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What Two Bank Failures Mean For You And Your Money; Michael Cohen Testifies In Trump Hush Money Probe; NYC's Mayor Calling On Businesses To Use Facial Recognition Technology As A Way To Fight Shoplifting; Facial Recognition A.I. To Curb Shoplifting In New York; Podcaster Helps Solve Cold Case More Than 25 Years Ago; Crash Test Dummies And Diversity. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 13, 2023 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Never too late for anyone.
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KE HUY QUAN, ACTOR: This day, stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it's happening to me. This, this is the American dream.
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BURNETT: And it is his real life. We all celebrate it and congratulate them.
Thanks so much for watching this special addition of Outfront. CNN TONIGHT with Laura Coates starts now.
LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Laura Coates and this is CNN TONIGHT.
And, look, just when you think you understand what's going on with this economy, well, there's something like this, the sudden collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. President Biden trying to convince Americans that the system really is safe, but the big question is, how much of this is about how much people even know about something, understand or maybe they feel about its havoc. How does psychology play into a bank run and how can we all be sure that our money is really safe?
Plus, do you know who is using facial recognition on you may be right now? No, we're not doing it right now, everyone, rest assured, but it could be happened more often than maybe you even realize. We're going to tell you who is using it and why.
And this probably sounds like a joke what getting ready to tell you, but, really, it is deadly serious. The government report says that some crash test dummies may not represent, and I'm quoting here, diverse groups of people. How could that have a real impact on your safety? Well, it's not what you might think. We're going to talk more about that. We've got a lot to talk about tonight, in fact, and here with me are economic expert Rana Foroohar, strategist Karen Finney, The Bulwark's Bill Kristol, CNN's own Phil Mattingly and analyst Kirsten Powers. I'm glad you're all here. And don't worry, I know more about the economy than pronouncing strategist all of sudden. So, there you go, it's fine.
Rana, let me start with you, because you're away from us, for a moment, I'll get back to the table, but I want to know what your take is. Because it's one thing to know something conceptually, intellectually, it's anything that you actually feel about, and when you think about the idea of hearing even phrases like a run on the banks, people get very, very nervous. Should they be?
RANA FOROOHAR CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well, you know, I love the fact that you are bringing psychology into this. It's something that doesn't get talked about enough. We hear a lot about the technical aspects of banking. And I want to just say to the audience if you have $250,000 or less in an account, you are FDIC-insured and you are fine. So, I want to just say don't panic. But, yes, psychology is a huge part of what happens in the financial markets, even in good times, right, and especially in bad times.
So, there is no question, talking to folks that I know in the markets that just seeing people starting to pull their money out is a trigger for more people to do that. And you are seeing that already with some of the sell-off in other regional banks in the last day.
COATES: I mean, there is that but will there be other banks that might fail as well? That's one of the concerns. And maybe most people don't have the two banks that have already been saved in some way, but they might be others. Are those going to follow?
FOROOHAR: You know, I'm not worried about this being kind of a Lehman Brothers moment or even a multiple bank collapse moment. I really am not. And I keep my money in large institutions. I haven't moved it out, not planning to. I look at those institutions, the JPMorgan Chases, the Citigroups, and I say, you know, there in a lot better shape than they were before the financial crisis. I'm not worried about that.
But I'll tell you, there is something here that is real worry and its psychological as well, and that's that most Americans know that we have been in a period of very, very low interest rates and very easy credit for a very long time. And we kind of know that in our hearts and in our minds, and we know that that is going to change at some point. I mean, the economy does go up and down. And we are due probably for something of a correction even more than we've seen at some point. And I think people feel that and that gets to the psychological issue that you raised.
COATES: I'm going to bring in Phil and everyone here at the panel as well. I mean, Phil, again, the president was very much interested in talking about how people are feeling, so they should know that it's safe. It reminds me a little bit of what happened back in the state of the union where he's talking about, listen, you may not realize while things are happening but because you don't feel like things are happening because he was talking about it optimistically then.
This time, he wants that same level of optimism. He wants people to feel like, look, the banks are safe. Is he convincing in terms of the messaging, do you think?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think there's a difference between state of the union and political messaging versus the necessity for the system-wide kind of health right now that you saw from the president today. These were very intentional, very deliberate remarks shortly before the open remark.
It's intended to try and reassure people.
The psychological element of this is so critical. You can look across history in terms of bank runs and financial crises, and just how critical what people are thinking, whether or not they are panicking, whether or not they're seeing other people or their friends pull money out, and how much that drives a crisis-type moment.
That's why you saw the president say what he said today. It wasn't because he wanted people to feel great about things. I think they're very cognizant of the fact that this was a very difficult weekend and there's a significant amount of anxiety around the country. What he wanted to do was reassure people that the system is strong and stable and well capitalized, and that this one bank or these two banks are not representative writ large of the system that is in a very strong place particularly compared to 2008.
COATES: You have some reporting too about the treasury officials thinking there are some positive signs to look to. What is that?
MATTINGLY: Yes. Look, the scale of the responds over the weekend was dramatic. And I'm not sure people totally have their heads around what actually happened here in terms of what the FDIC was willing to do in terms of back stopping all deposits for these two institutions above the $250,000 and making it pretty implicit that they would be willing to do it for other institutions that they need to do as well. The Federal Reserve facility opening a lending window to these regional banks that get hammered today and the bank stocks, they still have access to liquidity because they have options with this lending facility.
And what treasury officials that I spoke to saw throughout the course of the day were two things that are our little bit deeper than the ban stocks themselves, deposit outflows are critical here. The big concern on Friday and heading into Monday was these regional, mid-sized smaller banks would see dramatic deposit outflows and they would become in a crisis moment and start to fail. They started to see a slowing on that front and they saw availability to credit, availability with liquidity to these banks even as they got lit up by Wall Street in the equity markets. Those are good signs.
COATES: I mean, is it just me, but I think about all these good different ideas -- BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: Yes. I was about to say that. You walked right into that.
COATES: Optimistic, glass half full, sunny blazer (ph), no suit for you. I'll be over here for a second. But you, though, you can have some. You can have some. But everyone -- just the idea here of -- I hear the amount. I hear about liquidity. I hear about Wall Street. I hear about what maybe most Americans are not necessarily feeling into. They're going to think if the big banks aren't safe, if you have big investors in tech, they are not seeing themselves here. They themselves might feel afraid.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL AN ALYST: Well, that's exactly what I think that's what a lot of people are feeling. It's like, yes, everybody watches since the government rushed in to save all these extremely wealthy people, right, people who are keeping more than $250,000 in the bank. Some of it is because it's payroll, some of it was because they made a lot of money off of crypto and they're keeping their money in this bank, and they see the government run in.
And we're talking hours, not even days, to deal with the situation in a way that they don't when the entire housing market crashes because of the behavior of bankers and people lose their homes, they lose their retirement accounts, and they're just sort of left hanging.
And so I think if you're the average person, you're like, is t he government going to do this for me? I don't know. And the truth is Joe Biden doesn't really know if the banks are stable or not. I mean, we think the banks are stable. Probably, most of the bankers are not as stupid as the bankers who were running this bank, who didn't understand interest rates.
No. I mean, truly, I know nothing about finances and I knew that interest were going to go up and they had taken all the money and invested them in T bonds and it was completely dependent on interest rate staying well. And that's what happened to them, is they gambled with the money and they lost.
COATES: Well, there's the confidence of that and there's a lack of confidence on the other side then?
KRISTOL: Yes. But you know what will help confidence around the country is if the president of the United States made a speech, and the speaker of the House who have speech from the other party said, you know what, we all stand together at this moment. We have to have confidence in our banking system.
The president and secretary of the treasury and chairman of the Fed have done the right thing and we'll debate later on whether we need to change regulations and Dodd-Frank and all this other stuff. But for now, the banking system is safe and the president and Congress stand united and if the leading candidates for presidency from the other party said the same thing.
Once upon a time, this would have happened. In 2008, (INAUDIBLE) with the tea party and revolt against the original bailout, at the end of the day, Speaker Pelosi was with President Bush and I guess whoever the Democratic Senate majority leader was back then. Who was it?
MATTINGLY: Harry Reid.
KRISTOL: Harry Reid.
MATTINGLY: And John Boehner.
KRISTOL: And they all held hands and they said we will make this work. And there was much, much, much more serious crisis and we made it through.
And so it's really -- it's bad of one of the two major parties have so many misleading figures just demagoguing this incident. It's a woke bank. It's a terrible bailout. Then voters look up and think -- the citizens look up and think, well, I don't know. Maybe this isn't a good solution. We think it's absolutely the right solution at this moment.
COATES: What do you think, Karen?
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Ron DeSantis is not going to pass up any opportunity to call something woke, and I agree completely the fact that a bank advertise on their website that they have an LGBTQ-plus person and two women and an African-American on their board, that's not why that bank failed, right?
KRISTOL: The banks never failed in the old days when they were only white males.
They never had a bank crisis back then.
FINNEY: We're thankful for that.
COATES: Even Mary Poppins had a bank that failed and they were all white men. I don't know. Go ahead.
FINNEY: No. So, I mean, I completely agree. It is really sad that there could not have been that unity. That's a state of where we are, and that's just the reality. I think within that, the president did the best that he could to go out and try to reassure people.
I think the other thing on the psychology we have to remember is we are also still all in trauma from the pandemic and from how that affected our finances and our lives, not just the PTSD from 2008. So, I think there was a real understanding of the need to try to make people feel as confident as possible today.
COATES: And I wonder if it translated. I mean, at the end of the day, it's about how people are feeling about something. As the old adage in politics, how do you feel about this? How do you feel now versus five years from now, five years ago, et cetera? And the idea of thinking when it comes to money, I mean, my great grandmother died at 105, never trusted the banks. I mean, there are other factors involved there. But she was 105 when passed. It's fine. And we'll have more on this --
KRISTOL: And she left he with $32 million which was stashed under mattress.
COATES: It's under the wood. I don't know. In a mattress. If that's the news, I would not be at this table right now.
Listen where the signs are pointing to a possible Trump indictment in New York, but with all the investigations swirling around the former president, how does something as momentous as an indictment of a former president, how does this come from a year's ago hush payment to a adult film star? We'll discuss it, next.
COATES: Donald Trump's one-time attorney Michael Cohen is calling out what he calls his former boss', quote, dirty deeds testifying for three hours today before the Manhattan grand jury as investigating hush payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels, saying this on his way into the courtroom.
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MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: My goal is to tell the truth. My goal is to allow oven Alvin Bragg and his team to do what they need to do. I'm just here to answer the questions.
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COATES: New York City Mayor Eric Adams is also -- we're going to talk about in a moment what's going on there, but this issue happened right in the heart of New York. This is something that we've been seeing for quite some time, right? Actually not some time, but for years now. People knew about Stormy Daniels back in 2016.
And, Norm, you and I have had these conversations before about the timing of things. Timing really is everything. We are talking about maybe public perception in the court of public opinion particularly. Why now this, do you think?
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Laura, the two of us between us have spent over half a century trying cases and we know that it takes time to build a case. When you are building a case against a former president, DOJ was looking at this, Michael Cohen pled guilty. But there's a DOJ rule. I think it's wrong, but the Office of Legal Counsel said you can't prosecute a former president. So, they couldn't even think --
COATES: A sitting president.
EISEN: A sitting president. They couldn't even think about it until the end of the Trump administration. So, there is four years. Then Alvin Bragg gets in. It takes some time for him. He thinks, well, maybe I won't do, maybe I will do it. The important thing is to look at the merits of the case. And I think the merits of this case are strong.
There was a New York State books and records violation. They booked the hush money payments, Trump signed checks, the Trump Organization, those associated with him. They booked them as legal fees to Michael Cohen. These weren't legal fees. And that's what Michael is undoubtedly explaining to this grand jury. So, it is a righteous prosecution if Bragg brings it.
COATES: But the law of that would be, of course, falsifying the business records, right, and misdemeanor, then you'd have to says if it's in conjunction with trying to for election law campaign finance law in some way, that's your felony. But when you were saying righteous, everyone sort of cocked their heads in different directions, and I've been seeing it. I had the periphery more a moment. Is it because you maybe think it's righteous but not the right case?
FINNEY: Well, I just think it's ironic that has taken this law. And now we can compare that to an insurrection, trying to thwart an election in Georgia. What else do we have here? Oh, yes, classified documents. I mean, the list goes on and on and on.
And so it is also a reminder that when you talk about how much time it took for this case to get to this moment where people feel like perhaps charges are imminent, think about how much long it will take these other cases, particularly because, you guys are lawyers, I'm not, but I would think if you are going to take on the former president, you want to be very buttoned up. You have got to make sure that your case is rock-solid, especially against someone like Trump.
COATES: It's got to be more than that, though, when you list all those aspects of the different aspects, different cases. Because I think if people were to rank what they saw as the most important cases, the ones that have the most impact maybe on the nation, I think they would probably collectively say, and I don't want to speak for everyone, that the hush payments may be lower than the January 6th or classified documents. And for that reason, does it give political pause that this might be coming first? What do you think?
POWERS: Absolutely. I mean, and I think just not even thinking of the legal things that Donald Trump has gotten caught up in but just of all the things Donald Trump has done, this is definitely one of the least worst things that he's done, right? It's just there're just so many worst things that he did as a president in terms of policies and things like that.
So, I think that my concern, and I do defer to the lawyers, but my concern is that I don't see it really as a slam dunk, because I think you are relying, first of all, on a witness who openly hates the person that he is testifying against, who is known to lie about things. So, I don't know that he's the most reliable witness.
COATES: Michael Cohen you're talking about?
POWERS: Michael Cohen, yes. And also I think you have to get into almost like an intent kind of thing, like did he do it because he was concerned about the election or did he just not want this to come out, right? It's like did he not want his wife to know that he cheated on her or something like that? It feels like it's hard to prove and it is not very high-stakes.
COATES: And yet -- and I don't want to be dismissive, to your point, Norm, a violation of the law ought to be treated the same as anyone else who may have violated that same law. And we know that's not how our system works, that people turn a blind eye more readily towards against some and others. But on the idea priorities and how this plays out even politically in the court of public opinion, do you think that this case could be used, if they do indict, for Trump to buttress his own arguments that, hey, see, they will try anything just to get me.
KRISTOL: Liberal Democratic D elected D.A.s going after me. Of course, that's what he'll say. That doesn't mean you shouldn't follow the law, but, yes, Trump will say that.
And here's the thought experiment. This was happens in two weeks. What do the other Republicans say? They have to defend Trump, right? DeSantis, who otherwise is happy to see Trump will say, well, this is political prosecution. Suddenly, half of the country is going to believe right off the bat that this is a political vendetta by the Democrats. No Republican is going to defend --
COATES: Do you think the governor out of Florida will actually support and say, oh, kind of the way that -- do you think that he will say that it's a political persecution?
KRISTOL: Yes. I think every Republican will have say that because they have to win over voters who still like Trump even if they want to move on from Trump. But this, when was the Stormy Daniels thing? 2018 or something like that?
COATES: Well --
KRISTOL: No, when was the actual incident -- right. So, then he pays are often October, 2016, does to something to John Edwards ended getting off for somewhat different, maybe legally. I just think it's the worst possible case to lead with when he tried to overturn the election results and purposely stole classified documents and wouldn't get them back. Maybe the Justice Department could do something. I know it's -- I've been a defendant of Merrick Garland. Norm is going to chastise me after this show. He's only been out of office two years. I mean, we have got to wait 5, 8, 12 years before we can have an actual case from the Justice Department of the United States.
EISEN: Number one, let's wait and see what is in this indictment. We don't have all the evidence yet. Number two, it is a very serious matter. I don't accept for a moment that a few days before the election after the Access Hollywood scandal when this election was so close, Donald Trump was involved in making hush money payments that Michael Cohen went to jail for. This is a very serious matter. It could have changed the outcome of the 2016 election. Then let's not assume that there won't be more than Alvin Bragg does that other prosecutors do. You need to start somewhere.
Last time I checked in the United States, the rule is this is the whole idea of America. We have the same law for everybody. If Michael Cohen would go to jail for doing this, if any of us will go to jail for doing this, if these hush money payments could have changed who went into the White House and they could have changed history, it is absolutely right for Alvin Bragg to start there and let's see what's in his indictment. Maybe he'll have other financial crimes.
POWERS: Right on.
KRISTOL: This is why Norm is a very well-known lawyer. Norm should make the case. I'd be happier if you were --
COATES: The attorneys made the case for the prosecution. I don't know what's going on.
EISEN: We've switched places.
COATES: No, I'm in my yellow blazer here just doing something totally different. But I see you and I think it's important for us to all wait and see what happens. I want to know what happened to the time Michael Cohen went to prison. And now what's new, we'll have to wait and see, and I'm eager to find out.
Everyone also -- I'm also eager to find out what's going on in New York City for different reasons because Mayor Eric Adams has floated using more face-based recognition technology in trying to combat crime. But could there be unintended consequences including potential abuse of the technology? We're going to talk about it, next.
COATES: New York City's Mayor Eric Adams asking local businesses now to use facial recognition technology as one way to battle shoplifting. The New York Times reports that any business using this scanning has to post a sign alerting customers that it's actually the technology. But when a reporter set out to fine which businesses are actually scanning people's faces, she had a hard time finding any signs.
Back with me now, Karen Finney, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Michael Fanone, and also back, Norm Eisen and also Kirsten Powers.
Let me just help understand this conversation for everyone. There is the use now of this facial recognition technology that essentially tells people, look, you are on a list. If I can scan your faces as you're coming in and out of my office or my building, wherever it is, you can't come. It's a way of identifying people for theft-based reasons or otherwise.
Madison Square Garden infamously has the owners who if you're lawyer who is suing them in some capacity or anything like that, you also can't come in. It seems like it could be ripe for abuse and it's increasingly being used now and being called to be used as a way to aid law enforcement. What do you make of that? Problems or a good idea?
MICHAEL FANONE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT: First of all, when I came on law enforcement 20 some years ago, we still handwrote our reports. So, I'm technology adverse. That being said, I was always skeptical of an overdependence of technology by police officers. I saw when we first brought about the tag readers that it would scan license plate readers in the city, officers became incredibly dependent upon that to help with proactive enforcement.
So, I do have concerns about the idea of becoming too dependent on technology and I also have the concerns on the idea that we would replace police officers with technology. To me, I see the benefits of these types of technology, but my concern would be that, you know, that we become overly dependent upon it.
COATES: Well, here's what the mayor had to say about the reasons why they're even using it. Let's do this. In fact, he talks about -- I'll read to you and said, if you are a habitual person who goes into a store over and over again, you should be identified ad even use a technology. Why wait until someone steals? There's some good software that can alert people right away that this person is a habitual stealer.
Now, of course, my media thought is, how does one get put on this list? Is there somebody who's been convicted of a crime already? Is it somebody who's been accused in that particular store? It is a way of engaging in a kind of technological profiling. What do you say?
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, with all of these new technologies it's like with the artificial intelligence now, the A.I., we have to figure out what are the reasonable parameters around how to use them. I'm very sympathetic. The representative of the United Bodega Owners, on behalf of the small businesses said, look, we want this because we have a shoplifting problem.
My parents had a small business. I'm sympathetic to that, but by the same token, it almost when Mayor Adams was talking about it, it almost seemed like a dystopian science fiction movie where they would predict people. What if they get people wrong? What if someone looks like a shoplifter? What if your twin is a shoplifter and you're just going into buy toilet paper?
I mean, we have to think through the due process elements of how these new technologies are going to work. So, I think it needs to be studied and analyzed, although I am sympathetic to these businesses.
COATES: Until the toilet paper reference, it was the plot of "Minority Report." Right? A film by Tom Cruise. That was the idea of having pre-cog aside that somebody was going to probably commit a crime thereby raising all sorts of due process, concerns, everything Tom Cruise has been talking about the law for some reason, and these issues.
But the idea and you have a strong opinion on this, because the idea of being able to identify and predict criminal behavior is going to run up against a whole lot of issues. Now, I go back to the idea of profiling. Here's who I think is likely to commit a crime, right? And so, I'm going to create maybe an algorithm, I don't know. Maybe there's a way of distinguishing people. But it poses problems for the average person who's going to be assumed to commit a crime.
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, and think about the stores that you frequent. I mean, when you (inaudible) like, I go to Sephora at least twice a week. So, if you're clocking how many times I'm coming in and that's getting me on their, you know, in their video stream, you know, trust me, I drop a lot of money there. There's no stealing going on.
But you know, the other thing that is really disconcerting is that we know that these technologies tend to not be as accurate when it comes to African Americans and Asian Americans. I have not seen anyone yet solve that problem. I see that that is still a problem.
So, again, in terms of due process, in terms I agree over reliance, there are also -- there is responsibility to make sure that it's accurate and to make sure that you don't, while trying politically to be able to say to your city as the mayor, I'm trying to do more things to keep everybody safe, which for political reason I understand why he would say that, that you don't go too far in a different direction.
COATES: On that point, the idea of politics, I mean, the idea of being soft on crime as versus being hard on crime, this is very much in the political zeitgeist as to showing what you think about crime in your city. And New York has been under a microscope for a long time.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think you can say that you don't like crime and you want to stop crime and also say that this makes you uncomfortable, right? I mean, two things I think, one is, okay, for the bodega owner, what do they then do? Are they not going to start confronting people and saying you matchup with this or everyone's going to have security? I mean, and then what's going to happen?
Another person is going to say it's not me, and now maybe you've accused somebody in front of all their neighbors of stealing when in fact they haven't stolen anything and it's just a mistake. That's one thing. The second thing is just the idea that the government has access to, like, I mean, I don't understand how this stuff works technologically, but it would mean that all our faces are somehow recorded somewhere if we're going to be recognized, I mean, on this thing.
COATES: Well, let me -- I want to be (inaudible). Thank you for raising that point because under New York law, the business cannot (inaudible) to share any of the data and you identify the recognition. Not every human is recognized. It's those who are on a particular list or are those who have been pointed out as a problem as I understand it. And then they are identified through the technology. So, you know, if you were a problem, Fanone, I have a way looking for you in particular as opposed to you can say to me everyone registers who we are. POWERS: Yeah, and I'm sure it will never get out of control, I don't
FINNEY: You can be hacked.
POWERS: And the owner will never abuse it.
EISEN: And they've tried putting the laws around it. There's a rule in New York, you're supposed to have signs posted everywhere. And this --
COATES: It's like and a 500-buck fine.
EISEN: The same reporter wandered all of Manhattan and could not find -- there were many places that had the technology. She could not find very many signs. So, the rules have to be established.
COATES: Real quick.
FANONE: Yeah, you know, I think the big concern is how it's implemented. I mean, I see the, you know, how it could be incredibly beneficial, a great tool in the tool box if it's used for collecting historical data to solve crimes. Proactively, though, I think it creates much more problems than it could potentially solve or resolve.
COATES: Speaking of the idea of being able to help solve crimes, our next segment is going to be a really interesting one. There was a murder case that went cold for more than two decades. And now a California man is punished 25 years to life for the 1996 killing of college student Kristen Smart. And it all got re-ignited thanks to a true crime podcast. And that podcaster who helped law enforcement joins me next.
COATES: The man convicted of killing college student Kristen Smart in 1996 was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison without parole just last week. And that was due in part to my next guest. Chris Lambert didn't know Kristen or her family. He isn't a journalist or even an investigator. But his podcast "In Your Own Backyard" launched in 2019 and it helped local authorities solve this murder.
And Chris Lambert joins me now. Chris, nice to see you. Thank you so much for joining. You know, I listened to your podcast, I remember following what happened. Many people who are remembering Kristen Smart and imagining this has taken this long to lead to a sentencing of her killer. What made you follow this story?
CHRIS LAMBERT, HOST, YOUR OWN BACKYARD PODCAST: Well, it was a story that was local to me. Kristen disappeared about half an hour north of where I grew up and so it was something that happened when I was very young so, I remember hearing when they would do updates on the news, checked in every few years or so.
And then the biggest portion is there's a big billboard in the town of Arroyo Grande about 15 minutes north of me, and it says missing and it has all of her information and when I would drive by, I just thought, how was that case not been solved yet? What's going on? And so, I would check in from time to time to see if there were updates, and it almost seemed like there was -- there was never anything new.
COATES: You didn't just check in. I mean, the actual -- the sheriff's office actually gives you credit in part for helping to solve this case. Tell me what kind of help you provided.
LAMBERT: Yes. So, initially, I started out just trying to make a documentary podcast about what had happened already. I think by that point it had been 22 or 23 years since she had supposedly disappeared. And so, I just wanted to document the story because it was such an interesting saga. They've had a suspect from almost day one and that had never really changed. But nothing seemed to be getting done on it.
So, I wanted to document the case. And then by the time I ended up putting out episodes, it got such a large following so quickly that people started reaching out to me to say, I actually have information that I have never shared before. And so, it provided a platform for people who had been holding on to information that they were hesitant to share with law enforcement to bring it to me. And so, I passed that information on to law enforcement and hope that they would follow up on it and they did.
COATES: They absolutely did and it actually end up leading to a man serving 25 years to life, and as you say, it was actually one of the people that was the -- initially a suspect or initially somebody who was in contact with her that very night of her disappearance. I mean, you actually had a friend, though, interestingly enough, who personally knew Paul Flores, the man who is convicted now for the murder and serving 25 years to life, that they knew from high school. What did she say about him?
LAMBERT: Yeah. I started asking people if they remember the story and a lot of people had forgotten it. A lot of people didn't remember the details. And a friend of mine who I've known through other projects reached to me and said I actually went to school with Paul Flores and we all called him Scary Paul.
And so, I reached out to her and said tell me more. I want to know everything you remember about this guy. And from there, she would pass me on to a friend who had more experiences with Paul, and then they would pass me on to another. And so pretty soon there were a circle of people communicating saying you need to talk to this person, now you need to talk to this person, they have more information.
COATES: You actually also, I mean, interviewed multiple members of her own family and as I understand, they have been very happy, if that's the word that can be used in these circumstances, that you were able to shine a light and re-introduce this very important case to the world. What had they told you about how they felt all these years not having this solved, let alone a conviction? What have they said about this now?
LAMBERT: I think for many years they felt like this case wasn't taken seriously from the very beginning. Law enforcement was slow to respond. They blamed Kristen for her own behavior that night. For the way she was dressed, for how much she might have drank at the party she was last seen at.
And so, for a long time it felt like she wasn't being taken as a serious missing person case. And then after that, the media coverage slowed. The progress on the case seemed to slow. And when the podcast came along, it sorts of gave Kristen a voice again. It reignited the story that was starting to disappear from the community.
And suddenly people were remembering Kristen in a way that they had never known her before. Friends of hers were telling stories about her and so much so that I felt like I got to know her myself.
COATES: So important work the you've done to help. Thank you so much, and of course, her tragic death also led to greater coordination down the road between college campuses and local law enforcement, how to deal with somebody who has been missing. So, her story continues to impact so many people. Thank you so much, Chris.
LAMBERT: Thanks for having me.
COATES: My panel is back with me. I want to get your reaction quickly on this, Michael, because the idea we're seeing more and more cold cases go cold for a variety of reasons including, we have a finite amount of resources that can be devoted and the time to different cases. What does this mean to you when you have people like podcasters for example, who are helping to be the liaison between community and law enforcement?
FANONE: I mean, at face value, and I don't know the specifics of this particular case, but it looks like me a best-case scenario. You know, you have a situation where it looks like there was cooperation between this investigator and law enforcement, and that that resulted in the successful prosecution and conviction of this individual.
I'm willing to bet that, you know, for each case like this, there is probably a dozen more in which, you know, the influence of or involvement of outside investigators may have had an adverse result. You know, when you have individuals, civilians for lack of a better term, get involved in these types of investigations, you don't follow the same protocols, chain of custody. You know, they don't understand the rules of gathering evidence.
And so, I think that that is concerning. Now, listen, law enforcement does not have the resources to dedicate the appropriate amount of attention to every single awful crime that's committed in this country. And that is no fault of law enforcements. But at the same time, you know, I think that law enforcement is best suited to handle those tasks. You know, these things are great to bring attention to cold cases or cases that may have fallen by the wayside, but I think it's probably best to leave the investigating to law enforcement.
COATES: Well, you know I know your heart is in the right place, but tell that to the families of those who are missing. I hope there's a lot more people who get their best-case scenarios too as well. If podcast does it, shines a light, hope it works out.
Everyone, up next, they are used to making sure, used to make sure that our cars are safe. We're talking about crash test dummies. You see them right there. We're all familiar with them. Strapped in and this one was hurled into walls at different top speeds. But (inaudible) now are saying they may no longer represent the average person. So, what does this mean for vehicle safety? I'll explain next.
COATES: All right. Calls for more diversity and wait for it, crash test dummies. Now, before you write off what I'm saying as culture war has gone wild, consider this. A government report finds that crash test dummies used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are not representative of our population. For example, the average adult male is now 20 pounds heavier than the 171-pound dummy. When the pandemic or not, I don't know, but it's true.
And for women who are more likely to suffer injuries to their lower legs apparently, well, the crash test dummies have no sensors there for whatever reason. And in some of these tests, the female dummy is not even placed in the driver seat. What is that about I wonder? So, does this make you less safe on the road?
Let's bring in the panel and talk about it because these numbers, I mean, when I first saw the headline, I'm going to admit, I thought what is this about? The idea of crash test dummies being more diverse. My assumption was thinking they meant race in some way, right? But in reality, you're talking about physiological features and the idea of how to make the body actually withstand the harsh accident that can happen. What do you think?
EISEN: Well, I'm sorry that I am no longer the weight of the average crash test dummy. Just pulling, number one.
COATES: We are not talking about weight on this show. I'm going to put a kibosh on that right now. Thank you very much. It's Girl Scout cookie season. (Inaudible).
EISEN: It is. I had a half a box to power up for this show. Look, this is just common sense. We were talking before about trying to figure out what is common sense on the facial recognition. Now, we know. The crash test dummies do have to be adjusted for the weight of average Americans. We do need to have those leg sensors. It's just common sense and we know the technology that we need. The Department of Transportation needs to adapt their crash test dummy program. COATES: I mean, does this suggest, you know, I'm taking a step back,
does this suggest that there are a number of things that we take for granted about safety as a matter of inertia? That it's always been this way. We assume that it would continue to be this way and the methodology we use to make sure we're all safe is just going to be, okay?
Are we not taking enough time to reflect on the things that are part of the status quo that actually will impact our lives.
FINNEY: Sure. I mean, we take for granted for example, I mean, early on breast cancer research was not done on women. So, just let that sink in for a minute.
I mean, literally it was -- there was a movement to get that to actually come to fruition to have that research done on women and to track it more effectively.
So, sure. I mean, sometimes whether it is health or safety, it's common sense, you know. Hey, if we're a little heavier, I'm not going to talk about weight, but if it's a little heavier or a little shorter, a little taller, yeah, I'd like to know that my sensors are going to pick that up in my car, but it's probably too expensive.
COATES: I mean, it seems performative then, right, the idea of trying to have these things we all remember and see from commercials that we get hung up on the performative almost visual soundbite.
POWERS: What do you mean?
COATES: The idea of if it's not actually going to be effective, and it's not taking into consideration all the things that will keep us safe, it's just performative and to (inaudible).
POWERS: Well, they're not -- yeah, so, I don't think they're doing it in a performative way. I think that they do think they're doing it in a way to test safety but for some reason they aren't considering -- when they're doing their tests, when the government was doing their tests and they're only doing tests on white man to not just men, white men, you know, it's basically, you say -- we say common sense but it's like what is wrong with people?
Like, you don't think that women are people or you don't think that people who aren't white are people. I mean, that's basically what they're saying and it's the same thing here, like, someone has to explain to you that women are shaped differently and different sizes and smaller and, I mean, this is our responsibility, is to take care of everybody. It's not the responsibility to just test how things affect white man basically.
COATES: Well, I'll leave it there everyone. Thank you so much. Former President Trump going after Florida governor, Ron DeSantis. We will take a look at it, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)