Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Prosecution and Defense Rest, Closing Arguments Monday; First Court Appearance Today for Ex-Officer Charged in Wright Killing; Johnson & Johnson Says, Overall Vaccine Benefits Outweigh Blood Clot Risk. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 15, 2021 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:00:00]

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But as of right now, you see sort of a joint situation going on between the family and the city to make sure there is calm on the streets. We'll be watching, of course, for the next few hours. John?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Grateful to your (INAUDIBLE), Ryan. Thank you so much. And thanks for joining us today. See you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Ana Cabrera, thanks for being with us on this Thursday.

Testimony is over. Both the prosecution and defense have now rested their case in the Derek Chauvin trial, but not before some stunning courtroom drama today. This morning, we heard from the defendant himself for the first time. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You understand that if you choose to exercise that right to remain silent, neither the state nor the court can comment on your silence as a sign or an indication of your guilt, meaning they can't say he didn't get up and defend himself, so equate your silence with guilt? Do you understand that?

DEREK CHAUVIN, FORMER MINNEAPOLIS POLICE OFFICER: Yes.

NELSON: Have you made a decision today whether you intend to testify or whether you intend to invoke your Fifth Amendment privilege?

CHAUVIN: I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today.

JUDGE PETER CAHILL, HENNEPIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA: Is this your decision not to testify?

CHAUVIN: It is, your honor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: That was Derek Chauvin on trial for the murder of George Floyd, telling the court he would not be testifying.

A short time later, a controversy over new evidence that led the judge to warn the prosecution of a potential mistrial. We're going to break that down, all those key elements, and a preview of Monday's closing arguments in just a moment.

But as that trial nears a conclusion, legal proceedings for the nearby police killing of Daunte Wright are just beginning. Former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter was arrested yesterday and charged with second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Wright during a traffic stop. And in the next hour, she will make her first court appearance.

These two cases playing just out a few miles apart in Minnesota but they have nationwide repercussions.

Let's begin with Josh Campbell covering the Chauvin trial for us in Minneapolis. Josh, up next closing arguments, that's to happen on Monday. But today, we saw some compelling legal drama. Lay it all out for us.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, it was not something that we were expecting. Sometimes in these trials, you will get something that comes out of left field that could possibly change the trajectory of a prosecution. That almost occurred this morning.

And just to break this down in layman's terms, what we're told by prosecutors is that, yesterday, when a defense medical witness was testifying, this was the witness who said that possibly one of the contributing factors to George Floyd's death was carbon monoxide or exhaust that was coming from an idling police car.

As that police testimony was playing out, the medical examiner here in Hennepin County was watching and he thought or realized that they had actually tested George Floyd's blood last May whenever he was brought to the hospital. He called prosecutors and said if there's this idea about carbon monoxide playing a role here, but we tested his blood and it appeared as though the levels were within a normal range.

Prosecutors sought to introduce that today as testimony, the judge not buying any of it, saying, that look, you had plenty of time to prepare your case, you knew that carbon monoxide was going to come up. It's on you for not actually doing your due diligence with the county medical center here to try to gather as much information as possible. So the judge said that, no, he would not allow that to be introduced.

He did allow prosecutors to call back another witness that they had called before. This was Dr. Tobin, who had offered that compelling testimony about his view on the cause of death. But one thing that the judge did as he said both with that witness and in future rebuttals as we continue to hear the closing arguments, that if the prosecution mentions any piece of information that has not been brought up so far, if they mention that in front of the jury, there will be serious repercussions. Take a listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CAHILL: It prejudiced the defense by the late disclosure, even if it's not due to bad faith but the late disclosure has prejudiced the defense. It's not going to be allowed. So, Dr. Tobin will not be allowed to testify as to those lab results, if there's anything he wished to add about carbon monoxide as far as environmental factors. But if he even hints there are test results the jury has not heard about, it's going to be a mistrial, pure and simple.

This late disclosure is not the way we should be operating here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMPBELL: So as our Law Enforcement Analyst Chief Charles Ramsey said, this appeared to be the first day where we saw the prosecution really back on their heels, being admonished by the judge, obviously walking a fine line.

As you mentioned, Ana, the case is now over as it relates to introducing new evidence. We are looking forward to Monday where there will be closing arguments. The jury will be sequestered, which means they will be cut off from the rest of the world. I could tell you having served as a juror myself, one of the highlight experiences of being a citizen is sitting on a jury, that obviously a huge responsibility.

[13:05:07]

The judge telling the jury here that their responsibility is obviously very important one.

The question came up about how long this will go on. I think it's best answered by the judge telling the jury that you should pack your clothes -- pack your suitcase, expect for long, hope for short. We'll have to see how long their deliberation goes until we actually get a verdict in this case, Ana.

CABRERA: We are all holding our breath for that verdict when it comes. Josh Campbell, thank you.

Let's bringing in CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Laura Coates and CNN law Enforcement Analyst and former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. It's been great to have you both with us throughout all of this trial.

Laura, Chauvin invoked the Fifth Amendment today. That was the expected move here but was it the right move?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it remains to be seen. But, look, if you were to try to think about all the different ways in which he could answer the question that's burning on the jury's mind here, Ana, why didn't you just get off of George Floyd's neck, why didn't you render aid? Remember, all of his potential responses will actually be the opposite of the testimony they've already seen, from law enforcement experts, from his own police chief, from experts who talk about the notion to have to render aid even if somebody is in your custody, and you think somehow you were not the cause of that physical distress.

So everything, it's almost the idea of damned if you do, damned if you do not, if you were Derek Chauvin. But, again, if you were trying to react and respond to the mountain of evidence that's been presented against you, he essentially was his last and best and perhaps only hope of offering an explanation, if not, a justification for what he did, which could be enough to plant some -- not only seed of reasonable doubt in a juror's mind but some seed of empathy. And that can sometimes shift the tides.

CABRERA: But do you think that the defense did enough of the poking holes or planting seeds of doubt in the juryies' minds without him testifying?

COATES: Absolutely not. I mean, if you think about what you remember from this trial, Ana, you're going to remember that nine-year-old testifying. You're going to remember the MMA fighter, the 911 dispatcher, Chief Arradondo, the young girl who actually videotaped. You're going to remember the pulmonologist, cardiologist, forensic pathologist. You're going to remember the actual M.E. who did the autopsy, all who corroborated one another.

What do you remember about the defense case? You remember some body cam footage that was actually not pointed towards George Floyd. You remember that he didn't feel a need to intervene, even they say that the crowd was unruly. You're going to remember a use of force expert who said he doesn't think that when you put someone handcuffed and prone onto the ground, it's a use of force, and they could have used more force against George Floyd. What are you going to remember? The idea of a forensic pathologist who's telling you that perhaps it was carbon monoxide?

I mean, when you weigh this as a jury, you haven't only planted seeds of doubt, you haven't planted any common sense notions to rebut that avalanche of testimony from the prosecution.

CABRERA: And, Commissioner, we heard from so many officers testifying against Chauvin on behalf of the prosecution. Do you think it would have been helpful for the defense to offer up a character witness for Chauvin?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, they may not have had one, and on cross-examination, the prosecution has been so skilled in cross-examining witnesses, that even if they brought one forward, I don't know how useful it would be in justifying the actions of Derek Chauvin.

I mean, you've had testimony after testimony from people inside the department, including the police chief, including the head trainer, all of whom said that this is outside of policy, it is not consistent with training. So I don't know what a character witness would do in order to justify the actions of Derek Chauvin. This is just so far removed from any policy or any training that I'm aware of, that it's an uphill battle no matter what they bring forward.

CABRERA: Laura, good idea or bad idea for the prosecution to really try to hammer the carbon monoxide theory today and kind of leaving that as the last taste for the jurors?

COATES: I think having the last taste be the presence of Dr. Tobin, who the jury has apparently ultimately very respected, and he was someone able to me methodically break down very technical in bite- sized pieces, having him as a last impression, generally, is probably a good thing.

But focusing on the carbon monoxide issue, I think, actually does not inert the benefit of this prosecution. It has the effect of highlighting what I think most people would agree is a nonsensical notion here. They were wrong. The prosecution should have been diligent enough to find out the information about the carbon monoxide analysis, especially, Ana, because it was pro-prosecution. It fatally undermined any assessment that he had carbon monoxide poisoning because the normal levels in his blood were actually normal.

[13:10:04]

So they were then punished and not able to bring that evidence home. But what they did was now highlight for the jury that this is something that maybe you should pay attention to. And sometimes when you tell people there's nothing to see here, folks, you've got people who are clamoring, moving their necks to try to see exactly what you told them not to look at.

And so I wonder how it's going to actually impact the jury to have this highlighted in this way but you're also seeing, Ana, what happens when you are not exhaustive in our ability to prosecute a case, what happens when you leave a stone unturned, namely the carbon monoxide statement.It could have been a home run over the fence. Instead, it gave the jury some semblance that you were perhaps nervous about that even being taken seriously. So I wonder how it's ultimately going to come out in the wash.

CABRERA: Commissioner, we know the history. We know how difficult it is to get a conviction against a police officer. If you're Chauvin right now, how worried are you?

RAMSEY: I'm very worried. I mean, he sat there and he listened to the testimony. And, again, you know, how do you justify nine minutes and 29 seconds? I mean, in any instance where an officer is on trial, you're talking about something that required a split second decision or, you know, within a couple of seconds or so anyway. And so the benefit of the doubt will often go toward the police officer because these are snap decisions that have to be made. Sometimes, unfortunately, you don't get it right. You mistake a cell phone for a gun or something like that.

But this wasn't a split second decision. This wasn't even one that took one minute or two minutes of struggling and wrestling with a suspect. I mean, this was nine minutes and 29 seconds, almost half of which Floyd is clearly not resisting.

So the whole point of use of force, I mean, it has to be necessary, it has to be proportional and it has to be objectively reasonable. And I think they fail on all three counts after the initial resisting has been taken care of and been resolved. And, remembered, I mean, it's four-on-one. You've got three cops holding him down and another one monitoring the crowd. I mean, I just don't see where Chauvin can afford to be optimistic in this case, although juries are unpredictable.

CABRERA: And those jury members have the long weekend to think about all this before the closing arguments on Monday. Laura Coates and Charles Ramsey, thank you, again, for being with us.

Next hour, the former Minnesota Police officer who is charged in the shooting death of Daunte Wright will make her first court appearance. Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department faces a second-degree manslaughter charge, which carries a possible ten-year prison sentence, if convicted.

Potter shot and killed Wright during a traffic stop on Sunday. She is currently out on bail right now.

Joining us from Minnesota is CNN's Adrienne Broaddus. Adrienne, what can we expect from today's first court appearance?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you, you won't be able to see that court appearance, at least not members of the public. It's happening via Zoom. And the judge has denied the request for media to broadcast that court appearance. You will, however, learn about it through us, media, are allowed to view it via Zoom.

As you mentioned, Potter, who spent a great deal of her career here at the Brooklyn Center Police Department, has been charged with second- degree manslaughter, this after the killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright.

Overnight hundreds of people filled the streets protesting. And at this hour, you can see behind me this crew is putting up another layer of protection to protect members of law enforcement from the protesters who are here. I only see one person from the community here right now engaging with law enforcement, talking to law enforcement.

Overnight, about 24 people were arrested. Members of law enforcement say last night was much quieter. There was no looting. There was no property destruction. And they're hoping that happens moving forward. Keep in mind, there was a curfew from 10:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M. That curfew will be in place again tonight. Ana?

CABRERA: Adrienne Broaddus, thank you for your hard work, reporting in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Turning to the pandemic now, we know COVID vaccines aren't 100 percent effective, but how many people who've been vaccinated are now getting the virus? We're learning new information, we have new numbers. We'll break that down.

And the Biden administration cracking down on Russia, imposing new sanctions and expelling diplomatic personnel for election interference and cyberhacks. The president will speak about this today at 4:30 Eastern. The fallout, ahead. [13:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: The House hearing on the coronavirus crisis got heated today. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan repeatedly pressing Dr. Anthony Fauci on when this pandemic will be over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): What? What measure? Are we just going to continue this forever? When does -- when do we get to the point? What measure, what standard, what objective outcome do we have to reach before Americans get their liberty and freedoms back?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You're indicating liberty and freedom. I look at it as a public health measure to prevent people from dying and going to the hospital.

JORDAN: You don't think Americans' liberties have been threatened the last year, Dr. Fauci? They've been assaulted.

[13:20:00]

Their liberties have.

FAUCI: I don't look at this as a liberty thing, Congressman Jordan.

JORDAN: Well, that's obvious.

FAUCI: I look at this as a public health thing. I disagree with you on that completely.

JORDAN: Do you think the Constitution is suspended during a virus, during a pandemic? It's certainly not.

FAUCI: This will end, for sure, when we get the level of infection very low.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: This comes one day after CDC advisers put off a decision on changing recommendations for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following the reports of rare blood clots in six people.

Dr. Richina Bicette is Medical Director at the Baylor College of Medicine. She's also an emergency medicine physician. Doctor, good to have you with us.

Before we begin, I just want to reference that exchange. Is there any way to say definitively when this pandemic will be over?

DR. RICHINA BICETTE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: I don't think that there's any way to say when the pandemic will be over, but Dr. Fauci has said for a very long time that he'd like to see the rates of infection in this country be less than 10,000 before we start reopening again.

Of course, that advice was ignored but he has put into place some numbers and some context in terms of when we can start trying to get back to our normal lives.

CABRERA: Regarding the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the pause that is taking place right now, what are the ramifications of the CDC's, essentially, no decision yesterday on whether to move forward, to issue other restrictions or guidelines around it?

BICETTE: I think that's twofold. This is a Catch-22 situation. On one hand, I think it's great that the CDC and FDA did put a pause on the vaccine because of this cluster of cases. That shows the American people that our regulatory bodies are paying attention and they are taking any claims of potential adverse effects seriously.

On the flipside of that, we know that already in this country, there is some level of vaccine hesitancy and this cluster of cases is going to contribute to that. I think the CDC did the right thing by saying that they don't have enough information to make a decision just yet. They're still investigating whether there were possible other cases of blood clots that could have been contributed to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Making a decision yesterday could have negatively impacted them in that some people may have thought that it was rushed or made too quickly.

CABRERA: We also learned of this case of a 25-year-old man who was part of the trial who developed a blood clot. Why do you think that wasn't flagged earlier?

BICETTE: Well, that's the seventh case that the CDC is considering, could this have potentially been related to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine? Initially, what we heard from the pharmaceutical company representatives is that the blood clot was not related to the vaccine, that this person may have had some other factors that were related to his thrombosis, but we're just not sure. And until they do a deeper dive into his medical history into his chart, we're not going to have that answer.

CABRERA: So, more than 76 million people are now fully vaccinated and we are learning there have been 5,800 breakthrough cases, meaning people who have gotten the virus even though they have been vaccinated. Does that number, 5,800, out of 76 million, does that number seem high to you, low to you? What's your take?

BICETTE: It's actually pretty low. This is not an aha moment, not at least what people are trying to make it out to seem. From the very beginning, Pfizer and Moderna have both told us that their vaccines were about 95 percent effective. Later, studies have shown that in real world condition, that number is actually about 90 percent.

So when you consider that 76 million people have been vaccinated, fully vaccinated thus far, I would have expected the number of breakthrough COVID cases to be on the magnitude of 7.6 million or so. So, the fact that we're only talking about 5,800 is actually pretty astonishing.

CABRERA: And I was just looking at my notes, because, right now, about 23 percent of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated, we're nearing 50 percent of the U.S. population having at least one dose of the vaccine. But in the meantime, cases are rising across much of the U.S. Michigan, really, is in trouble here. The largest health care provider in that state says hospitals and staff have hit critical health care capacities. In fact, in some places, 9,900 percent capacity, they are hitting the bar.

How alarming is this? How did they end up back here?

BICETTE: It's extremely alarming. Michigan is a part of the United States. It's not on an island all by itself. So what's happening in Michigan could easily happen in any other part of the country and we have got to take heed to that warning sign.

I think the reason that Michigan is experiencing a surge in cases is multifold. There's not one particular thing we can point to. We do know that several segments of the economy were reengaged back in February right before the cases started to spike.

[13:25:00]

Whether in, you know, Michigan during the springtime and over March was still pretty cold, so could that have encouraged more travels for spring break, thereby putting people at risk.

And we've also halls from the company, Helix, who does DNA sequencing, that about 70 percent of the isolates that they're recovering from Michigan right now are of this new U.K. variant, which we know is extremely highly transmissible. I think all of those things together is what's contributing to the surge over there.

CABRERA: And I do want to make sure our audience knows that much of the surge is among younger people. Of course, the older generations got the vaccine first and so more people are vaccinated in the older age groups, but it's just a good reminder that no one is not at risk of getting this virus and the people they're seeing in the hospital, hospitalized with this, are younger people. So let that be a warning as we all make decisions about how we go about our days.

Dr. Richina Bicette, it's great to have you with us. I think it's the first time you and I have spoken before and I really enjoyed the conversation. Thanks again.

BICETTE: Thank you so much for having me.

CABRERA: Just in today, a pair of promising new signs that the economic recovery may be under way. Jobless claims hit their lowest level of the pandemic. We're talking about the weekly jobless claims, about 576,000 people filed for first time unemployment this past week, that's nearly 200,000 fewer than the week before, and a sign that the effects of those stimulus checks and mass vaccinations are being felt.

Today, the Commerce Department announced retail sales jumped by 9.8 percent in March. That's a major spike compared to February when sales fell by nearly 3 percent.

The administration slapping Russia with tough new economic sanctions, punishment for massive cyberhack and election interference. President Biden is set to speak on this just hours from now. We're on it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:30:00]