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All Three Defendants Guilty Of Murder In Ahmaud Arbery's Death; Holiday Travel Rush Reaches Pre-Pandemic Levels; COVID Cases Climb As Americans Gather For Thanksgiving; Trump, Right-Wing Media Celebrate Rittenhouse Acquittal. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 24, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: And holiday travel back to pre-pandemic levels tonight. COVID, caution and celebration are all on the menu for Americas second pandemic Thanksgiving

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And let's get straight to the breaking news. CNN's Martin Savidge is live for us in Brunswick, Georgia. Martin, take us inside of the courtroom.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jim, the moment that it was announced that jury had reached some kind of verdict, there was electricity that just passed through all of Brunswick, many came to the courthouse, they wanted to be present physically. And then came that first pronouncement, guilty for Travis McMichael.

There was a burst. It was like a dam burst of human emotion in front of that courthouse. Many people were simply overwhelmed. Inside the courtroom, very similar.


JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, SUPERIOR COURT STATE OF GEORGIA: Count one, malice murder, we, the jury, find the defendant, Travis McMichael, guilty. I'm going to ask that whoever just made an outburst be removed from the court, please.

SAVIDGE (voice over): Loved ones of Ahmaud Arbery getting emotional in court this afternoon as all three defendants were found guilty of murder by a jury of nine white women, two white men and one black man. Judge Timothy Walmsley going through all nine counts for each defendant.

Travis McMichael, the man who shot and killed Arbery claiming it was self-defense, was found guilty on all nine counts. His father, Gregory McMichael, was found not guilty on one charge by guilty on the other eight.

William Roddie Bryan Jr., the man who took the video of the shooting was found guilty on six counts. People outside of the courthouse sharing their reaction to the verdict.

LINDA GAMBLE, ARBERY FAMILY FRIEND: Today, justice was served.

SAVIDGE: Did you ever doubt this day might come.

GAMBLE: I did not. I feel good.

LINDA DUNIKOSKI, LEAD PROSECUTOR: The jury service works in this country. And when you present the truth to people and they see it, they will do the right thing. And that is what this jury did today in getting justice for Ahmaud Arbery.

SAVIDGE: The jury deliberated for over 11 hours after 13 days of testimony from more than 30 witnesses. The three defendants claim they were trying to make a citizen's arrest of Arbery, saying that they suspected that he had burglarized a nearby home construction site, referring to the video of Arbery wondering inside that home months before being killed.

After the verdicts were read, Arbery's family spoke outside the courthouse.

WANDA COOPER-JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: It is been a long fight. It's been a hard fight but God is good.

MARCUS ARBERY SR. AHMAUD ARBERY'S FATHER: I don't want to see no daddy watch their kid get shot down like that. So it is all of our problem. It is all of our problem. So, hey, let's keep fighting.


SAVIDGE (on camera): The celebration continued.

To call it a celebration really is not fair because no one is celebrating the fact that a young man is still dead regardless of the outcome. I guess what people are acknowledging here is they truly feel after seeing that horrific video, after waiting for so long for arrest and now enduring the whole process of a trial and conviction, justice, that is what they're feeling tonight here in Brunswick. Jim?

ACOSTA: It is a feeling we don't always have after these kinds of cases, Martin, but it is justice tonight in Brunswick, Georgia. Martin Savidge, thanks so much for that report.

Let's get more on the breaking news with CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson, former Federal Judge Nancy Gertner, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida, Dave Aronberg, and Chris Stewart, former co-counsel for Ahmaud Arbery's mother. Thanks to all of you for being with us on this night before Thanksgiving. Happy holidays to all of you.

Chris, you were involved in this case at the start as Arbery's mother, Wanda Jones -- working with Wanda Cooper-Jones as she was fighting for charges to be brought. What was going through your mind today as you watched the judge read the guilty verdicts? I mean, it was jubilation. It seemed like relief, exhaustion, just all bursting out at once.

L. CHRIS STEWART, MANAGING PARTNER, STEWART MILLER SIMMONS TRIAL ATTORNEYS: I mean, as I watched it, tears were just in my eyes and I texted Ms. Wanda faith, because every night I text her a prayer, we text a prayer back and forth and I just text her faith because we have to understand how hard fought this was.

And it is even bigger than just the verdict today. Two D.A.'s were removed, one with charged with two crimes. We have an entire system of corruption rattled and shake into core. These people normally get off because they are a former cop or they have connections. But they got life.


All three of them will end up getting life. It was a game changing moment and the defense gamble with racism and lost.

ACOSTA: And a very conservative corner of the deep south, no less.

Joey Jackson, how significant is it that it's not just the man who pulled who is found guilty but all three men who played a role in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery? You know, that's significant.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It very much is, Jim. This verdict spoke to so many issues. It spoke to truth and fact. It spoke to the rule of law. It spoke to the issue of humanity, a lot of concern with respect to 11 to 1, right? What do I mean? 11 jurors who are white, one who is African-American. Will they see the facts for what they are? Will those justifications that the defendant's put forth carry the day or will the rule of law prevail and will the facts that everyone saw prevail?

And I think with this verdict, it was sent a message of accountability. And, yes, to Stewart's very good, the bottom line is look at how we get here. It was very flawed with regard to one D.A. now under indictment herself as it related to trying to block the arrest to begin with, as to the other D.A. who wrote memorandum saying there's nothing to see here, as to the 74 days, two and a half months that led to the arrest in this prosecution.

But this is a juror I think in a jury that spoke to the issue of humanity, it's spoke to issue of we're going to call it as we see it and it spoke to the issue that people of good mind and good will, no matter whether they're black, brown, whatever color, yellow, green, you know who they pray to, what they do can see it for what it is. And to your point and my final point, not only hold responsible the person who pulled the trigger, but hold responsible all those who would engage in wrongdoing like this and in criminality like this.

So, this is a big moment for that community. It's a big moment for Georgia. It's a big moment for the United States of America as it related to accountability for all who would violate the law.

ACOSTA: And, Judge Gertner, as a former federal judge, I wonder what you made of the judge's role in this trial. It seemed like he ran a tight ship. I mean, the defense team, I lost count how many times they asked for a mistrial. You know, he didn't break character. I guess you could put it that way. He was just sort of stoic the entire trial and helped guide this jury to its verdict today through a very emotionally-charged case.

NANCY GERTNER, FORMER FEDRAL JUDGE: Well, I mean, he also made a ruling a couple of days ago, which was very significant, which was that the citizen's arrest statute in Georgia, which is a relic of the confederate period could not be used here because these men did not see Arbery actually commit a crime. And that was an extraordinary ruling, which really set the tone for the case.

In addition, rulings about the efforts to try to keep black pastors out of the courtroom, I actually -- as a former judge, I admired his equanimity. The request to keep them in the courtroom was nothing short of outrageous. So, I thought that he was very even in a very, very difficult trial.

But just to the point of the other speakers, what is significant to me is the notion that trying to disarm someone who is attacking you can't be an excuse to kill. And as a contrast then between the finding in this case and Rittenhouse and that should give us pause.

ACOSTA: And, David Aronberg, the defense attorneys resorted to using racist tropes throughout the trial. It was ugly. It was despicable. Does it appear to you that that strategy backfired? Because there were a lot of legal experts such as yourself who were predicting during the course of the trial that those defense attorneys were acting desperate and the jury could sense that sort of thing.

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Jim, it did seem desperate. The comment that Arbery had dirty toe nails was beyond the pale. Now, I get the point the lawyer was attempting to make that he wasn't supposedly dressed as a jogger, so he was up to something nefarious, but she crossed the line. And I think it blew back on her.

And contrast that to the prosecutor who didn't really invoke race much in all of this until the very end. But when she did, she showed that the only crime that Ahmaud Arbery could have conceivably been committing in the defendant's mind was jogging while black. And so I thought her cross-examination of Travis McMichael was a key to this case in a reason why they found all three defendants guilty.

ACOSTA: All right. I couldn't agree with you more, all of you. Thank you so much for those insights. Joey Jackson, Nancy Gertner, Dave Aronberg, Chris Stewart, great to see all of you. We appreciate it. Thank you so much.

JACKSON: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: Breaking news continuous next. We'll dig deeper into this guilty verdicts with all three members, yes all three members prosecution team. There they are. Their standing by to join us live, next.



ACOSTA: More now on tonight's breaking news, all three men charged in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery have been found guilty of murder and we're joined now by the prosecution team, Linda Dunikoski, Larissa Ollivierre and Paul Camarillo. Thanks to all of you.

And I don't know if you say congratulations on what occurred today, because this has been such an emotionally-charged case and such a journey for the family of Ahmaud Arbery. But, Linda, I want to begin with your reaction to these guilty verdicts today. Were you confident that the jury was going to convict all three defendants of murder based on the case that you put forward?

DUNIKOSKI: No prosecutor ever believes that they're going to win until that verdict comes back.


So, I was hopeful based on the evidence that we presented in the case that we put forth that the jury would see the truth of what actually took place and bring justice for the Arbery family.

ACOSTA: And, Linda, one of the most memorable moments of this trial was your step-by-step dismantling of the self-defense argument, which was just a key part of all of this. Were you aware at the time just how well that argument was going? Or were you just trying to get through, you know, the case that you were trying to make to the jury?

DUNIKOSKI: A cross-examination is a fluid, fluid thing. And I wanted to make sure that the jury understood that the self-defense case was absolute garbage, that was not what took place and I was doing my best in the moment to dismantle it, as you said. And I hoped to achieve that. And when you're doing it, you never know how well it is going.

ACOSTA: And I wanted to ask and any of you could chime in here for a reaction to what some of the defense attorneys were saying during this trial, during portions of this trial. We heard comments about Ahmaud Arbery's toenails and comments about black pastors in the courtroom and so on. I suppose, as prosecutors, you have to keep your cool in those kinds of situations. Linda, or whoever else, I mean, what is your reaction now that the case is over to -- I mean, they were just overt racist tropes being thrown out there in front of the jury.

DUNIKOSKI: I'll let Larissa handle this one.

LARISSA OLLIVIERRE, COBB COUNTY ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I think the comments were unnecessary and they were low. And I just feel bad that Ahmaud's mom and dad had to sit there and listen to all of those things.

ACOSTA: And, Larissa, I mean, at one point you were admonished after you asked a witness, do you believe that stealing is the deserving of the death penalty. That may not have been allowed in court, but isn't that the crux of what this case was about? OLLIVIERRE: Well, yes. Ahmaud did not deserve that. He did not deserve that. And we are just happy that the jury saw that.

ACOSTA: And, Paul, let me go back to some of what the defense was saying during this trial, some of those controversial comments. I did want to get your response to that.

PAUL CAMARILLO, SENIOR ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: You know, defense attorneys have a job to do. And, you know, they will make arguments and they'll say things sometimes to get points across that may not come across well. Saying what the prosecution, sometimes the communication is lacking. I think the comments were unnecessary. I agree with Larissa. But maybe there was something they were trying to get across that they should have done a little bit better.

So, you know, I feel really bad that Wanda and Marcus had to hear that, to put their son, you know, his memory and link that up in that way with him. So, do I agree with what they said? No. But they do have a job to do and maybe they should have done it a little differently.

ACOSTA: And, Linda, do you think it backfired for the defense team? You were looking at the jury. What was your sense of it?

DUNIKOSKI: The jury was really great about not having any visible reactions to anything. They paid very, very close attention to all of the evidence in the trial. But I was surprised. And I looked at Ms. Hogue when she did that. And I couldn't believe she said it. So I -- sure, the jurors, some of them must have had the same reaction.

ACOSTA: Yes. And, Linda, in your strategy sessions, did you ever have any concerns about the racial breakdown of the jury? The panel consists of 11 white jurors, 1 black juror. What was your sense of it? Or did you think, listen, this is a jury that could deliver justice, as they did today?

DUNIKOSKI: Actually, after we picked the jury, we looked at them and realized that we had very, very smart, very intelligent, honest jurors who were going to do their job which is to seek the truth. And so we felt that putting up our case, it doesn't matter whether they were black or white, that putting up our case that this jury would hear the truth, they would see the evidence and that they would do the right thing and come back with the correct verdict, which we felt they did today.

ACOSTA: And, Paul, your team also hammered away at the defense in terms of citizen's arrest law. How significant was that to the case, do you think?

CARAMILLO: The citizen's arrest law in general?

ACOSTA: Right. Well, the way that the defense was portraying it, yes.

CARAMILLO: Obviously, we disagreed on what the citizen's arrest law, the explanation of that law to the jury should be, and you saw that a lot in our legal arguments.


But it was vital. We had to show that, you know, it did not apply in this case. And if they could not get past that hurdle, they never even could not get to self-defense. And our whole job and our strategy sessions was to make that as clear as possible. And Linda did a terrific job in her closing argument in separating the fluff and just getting down to the nitty-gritty on what the law is and make it as simple as possible and the jurors got that.

ACOSTA: And were any of you surprised as to how quickly this verdict came in or do you think this is about right?

DUNIKOSKI: I thought this was about right. They had three separate defendants, all of whom were charged with all nine counts in the indictment, but there was a lot of different evidence against each of them. They've been charged at party to a crime. So the fact that they needed to work their way through and they did diligently review the evidence and work through each in individual defendant and came to their verdict, this was about right.

ACOSTA: And, Linda, what was your thought -- there was other comments made by the defense team that also struck us as just being totally inappropriate. There was the defense attorney who talked about there being too many blast pastors in the courtroom. I wanted to get your response to that as well, Linda.

DUNIKOSKI: That was all done outside the presence of the jury. So, the jury never saw Mr. Gough talking about that.

Mr. Gough is a very, very good attorney. And he purposefully and intentionally and strategically, I believe, did what did in an effort to attempt to insert potentially some error into the case in case he lost the case and it went up on appeal.

ACOSTA: Larissa, was that your sense too? Is that what you thought he was up to?

OLLIVIERRE: Yes. Kevin Gough is actually I pretty intelligent attorney. He just -- I think he misstepped with that one, but I don't think it was a complete accident on his part.

ACOSTA: Yes. It struck a lot of people as being very insensitive. I know you were in the courtroom. But outside of the courtroom, it just struck a lot of people as just being totally inappropriate.

Linda, what message do you hope today's verdict sends to other mothers out there seeking justice for their sons, as we were talking with Ahmaud Arbery's mother in the previous hour? And we made the note and she also made the note that this doesn't always end the same way for a lot of mothers in her case. What do you think that the message is being sent from this case to others -- to other mothers out there hoping for justice?

DUNIKOSKI: I hope the message is that they should trust the process while being and feeling free to be the advocate for their child. Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery were advocates for Ahmaud. And they really pushed this one when it first happened.

And I think the message is that you have to let the criminal justice system work, and in this case, yes, it did work. And to trust, which they did, they trusted us and they trusted this team to bring justice for them and their family, but to trust the system of the Constitution and due process just to let it work.

ACOSTA: All right. Linda Dunikoski, Larissa Olliviearre and Paul Camarillo, thank you so much for joining us. Happy Thanksgiving, thanks for your time. We appreciate it.

DUNIKOSKI: Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

OLLIVIERRE: Thank you. Happy Thanksgivings.

CAMARILLO: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Thank you. Congrats on a job well done. Thank you very much.

Coming up, an update on holiday travel heading for pandemic era records across the U.S. Millions are ignoring the crowded airports and sky high gas prices and worries about the coronavirus.



ACOSTA: And we're watching the last-minute rush of millions of eager travelers as they're heading to their Thanksgiving destinations regardless of crowded airports, high gasoline prices and, of course, lingering concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. People are on the move.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is at LAX Los Angeles International Airport. Stephanie, it is usually extremely busy right now typically but it is looking okay behind you. How are things going?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is looking okay here right now, Jim. But across the country, keep in mind, this might be the first time many Americans are flying again after getting vaccinated for COVID.

So you're seeing a lot of different things and a lot of people who are just ready to get back to the skies and understand they might need to be a little bit more patient. I talked turkey with one guy in particular. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We actually knew that traveling today will be tough. But we're traveling with a family every year, it is a tradition. So we were ready.

ELAM (voice over): It is the first Thanksgiving since COVID shots started going into arms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kind of figured it would be more packed than usual, just not this intense.

ELAM: And Americans are traveling near pre-pandemic levels. But before getting to that, travelers have to get through this. At Los Angeles International Airport, 2 million passengers are expected to travel around the holiday.

JUSTIN ERBACCI, CEO, LOS ANGELES WORLD AIRPORTS: We're expecting more than double of what we had last Thanksgiving.

ELAM: The TSA estimating 20 million people will fly for the Thanksgiving holiday, a pandemic travel record and a far cry from the paltry numbers this time last year.


AAA forecasting air travel will be up 80 percent from 2020. For days, airport officials reminding passengers to be early, patient and masked.

But some Americans are skipping the airport altogether, opting to hit the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to spend too much time with security lines and I thought it would be faster to drive than to fly. And it just could be safer. I don't have to deal with the crowds.

ELAM: AAA predicting more than 48 million people will be driving for the holiday, an 8 percent increase from last year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And for Thanksgiving, we're going on a date. You know, just hopefully the traffic is not bad by Thanksgiving because I'm going to probably cry.

ELAM: And while drivers won't be fighting TSA lines, they will be dealing with record high gas prices. The average price for regular gas is $3.40, according to government data, the highest price for the Monday before thanksgiving in nearly a decade.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just have to pay it, I suppose. There is nothing you can really do about it.


ELAM (on camera): Now, I know Jim you said it doesn't look like it is very busy here but keep in mind that LAX and other airports across the country are saying that Sunday could be a record-breaking day post pandemic as everyone makes their way back from those holiday travels and that is when the airports could be really, really busy, Jim.

ACOSTA: Stephanie, and kudos to you for finding the first gentleman that you featured in that piece. I don't know how you did it. Birds of a feather, I guess, but all right.

ELAM: Talking turkey to a turkey, I know. I was lucky.

ACOSTA: You did well, thank he so much. We appreciate it. Stephanie Elam there at LAX.

Now let's check in with our Meteorologist Tom Sater. And, Tom, we are not making this segue for any reason, whatsoever. That is a marvelous looking forecast there. No turkeys on the weather board tonight.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No. And green means all systems go, Jim. Busiest travel day of the year and in every major airport is green, this is fantastic news.

Now, there are concerns on return flights on Sunday. Let me get there. First, current radar, light rain, desert southwest, there is some snowfall in the Central Rockies. Denver has yet to pick up their first measurable snow. In 140 years of recordkeeping, they never had to wait this long. Some light rain into the Midwest. It's getting get heavier.

First, let's go to Southern California, because tomorrow, the critical fire danger, low humidity, winds are picking up, Santa Ana winds, if you're frying your Turkey outdoors, please, please be careful.

This is how it shapes up, wet weather for Thanksgiving. Southeastern Texas up through the Midwest, leave St. Louis in the morning and toward the great lakes. East Coast is fantastic.

The best day of the week weather-wise for New York City is tomorrow. 54 for the Macy's State Parade, sure, it's cool in the morning but winds in the single-digits not getting even closer the threshold to keep those balloons from flying. They will be up. It should be fabulous.

Now, bad news, we're going to have not one but two shots of cold air moving across the great lakes and in toward the northeast with moisture moving in place, this is going to be big news here. Rain tomorrow, moves into the Ohio valley. Good for the east coast. Rain Friday for the big cities in the east, some lake-effect snows for those cities that typically have it.

Saturday looks okay, but winds could cause some flight delays if you're leaving Saturday. The problem is Sunday, Jim, as the next batch of snowfall kind of moves in from the great lakes. We're looking at more accumulations as you get interior section.

However, this is going to watch, should be rain for Boston, New York, Philly even Baltimore but flurries are possible. Driving could be an issue, interior sections, late on Sunday. It's good though.

ACOSTA: All right, it looks pretty good so far. But load up on that stuffing from grandma because they might need some of that sleepiness to get through the stress of the holidays coming up here. All right, Tom, thanks so much.

SATER: A little insulation.

ACOSTA: Yes exactly. That's right. Thank you so much.

Still ahead, some excellent advice coming up on keeping safe from COVID during the Thanksgiving celebrations. What questions should you ask before you get together with friends, relatives and strangers?


ACOSTA: More on tonight's breaking news. All three men charged in the killing of unarmed black jogger Ahmaud Arbery have been found guilty of murder.

Derrick Johnson, the President and CEO of NAACP is here to discuss it along with global human rights leader Martin Luther King III. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us. Happy Thanksgiving.

Martin, let me start with you first, if I may. We know the justice system is not perfect and certainly is not after tonight, but to borrow a phrase from your father, did we see the long arc of the moral universe bend a little more toward justice today do you think. How are you feeling about that this evening?

MARTIN LUTHER KING III, GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS LEADER: Well I would have to say that potentially, and I say that because this is a victory certainly for the Ahmaud Arbery family, his mother, his father, his relatives and friends. And this justice was served today as much as it could be in light of the fact that tragically a young man was killed unnecessarily.

And so the moral arc of the universe is long but sometimes we have to help bend it. And if we look beyond today, I don't want to move beyond today, but the reality is more times than not, justice is not achieved for African-American, well, I should say the black and brown community.

So what it means is this is a step in the right direction. But there are a lot of work that has to be done in our nation.

ACOSTA: And, Derrick, what stands out to you when you reflect on how this verdict fits into the larger moment of racial justice in this country. When we spoke with Ahmaud Arbery's mother in the previous hour, and Lee Merritt who was with her, they were both speaking about the mothers who don't end up with a day like this.

DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Well, you know I consider the prosecution team was a stellar team. You had them on in the last segment and I listened to them.


They were focused and they are really aggressive in their job.

I commend the jurors who we were concerned about. But they actually took the information received and deliberated and came out with a verdict that I absolutely agree with, and also the judge. But I think most importantly the laws on the books that were put on there in the 1800s and early 1900s, the - law that was trying to be used, the way we select D.A.'s in this country, all of those things need to be revisited to make sure that we could actually create a just system.

The reason why many African-Americans across the country, particularly those of us who live in the south were concerned about this case because we understand that structural barriers are embedded in some of our laws, particularly criminal laws that we understood that how district attorneys are selected through a popularity contest created a level of bias that is not always what -- afford justice to African- Americans and the jury pool system, how could we reform it to make sure one, truly get a juror of their peers as opposed to almost going to the casino hoping we have individuals who would take into account was in front of them in the case as opposed to the political climate that surrounds them.

ACOSTA: And Martin, Vice President Kamala Harris released a statement saying that these verdicts send an important message. But she is taking issue with the defense and we could put up a portion of what she said on screen. She said the defense counsel chose to set tone that cast attendance of minister as at the trial as intimidation and dehumanized a young black man with racist tropes. The jury arrived at his verdicts despite the tactics, according to the vice president there.

You were one of those faith leaders who went to Brunswick Georgia to support the Arbery family. What were your thoughts as you were witnessing the defense resort to these just ugly and offensive tactics?

KING: Well, I certainly concur that these are -- that's the worst of what a defense council or defense counselors could have used and embraced. They went strictly to race. They assumed and thank goodness the jury looked above and beyond. I mean, they were in the gutter essentially.

And this is -- it is called a gutter mechanism. It is very offensive. But, you know, we always have to look higher and do better. And I think the prosecution did that. The prosecution was at the highest level. Was an outstanding team and I think that is what the people responded to.

I'm thankful they responded to all of the information that they were given. And responded in my judgment in the appropriate way.

ACOSTA: And Derrick, I spokesperson with Ahmaud Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones in the last hour and she did talk to about the long road to justice including the 74 days that they waited for an arrest. It goes without saying, these victories are hard-fought and there was some twists and turns in this case where we might not have ended up where we ended up this evening.

JOHNSON: Fortunately, Ahmaud's mother was as aggressive as any mother should be with the tools and skills that they have. And as a result of her diligence, as a result of the video being uncovered, we stand today and we see justice.

But again, agree with her. What about all of the parents who lack the tenacity or ability to navigate a system, what about all of the parents whose child didn't come home because there wasn't a video and prosecuting the D.A. who was elected to oversee justice was in league with those who committed the crime and unfortunately far too many families with confronted with this.

But today we are relieved that we have a different outcome.

ACOSTA: It is a huge relief, that there is justice tonight in Brunswick, Georgia. Maybe not every night but tonight certainly. Derrick Johnson and Martin Luther King III, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

KING: Thank you.

Johnson: Thank you.

ACOSTA: and happy thanksgiving. Coming up, celebrating Thanksgiving safely as the cover the pandemic continuous. We'll get advice from a medical expert, next.



ACOSTA: It is the eve of America's second pandemic Thanksgiving, but the first with widely available COVID vaccines.

Let's get more with Peter Hotez. He's co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. He's also the author of "Preventing the Next Pandemic", and there is a book right there.

Dr. Hotez, thanks so much.

As we get ready for the Thanksgiving holiday, what questions should we be asking? I mean, do we need to stop folks at the door and say, you know, have you been vaccinated? I suppose we should have had those questions maybe before Thanksgiving but it's got to be asked.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: You're right, Jim. The thing you want to know is number one that the guests coming to your house are not shedding SARS 2 coronavirus from their nose and mouth, and the best way to ensure that is not going to happen is if there triply vaccinated, meaning the first two doses and got a booster six to 12 months later. And if that's the case, then you could feel pretty comfortable. If they're unvaccinated, you certainly want to make certain they've been very recently for coronavirus, and make certain they at least have a rapid test to act as a buffer against that.


And you know, Jim, even if you have gotten two doses of the vaccine but you are more than six months out, you might want to ask them to get tested as well because we are seeing a fair number of breakthrough infections and that's a major reason why we do the boost. And finally, have situational awareness of where they are coming from.

Right now, you know, things are screaming -- our level of transmission going on in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin -- if you have somebody unvaccinated coming from one of those states, you definitely want to make certain that they're tested before -- before they come in.

And then, the other consideration on the receiving end, too, are -- are any of your family members immunocompromised? Are they at risk? Do -- do they need a mask? And then, try to maximize the vest ventilation in your house by keeping the window open if possible or the door open.


HOTEZ: That will help us as well.

ACOSTA: And are the rapid tests being turned around quickly enough where folks are concerned they can do that tonight or tomorrow morning before gathering around the table? Still enough time?

HOTEZ: Well, there is even a home test that they can do where you put the swab in your mouth and you get -- you get the answer. So -- so, yeah. And plus, there are a lot of minute clinics that hopefully should be open.

So -- and, you know, unless you are in a very remote part of the country where there is not a lot of access, most people should be able to get tested pretty quickly.

ACOSTA: And what should families do, kids ages 5 to 12, who have only gotten one shot so far? How do we handle that situation if they are around elderly relatives?

HOTEZ: Well, you know, they're incompletely vaccinated and so there is a possibility that they could be shedding virus. And so, ideally, you would like to have the kids tested if they're around vulnerable individuals, especially of high age.

ACOSTA: All right. And that is the important point. We've got vaccines. We've got testing kits. We've got tools this Thanksgiving that perhaps we didn't last time around.

Dr. Hotez, thanks so much.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

ACOSTA: And happy Thanksgiving.

Just ahead, Donald Trump joins the right-wing media bandwagon in celebrating the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse.



COSTA: CNN continues to follow today's breaking news. The murder convictions of three men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. There is also new fallout from the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen who shot and killed two people during last year's Black Lives Matter demonstration in Wisconsin. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.

Brian, not only is -- are the country's right-wing media stars lionizing Rittenhouse predictably, Donald Trump has jumped on this bandwagon.


Donald Trump calling Rittenhouse a nice, young man, saying Rittenhouse never should have suffered through a trial like that. It's part of an unquestioning embrace of Kyle Rittenhouse by some of the most contentious elements of the far right.


TODD (voice-over): The way Donald Trump tells it, Kyle Rittenhouse just happened to be in the neighborhood.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Kyle, I got to know him a little bit. He called and wanted to know if he could come over and say hello because he was a fan.

TODD: So, the former president told Sean Hannity on Fox, he welcomed Rittenhouse and his mother to Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

TRUMP: He came over with his mother, really, a nice young man.

TODD: That was just a few days after the 18-year-old was acquitted of all charges in the fatal shootings of two people and the wounding of a third during last year's protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Trump played the role of legal analyst, supporting Rittenhouse's claim of self-defense.

TRUMP: That was prosecutorial misconduct. He should not have had to suffer through a trial for that. He was going to be dead. If he didn't pull that trigger, Kyle would have been dead.

TODD: But even Trump didn't gush over Rittenhouse as blatantly as Fox host Tucker Carlson did in Rittenhouse's first interview since his acquittal.

CARLSON: Kyle Rittenhouse struck us as bright, decent, sincere, dutiful, and hard working, exactly the kind of person you would want many more of in your country.

TODD: For his part, Rittenhouse said he was simply trying to protect businesses from rioters.

KYLE RITTENHOUSE, ACQUITTED OF HOMICIDE CHARGES IN KENOSHA: Kenosha is my community. And I just was upset seeing my community up in flames.

TODD: Rittenhouse is being hailed as a hero in other corners of the far right, with Republican Congress members Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and Madison Cawthorn competing with each other to possibly offer Rittenhouse internships on Capitol Hill.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Kyle Rittenhouse would probably make a pretty good congressional intern.

REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): Madison Cawthorn, he said that he would arm wrestle me for this Kyle Rittenhouse internship. But Madison Cawthorn has some pretty big guns, and so I would like to challenge him to a sprint, instead.

TODD: Congressman Cawthorn uses a wheelchair.

Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is also jumping in. Pushing a bill to award Rittenhouse a congressional gold medal which has been bestowed on people like George Washington, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, and the Wright Brothers.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, THE WASHINGTON POST: He stands as an icon on the far right as someone who pushed back against the Black Lives Matter movement and he stands for gun rights because he was open carrying during a protest. And he used his -- his gun in a violent way and was -- in -- in the minds of many people on the right, an attack on their version of America.


TODD (on camera): In the Carlson interview, Kyle Rittenhouse said the incidents that led to his prosecution never had anything to do with race and that he supports the Black Lives Matter movement. He is also hinting at possible legal action against people who have implied that he is a white supremacist like then-candidate Joe Biden did in a tweet last year. Rittenhouse now saying that was actual malice and defamed his character -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Brian Todd, thank you very much. I'm Jim Acosta. Have a very happy thanksgiving.

Mom, get the turkey. Get the stuffing ready. I'm on my way. I am going to show up hungry on this Thanksgiving. I hope you do, too.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.