03/30/2012 04:08 pm ET Updated Aug 15, 2014

Soledad O'Brien On 'Beyond Trayvon,' Her Special About Trayvon Martin

CNN's Soledad O'Brien dove headfirst into the ongoing conversation about the death of Trayvon Martin on Thursday, hosting a special devoted entirely to the tragedy.

The town hall-style show, "Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America," airs Friday at 8 and 10 PM. In it, O'Brien spoke to a wide-ranging group, from Martin family lawyer Benjamin Crump to forensic investigator Lou Palumbo Harvard professor Charles Ogletree to Kadiatou Diallo, mother of NYPD shooting victim Amadou Diallo. (O'Brien called Diallo's appearance on the show "heartbreaking.") The panelists dissected the details of the case and discussed what it says about the state of race and racism in the U.S.

Following the taping, O'Brien sat down with a group of reporters and reflected on the Martin case.

She said that the tragedy provided "an opportunity for people to move the conversation out of the hypothetical and into the real." On her morning show, "Starting Point," she said that white panelists were "stunned" to find out that someone could potentially be targeted merely for the color of their skin.

"All the black people on the panel would be like, 'hmmm, not even gonna touch that one,'" she said.

O'Brien also said that she felt the Martin tragedy was resonating in a different way than other tragedies involving young black men, such as the Jena Six case or the killings of Sean Bell, Diallo and Oscar Grant.

"I actually get the sense that it's more like a Rosa Parks case," she said. "There is this case that is so clearly defined in a lot of people's minds that it sets the bar for them ... people said, 'if this could happen to Rosa Parks, it could happen to anybody.'"

As a journalist, she continued, her role was to "leverage the moment to have a conversation."

She said that she didn't think Zimmerman would be allowed to walk free much longer.

"What the parents have asked for is an arrest," she said. "They didn't say anything other than 'we want the investigators to take the death of our son seriously.' I would be very surprised if that does not happen, but I've been surprised before in covering news stories."