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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Trayvon Martin Killing
Aired March 24, 2012 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon.
Welcome to a special edition of the CNN NEWSROOM.
He was just 17, his whole life ahead of him. But a gunshot ended everything in a blink.
We're spending the next hour covering the story that's on so many minds right now, the killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.
We are bringing people with unique perspectives on this case. Attorney Holly Hughes is here for legal analysis. Alex Manning is an instructor who trains neighborhood watch volunteers, much like George Zimmerman, the man who admits shooting Martin. Our George Howell is in Sanford, Florida, covering the latest on the investigation.
And make sure you tweet your thoughts, your comments and questions during this hour to #CNNTrayvon. We'll have some of them on the air. You're included on this coverage as well. So, thank you so much for joining us.
So many across the country are furious over Trayvon Martin's death, but at what point does the outrage tip over into vigilante justice?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: We want justice! Wee want justice! We want justice! We want justice!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: In a new twist, members of the New Black Panther Party are offering a $10,000 bounty for the capture of Martin's shooter, George Zimmerman. But Zimmerman is not evading police. So far, they haven't arrested or charged him.
A national spokesman for the Panthers denies that this is a call to violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HASHIM NZINGA, NEW BLACK PANTHER PARTY (via telephone): George Zimmerman should have followed the police instructions and stayed in his car and he shouldn't have took Trayvon's life.
LEMON: Are you inciting -- do you feel that you're inciting violence by doing this and that may be a possibility from your actions?
NZINGA: No, we're not inciting violence. We're doing what American citizens have been doing for many, many years. We're doing a citizen's arrest. And we --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, Zimmerman claims he was acting in self-defense. His attorney is cautioning the public that all the facts aren't in yet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG SONNER, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: I hope there's a way to rein things in so it doesn't become an issue of a racial battle. I hope that things can back so that there can be a time for justice and for healing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Meanwhile, police arrested a man who allegedly threatened to harm Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, the man who was leading the investigation until recently. Lee stepped down temporarily on Thursday after he was heavily criticized for his handling of the case.
The public anger over the shooting is palpable. In New York, the Reverend Al Sharpton led one of many rallies around the nation, demanding justice.
This case has struck a nerve nationwide for a lot of complex reasons. And it came close to being completely overlooked. Here's how the Trayvon Martin story unfolded.
LEMON (voice-over): His death at first unnoticed by the national press, until outrage stirs social media, creating America's newest power to the people movement -- justice for Trayvon.
CROWD: What do we want? Justice!
LEMON: And it's not just the people it's stirring.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.
LEMON: Why wouldn't anyone feel for a family who loses a child? In this case, an unarmed 17-year-old walking home at night from picking up candy from a convenience store -- until this man, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman, saw Trayvon, thinks the teen looks suspicious, confronts him and shoots him dead.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's drugs or something.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LEMON: Zimmerman claims self-defense. Not so say the people who heard the confrontation, the screams, gunfire, deafening silence.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DISPATCHER: So you think he's yelling "help"?
DISPATCHER: All right. What is you --
CALLER: There's gunshots.
CALLER: Yes, the person is dead lying on the grass.
DISPATCHER: Just because he's laying on the grass.
CALLER: Oh my God.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard the crying of the little boy. As soon as the gun went off, the crying stopped. Therefore, it tells me it was not Zimmerman crying.
LEMON: Police take Zimmerman at his word and say there's no evidence to prove him wrong. Leaving Trayvon Martin's parents to wonder why Zimmerman isn't being held accountable for the murder of their son.
SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER: And I don't understand why this man has not been arrested, at least charged and let a judge and jury decide if he's guilty.
LEMON: And if not for the Internet, the Martins might still feel alone in their mission for justice. An online petition to prosecute Zimmerman has a million signatures so far and counting. And offline, black journalists and media figures give the story a national voice.
GOLDIE TAYLOR, MANAGING EDITOR, THE GOLDIE TAYLOR PROJECT: George Zimmerman told police that it was his voice on the 911 tapes screaming. But I'm a mother. I know the sound of my own son's cries. Mrs. Martin says it was Trayvon screaming and begging for his life.
LEMON: Soon, anger evolves into action. Thousands march across the country. Their outrage is heard by the Florida attorney general, the FBI, and the Justice Department. The police chief steps aside, and the president speaks.
OBAMA: If we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.
(END VIDEOTAPE) LEMON: This story speaks to people in so many towns across America. We told you about the New York rally -- well, the scene was the same in our nation's capital, signs capturing the fear that this could have happened to any black teen in any town. And many protesters wearing hoodies, which have become a symbol of this tragedy.
The passion driving these protests shows no sign of fading.
More is scheduled in the coming days in cities like Atlanta and Baltimore.
WTKR's Eric Levy has more on today's demonstration in Norfolk, Virginia.
ERIC LEVY, WTKR: A tan hoodie with a bag of Skittles attached to it. That is what you're seeing here in Norfolk, Virginia. People are blasting their horns, chanting "no justice, no peace." It is all for Trayvon Martin.
What these people, this group of about 100 people at least, likely more, are dodging the raindrops today, trying to get the word out that they want the person who police say shot Trayvon Martin in jail. And they're also trying to gather as much support as they can. These are perfect strangers, but they're trying to support Trayvon Martin's family during the time that they are having to deal with.
So we have people holding up signs, chanting "no justice, no peace," and dodging the raindrops, all to show support for Trayvon Martin.
I'm Eric Levy, for CNN, Norfolk, Virginia.
LEMON: The admitted shooter of Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, is not under arrest, perhaps in part because of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. But what does that law say and does it really apply in this case? We're talking with legal and law enforcement experts.
And look at these women. They are the mothers of young black men, including one that you see right there, and both have given advice to their children that's far different from the advice parents of other races might give to their children. It's advice on how to keep from dying.
We're back in two minutes.
LEMON: Welcome back to our special edition of THE CNN NEWSROOM, "Killing of Trayvon Martin." We've been asking you to send your thoughts about this to Twitter with #CNNTrayvon.
Here are a few of your comments right now. From Martine Mendoza, "Today 2012, black parents teach their kids the same lessons slavery taught in the past centuries, how to survive, very sad America."
Another from @nurseTee, and it says, "How can Mr. Sooner say on national TV that he does not think race had anything to do with this?"
And Irma Becerra says, "Well, my son got stopped by police for nothing several times just because he is brown. We are Hispanic."
Your comments have been coming in. Again, it's #CNNTrayvon. We appreciate them and we may even answer some of your questions here on the air.
And far beyond the Twitter community, people are talking about the man who shot the Florida teen. Police have not arrested neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who says he acted in self-defense.
Criminal defense Holly Hughes is here. As well as Alex Manning she's a senior instructor at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center.
Thank you both very much.
First, I'm going to go to you, Holly, about the "Stand Your Ground" law. A person can use deadly force if that person is threatened.
But why doesn't this necessarily apply in this case?
HOLLY HUGHES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Because in this case, the shooter was the initial aggressor. He pursued Trayvon Martin after that young man walked away. He was doing nothing but walking down a street.
George Zimmerman is in his car when he sees him. He stops his car, gets out and goes after Trayvon.
You cannot be the initial aggressor. You can't go pick a fight for the purpose of beating somebody or shooting them or killing them.
So, that's not what happened here. If he was being attacked and Trayvon was coming after him, that would be a whole different story. But we know from the 911 tape, Don, that's not what happened. The police specifically told him, we don't need you to follow him.
LEMON: We're going to talk more about this case, but there are reports now from the attorney, Mr. Sonner, Craig Sonner, who spoke out and said, listen, this was, in fact, Trayvon was doing -- was the aggressor of my client. He's bloodied and all of that and was beaten. What do you make of those reports?
HUGHES: Well, I got to tell you, it makes my eyebrows raise, because we didn't hear those things initially. We're now hearing -- oh, he had a broken nose and he had a gash on the back of his head. Head wounds are bleeders, OK? If you punch somebody hard enough to break their nose, you are gushing blood all over the place. If you have a head wound in the back, you are gushing wound. So, when they showed in the scene, the police officers, there is a dead teenager on the ground who's unarmed. There's a man with a gun saying, "I shot him," and then he's gushing blood. If he said to the police officers right then and there, "He attacked me," they would have called an ambulance and they would have transported him. They don't want to let him walk off the scene because maybe they're facing a civil liability later on if something happens to him.
LEMON: Alex, let's talk about the training that neighborhood watch people, captains have to go through here.
ALEX MANNING, SR. INSTRUCTOR, STATE POLICE ACADEMY IN GEORGIA: OK. Neighborhood watches and the police academy are really set up to bridge the gap between citizens and police agencies to let agencies know what we can do for our citizens and citizens tell the police agencies what we need from you. It's to familiarize them with police procedures and things that police officers do on a day-to-day basis and also when they're investigating a crime.
When you set up a police academy, there's particularization that at the end of every day, no matter what topic you cover, the last thing you say is you are not a police officer. You do not have the powers of arrest, basically don't do this on your own. Call us.
LEMON: Which is essentially what the 911, the person on the other end of the 911 call said, "Are you following him?" He says, "Yes." "But we don't need you to do that." Is that correct?
MANNING: Exactly. If you see someone driving drunk on the road, get the tag number, the description of the car, tell them which direction you're going, and then back off. Your safety is important.
LEMON: Let the people who are licensed to do it handle it.
I want you -- speaking of the 911 call, I want you to listen to a clip sound. It's from George Zimmerman's 911 call. Many people at CNN have listened to this part of the 911 call, we've had the sound enhanced but there is no consensus on whether Zimmerman used a racial slur. It maybe offensive to some people, but we're going to play it. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have not listened to this portion of the 911 tape at all. I just want to hear it raw right now, if you can play maybe 10 seconds before it. And let's listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
ZIMMERMAN: Down towards the other entrance of the neighborhood.
DISPATCHER: OK. Which entrance is that that he's heading towards?
ZIMMERMAN: The back entrance.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: All right. Did we hear it? I didn't hear it.
HUGHES: I didn't hear it. But I got to tell you, my ears are bad.
LEMON: Hang on one second. Let's do it -- can we do it one more time, because I think we cut it of at the very end. Play it one more time, please.
BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: I have not listened to this portion of the 911 tape at all. I just want to hear it raw right now, if you can play maybe 10 seconds before it. And let's listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
ZIMMERMAN: Down towards the other entrance of the neighborhood.
DISPATCHER: OK. Which entrance is that that he's heading towards?
ZIMMERMAN: The back entrance. (INAUDIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. That was it at the very end. The sound has been enhanced, again. If you hear it, some people say he's saying F-ing goons, F-ing coons.
HUGHES: Yes. I mean, it is what it is. If that's what you think he said. It's offensive but it comes from him.
LEMON: Does that change it in any way what kind of case this makes it?
HUGHES: Well, of course it does. You know why, Don? Because here's the thing. Whenever you have a crime, we always want to know, what did the defendant do? Did he shoot this person? What was the act he committed?
When you attack somebody based solely on their race, religion, sexuality, that puts you in a whole different ball game. That is a hate crime. And at that point, we are asking a jury to get into the mind of the defendant, not just what did he do, but why did he do it? Because it is so much more insidious.
You know, you're in a bar fight, things get bad, you know, you punch somebody, that's one thing. But when you go out looking to victimize someone, simply based on the color of their skin --
HUGHES: That is a hate crime. We could see federal charges here if, in fact, the prosecutors agree that they heard the same thing you did on that tape. LEMON: Let's look at a copy, I mean, look at the Web site. I believe this is a Web site of the neighborhood watch and it says, this is not vigilante justice on the Web site, "Not the vigilante police, it's a neighborhood watch."
So, Alex, my question is: what kinds of force are citizen police supposed to use before -- when apprehending someone or when checking on someone, can they use a firearm?
MANNING: Well, citizens, whether they're citizens police or just a citizen period, should never use lethal force unless they are in immediate danger or they're protecting someone else from immediate danger. They're not held to the same standards as a police officer, which they used to teach the use of force continuum. And now, they've went to different case law that came out where you look at the totality of circumstances.
But he was not a police officer. He was a regular person who was asked to keep an eye on the neighborhood.
MANNING: And even -- a police officer is taught to meet force with the same amount but you go to the next step. If you're hitting me, I'm going to use my pepper spray or my ASP baton. I'm not going to shoot you because you're doing that.
But as a citizen, you need to do what it takes to get you safely away from that. He's never really authorized to use it, unless he's in immediate harm to protect himself. I don't really see that here.
LEMON: All right. Alex, Holly, stand by. Thank you very much.
Next, we'll go live to Sanford, Florida, to hear directly from members of the community under the national spotlight. They are watching and listening to this discussion and they're going to weigh in, in just two minutes.
LEMON: Welcome back to our special coverage, "Trayvon Martin Killing" here on CNN NEWSROOM. The Sanford, Florida community, well, it's in the national spotlight right now. Not a comfortable place to be in, in a story like this one.
We wanted to give people there a chance to share their thoughts about the Trayvon Martin case, in their own words, as a matter fact.
And George Howell is standing by with people who live and work in Sanford.
George, what are they saying to you?
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, what happened here in Sanford touched a nerve in this community, obviously, in the country and around the world. And right now, we have a group of people here -- just a show of hands of how many people were at the rally a few days ago.
So, the majority of people.
And we were talking a few minutes ago, just watching the show, we were all watching the show, Don, talking about the issues that really stood out.
And if you would tell me, first of all, your name again, please?
JOSEPH LIAS, SANFORD, FLORIDA RESIDENT: My name is Joseph Lias.
HOWELL: Joseph. And tell me, we were talking -- what stood out to you in the show as we were watching?
LIAS: I think that, you know, again, we need to make sure that we understand that the major issue is actually an investigation and an arrest. We -- I think everyone within the community feels that there's probable cause for that and I think that, you know, we need to maintain that focus.
HOWELL: So -- but the fact that George Zimmerman was not arrested, that's really the main point as well.
LIAS: That has touched off, you know, the movement, so to speak.
HOWELL: I see.
LIAS: And I think that that movement will continue until there is an arrest. And -- because we have to be careful about declaring open season on our children. You can't do that as a society.
HOWELL: Thank you.
And we were also speaking -- there was something in the show that really stuck with you. What was it? If you'd stand and say your name.
KENNETH BENTLEY, PRINCIPAL, HAMILTON ELMENTARY SCHOOL: Kenneth Bentley.
HOWELL: Thank you, Kenneth.
BENTLEY: The biggest thing that stayed with me was the solidarity with everybody. Everybody came out on one accord to fight one thing, and that was the arrest of Mr. Zimmerman. And also, Mr. Trayvon Martin is the big screen name on this case, but there's been several African-American boys in this community that have been murdered. And the residents feel that the police department has done nothing with the investigation.
He's the major attraction on this screen tonight, but it's been four or five other African-American men in Sanford that have been violently murdered and nobody has been arrested and nothing has been done. And so, people are under the impression that it's just status quo. It's just a black man, there'd be a cold case, and we won't talk about it next week. HOWELL: Now, the police chief and you all are aware that the police chief has stepped aside temporarily.
Just a show of hands, does that -- is that a good start? Does that make sense for people? A show of hands for people that agree.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There needs to be more.
HOWELL: No? Your thoughts, if you would, please?
LIAS: Yes. Well, frankly, I'm not sure what temporary means. I think that, you know, as we just heard, the issue goes a little deeper than just a single case. The issue, you know, any time you get more than one, you're really speaking of something that can be considered a pattern, right? And a pattern, in order to break a pattern, then I think you need to make some fundamental changes within the department, right? And the community expects that.
HOWELL: Thank you.
And we also reached out to someone who would speak for George Zimmerman but that person has not shown up at this point. But, again, a lot of reaction of what happened here in Sanford, Don.
LEMON: Can you ask, George, that group there, by show of hands, how many people think there is an issue with the Sanford Police Department? Is there a race issue in their estimation?
HOWELL: Don asked a question. He wants to know how many here in this group think there's a race issue with the Sanford Police Department? A show of hands of people who think that is the case.
Clearly, the police department taking steps. The police chief has stepped aside. What happens next is in the hands of the city manager at this point, as he waits, Don, to see what happens with this federal investigation of this case and the police department.
LEMON: George, was that a show of hands for everyone -- just about everyone there?
HOWELL: Indeed, it seemed to be.
Again, another show of hands, with this particular -
HOWELL: -- issue with the police department. If show us again, please?
LEMON: Yes, it seems to be everyone.
George, thank you very much.
HOWELL: One quick -- OK. LEMON: Thanks very much. We're going to get back to you. No worries, George. We're going to come back to you.
More with George in a little bit here on CNN. So, stand by.
Trayvon Martin's death is sparking outrage among Americans regardless of color, regardless of race, ethnicity. We're going to talk about that with anti-racism writer and activist Tim Wise.
And I want you to take a look at these women. They are moms of young black men. Why they believe they need to give their sons special advice so they don't end up dying young like Trayvon Martin.
LEMON: Is it citizen activism or just vigilante justice?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: We want justice! Wee want justice! We want justice! We want justice!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Members of the New Black Panther Party offering $10,000 for the capture of Martin's shooter, George Zimmerman. But Zimmerman is not evading police. So far, they haven't arrested or charged him.
The national spokesman for the Panthers denies that this is a call to violence. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NZINGA (via telephone): All you have to have to arrest somebody is probable cause for murder. If this wasn't a case for probable cause, I don't know what case is. And if it would have been a white done like that by -- I mean, if a black youth would have shot and killed a white male, he would already have been arrested and we all know this.
LEMON: Once you get him into custody, as you said, what do you plan to do with him? Because if police haven't arrested him, how are you going to hold him?
NZINGA: Well, when we get him, they can come and get him from us. At that point, they need to charge him.
LEMON: Do you feel that you're inciting violence by doing this and that may be a possibility from your actions?
NZINGA: No, we're doing what American citizens have been doing for many, many years. We're doing a citizen's arrest. And we're asking other people who feel like us to help us do the citizen's arrest, since Chief Bill Lee wouldn't do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: We just received a statement, this statement from the Sanford Police Department in response to the comments by the New Black Panther Party today. And it reads in part, this is just in part, it says, "The city of Sanford does not condone the actions and recommendations of the New Black Panther Party. The city is requesting calmer heads and no vigilante justice."
And then it goes on to say, "At the very end, the city of Sanford recommends all apprehensions be left to those trained to accomplish that task."
Real quickly, Holly Hughes, you said to that?
HUGHES: If they had told George Zimmerman that on the 911 tape, Trayvon Martin would be alive today.
LEMON: All right. Thank you.
We'll get back to Holly. Trayvon Martin's death is reviving some difficult, even painful questions about race in this country.
Let's talk about it now with anti-racist and writer and activist Tim Wise. He's the author of "Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority."
Tim, thank you for joining us.
First, I'd like to get your reaction to what you just heard, those comments from the New Black Panthers and the fact that New Black Panthers are trying to get involved in this case.
TIM WISE, ANTI-RACISM WRITER/ACTIVIST: Well, this story is not about the New Black Panther Party. It is about a white dominated police department that has a history of not doing its job when it comes to investigating the violent assaults or even killings of black people in that town. So, I think that's a distraction.
This is about law enforcement's obligation to do its job. I think we all know that if the shoes had been reversed and a black person trailed a white person into a neighborhood, looking for them and that white person jumped on them and then ended up killing them, that this would have probably turned out quite a bit different.
LEMON: I want you to listen to what one of the witnesses to the shooting told CNN's Anderson Cooper.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "AC360": What was your impression of the police's attitude toward this? Did you form an impression?
MARY CUTCHER, CALLED 911 TO REPORT SHOOTING: They were siding with him.
COOPER: With Zimmerman?
CUTCHER: Oh, yes.
COOPER: What makes you say that?
CUTCHER: I guess just their nonchalant attitude.
LEMON: Does what she say surprise you, Tim?
WISE: Not at all. Look, I've done trainings with law enforcement around the country and I've spoken to lots of officers. And of course, they're good, conscientious officers. But I've asked them in those trainings, you know, What's the first thing you think when you see a young black male driving a nice car in your community? And inevitably, they say drug dealer or some other kind of criminal.
When I say what about a white male, same age, driving the same kind of car, they say spoiled little rich kid. Daddy probably bought him a car. If law enforcement has those biases, we ought not be surprised that they then enforce the law in a differential way when something like this happens.
LEMON: Tim, George Zimmerman's dad has issued a statement pointing out that George Zimmerman is a Spanish-speaking minority, as if to say, Hey, this isn't strictly a black and white issue.
How does that fit into the discussion? Just because you're a minority doesn't mean that you can't be biased. Just because you're gay doesn't mean...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course not.
LEMON: ... you can't be homophobic. How does that -- does that even make sense?
WISE: It means absolutely nothing. Research for 20 years now has found that large numbers of white folks and Latino folks, for instance, have anti-black bias. The fact that a person of color may have the same bias against black folks or other people of color that a lot of white folks have means nothing. There were black slave owners. That doesn't mean the institution of slavery was not anti-black racism in this country. That means absolutely nothing at all.
LEMON: More with Tim Wise coming up in just a bit. Tim, stay right there. Thank you very much.
Concerned Black Mothers -- it's a group that caught our attention in the light of this Trayvon Martin killing. What mothers of young black males are telling their sons about how to survive in America today. It's a conversation you need to hear.
LEMON: All right, back to our discussion in just a moment. But first we have some breaking news just in to CNN. Former vice president Dick Cheney is recovering from a heart transplant. That's according to a statement from an assistant.
The former vice president has a long history of cardiovascular issues and has survived five heart attacks. Cheney is recovering in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Falls Church, Virginia. His assistant says he has been on the cardiac transplant list for more than 20 months. Neither Cheney nor his family know the identity of the donor but say they will be forever grateful for this life-saving gift.
Cheney has a long resume in Washington, including stints vice president, secretary of defense and White House chief of staff. Stay tuned to CNN for more on our breaking news.
Now back to our coverage. Being a mom is already a tough job, but imagine the difficult conversations black mothers are having with their sons in the wake of the death of Trayvon Martin.
I'm joined again by anti-racism writer and activist Tim Wise, and joining me here in studio are Natalie Brown and her son, Nicholas Haswell. Also mom Deetta West.
First to you, Ms. Brown. What went through your head when you heard about the Trayvon Martin killing?
NATALIE BROWN, PARENT CONCERNED ABOUT TRAYVON MARTIN SHOOTING: Well, I thought about my son because after seeing the pictures on the Internet of Trayvon Martin, I thought he was a 14-year-old child, not knowing that he was 17.
My first reaction was to speak to my son and tell him that things like this does happen in life, and we don't know how to prevent it. But sometimes, they look at the way we dress, the way we walk, what we do. And we don't want that to happen. We want all that to stop.
LEMON: Nicholas, do you understand the conversation when your mom -- what did your -- how did you handle it? And do you live it? And when you're -- if you happened to be in that situation, I would imagine it would be tough to follow every single thing that she said in your head.
NICHOLAS HASWELL, STUDENT: Yes. I mean, I listen, and you know, I just follow my mom's wishes so I don't end up with this happening to me. And you know...
LEMON: What did you think when you heard about -- about this?
HASWELL: Well, at first, I thought, like, how could this happen to somebody, an innocent boy just walking? He didn't do nothing wrong. And being that his skin color is brown, he had to get, you know, shot, killed for no reason?
LEMON: Ms. West, I know that you have a son, as well. And this is -- you're very passionate about this. I know that you spoke to him about it, but he also talked to you and wrote something I think that's very poignant. You want to read it?
DEETTA WEST, PARENT CONCERNED ABOUT TRAYVON MARTIN SHOOTING: Yes.
LEMON: How old is your son again?
WEST: He's 22.
LEMON: What did he write?
WEST: Well, I don't know if I have time to read the whole thing...
LEMON: Just read -- if you can read a portion of it, yes.
WEST: OK. So he started out by saying, "What is justice? What is peace? Can you tell me? Can you? You probably could, but it's going to be a major waste of your time because I don't believe in either anymore."
Then it goes on to say, "There's something seriously wrong with this picture. And another thing. If you call the police and they tell you to stop following a person because there's a conclusion that he's a non-threat, why proceed?"
"Lastly, how is it not obvious to you that he was the one that felt he was in danger because of your suspicion? Man, I don't know how I really should think, but I do know one thing. If this was my brother, cousin, nephew or son, good old Mr. Zimmerman wouldn't have made it to that prison or courthouse, for that matter. But of course, that would have caused more problems. So if earthly justice won't prevail, then it's in God's hands. Truthfully, it really is. I'm done."
That's what he -- "I'm just done."
LEMON: There are a lot of shaking heads on the set right now. And what does that do to you as a mom? Tell us -- and to have to have these conversations?
WEST: Right. It just totally rips my heart out because we started these conversations, my husband and I, with our son at an early age. And not to the point of just being real blatant, we kind of skirted around it by building him up, by speaking words of wisdom, like, You are somebody, you're going to be the best. You're going to be great, without really going -- calling the race card or going to that place.
We wanted our son to grow up in a place where he would know that he is somebody and he's special. But as he grew older, then we had to kind of go into that place, like, You know what? You're different. Just check it out, son. And you know, avoid confrontations. When you start driving, don't reach quickly into your glove compartment if you get stopped for a speeding ticket.
LEMON: Yes, ma'am. Yes, sir. Every chance you get, do -- my parents had the talk with me. I don't have kids, so I haven't had the opportunity to have that talk, but they had the talk with me because -- my family did fairly well, and it was, Where did you get that fancy car, boy? Where are you driving...
WEST: Exactly. LEMON: ... this car? Sometimes I'd have to leave the car there and walk home until they figured out exactly what happened.
Before we -- we're going to go to a break quickly, but you were shaking your head, as well. And you -- what do you -- what does this do to you?
BROWN: It hurts my heart because as a parent, you don't want anything to ever happen to your children. You don't want any of this. And then growing up, I have an interracial family, so we didn't have to play the race card because we're mixed.
LEMON: Right. Thank you.
More with our moms, reactions from our moms and our entire panel right after the break. Don't go away.
LEMON: Trayvon Martin, the conversation continues here, the killing of Trayvon Martin, a conversation many are saying was need throughout all of America. Why is it happening in America now?
I'm bringing back anti-racism writer and activist Tim Wise. And Natalie Brown and her son, Nicholas Haswell, are here along with mom Deetta West. Also with me, attorney Holly Hughes and former police investigator Alex Manning. Thank you all.
But first, we want to go out to Sanford, Florida, where this story unfolded, and hear from a mom there. here's CNN's George Howell -- George.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were just talking about this case. We were watching the show. And tell me again, what did you want to talk about?
JUDITH BROWN, SANFORD, FLORIDA, RESIDENT: That I am a mother of -- I am a Trayvon Martin mother. I represent all the women and mothers of Trayvon. My son was taken away. He was murdered. And the Sanford PD have not done anything to resolve this matter. It was November 3rd.
And we need justice. All the mothers of a Trayvon in Sanford, Florida, we need justice. We need some kind of closure, and we're not getting that. In order for us to bond and combine as a community, we need to get justice for all this.
HOWELL: And basically giving this open mike tonight to people, that's really what we've heard, again, people saying that there's been a long history of disconnect between the community and the police department. And at this point, do you feel like it's moving towards some sort of a resolution, some sort of solution?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
HOWELL: The resounding opinion here, Don.
LEMON: All right, George, thank you very much. Thank that mom and the entire -- our entire group there. We're going to get back to George in just a little bit. You're going to hear more from Sanford, Florida.
But we want to talk now more with our panel. This could -- if you hear that mom -- and again, these are -- that's the allegations, those are the claims from the people who were there, right? And sometimes, there -- you know, well, usually there's smoke, there's fire. This could open up a hornet's nest around the country. Do you...
HOLLY HUGHES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, FMR. PROSECUTOR: Well, maybe it should, Don. If what these citizens are saying -- Our police department is not protecting us. We live here, too, and yet our sons are being murdered in the street and there's no investigation and nothing is being done.
So if these allegations and these concerns that they're raising are true, it needs to open up a hornet's nest. And you know what? I hope some real important people get stung.
LEMON: As a...
WEST: I'm trying to hold back.
LEMON: Why? Go ahead.
WEST: It's very painful -- it's very painful because you feel like our young black men are being set up to be target practice. And -- I'm sorry. I said to myself I wasn't going to go there, but as I think about these amazing young -- and I'm even dealing with the senior men, the older men.
I'm nervous when my husband says he's going for a walk in our neighborhood for fear that someone's looking outside -- he has to put his hoody on if it's cold outside. He has a close cut on his -- and that makes me -- my son comes home for spring break. He's a student at Georgia Southern. And he comes home and he says, Mom, I'm going to take a walk.
I don't really want to say to him, Don't go for a walk. But I know he needs to because he's a little overweight and I just say that. And he may hate the fact that I'm saying it, but he knows that he needs to walk and get that exercise.
But here's my son walking through the neighborhood. I'm fearing that someone's looking out of their window. And we live in a -- somewhat of a gated subdivision. I'm sorry -- I just...
LEMON: There's no need to apologize because it's a very real and painful reality for -- I'm speaking as an African-American. I can't speak as an Hispanic. I'm not Hispanic or any other person of color. I'm an African-American, and I know it's a painful reality that many of us face.
And it's not only painful for the black men, it's painful for our mothers and the women in our lives, who worry about us and who have to have these conversations with us.
And there is a big segment of the population who don't believe that it exists at all. I think Charles Blow of "The New York Times" put it in great perspective. Growing up, you have to weigh the tone in your voice. It's a little bit higher when you're talking to people. You speak like this, instead of your natural tone.
LEMON: The way you carry your body.
LEMON: It's something that you unconsciously live with, and it can rise and make you angry and make you blow up at times and make you change the way you live.
You stopped wearing hoodies. Why, Nicholas?
HASWELL: Because of the situation, because I don't want to end up like that, or you know, be labeled as someone I'm not for wearing a hoody and walking outside at night, or just coming home from school, going to take a job with my friends, you know?
LEMON: You're wearing a backwards cap, and some people may see that as suspicious or whatever, just as they see the hoody as suspicious. It's fashion. I see white kids doing it. I see Hispanic kids doing -- I see all kids wearing their hats backwards and wearing hoodies.
You stopped wearing a hoody, but do you think that has the same sort of connotation by you wearing your cap backwards?
HASWELL: Not really.
LEMON: Mom, have you ever thought about that?
NATALIE BROWN: Well, yes, it does have -- you're still going to be looked at. No matter how you dress or present yourself, it's still going to be a problem. And I feel that every kid in the United States, whether it's here or (INAUDIBLE) they dress like this. Everyone does it.
LEMON: Yes. Deetta, are you OK? WEST: I'm -- I'm OK. I was just thinking about a friend of mine. Her name is Tandra (ph) and she has a 16-year-old son. And she was telling me a story about the fact that her husband, whose name happens to be Trayvon, they were going for a walk. This was a couple of weeks before Trayvon was shot and was killed.
And she said that as they were leaving the house -- it was in the morning, and they put on their hoodies, you know, to go out. And she stopped him and said, You guys, take your hoods off. And the son's looking at, Why?
I mean, this is a student. He's 16 years old, about to go to Drexler University.
WEST: And now he's questioning, where are the laws to stand your ground? Is it going to be -- what state?
LEMON: All right. Stand by. Thank you. Thank you all for sharing, for being so open.
Next, we'll go back to Sanford, Florida, for more live community reaction.
LEMON: We're giving people in the Sanford, Florida, community a chance to talk about the Trayvon Martin case in their own words. George Howell standing by -- George.
HOWELL: Well, one thing, Zimmerman's attorney has stated that this was not racially motivated. But many people here, we talked to them, maybe have a different opinion on that.
I wanted to talk to you specifically about what you were telling us a minute ago as far as George Zimmerman and the Sanford Police Department. Your thoughts on...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Sanford Police Department's initial investigation was ridiculous. Here's a man standing with a weapon in his hand, and they take his word that he's never been arrested. Then they do not do a background check on Mr. Zimmerman.
How is that possible, when they stop me at a traffic light and do a background investigation on me? If Sanford police had done what they were supposed to do initially, we would not be here tonight because Mr. Zimmerman would have been arrested.
HOWELL: The thing that struck me that you said a minute ago was that Mr. Zimmerman, not as much the problem to you as the Sanford Police Department?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I understand where Mr. Zimmerman comes from. I can recognize Mr. Zimmermans all over. But the Sanford Police Department is supposed to be equal to all, not favor anyone. How do you take this man's word that he's never been arrested and he's standing over a dead body with a weapon in his hand?
If that's standard policy and procedure for Sanford, we need a new police department. That's ridiculous.
HOWELL: So a lot of opinions out here at this point, people not really satisfied with what's happening with the Sanford Police Department, Don.
LEMON: Thank you very much, George. Thanks everybody there, as well.
Alex Manning, let's get solutions. What should -- what should have been done? How should police have handled this?
ALEX MANNING, 15 YEARS IN LAW ENFORCEMENT: There should have been a complete investigation, Don. Right now -- my sister and I grew up learning this. Baby, you can't unscramble eggs. There's scrambled eggs down there. Right now, they need to make theirselves an omelet. The DA needs to get involved. Do the right thing. Go back. Recreate the crime scene. Find probable cause. Decide what that is.
The police don't decide if he's guilty or not guilty, just probable cause. You can't unscramble the eggs here. They've got to make the omelet. So everybody chip in. Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the DA's office, the federal government, fix this.
LEMON: That's the crux behind all of this. Police don't get to decide. That's what everyone is saying. There should be -- there's a procedure, and then someone else decides whether or not this man should be prosecuted.
MANNING: Exactly. I don't care about his self-defense claim. He committed a crime. There was probable cause. He should have been arrested. The jury decides whether he's guilty or not guilty.
LEMON: All right. Thank you very much. I want to thank everyone. To Holly Hughes, Alex Manning, our moms, Deetta, Natalie, and son Nicholas, and of course, the people down in Sanford, Florida, who turned out to take part in this discussion. And Tim Wise, as well. Don't forget about Tim. Tim, thank you. We appreciate you joining us. Wish we had more time. Always a good discussion.
By the way, Tim, #CNNTrayvon and Tim Wise trending on Twitter because we had such a great conversation about this. So continue that. We'll be right back.
LEMON: Got to get some politics in here because the polls close in just over an hour in Louisiana in the presidential primary there. Rick Santorum expected to do very well. Tom Foreman is standing by in Washington, D.C., for us, and he'll be our guide tonight as the results start coming in.
Hi, Tom. Got any clues about what we can expect?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know what's important down there, Don, and it's an oldie but a goodie. It is the economy. Our exit polls show that 53 percent of the people who went in to vote said this is the number one issue, much more than the budget deficit, much more than abortion or illegal immigration.
Louisiana, though, has about a 6 percent unemployment rate. They're doing better than the rest of the country. Why is it so important there? Well, because it's also one of the poorest nations in the country.
Let's look over here and get an idea of what we see in terms of the distribution of people with wealth in the state. All the dark green areas here show the places with the higher median income. Light green means that they have a different, lower level of median income.
If we box these in, so far in this election, Mitt Romney has tended to do better with higher-income, higher-education voters. Rick Santorum has tended to do better with people who are of lower income, perhaps lower education.
So what do we see in this? It would look like Rick Santorum had an advantage. But look at this. When you break it up by population centers, big population centers in Romney territory. We'll have to see how that shakes out when the votes are all counted tonight -- Don.
LEMON: And we will be watching. Tom Foreman standing by. Thank you, Tom. Live cut-ins with the results from Louisiana, the primary there beginning at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.
And before we go, more on our breaking news that we just reported minutes ago, former vice president Dick Cheney recovering from a heart transplant, this according to a statement from an assistant.
Cheney has a long history of cardiovascular issues and has survived five heart attacks. Cheney's recovering in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Falls Church, Virginia. His assistant says he has been on the cardiac transplant list for more than 20 months now. Neither Cheney nor his family know the identity of the donor, but say they will be forever grateful for this life-saving gift.
There you go. Stay tuned for more on our breaking news there. I'm Don Lemon at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Thank you so much. We appreciate you joining us tonight.
At 10:00 PM Eastern, a new law using DNA offers hope to crime victims. Again, that's 10:00 PM Eastern.
We hope you learned something here in this case of Trayvon Martin. I'll see you back here at 10:00 o'clock. Now for the Fareed Zakaria special. It begins right now.