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PoliticsNation, Thursday, July 16th, 2015

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Date: July 16, 2015
Guest: Areva Martin; Seema Iyer; Paul Butler; Grant Whitus; Eugene
O`Donnell, Laith Alkhouri, Eugene O`Donnell, Jim Cavanagh, Paul Butler,
Seema Iyer, Areva Martin

REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to "Politics Nation."

We`re following two breaking news stories. Just minutes from now we`ll get
the jury verdict from Aurora and the movie shooting trial in Aurora. Three
years ago, James Holmes killed 12 people inside a movie theater. He
pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Also breaking only the, officials identified the alleged shooter in a
deadly rampage in Tennessee that left four marines dead. Officials say it
might have been an act of terror. Moments ago, we heard from President


circumstance for these individuals who served our country with great valor
to be killed in this fashion.


SHARPTON: But we start with the verdict in Colorado. James Holmes is
charged with killing 12 people and injuring 70 others in 2012 when he
stormed into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during the midnight
showing of "Dark Knight" firing a hail storm of bullets at random into the
audience. Holmes is charged with 166 counts, including murder, attempted
murder, possession of explosives and what is called a crime of violence
charge. He admitted to the massacre with you pleaded not guilty by reason
of insanity and that was the key to this case.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Mr. Holmes stepped into that theater on July 20th,
2012, he had lost touch with reality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That guy was sane beyond a reasonable doubt and he
needs to be held accountable for what he did.


SHARPTON: The verdict will come from 12 jurors. Nine women and three men
who had been listening to testify for nearly three months.

NBC`s Scott Cohn is live outside the courthouse in Centennial, Colorado.

Scott, what is the scene there tonight?

SCOTT COHN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is a great deal clearly of
media that has shown up in the three hours or so since we had gotten news
there was a verdict. Family members have arrived. They`ve been here
throughout the trial. As you might expect, nervous, concerned, wondering
what this verdict is going to be. It is a verdict that they reached very,
very quickly in relative terms. Three months of testimony and thousands of
exhibits, 165 counts and they deliberated for all of about 12 or 13 hours
before finally informing the court they had reached a verdict.

And as part of the process of reaching that verdict, they had to fill out
some 659 pages of verdict forms. So it could very well be that they
already had the verdict going into today, their second day of

SHARPTON: And we`re looking at live shots inside the courtroom as we`re
waiting for the reading of the verdict.

Scott Cohn, please stay with me.

Now we turn to that other breaking news story tonight. The shooting at two
military facilities in Tennessee, killing four marines. Moments ago,
President Obama spoke from the oval office.


obviously the deepest sympathies of the American people to the four marines
that have been killed. It is a heartbreaking circumstance for these
individuals who have served our country with great valor to be killed in
this fashion. And although the families are still in the process of being
contacted, I want them to know that I speak for the American people in
expressing our deepest condolences.


SHARPTON: NBC has learned the shooter was a naturalized U.S. citizen from
Kuwait named Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. In addition to the four dead
marines, three people were wounded, including a police officer. The gunman
was also shot and killed. The U.S. attorney said it was being treated it`s
an act of domestic terror.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a sad day for the United States. These service
members served their country with pride and they have been the victims of
these shootings. We are conducting this it`s an act of domestic terrorism.


SHARPTON: But other officials were not as quick to label the shooting.


ED REINGOLD, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN-CHARGE: We`re looking at every possible
avenue whether it was terrorism, whether it is domestic, international or
whether it was a simple criminal act. We have not determined whether it
was an act of terrorism or a criminal act.


SHARPTON: Joining me now is Eugene O`Donnell, former New York police
officer and professor at John Jay College of criminal justice. And joining
on the phone is Grant Whitus, a former SWAT team leader in Denver,

Eugene, let me go to you first. How will officials determine if the
shooting was an act of domestic terror?

right now. They`re executing search warrants. They are trying to look at
a social media account. There are references apparently that are
elliptical about this attacks. They`re certainly going to look at
everything about his life, his movements. We of course had an event like
this in little rock in 2009. And in that case, that individual did travel
to Yemen and claimed to have attack (INAUDIBLE) in Little Rock at the
behest of Al-Qaeda. So it is not a farfetched connection but clearly this
is a fact-based investigation. It is going to be all about looking at his

SHARPTON: I know necessarily, Eugene. But does this look like an act of
terrorism to you?

O`DONNELL: I think the cliche is that when you jump out front on these
things, you could be wrong. And I think that`s why the FBI is being extra
cautious. It certainly has all the ear marks of terrorism. But again, as
we`re seeing with some of these cases, it is not always easy to see the
difference between these people being deranged and demented, having mental
health issues, being radicalized, and an act of terrorism. But certainly,
as a criminal matter, as a charging matter, it would certainly seem to be
an act of domestic terrorism almost for sure.

SHARPTON: Grant, what do you think of the initial response to this? And
the announcement of this?

Well, what I`m getting is obviously limited off the TV. But it sounds like
the police were involved as soon as they could get there and it would
involve some kind of gun battle with them. Obviously, one law enforcement
was injured and the gunman was either killed or killed himself. So I can`t
speak to all the details of the shooting. But from what I`ve seen, it
seems like it was appropriate.

SHARPTON: What other motives could police be looking at besides terrorism,

O`DONNELL: Well, certainly, there have been cases in the past where there
is a grievance, there is some sort of domestic issue, domestic violence
issue, a love triangle, an angry person. Obviously, it is a stretch here.
This is somebody who appears to have used an automatic weapon to shoot up a
military facility. But stranger things have happened than to look deep
into somebody`s circumstances and find a non-obvious reason why they`ve
been involved. So that`s what the FBI is looking for.

And again, it always proven as an investigative measure. It also because
people are watching there around the world, to do this on the basis of
facts and took the runoff with speculations and just pure conjecture.

SHARPTON: Grant, we`re hearing the shooter was naturalized citizen from
Kuwait. We know his name. What else are investigators looking for?

WHITUS: Well, certainly, like he was saying, they`re going to look into
his back ground, check the emails, who he is talking to. It`s his history
here, exactly what he is involved is. Is he ISIS or just a cowardly
shooter? And then figure out whether it is domestic terror or some kind of
ISIS act.

SHARPTON: Now Eugene, the suspects started with the drive-by at the
recruitment center. He drove straight to the Navy reserve center. What
does this tell but his planning?

O`DONNELL: It is deliberate. He meant to do this. I believe this in
reference is on social media either attributable to him or connected to him
that suggests he went out to do maximum damage.

It is worth noting we had a very hot debate last year about
demilitarization of the police. This does shows you how complicated the
issue is. The police are the first line of defense and people have kind of
scoffed at the idea that small, relatively smaller places can be involved
in these activities. But Little Rock and Chattanooga are not New York
City, not Manhattan. So the police have to ready for these issues. We
have a civil liberties debate. But this really underscores again the
police are first line of defense against domestic acts of terrorism.

SHARPTON: Grant, you were a SWAT, a member of the SWAT team. What does
this tell you about planning? What could have been his plan? Where he
started and then going straight at the Navy base?

WHITUS: Well, certainly, with the plan, I believe the same -- just like I
was involved in columbine and the first SWAT guy to go in columbine. That
was a very well planned one also. Even more details than this one. The
main thing is that we`re getting the police involved.

SHARPTON: Excuse me one minute, Grant. We have to go live to the
courtroom on the verdict in the Aurora shooting. The jury has been seated.
And the judge is on the bench. Let`s go to the courtroom now.


SHARPTON: The jury, as you can see now, we`re live in the courtroom. The
jury is seated. The foreman is preparing to speak. He is going through
some paperwork, presumably making sure everything is in order. That he
needs to begin the reading of the verdict. We are live in the courtroom to
see what the verdict will be in this case in Aurora, Colorado.

I want to bring in our legal panel, Areva Martin, Paul Butler and Seema
Iyer. Thank you all for being here tonight.



SHARPTON: Seema, you`ve been following this trial closely. Less than two
days of deliberations, less than two days. Does this tell you anything?

SEEMA IYER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It tells me it is a conviction.
And I`m very disturbed with 166 counts, over 250 witnesses, a 22-hour
interrogation or interview, excuse me, with all of that, how did they come
to this conclusion so quickly? One of the four clinicians that interviewed
this man, one of them wrote a 122-page report. How did they go through all
this evidence so quickly?

SHARPTON: And what they have to basically decide, Paul, is whether or not
he was guilty by reason of insanity. Because there`s no question of his
guilt. He is not fighting that.

he went into that movie theater and shot 12 people and tried to kill 70
others. Really, he said he wanted to kill all 400 but he ran out of
bullets. What the jury has to decide --

SHARPTON: Let me just stop you. The judge, for those that are watching,
this is live in the courtroom. The judge is going through the jury forms
now before he reads the verdict out loud in the courtroom. He is examining
the jury forms now. Go ahead, Paul.

BUTLER: Six hundred pages of forms so it will take a while for him to get
through all that which is, again, it is a surprisingly quick verdict. But
the jury has to decide whether he was insane. That means, whether he knew
the difference between right and wrong. Everyone knows that Mr. Holmes is
a very sick man. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia. But that doesn`t
mean that under the law, he is insane. What his lawyer, his defense lawyer
and the experts that he presented say is that his mind was so defective
that he didn`t know killing those people was wrong.

SHARPTON: Now, Areva, the burden of proof in this case was on the
prosecutor where it was not that the attorneys for Mr. Holmes to prove that
he was insane. The prosecutor had to prove that he was sane.

AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY: Absolutely, Rev. And just like Paul stated, the
prosecution had to prove that he recognized and clearly understood the
consequences of his actions. And oftentimes, people have a hard time
understanding the insanity defense because they think if you have a mental
illness or mental defect, then you automatically will be not guilty by
reason of insanity. And that`s not what the standard is.

And that standard of determining whether someone knew right or wrong is
very high. Only in about one percent of the cases presented does that
defense even come up. And in that one percent, only 25 are successful. We
just saw in Boston, a very liberal city, those cities rejected that
insanity defense that was put forth by the Boston bomber. So it is a very,
very difficult defense to put forward.

SHARPTON: Seema, you know, it is interesting because the exact language in
order to prove insanity, the prosecution has to show Holmes was not quote
"incapable of distinguishing right from wrong" or quote "suffering a mental
disease or defect that prevent him from forming a culpable mental state."
So the prosecution has tried to argue a few key points here. They`ve tried
to argue that Holmes bought and used firearm methodically. That Holmes
surveyed the theater before the attack. That he had intent, and that he is
not insane.

IYER: Right. So they actually tried to point out that the planning and
the preparation --

SHARPTON: Just one second. He is standing now. They have had them rise
for the verdict. Let`s listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: James Egan Holmes guilty of murder in the first degree
after deliberations. That`s part "a," part "b" is left unmarked. Part
"c," did the defendant use or possess and threaten to use a deadly weapon.
Answer, yes.

Verdict form count two. Murder in the first degree after deliberation,
Alexander Foyd (ph). We, the jury, find the defendant James Egan Holmes
guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part "b" is left
unmarked. And part "c" reads, did the defendant use or possess and
threaten to use of deadly weapons. Answer, yes.

Verdict form. Count three. Murder in the first degree after
deliberations. Jesse Childress. We final the defendant James Eagan Holmes
guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part "b" is left
unanswered. And part "c" is marked yes in response to the question that I
mentioned a couple of times already.

Verdict form count four. Murder in the first degree after deliberation,
Gordon Calvin (ph). We, the jury, find defendant James Egan Holmes guilty
of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part "b" is left
unanswered. And part "c" is marked yes.

Verdict form count five. Murder in the first degree after deliberation.
We, the jury, find the defendant James Egan Holmes guilty of murder in the
first degree after deliberation. Part "b" is left unanswered. Part "c" is
answered yes.

Verdict form count six. Murder in the first degree after deliberation.
John Larrimer (ph). We, the jury, find the defendant James Egan Holmes
guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part "b" is left
unanswered. The answer to part c is yes.

Verdict form count seven. Murder in the first degree after deliberation,
Matthew McQuinn (ph). We, the jury, find the defendant James Egan Holmes
guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part "b" is left
unanswered. And the answer to the question on part "c" is yes.

Verdict form, count eight. Murder in the first degree after deliberation,
Mckayla Medek (ph). We, the jury, find the defendant James Eagan Holmes
guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part b is left
unanswered and the answer to part "c" is yes.

Verdict form count nine. Murder in the first degree after deliberation.
Veronica Mosher Sullivan. We, the jury, find the defendant James Egan
Holmes guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part "b"
is left unanswered. And the answer to part c is yes.

Verdict form, count ten. Murder in the first degree after deliberation,
Alex Sullivan. We, the jury, find the defendant James Egan Holmes guilty
of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part "b" is left
unanswered. And the answer on part "c" is yes.

Verdict form count 11. Murder in the first degree after deliberation,
Alexander Teves. We, the jury, find the defendant James Egan Holmes guilty
of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part "b" is left
unanswered. And the answer on part "c" is yes.

Verdict form count 12. Murder in the first degree after deliberation,
Rebecca Wingel. We, the jury, find the defendant James Egan Holmes guilty
of murder in the first degree after deliberation. Part "b" is left
unanswered and the answer on part c is yes.

Verdict form count 13. Murder in the first degree extreme indifference,
Jonathan Blant (ph). We, the jury, find the defendant James Egan Holmes
guilty of murder in the first degree extreme indifference. Part "b" is
left unanswered. And the answer on part "c" is yes.

Verdict form count 14. Murder in the first degree extreme indifference,
alexander Boik (ph). We, the jury, find the defendant James Eagan Holmes
guilty of murder in the first degree extreme indifference. Part "b" is
left unanswered. The answer in part "c" is yes.

Verdict form count 15. Murder in the first degree extreme indifference,
Jesse Childress. We, the jury, find the defendant James Egan Holmes guilty
of murder in the first degree, extreme indifference. Part "b" is left
unanswered. And the answer on part "c" is yes.

Verdict form count 16. Murder in the first degree extreme indifference,
Gordon Cowden. We, the jury, find the defendant James Egan Holmes guilty
of murder in the first degree extreme indifference. Part "b" is left
unanswered and the answer on part "c" is yes.

Verdict form count 17. Murder in the first degree extreme indifference,
Jessica Ghawi (ph). We, the jury, find the defendant James Eagan Holmes
guilty of murder in the first degree extreme indifference. Part "b" is
left answered. Part "c" is answered yes.

Verdict form count 18. Murder in the first degree extreme indifference,
John Larimer. We, the jury, find the defendant James Egan Holmes guilty of
murder in the first degree extreme indifference. Part "b" is left
unanswered. And the answer on part "c" is yes.

Count, verdict form count 19. Murder in the first degree extreme
indifference, Matthew McQuinn. We, the jury, find the defendant James Egan
Holmes guilty of murder in the first degree extreme indifference. Part "b"
is left unanswered and the answer in part "c" is yes.

Verdict form count 20. Murder in the first degree extreme indifference,
Micaleh Medek (ph). We, the jury, find the defendant James Eagan Holmes,
guilty of murder in the first degree extreme indifference. Part "b" is
left unanswered and the answer in part "c" is yes.

Verdict form count 21. Murder in the first degree extreme indifference,
Veronica Moeser Sullivan (ph). We, the jury, find the defendant James
Eagan Holmes guilty of murder in the first degree extreme indifference.
Part "b" is left unanswered and the answer in part "c" is yes.

Verdict for count 22. Murder in the first degree extreme indifference,
Alex Sullivan.

SHARPTON: We are listening as the verdict is being read. It is obvious
that he has been found guilty. And that he has been found guilty of first-
degree murder with extreme indifference on many counts.

Let`s bring our panel back in - Areva Martin, Paul Butler and Seema Iyer.

Let me start with you, Paul. As they`re reading these voluminous charges.
We see where it is going. But the critical part of this will be, will they
find him guilty where he was in his right mind? Or will they go for the
defense that he was guilty by reason of insanity. That`s what is going to
be critical here. There is no surprise that he is being found guilty.

BUTLER: This verdict of guilty, it sounds like on all counts, doesn`t come
as a surprise to anyone. The insanity defense is usually a Hail Mary pass.
It almost never works. One of the people who is not surprised by this
verdict is the defense attorney. So what they were doing, even during this
phase, is kind of teeing up what they`re going to say to try to save their
client`s life.

Two years ago when the prosecution announced they were going for the death
penalty. The defense attorney said we`ll plead guilty if you take death
off the table and they said no. So it will be really interesting to see
what happens now. A lot of ambivalent in Colorado about the death penalty.
Only one person has been executed there since 1976.

SHARPTON: I see you nodding, Seema.

IYER: And right now, there are three men sitting on death row in Colorado,
only three men. And I believe one of them has been sitting there since the
`90s. So I don`t know if he will actually ever be put to death. And
right, their very ambivalent about it.

SHARPTON: Areva, but there are only three on death row in Colorado. But
they`re not there for this kind of mass shooting and this kind of act. If
there was a case that may add to those three or that may turn some of the
public or some of the members of a jury, this may be the case. The
prosecutors must feel.

MARTIN: I agree with you. Absolutely, Rev. As we even sit here and
listen to the judge read those jury forms, the gravity of the case is
revisited upon all of us. And we`re not even in the courtroom. But I
think the gravity of this case is such that to the extent there is a case
where the death penalty would be warranted and people would be compelled to
render a decision for the death penalty, this is the case.

And again, I go back to that Boston bomber case. No one thought the jurors
in the state of Massachusetts in a city like Boston would render a death
penalty. And they did because, again, that case so horrific the crime.
And I think as we see this mass shooting played out, people are becoming
very, very intolerant. And I think they want to send a strong message to
anyone this contemplating this kind of horrific crime that there will be
dire, the most extreme consequences for such actions.

SHARPTON: Let`s go back outside the courthouse.

Scott Cohn. Scott, can you tell me what happens now after we go through
the entire reading of the verdicts. What is the next step and how do we go
from there to determining whether or not we`re dealing with a death penalty

COHN: The next step will be once they get through all of this and any
motions that either side needs to enter as a result of this, we will move
forward to the penalty phase which is scheduled to begin as of now, on
Monday. They had a previously scheduled day off tomorrow. And they talked
about particularly the defense, the question of getting their experts lined
up during the month of July. Some were not going to be available until
August. But the current schedule is if they go into the penalty phase
beginning on Monday and that phase is expected to take about a month with
this same jury.

SHARPTON: All right. Let`s get ready to go to break.

Again, let me repeat that Holmes has been found guilty of first-degree
murder. We`ll be right back after this.


SHARPTON: We`re following breaking news on the rampage in Chattanooga,
Tennessee, that left four marines dead and three others wounded.

Back with me now is Eugene O`Donnell and MSNBC law enforcement analyst Jim

Joining me on the phone is Laith Alkhouri, senior analyst at Flashpoint
Global Partners. Laith, what do we know about the shooting?

identified him by name as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez of Chattanooga,
Tennessee. Of course, you know, we cannot ascertain whether or not this
was an ISIS-inspired attack or not. Some rumors have -- around suggesting
that he might have been a wrestler at some point, but of course that
remains in the air. So far, we don`t have much information confirming
whether this is linked to any terrorist group or cells operating in the

SHARPTON: Now, we are told he is a naturalized U.S. citizen but from
Kuwait. Where will that lead investigators in terms of starting to find
out what they can about him?

ALKHOURI: Well, first and foremost, they have to search in the closest
circles possible. That means friends and family, colleagues, co-workers
and even if he has attended universities and his college school mates. So
it is important to search in the closest circles possible. Of course every
single forensic evidence will be seized including hard drives and any kind
of digital drive for his computers as that will be forensically examined.
And see if there is any potential link in this case.

SHARPTON: Eugene O`Donnell and Jim, let me ask you, there is a lot of talk
about following social media. How important will that be in this


EUGENE O`DONNELL, FORMER NYPD OFFICER: Well, I just think it is important
to see linkages. There is a suggestion here of a sinister connection that
this may not be somebody acting alone. That some overseased people were
aware or at least people who pose as overseas people where was going to
happen in advance. And this might not be such a lone individual. If
that`s the case, that`s quest for great concern if there is a network that
goes beyond this individual. So, that is I think of primary importance.
Obviously the other thing that they`re looking for is to try to get a video
trail on the guy. Presumably there`s video available in these facilities
and its movements to see whether he surveilled these locations in advance.
That`s the kind of things they would also be looking at.


CAVANAUGH: Well, I agree with everything Eugene said. I think, you know,
what the investigators are going to look for is, you know, what is the
motive? You know, is it extremism? Terrorism? Internationally inspired
terrorism? That would be a major league category to sit on anyone who
attacked the military in two places. Second. You know, is there another
motive? Is there revenge on the marines? Was he refused admittance? Did
he want to be a marine? You know, it was reported in the media today that
he had attended the University of Chattanooga for engineering. So he is an
educated fellow. He is not uneducated. So, it has to be, yes, some
background has to be looked at to see what the motive is.

There could be any kind of motive. He could want revenge on the military
for something that happened to a family member. But if it is, if it does
go back to extremism and internationally inspired terrorism as Laith was
saying, those connections have to be looked at. We have all these twitter
accounts. You know, people telling everybody to kill everybody. We heard
from the FBI director, kill, kill, kill. We`ve got it as a nation
regardless of the motive of this case, we`ve got it as a nation do
something to, you know, knock that back. We`ve got to think bigger.

SHARPTON: Jim, though, given your background, what are investigators going
to be the looking for first? What are the key things they`ll going to zero
in on?

CAVANAUGH: Yes, Rev. Connections, associates, who you`re talking to. So,
you know, they`re going back to his computer. Who is on his e-mail list?
Who has he been communicating with? Talk to his neighbors. Talk to his
friends. Has he ever said anything about hurting people? Has he ever
express reason to attack the marines or the navy or the military. You
know, was he disillusioned? Did something happen to him recently? Was he
fired? You know, did his girlfriend dump him? Did he go into a bankruptcy
or some major event in his life that might have caused him to do something
like this? Where did he get his weapons? You know, there`s a lot of

SHARPTON: Eugene, we are only a few hours after the occurrence. But we`re
not hearing there was a note or anything said verbally as of yet that would
give any indication of where they should start looking for a motive or at
least no early easy indication.

O`DONNELL: Jim is right. Obviously, a motive is not established but we`re
in a serious situation in the country at this point. This is no longer, do
we have a domestic terrorism problem. We clearly have a domestic. This
travel cases now you see reported to had a couple in Chicago where people
are actually trying to go to be radicalize and they`re actually getting as
far as New York, they`re getting to the airport, they`re literally being
stopped at the plane heading out of the country.

It is far more than just conjecture and crazy ideas. Some of these people
are deadly serious about what they are doing. And we as a nation have to
come to grip with that. And it is no longer a matter of, whether these
things are likely possibly going to reoccur. It`s almost certain that they
will reoccur and, you know, certainly at this point, very important for
military people and friends and relatives and residents in military
locations to have the backs of the military where they`re gathered in
groups. They need to be absolutely on high alert and we alongside them.
The American public. If we see something at this point, absolutely
critical to say something and safe is much better than being sorry.

SHARPTON: Jim, the fact that we don`t know anything yet, would they not
also want to see if he was associated with someone that may be involved in
some pattern that we don`t know? And with him being dead now, does that
complicate to find out his friends, his allies if there are any. I mean,
does this not complicate, that he`s not alive and we don`t know how they
find out if there are any associations. Some even potential threats.

CAVANAUGH: Right. Exactly, Rev. Well, it is harder when the person is
not alive. Because you don`t have the opportunity to question them. You
make a great point there. But we have something in the modern era that we
didn`t have for many years in policing and that is we have the picture of
his mind that it resides at the hard drive of his computer and his iPad and
his telephone that it tells us all kinds of things that we couldn`t get
years ago that people didn`t write down. You know, a record of your Google
searches is almost a record of everything you`re thinking about.


CAVANAUGH: When you have your e-mails, it is a record of everybody you`re
communicating with, your texts, you`re Twitter messages, your documents
that you read. What interests you? All these things can take a picture of
a person inside someone`s mind and we never could retrieve years ago unless
we could find their writings or gather from people we interviewed. So we
have that advantage. And it will come to light. And he may even have a
manifesto. He may have a suicide note. Who knows? He could have --

SHARPTON: All of that, I`m sure we`ll be looking for. Let me go by phone
to NBC News correspondent Gabe Gutierrez. He is live at the scene of this
attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Gabe, I can see you. Good. Gabe,
what`s the scene there looking like?

at the site of the first shooting. This is where the shots rang out around
10:35 this morning. Right behind me, we have seen throughout the past --
the FBI is now on the scene. They are taking the lead in this
investigation trying to figure out exactly what happened. Amazingly, no
one at this recruiting center here was killed. But just seven miles away
at the site of the other shooting, four marines lost their lives. Now, as
you were talking about there, the FBI, federal investigators looking at
what may have been the motive here. And also, people here are remembering
the victims.

There is a very small makeshift memorial that is starting to grow. We`re
also hearing the certain prayer vigil that are set for later on this
evening. But again, this is where the gunfire started. 10:35 this
morning. Witnesses tell us that there were several dozen shots. More than
25 rounds fired at just this location, before the gunman went to that
second location, seven miles away and continued that shooting rampage
police say. Al, back to you.

SHARPTON: All right. Thank you, Gabe. Coming up, President Obama makes
history today. The first sitting president to visit a federal prison. He
talked personally and passionately about the need to reform our criminal
justice system. That`s next.


SHARPTON: A historic -- first today, President Obama and the nation. He
visited a federal prison in Oklahoma, the first time a sitting president
has done so. That visit was part of the increasing push to reform our
criminal justice system. But President Obama didn`t just focus today on
policies. He sat down with six prisoners, nonviolent drug offenders, and
told reporters afterward that they weren`t that different from all of us.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Visiting with these six
individuals, you know, I`ve said this before. When they describe their
youth and their childhood, these are young people who made mistakes that
aren`t that different than the mistakes I made and the mistakes that a lot
of you guys made. The difference is they did not have the kinds of support
structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to
survive those mistakes. That`s what strikes me. There but for the grace
of God. And that I think is something that we all have to think about.


SHARPTON: It is a powerful message from a powerful messenger. The
President of the United States humanizing the people behind bars.


OBAMA: I just took a look at a cell where because of overcrowding,
typically we might have three people housed in a cell that looks to be,
what? Fifteen 15 by? 9x10. Three full grown men in a 9x10 cell.
Overcrowding like that is something that has to be addressed. As I said
the other day, gang activity, sexual assault and cyber-prisons, those are
all things that have to be addressed.


SHARPTON: These are issues the whole country is thinking about. Right
now, more than two million Americans are in jail or prison and people all
across the political spectrum are realizing that`s wrong. A new poll
reveals 81 percent of Democrats think it is important to reduce prison
populations. Seventy one percent of independents agree. And so do 54
percent of Republicans. The country recognizes, it is time for a change
and this president wants to make that happen.


OBAMA: This is part of our effort to highlight both the challenges and
opportunities that we face with respect to the criminal justice system.
Many of you heard me speak on Tuesday in Philadelphia about the fact that
the United States accounts for five percent of the world`s population. We
account for 25 percent of the world`s inmates. And that represents a huge
surge since 1980. A primary driver of this mass incarceration phenomenon
is our drug laws are mandatory minimum sentencing around drug laws. And
yes, we have to consider whether this is the smartest way for us to both
control crime and rehabilitate individuals.

SHARPTON: Back with me now, is former federal prosecutor Paul Butler.
Paul, how significant was this, the President`s visit? You`re a former
federal prosecutor. Put into perspective how significant is this?

step forward towards equal justice under the law. So, the President made
an economic argument that cost $80 billion a year to lock up nonviolent
offenders. What if we spend that money on sending kids to school,
employment training. This isn`t politically controversial. Texas, the
reddest of the red state is actually a leader in reducing incarceration and
still keeping its citizens state. But most importantly Robert, it is the
right thing to do. Because everybody really does deserve a second chance.
As an African-American man, so much resonates for me when he says, there
but for the grace of God go I. Clarence Thomas, of all people, same words.
There before the grace of God go I. Rev, I always say I got --

SHARPTON: I think that`s very important. Because Clarence Thomas, who is
considered one of the most conservative on the Supreme Court has said there
but for the grace of God goes I, all the way to all of us that are
considered on the Left. And two million people. And many of them,
nonviolent drug offenders. We`re not talking about people that harmed
anybody but that basically made an error and they`re serving an inordinate
amount of time.

BUTLER: And the President recognizes that it is a racial justice issue as
well. Because frankly when white boys make an error, it doesn`t have the
same consequences as it does if an African-American or Latino does. So,
he, that`s one of the other things he`d know. He says, look, I made some
mistakes, I used some drugs, I wish I hadn`t but, you know, it was a
different time. If he did that now, police are super focused on young
African-American men. He might very well have been in that situation
rather than, you know, having this great day where I`m proud to call him
the president.

SHARPTON: But then you also have to deal with the mandatory sentencing.
You have to deal with, when you were a prosecutor, black boys, white boys,
Latino boys. There is also the problem of the disproportionate amount that
come from areas of color. And then when he went and talked about the human
side. Three grown men in a cell. A 9x10 or a 9x11. And he and I was
involved in a protest in Puerto Rico years ago and we had to stay in a
federal prison. For protest. The kind of lack of human consideration. I
don`t think most Americans understand that, and in a civilized society,
you`re talking about maybe for someone with a nonviolent drug abuse or a
protest at a federal level, to have to be put in that kind of condition is
unthinkable to the average American.

BUTLER: I always think of that quote that you know a civilized society by
how it treats its prisoners. So, for the president of the United States to
shine a light on a prison cell. Most presidents want to make it tougher,
harder for people in prison.


BUTLER: This president wants to make it better because he understands
that`s about public safety. And it`s also about families frankly. We have
a lot of people in the African-American community who are doing time on the
outside. Women and children suffer when we have one million African-
American men locked up.

SHARPTON: One million. Paul Butler, thank you for your time.

BUTLER: It`s great to be here.

SHARPTON: Coming up, growing questions on why this 28-year-old woman was
found dead in a Texas jail cell. Her family is demanding answers.


SHARPTON: Now the question surrounding the death of a 28-year-old woman in
a Texas jail. Last Friday police pulled Sandra Bland over for changing
lanes without using a turn signal. A bystander filmed what the family
believes is her arrest. NBC has not verified the video and it does not
show the moments that led up to the arrest.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can`t even (bleep) feel my arm. (bleep).

Hey! You just slammed my head into the ground! Do you not even care about

I can`t even hear? He slammed my (bleep) head into the ground.
(INAUDIBLE) for a traffic signal.


SHARPTON: Officers charged Bland with assaulting a public servant and took
her to jail Friday night. She was found dead in her cell Monday. The
medical examiner ruled it was a suicide by hanging. But her family says
she was about to start a new job and they`re demanding answers.


SHARON COOPER, SANDY BLAND`S SISTER: That`s very challenging to believe
based on the Sandy that I, we and everyone that you have seen an outpouring
of love from who knew her, truly knew her, truly knew the depths of her,
the core of her, that`s unfathomable right now.


SHARPTON: Back with me now, Seema Iyer and Areva Martin. Thank you both
for being here.


SHARPTON: Areva, her family is heading to Texas for answers. What are
investigators looking for now?

MARTIN: Well, they want to know more about the cause of death Rev, as
you`ve said. This young woman was pulled over for a traffic stop and we
heard her on that video saying that she was in distress. And it brought
back images of the Freddie Gray case. Because we know something very
similar happened to him as he was being arrested --


MARTIN: -- he could not breathe. He had issues with the way the arrest was
being handled. And then he ended up dead. So, I think the family is
concerned about the statements that have been made by the police, they
don`t believe the police. They think foul play is involved. And they want
answers. They want to know how this young woman who had her whole future
ahead of her ends up allegedly committing suicide in a jail cell.

SHARPTON: Seema, everyone we`ve heard from of who knew Sandy said things
were going well for her. How will that information be used?

SEEMA IYER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Two ways. Either the family can apply for
an order by the court to get an independent autopsy performed or they
actually can do one themselves. But what is very interesting is that,
generally speaking, the medical examiner`s office Rev, is a separate wing.
It has nothing to do with the police force whatsoever. So it is very
suspect that this did occur. That they`re saying it is a suicide.

SHARPTON: So, Areva, they can either do an independent, the family,
autopsy, or ask the court to have someone else do it.

MARTIN: Absolutely. And I know that the family has gone online, there`s
an online petition, they`re raising money because not only are they trying
to bring her body home. They are also trying to launch their own
investigation. And I think there new allegations Rev about this sheriff
that was involved in the arrest. And some allegations that were made
against him at a former Police Department involving racism and anger
management. So, I know the family is also very concerned about who is
involve in this case. Not just that it is one police department but it`s a
police department that has someone leading it, that has a history of
negative interactions with the African-American community.

SHARPTON: And I know there is public press about and there`s a
demonstration tomorrow at noon around opening a real independent look at
this case. Will public pressure here help, Seema?

IYER: Oh, it always does, right, Rev?

SHARPTON: Absolutely.

IYER: The more people that get involved, the more call for justice. But
another important point is that, the police report may have said that she
hung herself which may have influenced the way the autopsy was conducted.

SHARPTON: Seema Iyer and Areva Martin, thank you for your time tonight.

MARTIN: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Catch Seema on "The Docket" on Shift MSNBC Tuesdays at 11:00.

Ahead, civil rights icon John Lewis makes a call to restore the voting
rights act. Next.


SHARPTON: Today, millions of Americans logged on to Google and saw this.
Journalist and civil rights icon Ida B. Wells honored on what would have
been her 153rd birthday. At 22, she was asked to give up her seat to a
white man on the train. But she refused. The conductor and two others had
to physically move her. That was almost 70 years before the world knew of
Rosa Parks. And the bravery on that bus in Alabama. We`ve come a long
way. But have a long way to go. Last night, dozens of protesters greeted
President Obama outside of his hotel in Oklahoma City with confederate
flags. They say it is their history. But today, a different side of
history. Civil rights icon John Lewis called on the house to restore the
voting rights act.


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Across the country there is a deliberate
systematic attempt to make it harder and more difficult for the disabled,
students, seniors, minority, the poor and rural voters to participate in a
democratic process. We must not let that happen. We have to throw off the
burden of fear and the past and continue to move forward.


SHARPTON: We must continue to move forward. A young man asked me early
this morning when it came out about the Klan flags and the confederate
flags at the President`s hotel and he says, "Don`t you get discouraged.
Don`t you think we`re going backwards." But there are too many John
Liuzzos, too many Viola Plumbers, too many Viola Liuzzos, to many people
that I`ve known and different spheres that keep fighting and keep letting
me know. We`ll never go back.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.


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