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CNN NEWSROOM

Questions Arise Over Trayvon Martin Killing, Feds Step In; Attorney for Trayvon Martin's Family Gives Press Conference; Robert Bales Meets with Attorneys On U.S. Soil

Aired March 20, 2012 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips. It's 11:00 on the East coast, 8:00 out West and we do have a chilling new perspective on the shooting death of an unarmed Florida teen by a neighborhood watch volunteer last month.

ABC News has spoken with a 16-year-old girl who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin during that fatal encounter with George Zimmerman in a gated community just north of Orlando. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then the man said, "What are you doing around here?" Then somebody pushed Trayvon because the head set fell."

(END AUDIO CLIP)

Well, Zimmerman says he was acting in self-defense and has never been arrested or charged, but Martin's family and their many supporters claim that racial bias in the shooting and the investigation.

So, now the FBI has stepped in and the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation.

CNN legal analyst, Sunny Hostin joining, me now with more on all of this.

Why don't we go ahead and start with Trayvon's cell phone friend? I understand you actually have a copy of her sworn affidavit. Give us the details, Sunny. We'll kind of unfold the conversation from there.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning, Kyra. I do not have a copy, though, of the sworn affidavit, but I did speak to one of the Martin family attorneys this morning for at least half an hour and she and I discussed this phone call.

Apparently Trayvon Martin on that night had been trading phone calls with a 16-year-old friend, a girl, and as they traded phone calls, one of the last phone calls, was at about 7:04.

Trayvon Martin told his friend that someone was following him. He was nervous. He was concerned. She explained to him that he should run. He told her he was not going to run, but he was going to walk quickly in an effort to get away from the person that he thought was pursuing him.

Well, Kyra, she then heard Trayvon Martin say to someone, "Why are you following me?"

That person then said to Trayvon Martin, "Who are you? Why are you here? What is your name?"

At that point at about 7:16 p.m., she says that the phone call dropped, that she felt that someone had pushed or tackled Trayvon and, at that point, the phone call dropped.

She tried to call him several times after that, no response, and, according to the timeline that the police are giving us, someone from the police department did arrive at about 7:17, just a minute later.

PHILLIPS: OK. So, Sunny, from what you just told us and what we're learning about this phone call with this lady friend and what she is saying happened and how this al unfolded that night, still, how does this play a part in the number of investigations that are going on now because George Zimmerman has not been charged?

He says he was acting in self-defense. So, how does this play into the many ongoing investigations?

HOSTIN: Well, certainly this is very frustrating for the family. That is what the family attorney told me. They are pleased that so many people have stepped forward and are investigating this case, but she just told me, the family attorney, that the state attorney's office in Florida has sent this to the grand jury.

That will happen on April 10th, so that is breaking news, Kyra. Our understanding is that the grand jury will be looking at this case on April 10th and, so, the case certainly is moving forward in that regard.

PHILLIPS: OK. How about the fact that now the Justice Department is involved, which, of course, we're talking about a civil rights investigation now.

How will this play into that because of the civil rights investigation, the allegations taking place that he was targeted, that this was not self-defense, that this neighborhood watch captain was going after him because he was black?

To him, he looked suspicious. Those are the allegations out there, which is why now the Justice Department is looking into this. How will this cell phone call now play into that?

PHILLIPS: Well, I will tell you that will be certainly a significant piece of evidence that's going to be looked at because, as we understand it now, that was the last conversation that Trayvon Martin had with anyone and it also, in my view, dispels the notion of self-defense, because an exception to the self-defense claim, the "stand your ground" law in Florida, is that someone is the first aggressor, that someone is the pursuer. And, so, if you have a witness, arguably not an eyewitness, but an ear witness and those witnesses are taken into account in our court systems, if you have someone that's saying that they heard a push, that they heard a tackle, then that certainly dispels this self- defense claim, and it would go to intent.

Also, Kyra, usually when you have a federal investigation, the federal government allows the state typically to go forward with its investigation. While they run in tandem, the federal government typically is loathe to take over a state investigation.

So, I suspect that they will allow the state to proceed in front of the grand jury, watch it very, very closely, and run their investigation in tandem rather than taking over the investigation.

But all the evidence as it's being discovered in the state, I believe, will be used by the federal government as well.

PHILLIPS: OK. And we'll be talking about it this afternoon. Sunny, thanks so much. I know you will be with us as well.

We ask all of you to stay with CNN. We are going to bring you the live coverage of the news conference which Trayvon Smith's father, Tracy.

Also their family attorney will be joining him. That's coming up any minute now. We will take that live as soon as it happens.

All right, other news we're talking about this morning. The lawyer for the G.I. accused of gunning down Afghan civilians is reportedly planning to argue diminished capacity.

U.S. Army staff sergeant, Robert Bales, has now spent hours face- to-face with his legal team at the military brig where he's being held in Kansas. His lead attorney is John Henry Browne and John Henry Browne told reporters that Bales doesn't remember the rampage and was not drunk at the time as a senior military official has suggested.

Brown says Bales is, quote, "in shock." He's yet to be formally charged. We're following that story for you as well.

And just minutes ago in Washington, Republicans who run the House budget committee unveiled their tax and spending plan for fiscal 2013.

On the tax side, they want to cut the number of income tax brackets from six to two. That top bracket would be 25 percent. The bottom 10 percent and the dreaded alternative minimum tax would just go away altogether.

Now, as for the spending, the House GOP wants cuts that go deeper than the debt reduction plan both parties agreed to last summer.

And unless the polls are really wrong and that's not impossible, Mitt Romney should pad his delegate lead today in the Illinois primary. The polls aren't the only numbers tilting against Rick Santorum. Romney and the pro-Romney Super PAC have outspent him in Illinois 7-to-1.

The "Land of Lincoln" has 54 delegates to offer and we're going to talk more about this contest and the state of the race in "Fair Game" just a little bit later this in hour.

And some good news on the campaign front for President Obama. A new poll shows he's got a pretty comfortable lead in a key battleground state. The Quinnipiac University poll shows the president with at least an eight-point lead over Republican contenders in Virginia.

He's up eight over Mitt Romney and nine over Rick Santorum. Now, the president won Virginia by six points in 200,8 becoming the first Democrat, by the way, to carry that state since Lyndon Johnson did in 1964.

And on the ninth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, the war is technically over, but peace seems a long, long way away. That point was made across the country today with a series of car bombings that killed more than 40 people.

No one has claimed responsibility, but targets include police, the military, government buildings, even a school. And the government blames al Qaeda. Iraq is due to host the next Arab League summit just nine days from now.

And there's a major hearing going on right now on Capitol Hill on the war in Afghanistan. Marine General John Allen is testifying. He's in charge of international ground forces in Afghanistan.

And Allen tells the House armed services committee that the mission is making progress despite recent events like the Koran burning and the shooting of Afghan civilians. He also says no decision has been made on how many troops will need to stay in Afghanistan through 2013.

And for the first time ever France is at its highest threat level and it's because of that deadly attack yesterday at a Jewish school in southern France. Authorities now say that attack may have been carried out by neo-Nazis.

The gun used in yesterday's shooting has been traced to two other attacks against minorities in the same region of France. The three children and one teacher killed in yesterday's attack will be flown to Israel for burial. There was a moment of silence today to remember all the victims.

Well, he says he doesn't remember the murders. At least that's what the attorney for the U.S. soldier accused of a killing rampage says.

So, what does staff sergeant Robert Bales remember about that night? We're learning new information today.

And a reminder -- we're standing by for that news conference with Trayvon Smith's father, Tracy, and their family attorney. That's coming up any minute now. We'll bring it to you live when it happens.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Well, he says he doesn't remember anything about the murders. The American soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians talks to his lawyer, giving his side of the story now.

John Henry Browne met with Staff Sergeant Robert Bales for more than seven hours at the U.S. military prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Browne says Bales remembers very little about the rampage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HENRY BROWNE, STAFF SERGEANT BALES' ATTORNEY: He has an early memory of that evening and he has a later memory of that evening, but he doesn't have memory of in-between.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bales told you he was not drinking that night?

BROWNE: Well, he said he had a couple sips of something, but he didn't even have a full drink.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he was not drunk?

BROWNE: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Bales' wife calls the shootings a heartbreaking tragedy. Karilyn Bales says, quote, "the victims and their families are all in my prayers, as is my husband who I love very much."

She goes on to say, what has been reported is completely out of character of the man I know and admire.

Ted Rowlands is at Ft. Leavenworth with more on the case for us. Anything new from attorney Browne today?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, we do know talking to the public affairs office here at Ft. Leavenworth that the plan was for the defense team to meet with Bales during the day today.

We also do know that attorney Browne will be heading back to Seattle later this afternoon, presumably that meeting is still going on at this hour.

PHILLIPS: All right. And, Ted, talk to me more about -- we're learning new information about Bales. As you know, within the past week, we learned about the fact that he's a father, has had financial issues, you know, had a brain injury in the past.

Now, we're learning that he was involved or fined for more than $1 million in a fraud case more than a decade ago when he worked as some type of financial planner. What are you learning about this? ROWLANDS: There wasn't a conviction in this case, but it's very interesting. This is before he joined the military. He was in Ohio and he, along with his financial group. was accused of basically bilking an elderly couple out of more than $1 million.

There was a judgment against this group, including Bales, for $1.5 million. That money, according to the couple, was never paid back. There was an arbitration done and in that arbitration the summary came out that said that Bales specifically did engage in fraudulent behavior, another side of Bales.

We've also heard that he was not only a war hero, but a great person. So, we're getting two different sides of this individual. Trying to piece together how on earth something like what happened in Afghanistan could happen.

PHILLIPS: Any idea on when Bales might be charged, Ted?

ROWLANDS: We don't know. The military, of course, if you think about it, it's an exhaustive investigation taking place in Afghanistan. You have 16 separate murders. You really have to analyze and get the information on and they're interviewing witnesses there.

There have been conflicting stories from witnesses on the ground that have talked to CNN in Afghanistan. So, that's the stage here in right now, that investigation.

Presumably we're expecting charges to come out within days or within the week when you consider it was eight-days-ago-plus now that this rampage took place.

PHILLIPS: Ted Rowlands, thanks so much.

Well, the outrage over the killing of a Florida teen has turned to action. Federal prosecutors and the FBI both investigating the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, as protesters and Trayvon's family say he was targeted because of his race.

Plus, we're learning new information about a phone conversation Trayvon had the moment he was shot. We're waiting on a news conference by the attorney for Trayvon's family. We'll bring that to you as soon as it happens.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: We've got more developments now in that shooting death of a Florida teen at the hands of a neighborhood block watch captain.

The Seminole County grand jury will get the case April 10th we've now learned, which will be about a month and a half after Trayvon Martin was gunned down while walking to his father's fiancee's townhouse just north of Orlando.

Now, George Zimmerman thought Trayvon looked suspicious. He called police, and then he followed the teen in his SUV. Trayvon was carrying Skittles and a can of tea. Zimmerman had a semiautomatic handgun.

Soon, there was a confrontation and Zimmerman says he feared for his life. Police say right now there's no proof to the contrary, so Zimmerman was never arrested or charged.

But now we know that a 16-year-old girl was actually on a cell phone with Trayvon right at that moment. Take a listen to this sound from ABC News.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trayvon said what are you following me for? Then the man said, what you doing around here? Then somebody pushed Trayvon because the headset just fell.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Well, that girl has given Trayvon's family's lawyers a sworn affidavit, and they're briefing reporters right now.

In the meantime, the feds are getting involved also. The FBI is investigating and the Justice Department has opened up a civil rights case.

Let's bring in civil rights attorney, Judith Browne-Dianis, and also CNN contributor, Sunny Hostin.

Judith, let's go ahead and start with you. What does it mean when the feds step into a case like this? Immediately, we're talking civil rights, right?

JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Right. That's right. This is an important move because now the Department of Justice can investigate what many of us believe to have happened, which is, if you looked at this case and if the shooter were an African-American man in his neighborhood who shot a young white boy the age of 17, we think that the outcome would be different.

And, so, the civil rights division will go in and look at whether or not race played a part in this, and then also they will be adding more resources to it and there are concerns about how the police have handled this case.

So, having a neutral party come in will be important.

PHILLIPS: OK. While I have you, and, Sunny, I'm going to get to you in just a moment, but we've got this letter, this two-page letter, that came from the father of George Zimmerman, and I just want to read a part of this and get, first of all, Judith, you to respond to this.

In part his dad writes, "the portrayal of George Zimmerman in the media, as well as the series of events that led to this tragic shooting are false and extremely misleading. George is a Spanish- speaking minority with many black family members and friends. He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever. "Our entire family is deeply sorry for the loss of Trayvon. We pray for the Martin family daily. We also pray that the community will grieve together and not be divided by more unwarranted hate."

What do you think, Judith, about this letter that Robert Zimmerman wrote?

HOSTIN: Well, I mean, there are serious concerns about this particular case on the basis of race because actually it was reported that George Zimmerman had made several calls to the police on other occasions, and on all occasions in which he said there was someone who was suspicious, that person was an African-American male.

And, so, there's real concern about whether or not ...

PHILLIPS: Do we know that for sure? Do we know that for sure?

HOSTIN: Yes, actually --

PHILLIPS: Every single 911 call?

PHILLIPS: It was reported. the ones where he called the persons "suspicious," it was reported in "The Orlando Sentinel" that, in fact, those people were African-American.

And, so, there are real concerns about the fact that just because you are a young black male and suspicious and walking down a street, does not mean that you should be gunned down and it's really of concern because the state and the local prosecutor should have stepped in very early on because this is not a case of self-defense.

Self-defense ended when that man got out of the car and followed this young man down the street and then struggled with him and killed him.

PHILLIPS: All right. Sunny, you're an attorney, so I'm going to have you weigh in here and I want to point out, too, that CNN has not confirmed the fact that there were -- there's been a lot of numbers thrown out there about how many times Zimmerman has called 911.

We have not confirmed those numbers nor have we confirmed if all those 911 calls were about African-American females, males. Just want to make that clear.

So, Sunny, you just heard Judith, what she had to say. Speak to me here as an attorney and the fact that we now have this cell phone call between this lady friend and Trayvon saying that she was on the phone with Trayvon at the moment that this happened and, from what she heard, from what she described, there was not a confrontation on Trayvon's behalf.

HOSTIN: Yes. I mean, I think the call is extremely important evidence because the police have come forward and have indicated they had no evidence to dispute this self-defense claim.

And we have to make it clear, Kyra, that the law in Florida -- this "stand your ground" law is really what is at work here. This law -- I believe there are about 17 states that have this law --but but- for that law there probably would have been an arrest here.

So, the defense, the self-defense claim, is extremely important.

So, now you have a phone call. You have a girl that is saying that Zimmerman was, in fact, a pursuer, a first aggressor, and that's an exception to the "stand your ground" law. You can't claim self- defense if you are the first aggressor.

Even if you start a fight and you lose the fight, you can't then pull out a gun and shoot someone.

So, I think the call in and of itself is extremely important to dispel that self-defense claim.

Let me also say this. I just spoke once again to one of the Martin family attorneys and she feels that the push to now send this in front of the grand jury is a direct result of the release of that affidavit, that affidavit from the girl.

So, that phone call, that evidence, is that important, that the state's attorneys office may feel that is why they can get an indictment now.

PHILLIPS: Judith, I think you wanted to weigh in on the "stand your ground" issue. Issue or nonissue for you?

BROWNE-DIANIS: It should not have been an issue here because, in fact, the 911 call that Zimmerman made early should have shown this was not a "stand your ground" kind of case because, in fact, he actually was told to stay in the car, and he did not and he said that the young man was running. That's what he said on the 911 call.

And, at that point, that meant that he was pursuing him. So, "stand your ground" should not have been a problem for the local prosecutors to look at this case.

And, at the end of the day, we really all need to be asking ourselves, what if it were your son? What if it were my son? How would I want the prosecutors to act in that case when my child is walking down the street with Skittles and an ice tea and doing nothing other than walking home?

PHILLIPS: Now that the FBI and the Justice Department are both involved here, we're going to see an investigation not only into George Zimmerman's actions, but also the police department.

How is that going to unfold, Judith?

BROWNE-DIANIS: Yes. I think what will happen is they'll do a thorough investigation and part of that investigation we hope will be looking at whether or not the police handled the case properly.

And, you know, that could lead to obstruction of justice charges because there have been concerns from people, witnesses, et cetera, that they were not asked all of the appropriate questions nor were they given an opportunity to really answer the questions.

And, so, they'll look at that, but, I mean, their main focus right now will be on whether or not they can charge George Zimmerman for a hate crime, for killing someone on the basis of race.

PHILLIPS: Sunny, we did get a chance to talk to the Sanford police chief. It's a bit old. Maybe I can get an exact date on that, but let's go ahead and take a listen because he points out the issue of no-probable-cause. It took place on March 12th. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF BILL LEE, SANFORD, FLORIDA, POLICE DEPARTMENT: In this case Mr. Zimmerman has made the statement of self-defense. Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don't have the grounds to arrest him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Sunny?

HOSTIN: Yes, and that's to my point that, but for the "stand your ground" law in Florida, which I think is probably one of the most robust "stand your ground" laws in our country, I believe there would have been an arrest here.

So, you hear the police chief say that under Florida's law they believe once someone has invoked that stand your ground law, that self-defense claim, they need evidence to dispute it.

Well, there is evidence to dispute it now, in particular the phone call because many people were saying, well, yes, maybe he got out of the car and maybe he pursued him, but we don't know what happened when the two met.

Perhaps Trayvon took the first swing. Perhaps Trayvon tackled Zimmerman. Now, we have some evidence that that is not the case. We have a witness, an ear witness, that is saying that's not what I heard on the call.

And the family attorneys believe that is why now on April 10th the Florida grand jury will be reviewing this case.

PHILLIPS: Sunny, Judith, please stay with me. We're going to take a quick break. We'll talk more about the death of Trayvon Martin and the news conference we are waiting for any minute now.

We're going to take it live when it happens. Please stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: And if you're just tuning in, we are waiting for a live news conference now. We are talking about the death of 17-year- old Trayvon Martin. If you haven't been following this story, he's the 17-year-old black teen who was walking to his father's fiancee's house. The other man that you see there on the screen is George Zimmerman. He's the neighborhood watch captain that shot Trayvon, claiming self-defense. But as we are learning, with new evidence, that is now being questioned.

Civil rights attorney, Judith Browne-Dianis, is with us, also CNN contributor, Sunny Hostin.

So now we have, as we were talking earlier, ladies, a number of investigations going on here. We have the state investigation. We have the federal investigation.

Sunny, will these two, more than likely, work in tandem versus one taking the lead, the other standing by?

HOSTIN: You know, having been a prosecutor at the Justice Department, and I have worked with, of course, state law enforcement agencies, and typically the federal government does want the state to take the lead on certain investigations and for the process to continue along that path. So typically, you do work in tandem. You don't want, as a federal prosecutor, to take over a state investigation absent something very egregious, absent, you know, some sort of impropriety. And perhaps that's being alleged here. I don't have any information about that. So I suspect that it will be working -- they will be working in tandem rather than the federal government taking over this investigation.

PHILLIPS: So, Judith, at what point could we hear from George Zimmerman? He has said this was self-defense, I had every right to do what I need to do to protect myself. We don't know where he is. We haven't heard from him. At what point could we -- will we hear from him?

BROWNE-DIANIS: I would suspect that we are not going to hear from him anytime soon as this investigation goes on. I'm sure he will have counsel, if he doesn't already, and he will not be speaking to media or to anyone else, to the grand jury.

But until the charges are dropped and he's -- you know, if the charges are dropped and he's cleared, I don't expect, you know, that he will say anything because he may have a trial in front of him. And at that point, we will see what his lawyers decide will be the case. I mean, this really will be his word. At some point, he is going to have to be the one to defend himself because he's the only one that was there live, with the exception of -- now we know that his friend that was on the phone, that Trayvon's friend is a witness. So I don't think we'll hear from him anytime soon.

PHILLIPS: And, Sunny, he hasn't been charged. Is this the situation where he just sort of stays in a safe place, in a private place until these investigations continue? At what point would he need to come forward and testify?

HOSTIN: Well, I think Judith is right. He doesn't have to testify in the grand jury unless he's advised by his attorneys to do that. You can't be forced to be a witness against yourself. That's a constitutional protection. But if the grand jury does move to indict -- and many people are saying that the push for the indictment has been the call that we now know -- the call between Trayvon Martin and his friend, at that moment, he would have to surrender himself. He would have to come in and face the charges.

Let me say this. the other thing is, you know, in Florida, he has the right to a speedy trial, and so they don't -- it's already been over a month or approximately a month, and so this process needs to move forward because after about 180 days, 170 days, the government won't have the opportunity to try this case.

PHILLIPS: So let me ask you, because I'm looking at the way -- we've talked about how the community has responded to this.

And, Judith, maybe you can weigh in. There's this international petition now. There's been all these celebrity tweets that, of course, is contributing to the public outrage here, Director Spike Lee, musician, Wyclef Jean. There's this petition now on change.org, this social action web site, calling for the arrest of George Zimmerman. How is this public -- because we know it's not going to let up anytime soon? How is the public pressure here going to impact how quickly these investigations move? Is it because of this -- of the public outrage that we are seeing the Justice Department now get involved, Judith?

BROWNE-DIANIS: Well, yes. I actually think that the Justice Department probably did respond to the concerns. I know that the Congressional Black Caucus met with Attorney General Holder. But, you know, they were hearing a ground swell of concern about the fact that this might have been racially motivated. That does not mean, of course, that that would press them into finding that it was racially motivated, but it did prompt them to weigh in. I don't think that it's going to impact the local authorities or the investigation for that matter. They're going to take their time. Hopefully, as it's explained, not too much time, but they're going to do a thorough investigation, and we'll see where things --

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIPS: Judith, let me point out though, this is really tough though. I mean, it is really tough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted with specific intent, right? I mean, these are really tough cases to prove, that he went after this young man because he's black.

BROWNE-DIANIS: Right. I mean, it is --

HOSTIN: Sure.

BROWNE-DIANIS: Sorry.

PHILLIPS: No, you can both weigh in. Judith, go ahead.

Sunny, please, I'll have you weigh in after Judith.

BROWNE-DIANIS: No, I do think it is difficult. Intent is always difficult to prove. But, you know, the thing is that you look at the circumstances, and so the 911 tapes will be involved, the call to the girlfriend will be involved. And so intent is often proved by circumstantial evidence. You know, it's never or very rarely the smoking gun is used, but this really is a case that will be based on circumstantial evidence. And so I think they'll be taking into account all of the things around, including the 911 calls where Trayvon is screaming for help. That is really an important factor in this case.

PHILLIPS: Sunny, is it going to be tough to, you know, take it to a civil rights level?

HOSTIN: Well, certainly, I agree with Judith that it's difficult to prove intent in any case for a prosecutor because you've got to prove what was in someone's head. But you can prove it by circumstantial evidence. And let's face it, in New Jersey, the case against Dharun Ravi, that was tried and prosecuted successfully as a hate crime case. And many people would say that was not your traditional hate crime case. So prosecutors try these cases all around our country every day and they are successful. And so while difficult, it's just not impossible.

PHILLIPS: Go ahead, Judith.

BROWNE-DIANIS: Yes, and I think from a standpoint of a hate crime, you know, we have had in this country hate crimes that have been the blatant ones, so the lynchings, the murder of James Byrd, who was dragged at the back of a car.

But this is a really important case because this case raises this question of whether or not suspicion, merely because you are a young black male, is a real hate crime. At the heart of that question is that is it illegal to be young and black? Is it suspicious to be young and black? And then to be killed for that reason, if that is what happened, this is really important to people of color, to young men of color, to really have this day where it is, across the country, we get an understanding that we cannot murder, kill, arrest people merely because they are young, male, and of color.

PHILLIPS: And you heard from the letter that I read to you, Judith, George Zimmerman -- or Robert Zimmerman saying about his son, George Zimmerman, he's a Spanish-speaking minority with many black family members and friends. He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever. The fact that he is a minority --

BROWNE-DIANIS: That's right.

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIPS: We're not talking about, you know, a white male here --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNE-DIANIS: But it's important to understand that there was a lot -- there was clearly some stereotyping going on. His call to 911 said that this young man looked suspicious, that he might have been -- he might be on drugs, that there's something wrong with him. Yet he was walking down the street with a bottle of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. So clearly his antennas were up merely because this was a young black male. And so, you know, we don't know what was in this man's heart, but we do know that the circumstantial evidence of what happened -- and I think we will find out more about his other calls to 911 on other occasions, and it will be pieced together, and we will see whether or not race really was involved.

PHILLIPS: Go ahead, Sunny.

HOSTIN: And I want to say, yes, we know now that he made these statements on the 911 call, but I think one of the larger issues here, again, is the Stand Your Ground law in Florida and other states. And perhaps this now shines the light on those laws because I think it's really incredible that, in our society, you can have someone feeling subjectively threatened and that person able to use deadly force.

And so perhaps it's sort of a referendum on the Stand Your Ground laws. And I think that's something we need to look at more closely. This law was passed in 2005 in Florida. It's the most robust and one of the broadest Stand Your Ground laws in our country. And I think we need to look at that as well. Why is it OK for someone to use deadly force against anyone on the streets of Florida? So that's one of the larger issues that I hope we continue to take a look at.

PHILLIPS: You bring up an interesting point, that it wasn't 30 years ago that the Stand Your Ground law was passed. It was not too long ago. Maybe we can talk about -- more about that law, why it was passed.

Ladies, if you don't mind, we're going to take a quick break. Let's think about that. We'll come back and talk about it as we wait for this news conference to happen.

If you're just tuning in, stay with us. The Justice Department, the FBI now involved in ongoing investigations regarding the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. We are waiting for the family attorney to step up to the mic, Benjamin Crump. When he does, we'll take it live. Stay with us.

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PHILLIPS: The question is, did George Zimmerman act in self- defense when he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin when he was walking to his father's fiancee's house in a gated community? The Justice Department, the FBI now involved in this case. And we are waiting for a live news conference. Benjamin crump, the family attorney for the Martin family, is going to be stepping up to the mics, talking to us.

In the meantime, while we are waiting for that, we have been talking to civil rights attorney, Judith Browne-Dianis, and CNN contributor, Sunny Hostin.

It looks like he's at the mic. Let's take it live. (BEGIN LIVE SPEECH)

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF TRAYVON MARTIN: -- Trayvon Martin. First, I want to publicly thank attorney, Garrett Farmer, and his law firm Farmer, Yaffey (ph) and Wiseman, for allowing us to have this meeting here today to share with you this information involving this -- what is the far too long for the family journey for justice.

I come here today on behalf of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. Sybrina is emotionally and physically exhausted. She's cried out. She's been doing as many interviews as she can. She's gotten all of your requests. Right now, she's just exhausted, so I pray that you all understand that she wants to get information out to you, to get justice for her son, but at this point, she needs rest and prayers.

Also, Mr. Martin is trying to accommodate you the best as he can. He's trying to continue to work and try to maintain his job while he continues to grieve and also while he struggles for justice to hold the person, who killed his son, accountable.

We took another step in this -- what has been a daily journey for the past three and a half weeks. Mr. Martin, on Sunday evening, was working with his cell phone account, trying to figure out Trayvon's password. And he looked on it, and he saw who the last person was that Trayvon Martin talked to while he was alive.

He called me late Sunday night and told me that he had called the young lady, and he told me, and I was just utterly shocked when he told me the time that they talked. They had talked all that day, about 400 minutes, starting that morning to the afternoon. Like many teenagers do, they talked on the phones. And all his family and friends knew Trayvon would have his ear plugs in his ear and he would have his phone on the side of his pocket. It was no different that day. His father and mother talked about, a lot of times, they would wake up and he'll be on the phone talking to his friends.

Well, what George Zimmerman said to the police about him being suspicious and up to no good is completely contradicted by this phone log, showing, all day, he was just talking to his friends. And in fact, he was talking to this young lady when he went to the 7-11 and when he came back from the 7-11. I'm going to get into that in detail because her testimony, her testimony that is shown on these phone logs, connects the dots. Completely connects the dots of this whole thing.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's really important to note, and you can follow along because we now have the 911 calls. And we have Zimmerman's call to the phone, the police dispatcher. And you can follow audio, every account now. Never, in any account, other than George Zimmerman, this neighborhood association loose cannon, does anybody say that Trayvon Martin was up to no good, that he seemed high or anything and in fact. This young lady details it completely, the tone of the conversation and the nature of the conversation, and what was happening the last minutes of his life. I will ask you -- her parents does (ph) not in any way want to reveal her identity. She is a minor. Her parents are very worried about her. She is traumatized over this. This was her really, really close personal friend. They were dating. And so it's a situation where to know that you were the last person to talk to the young man who you thought was one of the most special people in the world to you, and know that he got killed moments after he was talking to you, is just riveting to this young lady.

In fact, she couldn't even go to his wake she was so sick. Her mother had to take her to the hospital. She spent the night in the hospital. She is traumatized beyond anything you could imagine. And we all were teenagers, so we can imagine how that is when you think somebody's really special, and you call it puppy love or whatever you want to call it. Then suddenly and tragically, this is taken away and you have, unfortunately, a first-hand account of it. So I will ask you again on behalf of the family and on behalf of the young lady's family if you would please respect their privacy. She is a minor.

Now, details. That day Trayvon Martin, 17 years old, three weeks, weighed about 140 to 150 pounds soaking wet, as his mother says, and that's with his shoes on, leaves to go to the store to get some snacks before the NBA all-star game is about to start. His little step-brother asked for him to bring some Skittles back and something to drink.

He is talking to the young lady, as he walks to the store. The phone records show -- you get copies of these phone records, they will show you the times the calls were made and how long he was on the phone. And it is without any doubt that he's on the phone the entire time during the day. especially when he is going to that store and coming back.

You will see that he goes to the store talking to her. And then when he comes back he's talking to her. This is what she relays. And I'll share with you some of the audio. We're going to turn this over to the Department of Justice and their investigation because the family does not trust the Sanford Police Department in anything to do with the investigation.

She relays how he went to the store. When he came out from the store, he said it was starting to rain, he was going to try to make it home before it rained. Then he tells her it starts raining hard. He runs into the apartment complex and runs to the first building he sees to try to get out of the rain. He was trying to get shelter. So he tries to get out of the rain.

And unbeknownst to him, he is being watched. He is a kid trying to get home from the store and get out of the rain. That's it. Nothing else. So, he stands under that apartment building for a few minutes, the rain kind of dies down. He then goes, and he has his hoodie on because it's raining and he goes back to walking. And he goes back to talking to her again. You'll see the phone calls when it came in at 6:54. He then says, I think this dude is following me. And she talks about how he kind of slows down and he's trying to look in the car like, I think this dude is following me. And she tells him, baby, be careful, just run home. She tells him that.

And you remember from the 911 tape, Zimmerman tells the police, oh, he's coming at me, he's looking at me, he's checking me out. He had no idea who this man was who was following him. So he starts to run and then what do we know from Zimmerman's 911 call that you heard the recording, Zimmerman gets out of his car and pursues him.

How do we know? One thing the dispatcher says, are you chasing him, and he says yes, and we hear him breathing hard. And they said we don't need you to do that. And Zimmerman says OK. But as the dispatcher asks Zimmerman where can we -- where will you be, where will you be in the truck, you remember his answer. He says just call me on my cell phone. He had no intention of getting back in his truck, doing what the police instructed him to do. He kept pursuing Trayvon Martin.

How do we know? Because this young lady connects the dots. She connects the dots. She completely blows Zimmerman's absurd defense claim out of the water. She says that Trayvon says he's going to try to lose him. He's running trying to lose him. He tells her, I think I lost him. So, he's walking and then she says that he says very simply, oh, he's right behind me. He's right behind me again.

And so she says "run." He says, I'm not going to run. I'm going to walk fast. At that point, she says Trayvon -- she hears Trayvon say, why are you following me. She hears the other boy say, what are you doing around here. And again, Trayvon says, why are you following me. And that's when she says again he said, what are you doing around here. Trayvon is pushed. The reason she concludes, because his voice changes like something interrupted his speech. Then the other thing, she believes the earplug fell out of his ear. She can hear faint noises but no longer has the contact. She hears an altercation going and she says, then suddenly, somebody must have hit the phone and it went out because that's the last she hears.

What's significant about that? You remember Zimmerman -- he got off the phone. Trayvon Martin never got off the phone. It's only the phone knocks off. And you hear that 911 tape that he tells the dispatcher, he gets off the phone. Are you aware, you're concern, why get off the 911 call? Logically, it makes sense that Trayvon Martin was the voice you heard crying on that tape. You heard Zimmerman's voice at the beginning of that tape and you hear who's crying on that tape. You can conclude, who is the person screaming out for help, presumably when they see a gun. And we know Trayvon Martin has Skittles. He was a 17-year-old kid, 145 pounds approximately. George Zimmerman a man over 200 pounds, 28 years old, with a 9 millimeter gun.

Now it gets really telling here. We have his phone records. And it really shows the number of his calls. And it's a situation. And this is what all America wants to know. We pretty much have documentation completely on this case leading up to everything Zimmerman did. And we know based on the police report some time frames. It is a situation these phone records clearly show that the last call that came in to Trayvon Martin's phone was made at 7:12 p.m. by his young friend who he had talked to all day and pretty much all week long.

A kid who is up to no good isn't on the phone constantly calling his friends back. Somebody who is looking to break in somewhere isn't on the phone talking to their friend when she's in Miami. That isn't what happens if he's up to no good. She says he is his regular self, all this stuff about him being high and stuff is preposterous. It's what Zimmerman wants you to believe so he can justify killing this kid in cold blood.

Trayvon Martin's mother and dad and all of his teachers, they have given the information about what kind of person Trayvon Martin was. And in this phone record as we said, it's 7:12, makes the last call. That call lasted for four minutes. Four minutes.

Now, what's very telling, very, very telling, is the fact that the Sanford Police Department documents that they arrived on the scene at 7:17, less than five minutes after she makes that phone call. And what that tells us is that there wasn't much time at all during this altercation. And she was on the phone for four of those minutes.

So, this claim that Trayvon Martin was the aggressor is preposterous. And it cannot be allowed to stand because we have all the evidence now. We have three independent witnesses who say in their backyard -- and they came forward, they don't know the Martin family at all, they don't have a dog in this fight. They are just good people telling what they observed. What they heard.

And what they heard was it was the kid Trayvon Martin, screaming out for help on that 911 call. And also, you hear the 911 call, and the 911 call concludes real clear, the voices and voice experts and sound experts are running that tape and they are finding the evidence as to the voice that was on that tape crying out for help. And it breaks Sabrina Fulton's heart, it breaks Tracy Martin's heart that their son was crying out for help and that he was still shot.

Now, you go back and listen to George Zimmerman's 911 call, I request, I implore and I beg you on behalf of Sabrina Martin and Tracy Martin, I implore you to listen to him, listen how he's talking, how his words slur and you scratch your head and ask yourself, why didn't the Sanford Police Department do a drug and alcohol analysis on him? They did one on Trayvon Martin who was dead on the ground. Why didn't they do it on George Zimmerman?

You ask yourself why didn't they take a background check on the man who had just killed this kid in cold blood. They did a background check on Trayvon Martin. The young dead black boy on the ground. Why didn't they do one on George Zimmerman?

This is what America is crying out for. They have looked at the information and they don't understand like his momma and his father don't understand why the killer of their child has not been arrested. How long is it going to take? March 26th will be one month.

What's equally telling is that the Sanford Police Department has this police report that documents the times. We know the lengths of times between Zimmerman's 911 call and the call from the young lady at 7:12 p.m., we know, we have a lot of people, seven people call and you hear noise in the background. The dots have all been connected.

Arrest George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin in cold blood today. Arrest this killer. He killed this child in cold blood. Right now, he is free as a jay bird, he's allowed to go and come as he please while Trayvon Martin is in a grave.

I will try to ask -- well, before I do that, we're giving this to the Justice Department. We're going to --

(END LIVE FEED)