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Soon: Jury Selection For Kenosha Gunman Kyle Rittenhouse; CNN's Rene Marsh Turns Grief Into Inspiration For New Book; Man Dressed As "Joker" Goes On Knife Attack, Hurting 17. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired November 01, 2021 - 07:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The University of Florida under fire this morning accused of chilling the exercise of free speech by the lawyer for three professors barred from testifying in a major voting rights case against the states.

CNN's Nadia Romero joins us with much more. The state of Florida getting involved here, yes?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. And really, we've got to go back to the 2020 election and the big lie, right, that so many Republicans believe that the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump because of widespread voter fraud.

Now, we know that there's no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, but that didn't stop so many of those Republican states that are controlled by Republican legislatures from passing laws -- passing bills that would restrict voting rights. Now, they say this is all about voting integrity but critics will say it's limiting the power of people to vote.

So, take a look at the law that was passed in Florida and some of the restrictions there -- the change we're seeing. New I.D. requirements for voting by mail, limiting who can return a completed mail-in ballot, prohibiting the use of non-profit and private funds to conduct election, expanding partisan observation power during ballot tabulation, and creating additional restrictions for drop box use. So, those are some of the big changes we saw.

And immediately after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed that bill into law, we saw lawsuits and that brings in these University of Florida professors. Three of them tapped to testify for the plaintiffs in this case believing that this new voting bill was unconstitutional but the University of Florida telling them no -- you are not allowed to participate in this trial.


And here's why. Take a look at the statement released from the University of Florida saying that they're not denying them their First Amendment rights but simply, "...the university denied requests of these full-time employees to undertake outside paid work that is adverse to the university's interests as a state of Florida institution."

But, as you mentioned John, we're hearing from the lawyer of those professors saying that they feel like their First Amendment rights are being blocked. They say they "...will not back down from this attack on their academic freedoms to speak out on our own time, on matters of great public importance."

The ACLU also coming out supporting those professors. We've reached out to the university. And specifically, John, I want to note that the chair of the University of Florida's Board of Trustees is a multimillionaire, mega-donor to the Republican Party, and a supporter of Gov. Ron DeSantis. We've reached out to see if he had any role in this decision and we're waiting to hear back this morning -- John.

BERMAN: It will be interesting to see what they have to say on that front.

Nadia Romero, thank you so much for that report.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Here in just a few hours, jury selection begins in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who killed two people and wounded a third during unrest that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year. The defense claims that he acted in self-defense.

The judge made pretrial headlines with a controversial ruling, and CNN's Sara Sidner has a preview.


SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kyle Rittenhouse became a household name last summer after this video emerged of the then-17-year-old with a semiautomatic weapon dangling from his chest, walking right past police in Kenosha, Wisconsin after he had just shot and killed two people and injured one.

Rittenhouse's attorney says he was in danger and acted in self- defense. Rittenhouse said he was there to protect businesses during protests that turned to riots in Kenosha. But prosecutors say Rittenhouse killed and maimed people while illegally possessing a firearm and charged him in the case. Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Some of the crucial evidence in the trial, livestreams.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get his gun (ph).

SIDNER (voice-over): Prosecutors say after shooting and killing Joseph Rosenbaum, video shows Rittenhouse is chased. Anthony Huber hits Rittenhouse with a skateboard and is shot and killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh (bleep). He shot that guy in the stomach.

SIDNER (voice-over): Then Gaige Grosskreutz goes towards Rittenhouse and is shot in the arm.


SIDNER (voice-over): This is all happening after protests turned to riots in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake.


SIDNER (voice-over): Before jury selection, the judge in the case made a controversial ruling, telling prosecutors they cannot refer to the three people Rittenhouse shot as victims. But Rittenhouse's attorneys may refer to those shot as looters, rioters, and arsonists if there is evidence to prove it.

JUDGE BRUCE SCHROEDER, KENOSHA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: If the evidence shows that any or more than one of these people were engaged in arson, rioting, or looting, then I'm not going to tell the defense they can't call them that.

THOMAS BINGER, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, KENOSHA COUNTY: I think, your honor, if I were to count the number of times that you've admonished me not to call someone a victim during a trial, it would be in the thousands.

SCHROEDER: You made that point and this is a long-held opinion of mine which very few judges, I guess, share with me. The word victim is a loaded, loaded word and I think alleged victim is a cousin to it.

SIDNER (voice-over): Attorney Lance Northcutt, a former prosecutor, says the ruling is highly unusual.

LANCE NORTHCUTT, PARTNER, SALVI, SCHOSTOK & PRITCHARD, FORMER PROSECUTOR: And it begs the question of what else would you call someone who has been shot? They're not bullet recipients. If you are going to use the phrase "loaded question" or "loaded term" you've got to apply that equally across the board. And here, there didn't seem to be any real explanation as to why what's good for the goose is not good for the gander.

SIDNER (voice-over): But longtime Wisconsin criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Dan Adams has a very different take.

SIDNER (on camera): Do you think the judge made the right call here?

DAN ADAMS, WISCONSIN CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I think Judge Schroeder made the right call here. You can't be a victim unless there has been a crime committed. And the decision whether a crime has been committed is the providence of the jury only.

SIDNER (voice-over): Grosskreutz certainly considers himself a victim. GAIGE GROSSKREUTZ, SHOT BY KYLE RITTENHOUSE: I lost 90 percent of my

bicep. I'm in constant pain -- like, excruciating pain. Pain that just doesn't go away.

SIDNER (voice-over): He's the only person to survive being shot by Rittenhouse and is expected to be called as a witness in the trial.

Sara Sidner, CNN.


BERMAN: All right, thanks to Sara for that report.


Elon Musk makes a $6 billion pledge to fight world hunger if -- and it's a big if.

KEILAR: First, a CNN correspondent turns her own devastating loss into a story of hope and faith. Our Rene -- our own Rene Marsh is going to join us next.


KEILAR: In April, CNN correspondent Rene Marsh and her husband Kedric lost their son Blake to brain cancer, and to honor him and to raise funds for cancer research, she has turned her grief into -- or I should say channeled her grief into a new children's book about a little boy named Blake who needs a miracle to help him fight off a monster of a problem.


And joining us now is CNN national correspondent Rene Marsh. This is her new book, "The Miracle Workers: Boy vs. Beast," and it is beautiful. And it's available at with all profits going towards pediatric brain cancer research.

Rene, it is -- I have to say I've been so happy to have you back at work.


KEILAR: We have missed you so much. And we know that you and your family have been through so much here, and not just in the last several months but in the last couple of years.

And I wonder if you could just tell us a little bit about how you decided to write this book. It was because something was missing in the library.

MARSH: Yes. You know, first of all, thank you for having me on to talk about this book. It means so much to me. It's so special to me.

And how this book came to be is as we went through this cancer journey with Blake, it was nearly 2 1/2 years. Everyone knows now, if you know Blake, he loved to read. He loved books and we'd carry like a stack of books to the hospital with us because we'd have 30-day stints in the hospital.

And we were going through a particularly tough time during his treatment and all I had was the "Wheels on the Bus" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider." I love those books but it wasn't feeding my soul in the way I needed to at a time that we really were struggling during Blake's treatment. And I wanted something to read to Blake that had this sort of fighting spirit -- that message of having the fighting spirit even when the odds looked stacked incredibly high against you.

And that is when I decided I wanted to write a book that I could read to Blake that even when things look like they're not going to work out you still need to have that hope. Because I know for me and my husband, having hope during that entire journey with Blake is what essentially helped us to survive that.

KEILAR: He is such a beautiful little boy --

MARSH: Thank you.

KEILAR: -- up against a monster --


KEILAR: -- which is really what Blake is up against in this book. And I know that at the time that you wrote it you were reading about David and Goliath in the Bible.

MARSH: Yes. You know, this was a point in Blake's treatment where he was on life support. One of the chemo drugs had triggered just a near- fatal reaction. And I looked at my son laying on a table lifeless, but I continued to read to him every single day because that's what I did beforehand and I wanted him to hear my voice every single day to know that I was still there.

And the books, again, that I had just weren't what I needed in that very difficult moment. And, yes, privately at night, that is where -- that is the book that I was reading. And it gave me that hope to get to the next day and it inspired me to believe that we were going to get through it.

My little Blake is not here today but after that stint on life support, we did have him for another year, and those are some of the most precious memories that I have today. So, that hope helped us to get to the next point and those are the memories that I have in my heart today.

KEILAR: It was an amazing comeback for Blake. I remember you writing about it and having that year with him. This is about being able to keep fighting in his name.

MARSH: Yes. So, this book is a book about hope that any child can read and enjoy and be inspired by. The greater mission of this book is to raise funds for pediatric brain

cancer. Specifically, right now, we are focused on raising money for research for Ependymoblastoma, which is the type of cancer that Blake had. We learned very quickly there is no research and so what that means is there is no cure. And so, that means that Blake was probably never going to survive from the day we received that diagnosis.

It hurts my heart today to know that as I speak to you there are other children with this disease. Sadly, because there is no research and no funding, or not enough funding behind it, their fate may look like Blake.

And I can tell you I don't want that for any mom and I don't want that for any dad. I want that child to be able to go to kindergarten, go to high school, go to college, get married. That's all that I wanted to see for my son.

So, I will do everything in my power for the rest of my life to raise money for this cause. And I hope that when people get this book, they will be inspired by the message but also have comfort in their heart to know that they are helping other children in the hospital with cancer right now, where doctors want to solve this disease but they just need the financial funding to do that.

KEILAR: You talked so candidly through the course -- on social media -- of the battle that you were shepherding Blake through.



KEILAR: And I was so struck by some of your words and what you said when he passed away -- that you essentially had this role of mother stolen from you.


KEILAR: I think it's something especially -- I saw something that our colleague Andrew Kaczynski put on Twitter where he was talking about the difference between Halloween, for instance, for parents.


KEILAR: And that was something that really stuck with me. And your goal here is to make sure that other parents aren't in the same situation.

But just tell us a little bit about finding that strength -- something that you've talked about -- finding that strength to shepherd Blake through this.

MARSH: Well, you're a mom so you know that the love that you have for your child knows no limits. And I feel like that and I felt like that with Blake. I mean, there is nothing that I would not do for my son. And because he is not here in the physical sense will not stop my love for him and it also will not stop me fighting for him. This book is a reflection of my commitment to continuing to fight the disease that robbed me of my son.

As far as the strength, I have many moments of feeling broken but I see my strength in my ability to piece myself back together each time. So, for anybody watching, we will have moments of brokenness but the strength is putting yourself back together and, as I like to say, working while you weep. And that's what this book is. It's a product of me working while I have been weeping.

And I do it for Blake and I hope I'm making him proud today. And I do it for every child that is in the hospital right now across America with this disease. I am here to fight for you and for your parents.

So, all the research that this book will support will -- is all listed on You can dive in, see what we plan on doing with the money here. And yes, is the only place that you can purchase the book.

KEILAR: The only place. It is a beautiful book with beautiful illustrations and a beautiful story. And a beautiful little boy --

MARSH: Thank you.

KEILAR: -- who is the protagonist.

Rene, I want to thank you so much for coming on and sharing his story. We really appreciate it.

MARSH: Thank you so much -- thank you.

KEILAR: And you can get this book. It's called "The Miracle Workers: Boy vs. Beast." It is available, as Rene said, at -- rene -- r-e-n-e. And all of these profits are going towards pediatric brain cancer research in the hope of a breakthrough.

Back in a moment.



KEILAR: Commuters in Japan were sent running for their lives after a man dressed as the "Joker" brandished a knife and set fire to a train. The suspect has now been arrested but police say at least 17 people were injured. One stabbing victim is in his 70s and that person is in critical condition.

Joining us live with more is CNN's Selina Wang, live for us in Tokyo just outside the station near where the attack happened. This is terrifying -- this story -- Salena.

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, it was a horrific attack on Halloween. At about 8:00 p.m. last night, witnesses say a man suddenly started attacking people with a large knife near this train station in western Tokyo.

The police arrested a 24-year-old man on the scene that witnesses say was dressed like the Joker from "Batman," wearing a purple suit, a purple tie, and a bright green shirt. This man later told authorities that he wanted to kill at least two people and he wanted to get the death penalty.

Later, witnesses uploaded video footage where you could just see this chaotic scene playing out -- people screaming, running for their lives. Flames and smoke in the train car. Authorities said that the suspect used cigarette lighter fluid to set the train on fire.

We spoke to a witness who said that he, at first, thought this was all some sort of Halloween prank until he saw people rushing away from the attacker for their lives. The train made an emergency stop here and people rushing out of the windows, running out as fast as they could.

Now, this train was headed towards Shinjuku, which is a busy, popular entertainment nightlife area in Tokyo, especially a big hotspot for Halloween partygoers.

This attack last night, Brianna, is part of several knife attacks in Japan in recent years, but this is still considered one of the safest countries in the world. Knife attacks are extremely rare. Just one statistic for you. In 2020, in Japan, a country of about 126 million people, only seven gun-related deaths compared to tens of thousands in the U.S. -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Selina. Thank you so much for that. Selina Wang live for us in Tokyo.

BERMAN: The world's richest man is responding to a plea for the world's super-rich to help feed millions of starving people. The idea, less than two percent of Elon Musk's net worth could make -- help alleviate world hunger.

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us now with that -- Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR "EARLY START": You know, John, a few super-rich people could feed 42 million starving people around the world.

Here is the plea from the head of the U.N. World Food Programme on CNN last week.


DAVID BEASLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, U.N. WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: And the billionaires need to step up now on a one-time basis, $6 billion, to help 42 million people that are literally going to die if we don't reach them. It's not complicated.

And this is what's heartbreaking -- I'm not asking them to do this every day, every week, every year. We have a one-time crisis -- a perfect storm of conflict, climate change, and COVID. It's a one-time phenomenon.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: David Beasley there singling out Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Musk is the world's richest man. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index put his net worth, John, at $311 billion. That fortune grew $9.3 billion just last Friday alone, in one day.

His company, Tesla, has joined the trillion-dollar club, one of just six --