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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
The George Zimmerman Trial: Not Guilty
Aired July 14, 2013 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, you're watching AC 360 special report, THE GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL: NOT GUILTY.
Tonight Zimmerman is a free man. As the judge put it, he has no further business with the court, but Zimmerman's battle may not be over. The NAACP is calling for federal civil rights charges to be filed. And there's always the possibility of a civil case against him.
Across the nation demonstrators are saying there was no justice for Trayvon Martin. But as President Obama said in a statement today, "We are a nation of laws and a jury has spoken." The president is calling for calm reflection in the wake of the verdict.
Martin Savidge joins us now live from Sanford, Florida.
So -- you were there yesterday. Talk about how it all played out.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. We're gathered in the courthouse in the waiting room where the media has to wait. And there was kind of a flurry of activity. We thought it was that the jury was going to say that we're going -- you know, to call it a night. Instead it was a verdict.
We raced upstairs, barely all of us got through the metal detectors, got in our seats before we heard this. The verdict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It was interesting that he didn't have -- yes, sorry, Martin. I was just saying it was interesting he had absolutely no reaction in that moment.
SAVIDGE: Right, yes. When you looked at his face, I wasn't even sure he had heard it quite clearly because it was absolutely -- it was flat. There was no -- no reaction. His wife, Shelley, was there. She began crying quietly. And then we looked over and it was noticeably obvious that Trayvon Martin's parents, who had been there throughout, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, were not there. COOPER: Yes, and I talked to Daryl Parks, the attorney for the Martin family. He said that was a predetermined thing, that they decided in advance that they wouldn't be there for that. They did make statements on Twitter.
SAVIDGE: Right. They have. They've spoken out, essentially. I mean, I'm paraphrasing very quickly here, but what they said was that their faith was -- or their hearts were broken but their faith has not been broken. And they reiterated something that they have maintained throughout. And that is they asked for public calm. It was their legal team that sort of did the speaking for them. And here's what they said afterwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: George Zimmerman has been silent, but it was Mark O'Mara, his lawyer, that spoke out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And Martin, certainly this is not -- this is really not the end for George Zimmerman, as we've been talking about on this panel in the last hour. There could be other charges against Zimmerman.
SAVIDGE: That's absolutely right, yes. There has been a request by the NAACP that there be an investigation into the possibility of the civil rights violations of breaking of civil rights, Trayvon Martin's civil rights as a result of George Zimmerman's actions.
The Department of Justice says they have been investigating, will continue to look at that, and they wanted to make sure that people were aware that their investigation began before the NAACP has asked. So that is ongoing. Meanwhile, the president of the United States, he has -- President Barack Obama has weighed in.
Remember, the president spoke just weeks after this incident. And the latest statement coming from the president goes like this. And he says that, "The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy, not just for his family or for any one community but for America. And I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son."
The president of the United States. COOPER: All right, Martin. Thanks very much.
COOPER: With me once again are our panelists, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Mark Nejame, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin and Jeffrey Toobin, also criminal defense attorneys Danny Cevallos and Mark Geragos.
Mark is co-author of "Mistrial: How the Criminal Justice System Works and Sometimes Doesn't."
I want to talk about what everyone on the panel thinks was really the most pivotal moment in this trial. And everybody sort of has different moments. This is Jeff Toobin's choice from Mark O'Mara's closing argument. Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'MARA: What I don't think you should do is fill in any gaps at all. Connect any dots for him either. For any fact. For any witness. If the decision was made by the state not to present additional evidence to you, do not presume. Do not assume and do not give anybody the benefit of any doubt except for George Zimmerman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jeff, why do you think that was so critical?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that and surrounding comments. Basically, he was saying the defense never told -- the prosecution never told you what happened. And I think that really was the fundamental problem here. There was not a clear picture from the prosecution of who started this altercation, how it unfolded, who was on top.
They changed -- maybe it's because they just didn't have the evidence but I thought in that section of the summation, O'Mara really laid out for the jury that you just don't know enough here to say that George Zimmerman was guilty of any crime.
COOPER: Danny, I want to play the moment that you thought was most pivotal. We have that. Let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'MARA: Is there anything else in this case where you got the insight that he might be a pathological liar?
DET. CHRIS SERINO, LEAD INVESTIGATOR IN ZIMMERMAN CASE: No.
O'MARA: As a matter of fact, everything he had told you to date had been corroborated by other evidence you were already aware of in the investigation that he was unaware of.
SERINO: Correct. O'MARA: OK. If you we're to take pathological liar off the table as a possibility just for the purpose of this next question, you think he was telling the truth?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was Chris Serino, lead investigator on the case. This is just one of several witnesses for the prosecution that actually ended up helping the defense.
DANNY CEVALLOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This was the turning point for me, and I'll tell you why. This is an investigator. He's a seasoned witness. And Mark Geragos will tell you this, too. Being used to cross-examining police officers, they are normally doing everything they can to oppose your cross-examination.
Now remember that clip that we just saw, moments before the question had been about that investigator asking George Zimmerman or telling him, lying to him, using a really good investigative technique that the Supreme Court has said is OK, you can lie to a suspect to try and get information out of them, to get them to admit things.
He said Trayvon Martin may have recorded the incident on a cell phone. George Zimmerman's response, oh, thank god. Thank god somebody -- I was hoping it would be videotaped. Then the investigator says in response, in my experience, someone who sticks to their story after being told there's a videotape is either a pathological liar or they're telling the truth.
And that, for me, was the turning point because to me having seen investigators, police investigation for as long as I have, which isn't as long as the other panelists, but I will say I know that if they believe -- that they're paid to be suspicious when there's nothing to be suspicious about. If they believe that there's nothing to be suspicious about, that's a lot. That means a lot to me.
COOPER: And Jeff, as a prosecutor you were saying you've never seen --
TOOBIN: I've never seen a cop do that.
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Never.
TOOBIN: I've never seen a cop go to bat for a defendant in the case in which he's testifying like that.
COOPER: Sunny --
HOSTIN: It almost seemed like a hijack. It almost seemed like a payback move.
TOOBIN: There was some internal politics going on there.
HOSTIN: Yes. TOOBIN: Where the -- where this cop was pissed at these prosecutors.
TOOBIN: And he could have answered those questions in a much more neutral way, but he answered them in a way that was designed to help the defense as much as possible.
HOSTIN: And to harm the prosecution.
HOSTIN: Yes. Yes.
COOPER: Sunny, you were actually impressed by the prosecutor throughout the trial. And --
HOSTIN: Yes, I was.
COOPER: I want to play your pivotal moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN GUY, ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: Isn't that every child's worst nightmare? To be followed on the way home in the dark by a stranger. Isn't that every child's worst fear? That was Trayvon Martin's last emotion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So you're sort of the lone voice praising these prosecutors.
HOSTIN: Yes, I am. Yes.
COOPER: Why you -- why did that impress you? Why did he impress you?
HOSTIN: And listen, I think if I had that case in any of the jurisdictions I'm admitted in, like D.C., I would have gotten a conviction in front of a jury with the same evidence. So I think that they put on a terrific case. I think that particular part of his closing was so powerful because it took the focus away from self- defense, away from George Zimmerman, and it put it squarely on Trayvon Martin, the victim, where it should have been.
And the prosecution's theory was, you can't look at this chain of events just starting at a confrontation. You've got to look at all of the events, and you've got to look at where it started. It started with a young boy being followed in the dark, in the rain by a man who suspected him of doing no good when he was lawfully there.
And I thought that the women on the jury, especially the mothers, that that would have resonated with them because it certainly resonated with a lot of the folks that were in the courtroom watching it.
COOPER: I know Mark Geragos is chomping at the bit to insult this prosecutor. HOSTIN: Yes, Mark Geragos.
COOPER: But --
HOSTIN: Mark Geragos is jealous of McDreamy.
MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I'm not here to insult the prosecutor. I'm trying to tell you that McDreamy became McBrilliant, as she called him, and then he became McLoser. And the problem with this guy -- and I was talking with a prosecutor just an hour ago who had the same observation I did. These guys reminded me of baby public defenders who watch "Law & Order" and think that's how you're supposed to try a case.
HOSTIN: Not at all.
GERAGOS: This was ridiculous. These prosecutors were so out of their league.
HOSTIN: That is not fair, Mark.
GERAGOS: They were so over the top. You can say whatever you want.
HOSTIN: That is not fair and that is not true.
GERAGOS: You're the one who said he had the jury. Do you remember your quote, Sunny? He had them at hello?
HOSTIN: He did. And you know what, let me tell you --
GERAGOS: Well, he lost him at goodbye.
HOSTIN: We haven't -- we haven't heard from this jury yet. We don't know what their verdict is.
HOSTIN: We don't know if their verdict --
GERAGOS: The last thing --
TOOBIN: Well, we have heard from them.
HOSTIN: Oh, did we hear from them?
GERAGOS: By the way, we heard from them yesterday, Sunny. It was not guilty.
GERAGOS: It is not guilty.
HOSTIN: We haven't heard their reasoning yet. We haven't heard their reasoning.
GERAGOS: We heard --
HOSTIN: And I wonder if they believe George Zimmerman?
GERAGOS: You're never going to get into their reasoning.
HOSTIN: Did they believe that he really acted in self-defense?
GERAGOS: They ain't going to come out.
HOSTIN: Or did they just believe there wasn't enough evidence?
GERAGOS: Let me just tell you what they're going to say.
HOSTIN: Sort of like the Casey Anthony jury.
COOPER: All right. Mark, tell us what they're going to say.
HOSTIN: Yes, Mark.
GERAGOS: I mean, just -- let me just tell you what they're going to say since you've been 100 percent wrong at every juncture of this case, Sunny.
Let me tell you what they're going to say. Because what jurors will tell you is anything you want to hear when they come out afterwards. The only two words that matter, Sunny, were not guilty.
HOSTIN: What are they going to say, though?
GERAGOS: I don't know how else to tell you that.
HOSTIN: What are they going to say since you're clairvoyant?
GERAGOS: They're going to say that the prosecution did the best with what they had, but they didn't have the case beyond a reasonable doubt and that self-defense, by the way, covers both second-degree and it covers the manslaughter.
HOSTIN: Well, we'll see.
GERAGOS: And unlike everybody who was -- well -- we see all the time.
HOSTIN: We'll see.
GERAGOS: We said save the tape for two weeks and you've been wrong every minute.
HOSTIN: When we get their reasoning. When we get their reasoning.
COOPER: I do want to -- I do want to bring in Mark Nejame.
Mark, you say the most significant moment was when both sides brought out the now-famous dummy. Why do you -- for you that was so significant?
MARK NEJAME, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, just in response to Sunny, though, you know, McPlease. You know, the fact of the matter is that when -- this was a strong --
HOSTIN: I think all of you are so jealous.
NEJAME: -- passionate closing argument.
HOSTIN: It's terrible to observe.
NEJAME: But what it did -- what it did --
HOSTIN: Terrible to watch.
COOPER: All right. So let him talk.
NEJAME: Please, please. What it did was simply talk to emotion. It didn't speak to evidence. It didn't speak to facts. And my most important moment was really a surrender by the prosecution right along the lines you're talking about. When, in fact, the prosecutor mounted the dummy, not that particular act, but what the subtleties of what it represented.
It was a surrender from their entire opening argument to their first round of witnesses that it was, in fact, Trayvon Martin who they were claiming was on the bottom being pummeled by George Zimmerman. You never saw that hypothetical situation displayed when they had the actual dummies there. They surrendered it. The only time they showed --
COOPER: A really interesting point.
NEJAME: -- what was going on is when, in fact -- is when in fact the -- when they had the George Zimmerman being pummeled by the prosecutor representing Trayvon Martin. They surrendered it at that moment. And that shows why they should have never be, because they knew from the start, they knew well over a year ago that Trayvon Martin was on top, George Zimmerman was on the bottom, and they tried to trick the jury.
They tried to trick the public, in my opinion, as to what, in fact, existed. All you got to do is look at the forensics.
HOSTIN: That's absurd. NEJAME: All you've got to do is talk to --
COOPER: But -- to Mark's point --
HOSTIN: That's absurd.
COOPER: To Mark's point, I do not understand why in their opening statements they would say that George Zimmerman was on top and Trayvon Martin was on the bottom if they knew this other evidence was out there and was going to come out and the grass stains and all of that.
HOSTIN: Well, because, Anderson --
COOPER: And then switch halfway through and say, well, maybe he was on top and pulling away. That just seems like --
HOSTIN: I didn't see it as a switch, first of all.
GERAGOS: Ninety-percent of the way --
HOSTIN: There were several witnesses --
GERAGOS: A day before closing.
HOSTIN: There were several witnesses that testified that they believed it was George Zimmerman on top. There was evidence to support their opening statement.
COOPER: Right. But by the end, they didn't talk about that. He was mounting -- he was mounting that thing on the top.
HOSTIN: Well, they were giving -- they were giving alternatives. And prosecutors do that all the time. They say, OK, well, what about this? Is it possible, Mr. Expert witness, that he could have been moving away? Is that possible?
COOPER: I went to the law school of "Law & Order" so my -- I have no actual legal basis. But --
GERAGOS: Could I -- could I --
COOPER: Go --
GERAGOS: Can I respond to that?
COOPER: Go ahead, Mark.
HOSTIN: Of course, Mark Geragos. GERAGOS: Wait a second. Prosecutors --
COOPER: Yes, Mark Geragos.
COOPER: Let --
GERAGOS: The prosecutors give -- the prosecutors give alternatives that suggest a not guilty? Is that what you're telling me?
HOSTIN: No, that's not.
GERAGOS: Because most of the prosecutions that I'm involved d in, the prosecutors don't go demonstrate what a not guilty verdict would be. Because that's what they did in that case, Sunny.
COOPER: All right. Let's take a break. Our panel will be back. A lot more ahead. There were a lot of memorable moments throughout this trial. There was one key witness who may have tipped the scales for the jury. We'll take the panel's take on that.
Plus, the Justice Department continuing its federal civil rights investigation, looking into the evidence from the trial as part of that. The question is, will George Zimmerman face civil rights charges. Coming up.
COOPER: Hey, welcome back to this AC 360 special report, THE GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL: NOT GUILTY.
The verdict came after a 14-day trial packed with a lot of testimony, memorable testimony. The jurors have chosen not to speak publicly, at least not yet. So we're going to ask our panel who they think were the most influential witnesses.
Back with me again, Sunny Hostin, Jeff Toobin, Danny Cevallos and Mark Geragos.
You pointed to this neighbor, Jeff, Jon Good.
TOOBIN: Jon Good.
COOPER: Why did you think he was so influential?
TOOBIN: Because he was certainly a witness with no ax to grind. And he suggested very clearly that it was Trayvon Martin who was on top of George Zimmerman. And I think if the jury believed that, it was very hard to refute a self-defense defense at that point.
COOPER: And -- I mean, was he -- he wasn't one of these rogue witnesses the prosecution had trouble with.
TOOBIN: No. It seemed clear that he was repeating a story he had said before, which just underlines the point you were making earlier, which is why did the prosecution embrace the theory that Zimmerman was on top when they knew they were calling witnesses -- COOPER: Right.
TOOBIN: -- that would say the opposite?
COOPER: Danny, you also picked Jon Good as a key witness.
CEVALLOS: Absolutely. Even though I had moments with the lead investigator, Jon Good is a witness overall. Look at the stark contrast between Jon Good and just before him was Rachel Jeantel, a witness who was at times difficult to understand. I think she got into it with the defense counsel. And then you have Jon Good. He shows up in a tie. He -- he speaks very clearly. And he clearly has no ax to grind. He's not fighting with any attorneys.
I thought he was very credible. He did not have a dog in the fight. And to me, that was another turning point in the case, when Jon Good, the prosecution's own witness, he's not arguing. He's not adverse to the prosecution. He's there to tell the truth. And his truth fit the theory of the defense.
COOPER: Sunny, you picked probably the most controversial witness, Rachel Jeantel.
HOSTIN: I did.
COOPER: Who Danny did mention.
HOSTIN: You know, I thought all along that if the jury believed Rachel Jeantel, because she was the last person to speak to Trayvon Martin. And if they believed her testimony, which was Trayvon Martin was running from him, all of a sudden George Zimmerman was behind him, Trayvon Martin said, why are you following me? And he -- his response was something along the lines of what are you doing around here. And then she hears a thump and she hears Trayvon saying, get off, get off.
If they believed that, then George Zimmerman is the initial aggressor. If they disbelieve it, if they disregard her testimony because they don't think she's dressed appropriately or she doesn't understand cursive, then the prosecution is in trouble. So that's why I thought she was so pivotal.
CEVALLOS: Hold on. That was a shot across my bow. And I'm going to respond to it.
TOOBIN: Hold on. One thing I thought was very striking about O'Mara's summation was, putting aside Rachel Jeantel's demeanor and all of that, the 911 tapes, the times, that's where the four minutes comes in. That he's -- that Trayvon and Rachel Jeantel are off the phone. And it's not -- it's four full minutes until the shot takes place. So what goes on in that four minutes? Why doesn't Trayvon leave if he's not initiating the conflict?
HOSTIN: But the -- but in rebuttal, Jeff, the prosecution made the point that it wasn't really four minutes. There was an overlap of two minutes. And when the call dropped, there was two minutes between that call dropping and the shot. (CROSSTALK)
COOPER: But you know, Charles Blow was here on the program earlier and raised the point, why should -- what should Trayvon Martin have done? His argument was, should he have run home? Because then --
HOSTIN: And why do you have to run home?
COOPER: Why does -- why does somebody walking --
HOSTIN: If you're not doing anything.
COOPER: -- have to run because somebody --
TOOBIN: I'm not suggesting he has to run, but there is a -- he can just simply not engage. And remember, it's Zimmerman's testimony that he gets out of the car and Trayvon Martin assaults him. Now that may be untrue, but that's what the jury heard. And they didn't --
COOPER: Charles Blow's comment was, OK, so then Trayvon Martin ignores him, goes into this house, and then George Zimmerman thinks here's a guy breaking into a house.
HOSTIN: And what was -- what was George Zimmerman doing for four minutes? His car was 100 feet away. Did it take George Zimmerman four minutes to get back to his car?
COOPER: But, Mark, you picked Detective Serino as critical.
GERAGOS: Yes, and can I tell you why?
GERAGOS: In 30 years of practice, I have never seen a detective so embrace a defendant in his own trial in my life. I probably will go to my grave and never see it again. That is the most astonishing situation that you will see. I mean, when have you ever had the lead detective basically act as a character witness for the defendant, and when will you see the prosecutors sit on their hands and not object when they said, do you think he was telling the truth?
COOPER: And do you think the prosecutors were surprised by what he said? I mean, how does that work? Do the prosecutors knew --
GERAGOS: They could not have been -- they could not have been surprised because what happens in Florida, which doesn't happen in a whole lot of other jurisdictions, is in a criminal case similar to what you have in a civil case, you get depositions of the witnesses. Remember when Don West was complaining, we've been spending the weekends doing depositions.
They get to put that witness under oath, ask them any question they want without anybody there to interfere with them. And so they know what's coming. And if they didn't know that was coming, shame on them. If they did know that was coming, shame on them. TOOBIN: Well, they had to because -- I remember sitting there watching the testimony where, you know, here you have a defense attorney asking the lead investigator, well, don't you think he was telling the truth? They had to have a deposition where he'd said yes. Because you would never ask that question just randomly of the defense --
TOOBIN: Of a lead investigator unless you already had him under oath saying exactly that.
CEVALLOS: Yes. We're on unusual ground here because the vast majority of defense attorneys, the idea of actually having a deposition before trial is just unheard of so --
HOSTIN: Criminal trials.
CEVALLOS: -- the idea that when you get to trial you have had -- you've already had the opportunity to ask each of those questions, Jeff is absolutely right. There must have been some indication that he believed, that he found Zimmerman truthful. They -- in Florida, they go to trial armed with all kinds of information.
COOPER: So in other states they don't have the depositions?
CEVALLOS: No, not at all.
COOPER: Not at all.
HOSTIN: But there was a lot of sabotage going on there. There must have been something going on.
COOPER: All right. We got to take another quick break. Just ahead, as we touched on, George Zimmerman could still be charged with violating Trayvon Martin's civil rights. It's not an easy lawsuit to file against him. We'll explain why and also ask our panel about the chances that it may or may not happen. Next.
COOPER: Well, throughout the day and throughout the country, there have been some rallies and marches, protests against the verdict. You're looking at video from earlier today here in New York City. A march that's still going on at this hour. Protesters walking from Union Square. I understand they're around Times Square now, holding pictures of Trayvon Martin, holding signs that read, for example, "racism kills."
Despite his acquittal, George Zimmerman is not out of the woods legally as we've discussed. Now earlier today on CNN the head of the NAACP said it's imperative that the Justice Department file a civil rights lawsuit against him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN JEALOUS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: We are calling on them to do just that because 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's reason to be concerned that race was a factor in why he targeted young Trayvon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Obviously, there are a lot of Americans who agree with Ben Jealous. A lot who do not. Either way, a civil rights charge against Zimmerman is a possibility. There have been similar cases before but as Randi Kaye explains, there are plenty of hurdles in the way.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Justice Department had opened an investigation into Trayvon Martin's death last year, but stepped aside to allow Florida's criminal case to proceed. But now once again the pressure is on Justice. But as Attorney General Eric Holder said last year, the bar is high.
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: For a federal hate crime, we have to prove the highest standard in the law, something that was reckless, that was negligent, does not meet that standard. We have to show that there was specific intent to do the crime with the requisite state of mind.
KAYE: Neither prosecutors or the defense made race the central issue in the state's case against George Zimmerman. But civil rights leaders call the killing of Trayvon Martin a hate crime. They say Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, something Zimmerman and his family have denied.
REV. JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: You look at a jury without a black and without a man on it, if it was a jury of Trayvon's peers, the Department of Justice must intervene and take this case, frankly, to another level.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury find George Zimmerman not guilty.
KAYE: In response to the verdict and calls for action, the Justice Department released this statement. It reads in part that, "The Department of Justice will continue to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial. Federal prosecutors will then determine if Trayvon Martin's civil rights were violated and if federal prosecution of George Zimmerman is appropriate."
If Zimmerman is charged with violating Trayvon Martin's civil rights, it won't be the first time a failed criminal case gave way to a federal civil rights case. Remember Rodney King? After the four Los Angeles police officers caught beating him on camera were acquitted, the case moved to federal court, where two of the officers were found guilty of violating King's civil rights. They were each sentenced to 30 months in prison.
It was a similar story in New Orleans after a handful of officers were cleared in a shooting on the Danziger Bridge. In the aftermath of Katrina in 2005, the officers opened fire on a family, killing a 17- year-old. When local prosecutors couldn't deliver a conviction, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI began an investigation. In 2011, a jury in New Orleans Federal Court convicted five police officers on charges related to covering up the investigation and deprivation of civil rights.
Still, regardless of the outcome of those two high-profile cases, George Zimmerman's attorney continues to insist this case was never about race.
O'MARA: My fear is that now that they've connected that conversation to his conviction, that his acquittal is going to be seen as a negative for civil rights. Absolutely untrue.
KAYE: Maybe so, but that it seems is now for the United States Department of Justice to decide.
Randi Kaye, CNN, Atlanta.
COOPER: Let's talk this over with our panel back with us, Sunny Hostin, Jeffrey Toobin, Danny Cevallos and Mark Geragos. I want to talk about President Obama in all this because Martin Savidge played some of his statement from earlier today, read it out.
President Obama had weighed in on this case a long time ago. I want to play that, what he had said in the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. And, you know, I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, obviously, are politics involved in whether the Justice Department decides to go for civil rights charges? Does President Obama get involved in this?
TOOBIN: Well, I'm sure he will not be involved. It'd be totally inappropriate for him to be involved. But the very fact that they are conducting an investigation is in part a reflection of the politics of the situation. But speaking of politics, I thought one aspect of President Obama's statement today, which Martin didn't mention earlier, was he said this should cause reflection about the use of gun violence.
Now why did George Zimmerman have a gun at all? Why did he use a gun? If he had simply been a community auxiliary -- you know, all he needed was a phone to call the police. We have a culture now where people thinks -- people think guns make you more safe. And that, I think, at least is called into question by this whole situation.
COOPER: Does the idea that now George Zimmerman gets his gun back, does that bother anybody?
HOSTIN: It bothers me. I mean, it's remarkable that they're behaving in such a cavalier manner. I mean, you know, they're saying things like his representation, they're saying things like well, he needs it now more than ever because people are going to take the law into their own hands, when, in fact, that's what he has been accused of doing. So I think it's remarkable that he's made all of these statements that just show a complete disconnect with what most Americans are feeling about this.
COOPER: He was acquitted. Look, he was acquitted of any crime.
HOSTIN: That's right, but it shows -- I think it shows just a complete disconnect with the sensitivity of this case.
COOPER: He was also told by a former police officer, his best friend, that he should get a gun. I mean, that's what -- came out during the testimony.
TOOBIN: But I mean this is how -- guns have -- I mean, the culture of guns have changed so dramatically. You know, in 1968 when Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated, the first thing that happened was the Gun Control Act of 1968. Guns were perceived as dangerous. Now when we have these mass shootings, the reaction of a lot of people is we need to have more guns. We need to have guns in school. We need to have teacher -- you know, Virginia Tech, that the students should have had guns.
I mean, that is a change in the mindset of many people in this country that, you know, it's not for me to say it's wrong, but it's just dramatically different from how it used to be.
COOPER: Let's talk about the civil -- possibility of a civil lawsuit. I mean, how likely is that? How easy is that?
CEVALLOS: Any -- easy is one thing. Anyone can sue anyone at any time for anything. Whether it survives is another thing. Now remember, he's been acquitted, so there's a whole host of evidence that will then -- and remember, the standard in a criminal case is higher. We saw this with O.J. The standard is beyond a reasonable doubt. That's significantly higher than a civil case, which is simply a preponderance of the evidence, commonly thought of as 51 percent.
The O.J. case was a perfect example of a person who was acquitted using the reasonable doubt standard. But once they found themselves in front of a civil jury, he was found not -- he was not found guilty in the civil context. We find people liable. COOPER: Mark, you're making the case in terms of money, there might not be really anything there for the family to collect from George Zimmerman.
GERAGOS: Right. Somebody actually just tweeted something, which made some sense that, well, what if he has a future book deal or something like that? So wouldn't you want the judgment? That's definitely something --
TOOBIN: Mark, Mark, you and I are book authors. Anderson is a book author. There's not a big pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for George Zimmerman.
HOSTIN: I need to write a book.
CEVALLOS: I think you're a lot more interesting than George Zimmerman.
HOSTIN: I need a book.
CEVALLOS: I'm putting together a pamphlet so we can plug it here.
HOSTIN: But you know what I think that we haven't considered?
GERAGOS: Hey, Anderson?
HOSTIN: Is the fact of possible Stand Your Ground immunity from civil suit in Florida. We know that that's part of Florida law, and he has been found not guilty in a criminal case. I wonder if that will apply eventually if the family decides to --
TOOBIN: And also, and also, just being crude about this, the -- knowing that there is so little money out there, what lawyer is going to take -- it would be enormously expensive to sue, to bring a civil case.
GERAGOS: There will be some --
GERAGOS: Yes, but there'll be some lawyer who would take -- trust me. There are lawyers -- there are lawyer who would take that case. I mean, I'll give you examples in the last week of lawyers who have sued clients of mine on ridiculous cases.
TOOBIN: Mark, Mark, you may have heard about this. Some lawyers are interested in publicity. I know you're unfamiliar with this concept. I know some people -- (CROSSTALK)
GERAGOS: I learned -- I learned it from --
TOOBIN: I've read somewhere in a book with that --
COOPER: Yes. All right. Listen, I want to thank our panel.
Coming up, Zimmerman's defense attorney Mark O'Mara says he's somewhat surprised by the outrage over the verdict. Among those people are outraged, we'll hear from him ahead.
We'll also hear from Martin family -- from Trayvon Martin's family attorney. We'll be right back.
COOPER: 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 Zimmerman's safety and their own. Then 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.
Chris Cuomo spoke with Mark O'Mara earlier today.
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?
O'MARA: 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, deliberated 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 any thought 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.
COOPER: Sitting in the courtroom listening to all the testimony was difficult for Trayvon Martin's family, obviously to endure. Martin's parents, as you know, 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.
His parents were not in the courtroom for the verdict. And Martin family attorney Daryl Parks was. I spoke to him earlier tonight.
COOPER: 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 with a 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, I mean, 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" from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern on CNN.
Up next, in the aftermath of the polarizing case, we're going to take a look at the kind of life that George Zimmerman now faces and why he may be looking over his shoulder for a long time.
COOPER: A jury of his peers spoke, and George Zimmerman left court in Sanford late last night a free man. That depends on how one defines freedom. His life has been changed forever. There's no doubt about that as we hear from David Mattingly.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's been in hiding for over a year, daring to venture out only in disguise and wearing body armor. Since killing Trayvon Martin, life for George Zimmerman is filled with isolation and caution.
O'MARA: There are a lot of people who think George killed Trayvon for racial reasons even though nothing supports that. And if they feel that anger enough they could react and violently.
MATTINGLY: There have been tweets, e-mails and letters wishing him bodily harm or death. Now that George Zimmerman is free, it's almost certain he won't be able to go back to the life he had before. Pursuing a career in law enforcement.
MIKE PAUL, REPUTATION MANAGEMENT COUNSELOR: That is the absolute worst thing you can do. It might your old passion, my advice would be you need to find a new passion. And it needs to be helping people in a very different way. A way that is much more compassionate. Not just involving law enforcement.
MATTINGLY: For a view of live after acquittal, Zimmerman may need to look no further than Casey Anthony. The hated young mother found not guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter. She has since lived in hiding and in financial ruin. Cheney Mason was her defense attorney.
CHENEY MASON, CASEY ANTHONY DEFENSE ATTORNEY: And you never know who the nuts are and where they are. There are still people that threatened me.
MATTINGLY (on camera): It sounds like there are some very severe consequences for being found guilty in a court of public opinion.
MASON: There are. But you don't have Jell-O and cheese sandwiches in jail.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): It may not be hopeless for Zimmerman. He continues to have strong support from his immediate family. Part of his defense is being paid for by thousands of dollars donated by the public. But even here there could be problems.
GENE GRABOWSKI, CRISIS PUBLIC RELATION MANAGER: He's got to be careful to avoid the appearance of creating more divisions by accepting money or support openly from groups that maybe would create more friction because of the -- you know, the tenor of this case. He's got to be very careful about who he associates with afterwards, even if they are offering financial support.
MATTINGLY: And shortly after his dramatic acquittal, George Zimmerman's first steps back into private life were hidden from cameras and public view. His destination, his plans, a closely- guarded secret.
R. ZIMMERMAN: He has always feared for his safety. We have always feared for his safety and our safety as a family. Clearly, you know, he's a free man in the eyes of the court, but he's going to be looking around his shoulder for the rest of his life.
COOPER: David Mattingly joins me now from Sanford, Florida.
David, is there any sort of expert advice that George Zimmerman has been offered that he should be following right now?
MATTINGLY: Well, yes, and it's pretty simple. First of all, he needs to disappear. And that when he does reemerge to talk to people and to tell his story, he needs to be contrite. The last thing he needs to do right now is start to give people the impression that he beat the system -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, David Mattingly, thanks very much. We'll be right back.
CROWD: Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin.
COOPER: People in Oakland, California, marching, chanting in support of Trayvon Martin. There have been marches and rallies going on all day and into the night throughout the country.
That does it for this edition of 360. Our special report, THE GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL: NOT GUILTY.
Join us tomorrow night at 8:00 and 10:00 Eastern for the latest developments in the verdict and the day's other top stories. Thanks for watching.
Morgan Spurlock's "INSIDE MAN" is next.