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Defense Delivers Closing Arguments In Arbery Murder Trial; 18 Kids Ages 3-16 Hospitalized, Including 3 Sets Of Siblings; Biden To Nominate Fed Chair Jerome Powell For 2nd Term. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 22, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JASON SHEFFIELD, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR TRAVIS MCMICHAEL: Reaching out and extending his hand as a firefighter, law enforcement officer combination. For the first time, his life, Travis, is now in those waters. He is now the one who needs help. Our goal here has been to do everything we can to dive into those waters to search for the truth, to pull it from the icy depths and to raise it to the surface. And we have done that. We have done that with Travis McMichael. We have carried him to the surface to you. And now the choice is yours. Will you do as he has done in the past to others will you reach out your hand and extend it to Travis McMichael and pull him out of those waters? I think if you've heard anything that I've said there's only one decision is not guilty on all charges. Thank you all for your attention.

JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, SUPERIOR COURT, STATE OF GEORGIA: Thank you. Yes, we can just go, yes. Thank you. All right, ladies and gentlemen, we are at a point we're going to break for lunch. We'll break for an hour. It's just a little bit under --

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I'm John King in Washington. You've been watching closing arguments in the Ahmaud Arbery murder case in Georgia Jason Sheffield, the attorney for one of the three defendants Travis McMichael, just giving his closing argument, the defense closing argument. One of three defense closing arguments will be made today. Mr. Sheffield spoke for about an hour and 20 minutes saying that his client, Travis McMichael in his view, trying to convince the jury had every right to follow Ahmaud Arbery through the neighborhood that day back in February 2020.

And then the defense attorney making the case that Mr. McMichael had every right to open fire when he believed he was under attack. Let's bring in to discuss what we've heard this morning. Jennifer Rodgers is a former federal prosecutor, Caroline Polisi, a federal and white collar criminal defense attorney. Our Caroline, let me start with you. The first defense closing, again, two more to come after the lunch break came after a very passionate case by the prosecutor, she made the case that no, they had no right, that there was no crime committed by Mr. Arbery. They had no evidence of that. They had no right to chase him down in the neighborhood and then no right to have use force against him. Did the defense attorney in your view out of the box deliver a strong rebuttal? CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, right out of the box, John, I thought the defense attorney actually did a better job than I was anticipating that the prosecutor gave a masterful closing argument I thought, and I thought it was going to be an uphill battle, what the defense essentially had to convince at least one of those jurors have was the fact that two things John and both were necessary to convince at least one juror at one is not sufficient one, that there was the reasonable belief that that this was a citizen's arrest that, you know, because based on the totality of the circumstances that McMichael believed that a crime had recently been committed, and number two, that he employed reasonable self-defense after he was engaged in this citizen's arrest that's a really high hurdle to cover.

I thought what the defense attorney did in his closing was take you through the state of mind of Travis McMichael. And I thought he did actually a good job, because that's the hallmark of a criminal case is what was in the defendant's state of mind. It didn't have to be true. It just had to be reasonable. And I thought that he did as good a job as any really.

KING: Right to that point, Jennifer Rodgers, let's stick to that point said they had reasonably -- Mr. Sheffield, making the argument that Mr. McMichael had reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion. He says he had seen Mr. Arbery in the neighborhood before. They had communicated with a neighbor who said he had videos of him previously on his property. Did the defense attorney make the case that, you know, the prosecutor was saying they had no right. These men should have called the police. They should not have been going through the neighborhood. But when you get to the idea of did they have the right to try to an act of citizens resist -- arrest, excuse me, that then turned into the use of force? How do you think Mr. Sheffield did?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I agree with Caroline. I think he did, as well as he could have done as good a job as he could do. But I don't think ultimately he got there. I mean, you never know what a jury is going to do. But the law is pretty specific. You have to have reasonable grounds. It can't just be supposition and assumptions. And I thought the prosecutor was very powerful earlier and I think she probably will be again when she gets a chance to rebut They had no business doing this they didn't know anything there wasn't any immediate crime that they had witnessed.


And then, you know, Arbery always had the right to walk away. He doesn't have to stop and talk to them. And they should have just called the police and let it go. So I think she's going to come back very strong on these points that the defense lawyer was making this morning.

KING: And one of the points Mr. Sheffield tried to make was he said this was in no way, again, he's trying to convince the jury or at least one juror is saying this was not about race that Mr. McMichael and his father repeatedly called the police about crime in the neighborhood. They repeatedly called in what he thought there were white suspects in the neighborhood. That seemed to be a direct rebuttal to this and the prosecution closing argument. The first part of it as you note, there will be a rebuttal. Linda Dunikoski saying, these men made decisions that night to act when they never should have. Listen.


LINDA DUNIKOSKI, PROSECUTOR: All three of these defendants made assumptions, made assumptions about what was going on that day. And they made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways, because he was a black man running down the street.


KING: Caroline, your thoughts on the strategy there, just getting straight to it in the prosecutor making the case in her view, there was a black man jogging in the neighborhood. And these three white defendants simply would not allow that to be?

POLISI: Yes, you know, the prosecution actually didn't fight as hard as I would have expected to get these some more fraught elements of the racial bias involved here. She also did make sort of an oblique reference to it in her close closing. I thought she said, you know, why these, you know, what these men did. And some of you know why they did what they did. Now, that was clearly an oblique reference to the racial bias involved here.

But I think she did a really good job of noting just how many assumptions these three men would have had to have made in order to get to a reasonable idea that they were effectuating a citizen's arrest. And I think that, in a totality of the circumstances, to use a phrase of Travis McMichael, I don't think that they got there. Just based on what a reasonable person would be thinking.

KNG: And part of that obviously depends where the case goes from here. Again, two more closing arguments that come from the two other defense attorneys and the prosecutor gets to make a rebuttal. For that point, let's bring in CNN's Ryan Young, he's outside the courthouse. He's covering the trial for us in Brunswick, Georgia, a lunch break now, Ryan, but still big, dramatic moments to come this afternoon.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Big dramatic moments, of course. And then we talk about this idea of race. So this has really played out throughout this trial, but really on the sidelines, because a lot of times when the defense attorney Kevin Gough has been talking about races with the jury, not inside the courtroom. And so now we're starting to hear that part playing out. Let's not forget the makeup of this jury. You only have one black jury here. But on the outside, I'm not even sure you can hear it, John, you can hear the people who are chanting at this point who showed up to protest, we even have some members of the Black Panther Party who have arrived here outside as well.

So you have the tension on the outside that's starting to rise. It's a little bit of everyone's paying attention. But then you have these separate arguments being made on the enzyme. And I think one of the things that stood out to all of us who are watching this out here was just the fact of talking about how many times that Travis McMichael maybe intended to deescalate the situation.

But when you think about the parts from the prosecution side, they kept saying that he Ahmaud Arbery was blocked in five different times with these vehicles. And the vehicles themselves were things that were blocking him from being able to run away even after 911 was called. So there's so many conversations about how that played out, John, it's something that we'll continue to watch.

KING: Continue to watch as the trial continues after the lunch break. Ryan Young appreciate your being on the ground there for us Caroline Polisi, Jennifer Rodgers as well.


Ahead for us another tragedy, an annual holiday tradition turns deadly after a driver plows into a crowd at Christmas parade briefing from the hospital just moments ago about treating many of the children injured there. Live to Wisconsin next.


KING: Five people are dead and more than 40 injured that after an SUV barreled through a Christmas parade yesterday in Waukesha, Wisconsin. We just learned 18 children were taken to Children's Hospital, 10 were admitted to the ICU there more on that in just a moment.

Multiple law enforcement sources now telling CNN the suspect was apparently fleeing another incident when he rammed into the crowd. You can see a marching band was on the street on the SUV charged right into the path. Dozens are in the hospital. Many of those as we just noted our children. Witnesses say this joyful night ended in tragedy describing the horror of seeing people struck and then lying on the ground.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were a lot of screams and we almost thought maybe it was Santa. But it was a red SUV and it hit a lot of people.


KING: CNN's Natasha Chen is there live for us in Waukesha. Natasha, what's the latest?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, right behind me. We're seeing a lot of cleanup crews actually, earlier this morning. We had even seen people's belongings, clothing still left abandoned on the ground in that moment of panic. But right now they are definitely sweeping through this area. Otherwise, these streets remain closed. That was the parade route right there, Main Street. And we are standing about three blocks west of where that red SUV hits the first group of people that marching bands that you're talking about.

I also want to go into a little more detail about the information from the press conference given by Children's Wisconsin. You talked about how they had more than a dozen kids admitted there. They have 10 in ICU at the moment. They said six of those children are in critical condition. Three are in serious, one is in fair condition. These kids range from ages three to 16 years old. And there are three sets of siblings among the patients that they have there.


You can just imagine the -- just the troubles that those families must be going through. A lot of families in fact are in shock and feeling the trauma from yesterday. A lot of witnesses telling us what that look and felt like including an older man from a nearby town, this is Angelito Tenorio, describing what he saw yesterday.


ANGELITO TENORIO, WITNESS, HAD MARCHED IN PARADE: As we were heading back towards Main Street, that's when I saw the SUV just zooming down along the parade route, and then all of a sudden, I heard this loud bang and immediately deafening cries and graveness from people out the area, people at the parade. And it was absolutely chaotic. It was horrifying. There's a lot of uncertainty. A lot of unknown, I saw people who appeared to be lying in the middle of this tree, lying still, lying lifeless.


CHEN: And we, of course at this point, I've heard that at least five people were killed about 40 people injured. We are hearing from some organizations who participate in the parade. For example, the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies posted on Facebook that members of their dance group are among those killed, John.

KING: Incredibly sad day. Natasha Chen reporting live from the scene in Waukesha, thank you so much for that latest information. Let's bring in our CNN SENIOR justice correspondent Evan Perez now information you have is that apparently the suspect here was apparently fleeing from some other incident.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. So just before the parade incident, John, the police here in Waukesha received a call of an altercation of some kind of altercation. And when they arrived, witnesses said that this person in a red SUV had fled the scene. Shortly thereafter, that the scene unfolds the ones that we've now seen in all these videos of this horrific incident with the vehicle going through the parade route, one of the first things obviously that the concern for law enforcement was is this a terrorism incident is something connected to international and domestic terrorist groups.

We've seen that kind of thing before this kind of tactic. And so what they looked obviously, they figured out who this person was the person of interest. They're calling him a person of interest. And they tried to figure out whether he had any connections to international domestic terrorism. They have not found anything to indicate that. And I believe, again, given the history of this individual who they have arrested or at least have detained. They believe that it is not connected to any kind of terrorism group but obviously this is a horrific thing.

And so now the question is, why did this happen? You know, what are the motives here other than just fleeing an incident it's just not a normal thing.

KING: Not a normal thing at all. Evan Perez, grateful for the reporting there. Let's bring into this conversation our CNN law enforcement analyst, Anthony Barksdale. Anthony help me then walk through this as Evan just laid out you have a person of interest, who was in police detention anyway, if not official custody as yet. We have all the video obviously, from the busy parade route from a law enforcement standpoint, what is today about as you tried to piece together exactly what happened. And then if there is a why, why?

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's about building a clear timeline of the entire incident. It's about trying to get a confession out of this person of interest, which it may be hard for law enforcement to get. But they have to start building a prosecutable case against this individual. So hopefully, they're in contact with attorneys to be sure that they're everything is covered, as they're working to make this case.

KING: And so -- forgive me, forgive me go ahead.

BARKSDALE: No, there's still a lot, there's so much work to be done by law enforcement, all of the video that you talked about on social media, you need all of that, that's evidence. You need to talk to witnesses. You need to talk to the victims. You have to do a lot of work, because you don't want this person of interest that I'll call a suspect, to beat this case. He did a lot of damage.

KING: Right. And so you have the investigation of what happened at the scene, then you have the investigation of the person of interest, as Evan notes reporting initially is that they don't see any ties here to a domestic terrorism group or a hate group per se. But you have to go through that as well, right? Scrub this person's social media profile if they have it, previous criminal history if they have it and so on.

BARKSDALE: Absolutely, yes, you do. You have to do all of that. And also we need to look at where the department maybe things could have been better. It's not an easy thing to critique at this point in time, but other jurisdictions that may be thinking of having parades may want to look at this incident and say well maybe we need trucks to block off these roads or et cetera. So there's a lot of tragedy but we have to find lessons in this incident.


KING: Very important guidance and advice right there. Anthony Barksdale, grateful for your insights on this important day, thank you. Thank you to Evan Perez as well. When we come back, the President knighted states settles on a new Fed chairman. It's the current Fed Chairman. Joe Biden, the President of the United States resisting pressure from liberals to make a change.


KING: A major financial and political news today, President Biden formally announcing he will nominate Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for a second term. The president citing Powell's, quote, decisive action, and quote, steady leadership during the pandemic recovery. Powell along with Lael Brainard, who Biden plans to nominate as the Feds vice chair would begin their terms in February if they are confirmed. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a key progressive said this morning she'll vote against Powell. But we'll support Brainard as his deputy.

With us to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Arlette Saenz and Manu Raju, this is the President who a lot of progressives, not just Senator Warren said make a change. And he said no stay the course.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it was widely expected that this was going to be his decision as he was trying to show some continuity for economic policy. But certainly you had people like Elizabeth Warren really pushing him trying to pick someone who is not a Jerome Powell, who she feels is not tough enough on banking regulations. We know that President Biden even met with Senator Warren recently to hear her input. But ultimately, that's not going to sway her.

Now, Powell was confirmed in a very heavily bipartisan manner, the last time around. We'll see how close it is this time, but he has gotten some support throughout Congress today. But this is certainly Biden showing that he wants to continue on this track. Of course, that's going to have a lot of important decisions to come.

And Biden suggesting he wants to get back to what -- we used to be tradition before Trump, but Trump appointed Powell, Janet Yellen was the chair then, he would not give her another term. But traditionally, new presidents have lost there's some reason to, you know, there's less of some obvious reason to change course, Elizabeth Warren is unhappy, other progressives will be unhappy, then let's get to the but though. Sherrod Brown, who's the chairman of the Banking Committee said he supports this? Is it just going to be some complaints but no problem?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think he's going to be some complaints and no problem and nominating Brainard, at the same time as a way to appease some of those folks on the left who are not happy with Powell's record of criticized him for being too weak on big financial institutions. So they could point to say, hey, we at least got Brainard someone we like in that very important vice chair position.

But overwhelmingly you're seeing the sentiment from top Democrats saying they are in support of this nomination. Brown is very important person who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, also Nancy Pelosi, she does not have a vote. But she did issue a statement of support behind Powell as well. She's very close with them as well, she -- so that's an indicator of where the Democratic Party is divided over him. But overwhelmingly, you'll see a bipartisan support even back to me, a Republican from Pennsylvania, top Republican on the Banking Committee also supports a nomination. So I expect this to be confirmed, despite the complaints from the left.

KING: Now, one reason President Biden could have taken a different course politically is all the heat over inflation at the moment. President, you know, doesn't have that many powers to do much about inflation. The Fed chairman has more powers than the President does, in many ways over inflation. The President could have replaced Powell, just to make clear to the people out there in the country who are suffering, the higher prices at the pump, the higher prices to grocery store. I'm going to try anything. But this is a -- essentially the President saying no, no, no, I'm not going to take it out on Powell. But what will he do?

SAENZ: This is him showing that he has faith in Powell's ability to kind of put a check on inflation as that's really the top issue right now, for this White House they're trying to confront. You know, last week, Biden asked the FTC to look into practices by gas and oil companies to see whether they were perhaps pricing gas higher and whether there was any irresponsible behavior there. But the President and his team, you know, even when we hear them talk about the Build Back Better Bill, they are referencing how this is not going to add any inflationary pressure to this bill, as that's concerned among some lawmakers like Senator Joe Manchin, but certainly with this appointment he's trying to show that he wants he's happy with the policy that's been going on in the past and is looking to Powell to help put a check on some of that inflation issues.

KING: And so we were just talking about the grumbling for progressives, this continues to the other bigger piece of the agenda. Can they get Manchin's vote on board? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez telling the New York Times on Sunday, this notion that saying we're not Trump is enough, such a deeply demoralizing message. We're up against political nihilism, the idea that nothing we do matters because as long as I live in the Bronx, the political reality of this country, no one's going to fight for me. That is why it's so important that we take some of these risks for our base, liberals getting discouraged. They don't even think Build Back Better goes far enough. But they want it done, and they want to turn now.

RAJU: And look, they're going to get rolled in a lot of ways not just on the Powell nomination, but also on this bigger bill, because in order to get it out of the Senate, they had to negotiate with Joe Manchin because they may drop paid leave, they may have to pull back on the expansion of Medicare. Other issues that they have long push for their base are going to be gone. And then at the end of the day, if it gets out of the Senate, you know, the pressure is going to be intense on them to essentially run rubber stamp what Joe Manchin agreed to so and that's not going to be what they want and that's going to be a challenge for them to message ahead of the midterm.


KING: It's a fascinating dynamic between now and Christmas. We'll watch it play out. Thank you both for coming in. And thank you for joining us today. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.