The Wager Sunny Hostin Refuses to Honor

On Tuesday, April 22, 2014, I participated in a debate at UC Berkeley on the topic of Stand-Your-Ground (SYG). I was pro-SYG. I was assigned a lovely and intelligent legal attorney and scholar as my debate partner, and I think her SYG position would most fairly be described as undecided.
On the other side of the table was another lovely and intelligent legal attorney and legal scholar, Ms. Rice-Lave. Her partner was a CNN legal analyst named Sunny Hostin, also purportedly an attorney.

At one point in the debate the following exchange occurred. Ms. Rice-Lave stated that it was “indisputed” that George Zimmerman had been told by the 911 operator to remain in his car, but that he left the car despite this instruction.

I offered Ms. Rice-Lave a $100 wager that Zimmerman was NOT told to stay in his car.

Ms. Rice-Lave did not accept the wager, but Ms. Hostin did, stating, “I’ll take that wager.” I accepted, and offered to send her the 911 recording which would have captured any such instruction.

In fact, of course, that 911 recording does not at any point contain any instruction by the police dispatcher to Zimmerman to remain in his car.

The following morning I sent Ms. Hostin the 911 audio, and offered to send her my mailing address so that she could mail my winnings.

It was at that point that she welshed on the wager. To this day she refuses to pay her $100 obligation.

So, below you’ll find the video/audio of the portion of the debate that captures the moments described above. I’ve also transcribed it, for those of you unable to stream the recording at the moment. Finally, I’ve included the 911 audio, so that you may verify for yourselves whether Zimmerman was instructed to stay in his car.

Judge for yourselves. 🙂

Recording of debate wager:


Rice-Lave: Let me ask you this, Mr. Branca. You indicate that, you told the people here today, that all of the prongs of classic self-defense law have to be met, except for the duty to retreat. And I would just ask you about the Trayvon Martin case, which of course we’re all familiar with. It is indisputed in that case that Mr. Zimmerman was told by the 911 operator to remain in his car, and Mr. Zimmerman left the car and pursued Trayvon Martin. In fact there was a jury instruction in the case which specifically talked about how the jurors should consider the fact that Mr. Zimmerman left and helped to create the situation, and what I’m wondering is how, if it’s the case that all these prongs of the case and that someone has to be completely innocent to prevail under self-defense, how is it the case that Mr. Zimmerman could have prevailed in this trial?

Branca: First, I’ll make you a $100 wager that he was NOT told to stay in his car.

Rice-Lave: . . .

Sunny Hostin (unseen, via Skype): I’ll take that wager.

Branca: Who is that? Who is that?

Sunny Hostin: This is Sunny.

Branca: OK, Sunny, you’re on. I’ll share the 911 tape when I get home, and we can report back to everybody.

Sunny Hosting: Trust me, I’ve listened to it.

Branca (proceeding): The duty to retreat–

Unedited, full-length 911 recording between Zimmerman and dispatcher:

If anyone can find ANYWHERE in that 911 recording–the only communication Zimmerman had with the police prior to the fatal shot fired into Trayvon Martin–where Zimmerman was told to stay in his car, I’LL pay YOU $100. In fact, he was never told to DO or NOT DO anything. At most, he was told that the police “don’t need you to do that,” and even that had nothing to do with staying in his car, but rather with following Martin.

Hey, @SunnyHostin, @wheresmymoney?

And here’s the “Downfall” parody someone produced to commemorate Sunny’s debate loss and welshing:

–Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog, (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.

1 thought on “The Wager Sunny Hostin Refuses to Honor”


    Actually, George was told to do something: “Just let me know if he does anything, OK?”
    You should try another wager with Sunny as to whether the dispatcher “ordered” GZ to keep an eye on Trayvon.

Leave a Comment