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George Floyd's Family Arriving At The Site Of His Death; Minnesota Attorney General To Make Significant Announcement Early This Afternoon; Decision Made On Additional Charges In George Floyd Case. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 3, 2020 - 12:00   ET

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


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JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. It is a day of dramatic breaking news, a potential turning point in the investigation of the death of George Floyd nine days ago in Minneapolis.

The Attorney General of the State, Keith Ellison, we are told will make an announcement related to possible additional charges in the killing of Mr. Floyd. Right now, fired officer Derek Chauvin faces charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. But the other three officers who were standing by as Mr. Floyd was killed have not as of this hour been charged.

But we are told the Attorney General has made a review of the case, he has completed it and will have an announcement later today. We also - you see the microphone set up there at the site of Mr. Floyd's death, his family due to visit any moment. They're coming to that memorial site, a shrine right there in Minneapolis.

Let's get to our correspondent who broke this news for us last hour, CNN's Josh Campbell and Omar Jimenez also in Minneapolis. Josh, I want to start with you. The Attorney General under a great deal of pressure here, in his own community, from protesters around the country. He said he asked for time to review all of the evidence, but your reporting is Keith Ellison has made a decision.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John, a major development, a new milestone in this investigation. As you mentioned, this has been under review by the Attorney General's Office, the actions of the officers that were involved in this incident that resulted in the death of George Floyd.

Now, we know that one of those officers, Derek Chauvin, was arrested. He's charged with third-degree murder. The case was then transferred to the Attorney General's Office. It was with county prosecutors. The AG's office took that investigation over based on the decision by the governor here, and that investigation has been well under way.

They haven't been releasing any details about where they were, but we're now told that their initial review of all the facts in the case is now complete. They have now rendered a decision regarding the next step for the officers that were involved in this incident.

Sources are not telling us right now publicly what that decision is? We're told that there will be an announcement from the Attorney General early this afternoon, so we will be waiting for those remarks by AG Keith Ellison here.

I can tell you this community has really been on edge since this incident began. As we know, we have seen those images across the country of protesters, most of them peaceful, some of them violent, people demanding justice in this case.

What I've been told by sources here as we've been covering this story is that they have been working methodically through all the facts in this investigation, trying to ensure that they do things the right way.

As one person told me, they only get one shot to do it right. We're now told that that review is complete and while the investigation itself will continue, they continue to gather additional evidence; they have now at least gathered enough information to render a decision on those four officers. We're waiting for this afternoon to find out what that decision will be, John.

KING: Josh, stand by for us as I bring in our colleague, Omar Jimenez. Omar, it is hard. It is just hard to describe the potential emotions of this moment. Already, Mr. Floyd's family was coming to that now- sacred site in Minneapolis. They have a memorial service planned tomorrow in Houston, which is his birth city.

And now we have word that the Attorney General has made a decision, and we will hear that decision about potentially charging the other officers involved a bit later today. And as I bring you in, I just want to help our viewers around the world. Josh Campbell mentioned this would be later this afternoon, Minnesota central time in the United States, it's noon here in Washington, where I'm 11:00 am, a little after that now where you are. Describe the scene and the emotions of this moment?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, at this site, we are at the intersection where George Floyd's final moments played out a little bit over a week ago now. And as you mentioned, the family was already set to come to this site to pay their respects. Again, at a place that has basically become a shrine of sorts and a makeshift memorial over the course of days.

Now, we've heard from the family attorney, Benjamin Crump, and he was actually confident that we would see charges against these officers before we saw any memorial services here in Minneapolis on Thursday.

Again, we have not seen if we are going to see charges against the other officers in this, but that is the confidence that the family attorney is feeling right now. And a few moments ago, I spoke to the Governor here at this site as he visited, and he told us, simply, the stakes are so high in this. We don't get another chance to get this right was the exact words that he said to me, indicating that, look, the entire eyes of the country and even the world are looking at Minnesota right now to see what the consequences are going to be for officers in a cell phone video that, clearly, the entire world has seen, that seemed to plainly show a knee on the neck of George Floyd and a situation where, at least autopsy reports that we have seen, two of them, say it was a homicide.

So, there is a lot of pressure here, as you mentioned before you came to me, on Attorney General Keith Ellison here in the state, to see what he is going to bring forward.

[12:05:00]

JIMENEZ: But I can tell you the emotion are still very raw for people here in Minneapolis, not just on the protesting side. I spoke with the mother of George Floyd's daughter last night, who told me specifically about how difficult it was to tell their 6-year-old daughter what had happened to her father. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROXIE WASHINGTON, MOTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD'S DAUGHTER: She said, "Mom, something's going on with my family." And I said, "why you say that?" she said, because I hear them saying my dad's name on TV. We talked about it. She wanted to know how he died. And the only thing that I can tell her is he couldn't breathe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ: And again, we are expecting the family to come here in moments to, essentially, what will begin a week's worth of memorial services that start tomorrow here in Minneapolis and will culminate with the funeral for George Floyd back in his hometown of Houston.

We mentioned the visitors that have all come here. We've seen the Minneapolis Police Chief come here and plainly say - remember, he was the one who fired these officers within 24 hours of this happening. He plainly said it wasn't just about Former Officer, Derek Chauvin the one seen with his knee on George Floyd's neck. He also says the others the inaction that the others took made them complicit. John?

KING: Omar Jimenez on the scene for us. Omar, we'll be back to you in just a few moments, obviously expecting the Floyd family to be there. We will get that, I want to bring into the conversation Don Lewis. He is a special prosecutor in a case like this, a case that drew national attention Philando Castile Case.

Mr. Lewis, thank you so much for coming back. When we spoke the other day, we talked about the challenge here. In your case, you thought you had a solid prosecution. The officer was acquitted. As the Attorney General of Minnesota, Keith Ellison, who the other day asked for patience, asked for time, said he needed time to review all the evidence so that he would have, if he decided on charges, an air-tight case, he has made a decision that we will hear shortly, your thoughts at this moment? DON LEWIS, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR IN PHILANDO CASTILE CASE: Well, I

totally expect the Attorney General to announce one or two decisions today. First of all, I expect him to upgrade the current charge against Officer Chauvin. And currently, it's charges of third-degree murder.

But I fully expect it will be upgraded to either second-degree or perhaps first-degree premeditated murder. Not only has the community voiced strongly the need to upgrade the charges, but there's actually been some concern expressed in the legal community that the current charge of third-degree murder is in fact, defective and needs to be upgraded, in the first instance, to be able to bring in charges against the other officers.

The second decision I expect to hear today, perhaps, is to in fact, bring charges against the other three officers. And I think that's the decision that everyone is expecting as well.

KING: Walk me through a little bit what you meant there, in the sense that if we talk about first-degree murder, most of us assume that means they think they can prove premeditation, that Officer Chauvin came to work that day looking to kill somebody, looking to kill Mr. Floyd--

LEWIS: --no, that's not necessary--

KING: --if that's not the case, please help me. Explain.

LEWIS: Okay. So, you can form premeditation in a very short period of time. What a first-degree murder charge would basically contend is that, on the scene, he decided, made a decision to kill George Floyd and had a chance to think about it and then pondered a plan and then executed on that plan.

Now, that is a pretty serious charge, but it could very well be proven. If you consider the very events that took place in that ten- minute span, keep in mind that during this period of time, there were people observing, residents and community, begging for George Floyd's life. There were actually officers there.

One of the officers who was holding down the legs of George Floyd actually expressed a concern about whether or not he should be turned over. And of course, George Floyd himself was pleading for his life. There were many opportunities for this officer to reflect upon his actions, to ponder on what he was doing, and he decided to continue.

So, there is a potential basis for a premeditated murder claim. You don't have to think a day about it. You could think about just over a span of a couple minutes.

KING: Thank you for clearing that up for us. So, take us through your experience, because you know the evidence here - you mentioned the video. It is inhumane.

[12:10:00] KING: You could watch - you could show that to a jury and one would assume that it is crystal clear at least in the case Officer Chauvin. But you went through your case, you thought you had a strong case and the jury said no and acquitted. What is your advice to Mr. Ellison at this moment, not just in collecting the evidence, but in understanding, you're asking a jury to convict a police officer or potentially officers?

LEWIS: I think Keith Ellison already knows based upon his experience as well as the experience of other prosecutors that these cases are not slam dunk. In fact, even when you have the greatest facts, and he talked about the Walter Scott case in South Carolina, when you had great facts, video that showed that the shooting was totally unjustified, you had a hung jury.

The problem is, is that the legal standards are designed to favor the police officers. And jurors when they hear these cases are predisposed to decide tough cases in favor of police officers. So, you may have enough to bring charges, but that's just the beginning of the work. It's an uphill battle whenever you bring criminal charges against a police officer.

KING: Don Lewis, grateful for your perspective and expertise on this issue. I appreciate your jumping in to help us today. Let's continue the conversation now with my senior colleague, Van Jones, Veteran Activist for Criminal Justice and Social Justice.

Van, the moment here, we expect to hear from Attorney General Ellison a bit later. We expect any second now, any minute now for the Floyd family to come to what to them is an incredibly sad site, what has become a sacred site to many in the community.

And as we discussed a bit earlier, the protests around the country, and indeed, around the world, have been demanding - there are many things on the list, but first and foremost, our charges against the additional officers. Put this day in context.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, the system is on trial now. That's the bottom line. The system itself is on trial. So many times, African-Americans feel like we're on trial. There's going to be 4 billion people - you've got 7 billion people in the world. You've got 4 billion people who are looking right now at the United States of America and who are looking to see what Keith Ellison is going to do?

Listen, the challenge is, I know Keith Ellison, I know Keith Ellison personally for almost 20 years. He is - I'll say it again, he is an ethics junkie. He's not going to do something that he thinks is just going to make black people happy or just locate.

He's a Muslim and he takes his fate so seriously, he would literally rather die than do something he thinks is unethical. So, that's why people are biting their nails, because all the pressure in the world is not going to move Keith Ellison.

He is going to look at these facts. He's going to look at that tape, he's going to look at the law, and he's going to make his decision. Now, I believe that decision should be to charge all of the police officers.

The protest movement will rise or fall based on whether or not all of the officers are charged. You're not going to be able to explain to literally hundreds of millions of people that, well, you know, technically, with this statute, blah, blah, blah, blah, the signal will be sent. Is it okay for our cops to stand around while this stuff happens?

That's the way normal people are going to see it. Is it okay for a cop - for police officers to stand around while a police officer murders someone and literally do nothing about it? That's the human standard. The law is different.

And Keith Ellison, in some ways, is the best person and the worst person to be in this situation because he is so unyielding in his ethical commitments. So we'll see.

KING: Van, you know the community incredibly well, which is why we're grateful that you're here at this moment. Look, we could go through the history, and we have in recent days, and there are too many of these cases to count.

As this one is before us and as we wait on Mr. Ellison and we also wait for the Floyd family to show up there, one of the things that is different, at least in recent years, in recent days, is these, and the word spreads like this.

So, what is your sense? The protests outside the White House right now, outside the Capitol right now, in places across America. What we have seen is daytime protests that have been overwhelmingly peaceful, and sometimes at night, better in the last couple of days, but more violent. What, in your view, is the conversation around the country right now?

JONES: Well, I think that the country is split because there's this righteousness about the protests. Look, I think for most people - I'm not just talking about African-Americans. I think - if you have a functioning brain stem and half of a pulse, you were shocked and floored and flattened and emotionally wrecked to watch a seven-eight- minute murder happen while people were screaming to police to stop and do something.

And so, on the one hand, that is there. On the other hand, lawlessness is the problem. And so, you now have the situation where it's lawlessness in the police force that started this whole thing. And now there's lawlessness in the communities, often by prolocutors not even by real protesters.

[12:15:00]

JONES: And we're kind of now trapped in this situation. Do you respond to lawlessness with lawlessness? The way you get out of it is for the law to step forward, for the law to step forward and charge these officers and reassure and reassert to people that police officers have to obey the law.

And before you even get to a statute, no officer should stand around while people are screaming that someone is dying and do nothing. And so, if that principle can be reasserted today, before the eyes of the whole world, then you have an off-ramp.

And so, there is no pro-riot caucus in the black community. There is no pro-crime caucus in the black community. I'm raising two black boys right here in Los Angeles. I'm not providing enough, nor is anybody else, but the patience of no people is without limit.

No people have a patience that is without limit when it comes to these endless provocations. And so, we've got to be able to have the law assert itself so that we can get back to a normal process of getting this thing resolved.

KING: And this is the day when we should get answers to at least some of those questions. Van Jones, stand by as well. We're going to take a quick break. I remind you as we do the moment at hand. The Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has made a decision after reviewing the evidence from the scene. Potential charges against the other officers could come today.

We'll get word up or down. And you're watching right there that is where George Floyd was killed nine days ago his family due there any moment. We'll be right back.

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[12:20:00]

KING: Live pictures here outside the United States Capitol. You see several members of the capitol police force kneeling in solidarity. There are demonstrators there all day long, chanting for peace and justice. Those officers, as we have seen in many demonstrations around the country, kneeling to show their solidarity as many of these protesters demand police reforms around the country.

Let's go live now to the scene of why we're seeing this all around the country and all around the world? Right there, that is the site in Minneapolis where 9 days ago today George Floyd was killed, pinned to the ground with a knee to his neck for more than nine minutes by a Minneapolis police officer.

That officer Derek Chauvin has been charged. The Attorney General of Minnesota, CNN is now reporting, has made a decision after reviewing evidence against the other officers also at the scene, and we will hear from the Attorney General, Keith Ellison a bit later today.

Floyd's family due at this site, now a shrine to George Floyd. Any moment now, CNN's Omar Jimenez is there on the scene for us, as he has been doing reporting for the past week-plus fantastic reporting.

Omar, just describe the moment at this scene. Based on your being there, are the people there aware of the breaking news that we expect to hear from Mr. Ellison later today or are they focused mainly on the fact that they know the family is soon to arrive?

JIMENEZ: I spoke to one person who was here a few moments ago, and we were having that exact conversation about - she was wondering, when are we going to see charges? I told her that we're expecting them this afternoon at some point, or at least some announcement on whether we will see charges or not.

And the fact that a decision have been made did not seem to be enough. They were very skeptical that, again, these officers would have charges that would stick. And now, in regards to waiting for the family to come, as I understand from my colleague, Sara Sidner, Benjamin Crump, who is the family attorney, along with the family, just left their hotel about ten minutes ago. So they should be here any moment now.

And of course, people are waiting to see the human side of what has been really just in many ways little down to that cell phone video as it spread out throughout the entire country. I think it's often easy to forget that this is a real family that was affected by this.

This was a six-year-old daughter who lost her father. These are siblings that lost their brother. And so, you get reminded of that when you stare into the eyes and you hear, in their own words, what this past week has been like. We got a taste of that last night.

I spoke to the mother of George Floyd's daughter, along with one of his good friends and former NBA players Steven Jackson. Again, we expect to hear from the family attorney along with some of Floyd's family here at this site, which as you mention, has become a bit of a holy site for protesters, a makeshift memorial over the course of the past week.

But let's also remember why we have seen protests? It's not just about this Floyd case. It's about trying to change the culture of policing in general. This case just happens to be an unfortunate flashpoint in this.

And so, when you talk about that aspect of things, I spoke to the Governor not too long ago, when he was here visiting the sites. And we talked about the stakes of this moment, the stakes of trying to make a right decision in the eyes of the people in this moment.

And he says he thinks we only get one chance to get this right. And again, it's not just about this case. It's part of why the Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced the Civil Rights Investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, trying to examine their practices over the course of the past ten years to see and examine for themselves if there are any patterns of discrimination there, maybe just for the fact that in case this George Floyd case doesn't go the way people may want, there is hope for a potential long-term solution.

So again a lot at stake here, it is a very big moment that not just people here in Minneapolis are watching but people across the world, John.

KING: People around the world are watching it's going to be a crossroads day in this investigation and the path forward. Omar Jimenez, we'll be with you momentarily as the family arrives. I want to bring in our CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson in the conversation. And as I do Joey, I was just talking to Don Lewis, who was the special prosecutor in the Castile case.

And he said in his view, he thought if you are going to try to charge the other three officers that you might need to amend the charges against officer Chauvin as well, so that you have a stronger legal tree, if you will the central player Officer Chauvin and then to have accessory or some other aiding and abetting charges against the others. Did that make sense to you?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It did, John. And so, let's just take a step back so that everyone understands what we're talking about. I think there are a couple of steps to the process.

[12:25:00]

JACKSON: The first step regarding the anger and frustration is the delay of the arrest of course, right? Because the standard generally is that if somebody is reasonably in belief to have committed a crime, they get arrested why not here?

And so, it really strains the imagination as to why we didn't see that? We saw that as to one, which we'll get into now, arrested four days later. And here we are nine days later, as to the others, what gives, right?

And so what makes they've seen, John, like there is a disconnect between how this is being treated, and how everyone else in the world is treated and that flames intensions. So now moving forward as to what the charges are?

You can look at first-degree murder, second-degree murder, third degree, many people have no clue right, what that is and so let's talk about that? When lawyers were analyzing this, and the state attorney general, first-degree murder means intent and premeditation.

Now, it is true that you can formulate intent on an instant, right? But it's a very difficult thing or may be difficult to prove, right? And they're going to make, obviously, defense attorneys - oh, you think he woke up that morning looking to kill a black person on the street?

Those are the arguments we'll hear. So, the prosecutor has to say, even though you could formulate intent in a minute and first-degree's punishable by life, should that be the theory I pursue? Maybe I don't need to show premeditation and intent, because I can get 40 years when I go to second-degree murder. Well, what's that?

Second-degree murder is intent, but I don't have to show premeditation, John, before a jury. I don't have to show it was premeditated. I just have to show it was an intentional killing. And when you have facts here, which would suggest that you're kneeing on someone's neck for nine minutes, three of which they're unconscious, you know what you kind of get to second-degree. The third-degree murder charge could be problematic. That's braved

heart murder. That means you knew what you were doing. And you know what, you consciously disregarded the risk. You were just so devoid of humanity, you just were just so callous and someone died.

The problem that that's defective is because, generally, that's a charge, where say you fire into a crowd and someone gets killed. Well, you're accused of and can be responsible for third-degree murder. You didn't mean to kill anybody, but you killed one.

And there's a question as to whether third-degree murder can be applied to one person, meaning, is it depraved heart as to a crowd and one gets killed or as to one? And that's what was suggested earlier when he was saying that it could be defective.

In terms of the other charges, John, and to conclude, the other officers could be deemed just as complicit. We've been talking about silent or standing around. There's more than that. If you look at the number of tapes that have been provided, the other officers were on him, too. At least three of them were.

And then, of course, we had George Floyd who was saying things, like "I can't breathe," "mom," you know, "you're gonna kill me." And it would strain the imagination if you're an officer there and you didn't hear that, you didn't know he was in distress? You're wearing a badge. You have a gun. You have an opportunity to prevent this and act. You have a duty and obligation to do so and you don't?

And so, yes, there's a feeling that those other officers are complicit. Those other officers are involved. Those other officers aided, abetted, assisted, and should be held accountable. And that's, I think, what they're looking at, that is the State Attorney General, with respect to moving forward and seeing if there are viable charges to pursue.

KING: Joey, stand by for us as we continue the conversation. And I want to bring Van Jones back in. Van, you mentioned that you know Keith Ellison and have known him for some time, that you trust him as a man of integrity and high ethics. I want you to listen to a little bit of what he said the other day right here on CNN when he was appealing for patience, saying "I've got to get this right."

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KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Now that I'm in this role of prosecuting the case. I need to make sure that I'm not commenting on the evidence. I know that's very unsatisfactory for people who have seen the tape and so outrage. John, I sympathize with that, but I'm just asking for them to trust me to make sure that I see this prosecution all the way through the right way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Help me, Van, understand the "all the way through the right way" because if there are charges filed today against the other officers, and we don't know that yet. We just know a decision has been made by the Attorney General, and we will get that decision later today.

But even if, you say it could be a potential circuit breaker, the beginning of an off-ramp. But because I talked to Mr. Lewis in the Castile case, we could go through so many other charges where you might have a charge, but you don't get a conviction. What is the test ahead here for Mr. Ellison?

JONES: Well, I mean that's classic Keith Ellison. I mean, he is somebody who is going to take his responsibilities very seriously and, you know, because he's so devout in terms of his faith. And obviously, you know, he's playing a secular role here but character matters, who the person is matters.

For him, to do something unethical with this is - when I say he would literally rather die than do something unethical. And so, when he says see it through all the way, the right way, I imagine what he means is, you know, he knows he's got the one officer he's got to charge. He wants to make sure he charges that one the right way.

And then the rest of the process is, does he charge the rest of them into witnesses or defendants.