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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Six Police Officers Charged In Freddie Gray's Death; Praise, Scrutiny For State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 01, 2015 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper and live from Baltimore. Looking at, that's basically my view right to my right here, a peaceful rally. Not a protest, more of a celebration.

Many residents of Baltimore, used to frustration, stunned, pleasantly stunned by the state's attorney to charge six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray.

In the next 24 hours, we are told these officers will be processed at central booking and will have their bail hearings. Let's bring Maryland State delegate for Baltimore, Keith Haynes, he represents some of the city including Western Baltimore and Southwest Baltimore.

Sir, thanks so much for being here. Were you surprised by the state's attorney announcement this morning?

KEITH HAYNES (D), MARYLAND STATE DELEGATE: I was surprised number one with the timing.

TAPPER: It was so quick?

HAYNES: It was very quick and I think one of the reasons for that is the availability of the medical examiner's autopsy report. That report came back, I think, much quicker than many people had expected.

And with the medical examiner's report ruling death by homicide, I think that was the linchpin that the state's attorney needed to go ahead and make the ultimate decision to file charges against the officers in the case.

TAPPER: In addition to being a delegate, you're an attorney.


TAPPER: This won't necessarily be the easiest case in the world to get convictions of all six officers?

HAYNES: Well, I think you have to look at a couple of things. Number one, the charges in the case, all six officers are not charged with the same crimes, so to speak.

TAPPER: Right.

HAYNES: And I think the most serious one is probably the depraved- heart murder.

TAPPER: Second-degree murder for the driver.

HAYNES: Yes, down to some of the assault charges as well. So it's going to depend upon the evidence. It's going to depend upon the level of charges, but I can tell you that based on the information that we are seeing, that has not been a lot, per se.

Because it has been an ongoing investigation, but apparently she has reviewed that information, and believed that she has enough evidence for a conviction in this case.

TAPPER: Now, we've heard a lot of negligence charges being used by the state's attorney, but then second-degree murder, depraved-heart murder, she didn't use the term, a rough ride.

These infamous occurrences when police put people in a van and then start and stop, start and stop and banging them up. Is that your impression of what may have happened, the case she's trying to build?

HAYNES: Well, based on the information so far, I would look at first of all the definition of depraved-heart murder. That in layman's terms it's also called willful and wanton murder. This means that number one, you have to realize you're engaged in such behavior that carries a high risk.

And then you have a disregard for the value of human life and continue to engage in that conduct. So the evidence must rise to that level, whether it's continuing to -- the ride in the vehicle, or other things that may not have come out in the report or in the investigation that is sufficient to meet that level of conduct.

TAPPER: And we'll see. We'll see when she brings it out and we see more evidence. Delegate Haynes, thank you so much.

You can hear the crowd chanting no justice, no peace, to my right, outside city hall here in Baltimore. It took Marilyn Mosby 20 minutes to announce the charges against the six police officers allegedly involved in Freddie Gray's arrest and death.

But how did this prosecutor come to such conclusion at the same day she got the medical examiner's report, an expedited review of evidence may have worked in her favor and who this woman is, coming up next.



TAPPER: Welcome book to THE LEAD. Live from Baltimore, where we have been witnessing a wide range of emotions in reaction to the news that six police officers have been charged in the homicide of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.

Not long after Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby made the announcement, her name started trending in social media. Along with the newfound celebrity will, of course, come public scrutiny for the 35-year-old city prosecutor, who is just barely 100 days into her new job.


TAPPER (voice-over): On the job for fewer than four months, Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby was hailed on the streets of Baltimore Friday. For confronting one of the ugliest cases this city has seen in recent memory.

MARILYN MOSBY, BALTIMORE STATE ATTORNEY: The findings of our comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation coupled with the medical examiner's determination that Mr. Gray's death was a homicide, which we received today have led us to believe that we have probable cause to file criminal charges.

TAPPER: Only 35 years old, the youngest chief prosecutor of any major American city, Mosby spoke directly to a region still very much on edge, and coming to terms with the events of the past few weeks, after the death of Freddie Gray.

MOSBY: To the people of Baltimore, and the demonstrators across America, I heard your call for no justice, no peace. Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.

TAPPER: Mosby knows the world of being a police officer.

[16:40:03] MOSBY: I come five generations of law enforcement. My father was an officer. My mother was an officer, several of my aunts and uncles. My recently departed and beloved grandfather was one of the founding members of the first black police organization in Massachusetts.

TAPPER: After a brief stand as council for an insurance company, Mosby surprised many beating in her election after she beat the sitting state attorney in the 2014 Democratic primary. Mosby is also married to her college sweetheart, a city councilman who represents the neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested.

NICK MOSBY, BALTIMORE CITY COUNCIL: She's my wife. She's a strong woman. She was built for this.

TAPPER: Despite that connection, Mosby says she does not see any conflict of interest as she prosecutes the case. Members of the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police, however, have called for a special prosecutor to be appointed in Mosby's place because of that connection.

MOSBY: He works on the legislative side. I am a prosecutor. I am also a public servant. I uphold the laws. He makes the laws. I will prosecute any case within my jurisdiction.

TAPPER: Mosby did not mince words today saying it was about more than justice for Freddie Gray, but about preventing any future Freddie Grays.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think needs to be done to make sure what happened to Freddie Gray doesn't happen again?

MOSBY: Accountability. You're getting it today.


TAPPER: It should be noted that the fraternal order of police in Baltimore has called for Marilyn Mosby to recuse herself from the case not only because of her husband, but because of her ties to a family attorney for the Gray family, Billy Murphy.

But let's talk about this case now. We have a microphone, because the protest here is growing a lot louder or the rally. I'm joined by CNN legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, and CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin along with respected forensic pathologist, Cyril Wecht to talk more about today's extraordinary events.

Jeffrey, let me start with you. The police union just minutes ago called this all a rush to judgment suggesting charges came unusually quick in case of this nature.

There are also accusations that politics motivated the decision we heard today. Is it unusual, Jeffrey, for a case like this to already have resulted in charges not even two weeks after the death?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. It is unusual. It was surprising to me. I certainly was expecting a longer wait, but that doesn't mean the charges don't have validity. This was a very quick action by the prosecutor.

And I think only when we see these charges tested in court will we know whether there was an inappropriate rush to judgment. Certainly her statement today was a summary of the evidence she has, but we'll only know when it's tested in court.

TAPPER: Sunny, the driver of the transport van was charged not only with second-degree murder, but manslaughter by vehicle. We assume that the prosecutor is leaning in to the idea that Freddie Gray got a so-called rough ride in Philadelphia. They're calmed nickel rides. Other sides, joyrides, they are these jerky, violent rides that bang prisoners up. How can that be proved?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I think that you're right. I think when you look at the charges, because she charged not only manslaughter by vehicle, she also charged him with second-degree depraved heart murder, which tells me that she believes that he is one of the worst actors here.

Because the depraved heart means that he intentionally, willfully, deliberately acted with depraved indifference to human life in his actions, and so I think that she's got to prove, certainly, there was this rough ride, and the way you prove that is not only through testimony.

I suspect she's going to get one or two or perhaps even more of the officers to turn state's evidence and testify against the driver. She can also use a lot of the forensic information garnered from the medical examiner's reports and experts to prove that a rough ride existed.

TAPPER: Cyril, could anything in the autopsy prove that Freddie Gray's injuries were not sustained by the result of his own actions? As some police leaks to the media seem to be suggesting?

There seem to be a suggestion a few days ago in a different media outlet perhaps he was banging his own head against the van's walls. How could that be proven or disproven?

CYRIL WECHT, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Well, I've read the statements from the officials. This man had his legs shackled and his hands cuffed, and he was placed in a prone position. Pray tell, how was he running around and banging himself in the van?

I've been saying this for 48 hours or more before I even learned about this. This is the most egregious case in modern times that I can think of from the very beginning. They placed him in a hard-type position.

[16:45:12] Prone and brought his hands back behind him. They briefly sat him up and then placed him in that position again. When they put him into the van, they placed him again into a full hog-tied position, prone, face down, legs shackled, hands brought -- that procedure was banned more than 20 years ago.

Where have these officers been? The International Association of Police Chiefs, the Royal Canadian Police Force, of police force in every metropolitan city has talked about not using the hog-tied position.

Now you have him in that position. He is yelling and screaming for help and his body is inert and the van is moving. There's the velocity. You asked a moment ago, how will this be proven?

Those injuries are not what we call spontaneous pathological fractures. He did not have metastatic carcinoma that has brittle his bones and he didn't have osteoporosis. These injuries came as that body fraught back and forth breaking vertebrae in the neck and eventually severing the spinal cord.

This is an open and shut case, and you'll have no problem, I guarantee you, the prosecution, in finding police expert procedure people around and forensic pathologists to put this together. There is no alternative explanation for how these injuries were sustained, and when they were incurred.

TOOBIN: Wow. Wow. Jake, can I just say that, Cyril, I think, is getting a little ahead of the game here, calling this an open and shut case. These officers may well be convicted, and we will see this in court, but we have not heard their side of the story.

We have not heard the explanation for what sort of injuries he may have suffered outside the police van before he got in. So I just think it's worth pausing, recognize how serious these charges are.

But to say that this is an open and shut case at this point, I'm certainly not willing to go there, though, I defer to the great Cyril Wecht on many things.

WECHT: One comment if I may make, sir, about -- thank you. When the injuries occurred, but the injuries had not occurred when Mr. Gray was running away. If the injuries were sustained, they were sustained again by the police in their stopping him and then you get back to the whole business of why was he stopped and why was it necessary to place him in a prone position?

And if they did produce injuries, and they well may have, it would have been because they were compressing and they will leaning into his back, producing quite possibly the initial fractures of a linear, non- displaced nature, which will then significantly aggravated by that inert body flopping around in the van.

TAPPER: All right, Gentlemen, we'll continue this conversation in my chambers. I want to thank Cyril Wecht and Jeffrey Toobin and Sunny Hostin here in Baltimore. Thank you so much. We'll have much more to talk about this in the days and weeks ahead.

Coming up, just what are the conditions for prisoners in police vans? It turns out so-called rough rides, not actually all that unusual.

Plus, the crowd around me growing larger and more jubilant by the minute. What is expected tonight? Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper reporting live from Baltimore. Just a few feet away from a large group, it's not a group of protestors, but they're rallying, they're happy. They're celebratory. They're excited about the fact that six police officers now face charges in the death, the homicide, according to the state's attorney, of Freddie Gray.

Cell phone video, of course, captured what appears to be a badly injured Gray being loaded into a police van on April 12th, but what caused his spinal cord to server in police custody?

Specifically what action happened to cause that remain as mystery? Some have suggested the 25-year-old was subjected to a prohibited police tactic known in Baltimore as rough ride, back in Philadelphia, it was called a nickel ride.

Other cities call it a joy ride. It's when a handcuffed prisoner is placed in a police vehicle, not buckled in, and taken for an intentionally jerky and bumpy drive with a series of stops and starts, causing potentially serious harm.

CNN's Tom Foreman is live in Washington with that part of the story. Tom, how common are these so-called rough rides?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, there are no statistics. You can imagine that police under the circumstances don't want to talk about it much, but plenty of other people are. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: After so much focus on video of what happened outside the police van, the state's attorney is now saying Freddie Gray was fatally injured inside, when officers failed to take his safety into account.

MOSBY: Placing him on his stomach, head first on to the floor of the wagon. Once again, Mr. Gray was not secured by a seat belt.

FOREMAN: No seat belt. Something the police department says was unacceptable. Metal seats, little padding, with both arms and lengths restrained, the back of a police wagon can be a deadly holding cell.

HAROLD THOMAS, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE: You can hit potholes and bump somebody around, or you can, you know, take it up a notch or two and, you know, maneuver the van in a way to really hurt someone.

FOREMAN: Trips like this are called rough rides, and former NYPD Detective Harold Thomas says they have a long history as a hands-off way for police to punish unruly passengers.

THOMAS: I guess you could say I gave someone a rough ride. This is -- things that are distort.

MOSBY: Manslaughter by vehicle.

FOREMAN: Driving the vehicular manslaughter charges in Baltimore are allegations that officers failed to safely and properly restrain Gray, at least five times over the span of four separate stops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They didn't want to reach over him.

FOREMAN: One of the officers' relatives who wishes to remain anonymous told CNN securing Gray, who is reportedly very agitated, would have been dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He still has his teeth and he still has his saliva so in order to seat belt somebody, you have to get in their personal space. They're not going to get in his personal space if he's already irate.

[16:55:12] FOREMAN: Still, rough rides can have horrendous consequences.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm imprisoned my own body.

FOREMAN: Baltimore resident, Jeffrey Olsten broke his neck while riding with police in 1997. He was awarded $39 million after a jury found officers were responsible and ended up settling with the city for $6 million.

Donde Johnson seen here in a photo eerily similar to Freddie Gray's was paralyzed and later died after a ride with police in 2005. Johnson's family was awarded more than $7 million even though officers in that case faced no disciplinary action. An appeals court reduced the award to $219,000.

CHRISTINE ABBOTT, SUING BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT OVER "ROUGH RIDE": Just sliding around in there, it was all metal, you know, nothing -- I couldn't hold on anything so my hands are behind my back.

FOREMAN: Christine Abbott, a 27-year-old librarian says these photos show her injuries after a 2012 arrest and ride in a police wagon. She's now suing in federal court.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very bumpy and quite scary.

FOREMAN: And in the case of Freddie Gray, if that's what happened, it may also have been fatal.


FOREMAN: And you can bet we're going to hear those words, rough ride, many times as all of this heads into the court -- Jake.

TAPPER: OK, we're going to do it all? Thank you, Tom Foreman. Appreciate it.

Now you may recall earlier this week at the height of tensions with riots erupts here in Baltimore we met a Vietnam veteran by the name of Robert Valentine, who had the courage to put himself between a crowd of protestors, rioters and police.

He calmed it a dishonor to his memory, and Mr. Valentine joins me live. Also here someone we've met this week and last week, Reverend Jamal Bryant, a key figure leading protests pushing for peaceful protests.

First off, Mr. Valentine, I want to thank you for your service and your service in Vietnam for our country and elsewhere.


TAPPER: What do you make of the announcement today and for you what's the most important thing that Baltimore keeps in mind going forward?

VALENTINE: That they have not let this make them fall down, but to stand up and bind together and unite. Now, you have doing that thing with her son. More Toyas need to come home, get their children and take them home out of this.

My generation, it's time for us to take a vacation. We got to pass it on to the next generation, to the generation after them. This generation behind me has to step up, lead, and show the young ones behind how to come up and be better than them and the generation now needs to be better than me and succeed further.

TAPPER: Reverend, what's your reaction to the news from the state's attorney that they're going to be charges against these six police officers?

REVEREND JAMAL BRYANT, ORGANIZED FREDDIE GRAY PROTESTS: I'm in shock therapy. Nobody was looking for this to happen on today. And it's really mixed emotions, if you really look at it from a panoramic perspective. One, a sigh of relief for the community, but it ought to be a disappointment to America that we're shocked that the system actually works.

And it really says that the protesting is not in vain because had not the incident been videotaped, had we not converged and drawn national attention, another faceless, nameless victim. We're thankful it's finally exposed and on the road to healing.

TAPPER: So in other words, you think that the marches had an effect? That there was political pressure, in your view, for good?

BRYANT: Well, if it weren't for the marches, none of you all would be here. We've been dealing with it last year. There were 211 homicides, 187 of those were black men, to no fanfare, no hash tags and no background stories.

So it's bigger than just Freddie Gray as an individual. It's symbolic, and that's why you're seeing people marching in Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, because we all cannot -- and D.C. -- we all can identify with the issue.

TAPPER: Reverend, thank you for being here and as always, Mr. Valentine, thanks for your service again.

We'll going end the show right now. The family of Freddie Gray will have a press conference any second so I'm going to throw it over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Have a great and peaceful weekend.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, murder charge in a stunning announcement. Baltimore's prosecutor says the death of Freddie Gray was a homicide. Six police officers face serious charges, and for one of them, that includes second-degree murder.

We want to welcome viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We are standing by for a news conference. The first time Freddie Gray's family and the family attorney will be making a statement reacting to the stunning news today that six police officers in Baltimore, they have been arrested, and are about to be charged with complicity, various aspects in connection with the death of Freddie Gray.

He is the 25-year-old who died in police custody. Stunning developments today. The family getting ready for the statement.