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Jury Begins Deliberations in Ahmaud Arbery Killing Trial; Suspect in Christmas Parade Tragedy to Appear in Court Today; Biden to Release Oil Reserves to Combat High Gas Prices. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired November 23, 2021 - 11:30   ET



JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, SUPERIOR COURT, STATE OF GEORGIA: All right. Let's go and check the evidence then. It is this court's practice with firearms not to send out the live ammunition or the weapon itself, I also don't send out the videos. Normally these days, jurors don't have the ability to play the videos. But given the -- well, the court's position is if there's a request to replay video, it needs to be done with the formalities of the court and so they can go ahead and request that but we do that here. So, don't send them out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your honor, do you have the verdict forms? I don't know if I've seen that.

WALMSLEY: Let's take a look at the verdict forms to see if there are any objections to the verdict forms. I also have a copy of the charge that I will give to the clerk as court's 5, I think, we're on, which will be court's 5. That will go out to the panel. Go ahead and take a look at that before that goes out also, so the verdict form and the charge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could inquire before we end here, your honor.

WALMSLEY: I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could inquire before we end?

WALMSLEY: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the court take some more time to think about whether the court would bring the jury in and ask them in front of us if anything has come up, we wanted to see that process happen.

WALMSLEY: I did. I don't think it's necessary today. There're very few, if any, people out front that I have heard of. I haven't heard of anything or any issues. Again, last night the only reason I moved the jury is because after getting permission from counsel to go into the jury room, I had heard probably -- not as I was walking in but I heard as I was talking with the panel something that sounded like a crowd outside. And I asked the panel whether or not they heard that, and the response was they just heard that too.

And I thought in an abundance of caution, not really knowing what exactly was happening outside, that I'd go ahead and move them into one of the interior courtrooms. That apparently was there's movement outside, a protest group that was walking around the courthouse. And I believe what the court did yesterday was appropriate under the circumstances and actually consistent with some of the requests that have been made by counsel.

I did not do it because I felt there were any safety concerns or any other problems. I simply did it out of an abundance of caution. I don't want to into go into where they are now, but I'm satisfied today there have been no issues whatsoever, and so, no, I don't plan on that inquiry. But I do recall the request being made. I'm satisfied that there have not been any issues on the response.

KEVIN GOUGH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR WILLIAM RODDIE BRYAN: I guess I would be joining that. The record is what it is, but I don't believe the court has inquired of the jury affirmatively a single time from their impanelment to this moment, and I don't think it would be inappropriate given all that has transpired in the public gallery and outsite courthouse in this case for the court to inquire affirmatively at least once of this jury panel. Having said, that I'm going to sit down.

WALMSLEY: Let's go ahead and check the evidence. The proposed verdict forms should be somewhere in the well, as well as the -- I'm sorry, they're right here. And let's go ahead and do that so we can get the evidence to the panel.

LINDAY DUNIKOSKI, PROSECUTOR: I had, and I just want to make sure this is consistent with what everyone else has in the court has, as the three alternates. Currently, I'm going to use their current numbers, 14, 13 and 6.

WALMSLEY: Yes. I will find that out. I didn't realize you were going to bring that up right now.



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

So, the case is now in the hands of the jury to decide the fate of three men charged with the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Jurors, they have now begun deliberating following a nearly month-long trial. We're still seeing live pictures in the courtroom there.

Joining me to discuss all that we have heard, especially this morning, Bernarda Villalona, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, and Sara Azari, criminal defense attorney. Thank you both so much for being here.

So, Sara, the jury now has it. There are three defendants each charged with nine counts, so 27 different verdicts are needed. And then we hear in the courtroom, as they're giving jury instructions, there are lesser charges that can also be considered now for William Bryan, the neighbor here that is charged. What does this mean for the jury as they take on this case now?

SARA AZARI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, Kate. So, the jury has to really first decide this idea of a citizen's arrest, which goes to all of these. It was that initial encounter justified, because without that you don't get to the analysis of self-defense. And if there was justified self-defense the inquiry ends there because there is no duty to retreat under Georgia law.


So, that is why this prosecutor spent so much time, really the bulk of closing, on citizen's arrest, that the idea was bogus, that it came out to shape the defense, that there was never a citizen's arrest, there was no imminent knowledge of a crime, they didn't witness a crime. That was the headline. And that is because it is so important you don't really get to self-defense without the analysis of citizen's arrest.

And I think for me, the biggest moment was the 911 call. What's your emergency? There's a black man running down the street. I mean, that is why we're here. And, unfortunately, this jury is not proportionate to the community, which is, you know, almost a third black, and so I'm trying to read the tea leaves but I'm really not sure where this is going to go.

BOLDUAN: Yes, Bernarda, 11 white people on the jury, one black person on this jury. And as we just heard, just put it into some more context for folks, if you will, because jury instructions, they're critical, they're complicated, as we've seen here and in other trials. And as Sara is getting at, the defense team has gone to lengths to object over the definition of citizen's arrest as presented in closings by the state. What is that about?

BERNARDA VILLALONA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So, absolutely. Because the defense knows that their only hanging fate is in citizen's arrest and that definition of citizen's arrest is going to be the linchpin in terms of whether they are found guilty or not guilty. So, that's why the defense was very strategic and objected at the exact times that the prosecution was defining citizen's arrest.

Because the reality is, is that if you did not see Ahmaud Arbery commit a crime and the crime it wasn't committed contemporaneously to when you attempted to commit the arrest, then you are not able to avail yourself of citizen's arrest. So, obviously, that's why the defense has to object because their definition is the one that they want to control the jury.

BOLDUAN: And, Sara, do you think that the state in the closing arguments delivered what they needed to do to make this final argument? But what do you think of the rebuttal from the state, from the prosecution that we watched all throughout this morning?

AZARI: I think it was very effective, Kate. I think that it was directly responsive to the defense closing arguments. The idea that, you know, there was a boogeyman in the neighborhood, you know, that Ahmaud Arbery was dangerous, that he had committed a crime. I mean, she really methodically showed that these men had no knowledge of him having committed a crime. There was no citizen's arrest.

And then she went further to reel back in Roddie Bryan, right, because I think Roddie Bryan's attorney did a fantastic job of distancing him from these other two men, showing that he didn't even know there was a gun there until the first shot was fired. And so just sort of arguing that his client was stupid and came out and just got involved and then it took a video and did the right the thing and turned it over to the police. And without that there would be no justice and no trial. She went through all the charges against bryan and brought his video, there would be no justice and no trial. So, she did a very good job because she then went through the elements of all charges as against Roddie Bryan and brought him right back into those charges.

Ultimately, I think Roddie is probably going to get acquitted or get -- you know, be found guilty of some of the lessers. But she did a fantastic job and she really sort of played a little bit more on the race card as well, you know, that long, dirty toenail comment, and that was just despicable about Ahmaud Arbery. She humanized him. She said, look at him when he was alive and then look at him, you know, showing the autopsy picture. And that was very effective on her part in rebuttal.

BOLDUAN: I do. And, Bernarda, I wanted your take on that, because that is a choice by the prosecution, right? Because all throughout closings, really until these very final moments in rebuttal, the prosecution did not spend much time kind of leaning into humanizing Ahmaud Arbery. Her focus really remained on the facts and evidence that have been laid out in the case. And as Sara is getting at though, the defense during closings went right at Ahmaud Arbery.

I want to play the moment that Sara was talking about right there.


LAURA HOGUE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR GREGORY MCMICHAEL: Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails.


BOLDUAN: Bernarda, what did you think that was about? And what did you think of the prosecution prosecution's response really today?

VILLALONA: So, Ms. Hogue's comments, I found it to be despicable and I found it to be infuriating for her to do victim blaming, and not just victim blaming but victim shaming, not just victim shaming but also destroying the character of Ahmaud Arbery.


This had nothing to do with what happened on February 23rd of 2020. So, she definitely sunk low in trying to appeal to probably the racial undertones that she believes this jury may have. In terms of how the prosecution handled it, the prosecution didn't really delve deep in. However, the prosecutor did call her out and said that the defense wanted to result and victim blaming. But victim blaming does not get you to an acquittal. Let's go back to why are you here. What is it that these defendants saw on February 23rd, 2020 that caused them to chase, hunt, detain, and ultimately kill Ahmaud Arbery? And once you get to those facts and apply them to the law, then you will find that these defendants are guilty. So, let's forget the victim blaming and the victim naming and the name-calling.

BOLDUAN: So, this is now in the hands of this jury. But, Sara, even beyond this, all three men are also charged federally with hate crimes and attempted kidnapping. What does that mean no matter what happens here?

AZARI: You know, the -- there is no double jeopardy when you're dealing with two different sovereigns, right? So, they could be convicted here and still continue to be indicted and prosecuted under federal law. And so that, to me, was potentially why this prosecutor wasn't really getting to the race issue as much, although she sort of skirted around it today. But, yes, they are facing federal hate crime charges under an indictment, which is very serious.

Now, you know, to Bernarda's point, Kate, the idea of the comment about the toenails and all that, beyond it being reprehensible, what concerns me is that when an attorney addresses a jury, you know, villainizing the dead victim and making such a risky comment, they have to know that it will resonate with this jury, right?

And so, if this jury is the kind of jury that's going to believe that based on Ahmaud Arbery's appearance that he didn't belong in that neighborhood, that he was up to no good, and they're going to completely ignore the facts, which is on the prosecution's side, then this -- you know, I think some strange things can happen with respect to this verdict.

BOLDUAN: Now, it is many the hands of the jury and now deliberations are underway. We will wait and see. Thank you both very much. I really appreciate it.

I do now want to turn to another developing story though. The man accused of plowing his SUV into a Christmas parade in Wisconsin making his first court appearance this afternoon. Five people died, dozens were injured, many including children still in the hospital. We are learning more details about that suspect who police now say has used his car as a weapon before.

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is live in Waukesha, Wisconsin, with the very latest on this. What are you learning, Adrienne?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, CNN has obtained that criminal complaint that you were just referencing. In that complaint filed on November 5th, it describes a violent altercation where the suspect is described as using a vehicle to run someone over.

The woman in this complaint is only described as EAP. She claims to be the mother of a child, she and Brooks share together. She alleged Brooks hit her with a closed fist first, then, quote, intentionally and without consent ran her over with his vehicle while she was walking through the parking lot of a gas station. And for those of you who have been following this story, you may remember members of law enforcement have said that he was out on a $1,000 bail.

Meanwhile, folks in this community are still coming to grips with what they witnessed and saw and wondering why that 39-year-old was released. Listen in.


NEIL STOLSMAR, BUSINESS OWNER: One police officer asked me if I had something he could use for a gurney because they didn't have the ambulances here yet. And it got a piece of plywood out of my garage, and then over here, they were trying to revive a woman and they needed plastic gloves. I said, okay, I got them, latex gloves that I use for painting.


BROADDUS: Brooks is in court this afternoon facing five counts of first-degree intentional homicide. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Adrienne, thank you so much for that. Coming up for us, President Biden taking action to try to tackle high gas prices. Will millions of barrels of oil bring relief at the pump very soon? That's next.



BOLDUAN: Developing this morning, a major move by the White House, an attempt to bring down gas prices. President Biden has ordered the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, part of a coordinated effort with other nations as well. And Biden is also set to deliver remarks this afternoon on the economy.

So, the latest national poll from CBS shows that he has some work to do.


Only 39 percent of Americans approve of the president's handling of the economy right now. So, what is the impact of this new announcement?

Joining me now is CNN Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans. Christine, what more are you hearing about this move from the administration, the announcement from the president about the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, they have done this before in the past. It's rare. But when there are wars or hurricanes, we have tapped the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This is different. It's the biggest ever. It's 50 million barrels. And it's also in coordination with a few other countries. So, that shows an international intervention into the supply problem we're having in the U.S. and the global oil market.

So, the hope here for the White House is that, at least in the near term, it can put a lid on gasoline prices. That's issue number one for the White House, right, showing the American people they are trying to do something about inflation, and where do you feel inflation more than every time you fill up your tank of gas.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, you know what, Christine, I've got to jump. We've got head back right now to Georgia where the family of Ahmaud Arbery, they have just left the courthouse where his mother, his father, they have been in court day in and day out. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. The jury is out. It's time to allow the legal process to take its course. We are confident that the state put all the evidence out necessary to convict these men on all charges, and we're confident that this jury will seriously consider all the evidence and come back with a verdict that is reflective of what actually happened, which is the brutal and unjustified murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Outside of that, we don't have much to say. Do you have anything to add? No?

All right, we'll take one question and then we're going to go.

REPORTER: How do you feel about how Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski did today in terms of her rebuttal?

WANDA COOPER-JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: I think Linda did a fantastic job. I think that she did -- she presented the evidence again very well. I do think that we will come back with a guilty verdict. And I want to leave with this. God has brought us this far, and he's not going to fail us now. we will get justice for Ahmaud.



MARCUS ARBERY, AHMAUD ARBERY'S FATHER: I'll say something. I'm just giving all glory to god for number one, and what I see in that courtroom this morning just was really devastating, but I'm just thanking God, that God showed us all the evidence to convict these men, so I know God, like Wanda was saying, we're got this far to leave it now (ph). So, I know we're going to get a verdict on these men.

All right, thank you all.

REPORTER: Thank you, sir.

BOLDUAN: All right. So, we've been listening right there the reactions by Ahmaud Arbery's parents after what has been a month's long excruciating at moments trial where they have seen, you know, pictures of their child, autopsy pictures of a child that were so hard to watch. Let me bring in Bernarda once again as well as Sara. And, Bernarda, just -- what is often gets lost, just a final thought, that often gets overlooked, if you will, is the impact on the families. And they have been in this courtroom day in and day out what they have seen there no matter what the verdict is.

VILLALONA: Absolutely. I tried homicides as a prosecutor for ten years, and, normally, who is forgotten is the family of the deceased. And it's very heart-wrenching because you're making them relive that fatal day over and over and over, and they hear so much information, and those autopsy photos, to think that this is the last sight, the last thing that Ahmaud Arbery saw right before he took his last breath and the way his life was taken. It's horrible for the family.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Sara, your thoughts on this?

AZARI: Yes. I mean, you have to realize that even before getting to trial, they have seen these videos. They have heard the made-up stories by these defendants. It's tough. And I think sometimes defense attorneys are guilty of forgetting but it's a big mistake, because you have to show that empathy even though you're vigorously and zealously trying to represent your client. I think you lose the jury to some extent if you don't really consider that person.

That's why I think those comments yesterday was such an incredible turnoff that, you know, blame the victim, talking about his appearance and just so incredibly racially charged.


I think that's a big mistake. But, again, with this jury, you never know --