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Grand Jury Chooses Not to Indict Officer Wilson; Attorney Calls Process Completely Unfair; Injuries Not Consistent with Story; Brown Family Response; Evidence Released; Ferguson Violence
Aired November 25, 2014 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REV. AL SHARPTON: So, I just want you all, when you all run the pictures, disruption at the conference, it was one of you all bloggers that caused the disruption. And we went so our people would not overreact. I just want to give clarity what it is. And I have no problem with a guy not wanting to hear what I have to say. But then, why would you come to a place where I'm the speaking? It just really doesn't make sense. It -- who do you think was going to speak at my press conference? That's just like all the folk that like me on Facebook to cuss me out. That really don't make a lot of sense.
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL BROWN: Thank you, Rev. Don, I'll try to answer your question. Again, Lesley McSpadden's immediate reaction which was caught on videotape after her devastating news that the killer of her child was not going to be brought to justice was overwhelming to her. She and the Ferguson community understands that we have -- all have a responsibility to protect the community.
Michael Brown Sr. is here speaking on behalf of his family and you all saw his PSA where he continued to ask for calm. That's one of the reasons why he is not speaking today. You want to be able to use the raw emotion of a family that has been devastated once by seeing their child dead on the ground and then getting the devastating news of a prosecutor who was supposed to go and represent people like Michael Brown but accused Michael Brown. So, that's the raw emotion of it. And we tried to move on, focused on the cause of saying, nobody is going to condone violence. And we're going to reject it. As Reverend Al said, people who do that stuff, it's not appropriate. Michael said it so eloquently asking for peace and calm. And so, we'll move on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE.)
CRUMP: Yes, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first question is, did you ever get a sense from the prosecutor as to what the votes were? That's number one. And number two, what do you say to the prosecutor saying that, you know, we've opened all this evidence up. You know, we've given everyone a chance to take a look. We've been transparent. They've actually made an effort.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you've bothered not to -- CRUMP: You know -- well, two quick things on that. And as Attorney May (sp) has just reminded, you know, prosecutors, when you put on your case, you don't put on your worst case. You put on your best case. Does anybody think that he put on his best case? You know, and then, why change the rules when it's our children dead on the ground? You know, for all the 28 years or so, Reverend Al, he was the prosecutor. He did grand juries, you know, he recommended charges. He didn't go dump everything out. So, he said he did it this way because it was so fair. So, is that to say for the other 28 years, he was unfair? Don't change the rules on us. We want equal justice. We want due process.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yesterday, the grand jury (INAUDIBLE) decision. In Washington, President Obama awarded a presidential Medal of Freedom to the three civil rights activists, Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, who their killers were not indicted by this state but by the federal government. Are you hoping for the same thing here?
And number two, last night, as we covered the protests in front of the Ferguson police station, it was packed with riot police, state troopers were there, all the advanced weaponry was there. When we went over to west Florissant and expected to be stopped there by the police as we were at the protests months ago, it was wide open. We saw no state troopers, and we hardly saw police. Do you think the authorities let Ferguson burn?
CRUMP: Well, let me say to the first part -- to the first part of your question because I think the second question has been answered. The first part of your question, it is -- and you are probably more aware than most of the media if not all that are here. It has been the legacy of his civil rights movement that you always had to go to the federal government and could not depend on states, whether it was Goodman, Cheney Or Schwerner, whether it was Michael Brown Jr. So, we are not in a strange place. We hoped we'd be in a different place. But it's not strange.
And I think that it is interesting that on the day that Goodman, Cheney and Schwerner were given the Medal of Freedom was the day that McCulloch decided, in the dark hours, to announce his state decision on the Michael Brown case. And eight years ago today, Sean Bell was killed by police in New York. So, all of these things come together. But I think the lawyers have stated (INAUDIBLE) case. I say that many of us, for Marc Morial and Cornell Brooks and all of us, this is not our first rodeo, McCulloch. We will deal with this in a way civil rights leaders have.
OK, last question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last night, I don't think anyone questions Ms. McSpadden's response but her husband said, let's burn this place --
CRUMP: Raw emotion, not appropriate at all. Completely inappropriate. And, you know, God forbid your child is killed the way theirs killed and then they get that just devastating announcement and the manner it was announced and somebody put a camera in your face. What would be your immediate reaction? So, don't condemn them for being -- don't condemn them for being human.
And I think Michael Brown Sr. has stated very clearly for Michael Brown Jr.'s family that they want people to behave in a responsible, peaceful manner. And we're not going to keep dwelling on this, because we're trying to focus on the issue of getting this system corrected so we don't have people feeling so frustrated that they've got to go march throughout the night for simple justice.
SHARPTON: Let me say this, I think it's a fair question. That's one of the reasons that all of us here as civil rights leaders to say that there is another way other than to explode and other than to have an outrage like that. Many of us are condemned. But we are the vehicle to try and address these things, yet we are considered incendiary when, in many ways, we're the ones that are trying to show the constructive way to get justice. Because after you burn stuff down, then what? That's not going to get us justice. And if you burn down buildings, you achieved what? A fire. But you don't get justice for Michael Brown. That's why we're here this morning to show a better way. We just need the system to meet us halfway and do what you said you would do.
CRUMP: And we condemn the violence and the looting from last night. But we also condemn the violent acts that happened on August 9th that killed Michael Brown Jr.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right. You have heard the press conference here at the Greater St. Mark church in Ferguson, Missouri. And, of course, you heard from the family attorney addressing the incendiary comments that was made by Michael Brown's stepfather last night before all the rioting happened. They addressed it twice here. The first time, Benjamin Crump giving a response but only addressing Lesley McSpadden's raw emotions last night.
And then, when questioned about it again about Louis Head, who is the stepfather, he said, listen, those are raw emotions. We don't condone that. The mother and father, Michael Brown Sr., Lesley McSpadden, the entire time, they have been calling for peace. And so, they -- he said that he can't control what someone does in that particular situation. And I do have to say, he's right. He can't control that and they're not condoning it. And he's also not trying to explain it away, if someone makes something -- a comment off the cuff. Those comments were completely, completely inappropriate.
And so, now, the family having to address that and the family representatives. I believe we do have the video of that. This is last night before -- this is after the announcement that there would not be an indictment of Officer Darren Wilson. This is Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown Jr., and Louis Head, the stepfather of Michael Brown Jr., just after the announcement and before the rioting occurred. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESLEY MCSPADDEN: They're a damn liar. (INAUDIBLE.) LOUIS HEAD: Burn this place down! Burn this place down! Burn this place down!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, again, they are having to address those comments today here at the press conference. And also, it's interesting to say that representatives here, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, they talked about the violence that occurred last night and said the people who are rioting and looting and setting fires, they didn't represent Michael Brown nor his family. They said those people weren't on the Browns' side. They were on their own side and said that they lowered the standards for peaceful protests and for injustice, Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Look, I think that's the only clear situation that we're dealing with here in Ferguson right now, Don. That what the man said was, obviously, over the line, somewhat understandable given the grief. But on its face, it makes sense. It was wrong and it's dangerous. But it makes sense, Don. And that can't be said about very much coming out of this press conference.
One of the things that we don't get is that at the end of that press conference, it was like they were going to take questions and then something happened in the crowd and there was commotion and everyone ran off the podium and then they came back. What was that?
LEMON: OK. So, here's the -- here's the thing that people at home should understand. So, there is this outrage that everyone, you know, thinks is out there. Most of that outrage is coming from the Internet and social media. When you actually come here on the ground and the people who are actual protesters (INAUDIBLE), most of them peaceful, they have a beef. And they are being peaceful about it. And they aren't the people who are out there causing the commotion every day.
It is, a lot of the times here, bloggers and people who are trying to make a name for themselves, people who want you to follow them on Twitter or follow their blog or follow them on Livestream. So, when we came in, we were confronted by a blogger. When the Reverend Al Sharpton came in, we were confronted by a blogger for questions that had nothing to do with the situation here, about personal issue or whatever. It didn't have nothing to do with anything. And not respectful of the situation.
So, they come in and stick a camera in your face. Do you want to comment about this? What do you have to say about that? And what do you do? And so, that happened back there. There was a member of the Brown family in the church. She was sick of it. There were two bloggers. One of them that confronted us. One of them who confronted the Reverend Al Sharpton. They confronted her. She got sick of it and started speaking out about it. There was a confrontation between her -- between the bloggers. And these were people who were trying to get the bloggers out. These weren't people who had anything to do with the Michael Brown family, anything to do with the press conference. These were bloggers and, as many people are calling them, outside agitators. That's where the commotion is coming from. So, if you're watching this from Europe or you're watching this from another country or watching this from around America, if you think everyone here is pissed off and angry and what have you. It's the people who are online who are taking things out of context. Those are the people who are really creating the stir. And, by the way, most of the people who were the looters last night and who were burning, those weren't really protesters. The protesters, yes, they did cause their commotion. There were big issues there. But for most of the people who were doing all the looting that we saw live, those weren't protesters. Those were just people -- opportunists looking for reasons to do things. That's the truth, Chris.
CUOMO: All right, Don, thank you for covering that for us. We'll be back with for sure throughout the day. There's a lot here to unpack.
Sunny, let me come to you.
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure.
CUOMO: I don't get any sense of closure. And I think that's something that has to be discussed here. Certainly, --
CUOMO: Certainly, the Brown family doesn't feel it. Certainly, the people that went to that press conference and many that we're dealing with here, don't feel it even though the process has spoken. Justice supposedly has had its day. What do you do in a situation like this?
HOSTIN: I think that's a great question because I think what we're seeing, sort of, is a continuum of the frustration that we've been seeing since the Trayvon Martin case, the frustration of communities of color with the way their communities are policed. I mean, the president said it yesterday. People of color are not making this up. This is a real problem. And so, to go forward, I think there's a real opportunity here to effect change. I think the Justice Department is certainly looking at the police departments here in Missouri. And I think, perhaps, appointing a police monitor the way we saw in Los Angeles and Louisiana is, perhaps, a way to start that change. Remember, the process is not necessarily over. I think for the Brown family, Ben Crump has made it very clear that they are still positive about the potential outcome of the Justice Department investigation. There is still that investigation ongoing.
And they also have civil remedies. I mean, you know, we've seen in many cases where you may not get the results that you think is just in a criminal case, but you can avail yourself in a civil case. We saw it in the O.J. Simpson case. We've seen it in, you know, countless cases. And so I think this is the beginning of the conversation. Unfortunately, we saw what we saw last night with the looting and --
CUOMO: Well, I'm worried about tonight. And that's the thing, is that the message that's coming out is, this was wrong.
HOSTIN: Yes, and I'm worried as well. CUOMO: Not just we're dissatisfied, not just it's we wish it would have come out another way, is that it was illegitimate. So we're going to have to see what happens today.
CUOMO: I want to get back to Ashleigh. Sunny, thank you so much.
HOSTIN: Thanks, Chris.
CUOMO: As always.
Ashleigh, back to you in New York. Thank you for letting me be on the show with you.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: You know, remarkable work to you and all of our colleagues who went through the night and really endured some extraordinarily difficult conditions out there. Chris Cuomo, thank you for that. Sunny Hostin, thank you for that.
I want to bring in the legal experts here as well because there is just so much that came out last night in roughly 200 hours of grand jury presentation. And all of the supportive evidence, the videos, the documents, the diagrams, the evidence that this panel of laypeople had to absorb over the last several months and ultimately render a decision that resulted in the pictures on your screen. Joey Jackson, Mark O'Mara, Mel Robbins back with me.
I want to ask all three of you, after reading through as much as you've been able to read through, what stood out, what surprised you, what did you not know, what do you think made the difference or could have made a different result? Mel.
MEL ROBBINS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I was actually very surprised that there was no cross-examination of the officer and there was only one question that the grand jury asked of that officer. And, to me, while I don't think it would have made a difference in the case because had they just pushed the officer on some of the things that we all found to be a little not plausible, whether he's reciting the flashlight and the mace and this that and the other thing --
BANFIELD: And then, be clear, he actually said to the grand jury in testimony, I first thought about my options as I'm in this embrace, in this fight through the window with Michael Brown. I'm thinking about my flashlight.
ROBBINS: Right. My flashlight. My mace. My this. My that.
BANFIELD: Could I - could I use my (INAUDIBLE) baton.
ROBBINS: You're kind of like, yeah, no you didn't.
BANFIELD: Could I use my mace. Do I have to go for my gun?
MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You think that was (INAUDIBLE).
BANFIELD: I think that might have been something you could have rigorously --
ROBBINS: Yes, I think - I think -- yes, that you could have rigorously - that I felt like a five-year-old, he was a hulk, you could have gone after. And --
BANFIELD: Let's clear the record there as well. If you are wondering about the actual size difference between Wilson and Brown. Officer Wilson is 6'4", 210 pounds. It was misquoted during the press conference, 210 pounds. Michael Brown, 6'6", which surprised me, and 280 pounds. So they're - they're both two very big men.
ROBBINS: And - but - and also under cross, he could have explained, I was in the car, the leverage was different, he was standing up. Like, whatever.
BANFIELD: He was seated.
ROBBINS: But so the fact that they didn't cross-examine him I found to be yet another disappointing thing. They didn't appoint a special prosecutor. They announced the grand jury decision at 9:00 at night. The prosecutor didn't have the guts to just say to the public, hey, we don't have the evidence. Sorry, we're not going to indict.
BANFIELD: Let me add to that -
ROBBINS: And they didn't even cross-examine him.
BANFIELD: The prosecutor announced the decision and then went into the reasoning while everyone ran off and didn't hear a word he said. And that was frustrating to me, you know, always looking for the legal arguments, I wish that the audience had heard more of the reasoning before the actual decision.
Mark, what stood out to you?
O'MARA: I was actually a bit surprised by how complete it actually was. And I say that because there were only one or two witnesses that they couldn't find and get to the grand jury when they were trying to get everybody who had anything to do with the scene, the lay witnesses who said they had a video, they said they heard something, they said they saw something. They brought in literally every witness they could find and presented. And every one of those witnesses had an opportunity to present their entire testimony. They weren't cut off. They didn't bring them in for three questions and get rid of them. I was surprised, actually, that it wasn't curtailed, that it wasn't customized like prosecutors normally do. It was complete. There will be constant complaints about how it was done, but at least we know that every witness who had anything to do with the case got an opportunity to talk to those 12 people.
BANFIELD: And all ends of the spectrum from, they shot him in the back and he fell where he died -
O'MARA: Yes. Sure.
BANFIELD: To, he was shot right at the car, to, he was shot 50 feet away, to, he actually advanced on the officer, every single argument was in this.
O'MARA: And, after all, and if we really think about it, though we may not agree with the result, or some people may not, if you really look at it, that's what we want. We want every piece of evidence there and then at least they can make a decision from there.
JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Let me address that because Mark also talked about what prosecutors normally do. And I think that's what goes to the core of this issue and that's what has the community not having any trust at all. What they normally do. Well, if you're a prosecutor, Ashleigh, and you normally tailor your presentation to a grand jury to give them probable cause, why is this different? Why are you giving them every single bit of information? You can argue transparency all you want, but if the process generally is to give the grand jury only enough, why here do you give them too much?
Which leads me to the other issue, perhaps that process needs to be altered in light of this. Understand that the police work closely with the prosecutors. They rely upon the police, prosecutors do. They depend upon them for investigation, for research, for giving them information. So now I'm going to investigate you, Ashleigh, after I think so highly of you, after I work with you day in, day out? Is that proper?
BANFIELD: And have to in the future.
JACKSON: And have to in the future. Is that proper? Is that appropriate? Or should some special person do that so that you could engender the trust of a community?
JACKSON: No violence under any circumstance is warranted is appropriate. No burnt-down buildings is ever appropriate. But there's a pent-up frustration because if you're going to have - if you're going to ask what prosecutors normally do, and then you're going to match it up against what was done, which is different, that's where the community is distrustful.
BANFIELD: Real quick.
JACKSON: And that is, you think about forensic evidence, and we could say, well, the forensics match this testimony. But if you don't have expert witnesses or people to cross-examine or give an alternate view, like we do at trial, we'll give the prosecutor -- you put on your expert, I'm going to put on two other experts to refute you.
BANFIELD: Yes. JACKSON: Did it happen here? No. It leads to the mistrust. And that's why the issue is the process.
BANFIELD: Well, it's a big information dump. And if you are as steeped in this case as we are, I highly recommend that you get yourself online and start reading through it.
I just want to add my two cents to this, and that is, I was shocked at the corroborative witnesses that backed Officer Wilson's story. I didn't know there was as many as there were and I didn't know they were African-American. They sure didn't make themselves public. There were so many public witnesses who said things on television that created a very big debate, and now the other side of the debate was said in secret. And some of those other witnesses actually changed their testimony saying that the media or the community or things they had heard actually influenced their testimony in the - you know, at the beginning of the process.
So much more to come. Thanks so much for being with us. We're going to go to a quick break and my colleague, Wolf Blitzer, is going to pick up right after this.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington.
It took just two words, no indictment, for Ferguson, Missouri, to erupt in violence. It started only minutes after the crowd learned that Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, would not face charges. But we all know this has been simmering for a long time.
Protesters set fires and in some cases firefighters refused to put them out, afraid of becoming targets themselves. Police say 150 guns shots were fired, mostly at officers who did not shoot back. Incredibly, no one was hit. Looters broke into stores. They hurled rocks and bottles indiscriminately. Police in riot gear answered with volleys of teargas as our Chris Cuomo found out firsthand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Tear gas.
DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tear gas.
CUOMO: There's tear gas just dropped right near us. It's going to get very bad here if we don't have masks. They're throwing it back. There are a lot of bean bags being shown and tear gas. We'll go to Susan Hendricks right now so we can clear the scene.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There were flashpoints all over the city from fires at one end of town to looters on the other. A whole lot more protesters ignored calls for calm, including from the family with the biggest stake in the situation, the Browns. Their attorney says the system is broken.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN CRUMP, :BROWN FAMILY ATTORNEY All of America, join us in demanding change, making a difference for the lives of our children and for the sake of our communities, and especially for Michael Brown Jr., who is crying out from the grave with so many thousands of other people of color who have been killed by police saying, you all have to change this system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining us now is Martin Luther King III. He's the son of the civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mr. King, thanks very much for joining us. I know you spoke at a Brown family rally in Ferguson back in August. You were praying for peace, as were so many other people. Were you surprised by the grand jury decision and by the violence that followed?
MARTIN LUTHER KING III, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I won't say that I was surprised. I would have to be in the corner of just disappointed. I'm also not surprised by the violence, but certainly greatly disappointed.
The fact is, when we look at what happened in this nation and the frustration that young people harbor, we have to ask, is some of this legitimate? Not the violence. The violence is never legitimate. But the anger we certainly can empathize with.
You know, I lost a father at 10 years old, gunned down by an assassin who was white. I lost a grandmother gunned down by an assassin who was black at 16 years old. So I understand. I certainly understand. But I always know that we must respond in a non-violent, constructive way.
I'll finally say that Victor Hugo (ph) used to say that wherever there is darkness, crimes will occur. But the guilty one is not merely he who commits the crime, but those who create the darkness. And it seems now that we -- right now we really need to find a way to bring the community together in light of this decision.
BLITZER: Which would be excellent if possible, at this - at least in the short term, to quiet down the violence. How would your father have reacted to what's going on in Ferguson, Missouri?
KING: Well, again, I think my father was a very compassionate human being. And I don't think that I or anybody can legitimately speak to how he would have responded, other than by saying that he was great - he would be greatly disappointed by the violence, knowing that when you continue to endure using the philosophy of non-violence, that ultimately you will be success. Justice delayed is not what is wanted, but justice can still come even in this situation.
And, you know, Michael Brown's family, although initially there was some very difficult reaction, has basically said that they want peace and calm. And that must happen in this community somehow under all these circumstances.