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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  April 11, 2012 11:00pm-12:00am PDT

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president obama's religion. and that's tonight's last word. >> next stop, the courtroom. and let's play "hardball." good evening, i'm chris matthews, leading off tonight, murder in the second degree. that is the charge facing george zimmerman for the shooting of trayvon martin. angela corey made the dramatic announcement on national tv an hour ago, let's listen. >> today we filed an information charging george zimmerman with murder in the second degree, a capias has been issued for his arrest. within 24 hours of his arrest, and thus formal prosecution will begin.
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we thank all of those people across this country that have sent positive energy and prayers our way. we ask you to continue to pray for trayvon's family and for our prosecution team. i want to thank mr. crump and mr. parks who have stayed in touch daily with us. remember, it is trayvon's family that are our constitutional victims and who have the right to know the critical stages of these proceedings. >> it's been more than six weeks since trayvon martin was shot and killed by zimmerman as he walked through the retreat at twin lakes, a gated community in sanford, florida. the case sparked angry protests and of course a racial division between blacks and whites and how they view what happened in that incident. we're going to dedicate this hour to this case and it's implications. in a few minutes, reverend al
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sharpton, head of the national action network, will have an interview with the parents of trayvon martin, we'll bring you that interview live in it's entirety. we begin with david weinstein -- we're going right now to that exclusive interview with -- let's go to the former mayor of san francisco, thank you, mayor, what did you make of the way the prosecutor brought this information to us this evening. >> i thought she was very dramatic, very direct, and extremely thorough. i have not seen someone so comprehensive, staying in the letter of the law, and the con nons of ethics. >> let me ask you about this charge, second-degree murder, what does it mean when someone has been charged with murder in the second degree? >> it means that it was an intentional act, they knew exactly what they were doing,
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and they did so without regards to anybody's safety, and it's just one step below murder in the first degree, and you can get a lot of time for murder in the second degree. >> let's go to david weinstein, a former assistant attorney, and a former assistant state attorney at the miami-dade county state attorney's office, thanks for joining us again. we talked before about this. you gave us a sense of what the opgs faces the prosecutor were in this case. give me a sense what this decision means. >> this means that she continues to have the options available to her by charging second-degree murder. you now have manslaughter as a lesser included offense of sm. that gives her an opportunity and george zimmerman's hours an opportunity to talk and come up with a plea bargain. if this case gets past the judge and is not subject to a motion to dismiss, it gives the jury a compromise.
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they may find he did not act with the design acquired to create a second-degree murder. rather he was negligent. so this gives them an option to come back on the lesser included offense of manslaughter. >> it's hard for me to figure out the relevance of those factors. this was a incident with a neighborhood watch person, and the defendant, george zimmerman, and this victim, trayvon martin, he suspected perhaps this man of a burglary or something. he said he was up to no good in the tapes. then how did the incident develop, how did it leave to a fight of some kind physically, some kind of back and fort that led to him pulling a gun and shooting him. isn't it clear on the defense that he shot him in self-defense? why does that involve this
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regard when he is shooting to stop a person from hurting him badly. where is the reckless disregard factor in here. >> it's a higher level of mental conduct that's required to afek chew wait that disregard for human life. was his action in what he believed was a justifiable use of self-defense when he was combating someone that was fighting him and he determined that based on what was happening to him, the only way to get out of the situation was to use the deadly force. was that all the way to the level of this reckless disregard? or was he just being negligent in what he was doing, and that is could he have fought back with his own hands instead of pulling the gun. did he reflect and come back with a lesser consideration on his part? >> what did you make of the reaction of the family tonight, mayor? the whole political aspect of
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this, people were saying, in fact, al sharpton saying it wasn't the pressure to make the decision, it was the pressure for the review. let's listen to angela corey expressing concern about the media coverage this case has received. >> you asked about my concerns, i'll tell you. there's been a overwhelming amount of publicity in this case we hope does not keep us from being able to pick a fair and impartial jury. we think a lot of facts got put out, and see that's the problem. when i told you it comes out in front of a jury, they're not allowed to render a decision until everything is in front of them. they're instructed that they can't form a decision until they heard everything. and so it is regrettable that so many facts and details got released and misconstrued, but we think that -- and the media is toning it down, and making sure people understand florida law and the process. >> mayor brown, i think everybody watching this case knows that the pressure came
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from the national action network led by al sharpton and other forces in the black community, and it led to this review. is anyone out there not believe that pressure counted here? >> i think everybody has to acknowledge including this prosecutor that pressure did count. clearly the governor of florida stepped in, that was a result of pressure. it was not anybody's moral conviction that this needed to be reviewed. after all, the several hours that were explored by those prosecutors in the failure to follow up and keep everybody advised that they were continuing an investigation is a clear indication that some pressure was needed. reverend sharpton was correct when he said across this nation, hundreds of nameless people stepped up, let their voices be heard. when one of the lawyers said the petitions and the social media
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that produced all of those signatures all leads us to where we are today. yes, pressure was applied, and it did have an effect. each of these people made it very clear that pressure at this stage inform the game is out. it is now the question in the courtroom of whether or not the evidence and the effort wills be presented. i trust this prosecutor instinctively. i don't know her but her comments, demeanor, and thoroughness leads me to believe that she is sticking her career on the line as she has probably done in other cases. in this one, she is putting her career on the line, and if she can produce justice as appropriately as she produced a result this time, she's got a future. >> thanks, well said there by mayor brown.
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al sharpton is with the parents of trayvon martin right now in washington dc. >> thank you, can chris, i'm sitting here at the washington convention center with the parents of trayvon martin and we just had a press conference with attorney ben crump. after they spoke with the special prosecutor who informed them she was getting ready to announce that she was, in fact, charging mr. zimmerman with murder two. and i said in the press conference and i'll say it publicly, that i did not have a lot of faith in what would happen, but i believed it was the right thing to say that we needed an arrest to see where it would go. and it has crossed partisan lines and ened up with a very serious charge. let me start with attorney crump so people understand, he could
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face life in female if he is convicted, is that correct? >> yes, he can, and it is one of those situations where i think the minimum is 15 years if he is convicted. the judge will have conviction there. and i wanted to say reverend sharpton, it was governor scott and pam bondi, the attorney general, who weighed in first and then got the special prosecutor involved. i shared your sentiments that we were really concerned that nothing would happen. they didn't intend on arresting anybody when tracy martin called us. >> let me go to the parents for a minute. i think that what people need to have a sense of, sybrina, is that you lost a son. it was a movement toward an unjustice ruling of no arrest for many of us when we got involved and wanted to bring
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attention. but it was personal to you. 45 days ago you lost your son. as you listen to the prosecutor tonight tell you on the phone what she was in fact arresting the killer, after you heard the police say that he would not be arrested, how did you feel? >> i felt overwhelmed. i was just glad for the first time that zimmerman was going to be held accountable for what he has done to us as a family. not only did it take one life, but it affected all of our lives. and i was just glad to know that at least he'll be brought to justice. >> you, tracy as a father, told me a story that your son trayvon once saved your life, and you felt like you owed it to him. tell us as a father, and with that feeling that you wanted to
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do something for the son that made it possible for you to keep living, how do you feel? do you feel it evens the score? >> i feel that him saving my life and not being able to save his life, i can never even that score. it's very -- i was very emotional when i got the call, when we got the call from ms. corey. but i feel that we're putting a lot of pressure now, and that trayvon is looking down on us and saying thank you, dad. >> one of the things that was impressive to me, is when we first talked, and you were saying you were not trying to get revenge, you started explaining to me that you worked for government, you're very religious, i've now been to your home church, and that you wanted no hate in this. you said reverend we don't want
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any violence or hate or hate at mr. zimmerman. we want to the show what happened to our son. and are you feeling now, since there has been no violence, and has been no on the side of all of the protests, all over the country, not only the ones with national action network, the kind of behavior that you wanted, how do you feel tonight in terms of the expectations you have of the people and how they behaved. >> i feel at peace for the first time since it happened. just to know that he has been arrested gives me peace. to know that people have not started being violent against one another or property gives me peace. maybe i will get a good night's rest tonight. >> you said you not had a good night's rest since it happened, do you think tonight?
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>> i'm going to keep my if i think everies crossed, i'll say my prayers, and hopefully i'll get a good night's rest tonight. >> if you heard tonight that mr. zimmerman is in custody, you said you're glad he is off the streets, but you also said you did not want vengeance, just justice. if you sit in a courtroom and see george zimmerman and could say something to him, what would you say? >> i would ask him did he have any regrets? did he realize he destroyed a life, a family, and that had he second guessed it would he have stayed in the car. i have no hate for him, but i would like him to look new my eyes and feel our family's pain.
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at the same time, i just want to know how he feels about taking our son's life. >> before going back to the legal monitoring, we're only on first base, this is not the end, but you have trayvon's brother, and trayvon's brother is here with us at the convention. he has been quietly around, but around everywhere around you and trying to keep you strong, and it was him that trayvon was going to give the iced tea and all -- what have you been able to say to his brother and siblings. how do you explain it to the younger members of the family with the strength and civility you had. you keep stressing we want justice and peace at the same time, how do you get them to understand that? it's got to be hard.
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>> a lot of things i didn't hide from them. when i cried, i wanted them to see my tears so they knew i was in pain so they could see god bring me through this. i didn't have any answers for why the person who shot and killed trayvon had not been brought to justice. i didn't have an answer for that. i just said that we're going to continue to pray about it until we get justice. >> and how as a father did you talk to trayvon's brother and the relatives and those around his age that have lost a brother or cousin, ho do you you make them insurance. >> i just try to let his younger siblings know that he is -- he is not going to die in vein. we're not going to let his name go like that. we're going to protects the integrity of his name and our family's name. they knew trayvon as a loving
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individual. it's very hard for them to start dealing with the loss of him, but at the same time, they realized that we're going to keep the movement going and keep his name going on and on, and they're starting to cope with it a little bit better now. >> attorney crump, the legal steps from here, what happens. we're told that mr. zimmerman is in custody in florida, what happens next? >> there's going to be a bond hearing to determine what he is going to be bonded out of jail. then there will be further appearance at an arraignment hearing and he will plead guilty or not guilty, and then the big crucial thing coming around to second base, reverend sharpton, is the stan your ground hearing which is the law now here in the florida. and the judge has a decision to
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make based on his defense, if he accepts the defense, the judge can dismiss the case. if the judge rejects that defense of stand your ground then you get to third base and it's whatever evidence can come in and so forth, and the home stretch is presenting it to the jury. it's not easy getting past second base, but once we get to third we're coming on home. >> so the next big hurdle is making sure a judge, based on stand your grown, does not dismiss the charges. >> that's right, that's why we have to look at this stand your ground law. i want to say thank you publicly again, because you getting involved and so many other national leader, reverend jackson and others, we brought attention. we have seen what has happened with corporations saying we
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can't stand for laws like this that allowed someone who shot and killed a teenager. trayvon's legacy will be a lot, but that's one of the important things it has to mean. >> tracy, the trayvon martin law that will deal with this, we're seeing people here in washington at our convention and other places dealing with this law. you as parents both want to see the legacy of your son dealing with this law and the trayvon martin law would really deal with this situation? >> yeah, we want to the support the cause. >> most definitely. we want to support the cause, and we want to see the law repealed. >> attorney crump, the reputation of ms. corey is that she is tough, do you expect her to come in and strongly present the case before the judge to get
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by a dismissal and head to trial? >> i do, for a lot of reasons, i want her to be a tough, good prosecutor, and also because she knows the whole world is watching. that's the one thing, when you get a petition where two million people sign it, those people have done something now. they're engaged, and you know through your vast experience, the hardest thing is getting people that stand up, it's easy to stay silent. i have to say this, everybody says when we get justice for trayvon, that's will be our finest hour. i disagree, i think it's when tracy martin called, and nobody new of trayvon, and you stood up for somebody that was unnamed, the government said is unimportant, but this is what our education and talents, this is what we're trained up to do,
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to stand up for good people, trayvon was only a child, and if we don't stand up for him, who will we stand up for? >> was there ever a time that you had doubt that you could get an arrest and turn this around? >> initially i did doubt because i didn't have much faith in the sanford police department, so there was some doubt there, and then it was passed to the state attorney's office. there was a level of doubt there, but i guess once it got to ms. corey's office i felt more comfortable even though she did not give us any information that would lead to an arrest, she never said that to us, but i had a good feeling about it once we met with her. and i just prayed every day, and i just leaned on god to lead the way. >> and you tracy, did you ever feel that this was hopeless? did you ever feel that you were going to try but it wouldn't go anywhere? >> i felt after all of the smearing of trayvon's name, and
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just -- there was a doubt in my mind. >> how did you react when they started -- they were coming up with stuff that was not true about your son. >> yeah, as a father, i just swore to my own integrity that i would not let them smear my son's name and assassinate his character. it was at that point when they started trying to smear his name, i just said i have to put everything that i have in my body to put forth the effort to keep it going and not stopping until we get justice. but there was a doubt when the sanford police department had the case. >> let me ask you this andly close with this. i wanted to ask you sybrina, and ask you, tracy as the father. this case has received a lot of publicity. 20 or 30 years from now, what do
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you open peoplely think wear they hear your son's name. what do you hope history will record him as? >> i hope they remember that he was an unarmed teenager, a minor, shot and killed by an adult, and his parent's fought to make sure that justice was served. i also hope that the laws are changed urn trayvon martin's name, and that this does not happen to any other child or adult. i just hope that this also brings people closer together, and for people to stop looking at the outside of a person's character and look at the inside. >> 20 years from now i hope that the school systems can open the books and trayvon's picture is in there, and the heading is the kid that brought racial tension to a head. that made the world see that we
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can get along together. that made the world see that justice is for all. >> as a lawyer, what do you hope his case will end up meaning in terms of the whole fight for civil rights and equal justice urn the law? >> i think you hit it on the head, reverend sharpton, equal justice under the law. we have to make sure there is equal justice for everybody. it seems so easy they were ready to sweep their son under the rug and just say nobody is going to be held accountable, like it didn't even matter. the legacy has to be that there can be no more trayvon martin's, not on our watch, and we have to teach our children to stand up and say, yeah, everybody matters. justice matters for everybody. and that has to be the legacy. reverend sharpton, the trayvon martin law, we have to work on
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the stand your ground law. it is kill ag lot of innocent people. >> thank you sybrina, tracy, and attorney crump. >> there is a lot of humanity in those interviews, thank you for doing that. the new attorney for george zimmerman is speaking right now with reporters, let's listen. >> did he say he was innocent or just asked to be represented? >> if he did, i would not be able to comment on it, and three to the extent he told me anything it would be a comment on the evidence andly follow the prosecutor's rule that we should not talk about the evidence. it's a good rule. >> what do you think about the stand your ground law? >> it's going to be a part, or a facet of this defense i'm sure. you know, that statute has some troublesome portions to it, and we're now, i think, going to have discussions and
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conversations about that as a state. but right now, it's the law of florida and it's the law that's going to have impact on this case. >> are you going to stick to a self-defense. >> i have no idea what the facts are going to support right now. as a defense attorney, we have a luxury of not saying anything about the facts of the case until we know everything. that's the way it's supposed to work and then we can decide to say something. i'll at the stage i know i should say nothing about the facts of the case. i'm not going to speculate, look at this videotape, statement, or what she said, that's one piece of a puzzle that's unfair to tell anyone. we'll wait until the whole picture is together. >> do you know as an attorney -- was it -- did one of your people try contacting him. >> no, any contact from a lawyer to a client is unethical.
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so if i say i want your case i should be disciplined. so none of that happened. and my understanding was that several lawyers who he was in communication with or his people were in communication with, my name came on that list from a couple different sources. i think from what he said, he looked me up and we talked about it been. >> do you see any problems with being the third attorney this case? >> i'm the first attorney on the case since he has been charged with a crime. seriously, i didn't watch it. anything else or any media looking at it, so i'm not sure what what their involvement was and how they handled it, but i don't think the fact that he changed counsel at this point is problematic at all. -- that is presuming he treated them in a way that was not appropriate, and i don't think that was true.
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so i have no concerns with the way mr. zimmerman will act with me at least in the short few hours i have interacted with him today, it has been respectful. >> it was several hours ago, and i'm not sure of the exact location, and i think in deference to fdle, they're handling this in a very proper way and i will let them continue to do that. >> were you surprised by the charges? >> i don't know because i don't know the facts that the prosecutor had available to her to make that decision. i was a prosecutor for a couple years. ly wait until i see the
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evidence. mr. zimmerman was troubled by it. i just don't want to say more than i know about the case. >> you don't think it was necessary for that charge? >> i would be commenting on the evidence to give that opinion and i don't know the evidence yet. ki say it defending him that he should have been charged, but it has no basis in fact, let's wait until we find out what was really happening. all right. i appreciate you coming out, sorry for making you wait. >> that's the new attorney for george zimmerman, well go back when we come back from break what he said at the beginning. we'll be back with more in a
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welcome back to "hardball," george zimmerman charged with second-degree murder in the death of trayvon martin. marco mera spoke with reporters minutes ago, let's hear what he
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said at the top of it. >> i think he is troubled that the state decided to charge him, but i talked to him about the process. the prosecutor is professional, doing a job as a prosecutor, she made a decision, and we'll see what the next step brings. i think anyone charged with second-degree murder would be scared, so yes. he is in police custody and they're doing what he can to get him to seminal county. >> we voluntarily surrendered him to law enforcement with the realization that the charges were going to come. he did that again, voluntarily. we're trying to work out the best way to keep this as calm as we can. >> how did he become -- how did you become his attorney?
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>> the family contacted me. i think there were referrals from other lawyers and i talked to mr. zimmerman. >> fdle or jacksonville? which law enforcement? >> i believe it was fdle, yes. >> have you ever had a stand your ground case? >> 30 years of practice, the idea of having self-defense cases, i have, and murder cases, and self-defense is part of the case. >> how will you make a case that this was a justified homicide? >> i don't know yet, commenting on the evidence is not appropriate anyway. it's easy for me to say that i can comment on it because i know nothing more than you. >> what did zimmerman say to you? >> he is concerned about getting a fair trial, and a fair presentation. there has been a lot of information flowing. i think a lot of it has been
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premature and maybe inappropriate. i don't think a case like this should be tried here and it's not going to be. i don't think the prosecutor will try it before cameras and i'm very glad to hear that, but there's a lot of information and a lot of ground swell of emotions on all sides of the issue. the statute and whether or not it's appropriate, trayvon martin's untimely death, mr. zimmerman, so there is a lot of issues with, and there is a lot of emotions, and we need to calm this down, it needs to be tried in a courtroom, and that's what i'm going to try to track down. >> what made you want to take this case? >> it's what i do. i've done it for a long, long time. i think i'm pretty good at it, and mr. zimmerman needs a very good and focused defense. we're going to build him one. >> is that why he stopped calling his former attorneys? >> i didn't talk to him about how that occurred or what happened with that.
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>> after that news conference yesterday, where his legal advisors -- >> it happened after, absolutely. >> did he noengs you that he needed new counsel after that? >> i'm hoping that law enforcement is going to do what they can to assist me and keep him safe. i'm hoping that the community will calm down. we now have a process in place. it's a very good process, best in the world and it works pretty well. we have to let it work, have to understand and have faith in the justice system. nobody wanted trayvon martin to be prejudged as he was walking down that street. i ask not to prejudge george zimmerman or the criminal justice system, it's going to work, we just need to let it work.
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>> are you aware of how much your life is going to change. >> i understand the under taking. it's going to be challenging. i have handled other high profile cases of sorts, i'll deal with it, i have a good support team with me, and i hope that i will be givend the time to do it and we won't have to have many of these. >> did you contact him through his website. >> absolutely not, i did not contact him at all. that would be unethical to contact a client for representation, and i have not seen the website to be honest with you. >> i really don't want to disclose that. >> where was he before today? everybody was wondering where he was. >> what are the conditions of bond? given the sensitivity in the community, are you going to see
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if he can be let out of seminole county? >> yes, i hope it will be a bond that the family can make. they're not a family of means so that will be difficult to begin with, and normally the conditions are that you stay local. i think that may be difficult. if george zimmerman was washingtoning down the street today, a risk. that's the way things are, so we need to protect him. i'm hoping that the judge will understand that, i hope the prosecutor understands that and law enforcement will give us the assistance that we're going to need in this case, but i hope that we will keep him safe. i want him to get to his trial so a judge, jury, or prosecutor and i can figure out a way to resolve this. >> can you get a fair trial here? >> we wouldn't today i don't think. the emotions are just running high in all of central florida. but we'll see as we get close tore the point where we're resolving it. we don't know if we'll have a trial. >> what will happen tomorrow? a courtroom? >> my hope if i can get back in
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my office and finish the work that we will have a bond motion hearing set by a judge, and an initial appearance will be held, and the judge can consider what to do with the then existing schedule of no bond which is what seminole county has is a schedule for second-degree murder and we can convince him or her it's appropriate. >> what time is the hearing? >> it's not set yet. it may be at any time. >> his former tones made him sound frantic, how did he sound to you? >> he is troubled by everything that happened. i cannot imagine living in his shoes for the past number of weeks. only because he has sort of been the focus of a lot of anger. and maybe confusion and maybe some hatred, and that has to be difficult.
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truly it must be frightening to not be able to go into a 7-11, a store, and be in prison where ever he was. that would trouble all of us. i'm sure that he is wearing some of the fallout from that. >> that's mark o 'mara the new attorney for george zimmerman. i a a former state attorney, the mayor of san francisco is with us, and a former u.s. attorney. david, let's go to this thought. what did you make of that performance there by the new defense attorney. >> i think he was fantastic. he covered the bases he needed to. he felt confident about himself and the client, and making sure the case was tried in the court of law and not in the press. >> mr. coffey?
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>> i think he set the right tone, and this is going to very quickly shuft now. yesterday we are focussing on the dechs lawyers, now there is a case. there is charges. as this thing goes forward, most all of what we have been talking about in the press becomes less important. now it's legal proceedings. will he be out on bond, house arrest? and then a big question is to how and when the defense will attempt to invoke the stand your ground law. unlike other kins of defenses, they can put this forward and ask a judge to throw out this case if they can establish the self-defense stand your ground. >> it seemed like the defense attorney who i don't know is very hope there in seeing there are options. one is that he may not go to trial, another is that they may reach an agreement, a plea bargain to keep this from a jury, or maybe a judge may
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decide to dismiss the charges right then. >> he was very, very care informal all of miscomments to stay in the frame work of what possibilities are. and he did no without in any fashion inflaming the people who may disagree with him. i thought he did a marvelous job, a manageable job, and it's a difficult situation and he did not attempt dramatize it at all or engage in any hype. >> let let me ask you about the media roll in all of this. the perhaps phrase is very important here. now since we have an indictment here, we have a prosecution, the presumption of innocence will be honored on the air waves, i hope it is, it will be my me, the presumption of innocence is key in coverage of a trial. will that change the way the heat level is affecting this
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case as it proceeds to court? >> i think it's still going to be an emotional case because we have issues that are not only about the earlier questions of race, whether african-american victims get the same level of validation from the criminal justice system today with the second-degree murder charge. you see plenty of validation. but the stand your ground law, itself, will be at trial. that's not going away as a catalyst. >> excuse me, they can't both be on trial at the same time. if it is the law, as the new attorney mark o'mara said, it can be a defense. this legislature is a republican one and a very conservative one, so why is it relevant to talk about the law if it's good or not if it is the law. >> i think what's relevant is
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the fact that this particular law is something that invites a defendant to come up with self-serving explanations for why he shot a victim, and sometimes those are bologna, but since the only person that could contradict him is dead, defense and people have been getting away with it sometimes. >> let's go to mr. weinstein on this, every time there is an accusation of murder, the dead person doesn't get to join the debate, everybody keeps bringing this up, but i understand why with total sympathy that i share for the victim here, it's always the case in a murder case that the victim can't talk in court. >> the victim will talk through the assistant state attorney in the courtroom, the crime scene examiner, the evidence that's introduced. the victim will get a chance to talk and present his case through those people and their voices. you have to re, i want to the go
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back to couple things we're talking about here. stand your ground will not go away for george zimmerman. it's the law at the time this crime was committed. that will always be there. if they get past it and do end up in court, then he also has a self-defense, a justifiable use of deadly force that will come up before the jury. this is long from over. and there used to be a saying things are different in florida. you have to remember in the state court system, it will be observed for everyone to see. cameras are allowed in the courtroom, if the defense invokes discovery can take deposition testimony that would be at the trial. they can become public record. i think the bigger problem is if this case proceeds to trial, how are we going to find a fair and impartial jury for this man to stand private school. >> mayor brown, do you want a last thought here? >> we also must keep in mind there is still a federal
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investigation going forward. there was not an isolated act that the attorney general of the united states of america said in looking at this case, he is looking at it from the perspective of whether or not there have been any violations of the equal protection clauses, and all of the things associated with what happens in cases of this natch with reference to race spop there is that, it's out this, and it will be addressed. >> and it may well should be because you have a real question where why the initial attorney did not take any action except to release the man that night. in fact, i questioned as a citizen the way in which they looked at the whole question of trayvon martin and the way this body was just put in a locker or freezer for a couple days, with little interest and this guy being innocent. thank you, gentleman, we'll have you all back again for many days ahead.
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the heat that lead to the light, and how the protests did force the prosecutor to reconsider this case and the charges for zimmerman may have come from that. you're watching "hardball" on msnbc.
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let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition. we prosecute based on the facts of any given case as well as the laws of the state of florida.
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>> welcome back to "hardball." that was, of course, the special prosecutor, angela corey, earlier tonight in that big news that she's prosecuting for second-degree murder. there certainly was a lot of public pressure, however, surrounding this case, and a lot of it certainly had a lot of influence on what's been happening. over the past few weeks, we've seen protests in cities around the country. we've been looking for the signs, with people calling for zimmerman's arrest. openly saying, arrest this guy. did those protests play a role in pushing the case forward, obviously? if trayvon martin ever become a national headline, would anyone think we would have gotten as far as we did with charges against him tonight. jonathan capehart, and michael smerconish who has a real good here for people out there, a syndicated radio host and also an msnbc analyst. in order, michael and then jonathan, we've reached a turning point where the man is being prosecuted, he has a
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defense attorney. it looks like it's going to be an interesting case. will the media be able to stand back and preserve the presumption of innocence? we haven't had a national criminal case like this since the o.j. case. but in this case, it's in the environment of this media jukebox of a pinball machine, rather, where the ball bounces around with opinion after opinion after opinion, with some facts along the way. can we cover this case fairly, in the media? >> i would hope so. and i think, you know, quite frankly, i think we've done a pretty good job of just presenting the questions that led to a lot of the protests. how is it possible that a man could shoot an unarmed teenager who just had iced tea and a bag of skittles and not be in jail, to the at least be held accountable in a court of law? and i think you're right. tonight is a pivot point, because everything that sybrina fulton and tracy martin, trayvon's parents, have been asking for is an arrest. now they've put their whole
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faith in the justice system, which is where i think it should be. and as long as we in the media and particularly folks at home who are going to be watching this case religiously, keep in mind the facts of the case and how the law works. i think everything will be okay. but it's incumbent upon us in the media to not get whipped up and involved in sort of the theatrics and the hysterics going on outside the courtroom and just focus on the facts. i think the facts are there, plain and clear for everyone to understand. it's just a matter of whether they will meet up with the law that would allow for the justice that i think a lot of people think george zimmerman should meet. >> michael, there's a lot of questions still out there, if we can get there. because we know that he pursued them. we know that george zimmerman pursued him. it's all on tape. we all heard that together, many, many times. we know that he ended up
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shooting the guy. we know that. what happens in those minutes in between, we don't really know. let me ask you this. how do you cover it on the radio or on television when people are so heated up about this thing? >> well, i've tried to cover it in as straightforward a manner as possible by clearly delineating that couldn't which is fact and that which is scuttlebutt. you know, one of the observations that i have, chris, that's distressing is, how many people, at least judging by callers, are anxious to come to a conclusion that suits some sort of political objective? you know, they think they've got it all figured out, whether they're on the side of trayvon martin's memory, and charging george zimmerman, or in believing that george zimmerman was in the right on this. and time and again, i find myself saying, we don't know. and we shouldn't be rooting for any side. we should be rooting only for all the facts coming forth. one other observation, if i might. this angela corey impresses me as not bending to public whims for this reason. very easily, and this really is a hardball assessment, she could have used a grand jury. she could have used a grand jury
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and then given herself distance and said, well, the grand jury voted to indict george zimmerman. or the grand jury decided not to make an indictment. she didn't to that. she said, i don't need it in this case, here's what i think, we're moving forward. >> what about -- what happens, jonathan, this is always tricky, if the law doesn't conform to our notion of justice. suppose there is, in fact, and we know there is a stand your ground law in florida, which allows for this preliminary hearing. we heard about it tonight from david winestein, where a judge can have a preliminary hearing and decide on behalf of the defendant, you thought your life was in jeopardy or grievous permanent bodily injury was being threatened against you and you took action. what happens to all this media rigmarole and all the noise and heat level right now if a judge does that? >> well, chris, that will be the next pivot point. and focusing in on that, as you have, i think is very, is very
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instructive. and i think people should pay attention to it. because stand your ground is the law of the land of florida, and it could be the escape hatch, if you will, for george zimmerman. as long as people understand that and know that, then they can pivot whatever outrage they might have, if, indeed, george zimmerman is successful in using that as a way of escaping prosecution or a full-on trial. >> when you said "escape hatch," which was a loaded phrase right there. for years, the conservatives blasted the court system for letting people off on what they called technicalities. right? now you have something called the stand your ground law, which is a technicality. and the left will say, or the black community, perhaps, if you want to generalize, will say, what a stinking law this is. this guy gets off when something should have never been in the lawbooks. fair enough, but it's a question of moral justice against the actual law on the books. >> right. and if that, indeed, does happen, as i was going to say, the anger at that result would, i think, necessarily have to turn to finding ways to change that stand your ground law in ways that doesn't make it
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possible for someone to escape prosecution, just by saying, i plead self-defense, because i was afraid that i -- you know, that my life was in danger, even though the i'm the one with the guy and the other person only has a bag of skittles. >> michael smerconish, back to you on the same question. we may be back to a situation within months, certainly within a year, where a judge will have to rule on stand your ground. and there will be a verdict by that judge. not by a jury. >> i think it's going to really revolve around whose voice is making the plea for help on that other 911 call. because you've heard already that two opinions have been rendered and suggest that it is not the voice of george zimmerman. i spoke to alan dershowitz about this earlier today and he reminded me that they won't be able to conclusively say it is trayvon martin, but they'll be able to rule out zimmerman. and chris, the reason that i think that's significant is because we're trying to find out
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what or who provoked this. and if you've got trayvon martin making a plea for help at the end of that 911 tape, then you wouldn't think he was the one who had provoked this. you would think that zimmerman provoked it. it will be very hard for him to protect himself in the stand your ground law. it's just not designed for he who is the provocateur in a case like this. >> jonathan, my friend, let me ask you about this question. and maybe you and i are all victim to this. we all come from the experiences that we've lived, whether it's a white person, a black person, an african-american or not. and this is in our dna, almost. how do we get from what we have to look at as the whole history of a lack of justice for black americans in this country, going back to the first slave to arrived here, all the way through jim crow, all the way to the last time a person was abused by a police officer, to the actual data of this case. how do you separate communetive justice, we were taught by the jesuits, from distribive injustice.
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but how do we get to the actual justice of this case, separate and divorce from our larger attitudes and histories? >> right. well, you know, that's what i've tried to do. and after my initial piece, just talking about, you know, what it's like to be an african-american man and living with the burden of other people's suspicions about me. and after having written that, i then focused in on the facts of this case as we knew them, as they came trickling out. and i think as long as people focus on the facts of this case, they will find their way. we will all find our way to whatever the truth is, as we can ascertain it, at this point. but i do think, in the piece that i just wrote, you know, my faith in the justice system was really suffering as a result of this case, but now as a result of angela corey, it's been restored. >> great comments, as always, sir. thank you, jonathan capehart, of "the washi


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