'Shop Talk': Anthony Acquitted, Obama Called D-Word

Casey Anthony smiles before the start of her sentencing hearing in Orlando, Fla., July 7, 2011. She was acquitted of killing and abusing her daughter. i i

Casey Anthony smiles before the start of her sentencing hearing in Orlando, Fla., July 7, 2011. She was acquitted of killing and abusing her daughter. Joe Burbank/ASSOCIATED PRESS hide caption

itoggle caption Joe Burbank/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Casey Anthony smiles before the start of her sentencing hearing in Orlando, Fla., July 7, 2011. She was acquitted of killing and abusing her daughter.

Casey Anthony smiles before the start of her sentencing hearing in Orlando, Fla., July 7, 2011. She was acquitted of killing and abusing her daughter.

Joe Burbank/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The "Barbershop" guys weigh in on Casey Anthony's murder trial, Time Magazine editor-at-large Mark Halperin's off-color remark about President Obama, and the cancellation of Eliot Spitzer's show on CNN. Host Michel Martin hears from author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, and political science professor Lester Spence.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHEL MARTIN, host: I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Now it's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop, where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in their chairs for a shape-up this week are author Jimi Izrael; civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar; syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrettte; and Johns Hopkins political science professor, and author and blogger, Lester Spence. Take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Hey, fellas. Welcome to the shop, how we doin'?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Hey, hey, hey.

RUBEN NAVARRETTE: Good, man. Great.

LESTER SPENCE: Chillin'.

IZRAEL: All right, well, let's get things started with the now-infamous trial against Casey Anthony. Now, a jury found the 25-year-old Florida woman not guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. Now, the case garnered headlines for months. It played out like a soap opera, from accusations of incest, fake nannies, Internet searches, a poison. Now, while many media and legal analysts declared her guilty, in the end, jury said the evidence was not enough, Michel.

MARTIN: You know, honestly, for the most part, we've been a Casey Anthony-free zone here.

IZRAEL: Thank God.

MARTIN: But this is one of those things that it just - I don't know, it's just riveting this week because there were - just so much around it. And after a certain point, it became kind of unavoidable. What the jury found her guilty of was lying to police investigators. She was sentenced to four years. But because she's been in prison for all this time, awaiting trial, because of time served, she's expected to be released next week.

And what's been so interesting about this is that, for example, the judge has refused to release the names of the jurors because he feels that he had to protect them from public ire about the verdict. But one of them has spoken. Jennifer Ford, who was known as Juror Number 3, just spoke to ABC News' "Nightline" about how they reached their verdict. I'll just play a short clip of what she had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NIGHTLINE")

JENNIFER FORD: There wasn't enough evidence. There wasn't anything strong enough to say exactly - I don't think anyone in America could tell us exactly how she died. If you put even just the 12 jurors in one room with a piece of paper, write down how Caylee died, nobody knows. We'd all be guessing.

IZRAEL: Wow. Thanks for that, Michel. A-Train.

IFTIKHAR: Yes, sir.

IZRAEL: You're the legal eagle in the shop. Were you surprised by the verdict?

IFTIKHAR: I was shocked. I'm not going to lie to you. Now, granted, you know, there was reasonable doubt. You know, the defense of Casey Anthony was able to, obviously, provide reasonable doubt. What was most surprising to me, Jimi - and I think a lot of people will understand this - traditionally in a jury trial, when a jury goes to deliberate, if they come back in a day or two, it's usually a guilty verdict.

Usually, the not-guilty verdicts are when they deliberate for nine, 11, 15 days - when they're sort of, you know, deadlocked. And so, you know, when we heard that the jury was going to make a decision, you know, after just a day and a half, I was almost certain that it was going to be a guilty verdict. And so, you know, to have a not-guilty verdict be issued only a day or two after they went into deliberations was quite shocking to me.

IZRAEL: Wow. All right. Well, Ruben...

NAVARRETTE: Yo.

IZRAEL: You're in California, where the infamous O.J. Simpson thing played out, man.

NAVARRETTE: Yes, it did. Yes, it did.

IZRAEL: Many analysts are drawing comparisons. Now, even Marcia Clark, the Los Angeles prosecutor in the Simpson case, has weighed in. In an op-ed for The Daily Beast, she said this verdict could have been different - it would've been different if she was the jury member, as if. Do you see comparisons?

NAVARRETTE: I see comparisons in the sense that people who are not on the jury, sitting through the evidence every day, see different things, and see different conclusions. I also see differences because people on both sides of the issue, either those who thought she should - that the decision is right or wrong, both make the mistake of thinking this is kind of a whodunit. Like the tape we just heard - the woman's like, well, we couldn't tell you exactly what happened to this beautiful young girl, this little girl.

Well, that's not really the point of a trial. The point of a trial is that the prosecution comes forward, tries to meet its burden. You know, famously it's been said many times, the defense can sit there with their arms crossed and not say a word. If the defense - if the prosecution doesn't meet its burden, you have to find it for the defendant. So it's really not a question of a whodunit. People watch too much television. They think that, you know, just because "Law and Order" wraps it up in an hour, that all of a sudden we're going to know definitively who did it. A lot of people go to prison in this country without the story of whodunit actually being told. The question is, did the prosecution meet its burden? I'm with Arsalan on this - they didn't. They didn't meet its burden, and so it's a really hard thing to swallow. And I don't like the outcome anymore than anybody else, but them's the rules and that's how it went - that's how it went down and we've got to live with it.

MARTIN: Yeah. I don't understand why people who didn't sit through the trial every day feel - I mean, obviously, speech is a free market, as I'm continually reminded. So anybody can say whatever they want about anything, and that's also the rules - but, well, for the most part. But if you didn't sit there every day, if you didn't hear what the jury heard, pay attention the way they are required to pay attention, I don't know how people feel that they can second-guess them. Do you know what I mean?

IZRAEL: Well, I don't - I don't...

MARTIN: Sitting in your armchair, getting a sandwich whenever you want, is not the same as being a juror.

IZRAEL: I don't think it's about second-guessing, Michel. I think this is a very emotional thing when you have a little girl turn up missing and then dead. I think people's emotions got caught up.

NAVARRETTE: Right.

IZRAEL: Because - and we...

NAVARRETTE: And Jimi, and Jimi, don't forget - and the mother, Jimi, don't forget, the mother doesn't report the child missing for 30 days.

IFTIKHAR: For a month. For a month.

NAVARRETTE: For 30 days.

IZRAEL: She was not sympathetic.

NAVARRETTE: Just hadn't noticed she was gone.

MARTIN: And lies about all manner of things. Yeah, but thank God we don't have a system where you can just bust down the doors of the jail and hang somebody - like has been the history in this country, when people had, people, you know, who they didn't like or who were unsympathetic. You know, thank God, you know, we live in a country where the rule of law does prevail...

IZRAEL: Right.

MARTIN: And that you're not allowed to just...

SPENCE: Most of the time.

MARTIN: Most of the time.

IZRAEL: Go ahead, doctor.

MARTIN: Lester?

IZRAEL: Chime in. Go ahead.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SPENCE: Well, I mean for me this, was just a Twitter case. I didn't realize what had happened until I saw that most of the people I follow were like, oh, my God. Oh, my God. What? What? And then at that point, I realized that something had happened. But as soon as I Googled and got caught up on the case, I knew it was just a lack of evidence. And it's just unfortunate that - I think it's really understandable, given the victim was a young child, but it's - but I mean, that really is the rule of the game. I mean, your job is to prove someone guilty.

MARTIN: And it's also - the other thing is perhaps they overcharged the case. I mean, how often are these cases that we've seen in the media in recent days - like the Dominique Strauss Kahn case - have, in part, to do with the fact that prosecutors go overboard...

IFTIKHAR: Right.

MARTIN: And then they overplay their hand. In this case, she was charged with first-degree murder, which means premeditation.

IFTIKHAR: Right.

MARTIN: And where is the evidence of a plot and a plan? And so perhaps if they had not been so...

SPENCE: So right.

MARTIN: ...quick to - had not overcharged this case, that they might have had a different, you know, result.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, Michel.

MARTIN: Arsalan?

IFTIKHAR: No, it's a good point that you bring. You know, and this is where prosecutorial discretion comes into play. You know, a lot of times prosecutors will think if we throw the, you know, if we throw the kitchen sink and the fridge and dishwasher at them, something...

NAVARRETTE: Right. Right.

IFTIKHAR: Something is going to stick. And you know, at the end of the day, you know, you end up, you know, having one minor charge, you know, that sticks and results in time served. And so, you know, prosecutors, you know, are - tend to be a little more, they're a little loose these days.

MARTIN: Jimi, you want to weigh in before we move on?

IZRAEL: I'm with you on your point, Michel. I'm glad to live in a country where, you know, we can at least stand up in front of a jury of our peers and have the facts weighed. That's where I am on it.

MARTIN: And we should talk about the examples where that isn't the case but, you know, here's a situation where it is what it is.

IZRAEL: Right

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to our weekly Barbershop segment. We're joined by author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, and political science professor and blogger Lester Spence. Back to you, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. OK, moving on to last week's news that continues to play out somehow this week, with Time magazine's editor-at-large, MSNBC political analyst Mark Halperin. Now, he called President Obama a four-letter word, something to the effect...

MARTIN: A euphemism.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Yeah, yeah.

MARTIN: Euphemism.

IZRAEL: It had something to do with a man's body part, and it offended a lot of people. Now despite making a public apology, it cost him - rightly - an indefinite job suspension. Now but African-American media personality Tom Joyner jumps in the fray. And he's blaming fellow media personality Tavis Smiley, and scholar Cornel West, for the incident.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: Right.

IZRAEL: I don't know. I can't get with him on that.

MARTIN: Talk about Twitter going crazy, though. 'Cause this is how I heard about it. People were like, blowing up my spot talking about whoa, did you hear what Tom Joyner said? Did you hear what Tom Joyner said? And he was very tough. He wrote a very tough column on Black America Web, saying that he feels that Tavis Smiley - of course, who's been on this program many times, a former host at NPR, now at American Public Media, also on PBS - and that Cornel West - who is kind of a co-host and well-known scholar and so forth - that their continued criticism of President Obama has created a context that encourages others to be disrespectful of the president by make - and he says created an environment where those kinds of vulgar comments can be made. So I was - people were like, whoa on...

NAVARRETTE: Yeah. Right.

IZRAEL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Ruben. Ruben, you know everybody.

IZRAEL: You know these cats.

MARTIN: I've met a lot of these gentlemen, but you're actually...

NAVARRETTE: Right.

MARTIN: ...you know, friends with, so...

NAVARRETTE: A few of them. Yeah.

MARTIN: ...what do you make of it? Yeah.

NAVARRETTE: Well, first of all, as a light note, let me say it says something that you have a white guy like Mark Halperin out there say a comment, and the guys who catch the blame are two black guys.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: A very valid point.

NAVARRETTE: Let me just put that out, OK, for starters. But this is really - has to be seen in the context of what happened when President Obama was elected. Michel and I had the - I'll tell the story quickly - we had the privilege of sitting in and participating in the Howard debate, with the Democratic candidates running for president. And at the end of that debate, I remember seeing, in a very natural moment, Barack Obama go over and give Tavis Smiley a hug, you know. And it was just no big deal. They had a good relationship at that point. In the green room, Michel and I saw Michael Eric Dyson, Tavis - obviously - Cornel West and Tom Joyner, you know, sort of all locked in a group hug. You had a lot of, a love there. A lot of...

MARTIN: A lot of brotherly love.

NAVARRETTE: That is gone. OK, that stuff is gone. And I can't get that image out of my mind because the fact that they were so close once and no longer are, I think, has a lot to do with what happens when you elect a black president. Because when you elect a black president, you have a split develop between folks who think in the black intelligentsia, that they should criticize the black president when appropriate, and those who say no, you ought not. And so we have seen these eruptions of Al Sharpton versus Tavis Smiley, Al Sharpton versus Cornel West - you know, back and forth.

And I think everybody means well. I don't think this is just about a bunch of egos, really. I think - I may be a dissenting view here, but I don't think this is about egos. I think this is about people saying OK - as Tavis has put it, do we give this black president a pass on black issues and say OK, we're not happy with what you've done for the unemployment rate for black youth; the unemployment rate in the black community, period; the distribution of funds - you're bailing out Wall Street but not, you know, Main Street neighborhoods; do we just sort of keep quiet about all that and wait until his presidency is done, and then bring those issues up again?

Tavis' point is when we do that, are we going to have any kind of moral legitimacy? Is anybody going to listen to us next time around, when we go raise heck when there's a white president there? And I think it's a very valid point. So it is not just, so I am about ego. It's about what happens - you know, if we had a Latino president, we'd have the same split in the Latino community. I'd be out there beating on the Latino president, and there would be Latinos beating on me. It's just the way it goes.

MARTIN: Arsalan wanted to say something.

IFTIKHAR: No, no. I'm interested to hear what Lester has to say.

SPENCE: So here's another cut at it. Tom Joyner is worth approximately - somewhere around $70, $80 million.

IFTIKHAR: Nice.

SPENCE: And he controls a large segment of that black morning media audience. What we have is an instance of - kind of a black media mogul stifling black speech, right. The black unemployment rate for youth - like 16 to 19, I think - is around 40 percent. The black unemployment rate in general is probably around 18 to 20 percent. So there's aspects of Tavis' and Dr. West's criticisms that are personal. But we should be erring on the side of giving more speech rather than erring on the side of stifling.

IZRAEL: Right. Right.

MARTIN: I credit your point, but I don't understand how he's stifling speech when Tavis has two - not one, but two - media outlets in which to express himself, not to mention public events...

SPENCE: No, but Tom...

MARTIN: ...that he, you know, puts on...

SPENCE: Well, I think that...

MARTIN: ...that Dr. West certainly doesn't...

IZRAEL: OK, hold on.

MARTIN: Go ahead, Jimi.

To Michel's point - go ahead, Doc.

MARTIN: Go ahead.

SPENCE: Well, you're right. Tavis and Cornel are going to get theirs, right. But what does this say for others who want to actually step up to the mic and critique the president? What about somebody who's interested in being on the Tom Joyner show, right? What about somebody who is interested in being on a host of other shows in which comments like that have been made, either in public or in private? Just the message itself is wrong.

IZRAEL: You know what this is? Tom Joyner wants to control the narrative, period. He imagines himself as kind of the king of all blacks, you know, and...

MARTIN: How do you know what he imagines himself? Are you in his head? What?

IZRAEL: Well, no. But you and I both sat on a panel with him...

NAVARRETTE: Are you in that basic...

MARTIN: Hold on a second. Hold on a second, Doc. excuse me.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: I mean Michel, you and I both sat on the panel with him, and it was clear that he really imagines himself as the conscience of all black people everywhere. And it's like it's like man, guess what? It's like look, you know, you're out their airing your personal beef and it's one thing. You know, because there is a fine tradition of beef between black intellectuals. You had the boys of Washington, you had Malcolm X and MLK.

NAVARRETTE: Right.

IFTIKHAR: Right.

SPENCE: Right.

IZRAEL: You had Richard Wright and James Baldwin. But this is more like NeNe Leakes and Sheree Whitfield. I mean, this...

MARTIN: Oh, snap.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: I mean, this is really very catty, very sad. And everybody involved needs to man up, you know. I mean, Tom Joyner is no writer. He can't make an argument. And there's no there there.

NAVARRETTE: Tom Joyner...

IZRAEL: There's no there there.

NAVARRETTE: Tom Joyner - this is Ruben.

IZRAEL: Go ahead, Ruben.

NAVARRETTE: Tom Joyner has said, and he said - if you read his comments on the Web, what he says, basically: These two are done in my book. They are dead to me. Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, he said, no longer welcome on my show or on my air. Now, it's his prerogative. It's his show and his air. I get that. But we can't come back now and say that Dr. Spence doesn't have a point. He's right. This is an attempt by Tom Joyner to censor those folks, to squelch that speech by saying flat out: You are not welcome on my show anymore. Because I think that it is an attempt to sort of control the narrative, and control the power here. But I don't think that does black folks any good. I mean, if these people don't bring up these issues...

IZRAEL: I don't think it does anybody any good.

MARTIN: Well, you're all welcome to my show. Go ahead, Arsalan.

IFTIKHAR: Well, I think, you know, from the...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: You aren't dead to me, Ruben.

IFTIKHAR: From the 30...

NAVARRETTE: OK. Not yet. Not yet.

IFTIKHAR: From the 30,000-foot altitude, you know, I just think that Joyner missed the mark. You know, I think what he was saying is that, you know, Tavis and Cornel have somehow enabled people like Mark Halperin and others to make these disparaging comments about President Obama. I would actually say that that happened long before. I mean, you know, you had the whispers of him being a crypto Muslim Manchurian candidate, the whole terrorist fist jab thing, you know, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, you know. They didn't...

NAVARRETTE: Right. Right.

IFTIKHAR: You know, the haters out there didn't need any, you know, any enabling. And so I think that Joyner really missed the mark here and...

MARTIN: But Joyner's point, though, was that - and you know, we'll link to the column so you - people can read it for themselves and understand what...

IFTIKHAR: Sure.

MARTIN: ...we're talking about if they didn't see it. But he's saying that they created a context in which they validated this kind of behavior by other people who are hostile.

IFTIKHAR: But what I'm saying...

NAVARRETTE: It's not that. It's not that.

MARTIN: OK. OK, Ruben. We heard from you. Go ahead.

IFTIKHAR: What I'm saying is that the context already existed. And so, you know, I think that, you know, Joyner's looking at it from a very myopic - nearsighted standpoint as opposed to looking at, you know, the historical timeline from which, you know, all this hateration started.

MARTIN: I feel you. But I'm wondering, though - but part of the critique is substance, as in Tavis' point was that the president's policies are not targeted to the people who most need the help.

IFTIKHAR: Sure. Of course.

MARTIN: And that he feels as Ruben just said.

IFTIKHAR: Right.

MARTIN: But some of it is just personal. Like Cornel West complaining that he didn't get tickets to the inauguration that he wanted or...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: I mean, come on.

IZRAEL: Not a whole lot to say about that.

MARTIN: I mean - and so people are like, what's up with that? He wrote a whole essay about that. And why can't Joyner say - Ruben, I'll direct that to you since you were, you know...

NAVARRETTE: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...say: Why can't he say, that's crazy - and just, you know, stop it?

NAVARRETTE: Yeah, but he didn't say that.

MARTIN: Grow up.

NAVARRETTE: Yeah. And there's a lot of growing up that needs to be happening. Joyner didn't say that. Joyner said - listen, if you read what he wrote, he said he wrote this criticism about Tavis Smiley and Cornel West months ago, and he sat on it. He didn't publish it until, you know, this other thing, Halperin, made him mad enough to do it. What this is about is Tom Joyner using the Halperin story - as an opportunist would - as a club to beat up these two other guys...

SPENCE: To do something that he wanted to do already.

NAVARRETTE: ...that he wanted to do already. He's been wanting to beat on these other two; Halperin gave him the excuse; he tried to shoehorn that in...

SPENCE: Right.

NAVARRETTE: ...and make it seem like somehow, that these guys empowered Halperin. But Arsalan's right. These people don't need empowerment, and they certainly don't need empowerment from these two gentlemen over here.

MARTIN: All right.

NAVARRETTE: And you know what? Tom Joyner is jealous. I'm going to say it right now. Tom Joyner is jealous of Tavis Smiley because he says in this letter...

MARTIN: OK. Well, you all take it out to the alley, OK?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: He says in this letter that Tavis is out there selling books. Nobody is buying Tom Joyner's books.

MARTIN: Oh, yeah. All right, well, you all take it outside. So...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist and author of the book, "The Denzel Principle." He joined us from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist who writes for the Washington Post Writers Group, Latino magazine and Pajamas Media. He really needs to come out of his shell, don't you think?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: He was with us from San Diego. Lester Spence is a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University, author of the new book "Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-Hop and Black Politics." And Arsalan Iftikhar is a civil rights attorney, founder of the muslimguy.com and the Crescent Post, and Arsalan was here in Washington, D.C. Thanks everybody.

IFTIKHAR: Peace.

NAVARRETTE: Thank you.

SPENCE: Peace.

IZRAEL: Yup-yup.

MARTIN: That's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more on Monday.

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