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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Five Ex-Memphis Officers Charge With Murder In Tyre Nichols' Death; DA: City Will Release Video Of Nichols' Arrest Friday Evening; Will The George Santos Please Stand Up?; Never-Before-Seen Police Body Cam Video Shown In Alex Murdaugh Double Murder Trial. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired January 26, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tsay's actions likely led authorities to the gunman, and a law enforcement official tells CNN that they were able to trace the weapon to the suspect, giving them his name and description.
Thanks so much for joining us. AC 360 begins right now.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Five man who once took a solemn oath to uphold the law are now five alleged murderers.
John Berman here in for Anderson.
Take a look. There they are. Both back when they wore Memphis Police Department uniforms and now in their booking photos.
Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin, III, Desmond Mills, Jr., Demetrius Haley, and Tadarrius Bean -- all five, now ex-cops charged today with killing Tyre Nichols who died three days after a traffic stop and violent arrest on the seventh of this month, all five facing identical counts -- official oppression, failure to perform a duty imposed by law, unauthorized exercise of official power, aggravated kidnapping while possessing a weapon, aggravated kidnapping causing bodily injury, aggravated assault and second-degree murder.
Today in addition to the charges, we learn more about what kind of officers they were along with some details from the timeline of Tyre Nichols' deadly encounter with them, which Tennessee's top State law enforcement official says are appalling to him.
Sadly, there will be more tomorrow when video describe in excruciating terms by those who have seen it is made public.
CNN's Sara Sidner is in Memphis tonight with all the latest on all of that, but also a closer look at who Tyre Nichols was and the life he lived.
Sara, first, you know what's the reaction in the city now that charges have been filed against the officers.
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I can sum that up in two words: Prayerful and peaceful. We're at a skate park tonight. This is a place, a skate park anywhere that Tyre Nichols loved. It is where he felt the most free.
But we have now heard that one of the officers is free, free on bond paying a $250,000.00 bond. There are five total officers all charged with seven major crimes.
SIDNER (voice over): In Memphis, candles burn for a life snuffed out, the life of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols being remembered where friends say he felt the most free, a skate park.
Twelve years ago, Nichols seen here doing what he loved; 12 years later, he ended up dead, officials say beaten by five men sworn to protect and serve.
STEVE MULROY, SHELBY COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The grand jury returned indictments against all five with the same charges.
While each of the five individuals played a different role in the incident in question, the actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols and they are all responsible.
SIDNER (voice over): Justin Smith, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, and Emmitt Martin III were all fired from the Memphis Police Department and now stand charged with seven crimes -- second degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression.
And there is police bodycam and sky camera video showing it all, something police will soon release to the public.
DAVID RAUSCH, TENNESSEE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION DIRECTOR: I am aggrieved. Frankly, I'm shocked. I'm sickened by what I saw.
What happened here does not at all reflect proper policing. This was wrong. This was criminal.
SIDNER (voice over): Attorneys for two of the former officers responded to the TBI's damning statement.
(on camera): When you heard that, what did you think and have your clients heard all of the charges against them?
WILLIAM MASSEY, ATTORNEY FOR E EMMITT MARTIN, III: I thought, I wish I'd seen that video so I could evaluate what he said.
BLAKE BALLIN, ATTORNEY FOR DESMOND MILLS: To say to say things like that, when you have a tinderbox that we're all concerned about, I have questions about whether those were the right words to use, whether this was the right timing and whether the government should be saying those things about people who are innocent until proven guilty, when you know that's going to be broadcast to potential jurors.
SIDNER (voice over): But Nichols' family wants people to know more about Tyre Nichols than how he died.
ROWVAUGHN WELLS, TYRE NICHOLS' MOTHER: Nobody is perfect, okay, nobody, but he was damn near. My son was a beautiful soul and he touched everyone.
SIDNER (voice over): Nichols' had his Mama's name tattooed on his arm. He wasn't just her beautiful boy. He was also a father who loved having fun.
His friend who knew him in Sacramento local a newspaper: "He had such a free spirit and skating gave him his wings." He worked at FedEx, but had other dreams, photography.
In his own words he posted: "People have a story to tell, why not capture it; instead of doing the norm and writing it down, I am speaking it." It turns out what led to his death was captured on camera.
BERMAN: And Sara Sidner is back with us.
Sara, you're at skate park because we've all learned that is something Tyre Nichols loved to do. What more have you been able to learn about him?
SIDNER: You know, one of his friends told us that he was simply a free spirit, someone who did not conform to the stereotypes that Black men have been put under in this country; someone who was just someone who enjoyed having fun, and one of the places he really loved to hang out was a skate park, wherever he could find one.
We also know that he had a vice that many of us have, he liked to go to Starbucks. That was his calm place. He made friends there as well and they all said, this guy was just a really great gentleman.
BERMAN: With a tattoo of his mother. Sara Sidner, thanks so much for being with us. Keep us posted.
Now, Antonio Romanucci, he is one of the attorneys representing Tyre Nichols' family.
Mr. Romanucci, thanks so much for being with us. I'm sorry, it is under these circumstances. How is Mr. Nichols' family doing now that the officers have been indicted?
ANTONIO ROMANUCCI, ATTORNEY FOR TYRE NICHOLS' FAMILY: Well, clearly they wanted the absolute utmost charges, and I think with what we see today, they're going to get that.
You know, John, I don't know the last time if ever I've seen a uniformed police officer under the color of law being charged with kidnapping. We have to take that in and really soak that for a moment and understand the gravity of what happened here to Tyre.
BERMAN: Why does that have particular gravity to you, the kidnapping charge?
ROMANUCCI: Well, you know, look, I've been thinking of all different ways to describe what happened on that video since it hasn't been released yet, and here is another way for me to describe it, which may give you some context. It was an MMA fight, except there was only one side that was on that day.
You know, Tyre was helpless, he was defenseless, he was restrained, and that's why you're seeing the types of charges that you're seeing here from second degree murder to obstruction to aggravated assault, to kidnapping because he was literally -- his freedom was taken away from him because he didn't do anything wrong.
The proportionality of what happened here was so askew that it only warranted the highest level of charges.
BERMAN: You just said it was like a one-sided MMA fight. You've also described it as Mr. Nichols being treated like a human pinata. Those were your words. Do you think Memphis, the community there is prepared to see this video what you have seen?
ROMANUCCI: They're going to have to be prepared, John, and I think one way to prepare them is for us to be able to describe it so that hopefully, when they do see it, especially along with the charges that there is peace. That is the goal.
Should their voices be heard? Absolutely. There is no doubt about that. But should there be anything but peace in the streets? Correct. That's what we're looking for.
BERMAN: What do you know about the traffic stop that took place that led up to this? Do you even know why he was stopped?
ROMANUCCI: No, we really don't and that's not anything that I'm saying that has been withheld from us, but we just don't -- we don't know yet.
We know that the police have said that this was a traffic stop, but we don't know more than that. And quite frankly, I have to tell you right now, I don't know that it's just a justification that they're saying it was a traffic stop, because we know that the saturation and suppression units do use a pretext to stop in order to carry out this wolf gang like mentality, this wolf pack mentality of policing.
BERMAN: You have no specific knowledge that that's what happened here. You're suggesting, though, it's a possibility.
ROMANUCCI: It's only a possibility. That's correct.
BERMAN: I understand the preliminary results of an autopsy commissioned by you and attorney Ben Crump and the family, those results are in, what do you know at this point about those results?
ROMANUCCI: So here is what I can tell you about those results. The results indicate that what we saw on the video are consistent with a severe beating, and our independent Medical Examiner has authorized us to quote that.
The injuries are consistent with a severe beating, meaning that the hemorrhage that was found was so deep that it could only be caused by blunt force trauma, which again, is consistent with the severe beating.
BERMAN: I know you've got a lot on your plate, as does the family, but lastly, does the family at this point intend to sue the City of Memphis?
ROMANUCCI: Well, I think a lawsuit is clearly on the horizon. I'm not going to tell you when that's going to happen. We have to complete our investigation and I'm hoping that the productive meeting that we had with the FBI, the DOJ, and the Shelby County State's Attorney, that we've all committed to ourselves that we're going to cooperate with each other, that that continues because we all have a job to do here, and that is to get justice for Tyre.
BERMAN: Antonio Romanucci, we do appreciate you taking the time to speak with us this evening. Thank you.
ROMANUCCI: Thank you.
BERMAN: Perspective now from our legal and law enforcement team, two CNN senior law enforcement analysts, Charles Ramsay, former DC and Philadelphia top cop, and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; our chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst, John Miller, former NYPD Deputy Commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, and CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson.
Thank you all for being here.
John Miller, first to you. What stands out to you about the charges announced today? I mean, you heard Tyre Nichols family, the attorney there pointing to that kidnapping charge?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, the kidnapping charge is certainly unusual because officers have enormous power and that comes with responsibility, but among the powers are to use force to take people into custody, to handcuff them.
When you're charged with kidnapping when you're an on duty police officer, it means someone in the prosecution determined you're not acting under the color of law anymore, that you've taken someone into custody and you're holding them and/or beating them at the same time, not acting as a police officer, which is extraordinarily unusual and if you looked at this, again, similar cases.
BERMAN: Chief Ramsey, to you, what's your take on the totality of the charges here based on what we know about the video and none of us has seen it at this point, but based on what we've been told, Do you feel these are the right charges?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, I haven't seen the video, so it is really hard to say, but what I've been going by more than anything, Chief Davis' statements that she has made, and Dave Rausch, both of whom I know very well. They aren't people who would overreact to something. Now, they have seen the video, and that has been their response to it.
When you look at the bail that is set, two are set higher than the others. I don't know if that really has any meaning, but it could very well be that two of the individuals were more active in this than the others.
So, we have to really look at this probably over and over again before you get a real feel for it. But I have no doubt that they acted in a manner that is totally outside of any training, any policy or anything else or they would not have been charged with such serious offenses.
BERMAN: The prosecutor has also pointed out, it was important what some of them at times were not doing, which was stopping what happened and that played into the fact they were all charged identically there.
BERMAN: Andrew McCabe, as you know, there is also a Federal Civil Rights investigation ongoing. How might that play out given what we learned today?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, John, we can expect that the US Attorney and the FBI folks who are conducting that investigation are likely coordinating very closely with their colleagues on the State side, so there is sharing of information between those two parallel investigations.
It is oftentimes helpful to have the Federal investigation and potential Federal prosecution kind of as a backup in case things don't go well with the State level prosecution. I have no reason to believe that that will be the case here, but it is always helpful to have another option to move against a particular offender.
And from all the reactions, as Chief Ramsey said, the reactions that we've seen to the video are so strong. You know, I think there is probably good likelihood that you will see a follow on Federal prosecution for violations of Tyre Nichols' Civil Rights.
BERMAN: And again, we do expect to see this video tomorrow night, tomorrow night at this time. We will all have seen it presumably. Joey Jackson, to you, I'm putting you on the spot because you have not seen it yet. I'm also putting you on the spot as a defense attorney. We heard from the attorneys for the officers, former officers today, but not much about what a defense might be.
What do you think they could use as a defense?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's going to be again, not prejudging, we haven't seen the tape, but from all indications, it is heinous and certainly inhumane. That's what it's been described as.
It is not only the tape, John, it's the autopsy, right, and the autopsy, the revelations of that are certainly significant with respect to the bodily injuries, et cetera. Why do I say that?
To your question, the defense has to be predicated upon actions that are reasonable. In the event officers want to defend on the grounds that they were in immediate fear or of death or serious injury what specifically was he doing, right, Mr. Nichols doing that would have you in that imminent fear?
Then the next question becomes, where your actions as an officer proportionate to whatever threat you perceive that was posed to you? And then the final thing would be, did you act reasonably and responsibly?
So any type of defense is going to have to be predicated around those things, and if the actions were unreasonable, it's going to be problematic.
Last point, you could look at this and as lawyers, we're big precedent people, right? We base things upon precedent, stare decisis, it has been decided. You look at a case like Rodney King, how did they get out of that? They, being the officers in defense, they were able to justify every blow with respect to the conduct of Mr. King at the time.
In an instance like this, particularly where there are indications, John that he was handcuffed and didn't represent a threat, how do they overcome that? And so these are all things that I'm going to be looking for in analyzing when I look at the tape tomorrow.
BERMAN: Yes, it sounds obvious, but their defense may very well depend on exactly what's in that video down to the minute detail.
JACKSON: That's right.
BERMAN: All right, guys, stick around if you all will. We need to take a short break.
Next, more on what happens tomorrow night when that video of what was done to Tyre Nichols is made public. And later, new questions surrounding the lying Congressman, what George Santos told Federal election officials about who is now in charge of some of his campaign money, a man who says through his lawyer, hey, wait a minute, I'm not.
BERMAN: We are talking tonight about the murder charges brought today against five fired Memphis Police officers in the death of Tyre Nichols and the video footage to be made public tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAUSCH: I've been policing for more than 30 years. I've devoted my life to this profession. And aggrieved, frankly, I'm shocked. I'm sickened by what I saw and what we've learned through our extensive and thorough investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: That's more right there from David Rausch, the Director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, whom you heard from at the top of the program.
Back now with our panel, Andrew McCabe, first to you, just based on the severity of the charges alone, the tone from David Rausch, what Chief Ramsey was speaking about earlier, what do you expect to see on the video tomorrow night given how they're talking about it? In a way, what must be on that video?
MCCABE: Well, John, I think the first thing that jumps out to me is the consistency of the charges against all five defendants are exactly the same. So that alone tells me that you're going to see a high degree of participation of kind of guilty action by all five people involved. That's not the typical thing that we see in these videos. There is usually one primary actor, one or two, and there are some who participate, you know, partially and then others who stand back and watch.
Here, you have everybody charged the same way. It suggests that they are all engaged in some very violent behavior. And secondly, it's just the profound reaction that we're hearing from some very experienced career law enforcement people -- the Police Chief, the TBI Chief -- they are clearly affected profoundly by what they saw in that video that just signals to me that I think it's going to be horrifying.
BERMAN: So Chief Ramsey, you were on CNN earlier this day and said that the race of the officers should not make a difference in any of this, that people should not die in police custody, period. Now, no one would ever dispute that.
But do you think that the fact that all five of these officers in question are Black will have any impact on how the community, maybe the entire country will process this?
RAMSEY: I think the community in general will be very upset once they see this video, the race of the officers will not play a role in that. I think, if anything, the swiftness in which public officials acted in this case, the Police Chief firing them within a relatively short period of time, the Shelby County State's Attorney taking action today, I mean, these things are just -- I don't know if you would have seen that a year ago, at least not having officials move this quickly. I think that went a long way or will go a long way in kind of keeping things a little calm.
I am concerned about them releasing the video on a Friday night at six o'clock. I would have advised against that. That, in my opinion, it should have been released immediately after the State's Attorney, you know, at his press conference, get it out there.
But on a Friday night, it just to me seems like it's just not tactically a very sound decision. I mean, we have to prepare for the protests that will follow.
BERMAN: You know, John Miller, what about that? We have been talking a lot about the process here, and I just want to remind people, there is also, you know, Tyre Nichols -- none of this will bring Tyre Nichols back.
The process of how it has been handled since won't do anything exactly for that family. But in terms of the timing of the police release, and the charges and the video tomorrow night, how would you assess that?
MILLER: I think they've gone back and forth. I know, they've gone back and forth on the dates and the sequencing between the announcement of the charges and the video, and it was really the day before yesterday when they decided, you know, to separate them by 24 hours.
I believe the rationale is, let's get the chargers to show people justice is being done, and then let's use the next 24 hours to try and do that community outreach and get everybody, you know, on board with let the process go forward and if you're going to protest, do so peacefully so that they can go into the weekend with some level of confidence they have a handle on it.
Now that's interesting, Memphis seems to be very calm. Other cities, New York, LA, Chicago, Los Angeles, also in Atlanta in particular, also expect protests and they are concerned about the Friday going into Saturday factor that the Chief mentions.
BERMAN: Yes, we'll see what happens. We'll see if they're proven correct on this.
Joey Jackson, back to the defense because we were talking in the break about this, and I do think it's interesting. There are five officers with identical charges, former officers facing them now. That doesn't mean that all five defenses will be identical though, does it?
JACKSON: It doesn't mean that, but you know, it's telling, John that all of them were charged with the same thing, why? You know, we have as defense lawyers a defense and it is legally a proper defense that mere presence is not enough. What does that indicate to you?
[20:25:08] It indicates to you that when that videotape is released, it is going to show conduct on behalf of every single participating officer that they were engaged in the activities that were deemed to be unlawful, that those activities were acting in concert, that they were all participants in the beating, that in and of itself is very significant.
Now, obviously, depending upon where each officer was positioned, based upon the level of threat, if any, that they felt, the conduct that they engaged in, or the lack thereof, they will justify with their defenses, but the fact that all of them were charged with the same thing means to me that upon examination of that videotape, authorities felt that each of them was culpable, responsible, and accountable for what we're going to see, learn, and hear when we see that videotape upon release.
BERMAN: Joey Jackson, John Miller, Charles Ramsey, Andrew McCabe, thank you all so much. You've really, I think, helped to understand this much, much better.
Just ahead, another George Santos mystery and another attempt to quite literally chase down an answer. We have his latest dodge, this time about his campaign finances, plus an in-depth look at what we do know and don't about his life. That's next.
BERMAN: Still more questions tonight about Congressman George Santos and his finances. An attorney for a Wisconsin political consultant says his client was wrongly listed as the Santos campaign treasurer in new FEC filings by the campaign this week, he was asked to do what the attorney says, but his client turned down the job. And yet somehow, he was listed as a committee treasurer on official papers.
Our Manu Raju tried to get answers out of Santos on Capitol Hill today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): Mr. Santos, you listed the wrong name of a treasurer. Why did you list the wrong name of your treasurer on your campaign finance forms?
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I'll have a conversation with you, when you a become a better, honest reporter.
RAJU (on-camera): I'm asking you directly.
SANTOS: You're a dishonest reporter and you know that.
RAJU (on-camera): Well, why did you lie about being on a volleyball team?
SANTOS: You're a liar. You're lying to the American people. When you stop lying in your, in your (INAUDIBLE) reporting, I'll start talking to you.
RAJU (on-camera): So, wait, you actually were on a volleyball team, is that right? In college? At Baruch College.
RAJU (on-camera): Is that true? Is that true?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: There's a lot going on there. So how did it happen? Unknown. And that's not all we don't know about the Congressman.
CNN's Omar Jimenez has more.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the source of the 500K that was initially listed as a personal loan on your --
SANTOS: Excuse me (INAUDIBLE) in my way.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Capitol Hill, this is George Santos's reality.
SANTOS: When is it not busy? You guys keep me busy always.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): Busy, because it seems almost every day there are new questions about the freshman congressman's past, some stretching back more than a decade.
(on-camera): Immigration records support he was born here in Queens, which is something he's said. But his path from here is what gets a little confusing at best, including where he says he went to school or where he didn't go to school.
(voice-over): Santos claimed he went to an elite prep school, Horace Mann in New York City. That school said there's, quote, no evidence he did. He claimed to have gotten a GED. And after claiming degrees from Baruch College and NYU, Santos now admits he never received a college education. As a young adult, he spent a few years in Brazil, where local prosecutors now want him to return to face charges related to a stolen checkbook in 2008. Santos has denied any wrongdoing. He's also said to have spent time among Rio's LGBTQ community, as seen in these photos reportedly of him in drag.
SANTOS: I was not a drag queen in Brazil. I was young and I had fun at a festival. Sue me for having a life.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): In the early 2010s, he was back in New York. Over years, he lived in multiple locations in Queens, at times with family, records indicate. But he was also subjected to multiple eviction proceedings involving failure to pay rent. In 2014, a landlord accused Santos and his family of not paying more than $5,000 in rent. They were eventually evicted. On one 2016 document, Santos wrote, I have been mugged as the reason he failed to get a payment and on time connected to eviction proceedings. It was around this time when former roommates described Santos as someone with delusions of grandeur and his ex-boyfriend saw it firsthand.
PEDRO VILARVA, GEORGE SANTOS' EX-BOYFRIEND: What he always looked for was fame and power. That's all he cared about, and he got it. He got the fame of the lies, and he got the power that he's in Congress now.
SANTOS: Thank you for having me --
JIMENEZ (voice-over): He also claimed he had worked at financial firms like Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, later admitting he never did. In 2012, the congressman who now identifies as gay obtained a license to marry a woman in New York City. By 2019, public court records indicate they had divorced just before he announced his first run for Congress.
SANTOS: I'm running for Congress.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): He lost that race in 2020. But two years later, campaigning on what he's admitted were exaggerations about his education and work history, he was elected as a Republican to represent New York's newly redrawn third district. Some local Republicans regret supporting him.
JENNIFER DESENA, NORTH HEMPSTEAD TOWN SUPERVISOR WHO ENDORSED SANTOS: I thought he had the qualifications, and he seemed so ambitious and successful that I was fooled by him.
SANTOS: You guys need to give a space to watch. Thank you.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): And now that he's in Congress, there are questions about how he funded his campaign. Santos claims he lent his campaign more than $700,000. But his campaign has since amended his filings, raising questions about whether most of that money actually came from his personal funds.
JORDAN LIBOWITZ, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, THE CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY & ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: That raises a question that has one of two answers. You know, this is incredibly sloppy bookkeeping, or he's saying this wasn't really his money.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): Santos didn't offer any explanation for the changes.
SANTOS: Let's make it very clear. I don't amend anything. I don't touch any of my FEC stuff. Right. So don't be disingenuous and report that I did.
BERMAN: CNN's Omar Jimenez with me now. Omar, look, even with all of this and really everything in that piece is just a fraction of everything we've heard. Republican leadership is still standing by him, but has their reasoning changed? JIMEENZ: It really hasn't. The delineation they're making is he may
have lied, but did he commit a crime? And we've heard that from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who's even punted to the constituents who actually elected him, saying, look, this is a duly elected congressman. My hands are tied. He did, though, say, if this rises to a legal level, that is a separate story. We will see.
Because there are a lot of investigations swirling right now. We've got a complaint filed against him by the Campaign Legal Center with the Federal Election Commission. Federal prosecutors are looking into his finances. We've also got not to mention reporters chasing him down every which way. And these are things that are just happening in the U.S. Brazilian authorities also want him back in the country to answer questions. So, it's safe to say there are suspicions about the discrepancies we've seen at this point and discrepancies that go back years.
BERMAN: All right, Omar Jimenez. Thanks very much. I know you're going to stay on this for us.
Perspective now from Benjamin Ginsberg, a lawyer well known for his work, representing Republicans on election law issues. Ben, great to see you.
I've asked you a lot of questions over the last several decades. Really nothing like the questions there are right now about George Santos. What red flags do you see in these FEC filings?
BENJAMIN L. GINSBERG, REPUBLICAN ELECTION LAWYER: Well, from an election lawyer's perspective, what you see is the taking in of the money and what the sources were and then how he reported it. And federal prosecutors do not have much of a sense of humor over people who take illegal campaign contributions and then file false government documents reporting their money in politics. You've also got a question about personal use. It's illegal to use campaign dollars that come to you for your own personal life. And I think the way the filings have been raises those questions as well.
BERMAN: I mean how much trouble could he be in if he provided false information in these filings? Would it just be a slap on the wrist or worse?
GINSBERG: Well, you know, he personally faces gravest legal jeopardy, I think, from his personal financial disclosure forms, because those are signed by him, they're verified by him. It's about how much money he really made, what was his and wasn't. Some elected public officials have gone to jail for false filings in those complaints. In terms of his FEC reports, he's also got some jeopardy. Although the treasurer of his campaign is the person legally liable for it. But if Santos caused filings, false filings to be made, then he could find himself in legal jeopardy as well.
And John, I think the other problems that he's got is whether he set up a straw donor system for himself where the money didn't really come from, who he says it came, which is his own personal money, that's giving him the name of another straw donations. People have also suffered real penalties for that.
BERMAN: Yes, look, and we don't know if that's what happened here, but these are the questions that are raised by the discrepancies here is the obvious question raised. So, Ben, I alluded to the fact I think the first campaign I covered with or with you was 2000. You worked on campaigns and before that. In terms of the sheer volume of lies we've learned in just the last few weeks, have you ever seen anything like this?
GINSBERG: No, not a thing. I mean, the breadth of the contradictions that have come up from just the most basic statements he's made, the way he filed the reports, didn't really get the consent of his treasurer. All just is in a league of its own. Maybe Congress hasn't seen anything quite like it since James Traficant in the early 200s, if you recall that suite of corruption charges.
BERMAN: Yes. Beat me up Scotty. Benjamin Ginsberg, great to see you. That was for watches of Congress (INAUDIBLE) --
BERMAN: Thanks so much.
Coming up, the latest on the Alex Murdaugh trial. Police body cam video shown was in court today as prosecutors lay out their case in the double murder trial of a member of one of South Carolina's most powerful families, accused of killing his wife and youngest son.
BERMAN: The double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh continued today with prosecutors showing police body cam video from the scene of the crime. Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife and youngest son in an alleged effort to deflect attention away from financial crimes.
Let's go now with CNN's Randi Kaye, who's followed this trial from the very beginning and was in the courtroom again today. So, Randi, what did happen in court today?
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, today was the first time we heard Alex Murdaugh talking to investigators at the crime scene the night of the murders. The first three investigators who were on the scene that night testified in court, their body cam was showed. It was so disturbing. They actually put up some coverings over the screens in the court so not everybody would be able to see it, just the jury, which is why we can't really show it to you this evening. But the jury was clearly engaged with all of this. I saw one woman put her hand over her mouth. It was so troubling. Others were grimacing. Alex Murdaugh was at the defense table crying.
So, it was a very, very dramatic start. And this was just the first day of witness testimony.
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SGT. DANIEL GREENE, CCSO, FIRST ON SCENE: He was laying face down on the ground, large pool of blood around him. Maggie's body also laying face down on the ground, a large pool of blood around head.
KAYE (voice-over): Colleton county detective Daniel Greene was first on the scene after Alex Murdaugh called 911 the night of June 7, 2021.
GREENE: This is your wife and son?
ALEX MURDAUGH, FMR SOUTH CAROLINA ATTORNEY: (INAUDIBLE).
KAYE (voice-over): Green was the state's first witness. His body cam video was played in court, but mostly shielded from view due to its graphic nature. Greene says when he first saw Alex Murdaugh that night, he appeared to be crying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you observe any visible blood on him?
GREENE: There was no blood on him that I could see.
When was the last time you were here with them or talked to them or anything like that?
MURDAUGH: It was earlier tonight. I don't know the exact time, but --
MURDAUGH: -- I left. I was probably gone an hour and a half from my mom's, and I saw them about 45 minutes before that. Somebody going to check them?
GREENE: Yes, sir. They've already checked them.
MURDAUGH: They did check them?
MURDAUGH: It's official that they're dead?
GREENE: Yes, sir. That's what it looks like.
KAYE (voice-over): As the detective described Paul Murdaugh's injuries, his father Alex was in tears at the defense table. During cross examination of Greene, the defense quickly moved to make investigators look incompetent and show they may have contaminated the crime scene.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you in any way have your men or women put protective gear on their feet? I saw you put gloves on. But did they put anything to insulate themselves from contaminating the scene?
GREENE: On their feet? No. KAYE (voice-over): The defense also tried to cast doubt that Alex
Murdaugh was the only one who'd access the property that night. Given the multiple sets of tire tracks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you do to preserve those?
GREENE: The tire tracks? Nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You certainly are not an expert in tire tracks.
GREENE: I'm not.
KAYE (voice-over): On the issue of blood on the defendant, prosecutors were able to get three law enforcement witnesses to say they never saw any blood on Alex Murdaugh. That's significant because he had told the 911 operator, he'd touched the bodies to see if they had a pulse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if you had to manipulate the body, and if you were going to try to check his pulse via wrist or neck with what you saw that night, would your hands be blight?
JASON WALKER CHAPMAN, CAPTAIN, COLLETON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: If I had attempted, they would have been, yes.
KAYE (voice-over): The defense countered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he did get blood on his fingers or hands, were you aware that there was blood found on his shorts?
CHAPMAN: I was not sure.
BERMAN: And Randi Kaye is back with us. Randi, like we said, you've covered this case from the beginning. You were in court today. Did anything you heard that here, there today surprise you?
KAYE: Yes, John, we actually heard some new information about Paul Murdaugh's truck. It wasn't at the home, it wasn't at the crime scene. And it turns out that the investigator testified that they sent out a Bolo, a be on the lookout report looking for that truck and it was found in Hampton County on the side of the road. No explanation who put it there or why it was there.
Also, one really bizarre moment on that body cam John, you hear Alex Murdaugh when one of the investigators arrives on the scene, in the middle of this horrific scene, he turns to him very calmly and says, hey, what's up? Which was very bizarre. Other than that, the investigators all testified that he was distraught all night. And one last thing, John, it was very interesting how the investigators treated Alex Murdaugh. They did not treat him like a potential suspect. He wasn't handcuffed. He was free to roam around the property. He was making phone calls. They didn't go into his house and search it. He had somebody come to the house and see him. So, it was just a very interesting way because we know that 13 months later, he was charged with the double murder, John. BERMAN: Yes, that is notable. Randi Kaye, thank you so much.
Just ahead, we're going to discuss the witness testimony we just heard in the Alex Murdaugh case and what impact it might have on jurors with two defense attorneys.
BERMAN: Let's talk more now about the testimony in body cam video evidence for the double murder trial of South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh. Perspective from two defense attorneys, Mark O'Mara and Shan Wu, who is also a former federal prosecutor.
Mark, first to you, we just heard in Randi Kaye's piece, the defense clearly trying to undercut the credibility of police who responded to the murder scene, asking them if they put on protective boots. They said they didn't. What do you think of this strategy from the defense? If you were defending Alex Murdaugh, would you do this?
MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. It's a fairly standard strategy. Don't forget, we defense attorneys do not need to prove innocence. We need to prove reasonable doubt. And the way we do that is showing whatever we can that the investigation was flawed, searches were inappropriate, gloves weren't worn, or booties weren't worn or tire tracks weren't maintained. All of this is to tell this jury that they rushed to judgment that day, thought of nobody else but Murdaugh, and that they were sloppy because sloppiness lack of evidence or conflict in evidence is what leads to reasonable doubt.
So, yes, this is fairly standard. We're going to see this throughout the trial.
BERMAN: One of the issues will be Alex Murdaugh's credibility, Shan, and you say the new evidence we heard from the body camera footage could be critical in undermining that credibility. Why?
SHAN WU, FMR FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, there is a question there as to what his demeanor is at the time. I believe also it came to light today that although his timeline for placing himself not there too recently might have been undermined by some audio evidence of a phone call, that's going to be really critical to the defense's decision whether to put him on or not. I mean, usually you don't want to put your client on and I think if the prosecution lays out a very, very strong case, then the defense may face a difficult choice of trying to put on their client and that type of undermining of his credibility could be a problem.
I mean, the prosecution here has to do a double-edged sword for themselves. They're stressing clearly right from the get-go the brutality of the killings, hoping in some ways that's going to carry momentum with the jury. It can cut against them too, though, because the defense will certainly say, look, this is a father and a husband, this kind of brutality just you wouldn't associate with that role he has.
BERMAN: What about that Mark, do you think that does help the defense, that a father could never do this.
O'MARA: Well and the defense is trying to do exactly that. It is so heinous. You know, it's interesting, the state is showing that it's heinous to say, my God, he's a first-degree murderer. And the defense is going, no, no, nobody could do that. Who knows who has a relationship with his son and a wife? No evidence of a problem with the relationship. It's very interesting because this jury has got to decide which way of a very, very wide fence they fall on. I will tell you, as was just said, that audio tape, if they believe that is Murdaugh's voice, therefore counter failing his alibi argument, then the case is over. On the other hand, if they don't, then the defense may have won the day.
BERMAN: Because that might be one of these solid data points, other things might end up being subjective.
Shan, there was the issue and again, this might cut both ways also. On the 911 call, he told the operator that he checked his son and his wife for pulses, yet he didn't have blood on him. Do you find that to be compelling evidence?
WU: Yes, that's not as compelling to me. You know, I think, as they already pointed out in cross, I mean, he might have wiped it on his shorts or something. I also think that the blood evidence here is not going to really carry the day one way or the other because it's not like he wasn't there or there could have been blood to be wiped off or he got some blood on his shorts.
I think forensically, John, it's really going to come down not only to the taper, just discussing, but also to the shell casings issue. I think that's going to be very critical.
BERMAN: Where the shell casings were on the property, that they were there. Again, physical evidence here.
The prosecution, though, Mark, is leaning into motivation, a possible reason why he would have done this, to cover up financial crimes, they say, allegedly. How compelling do you find that? What do they need there to prove their argument?
O'MARA: Well, I think even though a motive is never, you don't see that in a statute as far as a burden of proof, every juror on that panel, and most of us are watching it, want to hear about the motive. So, it's just that common sense thing. You don't have to prove motive, but you have to give this jury a reason why Murdaugh did what he did, why he would slaughter two family members. And even though it's not a proof requirement, they have to come up with something compelling. And all they really have is this, you know, this shell game taken away from my view now my family has been slaughtered. The idea later on that they might be able to get into of this thing suicide attempt by him. Any of that, if that gets to the jury, is going to give a much clearer view of who Murdaugh is as this potential first-degree murderer. BERMAN: Yes, it's a more complicated case with more twist and turns
that I think a lot of people were expecting, even though the whole story has more twist and turns than you could ever imagine.
Mark O'Mara, Shan Wu, thanks to both of you. Great to see you.
WU: Good to see.
BERMAN: We're going to return to our top story ahead. Murder charges for the death of Tyre Nichols. Officers charged for killing him, five former police officers indicted. Video of that violent arrest to be released in less than 24 hours. We're going to speak to a former police captain and a former top U.S. civil rights official on where this investigation goes, next.