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Ex-Officer's Lawyer Blames Bystanders For Not Helping Floyd; Deadly Arrest In Texas Captured On Body Camera; U.S. Army Weights Removing Confederate Names From Bases. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 9, 2020 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Just a few hours from right now, a private funeral for George Floyd is being held in his hometown of Houston, Texas before he'll be laid to rest next to his mother.

This is Floyd's casket. It arrived just minutes ago as family and friends remember his life today, and a ceremony will include a call for justice and a call for social reform. Those calls have been central to the protests that we've seen in cities around the world over the past two weeks.

SCIUTTO: Yesterday, the ex-police officer charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Floyd appeared in court for the first time, this as the attorney for one of the other former officers charged in Floyd's death is now offering up really just a stunning defense.

And as pressure builds on reforming police departments across the country, there has been the discovery of more violent incidents involving police captured on video. We're going to get to that in a moment.

But, first, let's begin our coverage with CNN's Omar Jimenez. He is live in Houston where this memorial is taking place. Tell us how things are going to play out today.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim and Poppy, it was just a few moments ago, as we mentioned, that we saw the procession pull into here the Fountain of Praise Church here in Houston.

The hearse pulled up. The casket was then taken into the church much similar to what we saw yesterday during public's last chance to say goodbye, but this time ahead of the private funeral that is expected to be just for family and invited guests. That range from those in the entertainment to leadership roles. We expect the Houston Mayor Sylvester Taylor to return all the way over to boxer Floyd Mayweather and in between.

Now, the service gets going in just about two hours' time from right now, 11:00 A.M. local time here. It will be limited to 500 guests in part due to social distancing amidst the pandemic.

Now, after that service is over, the Houston Police Department will then escort Floyd's remains to what will eventually be his final resting place in Pearland, Texas. And that last mile part of the procession will be done by horse-drawn carriage that people can line the streets to see and then give their final goodbyes as well.

And then, of course, all of it will culminate in Floyd being buried next to his mother, the very same mother he cried out for in his final few moments in that harrowing cell phone video under the knee of a police officer we saw unfold a little over two weeks ago.

But all of this is not just about Floyd's death. It is about the moment that his death has now created in this country. And you see that intersection of those two playing out in the words of family members as they speak over what has been out such a painful time for this family.

Listen to George Floyd's brother as he tries to articulate the names that now come along with the name, George Floyd.


PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: All the families that are here with me today, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Arbery, this hurts, is Breonna Taylor, everybody.

Thank you all. We will get justice. We will get it. We will not let this door close.


JIMENEZ: And for the family, the City of Houston, friends and more, the mourning continues but so too does the movement towards long-term police reform, a movement that is very well in motion. Poppy, Jim?

HARLOW: Omar Jimenez, thank you for being there today.

Our special coverage of George Floyd's funeral, it continues today. It all begins at 12:00, noon Eastern right here on CNN.

An attorney for one of the former officers in Minneapolis now charged in the death of George Floyd made a pretty jaw-dropping comment about why he insists his client is innocent.


Josh Campbell joins us again from Minneapolis with the developments. What is the defense of his client this morning?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. We've been reporting on this prosecution and some of the defense strategies that we've noticed. And just in an extraordinary interview last night with our colleague, Chris Cuomo, speaking with Earl Gray, the attorney for former Officer Lane, who has been charged with accessory, aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

The attorney said something. I had to be honest. I had to re-rack it and listen a second time because I thought I misheard. But, no, he indeed is saying that part of the blame here lies with bystanders who were watching this incident, that encounter with police and George Floyd, saying that it is partially up -- they are to blame for not going in and intervening if they didn't like what was happening before them.

Listen here to what he said to our colleague, Chris Cuomo.


EARL GRAY, ATTORNEY FOR EX-MINNEAPOLIS POLICE OFFICER THOMAS LANE: The public is watching this. My client -- he doesn't have a real good view of Mr. Chauvin -- or, excuse me, Mr. Floyd of what Chauvin is doing.

But if all of these people say why didn't my client intercede, well, if the public is there and they are still in an uproar about this, they didn't intercede either.


CAMPBELL: So, truly an unconventional defense strategy there to point to the people who were watching this incident and asking why they didn't intervene.

Of course, we know that these officers were armed. I mean, could you imagine members of the public going and rushing a group of police officers as they were trying to arrest someone, which was, in fact, the potential felony. But, again, just a jaw-dropping moment there, Jim, and some insight into how one of these officers, at least this one, is trying to defend himself. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Josh Campbell in Minneapolis, thanks very much.

Joining me now is Marilyn Mosby. She is the state's attorney for the City of Baltimore. Ms. Mosby, thanks so much for taking the time this morning. Our viewers may not remember but, of course, you were involved in another incident, the Freddie Gray killing and then later the demonstrations that followed.

I want to ask you a question, because your experience there showed that you can charge police officers but getting conviction is a very different thing. Do you believe that the country has moved forward in the years since then?

MARILYN MOSBY, STATE'S ATTORNEY FOR BALTIMORE CITY: Thank you for having me, first and foremost. I would say that the country has moved forward to some extent. I think that iPhones are doing what televisions did in the civil rights movement. It's taking -- unveiling the veil of veil of ignorance before the eyes of Americans and we're seeing what the black experience with the engagement of police, what it looks like in this country.

So I'm encouraged by the movement towards reform, but it's the reality that so many black people face in this country.

SCIUTTO: How about legally, because you said last week that, as state's attorney for Baltimore in the midst of Freddie Gray, that the police department was working against you as you sought to prosecute. How so and what would be necessary to change that?

MOSBY: There are a number of reforms. And one of the things that I did when I first dropped The charges on Freddie Gray is, I said I can try this case a thousand

times, and without those systemic reforms, it would end up with the same result.

You know, 2015, when you had an innocent black man who makes eye contact with police, unconstitutionally arrested, placed in a metal wagon head first, feet shackled, handcuffed, spine partially (INAUDIBLE) in the back of that wagon with police and medical attention were ignored. I did what all prosecutors are supposed to do, which is apply one standard of justice, understanding and recognizing that when you do that, police unions, this is a difficult sort of task to do.

You can see that my colleague in Minneapolis tried to deflect from his inaction and stated why he wasn't going to do it and point to the Freddie Gray case, because you're harassed, because you're intimidated, there's hate mail, there's death threat, you're mocked, you're ridiculed, I was sued. And then you have one of the biggest barriers to police reform in this country, which are the police unions.

SCIUTTO: So you've seen the House Democratic legislation introduced yesterday, and we're going to put up on the screen a list of some of the changes that is now included in there, ban on chokeholds, national police misconduct registry. That way, if a police officer has conducted misbehavior and moves to another district, there's a record of that, incentive for training, restrictions on the use of military grade equipment, which we saw used both in the Baltimore and elsewhere. Which of these changes do you think would be most significant?

MOSBY: So I think all of them are necessary. I think that when you apply that standard of accountability that can lead to exposure, that exposure can ultimately lead to reform. We have tangible reform that has taken place since the charges in Freddie Gray.

We have use of force, de-escalation policies that emphasizes sanctity of life, we have the affirmative obligation of police officers to intervene when fellow officers crossed line.


But those systems that are in place that prevent accountability outside of the courtrooms that police unions still take hold of, like these employment contracts that tie the police department's hands, the law enforcement bill of rights that don't allow them to deal with problematic officers. The officer in Minneapolis had 18 internal affairs complaints. You can see that it was foreseeable that he was a problem, right?

When you look at some of the civilian participation on these trial review boards, the unions fight against that. In Freddie Gray, you had five of the officers that were administratively charged. Nothing happened to them because in the end it was a majority of the civilians on the review board that were making that determination.

SCIUTTO: You've heard, and this is still something of a fringe idea at this point, defunding or even dismantling police departments. Minneapolis City Council voting to defund and dismantle, although they haven't articulated what exactly they'd replace police with, and others oppose it, Joe Biden and Jim Clyburn, et cetera.

What is your reaction to that argument? Do you think that's a bad idea?

MOSBY: So I think we definitely need to divest resources from police departments. In the City of Baltimore, we have $509 million that we spend on the police department. And for far too long, we've looked to the police to solve every social ill and problem in society. And I think it's time to re-imagine what that looks like and use them in a different way. They don't have the expertise to respond to every social ill of society, homelessness, substance use disorder.

That's one of the reasons why as a prosecutor, you know, we've made a determination we're not going to charge prostitution and drug use because we know that that engagement can mean life or death especially when you have the discriminatory enforcement against poor black and brown people.

SCIUTTO: Marilyn Mosby, good to have you on this morning. We hope we could keep up the conversation.

MOSBY: Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: Well, there is new video released out of Texas that shows another black man dying in police custody after saying, I can't breathe. This deadly arrest happened last year. It happened in Austin, but police body camera video has just been released of the incident. The man in the video is 40-year-old Javier Ambler.

but despite this new evidence, a grand jury case may not hear the case until August. Our Ed Lavandera has more this morning from Houston.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim and Poppy, the death of Javier Ambler was ruled a justified homicide. But more than a year after his death, new video has surfaced, and the attorney representing the family says that ruling is outrageous.

We warn you that the video you're about to watch is deeply disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LAVANDERA: On March 28th, 2019, Williamson County sheriff's deputies are pursuing 40-year-old Javier Ambler just after 1:00 in the morning.

According to a sheriff's department incident report, Ambler failed to dim his car's headlights as he drove past a deputy. The report says Ambler tried to flee, leading officers on a 22-minute pursuit that ended up in the City of Austin. The incident report says Ambler crashed his car five times during the pursuit, and that's where the officer's body camera footage captures how the arrest turned deadly.

According to the documents obtained by CNN, Ambler exited his car with his hands up. He was not intoxicated and unarmed. Officers tried to handcuff Ambler but say he resisted and pushed back on the officers as he refused to follow the verbal commands, but the body camera footage captures Ambler in distress.

Multiple times on the video, Ambler is heard saying he can't breathe and that he's not resisting.

Several minutes into the arrest, officers realized Ambler is unresponsive. You can no longer hear him talking on the video. Officers then unhandcuffed Ambler and can be heard administering CPR compressions until medical units arrive on the scene.


LAVANDERA: According to documents also obtained by CNN, the Williamson County Sheriff's Department conducted an internal review, and the department's Office of Professional Standards found that after reviewing the video evidence, the primary and assisting deputies acted in accordance with the guidelines of the sheriff's department, and they used objective reasonableness in the level of force.

We have reached out to the Williamson County Sheriff's Department for comment but have not heard back. The district attorney in Austin says this investigation has been stymied for more than a year because the Williamson County Sheriff's Department refuses to release more video evidence from the officer's body cameras that were there at the scene.


The D.A. says they hope to present evidence of this case to a grand jury later this summer. Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: Ed Lavandera, thank you very much.

Ahead for us, some of the most well-known army bases in the country are named after confederate generals, places like Ft. Bragg and Ft. Hood, now, the army could rename them.

SCIUTTO: Plus, as George Floyd is laid to rest today, we're going to speak to a Houston pastor who used to work with Floyd. How will he remember him?



HARLOW: Welcome back.

As protesters around the world continue to march and protest, demanding racial justice and equality, the U.S. Army could actually make some pretty significant changes. A source within the army tells CNN that firms are open to discussions about renaming nearly as to U.S. bases and installations that are named after confederate leaders.

SCIUTTO: That includes Ft. Bragg, Ft. Hood.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now.

Barbara, it's interesting, retired General David Petraeus wrote a piece toady about this. He, of course, commanded forces in Afghanistan Central Command. He makes a point that many of these bases were named after people who took up arms against the United States in the civil war to defend the rights of slavery, and he calls it, you know, ironic, to say the least, that U.S. soldiers today would be training at bases named after that.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, this whole debate has been going on for some years, and there's been very little movement, no momentum behind changing any of the names. The question now is will something now be different. Will the U.S. military take this step?

Here is where we are this morning. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Ryan McCarthy, the civilian head of the army, have said they are open to bipartisan conversations on all of this. McCarthy letting it be known, however, that he's well aware this is going to take some consensus. He's going to have to get the buy-in of Capitol Hill, state and local governors and perhaps, most importantly, the buy-in of President Trump.

The Pentagon could do it on its own, may not be very practical, however. So they need to get a consensus still in the real world, politically, to do this. The President Trump has not said spoken out about this, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs has not, and also the military head of the army not yet spoken about this.

But listen, when we got the statement last night that they are open to a bipartisan conversation on it, I think it's important, that statement included this sentence that I want to read to you. And it says, quote, each army installation is named for a soldier who holds a significant place in our military history. Accordingly, the historic names represent individuals, not causes or ideologies. These are, as you said, historic figures from the civil war who took up arms against the United States, who commanded troops, that killed American soldiers.

There's a growing number of people that think the time has passed. Study the civil war but don't name bases after these people. There's any number of more current people, recipients of the medal honor, people who died in battle in recent wars that perhaps better deserve that historic recognition. Jim, Poppy? SCIUTTO: Yes. General Petraeus makes a point too, that a lot of those were not the most impressive generals even on the confederate side during the war as well. Certainly a story, but interesting to see if the politics changes the debate now. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

A Virginia Circuit Court judge has temporarily blocked the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, of course, a confederate general, this one in Richmond. The order comes just days after Virginia's governor announced plans to remove the monument.

HARLOW: Ryan Nobles joins us live in Washington with more. This was such a big moment to hear those words from Governor Northam, that it was coming down. Where does this go from here?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, I think what you're going to see here is the start of a pretty lengthy legal battle over the removal of these monuments down Richmond's historic Monument Avenue, and the Robert E. Lee statue being the most significant of all of them.

And what this stems from is an individual who claims to be a direct descendant from the original family that essentially transferred ownership of this plot of land to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the express purpose of putting up this Robert E. Lee monument. And in those original documents, they said the reason they were handing this land over was for the specific care and protection of the monument.

So what this descendant is now arguing in court is that the state is no longer doing that, so, therefore, they no longer have rights to the land. So what he did was file this injunction with a Richmond circuit court.

Now, the judge agreed that to essentially take a ten-day pause on the planning to remove this monument so that this legal battle can begin to basically take root, this gives lawyers on both sides the opportunity to examine exactly what's at stake here legally before filing a formal lawsuit and beginning this process.

Now, it's important to keep in mind, Jim and Poppy, no one expected this monument to come down in the coming days. We know that Governor Northam had a staff from the state out examining the monument to do the initial plans to bring it down, but it was going to take a long time to begin with. What this signals is that there's also going to be a legal battle involved with it as well, and it could take some time before formally it takes place. Jim and Poppy?


HARLOW: It looks like it's going to be drawn out. Ryan, thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

Overnight, crews in Jacksonville, Florida, removed a confederate monument. Look at this powerful video. This was removed from a park there, a bronze statue of a confederate soldier and one of three civil war monuments in the city.

According to our affiliate, WJXT, it's unclear who approved the monument's removal. The change was unannounced and comes ahead of a peaceful protest led by Jacksonville Jaguars' running back, Leonard Fournette.

George Floyd has become the face of so many of these protests around the world. Our next guest knew him very closely as a friend and a colleague who helped spread his Church's ministry. We'll talk to Texas -- a Texas pastor about the man that he remembers as a gentle giant, next.