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FDA to Make Ruling on COVID Treatment; Biden to Release Oil From Strategic Petroleum Reserve; Suspect in Waukesha Parade Tragedy Due in Court; Jury Deliberates in Ahmaud Arbery Case. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired November 23, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Racked up by eight people for -- quote -- "alcohol-related unruly behavior," that announcement from the FAA today.
This year, the agency has received nearly 300 reports of disturbances due to alcohol, a sobering thought -- we might use that word -- as 20 million people will fly for the Thanksgiving holiday.
We will see you back here this time tomorrow .
Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, and thanks for being with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
The fate of these three men on trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery is now in the hands of the jury. Deliberations have been under way for just over an hour in Brunswick, Georgia, and all of this nearly two years after Arbery was shot to death while jogging, the defense calling Arbery's killing a citizen's arrest that turned tragic.
The prosecution using the defendants' own words to sum up why Arbery was chased down, those words, "Because he was a black man running."
Let's get right to CNN's Ryan Young live outside the courthouse.
And, Ryan, this trial has been emotionally charged for weeks. Now, with deliberations under way, what is the mood in Brunswick right now?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is an absolute great question.
When you think about all the tension that's been involved here for over two weeks here, with people protesting outside, one of the funny things that stuck out to us today, it's been really quiet. I mean, you think about yesterday, you had men walking around the courthouse with long guns. And, then today, it's almost absolute silence, all the drama really playing out in court today.
You think about the prosecution really hammering home the points they have been trying to make over and over again, that this was a situation that never had to happen. There were assumptions that were made, and they believe, because of those assumptions, it led to a death of a man.
And when you think about how the prosecution was pressing, in fact, just take a listen to some of that closing statements that happened just this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDA DUNIKOSKI, COBB COUNTY, GEORGIA, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Bottom line, ladies and gentlemen, they committed felonies against Ahmaud Arbery, in violation of his personal liberty, before he finally tried to run around their truck, after running from them for five minutes.
He was trying to get away from these strangers who are yelling at him, yelling at him, threatening to kill him.
And then they killed him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YOUNG: Ana, something I don't want to run through is the fact that, when you think about yesterday, and that closing arguments from the defense, and they talked about Ahmaud Arbery's toenails.
Well, then, today was more of the conversation about actually what was said about him throughout this trial. And then you think about the lasting image that will stick with a lot of people is the last image that many viewers would never see on TV. It was a side-by-side comparison picture that was very graphic.
It was Ahmaud in death and Ahmaud in life. They let that picture hang up just a little bit as they were doing those closing statements. It was very powerful. And, in fact, you could tell that people were shifting in their seats during this.
You got to think, without this video, we probably wouldn't even be having this conversation. And then you pull this all the way through, the emotions going up and down, the racial makeup of the jury, the back-and-forth about who was in and who was out, and then even a defense attorney in there talking about black pastors showing up.
So, day after day, this was all piling up, Ana, all that emotion spilling out at the last moment, of course, with now deliberations happening. This is in the jury's hands now. They will make a decision that a lot of people will be waiting for.
CABRERA: Twelve people right now deliberating, 11 white people, one black person.
As you pointed out, that jury makeup was somewhat controversial as well. Ryan Young, thank you very much.
Let's bring in our CNN senior legal analysts, both former federal prosecutors, Laura Coates and Elie Honig. Laura, the prosecution had the final word today before deliberations
began. What do you think sticks with the jury?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, the idea of having rebuttal fresh for the jury, no one else speaking in that day, going straight to deliberations, is exactly what you want as a prosecutor. Where are the instructions? In between.
But you want to have that final say to essentially convey what you need to show. What they showed here was that there was no threat of violence to these people. These people did not feel as though their lives were threatened, acting in self-defense. They were angry that Ahmaud Arbery had the audacity not to stop, when they felt entitled for him to do so.
And the idea here being that trying to use a pretextual reason of a citizen's arrest without telling the police officers that close in time when they were first questioned, without forming any reasonable basis that they were actually in danger in any, way shape or form, offering for the jury the commonsense notion of tell me why you think this person was stopped.
Why did they believe they were entitled to an explanation of some kind? And also really undercutting the defense's argument that essentially this was somehow Ahmaud Arbery's fault, at the way he was dressed, the way he presented himself, his physical appearance, his hygiene, whatever that was supposed to convey, that that somehow was the real cause of his killing.
Well, the prosecutor was effective in saying, no, what caused it were three strangers who felt entitled for him to stop, all of them a party to the crime, all of them responsible for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.
CABRERA: Let's just look at the law here, Elie, because the defendants' key arguments are they were attempting this citizen's arrest, and then shot Arbery in self-defense.
Here's how the prosecutor countered that during her rebuttal this morning. Then we will talk on the backside.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUNIKOSKI: The defendants never, ever said citizen's arrest. They never, ever said, we're making an arrest. They never said, we saw commit a crime.
So, ladies and gentlemen, where in the world did the citizen's arrest thing come from? Because it didn't come from the defendants on February 23, 2020. Where did it come from?
But you don't really have to consider self-defense, because, if it's not a lawful citizen's arrest, then they were the first unjustified aggressors, and they were committing felonies against Mr. Arbery. And, therefore, they don't get to claim self-defense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So, Elie, remind us how these laws work in Georgia. Who has to prove what?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Ana, so I thought that was an interesting strategy by the prosecutor there.
When you're rebutting in a case as a prosecutor, your job is to bring it back, bring it back to the jurors, because they have just sat through three hours yesterday of defense closings. And the prosecutor really focused in hard on this idea of citizen's arrest.
Now, the prosecutor bears the burden of proving her case beyond a reasonable doubt and disproving the defense beyond the reasonable doubt. However, as the prosecutor, I think, argued really effectively, if they did not have a legitimate basis to make a citizen's arrest -- by the way, that law has since been repealed, largely repealed.
If they did not have a proper basis to make a citizen's arrest, this case is over, because then they're not entitled to claim self-defense. And I think the prosecutor did that really effectively. She broke it into bite-sized chunks. No crime was committed by Ahmaud Arbery. They didn't see what he did. They had no reason to suspect him.
They couldn't even articulate to the police what he did, and all he ever really did was run. So I think that was a really effective tactic on rebuttal.
CABRERA: And nine counts, three different defendants.
Elie, quick follow. Do you see different verdicts for different defendants?
HONIG: Yes, that -- I think that could actually happen here on, especially with William "Roddie" Bryan, the guy who was down the street. I think it's going to be difficult for the jury to find him guilty of intentional murder.
However, he could be found guilty of felony murder if the jury finds that he was part of this scheme to trap, falsely imprison Ahmaud Arbery, and his death resulted, which it clearly did.
CABRERA: I want to play something Greg McMichael's attorney said about Arbery during her closing arguments. Laura, you touched on this. We heard Ryan touch on this as well. Here are the words she used.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA HOGUE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR GREG 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: Laura, we know that deeply impacted the mother of Ahmaud Arbery as she heard her son described that way. What was your reaction and what kind of impact could it have had on the jurors?
COATES: In a word, disgusting. This was really unconscionable.
And it was unconscionable for obvious reasons, the idea that they somehow transformed Ahmaud Arbery into a victim through the prosecutor's case. No, what transformed into it into a victim was that he was shot in the chest after being pursued by three men who were strangers, not law enforcement, had no legal basis to require him to stop, threatened his life.
One who testified said they did not feel he threatened their life. He did not verbally assault them. He was essentially fighting for his life. And the idea that somehow hygiene comes into play, the only thing hygienic or nonhygienic was the disgusting nature of the actual defense attorney's statements.
Even more than that, though, it's not even persuasive, except for this one point. Defense attorneys always want to try to play to the defense -- to play to the jury. They already requested at least one of them to have what they said was more so-called Bubbas in the jury pool.
They're hoping to have these statements, disgusting as they may be, resonate with some member of the jury, trying to avoid a unanimous verdict. And, frankly, if a statement like that, Ana, is persuasive in a courtroom in the United States of America in 2021, we have got a very big problem on our hands, the idea that would somehow just disrupt and undermine a very strong prosecution case, and a video that corroborates what the prosecutors have already said.
That would really be a testament to injustice in America.
CABRERA: Elie, your thoughts on those comments?
HONIG: Yes, I mean, just grotesque, wildly inappropriate.
I have been through plenty of trials. I know Laura has too. I have never heard any defense lawyer or prosecutor say anything nearly so inappropriate and grotesque.
And the thing is, as Laura was saying, it is fair game in a murder trial to, let's say, let's analyze the victims actions and were they a part of this? But comments about his hygiene and his appearance are completely irrelevant to that.
And whoever that was intended to appeal to, I think that that lawyer ought to be ashamed of herself. And it may well backfire on her.
CABRERA: Elie Honig, Laura Coates, thank you both so much.
To Wisconsin now, where the suspect in the deadly parade tragedy in Waukesha is due in court in just a few hours. Police say Darrell Brooks could face five counts of intentional homicide. Authorities say Brooks was trying to get away from a domestic disturbance on Sunday when he plowed his SUV into a Christmas parade, leaving five people dead and 48 others injured.
CNN's Adrienne Broaddus joins us now from Waukesha.
Adrienne, new questions today emerging about this suspect and why he was out even on bond after a previous incident in which he was accused of using his vehicle as a weapon.
Tell us more about this.
ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Ana, this case is complicated.
But court documents CNN obtained show Brooks used a vehicle to run over a woman in the parking lot of a gas station. Now, according to the criminal complaint, this woman is only identified with initials. In this complaint, the woman alleges she and Brooks share a child together. In that complaint, she says, before he ran her over in the parking lot of this gas station with his vehicle, he hit her with a closed fist.
Prosecutors did file charges in that case, including bail jumping. That's because Brooks was already out on bail from charges stemming from an incident and the summer of July or -- in July of 2020, so last summer.
As you can imagine, this news is adding another layer of grief to a community already suffering. Listen in to what one business owner told us and see how he's still trying to process it all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL STOLSMARK, WITNESS: 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 I went and 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. And I said, OK, I got them, latex gloves that I use for painting.
So I got them some gloves. And I was ready to jump in. I'm CPR- trained. I was ready to jump in on that, but I didn't have to. Four out of the five people passed away, one two feet away, one 50 feet away, one 20 feet away, and one up the block.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROADDUS: Five deceased, those victims ranging in age from 52 to 81, also among the 48 injured, at least 18 children. At last check, 10 of those children are still listed in the intensive care unit, their injuries ranging from facial abrasions to broken bones to serious head trauma -- Ana.
CABRERA: Our prayers and thoughts obviously with them and their families and those of the victims who have died.
Thank you so much, Adrienne Broaddus.
Also breaking today, President Biden's new plan to fight rising gas prices, the White House announcing they will release millions of barrels of oil from an emergency reserve in coordination with other countries, but will it finally ease the pain at the pump?
Plus, bracing for the holiday travel crush, how the airlines are gearing up for the busiest travel season of the past two years.
And it happened again. At least 20 suspects break into a Nordstrom store in a flash mob style-smash-and-grab, this time at The Grove in Los Angeles. Why does this keep happening and what is the plan to stop it?
CABRERA: The Thanksgiving travel rush is upon us, with still unrelenting pain at the pump.
Right now, the average gallon of gas right now is just $3.40. I say just because it's actually gone down I think a cent in the last couple of weeks. But it's way up from a year ago. And that's why next hour, President Biden will announce the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the largest release ever, according to the White House.
Countries like China, India, Japan and South Korea are expected to all take similar measures. So this is part of a coordinated effort to drive down oil prices worldwide.
Let's go to CNN's Arlette Saenz in Nantucket, where the president will be spending Thanksgiving. And also with us is CNN business reporter Matt Egan.
Arlette, gas prices have been rising for weeks now, and Democratic lawmakers urged action just like this about two weeks ago. So why now?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, the White House is trying to show that they are trying to get a check on these rising energy prices, especially as that Thanksgiving holiday is approaching.
And that is why President Biden today has announced the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the nation's stockpile, even if that release may be limited, the impact of it, in the short term.
Now, it's not just the U.S. that is doing this. They have also coordinated with China, India, the U.K., South Korea, and Japan, five countries overall, to try to drive down those oil and gas prices across the global spectrum. But take a listen to one of the president's top economic advisers
talking about the impact of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED BERNSTEIN, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: We believe that it will last until the oil market kind of comes down on its own. And so, as I mentioned, we're already seeing some price effects. That's because this is a coordinated effort with numerous other countries, Japan, South Korea, China, India, the U.K., so it's a pretty powerful punch.
And once that gets out there, we start to see deliveries of oil probably mid-December. But, again, we already have oil markets moving on this news. And so we believe that's going to show up at the pumps, helping middle-class, low-income consumers as they get through this period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAENZ: Now, President Biden is set to make remarks in the next hour, talking about the economy and also efforts to lower prices across the spectrum.
The White House really has intensified their focus on this issue of inflation, which so many Americans can really tangibly feel firsthand when they go to the grocery store, when they're filling up their gas tanks. The White House is fully aware of the impact that this is having on the average American.
And they say, by making decisions like this, they are trying to provide some relief to people especially heading into those holidays.
CABRERA: Matt, of course, drivers want to know, when will I feel the effects? And is this really a Band-Aid or is it a game-changer?
MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Well, Ana, drivers shouldn't get their hopes up, because, unfortunately, cheap gas is probably not around the corner, but maybe some relief is.
That's because just the mere rumor of this intervention by the United States and other countries has sent oil prices down by almost 10 percent from their seven-year highs. And that is translating to putting a lid on gas prices.
We have seen the national average is around $3.40 a gallon. That's way up from a year ago. But it's actually down by a penny from a week ago. And experts I talk to, they do think that gas prices will inch lower from here. But no one I'm talking to expects to see a dramatic decline in gas prices.
I don't even think the White House expects that. President Biden was actually advised in recent weeks that tapping the SPR wasn't going to solve all of these issues. And that's because it's not really a long- term fix. It doesn't erase the supply-demand imbalance. Also, there's a finite amount of oil in these emergency reserves. Countries can't just go to them every month and take barrels out. There is some uncertainty, though, here about the specific numbers. We know the United States is releasing 50 million barrels. We know that that's the biggest ever by the U.S. But we don't know yet how many barrels are going to be released from China. And that is going to say a lot in terms of the big-time impact here.
Ana I think, big picture, this is good news for American drivers. But we should not expect a rapid return to cheap gas.
CABRERA: OK, don't hold your breath, anybody.
Matt Egan, Arlette Saenz, appreciate both of you. Thanks for your reporting.
This all going down amid the biggest travel rush in two years. Up next, CNN goes inside the airlines to see if they're ready to handle the enormous challenge.
CABRERA: Today, more promising vaccine news, and it comes as COVID cases are on the rise ahead of Thanksgiving.
The CDC says the risk of dying from COVID-19 is 14 times higher for unvaccinated people than for fully vaccinated people. So, this is more proof vaccines save lives, this as we await an FDA decision on a possible treatment for those who are infected with COVID, Merck's new antiviral pill.
It has shown promise in treating the virus. But there are some concerns.
Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now.
Elizabeth, what are those concerns?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, FDA advisers will be meeting next week to discuss Merck's anti-viral pill called molnupiravir.
And the concerns are actually kind of related to their efficacy. The pill appears to work really well. What it does is, it interrupts the virus' ability to replicate. It sort of messes with the virus' genetic material, with its RNA.
The concern is twofold, one, that that might create new variants that could be a problem for the vaccine. Merck says that they have tested that and that hasn't happened, that that is not true. Also concerns, would this be OK for developing fetuses? Is it possible that if it messes with the virus' genetic material, might it affect the genetic material of a developing fetus?
And so there's sure to be discussion about whether it's appropriate for pregnant women to be taking this pill.
But, again, to get back to the efficacy, let's take a look at what