Monday, March 19, 2012

Jane Velez-Mitchell transcript on Trayvon Martin Case

The following is the full transcript from Jane Velez-Mitchell who covered the Trayvon Martin case on March 19, 2012. Jane Velez-Mitchell spoke to her panel of experts and took calls from outraged citizens nationwide.

Killer of Boy, 17, Remains Uncharged

Aired March 19, 2012 - 19:00 ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell coming to you live from Los Angeles.

Outrage is building after 22 days pass without an arrest in the shooting death of a Florida teenager. Trayvon Martin was armed with this. Skittles and an iced tea. Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman had a loaded gun, and he says, well, the shooting was self-defense. Does that sound like a fair fight to you?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911. Police, fire or medical?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police. I just heard a shot right behind my house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heart is broken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trayvon Martin was visiting family in a gated community when he walked to a nearby convenience store. Zimmerman had called police to report a suspicious black man in the neighborhood and even though dispatchers reportedly told him not to confront the teenager, he did. They got into a scuffle, and Zimmerman shot the teenager in the chest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This man took this baby`s life. He needs to be incarcerated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a fully complete investigation that is fair and will be presented to the state attorney`s office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just said he shot him dead. He`s laying on the ground. My God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight secrets spilling out in the shooting death of a 17-year-old teenager, gunned down by a Neighborhood Watch volunteer. Cops have finally released the 911 tapes but only after the boy`s family threatened to sue. So what were cops so afraid we would hear? And why was this neighborhood volunteer carrying a loaded gun?

Trayvon Martin was shot dead 22 days ago after making a 7-Eleven run for Skittles and iced tea. And cops still have not filed charges against the shooter, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, who was patrolling a gated community in Sanford, Florida, as a volunteer when he spotted Trayvon Martin in the dark. The teen was wearing a hoodie and holding something. Zimmerman claims he was acting in self-defense.

Tonight, we`re going to ask, did cops blindly accept the shooter`s explanation? But how can that explanation hold water when the teen who was shot dead didn`t even have a weapon?

Half a dozen residents called 911 when they heard Martin and Zimmerman arguing. Listen to this 911 call, and you will also hear the deadly shots.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you think he`s yelling help?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you...

(GUNSHOT)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gunshots.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You heard gunshots?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And witnesses who saw what happened said there is no way this shooting was self-defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we heard, what we saw that we believe in our hearts 100 percent it was not self-defense. I heard the crying of the little boy. As soon as the gun went off the crying stopped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to know that regardless of what happens, there are still good people in this world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Zimmerman violated the national Neighborhood Watch program guidelines by carrying a weapon. So this begs the question: when does a legitimate Neighborhood Watch program cross the line into vigilantism?

I want to give you a chance at home to weigh in on this. Call me: 1- 877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297. I want to hear from you.

Straight out to Natalie Jackson, the attorney for the dead teenager`s family.

Thank you so much for joining us, Natalie. Why do you believe cops seem so eager to believe the shooter, George Zimmerman`s, version of what happened that night, as opposed to treating him like the suspect?

NATALIE JACKSON, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN`S FAMILY: I think that they unofficially adopted George Zimmerman as one of their own. I think that...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So you`re saying that -- go ahead.

JACKSON: I think that you get to the scene. And here`s a person that you know to be a good guy, who is volunteering to patrol a neighborhood. And you see a kid with a hoodie on that`s dead. And the good guy tells you it was self-defense, you know. They did something that, you know, George did when he saw Trayvon. They profiled and they said, "Our friend is the person that we`re going to protect."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I have so many burning questions. But let`s start with burning question No. 1 tonight. Why was this guy, George Zimmerman, a volunteer for a Neighborhood Watch program, carrying a loaded gun?

Listen to what Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher about how the victim, Trayvon Martin, was acting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, VOLUNTEER FOR NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH: These (EXPLETIVE DELETED) always get away. This guy looks like he`s up to no good or on drugs or something. Something wrong with him. Yes, he`s coming to check me out. He`s got something in his hands. I don`t know what his deal is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you following him?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. We don`t need you to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: "The Miami Herald" reports that Zimmerman had a history of calling police all the time: 46 times between January 1 and the night of the shooting and that his particular focus on his patrol watch was black males.

Now, Zimmerman`s dad says, well, his son is Hispanic and not acting racist. Well, first of all, listen, racism has nothing to do, in my opinion, with the color of your skin. Anybody can have the attitude of racism, so it`s not about who he is. It`s about what was in his mind.

And to me -- and I want to bring in my dear friend and attorney Lisa Bloom with the Bloom Firm. To me, what is disturbing about this is that this Zimmerman approaches this with a preconceived notion that there is something suspicious about this young, African-American male because he is in the neighborhood.

LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY: Right. And this is something we hear a lot. What was his crime? Walking while black? Just like African-Americans are frequently pulled over for driving while black, right?

We know that African-American males are the most likely in this country to be victims of gun violence. In my opinion, too many guns. And here we have a gun in the hand of a guy who clearly did have some issues with African-Americans who sees them as just suspicious merely for walking around the neighborhood with Skittles. I mean, this is really a problem.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to illustrate something. And you can come to me on camera. I`m going to put on a hoodie. Right? Because this young man was supposedly wearing a hoodie. So what? I was wearing a hoodie last night here in Los Angeles. Because it was cold. Look. Put on a hoodie. I`ve got Skittles, and I`ve got Arizona iced tea. And take a look.

Now, the false assumption is that this guy is up to no good because -- what? He looks suspicious? Why? Because he`s dressed like this? If we learn one thing from this terrible tragedy, it`s to stop making assumptions about people and who they are based on how they`re dressed. It`s to stop stereotyping and saying bad guys look this way, but good guys look this way.

I want to go out to Dawn Neufeld, an actress and attorney who has been tweeting about this and who I understand is all fired up about it.

Dawn, isn`t this...

DAWN NEUFELD, ACTRESS/ATTORNEY: Hi, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... a fundamental lesson that our culture can learn from this horrific tragedy is that you can never assume. It`s the first rule of journalism. It should be the first rule of a Neighborhood Watch. It should be the first rule of anybody with a conscience. Do not assume you know who somebody is, what their background is, where they`re heading, whether they belong or not based on the color of their skin or how they`re dressed.

NEUFELD: I think one of the first things I tweeted after I heard Zimmerman`s 911 tape on Saturday was, "News flash. It is not a crime to be black. It is not a crime to be an African-American man." But we`re reminded once again in this unfortunate situation that, for some, it apparently still is.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The other thing that gets me is that it appears to me that this guy, George Zimmerman -- and by the way, we reached out. We don`t think he has an attorney. And we certainly don`t want to convict him. If he wants to come on our show, I would invite him on any time to hear his side of the story.

But apparently, he has a history. He has a history, and it involves an alleged, what, assault on a police officer. And the record was expunged? This is extremely disturbing to me.

David Mattingly, CNN correspondent, you`ve been all over this story. Tell us about the history of this particular so-called Neighborhood Watchman.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jane, that incident you`re talking about was back in 2005. He was at a bar. There was some sort of incident. He got into a scuffle with a police officer and got arrested. Well, eventually -- excuse me -- those charges were dropped.

But in recent years he has been a volunteer captain of the Neighborhood Watch of his neighborhood. That`s been going on for a couple of years. He volunteered at a meeting of the residents who live there. The residents voted on this. And we are told that they were very happy that he was willing to step up and take charge of this.

Technically, everybody who lives in this neighborhood is a member of the Neighborhood Watch, but they voted and were happy to have him as captain. Now, at no time did anyone we talk to ever thought that he was carrying a weapon.

But throughout the time that he`s been doing this, there`s been a couple of different perceptions of him. One, homeowners who say he`s been very vigilant. They feel like he`s been good at keeping crime down in the neighborhood. They`ve had a history of break-ins recently. And one resident actually told me that he feels that George was responsible for keeping his house from being broken into. Now there`s some other residents that...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I just want...

MATTINGLY: Go ahead, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to jump in for one second, because we`ve got to go to break. But I have a question. OK. Battery on a law enforcement officer in 2005. Resisting arrest. But this was expunged. I`m kind of wondering why was that expunged?

I mean, it seems odd now that the cops are not -- are accepting his word blindly for what happened. And now we find out, oh, he had battery on a law enforcement officer in 2005, but it was expunged. I`m not trying to be a conspiracy theorist here. I`m just trying to ask questions.

Andrea, Michigan, your question or thought? Andrea?

CALLER: Hi, Jane. My question is did he have a license to be carrying a gun in this gated community? Is there a gun law there or in their community?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Apparently, he was legally entitled to carry a gun, but the distinction is when you`re involved in a Neighborhood Watch program -- and we`re going to talk to the leader of the national Neighborhood Watch program on the other side of this break -- you`re not supposed to be walking around with a gun. You`re not supposed to be packing heat.

We`re just getting started on this. We want to hear more from you. We`re taking your calls: 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

Later, was a swimsuit model the mastermind of a worldwide drug ring? But again, next, an unarmed teenager visiting his family shot dead all because he had, what, iced tea and Skittles and was wearing a hoodie? What is going on here?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now three witnesses have said the young man crying out for help before George Zimmerman shot him in cold blood. They are just beyond grief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who`s that crying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trayvon`s crying!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trayvon`s crying!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trayvon`s crying!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who`s that crying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trayvon`s crying!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trayvon`s crying!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trayvon`s crying!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He could so easily have been any one of us. I feel like the reason you all are out here is because you are affected the same way I was affected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all should expect better service from our public servants. The stand-your-ground law has to be changed. I think that needs to be a long-term focus of all of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Listen as another resident calls 911 to report a fight and eventual shooting of Trayvon. And then a witness describes what she saw after the shooting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just heard a shot right behind my house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just said he shot him dead. The person is dead. He`s laying on the grass.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we came up to the body, we realized the boy was face down. His face was in the grass. His body was not in an upright position. He was shot in the chest, and he was face down. Therefore he was not helping the kid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to go out to Chris Tutko. He`s the director of the national Neighborhood Watch program and a retired police chief.

Listen, I love Neighborhood Watch programs. This isn`t about attacking Neighborhood Watch programs. I`ve had one in the area that I lived in for 18 years. But there is a point at which a Neighborhood Watch person going rogue will cross a line into vigilantism. What did this guy do wrong, in your opinion, Chris?

CHRIS TUTKO, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH PROGRAM (via phone): Neighborhood Watch, the first rule of thumb is to use common sense. You`re the eyes and ears. You don`t want to get involved in any kind of incident whatsoever. You want to call the law enforcement and let them do their job.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And in fact he called law enforcement, and they said, "You don`t need to follow."

They said, "Are you following him?"

And he said yes.

And they said, "You don`t need to do that."

So the fact that he continued to pursue this guy, as opposed to the peeling off and going back to his home, was that a mistake, Chris?

TUTKO: Absolutely. Absolutely. Again, it`s a situation that anybody adds to the -- to the incident when they do that, because they can become another victim. It just gets worse. And the first rule again is to let law enforcement do their job. You`ve done yours by making the phone call.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I have to say, "Huffington Post" is reporting this, and I think this is fascinating. Just earlier this month, at an emergency homeowners association meeting, one man had to be escorted out, because he openly expressed his frustration, because he had previously contacted the Sanford Police Department about George Zimmerman approaching him and coming to his home.

And he wrote an e-mail to Huff Po, saying it was made known there were several complaints about George Zimmerman and his tactics in his Neighborhood Watch captain role.

So I have to go to Dawn Neufeld on this. I think we all know the type. OK. I`m not -- this is my hypothesis. You know, George Zimmerman, you`re invited on any time to tell your side. But we all know the type of a guy who`s looking for a fight. Looking for a confrontation. Too much time on his hands. He`s a busybody. Working overtime. Snooping.

And clearly, from a psychological standpoint, those people are often, Dawn, people who are angry about something, and they`re just looking for an excuse to vent, right, Dawn?

NEUFELD: Well, absolutely. And I think his bias was clear when he says in the 911 call, "Those people always get away." His bias was so clear. He should not have had a gun, and he should not have chased down that young boy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And my problem with all this is that, if the police had taken him back to the station house, done a drug and alcohol test on him, interrogated him on camera, and pursued the investigation as if this guy was a suspect, I wouldn`t -- I would say, "OK, they`re pursuing it."

But Natalie Jackson, the attorney for the dead boy`s family, that`s not what they did, is it?

Well, I`ll answer that question. That`s not what they did. They are seemingly accepting his word for it, and that`s not the way our justice system should operate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: One man is dead. Another man is a member of a Neighborhood Watch program. But the question is, did he go rogue? Did he take the law into his own hands? Have police responded the way they should? On the other side, we`re going to tell you about another famous case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this case, Mr. Zimmerman has made the statement of self-defense. Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don`t have the grounds to arrest him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, this is what I don`t understand, OK. Cops say there`s no evidence that would dispute his claim of self-defense. Yes, there is. He was the aggressor.

I want to go out to Natalie Jackson, the attorney for the dead young man`s family. He was following this man. He has a gun. He was told by police, "Leave it alone." He continued to pursue this young man is my understanding.

JACKSON: Absolutely. you had motive and intent here. The intent was to get them, because they always get away. And you have a pursuit. George Zimmerman states he`s running away. You have a pursuit of George Zimmerman on this guy.

When the police says that there`s no probable cause, that`s a very disingenuous statement. Anyone who listens to George Zimmerman`s words on his nonemergency call, you see that there`s probable cause, which is a very low standard. It`s not the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, here`s the scary part. This reminds me of a story I covered when I was more of a cub reporter in New York in 1984. It was the Bernie Goetz case. I think we have a photo of Bernie Goetz. And this -- all New York couldn`t stop talking about it.

This is a guy who shot four young men on a subway. He claimed they were trying to mug him. And he actually fired his revolver five times, seriously wounding all of the muggers and becoming the so-called subway vigilante. Now, he was ultimately charged with attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment and several firearms offenses.

However, Dawn Neufeld, attorney, actress, you`ve been tweeting about the other case. A jury found Bernie Goetz not guilty of all charges except an illegal firearms possession count. Are you concerned that, even if charges are brought, that really, at the end of the day this is going to be another Bernie Goetz, a guy walking free?

NEUFELD: Well, you`d hope not in 2012, but I think race is still obviously an issue. And there are going to be some things that come up that it could turn that way.

Look, Jane, in Florida their self-defense standard is pretty lenient, which is giving Mr. Zimmerman some leeway at all right here. You know, he doesn`t have a duty to retreat.

This is not about retreating. He was pursuing. I think he should be guilty. This is not an issue of self-defense.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Dave Mattingly, we have to also put this in context of what was happening in that community. "The Miami Herald" dug up some crime stats for the community where this shooting occurred.

The cops were called to this particular area 402 times between January of last year and the shooting. There were 50 suspicious person phone calls. Eight burglaries. Nine thefts. And one other shooting.

But you know, what I find fascinating, David, is that the Neighborhood Watch program that George Zimmerman was supposedly operating under was never reported to the national Neighborhood Watch program.

MATTINGLY: This was a very much homegrown type of thing they had operating there. This is a very small neighborhood. And most people who have been there for a few years like George Zimmerman might be able to recognize the comings and goings of the residents who live there.

And in talking to one resident just recently who said that Zimmerman did notice someone who was casing his house. And he called police. Called the resident. And the resident completely attributes the fact that his house was not broken into to George Zimmerman.

There are people there who were fans of his. At the same time, there are people who thought he was too aggressive.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to leave it right there. Thank you, fantastic panel.

1 comment:

  1. Killing of our black children has not stopped! White America continues to allowed citizens/police to justify their racism (probably cause, self-defense, fear for their life, assuming, racial profiling, planting evidencing, provoking, intimating, to kill and incarnate are children. "Praise The Lord" we still have deceit journalism and the parents of these tragedies to report/voice justice for their love ones and expose the real truth regarding racism in American that is alive and well in America.

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