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Fed Rate Hikes; Adnan Syed Conviction Vacated; Stephen Bright Featured in Champions for Change. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 20, 2022 - 09:30   ET



GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Including possibly using cruise ships as a way to house people while they are going through the system. And, as you said, while they're being connected to some of the services that they're in need of.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Gloria, thanks so much for covering. Clearly an issue we're going to continue to cover here.

In financial news today, the big question, as the Federal Reserve begins its two-day policy meeting today, not if but how much the Fed will raise interest rates.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Another steep hike could be the Fed's latest attempt to get inflation under control.

Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us now.

OK, big decision to make and all the sort of people betting on this are saying, you know, very high likelihood they raise at least 75 basis points.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And that's gigantic. That is a gigantic one-time move. And that will be the third one in a row. So it just tells you how seriously the Fed is taking this quest to crush inflation. There are concerns the Fed got started on this too late and now is having to play some catch up here.

So, you're looking at another 75 basis point move. There are some who are saying there's an outside chance that they could really shock with a full percentage point. That's an outlier kind of a forecast, but that is a very aggressive, big move there.

And it will raise the cost of borrowing. So, the cure for high inflation, they hope, is higher interest rates, which you will feel anyway, right, in your -- homeowners will, new homeowners will, mortgage rates already above 6 percent here, car loans, all these different kinds of loans. And 401(k) stock investors have already felt this, too, because the shift to a higher interest rate environment to fight inflation has been tough on portfolios this year. You've had stock losses this year of 15 percent for the S&P 500.

So, the Fed expected to hike rates strongly here, again. And what's really important, Poppy and Jim, is what they say going forward. We're going to get new economic forecasts and that could really give us a sense of how much pain will be in the economy and for how long. How long they're going to be going here with these higher rates and what they expect it will do for the economy and the jobless rate.

SCIUTTO: So, Christine, we have spoken with you multiple times about the many conflicting signals in this economy.


SCIUTTO: For instance, a strong job market with high inflation. The other figure Alison mentioned just a few minutes ago is that home sales actually jumped in August. That's despite this jump in interest rates. What's happening here?

ROMANS: Yes, you're seeing -- look, these mortgage rates going up I think is going to cool the housing market. And you've already seen some signs of that overall. There were some Zillow numbers this week that showed that home prices were finally starting to roll over. You just haven't had a lot of supply in the housing market, right, and so that's kept -- that's kept sales kind of -- when you can finally find a house to buy, people want to buy it.

But, overall, every positive sign in the economy, there's a negative sign that goes with it. You know, that FedEx warning we talked about last week is something we're going to be closely watching, other corporate earnings in the weeks ahead to see if other major industries are starting to see things unravel here in the last few weeks.

SCIUTTO: Got it.

HARLOW: Bracing ourselves, everyone.

Christine Romans, thanks very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

HARLOW: Still ahead, his story led to one of the most well-known podcasts of all time. He was convicted in his girlfriend's murder, "Serial" podcast Adnan Syed out of prison, though, this morning after a judge vacated that conviction. The story is not over. Up next, how DNA evidence could send him potentially back to court.



SCIUTTO: This morning, quite a development in a decades-long saga here. Adnan Syed, the man at the center of the popular "Serial" podcast is waking up at home. This after a Baltimore judge vacated his conviction. More on what that means exactly in a moment.

Syed spent more than 20 years behind bars for the murder of his former girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. He has maintained his innocence the entire time.

HARLOW: Our CNN correspondent Alexandra Field has been following all of this.

Things have really - I mean you've been talking about this a lot in the last week. Prosecutors now have 30 days to decide if new DNA evidence will be enough to try his case again. Plus, not to mention, there are two other people that they are looking at very closely. It seems like a lot of new evidence.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, prosecutors being very clear that the investigation is very active. This 30-day time frame will apply to the decision of whether or not to retry or go to a new trial, rather, for Adnan Syed and DNA testing will play an incredibly critical role in that. DNA testing has always been a part of this case. It was used at the time of the initial trial. There were items that were tested again in 2018. But as the technology continues to evolve, prosecutors are relying on it once again.

So, they say they are taking items that were recovered at the time of the crime, they are trying to get new DNA results using the evolved technology. That will help them to determine whether to proceed to new trial or dismiss the charges entirely.

Now, until then, Adnan Syed will remain free from prison but under electronic surveillance. Seeing him walk out of that Baltimore courtroom came as a huge shock to the family of Hae Min Lee. Their attorney saying the family is actually devastated by how quickly this happened. They had been led to believe one thing for some 23 years. They are left now not knowing what to think.


STEVE KELLY, ATTORNEY FOR VICTIM HAE MIN LEE'S FAMILY: The family just wants answers, you know? And what should have happened here is that a responsible prosecutor's office would have sat down with them and explained it to them and maybe they would have been on board with the motion.


But what you don't do is you don't shut a family like this out of the process and sort of ram a deal like this down their throat. And that's what happened yesterday. This family was railroaded, they were excluded. This was a done deal. You know, it made for good press, but it was devastating to this family.


FIELD: This attorney saying that the family is exploring options to appeal the decision, but really he says the family wasn't given time to either understand or oppose this motion. Hae Min Lee's brother did address the courtroom via Zoom, and he said in what was really poignant language that for him this is not a podcast, this is real life.

HARLOW: Yes, it's their -- it is their loved one's life. Twenty-three years of believing one thing and now having so many questions. And, again, being, as the attorney said it, left out of the process. So, thank you, Alex, very, very much.


SCIUTTO: All right, let's discuss the law.

CNN legal analyst, criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson.

Joey, first, this is rare to have a decision like this vacated after some 20 some odd years. That's not exonerated, it's vacated, but what is the standard required for a judge to come to a decision like this?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, Jim, good morning to you.

The hallmark of our democracy and our process is that you get a fair trial. And so to the extent that evidence comes forward to the court of law indicating that the trial is not fair, then the judge certainly is in a position to move upon the motion. It is extraordinary inasmuch as the prosecutors did not only move to vacate the conviction, but they agreed to his release. Of course, he has GPS monitoring. But the standard essentially is whether the trial was fair or are there irregularities or abnormalities that would make it not fair. This judge concluding, Jim, it was not fair, he deserves a new trial.


JACKSON: Prosecutors having 30 days to make the assessment as to whether they should try him again.

SCIUTTO: And to your point, the prosecutors agreed to his release. That's a notable aspect to this.

OK, let's talk about potential new evidence here. At the top of the list is new DNA tests. They've improved a lot. DNA was involved in the original conviction, but they've improved a lot since then. So, tell us about the role of new DNA testing of evidence now in any further legal steps or upcoming decisions about whether he is fully exonerated, or not.

JACKSON: Yes, so, Jim, yes, DNA evidence is critical. It's critical really in two regards. The first thing is that you're going to test for DNA. And, of course, the DNA is far more advanced now than it was back then.


JACKSON: You have what's called touch DNA, that is simply touching the clothing could reveal the indication and the information that DNA is there. And so in the first respect, you're going to test the DNA to determine whether his DNA is present, right?


JACKSON: The second thing is you're going to determine if there is other DNA present and if his is absent. Now, if his DNA is there, perhaps there's an innocent explanation. She indeed was, right, his girlfriend at some prior time, not suggesting his DNA was, but I think the DNA will be very valuable to suggest whether it could be other people who did this. Prosecutors believing there's at least two other suspects that were not disclosed to the defense that should have been so that the defense could have made an assessment and cross-examined them as we look at the timeline there, Jim.

SCIUTTO: That was going to be my next question. Tell us the role of that. Marilyn Mosby, the state's attorney here, says those alternative suspects were, quote, not properly ruled out nor disclosed to the defense. Tell us the importance of that, not just the investigation, but legally to getting a fair trial.

JACKSON: So, Jim, it's very important when you have information that would tend to -- the legal term is exculpate, that means, right, in the one hand you have information that's very incriminating, that means information that puts you there, information that would suggest you were guilty. In the alternative to that, when you look at exculpatory information, what that means in English is information the prosecution has that would exclude you, that would tend to show that you're innocent. When you have information about two other suspects and that's not disclosed to the defense, that's relevant because a jury can't make an assessment as to whether or not it could have been someone else.


JACKSON: You add on to that the two specific suspects who apparently one having said in public, according to the DA in this case, Ms. Mosby, that they would make her disappear, that's pretty relevant for a jury to hear. Another having been convicted of sexual assault in some regard, that's also, you know, very reliable information. And so to the extent that the jury did not hear that, Jim, and it goes to what I said at the outset, which is the denial of a fair trial, which is at the hallmark of really this whole discussion.


Well, it's a remarkable story. We're going to continue to follow it.

Joey Jackson, good to have you break it all down.

JACKSON: Always. Thanks, Jim.

HARLOW: Well, Joey just talked about the hallmark really being the right to a fair trial.


Ahead, CNN is honoring those whose actions have had a ripple effect and are changing the world. Up next, the remarkable story of attorney and "Champion for Change," Stephen Bright.


HARLOW: Welcome back.

So, this week, CNN is sharing the uplifting personal stories of a dozen "Champions for Change."


In a weeklong special event, we are highlighting shining examples of humanity, people who give hope and people who inspire.

And today we bring you the story of Stephen Bright. He was my professor last year in law school and an attorney who has dedicated his life to being a voice for the voiceless, a fierce advocate for equal justice and a person who shows all of us the power of determination.


TONY AMADEO, FORMER DEATH ROW INMATE: When you're on death row, that's when the clock really starts ticking. He just said, I'm going to do my best. And, yes, he saved my life.

SHANNA SHACKELFORD, FORMER ARSON DEFENDANT: I was like, I'm not going to make it through this. I can't do 25 years in prison.

STEPHEN BRIGHT, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: The people that we've represent have been the most desperate, the most despised, unfortunately, and the poorest and powerless people in the - in the country.

HARLOW: Stephen Bright is a lawyer, but for his clients he is their last hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Katharine Julia Harlow.

HARLOW: I met him the day that I walked into his class at Yale Law School.

BRIGHT: Thanks to them and thanks to their work, both in Atlanta and here, there's one less person facing execution in Georgia today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listening to him talk is like listening to justice.

HARLOW: He's a force of nature and he has dedicated his entire life really to fighting for equal justice.

BRIGHT: If we don't do better, we're going to have to sand blast equal justice under law off the Supreme Court building.

HARLOW: He's really driven by this deep belief that he has an obligation to be a voice for the voiceless. To stand up when everyone else stays seated.

What does the Southern Center for Human Rights stand for?

BRIGHT: Representing people facing the death penalty and represent people in prisons and jails with regard to unconstitutional conditions and practices.

I wanted to go where the problems were and where I could be helpful.

HARLOW: He has argued four capital punishment cases before the Supreme Court and he won them all.

You've often said, people are always much more than the worse thing that they've ever done.

BRIGHT: Well, of course. Tony Amadeo is a perfect example.

AMADEO: I get up in the morning, make me a cup of coffee. I think about my blessings, what brought me here.

HARLOW: Tony Amadeo served 38 years in prison for his involvement in two murders.

AMADEO: I'm responsible for their grief, my family's grief. I'm deeply, deeply sorry.

HARLOW: How close was Tony Amadeo to being put to death?

BRIGHT: Well, he came pretty close. But we basically threw sort of a Hail Mary pass by asking the Supreme Court to take the case.

HARLOW: He won in a unanimous decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The evidence discloses an intentional program of rigging the jury by the prosecutors' office.

HARLOW: Why do you represent people that you know have committed murder?

BRIGHT: Everyone has to be represented if the legal system's going to work.

AMADEO: If you talk about a "Champion for Change," you're talking about somebody that makes an individual commitment for the betterment of other people. I'm getting emotional.

BRYAN STEVENSON, FOUNDER, EQUAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE: I certainly wouldn't have been the kind of lawyer I became without his model.

HARLOW: Civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson started working with Bright right out of law school. He would go on to found the Equal Justice Initiative.

STEVENSON: In a lot of ways it does become like ministry. I think you can't actually appreciate the burdens of the condemned, of the poor, of the marginalized if you haven't tried to carry some of those burdens.

HARLOW: You have to let your heart be broken.

STEVENSON: Yes, that's right. Steve made it safe to love the people you represent.

HARLOW (voice over): Like Shanna Shackelford, who was falsely charged with burning down her home.

HARLOW (on camera): What happened in 2009? SHACKELFORD: My house burned down. I ended up getting blamed. We lose

everything. End up homeless. And I was charged with first-degree arson. They offered me 25 years at first.

HARLOW: Twenty-five years in prison?

SHACKELFORD: Yes. And then -

HARLOW: For a fire you didn't set?


HARLOW: And then you wrote a letter to someone.

BRIGHT: I received a letter just two weeks ago.

SHACKELFORD: Oh, my God, I have not seen this letter in forever.

I've lost my job. I've lost my home. I've lost my dogs. Now I sleep in my car.

BRIGHT: I'm tired and I'm beaten and I don't understand how to fight this. It's been days now since I've eaten.

HARLOW: So Bright took on her case for free.

What happened to the charges?

SHACKELFORD: They were dropped.

HARLOW: Dropped, because he had done a few weeks of investigation.

SHACKELFORD: And it was determined that it was actually an electrical fire.

HARLOW: How long has it been since you saw him?

SHACKELFORD: About a decade now.

HARLOW: What would you say to him if you got to see him?

SHACKELFORD: Thank you for saving my life.

HARLOW: We thought it would be nice if you could tell him yourself.

STEVENSON: Because of his teaching and influence, he is doing more than most people to make sure that that legacy is carried on by new generations of lawyers and advocates.


But nothing's ever quite as good as the original.


SCIUTTO: Wow, what a moment at the end. She had no idea that he was going to be there?

HARLOW: No idea. She had no idea he was going to be there. And we - I honestly credit to my amazing producer, Chris Perry (ph), on this because he thought, well, what if they could see each other, what if they could meet.


HARLOW: And so Stephen Bright flew down to Georgia to see Shanna. He changed her life, Jim, because he stood up for justice, he stood up for the law. He took her case when no other competent lawyer would take her case. She was poor, living in her car, accused of something she didn't do. He took her case. Now she's started her own business.


HARLOW: She has adorable seven year old son Jayben (ph).


HARLOW: And I think it goes to the core of who he is, which is his - his core belief that everyone deserves competent counsel, right?


HARLOW: The Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright said everyone gets a lawyer when you're charged with a crime but it doesn't guarantee that you have an effective lawyer.


HARLOW: And that's what he is fighting for. His whole life is dedicated to it.

SCIUTTO: And we've seen them covered, as a network, so many stories when the lack of competent defense, right, has often led to miscarriages of justice.



HARLOW: That's right. That's right.

So, an honor to get to learn from him and I'm glad we could shine a light on his.


HARLOW: And look forward to your piece tomorrow, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, that will be tomorrow.

HARLOW: All right, we will continue to share these inspiring stories, as we said, all week. Be sure to tune in this Saturday, 8:00 Eastern -- 8:00 p.m. Eastern for CNN's "Champions for Change" one hour special.

SCIUTTO: And still ahead, the latest forecast as Hurricane Fiona, pictures there, already a category three, on track, sadly, to get even bigger.