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Three Men Face Life Sentence After Murder Convictions In Arbery Killing; T.S.A. Record Pandemic-Era Travel The Day Before Thanksgiving; More Smash And Grab Robberies, Apple, Nordstrom Stores Hit. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 25, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: Hello and Happy Thanksgiving. Welcome to a Special Holiday edition of NEWSROOM. I'm Jessica Dean in Washington, D.C. Ana Cabrera is off today.

This Thanksgiving, an answered prayer and one mother's long, painful fight for justice.


WANDA COOPER-JONES, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: I was overwhelmed with joy because we finally got justice for Ahmaud. The word "guilty" was the word that I wanted to hear 18 months ago, and we finally got that word of guilty.

And I knew it was my job as mom to really find out what happened to Ahmaud. I prayed, God answered my prayers.

So I'm just thankful.


DEAN: Ahmaud Arbery's mother speaking with CNN, and you heard her very thankful today, as these three men now face life in prison after all were found guilty of murdering her son while he was jogging.

"Run with Ahmaud" became a rallying cry for racial justice. Federal hate crime charges are now up next in the case, as well as sentencing and potential appeals. CNN's Ryan Young is live in Brunswick, Georgia and Ryan, you covered this case, extensively. It's another emotional thanksgiving for Arbery's family -- and bittersweet.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, as you can imagine, you don't only think about what they're feeling today, the emotions of what happened yesterday. But the long haul to get to the point where we are, two laws have changed in the state because of this case.

Now, there's a hate Crime Law in the State of Georgia, and they got rid of that Citizen's Arrest Law that was here for so long.

I want to show you this video of the men being taken out of court yesterday. It was so surreal to see them walking away in handcuffs under police guard, with the crowd cheering, as they were excited about the guilty verdicts being read. And you think about the mother who was pushing so hard, in this case to make sure that the people who killed her son were held responsible.

And Linda Dunikoski, the prosecutor from Cobb County, who came here to put on this case, talked about what the jury had to do, and what they saw when it came to the evidence.


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 are going to do their job, 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.


YOUNG: Yes, Jessica, when you think about this, when that woman stepped out of court yesterday, they were cheering for her. I've never seen that for a prosecutor before. But when you think about this case, it all comes down to the video, that cell phone video that was captured by one of the defendants. That is what really started this whole conversation.

One of his lawyers actually leaked that video thinking that it was going to help in terms of calming the community down; it only did the reverse, because so many people saw what they didn't want to see in that video, which is three men chasing down one unarmed man.

And so now the conversation moves forward, you've got Federal charges. You still have sentencing. All this will take place over the next few months -- Jessica.

DEAN: All right, more to come on this Ryan Young. Our thanks to you.

And joining us now is Marilyn Mosby, State Attorney for Baltimore City, and Joey Jackson, a criminal defense attorney.

Great to see both of you. Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for making time for us today.


DEAN: Marilyn, I want to start with you and the defense in this case, for the three men, their lawyers say they're going to appeal. At what point -- do you think that has any chances of being successful?

MOSBY: So now that they've been convicted of these murder charges, and they're facing life, we know that the Judge will ultimately, at the sentencing decide whether or not he's going to impose parole, but this is pretty typical.

The defendants will likely appeal the convictions, which is pretty standard in criminal trials. They'll allege that the Judge committed some form of error in excluding certain evidence at trial, which they'll argue was necessary for their defense.

And in this particular case, I believe they stopped to introduce Ahmaud Arbery's criminal record. There was -- they sought to introduce the fact that he was on probation at the time that he was killed. There were reports of his mental health that they wanted to introduce. And they were even seeking to introduce the use of force expert that the Judge denied.

So I don't think that either any of that was relevant to the case. But I do think that in the end, we will determine whether they'll prevail on the appeal, and I don't think that it will.

DEAN: Right. Right. And Joey, it's unclear when the sentencing and all this was going to be but All three of these men are facing minimum sentences of life in prison and the Judge will decide whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole. How do you see this playing out?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Jessica. Good to be with you. And Marilyn as well, you know, wow, what a day yesterday was and what a day, this whole thing, what week this has been.

You know, I think it plays out in significant ways. And what I mean by that is, I certainly think that they will all be appropriately sentenced to life in prison. And then let's not forget on the backdrop of that, as that plays out, and they are sentenced, we have the Federal charges, right?

The Federal charges, of course, having to do and being predicated upon the defendants chasing down an otherwise -- detaining and otherwise killing, Ahmaud Arbery predicated upon his race.

And so I think the Federal government has an imperative, they'll move forward sometime late winter, early spring, February-March or so. And I think they will be held accountable.

And just briefly, Jessica, it's really interesting to talk about this in the context of how we got here, right? This was not a case initially, we should really be reminding everyone of. Remember, the first DA, Jackie Johnson, essentially ordered that there not be an arrest, right? And now of course, she's facing an indictment on her own.

And then after that, another prosecutor George Barnhill wrote a memorandum famously saying that the conduct of the three defendants was perfectly legal. Right? And so thereafter, it just -- it's a tremendous civic lesson in how communities can rise up and say, something is wrong here. And the people coming together, getting another look, and finally getting that measure of justice.

So, it's just an incredible civics lesson all the way around, the power lies always with the people.

DEAN: Yes, it is incredible to think that we almost didn't even get to this point. But for so many other things happening, for people rising up and saying something is very wrong here, and there needs to be justice.

Marilyn, Joey, there talked about the Federal charges in the Federal trial that's going to be moving forward soon. A key piece of evidence from the first trial was the 9-1-1 tape from Greg McMichael and the operator asks, "What's your emergency?" McMichael replies, "A black male is running down the street."

In your opinion, Marilyn, is this a pretty cut and dry case in terms of the fact that was racially motivated? Or, you know, how will they expand on that moving forward in this Federal case?

MOSBY: So, I think it's going to be really important now that they have been charged with these Federal hate crimes. For the Federal government to successfully prosecute these charges, it has to prove that the interference of his Civil Rights were motivated by race. And so clearly, the Federal government will have that use of that evidence, and it came out in the State's case with a 9-1-1 call. But it's going to go beyond that. Right?

Because what we know is that there was a basis for Gregory McMichael's concern that not only was a black man running down the street, but we know that when it came to Mr. Bryan, he testified -- he could have testified, he didn't take the stand, which is why this didn't come out, but at the time that Travis McMichael stood over after he killed Ahmaud Arbery, he stood over his body and called him the N-word.

That evidence didn't come in in the state case, because Mr. Bryan never took the stand. So, he was never cross examined. However, if I'm the prosecution, clearly, this is the type of evidence where there is an explicit remark made that reveals the animus for black people, and it is key to the Federal prosecution.

So if I'm the government, I'd be looking to give Mr. Bryan some sort of deal or immunity to have him take the stand and testify to us that statement against the McMichael's.

DEAN: And quickly, before we go, Joey, I want to get the last question to you. You talked about just what it took to get to this point, and we are reminded that the former prosecutor in Glynn County, Jackie Johnson was indicted on charges of violation of oath of public office for knowing and willingly directing two County police officers tonight even arrest Travis McMichael.

What happens next to her? And also what does it say that this could have just gotten wept under the rug so easily? It didn't, thank goodness, but it could have.

JACKSON: Yes, Jessica, great question. And I think that again, a testament to people moving forward. With regard to what happens with her case, she'll be held accountable as she should be.

You know, the standard to arrest someone, we should remind everyone, is there is probable cause to believe they committed a crime, not if they're guilty, not you have all evidence, documents not you're ready to go when they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It's a very low standard.

So based upon that standard, there was every reason that she would have ordered that arrest and the defendants in this case, not be out for two and a half and a half months really before they're brought to justice.

But right then, and so she of course with that indictment is being indicted for violating her oath of office. She has an obligation to that community to really do her job and not to curry favor and not to otherwise, you know, give people opportunities that not everyone else gets.


JACKSON: And so she'll be prosecuted for that and then the open question is not only should she be prosecuted but also, Mr. Barnhill for indicating later on that it was perfectly legal, this behavior, that now three defendants are going to spend the rest of their life in jail, he writes a memorandum to that effect. And so that there could or should be an investigation into his conduct, and let's see what criminality lies in that.

So, I think that's what they can expect moving forward. We also can expect, as I noted before the Federal case, and to very quickly Marilyn's excellent point regarding the racial animus, what has to be proven, I think they not only will use that N-word, but there is some indication that their text messages around these three where they're saying things that are, you know, really not for television, and I think that will come up in that case, too, because it goes to state of mind, then it goes to demonstrate what their motivations are.

So, a lot to come here, Jessica.

DEAN: All right, Marilyn Mosby and Joey Jackson again, happy Thanksgiving, and thanks so much for being with us.

JACKSON: Thank you so much.

MOSBY: Thank you, Jessica.

DEAN: Yesterday's verdict, of course, bringing a giant sigh of relief and answered prayers for Arbery's family, and with us now for more on this is global human rights leader, Martin Luther King, III.

Mr. King, thanks so much for being with us today. I want to ask you first, what does this verdict in this Southern Georgia city mean to you and really mean for all Americans this afternoon?

MARTIN LUTHER KING, III, HUMAN RIGHTS LEADER: I don't like to use the term "victory." But I certainly feel that as it relates to the Arbery family, you know, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery, it certainly represented justice for them. I think the bigger question is this, this -- while this is momentarily victorious, if we have to look at cases generally, I would say that most cases, this result does not occur. And in fact, you know, wonder, Jones yesterday stated, you know, his

mom, that there are many mothers who will not get or have not gotten justice, and they must continue to hold on and continue to endure, and perhaps that can come sometimes.

I still think our system, we call it a criminal justice system, but it is a criminal system, but it is yet not proven today. Yesterday, it proved that it can be a just system. But generally, as it relates to African-American -- the African-American community, the black and brown community, oftentimes justice is not achieved. That means that work has to be done to the system.

DEAN: Yes, more work ahead. And during the trial, we saw one defense attorney repeatedly villainizing the presence of Black pastors there in the town, in the courtroom. Another lawyer sparking outrage with comments in the front of the jury about Arbery's legs and toenails.

Were you surprised by those attacks? Were you concerned that they would work or resonate with the jury? What was your thought about some of those things that were said?

KING: Actually, I didn't know. I was not surprised. I was greatly disappointed that our system and our society and our judicial -- not judicial, excuse me -- legal, people would use -- defense attorneys -- this kind of strategy. It just goes to show again, where we are in this country. You're trying to paint someone as inhumane.

And so, there again, is where work has to go. You know, a defense lawyer could have come up with additional or different strategies. You don't have to go -- you don't have to go to the gutter, and that's exactly what she did. She went to the gutter. It is greatly disappointing, but certainly not unexpected.

DEAN: And faith was such a vital component, of course, in your father and your mother's fights for justice. It was a key component here for Arbery's family. They prayed for this moment.

As you think about this case, and what it means to be black in America. You talk about the criminal justice system and the reforms that you want to see. What role does faith play in all of that moving forward?

KING: Well, faith in our tradition, has been tremendous, and you know what happened? One of the things we saw was we saw several different evangelists. I mean, not just Christians, but you had Christians, Muslims, you had Jews. You had a number of people coming to the table and praying.

Prayer does consistently show and makes a difference. You know, I think our biggest challenge -- one of the biggest challenges we have to accomplish in this country is again creating a true just criminal system that works for everyone and not just working for some or working for those who are wealthy.


DEAN: Right. All right, well Martin Luther King, III, thank you so much for your time. We sure do appreciate it. Happy Thanksgiving.

KING: And same to you. Thank you so much.

DEAN: Thank you.

We have seen a surge in violent and unruly airline passengers and now the Justice Department stepping in to prioritize the prosecution of unruly passengers amid a sharp jump in assaults and wild behavior at 30,000 feet.

Plus, more high-end stores hit in new smash and grab robberies over the past 24 hours. Why does this keep happening?

And President Biden revealing he had a potentially precancerous polyp removed during a recent colonoscopy. What the White House is saying about that?

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.



DEAN: A milestone on the road to normalcy. The T.S.A. screened more people yesterday than on any other day since the start of the pandemic. More than 2.3 million people passed through security checkpoints ahead of thanksgiving. That is the seventh straight day of more than two million passengers.

And with the surge in volume, a spike in unruly passengers. CNN aviation correspondent, Pete Muntean is at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia. Pete, now the Justice Department stepping in on this.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jessica. The head of the Association of Flight Attendants, Sara Nelson says it is about time that these ugly unruly passengers face prison time and Attorney General Merrick Garland is now directing Federal prosecutors, U.S. attorneys to prioritize these cases because remember the issue here.

The Federal Aviation Administration which oversees the skies cannot press criminal charges, it can only assess civil fines when this problem is really off the charts. Just look at the numbers, 5,300 reports of unruly incidents onboard flights by flight crews to the F.A.A.

The F.A.A. has initiated enforcement action in 266 of those cases. It has referred 37 of the most extreme cases, to the Department of Justice. And then those passengers could face prison time.

So there is a pretty big disparity between reports and referral to the D.O.J. The head of the D.O.J., A.G. Merrick Garland says, quote: "Passengers who assault, intimidate, or threaten violence against flight crews do more than harm employees. They prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel." Garland also says that there is a partnership between the F.A.A. and the D.O.J. They are sharing more information all the time.

The F.A.A. just announced a new slew of fines for unruly passengers, including $40,000.00 for a passenger accused of allegedly sexually assaulting a flight attendant.

This is a really big problem, Jessica, and it's happening as so many people are coming back to air travel, 2.3 million people at airports across the country screened by the T.S.A. just yesterday, and it seems those numbers will only go up from here. SUNDAY after Thanksgiving is typically the biggest when everybody comes home all at once.

DEAN: Right. And we'll be keeping an eye on those numbers. And also just yes, it's just been outrageous what people are doing on these airplanes.

All right, Pete Muntean for us, thanks so much.

Also hitting the skies this morning, the iconic balloons and some new friends during Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The 95th annual tradition returning to the streets of New York City with an estimated two and a half million people along the route. And of course millions more watching at home.

Remember last year, everyone had to watch from home given the pandemic back in person though this year, which is great. Just another reason to be thankful.

There was singing, dancing, a call from President Biden, and of course the big man himself, Santa there to kick off the holiday season.

Well, the surge in smash-and-grab robberies at high end stores is leading authorities to ramp up security in several cities.

Yet two more of these robberies happened overnight. We've got details coming up next.



DEAN: In California, the search is on for the thieves behind not one, but two new smash and grab robberies overnight. One of them happened at an Apple store in the Bay Area where suspects grabbed more than $20,000.00 worth of goods. The other in the Canoga Park area of Los Angeles where robbers assaulted and pepper sprayed a Nordstrom security guard before making off with thousands of dollars' worth of expensive handbags.

CNN's Camila Bernal is live in Los Angeles following this story for us and, Camila, police are calling these organized shoplifting groups. What's going on here?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's really the million dollar question, and in part, some of these police departments don't see these cases as a priority, and at the same time, you're seeing a huge market for these stolen goods. And I'm actually in Santa Rosa in the Bay Area, and in the case here, we know that at least four people went into this mall and came out with about $20,000.00 worth of Apple products.

Unfortunately, we're talking about teenagers because the police department is here saying, they were ages 14 to 18. It happened in the middle of the day with shoppers, with staff, and yet they were able to come out of the mall, get into a car and get away.

Now in Los Angeles, we know that there are several of these incidents that are also being investigated. The one you mentioned at the Nordstrom, authorities believe at least five people were involved in that one, one of them wearing an orange wig.

And so, LAPD says they are investigating and says that they are increasing patrols. That's something that we're seeing here in the Bay Area as well in San Francisco. I saw many officers surrounding the luxury stores because in San Francisco, we're talking about the Nordstrom, the Bloomingdale's, the Louis Vuitton, the YSL, the Burberry and even places like Walgreens, so this is really a concerning and an ongoing issue here in the Bay Area.

The Chief of Police in San Francisco saying that they will watch hours and hours of surveillance video trying to figure out who these people are in order to make arrests.