'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, April 25th, 2015
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: April 25, 2015
Guest: Phillip Atiba Goff, Cherrell Brown, Seema Iyer, Jon Shane, Alina
Shrestha, Leonard Hamm, Kameel Stanley, Liliana Segura, Robert Blecker,
Paul Raushenbush, Mara Keisling, Judy Gold
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question, could you
produce a receipt for your bike at all if you were stopped by the police
during a ride? Plus, the effect of Bruce Jenner`s interview. And the
killing of Freddie Gray. But first breaking news out in Nepal. Hundreds
are dead after a devastating earthquake.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And we want to go straight to
breaking news out of Nepal. Hundreds are dead after a powerful 7.8
magnitude earthquake struck Nepal`s capital Kathmandu this morning.
Officials say at least 876 people have been confirmed dead but that number
is expected to rise. Tremors were felt across the region hundreds of miles
away in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and there are reports that the quake
triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest. NBC News correspondent Kelly
Cobiella is following developments from London. Kelly, what more do you
know about the impact of this quake and the ongoing search for survivors
KELLY COBIELLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we`re hearing more, first of
all, about the situation on Mount Everest. About a thousand climbers were
believed to be in that area when this earthquake and subsequent avalanche
hit. That`s according to the government`s tourism ministry. We understand
that ten are believed to be dead on Mount Everest with an unknown number
missing. Two tents, we understand are filled with the injured. The
communications are extremely difficult particularly on the mountain.
They`re having trouble contacting people. People are having trouble
contacting friends and family to let them know that they`re OK, but the
situation on Mount Everest does not sound good.
We`ve heard from two climbers, one said he was on the mountain when the
earthquake started. He felt the tremor, he and another person hid behind a
large bolder in order to protect themselves from falling rocks from the
cliff face. Another man said he was caught up in the actual avalanche,
survived it, clearly, but said that he was - he felt as though a huge wave
was blowing over him from the back. He, of course, was rescued. As for
the situation in Kathmandu that is really where the most of the damage is
at this point from what we are hearing. There are people trapped in the
rubble of buildings, rescuers are still trying to dig them out. And as you
mentioned, the numbers of dead are now in the hundreds. Several hundreds.
The Red Cross is mounting a rescue effort at this point.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Kelly Cobiella in London. We`re going to
check back with you later this morning for updates.
On Monday morning, Baltimore will mourn and bury a young man by the name of
Freddie Gray. Gray died last Sunday a week after he was arrested in
Baltimore by Baltimore police amid circumstances that left him in a coma
with what his family`s attorneys said was a severed spinal cord. That
remains unclear what exactly happened to Gray. Here`s what we do know. At
about 8:30 in the morning on Sunday April 12TH four police officers chased
Gray and another man on foot. Their reason, an officer said he made eye
contact with Gray and the other man and they began running away. Within a
few blocks officers caught up with Gray who stopped voluntarily, according
to the police.
Still, by standard video of the incident provided to NBC by a lawyer for
Gray`s family shows two officers holding Gray face down on the ground with
his hands and feet behind his back. At this point Gray was crying out.
Police said he asked for an asthma inhaler because he was having trouble
breathing and didn`t have his own inhaler with him. Police did not give
him an inhaler and didn`t call the paramedics. Videos show the officers
dragging Gray to the police van, his legs limp behind him. We`re going to
play a piece of the video and we want to warn you that it is disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDDIE GRAY: (SCREAMING)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, I`ve been recording this [EXPLETIVE DELETED].
I`ve been recording it. I`ve been recording. We caught a (INAUDIBLE). He
on a bike. Him right there. Him right there. Him on a bike.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it. Don`t worry about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Gray was placed in the back of the police van. His hands
still handcuffed behind his back. Police official acknowledged officers
didn`t put Gray in a seat belt or any kind of safety restraint as they are
required to do by department rules. The van stopped shortly after it drove
off. Police say Gray was "acting irate." They placed him in leg irons and
put him back in the van. At this point Gray had his hands cuffed behind
him and his legs shackled together. According to police he was still not
wearing a seat belt. About 40 minutes later after stopping to pick up
another suspect the van arrived at the police station. At this point Gray
could not speak or breathe. Police called paramedics who took him to the
University of Maryland shock trauma center. He underwent surgery on his
spine. He was in a coma for days. On Sunday he died. People have taken
to the streets in Baltimore demanding to know exactly what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want .
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) we want .
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hands up!
CROWD: Don`t shoot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hands up!
CROWD: Don`t shoot!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hands up!
CROWD: Don`t shoot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Six officers involved have been placed on paid suspension
pending investigations by the police department. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-
Blake and police commissioner Anthony Batts say they will conduct a
transparent process, hand over all information to prosecutors and punish
any wrong doing they find.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, MAYOR OF BALTIMORE: Our community is very clear.
They demand answers and so do I. I still want to know why the policies and
the procedures for transport were not followed. I still want to know why
none of the officers called for immediate medical assistance despite Mr.
Gray`s apparent pleas. The one thing we all know is that because of this
incident a mother has to bury her child.
HARRIS-PERRY: The federal justice department is also investigating the
incident as a potential civil rights violation and in the meantime protests
continue. A parade of images and demands that have become all too
familiar. What is hopeful in this moment is how many people are now
familiar with these images. Stories of citizens dying at the hands of
police are not new, but there is something undeniably different about what
is happening now. What is different now is who is paying attention. What
is different now is that stories of unarmed men killed in police custody
have become mainstream. That Gray`s death and the subsequent protests were
on the front page of "The New York Times" and became the lead story on all
three broadcast evening news shows. What is different now is the hope that
we can turn this attention into meaningful lasting reform. Joining me now
Seema Iyer, criminal defense lawyer and host of "The Docket" by MSNBC.
Phillip Atiba Goff, professor of social psychology at UCLA and president of
the center for policing equity. Cherrell Brown, a community organizer here
in New York and Jon Shane, an associate professor at John Jay college and a
retired captain with the Newark, New Jersey police department. Phillip,
why is Mr. Gray dead?
PHILLIP ATIBA GOFF, PROF. OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY UCLA: I wish I knew. So,
we had a team on the ground in Baltimore when news of this death came out.
We were surveying officers as part of what we do to create an evidence base
in here. And so, we had the opportunity to - some opportunity to speak
with officers confidentially and to speak with residents in Baltimore.
What we heard from people was that it is not uncommon during transport for
people in lots of cities not to get seat belts. In fact, in some cities
they don`t even have the divider. They don`t even have anything you can
hold on to. That means if you resisted or you weren`t really eager to get
into the police van you`re going to be handcuffed and you are going to be
the phrase that came up much often was gently tossed with the heavy dose of
irony into the back with no ability to know when sharp turns are coming and
no ability to brace yourself and it is often not just physically
uncomfortable, but a dangerous ride.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I hear you and clearly there`s something going on with
what happened in the van, but I guess for me part of my question is whether
or not by focusing on the van ride we`re missing that the first set of
injustices may have occurred in the context of the stop itself.
CHERRELL BROWN, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, again, as far as I can tell and we don`t know
everything, but as far as I can tell in this moment there`s not at this
moment evidence that Mr. Gray was involved in criminal activity. Even of
the selling of loose cigarettes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Like that - I mean .
BROWN: Exactly. I mean we can look at the video and see clearly before
Mr. Gray was put into the van he was already - his body was limp. I also
want to note it was extremely brave for citizens to be equipping themselves
with cameras now and taking image of these police encounters. I was able a
few years ago to work in Maryland on a successful campaign to abash the
death penalty and a part of the work that I did was community building. I
would go and go to meetings to build coalitions and members in the
community would come out and talk about this practice with riding. When I
first heard it two or three years ago and you had family members with old
Polaroids at the meetings showing how their nephews - that been bruised
during these police rides. I think it`s very likely that especially with
the eyewitness accounts of the police officer having a knee in the back of
the neck, and also from a lot of stories that I heard organizing in
Baltimore, Maryland that there are things that could have taken place
before he got into the van. So, I think that we are going to pay attention
both to the van ride and not being buckled down and what happened there and
also what transpired beforehand.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, obviously at some point we`re going to hear official
reports from the police about what happened at every point, but I have to
say, given that we just saw officers in North Charleston, South Carolina
clearly openly lie not only the - officer, but other officers about what
happened in that case, why should I believe anything that police officers
SEEMA IYER, HOST "THE DOCKET": It`s a great question, but it`s a
rhetorical one, because there is so often -- which is what I love about the
law. There`s always two sides, right? There`s always that he said she
said and with Scott in North Charleston and here today I don`t have two
sides to give you and I usually do. There is no other side and I`m so glad
you bring up the stop because that`s where John and I, right -- this is our
wheel house. Fourth Amendment. Search and seizure. Why was this kid
stopped? And I don`t know because there`s no surrounding evidence as
opposed to Walter Scott, there was at least an explanation.
JON SHANE, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Can I answer that?
SHANE: Well, a couple of quick things from a policy and practice
perspective, you know, I tend to agree with you. What we have to do is
boil this down and we have to look at what happened in each one of these
little segments. We need to know what happened during the stop when that
initially took place. We need to know what took place during the ride, but
what`s really key about the Fourth Amendment issue is that the federal
government says in its decisions that wholesale flight is suspicion enough
to justify a pursuit. At the state level the court decisions maybe
different. For example, in New Jersey wholesale flight is not by itself
reasonable suspicion to undertake a police pursuit, a foot pursuit. So,
what we have to figure out, is where can we reconcile that and what were
the contextual factors that led to this to begin with and then we get into
why were these things, why were some of the policies violated, if they
were, what happened and when did these injuries occur.
HARRIS-PERRY: Listen, I don`t - I truly do not want to be in a position of
feeling like there is - spaces irreconcilable differences between police
and community. But when the Baltimore police union statement about the
protests in Baltimore includes language that says "the images seen on
television look and sound much like a lynch mob in that they`re calling for
the immediate imprisonment of these officers without ever receiving due
process." To involve the language of "lynch mob" to talk about protestors
using their First Amendment rights in the context of - and I just have to
say this, James Bird was stopped on a street in Jasper, Texas, tied to the
back of the truck and dragged until he was dead. What`s different about
what happened to James Bird versus what happened to Freddie Scott except
that it happened inside the truck instead of outside of it?
SHANE: Well, we don`t know that yet. We can`t certainly jump to that
conclusion. We don`t know what happened. We can`t certainly make that
analogy. We have no idea. I - if I were a union official I certainly
would not have chosen that language. Unions have their place. I think
they`re important. Something that most people don`t recognize is that when
a police officer is accused of a crime they don`t give up their Fifth -
their Fifth or the Fourth amendment right simply because they`re accused of
a crime. So when the union tries to defend them in that way they don`t do
them necessarily a justice with that kind of language. I think if you`re
going to keep quiet because you have a right to do so - go ahead and do so,
but don`t come out with that kind of rhetoric.
HARRIS-PERRY: After the break, I want to bring in the former police
commissioner for the Baltimore police Department. That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: In Baltimore yesterday police commissioner Anthony Batts
gave an update on his department`s investigation into the death of Freddie
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY BATTS, BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT: We know he was not buckled in
the transportation wagon as he should have been. No excuses for that,
period. We know our police employees failed to give him medical attention
in a timely manner multiple times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining us now from Baltimore is former police commissioner
Leonard Hamm who served from 2004 to 2007. Officer Hamm, you told NPR that
you think this case offers Baltimore, actually, some sliver of hope. Why
do you think that?
LEONARD HAMM: I think so because we have discovered that a lot of things
were done wrong in that incident with Mr. Gray. This is a time for us to
make our department better. Make our department come into the 21st
century. It serves an opportunity for us to recruit better and recruit
differently. It serves as an opportunity to train better and train
differently. It serves as an opportunity to supervise better, differently
and to discipline better and differently.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Officer Hamm, I guess I`m wondering in part, your views
- you are just with us just now bringing into the 21st century you talked
about the issue of training. I understand that when we think that what`s
happening is an implicit bias question when we think what`s happening is an
officer who is afraid for their own safety, who`s responding out of, you
know, potential stereotypes that they`re not even aware of. But that
doesn`t seem to be the case in what`s happening here. This seems to be
very explicit choices that would make - that were made. Why would training
HAMM: Training would impact it because what would happen is, and in the
way I see training is you bring in the community and you have police
officers actually actively train with the community so that whatever
prejudices, whatever biases that police recruits may have and whatever
biases that citizens may have of police officers, you start getting each
other involved in meaningful dialogue and you come to find out that we`re
more alike than different and that all of us want the same things.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold for me one second. Phillip, I want to come to you on
this. Obviously, the past two police chiefs in Baltimore have been African
American. The past two mayors in Baltimore have been African American.
The sense that we are more alike than we are different, you know, people
who live in these communities, that should be true, but is there something
that is happening here about police rather than just being about race?
ATIBA-GOFF: Yeah, I think that in your questions and the conversations we
have been having off camera and before, I think that part of what folks are
picking up on is there`s an exhaustion with the idea that something subtle
is responsible for what it is that we`re seeing. Because what we`re seeing
is sure as heck not subtle. I think when you talk about irreconcilable
differences, my hope is that we begin to see that irreconcilable
differences are not between communities and police, but sometimes between
the law and communities. What I hear when I talk to the law enforcement
officers frequently is that they are saying look, I`ve got to make the
arrest, and I`ve got to use the third (ph) force to make the arrest. In
the U.K. they have a standard of proportionality, which we don`t have here.
We just have got self-defense on use of force. We don`t have
proportionality. If we had that law I think there would be less daylight
between the way that our legal system is set up to protect and not protect
certain communities and the way that our values - that communities should
SHANE: I have to disagree with you. I love Phil, we are good friends.
But we do have proportionality. We have two components of use of force.
We have a necessary component and a proportionality component. You can`t
shoot and kill a jaywalker, but if a jaywalker is coming at you with a
knife or a gun, you can shoot and kill a jaywalker. But you wouldn`t be
shooting and killing them disproportionally to what it was that they were
doing to you. We absolutely do have proportionality.
IYER: Which is also some of the fleeing felon rule.
IYER: You can`t chase someone down and use deadly force unless there is
that threat to you and the community.
SHANE: That`s correct.
SHANE: Yeah, third person at that moment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Officer Hamm in Baltimore, I want to get you in here before
we go to commercial break. Again, it is hard for me to look at what`s
happening in Baltimore right now. There`s a massive protest plan this
afternoon. And feel a sense of hope, I mean, certainly of activism of
people pushing back, but the very idea that people have been pushing back
now for months and months in the public space and yet these incidents are
still happening, I guess I`m wondering what it takes for this activism to
turn into change.
HAMM: Well, all I can do is speak to what`s going on in Baltimore right
now. I think that the leadership in Baltimore, especially the government
of Baltimore realizes that we just can`t do things the way that we have
been doing time and time again around this country. We have seen
incidences like this and I think that the mayor, the police commissioners,
city council and citizens are - in Baltimore at least, ready to make a
complete change and see that we can stop these incidences from happening.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Leonard Hamm in Baltimore, Maryland. And up
next, we expand out beyond Baltimore. And the story of Akia Boyd (ph) when
we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: The story of Rekia Boyd (ph) has long been a rallying point
for protest against police use of force in Chicago. Boyd was 22 years old
in March 2012 when she was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer.
After a year and a half of outcrying activism in Chicago, and after this
city paid Boyd`s family $4.5 million to settle a wrongful death suit.
Officer Dante serving was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
According to "The Chicago Tribune", the officer was off duty when he drove
his car up to a group of people including Boyd late one night in a dark
alley near his home. He warned them to be quiet. As he started slowly
driving away, servant (ph) saw one of the men in the group move toward his
car with what he thought was a gun. The officer said he feared for his
life. The prosecutors said he quote "fired five shots blindly over his
shoulder into a group of people." One of those bullets hit Rekia Boyd in
the back of her head. It was the first criminal trial of the Chicago
police officer for failed shooting in 20 years. And Rekia Boyd`s family
believed it was a rare chance at justice.
But this week before the trial was even over the judge cleared officer
serving of all charges. The judge said that prosecutors failed to prove
that the officer had acted recklessly when he shot Rekia Boyd and
recklessness is a requirement for a man slaughter conviction. Now, it`s
common sense that firing a gun into a group of people is reckless.
Something the judge acknowledged, but it`s not reckless by the legal
definition. The judge explained that Illinois courts have found time and
again that firing into a crowd constitutes an intentional act and not a
reckless one. And so the officer if firing five times striking Rekia a
Boyd in the back of her head and killing her could not be the basis for a
manslaughter charge. The judge said shooting into a crowd is "an act so
dangerous it is beyond reckless. It is intentional and the crime, if any
there be is first-degree murder."
Because of double jeopardy rules, experts say that the state has no legal
recourse in the case. Officer serving is free. And his union says, they
are immediately beginning the process to get him back on active duty with
the Chicago police. So if I live in Chicago, why wouldn`t I run when I see
BROWN: Right. Exactly, which is the first thing I thought of looking at
the Freddie Gray video and hearing what happened there. No black person in
America has reason to believe that they are going to be safe in the midst
of police officers. There`s an activity I do whenever I talk to panels
where I ask everyone to close their eyes and imagine a world where you feel
safe and secure and just and I ask them to picture who is around them.
What does it feel like? Usually they name things like grandmothers, their
home or in church. Never are there police around or body cameras or more
jail cells or cop cars on the streets and yet in the - of liberal context,
we are telling this is what justice means and this is what safety means.
Now while I am frustrated, of course, to see again a system where we`re
asked to defer in our anguish to unfairly apply the law, I don`t think that
indictments equal justice. And we have to get to place .
BROWN: We are having a conversation about transformative - just what that
means outside of indicting cops.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, that feels to me like such a critical point.
Particularly once Boyd is shot and killed. The idea of whatever happens to
this one police officer constituting justice or even change in the
department and yet let me come to you Seema, on the prosecutorial question
here. It`s also - is an issue not only of this police community
interactions, but then why should I trust the system either? I mean I
don`t know whether or not the judge made the right legal decision in this
moment but it certainly feels fundamentally unethical.
IYER: Well, this trial shouldn`t have been a bench trial. It should have
been a jury trial. There should have been 12 people to decide this. So
that`s my first question. Why was it a judge trial? The second issue is
the prosecutors charging the involuntary manslaughter under a reckless
theory because the judge said when he shot over his shoulder into the crowd
that corroborates intent.
HARRIS-PERRY: But is it because they think that that`s the most you can
get away with officers?
Because there is .
IYER: No, it`s because it`s akin to prosecuting your brother or sister and
that is why we need special prosecutors.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me what you mean by prosecuting your brother or sister.
Why? Why the .
IYER: Because the police department is as if it`s an arm or leg of the
prosecution`s body. Whatever, the DA`s office, that. So when you have
that person that usually -- this is the officer that is my witness. This
is the officer that goes to crime scenes with me. This is the officer that
I call at night to strategize and now I`m going to prosecute him? How
could you do that independently? How could you do that without bias? Get
someone else from a different jurisdiction who is equally capable to look
at this case through an unbiased lenses.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Jon, you know, I hear this idea that if I close my eyes
and think about what it is like to be safe, officers not being in the room
and not being around me, and yet I think that moving toward a space where -
I mean these are also communities that often are most plagued by a variety
of kinds of vulnerabilities that would suggest that they as tax paying
citizens also have a right to whatever safety and security that police
offer. And I guess part of what I`m wondering here, is that this fabric is
so frayed at this and I am - and I`m usually an optimist and I`m losing
hope very swiftly here.
SHANE: Well, let me say one thing. A couple of things. I don`t agree
with the verdict. I think they should have let it play itself out and they
should have heard the defense`s argument. And number two the
superintendent in the Chicago police department has now an opportunity to
hold that officer accountable through a disciplinary conference and let
that officer now mount a defense and see where that goes. I mean if he has
HARRIS-PERRY: No, why would they say let`s get him back on the force as
soon as possible.
SHANE: That`s the union perspective.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. That`s from the union perspective.
SHANE: Right. They are going to be there to do - That`s understandable.
But - the superintendent and along with matters there, have the ability now
to undertake a disciplinary conference and let that defense come out and
let`s find out exactly whether or not he violated department policy. If he
did, you can to - you can be terminated if they think it is a federal
violation? Like they did with the Rodney King affair. They can hope up
for civil rights violation and try it on the federal level, although they
can`t try him again on a state level.
HARRIS-PERRY: Still to come this morning. Do you carry proof of purchase
when you ride your bike? You know, just in case the police stop you and
ask for a receipt? The kind of incredible story uncovered by reporters at
"The Tampa Bay Times."
HARRIS-PERRY: More now on the breaking news we have been following out of
Nepal. The death toll continues to climb this morning after an earthquake
with a preliminary magnitude of 7.8 devastated the area. The last report
from Kathmandu was 876, but the search for survivors is ongoing. As many
people are feared to be trapped inside the ruins. Joining me now on the
phone from Katmandu is Alina Shrestha, communications manager for World
Vision. A humanitarian organization that focuses on children and families.
Alina, I understand that you were with your young son when the earthquake
struck? How are you both doing now? What`s happening around you?
ALINA SHRESTHA, COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER, WORLD VISION: Oh, then at the
moment, my son is back inside the car. He doesn`t want to get out of the
car because of the aftershocks. And to feel those aftershocks, I have a
lot of people from the Middlewood (ph) who`s come to take shelter because I
have a small open (INAUDIBLE) in my house. So we`ve (INAUDIBLE) to them
and they`ve been feeling well and I think they even do so for the night
because we are still (INAUDIBLE) of more aftershocks.
HARRIS-PERRY: Alina, I know that many people -- it sounds like you`re
offering some shelter in there, what are the safest things, what are the
things people are trying to do in order to be safe in this moment?
SHRESTHA: Sorry, I cannot hear you.
HARRIS-PERRY: What things are people doing to try to be safe in this
SHRESTHA: At the moment what we`re doing is ensuring people have, you
know, shelter in open statements. Because why there is one story of people
who`ve already been affected by the big earthquake at (INAUDIBLE), they all
feared for aftershocks because of - the feeling of aftershocks after the
people aren`t ..
We are trying to ensure there is more, more (INAUDIBLE) for aftershocks
because it has been this - those they have been (INAUDIBLE) aftershocks.
HARRIS-PERRY: Alina Shrestha joining us by phone from Kathmandu. Thank
you. And please be safe. We`ll have another update in our next hour.
Now to another story making headlines here in the United States. It may
have been the most anticipated celebrity interview of the year so far.
Bruce Jenner who first rose to fame as an Olympic hero and went on to
become even more famous as part of the reality TV family, the Kardashians
finally ended months of speculation about a clear change of appearance.
Jenner opened up to ABC`s Diane Sawyer in an exclusive two hour interview
that aired last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE JENNER: For all intends and purposes I am a woman. People look at
me differently. They see you as this macho male but my heart and my soul
and everything that I do in life. It is part of me. That female side is
part of me. That`s who I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Jenner who says that he prefers to go by the pronoun he
revealed that he had struggled with gender identity for years. Jenner says
he has been undergoing hormone therapy for a year and a half but says he
has not made up his mind about reassignment surgery. We`ll have more from
Jenner`s interview and what it means for thousands of other transgender
Americans in our next hour.
And up next, what`s going on with the bike rides in Tampa Florida?
HARRIS-PERRY: The Justice Department has been asked to review policing
practices in Tampa, Florida, after report in "The Tampa Bay Times" revealed
that for years the police there have targeted poor black neighborhoods for
stops based on obscure bicycle laws. In a city that is one quarter
African-American, 79 percent of bicycle tickets are issued to black
residents. The tickets are for things like running stop signs or not
having lights. The Tampa police write a lot of these tickets. Over the
past three years Tampa has issued more bike tickets than the cities of
Jacksonville, Miami, St. Petersburg and Orlando combined. "The Time" found
that even when they`re not writing tickets the Tampa Bay police use bicycle
traffic regulations to stop, question and detain residents of what the
department says are high crime areas, neighborhoods where the residents are
often poor and black.
"The Times" went through 10,000 bicycle tickets issued over the past 12
years and found some disturbing stories. One African American man was
stopped and handcuffed while the police verified that he had borrowed and
not stolen the lawn mower he was towing with his bike. Another had his
bike confiscated and impounded for 90 days because he couldn`t produce
proof that the bike was his. Something the officer deemed suspicious
because "the bicycle is worth over $500." The Tampa police chief is
defending the practice of targeting "high crime neighborhoods" for bicycle
tickets, crediting the practice with bringing down crime rates.
Joining me now is one of the reporters who broke the story. Kameel Stanley
of "The Tampa Bay Times" and we`re having some technical issues with our
remote studio. So this morning Kameel is going to be joining us by phone.
Kameel, you found that the officers are being pushed to target people
riding bikes in these neighborhoods. Why? What`s in it for the police
KAMEEL STANLEY, STAFF WRITER, "TAMPA BAY TIMES": Thanks for having me.
So, one of the things that we found was that officers are encouraged to use
this as a practice to come into contact with people that they think may be
criminals in these high crime neighborhoods. So we found - where certain
units and certain squads are awarded for doing these bicycle stops and they
really use it as a way to come into contact with a lot of people that they
think might be at the bad stop.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Kameel, is there any way to see that as good policing?
The chief there is saying that crime has gone down. Has it, based on your
STANLEY: Well, crime in Tampa has gone down, the crime has gone down all
across America for the last several decades. And when we asked the police
chief a few days ago if she was attributing these crimes up directly to
bike stops she said, no but this is clearly one thing that they feel like
they had in their tool box to use.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, are similar kinds of violations, these questions about,
you know, having -- you know, how close you`re riding to the curb and
whether or not you have lights on your bike, are they being as heavily
policed in white neighborhoods or in wealthier neighborhoods?
STANLEY: They are not. One of the things that our investigation found was
like you said, over the past dozen years there`s been about - there`s been
more than 10,000 tickets issued by the Tampa police department. More than
8,000 (INAUDIBLE) of guns black people. And what we found when we
(INAUDIBLE) these tickets was that they are not being handed out for the
most part in affluent, whiter parts of town.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so since we just have you on the phone here I
just want to ask you one more question here and that is, so this police
chief, the Tampa police chief actually went to the president`s task force
on policing and at that time as you said, every encounter with an officer
is an opportunity to build a positive partnership in the community. It
creates trust that must be the foundation of our relationship with our
citizens. In your reporting, have you found that these bike stops create a
foundation of trust with the citizens of Tampa?
STANLEY: Quite the opposite. We spent months in these neighborhoods
talking with people. Everyone from young kids to older men who tell the
same story about getting stopped on the bikes and having officers or two
flip them over to check to see if they`re stolen and check the serial
number or being more interested in what they may have in their pockets.
And this is not something that residents see as necessarily a positive
thing or something that necessarily makes them (INAUDIBLE) the police
HARRIS-PERRY: Kameel Stanley, thank you for joining us - Kameel Stanley
from "The Tampa Bay Times" joining us this morning by phone from Berkeley,
California. We greatly appreciate your reporting and joining us.
When we come back I`m going to ask Phillip Atiba-Goff about the Tampa
police department and also bring in the rest of my panel to figure out if
there is something we ought to be doing differently.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back and continuing our conversation about policing in
America and Phillip, I want to ask about this Tampa story because as
horrifying as this story was, it kind of ridiculous almost that like biking
while black of it all I think that most distressing thing for me was
knowing that this police chief had been at the -- because you and I have
talked multiple times about the idea that this White House, this report
coming out from DOJ after Ferguson and now we are going to have new
policing techniques and I then I go oh, but if the people who were there
are doing these kinds of practices back home then again, I`m looking for
something to hold on to.
ATIBA GOFF: OK, let me give you a little bit of hope. A little bit of
hope. So, the task force listened to 130 experts - OK .
HARRIS-PERRY: And some of them were just vague (ph).
ATIBA GOFF: Of varying qualities that I will not - comments on. I don`t
want to impugn the - of the chief in Tampa Bay just yet. So, there`s a lot
of testimony going on in here. And I think that the course that you read
are right, that there are opportunities to do that. I think the problem
comes when, you know, bicycle stops are usually for the safety, and
frankly, the safety of teenagers for riding without helmets.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. For the safety for the cyclists.
ATIBA GOFF: Right. And so, in the same way that traffic enforcement is a
reasonable thing you want to do that to make sure that in the areas where
there`s high accidents you say stop doing these things that are dangerous.
The thing that`s so impressive about the Tampa Times reporting is it looks
to me as if they looked to see where the bike accident is happening and
then where are the stops happening, and when they don line-up that`s a
reason for reporters and communities to be concerned. That`s where your
values are right. You want to make these things opportunities for trust
building, and your actions may not line-up with it. That`s the area where
there`s a problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels to me like part of what`s happening here is -- when
I say biking while black, we talked about walking while black, in the case
in the Freddie Gray who - just watching the video and seeing and hearing
his agony, I just keep wondering is there no benefit of a doubt given to a
black person in public space. Because if that is true, if looking an
officer in the eye, if riding an expensive bike in a black body is a thing
that inherently generates suspicion, then that even more than the
incarceration state is the new Jim Crow. That`s what Jim Crow was is that
black bodies in public space are inherently suspicious.
BROWN: Yes. I want to mention two things - one to a point you brought up
earlier speaking about political leaders in Baltimore being black, and I
think that white supremacy is so insidious and ingrained in that
institution that you don`t have to have a white person around to have white
supremacy play out.
HARRIS-PERRY: Just pause for a second. What you just said there is going
to be difficult for some folks to hear because the discourse of white
supremacy can often mean academic discourse. But for ordinary people
sitting at home, they may say did she just call all white people racist.
So help us out and tease that out a little bit.
BROWN: I will do my best.
HARRIS-PERRY: I recognize that it`s hard on a TV show.
BROWN: With an institution like American policing that I believe is
founded on anti-blackness, on slave patrols, there are things so
institutionally ingrained in terms of how we police communities that are
anti-black. They may not say specifically in the language that they`ll
stop and target black people, but when you do this type of proactive
policing, much akin to stop and frisk, and (inaudible) patrols that
happened at the Pink House (ph), these disproportionately affect black and
brown and poor communities. These things are not only racist, they are
also classist. This would be almost comical, this story in Tampa, if it
wasn`t so scary. You have 11 year olds, boys as young as 11 being stopped
on their bikes in Tampa. This is not building trust, this is introducing
children to the criminal justice system at an early age.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is part -- I`m glad you paused on that because part of
what is important here and this gives me the least sense of optimism. It`s
not about individual bad actors walking around with negative believes. Now
those people may exist, but that that`s not required for the system to
reproduce a kind of racial and class equality. All of you all, like how
then to get beyond the idea that we put a few bad officers away? That sort
ATIBA GOFF: It`s not about the bad officers or the bad apples. It`s about
the apple barrel. It`s the situation where they have to go in. When I try
and explain what the science can bring to anything, what I try and say is
bigotry has never been the problem. Bigotry is a problem, but it`s never
been the problem. It`s these chronic situations that happen over and over
and over again. You were talking about biking while black and driving
while black, how about just being afraid while black, because when you`re
afraid, when you don`t feel safe in your own skin, you do things like avert
your gaze, you do things like move shiftily or run away. Those are all the
things that guilty people supposedly are doing, but that`s what a system
that doesn`t trust black people causes black people to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Jennifer Earhardt (ph) has that incredible research
where they just show the outline of a person and then determine whether or
not there`s shifty movement, but then if you could see the racial
categorization. We won`t have answers here, but I think it`s also
important to recognize there aren`t easy answers to this.
Seema Iyer is going to be back in our next hour. But I want to say thank
you to Phillip Atiba Goff, Cherrell Brown and Jon Shane. In our next hour,
what are we to take away from Bruce Jenner`s interview with Diane Sawyer?
But we`ll begin with this question, should the state be in the business of
killing people that live here in the United States? More Nerdland at the
top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. We have new
information on the devastating earthquake that violently rocked Kathmandu,
Nepal and the surrounding regions this morning. Hundreds are dead, and
rescuers are still searching for survivors amid the rubble. The quake
leveled centuries old temples and triggered avalanches in the Himalayas.
Tremors were felt hundreds of miles away in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
NBC News correspondent Kelly Cobiella has been following the developments
Kelly, what kind of updates are we getting from people in the area that are
able to access the Internet?
KELLY COBIELLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s been difficult to get
much information out of Nepal. As you can imagine, communications lines
aren`t great right now. But some people have been able to post updates on
Twitter, for example, and we have also been able to speak to some people
through text messages, talking to them as they`re on Mount Everest.
That quake triggered an avalanche which buried part of the Everest base
camp. At least ten people, we believe, have been killed on Everest.
One climber describing hiding behind a huge bolder to protect himself from
falling rocks. Another climber who was caught up in the avalanche told us
it felt like wind in the back but more powerful. Then he said he was just
surrounded by snow. I couldn`t see my own hands.
Of course, Melissa, he is one of the survivors. Lots of people injured on
the mountain and throughout the country.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what is the latest from the Red Cross and its efforts?
COBIELLA: Well, the Red Cross is mounting a relief effort right now in
Nepal. The Red Cross director for Asia Pacific said they haven`t been able
to reach a lot of their staff in the more remote villages. They say access
roads are damaged or blocked by landslides, communication lines, as I
mentioned, are down.
One man who lives close to the epicenter, about 50 miles from Kathmandu,
told "The Associated Press" that he said, quote, "Our village has been
almost wiped out. Most of the houses are either buried by landslides or
damaged by shaking. He said half the village folks are either missing or
dead." And all of the villagers, he said, have gathered in the open area.
He said, they don`t know what to do and they`re feeling helpless.
At least four countries, Melissa, are affected by this. Nepal primarily,
but also India, Tibet and Bangladesh.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Kelly Cobiella in London.
And MSNBC is going to continue to follow developments in Nepal throughout
the day today.
Now we turn now to news here in the U.S. This week, we were reminded in
graphic detail of the terrifying aftermath of the Boston marathon bombing
that killed three people, caused 16 to lose their legs, and wounded
hundreds more. During the penalty phase for convicted bomber Dzhokhar
Tsarnaev, survivors and victims, including a dozen amputees, gave testimony
of the horror and carnage that occurred at the Boston`s finish line in
Jurors heard from Adrienne Haslet Davis, the professional dancer that
crawled through broken glass, dragging her bloody leg along the pavement.
"I just kept screaming that I was a ballroom dancer", she recalled on the
And then there was Heather Abbott whose leg was amputated, and how she
landed on the ground in a pool of blood and chaos.
The jurors heard too from Boston trauma surgeon David King who testified
that Martin Richard, an 8-year-old boy, did not die instantly. And that,
quote, "he felt visceral pain much more primal."
Steve Woolfenden, whose leg had been severed, also spoke of the youngest
victims, testifying that his 3-year-old son was bleeding from the head.
"It smelled like burning hair, blood, and sulfur", he was -- he said.
Adding, "I was completely terrified. I didn`t know if I was ever going to
see my son again."
The penalty phase will continue well into next week and potentially beyond.
And earlier this month, the jury found that Tsarnaev now 21 is guilty on
all counts in the bombing trial. Prosecutors brought these victims to the
stand for one reason, to convince the jurors that Tsarnaev deserved the
death penalty. In order for that to happen, the verdict must be unanimous.
In court papers, prosecutors cite many reasons for seeking the harshest
penalty. One that being Tsarnaev has a, quote, "lack of remorse", an
argument reinforced when the U.S. authority`s office released video of the
defendant flashing his middle finger at a security camera in his holding
cell. Jurors saw a still frame from that video during the prosecution`s
opening statements and then again on Wednesday when the defense played
several minutes of the video.
And even for the most hated man in Boston, the state of Massachusetts, like
the country, remains divided. In fact, Massachusetts made the death
penalty illegal more than 30 years ago and the majority of Bostonians
oppose it. A "Boston Globe" poll conducted five months after the bombing
found that 50 percent of people supported a life sentence for Tsarnaev,
while 33 percent favored death.
Still, similar to Timothy McVeigh in 1995, Tsarnaev is largely considered a
reviled defendant whose crimes traumatized and enraged the nation.
It raises moral questions about one of the most polarizing topics of our
time. This is a case that tests the arguments of those who oppose capital
punishment. When guilt is unquestioned, when the crimes are horrifying,
when the possibility for redemption seems slim, is this the time to allow
for the death penalty? And if it is, then what happens to all of us when
our government kills solely as an act of revenge?
Joining me now is Seema Iyer, former prosecutor and now criminal defense
attorney, Reverend Paul Raushenbush, the executive religion editor at "The
Huffington Post", Liliana Segura, who is journalist for "The Intercept" and
a board member of the campaign to end the death penalty, and Robert
Blecker, who`s a criminal law professor at the New York Law School.
So, Liliana, let me start with you. Is this the time to allow for the
LILIANA SEGURA, JOURNALIST, THE INTERCEPT: I would say no, as somebody
that is opposed to the death penalty. But I would always also say that
this is certainly not the time to respond to a traumatic event with re-
embracing of a policy, a public safety policy which have mounts and mounts
of evidence is, in fact, a failed public policy. It`s failed at every
And I think that we have decades of criminal justice policy that has been
passed in the wake of a traumatic event, a horrifying murder, you know, the
death of a beloved public figure. And in the wake of these events, we pass
public policies that we tell ourselves and we tell other people are going
to keep us safe, protect us from these tragedies.
And, in fact, the opposite is true. It leads to more tragic results and we
have seen that with mandatory minimums. We`ve seen that with sex offender
registries, which are a disaster. We`ve seen that with the drug war and
any number of failed public policies.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I hear you and I am very strongly in opposition to the
death penalty. But let me say this -- I don`t think in this moment that we
are -- that we think the purpose of putting Tsarnaev to death is about
protection or deterrent. It really is just about retribution.
ROBERT BLECKER, NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL: Yes, in fact, it is, but it is not
revenge, which is how you classified it. Retribution is not revenge,
although opponents openly equate. Retribution is about limited but
proportional punishment. Revenge needs no limits and it can be wrongly
So, this is a case about correctly directing the correct punishment to the
correct person. That`s an act of retribution. That is not an act of
HARRIS-PERRY: Why is that different from the citizen who may be taking the
life of this individual?
BLECKER: Well, for one thing, you didn`t identify the relevant public.
Remember, this is a federal crime and this is federal prosecution, and
therefore, the public opinion polls we need to think about if we`re talking
about the relevant community of moral judgment are the people of the United
If you`re talking about how to correctly anticipate and predict the
outcome, then, of course, the relevant community becomes the people of
Massachusetts. But it`s only people exposed to the evidence this jury has
been exposed to, and also, to be honest, people who are death-qualified,
which this jury is, and the people of Massachusetts are not.
SEEMA IYER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I have to be honest. So I am pro-
death penalty, but it is on a case by case basis. And I think there`s so
few of us in the world who spend every day this close to evil and when you
are this close to evil, working with evil, strategizing with evil,
defending evil, trying to free evil back into the streets, you sometimes
have a different perspective.
HARRIS-PERRY: Seema, what makes Tsarnaev evil?
IYER: Now, that`s interesting. I actually don`t think Tsarnaev should get
the death penalty, and here is why. I think because of his age. I think
his brain is not fully developed. We know that male brains are not fully
developed until they`re 25 years old.
We know that his brother was involved. The defense is going to show that
the brother was the creator of this crime.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let`s say, so let me just pause and say, let`s say that
he was 30. He`s not, but let`s just say he was 30, that there wasn`t a
brother involved and all the other fact of the case were true. Would you
then believe that he was evil?
And so for me, I guess the problem is we just spent an hour talking about
police officers who have been responsible for the death of people who are
unarmed, and the responsibility of the death for those individuals is
terrorizing to those communities.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. It may not happen as an act of terror purposely
which is a different thing but it`s terrifying and terrorizing for those
We do not and should not identify those officers as evil, and we do not
think that it is appropriate to begin -- so I guess for me part of it is, I
worry there`s a social construction of evil here that presumes that certain
kinds of victims and certain kinds of violent crimes are those we have a
right to behave in an act of retribution toward.
REV. PAUL RAUSHENBUSH, HUFFINGTON POST: I just want to quote Pope Francis
which is someone that has spoken clearly about the death penalty. He says
there`s a penal populism that comes into effect where we identify evil and
then decide we can actually destroy evil by destroying a life, which is
completely misunderstanding what evil is. It doesn`t live inside one
person. It is within our society in various manifestations.
Evil will not go away because this young man is put to death or not.
RAUSHENBUSH: But I think we do need to pause and recognize the pain and
acknowledge -- and frankly, I have to be real and say I would be so tempted
toward this kind of revenge -- I think it is kind of a revenge -- but I do
HARRIS-PERRY: But I want to point out that the parents of the 8-year-old
RAUSHENBUSH: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: And again, you talk about the relevant public here and I
think this is important, I promise I`ll let you weigh in on it, but I just
want to tell people that the parents of the 8-year-old who stood there and
had to actually triage their own family said that they are not in favor in
this case of the death penalty, in part because they believe it will
continue to reopen wounds because of the rights to appeal.
IYER: But it`s not up to them.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, it isn`t, but I`m just pointing out -- Paul is saying I
would be tempted in this moment.
RAUSHENBUSH: I just want to acknowledge the emotion, that this is a real,
HARRIS-PERRY: It is.
RAUSHENBUSH: But I do think that that`s where we can turn to the moral
leadership, in fact, the Episcopal bishops and Catholic bishops and also I
think opinion is changing in America. The opinion polls have completely
reversed. There`s -- it is still more on the side of pro-death penalty but
they are closing.
I will also say interesting in these polls, black and Latino religious
communities are opposed to the death penalty while white are not.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s a very clear set of reasons.
We`re going to stop here. I promise, we`re going to stay on exactly this
topic as soon as we come back. I`ll let you right back in.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are back for a debate about death penalty in America.
And my guest Robert Blecker is the author of "The Death of Punishment".
Robert, let me get right to you on this.
BLECKER: Oh, sure. As the only one of the for us -- actually of the five
of us that support the death penalty to Tsarnaev, let me respond to some of
what`s been said.
First of all, affirmatively, why does he deserve it? Remember the
aggravating circumstances. The killing was especially heinous, atrocious
and cruel. If not this one, what is? Excuse me.
The multiple victims, the vulnerable victims, the betrayal of the United
States, the selection of the site, the lack of remorse. We could go on.
The aggravating circumstances are enormous.
The one principle mitigating circumstances that was mentioned was that he
he`s 19 years old or he was then. I mean, think about that for a second.
Suppose a 19-year-old or 18-year-old or 16-year-old runs into a burning
building to save children who are burning up alive, what do we? Do we say
oh that was impulsive, that was the product of a not yell fully formed
No, of course not, we celebrate the good character. We celebrate the
heroism and rightly so. We can celebrate to good character and heroism of
our best young adults, surely we can condemn the cowardice and selfishness
and viciousness of our worst.
You heard about -- the pope was mentioned. Yes, the pope is ardently
against the death penalty. That`s right. What you didn`t mention, of
course, is the pope has also come out against life without parole and also
any life sentence whatsoever. So, if we`re going to follow the lead of the
pope, we`re not only abolishing life without parole, we are abolishing the
death penalty, life without parole, and life in prison.
Then you heard about the tragedy in the 8-year-old`s parents and that
raises the question of the survivors and what their views are and whether
they should count. For one thing, remember, they came out against the
death penalty not because they were against the death in principle but
because they didn`t want to continue to suffer. They wanted to put an end
Well, ironically, they`re not going to put an end to it for themselves.
What they will put an end to is Tsarnaev.
Their opinion should count. And the person who should count most in my
view is the victim him or herself.
Abolitionists are now circulating statements called the declaration of
life. I happen to have one right here. What it says is, if I am ever --
if I die as a result of a violent crime, I request that the person or
persons who are found guilty for my killing should not be subject to or put
in jeopardy of the death penalty.
I think that should be admitted in evidence. This should count. We should
care what the victims want. But it`s not by the way.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, I appreciate --
BLECKER: But that`s the victims.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I appreciate the point that the victims and victims
families should matter but ultimately I do think this is a question that is
beyond the individuals impacted and is about who we are as a state. And I
think of all the things that you said, the most troubling for me is the
idea that the United States of America being under attack is part of how we
take into account the decision about whether or not someone is kind of
eligible for this sort of retribution.
So, my angst about that really is because at various moments, the notion of
the social construction of the state that is the United States of America
may or may not be in line with what I think are the fundamental moral and
ethical principles of humanity. It may or it may not.
And so, because we can kill in the name of the state, I think we must be
more judicious about it and not suggest that those that attack the state,
who attack the U.S. are somehow more vulnerable to the death penalty.
Liliana, let me let you in.
SEGURA: I want to bring -- I appreciate what you said about beyond the
individual. I think we need to look at the death penalty as it is carried
out. Look at the first-person we executed in this country this year, a man
in the state of Georgia, severe PTSD. This was a Vietnam veteran living on
the margins of society. He had constructed a cabin in the woods, he had
sort of modeled it after what he recalled his barracks in Vietnam to be a
damaged person frankly, and this was the first execution we carried.
Cecil Clayton`s recent execution was missing 20 percent of his frontal
lobe. These are -- in real life on this issue, these are the people who
are executed in the name of the state.
HARRIS-PERRY: In other words, it`s rarely as clean as the Tsarnaev.
IYER: But, I can say, though, I appreciate what you`re saying but there is
a process to get to the penalty and those gentlemen would not have been put
to death if it had been proven that they were mentally incompetent and
couldn`t have been put to death.
HARRIS-PERRY: What`s hard for me, I hear you, I do. But what`s hard for
me get to connect is hour one of MHP show, and hour two of MHP show, I
can`t spend an hour questioning or not whether our criminal justice system
is even slightly fair and then say I need to hand you the ability to take
the life of people.
IYER: So, are you asking the question of if the officer like the one that
executed Walter Scott in that park today, does he deserve the death
IYER: Because I will answer that question.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, no, for me the answer is of course not, right?
IYER: My answer is different.
HARRIS-PERRY: I understand that, right, and I even respect this is such a
critical issues that differences of opinion can come from good people of
all kinds, but what I am saying is that we actually don`t ask that
question. So I think for me, if we asked it, the answer would be no of
course not. If we asked it the answer for you would be yes, absolutely.
But we don`t even ask it. Like we know that if the victim is a person of
color, if the victim is someone poor, if the perpetrator who is an officer
of the law, then we never ask it. And it makes me wonder, what it is we
think we`re then when we put someone to death?
BLECKER: We are very concerned about race in the death penalty.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, I`m sure -- I just got from my producer. We`ve got to
go. But we`re going to come right back, I promise.
We`re going to take a commercial break, come right back right on this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNARD SHAW, MODERATOR: Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and
murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?
THEN-GOV. MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D), MASSACHUSETTS: No, I don`t, Bernard, and I
think you know that I oppose the death penalty during all of my life. I
don`t see evidence that it`s a deterrent and I think there are better and
more effective ways to deal with violent crime. We`ve done so in my own
state and it`s one of the reasons we`ve had the biggest drop in crime of
any industrial state in the America. Why we have the lowest murder rate of
any industrial state in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was the then governor in the second presidential debate
against Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988. It remains the most
memorable exchange of the entire debate and some people watching at home
were outraged. They viewed his response to his wife`s hypothetical rape
and murder as dismissive and dispassionate. It was the most moment that
ultimately helped dashed Dukakis` White House hopes.
Last year, Dukakis testified on behalf of Robel Phillipos, who is a friend
of Tsarnaev, who was eventually convicted of lying to FBI agents in the
Boston marathon bombing probe.
The former governor, an old family friend of that defendant, served as a
character witness and shared he had taken Phillipos to the 2004 Democratic
So, I cut you off just before the commercial break.
BLECKER: Well, this is revealing, and it`s all part of the same thing. I
mean, you said more than once in the name of the state, in the name of the
state. It`s being done in the name of the state. Not in the name of an
abstract entity the state.
And the social construction of evil, that`s not a social construction.
Evil is real. You see more of this distraction. That`s why the people
turned against Dukakis because instead of talking about what the killer and
rapist would deserve, he talked about deterrence. And then you talk about
self defense in America.
That`s not why Tsarnaev should be executed. Tsarnaev should not be
executed to keep us safe. Tsarnaev should be executed because the past
counts. He should be executed to keep a covenant with the dead.
Tsarnaev should be executed for the sake of one word, justice.
HARRIS-PERRY: For me, of course evil is real but the idea it can be killed
in an individual is the notion that that action actually generates more
evil in the world rather than less.
RAUSHENBUSH: My sense is that -- I understand their passion. I appreciate
it. I appreciate justice. I`m not sure justice is served.
I think in some ways, on my behalf I do not want him killed. So, I don`t
think -- I want him imprisoned and I just think the idea of killing a human
life is never a good idea. It never solves anything.
It -- you know, we don know. I`m so angry about Boston as well. We don`t
know what 20 years from now this young man could turn into someone who
actually is a spokesperson for reconciling Islam with America and -- we
don`t know what this life is going to lead to.
So, the idea of ending any life for any reason is for me just not something
I want done in my name.
IYER: Can I just point one thing out? I have a few clients serving life
sentences, life without parole. One is actually doing two consecutive
sentences. He spends time in and out of solitary.
But his life doesn`t suck. He actually has a pretty good life. He is a
high ranking gang member. He runs his gang business. He has one of the
other inmates acts as his chef, he gets French toast and bacon and has a
So, that`s the point, right? The punishment issue because you want to take
away the joy that that person stole from so many other people. That is the
point, the punishment.
BLECKER: I couldn`t agree with you more. I spent thousands of hours
inside maximum security prisons and on death row interviewing convicted and
condemned killers, and the people who has them.
And the fact is just what you say. Life begins when the sentence of life
begins. I asked the corrections officers, what`s your mission and they
answer one word, safety. I want to keep the people safe from these guys.
I want to keep these guys safe from each other. I want to keep the staff.
So, I ask them, well, what about the fact that the killers are playing
volleyball and softball and watching first run movies and getting good
food? And their answer is what a guy did out there is none of my business.
I only care how he behaves once he is inside.
And so, as the warden assistant in Oklahoma said it to me, we make it easy
for them because it`s easy for us when it`s easy for them.
You talk about the reality of the death penalty. Let`s look at the reality
of what daily life is for those serving life. It`s not worse than death
because if it were, how come the suicide rate among lifers is negligible
because they could kill themselves and they choose to live.
SEGURA: I have spent time in prisons and interviewing people that worked
on death row and just in the prisons, and actually, what I have been struck
by -- and we`re talking about proximity to evil, this idea of evil is I
think part of it, it`s not just that it makes their life easier, it`s that
they actually see these people as human beings. They`re not these monsters
they have -- they are human beings who have committed in many cases
terrible crimes and those things -- both things can be true and I think
that`s really at the heart of what we`re discussing here.
So the idea that proper punishment and that justice means infinite
punishment, basically torture I completely reject that. I reject that
I also, if I could just say, every time we have a debate about the death
penalty we go back to this moment in 1988 and Dukakis and this cautionary
tale for people seeking public office, that you know, this is a warning.
It`s the reason Democrats have moved so far to the right.
I think it`s very important to remember this is not 1988 anymore. So much
has changed. As of this month, 152 people have been exonerated from death
row. Anthony Hinton (ph), poor black man from Alabama. Thirty years on
In the past week alone, we`ve seen an incredible story in "The Washington
Post" that shows that the tip of the iceberg of what bad forensics can lead
to. We`ve learned so much about the evidence that sends people to death
row and just how flawed the system is at every level. I think we need to
just remember it`s not 1988 anymore. We know better. We should learn from
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Seema Iyer, to Reverend Paul Raushenbush, to
Liliana Segura and to Robert Blecker.
Up next, the Bruce Jenner interview and what it`s impact could be.
HARRIS-PERRY: Before Bruce Jenner`s interview last night, 2015 was already
shaping up to be a milestone year for transgender awareness.
In January, President Obama became the first president to use the word
transgender in a State of the Union Address when he condemned the
persecution of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
The Amazon series, "Transparents", about a father who begins living as a
woman, won top awards with the Golden Globes. And transgender actress
Laverne Cox from "Orange is the New Black" was recently cast in a new
network TV drama.
But Bruce Jenner`s revelation before millions of TV viewers may be the
biggest sign of a cultural shift. In an exclusive interview with ABC`s
Dianne Sawyer, Jenner ended months of speculation about the reason behind
his changing appearance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE JENNER, FORMER OLYMPIAN/REALITY STAR: For all intents and purposes I
am a woman. People look at me differently. They see you as this macho
male but my heart and my soul and everything that I do in life, it is part
of me. That female side is part of me. That`s who I am.
Why now? I just can`t pull the curtain any longer, OK? I have built a
nice little life. I just can`t again, Bruce lives a lie. She is not a
lie. I can`t do it anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The former Olympic icon and reality TV star who approved the
use of the pronoun he during the interview revealed that for decades, he
struggled with gender identity. Jenner says he`s been undergoing hormone
therapy but has not made up his mind about reassignment surgery.
The LBGT advocacy group GLAAD had this response, "By sharing this story,
Bruce Jenner has shined a light on what it means to be transgender and live
authentically in the face of unimaginable public scrutiny. Stories like
this help create a world in which everyone can express their gender
identity without fear of discrimination and violence."
For more on what this means for the estimated 700,000 Americans who
identify as transgender, Mara Keisling, executive director of the National
Center for Transgender Equality, joins me from Washington, D.C.
Mara, so nice to see you this morning.
MARA KEISLING, EXEC. DIR. NATIONAL CT. FOR TRANSGENDER EQUALITY: Good to
see you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, obviously there`s months of speculation about Jenner`s
gender identity and a lot of that has been occurring in tabloids. I`m
wondering whether or not you believe that Jenner`s interview and discussion
of the kind of emotional and life experiences that Jenner has been
experiencing will actually bring a greater awareness to transgender lives.
KEISLING: I sure do. You know, I think most importantly for me is I know
last night there were transpeople, there were children, there were
teenagers, there were senior citizens watching this and saying that`s me
and it`s going to be OK and I have a chance.
That`s the most important thing, but also just America got to see somebody
tell their own story, somebody who they wanted to listen to, who was just
so nakedly honest and full of integrity. I thought it was a home run.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, transgender activists often have talked about the kind
of this difficulty of the simultaneous like hyper-visibility and
invisibility, right? So all of this curiosity about physicality and
embodiment without a lot of understanding of the legal and economic and
social discrimination associated with it.
I`m wondering, how we take kind of Jenner`s hyper-visibility and the
context of embodiment and celebrity and bring attention to substantive
policy issues that impact transgender women and men.
KEISLING: Yes, that`s really the question that we have been struggling
with over the last few weeks and when we have decided to do is just take
the ball and run with it. We have op-eds going up that talk about these
horrible bathroom bounty bills cropping up in state governments and what
they mean to transpeople, to focus people on an understanding that we are
facing real serious violence problem now in the United States, and real
serious economic problem problems.
So, while it`s spectacular that Bruce Jenner got to tell the story, we have
tried to get as many people as possible to tell their stories. And you
know who has helped us a lot with that is all of the local affiliates of
not just ABC but other networks as well who have brought other transpeople
to tell their stories as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to map out some of the realities in transgender
lives. That transgender workers report unemployment at twice the rate of
the population as a whole. You talked momentarily there about violence.
It`s worth pointing out that we talked about black lives matter as much
this year, that seven transgender women have been murdered in 2015, and
very few people are talking about that, that there is a housing and
homelessness problem. That even 55 percent of transgender and gender
nonconforming individuals saying they get harassed by shelter staff.
How do we take story telling and turn it into substantive policy that
affects these realities?
KEISLING: Well, you know, our organization is really mostly about policy
but what we know is we can`t do that work without these stories happening,
without people going to their mosques and their churches and telling people
there about their truth and telling their classmates about their truth.
So, the stories are really the most important part, the part that`s going
to make Americans really understand that they know transpeople. That`s
what is going to do it.
And I just really honestly have to do a call out to you for just the
amazing pioneering work you have done with letting transpeople have voice
on your show. It has mattered so much, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mara Keisling, I greatly appreciate that today. Thank you.
KEISLING: You`re welcome.
HARRIS-PERRY: And up next, how to be funny in Washington, on purpose.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tonight, President Obama will be trying out his best one-
liners at the White House Correspondents` Dinner. The annual event where
Washington goes Hollywood and exchanges political rhetoric for political
Every year, the dinner brings together Washington`s political stars and
entertainments biggest celebrities. It`s a notoriously tough room for the
comedians who traditionally host the event and the for presidents who try
their hand at stand up comedy for one night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These days, the House
Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me,
which means orange really is the new black.
Some folks still don`t think I spend enough time with Congress. Why don`t
you get a drink with Mitch McConnell, they ask? Really? Why don`t you get
a drink with Mitch McConnell?
We gather in the midst of a heated election season and Axelrod tells me I
should never miss a chance to reintroduce myself to the American people.
So, tonight, this is how I`d like to begin. My name is Barack Obama. My
mother was born in Kansas. My father was born in Kenya. And I was born of
course in Hawaii.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: This year, "Saturday Night Live`s" Cecily Strong will be the
fourth woman to tackle the job of headlining the event.
And earlier this week, she talked to MSNBC`s Ronan Farrow about her
strategy to keep the crowd entertained.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONAN FARROW, MSNBC: You`ve got one of the most powerful audiences in the
room. You`ve got the leader of the free world right there.
CECILY STRONG, COMEDIAN: I`m going to ask for a lot of favors, yes.
FARROW: Ask for favors, right. I mean, it`s also a very corrupt room.
STRONG: I want an ambassadorship.
FARROW: I think that could happen. Belgium here you come.
STRONG: Oh, yes, waffles.
FARROW: Waffle diplomacy, very important.
STRONG: Yes, and it`s like, that`s what you want to do, is point out the
stupid things. There`s a lot of stupid going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now is someone who knows all about what it takes
to crack up an audience, Emmy Award winning actress and comedian Judy Gold.
And Judy is actually currently playing Eleanor Roosevelt in "Clinton The
Musical" that has a new podcast called "Kill Me Now".
So, you`re doing political comedy right now. What is it to do good
JUDY GOLD, EMMY AWARD WINNING ACTRESS & COMEDIAN: Good political comedy is
smart. You know, let`s start with the fact that Obama is a great comic.
He has perfect timing and do you know what the thing is, he`s self-
effacing. He doesn`t say, hey, I`m Teflon. He sort of using this as a way
to say everything he needs to say in a funny way.
And when you`re trying to get a subversive point across, the most palatable
way to do that is through humor.
GOLD: And I always say, you know, I was on the road for years and years
and these guy comics -- I mean, dressed in sweat pants and, you know, the
hair coming out of the ears, the girls are all over them because funny
really trumps everything. Meanwhile, I had to get a ride home from
HARRIS-PERRY: Funny is good. And for me it is always my favorite moment
of the year with this president, because it`s the moment when he mentions
to us that he noticed all the B.S.
GOLD: Right, exactly.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s a little bit like, sometimes you`re watching it
because he`s no drama Obama, and this president is very cool sometimes, you
think does he know -- and he`s like yes, uh-huh, yes, I know --
GOLD: I have been listening to everything you have been saying and I am --
you know, he does do it in such -- it`s classy the way he does it and it`s
funny. The key is that it is really funny and we all -- come on, you have
to love the guy.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m hoping given that we`re in the last couple of years of
the second term that maybe he`ll be full like Obama unplugged and it will
go like really --
GOLD: He has nothing to lose here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nothing left to lose here.
And I`m sure he`ll go off on the lame duck-ness.
GOLD: And Cecily Strong, that, you know, for her, she has to follow the
president and it`s all about the joke writing and being prepared and not
looking at these people and saying oh my God, I`m in front of this one and
that one. They`re just people too and a lot of them can`t take a joke.
Those are the best jokes. The Donald Trump jokes, the Chris Christie
jokes. It`s so great to have all of these people there. You know what,
you know, let`s take it all off now. And a lot of people don`t know this,
when -- it`s more difficult when you`re going to them rather than when
they`re coming to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Your house. Your table.
GOLD: Right. So, if I`m in a club, I have no idea who these people are.
You know, they just want a great show. That`s great. But when you have
the court jester, there`s so much pressure.
And I think for a woman --
GOLD: And we all talk about women in comedy, it`s also -- that`s an added.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Although I suspect Cecily Strong can --
GOLD: She`s great.
HARRIS-PERRY: It will be a good night.
GOLD: I think it will be great.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Judy Gold.
And if you`re in New York be sure to catch her as Eleanor Roosevelt in
"Clinton the Musical".
You can catch the White House Correspondents Dinner tonight right here on
MSNBC when Alex Witt hosts live coverage of the event from 9:00 p.m. to
11:00 p.m. Eastern.
And you can watch Krystal Ball and the incomparable Janet Mott live from
the red carpet streaming on Shift.
Up next, we have some fabulous news to report on Nerdland`s favorite 6-
HARRIS-PERRY: This is Doc McStuffens and this is not her first appearance
on MHP. In fact, Doc is kind of a regular around here.
But just in case you are new to Nerdland, allow me to introduce her. Doc
McStuffins is the lead character of a hit cartoon on Disney Junior that
carries the same name. At just 6 years old, she is a doctor to her stuffed
animals and toys. Her stethoscope magically brings them to life.
Now, Doc`s mother is an actual people doctor, and quite clearly doc`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOC MCSTUFFINS: Then, I`m going to paste this patch on again. Wrap it up.
And then I think we should check you into the clinic for the night.
CHARACTER: Great. Did you say I had to stay here?
DOC MCSTUFFINS: Overnight. I know it seems scary but sometimes it`s good
to be near your doctors and nurses in case you need help. I had a bad
fever once and I had to stay in the hospital overnight.
CHARACTER: You did? Were you scared?
DOC MCSTUFFINS: A little at first, but they took really good care of me.
I was home before I knew it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Such a good bedside manner.
Now, allow me to make another introduction, this is Lucy in this video.
Now, she`s 2 years old there. Lucy is being held by her dad who happens to
be this show`s producer. Lucy and her dad are really big fans of Doc
And for a long time, Lucy`s dad was trying to convince me that Doc
McStuffins, the cartoon, was a big deal, a pop culture rarity that could
have a real social impact. But I needed a little bit of independent
sourcing so I called my daughter Parker who was 10 at the time and asked if
she heard of Doc McStuffins.
Well, she had. Parker told me Doc is awesome, smart and cool and yes, Doc
is a little black girl like her. Parker felt an African-American girl as a
central character in a mainstream children`s program was inspiring and
Parker wasn`t alone. Little Doc was also a point of pride to some real-
life Doc McStuffins.
Black women doctors like Maisha Taylor (ph) an ER physician in Texas found
inspiration in the Doc character. Dr. Taylor and others formed the Artemis
Society, which now has a membership of more than 4,700 women physicians of
The show was pitched initially without any artwork and it was Disney`s idea
to make the Doc character African-American. It was the show`s creator
Chris Nee who had the idea Doc`s dad would be the one at home most of the
Back in September of 2013, Chris was on this show and explained it was
because clearly Doc`s mom was at work.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS NEE: It was this moment I had to really check myself and say, OK, if
she`s a doctor and she`s a successful doctor, dad needs to be at home.
Some day, we`ll learn he has a catering business, but I also think it`s
great that he`s at home and cooking and taking care of the kid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The show rates among the top five series for kids 2 to 5
years old. The Doc McStuffins toy line was named one of the most
influential of all time by "Time" magazine and 2014, the doc line of band-
aids became the number one licensed band-aid brand of the year among girls.
And now, we are so pleased to tell you that doc and her creator Chris can
add one more item to their long list of accomplishments. Citing for
disarming inspiring story telling, it was announced this week that Doc
McStuffins will receive the prestigious Peabody Award on May 31st.
Congratulations to Doc and everyone who helps bringing her to life.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching.
MSNBC show will be on again tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Kenji
will be here ahead of Tuesday`s Supreme Court arguments on marriage
equality and it will be a Kenji Nerdland segment not to be missed.
But right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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