Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Defense Begins Presenting Case in Trial Over Ahmaud Arbery's Killing; Belarus Moves 1,000 Migrants Away From Border to Processing Center; NASA Telescope to Travel 1 Million Miles in Search of Life on Other Planets. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 17, 2021 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Just moments ago, the defense began presenting its case in the trial of the three men charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Attorney Kevin Gough is giving his opening statements now. Those are live pictures you're watching there. The defense is expected to call three witnesses to the stand just today.

ERICA HILL, CNN NEWSROOM: This comes as Gough is being scrutinized for renewing his efforts to limit the presence of black pastors specifically in the courtroom, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who says he will be in that courtroom alongside the Arbery family again today.

Joining us now, Global Human Rights Leader Martin Luther King III, who plans to be in court tomorrow. Sir, it's good to have you with us this morning.

There has been so much discussion, and rightfully so, about the comments that the defense attorney, Kevin Gough, has made as he continues to try to push to keep people out of that courtroom. For people who are not familiar with it, I want to play some of those moments.


KEVIN GOUGH, ATTORNEY FOR WILLIAM RODDIE BRYAN: I don't want any more black pastors coming in here or other -- Jesse Jackson, whoever was in here earlier this week, sitting with the victim's family trying to influence the jury in this case.

If a bunch of folks came in dressed like Colonel Sanders with white masks sitting in the back --

JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, SUPERIOR COURT, STATE OF GEORGIA: What we have now are individuals coming into the courtroom. I will say that is directly in response, Mr. Gough, to statements you made which I find reprehensible. The Colonel Sanders statement you made last week, I would suggest, maybe something that has influenced what is going on here.


HILL: Why do you think it is that this attorney feels so uncomfortable with faith leaders in the room?

MARTIN LUTHER KING III, GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS LEADER: Listen, all we can -- any of us can do is to speculate. The fact of the matter is this is a tradition that has always existed with any family, but certainly in the African-American communities, pastors always go to support their congregants. And so in this context, my understanding is the family certainly reached out to Mr. Crump as well as Reverend Sharpton and others.

And I think our nation needs to figure out how do we support families and not diminish. It's very sad. I don't want to just go to racism automatically but it certainly seems the statement is racist.

SCIUTTO: The jury has very serious charges to consider here. I wonder, are you concerned at all that the controversy over this could distract from their considering the charges at hand?

KING: Well, I'm not concerned.


I think the bigger concern for me was the fact that there were a number of jurors who were struck who happen to be African-American. And so in terms of the population of that county, the jury pool, the way it's set, even the judge made mention of that, I'm more concerned about that than something distracting. I think the jurors have a job to do and hopefully they will do their job and hopefully they will convict these gentlemen.

HILL: As we look at the reaction that we've seen, the backlash to these comments, as we've pointed out a number of times, he did not say pastors in the courtroom, he specifically said black pastors. There has been continued support for the Arbery family there in the courtroom. I know you and I believe more than 100 pastors, as well as members of the family, are going to be joining together for a wall of prayer in front of the courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia. What is the message that you hope that moment will send?

KING: I hope the message is, first of all, pastors are coming, number one, in peace, encouraging the community to be together, but also praying for a -- not a victory, because I don't know that it's a victory, but certainly when you talk about how this family has lost its loved one. And I understand because I too lost a father and grandmother who were gunned down by assassins. And in this particular case, there are the scenarios we saw this man gunned down.

But the pastors will be praying for a conviction, be praying for peace, be praying for the actual jurors to do the right thing, because I think it would be beyond devastating for there not to be a conviction that looks so clear to many.

SCIUTTO: Well, Martin Luther King III, we know you'll be in the courtroom tomorrow. Thanks so much for joining us tomorrow. KING: Thank you for the opportunity.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead this hour, a standoff in Europe as thousands of migrants still trying to enter Poland from Belarus, encouraged by the Belarusian authorities, how the crisis could draw in an entire region. That's next.

HILL: And as we're keeping you up to speed here, here is a look at what else to watch for today.



SCIUTTO: Right now, approximately 1,000 migrants are sheltering, waiting, in a processing center about a mile from the Belarus-Poland border. Belarusian authorities moved them after yesterday's violent clashes at the main border crossing. Crowds of migrants threw stones, other objects at Polish border guards. The guards used water cannons, tear gas to push the migrants back.

HILL: CNN Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance was inside the processing center this morning.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATINAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They're still being told there's a possibility that they could go to Germany, that they could enter the European Union. But there's been no indication from either the Pols that they're going to open those barricades and from the Germans that they're prepared to open some kind of a humanitarian corridor.

Belarusian officials are saying that decision in Germany has not yet been taken. But the fact is, if these people are not given some kind of passage into the European Union, they will most likely be deported back to their country of origin, which in the case of the vast majority here is Iraq. The majority of people say they're from Iraqi, Kurdistan.


HILL: CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson joining us now.

So, a quieter day at the border, but moving these migrants into that warehouse where we just saw Matthew really seems like a short time solution, a minor band-aid, if you will, for what is a much larger problem.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. There's nothing long-term that you see there. There's no beds, there's no real places for people to sort of be able to feed themselves. They're getting this sort of band-aid at the moment. And it was the shelther for women and children, the most vulnerable. And men, plenty of men, still stayed out of that and presumably in the woods still near the border.

This is providing a space for diplomacy and there still seems to be a result of some diplomacy. The European Union foreign policy chief yesterday spoke with a Belarusian foreign minister. There was an agreement that, or appear to be an agreement that U.N. agencies, UNHCR for refugees, the International Affairs of Migration, also to house of refugees and migrants was -- would be allowed to get involved, that there would be some aid distribution to support these people.

Where they go from here, we know that the Iraqi airways and Iraqi minister is paving the way for an aircraft to come from Iraq to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, to take some of those migrants back. The question is will they go back? Do they want to go back? For many of them, this has been an ambition for years to get to the border and have this hope.


But that hope doesn't seem real.

SCIUTTO: Nic, was this an accident or was this manufactured? There have been allegations that Belarusian authorities deliberately pressed these migrants up to the Polish border to apply pressure, perhaps Russian involvement. It denies it. What do we know?

ROBERTSON: There's very clear view from the European Union that this is a massive, cynical, manipulation by the authorities in Belarus to allow migrants to give easy visas to get from the Middle East, Iraq, in many cases, to get to Minsk and then encourage them to go to the border with the notion that they would be able to cross the border. That has proven not to be a reality.

President Alexander Lukashenko, whose own election last year has been criticized by European Union officials and leaders for not being free, for not being fair, has been crushing political dissent since, has bene trying to sort of, if you will, seen as stirring up a contrived situation. And that appears to be -- that seems to be very clear. President Putin's role in that is unclear. Certainly, he can profit politically from instability it might generate and discourse in Europe.

HILL: Nic Robertson, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Still ahead here, a part of space never before seen, how NASA's new telescope could finally show us maybe some other inhabitable planets in galaxies far, far away.



SCIUTTO: NASA is on the verge of launching a new space mission to reveal the very depths of outer space that have never seen before by us before. In just a few weeks, the new James Webb Space Telescope will be rocketed into space, eventually traveling 1 million miles from earth. Its mission, to help answer some of humanity's most compelling questions about the creation of our universe and the possibility of life on other planets.

Now, the new CNN film, The Hunt For Planet B, will provide an inside look at this groundbreaking mission. Here is a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Webb telescope is 100 times more powerful than Hubble. The telescopes keep getting bigger because the bigger the telescope and the better the resolution. We wouldn't have built a telescope this big unless you needed to. And you need to build a telescope this big if you want to look at the dimmest, most earliest galaxies in the universe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The James Webb Telescope is not just a machine built by engineers and scientists to look out to the universe. It's taking humanity on a journey. We're going to enter a completely new part of observation of space, where we have never tried before. And every time we've done this as a species, we discovered new things.


SCIUTTO: It is just fascinating.

Joining me, Gregory L. Robinson, he is the program director for the James Webb Space Telescope mission at NASA. Mr. Robinson, thanks so much for taking the time today.


SCIUTTO: So, the comparison there really struck me, 100 times more powerful than Hubble, which was already a groundbreaking moment in terms of human exploration of space. Plus, this one has another advantage. It's a million miles up, three times, I believe, the distance that the moon is, which allows you to look even deeper into space. How far out and how far back in time are we looking, in effect?

ROBINSON: Well, Jim, you mentioned Hubble, it certainly has a brought great science over 30 years, and Webb is 100 times more powerful due to the big telescope and the very advanced science instruments. So, we're going to look back about 13.5 billion years after Big Bang, which kind of blows your mind when you think about how far back and the time and what we would likely see.

SCIUTTO: No question. So, that's one thing because it gets to essential questions about how the universe was formed. Another big goal here is looking, is it not, for other habitable planets in our galaxy and perhaps beyond. What's the significance of that?

ROBINSON: It's pretty significant. When Webb was started, what we call exoplanets, we were just thinking about it. We've learned a lot from other missions, like Spitzer and TESS. So we know there are thousands of these exoplanets. And Webb will actually help us better characterize them, to understand them much better, their chemistry and so on, a lot better than the satellites that are finding them today. So, we're going to know a lot about them, how habitable are they potentially. So, for these planets, we look at planets that are about the size of the Earth, around their stars, about the same as we are, around our star, and their rotations and, again, the chemistry. So, Webb will give us a lot of insight into that.

SCIUTTO: So, the number of planets that fall into that category has greatly increased, the ones that have been discovered just in the past several years. And this, as you might imagine, will discover more. A question I know you're asked all the time, as we discover that, does it make you more confident that we're not alone?

ROBINSON: So, it's a good question and I don't have a good answer for you.


But it's a quest. I mean, we've wanted to know that certainly my entire life, what's out there. Normally, we think of Mars when we think of other planets. Of course, if you grew up watching Star Trek, you see other beings, right? So, we don't know. But missions like Webb will certainly get us closer to those answers.

SCIUTTO: Thanks so much to Gregory L. Robinson. And be sure to tune in, the all-new CNN film, The Hunt For Planet B, premieres Saturday at 9:00 P.M. Eastern only on CNN. I'm going to be watching.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining us today. I'm Jim Sciutto.

HILL: And I'm Erica Hill.

Stay tuned. At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts after a quick break.