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John King, USA
George Zimmerman Charged in Trayvon Martin Case; Martin's Parents React to Charges
Aired April 11, 2012 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING USA": Good evening everyone. Stay with us. We're tracking a very important breaking news story. CNN has learned that George Zimmerman, he's the Neighborhood Watch captain, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin 45 days ago, Mr. Zimmerman in the custody of Florida authorities tonight.
That information coming to us from his new attorney, Mark O'Mara. You see the live picture right there, Florida's special prosecutor is moments away from holding a news conference in this very sensitive nationally and internationally covered investigation and a senior law enforcement official telling CNN Zimmerman will face criminal charges.
Again, we are also told he is in custody tonight. You are seeing there live pictures of Jacksonville, Florida. The news conference by Angela Corey, the special prosecutor, due to begin any second. We'll bring it to you live. Watching with us to help us bring important information and context, CNN's Martin Savidge, he's down in Sanford, Florida where the shooting took place.
Our legal analyst (INAUDIBLE), Jeffrey Toobin standing by in New York. Another CNN legal analyst, criminal defense attorney Mark Nejame is in Orlando and joins us on the phone. Mark, I want to begin with you. You are familiar with Florida law. You know Mr. Zimmerman's new attorney. What is the most significant piece of new information you have this evening?
NEJAME (via phone): Well there are two pieces. He has a new attorney Mark O'Mara, very esteemed excellent defense lawyer in Central Florida. He's board certified. He's media savvy, well respected by the judiciary, by the prosecution. And I think Mr. Zimmerman is getting the defense that I think everybody should be entitled to. He has advised me that Mr. Zimmerman is in fact in custody that he is in Florida.
Mr. Zimmerman was outside of Florida. When he heard that charges were likely imminent, he...
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Mark, I'm sorry to interrupt.
Angela Corey, the special prosecutor.
ANGELA COREY, FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY: Good evening, everyone. I am Angela Corey, the special prosecutor for the Trayvon Martin case.
Just moments ago, we spoke by phone with Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. It was less than three weeks ago that we told those sweet parents that we would get answers to all of their questions no matter where our quest for the truth led us.
And it is the search for justice for Trayvon that has brought us to this moment. The team here with me has worked tirelessly looking for answers in Trayvon Martin's death.
I want to introduce to you Bernie de la Roinda, one of my top homicide prosecutors, and John Guy, my other top homicide prosecutor, who will lead this investigation. With us also is Jim Madden from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Dominic Pape, also one of our special agents in charge, our sheriff, John Rutherford and our undersheriff, Dwain Senterfitt.
We appreciate so much all of their cooperation in this.
And I especially want to thank my two state attorney investigators, T.C. O'Steen and Dale Gilbreath, who have spent countless hours doing what they do best, investigating homicides.
Allow me to take a moment to acknowledge our governor, Rick Scott, and his office, Attorney General Pam Bondi and her office, along with us our U.S. attorney, Bobby O'Neill, for their continuing support of our appointment to this case and their support of this investigation.
We spoke with all of them briefly and informed them of the results of our investigation and our plan as we continue.
I can tell you we did not come to this decision lightly. This case is like a lot of the difficult cases we have handled for years here in our circuit. And we made this decision in the same manner.
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.
When they appointed us to this case less than three weeks ago, I want you to know that these two fine prosecutors, despite all that is on their plate already, handling all of the homicides in the Fourth Judicial Circuit, supervising the other young lawyers who also handle homicides, they willingly took this case on and said, we will lead this effort to seek justice for Trayvon.
We launched an intensive investigation building on all of the work the Sanford Police Department and the state attorney's office in Seminole County had already done.
Unless you have ever been a law enforcement officer or a prosecutor handling a difficult homicide case, you cannot know what it's like to launch this type of investigation and come to the right conclusion.
The Supreme Court has defined our role on numerous occasions as prosecutors that we are not only ministers of justice; we are seekers of the truth. And we stay true to that mission. Again, we prosecute on facts and the laws of the great and sovereign state of Florida, and that's the way it will be in this case.
When we took our oath of office in 2009, we pledged not only to look out for our precious victims of all of our cases, but also to adhere to the rules of the criminal justice system and the rules of our Constitution and statutes that protect a defendant's rights as well.
When we charge a person with a crime, we are equally committed to justice on their behalf as we are on our victims' behalf. So we are here to do that on behalf of our victim, Trayvon Martin, and on behalf of the person responsible for his death, George Zimmerman.
We will continue to seek the truth throughout this case. Every single day, our prosecutors across this great country handle difficult cases, and they adhere to that same standard, a never-ending search for the truth and a quest to always do the right thing for the right reason.
There is a reason cases are tried in a court of law, not in the court of the public and not by the media, because details have to come out in excruciating and minute fashion, detail by detail, bit of evidence by bit of evidence.
And it's only then when the trier of fact, whether it's a judge or a jury, gets all of those details that then the law is applied to that and a decision can be rendered. We will scrupulously adhere to our ethical obligations and to the rules of evidence in presenting this case that way.
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.
We thank all of the people across this country who have sent positive energy and prayers our way. We ask you to continue to pray for Trayvon's family, as well as for our prosecution team.
I want to especially thank Mr. Crump and Mr. Parks, who have stayed in touch daily with us on behalf of our victim's family. Remember, it is Trayvon's family that are our constitutional victims and who have the right to know the critical stages of these proceedings.
I will entertain some questions, but remember we have very strict rules of ethics, very strict rules of criminal procedure, and we will be adhering to those rules.
COREY: I will confirm that Mr. Zimmerman is indeed in custody.
QUESTION: Can you tell us where?
COREY: I will not tell you where. That's for his safety, as well as everyone else's safety. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)
COREY: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what led to your decision today? (OFF- MIKE)
COREY: We don't discuss the evidence in a case. It would be improper to do so. It was a full investigation, full facts and circumstances that lead us to any decision in any case.
COREY: Mr. Zimmerman turned himself and turning himself in was arrested on the capias that had already been issued.
COREY: Well, it didn't take long. We have many complicated homicides that are thoroughly investigated. Remember, the prosecutor's burden under our constitution is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
COREY: Well, I can tell you that this investigation was under way by both the Sanford Police Department and Norm Wolfinger's office. The investigation was in full mode.
And the governor appointed us less than three weeks ago. And we took the work that they had done, which was significant. We carried on with that work and we arrived at our decision approximately last week. And then, of course, following proper Florida law and procedure, we had to make sure we had everything in place to issue this capias and make this arrest.
Yes, sir. I'm sorry. Yes, sir.
COREY: Well, that's what will be in court, detail by detail, piece of evidence by piece of evidence, factual evidence, physical evidence, testimonial evidence. That's why we track cases in a courtroom.
QUESTION: Can you tell us whether Mr. Zimmerman is in the state of Florida? Is there already a bonding process?
COREY: I can tell you that in, Seminole County, and I want to thank their chief judge. He was very kind in helping us start setting up these procedures up last week. He informed us that they have a bond schedule. When a capias is issued, there is originally no bond, but that Mr. Zimmerman's lawyers will be entitled to request a bond, at which point a bond hearing will be held.
Bond hearings are a common occurrence. Our lawyers handle them every day. And that's where that will be determined as to whether or not no bond, which is the bond set currently on the capias, will be changed by the court.
COREY: That would be commenting on the facts of the case. We are not going to do that at this time.
QUESTION: Can you tell us why your investigation led you to a second- degree murder charge? (OFF-MIKE)
COREY: Well, I don't believe that question is accurate in the sense that when you have a homicide, Florida's jury instructions even say that before you can reach a degree of homicide, you have to determine whether a person has committed an excusable homicide or a justifiable homicide.
All murders are homicides, but not all homicides are murders. And Florida's law clearly said that if there is the affirmative defense of, for example, excusable homicide or justifiable homicide, that should be determined before you go to the degree of the crime.
That's the process this case took. The only slight delay was the fact that the governor stepped in and appointed us to take this case over and handle it, and we did.
QUESTION: If they had conducted a full investigation, do you believe Sanford police would have arrived at the same (OFF-MIKE)
COREY: We work together with our law enforcement officers here.
As you see, I have my sheriff and our undersheriff here. We work with all of our law enforcement agencies where to try to work these cases together. Remember prosecutors are law enforcement as well. And we work these cases with our investigating agencies and we try to come to as many mutual decisions as we can.
This case was in that process when the governor stepped in and appointed us to take it over. We have continued to work with the Sanford Police Department. We got full cooperation in all of those significant documents and records from Mr. Wolfinger and then Bernie and John and their team took this over and did a lot more work, and we came to our conclusion based on the facts and Florida's law.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Obvious, the maximum sentence of second-degree murder would be life in prison. Is it your desire as the prosecutor of this case to see him go to jail for life?
COREY: We don't make that determination at this time.
What we are committed to do is get this case through the court system and then, and if it goes to the trier of fact of the judge or the trier of the fact of the jury, once there is a decision, then we would concern ourself with the sentence.
COREY: I'm sorry. Go ahead.
COREY: I have not personally been contacted. I do understand that he may have retained new counsel in the past couple of hours.
QUESTION: When he turned himself in, did he have anything to say?
COREY: If he did, I wouldn't be able to comment on it. I want you to know up front that one of the specific things we are not allowed to discuss are the statements of a defendant charged with a crime.
And, again, it is a constitutional protection that you all should be happy law enforcement affords every person charged with a crime.
Yes, sir? I'm sorry.
COREY: I will not comment on where Mr. Zimmerman is. I can tell you he is within the custody of law enforcement officers in the state of Florida. And he will be taken when it is appropriate for the appropriate appearance in front of a judge.
I'm sorry. Yes, sir.
COREY: I speak for Angela Corey and my prosecution team. This is the conclusion that we came to based on our review of the facts in evidence.
I am not sure they were through with the entire investigation at the point Mr. Wolfinger recused himself from this case.
QUESTION: Are you confident you have the evidence for a conviction?
COREY: We have to have a reasonable certainty of conviction before we file charges. Any time there's an affirmative defense -- and there are numerous affirmative defenses that be asserted before the arrest, immediately after, during the trial. We have had them come up in the middle of trial, haven't we, my fellow prosecutors that sit here?
We have all faced this before. For example, alibi is an affirmative defense. Sometimes, that gets put on us in the middle of a trial. So, an affirmative defense always makes a criminal prosecution more difficult. We do everything within our power to take the facts we have at hand and prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
COREY: I am going to be quite honest with you. And I have some people who have lived through our justice system here. And they are among the finest people in Jacksonville, Florida. They represent but a small sample of the people who know that those of us in law enforcement are committed to justice for every race, every gender, every person of any persuasion whatsoever.
They are our victims. We only know one category as prosecutors, and that's a V. It is not a B, it is not a W, it is not an H. It is V for victim. That's who we work tirelessly for. And that's all we know, is justice for our victims. And we still have to maintain the constitutional rights. Remember our role, ministers of justice.
COREY: Any time we take over a case, even from each other, we sometimes re-interview. We thoroughly go through the reports and we try to gather more evidence.
A lot of the witnesses had already made statements in public, even before we took over this case. A thorough review of all of the statements that made was done. And I can tell you I have the finest prosecution team ever. I know every boss feels that way, but these people have the best experience you can ask for.
I'm sorry. And I will get to you in just one second. I'm sorry. Yes, ma'am.
COREY: Florida is a full discovery state, and when and if the defense requests participation in the discovery process, the witness list will be released at that time.
Hold on one second. Yes, sir.
COREY: I'm sorry. I thought I articulated very clearly that we don't discuss the facts of a case. And that's for a reason.
We are law enforcement. This is the criminal justice system. People's rights have to be protected. And it is designed a certain way, not only under the Constitution of the United States and the state of Florida. We have rules of criminal procedure, Florida statutes and rules of ethics. So much information got released on this case that never should have been released. We have to protect this investigation and this prosecution for Trayvon, for his family and for George Zimmerman.
And that's what we will continue to do.
QUESTION: Angela, did you talk to George personally at home?
COREY: I did not. We do not talk to any defendant who is represented by counsel unless he waives his right to counsel. We never even had to address that situation. QUESTION: Yesterday, the attorneys who were representing Mr. Zimmerman or at least speaking for him said they had to recuse themselves because they hadn't been in contact with him. Can you shed any light at all on how Mr. Zimmerman came to turn himself in?
COREY: I cannot.
COREY: It is a coordinated process and law enforcement has had this under control since we have gotten this case. And I know there was a lot of speculation about oh, my goodness, does law enforcement know where he is? Do we have this under control?
This is what we do every single day on behalf of our community. It is what FDLE does every single day on behalf of the citizens of this great state. The governor and Pam Bondi put as much or many resources as they could on this case. I don't think that there was ever a concern that if the decision was made to charge Mr. Zimmerman, that it would be made in a timely fashion and that law enforcement would have it under control to take him into custody.
QUESTION: Do you expected the trial to be in Seminole County?
COREY: We don't know that.
Yes, sir. I'm sorry. OK.
COREY: What happens with every phone call. A message was taken. I turned it over to Bernie and Bernie handled it from there.
But we called his lawyers, because, again, we don't talk to someone represented by counsel pursuant to our rules of ethics. No contact was made specifically between Mr. de la Roinda. Mr. Guy is -- was and is still prosecuting a first-degree murder case where our victim is a former Marine who was brutally shot for a few dollars at a gas station here.
We have unfortunately brutal homicides that we fight hard for all the time. We will fight just as hard in this case.
COREY: The Department of Justice -- thank you for asking that question -- they conduct their own investigation. I have been in contact with Bobby O'Neill, our U.S. attorney, Tom Battle (ph), one of the Department of Justice people who has helped us with a lot of the civil rights contacts and issues.
He's helping us. A whole slew of DOJ lawyers are helping us. But they are not working on our part of the investigation. And we don't work on their part of the investigation. We always share information with our federal counterparts on numerous cases when and if it is needed.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) You are basically making the statement that you do not believe there is ground for a plausible defense? Could you at least address the fact that (OFF-MIKE) by arresting Mr. Zimmerman, you are in fact (OFF-MIKE) that stand your ground in your mind does (OFF- MIKE)
COREY: This case is just like many of the shooting deaths we have had in our circuit.
If stand your ground becomes an issue, we fight it if we believe it is the right thing to do. So if it becomes an issue in this case, we will fight that affirmative defense.
COREY: My prosecutors, and a lot of them are here and I am so proud of them. They have worked tirelessly running this office while we have been working on this case.
They fight these stand your ground motions. Mr. Moody (ph) just finished a four-day full stand your ground motion on another case. We fight hard. Some of them, we have won, and we have had to appeal them, or the defense has appealed and we have won it on appeal. Some, we fought hard and the judge ruled against us. That is happening to prosecutors all over the state. It's the law of the state of Florida, and it will be applied.
COREY: Justifiable use of deadly force as we all knew it before stand your ground was issued was still a tough affirmative defense to overcome. But we still fight these cases hard.
I am not going to comment on the specific law at this time. We are law enforcement. We enforce the laws of the state of Florida. And if that law becomes an affirmative defense, just like alibi, insanity, entrapment or any of the many affirmative defenses, we will handle it accordingly.
COREY: No, Seminole County is absolutely the venue.
When we are appointed as prosecutors, we step into the prosecution role down in Seminole County. Right now, it is the court of jurisdiction. It is the venue. The question was, did we think we would be able to try the case there? Or I thought -- was that your question? OK.
Would we think we would be able to try it there? That's a determination that will be made closer to if and when we pick a jury.
COREY: You asked about my concerns. I will tell you. There has been an overwhelming amount of publicity in this case that we hope does not keep us from being able to pick a fair and impartial jury. Both the state and the defense are entitled to a fair and impartial jury. We think a lot of facts got put out. See, that's the problem. When I told you it comes out in front of the jury, they are not allowed to render a decision until everything is in front of them.
In fact, they are specifically instructed by the judge that they can't form a decision until they have heard everything. And so it is regrettable that so many facts and details got released and misconstrued.
But we hope that a lot of it -- and the media has helped toning it down a lot and making sure that people understand Florida law and the process. And we hope that people will continue to do that.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) looked closely at how the police conducted their investigation? Looking back at the Sanford Police Department, would you say their investigation was thorough?
COREY: Well, I am not going to comment on that, other than that they were a tremendous help to us and had already done a lot of witness interviews.
They did what the police do. Any time you have a shooting scene and there is a person whose death is caused, the police launch a thorough and intensive investigation. That was done here.
But before the investigation could be finished, there was a lot of outcry about this case. And then, it changed course and we got appointed to take over the investigation.
QUESTION: Based on the details you know of the case, and what happened (OFF-MIKE)
COREY: We have numerous homicides where immediate arrests are not made. And so to us it did not seem unusual.
I think judgment has to be made when the final decision is reached. And that's what we would have hoped the public would have waited for. But some people did not wait. And so an arrest can only be based upon probable cause.
And so we believe that that's what the Sanford Police Department was trying to do. And if there is any sort of determination as to what they did or didn't do, that will be handled by someone other than our prosecution team.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last question.
COREY: I did.
QUESTION: Can you shed any more light on (OFF-MIKE)
COREY: I think that after meeting with Trayvon's parents that first Monday night after we got appointed in this case -- Bernie was there, John was there, our prosecution team was there. The first thing we did was pray with them. We opened our meeting in prayer.
Mr. Crump and Mr. Parks were there. We did not promise them anything. In fact, we specifically talked about if criminal charges do not come out of this, what can we help you do to make sure your son's death is not in vain?
And they were very kind and very receptive to that. And as I stated, Mr. de la Roinda has been in touch with Mr. Crump and with Ms. Fulton and Mr. Martin since we took over this case. And we intend to stay in touch with them.
But basically we only had a few minutes to talk to them. I believe they are going to want to talk later. And they now know that charges have been filed and they are now hearing, as we speak, that George Zimmerman is in custody of law enforcement in our state. We are very proud of the job law enforcement has done. And we are very proud to stand here and tell you that we represent the people of the state of Florida.
Thank you so much.
KING: You have been watching for 24 minutes now a very important and dramatic and emotional announcement.
Angela Corey is the special prosecutor in Florida in the Trayvon Martin investigation. The big headline, George Zimmerman, the man who has acknowledged shooting the 17-year-old Florida teenager 45 days ago, now in custody, charged with second-degree murder. That one count carries a maximum prison sentence of life without parole, a minimum prison sentence of 25 years without parole.
Mr. Zimmerman now being held without bond, without bail, although his defense attorneys do have the right to seek a bail hearing as soon as possible.
Let's break down what we just heard. But I should also note we are waiting to hear from the parents of Trayvon Martin. Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin are here in Washington, D.C. We expect to hear from them momentarily. We will take you there immediately when they speak.
But let's dissect what we have heard, this very important shift in this case.
Martin Savidge, our correspondent, is with us and he is in Sanford, Florida, where this took place. Our legal analysts, Sunny Hostin, Jeff Toobin, and Mark NeJame in Florida.
Mark, I want to go you first because you have had a conversation with Mark O'Mara, who is Mr. Zimmerman's new criminal defense attorney. What did he tell you? What is his next move?
NEJAME: I spoke to him in fact while Ms. Corey was making her announcement.
And he is with Mr. Zimmerman. He is already beginning to start his defense and putting it all together. He learned when we all learned about the charge and the fact it was a no-bond and it was second- degree murder. The next step will be to coordinate Mr. Zimmerman going to the Seminole County Jail, where he will be booked and processed like anybody else.
Like anybody else, he will have a first appearance the following morning. I suspect that Mr. O'Mara will request a bond at that time or it will be put off shortly thereafter for a bond hearing so that it can be considered by the court.
KING: Help me understand the specifics of Florida state law. When you file a second-degree murder case, obvious at this press conference, the special prosecutor was very careful. She said we will not publicly discuss the evidence.
But what is the burden on the prosecutors? How much evidence do they have to disclose to the court when they file the information, the complaint?
NEJAME: There is really no information.
In Florida, we don't do this by grand jury where it is considered by members of the community in a grand jury. The state attorney, in this instance, Ms. Corey, makes a charging decision. They evaluate the evidence, the facts. If they deem there is enough probable cause in order to file formal charges, the document is called an information.
The information is, in fact, filed by the state. If there is to be a warrant out, then that gets taken before the court, before a judge, excuse me, to issue a warrant for the arrest. That's what's apparently happened here, a very normal process.
It gets a bit complicated thereafter. There is not an automatic entitlement, because it is second-degree murder, which is a charge, second-degree homicide. Because it is punishable by life, now it will be Mr. O'Mara, on behalf of Mr. Zimmerman, to go to court and argue that a bond is appropriate, that there is no risk to the public and that there are no flight concerns.
Another element would be that the risk is not -- excuse me -- that the proof is not evident and the presumption not great. Those are legal matters, but basically to show that this is a questionable case and, in fact, a bond should be given in that there are terms and conditions of a bond that can be met.
KING: Jeffrey Toobin.
NEJAME: If I can say one other thing, I think it is very important to realize that Mr. Zimmerman apparently has turned himself in voluntarily. You know his counsel will be arguing that strongly that there is no risk of flight because he had no obligation to even stay in the country until there were charges filed.
He came in and apparently according to Ms. Corey, from what it sounded like, had been in contact with the FDLE and voluntarily surrendered himself.
KING: That is an important distinction to make and we will watch as it plays out.
Jeffrey Toobin, your observations of what you heard from the prosecutor and specifically she is making what I will call a bold decision. This is the most, the maximum charge she could have put against Mr. Zimmerman. You can't charge first-degree murder without going to a grand jury in the state of Florida. Ms. Corey decided not to do that. She decided to go with second-degree murder which could carry life in prison without parole, instead of a lesser charge, as such in manslaughter.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: She threw the book at him. This is a very, very major charge.
It carries the potential of life in prison. The jury instruction that the jury will receive is, he can only be convicted if he showed a depraved attitude towards Trayvon Martin's life. That's a tough burden for a prosecutor to meet.
But she has access to facts that we don't, the missing couple of minutes where in between the 911 call that Zimmerman made and the shots being heard on the other 911 call. We don't know what happened there. But there may be other evidence and there may be witnesses that the public doesn't know about. Apparently, it was enough to let the prosecutor bring these charges.
Just one larger point I would like to make that is just worth thinking about as we move forward, Florida has what's known as the sunshine law. It is the law that says all government activities virtually are open to the public. Cameras are virtually always in the courtroom. So this trial will be a trial on television.
And I think that is something that all of us can think about the implications of that. But Florida is different. And they will have a trial like this.
KING: Jeffrey, thank you. I want to tell everyone else to stand by.
You see right there the Reverend Al Sharpton of the National Action Network. He is speaking. He has with him Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the parents of Trayvon Martin. Let's listen in.
REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Forty-five days ago, Trayvon Martin was murdered. No arrest was made. The chief of police in Sanford announced, after his review of the evidence, there would be no arrest.
An outcry from all over this country came. Because his parents refused to leave it there. His parents, acting out of love and acting out of the basic principles this country is built on, decided that they would go to some able attorneys, and they went to Mr. Crump and Mr. Parks and Attorney Jackson.
They believed in the system and believed that the arrest would be made. And they waited until the police chief -- let us not confuse the issue. He announced there will be no arrest. That's when Attorney Crump called us. We were marching in Selma to Montgomery. That went viral, National Action Network. And some of us hit the streets.
I remember the night we had the first big rally, 30,000 people. On that afternoon, Governor Scott asked to meet. He flew in and met and said that he was going to appoint a special prosecutor. I will say, publicly, that I did not trust Governor Scott. I did not trust the appointment. I want to congratulate him and the prosecutor for being what they should be.
If we did not get this far, we would condemn them. We must say that, despite the fact that we are different political parties, and different political persuasions, that tonight maybe America can come together and say that only the facts should matter when you're dealing with a loss of life.
And I think that the prosecutor, and I think that the governor did not make a decision based on public pressure, but I think they decided to review it based on public pressure. I think that they would not be irresponsible enough to proceed with the prosecution based on pressure.
But had there not been pressure, there would not have been a second look. And I think I that that credit should go to the nameless, faceless people, black, white, Latino and Asian, all over this country that put hoods on and said, take another look at this. And that look has led to where we are tonight.
They will attack the big names, and they will give credit to the big names, but it's the unknown people that took their time and money and stood up and said that "That could be my son. That could be my grandson." Because of a second look, even conservatives on the other side of the political spectrum said, "No, we're going to take a second look and do what is right. They charged him with a serious crime. He deserves a fair trial."
They charged him with a serious crime. He deserves a fair trial. We do not want anybody high-fiving tonight. There's no victory here. There's no winners here. They've lost their son. This is not about gloating. This is about pursuing justice. We have not won anything. All we have done is establish that we must have the right to redress and justice in this country. So we will not be gloating around here. We are still mourning with this family.
We will monitor the trial every step of the way. We will stand by and make sure that the rights of all are not violated.
But this is not a night for celebration. It is a night that should have never happened in the first place. And we are trying to make sure that something happens that this will not happen again.
Are we happy with the charge? Are we happy with the results? I would say that we must say that, if Americans come together, they can achieve things.
I remember, as I talked to Attorney Crump, as we marched in Selma, I remember reading 44 years ago a man was asked after they got the Voting Rights Act, how did he feel? And he said, "We ain't where we ought to be. We ain't where we going to be. We ain't where we want to be, but thank God we ain't where we was."
Tonight, we don't know where it will lead, but at least we have a shot at this family having the right redress. And that is because of, first, the courage of Attorney Parks and the battling attorney, Ben Crump.
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S PARENTS: Reverend Sharpton and Reverend Black, all the clergy, black and white, who didn't think it right, to stand in their pulpits and say, it is about justice, justice, justice, and only justice.
We thank you for all those people who went on Change.org to sign a petition, not just to think about it but to do something. Thank you for your unselfish acts, even though you did not know Trayvon Martin 44 days ago. You just know that a child had been killed. A child who was Sybrina's baby, was Tracy's son, had been killed, and you thought that "If this was my child, I would sign this petition." So, thank you for signing that petition.
And tell all those young people, all the young people, the people who marched, the people who stood up, who refused to look away. It is for those reasons. Those young people who were Trayvon's age, those high- school students who walked out and said that "we refuse to stand for this." You know, it was those young people. Us old people, we sometimes get complacent and we see so many things, we get a little jaded. But it's the young people who believe. They believe completely in justice, the concept, the idea, the dream of justice.
I think those are the people who are sitting here today saying we can make a difference. We just stamp it right. If we just stand up. If we just stand our ground, we can make a difference.
I have to say thank you as a Florida citizen to our governor, Rick Scott, who came and met with the family that night and said that it is important that we get this right. He said that it's important we get it right.
And he appointed special prosecutor Angela Corey, who told you she prayed with the family and said -- did not make any promises to us, I mean, no promises whatsoever, Mr. Martin, Ms. Fulton, Mr. Parks, Attorney Jackson, our legal team, didn't make one promise to us, said, we will look at all the evidence, every piece of the evidence and based on the evidence, that she would make a decision, not based on public pressure, not based on anything else but the evidence.
And we always believed from day one that if you looked at the evidence fairly and impartially, that you would have to come to the conclusion that he had to be arrested and that this man had to go before a judge and a jury. And that is all that Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton and their family have asked for, nothing more and nothing less.
And before I bring them up, I do go back, Reverend Sharpton and Reverend Brant (ph), to the call that has been well-documented now, where Tracy Martin called after -- that Tuesday after he was told that there was not going to be an arrest. And he was told that.
So the reason why we had the protest and filed 911 lawsuit saying all the young people, Reverend Brant (ph) and have at Change.org, was to get to this point. We had to do that to get to this point. And it is because of that there we can take a short breath, a short breath, because we're just now getting to first base. This is only first base. We're on first base in this game of justice.
And we have to remain vigilant. We have to stretch our muscles, exercise every day to make it to second base. And that will be, you know, we've got to deal with this "stand your ground" issue. And then once we pass that, we've got to get to third base, which is the trial.
And then, after we get to that trial, make sure all the evidence is delivered properly and fairly for both sides, for everybody. And then, only then, we can come from third base and bring it on home to justice. That's why we're here. This is only first base. We must remember that.
And lastly, I say this, that Trayvon's legacy cannot be tarnished based on people doing sick things and acting ignorant and resorting to violence or thinking ill will. We all got to believe in our hearts that we make the system better for what we do. And we've got to believe in our hearts that, when we choose to do good and if we know somebody who is thinking ill will, tell them, you know, in America...
KING: You're listening to Benjamin Crump there. He is the attorney for Trayvon Martin's parents. We're going to work in a quick break. We'll be back just moments from now. You will get to hear from Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the parents of Trayvon Martin.
Breaking news tonight: the man who admits to shooting their son has been charged tonight with second-degree murder. We'll be right back.
CRUMP: That's what makes America great.
KING: Continuing our breaking news coverage tonight. The parents of Trayvon Martin are about to speak, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. George Zimmerman, who admitted to shooting their son 45 days ago -- he says he did it in self-defense -- charged tonight with second-degree murder. Let's listen.
SYBRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: We wanted to thank God and 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. Thank you. Secondly, I just want to speak from my heart to your heart, because a heart has no color. It is not black, it's not white. It's red. And I want to say thank you from my heart to your heart.
TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FATHER: First of all, we just would like to thank everyone once again for being compassionate about this as we were, as we are, as we will be. As Attorney Crump said, this is just beginning. 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 -- 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.
KING: Tracy Martin there. He's the father of Trayvon Martin, gunned down 45 days ago. You heard just moments ago from Sybrina Fulton. She is Trayvon's mother.
With us now to discuss the breaking news in this case, the charge: second-degree murder now facing George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watchman who shot Trayvon Martin 45 days ago. Sunny Hostin and Jeffrey Toobin, our legal analysts; also with us from Texas, Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. She's a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
And Congresswoman, I will go to you first. You were here on the program some time ago, criticizing the state of Florida, saying that they had dropped the ball in this investigation, asking for the Justice Department to get involved, which it has subsequently done. On this night, do you believe that justice is being done?
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: John, I remember that interview very well.
And first, let me just say that to Trayvon's parents, praying parents, that God has answered their prayers. And to all of those who petitioned, that is what this government is about.
I remember that interview, and what I said is that the investigation by the federal government should not be mutually exclusive to the state doing the right thing.
And I want to just dissect a number of things that the special prosecutor said tonight, which generated her appointment, because the then state attorney made the decision to be judge and jury and allowed the "stand your ground" law to be the deciding factor, without investigation, to not arrest Mr. Zimmerman.
And if you listen to Special Prosecutor Corey, she said several things. One, she represents the victim, and she wants justice and fairness for the accused, Mr. Zimmerman. Two, she wants to seek the truth. But the important thing that she said, that the state attorney at that time did not give himself to even think about, was that she is willing to fight what would be the affirmative defense of "stand your ground." What the then-state attorney did was to allow Mr. Zimmerman to be immune along with the chief of police, and they did not arrest. That's all the parents and thousands and millions of people around the nation, and young people. That's all the chief parent said, President Obama, me as a parent. That's all we asked for, was that the case be looked upon that a child was dead in the streets of Sanford, Florida, and that there should rightly be an arrest.
I applaud that special prosecutor for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the overall public that she has now charged Mr. Zimmerman on her own with her belief that it is beyond a reasonable doubt, which she has to prove, with second-degree murder.
But the main point she made is that she is willing to fight the affirmative defense, which Mr. Zimmerman has a right to petition or to utilize, among others, by his lawyers.
That was the crux of my angst when we were interviewed before, was that the state of Florida at that time failed. And in that instance, who else could protect the civil rights of Americans than the federal government, which, as you know, John, they are continuing their investigation.
KING: Sunny Hostin, to the point the congresswoman makes, the special prosecutor, Angela Corey, in her presentation, she was defending the local investigation, at least publicly, trying to gloss over any differences, saying that she was appointed the special prosecutor before they were done with their investigation, and she doesn't know where it would have gone had it stayed in the local hands. Was she being polite there, or is that an honest assessment?
SUNNY HOSTIN, TRUTV'S "IN SESSION": I think she was certainly being politically polite. No question about it. Because I think the congresswoman made a very good point, in that we understand that the Sanford Police Department said that they were prohibited from arresting George Zimmerman. I mean, they did make that statement and prohibited hearkens to the "stand your ground" law. Because one is immune from prosecution if you invoke the "stand your ground" defense.
And I think we can glean a lot from what Angela Corey said. She also said that before charging, a prosecutor must determine whether or not the homicide is justified before you decide on a degree of murder. That tells me that they considered self-defense here. They considered the "stand your ground" defense and whether or not George Zimmerman's actions were justified. She determined that they were not.
I also think it is clear that there is evidence that Angela Corey's office has that we don't know about. Because charging this case as a second-degree murder case is a significant statement as to what she believed the strength of her case is.
Remember, in making that charging decision, she has to decide that she has enough evidence to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt in light of the affirmative defense of "stand your ground" law.
So I suspect that we are going to, if this case proceeds to trial, learn a lot more about what happened on February 26.
KING: Sunny, Congressman Sheila Jackson Lee, Jeff Toobin, stand by. We'll take a quick break, and we'll continue our breaking news coverage. A dramatic announcement tonight: 45 days after the shooting of 17-year-old Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, the man who says he shot him in self-defense is in custody, charged with second-degree murder.
We'll be right back.
KING: Continuing our coverage of dramatic breaking news tonight, 45 nights ago from today in Sanford, Florida, Trayvon Martin was gunned down. The man who shot him, George Zimmerman, says he did so in self- defense, but tonight George Zimmerman is in custody. The prosecutor at the top of the hour announcing these charges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA COREY, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Today we filed an information charging George Zimmerman with murder in the second degree. A capias has been issued for that arrest. With the filing of that information, and the issuance of the capias, he will have a right to appear in front of a magistrate in Seminole County within 24 hours of his arrest and, thus, formal prosecution will begin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Moments ago Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother, stepped forward before the cameras here in Washington. Her reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FULTON: First of all, I want to say thank God. 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother moments ago, quite emotional.
Let's continue our conversation with Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst; Sunny Hostin, our legal analyst. Roland Martin is with us, as well as Congressman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.
Jeffrey, a legal action. The Justice Department has a civil rights investigation ongoing, as well, to determine if this was a hate crime. If the state files charges, does the Justice Department continue at full speed? Or does it wait until the state prosecution is done before it continues? TOOBIN: In practical terms, they wait. I mean, they see how the original case plays out. That doesn't mean they stop investigating, but almost certainly there will be no federal charges filed while this homicide case is being worked through the -- the Florida courts. And there won't be any resolution of the federal investigation until after we see how the Florida case is resolved.
KING: Roland, you've been in touch with the family and their attorney throughout this case. And it is a case. It was an investigation. And the media coverage has brought front and center at times some quite divisive and at times some ugly issues, questions of race, questions of whether the system was rigged against the 17-year-old black teenager, because perhaps he was wearing a hoodie on this day.
You heard the special prosecutor say she views everyone as a "V," not "B" meaning black, not "W" meaning white, not "H" for Hispanic. But also, just before her announcement, the Texas governor, Rick Scott, issued a statement, understanding the tensions about this case, saying, "No matter what Attorney Corey determines, I trust in the goodness of all Florida citizens to allow our justice system to reach an appropriate conclusion in this case."
Do you believe, Roland, with this announcement tonight that Mr. Zimmerman is in custody, facing second-degree murder, that there will be more faith in the system and maybe less raw emotion, at least for now?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is called let's wait and see. African-Americans have always said is it a question of justice or is it just us? When you look at the history of this country, that can be easily answered.
And so as Attorney Crump said, this is getting to first base. This is about what now happens in terms of how this whole thing goes forward. But also, it goes beyond this. Even when this case is adjudicated, the question is what is next? About the investigation of the Sanford Police Department, about the Seminole County D.A., about their actions.
But also what has happened, John, this is a Trayvon Martin movement that is actually -- I'm sorry, moment that is turning into a movement. So many people have been empowered to deal with the issue of social justice.
I'm getting e-mails and tweets from other cases in Austin, Texas, in Atlanta, Georgia, and other places, as well. It has certainly lit a fire among this generation. And we may very well see folks recognize that they should be demanding justice all across this country, not just in Sanford, Florida.
KING: And Congresswoman, to that point, do you think, will there be -- we know in Florida there's a debate about their "stand your ground" law. In other states there will be debates about similar laws. Will there be a federal look at these laws? I know you're a Democrat. You're in the minority at the moment, but do you believe there needs to be a discussion? LEE: John, you know that we held that the first opportunity for the parents and Attorney Crump and Parks to come to Washington, D.C., for the judiciary committee briefing where there was an outpouring by members of Congress. Yes, there will be a review of the nation's "stand your ground" law.
We recognize the sovereignty of states, but one of the failures of that law was one, as Mr. Crump said, the aggressor standard and the immunity standard. That has to be reviewed. Even the Republican state author of the bill said that it has to be reviewed.
But I would also just add just very quickly, the federal and state work together. Yes, they will probably not go forward, but in instances of James Baird (ph), in instances of cases like that from the state of Texas and instances of cases that are coming into my office, this is not only a Trayvon moment or movement.
But it is a question of revitalizing the criminal justice system to really say that justice is blind, that it addresses all pain, all victims the same way. And I think that's what the parents are crying out for.
And God bless them, with all of those who supported them. Here we are today. We got an arrest on second-degree murder, but we now stand quietly and patiently under this justice system to watch and wait for this trial to proceed.
KING: Thank you. One more quick break. Our breaking news coverage will continue in just a moment.
KING: Dramatic breaking news this hour: George Zimmerman behind bars in Florida tonight, being held without bond, charged with second- degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Our coverage of this breaking news story continues on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" right now.