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Cities Brace for Chauvin Verdict Ahead of Closing Arguments; Biden Voiced Concern about Potential Fallout of Chauvin Trial; J&J Falsely Claims Moderna and Pfizer Also Linked to Blood Clots; CDC: About 50 Percent of U.S. Adults Have Had At Least One Vaccine Dose; Closing Arguments Begin in the Trial of Derek Chauvin. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 19, 2021 - 09:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's a participation trophy.


BERMAN: And I want to thank you for participating.

KEILAR: And I'm going to participate all week and them some as I understand it. I think is the --

BERMAN: I think you're here for a while.

KEILAR: Is the plan. Two years after I was born.

BERMAN: Geeze.


BERMAN: All right. CNN's coverage continues right now with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.


The breaking news we are following this morning, it all comes down to this. Just minutes from now, closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin trial for the death of George Floyd set to begin.

HARLOW: That's right. So three weeks of testimony, 45 witnesses and now one final chant from both the prosecution and the defense to make their final case. To the jurors the tension is palpable across Minneapolis and really in cities nationwide, bracing for potential unrest as the verdict in the Chauvin murder trial grows closer.

So let's begin our coverage this hour with our colleague Josh Campbell.

Josh, you've been there throughout the trial. You covered all of this leading up to the trial. Today is it. I mean, today is closing arguments and then this lays in the hands of the jury. Walk us through what today will bring.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We've reached that final day of presentations. The last time the jury will hear from prosecutors, from defense attorneys. Let me explain to you what we're expecting today. Now closing arguments will begin at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. The jury will then receive instructions from the judge, meaning that he will direct them on how they are to deliberate, what they are to consider.

And then jurors will be fully sequestered during their deliberations. They'll have access to all the evidence and exhibits. They are actually providing it to them digitally so that they can go through all of the photos, the videos, the documents as they do their deliberation. And of course in the evening, during sequestration they will be at hotels, they can have contact with their families. But the judge is telling them to not discuss the case with anyone outside of other jurors.

Now to remind our viewers the charges in this case, very serious charges. Derek Chauvin is facing second-degree unintentional murder, which carries up to 40 years in prison. He is also facing third-degree murder, which carries up to 25 years, as well as second-degree manslaughter, which carries up to 10 years in jail and/or $20,000 fine. Now of course the jury can convict him on all of those. None of those.

We will obviously have to wait and see where those deliberations lead. And finally, of course, this is all happening, it's a backdrop of a city that is becoming to -- starting to resemble of fortress here with heavy security, members of the National Guard in and around downtown. We see heavy fencing around government buildings.

All five of the city's police precincts now have razor wire outside as well as members of the National Guard and of course members of the Minnesota State Police also here providing added security as this city waits to determine what this verdict is going to be in this trial that is obviously being watched worldwide -- Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Josh Campbell there, thanks very much.

Joining us now Laura Coates, former federal prosecutor, Charles Ramsey, former Philly police commissioner and D.C. police chief.

Thanks to both of you. Laura, maybe you could help us summarize as a former prosecutor, yourself, the prosecutor's closing arguments here. You made the point throughout they basically have three acts to their case here. The first is eyewitnesses to Floyd's death, sort of recount the events of that day. Go to use-of-force experts as well as fellow officers saying it was an excessive use of force, and then finally connect that to his death via medical experts. How do they tie that together for the jury in their closing arguments? LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, you could

easily do it when you think about the words of the 18-year-old who took the video who said I felt badly that I did not intervene, to do more to save his life. But then I look over at this officer and it was his job to do so. That's where you begin. There was a duty of care owed as a public servant, as a police officer.

There was a duty of care owed when he was in the custody of police to not use an unreasonable amount of force, particularly when the person was compliant and unconscious, and once they realized he was in physical duress, they had a duty of care to actually provide the aid. They did none of those things. And in particular, Derek Chauvin did so with impudence. He disregarded consistent begging for people to tell him, please intervene, please get off his neck. Please, just take a pulse.

He never did any of the things that George Floyd, a human being and a civilian in the custody of police, is required and owed to them. You begin there, and you confirm it, you corroborate with experts, not just people who are bystanders who think they know the duty of care. You confirm it with the law enforcement officers including the chief, who sets the policy on it. And you conclude by talking about the way in which he died.

It was not coincidental. It was a direct result of the failure by this police officer to provide a duty of care or to just refrain from keeping his neck -- knee on the neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.


HARLOW: So, Commissioner Ramsey, to you, what the defense, all the defense has to do here is poke enough holes, right, and get one juror. That's all it takes, is one juror to not believe that Chauvin is responsible here. The bar in Minnesota and people will hear this phrase a lot over the next few days is substantial causal factor. Was the knee of Chauvin on George Floyd's neck a substantial causal factor? Do you believe the defense poked those holes?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, I don't. But then again, I'm not on the jury. So what's important is whether or not one individual or more on the jury believed that there is some kind of plausible defense for the actions of Derek Chauvin. I don't see it. I haven't seen it from the very beginning. But again they just have to convince a jury. I think that the prosecution put on a very, very strong case.

I don't know if they could have done any better. I mean, they have one slight mistake, misstep, rather, at the very end. But that was minor compared to the overwhelming evidence that was presented throughout the trial and, of course, the defense, I mean, their job is to just throw as much on the wall and hope something sticks. And I don't think anything did stick. But we'll see. It's going to be a tense period of time until the verdict is rendered.

SCIUTTO: Yes, 12 human beings, right, can be unpredictable. Laura Coates, as we've noted, Chauvin faces three charges here. And

it's possible the jury can convict or not convict on all three of them. We have a full screen that explains the legal standard for each of these charges in descending order for most serious to least serious here. But for the first one, second degree unintentional murder that he caused Floyd's death while committing an underlying felony. You don't have to improve intent.

Then the next one sort of a step down, a reckless act, imminently dangerous to others. Then second-degree manslaughter really gets down to negligence here. And I just wonder, can you explain to folks how the jury might convict on all three standards? It seems counterintuitive there. But in your experience, what's the likelihood that a jury does something like that?

COATES: Well, they could do one or more. They could do two, they could go with the lowest or the highest, and not disregard the middle.


COATES: But this is where the prosecutors need to come in here because we're talking about the story of the trial, the witness testimony, the closing arguments is where the prosecution's got to be very precise because you cannot allow the jury to go back there and try to figure out which elements the prosecution proves? Which witness corresponds with which introduction of every day, Jim?

You have to have this -- essentially the slide brought out that says, here's why we proved third degree murder. Here's the underlying felony. The felony was the kneeling on the neck because it was an imminently a dangerous action. And it's recognized in Minnesota law. You want the jury jurors record in their notebooks, checking things off. Here's what a depraved heart actually means. You can't allow them to try to figure out with an open textbook in the back. The prosecution has a heavy lifting of actually tying all this together with the statutory language.

HARLOW: Laura, just very quickly before we go, because you are a former federal prosecutor from Minneapolis, I just want your reaction with what the lieutenant governor said yesterday. I mean, the fact that the Lieutenant Governor yesterday Peggy Flanagan tweeted, "I am grappling with the stark dark reality that Minnesota is a place where it is not safe to be black."

This goes beyond whatever the verdict is in this trial.

COATES: It breaks my heart, as somebody who of course was raised in Minnesota for most of my childhood. My sister is still there. She's an attorney there. My father is a practicing dentist there. My mother is working there as well. I mean, I have family there, still extensively. And so the idea of worrying about their safety, it's what makes me so disoriented when I first went home during the protests back in May.

It was very disorienting. So many people in this world, Poppy, believe that racism it belongs and only confined to below the Mason Dixon line. It is not. It's all over this country, it needs to be reconciled and addressed. But I would note the prosecutors did not even mention race in this trial. It becomes the elephant in the room. And I wonder how the jurors will think about it.

HARLOW: That's a really interesting point.


HARLOW: Laura, Charles, thank you, you'll be with us throughout the next two hours as we wait for those opening statements to begin. We appreciate it very much.

Meantime, President Biden is keeping a sharp eye on this week's closing arguments, amid fears that a controversial verdict will enflame racial tensions.

SCIUTTO: CNN's chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny joins us now.

And Jeff, President Biden has avoided what his predecessor often did with ongoing investigations or trials, outright stating how he thinks the outcome should be, right? But we do know he is following it closely. What are you learning?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Jim, he definitely is. And in conversations the President Biden has been having with black leaders across the country, including I am told, at a member of the CBC, the Congressional Black Caucus, last week. He did talk with these leaders about they're really bracing for the anticipation of the verdict.


Now he did not say what he believes the verdict should be. But there is no doubt here that if there is a controversial verdict, if there is a verdict of not guilty, the White House is bracing for a wave of potential unrest across the country. So the president I am told is getting ready to fully weigh in on this. He's been having conversations with leaders in Minnesota and other places. He also is likely to address this directly.

Of course this is, you know, really coming in the wake of a whipsaw of events. Of course the police violence there in Minneapolis, in Brooklyn Center, just outside of Minneapolis, in Chicago as well as this is coming at the same time with all of these mass shootings. So this really has the potential here to be more than a tinderbox.

One senior administration official told me this, which is very interesting, this is already a tinderbox. It becomes more volatile by the day. So the president is staying in Washington this week but keeping a close eye on Minneapolis -- Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: As is much of the country. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

Well, you can be forgiven for trying to look away this weekend at the headlines. A deadly strain of gun violence over the last couple of days means there have now been at least 50 mass shootings in the U.S. in the last month. Fifty.

HARLOW: Unbelievable but so true. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, three men were killed, three others injured after a gunman opened fire early Sunday morning inside of a bar. Police think the gunman got kicked out and came back in, and started shooting. Police arrested a suspect and that person is expected to be charged with at least one count of first-degree homicide.

SCIUTTO: Another mass shooting. This one Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, during a vigil for a shooting victim who was killed a year ago. That's right. A shooting at a vigil for another shooting. One person died, five were hurt, including a 12-year-old child. And a shooting in LaPlace, Louisiana, about 30 miles -- 30 minutes, rather, west of New Orleans left six people injured at a 12-year-old's birthday party. It's a 12-year-old's birthday party Saturday night.

Officers say that multiple people were shot after an argument. Thankfully, no one was killed. No one, however, has been arrested yet.

HARLOW: And then in Austin, Texas, three people were killed in a shooting just yesterday afternoon. A suspect is still on the run, possibly armed, officials say. That suspect is 41-year-old Stephen Broderick, a former detective. He resigned from the sheriff's office after he was charged with sexually assaulting a child last year.

Still to come, Johnson & Johnson facing criticism after claiming a study showed blood clots have been reported with all COVID vaccines. That is not true. We'll have the facts for you ahead.

SCIUTTO: Plus as the entire country awaits the verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial, how is George Floyd's family preparing for the outcome? We're going to speak to a family member just ahead.

And the shooter who killed eight people at a FedEx facility purchased two assault rifles legally after he was investigated by the FBI for the potential for violence. How in God's name did that happen?



SCIUTTO: Well, in the midst over a pause in the use of its vaccine, Johnson & Johnson is making false claims about the vaccines manufactured by its competitors as health experts debate the continued use of its COVID-19 vaccine.

HARLOW: That's right, so they put out a statement last week when the pause was enacted. And in that statement, they referred to thrombosis from all COVID vaccines, blood clots from all of them, that's not true. So, they're essentially claiming that both Moderna and Pfizer's vaccines are linked with blood clots. Again, it's not true, and our Elizabeth Cohen, our senior medical correspondent is with us. I mean, Elizabeth, the problem here is it freaks people out, and it leads to vaccine hesitancy. So please set the record straight for everyone.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy, it does freak people out. And that's why I think a lot of people were confused and concerned when on April 9th, Johnson and Johnson put out this press release -- and let me show you the operative sentence here.

What Johnson and Johnson said in this media statement was citing, the cited studies and they claimed that blood clots have been reported with quote, "with all COVID-19 vaccines", end quote. And they had a link to a study that purported to show this, but it didn't. I spoke with the study's lead author, and she said, we didn't find anyone with blood clots, we didn't find any of those scary things that are happening with Johnson and Johnson.

Now, the blood clots that have been found among some who have got Johnson and Johnson's vaccines are extremely rare. The company says "we continue to work closely with medical experts and global health authorities to assess the data on these extremely rare events. Above all, we are committed to the safety and well-being of the people who use our products."

So, again, Johnson and Johnson citing a study -- they didn't look at all, they didn't even look at blood clots, they didn't say that the other vaccines had blood clots. Yet, Johnson and Johnson said that the study did. Now, since then, since April 9th, they have not repeated that in their statements. But still to say that and to even take one step towards making people think that Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines could be linked to blood clots is really dangerous at this time when we are seeing vaccine hesitancy. Poppy, Jim.

HARLOW: It could go a long way for them to come out and correct a statement, I mean, publicly and loudly. Elizabeth, thanks very much. So what -- I mean, what does this all mean?


What is the next step with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine? Dr. Jay Varkey is with us, an infectious disease physician associate, professor of medicine at Emory University. Dr. Varkey, I mean, you've long been a proponent of vaccinations, obviously, J&J, all of them. I mean, it was just a month ago, you retweeted the likelihood that you'll suffer long-term complications from COVID infection is way higher than any theoretical risk or be from a vaccine. And it still is, given how rare this complication is with J&J. But I guess, your thoughts this morning for everyone on J&J.

JAY VARKEY, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Yes, hi, Poppy, thanks for having me back. I think the key points that I would tell those who are vaccinated is again, this is a reminder of what we know, is that this complication that triggered this pause is very rare. So again, six reported cases among over 6 million that have received the vaccine.

And I also think it's important to remember that the pause is the right thing to do. It's evidence of the system working the way it's supposed to. Complication is identified. Expert scientists were quickly assembled to review the evidence, and that same group of experts is actually scheduled to reassemble on Friday. So, this is the CDC's ECIP, so advisory committee on immunization practices.

And I expect that they will come with recommendations on how to safely re-introduce this vaccine to ensure that this complication remains rare. In the meantime, I'd encourage that every person in the country over the age of 16 join the 130 million people in this country who have actually, literally rolled up their sleeves to actually help protect themselves, their families, their neighbors and help end this pandemic.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Varkey, first of all, I'm glad to see that your batman costume is taking all necessary precautions behind you over your right shoulder. I followed that as we've been talking over the last several months. Some damage has been done, let's speak frankly to the reputation of the J & J vaccine.

There are questions out there in an environment where some people are particularly receptive to those questions about vaccines. So I wonder, given that, how do you turn it around? I mean, if Dr. Fauci is right that by Friday, they will reapprove the use of this with as you say, you know, recommendations about what to watch for and who may not want to use it? How do you turn it around and can you turn it around?

VARKEY: I think it's about transparency and trust, Jim. I think that, you know, the more, let's lay out this data, the beautiful part about actually having a robust science-based regulatory mechanism is that the information is available to all.

So, I think the more we're honest in terms of what the data shows and the more we're clear in terms of the basis for the scientific recommendation in terms of stating these were the risk factors in terms of this rare complication, and these are why we can actually re- introduce it. I think it will help rebuild that trust. But as you said, it's a process, and in the meantime, I'd encourage people that there is really no reason to wait because again, there are hundreds of millions of doses that are actually available for all.

HARLOW: And today is a big day. I mean, every adult in America is eligible to get a vaccination whatever state you live in, starting today. But there are big issues in some states, take the state of Georgia, for example -- my colleague, one of the writers in the show, Marcus pointed this out and I think it's a really important point that I hadn't realized.

I mean, when you look in a state where for weeks, 16 and above have been allowed to get a vaccination. In Georgia, they're way behind almost every other state when it comes to vaccination numbers. Only 51 out of every 100 people. There are -- the only state that's worse on that front is Alabama. Why? Why is this happening in Georgia?

VARKEY: Yes, it's an important point, Poppy. And I think the point is that you can't build a public health infrastructure overnight. Part of the reason why Georgia has been slow, and let's be honest, we have been slow, is the fact that for decades, public health has not been something that has been prioritized, hopefully, that will change.

And I think the pandemic has kind of peeled off that Band-Aid and really shown that to the whole world. And just as an example of this. On Saturday, myself, about 45 of my colleagues in the Emory division of infectious diseases programmed with the Fulton County Public Health Department, I mean, vaccinated over 2,000 individuals over at the Georgia International Convention Center.

It felt fantastic to see people of all likes, black, white, Latino. I imagine all political denominations. Literally again, roll up their sleeves and take that step. And again, that's 2,000 people that won't die of this infection. That's 2,000 people that are less likely to get hospitalized for this infection. So, we'll catch up and we'll get there.

SCIUTTO: Yes, you know, look at that headline, 50 percent of U.S. adults had at least one vaccine dose. Two hundred million people, it's April, right? I mean, it's still --

HARLOW: Good news --

SCIUTTO: Spring time. That's pretty remarkable, so hats off to folks like you helping making that happy. Dr. Jay Varkey, thanks very much.

VARKEY: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Prosecutors and defense attorneys in the Derek Chauvin murder trial will begin their closing arguments in the next hour. We're going to bring those to you live. Is George Floyd's family ready for the outcome? I'm going to speak to a relative next.

HARLOW: And we are also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street this Monday. Take a look at futures, a little lower this morning, this is after both the Dow and the S&P 500 hit new record highs at the end of last week.


Investors are watching this week, they're watching the bipartisan meeting at the White House and infrastructure. Markets also waiting for several earnings reports from major companies including IBM, Netflix and United Airlines. We'll keep an eye on all of it for you. Stay with us.


HARLOW: Welcome back. President Biden and Vice President Harris are going to spend the day pushing to get lawmakers in the country on board with the administration's $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.