Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

George Zimmerman Charged in Trayvon Martin Case; Zimmerman Friend Tells His Side; War Over Women Voters

Aired April 11, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 10:00 here on the East Coast, everyone.

We begin tonight with the breaking news out of Florida, state prosecutor Angela Corey's decision today to file second-degree murder charges against George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Now, this is his new mug shot taken tonight just a few hours ago at the Seminole County jail. He arrived there at about 8:25 local time, cameras only catching a brief look at him as he was taken from a black SUV into the complex.

Now, the end of -- it's the end of a chain of events that began this afternoon when prosecutor Corey stepped up to the mike.


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.


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, was not driven, she says, by the national outcry Trayvon Martin's killing has touched off.


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.


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.


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.


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 airtime George Zimmerman's new attorney, Mark O'Mara, spoke to reporters.


MARK O'MARA, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: 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.


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 have 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 have worked different cases with him. I have 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 it 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 have 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 26. 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 DA. 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: Diversion.

COOPER: Diversion. 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.

Everyone, stick around, a lot more to talk about. We are going to take you through the night Trayvon Martin was killed, moment by moment, looking at everything that might have gone into Angela Corey's decision. We will also speak with George Zimmerman's friend Frank Taaffe and attorney for the Martin family.

Also, more as well at We're on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting on this tonight.


COOPER: Tonight's breaking news, Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey's decision to charge George Zimmerman with second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Now, it came after weeks of protests, 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 in her possession that we might not yet have, new facts, new evidence.

So, for now, here are the facts as we know them minute by minute the night Trayvon Martin was killed.


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 26. 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.

911 DISPATCHER: Are you following him?


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.

911 DISPATCHER: So you think he's yelling help?


911 DISPATCHER: All right. What is your --


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.

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 will 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.

COOPER: Right.

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 --


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.

TOOBIN: Right.

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.

COOPER: 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: 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 will hear from him next.


COOPER: Now, 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, FRIEND OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: 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 will 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: Yes. He said, "Go with that. That -- that's exactly correct."

COOPER: How did -- 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 was maybe 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 sounded 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: Do you have an opinion about him?

TAAFFE: He's a preeminent lawyer in the central Florida market -- or central Florida area and he has an impeccable record. I just want to share that, you know, 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. OK. 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 Darrell 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?

DARRELL PARKS, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S PARENTS: 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 -- 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. And 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 possibly three charges. This charge came in the middle of all of those charges. And we're very encouraged by the charge.

So we're very happy with the job that Ms. 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 this what she's done and the files that she has charged today.

COOPER: Where do Trayvon Martin's parents now go from here? Obviously, the process, the legal process is going to take quite a long Time. Do you have any 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 some of 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 who are 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 to 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. We saw the Casey Anthony trial, right? So in this case we -- we already can forecast that there are going to be many pretrial motions based on many of the other, what we can call circumstantial legal issues that are out there. So it could be a while. Depending on scheduling, depending on lawyers' schedules. So there are really other factors that go into it.

COOPER: Darrell Parks, I appreciate your Time. Thank you.

A lot more happening tonight to tell you about. 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 citing some dramatic numbers. But is he playing fast and loose with the facts? We're "Keeping Them Honest."


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.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The real war on women is being waged by the president's failed economic policies. Now, the president says, "Oh, 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.


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 in 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 and 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, it tilts the picture.

Here's another piece of context. 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, CNN contributors Paul Begala, Hilary Rosen and Erick Erickson, editor in chief of

So, Paul, the president's campaign manager is sending a message to supporters today, calling Mitt Romney, quote, "the most anti-women -- 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 pick their issues. And I think they can make the case. I mean, 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, 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 a 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 -- it's 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 of 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, REDSTATE.COM: 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're going to 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. His 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, and so there's a lot of distrust to both of them.

COOPER: Hilary, to the Romney camp's point, though, they're focusing on the economy, and that's what women overwhelmingly say they really care about 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, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: 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 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. Because 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 saying the phrase.

ROSEN: They don't say that. No, no, no.

ERICKSON: I think it's a Democratic talking point.

ROSEN: It's not.

ERICKSON: I think the Democrats have used it. I think their political mouth pieces from MSNBC and elsewhere have used it. It's clear that that's what the Democrats want to talk about, is 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.

And 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. And that's going to be 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 -- just speaking as a guy, I think the three most powerful words that 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 he asked Bush about the national debt. He said< "I get it."

And Mitt just doesn't get it, and I think the president does. I think there's -- you know an issue that's going to come, it's Romney's record as a businessman. He says that he was a turn-around artist.

When 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, Hillary Rosen, 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. Activists say at least 98 people were killed in new violence today. Details ahead.


ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Isha Sesay with a business bulletin. The Syrian government will honor a cease-fire beginning tomorrow morning. Today, security forces shelled Homs. Oppositions leaders say at least 98 people were killed across the country today.

An 8.6 magnitude earthquake hit off the coast off 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.

An incredible story from Argentina. A woman who gave birth to a premature baby girl who was pronounced dead later went to see the baby's body in the morgue, and the bay was alive. Doctors say they can't explain it. The baby's in intensive care, and all the nurses and doctors and morgue workers have been suspended during an investigation.

A 360 follow, Charles Manson was denied parole again today in California. The man behind the murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others in 1969, is now 77 years old. His next parole hearing is in 15 years, which means it's likely Manson will die in prison.

And Reebok has agreed to stop making Tim Tebow Jets merchandise. Nike had filed suit against the company for selling unauthorized Tebow products -- Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, Dyngus Day part two. The pussy willow smack-down. I'll explain in "The RidicuList."


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight I've got to do it. I'm 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. Sounds like a lot of fun. Now, 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.


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.


COOPER: All right. Now, if you noticed in the midst of the giggle fit, I said something like, "This is so stupid, it's 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 at one point. I certainly wasn't calling Dyngus Day 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. And 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. Take a look.


COOPER: Depardieu -- I know you've got it. All right, sorry.


COOPER: In Buffalo, New York, the Dyngus Day capital of the world, however, today there was actually a demonstration called. They held a pussy willow pride rally. And 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 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. I think 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.


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, FOUNDER, BUFFALO DYNGUS DAY: 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.

You know, 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. And I -- you know, part of the thing that makes America great is all the different groups in the United States and all the different places that people come from and the traditions they bring with them and the celebrations they have. We should be celebrating all these different groups' cultural celebrations because I do think it's what makes the United States fun.

DOBOSIEWICZ: As a gesture to prove that we're genuine in your acceptance of your apology, I personally would like to invite you on behalf of Dyngus Day Buffalo and really 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: I'd love to 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 want to promise, because 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 to celebrate Dyngus Day. That would be great.

DOBOSIEWICZ: Thank you, Anderson. 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.

And that's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.