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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
J.K. Rowling's New Book; Country Reacts to Zimmerman Verdict
Aired July 15, 2013 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, ANCHOR, "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER": The day after the day after the verdict and everyone's still talking about it.
I'm Jake Tapper, and this is THE LEAD.
The national lead. They think he got away with murder. Protesters in the streets nationwide calling for a new trial for George Zimmerman. Will the Justice Department meet their demands even after a jury said not guilty?
No ankle bracelet, no curfew. George Zimmerman is a free man. But can anyone ever live a normal life again after being tried for such a heinous crime? We will ask the attorney who defended someone who would know, Casey Anthony.
And the pop culture lead, putting her name anywhere near a book guarantees an instant best seller. So why did J.K. Rowling, the creator of "Harry Potter," try to go incognito and release her new novel under a pen name?
Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jack Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.
We will begin with the national lead.
Perhaps not wanting to appear as if they're gloating, George Zimmerman supporters have remained mostly quiet since after his not guilty verdict Saturday night. Not so among those who wanted him to see him convicted for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in the trial that brought a renewed focus to issues of race, racial profiling and self- defense and captivated the country.
In Sanford, Florida, where the shooting happened, the mayor and police chief appeared at a community prayer service today and praised the way the city has handled the aftermath.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CECIL SMITH, SANFORD, FLORIDA, POLICE CHIEF: This community is coming together to talk about where we are today and how we can move forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The Justice Department is now considering civil rights charges against Zimmerman as the verdict brings thousands of outraged protesters into the streets.
TAPPER (voice-over): Law enforcement warned people to stay peaceful and for the most part they did, as thousands of Americans took to the streets to protest what they consider a miscarriage of justice. Many braved the summer heat in hoodies showing solidarity with Trayvon Martin.
But not everything stayed peaceful. Sunday in Los Angeles swelling crowds refused police orders to disperse and then according to police threw batteries, rocks and chunks of concrete at police. LAPD officers fired beanbag rounds at the crowd and arrested seven people. In another part of L.A., marchers should down a freeway. On the other side of the country, in New York, protesters took to Times Square, then marched to Harlem, where arrests followed clashes with police, but generally the clashes were few, even if emotions were still raw.
JAMES DAVIS, PROTESTER: Perhaps we can take this anger and move it into a positive vein, because if nothing else, this snapped our necks back.
REV. STEVEN DEWBERRY, PROTESTER: We are going to continue as a people to fight against this madness, this brutality until it stops.
TAPPER: Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. urged calm.
REV. JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: They must be careful to have a dignity and discipline and let no act discredit the legacy of Trayvon Martin or the appeal of his family, because in the long run we will prevail in the struggle for justice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said in your word let justice roll down like water.
TAPPER: Meanwhile, the NAACP and others are calling on the Justice Department to press federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
REV. ANTHONY EVANS, PROTESTER: There cannot be two standards in America, one for white people and one for black people. Those days are over.
TAPPER: Experts say that such a prosecution would be extremely difficult to mount with any real chance of success and at the White House Briefing Room today President Obama's spokesman would not touch it.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Will be handled in the way it should be at the Department of Justice and certainly not here.
TAPPER: Across town today, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech at a luncheon for an African-American sorority.
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Justice Department shares your concern. I share your concern.
TAPPER: And he referred to the shooting as unnecessary.
HOLDER: The tragic, unnecessary shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, last year.
TAPPER: Some Zimmerman supporters expressed disappointment that holder called the death unnecessary, since that would seem to suggest the highest ranking law enforcement official in the land may be rejecting the self-defense argument of the acquitted defendant, Mr. Zimmerman.
Zimmerman's argument was after all that he thought it was, in fact, necessary to shoot Trayvon Martin and a jury agreed that that was at the very least a possibility.
And what about George Zimmerman? Are more charges ahead? NAACP officials tell CNN they have around 800,000 signatures on their online petition asking for the Justice Department to file federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. The Web site was so overloaded with visits it crashed for a couple hours yesterday.
The Justice Department actually opened an investigation on the case over a year ago. Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged today at that event that the investigation is still ongoing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: I want to assure you that the department will continue to act in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law. We are committed to standing with the people of Sanford, with the individuals and families affected by this incident and with our state and local partners in order to alleviate tensions, address community concerns and to promote healing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: But how realistic is it that Zimmerman would face federal charges after being acquitted?
Let's bring in our legal panel.
Linda Kenney Baden is a criminal defense attorney who represented Phil Spector and was on Casey Anthony's defense team. And Sunny Hostin is a CNN legal analyst and a former federal prosecutor.
Sunny, let's start with you. The discussion of these federal charges, they have typically been applied to public employees like police officers in the Rodney King case. Attorney General Holder said last year it was a high bar for these charges. Can you walk us through this high bar? What would be needed? Is this really credible?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is a high bar. I do, Jake, think that it's a possibility. I think it's credible and we do know the Justice Department has a parallel investigation going on into this matter and they have had for some time, for about a year now. And that investigation, as the attorney general said, was still ongoing.
What they would have to prove is under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Act, the hate crime act many people call it, it was passed in 2009. They would have to prove that George Zimmerman's actions were racially motivated, that he willfully injured Trayvon Martin because of his race, that part of it was because of his race.
I don't know. When you look at that and you know when it's race based that the federal government does have jurisdiction, I think that it certainly is a possibility. And although the state did not use race as an element in this case, remember the state was precluded from calling it racial profiling. They did call it profiling, that George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin as a criminal.
I don't think it's such a leap to argue, yes, he profiled him as a criminal because he was African-American because other African- Americans in his view were the ones getting away, were the ones, you know, criminals, the ones that were criminals in his community. So I don't think it's a stretch when people are arguing that it's an impossibility for the Justice Department to bring a case here.
TAPPER: Linda, after the verdict the prosecutor said that this case was not about race. What do you think is the likelihood of the Justice Department actually filing these charges?
LINDA KENNEY BADEN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Jake, I have been involved in cases where there is a Justice Department request for an investigation or for an investigation.
I think it's highly unlikely. The Justice Department already found in one report that race wasn't the underlying current of this case. So then they're talking about excessive force, which the jury found is not credible here. I don't think it's going to happen. Usually they take these cases when there is an actual racial component or under the Civil Rights Act when there is excessive force and usually it has to do with more than one shot, it has to do with a pattern of practice, normally a police community, problems such as we saw in New Jersey with the New Jersey State Police and racial profiling.
But a one-shot case from a private citizen that is not a political assassination is going to be very difficult for them to bring under these circumstances.
TAPPER: Let's talk about some of the other legal burdens Zimmerman could be facing. Listen to what his defense attorney said the night of the acquittal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK O'MARA, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: And on the civil aspect, if someone believes that it's appropriate to sue George Zimmerman, then we will seek and we will get immunity in a civil hearing and we will see just how many civil lawsuits are spawned from this fiasco.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Linda, walk us through that. That means something very specific. What did Mark O'Mara mean when he said we will get immunity? BADEN: Well, the stand your ground law in Florida has an immunity component. If a judge found that stand your ground applied he'd get automatic immunity from lawsuits in the civil arena and more criminal prosecution from a state agency.
The problem here is that there was no specific judge's finding. Now, there was a jury charge that said George Zimmerman had the right to stand his ground. What O'Mara will be arguing is he does have immunity because the jury accepted the stand your ground immunity in their not guilty verdict. That's going to be an issue that will be litigate-able by both sides, because the question is the jury, which is not reflected in the law, does that count or does it have to be another judge's hearing?
TAPPER: Sunny, Zimmerman is also filing -- he has also filed a lawsuit against NBC for that misleading editing of that package in which he sounded as if he was bringing up race on his own, he wasn't asked about it. How likely is that suit to be successful?
HOSTIN: You know, I'm not sure about that, Jake. I wasn't aware that actually he had filed the suit. I know that Mark O'Mara said that was something they were going to do.
But I'm not sure of the result of that. I wonder, though, if Trayvon Martin's family is thinking about filing a wrongful death suit. We do see wrongful death suits on the civil side, even when there is a not guilty verdict, an acquittal on the criminal side.
But I think Linda makes a good point. Because stand your ground is this sort of odd law that Florida has and it's in a couple of other states, he may have that civil immunity, at least his attorneys have indicated that they are going to seek that immunity. I think that it's something that people have been talking about all day, all yesterday. Can Trayvon Martin's family at least get some sort of justice or what they perceive to be justice in the civil arena, which has a lower standard of proof?
It's only a preponderance of the evidence. I think Florida is not going to afford them that.
TAPPER: That's right. Stand your ground not invoked in this trial, but might be invoked in the next one.
Sunny Hostin, Linda Kenney Baden, thank you so much.
Coming up, he's a free man but his own brother says George Zimmerman will be looking over his shoulder the rest of his life. We will ask Casey Anthony's attorney what George Zimmerman's world could look like after the verdict.
And if the royal baby is a girl, it could radically modernize a 1,000- year-old monarchy. We're in London with the latest. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Continuing our national lead, the George Zimmerman trial and subsequent not guilty verdict has in many ways presented an opportunity for some soul searching in this country on matters of race and racial profiling. There are those who believe race was merely injected into the case, while others insist that race is now and always has been at the very heart of the case.
The hoodie Trayvon Martin was wearing the night he was killed has become something of a symbol for those who believe that African- American men can be rendered suspicious not by their actions but by their very presence.
"New Yorker" contributing writer Jelani Cobb wrote that finding Zimmerman not guilty validated -- quote -- "the idea that the actions Zimmerman took that night were those of a reasonable man, that the conclusions he drew were sound and that a black teenager can be considered armed any time he is walking down a paved street."
So, where does the conversation go from here? And how can both sides -- both sides -- all sides attempt to learn something from the other?
Joining us now live from New York is writer Jelani Cobb, along with "Washington Post" columnist Clinton Yates here in studio.
Gentlemen, I want to get your reaction to something Zimmerman defense attorney Mark O'Mara said after the verdict, when asked how would this case have played out if George Zimmerman were black.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK O'MARA, ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think 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)
TAPPER: Jelani, what's your reaction to that? He never would have been charged with a crime if it had been a black-on-black crime?
JELANI COBB, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: I don't think that's true at all. I don't know what his meaning of that was. He seems to have set up such that we're supposed to believe Mr. Zimmerman was the victim in all this. There were two people there that night, one of them was deceased. It was not his client.
And so, you know, that obviates the idea of him being the victim. But secondly I think it gets to, you know, a deeper and more problematic conception that African-Americans don't care, you know, when this issue of someone who dies at the hands of a black person. That's absolutely not true.
I think the real reason that people got out of the street, the reason that people marched, people demanded an investigation, was that in an instance like this, where the perpetrator is nonblack, there is, you know, a kind of public policy alibi that conspires to make it sound such that what happens with Mr. Zimmerman would happen, he'd walk out of the precinct house as a person who's been acquitted. I think people understood that.
TAPPER: Let's talk about this idea on black-on-black crime, because it's been something you've been hearing a lot of, we've been hearing a lot of, in the wake of this whole trial. And, in fact, conservatives keep bringing up the story of 16-year-old Darryl Green, a black Chicago teenager killed for not joining a gang. And conservatives say, where is the national focus on Darryl Green? Where is -- where are the marches for Darryl Green?
Obviously the homicide rate in Chicago, even if it's lower than it was a year ago, is still tragic. And I can't say that it's an entirely unfair question. We should, the world, the media world, should be focusing on all these deaths. But is the -- what do you say to that?
CLINTON YATES, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: I don't understand why you want to spend so much time wondering why there isn't outrage for something when there is outrage for something when we know the larger problem. I wouldn't spend any more time trying to prove that one death was more worthy of outrage than another. Simply look at the root problem.
We have an issue with young black men being targeted and killed by whom ever across this country and it's a real issue. I don't care who is outraged where. It's something we need to address.
TAPPER: So, for you, it doesn't matter who pulls the trigger? The point is, young black men are dying unnecessarily --
YATES: No. It shouldn't matter who pulls the trigger. I mean, young people, young black men, everybody. We can't have an entire generation of kids growing up knowing and thinking that the murderous ways that occur on a regular basis in America are OK. It's just not.
TAPPER: Jelani, I know this issue bothers you when people this bring it up because we talked about it yesterday on CNN. Why? Do you think this is an attempt to deflect? Do you think this is an attempt to change the subject? What is your issue when people talk about, well, what about Chicago gang violence?
COBB: Well, those two things are not -- they're kind of apples and oranges kind of situations. And if people remember, there was a young woman, Miss Pendleton, who was killed in Chicago, and there was a tremendous amount of outpouring of grief, demands that her death not be in vain, that people remember that this is something that's going on in the city and so on. There's organizations like the Interrupters, there are increase the peace rallies. But those rallies are not the ones that conservatives talk about, that these critics have talked about.
When we look at the disproportionate number of African-Americans who support strict gun control laws, it is directly related to this idea that they understand black men are somewhere around 20 times more likely to die as a result of homicide than their white counterparts. None of this is taken in a vacuum. The simple fact is that without people getting into the street, there would never have been charges brought against Zimmerman. That's what this was about. For 44 days last spring, Mr. Zimmerman was able to walk around free after he it taken the life of Trayvon Martin and it wasn't deemed as even worthy of further investigation. That's what the concern was.
Why are there protests and rallies and marches in the case of Trayvon Martin and not the case of other instances? It's because Trayvon Martin's death would have been unnoticed by official police powers had it not been for the protests.
TAPPER: Chief Lee says they were investigating but said they didn't have enough to build a case.
But, right now, I want to bring in David Webb. He's host of "The David Webb Show" on Sirius XM Radio.
David, I'm glad we've been able to get you in.
DAVID WEBB, HOST, "THE DAVID WEBB SHOW": Good to see you, Jake.
TAPPER: You said that this case is not about profiling. But had Trayvon Martin been a white teenager wearing a hoodie, you think realistically George Zimmerman would have made the same assumptions he was a criminal?
WEBB: Well, we don't know what his assumptions were, so we can't draw that distinction. But in the circumstance I think it's fair to say that had he seen a white person in a hoodie exhibiting the same behavior, based on what we know about him, he would have acted the same way.
When it comes to the fact, and we have to stick with the facts on this, Jake, that in Florida you can charge on bias and you can -- Jelani just talked about the case initially where they didn't raise charges so there were protests. The fact is we now see an acquittal not only on second degree murder but any lesser charges put forth in judge's instructions. They had a full acquittal.
Therefore the case was never there to charge him. That's the legal aspect of this. But what we're being drawn into is that now that there is un-satisfaction over the verdict by a jury, by both the prosecutors who had to put forth their case and by the defense that did put forth their case successfully, that we now have dissatisfaction and we go back to the human cry of it's racism, therefore this becomes the next narrative and it's the circus beyond the travesty and the circus that surrounded this trial from 17 -- or the incident from 17 months ago until the trial.
TAPPER: Clinton, you want to --
YATES: Yes. I mean, I think you can't separate race from this case. I think most people believe if he does not see a black teen-ager, he does not approach him --
WEBB: How can you connect them then? If you can't separate them, how do you connect race?
COBB: We should -- the other point that we should bear in mind, David, that is that Mr. Zimmerman made 46 phone calls to the police in the preceding six years only to African-Americans, only to African- Americans. He had called the police on no one else. And prior to this when he did the initial interview in the precinct house, they asked him, why did he pursue against the advice of the police? He said because, "They always get away."
Who gets away? A person who is going home with snacks?
WEBB: He didn't say blacks always get away. He said they and the --
COBB: However, the only people who were suspicious were African- Americans.
WEBB: The calls don't go to the incident. The fact is, when you look at the statistics and anyone can call the local police department and, frankly, anywhere in this country, and get the crime statistics. It's not also unreasonable to say that when you have a large amount of incidences, large amount of crimes committed by blacks, that there is going to be whether you're black, white, Hispanic or anything, a natural impetus to say, I'm going to be more aware of that dynamic. That goes to everybody do.
YATES: That's the thing, not everybody naturally says because I've seen some people committing some crimes --
WEBB: But you keep attaching it, but you cannot show -- you cannot show a direct attachment to race in this case. You can say it all you want, but you cannot attach it, nor can I detach it as being possible. However, it's what you can prove and the FBI, they investigated this in 2012. They said there was no civil rights violation.
The prosecutors could have done it on the Florida law. They did not charge on the basis of bias because there was nothing there that they could show in court.
YATES: That doesn't mean it's not true.
TAPPER: Jelani Cobb --
WEBB: Well, it's kind of like when did you stop beating your wife? That kind of throws out a negative and now you have to defend it.
COBB: That's actually not the case, David, because if you recall there was witness nine, who was a relative, a blood relative of Mr. Zimmerman who said that he held quite prominently racist ideas as it related to African-Americans. That testimony was not allowed in, that person was not allowed into the testimony.
(CROSSTALK) WEBB: But then they didn't allow the toxicology of Trayvon, sad as it is that he's dead. They disallow things in trial if they find them not relevant or not credible.
COBB: Again, that's not true. The minuscule amount of marijuana that was in Mr. Martin's blood stream was brought up in the case. What we did not find out because he was never tested was what was in George Zimmerman's blood stream. Beyond this, you know, this has become a kind of instance of blame the victim here. There are two people who were there --
WEBB: I'm not blaming the victim.
COBB: Let me finish, David. There were two people who were there that night. One of those people had a criminal record, one did not. The person who had a criminal record with two instances of violence, once for domestic violence and once for assault on a police officer is the person who did the shooting, yet our concern has predominantly been with the person who was shot.
WEBB: Jelani, let me ask you a fair question, I think it's a fair question we should all ask ourselves was -- if you're going to use everything about Zimmerman's background, then is everything about Trayvon's background also valid?
COBB: Well, everything particularly relating to someone who has incidents of violence --
WEBB: No, is it valid to say that you should have --
COBB: No, we're talking about -- no, because one person has been shot.
WEBB: Then you're not being honest in your answer because --
TAPPER: Jelani and David, it's been great conversation. We've let it go along because it's so good. Unfortunately, we have to take a break. To be continued. We are going to take talking about this and we will have all of you back to talk about it.
Jelani Cobb, David Webb, Clinton Yates, thank you so much for your views, for your passion, for coming here today. Appreciate it.
Stay with CNN for continuing coverage of the George Zimmerman verdict. Tonight, Piers Morgan will have an exclusive interview with the star witness for the prosecution, Rachel Jeantel. She's the young woman who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin just before his confrontation with George Zimmerman begun.
We'll also have reaction from George Zimmerman's brother Robert Zimmerman, Jr. That's tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN. Coming up, he's got secrets that he said can hurt the U.S. government. Can Edward Snowden be trusted to keep secret? I'll ask Glenn Greenwald, who spoke to the NSA leaker as recently as a few hours ago.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Now our "World Lead". The anachronism known as the British monarchy is on the receiving end of a media melee, with reporters camped outside St. Mary's Hospital in London waiting with bated breath for the birth of the new prince or princess. If you believe the British tabloids and, really, who doesn't?
Catherine, the duchess of Cambridge, is expected to give birth any minute now.
Our Max Foster is outside the hospital.
Max, what's the latest?