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Reaction to "Loud Music" Murder Trial Verdict; Zimmerman Says He Was a "Scapegoat"; Wild Weather Sparks Climate Debate

Aired February 17, 2014 - 11:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The verdict in the so-called "Loud Music" murder trial, sparking new outrage, critics are asking, Can you kill somebody and just say you were afraid?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: A snake-handling pastor dies from a snakebite. How widespread is this sometimes fatal display of faith?

BERMAN: And this winter, we've seen record highs in Alaska, record lows in the Lower 48, record drought in California, the big question everyone is asking, Is climate change the culprit?

Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

PEREIRA: And I'm Michaela Pereira.

Those stories and more, right now, @ THIS HOUR.

The co-pilot on an Ethiopian Airlines jet hijacks his own flight and takes it to Switzerland to plead for asylum. He's now under arrest. The 202 passengers and crew members all aboard are all OK.

But later, we're going to talk to an aviation expert and our own law enforcement analyst about this bold hijacking, and, also, we'll talk about efforts to keep this kind of thing from happening again

BERMAN: A 4.2 magnitude earthquake shakes central Oklahoma last night. The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake struck near the town of Guthrie. That's about 22 miles north of Oklahoma City.

This is the latest in a string of earthquakes hitting central Oklahoma recently. Five quakes struck the area Friday. Another one hit Saturday. Luckily, no reported injuries.

PEREIRA: A 19-year-old Pennsylvania woman is saying she killed at least 22 people. She's now facing murder charges, along with her husband. for allegedly killing a man they met on Craigslist.

On Friday, Miranda Barbour gave an interview to "The Daily Item" newspaper in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and said that she had stopped counting once she had hit 22 killings.

Police are now investigating. One law enforcement source close to the investigation said Barbour's new claims could be the real deal.

BERMAN: She said she was a member of a satanic cult.

PEREIRA: And began at 13.

BERMAN: One minute after the hour, the Florida man convicted of the so-called "Loud Music" murder trial will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, but not for the killing of apparently unarmed black teenager, Jordan Davis.

Jurors deadlocked on the first-degree murder charge. They convicted Michael Dunn of three counts of attempted second-degree murder for shooting into an SUV full of teenagers. Dunn faces at least 60 years now in prison.

PEREIRA: Neither side in that highly charged case is giving up. Michael Dunn's lawyer says he will challenge those convictions while prosecutors are promising to retry Dunn on the murder charge.

BERMAN: We're also hearing from the grieving parents of the victim here, 17-year-old Jordan Davis. They made some emotional statements right after the verdict.


LUCIA MCBATH, JORDAN DAVIS' MOTHER: We are so grateful for the truth.

We are so grateful that the jurors were able to understand the common sense of it all.

And we will continue to stand, and we will continue to wait for justice for Jordan.

RON DAVIS, JORDAN DAVIS' FATHER: I thank you all for seeing that we as parents were good parents to Jordan, and that he was a good kid. He wasn't -


BERMAN: We are joined by defense attorney and HLN legal analyst, Joey Jackson, also our colleague Ashleigh Banfield, host of CNN'S "LEGAL VIEW," and with us from Boston, CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill.

Joey, let me start with you, here, because when I listened to the verdict Saturday night, I was confused. I had a hard time understanding what seemed to me like a contradiction.

How could you deadlock on murder? First, second-degree murder. But how can you convict on attempted murder? It didn't seem to make any sense to me.

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: You know what happened here, John?

And, first of all, to look at his parents, what dignity, class, and grace that they comported themselves against such crazy -- I mean, the circumstances were just horrible for them, and so certainly our prayers go out to them.

But on the issue of the verdict, let's look at it for a minute. I think the jury had an issue, and we don't know the faction, John, in terms of the breakdown. There was some deadlock. Were they 11-to-one? Was it 10-to-two? Was it six-six? We don't know.

But on the issue of Jordan Davis' death itself, because there were separate volleys of shots, I think that they were torn as to whether it constituted self-defense and whether he acted, that is, Mr. Dunn, in a reasonable way.

As to the additional volley of shots that he fired, Mr. Dunn with the teenagers, particularly when they were retreating, I think the jury, as to that point said, you've exceeded the use of force here, it wasn't reasonable or rational as to what you did, and as to those shots, it's attempted murder.

But as to the issue with Jordan Davis himself, we just don't know, said the jury, and that really accounts for the verdict we got in this case.

PEREIRA: You know, it's interesting because we were -- I was talking with a colleague about this. These jurors were being asked -- a lot was being asked of them when I think about it.

And I was thinking about this notion of the laws in Florida, the "stand-your-ground," self-defense, all of those things coming into play.

I think people sitting at home and people maybe in Florida, around the rest of the country, Ashleigh, are probably thinking, is this guy just getting away with murder? Can people do that when they say look, I felt threatened, so I have a license to go ahead and kill someone?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR, "LEGAL VIEW": First of all, "stand- your-ground" wasn't part of it, so of the argument is about "stand- your-ground," I think it is ill-placed.

This is about a self-defense case, and Florida's laws are a little bit different than other people's laws and other states' laws. I can completely see both points of view.

I think that's where people are freaking out on me on Twitter is that I said I can understand where the jury was struggling, and I can understand where two people can be reasonable and not understand each other's reasonability on this one.

PEREIRA: Because we all have different definitions of what's reasonable, don't we?

JACKSON: Because the law is predicated upon perception. How do you perceive somebody threatening you?

BANFIELD: Do I scare you?

JACKSON: Never and never will. BANFIELD: There is something to that. I know that sounds funny, but there is something to it.

BERMAN: I want to bring -

BANFIELD: Some people are scared irrationally, according to others.

BERMAN: I want to bring Marc Lamont Hill into this discussion right now.

Marc, the jury did something interesting here, as well. They did convict him of charges that will send him to jail, Michael Dunn, for a long, long time, at least 60 years.

Is that enough?


As a practical matter, he's gotten a life sentence, and whether we retry him on that first charge or not, the outcome will be the same. He likely will spend the rest of his life in prison, and so, there is some modicum of justice there, given what happened to Jordan Davis.

But as a symbolic matter, as a representational matter, maybe, long- term, again as a practical matter, it shows that we are unable to convict a man of killing an unarmed black child, that for me is very disturbing, is very problematic.

And, yes, I am not out here demonizing the jury. The jury did the best job that it could, given what it had at its disposal. That's a critique for the prosecution, however.

But there's a question here about what constitutes self-defense when young black males are on -- are in the equation. Oftentimes, we talk about the reasonable man standard, but that reasonable man standard is often still based upon the ideology and the mind-set of a middle class, white male.

And, for them, seeing Jordan Davis might inspire fear, Jordan Davis' or Trayvon Martin's very body might inspire the need for lethal force.

We have to challenge that. We certainly don't want to create legislation that piles on that problem and continues to legislate white fear.

PEREIRA: It's interesting. I was thinking about this, and we saw that anguish in the parents' eyes. It's almost hard to watch. It's almost hard to take, because they lost their son.

And I think about the fact that they want justice for their son. The prosecutor, Angela Corey, said that she wants to pursue this murder charge. That's got to take a toll. That's got to take a toll on that family and on that community.

JACKSON: It has to, and, you know, Michaela, just going back to the points Marc is making right now, if you look at it, it speaks to the larger issue of "stand-your-ground" to begin with, because remember what the law is predicated upon.

It is predicated upon, I'm going to stand right here. I'm in a lawful place. I can be here. I have no duty to retreat.

And as a result of that, if I perceive that you are threatening me in any way, shape, or form, I have a right to meet force with force, and perceptions may different.

BANFIELD: Even force.

JACKSON: Absolutely. Even force.

But, in this case, it is hard to call this force even. Claims of a gun, no gun found. You know, there's was no physical confrontation.

BANFIELD: That's important. That's important, because I think a lot of headlines come off saying this was an unarmed teen.

If you believe Michael Dunn and some of those jurors may have, he thought there was a gun, so it maybe wasn't an unarmed teen in his mind.

BERMAN: Ashleigh Banfield, Joey Jackson, Marc Lamont Hill, thanks for being with us. This discussion continues.

PEREIRA: And be sure to tune in for Ashleigh Banfield's "LEGAL VIEW." She will be on with more on the so-called "Loud Music" trial and the verdict.

"LEGAL VIEW" is coming up right after our show at noon Eastern. We always know it's riveting TV.

Thanks, Ash. Thanks, everybody, for being here.

BERMAN: The Michael Dunn trial, of course, does have people talking again about George Zimmerman.

So, ahead @ THIS HOUR, you will hear him from Zimmerman in his own words.

The man acquitted of murdering unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, tells our Chris Cuomo he was a scapegoat.

Chris is going to join us live to talk about this.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

@ THIS HOUR, a lot of people talking, a lot of people connecting the dots between the trial of Jordan Davis, or the trial about the killing of Jordan Davis, and the trial about the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Both were unarmed black teenagers shot dead in Florida. In both cases, the juries were predominantly white. Both juries were perhaps conflicted by the state's controversial "stand-your-ground" law or at least the standards of self-defense in Florida.

PEREIRA: For the very first time, we are now hearing from George Zimmerman, the man acquitted in Trayvon Martin's death. He spoke with our Chris Cuomo.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CO-HOST, "NEW DAY": What do you want to do with your life?

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, CLEARED OF MURDERING TRAYVON MARTIN: Good. I would like to professionally continue my education and hopefully become an attorney.

I think that's the best way to stop the miscarriage of justice that happened to me from happening to somebody else.

I don't think it should happen to anyone ever again, not one person.

CUOMO: What was the miscarriage of justice?

ZIMMERMAN: The fact that two law enforcement entities stated that I had acted within the laws of our nation in self-defense.

CUOMO: You don't think it was about the law?

ZIMMERMAN: I know it wasn't. Yes.

CUOMO: And what does that make you?

ZIMMERMAN: Like a scapegoat.

CUOMO: A scapegoat for?

ZIMMERMAN: The government, the president, the attorney general.

CUOMO: They would be scapegoating you, why? Just to show that they are taking a position on something that matters to a lot of people?

ZIMMERMAN: I don't know what they're thinking or why they're thinking it. All I know is that they are doing it. I don't know what agenda they have.


PEREIRA: Chris Cuomo joins us here @ THIS HOUR with more on his conversation with George Zimmerman.

And, Chris, it is interesting to hear him talk like that. I know there's a lot of people that are angry about his reaction and claiming that he is a victim, that he is a scapegoat, that there was some sort of miscarriage of justice.

Did that surprise you that he had that feeling that he was the victim? CUOMO. No, I think it's been consistent. I think that the theory of his case was that he was a victim. I think he owns that.

I was a little surprised that he doesn't have any remorse for killing Trayvon Martin, even if he did need to do it to defend his own life, that he is not haunted by it, that he has no doubts about his situation.

BERMAN: So, we actually have a clip of that. I want to listen to that, because I have a question out of that.

Let's listen to him when you were asking him whether he is sorry at all.


CUOMO: 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 was different in court.

ZIMMERMAN: Oh, sure. But I was just simply saying 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...


Just exactly what I said on the stand, most likely.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So in another section of the interview, I asked him repeatedly, he was sorry for killing Trayvon Martin. He refused to answer that question and he refused to say that he was.

And it made me wonder, why do you think he sat down for this interview? What message was he trying to get out, if not remorse?

CUOMO: He thinks he is misunderstood and cast as a bad guy when he was defending his own life.

I think the silence in the section that you just played that really says the most, that he can't think of anything that he wants to say to the family because he doesn't feel that he victimized their child.

Now should you be angry about what George Zimmerman did? I think that's easy.

Should we interview George Zimmerman? I think that's easy, too. I think it's an obvious yes. We interview people who are unpopular and do horrible things all the time.

Why? Well, that becomes an interesting question.

For me, when I look at George Zimmerman, I see somebody who has been empowered by those who support what happened and those who don't support what happened. He has been seen as a calculating person who knew how to work the system and he used this law in Florida and was able to kill and get away with impunity.

He is not that. He is something much less than that; he is an unsophisticated guy and I think he speaks to what the real problem is with this law.

We get confused. We say it wasn't a "stand your ground" case. That's true. George Zimmerman did not affirmatively argue "stand your ground." Neither did Michael Dunn.

In the statute, which I have, Section 776.013 -- that's the self- defense statute -- every state has one. Section 3 of it says if you are not engaged in unlawful activity -- which, by the way, prosecutors could have argued in the Zimmerman case that he was stalking; however, they didn't -- you have no duty to retreat. You may "stand your ground".

The language is in the self-defense statute. OK?

What does that do? That takes away the need to retreat. What does that do? That takes away the need to think, to think before you meet force with force.

And once you do that, you start rewarding stupidity. And that's the fear with this law. That's the fear with those cases. That's why you need to hear George Zimmerman.

I'm not saying he is stupid. I'm saying don't make him something that he isn't.

PEREIRA: Right, that he isn't. Sure.

CUOMO: Listen to him before you give him power as having --


PEREIRA: A lot of people didn't even want to listen to him. And I know you got some blowback for that, but you wanted to hear from him himself. We wanted to hear from him.

CUOMO: He is at the center of the case, Mic. I mean, you can't -- you can't avoid him. He is relevant. He is newsworthy.

BERMAN: I thought it was really interesting to see. And I think the silence may have been the most interesting part of all. All right, Chris, thanks so much.

PEREIRA: Thanks, Chris.

BERMAN: Ahead for us at this hour, violent weather patterns and extreme winter storms have forced climate change right into the spotlight. A scientist and a politician face off. That's coming up next.



PEREIRA: All right. A historic drought in the West, a warm winter in Alaska and bitter, bitter cold in much of the lower 48. With wild weather nationwide and winter storms bringing Southern cities to their knees, some are asking is climate change to blame?

BERMAN: Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn debated the issue with Bill Nye, the Science Guy, on "Meet the Press."


REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENN.: What you have to do is look at what that warming is. And when you look at the fact that we have gone from 320 parts per million, 0.032 to 0.040, 400 parts per million, what you do is realize it is very slight.

Now there is not consensus. You can look at the latest IPCC report and look at Dr. Lindzen from MIT, his rejection of that, or Judith Curry who recently -- from Georgia Tech. There is not consensus there.

BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY: Well, once again, the congresswoman is trying to introduce doubt in the whole idea of climate change. So what I would encourage everybody to do is back up and let's agree on the facts.

Would you say that the Antarctic has less ice than it used to?

And when you -- you asserted, Congresswoman, that a change from 320 to 400 parts per million is insignificant. My goodness, that's 30 percent. I mean, that's an enormous change. And it's changing the world. And that's just over the last few decades.


BERMAN: Secretary of State John Kerry, seems to agree with Bill Nye. He called for a concerted global effort to fight climate change Sunday during his trip to Asia.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We need people all over the world to raise their voices and to be heard. There is still time for us to significantly cut greenhouse emissions and prevent the very worse consequences of climate change from ever happening at all.

But we need to move on this and we need to move together now.


BERMAN: Kerry called climate change as big a global threat as terrorism and said that climate change deniers rely on shoddy science.

PEREIRA: Shoddy science.

Let's bring in our meteorologist, Chad Myers, and former head of the American Meteorological Society, Marshall Shepherd.

Gentlemen, it is so great to have both of you.

Let's start with you, Chad.

Can we agree on the facts? Is climate change behind all this crazy extreme fluctuations in weather that we have been seeing lately?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No, I don't think I can agree with you on that because we can't say that just because it was cold in New York, that's climate change; because it was warm in California, that's climate change.

We have different things going on in the atmosphere that make our weather. The problem with Americans and people all across the world is that global climate change means from me to my Walgreen's. That's my globe.

We are not talking about from you to one mile away in your little circle that you go around every day. We're talking about the globe.

Have you seen Sochi? There's not much snow there.

Have you seen California, the drought there?

So people that are throwing this in my face, saying, well, look how cold it is in New York, great climate change, you know, global warming, boy, it is really warm here. It has -- these little events don't have in a way everything to do with climate change.

In a small way, yes, it is weather. We're talking climate, not day- to-day weather.

BERMAN: And, Marshall, I think that's part of the problem we are having here because climate change deniers, for lack of a better word, they like to point to individual weather events and say, oh, scientists say this isn't part of global warming, so global warming doesn't exist.

Let me read you a tweet from Donald Trump, the scientist Donald Trump, who also knows about birth certificates.

Donald Trump says, don't let the global warming wise guys get away with changing the name to climate change because the facts do not let GW tag to work anymore.

So Dr. Shepherd, how do you make the case to the American people that climate change is happening when you have this undercurrent, these murmurers out there?

DR. MARSHALL SHEPHERD, FORMER AMERICAN METEOROLOGICAL SOCIETY PRESIDENT: You just have to look at what the consensus science says. I agree with Chad. We have got to get beyond taking every single event and linking to climate change. But however, we cannot throw out the baby with the bathwater. We know that the climate is changing. We know that human beings are contributing to it.

For example, one of the things that's interesting about the recent snowstorms that we have had here in the East and South, Jeff Masters in Weather Underground, they noted that we used to have a lot more of these big ice storms and winter storms because of the frequency of those have decreased, as I mentioned recently, we have forgotten how to deal with cold weather in these big storms. And that's likely because of some of the climate warming that we have seen.

All of this banter and discussion about what we call it, look, that is smoke and mirrors. I like to stay with the signal rather than the noise. The peer reviewed literature is clear. I don't get bogged down looking at parts per million trends. I look at what the world is doing. I look at what our sea, arctic sea ice is doing.

And that's what I think that's what we have to focus on. But I think our case is hurt in the science when we try to take every single event and link it because that -- There is plenty that we know is related to climate change. And that's what we need to be talking about.

PEREIRA: I like what you said about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The fact is, obviously, something is changing globally. And we need to look at what part we as humans are playing in that. But it is easy to muddle all of these things together and then politicize them.

BERMAN: The bathwater's getting warmer. That much we know.


BERMAN: All right. Dr. Marshall Shepherd, Chad Myers, great to have you here today. Thank you so much.

Ahead for us at this hour: Hillary Clinton gets support from an unexpected source. Some Republicans, at least on one topic. Why they say their party needs to lay off.