TODAY

TODAY   |  July 15, 2013

Analysts discuss Zimmerman verdict’s impact

George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin has touched off a heated debate about what it means to be African-American. TODAY legal analyst Lisa Bloom, MSNBC’s Toure, and MSNBC political analyst Michael Eric Dyson discuss the implications of the verdict.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> in the circuit court of the 18th judicial circuit in and for seminole county , florida, state of florida versus george zimmerman , verdict, we the jury find george zimmerman , not guilty.

>> george zimmerman 's acquittal in the shooting death of trayvon martin reignited the debate about what it means to be black in the united states . legal analyst lisa bloom , the cohost of nbc's the cycle and msnbc's political analyst are here with a look at the verdict's impact on race relations in our society. good to see you guys.

>> good morning.

>> let's start with you. you say the prosecutions case, the jurors never really got a chance to hear what happened?

>> well, they did hear the facts of the case and all of the witnesses that heard something or saw something were put on but as i said before the verdict when both sides appeared to be arguing reasonable doubt a defense verdict was fairly predictable and that's what happened here.

>> both of you, your gut reactions when you heard this verdict? were you expecting it? how did you feel after you did?

>> i'm not shocked. a new an acquittal was possible because she told me the prosecution had not made a theory of the case but we waited 45 days for an arrest. we have an almost all white jury. we almost never get justice in that situation especially in the south but i was still numbed because i'm taken back to emmitt teal and all of these situations where black white means a little bit less than white life in america.

>> no doubt. i have two sons and my son texted me and said how do i protect my two black boys who are very young? so for us it's a reminder, it's a kind of deja vu over again and it's a negative appraisal because when we have such overwhelming evidence that black teens are subjected to racial profiling and not in this case with a policeman but an ordinary average citizen we're subjected to somebody that gets mad gets a gun, murders us and we can't stand our ground to defend ourselves and as a result of that all black men feel vulnerable. women for their husbands. mothers and fathers for their children and we feel vulnerable for each other. it's a horrible predicament.

>> did the prosecution make a major mistake in the way they went and maybe not focussing on what this could have meant?

>> i think they had a lot of missteps in the case. they didn't put forward a theory of what happened. both sides were focussing on the defense theory that in the final moments george zimmerman was down on his back and trayvon martin was on top assaulting him. as i said throughout this trial, if that's the only imagine the jury has going into deliberations they're going to say george zimmerman had a right to defend himself but there were multiple witnesses that had a different scenario that said zimmerman was on top or both men were upright and running. the prosecution essentially asked a lot of questions and told the jury you look at the evidence. you decide it. that is completely unusual in the murder case where the prosecution generally connects the dots and connects the facts to the charges. that didn't happen here.

>> it seems to me we're good in this country in talking about how we should have a conversation but not as good at actually having the conversation. what would you like that conversation in this case now to sound like? what should we be talking about as a country.

>> it's hard to even assess that because we're having two entirely different conversations from the beginning. this broke down as this sort of left, right dichotomy, the left looking at it one way and the right and even though there's a dead person involved in this that's not pliticily involved. we have this stand your ground laws in this gun culture that allows to be vigilantes. you're overconvicted and oversentenced. as black people there's no chance to have -- it's not just a conversation. there's an institutional system that is representing the racism we're talking about.

>> that's a great point and you have to have -- throughout this crazy term, distance anlage proximate truth. sometimes people can't understand your truth. if you make it about white black you make it defensive. how about terror. what does it mean to you to be subjected to terror when nothing you did could protect you. that's what we feel. proximate truth our reality of black people is akined to your experience as terror and then you recalibrate what the arguments are and ask if white kids were dying at the rate the black kids were dying would we have the same response, the same jury make up? the same legal system to defend them? that's the kind of thing we have to get at here and we have to have it from the top down and from the bottom up. we have to have courage among our politicians to tell the truth about race in america as well.

>> we had the tweets right after the verdict. george zimmerman 's brother tweeting a message from dad. our whole family is relieved. i'm proud to be an american . god bless america . thank you for your prayers. trayvon martin's dad tweeting even though i'm broken hearted my faith is unshattered. i'll always love my baby and we are outraged and heart broken over today's verdict. we will pursue civil rights charges with the department of justice and we will continue to fight for the removal of stand your ground laws in every state and we will not rest until racial profiling in all it's forms is out lawed.

>> the defense says this is not a case about race. this was a case about self-defense. they say they have evidence that proves george zimmerman is objectively not a racist based on the way he lived his life.

>> how do you prove that?

>> i think in the courtroom the prosecution had the same argument that many people. that is talking about race. this is clearly a case about race. that's why it got this ground swell of public support before and afterwards and the prosecution fought hard to get evidence in that george zimmerman called on five previous occasions about suspicious people in the neighborhood. 100% of whom were african american . once it came in they failed to use it. in closing argument they said explicitly this is not about race. then the prosecutor told a story about race. imagine the two people are reversed and then he said again this is not about race? it was a very confusing presentation.

>> we're going to have to leave it here. we'll be talking about this for a