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"Loud Music" Murder Charge to be retried; Olympian Saves Sochi Stray Dogs; Reaction to Zimmerman Interview

Aired February 17, 2014 - 08:30   ET



GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, FATALLY SHOT TRAYVON MARTIN: It was never going to be a black rapper, white rapper, Asian, Hispanic rapper, anything like that. It was going to be an unknown person. It was going to be a smaller event.

CUOMO: The whole theory of this case is that Trayvon wound up beating this guy down, you know? And this was bad. He had the marks on the back of his head and now he wants to fight; he's a fighter? Do you understand how that was -- there was a contradiction there for people?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes. And again, that fraction of people that said that are a small percentage that don't realize that a boxing match with a referee and controlled conditions are significantly different than being mounted as the witness stated, grabbed and pounded. If I went out there and got beat up, the charity was still getting paid. I don't want to get beat up, but I saw it as an opportunity. I never expected it to be -- to turn out the way indict.

CUOMO (voice-over): George Zimmerman seems to feel that way about a lot of things. For example, becoming the face of white/black tensions in America.

ZIMMERMAN: I actually had two full Peruvians raising me and one American. So I felt almost like two thirds of my upbringing was that Peruvian. I have black people in my family. So it was very shocking to me simply based off my last name people would make that presumption.

CUOMO: Though he's at the center of debate about self-defense laws he has little to say about them.

(on-camera): Because of what you've gone through and what your case was about, do you have feelings about self-defense and where the line should be and what's right and what's wrong? Do you have thoughts about that?

ZIMMERMAN: I am not well versed enough to tell you. I feel until I sit down and study the Constitution, probably ten years worth of legal findings, I wouldn't be able to draw a solidified conclusion. And I don't want to do what others have done to me and speak without examining information and facts.

I do, however, support our Second Amendment right. CUOMO (voice-over): You might think Zimmerman would be riveted to the Michael Dunn trial given the comparisons to his own situation.

ZIMMERMAN: I guess -- I should have prefaced this interview by letting you know that I don't watch news anymore. I watch comedy shows, home improvement shows. So I'm not well enough informed to give you exacts.

CUOMO: How about advocating for the stand your ground laws that many identify with him?

(on-camera): Are you comfortable being the face of stand your ground?

ZIMMERMAN: I'm not comfortable being the face of anything, to be honest with you.

CUOMO (voice-over): It's what Zimmerman wants to be the face OF going forward that's more confounding. Justice.

(on-camera): What do you want to do with your life?

ZIMMERMAN: Good. I would like to professionally be, 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 they are taking a position on something that matters to a lot of people?

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

CUOMO (voice-over): The case is over, but the judgment continues. While George Zimmerman may have won his freedom, he will probably never be truly free.

ZIMMERMAN: I have a lot of people saying that, you know, they guarantee they are going to kill me and I'll never be a free man. I realize that they don't know me. The majority of people when they sit down with me one on one or with my family and I they get a completely different perspective on me.

CUOMO (on-camera): When you're somewhere and people recognize who you are recognize who you are and they're looking at you, what do you do?


CUOMO: How often do they smile back?

ZIMMERMAN: Ninety-nine percent of the time. The 1 percent that don't are the most vocal percent, definitely the most threatening percent because they are very vocal about their displeasure.

CUOMO: People are angry, George. They are angry. The case wound up being seen as a metaphor for miscarriage of justice, blacks not receiving the same justice as whites do, their lives not mattering as much. This case became a metaphor for that, an example. Your face became the face of a guy that gets away with killing a black kid. What do you do with that?

ZIMMERMAN: Hope that I'm dispelling those, if it takes one person at a day at a time to help them realize that this is not what the case was about, then that's what I'll do.


BOLDUAN: You know, we were talking about this throughout the morning as we watched this interview, and we covered this trial and people watched the trial so closely. Everyone has an impression of what they think George Zimmerman is. You discuss it in the interview. But after meeting him and spending quite a bit of time speaking with him and asking him these tough questions, did you get a different impression of him -- did you leave with a different impression than you had going in?

CUOMO: Two observations. One, in the interview, the silence when I asked him what he would say to family, the obvious reluctance to say that he wished he hadn't killed Trayvon Martin. That's because he is not sorry that he killed Trayvon Martin; he feels he had to. He says and he was victim. That's where his head is. That's how he feels. It's uncomfortable to discuss, but that's where he is.

What matters more is not what he thinks about the situation. What matters are these bigger issues and why is he relevant. So why do you talk to him? Why do you make him relevant? You actually ask him these questions not to make him relevant, just to do just the opposite.

When you listen to his answers, he is what you hear here. He's unsophisticated on these matters that many believed he was an expert, he was calculating, he knew how to game the system.

BOLDUAN: The opposite. CUOMO: I do not believe that. And I believe George Zimmerman is an important example of what happens when you have too low of a legal standard for self-defense. You get somebody who is relatively unsophisticated, who misjudges a situation and winds up getting bailed out of by law that can let you get away with murder. That's the problem with the law.

Zimmerman is relevant because he is the face of that problem, but my feeling is not because of why people usually think it. They empower him. He knew. He worked it. He's an example of the bad guy getting by. I don't think that. I think it's something more dangerous. I think it's somebody who doesn't understand a situation, who gets bailed out by the law.

PEREIRA: It's interesting because you asked him right at the top, most people would say no matter if you agree with the verdict or not the outcome if you asked them, they'd say, "I wish that whole night have happened. I do have regrets. I am haunted." He's not.

CUOMO: And I'm pushing that, why? One, because it's counterintuitive. Two, because it's an insight into him. And three, just for the need of healing. Even if everything happened the way George Zimmerman says it does, how you do not regret taking the life of that person?

BOLDUAN: At the end of the day, somebody's life is loss.


CUOMO: Even if you needed to do it, wouldn't you regret taking another's life? And in this situation, he has to know. He has to know that but for a chain of bad decisions by him he would have never been in that situation. That's why it's so frustrating.

This was an acquittal under the system. People do not accept the verdict. That's a problem for us.

Michael Dunn's verdict, incomplete. Why? Because of the law. People don't accept it. There's no justice for a life being taken. These are problems that go beyond the courtroom. They are cultural questions. They are political questions that we have to deal with. We're killing each other so often and for bad reasons in this country. It's not going to stop unless we start changing rules.

BOLDUAN: Impossible to take the emotion out, and it shouldn't be taken out because it is emotional. But being honest and having a civil discussion about it going forward --

CUOMO: It's not easy.

BOLDUAN: -- is important. And it's not easy.


CUOMO: When the context (ph) is constantly disappointment, how do you have a civil discussion when you feel you have been wronged? PEREIRA: At the end of the day, two young men are dead.

CUOMO: Absolutely.

It's a discussion. We're having it here. It's even more important that you have it and join in on, good, bad, anger, passion, whatever you have, bring it because that's what moves this forward and that's what we need more than anything else. The hashtag is newday. Let's keep the discussion going.

BOLDUAN: We're gonna take another break.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, prosecutors say, just as we've been discussing, that they plan to retry Michael Dunn for the first-degree murder in that so-called loud music trial. What will be different this time around? We're gonna talk to HLN's Nancy Grace about that.

And also this ahead, hundreds of stray dogs are roaming the Sochi streets, many being put down by the Russian government. Hear how one Olympian is coming to their rescue.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. The so-called loud music trial, we have our verdict. It was incomplete. There was no verdict yet on the death of Jordan Davis, but the prosecutor says they will retry the case for the young man's death.

So the jury deadlocked on whether Dunn murdered 17-year-old Jordan Davis. He could still, however, face 60 years in prison because of the multiple counts of attempted murder and the other charge that he was convicted of.

The case, of course, has sparked debate that goes way beyond the courtroom. This is about race. It's about prejudice. It's also about Florida's self-defense laws more than anything else and comparisons, of course, to George Zimmerman's acquittal seven months ago.

Let's discuss these issues in the courtroom and how they extend out of it. We have HLN's Nancy Grace.

Nancy Grace, great to you have you here. Thank you for joining this conversation.

NANCY GRACE, HLN HOST: Good morning.

CUOMO: Let's start with the specific with this actual verdict. Can you make sense of it?

GRACE: Well, I've really wrestled with it, and I think I can make sense of it. That doesn't mean I disagree -- that agree with it.

What I think happened is this. I think that even though we don't believe there's a self-defense theory here, I do not believe there was a gun there, I don't think Jordan Davis or any of his friends had a gun, I think that they were four kids going out to the mall to try to meet girls. They had been talking about what cologne they were going to wear that night. I don't think they were interested in gun play.

But I think that some of the jurors, maybe one of them, thought even though it doesn't make sense to us did he think he was defending himself against Jordan Davis? If they believe that, then I could understand how they came back hung on count one, which dealt specifically with Jordan Davis. But as to the other three young boys in that car, absolutely no self-defense. Again, I don't agree with it, but I'm trying to understand it and make sense of it.

Now what is Dunn looking at? He's actually looking at over 90 years behind bars. This is why. The charges carry a penalty of 20 to 30 on each of those three attempted murder twos. In Florida -- you probably already know this -- there is a statute that says if a gun is involved in certain crimes, they gotta run consecutive, 30, 30, 30 or 20, 20, 20 plus firing into a car.

This is a life sentence for him. I still want a murder trial on Jordan Davis. As a crime victim myself, I wouldn't want to go to my grave saying, "My son's case never had a verdict." Right or wrong, guilty or not guilty I want a verdict.

CUOMO: Right.

GRACE: That would just be the way I look at it.

CUOMO: I think you have to have it. I mean I thought the father was very eloquent and the mother as well saying that certainly he didn't get away with it. This is another situation like George Zimmerman for the family of that victim.

However there's still no resolution on the message that must be sent about the value life. So hopefully Angela Corey rethinks her strategy, brings the case -- we see what happens. Obviously, we want fairness to prevail.

Let me ask you this, on the issue of the gun, it seems to me that one of two things has to be true for this jury or whoever deadlocked it, Nancy Grace, which is one, they believe that a car full of black kids was likely to have had a gun with them and I wonder if they would have thought that if it was a car full of white kids. Or someone on that jury believed that Michael Dunn would have never done this if his life wasn't in fear because he'd never done anything like it before.

Someone must believe one or both of those suppositions -- do you agree. Because there was no proof of the gun offered.

GRACE: I think that could be true.

CUOMO: There's no proof.

GRACE: I think that could be true. But I also think that the fact that they came back on guilty against, with the other three victims, means that they knew that he was not exercising self-defense against those three victims. I mean come on.

CUOMO: Right.

GRACE: Bottom line in his police interview he says he may have even imagined the gun.

CUOMO: Right.

GRACE: I mean the fact that there was no gun, you know, that just goes without saying there was no gun. Police said it, crime scene tech said it, witnesses said it --

CUOMO: Right.

GRACE: -- the boys in the car said it. The girlfriend, the fiancee gets in the car. I mean when I was a prosecutor I had a gun pulled on me and my investigator once. We dove off the front porch of that apartment complex when I saw the barrel. I'll never forget it, the first thing I said was "That guy pulled a gun on us."

CUOMO: Right.

GRACE: When she got in the car after trotting in to get ever more booze he never said "Those kids pulled a gun on me."

CUOMO: That's right. And --

GRACE: Why? Because they didn't pull a gun on him.

CUOMO: And everything that happened afterwards, not calling 911, not doing anything that seems like common sense follow up. Look the jury you got to give them credit they were sophisticated to come up with the attempted murder -- those convictions. That showed a lot of thought and dedication.

Now, let's get to the main issue. This happened because this law is a tough law -- this Florida self-defense law, forget about stand your ground. It creates too low a bar for self-defense in my opinion. Do you see this case as being a reflection of the need for change where someone again, makes bad assumptions and gets bailed out by the law just like in the George Zimmerman case?

GRANCE: Well, the reality is that self-defense it is subjective, it's what the defendant thought. Did they feel that they were being threatened?

Now, to me this is just as absurd as me saying well I thought you were going to shoot me through the camera so I shot you back.

CUOMO: Right.

GRACE: That doesn't make sense just like in this case. I think it's more a matter of the way the evidence is presented. And the way you strike your jury. If you get one nut on a jury you can have the greatest laws in the world and you're still going to get a bad verdict. But again, this jury worked like mad.

CUOMO: They worked hard.

GRACE: And I'm frankly grateful that they came back on anything Zimmerman.

CUOMO: Right.

GRACE: I mean how many times do I have to see that man trace a picture from AP and then sell it for $100,000 online? I mean he needs to just go away and be quiet.

CUOMO: I understand completely how you feel Nancy. But again, you have two cases here where guys made bad suppositions but because of a law where there's no duty to retreat and there's no punishment for being stupid in a situation they both wind up with no acquittal certainly until it gets retried.

GRACE: You know the law and the reality is you can only under all law including Florida, you can only use as much force as is necessary to defeat the attack.

CUOMO: Right.

GRACE: And here it's like if I slap you, you can't shoot me with an Uzi --

CUOMO: Right.

GRACE: -- and that's what happened in this case. The Florida law covers that. Do I think that it gives the defendant an advantage? Yes, I do -- an unfair advantage.

CUOMO: Yes, I totally agree Nancy Grace. Thank you very much for joining. Of course, we can all watch you.

GRACE: Thanks for inviting me.

CUOMO: Oh, it's a pleasure -- need your perspective always. We can watch you on Monday through Friday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on HLN -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Coming up next on NEW DAY he's a silver medalist with a heart of gold. Find out what one U.S. Olympian is doing to help save the stray dogs of Sochi.

The good stuff is next.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is time for the good stuff.

You may have heard that there's a stray dog problem at the Sochi Olympics. There's been a lot of reporting about it and despite international outrage Russian authorities have been euthanizing many of the dogs. Now one U.S. skier is doing something about it. Silver medalist Gus Kenworthy tweeting these pictures. He plans to take four dogs home and is inspiring others to try to do the same.

CNN's Rachel Nichols is live in Sochi with much more of this heartwarming story -- Rachel.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS: Yes, Kate. It might be five or six dogs now. Gus has gotten such a great response after he tweeted those photos. And he took me up to the see the dogs. They have been living where he found them near the athlete's village under a tent and we played with the puppies and we also talked about how nuts it's been for him because, oh by the way, he also won an Olympic medal here -- part of that historic American sweep at the podium a couple of days ago. Take a look.


NICHOLS: So how much has your life changed since you stepped off that medal stand?

GUNS KENWORTHY, WINTER OLYMPICS ATHLETE: I don't know if I know how much has changed. But it's just been insane. It's like a whirlwind of excitement -- just so much going on.

NICHOLS: You tweeted a picture of you on a corn flakes box.

KENWORTHY: Yes, I mean we won and 12 hours later we were on a cereal box. It was crazy but I mean it's a huge dream come true to feel like a lot of the biggest sports icons in the world have been featured on cereal boxes. So, I get to be one of those. It's insane.

NICHOLS: We want to see the dogs. Can we go see the dogs?

KENWORTHY: Yes, let's do it, for sure. Hi -- you want a sausage.

NICHOLS: You heard that there were stray dogs around here --


NICHOLS: -- and you heard what they were doing. What was that like when you started to hear the story?

KENWORTHY: I mean it just sucked for sure. I felt for the animals. I heard that they were just rounding them up and exterminating them and trying to keep them out of the public view. So I felt really bad. But I mean I definitely wasn't like planning on trying to come here and be some animal activist --


KENWORTHY: -- or like spokesperson for humanity for the dogs or anything.

I just -- this particular family just really kind of touched me and I just think they are so cute and that they need some help. And so I'm just going to try and bring this family home.

Hi? You're OK. Look. Come here. NICHOLS: Well, you're going to have to give this one a Russian name.

KENWORTHY: I don't know. I mean I was thinking Sochi is kind of nice --

NICHOLS: Well, that's good.

KENWORTHY: -- or like (inaudible), Rosa, Silver -- I don't know. Something --

NICHOLS: Silver is pretty good. Right.

Are you going to show her your medal? Does she like it?


NICHOLS: Now he's gotten friends and family back in Colorado to agree to adopt each of the dogs that he's planning on bringing home but that last one you saw in the piece that's the one he's keeping. If you guys got any name suggestions for him, he's still trying to figure it out.

BOLDUAN: There's plenty of names. Right? I mean there has to be. You can call him like Gold Medal.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: I was going to say Goldie.

BOLDUAN: Goldie -- that would be a good one.

CUOMO: Call one of them "Nyet". Because that's what he's going to be saying to those puppies when they're running around as hell -- no, no.

NICHOLS: I guess so.

PEREIRA: What a great story.

BOLDUAN: Fun story, Rachel. Thank you so much.

CUOMO: It's good. It's good to see a story coming out of there like that.

BOLDUAN: When all of them -- most of them are only focused on winning their sport. He seems to not only to be pull off a silver medal, he also has time to save all the dogs in Sochi.

PEREIRA: Love it.

BOLDUAN: He can save someone else's life too.

PEREIRA: Yes, good thing.

CUOMO: That's right. Good point. Good point.

Coming up, the latest on a plane hijacked by the co-pilot over Europe -- how he seized control and why ahead.


CUOMO: Thanks for being with us on NEW DAY. A lot of news -- only one place to go for that: the "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello.