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Obama Back in Washington D.C.; Michael Brown's Family Speaks Out

Aired August 18, 2014 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We are waiting this news conference. This podium is in Saint Mark's Church. The Brown family is expected to speak out about the autopsy report done by Dr. Michael Baden on their son. When that news conference begins, of course, we'll take it to you live.

It's supposed to happen at any minute now.

Let's talk politics for just a bit while we wait, shall we, because he's back, at least for a day or two. President Obama has returned to Washington to deal with a world in chaos. He will meet with his attorney general about the situation in Ferguson and he will also meet with Joe Biden and his national security team about Iraq.

And then the President he will wrap it all up and return to Martha's Vineyard and his family. Kind of weird -- right?

With me now: Republican strategist, Leslie Sanchez and Keli Goff, columnist for "The Root" and "Daily Beast" -- welcome to you both.



COSTELLO: Nice to see you.

GOFF: Check our outfits, by the way.

COSTELLO: That's very coordinated. I love that.

SANCHEZ: We try. We try.

COSTELLO: It's fantastic. Leslie, I want to start with you. There'd been oodles of complaints that the President should not be on vacation at this particular time. Supposedly he had planned to come back but some people will think oh the President came back to actually deal with the issues of the day.

SANCHEZ: It would be a smart move. There's no doubt about that. I think the criticism is that the President has remained and looked disengaged through much of his administration, and whether -- you know, it would be this situation or previous ones, that is a very fair point. The President is allowed to take a vacation, but when you have ethnic cleansing in the Middle East, riots in Ferguson, a sluggish economy, I think most of the public wants to see the President back in command, speaking to his advisers and looking engaged in these issues. And then he can jet back to Martha's Vineyard.

COSTELLO: In fairness though, Keli -- and I'll pose this question to you, the President while he was on vacation talked twice to the media. He has his team on Martha's Vineyard and still there are those clamoring for him to do something about the situation in Ferguson, but bottom line what can he do?

GOFF: I'm probably in the minority here but I actually wrote a piece for "The Root", that says that President Obama should actually take more vacation not less. I mean first of all, he's taken substantially vacation less than his predecessor, George W. Bush. But also not to be funny, I mean study after study after study shows that people are actually more efficient and more productive when they take vacation. And we happen to be one of the few first world nations that doesn't mandate vacation and more people actually don't take most of their vacation.

COSTELLO: Yes, but he's the President of the United States and optics actually matter and when so much is happening in the world right now, there are plenty of Americans who think maybe you should postpone your vacation for maybe a week or two.

GOFF: But here's what I would pose to you Carol and this is what I said in my piece. Would you want someone operating on you who has done surgeries 365 days in a row? And I wouldn't. I wouldn't want someone who hasn't taken a breather. And I say this as someone who filed the column from the beach on my last supposed vacation.

But the reality is we all need to recharge and also would you rather the optics of someone looking like they are doing something or someone actually doing something. And as you said his advisers were in Martha's Vineyard. It was not like he was just out there, you know, hanging out. He actually had his team there. But all of this chatter about needing it to look right is part of why he's going to disrupt it, come back home and look like he's doing something. Is that really worth the expense to the taxpayers for the trip?

COSTELLO: But still, Leslie, we see what's happening in Ferguson and it's not good. And the President is an African-American president and the black community respects him, so shouldn't he be out front and center talking about this more than he has?

SANCHEZ: That I would take issue with. I think the President kind of echoing the point has a responsibility not to inflame passions here. We've seen that in the past that he has taken a stance or a position on racially charged issues, whether you go to Henry Louis Gates or Trayvon Martin and it does have a clouding effect which is not necessarily going to behoove the situation. Because the larger point of the President taking a vacation, he is always with his -- a situation room is always with the President. He is never really fully relaxing and I think that's part of the role of the President. GOFF: Can I just say too, that I don't think any of us would ask that

of George W. Bush or Bill Clinton or any other white president who preceded him that they have to go to Ferguson. I think that that's an unfair burden to place on him because he's African-American.

I compare it to LBJ and President Kennedy. They talked about what was going in the south during the civil rights movement but guess who was actually doing the work? They were passing legislation back in D.C. and Bobby Kennedy was the one making sure that the civil rights workers were found. That's kind of what Eric Holder's doing now.

We do hear criticism from the black community that President Obama, from some, right, that he's not really done enough for the black community through his presidency. And right now, they kind of need him.

COSTELLO: But I will say we do hear --


COSTELLO: -- criticism from the black community that President Obama --

GOFF: From some.

COSTELLO: -- from some, right, that he's not really done enough for the black community through his presidency. And right now they kind --

GOFF: Well, speaking as someone who, I like to think of myself as a member of the black community, I would say I would like to see more improvement on things like African-American unemployment but simply going down to Ferguson for a photo op, I'd much rather again, harkening back to LBJ, he was passing civil rights legislation. I think that was more important than marching side by side with Martin Luther King. And I think that's what we should be asking of the Obama administration that's why we're all waiting to see what he gets Eric Holder to do --

COSTELLO: Keli and Leslie stand by. We want to go back to Ferguson because George Howell has Jesse Jackson in tow right in front of the Quick Trip which has sort of become the ground zero of what's happening in Ferguson. So George, tell us, what does Jesse Jackson have to say?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, your last guest a minute ago talking about someone who marched along Dr. Martin Luther King, certainly Reverend Jesse Jackson, no stranger to protests.

I want to ask you though about these protests because what happens at night, they become violent. You have some people within the crowd who will, you know, loot stores, things like that. Not the majority, though, it seems of protesters. What will it take to quell the situation or is that what -- what people should expect?

JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHT ACTIVIST: People are overwhelmingly nonviolent and disciplined and focused. There is an element that feels a sort of (inaudible) because the baseline has not been addressed in a meaningful way that is, Michael was shot down and killed. Shot six times in his own neighborhood and killed and lay in the street for four hours.

Then seven days, the name of the police who has not been interrogated, he has not apologized. Now we're into the ninth day, and the autopsy comes out that shows just how violent the killing was and that just compounds the misery, knowing there's more focus on calmness than there is on justice. Quietness, absence of noise, peace and presence of justice. There must be some discussion of what's just and fair in this community.

HOWELL: You described this a minute ago to me as a spark to a much deeper issue. Please explain what you are saying.

JACKSON: The deeper issue here is this community is (inaudible) from African-American. No representation on the school board or the board of -- council of people. The police department is 56 white, three African-American. The fire department is about the same. If there were a fairer distribution of jobs and services you'll have a very different community. But the blacks feel they are no occupation that you should have some real -- and these the police (inaudible) contracts. The equal employment standards, the contract employment standards, these standards of inclusion are not being met.

My biggest fear is that the -- that this -- Ferguson is a metaphor for abandoned urban America and we hope that these flames are not blown beyond this place. I hope we can get our arms around this and end it without any more blood shed.

HOWELL: Reverend Jesse Jackson, thank you so much for your time.

JACKSON: Thank you, sir.

HOWELL: All right. And again, what we're expecting here in front of the Quick Trip which really has become the epicenter of these protests -- we're expecting another rally later today. And keep in mind this is all in the backdrop of the fact now that we understand the National Guard will step in to work in concert with the state troopers here in Missouri.

Also the release of that autopsy report has a lot of people talking. How this all plays out, certainly anyone's guess but you can understand that here in these homes and communities down Florison Street, they hope that there is peace, some sort of a resolution so that, you know, things can go on, businesses can reopen. And again people want answers in this particular case.

COSTELLO: All right, George Howell -- many thanks to you. I got to take a break. We'll be back with much more in the NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: All right. You are taking a live look at Saint Mark's Church where soon we'll hear from the family of Michael Brown. He is, of course, the unarmed African-American teenager who was shot to death by a white police officer. We will go live to this church as soon as the Brown family takes to the microphones. We expect them to talk about this autopsy that was released on their son.

This killing as you know has ignited widespread protests in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Overnight escalating violence prompted Missouri's governor to mobilize the National Guard to restore calm.

As I said, the family is expected to speak at any time and when they start speaking, we'll take it live.

But let's talk about all of the events that happened over the weekend and also this morning. George Howell is in Ferguson; Dr. Bill Manion is a medical examiner, he's in Philadelphia; CNN legal analyst Mel Robbins is in Newton, Massachusetts; and Joe Johns is in our Washington bureau. Thanks to all of you for sticking around. I really appreciate it.

Joe Johns, I want to start with you. When did the Justice Department decide to also conduct an autopsy on Michael Brown?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it happened very recently and it's pretty clear the Justice Department wants to get to the bottom of this. They also don't want to inflame the situation there in Ferguson. Nonetheless, it's pretty clear the government wants their own autopsy as they continue this investigation into possible civil rights violations -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And George Howell, you said people in Ferguson were already talking about the results of this autopsy that was sanctioned by the family. What are they saying -- George? George Howell, can you hear me? All right. George Howell can't.

But anyway people are talking about it. Mel, I'll go to you. This autopsy shows that Michael Brown was shot six times, four times in the arm, twice in the head -- all from the front. What does that tell you?

MEL ROBBINS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it tells me the direction that the bullets hit Michael Brown, but it doesn't tell me much more than that. It doesn't tell me how close they were to one another. It doesn't tell me whether or not Michael Brown's hands were raised in the air as many of the witnesses have suggested and it also doesn't tell me whether or not there was a struggle as some have said between the officer and Michael Brown.

But it does tell me this. Six bullets seem like a hell of a lot to be firing at somebody in broad daylight when they don't have a weapon.

COSTELLO: Dr. Manion, from your experience, does that seem excessive to you as well?

DR. BILL MANION, MEDICAL EXAMINER: Well, the number of bullets is excessive yes. But remember, five of them are nonfatal gunshot wounds. The sixth one, the one at the top of the head, that's the fatal one. So the four in the arm can be repaired; the one in the eye perhaps he would have lost his right eye, but that could have been repaired.

COSTELLO: All right. We think that this news conference is about to get under way. Let's listen.

PASTOR TOMMIE PEARSON, ST. MARK'S CHURCH: I'm Pastor Tommie Pearson. I'm Pastor of the church here. There is no -- there is -- I don't think -- is there a mike here? Is there a mike here with -- you can't hear? Ok. Just hold on a minute.

Linzell, where is -- turn it on, son. We'll have one on in a minute. We'll have one on in a minute.

COSTELLO: All right. We're going to let them sort through their technical problems here. I see Benjamin Crump in the background. That's the attorney representing the family. All right -- it's under way. Let's listen.

PEARSON: I'm Tommie Pearson, the pastor of the church here and I'm also state representative of the 66th district in North County. We welcome you here today and we thank you all for your -- for coming and now we're going to get down to the business at hand.

We're going to introduce now Attorney Crump.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR BROWN FAMILY: Thank you so much, Pastor Pearson for allowing us to have this press conference, this important press conference here in your church. I'm Attorney Benjamin Crump. I have the honor of serving as the lead counsel along with co-counsels Anthony Gray and Daryl Parks on behalf of the family of Michael Brown, Jr.

We also have present with us one of the highly-respected, one of the most renowned forensic pathologists living today, Dr. Michael Baden who we retained to be the family's pathologist to conduct the independent autopsy on their behalf. With him, who assisted him, is Professor Shawn Parcells. They will be addressing you momentarily.

The Brown family wanted to have this autopsy performed on their behalf because they did not know whether the federal officials were going to conduct their own independent autopsy, and they did not want to be left having to rely on the autopsy done by the St. Louis law enforcement agencies, the same individuals they feel are responsible for executing their son in broad daylight.

So, therefore, that is why they begged and pleaded to have an independent autopsy done. The attorneys here, we know all too well if you don't have your own autopsy, you have to depend completely on the police department autopsy. That's not a good thing. But even our clients understood that wasn't a good thing. That they could not trust what was going to be put into the reports about the tragic execution of their child.

Secondly, I want to stress very clearly that this is only a preliminary report, very preliminary. It answered questions and Dr. Baden and Professor Parcells will get to elaborate, but it answered just basic questions. The number of shots, which was always a question that not only the family, the citizens of Ferguson, but people all over the country who had this color blind curiosity to know what happened, wanted to know. And that question was answered partly and as Dr. Baden as opined and stated in the interview that was released, that it could have been answered on day one if you were really trying to have transparency be the objective.

But what we now know from Dr. Baden and Professor Parcells are preliminary, very preliminary autopsy, is at least six -- at least six shots, could be more, but at least six. They would have to consult with the other medical examiners who did the first autopsy. And Dr. Baden will explain to you why that's so very, very important doing thousands and thousands of autopsies as he explains, you want all the information you can get. This only tells part of the story, you know.

Also, the clothes have to be recovered that we'll talk about whether there's any residue on them and so forth. He explains as only he can explain, you know, you want to talk about what was recovered in the x- rays, and most importantly, the witness accounts, the eyewitness accounts, which is so very important and to bring the full story together.

And what does this preliminary autopsy tell us? It verifies that the witness accounts were true. That he was shot multiple times, and it's going to be one of those things that we have to get all the witness statements out and look at all the autopsies, all the evidence, to put this picture together for his family knows that the witnesses -- what they were telling them about him being shot multiple times in broad daylight was accurate.

And you all have reported on many of the witness accounts when they said his hands was up, that is in there. When they talk about the way it happened, it's in there. So we have to go from this point with this preliminary autopsy and try to get all the information so we can get the answers that not only the family wants but Ferguson wants and the country wants.

His mother and father and their family, they had just a few questions for Dr. Baden, and that is the first question was how many times was he shot, and so that question was answered at least initially. As Dr. Baden met with the mother, she had the lingering question as any mother would have, was my child in pain and Dr. Baden shared with her in his opinion he did not suffer. And then lastly, his mother wanted to ask the question that Dr. Baden nor any of the lawyers could answer. What else do we need to give them to arrest the killer of my child?

At this time we will have Attorney Daryl Parks address you and then Attorney Gray will address you, and then we will have Dr. Baden and Professor Parcells come and try to give all of us a little lesson on pathology. Thank you.

Attorney Parks.

DARYL PARKS, ATTORNEY FOR BROWN FAMILY: Thank you. In a situation like this, facts become very important. Evidence becomes very important, and it's so important that the facts in this case really get out. This case has suffered from a lack of transparency -- I'm actually -- I'm going to pull it up and show them something. And you heard Attorney Crump say there were multiple shots.

There are two shots I want to focus on for my purpose right here today because they become important because they show that the direction of the bullet was in a back-to-front direction. The first one is what we will call -- what we call the kill shot, and the one that when Attorney Crump is speaking he wouldn't have suffered from is right here. At the apex of his head there's a very, very severe and clear injury, at the apex, the very top that went from a back-to-front position.

Also, there's a second shot here that you've heard us speak about. That shot is here. It's a little dot on the diagram, you can see, right by his hairline. That bullet went in there and came out near the eye area. That's very important. Because it shows a back-to- front for both of those and it supports what the witnesses said about him trying to surrender to the officer. And his head was in a downward position. It had to be for what had happened.

Those type of facts are clear, and we believe that given those kind of facts, this officer should have been arrested. Those things speak for themselves. Why would he be shot in the very top of his head? 6'4 man -- makes no sense. So that's what we have, and that's why we believe that those two things alone are ample evidence for this officer to be arrested.


CROWD: Good morning.

GRAY: I want to continue the call and the plea for those that are reporting, for those that are investigating this case, to remain fair, to remain balanced, and to look at this case for what it is. I can see that there's a very disturbing divide that's developing in our community, and this is not what we initially came to the community and called for. Our call was for fairness. It was for transparency. We had to have this autopsy so we can have information at our fingertips that we can then explain to those that have called me on multiple occasions and I have not been able to say a word. And I have not spoken to anybody about what I knew personally, so this is this opportunity to get this information out.

One thing that I will address from a factual standpoint -- I saw a news report this morning, and one of the -- I'm not sure if he was an officer or not, but one person reported that the events last night may have been spurred by or triggered by the release of this autopsy. Let me just tell you for a fact that this autopsy came out two hours later, after the law enforcement decisions -- authorities made a decision to converge on that crowd. And so if they want to make a connection between the release of this information and what happened last night, that connection is misplaced. Thank you so much.

CRUMP: And now we will call Dr. Michael Baden and Professor Shawn Parcells to discuss about their preliminary autopsy findings. DR. MICHAEL BADEN, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Thank you, Ben. We're here

as forensic scientists. We're looking for information that is from the autopsy and other scientific studies that will allow us to eventually reach final conclusions. But the question that is asked to me most commonly in these types of situations, when somebody dies after an encounter with police, anywhere in this country, and in other countries too, when it's predictable that there may be community concerns and that the parents of the decedent doesn't trust the government because the government that caused the death -- and -- and -- and they request a second autopsy, independent autopsy, and this is not uncommon.

A third is very uncommon. That's going to happen today or tomorrow from the federal government, I understand. And the reason for it as Mr. Crump has indicated is that when there isn't transparency -- I was medical examiner and chief medical examiner in New York City for some 25 years as I worked there -- we had a number of these encounters, and what we found in New York City was that the sooner the information goes out, the sooner the family is talked to, the family has a right to know how their loved one died. The -- this calm community and family concerns over cover up or not getting told the truth.