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Three Men Convicted of Murdering Ahmaud Arbery Face Life in Prison; Apple, Nordstrom Stores Hit in New Smash-and-Grab Robberies; Biden Spending Thanksgiving in Nantucket with Family; Consumer Spending Rebounds in October Despite Rising Inflation; Crowds are Back at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade; Coronavirus Cases and Hospitalizations on the Rise Across the U.S. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 25, 2021 - 11:00   ET



ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I'm Alex Marquardt in today for Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me on this special Thanksgiving edition of CNN NEWSROOM.

We begin this hour with the three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. They are being prepared for sentencing. A jury conviction Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan on nearly two dozen charges for killing Arbery as he jogged through a South Georgia neighborhood early last year.

Now their claim of self-defense was rejected by the jury which was made up of 11 white people and just one black juror. The men now face the possibility of life in prison without parole. And this is not over. All three men are also facing federal charges for hate crime and kidnapping in connection with Arbery's murder.

So let's start right there with CNN's Ryan Young. He's live in Brunswick, Georgia, with our top story.

Ryan, what is next in this case?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alex, I think you mentioned it right there. These three men face the sentencing and they also face those federal charges. So we know moving forward they're going to face more legal battles. On top of all that you've got to think about how this played out over the last two weeks. The video that was shown over and over again, that really, really pierce through the hearts of so many people in America. The idea that this man would be chased through a neighborhood and then shot.

Those jurors saw it pretty much the same way the prosecution and they really laid down a heavy guilty verdict for those three men. But you've got to think about Ahmaud's mother and listen to what she had to say in terms of the changes that her son's death has already made in the state.


WANDA COOPER JONES, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: Since the day that we lost Ahmaud, he implemented a change. He's brought about the hate crime law in Georgia. He's caused that citizen's arrest law to be withheld. And I want people to think of Ahmaud as change. Ahmaud lost his life but he didn't lose his life in vain. He's implemented change already.


YOUNG: Hey, Alex, one of the things that we know, when they have trials like this that really captured the minds of people in America, people are really watching to see what happens afterwards. And to be here yesterday and to watch everyone sort of explode in jubilation after the verdicts were read, was quite something to see, especially the way everyone sort of maintained some peace and calm with all the tension that was in the city -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Yes. Such a remarkable moment there. All right, Ryan Young, who's been following this trial every step of the way, thank you so much.

Joining me now to discuss this further, our CNN legal analyst and civil rights attorney Areva Martin and criminal defense and civil rights attorney Trent Copeland.

Thank you both for being with me on this Thanksgiving.



MARQUARDT: All right, Trent, let's start with you. Prosecutors have indicated they're going to seek a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for all three of these men. So what are these next steps? And what do you think will happen when the judge hands down these sentences?

COPELAND: You know, it's really hard to tell, Alex, specifically, but I'd give you my best guess. My best guess would be that this judge will likely impose life without the possibility of parole, given how heinous this crime was, given how outrage this crime was, given the outrage that it's caused in the community. And, you know, look, long story short, this judge really has an opportunity to sentence them with life without the possibility parole, despite the fact that in Georgia, 30 years is the minimum that they must serve.

So at a minimum he'll have 30 years to give out. And he could also charge them with life without the possibility of parole, and he could do that simply by simply with a stroke of a pen, saying this is it, you're not going to see the light of day.

MARQUARDT: And Areva, as we noted, this is not the end of the road, that sentencing. No matter what happens in the state charges, they're also facing these federal charges and they've pleaded not guilty. Those charges could also result in life imprisonment. So what do you expect to see in that federal case? MARTIN: You're right, Alex. They are not at the end of the road by any

stretch of the imagination. They have these federal hate crime charges that are pending and I expect that trial to move forward. So far it's been set for February of next year. And in that case we're going to see a very different I think presentation of the evidence. Although there is some overlap with respect to the state charges, we're going to see all of that evidence about racial animus, that the prosecutors in this case strategically decided not to introduce into the trial.


We know that there's a Facebook posts and other social media posts and Travis McMichael involving some racially charged statements. We know that apparently Travis McMichael used a racist slur as he stood over Ahmaud Arbery's body as he was dying on that day in February. That information, that evidence is going to come into this trial. So the federal government has a different objective than a state court did with respect to trying these three individuals.

And that is to establish that they were motivated by racial animus toward Ahmaud Arbery. That that was what caused them to chase him down and ultimately killed him. So I expect to see guilty verdicts in the same way that we saw in the state case in this federal case, and also for the feds to send a strong message that he cannot use racial hate to extract violence against, you know, other citizens of this country.

MARQUARDT: You know, race of course such a central factor in this trial. The prosecution in fact criticized for not making it more of a factor in their arguments. There has been a lot of analysis, a lot of discussion about the makeup of the jury, and its lack of representation. 11 jurors were white, one was black, but this is what the lead prosecutor Lisa Dunikoski had to say about that and its importance. Take a listen.


LINDA DUNIKOSKI, LEAD PROSECUTOR: After we picked the jury, we looked at them and realized that we had very, very smart, very intelligent, honest jurors who were going to do their jobs, which is to seek the truth. And so we felt that putting up our case, it didn't matter whether they were black or white, that putting up our case, that this jury would hear the truth, they'd see the evidence, and that they would do the right thing and come back with the correct verdict, which we felt they did today.


MARQUARDT: Trent, do you agree with her that it didn't really matter whether the jurors were black or white?

COPELAND: I do. You know, it's interesting, Alex, because what Miss Dunikoski did in voir dire, the selection process of the jurors, is she strategically and very calculatedly looked at those jurors and struck the jurors, that is screened the jurors from the panel that she believed could not fairly hear the evidence. Now by contrast, the defense lawyers sort of indiscriminately just struck black jurors, raising a challenge what's called a Batson challenge, which says look, you're striking these jurors simply by virtue of their race.

And frankly the judge agreed with it. He said look, under Georgia law, there's nothing I can do about it, but I think what she did and I think she reiterated there is that she understood that the jurors that she strategically struck and by virtue kept jurors that she believed would hear this evidence fairly, I think she made the right call. And it clearly turned out to be the right decision.

MARQUARDT: All right, we've got to leave it there. Thank you both so much for your time on this holiday. Wishing you both a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Areva Martin and Trent Copeland, thank you.

MARTIN: Thanks, Alex.

COPELAND: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: And developing this morning, more luxury retailers have been hit in a growing wave of smash-and-grab crime sprees. In Southern California overnight, thieves struck another Nordstrom store in Los Angeles, pepper spraying a security guard, stealing expensive handbags, among other items. And then there was an Apple store in the Bay Area, near San Francisco, that was targeted in a brazen daylight robbery.

CNN's Camila Bernal is live at the Santa Rosa Plaza where that Apple store was robbed.

Camila, what more can you tell us about these latest incidents?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Alex, good morning. So in this case here in Santa Rosa, we know that at least four people came into this mall middle of the day and they were able to get away with about $20,000 worth of Apple product. This was during a time when the mall was full of customers, full of staff and still they were able to get out into a car and escape.

Unfortunately we're also being told that all of these four men were teenagers, were between the ages of 14 and 18. And so it is concerning and it is scary for a lot of the people who live here in the Bay Area because of course this is something that has been happening in the Bay Area for some time now. And this is just the latest of many of these incidents.

We're also seeing it around the country because we're seeing cases in Los Angeles and in Chicago, for example. And in some of these cases, police departments don't see this as a priority. We also know there's a huge market for these stolen goods. So those are just some of the reasons why this keeps on happening.

But here in the Bay Area in particular, it has been concerning, and they are trying to work on it, but it continues to happen -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: It continues to happen. And the leadership of some of these companies talk about the trauma that their staffs face as a result of this scary phenomenon.

Camila Bernal, thank you so much.

Also this morning, President Biden and his family are back at their traditional Thanksgiving location of Nantucket. The president and first lady sending out a Thanksgiving message to America just a short time ago.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is with the first family in Nantucket. Arlette, what did the president say this morning?


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, we're actually just learning that President Biden is on the move here in Nantucket. He and his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, are heading to the United States Coast Guard Station Brandt Point, where they will virtually meet with service members to offer well wishes and thanks on this Thanksgiving holiday.

Now earlier today the president released a message where he offered a note of gratitude both for those service members, as well as expressing sympathy for those who have lost loved ones and are now confronting this Thanksgiving without them at the table.

Now the Biden family has been coming here to Nantucket for more than 40 years. It's a tradition they skipped last year due to the pandemic, but this year the Biden clan has all descended on this small island off the coast of Massachusetts. And last night we also got word from the White House about the president's colonoscopy that he underwent last Friday.

The White House physician Dr. Kevin O'Connor -- excuse me -- released a letter saying that a 3-millimeter polyp was removed during a routine colonoscopy that the president had on Friday. Now testing on that polyp revealed that it was benign, but it was potentially precancerous. This is similar to one that he had back in 2008. But of course that benign analysis is welcome news on this Thanksgiving holiday for the president.

MARQUARDT: Welcomed news, very good news that it's benign and will not pose much of a risk.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, Arlette, up there in Nantucket, and the whole CNN team. Hope you guys find some turkey later.

Coming up, inflation is driving up the cost of your Thanksgiving meal. And now the Fed could now raise interest rates quite soon. The latest on the U.S. economy that's coming up next.



MARQUARDT: It's a big headline that clashes with your everyday reality, weekly jobless claims plunged to their lowest level in more than 50 years. President Joe Biden says it's more evidence of an economic boom, but at the same time inflation is driving up the costs of everything from food to gas. So joining me now to discuss all this is CNN's global economic analyst. Rana Faroohar. She's also a columnist at the "Financial Times."

Rana, thanks so much for joining me this morning.

RANA FAROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Thank you for having me. Happy Thanksgiving.

MARQUARDT: And to you. Let's start with that specifically, those metrics, unemployment claims, jobs added, the trade deficit. Things are going well by those metrics, but at the same time prices of goods, prices of gas, prices of food are all going up. So overall, simply, do you think things are going well economically?

FAROOHAR: Well, it's hard to argue that we're in a strong recovery. And, you know, that's actually part of the problem. It sounds kind of ironic, but when things are going well, particularly coming out of the pandemic, when, you know, a lot of stuff got disrupted, everything stopped, it takes a while to get supply chains back up running. It takes a while to retrain and hire workers. So we have that period of disruption and then suddenly we have this really pretty roaring economic recovery.

And so when those two things collide, you start to get things like supply chain shortages, you start to get inflation, which is something that of course we're all feeling in our pocketbooks now, although interestingly consumers are still spending in advance of the holiday period. I mean, they are 20 percent up on where they were this time last year, perhaps that's wanting to get back out in those shops, perhaps they're feeling optimistic, but that too contributes to inflation.

MARQUARDT: But at the same time, you know, we've got this majority of Americans who disapprove of the way that President Biden is handling the economy. You can see the 61 percent disapprove in a recent CBS News poll. Is there a disconnect between what he's managed to do and what he's managed to communicate to Americans?

FAROOHAR: Well, I think that that's where the rubber hits the road. It's really hard to argue that anything has been wrong policy-wise. You know, we had a pandemic, the president put a lot of fiscal stimulus into the economy, which I think was needed. He has passed an infrastructure bill, that was certainly needed. But, you know, are Americans really feeling this. This is one of the problems for presidents.

You know, they can do a lot policy-wise, but at the end of the day it's kitchen table economics. Do you feel like you have more money in your wallet? If you don't, then you're probably going to blame the president. I happen to believe that this period of inflation is going to ease. I don't think we're headed back into, you know, the 1970s like some commentators would say.

The question is, does it get better before the midterm elections? I think that's a big political question.

MARQUARDT: What about this notion that Americans are spending their money in the wrong way, that stimulus money, that they didn't go out and spend it in bars and restaurants where people would then be hired and get salaries that way? Instead they spent it online on consumers goods and stayed home.


MARQUARDT: Where do you fall on that argument?

FAROOHAR: Well, you know, it's hard to argue that people aren't still somewhat concerned about COVID. You know, some of that stimulus was coming in the midst of the Delta variant wave. You know, if I were an older person, if I were more vulnerable I probably would be staying at home and buying online.

That said, I think businesses have been incredibly creative. You know, I look around my own neighborhood in New York and I see them adapting, doing more online. There is a lot of good news for businesses coming out of the pandemic, but there is going to be a challenge because there's a lot of technology replacing jobs right now. And that's going to be an issue longer term, certainly for the country and for the president.


MARQUARDT: I want to talk about gas prices specifically, which are obviously very high. President Biden recently made the announcement that he would be releasing -- that the U.S. would be releasing and other countries as well 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves. When do you think American will actually feel that and see the gas prices coming down?

FAROOHAR: So I think you're going to see that before the holidays. And that's the point. You know, a lot of Americans have said, you know, we don't want to travel this year because gas prices are just so high. And, you know, you have to think about the fact that working people pay about 20 percent in many cases of their income in gas. So it makes a difference.

I think you'll see a small decrease in prices certainly before Christmas. The question is, does it last? Oil is a global market. And OPEC controls oil and they have their own interests. They want to see prices as high as possible for as long as possible. So, you know, it's going to be small, but I think it will be soon.

MARQUARDT: All right. Hopefully. Well, Rana Faroohar, thank you very much and Happy Thanksgiving.

FAROOHAR: Happy Thanksgiving.

MARQUARDT: Coming up, what a difference a year makes. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is back with spectators. A live report from the parade route. That's next.



MARQUARDT: The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is back. The balloons, floats, live performances and crowds, as you can see right there. An estimated 2.5 million people lining the streets of New York to watch and cheer on the action after the parade was TV-only event last year because of the pandemic.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is live out there on the parade route.

Miguel, this parade must mean so much for the people of New York and everyone who came into town to see it.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we have all been through in the last year here, in two years in the U.S., across the world, today felt a little like it was getting back to normal.

This is also something you couldn't do up here on Central Park West. The parade in this area is now completely done. You can see the sanitation workers are starting to come through and clean up the entire mess. Another amazing thing about this parade, in a few hours, you wouldn't know that 2.5 million people had lined this route and there was this major parade coming down Central Park West earlier today. They're so good at doing this. They've already put all of the streetlights back into order as well.

But, look, 15 floats, four of them brand new floats. The one that everyone was most excited about was the Grogu, the aka Baby Yoda. Ten marching bands, 28 floats. Just, you know, 2.5 million people lining this parade route, and millions, tens of millions people watching it around the world.

With everything we have been through over the last couple of years, it is just starting to feel like we are getting back to normal -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Yes. I really think it says so much that you get to cover this happy event after everything that you personally have had to cover over the past few years. So many horribly sad COVID stories.

So, Miguel Marquez, in New York, thank you very much.

MARUQEZ: Been a tough one. Happy Thanksgiving.

MARQUARDT: Happy Thanksgiving.

Coronavirus cases meanwhile as well as hospitalizations are on the rise in a very concerning way. Americans are hoping to have a more Thanksgiving -- more normal Thanksgiving tonight, I should say.

Joining me now to talk about all this is Dr. Carlos del Rio. He's the executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine at the Grady Health System.

Doctor, thank you so much for joining me and Happy Thanksgiving. DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL

OF MEDICINE AT GRADY: Happy Thanksgiving to you, Alex.

MARQUARDT: I want to talk about, you know, families getting together this year. This is the second Thanksgiving of course during this pandemic. But this year extremely different than last year when essentially no one was vaccinated. How are you celebrating personally? What are you telling your patients to do today?

DEL RIO: Well, Alex, we're celebrating by getting together with small group of family and we're doing it, everybody is vaccinated. We have a 1-year-old that is not vaccinated, but that's the only person unvaccinated in the household. Most people have also been boosted. We are asking that anybody who has any symptoms does not come and we are offering also a rapid test as a possibility if somebody wants to be tested ahead of time. Again, we have testing, we have vaccines, we have many ways to decrease the risk of transmission at this point.

MARQUARDT: You just touched on it. I mean, obviously. So many families getting together, have young kids, what about those young children who are too young to be vaccinated? Those under 5. And of course, in many cases, those young children 5 to 11 who can be vaccinated have only had one shot.

DEL RIO: Well, we know the best way to protect our children is by getting all the adults around them vaccinated. So again, if everybody else is vaccinated, the young kids will be protected. Those kids under 1 have had so far little exposure. We get infected because they've been, you know, in contact with an adult who has not been vaccinated or who have been infection. Again, breakthrough cases are occurring. And we can decrease those by giving boosters. Boosters have now been approved to everybody. So at the end of the day, get boosted if you can. That's a great Thanksgiving present, Christmas present for your family.

MARQUARDT: Yes. Best thing you can do for those children is get vaccinated yourself if you're an adult. Let's talk about some of these numbers.