Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Marine Veteran Surrenders to Face Manslaughter Charge; U.S. Braces for Tens of Thousands of Migrants as Border Rule Expires; Millions of Americans to Celebrate Mother's Day this Sunday. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 12, 2023 - 08:30   ET




PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Just minutes ago, a Marine veteran turned himself into New York City police in the killing of a homeless man on the subway. Manhattan District Attorney's Office says they are charge 24-year-old Daniel Penny with manslaughter. And his lawyer just spoke outside the police precinct.


THOMAS KENNIFF, ATTORNEY FOR DANIEL PENNY: Good morning. Daniel Penny surrendered at the fifth precinct at the request of the New York County District Attorney's Office. He did so voluntarily and with the sort of dignity and integrity that is characteristic of his history of service to this grateful nation. The case will now go to court. We expect an arraignment will occur this afternoon and the process will unfold from there.


MATTINGLY: Let's bring in former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Saland. And I want to start with kind of the basic here because everybody has seen the video, knows kind of the conversation about this, they've been waiting for something to happen. What exactly does manslaughter in the second-degree mean and what do you think of that charge in this case?

JEREMY SALAND, FORMER MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Absolutely. For preliminary matter, homicide is not necessarily a murder, although it can be, and a murder is an intentional crime. This is a reckless crime. There is a standard of care and he was aware of and the allegation will be that there was an unjustifiable and a real risk that death could occur based on his actions and he ignored that risk or was reckless with that and ultimately it resulted in Mr. Neely's death.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: The D.A., Alvin Brag, had options here. He could have done this now, could have done this arrest the day of or the day after or could have brought it before a grand jury and let that grand jury decide. What do you make of this move? SALAND: Well, I think they did the right thing out of the gate. You have to have your homework done or your ducks in a row and make sure all the evidence is there. You don't want to just charge someone with a crime that might not be the correct crime. They did their investigation. They spoke to witnesses. They got video.

HARLOW: Is this enough?

SALAND: It could be very well be. It's interesting because if the evidence is there to charge him with this manslaughter in the second- degree, arguably, they should go right to the grand jury and present that case to the grand jury, let the grand jury decide, let them vote. And if it's manslaughter in the second-degree, proceed.

This is a felony complaint. It's very different. It hasn't reached that stage. Maybe they are looking at other charges. Maybe they are gathering some other evidence. But they have enough at least now to charge them. But that's a reasonable question. Why not go right to the grand jury?


MATTINGLY: This has been a complex case I think for the city, I think for the entire country, trying to figure it out. I think to some people, it's very obvious it happened and that it shouldn't happen, and for any number of different reasons, other people are trying to think through it in different ways.

As you think through a grand jury, as you think through perhaps a future jury, what are you thinking of if you were a prosecutor trying to bring this case?

SALAND: Well, there is a very emotional strong component because it's such a tragic event. And one tragedy doesn't say another tragedy should be okay. And what I mean by that is there is someone who died without reason, without cause, he should not have died. And there are arguments to be made and we have only seen that one clip of the video, and it should never have reached that point.

But at the same time, prosecutors really have to make sure this was a just result and ensure that whatever the charges is the right one. We don't charge someone with a crime above and beyond because there is a very genuine emotional piece to it. There is a crime. It's maybe manslaughter in the second-degree. It's a C felony as opposed to the murder, which is vastly different and more serious.

So, I think they really have to make sure that this is really done right and well and thorough because you are controlling the public opinion and emotion but you're also doing what is right for the case, even if in the end it's tragic no matter what.

HARLOW: Errol Louis brought up the point that this is going to rely largely on the testimony of all of the people who were on that subway car and it's intermingled with the fact and the narrative about crime in this city despite some of the facts and fear and all of that. It's complicated. SALAND: It's very complicated. And I would hope that -- and I am confident that the D.A.'s office and I hope that potential jurors would set aside any noise about what Mr. Penny's history is or what, more importantly, Mr. Neely's history is in terms of his criminal history. That's not relevant. What is only relevant is what happened in that subway car or maybe leading into that subway car. Were people in imminent danger of serious physical injury or death that allowed or justified Mr. Penny to take the action that he did? And I won't pass judgment because I have not seen all the evidence, nor has anyone else. We haven't heard from the witnesses. So, we have a lot to discover still.

MATTINGLY: And awfully difficult to do that in a vacuum, right --

SALAND: Absolutely.

MATTINGLY: -- try and just centralize that. There is going to be a lot more on this. Jeremy Saland, thanks so much for walking us through.

SALAND: My pleasure.

HARLOW: Thanks, Jeremy.

Even before Title 42 expired, the city of El Paso had hundreds of migrants living on streets. The mayor joins us live as his city prepares now for a post-Title 42 reality.



HARLOW: It has been nearly nine hours since the pandemic era border policy known as Title 42 expired. Hundreds of migrants at the southern border are hoping for a shot at asylum in the United States, though administration officials have tried to make it clear the border is not open.

Tens of thousands of migrants are already in custody as cities along the border, like El Paso, Texas, have braced for this moment.

So, let me bring in the Democratic mayor of El Paso, Oscar Leeser. Mayor, thank you very much. You literally are -- I mean, your city is the epicenter of this crisis. Can you tell us what has happened since Title 42 expired?

MAYOR OSCAR LEESER (D-EL PASO, TX): Well, we have been preparing and it's important that we talk about what we had done prior to. And we have been working for this probably for the last month. We declared a state of emergency on May 1st to be able to open temporary sheltering. We had a school that had been closed down and we've been able to open that and then prepared. We have a second school that's prepared and ready to go, and then our civic center.

And we actually have great working relationship with the federal government, with CBP, Customs, ICE and the county and the city. So, we were able to work and be prepared for yesterday. And I'm really, really pleased of the way everyone came together and we were able to do what -- we didn't get the huge rush yesterday because we have been leading up to it.

HARLOW: Yes. But today is a different story because Title 42 is expired. I mean, we have even seen mayors in, quote/unquote, sanctuary cities, like New York City, Mayor Adams, saying we are at capacity. We cannot shelter any more migrants. Do you know if you are going to be able to handle this?

LEESER: No. They are not coming to El Paso. I think that's something that's really important to talk about. They are coming to the United States. And once they get processed, then they are free to go, just like anyone else. And the destination they pick, that's where they will be going. A lot have their own funding and some will be -- we'll assist with. Because, again, they are not coming to El Paso, they are coming to the United States.

And if you look at the numbers back in 2020 in El Paso, we had 64,000 asylum seekers. Year-to-date today, we have 281,000 have come across. So, a community like El Paso and the community along the southern border couldn't take on this type by themselves. So, it's really important to know that we will continue to decompress and help them go to their next destination.

HARLOW: Phil interviewed Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last hour. Here is part of what he said. I'd like your reaction on the other side.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We've been planning for months and we have been executing on those plans. I have been very clear for months that the situation is going to be challenging when we transition from the public health authority of Title 42 to our immigration enforcement authorities. I have been very, very clear and open about that. I have also been very clear that we have confidence in our plan, that our plan will take some time, but our plan will succeed.


HARLOW: What would be success for you, because there are Democrats, as you know, and independents in Congress, who have said this administration has not done enough knowing that this day would come?

LEESER: Well, I can tell you they work really close together with our community and Secretary Mayorkas, FEMA, has really given us the funding and the ability to do what we need to do right now, to really do the job of the federal government.

But at some point, you realize the immigration process is broken.


It needs to be fixed. And, you know, I think at this point they need to learn that -- they need to disagree, but also work for mutual agreement and be able to fix the immigration problem. There has to be an endgame. A city like El Paso and cities across the country cannot continue to go in this manner.

So, even though they've helped us, they've worked with us, we have to fix that immigration problem because the endgame and infinity is really something we can't continue forever.

HARLOW: Cannot continue. Before you go, Mayor, I would like to show our viewers this, and I'm hopeful you can see it. But I am going to play video of this piece that our colleague, Rosa Flores, did and aired on CNN yesterday. These are enforcement officials handing out flyers to hundreds of migrants right outside a church in your city in El Paso asking them to turn themselves in. This is unique to see something like this happening in the middle of the night, Rosa tells us.

And then later, there were vehicles, their own marked vehicles coming by, again, encouraging them to go. And it turned out, Rosa reported, that 900 migrants did turn themselves in with lines that were around the block. It just I think reminds us of the humans, the humanitarian crisis that I think it's lost in a lot of these headlines.

LEESER: You know, I think it's very important to talk about that because we had about 3,000 people on the street and our goal was to make sure that no one was on the street, the children, the women, young kids were not exploited and were taken care of. So, we really worked together with Customs and Border Patrol and the El Paso Police Department, and then enforce immigration laws but to help and enforce. And, literally, that number went from 3,000 to a couple hundred within a couple of days, and that was to help them.

But our responsibility as leaders here in El Paso is to make sure the El Paso community and our visitors continue to be safe. And that was a perfect example that I went down yesterday. I have been there almost every day. And we have seen the numbers go down because they realize that somebody -- really, that this wasn't a trick, but we are working together to give them a pathway to become legal and go through the legal immigration process.

HARLOW: So, you were just not comfortable with that, because that is the kind of response we wouldn't see in an area like that around a church, for example?

LEESER: Yes. Because, you know, the Border Patrol will not go into the church area. That's -- they feel that that's their safe haven. But we were able to go in there and talk with them and show them the advantages of how doing this would help them and be able get that number that will give them the ability to move forward. And that really did helped and we will continue to do that. And we go in there twice a day to clean the streets to make sure our visitors and also our community doesn't get infected, doesn't get sick. So, we really have been very, very proactive and we'll continue to do that.

And I think it shows by the numbers last night and everything, and the thing is we still need to continue to prepare for the unknown because we don't know what's coming in tomorrow, we don't know what will be coming in a week from now. So, we will continue to work together and continue to be prepared and work with all our partners.

HARLOW: Mayor Leeser of El Paso, we appreciate your time this morning. We know you are very busy. Thank you.

LEESER: Thank you. Have a wonderful weekend. And Happy Mother's Day.

HARLOW: Oh, thanks. Phil?

MATTINGLY: That I believe in the business is what we call a segue because it is that time of year again to remind the mothers in our lives just how special they are. And what else could remind mothers around the world of being special than Harry Enten, who is here with the data on the best Mother's Day gifts. Dancing -- his dancing is not one of them, but also this morning's number.



MATTINGLY: Moms, grandmas, moms to be this weekend, we celebrate -- is that how (INAUDIBLE) when she gets to sign, I'm supposed to start talking. One minute, I'm going to pick this up fully, just doing great, guys.

However, you should be doing great because Mother's Day is on Sunday.

HARLOW: I know.

MATTINGLY: CNN Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten has some interesting numbers on Mother's Day. Harry, what's the morning number?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: All right. This morning's number is 85 million, that's how many mothers in America out of 135 women in the country. We've got about 85 million. And I feel like we should celebrate them. So, I think the big question is what's the best Mother's Day gift, and there's a very interesting split between women and men. Women, the plurality, say a family visit or call, but men, the plurality, say, in fact, that the best gift is flowers or plants. And I believe that we, in fact, have some right over here.


HARLOW: I love you guys.

ENTEN: There we are.

MATTINGLY: I like to --

HARLOW: Thank you so much.

MATTINGLY: Harry and I planned this.

HARLOW: I love this. I think --

MATTINGLY: We worked this out together.

HARLOW: Oh, it's messing up my mic. I love this.

ENTEN: Well, there we go.

HARLOW: Thank you, guys. First flowers, now my husband is going to really have to overdo it.

ENTEN: Well-deserved. But I will point out an interesting fact, the share of all holiday sales for florists, in fact, Mother's Day, is actually third at 24 percent. The top is Christmas and Hanukkah at 29 percent. Valentine's Day, not surprising, at 28 percent.

But I want to go out in a fun thing. The top-streamed Mother's Day songs, A Song for Mama, Boyz II Men, Mom, Meghan Trainor, and, three, Dear Mama by 2Pac.

HARLOW: All good.

ENTEN: All good.

MATTINGLY: Great songs.

ENTEN: Great song, although --

MATTINGLY: Great data.

ENTEN: Great data. You told me that this is not necessarily how you would spell 2Pac?

MATTINGLY: T-U-P-A-C is actually --

HARLOW: Wait. Here is what I want. I love the flowers, but I want this.

MATTINGLY: And that is how you know she's a mother.

HARLOW: That's what I want.

MATTINGLY: Harry Enten, thank you, sir.

ENTEN: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: We'll be right back.


HARLOW: Thank you. Thank you, guys. Thanks you. I love these. Thank you, guys.


HARLOW: We're just talking about being in the service. And in the United States, nearly 1.5 million children have a parent in another realm who is serving time.

This week, a CNN Hero knows what that is like. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we're ultimately doing is ensuring that young people who have incarcerated parents are overcoming systemic barriers and also changing the trajectory of not only their lives but their family's lives and breaking the stereotypes and the stigma around having an incarcerated parent.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting ready for graduation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I know. Congratulations. I'm so excited.

What keeps me going is that proud mama effect to see our scholars just achieve and accomplish and over time gain a sense of healthy confidence. Just a little bit of support can go a very, very long way. It really is a snow ball effect.


HARLOW: Go to to nominate your hero.

Thank you, guys, for being with us this week. Thank you, guys, for the Mother's Day flowers.

MATTINGLY: Happy Mother's Day.

HARLOW: Happy Mother's Day to Chelsea. And thanks for spending the week with us.

MATTINGLY: Thanks for having me. This was a blast.

HARLOW: And thanks to Chelsea for taking care of your kids while you were up here.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, Chelse (ph). Thanks, Chelse (ph). Time to go home.

HARLOW: Everyone, have a great weekend. We'll see you Monday. Thanks, guys.