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Dispatcher Caller Sergeant While Watching Video of Floyd Arrest: Felt "Something Wasn't Right," Was "Voicing My Concerns"; CDC Chief Warns of "Impending Doom" as Covid Cases Spike; White House Expects Private Sector to Drive Development of Vaccine Passport; Update on Coronavirus Responses Around the World. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 29, 2021 - 13:30   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: If you're just joining us now, I want to bring you up to speed on what we heard in the opening statements.

The prosecution working to convince the jury that this was a clear case of excessive police force and homicide. Noting this was not a split-second decision. In fact, repeatedly noting that Chauvin's knee was on George Floyd for more than nine minutes.

The prosecution also pointing out how unusual it was for that 911 dispatcher, again, watching the feed, to call the police on the police because she was so disturbed by what she saw. She, again, was that first witness.

And they laid out the large number of witnesses at the scene there, potentially hundreds. Of course, we are not going to hear from all of them.

But we do know we'll hear from former police officers, including the former chief of police.


JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: The Minneapolis chief of police, Chief Arradondo, is going to come here to talk with you. He was the police chief at the time. He's the chief today.

He is going to tell you that Mr. Chauvin's conduct was not consistent with Minneapolis Police Department training, was not consistent with Minneapolis Police Department policy, was not reflective of the Minneapolis Police Department.

He will not mince any words. He's very clear. He will be very decisive that this was excessive force.


HILL: The attorneys for Officer Chauvin, former Officer Chauvin, however, noting -- argued that he, quote, "Did exactly what he'd been trained to do."

And that it was clear from their opening statement that they intend to really put a focus on the cause of death for George Floyd, claiming that he died from a drug overdose which caused his heart to give out.


ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The evidence will show that Mr. Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia that occurred as a result of hypertension, coronary disease, the ingestion of methamphetamine and fentanyl, and the adrenaline flowing through his body, all of which acted to further compromise an already compromised heart.


HILL: Joining me now to discuss Laura Coates, CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, and CNN law enforcement analyst, Charles Ramsey, former commissioner of the Philadelphia police.

As we're looking at all of this, let's step back for a minute, Laura, as we're bringing the viewers back to the start of the day here. I'm curious, what did you make of the opening arguments, specifically the prosecution's?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I thought they were very strong in laying out that video. That video that we normally had seen was the 8:46 video which is tragic in its own right.

But to expand it beyond that, to show you what other bystanders were saying, what they were viewing, how they were imploring the police officers to at least check his pulse.

To say things like at you, look at you, look at your body language, officer, you're enjoying this, aren't you. The idea of children watching, looking on.

All of these things expanded it to a far more exponentially tragic scenario when you realize how long that protracted death occurred. It wasn't in an instance, they said. It was breath by breath.

And you look at the defense team whose response was instead to say, well, look, this is not the reason he died. It may have been an overdose. It may have been other things.

But the flaw here is that, in Minnesota, under the law, Erica, if the officer's kneeling was a substantial causal factor in the death, it didn't have to be the only one, even if the other ones do exist, as long as it was a substantial factor, the asphyxiation, kneeling on his neck for 8:46, it may have met an element of the crime to be able to show causation in order to compel and sway the jury towards conviction.

It's a long trial to go still but they made a very interesting and strong start.

HILL: As you bring up the defense, one of the things at a stood out to me, we're seeing two very different, starkly different accounts from each of these opening statements.

And, Chief, one of the things I noticed is the defense noting that Mr. Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his career. Quote, "Use of force is not attractive but it is a necessary component of policing."

The prosecution was really trying to make the point that this was not a split-second decision. This was certainly not the way that Derek Chauvin had been trained. Talking about care while someone is in custody and that care is actually a verb in this case, Chief.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, the use of force isn't something that's pleasant to look at. It's just a fact.

But, you know, the real issue is, at some point in time, they had Mr. Floyd under control. He was handcuffed. He was no longer resisting.

Even though when you look at the second video, which is a good video -- because, for once, it shows what took place behind that car. The other video basically just shows Chauvin. It doesn't show what the other officers are doing and so forth. And I think that's important.

But at some point in time, he's under control. That's where the force has to stop. Because there's no -- it's not necessary any longer.

And, again, force has to be necessary. It has to be proportional. It has to be objectively reasonable.

And at some point in time, when does it become not necessary and when does it become unreasonable? And that's what took place. And that's what the prosecution is going to focus on in this particular case.


As far as the defense and talking about the drugs and so forth, you know, I've attended a lot of autopsies during my time. And it's not unusual, doctors, the medical examiner finds all kinds of things once they open up a body, cancer, large heart, all that.

But is that why he died at that moment? And if the answer to that is no, it was this other action that really caused the death, then that's why it's ruled a homicide. That's why manner and cause, as asphyxiation.

I mean, the other stuff may have eventually killed him. But that's not what caused his death at that point in time. And that's why they're calling it a homicide.

HILL: Speaking of that, of the actions, the fact that we're seeing this video just played as part of that first one, as part of the prosecution's questioning.

And again, just repeating with notes I jotted down here, the 911 dispatcher says when she calls the sergeant, she's concerned the video, she thought maybe it was frozen, that the officers were still in that position. She says all of them sat on this man. And she seems to be saying, you know, was there something else to come

in, did you need to send anybody else out there, did something happen, I'm calling to check on this.

Chief Ramsey, when you look at that, how unusual or not would it be for something like that --

RAMSEY: Well, again --

HILL: -- to come in as a call?

RAMSEY: -- every case is very different. But you have four officers that were there, three actively trying to control him. There was some resisting early on. You can see it in the video.

But once they have him out, got him in a prone position, which in itself is an issue because of positional asphyxia.

That's part of the training, as long as I can remember, that you do not keep a person in a prone position for that long of a period of time simply because they can't breathe.

And so you try to roll them on their side, sit them up, and do whatever, once you get control of the individual.

And so, you know, there's going to be a lot more video that's going to come out. There's going to be, you know, different timelines. That you'll be able to really look and really make those kinds of judgments.

But once they get him under control, that's it. I mean, the force has to stop.

What we saw earlier with that one video, I mean, it may have looked strange in where they're kind of stationary for a period of time. That by itself I can't really judge whether or not that was still necessary.

But I can tell you that 9:29, for the bulk of that, he was not resisting, That is excessive.

HILL: Laura, that 9:29, as you pointed out earlier, a little bit longer than, you know, the eight minutes we'd been talking about for so long.

Every time I see that video or even a portion of it, you're reminded of just how difficult it is to watch in those moments.

And in this video, you're hearing so many people speak out and ask questions of these officers and ask them what's going on and point out that, you know, they believe that he's having a hard time breathing, They're saying he can't breathe.

Starting off by replaying that video, obviously, was done to make a strong opening statement. Where did they take that from here, Laura? COATES: Well, remember, also, Erica, that many of the jurors, in fact,

during the voir dire process, some actually said they had never watched the entire length, even the 8:46 video.

Some say they found it too disturbing, the clip they saw. Others saying they had not watched it in its entirety.

Imagine now that to begin the actual prosecution opening statement, they compel every single juror, those who hadn't seen it before and those who have not seen it more than once, and those two did not see the other aspect of it, to say here is where we're starting.

You tell us how it could be that this officer was not on notice that somebody was struggling to breathe, fighting for their life.

Remember the different elements of the crimes here, Erica, are about substantial causal effect, about a conscious disregard for human life, about a depraved heart, even if it's not intentional to kill, which is not required in Minnesota, but instead the intent to act.

The intent to act to put the knee on his neck for all that time. That's part of what they're going to show.

For now, asking the jurors, having seen that for the length of time that you watched it, do you have any doubt that he had every intention to act in the way that he did? And was there some reason that he was going to say self-defense was used here?

As you point out, Erica, I think it's so compelling, that 911 dispatcher saying that, hey, you can call me a snitch, or whatever, but basically what I'm seeing right now, my gut is telling me something isn't right, something's wrong, to the point that I thought the video had frozen. they were on this man so long.

And it was at odds because they hadn't asked for other support of some kind. And one would think, just conceptually, for someone to use that amount of force for that duration, that there must be something more to the story.


And we're seeing in that video, Erica, the only thing about this story that the defense has come up with was what they found out after the fact, through an autopsy. They weren't aware of that at the time of his death, through the idea of ingestion of drugs.

Perhaps they haven't yet proven all of it. But they wouldn't be aware of that at the time they committed the act.

All of these sorts of Johnny Come Lately, Monday-morning reasoning for what they're saying doesn't yet make sense to a jury, not with that video beginning.

HILL: The defense putting out one thing they were aware of, were all of the people around, these crowds that were gathering watching all of this and that those crowds were sort of distracting for the officers who were on the scene there.

Isn't part of your training, though, to be able to assess different threats, different situations at the same time and deal with them?

RAMSEY: Yes, it is part of training that I'm aware of in the departments I've worked in.

But also, you know, that argument may be of more benefit to the other officers that are charged as to why they didn't intervene saying they were being distracted.

Reality is, if you're in a scene and you've got a hostile crowd -- I'll call it hostile because you've got people being very vocal and so forth -- nothing wrong with what I heard so far -- that's more reason than ever to try to get that person up and out of there as quickly as possible.

So it doesn't continue to, you know, kind of percolate, if you will, in terms of the emotions that people are going through as they observe this sort of thing.

So, you know, this is just not a good case for the defense to try to make, in my opinion.

The other part of it is, you know, shoulders up, the neck and the head, is off limits in police training. If you do have to go with the neck, or strike the head, that's considered deadly force. Because it is likely to cause great bodily harm or even death.

And so, again, to keep pressure on that sensitive part of the body for that long a period of time, they're going to have a hard time trying to prove that was justified.

In my opinion, it's not.

HILL: Charles Ramsey, Laura Coates, appreciate it as always. Thank you both. Stay close.

Up next, signs of a new COVID surge today as the Easter holiday approaches.

And a warning from Michigan's top doctor on a spike in cases among younger people, even kids.

Meantime, the Biden administration working on a new system for people to prove they've been vaccinated? Will so-called vaccine passports be the new norm in the post-pandemic era?



HILL: In less than an hour, President Biden will speak to the nation about the administration's pandemic response, and progression of vaccinations throughout the U.S. This is coming just a day before the World Health Organization releases its long-awaited report on the origin of the virus that caused COVID-19, that origin of it in China.

The reality, though, today new cases are rising. That is despite repeated warnings, prompting this blunt assessment today from the director of the CDC.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Now is one of those times when I have to share the truth, and I have to hope and trust you will listen.

I'm going to pause here. I'm going to lose the script. And I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.

We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope. But right now, I'm scared.


HILL: And 27 states -- you see them there, on the map in orange and deep red -- reporting an increase in new infections over the past week.

Michigan is that one state in deep red where new cases are skyrocketing.

CNN senior national correspondent, Miguel Marquez, is live in Michigan this hour.

Miguel, what's behind this spike?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what is happening is that the people that are not being vaccinated, you are seeing those numbers skyrocket as people start to gather, as mobility goes up, as businesses open up, as schools open, as sports -- as kids start to play sports again.

They are trying here in Michigan to increase testing as quickly as possible. But the numbers are staggering. In Michigan, week on week, from last week to this week, a 56 percent increase in the number of cases.

But maybe the best number in all of this are the hospitalizations because, you know, younger people, we've heard, don't get as sick. What they are finding is that more and more younger people are checking into the hospital.

One health organization here in the state charted that from March 1st to March 23rd, the 30 to 39 group, 633 percent increase in hospitalizations in that group. For 40 to 49, an 800 percent increase in hospitalizations.

The biggest group that is growing here is 10 to 19 right now. Those are the ones that are becoming sickest most quickly, and in the biggest numbers. But it is a concern.

There are several variants here. They've indicated that the U.K. variant and the South African variant are both in the community here.

One concern, another concern that they have is that there's not enough testing going on statewide so it's very, very difficult for them to focus on and figure out where those outbreaks are -- Erica?

HILL: It is really concerning, especially when you talk about that age group, starting at 10 years old, going up to 19.


We're hearing a lot about the potential vaccine passport that may be announced. What do you know about that, Miguel?

MARQUEZ: So airline industries certainly want this. Many other businesses would take advantage of this as well.

The administration talking about a sort of vaccine passport. Once you are vaccinated, there's fool-proof and iron-clad proof that you have, in fact, been vaccinated, and certain businesses, airlines, hotels, other transportation industries, know that you have that vaccine.

But they don't want a big-government rollout or big-government program to do it.

So they are talking to different organizations, privately, maybe like clearance, like you see at the airport or others that would be able to give the individual some sort of official indication that they actually had the vaccine and can engage in certain activities much more readily -- Erica?

HILL: Interesting to see where that lands.

Miguel, thank you.

With the pandemic crisis far from over, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just announcing a 90-day extension of the federal eviction moratorium. It was set to expire on Wednesday. It's now been extended through June 30th.

For more coronavirus headlines around the world let's check in with CNN correspondents. We begin with Stefano Pozzebon.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On Sunday night, Mexico received the first of 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the United States.

In a tweet walks, Mexico foreign minister thanked the U.S. President Joe Biden for authorizing the shipment. The Biden administration previously announced it would allow Mexico to receive 29.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that have not been used in the United States. PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Patrick Oppmann,

in Havana, where the first 150,000 Cuban front-line workers have begun to receive some of Cuba's homegrown vaccine.

Cuba is the first country in Latin America to develop two vaccine candidates that are in the final stage of testing. Even though Cuban scientists haven't been determined the efficacy of the vaccines, they say they are going to begin a campaign of mass vaccination.

So almost entire the population of the city of Havana, they say, will receive the vaccines by June. And they hope to vaccinate about six million people, about half of the island's population, by August.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jim Bittermann, in France, where President Emmanuel Macon told a Sunday newspaper that no decisions have been made about taking further action on COVID-19 restrictions, despite the fact that there are clear indications the situation is not improving.

In fact, in an op-ed commentary in the same newspaper signed by 41 emergency care workers, the state of affairs was described so dire that intensive care units will be over capacity.

And doctors have to make life and death decisions about who will get access to the ICUs and who will not.

As the infection rate is not turned around, the best hope seems to lie with a stepped-up vaccination campaign the government is planning for this week.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm in London, England. Stay-at-home orders were lifted today after months of lockdown. This is part of the government's road map to the slow and gradual easing of restrictions here.

Starting today, that means up to two households or six people can meet outdoors and socialize. They can also meet in private gardens. And outdoor team sports will be permitted. So you'll see soccer fields and tennis courts come to life.

It sounds like a minor step but many people here have been under lockdown since before Christmas. So this is a taste of freedom.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson, of course, warning everyone to remain cautious and to remain vigilant.


HILL: And thanks to our correspondents all around the globe.


Stay tuned. Our coverage continues next with Brooke Baldwin.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You're watching CNN on this Monday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

The first day of proceedings for former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin happening today. Here he is on the right side of your screen. He is accused of killing George Floyd, after placing his knee on his neck for more than eight minutes last May.

At this moment, they are all breaking for lunch right now in that courtroom. But as soon as they resume, we will bring you back to that live trial.

Just, again, backing up, Chauvin faces three charges. He faces second- degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty.

So far today, opening statements have been quite revealing about the legal strategies we will see play out over the course of the next few weeks.


Prosecutors showing that video we have all painfully witnessed many times but now in the raw entirety.