night that Trayvon Martin died, but it began when George Zimmerman became more and more obsessed with these prowlers in the neighborhood and he got more and more angry.
And that -- I thought that was very effective. Where I thought it was less effective was all the use in the second half of all the so-called inconsistencies. None of them jumped out to me as bald faced lies, and I thought building your entire summation or the entire second half around George Zimmerman's own words rather than the testimony of others, I thought that was problematic, and I think that was a weakness in the summation.
MORGAN: Judge Leslie, apparently, it is standard practice under Florida law to bring in second-degree murder in cases like this, manslaughter as an option at this stage. Some are spinning this as the kind of victory for the state but I wouldn't appear to be the case. It's almost a mandatory thing. But do you think that manslaughter is a more likely verdict here given all you've heard?
JUDGE LESLIE CROCKER SNYDER, FORMER NEW YORK STATE SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Definitely, and in most states, any reasonable view of the evidence that would support manslaughter would -- it would be given anyhow. But I think that the -- my own view is that the state has presented a weak case as to murder and I think many people feel that way but a stronger case as to manslaughter.
And also in terms of what you said, Jeff, I agree, but it's hard to judge the prosecution's summation until we hear their rebuttal after the defense because I think the defense is going to do a brilliant job of destroying a lot of the points that have been made.
MORGAN: Do you think generally the defense has done a better job than the prosecution from a legal point of view?
SNYDER: I think they've both done a good job but I think the defense has done a superb job and they've had a good no nonsense judge whom I -- kind of like the way I think I was when I was on the bench, you know.
MORGAN: Would you be annoyed by Don West and the way he's gone about his business or is that just far from the court?
SNYDER: It's so standard. I'm surprised --
TOOBIN: Yes. That's --
SNYDER: You know, Jeffrey was all like --
MORGAN: Let's hear a bit of it so the viewers know what I'm talking about and then I'll ask you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE DEBRA NELSON, SEMINOLE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: I've heard the argument from both sides. I am not giving that instruction.
DON WEST, ZIMMERMAN DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We submit that's an integral part of our theory of defense and the court is in error --
NELSON: And you can --
WEST: -- by not instructing the law -- this jury properly on the law. And --
NELSON: I understand. I've already ruled and you have -- you continually disagree with this court every time I make a ruling. I have provided you on three separate occasions with the court's professional conduct in the courtroom and included in that is do not continue to argue with the court after we've ruled.
If I have made a mistake in this case, you will appeal. If there is a conviction, it will get upheld -- appealed to a higher court, and they can review it to determine whether or not I made a mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNYDER: What I love about her is that she doesn't really show completely how exasperated she is. And I do think she seems exasperated. But the truth is this is so standard. I mean, we're New Yorkers.
SNYDER: So we see this every day in the courtroom. I mean, judges get into it with lawyers, lawyers -- for one thing I think that he had an absolute right to be outraged when the defense asked for this third degree murder lesser out of the blue.
MORGAN: Going to be trying it up, right?
SNYDER: Well, it's just -- I mean, it was unfair surprise. It was ridiculous and -- the only different if I had been there I would have ruled immediately no. But I think she was right to consider it and reject it. And this was not a big controversy.
TOOBIN: Remember how hard they're working and how the hours they've been working.
SNYDER: Yes. The hours.
TOOBIN: They are frustrated. They are tired. The stakes are enormous. This is literally life or death. You know, this is -- this is not --
MORGAN: And people are watching this around the world.
MORGAN: I want to play, Jeffrey, what I think is one of the key moments today. This is about a teenager is dead. This is the clip that resonated most for me today because it cuts to the quick of whether there will be conviction here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: A teenager is dead.. He is dead through no fault of his own. He is dead because another man made assumptions, unfortunately, because his assumptions were wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks on this earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Now you see, that is all indisputably true, isn't it?
TOOBIN: No question. And I thought -- particularly in that part of the summation, you know, it got us back to why this story became a national phenomenon is because how can we live in a country where a 17-year-old African American walks down a rainy street to buy some Skittles, to buy an iced tea, comes home to watch the NBA All-Star game and gets killed in the process?
How can we live in that kind of country and that outrage was captured in that part of the summation.
SNYDER: And this is the tragedy of the case and we all feel it. But we still have to come back to what is the prosecution's strategy in this case? What is their theory? I did not hear in that summation what their theory was of exactly what happened. They asked a lot of questions, they showed inconsistencies very effectively, maybe not such great inconsistencies as you pointed out.
But what are they -- what are they telling the jury actually happened? Where is -- this is what happened on this terrible night.
MORGAN: And from your eyes, Judge Leslie, what is the crucial part of the narrative that could determine whether George Zimmerman is found guilty or not guilty?
SNYDER: The crucial part is whether the state can actually disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense. That is --
MORGAN: Because in his head, he believed he was in imminent danger of his life.
SNYDER: That's absolutely right. And the question is, did he act in self-defense at the critical moment or did he act out of hatred, malice, evil intent.
MORGAN: Right. Now this, Jeffrey, brings me back to what I think is one of the other crucial parts of this. I've been banging on about this night after night. If somebody on a call to the authorities called his mate, says these A-holes, these f-ing punks, they're always getting away with it, he is profiling this kid as a potential criminal.
TOOBIN: Well, not necessarily. I mean --
MORGAN: What else is he doing?
TOOBIN: Well, remember, he is a neighborhood patrol officer. His job is to try to stop crime in this neighborhood, and there was nothing inherently wrong with being a neighborhood patrol officer. They are not all crazy wannabe violent cops. They are people who care about their neighborhoods.
As we heard at the end of this -- at the end of the defense case, there was a terrible crime right in this neighborhood that Zimmerman was very concerned about the victims. So the fact that people are getting away with crime and he's upset about it, doesn't necessarily make him a racist, a thug or guilty of this murder.
MORGAN: Jeffrey Toobin, Judge Leslie, it's a fascinating case. It's why everyone is gripped by it. Thank you both for joining me and we will wait with baited breath for a verdict.
Coming next, what the defense has to do tomorrow to win. I'll talk exclusively to Casey Anthony's defense attorney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DE LA RIONDA: I have a dream that today a witness would be judged not on the color of her personality but of the content of her testimony. On the content of her testimony.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: An incredible moment from today's closing argument. Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda invoking Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech in discussing the testimony and character of Rachel Jeantel. What impact did it have on the six women.
With me now exclusively is J. Cheney Mason who defended Casey Anthony in her murder trial.
Cheney, welcome back. A very dramatic day there. How did you think when they finished that Bernie de la Rionda did?
J. CHENEY MASON, DEFENDED CASEY ANTHONY: Well, I didn't get to see all of it. But what I did see was -- he was, you know, pretty thorough and a little emotional, but, you know, he has his strategy and his plans. I don't know what they are necessarily. But they carry the burden and seems to me that he told the jury all the things that probably need to do to establish the elements that they need to prove, whether he did or not we'll find out in a couple of days.
MORGAN: Invoking Martin Luther King there, a good strategy or not to bring race front and center into this trial when people have been perhaps tactfully trying to avoid that?
MASON: Well, you know, Piers, everybody has tried to tiptoe around about this. This case has been about race from the beginning. And I'm sorry if some people don't like to hear that. But it's evident that it has been and it can't presume the evidence of it because they didn't have admissions to say it, but, you know, you get to be my age doing this long, you know what's real.
You see it and commentators and journalists and various programs, African-American journalists, see the evidence through their prism of believing the prosecution and most of the Caucasian reporters see it a different way.
Race has been here from the beginning. It's going to be here through the verdict and it's going to be here after the verdict. And it's unfortunate, but it's the reality. People need to face it and quit tiptoeing.
MORGAN: One of the other key points today I thought in this summary was when he pointed out to everyone from George Zimmerman's own words, really. He was asked directly why didn't he introduce himself as a neighborhood watch official? And he just said well, I was scared.
It seemed to be an unlikely situation that someone who is an experienced neighborhood watch official would be too scared when confronted by a 17-year-old boy to state that fact. MASON: Well, and particularly if you have been on it for some period of time and have a semiautomatic pistol on your hip. I don't know how scared you'd be. I think you would have been emboldened.
MORGAN: Right. And even if he was punched first, as he claims, wouldn't you just stand back and go wait, whoa, whoa, whoa, I'm neighborhood watch. I don't understand why that wouldn't be the first thing that you would say.
MASON: Well, you know, there you go with commonsense again. What's the matter with you?
Well, of course. That would have been the smart thing to do. We wouldn't be here and that kid wouldn't be dead. He could have just simply identified himself and told him, you know, I just want to know what you're doing and presumably he would have said well, I'm here at my father's house. He's right over here, and, you know, good-bye.
But it's unfortunate and none of us know exactly what happened out there. But clearly, you're right, had he done that I'm willing to submit that never would have been a further confrontation and maybe the sheriffs would have come there and verified who this kid was and everybody gone on about their business, watching the basketball game or whatever.
MORGAN: What we now know, Cheney, since I last spoke to you is we know the criteria that will be on the table for this jury. We know they can go for second-degree murder, for manslaughter or for an acquittal. What do you make of that? I mean, do you think there should have been any other options that can be presented to them or is that a satisfactory choice?
MASON: I think that is the choice and what you have to understand, and once again there have been some analysts that don't understand Florida law and even some from Florida don't know it that we have lesser included offenses under Florida law in different categories.
Category one lesser included offenses are known as necessarily lesser included offenses. In a case of second-degree murder, there is one necessarily included category one and that is manslaughter. After murder two it is manslaughter.
If either side asks for it, the judge has to give. This is no alarming deal in court. This is nothing that required research or any surprise, trick or anything else. It was automatic. And the lawyers knew it from the very first day they got in this case, or they should have and I'm sure they did. I know these lawyers.
MORGAN: So some people that are making a big deal of a state victory because they got manslaughter introduced, that's all nonsense really. It was always going to be on the table?
MASON: It's not even nonsense. Of course it's going to be on the table. It's automatic. All it takes, as I said, is one side or the other to ask for the court to give an instruction on a category one lesser included offense and it will be given. No reason to argue about it and discuss it. Try to do anything else.
Now you have different categories two and three and what the state was trying to do today was, indeed, pretty bizarre to come in at the last minute and go to a non-category one lesser included offense of third degree murder.
That was silly, and they wasted a lot of time and my friend Don West nearly had a heart attack over there, but the judge did the right thing and it's over.
MORGAN: Let's listen to Don West exploding over that particular moment. We got a clip of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEST: Oh, my god, just when I thought this case couldn't get any more bizarre. The state is seeking third degree murder based on child abuse? Is the court going to give this any serious contention or consideration? Because if so, we have a lot of talking to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I mean, it's pretty rich of him to talk about a bizarre state of affairs, given he was the one that opened the proceedings with a knock-knock joke.
MASON: Yes, well --
I'm sure he'll live that down for a very long time. This case, as far as Don, is going to be -- is going to be about that joke forever. But the bottom line is it was bizarre and for the state to come in at this -- on the morning of argument and try to change the case, I think was in fact disingenuous. It was bizarre and I have to say, I'm sorry, but it was unprofessional and legally incompetent and the judge did the right thing.
MORGAN: Let's just cut to the quick now, Cheney. How long do you think this jury will go out for, and what do you think their likely conclusion is going to be? And I appreciate it's how long as a piece of string, but given your recent experienced opinion.
MASON: My recent experience and my crystal ball that I have on my (INAUDIBLE), that I use, Piers, this case obviously, have you analyzed can go anyway. It can be not guilty, murder two or manslaughter or a hung jury.
What I have seen, and I have not seen it all. I have not seen the jury, and even if I had, I don't know if it would be any better. I believe the state has failed to prove a case of second-degree murder, and I don't think that the jury will buy that. Manslaughter is a different story. I have many years of experience, over 40 in trying homicide cases and there is no such thing as one-free killing. Juries, when they don't have a question as to how somebody died, when they died, who caused them to die, where they died, all the things that we had none of in Casey, and there is a body laying there, genuinely somebody has to price to pay for that.
Now they're going to have a hard time dealing with the concept of reasonable doubt and they don't have to prove anything other than a reasonable doubt as to the self-defense. If I were to sit around with a glass of wine and talk with you and Katy about that, I'd say I think there's a good shot at a manslaughter conviction.
MASON: I also don't think the jury is going to be out that long.
MORGAN: Interesting stuff. Well, they can deliberate all weekend and we can get a result any moment really after I would think tomorrow afternoon.
J. Cheney Mason, thank you very much indeed as always for that perceptive analysis.
MASON: Right. Thank you.
MORGAN: Coming next, so how long do you think it will take for a verdict? Here's a look at the deliberation length for some other high-profile criminal trials.
MORGAN: Zimmerman had no choice but to use his gun against Trayvon Martin. Does that add up to murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault or none of the above? CNN contributor, Defense Attorney Mel Robbins, Defense Attorney Mesereau and Judge Glenda Hatchett, host of "The Judge Hatchett Show."
Tom Mesereau, this is a crucial thing now, I think, which is what directions will this jury do you think will be given in terms of the breadth 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.
THOMAS MESEREAU, JR., CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER: 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 foreperson. They're 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's going to compromise to end this thing and basically say, we'll convict on assault.
MORGAN: And -- and it makes -- it makes a huge difference because the -- we understand, in Florida, for example, second-degree murder has a -- a 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 potential instances (ph) facing George Zimmerman on that.
JUDGE GLENDA HATCHETT, HOST, THE JUDGE HATCHETT SHOW: And -- and Florida really changed a lot about this whole big of it being a gun involved in any of these. And what it says basically also, if a 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 the 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 to compromise verdict on this.
HASTINGS: But that's, I mean, that's a real, real big battle that we're going to see in the morning before the jury is instructed.
MORGAN: Well, and Mel Robbins, you see, I keep coming again (ph) 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.
MEL ROBBINS, HLN CONTRIBUTOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it certainly seems that way. And -- and you know, as a mother of three kids, I -- you know, I sit in court everyday 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 -- 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's happened beyond a reasonable doubt. And without understanding that kind of initial confrontation, you've got to really, really tough hill to climb in terms of being the prosecution. Now, the only thing that I see is a possibility here because I do believe that this jury will buy into the self-defense claim.
And that wipes out murder to it. 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's been 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.
HASTINGS: 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 the self-defense in that regard.
MORGAN: OK. But this one...
HASTINGS: And that's why the defense is arguing so hard against these lesser-included offenses. They don't want those charges.
MORGAN: Absolutely, yes. Got to move on quickly, just, Tom, I'll come to you about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the only surviving Boston marathon bomber pleaded not guilty today to 30 federal charges. What do you think the rationale is behind what many view as a very surprising decision by him to say I had nothing to do with this?
MESEREAU: Oh, 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.
Tom Mesereau, Judge Hatchett and Mel Robbins, thank you all very much indeed.
Coming next, more on self-defense and Zimmerman trial and also how race is playing into this case.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MORGAN: Zimmerman says 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 a host of the "Daily Webb Show," 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 to the end now.
Race is an inescapable huge part of this, regardless of what has played out in court.
CHARLES BLOW, OP-ED COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: 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 how of whether -- how much race had to do with the actual incident itself.
But I think one thing is -- 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 truly egalitarian.
You -- 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 -- you know, in order to buy his explanation of it, which is that they had had break-ins before...
BLOW: ...and this is 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...
BLOW: ...apartment complex and he (ph) -- who might have been visiting. I lived on my block for 14 years. I can't identify everybody...
MORGAN: I would know who lives upstairs. And...
BLOW: ...so what -- what is it? Yes.
MORGAN: Let me ask you, David Webb. I mean, people have been arriving (ph) by the point, look, you know, there are -- every -- 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 towards this case and not to 70 shot in Chicago?
DAVID WEBB, HOST, THE DAVID WEBB SHOW: Or to Trevor Dooley (ph) who by the way is a black man who was (inaudible) 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 -- 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 ongoing. Then the special interest got, as I called them, get involved and then you get some of the people who -- well, they profit off race. They profit off pushing it (ph)...
MORGAN: But -- but let me stop you there because although that is all true in terms of the way you've -- you've 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.
MORGAN: Not (ph) being charged anything and (ph) go home so you're fine.
WEBB: And if it had been a black man shooting a white or a black on black, it would have been a different dynamics.
MORGAN: Hard to -- hard to imagine, he would have been allowed to walk home. I mean, I don't know for sure but hard to imagine that.
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. And none of us really do.
MORGAN: I suspect he's not a racist. I suspect basically...
WEBB: That's right.
MORGAN: ...he's basically a thug profiler who... (CROSSTALK)
WEBB: Thug profiler pretending criminal...
MORGAN: ...wanting to be a cop (ph). 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. He's profiling a thug. He's profiling on his what I call watch commander complex.
WEBB: To me, these are two elements. If you look at it this passionately, that should never have crossed each other's path. And that's where this begins.
What happened in those two key minutes and the incidents 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 we do have a problem with murders of black man 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: I -- I agree with that.
And Charles Blow, one of the problems here is that the Florida law is the Florida law. It is the law of the state.
MORGAN: 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.
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?
MORGAN: I mean, we don't actually know, do we?
BLOW: Right. It's -- it's a matter of what he believes, right? And -- and to figure out what he believes, you also have to believe his story. Now, in order to get to the point where...
MORGAN: Do you?
BLOW: Well, to hear 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: Before (ph) that (ph) anyway. But you have to believe him in order to...
MORGAN: But where -- but Charles, let me ask you this question.
BLOW (ph): Here is the problem.
MORGAN: Where has anybody directly contradicted evidentially...
MORGAN: ...something material and important that George Zimmerman has said?
BLOW: Well, this is -- well, here, the...
MORGAN: And his statements from...
MORGAN: ...the very next day.
BLOW: Right. So here are a couple, right? So there is the idea that in -- 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 we see Trayvon is standing, there are no bushes to be seen anywhere.
In addition to that, George gets out with a flashlight, a small one on his key chain and 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 the...
MORGAN: But OK, OK...
BLOW: We're -- we're both bald. How do you grab a head and smash it if -- if I'm wet and it's raining outside, how do I...
MORGAN: It's a -- it's a good point.
BLOW: ...how do I do this? I mean, it's just a real (ph) problem (ph)...
MORGAN: That's a good point.
But what I want to say -- but I would say, David, is that, you know, you're talking about if you believe Zimmerman's version of events, he's pretty well concussed (ph)...
MORGAN: ...the beating he says he got, he's not thinking straight. He's probably fired the gun in...
WEBB: When you're in a fight...
MORGAN: There's the tug of war that comes with all these things.
MORGAN: 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 all this together, there is evidence that supports on one side the Zimmerman story -- who was on top, who was on the bottom? The screams are being pushed aside.
Those are all subjective and superfluous being brought into somehow create just like profiling, which by the way, was not a tool and the instrument or in the charge but not to be used to charge.
MORGAN: The screams are important in this case and the defense today got a big win because the prosecution suddenly seemed to concede that it was Trayvon on top.
MORGAN: And I just don't think somebody on top is the one crying out help. It doesn't make sense. (CROSSTALK)
BLOW: There's one -- there's -- there's one circumstance under which he took it.
MORGAN: Right. But it's a position that the prosecution seem to withdraw (ph).
BLOW: There is one circumstance in which that could be true. Number one, it -- it fights against the idea that he unholstered the weapon while he was on the ground, which is he is the only person saying that.
No one has made (ph) -- corroborate that. And what the prosecution was trying to do was to say, it is virtually impossible for this 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 fire.
That -- I think that that was what the prosecution was trying to do, not necessarily to change their story.
MORGAN: Final -- go (ph) -- final question, what do you think they're going to do...
BLOW: I have no idea. I won't -- I mean, I just don't know these jurors. I don't know how they will consider the evidence.
And I don't know what -- what the instructions will be from the judge. I just can't.
WEBB: I -- I think the prosecution has not made the case for second-degree -- second-degree murder...
MORGAN: 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, thank you, both, very much. The George Zimmerman trial at times feeling stranger than fiction. What does a man behind the burden of proof and presumed innocent and perhaps an attorney, think of it all? Scoot 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 arriving at the wreckage. We want to be in the sight where their daughters lost their Back lives.
Back now to the George Zimmerman trial -- murder trial, which is a true-life twists and turns you expect in legal novels and at the movies. Scott Turow has written a string of columns (inaudible) presumed innocent. His new book, "Identical", comes out this fall. 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?
TUROW: Well, you know, I look at it first 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 any reasonable doubt what occurred. But the larger cultural significance of the case is probably where the novel and the -- the books that would -- that will be written about this matter, that's where the -- well, the heart of the matter lies and really why you've been covering it. And...
MORGAN: I mean, here's -- here's a question I think that, you know, someone just raised to me during the break now, 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, that 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 -- if -- 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 that, I mean, they -- they didn't actually bring stand your ground into this case in the end, although they thought about it. But there are lots of cases now in Florida -- 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.
MORGAN: I mean, the thing is a total farce, isn't it?
TUROW: Well, it -- it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. The -- 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 -- that both of these men, with -- 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 -- the classic learning on this, I think that the prosecution is hoping that they see Trayvon as -- as their child. And they may.
But the classic learning is that -- that -- 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 entity (ph). So it could go -- it could go either way.
MORGAN: But in terms of the performance of the two teams, I think the -- 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 -- 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 -- for not trying to show the jury everything.
MORGAN: If we -- if we go to the last page of a book you had written about this case, Scott, would you have guilty or not guilty?
TUROW: I -- 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 -- that's where they were at in Sanford, Florida.
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 CNN Special, "Self-Defense or Murder: the George Zimmerman Trial," starts in just a few moments.