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George Zimmerman Found Not Guilty

Aired July 14, 2013 - 12:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: George Zimmerman is a free man today. The former neighborhood watch volunteer found not guilty in the shooting death of the African-American teenager Trayvon Martin. The verdict comes in the wake of more than 16 hours of jury deliberation and impassioned debate about the state of race in this country.

The rallies some feared might turn violent in the after math of the decision have largely remained peaceful across the country. Both sides of the case had called for calm. More demonstrations are expected today.

The parents of Trayvon Martin were not in the courtroom when the verdict was announced. His father tweeted, quote, "even though I'm brokenhearted, my faith is unshattered."

Family attorney Benjamin Crump had this to say last night.


BENJAMIN CRUMP, MARTIN FAMILY ATTORNEY: The whole world was looking at this case for a reason, and what people wanted to see as we all said how far we have come in America in matters of equal justice. And certainly as we have said, we'll be intellectually dishonest if we didn't acknowledge the racial undertones in this case. So we have to have very responsible conversations about how we get better as a country and move forward from the tragedy and learn from it.


CROWLEY: Joining me as partner to Mr. Crump and Martin family attorney Daryl Parks. Mr. Parks, thank you for being here this morning.

I want to talk to you first about the family. They were not in the courtroom as we just said. We have heard tweets from them. Have you talked to them? And if so, can you give us a sense of where they are right now -- not physically located, but where they are emotionally.

DARYL PARKS, MARTIN FAMILY ATTORNEY: Well, they're devastated. And when I gave the mother the message as soon as it happened, her response was, wow. This morning they have advanced a little bet more and realize that the verdict is done and now they must move forward.

They are very committed to moving forward action going the, to advance nonviolence against youth, especially where it relates to guns. So they are very, very, very committed to Trayvon's legacy. And Trayvon's legacy means so much to this country, Candy, in that hopefully he has made America more aware that all people are important, but also too that we is to be more mindful as to how we treat one another, how we profile one another, how we evoke our judicial process when things occur.

All of those things will be part of Trayvon's legacy.

CROWLEY: I'm interested, first of all, in whether moving forward includes perhaps a civil suit.

PARKS: Well, we don't talk about that much publicly on our side of things. When we make those type of decisions, there are a lot of things that go into that. We don't sue insolvent people. We sue people who, you know, may - we make this an informed decision. We talk to our client.

So, we don't -- that wouldn't be a very public situation when that decision is made, how we handle it, and we'll confer with our clients. We'll make that decision.

Right now, though, I think this verdict is so fresh, we don't have that second conversation not yet. I think right now it's really an important time for the country and the Martin family to think about how we treat racial minorities, how our system delivers equal justice and what can we do to do better.

There are a lot of different ways that can happen, whether it's lawmakers, lawyer it's lawyers, whether it's judges, whether it's law enforcement and how they go about their processes.

So we learned many different lessons. We saw things as simple as how people may have taken pictures of Trayvon and miscued things. And there's a solution to that. I think maybe in the future people will know that put a footnote on the picture that describes when the picture was taken and that clears all that up, because unless you ask someone who took the picture or ask the parents, you would never really know how to put it in proper context.

CROWLEY: Mr. Parks, I spent a long timing listening to people talk about the need for real a conversation about race. I think we heard it after a number of trials, particularly in California, they seem to come from the OJ Simpson trial brought up race and racial justice.

This one certainly has. I'm sure it takes place in smaller forums, as well, to some of these trials that are not so well covered. And yet, it seems to me when something is kind of getting national attention it's the same story that the justice system, as seen by the African-American community and others is unfair to African-Americans and nothing ever changes. What changes it?

PARKS: Well, what changes is simple things - education, Candy. If think, for example, if you use Ben and I as an example, we don't come from very rich backgrounds, but we're lawyers who went to law school who, although we have what would be seen as a normal civil rights, civil litigation type practice, it's a very conscience based practice that spends a lot of time and effort to in situations to make sure that the right thing happens in our community.

So, when you have those type of people that exist, and - who spend time in those type of entities, it tends to force the conversation back in the right direction.

And so we have of -- there are many comments about our law partner, our law firm, other lawyers involved in this fight, including myself, and very critical.

And, you know, I don't believe that those people who make criticism quite understood how series we take our role. The role that we take from a social responsibility standpoint, is really important to us.

CROWLEY: And let me ask you about the word profile. When you say that Trayvon Martin was profiled, do you mean that you believe that Mr. Zimmerman profiled him simply because he was African- American?

PARKS: That plus the fact that he was wearing a hoodie, plus the fact that he was walking at night, these are all things that he described that happened in the past that led to a number of break-ins.

That evidence was very substantial in this case. And so because it was at night, and he saw him walking, what he believed to be suspicious -- we have to remember Trayvon we now know was on the telephone. George Zimmerman is not the judge of people who choose to talk on their cell phone, walk slowly at night as they're walking home. That's perfectly okay. People do it all the time when they're talking on the phone.

And so...

CROWLEY: Just quickly, let me ask you, to those critics who have said it isn't so much that justice was not served, it's that justice was served, but there are just some folks that don't like the outcome.

PARKS: Well, I think the system did what it does. Sometimes the system doesn't get it right. And that's part of our process. And when the system doesn't get it right, it should motivate people to go, to run for office, to be policymakers and to change the laws that makes it more favorable to protect people, especially innocent people, who are unarmed and who are minding their business.

And so those who criticized the law - the law would certainly needs some tweaking. And hopefully that will run its course.

CROWLEY: Martin family attorney Daryl Parks, thanks for your time this morning.

PARKS: Thank you, so much. CROWLEY; Up next, the criticism of Zimmerman's prosecutors. Were they sloppy, or was there misconduct? The famed law professor Alan Dershowitz will tell us what he thinks. And it's pretty harsh.



DON WEST, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: I think the prosecution of George Zimmerman was disgraceful. I am gratified by the jury's verdict. As happy as I am for George Zimmerman, I'm thrilled that this jury kept this tragedy from becoming a travesty. For that, we are eternally grateful. But it makes me sad, too, that it took this long, under these circumstances, to finally get justice.


CROWLEY: That's Don West, who is one of George Zimmerman's lawyers. And he's not the only ones with harsh words for the prosecutors. Even before the jury found Zimmerman not guilty, famed Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz was accusing the state's attorneys of misconduct. He joins us now via Skype.

Let's first talk about the misconduct. What did they do wrong?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, when they first sought to get a second-degree murder prosecution against Zimmerman, they willfully and deliberately withheld exculpatory evidence, photographs that showed that Zimmerman had his head banged against the payment, that his nose had been bloodied. They tried to pull one over on the judge -- put one over on the judge.

And then, all through the course of the pretrial proceedings, they withheld additional exculpatory evidence.

You know, this is a case that should never have been brought in the first place, certainly not as a second-degree murder prosecution. There had been a fairly careful investigation, it now turns out, by the elected prosecutor, but there was public opposition to not bringing a prosecution.

So there was political pressure on the governor, and he appointed somebody who had the worst reputation in Florida for overcharging. And she did exactly what she was supposed to do; she overcharged. She charged second-degree murder in a case where there was reasonable doubt written all over it.

Everybody had to have a reasonable doubt about who struck the first blow, about who yelled "Help me! Help me!", about who was on top and who was on bottom. And so...

CROWLEY: I have to tell you, though, Alan, that it was amazing to me to listen, over the course of days, to any number of lawyers who said they just don't have the goods here; this is -- they just are not proving beyond a reasonable doubt, and then to hear others who said that in fact they thought he'd be found guilty. What -- what makes for that gap?

Oh, I'm sorry. OK, we're having some trouble here. We have lost Alan Dershowitz. As much as we love Skype, sometimes it doesn't always work. So -- so we're going to take a quick break, and when we return, what could be ahead for both sides involved in this case. Our legal panel weighs in, and hopefully we will come back with Dershowitz. We'll be right back.


CROWLEY: Social media lit up as George Zimmerman's not guilty verdict was read last night. The online community played a role in getting Zimmerman prosecuted in the first place and in rallying support for his defense.

Joining us here in Washington, David Folkenflik, media correspondent for NPR News; Corey Dade, contributing editor for the online magazine "The Root"; and Ana Marie Cox of The Guardian.

Thanks all.

Just start by telling us what happened on social media once the verdict came out?

COREY DADE, "THE ROOT": Well, if my computer could have exploded right there, it would have.


I think, you know, social media has been filled with people who see what they want to see. And they're following threads that really confirm their own preconceived notions of what should happen out of this case.

And so you saw, you know, the people who supported Zimmerman, you know, gloating, often, you know, tactlessly. And you saw people who supported Trayvon Martin's family and the need to find -- get a conviction, rather -- you know, they were heartbroken, absolutely devastated.

The question that, kind of, rippled out among that group was, you know, when do we ever get justice, even in this case?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, NPR NEWS: You were saying earlier that you felt that it was almost as though Twitter served as the official repository for reaction and commentary for people.

ANA MARIE COX, THE GUARDIAN: Yeah, I think this is just a good example of that -- that's what's happening already. People are treating Twitter -- when we cover it, we, kind of, treat it as a public opinion poll or as a place to find official responses. And I think we need to be careful about that because you really do get the most inflamed responses.

You know, and people on both sides were saying things that were, you know, deliberately inflammatory. But what's, sort of, interesting is that is where we now, in the news media, go for official responses. When you look at a report, you know, from a magazine and they say that so-and-so responds, it's so-and-so's Twitter feed responded.

And I guess I want to believe that 140 characters is not enough to express how one feels about this case. I mean, this case is incredibly complicated. It brings up a lot of history, a lot of feelings. The extent to which we can trust Twitter for this, I hope it's to directs us to longer pieces.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it's interesting, though. You talk about that, and yet it's a place people put a marker down in thinking about these issues.

Corey, you were onto this from the earliest moments of this trial, in thinking about this as a trial where you saw issues, the overlays of race, questions about the rights and responsibilities of gun owners. And in your early reporting over a year ago, you said, look, social media is driving not only media attention but often the authorities to react to this.

How did that play out?

DADE: Well, you know, social media, as we all know, drove the bus. It made this national news. But, you know, it also got actually used by the defense team. What the defense team did here with social media and the Internet is going to be -- it was rather unprecedented. They created a new model. And what they did was they opened their own Facebook account, their own Twitter page, their own website. And they put out a P.R. campaign to counter the negative effects against their client. But what they also did is actually start putting out discovery evidence that was negative toward Trayvon.

And over the course of 16 months, they were able to sort of flood the zone with certain information that actually potentially influenced potential jurors. So it's like jury consultation for free.

FOLKENFLIK: But with one thing there, if you think about major trials over the year, why isn't it just ever thus? I mean, if you think about the Clinton impeachment things, there were leaks from both sides throughout. We didn't have Twitter back then, we didn't have Facebook back then. But surely there are ways in which people were influencing public opinion. How is this different in your mind, Ana?

COX: Well, I think it's something that you referred to right away is that we have sort of stove piped information. Like people on one side are getting information that they want to see, people on the other side are getting information that they want to see. And really it doesn't mix very often. And when it does mix, that's when it gets explosive.

When someone retweets something from the other side, like the amount of hate that you get, you know, as reaction, I mean, is really kind of stunning, because sometimes I think it's easy to forget that there is another side. CROWLEY: One of the things that strikes me about several story that get picked up by Twitter is there was a study right after the election, I think maybe Pew did it, about the difference this public opinion writ large and Twitter and it was almost always opposite.

So this becomes the universe, but it's not really.

COX: Oh god, and I think -- again Twitter is a great example of that. Sure, I mean, this case is a great example of that. I mean, sure it mobilized people. I actually believe that the first I ever heard about Trayvon, it was a hashtag on Twitter.

And then I investigated further and sort of developed my own sense of the trial.

But, yeah, again I'm not sure in this case you could say it's opposite from public opinion, it's just the kind of opinion that is only informed by itself, it sort of just keeps inflaming its own side. And I'm not sure if we're going to see any kind of like coming together over this, if it's even possible.

FOLKENFLIK: But it's interesting, you talk about that as sort of social media being a source of inflammation, a source of passion. You see that in politics sometimes people say, well, you know, if you look at gun control, the nation is more divided than the way in which votes go, but that there is an intensity among certain folks who believe in that strongly similarly on Twitter, an intensity of attention on certain things.

And yet there are ways in which the media trails social media and looks to it for cues. I think the kind of coverage you're seeing on this channel, on other cable channels in particular, you know, follows the intensity of interest that you've seen elsewhere.

Is it appropriate for news agendas to be driven in that way?

DADE: I think sometimes it is because news organizations are limited sometimes with how many hands they can put on deck. But there have to be a set of controls, there has to be fact checks, there has to be discipline to it. But I think it's important that you take the zeitgeist coming out of Twitter, out of social media, and you bring it to broadcast. And I saw CNN, HLN, and MSNBC doing that repeatedly. They will pluck a story out, they pluck an issue out, and they have their legal affairs analysts respond.

CROWELY: I mean, it can be really -- I love watching Twitter more than I like contributing to Twitter, but it just seems to me that it also sharpens up the edges of a debate, that it is not where you go for, well, hang on a second, can we all step back. It's very different from the tones that we've heard from both the defense and the prosecution.

And I think it sometimes adds to the harshness of what's out there.

COX: And I think by its nature, especially we're talking about Twitter, makes things shortened. You know, it sharpens and shortens.

You know, again, 140 characters is not nearly enough to talk about this case. And there was another study done recently about the number of people who click through on articles that have been forwarded on Twitter.

And the rate is like in the single digits as far as like people who actually complete an article, read completely an article to let it wash over them.

CROWLEY: I think they're there to contribute, right, to have their voice heard, it seems to me, that that's more of a -- feel like they're having their voice heard and that - you know, it's interesting again to watch. But I think sometimes we take it too seriously if that makes sense, like we think it means more than it may.

I mean, there are some things on there I think, holy cow, because somebody's done a link and you go to it and it's amazing.

FOLKENFLIK: And one key though, however, even in the age of social media, I think the importance of video and images is so paramount. If you think about other trials happening currently, the trial of an army private Bradley Manning for handing over millions of secrets, that's going on right now. You're not getting the same coverage. There aren't cameras in the newsroom similarly -- or in the courtroom. Similarly, Whitey Bulger up in Boston, very dramatic events up there, but we can't see it. It's in a federal court.

CROWLEY: And that's why a picture is worth 1,000 words.

Thank you all.

David Folkenflik, Corey Dade, Ana Marie Cox, thanks for joining us.

Coming up, the verdict is in, but the legal wrangling may not be over. Our legal analysts will look ahead. And Alan Dershowitz will rejoin us.


CROWLEY: Now that the verdict is in, what's next for both sides in this case? Alan Dershowitz is back with us and in Sanford, Florida CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin and Mark Nejame. Thank you all.

Mr. Dershowitz, let me get back to you. When last we spoke, we were talking about the prosecution. You feel that certain things like not handing over evidence to the defense makes them guilty of misconduct.

But let me ask you about going forward. And that is, do you think given what was said at the trial that there is enough evidence there for the Justice Department to move forward on a civil rights complaint?

DERSHOWITZ: I do not. I think this is a fairly traditional case of self-defense. It's a horrible tragedy. It reflects the racial divide in our society. There is no reason this young man should have been killed. Mr. Zimmerman may have been morally at fault for racially profiling and following him, but under the law of self defense, if he was on bottom and he was having his head banged against the pavement and was in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm, he had the right to respond the way he did.

If there is going to be an investigation, it should be just for the racial profiling and the following, it shouldn't be for the events that led to the death, because then every case of self-defense will be turned into a federal case. And that's not what the civil rights law was intended to do.

CROWLEY: We're also going to welcome Paul Callan who is a CNN legal analyst and a former homicide prosecutor in New York.

Let me move first to Sunny and Mark in Sanford.

Do you agree with that analysis on what kind of evidence there is for a civil rights case?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I mean, I think that the FBI and the Department of Justice has been conducted a parallel investigation into the events. And I do think that there could be evidence that supports racial profiling and that supports a civil rights violation.

In our society, when is it okay for someone to make these false assumptions based simply on the way someone appears, the way someone looks and eventually kill that person? I mean, I think at best -- at worst rather we open up this dialogue and we're talking about it. But at best, this is something that we need to investigate.

CROWLEY: But Martin...

MARK NEJAME, ATTORNEY: Very simply, such a thorough investigation has now been done on this case with Florida's very liberal discovery laws and our depositions where you can take depositions of basically every witness pretrial, that's all been done. There's been -- the feds have already been in, the state two agencies have investigated this, full depositions in the amount of hundreds have been concluded. And there simple is nothing to allow the government to move forward on.

Racial profiling should be knocked out and knocked down every time it rears its ugly head. But this case has been exhausted and we need to move forward from whatever lessons we might have learned.

But to suggest that the feds are now going to come in and take a civil rights violation when all the witnesses have come forward. And the state has even basically indicated this was not a racially profiling case. At the end of the day, where do they go with that?

PAUL CALLAN, ATTORNEY: Can I add something, too, Candy? You know, there is a misconception here about these federal civil rights actions. Most of the time, vast majority of the time, they involve police officers discriminating again American citizens and depriving them of their constitutional rights. In other words, it's a deprivation of liberty or life under color of law.

You very rarely see them invoked when two citizens are involved in an act of racial discrimination if, in fact, it occurred. And I'm not saying that it did here, obviously the jury thought otherwise.

However, it would be rare to see the feds jump in, in a situation like that.

The investigation they were doing originally, by the way, didn't have to do so much with Mr. Zimmerman individually, they were looking at the Sanford Police Department and governmental officials whether they committed discrimination in the way they were handling the case.

So I would be very surprised to see justice jump into this.

CROWLEY; So Alan, is there any other legal avenues -- let's set aside civil rights and the Justice Department, is there any other legal avenue that the family or others can take or is the case of Trayvon Martin over?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, it's probably over, but the family could seriously consider a civil lawsuit. The standard of proof is considerably lower. All you have to do is prove by a preponderance, self-defense plays a lesser role in a civil case than it would in a criminal case.

Remember in a criminal case, the government has to prove a negative beyond a reasonable doubt. It has to prove that Zimmerman did not act in self-defense.

In an ordinary civil case, all they have to do is prove their case by 51 percent by a preponderance of the evidence.

Whether or not they could prevail in a civil case is highly questionable. The jury in this case didn't render of verdict of innocent, they rendered a verdict of not guilty. And it could have just been based on the presence of reasonable doubt. So we don't know for sure.

But I think the public involvement in the case tragically is over because we still have problems of racial profiling, of racial division in this country. And a case like this provides a good opportunity to have a debate and a dialogue. It's just that the criminal courtroom is not the right place to have that debate. And the jury was the only institution I think in this case to have said essentially we're not interested in what's going on outside on the streets. We're interested in applying facts and the law and coming to a verdict. And that's what they did here.

CROWLEY: Unfortunately, I have to run. Thank you all for your expertise.

Alan Dershowitz, Sunny Hostin, Mark Nejame, and Paul Callan.

Still ahead, racial tensions online and on the streets. The new host of CNN's Crossfire, Newt Gingrich and Van Jones are standing by.

And next, I'll ask the NAACP chief Benjamin Jealous about some racially provocative statements and tweets since the Zimmerman verdict.


CROWLEY: The president of the NAACP told me earlier he is proud there hasn't been any serious violence in the aftermath of George Zimmerman's not guilty verdict. Benjamin Jealous knows full well the racial tension, the anger, the disappointment are there. He is with us now from Orlando, Florida.

Thanks for joining us again, Ben.

First to that disappointment. What is to be done with that? Because there are obviously young kids that are upset with this both black and white who feel that they know that Zimmerman was guilty and that he got off. What is your message to them?

BENJAMIN JEALOUS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: The first thing to do is to listen to them, to let them talk. Our young people are raising good questions. They're saying how could this happen, how could George Zimmerman walk and Michael Vick got 2 1/2 years for killing a dog and the woman up the road from Sanford in Jacksonville who was a domestic violence victim got 20 years for shooting over the head of the man who she feared might be about to kill her, because he'd beaten her so many times.

And it's important just to let them let it out and to listen to them. But then to help guide them. And I'm so proud of the young people who are taking part in these nonviolence protests across the country, because what they're choosing to do, is not just to be peaceful, but to raise their voices forcefully, to call on our nation that not only can do better, but must do better, by them, because quite frankly this experience of being suspected because of your color or because you're wearing a hoodie is something that is almost universal to this generation. They have gone through it, they seem their friends go through it, and they know that it's wrong and it has to stop.

CROWLEY: Is there a difference in your mind between criminal profiling and racial profiling? Because there are those who say clearly he looked and saw a criminal, because of his dress, because of -- you know, walking around and not seeming to have a place to go, that kind of thing, so that there is criminal profiling and then there is racial profiling. Which of those was this?

JEALOUS: Well, this was racial profiling. Criminal profiling is a law enforcement practice that is used in the absence of a suspect's specific description by trained law enforcement where you say, you know, this person is, you know, probably -- like for instance, you take a sniper, they're probably anti-social, they're probably male, they're probably traveling by themselves or in a small group, you know, they're probably white. That's the profile that's often used. The problem especially even with criminal profiling is that once you inject race, and we saw this, for instance, with the D.C. sniper case, you might recall that the killers turned out to be black, but those killers were let go by the cops 10 times because they were looking for a white man because of a criminal profile. So we know that when you put race into a criminal profile, it's a problem.

Racial profiling is when you don't have a suspect that you're looking for, when no crime has been committed. And you are just focused in on somebody because, yes, crime happens and you feel like criminals are more likely to look brown or black and so you zero in on them.

And when you look at all the calls that George Zimmerman made over all those years, he was calling dozens and dozens and dozens of times, it does seem like he was fixated on black and brown young people.

And when you listen to black and brown young people who lived in his same community, some of them say that they felt like he targeted them. And then when you hear him say "these punks always get away," you know, it just makes you wonder.

And that's why it's important that DoJ is continuing to investigate this case.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you in terms of moving forward, do you think that if the Justice Department -- and I've talked to a lot of people today and most of them I have to tell you don't think that there a case there that the Justice Department can take up. We'll see.

What do you to if DoJ says, you know what, it's not there for us?

JEALOUS: Well, first of all, DoJ has many options. They have criminal options. They have civil options. They have options to go after Mr. Zimmerman as an individual. They have options to dig into Sanford P.D. as a department. All those options are still on the table.

Secondly, DoJ would most likely wait until after any civil case is brought. And if a civil case is brought, it will be virtually impossible for Mr. Zimmerman not to go on the stand. And what he will say when he's on the stand would be critical to their...


JEALOUS: ... calculation.

CROWLEY: Could use it for the case. Right.

JEALOUS: Absolutely. So, you know, respectfully there are a lot more steps here. And those who would sit in their armchairs and pontificate now are a bit premature. We need to let justice run its course. And we need to keep pressure on the system to make sure that this family gets all the justice that they deserve to get. CROWLEY: I want to show you something that was tweeted out by our own Van Jones who is going to be one of the hosts of "CROSSFIRE." It is a picture of Martin Luther King in a hoodie.

A lot of folks took offense at that, a lot of folks cheered it. I was interested in your reaction to it particularly because we had spoken earlier about whether Trayvon Martin should be compared to Emmett Till or Medgar Evers.

JEALOUS: Look, I think for young people, the reality is that they often feel judged because they wear their hoodies. They're seen as suspect. And this cuts across race when you listen to our young people, young white kids talk about being singled out...


CROWLEY: Sure, but it's the use of Martin Luther King's kind of iconic image.

JEALOUS: Right. And where I was headed is that, yes, we remember Martin Luther King sort of with a halo and a glow of light. But he lived a life as a black man and really as a young black man. He was killed before he was 40. Being treated as all young black men are.

He grew up in the NAACP. He grew up in the church. He went to Morehouse College. And he was treated like any other young black man in Atlanta in those days. And they were often treated as if they were criminals because of their color, because of their race.

And, you know, what he and -- what his son, Martin Luther King III, and I have in common is that we're both raising young black kids in this country now. And the reality is that as a black parent, the unfortunate fact is that the older your child gets, the more you are in fear that they won't just get -- that they might not just get hurt by the bad guys, but they might get hurt by the good guys who mistake them for being a bad guy because of their color.

CROWLEY: Right. I talked to lots of African-American mothers who feel that way. Thank you so much, Ben Jealous, NAACP president and CEO, for your time.

JEALOUS: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: We'll talk to you down the road.

Up next, Van Jones and Newt Gingrich, CNN's new "CROSSFIRE" hosts, have very different takes on the Zimmerman verdict, and how race figured in. Your first chance to see the new "CROSSFIRE," or a little bit of it, next.



MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: He's just not the racist you thought he was. And my fear is that now that they have connected that conversation to his conviction, that his acquittal is going to be seen as a negative for civil rights, absolutely untrue.


CROWLEY: That was defense attorney Mark O'Mara in an interview with CNN's Martin Savidge before George Zimmerman was found not guilty. O'Mara rejects the idea that the verdict was about race, but take a look at this tweet from Van Jones, a former Obama adviser. "The verdict: Racism won."

Van joins -- Van Jones joins us now, along with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. As we hope you know by now, they are two of the new hosts of CNN's "Crossfire." The show is making a return to CNN this fall.

So congratulations, first of all. And I think that's a pretty good place to jump off.

Van, you just were pretty -- pretty short and sweet. It wasn't even 140 characters...


... "The verdict: Racism won." Let's give the speaker the first go at that.

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST, CROSSFIRE: Well, look, first of all, it's a tragedy any time someone is killed. It's a tragedy that Trayvon Martin was killed. It's a tragedy that 500 people were killed in Chicago last year. So we can -- we can agree this is a tragedy.

The question was, was it murder? Six people, all of them, by the way, women, sat in a jury, spent five long weeks listening to the case, came back rather quickly and said the prosecution had totally failed. It failed to prove murder in the second degree; it failed to prove manslaughter.

Now, at some point, you have to have some level of faith that a judge who was very tough on the defense attorneys and a jury of six independent people doing the best they can to find justice deserve some respect in our system, as opposed to some of the intense language that's been used in reaction to their finding in this case about this incident, that in fact it was not murder.

CROWLEY: Van, you've got to jump in there if you're going to do "Crossfire" here.


VAN JONES, CO-HOST, CROSSFIRE: I wanted to make sure that the speaker was finished.

Well, first of all, let me say a couple of things. At best, you can say this was a case where you had bad and confusing law, the Stand Your Ground law, applied to bad and confusing facts, which gave a bad and confusing outcome.

I agree with the speaker nobody feels, I think, super-great about this when you have a dead child and no accountability. The problem is now that's been done. And I am left and a lot of people are left, as an African-American parent, what are the consequences of this verdict, now, for us, the people who care about black kids?

Do I now have to dress my kid in a tuxedo so that he can go buy skittles? If my child is confronted by a stranger with a gun, am I now expected to tell my child -- not if a police officer confronts you, but a stranger with a gun, comply; lie down spread-eagle; do what you're told?

We are now left in a situation in which there are racial implications here. And I think most people see this as a case of racial profiling gone awry. And what are we now supposed to do as African-American parents and Americans who care about black kids?

I don't think that white parents are expected to tell their kids to wear a tuxedo to buy Skittles and lie spread-eagle for strangers with guns. And that's why there's a racial dimension here.


GINGRICH: Well, wait a second. But wait a second. The fact is black children have a lot more to fear from being killed by a young black, often in a drug-related environment. Look at Chicago last year. Are you saying that those murders were racially inspired?


GINGRICH: I mean, there were 500 people killed in Chicago last year, a vast majority of them tragically killed by somebody of their own race.


GINGRICH: So I think, to jump from that...

JONES: And...


GINGRICH: Nobody is suggesting -- go ahead.

JONES: And when someone was identified as a shooter, they were put on trial. In this case it took more than a couple of months of agitation to even get a trial.

My concern in this case, Mr. Speaker, is that we are creating a situation in which the conversation, that is a real conversation -- you mentioned those murders, those deaths, and you talk about drug- related deaths and that kind of thing. It's in fact the case that more African-Americans are going to prison for drug-related offenses, and yet as many white kids who are doing drug and selling drugs as black kids. There are issues underlying all of this that are not being discussed. And I think that's why this case is such a hot case.

GINGRICH: Look, I think there's a real opportunity, because the country is polarized on this. It does clearly have racial dimensions, particularly if you're African-American.

The question is going to be, in the next few days -- and it's going to be a fascinating moment in our history -- are we going to be led by healers who say let's have a conversation together, or are we going to be lead by people who divide us?

And I think there is a lot to talk about here. As you know, we both agree on the issue of prison reform. So I think there are things to talk about.


GINGRICH: My fear is it's going to be used as an excuse by some people to further divide the nation and further polarize it.

JONES: Well, let me just say something about this. I am very concerned about the following scenario.

I've heard over and over again on television -- you talk about divisions -- I've heard over and over on television, what are these black kids going to do now? Are they going to riot? Are they going to be violent? Are they going to threaten Mr. Zimmerman? Are they going to threaten the jurors? Are these -- does this case mean that there's going to be violence from black kids against society?

That is unfair. That is polarizing. In fact, if anything, we should be concerned that there a green light for society to be more violent toward black kids.

I've heard the Trayvon Martin family say over and over again, "Be peaceful. Be peaceful."

There has been no pressure from the Zimmerman side of this to come forward and say, "And, by the way, don't confront teenagers with guns" and to try to calm that side down.

I've been called "nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger" on Twitter, in ways that are just shocking to me because I've been trying to say there is something racially wrong here when you have a situation where a black kid winds up dead.

And I've heard the word "black thug" used over and over again as, now, a common description. There is something wrong here, Mr. Speaker, where we have these kinds of double standards. There is no violence coming from black youth. The black youth have been peaceful. They have -- they have used art and Twitter. And yet, still, they are suspect and there has been no pressure on the pro-vigilante side to calm down their violent rhetoric.

GINGRICH: But let me point out two things. First of all, I've heard today some people say, one fairly famous person who said "The hood is going to get Zimmerman." Other people have said he's not going to last a year.

Now -- so let's be quite clear. There have been threats of violence on the other side, too.

But the other thing is what you just said. It's a tragedy that this young black boy was killed? No, it's a tragedy this young American boy was killed. It's a tragedy that any young boy is killed of any ethnic background. And I think that's part of what we have to get beyond.

I agree with you that people -- first of all, people should be very cautious in dealing with folks who have guns under any circumstance. But in addition, I think people have got to take a deep breath here and look at a couple of aspects of this case.

One of them is the whole question of the Florida law, which is a pretty strong pro-self-defense law. But Floridians do have a right to say they want to defend themselves.

And I think what's hard for people to realize is this jury sat there for five solid weeks. They heard testimony after testimony after -- they had a closing argument that was three hours followed by the defense argument followed by another hour. The prosecutor had four hours to try to convince them.

In this case this jury concluded that it was a tragedy, but it was not murder.

CROWLEY: Van, let me...

JONES: I agree with you -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.

CROWLEY: I was just going to say, just to pick up on that, that there is -- and, you know, the speaker points out that there have been violent threats on the extremes of both sides and -- but many more people in the sane center going, "Let's talk about this." So there is that.

But there's also the question of whether the idea that this is an injustice system for African-Americans, a huge history of that, and we know that. But there is also the question, is this an injustice or is this just that the African-American community doesn't like the result?

JONES: No, well, I think you have -- I think the speaker is exactly right to raise the issue of the Stand Your Ground law. I think it's a question of bad and confusing law being applied to bad and confusing facts with a bad and confusing outcome.

The Stand Your Ground law has been reviewed by a newspaper in Florida. It says it's much more likely that, if it's used against a black defendant, that the jury will say, yeah, yeah, you probably had a right to be afraid.

That needs to be fixed. I think there are some fixes here we can agree on to that law. I think, if you start the confrontation yourself, I don't know if you should be able to then appeal to Stand Your Ground. I think that the standard for reasonable fear needs to look at. I think there's a way to fix this.

But I do think it's important to give some praise to the young African-American people who raised this as an issue, who used technology, who used art, who used social media, and who have been peaceful.

And yet I still hear, and it's a concern for me, that overwhelmingly are you going to keep these young black kids peaceful? They have been peaceful. Can we talk about vigilantes who now might feel emboldened to confront a child with a gun and then shoot their way out of a confrontation? I have not heard the same level of concern about vigilante violence against young black kids that I've heard social violence from black kids. That concerns me.

GINGRICH: But, Van, look -- look, I think it could concern people, but look, Zimmerman is not a test case for being a hero. Zimmerman has had a terrible year and a half. He is probably going to spend the rest of his life scarred by this experience. He has got -- he has had enormous costs. This is not a test case for people to run out and become vigilantes.

This says, by the way, if you do that and violence occurs, you better be prepared to defend yourself because you're going to go through a very excruciating, very painful and, by the way, very risky process which could put you in jail.

So I do think, in that sense, having had the trial is a very important signal that no vigilante activity is going to occur without the society ensuring due process.

CROWLEY: Newt Gingrich, I'm going to thank you very much. We have lost our satellite to Detroit, but I thank Van Jones, as well. We look forward to the show this fall.

Thank you all for watching "State of the Union." I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.