Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Ex-Officer Awaits Sentencing after Conviction in Floyd's Murder; DOJ Opens Investigation into Minneapolis Policing Practices. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 21, 2021 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin is now convicted on all three counts in George Floyd's murder. The Minnesota Department of corrections has just released its new booking photo of him, and the ex-officer found guilty, again, on all three of the murder and manslaughter charges.

The headline says it all on the Minneapolis Star Tribune this morning, convicted. Here is what it reads. The verdict coming as a sign of accountability and a bit of hope after years and years against of protests against police brutality.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: The most severe charge he was convicted of carries a maximum sentence of 40 years. The sentencing guidelines, including for a first-time offender, point to a sentence much closer to perhaps 12.5 years, although that could go higher based on some aggravating circumstances.

After the verdict was read, as you saw there, Chauvin was handcuffed, escorted to a Minnesota prison, where he now awaits sentencing, including separated from the general population for his own safety.

The attention turning to Washington as the White House calls on Congress to enact police reform. They've been talking about it for nearly a year. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is awaiting action in the Senate as America confronts more questions about other cases of police violence.

CNN Senior National Correspondent Miguel Marquez joining us from Minnesota. Miguel, tell us the next steps for Chauvin.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, eight weeks, that is what the judge says for convicted murderer Derek Chauvin. Now, that new mug shot out since he was booked after he was seen led away in handcuffs, watching as the judge read verdict after verdict after verdict, all guilty.

In eight weeks, the judge will begin a sentencing hearing. Before that, there will be a pre-sentencing hearing. We don't know -- he doesn't have any priors, so that will certainly weigh into this. But prosecution asked for aggravating circumstances that could add time to this. As you said, the longest term would be 40 years. If he is sentenced on all three, they would likely be served concurrently, not consecutively, so it would be all at the same time. So there're three different charges, two murder charges and the manslaughter charge, all for the same instance.

But those aggravating circumstances, like there was a young girl present, the way Chauvin acted without any sort of regard for Mr. Floyd, that Mr. Floyd was in a difficult place. His brother -- George Floyd's brother reacted to what this conviction means going forward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: African-Americans, we feel like we never get justice, and we always feel it's just us. And for the officers to be held accountable, that was a major step in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: So that is a big theme here. People could not believe it. They expected it but could not believe it once they heard those three verdicts of guilty against Mr. Chauvin because they had been promised justice for so long. Now it turns to the three other officers who were present at George Floyd Square when Mr. Floyd died because they stood by and watched the murder of George Floyd. Back to you.

SCIUTTO: That's right. They face charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.

Major question now, of course, as he said, the future of those three officers charged in the death of Floyd.

HARLOW: That's right. Our Shimon Prokupecz joins us this hour in Minneapolis. Shimon, good morning to you.

They go on trial in August. And, obviously, a lot of what we just saw in this trial will play out in that trial, if it happens in Minneapolis, which is, I guess, somewhat of an outstanding question this morning.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, it could be. Because given all the publicity that --

SCIUTTO: Shimon, hold that thought, we've got some breaking news from the Justice Department. Here is the attorney general, Merrick Garland, announcing a decision related to the Floyd case. Have a listen.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Like so many of you, I have closely watched the events in Minnesota. Although the state's prosecution was successful, I know that nothing can fill the void that the loved ones of George Floyd have felt since his death. My heart goes out to them and to all those who have experienced similar loss.

I know such wounds have deep roots and that too many communities have experienced those wounds firsthand. Yesterday's verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis.

Today, I am announcing that the Justice Department has opened a civil investigation to determine whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing. This effort will be staffed by experienced attorneys and other personnel from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota.

[10:05:09]

The new civil investigation is separate from and independent of the federal criminal investigation into the death of George Floyd that the Justice Department has previously announced. Congress gave the department the authority to conduct civil practice -- pattern or practice investigations which look beyond individual incidents to assess systemic failures. Those investigations allow the department to determine whether a police department has a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing.

The investigation I am announcing today will assess whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, including during protests. The investigation will also assess whether the MPD engages in discriminatory conduct and whether its treatment of those with behavioral health disabilities is unlawful. It will include a comprehensive review of the Minneapolis Police Department's policies, training, supervision and use of force investigations. It will assess the effectiveness of the MPD's current systems of accountability and whether other mechanisms are needed to ensure constitutional and lawful policing.

Broad participation in this investigation from the community and from law enforcement will be vital to its success. The Justice Department has already begun to reach out to community groups and members of the public to learn about their experiences with the MPD. We also seek to hear from the department's officers about the training and support they receive because their perspective is essential.

All these voices will help provide investigators the information they need to conduct a comprehensive assessment. All these voices will be critical to the reform efforts that will follow if the investigation determines the existence of constitutional or statutory violations.

If the Justice Department concludes that there's reasonable cause to believe there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing, we will issue a public report of our conclusions.

The Justice Department also has the authority to bring a civil lawsuit asking a federal court to provide injunctive relief that orders the MPD to change its policies and practices to avoid further violations. Usually, when the Justice Department finds unlawful practices or patterns of practices, the local police department enters into a settlement agreement or a consent decree to ensure that prompt and effective action is taken to align policing practices with the law.

Most of our nation's law enforcement officers do their difficult jobs honorably and lawfully. I strongly believe that good officers do not want to work in systems that allow bad practices. Good officers welcome accountability because accountability is an essential part of building trust with the community and public safety requires public trust.

I have been involved in the legal system in one way or another for most of my adult life. I know that justice is sometimes slow, sometimes illusive and sometimes never comes. The Department of Justice will be unwavering in its pursuit of equal justice under law.

The challenges we face are deeply woven into our history. They did not arise today or last year. Building trust between community and law enforcement will take time and effort by all of us, but we undertake this task with determination and urgency knowing that change cannot wait. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: The U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland there announcing what's known as a pattern or practice investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, quite a broad one notably, because he mentions not only excessive use of police force in arrest but also in response to protests.

[10:10:01]

Let's discuss now, CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez, also standing by, Shimon Prokupecz, Charles Ramsey, and Monica Alexander, she's a retired captain at the Washington State Patrol.

Evan, you cover the Justice Department. Can you explain to folks how pattern or practice investigations work and, crucially, as well, how long do they typically stretch out?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, Jim, they take months. At least there's an initial investigation, which looks at everything from the way the police department does its training to the pattern of police stops, for instance, whether there have been complaints about a type of discriminatory policing.

These are all the things that they're going to go through, again, a period of months before they even then move to the other stage, which is to try to find some kind of an agreement with the police department that would essentially bring into place new practices, new policies that they might bring into place so that they can correct these problems.

We've seen over the years a number of these agreements with the Chicago Police. There have been some successful ones, including with the Los Angeles Police Department. All of those kind of went away during the Trump administration. Jeff Sessions, the attorney general under Trump, said that he believed they were essentially -- they cause morale problems for police officers, and so he wanted to essentially not do them. So we haven't had very many in the last four years.

Just in the last few days, Merrick Garland rescinded those earlier orders from Sessions and Barr and has now put into place a new policy, which we'll see a lot more of these, I suspect. Minneapolis is probably just the first but you're going to see additional departments where you have seen some of these problems, and they will be tackled with these types of actions.

HARLOW: Let's take a step back for a moment to explain why. Because, yes, this follows the murder conviction here in the murder of George Floyd, but it also follows a number of other black men in Minnesota dying at the hands of police. Look at this on your screen. Just in the last five years, these are four black men who have been killed by police, Travis Jordan, Thurman Blevins, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark. All of them, with the exception of Philando Castile, where at the hands of Minneapolis Police Department police, and that is the department that is now going to be investigated by the Department of Justice. So there is a lot of history here.

Charles Ramsey -- and, by the way, all of those were no charges against the police or an acquittal in the case of Philando Castile. So that's the background here.

But, Charles Ramsey, to you, after Laquan McDonald was killed by police in Chicago, DOJ opened this investigation, found severe civil rights violations, but did anything really change in Chicago? That's the question. What comes out of it?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, consent decrees can be very helpful. And I'm glad to see DOJ was back. I mean, they were missing in action for the last four years in terms of holding police departments accountable.

I'm a member of two different monitoring teams that right now consent decrees are being enforced, at Baltimore and Cleveland. For departments to really make change, I think this is a solid step forward. The investigation will result in a series of recommendations that the department has to implement.

There also was a program called Collaborative Reform that existed under the Obama administration that hopefully DOJ brings back. The only difference between that and a consent decree is the court is not involved, but it is an agreement between justice and the police department. I did that in Philadelphia. You can make change but you need to have that leverage and the Department of Justice gives you that leverage.

SCIUTTO: Monica Alexander, you served in law enforcement. I wonder, with agreements like this, the challenge, I imagine, is getting the balance right, addressing the issues of excessive use of force but keeping the cops on board, right, keeping them on board and allowing them to do their job effectively. What is the key to getting that balance right?

MONICA ALEXANDER, RETIRED CAPTAIN, WASHINGTON STATE PATROL: I think the key is to appreciate the work that police officers do but also let them know that we serve the community, and the community has to be on board with what we do in order for us to be supported by the community. We can only do that if we have the trust. And I think getting it right is so important, and getting it right all the time. We don't have a lot of room for error because we've lived through our errors. So I'm now at the Criminal Justice Training Commission as the interim executive director and I love being here and watching the training and the evolution of training. That's what has to happen as an evolution. And we're doing it here in the State of Washington.

SCIUTTO: It's such a good point, Poppy, don't you think, the idea that police, law enforcement, they're part of the community, right?

[10:15:04]

And, therefore, you want the two to mesh, right? You want the two to believe in each other, in effect.

HARLOW: Yes. And part of the issue though, Shimon, especially in Minneapolis, has been a lot that the police were not being part of the community, right, and not being part of the community that they're policing, so that's a big part of change as well.

PROKUPECZ: That is going to be a big part of it, right? And think about what this is going to allow the community to do. They're going to be allowed to go and talk to investigators, civil rights investigators that are going to blanket this area, this community, are going to make themselves available to them to say, tell us about what you've been experiencing over the years that you've lived here, your interaction with the police department, and specifically, you know, the African-American community, what that's been like for them. Have they been treated differently because of the color of their skin?

That is going to be the central issue here. And what the community -- we've talked to people in the community here. They certainly feel they've been mistreated. They're going to have now an opportunity, someone to talk to in power, someone now who can potentially make changes that they want to see. This all has to do with civil rights in the end.

And a lot of where this comes from also is these stops, right? We're hearing about a lot of car stops, the issues surrounding these traffic stops and how people are treated in those situations. That is something certainly that is going to be looked at here and how it is that the police department here goes about just interacting with the community and how they behave.

The other thing I think was significant in what the attorney general said is that there is still a federal investigation of Chauvin. That is still ongoing. That has not come to a resolution yet. We have heard witnesses come testify here that they have testified before a federal grand jury. What is the conclusion of that? And it seems by what the attorney general here said is that is still very much on going. The FBI is still continuing that investigation, which I think is also significant because it could potentially mean that Derek Chauvin could face federal civil rights charges in connection with the death of George Floyd.

But for the community here, I think this is going to be something they're going to appreciate. I also think it's important to note that the chief here is probably going to welcome this too, right? The Minneapolis Police chief who has had to deal with this, and he's going to welcome this, to have this set of eyes come in and take a look at this and look at the history and exactly what's been going on here. Very significant day here for people in the community, that this is being done and certainly a lot more to come, Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: It's a good point about that federal investigation. It shows that there's still many legal steps to go in the Floyd case, even for Chauvin himself beyond the sentencing.

Monica Alexander, it caught my attention that Attorney General Garland mentioned not only excessive force in arrests but also in protests. That's notable. We've seen some cases. We've even seen, Poppy mentioned the other day, journalists arrested, handcuffed, what of our colleagues thrown to the ground. What's the significance of that, in your view?

ALEXANDER: Well, I think what it does is it instills fear. When people feel like if they go out and protest, they're going to be handled improperly. And that's not something that we can accept. It is everyone's right to protest and you only should use as much force as necessary to gain control of the situation. I think that is exactly what we saw in the George Floyd instance where everything was under control, but George Floyd was still being treated as though it wasn't.

And that is what we train, you stop. You have to know when to stop. You have to have self-control and you have to honor the dignity of the people that you're interacting with. And I think if we can keep those things in mind, I believe we will do better policing.

And most of the police that get into this field, they do it for the right reasons. But it only takes a very few individuals to really taint the profession. I'm still very proud of, even though we have some real high hills to climb, I'm in it for that, and I'm in it for the people. I know I'm in it for the right reason, and I know a lot of other people that are as well.

HARLOW: They didn't even give you a moment to retire, Monica. They called you the moment that you were walking out the door and they said, we need your help in training the future of the forces. So we're really glad you can be with us on a day like today, and thank you all very, very much.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, just as the Derek Chauvin verdict was coming down, a police officer shot and killed a teenage girl in Columbus, Ohio. Up next, what we're hearing from police and, importantly, what we are seeing on the body camera video.

SCIUTTO: And just moments after the verdict, President Biden spoke are George Floyd's family. What he said about Chauvin's conviction -- that's the moment there -- and the future of the police reform bill named in Floyd's honor, just ahead.

[10:20:07]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Well, we will learn in eight weeks exactly how much time Derek Chauvin will spend in prison for George Floyd's murder.

HARLOW: Now the Department of Justice, as we just heard a few minutes ago, is launching an investigation into Minneapolis policing and practices, a lot to discuss here.

[10:25:01]

Shan Wu is with us, defense attorney, and former prosecutor Renato Mariotti joins us as well. Good morning to you both.

Let's begin on the sentencing here, because the prosecution, Shan, believes there are a number of what they call aggravating factors, five key aggravating factors that they would like to see the judge apply here in eight weeks when he does issue the sentence to lead to an even longer sentence for Chauvin. Will that happen?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there's a good chance of that, Poppy. I think that talk of the statutory maximum, the 40 years, is unlikely to have happen. But I also think that the defense made a calculation, the normal one, to put Chauvin's fate in the hands of the judge rather than the jury, hoping that the judge will be more reasonable, more experienced, looking at the picture. But there are potential aggravating factors here.

I don't think you're going to see the sentencing guidelines, minimum, 12.5 years. I think they are going to find some of these aggravating factors apply. The judge will agree with the prosecution. I think you're looking something more in the range of 20 years.

SCIUTTO: Interesting, Renato Mariotti, Chauvin, of course, took the Fifth, didn't take the stand during his trial. He will have an opportunity again to address the court during the sentencing argument. And I wonder if you were his attorney, would you advice him to speak? And if so, what would you advice him to say?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, he's able to say anything during what's called the allocution. And I would advise him to express deep remorse. And it's very important for the defendant in a case like this, and whenever I have give advice to defendants when I represent them, it's always about trying to make sure that the judge understands you're remorseful, that you take responsibility for your actions, that you understand the circumstances around it, you understand the deep pain that has been caused if there are victims in the case, and, of course, there is, that's, I think, going to be an important thing.

HARLOW: Shan, one point that you made that I think is really interesting is that you think that this is really going to be a gloves-off moment for the prosecution when it comes to what they say at sentencing. What do you expect?

WU: Absolutely, Poppy. At the trial and in closing, the prosecutors have to be careful. I thought they walked right up to the line pushing for an emotional appeal to the jury. They have to be careful of that in trial. But at sentencing, the gloves are off. They can really express the outrage. They can actually cite to issues that are not so well supported by the evidence. They're going to ask the judge to draw inferences. It will be much more emotional, I would expect.

And, of course, you're also potentially going to hear from members of the Floyd family again. And this is not going to be constrained by the jury's presence, the judge trying to make sure that the jury doesn't hear too much emotion. This is directed at the judge. So that's why it's going to be the gloves-off approach.

SCIUTTO: Renato, you serve as a federal prosecutor. Now, the Justice Department just moments ago announced a broader investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department a pattern or practice investigation, alleging, in effect, or investigating whether it is true that there is pattern here beyond George Floyd's killing and other killings we've seen on black men by police.

Based on your experience and the evidence you've seen, do you see evidence of a pattern or practice here that's likely to lead to action?

MARIOTTI: Well, I think it's definitely -- it's hard to tell just looking at it in a granular level. They're really are going to be looking at data more broadly. I will say given the experience of what happened here in Chicago, where we did have a similar pattern and practice investigation, I do think there's a collaborative effort there. In other words, folks in Minneapolis -- you saw actual testimony, of course, from folks on the force against the defendant in this case.

I do think there's going to be a collaborative element to this in which local authorities are going to say we're willing to reform. This actually can take the responsibility off of them because they can then blame this investigation for the fact that they're going to need to do some reforms that are going to force them to do things that are actually going to make changes in the force that might be unpopular for officers.

HARLOW: Shan, the bar for appeal here, if there is an appeal, has got to be pretty high, right? I just wonder what the bar for appeal -- like wouldn't they have to -- to get an appeal accepted, they would really have to show that there were significant problems here in the process of the trial, no?

WU: It is high, Poppy. It's not a discretionary appeal whether to take it. They'll automatically look at it. And I think there are some significant issues on appeal, primarily that issue of the carbon monoxide testing not having been disclosed. And as I said before, I think the prosecution walked up to the line in terms of their appeals to emotion during the argument. And probably Chauvin will argue that not sequestering the jury was damaging. So I think that last one is weak.

[10:30:00]

There may be a little bit of play in the first two. But any appeal, any error, they're always balancing it against the weight of the evidence. And the weight of the evidence here is very, very overwhelming.