PoliticsNation, Monday, July 15th, 2013
Read the transcript from the Monday show
July 15, 2013
Guests: Faith Jenkins; John Burris; Benjamin Crump, Ken Padowitz, W.
Franklyn Richardson, Jamal-Harrison Bryant, Kevin Cobbin, Joy Reid
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks, Chris. And thanks to you
for tuning in.
Tonight`s lead, the verdict and after the verdict. More than a year
ago, I and others called for a full investigation into the killing of
Trayvon Martin. The jury has spoken in the case in the state of Florida
versus George Zimmerman. It was deeply disappointing, the verdict that
came forth. But the process is one we must respect and move on.
But the question is move on how. First, the justice department`s
investigation. The department has now announced it is reopening its
federal review of the case, an investigation we called for last year, this
is not new, as to determine whether Trayvon Martin`s civil rights we
This review has support from key members of Congress. After the
jury`s verdict, Senator Barbara Boxer wrote, quote, "I don`t think this
should be the last word. I fully agree with the decision of the justice
department to review the facts of this case." And today three congressmen
here in New York also announced their support of that review.
Last year I also called on the justice department to look into whether
Stand Your Ground gun laws violates civil rights all across this country.
A broad review of these new laws are in order, and we must keep pressing
Today, the New York daily news featured a hooded sweatshirt on its
cover with the names of black men killed in decades past, men like Medgar
Evers, Emmett Till, and now Trayvon Martin. This continue injustice is why
people have been marching all across America, from New York to Chicago to
Denver. I have heard from so many of you who are hurt, angry, and just
worried about what is next. I can say to you that I also get frustrated,
very frustrated. But we can never let our anger blind us and get in the
way of progress.
We want equal protection under the law, and we will march and work and
sweat to make the laws better and more just and applied equally. We did
not come this far to turn around and become like those we fight. The only
way we make progress is to make the law work equally for everyone, not
break the law and not let our frustrations outweigh and outrun our
determination. We are determined as we was when we walk when we walked
into Sanford, Florida a year ago to raise the issues that are before us and
raise the bigger issues that make these cases happen in the first place.
And we must be big enough to deal with all of it.
As the attorney general said today, we cannot let this opportunity
pass. We must start dealing with the real critical big issues that make
this country unequal and how it deals with justice.
Joining me now is Benjamin Crump, lawyer for the Trayvon Martin family
and defense attorney John Burris. He was Rodney King`s attorney during the
civil trial of the police officers involved in his beating. He has also
referred numerous cases to the justice department for federal review.
Thank you both for joining me.
JOHN BURRIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Attorney Crump, what is next for the Trayvon Martin family.
First of all, how are they doing? And are they considering a civil lawsuit
against George Zimmerman?
BENJAMIN CRUMP, TRAYVON MARTIN FAMILY ATTORNEY: Reverend Sharpton,
obviously they were heartbroken. Like so many across the country and
across the world when they verdict was handed down. And to quote Sybrina,
Trayvon`s mother directly, she cried. She prayed. She cried some more.
She got up and went to church. And when she got home, she said attorney
Crump, we will not let this verdict define Trayvon Martin. We will define
the legacy of Trayvon Martin.
And it was inspiring, Reverend Sharpton, to say the least. She said
we come a long way. Now we have to roll up our sleeves and work even
harder to make sure this doesn`t happen to anybody else`s child, especially
now that this verdict has been handed down.
SHARPTON: You know, over a year ago, you and I and others had talked
about the federal government looking into not only this case, but the Stand
Your Ground laws. We had a meeting with the U.S. attorney right there in
Sanford, Florida. This is nothing new like the media is trying to play and
it was always a commitment of this family to deal with issues that were the
large issues in this as well so this would not affect other children what
they go through.
And I remember Ms. Fulton saying all along, I can`t bring Trayvon
back, but we`ve got to change society, whether there is gun laws, Stand
Your Ground laws and other things, that this is happening every day to
CRUMP: Yes, sir. And I`m so glad you have my good friend and mentor
John Burris on, because this question has evolved. And it was and still is
at the foundation of equal justice question, Reverend Sharpton. But it has
evolved now to one of equal protection.
CRUMP: Because anybody who observed that trial know that the
proposition of the defense was that because there have been a burglary by
African-American teen, that this neighborhood watch follow volunteer with
the nine millimeter gun would somehow justify and profiling and following
Trayvon Martin based on the way he looked.
So, the question has been framed now for our justice department, is
this the law? Is this that you can profile our children and follow them,
take the law into your own hands? Because we need to know what to tell our
children. And if it is not the law, then a federal civil rights violations
should be brought against the killer of Trayvon Martin. So people will
know that you can`t do this. The United States Supreme Court says police
can`t profile based on race. So how can a citizen with a nine millimeter
gun profile our children?
SHARPTON: Now, Attorney Burris, when you look at precedence of
federal civil rights cases, and you and I both have been involved in these,
Rodney King beating, we saw an acquittal in a state court. Four police
officers were acquitted on state charges. Then they were tried on civil
rights charges and they were convicted. Two police officers were convicted
of federal civil rights charges after they were acquitted.
And there are other precedents that we have seen. So, this is
something that is not only possible, but has had a precedent in the past
while people acting like this is something that is unthinkable. It has in
fact happened and has succeeded in that.
BURRIS: Absolutely. First, if I may compliment you on your comments.
I think people need to know that this is not the end. This is just the
beginning, then it`s a forward march for progress and we all need to
And certainly, Ben, you have done a wonderful job in Martin family and
I really appreciate the work you guys have done.
Let me just say, though, the issue that people talk about is that this
is double jeopardy if you were to prosecute it. It is not double jeopardy
because the federal statute has different elements and different causes of
actions that apply that do not apply in state court. So you can in fact
have a separate federal cause of action that is separate and apart from a
state case, even if there has been an acquittal. We saw that in Rodney
King, and there have been a lot of other cases that I`ve been involved in
as well. So, it can be done.
I mean, these issues around the federal prosecution, obviously, is a
challenging one. I do believe the big issue in this case was racial
profiling, and the issue we have been talking about for a number of years
in trying to get the Senate to do something about. Because racial
profiling, when you substitute race for probable cause or suspicious
conduct, you can get yourself into trouble. And young black kids need to
know this could happen f them.
But from our point of view going forward, there were two issues to
consider from Sanford. One, did the police department itself have a
practice, discriminatory practice of not protecting black African-
Americans. And then secondly, whether or not this was based on race. And
one could make the argument that because there had been 42 other calls or
thereabouts of all African-Americans that he has a state of mind to look
into, to prosecute and go after African-Americans. That could be the first
element of the offense that needs to be looked at by the justice
SHARPTON: Forty-two other calls.
Attorney Crump, pattern and practice at the Sanford police, the stand
your ground laws, whether or not they violate civil rights. State law does
not supersede federal law. And one of the things that we are looking at
here in terms of the justice department is the broader question of the
state law itself.
Ironically, there was a law against racial profiling in the state of
Illinois done by a man named Barack Obama when he was a state senator. So
when we look at the state laws, and we look at how they are applied, the
federal government can look at the laws, but we also need to deal with the
state law in Florida and other states that have set up situations that come
back to haunt us. It`s unimaginable that you have one set of laws in
Florida, another in New York, another in Pennsylvania. I think we`ve got
to discuss all of that as we deal with the outcome of this case.
BURRIS: From my point.
BURRIS: What you have to look at is how is this law being applied.
Is it being applied, the stand your ground laws? Is it the prosecutor for
a case involving a white defendant or not versus that of black defendants.
And so, you want to see a discriminatory application of this particular
SHARPTON: Attorney Crump?
CRUMP: Yes, I agree. And it is certainly not lost that even though
his killer profiled him, the Sanford police department seemed to have
profiled Trayvon as well, because they took his killer`s version as the
gospel when they got out there on that scene. So it is troubling to many
around the country when they say why can`t we get equal justice? Why
couldn`t they have look at that fresh and clean. And then even as they
considered whether to bring a prosecution, it seemed to always be the
killer`s perspective. And it was never a perspective of the victim. And
that is really troubling. And that`s why so many people are protesting.
That`s why so many people are disappointed with the verdict.
And Reverend Sharpton, I want to say you have said all along, we
wanted to have the trial brought. We respect the rule of law. And we want
everybody to remain peaceful. However, at the onset we did ask for the
department of justice. We wanted the federal government involved and not
the local government doing this case, because we understood that they had
already had some issues from the onset that was troubling with dealing with
the tragic death of Trayvon Benjamin Martin.
SHARPTON: I might also add that you never called and the family never
called on people to come in. And you called me. Until the local
authorities said there would be no arrest. This was not something that you
wanted or anyone wanted to have to make a situation that it became.
You know, people act like people are just jumping all over this
situation. I think the family wanted justice. And when they felt they had
to get a lot of spotlight and national attention and rally on it, they did
it as a last resort. For a couple of weeks, no one knew or did anything
CRUMP: Absolutely. And Tracy and Sybrina have only wanted what any
other parent would want if that were your child shot in the heart. They
didn`t want anything extraordinary. They just wanted simple justice. The
killer of their unarmed teenaged son to be held accountable and their son`s
death not to be in vain. And that`s why they are continuing the fight.
And I am happy attorney Burris said what he said. I`m happy you have
always said what you said. This is going to be a long struggle. And
Sybrina and Tracy are committed and we pray that you all continue to stand
with them in this fight because can`t bring Trayvon back. It really is
about your children now.
SHARPTON: Attorney Burris, quickly, does this have to be a hate crime
for the justice department to proceed?
BURRIS: I think it has to be a hate crime based upon race. I mean,
ultimately, its race that is at issue here. So you have to have animus
towards this person because of his race. And this is the basis upon which
you killed him.
And so the caution here is how do you prove that? Because that`s just
the first step. Then you have to have significant evidence there is
obviously an overwhelming state interest involved here, a federal interest
because you can`t kill somebody based upon the race and that the government
have some interest in it. So then, the question is what evidence is it
(INAUDIBLE). That`s what the government has to really look at the facts to
see more about his prior history and his calling. Look at these individual
cases and the other 42 calls to see what facts were there and how similar
are they to those of Trayvon Martin and the fact that that cost him to use
suspect when it really was a code word for black.
SHARPTON: Benjamin Crump, John Burris, thank you both for your time
BURRIS: Thank you.
CRUMP: Thank you.
SHARPTON: This trial shined a spotlight on the controversial shoot
first, Stand Your Ground laws in America. Why the fight to change gun laws
starts today as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Independent of the legal
determination that will be made. I believe that this tragedy provides yet
another opportunity for our nation to speak honestly about the complicated
and emotionally charged issues that this case has raised.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Have you joined the "Politics Nation" conversation on
facebook yet? Over the weekend, thousands came to our facebook page to
watch live as the Zimmerman verdict was delivered. And the case has been a
big topic in the "Politics Nation" facebook community.
Many people are also talking about the case of Marissa Alexander, the
Florida woman now serving 20 years in prison for firing a gun and not
hitting anyone. We`ve covered her story before, and we will revisit it
On both cases, we want to hear what you think. Please head over the
facebook and search "Politics Nation" and like us to join the conversation
that keeps going long after the show ends.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: State of Florida versus George Zimmerman
verdict. We, the jury, find George Zimmerman not guilty. So say we all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Today, many Americans are trying to understand exactly why
the jury reached that verdict. Lots of questions about how the prosecution
handled the case.
Helping me to help answer some of questions are MSNBC legal analyst
Lisa Bloom and former prosecutor Faith Jenkins.
Thank you both for your time tonight.
FAITH JENKINS, FORMER CRIMINAL PROSECUTOR: Thank you.
LISA BLOOM, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Lisa, let me start with you. Where could the prosecution
have done better?
BLOOM: Well, they could have argued a theory of the case for starters
in closing argument. You know, when both sides are arguing reasonable
doubt, I think an acquittal is a foregone conclusion. And they never did
that. They went really to the defense theory of the case, especially the
last half of the trial. So the defense has Zimmerman down. Trayvon Martin
on top of him, assaulting him. And you know, it`s a fairly reasonable
conclusion that George Zimmerman would have to defend himself in that
situation, although not necessarily with deadly force.
The prosecution could have argued that Zimmerman was on top there are
witnesses who said that. Or that the two men were upright.
SHARPTON: Their own witnesses, that is.
BLOOM: That`s right. Or that both men were upright and moving around
and yelling at each other as another prosecution witness demonstrated. The
prosecution should have put together, most importantly, out of their dozen
blend blunders in this case, the biggest was failure to put together in
closing argument by drawing reasonable inferences from the evidence which
is what prosecutors do, a theory of exactly what happened to counter
SHARPTON: Go ahead.
JENKINS: I want to add to what Lisa just said. If they would have
put forth -- this was a fistfight. George Zimmerman had no serious
injuries. He had a bloody nose. He had scratches to the back of his head.
Trayvon Martin had no gun, no weapon. This was a fistfight. And the law
is you cannot introduce a gun to a fistfight. Perhaps, that would have
been a better argument your point, Lisa. Just put it out there and say,
this is what happened. They got into a fistfight, but George Zimmerman
turned it into a gunfight, which is he is not allowed to do.
SHARPTON: It`s not a gunfight there is only one gun.
JENKINS: Right. But he introduced that to a fistfight, which is not
-- which is not the right thing to do.
SHARPTON: Now, today in an interview, the prosecutor Bernie De La
Rionda says that Mr. Zimmerman didn`t testify. And let me play for you
what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, STATE PROSECUTOR: As we all well know, he`s got
the right not to, and he made that decision.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: He was afraid to take the stand?
DE LA RIONDA: The proof is in the pudding. Did he take the stand?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, he was afraid to take the stand. The proof is in the
pudding. But wasn`t it the prosecutors by putting all of his statements
in, they`re saying to show the contradictions, but putting his statements
in. Didn`t that create the climate where it became less and less necessary
for him to testify?
BLOOM: That is correct. You know, many of us before the trial were
really wondering whether Zimmerman would have to take the stand in the
prosecutor forced his hand by not putting in exculpatory statements,
statements that made George Zimmerman look good. But the prosecutor put
all of those in and then it was a very clear decision that there is no way
on earth the defense would have George Zimmerman testify.
But the bottom line is, I never thought he was going to testify. Most
defendants don`t testify. It`s any way they can get out of that cross-
examination by a good prosecutor. To blame that one part of the trial for
the loss in this case, I mean, as if that was unexpected? I mean, that`s
really startling. Zimmerman had a Fifth Amendment right not to testify.
He exercised it.
SHARPTON: Go ahead.
JENKINS: Well, here is what they said. The prosecutor said today
they knew John Good was going to testify. And they believed because you
have to be able to put forth evidence that will give you a self-defense
charge, the defense would want a self-defense charge. How would they get
that if George Zimmerman doesn`t take the witness stand? In most self-
defense cases, the defendant has to testify.
Here, because of John Good, the prosecutors say we knew they would get
the self-defense charge because of John Good so we went ahead and put out
the statements. The downside to that is obviously, the jury wasn`t
convinced by his inconsistencies. He would have made a terrible witness on
the witness stand. Look what he said in the Hannity interview. You`re
going up against experienced prosecutors in cross-examining. So, I think
the lies and the inconsistencies that he told would have been brought out
much better on cross-examination in hind side now.
SHARPTON: If there is a civil suit, there, he would have to testify?
JENKINS: Yes, most likely.
SHARPTON: Now, the state attorney, Angela Corey, she talked about the
profiling part of the case. Look at this, Faith.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA COREY, STATE ATTORNEY: Trayvon Martin was profiled. There is
no doubt he was profiled to be a criminal. And if race one of the aspects
in George Zimmerman`s mind, then we believe that we put out the proof
necessary to show that Zimmerman did profile Trayvon Martin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, this was the press conference after the verdict. We
didn`t hear that stressed a lot during the case, did we?
JENKINS: Well, they didn`t use the word racial profile but they
profiled. And they did emphasize that in the opening, in the closing, and
through the introduction of those calls which I know they didn`t mention in
the closing arguments.
But I think what they were arguing here is look at a of the bad
decisions and all the choices, the wrong assumptions that George Zimmerman
made, leading up to the moment where he meets Trayvon face-to-face. He
wrongly assumes he is a criminal. He doesn`t belong in the neighborhood.
He calls a name, all of these things. And then, they were hoping that the
jury would was going to say, look at all the wrong choices he made. And
you cannot accept the fact and believe he made the right choice when he
pulled the trigger and decided to kill him.
SHARPTON: Now, today, we also see prosecutors off of their view of
what happened this night. Look at this, with me, Lisa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COREY: Nobody just gets a gun out and shoots even trained police
officers. When they`re on the ground with a suspect on top of them, they
can`t get their guns out that quickly.
JOHN GUY, ASSISTANCE STATE PROSECUTOR: I think there was a struggle.
At some point Trayvon became aware of the gun and was backing up and George
Zimmerman shot him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, this is a theory that we never heard during the case.
BLOOM: Yes. It sure would have been good if the prosecutors instead
of talking to the media about these theories afterwards would have offered
them in the courtroom, in the aggressive, direct, straight forward way that
prosecutors do in every other murder trial in this country. I mean, that`s
what`s really astounding to me.
For Angela Corey to say well, we argued racial profiling, was she
watching the same trial they was watching? Because actually what happened,
and I just read a "New York Times" they`re going to post any minute now on
their Web site, what actually happened was prosecutors fought to get in the
prior non-emergency calls Zimmerman made where in all cases where he called
about a suspicious person in the neighborhood, in all cases, in 100 percent
of the cases. It was an African-American person. They got that evidence
in. And then they never used it. They never used it on cross-examination
of a witness. They never use it in closing argument. They didn`t play it
back. So, I think -- and they said in closing arguments this is not about
SHARPTON: Hundred percent.
BLOOM: So, I think there was a decision made stream.
JENKINS: I don`t think this would have changed the jury`s mind.
SHARPTON: Lisa Bloom, Faith Jenkins, thank you both for your time
Ahead, why this verdict and this case is shining light on
controversial gun laws in America.
Plus, taking action. Protesters calling for justice and change. Stay
SHARPTON: Florida resident Marissa Alexander is serving 20 years for
firing a shot that didn`t hit anybody. And others go free. How is this
justice in America? That`s coming up.
SHARPTON: As we`ve said, the jury in this case has spoken. I`m
disappointed, but it`s sparked a national debate on important issues facing
our country, and it`s also sparking action. We`re seeing rallies and
marches around the country with protesters calling for justice and change.
The rallies are bringing us together and they`re shining a national
spotlight on Florida`s so-called stand your ground law. It`s the
controversial law that allows people to use deadly force if they reasonably
believe their safety is threatened.
Critics call it the shoot first law. It was pushed and created by the
National Rifle Association, and the NRA has been the driving force behind
the law. In 2005, the NRA first got stand your ground on the books in
Florida. Since then, it`s systematically pushed the law in more than 30
states. And now the world is seeing exactly why this law needs to change.
Joining me now is Florida defense Attorney Ken Padowitz. Thank you
for coming on the show, Ken.
KEN PADOWITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Now, Ken, you know this law better than most. You have
defended clients using it. Tell us what affect the stand your ground have
PADOWITZ: Well, some people have said the stand your ground law has
nothing to do with this case. And I don`t know why, it`s so far off the
mark, I don`t know what they`ve been smoking. It has everything to do with
this case, and for three reasons. The first reason is because there was no
arrest made in this case because the police and the state attorney for that
county believed that the stand your ground law prevented them from making
an arrest. And that in and of itself was part of this case and part of
this trial. And any other type of case similar to this.
Second reason, at the end of the trial, the jury instructions in this
case specifically told the jury that they were sworn to follow that a
person has the right to stand their ground as opposed to prior to 2005 when
I handled many murder prosecutions, and the law to the jury was different,
which said that an individual had to use every means possible to avoid the
confrontation before resorting to that force.
So two main reasons why stand your ground applied in this case, and on
all other cases, many people would say this is a horrible law. It`s not an
accident, Reverend, that the Florida Prosecution Attorneys Association
representing all the state attorneys in Florida have recommended a repeal
of this law.
SHARPTON: Now Dave recommended a repeal of law today. Even the mayor
of New York, Michael Bloomberg put out this statement saying one fact has
long been crystal clear. Shoot first laws like those in Florida can
inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with
guns. Such laws drafted by gun lobby extremists in Washington encourage
deadly confrontation by enabling people to shoot first and argue
justifiable homicide later. There is clearly the beginning of this case
was on stand your ground from the night at the police station when stand
your ground was the reason high they let George Zimmerman go.
PADOWITZ: Absolutely. And you know, there is an old saying that us
lawyers have heard many times and most people have heard, driving while
black. Well, in this case many people are now saying, it`s walking while
black. It`s now changed. And that`s a horrifying thing. You know, we
can`t ignore facts. The facts are that since 2005 when this law was
enacted in Florida, there is a 200 percent increase in homicides where the
claim is self-defense. Two hundred percent.
Now, if that`s the case, we need to take a real hard look at this law.
Because what a lawyer has to tell their clients is if you were in a
situation with a gun and you`re in a place you`re allowed to be, you better
shoot that person right through the heart and kill them, not just injury
them, kill them. So that no one can refute your claim you were responding
your ground and you`re defending yourself.
You know, that`s a shame if that`s what our society has come to.
That`s how bad this law is. And that`s why the prosecutors in the state of
Florida, all over the state represented by the Florida Prosecuting
Attorneys Association want it repealed.
SHARPTON: Ken Padowitz, thank you for your time.
PADOWITZ: Thank you.
SHARPTON: And putting the spotlight on. Putting a spotlight on,
making national, and making people understand what is going on in egregious
way is what marches and protests do. It is why we went to Sanford in the
first place. Marching and protests do not solve problems. But it exposes
problems, big problems. And no one will deal with things unless they`re
Joining me now are two that engage in that is the Reverend Dr. W.
Franklyn Richardson, chairman of the conference of National Black Churches,
he`s also chairman of the board of the National Action Network, my civil
rights organization. And Pastor Jamal-Harrison Bryant from the Empowerment
Movement, thank you both for joining me.
REV. DR. W. FRANKLYN RICHARDSON, CONFERENCE OF NATIONAL BLACK
CHURCHES: Thank you.
PASTOR JAMAL-HARRISON BRYANT, THE EMPOWERMENT MOVEMENT: Thank you,
SHARPTON: The activism that both of you involved with me in the
beginning around these big issues and around this case, and now going
forward has always been nonviolent. And we insist on that. But it also
must deal with leading to real fundamental change. Dr. Richardson?
RICHARDSON: You know, the change is critical. We`ve been here
before. Too often have we been where we are now. At a place of
disappointment and frustration. What the black church has to do and the
leadership must be an incubator for that frustration, and transfer it into
opportunity with strategic action. We`ve got to take up this
responsibility. Our people are frustrated. They`re looking for some sense
of direction, where do we go from here, how do we address this.
It seems overwhelming that here we are over and over again 50 years
from 1963. We`re back at the same place all over again. No high
unemployment in the black community. Voter acts gone. Black men being
killed and not being accountable. This is -- this is recurring. It`s
frustrating, but the church must incubate our disappointment and turn into
SHARPTON: Reverend Bryant, as we look at this 50 years later and
we`re getting ready, Martin Luther King III and all of us come together to
march and deal with the issues of today, voting rights and equal protection
under the law, the challenge is for activism today is to put that spotlight
on not only these particular cases, which clearly is front and center in
the minds of the nation now, because people like us went to Florida. But
also to deal with stand your ground laws and other laws which laws were
changed in the `60s when there was discipline in strategic action.
BRYANT: Well, one of the critical place, Reverend Sharpton, as we
celebrate the 50th anniversary is what made Magic Johnson a great play was
not all of his shots, but his ability to pass. Marching is the first step.
Martin Luther King Jr. did an incredible job. But we cannot forget the
legacy of Thurgood Marshall. He marched all the way to the point guard
line and Thurgood Marshall had to help pass the law.
What we`ve done in the past year is to raise on your attention on
stand your ground and now we have to move forward to begin changing the
law. That`s why we`re standing with you Saturday in 100 cities in front of
federal courts in 100 cities to raise attention about now it is that laws
have got to change, and the federal government has going to have to
investigate it. The reality is Florida has dropped the ball and the
Department of Justice is going to have to pick it up.
SHARPTON: State law, and states that have like the stand your ground
law, it with state laws that was confronted in the `60s.
SHARPTON: And here we are again. And I think that we must not miss
the bigger points as we deal with the family of Trayvon Martin and others
pursuing something, and the contradictions were getting ready to talk about
with the Alexander case. But also Dr. Richardson, how we handle our
protests. One of the things that I saw over the weekend with protests we
saw or were involved in was they were mostly all peaceful, which is very
important. Yet we heard all of the rhetoric from many on the right.
They`re going to be riots almost like they were stereotyping a whole
community like they couldn`t handle the verdict without being reckless.
RICHARDSON: Los Angeles, for instance. The police were out just like
they were expecting us to go to war. We`ve been responsible people. Our
people have been accountable. We`ve always fought the system to correct
our indifference. And I think it`s unfortunate when we get caught with
this idea that somehow when we stand up again for our rights that we are
calling for violence and chaos. We have calmed the chaos. And that must
be our role as we go forward.
SHARPTON: And it`s like a collective profiling, Reverend Bryant. You
have brought out a lot of young people with all of these. These young
people are not thugs and hoodlums that cannot operate with disciplined
protests and focus where they`re going.
BRYANT: Aristotle said something very key, he said a wise man knows
how to be angry at the right degree, at the right person, and at the right
time. Young people have done an exemplary job of modeling civil rights
2.0. You all would know that in order for you to participate in student
nonviolent coordinating committee. You had to go through weeks of training
before they allowed you to pick or be able to hold up your voice or mantle
to make sure that you could in fact undergird the principles of
By and large, the thousands of young people and Reverend Sharpton,
we`ve been all over the country from Los Angeles to New York to Miami,
these young people have done it without trying -- but they have a level of
maturity and discipline that says they understand anger has to be at the
right degree and towards the right target. Our hats go off to this next
generation of civil rights activists who understand that we`ve got to march
forward, but even with our rage just got to be directed in the right way.
SHARPTON: Reverend Richardson, it is also not now and has never been
an all-black movement. There are many whites that have marched on this,
many Latinos, many Asians, as in the `60s. We`re talking about right and
wrong, even though we`re dealing with questions of race, even though we`re
dealing in sometimes questions of gender, homophobia, whatever it is, it`s
about all people standing for what is right.
RICHARDSON: It`s clearly we have multiple dimensions to this
struggle. And it just happens to be that the African-Americans under
pressure in America provided the framework and the ground for many causes
of liberation to take their place. Whether in South Africa or the Berlin
Wall falling down, whatever, it grew out of our ability to respond to our
oppression and the racism that has been inflicted on us in this country.
SHARPTON: Well, Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson and Pastor Jamal
Harrison Bryant, I`m happy to have both of you with us tonight, ministers
and activists around the country will be in 100 cities in front of federal
buildings this Saturday, saying that we must deal with these state laws,
and we must call on the Justice Department to look into the civil rights
violation and this case. And they will be gathering around the country.
Thank you both for being here.
BRYANT: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Ahead, the woman serving 20 years for firing a shot that
hit a wall. Yet others go free. How is this justice in America? That`s
SHARPTON: Twenty years behind bars for a warning shot that didn`t hit
anyone. But a man who killed an unarmed 17-year-old walks free. That`s
SHARPTON: In the days since George Zimmerman`s acquittal, attention
has refocused on another Florida case with a much different outcome.
In 2010, Marissa Alexander fired a gunshot into a wall during an
argument with her husband. Alexander said her husband, who had a history
of domestic violence, was assaulting her, and it was a warning shot. No
one was hurt. But Alexander was charged with three counts of aggravated
assault. A judge denied her stand your ground claim, and Alexander was
sent to prison for 20 years. Here is what she says about the incident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARISSA ALEXANDER, SENTENCED TO 20 YEARS IN PRISON: I believe when he
threatened to kill me, that`s what he was going to do. That`s exactly what
he intended to do. And had I not discharged my weapon at that point, I
would not be here. This isn`t my life I`m fighting for. This is my life
and it`s my life, and it`s not entertainment. It is my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Twenty years in prison for firing a warning shot. But a
man who killed an unarmed 17-year-old walks free.
Joining me now is Kevin Cobbin, Melissa Alexander`s attorney. And Joy
Reid, an MSNBC contributor who covered the story of Marissa Alexander.
Thank you both for being here.
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.
KEVIN COBBIN, MELISSA ALEXANDER`S ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me.
SHARPTON: Kevin, your client is serving 20 years. What was your
reaction when you saw the verdict over the weekend?
COBBIN: It is definitely disappointing. When you have a case like
Marissa Alexander who should be the poster child for what stand your ground
law is, a woman who had been abused several times, been placed in the
hospital, had an injunction for protection, and yet she is not getting the
benefit of the doubt and allowed to use the stand your ground law as it
clearly states in the legislature, but yet someone like George Zimmerman
can use it, it`s frustrating. And it shows that we definitely have --
SHARPTON: Let me review that again, Kevin. She had been
hospitalized, assaulted, and had had a peace warrant issued, yet with all
of this, and she was assaulted by this husband she sent the warning shot
that threatened to kill her. With all of, that she was denied the use of
stand your ground in court by the judge?
COBBIN: Absolutely. And we see that too often in court. You know,
when black defendants are -- they`re not given the benefit of the doubt.
It`s not reasonable that they defend themselves. But we see time and time
again, as in the Zimmerman case, the law seems to apply to them. And
that`s why we have a serious problem here in Florida, and we need to
SHARPTON: Joy, you covered this case. And this case is something
that a lot of people, we mentioned it on this show and our radio show
before. A lot of people are raising it this weekend as we talk about the
Justice Department looking at the application of stand your ground even in
Florida, as well as why the law itself needs to be dealt with.
REID: Absolutely. And a lot of people are also probably not aware
that the exact same state attorney that prosecuted George Zimmerman Angela
Corey prosecuted Marissa Alexander, vigorously prosecutor by the way after
she rejected an initial plea deal. She went in and prosecuted her to the
fullest extent of the law, 20 years sentence. And keep in mind also that
Marissa Alexander`s husband had previously thrown her across the bathroom
and she landed in the tub, had landed her in the hospital while pregnant.
She had a very young child that is now growing up with the abusive husband
who told police investigators very forthrightly that he has beaten every
single girlfriend he`s ever had except one. And by the way --
SHARPTON: He had five. Five different women had children of him.
And he had said he beat every one of them.
REID: Beat everyone of them except one, and the one was not Marissa
Alexander. He beat her too. And at this time of this incident, she had
been chased into a bathroom after receiving a text message from a male
friend, and the husband became enraged. She said he chased her into the
bathroom, attempted to force his way into the bathroom. And when she
(inaudible) to try to flee to the garbage, he cornered her. She fired a
warning shot over his head in the kitchen. Angela Corey`s explanation for
why she charged her so heavily was because there were two older children in
the house. They weren`t even in the vicinity of the gunshot.
But now we have a situation where a minor was the victim of a fatal
shooting. There was no arrest initially. The prosecution seemed to be
very limp. They didn`t seem really to go for it the way they went for it
with Marissa Alexander. But if stand your ground doesn`t apply to a woman
who has got a known abuser she is facing, someone menacing her inside her
own home. She is in her castle. Castle doctrine means you`re in your
castle, you don`t have a duty to retreat. Angela Corey`s explanation was,
she could have ran out the front door. No duty to retreat is supposed to
mean no duty to retreat, but apparently it didn`t apply here.
SHARPTON: Now, let me go back to you, Kevin. In terms of the broad
use of stand your ground, it is at the broad discretion of a prosecutor and
a judge, right? Because I want people to understand as egregious as this
individual case, there is a systematic problem with this law and how it is
structured in Florida, and 29 other states.
COBBIN: The problem is that you -- if I don`t apply stand your ground
to apply to all defendants, and you apply it one way to some person and
another way to another person, you basically, there`s no -- what is stand
your ground? What is self-defense? And so then you have Marissa
Alexander`s case where if the prosecutor then decides to add the
enhancement of 10, 20 life which they did in her case, and if she goes to
trial, she is basically stuck with a 20-year sentence where nobody has
discretion to change that. And that`s happened to people every single day.
They`re getting these tremendously long sentences on first-time offences
when they have valid claims of self defense, valid stand your ground
claims. And it`s a problem all across the state.
SHARPTON: This is a huge discrepancy in terms of how this discretion
is used, Joy.
REID: Yes. Absolutely. And the other problem with stand your ground
is, first of all it encourages you in a sense to shoot to kill. Because in
cases where the person you shoot survives, because there is another
witness, and in this case they used one of the young children as one of the
witnesses, it`s very difficult to win a stand your ground case. You know
how you win? If the person you shoot dies.
SHARPTON: Kevin Cobbin and Joy Reid, thank you for your time tonight.
REID: Thank you.
COBBIN: Thank you.
SHARPTON: We`ll be right back. We wanted to get that out there.
SHARPTON: Finally tonight, the fight for justice from 50 years ago to
today. This photo was taken. It was taken on July 15th, 1963, and it
shows members of the Birmingham, Alabama fire department turning their
hoses on civil rights demonstrators who were fighting for equal rights.
Fifty years later, we`ve come a long way, but we have a long way to
go. I thought about that this weekend. I thought about how 50 years later
we had a verdict that many of us are disappointed. But I thought about how
50 years ago when they turned fire hoses on those marches, they didn`t go
home and get fire hoses larger to shoot water back. They fought back by
being bigger, stronger, more determined, and, yes, more excellent in their
character than those that were coming against them.
And they never gave up fighting until they made change come. Those
marches was led by a man named Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth 50 years ago.
Friday night I spoke in Birmingham, Alabama. I rode to my speaking
location from the Fred Shuttlesworth Airport in Birmingham. Mr.
Shuttlesworth, Reverend Shuttlesworth, not only won that battle, the
airport in that town is named after him. The sheriff that turned the hose
on him, Bull Conner, there is no airport named after him.
People that change history are recorded by history. I think it was
Ryan -- said, "Truth crushed to earth shall rise again." If we stand up
for what is right and be right as we stand, we can change big things and
little things will also change. Because it shifts with the big things in
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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