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Jury Deliberations To Resume In Racially Charged Case; Charlottesville Rally Organizers Found Liable; Prosecutor Rejects Defendant's Self-Defense Claim. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired November 24, 2021 - 04:00   ET




ISA SOARES, CNN HOST: Hello, and a very warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and right around the world. I am Isa Soares in London and just ahead right here on CNN Newsroom.

We are just hours away from day two of deliberations in the trial of three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery and the jurors will be considering this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you really believe he had no other choice, but to use his shotgun.


SOARES: Plus, the white supremacist organizers of this deadly rally in Charlottesville are found liable and ordered to pay millions of dollars. But--


JOSHUA SMITH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: 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.


SOARES: And with gas prices soaring, President Biden is making moves to try to ease the pain but many experts say, it's just a drop in the bucket.

Hello, everyone. It is Wednesday, November 24th. And 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 and the unarmed black man. Now the jury spent just over six hours on Tuesday deliberating the racially charged case, garnering really international attention.

Here's CNN's Martin Savidge with more.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The jury deliberating the fate of the three men accused of killing a black man running through a coastal Georgia neighborhood last year.

TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, JUDGE: The law of the case.

SAVIDGE: Judge Timothy Walmsley placing the controversial case into the hands of one black and 11 white jurors.

WALMSLEY: So, with that, ladies and gentlemen, I ask that you retired to the jury room.

SAVIDGE: The prosecution getting the final say retelling how an armed father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, aided by a neighbor William Roddie Bryan pursued 25 year old Ahmaud Arbery eventually cornering and killing him. The final moments caught on video.

LINDA DUNIKOSKI, LEAD PROSECUTOR: You can't force someone to defend themselves against you. So, you get to claim self-defense. This isn't the Wild West.

SAVIDGE: Defense lawyers say the men were attempting a citizen's arrest after they say Arbery was seen several times trespassing inside of a home under construction. It turned deadly they say when Arbery attacked Travis McMichael, as McMichael was pointing a shotgun at Arbery. Travis saying, he shot in self-defense.

The prosecution pushing back saying the men that day never told police they were attempting a citizen's arrest.

DUNIKOSKI: The defendants never ever said citizen's arrest. They never ever said we're making an arrest. They never said we saw commit crime. So, ladies and gentlemen, where in the world citizen's arrest didn't come from, because it didn't come from the defendants on February 23, 2020.

SAVIDGE: And the state argued self-defense was not an option since the father and son initiated the chase saying an armed Travis McMichael in a truck never really feared an unarmed Arbery.

DUNIKOSKI: There's no fear here. There's only anger. Do you really believe he had no other choice but to use a shotgun?

SAVIDGE: The state arguing if any one of the defendants had not taken part in any of these crimes, Ahmaud Arbery could still be alive and that his race was a motivating factor.

DUNIKOSKI: What's your emergency? Is a black man running down the street?

SAVIDGE: Both Arbery's family and defense attorney said they have faith in the jury.

LEE MERRITT, ATTORNEY FOR AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: 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, which is the brutal and unjustified murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

JASON SHEFFIELD, ATTORNEY FOR TRAVIS MCMICHAEL: 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.

SAVIDGE: Defense Attorney Kevin Gough, who has made controversial comments throughout the trial, criticizing the presence of black pastors seem to soften his tone, expressing concern for the Arbery family.

KEVIN GOUGH, WILLIAM RODDIE BRYAN'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There's no pressure on the lawyers win or lose, we go home. The pressure is on the clients. And I feel for the Arbery family. This has been an ordeal for them. Some of this testimony and evidence presented about their son has been graphic.


SAVIDGE: Jury deliberations will continue on Wednesday, which here in the United States is of course the day before a major holiday and there is a lot of speculation that there could be pressure on this jury to want to get done with their work so that they can enjoy the entire holiday weekend.

Remember, these jurors have actually been working on this case since jury selection, which was back on October 18th. So, it's possible that on Wednesday, we could get a verdict. We'll have to wait and see. Martin Savidge, CNN, Brunswick, Georgia.

SOARES: And of course, we'll keep our eyes peeled Brunswick, Georgia. Well, another big verdict this week coming from Charlottesville, Virginia. A federal jury there found the white


nationalist who organized a violent demonstration four years ago liable for more than $26 million in damages. Now, the Unite the Right rally became a new front in America's culture wars, white supremacists loudly broadcasting their beliefs in public instead of just online as you can see there. James Fields Jr, whom the nation saw in very disturbing, a very disturbing video is responsible for nearly half of that money. He plowed his car into a crowd of counter protesters, injuring dozens of people and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. CNN's Jason Carroll has more now on the verdict.

JASON CARROLL, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At the end of the day, this is a civil case and a civil trial. This was about trying to get as much money as possible out of these defendants, 17 of them, some of them individuals, some of them organizations designated as hate groups. And while the jury did hold them accountable for millions when you add it all up, they did deadlock on two major claims one of those being conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence the other one, failing to prevent that conspiracy.

However, the jurors at the end of the day they did find that these defendants were responsible for four other claims, including state conspiracy claims and in addition to that, subjecting plaintiffs to racial and religious - racial and religious harassment.

SOARES: Jason Carroll there. Well, CNN's Elle Reeve covered the Charlottesville rally extensively if you remember in 2017, and weighed in on the future of the white nationalist movement in the United States, its members, former President Donald Trump once referred to as very funny people.


ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in 2017, they're at the height of their power. And they were happy to let me know how smart they thought they were. But nearly every defendant I've talked to, has said that the alt right is essentially dead. White supremacy isn't dead. But the online movement that was very obsessed with Trump, it's gone. Almost every group involved in this has quit the movement. Most of the leaders have quit.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO AND NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: There were no fine people marauding through the crowd in Charlottesville, chanting Jews will not replace us. And this verdict seals it.


SOARES: Well, the mother of Heather Heyer, who's in there, who was mentioned, as we mentioned, was killed in Charlottesville spoke with CNN about her reaction to the verdict. Have a listen.


SUSAN BRO, HEATHER HEYER'S MOTHER: Even when the evidence seems very clear, you can't always determine what a jury is going to say or do. So, I was glad they were able to recognize the preponderance of evidence definitely showed the clients to be guilty and the evidence was their own words. That was the beauty of the case.


SOARES: Now, the financial awards the plaintiffs will likely be more symbolic than real James Fields, who drove his car into a crowd is serving multiple life sentences in prison. Several other defendants have indicated they are financially stressed.


SMITH: 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.


SOARES: Well, CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin says the defendants will still face consequences including the prospect of having their wages garnished, and property taken. Say on top of that story for you.

Now to Wisconsin where a child has died becoming the sixth victim of Sunday's Christmas parade rampage. The man accused of deliberately ramming his SUV into the crowds made his first court appearance on Tuesday, his bail set at $5 million. Omar Jimenez reports.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are not words to describe the risk that this defendant presents to our community.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After being accused of killing six and injuring over 60 others. 39-year-old Darrell Brooks makes his initial court appearance.

KEVIN COSTELLO, COURT COMMISSIONER: I have not seen anything like this in my very long career.

JIMENEZ: He was charged with five counts of first degree intentional homicide, but prosecutors say a sixth is coming.

ISUSAN OPPER, WAUKESHA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I wish to notify the court sadly that today we learned of another death of a child.

JIMENEZ: And there is new video of the moments. Police found and arrested the 39-year-old Brooks Sunday night on the front porch of 24- year-old Daniel Rider who had no idea what it just happened at the Waukesha Christmas parade about a mile away.

DANIEL RIDER, ENCOUNTERED SUSPECT BEFORE ARREST: He at one point asked me what was going on downtown. I was like it was a parade today. He's like, oh, that must have been what that was.

JIMENEZ: The man he now knows was Brooks then asked to use his phone and call an Uber.

DARRELL BROOKS JR., SUSPECT: Hey, I called an Uber, and I'm supposed to be waiting for it over here, but I don't know when he's coming. Can you call please?

JIMENEZ: Not long after Rider says he saw police going up and down the street and felt it had to do with Brooks, so he told him to leave. Moments later.


RIDER: So, I'm looking for his ID and moments later, the police


see him and get him in cuffs. I had no idea in my house. The Uber showed up maybe a minute after he is in cuffs. So, I just think about sometimes if he'd gotten in that car what could have happened.

JIMENEZ: Before allegedly driving his car through the parade, police say Brooks was involved in a domestic disturbance earlier Sunday. He has a criminal history going back to the 90's, but in July 2020, he was accused of firing a handgun during an argument. In February this year he was released on bail. Less than nine months later, he allegedly ran over a woman who claims she's the mother of his child with his car. Nine days later, he was released on just $1000 bail. Less than two weeks before the Christmas parade.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney's office called that bail amount inappropriately low. Authorities say Brooks also had an outstanding arrest warrant and an unrelated case in Nevada, where he's a registered sex offender.

Meanwhile, a community is trying to heal, mourning the six that were killed and processing loved ones that nearly added to the toll.


JIMENEZ: And there are still others recovering in the hospital this morning. As some even improve, a firefighter son who was marching with his high school band during the Waukesha Christmas parade is now out of the ICU, but with a long road to recovery after having undergone at least a surgery to repair a broken femur. Meanwhile, the suspect Darrell Brooks during his initial court appearance rarely looked up and was oftentimes seen swaying back and forth in his seat. He currently faces five counts of first degree intentional homicide as prosecutors promised a six which would mean if found guilty, he would face six consecutive life sentences. Omar Jimenez, CNN, Waukesha, Wisconsin.

SOARES: Now the committee investigating the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has issued a new round of subpoenas, this time targeting Right-wing extremist groups involved in the riot. They include the Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers, who you see here moving through the Capitol in formation while wearing tactical gear.

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 of former President Donald Trump's inner circle have refused to cooperate stonewalling the investigation. Earlier CNN legal analyst Preet Bharara spoke to Jim Acosta about the committee strategy. Have a listen.


PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I don't know if it's the case with respect to these new subpoenas that were issued today. whether there was any attempt to get voluntary cooperation from these folks and those broke down and so they decided they need to issue subpoenas. I think that's probably less likely than a new mode of operating which is they're on the clock, they've had people defying the subpoenas already.

One of those people Steve Bannon has been indicted by the Justice Department. And so, they're sending subpoenas first and asking questions later, which I think just shows a certain new amount of aggressiveness that I think is warranted here.


SOARES: Well, meanwhile, New York's former police commissioner is demanding an apology from the January 6th committee after it subpoenaed him. Lawmakers say Bernard Kerik attended a meeting on January 5th, with key Trump allies to discuss options for overturning the presidential election results. Kerik's lawyers say his client never attended any such meeting, but will comply with a subpoena.

Now a jury in Ohio ruled that three major pharmaceutical chains helped fuel the opioid epidemic in two counties. The lead attorney for Lake and Trumbull counties in this suit against CVS, Walmart and Walgreens so the decision is precedent setting. He said each county will seek more than $1 billion in damages. The lawsuit claimed the pharmacies abused their position of trust, fostering a black market for prescription opioids. All three chains indicated they will appeal.

Now Brian Laundrie, the Florida man whose weeks long disappearance sparked, if you remember national manhunt, died by suicide. The local medical examiner's office says he died from a gunshot wound to the head. His remains were found last month in a Florida nature reserve, the 23-year-old vanished in September just days after his fiancee, you can see there Gabby Petito was reported missing and later found murdered. Laundrie's parents' recent statements saying they're in mourning and hope for the findings bring closure to both families.

A Missouri man is free from prison today after spending the past 43 years behind bars. Kevin Strickland had his conviction in the 1978 triple homicide set aside. The only survivor identify Strickland as one of the shooters but eventually changed her story. Strickland had always maintained his innocence. Have a listen.


KEVIN STRICKLAND, WRONGLY CONVICTED OF MURDER: I was actually watching the soap opera and came across news break or whatever they call them and, and I just couldn't believe what I was hearing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So that's how you learned.

STRICKLAND: That's how I learned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You saw your own name on the screen?

STRICKLAND: With picture, yes. And again, other inmates start hollering and I heard them beating on walls and carrying on.


SOARES: Now Strickland says he wants to get involved in public speaking, the state of Missouri will not provide any compensation for the time he spent in prison. Still ahead right here on the show, the U.S. announces historic effort to push down prices at the pump. But will it be enough to help Americans feeling the financial pinch. Plus, Dollar Tree will soon become a dollar 225 century? Why one of America's last remaining true Dollar Store says it's raising its prices, both their stories after a very short break. You are watching CNN Newsroom. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOARES: Now some of the world's biggest economies are taking aim at skyrocketing 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. Five other nations including China and India plan to take similar measures.


It comes of course, as Americans are feeling the squeeze of higher prices, paying $3.40. As you can see there a gallon on average and compare that in your screen to just over $2 this time last year, that makes a huge difference. But even after Tuesday's announcement, it could still be weeks before prices at the pump go down.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But right now, I will do what needs to be done to reduce the price you pay at the pump. And while our combined actions will not solve the problem of high gas prices overnight. It will make a difference. It will take time but before long, you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank.


SOARES: You're probably asking what is the Strategic Petroleum Reserve? What is the backup emergency oil supply, owned by the U.S. government it is designed to keep oil flowing if the commercial supply is disrupted? It was established in 1975, following an OPEC oil embargo, the SPR can hold up to 714 million barrels at underground complex along the Gulf Coast.

While the U.S. Energy Secretary spoke with CNN John Berman, following Mr. Biden's announcement, Jennifer Granholm was asked about concerns that tapping the nation's oil reserves is a quick fix that really doesn't address the bigger issue.


JENNIFER GRANHOLM, U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY: This is a short-term solution. That is true. It is not intended to be a long-term solution. It's intended to correct the supply and demand mismatch in the market right now. So, as more production comes online after COVID, then you will see obviously, the supply coming up to where the demand is. That hasn't happened fully yet. And that's why this mechanism of doing this exchange of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is to be able to mesh supply and demand over the next shorter period of time.


SOARES: Well, but others say Tuesday's announcement may be pure politics. Here CNN Economics and Political Commentator Catherine Rampell.


CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oil prices are already falling. The administration claims that they're falling because of this move that the decline happened in anticipation of this announcement. Maybe it could just be that supply chains are normalizing. But either way, perhaps the administration will claim credit if prices continue to fall further, even if it has nothing to do with this particular announcement.


Well, with that announcement, President Biden is ready for Thanksgiving break on Tuesday, the president, first lady, vice president and secondary who spend part of the days, you can see they're packing Thanksgiving meals at Washington, D.C. food kitchen. President Biden was put in-charge of the serving the main course, the turkey. Later, the Biden's left Washington for Nantucket, Massachusetts, where they'll spend the holiday with their family. It's been a tradition of the Biden's since 1975, commemorating the first holiday, Joe and Jill Biden spend together.

Well, meantime why White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki spent the afternoon defending the president's decision to leave Washington for the holiday as well as the higher costs of turkeys this year due to of course, inflation.

Psaki confirmed the president would be working during his vacation, deflected criticism of the Biden family spending the holiday together out of town. When it comes to turkeys, Psaki said the rise in prices is minimal. Have a listen.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, first I would say I don't know if you've cooked a turkey before but a 20 pound turkey is a pretty big turkey. I think we can all agree. There are about $1 more. So not to minimize that any increase in prices is something the president is concerned about. As his evidenced by his announcement today and as his efforts to push forward on additional relief for the American people.


SOARES: Now after 35 years of selling items for $1. The Dollar Tree has announced it raising its prices. The company says most items will cost $1.25 by the first quarter of next year. While the change comes amid rising inflation, Dollar Tree insists the price hike was not a reaction to short-term market conditions. The company says the $0.25 increase will allow them to reintroduce customer favorites and expand its selection, so no longer a dollar.

Well, everything from Cheerios cereal to fruit roll ups are also expected to get more expensive next year, as General Mills makes moves to hike prices on hundreds of items across dozens of brands. The company sent a letter to original wholesale supplier saying the prices (inaudible) increased by as much as 20 percent and that's expected to get passed along to shoppers. The changes are said to be in response to higher materials and labor costs.

Still ahead, right here on the show, new warnings mounting and mounting fears of a winter COVID surge in the U.S. as well as in Europe with millions of people traveling ahead of the holidays and cases moving the wrong direction. Health officials say the next few months could be devastating. Plus


we'll take a look at a new law in Portugal to help keep persistent bosses from contacting their employees when they're off the clock. Both those stories after a very short break.


SOARES: Now, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons has released new documents about the death of Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted pedophile and wealthy financier. The documents show Epstein denied having any suicidal thoughts before he died by suicide. Despite some prisons workers noting signs of troubling behavior. The government report also says prison staff made a litany of procedural errors with a number of either incorrect or incomplete record entries.

Meanwhile, the latest round of jury selection in the case against Epstein's former associate alleged accomplice has finished the final round is expected to begin next week. This comes of course as the siblings of Ghislaine Maxwell have asked the United Nations to step in calling the conditions of her sister's prison confinement, a violation of her rights.

Now as Americans head into the Thanksgiving holiday, the Coronavirus pandemic here in the United States is really taking a turn for the worst. Cases are on the rise. As you can see in 27 states with Midwestern states accounting for more than a third of new infections and hospitalizations are starting to pick up in the United States as well. And that is all leading to growing concerns of a winter surge.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says so far only about a quarter of illegible adults have received a booster shot. Well next week advisors with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will meet to discuss a new.