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Day Two Of Arbery Jury Deliberations; Military Preparations In Ukraine; Unite The Right Defendants Liable For $26M In Damages. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired November 24, 2021 - 02:00:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church. Just ahead, the very latest on the trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. A second day of jury deliberations is just hours away.

The Ukrainian military is working seven days a week to prepare for a possible war with Russia. A CNN exclusive on how the country is bolstering its troops.

Also ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three, two, one, and liftoff of the Falcon --

CHURCH: A mission that might one day save the planet. Why NASA wants one of their spacecrafts to crash.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN NEWSROOM with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Thank you so much for joining us. Well, just hours from now jurors in Brunswick, Georgia will begin their second day deliberating the case of three white men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man. The jury spent just over six hours on Tuesday deliberating the racially charged case garnering international attention. Defense attorneys argue the men acted in self defense and were trying to make a citizen's arrest for suspected burglary when Arbery was fatally shot last year.

Prosecutors claim the men were acting more sinister and pursued Arbery because he was a black man running down the street in the defendants' neighborhood. All sides are striking an optimistic tone about the possible verdicts.


LEE MERRIIT, ATTORNEY FOR AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: We are confident that the state put all the evidence out necessary to convict these men on all charges. And we're confident that this jury will seriously consider all the evidence and come back with a verdict that is reflective of what actually happened.

JASON SHEFFIELD, ATTORNEY FOR TAVIS MCMICHAEL: So very confident the case that we put forward, we feel very confident and the evidence of Travis's innocence. And now we'll see what the jury feels is justice. And we will accept the verdict whatever it is.


CHURCH: I want to bring in Charles F. Coleman Jr. now. He is a civil rights attorney and former New York prosecutor. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So we heard closing arguments Monday from the defense and prosecution and now the jury is preparing to start a second day of deliberations. How might they have been impacted do you think by those closing arguments on which side appeared stronger?

COLEMAN: Well, I think the prosecution did what it needed to do in terms of rebutting some of the defense and their theory of the case in terms of what they were trying to argue around self defense, I think they did a really good job of walking the jury through the judges charges, what each of the defendants are going to be charged with. And they should feel ultimately very good about the position that they're in.

The defense, on the other hand, did what they could what they had, which wasn't much, quite frankly. What I found to be notable on that side was that the attorney for William Bryan began to point the finger at the other defendants, which ultimately is not a good sign when you have multiple defendants in the case. My experience is, when you start to see that happening, juries generally are going to convict everyone.

Now, of course, we don't know whether that will be the case here, as it remains to be seen. But one of the things that I noticed during this summation from both sides was that that was something that started to happen was began to show some of the cracks in the ranks on the defendants' side.

CHURCH: Right. And I do want to ask you about that because I wondered how possible it is that the jury will hand down three different verdicts for each of the three white men accused of chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery.

COLEMAN: Well, it is certainly possible under a legal framework without a question because each of the three defendants is charged with something different and each of them has a different set of standards that they have to meet or that has to be proven in order to convict -- in order to convict them. I don't think that they are going to split themselves on the McMichaels, meaning the Father and the son.

I think if there is a split among the defendants, it's going to be between the McMichaels and Mr. Bryan, but I don't necessarily believe that they would convict Travis and acquit George and acquit Mr. Bryan.


COLEMAN: But I do want viewers to know that that is something that could actually happen in terms of one of them or two of them being convicted and another one going free or being acquitted and vice versa.

CHURCH: And of course, the recent Kyle Rittenhouse case also dealt with vigilante, justice versus self defense. And in that case, Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges. This situation, however, is very different. How do you expect this to turn out?

COLEMAN: Well, if the law is followed and the prosecutors, words are heated, and I would expect a conviction of all three defendants in this case. This is a very different case than the Kyle Rittenhouse case for a number of different reasons. I think that the argument around provocation is significantly greater in this case than it was in the Rittenhouse, such that I don't believe that the defendants are going to be able to rely on it in the same ways that Kyle Rittenhouse relied on it and ultimately resulting in an acquittal.

And so, I don't necessarily anticipate that these individuals will not be convicted. However, there are very unpredictable things that happen when you're talking about a jury in a jury trial. So nothing is certain until the verdict is rendered. And so we'll have to see what happens.

CHURCH: And I did want to ask you this too. I wonder how disturbed you were by one of the defense lawyers referring to Arbery's toenails as she tried to paint him as a criminal. And how do you think that will likely play with the jury?

COLEMAN: Well, she didn't just try to paint him as a criminal. Let's be clear about that. What she tried to do was paint him as a runaway slave. And I think that what we have seen from not only her, but other defense attorneys in this case, specifically Kevin Gough who is the defense attorney for Mr. William Bryan. We've seen a unparalleled and unprecedented level of just blatant racism coming from the defense in this case.

The only thing that I can think of is that they believe that that is going to resonate, given the geographic location of where this trial is being held and the deep south, and the demographics of the of the jury in terms of makeup, that being 11 white jurors and one black, that they're hoping that there's somebody who's going to latch on to the sort of racist rhetoric that they're spouting and potentially prevent their clients from being convicted.

Hopefully, we won't see that happen. But that sort of rhetoric and using racism as a legal strategy is just an aberration. And something that I hope not to see continue.

CHURCH: And do you expect to vertic Wednesday?

COLEMAN: I do expect a very quick verdict. Wednesday verdict would not surprise me. I do hope that the jury is doing its job by considering all the facts and they paid attention and that they are giving all of the charges and the defendants just in due consideration, because that's what our legal system commands. However, I do think that this is also a very straightforward case in many regards.

And hopefully, a quick verdict will be signed at ustice that there is an attempt to have justice for Ahmaud Arbery.

CHURCH: Charles F. Coleman Jr., thank you so much for talking with us. Appreciate it. A federal jury has found the white nationalists who organized a violent demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia four years ago, a liable for more than $26 million in damages. The Unite the Right rally became a new front and America's culture wars, and it empowered white supremacists to loudly broadcast their beliefs in public instead of just online.

Brian Todd has details on the verdict.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The jury awarded the plaintiffs in the Unite the Right trial more than $26 million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages on several claims. Among them finding five defendants were liable for racial, religious or ethnic harassment or violence under a Virginia state law. And that all the defendants participated in a conspiracy.

ROBERTA KAPLAN, ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFFS: I think this verdict today is a message that this country does not tolerate violence based on racial and religious hatred in any form.

TODD: In addition, James Alex Fields Jr., the driver of the car that plowed into the crowd of counter protesters, killing one and injuring dozens was found liable for more than $12 million for assault or battery and for inflicting emotional distress.

KAPLAN: There is going to be accountability for the people who did this.

TODD: more than half of the damages against Fields, the rest spread among various defendants from the white nationalist movement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The defendants in the case are destitute, none of them have any money. I don't know how any of the plaintiffs are going to get anything for any of this.

TODD: The jury was deadlocked on the first two claims that organizers conspired to commit racial violence or failed to prevent it. The evidence included victim testimony about the injuries they sustained from brawling at the rally and Fields' car that ran through the crowd.


TODD: And private communications allegedly showing organizers discussing the potential for violence "cracking skulls" and even whether it's legal to drive into protesters.

But the defendant said they didn't plan the violence. It wasn't their fault. And that what they said before the rally was hyperbole and his protected free speech. The damages awarded by the jury mean a judgment against some of America's most notorious white nationalists, including Richard Spencer, Jason Kessler and Christopher Cantwell. The damages will go to the plaintiffs who include some of those most severely injured in the car ramming and the brawling.

JAMES KOLENICH, JASON KESSLER'S ATTORNEY: I think we did a decent job on the defense side, cutting the damages down to size, even though it has many millions of dollars.

TODD: This civil trial and effort by activists to financially cripple the white nationalist movement.

MICAH SCHWARTZMAN, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW: It sets a precedent, which is if you conspire to commit violent acts, especially on racial grounds, you should expect that plaintiffs will file suit against you under these federal and state laws in the future. And so the trial in that way is a deterrent against future white supremacist conduct of the kind that we saw in Charlottesville in August 2017.


TODD: Two attorneys for white nationalist told us after the verdict that they're going to try to get the damage assessments against their clients reduced. This and other similar lawsuits have already succeeded in financially crippling some white supremacist, but it's not over for them. Regarding those two counts that the jury was not able to reach verdicts on those federal counts of conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence, the plaintiff's attorney say they're going to try to get those cases brought again.

Brian Todd, CNN, Charlottesville, Virginia.

CHURCH: A child has died raising the death toll to six from the attack on Wisconsin Christmas parade. Eight-year-old Jackson Sparks died Tuesday. He was one of 16 children admitted to the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Court documents show more than 60 people were injured when an SUV rammed through the parade. This suspect Darrell Brooks made his first court appearance Tuesday.

His bail is set at $5 million. He's charged with five counts of first degree intentional homicide, and prosecutors say they will add a sixth charge.

Well, the committee investigating the January 6 insurrection out the U.S. Capitol have issued a new round of subpoenas. This time targeting right wing extremist groups involved in the riot. They include the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. Dozens of members of both groups have already been charged in the attack. The committee has spoken to more than 200 witnesses but some key members or former President Donald Trump's inner circle have refused to cooperate. Stonewalling the investigation.

On a global push to drive down sky high gas prices on Tuesday, the U.S. announced plans to release a record 50 million barrels of oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It's part of a coordinated effort with other countries to try to ease rising energy costs around the world. But it's still unclear how much relief the move will actually provide. CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will take time but before long, you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Biden taking new steps to try and ease the pain at the pump by tapping into the nation's strategic oil reserves.

BIDEN: We always get through those spikes, but we're going to get through this one as well and hopefully faster. But it doesn't mean we should just stand by idly and wait for prices to drop on their own. Instead, we're taking action.

ZELENY: The decision coming just two days before Thanksgiving is unlikely to change gas prices for weeks. But it's the latest sign the White House is acutely focused on the political fallout from inflation, causing anxiety in the American economy.

BIDEN: The big part of the of the reason Americans are facing high gas prices because oil producing countries and large companies have not ramped up the supply of oil quickly enough to meet the demand.

ZELENY: The President ordered the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The U.S. also getting commitments from five other countries with the U.K., China, India, Japan and South Korea agreeing to open their reserves to help combat soaring global oil prices.

BIDEN: This coordinated action will help us deal with a lack of supply which in turn helps ease prices.

ZELENY: It's an open question whether the move will make gas prices fall during the holiday season or into the new year ahead of the critical midterm elections. But the White House is intent on showing the President trying to take action, but the President's decision also highlights the steep challenges facing the U.S. and the world to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and combat climate change.

BIDEN: I also want to briefly address one myth about inflated gas prices They're not due to environmental measures.


BIDEN: My effort to combat climate change is not raising the price of gas or increasing its availability.


ZELENY: Now, the timing of this announcement certainly no coincidence coming before Thanksgiving here in the United States, but also it was done in coordination with those five other countries. Now President Biden made clear gas prices will not go down immediately. But Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said she does expect that to happen in the coming weeks. Jeff Zeleny CNN, the White House.

CHURCH: Growing fears of a winter COVID surge in the U.S. as Americans are on the move ahead of the holidays, and cases are moving in the wrong direction. I'll speak with an emergency physician next.

And new warnings for Europe once again in the epicenter of the pandemic. Health officials say the next few months could see a staggering death toll from the virus. Those details in a live report from Paris coming up.

And after his acquittal, Kyle Rittenhouse is making the media rounds including a visit with Donald Trump.



CHURCH: As millions of Americans travel ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday COVID cases and hospitalizations are on the rise and health officials are bracing for a winter surge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says so far, only about a quarter of eligible adults have received a COVID booster shot. So let's go now to Honolulu, Hawaii, where I'm joined by emergency physician, Dr. Darragh O'Carroll. Thank you, Doctor, for all that you do, and for talking with us.


CHURCH: So Americans are preparing for Thanksgiving. And in the midst of surging cases, the CDC says only about a quarter of eligible adults have received a booster shot. What could this mean for the country, particularly as people gather to celebrate, many perhaps sharing a table with family members who refuse to get vaccinated?

O'CARROLL: Yes. It's definitely concerning. And I think the nation is exhibiting something of a -- kind of a national nonchalance with regards to where we are in the pandemic. And it's understandable being it's -- been with us for so long. But we do see that there's very, very robust evidence that waning does occur with both vaccines. And if you do have natural immunity and natural immunity is much less consistent in our vaccines, it's really hit or miss.

But we're seeing waning immunity and a third dose deftly reabsorb immunity to be much more effective against asymptomatic and symptomatic infections. And so, it's definitely concerning when we're having a holiday where so many of us are gathering. And it's definitely important for us to gather but there's many ways for us to do it smartly. And I think there's this national nonchalance is sort of pervasive and I think it's worrisome.

CHURCH: It is, isn't it? Because we're only around the 60 percent mark of total U.S. population, fully vaccinated. When I say fully vaccinated, I mean, two shots, because now really, we're coming to the conclusion that fully vaccinated means three shots. That of course, leaves 81 million people still to receive a first dose. How much does that concern you? And is there any way at this juncture to convince those many millions of Americans that vaccines will end this pandemic?

O'CARROLL: You know, we have to keep trying and showing where the evidence is. And the last thing we want people to do to convince themselves that they need to get the vaccine is to get ill or have a family member to get ill. So we have to keep promoting that the science is very robust. And in showing that if you have a choice between getting your immunity from a vaccine and a third dose, or from getting a natural infection, the vaccines have much, much less consequences, not only to you, but to those around you.

And so it's worrisome that people aren't really hearing the news yet, but we have to keep trying. And if you look at Austria, if you look at in Europe, we've got in Austria, they have roughly about 64 percent of their population has two doses, and they're exhibiting a very, very steep and increment rise, and then they're in lockdown even. They're also seeing a significant rise in deaths and hospitalizations, as well.

And death and hospitalization is a fairly low bar for public health. And so what about long COVID? What about all those other, you know, five to 10 percent of people who have symptoms and real disabilities for months but, you know, roughly a third of people are having long COVID symptoms. So that's another element that rarely makes it into the discussion of vaccines.

CHURCH: You mentioned Austria, there and what's happening now is because they're putting a vaccine mandate in place, people are actually rushing out to get vaccinated. They're also worried about getting fined because that's going to happen as well. They're dealing with anti-vaxxers. They're dealing with some resistance there that had that lockdown. Is that going to be something that perhaps the United States has to consider?

The mandates, the fines if you don't do it or would it be impossible to to translate in this country? There'd be way too much pushback?

O'CARROLL: That's a very good question. And probably one that I don't have the complete breath to answer as a -- as a public health official or a, you know, a governmental official, but I do hope that people will do everything that they can to prevent that from happening because that is absolutely what we don't want to see. You don't the things that you can do over this holiday season because any gathering is really going to put those around you and yourself at risk is, you know, get vaccinated if you haven't already.

Also get a flu vaccination as well because that virus will come back and we don't know exactly how flu and COVID are going to interact but we do know that you can get infected with both at the same time.


O'CARROLL: Other things you can do are wear masks when you can, have -- has your gathering outdoors if possible. If you can't have it outdoors, then increase your ventilation, maybe crack a window, have a fan of some sort. That's obviously weather dependent. And then one other method is definitely if you have access to those rapid tests, you can think of them as contagiousness tests.

And if you take a test right before you get to your destination where you have family members that may be at high risk, especially if they're at high risk, get one of those rapid tests and if the rapid test is negative, it's very sensitive that picking it up if you're contagious to others. So that's another way that you can keep yourself as safe as possible. And what we don't want to see like you said is what's happening in Austria and another lockdown because I wouldn't call it out of the realm of possibility and definitely a possibility if things continue to go bad.

CHURCH: Critical advice there. Dr. O'Carroll, thank you so much for talking with us. And Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

O'CARROLL: Thank you, Rosemary. Take care.

CHURCH: You too. Well, the Coronavirus situation in Europe as we've been discussing is rapidly deteriorating. Germany just reported its highest ever single day surge of new infections. More than 66,000 new cases. Its previous record came just last week. This as the World Health Organization issues a dire new warning, Europe could reach more than two million deaths from the virus by March.

The global body says it expects high or extreme stress on hospital intensive care units in nearly every country in the region this winter. Right now Western Europe is being hit hard by the Delta variant. And this map shows the new COVID cases in the past week compared to the previous week. That darker shades of red indicate a growing outbreak. Well, CNN's Cyril Vanier joins me now from Paris. So good to see you, Cyril.

And the WHO issuing this dire warning to your power leaders across the continent likely to respond to this as they deal with vaccine hesitancy and resistance to lock downs amid these surging cases.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes, Rosemary. A dire warning indeed. The WHO estimates that there are now 4200 daily deaths in Europe. That is twice what we had at the end of September. So just a month and a half ago. How are leaders responding? Well, first of all, they're responding a step late, pretty frankly, as they did during the first, second and third waves of the pandemic for most countries.

Look, most leaders in the European region have been taken by surprise by just the strength, the speed of this new wave of infections. And that is why we are still seeing as you said record highs or near record highs for daily infection numbers being set in multiple countries. And that has been the case in Austria, which has just entered a national lockdown. It's also the case in Germany. New measures are being put in place in all those countries, Rosemary.

But crucially, it is about getting third doses and about -- it is about increasing the vaccination rate in all those countries. CHURCH: Yes, that third dose is critical. It's going to be a three- dose regimen. We have to just accept that. Cyril Vanier joining us live from Paris. Many thanks. Well, just ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, a CNN exclusive on patrol with Ukraine's Navy as the country's military races to counter the threat of a possible Russian invasion.



CHURCH: Top U.S. and Russian generals are staying in touch amid serious concerns about the Russian troop buildup near the border with Ukraine. But the government in Kyiv is not taking any chances, pushing forward with a badly needed upgrade of its navy. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has this exclusive report.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): On patrol in some of the most contested waters in the world. Ukraine's navy took us on an artillery boat in the Sea of Azov just as tensions with Russia have reached a boiling point.

Our main goal is to defend and keep the sovereignty of Ukraine from the direction of the sea, the captain tells me.

Russia has been massing troops near the Ukraine border, the U.S. says, warning its allies, a large-scale invasion could happen soon.

PLEITGEN (on camera): The Ukrainians believes that if Russia does decide to launch an attack that the Sea of Azov could be one of the main battlegrounds. That's why the Ukrainians are both modernizing their fleet, but also their infrastructure on land as well.

PLEITGEN (voiceover): The Azov Coastline holds a strategic value to Russia. It would allow President Vladimir Putin to establish a much- sought land corridor to connect Russia annexed Crimea. Ukraine's defense ministry gave us rare access to the massive construction going on at the Berdiansk Naval Base. Kyiv has now ordered this building program to urgently be accelerated with the Russian threat looming large.

PLEITGEN (on camera): In order to complete this project as quick as possible, the Ukrainian military tells us that they are now working seven days a week. And they say, once it is finished it will offer a formidable deterrent against any Russian aggression.

PLEITGEN (voiceover): Upgrades seem badly needed here with much of the Berdiansk's port in utter disrepair. Ukraine says new facilities will allow them to base more and bigger ships here.

We are ready, this officer says. That is why we are here, so that at any time, if there is any aggression in the Azov Sea, we could resist it.

Ukraine's president says, Russia has positioned close to 100,000 troops near its borders, which the Kremlin denies. These satellite images appearing to show dozens of military vehicles near Yelnya in Southwestern Russia. The Biden administration has warned Moscow not to attack and is mulling more weapons deliveries to Kyiv. CNN has learned one U.S. defense official says, Russia's aim maybe to create confusion or to gain concessions.

The Kremlin dismissed talk of a possible invasion as hysteria, but Vladimir Putin also issued a clear warning.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We need to consider that western partners worsen the situation by delivering to Kyiv modern lethal weapons and provocative exercises in the Black Sea. And not only there, but also other regions close to our borders.

PLEITGEN (voiceover): Ukraine's armed forces say they are on constant alert. Preparing for an armed confrontation they hope can be avoided.


Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berdiansk, Ukraine.


CHURCH: And we will be back in just a moment.


CHURCH: NASA has launched a spacecraft that will deliberately crash into a near earth asteroid about 10 months from now. It's called DART, which stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test. The target does not pose a threat to earth, but NASA wants to test the technology to see if it could change the asteroid's direction.

CNN's Michael Holmes has more on the groundbreaking mission.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voiceover): It's a space story seen several times in the movies. Like in the 1998 sci-fi film "Armageddon."

BRUCE WILLIS, ACTOR, "ARMAGEDDON": the United States government just asked us to save the world. Anybody want to say no?

HOLMES (VOICEOVER): An asteroid threatens earth. The military, astronauts and even oilrig drillers try to save mankind. Some cities don't make it, but in the end the planet survives. A Hollywood ending which NASA is hoping to make a reality with its first planetary defense test mission. Scientists say they have identified they kilometer wide asteroid like those shown in the blockbusters and there are no dangers of them hitting earth in the coming centuries. But NASA says it wants to study what could be done if are threatening asteroid is discovered.

SHANE KIMBROUGHSTAR, NASA ASTRONAUT: DART is NASA's first planetary defense test. So, we are going to try to do something we've never done before with the spacecraft. DART stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test. A nice acronym. NASA does like acronyms. DART is another one.

And now, the purpose of this spacecraft and this mission, it has one purpose, it has to crash itself into an asteroid and try to redirect it or try to move into a different orbit.


NANCY CHABOT, DART COORDINATION LEAD: These asteroids are not a threat to the earth. They are not a danger to the earth. They are not on a path to earth in the foreseeable future. That makes them appropriate targets for a first test.

HOLMES (VOICEOVER): Traveling at a speed of 6.6 kilometers a second, DART will then deliberately crash into the moonlit to try to jolt it from its regular orbit. Scientists back on earth will monitor the collision using satellite imagery and ground-based telescopes to see how much the moonlit changes course.

ANDY CHENG, DART INVESTIGATION TEAM LEAD: If one day an asteroid is discovered on a collision course with earth, then we have an idea of how big that asteroid is and how fast it's coming and when it will hit, that kind of information, then we will have an idea of how much momentum we need to make that asteroid miss the earth.

HOLMES (VOICEOVER): The targeted moonlight is a little larger than one of the pyramids in Egypt. NASA says there are 10,000 known asteroids that are just as big or bigger that could potentially cause major regional damage if they ever hit the earth, although none of them are tracking this way. DART's kamikaze mission could provide lifesaving data if anything ever does get too close.

Michael Holmes, CNN.


CHURCH: And thanks so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. For our international viewers, World Sport is coming up next. For those of you here in the United States, I will be right back with more news. Don't go anywhere.