msnbc News   |  July 12, 2013

How race may affect the jury’s final verdict

In the prosecution’s rebuttal to the defense’s closing arguments, the role of race in the George Zimmerman trial was brought up. MSNBC’s Lisa Bloom and Craig Melvin discuss with former prosecutor Gary Casimir, MSNBC’s Joy Reid, former prosecutor Marcia Clark, and MSNBC host Reverend Al Sharpton.

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

>> this case is not about race. it is about right and wrong. it is that simple.

>> that was john guy , attorney for the prosecution delivering his rebuttal to the defense's closing argument earlier today. while the public discourse has centered on race, inside the courtroom it has confounded me that race has been relegated to mostly subtext.

>> the question is, race, if at all, will affect the jury's verdict.

>> joining me now, gary casimir, who does criminal and civil litigation . msnbc's joy reid and former prosecutor, marcia clark . and on the phone, we have joining us the host of "politics nation." the fine reverend al sharpton , good to talk to you.

>> good to talk to you.

>> so rev, the seminole county sheriff's department urged calm no matter what the verdict.

>> we encourage all residents to live their lives normally. we will not tolerate anyone who uses this verdict as an excuse to violate the law.

>> it is a trying time for all of us. we're not sure what the verdict is going to bring out. but at the same time, it is a great opportunity for evolution within the sanford community , and showing how we, as a community , can evolve to do better and be better. to ensure that we have an opportunity to speak our piece, peacefully.

>> reverend al, you were one of the leaders of groundswell of public support, the movement that was borne out of the anger and frustration of charges not being brought. there was a petition that 2 million people signed. this was all nonviolent. what do you think about the potential for public safety and rioting?

>> well, i frankly don't understand it. we came in when the attorney and family called us in because the police would not make an arrest. and said that there was no probable cause for an arrest. i think despite the verdict, clearly the reasons they called us and the reasons that we came have been truly vindicated, because with the inconsistency of zimmerman 's story, there clearly should have been a trial. and there clearly should have been an arrest. i think what the public said there, and the community there said was that the sanford police would have behaved differently had trayvon martin been white. no one said that zimmerman or anyone else should be tried just on race. we said the decision was made based on what the sanford community said, who had a litany of problems with the local police department. i think people are purposely trying to kwconfuse the charge made on the police department in sanford and the charge based on mr. zimmerman . now that they're in the trial, the prosecutor has to decide whether he has evidence to bring race as racial profiling or profiling based on whether or not we are dealing with him being criminally profiled, profiled or whatever. but to say the sanford police department acted based on their own problems with race in the community , i think is what they're purposely confusing. and i would also add with all of the rallies, with all the demonstrations, we had tens of thousands of people at the first rally i called, not one brick thrown, not one problem, i don't understand why they're having all of this now as if there was violence ever involved with trayvon martin.

>> yeah, i have to tell you, i think people should come out more and talk about problems in this way. there are people really the models of decorum, chanting peacefully, staying on the sidewalks. i mean, it just really makes me cringe every time i hear somebody ask the question, are their going to be riots if there is an acquittal? i mean, isn't that kind of the same assumption made about trayvon martin? what do you make about all of these talks of potential riots?

>> reporter: you know, i'm glad you asked. i agree with you guys. and just let me take off the hat just for a second. because speaking from somebody who has been on the ground here in sanford , florida, having talked to a number of people. no one here is really concerned about that. and one of the things we should also note, the number of protesters, the number of demonstrators who have been outside the courthouse since this trial has started, negligible, three, the most we have had since the trial started? 23, there were more cameras than demonstrators. i understand law enforcement 's position, obviously, better to be safe than sorry. but the concerns and fears seem to be unfounded. and i think joy reid is sitting there with you, lisa bloom . and for a lot of folks, the concerns are a bit insulting.

>> yes, totally. i agree with what craig said totally. i spent a lot of time in sanford during the big rallies that reverend sharpton talked about. by the way, not all black people , this was a huge variety of people. when you go in the black community . what you find is not a sense of rioting, you find a sense of fatalism. i had had people say to me, the only reason there was a trial, was that boy was from out of town. if he had been from sanford , nothing would have been done. they come into our communities, the police don't care about us. the police station is located at the edge of the beginning of the historical black community . yet people say they can't get a response when somebody is shot dead in their community . they wouldn't call. on the other hand, people are rude to them, and call them porch monkeys. there are deep-seated problems. it is pretty ironic that the police say they're going to stop the violence , they feel they're being neglected from their own police department . that is what they were angry about is the police wouldn't arrest somebody who shot a black teen. it was not about rioting?

>> what is your take?

>> i think the people of sanford had wholeheartedly the right to ask for a trial for trayvon martin. i am surprised the prosecutors were not involved. with that being said, there were terms of the other element. last night i was having dinner. nobody in the restaurant not talking about this case. this is in the pulse of african-american communities. there are emotions to this case. an acquittal will bring out an emotional reaction.

>> but i think that -- i think that again, they would be more responsible, lisa, if they said that they would hope whatever reaction is as responsible as it were, they are criminalizing those that have stood up for trayvon. one, we came because we were asked to come. second, there was not one incident. i challenge anyone to tell us any. and third, why wouldn't they just say that? and as stated even around the country, when there was an acquittal of sean bell , it was on everybody's lips. we were the ones who called for police and kept the police , so now to act as if we would cause tensions, we went through sean bell , it didn't happen. and the whole movement around trayvon. it is insulting to act like we're going the riot. they ought to be talking to the people that marched and demonstrated and did not have riots, rather than trying to in any way cast dispersions on us.

>> yeah, and while we're talking, we're seeing pictures of rioters with fanny packs, signs, walking together slowly through a parking lot . marcia clark , your take on this?

>> yeah, i really do hope that there is not an overreaction and over-response, if you will in anticipation of something that i think is never going to happen. i think clearly, it is important to note as has been noted by the reverend and others said, the initial demonstrations were very peaceful. there was no problem. i don't think that there was any reason to believe there will be one after the fact. maybe there will be an outcry, or protests in terms of vocalizing a disagreement with the verdict if there is an acquittal. but that is fair. that is what our country is about. we're allowed to do that.

>> that is right, a healthy thing to do in a democracy, i encourage people to speak out, go on social media . obviously, peacefully, legally. let your voice be heard. the last time there was a riot, i lived in los angeles at that time. couldn't be more different, frankly. because i think that was a sudden, shocking verdict. this was a situation caught on videotape. and in this case, frankly, a lot of people are primed for the idea of an acquittal. and i think as joy said, there is a heavy sense of possible disappointment. but i don't have any sense of potential unrest or rioting. reverend sharpton, gary casimir, joy reid , thank you once again for joining us tonight.

>>> and "killer ambition." another author, so sorry, getting the name