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Derek Chauvin's Fate is Now in the Hands of the Jury; Minneapolis Braces for Jury's Verdict on Chauvin; Kremlin Critic Navalny Moved to Prison Hospital; U.S. Ambassador Returning from Russia this Week; White House Promotes Vaccine Eligibility with Media Blitz; Officer Brian Sicknick Suffered Strokes, Died of Natural Causes. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 20, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead --

The U.S. is bracing for a highly-anticipated court verdict as the fate of Derek Chauvin is now in the hands of 12 jurors. Why the judge has already told the defense they may have grounds for an appeal.

Half of all American adults have already received at least one COVID vaccine dose and now everyone over 16 in the U.S. can get one.

And former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale is being remembered as a dogged politician. He passed away at the age of 93 and now many tributes are pouring in.

Our top story, jurors in former police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial spent four hours deliberating but did not reach a verdict on Monday. They will resume deliberations in Minneapolis later today as the nation waits on edge.

Chauvin who is white is accused of killing George Floyd, a black man, with excessive and unreasonable force by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes. Floyd's death was caught in chilling video, it sparked protests across the U.S. and around the world and calls for police reform and racial justice.

While the jury deliberates over the landmark case, Minneapolis and other U.S. cities are bracing for the possibility that a not guilty verdict could bring anger and unrest to the streets. The National Guard has even been deployed in parts of downtown Minneapolis as a precaution. CNN's Sara Sidner has more on the dramatic moments in court before jurors were handed the case. And a warning, her report contains images some will find disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JUDGE PETER CAHILL, HENNEPIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA DISTRICT COURT: So members of jury, I instruct you as follows, it is your duty to decide the questions of fact in this case.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After 27 days of trial from jury selection to closing arguments, 45 witnesses and dozens of pieces of evidence, the murder trial against former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd is finally in the hands of a jury.

STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Use your common sense, believe your eyes.

SIDNER (voice over): Chauvin who is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and one count of manslaughter has pleaded not guilty.

SCHLEICHER: That force for nine minutes and 29 seconds, that killed George Floyd. That he betrayed the badge, and everything has stood for it.

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I submit to you that the state has failed to meet its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

SIDNER (voice over): The defense tried to sow doubt about whether Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck, was the primary factor in his death.

NELSON: You can't come in and say George Floyd on one hand, George Floyd died of asphyxiation, but he has a 98 percent oxygen level, right, as blood is oxygenated.

SIDNER (voice over): The prosecution reminded the jury of the expert medical testimony they had heard from the stand.

SCHLEICHER: Is that common sense or is that nonsense? Not enough oxygen could get to the lungs and that's what killed George Floyd.

GEORGE FLOYD: I can't breathe, Officer.

SIDNER (voice over): Over and over again ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're stopping his breathing right now, bro.

SIDNER (voice over): They replay the video of Floyd taking his last breaths.

SCHLEICHER: Somebody is telling you they can't breathe, and you keep doing it, you're doing it on purpose.

SIDNER (voice over): Last week, Chauvin pleaded the Fifth which is a defendant's right to avoid self-incrimination. His defense attorney instead spoke for him.

NELSON: The nine minutes and 29 seconds ignores the previous 16 minutes and 59 seconds. It completely disregards it. It tries to reframe the issue of what a reasonable police officer would do. SIDNER (voice over): After weeks of laying out the case, arguing that a heart condition, drug use, carbon monoxide from the squad cars exhaust and potentially stress induced excited delirium all could have contributed to Floyd's death. The defense employed the jury to see there is enough reasonable doubt to acquit.

NELSON: He would observe the white foam around Mr. Floyd's mouth. He would consider the possibility that this person was under the influence of something.


SCHLEICHER: This is not the trial of George Floyd. He is not on trial. He didn't get a trial when he was alive, and he is not on trial here.

SIDNER (voice over): Before the jury began deliberations, some of the last words they heard was this rebuttal from the prosecution.

JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: If you were told that Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big, and the truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin's heart was too small.

SIDNER: The jury got the case about 4:15 Minneapolis time and they deliberated until 8:00 p.m. they will continue to deliberate Tuesday.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Minneapolis.


CHURCH: Well the judge in the trial has said comments by Congresswoman Maxine Waters could be grounds for appealing a verdict. The California representative was in Brooklyn Center at protests over the killing of Daunte Wright and here is what she said.


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): I hope that we are going to get a verdict that says guilty, guilty, guilty. And if we don't we cannot go away. We have 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 -- that they know that we mean business.


CHURCH: Those comments by the House Democrat caused an outcry among Republicans who accused of Waters of inciting violence. Here is what the judge had to say.


CAHILL: I'm aware of the media reports. I'm aware that Congresswoman Waters was talking specifically about this trial and about the unacceptability of anything less than a murder conviction. I wish elected officials would stop talk about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function.


CHURCH: Well, as the country waits for a verdict in the trial, some tech companies are taking preemptive action. Facebook says it will remove any content about the verdict that violates its community standards. And it's also designated Minneapolis a temporary high-risk location. CNN's Miguel Marquez has more now from the Twin Cities.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So at about the time the jurors got the case in the -- the case against Derek Chauvin there was a gathering of protesters that grew. I want to show you what's happening down here now. This is downtown Minneapolis. I want to let you listen a little bit. People have gathered for several hours, they have marched through the streets demanding equality of justice not just with regard to George Floyd and the Derek Chauvin case, but for African-Americans and people of color everywhere in their dealings with police.

They've stopped at that particular place because this barricaded, razor wired building here, this is the new third precinct for Minneapolis. This is the precinct where Derek Chauvin was placed out of -- this is the precinct that protesters in south Minneapolis took over and then burned and they've now moved it up to this area in downtown Minneapolis.

But the state has brought in thousands of National Guardsmen, thousands of law enforcement some from outside the area. Schools will go to virtual starting on Wednesday ahead of this expected verdict and there are concerns that the funeral of Daunte Wright is scheduled for Thursday this week as well.

Talking to protesters and demonstrators here, their message is pretty simple, if he is not found guilty on all three of those counts it will mean that the American justice system still has a long way to go. Back to you.


CHURCH: Well, Minnesota's lawmakers are acutely aware of the possibility of unrest. The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul spoke with the media on Monday about the challenges ahead.


MELVIN CARTER, MAYOR, ST. PAUL MINNESOTA: I mourn George Floyd. I mourn Daunte Wright because they are black men. I mourn them also because they are members of humanity and that's my response back to people saying I know this must be challenging for you. I always say I assume it must be challenging for you as well.

This is a time that we have to push forward through and that's why our message for our community is so clear. I'm not asking folks not to be angry. I'm not asking folks to be calm or to be quiet, quite the opposite. I'm asking our community to take the resolve, to take the energy, to take all that we feel right now and channel it directly into constructing not destructing our communities, but constructing a new path forward in St. Paul, in Minnesota and all throughout our country.


CHURCH: To Russia now. And authorities there have moved Alexey Navalny to a prison hospital outside Moscow. Supporters say the opposition leader's health is failing and he could be near death.


Navalny went on a hunger strike three weeks ago demanding proper medical care for back pain and numbness in his arms and legs. Prison officials say he's in satisfactory condition and they have prescribed a vitamin therapy.

And we have this just into CNN. The U.S. ambassador to Russia says he is returning to Washington this week for consultations. For more let's turn to CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, he joins us live. So Nic, what is the significance of the U.S. ambassador to Russia returning to the U.S. at this time? What more are you learning on this?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, John Sullivan says that he is going back to the United States to Washington, D.C. to consult with the new administration who he hasn't consulted with so far face-to-face. He also says that it's been over a year since he's been able to see his family. And he also adds to that that this will last a couple of weeks and that he says he will be back before any summit between President Putin and President Biden.

So on the face of it this does seem to be a recalibration of the relationship between the two countries at the moment. I think it's worth stating here that you had Russian officials just last week saying that they've recalled their ambassador from Washington over the past couple of months with consultations in Moscow and they thought it was fit that the United States should do the same thing.

So this now coming on the heels of that. It's not clear if the Biden administration is taking note of what Russian officials have said or indeed that there is, you know, a need for this face-to-face consultation. Something that can't be done over the phone. Something that they've been unable to do over the past year. But it does seem to indicate a straining of the situation, diplomatic situation between the two countries right now.

CHURCH: Yes, because the timing of this is extraordinary, isn't it? I mean, we are watching what is happening to Alexey Navalny right now. He's been moved into that hospital. His allies say that he is near death. We don't know for sure. We can't confirm that. And then at the same time of course we know Russian troops are on the border with Ukraine, that is in a very threatening stance. And at this point the U.S. would have their ambassador to Russia return to the United States. It seems extraordinary. ROBERTSON: It does. 100,000 Russian troops on the border of Ukraine is

what the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said just in the last few hours. So that's very clearly a huge concern. You would think that you would want to have diplomats in place to talk this through.

John Sullivan the ambassador was called in a couple of times last week to meet with Russian officials, once with a foreign policy adviser and another meeting a couple of days later after that ostensibly part of it to discuss it seemed what could be on the agenda in that summit between President Putin and President Biden.

But another concern when we heard this from the U.S. Department of Defense yesterday, that Russia is limiting the movement of naval vessels in the Black Sea. So there is an escalation in terms of tensions at the moment and this perhaps points to the reason why John Sullivan the ambassador is heading back to Washington.

CHURCH: All right. We will keep a very close eye on this news of course. Nic Robertson bringing us the very latest from London. Many thanks.

And of course, we were talking about Alexey Navalny's situation. I spoke earlier with Bill Browder, the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management at the head of the global Magnitsky justice campaign and I asked him how worried Vladimir Putin should be about the situation with Alexey Navalny. Take a listen.


BILL BROWDER, CEO, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: President Putin is in a -- he's in a terrible situation of his own making. Alexey Navalny is effectively made him a hostage to the situation. Because Vladimir Putin can't in his own mind, in his own eyes, cannot look weak in front of the Russian people because he is afraid of other people like Alexey Navalny then taking over his power. And so, he kind of can't back down in his own mind. And at the same time, if he doesn't back down and if Alexey Navalny comes to die, there will be unbelievable consequences both inside and outside of Russia for Navalny's death. And so Putin is really stuck in a terrible place and Alexey Navalny is probably if things don't change going to die.


CHURCH: That is a real concern. I mean, of course, Navalny's situation along with the expulsion of Russian spies in the Czech Republic has further isolated Russia. The U.S. as we know is warning of consequences if Navalny should die in Russian custody. You've said that you're very concerned, and you seem to think that that is a likelihood. So what would those consequences be, do you think?

BROWDER Well, first of all, I should say that there should be consequences now, not after. He's being tortured. They tried to kill him with Novichok eight months ago. They arrested him for violating parole because he was in a coma recovering from his Novichok poisoning. So there should be consequences now and very serious consequences now. But the policy tool that the West can use is something called the

Magnitsky Act. It was named after my lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in prison in Russia in very similar circumstances. Where he was sick, they denied him medical attention, they tortured him, and they killed him. And there's now this legislation, Magnitsky Act, which imposes either sanctions or asset freezes on human rights violators in consequence.


CHURCH (on camera): Bill Browder talking to me earlier.

Well any adult in the U.S. who wants a COVID vaccine can now receive one, but not everyone is willing to sign up for the shot. We will have the latest on that next.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, all Americans 16 and older can now receive a COVID vaccine. And the U.S. Surgeon General says getting everyone vaccinated is key to ending this pandemic. While the rate of vaccinations has picked up there are parts of the country where the supply is greater than the demand. CNN's Alexandra Field has the details.


ANDY SLAVITT, SR. ADVISER TO WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE TEAM: It is your turn to get vaccinated. No matter where you live.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All 50 states now offering shots to everyone 16 or older and a major milestone met, half of all adults have received at least one dose of a vaccine, a quarter of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated.

SLAVITT: The lack of supply, the shortage of locations, the confusing rules are all in the past.

FIELD (voice-over): But vaccine hesitancy is not. The U.S. still averaging more than 3 million shots in arms every day, but the White House is turning its attention with a big media blitz to communities less willing to turn out.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For months I've been telling Americans to get vaccinated when it's your turn. Well, it's your turn now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sooner we get more people vaccinated the better off we're going to be.

FIELD (voice-over): In Mercer County, Ohio, they're suddenly struggling to fill appointments at a drive through vaccination site.

KRISTY FRYMAN, EMERGENCY RESPONSE COORDINATOR, MERCER COUNTY HEALTH DISTRICT: As the age groups dropped to, you know, 16 and above, it's really dropped off.

We are not the only county that's seeing that, especially in rule areas, we're seeing that across the state.

FIELD (voice-over): In Louisiana some pharmacies are reporting troubling signs of a drop in interest while new COVID cases remain high. Nationwide new daily cases plateauing again just under 70,000.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Getting a vaccine will help protect you. It will help protect others and it will help us end this pandemic.

FIELD (voice-over): Perhaps hindering confidence in some cases, delays in issuing new guidance over whether to resume use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I hope that we don't see anything extended beyond Friday. We need to get Friday some decision one way or the other.

FIELD (voice-over): The vaccine paused amid concerns over rare and severe blood clots involving six women out of about 7 million people who had been given the shot. For those who are already fully vaccinated questions now mounting over when life really can return to normal.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Why do people who have been vaccinated received two doses still need to wear masks outside?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: In the U.S. while we vaccinated many people we are also still struggling with very high levels of ongoing new daily cases. And so, that's why we've got to still wear our masks. We've still got to keep distance, avoid these close indoor gatherings.

FIELD: You heard Dr. Fauci say there that we could see new guidance on whether or not to resume the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in just the next few days. The U.S. Surgeon General is saying there could perhaps be a recommendation to bring back the vaccine with restrictions based on age or gender.

In New York, Alexandra Field, CNN.


CHURCH: And the European Medicines Agency will rule later today on the safety of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. It's been put on hold as we heard in the U.S. and Europe over concerns of rare but severe blood clots. So let's get the latest from Melissa Bell. She joins us live from Paris. Good to see you Melissa. So what's expected from this ruling in terms of possible restrictions or warnings for the future use of the J&J vaccine in Europe?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was just the day after the deliveries of the Johnson & Johnson the long awaited Johnson & Johnson vaccine had begun here in Europe that that announcement came that it was being suspended. So it is all eyes very much on the EMA today to see whether it will recommend as it did with the AstraZeneca after its investigation into those issues with the very rare examples of unusual blood clots that the Johnson & Johnson can be used in the EU, and that, in fact, it does believe the European Medicines Agency that the benefits outweigh the risks. Perhaps suggesting -- as it did with AstraZeneca -- that a warning be put on that explains those very rare incidences of issues that some patients have had.

Clearly this is a vaccine that many countries are hoping to be able to roll out as quickly as possible. There were 400 million doses that were ordered by the European Commission to begin with. Now what we've seen in these last few weeks because of those issues of deliveries to do with AstraZeneca the European Commission really looking towards Pfizer for its future contracts and ongoing negotiations.


But clearly those 400 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson are doses that European Union desperately needs as it tries to ramp up its vaccine rollout -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, many thanks to our Melissa Bell joining us live from Paris.

Well U.S. President Biden says it is a national embarrassment, America's epidemic of gun violence. We will look at the rising toll and the gun lobby's grip on Congress.


CHURCH: Two men arrested in the U.S. Capitol riot likely won't face homicide charges in the death of a police officer who died a day later. We get the latest now from CNN's Jessica Schneider.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: After more than three months of mystery the D.C. medical examiner announcing that Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick died of natural causes specifically that he suffered two strokes. Now this is significant because over the past 100 plus days since January 6 there has been much speculation about how Officer Sicknick died.

Capitol police initially announced that he died due to injuries on duty that day and officials said that they were pursuing a federal murder investigation. But then in February, the investigation stalled because the exact cause of Sicknick's death was undetermined.

In the meantime two men have been charged with assaulting officer Sicknick and two other officers with chemical spray. And of course, that led to the question of whether the chemical spray could have been the cause of Sicknick's death. But the medical examiner now saying there is no evidence that officer Sicknick had an allergic reaction to the chemical spray, that's according to "The Washington Post." And that means it is all but assured that the Justice Department will not be able to pursue homicide charges related to Sicknick's death. Of course, there are still looming questions here, the medical

examiner has not said if officer Sicknick had any preexisting.