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Laura Coates Live

Questionnaire To Decide Jury In Hush Money Trial Revealed; Trump Ignites New Firestorm Over His Abortion Stance; Prison Workers Petition For Death Row Inmate To Be Spared; NCAA Women's Final Racks Up Record 18.7 Million Viewers. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 08, 2024 - 23:00   ET



SANDRA FISH, REPORTER, THE COLORADO SUN: Deserve to know what the party is doing on their behalf. And that's what I was there for.


FISH: To report on that.

PHILLIP: And it sounds like, as to your point, it is not just, Democrats and the media coming to your defense, it's other Republicans who see this as really beyond the pale.

Sandra Fish, thanks for joining us tonight. We appreciate you doing that.

FISH: Thanks for having me, Abby.

PHILLIP: And thank you so much for watching "NewsNight." "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: There is so much news out of Trump legal world tonight. It threatens to eclipse every other story. See what I did there? I'll tell you what we've learned about the questions that will decide who gets to sit in the jury box for Trump's hush money trial.

Plus, Donald Trump throws some of his fervent supporters under the bus. Why his statement on abortion could cost him Republican votes come November.

And women's basketball celebrating record viewership for last night's NCAA championship game. And while South Carolina established itself as a true dynasty, now there's a warning for Caitlin Clark and her future. Tonight on "Laura Coates Live."

All right, now raise your hand if you want jury duty. Okay, we'll keep them up if you want to be on the jury for the first criminal trial against a former president. Now I see some hands. Well, today might be your lucky day because I've got the questions that potential jurors are going to have to answer to possibly be selected for jury duty in that hush money trial.

Now the trial is actually set for one week from tonight, on April 15th, for jury selection. Now mind you, Trump is trying again to get that trial date push back, claiming that he would not get an impartial jury. Well, no dice. The appeals court judge said no.

What's going on in April 15th? This is the trial, just to keep everything straight for you, the one in New York where the former president is accused of falsifying business records to cover up an alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels. And make no mistake about it. Who is ultimately on that jury is arguably the most important part of the trial.

You're going to hear some of those questions in just a moment. I want you to ask yourself why you're hearing them. Would I make it on to the jury or would I not? Do you even want to be on this jury?

And we've got some more legal news out tonight on the former president. Special Counsel Jack Smith urging the Supreme Court to throw out his claims of sweeping immunity, claims that they say have no grounding in the Constitution or in our understanding that no one, not even a president, is above the law.

He wrote, "The severity, range. and democracy-damaging nature of the alleged crimes are unique in American history." That doesn't and hasn't stopped Trump from demanding immunity. I mean, over and over and over.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A president of the United States has to have immunity.

If you don't have immunity, you can be blackmailed.

You have to have a guaranteed immunity for a president.

A president has to have immunity.

As a president, you have to have immunity.


COATES: Do you in all events? Well, I want to bring in Tiffany R. Wright, the former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Also here is Tim Parlatore, a former Trump attorney.

Now, look, I want to get into what's happening in the Supreme Court. But I have been champing at the bit to get these why-dear (ph) questions, the fancy way of saying the questions. I want to ask you to see if I want to choose you to be in the jury or strike you from my jury. Right? I want to go through some of these with you guys. Okay?

So, first of all, on the impartiality of it, we know there's a hearing or there's an appeals court on this issue. Let's get to the questions. Tim, I'll start with you. Here is one of the questions. Do you currently follow Donald Trump on any social media site or have you done so in the past? Another one. Have you ever worked or volunteered for any anti-Trump group or organization, or do you have any strong opinions or firmly held beliefs about former President Donald Trump or the fact that he is a current candidate for the presidency that would interfere with your ability to be a fair and impartial jury?

Okay, these are obviously the Trump line of questions. Break down for me, as a defense attorney, what answer you're looking for in these answers.

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Well, I think the answer you're looking for is somebody who can be fair, and -- and I think that they would love to find people who say, you know, yes, I followed him, yes, I supported him, but I can still hear this case fairly. I think --

COATES: How about the flip side of that, though? No, I don't support him, no, I don't follow him, and I can still be fair. Would that be someone you would also choose?

PARLATORE: That is -- it's somebody you're not going to be able to challenge for cause. And so, you know, ultimately, you're going to go through these jury questionnaires to figure out who gets challenged for cause, and then at the end of it, you know, with the peremptory challenges, all you're doing is taking off the worst jurors on each side so that you end up with what's in the middle.


COATES: Let's break that down for a second, Tiffany, the idea of the for cause versus peremptory. It's important for people to know how you do this, right? You get these jurors who fill the courtroom. Essentially, they're asked questions, depending on if the judge asked it or not. And then you have a chance to say, you should not be on this jury because you've come in here and said something like, Your Honor, I will never in any way acquit this person, I don't care what you tell me. Well, that's for cause, right?


COATES: But the peremptory strike is interesting. Tell us why.

WRIGHT: Peremptory strike is interesting because it can be for any reason or no reason at all. There are constitutional parameters, so you can't strike someone, for example, because of race, you can't strike because of gender.

But there are all sorts of other things that are fair game, right? You can ask someone, as in this case, what sort of media do you consume and what does it tell me about you? Do I like the way you looked at me when I asked you that question, right?

All of these are fair game for peremptory challenges as long as you stay within constitutional parameters.

COATES: A really important point. And that's where the subjectivity comes into play, right? You could literally strike someone because you're like, they remind me of my ex, I don't like you, or it could be the way you approached me or looked at me or didn't make eye contact makes me wonder if you actually trust the government or the defense instead. But so important about the race, the gender, et cetera, religion as well.

What about politics, though? That's what they're trying to get at. That hasn't been covered specifically as a peremptory reason.

PARLATORE: It's -- you know, it's something you normally don't get into. Obviously, you don't normally have somebody like this.

COATES: You don't normally have a former president, you mean, who's saying, try out, got it.

PARLATORE: Yeah, exactly.


I think it is important to, you know, to try and figure out everybody's biases. You know, but ultimately, you've got to remember. I mean, Manhattan is so overwhelmingly Democrat that you're going to end up with plenty of people on that jury that didn't vote for him.

And really, you know, when it comes to the peremptory challenges, you want to just take out the things, the people that you think are going to be the most negative towards you. You know, jury selection is such a misnomer. You're not really selecting who you want on the jury. You're selecting who you don't want on the jury.

COATES: Jury exclusion.

PARLATORE: Right. And then you -- you end up with what you have left, which, you know, hopefully, if the system works right, is the people who are in the middle.

COATES: Another question that intrigued me as well, here's another one. Have you ever considered yourself a supporter of or belong to any of the following? The QAnon movement, Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, Boogaloo Boys, Antifa. The list actually goes on. Remember, of course, two of the leaders of the Oath Keepers were sentenced to years in jail for their roles on January 6th.

If you answer yes to belonging to any of these groups, though, what would that tell you as the prosecution or defense?

WRIGHT: I think what they're getting at is do you have some sort of sympathy for groups with which President Trump, former President Trump, has been aligned? And I thought this was an astounding part of the questionnaire to me because it made me wonder, to quote Erik Killmonger, is this your king? Is this -- are you really Republicans nominating someone where we have to ask in an official court record, are you associated with the Boogaloo Boys? Are you associated with the Proud Boys? And what does that say about where we are as a country?

But back to juries, I think they're trying to judge whether or not you will have sympathies with these groups and whether or not that will align with President Trump.

COATES: Some might look at those questions and say, okay, I get that if that were a January 6th case, but this is the hush money case involving Stormy Daniels for conduct that occurred shortly before the election back in 2016. Does it surprise you that this question is included here or based on how this has all really been put together, it would make sense?

PARLATORE: No, it totally makes sense to me because, especially when you have, you know, groups kind of on both sides, you know, Proud Boys and then Antifa. These are groups that as a whole are willing to ignore the Constitution to pursue whatever their individual political goal is.

And so, I think it's a great question because it -- I think just about everybody, who says yes to that question, is going to be challenged for cause because when the judge says, you have to follow the Constitution, you have to presume the defendant is innocent, you have to hold them to their burden of proof, these are people that have demonstrated that they're okay with ignoring that. So, I do think it is a good question.

COATES: Speaking of those who are alleged to have ignored the laws from the Supreme Court, not the Supreme Court justices, it's not what I meant, but I can see where you would make that leap for a second. Am I being sarcastic or sincere? I don't know. But when we're talking about the immunity issue here, the special counsel is urging the Supreme Court, as you well know, not to say that former President Trump has immunity from all things.

We remember that now infamous hearing, the discussion about whether or not you could order your political opponent to be assassinated by SEAL Team 6. I know you've always taken issue with that analogy because you have had a lot of work with the SEAL Teams and beyond. But the arguments he's making, this is really interesting, because on April 25th, Tiffany, they're going to get into this conversation. What did you take from the pleading so far that show you who has a stronger argument?


WRIGHT: Well, I think the argument that President Trump has absolute immunity is one that there is no way he gets to five votes on the Supreme Court for. So, I thought that was a strong argument by Jack Smith.

I think where we run into trouble is, I think what the court will say is there is some zone of activity for which the president does have immunity if you're acting within your constitutionally-prescribed role, and I think that's going to be difficult.

And what I saw in the pleadings is Jack Smith is worried not about losing on the absolute immunity question, but the possibility that they'll say there is some zone where he does have immunity.

And we have to kick it back to the trial court in order to answer factual questions about whether or not he was operating in that zone. Jack Smith was fighting hard against the remand in those papers.

COATES: If it's remanded, what happens next?

PARLATORE: Well, if they -- and I agree with that completely. I think that they are going to come up with some kind of, you know, qualified immunity and kick it back down for an evidentiary hearing where Judge Chutkan is going to have to then have a hearing, hear testimony, and figure out, you know, which portions of this indictment may fall within or outside of the scope of, you know, whatever, you know, contours that the Supreme Court has laid out.

And I think that the thing that Jack Smith is most worried about there is another evidentiary hearing after it appealed to the Supreme Court is going to push this trial way out past the election.

COATES: I mean, that's a real fear, though. I mean, if you have their evidentiary hearing, and by the way, if the Supreme Court does that, they could, on the one hand, say, no, he does not have absolute immunity, but then still have them do this fact-finding mission below. That would push this calendar out very, very far. And the concern is, well, if he were to win the election, this case could go away.

WRIGHT: Absolutely. And I think that we've seen when the Supreme Court wants to act quickly, it does. They didn't do so here. And the question is, why? And then the fact that Jack Smith is fighting so hard against the remand shows that he's really worried about that.

But I think the most important thing is not getting the result of the trial, but what it takes away from the American people is the opportunity to hear the evidence in the trial. Right? And that's what we will miss before the election. And I think once the election happens, if Donald Trump is elected, we may never hear that evidence.

COATES: You know, also, if you are Trump's campaign, I mean, this would push it back further, knowing that right up to the actual election date, you're still talking about the different evidentiary points. And if the trial were to start during that, you still got that burden of having things out there, may not have your own case presented.

Well, I've got really bad news for both of you. You won't get a part of this jury. No one is choosing --


No is choosing either of you for this jury. That's a good thing or a bad thing. I'm not getting chosen either, but I'll be following along.

Tiffany Wright, Tim Parlatore, thank you both so much.

Look, Donald Trump's position on abortion has changed so much. I mean, it could very well make your head spin. Now, the man, who has never missed a chance to take credit for overturning Roe v. Wade, has crowed about it for a long time, says that abortion legislation should be left to the states. Up next, an Iowa voter who once challenged Trump to reveal his position live on national television joins us with her reaction to Trump's latest statement.



COATES: Well, after many months of mixed signals, Donald Trump revealing today who he thinks should have the final word on abortion.


TRUMP: My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both. And whatever they decide must be the law of the land. At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people.


COATES: Well, that's a different take than the one he gave to a voter earlier this year during a town hall.


REBEKAH HAYNIE, ANTI-ABORTION IOWA VOTER: You've also blamed pro- lifers for some of the GOP losses around the country. And you've called heartbeat laws like Iowa is terrible. And so, I just like some clarity on this because it's such an important question to me.

TRUMP: Okay.

HAYNIE: I'd like for you to reassure me that you can protect all life, every person's right to life without compromise.

TRUMP: You wouldn't be asking that question, even talking about the issue, because for 54 years, they were trying to get Roe v. Wade terminated. And I did it, and I'm proud to have done it.


COATES: Joining me now, Rebekah Haynie. She's that anti-abortion voter who pressed Trump on abortion. And she joins me now. Rebekah, thank you so much for joining me this evening. I have to wonder, what is your reaction to Trump saying that states should chart their own path, essentially, on abortion?

HAYNIE: Thanks for having me. And as, I think, you're hearing from a lot of the pro-life camp, we are extremely disappointed with Donald Trump taking the language of the left on this and leading on what he would now -- even he used the term abortion rights. And that's a far cry from someone who claims that he would be the most pro-life president.

And for a long time had been hailed for his pro-life credentials by conservatives like me, who gave him a lot of credit for many of those pro-life victories, the talking points that he used, the way that he defended life when he was in office, we really did appreciate.

And now to come out and essentially surrender on this issue, there are many words for it, but extremely disappointed as a mom. You know, the worst thing that you can be is just disappointed. And that's where I am right now with Donald Trump on life.

COATES: I use that same tactic with my own children when I'm disappointed. It's far worse than me actually yelling about anything. But you know how former Vice President Mike Pence characterized it. He characterized it as a slap in the face. Those are the words that he used.


Do you see it as that as well, something that seems to be an intentional act or something more?

HAYNIE: Well, it truly seems to be an unforced error. I think if we look on the political strategy side, I'm not sure who's advising him. This doesn't exactly come out of the blue. I was able to talk with Donald Trump about life on a similar town hall and on another network. And it was clear to me that he was a little bit wishy-washy on the line he was willing to draw.

But he was still saying he would vote for or rather he would defend life. And I think this is a true step backward. And I'm sure the strategy is to moderate on what he considers to be a more divisive issue. But it's not as though Donald Trump has ever had an issue taking a bold and divisive stand when he believed that it was either right to do or right politically.

And so, I do characterize this as a betrayal. I don't think that someone who is convicted on this issue and is willing to fight for the dignity of all life can really see it otherwise.

And people can make their own decisions on this. But, I mean, someone who has advocated for this, specifically this issue of justice for the pre-born but for all life or for humanity and human dignity, this is really just inexcusable.

COATES: So, what is the consequence then if the idea, you call it a betrayal and inexcusable? Does that mean that it's enough to motivate you to still go to the ballot or is it something that would make you vote for somebody else or an alternative?

HAYNIE: That's always going to be the question, isn't it? And I've seen statements from people wondering now, okay, what then? And I know this is where this conversation likes to go. I think that we need to reassert the standard. And if the standard is that every single life is worth protecting, then to be frank, Donald Trump has not performed according to what he knows.

You know, we're both moms here. If your kid knows to do something right and doesn't do it, well, you know, then you have higher expectations of them, we'll just say. And so, there's consequences. There have to be consequences for knowingly abandoning what you claimed at one time to be so incredibly important.

COATES: This is a very important issue, important enough for you to have asked the question of a presidential candidate, of a former president. Do you think that is enough for people to opt against Donald Trump as a result of this answer?

HAYNIE: So, if pro-lifers, if this is our issue, there should be consequences, as I said. Perhaps this should cost Donald Trump the pro-life vote.

Now, I know that we don't live in Pollyanna lollipop land, and people are going to start choosing between the choices that they have on the ballot, but if this is your number one issue, what I do say is that those consequences for Donald Trump, the backlash should be loud, it should be clarion, it should be clarifying for him that he cannot betray these chief abiding American principles and still expect to be considered a conservative standard bearer.

COATES: Rebekah Haynie, really fascinating to hear your take. Thank you so much for joining.

HAYNIE: Thank you for inviting me.

COATES: I want to bring in a Republican strategist and former deputy chief of staff for HUD under Donald Trump, Shermichael Singleton. Also here is senior political correspondent for "The Wall Street Journal," Molly Ball.

I'm curious what your take is to their reaction to what she said, the notion of there being electoral consequences for Donald Trump based on this. Does that surprise you?

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It doesn't surprise me that social conservatives are angry about the stance that Trump has taken. But he's clearly making a calculation that they're not going to have anywhere else to go. And that by the time November comes around, as she was saying in that segment, they're going to realize there are only two candidates in this election.

Some states, there may be other candidates on the ballot. But realistically, two major candidates, they're not going to vote for Joe Biden if what they care about is the lives of what she called the pre- born. And so, they could stay home. But I'd be surprised.

You know, the evangelical vote in particular, the social conservative vote, has been the strongest cohort of voters behind Donald Trump. They have been -- they have turned out at historic rates. They have supported Trump at historic rates. I think he's making a calculation that at the end of the day, they may grumble, but they're going to come home to him.


COATES: Do you agree with that? SINGLETON: I agree with that 150%. I mean, the question is, you stay home and then President Biden wins the election and Democrats take control of the House, and you barely maintain control of the Senate or regain control of the Senate because you're angry.

I mean, look, these folks have argued for 54, 50 plus years that they wanted this return to the states. The Supreme Court did that. Now, people are getting the opportunity to vote on this issue.


You're seeing Democrats and even a sizable percent of Republicans that are saying, look, we think people should have the right to make this decision for themselves, families and their doctors, not the government. That's small government. I'm a conservative. We believe in small government. Donald Trump is absolutely right on this issue to say, let states decide, put it on the ballots, and if people want it, then that's their right.

COATES: But the fear, of course, of putting on the ballot and putting it in different states is that they've not been successful when it's returned to the ballots in recent times. And you see in Alabama, flipping special election, you see on different ballots. I think it was Kansas as well, just to name one.


COATES: I think Ohio had something similar on the ballot. So, the concern is if you put it to the states and up to the people, then it will not favor those who are in favor of anti-abortion rhetoric.

BALL: Every single state that has voted on this issue since the overturning of Roe, which let's keep in mind, was only less than two years ago, every single state, including deep red states like Kansas and Kentucky, have voted for the abortion rights side of the ballot, whatever that was.

But, you know, I think if Donald Trump thinks that he's sorts of ripping off the Band-Aid here and putting the issue to rest, this is not going to do it. There are still too many questions outstanding. There are a lot of things he hasn't taken a stance on, such as he did not say if there is some kind of federal legislation and he's president, would he sign or veto it?

He's a voter in the state of Florida that's going to have an abortion initiative on the ballot this fall. How is he going to vote on that choice between the current six-week ban and a more liberal standard that goes up to the point of viability? What about the medication abortion ban that the Supreme Court is considering right now?

So, there's still a lot of unanswered questions about how he wants the state of abortion policy to move forward, and I think for that reason, he's going to keep getting questions about this.

COATES: It's really important to think about what's left. I mean, this is a week later since you had that six-week ban announced in Florida. He said he's going to take a week to say something. And this is the way he does it with unanswered questions. I'm wondering, though, what impact this has on his VP pick?

SINGLETON: You know, I don't think it matters. I think evangelicals are more than likely going to stick with Donald Trump. He chose Mike Pence because he needed to appeal to that community. He no longer needs Mike Pence, in my personal view. They're with him.

I think Donald Trump needs to look for a running mate that is going to bring something different to the table. Maybe it's a woman. Maybe it's a person of color.

And in terms of a person of color, maybe someone from the Latino diaspora because that's now the largest minority group in the country. And they are very diverse in terms of their politics. I mean, unlike African-Americans, where 90 plus percent of us are mostly Democrats, the Latino vote is pretty mixed, is pretty split. And so, that's the direction I think he should go tactically.

COATES: You know, interesting thing about evangelicals, we know that Mike Pence said that it was a slap in the face, this statement. But we also reached out to the influential evangelical leader, Bob Vander Plaats, who says that Trump's stance -- quote -- "is deeply disappointing." The pro-life community is looking for more. Just thinking about that statement, of course, I do wonder what the impact is going to be, given the support in the past.

BALL: I think what you hear in all of these statements, again, is a recognition that they just don't have any leverage over him. He is the leader of the party. He has a following that is slavishly devoted to him, and they can cry and scream all they want. But he's the one who is correctly seeing where the middle of the electorate is on this issue. As we just talked about, in every state that's had a referendum, even deep red states, the pro-life side has lost.

So, this is a very, you know, active and passionate movement, but it's a minority of the electorate, and they know. I think you hear in these expressions of disappointment a sort of tacit acknowledgment that they just don't have much leverage over Donald Trump.

COATES: It is symbolic. Is this going to attract the symbolism of the uncommitted votes, the idea that in the primary, I'll say this, but ultimately, I will turn out for who I think is appropriate?

SINGLETON: I mean, I think at this point, most people know who they're going to vote for. I think it's ultimately going to turn -- come down to who can maintain heightened and maximized support and leverage within their constituency.

But I will say this. I think those Republicans within the evangelical community, and I spent a lot of time working with them when I worked for Dr. Carson, they have to ask themselves, is it more important to win in November or to cede the election to President Biden and Democrats if that is indeed their position? And I would argue that most conservatives would say we want to win this November. And that means recognizing the reality that Republicans keep losing on this issue.

Take the L and move on. The American people, including a plethora of Republicans, you look through the data, are also saying this is not the government's right or position to ultimately determine what families should decide on their own. Trump is finally recognizing that. I think it's a smart political decision, and it's a decision that could down the line yield political benefit to the Republican Party because currently, we're losing.

COATES: Hmm. Well, a lot to consider. It was so fascinating to hear somebody who had challenged him on this issue now having that response.


Molly Ball, Michael Singleton, thank you both so much.

Up ahead, his name is Brian Dorsey. He is on death row set to be executed tomorrow. But there's a big issue. The prison guards who watch him don't want him killed. His lawyer is my guest next.


COATES: By this time tomorrow, the state of Missouri will have very likely executed a man by the name of Brian Dorsey. But the thing is, the people guarding him don't think he should be executed.


Seventy-two officers from the correctional center where Dorsey has lived, writing personal letters asking for his life to be spared. And they're not alone. There's also a former judge of the Missouri Supreme Court, several Missouri State representatives, five jurors from the penalty phase of Dorsey's trial.

Despite all of those pleas, the governor of Missouri denying him clemency today, saying Dorsey's execution -- quote -- "would deliver justice and provide closure" -- unquote.

Here's the thing. Dorsey was sentenced to death for the 2006 murder of his cousin, Sarah Bonnie, and her husband, Benjamin. They had taken him in and offered him a safe place to stay after a confrontation with a drug dealer in his apartment. That night, he shot Sarah and Benjamin in their bedroom. Their four-year-old daughter was also home at the time, but was not hurt.

Dorsey himself turned himself in three days later, and he has expressed remorse ever since. His lawyers say that he had struggled with depression and substance abuse, and was going through a withdrawal-induced psychosis at the time of the murders.

Now, some of the family members of the victims do support him. Others describe the execution as a -- quote -- "light at the end of the tunnel," adding that Brian will get the justice that Sarah and Ben have deserved for so long. Now, as for those officers signing on to advocate for Dorsey, they say he lives in the honor dorm and has the trusted position of working as the prison's barber. Over the past 11 years, he has cut the hair of wardens, staff, and chaplains.

One officer writing, some inmates never change, no matter how many years they are in. But that's not Brian. The Brian I have known for years could not hurt anyone. The Brian I know does not deserve to be executed.

But he indeed is set to be executed tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. local time, less than now 24 hours.

Let's bring in attorney for Brian Dorsey, Megan Crane. Megan, thank you so much for joining me this evening. Tomorrow, the execution time has been set. I wonder how is Brian doing this evening, knowing that his final plea for clemency has now been denied?

MEGAN G. CRANE, ATTORNEY FOR BRIAN DORSEY: Thank you so much, Laura. Thank you for having me and for covering Brian's case for clemency. We do still have two petitions pending with the U.S. Supreme Court.

So, while Brian is disappointed that the governor did not hear all the voices, including correctional voices attesting to his rehabilitation and his redemption and explaining why he's uniquely deserving of mercy, he is certainly disappointed, he still remains hopeful that this execution might be stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the meantime, today, he spent his time visiting with us, his legal team. And then he wanted to spend most of his day dedicated to writing to his loved ones, especially his family, while he still can.

COATES: Let's talk about why you say he, you believe, is uniquely deserving of clemency. I mean, many might look at this case and the details of the murder, the leaving behind of this four-year-old little girl as well, and wonder why. Is it because he is now remorseful or because you think there should have been a defense provided for him during the trial?

CRANE: It is both. In any capital case, there is going to be a tragedy and a heinous crime at issue. That is how we get to a capital case. But here, it is both who Brian is today and, frankly, who he always was. He never had a history of violence before this singular tragedy or ever since after.

This crime, by all accounts, was the climax of a time-limited mental health crisis experienced by Brian and the addiction he turned to for self-medication when all other treatment failed.

So, we say clemency is warranted because of who he unquestionably is today, who he always has been, and then, yes, Laura, as you point to, this death sentence was an injustice from the beginning because Brian was utterly failed by his trial attorneys. And if his trial attorneys had done their job in the first place, he would have gotten life, and everybody would have been saved the pain of the past 17 years. COATES: You mean life without parole, possibly, as opposed to a death penalty sentence? And you've pointed out about this. I really was interested in this case for a variety of reasons. And one was the claim that his attorneys had been paid a flat fee of $12,000 each to defend him, which, you know, if you figure what it takes to actually litigate and defend someone in a capital case, that's about $3.37 an hour. Obviously, nothing even close to the standard of what you would pay an attorney. What was the impact, do you think, of a flat fee in this case?


CRANE: That's right, Laura. I mean, the impact is clear, it is direct. It was his conviction because they convinced him to plead guilty for no benefit, with no negotiation, with the death penalty still on the table, before they did any investigation or psychological evaluation of their client. And they did little work after. So, the result is his guilty plea, and it is his death sentence.

COATES: You know, interestingly enough, and I haven't heard of many cases like this where there has been an unprecedented show of support from within the prisons, from the actual correctional officers, more than 70 of them, I might add. A former Missouri Supreme Court judge has also weighed in, who no longer stands by the court's decision. Five jurors who signed off on his clemency petition as well.

And yet, you also have members of the victim's families. And again, this was the cousin of Mr. Dorsey, who was killed, and her husband. But there are members of the victim's families who support the execution. They describe it as that light at the end of the tunnel. What do you say to them, who are looking at this issue?

CRANE: One of the additional tragedies of the death penalty existing at all is once a death sentence is imposed, our system and the prosecutors who are sentenced to death instill the belief that justice is not achieved, justice and closure are not final until execution.

And so, everybody waits those 17 years thinking this is unresolved, that you cannot have peace, that you cannot have justice or closure until the execution. And that is very hard to undo, no matter what you learn after the fact, about who this person is today, about who they were before, about the injustices at play that led to the death sentence in the first place.

And the victim's family, just like the jurors who now have come forward to say, if we knew then what we know now, we would not have voted for death. Everyone was limited in the information they had before them at that trial because the trial attorneys did not do their job.

COATES: And you have two more pending appeals, one before the Supreme Court of the United States. Do you have any indication of when you might hear back? Obviously, they are known to have gone to the 11th hour in their decisions, even on a last-minute petition for an appeal such as this. CRANE: That's right. So, it could come any time tomorrow, tomorrow night, and the execution schedule that it could start at six, but the warrant is good for 24 hours. So, we can wait past six for those decisions. We will and we'll remain hopeful.

COATES: And this, I understand, is death by lethal injection. The idea of a scheduled execution, very difficult to put those two words together. Megan Crane, thank you so much.

CRANE: Thank you so much.

COATES: Up next, a watershed moment for women's basketball. The NCAA championship shattering records. The most-watched basketball game, period, since 2019. Will the success continue? That's the big question. And Jemele Hill is here to talk all of it.



UNKNOWN: The semifinal matchup between number one-seeded UConn and the fourth-seeded Alabama has just wrapped up with UConn victorious. Fellas, initial reactions to what we saw on the court tonight?

UNKNOWN: Ernie (ph), can I be real with you? I didn't watch it.


UNKNOWN: Me either. You know, it's just hard to get excited when there's better games on.

UNKNOWN: You mean the NBA?

UNKNOWN: No, the women's tournament.


COATES: Well, SNL is not wrong. And apparently, a whole lot of people agree. You know, nearly 19 million viewers tuned in to watch Sunday's NCAA women's finals, 18.7 million people. And by the way, it peaked at 24 million. That's more than last year's men's NCAA finals. In fact, it was the most-watched of any basketball game since 2019 and the second most-watched non-Olympic women's sporting event after the 2015 Women's World Cup final between the U.S. and Japan. Wow.

Now, South Carolina topped off their perfect season with a record of 38-0 and the national title. It was the Gamecocks' third tournament victory, all under coach Dawn Staley. It was a team win from the seniors all the way to the freshman with Tessa Johnson coming off the bench to hit a career high of 19 points. They took down Caitlyn Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes definitively 87-75. But Coach Staley, in all of her grace, had some words for Caitlin Clark nonetheless.


DAWN STALEY, COACH, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: I want to personally thank Caitlin Clark for lifting up our sport.


She carried a -- she carried a heavy load for our sport. And it just doesn't stop here.


COATES: Some of the players on her own team, I mean, Ashlyn Watkins, Chloe Kitts, Paopao, Bree Hall, Kamilla Cardoso, the liar goes on and on. And, you know, when you look at all the people who are joining coming up soon, you have people who are going to be declaring and being a part of the WNBA as well.

I mean, just look, if you play, then look at that list I just showed you on the screen there, you've got at least Caitlin Clark, one of the athletes from the top five 2020 high school recruits, heading now to the WNBA. You've got joining her Angel Reese, South Carolina's Kamilla Cardoso. She was named the NCAA tournament's Most Outstanding Player, by the way.


And here to talk women's hoops with me now is Jemele Hill. She is a contributing writer for "The Atlantic" and the host of "Jemele Hill is Unbothered." Jemele, so great to see you. I cannot believe these numbers that came out from yesterday. This says a lot about this sport right now.

JEMELE HILL, PODCAST HOST, CONTRIBUTING WRITER FOR THE ATLANTIC: Well, before I even get into the numbers, let me -- I believe that sometimes, um, a public mistake requires a public apology. So, let me apologize to you, Laura, because the last time I was on your show --


We already had a talk about it off air. I called you Sara because I was thinking about Sara Sidner in my false brain, because people don't know right now that I'm talking to you. I can't actually see you. So, I thought for some reason I was on with Sara, not because of your voice, but I misheard my promises. It's my mistake. Laura, Laura, Laura.

COATES: I love Sara Sidner. You can call me Sara any day because I love her. Thank you very much. And you're so funny. You know, I told you, I'm not bothered. I don't mind at all. I love Sara.

HILL: I know.

COATES: Move on.

HILL: I know.


We love Sara, but I'm going to move on now. So, about these ratings, they tell a deeper story about this explosion we're seeing in women's basketball. It has been a steady ascension in this sport for years. But for so long, women have been told that if you just give us the product, if you just give us the compelling and charismatic figures, that people will watch. They've actually been doing that for a while.

But now, this leaves people no excuse because we saw the women set three ratings record in one week. It started with LSU and Iowa. There was the rematch game in the elite eight. That at the time, most- watched women's basketball game ever. Then four days later, that record stood for four days. And when Iowa faced UConn, a premier program in women's college basketball and has been for decades now, that set another records rating.

And so, for Sunday to be the culmination of everything we've seen from this season, the last few years, and frankly, since the beginning of this game in many respects, because there were a lot of players, a lot of pioneers who suffered through indignity after indignity to get to this point and to see women's basketball putting up an NFL-like rating.

Just for context, you mentioned some great numbers. This average -- this game averaged more viewers than all of last year's NBA finals. There were only four college football games last season that could beat the number of people who watched this game. So, we're talking about a major shift in women's sports.

COATES: So how do they carry that momentum forward and keep the hype going? I mean, I just named a couple of players who were stars in their own rights from different teams going to the WNBA. Is that the next frontier?

HILL: Yes, it very easily is. Look, already, the Las Vegas Aces, who, by the way, had, I believe -- I mean, they had their first sellout of like they're sold out for the season. This happened before anything happened in this women's basketball season before that even concluded. The Las Vegas Aces, who are the defending champions in the WNBA, already a hot draw. They've already moved the game in which they anticipate that Caitlin Clark will be playing in to a bigger arena.

I saw a tweet from the Phoenix WNBA franchise that showed the Mercury, that is, where they're pitting already Diana Taurasi, who's already has some comments about Caitlin Clark, and they're saying, oh, come see the legend versus the rookie. So, this is already a marketing tool in the WNBA.

And I think there is going to be a lot of the fans that were drawn to the college game and drawn to seeing Caitlin Clark. They're totally going to move that interest to the next level where she'll be challenged in a different way, like she's going to be facing some grown women who have been putting in some work in this game for years, like grown women who've been playing overseas, who have been the best in their respective rights for a long time. And I think people are very curious to see how her tremendous skill set translates into the big leagues.

COATES: That might be the same, obviously, for Angel Reese as well, for Kamilla Cardoso.

HILL: Correct.

COATES: I mean, they're all going to have to prove themselves yet again as the rookies coming in. But you know who has already proven herself? The coach, Dawn Staley. I mean, what a force to be reckoned with, an undefeated season, three national titles. She turns out stars who go on to excel in the WNBA. And she has had to restart and rebuild nearly every single year. Angel Reese even tweeted her support for Staley, you know, thanking her for her own support. What does all this say to you about Dawn Staley as a coach?

HILL: Well, I think -- I didn't think about this until today, but there has been a lot of former players who have become coaches, you know, who are former college or WNBA coaches who have become, you know, head coaches in the NCAA field.


I think Dawn might be the best. And the reason why is that when you compare where her credentials were as a player, a multiple winner of National Player of the Year, and although her team didn't win it because it was during a time where Tennessee was like winning everything, she was the only, I believe, to date the only woman who was voted most outstanding player in the Final Four, despite her team losing the national championship.

So, she was official as a college player. She's an Olympian. She's certified as a player. Then you look at her coaching resume and that might be as impressive or more impressive than what she did as a player, which is saying a lot.

And, you know, Dawn Staley is really right now the gold standard. She deserves a ton of credit for this coaching job in particular. She lost five starters last year, including the number one pick in the draft in Aliyah Boston, and here she comes and retools and restacks and is able to beat the player that is considered arguably the best offensive player that the women's college game has ever seen. It says a lot about her as a coach.

And when you look at her team and the joy that they play with, the ferociousness, but the joy and the love that they play with for each other, that says a lot about Dawn the player, Dawn the coach, and Dawn the person. I mean, I had the pleasure of going to Paris when they played Notre Dame at the start of the year and you saw it then. She just has a special connection with these young people.


HILL: And now, she has put herself in the position to be considered in the same vein as a Geno Auriemma or a Pat Summitt, both legends in the game. And while she still is behind them in championships, the fact is she is coming and there are no signs that the South Carolina program is slowing down.

COATES: Undeniable greatness. Jemele Hill, thank you so much for joining tonight.

HILL: I appreciate you having me on. And again, apologies for this.


Yes, I'm going back to it. Love you so much.

COATES: Love you. Bye. Thank you all for watching. Signing off is Laura Coates. Thank you so much. Our coverage continues.