Return to Transcripts main page


Jury Deliberates in George Zimmerman Case; Edward Snowden Surfaces; Human Rights Watch Official Interviewed on Snowden Case

Aired July 12, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are now on George Zimmerman verdict watch.

I'm Jake Tapper. And this is THE LEAD.

The national lead: After three weeks of emotional and dramatic testimony, six female jurors are now deciding the fate of George Zimmerman and deciding whether it was murder or self-defense.

George Zimmerman's attorney made one final pitch to the jury today hammering home the notion of reasonable doubt, saying there's too many could-have-beens to convict. We will hear from him, the man who orchestrated the closing arguments, attorney Mark O'Mara.

And our world lead, catch me if you can. We're getting our first look at Edward Snowden since he went underground with hard drives bursting with U.S. government secrets. Is he now planning to stay in Russia? We will talk to someone who was face to face with him in the room today.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We will begin with the national lead and our continuous coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial, which has brought a renewed focus to issues of race, racial profiling and self-defense.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that jury room in Sanford, Florida, as six women try to answer the question that has captivated the country, did George Zimmerman kill Trayvon Martin in self-defense or was it murder? Deliberations began about an hour-and-a-half ago.

And it's anyone's guest as to how long it will take them to reach a verdict. This morning, both sides in the case got a chance to make their final pitch to the jury. Defense attorney Mark O'Mara was there, and both conversational and meticulous in his closing arguments. He asked the jury to focus on one key factor in this case, reasonable doubt.


MARK O'MARA, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: How many could-have-beens have you heard from the state in this case?

How many what-ifs have you heard from the state in this case? And they don't -- I don't think anyway -- they don't get to ask you that. I don't think they get to say to you, what do you think? No, no, no. No, no, no. What have I proven to you? What have I convinced you beyond a reasonable doubt occurred in this case so much so that you have don't have any reasonable doubt as to those issues that I presented to you?

The state has to take you from somewhere down here before there's any evidence and he's sort of presumed to be not guilty all the way up the list in your mind.


TAPPER: When the state got a chance to rebut those closing arguments, prosecutor John Guy, well, he tried to push the jurors' emotional buttons. He laid out his version of what happened that night.


JOHN GUY, FLORIDA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Let's start at the 7-Eleven, where that child had every right to be where he was. That child had every right to do what he was doing, walking home.

That child had every right to be afraid of a strange man following him, first in his car and then on foot. And did that child not have the right to defend himself from that strange man? Did Trayvon Martin not also have that right?


TAPPER: Let's go live now to CNN's Martin Savidge in Sanford, Florida.

Martin, you were in the courtroom for both of these very powerful presentations from the state and the defense. What key moments stood out for you?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jake, there were so many of them, really, it's very hard to sort of narrow it down.

Of course, Mark O'Mara, he went on actually for three hours. There was a 15-minute break in between about halfway. He touched on a lot of things, but burden of proof, as you saw there, that was a key part of it. He said really the state has to prove its case against my client and then he went on saying all the could-haves and would-haves in that rather indiscriminate and nondefinite kind of language.

But then he said, you know what? I'm going to do something I don't have to do. I'm going to prove my client is innocent and then he launches into what was a fairly strong and point-by-point breakdown of what the defense's case had been. He even showed every witness that had testified. And he talked about why this mattered and what was important what they said mattered and why what this other person said didn't matter. That was something.

And he wasn't afraid to use theatrics. At one point, he brought out these large cutouts, cardboard cutouts, that one was -- he said they were life-size. I really couldn't tell, but they looked life-size. One was George Zimmerman, of course. And one was Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie, but only an outline.

And then the other thing he did was he brought out this huge chunk of concrete to say this really could be a weapon. And you could sense its heft. And then the other thing was, he had four minutes of silence, which was really unusual. He said, look, I'm just going to stop talking and you will hear from me in a bit. And he wandered around that courtroom, didn't say a word. He fiddled with this things.

He would sit down and talk with members of defense team. Four minutes went by of silence. And people were riveted. And then he got up and said that is how much time he says Trayvon Martin had to run away. Powerful. Very powerful.

Then John Guy, he comes up and he says, you know what? It was all lies. And he marches through in a very effective telling, too. They both have an understated tone, very quiet, matter of fact. It seemed that the jurors were listening to both of them many very, very closely. And finally John Guy said, you know what? There may not have been the blood of George Zimmerman on Trayvon Martin's hands, but George Zimmerman will always have the blood of Trayvon Martin on his hands, again, powerful lines delivered today, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Martin, I always want to know what you see when you are in the room there and you see the jurors' expressions, the jurors' faces. Is there any you can discern at all in terms of how effective the closing arguments and the state's rebuttal might have been?

SAVIDGE: If you saw any of us in the courtroom, we were all -- you just could just see our necks craning because we were constantly focused on that jury to read something.

They were as they have always been. They were very attentive, they were closely watching. Once maybe during Mark O'Mara's presentation, I saw one alternate sort of nodding in agreement, but that was it. It would be impossible, I would say, by my untrained mind to tell what they were thinking other than they watched it all and drank it all in, as they have every day.

TAPPER: Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

Here with us today to break down the closing arguments are our team of legal experts, Tom Mesereau, criminal defense attorney, former attorney for Michael Jackson's defense team, also criminal defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden, who was on Casey Anthony's legal team and also defended Phil Spector, and of course senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, I'm going to start with you.

Let's take a look at what you have called the key moment from the defense today.


O'MARA: He could have been backing up, could have been. If I was arguing that, I would be arguing to you reasonable doubt. You know, it could have happened this way. It could have been that he was backing up.

Well, I don't know. I almost made light of it when I say, well, he could have been backing up to strike another blow, but the could-have- beens don't belong in this courtroom.


TAPPER: Jeff, why does that stand out so much for you?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Because the defense was pointing out that the prosecution has never laid out precisely how this crime unfolded, who was on top first, who was the aggressor throughout this fight, when did the altercation between these two begin. And what I thought Mark O'Mara did so successfully, particularly in that part of the summation, was to say, look, you can't convict someone if the prosecution is saying, well, it might have happened this way and it could have happened that way.

That was very effective because that ultimately is the heart of the defense, is that they say the prosecution has not proved precisely what happened between these two people.

TAPPER: Linda Kenney Baden, was there any part of the rebuttal from prosecutor John Guy that stood out to you?

LINDA KENNEY BADEN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, I couldn't pick a portion.

It was the whole thing because it brought the emotional aspect of this case back. This was a child and John Guy holds up a picture with a bullet wound through Trayvon's heart, and talked about his heart. If there's any strength to the prosecution case, Jake, it's that these jurors may say, yes, it could have been self-defense but ultimately we're all mothers or we're pet owners and a child died here.

What is this case really about? A child who died and we have to hold someone responsible. So I thought Guy of all the prosecutors was the most effective, far more effective than Bernie de la Rionda yesterday.

TAPPER: Tom Mesereau, break it down for us? What do you say, what do you think were the key themes from both sides today?

THOMAS MESEREAU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think the key themes are responsibility vs. reasonable doubt.

From the prosecution's point of view, this entire event began when George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin, disobeyed the police and went after him, disobeyed the homeowners association rules and confronted a suspect, brought deadly force to the equation, and now says I had to defend myself because of a situation I created.

From the point of view of the defense, the whole issue is reasonable doubt. I thought Mark O'Mara's chart on reasonable doubt was very effective. That's the same chart I used in the closing argument in the Michael Jackson criminal trial and I actually borrowed the chart from Johnnie Cochran, who used it in the O.J. Simpson criminal trial.

It's a very effective way of explaining how tough a burden reasonable doubt is. You go up the scale of, is it probably guilty, guilt is certain, guilt is likely. You show how all of these very strong burdens of proof are lower than prove beyond any reasonable doubt. I thought all the closing arguments were very effective, but it's responsibility vs. reasonable doubt as I see the case.

TAPPER: We have heard over and over from the prosecution that Trayvon Martin was unarmed the night he was killed. He only had Skittles and an iced tea, but the defense countered that today, saying he used the concrete as a weapon by slamming George Zimmerman's head into it.

And to illustrate the point, Mark O'Mara actually brought a piece of cement in the courtroom. Let's take a look.


O'MARA: And then it was said -- how many times was it said that Trayvon Martin was unarmed?

Now, I will be held in contempt if I drop this, so I'm not going to do some drama and drop it on the floor and watch it roll around. But that is cement. That is a sidewalk. And that is not an unarmed teenager with nothing but Skittles trying to get home.


TAPPER: Jeffrey, first of all, I love the idea that he says he's not going to do any drama, but he's basically inviting people -- first of all, he's doing this very dramatic like this, but then also he's basically inviting the jury to imagine him dropping this what is obviously a very heavy piece of concrete.

Do you think that that had an impact on the jury?

TOOBIN: Well, I think the argument is really right there for the jury to consider, and this is one of the great paradoxes of this case, something I have wondered about from the beginning, because we all know that George Zimmerman suffered some injuries and he had a bloody head and he had a bloody nose.

And the defense has been saying from the beginning that that's because Trayvon Martin was pounding his head against the concrete. But were these injuries really very serious? Was that concrete really very damaging to George Zimmerman?

You know, he was not seriously injured. So the jury is left in the position of asking the question, is that concrete something that really did serious damage or just did a little bit of damage and provoked a wild overreaction that resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin?

TAPPER: Linda, do you think that display was enough to counter claims from the medical examiner that George Zimmerman's injuries were ultimately really not that significant? BADEN: No, I don't. But by the same token -- Tom Mesereau have a habit of agreeing with each other on your show -- by the same token, it's George Zimmerman's reasonable fear. And the problem is, is that he's so flawed to begin with because talk about impression evidence, he thought that Trayvon could be a burglar, that maybe in his flawed reasoning he overreacted, but it's his reasoning that counts, and under the circumstances, that reasoning could be real.

And that's the problem the prosecution has to overcome, when Mark O'Mara says this is a case about what George Zimmerman believed and did he believe he was in danger of his safety.

TAPPER: We're going to take a, very, very quick break.

Still ahead on THE LEAD, the jury now has the case and our verdict watch continues. What is going on in the jury room at this moment? Our legal experts will break it down.

Plus, some new details in the crash of Asiana Flight 214. Police are saying now what they think happened to that young girl found dead on the runway. Stick around. We will be right back.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, and our continuing coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial.

Jury deliberations got under way a couple hours ago. And the reason we just played that fancy music for you with the graphic saying "just in" because we just received a statement from Zimmerman's family and we're going to read to you.

Quote, "From the onset this tragic event, our family has been clear to express our trust in the judicial system. A jury of one's peers is the hall mark of our country's judicial system. The American justice system is the finest in the world. George's fate is now in the hands of jury, who will make their decision based on the evidence and the facts of the case. As we await a verdict we will remain hopeful and ask for a public to remain peaceful, no matter the outcome. Though we maintain George committed no crime whatsoever, we acknowledged that people who called for George's arrest and subsequent trial have now witnessed both events come to pass. We hope now as Americans that we will all respect the rule of law, which begins with respecting the verdict. The judicial system has run its course -- pray for justice, pray for peace, pray for our country," close quote.

Let's go back to our panel now: Tom Mesereau, Jeffrey Toobin and Linda Kenney Baden.

Prosecutor John guy hammered on a key point during his closing rebuttal, that if Zimmerman had just stayed in his car, Trayvon Martin would still be alive today.

Let's play some of that. We don't have a sound bite there ready.

So in any case, that is the point he was trying to make, that if he just stayed in his car, none of this would have happened. Jeff, this is critical to the whole case. Is it still self-defense if you're the one to approach someone in this thing that became a conflict? What do you think?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It is self-defense if you're merely approaching someone and that person attracts you. There's no doubt under the law that that's the case. But I do think it's a good point that John Guy made, which is, you know, if Zimmerman had simply stayed in the car, nothing would have happened.

But having gotten out of the car, he had the right to walk, walk around, talk to Trayvon Martin. And so, it's not a complete answer to the situation to say that if he just stayed in the car. He got out of the car. We obviously all know that. And he is entitled to defend himself once he did that.

The question is, will the jury find that's what he -- that's what he did?

TAPPER: Tom Mesereau, has the focus on everything from the phone calls to the injuries to who was on top, does that all detract from this central question?

TOM MESEREAU, REPRESENTATED MICHAEL JACKSON: Well, the defense certainly hopes it does. I mean, the defense has thrown every possibility, every unknown fact out there for the jury to consider.

And when it comes to reasonable doubt, nobody really knows what it means. I mean, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So they're saying every unproven fact, every unanswered question, every possibility alone and in composite show reasonable doubt.

You expect the defense to do that. The prosecution has been burden by the fact that the only one alive who witnessed these events is Zimmerman. I think when the verdict comes in, one thing that people are going to debate for a while is was the prosecution smart or ill advised to bring in Zimmerman's taped statements?

Because they didn't have to do that. And by doing that, they gave him the opportunity not to testify.

You know, in the Robert Blake case, I didn't want him -- I was his lawyer at the time. I didn't want him to interview with Barbara Walters and he insisted. And during his trial, the prosecutor brought that in. He didn't testify because he didn't have to. He protested his innocence on the tape and was acquitted.

In the Michael Jackson case, the prosecution brought in the Martin Bashir interview with Michael Jackson. By doing that, they allowed me to play out tapes that weren't included in that interview where he protests his innocence. I didn't have to put him on and subject him to cross-examination either and he was acquitted as well.

So, there were a lot of things that we're going to be talking about when the verdict comes in. But right now, again, I think the question is do you hold George Zimmerman responsible for a series of events that he set in motion and for bringing deadly force to the equation, or do you say there's reasonable doubt as to what happened and what Zimmerman was thinking and he's acquitted?

TAPPER: There was a really interesting thing that happened today, an interesting moment, had to do with the use of autopsy photos. We're not going to show them. But the prosecution did show them to the jury during their closing arguments yesterday. The defense today took a different way.

Let's roll that sound.


MARK O'MARA, ZIMMERMAN DEFENSE ATTORNEY: November 15th, 2011, about two months, three months before Trayvon passed away, (INAUDIBLE), he's a young kid, nice kid, a good kid. Not bad. The problem with it is that when we show you autopsy photographs, they're two things in these autopsy photographs. One, they're horrific and they're meant to have negative impact. The other thing about autopsy photographs, is that there's no muscle tone because there's no nerves, there's no movement. He's lost half his blood, we know that.

So on that picture that we have of him on the medical examiner's table, yes, he does look emaciated. But here's him three months before that night. So it's in evidence. Take a look at it because this is the person and this is the person who George Zimmerman encountered that night.


TAPPER: Interesting moment there, not only for what Mark O'Mara was saying, Linda, but also because Trayvon Martin's mom quite noticeably walked out of the courtroom during that. The prosecution using autopsy photos in their closing statements, especially when they're not making any sort of point about the bullet wound, does the defense have a good argument there?

LINDA KENNEY BADEN, REPRESENTED PHIL SPECTOR: Well, there's no doubt that autopsy photographs for a jury are very upsetting. And they do show the body in the worst condition, you know, when you're used to a child.

By the same token, you know, this is a dangerous argument to say look at -- look, this is what the prosecution is trying to do but here's pictures of the live Trayvon Martin. I'm not sure the jury is going to say look at that muscle-bound kid. They're going to say look at this child who was alive a couple months before the shooting and now look at him.

So, I think it was a very risky move to bring the pictures in. I think you could say it about the autopsy photographs but not bring the pictures in. And, of course, it would be upsetting for the mother. It would be upsetting for any of us if we lost a child.

TAPPER: We're going to take a quick break. We'll have much more with our panel up ahead. What are the make or break moments in the Zimmerman trial.

Plus, of course, other big news going on there. Edward Snowden went underground two weeks ago. But today, the man responsible for leaking government secret showed up in front of cameras in Moscow. One of the few people who was with him in that room joins me next. What did Snowden tell her about his next move?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We're on George Zimmerman verdict watch right now. We also want to also get you up to date on other news.

In the world lead today, he's out of the shadows but still in limbo. After weeks in hiding, today, Edward Snowden finally showed his face and asked for help. But he is not asking for forgiveness.


EDWARD SNOWDEN, NSA LEAKER: A little over a month ago I had a family, a home in paradise and I lived in great comfort. I also had the capability, without any warrant, to search for, seize and read your communications.


TAPPER: The former National Security Agency contractor broke his silence in a meeting today with representatives from human rights organizations at the Moscow airport where he has been hold up for almost three weeks now.

During the press conference, the man responsible for this historic breach of America security appears a little thinner but in good spirits. He's even seen laughing and cracking a joke when an airport announcement interrupted his statement.


SNOWDEN: While the U.S. Constitution marks these programs as legal, my government argues this


SNOWDEN: I've heard this many times over the last couple of weeks.


TAPPER: Snowden is hoping to convince the Russian government to let him stay in Moscow until he can safely travel to Latin America. That's where three countries, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela had offered to take him.

One woman in the room with him today was Tanya Lokshina, Russian program director for Human Rights Watch. Her group wants Russia to consider Snowden's request for asylum. I asked her how Snowden was holding up after weeks in hiding.


TANYA LOKSHINA, RUSSIAN PROGRAM DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: He looked all right and he thought he was doing fine health-wise and his living conditions were quite acceptable. At the same time, he cannot stay in the Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow indefinitely, so he's trying to find a solution.

TAPPER: Did he discuss a preference in terms of which country in Latin America, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela, he would rather seek asylum in?

LOKSHINA: He did not specify but he mentioned Venezuela several times a lot, and he made it very clear that he would have been there already if not for the interference from the United States. He definitely plans to travel to Latin America as far as he says, but as he's not able to do it at this point, he has no other choice but ask Russia for asylum.

TAPPER: And lastly, Tanya, was there any discussion about flight routes out of Russia, how he wants to be able to get to Latin America?

LOKSHINA: No, no discussion of flight routes at all. He just made it very clear that the only reason he's not there is the United States are putting pressure on other countries and he wanted to have his freedom of movement back.

TAPPER: Tanya Lokshina from Human Rights Watch, thank you so much.

LOKSHINA: Thank you.