PoliticsNation, Thursday, April 12, 2012
Read the transcript from the Thursday show
Guests: Ken Padowitz; Teresa Sopp, Ben Montgomery, Ken Padowitz, John Burris, Joan Walsh, Kevin Cunningham
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to "Politics Nation," I`m
Tonight`s lead, breaking news in the Trayvon Martin case, newly
released documents reveal the key parts of the prosecution`s case against
George Zimmerman. We got copies of these documents today just after Mr.
Zimmerman appeared in the court for the first time. Zimmerman went before
judge to face charges of second-degree murder, and for the first time since
his fateful 911 call, we heard him speak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE JUDGE: Mr. Zimmerman.
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, SHOOTER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE JUDGE: Appears here for your first appearance that
the time for a charge of murder in the second degree, and you are respected
by Mr. O`Mara is that true?
ZIMMERMAN: Yes, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The judge has ruled there is probable cause in this case so
it will move forward. Zimmerman will be formally arraigned on may 29th.
The released of the probable cause documents are a big deal shedding new
light on how this case will be prosecuted.
Prosecutor Angela Corey writes, quote, "Trayvon Martin was on his way
back to the townhouse where he was living when he was profiled by George
Zimmerman. Martin was unarmed and was not committing a crime. Zimmerman
observed Martin and assumed Martin was a criminal. Zimmerman felt Martin
did not belong in the gated community and called the police." He goes on
to say that Zimmerman proceed Martin to be acting suspiciously. The
affidavit says that Zimmerman did not use a racial slur. It revealed that
investigators have talked to Zimmerman`s girlfriend and Zimmerman started
the conflict. It says, quote, "Martin attempted to run home but was
followed by Zimmerman who didn`t want the person he falsely assumed was
going to commit a crime to get away before the police arrived. Zimmerman
got out of his vehicle and followed Martin. Zimmerman disregarded the
police dispatcher and continued to follow Martin who was returning home.
Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued."
To help us break down this case, I`m joined my Ken Padowitz, a former
homicide prosecutor and John Burris, an experienced criminal defense
attorney. Thanks to both of you for joining me tonight.
Ken, let me start with you. Is this the road map the prosecution will
use against Zimmerman?
KEN PADOWITZ, FORMER HOMICIDE PROSECUTOR: Absolutely, it`s like the
skeleton to the case that the prosecution is going to lay out before the
jury. It definitely goes into the type of evidence they have, how they`re
going to prove the elements to the charge of second-degree murder, and how
they`re going to prove their case beyond and to the exclusion of every
reasonable doubt to a jury.
SHARPTON: Now John, the prosecution must prove for conviction, a, the
victim is dead, two, the death was caused by a criminal act by the
defendant, and three, the victim unlawfully killed by an act imminently
dangerous to another, and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for
human life. That`s what they have to prove in second degree murder in
And if convicted, Zimmerman will face 25 years to life in prison. In
your opinion, and you have been a defense attorney, do you think they would
have moved for murder two as opposed to manslaughter unless they felt they
had evidence to back this up?
JOHN BURRIS, DEFENSE CRIMINAL ATTORNEY: Well, you would think they
would have, but I don`t necessarily think they really believe totally they
can get a second-degree murder conviction. I think the case was clearly on
his face is a man - and the reason I say that is this. There is going to
be this whole question of the initial "Stand Your Ground." That`s going to
go out. They`re not going to be able to win that at all. I mean, the
defense is it. But when you get down to a fight, regardless of who --
SHARPTON: The defense is that you mean -- you mean Zimmerman will not
be able to prove stand your ground?
BURRIS: No, he is not going to be able to prove that because he is
the aggressor, he pursued him. But when you get into the middle of a fight
were struggled, no matter who started it, if gentleman basically believes
in good faith that his life is in danger, even though it`s unreasonable,
and he shoots and kills Trayvon, that`s still murder and that`s a
manslaughter case. And so on the other hand, if he is in a position to
leave, he is on top, he leaves, and he could have left and he didn`t leave.
And he shoots and kills him when his life is not in danger, that is
deprived state of mind and you can get a second-degree murder based upon
SHARPTON: So a lot of that will depend on the -- what we don`t know
the evidence that they have. Because Ken, there is a lot of evidence,
clearly, that we don`t have. And we don`t have the video of Zimmerman`s
police interview. We don`t have the full police report. We don`t have the
autopsy results. We don`t have Zimmerman`s gun ballistics. We don`t have
Zimmerman`s clothing to see whether there is blood splatter. I mean, there
are a lot of things we don`t have, and there was an agreement to not
release certain things at this point.
PADOWTIZ: There was. But this is a brilliant legal move by the
prosecution team. What they did is they had to have sufficient evidence
that they believed in good faith they can come back to a jury and get a
conviction for second-degree murder. But it was a brilliant legal strategy
if they had that evidence, and I believe they would not have gone forward
as they had if they had in fact, concluded they don`t have that evidence.
It`s kind of like an upside down pyramid. The higher the charge, the
higher up on that pyramid, the more evidence that is required in order to
prove the elements of the charge. For second-degree murder you went
through the element that`s have to be proven by the state of Florida, and
the state obviously feel that`s by going before a jury with a second-degree
murder charge, they`re giving the jury an option, they are giving them an
option to come back as guilty as charged of second-degree murder, or to
compromise their verdict and come back with a manslaughter conviction which
I`m assuming that the prosecution would look at as a win as well because
the conviction for manslaughter or second-degree murder would be a
SHARPTON: So they can by going for the higher charge, they probably
feel they have the evidence, but they also feel in a compromised verdict,
they could get at least manslaughter and a jury can do that?
PADOWTIZ: Absolutely. The jury has the right to do that.
SHARPTON: Now John, let me ask you this. The affidavit released
today uses some strong language. It says -- this is the prosecutor, not
the protesters, not the activist, not any of us, said that Martin was
profiled. He was profiled by George Zimmerman, assumed Martin was a
criminal. Zimmerman assumed Martin was a criminal and that Zimmerman felt
Martin did not belong in the gated community.
However, the affidavit makes sure to note that Zimmerman did not use a
racial word when talking about Martin. Zimmerman stated that the a-holes,
they always get away and he also said these punks.
Now. But that is not the racial term that some thought they heard.
But it doesn`t help with the state case because it doesn`t sound a little
aggressive to me. It doesn`t sound like a guy to me that doesn`t know that
he has to defend himself against. So it would help with defense but it may
hurt him with the state, don`t you think John?
BURRIS: Absolutely. I don`t think -- I think that the racial
component goes out from the federal civil rights, but from a state point of
view, you have a mind of a person who in fact was profiling this person,
and who was making decisions about him, based upon on a stereotyping notion
about an African-American male, what you call a race and that. He was
basically saying he didn`t belong here. Even like the way he was dressing,
he was up to no good. That all goes to his state of mind that is
consistent with him being the aggressor, and I think this is what the part
that knocks out the "Stand Your Ground" defense.
So, these background and these statements I think are pretty strong
evidence that this is not going to -- the prosecution is basically saying
this is not a "Stand Your Ground" defense here giving all of the things he
was saying and doing at the time that clearly suggest that he was the one
that was trying to find out about this particular kid. The kid wasn`t
trying to do anything to him.
SHARPTON: This strikes me as a very strong statement. Because, here,
you`re dealing now with a hard-nosed prosecutor, who by all accounts is
very much hard on criminals, very pro-police, a Republican, and she used
the term in the affidavit profile. That`s a strong term in Florida,
wouldn`t you think?
PADOWTIZ: Absolutely. It is a strong term because that`s exactly
what evidence shows. We all heard the 911 tape. We have an amazing piece
of evidence into the - it`s a window into the mind of Mr. Zimmerman. When
he used the term "they." They always get away with this. Well, he is,
obviously, by saying that he is profiling this individual. We don`t know
if the profile is young people, if it is people that wear hoodies, or the
fact that he is black. But he is obviously profiling this person, and now
he is stalking him and going after him. He is the aggressor. And Florida
statute is very clear that you can`t even claim in front of the jury self
defense when you are assert that, you can claim that when you are in fact
the aggressor. And the evidence seems to indicate very clearly that that
Mr. Zimmerman is the aggressor in this situation.
SHARPTON: So, profile could be racial, it could be his dress, it
could be any number of things, but the fact that his profiling does take
away from a self defense or "Stand Your Ground" defense here is your point?
BURRIS: I think that`s true, because he has a -- it goes to his state
of mind. When he used the term "they," they always get away with it. That
means he has in his own mind a stereotype notion about a class of people,
regards whether it`s young, African-Americans, et cetera. He already made
a determination that, quote, "they" are people do bad things and he is
going to put a stop to them. He is going to be the aggressor here. He is
going to be the law enforcement officer.
So, I think that you have all of this activity here that certainly
suggest that`s this is a guy that the prosecution can clearly say he was
the one that was the aggressor, and there`s a lot of evidence to support
that and that tape as short as it may be.
SHARPTON: Now, when you combine that, as well, with the fact that he
was the aggressor in terms of making these strong statements, would the
fact that the dispatcher, according to the affidavit and according to what
we heard in the 911 tape, told not to follow him and he did anyway, it
begins to line up is to why we can see the prosecutor feels they have a
strong case, and we are only dealing on what we know. We don`t know the
evidence that has not been released yet.
PADOWTIZ: Remember the third element to second-degree murder is act
dangerous to another with a depraved mind. Clearly, the mind of Mr.
Zimmerman is showing that he has ill will, spite even when tent. He is
showing a depraved mind, and that`s one of the elements, the third element
to the three elements of second-degree murder.
SHARPTON: All right, Ken and John, stay with us. I want to talk to
you in a minute about the controversial "Stand Your Ground" law.
But coming up, the case against George Zimmerman rests in the hands of
special prosecutor Angela Corey. By now, we all know her. But what`s her
Plus, George Zimmerman walked into court today, but the controversy
"Stand Your Ground" defense could set him free. We will look on that
And remembering the victim, why we can all relate to Trayvon and why
the country can never forget.
SHARPTON: It`s all in special prosecutor Angela Corey`s hands. We
will look on her record, next.
SHARPTON: Welcome back to "Politics Nation." Joining me now is mayor
of Sanford, Florida, Jeff Triplett.
Mr. Mayor, thanks for joining us.
JEFF TRIPLETT, SANFORD FLORIDA MAYOR: Thanks for having me.
SHARPTON: What`s the reaction from Sanford residents today now that
George Zimmerman has been arrested and made his first court appearance?
TRIPLETT: I think everybody took a deep breath, and exhaled, and, you
know now it`s in the prosecutor`s hands. So, it`s just one piece of the
puzzle that is off the city of Sanford, and, you know, it`s in Jacksonville
with a very competent attorney.
SHARPTON: Now that competent attorney released today the affidavit of
probable cause. And there was frankly nothing in that affidavit that the
police did not know in Sanford. Are you disappointed that the chief sat in
Sanford said he didn`t have evidence for probable cause, and now that this
is released, she is using basically, the stuffs they already knew as the
basis for probable cause for her arrest?
TRIPLETT: I find it very interesting and had a couple meetings on
that today. You know, we are going to - we called for a review of the
process, and what transpired that night and the position that were made. I
know that they walk hand in hand, our police department walks hand in hand
with the state`s attorney, so I look forward to hearing from the
investigation in the review as to what truly transpired.
SHARPTON: Yes, because it`s very interesting. But -- and you fought
to have the 911 tapes released, and there was some push back. Do you think
someone was trying to hide something?
TRIPLETT: I don`t know the answer to that. I - you know, I was just
trying to do what I felt was right. I still think it was right move to
make. And, you know, to Ms. Corey said a couple of words that there have
been leaks about this, and you know it`s in her hands now. Let her go down
the path, do what she needs to do with her team, and we have a lot of work
to do in the city of Sanford to start the healing process. We have a lot
of good men and women in the Sanford police department that have, you know,
suffered a little bit of this also. And, you know, we called for full
investigations and a review and that`s all I can really say right now.
We`re a little bit in between on having those done. But I guarantee we can
take corrective actions if it comes in that we did something.
SHARPTON: Well, I thank you for that and I thank you for those 911
tapes. I agree with you there, and I think you`re right we need a healing
process and we need justice to get it.
Mayor Jeff Triplett. Thanks.
TRIPLETT: Well, thank you very much.
SHARPTON: Now we will take a closer look at state attorney Angela
Corey, the woman that made a strong decision entirely on her own in the
most high profile criminal case in the country. She reportedly decided on
second-degree murder charges last week and spent the days sense making sure
that everything was in place for her announcement.
Corey seems confidence in her case, and her record shows why. In her
first 18 months at state attorney, Angela Corey won 90 percent of felony
cases she faced, and of cases that went to jury, she won 83 percent. Well
above the state average.
As one defense attorney said, quote, "If you`re being prosecuted by
her, you need to be scared and you need to get the best defensive lawyer
you can find."
Joining me now from Gainesville, Florida, is Theresa Sopp, a criminal
defense attorney who has known Angela Corey and faced off against her in
court for the last 30 years.
Teresa, thank you for joining me tonight. Was that news conference
last night classic Angela Corey that we were watch something.
TERESA SOPP, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I thought the news conference
was very well done. I thought Ms. Corey did a very good job. She made her
points very effectively. I think that she overlooked one of the facts
about the "Stand Your Ground" law that we can talk about later, but I
thought she marshaled her staff and gave an excellent report to the media
and to the country that was waiting to hear from her. I thought she did a
SHARPTON: Now, as one that has faced off with her and known her, do
you think she would have come with this kind of charge if she was not
confidence she had the evidence to back it up?
SOPP: I don`t think she would, she`s a very competent attorney. She
knows how to prove a case. She understands what`s required of her in
court. She`s well aware of the facts necessary to sustain a conviction.
She has signed the information -- or her assistant, Mr. Deliando (ph)
signed the information stating that do have a good faith belief they can
prove these charges beyond and to the exclusion beyond a reasonable doubt.
That`s really the probable cause. We don`t really need the affidavit to --
in first appearance once a state attorney has filed that information. But
she`s very confidence and she can generally prove what she sets out to
SHARPTON: And she is pretty tough. I mean, when running for state
attorney in 2008, Corey joked she even be willing to put her own mother in
jail. "I don`t play, even when it`s people in my own family." That --
SOPP: Well no. She is very law and order. She`s always been very
anti-gun crimes and very pro-victim. What we heard last night is nothing
new from Ms. Corey. She`s always been devoted to victims of crime. People
know her for that, that`s her reputation in northeast Florida, and she has
long been an advocate for mandatory sentences for those involved in crimes
SHARPTON: Well in fact, she`s known for being close to victims and
their families. In fact, she said helping victims was her favorite part of
being a prosecutor far back since 2002, she said. Let me read it in quote,
"Without a doubt, the most rewarding part is helping victims get through
the system. I can`t always give each victim what they want, the maximum
sentence or full monetary restitution, but I can make sure their
constitutional rights are safeguarded." That`s her talking about herself
ten years ago.
SOPP: Yes. That`s right. In Florida, the victim`s do have the right
in criminal cases to be a participant in the process. And Ms. Corey is a
very vocal proponent of that right and she really does have an attachment
to her victims and she works hard. She puts her all into it and she is
generally very successful when she sets out with a case.
SHARPTON: She also seems to be very moral, religious, like she said
last night, and the family told me, the first thing she did after meeting
the family was pray. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA COREY, FLORIDA`S SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: The first thing we did
was pray with them, we opened the meeting in prayer. Mr. Crump and Mr.
Parks were there. We did not promise them anything. In fact, we
specifically talked about if criminal charges do not come out of this, what
can we help you do to make sure your son`s death is not in vain? And they
were very kind and very receptive to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: You were getting ready to say --
SOPP: I said well, I`m sure you know, Reverend Sharpton, it`s the
south, and religion and politics often mixed. And religion and the court
system often mix. But, I believe that Ms. Corey is very sincere. She`s
very active in her church. I think she is on the (INAUDIBLE) of her
church. I don`t doubt her sincerity in that regard.
SHARPTON: Well, I don`t live in the south, but I have known and
prayed in court especially when I was a defendant of civil rights cases.
But, thank you to this at the south. Thanks for your time tonight.
SOPP: Thank you for having me.
SHARPTON: Ahead, it`s called the "Stand Your Ground" law, and George
Zimmerman`s faith may come down to the controversial "Stand Your Ground"
law. We look at the law`s controversial history in the state of Florida.
And remembering the victim, 46 days later, his killer is in jail.
Trayvon`s mother speaks out on which you would say to George Zimmerman.
SHARPTON: Right now George Zimmerman waits in a Florida jail, but he
could be set free even without a trial. That`s because his lawyer will
likely ask a judge to throw out the entire case based on "Stand Your
Ground." We will look at that law, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA COREY, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: This case is just like many of the
shooting deaths we`ve had in our circuit. If stand your ground becomes an
issue, we fight it. If we believe it`s the right thing to do. So if it
becomes an issue in this case, we will fight that affirmative defense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: That was special prosecutor Angela Corey last night vowing
to fight the controversial stand your ground law. It`s a law that says,
you can use deadly force if you feel your threatened to defend death or
great brotherly harmed. And it`s game on because George Zimmerman`s lawyer
indicated last night that stand your ground would likely be part of their
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK O`MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN`S ATTORNEY: Right now it`s the law of
Florida, and it`s the law that`s going to have impact on this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Since the law went into effect in Florida seven years ago,
it`s been very controversial. The Tampa Bay Times compiled the numbers,
that`s been 130 cases. In 10 of those cases, the defendant pleaded guilty
to lesser crimes. Twenty eight cases went to trial and 19 cases got a
conviction. That`s a 14.6 percent guilty rate for people who used stand
your ground as a defense. Not very high at all, but in the case of George
Zimmerman, will his claim of self-defense under that stand your ground law
hold up in a court of law?
Joining me now is Ben Montgomery, staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times
who reported those stand your ground numbers we just showed you. And back
with us, Ken Padowitz, a former homicide prosecutor, who has also defended
clients under stand your ground in Florida, and John Burris, an experience
criminal defense attorney. Ken, can you help us understand the stand your
ground law, and will it stand in this case?
KEN PADOWITZ, FORMER HOMICIDE PROSECUTOR: Absolutely. Basically,
you`re always entitled to an affirmative defense at trial called self-
defense. What the stand your ground law is, as a legislature came in in
2006 in Florida, and they basically created a statute which is an immunity
statute. It keeps immunity with the charges have to be completely
dismissed by a judge. If there is a hearing, a motion filed by the defense
asking that the statue be applied, and there is a hearing, literally a mini
trial that is conducted in front of a judge, no jury is present, but he`s
conducted in-front of a judge and the defense has to go forward and present
evidence, present testimony, and there is cross-examination, direct
examination, and then the prosecution presents their evidence. So
literally, there is a full blown hearing, a mini trial that takes place if
the defense elects to ask the judge for immunity. And if immunity is
granted, that means the charges are dismissed.
SHARPTON: Now, John, given what you know about the evidence, because
again we don`t know what we don`t know, of course, is it likely that a
judge would feel that he could throw this out?
JOHN BURRIS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, I don`t think it`s likely
that he could throw it out because of the initial confrontation, or the
initial following of Trayvon by Mr. Zimmerman. He was the aggressor, he`s
the one has thought, he left a position of safety, not only in his car, but
he was traveling. So, once you leave the position of safety, I think you
do not get that level of immunity after that. Now, you can have another
self-defense argument at trial, but certainly the most important to keep in
mind is that on your stand your law, when you have this mini-trial, the
standard of burden approved is a presumption, you know, a preponderance of
evidence which is a much lower standard, so you don`t get proof beyond a
reasonable doubt. The prosecution doesn`t get that now. But they get
those preponderance of evidence which is more likely true than not. So,
the prosecution has some work to do here. But I think the initial portion
of it is that this particular person was the aggressor, and it has to be
reasonable. It`s not complete immunity. It has to be not only a fear, but
it has to be reasonable. And so, I think the judge can have really make
that decision on the ground that it was not reasonable for the person, it
was not reasonable to leave, it was not reasonable for him to place himself
in a position of confrontation, and he was the aggressor, so therefore he
doesn`t get this particular defense before the trial starts.
SHARPTON: Ben, you studied these cases, and you`ve come up with the
numbers. Have you and your studies come across any cases that are similar
to this? Or if not, then what are the kinds of cases that usually uses
stand your ground so far in Florida?
BEN MONTGOMERY, STAFF WRITER, TAMPA BAY TIMES: Yes, sir, we have. In
fact, I found about a dozen cases that have similarities to the Trayvon
Martin case. And I beg to differ with the gentleman who is speaking
earlier. In those cases where someone initiates a pursuit, initiates a
confrontation, it`s not rare for that person to be granted immunity in
Florida courts. What matters is not what happened five minutes before the
event, what matters is what happens in the 60 seconds or so prior to the
use of deadly force. So, it doesn`t matter if someone chases someone, so
long as they a legal right to where they are, so long as not in the
commission of a felony. If that person who initiated the pursuit,
initiated the confrontation, then has to use deadly force to defend him or
herself, if he can convince the judge that he reasonably believe he was in
danger, great bodily harm and death, he can and sometimes, does get granted
SHARPTON: Ken, but how do you do that in this case if this young man
only had skittles, and iced tea, and was not involved in a crime, and had a
legal right to be there.
PADOWITZ: Well, that`s what`s make this so problematic. I think it`s
very, very unlikely for a judge in this case, from the evidence that we`re
all talking about to grant immunity to Mr. Zimmerman. When Mr. Zimmerman
is the aggressor, there`s a Florida statute directly on point here that
says, if you`re the aggressor and you initiate by being the aggressor, the
contact, you can`t then turn around and say, immunity applies and I should
receive immunity. Now, the fact that it`s been done before by courts, that
doesn`t necessarily mean that that was the law is followed properly, or
that it`s going to be applied by a judge in this particular case. I would
suggest that based on the evidence that we`re talking about right now, that
it`s a very unlikely scenario for someone who`s being the aggressor who is
armed who provokes the confrontation, to turn around and claim that the
stand your ground law applies. In fact, I would suggest that Trayvon
Martin would be able to use this had he been alive, that he could claim
that he was being attacked and he was the right to defend himself under the
stand your ground provisions.
SHARPTON: John, I see you nodding your head.
BURRIS: No, I agree. I`ve always thought that the stand your ground
thing would be a misplaced for Mr. Zimmerman, Trayvon is the one that was
actually being attacked and confronted. He had a right to defend himself,
and so to the extent the other guy had the gun unfortunately, that person
is the one that I don`t think who was the aggressor can in fact claim it,
at the end of the day, Trayvon should have been able to claim it. And
unfortunately, he`s not going to be able to testify, you have to -- but
that only goes to the issue of whether or not the judge would allow Mr.
Zimmerman to claim it. And I agree, that I don`t think that`s going to
happen. At the end of the day, it`s a reasonable standard as well. And
you know, judges do things differently in different court, it`s obviously
it`s up to this particular judge, but I think he will have the facts to
say, I don`t think an immunity should be here at this point.
SHARPTON: Ben, maybe that`s the reason why in the affidavit for
probable cause, the prosecutor released today, they took page to establish
that in fact Trayvon was there legally, was going home to where he was
living, and was not committing a crime. It looks like they want to clearly
establish there was no reason that he was not there. So it will start with
the frame of mind, you say that it goes to the 60 seconds before the fatal
in this case shot, but with no witness there, he would have to convince a
judge that what he saw was believable. He doesn`t have an eyewitness and
the 911 tapes said, he doesn`t help.
MONTGOMERY: And that seems like it`s a problem on occasion when this
law is invoked, it asks the police, first, the prosecutor second, and then
a judge and occasionally when this case do go to jury, a jury. It asks
them to consider something as nebulous as a man`s mind. What was his frame
of mind in the moment he used deadly force, and did he reasonably believe,
can you established that with the facts that he reasonably believed that he
was in fear for his own life? Let me just raise one case, the case of
Greyston Garcia which a gentleman who was granted immunity in Miami about
two weeks ago. He was upstairs asleep in his apartment, his roommate
alerts him that somebody was burgling his stereo out of his truck, he gets
up, grabs his kitchen knife, he runs downstairs, don`t call the police or
anything like that, runs downstairs, the thief grabs the radios, grabs the
bags of radios and takes off running down the street, Garcia pursues him,
about a block away, catches up to him, the thief turns, swings the bag of
radios at Garcia`s head, Garcia blocks the radio and stabs the thief in the
chest. The thief dies in the street. Garcia sells the radios, doesn`t
tell the police he was involved in a crime, in a murder, in a death, and he
was granted immunity. These things are playing out.
SHARPTON: Mr. Montgomery, well, I wish we had more time. You`re
dealing with two people with weapons, you`re dealing with a crime, I don`t
know if this is the same kind of case.
MONTGOMERY: Sure, right, right.
SHARPTON: Well, anyway, this could be a big part of this case, we`ll
certainly be talking more about it. Ben Montgomery, Ken Padowitz and John
Burris. Thank you for your time tonight. All of you.
MONTGOMERY: Thank you.
PADOWITZ: Thank you.
BURRIS: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, how the activist community brought national
attention to Trayvon Martin`s death, and why some on the right just don`t
SHARPTON: From the beginning, those of us who supported Trayvon
Martin`s parents said this case was about one thing, justice. George
Zimmerman should have been arrested after killing Trayvon, but he wasn`t.
He walked free. For weeks, right wing talkers have mischaracterized the
entire effort accusing Trayvon`s supporters of politicizing the issue and
injecting race into the case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The Trayvon Martin situation
caused happiness somewhere in the civil rights community because it gave
them a shot in the arm. It launched them. It allowed them to get in gear
and to start leveling the charges that they always love to make about the
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: None of us were there, and I know
people are trying to put this together, but I would argue there`s been a
rush to judgment.
BILL O`REILLY, HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": Is the media now in-
sighting racial violence? That is the subject of this evening. Talking
points memo. Who`s pathetic last night, watching a prime time cable
opinion programs whip up the Trayvon Martin case to dangerous levels.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: A "Wall Street Journal" column said, quote, "Trayvon`s sad
fate clearly sent a quiver of perverse happiness all across America`s civil
rights establishment." Perverse happiness. That`s outrageous, of course
all of these critics are missing the point all together. This case has
always been about bringing attention to a case that somewhere, someone was
trying to sweep under the rug. And we made that clear from the start.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I did not come to Florida after talking to Sybrina and
Tracy and Crump and Parks to convict Zimmerman, I didn`t come to try
Zimmerman. I come to say, what is good for one is good for all. I`m going
to fight until Zimmerman meets justice in the courtroom.
This is not anti-anybody. There are whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians
that are marched with us, stand with us, we are not running a hate
campaign. This is a love campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Joan Walsh, editor at large of Salon.com
also an MSNBC political analyst. Her latest article is about the
importance of the activist movement in Trayvon`s case. Thanks for joining
JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks a lot, Reverend Al.
SHARPTON: Joan, let me ask you a question. Would George Zimmerman be
in jail today without the activist community in your opinion?
WALSH: In my opinion I don`t think so, I really don`t see any
evidence that that would be the case. You know, I went back last night, I
apologize it`s a little belated, but I went back and I read the initial
days of coverage. And I saw the way, until Trayvon`s parents got lawyers,
spoke out, spoke from the heart, began asking questions, there was silence,
and then you know, Police Chief Bill Lee, his first response was to defend
George Zimmerman, to literally say, there is evidence, we have evidence
that he acted in self-defense. He told the Sanford Herald reporter that if
they had arrested George Zimmerman, it would have violated his civil
rights. So, he was far more concerned about the civil rights of George
Zimmerman than of Trayvon Martin. We know that for a fact.
SHARPTON: Well, let me show you what he said on March 12th. This is
what the Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said on March 12.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF BILL LEE, SANFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT: Mr. Zimmerman has made the
statement of self-defense. Until we can establish probable cause to
dispute that, we don`t have the grounds to arrest him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: So he clearly stated he was not going to arrest him
contrary to what some are saying now is that activist and people like me
didn`t give him a chance. He says he wasn`t going to do it.
WALSH: Right, he was acting like he was Zimmerman`s lawyer or his pr
person, rather than, you know, a law enforcement official seeking the
truth, seeking what actually happened. And had he come out and said, hey,
we`re still investigating and we`re very concerned about this too, I think
things would have unfolded very differently. But it was a moment where it
felt like this was being ignored, and an unarmed young black man had been
shot, and no one seemed to care about it. So I think it was absolutely
appropriate for people like yourself and others to get involved, and I was
frankly shocked at the backlash, at the people who suggested that the
wheels of justice were turning and other people were kind of being
vigilantes. All we wanted those of us who were asking questions was for
the justice system to work and it belatedly is working. But I believe
that`s because of the questions.
SHARPTON: Well, let me show you a New York Post front page headline.
This headline front-page, Trayvon Hoodwink. Tragedy hijacked by race
hustlers. And you know what`s interesting to me, you say you`re shocked.
I`m not shocked, I mean, I have been in this all my life, you`re going to
be attacked, but what I think the public needs to know is in the case of
many of us, we were called in by the family. You don`t hijacked something.
I never heard of this case until they called and asked for us to be
involved. So at least the public ought to know facts. It`s funny to me,
Joan, I remember last year, "The New York Times," with the article, why
didn`t I get involved in the case at IMF, the rape case, now they`re asking
why I am involved.
So, either way, you`re going to get it. What I think you wrote was
striking, is, and I`m quoting your article where you say, "I`ve been
impressed by the fact that the movement to defend Martin mostly stayed away
from demand for vengeance or punishment. For the most part, people were
demanding information about that apparently shoddy police procedures." And
I think that`s really the point here. There was no demands, there was no -
- there was no violence. Not one rock was thrown.
SHARPTON: So there is no irresponsible behavior here at all.
WALSH: No, and I have been attacked today on twitter by conservatives
calling what you all did, a quote, "lynch mob." Lynch mob with no irony
about lynch mob Reverend Al. So, you know, the hysteria on the right
about this case, and the depiction of George Zimmerman as the victim, it`s
really a tiresome narrative where a certain kind of right-wing white
person acts like somehow whites are the victims in these situations. I was
very impressed by the fact that people were not acting as judge and jury.
I can`t speak for everyone and I didn`t read every single statement that
anybody made, obviously, but the consistent demands from the family and
from the spokes people were for answers and for an investigation, and to
get to the bottom of what happened that night. Not for anything in
particular, and certainly not for anything bad to happen to George
SHARPTON: Not at all. I want to bring in Kevin Cunningham who
started the petition at change.org drawing the attention of making really
go viral of Trayvon`s story. The petition now has more than 2.2 million
signatures. Kevin, how did online activism in your petition in particular
have draw attention to this case?
KEVIN CUNNINGHAM, STARTED TRAYVON MARTIN PETITION: Well, I think that
originally there was next to no main stream media coverage, I think those
only a local coverage, and it was the petition as a starting point that
gave us something to put out on Facebook, to put out on twitter, kind of
its focus point for that, and it didn`t take long. I mean, I think that
the facts of the case spoke to people very quickly, and kind of instantly
engaged them. We`ve saw that despite some people who have been alienated
or whatever Al, I think in a human perspective, white people and black
people all understood how long this was initially, and were able to do,
whatever it was, it`s not a lot to sign a petition online, it`s very easy
to do. But I don`t think it`s an emotionally healthy thing to do and gives
somebody people an opportunity to participate.
SHARPTON: And people responded, I mean, people all over the world,
all races and nationalities were astounded that there just wasn`t an arrest
CUNNINGHAM: And I remember seeing a stream from a blogger from
Lebanon who went crazy when they saw the story, when a Muslim-American re-
tweeted the petition and they were very upset by the facts. So it`s a
human issue and it`s trying to be broke down into a race issue, but we have
a human tragedy here and I think that`s what people understood.
SHARPTON: Well, I think you`re right, and Joan Walsh, and Kevin
Cunningham, thank you very much for your time tonight.
WALSH: Thanks Reverend Al.
CUNNINGHAM: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Forty six days ago in a rainy Sunday night, a young man
went to 7-11 to buy and iced tea and skittles. He planned to bring them
back home and watch the NBA all-star game with his brother. As we all know
now, Trayvon Martin never made it home, and that young man, who wanted to
describe as majoring in cheerfulness was just gone. His life taken for no
reason. From the beginning, we`ve simply sought justice for this life
lost. Since that night, the case has sparked all kinds of reactions. So
emotional, some truthful, some cynical. Special prosecutor Angela Corey
made a point last night that really stuck with me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COREY: Those of us in law enforcement are committed to justice for
every race, every gender, every person of any persuasion whatsoever.
They`re our victims, we only know one category as prosecutors, and that`s a
V, it`s not B, it`s not a W, it`s not an H, it`s V for victim. That`s who
we worked tirelessly for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: V for victims. Through all of the distractions, we must
not forget Trayvon, and we must always remember the people that were hurt
forever. His family who knew Trayvon best and loved him most. What would
mom want to ask George Zimmerman?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYBRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON: I would ask him that I understand
that his family is hurting, but think about our family. That loss, our
teenager son, I mean it`s just very difficult to live with day in and day
out. I`m sure his parents can pick up the phone and call him, but we can`t
pick up the phone and call Trayvon anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: No they can`t, because he was killed. And George Zimmerman
was given an instant acquittal. He can`t do that in this country. I
believe in this country, I believe in justice.
Thanks for watching, I`m Al Sharpton, "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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