PoliticsNation, Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
Read the transcript from the Wednesday show
August 20, 2014
Guest: Antonio French, Freeman Bosley, Areva Martin, Patricia Bynes,
Kendall Coffey, John Burris, Thomas Harvey
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: We are watching attorney general Eric
Holder`s message as he arrived today in Ferguson, Missouri. The attorney
general is reportedly meeting with the parents of Michael Brown later this
afternoon. But since the shooting of Michael Brown, the attorney general
has been committed to finding out what happened.
Briefing the president. Vowing to work tirelessly on a federal
investigation. Holding conference calls to update civil rights leaders.
Informing the president that he personally wanted to go to Ferguson. And
today, the first African-American attorney general who made civil rights a
priority for this administration did just that. He met with students and
community leaders and talked with federal investigators. Working on the
ground. And a restaurant just four miles away from where Michael Brown was
shot, he told Ferguson restaurants, he is keeping a close eye on their
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I need to be here, you know. I was a
little disturbed to see certain people questioning why I was here. Why
would I be any place other than right here right now to talk to the people
in this area who are deserving of our attention and we want to help as best
we can. We also want to listen. That the main part of this trip. Listen
to the main issues that you all are dealing with. Are there ways in which
we can help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Just moments later, Captain Ron Johnson, man charged with
keeping the peace in Ferguson, stopped by.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The attorney general of the United States telling captain
Johnson he`s making a difference. But this isn`t about photo ops. The
attorney general`s pushing a very real, very aggressive investigation in
Ferguson. Right now, about 40 FBI agents and federal prosecutors are
working in Ferguson. They conducted more than 200 interviews about the
shooting. And conducted an independent autopsy.
This attorney general isn`t waiting around for the results of the local
investigation. He is doing what he can to get justice for a family that`s
grieving. And today in Ferguson, he plans to let them know it in person.
Joining me now from Ferguson, MSNBC.com`s Trymaine Lee, Antonio French, St.
Louis alderman and Freeman Bosley Jr. who represents Dorian Johnson, a
friend of Michael Brown and a witness in the shooting.
Thanks for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a pleasure.
SHARPTON: Trymaine, you`ve been covering the attorney general`s visit.
What was it like on the ground? What was it like for this visit?
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC.COM REPORTER: As I said before, people want to be
heard. They feel like now that attorney general is here, they are not only
being heard, but they are getting assurances that the investigation by the
deferral government that is running parallel with the state investigation
will be clear and transparent and that the federal government is here. The
department of justice is watching.
SHARPTON: Now you know, Alderman French said, and captain Johnson, both
were asked today about the impact of the attorney general`s visit. I want
to play you the answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. RON JOHNSON, MISSOURI HIGHWAY PATROL: I think it`ll be a great
impact. I think it will show that people of Ferguson, people of St. Louis,
people of our nation, that their voices are heard. That the highest office
in this land is listening to their voices. And taking a look into the
incident that happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Do you agree with that, Mr. Bosley?
FREEMAN BOSLEY JR., DORIAN JOHNSON`S ATTORNEY: I agree. I think one of
the things we are thankful for, is that attorney general as the chief
prosecutor in the country is here because there is a lot of misinformation,
insinuation and innuendo swirling around this case. And it will take the
federal government to come in here and sort this stuff out.
SHARPTON: What about you, alderman French, what is your view?
ANTONIO FRENCH, ST. LOUIS COUNTY ALDERMAN: I also think it`s a good thing
for him to be here. The folks here have lost so much faith in their local
prosecutor and local police department, that it really is going to take the
federal government to step in and restore the faith.
SHARPTON: Now, the attorney general arrived in Ferguson to date but he has
been following the incident very closely. It`s been reported that he
wanted officers identity released earlier. He was opposed to releasing
surveillance video of Michael Brown, allegedly stealing from a convenience
store. And he told his deputies quote, "tell them to remove the damn tanks
in Ferguson last week."
How big is the sense that the attorney general`s invested in what happens
there? Let me he ask you that, Trymaine.
LEE: I think it is clear that he is invested. But one thing he did do and
he has done in the past, that he is relating his own experience as a black
man. Not just as highest prosecutor in the land but as a black man about
being stopped and being stereotyped.
So for him and the people, he understands the -- what`s being said. When
you see a tank rolling up in a city street and you see a crowd of black
folk being gassed and police officers with dogs. He understands their
experiences. And so, I think that goes a long way.
SHARPTON: Now let me go back to you alderman French. You have been out
there with the protesters. And there`s been a lot of concern about the
local prosecutors, local authorities. How important is the attorney
general coming in, given the concerns in the community. I`m not talking
about those of us observing or coming in from the outside. But in the
community, what does it mean to them that have expressed this concern about
how local authorities might handle this investigation.
FRENCH: Yes, you know, there is almost no faith here in this local
community that there is going to be a fair investigation and fair result
from the county prosecutor. So having the attorney general come here
personally is a strong statement that the federal government is looking to
make sure the justice is served in this case, whatever that may be.
But also, we are still calling on the governor to reconsider and the point
of special prosecutor. Because even comments made as soon as within the
last 24 hours, it really endangered people`s faith that county prosecutor
can actually try this case fairly.
SHARPTON: Now, let me go to you a minute, again, Mr. Bosley. According to
a published reports in the "New York Times," your client, Dorian Johnson,
who was with Michael Brown when he was killed, was interviewed by the FBI
and U.S. attorney for four hours. Does that mean to you that this is a
serious federal investigation or serious inquiry by the federal government?
BOSLEY: Absolutely, Reverend, Al. And here is the other thing, it wasn`t
really four, it was closer to three. They took him over the accounts over
and over again. They asked him the questions one way. Then came back and
asked them to him another way. He still was consistent in terms of what it
is that they saw.
And so, as of a week ago, my client is a federal witness and people are now
saying that he recanted his story. He has not changed. He hasn`t made any
comments since last Wednesday. So, it just shows there is a lot of
(INAUDIBLE) going on around here and there is a lot of misinformation being
spewed about him.
SHARPTON: Help me with that misinformation, attorney Bosley.
SHARPTON: Your client is saying what? What has he said happened that
night? Just repeat quickly for our viewers.
BOSLEY: OK. Real briefly. They are walking in the middle of the street.
There was officer is coming from the opposite direction. He slows. They
stop. He tells them to get the f on the sidewalk. My client says, well,
we`re a short distance from home. We`re going to keep on walking. And Big
Mike says -- Mike Brown says nothing at that point. They keep walking.
The officer throws his car in reverse. Catches up with them rapidly. Then
said something to the effect, what did you say? And attempted to get aught
of the car. He is so close on them, he can`t open the car door. So he and
Mike start having some conversation, real words. And he reaches out and
grabs Mike by the throat. Mike, of course, is a big guy. So he really is
really just moving away from the officer then the officer latches on to his
shirt. He pulls him closer to the car. At that time, that Mike is
continuing to try to get away from him. The officer pulls out his weapon
and said, I`ll shoot you. And before he could get the next I`ll shoot --
pow, he`s shot. And he lets him go and he runs.
That three cars are already stacked up behind the police officer`s car
because he is blocking the street. Dorian get behind the car and the first
car, big Mike, Mike Brown, as he runs by, he says keep running bro. So
Dorian looks at it and pays attention to that, but the officer is right
behind. So as Mike passes by, the officer passes the car, Dorian is able
to get a full view of what is going on. He says there are more -- there
are shots fired and he is thinking that one hit Mike in the back. Now, the
autopsy says that it was one that hit him in the arm that could have come
from the back. Mike then puts his hands up, turns around and officer
closes the gap and continues to shoot him and he falls on his face and
that`s the story.
SHARPTON: Alderman French, there or two other witnesses that tell very
similar stories, two other eyewitnesses, very similar stories. The only
one I`ve heard that contradicts this is a lady who called into a radio show
that says what she says. She was not there. She says is the policeman`s
Is there anything you heard or saw from the autopsy reports released by the
family`s private pathologist or federal autopsy, to the degree you know,
that is inconsistent story we`ve been told by Dorian Johnson and two other
FRENCH: Well, I think the autopsy report is more evidence that shows that
an indictment should come and that this thing should go to trial. That`s
what community wants. They want this thing to move on. They are waiting
for the wheels of justice to spin faster. When the county prosecutor comes
out today and says that his process won`t be done until October, that
worries me. We`re trying to keep the peace here. And it is a fragile
peace. I don`t know if we can keep it until October.
SHARPTON: Trymaine, what is the mood now on the streets where we saw ten
days of violence?
LEE: I tell you what. I think people are quite frankly tired. Night
after night of being gassed. Night after night of facing police rubber
bullets, I think it worn people down. Last night we saw a change of
strategy by the police department. Rather than throwing tear gas, they
circle had crowd, went in and aggressively physically removed certain
people. Mace certain people. And so, while the mood has change
dramatically from what we saw earlier in the week and last week, there is
still a very tenuous balance. And again, as I always say, things change at
night. So we will wait until tonight to determine how cool everyone`s
SHARPTON: You know, one other thing that`s amazing to me, and I`ve been
involved in civil rights and cases like this all my life, I have never seen
what we saw today. An attorney general actually on the ground and in a
city that has been torn around a legal case, to really let the people know
that they have a hands-on inquiry.
I mean, Freeman Bosley, you`ve been a mayor, you`ve been a lawyer. This is
unprecedented. I can`t remember a sitting attorney general coming into a
scene like this.
BOSLEY: That`s right. And Reverend Al, that`s what is so refreshing about
this. And this is what you get when you get an African-American president.
This is what you get when you get an African-American U.S. attorney. I
mean, these are the things that these people are concerned about.
As you know, in the past, nobody was really interested in that. And that`s
why this thing is mushroomed into such a big problem because people have
said it over and over again, what happened to Mike Brown, just really
underscores what has allowed to go on here in this community for so long.
We`ve got cases where a man was tazed 13 times by the police officer,
Antonio Johnson, with his hands cuffed behind his back. They killed him.
He died the next day.
We got another situation where a man in Columbus Square, down in the city,
shot 27 times by police. Nobody has paid attention to those stories. It
has taken Mike Brown`s situation and the national media to pull the cover
off of what is going on here in St. Louis. And so, that`s why people are
so excited and so glad to have you.
SHARPTON: All right, Trymaine Lee, Freeman Bosley, and Antonio French, let
me thank all of you for your time tonight.
FRENCH: And thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, protesters outside the grand jury began looking at
this case today and started to gather evidence. But the prosecutor in
charge is raising all kind of questions from the community on whether this
can be a fair investigation.
Plus, new details emerge on where the investigation is going and who is
talking. And out of the chaos comes stories of inspiration. Yes,
inspiration. How Ferguson teachers and residents are coming together for
the community. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: The grand jury convenes today amid controversy surrounding the
prosecutor. That`s next.
SHARPTON: Breaking news, attorney general Eric Holder is meeting right now
with the parents of Michael Brown. Earlier today, a grand jury began
hearing testimony today in the Michael Brown case. The proceedings of that
testimony are secret but there`s a fire storm of controversy surrounding
the prosecutor whose presenting evidence to that jury.
Protesters gathered around the courthouse today demanding St. Louis county
prosecutor Robin McCulloch recuse himself from the case. Questioning
whether he can remain impartial in the case. Today McCulloch said his
investigation would be full and fair, and gave us a hint at how long the
grand jury hearings might continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB MCCULLOCH, ST. LOUIS COUNTY PROSECUTOR: The aspirational time is mid
October to have everything completed. We aren`t going to rush anything in
or rush anything through but as things are completed, they will be
presented to the grand jury.
But I understand the public want to know what`s going on and needs to know.
So there will be no decision by anybody made at end of today or next week
or any time soon but we want to get the process started.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: No decision any time soon. So how might this all play out and
what can happen to convince the community that investigation will be fair
Joining me now are Patricia Bynes, Democratic committeewoman for Ferguson
township and legal analyst Avera Martin. Thanks to both of you for being
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for having us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Reverend Al.
SHARPTON: Committeewoman Bynes, let me go to you first. What is your
reaction to the move that the grand jury might be reviewing evidence for
the next two months?
PATRICIA BYNES, FERGUSON COMMITTEEWOMAN: You know, that it sounds good, we
want to get things started, but we want it get things done right. And the
best way for things to be done right is for prosecutor Bob McCulloch to
recuse himself and there will be special prosecutor to be put in here. We
want things right and transparent. And because we will this be an
accountable (ph) process without any bias whatsoever in the process. We
want justice. And this isn`t political. This is just about being correct.
SHARPTON: You know, Areva, last night, Governor Jay Nixon addressed those
calls to remove Robert McCulloch from the case in a statement saying quote,
"I`m not asking St. Louis county prosecutor Bob McCulloch to recuse himself
from this case. There is a well-established process by which a prosecutor
can recuse themselves and a prosecutor be appointed."
This morning prosecutor m McCulloch fired back at the governor. Listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCULLOCH: I`m not walking away from this. I`ve been entrusted with these
responsibilities. But I understand, of course, that having declared a
state of emergency, Governor Nixon has the authority right now to say,
McCulloch is out of this case. We are going to proceed, as we laid out to
people, until I`m told, if I`m told, by the governor, that I can`t. And
the most devastating thing that can happen is if a week from now, a month
from now, he decides that he has taken me off this case. You know,
everyone is starting over.
So stand up, you know, man up. Stand up and say, I have his authority. I
am not removing McCulloch or I am removing McCulloch and let`s get on with
this. The family deserves nothing less than this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Man up. Stand up, he is saying to the governor. It sounds like
he is throwing the gauntlet down to the governor who does have the legal
authority to remove him. Not that he has it recuse himself, Areva?
AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY: You know, Reverend Al. I think this political
posturing is embarrassing and it goes to the frustration that Ferguson
community is feeling. If the governor wants to remove McCulloch, he has
the legal authority to do so. And rather than take little snippets at him
or to dig at him through the press, he needs do that if that`s what he
believes is the right thing to do.
The St. Louis community, the Ferguson community, clearly believes that
McCulloch is incapable of being un-bias in this case. And they cite many
examples including a 2000 shooting that happened where two African-American
men were shot by two white police officers some 20-times in a vehicle. And
they were not, those officers were not indicted. They were not prosecuted.
And there is a long list of cases like that I caused the Ferguson community
quite frankly to have no faith in McCulloch. The governor knows that and I
agree with McCulloch that the governor needs to man up on this, step up,
and take some decisive action.
SHARPTON: You know, Committeewoman Bynes, let`s go through what a grand
jury involves in Missouri. Jurors will consider whether there`s probable
cause a crime was committed. The votes of nine of 12 jurors are required
for an excitement and the proceedings are kept secret. How likely is that
that there will be an indictment in a given this grand jury in your
BYNES: Well, you know, I don`t -- I don`t know. We need to start the
process. There are so many unknowns going on with this case right now. So
many things being, you know, leaked out to the press that you know, should
not be. But we need to start the process. Because from where the
community is standing, there`s an unarmed young man that was shot six
times, twice in the head. The idea that there may or may not be an
excitement is crazy. It sounds like there should be an indictment because
this stop from walking in the middle of the street should never ended like
this. Never from a trained officer.
SHARPTON: But Areva, let me get your legal expertise here. Because in the
New Republic reported today that the grand jury might not deliver the
justice that protesters are calling for. They wrote, while -- and I`m
quoting them, "while grand juries have a lot of power in theory, in
reality, few use it. Instead most just follow the lead of prosecutors.
Not only do the prosecutors get to decide what charges to seek, they also
end up choosing what evidence to bring forward and how to present it."
Now, Areva, the prosecutors in there by himself. There is no attorney
representing any opposing view. He decides what evidence is put in front
of the grand jury or not. He decides the charges. And he doesn`t need an
indictment to make an arrest. He can do that tonight on probable cause.
MARTIN: Absolutely, Reverend Al. And some believed that this prosecutor
punted this to the grand jury to take the pressure off of himself. Very
few cases are decided at the grand jury level. Most cases involve a
criminal complaint being filed and an open preliminary hearing being held.
A hearing where a judge is presiding. That`s open to the public. Where
the evidence and witnesses presented are all open. There`s absolute
Where as in contrast, grand jury proceedings, as you`ve said, are done in
secret. And they really are about what the prosecutor wants to happen. So
if the prosecutors goes in there with the strong case, he can pretty much,
you know, guarantee an indictment.
To the contrary, if the case is presented in an alternative way, there may
not be an indictment. But in any event the prosecutor gets to stand there
and say, hey, look, I gave it to the grand jury and they didn`t come back
with an indictment. Taking the pressure off of him.
Again, another point of contention. Another reason that community is so
uncomfortable and so frustrated with McCulloch staying on this case.
SHARPTON: All right, Committeewoman Patricia Bynes and Areva Martin, thank
you both for your time this evening.
MARTIN: Thank you.
BYNES: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, inside the investigation. New details emerging from
But first, out of chaos. We`ve seen in Ferguson come some beautiful acts
of kindness. That`s next.
SHARPTON: In the midst of unrest and uncertainty in Ferguson comes
remarkable and inspiring stories of generosity. Keith Griffin is a
Ferguson native who decided that he need to get involved. So he made his
mission to pass out pizzas and care packages to people on the street. "The
Washington Post" spent the day with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feed the community every night. You all want it eat?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want cheese?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tomorrow, I buy tomorrow too. I appreciate it, though.
Help out with the cause, man. Keep the people off the streets.
KEITH GRIFFIN, PUBLISHER, DELUXE MAGAZINE: I`m not the leader. I`m just a
guy that trying to spark the mind and idea of that leader to come out and
fix it. You know, me doing this part. Just pretty much anything that the
people need that they can`t get their hands on. Stuff at the drugstore
that`s no longer open.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Keep up that great work, Keith. In another part of town
Ferguson teachers are getting involved. The school has been postponed
several times now. And this week some teachers were out on the street
helping clean up trash.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We`re out here to clean up the community. To show how
we build up the community, not take it down. And for all of our teachers
thought it would be wonderful to kick off the day with cleaning up the
community on West Florissant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Other teachers were holding make-shift classes at the Ferguson
Public Library, encouraging parents to drop off their kids for the day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Parents dropped off more than 40 kids today for
activities like science and art projects. These teachers hope it`s a
little bit of normalcy during these chaotic times.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And at least to be here, doing these sort of fun quasi
educational activities, and socially it is a good thing for kids who have
been really bummed out to be able to be here with some of them with friends
they know and they are kind of meeting new people too. And so it`s been a
good thing for everybody involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Over 40 kids showed up. This is what I call a teachable moment
in Ferguson. Local residents giving the world a lesson on inspiration.
Way to go.
SHARPTON: Now to new details about what led to the deadly shooting of
Michael Brown. Today the "New York Times" report it talked directly to
witnesses as well as officials who have interviewed the witnesses. And it
found accounts that differ on some important points. So far, the three
eyewitnesses, who`ve told their story on camera, all say Michael Brown had
stopped moving and had his arms raised.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DORIAN JOHNSON, FRIEND OF MICHAEL BROWN: He was going to stop to turn
around with his hands on the hair.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: He turned to the policeman and put his hands up,
that`s when the police continued to shoot until he went down.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: He put his arms up to let them know he was compliant
and that he was unarmed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: It`s a similar account from three witnesses. But today "The
Times" has details on what Officer Wilson is saying. Quote, according to
his account to the Ferguson police, Officer Wilson said that Mr. Brown had
lowered his arms and moved toward him. Law enforcement officials said that
"The Times" goes on to report, this is a quote, some witnesses say that Mr.
Brown moved toward Officer Wilson possibly in a threatening manner when the
officer shot him dead. But others say that Mr. Brown was not moving. And
may have even had his hands up when he was killed. These conflicting
accounts will be at the heart of this investigation. Of why Michael Brown
was shot to death.
For more on the investigation, let`s bring in former U.S. Attorney Kendall
Coffey and criminal defense Attorney John Burris. Thank you both for being
JOHN BURRIS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Thank you, Reverend.
KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Thanks for having us, Reverend.
SHARPTON: John Burris, different accounts. But the only eyewitnesses to
go on cameras says, Michael Brown gave himself up and had his arms raised.
How do you access these accounts?
BURRIS: Well, it`s always in every case you will going to have conflicting
witnesses and testimony. Particularly you have to look to see what is
their motive if any and where were they are and where were they at the time
they made these observations. So, basically, you have three people who
say, he had his hands up. You have other people who said something totally
different. At the end of the day is, the question is, how far away was,
the police officer from Mr. Brown when he shot and I think also more
importantly, what happened before. I think what happened at that car plays
a huge role in assessing the overall fact pattern.
But at the same time, if Mr. Brown turned around, he had his hands up, even
if he was bent over slightly, that`s not a basis to shoot him if you are
some distance away. The question is whether or not the officer perceived
and had reasonableness to perceive what Mr. Brown was doing. But I think
on balance, the defendant has got to overcome these three witnesses,
assuming the three witnesses did not have an axe to grind in that part of
any kind of biasness. You have to deal with the question of who are the
other witnesses. I hope it didn`t come down to a black witnesses saying
this and white witnesses saying something else because that`s not going to
advance the situation for a jury to understand.
COFFEY: Well, I think that first of all, we can expect that the police
community is going to continue to rally behind Officer Darren Wilson and
they are mighty smart and mighty good at what they do. And that includes
working the press and getting their message out through the media. So we
are hearing that message. We haven`t seen witnesses that actually say it
on camera. We don`t know what they are saying to the FBI. But at this
point, we can assume that there is going to be an active effort not only of
a police rallying behind the cause of this officer but also Police
Department and police officials trying to get his message out through the
court of public opinion.
Fortunately, we`ve got an attorney general who sent 40 FBI agents. And
when the FBI interviews you, they know how to ask questions. And if you
lie to the FBI, it is a federal crime. So, I think that whatever we are
hearing, whatever the war of public opinion is right now, the FBI are
getting some interviews and some information that`s going to be a reliable
basis as to what the eyewitnesses have to say. There will be some
conflicts. But they are going to do what they can to match up the most
reliable accounts with the forensic evidence. And that`s why one of the
first things the Attorney General did was decide, let`s get our own autopsy
SHARPTON: Now, John, let me ask you something. Will the FBI be looking at
how the police are handling this? And give me the law here. If Michael
Brown was dressed in a t-shirt, and short pants and flip-flops, the officer
knew he wasn`t armed, is it enough to say that he lunged at him and that
was threatening enough to kill him?
BURRIS: I don`t think so. Especially if the officer were some distance
away. Because the mere fact that he makes any kind of movement,
voluntarily are not falling down or not, that`s not a basis upon which to
shoot someone, period. Particularly, if they have their hands remotely up,
where you could see that there`s nothing in their hands, and you`re not in
any position (INAUDIBLE) and the officer is back in his car. So, I don`t
think so. But at the end of the day, the U.S. attorney is going to
evaluate the police officer, the district attorney`s conduct here and if
the district attorney doesn`t indict then the U.S. attorney is in a
position to take that evidence themselves and file a federal civil rights
criminal violation which is basically the same evidence but as a fourth
amendment violation that you can utilize to prosecute.
SHARPTON: Kendall, you worked as U.S. attorney. The FBI, the federal
government, are they looking at how the police are conducting themselves?
COFFEY: They certainly are. And they come in with an independence which
is very, very important here. The local prosecutor, local police part of a
very close knit family, that`s going to rally behind and support each
other. The feds come in largely from outside the community, can be much
more objective. And they are going to examine a lot of things but one that
they`re going to look at very closely, is whether there`s any evidence of
obstruction. Lying to the FBI is a crime. And if in the efforts to create
a story to support this officer, there is some kind of fabrication
occurring, that`s going to get a lot of attention too.
Sometimes it`s not what you did, it`s what you fed that gets you in jail.
And one of the things to look out for is this case unfolds is what
knowledge, if any, did the officer have of the alleged strong arm robbery
that occurred before the shooting, that could be part of the defense for
the officer if he actually knew. But did he know? And who`s going to join
him in perhaps saying that they told him about it, told him to look for the
suspects. That`s an item to be watching out for, Reverend, as this case
SHARPTON: But Kendall, even if he knew, and even if he heard it on the
radio, there was not a report of an armed robbery. Won`t he need --
according to the federal law, a police officer can use deadly force if the
officer has quote, "probable cause to believe that suspect poses a threat
or serious physical harm to the officer or to others." If he had knowledge
that he shoplifted some cigar, there was no claim of a gun or any violence
that took life or threatened life. Would that be enough to justify every
bullet he shot at Michael Brown?
COFFEY: Reverend, you`re exactly right. You can`t shoot and kill a
shoplifter. No matter what they`re saying or no matter how fast they`re
running. But what they do is try to morph this into a story that he heard
it was some kind of violent crime, a quote, "strong-arm robbery." And
look, he is going to definitely work the self-defense angle. But there is
a separate angle if the officer reasonably believed that this was a suspect
who committed a violent crime. That`s the second thing we will going to
BURRIS: The other point I would be careful about here is, was there a
conflict or fight and tussle at the car. Because if the officer says he
got hit upside of his head and he was reaching for his gun, then that will
then have provocation for him to use deadly force at the car. So, then
once the boy runs away, the question is, is he now a fleeing felon, having
commit a felony by hitting the officer. Or is there a misdemeanor. Even
so, once he stops and turns around, regardless of what happened at that
car, you cannot shoot the person, if the person put their hands up.
SHARPTON: Kendall Coffey and John Burris, thank you both for your time
tonight. Very, very interesting.
BURRIS: Thanks, Reverend.
COFFEY: Thank you. Thank you, Rev.
SHARPTON: Coming up. Fighting for change as a new report emerges on the
dysfunctional court system in Ferguson. And the power of Attorney General
Eric Holder`s visit to Ferguson. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Many of us are looking at the situation in Ferguson and asking,
how did we get here. Michael Brown`s killing has ignited a larger
conversation about policing in that community and around the country. In
St. Louis, it`s revealed a pattern of mistreatment, of unequal treatment
that`s been brewing for a long time. A group of local public defenders
just put out a report revealing how dysfunctional the court system is in
Ferguson. And how the criminal justice system violates the fundamental
rights of the poor. It highlights how the courts impose heavy financial
burdens on the poor, that poor defendants are quote, "ordered to pay fines
that are frequently triple their monthly income."
As a result, defendants are incarcerated for their poverty. Jailed for
being poor. But it`s not just jail time. It`s traffic stops. Court
appearances. And searches that appear to disproportionately target poor
black residents. Quote, "municipal courts and police departments inflict a
kind of lower level harassment." This tracks with annual reports on blacks
in Ferguson being targeted by police. Sixty three percent of Ferguson`s
population is black. And yet they account for 86 percent of police stops.
Ninety two percent of police searches. And nearly 93 nearly of arrests.
It is the kind of unfair and unjust treatment that so many in the community
say is fuelling the anger on the streets of Ferguson.
Joining me now is one of the authors of that report. Thomas Harvey,
executive director and co-founder of ArchCity Defenders. His group
represents low income residents of St. Louis County in municipal court
proceedings. Thank you for being here tonight, Thomas.
THOMAS HARVEY, DIRECTOR, ARCHCITY DEFENDERS: Thank you very much for
having me, Reverend Sharpton.
SHARPTON: What prompted you to write this report?
HARVEY: We`re a nonprofit that`s been around since 2009. We primarily
represent the homeless in the city of St. Louis. And what we do is we work
with social service agencies to remove the legal barriers that our client
have, that prevent them from getting access to services they need to get
off the streets and into the housing or jobs and the treatment they need to
get on with their lives. And when we began this work in 2009, we kept
seeing these municipal ordinance violations and warrants for arrest as a
problem that was preventing folks from getting the services they need to
get off the streets.
SHARPTON: Now --
HARVEY: Our clients told us some --
SHARPTON: Go ahead.
HARVEY: Go ahead.
SHARPTON: No, go ahead.
HARVEY: Our clients told us some stories about being locked up and they
told us stories about being profiled, they told us stories about their
children not be able to get into court. And there were things that for us,
as brand new lawyers at a new nonprofit, frankly, we didn`t believe that.
So we conducted our court-watching experiment, a court-watching program.
We went out to about 60 municipal courts. There are 90 in our region. And
what we saw supported what they were saying.
SHARPTON: So, and let me get this right. What you were hearing was
surprising, even shocking, to you. So you went out to see if in fact what
was being said is true. Because you couldn`t believe this.
HARVEY: That`s right. That`s exactly right. We were surprised what they
SHARPTON: For example, one way in which some -- are unfairly targeting
poor people are when they can`t afford child care. A reason study showed
37 percent of the courts surveyed unconstitutionally close their doors to
non-defendants. So defendants with children who can`t afford child care
could be denied entry into the court or their forced to leave their kids in
the parking lot. One defendant who left his kid with the friend was
charged then with child endangerment. You can`t win either way with this.
HARVEY: It is a catch 22. And that was not a client of ours but it was
one of the stories we heard from folks in the court. And it was shocking
to us. So, we went out and we observed these courts and we document some
of this emphasis and our paper is focuses on three courts. It focuses on
Bell Ridge, Ferguson and Florissant. And we have been working to finalize
it over the summer and when this happens, we published the findings.
SHARPTON: And see, this is some of the simmering anger that we are hearing
in the community. Your report also shows how municipal courts can target
poor people for failing it pay a fine. A person could be arrested for
failure to appear in court, to pay fines. But court might not be held on a
daily basis or it could be only held once, once now per month. Which means
a person could spend three weeks in jail just waiting to see a judge. I
mean, somebody with money would never have to endure something like this,
HARVEY: That is true. The way this court works is, if you had the money
to make the bond, you would be out of the jail immediately. If you don`t
have the money to make the bond, the bond is frequently the unpaid fines
and court costs that are associated with your plea. And I want to be
clear, our report does not say that people are targeted. Our report says
that our client tell us they feel they are targeted.
HARVEY: They feel that they are pro-filed. And they feel in addition that
they are being exploited financially. And that it is not just because of
the color of their skin that they are being pulled over. It is in order to
generate revenue for the municipality. I can`t tell what is in the mind of
the police officer or the judge. And I know many of these judges and
prosecutors and I would tell you they are good people. One of the things
that I`m very concerned about is a systemic racism or structural inequality
that produces this. It doesn`t matter -- sometimes it doesn`t matter who
is in those positions. That system has been in place a long time.
HARVEY: It existed before some of these individual actors, it will exist
after them. And it is important to note that it is a structural issue.
And we`re hopeful that our report will give some context to some of the
things going on that are creating some of tensions in the region that we`re
seeing here. We don`t pretend like traffic tickets are the reason folks
are on the street and they`re upset.
SHARPTON: No. We are not --
HARVEY: Never experienced -- if Michael Brown never encountered that
officer -- I`m sorry.
SHARPTON: We are not justifying any of the violence. But we are saying
the underlying anger is a result of some of the systemic problems, you say,
and that`s why I say we need change in policies, not just people. Thomas
Harvey, thank you for your time tonight.
HARVEY: Thank you very much, Reverend Sharpton.
SHARPTON: Coming up, the parents of James Foley. The American journalist
beheaded by a terrorist group, remembers their son. Next.
SHARPTON: In a part of the world faraway from Ferguson, Missouri,
Americans are mourning after a brutal act of violence by the terrorist
group ISIS. Yesterday, the military group beheaded James Foley, an
American photojournalist taken captive in Syria nearly two years ago.
Today, Mr. Foley was remembered across the world for always shining a light
in conflict zones. His parents also remembered their son and express how
proud they are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANE FOLEY, JAMES FOLEY`S MOTHER: Let`s come together as a country,
please. Don`t criticize one another. Jim believed in our country, our
great country. Jim was a great American. And he believed in the very best
of our country. So I just -- I just pray that as a country, we can come
together and help there be peace on earth. Just pray for that. We just
had no idea, you know --
JOHN FOLEY, JOHN FOLEY`S FATHER: How much he affected the world. In such
a positive way.
DIANE FOLEY: You know, so we`re truly humbled and Jim was our son. We`re
so, so proud of Jim.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The country, this country, is proud of James Foley and our
thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
SHARPTON: Today Attorney General Eric Holder made his way around Ferguson
meeting with Ferguson residents and vowing to carry out a thorough
investigation. Moments ago he arrived at the Eagleton Federal Courthouse
meeting with local officials. And less than one mile away from that
meeting is the old St. Louis courthouse where the Dred Scott case was first
heard. The case stated that African-Americans free our slaves, could not
be American citizens and therefore with property.
And today, near that courthouse the country`s first African-American
attorney general was fighting for justice. There is some critical of it.
But if you really believe in America, you want it improve it. I was raised
by a strict disciplinarian mother. I asked her when I became an adult, why
she was so hard on me. She said, because I really loved you. I loved you
enough to see what you could be if I kept forcing and kept prodding for you
to reach to be better than you thought you could. Those of us that stand
up, those of us that prod America. Those of us that march and do whatever
we do peacefully do it because we really believe in America. We really
love America. We want it to be all that it can be.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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