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Race and Justice in America: The Michael Dunn Trial

Aired February 17, 2014 - 22:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Welcome to an A.C. 360 special report: "Race and Justice in America: The Michael Dunn Trial."

Jordan Davis, the young African-American man he shot and killed, would have turned 19 over the weekend. Instead, his birthday was marked by sadness for those who loved him and surprise far and wide of the fact that a jury could not reach a verdict on the murder charge in his killing.

That outcome just seven months after another Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the killing of tram is prompting the same tough questions about the law in Florida and so many other states, including stand your ground. Namely, do such laws that are colorblind on paper become less so in practice until young black lives are at stake?

We will explore the interplay between law, race, and justice tonight.

First up, Martin Savidge joins us with more on the verdict, the fallout and what state of play right now is in Florida and what that state plans to do next.

Martin, you have been following this case from the beginning. For people who have really just come in over the weekend, with all this fire, the white-hot controversy surrounding it, explain the highlights of what happened here.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it began when Jordan Davis and three of his friends are in an SUV at a gas station and they are listening to music and everyone agrees it is loud.

At the same time, Michael Dunn and his fiancee pull into that gas station and while she's inside, he claims that he approaches the boys and says, hey, can you turn it down? That's when he says that Jordan Davis became argumentative, abusive and even began threatening him and then Dunn says she saw the barrel of a shotgun being pointed at him from the back of the SUV. He was terrified and he had a gun. Here's his testimony at trial.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going through your mind when he said this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) is going down now? MICHAEL DUNN, DEFENDANT: What went through my mind is that this was a clear and present danger, and I said, you're not going to kill me you son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And as you said, were you looking at him or were you now moving to get...

DUNN: I said that as I was retrieving my pistol.


SAVIDGE: Michael Dunn fired 10 shots, nine of them hitting the SUV, continued firing even as that SUV was trying to pull away.

Jordan Davis was hit three times not a short time later. Michael Dunn, meanwhile, with his fiancee back in the car, drives to a hotel, the next day drives home, never calls police. Police don't find a gun in Jordan Davis' car. Dunn is put on trial for first-degree murder.

BERMAN: There were a lot of moments of high drama in this case, Martin. Perhaps the most dramatic came when his fiancee, who you just mentioned, when Dunn's fiance took the stand. What did she say?

SAVIDGE: If there ever was an aha moment, that was it, because she said two damning things. Number one, she said as that pulled in, Dunn made the comment to her as he heard the music, he said I hate that thug music.

And then the other thing -- and remember she was the one closest to him immediately after the gunfire and for a time thereafter. She testified he never told her that Davis had a gun. This is her on the stand.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the defendant ever tell you he saw a gun in that red SUV?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the defendant ever tell you that he saw a weapon of any kind in that SUV?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no mention of a stick?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no mention of a shotgun?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no mention of a barrel?

ROUER: No. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no mention of a lead pipe?



SAVIDGE: That absolutely stunned the courtroom, John.

BERMAN: So, finally, while a lot of people, including some of the people I'm at this table with tonight, thought this was an open and shut case, still, this jury struggled to come to the conclusion they ultimately did come to.

SAVIDGE: The defense did a good job of planting seeds of doubt

They said the reason a gun was never found in Davis' SUV is that the police bungled that and they also said that the fiancee was so emotionally upset, she didn't know what Dunn told her.

But it was clear a lot of people thought this would be over in a matter of hours with a guilty verdict. Days later, we began to understand that this jury was divided and they came back with a mistrial and they could not agree on the most serious charge, first- degree murder. Instead, they found Dunn guilty on three counts of attempted murder.

He's going to get like 75 years, but many people say, look, that is not the same as being convicted for death of killing an unarmed team. The prosecutor says she will go for a retrial.

BERMAN: Martin Savidge laying out the facts in this case, thank you much. You have been covering it from the beginning down in Jacksonville.

I want to bring in former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin, CNN's Don Lemon, who was anchoring during the verdict. His reaction was sharp, visceral. Don told me moments ago he was pissed off when he heard the verdict. Defense attorney Mark Geragos, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, also Mark O'Mara, George Zimmerman's former defense attorney.

Jeff Toobin, I want to start with you here. You had a simple reaction to this verdict.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, this was a case about a kid killed because he was black. I mean, that's all this case was.


TOOBIN: And I think that's why so many of us had such a horrified reaction to it, because there are interesting legal issues here and there are complexities, but there's no way that he is killed if he is white. He is just killed because he is black.

And fortunately we don't see it that often in this society. But when we do, it's still very disturbing.

HOSTIN: And I think we need to take it a step further when you say he was killed because he was black; he was killed because a white man perceived the he must have a gun because he's black, because he must be a thug. And I think that was what was so hurtful to me as the mother of a black child.

I now know when he is walking down the street, rather than see the straight-A student, rather than see the equestrian, rather than see swim team member, rather than see the tennis star, they will see a thug. And that speaks volumes to me.


HOSTIN: What do I have to do to protect my kid?

MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: OK, but then why is this the surprise? You were the one who sent me the jury breakdown on day one. And I think I said at the time, this has hung jury written all over it.


DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't think she's saying it's a surprise. It's disappointing. Was I surprised? No. Was I pissed off, as I said? Absolutely. And now that has turned into really kind of sadness, that people can't see this, that people are turning it into some sort of issue now, saying that the people who feel the way that I feel, who feel emotional like you, who see this as a cut and dry case, that we are somehow race baiting or playing the race card by talking about that -- look at that kid.

That's a 17-year-old kid. It's not a 17-year-old thug. It's not a 17-year-old who was doing something that all 17-years-olds do. That is a kid -- that all 17-years-olds don't do.


LEMON: Hang on. Hang on. Let me finish.

I was on the West Side Highway the other day, the other evening as we were approaching the Super Bowl. There were kids in a car, four of them of all different ethnicities. The music was so loud coming out of the car. You know what we did. We laughed and said that's what 17-years-old do. They play loud music. And no one should be shot for it.

BERMAN: So, Mark O'Mara, let me bring you in here.

What, then, is the legal justification for this verdict? Because the defense would have to prove that Michael Dunn had a reasonable belief that his life was in danger. So I listen to Don here and I'm listening to Sunny. Hang on. Hang on. So what they are saying is that the only reasonable leap that his life could be in jeopardy is because of what? Because he thought that those kids had a gun? There was no evidence of any kind of gun there. What was the reasonable belief his life was in jeopardy?

MARK O'MARA, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: What this jury was trying to wrestle with, I think, was whether or not he acted in self-defense or if there was a crime. And it's one or the other.

I don't think they were worried about first degree or second degree. I think they were thinking about self-defense. And however Michael Dunn presented himself to that jury through Strolla, through his testimony, through the somewhat lack of evidence that the state had presented, they were able to come up with a question over whether or not he acted in self-defense.

But I think a more important point is this and I would like to get to it if I might, because people have complained about stand your ground and they have complained about self-defense. The statute in Florida has to be changed. I think it's much more both subtle and obvious than that. And here is what I would suggest.

The portion of the statute that we should focus on is the question of a person who acts in -- quote -- "reasonable belief of imminent fear of great bodily injury" and whether or not that reasonableness is a different standard when is it a white person looking at it, when a white looking at it with a black person, black person to black person, because the reality is we will never get away from the idea it is a reasonable fear on a personal standard.

But I think where we need to get a focus and I think we will have the best conversation here tonight is to say we need to figure out why certain people believe it's reasonable to fear other people.

And, Sunny, you just talked about it. You know there are people in America who believe as soon as they look at a black male, they start with that. Just maybe it's a moment, maybe it's a percentage point of fear. But if we don't address that, stand your ground doesn't matter, self-defense doesn't matter. That's the point we have to focus on.


HOSTIN: Well, Mark, I think stand your ground does matter, because it takes away civility. It takes away that duty to retreat.

It basically allows people to shoot based on their fear. But I think to your point about sort of the fear of the black teen, I would like to talk about it and I think we all need to discuss it, because it's really about this man, Michael Dunn's fear and I think it was George Zimmerman's fear as well, of some sort of inherent criminality of a black teen.

He is black, he's a teen, he must be a thug.


LEMON: It's unreasonable fear.

(CROSSTALK) O'MARA: I think if you say it's unreasonable, you're ignoring some of the same things that you argue.

GERAGOS: Exactly.

O'MARA: Because if you look at the reasonableness of it, if in fact we have a system that brings blacks into the system more and a part of that percentage is that blacks bring themselves into the system more, for whatever reason, sociological reasons that we haven't addressed yet, then if in fact they are in the system more, and we know they are, then some of that fear, then, would be argued by somebody to be reasonable because of the slew of young black males in the system.

So, it's sort of circular reasoning.


BERMAN: Mark Geragos, here, you're next.

GERAGOS: It's not unreasonable if you are in the criminal justice every single day.

These same prosecutors cut their teeth every single day demonizing young black males as super predators. When you talk about thug, you know where I hear thug used the most? It's from prosecutors who are prosecuting my clients or Mark's clients who are young black males. That's what happens.

You sit in any courtroom -- I try cases all throughout this country -- the guys who are the revolving door, the people who are the fodder for the criminal justice system are young black males. Go into the prison. It is disproportionately...


GERAGOS: The criminal justice system does nothing but demonize young black males. They are a -- they're kind of the boogeyman of the criminal court system.


BERMAN: Jeff Toobin, go ahead.

TOOBIN: I never want to doubt Mark's cynicism, because it's vindicated, as it was in this case.

But I do think most of the time the criminal justice system involves prosecuting people who are legitimately accused of crime. I don't think this is a large-scale demonization project.


GERAGOS: If you saw some of the arguments that routinely get used in a courtroom by prosecutors when it's directed at a young black male... (CROSSTALK)

HOSTIN: But someone like Michael Dunn is not in courtrooms every day. He is just walking down the street. He's in his own little racist world looking at this kid and calling him a thug.


BERMAN: Let Mark finish.

GERAGOS: Michael Dunn is in a world that is -- and I live in that world more often than not -- amongst -- behind closed doors, guys like Michael Dunn exist, and they exist all throughout America. And this idea that the criminal justice system is separate from that or somehow we are beyond race is a joke.


LEMON: There is a world of people exist like Michael Dunn. And people refuse to talk about it, things that people say behind closed doors.

HOSTIN: That you and I will never hear.

LEMON: That you and I will never hear.

GERAGOS: You have no idea. You have no idea, because it's not politically correct, because people are afraid to say it.

But there is -- it exists. It exists. And, you know, this guy is only 46. We are not talking about someone who is from a different generation of 76. He is 10 years younger than me. And this is somebody who, to hear his fiancee or his neighbor -- his neighbor especially tonight was stunning in terms of the guy that he presented on the stand vs. who...


BERMAN: Sunny, then, so given the system as Mark describes it here, what do you do about it?

HOSTIN: That's the question I'm asking myself as a mother. I'm trying to raise children that are respectful and that are honorable and that are well-educated and that are good citizens.

But if people can't see that because of the color of their skin, I don't know what to do about it. And I spent so much of my career as a prosecutor, yes, putting black boys and black teens in jail, putting white teens in jail.


GERAGOS: Can I suggest there was a difference where you were? You were in D.C.

HOSTIN: I was in Washington. GERAGOS: You were in D.C. D.C. has predominantly black-on-black crime in the D.C. courts.

HOSTIN: Yes. That's accurate.

GERAGOS: I have been there. I'm going down there the day after tomorrow. That's a different animal than what we're talking about here.

BERMAN: Mark O'Mara, Charles Blow, who appears on this program, wrote some time back, he said, how slow does a young black kid have to walk before he's not a threat within this system?

O'MARA: Unfortunately, because of the prejudices -- and this is what I was trying to get across -- in our society -- Sunny, I want to ask you a couple of quick questions. Do you think that cops look at black males, young black males differently than they should?

HOSTIN: Absolutely.


O'MARA: Do you think that potential employers look at young black males different than they should?

HOSTIN: Absolutely.

O'MARA: So, what I'm saying -- I'm not saying that Dunn is appropriate in what he defines as his reasonableness.

What I'm saying is we have to attack that; we have to attack the fact that Dunn thinks he was reasonable in considering that those four black males in the car were trouble.


O'MARA: He was wrong, as it turned out, but if we don't address the underlying concern about that issue, then we can talk about changing statutes all the time and it's not going to change the people. I'm not saying I have a perfect answer, but we have to get to it and we have to address that reasonable nature the way the people look at the system, rather than suggesting that laws need to be changed, because the laws aren't going to change anything.

BERMAN: We have a lot more to talk about here, so everyone stick around. Guys, we will come back to this discussion. We are just scratching the surface. There is a lot going on right now, including an interview with George Zimmerman, obviously so central to this discussion, speaking out for the first time, seven months after a jury acquitted him.

He talks about whether his thought these days include regret for taking the life that he took. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Just days before the Michael Dunn jury came out, George Zimmerman spoke out about his own trial. He sat with "NEW DAY" anchor Chris Cuomo and said he has been victimized in his case by everyone from the president to everyone on down. You will hear what else he had to say shortly, but first how his case compares to this one, the Michael Dunn case.

There are obvious similarities, two young black men dead, self- defense claims made and disputed, and outcomes that sparked a much wider debate. However, there were also deep differences.

360's Gary Tuchman explains.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the trials against the men who killed Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, there were far more differences than similarities. The first were the crimes themselves and the immediate aftermath.

Danny Cevallos is a criminal defense attorney.

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In Zimmerman, you have a man who fired one shot and then he waited around to talk to the police. In the Dunn case, you have someone who fired nine, 10 shots, took off, never called police.

AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY: There was no physical contact between Mr. Dunn and Jordan Davis.

TUCHMAN: Areva Martin is also an attorney. She says that Zimmerman having injuries is a major difference between the cases.

MARTIN: So, it makes the concept of self-defense more palatable because there is a fight that has taken place. In the Michael Dunn matter, you have Mr. Jordan Davis and Michael Dunn in two separate vehicles. They never come into contact with each other. The concept that someone needed to shoot nine times, 10 times to defend themselves is really farfetched.

TUCHMAN: And then there were the key witness. Remember the friend of Trayvon Martin who was on the phone with him just before he was killed?

RACHEL JEANTEL, FRIEND OF TRAYVON MARTIN: That's very retarded to do that, sir. If you don't know the person, why risk it? Trayvon did not know him.

TUCHMAN: In the Michael Dunn case, there were the three young men who were in the car when Jordan Davis was killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went to check and see if he had a pulse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what did you find?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did not feel one. TUCHMAN: Areva Martin says there was a big difference in the caliber of those witnesses.

MARTIN: We made a big deal, the media did, about Rachel Jeantel and how inarticulate she was, about the inconsistencies in her story, about the difficulties that the jurors had in even understanding what she was saying. But here in the Dunn trial, we had these three young men who have been through what you can imagine is the most horrific experience of their life.

TUCHMAN: And finally the issue of the defendants taking the stand. Zimmerman did not. Dunn did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said it looked like the barrel of a gun or a shotgun?

DUNN: It was a thick enough profile. It was to my a .12-gauge, maybe .20.

CEVALLOS: There is no evidence that anyone shot him or showed him a gun or that he was in fear of his safety. So the only person on earth who can convince a jury that Dunn was in fear for his life is going to be Dunn himself. There is simply isn't any other evidence. They have to put him on the stand to establish self-defense.

TUCHMAN: But when you take the stand, your testimony can be contradicted. For Dunn, the most damaging example of that was from his fiancee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the defendant ever tell you he saw a gun in that red SUV?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the defendant ever tell you that he saw a weapon of any kind in that SUV?


CEVALLOS: She came across as credible witness, who unfortunately for Dunn is devastating to his case.

TUCHMAN: But not devastating enough to convict him on the most serious charge of murder. So, while there were key differences in the cases, there is key similarity, outrage over the verdict.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


BERMAN: That is the backdrop here. This is what George Zimmerman told Chris Cuomo when asked whether the Martin family is in his thoughts.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: His family -- do you think about his family? Is that true?


CUOMO: Because people want to know that, right? Coming out of this situation, they haven't heard you say "I feel for his family."

ZIMMERMAN: I appreciate the opportunity. I would hope that they had seen that at the bond hearing I did address that.

CUOMO: It's different in court.

ZIMMERMAN: Oh, sure, but I was just simply stating that I did address it. It's -- because another misconception is that I have never apologized, I have never reached out to the family. Would I like to? Certainly.

CUOMO: What would you say?

ZIMMERMAN: You know, I would say exactly what I said on the stand, that I'm sorry for their loss. And I -- just exactly what I said on the stand, most likely.


BERMAN: And that's far from all he said. Chris got a really good look at what makes George Zimmerman tick. We talked about it earlier today.


BERMAN: Chris, I know George Zimmerman claimed to you that he could not answer every question and he had to be careful with what he said because of the federal civil rights investigation.

Nevertheless, his answers were incredibly revealing, I thought, for the words he chose to use and the ones he didn't choose to use. What were your general impressions here?

CUOMO: I think you're spot on, John.

I think that the silence when he is given an opportunity to address the family speaks volumes. Often, silence can do that in interviews. And I think it's because he is really torn. He knows the right things to say, but he doesn't want to say them because he doesn't feel it. He doesn't regret killing Trayvon Martin because he believes he was a victim and it saved his life. It's hard for him to apologize when he believes he has nothing to apologize for.

BERMAN: This is really the first time we have heard from him in some time. It was very, very interesting to hear these questions to him. I thought it was a terrific interview. They weren't trick questions, in some cases, that brought the most surprising answers.

Let's listen to one that really got my attention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: The word "haunted" often comes up in these situations. Do you find yourself haunted by memories of that night?


CUOMO: Because?

ZIMMERMAN: I don't know.


BERMAN: To me, that just jumped off the screen. Look, I know people who are haunted by things that happen every day, casual events. No matter how you looked at it, he shot and killed a man, yet he is not haunted by that.

CUOMO: Again, I think it goes to -- not again. It's a different point.

When you interview him, one of the things that you think you are going to get is, this is a calculated person. He knew how to game the system. That's how he's empowered, right? That's what people say about him.

I found him to be something much, much less than that. The right answer is to say, yes, I'm haunted. This is terrible. I wish it didn't happen, but I needed to do it in order to save my life.

He doesn't say those things. I think it's honest. And in its honesty, it is revealing of a shallowness that he has of a sense of guilt, a sense of pain about the other person involved, Trayvon Martin. It's just not there.

BERMAN: Is there conflict inside him about anything, as far as you can tell?

CUOMO: I think the conflict is that I need to be polite about this when I'm totally in the right.

And you know what? Plenty of people tell him exactly that. When we were in Florida, yes, a lot of people, especially from the African- American community, were very fired up about him still to this minute and detest what he did, feel that it was a miscarriage of justice.

But there were a lot of people down there who said, don't forget about our rights, don't forget about what he did, that that was fine, it was legal. Just because some people didn't like it doesn't mean you get rid of our rights. That's the problem in this situation. When you have poorly defined laws, which were politically generated in the 200s -- this is not an everyone of jurisprudence we're talking about. Stand your ground, the laws in Florida on self-defense, politically motivated.

You now have a very low bar that is not only difficult to apply, but can allow someone to get away with murder.

BERMAN: And of course this is in the news right now because of the Michael Dunn trial. What did Zimmerman say about that?

CUOMO: Nothing.

He said, I should have prefaced the interview by saying, I don't watch news. I only watch comedies and home improvement shows. He said, so I'm not paying attention to the Michael Dunn trial. He wasn't kidding. Those around him echo the sentiment.

Again, that goes to a lack of his interest in these things that supposedly he's the face of. I asked him about self-defense law. He says I don't know the standard really. How about stand your ground? Do you like being the face? I don't like being the face of anything.

How about black-white tension in America? I'm Latino. On each of these levels, the Michael Dunn trial, he's just not there. It's not who he is. He's being given too much credit for gaming the system.

George Zimmerman had a much, much stronger case than Michael Dunn, OK, on the facts. In just about any state, George Zimmerman would have had a strong case, a tough case for the prosecution to...


BERMAN: Because there was a fight.

CUOMO: There was an actual fight. He got into it the wrong way. He should have listened to 911.

But the duty to retreat is the big difference. In Florida, you have no responsibility to retreat. If you and I get into some type of situation, in Florida, you don't have to go anywhere. You can decide to meet force with force right there.

Other states, you are supposed to try to get away. That's important, John, because when you take that out, that responsibility to retreat, you take out thinking. And when you take out thinking about your actions, you increase the chance of recklessness.

I said earlier today, you start rewarding stupidity. And that's the problem. But George Zimmerman had a much stronger case. Michael Dunn was a shock for me, because I didn't think the jury would accept the nonexistence of a fact, the defense counsel saying, maybe there was a gun and they didn't lock down the scene well enough. We will never know.

It's unusual in a trial with these types of stakes for a jury to go along with that possibility, when there was no evidence of a weapon.

BERMAN: Chris Cuomo, great to see you, as always.

CUOMO: Pleasure.


BERMAN: As always, you can find out more on this story at

Just ahead, the attorney for Trayvon Martin's family talks about race and justice and the mistrial on Michael Dunn's murder charge. Are the two cases really as similar as they seem on the face of it? Our legal panel weighs in.

Plus, a scathing reporting from the United Nations on the brutality of the North Korean regime.

Stay with us.


BERMAN: We're back now with our special report, "Race and Justice in America." In the wake of the mistrial in Michael Dunn's murder charge, some people are asking once again, where is the justice for unarmed black teenagers who are gunned down by white men in a state that gives shooters wide latitude all in the name of self- defense. And you saw before the break, it wasn't so long ago that the Trayvon Martin case was raising the very same question.

Benjamin Crump is the attorney for Trayvon Martin's family. Here's what he told me earlier tonight.


BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S FAMILY: Where else does it work in America, if you reverse the roles and you have Jordan Davis kill an unarmed Michael Dunn or you have Trayvon Martin kill an unarmed George Zimmerman, where in America aren't those young black men convicted of first-degree murder. And so we are just troubled as black parents and black professionals and black lawyers saying, "When does the system for us equally like it works for your children?"


BERMAN: A lot of comparisons have been made, as we understand, between Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. But as we said, for all their similarities, the two cases also have some key differences.

Let's bring the panel back in. Sunny Hostin, Don Lemon, Mark Geragos, Jeff Toobin and Mark O'Mara.

Jeff, first of all, you do say there is a very key difference.

TOOBIN: Big, big difference. I actually was very torn in the Zimmerman trial, the George Zimmerman trial, about whether he was guilty or not. I thought that was a very tough case for the prosecution. I thought there was never a clear picture of how this -- how the interaction started between the two of them. I just thought there was a lot of mystery there. I didn't think there was any mystery about the Dunn trial. I thought that was an open-and-shut case. I was surprised and disappointed.

BERMAN: Sunny you say, though, at a basic level, they're the same case. HOSTIN: I think they're the same case. And the root of the case is the fear, again, of the black teen.

Trayvon Martin, walking home with Skittles and iced tea, unarmed. Zimmerman sees him. "Oh, my gosh, he's a thug. He must be a criminal. There's something wrong with him." A group of black kids in a car playing loud music, "Oh, my gosh, they must have a shotgun."

I think at the very root, if we're being honest, these two cases are exactly the same, and they're only tied together by the fact that Florida has stand your ground.

And I really wanted to ask Mark O'Mara, my question is so many people are talking about the Michael Dunn case. They're saying this is not a stand-your-ground case. And I beg to differ, and I disagree, because it's clear to me -- and you and I have discussed this -- in Florida basically every case is a stand-your-ground case, because it's been codified within the law. Can you clear that up for me?

O'MARA: Yes. Here's the problem. No matter what, if this is a self-defense anywhere, self-defense, use of deadly force or non-deadly force, the way our statute reads and the way the jury instructions have interpreted it and apply it, you get that sentence in there that says you have no duty to retreat. You can stand your ground.

Here is a solution, and this is an easy one. Let's all do it together, you ready? There's no reason why that sentence should be in a jury instruction if there are no facts that support the contention of stand your ground. So I believe it should be taken out of the jury instruction and only put in the jury instruction if the facts support it. We do that with many other jury instructions.

Now, I think that would take the issue out. I still don't think that the Zimmerman jury and maybe not even the Dunn jury got too confused by it.

HOSTIN: I think they understood that.

O'MARA: Let me finish. But I hear you. But if we really take that out, at the very least, nobody could say, in those non-stand- your-ground cases, that there is confusion, because it won't be there.

On the stand-your-ground cases I still think that, before a jury says "We will believe that you were reasonable in your fear and that you're allowed to stand your ground," they still are going to focus on the reasonableness of the fear.

BERMAN: Yes, but Mark -- Mark...

O'MARA: They don't think if you're reasonable in your fear, they're not going to care about your standing your ground.

BERMAN: Both Marks hang on for one second here, because Don, I hear you sighing.

LEMON: We are so far in the weeds on this. This is basically -- for me. I get what you're saying about the legal system. That teen was not in the legal system -- neither was Dunn -- before this. This is -- this is before you get to the legal system, the perception that -- hang on -- the perception that people have about young black men.

To me this is about entitlement and a lack of awareness. I am entitled to treat you a certain way, because I view the world in a certain way. This is my world. I am unaware that the demographics of this country are changing. And they are not in my favor. Subconsciously, I'm unaware of that, and so it's about entitlement and a lack of awareness.

HOSTIN: I can tell you to turn my music down.

LEMON: You can tell me to turn my music down, or you can attack me because I'm a young black male or I am a young black person. And it's not just about age and the number. When I speak of old guys, old white guys I'm talking about people who have an old mentality.

HOSTIN: And sadly, the jurors believed that they are entitled to behave that way, and they must have been afraid.

LEMON: And you see people -- you see people like that all over. You see them in the media. You see old white guys trying to claw their way back from obscurity by attacking other people who speak out against them.

GERAGOS: I think you're going...

BERMAN: Last one, Mark.

GERAGOS: I think you're just going a little bit too far. Because in this sense: We can talk about the jury instructions. That doesn't matter. I mean, I knew before this case started it was a hung jury. All I had to do was take a look at the demographic, because all you need to know is when they go back into that jury room, who do they -- who do they identify with? If you've got some older white guys who are on that jury, they're not going to identify with Davis. They're going to identify with...

HOSTIN: With the fear.

GERAGOS: ... with this guy. That's what exists in America. So all of this beyond race or we're here or we're there or we're going to educate is nonsense.

BERMAN: Let's leave it on that kernel of agreement right there. Mark Geragos, Sunny Hostin, Don Lemon, Jeffrey Toobin, Mark O'Mara, thank you so much for being with us. Really appreciate it. Great discussion tonight.

Coming up, a Kentucky pastor who started a reality show about snake handling in church dies from a snakebite after refusing to be treated. We'll take you inside a similar church to see why deadly snakes are part of the service, despite the obvious dangers. That's next.


BERMAN: A Kentucky pastor has died after being bitten by a snake at the church where handling poisonous snakes was part of his style of worship. Jamie Coots died Saturday night at his home after refusing medical treatment.

Coots certainly knew the danger involved in snake handling. He'd been bitten about half a dozen times before and recovered. But this time, the rattlesnake bite proved fatal.

Coots starred alongside Pastor Andrew Hamlin on the National Geographic's reality show, "Snake Salvation." In 2012, Gary Tuchman went to Hamblin's church to figure out why this small group of preachers still insist on handling snakes as a part of their services.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This church in the heart of Appalachia is completely quiet just before the service begins, except for the creature inside this locked box. It's a rattlesnake. And it's rattling. It's one of seven deadly snakes about to be used in a wild ceremony in God's name.

This is Pastor Andrew Hamblin. He's a 21-year-old serpent- handling pastor at the Tabernacle Church of God in Lafollette, Tennessee. He, his wife, and the rest of his congregation practice Christianity much differently than almost all other Christians, using venomous snakes as part of their service.

Why? They point to the New Testament. The gospel of Mark, chapter 16, verse 18. It stated, in part, "They shall take up serpents." Believers like Pastor Hamblin say when God anoints them they have an obligation to do this and that God will protect them.

And even if they are bitten, their belief is God will heal them, no doctors necessary. If it looks dangerous, that's because it is. It's also illegal in the state of Tennessee. But that only strengthens the pastor's conviction.

Snake handling in churches is a tradition in decline. But Hamblin wants that to change.

(on camera): It's against the law to have snakes in a church in Tennessee.


TUCHMAN: Does that concern you?

HAMBLIN: No, sir, it don't. Now if someone was to get bit and die, I know the authorities would come in on us and probably shut us down. But that's why I stress so much to my people to, you know, make sure. And if it's their appointed time to die, there's nothing I can do to prevent it.

TUCHMAN: This is not a con game. These things are poisonous. They can kill, and they do kill.

(voice-over): Just a few weeks ago the pastor of this church in the remote West Virginia town of Matoaka was bitten by one of his rattlesnakes during a service. Pastor Mack Wolford initially refused medical care. But as he got seriously ill, he gave his permission to go to a hospital, but it was too late. He died the same day. The pastor's father died the same way three decades earlier.

(on camera): Pastor Wolford died two days after his 44th birthday. Outsiders were not invited to the funeral. But perhaps it's not surprising that the funeral home tells us snakes were part of the graveside ceremony.

ROY LEE CHRISTIAN JR., ASSISTANT PASTOR, CHURCH OF THE LORD JESUS: Any given time, I mean, it could turn around and bite me. But like I said, the Lord, either he'll let it bite or he won't let it hurt. He'll let it hurt or he won't let it hurt, you know. It's all up to God.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Roy Lee Christian Jr. is the assistant pastor at another church at West Virginia. The Church of the Lord Jesus in the town of Jollo. He was at the service where his friend, Pastor Wolford, was fatally bitten. He's shocked and saddened, but his faith remains the same.

(on camera) It says, "They shall take up serpents." That doesn't mean you have to, does it? Is that your interpretation, that you must take up serpents?

CHRISTIAN: Well, if you believe the word of God enough, you believe it, and the Lord moves on you, you'll do it.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Back in Tennessee, the 21-year-old pastor says he's been bitten four times in two years. He says he almost died after the first bite and says he's prepared to lose his life from a snake bite if God determines that's how he should go.

HAMBLIN: I realize that. And I've thought about it. I have. I've really thought about it. But that's why it pays to be ready spiritually.

TUCHMAN: Another verse from the New Testament states that faith quenched the violence of fire. So that's why this test of faith happens at many of these services. This is called handling fire. People burning their hands, arms and other body parts with flames shooting out of bottles.

(on camera) Are you ever worried that seeing people burn themselves and the snakes will frighten your children?


TUCHMAN: How come?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When God's in it, there ain't no harm in it. TUCHMAN (voice-over): This woman had been crying during much of the service, the pastor saying she had been going through some emotional difficulties. She then took to the altar, grabbing a rattlesnake, and shaking it with abandon. Almost daring the serpent to sink its teeth into her skin. To us, it looked like she had no idea about the personal risk.

Pastor Hamblin, though, claims God had anointed her to handle this deadly serpent.

HAMBLIN: I'll stand before Christ Jesus, and I'll be judged according to my worth on this earth.

TUCHMAN: The people we talked to at this church know what happened to Pastor Wolford in West Virginia. But that risk won't stop them from coming back to this church. Looking for salvation in ways both unusual and unique.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Lafollette, Tennessee.


BERMAN: Coming up, inmates in North Korean prison camps so desperate for food they eat live worms that they find in the fields. That's just the tip of the iceberg of what a U.N. commission found out about North Korea's crimes against humanity. The horrors of a newly- released report next.


BERMAN: A United Nations report released today paints a picture of horrifying conditions in North Korea, from excruciating treatment in prison camps to discrimination, abduction and arbitrary detention. This is the result of an 11-month investigation. The report flat-out says that North Korea has committed unparalleled crimes against humanity.

The head of that commission told Reuters that the crimes they heard about going on in North Korean prison camps were strikingly similar to what the Nazis did during World War II. The commission gathered evidence from more than 100 victims, and witnesses and experts to come to this conclusion.

CNN international correspondent Paula Hancocks joins me now live in Seoul, South Korea.

And Paula, this report really lays out in brutal details the horrors that this regime subjects its people to.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. We really haven't seen this kind of report before. This is unprecedented.

The stories themselves may have been heard before, and they're certainly shocking. But to put them all together really catalogs what the report refers to as "unspeakable atrocities." Eighty defectors and witnesses gave testimony, 240 did it in private, because they still have family in North Korea, and they were concerned that there would be reprisals against their family. Some of this testimony, as you say, is horrifying. The chair of the commission said he was driven to tears by some of it.

For example, one woman refers to a fellow prisoner in a prison camp who gave birth to a child and was forced to drown that child in a bucket of water. A prison guard forced her to do that. She was begging him to allow her to keep the baby, but she was beaten until she drowned the baby.

Now just to give a quote from the report, mentioning that forced infanticide, quote, "In most cases, guards at the detention facilities in which repatriated persons are held force either the mother or a third person to kill the baby by drowning it in water or suffocating it by holding a cloth or other item against its face or putting the baby face down so that it cannot breathe." So it's also her testimony about starvation, about public executions within this camp.

One man testified he tried to escape, tried to defect, but was caught and held in a detention camp. This is what the report says about him. Quote, "The inmates only received five spoons of boiled corn three times a day. He personally witnessed 30 men dying during his time. Their bodies were wrapped up and left for days for the other inmates to see so as to instill fear in them. The guards told them, 'This is what happens when you abandon your country'."

Hundreds of testimony, just like this one, John. So certainly a horrifying report. But one that the U.N. says has to have international attention.

BERMAN: And just to be clear. This report is from the United Nations. This is an official report. How did they get this information?

HANCOCKS: It was mainly from defectors who had escaped North Korea. It was from witnesses, those who had been inside the prison camps who had been tortured or all starved within North Korea itself. It was also from corroborative evidence like satellite imagery and also from human rights groups -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Paul Hancocks for us in Seoul. This report is horrible. I'm sure there will be much more about this in the days ahead. Thanks so much, Paula.

That does it for us. Thanks for watching.