In a live interview with Trayvon Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, on Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer urged them to condemn the justice system for the acquittal of their son's shooter George Zimmerman: "Do you think the legal system failed Trayvon?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Lauer set up the question by quoting their attorney Benjamin Crump, also a guest on the program: "Here's something Mr. Crump said after the jury was selected, 'It's important that they know,' meaning the jurors, 'Trayvon Martin's parents have put their faith in the justice system. They're praying the justice system doesn't fail them. They want justice for their son.'"
After implying that the jury handed down the wrong verdict, Lauer pressed the parents: "Would you say anything to the jurors? Do you have anything you'd like to say to them? Obviously, they tried their hardest. But would you like to say something to them?"
Near the end of the interview, Lauer suggested Zimmerman was being punished regardless: "Zimmerman's attorneys say he's facing death threats, he's in hiding....Do you think that's what the system intends for someone who is acquitted of charges like these?"
Lauer then proposed further legal action: "Would you like to see federal charges brought against George Zimmerman? Will you file a civil suit against him?"
Earlier in the segment, Lauer worried that race was not enough of a factor in the trial:
> This from the prosecution during their presentation, quote, "This case is not about race. This is about right and wrong. What if it was Trayvon Martin who shot and killed George Zimmerman? What would your verdict be? That's how you know it's not about race." That's from the prosecution. Do you think that had an impact on this jury?
> Do you as Trayvon's parents think that the prosecution handled the issue of race in a proper way during the presentation of this case?
Those concerns echoed a question fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie put to left-wing MSNBC host/activist Al Sharpton on Monday's Today: "Do you think the prosecutors missed an opportunity there, that they didn't explicitly make this case about racial profiling?"
Here is a full transcript of the July 18 interview:
MATT LAUER: It's been nearly 17 months since 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed, and five days since George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second degree murder, a verdict that's led to ongoing protest in cities around the country and new debates about race and guns in this country.
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton are Trayvon Martin's parents, Jahvaris Fulton is his brother, and Ben Crump is their attorney. Good morning to all of you, thank you for being here.
TRACY MARTIN: Good morning.
SYBRINA FULTON: Good morning.
JAHVARIS FULTON: Good morning.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Trayvon Martin's Parents; Their Thoughts on Verdict, Protests, & What's Next]
LAUER: We haven't heard. So what's you reaction? It's five days now since the verdict, what's your reaction?
MARTIN: Still shocked, still in disbelief. We felt in our hearts that we were going to get a conviction. We thought that the killer of our unarmed child was going to be convicted of the crime that he committed.
LAUER: You say shock and disbelief. Miss Fulton, reasonable doubt is something we're hearing from some of the jurys, do you understand – jurors – do you understand how they might have found reasonable doubt?
SYBRINA FULTON: I don't understand, if they were looking at it from Trayvon's point of view. Because he was a teenager, he was scared, he did run. As far as if he ran home or not, I mean, if somebody was chasing me, I don't think I would run home and bring them to my house.
LAUER: We have heard now from Juror B-37, and she's told us some things about what went on in that deliberation room and what they were thinking during the trial. She was asked if she thought that George Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon, she said no. She was asked if she thought race played a role in this tragedy, she said no. What's your reaction to that?
MARTIN: Obviously, any time you have a person that makes an assumption that a person is up to no good, there's some type of profiling there. Was he racially profiled? I think that, if Trayvon had been white, this wouldn't have never happened. So, to – obviously, race was playing some type of role.
LAUER: This from the prosecution, though. Ben, I'll let you talk in one second. This from the prosecution during their presentation, quote, "This case is not about race. This is about right and wrong. What if it was Trayvon Martin who shot and killed George Zimmerman? What would your verdict be? That's how you know it's not about race." That's from the prosecution. Do you think that had an impact on this jury?
BENJAMIN CRUMP: I think that they cut down to the heart of the matter, Matt. If the roles were reversed, what would the verdict have been? And George Zimmerman – the defense played that witness who said her place had been burglarized by African American teens. So in some way they tried to suggest that this allowed for any black male walking through that neighborhood, the neighborhood watch to profile and follow him, and that's not right.
LAUER: Let me ask it in a different way, then. Do you as Trayvon's parents think that the prosecution handled the issue of race in a proper way during the presentation of this case?
CRUMP: Legal questions, Matt. I think it's hard for them. They were parents wanting justice, and the prosecutors have strategy-
LAUER: Well, let me turn it then this way, though. Do you feel – were you happy with the way the prosecution handled the case in general? Do you have any concerns about that?
CRUMP: We were happy they brought the case, Matt. A lot of prosecutors wouldn't even touch the case. So we applaud Miss Corey's office for bringing the case. A the lot of people said no.
LAUER: Let me ask you more about B-37, the juror who said that when that 911 tape was played and those much-disputed cries for help that took place before the shot that killed your son, she said she was sure that the voice crying for help on that tape was George Zimmerman's voice.
MARTIN: And I totally disagree. She can only make that assumption because she may have heard George Zimmerman speak in the court. She never had a chance to hear Trayvon's voice. We know in our hearts that that was our child screaming for help.
LAUER: Miss Fulton, here's something Mr. Crump said after the jury was selected, "It's important that they know," meaning the jurors, "Trayvon Martin's parents have put their faith in the justice system. They're praying the justice system doesn't fail them. They want justice for their son." Do you think the legal system failed Trayvon?
FULTON: I think it failed Trayvon to a certain degree. I think we let the process take its course. We didn't get the verdict that we were looking for because we wanted him to be held accountable. Our focus has continued to change. I mean, first it was for the arrest. Then it was for a conviction. So now, you know, we moved on to a different focus. But, yes, I think we were disappointed.
LAUER: Would you say anything to the jurors? Do you have anything you'd like to say to them? Obviously, they tried their hardest. But would you like to say something to them?
MARTIN: I just, I really don't have anything personal to say. I just didn't understand, how can you let a killer of an unarmed child go free? What would your verdict would've been had it been your child? And there's no winners in this case at all. But, you know, it's just, I want them to put their selves in our shoes.
LAUER: Streets in some cities around the country have been filled with protesters since this verdict was handed down on Saturday night, Miss Fulton. Sometimes those protests have had violence associated with them. What would you say to people who feel the need to voice their opinions about this case and this verdict? What would you say to the people in the streets?
FULTON: Well, we have always maintained to do things decent and in order. And we think the protests should be peaceful protests. We're not saying for them not to protest, because they have a right to protest. They have a right to be heard. But we just want to make sure that it is peaceful, that nobody gets hurt, that nobody gets arrested, that you don't damage your own property.
LAUER: You're a family with faith. You rely on you're faith in hard times. Does your faith allow you to forgive George Zimmerman?
MARTIN: I think that the forgiveness is like a healing process. Forgiveness takes time. The Bible says that you have to forgive and forget, but also the healing process is a long process. And the forgiving process is a long process.
LAUER: George Zimmerman's attorneys say he's facing death threats, he's in hiding. Some are comparing his situation right now to Casey Anthony, who was cleared of murder charges for her daughter, who's living in hiding and is an outcast. Do you think that's what the system intends for someone who is acquitted of charges like these?
FULTON: We don't know about that, but what we do know about are victims. We sit on the victims' seat. So, is this the intent for the justice system to have for victims? I mean, it's sending a terrible message to other little black and brown boys that you can't walk fast, you can't walk slow. So what do they do? I mean, how do you get home without people knowing or either assuming that you're doing something wrong? Trayvon wasn't doing anything wrong.
LAUER: Would you like to see federal charges brought against George Zimmerman? Will you file a civil suit against him?
MARTIN: We would like for the federal government to look into it and weigh all of the options. We just – as parents, we just feel that there could have been something more done.
LAUER: And more for you to do?
MARTIN: Definitely. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We're working diligently with the Trayvon Martin Foundation, a foundation that we've co-founded. And some of the missions of our organization is to mentor, to do scholarships, to educate communities on the laws, and to advocate for senseless violence, trying to make sure that, even though we can't – nothing we can say or do to will get Trayvon back, maybe we can help someone else not lose their child
LAUER: Thank you all for being here this morning. I really appreciate it.
MARTIN: Thank you.
FULTON: Thank you.