PoliticsNation | July 12, 2013
>> thanks, michael, and thanks to you for tuning in. tonight's lead, verdict watch in the george zimmerman trial. the jury's decision could come down at literally any moment. these are live pictures from the seminole county courthouse in sanford, florida, where jurors have been shut away in the jury room, deliberating for about three and a half hours now. by this point, they probably selected their foreman and are reviewing the evidence. after 12 days of testimony and 53 witnesses, these six women on the jury must decide whether george zimmerman is guilty in the shooting death of 17-year-old trayvon martin . this morning, they heard mr. zimmerman 's lawyer make closing arguments for the defense .
>> you look at all this evidence, and you have to say i have a reasonable doubt as to whether or not the state convinced me. he didn't act in self- defense . that's all you have to do. you don't have to write innocent on the bottom of the verdict form. i want you to really, really look at the instructions, apply them, and just say he acted in self- defense , find him not guilty. let him go back and get back to his life.
>> after that, the state had its final chance for a rebuttal. prosecutor john guy made a passionate final plea to the jury.
>> this isn't a complicated case. it's a common sense case. and it's not a case about self- defense . it's a case about self-denial. the defendant didn't shoot trayvon martin because he had to. he shot him because he wanted to. that's the bottom line . what do we owe trayvon martin ? 16 years and 21 days , forever. he was a son, he was a brother, he was a friend. and the last thing he did on this earth was try to get home. trayvon martin may not have the defendant's blood on his hands, but george zimmerman will forever have trayvon martin 's blood on his. forever.
>> trayvon martin was killed february 26th , 2012 , one year, four months and 16 days later. a jury in a court of law is deciding whether george zimmerman should be criminally responsible for his death. every second it goes by brings us closer to that verdict. with me now is my all-star legal panel, joy reid, managing editor the grio.com, former prosecutor faith jenkins, defense attorney ken padowitz, and former prosecutor marcia clark . she is author of "killer ambition." thank you all for being here.
>> thank you.
>> thank you.
>> great to be here.
>> thank you.
>> marcia, how did the defense and prosecution do today in their final arguments to the jury?
>> reverend, i thought they both did a really good job, very strong. and, you know, it's interesting the different styles that they have to adopt. and wisely. so you know, the defense approaches this from a very calm, very reasoned, let's all calm down now and think rationally, you know, and try to step away from all the sympathy issues that are very much in play for the prosecution. and which john guy i thought very effectively used to his benefit in talking about the young man and boy even, 17 years old to me, have i two sons, and they were once 17, and they were boys. and this man, george zimmerman in contrasting the two, very effectively i thought.
>> now, let me go to you for this, ken. you had prosecutor john guy and the defense attorney mark o'mara. they both talked about the following and how zimmerman following trayvon martin , how that plays into the jury deliberation . listen to their contrasting ways of dealing with this.
>> every shred of law that applies to this case you will have before you. what you won't have is any law that suggests something like following member is legal because it's not.
>> right up until the time of his death, was that child not in fear when he was running from that defendant? isn't that every child's worst nightmare? to be followed on the way home in the dark by a stranger? isn't that every child's worst fear? that was trayvon martin 's last emotion.
>> ken, what was the more effective approach to you? you've tried over 30 murder cases in florida.
>> well, the defense attorney , mr. o'mara did a very competent, good job. he focused on basically trying to eliminate this following. he wants the jury to focus on the few seconds right before the shooting so he can talk about his self- defense . so he effectively talked in a conversational, professor-like way to that jury to get across that point. you can't really look at anything other than what happened right at the time of the shooting. opened, the prosecutor, john good, he was brilliant, just brilliant. this was a fantastic closing argument . and the way he handled that is he said don't look at the last chapter, look at all the chapters of the book, and all the chapters of the book, right from the beginning include the following, the following of this kid who was just there holding candy and walking home. and the following in the dark. every kid's worst nightmare. that was just brilliant how he weaved that into his closing argument , and very, very effective with this jury.
>> i might note that the jury has sent in a note that they are finished deliberating for night and will return 9:00 a.m . tomorrow morning to deliberate. again, the jury has stopped deliberating tonight, and are going back into their question. and they will pick up deliberations 9:00 a.m . tomorrow. joy reid, let me go to you on what was just said about the following. is it important based on how the judge gave instructions, is it important to the jury to note a whole story of the following going forward, or based on under the instructions, do they only have to consider the moments around the shooting?
>> well, rev, i think that it's important for the prosecution to take it back to the following. and this is the reason why. what the -- and i'm not an attorney. but under florida law harkes the prosecution has to prove is that george zimmerman was the initial aggressor, that whatever happened in the few minutes during the fight, it was george zimmerman who instigated the fight. and what they were trying to weave in the end, and i thought john guy also was very, very good. i was very emotionally affecting. and it also brought up something i was very confused as to why the prosecution didn't say before. this was a kid who was being followed who was probably scared. so the idea that someone is following you, is that in and of itself aggression? is the act of following someone, trailing them, chasing them, and then finally catching up to them, did that present fear for trayvon martin such that he had a right not only to defend himself, but that he was in fear of his life. it takes away from the notion of george zimmerman as a victim, and for the prosecution it makes him the guy that was the perpetrator, the guy following, stalking, following this kid, scaring him, and ultimately killing him.
>> faith, you are on the same point.
>> first of all, john guy , i agree with ken and joy about him. because in trials when you're trying cases, your message, in order for you you to be in the message as a juror, you have to believe in the messenger. john guy was messenger today. he spoke on behalf of trayvon martin , on behalf of his parents, on behalf of the state of florida . he said we don't really know what happened in that altercation between trayvon and george zimmerman , but here is what we do know. and he painted that narrative from beginning to end, which ended with trayvon martin being shot and killed in his last emotion, his last thought was fear, because a man he did not know was following him. and i thought that was a great point today.
>> now marcia, let me ask you something that is going to be critical. in florida law , and in the law as you know it, you've been a prosecutor, does the prosecutor have to remove any doubt of self- defense , or does the prosecutor have to debunk that it was reasonable for him to feel that it was self- defense , and the defense have to establish that it was more than reasonable? because i kind of heard in o'mara's closing that as long as you have any doubt, is was self- defense , then you've got to acquit george zimmerman .
>> well, and not any doubt, but a reasonable doubt for sure. and it's the prosecution's burden to not only prove their case in terms of a second-degree murder, but also disprove that george zimmerman was justified. they have to disprove that he had a reasonable belief in his own eminent death or great bodily injury . and so it's a burden for the prosecution to shoulder, and that's why it was so important for john guy to start with the very beginning of everything, as he did so effectively in showing the mind-set of george zimmerman . the ill will , these punks always get away with it, all the statements he made to 911, showing he is already targeting anding this of trayvon martin as a criminal with no basis at all. why does he get out of his car? that's great. start right there. if what you want to do is tell the police somebody might be up to no good, you call the police and wait in your car there is no reason for him to get out at all. and especially not the lame excuse he gave for looking at the street sign .
>> ken, what then is the defense story that the jury is going to be able to go through in the evidence that established that at that moment, that he had no choice other than to use self- defense , that that was reasonable. because we had a lot of witnesses talking about who was on top or bottom. but what was the evidence that they presented to say oh, no, he was in absolute fear of his life, and that was reasonable?
>> well, what the defense wants the jury to believe is that at the moment that he was in this fight with trayvon martin , that martin was going for his gun. and the only way he could protect his life and protect himself was to grab the gun first and shoot trayvon martin . if you believe that, then you believe his self- defense , and then there is an acquittal. if you don't believe that, if you don't believe that trayvon martin saw the gun, if you don't believe that trayvon martin could get to the gun, then that calls into question the entire self- defense argument that they're making to the jury. and keep this in mind. the prosecution, once the defense raises self- defense , the prosecution has to prove under florida law that beyond a reasonable doubt , there was no self- defense . so the burden shifts to the prosecution once self- defense is raised by the defense . the law is like mud. this jury is going the hear this law from the court and they're going to be like every jury. they're going to have a hard time going through it because the lawyers can't even agree what that gobbledygook means when the judge reads that law to the jury.
>> faith, having said, that and about seeing the gun or grabbing for the gun, let me show you some of what john guy laid out in terms of the inconsistencies, and tell me whether that addresses some of that from the prosecution's standpoint.
>> sean noffke told me to get an address. that didn't happen. listen to the tapes. listen to the walk-through. and listen to the non- emergency call . sean noffke never said that. why? why lie about that? it's so important. that's why. because he wasn't going back to the car. he was going back to trayvon martin . trayvon martin covered his mouth and nose. really? you really think if that were true there wouldn't be george zimmerman 's blood on these sticks that they pried under his fingernails? do you really think that's true? that was a lie. there is only two people on this earth who know what really happened, and one of them can't testify. and the other one lied. and not one lie. over and over and over again. what does that tell you about what really happened out there?
>> faith, is it enough to say that the self- defense claims by mr. zimmerman were based on lies. is that enough to debunk any doubt about his self- defense ?
>> if the jury wants -- in considering self- defense , in order for the jury to believe george zimmerman acted in self- defense , in order for this jury to believe that he reasonably feared for his life, they have to trust in what he said. they have to believe the statements that he made. that's why the state went after these statement, went after his own words. they're using his own words against him, because they're telling this jury you simply can't trust him. you simply cannot believe him. and if you don't believe him about these facts, not knowing the name of the street, not continuing to follow trayvon, then you cannot believe him about self- defense . we already know, he has admitted to shooting and killing trayvon. and if you don't believe him about self- defense , then guess what? he is guilty of murder.
>> joy, when you look at the charges, second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison , and manslaughter, which if done with a firearm as a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, hearing both the defense and the prosecution what do you think is likely to be the impression the jury goes in before we hear any of the evidence that they sent for or tried to review?
>> you know, rev, i think interestingly enough, the two things that the prosecution firmly did establish is number one george zimmerman did follow trayvon martin , not with standing his statements. and number two, that he did act with spite. i think it's hard not to interpret f-ing punks and these animals always get away. i think they could clear that bar. so i'm not sure if that gets you to the level of second-degree murder or not. that's really up to the jury. but, you know, i think that faith makes a really important point. the only person that establishes george zimmerman 's self- defense claim is george zimmerman , because there were no other witnesses to the entire fight. but the second thing that establishes george zimmerman 's claim is his wounds, the actual blood on the back of his head, the nose, the bloody nose , and that sort of thing. you also saw john guy try to take that apart. he showed the same picture mark o'mara has use very effectively during the defense presentation, and he said look at this guy. does this guy look like somebody who had to fight for his life. look at his nose. does that look like a life-threatening injury? look at him. it also had a double effect of showing george zimmerman , not the soft, pudgy guy sitting there, but someone who looked a lot tougher. so i think the prosecution needs to take down not just his statements by saying he was false in other things, but they also have to take down what really is the strongest defense evidence, and that's the bloody nose , the bloody head.
>> i'm going to ask the panel to please stay with