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Police Reform; Justice Department Launches Investigation Into Minneapolis Policing. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 21, 2021 - 15:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: OK, it is the top of the hour. It has been a busy news day already, I think it's fair to say.


CAMEROTA: I'm Alisyn Camerota joined by Victor Blackwell.

The nation watched former police officer Derek Chauvin get convicted, then led away in handcuffs. He will be sentenced eight weeks from now. And while civil rights leaders and activists are considering his conviction a victory, they also emphasize that the fight for racial equity and police reform is far from over.

BLACKWELL: And, today, the Department of Justice said that it's going to take a broader look.

Attorney General Merrick Garland launched an investigation into the practices of the Minneapolis Police Department. The mayor says that he welcomes that, and the governor is also calling for reform.


REP. TIM WALZ (D-MN): Communities of color will not go on like this. Police officers will not go on like this. White communities in our state cannot go on like this. The only way forward is through systemic change.


CAMEROTA: CNN senior national correspondent Miguel Marquez joins us now from Minneapolis.

Miguel, what a day yesterday was. Give us the mood and the feeling today.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think, today, it is resolve, whereas, yesterday, there was sort of the shock of hearing those verdicts read one after the other, guilty, guilty, guilty. Even though people had watched the trial, even though they thought it

was possible, to hear it was something completely different. The city, everybody was concerned about protest and anger, broke into celebration, catharsis, elation, whatever you want to call it. It was -- it felt like something new.

One of George Floyd's brothers, Terrence, spoke about the historical nature of those verdicts.


TERRENCE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: I'm just grateful. I'm grateful that my grandmother, my mother, my aunts, they got to see this history made.

I will salute him at every -- every day of my life, I will salute him, because he showed me how to be strong. He showed me how to be respectful. He showed me how to speak my mind. I'm going to miss him, but now I know he's in history.

What a day to be a Floyd, man.


MARQUEZ: So, today, there is a sense of resolve. There's a sense of the work now needs to be done. This is an opening, that a white police officer could be convicted not just once, but three times, of killing a black man.

Despite the video, despite what everybody saw, it still came as disbelief to many. Now the desire is to not only reform the police, but reform the justice system, reform sort of top to bottom. There's a long list of grievances across the city and the state about the justice system here.

And I think the work for many on all ends of it has just begun -- back to you.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Miguel, thank you very much for all of your reporting throughout all of this.

We're joined now by Jeffrey Storms. He is one of the attorneys for George Floyd's family. He also represents the family of Daunte Wright, who was shot and killed in nearby Brooklyn Center two weeks ago.

Also just into our newsroom, we're getting news that the Minneapolis police leadership pledges cooperation with the DOJ investigation that has just been announced today by the attorney general. So we will get into all of that in a second.

Jeff, thanks so much for being here.

Before we get into that, can you just tell us -- you were in the room yesterday, as I understand it, when the verdict came down. Can you just tell us what that feeling was like with the Floyd family?

JEFF STORMS, ATTORNEY FOR FLOYD FAMILY: You know, the emotions were so powerful.

And there really isn't the perfect word to describe it, because you have this competing, awful thing that happened to their loved one, but, at the same time, this momentous occasion, where history was created.

And I think it gave faith to a lot of people that we have a starting point for justice. But I'll tell you, the word that was used over and over again by family members was relieved, because I don't think the family or really any of us were prepared to wake up in a world where Derek Chauvin could have walked out acquitted.

CAMEROTA: When I spoke to George Floyd's brother Philonise at the beginning of this trial, I asked him what justice would look like. And he said it would look like a conviction.


And you got that. They got that. The family got that yesterday. But they also got more. I mean, so much more came -- I think -- came out of this case. It was the largest mass protest movement in U.S. history after George Floyd's death. It certainly opened white Americans' eyes to what was going on the street, the experience of so many black men.

And so do you think that something has fundamentally changed in this country today?

STORMS: You know, we have a lot of hope in that regard.

And you're right to point out the activists. We have these great local activists, like Nekima Levy Armstrong, who, without people pushing on the streets and pushing our government actors to be better, right, to have charges that meet the crime, to have the right person prosecuting the case, without all of those, all of those things working together hand in hand, these events don't happen.

Without someone like Ben Crump and a great legal team with folks like Tony Romanucci, pushing on the legal side, and then a family that's just so graceful and so resolved, and has been such an important piece, I think, of everyone's lives since this event happen.

So, we had all of these things working together. And I think it's given us all a little more hope that we can look at our children and say, today, maybe the United States is a little more fair for everyone than it was yesterday.

CAMEROTA: And so after what I assume was the jubilation yesterday, or relief, as you said, among the Floyd family, today, you turn your attention to the Daunte Wright case, and that -- just to remind people, that was the fatal police shooting of a 20-year-old unarmed black man during a traffic stop.

And so the officer in that case is charged with second-degree manslaughter. Do you think that there was something about yesterday or the climate that we're in which makes a conviction in that case more likely? STORMS: You know, I had this exact conversation today.

And in the law, we always talk about precedent, right? And so now there is a precedent for holding a white officer accountable for killing a black man. And so whether it's the prosecutor who now believes that they can do this, or the judge who's issuing rulings that are fair, or the jury that's sitting there knowing this can be done and it has been done and needs to be done if we're going to continue to have this progress.

So I believe we now have precedent. And it makes every indictment on an officer or conviction when they're in the wrong more likely.

CAMEROTA: So, how about that Department of Justice investigation that was announced by the attorney general? So, they are looking into whether or not the Minneapolis Police Department as a whole is discriminatory, as a whole, is -- that there's some sort of systemic racism or systemic problem there.

What's the family's response to that announcement?

STORMS: You know, so I haven't had a chance to talk to the family since that announcement came down.

But I can tell you, as someone who's been practicing here for over a decade, this isn't surprising, and it needed to happen. I have deposed black officers before in Minneapolis who have said, "I do think it's a discriminatory department. Do you want to take my case?" in the middle of their own depositions.

We have -- when we pled the Floyd case, in the complaint, we asked that as -- for injunctive relief -- and, obviously, we didn't get to this point where we resolved it, but one of the things we had asked for was the appointment of a receiver by the federal court, so that there could be oversight over the department, similar to what now the government may be able to do, based upon this investigation.

And, of course, the city leaders have to cooperate with it, because anyone who's been here knows it's long overdue, and we have had these just massive, infamous failures. And it's really made Minnesota not look like the place that a lot of Minnesotans have known and loved and been prideful about.

So, we need to be better. And it's clear that the city of Minneapolis needs the government to step in to make that happen.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey Storms, thank you very much for your time.

BLACKWELL: Right now, Derek Chauvin is being held in a jail cell segregated away from the general population.

In eight weeks, he will be sentenced and faces up to 40 years in prison for the most serious charge.

With me now, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, former federal prosecutor, and Judge Belvin Perry. He's the former chief judge of the Florida Ninth Judicial Circuit. He was the judge who presided over the Casey Anthony trial.


Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

And, Judge, I want to start with you.

I talked about the 40 years for that second-degree unintentional murder charge. But the state is asking for longer sentences based on aggravating factors, that there was a child present, that Floyd treated -- Floyd was treated with particular cruelty.

Is this the type of case, Judge Perry, that you would expect that to be granted? What's your expectation when it comes to sentencing?

JUDGE BELVIN PERRY, FORMER CHIEF JUDGE, FLORIDA NINTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT: Victor, if any case deserves aggravation, this is this case.

Knee on the neck for nine minutes, 49 seconds, while people were there pleading to get medical attention to Mr. Floyd. A child watched this. The fact that this was done by a trained police officer, against office -- against police procedures.

So, this case cries out to have aggravation apply.

CAMEROTA: Judge, one more question for you.

Because you were the judge on such a high-profile case, the Casey Anthony case, does that play into your thoughts with sentencing, knowing that the eyes of the country are on you, and so much is riding on your decision?

PERRY: The simple answer to that is no, because you simply follow the law.

And the facts of this case, regardless of whether or not it was nationally televised or not televised, cries out with the aggravating factors that I briefly listen -- I mean, listed.

So this case is a case that aggravation should be applied.

BLACKWELL: Elie, the attorney general, Merrick Garland, announced that investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department.

You participated in a similar investigation of another department. So what is this going to look like?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Victor, this is really progress in the making.

This is essentially like a full-body MRI for a police department. Now, the Obama administration was very aggressive in seeking out these investigations. We call them pattern and practice, because they're looking to see if a police department has a pattern and practice of discriminatory or unconstitutional behavior. They will look at every aspect of policing, from recruitment, hiring

and training of new officers, to use of force policy, to use of Tasers, to keeping up statistics and data and public transparency. And I'll tell you, I was involved as a prosecutor, a state prosecutor, with the oversight of the Newark Police Department.

And I can tell you firsthand, it makes a real difference. Here's one example. As late as 2016, the Newark Police Department, major metropolitan police department, was not using body cameras, hard as that is to believe.

And as a result largely of this DOJ investigation and monitorship, they now, like every significant police department, have body cameras on all their patrol officers. That's a big difference right there.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Elie, can you just remind us one more time, what is the minimum that Derek Chauvin can get and what's the maximum?

HONIG: So, the maximum is 40 years.

This is a really unusual situation, because Minnesota has these sentencing guidelines that recommend a sentence of only 12-and-a-half years. I know it's kind of hard to believe someone could be convicted of two counts of murder and a count of manslaughter and only be recommended for 12-and-a-half years.

But those aggravating factors that the judge just talked about, those -- if the prosecution succeeds on those, they're going to drive the sentence up from 12-and-a-half up to a cap of 40. And so what the judge does in Minnesota is going to determine where, in that really wide range it falls.

I agree with the judge. I think at least two or three of the five factors that the prosecutor is arguing are easy. They automatically should apply. Children were present. Chauvin was a police officer. Then there's a few others that are more debatable, whether George Floyd was a particularly vulnerable victim, whether the police officer used sort of excessive, gruesome force in committing the murder.

But there's a lot of play there. And there's still an awful lot at stake in just how much time Derek Chauvin gets.

BLACKWELL: Judge, when I worked in Florida, I covered the Casey Anthony trial. And you worked mightily to try to control the influences that were coming into the courtroom.

We heard from the judge in this case, who criticized a congresswoman for her comments. The president then waited until the jury was sequestered to weigh in on what he believed the right outcome would be.

But there is another trial to come for the other three officers who the potential jurors there have heard what President Biden has said about this, heard what Congressman Maxine Waters has said about this.

What are the implications of the comments from the president, from members of Congress on the next trial for those other officers?

PERRY: Victor, as you know, with the society that we live in, everyone has an opinion.

The question is not whether or not potential jurors have heard the opinion of Maxine Waters or our president. The question is whether or not they can lay aside those particular opinions and base whatever decision they make solely on the evidence as applied to the law.


They get opinions from their friends, their relatives, and anybody that they encounter. They also get opinions on shows like your show from people that appear.

So, I don't think it's a big deal.

BLACKWELL: All right, Judge Belvin Perry, thanks so much. Elie Honig, thank you, too.

So, is this conviction a turning point? You have heard people say this is a new day, that this is a new face of justice. Well, Rodney King's daughter joins us with her reaction next.



CAMEROTA: Civil rights leaders and activists calling the conviction of Derek Chauvin a victory and the start in the fight for reform.

Minnesota's Attorney General Keith Ellison pointing out that the killing of George Floyd was just one in a long list of police brutality cases spanning decades.


KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Rodney King, Abner Louima, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Laquan McDonald, Stephon Clark, Atatiana Jefferson, Anton Black, Breonna Taylor, and now Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo.

This has to end.


CAMEROTA: You heard him there start with Rodney King.

In April of 1991, Rodney King survived a police beating so severe that he suffered 11 fractures, I think maybe even more. More than 50 blows by LAPD officers were caught on tape. But all four white officers involved were acquitted, triggering the L.A. Riots.

Seventeen other officers who stood by and watched the assault on King were never indicted. Lora Dene King was just 7 when her father, Rodney, was beaten, and she now leads the Rodney King Foundation. She joins us live from Los Angeles.

Lora, it's great to see you.

Just tell us what that experience was like for you, when you heard the verdict of Derek Chauvin, being found guilty yesterday.

LORA DENE KING, DAUGHTER OF RODNEY KING: You know, I have to say I have mixed emotions, because I was already just high anxiety.

And so I didn't realize that I was holding my breath. And it was -- it was a sign of hope. It was definitely a sign of hope. Hopefully, that's the ending of that type of brutality. Hopefully, this has the domino effect of reconditioning the whole police department throughout the world, not just the United States, throughout the world.

Hopefully, this has a dramatic effect on the world.

CAMEROTA: And yet, I mean, since your father didn't get justice, it didn't -- it didn't go that way for your father and your family--

L. KING: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- was there -- I don't know, was there sadness? Was there anger on your part hearing it yesterday?

L. KING: You know, more so -- no.

Yesterday, those emotions were totally different. Those emotions were historical. And it's sad that we have other people congratulating African-American men, congratulations, when we live in America. And that should have never -- it shouldn't even happen. It's sad that a part of their family has to celebrate, but yet and still, he's not here.

So they say justice was served, but, in actuality, they will never see that man again. George Floyd is completely gone from the world. And it's like, it's sad that we have to celebrate that somebody gets justice. Like, that's just sickening to me.

So, I feel like it's hope. Like, I feel like I have -- I have faith of a mustard seed. I do, because I feel like it's hopeful. That gives us hope that, finally, we matter. We could be equal.

CAMEROTA: I know that you say that, even though your father survived that beating, that, in a way, he didn't, that such a large portion of him didn't survive.


CAMEROTA: He was so changed afterwards.

L. KING: I'm glad you said that. Yes. Although George Floyd's daughter had to witness her dad being

murdered, I'm glad that's the title, too, murdered on national TV, my father died. He died, a big part of him, his personality, his -- everything you can imagine. We didn't get our father. Me and my sisters, my sisters and myself, we didn't get him. He was never complete.

And a lot of people don't realize that. They think you're supposed to be normal after that. Can you imagine how many George Floyds or Rodney King are walking the street? And, to us, it looks like they have completely lost their mind. But, in fact, they probably was beaten. They probably was beaten damn near to death.

CAMEROTA: The Floyd family has just demonstrated such grace through this whole thing. I mean, they're such an incredible family.

And they yesterday talked about forgiveness and how they're working on that. And, of course, your father famously talked about that afterwards as well. So here they both are.


RODNEY KING, BEATEN BY POLICE: I just want to say, can we all get along? Can we get along?

ANGELA HARRELSON, GEORGE FLOYD'S AUNT: And the process of forgiving needs to start. You can't solve anything on hate. You can't hate someone forever. We all have to move on.



CAMEROTA: Is forgiveness realistic at this point, with where we are in this country?

L. KING: You know what? God makes the possible -- God makes the impossible possible.

And he -- he only allows our heart to be opened up to that, and I think it very much is so, as long as America keeps serving what they served yesterday, a right -- a fair trial. As long as they get sent to jail for what they have done, absolutely, absolutely. There's always hope.

CAMEROTA: You did say that you are hopeful today, that that's the feeling.

L. KING: I am.

CAMEROTA: And describe that.

L. KING: It's an undescribable feeling.

And every African-American in the world can tell you, it's something -- it's historical, because it's never happened. Have you ever watched the TV and seen guilty, guilty, guilty three times? No, let alone his sentencing. For him to get that type of sentence, 40-plus years, that's, like, unbelievable, because, usually, if it's small things, it's never guilty on all three.

It's always guilty on a small matter. And it's like maybe a year, two years served. The officers with my dad's situation, the second round, when they were found guilty, yes, but they didn't get a lot of time. They didn't. And my dad had a fractured skull.

Do you know the impact of a person that has a fractured skull? He didn't get -- they didn't get -- they got chump change. And it's like -- and, to my knowledge, one of them is an active police officer still.

And my question is, are they continuing the same work? It's just sad. So, yesterday was like super -- I'm super grateful for that. I'm super grateful for that.

CAMEROTA: Your dad's case was 30 years ago, and it did open so many of our eyes to what was happening, because there happened to be a camera there, just like with George Floyd.

L. KING: Right. Correct.

CAMEROTA: Because there was that camera there--

L. KING: That's right.

CAMEROTA: -- we got to see what a lived experience of black men can be. And it changed all of us.

But do you think that something -- I know that there wasn't enough change, you feel, after your father's beating. Do you think something has fundamentally changed today?

L. KING: I do, because now America, not just black people, America has to explain this to their kids, because now every kid possible has a phone.

So it's like they're telling their friends. Well, they're coming back to their parents, white, black, Asian, whoever. They're coming back to their parents for answers. And you have to -- you're not going to lie to a kid.

So, America is forced to tell their kids the truth. And now it's a domino effect, and everybody is affected. So, that -- if that doesn't give hope, I don't know what does.

CAMEROTA: Lora King, great to talk to you. We really appreciate getting your perspective today. It so important.

L. KING: Thank you so much for having me.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for being here.

L. KING: Thank you so much. CAMEROTA: Any moment now, a news conference is expected to start about another fatal police shooting in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

Officials there just closed their downtown office buildings and called an emergency meeting in response.

We will have the latest on this case.