'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
August 20, 2014
Guest: Wesley Bell, Marcia Clark, David Rohde, Charles Katz
RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: The St. Ann police officer involved in the
incident has been relieved on duty and suspended indefinitely.
That statement from the St. Louis County police today. So, that is a
remarkable turn of events following go bleep yourself incident last night,
that officer not back on the streets tonight and it sounds like he won`t be
back any time soon, an indefinite suspension announced by the department.
But tonight, like last night, around this time, things appear to be even
more calm on the streets of Ferguson. We do know that things can change at
a moment`s notice in this tender box town. But, of course, we hope it all
stays peaceful and safe.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Thanks for
being with us tonight.
Good evening, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. Without video, we
would have never been able to prove that happened.
MADDOW: Exactly. Exactly, right. Thanks, man.
O`DONNELL: Thanks a lot, Rachel.
Attorney General Eric Holder went to Ferguson today while controversy
intensifies around the St. Louis County district attorney who once again
today refused to step aside and let the shooting of Michael Brown be
handled by a special prosecutor.
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Why would I be anyplace other than right
here, right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eric Holder goes to Ferguson.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s meeting with community leaders.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The family of Michael Brown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Particularly wants to reassure African-Americans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That the Justice Department is on the case.
HOLDER: We want to help as best we can.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He actually ran into Captain Ron Johnson.
HOLDER: You can make a real difference.
CAPT. RON JOHNSON, MISSOURI HIGHWAY PATROL: I think it had a great impact.
Their voices are heard.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Calls for St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch
to be replaced.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no intention of walking away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are losing faith in this process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The grand jury began hearing testimony today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protests outside the courthouse has expressed distrust
for the county prosecutor`s office here.
CROWD: Don`t shot. Hands up. Don`t shot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A night of relative calm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No Molotov cocktails.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No bullets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And no tear gas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were 51 arrests however. Though they were mostly
for failure to disperse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aggressively physically extracted people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like a lion charging a gazelle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Much calmer scene here today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the big question, will it get violent again later
CROWD: No justice. No peace! No justice. No peace!
O`DONNELL: Thunderstorms are rolling into Ferguson, Missouri, tonight.
Obviously, we`ll have some impact we expect on what will be happening on
the streets there. After a relatively peaceful night of protests last
night, Attorney General Eric Holder visited the area today where he met
with the parts of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who, of course, was shot and
killed by officer Darren Wilson on August 9th.
Before meeting with FBI investigators and officials from the U.S.
attorney`s office, Attorney General Holder spoke about the federal
investigation in the death of Michael Brown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: Our investigation is different from that which the state is doing.
We are looking for violations of federal criminal civil rights statutes,
which is different from what the local investigation is. But we have
brought a substantial number of people here who have done a great job and
the canvassing that they did over the past weekend. They continued to
follow leads so that we can do a thorough and fair job in making a
determination about what happened on August 9th. I`m confident that
through the ability of these people we will be able to make a determination
about whether or not any federal statutes have in fact been violated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The attorney general`s day in Ferguson also included a meeting
with community leaders at St. Louis Community College and lunch at a local
restaurant where he had the chance to speak with Missouri Highway Patrol
Captain Ron Johnson, who has been leading the security efforts on the
ground in Ferguson. Eric Holder also met with a handful of students while
at the St. Louis Community College.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRADLEY J, RAYFORD, MET WITH ERIC HOLDER: In our meeting, he actually
listened to us. I really felt that he was really listening to us. He
really took heed to what we said to him.
MOLYRIC WELCH, MET WITH ERIC HOLDER: We just need some answers to
questions, and changes. And we need some inspiration. And by him being
here now, gave us inspiration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Eric Holder ended his day with a meeting with Missouri elected
officials, including both Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, and
Governor Jay Nixon.
Joining me now from Ferguson, Trymaine Lee, national reporter for
Trymaine, you`ve got some rain there tonight. What else do we know about
what`s going on there?
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC.COM: Not much. The rain has been steady, not too
heavy. But you can`t see behind me, but it`s relatively thin. There`s a
small but still committed group marching up and down through the rain.
But ever since last night, it`s been quiet and calm. There are only maybe
a couple hundred people out here, maybe, very thin crowd tonight.
O`DONNELL: We do have live video of the area. And there isn`t much to see
as you say.
Is this kind of where the rhythm of this felt like it was going tonight,
into a quieter night there?
LEE: It really did. From last night, the police shifted tactics. Instead
of creating those barriers, those lines, up and own, like kind of forcing
people inside, they allowed people to move freely.
Even when it got a little bit chippy later in the evening, when a small
group of people within the crowd, one threw a bottle, and then another
group threw another plastic bottle, instead of gassing the entire place
with everyone in it, the peaceful protesters, as well as those who are
getting a little chippy, they targeted individuals and went in with the
team and physically extracted them. They maced one person and tackling
another one, they hit him with the butt of their gun but extracted
So, what happened is they kind of a much more targeted approach. And also,
it was kind of a shocking confusion strategy. They told us to move this
direction, then move this direction, the media has to separate it.
I mean, it was a different kind of aggression last night. But without any
tear gas, without the bullets, it was a much calmer night than nights
O`DONNELL: Trymaine, I`m wondering what you`ve been hearing people on the
street talking about today, given there`s a couple of big stories. First
of all, the attorney general of the United States came there today. I`m
wondering what impact that has had, and what you`ve been hearing from
people about that. And then also, this kind of almost -- this battle
that`s breaking out between the governor and the district attorney on the
case. They are trading very angry statements on this.
LEE: In terms of the prosecutor and the governor, it`s disconcerting for
people. They already don`t trust the system. They don`t trust the players
in the system. They don`t have any faith in McCulloch. They don`t feel
they can properly investigate in a very transparent manner. That`s one
On the other side, I talked to folks who are in that meeting with Attorney
General Eric Holder, and they walked away with a sense of hope, that
Attorney General Eric Holder understands them. When he came in five years
ago, he said that civil rights is going to be a hallmark of his time in
office. And with Trayvon Martin last year, in the wake of the acquittal of
George Zimmerman, he relayed his story about his experience as a black man,
his experience with police officers.
He did it again today in speaking with young college students. So, these
kids walked away feeling that he is here. And that him being here makes
all the difference, and I think it does. I mean, had Attorney General Eric
Holder not been an African-American, without those experiences, I don`t
think he would be here today.
O`DONNELL: Trymaine Lee, thanks for joining us. We`ll come back to you if
anything develops there. Thank you very much.
Joining us now by phone from Ferguson is Wesley Bell, professor of criminal
justice at St. Louis Community College and a municipal court judge in Velda
City, Missouri. He met with Eric Holder earlier today.
Professor Bell, tell us how that meeting went.
WESLEY BELL, ST. LOUIS COMMUNITY COLLEGE (via telephone): It was a very
positive meeting. Mr. Holder was very inspiring, but also realistic. So,
it was a very positive meeting.
O`DONNELL: I want to listen to what Captain Ron Johnson said about Eric
Holder`s visit today. Let`s listen to that.
I guess --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: I think it had a great impact. It shows the people of Ferguson,
the people of St. Louis, the people of our nation, that their voices are
heard, that the highest office in this land is listening to their voices
and is taking a look into the incident that happened here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Wesley Bell, do the people there understand the unprecedented
nature of this federal response, that there has never been an incident like
this, a killing by police that has received this much presidential comment,
this much presidential attention, and this much attention from the attorney
BELL: It is a unique situation. As an educator, our classes started this
week and I talked to my students about just that. This is one of those,
"where were you" moments in history. And I think that out of tragic
circumstances like these are opportunities for us to address very important
issues that have been for far too long swept under the rug.
O`DONNELL: I want to get your local perspective on this public fight
that`s broken out between the governor and the district attorney in this
case, the governor saying that he will not use his power to remove the
district attorney and appoint the special prosecutor.
The district attorney oddly insisting publicly that the governor does have
that legal authority to remove him from the case -- in effect, daring the
governor to do it.
BELL: You know, I think it`s an unfortunate circumstance, set of
circumstances. I`ve had a chance to meet both of them at different times,
Mr. McCulloch through professional circumstances as an attorney. I don`t
know him personally.
However, what I do know our elected leaders need to set a precedent or tone
of confidence so the public feels confident and that justice is being
served. And I think that, you know, again, I don`t know Mr. McCulloch
personally, but my one constructive criticism would be that the comments
that are coming out of the office don`t -- aren`t -- they aren`t inspiring.
They aren`t encouraging. They seem to be something other than
And I think that If I was (INAUDIBLE), I would say, understand that the
world is watching, the Ferguson, North County, and St. Louis I watching,
and let us feel that this situation is being handled transparently.
O`DONNELL: Wesley Bell, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
BELL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, today is the first day that a grand jury has heard
testimony or evidence in the Michael Brown case. Marcia Clark will join me
on that, next.
And in the "Rewrite" tonight, by now, you`ve probably heard reports that
there are conflicting witness accounts of the killing of Michael Brown.
That so far those reports about the conflicting witness accounts conflict
with the truth -- the truth about what the witnesses have been saying is in
O`DONNELL: It was a day like no other in the history of American law
enforcement. The top officer of American law enforcement, the attorney
general of the United States going, flying to the location of a
controversial killing by police while the governor of that state is
publicly feuding with the district attorney who has jurisdiction over that
shooting. We`re going to have more on all of that, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MCCULLOCH, ST. LOUIS COUNTY PROSECUTOR: The aspirational time is by
mid-October to have everything completed. There will be some evidence,
some information presented to the grand jury today, and -- but they`ll also
have their regular duties, too. We`re not going to rush anything in or
rush anything through, but as things are completed, they will be presented
to the grand jury.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was St. Louis County District Attorney Robert McCulloch
today on the first day that a 12-member grand jury heard evidence in the
shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
McCulloch told the "St. Louis Today" newspaper that the grand jury was
selected this past spring and it includes three African-Americans. The
prosecutor told reporters that his office has not interviewed Darren
Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown.
Today, McCulloch repeatedly addressed calls for his recusal and he had some
very angry words for Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCULLOCH (via telephone): The most devastating thing that can happen is
if a week or month from now, he decides he`s taking me off this case. Then
everybody is starting over. So, stand up, you know, man up, stand up and
say I have this authority. I`m not removing McCulloch, I am removing
McCulloch, and let`s get on this. This family deserves nothing less than
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Later in the day when he was again asked about recusing
himself, he choked up as he addressed the speculation that he is biased.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCULLOCH: I know the pain that goes with the loss of a loved one to
violence. I know what it`s like to look back years later and see what my
mother had to put up with, raising the four of us without her husband and
companion. And I know what it was like to look back and watch my mother
grow old and die without the man she loved at her side.
So, I know the pain of that, and the fact that he was a police officer
killed in the line of duty had nothing to do with any of that. What it did
-- did it affect me? Absolutely it affected me. What it did for me is
made me, I think, a fierce advocate to the end of violence. I know the
pain that the Brown family is going through right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: But protesters worry that experience made him a fierce advocate
for police officers. And they do not have much confidence in McCulloch or
his record on prosecuting police shootings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Have you ever charged an officer criminally in a shooting?
MCCULLOCH: You know, right now I can`t -- I don`t know about a shooting.
I know we`ve charged cases where there`s a use of excessive force. Whether
that involved a shooting or not, off the top of my head, I say that and I
can`t think of any, but that`s probably not a situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is former prosecutor Marcia Clark, author of
"The Competition", and also joining me is Jim Cavanaugh, MSNBC law
enforcement analyst and former ATF special agent in charge.
Marcia, you know, I think some people realize how unprecedented this
situation is. This is a stunning legal situation. Attorney general flying
into a local jurisdiction like this at this stage, this early stage of an
investigation, stimulating 40 FBI agents to do even more, while you have
this district attorney going on talk radio angrily, you know, challenging
the governor to man up and fire him.
MARCIA CLARK, FORMER PROSECUTOR: All of it is unprecedented. Just to give
you some kind of balance or to complete your perspective on this, when the
Rodney King trial happened, with four, five police officers being charged.
It was very -- riots happened as a result of that. The city burned. The
DOJ did not show up. There was no talk about -- the district attorney was
not facing off anybody.
I just think his -- the way he`s handling this right now is not a good
idea. We need to inspire confidence. We need to inspire a sense of calm
and dignity about the manner in which we proceed with this, and to have
them playing this game of you`re a chicken, no, you`re a chicken is about
the last thing we need. If the governor does have the power, he should do
whatever he chooses to do. But it really is not a good place for the
district attorney to be saying, yes, you do, and the governor saying, no, I
don`t. Just -- it`s not good. .
O`DONNELL: Jim Cavanaugh, again, we`ve never seen anything like it. What
would you suggest at this point that the district attorney -- how the
district attorney should conduct himself through this proceeding, assuming
he`s going to stay on the case?
JIM CAVANAUGH, MSNBC LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, what I would say is,
you know, the case needs to move expeditiously, not a rush to judgment, not
sweeping or changing facts. But it needs to move expeditiously because it
is a police shooting and a crisis situation for the community. You know,
we never handled big crisis in communities like an everyday case.
It seems the time frame is being handled like any other everyday case, but
it`s not. And in a crisis, leaders changed.
You know, I was one of the top commanders on the D.C. sniper case. When
the sniper shot somebody in the middle of the night, we drove the bullet to
the ATF forensic laboratory outside of Washington and called the examiner
and called them and had the bullet examined right now. We didn`t put it in
the cue for six or eight weeks, because that`s normally the time it would
take to do. It was a crisis. We had to react it. We were leaders.
So, I don`t like the slow walking of it. I don`t think you should make a
decision if you don`t have probable cause. I think if you do have probable
cause, you should get a warrant, like Marcia said last night, like we
talked and you and I have agreed on this, Lawrence, all week, to get a
warrant, make an arrest if probable cause exists, and then you should, you
know, let go through due process in the bar of justice.
We`ll get justice. They might have to have a change of venue. But, you
know, that I think -- the slow walking of it is what disturbs me the most
and the public spat between the leaders is just unseemly.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the governor said he expects of this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: A vigorous prosecution must now be pursued.
The democratically elected St. Louis County prosecutor and the attorney of
the United States each have a job to do. Their obligation to achieve
justice in the shooting death of Michael Brown must be carried out
thoroughly, promptly, and correctly. And I call upon them to meet those
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And the district attorney is saying that this governor has his
mind made up about the case already.
CLARK: I don`t know how he can say that based on the comments I`m seeing.
I don`t see that. And I don`t think -- if he does, if he`s right, then the
governor should stop talking about it. Everybody should stop talking about
it. There`s no way we know yet.
Let`s hear the evidence and the part of the problem I had with the grand
jury is we won`t. And I really think we should. I think that everyone
should be able to hear it.
That`s why I was saying last night on your show, that really, we ought to
have a preliminary hearing where there`s a public forum and everybody can
hear what the witnesses have to say and see them examined and cross
examined. That`s what will inspire confidence and give people a sense they
know what`s going on, whether they like it or not.
O`DONNELL: We`re watching hive images of what`s going on in Ferguson right
now. In the rain, there`s not much going on.
Jim Cavanaugh, as a former federal agent, tell me what it`s like when the
attorney general flies halfway across the country to show up to look over
your shoulder how things are going in the investigation. That must be --
that must be an energizing experience for the federal agents.
CAVANAUGH: Well, it`s a big deal. I`ve met Eric Holder a couple of times
when he was the deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, when
he was the attorney general. He`s a great guy, he`s a fine guy and he`s a
strong leader and he`s a good lawyer. I have a lot of confidence in him.
But yes, it`s a big deal. I probably had contact with many of the attorney
generals just briefly in many of the past administrations.
When I came on, the president was Ford, so it`s a very big deal, it`s
significant. I hope it will get some decisions made, because we do have
And the government does not have to wait for the state. They can proceed
on their own.
O`DONNELL: Marcia Clark and Jim Cavanaugh, thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.
Up next, what President Obama said about the beheading of an American
journalist, and how video changes everything in police work. That`s coming
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jim was taken from us in an
act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world. We will be
vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans anywhere,
we do what`s necessary to see that justice is done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tonight, we learned that the United States military carried out
an attempt to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages
held in Syria earlier this year. Obviously, the operation was not
Today, U.S. intelligence confirmed that the gruesome video of the Islamic
State beheading James Foley is authentic. Now, the Islamic State is
threatening to kill another American journalist being held hostage unless
the recently launched U.S. airstrikes stop. The fear in our intelligence
community tonight is how many militant fighters are Western-born with
NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is in Turkey tonight.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS: ISIS is no longer a fringe terrorist group
operating in the shadows. It controls territory, lots of it. The group
actually now prefers to be called the Islamic State. And in some ways, it
is like a state, just a terrible one.
(voice-over): The so-called Islamic State now stretches over huge swaths
of Syria and Iraq. It has heavy weapons, American made ones, stolen from
the Iraqi Army. And ISIS is imposing its medieval interpretation of
Islamic law. Yet, many are rushing to become citizens of this barbaric
The last voice James Foley heard was of his murderer. With what some say
sounds like a British accent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is James Foley, an American citizen of your
ENGEL: Britain`s Prime Minister David Cameron was appalled.
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It looks increasingly likely that
it is a British citizen. Now, this is deeply shocking.
ENGEL: Shocking, but not surprising at all. Security officials say ISIS
has between 7,000 and 12,000 foreign fighters, hundreds from Europe, and
one known America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are coming for you. Mark my words.
ENGEL: He died carrying out a suicide bombing for a group considered more
violent than al Qaeda.
UNIDENTFIED MALE: Even a group like al Qaeda, which has perpetrated
atrocities around the world, regards Islamic State`s tactics as far too
ENGEL (on camera): A big reason there`s so many foreign fighters in Syria
is that it`s so easy to get there. Young men from all over the world come
to Turkey; they make their way to the border crossing and simply walk in.
And Turkish authorities are making no real effort to stop them.
Dimitri Bontinck crossed from Syria into Turkey today. He knows a lot
about foreign fighters. His own son was one of them. Dimitri says he was
lured in, believing he would be helping Muslims.
DIMITRI BONTINCK, FMR. BELGIAN SOLDIER: You know, inside, step by step,
they change their minds.
ENGEL: Radicalizing them. So Dimitri, an ex-Belgian soldier did something
radical yourself. You decided to find him yourself?
BOnTINCK: That`s the only solution. I couldn`t stay at home.
ENGEL: Dimitri went to Syria, found his son and brought him out. Now
other parents are asked Dimitri to help recover their children.
ENGEL: Dimitri has a unique approach. He goes in at great personal risk
from south and he brings other family members with them to try and guilt
the boys, guilt the foreign fighters into going home and returning with
their families. It doesn`t work very often. And in over a year, he`s only
managed to bring out four foreign fighters and they were all replaced --
O`DONNELL: Richard Engel, thank you.
Joining me now is David Rohde, investigative reporter for Reuters and Steve
Clemons, Washington editor at-large for "the Atlantic Magazine" and MSNBC
David, the situation here seems to be that the Americans in these
situations are in greater risk because some other countries that have
people over there in these kinds of risks have been paying ransoms to get
DAVID ROHDE, REUTERS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Yes. The problem is this
raid that the administration announced today was, you know, an effort to
free these Americans but there is no coherent strategy from the United
States and its allies about how to respond to a growing number of
kidnappings. There were French and Spanish journalists held with James
Foley. They got ransomed. They`re home. They`re alive, you know. And
the American government, Americans don`t believe it. Some Americans does
not pay ransom. There needs to be a unified approach. What`s going on now
with U.S. not paying and others paying millions of dollars is not working.
O`DONNELL: And Steve Clemons, the millions paid in ransom then helps
finance what the Islamic state is trying to do.
STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC: You know, David Rohde was one of the
journalists kidnapped and transferred between different groups and, you
know, was an unfortunate part, a victim of a marketplace that`s developed
in kidnapping these people. And you see a market growing. You see ISIS
and other groups (INAUDIBLE), basically the Taliban financing their
operations with this kind of ransoming of important people. Not just
journalists but doctors, professors, lawyers, other professionals which who
they think incredible brain drain as well in this country. So it`s become
a real problem.
O`DONNELL: David Rohde, having experienced it, what would you suggest is
the right policy?
ROHDE: I think a coordinated policy. I think there`s been positive
developments in Iraq in terms of U.S. air strikes with local fighter, with
Kurdish fighters and Iraqi forces retaking the stand. In Mosul, this new
government emerging, Maliki being pushed aside. I know, again, people are
very, very cynical about the region and I understand that. But there are
The president was right today. You know, the Islamic State does not
represent Islam. They kill more Muslims than any other group. It`s
absolutely disgusting, you know, what they did to James Foley and they`re
doing that to many more Muslims. I do think, you know, history is against
them and most Muslims are against them. We have to work together with
local moderates to stop this group.
O`DONNELL: David Rohde and Steve Clemons, thank you both for joining me
CLEMONS: Thank you.
ROHDE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up in the rewrite, the difference between good police
reporting and bad police reporting. Today, we had some very, very bad
police reporting about witnesses supposedly offering conflicting versions
of what happened to Michael Brown.
And how cameras worn by police reduce police use of excessive force.
That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: Coming up next in the rewrite, something you`re not going to
get from most media outlets -- an accurate account, accurate, about what
the witnesses are actually saying about the shooting of Michael Brown.
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s rewrite, police reporting. Good police reporters
know when they`re being used by the police. Bad police reporters also know
when they`re being used by the police, but they eagerly report whatever the
police want them to report.
Police reporting used to be a standard beat on American newspapers. But
nothing is standard on American newspapers anymore as the death rattle of
that industry gets louder and louder and the budget cuts for reporting
become more severe and newspapers desperately clinging to readership by
expanding their coverage of celebrities and food.
"The New York Times" today has six, six full pages devoted to food.
Everything you need to know about slow cooked brisket, cooking sticks and
flat breads. Nothing that has happened in Ferguson, Missouri can compete
with food for coverage in "the Times," which devoted about a page and a
half with Ferguson today. That`s space was split between two stories, one
which was essentially a profile of attorney general Eric Holder, just
pegged to his trip to Ferguson today. And the other is a terribly
misleading, badly crafted story about witnesses to the killing of Michael
That story does not include a single reference to the person who, by all
public accounts so far, remains the star witness in this case. A better
witness might emerge, but that hasn`t happened yet. That star witness,
Tiffany Mitchell, told her story on this program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIFFANY MITCHELL, EYEWITNESS: As I come around the corner, I hear tires
squeaking. And as I get closer, I see Michael and the officer like
wrestling through the window. Michael was pushing like trying to get away
from the officer. And the officer was trying to pull him in.
As I pull out my phone, because it just didn`t look (INAUDIBLE), you just
never see an officer, someone just wrestling through the window. So, as I
pulled out my phone, the first shot walls fired through the window. And I
just like tried to get out the way. I pulled into the parking lot beside
where the cop car was. And that`s when Michael kind of broke away and
started running down the street.
The officer gets out of his vehicle and he pursues him. As he`s following
him, he`s shooting at him. And Michael`s body jerks as if he was hit.
Then he turned around and he puts his hands up. And the officer continues
to walk up on him and shoot him until he goes all the way down to the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: If you settled into your chair this morning to read the "Times"
account of what witnesses have said, you would not have read one word of
what you just heard nor would you have read of the existence of Tiffany
The first sentence of "the Times" story says, quote, "Witnesses have given
investigators sharply conflicting accounts of the killing." "The Times"
then presents witness accounts that do not sharply conflict. "The Times"
simply asserts in the first sentence that the accounts sharply conflict and
then fails to demonstrate that. But that sentence is exactly what the
police defenders of Officer Darren Wilson wanted "The Times" to print.
That`s what they need to get out there. Just the belief that there are
conflicting accounts by witnesses of the killing, and that there is someone
out there who is in conflict with Tiffany Mitchell`s testimony.
"The Times" makes it plain that the idea of conflicting witnesses comes
from law enforcement sources. And in a profound and uncharacteristic flash
of irresponsibility, "The Times" fails to produce a single witness who
sharply conflicts with any other witness in the article. In "The Times"
article, Freeman Bosley, the lawyer for Dorian Johnson, who was walking
with Michael Brown, tells his client`s story for him.
Mr. Bosley says Dorian Johnson has been interviewed by the FBI and the St.
Louis county for nearly four hours. He said that Dorian Johnson admitted
that he and Michael Brown had had stolen cigarellos from the store before
"The Times" says this about how the action started on the street. Quote,
"Contrary to what several witnesses have told law enforcement officials,
Mr. Bosley said that the officer then reached out of the window with his
left hand and grabbed Mr. Brown by the throat."
"The Times" begins that by saying contrary to what several witnesses have
told law enforcement officials, but then "The Times" never tells you what
those witnesses actually told the law enforcement officials. Where does
the contrary come from? Do those witnesses disagree that the officer
reached out of the window at all or do they disagree that the officer
grabbed Michael Brown by the throat? Do some of them say he grabbed
Michael Brown by the shoulder near the throat or by the arm or did some day
he didn`t grab Michael Brown at all? We have no idea.
We`re not allowed to judge whether there is a sharp disagreement there.
"The Times" reporters who worked on this story simply accepted what law
enforcement told them and they printed it. "The Times" reporters quote
only two witnesses directly -- Michael Brady, who has also been interviewed
by CNN, and James McKnight. And not one word that those two witnesses say
in "The Times" article sharply conflicts with each other or with anything
Tiffany Mitchell said. In fact, nothing they say conflicts in any way.
Not sharply, not slightly, not in any way.
Then there is the most egregious passage in "The New York Times" article.
Officer Darren Wilson`s lawyer could not have written it better. It begins
with what Michael Brady says he saw.
Quote "He said he did see a police officer get out of the patrol car and
start walking briskly while firing on Mr. Brown as he fled. What happened
next, that could be what the case turns on."
What happened next? That could be what the case turns on? There`s "The
New York Times" dismissing the first shots that the officer fired after
getting out of the car as Michael Brown fled. That doesn`t matter in this
"New York Times" account. Law enforcement sources that "Times" reporters
were working with tricked them into thinking that what happens after that,
what happens next is what the case turns on. Not realizing that the shots
fired while Michael Brown is fleeing, those shots, that is an illegal use
of deadly force. That is a crime. The police officer had no legal right
to shoot at Michael Brown while he was fleeing.
"The Times" reporters don`t know that. They think it`s all about what
happened next. And what happens next in the article is that the article
gets much, much worse. Quote, "What happens next could be what the case
turns on. Several witnesses have told investigators that Mr. Brown stopped
and turned around with his arms up. 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, fearing that the
teenager was going to attack him, the officer decided to use deadly force."
"The Times" doesn`t seem to realize that the officer already decided to use
deadly force when he fired the first shots. Then comes the single worst
line in "The New York Times" article. Some witnesses have backed up that
account. That`s it. A simple declarative sentence, some witnesses have
backed up that account. And "The New York Times" does not produce or even
refer to a single witness who backs up that account, not one. It just
takes a leak from the police, and prints it as a fact. And it is used as a
fact in "the Times" to back up a very vague police description of what
"The Times" says, quote, "Officer Wilson said Mr. Brown had lowered his
arms and moved toward him," Law enforcement officials said. What does
that mean? What does "move toward him" mean? A half step, while falling
from the bullets that officer Wilson has already fired into Michael Brown?
Does it mean one full step? Does it mean two step?
"The New York Times" never tells you that. "The New York Times" doesn`t
know. Moved toward him is all the clarity that you get from "The New York
Times" in depth reporting on this. This on the point that Times wrongly
believes the case turns. That`s all you get on that point. "The New York
Times" interviewed Michael Brady. Why didn`t they quote him on how Michael
Brown moved toward the officer?
Listen to this description Michael Brady gave tonight about how Michael
Brown moved toward the officer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BRADY, EYEWITNESS: By the time I get outside, he`s already turned
around, facing the officer. He`s balled up, he had his arms like under his
stomach and he was like halfway down, like he was going down. And the
officer lets out about three or four shots at him. So like I said, just
like the body, I took a few pictures in the video, but how his body is on
the ground with his arms tucked in, that`s how he got shot or whatever.
But like I said before, he went down. He was already like this, and he
look like one or two steps going towards the officer and like I said, he
let go three or four more shots at him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So that`s what Michael Brady means by moving toward the
officer. Michael Brown stumbling two steps forward. As he`s going down
from the bullets that are already in his body, and as he continues to go
down, the officer keeps firing. And as we know from preliminary autopsy
results, one of the bullets that killed Michael Brown went through the top
of his skull. An objective, scientific finding that is completely
consistent with what Michael Brady just described.
"The New York Times" normally uses the best reporting standards of any
organization in the country. I`ve never seen "The New York Times" used by
police this way. "The New York Times" is definitely going to have better
days covering this story. I`m sure they will do more great work on this
story, but they didn`t do that today.
Like I said, there are good police reporters and bad police reporters. And
we could really use more good police reporters right now.
O`DONNELL: You`re watching live video from the scene in Ferguson, Missouri
right now. Thunderstorms moved through the area. The rain has stopped.
The protest marchers have resumed. We`ll be right back with more.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
O`DONNELL: Video changes everything especially in police work. When the
world saw that beating of Rodney King on video in 1991, most white
Americans were learning for the first time that that kind of thing happens
in the United States. Most African-Americans already knew that. And they
were horrified but completely unsurprised by that video. Video is the best
defense against bad police work. Video is also the best evidence collector
on a crime scene to help back up honest police accounts of what happened.
Many police departments now are routinely capturing video on dash board
cameras in police vehicles and from body worn cameras.
"The Wall Street Journal" points out quote "the tragic irony is that
Ferguson -- is that police in Ferguson have a stock of body worn cameras
but have yet to deploy them to officers."
Joining me now is Dr. Charles Katz, professor of criminology and criminal
justice at Arizona State University. He is also studying the impact of
body worn cameras with the Phoenix police department.
Professor Katz, tell us what you found about the use of these cameras and
how they affect police use of force.
DR. CHARLES KATZ, PH.D., ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY: Yes. Thank you for
having me on the -- your show tonight. We`ve been working with the Phoenix
police department of the past year and a half or so, looking at the impact
of body worn cameras on police misconduct and use of force, as well as its
use as evidence in the courts. We`re finding, as other researchers have
found in the past, there`s been a decline of 40 to 60 percent in officer
misconduct among those who wear the body cameras.
O`DONNELL: Now, it also reduces the complaints of police use of excessive
force, and part of that includes false complaints presumably. There are
some false complaints about police use of excessive force. And if you know
that the police officer has video showing what actually happened, you`re
not going to try the false complaint of excessive force.
KATZ: Correct. That`s what really has been an interesting finding is
really how frequently these types of issues come up. It`s not uncommon to
have an individual make an allegation. They will go ahead and file a
complaint, unaware that a camera was on them. And the police department
has the capacity to show the footage to the citizen or citizenry and try to
address the problem in whatever way that either the citizen believes is the
correct way to proceed forward or the police department believes and try to
find a common ground of how to address people`s concerns.
O`DONNELL: One California police department studied this and found that in
2013, of the year 2012-2013 complaints from the public dropped 80 percent
from the previous year. Use of force by the department`s own reckoning
dropped 60 percent from the previous year because -- and the only change in
operation was the use of these cameras.
KATZ: Correct. And that finding has been similar to those found in the
UK, Canada, Realto. And we have similar findings in Phoenix. Now, the
findings in Realto appear to be the impact appears to be substantially more
than what we found in other communities. Other communities, it`s has been
closer to 40 to 60 percent.
In Realto, we may want to think about it as a bit of an extreme example
given the amount of problems of that community face before the community --
before police department implemented the cameras. There were police
department that have substantial issues with the some sexual misconduct,
some allegations of bribery, the community was calling for the police
department to be disbanded and rerun by the sheriff`s department. And so,
a new chief came in, and as a last-ditch effort, attempted to implement
cameras and appears to been successful in reducing police officer
O`DONNELL: Well, findings is a very clear; video really changes the
situation police were.
Charles Katz, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
KATZ: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Our coverage continues now with Chris Hayes, who is again live
in Ferguson, Missouri.
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