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California to Fully Reopen June 15; Testimony Continues in Chauvin Trial. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 6, 2021 - 14:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me today.

Here we are, day seven of this trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin there. The jury heard some meaningful testimony today from training officers within the police department, particularly when it comes to the use of force and neck restraints.

Former Officer Chauvin is accused of killing George Floyd while kneeling on his neck for nearly 10 minutes during that arrest back in May of last year.

Right now, the court is breaking for lunch. When they get back in the courtroom, we will take you to those live proceedings.

But let's just back up for a minute. Let me just play you what jurors must be mulling over right now from the Minneapolis use of force training officer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, is this an MPD-trained neck restraint?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has never been?

MERCIL: Not to my -- neck restraint? No, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this an MPD-authorized restraint technique?

MERCIL: Knee on the neck would be something that does happen, use of force that isn't unauthorized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And under what circumstances would that be authorized? How long can you do that?

MERCIL: I don't know if there's a time frame. It would depend on the circumstances at the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which would include what?

MERCIL: The type of resistance you're getting from the subject that you're putting the knee on.


And so if there was -- say, for example, the subject was under control and handcuffed, would this be authorized?

MERCIL: I would say no.


BALDWIN: Let's begin with CNN security correspondent Josh Campbell, who is live outside that Minneapolis courthouse.

And, so, Josh, how did the defense cross-examine this police training expert?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, this was, I think, a day that we have seen where the defense made a lot of ground up. The last few days, it's been devastating for them hearing from these senior officers talk about how the actions of Derek Chauvin did not comport with department policy.

But you did see the defense eliciting some information that will likely help their case. Now, again, this witness today that we just heard from was this use of force expert who talked about looking at some of the images of Chauvin holding down George Floyd.

He said that that was not within department policy. But there was one exchange where the defense actually asked him, have you ever seen a case where someone claims to be in medical distress and they're actually not? He said, yes, he has seen that. They asked, have you ever had someone say that they can't breathe, yet they could breathe? He said yes.

So you see the defense trying to raise this question, a little doubt in the minds of the jury. And, remember, all they need is one juror to question things here in order for Chauvin to not be convicted.

Now, there was another exchange I want you to take a look at. And this actually got to not just what was happening between the officer and George Floyd, but the crowd around them. The defense was asking this witness what impact the crowd might have on an officer's actions.

You will hear from the defense attorney here, and then a dramatic moment from the prosecutor. Take a listen.


ERIC NELSON, ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: Now, in terms of the continuation of use of force, and we're talking about involvement of onlookers, right, the words they use matter, correct?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

NELSON: If they're cheering on and saying, good job, officer, that's one consideration, right? MERCIL: Correct.

NELSON: But if they're saying I'd slap the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of you or your or you're a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) or you're a chump, would that reasonably tend to rise alarm in a police officer?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

NELSON: I have no further questions.

STEVE SCHLEICHER, MINNESOTA PROSECUTOR: And if they're saying, get off him, you're killing him, should the officer also take that into account and consider whether their actions need to be reassessed?

MERCIL: Potentially, sir, yes.

SCHLEICHER: Nothing further.


CAMPBELL: So, again, the defense there talking about the crowd, that, if this crowd was hostile, that may have played into Chauvin's actions, maybe he was distracted.

Of course, the prosecutor also pointing out something that we have seen for ourselves on video, Brooke. So many of the bystanders there were yelling at this officer, "The man can't breathe, the man is not moving."

Of course, that will also be sitting with the jury now as they try to decipher the actions of this officer, whether it was not only within policy, but whether it fits the standard of murder -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: So compelling on both ways. Those are the questions flying.

Josh, thank you very much.

Let's talk about all of this, what we learned today, with CNN legal analyst Elie Honig -- he is a former federal prosecutor -- and CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey, the former Philadelphia police commissioner, former chief of Metropolitan, D.C., police.


So, gentlemen.

Chief, I want to start with you here.

We keep hearing from these law enforcement experts, right? We heard this testimony today from MPD officials that -- the department's use of force trainer and then the crisis intervention training coordinator, about, kind of bigger picture, how these officers are trained, when use of force is appropriate.

And at this point, no officer has testified that Derek Chauvin complied with that training. And based on everything you heard from MPD officials specifically, how should Chauvin have conducted himself that day?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, training is critically important in his entire trial.

How he should have conducted himself, there was a period of time when force was appropriate. I mean, he didn't get into the car right away. When he was first taken out of the car and was laying in a prone position, you can see his legs kicking a bit. But he was brought under control in a relatively short period of time.

And that's when the decrease in the use of force should have begun, and to a point where, obviously, there was no need for force at all, because he had stopped moving completely. So, what he should have done is constantly monitor Floyd.

I mean, he had a responsibility for the care of the individual that was in his custody. And he did not do that. And that's the problem. The defense keeps raising issues and hypotheticals, but they don't match what actually took place on May 25 in Minneapolis with the arrest of George Floyd.

BALDWIN: And the prosecution, they're trying to show that Derek Chauvin should have known better, right, Elie?

I mean, what do you think is going through the members of the jury's minds as they're listening to more and more of these MPD officials?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Brooke, so this morning's testimony, I think, confirmed yet again fairly clearly that Derek Chauvin's conduct went beyond, well beyond any of the policy or training of the Minneapolis Police Department.

That said, there is a fine line when you're prosecuting a case between driving your point home and overdoing it. These witnesses this morning were now the fifth and sixth police officials who we heard talk about whether Derek Chauvin's use of force was appropriate.

The prior four included the chief of the department, the most senior member of the department, and the training officer. So, I'm not exactly sure what these fifth and sixth witnesses have added, although I agree with what Josh said before. They gave the defense lawyer more openings to try to pick and jab and create some reasonable doubt.

I don't know that they're there yet. But I don't see the upside. And you have to think about the jurors. We talked about the jury. Remember, we're not seeing them physically on this feed, but they are there. They are not a monolith. They are 12 human beings. They have limited attention span, limited retention.

And you have to keep that in mind. This is where the prosecutors' courtroom instincts have to kick in.

BALDWIN: And I get it, to your point about how deep we are now into some of these police officers testifying .It may not be the most riveting testimony for this jury, but it is still so important.

And how do these lawyers, Elie, how do they balance getting their point across without the jurors' eyes glazing over?

HONIG: Yes, it's one of the one of the tricks of trial practice.

One thing to keep in mind here, they also want to risk -- want to avoid overtechnicalizing this use of force. If you watched this morning, there were a few points where they had these complicated sort of matrixes up, things, diagrams.

Look, at bottom, you have to get back to the human element of this. He's rear-handcuffed, face down on the ground. It's four officers against one person, and he has the knee on the neck for 9:29.

All the graphics and matrixes in the world don't hit as hard as that video and those simple facts. You have to bring it back to basics.

BALDWIN: And then one more for you, Elie, and then, Chief, we're coming back to in a little bit here.

But I know, this morning, there was a sidebar before the jury entered, and then the passenger in George Floyd's car who was with him on May 25, when they were confronted by police, actually appeared in court via Zoom.

His attorney says he will plead the Fifth if he is called to testify.

How important is he for the prosecution and for the defense?

HONIG: So, it seems like the defense wants to ask him questions. They seem to think he has information about what George Floyd was doing in the car right before the police approached.

Now, any person has the right to invoke the Fifth Amendment if they believe their testimony could be used to incriminate them. The judge is trying to figure out, is there some way that this person can be questioned sort of around those questions, so that he's not asked and not made to answer any questions that might incriminate him?

We will see what the judge does. Usually, judges are very deferential. Once someone invokes the Fifth, they respect that. They're hands off. So, we will see how the judge comes out, but he could be an important witness for the defense.


OK, I have got more questions to set this up before we go back to the trial.

Gentlemen, for now, thank you so much.

Meantime, a number of COVID concerns to report on today, from variants possibly outpacing vaccinations, to Dr. Fauci's warning that youth sports may be a bigger spreader of the virus than classrooms.

Plus, today, President Biden is moving up his deadline for adult vaccine eligibility. We will take you to his speech live.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching special live coverage here on CNN.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Just a heads-up. Next hour, President Biden will announce a major change in the nation's massive vaccine rollout. He is moving up the date when anyone who wants a vaccine can be eligible to receive one. So, May 1 was the original deadline to open up vaccinations. It is now April 19.

That is just less than two weeks away. This change comes as the U.S. sees a rise in new cases for the fourth week in a row. The CDC says the spike is being driven by those variants that are rapidly spreading across the U.S.

And another concern about what's driving the speed of the spread here, Dr. Fauci, pointing out the potential danger posed by youth athletics compared to being in a classroom. Listen to this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: There's a delicate balance there that we have to continue to evaluate over time. It's very important. You want the kids in school, but you want them to be safe.

One of the real important pockets of spread have been in team sports, as opposed to kids in the classroom. So, when you bring people back to school, you might want to consider the relative risk of participating in sports, which seem to be a driver of infection, as opposed to a child sitting in a classroom learning.


BALDWIN: Well, now to some encouraging news, though, if you are in California.

Just into CNN, California says it will fully reopen mid-June, after months and months of COVID restrictions. It was the first state, in fact, to lock down.

Stephanie Elam is live in Los Angeles.

And, Stephanie, this is obviously huge for folks in California. What will this mean and what will the reopening even look like?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's that light at the end of the tunnel, Brooke, that so many people here in California have been looking for, since we were the first state to lock down last year.

And what this does mean is that all businesses, all activities in the state will be able to go on like normal beginning June 15. This is coming from the state of California, the health and human services secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, making this announcement, Governor Newsom obviously talking about this as well.

As we take a look at what this means, they're saying, as of today, more than 20 million doses of the vaccine have been given to Californians. They are also saying that seven million vaccination doses have been given to people here in the state, more than any other state as well.

Looking at the numbers here, it supports it. Also, yesterday, the governor tweeting out a video saying that: We had the lowest positivity rate in all of the states here.


ELAM: So, this is what is really driving this, is that the numbers are so much lower here.

In L.A. County yesterday, there was only one death yesterday and less than 400 cases. So, this shows you where we were, how bad we were, and how much better the numbers are here. Also worth noting here as well that they're saying that this is all going to still follow the science here, and that they're going to continue to see, if places start to spike, they can step back in if they need to.

They're also saying that the mask mandate will stay in place here and that the other thing that is really most important here is that, if they see that people can't get the vaccine and want to get the vaccine, and there are still issues with supply, then this June 15 date could be tweaked if necessary.

But, overall, when you take a look at, this is still more than two months out. So, just consider that. And right now, we have had more than 20 million doses given here in the state of about 40 million people. The numbers are showing that the vaccinations are working. They're pointing to the fact that hospitalizations are low, and also the stability of the virus here in the state after the holiday season, which was just horrific here in California.

Obviously, I have been covering this for the entire year.

BALDWIN: From the beginning, yes.

ELAM: So, I have been looking at this data. So, when you look at the numbers and see where we are in the state of California right now with these numbers and how low everything is, it's not surprising.

Also keep in mind that the governor is also up against this recall vote, potentially. So it probably helps him to also have this good news coming out. But just a little over than two months away, we could see full reopening here in the state of California.

BALDWIN: Can you believe it? It has been the longest, fastest year ever, and to have that little bit of light at the end of the tunnel there for California and then potentially other states.

Stephanie, thank you. Let's get some quick reaction from our -- one of our favorite M.D.s.

Dr. Seema Yasmin is a CNN medical analyst and a former CDC disease detective. And she is the author of "If God Is a Virus," a poetry collection out on bookshelves today that's based on her reporting on Ebola in West Africa in 2015 and 2016.

So, happy book day to you, Dr. Yasmin.


BALDWIN: And let's talk about California.

I mean, I just said it, but California was the first state to totally shut down, now getting ready mid-June to reopen. It's one of the states greatly impacted too by the variants first detected in the U.K.

What's your reaction to this news?

YASMIN: It's so optimistic. And, almost a year after the lockdown first happened, Brooke, I think it gives people this sense of, oh, things are heading in the right direction.

As Stephanie said, it is two months away, so things can change. And we have to really make sure that we don't drop our guard before then. And it's also a balancing act, Brooke, because it's amazing, it's fantastic to see that California now has the lowest positivity rate in the U.S.


But we're balancing that good news with news about another variant detected in California that's caused a lot of deaths in the Indian state of Maharashtra. So, we're up against newer and newer variants, more of them, and also keeping an eye on the fact that, while California is doing great, Florida, Michigan, other states not doing well at all, in terms of that fight against the variants.

BALDWIN: No, I knew that the good news was going to come with a but. And I appreciate your holistic approach to all of this.

I know it's also a race against time between the vaccinations and the variants. What's the impact of this White House, of the Biden White House moving up the date now, given just what we know about the spread of at least one variant in all 50 states?

YASMIN: Yes, fantastic news, especially, as you just said, because it is a race between variants and the vaccine.

So, understanding that we're going to have mass eligibility for vaccines is really good. But, Brooke, sometimes, what's happened is, as eligibility expands, the public start calling up vaccine providers, saying, where can I get an appointment? How soon can I get vaccinated?

And the vaccine providers have the exact same questions that the public is asking, because, sometimes, they get the news the same time that the public does. So it's not just about telling people, hey, everyone's now eligible for vaccines. It's also saying, what's going to be the rollout? What's the plan? How soon are those appointments going to be available?

All of those infrastructure things need to happen. And I have to say, Brooke, really quickly, while we're saying, on the one hand, so important to get all of America vaccinated, I'm so mindful of the fact that there are more than 100 other countries where not a single dose of vaccine has been distributed.

So, good news here, better news here, but we can't take our eye off the ball that this is a global pandemic. If other countries are struggling to get vaccine, that actually is not good for us here in the States either.

BALDWIN: You're right. You're absolutely right. It's not just about us. It's about the entire world.


BALDWIN: And I just want to flash some quick pictures up. I was just told by my producer we have got the president. Here he is at a vaccination center in Virginia, in Alexandria, Virginia, there, as more and more people are getting access to these vaccines, right?

It's not just about producing them. It's about getting shots in arms to all Americans and really all global citizens.

Dr. Yasmin, thank you so much.

YASMIN: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: And just a little bit of news from me today.

I just want to take a moment to share with you something that has been affirming for me through the difficult, trying, heart-wrenching events of the last year. It's my first book.

As the pandemic raged on and the racial reckoning opened so many eyes here in America, I found so much strength and hope in witnessing what I like to call huddles. These are groups of women banding together to support one another and make change.

And I was so inspired by this huddle phenomenon that I noticed just as a journalist, that I wrote an entire book about it.

And I just wanted to share my news with you all today. It's called "Huddle: How Women Unlock Their Collective Power."

And I am so grateful that, from my platform here, using my voice here at CNN, I have eyes and ears on the nation. And I want to show you what I have seen in the last handful of years, a lot of amazing women of all ages, races, backgrounds coming together to change the world.

And this project has provided me a great deal of hope. And I would be honored if you would check it out too. Again, it's called "Huddle," and it is out in bookstores and on Audible, if you want to listen to my voice, today.

Stand by, everyone. We are waiting to take you back into the courtroom for the Derek Chauvin trial. We will go live to Minneapolis once court is back in session.

Quick break.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Any moment now, we do expect testimony to resume in day seven of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Elie Honig, Chief Ramsey both back with me.

And, Chief Ramsey, I'm going to start with you.

The most recent witness we saw was Lieutenant Mercil. And his testimony repeated a similar theme from earlier expert witnesses, right? When we're trying to control a subject, these police officers are trained to -- quote -- "use the lowest level of force possible" in order to meet those objectives.

And then he said that what Derek Chauvin did to George Floyd was not an MPD-trained neck restraint.

So, my question is, what did you make of his words, his testimony?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, he's absolutely right.

I mean, you start off with the lowest level that you can. Now, that doesn't mean -- you may start off with deadly force, depending on the situation. But you start off with the lowest level of force that you can in order to bring the situation under control.

There was a point in time when force was necessary, and they used that force. But once they got him out of the car, they got him in a prone position, he was no longer kicking, I mean, that was it. The de- escalation should have started.

You constantly reassess all the time to determine whether or not the force that you're using now is still appropriate, based on the behavior of the individual suspect. And, clearly, that was not the case.

So, what Chauvin did, the knee to neck for that extended period of time, was certainly outside of policy, outside of any training that I have ever seen.