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Laura Coates Live
Federal Appeals Court Unanimously Rejects Trump's Immunity Claim; Michigan School Shooter's Mother Faces 15 Years In Prison After Found Guilty Of Manslaughter; Man Exonerated After 44 Years In Prison Gets $25M Settlement. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired February 06, 2024 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: A huge legal smackdown for Donald Trump and the word he least likes to hear, tonight on "Laura Coates Live."
That word is "no." A federal appeals court ruling today? No, you do not have immunity for the crimes you allegedly committed during your presidency, no, you do not have unlimited power, and no, you are not above the law.
I mean, the court could not be any clearer on this point. I'm quoting here, "We cannot accept former President Trump's claim that a president has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power -- the recognition and implementation of election results."
And going on to say, "Nor can we sanction his apparent contention that the Executive has carte blanche to violate the rights of individual citizens to vote and to have their votes count."
The court throwing out Trump's arguments that he shouldn't have to go on trial on federal election subversion charges. Trump, as you would expect, vowing to appeal to the Supreme Court. But he really only has until Monday to decide whether he can do that.
Let's talk about now with CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen and former federal prosecutor Joe Moreno. I'm so glad that both of you are here today. I mean, first of all, we have been talking about this for the better part of a month, Norm, right? The fact that it took this long perhaps is the surprising aspect. I mean, it was a 50-plus page opinion. But were you surprised that the outcome was this after this month?
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No. You and I have agreed from the get- go --
EISEN: -- that it can't be right. It's contrary to the whole idea of American law that a president could be absolutely immune if he sends SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political opponent. Now, why did it take this long? Four weeks is still very fast -- COATES: Sure.
EISEN: -- by any normal standard. But they wanted unanimity, Laura. They wanted to get Karen Henderson, that Bush-appointed judge who's known to be prickly. She asked harder questions at the oral argument, to join with Judge Pan and Judge Childs. They got that, and the resounding power of the opinion, the depth of the opinion, it's a landmark in what has been a long history of important opinions from the D.C. circuit.
COATES: Wait, do we know that they were trying to persuade? Is that the reason why there was a delay or that's the thought?
EISEN: That's the assumption.
EISEN: Because given the speed with which they scheduled oral argument and the clarity of the views of two of the judges --
EISEN: -- you have to ask yourself, why did it take four full weeks? Pan and Childs were in a hurry. It must be that they were bringing Henderson along, and that was the right decision.
COATES: Well, you know, when you look at this, Joe, and you think about it was unanimous and the court shut down this idea that there's absolute immunity, the court shut down the idea of double jeopardy attaching because there had been a political impeachment, they shut down these notions, also the idea, and this is a really important part, about whether he was acting in his official capacity, so to speak, they were not convinced that the actions that he was alleged to have taken fell under the scope of a president, is that right?
JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I mean, that was almost sort of an aside. It was actually in a footnote where they addressed that. And they said, look, it's not really in front of us.
But if we're going to go there, if we would even consider looking back to the Nixon case and saying, okay, let's think about stretching that concept of immunity on civil matters to the criminal realm, it only applies to official acts. And we don't think this was official act anyway. This wasn't the president executing his power. This was candidate Trump basically trying to say, I don't agree with the election results, I'm trying to change them.
So, they're basically saying, even if we went as far as you want, you're still not going to get there because it still doesn't fall within the ambit of what the Supreme Court has held as what arguably could fall within presidential immunity.
COATES: That double jeopardy aspect of it, I was so intrigued by that argument because when it was first raised at the oral argument after, of course, the briefings, the thought was you can only criminally prosecute a former president or a president if first been impeached and convicted and, of course, removed.
That struck a chord with so many people thinking, well, hold on, does the president just then have to wait out, keep something hidden long enough to avoid an impeachment or have to convince maybe one or two or whatever number it is for the Senate? That couldn't be right. And they said, it's not.
EISEN: The number of presidents who have been impeached and convicted in American history is zero.
I know that because I worked on the first Trump impeachment. So that would be the functional equivalent of giving a president the authority to commit any crime. Winning the Oval Office would be a get out of jail free card. That can't be right now.
It also turns the language of the impeachment judgment clause which says, nevertheless, it doesn't say only if. So, it turns the impeachment judgment clause inside out. I think the reason that was in there is expressed in the first 20 or so pages of the opinion where they talk about jurisdiction. Can we even hear this case now --
EISEN: -- as an interlocutory appeal before the trial is concluded? The rule is you can only hear the case if there's an express constitutional guarantee. So, they were pointing to the impeachment judgment clause to get that interlocutory appeal.
EISEN: I think that was part of the reasoning.
COATES: Interlocutory, meaning out of order, essentially. You get to have a -- let me sidestep for a moment and have you to decide this particular issue before we get back to the meat of the matter.
Let me ask you on this schedule. You have different opinions, the two of you on this and the idea of what's happening. He has until next Monday, Trump, not the Supreme Court. They cannot decide for the Supreme Court, what their calendar is. But for Trump, he only has until next Monday to decide whether he's going to appeal this case. Otherwise, it has no impact on whether the underlying case gets stayed even longer and delayed.
Do you see this as expediting, possibly getting back to Judge Chutkan?
MORENO: I do. I think -- they made a point here at the circuit court where they said, look, you can try to get an en banc hearing, right? Which we all know is most likely not going to happen. But if you do that --
COATES: Meaning the entire Court of Appeals would hear the argument.
MORENO: Exactly. Very rare. But if you want to try to waste a few weeks or a few months trying to get that hearing, we're throwing this case back to Judge Chutkan at the trial level.
So, it's basically saying, go for the Supreme Court review. You might get it, you might not, but we're only giving you that period of time while we continue to freeze the case. Otherwise, it's going back to Judge Chutkan, and then she can resume things like pretrial motions, hearings, jury selection, and all of that, and that would minimize the delay.
COATES: Is that how you see it?
EISEN: I think the Supreme Court on Monday the 12th is going to get, in just a few short days, is going get an application for a stay. Trump is going to say, hey, pause everything, like the D.C. Circuit gave me the opportunity to do. Pause everything while I present you with an application for certiorari, an application for the Supreme Court to hear the underlying merits, like they're hearing now in the 14th Amendment case.
EISEN: They're going to have that for disqualification this week. Then it gets interesting. I think probably that stay, temporary stay, will be granted, but I think it's slightly more likely than not that the Supreme Court says, we are not granting cert when they get to it, that they refuse to take it up. Nobody knows for sure. It's only a little more likely than not.
But why would they want to thrust themselves into the middle of this controversy? Multiple courts have already held no immunity. The position is absurd that you can commit political assassinations in America. The Supreme Court can simply say, cert denied, and then it does go back to Judge Chutkan fast.
COATES: You know, I think the idea that hypothetical continues to resonate with all of us as one of those moments when you risk losing your credibility if you do not answer the question in the obvious about what you cannot do.
Joe, Norm, thank you both so much.
I want to turn now to what this precedent means for today's landmark ruling. Does it set a precedent for future litigation? Joining me now is CNN contributor and former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean. John, I've been talking to you about this for a long time. Now, we were wondering when the ruling was going to come out. What is your reaction tonight that this D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is saying, no absolute immunity, Mr. President?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Not surprised at the answer, but very pleased with the opinion. It was thoughtful. It was carefully laid out argument, knocking down every single thing that Trump had raised, some of which could have been answered with an emoji.
They treat it very politely and flushed out. And it was -- I think it is a land -- as Norm said, it is a norm, it is -- excuse me, it is a landmark decision that will be cited for many years.
COATES: I think a John Dean emoji in my mind has like the glasses, it has a tie.
I'm picturing the whole thing, John. You got a future here, kid, in this notion.
Well, the appeals court did point to past presidents like -- surprise, surprise -- former President Nixon to refute Donald Trump. In fact, do you realize that Nixon's name was cited at least 14 times in this ruling? In one excerpt, the court pointed out this, "As the Nixon court explained, wholly immunizing the President from the criminal justice process would disturb 'the primary constitutional duty of the judicial branch to do justice in criminal prosecutions.'"
Really a remark about the checks and balances, right? What's your reaction?
DEAN: Well, I was -- I actually paused for a minute reading the opinion and ran a control F2 to see how many times Nixon was mentioned. And you're right, 14. there are actually 15 Nixons because there was a Judge Nixon that was also mentioned, who's Walter Nixon --
COATES: So precise.
DEAN: -- but not Richard Nixon.
But I was interested in the cases they drew upon. They drew upon the Fitzgerald case, which this will clearly replace, that's the civil immunity case. And they also drew upon U.S. versus Nixon, which is the case where Nixon was forced to turn over the tapes that indeed resulted in his resignation.
So, they drew upon -- there's a lot of history in those cases that they pulled down through this case to the present, and it's very applicable law.
COATES: Well, if they're thinking about the history, Donald Trump is claiming this decision goes to the future. It puts a presidency at risk, he says. He's actually arguing on social media, John, that -- quote -- "A President will be afraid to act for fear of the opposite party's vicious retribution after leaving office."
Do you think that this will have a chilling effect on a president and his staff?
DEAN: No, I don't. I think that shows Trump's frame of mind. I think Trump, if he gets back in, is planning to indict everybody he can indict, including, as he has said, Joe Biden. So, he's thinking other people think like he does when they don't. We've made it several hundred years now without that kind of mentality and succession at the White House. So, this is just Trump thinking and it's not the norm.
COATES: Well, now, we do know that this D.C. Circuit Court is saying, look, this is not carte blanche, there is an absolute immunity, there's no double jeopardy, impeachment was not a criminal proceeding, and what you were involved in likely was not an office or official duty.
John Dean, thank you so much.
DEAN: Thanks, Laura.
COATES: Coming up, the Supreme Court of it all. Will the highest court in the land take up this case? Well, the bigger question maybe is, should they? It's their prerogative. We'll break it all down next.
COATES: Well, it's another bad day for Donald Trump as a federal appeals court denies his claim that he is immune from prosecution for crimes that he allegedly committed while he was still in office, rejecting his arguments that he shouldn't have to go to trial on election subversion charges.
Now, the three judges strongly writing in their decision, and I quote, "Former President Trump's stance would collapse our system of separated powers by placing the President beyond the reach of all three branches." Now, Trump has vowed to appeal. So, how will all of this play out with these nine justices in the Supreme Court?
Joining me now, the author of "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court," Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, good to see you, my friend, especially on a day like now. We were wondering when this opinion was going to actually come out. And the court now has some difficult decisions. Will they weigh in? Will they take up this case or will they just say, all right, you've already decided, we want our hands to be clean? What do you think?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, there are two big issues that the Supreme Court has to decide. One is procedural and one is substantive. The procedural question is, do they grant a stay? Do they say, we want to think about this, we want to consider this in the normal course of business? And then they have the issue of which way they want to rule on this case.
In fact, I think the procedural is maybe more important than the substantive because if they grant a stay and decide this case at the end of June, at the end of the term, even if they decide against Donald Trump, that will effectively make this case impossible to try before the end of -- before the election. And that's why this is such a complicated and interesting question here because the procedural question about the stay, that requires five votes, but deciding to take the case to grant a writ of certiorari only takes four votes. So, are there five votes to grant a stay? That's the question.
I think there are going to be at least two votes because Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito are -- have been with Trump down the line in virtually every case. And the question is, can Trump get three more votes from Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett or --
COATES: Neil Gorsuch.
TOOBIN: -- Justice Gorsuch or/and Chief Justice Roberts. I think that's -- it's just a hard question. You know, I just don't know because this is just such an unusual situation.
COATES: I mean, we're in the wild, wild west. I'm surprised a tumbleweed has not gone across the screen all of a sudden as we're looking at all of the novel things that are happening. And one could say, of course, this court does not want to venture into politics. They're probably still reeling in some respects over the Bush v. Gore and hanging chads.
But this case actually does go to an issue the Supreme Court does want to be involved in normally. It's the question of separation of powers. Not so much as an election year, but whether there can be a check or balance on the head of the executive branch. Shouldn't the court weigh in on an issue like that?
TOOBIN: Well, you know, back in the day, um, I was covering the recount in Florida --
TOOBIN: -- and we were having exactly these discussions about will the Supreme court want to get involved. And I remember many people saying, including me, you know, they want to be above the fray, they don't want to get involved and, of course, they did get involved.
And here, it's a similar scenario. I think there will be definitely members of that court who say, look, the magnitude of this issue is such that this is why we have a Supreme Court. And if they get involved in that way, that will be very good news for Donald Trump, if they grant this stay, even if he ultimately loses the case.
So, I think the institutional interest of the Supreme Court in resolving this question is something that Trump has going for him. Whether that's enough to get him five votes for a stay, I don't know, but the point you make about the Supreme Court wanting to address such a profoundly important issue is something that will push them towards taking this case, even though this issue is pretty easy, I think.
I mean, the idea that Donald Trump can commit any crime he wants and never be prosecuted for it is a pretty crazy idea, but it's an important question, and that's something at least some of these justices are going to want to address.
COATES: Let's remind the audience, a stay means that they will be able to delay actually having any trial in the lower court until the court and the Supreme Court has fully resolved the case which, of course, could take months and months, depending on their calendar and their own prerogative.
But you're right, let's talk about this fundamental issue of whether a president while in office can engage in behavior that is outside of the scope of their -- his or her eventually duties and still not be prosecuted.
Now, on Thursday, as you know, the Supreme Court is going to hear arguments on the case about the 14th Amendment and whether Trump is eligible to run in the Colorado presidential primary.
Now, there are sources telling CNN that Trump is not expected to be in that room. I wonder if that means he knows how serious it is or his presence is not in his mind necessary or won't be televised in some way because we know it's not recorded. Is it a smart move for him to attend that particular oral argument? It's certainly the Supreme Court, not the everyday court that he has even been in recently.
TOOBIN: You know, Laura, I have -- I have enough respect for the court to think -- I don't think it makes a damn bit of difference whether he shows up there. I mean, I don't think it's going to move any votes. I just -- you know, they're going to decide what they're going to decide.
And unlike the immunity question that the D.C. Circuit decided today, the question about the 14th Amendment, the question of whether these states can exclude Trump from the ballot, that's a much more wide-open question. That's something this court has never addressed, never anything close.
I'd venture to guess most of these justices had never even thought about Section 3 of the 13th Amendment because there hadn't been -- there hasn't been a Supreme Court case about it essentially ever.
I mean, this is something that was really directed at the Civil War and its aftermath and it has not come up since. But it is still part of the Constitution and there is a very good argument that it applies to Trump in this. But as for whether Trump's attendance will affect their outcome, I think the answer is no.
COATES: Something tells me they won't be shaking under those robes at his mirror sight on these issues. But the notion that he has not been charged with insurrection, I wonder what impact that will have. And again, these are very different cases.
You rightly point out -- how am I surprised? I am not Jeffrey Toobin -- when you note the distinctions between one involving separation of powers and checks and balances and absolute immunity, and the other on whether someone can remain on a ballot for a general election. Really, really significant.
Jeffrey Toobin, thank you so much.
TOOBIN: See you, Laura.
COATES: Ahead, a verdict that could have huge implications for parents. The mother of Michigan shooter, school shooter, Ethan Crumbley, found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Family of one of the survivors joins me next.
COATES: There was an unprecedented verdict today in Michigan. Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of convicted school shooter Ethan Crumbley, faces now up to 15 years behind bars. It took 10 hours over two days for the jury to unanimously find her guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter, one for each of the students who were killed. Her son killed four fellow students at Oxford High School in November, 2021.
He is currently serving a life sentence with no chance of parole. Jennifer's husband, James Crumbley, is set to go on trial next month, and Jennifer will be sentenced in April.
The prosecution argued successfully that she was -- quote -- "grossly negligent for giving a gun to her son, who was 15 years old at the time, and for failing to get him adequate mental health treatment in spite of these warning signs and red flags."
Now, this may have been the moment that decided the case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER CRUMBLEY, MOTHER OF ETHAN CRUMBLEY WHO KILLED FOUR PEOPLE: I've asked myself if I would have done anything differently and I wouldn't have.
UNKNOWN (voice-over): If you could change what would happened, would you?
CRUMBLEY: Oh, absolutely. I wish he would have killed us instead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: I want to bring in Meghan and Chad Gregory. Their son, Keegan, survived the shooting. Also, with us, Ven Johnson, an attorney for the families suing James and Jennifer Crumbley and the Oxford Community Schools. Thank you so much for being here. I'm glad that we're speaking again.
Meghan, Chad, I know that we have met in the past, and I've been thinking a great deal about your son, Keegan. He lived through this horrific tragedy. But I remember you told me that he was forever scarred, and he was changed by seeing Justin Shilling's final moments as they were hiding in a bathroom together. He even texted you, I understand, in a family group chat as it was happening.
Meghan, how are you feeling and your family feeling tonight now that this verdict has come down, of a guilty verdict for his mother?
MEGHAN GREGORY, SON SURVIVED OXFORD HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING: We are ecstatic. For us, this just proves that there was the gross negligence we all believed that was there. So, it is a huge win for Oxford, for the four families, for the entire community to know that there is some accountability finally at this point.
COATES: I mean, Chad, thinking about what it has been like for so many members of the community more broadly, let alone your son, I mean, he has had to go to therapy for years to process what has happened. I mean, the survivor's guilt you've spoken about, his feeling of not wanting to have left the bathroom, he could do nothing to change this, and yet he still felt that in his heart.
Now, between Ethan Crumbley now having a life in prison sentence without parole and now the guilty verdict, does your son, Keegan, feel some sense of justice being served? Will this help him?
CHAD GREGORY, SON SURVIVED OXFORD HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING: It's a very complicated question to answer because while we try to remain private in our family life, Keegan is working through his own recovery right now. It's a very complex PTSD. And like we talked about with trauma, it doesn't respect time.
And so, the good news is he's relatively shielded from this, but I believe, as he processes through his emotions and he really feel what the emotions come out from that day, you know, he was angry with the parents. Um, he shared that with us openly. And he didn't really lean into his anger as much before because he suppressed it.
And I think we, as parents, hold all of this at a much -- we feel the gravity of it, where he's still working through what this really has impacted him personally and our entire family. So, you know, it's hard. And I think there's not closure right now, but it's one more step. It's one more accountability measure.
COATES: That's so important. And I really thank you for your honesty because for so many reasons, this will be a work in progress and a moment that will touch all of our lives, let alone your community and your personal life for the reasons you have said.
And, you know, the sentencing is coming up. She is facing up to 15 years in prison, Meghan. And there'll be a time undoubtedly for what is known as victim impact statements where members of the community can talk about what this experience has done and will offer their suggestion for an appropriate sentence to the judge considering this very case. Have you given any thought to what you think is appropriate for her sentence? M. GREGORY: To be honest, I haven't even gotten to that yet. I haven't even thought through what I think is appropriate. In my mind, you know, she has only served two years and there are four children that are no longer with their families. So, if she gave her 15 years, I would not be sad.
COATES: You know, when you think about this, Ven, and what's to come, obviously, there is another trial coming up. It is the husband of Jennifer Crumbley, who is also facing charges for what happened on that fateful day. And so many people are looking ahead to this very moment. He will go to trial in March. Ven, I wonder, do you think that he'll face the same guilty verdict in that trial then?
VEN JOHNSON, ATTORNEY: Well, it's a huge jump forward, right, Laura? As you know, as lawyer, a lot of evidence depends on the jury and so forth. But we know the evidence, and we think the evidence is overwhelming against Mr. Crumbley as well. He purchased the gun for a young man that he knew was disturbed and having extreme difficulties without getting him the appropriate help.
So, yeah, I think he's going to see the same fate. And unlike a lot of people in this process, I'm not shocked and I'm not worried about future parents being charged for crimes that their kid did. That's not what happened here. It's how it has been labeled by certain people.
These people, but in this case, Jennifer Crumley was found guilty by a jury of her peers in Oakland County or home county because of the things that she did completely wrong and the things that she didn't do completely wrong, one of which happened to be, obviously, supporting a gun being purchased for this young man, and she going to the shooting range days before and not telling and not ever telling the school personnel about that gun. So, huge problem.
COATES: You know, what an important point you've raised, and Chad, Megan, I'll give you both the last word on this because I keep going through my mind as a mommy, right? And thinking about how my kids and all of our kids are having active shooter drills as part of their curriculum. I mean, the way we used to have recess is pretty standard. They're having active shooter drills.
And we look at other parents. We look at what could change. We wonder how this could have happened and it's continuing to happen. And when you look at this verdict and the implications of the possibility that this could send the message, that red flags could not and should not be ignored, what goes through your mind?
M. GREGORY: I'm thankful for that. I hope that parents are paying attention and taking mental health seriously. Taking care of your children is so important. I mean, Chad and I are raising five children, and I'm not worrying about if I'm going to go to jail because I did something wrong. You know, our goal is to get our children to adulthood and teach them how to contribute to society.
So, my hope is that people are watching. And if you see things with your child, do something about them. You know, our child told us he was having struggles. Like Chad had told you before, the survivor's guilt is a lot. And, you know, we immediately got him help. It wasn't even a question.
C. GREGORY: I think the part that I would just add is we -- all parents have a duty and we're not all equipped. And so, you have to take a partner, you have to ask for help, and you have to identify the signs.
And it is a sad, sad world right now that our kids have to grow up in, they're becoming conditioned for it, and the society and the public are becoming tone-deaf.
And so, I think as uncomfortable as we are even saying what we do publicly here, it's important not to be tone-deaf. You got to take this very serious, mental health. As Meghan said, it is so important.
COATES: Meghan and Chad, Ven Johnson, thank you. I can't tell you how important and impactful it is to continue to have these conversations, and frankly, for parents to have these very honest conversations about what we're trying to do. We oftentimes are building a plane while we're flying in the plane. In our hearts, we want to do the right thing.
And just talking about how you're providing for your children and what it takes to do so, and the care, I just really thank you for that honesty tonight. Thank you so much, all of you.
JOHNSON: Thank you, Laura.
M. GREGORY: Thank you.
C. GREGORY: Thank you.
COATES: Next, he was exonerated after 44 years of wrongful imprisonment. Now, he's about to get $25 million in a settlement. Ronnie Long is my guest in just a moment.
COATES: Tonight, in our "Exonerated" series, I want to introduce you to Mr. Ronnie Long. He served 44 years, 3 months, and 17 days in prison for a crime he did not commit. And just last month, he settled a civil lawsuit with the city of Concord and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations for $25 million.
It is the second largest wrongful conviction settlement ever. Still, No amount of money can right this wrong. No amount of money can compensate someone for losing 44 years of their life. So, why was he even locked up to begin with? Well, let me take you back to 1976, when Long was convicted of raping a 54-year-old white woman. That conviction was handed down by an all-white jury.
[23:45:00] But it wasn't until 2020 when Long's conviction was vacated. It was revealed that evidence had been suppressed, including semen samples and fingerprints from the actual crime scene. And those samples did not match Long's. And the courts said the evidence was deliberately withheld by law enforcement. Unbelievable to think about.
Joining me now, Ronnie Long and his lawyer from the Wrongful Convictions Clinic, Jamie Lau. Mr. Long, thank you so much for joining us.
Just hearing what has happened to you, it's unbelievable to imagine. You were released from prison on August 27th, 2020. And I hear that you bought yourself the car you always wanted. You're hoping to buy a home with you and your wife. And I wonder what was the first thing you did after regaining your freedom and knowing that it had been fully vacated.
RONNIE LONG, SPENT 44 YEARS IN PRISON FOR CRIME HE DID NOT COMMIT: First and foremost, I get praise and honor to a greater creator, to even be here to tell my story. I want to appreciate you. I appreciate you, people. CNN for having me on.
First thing I did, I went to see my mother and father. You know, my mother and father are deceased. They died within 44 years. The first thing I did, I had to go visit their grave and let them know that I'm returning home. Even though I know my father and mother died with a broken heart, it was a pleasure to me to even just be there to say that because the things that I went through (INAUDIBLE).
COATES: And Jamie, I want to ask you, can you just bring me into this quest for Ronnie's release? At what point did you realize that there was this evidence that could have exonerated him that had been withheld?
JAMIE LAU, SUPERVISING ATTORNEY, WRONGFUL CONVICTION CLINIC: When I got involved in the case, we had learned at the time, a prior attorney had really worked on some state court litigation and uncovered that they had a bunch of evidence that had been suppressed, that once we obtained the reports for, indicated that it all pointed away from Ronnie. What he was telling everybody all along, that he was innocent, the evidence supports it.
After we got involved in 2015, it was learned that over 40 fingerprints taken from the scene had been compared against Long. They were believed to be the fingerprints of the perpetrator of the crime, and he was excluded from each and every one.
So, at his trial in 1976, none of this evidence was known to the jury, and law enforcement officers actually took the stand and testified that all the evidence in the case hadn't been tested, hadn't been brought to the lab, knowing full well that it had been brought to the lab, and it excluded Ronnie as the possible perpetrator in the crime.
COATES: I mean, that was -- you said 2015. You weren't released until 2020, Mr. Long. And just thinking about -- I mean, my head is getting ready to explode just hearing about this evidence being withheld, about the jury not knowing about this exculpatory potentially evidence and, of course, it did, in fact, exclude you.
I mean, I just wonder, if you could speak to those people, if you could go back and understand the -- what was going through their head in that moment, what would you say to those who withheld that evidence from trial? And also, the jury itself, all white, what would you say looking back?
LONG: I say that each and every step that they took, it was malicious and it was intent. My thing is this here, how do you go to a grand jury and get an indictment with no evidence? Because every piece of evidence that you collected from the crime scene excluded me. So, what did you present to the grand jury to get an indictment?
And then you have, out of 90 people you bring to the courtroom, I mean, you got -- three or four of them are Black. My question was this, how did you come to this conclusion? How did you come up with these jail rules?
Then from that question, I found out, you understand, that the Chief of Police, he went to the County Commissioners Office and started deleting name from the master list of prospective jurors.
LONG: This is how -- this is how I end up with all white jurors. There are two injustices that were done here, not just to my family, but to the victim's family.
COATES: Jamie, let me end with you here because I can't think of anything more profound than what Ronnie Long has just said to describe the injustices and the questions that he is asking. When you look at this broadly, the fact that this was 44 years, I can't help but wonder how many other Ronnie Longs are there.
LAU: Ronnie's case was a racially-charged case in the South in 1976, and he was just released in August of 2020. He's not the only Black person serving time in a prison in the South, dating back to a time when the racial legacy of this country is one in which we shouldn't and can't be proud of.
And obviously, you know, to the extent that racism was alive and well in the South, following the dismantling of Jim Crow, that legacy lives on with regards to people who are in prison that date back to that time.
COATES: Mr. Ronnie Long, Jamie Lau, thank you so much for being here and for making us all the more aware of what has happened. I'm sorry to have met you this way, but I'm certainly glad that we have met Mr. Long. Thank you.
LONG: Thank you.
LAU: Thank you for having us.
COATES: We'll be right back.
COATES: We have breaking news tonight. CNN projects President Joe Biden will win Nevada's democratic presidential primary, adding delegates from the first in the West contest as he marches towards his party's 2024 nomination. The republican primary, which featured former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley on the ballot but not former President Donald Trump, carried little weight.
The state GOP opted to award its delegates through party-run caucuses, which Trump is likely to win on Thursday, if I could do so, in fact.
Thank you for watching. I'll be live on Instagram at "The Laura Coates," just a couple of minutes. Be sure to tune in for after show. Our coverage continues.