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Nation Reacts to Zimmerman Verdict; DOJ Weighing Civil Rights Case; O'Mara "Surprised" By Outrage; Snowden "Nightmare" Scenario; Family Hopes Mandela to Head Home for 95th Birthday; Interview with Zimmerman Next-Door Neighbor

Aired July 15, 2013 - 08:00   ET




ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S BROTHER: He's a free man in the eyes of the court, but looking around his shoulder for the rest of his life.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Overnight, coast to coast protests against the George Zimmerman verdict. Late-night clashes with police. We're live with the latest.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Next steps. Could George Zimmerman be back in court? The Justice Department is investigating and could charge him. We have the latest.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Trapped. A 6-year-old boy swallowed into a sand dune. The frantic nearly three-hour race to dig him up and save his life.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY continues right now.

BOLDUAN: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Monday, July 15th. It's about 8:00 in the east. Great to see you. I'm Kate Bolduan.

CUOMO: And I'm Chris Cuomo here as always with news anchor, Michaela Pereira. We're following all the developing news as the country reacts to the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Overnight protesters took to the streets of major cities demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. Some of those protests ended up in clashes with police. All of this as the Justice Department says it will look into civil rights violations by Zimmerman.

BOLDUAN: We're covering this story like no other network can with reporters on the ground. Sanford, Florida, Washington, and New York, and we'll also hear more from George Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, as well as his next door neighbor and close friend, George Rodriguez.

We're also going to have CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, here to give analysis.

PEREIRA: We're following so many other stories this morning. Including the sudden and tragic, untimely death of "Glee" actor Cory Monteith.

Also, the blueprint Edward Snowden maybe holding. Also, we're also going to tell you a story of an incredible rescue by two young teens that may have saved a young girl's life. That story and many more ahead.

BOLDUAN: All right. First up, though, the not guilty verdict sparking protests across the country. Overnight police clashed with demonstrators in New York and Los Angeles. And today, there are rallies planned in the city where the verdict was handed down.

CNN's Alina Machado is there in Sanford, Florida, with much more this morning. Good morning, Alina.


Demonstrations here in Sanford, Florida, have been small and peaceful. A sharp contrast to what we've seen in some other parts of the country.


MACHADO (voice-over): Overnight, thousands of protesters from New York to Los Angeles to the nation's capital, out in full force, reacting to this moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury, find George Zimmerman, not guilty.

MACHADO: In New York's Times Square, a solid showing of protesters united, arm in arm. One young man braved the sweltering heat in an all-black hoodie, but demonstrations in Harlem turned into scuffles with police and reports of two people taken into custody.

And in Los Angeles, mostly peaceful marches interrupted by protesters, throwing batteries, rocks, chunks of concrete, and a separate gathering on the 10 Freeway shut down traffic. The LAPD responding by shooting bean bags at demonstrators.

In Oakland, California, protesters were seen smashing a police car. Demonstrations elsewhere were mostly peaceful. In Sanford, Florida, the anger was palpable in the Goldsboro neighborhood, a largely African-American part of town.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, I'm just too emotional. I'm just sick and tired. I'm just done.

MACHADO: But community leaders were anxious to turn disappointment into constructive action.

JAMES DAVIS, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Perhaps we can take this anger and move it into a positive vein, because if nothing else, this snapped our necks back. (END VIDEOTAPE)

MACHADO: Several churches here in Seminole County, Florida, will be opening their doors every Monday afternoon for community prayers. The first session is expected to start here at this church behind me this afternoon and we're told the mayor and the police chief are planning to attend -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Alina, thank you very much.

George Zimmerman's criminal trial is over, but his legal troubles may not be. Trayvon Martin's parents are considering a wrongful death suit and the Justice Department is looking into whether he violated Trayvon Martin's civil rights.

CNN's Athena Jones joins us from Washington about this.

What do you hear about the situation, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Well, the Department of Justice has been conducting its own parallel investigation into this case with the help of the FBI and Florida officials, and that investigation is ongoing. What isn't clear yet is whether they'll have the evidence to bring federal charges in this case.

There's a very, very high bar they have to meet. They have to prove that George Zimmerman acted out of a sense of racial hatred or racial animus when he shot Trayvon Martin. That's evidence we haven't seen presented yet. It's a very high bar and depends on what you ask if the Justice Department ends up bringing charges.

But we could hear from Attorney General Eric Holder today. He speaks before a group of sorority sisters here -- Kate, Chris.

BOLDUAN: All right. Athena, I'll take it. Thanks so much.

Now, Trayvon Martin's parents were not in the courtroom when the not guilty verdict was handed down but their lawyer says they're devastated and publicly expressing their shock and outrage.

George Howell is live in Sanford, Florida, with more on this side of the story. Good morning, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good morning. So, we are getting a lot of reactions. The statement from the White House to tweets from Martin's family and also at the home church there in Miami Gardens, Florida.


HOWELL (voice-over): With just two words --


HOWELL: -- George Zimmerman became a free man. And for the family of the teenager he killed -- devastation.

Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton said in a tweet, quote, "Lord, during my darkest hour, I lean on you. You are all that I have."

Martin's father wrote, "Even though I'm brokenhearted, my faith is unshattered. I will always love my baby Tray."

Meanwhile, amid growing protests, the president released a statement, asking the country to respect the jury's decision. We should ask ourselves as individuals and as a society how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that's a job for all of us. A way to honor Martin's family."

Even Zimmerman's supporters agree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It comes down to what's right and what's wrong. You know, it was a terrible thing, but I guess Mr. Zimmerman did what he thought he had to.

HOWELL: The verdict was the focus of sermons at many churches across the country Sunday, including this Atlanta church, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once preached.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The world has profiled them. The world has stigmatized them. The world has said to them that they are a problem.

HOWELL: Those sentiments echoed at the home church of Trayvon Martin's family in Miami Gardens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My heart is heavy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're very concerned and very hurt and very disappointed at this point. But we know in the end, God will prevail and justice will be served and we're just, keep everybody in their prayers.

HOWELL: In the end, the jury of six women, five of them white, believe that when George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, he did so in self-defense.


HOWELL: So, George Zimmerman now a free man. What happens next? No one really knows. His attorney, though, did indicate that he will have to remain in hiding. Obviously, for fear. Safety issues still unclear exactly where he will live given more than 16 months of media attention.

CUOMO: All right. George, thank you very much.

Now, George Zimmerman's attorney said Zimmerman didn't want to kill Trayvon Martin, but felt he had to, to save his own life. I asked Mark O'Mara if his client has any regrets and if he wishes he would have just stayed in his car that night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 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.

MARK O'MARA, ZIMMERMAN DEFENSE ATTORNEY: And that's a frustration that people have and I share it with them, because this is my life and I deal with this every day. When you have to look inside somebody's head, 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, you don't know that the next shot on concrete isn't going to be the one that sends you unconscious.

You are allowed to react to your reasonable perception of potential injury, and I think anybody in that set of circumstances, screaming for help for 45 seconds, would say that they acted reasonably in stopping the attack.

CUOMO: Because at that point, legally, you are allowed to use lethal force to protect yourself?

O'MARA: George Zimmerman did not want to shoot anybody. I think it's a testament to the fact that he didn't want to shoot anybody that he went through 45 seconds of screaming for help before he did. I wish people would look at it through that filter. I think they'd understand the very unfortunate and tragic circumstances that unfolded that very night.

CUOMO: Taking a half a step back, we talked about the 911 operator, saying to Mr. Zimmerman, "You don't need to do that, we don't you need to go after him," and then he goes after him anyway.

Do you think that that is something that George Zimmerman wishes he could take back, that decision?

O'MARA: You know, he has gotten criticized, because he wouldn't have changed anything. Does he wish that he'd never gotten out of the car? Does he wish he'd never went to Target? Absolutely.

But let's remember that he got out of the car at the precise moment after the 911 or non-emergency operator said, where's he going? What's he doing now? He had said that on three separate occasions. So it's a tragedy, but I don't think that it was George Zimmerman's fault in the way this thing unfolded.


BOLDUAN: Thankful that Mark O'Mara gave us some of his time to address some of those questions. Let's talk about more of those questions and what it means with senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. He's with us along following this case.

First, when I ask you, we have a lot to talk about it on how the verdict went down. Going forward, the big question about the justice department considering federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman. But as Athena Jones laid out, a high threshold for the justice department to do that. Do you think it's there?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's hard to say. It's a high bar, but it's actually very similar to the bar the prosecution faced in the state trial.

Remember, the prosecution argued that George Zimmerman was motivated by hate. They used that word in court. It's -- they didn't say racial hate, but the implication was certainly there. If the Justice Department proceeds, they would have to prove, in effect, that he was motivated by racial hate. Self-defense will also be a defense in a federal case, if there is one there.

So, the big difference might be a different jury. But the facts of the case and the legal standards are really not going to be that different.

BOLDUAN: And is there any limitation on timing when this would need to be brought?

TOOBIN: Not really. I mean, the statute of limitations goes on for quite some time. That's not an issue.


CUOMO: Concerns of false expectations -- talking with some of the people in the protest last night. Maybe the prosecutors brought this case for the wrong reasons and now looking backwards about it. This talk about it being worthy of a civil rights action or that that may actually happen.

Do you think we need to see people being more careful in terms of the determinations made so we don't set up false expectations?

TOOBIN: This is a very similar pattern to what went on after the shooting itself. Initially the Sanford Police Department said they were not going to proceed and then protests and then decided to prosecute him for second degree murder, which even more harsh a charge than people expected. We could go through a similar cycle here, an acquittal, political pressure, another charge.

It's not a great way to conduct criminal justice in response to public expectations. The lawyers have specific standards that they need to follow, rules, procedures. And, you know, I can't speak to what the motivations are either of the protesters or of the prosecutors, but it's better to make these decisions as much as possible on the law.

BOLDUAN: What are the big, what is your big take away from this case? People are going to be looking at this and studying how this all played out in court and the facts that were not allowed into the courtroom. What is your big lesson from this?

TOOBIN: Well, my lesson is that individual criminal trials are not a very good way to draw general conclusions about the state of America. These trials are so specific. They're about what one witness said and how lawyers make choices about which witnesses to call and which not to call. They don't, I think, tell us a lot about the broader political world.

But, that's often how we see these cases.

BOLDUAN: They do touch on the pressure points --

TOOBIN: They sure do.

BOLDUAN: -- that maybe do spark a conversation that needs to be had.

TOOBIN: That is true. But, obviously, race is a subject we're all talk about. Race was everywhere and nowhere in that courtroom. You know, it was never specifically said that George Zimmerman did this as a racist act. They talk about profiling. They didn't say racial profiling.

CUOMO: They kind of had it both ways.

TOOBIN: That would --

CUOMO: Yes, he was profiling, but why was he profiling him? Because he was a black kid and he had some suspicion about what happened in the past, but they sort of prosecute that a little bit both ways. Also, they had opportunity to charge him with a bias crime on the books in Florida.

TOOBIN: And they didn't.

CUOMO: There is a crime saying it was an aggravated crime because you picked this person because of race or other specific categories. They chose not to charge. Is one of the lessons, Jeffrey, it's not about truth in the courtroom? You only know what you show.

And there was a burden. It's very high on purpose, because we want to make sure in our system that if someone is guilty, they had every benefit they had.

TOOBIN: And the verdicts in criminal courtrooms are guilty and not guilty. They are not guilty and innocent. And that's something always to keep in mind about any criminal trial, but it seems especially appropriate in this one.

BOLDUAN: All right. Jeffrey, thank you so much. It's great to see you.

TOOBIN: All righty.

BOLDUNA: As always, we'll talk to you soon. Thank you so much.

CUOMO: In a few moments, we're going to get a chance to speak with a long time friend and next door neighbor of George Zimmerman, and we'll get his perspective on where George is throughout this. It would be interesting to be sure.

But, first, a lot of news at this hour. So, let's get to Michaela with that.

PEREIRA: All right. Good morning to you. And good morning to you at home.

Making headlines this morning:

The NSA leaker's revelations may not be over. In fact, he is said to have more insider information that could be a nightmare for the U.S. government.

Phil Black is following the very latest for us from Moscow -- Phil.


Yes, according to the journalist that initially brought the Snowden story, Snowden has a lot of information, enough information to do more harm to the United States in one minute than anyone has ever had the potential to do before.

He talks about thousands of documents, effectively an instruction manual for how the NSA is built, how it does, what it does, an information that he says that could be used to replicate or evade that surveillance.

Now, Snowden remains at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport. On Friday afternoon, he announced he was going to seek asylum in this country, but Russian officials tell us today that he has not yet applied formally. He's not made any formal request.

The process once he makes that request will take about a month with the final decision made be Russia's president, Vladimir Putin.

Back to you, Michaela.

PEREIRA: We'll be watching and waiting. Phil Black, thank you.

A man arrested outside the Boston home of Secretary of State John Kerry. Police say the man was snapping photos of the house and had a pellet gun in the car. Kerry has been visiting his wife Teresa in the hospital at the time. As you'll recall, she's recovering from seizure earlier this month.

Just north of Las Vegas, progress on the Carpenter 1 fire. It is now 70 percent. The incident commander says homes are no longer in danger and residents of Kyle Canyon are now being able to return to their homes Wednesday. Fire crews say they hope to have most areas of the mountain open to the public by Friday.

Family members are hoping Nelson Mandela will be able to come home to celebrate his 95th birthday Thursday. Mandela, as you know, has been hospitalized for more than five weeks with a recurring lung infection. A former key deputy Mandela predicts South Africa's former president is recovering well enough to possibly be discharged in the next few days.

I know you remember this moment, we introduced you to Norman, the French Sheep dog who was trying to set a world record. We're happy to report the furry fella did it. he rode a scooter nearly 100 feet in just over 20 seconds. Plenty of people turned out to cheer him on. And I want to show you a little. You guys didn't believe me that I had previous time with Norman and that he, indeed, know how to anchor a news -- let's just put it this way. I don't know if he can anchor but he can (INAUDIBLE). So, that's proof from the KCLN morning news in Los Angeles that Norman can do many things, my friend. It's not just scoot.


BOLDUAN: He still believed that is a man in a dog.

PEREIRA: There was no zipper. That was all dog. Trust me, he had dog food rest (ph).



CUOMO: He also speaks perfect English.


CUOMO: And I don't understand how this possible.

PEREIRA: You're a doubter.

CUOMO: I love your reach, though. Some dog doing stunts. You know him.


PEREIRA: When you question me, I have to give you proof.

CUOMO: -- real deal.

BOLDUAN: We never questioned it.

PEREIRA: He did.

BOLDUAN: I never questioned it.

PEREIRA: You believe me, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Coming up next on NEW DAY, George Zimmerman's been out of sight since the not guilty verdict came down. Well, straight ahead, we're going to talk to one of the few people who has been in touch with him.

CUOMO: And a terrifying trip to the beach for a little boy and his family. The kid gets swallowed up who's just six-year-old by a sand dune. We're going to tell you everything that happened. He's recovering this morning, but the story of this you got to hear.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everybody. Since his acquittal, George Zimmerman has only communicated with a small circle of friends and family. Among them, Zimmerman's long-time friend and next door neighbor, Jorge Rodriguez, who joins me right now. Jorge, thanks for taking the opportunity.


CUOMO: Appreciate it. You've been texting with your friend. Where is this head? How does he feel about the situation?

RODRIGUEZ: From the last time I text him, it seems like he's humble. You know, I'm pretty sure that it hasn't absorbed into him yet, you know, with all the situation that's going on. But, he seems calm.

CUOMO: Is he aware of the intensity of the reaction and what's been said about him?

RODRIGUEZ: I'm pretty sure since all the media coverage and all the, you know, outbursts that have happened since the verdict, you know? I'm pretty sure he's keeping you know, viewing, watching.

CUOMO: Along the way, has he felt this was unfair? Did he understand that this is just a process? What's been his take on it?

RODRIGUEZ: He figured it was unfair, you know? But he knew there was a process. You know, he knew that he had to go through that process.

CUOMO: Did he have doubts about how it would come out?

RODRIGUEZ: We never really talked about that. It was mostly every time we talked was more of, you know, are you reading the bible? Yes. Are you eating? You know what I'm saying, just keep your clear mind. Keep calm. You know what I'm saying? Stuff like that.

CUOMO: Now, is that who he was before all of this? Was he religious, spiritual or was this a situation that kind of made him seek out some higher comfort?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, you know you have your Jehovah Witnesses that would knock on your door. He would let them in. He would actually let them in and listen to them.

CUOMO: And one of the things that happened during this case was, obviously, the defense team had to figure out who might we want to come on and testify. You were deposed in this case as a witness. Why did they want you to testify?

RODRIGUEZ: Because I've seen the bruises on his face the day after the incident and I recognized his voice on the 911 tape.

CUOMO: Now, you're a man. You know, you grew up. You know what it's like when there could be fights and stuff like that. Men and women get into fights, of course.


CUOMO: So, you know what you're talking about when you look at somebody in this kind of situation. What do those marks look like to you, those wounds?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, when I saw him in the back of his head, he had two big lumps and two big bandages covering those lumps. And then, when I went to the front of his face, I saw the big -- his nose swollen and a bandage on top of his nose.

CUOMO: Because you know that was a lot of the talks surrounding the case, right? How bad were the injuries?


CUOMO: Would it really make you fear that something terrible was being done to you. What's your take?

RODRIGUEZ: From knowing George and seeing the injuries, something happened that night where he had to protect his life and which he did so.

CUOMO: From your knowledge of your neighbor, tough guy, been in fights before, knew how to handle himself?

RODRIGUEZ: No. No, not at all. He does not have a fighting bone in his body, you know? He seemed real calm. Always peaceful when he talked. Humble. Not that rough neck, you know, ready to fight type of attitude. Not at all.

CUOMO: Now, Jorge, though his name is Zimmerman, he's Peruvian descent. I take there from Latino descent as well.


CUOMO: Sensitive to race and ethnicity. You ever suspect anything about George or him talk about race or who it is that, you know, our neighborhood doing this, robbing us?

RODRIGUEZ: Not at all. Not at all. This is so far from being racial it's not even funny. Just because he has a White last name and an African-American was dead, automatically, everybody assumes racial. This is far from being race. You know what I'm saying? This is just a bad situation that happened.

CUOMO: What can you tell us about him that explains how he feels about people of different backgrounds?

RODRIGUEZ: Pretty sure, just like everybody else, he accepts everybody. You know, he doesn't have no Black, White, Yellow, Green in his body, you know? He accepts everybody for who they are.

CUOMO: And you say that you've seen him entertained and have people of color at his house?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes. Yes. I live right next door to him, so I've seen people come to his house, African descent.

CUOMO: And it's interesting, when this was happening in the beginning, your reaction was very different. You said I don't know that George Zimmerman shouldn't (ph) get an award for what he did.

RODRIGUEZ: Well, you think about it. How many people in your neighborhood would stand up for something like this? Not a lot. A lot of people in America wouldn't stand up. This is one person that actually stood up for his community.

CUOMO: How so?

RODRIGUEZ: Because he -- he kept everybody safe, you know? He checked everybody out. What I mean by that is, you know, there was a lady that got her house robbed. She was in there with her three- month-old baby, I presume. And he went to her and actually bought her a lock to keep her safe. How many people does that in the United States? Not that many people.

CUOMO: You're saying, for George Zimmmerman, it was just about keeping his neighborhood safe. That's what it was about?

RODRIGUEZ: Of course. Keeping his fellow community safe, you know, his neighbors safe. Yes.

CUOMO: Did he give you any idea what he's going to do next?

RODRIGUEZ: Not really. I'm not sure, to be honest with you, what he's going to do next. I'm pretty sure right now, though, he's just absorbing everything that's happened and, you know, waiting for what else is going to happen.

CUOMO: Were you surprised by the verdict?

RODRIGUEZ: No. From day one, I already knew he was not guilty.

CUOMO: Jorge, thank you very much for taking the opportunity. Appreciate it this morning -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Chris, thanks so much.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, the host of CNN's new "CROSSFIRE," Van Jones and Newt Gingrich joining us to discuss this very important issue. How race may have played a role in this case of George Zimmerman and the conversation after it?

Also coming up, J.K. "Harry Potter's" -- "Harry Potter" author, J.K. Rowling is revealing the big secret behind her latest best-selling novel.