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Verdict Reached in Derek Chauvin Trial; Capitol Police Officer Died of Strokes. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 20, 2021 - 15:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: In Chicago, Philadelphia, D.C., businesses are already boarded up. And the Army has approved the call- up of 250 Guardsmen in D.C. as well.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And we now know more about that phone call between President Biden and the family of George Floyd.

Here's what Biden said this afternoon.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have come to know George's family, not just in passing. I have spent time with them, spent time with his little daughter, Gianna. You should see this beautiful child.

I can only imagine the pressure and anxiety they're feeling. And so I waited until the jury was sequestered. And I called. 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, which is -- I think it's overwhelming, in my view. I wouldn't say that unless the jury was sequestered now.


CAMEROTA: OK, joining us now, CNN legal analysts Areva Martin and Elie Honig.

Areva is a civil rights attorney and Elie is a former federal prosecutor.

OK, Elie, the jury has been deliberating now into its 11th hour. From your experience in courtroom, can you divine anything from that?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Still too early, Alisyn.

Juries are very unpredictable. I have seen juries come back in a matter of hours. I have seen juries take a couple of weeks. Yes, it can happen that way. We haven't seen any notes. Sometimes, you will start to get questions from the jury around this point. But they're silent. There's really not much we can read into it.

Look, they're having to deal with these comments. Well, they don't know about it. But the president has now made these comments. I think one thing that's really important to keep in mind is, we have to trust the jury to abide by their oaths. They have promised to only judge this case based on the evidence they heard in the court, not anything else.

If they hear something that they shouldn't have heard, they will raise it with the judge, and it can be dealt with from that point. But at this point, I think we have to trust the jury to just plow ahead and do its job.

BLACKWELL: And, Areva, to that point, the judge in this case, he criticized Congresswoman Waters for her comments, saying that, potentially, she gave the defense something on appeal.

What's the threshold for that? Would the defense have to put jurors on the stand to testify that they heard what the congresswoman said and that there was some influence there? How would that happen, if that indeed is where this leads?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think the judge statement, I was a little annoyed myself by the judge being annoyed, quite frankly.

Look, Congresswoman Maxine Waters is a congresswoman from Los Angeles, California. She has a long history of being an outspoken advocate and activist on social justice issues, civil rights issues. She has been at marches, whether it's Trayvon Martin or Freddie Gray in Baltimore. She's been on the front lines raising these issues about social justice.

The lawyer brought up this issue of her comment that she made at a march in Minneapolis. He brought it up in the same conversation about some television shows and fictional shows where this trial was being mentioned.

He didn't provide any evidence to the judge that the jurors, one, even heard what Maxine Waters had to say, or that it had any influence on them. He could have asked the judge to poll the jurors if he thought it was a serious enough issue to find out if they had heard the statements, and if it had any influence on them. He didn't do that.

So, I don't know how serious I'm even taking his comments about Maxine Waters' comments. And, again, the judge calling her out by name, I think, is somewhat problematic. Look, we are in one of the most tense periods in our country, where people are in the streets, literally have been there for months, fighting for a more just and equitable criminal justice system.

So Maxine Waters and thousands of others have been opining, including now the president, on the outcome of this case, and this judge knew that this was the climate he finds himself in and that these kinds of statements would be made. CAMEROTA: I'm so glad you brought that up, Areva, because I do have a

philosophical question for you, Elie, about this moment in time.

We are, as we know, living in a time that is the most divided in decades. And there are all sorts of media figures and cable news stations -- cable stations, I should say -- that make sort of being contrarian a sport.

Do you think it is still possible for 12 people from different backgrounds in a room to ever reach the same decision at this moment in time, given how divided we are? I mean, do you think that the landscape has changed the jury process in that way?

HONIG: I do still have faith in the jury process, Alisyn. Maybe I'm old fashioned. I sort of grew up in this system. But I do have faith that jurors can do what they have sworn to do.

The first job of the juror is to render impartial justice. They are carefully vetted and questioned for that. The lawyers on both sides have the right to remove people they don't think can do that.

And I have faith that this jury will do that. There also are procedures in place. The judge instructed the jury. And it's sort of refreshing to hear this. You don't hear this in too many areas of our world nowadays.


You are to keep an open mind. You are to work together. You are to work collaboratively.

So, there's a lot of factors pushing the jurors towards a verdict. And I do think, Alisyn, you raise a great point. The level of interest and engagement in this trial that we have seen really across the country is a remarkable thing. And I'm grateful that thus far we have had a clean trial. We haven't had crazy histrionics from the attorneys. The judge did a good job of keeping things on track.

So, thus far, I think the criminal justice system itself has made a good showing. And I do have faith that the jury will come through and do its job.

BLACKWELL: Areva, let me ask you about a moment of correction or clarification, at least, after the closing arguments from the defense.

The defense made the case that the state was trying to convince jurors that the heart disease, that the presence of fentanyl had no role in George Floyd's death. But that's not the threshold. That's not the burden of the state. It is to suggest that the knee on the neck, the subdual, was the substantial causal factor.

The -- in rebuttal, the state corrected that. The judge corrected that.

You think that carries any weight with this jury, that they were misled or there was some misrepresentation from the defense? MARTIN: Oh, absolutely, Victor.

What do you have as a lawyer when you're trying to case, you have your credibility. And your credibility is everything. And the last thing you want to be -- the last place you want to find yourself is being admonished by the judge or having the judge have to come behind one of the attorneys and correct something that you have said.

And that lawyer, the defense lawyer in this case, clearly misstated the law as it relates to causation. And you stated it correctly, Victor. All the prosecution has to do is prove that Derek Chauvin's conduct, his restraint, his knee on the neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds was the substantial cost, not the sole cause.

And they don't have to establish that there weren't other contributing factors. But the jurors were correctly given the law by the judge, and it was corrected by the prosecution in rebuttal, that if they find that conduct was a substantial charge, then they can reach a verdict on the serious charge of murder, as well as the manslaughter charge.

So, I think that lawyer, defense attorney Eric Nelson, lost some credibility with jurors, and he may pay a price for that during deliberations.

CAMEROTA: Elie, can you just peel back the curtain for us and explain, what's happening in the 11th hour of deliberations? Are they trying to figure out if Derek Chauvin was the cause of George Floyd's death? Or are they sort of just mired in the minutiae?

I mean, after 11 hours with no questions, as far as we know, to the judge, what are they debating and deliberating?

HONIG: Alisyn, I really think there's two big issues that are at play here, first of all, excessive force, right?

Was the amount of force that Derek Chauvin used against George Floyd reasonable within police training, within police policy? I think the evidence at the trial, in my opinion, was overwhelming and clear that it was excessive force. I mean, we had all those compelling witnesses for the prosecution, from Chief Arradondo on down.

On the defense, we just had this one guy, Barry Brodd, who I gave -- who gave what I consider to be completely incredible, unreasonable testimony that, when someone's prone, you can restrain them however you want.

I think the jury's working through that. I think they're going to reject that and find it was excessive force. And then there's medical causation. This is more complicated. This is scientific. Again, there was an imbalance. There was more evidence, substantially more evidence, for the prosecution than the defense.

In Areva correctly stated the legal standard. The jury just has to find there was some substantial cause, but they have to work through science here. These are laypeople. That's what juries are. They're normal human beings, like all of us. So, I think they're probably going to be spending a lot of time on

that causation issue.

CAMEROTA: OK. Elie Honig, Areva Martin, thank you for standing by for us.

Obviously, we will bring the viewers as soon as we get any indication of what's going on in that deliberation room.

Thank you both.


CAMEROTA: OK, so, let's take a closer look at what is going on now in Minneapolis.

Leslie Redmond is the former president of the city's NAACP and the founder of a group called Don't Complain Activate.

Leslie, great to have you here. Thanks so much just to give us a sense of what's happening on the streets right now.

I know that you are no stranger to protests. You have been doing it for years. What does it feel like there?

LESLIE E. REDMOND, FOUNDER, DON'T COMPLAIN ACTIVATE: This is something different than I have ever experienced before.

I actually just went into a grocery store a little while ago, and someone stopped me and said, aren't you with the Minneapolis NAACP? And I said, yes. And he said, why are all of these military vans and individuals taking over our community?

Just to the left of me are several military trucks. And it -- it's just unfortunate. It's unnecessary. And if we just used the same energy to protect people as we are property, we wouldn't be in this situation right now.

BLACKWELL: You founded the group, as Alisyn said, Don't Complain Activate.

What are you suggesting people do with this energy.


REDMOND: A hundred percent.

I think that -- and this is not just for black people, right? I always tell people, we are the human race. And so I'm encouraging everyone to get activated, recognizing that justice in this case does not only look like Chauvin being convicted, but it looks like black people's human dignity being respected and our humanity being valued.

And so I'm urging each and every person to do what they can do, recognizing that none of us can do everything, but everyone can do something. So, whether it's calling up your council member or your mayor or your senator, whether it's going to a local school board meeting and making sure people are being educated about black history.

Because that is American history, no matter what it is, going to a protest, speaking out against injustice when you hear it, condemning and helping to dismantle white supremacy in whatever way you can. Whether you're a mom or a dad, an artist or entrepreneur, we can all do something.

CAMEROTA: Leslie, what did you think of Congresswoman Maxine Waters' suggestion that people get more confrontational? Let me play it for you and for our viewers.


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): We have got to stay on the street. And we have got to get more active. We have got to get more confrontational. We have got to make sure that they know that we mean business.


CAMEROTA: What did you think of those comments?

REDMOND: So, putting something in the context, I have been a protester. I am a protester. I have been on the ground. And when I'm not on the ground, I'm watching videos.

It's a very traumatizing experience, from the tear gas to the rubber bullets. Somebody's whole eye got put out last time. And I think she's telling people to stay on the street.

Charles Hamilton Houston, he once said something to us lawyers. He said, as a lawyer, you're either a social engineer or you're a parasite to society.

I believe that Congresswoman Waters was telling people to be social engineers, and to continue to activate, right, and to not go home, to not make the system comfortable, because, as I call Minnesota, it has been a white Wakanda for too long. And if you go into a house, and if you're silent, and if you're quiet, and you don't make them uncomfortable, we're going to continue to see black people murdered.

And it's important to note she was at a protest where Daunte Wright, a young 20-year-old who was just murdered by the Brooklyn Center police officers while we're in the middle of Chauvin's trial.

BLACKWELL: Leslie, you make such a good point that justice does not look, from many people's perspective, like just the conviction of Derek Chauvin, right?

A conviction does not put a big red bow on the problem of systemic racism and injustice. So, to that point, we talk a lot. It's a network of news. We talk all day. What is the conversation that we are not having that we should be?

REDMOND: Oh, that's so deep, you know?

Chauvin, who is a serial murderer, just so we're clear -- he's murdered numerous people in Minneapolis -- he's a part of a bigger system. And when he is held accountable, he will be the first white male officer held accountable for murdering a black person in the state of Minnesota.


CAMEROTA: But, Leslie, what do you mean?

Just sorry to interrupt, but what do you -- I mean, calling him a serial murderer, what do you mean by that?

REDMOND: I mean that several people's lives have been taken by Chauvin, right, that he kneeled on a young black male's neck and killed him as well, that, if you look into his track record, which is something that's been brought up numerous times by communities united against police brutality, they have the data, they have the statistics of the other people who have fell victim to Chauvin.


CAMEROTA: I don't know about that.

I know that he's had -- I mean, I know that he's had complaints against him, but I don't know those details.

REDMOND: No, but -- well, it's true. And you -- I really encourage you to go fact-check it and go look it up.

And I will also encourage you to look into the fact that over--

BLACKWELL: All right.

REDMOND: I'm sorry, I'm getting disconnected.

But over 400 people have lost their life at the hands of police here in the state of Minnesota.


CAMEROTA: We just haven't been able to confirm that. Yes.

REDMOND: And only one of them, a black Somali Muslim man, has been accountable.

BLACKWELL: All right, Leslie, we have not confirmed those details. You suggest that we go check them. We certainly will.

Listen, thank you so much for the work you're doing on the ground.

Leslie Redmond there for us, thanks so much.

REDMOND: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, next: Washington's chief medical examiner now says the officer who died one day after the Capitol riots had a series of strokes. What we know about his ruling that his death was from natural causes.

Plus: Europe's top medical advisers decide the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe enough to distribute, as we still wait for a decision from the CDC here in the U.S. about whether Americans can get it again.



CAMEROTA: We have new details about the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick.

Washington, D.C.'s chief medical examiner determined that Sicknick suffered strokes and died of natural causes. But he added that the violence at the hands of the mob during the insurrection did play a role in Sicknick's condition.

Remember, rioters attacked the officer with bear spray, and he died the next day. Two men are charged with that assault.

CNN's justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, joins us now.

So, Jessica, do they think his death was connected to the riot or not?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the medical examiner saying that these -- this was a natural cause of death. He suffered strokes.

So, really, Alisyn, this assures pretty much that the Justice Department will not be able to pursue homicide charges in connection with Officer Sicknick's death.


And that's because, after three months, we have this finding announcing that Sicknick's cause of death was natural, specifically, that he suffered two strokes.

So, this is really significant, because, over the past 100-plus days since January 6, there's been a lot of speculation about how Officer Sicknick died. So, Capitol Police, they first announced that he died due to injuries on duty that day. And then officials said that they were pursuing a federal murder investigation.

But then we saw in February that the investigation stalled because the exact cause of Sicknick's death was undetermined up until yesterday. And in the meantime, two men have been charged with assaulting Officer Sicknick and two other officers with chemical spray. So there was that lingering question whether the chemical spray could have been the cause of Sicknick's death.

But the medical examiner now saying there is no evidence that Sicknick had an allergic reaction to the chemical spray. That's according to an interview he did with "The Washington Post." So, really, at this point, it's likely no one will be charged in connection with Sicknick's death.

However, it's important to note the M.E. also said all that transpired on January 6 did play a role. So that leads to some looming questions. It's unclear if Officer Sicknick had any preexisting conditions, or what exactly may have caused the strokes that happened the day after the Capitol attack.

So, we know that Officer Sicknick collapsed in an office the night of January 6. He died at the hospital on January 7. But now at least one of the medical mysteries has been answered. Officer Sicknick's staff was from natural causes, two strokes, and not directly because of the actions of any of the people who stormed the Capitol.

But Capitol Police, they have responded to this, and they're now saying that they accept the findings. But they do, Alisyn and Victor, still consider Sicknick's death in the line of duty. They're saying that he died courageously defending Congress and the Capitol, even though the medical examiner now saying it was the result of strokes -- guys.

BLACKWELL: Still so many questions.

Jessica Schneider for us there in Washington, thank you.

So, nearly 50 colleges and universities are now requiring students to get COVID vaccines before they can come back to the school in the fall. It's a growing trend, as the country tries to figure out how to get back to a new normal.

A new poll shows more than half of Americans visited friends or family in the last week, as more and more people are getting vaccinated. And 48 percent reported going out to a restaurant.

CNN's Alexandra Field is tracking where the vaccine rollout stands now.



ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The country on the cusp of another milestone, about to hit 200 million shots since President Joe Biden took office, ahead of his goal for his first 100 days, a total now of 211 million vaccines given.

But the reality is this:

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: On the one hand, more people in the United States are being vaccinated every single day at an accelerated pace. On the other hand, cases and hospitalizations are increasing in some areas of the country.

FIELD: Nationwide, new daily cases are up on average 23 percent from a month ago, hospitalizations up 10 percent in the same time, even as more vaccination sites open. On Friday, New York City's iconic Museum of Natural History joins the

list, and even as the average number of shots going into arms tops three billion daily.

TOMISLAV MIHALJEVIC, CEO, CLEVELAND CLINIC: Vaccines are safe. They do save lives. And the only way that we're going to get through this pandemic together is if we effectively distribute as many vaccines as we can as quickly as possible.

FIELD: A coalition of 60 hospitals now banding together to promote vaccines, part of an all-out effort to target the half of U.S. adults who still haven't gotten a shot.

A new Axios/Ipsos survey shows one in five adults still don't plan to get the shot. That means, according to the poll, confidence in vaccines hasn't grown since January. It also suggests the decision to pause use of Johnson & Johnson's one-shot vaccine hasn't eroded confidence further.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: I think it was a very smart decision by the CDC, by the FDA to put a pause on the administration of the J&J vaccine.

FIELD: Eighty-eight percent of Americans, according to the same survey, tend to agree.

New guidance on how or whether it resume use of the J&J shot could come later this week. It was halted following reports of rare and severe blood clots among six women out of the seven million people given the vaccine.

BESSER: Taking a pause, they can let doctors know what to look for, how to approach that, and hopefully maintain confidence in the whole vaccine system.

FIELD: Even if the delay hasn't increased hesitancy, it could slow down delivery, production of the vaccine at a Baltimore plant now paused by the FDA.


FIELD: And, Alisyn and Victor, while we wait for that new guidance on the J&J vaccine here in the United States, the company has announced that it's resuming its shipments of the shots to Europe, that after European regulators weighed in, saying they found a possible link between the vaccine and the very rare blood clot.


They believe that a warning should be added to the product information. But they are stressing that they feel that the benefits of the vaccines still do outweigh the risks -- Victor, Alisyn.


Alexandra, thank you very much for that update.

So, President Biden has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff for former Vice President Walter "Fritz" Mondale. He died Monday at his home in Minneapolis surrounded by family.

Mondale served as vice president under President Jimmy Carter before waging his own unsuccessful White House bid in 1984. President Biden spoke to Mondale in a final call over the weekend and called him a -- quote -- "dear friend and mentor."

Mondale was 93 years old.

OK, so, as the jury deliberates in one of the most high-profile trials of the decade, some governors are using this to crack down on protesters. Other states have pushed through some major police reforms.

We discuss all that next.



BLACKWELL: The breaking news: There is now a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd.

We have learned that the -- we will learn the verdict to these three accounts between 4:30 and 5:00 Eastern time.

CAMEROTA: Victor, as you know, we had just been talking about how it had been 11 hours that they had been deliberating.

They started last night from 5:00 to 9:00, then picked it up again this morning at 10:00.


CAMEROTA: And we were just talking to our legal experts about what this time meant.

As you all know, there are three charges that they were deliberating on, second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, second- degree manslaughter. So, again, we have just learned that, at 4:30 Eastern time, we will be learning what the jury's verdict is.

BLACKWELL: We have Areva Martin back with us.

Areva, no wonder they didn't take a break for lunch, we didn't hear much from them, because they were trying to close out the work of the day.

Your reaction to now knowing, at 11 hours in, they have reached a verdict?

MARTIN: Yes, Victor, I think I sent your producer some notes this morning about a couple of these high-profile cases and how long it takes jurors to reach a verdict.

And one of the cases was the Jason Van Dyke. That was a police officer, former police officer in Chicago, who was charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault, multiple aggravated assault charges in the murder of Laquan McDonald, an African-American teenager.

And that jury took eight hours. And they came back with guilty verdict on the -- both the murder charges and the aggravated assault.

So, when you look at a high-profile case and say, is this the record, probably not. So, again, this case is so unusual on so many fronts.