Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

No Indictment on Eric Garner Chokehold Death; More Cosby Accusers Come Forward

Aired December 04, 2014 - 10:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And I can really understand that because I want you to take a look at this video that was taken of this 12- year-old boy with a toy gun in Cleveland -- right. We had video of this little boy walking around and was pointing this bb gun at bypassers. A man in the gazebo thought the kid had a real gun. The police responded to the scene and they shot and killed this little boy. This case is still ongoing.

But when you look at this video, you could argue it doesn't tell you too much about what the officers actually saw. The officer said well, it didn't look like a 12-year-old boy to me. It looked like a 24- year-old guy. And from this angle it actually does. But as you can see, the police officer is a lot closer -- right, Eric?

ERIC ADAMS, BROOKLYN BOROUGH PRESIDENT: Exactly. That's what the camera will help. It will help in these cases. It's a piece to the puzzle. It's not a panacea. It's not going to fix all our problems, but it takes the conversation into how do we look at what happened on that scene?

Let me tell you. We should not misinterpret this conversation that the communities of color don't want good policing. They do. They don't want innocent people to live their lives -- this is a national problem and we need to look at this in a very national approach. How do we resolve this issue?

COSTELLO: I absolutely agree with that. Eric Adams, Boyce Atkins, Paul Callan, thanks to all of you. I really appreciate it.

I'll be back in a moment. But first, figuring how many others have died at the hands of New York police is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, there is no one centralized database that tracks how many people are killed by police every year. However, their stories and their lives have made headlines.

Here is a look at some of the most well known cases over the last two decades. I'll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't breathe. I can't breathe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protests erupting in New York and across the country.

The grand jury decides not to indict a white police officer.

AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We are marching against wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The police here have shut off the Henry Hudson.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This was an arrest for an extremely minor crime.

ERIC GARNER, KILLED BY POLICE: I can't breathe. I can't breathe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He shouldn't have been killed in that way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We see a man dying on video and there's no indictment. How frustrated do people feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you imagine if we didn't have this video what their story would be?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an issue that we've been dealing with for too long and it's time for us to make more progress than we've made.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: All lives must be valued, all lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want you to rally, but rally in peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm determined to get justice for my husband.


COSTELLO: According to the New York medical examiner the chokehold that caused Eric Garner's death, well, he ruled it a homicide because of that chokehold. Garner's weight, his asthma, his heart condition were contributing factors. But New York Congressman Peter King believes if Garner had cooperated with police he would still be alive today.


REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I feel strongly the police officer should not have been indicted. I've been following this case from the start. You had a 350-pound person who was resisting arrest. The police were trying to bring him down as quickly as possible. If he had not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died from this.


COSTELLO: CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us to try to determine what the truth is in this case. What killed Eric Garner in your mind?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean it's not just my mind. The medical examiner has released a report, Carol, as you said. It was the chokehold. It was the pressure on his chest. It was the fact that he was in what is known as a prone position, on his abdomen and his chest on the ground. Those are the things that they say were the cause of death.

Let me tell you, Carol, just to put this in more perspective. They call this a homicide. They have different categories that they can essentially label the type of death. When you take a look at the type of categories, this is what they essentially, you know, had to choose from in terms of the manners of death -- natural, accidental, suicide, undetermined and homicide which they picked.

They didn't say this was an accidental death. They didn't say this was an undetermined death. So I understand the fact that they wrote, there was the other issues with asthma and obesity and heart disease. But they're not saying that that had anything to do with this death. Those are factors that he happened to have as well. The cause of death they say was a homicide due to that chokehold and that pressure on his chest.

COSTELLO: But here is what people are saying, Dr. Gupta. They're saying since Garner was able to say 11 times "I can't breathe", it meant that he really could breathe because you can't talk when you're being choked.

GUPTA: Well, first of all, a couple things there. Choke holds can do several different things. One is that they can compress the trachea. They also compress the arteries, the carotid arteries that give blood flow to the neck. So there are several things that go on there.

When he says I can't breathe and he's able to say that, and people say obviously he can breathe. First of all, there's a pragmatic sort of thing. He was obviously in distress so maybe he was still moving some air across his vocal cords. You know, he didn't say I can't breathe by 80 percent -- he's saying I can't breathe. This is the time of distress.

But the other part of this is sort of more mechanical. Think about this. When you talk, you're pushing air out across your vocal cords and that's how you make sound, that's how you make words. It's challenging to get the air back into your lunges if there's too much pressure on your chest. You have to expand your chest and your rib cage to get air back in. He probably was having difficulty doing that.

So, you know, it's one of these things. It's hard to read too much into that. I wouldn't say simply because he was talking meant he obviously had no trouble breathing. There obviously was some trouble and it was probably progressively getting worse.

COSTELLO: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks for making things clear for us. We appreciate it.

Of course, the controversy surrounding Garner's death has many people asking whether there are two justice systems, one for whites and another for blacks; one for civilians and one for cops. So let's talk about that with Vanessa DeLuca, she's editor--in-chief of "Essence" magazine. I'm also joined again by CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor Paul Callan. Welcome to both of you.

Before we get into that Paul, I want to ask you about it. The coroner ruled it a homicide -- ruled Garner's death a homicide. Wouldn't the grand jury have taken that into consideration?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They most definitely took it into consideration. However --

COSTELLO: Did it matter?

CALLAN: Well, certainly it's a piece of evidence that's weighed with all of the other pieces of evidence in a case. But bear in mind that when a case goes into the grand jury and even if it was tried in front of a regular jury, cause of death is always a big, big area of dispute.

Now, Dr. Gupta makes a compelling point that the M.E. said chokehold and prone position and chest pressure caused the death. But if you're the grand jury looking at it and they're looking at the video, too, they're saying well, he was still breathing after he hit the ground. So maybe the chokehold didn't kill him. Maybe it was the cop who pushing down on his back causing the chest pressure.

And they were investigating Pantaleo, the cop who administered the chokehold. Now, I'm speculating here because I don't know what went on in there, but I've presented a lot of cases to the grand jury. That's the kind of analysis -- the hyper analysis that they do. And I think maybe the complexity of the medical situation caused them to say, well, we can't say it was all him. It might have been this guy. Is it fair to blame him for what the other guy did?

COSTELLO: The other officers got immunity, right?

CALLAN: Yes, they did, to testify. I have a feeling that's what went down here. That the grand jurors felt what happened was terrible but they just didn't think the proof was sufficient to nail one cop for it.

COSTELLO: Ok. So I had former police commissioner of New York City on, Commissioner Schaeffer. He said that he thinks that the grand jury transcripts should be released, just like they were in Ferguson so that people could read them for themselves. Would that satisfy your readers?

VANESSA DELUCA, ESSENCE MAGAZINE: I don't know that it would satisfy our audience completely. But I do believe that transparency is something that is sorely lacking here. And people want answers. We're hearing from our audience of 13 million. And they're all expressing outrage, grief, despair, just disbelief at what they're seeing.

They're wondering is the system equal? Does the system apply? Is justice applied equally for all of us? And where are the consequences and where is the accountability? When you see no indictment it's almost as if there are no consequences, that there is no accountability. And yes -- and so there's frustration -- there's incredible frustration.

COSTELLO: Yes. There's a hash tag that's trending right now that I want to talk about. It's called #crimingwhilewhite. It's being used to highlight the racial disparity in American law enforcement. It showcases how sometimes whites are treated differently from blacks and I just want to read some of those tweets.

"I shoplifted when I was 14 and they let me go because my parents came down and we look like a nice family.

"Criming while white -- college parties, underage drinking, police let us clear out the party before responding to noise complaints."

Here is another one. "Tonight, black protester and I both ignore barricade and walk in street. Four cops pounce on him, I'm told to get in the pen."

So Paul, as a former prosecutor is there some truth to this trending hash tag? Are white suspects treated differently than black suspects?

CALLAN: Well, yes. There's a lot of truth to it. Frankly, when I was riding homicides in Brooklyn, I saw it. I'm not going to justify it, but I'll tell you why it happens. A lot of times the police are most on alert and most fearful when they're in high crime neighborhoods which sadly tend to be minority neighborhoods.

That's changing, by the way, in Brooklyn especially, as the economics get better. I'm talking about when I was riding cases in those days. The cops are on edge, and they're fearful and they're afraid people have guns. And more people do have guns, ok, than in wealthy areas. So, yes, the people in wealthy areas get better treatment.

Now, it shouldn't work that way. People should be treated the same and we shouldn't be making assumptions about people based on where they live and the color of their skin. That's what the law says. But human beings enforce the law and we need better training of our police officers.

And you know something, these body cameras we talked about in the last segment I think will have an enormous effect on policing because when the cops pull their tough guy routine in the minority neighborhoods, now they're going to be on tape. I think they're going to have to change their tough guy routine.

COSTELLO: I have a personal anecdote to share. Years ago I was sitting in a car at night at midnight with an African-American black friend of mine. We were just sitting there talking in the car, you know, after drinking, a long night. I remember a white police officer knocked on my car window and asked me if I was ok.

Why did he do that -- right? Because I was sitting in the car with a black man -- that's why he did that. And I was embarrassed. I didn't know what to say to my friend -- right. What do I say? DELUCA: I mean if you think about how much images that we see daily

of black men and women, of black children, there's hardly any balance. It's primarily -- what you're seeing is really negative. If we saw a balance, maybe there wouldn't be those perceptions. Maybe there wouldn't be those leaps of judgment, maybe there wouldn't be this tendency to just assume, make assumptions about what someone's intention is. Maybe there would be more treatment of people, all of us as human beings.

COOPER: I think, though, what muddies the water for people -- and it is understandable -- was that Michael Brown and Mr. Garner both had committed crimes, right? They weren't angels, they weren't totally good guys, so there's some justification for the police to act in that manner.

DELUCA: But does that mean that that had to end in death? It doesn't necessarily mean that. We don't know all the circumstances. But we do know, even when you look at some of the hash tags criming while white, you see example after example after example where those incidences did not end in death.

CALLAN: And Carol, you know, the other thing, you have to look at cases individually. I don't think it's fair at all to compare the Brown case to the Eric Garner case. I mean in Brown, it's undisputed that he had done what they call a strong arm robbery in the convenience store. It's undisputed that he struggled for the cop's gun, the gun discharged twice. It's undisputed that he punched the officer in the face. That's in the Brown case.

Eric Garner is very different. I didn't see him punching any police officers. I saw a big angry man saying you're arresting me for selling cigarettes again I'm not going to put up with it anymore. And he was taken down. There was no consideration given to this man when he stopped breathing. And I think it's a very different case than the Brown case.

And I think it's unfair when you throw them all in the same basket and say this is an indication as to how police conduct themselves in America. You have to look at cases individually.

COSTELLO: Paul Callan, Vanessa DeLuca, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Prominent attorney Gloria Allred is challenging comedian Bill Cosby. She's calling on him to let the public determine once and for all whether he's a, quote, "saint or a sexual predator". Three women joined Allred at a news conference on Wednesday, two women coming forward for the first time.

Jean Casarez is covering this for us. Good morning.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Gloria Allred started off by saying that she has had so many people call her in the last few weeks that she's lost count. But in her second breath she also said that it's too late, that she's had to tell these women the truth. You didn't come forward and now it's too late because these are old cases. But still two women who have never before spoken did yesterday.

Watch this.


HELEN HAYES, ALLEGED VICTIM OF BILL COSBY: I want people to know that I had an encounter with Bill Cosby in the summer of 1973. I was attending the Clint Eastwood Celebrity Tennis Tournament in Pebble Beach, California with two of my friends.

Bill followed us around all day Saturday. He found us again on Saturday night, even though we had changed restaurants several times to avoid him. At first we thought it was all right because it was daytime and it was Bill Cosby. We felt we were safe.

But then when he found us in the last restaurant he approached me from behind and reached over my shoulder and grabbed my right breast. I was stunned and angry because he had no right to do that. And I didn't know why he would behave that way. His behavior was like that of a predator.

Thank you.

CHELAN, ALLEGED VICTIM OF BILL COSBY: And I blacked out. 13 to 16 hours later I woke up to him clapping his hands saying "Daddy says wake up." He gave me $1500.


CASAREZ: Gloria Allred says she believes that she has come up with a solution that the statute of limitations which has run, that Bill Cosby has the power to say, I want to go into court and be vindicated in all of this, so I will waive a statute of limitations and we can all go into court and see what the truth is.

Listen to Gloria Allred.


GLORIA ALLRED, VICTIMS' RIGHTS ATTORNEY: The public deserves to know if Mr. Cosby is a saint or a sexual predator. This can best be accomplished by providing a window of opportunity so that all alleged victims can come forward and have their day in court. Mr. Cosby should have an opportunity to defend himself. A judge and jury should decide. Everyone's rights are protected, and in this way the truth will emerge.


CASAREZ: So Gloria Allred also suggests Bill Cosby put $100 million into a fund and then as this justice is achieved, one way or the other, that that money would be available.

COSTELLO: Somehow I don't think that's going to happen.

CASAREZ: I don't either.

COSTELLO: Just guessing.

There are women coming forward supporting Bill Cosby though, right?

CASAREZ: There really are. I mean Whoopi Goldberg has come forward and other entertainers have.

COSTELLO: Jill Scott -- right.

CASAREZ: Jill Scott has and also the head of the board with the Temple University saying there are two sides to every story and we're seeing one side. We're not possibly seeing another side. And that is important to remember.

COSTELLO: I've seen Bill Cosby tweeting those women, Jill Scott and Whoopi Goldberg "thank you for your support".

CASAREZ: So he's spoken out directly.

COSTELLO: He's reaching out. Wow, such a sad case. Jean Casarez -- many thanks.

CASAREZ: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: I leave you with this today.

The mystery of the lost brains has been solved. We know the fate of 100 human brains that were reported missing earlier this week from the University of Texas in Austin.

Let's jump into the mind of CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure we're always joking about losing our minds, but when word circulated that the University of Texas had lost 100 brains, it was sort of mind blowing.

Honestly, how could they lose 100 brains?

ADAM VOORHEES: I have no idea. Hopefully they show up.

MOOS: Adam Voorhees took these photos of brains from the University of Texas Austin collection. They were given to the university by the Austin State Mental Hospital some three decades ago. But Even as he was photographing them for a book entitled "Malformed", he was hearing that half of the collection was missing and curators were speculating about where they went.

VOORHEES: Maybe a student walked off with one. But students walking off with 100 brains, come on. No way.

MOOS: Among the brains believed to be in the collection --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's another shot and another shot.

MOOS: -- was that of Charles Whitman, the sniper who went on a killing spree from atop the University of Texas clock tower in 1966. Adam Voorhees was trying to capture the unsettling look of the brains of mental patients.

VOORHEES: They weren't shaped right, you know.

MOOS: One had no folds, completely smooth. Another had a hole. But the hole in the story of the missing brains became the buzz -- 100 brains missing. But wait, according to one of the collection's co- curators, 100 missing brains found in Texas. Really -- actually, not really. University finally announced brain specimens were disposed of by environmental workers in 2002. There hasn't been this much brainstorming about disembodied brains since Steve Martin played a neurosurgeon romancing one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you out of your head?


MOOS: The University of Texas says faculty members determined that the specimens had been in poor condition and were not suitable for research or teaching. Workers disposed of between 40 and 60 jars, some of which contained multiple human brains. The question is will heads roll over the brain drain? Give one to the scare crow.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


COSTELLO: Thank you, Jeanne Moos.

And thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Hello everyone. I'm John Berman.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: And I'm Michaela Pereira. Thanks for joining us.

We are about to hear from civil rights leaders addressing the lack of an indictment against a white NYPD officer for an unarmed black man's death back in July. We're going to bring you to that news conference live when it happens.