'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, November 16th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: November 16, 2014
Guest: Osagyefo Seko, Marquez Claxton, Jasmine Rand, Maria Hinojosa, Adam
Cox, Alina Das, Bill Keller, Ken Armstrong, Khalil Muhammad, Farai Chideya,
Bryan Stevenson, Marva Robinson, Eric Lichtblau
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question, should
judges impose the death penalty when juries do not?
And we return to Ferguson, as the city awaits a grand jury decision.
Plus, a first look at a new report on the criminal justice system.
But first, it looks like the president is about to keep one of his biggest
Good morning I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
We are entering the final two years of the Obama presidency. And even as
pundits begin to pontificate about who will occupy the White House next,
the president and the public will begin to take account of President
Obama`s legacy. Will he be remembered as a good president, an effective
one? Did this president keep his promises? Did he do or at least try to
do in office what he said he would do while campaigning?
Now, my favorite Obama campaign promise fulfillment is this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sasha and Malia, I love you
both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that`s
coming with us to the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: By April, we`d all met Bo. I mean, sure, it`s a bit silly,
but it`s also a reminder of how few campaign promises can be fulfilled so
easily and clearly. The president promised the girls a dog, they got a
dog. Score one for president dad.
But, don`t you have the sneaking suspicion that if adopting Bo had required
an act of Congress; the first daughters might still be waiting? And most
presidential promise keeping does require some level of cooperation from
the Congress. The president has worked to make progress on the more
substantive promises of his election.
Economic recovery, now it`s been slow, unsteady and unfelt by many but
economic indicators are clearly strengthening under his leadership.
Health care reform. This president did what no other democrat who promised
comprehensive reform was able to do. He passed and signed the affordable
But this kept promise has been subjected to partisan attack at every moment
since its passage. And is now being challenged again in the Supreme Court.
Guantanamo Bay, well, that`s still open.
The VA is still a mess.
We left Iraq. And increasingly more soldiers are going back. And promises
can be hard to keep especially when you don`t have much help. And that is
one way that we could tell the story of comprehensive immigration reform.
The president first made the promise as a candidate in the spring of 2008.
Telling Univision quote "I cannot guarantee that it`s going to be in the
first 100 days. But what I can guarantee is that we will have, in the
first year, an immigration bill that I strongly support, and that I`m
promoting. And I want to move that forward as quickly as possible." To
this day, no such bill has made it to President Obama`s desk.
Meanwhile, the removal of noncriminal, unauthorized immigrants has topped
200,000 per year, all but one of the years of the Obama administration.
The president did score a win with activists and immigrant families when he
authorized the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA. It was an
initiative in the summer of 2012. But then after seeing this past June
that he would seek out options for executive action to be taken by the end
of the summer in September that plan was delayed until after the November
According to NBC News the president promised that he would use his
executive action to change the broken system before 2015 if Washington
lawmakers didn`t act. So, it was a relief of sorts to hear the issue of
immigration as one of the first things addressed on the day after a wave of
Republican election-day victories.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Before the end of the year, we`re going to take whatever lawful
actions that I can take, that I believe will improve the functioning of our
immigration system that will allow us to surge additional resources to the
border, where I think the vast majority of Americans have the deepest
concern. If they want to get a bill done, whether it`s during the lame
duck or next year, I`m eager to see what they have to offer. But what I`m
not going to do is just wait.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Then this week an outline of his plan emerged in a "New York
Times" report published Thursday. The highlights, a broad overhaul of the
nation`s immigration enforcement system that will protect up to five
million unauthorized immigrants from the threat of deportation and provide
many of them with work permits. Order changes that will significantly
refocus the activities of the government`s 12,000 immigration agents. And
will allow many parents of children who are American citizens or legal
residents to obtain legal work documents and no longer worry about being
discovered and separated from their families and sent away.
According to the "Times" report, the president is on the precipice of
fulfilling another promise, one that could be a cornerstone of his legacy.
And he could be prepared to do it this week. We know Republicans are
gearing up for a fight on this issue. They are already questioning the
president`s legal authority to take such action. What ultimate challenge
they issue and whether it will succeed remains to be seen. But OK. The
time has come. Here we go.
Joining me now, Maria Hinojosa, host of the PBS series America by the
Numbers and Latino USA, Adam Cox, professor of law at NYU, Khalil Muhammad
who is director of the Schomberg center for research and black culture and
Alina Das associate professor of clinical law and co-director of the
immigrant rights clinic at NYU school of law.
Thank you for being here.
Maria, let me start with you. Just based on what the president is
outlining, if he were, in fact to take this executive action and it were to
become our policy, is it strong policy? Is it robust? Is it the kind of
reform that activists have been asking for years?
MARIA HINOJOSA, PBS HOST, AMERICA BY NUMBER: OK, well that`s the $64,000
question, right? We don`t know. There has been a lot of, as you pointed
out, promises. And we don`t know. There are a lot of trial balloons that
are coming out. The article in "The New York Times" saying it could be as
much as this or it could be as little as this.
I think, Melissa, you know, as a journalist in the community, what I`m
hearing is, how excited can we get? We`ve been here before. What does
this really mean? There is no permanent resolution to this so here we are,
you know, and I started as a journalist in 1985. Here we are telling
basically the same story although in 1986 immigration reform. So we don`t
know. And we don`t know when it`s going to happen. I mean are we sitting
here and then, you know, next week they`ll say, not going to happen, sorry.
We`ll have to wait until when? So there`s a lot of prepetition out there
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And this issue, Alina, feels to me, has been -- this
is part of why I wanted to frame it around the question of campaign
promises, because it certainly has been part of what communities who were
active in getting this president elected twice have -- have discussed with
him, as we understood that this was going to be your position, we know that
you have an obstructionist Congress but we need you to do something. Do
you feel like we`re on the precipice of that something finally happening
now six years in?
ALINA DAS, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF LAW, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Well, the
reports that we`re hearing are promising. But you have to put the politics
aside. And that`s what we`re hoping that President Obama will do. I mean,
if you look at this as a good government issue he should be trying to
extend deferred action to as many of the 12 million or so undocumented
immigrants who are living in this country as he possibly can because while
it`s Congress` role to come up with a long-term legislative solution, he
has the job of figuring out what to do with the families who are here. And
while he`s been trying to deport as many of them as he can I don`t think
anyone is seriously arguing that it would be morally accessible or
politically feasible at this point to deport everyone who is here.
And the families who are here, its people should agree on all sides of the
issue. Bring them out of the shadows. Allow them to register with the
government. Give them work authorization so employers don`t exploit them.
Put everyone on a level playing field, allow families to stay intact and
then Congress has to do its job of coming up with a long-term solution.
HARRIS-PERRY: So when you when you sort of phrase the political and sort
of trying to think through what the political questions are the fact that
the political questions keep getting framed as legal questions whether or
not the president is legally constitutionally allowed to take this action.
But Adam, in fact, in the sense that there`s been immigration reform in the
past couple of decades it really has been primarily through executive
ADAM COX, PROFESSOR OF LAW, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: That`s absolutely right.
That`s the way in which the politics of this issue have become really
deeply entangled with the misleading notion of what is lawful for the
president to do when it comes to (INAUDIBLE) policy. As Maria said we
don`t know exactly what this policy is going to be so it`s difficult to
talk specifically about the legalities right now.
But if we look at what the president`s already done, we think about DACA,
for example, the legal challenges to that program have been somewhat
perplexing but basically boils down to two arguments. The first argument
is that the president lacks the authority to decline to deport a person who
is identified and is otherwise deportable. Now that`s just -- that`s a
terribly misguided argument. The administration going back as far as the
late 19th century, immigration policy first, you know, broke onto t
restrictive immigration laws, have always understood that discretion is a
critical part of the system.
Now the only argument they made other than that the president has no
discretion is that he`s exercised his discretion too aggressively.
And with DACA for example, that also seems like an argument that misses the
mark because if we go back to the Clinton administration, or the Reagan
administration, or any earlier administration that confronted a similar
situation like the one we have now where a huge fraction of people who live
in the country are formally deportable.
You know, half the noncitizens, this is the most important figure to know;
half of the noncitizens who live in the United States today are here
without legal authorization. When that`s the reality, it`s not just that
executive discretion is permissible. It`s that it`s inevitable.
HARRIS-PERRY: On exactly that point, when we come back I want to hear the
president talking about talking just this morning in Australia about the
absolute necessity as you framed it, and I want to ask you a little bit
about this question of discretion, because there`s at least at currently in
the proposal some high skilled versus low skilled marriages about what
sorts of immigrants will be allowed to stay. So, more on that when we come
But first, I want to update you on some breaking news from overnight. A
video purportedly released by the militant group ISIS indicates the death
of another American aid worker, Peter Kassig.
The U.S. government is investigating the video`s authenticity. Kassig
changed his name to Abdul Rahman after converting to Islam. He was
captured by ISIS last year while doing humanitarian work in Syria. If
confirmed, he would be the fifth western hostage killed by ISIS.
We`ll continue to follow developments on this story. Stay with MSNBC for
the latest. We`re going to be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: House speaker John Boehner had already warned President
Obama, don`t take executive action. If you do you`re poisoning the well.
Now he`s promising a fight. Here he is talking to our own Luke Russert on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: There`s talk among some of your
conference that any bill to fund the government must have language in it
that would prohibit the president from moving executive order pertaining to
immigration. Do you support that language?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president is
threatening to take unilateral action on immigration. Even though in the
past he`s made clear he didn`t believe he had the constitutional
responsibility or authority to do that. And I`ll just say this. We`re
going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path.
This is the wrong way to govern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So the house speaker is very clear there.
But I also want to listen to the president briefly from this morning in
Australia and what he had to say about his sense of the necessity of moving
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I can`t wait in perpetuity when I have authorities that at least
for the next two years can improve the system. I would be derelict in my
duties if I did not try to improve the system that everybody acknowledges
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So everybody acknowledges the system is broken. Questions
about how it will move forward. But as we`re looking at some of what`s
coming out, there`s a kind of carve out here around high-skilled immigrants
who will be allowed to stay and a sense that somehow contributions made by
people who are engineers are quite different than contributions made by
people who are laborers. And I wonder about how that then has ethnic
racial nation of origin effect on what our immigration system looks like.
KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD, DIRECTOR, SCHOMBERG CENTER: Right. Well this is
cornerstone to the unique peculiarities of this moment around the
immigration debate because for much of the 20th century, immigration was an
engine of economic transformation and change.
MUHAMMAD: Our industrial might could not have been built if it were not
for the importation of European immigrants. Our railroads could not have
been built if it were not for the importation -- a consensual importation
of Chinese immigrants. Even the 1965 immigration act which we now are
celebrating in the coming months of 50 years has been transformative to our
high tech industries and our capacity to get the best and brightest from
around the world here.
So clearly, when we talk about immigration, we talk about undocumented
workers, and we talk about people who don`t belong here. We`re talking
about people from south of the border. We`re talking about Central
American people. We`re talking about people who are presumptively criminal
and disease carriers.
So in the midst of the Ebola crisis, we heard some of the most insane
rhetoric about who these people were. So we have elided the distinctions
between our history of immigration, and this debate about those people.
So we are to applaud the president for essentially putting his mouth where
his office is at this moment. And we hope, of course, going forward, that
he is going to level the playing field. That this is not just about
engineers, but this is about the families who are here predominantly
because in the southwest, farming industry still rely fundamentally on
HARRIS-PERRY: And somehow this economic part of it keeps getting laws in
the -- even the president in his re-promising talk about a surge to the
border. And it still ends up with an awful lot of border security as part
of the narrative.
HINOJOSA: So here`s some interesting numbers for you, Melissa. And this
is from UCLA. So the cost of detaining a Mexican, if you will, you know,
detaining an immigrant, in the 1980s was about -- 1991, it was about a
thousand dollars. To find someone, process, not even process and deport.
Not even deport, it`s actually a return. Now, it costs us as a taxpayers,
we are paying about $29,000 per person who is being held, apprehended
processed, now check. So those are our tax dollars.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we`re losing the contributions -- the economic
contributions of the labor.
HINOJOSA: If there is like massive immigration reform, massive, which I`m
very skeptical about. But if there were according to a UCLA study, again,
the economic impact to the United States would be $1.5 trillion in economic
benefit over the next ten years. So we don`t hear this. We don`t hear
these numbers about what basically out there in the world people saying
wow, if this happened, perhaps all of our personal economy would go up.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, because then what happens when you cite those
numbers, I can just hear the other side which is, but these folks are
criminals and they make our communities unsafe. But you also have data --
there are data that suggest that that is also not accurate.
COX: Yes. And the signature piece of Obama`s immigration enforcement
strategy has been this program called secure communities which we`ve heard
about over the last several months. And that program the government claims
is designed to kick out the worst of the worst in order to, as the
program`s monitor suggests, make communities more secure, to reduce crime.
But in a recent study that myself and a colleague at the University of
Chicago conducted, a four-year study of the program, shows that, in fact,
that had no reduction in crime rates in communities. So actually has no
secure communities didn`t make communities any more secure.
And if you want to get back to the issue that Khalil mentioned, the other
fact we know about secure communities is that there was rolled out around
the country on a county by county basis. So one other thing Tom and I
tried to do was reverse engineer the target, so which communities were
targeted first. If you`re targeting crime you might have thought they
would have gone where crime was high.
It turns out crime rates didn`t predict where the rollout occurred. You
want to guess what predicted it best?
HARRIS-PERRY: The percentage of Latinos in the community?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So it ends up being the (INAUDIBLE). I have a little
bit more I want to talk about with you all. Everybody hold tight. I want
to come back there`s a couple more pieces I want to get to on this question
if we had immigration reform what is it we want it to look like.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to take a listen to a portion of the "Saturday Night
Live" skit from last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ask you not to move on immigration without us, and
the first thing you do is say you`re going to move -- the first thing!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK so you`re telling me that Republicans are going to
pass an immigration bill? That`s your -- that`s one of your first acts a
bill of immigration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely, yes, it is a huge priority.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. OK. Now we`re having fun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Sometimes it`s easier to tell the hard truths in comedy.
HINOJOSA: -- an entire electorate. And you know what, Melissa, we`re
talking politics. We`re talking legal strategy. We`re talking studies.
But out there in the community, there is a real sense of these are our
lives, people`s lives in the balance. And so we`re -- we have a lot of
hard numbers about what this might mean but I think that kind of humor, I
get it. You know, I hadn`t seen it I`m laughing. But then I`m like, my
God. They`re laughing at what`s being called the most important electorate
that is now it is going and it is like ha, ha, ha.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, you know, precisely that sense that the parties are --
that the folks are captured, that there isn`t some alternative, if both
parties are not moving, then what options do you have? And as I was
watching that, thinking to myself, wait a minute, there`s another thing
that`s going to happen. And that is that the president`s attorney general
nominee, Loretta Lynch, is going to come forward in this Senate now which
will now likely be led by McConnell. Do you think that the question of the
constitutional capacity of the president to do this without this legal and
lawful will actually end up impacting the AG`s nomination and confirmation?
DAS: I think it`s entirely possible. I mean, the people in the Republican
Party have been using every tool in their arsenal to basically do nothing
other than point fingers, and to impede government. I mean, Americans are
tired of the do-nothing Congress. The Republican Party that was in control
of the House, before the midterm elections, had over a rear to bring the
Senate bill --
HARRIS-PERRY: Are you sure they`re tired of it? I mean, they returned it.
They increased it. They made it more likely that that there will be this
kind of gridlock.
MUHAMMAD: I actually do think we have to keep the big context here. So
under the Republican administration of George Bush and under the
governorship of Jeb Bush, there was a lot of, and we talked about this,
compassionate talk about immigration reform.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ronald Reagan --
MUHAMMAD: Those politics are going to return to the White House in 2016 in
the context of the presidential election. And this Congress is going to be
poised to take credit for it and to prepare the electorate between 2014 and
2016 to have a different conversation. So in terms of the politics of
obstructionism, they`re still playing out in this midterm election because
it`s about what credit does Obama give for change.
HARRIS-PERRY: Versus the idea that they want to be able to hold him to
have that change narrative.
Thank you so Maria Hinojosa, Adam Cox, and to Alina Das. Khalil is going
to stick around a bit.
When we come back, we`re going to talk more about questions of justice.
This time, we are going to Ferguson.
HARRIS-PERRY: Any day now a grand jury in St. Louis will announce its
decision about whether to bring charges against Officer Darren Wilson for
the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
In anticipation of the public response that is expected to follow in the
wake of the decision, St. Louis area police have planned a series of
preparations. On Tuesday, Missouri governor Jay Nixon laid out the details
of the police mobilization effort.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: Officers from the Missouri state highway
patrol, St. Louis county police, and St. Louis city police will operate as
a unified command to protect the public. The National Guard has been and
will continue to be part of our contingency planning. The guard will be
available when we determine it is necessary to support local law
enforcement by simply we must and will be fully prepared.
Over the last two months more than a thousand law enforcement officers have
gone through more than 5,000 hours of specialized training, with an
emphasis on protecting the constitutional rights of peaceful demonstrator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: As part of the training to understand the rights of
protesters, St. Louis county police and state troopers received a
constitutional refresher course on the first, fourth, and 14th amendments.
A spokesman for the St. Louis county police department told "Mother Jones"
each officer will carry a laminated card with these amendments listed.
Police have also been learning how to engage peacefully with the
protesters. The Associated Press reported that more than 350 St. Louis
officers have been trained in civil disobedience tactics and law
enforcement leaders in Missouri have been going throughout Ferguson to
churches, schools and businesses to engage the community and try to ease
some of the tension and distrust between the people and the police.
Reportedly, the St. Louis county police department has also spent more than
$170,000 since August to stock up on tear gas, ammunition, and riot gear.
And Governor Nixon made clear that while the police will be prepared for
peace, they will also be ready in case there is violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIXON: These measures are not being taken because we are convinced that
violence will occur, but because we have a responsibility to prepare for
any contingency. This coordinated effort will be guided by our core
principles, keeping the public safe while allowing people to speak.
This is America. People have a right to express their views, and
grievances. But they do not have the right to put their fellow citizens or
their property at risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now, Jasmine Rand a civil rights attorney working
with Parks and Crump, the firm representing Michael Brown`s family.
Marquez Claxton, director of the black law enforcement alliance and retired
NYPD detective who served 20 years in department. Khalil Muhammad,
director of the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture and Farai
Chideya, a blogger and professor of journalism at NYU and co-author of
"innovating women the changing face of technology."
But first, I also want to go to Ferguson where MSNBC reporter Tyrmaine Lee
has been following all the latest developments leading up to the
anticipated grand jury`s decision.
Trymaine, any we`ve been hearing a lot about the police readiness efforts,
are they visible on the ground if you`re a member of the community and just
walking around can you see what the police are doing?
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC REPORTER: Good morning, Melissa. Not just yet.
Walking around is kind of a literal and figurative kind of chill in the
air. There hasn`t been much activity. But folks downtown St. Louis as you
have seen, some homeland security vehicles amassing down by the federal
building down there. Besides that there hasn`t been much, you know,
anything much of a see here or a feel or hear on the ground here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Give me a sense of what you`re hearing from the community
members about how these readiness efforts are kind of affecting the
perspective, both of what to expect from the grand jury announcement, but
also sort of what`s to expect from police in the wake of the announcement?
LEE: That`s the thing. So as police are you know going through trainings
about nonbiased policing, as you mentioned, Captain Ron Johnson of the
Missouri state highway patrol visiting schools along with other elected
officials trying to bridge that gap. But when you talk to folks on the
ground that, particularly veteran protesters that have been here from the
beginning, that gulf of mistrust and distrust is still as wide as ever.
And the amassing of weapons, a couple of hundred thousand dollars in riot
gear between the St. Louis city and the county police, is disconcerting,
because they fear that there may be a return of the kind of violence they
saw inflicted by the police or mostly peaceful protesters might return in
the wake of protests in lieu of the decision.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, stay with us Trymaine. I don`t want you to go
I do want to come to you, though, Officer Claxton, about sort of how police
officers might be feeling this moment. So we talk a lot about how the
community might be feeling. But as you know we`re hearing laminated cards
with constitutional amendments to remind you of that you know we`re in
America and people have a right to assemble and to speak. But also, riot
gear and tear gas. What do you suspect most officers may be sort of
thinking about in this moment?
MARQUEZ CLAXTON, DIRECTOR, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: I`m sure
there`s a tremendous amount of anxiety, apprehension, fear, concern. Let
me just say this. I think it`s very interesting when people talk about
retraining police officers for -- you know, in regard to the constitution.
The constitution hasn`t changed.
The constitution hasn`t been altered. So that indicates to me that these
same police officers weren`t trained or familiar with the constitution,
handout cards, and how to interact with the public. I mean what is it that
they learned in whatever academy they attended. And I`m also so happy that
Governor Jay Nixon realized where he is in America. All of a sudden he
realizes he`s in America as opposed to where we were before, in Ferguson a
couple months ago.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. But when he was striking a tone about, about, I`ll
never forget that Saturday when he came out and side the curfew and the
sense that that was almost like drawing a line in the sand. You know we`re
talking about the communities, we`re talking about police. I also want to
talk a little bit about the family for whom this anticipated grand jury
decision is a far more personal question, one of the big questions of
justice. But there`s a very personal one.
On MSNBC.com Mike Brown`s cousin and family spokesperson told us the police
are getting ready for war. They should be getting ready for a trial. That
to me means they`ve already made their decision. We still feel terrible
right now. We feel the same way we felt when Mike was lying dead in the
middle of the street for four and a half hours.
How traumatizing is the wait and then the kind of this idea that just it
feels like with this kind of readiness it feels like although I don`t even
know whether the police would know whether or not it`s true like preparing
for a grand jury to not indict.
JASMINE RAND, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: And I think that the family is
certainly bracing themselves in that same arena, as well. I think that
we`re very skeptical whether or not an indictment is going to come down.
Obviously, the family is still praying that this grand jury will indict the
killer of their son. But everybody is skeptical at the moment. And I
think what the family hopes is that no matter what the decision is, that
the people will be peaceful. But more importantly as we`ve been discussing
this morning that the law enforcement will remember that we have to uphold
these people`s constitutional rights.
We don`t want to see additional police brutality in response to a grand
jury, if they don`t indict. So we want people`s right to peacefully
assemble and people`s right to freedom of expression to be upheld.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now I have a question for you, Trymaine, it kind of involves
you, as well. We talk about the police readying up and starting to feel
like something bad is going to happen on the back end. But the reality is
that, you know, MSNBC said that Trymaine Lee there, there are other
reporters there from all of the major networks.
Are we also, even in our presence as media, even in the way that we are
anticipating this, are we also basically putting on our sort of journalism
right you know expecting that something bad and therefore camera ready and
camera worthy will happen, Farai?
FARAI CHIDEYA, CO-AUTHOR, INNOVATING WOMEN: Yes. But, if you think about
the civil rights era, it was the presence of journalists who recorded
people being knocked down by fire hoses and chewed up by dogs that
persuaded not only northern but southern Americans that the constitution
was broken in effect if not in documents.
And so, hopefully this will be a big waste of money for MSNBC and Trymaine
who is an incredible journalist will be like, well, yes, you know, coming
home, thanks for listening. But, you this is part of the job of what we do
as journalists is to witness. And if there`s nothing to witness, I think a
lot of people will be happy. But if there is something to witness
journalists have to be there.
HARRIS-PERRY: Trymaine, let me ask you. When you`re talking to folks on
the ground, are they responding to you as a journalist as part of this
presence that was there in August when it was hot and now you`re back and
it`s cold sort of what are you hearing from folks about the media presence?
LEE: I mean, on one hand, folks even in the worst of the days appreciated
the media coverage because they felt if we weren`t there could you imagine
how bad it would be. But there were moments when I can remember seeing
police descend nothing crowds of protesters and behind them, I`d see
cameras bobbing behind them. And you have to wonder you know, what role
are we playing in fuelling this? Are people starting to show out and show
off a little bit for the camera? And also even now, are we adding to the
hysteria? Every time I talk to someone, are you ready? Do you think there
will be violence? Are you concerned for your own safety? It kind of adds
to this kind of whirlwind of anxiety that`s been consuming this place for
almost 100 days.
But again I think largely, as she mentioned, you know, during the civil
rights era you know when you saw those dogs attacking you knows the police
attack being folks with the dogs and America can sit back and say wow this
And so, I think our role here is doing the same thing, this is America.
This is the process. You know, sometimes we talk about the family and you
look into a mother`s eyes and their son or daughter leave home and never
You know, this is all this kind of weighty emotional stuff we`re dealing
with. And so, our presence, I think, is again translating that into the
homes of America.
HARRIS-PERRY: Trymaine Lee, in Ferguson, Missouri, thank you.
Up next, President Obama is going to weigh in and I`m going to get a
history lesson (INAUDIBLE) at the table.
HARRIS-PERRY: Missouri police aren`t the only ones anticipating the
potential for violence after the grand jury decides whether or not to
indict Officer Darren Wilson.
On Wednesday, "politico" reported President Obama has privately expressed a
quote "real heart driven concern" about the potential for violence in
Ferguson. The report describes a meeting the day after the midterm
elections between the president and a group of civil rights leaders during
which the president urged the leaders to help keep the peace while ensuring
protesters free speech rights.
And just a little part of I wanted to come to you on historically is just
I`m legitimately confused about the fact that I felt like we had some
collective understanding that the militarized response of the police was
its own separate problem, but over and against the question of Officer
Wilson, and the shooting death of Michael Brown. And yet that seems to be
a lesson that wasn`t learned. And so, I`m wondering how many other times
in our history have we not learned that lesson?
MUHAMMAD: So let me say on that point it seems to me that what -- what the
militarization problem showed us that we had not picked up on is that
policing becomes the provocation for individuals who are expressing their
rights. Seems to me when Governor Jay Nixon is giving that speech just a
couple of days ago, he`s speaking to an electorate that told him that we
will not stand for the criminals in Ferguson disrespecting our community.
So I don`t hear it as neutral language around an America that we all
support. I hear him speaking to an electorate that said that those
hoodlums that were out there before shall not be able to rise again because
they`re not legitimate protesters.
Now, to the history of militarization technologies of repression have
changed of time. So one of the early inventions in the 20th century around
labor movements, so when communists got together and socialists and
anarchists got together in New York City, for example, the technologies at
that time were agents provocateurs as part of red and gloom squads who
actually did the kind of surveillance work that our modern technology does
so that they could get ahead, and that they could identify the leaders and
that they could use violence in a targeted impactful way.
That whole militarization moved across the 20th century to an ironic
development. So by the time we get to the 1990s in a place like New York
City around police brutality protests, not unlike what we happened in
Ferguson, so Amadou Diallo (ph), Sean Bell (ph), the controversial bias
with Rudolph Giuliani, they actually learned part of the lesson of New York
City`s history, which was to show incredible restraint to literally be
crowd and parade control for these major protest movements that had roiled
New York city throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, I want to come to you on that as a law enforcement
officer sort of what that means to that to like purposely position the
police in this different way as though they`re the helpers of the
protesters. And you know, I just want to listen very quickly to Captain
Ron Johnson speaking to high school students where he -- he offers us some
advice and come to you on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. RON JOHNSON, MISSOURI HIGHWAY PATROL: If you ever stop and you think
it`s just because then you take that ticket, don`t tear next year, you off
don`t yell (ph), don`t scream, don`t get the ticket bold enough to turn on
the ground, but you take it off to your parents. However is raising and
you take that and they need to go to that police department and tell them
with you what has happened. But don`t just take it if you think you have
done nothing wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So here he is offering advice, but still not quite giving
accountability for the way the police are doing that wrong.
CLAXTON: And I think that, you know -- I mean, I have to be honest about
it. I think and I`ve said it here I think Captain Johnson has done some
positive things, and that`s sort of certain skill sets that are
advantageous to the community. However, I`m afraid that much of what he is
engaged in now, and since the riots, has been a lot of public relations
stunts with no substance behind it. No ability to really change and
ultimate direction and flow of the law enforcement agency that he`s
supposed to be in charge of in a certain sense. That`s not slight on
Captain Johnson. That`s just it is what it is.
And I think in a larger scale, when we`re talking about whether it be the
militarization of police agencies, whether it be high incarceration rates,
I think people are having the problem kind of identifying what we`re
talking about. We`re talking about really significant revolutionary
justice reform from police, to prosecution, to laws, et cetera. That`s
what we`re really talking about.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So stay right there because that`s exactly the kind of
reform we`re going to talk about when we come back. And I want to talk
about how both the actual case of when Officer Brown -- Wilson and Michael
Brown are related to that larger protest revolution that you`re talking
about when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Thursday, the parents of Michael brown returned home
after a week-long trip to Geneva where they traveled at the invitation of
the United Nations to testify before the U.N. committee against torture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BROWN SR., MICHAEL BROWN`S FATHER: Me and his mother, we came here
to the U.N. to get justice for our son. I think that it couldn`t be a
better place that we could fight it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Their international appeal for justice was not only over the
shooting death of their son but also to bring worldwide attention to police
aggression against American communities of color. That call for systemic
justice has galvanized the movement that coalesced around Michael Brown`s
death and it has remained a key focus of protesters as they prepare to
respond after the grand jury makes its decision.
At least 600 people have received training in nonviolent civil disobedience
from a group of experienced organizers. Potential protesters learned
strategies for how to remain calm and engage peacefully during an encounter
Joining me now from Ferguson is one of those instructors who in those
training sessions who has also been an activist, who has been arrested
twice during the protest, Reverend Osagyefo Sekou from the fellowship of
reconciliation also the pastor for formation and justice at the first
Baptist church in Jamaica plain.
It is so nice to see you, Reverend Sekou. So tell me about this ongoing
movement on happening in Ferguson and sort of what happened after the
REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU, FELLOWSHIP OF COALITION: Good morning, dear sister
and thank you for having us.
Well, we are engaging in the rich add tradition that gave us eight-hour
work days that gives us the opportunity to break the opportunity to break
the back of American apartheid through nonviolent civil disobedience.
Since the largest amount of media have left we have remained committed to
building infrastructure to support the work of young people by providing
them the skills necessary and requisite as a part of deep preparation. And
that I got while we are angry we are all angry at this moment and police
brutality nationally, but that anger is tempered by a deep, abiding love.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us, Reverend.
Jasmine, I want to come to you because this is both a case illegal case but
this is also this opportunity for a much broader activism.
RAND: And I`m so glad that we`re having this discussion at this table
today and this is the exact type of progress that our nation needs because
as a civil rights attorney, I can`t just be working in the context of a
courtroom. We talked earlier today about the influence of the media. And
the necessity of the media in forwarding the movement, capturing these
movements, helping us, assisting us to uphold people`s human rights. And
you referred earlier about officers being helpers of protesters. And
that`s what we need to see in this nation because we all have
constitutionally guaranteed rights. So these officers have to be trained
not to just quiet protesters, but to allow protesters voices to be heard.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Reverend, let me then go back to you on that. So we`re
hearing about how the police are revving up, now I know something about the
kind of training that you have been doing with activists on the ground. Is
there a sense of optimism that police may behave differently this time than
what we saw a few months ago?
SEKOU: Well, given the fact that they have purchased several hundred
thousand dollars of weaponry to police American citizens engaging in the
first amendment rights, it seems the case that the police will be engaging
in various forms of provocation. And so, this is why we`ve attempted to do
as much as we can to train young leaders, and activists, and a broader
community. It`s been a broad, multiracial, multigenerational group of
folks who have come out for these trainings over the past few months.
And so, we are prepared a lot less than the and we want to protect
ourselves, of course, and people to be protected in terms of their attack
by police, but more about raising the more drama that there are Mike Browns
all over America and that a new generation of leadership has emerged and
they will not bow down.
HARRIS-PERRY: One last very briefly question. What if there is an
indictment? We`ve been talking about if there`s not. What if there is an
indictment. What happens to the energy and focus of the movement?
SEKOU: We will still be in the streets. Because of the Malcolm X
grassroots movement reports every 28 hours. Some black or brown body is
slain by a state agent or vigilante. And so, this is as about Mike Brown,
but it`s about the Mike Browns of America. And so, we will still take to
the streets because the Ferguson police department and broader St. Louis
County policing agents in the context of this local struggle have proven
themselves to be deeply corrupt, whether it be provide issuing too many
tickets, whether it be continued police brutality and profiling of black
people in this region. And so, Mike Brown`s blood has washed away the
veneer of the status quo and we cannot go back to the way things were.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Reverend Sekou, in Ferguson, Missouri and here in
New York to Jasmine Rand and Marquez Claxton. I hope you all will be back
once we do in fact have a decision about whether or not there`s an
indictment. Khalil and Farai are going to be back with us in the next
Still to come this morning, Bryan Stephenson is returning. We just had him
last week but he`s back at the MHP show to explain what judicial override
is and how one man`s life hangs in the balance.
Also, the former "New York Times" executive editor, Bill Keller with a
debut investigator report from the marshal project.
There is more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. This is Kenneth
Rouse who`s been on death row in North Carolina for 22 years. He was
convicted in 1992 of robbing, murdering and attempting to rape a white
store clerk. An all-white jury convicted him and recommended the death
sentence. Years later, Kenneth Rouse`s lawyers discovered that one of
those jurors had purposely concealed the fact that his mother, the juror`s
mother, had been murdered. And that he believed that black man, he used
the "n" word, routinely raped white women for bragging rights. A story
published this morning in the Washington Post The Marshall Project,
reporter Ken Armstrong writes, "As claims of juror bias go the evidence
could hardly have been stronger. But Rouse`s final appeal was never heard.
Rouse`s lawyers had just one year after his initial state appeal to
petition for a last resort hearing in federal court. They missed the
deadline by a single day."
Under the constitution, prisoners in America have the right to challenge
their sentences, including the death penalty. That constitutionally
guaranteed right is known as habeas corpus. In 1996, democratic President
Bill Clinton signed a law that limited that right. The anti-terrorism and
effective death penalty act of 1996 set a one-year deadline on federal
habeas appeals. Those convicted had one year from when their state appeal
concluded to file the claim in federal court. Since then according to an
investigation by The Marshall Project the deadline has been missed in 80
death penalty cases. Courts have agreed to extend the deadline in just a
third of those cases. The lawyers for three death row inmates missed the
deadline by just one day. Of the death row inmates who filed habeas
petitions after the deadlines, 16 have been executed.
Joining me now is Bill Keller, longtime executive editor of "The New York
Times" and now editor in chief of The Marshall Project. And Ken Armstrong,
a Pulitzer Prize winning, reporter who is also a staff writer for The
Marshall Project. I want to start with this policy itself. Help me to
understand what the sort of narrative about why it was important to set a
one-year time limits on the right for these appeals.
KEN ARMSTRONG, STAFF WRITER, THE MARSHALL PROJECT: Well, what Congress
wanted to do was streamline death penalty appeals. There was this feeling
at the time that it was taking too long to actually carry out executions.
So in 1996, they went ahead and set a one-year statute of limitations for
federal habeas corpus petitions. But what Congress did was they
essentially created a hurdle without also providing the means to clear it.
So the hurdle is the one-year statute of limitations. What they didn`t
account for was the provision of competent counsel to make sure that
deadline was met. So what you had is attorneys who filed petitions in the
wrong court, or who filed petitions without paying the proper filing fee.
Or who made an array of other mistakes that had tragic consequences in
these particular cases.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels in part because when we do death penalty cases in
media, we tend to do kind of the higher profile ones where there in fact
there is competent council and we maybe all have in our minds like Atticus
Finch going into the courthouse and, you know, being so good at what he
does but some of what this piece outlines is that you know attorneys may be
even of goodwill just often kind of don`t know quite what they`re doing and
a year just doesn`t seem like enough time.
ARMSTRONG: That`s right. I mean, habeas corpus is an incredibly
challenging area of law. As you`re saying a lot of times, these attorneys
are well meaning. They just don`t have the experience and the background
to do this type of work. One of the attorneys we wrote about was in
Indiana. And she tried hard to get grounded in it which we read this two
volume set on habeas corpus practice. She attends a week-long seminar on
capital litigation but the very back end of the case she makes a crucial
mistake and she drops the petition in the mail rather than having it
delivered by FedEx or delivering it to a person at the courthouse. As a
result, the petition arrived one day late and her client`s petition was
dismiss without ever being reviewed on the merits.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Bill, I think part of -- part of what`s so stunning about
the piece to me, and why I say the democratic President Bill Clinton is the
person who signed this, I think we hear often, we`ve talk a lot on this
show about this great desire for something to get done. Let`s just get
something done. Let`s make compromises, who cares about partisanship,
let`s move something through. But this policy is emblematic of a
democratic president working with a republican Congress to do something but
then the, you know, you sort of feel like I wish they`d have done nothing,
right, as opposed to making a compromise that vulnerability communities
have to bear.
BILL KELLER, THE MARSHALL PROJECT: Right. And we`re also accustomed to
thinking the sort of tough on crime commercials the Willie Horton kind of
tactic of going after your opponent as being primarily a conservative
republican phenomenon. But, in fact, you know, Bill Clinton signed this
bill quite willingly, knowing what was in it and two years earlier he
signed the 1994 crime act which set out the prison building binge and had a
few other residual effects like cutting off Pell grants to inmates who
wanted to better themselves so they could have a job when they got out of
prison. You know, it`s -- it`s scary being a liberal who supports criminal
justice reform. The environment tends to encourage them to keep their
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet the environment has changed so dramatically. I mean
this is part of what`s put it out is that the crime rate has dropped pretty
substantially since 1996 when we first saw this. Support for the death
penalty has dropped although it remains 55 percent or something, you know,
a majority but it`s substantially down from `96. Is this now a moment when
the kind of reporting that we`re seeing here can actually put these
questions back on an agenda as we move into the 2016 presidential election
KELLER: We`re betting the answer to that question is yes. And, you know,
I think there are encouraging signs. There is a rare patch of common
ground between right and left on some aspects of criminal justice reform,
especially the sort of easy stuff. A sentencing of low-level nonviolent
drug offenders for example. So there is some potential to make some
movement. Motivated in part by the fact that it costs a lot of money to
incarcerate 2.2 million people. But also, I mean, the some conservatives
are moving in this direction, motivated --
HARRIS-PERRY: Rand Paul.
KELLER: Yes. In Rand Paul`s case I think it`s just part of his blanket
suspicion that big government but there`s also a kind of an evangelical,
Christian, moral conservative wing that has gained influence within the
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet at the at the crux of this still there are questions
of race so when you talk about the -- the kind of you know, some of the
easy stuff we`re increasingly seeing actions, the supply of legal marijuana
is becoming part of the easy stuff and the prohibition there. But part of
what I want to talk about when we come back is the ways in which race is at
the at the crux of all of this and then talk a little bit more about the
question of Marshall Project and diversity in the newsroom.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re going to take a short break. The report that we are
discussing is online now at the TheMarshallProject.org. It`s also running
as a two-day series in "The Washington Post." When we come back we`re
going to talk more about these fundamental questions but first, the latest
on the breaking news from overnight. A video purportedly released by the
militant group ISIS claims to prove an American aid worker Peter Kassig has
been beheaded. The U.S. government is investigating the video`s
authenticity. Kassig was doing humanitarian work in Syria when he was
captured by ISIS last year. He changed his name to Abdul Rahman after
converting to Islam. If the new video is authenticated he would be the
fifth western hostage and the third American killed by ISIS.
Kassig`s parents while awaiting official confirmation issued this
statement. "The family respectfully asks that the news media avoid playing
into the hostage takers hands and refrain from publishing or broadcasting
photographs or videos distributed by the hostage takers. We prefer our son
is written about and remembered for his important work, and the love he
shared with friends and family, not the manner the hostage takers would use
to manipulate Americans and further their cause."
Stay with MSNBC throughout the day for the latest on this story. We`ll be
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been talking about the work of The Marshall Project, a
nonprofit news start-up that officially launched this weekend with the
mission to report on criminal justice issues. Amongst several other recent
new start-ups The Marshall Project has been criticize for a lack of racial
diversity among its staff. In March, the National Association of Black
Journalists posted an open letter to The Marshall Project and three other
start-ups, FOX, 538 and First Look Media with that very critique. The NABJ
wrote, "Many of us wondered aloud if this entrepreneurship might also
include new and more effective approaches to achieving diversity and
inclusion in newsroom staffing and news coverage. But our excitement has
turned to concern as the parade of recent hires hardly reflects a
commitment to ensuring that this newsrooms reflect all the communities they
We`re going to give the editor in chief of The Marshall Project Bill Keller
a chance to respond to some of these questions. And also at the table
Khalil Muhammad, director of The Schomburg Center for Research in Black
Culture. And Farai Chideya, professor of journalism at NYU and a blogger
So, Bill, I wanted to talk to you about this, because this, you know, again
as a member of NABJ this has been kind of a central question The Marshall
Project is named for Thurgood Marshall.
HARRIS-PERRY: This first piece is a smart piece around questions in part
of race, 42 percent of death row inmates are African-American, a
disproportionate share of the male prison population is African-American.
Talk to me about diversity in the newsroom at The Marshall Project.
KELLER: Well, let me start by talking a little bit about diversity in the
newsroom at large.
KELLER: I mean, we have a special obligation I think, you know, we`ve
taken our name in honor of Thurgood Marshall. And we`re dealing with a
system where that is disproportionately African-American. I mean, 40
percent of the inmates in our overstuffed prisons are African-American.
African-Americans are disproportionately represented among the victims of
crime. They are disproportionately represented in some elements of the
power structure. The correctional officers union of New York City is two-
KELLER: So obviously it`s a great value not just to go out and talk to
African-Americans in this field, but to have some people on staff who wake
up in the morning, who when they read about Ferguson, get it. Maybe
quicker than somebody who`s white and get it at a more visceral level. Of
our 25 employees, five are African-American, of our eight staff writers,
two are African-American. Is that enough? I mean, I don`t know what
enough is. But I think that number will grow over time. You know, there
is a kind of basic conceit of journalism that we`re all generalists and
anybody can report on anything, you don`t have to be a doctor to write
KELLER: You don`t have to be a catholic to write about the Vatican.
KELLER: And there`s some truth in that and we have you know connections
among African-American experts in criminal justice, I could list you a
whole honor role of them, some of them are on our advisory board --
HARRIS-PERRY: Some of them our guest in the next block --
KELLER: But that`s not enough. I mean, you know, among -- who works for
us, brings a little something extra to the job having grown up an African-
American in a big urban setting. Corey Johnson brings something extra
having grown up an African-American man in Georgia. That`s not why we
hired them. We hired Simone because she`s a street smart reporter who
knows how to cover cops and gangs. We hired Corey Johnson because he`s one
of the sharpest investigative reporters I know. He did a great series on
involuntary sterilization in California prisons. But they do bring a
little something extra to the table. Because of what they know and who
they are, and who will talk to them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And so, Farai, this is a lot of your work has been
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what difference does difference make in the newsroom?
CHIDEYA: Well, I`m actually completing a 20th anniversary edition of a
book I wrote called "Don`t Believe The Hype," which is about race and the
media as it pertains to African-Americans. And it came out of my
experiences as being a young 20-something reporter at "Newsweek," and for
example the Central Park jogger case unfolded and one of the things I said
to my older white peers was regardless of whether these men are innocent or
guilty, the way that we`re portraying them is not a way that we would
portray a white kid who committed a crime. And now we know that they were
innocent but regardless of whether they were innocent or guilty, when I
brought up questions about our coverage in the "Newsweek" newsroom I was
viewed as being of all things anti-feminist. So, I think that you have to
have I mean what I see now making a hard switch to money is that the
funding is going to predominantly white founders of tech oriented media
start-ups who may or may not include diversity in the hiring. I see it --
HARRIS-PERRY: So, the kind of beyond Marshall Project.
CHIDEYA: Beyond Marshall Project I think it`s a money question. And what
I see very often is both foundation funding and for profit funding.
Whether it`s Omidyar or First Look Media don`t really take a first look at
people of color as entrepreneurs. There are plenty of digital
entrepreneurs, or media entrepreneurs of color, but the book that I last
came out with, called innovating women, for example, shows that for-profit
tech companies with women on the board do 35 percent better than for-profit
tech companies without women on the board, and yet it`s a struggle still to
get women on the board. So it`s a money issue, and it`s also a question of
can you tolerate internal dissent? Because if you bring in people of
different races, and different classes, different ethnicities, and
different national origins, you will fight in the newsroom. Do you have a
tolerance to fight?
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, man!
CHIDEYA: That produces good journalism.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s interesting that that idea of -- that that
there`s on the one hand there`s -- and I appreciate what you said about,
you know, we hire people who are great reporters, right? It`s not identity
alone is insufficient, on either side. At the same time Khalil, you know,
I`m sitting here thinking as an academic a little bit because some these
same cautions emerge around faculty, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: So, and both, you know, so we diversify our students without
diversifying our faculty for example. Pipeline almost always comes up as
part of that. And again, the question of just as reporters are trying to
report on a complex series of stories, faculty trying to teach and do
research around complicated social issues that have overwhelming impact on
communities of color, two of my favorite one of my favorite researchers of
African-American history is done by non-African-American historians and yet
I still want to make a claim for the value of identity within that.
MUHAMMAD: Sure, well I teach as well and one of the things that we always
wrestle with is, who is this book written for? Who is the audience?
Because we can imagine that someone picking up a newspaper, reading a blog
or even reading a scholarly monograph represents a universal possibilities
that the author cannot control. That the author has an audience in mind.
The journalist has an audience in mind. And so when you wrestle with those
difficult questions about how do you characterize humanity? How do you
characterize cultural habits and context? How do you get into those messy
spaces that aren`t obvious to the reader the fit is, this person reading
the book makes a huge difference in how you tell your story.
HARRIS-PERRY: Bill, let me ask. Who is The Marshall Project for?
KELLER: The Marshall Project is for I hope a universal voting audience. I
mean because our aim is to raise the level of understanding and the sense
of urgency about what we see as a broken system. I don`t think of our
audience in terms of black and white, or coastal, or flyover states, I
think we want everybody
HARRIS-PERRY: As the author of this piece, did you have an effective
audience member in mind?
ARMSTRONG: What I hoped too that we would do is speak to everyone about an
issue that affects all of us universally. When you were talking about how
race is at the core so much of this. When you opened up the segment you
talked about the Kenneth Rouse case. Race figured dominantly in that
because not only did that one juror fail to disclose that his family
history provided him with a bias. He said that he was colored by bigotry.
You know, he provided an affidavit admitting that he was prejudiced.
ARMSTRONG: And that that may have affected his deliberations in that case.
And he wound up with an all-white jury. So race does figure time and again
these cases and we need to make sure that we account for that in our
HARRIS-PERRY: And we`re going to talk even more about the ways in which
race figures in the criminal justice in our next segment. But I want to
thank right now, Bill Keller and Ken Armstrong of The Marshall Project.
Khalil and Farai are going to stick around a little bit longer.
Up next, we are bringing Bryan Stevenson in from Alabama to explain why
judges there are discarding the intents of the juries and imposing their
own death sentences.
HARRIS-PERRY: Capital punishment is legal in 32 of our United States. But
in three of those states the executions can be ordered by judge, despite a
jury`s sentence of life in prison. It`s called a judge override. And in
one particular state, Alabama, the practice is under intense scrutiny for
its routineness. According to the Equal Justice Initiative judges in
Alabama have overridden jury verdicts 111 times since 1976. Thirty six
people in Alabama`s death row right now were sentenced to die by a single
judge`s override of a jury. Alabama has the nation`s highest per capita
death sentencing rate. This week, The New Yorker published an in-depth
report on the controversy titled, "Double Jeopardy." In the report, Hage
Williams (ph) interviewed a retired state Supreme Court justice who once
chose to override as jury as a circuit judge but is now openly opposed to
In one of his dissents before leaving the bench, Justice Douglas Johnston
wrote quote, "In assigning no weight nor binding effect to a life in
imprisonment recommendation by a jury, Alabama law reduces to a sham the
role of the jury in sentencing and allows baseless, disparate sentencing of
defendants in capital cases."
Joining me now from Montgomery, Alabama is Bryan Stevenson, founder and
executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. And author of a new
book "Just Mercy." He is also the lawyer for this man, Chanel Jackson who
is facing the first execution in spite of a jury`s unanimous vote for life
It`s nice to have you back Bryan but I am -- could not believe this
article. Help me to understand what is going on in Alabama in particular
where not only do you not have to have a unanimous jury, but that a judge
could simply override if it`s a unanimous jury on the other side?
BRYAN STEVENSON, EXEC. DIR., EQUAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE: Yes, it`s pretty
outrageous. And initially judge override was introduced in the late `70s
as a tool to allow judges to reverse death sentences to life when they
thought people had been unfairly sentenced because of some bias. What it`s
turned into, instead, is the opposite. It`s frequently used to change life
verdicts to death, what distinguishes Alabama is that unlike Florida, and
Delaware, which are the only two states that have overrides, Alabama has no
restriction. It doesn`t have a standard that requires these judges to only
do this in the rashest of cases. And right now about 21 percent of our
death row are there as a result of these judge overrides, there have been
over 100 people condemned to death despite the fact that the jury felt like
life was the appropriate punishment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. So I want to talk a little bit also about the
politics here. We talked a little bit about the politics in that 1996
decision to reduce the time for habeas corpus. In this case, in Alabama,
judges are elected. They have no public funding. The money for campaigns
is unlimited. And I could not believe this, lawyers can give money to
judges who will be hearing their cases, and judges can give money to other
judges who are going to review their cases and decisions?
STEVENSON: It completely compromised the integrity of the courts in my
view. Yes. We`ve spent millions of dollars in the state electing
different judges who often campaign on their commitment to impose the death
penalty. These overrides go up in election years. Thirty percent of the
death sentences in 1998, which was an election year, were judge overrides.
And these judges use the death penalty as a brand. As a way of expressing
to the community that I`m the kind of person you should vote for. And I do
think it puts us in a very perilous position. You need a judiciary that
has autonomy. That has integrity. That can sometimes say to the majority
of people in the state, this is wrong. This is unfair. This is unequal.
Even if the majority of the people think otherwise. That`s how we protect
the rights of the disfavored. It`s how we protect the rights of
minorities. It`s how we protect the rights of people whose rights are
often easily violated.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what does any of this or all of this have to do with
STEVENSON: Well, we frequently see overrides in cases where the victims
are white, about 75 percent of the cases where these judge overrides have
taken place have taken place in white victim cases, even though 65 percent
of all murder victims in the state of Alabama are African-American. And so
I do think it`s a way of expressing which cases matter. We want the
legitimacy of the jury to tell us if death is the appropriate punishment.
Because they represent the community. But when the jury says no, death is
not the appropriate punishment, we want the political ability to kind of
override that. And you see that playing out in these cases where you have
white victims. Race of the victim is the greatest predictor of who gets
the death penalty in this state and many other states in America.
HARRIS-PERRY: Bryan Stevenson, thank you so much for being willing to join
us again. Thank you for your work there in Alabama, particularly on your
clients` case. Your client who could become the first person to die
despite unanimous decision by the jury that he should not.
STEVENSON: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, we`re going to go back to the ground in
Ferguson, Missouri, to find out how the community there is preparing
emotionally for the news to come.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last week we brought you the story of pointer gate. It
revolved around this picture of Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges posing with
get-out-the-vote volunteer Navell Gordon. On November 6th, Minneapolis
local ABC affiliate KSTP reported that Mayor Hodges has posed for a picture
with a convicted felon and that both were flashing gang signs. KSTP went
on to quote, "Retired and current police officers who concluded the Mayor
Hodges was undermining policing efforts by flashing the known gang sign."
Now, remember the known gang sign was two people pointing at one another.
Which the internet found to be kind of hilarious, prompting a flood of
sarcastic responses about everyone from babies to religious and political
leaders pointing. Last week we asked Navell Gordon if it was his intention
to signal gang affiliation when he posed with the mayor. And he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAVELL GORDON, NEIGHBORHOODS FOR ORGANIZING CHANGE: Not at all. It was
just a blessing to be with the mayor and I was putting pictures up, want
everybody to see the progress that I`m making out here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: This week KSTP doubled down on the story running a follow-up
piece defending the gang sign claims based on post pulled from the station
site as Mr. Gordon`s Instagram account. The Instagram account`s station
points out contains other pictures of Gordon pointing and quote posing with
what appears to be a gun. The account also has pictures of clothing,
selfies of all sorts and lots and lots of food. On that same day Mayor
Hodges addressed the controversy in a blog post on her website. It was
clear, compelling, and a point by point message. Point one, it is not
realistic to go through all of life without pointing, so quote, "I`m not
going to stop pointing." Point two, as mayor her job is to meet with the
public and she`s not going to run a criminal records check on everyone she
meets. In fact the mayor asserts, quote, "Frankly if I did know that
someone had a criminal past, it wouldn`t prevent me from talking with that
Point three, it seems to her like maybe the head of the police union is
asking the mayor not to stand next to young African-American men because of
the stereotypes associated with those young men. So which the mayor
responded by explaining this about stereotyping. "It blunts the humanity
of the person making the judgment and creates unnecessary separation
between two people in the world where more rather than less human
connection is needed for us to move forward as a community." Which brought
Mayor Hodges to her fourth point. I am undaunted in my commitment to
making sure that police community relationships are as strong as they can
be. "I am undaunted in my desire to support and develop police officers
who serve respectfully and collaboratively every day to keep people safe
and make all our neighborhoods stronger. I am an undaunted in my plans to
increase accountability for consistent bad actors in the police
Well done Mayor Hodges. Keep pointing the way to a more responsive and
inclusive community policing. In fact, the issue of community policing is
particularly timely right now, as the country awaits a decision from the
grand jury, considering whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the
shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
That decision is expected any day now and police are preparing to respond
to any protest that follow that decision. The activists are also
mobilizing including those who will help tend the emotional health of the
For more now on how Ferguson residents are preparing emotionally, for
whatever comes next, we`re joined by Dr. Marva Robinson, president of the
St. Louis Association of Black Psychologists. Dr. Robinson, since the
beginning of this conflict you`ve been asking us to focus on issues of
hurts and pain and trauma in this community. Can you tell us a little bit
about what people are feeling in advance of the potential indictment
DR. MARVA ROBINSON, PRES., ST. LOUIS ASSOCIATION OF BLACK PSYCHOLOGISTS:
Well, one of the things that we have to definitely keep in mind is that the
holidays are upon us. And so Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are not
always cheerful for everyone. So, in psychology we tend to see an increase
in patients because people are reminded of their own personal losses.
Family members that are not here around this time of the year. Children,
parents that are no longer here to have that turkey dinner with them. And
so, it`s a huge burden right now. Because people are dealing in trying to
struggle through their own personal life. Their own personal losses. You
know, on top of that.
Dealing with the potential social and injustice on top of that. And so
there`s a lot of frustration, a lot of overwhelming feelings that people
are really struggling with trying to just function their day-to-day lives.
And planning and preparing for what may come. I think a lot of the
anxieties have increased because you kind of see a lot of the
militarization that is going on. A lot of rumors about the National Guard
coming in in advance. And so, it kind of heightens the fear of everyone
that maybe they`re preparing for the worst, and so that`s in a sense
heightens the anxieties of everyone on the ground. Especially those
protesters and activists on the ground.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold for me for just one second. Don`t go away, but Khalil
I want to come to you on this, and part of the reason I wanted to talk
about the Minneapolis story in connection with this, is because we can see
what leadership looks like when it refuses to be undaunted and to be
HARRIS-PERRY: And it feels so different than what we`re hearing from
leadership out of Ferguson right now. At least in the sense of people
feeling like they are full citizens.
MUHAMMAD: Yes. Betsy Hodges is an amazing leader in her community but
also for the nation. I can`t imagine at this time any other mayor being
willing to take the kind of political courage that she has demonstrated in
this moment and say, if we are a nation of second chances, then I have to
be in community with everyone. And if we are a nation that is committed to
justice, then people who are making good on the promise of a better life
should be supported, and should be in community. I want to point out two
things quickly. The article of the New Yorker about double jeopardy, the
judge in the case who overwrote that Bryan Stevenson is working on Chanel
Jackson`s case said something in an article about how he made the decision
based on the prior record, the juvenile record that had been sealed that
the jury was not able to see when they when they chose to sentence him to
life. He said, well, sometimes you just have to put them down. Because in
his mind, Jackson`s life was disposable. That he had forfeited his right
to humanity in the same way that the spirit that Betsy Hodges is pushing
back against is this notion that this is a discardable life. No longer
counts. And I would submit to you that that was the same spirit that hung
over the context of Michael Brown`s killing.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the -- so I`m on exactly that point Marva, I want to
come back to you, because whatever happens in the indictment, that question
of whether or not young people in Ferguson feel that their political --
that their community their religious, their police leaders think that their
lives are disposable, or think that their lives are valuable and
meaningful, and worthy of investment.
ROBINSON: Exactly. I recently listened to the history of Ferguson from
someone who grew up in Ferguson generations back. And it was interesting
to me to discover that not less than 74 years ago that Ferguson had sundown
laws. Where the chief of police at that time said that the sun would never
set on the back of a black man. And so it`s that spirit of that history
that kind of still looms itself now where you have a community feeling as
if they are still invisible, and still not allowed to move and progress and
have the same liberties as their other fellow residents and citizens.
HARRIS-PERRY: I know you`re planning multiple days of having some
community services open after the announcement?
ROBINSON: There are several clergy, there are several agencies that are
planning to be open following the announcement. I know the Association of
Black Psychologists definitely plans to be a part of several different
medic teams and staff at Well Spring United Methodist Church to be able to
offer services as best as we can to those that are willing to accept them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. Marva Robinson, you have been joining us since the
beginning, let me just say from all of us in Nerdland who have come to
respect your work so much, please also take care of yourself.
ROBINSON: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: I know it can be hard to do the self-care as an activist and
we just want to make sure that you are surrounded and cared for as well in
a time that can be quite difficult.
ROBINSON: Thank you. I appreciate that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. Marva Robinson in Ferguson, Missouri. Here in New York,
I want to say thank you to Khalil Muhammad and to Farai Chideya, thank you
for spending time with me this morning.
Up next, if you don`t know this history, you need to know this history.
There is a new book about Nazis here in America.
HARRIS-PERRY: On the heels of this year`s midterm election there is news
this week of some bipartisan consensus in Washington. Lawmakers from both
sides of the aisle have come together to support a bill that would stop
allowing Nazi war criminals to collect social security benefits. Because
of a legal loophole some Nazis who came here after World War II and were
kicked out of the country years ago were still receiving government
benefits today. Now taking a stand against government benefits for Nazi
war criminals seems like a pretty low bar for bipartisanship. Even for
this Congress. Obviously no one in the government would ever think it`s
okay to support Nazis. Right? Well, actually, for many years after the
Second World War, the U.S. government did just that. Programs run by the
CIA, FBI, and U.S. military, actively recruited, supported, and protected
former Nazis who had committed war crimes and other atrocities.
These individuals were sought out for their scientific knowledge and
strategic intelligence that government officials thought would be useful in
fighting the brewing cold war. Over the years, these Nazis ingratiated
themselves in communities across the country. Some of them even becoming
government officials and minor celebrities.
Joining me now is the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who compiled the
stories of these men and detailed the U.S. government`s role in abiding
them. Eric Lichtblau who is author of the new book, "The Nazis Next Door:
How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler`s Men." This book is profoundly
distressing in part because it made me realize how much I misunderstand the
story of the liberation of the concentration camps, the story of who
America was in the context of World War II. What is it that about the
story that we tell ourselves that is actually wrong?
ERIC LICHTBLAU, AUTHOR, "THE NAZIS NEXT DOOR": Well, I think there`s a lot
of mythology surrounding the end of the war. First of all, we think a lot
of the Nazis fleeing to Argentina, to Latin America. There were thousands
who got in to the United States. At least 10,000 or more. Some of them
were actively recruited by the United States government. Either as
scientists or spies, informants. And we also think wrongly that the
survivors who outlasted Hitler`s regime, you know, soon were welcome to new
homes, to hot showers, to warm meals. In fact, thousands and thousands of
survivors were still left in the same concentration camps behind barbed
wire, under armed guard, some being bunked with Nazi POWs. So, you know,
there`s this horrible, cruel irony to the fact that it was so difficult for
the survivors to get out of the concentration camps, and it was so easy for
the Nazis to get in to America.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it is important, I just want to name it. Because of
anti-Semitism among American military leadership, I wanted to look at this
quote that you uncovered by General George Patton responding to Truman in a
special -- to Truman`s special emissary Earl Harrison who was appalled by
how Patton was managing the Nazi prisoner camps and writes Harrison and his
ilk believe that the displaced person is a human being which he is not and
this applies particularly to the Jews who are lower than animals. Again
Patton is often held up as a kind of hero and reading those words from him
LICHTBLAU: Yes, this is a war hero. Bill O`Reilly has a best-selling book
about him sort of defying him now, but this is someone who was rabidly
anti-Semitic and his anti-Semitism really infected the operations of these
displaced person`s camps for four months. And these people were living
under unbearable circumstances, even after the allies had won the war and
had defeated the Nazis.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now I want to talk a little bit about why all of these
thousands of Nazis were welcomed here into the U.S. And it had something
to do with this -- this idea that they were sort of high skilled folks who
could help with the scientific knowledge and capacity here in the U.S. in
the context of the cold wars. Tell us a little more about that.
LICHTBLAU: Yes, it all had to do with the cold war. The scientists we
brought over about 1600 scientists in what was known as operation paper
clip and these were rocket engineers, doctors, scientists of all varieties
who basically were intended to replicate the success that Hitler had with
the V2 rockets and the official policy was that these were not considered
quote/unquote, "hardened Nazis." These weren`t hard core Nazis because we
didn`t want to let them in. But in fact many of them had direct ties to
the worst atrocities, to medical experimentation, prison camps, to slave
labor sites where thousands of Hitler`s rockets were built. These are
people who were directly involved in those atrocities. And were brought
over by the United States. And then you also had hundreds of others who
were spies for the CIA.
These were people without any technological experience per se but were seen
as good anti-Soviet assets, informants, et cetera. And they had even more
blood on their hands, if you will, in terms of their involvement in Nazi
atrocities and the great irony there I think is, they weren`t even good
spies. A lot of them turned out to be thieves and embezzlers, and a few
were even soviet double agents. So, we gave aid and comfort to our former
enemies in the hopes that they would help us win the cold war, and when it
came to the spies they really didn`t.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, whenever we find these sort of difficult moments in
history and this was perhaps one of the most stunning, I`m always left with
the question, so what do we do with this legacy? What do we do with
knowing that some of the things that we value like having made it to the
moon were actually made possible by the horrendous and immoral decision to
allow Nazis here in this country and to wipe clean their past and to
support them? What do we do with that legacy? What is next step for us?
LICHTBLAU: Well, I think the first step is just recognizing that this is
part of our history. And I don`t think we`ve really done that in the
decades since the war. I think that this is, as you suggest, a shameful
and little known chapter in American history. And we should own up to
that. You know, I know sometimes when I`ve been talking about the book the
last few days, people have talked about a truth commission. I don`t know
if that`s an idea that would have any traction. But I think that there is
an acknowledgment and recognition that we`ve been lacking. And we need to
sort of demythologize what happened after the war in terms of embracing a
lot of these Nazis. And also abandoning a lot of the survivors for months
and years in Germany and Europe.
HARRIS-PERRY: Eric Lichtblau in Washington, D.C., thank you.
LICHTBLAU: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: The book, again, is called "The Nazis Next Door." Up next,
it`s been a tough hour, and so we`re going to lighten it up a little bit.
We`re going to bring you a little bit of history, with a little more fun.
The one and only Charlie Brown.
HARRIS-PERRY: On this day in 1952, one of the most famous and constant
comic strip pranks made its debut. Lucy pulling the football away from
Charlie Brown just as he`s about to kick it. And Lucy initially says she
yanked the ball because she was afraid Charlie Brown`s shoes were too
dirty. And then she holds the ball again, only to have Charlie Brown trip
over it because Lucy holds it so tightly. Over the years, Lucy offered a
variety of reasons for why she just can`t let her little round-headed
friend kick that football. In one strip, she blamed 10 billion to one
muscle spasm. In the 1971 strip, Lucy cited women`s lib. The reasons
behind the big pig skin pull away changed over time, but one thing never
did. Charlie Brown no matter what experience teaches him, no matter how
many times Lucy promises it this time will be different, Charlie Brown
never gets to kick the football. The prank has become a full classic and a
metaphor for anyone who has ever held out hope for something only to have
it snatched away at the last moment. For anyone who has ever wanted to
scream, good grief! After a betrayal of trust. And, of course, a metaphor
for the game of politics.
In 2011, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi invoked the famous prank while
criticizing republicans over a social security payroll tax plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I`m not playing Charlie Brown
to their Lucy. They have pulled this football every single time. We`re
not going to let them misleading American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In 2012, Senator Mitch McConnell refer to the football
takeaway while criticizing democrats over their budget proposal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: They`ve been playing Lucy in the
football with the American people for months. They`re running out their
clock. Moving the goal post.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Besides becoming a staple of political speeches, Lucy`s
football prank has entertained readers for more than half a century. When
asked why he never let Charlie Brown kick the football, peanuts creator
Charles Schulz replied, you can`t create humor out of happiness. But over
the years, he`s managed to create both a lot of happiness and humor with
Lucy`s epic football trick published on this day, November 16th 1952. And
that is our show for today.
Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going to see you next Saturday,
10:00 a.m. Eastern. Right now, it`s time for "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT": Hello, that was a great
trip down memory lane. We`ll get to all those. Thank you so much.
Well, hundreds of thousands of dollars in pot up for grabs, and the highest
no pun intended bidder, it is the first of its kind in America. We`ll
Video that wasn`t almost instant viral hit, the remarkable scene of a small
boy saving a girl in the middle of a fire fight. Now we`ve learned the
Also, how a well-known poem played a role in a new sweeping film about
saving humanity. I`ll talk to the actor who recited that poem. Don`t go
anywhere, because I`ll be right back.
WITT: It`s happened again. Another apparent victim of ISIS. I will talk
to someone who knew this American. Will the smog ever lift? The President
headed back to the U.S. with a deal in hand to stop climate change. But
how far does it go?
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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