'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
Guests: Al Sharpton, Norton Bonaparte, Scott Sundby, Eugene O`Donnell, Goldie Taylor,
Mark Thompson, Bill Tyler
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: We have breaking news tonight from
Sanford, Florida, where from Trayvon Martin was killed. The police chief
has just received a vote of no confidence from the city commission. The
man who has the exclusive power to fire that police chief is my first
SYBRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: I just want this guy
arrested and so he can be brought to justice.
MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: The controversial shooting of 17-year-old
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The alleged shooter a self-appointed neighborhood
watch leader remains free.
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: This man, it is unbelievable to me, has not
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This young man was walking home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Minding his business.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trayvon was not the aggressor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was approached by Zimmerman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zimmerman claims self-defense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He kept pursuing Trayvon Martin.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is Zimmerman standing his ground for?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Questions are being raised about the Florida
law that might protect the shooter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Justice Department is looking into it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The NAACP is calling for Sanford police chief,
Bill Lee, this is him, to resign.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The police chief, Bill Lee, is not talking.
FULTON: They decided to be the judge and jury.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s no longer just a Sanford Police Department
LAUER: A grand jury will investigate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn`t they take a background check on the
man who had just killed this kid in cold blood?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Questions raised in the past about the conduct of
the Sanford Police Department.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They did a background check on Trayvon Martin.
TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN`S FATHER: My son is murdered. My son
is not with us no more. Nothing can bring him back.
O`DONNELL: Breaking news tonight in the case of Trayvon Martin.
With the outrage building across the country tonight, Sanford City
commission passed a vote of no confidence in police chief, Bill Lee.
In tonight`s meeting, the vote was 3-2 against Chief Lee. And one
member of the commission called for Chief Lee`s immediate resignation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDY JONES, CITY COMMISSION OF SANFORD, FL: Because of the
situation being so poorly handled and because there`s a no confidence level
in our police chief here locally and statewide, nationally, and even
internationally, I would ask the chief to step down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now for an exclusive interview is the man who
will decide Chief Lee`s fate, the city manager of Sanford, Florida, Norton
Thank you very much for joining me tonight, Mr. Bonaparte.
NORTON BONAPARTE, JR., SANFORD, FL CITY MANAGER: Thank you for
O`DONNELL: The case you just heard from that city commissioner for
Chief Lee resigning, do you think that is -- those points are valid points
and reasons for him to resign?
BONAPARTE: Well, let me start by saying that what happened was a
tragedy. The loss of life, the loss of Trayvon Martin was regrettable.
And as a parent, I can`t even begin to think of the loss and the pain his
family must be going through. I think it`s very important that we always
remember the young man that had a promising future is now not with us. And
that`s the very painful reality of it.
In terms of the city commission`s vote this evening of a no
confidence in Chief Lee, I have stated that I believe we need to have an
independent investigation -- not only into just the shooting that took
place, but also the actions of the Sanford Police Department.
I`ve stated that I want to know, as the city manager, did the Sanford
police do things they shouldn`t have done? Or did they not do things that
they should have done? That`s the basis on the information that I would
make a determination on moving forward with the Sanford Police Department.
O`DONNELL: Do you think that those three commissioners who voted the
vote of no confidence tonight cast the correct vote?
BONAPARTE: I think they voted their conscience.
O`DONNELL: Now, you participated in a meeting in the -- with the
Justice Department in Washington about this case?
BONAPARTE: Yes, I did.
O`DONNELL: And tell us about that meeting, how it went.
BONAPARTE: It was very fruitful. We had a meeting with Mr. Tom
Perez, the assistant attorney general. And we asked that they do an
The mayor, Mayor Triplett, as well as Congresswoman Brown and I met
last Friday. And one of the things that came out of that meeting was a
commitment to seek the attorney general`s involvement. We sent a letter to
him and we did get a meeting yesterday with his staff. And we were
encouraged by their agreement to come and look.
The city of Sanford is very welcoming to an open investigation. I
think it`s only fair to the citizens of Sanford, as well as to the rest of
the country that an outside, independent review be done of this situation.
O`DONNELL: Mr. Bonaparte, you issued a statement last week about
what you called frequently asked questions about the case. I want to read
from that. You said in answer to the question: why was George Zimmerman
not arrested the night of the shooting? Your document says that Mr.
Zimmerman provided a statement claiming that he acted in self-defense,
which at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony.
What physical evidence and what testimony supported his claim of
BONAPARTE: If I could make a correction, what I issued was a
statement saying that there had been frequently asked questions about what
has gone on. And I asked the police chief to provide responses. So what
you`ve read was written by the police chief, Chief Lee. I did not write
it. I simply passed on information that I thought it was important to get
out to the public.
The responses were prepared by Chief Lee.
O`DONNELL: And did you read it? Are you satisfied with it?
BONAPARTE: I think there are some questions. I have some questions.
I know members of the commission have questions. That`s why we`ve asked
for an outside review.
O`DONNELL: He did say in here that by Florida statute, law
enforcement was prohibited from making an arrest. That`s apparently a
reference to the "Stand Your Ground" law.
There is an inconsistency in here. And I know, as you`ve pointed out
that this is not your -- these are not your statements. But it is
something that you solicited from Chief Lee.
Chief Lee says that the department has not released any rendition of
the events of the evening to anyone other than the Office of the State
Attorney. In the very same document, Chief Lee says, "Mr. Zimmerman`s
statement was that he had lost sight of Trayvon and was returning to his
truck to meet the police officer when he says he was attacked."
Now, that is a rendition of events. It exists in the very same
document where Chief Lee maintains that they have not released a rendition
of events. That is Zimmerman`s specific rendition of those events.
Does it trouble you that Chief Lee would -- would give Zimmerman`s
version of the story and then in the same document claim they`re not giving
any version of the story?
BONAPARTE: I think you`ve raised one of the questions that we have.
Certainly, that information provided, we did since that information
provided did release the 911 tapes over the weekend. So, the document that
you`re referring to, while it is still on the city`s Web site, is dated and
was released some time ago.
O`DONNELL: I want to go to one more of these questions. And I
recognize that it`s not your document. It`s Chief Lee. But you will
decide whether Chief Lee stays employed in this city. And I just want to
get the things that you might be concerned about in making that decision.
The question that is answered here -- the question is posed, why did
Mr. Zimmerman have a firearm in his possession while acting in the role of
a neighborhood watch member?
Now, I would submit to you that that is a highly prejudicial
question. It assumes that he was acting in the role of a neighborhood
watch member. I don`t know of any evidence that he was acting as a
neighborhood watch member. That is simply something he says.
And Mr. Lee, Chief Lee, says in this report to the public in Sanford,
he said, "The training provided by law enforcement agencies to neighborhood
watch organizations stresses no contact surveillance of suspicious
situations and notifying police."
There is no evidence, absolutely no evidence, that Mr. Zimmerman
received any such training. So why would Chief Lee be referring to
training when talking about Mr. Zimmerman?
BONAPARTE: There are two points. One is the question. The
frequently asked question is the question that we`re being asked. It isn`t
the question that we`re posing. But we have been asked that question. Why
was he acting as a neighborhood watch person when, in fact, he may not have
O`DONNELL: And just one more thing. And it`s just about the nature
of this document that you requested from your police chief and your police
chief submitted to you and then to the public. I think this goes to the
decision you have to make about whether to fire him or not.
Chief Lee says about Mr. Zimmerman -- this is very important phrasing
here -- about Mr. Zimmerman, he says, "He was, in fact, on a personal
errand in his vehicle when he observed Mr. Martin in the community and
called the Sanford Police Department."
"In fact" -- how does Chief Lee know that it is a fact that this guy
was on a personal errand? How did he determine that that is a fact? Just
to abbreviate this, that strikes me as a highly prejudicial finding without
any basis of evidence or proof that the chief would then present to you as
BONAPARTE: That`s based upon their interview with Mr. Zimmerman.
O`DONNELL: But -- now, let`s go to the question. Can you find it in
any way you view the way your city should be policed that this chief who
would issue this report to you and to the public that you find
inconsistent, that you see holes in, under a situation like this where you
needed the best possible offer to the public of the truth as we know it,
can you see any reason that he should be continuing in this job and is
there any reason you see tonight why you should not fire him tonight?
BONAPARTE: I stated that I think it should be reviewed by law
enforcement experts. That`s the point that I think. I need to have facts.
You`ve pointed out some questions. There are certainly questions.
This was all regrettable. There are certainly questions. No doubt about
I want to have an independent law enforcement agency look at the
situation, look at how the Sanford Police Department conducted their
investigation, and then share with me their analysis of the work done by
the Sanford Police Department.
Based on that information, I`ll be glad to make a decision.
O`DONNELL: Mr. Bonaparte, would you consider suspending him in this
tense time, under these conditions when he has obviously lost the
confidence of your city commission.
BONAPARTE: Certainly, there are options for me to consider.
O`DONNELL: I`m joined here at the table by Reverend Al Sharpton.
He`s going to be down there tomorrow at the commission. I`d like him to
have a chance to speak to you about this.
REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: First of all, I think it is good that
the commission voted. But I think that it is clearly the responsibility of
you and others to deal with the fact if this man cannot do his job that you
put the safety and the tranquility of the city at stake keeping him there.
Clearly, there`s enough questions as you raise, Mr. Bonaparte, that are so
troubling, I don`t see how he can continue running that force.
But I also want to caution that let`s not take a battle for the war
and take our eye off of Zimmerman. The desire of the family is the
prosecution and arrest of Mr. Zimmerman. It should not end with Chief Lee,
but it certainly should start there.
BONAPARTE: Well, I think that the reverend and I certainly agree.
What we want as a community more than anything else since we cannot bring
back Trayvon Martin is that justice be served. And that`s the main point
that we would like to see.
That`s why we asked the state`s attorney`s office to expedite any
review. State attorney says he`s empowering grand jury as of April 10th.
Unfortunately, that`s so far away.
But I think that with the reverend, we agree that what we want as a
community is that justice be done in this situation.
SHARPTON: But what we don`t agree is that you can`t wait until April
10th and have Chief Lee, who has all of these unanswered questions still
open, operating as a chief of police in that city and operating over what
goes on in that city while this is going on. He must step aside.
You cannot ask your city and the nation to wait for a grand jury that
doesn`t even convene until April 10th and then no one knows how long it
will operate. You can`t ask everybody to let Chief Lee continue to operate
when all of these unanswered questions are there. He should step aside
while this examination is going on.
BONAPARTE: That`s certainly on the table, Reverend. But I, again,
think that as a city manager I would want to have an outside review that
helps me from a law enforcement perspective say, yes, this is where the
Sanford police did not do their job.
SHARPTON: But, Mr. Bonaparte, a law enforcement expert can tell you
whether he broke the law or whether he did something unethical, because
there`s possible criminal stuff that could have been done, cover-ups.
That`s what law enforcement does.
You run the city. How can he manage -- how can you manage the city
with a chief that has such outstanding questions?
I`m talking about the management of day-to-day law enforcement in the
city. It has nothing to do with the legalities, nothing to do with what
did or didn`t happen in the case.
How can he operate the police department given that your own
commission has voted and given that there`s so many outstanding questions
that you as an administrator would have to say, until these questions are
answered, how can I depend on you to do your job?
BONAPARTE: Those are the conversations I`ll be having with Chief
SHARPTON: Well --
O`DONNELL: Mr. Bonaparte, I want to thank you very much for joining
us tonight. Reverend Sharpton is going to be down there tomorrow. He may
get a chance to talk to you and possibly meet with you down there.
BONAPARTE: I`d welcome that very much, Reverend.
O`DONNELL: I think you can understand the pressure that`s building
on this. I understand in the position you`re in you may be making
different decisions on a day-to-day basis as we saw from the city
commission today. And I do hope you take into consideration that vote of
no confidence and speak to the city commissioners about exactly why they
cast those votes.
BONAPARTE: I think the reverend was right. The tragedy took place.
And where we want to get is to justice. And I certainly respect his
opinion, as well as those that are saying that Chief Lee needs to step
SHARPTON: Well, I look forward to probably talking to you tomorrow.
Let me say this: I would think not only you have to consider what we raised
tonight. If Chief Lee has respect for the city he served, he would do you
and the city a favor by voluntarily stepping aside until all these things
Even he would have to admit these questions beg for some answers.
And if he loves the city and supports the confidence he`s been given in the
past, he should voluntarily step aside until these issues are resolved.
O`DONNELL: Mr. Bonaparte, one quick technical question before we go.
Is it within your power to fire the chief at any time? Is there any
contractual or civil service requirement that would in any way delay your
ability to separate him from that job instantaneously?
BONAPARTE: The chief, as well as other department directors, in the
city manager form of government work at the pleasure of the city manager.
O`DONNELL: It`s all up to you.
Mr. Bonaparte, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
BONAPARTE: Thank you for the opportunity.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, we`re going to have more questions about the
police procedure in this case as new details emerge on what they did do and
exactly what they did not do -- the strange things that they did not do on
the night of the killing.
And eventually, later, we will get to some politics here where the
ridiculous Republican presidential campaign has been upended today by a
child`s toy. Really. It was. We`ll tell you everything you need to know
about the big Etch a Sketch scandal that has engulfed the Romney campaign
And in the "Rewrite" tonight: FOX News tells the biggest lie anyone
has told about Mitt Romney, if we get to it.
O`DONNELL: The city commission of Sanford, Florida, says it has no
confidence in its police chief. We`re going to dig into all of the police
failures of that investigation next with former NYPD detective Eugene
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is so much corruption going on in the police
department, and they as crooked as a barrel of fish hooks. And that`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
L. O`DONNELL: That was part of a town hall meeting today in Sanford,
Florida, led by the NAACP, giving residents the opportunity to talk about
their experiences with the Sanford Police Department.
Joining me now, University of Miami law professor Scott Sundby.
Professor of police studies and law at John Jay College of Criminal
Justice, Eugene O`DONNELL, who is also a former NYPD police officer and
prosecutor. And back with us, the Reverend Al Sharpton.
Professor Sundby, I want to go to a line that`s in the police chief`s
report, the so-called frequently asked questions answers -- where he says,
"By Florida statute, law enforcement was prohibited from making an arrest
based on the facts and circumstances they had at that time."
Can you deconstruct that for us?
SCOTT SUNDBY, UNIV. OF MIAMI LAW PROFESSOR: Yes. What I think the
chief was trying to say, and perhaps misunderstood in how he said it, is
that any arrest, before you can make it, you have to have probable cause
that the person committed the crime. And so, to say that you can`t arrest
someone without probable cause is correct.
But what his statement suggests is that if a suspect says that they
stood their ground and there`s any evidence that might corroborate it, that
you can`t take a look at all the other facts and still find that probable
cause exists. If I understand Chief Lee`s interpretation correctly, it
would allow anyone who is suspected of a homicide to say, "Hey, listen, I
stood my ground. I thought I was in danger. And now you can`t arrest me."
And the probable cause determination is really looking at all of the
facts, not only the suspect`s statement, but also witnesses, 911 calls, and
deciding off of all that if probable cause exists. So, only if there`s no
probable cause is it prohibited. But that`s true in all types of crimes.
L. O`DONNELL: I mean, simply put, it sounds like the chief is trying
to raise a higher level than probable cause. Professor O`Donnell? I`ve
always wanted to say that, Professor O`Donnell.
EUGENE O`DONNELL, JOHN JAY COLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Well, it says
the police are prohibited from making an arrest. Obviously, in this case
there`s a young person lying dead. He would be the best witness.
The likelihood is if Trayvon was alive there would be an arrest,
because you would hear his account -- all the more reason why the police
should act with urgency and deliberation in trying to get every available
fact. It`s not like the "CSI" shows where some day you`ll find out. They
should be immediately asking this guy what happened and locking him into a
statement and trying to get to the bottom of what happened.
In the name of justice, it`s the police -- the highest duty the
police have is to try to get the facts when the victim cannot speak for
O`DONNELL: Reverend Al, your reaction to what we just heard from Mr.
Bonaparte, it seems like every time we get into this, you feel like you`re
making a little headway in the information. But you keep running into just
as much frustration.
SHARPTON: Which is why there`s frustration in the community.
There`s a lot of double talk.
I mean, first of all, for the police chief --
L. O`DONNELL: These things are all double talk. These frequently
SHARPTON: For the police chief to say as stated the bar is so high,
he almost is saying I have to have a conviction to make an arrest. There`s
a young man dead. You have 911 tapes. You don`t even need the witnesses.
What he said on the 911 tapes clearly does not lead towards self-
defense. So you have enough probable cause there to proceed. Say, wait a
minute, you proceeded. You were told not to proceed. You are not really a
neighborhood watch guy anyway. And you killed somebody.
His story is the guy hit me and all that. Tell it to the judge. We
hear it every day in our community. That`s what you do.
He`s not the judge and the jury. Now, all of a sudden, you give all
of these excuses as to why Zimmerman has to have certain privileges that
you don`t give Trayvon Martin. That is unacceptable and that is why this
man needs to step aside and Zimmerman should be arrested.
L. O`DONNELL: Eugene O`Donnell, I want to draw on your experience at
crime scenes responding as a police officer. You later worked as a
prosecutor here in New York City. The police reports which we`ve been
looking at today have some fascinating things to me. I really -- we`ve got
to wait for the autopsy report.
But, for example, Trayvon was found -- quoting the police report --
"laying face down on the ground." Now, that immediately raises the
question of where -- where is the exit wound? Where is the entrance wound?
Is there an exit wound?
We`re being told that he was shot straight in the chest. But when
the body is found laying face down, you`ve got some immediate questions
about exactly where this bullet was fired.
E. O`DONNELL: The police appeared to leave the playing field, if you
read the reports. They got into the business of first aid which is
obviously crucial when life is in the balance. Their job is also to find
the truth. There`s actually a part on one of those police reports where
the second officer specifically says, I did not talk to Mr. Zimmerman about
L. O`DONNELL: That`s Timothy Smith.
E. O`DONNELL: As though he avoided.
L. O`DONNELL: I`m going to quote him. He says, "At no point did I
question Zimmerman about the incident that had taken place." That`s
Timothy Smith who was the guy working Zimmerman.
There was another officer who was taking care of Trayvon. This one`s
working Zimmerman, doesn`t ask him a question.
E. O`DONNELL: Police work 101 is -- again, the person who can speak
best about this is lying dead. You have another individual. You`re going
to try to lock him in before he has a chance to create some varnish on his
story or to think about invoking his constitutional rights.
That`s fundamental police work, trying to get his account then and
there. And it appears if you read that report the police had some
inexplicable disinterest, almost, to try to get to the bottom of this case.
L. O`DONNELL: Yes.
And, Reverend Al, we`ve been asking people, asking questions what
about the cell phone? Trayvon had a cell phone. Would it be standard
procedure in a situation like that, you see this kid`s cell phone, to see -
- press some buttons, see what was the most recent number dialed, things
They don`t even know who this kid is. They`re saying for over a day
this a John Doe. If you have a John Doe with a cell phone, isn`t that an
awful lot of information?
E. O`DONNELL: If police work is anything it`s doing justice in a
homicide case when somebody who cannot speak for himself is there. There
were plenty of facts available immediately. The whole idea of his
involvement as an armed community watch person having been told not to get
involved, gets involved, there`s lots of reasons to have probable cause to
make an arrest.
This law obviously is a ridiculous law. The lawmakers who made it
should be held accountable for doing it.
L. O`DONNELL: But even as you read this law, as a law professor, you
still see enough probable cause to clear that hurdle on this crime scene?
E. O`DONNELL: As Reverend Sharpton said, probable cause in our legal
system a relatively low standard. You can make an arrest.
And, by the way, this guy is accused of a homicide. There`s a
theoretical threat to the community. There is an urgency to do that. That
can always be -- those charges can always be dropped later. It`s not some
Is there probable cause in this case? When you take the facts that
were immediately available there`s clearly probable cause in this case.
Even though the law is a goofy law that creates some gray areas that
shouldn`t be there the police should have acted courageously and made an
arrest then and there.
SHARPTON: What`s even more appalling, not only did they not make an
arrest, they let the guy go with a gun, with the murder weapon. You can
go. And they start becoming his defense spokesmen.
In these documents that you read to Mr. Bonaparte, they start
advocating on behalf of Zimmerman. I mean, it is outrageous. You have the
police chief saying this is what Zimmerman was facing. This is, in fact,
How does he know that? He did not talk to people -- he did not talk
to witnesses. There`s no corroboration. But he states this as fact.
He, in fact, became the spokesman for Mr. Zimmerman.
L. O`DONNELL: A gun like that, you want to take it over. You want
to take ballistic tests on it. You want to figure out exactly what the
range of fire was, how far away was this from the entrance wound. None of
that`s being done.
E. O`DONNELL: Full court press then and there to get the facts, to
lock in the stories. The state`s attorney should be involved in this.
There`s an urgency to do it.
I don`t understand why at this late date the city manager and other
people are still trying to figure out what went wrong. Most of this,
almost all of it appears to have gone wrong. There should have been a lot
quicker action taken to make it right.
L. O`DONNELL: Reverend Al, you`re on a plane at dawn going down
there tomorrow. What do you hope to accomplish?
SHARPTON: We`re going to keep a real national attention on this.
We`re going to have a very large rally tomorrow night. The family is going
to be there. They just left -- did our show tonight. And many of our
leaders around the country are coming in, including elected officials.
We`re just ordinary people. We cannot let this go out of the public
eye. The only way I feel that we can get the Justice Department and the
state prosecution to take it seriously is they know people are not going to
be angry for a week and move on.
I think that the Sanford police felt they could keep this inside of
Sanford. When Attorney Crump got into it for people and like me and took
it outside of it, it`s to keep the attention there. And we`re going to
keep it there.
L. O`DONNELL: All right. We`re going to hear from you tomorrow
Again, Reverend Al Sharpton, Eugene O`Donnell and Scott Sundby --
thank you all very much for joining me tonight.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
L. O`DONNELL: Coming up: the groundswell of protests across the
country for justice in the killing of Trayvon Martin -- a march tonight in
New York City, a march tomorrow with Reverend Sharpton in Sanford, Florida.
Mark Thompson and Goldie Taylor will be my guests./
O`DONNELL: Tonight, people marched in New York City to protest the
killing of Trayvon Martin. Tomorrow, thousands are expected to march in
Sanford, Florida, where the killing happened. Goldie Taylor was at the
march today in New York. Mark Thompson of Sirius XM Radio will be at
tomorrow`s march in Florida. They will join me here tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRACY MARTIN, FATHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: I just want you to know that
if Trayvon had been alive, he would be right here on these steps with you
guys rallying for justice. Trayvon Martin was human. Trayvon Martin did
matter. I just want New York to know that we`re not going to stop until we
get justice for Trayvon.
SABRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: We need this kind of
support. Our son was not committing any crime.
FULTON: Our son is your son.
FULTON: I want you guys to stand up for justice and stand up for
what`s right. This is not about a black and white thing. This is about a
right and wrong thing. Justice for Trayvon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Trayvon Martin`s parents speaking at a rally in New York
tonight. With me now, Goldie Taylor, of NBC`s TheGrio.com, who was at that
million hoodie rally tonight in New York, and the host of "Make It Plain"
on Sirius XM Radio, Mark Thompson, who will be at the rally tomorrow with
Reverend Sharpton in Florida.
Thank you both for joining me tonight.
You know, I had the hoodie on all day. And at about 9:25, as I was
heading down here, without even thinking about changing it, I realized, you
know what? I feel like a prosecutor tonight. I better dress like a
prosecutor. And -- and you know, that`s the way I`m feeling about it.
I just want to get your reactions to what you have heard so far, what
you heard from Mr. Bonaparte, the city manager. He has the authority to
fire this police chief right now tonight, before he goes to bed. He`s --
you`ve listened to him. He`s approaching this very carefully.
What do you think, Goldie? More carefully than he has to?
GOLDIE TAYLOR, THEGRIO.COM: I think much more carefully than he has
to. I think in this environment, I certainly understand the abundance of
caution, on the one hand. But on the other, how much information do you
need to understand that a police chief has lost his bond, his trust with
How much information do you need to understand that he`s incapable of
running this police department in an effective way and partnering with all
of the communities who he`s sworn to serve and protect?
So I don`t know how much information you need for that. At least
there should be a suspension until -- until all of the facts are in, at the
very least. He has enough information for that.
O`DONNELL: Mark, what we learned in police work 30 years ago is
community relations is as important as crime control.
MARK THOMPSON, SIRIUS XM RADIO HOST: Sure.
O`DONNELL: And you cannot have crime control without community
relations. You have a complete failure and breakdown of community
relations in that community with this police department and that police
chief. This is the kind of moment where, no matter what kind of job he`s
done before -- and we have plenty of evidence he hasn`t done a great job
before, but you`ve reached a point of this particular chief is now
dysfunctional in that position.
THOMPSON: I agree. And WESH reported tonight, when they broke this
story about the commission vote, Lawrence, that if the city manager, Mr.
Bonaparte, does not make a move, then he is somehow held accountable, I
guess, under their charter for anything that Bill Lee does from now on.
I heard his very measured approach in speaking to you tonight. But I
can`t imagine -- if that is true, if what WESH is reporting is true, I
can`t imagine why in the world he would want to risk his credibility or his
job trying to be polite to Bill Lee. We know what`s really gone on here
and a move needs to be made.
O`DONNELL: Let`s remember what Bill Lee has said about this. By the
way, the wallpaper of this show now is the Stand Your Ground states. We
just keep it on the wall. These are the states where you guys want to
dress like that, your lives are in danger in those states, under the people
Remember, these Stand Your Ground Laws are the result of a political
movement with supporters who believe that there isn`t enough shooting and
killing by civilians of suspicious people. That`s why they want these
laws, to be able to do this.
TAYLOR: I think that`s -- I think that`s exactly right. But, you
know, a lot of people have put this in a racial context, that when they
passed this law in Florida in 2005, the opponents said this will allow or
give license to racially motivated killings. And so here we are today.
O`DONNELL: By the way, those opponents included police chiefs. All
of the states saying, don`t give these vigilantes these powers. Don`t do
it. Let us do this job.
TAYLOR: Absolutely. I raised my son in one of those 22 states. I
got to tell you that, you know, I had dinner with him --
O`DONNELL: You live in one right now, Georgia.
TAYLOR: I live in one right now. I saw him for dinner this evening.
I understood that he now lives, you know, at a very far distance from me.
I`m not able to be with him. I`m not able to guide him directly. So when
he comes in contact with police officers or other people of authority, he
needs instruction. He needs to know how to comport himself, so that he,
you know, doesn`t put himself really in harm`s way.
That`s a conversation that we`ve had, and that I`m going to tell you
that every black parent I know has had with their sons. And so tonight
when we went down to Union Square, everybody, you know, out wearing what we
call hoodies or hooded sweatshirts, it was really about saying that we
understand because we have sons, too. And so we understand what these
parents are --
O`DONNELL: To go back to this police chief, last week, March 17th --
and It seems the heat on this case quadruples every day. So the difference
between where Bill Lee thought he was on March 17th and where he knows he
is tonight, with a vote of no confidence from his City Commission -- he
said this on March 17th, "I`m sure if George Zimmerman had the opportunity
to relive Sunday, February 26th, he`d probably do things differently."
Then here`s the killer line within that same phrasing, next sentence,
"I`m sure Trayvon would, too."
Now, I`ve studied all of the evidence in this case. I have studied
those 911 calls. I`ve studied these police reports. There is no evidence
anywhere here to suggest that Trayvon should have done anything different,
anything different. And Bill Lee has all that evidence.
THOMPSON: Those who killed Emmitt Till left him missing for three
days. Bill Lee kept Trayvon missing from his family for three days. Not
only did he say that, he also said, if you recall, I`m looked at unfairly -
-I`m paraphrasing -- because I`m a white man in uniform, as if to invoke
some type of sympathy or empathy for his situation.
O`DONNELL: Like you won`t believe me because I`m a white man in
uniform. Well, you know, there`s plenty of historical reason for that.
THOMPSON: Right, right, right. So, again, I think it`s a travesty
that he`s still in that position. And as long -- Reverend Sharpton and I
were on the phone late last night. Look, this is media. We`re on
television. Everybody knows that. We know certain stories only have a
certain shelf life, Lawrence, and people go on to something else.
Reverend Sharpton and I agree, if they don`t arrest George Zimmerman
any time soon, this story may overshadow every other store. Mitt Romney
can`t get the coverage he wants. The Republicans can`t get the coverage
they want. This story may overshadow every other story as long as it`s
And it`s a tribute to his honor and his memory. We stand up for him
because this is our son. White conservatives called my show tonight and
said, Mark, I`m a white conservative, but I, too, am Trayvon Martin.
Everyone knows that if you kill a lamb, we will do nothing but utter his
O`DONNELL: This line he says in there about "I`m sure Trayvon would,
too," meaning would do things differently, too, Goldie, there are a lot of
people out there who think that. Who think, well, you know, he shouldn`t
have done this. He shouldn`t have run, if he did run. We`re not even sure
that he did run.
We have this evidence from his 16-year-old girlfriend on the phone
with him, saying I told him to run, but he didn`t want to run.
O`DONNELL: He`s smart enough to know, if I run, this could be worse.
I don`t know what this guy`s up to. The -- this is a poisonous notion.
This is a poisonous notion that Bill Lee advances that "I`m sure Trayvon
would have done something differently, too."
TAYLOR: It was meant to be just that. It was meant to poison the
memory of Trayvon, so that he could save his own position. I think that
this is about protecting the Sanford Police Department. It`s been about
that from day one.
The night that Trayvon Martin was murdered, Bill Lee had no idea, no
idea, that people around this country would take to social networks and
speak out about it. He had no idea that that kind of furor would come
right to his city commission tonight.
He had no idea that he would be the subject of this national talk show
tonight. He had no idea that people like Al Sharpton and Mr. Thompson here
would be at his door asking real questions.
And so he thought he could send home someone who had killed, shot in
the chest, a 17-year-old innocent black teenager, that he could send him
home that night and everybody could sleep well.
O`DONNELL: In the history of this territory, I`ve seen even more
obscure cases rise to the level of bringing down a police commissioner. I
wrote a book about a case in Boston a long time ago that wasn`t being
covered at all. When that story -- the power of that story finally got out
in book form, it brought down the Boston Police commissioner. He was out
of a job.
It was a harder thing to do in those days without any of this kind of
media help. This -- this is not going to stop. That`s sort of the message
that has to be delivered to Florida, is it isn`t going to stop. If you set
some Grand Jury date for out here, that doesn`t mean we just all go cover
Romney between now and then.
TAYLOR: It`s not going to stop. I think too many eyes are on this
entire process for this to die. And so not only are people looking for a
more full investigation, whether that`s at the state or the federal level,
but they`re looking for an arrest.
Now, no one has said, at least in this public square, that there
should be a conviction. What we have said is, we want to see all of the
facts. Then let justice have her day in court. I think that`s fair.
O`DONNELL: If -- if he had hit him with his car, he would have been
arrested for vehicular manslaughter. If he killed him with his car. You
put a bullet in him, and these police send you home with your gun loaded.
THOMPSON: And they don`t even drug or alcohol test him. Do we know
where he is? Where is he?
TAYLOR: He`s in hiding.
THOMPSON: Where has he disappeared?
TAYLOR: Well, he isn`t sleeping in a jail cell tonight. But I`ll
tell you what the real difference is here. It is the race of the victim.
When you look at the stats, if you kill a non-white person, you are less
likely to be charged. Less likely to go to trial, less likely to be
convicted, and less likely to get a very severe sentence.
If you kill, however, a white victim, that goes up by 11 times. And
that is the difference in Death Row today. It is almost -- almost
irrelevant -- almost irrelevant that Zimmerman is either white or Hispanic
or both. What is most relevant is the value that this society seems not to
be able to place on the value of black lives, and particularly on black
THOMPSON: The question we have to ask ourselves, can we mature enough
as a country to elect the first African-American president, and yet not
protect our own children?
O`DONNELL: We are not there yet. Mark Thompson of Sirius XM Radio
and Goldie Taylor, thank you both very much for joining me tonight.
THOMPSON: Thank you.
TAYLOR: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: We are going to turn to politics here at some point, I
think. The Romney campaign had a silly day of damage control after a
Romney aide said the stupidest thing said by any campaign aide this year.
That`s going to be next.
O`DONNELL: After yesterday`s big win in Illinois, the Romney campaign
was derailed today by top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a concern that the pressure from Santorum
and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right, it would
hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?
ERIC FEHRNSTROM, SENIOR ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Well, I think you
hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It`s almost
like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Rick Tyler, a senior adviser for the
pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future.
Rick, you guys, you just can`t get luckier than running against the
craziest front runner campaign I`ve ever seen. This Romney campaign is
Here`s the guy confessing to the thing that you have been accusing him
of all year.
RICK TYLER, WINNING OUR FUTURE SUPER PAC: Well, at least it wasn`t
Romney this time. It was one of his senior advisers.
But I`ll tell you --
O`DONNELL: But that`s kind of worse, it seems to me, because this is
the guy, like you -- you aren`t supposed to make mistakes. Campaigns don`t
let you make mistakes.
Candidates make mistakes, they live with it. This is the guy who is
supposed to make sure the candidate doesn`t make mistakes.
TYLER: Not only that, I mean, the reason it`s playing all day is
because it just rings so true. I mean, we`ve always suspected that. Look
it, I`ll predict by tomorrow morning, we`ll have an -- we`ll have an Etch a
Sketch ad on Youtube, you know, turn a little to the right, turn a little
to the left.
You know, Romney will be wherever you want him to be. If you don`t
like him, just shake it and he`ll go away. Which maybe we should try that,
just shake it and maybe he`ll go away.
But, you know, it`s just -- it was just a devastating thing that
Fehrnstrom just stepped right into this. And he should have known better,
because this is the underlying anxiety that conservatives and Republicans
have about Mitt Romney. And here he is confirming it.
O`DONNELL: And he says it right at the point where Rush Limbaugh and
others are starting to surround Romney. Limbaugh saying today that Mitt
Romney might be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. Actually,
this crazy rationale for justifying Rush Limbaugh supporting the
historically most liberal Republican -- certainly in his past, he was the
most liberal Republican who has ever run for president.
O`DONNELL: Well, that`s right. I mean, you know, look, all the
numbers seem to indicate that Romney is -- has an insurmountable lead. I
do still -- will say that I don`t believe get to the convention with the
requisite number of delegates. I do think that we`ll still have a brokered
convention. And then all bets are off.
And we`ll have a great time covering. I`m sure you will.
O`DONNELL: Yes, we are really looking forward to it. And we`re
counting on you to continue to damage Romney as much as you possibly can,
bombing him with those super PAC ads.
TYLER: Well, I can`t do any better than Eric today. So Kudos to Eric
for helping out with --
O`DONNELL: You guys working on an Etch a Sketch ad right now?
TYLER: Well, I -- no, but I think somebody is working on the Etch a
Sketch ad. And I certainly think the Obama campaign would make it just for
O`DONNELL: Rick Tyler, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
TYLER: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to be right back.
O`DONNELL: Just to recap the news we made here tonight on THE LAST
WORD. In the wake of his handling of the Trayvon Martin case, Sanford
Police Chief Bill Lee lost a vote of no confidence by the Sanford City
Commission tonight by a vote of three to two. The decision to fire Chief
Lee now rests solely with City Manager Norton Bonaparte, who joined me
exclusively earlier in the show.
Instead of making a decision here tonight, he told me repeatedly that
he wants an independent investigate into how the police department handled
this case before he decides whether to fire Chief Bill Lee. But he is
He also said he is considering suspending Chief Lee. And Mr.
Bonaparte did admit to me that the report that Chief Lee gave him and the
public does have very troubling inconsistencies in it. We will have much
more on all of this tomorrow here on THE LAST WORD.
If you missed our interview with Mr. Bonaparte or any part of the
show, it will all be up on our blog very shortly, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com.
And you can follow my Tweets @Lawrence.
"THE ED SHOW" is up next.
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2012 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2012 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
MORE FROM MSNBC
Add msnbc headlines to your news reader: