Meet the Press   |  July 14, 2013

Roundtable reacts to Zimmerman verdict

A Meet the Press panel of experts discusses the verdict issued in the George Zimmerman trial and what lies ahead.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> reverend sharpton , this is how "the huffington post " described it, a banner headline, not guilty" with an asterisk but not innocent. that's how you view it. where does it go next?

>> it goes to the justice department . clearly there are grounds for civil rights charges here. the mother and father of trayvon martin and i with their lawyers met with the u.s. attorney in florida the day i went down to organize the first national rally there. and we always said there would be a plan b , but there needed to be a plan a. there would never have been protests if there had been an arrest and if the police department did there did what it was supposed to do.

>> you wanted zimmerman to have a fair trial . that's what you were pushing for before charges were ultimately filed. was this not a fair trial ?

>> the trial happened. the verdict came in. it does not exhaust the legal options of this family and the bigger community issues of civil rights . we now have a position on the books in the state of florida where an unarmed teenager who committed no crime can be killed and the killer can say self- defense . that is dangerous. that is an atrocity. and i think that must be addressed. i think every american ought to be afraid that my child can do nothing wrong and can be killed and you can use self- defense and tell four or five different stories that end up being inconsistent and still walk away .

>> you disagree with the verdict, but you don't question that it was a fair trial . if you wanted him to have a day in court, that happened, that part of the process worked.

>> i question the state law . i question -- yeah, there could have been some things done differently at trial, but the real object now is to move forward on dealing with the state law and the civil rights . and as we mobilize, as you know martin luther king iii and i are having the march on washington on his father's "i have a dream" speech, how do we have this country with dr. king's dream 50 years later and you can't walk an innocent child through a neighborhood without the child being harmed, lest known killed, and nobody can say i watched the whole trial, no one can say what trayvon martin did wrong? they always get away with it, zimmerman said. who is "they" getting away with what? that's the basis of the civil rights inquiry.

>> mayor triplett in sanford , one of the reasons i want to talk about this morning is the political element to this going back to the shooting and trayvon martin's death initially. president obama weighed in at the time and his comments were striking. this is what he said then.

>> my main message is to the parents of trayvon martin. you know, if i had a son, he'd look like trayvon, and, you know, i think they are right to expect that all of us as americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and this we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.

>> has that been achieved, may wror? did we get to the bottom of what happened?

>> we said from day one that we were seeking justice when the demonstrations came to the city of sanford , that they wanted mr. zimmerman to sit in front of a jury of his peers. that's what's taken place. and they have spoken. they've listened to both sides of it. you know, we've done a lot within the city of sanford to make it a better place . through tragedy comes an opportunity is kind of the way we're looking at it. we've set up blue-ribbon panels, community panels, set up community panels, set up conversations on walk-and-talks with our police department and our community, and we're moving towards a trustful relationship between -- you know, between city hall , the police department , and our community. so we're getting -- we're a better people .

>> to reverend sharpton 's point, did trayvon martin do anything wrong? can you address that point and the tension that comes with that in this situation?

>> that was for the prosecution and for the defense to fight out in court. we saw it. we really didn't have a dog in that fight, so to speak. you know, we were -- our biggest concern was for the safety of the people, the citizens of sanford .

>> and savannah guthrie , the legal part of this is important because ultimately it's the question of whether there was too much pressure brought to bear by reverend sharpton and others to bring charges that some have said amounted to overcharging george zimmerman .

>> some people think it's an overcharge, that the prosecutors didn't have sufficient evidence for second-degree murder conviction, but the fact of the matter is the jurors were able to consider the full range of options. they could look at second-degree murder. they could look at the lesser charge of manslaughter. and ultimately, this came down to not any particular particularity of florida law but basic self- defense principles that are enshrined in every state in this country which is, look, if somebody fears reasonably they are in danger of great bodily harm or injury, it's the prosecutor's burden basically to disprove self- defense . this comes down to that concept of reasonable doubt. it's not necessarily that jurors by their verdict are saying we believe george zimmerman acted in self- defense . what they're saying is we don't believe that the prosecutors proved he didn't act in self- defense . that's basically what this verdict comes down to.

>> and quickly, the news from reverend harpton this morning, he and the family met with a u.s. attorney . there will be pressure brought to pursue civil rights charges. we've seen that before in the case of rodney king and the officers there. do you think there's much grounds to move forward there?

>> well, look, the reason why some people thought second-degree murder was an overcharge was because they didn't think there was sufficient evidence to establish that mental state , depraved mind, hate in the heart, spite, ill will . that would be the key element of a hate crimes charge. so the federal government will look at it. that investigation has been on hold. whether the department of justice pursues charges we'll have to wait and see. there's still an option of a civil suit by the parents. the burden of proof or the standard of proof is a lot less. george zimmerman could be forced to testify and be cross-examined so, you may see a different result there. but that's not an issue of whether he would go to jail. that would ultimately be an issue of whether he had to pay