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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
George Zimmerman Charged with Second-degree Murder; The War On Women; Violence In Syria And Ceasefire Promise; An 8.6 Earthquake Off Coast Of Sumatra
Aired April 11, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tom, thanks.
Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight with the breaking news out of Florida. State prosecutor Angela Corey's decision today to -- to file second-degree murder charges against George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA COREY, FLORIDA SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Today we filed an information charging George Zimmerman with murder in the second degree. A capias has been issued for his arrest. With the filing of that information and the issuance of a capias, he will have a right to appear in front of a magistrate in Seminole County within 24 hours of his arrest and, thus, formal prosecution will begin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: As Miss Corey said, George Zimmerman is in custody tonight already in Florida having turned himself in. She did not, however, reveal where in Florida he is, nor would she talk about the details of the case, new or those already known that led her to bring these charges. She said the decision was made last week and was not driven, she says, by the national outcry Trayvon Martin's killing has touched off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COREY: Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition. We prosecute based on the facts of any given case as well as the laws of the state of Florida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The first few words out of Angela Corey's mouth today were the names of Trayvon Martin's parents. They watched the news from Washington, spoke briefly tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYBRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: First of all, I want to say thank God.
(APPLAUSE) FULTON: We simply wanted an arrest. We wanted nothing more, nothing less. We just wanted an arrest. And we got it. And I say thank you. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Jesus.
TRACY MARTIN, FATHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: We've got a long way to go and we have faith. The first -- the first time we marched, I looked to the sky and I just told myself when I walk, I will walk by faith. And we will continue to --
MARTIN: We will continue to walk by faith. We will continue to hold hands on this journey, white, black, Hispanic, Latino, we will continue to walk. We will march and march and march until the right thing is done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, reaction as well tonight from the NAACP. A statement from association president Ben Jealous, reading in part, quote, "Forty-five days after Trayvon Martin's life came to a violent end, the wheels of justice have finally begun to turn."
And just before air time George Zimmerman's new attorney, Mark O'Mara, spoke to reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: We now have a process in place. It's a very good process. Best in the world and it works pretty well. We have to let it work. We have to understand and have faith in the justice system. Nobody, after all, wanted Trayvon Martin to be prejudged as he was walking down that street.
I ask not to prejudge George Zimmerman and please do not prejudge the criminal justice system. It's going to work. We just need to let it work.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Mr. O'Mara said he hopes that George Zimmerman will be allowed out on bond before his trial. He said a hearing is set for that tomorrow. I wasn't sure of the exact time.
Like Angela Corey, he declined to say where his client is right now or where he turned himself in. When asked what, if any, guidance he gave George Zimmerman when they spoke, Mr. O'Mara said he told him to, quote, "stay calm, listen to my advice."
I want to start with our newest legal analyst, Mark Nejame, who was first to speak with Mark O'Mara late this afternoon.
Mark, we heard from Mr. O'Mara, though he's understandably not saying that much. What do you know about how the surrender of George Zimmerman came about and where he may be tonight?
MARK NEJAME, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I've been talking to Mr. O'Mara really throughout the day. And it was arranged ahead of time. Like Miss Corey basically intimated that FDLE was in constant contact with Mr. Zimmerman. And they knew where he was.
When it was imminent that charges were going to be brought, apparently his surrender was already -- the wheels had already started. Mr. O'Mara ended up communicating with Mr. Zimmerman, knowing that Mr. Zimmerman would be in the custody of FDLE and a very civilized, peaceful arrest occurred, and now he's in fact going to be transported to -- to Sanford where he'll appear for a first appearance apparently tomorrow morning.
COOPER: So this was the toughest charge that the state attorney could file without a grand jury. Were you surprised by it?
NEJAME: I think that at the stretch, but, you know, we don't know. We don't have all the information. We hear that from a lot of people. We don't know exactly what Miss Corey has. But I think most legal analysts, and I would agree, that if there was going to be charges and deemed appropriate, manslaughter seemed more likely.
I'm not sure it makes a tremendous difference. A lot of people miss the fact that Florida has a 10-20 life law. And basically when in fact a firearm is used and there's serious injury or death, then life can happen not necessarily on just on second-degree murder. But you know, you've heard a lot of people who practice in Duval County indicate that it's pretty typical for this prosecutor to hit you with the highest charges and then you see where it goes from there.
So the answer would be no. But it was -- manslaughter would have made seemingly more sense in light of what's come out publicly.
COOPER: What kind of attorney is Mark O'Mara?
NEJAME: He's an excellent lawyer. He's one of the best in central Florida. I've worked different cases with him. I've actually been against him. We've worked commentary with each other. He knows the press, he knows the law. He's one of the -- I think he's the only lawyer in the state of Florida who actually has board certified in criminal as well as in domestic.
Very smart, as you saw today, very measured. I think both sides have very good, competent counsel. I think they'll both work to keep a lid on this and allow it to do, as they have said, play out to the courts. Mark knows how to handle the media but he also is not a media hog. He's going to go out and say and do what's appropriate on behalf of his client.
Very ethical man, very smart lawyer.
COOPER: Mark Nejame, I appreciate you tonight.
Let's bring in more of our legal panel. Criminal defense attorney, Mark Geragos, joins us. Author and former Los Angeles deputy district attorney, Marcia Clark, herself no stranger to high-profile cases. Her newest book, "Guilt by Degrees," comes out next month. Also legal analyst and a former federal prosecutors Jeffrey Toobin and Sunny Hostin.
Jeff, first of all, second-degree murder. Were you surprised by this? What does it actually mean? What does second-degree mean?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It means the possibility of a life sentence. And it's probably a greater sentence than a manslaughter. As Mark was saying, it's not dramatically different, but this is the single most severe crime he could have been charged with under these circumstances. And so she threw the book at him.
COOPER: And what is second-degree? How is that different, Sunny, than first-degree murder?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first-degree murder is sort of this premeditated murder. Second-degree murder, though, the prosecution has to show -- a depraved mind. And I've got to tell you, I think knowing what we know, what's in the public domain, that's a difficult charge to prove.
So I suspect, Anderson, that there is some evidence that we just don't know about, because no prosecutor in a high-profile case wants to walk into court and not be able to prove each and every charge, each and every count, rather, beyond a reasonable doubt. You don't want to lose so publicly. So I suspect that we're going to hear a lot more about what happened on February 26th. She's got to have more.
COOPER: Mark -- Mark Geragos, what do you make of second-degree murder?
MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you know, I always wondered during the Conrad Murray prosecution why the D.A. here in L.A. didn't charge second-degree murder, because it has such a heavy sentence. And when you're facing that, a lot of times you can get somebody to plead to a lesser charge of manslaughter.
And if you drop the use, which is the use of the firearm, which carries potentially the same kinds of life penalties, a lot of times you're going to be -- may be not even need to go to trial. So it makes more sense to me that they would charge him with a second-degree murder and then they let the chips fall where they might.
COOPER: Marcia, as a former prosecutor, how hard is it to prove second-degree murder?
MARCIA CLARK, FORMER L.A. DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: You know, in my opinion, not as hard as people have been making it sound. The standard of depraved mind is very similar to what we have in California called conscious disregard, which means that you're acting in a manner in which you know that your actions are likely to cause serious bodily injury or death.
When you have a gun and you shoot it at someone and depending on what the forensics show, if it's a point-blank shot to the chest, I think you may very easily prove conscious disregard or depraved mind. Don't forget there are also the allegations of racial slurs that have been shown in some of the 911 tapes. The possibility that there is also a racial component to his attitude towards Trayvon Martin will help to prove that as well.
So I'm not sure that even with what we know so far it's so out of line. I have to tell you, Anderson, I did expect that there would be a second-degree filing and I thought that was entirely justifiable filing at this point. Even if they had gone -- I don't know that first-degree would have been justifiable. I think that's much tougher. That one is hard to show under these circumstances. Second- degree feels about right to me.
COOPER: Mark, do you think he'll get out on bond?
GERAGOS: I think he might get a bond. I don't think that that's out of the realm of possibility. And I tend to agree with Marcia. I mean in some ways, sometimes when you look at the jury instructions, I think that the jury instruction for second-degree is easier for the prosecutor in a lot of cases than it is for the lesser manslaughter.
So who knows what -- how it's going to fall out. You have to wait and see what the discovery is. But I think it's entirely possible that somebody grants him bail tomorrow.
COOPER: And Jeff, you agree?
GERAGOS: The question is, can he afford bail?
TOOBIN: I do. And I just think Mark raised something that is very much worth keeping in mind at this moment. Don't discount the possibility of a plea bargain in this case. The fact -- many of the facts are not in dispute here. We all know that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. I mean that is not in dispute. So the only issue will be intent-type issues.
And here you have someone with no criminal -- no criminal record, no history of being in prison, someone who does not want a trial. Another very important fact about this case, it will be televised. This is Florida. Florida has the Sunshine Law.
COOPER: You say he has no criminal record. He did have that run-in with police. And it was -- it was -- he didn't actually spend time, it was deferred.
TOOBIN: It was expunged, deferred prosecution.
COOPER: No, what is it called where you go to like --
TOOBIN: That's right. But almost certainly that's not the kind of thing that could be admitted in court. But what -- this is a guy who will be terrified of getting a life sentence, who does not want to sit through a trial, who will really may try to limit his exposure so I think --
HOSTIN: But that's assuming that the prosecution, Jeff, would offer a plea.
TOOBIN: Of course, that's right. But you know --
HOSTIN: And you look at the --
TOOBIN: Prosecutors like the sure thing of pleas here.
HOSTIN: But you're looking at a prosecutor -- career prosecutor who's known as being very tough on crime. Who is known as having this extreme prosecutorial bent. In her press conference she was talking about praying with Trayvon Martin's family. And, you know, in light of that, in light of the high-profile nature, I'm going to disagree with you, Jeffrey Toobin. I don't think that we'll see a plea here.
COOPER: Marcia, were you just surprised to hear the prosecutor using that kind of language? She used the term justice for Trayvon Martin, she talked about praying with the family. Were you surprised by that?
CLARK: No, not really. I mean this has -- this has been a case that engendered so much hard feelings, and so much heat and so much emotion, that I think it was necessary for her to come out with an understanding and compassion for the family. The family has suffered terribly. Whatever people may say, wherever people may go with the racial implications, the law, et cetera, at the end of the day, a young man, and I think of him as -- I understand people referring to him as their son. I have sons that age.
And so you have to have compassion and understanding for the fact a family lost their child. And I think that she is appealing -- she is understanding that. She's embracing that fact, that emotional core, which is true in every case. Prosecutors have to understand and should show that they understand there's an emotional core to it.
That said, I have to say that I agree with Sunny. I don't see a plea bargain in the future here at all. It takes two sides to make a plea bargain. I don't see this prosecutor going for anything less than a jury trial and a conviction for second-degree murder. If the jury decides that it wants to compromise somehow and go for manslaughter, so be it. It's out of her hands. She proves the case as best she can and we'll see what the jury says. But I think there's not going to be anything less than that here.
GERAGOS: Well, you know, Marcia -- Marcia, there still is one other hurdle for the prosecution here, which is under that Florida law there is a component of immunity and there is an argument, and I'm sure his lawyer is going to make it, that at some point at a pretrial hearing, if there is a factual determination or a probable cause proceeding of some kind, that they will ask the judge to say that the use of the force was -- put him smack dab in the middle of this law and that he was immune. So I'm not so sure whether by plea bargain or by judicial fiat that this thing is necessarily going to trial.
COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. Stick around, we're going to have more of this discussion with this panel. A lot more to talk about. I'll take you through what we know. There's still a lot we don't know about what happened when George Zimmerman left that vehicle. But what we know moment by moment looking at everything that might have gone into Angela Corey's decision.
We'll also speak to George Zimmerman's friend, Frank Taaffe, who's standing by him. As always more as well at CNN.com, we're on Facebook, follow me on Twitter at Andersoncooper. Let us know what you think right now. I'll be tweeting tonight. Stay tuned.
COOPER: Looking at the Seminole County Jail in Sanford, our affiliate WFTV reporting that George Zimmerman is arriving there shortly. Another affiliate reporting that the convoy left Jacksonville earlier tonight.
Tonight's breaking news, the Florida special prosecutor, Angela Corey, has charged George Zimmerman with second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin. It came after weeks of protests, obviously, competing claims and media drama. The special prosecutor said none of it went into her decision, only the facts and the law. She did not, though, elaborate on any facts or new facts in her possession that might not yet be out in the public domain.
So for now, here are the facts as we know them minute by minute the night Trayvon Martin was killed.
UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Sanford Police Department.
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH VOLUNTEER: We've had some break- ins in my neighborhood and there's a real suspicious guy.
COOPER (voice-over): 7:09 p.m. on Sunday, February 26th. The first sign of trouble. A 911 call from George Zimmerman.
ZIMMERMAN: This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around looking about.
COOPER: The dispatcher tells Zimmerman they'll send officers to the scene and they tell him to stand down.
UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Are you following him?
UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK. We don't need you to do that.
COOPER: Meanwhile, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has just come from a convenience store and is carrying an iced tea and a pack of Skittles. It's approximately 7:12 p.m. and he's on the phone with his girlfriend DeeDee when he sees Zimmerman approaching him.
DEEDEE, TRAYVON MARTIN'S GIRLFRIEND: Well, he was walking fast when he say that this man behind him again. He come and said this dude look like he's about to do something to him. And then Trayvon come and said the man was still behind him and then I come and say run.
COOPER: 7:13 p.m., Zimmerman ends his call with 911. Three minutes later at 7:16, neighbors hear a gunshot.
UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: So you think he's yelling help?
UNIDENTIFIED NEIGHBOR: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: All right. What is your --
UNIDENTIFIED NEIGHBOR: There's gunshots.
UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: You just heard gunshots?
COOPER: 7:17 p.m., Sanford Police arrive on scene, responding to Zimmerman's initial report of a suspicious person. Police Officer Timothy Smith says as he arrives, he's informed by dispatch that a gunshot was heard in the neighborhood. Police find Trayvon Martin lying face down in the grass with his hands underneath his body.
George Zimmerman is nearby and tells police he shot Trayvon Martin. He's handcuffed and police confiscate his weapon.
According to police reports, Zimmerman is bleeding from his nose and the back of his head and his back was wet and covered in grass. Soon Sanford Fire Rescue arrives on the scene in an attempt to resuscitate Trayvon Martin.
At 7:30 p.m., 13 minutes after police arrive, Trayvon Martin is pronounced dead at the scene.
Zimmerman is given first aid by the paramedics on scene. An officer states he did not question Zimmerman about the incident, but overhears Zimmerman saying, quote, "I was yelling for someone to help me, but no one would help me."
7:52 p.m., George Zimmerman is seen here arriving at the Sanford police station, still in handcuffs. He's about to be questioned by police.
From the time the first 911 call until this moment, about 43 minutes have elapsed. Forty-three minutes which left a young man dead. Forty-three minutes of more questions than answers.
COOPER: And 45 days later, George Zimmerman will be spending his first night in jail.
Back now with our panel, Mark Geragos, Marcia Clark, Jeffrey Toobin, Sunny Hostin.
Jeff, you point out there's a lot we do not know, specifically about what happened after George Zimmerman left that vehicle. Just watching the timeline, though, do you think Angela Corey has new information based on her investigation? TOOBIN: I do. She must, because she must have evidence of what happened during those minutes after he gets off the phone with his girlfriend and when the gunshots are fired. There -- this is a housing development. People may have seen things. There may be security cameras. We don't know. And she has had access to all this evidence. And I just think we need to reserve judgment about this case because we know a good deal, but we don't know all that she knows.
COOPER: Law enforcement on the ground is telling us that George Zimmerman is about to arrive at the Sanford jail and that's why we're showing you that live shot.
You -- Sunny, you also believe there's new evidence?
HOSTIN: I completely agree. And I'm surprised at the second-degree murder charge especially because you've got to prove each and every element beyond a reasonable doubt. And as you mentioned, I mean there's a chunk of time with conflicting evidence. And so that tells me she has some clarity --
HOSTIN: -- in terms of that conflicting evidence. There must be something new.
COOPER: Mark, we have a Digital Dashboard question from Facebook. Tammy asks, "If you were the defense attorney, would you encourage Mr. Zimmerman to take the stand?"
GERAGOS: Oh, there's no way to answer that question. In fact most trials I don't even -- I don't even make that decision until the prosecution has rested. It's something you go in. It's the toughest decision you make as a defense lawyer. And you generally regret it the minute you do it. If you put the client on. And it's just no way to answer it at this point.
But I will kind of -- and I'll be the echo chamber here. I agree that there's got to be more evidence than what we know publicly. But --
COOPER: Forensic evidence alone, because we know nothing about that.
TOOBIN: How far away the gun was.
TOOBIN: Another point about the Stand Your -- Stand Your Ground, if he wants to use that law, he's got to say that he feared -- that he was in fear. That's going to be pretty hard to do without his testimony.
HOSTIN: I agree.
TOOBIN: So I think if this case goes to trial, it's very likely -- (CROSSTALK)
GERAGOS: Unless -- unless they put in his statement.
TOOBIN: Yes, but that's not much. I mean --
GERAGOS: Unless they put in his statement.
TOOBIN: Yes, that's -- yes, sure, you could do that. But to persuade a jury, the guy claiming I was in fear for my life is -- you know, is the most effective evidence you probably have.
HOSTIN: And --
GERAGOS: Well --
HOSTIN: If you take a step back --
GERAGOS: You know, this is -- one of the --
CLARK: And the defense can't do it. The defense can't put in the statement from the defendant.
GERAGOS: Well, right, I agree.
CLARK: Only the prosecution can admit it so --
GERAGOS: The defense --
HOSTIN: That's right.
CLARK: I don't -- I don't --
CLARK: Right. You know that, Mark. I don't see the prosecution doing it. You know? I mean, Mark, I don't see the prosecutor putting that on.
GERAGOS: I think the prosecution is going to do it, Marcia.
CLARK: I see the prosecutor holding that statement back and make him take the stand.
COOPER: Mark Geragos, go ahead.
CLARK: Do you think they'll put him on?
GERAGOS: Except I think -- I think that the prosecution may put the statement on because I think part of this -- what's driving this is if you believe the reports, the homicide detective on the scene did not believe the statement. And they may put up that statement and then start punching holes into it to show kind of force him into taking the stand, if you will.
HOSTIN: And the other thing I think we need to point out is with Stand Your Ground, they get to bring that up pretrial. They get to have a Stand Your Ground hearing and so we may very well hear Zimmerman's point of view. We may very well see him on the witness stand before trial. And that would be televised.
COOPER: I just want to remind our viewers, we're looking at live pictures at Sanford, Florida. We are told by law enforcement officials on the ground George Zimmerman will be arriving there momentarily. That's why we're showing you those live pictures.
Mark, in terms of what's happening now between Zimmerman and his attorney, what are those discussions? What is the contact like?
GERAGOS: This is one of the most traumatizing experiences that the client will go through is that first night, that trepidation. Going into jail for the first time, facing these kinds of charges. And you just basically you usually you give the talk to them, look, this is -- it's going to be a roller coaster ride. You're going to have a wave of emotion. You've got to just buckle down, keep your head on, screwed on straight, and wait and let us do what we do. And it's easier to say than for them to actually do --
COOPER: Let's take a look at these pictures now.
GERAGOS: But it's a horrifying experience.
COOPER: We're seeing a -- we're seeing a convoy, several vehicles pulling in. We're not sure if we're actually going to get a look at George Zimmerman or not. This will actually -- if we do see George Zimmerman, this will be the first time he's actually been seen in public since those surveillance -- that police camera pictures were released last week.
So, Mark, in terms of what happens to him now, what does he go through?
GERAGOS: If they have not booked him already where they arrested him, they'll take him upstairs. They will strip him. They will book him, photograph him, print him. They'll ask him routine questions about medical history and any kind of illnesses that he may have. Then they will do some kind of segregation.
Generally in cases like this from the general population. Probably will be put in a cell by himself, is I would guess, to make sure that no harm comes to him.
COOPER: Jeff Toobin, why is this being -- or actually, Marcia, let me ask you this. Why is this being recorded? Why are cameras allowed in here?
CLARK: Right now?
CLARK: There are a couple of good reasons for it. Number one, I think that Florida in general has the attitude that they want to be --
GERAGOS: To prejudice the jury pool.
CLARK: Mark, no -- come on. There's a good reason to do it.
GERAGOS: Yes, well --
CLARK: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.
GERAGOS: Let's call it like it is. It's to -- it's to taint -- it's to taint the jury pool.
CLARK: It's not -- it doesn't necessarily -- you know, it might engender sympathy for him. But it does show that all procedures are being followed appropriately. They said, like it's an open door. Here, you can see what we're doing, this is not some star chamber. We are handling him appropriately like we would any other prisoner. We're observing all safety regulations, we're being careful to protect him. It can actually cover their, you know -- their rears. And --
COOPER: Mark --
TOOBIN: That was a news media camera. That was their camera. It's being covered because we want to cover it.
HOSTIN: But it's Florida.
GERAGOS: No, I know, but like --
HOSTIN: But it's Florida and there are the Sunshine Laws there, so almost everything is open to the public.
TOOBIN: I think that was a public street. I don't think --
COOPER: So -- that's why cameras are just available and we're able to get it.
TOOBIN: Yes. I think that's just the street. Yes.
COOPER: But, Jeff, the trial itself will be -- cameras will be in the courtroom?
TOOBIN: Florida is the most expansive state in terms of allowing cameras into any kind of legal or any kind of government proceeding. The Casey Anthony trial, which I'm sure many people remember, was, of course, televised. You know when I covered Bush v. Gore and all the recounts in 2000, all those proceedings were open.
It's unusual, and both Marcia and Mark know that from trying these cases on TV, that sometimes has an impact.
COOPER: Yes. We've got to leave it there tonight. Mark Geragos, Marcia Clark, Jeffrey Toobin, Sunny Hostin, thank you.
With George Zimmerman arriving at the Seminole County Jail, we're also hearing from a friend of his who has stood by him. You'll hear from him next.
COOPER: Just moments ago, 45 days after the death of Trayvon Martin, about three weeks since special prosecutor got the case, George Zimmerman is now in the Seminole County Jail. He arrived at about 8:25 local time, just moments ago. After being processed, checked in tonight, he's scheduled to make his first court appearance tomorrow. Bail bond may be discussed. The charge, second-degree murder.
When special prosecutor Angela Corey announced that Zimmerman had been charged with second-degree murder, we saw how Trayvon Martin's parents reacted. It was the news they were hoping to hear. Obviously it's not the news George Zimmerman's parents wanted to hear. They haven't spoken publicly tonight.
A friend, though, and a neighbor of George Zimmerman is speaking out. I talked to Frank Taaffe a short time ago.
COOPER: Frank, what's your reaction to George Zimmerman being charged?
FRANK TAAFFE, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S FRIEND AND NEIGHBOR: Anderson, I was -- I was stunned, but I wasn't shaken. I had prepared myself. And when I talked to George on Monday, I ensured him that no matter what the outcome was, that, you know, I was there for him from the beginning, now and that we'll walk through this together.
COOPER: It doesn't shake your belief that he did the right thing?
TAAFFE: Not at all. He did the right thing. I still stand by the fact that it's a self defense claim. I'll take that all the way to the courtroom steps. When we're leaving the courtroom and he's pronounced innocent.
COOPER: What is it that makes you so sure?
TAAFFE: Based on the police narrative, the on the scene police officer, I read the police report over and over again. And when I talked to George on Monday, I asked him about that night and he couldn't go into specifics.
So what I did was I read from the narrative the lines, which included where the officer on the scene, not the extra narratives from the other officers, but the officer on the scene, Officer Smith, from his narrative that when he observed George, it was from -- he was within close contact with George. This is where he observed, you know, the grass on the pants, on the back of the jacket, the bruising on the back of his head and also that his nose had been punched and it was bloody. This is what the narrative was. When I asked him if I can go and, you know, restate that, he said stay with that. That's good.
COOPER: You had been --
TAAFFE: Also he -- excuse me, he also said that he was -- he shared with the officer that he was the one that was screaming for help.
COOPER: George Zimmerman told you that it was he screaming for help?
TAAFFE: Well, in the narrative.
COOPER: In the narrative to the police officer.
TAAFFE: He said go with that, that's exactly correct.
COOPER: You say you spoke to George Zimmerman Monday. How did he sound to you? Because as you know yesterday, the people who were his attorneys came forward saying they thought he maybe was suffering from PTSD. They were concerned about his mental state. Joe Oliver, a friend of his, also has said that he's concerned he's suffering from PTSD. How did he seem to you?
TAAFFE: Anderson, he seemed very lucid. He was clear and concise in his delivery of the talking points that he wanted me to share with the media and the public.
COOPER: Do you know the new attorney?
TAAFFE: Yes, Mark O'Mara.
COOPER: Can you give an opinion about him?
TAAFFE: He's a preeminent lawyer in the Central Florida area and he has an impeccable record. I just want to share that our team on this side, Anderson, this is going to be -- you know, this is a new game, OK.
They teed it up. They kicked the ball to us. We took the ball and with Mark as our quarterback on this team, on our team, we're going to take that ball and we're going to find the end zone of innocence.
COOPER: You believe in the end he will be exonerated?
COOPER: Frank, appreciate it. Thank you.
TAAFFE: You're welcome.
COOPER: Frank Taaffe, a friend of George Zimmerman. Joining us now is Daryl Parks, one of the attorneys for Trayvon Martin's family.
Mr. Parks, thanks for being with us. We saw Trayvon Martin's parents at their news conference tonight. How are they holding up?
DARYL PARKS, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S FAMILY: Anderson, today has been a tough day, but I can tell you I was in the room with them when the special prosecutor called them just moments before she took the stage to make her announcement and they were overtaken by the news.
It was humbling. It was finally that day that Trayvon's death was not just thrown away. It was a day -- that what he suffered that night on the ground at the Twin Lakes retreat is finally -- justice was coming and not some charade.
You know, I just listened to Mr. Taaffe's statement about a game. Trayvon's life is so important. Maybe they didn't see his life as important and that was the problem from the beginning, the problem with the Sanford Police Department and the problem with Mr. Zimmerman.
COOPER: This charge, second-degree murder, is this the charge you, his legal team, had hoped for? I know there was some concern about a lesser charge. There was concern about this being sent to a grand jury. Is this what you had hoped for?
PARKS: Well, there were possible three charges. This charge came in the middle of all of those charges. And we are very encouraged by the charge, so we're very happy with the job that Miss Corey and her team have done.
Obviously, we have seen them working very diligently on the situation as they have talked to witnesses throughout the state and as they continue to gather information and evidence in this case. So we're very encouraged by what she's done and the charges that she has filed today.
COOPER: Where do Trayvon's parents now go from here? Obviously, this process, the legal process is going to take quite a long time. Given the idea how they -- I mean, what do they do tomorrow, the next day, weeks and months from now?
PARKS: Well, I think this case has awakened America's conscience. And so they have a lot of communicating to do with America and they'll do so with that tomorrow. There will be -- they're obviously in D.C. today on the northern end of the country so they're doing some of that work.
But they will continue to make sure that there are no more other Trayvons out there. There are many people suffering injustice in America. They have taken on that battle and are very encouraged to make sure that no other family has to suffer and go through.
You saw today how strong Sybrina and Tracy were on that stage. And, you know, that's who they are. And so they'll continue that battle for the other people out there who might face this same type of situation Trayvon faced.
COOPER: Do you have any sense how long this may take to get to trial? PARKS: Well, it depends on many things. You've seen where an extensive motion practice can happen, when you saw the Casey Anthony trial, right?
So in this case we can already forecast there are going to be many pre-trial motions based on many of the other what we can call circumstantial legal issues out there.
So it could be a while depending on scheduling, depending on lawyers' schedules so there are many factors that go into it.
COOPER: Daryl Parks, I appreciate it. Thank you.
A lot more happening that I'm telling you about in the last 24 hours, have given us a preview of what the next seven months might look like on the campaign trail.
Mitt Romney now accusing President Obama of waging a war on women. He's starting some dramatic numbers, but is he playing fast and loose with the fact. We're keeping them honest next.
COOPER: Keeping them honest in the presidential race. The war over who, if anybody, is waging a war on women is heating up with Mitt Romney doubling down on a number that has many people scratching their heads. Here's what Romney said today in Delaware.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: The real war on women is being waged by the president's failed economic policies. Now, the president says, I didn't cause this recession. That's true. He just made it worse and made it last longer.
And because it lasted longer, more and more women lost jobs, such that in his three and a half years, 92.3 percent of the people who have lost jobs have been women. His failures have hurt women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Romney's strategy is clear. For months the Obama campaign has been accusing Republicans of waging war on women and now Romney is trying to turn the tables.
Here's why he's worried. A new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll shows President Obama with a 19-point lead among women voters, 57 percent versus 38 percent. CNN's polling shows a similar gap.
For more than 24 hours now, press releases and conference calls the Romney campaign has been repeating that same striking statistic, 92.3 percent of people who have lost jobs under President Obama are women.
Now, it sounds alarming. Technically, it's true, but it's also misleading. Here's why. To get the 92.3 percent figure, the Romney campaign compares net job losses for women and men between January 2009 and March 2012.
Their math includes hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in the three weeks before President Obama took office since January, 2009, was the biggest month of job losses in the recession including those three weeks tells the picture.
Here's another piece of contacts. Overall, men lost more jobs in the recession than women did, but most of their losses came before Mr. Obama took office and those losses are not figuring into the Romney camp's calculations.
So when the economy started growing, men began recovering their jobs faster than women. Economists say both patterns are typical in recessions.
Joining me now is CNN contributors Paul Begala, Hilary Rosen and Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of redstate.com. So, Paul, the president's campaign manager is sending a message to supporters calling Mitt Romney, quote, "the most anti-woman candidate in a generation."
He's so anti-women he spent a whole day focused on them. Is that really going to sway any votes?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think they need to take it to issues and I think they can make the case. The governor -- Governor Romney has said that he wants to, his quote, "get rid of Planned Parenthood."
Now later, he said I just mean the funding. Well, you get rid of the funding. You get rid of a lot of Planned Parenthood clinics. He wants to abolish what's called "Title X," which is birth control that the federal government pays for, for underprivileged women.
It saves lives. It saves money. It was created by George H.W. Bush for seniors when he was a congressman, signed into law by Richard Nixon. It used to be a Republican deal. That's a very extreme position.
I don't know of a major political candidate certainly not a nominee or likely one in 40 years who has ever called for doing away with all of the government support for birth control for women. So, yes, I think that is something he can defend anyway.
COOPER: Erick, the Romney campaign is trying to use the Obama team's own language against them. They're accusing the president waging an economic war on women, but simply trying to combat a Democratic attack line with a questionable factoid, is that the best way to go about it?
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think they're going to have to push this. I mean, as you said, it is true that since Barack Obama became president more women have lost their jobs. Unfortunately, for the Romney campaign it also happens to be true of every recession so they have to work around that.
At the same time, this whole war on women rhetoric to me, it seems that it's going to play itself out. It's not having a dramatic impact on the polling. I think Mitt Romney's impact on the polling with women has a lot to do with other things, the negativity of the Republican race, seeming aloofness and inability to connect.
In fact in the Gallup poll released last week, 80 percent of women in swing states have no idea what his positions are on these issues so it's hard to say that is the impact.
I think the problem is with metronomic precision. Both candidates running for president now like to switch their positions so there's a lot of distrust across the board with both of them.
COOPER: Hilary, to the Romney campaign's point though, they're focusing on the economy and that's what women overwhelming say they really care about right now in poll after poll.
Whether it's a typical pattern or not, women are seeing jobs come back much more slowly than men are. Is there anything really wrong then with reaching out to women on an issue that they care about, on the economy?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first, can we just get rid of this word war on women. The Obama campaign does not use it. President Obama does not use it. This is something that the Republicans are accusing people of using, but they're actually the one spreading it.
With respect to economic issues, I think actually that Mitt Romney is right, that ultimately women care more about the economic well-being of their families and the like. But there's -- but he doesn't connect on that issue either.
What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues. And when I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing.
Guess what, his wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and how do we -- why do we worry about their future?
So I think it's -- yes, it's about these positions and, yes, I think there will be a war of words about the positions, but there's something much more fundamental about Mitt Romney. He seems so old- fashioned when it comes to women.
And I think that comes across and I think that that's going to hurt him over the long term. He just doesn't really see us as equal.
COOPER: Erick, I want you to be able to respond to that.
ERICKSON: Well, I'm still hung up on the Democrats haven't been using the war on women because I've been playing clips of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Nancy Pelosi and others using the phrase war on women. I'm pretty sure. ROSEN: No, no, no.
ERICKSON: I think it's a Democratic talking point. I think the Democrats have used it. I think their political mouthpieces from MSNBC to think progress and elsewhere have used it. It's clear that's what the Democrats want to talk about, this war on women.
I do think Mitt Romney is going to have problems relating to women. He is going to have problems relating to men, but those problems are going to be about him being able to relate to people in general.
Frankly, if the economy goes down, I don't really think it's going to matter. More and more we're seeing small businesses say they don't even want to hire headed into next year, but that's a problem not for Mitt Romney, but for Barack Obama.
COOPER: Paul, I want to give you the final thought. How big -- I mean do you think -- do you believe that President Obama appeals to women more than Mitt Romney does?
BEGALA: Yes, I think -- speaking as a guy, I think that the three most powerful words any politician can say to anybody, but I think especially a man talking to women is I get it.
Like that's what Bill Clinton said to a woman in Richmond, Virginia, during a presidential debate in 1992 when she asked Bush about the national debt. He said I get it.
Mitt just doesn't get it and I think the president does. I think -- you want to know an issue is going to come. It's Romney's record as a businessman. He says that he was a turn-around artist.
He was at Bain Capital. Fewer than 10 percent of his vice presidents were women. He had an abysmal record about hiring and promoting women.
He ran an all boys club there at his business when he had the power to lift women up and give them economic opportunity and that's going to hurt him a lot in this election.
COOPER: I've got to leave it there, Paul Begala, Hilary Rosen, and Erick Erickson. Appreciate it. Thank you.
The Syrian government says it's going to meet a U.N.-backed deadline to stop all military action tomorrow. Still activists say at least 98 people were killed in new violence today. Details ahead.
COOPER: And Isha's here with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, breaking news, we've just gotten our first look at George Zimmerman from tonight. Take a look at this.
This is his booking photo taken tonight at the Seminole County Jail. He arrived there at about 8:25 p.m. local time. He's expected in court tomorrow.
Also, the Syrian government said that it will honor a ceasefire beginning tomorrow morning, but guns still roared again today with security forces shelling Homs. Opposition leaders said at least 98 people were killed across the country today.
An 8.6 magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of the Indonesian Island of Sumatra today. A tsunami watch was issued for the Indian Ocean, but later cancelled. There are no reports of death and the quake hit far enough offshore that officials don't expect much damage, which is good news, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, Isha, thanks very much.
Coming up, the Dyngus Day part two, Pussy Willow smackdown on "The Ridiculist."
COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." I've got to do it, adding myself again for losing it on air again on last night's "Ridiculist."
On last night's "Ridiculist," we added anyone who missed out on Dyngus day, a little known holiday. It sounds like a lot of fun. For the record I didn't put the holiday itself on "The Ridiculist," it was anyone who missed out on the holiday for the record.
Now, I started giggling about halfway through last night's "Ridiculist." Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The quirky little rituals include boys sprinkling girls that they fancy with water, and the girls striking back with a tap from a Pussy Willow branch.
COOPER: Sorry about that. I'm not going to let you do this one. Sorry. It's so stupid. It's really so stupid. Stop, come on. Come on. This is torture. I've just got to let it out. Just got to let it out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right, now, if you noticed in the midst of the giggle fit I said something like this is so stupid, so stupid. I think I said it twice. Now some people, especially folks in the Buffalo area, seemed to think I was calling Dyngus Day itself stupid.
I absolutely was not. I was saying that my giggle fit was stupid, and it was. I also said it was torture. I said it was stupid because it's stupid that a grown man giggles like a 13-year-old girl meeting Justin Bieber for the first time.
I think it's stupid that I cannot stop giggling once I start and I think it's stupid that this is not the first time I have had an immature giggle fit. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Departu, I know you got it. All right, sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: In Buffalo, New York, the Dyngus Day capital of the world, today there was a demonstration called. They held a Pussy Willow pride rally. If you notice, there's a sign there that reads "Cooper is a pooper."
A saying, which by the way, I found funny in third grade and still find funny to this day, Cooper, pooper. Anyway, what actually makes me sad about this is that I really hope those people at that demonstration today know that I was not calling Dyngus Day stupid.
There are tons of quirky and little known cultural and religious celebrations in this country and I enjoy them. I think it's cool that we have them.
It's part of what makes this country so great. Because I was legitimately sad that I upset people in Buffalo and elsewhere, I invited the co-founder of Buffalo's Dyngus Day celebration Eddy Dobosiewicz onto the program. I spoke with him just before air time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Mr. Dobosiewicz, thank you very much for being on with me. I just want to explain and make sure you understand that when I said it's so stupid, I was giggling and I was talking about myself giggling yet again, because this has been an ongoing problem where I have broken out into ridiculous, childish giggles over, you know, words that I should not be giggling over.
And so that's what I meant when I said this is so stupid. I was not calling Dyngus Day stupid and clearly a lot of people in Buffalo and elsewhere believe that I was. So I wanted to apologize to them and try to explain that was my intent.
EDDY DOBOSIEWICZ, CO-FOUNDER OF BUFFALO'S DYNGUS DAY CELEBRATION: Well, I guess it could be worse. I guess instead of breaking out in giggles, you could break out in hives, so I'm glad for that.
Second of all, although you have upset many, many people here in western New York and throughout the land, we accept your apology, Mr. Cooper, graciously we do.
We understand that Dyngus Day and the rituals and the little quirky things that are associated with it are ridiculous. We don't make any bones about that. We are very, very aware that chasing someone around with a Pussy Willow branch is not a normal thing to do.
That it is kind of silly, and squirting each other with water is just as silly. But it's much more than that. It's an ancient ritual that Buffalonians have adopted as their own. COOPER: It looks like a lot of fun. Part of the thing that makes America great is all the different groups in the United States and all the different places people come from and the traditions they bring with them and the celebrations they have. We should be celebrating all of these groups because I think it's what makes the United States fine.
DOBOSIEWICZ: As a gesture to prove that we are genuine in your acceptance of your apology, I personally would like to invite you on behalf of the entire city of Buffalo to come to our festivities next year and you will be the very first ever Pussy Willow prince. We will crown you as the Pussy Willow Prince --
COOPER: Are you trying to make me giggle again?
DOBOSIEWICZ: -- of the Dyngus Day festival. You will --
(Inaudible) -- make you giggle.
COOPER: I would love to be the Pussy Willow prince and I don't think I've ever said that before, but I would love that. I don't wnat to promise, beacuse with my new schedule, things change. But as the date approaches, let's talk this time next year and I will make every effort to come and celebrate Dyngus Day. That would be great.
DOBOSIEWICZ: Thank you, Anderson. And thanks for the opportunity to promote this throughout the land.
COOPER: All right. So I hope everyone knows, I was calling myself and my stupid laugh stupid, not Dyngus Day. And if I did really offend you, I am sorry. I said it last night, I'll say it again: To the good citizens of Buffalo and elsewhere, Happy Belated Dyngus Day.
That's it for us. We'll see you again one hour from now -- another addition of 360 at 10 pm.
Piers Morgan starts right now. Piers?