All In | July 15, 2013
>>> ] make the all-new nissan sentra .
>>> when the defense say that mr. zimmerman won't see a courthouse again, that is not true. zimmerman will have to testify in a civil suit . you cannot avoid that. and his testimony could lead to some very interesting new evidence. the federal government , the justice department , suspended an investigation. they did not end it.
>> that was my colleague, the reverend al sharpton , commenting on the contention of george zimmerman 's defense attorney , mark o'mara. zimmerman would not see another day in court. joining me now, congressman hakeem jeffries , from new york . with me, michael eric dyson , maya wiley and melissa harris perry . you did a press event to talk about what possible investigation might be pursued at the federal level . what avenueses of redress are there for people that feel that justice was not done in that courtroom or even if the verdict was right and proper based on the evidence that jury saw, that the larger sense that something wrong here that should be held to account has gone unaddressed?
>> congressman rangel, congressman meeks, members of the new york delegation, one wanted to support the continuation of the justice department investigation as it relates to the civil rights violations that we believe took place in the killing of trayvon martin. we also wanted to make sure that it was a comprehensive investigation that ultimately led to the presentation of evidence to a grand jury so that the grand jury can decide whether the civil rights of trayvon martin were violated. that a justice department that ultimately yields no prosecution will only result in a further continuation of the frustration and dismay we have with the system at this point.
>> yeah, maya ?
>> what's really point here, we need an evidentiary change of law because the justice department is facing the problem that it has to show generally some form of smoking gun . george zimmerman saying fing punch, which we all read as the code about him being black, and therefore, a criminal, is not generally enough even though that's the code.
>> right. melissa , i mean, when i think about the politics of this also, i mean, we have seen the president issued a statement that was fairly, fairly neutral, it was kind of thoughtful about the loss of the life, but it certainly didn't say take sides or say this verdict was unjust. it called for peace and reflection. you can only -- i mean, seeing what was on drudge in the run-up to this, seeing the way the right wing has stirred themselves up on this, the fact hannity got the first interview with george zimmerman . you can only imagine, melissa , what would happen if president obama and eric holder 's justice department were to indict george zimmerman on federal civil rights charges, right?
>> i mean, yes, but i can also only imagine sort of what would happen if they don't. in terms of their base of support.
>> so i just want to be really careful. i think the challenge here is when the department of justice brings these kinds of charges, they typically do it, with, as maya was saying, sort of a smoking gun piece of evidence. the problem is, maya and i have been talking about this for days now, is what racism is is not necessarily reflected in our laws. the notion that racism requires you to sort of spout forth these particular kinds of words, rather than an understanding that it is a racial context in which people are operating.
>> right. i think in terms of the -- to piggyback on that, in terms of what the politicians do, this is a moment that the president, i think, can seize to assert a bully pulpit report to suggest that beyond the law, let's have an open, honest engagement with the context that melissa is speaking about, because we're talking about implicit assumptions. we're talking about explicit assumpti assumption, the jumble of stereotypes. this is implicated in a range of practices that have to be acknowledged and addressed.
>> we have had several incidents where there have been high-profile cases that have failed, in the beating of rodney king , acquittal, all-white jury, simi valley .
>> with videotape.
>> with videotape. not necessarily a smoking gun in terms of racial animus.
>> same situation with the choking death of anthony baez by police officer francis lavoty. acquittal in the bronx. subsequent prosecution by manhattan federal prosecutors that was successful. and in an instance where an african-american stabbed an orthodox jewish man, rosenbaum, in new york , was acquitted by a brooklyn jury and subsequently prosecuted for a hate crime violation by the justice department in the absence of a smoking gun of racial animus. precedence does exist to move forward.
>> that's a very important point.
>> it's a critically important point. precedence matters. my point, if we telescope out and take a broader frame, at the end of the day we have got to reform our laws so that we're not -- because right now the attack is on all evidentiary standards and any race case. not just this one. the right is taking on what we call disparate impact which is whether or not we can look at the impacts of our decision-making on a whole group of people.
>> and, in fact, the voting rights action, section 5, section 4 was essentially -- i mean, not on the same legal logic but the historic understanding of, because racial bias, because it no longer announces itself facially as racial bias has left the playing field .
>> we're trying to out it to make sure --
>> let me say this and go to you, melissa . i also think it's really important to distinguish that between this, a judgment that george zimmerman has a human being is a racist. that word attached to him is an essential feature of his character. i have no idea. i know what i've seen, i'm pretty damn sure of, the race of trayvon martin played a huge role in what happened that night because of a suspicion that attached to him as a young black man, that was going through george zimmerman 's head. i feel like what ends up happening is the right wants us to litigate a discussion about what is in the heart, what is in the soul, what is the thing we kpaent can't see? that is not the point, right, melissa ?
>> chris, this is why communities are reacting with terror, grief, and sadness. it's not because we think our child is going to walk down the street and meet up with george zimmerman . it's not because we think there is some one individual bad actor out there. it is, to underline the point that mike said earlier, and robin kelly , brilliant historian and social critic wrote about, it is because this is the law working. we can actually see this jury probably made so-called the right decision based on the evidence presented to them under florida law . the thing that is terrifying is the very idea these sets of laws are set up to allow and encourage the circumstances that will lead to the death of african- american people , young people , children, and, by the way, let me also make very clear, women. because the other group of people who are deeply impacted by this are folks in circumstances of domestic violence. we know it about marissa alexander which you will talk about later. basically vulnerable populations are made more vulnerable by a set of policies that say this is a system in which you will not be protected, even after you're dead.
>> melissa harris perry , host of the show " melissa harris perry ." congressman hakeem jeffries . msnbc political analyst, michael eric dyson and maya wiley from the center of social inclusion . thank you, all.