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CNN NEWSROOM

Nation Braces for Verdict as Jury Deliberates Chauvin Case; One Dead, Two Wounded in Shooting at Long Island Grocery Store; Poll Shows Americans Easing Up on COVID Mitigation Measures. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 20, 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]

ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for being with us.

Happening right now, deliberations are underway for a second day in the Derek Chauvin trial. 12 jurors are now deciding the fate of the former Minneapolis Police officer charged in the death of George Floyd. And cities across the country are on edge, bracing for potential protests and civil unrest.

Just hours after jury deliberations began, hundreds of peaceful protesters marched through downtown Minneapolis yesterday. Many businesses in the twin cities have already shut down and boarded up windows, Minnesota's governor declaring a state of emergency in counties around Minneapolis, even calling in additional police from other states. And thousands of National Guard troops are now deployed to the downtown area.

President Biden weighing in just last hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: They're a good family and they're calling for peace and tranquility, no matter what that verdict is. I'm praying the verdict is the right verdict.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: For the very latest, let's bring in CNN's Sara Sidner in Minneapolis for us. Sara, what more do we know about the deliberations right now and the situation in Minneapolis, as that city is bracing for a verdict?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, the jury's been going for about seven hours now. They did four yesterday, about three today. So far, we haven't heard any questions from the jury. We will know if they do ask questions, they'll be doing that over Zoom and then the court will respond with an answer.

I just want to give you a look at the scene. This is the court -- the government building, the Hennepin government building where the court is. And you'll notice all of the security that has been here for weeks. This is not new for today. This has been here for weeks.

But I do also want to give you a look at the square. If you look down there, you'll see George Floyd's name all over the city of Minneapolis. You'll see that 9:29, and that is the number of minutes that former Officer Derek Chauvin was on his neck and we heard that over and over and over again from the prosecution.

The other thing you will see in this city, if there are protests or not, is these group of gentlemen. They have been out here, and are from here, and have been in the community from day one, and before George Floyd, and before the protests, they have been doing work here.

Trahern Pollard is with We Push for Peace, so are all of the gentlemen behind him. Tell me a little bit about the work that you are doing because the city has come to some of the community folks and said, how can you help us? Are you happy about that? And what is it that you will be able to do, you think, as these things happen and as the jury starts coming back with its verdict?

TRAHERN POLLARD, FOUNDER, WE PUSH FOR PEACE: Thanks for having me, first of all, Sara, I really appreciate it. Yes, we have been out here before these incidents that has occurred. And our narrative is pretty simple. We can protest and let our voices be heard without being destructive, right? And, yes, we are at the table. That's where change starts to happen. And some of these policies and procedures in which the police department work under, we think some of them need to change. And the fact that they allowed us to be at the table and they're asking for our opinions in regards to what that looks like is a huge step in the right direction.

SIDNER: Trahern, thank you. And I just will let you know. I met Trahern during the protests, right after George Floyd's case went viral, the video went viral, May 27th, and he was outside the third precinct. And he was telling people that we can protest but let's do it peacefully. And his voice rang out very strongly. But then in the nightfall, folks just decided that they couldn't take it anymore and they exploded.

But they have been out here doing the work and the city is relying on folks like We Push for Peace to try and get things into a scenario where things are calmer and that they have people to go to, to talk about their rage and their frustration and sorrow.

But, lastly, I just want to give you just a full view of the scene here, because on the other side of this fence, there are -- there's sort of writing, graffiti, protest things that are going on, a small protest, have been there, by the way, every day since this trial started. We have also seen hundreds of people in the streets yesterday. And we expect to see that over and over and over again as everyone waits for the jury to come back with this decision. Ana?

CABRERA: I know, it feels like everybody is holding a collective breath right now. Thank you, Sara Sidner, for your excellent reporting and ongoing on what you've been doing.

Joining us now is CNN Legal Analyst Elie Honig. He's a former federal and state prosecutor. So, Elie, walk us through the charges that this jury is currently deliberating.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Ana. The jury right now is deliberating three different charges. Now, the top charge is murder in the second-degree. What that means is that Derek Chauvin intentionally assaulted George Floyd, didn't mean to kill him, but assaulted him causing his death.

The middle charge, murder in the third-degree, charges that Chauvin acted with reckless indifference to human life, took wildly dangerous actions, understood what he was doing and did it anyway.

[13:05:06]

The bottom charge is manslaughter. That carries a ten-year maximum sentence, that means Chauvin acted, negligently creating an undue risk to George Floyd.

Important to keep in mind, the jury will be voting on each of these charges separately, they can choose to convict on all three, some of the three, or none of the three.

CABRERA: So how do these jurors go about their deliberations? I think a lot of people are wondering, how can they get 12 people to agree on such a controversial, hotly contested issue?

HONIG: Perfectly legitimate and smart question to ask. So, first of all, yesterday, the judge gave the jury detailed instructions about what they're supposed to do. But today, the jury is completely on their own. Different juries deliberate in different ways. Some go count by count, some go element by element, some go witness by witness.

But you wonder naturally, how can you ever get 12 people to agree on anything, never mind something that's controversial and hotly contested? But there are safeguards in place. The judge instructed the jury yesterday, you are to keep an open mind, you are to consider other people's points of view. You are to work collaboratively. So there's a lot of sort of institutional forces pushing a jury towards a verdict.

Also, sometimes juries compromise. If they can't quite agree, they can say how about we convict on one count and find not guilty on another just to reach some sort of resolution.

CABRERA: I've been waiting to see an email saying the jury just sent a note. We know that happens in most cases, it seems, at least the high profile ones that I've covered. What can those notes show us about where the jury is in deliberations and are you surprised there haven't been any notes so far?

HONIG: Yes, we're all waiting on that email, the automatic alerts from the Minnesota courts that I think we're all signed out for. Notes can be a tricky game. Different juries interpret their note-writing ability differently. Some come to the judge with notes constantly. I've been on cases where we've gotten four or five, six notes in an hour. Other juries decide to go about their business without notes. I've been on cases where the jury has returned not a single note. The first thing we heard from the jury after days of deliberation is we have a verdict.

The most common thing juries have asked about in their notes is the legal instructions. For example, a very common question is, judge, what exactly is reasonable doubt? What does that mean? And it's hard to interpret that. That could sound like maybe they're about to find guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That could find like -- sound like maybe they're about to acquit because they have reasonable doubt.

So we'll be watching carefully for those notes and we'll do our best to interpret them.

CABRERA: I also want to ask you about an unusual exchange in court yesterday between the judge and the defense, which asked for a mistrial because of statements made by Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters during a protest in Minneapolis over the weekend. Here is part of what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): I hope that we're going to get a verdict that says guilty, guilty, guilty. And if we don't, we cannot go away.

We've got to stay on the street. And we've got to get more active. We've got to get more confrontational. We've got to make sure that they know that we mean business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: We've got to get more confrontational. A lot of people grabbed onto that, Republicans in particular, criticizing those comments saying she was inciting violence. The judge denied the motion for mistrial but said those comments may have given the defense grounds for an appeal that could overturn the verdict.

What's your reaction to what the judge said, and do you think Waters' comments are grounds for an appeal in this case?

HONIG: Whenever judges rule against defendants in criminal trials, it is very common for them to say, look, I know you don't like this ruling, you can raise it on appeal. I see next to no chance in this resulting in any sort of reversal of a conviction.

CABRERA: Elie Honig, as always, thank you, sir.

HONIG: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Let's get some perspective now from people who live and work in the twin cities. Ken McCraley owns several businesses in Minneapolis and Steve Cramer is the president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. Thank you, gentlemen, both for being with us.

Ken, let me start with you. What's going through your mind right now as this jury deliberates Derek Chauvin's fate?

KEN MCCRALEY, OWNER, KMS CONSTRUCTION IN MINNEAPOLIS: Well, you know, I want a peaceful resolution, right? I want to make sure -- we all saw the video, we all believe there was a murder that happened. But I just want to make sure that our city is safe, that the businesses and the workers, you know especially mine, you know, are able to get back in court through the city and have a peaceful outcome.

CABRERA: Tell us about what happened with your businesses, because I understand there was damage after the death of George Floyd when that sparked initial unrest in the city. What happened for you and what are your concerns?

MCCRALEY: Well, there wasn't any police presence, and, you know, those weeks, you know, after the unrest. And the back of my warehouse where my construction company is, the gates were pulled out. Vans were stolen and equipment was stolen.

Now since that time there is a police presence, and we're hoping that there are peaceful protests and we can move forward.

[13:10:02]

CABRERA: Steve, I know you represent a number of businesses in the downtown district there. Give us a sense of how some of these other businesses may be feeling right now and are preparing for potential unrest.

STEVE CRAMER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, MINNEAPOLIS DOWNTOWN COUNCIL: Well, thank you, Ana. I think the first thing to say is that all of us in the twin cities recognize that we are here because of the killing of George Floyd, the most recent heartbreaking death of Daunte Wright and we can never forget that that's why we're here, but we are here. And so we are being prepared for, you know, whatever might come.

There's a program called Operation Safety Net that's been planned for months now that's in place throughout our city, downtown and elsewhere. And it really is focused on, you know, making sure that the trial is -- proceeds in an early (ph) fashion, that protest is honored and that's important and it's been happening consistently for weeks now, but then also, as Ken suggested, that businesses can continue, people have access to their livelihood, access to goods and services and that's important too at this critical moment.

So we are prepared. We are hoping for the best, hoping for a just outcome to this trial as the community sees it, but prepared for other consequences if they come our way.

CABRERA: Ken, we have heard about a growing police presence. We know at least 3,000 National Guard members have been activated in the twin cities area. Police officers from out of state have also been brought in to assist. Can you paint the picture for us in terms of what you're seeing on the streets right now?

MCCRALEY: Yes. There's -- there's a military presence at all the place where there was big unrest, you know, Chicago Avenue and Lake Street, near the Target on Lake Street, and certainly the north side. So there's, you know, police and the National Guard is a little bit of everywhere. So I guess there's 3,000, you know, National Guard, you know, throughout the twin cities here.

You know, my hope is, is that it doesn't make, you know, things worse. I'm hoping for the best. I hope that after, you know, this part is over that we still can kind of keep an eye on that -- there's a reason for this unrest. You know, whether it be people of color, you know, or their businesses, is that we kind of move forward and make those changes.

But, legislatively, or, you know, the particular businesses that -- where people of color actually have a voice. So I hope there's no violence but I hope we can keep the conversation going and we can move past this.

CABRERA: Yes, absolutely, all around to what you just said. Have you had to board up your businesses in terms of preparing for potential violence? Because you had previously experienced obviously damage at your business, or is that something you're not as worried about this time around because there's such a large police presence?

MCCRALEY: Oh, of course. You know, we're right in the epicenter. We boarded up our business. And, you know, we're hoping for the best. You know, we're still in business to make money. We're for profit, right, and we want to make sure that after this is over we can go back to some sense of normalcy.

CABRERA: Steve, how do you view this trial and what it means, not just for businesses in the immediate aftermath, but what it really means for your community?

CRAMER: Well, it's a seminal event for our community. I've been active in city preparedness for well over four decades, Ana, here in the twin cities, and we've certainly experienced nothing like this before. And I think it's causing us to re-examine all of the underlying factors that led to the rage we saw in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and we need to do better as a community.

Having said that, I think it's also important to recognize that this trial is occurring within a year of the incident. The officers were fired immediately. Charges were brought quickly. I don't think you can point to another community where that kind of accountability has been in place.

So I am hoping that that, along with kind of the crumbling of the blue wall of silence, as many people have commented through this trial, will really mark a turning point not only for our community but for the nation as a whole and we can look back on this really traumatic event and say things began to change here in the Minneapolis for the entire country.

CABRERA: Steve Cramer and Ken McCraley, thank you so much for spending time with us and sharing your perspective and insights. I really appreciate it. Breaking news we're following this afternoon, a manhunt under way after a shooter opened fire at a Long Island, New York, grocery store. We have new information just ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:15:00]

CABRERA: We are following breaking news out of New York, a shooting at a Long Island grocery store, officials say at least one person is dead, two others are injured. This is the scene right now outside the Stop and Shop in West Hempstead. Police say the shooter is still on the run.

Let's get right to CNN's Brynn Gingras. What are learning, Brynn?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're in Long Island, a suburb of New York City, where the shooting happened inside the grocery store, that's because they're still looking for their person of interest, as you said, who they believe is the suspect because that person fled the scene with a handgun still on them.

Now, this happened late this morning. Inside the grocery store in the second floor, in a manager's office, police tell us, the police commissioner, in fact, there in Nassau County told us 49-year-old employee of Stop and Shop was killed. There were three others who were shot, two of them went to the hospital and there is a hospital nearby, so thank goodness for that.

And this suspect, Gabriel Dewitt Wilson, a 30-year-old, is still on the run.

[13:20:03]

I want you to hear more about this person of interest rather that the police commissioner talked about in a news conference earlier this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK RYDER, NASSAU COUNTY POLICE COMMISSIONER: He's wearing a black baseball hat, a black sweatshirt, and he was last seen westbound here on the Turnpike.

You call 911. You always call 911. Let us do our job. We have our officers out and about in the areas now.

He did have a small handgun. That is what the witnesses have given to us and, again, we're out there looking for him now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRAS: Yes. In fact, they have more than 150 officers on the ground in that neighborhood, in some other neighborhoods surrounding there, looking for Wilson. And, essentially, we know that schools in that area have also been shut down, Ana, as this manhunt continues. At the time of the shooting inside the grocery store, we're told several hundred people were actually shopping for their groceries. Terrifying incident, still unfolding, still being investigated, Ana, and, of course, we'll just continue to update you as we get more information.

CABRERA: And it's just one month since the grocery store mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado. It's all so concerning. Thank you, Brynn Gingras, for that update. Again, we'll stay on top of that. We'll bring new information as we get it.

Meantime, coronavirus cases here in the U.S. are up in some states, but a new poll says more Americans are ditching social distancing. So is it safe to start gathering in groups? We'll discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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CABRERA: Welcome back. Remember early in the pandemic when we couldn't find hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes anywhere? Well, it turns out there's not a big risk of the virus spreading on surfaces. The CDC says the risk of surface transmission is low since the virus is transmitted primarily through the air. That's why social distancing and mask wearing is so important.

But there are new polls right now showing Americans aren't practicing the mitigation measures, like staying home or wearing masks as much as before.

CNN's Senior Political Writer and Analyst Harry Enten is with us. Harry, are people just not being this careful?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: They're just not as concerned as they once were about the coronavirus. There was a new Axios/Ipsos poll that was out today and it showed that the concern that Americans have for the coronavirus, just 47 percent are extremely or very concerned. That's the lowest since March of 2020. And you see this lessening concern through the actions that people are taking.

So, you know, you spoke about that, right, mask wearing, going out to dinner, what we see on these different measures, not social distancing, look at this, they're all at their highest levels since either March of 2020, April of 2020, or July of 2020, so Americans are less concerned, and their actions are showing that they're less concerned, Ana.

CABRERA: There were some concerns that this pause in the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could affect people's willingness to get any vaccine. Are we seeing that happen?

ENTEN: We're not. We're not. In fact, what we see, in terms of people saying either they've gotten the virus or will get it as soon as possible, it is the highest number ever recorded by Axios/Ipsos, so we're not seeing those concerns so far, Ana. CABRERA: So that is obviously good news. What about vaccine hesitancy in terms of what we're looking at nationally? Are there any trends that you can make us aware of?

ENTEN: Look, the one thing that I will point out is that, at this point, my chief concern about is that we've gotten so many people right now, over 50 percent of those 18 years and older say that they have, in fact, gotten the vaccine and so my concern now are those groups that perhaps are vaccine hesitant. We have to reach out to those folks. If we don't, we may run into a wall.

CABRERA: Okay. Thank you so much, Harry Enten, I appreciate you breaking it down for us.

Let's turn to Jorge Rodriguez, he's a CNN Medical Analyst and Board- Certified Internal Medicine Specialist in Viral Research.

So, first, let's address Harry's reporting given where our country stands with vaccinations and what we've learned about this virus. Let's go through some of these mitigation measures. If you are vaccinated, can you stop wearing a mask?

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: No. If you're vaccinated, you are protecting yourself, and you probably won't get sick but we don't know how long the virus is going to live in your respiratory system after you catch it. So, therefore, you are potentially contagious to others. If you're vaccinated, you should still wear a mask.

CABRERA: What about gathering in groups? What should be the rule of thumb at this point?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, the rule of thumb is that if you're vaccinated, you can gather with other people that are vaccinated. The big question is, how many people? Is that eight people or 10,000 people at a stadium? If you are vaccinated, you can also, according to the CDC, gather with people that are unvaccinated, but at low risk, meaning usually younger people. So the rule of thumb is, vaccinated with vaccinated at this time.

CABRERA: And is it safe to go out to eat?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, I did on Friday. I think that you need to, A, be vaccinated. Both of us, my partner and I, are vaccinated. So we went out to eat. We went to a restaurant that followed a strict protocol. Everybody was at least six feet apart. All of the health staff wore gloves and masks. The only thing they didn't do is they didn't have their menu in a virtual sort of form, so we did have to handle, you know, the menus.

[13:30:01]

But I think it is relatively safe if you're vaccinated.

CABRERA: You know, that's perfect for my next question, because the CDC just put out this new guidance.