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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Self-Defense or Murder?: The George Zimmerman Trial; Prosecution Makes Closing Argument in George Zimmerman Trial
Aired July 11, 2013 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The prosecution makes its closing pitch.
Good evening again. Welcome to another A.C. 360 special report, "Self-Defense or Murder?: The George Zimmerman trial."
Today, the lead prosecutor tried it all together and bring home his case, the state of Florida's case to the jury, that a wannabe cop fed up with crime in his neighborhood prejudged a teenager, pursued him and finally shot him dead.
Tonight, we will look at the merits of that case and today's closing arguments. We will focus too on closing arguments tomorrow for the defense and the impact of Judge Debra Nelson's ruling today allowing jurors to consider the lesser charge, a lesser charge than just second-degree murder, the charge of manslaughter.
With me, as always, the best legal panel around.
First, the highlights from closing day for the prosecution. Here's our Martin Savidge.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Unlike his profanity- laced opening, the closing began with more reverent tones, almost like a eulogy.
BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, FLORIDA ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: A teenager is dead. He is dead through no fault of his own. He is dead because another man made assumptions.
SAVIDGE: Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda condensed the state's nine- day case into two hours, emphasizing its claim that George Zimmerman actively profiled Trayvon Martin.
DE LA RIONDA: He profiled him as a criminal. He assumed certain things, that Trayvon Martin was up to no good. And that is what led to his death.
SAVIDGE: The state contends Zimmerman is a wannabe cop and self- appointed neighborhood watch captain who had grown increasingly frustrated by a series of break-ins by criminals who always managed to get away.
De la Rionda's narrative paused just once for a recess and was interrupted at another point for an objection. The defense attorney Mark O'Mara said the state was wrongfully interpreting the law. The state often returned to its tactic of using Zimmerman's own words against him.
DE LA RIONDA: He does not want to admit at all that he's following him or chasing him or profiling him.
SAVIDGE: While the jury sat impassively for much of de la Rionda's delivery, Zimmerman's parents in court for the first time as spectators since the trial started looked at times incredulous, as the state concluded for the day, a rare reaction from George Zimmerman himself.
DE LA RIONDA: The man who is guilty of second-degree murder. Thank you.
SAVIDGE: Earlier, the court heard arguments on lesser charges that could be presented to the jury. It was no surprise the state asked for the lesser charge of manslaughter. But the defense was stunned when it also wanted to add third-degree felony murder.
Prosecutor Rich Mantei argued the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman was, among other things, child abuse.
RICH MANTEI, PROSECUTOR: The non-enumerated felony in this case alleged is child abuse. Obviously, the information alleges that the defendant shot and killed the victim, that the victim was under the age of 18. And child abuse must be, according to the third-degree felony murder instruction, defined.
SAVIDGE: Defense attorney Don West was outraged.
DON WEST, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Oh, my God. Just when I thought this case couldn't get any more bizarre.
SAVIDGE: The debate brought more testy exchanges between West and Judge Debra Nelson.
JUDGE DEBRA NELSON, 18TH CIRCUIT COURT OF FLORIDA: I understand I have already ruled and you have -- you continually disagree with this court every time I make a ruling.
SAVIDGE: In the end, the judge ruled third-degree felony murder would not be an option for the jury.
NELSON: I just don't think that the intentional part of that is there for the child abuse charge, and that's not alleged in the information that way. And I just don't think that the evidence supports that.
SAVIDGE: The pressure now on Mark O'Mara to close out the defense's case Friday before it heads to the jury.
Martin Savidge, CNN, Sanford, Florida.
COOPER: And it will likely head to the jury tomorrow afternoon.
A high-stakes ruling, props, a PowerPoint presentation, even the prosecutor skipping around the room at one point. Just about anything that can happen in a courtroom did happen today, plenty to talk about with our panel, legal analysts and former federal prosecutors Sunny Hostin and Jeffrey Toobin, also criminal defense attorneys Danny Cevallos and Mark Geragos. Mark's latest book "Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works, and Sometimes Doesn't."
Danny, let's start with you this time. That lesser charge that they wanted to suddenly bring in, that the prosecution sprung that Don West literally said oh, my God about, did that stun you?
DANNY CEVALLOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think it surprised everybody.
It's one of those examples that is brilliant tactically by the prosecution, but it could equally be viewed as kind of dirty pool. Here's why. Felony murder is like a legal fiction. It's a policy crime, because all of our other forms of murders are on a continuum. They go from I meant to kill him all the way down to oopsy daisy, which is a negligent homicide.
Felony murder is a crime -- a killing that isn't intended at all. It's an accidental killing that occurs during a dangerous felony like burglary, arson, rape, robbery. The problem here is that the prosecution technically they gave them notice. Under the facts, a child was killed. But no one ever talked about felony murder.
The underlying felony here would be child abuse. I think that's kind of a stretch. I think everybody was shocked and I had so much sympathy for Don West. It was like when you wake up and you have that dream where you woke up late for school and you're missing the test or you forgot about the exam. That has to be how he felt. Oh, my God, we're going to have to argue against felony murder? We didn't prepare for this at all.
COOPER: Jeff, can the prosecution just come up with this third-degree murder?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You can ask.
COOPER: You can ask.
TOOBIN: You can ask. And fortunately, the judge did the right thing here, which was exclude it. It's not part of the case.
But manslaughter, which I think we have all assumed has -- would be a lesser included offense, is part of the case, and so there are only two options for the jury now, guilty or innocent -- guilty or not guilty on second-degree murder and the same question on manslaughter.
This was, I thought, dirty pool to ask for the felony murder child abuse. But the judge saw that and excluded it.
COOPER: Mark, it goes to what we were discussing last night, which is at a certain point by the prosecution kind of coming up with all these alternative, do they start to look kind of desperate?
MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think we argued last night that part of the problem in our justice system is that when prosecutors ask for these lesser includeds is, you are here as the defense, and you're trying to defend a case based on what they have told you.
Remember, a criminal case is a lawsuit. The prosecutor is the plaintiff. The defense is representing the defendant, except it's not for money, it's for your liberty. And so when you file this lawsuit, and you're defending against it, you're not supposed to be ambushed. And that's what this morning was. This morning was basically another of the prosecutorial ambushes.
It's one of the reasons why I think it's totally unfair to have lessers, if the defendant doesn't agree to it, because the prosecution has all of the things going for it. They have got unlimited budgets, and when they bring their force to bear against you, you should defend against it, but you shouldn't have to guess what they're doing. You shouldn't have to figure it out the morning you wake up before the closing arguments and say, oh, by the way, now we're going to charge child abuse.
Does anybody in America think that's fair? If you heard this was happening in China or the old Soviet Union, you would get out Amnesty International and say there's a human rights abuse. It happens here in America and we say, oh, it's what prosecutors do all the time. Isn't that wonderful?
COOPER: Well, I notice both former prosecutors on our panel here are kind of rolling their eyes and smiling.
GERAGOS: Of course. Of course, because they do it. They like it. They don't have a problem with it.
HOSTIN: Because they're lesser included offenses of what has been charged. And it's not as if, you know, the defense had no idea that the government was going to ask for lesser includeds. These are all enumerated in a book.
COOPER: But, Sunny, you agree that this third-degree murder...
HOSTIN: ... that was a possibility.
GERAGOS: ... Sunny, you thought was coming up? You thought third- degree murder, with the predicate felony being child abuse. (CROSSTALK)
HOSTIN: It was a stretch. It was clever.
GERAGOS: A stretch?
HOSTIN: But to argue that the prosecution somehow hid the ball is kind of ridiculous when everybody has the same information before them.
COOPER: One at a time.
CEVALLOS: Shouldn't civility mandate that all attorneys -- the rules of civility -- and they're unspoken -- all counsel should relate that to each other. If you're going to charge somebody, if you're going to take away their liberty, you shouldn't argue that, well, technically the facts support it.
The attorneys should be placed on notice of it. They have had a year to prepare. Felony murder is a very different kind of crime than just your regular lesser included offense. That's what felt so unfair about it. Felony murder is an entirely different kind of defense than just a lesser included offense, which is all the same elements, just...
COOPER: Go ahead.
GERAGOS: I was just going to interject one thing as to why this is a problem.
And understand, when the prosecution says we're going to charge you with second-degree murder and you're going to get bail at $1 million and they know or presumably they know that you're either going to have your liberty or not, and then they wait until the end of the case and they say, well, maybe we didn't make second-degree murder, but we're going to go for manslaughter or we're going to go for third-degree felony murder with child abuse, which has in the manslaughter case a much lower bail, so you could have been out the whole time.
Forget about George Zimmerman for a second. Doesn't that team somewhat unethical for a prosecutor to overcharge you, to go the entire case to not be able in their own mind to have the confidence to think they're going to convict you, and then the morning before you argue say, oh, by the way, here's the other one, maybe you should have defended against this?
This isn't a game. It is somebody's life.
TOOBIN: Exactly. And manslaughter is a crime, a very serious crime.
And if you are guilty of it, you should be convicted of it and put in prison. And that's what the prosecution is trying to do in this case. They are also trying to do...
GERAGOS: Then why charge murder?
TOOBIN: Because they think both are covered by this conduct, which happens all the time in the criminal justice system.
GERAGOS: If think they both are -- Jeff, if think they both are, why can't they -- and I know it happens all the time. I get the argument.
GERAGOS: Right. OK. So why, if you believe -- and wouldn't you agree with me that a prosecutor's duty is to only seek charges or convictions on charges that you ethically think you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt?
TOOBIN: Correct. Totally agree.
GERAGOS: Isn't that in prosecutorial canon of ethics?
If that is the case, and you thought you could prove the second- degree, why should you be allowed, absent the defendant agreeing to it, why should you be allowed at the last minute to ask for something less?
HOSTIN: Because the law provides for it.
GERAGOS: The silence is deafening.
TOOBIN: No, there's no silence here. Are you kidding, on this program? There's never any silence here.
HOSTIN: The law provides for it.
TOOBIN: It's not just the law provides for it. It's the right thing to do. If you are guilty of manslaughter, you should be convicted of it.
CEVALLOS: That sort of presupposes the entire trial process.
You can't say that if you are guilty, because that's why we have the trial process is to determine if you are ultimately guilty.
CEVALLOS: So to say that it justifies if you are guilty of a crime to charge you with it, we don't know that yet.
COOPER: Let's move on. I think we have talked about this one enough.
TOOBIN: I think people will be able to get a law degree at the end of this...
COOPER: Yes, I think so.
Sunny, you were in the court today for the lead prosecutor's closing arguments. And you admit the prosecution had a lot to prove coming into the closing. How do you think they did?
HOSTIN: I think that they put the pieces of the puzzle together for this jury extremely well, Anderson.
It was passionate. It was convincing. The jury was watching everything he was doing. And what was terrific, I think, about this closing argument is that they brought the focus back to Trayvon Martin, the victim here. They brought the commonsense argument to this jury.
How is it that a young boy, a teenager who was simply on a snack run did not get back home where he was lawfully allowed to be safely? How is that? That is because George Zimmerman profiled him. He profiled him as a criminal. He made all these assumptions about Trayvon Martin that, by the way, were wrong and he acted on those assumptions and in doing so, he killed him.
I thought that that was such a wonderful commonsense argument that distilled what this case is about. This case is about whether or not someone who is not doing anything, who is acting completely unlawfully, should be able to be gunned down on a dark, rainy night. I think that really came across.
COOPER: I want to play a clip from the closing argument. The prosecutor pulled out George Zimmerman's gun, the actual gun he used, for the jurors. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: He's got this gun in this holster. And you will see in a few minutes, might be more than a few minutes, one of the things that he does, he demonstrates to the police where he had the gun. And it wasn't right here in the front. It was towards the back. And it was hidden. And he will demonstrate to the police out there where it was. Look at the gun. Look at the size of this gun. How did the victim see that in the darkness? Where was it? It wasn't outside. It was tucked in behind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Mark, Sunny said he did a good job of bringing it back to the reality of the death of Trayvon Martin. What did you think?
GERAGOS: At your 7:00 show, I think Sunny characterized this as masterful and thought it was -- brought it all together.
HOSTIN: It still is.
GERAGOS: It was passionate. It was this or that.
Right, and it still is. God forbid tomorrow when we come back after McDreamy's rebuttal, because I don't know. If I were Sunny's husband, I would file for divorce, because she's going to be -- she's going to think it's the greatest thing she ever seen.
GERAGOS: I thought this was abysmal. I really did.
I thought -- it's that old expression. I said it the last hour. When you have the law, you pound the law. When you have the facts, you pound the facts. When you don't have either, you pound the table. This guy was yelling the entire time.
HOSTIN: He was not.
GERAGOS: And I don't know why he was yelling at the jury.
GERAGOS: I understand emotion. We just played it. Who are you going to believe, Sunny or the tape? I watched the tape. It sure looked and sounded to me like he was yelling. And it looked like...
HOSTIN: The entire time, Mark, the entire time?
GERAGOS: Yes, when he was screaming and he was yelling and doing all these antics.
Sunny, at a certain point, that's great. But at a certain point, jurors are going to get back there with jury instructions and they want to know the law is. They want to understand what their job is. And my experience has been that, generally, jurors appreciate it when you walk them through the law and how the facts apply to the law.
This argument that was made, it might have been great for TV and it might have been great for the cheerleading squad. But I think for the jurors, it falls flat. (CROSSTALK)
HOSTIN: The judge is going to instruct them on the law. The judge is going to instruct them on the law, and this prosecution did go over what the law was, but they went with the facts and their theory of the case. And it was very effective. Prosecutors do it all the time and they do it successfully and effectively, just like this prosecutor did.
COOPER: I want to play another clip where he brought out that I guess the dummy you would call it that they used the other day. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: I guess I might as well do what everybody else (OFF- MIKE)
But do you see what he's saying now? He's saying that -- armpits. How does he get the gun out? Armpits. How does he get the gun out? The truth does not lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jeff, Sunny says -- she was in the courtroom -- it didn't sound like he was yelling all that much, all that time when you were actually in the room.
How did it sound to you?
TOOBIN: Well, I thought he was louder than he needed to be, but I don't think he's going to get a -- that George Zimmerman is going to get convicted or acquitted because of the volume of his voice.
But there is a good example of -- you know, I was not entirely clear on whether that was persuasive. I guess the idea was, if Trayvon Martin was really on top of him that way, there is no way he could have reached the gun in his back.
COOPER: It goes back to something he had previously said several days ago about that George Zimmerman at one point told somebody that Trayvon Martin was up to his armpits.
TOOBIN: Right. Now, the other thing is he's not -- he is putting his finger on a weakness in the defense case here. I think the weakest argument the defense has in this case is that Trayvon Martin was reaching for the gun and trying to get the gun.
COOPER: Which is what George Zimmerman claimed in that videotape.
And that's pretty implausible to me. When you look at where the gun was, when you look at the nature of their struggle, I think that's a pretty weak claim and it may be something that Zimmerman came up with after the fact to try to justify the shooting. It doesn't mean he's guilty, but I did think there were several good moments in the summations today where that claim was pretty well discredited.
COOPER: Danny, do you think that's the weakest claim the defense has?
CEVALLOS: I think that's tough.
I think the weakest part, I think the prosecutor made it into a strength today, and that's George Zimmerman's past. You could equally look at it one way, hey, he's a wannabe cop, he's a guy who tried to get into law enforcement, but you could take a step back and those same facts sound very complimentary. Somebody wants to be a police officer, somebody who starts their open neighborhood watch, I haven't started a neighborhood watch in my neighborhood. These are normally facts to be admired.
COOPER: In the same way that you could look at...
COOPER: They had the same testimony yesterday of the woman whose house was burglarized and George Zimmerman went over, gave her a lock, offered her help.
COOPER: You could look at that as it's creepy, the level he's involved in going to the person's house, or he's a nice, concerned neighbor.
CEVALLOS: And I can see both sides. And both sides have argued each position. And, one, you could step back and say here's a guy who was involved in the community. He started a neighborhood watch. On the other hand, you can read into it this guy was a little too interested.
I thought it was really, really interesting how the prosecutor took that, he addressed that and he really hammered it home and demonstrated that the same facts put through a different prism make George Zimmerman sound really creepy.
COOPER: Everyone, stick around.
Tonight, we're going to be playing really the key moments, the best moments, the worst moments from today as chosen by Jeff and Sunny and Danny and Mark, the best moments next.
Let us know what you think. You can follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper.
We will be right back.
COOPER: Well, anyone writing a book on the Zimmerman trial could probably fill a few hundred pages with courtroom moments from today alone. There were countless highlights or lowlights, depending on who you asked.
Tonight, we asked the panel to pick what they consider the best moments and the worst moments from today. Here is the best moment according to Jeffrey Toobin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: A teenager is dead. He is dead through no fault of his own. He is dead because another man made assumptions. That man assumed certain things.
He is dead not just because the man made those assumptions, because he acted upon those assumptions. And, unfortunately, unfortunately, because his assumptions were wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks on this earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So that was the moment Jeffrey Toobin picked as the most effective.
We're back with our panel, Jeff and Sunny Hostin, Danny Cevallos and Mark Geragos, all of whom have their own picks.
You thought that was the best because, what, because the prosecutor really kind of brought it back home to what this case is really all about?
It's a reminder of why this case captured the nation's attention a year-and-a-half ago, when it happened, is that how can we live in a country where a 17-year-old boy goes to guy Skittles and iced tea, comes home to watch the NBA All-Star Game and somehow is killed?
How could this happen, someone who was doing nothing wrong, who wasn't carrying a weapon, who wasn't drunk, who wasn't bothering anybody? That's -- and obviously the question is, was he bothering somebody? That's what the defense is going to say. But I thought capturing that rather than getting in the weeds where we have spent so much of the last three weeks was a very good move.
COOPER: But, later on, you think they sort of did get into the weeds where they started talking about witnesses from last week?
TOOBIN: A big problem.
COOPER: OK. We will talk about that ahead.
But, Mark, you have been obviously very critical of the prosecution from day one. You actually could not come up with one best moment in the prosecution's closing argument, really?
(LAUGHTER) GERAGOS: Not one. Not one. I really -- I thought it was abysmal.
And, like I say, I can hardly wait to watch Sunny's McDreamy tomorrow, because I'm sure this will be the greatest closing argument since Clarence Darrow was revived and resuscitated.
GERAGOS: I'm watching this and I have no idea what trial I'm watching.
Apparently, that last tape you played, he wasn't yelling, not Jeff's favorite, because, remember, that was when he first started going. But the one before, that was not yelling, so I'm going to get my hearing checked.
COOPER: All right.
GERAGOS: And apparently everything else I watched is not what I'm watching. So I'm going to start believing what Sunny tells me and I'm going to start ignoring everything that I watch on TV.
HOSTIN: I don't know. That clip we just showed, I didn't hear yelling. Did you?
COOPER: Well, that was just the start.
GERAGOS: Wasn't that the very beginning? He was just getting revved up.
HOSTIN: You said he yelled throughout.
GERAGOS: Give him 45 seconds and then he started going.
GERAGOS: You're right, Sunny. Whatever you say. There's reality and then there's Sunny-ville.
GERAGOS: Sunny, your best moment was when the prosecution narrowed in on Zimmerman's assumptions about Trayvon Martin. Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: The defendant assumed the victim didn't belong at the Retreat at Twin Lakes, didn't he, that the victim was committing or about to commit a burglary?
He assumed and he profiled the victim as a criminal. He assumed that the victim was one of those that always got away. He assumed also that he was an F-ing punk and that the victim was going to get away before the police arrived.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And, Sunny, for you, that was a key moment because again it brought it back to the core of this case?
HOSTIN: Exactly, because I think you have six women on the jury. Five of them are mothers. And it shakes I think your very core as a person that someone could see your child walking down the street and make all of these false assumptions just because of the way that he looks.
And I think it was really important for the prosecution to hone in on that, because that is what is wrong fundamentally about this case. Trayvon Martin was doing nothing wrong, yet he was profiled. He was followed. He was targeted. And I think it really resonated in the courtroom.
COOPER: Danny, for you, the moment was when the prosecutor brought out the Skittles and the drink. Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: Trayvon Martin, he was staying. He was there legally. He hadn't broken in or sneaked in or trespassed. He was there legally. He bought Skittles and some kind of watermelon or iced tea or whatever it's called. That was his crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Danny, for you, why was that so effective?
CEVALLOS: Well, I have said it before, and it sort of backs up Mark's theory that, if you don't have the facts or the law, you pound your fist or you just -- you emote.
And here's why. I have said it before. The Skittles and the iced tea, I think we associate those with kids. They're things that mostly kids eat for fun. If he had bought something a little more innocent or something less interesting, windshield wiper fluid, we may not be talking about it at all and certainly the prosecutor wouldn't be showing it.
It's really an example of the prosecution using something that really isn't relevant to the case or to any of the charges and using that as a prop and a really effective one, because of the mothers on that panel. They're going to think about their own kids who like Skittles, who eat Skittles. If he had been walking out of there with a bottle of Windex and some paper towels...
COOPER: It's a gun vs. Skittles and a diet soda, right.
CEVALLOS: Absolutely. And it's really good style points.
COOPER: Coming up, some of the lowlights, according to our panel, the worst moment for the prosecution when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: Welcome back. Tonight we're talking about the high points and the low points for the prosecution's closing argument today. We'll do the same tomorrow for the defense. Before the break, we talked about what our panel thought were really the best moments for the prosecution. Now it's time for the worst moments. Here's Bernie de la Rionda's worst misstep in the closing as chosen by Jeff Toobin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: My point is, that there was a fight there. There was a struggle. At some point it appears, based on the evidence that the defendant was on top, at some points the victim was on top. Wrestling, struggling, whatever you want to call it. But why did it occur?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Why do you...?
TOOBIN: Because it's important who's on top. And it's important...
TOOBIN: I mean, this is a critical, critical issue in the case. It's over. The evidence is all in. And he can't say who was on top when? Who started things? That, I thought, was indicative of a real weakness in the prosecution's case.
COOPER: Sunny, it does kind of remind us of what we were talking about yesterday, the idea that the prosecution sort of changed their story about who was on top. They started off the trial staying one thing that George Zimmerman was on top, and then just yesterday they said well, maybe Trayvon Martin was on top but he was pulling away.
HOSTIN: Well, the prosecution wasn't saying that. The witnesses were saying that, Anderson. You have two witnesses that are saying, "I saw who I believe to be George Zimmerman on top," and you've got one other witness, John Good, saying, "I believe that it was..."
COOPER: Right. But they knew that going into the trial. So why start off by saying definitively it was George Zimmerman on top?
HOSTIN: Well, because at points George Zimmerman was on top, and at points Trayvon Martin was on top. This was a fluid altercation. I think what's most important, which is what the prosecution pointed out, is how did it start? It started because of the false assumptions that George Zimmerman made.
And that's what I -- and I think what's wonderful about the prosecution is being very transparent about the fact that there was clearly an altercation but that different people saw different things, and it was a fluid situation.
COOPER: Mark... HOSTIN: I think that's a good thing for the prosecution.
COOPER: OK. So Mark, why wouldn't you -- if you're the prosecution know, and if you know it's going to be described as a fluid situation, why would you start off the trial saying, "You know what? It's a fluid situation," not saying George Zimmerman was on top?
GERAGOS: A fluid situation. Because I think as I've said all along, they didn't want this case initially. The police didn't want this case initially. I think, contrary to what everybody else says, I think the reason this thing gained traction was because, in any other situation without a cop who's doing the shooting and killing somebody, they arrest first and ask questions later. And I think that the prosecution has been on their heels the entire time, because they didn't know what to make of this case. Because it was forced upon them.
I also think that there's a certain prosecutorial schizophrenia. Because they say on one hand that this 17-year-old -- they keep calling him a boy, and they talk about the Skittles and everything else, and I agree with them. Except these are the same prosecutors, the same state's attorney's office who, until the Supreme Court got involved, used to call 17-year-olds and 16-year-olds and 15-year-olds adults and tried to murder them in the -- by way of the death penalty. So they weren't boys when they were committing a crime. But when they're involved now, they are boys. So there is a certain amount of inversion of the usual roles in this case. And we talked about that for a while.
The prosecutors, I think, are in unfamiliar territory, and that's why in my opinion, they've been so abysmal. It's almost like they are desperate defense lawyers trying to defend a position.
COOPER: Danny, you thought one of the worst moments is when Zimmerman -- when the prosecutor focused on Zimmerman forming the Neighborhood Watch. Let's watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: Those actions weren't anything sinister or terrible or evil of or ill will. Those were actions that occur throughout the United States and many cities, unfortunately. Where crimes occur in a neighborhood, and people get together and form Neighborhood Watches or other associations to deal with it. There's nothing sinister or wrong with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: But now, isn't part of the prosecution's case, aren't they mind of arguing that there is something sinister about George Zimmerman's reasons for doing this? That he wanted to be a cop?
CEVALLOS: Exactly. They're trying to hedge their bets. They're inconsistent with their own position, which is if they're arguing creepy guy forms Neighborhood Watch and is too interested in the neighborhood, it's kind of hard to say, "You know, there's nothing wrong with forming a Neighborhood Watch." Everything up until now, that's OK. You can hear them in there saying, "Here's what he did, and that's OK." Well, if it's OK, why are you arguing it? Why is it even part of your argument?
I mean, if the gist of your argument is, this case -- his words word, this case began months ago, when George Zimmerman formed this hatred for people in his neighborhood breaking into places. Then if that's that relevant, why are you almost apologizing? And that's the way it felt to me. It felt like he was saying, well, not that there's anything wrong with Neighborhood Watches. Just this guy's Neighborhood Watch. I thought it was a little inconsistent with their theory of the case.
COOPER: Mark, your moment wasn't really a moment, per se, but really a series of moments where the prosecutor used -- and these are your words, not mine -- a shrill voice. I just want to play one example of him talking about George Zimmerman being fed up with crime in his community.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE LA RIONDA: He was sick and tired of it. But the law doesn't say OK, you know, take the law into your own hands. Oh, I'm sorry, I got the wrong guy. I'm so sorry, I thought he was a criminal. Mr. Martin, Tracy Martin, Sybrina Fulton, I am so sorry. I made a mistake. I didn't realize that Trayvon Martin was up to -- was minding his own business. I am terribly sorry.
The law doesn't say that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So obviously, you didn't see a dramatic effect to help the prosecutor?
GERAGOS: Seriously, you're asking me that question?
COOPER: It was just a kind of throwaway to allow you to opine. But we don't even need to...
GERAGOS: We really don't need to go there. We have 22 more minutes to fill. I'm doing the best I can here.
GERAGOS: I guess the fact -- I get the fact -- I don't know. Sometimes it's obvious.
TOOBIN: Wait a second, why was that moment so terrible? I didn't get it. I mean, I didn't think it was so great. But why was it so terrible what the prosecutor did?
GERAGOS: Would you do that? Would you do that in a closing argument?
TOOBIN: Do what? I mean... GERAGOS: Do an imitation of Phyllis Diller without her wig on? And I thought it was disrespectful to the victim's family. I don't understand -- I don't understand what trials we watch or people are watching. This was ridiculous.
TOOBIN: Why didn't the rest of us see that that was a Phyllis Diller imitation? That's a real limitation on our...
GERAGOS: Because she wasn't wearing her wig.
COOPER: But there is something on -- to Mark's point about yelling, I mean, if you are yelling at someone repeatedly, people tend to shut you out.
COOPER: And unless there's a great modulation and differentiation in your voice and it's up and it's down, if you were just at a steady stream of yelling, after a while...
TOOBIN: I tweeted that during the argument. I mean, I've been joking with Mark about -- you know, about all his criticism.
COOPER: I stopped following you (ph) on Twitter so long ago that I'm not kidding.
GERAGOS: That's cold. That's so cold.
TOOBIN: The -- I did think that he was, you know, at a too high a pitch for too long. But you know, that's better than being boring and uninterested and business-like.
COOPER: But you look at Mark O'Mara...
GERAGOS: Well, isn't there a middle ground? Isn't there a middle ground?
TOOBIN: Obviously there should be a middle ground.
COOPER: Mark O'Mara, we'll see Mark O'Mara what his final thing is tomorrow. But I mean, he has been sort of -- I mean, he's very steady but pretty -- seems pretty precise. You've called him masterful.
TOOBIN: Terrific. I think he has a wonderful courtroom demeanor. You know, I have to say he said to you last night in your interview he doesn't write things down. He just sort of goes in the moment. You know, tough to talk for three hours just being in the moment. And if he's sitting there leafing through yellow pads, which is something lawyers do that I hate, I don't think that will be very effective. But we'll see.
COOPER: Mark, I mean, Mark O'Mara was saying he's lived with this case for a year and a half and doesn't need to write it down at this point. He knows what he wants to say. GERAGOS: I -- I will tell you something. I have, you know, a very small circle of friends that are almost all trial lawyers. And great trial lawyers. And the great -- the guys who are the greatest at it can get up, and they can just, I think, live the case, they can emote, they can modulate, they can talk from the heart. And they get up there, and they will connect with the jury.
And that's what they do. They're having a conversation, albeit one- sided, and they're going to explain, and they're going to walk the jury through why it is that the jury should listen to them, No. 1, should take their client's position, should walk in their client's shoes. And if they're good at it, they should never, ever be looking at a note or have note cards or a teleprompter or anything else. They have lived with the case. They know it, and they have to convey that to the jury.
COOPER: All right. We've got to take another quick break. I want to get your take on how the judge is doing in this trial, Judge Debra Nelson. Been tough on attorneys on both sides. We're taking a closer look at how she lays down the law and her background, coming up.
COOPER: Throughout the Zimmerman trial, Judge Debra Nelson has been tough. She's shown herself to be a no-nonsense judge who repeatedly has called out lawyers on both sides for not obeying the rules of her courtroom. Tonight I want to take a closer look at how the judge has laid down the law in that courtroom. Randi Kaye reports.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Judge Debra Nelson hardly seems to notice the cameras in the courtroom. She's too busy putting the attorneys in their place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to make a speech in my objection.
JUDGE DEBRA NELSON, PRESIDING OVER TRIAL: You can't make an objection to your own question.
Let's stop this right now. I have told counsel before, first of all, no one talks over the other.
Please don't go off focus here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no.
NELSON: Don't "no, no" me.
KAYE: Her no-nonsense style may be a turnoff to some, but to CNN legal analyst Mark Nejame, who has presented cases before Judge Nelson, it's a breath of fresh air.
MARK NEJAME, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This case could have easily unraveled. This case could have easily imploded. The judge is going to have no part of it. She's going to keep her -- she's going to let everybody know who's in charge, and it's going to be her.
KAYE (on camera): Judge Nelson wasn't originally chosen to hear this case. She replaced another judge who the defense claimed had a bias against Zimmerman.
She's been serving on the bench in Florida's 18th Judicial Circuit since 1999. Before that, she practiced law in Orlando. She earned her law degree from the South Texas College of Law.
(voice-over): Nejame says Judge Nelson tends to agree more with the state, which is not uncommon for a judge. Something that was on display again today, as she clashed with defense attorney Don West over jury instructions.
NELSON: I am not giving that instruction. And you can...
DON WEST, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: By not instructing the law of this jury properly on the law...
NELSON: You continually disagree with this court every time I make a ruling. If I have made a mistake in this case, you will appeal. This is my ruling on this issue.
KAYE: But it was this moment, after a hearing late into the night, that will forever be cemented in trial watchers' minds.
WEST: I am not physically able to keep up this pace. It's 10 p.m. at night. We started this morning. We had full days every day. Weekends, depositions at night.
KAYE: She simply decided it was time to go.
She may not be warm and fuzzy, but Judge Debra Nelson is always on her game.
NEJAME: When there's a difficult argument, she said, "I'm going to study it." That night she did, or that weekend she did, and she came to court prepared.
KAYE: Prepared and ready to rule as she thought the law dictated.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Joining me once again, Sunny Hostin, Mark Geragos, Jeffrey Toobin and Danny Cevallos.
Mark, I think it was last night on the program you mumbled under your breath something I didn't follow up on, but I was thinking about it all day. Danny was talking about sort of like good-guy judges and how often their courtrooms are a mess. And you mumbled something like, they're the worst. Is that -- like you like judges who kind of lay down the law.
GERAGOS: I -- I couldn't agree more. And when I talked about good guys, you can control your courtroom without having to be a curmudgeon, although I don't mind curmudgeons as long as they're equal opportunity. But if the judge knows how to control the courtroom, cuts the lawyers off when they talk too much, and they do it both with the defense and the prosecution, I've got no problem with it. It's the only way to operate a courtroom.
You cannot just let lawyers take control of the courtroom. It's the judge's court. They should step up. And nothing drives me more insane than to be in a trial, have a judge make a ruling, and then it always happens with prosecutors. They're like little kids when you take their toys away. "But your honor, but your honor. But your honor." And the judge will listen to them while they keep whining. I hate that.
The best judges are the ones like this who just cut you off. And I do -- surprise, surprise -- disagree with Sunny. When she...
COOPER: What? Wait a minute, what? You disagree with Sunny? I'm stunned.
GERAGOS: Stop it, stop it. I thought that was great.
TOOBIN: I thought it was great, too. And it was 10 p.m. at night.
HOSTIN: I didn't like that.
TOOBIN: It was 10 p.m. at night. I mean, she was working so hard.
The key thing about this case, as far as the judge is concerned, I think, is that she has a sequestered jury. And this jury is away from their families. They're stuck in a hotel. And she is working all the time, including to 10 p.m. at night so that the jury can work a full day every day, and get this trial over with.
COOPER: And in fact, when she closed at 10 p.m. at night, she said, "We're starting at 8 in the morning."
And Don West was like, "Why? We can't do 8. We've got to do 9."
She said, "Look, we have a sequestered jury. I don't want them sitting out there for an hour." So it's interesting. She always sort of has them in the back of their mind.
TOOBIN: Respect for the jury's time is so important.
COOPER: We've got to take another quick break. We'll be right back with some final thoughts and other top stories of the day. Be right back.
COOPER: All right. Let's get to time thoughts as we await Mark O'Mara's closing argument tomorrow. And we're going to wait right here, all night long, just waiting for that. The jury finally getting the case. Jeff, let's start with you. What are you expecting tomorrow in terms of what the defense has to do? TOOBIN: I think one very important fact that he's got to say to this jury that self-defense is a defense both to murder and to manslaughter. He's got to fight the compromise verdict. I bet he's fairly confident they're not going to find Zimmerman guilty of murder, but he's got to be very worried about manslaughter. And I think he's going to focus a lot on that.
CEVALLOS: He's got to watch the manslaughter. Like Jeff said, those mandatory minimums, the mando mins, are bad news for George Zimmerman, and this jury doesn't get to know that. And if they split the baby, if they use Solomon wisdom and give him a lesser charge, that ain't going to work. That ain't going to work for Zimmerman. He's got to avoid that.
Mark O'Mara has got that in his mind tonight. You better believe it. He's going to hammer home self-defense.
COOPER: I was amazed in the state of Florida just for brandishing a gun, showing a gun is automatic ten years. Sunny, what do you think the defense has to do tomorrow?
HOSTIN: Yes, I mean, listen, they've got to change the narrative that this jury went to sleep with. The jury went to sleep with what Bernie de la Rionda said today. And so they've got to change the focus and got to change the narrative to self-defense. I think that's going to be a difficult thing to do, but that is what they need to do.
GERAGOS: Remember, because they're the defense, this is their only time to argue. So not only do they have to go through and lay out self-defense, and lay out how self-defense negates the two counts that he's facing, but they have to anticipate what the prosecution is going to do.
Now, supposedly in theory, the prosecution's only supposed to rebut what the argument is by the defense. Everybody knows that most prosecutors always lay -- lie in wait to sandbag you in the rebuttal. So he has to anticipate whatever arguments they're going to make in the rebuttal by Sunny's boyfriend, McDreamy, and they're going to have to figure that out...
HOSTIN: I'm going to start calling you McDreamy, Mark. I'm going to start calling you that, because I think you're jealous.
COOPER: OK. We've got to leave it there. Good note to end on.
GERAGOS: I'm not jealous.
COOPER: Sunny Hostin, Mark Geragos, Jeff Toobin, Danny Cevallos. Thank you.
Let's get caught up on some of the other stories we're following. Randi is here. Randi Kaye with a "360 Bulletin." KAYE: Anderson, investigators have released a horrifying photo of part of the interior of the Asiana Airlines jet that crashed in San Francisco's airport on Saturday. This area of the cabin destroyed by flames. And they report that the cockpit voice recorder shows the crew called for a go around -- that's an aborted landing -- twice in the final seconds before impact.
We also know the panic on the tarmac as passengers called 911 pleading for help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was got in a plane crash. There are a lot of people that need help.
We have people over here who weren't found, and they're burned really badly.
We're almost losing a woman here. We're trying to keep her alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Venezuela is waiting for an answer from Edward Snowden. That country's foreign minister told Reuters today that Venezuela has yet to receive a response from the NSA leaker on their offer of asylum made last week.
And stocks hit another record high today. The Dow Jones rose 169 points to close at 15,460. That broke a former record set back in late May by 50 points. The S&P 500 also closed, Anderson, at a record high today.
COOPER: All right. Randi, thanks very much.
That does it for this special edition. Join us again tomorrow night, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern, for more on the George Zimmerman trial and all the day's other stories. Thanks for watching.