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Holiday Travel; 8-Year-Old Dies Following Christmas Parade Crash; Verdict Reached in Ahmaud Arbery Trial. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired November 24, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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And thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS today. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving. Please stay safe.
Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera. Thank you so much for joining us day.
Two of deliberations in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial are under way. And anticipation for a potential verdict to come today ahead of Thanksgiving is high, the jury right now weighing the fate of these three men who are accused of hunting down and killing Arbery. Jurors made a request just hours ago to rewatch graphic video of Arbery's death.
The jury also wanted to re-listen to part of a 911 call that was made by one of the defendants in the final moments of Arbery's life.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
911 OPERATOR: Nine-one-one. What's the address of your emergency?
GREGORY MCMICHAEL DEFENDANT: I'm out here at Satilla Shores. There's a blank male running down the street.
911 OPERATOR: Satilla. Where -- where at Satilla Shores?
MCMICHAEL: I don't know what street we're on.
Stop! Stop, goddamn it! Stop! Hey!
911 OPERATOR: Sir, hello? Sir?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN's Sara Sidner joins us now live there in Brunswick, Georgia. Sara, so many questions right now about why this jury wanted to see and hear that specific evidence again. That 911 call we just played was a key piece of evidence that the prosecution referenced multiple times throughout this trial.
Now, tell us more about this specific video they wanted to see.
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The specific video really is one of the most important pieces of evidence in this case, because it is video of the actual incident, of the actual killing of Ahmaud Arbery, video that much of the public has seen.
The video they asked for is, they wanted a slow-motion version of the video of the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. And then they wanted a very high-resolution version of that video. They wanted to watch those videos three times each and then listen to that 911 call that you heard there that was made by Greg McMichael.
And so it's important because the murder charges, there are five of them. And the prosecution has said that these two -- these three men -- excuse me -- used their two trucks to corner Ahmaud Arbery, to falsely imprison him, and then eventually they used those trucks and their bodies and the gun to kill him, to murder him.
The defense saying their idea of all this is that the men were simply going after him, thinking that he had committed a crime. And they were trying to make a citizen's arrest and ended up fighting over the gun and were simply defending themselves.
And so you have these two lines of arguments that the jury is trying to sort out. They have a lot of charges per person. There are nine per person that they have to look at and decide, everything from five counts of murder to aggravated assault, to false imprisonment.
But the video is paramount, as you might imagine, in any case where you have actual video of the incident that they have to deliberate on. So that's what we have heard. We know that they have gone to lunch, that we do not know whether they are deliberating through lunch. They did so, though, yesterday -- Ana.
CABRERA: OK, Sara Sidner, I appreciate it.
And with us now is Areva Martin, attorney and legal affairs commentator and civil rights attorney as well, and Bob Bianchi, criminal defense lawyer and former homicide prosecutor in New Jersey.
Areva, before this jury asked to take another look at this evidence, you felt they were close to reaching a verdict. Do you still feel that way? And if there is no verdict today, what does that tell you?
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I do, Ana. I still feel like they're close. And what we heard yesterday was that the foreperson went to the judge and actually asked if they could continue to deliberate past the time the court is normally over, giving some indication that they may have been close yesterday. But, ultimately, they decided to go home and to start over this morning with deliberations. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. These are jurors that live in this community. They have families. They have friends.
And we have seen in these cases before, typically, right before a holiday, jurors want to come in with a verdict so that they can also go home and be with their families. I'm not certain, obviously can't read the minds of these jurors. But I would not be surprised if, after lunch, we don't have them come back into the courtroom and tell the judge that they have reached a unanimous verdict with respect to all three of these defendants.
CABRERA: Let's just talk about what they wanted to watch today, because the jury asked to see the video of the moment in real time of when those fatal shots were fired.
They ended up watching that video three times this morning. Areva, take us inside the jury room. Why do you think they wanted to see this evidence again?
MARTIN: Yes, a couple of things, Ana we know.
The two biggest issues in this case is citizen's arrest. Were the McMichaels effectuating a valid citizen's arrest, meaning, did they witness a crime? Did a crime happen in their immediate presence? Or did they have knowledge about a crime? So I think they wanted to see this video again for a couple reasons.
They wanted to see what Ahmaud Arbery was doing, what Travis McMichael was doing, and, more importantly, what Greg McMichael was doing, which is why I think they wanted to hear the 911 call again. Did Greg McMichael say anything to this dispatch officer about witnessing a crime? What was his state of mind as he was talking to the 911 dispatch officer?
What we heard him say, we heard the dispatcher say, what's your emergency? And he didn't say, I just watched someone commit a crime or i just watched someone break into a house or steal items out of a house. He said, a black male ran down the street.
So I think that's going to be really important as these jurors try to determine what was in the state -- what was the state of mind of Greg McMichael? And, obviously, was there provocation happening as Travis fired those shots into unarmed Ahmaud Arbery.
CABRERA: Bob, how complicated you think this case is for jurors, given there are nine different counts and three different defendants, who all had different roles?
ROBERT BIANCHI, FORMER PROSECUTOR: As a former homicide prosecutor, I think it's very complicated. That's why I did not think it was going to be a quick verdict.
They have to go through a tremendous amount of very complex law, trying to figure out at certain times who's the aggressor, who isn't the aggressor, whether the beliefs were reasonable, weren't reasonable.
And each of these defendants has a different level of culpability here, if you will. Obviously, a shooter is one thing, as opposed to, on the other end of the spectrum, Roddie Bryan, who just kind of comes on the scene, and he's got the phone, and he's actually videotaping the crucial evidence in the case.
So they have got to go through a tremendous amount of charges, each of which has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. They have to go through whether the defense -- or the prosecution has disproven self- defense or citizen's arrest beyond a reasonable doubt.
And so I think it's going to be a complex thing. You may have people that are arguing there. They may be confident on one or two and not a third. It's kind of a fool's errand as a trial lawyer when we sit there and we try to gauge what's happening.
But, as a prosecutor, I have been concerned about one thing and one thing only. This would be the nail-biter last night when I went home before this jury was going to come back and deliberate.
And it's that thing we call, Ana, jury nullification. And jury notice nullification is an area where the jury says, yes, they violated the law, but, given the circumstances, given how those 911 calls, everybody seems to be amped up, given the closings of the defense attorneys that this was a quiet, peaceful neighborhood that was under siege, that, even though he may have technically violated the law, we just don't feel comfortable convicting a defendant.
Jury, Ana, nullification is a huge issue for prosecutors right now. And that's why the prosecutor significantly addressed it in her rebuttal argument, because she knows that too.
CABRERA: But, Bob, just based on the law, do you feel this prosecutor proved these nine counts beyond a reasonable doubt?
BIANCHI: Ana, I had a conversation with my 89-year-old father lawyer yesterday, a great trial on his own right. And we were debating this issue back and forth about, listen, the prosecution put on a very strong case, but there's a lot of technicalities here.
She certainly gave the jury all of the information that they would need in order to convict them. So I think that's there. But, again, the defense did a very good job at painting a picture of a community that was under siege, and that their actions were reasonable, given the fact that Ahmaud Arbery had been there, and that, again, that crazy argument about toenails aside, the defense argument that this is a quiet neighborhood, these people were in fear of their lives.
And based on the initial encounter of Travis McMichael, when he thought Ahmaud Arbery had a gun in a previous incident, they later -- that the prosecutor -- the defense was trying to say that was all contextual about what was occurring literally on that day. You can't divorce what Travis McMichael knew when he confronted Ahmaud Arbery a second time and then came running at him.
BIANCHI: I think the jury is going to look at that video to make a determination, who's the aggressor here? Is it, as the defense says, Ahmaud Arbery going towards Travis McMichael? Or is it Travis McMichael introducing the gun in a fight against an unarmed man who had nothing on his possession?
And, of course, we all know, Ana, last point, that there was no crime committed by Ahmaud Arbery on that particular day, which goes directly to the citizen's arrest claim.
And, real quickly, Areva, just before we wrap it all up, I want to remind our viewers that these three defendants, regardless of what happens in this trial, will face federal hate crime charges.
And that trial is set to begin in February. Do you see the verdict, whichever way it goes here, Areva, having an impact on the federal case?
MARTIN: I think you can have an impact. I think that's such an important point, Ana, because a lot of people were asking online, how can we didn't see the issue of race introduced more into this case?
Because we have heard in these reports that there were racial epithets used after Ahmaud Arbery was shot. We have heard about Facebook postings regarding racial statements made by Travis McMichael. So there's been all of these issues around race that weren't directly introduced by the state in the state case.
Those issues will be on full display in this federal hate crime trial that's supposed to take place in February. And no matter what happens today, Friday, or whenever the jury comes back in this case, I don't think these defendants are ever going to see outside of a jail cell.
I think they're going to be found guilty either by this jury or by a federal jury for brutally murdering Ahmaud Arbery.
CABRERA: Areva Martin and Bob Bianchi, thank you both very much for being with us. And happy Thanksgiving if we don't talk before then, if the verdict doesn't come during this show.
BIANCHI: Thank you, Ana.
CABRERA: All right, let's head to Wisconsin now, where a sixth victim has died, a child, after an SUV barreled through a holiday parade.
We have learned 8-year-old Jackson Sparks died from his injuries yesterday. His older brother also suffered serious injuries. The alleged driver, 39-year-old Darrell Brooks, appeared in court yesterday. His bail is now set at $5 million and he could face additional charges now.
We also have some new doorbell video captured just after the tragedy showing Brooks reportedly asking a resident for help. And he was arrested just moments later.
CNN's Adrienne Broaddus us is live in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Adrienne, there are now six deaths in this horrible incident. What more do you know about the victims and their families?
ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we will start with the Sparks family.
We know Jackson Sparks, the child who is now deceased, underwent brain surgery on Sunday. And on a GoFundMe page, the family wrote that Jackson would need a miracle. They also asked for prayers for Jackson's older brother, Tucker. He's 12 years old. And Tucker sustained a skull fracture.
But according to that family's GoFundMe page, Tucker was expected to be released from the hospital this week. Here in downtown Waukesha, this memorial continues to grow behind me. There are six crosses. Each cross holds a heart. And on those hearts, people from the community have been showing up writing messages.
We were here when a 13-year-old kneeled down by the cross bearing Jackson's name. She went to write a message, but could not finish that message, she was so overwhelmed with grief. Moments after, we spoke with her and her mom. Listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIE HENDRICKSON, MOTHER: I wish none of us had to go through it.
It shouldn't have been. It was such a nice parade. There was just a few minutes of terrible things and it was otherwise good. And we were all happy to be together. It just wasn't the way it was supposed to be.
We're just really sad. Yes, she's really sad. So, she was in the parade. But she was fine. But the car went faster. And so we're all grateful she's OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROADDUS: Those families thankful, but their thoughts are with the family of the Sparks.
The Sparks parents knowing no parent should have to bury their child. A message on one of those hearts also says: "I love and miss you, mom. I will continue to make you proud" -- Ana.
CABRERA: It's such a sad story all around. Thank you so much for your reporting, Adrienne Broaddus.
High gas prices and rising COVID cases not stopping the holiday travel boom, AAA now warning Americans to expect long lines and huge crowds at the nation's airports. What you need to know before checking in.
Plus, it's one of the best jobs reports we have seen in decades, weekly jobless claims absolutely crushing expectations, falling to their lowest level since 1969. But inflation continues to rain on the recovery.
And it's an incredible mission that could help save the planet one day and it is happening right now. We will take you inside NASA's effort to push a giant asteroid away from Earth.
CABRERA: Holiday travel unleashed.
Today is set to be one of the busiest travel days in years. At the airports, the number of passengers is expected to double last year's total, quickly approaching pre-pandemic levels. The roads will be jam- packed as well, with nearly 50 million Americans expected to drive to their holiday destinations.
We're covering all the angles for you. Pete Muntean is live at a travel plaza in Maryland, and Stephanie Elam is at the Los Angeles International Airport.
Pete, high gas prices don't appear to be stopping anyone from hitting the road. What are you seeing?
PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and I'm looking at I- 95 right now, Ana, and it's getting pretty congested. We expected this, according to AAA.
Really, the worst time to drive is about now in between 8:00 p.m. You might want to wait if you're headed out; 48 million people will hit the road, according to AAA. What's so interesting is that that number really not all that far off from where we were back before the pandemic in 2019, this projection actually only off by about 3 percent from the actual number in 2019.
But people are really going to pay for it, the highest gas prices we have seen in seven years, the average price of a gallon of regular right now $3.40 nationwide. That is up about $1.30 from where we were a year ago. So the bottom line here is, the traffic is back. And the cost is back.
And travelers I have been talking to here at Maryland House Travel Plaza up I-95 in Aberdeen, Maryland -- we're between Wilmington and Baltimore -- they say they're fine with swallowing the costs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess that's the price we got to pay. I mean, we can't be -- I mean, we're still in a pandemic. We can't be isolated in the houses again. So I'd rather pay more and be with my family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think family is important. Time spent together is important. So, I guess, if you want to make time and get there, you will go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last year, I couldn't make it. So, this year, gas, it's worth it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MUNTEAN: Maryland's Transportation Authority, which is responsible for this stretch of I-95, says, really wait. Now is the bad time. Maybe wait until after 11:00 p.m. or simply go tomorrow, when there's less traffic, Ana.
CABRERA: Sounds good.
OK, let's get back to Stephanie at LAX.
And, of course, people hate to deal with lines. But what are they looking like right now?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I hate to jinx it for people who are coming to LAX later, Ana, but, right now, it doesn't look too bad here behind me. It's started to pick up a little bit. I think there's a morning rush and then a later one.
But, overall, the TSA expecting 20 million people to fly this holiday.
I want to introduce you to one of them. And that is Ian here. Ian is embracing Thanksgiving.
So, Ian, did you have any concerns about flying the day before Thanksgiving and how busy it might be here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We actually knew that traveling today will be tough, but we're traveling with the family every year. It's tradition. So we were ready.
ELAM: And so is your garb a part of your readiness? Like, what are you signifying to everybody dressed as a turkey today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be thankful for everything they have. Always count your blessings.
ELAM: Well, good luck, Ian.
So there you can see people traveling here. It's busy, but not as bad as we expected it to be.
CABRERA: OK, Stephanie Elam, thank you.
We have breaking news.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. CABRERA: Our breaking news at this hour, we have just received word a
verdict in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial has been determined by this jury of 12.
And I want to bring back Areva Martin as we await the judge to make the announcement for the jury to deliver their verdict.
Areva, we just spoke moments ago. You felt a verdict was imminent. What's going through your mind right now?
MARTIN: Yes, I'm a little nervous, to be honest with you, Ana.
I have these flashbacks to what happened with respect to Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. That was a very similar case, where you had an individual who was not a member of law enforcement, but yet was imbued, so he thought, with these authorities that law enforcement has, and we saw what happened to Trayvon.
He has this encounter with George Zimmerman. He's armed with nothing but his soda pop and a bag of candy. And yet George Zimmerman was acquitted. He was determined not to be the initial aggressor, and it was determined that he was in fear of his life, and that he acted in a reasonable manner when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
So I'm glad that the verdict is coming in. This is a moment we have all been waiting for. We have all been waiting very patiently for the jury to make its determination. But, to be honest with you, I'm very nervous about what this could mean.
CABRERA: And a reminder to our viewers. There are a total of nine counts for each of the three defendants, so 27 counts total if you do the math there.
And each of these men are facing the same counts that range from murder to aggravated assault to false imprisonment. So, when we get the verdict delivered, we are told that it's going to go defendant by defendant.
So you will you will hear all nine counts, verdicts for one defendant, before moving on to the next defendant. And, again, they could come back with a verdict that is guilty for one defendant and not for the other.
Areva, what do you see as the most likely possibility here? Any thoughts on that?
MARTIN: Yes, one of the cases -- one of the cases that stands out the most in terms of being distinguishable from the others is Roddie Bryan.
As we heard from his defense attorney, Roddie thought he was a witness. He cooperated with police officers. He provided police officers with that videotape that he took on his cell phone. His lawyer says he was shocked and just really flabbergasted when he found out that he was actually a suspect and then he was ultimately arrested and charged with a murder. So I'm going to be watching very closely, Ana, to see how the jury responds to Roddie Bryan. Do they separate him from the McMichaels? Do they see him as being less culpable because he didn't pull out a weapon, because he didn't get out of his truck?
But we saw the prosecutor make this very powerful argument about him using his truck in a way that constituted an aggravated assault, that he falsely imprison Ahmaud Arbery, that it was his truck and the truck of Travis McMichael that trapped Ahmaud Arbery and led to the shooting death of Ahmaud by Travis McMichael.
But jurors could very easily see him as being distinguishable from Travis and Greg McMichael. And then even there's Travis. Travis is the shooter. Greg didn't shoot anyone, even though the prosecutor made the case for parties to a crime.
MARTIN: So we will see how all three of these defendants are treated and if they're treated differently.
CABRERA: Again, if our viewers are just tuning in, we have a verdict in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial, again, three men on trial for the murder, accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.
And we anticipate the jury to deliver their verdict any moment now.
I want to go live to the courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia. And our Sara Sidner is on scene there.
Sara, what's happening there right now? What is the community doing?
SIDNER: Just to reiterate, here in Brunswick, Georgia, the sheriff's department of Glynn County has said that the jury in the Ahmaud Arbery killing has reached a verdict.
Whenever that happens in any case, and especially this one, because, as you will remember, this case took a very long time to come into court. It took a very long time to get arrests. There was about three months in between the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and the arrest of the men that are now charged with his murder.
And there were a couple of prosecutors that had to recuse themselves in the case, one of whom was indicted by a grand jury in the case for her actions in the case. And so these are things that the jury doesn't know, but that the public does know. These are things that the jury cannot consider as they come to the verdict, but the public does know.
There have been groups of people out here in support of Ahmaud Arbery and his family every single day. The last couple of days, there's been about a couple of dozen people who have come out. They were very prayerful last night. There was a rabbi and several pastors talking to a group of people. And you can hear from the community, because they asked the community a question. They said to the community, what are your feelings right now in one word? And you heard all sorts of different things, like injustice, waiting too long, the word racism. You heard people talking about concern about what might happen because of the verdict, worry, fear, frustration with how this case has been handled here in this county.
You're hearing from the jury also today. Not long ago, they asked for the judge to let them see evidence. Now, the evidence that they wanted to look at has been paramount to this case. It was evidence of the shooting itself. They wanted to watch the video both in slow motion and high-def.
They wanted to make sure that they had gone over that video. Three times more, that was played for them in court. And then they wanted to listen to the 911 call made by Gregory McMichael. That's the father of Travis McMichael. Travis McMichael is the person who shot Ahmaud Arbery that day in February 2020.
They wanted to listen to that, hear what they were saying. And you know the arguments here, Ana, but I will just go over them. There are nine charges for each person, right? So the jury can come up with charging no one. They can come up with charging one of the three, two of the three, all three, and they can come up with charging them with different things. They don't have to charge them all with the exact same count.
Five of those counts, however, are murder charges. And they go through those murder malice, murder after an attempted felony. And so this jury is having to go through quite a bit of information. They have spent two weeks in trial, almost two weeks in trial listening to evidence.
The prosecution has said, look, these men basically acted as vigilantes. They did not wait for the police. They went after Ahmaud Arbery. They chased him down, they cornered him, and they shot and killed him, and that is murder. That is what the prosecution has been telling this jury.
The defense, however, has a very different story, as you might imagine. They have said, look, they did go after Ahmaud Arbery. They were chasing him. However, they were trying to do a citizen's arrest and that they ended up in a struggle with the gun and it was self- defense. And that is how they have presented their case to the jury.
There have been immense racial undertones and overtones, frankly, in this case, many things brought up about Ahmaud Arbery's character, even how he appears, his appearance. And that caused quite a bit of upset from the family when one of the attorneys for the defendant Greg McMichael said that he -- she described what he was wearing, these baggy clothes. Basically, he's not like us. He also had on shoes with no socks, and he had long dirty toenails.
That caused an uproar, as you might imagine, the family disgusted hearing that, the mother running out of court because she simply could not listen to it. And we heard from her that she thought it was very rude, to say the least, for her to say that, and