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Announcement Imminent from Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison; Three Officers to Be Arrested and Charged, Second-Degree Murder for Derek Chauvin; Minnesota Law Should Favor Second Degree for Derek Chauvin. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired June 3, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST, NEWSROOM: It's the top of the hour. I'm Brianna Keilar, and we begin with what could be a pivotal moment in the George Floyd death investigation. We're awaiting, right now, an imminent announcement from the Minnesota attorney general, Keith Ellison, who says he has made a decision about whether or not to charge the other officers in the death of George Floyd.
So these officers, who have since been fired, are on the video that has been seen around the world. I must warn you, it is graphic. We play it because it's also important. It's important to understand what happened to George Floyd.
You see that officer and two other officers, aside from Derek Chauvin, the one there with his knee on George Floyd's neck -- he's already been charged, right? He's already been charged with third degree murder. So, they don't intervene as Floyd repeatedly tells them he can't breathe over the course of several minutes, more than eight minutes.
In Minneapolis last hour, the family of George Floyd and attorney Ben Crump visited the site of George Floyd's final moments, Floyd's son, calling for justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUINCY MASON FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S SON: I'm here, every (ph) night (ph) with my family, so I can get justice for my father. And no man or woman should be without their fathers.
BEN CRUMP, FAMILY ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE FLOYD'S FAMILY: We expect all of the police officers to be arrested before we have the memorial here in Minneapolis, Minnesota tomorrow.
Because we cannot have two justice systems in America, one for black America and one for white America. We must have equal justice for the United States of America.
And change is going to come in the tragic killing of George Floyd. And I proclaim, with his son as my witness, that change starts today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Let's go to our correspondents who are in the field. Omar Jimenez and Josh Campbell, there in Minneapolis. And, Josh, the attorney general here, Keith Ellison, he's a six-term lawmaker, he represented the Minneapolis area in Congress, he's a former Civil Rights attorney. Do you think the community is more willing to accept the decision, whatever he makes? Or do you think, no, they expect these officers to be held accountable?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, I think a lot of that is going to come down to what that decision is. Now, law enforcement sources tell me that the attorney general's office, after reviewing the evidence in this investigation, has found a conclusion regarding the four officers that were involved in that incident, after that encounter with George Floyd.
Now, we know that one of those officers, Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder. The question was, what would happen, if anything, to the other three officers that were seen on video footage at the time of that encounter, in and around that incident?
And I can tell you, after talking to many protestors -- we've been out here, covering this story around the clock -- many folks who tell us that they respect Attorney General Keith Ellison, they were confident in his ability to review the evidence.
One thing that's been so interesting is the question was, well, what is taking so long? I talked to sources here in law enforcement who say that they were doing a methodical investigation, they wanted to take it slowly, review every single piece of evidence; one person, telling me that they only get one shot at this to do it right, so they wanted to make sure that they did a thorough job.
The question will be, we know that the decision has been made, that they've reviewed the evidence. The question is, what is that decision as it relates to the three officers, and then obviously Derek Chauvin as well? That is yet to be seen, and obviously we'll await that reaction from the community.
They're confident, the protestors that we talked to, in this thorough review. Again, yet to be seen what that decision is, what that reaction will be. But we'll hear this afternoon, after the attorney general speaks -- Brianna.
KEILAR: And Omar, you've spoken with so many people there in Minneapolis. And we've heard from them over and over again, right? They say, if these were three people who were not police officers and they witnessed someone, they just stood by feet, away, doing nothing for minutes and minutes, and they witnessed third-degree murder, they would be held accountable. So why aren't these police officers being held accountable?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Brianna. You just -- you don't have to look too far in history to know that it has been incredibly difficult to prosecute a police officer successfully, and that's part of why there is still some skepticism, here in the community, that not only will all of the officers be charged, but that all of them will be convicted.
Now, that's just what we're hearing here, at essentially what has become ground zero for the George Floyd story. HIs death now, a little bit over a week ago. His final moments, playing out in an intersection behind me.
And a little bit earlier this afternoon, some of the family and the family attorney, Benjamin Crump, stood by at that exact location, speaking about the moment that we are in, speaking about what they want to see happen, and making bold predictions as well, the family attorney, Crump, saying that he fully expects these other officers to be charged as accomplices in the death of George Floyd.
But as, of course, my colleague Josh Campbell reported, we are still waiting to hear the decision on whether we will see charges against the other officers, likely later this afternoon.
KEILAR: And, Omar, I know you had a chance to talk with the governor of Minnesota. He addressed your arrest earlier this week, which people all over the country and even the world saw. Tell us a little bit about what he said to you.
JIMENEZ: Well, Brianna, the governor was here, visiting this site for the first time since this happened. He said he needed to be here, to feel the emotion that has been so painful for so many people in this Minneapolis community.
And I was doing a report, just like this, and he literally walked just behind me here, and he came up to me, he sincerely apologized for what had happened. And as I understand, we have a little bit of that interaction here for you to listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TIM WALZ (D), MINNESOTA: Thank you for -- thank you for the professionalism, thank you for understanding. And I'm deeply sorry, and you can know that we've -- we've made other mistakes on this, as far as making sure that you have access, but protocols and everything else, as we're learning, have to change. Because we have to create the space for you to tell the story.
JIMENEZ: Of course, Governor. And one thing I just want to ask, did you get a chance to look at the memorial? I was just doing a report, I missed. How does it feel to be at this site, that has drawn attention to your state for all the wrong reasons? WALZ: Well, it's very personal. We wanted to try and get down here early, I'll just say that. Because I very much worry about white politicians appropriating black pain, and that's certainly not it. But I think it's for me, I have to personally and viscerally feel this.
I'm -- you know, it's unfortunate, I've become friends with mothers only because their sons were killed. And that was what the catalyst for us becoming friends. But that personal, and feel the community down here, and the pain.
And I think trying to understand, I'm part of that community. Not as governor, but then that responsibility. So it's very mixed emotions, very hard. I -- watching the gentleman -- jus the sense of compassion and humanity he had for everyone, for everyone involved in this and all the lives that are destroyed.
So I think the biggest thing we're -- this just candidly, me, is I don't think we get another chance to fix this in the country, I really don't. I don't think that's hyperbole, I just -- I think being at the heart of this and seeing the community's pain so viscerally, this is -- this is going to have to be that change we look for.
So I'm -- again, deeply sorry that that --
JIMENEZ: Of course.
WALZ: -- happened, I appreciate you being back out here again, covering.
JIMENEZ: I appreciate your help in all this, and I know it's been a tough week. Thank you, Governor.
WALZ: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIMENEZ: And you heard the apology. But more importantly there, he talked about the stakes of the moment that we are in right now, here, not just in Minneapolis and not just in this state, but across the country as well.
In his words, I don't think we have another chance to get this right. And we will see the manifestation of what happens there, again, play out a little bit later this afternoon -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Omar, thank you for bringing that to us from Minneapolis, Omar Jimenez.
Stand by for a moment, if you can. I want to discuss this. Right now, I'm joined by CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and the director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance Marq Claxton.
So let's talk about what we're expecting here, right? It seems like any minute, we could be getting this news about these three other police officers. And ever since Derek Chauvin, the one -- you know, the one who we see with the role of putting his knee in the neck of George Floyd, ever since he was charged and arrested on Friday, there's been this question: Well, what happens to the three others who just stood by and either restrained him at some point or did nothing?
Jeffrey, can Keith Ellison elevate the charges against Officer Chauvin? And is that at all part of what you expect here, or do you think we're just going to see something about these three other officers?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I'm loathe to do predictions. I -- based on what I have seen, the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin does seem like the appropriate charge. People shouldn't get the impression that you know, third-degree murder is some sort of slap on the wrist. I mean, this is a 25-year count.
First-degree murder, which people have discussed, involves premeditation, it involves murders by people like hitmen, who go out in the morning to kill somebody in the afternoon. That does not seem to fit the facts here.
As for the other three officers, you know, there's been a lot of discussion about you know, can you charge someone who did nothing but watch? I mean, that might be an interesting theoretical question. But based on the video I'd seen, that's not what happened here. Those three officers were part of holding him down, while he was being choked to death.
So it certainly seems like there are a range of charges that could be brought against the three officers, some sort of assault, perhaps even some sort of homicide count.
But this is not simply a case, as far as I can tell, about standing by and doing nothing. It's about participating in a crime, according to prosecutors, that resulted int he death of a human being.
KEILAR: You know, Marq, as we await this news, to Jeffrey's point, if some people wanted first degree murder because it is worse than third- degree murder, and they feel like this is horrible, it seems sometimes, the legal definition of things can be unsatisfying, right?
And I wonder if, depending on what we see here when it comes to the three other officers, what you think people who are calling for the importance of this justice, what you think they are going to want to see, and whether you're expecting that this could potentially fall short. And I guess maybe how you personally see this.
MARQ CLAXTON, DIRECTOR, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: I think what people are expecting -- and the protestors, for example, and other organizations -- are demanding, is complete justice, a holistic justice. That means arrests of all individuals involved. Not just one, not just two, but all four individuals who in some way contributed to the death of Mr. Floyd. I think that's the hope, the wish, the desire.
However, I think people are realistic about it. Now, you still have some who will cautiously optimistic. But then there's another segment who -- who has become, you know, very familiarly uneasy, just based on the history and the trajectory of these cases historically, and the trajectory of this particular case.
When you see that there's some trepidation and some delay in the application of justice -- and by that I mean arresting the individuals involved -- then you become uneasy about how this thing will proceed, moving forward.
It's already unusual, as far as prosecutions are concerned, for individuals who clearly, there has been established probable cause but yet three of the individuals --
KEILAR: Hey, Marq, can you -- I want you to react to something. We just have some breaking news in right here. This is -- I believe this is a tweet from Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, is that correct?
OK, she says that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is increasing charges against Derek Chauvin to second-degree in George Floyd's murder, and also charging the other three officers. She says this is another important step for justice.
Marq, I wonder what you think. Because you, know, we had heard from before this went to Keith Ellison and it was Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County prosecutor. We'd heard him say the charges could be increased, but I think a lot of people listened to that and thought, is that just an empty promise that he's kind of using to cover himself, as some people are going to be dissatisfied with this third degree murder charge?
And yet this appears to be elevated. I wonder, Marq, if -- what you think about this news.
CLAXTON: Well, I'm sure that there will be people who will be, you know, increasingly pleased with the upgrade of charges themselves, even if they don't really have a full understanding about the penalty for each of the offenses. And I'm sure that the attorney general will include some lesser charges in that as well.
And -- but once again, let's be mindful, it is not only about the arrest of one individual. It is not only about the charges for one individual, it is about the complete and holistic justice applied to each of those who were involved in the death of Mr. Floyd.
KEILAR: Jeffrey, explain this to us. What are we -- what does it appear we are going to be seeing here?
TOOBIN: Well, again, careful about too much reading into a single tweet. But, you know, second-degree murder -- all these counts, first, second and third-degree murder, what's complicated is they vary state by state in terms of what precisely they mean. The second-degree murder requires a greater degree of planning, of
aggravation, of menace than a third-degree murder does. Prosecutors have to prove a greater degree of bad intent on the part of the -- on the part of the defendant.
So -- and frankly, I have to look up, I don't have this on the top of my head -- whether the penalties are greater than the maximum of 25 years that was required -- that was the maximum under third-degree murder. But it's likely there is enhanced potential penalties, it's somewhat more difficult for the prosecutors to charge -- I mean, to prove in court, if this case goes to trial.
And as for the three other defendants, I think we just really need to see -- the three other police officers -- we need to see what the charges actually are before we evaluate, you know, whether they're adequate or whether the prosecution can prove them. I think Senator Klobuchar's tweet just doesn't have enough information to evaluate that.
KEILAR: OK. So I don't mean to pop-quiz you while you don't have the statute in front of you. But if you could speak -- so as you mentioned this idea, though, of -- you know, it's a higher threshold for a second-degree murder charge in order to get a conviction. So can you -- and maybe you can't -- shed some light on sort of what that would mean?
I mean, we've learned some things about Derek Chauvin, right? We've learned about how he, for instance, in his job, doing private security at a club, that he had a very different approach, dealing with a, say, even Hispanic club-goers than African-American club-goers.
TOOBIN: Right, I mean -- well, let me just say that you know, one of the great challenges of the legal system always is, how do you prove intent? How do you prove what's in someone's head? And the way you do that is with evidence.
And, you now, we think we know everything about this crime, but we don't. For example, prosecutors will certainly want to know, what did Derek Chauvin say during this whole process? You know, we know some of that from the cell phone videos that have come out. You know, the fact that there were people saying to him, you know, Let him go, he's dying.
But, for example, what did Derek Chauvin say to the two other people who were in the car with Mr. George? I mean, all of this will go into the mix of how you prove, you know, whether this was simply, as the defense might argue, an accident, an excessive use of force, or was this something really sinister?
And that all goes to the question of intent. You know, the fact that his hand was in his pocket the whole time, the fact that he was so casual about that. That relates to the question of intent. All of that will need to be presented to a jury -- again, if this case goes to trial -- on the question of what his intent was with regard to Mr. George.
And that will go into the jury's determination of what level of criminality is involved here -- second-degree murder, third-degree murder, manslaughter or not guilty at all.
KEILAR: And I want to bring into the conversation now Laura Coates to talk about this. Laura, I think it was you who mentioned before, this idea that Derek Chauvin did not appear like someone who felt like he was under threat, right? Because he had a hand -- I think it was you, we were talking a few days ago -- he had his hand in his pocket, he did not appear to be threatened by George Floyd.
But what is your reaction to this news? Second-degree murder, up from third degree?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first, it seemed his hands were not -- in his pocket or near his pocket, with the black gloves. In any event, it didn't appear that he was at all ready to repel some imminent attack on his person that would warrant the use of lethal force.
That's always the standard, how much force you use could only be the amount you actually need to repel the force. And really, nothing more -- or to subdue.
We know from the medical records and the video that he was not responsive for over two minutes, and so they know more of a need if there ever was, to try to restrain him in this fashion.
But actually, the second-degree murder charge makes sense compared to the third-degree murder charge, for the reasons articulated by Jeffrey Toobin about intent, but also primarily because in Minnesota, there is a nuance to the law.
And you know, I'm barred in Minnesota, the -- and what I have always learned in the practice of law there has been this. You have a second- degree murder charge that says you unintentionally killed somebody, although you acted in disregard that there was a foreseeable risk that somebody could be killed. It isn't always easy to reconcile those two things. You didn't intend to do it, but you knew a risk and disregarded it. It feels different to people.
So what Minnesota says is, look, that may be true with second-degree murder, when you're talking about driving down the wrong side of a highway, Brianna. Shooting a bullet into a crowd of people -- goodness, God forbid -- that may be a more realistic aspect of, look, you didn't intend to kill a particular person, but you knew that your actions would lead to someone being harmed, if not killed.
So Minnesota says you can't use third-degree murder in that sort of unintentional, depraved heart (ph) when you are focusing your energy towards a single person. The supreme court, I believe, has (INAUDIBLE) on this issue, many lawyers were already questioning about this in Minnesota, about how this could be a relevant charge if it's so clear from the case law.
So because there was one subject, it wasn't a highway, it wasn't a crowd of people, it was one person the officers were focusing on, Mr. George Floyd, it would not have been able to stand, to have that third-degree murder charge.
And one final point here, Brianna, is the Hennepin County attorney was talking last week about this case, and he was mentioning Mohamed Noor, who was the Somali-American police officer who killed a white Australian woman who had called 911 to respond to an alleged sexual assault in her alleyway.
He kept saying, Look, I have charged the same conduct here, I was able to secure a conviction 12.5 years of an officer-involved shooting. That was distinct, and people had a different thought because shooting into the night versus focusing on a particular person -- and that officer was actually acquitted of the second-degree murder charge, and instead was convicted of a third-degree murder charge.
So, here, all these things are at play, why the attorney general, Keith Ellison, was so careful to say, look I'm taking a fresh look at these charges, a brand-new look, keeping in mind the relevant case law that said third-degree murder, unintentional, depraved heart, well, only one person was at risk of being hurt. That can't stand.
KEILAR: You said you're barred in Minnesota, is that right, Laura?
COATES: I am, yes.
KEILAR: All right, that's --
COATES: It's my -- it's where I'm from, it's my law school --
KEILAR: -- very good -- it's --
COATES: -- I mean, it's important.
KEILAR: Yes. No, it's so important, especially when we look at the statutes and they're different in different states, it's so helpful.
I want to bring in Josh Campbell to this conversation that we're having with Laura Coates here. Josh, what's your reaction to this, Senator Amy Klobuchar, putting out on Twitter that this indeed, the charge for Derek Chauvin is going from third-degree murder to second degree?
CAMPBELL: Yes, well, we're still waiting for confirmation from the attorney general's office and state officials here, that that is the case. But as we know in past incidents, when you have elected officials, members of Congress, they're often briefed on certain investigations, certain things that happen in their area. And so it's not unusual that the senator might get some piece of information like that. We're here in St. Paul, near the capitol, where we're expecting to
hear from the attorney general this afternoon. Now, what we reported earlier, in talking to law enforcement sources, is that there was a major development, that after reviewing all of the evidence in the investigation of those four officers that were involved in that incident that resulted in the death of George Floyd, that the attorney general's office was now ready to render a decision.
And we were told by our sources that that would be happening this afternoon. Again, no official confirmation. Obviously, we know based on Senator Klobuchar's tweet, that she's saying that one of the officers, Derek Chauvin, who had already been arrested and charged with third-degree murder, the senator, saying that that charge will be elevated to second-degree murder. And she also said that the other three officers will also be charged.
Now, members of the community who we've been hearing from, they've been on edge here, it's been very tense in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, with people wanting to see if there would be additional justice for those who were involved.
And that decision, obviously, is up to prosecutors. After looking at evidence, they will either weigh -- you know, weigh that and say, no, there aren't sufficient charges here, or there are. And we're now reaching that milestone, where we're waiting for the officials. Again, we know that the decision has been made, we're waiting to hear officially from the attorney general, this afternoon, what his decision is -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. And I just want to reset this for our viewers here. This is huge. We've just learned from Senator Amy Klobuchar in a tweet, that Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who had already been arrested and charged for third-degree murder on Friday, which carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison. It's going to be increased from third-degree to second-degree murder, the charge will be. So that is a higher threshold.
What do -- what are we going to learn perhaps, what -- about what prosecutors now have, the information they now have about Chauvin's state of mind that could have led to that increase? Also learning that three others are going to be charged, so this is a big development.
This is something that George Floyd's family has been calling for. They said they wanted to see the three other officers charged before they hold a memorial service for George Floyd. And so it appears that is what's going to be happening. We're awaiting this press conference, there in Minnesota, from Keith Ellison, the state attorney general.
I want to bring in Van Jones to talk about this. This is a -- this is a big development, Van. What's your reaction?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. You know, it's the first sign that something could happen that would make sense. Up until now, nothing has made sense to anybody looking at the situation. How can you have officers standing around, even helping, aiding and abetting in what everybody there was saying, You are killing this man, you are killing this man.
This wasn't you had to guess, you had to get a Ph.D. in science or biology or be a doctor. Normal people were screaming, You're killing him. And he's telling you, You're killing me, I can't breathe. And the officers do nothing.
So the idea that these guys would be able to just, you know, go home, watch Netflix and spend the rest of their lives sort of, you know, never facing a judge or a jury or a prosecutor or another officer to explain themselves, was just beyond the pale.
So the idea that now, they will at least have to get a lawyer, explain themselves, go through the same process that anybody else would go through in this situation, is huge. It's the first sign that something could happen that would make sense. It's the first little drop of justice. You're going to need a river of justice to get us where we need to go, but it's the first sign.
And, listen, I'm going to tell you this. I was sitting here, prepared for Keith Ellison to walk out here and say, you know what, I looked at it, I looked at the law and I'm sorry, I can only charge one, or I can only charge two, or I can only charge three. And I was prepared to say, I love this brother, he's my friend. I knew he was going to be super-ethical about it, but he's wrong.
If Keith Ellison comes out and says all four are to be charged, no one should criticize that because this is one of the most ethical people -- he would not do it for political -- unfortunately, Keith Ellison, if a billion people were marching outside his door, telling him to do something, if he didn't want to do it, he wouldn't do it. So this is not a political call on his part, I guarantee you that.
And if he's going to come out and say that all four are going to face justice, I think -- I guarantee you it's ethical, it's legal, it's right. But thank goodness. Because politically, it gives us an opportunity to now get around the same table with this thorn out of our eyeball, of seeing this horrific murder and nothing serious being done, and now let's come together, let's pass some legislation and keep this from happening again.
But this is a -- there is -- you cannot understate to have a qualified attorney general review this stuff and come forward and say, you are -- you can believe your eyes, what you saw was a crime. You can believe your eyes, America. What you saw was criminal? That is a massive development. It has not happened until now.
KEILAR: And, Van, I want to bring Laura Coates back into this discussion. Laura, the upgrading of Chauvin's charge is huge. And then you have these -- what we sort of don't understand at this point in time, the three other officers who are going to be charged, what is that going to look like, if you can just kind of reset that, as we are awaiting this announcement from the attorney general, there in Minnesota. What could these charges be? COATES: Of course. There's an umbrella of law called accomplice liability, which essentially says, Look, if you have acted with the person, if you have participated in a crime, if you conspired or planned in some way, if you've counseled, advised, encouraged in any way this crime, well, guess what, you are going to be held liable to the same degree as the person who actually pulled the trigger, knelt on a neck, added the compression.
It's kind of that old idea, be careful who your friends are because you'll be held to the same account standard (ph) as (ph) them. That's the theory of accomplice liability.
Now, the one way you could avoid accomplice liability is even if you are engaged --