OTR Interviews

Inside the case against George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin shooting and his defense

'On the Record' legal panel breaks down the second-degree murder case against George Zimmerman

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 11, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Deadly shooting inflames a Florida community and the nation. And tonight, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin but claims he did so in self-defense is charged with second- degree murder, special prosecutor making the announcement earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA COREY, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: A capeas has been issued for his arrest. I will confirm that Mr. Zimmerman is indeed in custody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where?

COREY: I will not tell you where. That's for his safety, as well as everyone else's safety.

SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER: 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.

MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S NEW ATTORNEY: I think he's troubled by the fact that the state decided to charge him. He's concerned about getting a fair trial and a fair presentation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: A short time ago George Zimmerman was transferred to a county jail in Sanford, Florida. So what is next for Mr. Zimmerman? Our legal panel joins us. Criminal defense attorneys Ted Williams and Bernie Grimm are here, and Diana Tennis joins us from Orlando. Diana, since you are the Florida lawyer, give us the process, lay it out. What can we expect procedurally and what is the speedy trial act in Florida?

DIANA TENNIS, ATTORNEY: A speedy trial gives him six months to try Mr. Zimmerman if he decides not to waive that and have it take longer. Oftentimes a murder trial can take longer that six months. You can demand a speedy trial and get it as soon as 60 days, which, again, would be very unusual. Likely he will qualify for a bond. It probably will take a motion being filed and a hearing set up in the next few weeks. I would anticipate if his lawyer pushes for one. He probably could get out. I would be a little concerned about his safety but hopefully they can set something up that will keep him out of harm's way until they get to trial in a number months.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is the next procedure, the next step, a preliminary hearing? Is that the next procedure in Florida, or is it done differently?

TENNIS: He will have an initial appearance that will happen probably tomorrow or possibly Friday. Typically not a lot goes on at that point. Theoretically you can ask for a bond, but usually the bond would go to the actual trial court and would happen in a much longer proceeding. He has a right to a preliminary hearing, but, again, that's not typically taken advantage of here. I would think we would do a bond hearing and then we would head into discovery, which in Florida is wide open. You get depositions of every single witness, you get statements, you get kind of an open, open discovery process, which is quite the advantage for the defense lawyer in Florida.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Ted, your thought on where we are?

TED WILLIAMS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think it's a great day, specifically for the mother and father. You have to tell you, Greta, as a black man who has followed this case, it is my firm belief that if it would have been Zimmerman lying down on that ground and Trayvon Martin would have been standing over him we would not have to be here tonight, there would have actually been an arrest.

VAN SUSTEREN: Look, the rest -- there should have been justice a lot faster.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. And I think the police department down there screwed this case up and they may have screwed it up to the point they have now charged him with second degree murder and they very well may not be able to make that case. I hope they have the evidence

VAN SUSTEREN: But prosecutors always charge the grandest charge they can. And they may not make murder in the second degree, I don't know what the jury will decide, but there are manslaughter and lesser included that can happen.

BERNIE GRIMM, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right. They can always overcharge and sort of give you the dump truck indictment. And that's because if the injure compromises they will compromise to the lesser charge. And the lesser charge may in fact be what happened, but they'll over charge it just to do that.

But I was talking to Ted before the show. I've never had a homicide in 25 years where my client got his gun back. I said, Ted, how many homicide investigations did you investigate --

VAN SUSTEREN: He got the gun back?

WILLIAMS: The allegations we her is he got the gun back. Not only did he get the gun back, but they didn't take his clothes that night. There's a lot of physical evidence that a good defense attorney would be able to work with in this case.

GRIMM: Yes. And the problem is, and I've watched the other networks, there's a lot of confusion what self-defense is, but the law is every person has the right to use a reasonable amount of force in self-defense if he believes he's in imminent danger of bodily harm and if he has reasonable grounds for that belief. The question is not whether looking back you believe the amount of force is necessary. The question is Zimmerman under the circumstances it appeared to him or her at the time of the incident actually believed he was in imminent danger of bodily harm and could reasonably hold that belief.

VAN SUSTEREN: Then explain this to me, because I keep hearing everyone in Florida talk about the standard ground part. And to me it sounds like just sort of your routine self-defense that's available, you know, across the country, but you simply have different words to describe it in Florida and everybody is so hung up on it although there's something special about it. Maybe I'm wrong.

TENNIS: Greta, this is much ado about a very narrow point. Basically what we have done is we've taken the Castle doctrine that says when you are in your home and attack you do not have to retreat. You don't have to run out the window or run out the sliding glass doors. You can stand your ground in your home. We've extended is that in Florida like many other states have done to basically state you don't to run if you are being beaten and you reasonably believe that you need to meet this force with justifiable force.

VAN SUSTEREN: But in the District of Columbia someone is beating the living daylights out of you, you don't have a legal obligation to run. You can defend yourself. I simply don't understand the distinct.

TENNIS: The distinction is if you were in a situation where you could get away, before you should have gotten away and now you cannot turn your back and flee. We aren't going to second guess whether you could have gotten away. You can stand there and go forward.

Frankly, this defense appears to me to be not necessarily stand your ground, it was I was lying on the ground and getting the poop pummeled out of me and I grabbed my gun out of desperation. If that is legitimately the defense, it really doesn't have anything to do with stand your ground. It's the good old-fashioned self-defense we would have had even prior to that law.

WILLIAMS: But the key here is Trayvon Martin, also if that defense is available to Zimmerman, it should have been available to this dead young child, Trayvon Martin.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm not saying it's a defense that's a valid one here. I'm just trying to understand the law. I'm not saying that -- I mean, I haven't heard the facts. You know, look, he had the gun and he was pursuing him. That doesn't -- that looks bad.

GRIMM: How does Zimmerman raise self-defense when he put himself in that situation and everybody said 911, don't go there. If I see Ted at North Capital Street with a machine gun I can't go and stab him in the back and claim self-defense. I put myself in that situation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Except for defense of another. We could get overly technical.

WILLIAMS: But you can't bring a gun to a fistfight. It's as simple as that. What I'm concerned about here is the prosecution of this case is all we've got to remember in the state of Florida is Casey Anthony, that case. And so we know what happened there. So I agree, I think the one thing --

VAN SUSTEREN: Wait, wait. I mean, we only have 20 seconds left but I talked to those jurors in Casey Anthony. Look, they worked really hard --

WILLIAMS: I agree.

VAN SUSTEREN: And being in a courtroom is very different and I felt they were unfairly indicted by people watching on the sidelines. I defend those jurors. It's not about whether we liked their verdict. But I'm taking the last word on that. I'll see all you have quite often because Diana has told us there's a speedy trial. Thank you all.