PoliticsNation   |  July 12, 2013

Assessing the defense of self-defense

Legal experts Lisa Bloom, Faith Jenkins, Ken Padowitz, and Marcia Clark join PoliticsNation to cover what the jury may have discussed in their first day of deliberation in the George Zimmerman trial.

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

>>> when the jury comes back tomorrow morning, they'll be wrestling with one central question. did george zimmerman kill trayvon martin in self-defense? that claim is at the heart of mr. zimmerman 's case, but today the prosecution again raised another question, something lots of people have been e-mailing me about. didn't trayvon martin also have a right to self-defense?

>> that child had every right to be afraid of a strange man following him, first in his car, and then on foot. and did that child not have the right to defend himself from that strange man? did trayvon martin not also have that right?

>> faith, why did the prosecution think this was so important for the jury to think about?

>> because they're focusing on who was the initial aggressor here. they're not trying to tell this jury exactly what happened when george zimmerman and trayvon martin met. they're trying to show this jury george zimmerman was the initial aggressor from the very beginning. in fact, it started months before he ever saw trayvon martin with his mind-set, with these people always getting away, referring to all the young black males that he previously called the police about. so the prosecutor wants to focus on who the initial aggressor was, and based upon george zimmerman being the initial aggressor, so what he got punched? so what he has these injuries. trayvon martin had every right to defend himself. george zimmerman was the one following him.

>> you know, reverend al, faith is right. the problem is the prosecution didn't argue that. they fought so hard to get into evidence those prior events where george zimmerman called about african- american males in the community. 100% of the calls he made about suspicious people in the community were about african- american males . they got it in, and then they didn't argument it in closing argument . so what the jury heard was the defense version of well, it's very reasonable that he was suspicious because it was raining and he was walking around. and the prosecution didn't say -- i didn't frankly in my opinion have the guts to say that's not what this was about. i mean really, we can look at autopsy photos. we can look at the deceased remains of a 17-year-old, and we don't have the guts to talk about race? i think that's what is really underlying this case, the failure of the prosecution, among other things to talk about race and say of course he was profiled because he is african-american. we have the statistics.

>> didn't he argue that he was profiled, marcia, and the fact that they didn't bring in race and have the defense say that there is no evidence of race here, and let me bring in three of his black friends. the profile statement they made, the fact that they used over and over about him calling people a-holes, doesn't that really give the jury the picture that he had some hardened feelings without giving a layup shot to the prosecution?

>> i totally think so. i have to say i really agree. and here is the thing. they got those calls in. the calls were there, and they were pretty good evidence of a mind-set that predated him ever seeing trayvon martin . and that was a good thing to do. you have to walk the line of the race card very, very carefully, and you don't want to overplay this, because you can really turn a jury off. you have to be careful what you're doing here. and i thought the prosecution did. they said number one that he was profiled. they did say that. and everybody knows what they're talking about. the jury understands what that means. they're not stupid. and then on top of, that don't forget, you don't want to alienate your jury by leaning too heavily on it, so they didn't. but they put it out there for sure. having had the calls, you never remember to say everything in closing argument . i've never seen a prosecutor or a defense attorney remember every single point. they don't have to. you don't have to. this is not about everything they needed to say. they certainly made all of the strongest points. lisa, they heard those calls. they're not forgetting it. this is not a year-long trial. it's only a three-week trial. they remember it.

>> but joy, let me bring joy in. joy, you and i and others may have our feelings. the question is what you want to put in front of a jury and make sure that it is something you can back up. do you think that the defense was prepared to try if they had played race? and clearly in my opinion, when i don't bring up profiling, everyone knows what they mean. don't you think they had some scenario set to bring in black friends of zimmerman to answer that?

>> well, probably. so but i think also more importantly that mark o'mara, if they could have gotten it in, was also prepared to bring in text messages, pictures from trayvon martin 's cell phone, other things that if you combined them with that grainy 7-eleven photo, the photo of trayvon with the shirt off and the gold takeaway grill in his mouth, all of that was painting the picture of a scary black man. and recall, defense are the one that put on the stand a woman who had her home broken into. they were the ones who said who was breaking into homes? these young black men. so race was brought into the trial. it's just that -- listen to john guy 's accent. this is a southern man. he understands he is trying a case in the south. people sometimes forget florida is still the south. and that there are attitudes about race that pre-exist that could also exist in the jury. i think they might have been afraid to bring it up in fear of alienating the jury, but there is no doubt that racial profiling is what this case is about. i think everyone understands it. but i think the prosecution might have been afraid to say it.

>> can i add something to that? they were sut until bringing it up, and i think they were right to do that in this circumstance. they don't want the jury to feel pressure that they have to make a race-based statement with their verdict. they want the jury to make a humanity-based statement and that's what john guy was doing