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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
The George Zimmerman Trial, Not Guilty, Part 1
Aired July 14, 2013 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to this AC 360 special report, THE GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL, NOT GUILTY.
Not guilty. Two words that ended a trial that riveted the country, a trial that brought to the surface difficult questions about justice and race, issues we'll talk about over the next two hours and for days to come, no doubt about it.
For the family and friends of Trayvon Martin, there is no closure. There is no such thing, of course. Not at the end of a trial where a 17-year-old young man, a 17-year-old brother, 17-year-old son is dead. There is no closure, no matter the verdict. After the verdict, Trayvon Martin's father wrote that his heart was broken but his faith is not.
What happens next for George Zimmerman remains to be seen. All we know right now is that the judge said he has no further business with the court. With that, Zimmerman left the courtroom a free man.
Martin Savidge has more on the verdict and what happens next.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the Circuit Court of the 18th Judicial Circuit in and for Seminole County, Florida, "State of Florida versus George Zimmerman," verdict, we the jury find George Zimmerman not guilty. So say we all, foreperson.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a 14-day trial and 16 hours and 20 minutes of deliberations, the weight of facing decades behind bars is lifted.
JUDGE DEBRA NELSON, SEMINOLE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: Your bond will be released. Your GPS monitor will be cut off when you exit the courtroom over here, and you have no further business with the court.
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, DEFENDANT: Thank you, your honor.
SAVIDGE: A few minutes after the verdict, George Zimmerman cracks his first smile. His parents, who both testified on his behalf, seemed to reserve their reaction while in court. His wife Shelley fights back tears after hearing the verdict.
And minutes after it was read, George Zimmerman walks out of the court a free man.
Trayvon Martin's parents, who attended every day of the trial, were not in court for the verdict.
DARYL PARKS, MARTIN FAMILY CO-COUNSEL: First and foremost, on behalf of Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, who are just heartbroken really right now, and we ask that you keep them in your prayers.
SAVIDGE: They spoke through their lawyers and on social media. Tracy Martin tweeting, "God bless me and Sybrina with Tray and even in his death I know my baby proud of the fight we along with all of you put up for him. God bless."
Zimmerman was silent. His attorneys speaking for him.
MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Obviously, we are ecstatic with the results. George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self-defense. I'm glad that the jury saw it that way.
SAVIDGE: Many did not agree.
CROWD: Justice for Trayvon Martin now.
SAVIDGE: Small protests against the verdict popped up around the country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm here to stand against the racist system that has allowed Trayvon Martin to be killed without the prosecution of George Zimmerman. They didn't want to arrest him in the first place.
SAVIDGE: While the protests were largely peaceful, some scary moments in Oakland with protesters smashing the windows of a transit police vehicle.
Today new questions over whether this really is the end for George Zimmerman's criminal case. The NAACP is now calling for new federal civil rights charges.
BEN JEALOUS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: When you look at his comments and when you look at comments made by young black men who lived in that neighborhood about how they felt, especially targeted by him, there is -- there is reason to be concerned that race was a factor in why he targeted young Trayvon.
SAVIDGE: In a statement today, the Justice Department said in part, "Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction."
President Obama, who famously weighed in on the case in the weeks after the shooting, has not touched on possible new charges but did say in a statement today, "The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy, not just for his family or for any one community, but for America. I now ask for every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son."
COOPER: Mark Savidge joins me now live from Sanford, Florida. Is -- do we have any idea where George Zimmerman is now? What he's doing?
SAVIDGE: No. No, we don't, Anderson. Good evening to you, by the way. Right now it's a mystery as to where he is. I would probably -- I think I could say with assurance that he's not in the city of Sanford. And I would be surprised if he is even in the state of Florida. His defense team wants it that way because right now they still feel the threats against him are very real.
COOPER: All right. Joining me now live is CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Mark Nejame, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin, Sunny Hostin, a former federal prosecutor, is going to be joining us shortly, and defense attorneys Danny Cevallos -- with me and Mark Geragos. Mark is co-author of "Mistrial: How the Criminal Justice System Works and Sometimes Doesn't."
Let's just get first impressions. Jeff, I mean --
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I had a contradictory reaction. I thought the jury's verdict was understandable. I'm not sure I would have resolved it the same way, but I certainly wasn't surprised. But I just felt tremendous sadness, too. I thought this is a verdict that will -- a lot of people will view with great cynicism and will not reflect well on the American legal system, on the American government. And so I felt -- I felt sad about that, but I also felt the jury -- it was a very understandable verdict.
DANNY CEVALLOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I thought it was a -- I thought it was the correct verdict. In any verdict watch, whether it's a case of my own or a case like this that I'm observing, as the time approaches the verdict, everyone second guesses. I have to admit, I believed not guilty for months and months and months, since the inception of this case.
But as the last few hours before the verdict approach, and when that question came out about manslaughter, I have to say I started to doubt my own convictions. And I think that happens to everybody. I think everybody would admit on some level, no matter how convinced they were in the moments, the hour before, they may have changed their mind once or twice.
COOPER: Mark Geragos, I know you have been very against the prosecution for a long time. There are some who say the district attorney overcharged in this case. What was your impression when you heard the verdict?
MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Look, I -- Anderson, I've been saying for weeks, this case was going to end in a not guilty. I also said that I thought that the prosecution was throwing the case, meaning I didn't think that they were legitimately trying this case.
I will echo Jeff. I have very mixed emotions about this. I assume there's other lawyers like myself who on Friday I defend -- I had a 17-year-old African-American client. Tomorrow I have a couple of cases involving African-American clients. I think that the system is racist.
I think the system does not get it right a lot of the times. I think this verdict was the just or right verdict, but for all the wrong reasons. And that's going to take us a lot longer than we've got here to discuss it. I mean --
COOPER: Well, explain what you mean if you can.
GERAGOS: There's so many problems with this. There's so many problems with this case. Number one, George Zimmerman, if he was anybody but a cop, would have been anywhere else in America, and anybody who's ever been in the criminal justice system or done civil rights work, will tell you he would have been arrested first and they would have asked questions later.
They never would have let him out that evening unless he was a cop. So I understand having done this for 30 years why people are insane about that because I would be insane about that if it was my client's family.
Having said that, once they put on this case and we saw how they were putting on this case, and I told you every night as much sympathy as I have for Trayvon Martin's family, this prosecution was abysmal. And it was abysmal for a lot of reasons. And I don't understand how the jury could have come and specifically how that jury could have come to any other conclusion.
And when people say this is not about race, remember what happened the very first day or second day of jury selection. The judge found that the prosecution was making peremptory challenges based on race. That they were -- she made it plain, the face is showing or the defense did, and she agreed when she granted the bastion challenge, she put two white women back on the jury after they had exercised that challenge.
So that tells me that there was a judicial finding that the prosecution was engaging in race, racial profiling themselves. And so when they then try to run away from that in the trial, which is what I think they did, there was no other result but a not guilty. And now people are justifiably cynical about the system I think for all the wrong reasons.
I think that this case is so complex, so nuanced. And it's so aggravating to me to watch commentators and people in the media talk about it in such a kind of Twitter, 140-character manner because this case is so layered and is so -- it reaches into such the collective psyche of this country and the problems with race relations in this country that I don't even know where to begin.
It reminds me when the -- when people and commentators were talking about, well, they had six mothers. They weren't just white women. They were mothers. Well, that reminds me of what the D.A. thought when they were prosecuting O.J. Simpson. That somehow the women on that jury who were African-American were going to be able to see beyond this and go somewhere else.
I mean, there is so much here to kind of mine and drill down on. And I hope we have the discussion as opposed to just doing what I think has been done, not on your show, but on other things when I was flipping the channel yesterday.
GERAGOS: I was aghast at some of the coverage I saw.
COOPER: And Sunny Hostin is actually stuck in traffic, which is why she's not here. But she has all along -- you know, she's been in the courtroom, former prosecutor. She's been on our panel. She's really been the voice on our panel who has believed they could convict on second-degree murder. So I'm curious to see what her reaction was.
Mark Nejame, Angela Corey spoke finally to reporters after the verdict last night. I just want to listen to what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA COREY, FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY: We charged what we believe we can prove based on our Florida standard jury instructions and based on the facts of the case. So that's why we charged second-degree murder. We truly believe that the mindset of George Zimmerman and the words that he used and the reason that he was out doing what he was doing fit the bill for second-degree murder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Mark, you've been very critical -- Mark Nejame -- of Angela Corey. What did you think of that statement?
MARK NEJAME, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I was bothered by it. It came across to me as very insincere. And I really believe that this case has been about a lot of political motivations. You know, to go to your earlier question, you know, I feel sad and empty, but I thought for well over a year as I've watched this and -- you know, provided commentary throughout that this case was full of reasonable doubt.
I understand proceeding maybe on a negligence claim where you're going to be seeking manslaughter and you were going to be showing gross negligence and you were going to show that he was in reckless disregard and he shot too early, all those types of things. But to take this to a second-degree murder, starting high and going low, it's a travesty to me.
And I think that the state is primarily responsible. If there was going to be a conviction, then they should have proceeded on what they understood was a possibility. And not a probability because it was a tough case under any circumstances. But the possibility of a manslaughter. But they went ahead -- and you know, two days before this trial ended, they switched their theory of prosecution.
Remember that dummy illustration, that hypothetical where the prosecutor got on top of the dummy and he pretended that he was Trayvon Martin? Never did you see the reverse where it was, in fact, Trayvon Martin on the bottom and George Zimmerman on top, which is what the opening argument claimed, what all the first witnesses were about, to show that.
The state knew that. They had the forensics from the very beginning. So what they tried to do, in my opinion, was a fast one. They tried to sell the public, and they thought they were going to fool the jury that, in fact, they had second-degree murder. They never had that.
And so I really think that the way they've handled this has caused a lot of these issues. They've caused a lot of the discussion that we've had that has been about race and in such negative terms because we see it as defense lawyers every day. We see young black men being abused by a system and not the proper remedies to deal with it.
COOPER: Sunny --
COOPER: Sunny Hostin is just joining us now.
Sunny, you were there throughout this trial every day. You were, as I said earlier, probably the lone voice on this panel who believed a second-degree murder conviction was actually possible. What was your reaction when you heard the verdict? What do you think happened?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I was absolutely stunned. I mean, I think you could see that when I was onset. I was absolutely stunned. You know, as a lawyer, as a prosecutor, I accepted the verdict and I accept the verdict. And I still believe in the system. But I think that justice failed Trayvon Martin. I really do. I think that there was enough evidence for a second-degree murder prosecution.
COOPER: You think the prosecution proved its case?
HOSTIN: I do. I do. I think there was enough for a second-degree murder conviction. I think there certainly was enough for a manslaughter conviction. I did not believe the claims of self- defense. And I think that there was a miscarriage of justice yesterday.
COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. We got a lot more to talk about, too. We're going to be on for the next two hours until the 10:00 hour. We're going to talk to -- we're going to hear from Zimmerman's defense attorney Mark O'Mara who says he's somewhat surprised by the outrage over the verdict. What he says about the fact that his client followed Trayvon Martin in the first place after being told not to. That's next.
Also, we'll talk to Martin family attorney Daryl Parks. I talked to him tonight. He was in the courtroom when the verdict was read. I'll ask him about how the family is doing in light of the verdict and what happens now. Do they pursue a civil case against the family?
Let's talk on Twitter about the case, @andersoncooper, during the commercial break. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Hey, welcome back to this AC 360 special report, THE GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL: NOT GUILTY. Shortly after the verdict last night, George Zimmerman's brother Robert told Piers Morgan that his family is not celebrating because they'll always be concerned about safety, George's and their own. And Piers asked him about whether George Zimmerman will still carry a gun. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S PIERS MORGAN LIVE: He was handed back his gun as part of the process of being released. Will he keep it?
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN JR., GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S BROTHER: I don't have confirmation from him. I don't see any reason why he shouldn't.
MORGAN: You think he'd be --
R. ZIMMERMAN: I think he has more reason now than ever to think that people are trying to kill him because they express they're trying to kill him all the time every day. On my Twitter feed, on the Internet. Someone was just arrested today in Florida for saying they were going to, you know, go on some shooting spree if George Zimmerman got freed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara says that Zimmerman will have to be very careful about his safety because people have said they won't listen to the not guilty verdict. Earlier today, Chris Cuomo asked O'Mara about the public's reaction to the verdict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's begin with what is all around us, the reaction. A lot of it outrage to the not guilty verdict. Are you surprised by that part of the reaction?
MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I'm a bit surprised that there is outrage because we had hoped that everybody would look at this case as being a very fair trial with both parties were represented well. I think most, if not all, of the evidence came out and the jury took their time deliberating and came up with a fair and just verdict. And we've all agreed that we should listen to a fair and just verdict. So I hope that those people, even though they're frustrated, will accept the verdict.
CUOMO: Address the basic concern, which is your client, George Zimmerman, wound up killing Trayvon Martin and yet there is no legal responsibility and people can't understand it. What are they missing?
O'MARA: Well, what they're missing is that George had an absolute right to be where he was. And he also had a right to see where Trayvon Martin was. People want to say that it was improper profiling. But the reality is, with the circumstances that night and circumstances unrelated to Trayvon Martin, I think George had a reason to be concerned.
When they met, it was Trayvon Martin who was the aggressor, at least by the forensic evidence because Trayvon Martin did not receive any injuries but the gunshot wound 45 seconds after George Zimmerman was screaming for help.
CUOMO: Perhaps many people don't equate what happens to you when you get beat up with the proper justification for taking someone's life.
O'MARA: And that's a frustration that people have. And I share it with them. And in this case, they had to look inside George Zimmerman's head as he was on the ground with somebody unknown on top of him doing basically whatever they were doing to him and him not returning any blows.
CUOMO: Does George Zimmerman regret having to take Trayvon Martin's life, having to kill him that night?
O'MARA: Absolutely. Absolutely. He's human. He did not want to take any person's life.
CUOMO: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I'm sure you share the hopes of all that we find a way to move forward after this verdict and that any wounds can be healed in time.
O'MARA: Absolutely. We still have a lot of conversations --
CUOMO: Do you have (INAUDIBLE) about that?
O'MARA: I have, and we have a lot of conversations to have. I've been an advocate for the fact that black youth in America are not treated well by the criminal justice system and we need to have that conversation. My fear is that we've polarized the conversation because we attach it to a self-defense verdict that they have nothing to do with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: While sitting in the courtroom listening to all the testimony, it was difficult obviously for Trayvon Martin's family to endure. Martin's parents were there for most of the trial. They each testified and they left the courtroom when photos of Trayvon Martin's dead body were shown to the jury.
Now his parents were not in the courtroom for the verdict. Martin family attorney Daryl Park was there and he joins me now.
Mr. Daryl, first of all, I just want to ask you about the Martin family. How are they holding up?
DARYL PARKS, MARTIN FAMILY CO-COUNSEL: Anderson, you know, obviously they were devastated last evening. As the day has progressed, they've gathered themselves together and really had a chance to think about moving forward and Trayvon's legacy and trying to turn a situation into a positive.
And so we are encouraged by them and their fortitude to make sure that they, one, tell people to remain calm, but also now to build on Trayvon's name and what his name will mean in American history.
COOPER: I know you were in the courtroom when the verdict was read. Trayvon's parents weren't there. And a lot of people were maybe surprised by that since they'd been in court every day. Do you know why they decided they didn't want to be there at that moment?
PARKS: Well, based on our advice, number one. We already had decided that they probably shouldn't be in the courtroom.
Anderson, this is a very tough issue for them. And for them to have been through all of this for the last four weeks, we decided it was better to go and allow them to head home to Miami since it was so late in the evening so they could attend church in Miami. And so they were on their way home and we informed them of the verdict. And they were devastated.
You know, sometimes these types of situations have a lot of emotion tied to it. And so we believed as their counsel that it was probably best they not be in there.
COOPER: The case obviously has sparked a national dialogue about race, really from the beginning of this and Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara said something last night after the verdict was read. And I just want to play that for our viewers and have you react to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'MARA: I think that things would have been different if George Zimmerman was black for this reason. He never would have been charged for the crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What did you think when you heard that?
PARKS: Well, I don't accept that. And maybe me and Mr. O'Mara philosophically are different on that issue.
I think he has to understand that in America, we see young black men go to jail for far less or far more time for similar type situations. And so it's really an intellectual insult for him to say that to people when we all know if things were reversed and Trayvon -- 28- year-old Trayvon had killed 17-year-old white George Zimmerman, he would have been locked up that day, no bond, and good luck. So --
COOPER: So you think the exact opposite is true from what O'Mara said?
PARKS: Of course. I mean -- and no one can deny -- anyone who denies that is being intellectually dishonest.
COOPER: The NAACP, as you know, is calling for the Justice Department to step in and bring civil rights charges against Zimmerman. Is that something that Trayvon Martin's family wants?
PARKS: Well, as you know, we had -- I mean, we had -- we approached the federal government early on in this case about some of the issues in the case and they decided to give deference, as they often do, to the state law. So obviously that's an option that they have. And the federal government makes decisions based upon what they want to do. And so obviously any way that we could get justice -- remember, up until to this point, this family has gotten nothing.
They've gotten a half-hearted apology, never really a full apology. We just want justice for Trayvon. They've sat through that trial and seen the pictures of Trayvon laying there. And it's like a stab in the heart every time they see it, to see that picture. And yet, the person who did this will not pay a price. He's blamed everyone. He never takes responsibility for him getting out of that car and going out there looking for Trayvon.
COOPER: Do you know when the family, when you will decide whether or not to bring a civil wrongful death suit against George Zimmerman?
PARKS: Well, we obviously have that option. We're looking at it. We're studying it close. There are a whole bunch of factors that go into when, where, and how. And we'll look at the possibility of that.
COOPER: Do you know what factors --
COOPER: Can you say what factors would go into it?
PARKS: Well, number one, it's a far lesser standard. Number two, when you think about possible defendants, you size them up and determine where they stand. Unlike the lawyers who tried this case who do marital and criminal law, we are civil lawyers. So I do this day in and day out. But we'll size up and determine, is it worthwhile for us to do it, how we should do it, and when we should do it.
COOPER: All right. Daryl Parks, appreciate your time. Thank you.
PARKS: Thank you, sir.
COOPER: Quick programming note. You can see more of Chris Cuomo's interview with Zimmerman's defense attorney Mark O'Mara tomorrow morning on "NEW DAY." That's all started from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. here on CNN.
George Zimmerman won this legal battle, but there's public outcry. In some places you're looking at pictures of rallies going on right now in San Francisco and Oakland. Meanwhile, the NAACP is calling for federal civil rights charges to be filed against Zimmerman. We'll talk about that next.
COOPER: Hey, welcome back. Throughout the country there have been some rallies against the verdict. You're looking at pictures of a rally going on right now in San Francisco. Now all day there have been protests, mostly small and peaceful in Sanford, Florida, from New York to Los Angeles, and outside the White House.
Many calling this a civil rights issue. The NAACP has asked the Justice Department to file civil rights charges against George Zimmerman. The Justice Department said today that its federal civil rights investigation continues and will look at evidence from the trial.
On CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," NAACP president Benjamin Jealous says there's reason to be concerned that race was a factor in the targeting of Trayvon Martin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEALOUS: We're upset with the situation in this country where as black people, as black parents, parents raising black boys, black girls in this society, that it feels so off that our young people have to fear the bad guys and the good guys. The robbers and the cops and the self-appointed community watch volunteer who thinks that they're keeping folks safer.
And we want to finally live in that country that our -- that our kids say our country is every day when they say the pledge and they say this is one nation under god with liberty and justice for all. We yearn to be in that place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining me now live, CNN contributor and "New York Times" op- ed columnist Charles Blow. Back with us, CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin and criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos.
Charles, I was reading some of your tweets after the verdict. And one of the things you said was now what do I tell my boys? What did you mean by that?
CHARLES BLOW, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, I -- I'm a father. I have three kids. Two of them are boys, teenage boys, a 19-year-old and 16-year-old. And you know, this case you don't just look at the verdict. That's just like looking at the last few minutes of the game. Right? You have to look at the entire sweep of this case and the entire criminal justice system and what it says to parents like me and boys like mine.
And it says that this is a fight on some level about the politics of brown bodies. In particular, about black, young masculinity. Because you cannot separate what George Zimmerman initially saw. He didn't even know Trayvon's name. He had no idea about what he had done in school. He had -- none of that information. All he knew was what he told the dispatcher, what he was wearing, that he was young, late teen, he said. When he was asked what race he was, we realize he could see that he was dark-skinned and that he was walking slowly.
So you have to say to yourself, what about those few characteristics is the only thing you can see that makes this person suspicious? What is your organizing principle that makes him one of the punks? What is your organizing principle that makes him one of the people who always get away? What is your organizing principle that says I need to make sure that this guy does not get away because he is one of them? And what we find in the trial is that he was saying that he thought he was one of the criminals. Although what Trayvon was doing was not criminal.
COOPER: You're saying you cannot take race out of one of those organizing principles.
BLOW: Well, I think it is some combination of those. The only information he had was what he saw, right? So race is one of those things. Youth and masculinity and race are three of the five things he could discern. And that is a problem, particularly when you have to have conversations with young black men. I used to tell my boys, doesn't run because they may think you're suspicious. Well, actually now I have to say, don't walk slowly because that could mean your suspicious. We have to figure out the pace a black man can walk in America and be beyond suspicion? That's a crazy conversation to have.
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's so fascinating that you say that because I have a young brown boy at home. And he's been following this case so very closely. And as a lawyer, as a former prosecutor, I've always told him, go to the police, call the police when you need help. You know, don't -- flee. Run if you need to. Don't fight. Unless you absolutely have to defend yourself. What do I tell him now? As a lawyer, as a mother, what do I tell him now? It's fascinating. My husband and I were having this very same discussion.
BLOW: Even the people who say, well, why doesn't Trayvon just run home, right? We expect -- we're kind of putting on to the kid what adults would do.
COOPER: Mark Geragos -- sorry, Mark O'Mara during the closing was silent for four minutes and said that's the amount of time he had to run home.
BLOW: Right, right. We're basically saying, let's think like an adult would think. My youngest, 16-year-old, he has a 16-year-old twin sister. They're as big as me, but they don't think like adults.
COOPER: A teenager's brain is not fully developed.
BLOW: They make different sorts of choices. They make choices that -- you have to remember they are children. I can -- you know, we don't know what Trayvon was doing, what's going through his mind.
HOSTIN: Well, he did tell his friend on the phone, though, that he was going to walk fast. He was trying to get away.
BLOW: Right. But this idea that, why did he not go all the way home? And we want to rob him of any noble purpose, right? So there is a possibility of nobility there, which is that Trayvon knows there is a 12-year-old boy who will soon be his younger stepbrother at home alone. And he has tried to dodge this guy, shake this guy off his trail. He cannot do it. What is going into the house, which is what Zimmerman thinks he's going to do anyway -- he thinks he's going to break in. Going into one of those houses just kind of confirms what Zimmerman already assumes is he's going to do. And it means for Trayvon that I'm now taking the person who is following me and I cannot shake, I'm taking him to the 12-year-old who's alone at home.
COOPER: I do want to bring in Mark Geragos. What's interesting, you were saying you believe the system is racist, that the justice system does treat African-Americans differently. You see that in your own practice. You see that every single day in the courts. Yet --
MARK GERAGOS, AUTHOR: Right. This is what's so absolutely aggravating and why I get so worked up when we're on these panels. I understand -- and Sunny, this is not a shot at you as a former federal prosecutor - but when you hear people who say they're federal prosecutors or ex- federal prosecutors, they're dealing with while-collar criminals in --
HOSTIN: Not in D.C., though. You know that, Mark.
GERAGOS: Well, not in D.C. I know that. I know that. I understand. But I'm talking about in the state courts across this country. Every single day if you -- as I sit in a courtroom and watch nothing but young black males get processed in and out of courtrooms in this country for the -- what I consider to be, the parking ticket of superior court. It usually involves some small amount of drugs or something drug related. Eighty percent of the cases that come through the criminal justice system. And the absolute institutionalized racism when it comes to blacks is overwhelming.
I do not think for a second, though, that we should be injecting or trying to correct that in one case where here it's almost the exact flip side of what happened. What happened here was you had six white women -- or five white women on this jury. You talk about what Charles was talking about, that organizing principle. I just call it -- and I called it a couple weeks ago, the prism through which they look. Early on, and one of the reasons I was all over Sunny on this case was because I understand, I think, from sitting in the trenches that the prism through can they look is the same prism that George Zimmerman looks when he sees Trayvon Martin walking there. And then when you layer on all of the other nuances about this and you put on the woman who had the home invasion and you press all of those buttons, you play on and you absolutely build on this kind of archetype that is built into the system. And it is awful and it happens every day in the system. And I hate the fact that now we've kind of looked at it kind of backwards, in my opinion.
COOPER: But what I don't understand is -- so are you saying you do not believe race was a factor in this case, or -- I mean, because the prosecution went out of their way to not invoke race during the actual trial.
GERAGOS: Let me show you again. When they started this jury selection, they started bouncing white women. Why did they do that? Because they were afraid, in my humble opinion, the prosecution was afraid that the white women were going to view Trayvon Martin through this prism of, as Charles says, a young black male. If this had been a young black female, I don't think it would have been a problem. If had been a young white female, it would not have been a problem. But it was a young black male. That's why they started bouncing white women, exercising their peremptory challenges, to the point where the judge granted a Batson challenge and reseatded two of those white women. That was when this case was over.
There was race from the beginning in those prosecutors' minds. And instead of dealing with that, they ran away from it. And I'll go back to the other conundrum about this case. If George Zimmerman was anybody but a cop, he would have been arrested that night. That's something that every young black male in America knows, and that's something that everybody who's in the criminal justice system knows. You do not kill somebody and get a pass. The cops arrest first and ask questions later.
COOPER: So when Mark O'Mara says that if George Zimmerman was black, this would have never gone to trial, you believe if George Zimmerman had been black, he would have been arrested that night.
GERAGOS: If George Zimmerman had been black, he not only would have been arrested that night, but you would have had those very same prosecutors playing into that same racism. And I will guarantee you that there are plenty of Florida prosecutors, because I read the cases when they get reversed is, who will play into that and argue and demonize that same prism when they've got the jurors who have going to be receptive to it. That's the schizophrenia about this case.
COOPER: So Charles, to you, what is this -- I mean, does this case change anything? What -- can anything come out of this?
BLOW: Well, it is an amazing focal point, right? I think Mark is right in the sense that what makes this such an outlier is that -- it's not just that it is an adult and a child. That's one of them, that the child is unarmed and the adult is armed. There's disproportionate use of force, meaning Trayvon Martin is using his hands and whatever, however he's using them. And George uses a gun. What we have to understand about that is that Trayvon could not have legally ever matched force with him. You cannot have a concealed carry weapon as a teenager in Florida. So we're already out of sorts.
The bigger point, I think, that upsets most people is there was a grown man standing over a dead boy when the cops arrived and that person was allowed to talk his way out of a precinct and go home to his own bed.
We see people killed all the time. There's gun violence, unfortunately, in America all the time. People die. We don't expect for the police to know who did it and to let them walk away from it. That, I think, is such an aberrant thing for us. For any person in America of good conscience, for any parent, for any person who feels like they could be on the other end of that gun barrel, that it forces a different kind of conversation. I think that focuses this particular case in a different way than other cases have been focused.
COOPER: We have to take a break, Charles. Thank you for being here. Sunny and Mark are going to be here again. Up next, we're going to examine what may have been some of the key pieces of evidence in the trial, particularly the key piece, the 911 calls to police. Prosecution says they proved their case, but certainly didn't sway the jury. We'll look at why not. Be right back.
COOPER: One of the key pieces of evidence introduced in the George Zimmerman were calls to police from it the night of the deadly encounter. Now first, part of the call that George Zimmerman alerting police to a stranger in the housing complex.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
911 OPERATOR: Are you following him?
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Yes.
911 OPERATOR: Okay. We don't need you to do that.
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Okay.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: Then there's the 911 call made by a concerned neighborhood. It's where we hear in the background somebody yelling for help and the sound of gunshot.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
911 OPERATOR: 911, do you need police, fire, or medical?
UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: Maybe both. I'm not sure. There's someone screaming outside.
911 OPERATOR: Okay. What's the address that they're near?
UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: (ADDRESS DELETED).
911 OPERATOR: And is it a male or a female?
UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: It sounds like a male.
911 OPERATOR: And you don't know why?
UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: I don't know why. I think they're yelling help. But I don't know. Just send someone quick, please.
911 OPERATOR: Does he look hurt?
UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: I can't see him. I don't want to go out there. I don't know what's going on so --
UNIDENTFIED MALE: Tell them to come now.
UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: They're sending.
911 OPERATOR: So you think he's yelling help?
UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: yes.
911 OPERATOR: All right. What is your -- [gunshot]
UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: There's gunshots.
911 OPERATOR: Did you say gunshots?
UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: Yes.
911 OPERATOR: How many?
UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: Just one.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: That was a difficult piece of evidence for jurors to consider. There was no definitive answer for who called out for help. Remember, Trayvon Martin's parents testified it was their son's voice. George Zimmerman's mother and father and a number of friends told the court the voice was Zimmerman's.
Let's go back to our panel. Sunny Hostin, Jeff Toobin, Danny Cevalles and Mark Geragos. Mark, so much was made of the 91 calls during the trial. You say the prosecution didn't do enough in using them. What do you mean?
GERAGOS: I think the prosecution should have made this the centerpiece if that was their whole theory. I just think this idea of once they had, you know -- and I'll go back to -- and I don't want to sound like a broken record. Once they had the jury they had, they needed to retool. They needed to figure out how they were going to appeal. As I often tell jurors when I select them, I don't care who you are as an advocate, you're not going to turn around somebody who's been living and has life experiences of 30, 40, or 50 years on this earth in 10 days -- if you're the greatest, most persuasive person in the world, you're not going to turn them around. So you need to plug into what it is and how it is these jurors are going to view the situation. The idea of having that jury with that demographic and hoping that you're going to appeal to them or that they're going to be able to relate to Rachel Jeantel as your center piece, I just think, was a horrible calculation.
COOPER: How would you retool?
GERAGOS: Well, you can retool in a millions ways. That is the funniest thing I may have ever heard. President evidence is what the evidence is. The prosecution puts on the evidence. They pick the order of the evidence. They pick who they're going to build their case around. The idea that --
HOSTIN: They don't get to pick their witnesses, Mark. GERAGOS: I understand that, but they put on who they want to put on. Sunny, understand something. When you try cases, you understand that you're the director of that play. You're the one --
HOSTIN: You don't get to pick the actors. You don't get to pick the witnesses. The defendant gets to pick them.
GERAGOS: Yes, you do get to - Sunny, what are you talking about? What are you talking about?
DANNY CEVALLES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The prosecution absolutely picked their witnesses. They absolutely did, and they chose not to put certain people on the stand.
GERAGOS: Exactly right. They didn't put Tracy Martin.
CEVALLES: Mark, how dare you steal my thunder? I was going with Tracy Martin. I was so excited. They didn't call Tracy Martin. They didn't call a number of people they had in their quiver that could have given them some evidence. And when they didn't, look out. The defense did. They used them to their advantage. So you ultimately have that quiver of witnesses to choose from, but the prosecution certainly selects.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Here's a strategic choice I think was very significant. And I can't say it was wrong. Obviously, it was not successful for the prosecution.
They put on all of George Zimmerman's interviews with the police, with Fox News. They didn't have to do that. They basically put his defense on. Now, their argument was all these interviews showed that he had made inconsistent comments, he was a liar, thus he was guilty. If they hadn't called any of those witnesses, George Zimmerman may have had to testify himself. I think that might have been --
GERAGOS: Jeff --
TOOBIN: Yes, Mark?
GERAGOS: Jeff, wouldn't you agree that if you're going to put on all of those taped statements by George Zimmerman and you know in a deposition that your lead detective at the time found nothing materially inconsistent, and you know you're going to get that baseball bat right between the eyes, why would you do that? As I explained at the time, Sunny, and as Jeff just said, you -- the defense could not have put on his statement absent him getting on the stand. Why would you put that on?
COOPER: We got to take a break.
GERAGOS: You could choose that actor.
COOPER: All right. When we come back, we want to find out what everybody on our panel thought was a pivotal moment in this trial. We'll be right back (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: We're back with our panel. Sunny Hostin, Danny Cevallos, Mark Geragos and Jeff Toobin. What happens now? I mean, Mark, how likely do you think it is the family will sue for civil damages?
GERAGOS: It's been reported they've already settled with the homeowners association. I don't know if that's true. Next time you interview one of the lawyers, I would ask that question and find out. If they've settled with the homeowners association, meaning they got some kind of a check in trade for a release, the only target left, I would imagine, unless they think they've got something against the cops themselves, is Zimmerman himself.
Zimmerman himself, I would imagine all the money he's raised has gone to pay O'Mara and West. So he probably doesn't have much of anything. So I understand they could get a large verdict if they get the right jury. But it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to kind of put them through that for a (INAUDIBLE) victory just to get a judgment.
The bigger question is whether the feds are going to come in and whether the feds would come in and do what they did in the Rodney King case out here in L.A., which was after the acquittals in Simi Valley, then the feds came in and they prosecuted the officers for a violation of the civil rights in the Rodney King case. Then they were able --
COOPER: Do you think they're likely to do that?
GERAGOS: I think that's a possibility. I would not discount it.
TOOBIN: I do. I think it's a serious possibility. The Civil Rights Division has been much energized under Eric Holder. They've been much more aggressive in recent years than they were in the Bush administration. I think they're going to look at it.
COOPER: What specifically do they look at versus what the state looked at?
TOOBIN: Well, the gist of it is it's very similar except that the motivation underlying it, the intent level is not -- is intent to violate his civil rights, intent to harm him because he was a black person. That's a different charge.
GERAGOS: Or they could do a hate crime.
HOSTIN: And they've been looking at it.
TOOBIN: Similar idea, yes.
HOSTIN: They've been running this parallel investigation. They stated today very clearly they're still looking at it. I suspect it's a very real possibility.
COOPER: Danny, do you think that's possible?
CEVALLOS: What they have to prove is that not only was -- did George Zimmerman attack him, but that it was based on his race. I certainly think they're going to look into it. But to me, the federal government only likes to make cases that stay made. And I think that Mr. Garagos can speak to that, too. I think they're certainly going to look at it very closely. And there's precedent for it just like Mark mentioned in L.A. But I just don't know they want to invest their resources in a case like this. Even with the hype and interest they have in cases like these.
TOOBIN: The problem for the feds in this is it's the same case. Because the only issue would be Zimmerman's intent, just as the only issue in this case would be Zimmerman's intent. Now how you define guilty intent would be slightly different in a federal criminal prosecution.
COOPER: Is it an easier rule?
TOOBIN: It's not so much easier; it's just different.
GERAGOS: Well, there's a second problem with them bringing the case federally. Here in L.A. when they did it, originally you had a Simi Valley, which was a predominantly white community with kind of law enforcement types. It's where the LAPD flees to go live so they don't have to live in the inner city.
When they bring it downtown to the federal court here and try them federally, you get a much different jury pool. The problem is, federally there in Florida, your jury pool is going to be probably one in the same, which is not going to be helpful to get a guilty verdict.
COOPER: We got to take another break. Everyone stick around. There's a lot more ahead in the next hour. We're going to the 10:00 hour tonight. We'll look at whether George Zimmerman was overcharged. We'll also look at some of the key witnesses in the trial.