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Officer Arrested For Floyd's Death To Be Charged With Second- Degree Murder, Three Others To Be Charged. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired June 3, 2020 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's the theory of accomplice liability. Now the one way you can avoid accomplice liability is it even if you are engaged in this behavior if you have advised or if you have encouraged that alone participated either actively or passively as in not allowing people to help or aid in some way, if you have made some effort, Brianna, to try to stop it, to try to prevent it, to try to encourage and counsel exactly the opposite of what you've done or participate, then there can be some relief for you in terms of accomplice liability.
Now here what we're seeing, and remember I go back to last week in that press conference, the idea of them calling for additional witnesses to come forward, anyone come forward and give us more information.
They were likely trying to establish what happened to the officers who we did not see on, was there as according to Benjamin Crump, who was speaking at the rally, probably before your program began saying that there were officers present who were threatening to mace people, who tried to render aid or interfere in some way? Well, that looks less like somebody who, if that's true, somebody who is trying to stop somebody from doing the wrong thing, or retract their encouragement, and it makes them look more liable.
And I'll just say this, Brianna, one of the things that is always a possibility in cases when you have multiple defendants is the idea of one flipping on the other, of one, although being charged and could be as an accomplice, is in a cooperation type of role with the prosecution to provide as much evidence as possible and to a nerd (ph) to their benefit. That might be part of the reason for the delay. That might be part of the consideration for what to charge. It might be a consideration for the arrest. We'll have to wait and see.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Do you think -- and how long do you think we'd have to wait and see on that? Because, I mean, earlier you were discussing that and I thought -- I was sort of wondering if that might be part of the issue here.
I mean, these officers certainly would have some, you know, they spend their time with Derek Chauvin. They might have a lot more information than even the folks in the car with George Floyd would have.
So when do you think we'll find out if that came into play? And what do you think the likelihood is that that could have contributed here?
COATES: I think it's absolutely likely that they have further evidence about the state of mind of Officer Chauvin, and about whether there were text communications, whether there is any conversation that had been had that would form the basis to support what the intent of Officer Chauvin was.
Remember, second-degree murder in Minnesota does require some level of evidentiary basis for intent. And so you're talking about how do you create that, how do you have support for that. You often have it from learning about the state of mind through conversations, perhaps through earlier conversations.
Whether there were some racial animus might be, something they could describe or talk about whether this is a pattern of behavior of this particular officer, whether it was a one off, whether there was the anticipation that he actually was going to kill this man. All that will come into play about what the other officers can provide for people.
But let's not forget, in terms of wondering whether they have some sort of a potential plea in the future, we're talking right now simply about normally an arrest or an arraignment or initial charges. There will be plenty of time from now until any trial date that may be set to negotiate if any plea and discussions and which role each officer may play as a witness, defendant, co-defendant or otherwise.
KEILAR: All right, Laura, thank you. And if you and everyone else can stand by for me, we have a number of experts here on hand, because we're waiting some very big news here. A press conference out of Minnesota with the state attorney general just to reset as we've also been watching some of these live pictures in Minneapolis as protesters are they're being heard putting their message out.
News has broken. You recall last Friday that the Hennepin County prosecutor announced that Derek Chauvin, the police officer who had his knee on the neck of George Floyd that he had been arrested and he'd been charged with second, or pardon me, third-degree murder, among other charges, third-degree murder carrying a possible sentence of 25 years.
Well, since then, this case has gone to the state Attorney General Keith Ellison, and we've just learned from Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota that Chauvin is now going to be charged with second-degree murder. So going from third-degree up to second-degree murder.
What exactly does that mean? We're waiting this news conference. We've also learned that three others according to Klobuchar are -- these three other officers are going to be charged as well.
So we're waiting this news conference as soon as it begins. I think we're expecting that to happen any moment now. We're going to bring that to you.
These pictures that you're seeing here on the right side of your screen, these live pictures are outside of Cup Foods and the owner of that store whose clerk initially contacted police about George Floyd now says he will never call the police about such matters again.
He wrote on Facebook, "We realize now that escalating situations to the police almost always does more harm than good. By simply following procedure we are putting our communities in danger". Cup Foods co- owner, Mahmoud Abumayyaleh joins me now along with Cut Foods Media Relations Spokesman Jamar Nelson.
Mike, I'm sorry if I totally butchered your name there. I really appreciate you joining us and coming on. This is such an important perspective to hear from you. I want to get sort of -- before I get your reaction to this news that all of the officers will be charged, tell me about why you felt this was so important to put this message out there.
MAHMOUD ABUMAYYALEH, CO-OWNER, CUP FOODS: We've came to the conclusion that is to the best interest of our staff and patrons, that unless there's a violent crime taking place, the authorities should not be called and will continue to police their own matters.
KEILAR: What does that say that you feel that this has -- that you can't trust the police unless you're talking about someone being physically threatened or injured?
ABUMAYYALEH: Well, I do trust some of the police officers in our city because I deal with them firsthand, and I have a good relationship with them. We're talking about the officers that were involved in the tragedy that have yet to take accountability to what took place.
JAMAR NELSON, MEDIA RELATIONS, CUP FOODS: Absolutely.
KEILAR: OK. And so, as you learn now that they've been charged, can you tell us -- or they're going to be charged. So we're waiting right now for a news conference to come from the state Attorney General, but we have just learned a new extraordinary development that Derek Chauvin is going to see that third-degree murder charge be increased in severity to a second-degree murder charge. This is a big development. He's facing a bigger charge, potentially a bigger penalty. Do you have a reaction to that?
ABUMAYYALEH: I'm not going to comment on that. I'll let Jamar speak on that.
NELSON: Well, as well as he should. Look, justice has to be served. And so we thought automatically from the beginning that how he didn't get charged with second-degree murder was unfathomable. And the fact now that the Attorney General has on it as -- it goes along way.
Listen, the expeditious firing of these four officers spoke a lot. But what has to be taken into account is the fact that when black and brown men come in contact with officers, the fact that they may not leave with their life. When you look at the fact that that sixth leading cause of black -- the black males death here in Minneapolis is at the hands of the MPD, that's just crazy to think about. And 44 people in the last seven years, I've been rendered unconscious by a hole, such as what this officer did to Floyd or to others.
So we have to make sure that we keep the balance on what's going on with black and brown men when they come in contact with offices around the nation, not just here, but around the nation. There's plenty of George Floyd's -- there are some probably last night. What's important is to make sure that these officers get the full charges that they -- that due to them, and the fact that we bring justice to the Floyd family.
KEILAR: Mike, can you tell us -- so the clerk in your store who contacted police, which, as you've talked about, is a standard procedure about suspicious or possibly counterfeit bills. Clearly, this is not what that clerk expected would happen. Can you speak to the thoughts of that clerk at this point in time, now that we see what ended up developing from this call?
ABUMAYYALEH: There's very seldom times at our business where myself or one of the owners aren't there. When the tragedy took place, unfortunately, there wasn't any one of us there. And he thought there was a need to call the authorities. And that itself should not have equated to the death and tragedy of George Floyd. And that's where the issue at hand lies. Because if the authorities are called on any incident, for that matter, it should never equate into a death sentence.
NELSON: Brianna, like Mahmoud is commenting on, when officers go above and beyond what they do, which is what they do quite frequently to black men, that's when it's escalated and that's when you have these matters that happen.
So I don't mean to be insensitive, but as a black man that know too many other black men that had bad encounters with black -- officers myself, it's almost become the new norm. So what we are -- this bring hopefully an enlightenment to those around the nation to realize that when black men tell you that we get harassed by police officers around this nation, that is true.
And so hopefully now that this is just bringing the cycle to what is going on with police brutality in this country.
KEILAR: And I think to, you know, maybe to both of you, I think that, you know, when I asked the question about the clerk, it's because I think there's a conversation going on in the country now about the unintended consequences of actions, right? We didn't see that just in Minneapolis.
We saw in Central Park, someone call on -- place a call to the police saying that an African-American birdwatcher was threatening her. And she appeared to be completely oblivious to the fact that she could have been signing someone's death warrant, right?
So there's this -- I think there's this wave of understanding of what it means to have the police called on you, if you are a black man versus, say, a white woman. So I was wondering, with that realization now obviously the clerk has that, is there anything Mahmoud that you can add to that? I can't imagine how they feel.
ABUMAYYALEH: They feel horrible and until social media unfortunately bought it to where it's at, he never felt that there was going to be a threat to his life.
NELSON: And look, I think the thing about what's missing is, again, it's where the call emanated from is not important as much as it was the contact with Mr. Floyd and that police officer. Number one, he should have survived that encounter. And the fact that he didn't, again, only heightens the problems that black males go through in this country.
As you just alluded to, Brianna, that when you -- when a white person thinks and knows that they can call the police on a black man, knowing that he'd probably get jailed for whatever she said, he or she said, that's a problem. That's a problem that we are dealing with.
And there needs to be real and honest dialogue about that in this country that black folks don't -- you don't have to be doing anything to be harassed, just driving while black is almost a crime. So we've got to deal with legislation that deals with officers that take the go above and beyond when they are dealing with black males.
Listen, we don't want -- I don't suggest that every officer lives in the community in which they police, but if you don't know the people that you're policing, this is what happened. This is what often happens. Black men usually end up suffering from these officers not caring or knowing the constituents in which they're serving.
KEILAR: Yes. Know -- I would add know and respect, right, and treat as if you would like to be treated.
KEILAR: Treat people like human beings. Mahmoud, your store has offered to help pay for George Floyd's funeral. Have you met or spoken with the family? We've seen a lot of family members come down to the spot where he died in some very powerful moments, have you spoken to any of them?
ABUMAYYALEH: Yes. On Friday, he had a bunch of family come down from Houston that we met and brought inside our establishment and met them and spoke with them. I had a private briefing with them of what took place. And we took pictures in front of the memorial, and the mural outside. I met his son today in front of our establishment. And we're expecting to meet a few other relatives this week.
NELSON: And Brianna, that's what's great is these daily memorials that happen out in front of our store. That's beautiful. That shows you the kindness that comes from things like this. And so we continue to welcome that. The mural that's been painted on the side of our establishment, that's the one thing.
And we're going to continue to celebrate his life through not just today and tomorrow, but throughout -- and other men like him. We're going to continue to say their names, all these individuals that lost their lives at police brutality or some type of functionality that happens being black. We're going to continue to say their name and celebrate their lives.
KEILAR: And we will too, Jamar. Thank you so much. Mahmoud, thank you so much for joining us.
NELSON: Thank you.
KEILAR: We really appreciate it.
NELSON: Thank you for having us.
ABUMAYYALEH: Thank you so much.
KEILAR: I want to bring back in now Charles Ramsey, our CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, Jeffrey Toobin is with us, Laura Coates. We have Marq Claxton and Van Jones as well. We have this news, Charles, according to a tweet from Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Derek Chauvin is now facing a second-degree murder charge up from third- degree and the three other officers are going to be charged. What's your reaction here?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I hope it's true. They should be charged. I was listening to Laura Coates, and she brought up the fact that it's very possible. One or more of the other officers may have been providing additional evidence on Chauvin and that's entirely possible which is why second degree may be a stronger charge now, I don't know.
But they should all be charged regardless of whether or not they cooperated or not. I think a very strong message needs to be sent is the right thing. Their behavior was criminal. No question about that. And that ought to be the message. You got to be held accountable when you -- if you commit an act like that, or stand by and watch it happen.
I mean, this isn't something that happened in a matter of seconds, which sometimes situations you're confronted with actually happen within a matter of seconds. There was no time to intervene. It wasn't like that in this case. I mean, this was a long drawn out process that took place and nobody stepped in. And that's just totally wrong --
RAMSEY: -- and it's criminal.
KEILAR: Yes, it's not a split second decision, as you point out, right? One of these officers could have seen this go on for some time even -- this went on for several minutes, and they could have --
KEILAR: -- at a certain point said, OK, no, I'm going to step in here. And I think one of the issues that -- I think the reason, we've heard so many people say this, that the killing of George Floyd has just I think encapsulated so much about how Americans feel the injustice of black men dying, unarmed black men dying at the hands of the police, is that even given no split second decision, minutes and minutes to act, he was still killed.
So I wonder to this point of the three other officers being held to account here. And again, look, we don't know what the charge is going to be. We just know that it's from third-degree to second-degree now for Derek Chauvin. But what do you think it does going forward for other officers in -- not at the same situation but some similar situation where they might -- does this arm other officers to intervene?
RAMSEY: Yes. You know, most departments have a policy or have in their policy or duty to intervene. My understanding is Minneapolis actually has it, although they didn't do it.
RAMSEY: But that puts teeth to it. I mean, you have a responsibility to intervene if you see something that's not right. Maybe it's use of force, maybe it's some other conduct, you have a right and an obligation to intervene.
And if anything else, this should send a very strong message to all police officers that that is an obligation they have. The sanctity of life is first and foremost, it should be on the minds of every single police officer. What happened there was -- I can't even describe it and I certainly can't come up with any explanation for it.
My understanding is it was almost three minutes after one of the officers said, hey, this guy is not moving. There's no pause. I don't think he's breathing. And they continued. I mean, at what point in time do you run out of excuses and say, you know, this is not right. You know, let's stop it. I don't get it.
KEILAR: I just want to reset for our viewers, Charles, what we are awaiting right now, there is an imminent announcement. In fact, we're sort of on some borrowed time here. We were expecting this to happen sooner. With officials from the state of Minnesota, in particular, the Attorney General there, Keith Ellison.
He took over this case from the Hennepin County prosecutor who was, you know, just to be -- to put it frank, in frank terms, he did not have the confidence of the black community in Minneapolis, that he was doing the right thing and that he was going to bring justice that they think is very much deserved here in the case of George Floyd.
So we're waiting an upgrade really in the charge of Derek Chauvin, who you will recognize is the police officer who had his knee in the neck of George Floyd. He had been -- we learned from Friday when he was arrested, we learned from Mark Freeman, the Hennepin County prosecutor that he was facing third-degree murder.
Now our legal analysts are telling us because it's their degree, maybe that doesn't sound so bad to you. But actually, it is significant and it carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison, will now at second- degree murder.
So we're waiting to hear from officials there in the state of Minnesota about what this means and also what the charges are that are going to be brought against these three other officers who stood by or helped hold down at certain points in time George Floyd.
I want to bring in Omar Jimenez. Omar, are people there in Minneapolis, you -- I mean, you spend day in day out now talking to people who are mobilizing there in the streets. Are they getting word that this -- are they expecting this? What are they saying?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, we did just get word a few moments ago that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is increasing the charges against Derek Chauvin into second-degree murder in George Boyd's case and also charging the other three officers. This according to a tweet from Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.
We have been hearing similar things behind the scenes but this is the first on the record of confirmation we have seen from any official state or federal in this. Again, this coming from a tweet from Amy Klobuchar and we already have a reaction from the family here, the Floyd family coming through the family Attorney Benjamin Crump, who's saying this is a bittersweet moment for the family and they are glad that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has decided to take this step.
Now, we are still waiting the official press conference that we are expecting at some point this afternoon. We're expecting to hear from a combination of either the Attorney General Keith Ellison or the Governor Tim Walz here. And unofficially, when this news was coming down, this broken the local newspaper citing anonymous sources about a half hour ago. And at that time here in Minneapolis, there are already cheers here at the site ground zero for where George Floyd had his final moments unfold again just a little over a week ago at this point.
And then here we are a half hour later seeing this confirmation, at least through a tweet from Senator Amy Klobuchar. And this is what the protesters have wanted all along. Not just charges for, again, Officer Derek Chauvin, who was seen in that cell phone video with his knee on George Floyd's neck, but charges for all of these officers as well, Brianna.
KEILAR: And they've talked about why that is so important. I think, Omar, it's hard to imagine that if these folks were not police officers, that they would be treated with any sort of difference when it comes to standing by and watching someone do what Derek Chauvin did. This has been I think, part of the frustration, right, and the sort of even the feeling of hopelessness that has brought about so many of the protests that we've seen.
JIMENEZ: Well, that's right, Brianna. You don't have to look hard when you see other cases involving police in particularly the black community to see that it's incredibly difficult to -- or at least it seems to prosecute a police officer and convict a police officer. Again, as we have seen multiple cases.
So in -- this morning, when the day began, we are out here at the scene. And there is always the possibility that we would see this scenario, that we would see more charges brought against these officers. They're still an air of skepticism among the people here that charges are one thing but it has to be followed through to a conviction. So while this is viewed as a victory, in some senses, it's also viewed as a first step for those that are calling for justice here.
So it is a long way to go in that regard. But again, this has moved relatively quickly when you look at how it's compared to other cases. For example, even just the firing of these officers, a lot of times it takes weeks some cases, even up to months to fire officers when they're involved in similar situations. The police chief here made the decision to do so within a matter of 24 hours last week.
And then here we are just about a little over, I should say a week later, we have already seen charges against the one officer that was seen in the video with this knee on Floyd's neck and now we are seeing, as it appears, charges against the other officers as well. And again, we are expecting a press conference later this afternoon either with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, or with the Governor Tim Walz, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right, Omar, standby for me if you will.
I want to bring in Laura Coates. Laura, we have I think about a minute left in the show here. I want to ask you about that air of skepticism that Omar was talking about. It seems like with each step where there may be progress.
You have folks who are keenly aware because of the past that they also have much to lose at each step of the process. Are these charges going to go forward to convictions? How, how founded is the skepticism?
COATES: Well past is prologue. And we've watched across the nation, which is why you see in all these different states, all 50 states having protests, because there could be a past, present or dare I say, God forbid, future George Floyd in each of those places unless people are more proactive about a holistic approach.
But Keith Ellison is in a particularly different territory where he is the first African-American elected to an all state position, a statewide position in Minnesota. He won by 100,000 I think or plus votes as attorney general. He's relying on a pipeline of institutional knowledge as well as his own expertise.
And the swift firing from the first African-American police chief in Minneapolis, all that combined says something is different in the air this time. And hopefully that arc of justice that bends, hopefully will be finally flattened and realize at this point in time.
KEILAR: Laura, thank you so much for this conversation that we've been having. As we're awaiting the news, right? We're waiting for this announcement from Minnesota officials where we're going to hear, we've learned that the three officers who stood by or help restrain George Floyd, they are going to be facing charges.
What are they? We don't know. This is why we're watching for this press conference that's going to happen any moment. And Derek Chauvin, the officer who is facing the third-degree murder charge, it is now going up to second-degree.
We'll have much, much more on our breaking news. We'll have special coverage that continues right after this.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Welcome back. You are watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin.