PoliticsNation | March 30, 2012
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to "Politics Nation." I'm AL Sharpton . Tonight's lead, the more we learn the more curious it gets. The breaking news today in the Trayvon Martin case, the mayor of Sanford , Jeff Triplett , says he had to override the Sanford police department and prosecutors to get the 911 tapes released. This could be very critical. In fact, the mayor said, quote, "Everyone was saying to me no, no, no. Don't turn them over. I just continuously asked why wouldn't we do this. We're not here to hide anything." We're not here to hide anything, but the more we find out, the more it looks like somebody is trying to hide something. Something does not add up in this case. Eighteen days ago, the Sanford police chief Bill Lee said this.
CHIEF BILL LEE, SANFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT: Mr. Zimmerman has made the statement of self-defense. Until we can establish probably cause to dispute that, we don't have the grounds to arrest him.
SHARPTON: There was not enough probable cause to make an arrest ? I want to know what police could have heard to make them think there was not probable cause . The lead homicide investigator wanted a manslaughter charges. We have 911 tapes . We have an unarmed teenager shot to death. And now a new eyewitness has come forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw two men on the ground, one on top of each other. Obviously, I'm thinking, OK, something really horrible was happening. I felt like they were scuffling, and then I heard the gunshots. The larger man got off, then there was a boy, obviously now dead, on the ground facing down. After the shots, obviously someone -- the man got up, he didn't appear hurt or anything else.
SHARPTON: He didn't appear hurt or anything else. He certainly didn't look hurt 35 minutes later when he arrived at the police station , and another key piece could come from the funeral director who prepared Trayvon 's body.
RICHARD KURTZ, FUNERAL DIRECTOR: There was no physical sign like there had been a scuffle or fight. You know, the hands, I didn't see any knuckles, bruises, or what have you. And that is something we would have covered up if it had been there. I think I have seen any side of any cause . The story just does not make sense that he was in this type of a scuffle, or fight, and there was nothing that we could see.
SHARPTON: No physical signs of a fight. No cuts on Trayvon 's neck or face. But Zimmerman and his family tell a completely different story. Here is George 's brother breaking his silence.
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN JR., GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S BROTHER: He was out of breath. He was barely conscious. His last thing he remembers sewing was moving his head from the concrete to the grass so that if he was banged one more time he would not be in diapers for the rest of his life and being spoon feed by his brother.
SHARPTON: How does the brother know? Is this coming from George Zimmerman ? Again, this does not look like a man fighting for his life 35 minutes ago. The police report from the crime scene says that Zimmerman complied with all of the officers verbal commands. That same report says that Zimmerman was given first aid by the Sanford fire department and cleared by medical personnel and taken to the police station . Here's the bottom line. It's been 33 days, there needs to be an arrest . Let's be very clear. We never said Zimmerman should be convicted or what. That would be wrong. But they gave him an instant acquittal. That's wrong. What could possibly justify letting this man go? Since day one, we have just asked for police to arrest George Zimmerman and let the justice system play it out and look at the evidence. Joining me now is Eugene O'Donnell , professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice . He is a former New York City police office and prosecutor, and joining me from Florida is Ken Padowitz , a former homicide prosecutor, and Michael Eric Dyson , an MSNBC political analyst and Georgetown professor. Thanks to you all for being here tonight. Now, Eugene , the mayor had to fight to get the 911 tapes released. Do you think they're hiding something or are this normal?
EUGENE O'DONNELL, PROFESSOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: There is nothing about this case that is normal. The chief says on the tape that you played that he had no evidence to dispute the account that Mr. Zimmerman gave. We're seeing there was a very rich layer of evidence that strongly suggested no justification. And the idea they would not release the tapes , for what reason would they not release the tapes ? The tapes are very vital to showing the deliberation, the mind-set, the determination of Mr. Zimmerman in this case.
SHARPTON: Well, Ken , you would think that maybe someone in the police department didn't want to release the tapes because the tapes clearly dispels the notion of self defense and that was the basis they claim they let him go on.
KEN PADOWITZ, FORMER HOMICIDE PROSECUTOR: Well, clearly, that's an additional piece of evidence that shows that they had probable cause had they looked at all evidence to make an arrest at the scene. And I got to tell you, it may be a surprise to many people, reverend, but I looked at that tape when they brought the shooter to the police station , and he was in handcuffs. And you know what that means? That means that he was placed under arrest at the scene. You can't be un- arrest in the state of Florida . He was placed under arrest . They had to know they had probable cause at the scene. He was marched out of the police car in handcuffs. He was marched down the police station hallway in handcuffs, and unless they were fishing when they were at the police academy when they taught that you cannot un- arrest once you make an arrest in the state of Florida , they had to know that the proper procedure and book him into the jail.
SHARPTON: This is fascinating. They handcuff him and bring him in but then they don't book on they don't fingerprint him. They don't mug shot him. So, how do you un- arrest him? I mean, if that is extremely unusual, isn't it if they went through all of the preliminary steps of the arrest , why didn't they complete it, and who would have the authority, you were a prosecutor, who would have the authority and what would be the reasoning to undo with a process they already started?
PADOWITZ: Well, the bottom line is that he was arrested as far as I can see. There's no dispute about that. And that somebody at that police department made a decision to not to go through normal procedure, to not book him into the jail, to not fill out a probable cause affidavit. And you know what, it doesn't matter that they released him. He was under arrest and under the Florida rules of criminal procedure , he has to be charged within 175 days from the day of that arrest , otherwise he is forever barred with being charged with a crime in this case. It is clear, again, once and for all that there is some type of an incompetence going on at this police department . And I 'm astounded that they released him without booking him into the jail. You couldn't be arrested for a DUI . You can be arrested , Reverend, DUI and blowing a breathalyzer 0.0, and then still not be book into the jail. They are going to book you in any way here in Florida .
SHARPTON: Dr. when you hear this because this is interesting. If he is not charged within 175 days, he can never be charged . And they're going to argue because he was handcuff even though he was not book and photo and all of that that they, by Florida law call that an arrest . Which means our demands for an arrest even becomes more important. Because if the clock ticks, he is gone, he is out of this because they never charged him within the time limit in Florida of him being handcuffed.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That's breaking news on your show. The first time I heard it that this man was obviously, very much arrested , that he was brought to the station in handcuffs, and brought out -- you're absolutely right. This is remarkable. This is stunning. This is astonishing that a man who was in handcuffs, brought to the station is then set free without explanation. And the suggestion that if he is not arrested again or brought back within 170 days then he is forever free of the charge and cannot be re- arrested for that same charge is suggest even more of than inspiration and motivation to get justice done. As you bean this program, we're not talking about trying him in the court of public opinion. We're talking about due process . And if we have to go to this extreme and this extent just to get him arrested , what more has to happen in order for justice to truly be done? This is a botched job from the very beginning and I hope that the justice department takes note of all of this to make sure that Trayvon Martin in death will perceived more justice than he did certainly in life.
SHARPTON: And that we avoid this from happening to others. Eugene , let me go back to you, and I want Ken to weigh in on this because he was a prosecutor and you have been a prosecutor. Probable cause , what constitutes probable cause at a crime scene ? Let me give you some of the elements. Zimmerman was armed, Trayvon was unarmed. Zimmerman was pursuing Trayvon . Zimmerman was not brought to the hospital for injuries. There's enough there to charge him and enough there to constitute probable cause . They say there was no probable cause as I play to police chief saying that, yet he can argue I was handcuffed and the clock starts. I mean, this is amazingly, to me, looking like there is a real game being played on the public.
O'DONNELL: This really should concern every American. If you apply this kind of standard, the victim is a teenager, he was laying dead, the shooter makes a cursory claim of self-defense, there may or may not be an injury, there's a tremendous trail of evidence I think readily available to give you probable cause . What ultimately would happen in the trial's another conversation. But this framing of the fact -- this framing by the police that just waiving the claim of self-defense suffices, and that pretty much stop there, there is a injury so therefore you take his account and you either don't find the evidence based on this evidence that was never located, but it's readily available, probable cause it's a low standard, 51 percent we say in criminal law , I don't see any way this wouldn't been a probable cause . SHARPTON: Now Ken , a lot of time has gone on, can they still make a case? Has evidence been lost?
PADOWITZ: Well, clearly as time goes on, the case becomes more and more difficult but there's plenty of evidence in this case. This is not a trial at this point where someone has to be proven at a standard beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. This is a much, much lower standard called probable caused. And there is ample evidence of probable cause for an arrest to be made in this case and for charges to be brought by a grand jury indictment or by information from a prosecutor. And there's no doubt in my mind that is present, its lower standard of probable cause .
SHARPTON: Now Dr. Dyson , from the beginning of this when we got involved on this show and me with my civil rights activities, we called for an arrest . Clearly you can't say what you want him charged with or that you believe that he is guilty or not guilty because you don't know the charge until you see the evidence. All we said is an arrest . As others have said you're rushing to judgment. There's no rush to judgment, we're saying there's probable cause . Yet it seems that those that are supporting him are trying to acquit him without them seeing the evidence or seeing anything at all. So while they're talking about rush to judgment, all we are saying is probable cause , arrest him. That was a chant at all, the rally. The other side is saying he did no wrong without any review of the evidence.
DYSON: I mean it's a failure of due process . We don't know what courts are to do. They're to adjudicate. What is that mean? They're to deal with competing claims. Some said he did some say he didn't. What's the evidence say? What is the argument? What's the narrative? What's the story? Where is the impeccable proof that he did or did not? What where is the circumstantial evidence ? All we're asking for, Reverend Sharpton is for this to be brought before the proper judicial authority to be viewed in due process and to allow justice to be done. As you're saying, you can't acquit a man if he has not been charged because we have to see the evidence that that charge has been predicated. And it's frustrating that we cannot even get this man arrested for the purposes of justice to be done.
SHARPTON: Eugene O'Donnell , Ken Padowitz and of course, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson . Thank you for a fascinating conversation. Thank you for your time tonight. Have a good weekend.
O'DONNELL: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Ahead, who is George Zimmerman ? A disturbing new picture of him is emerging as a former coworker described him as Jekyll and Hyde . Plus, Zimmerman 's brother says medical record will proved the shooter acted in self-defense. The Martin lawyer responds to that allegation next. And an ugly smear campaign against Trayvon Martin has reached a new law. But we won't let them get away with it. You're watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.