Guests: Liliana Segura, John McWhorter, Michelle Goldberg, Michael Brendan, Dougherty, Barry Scheck, Steve Beck, Mary Kirkland
CHRIS HAYES, HOST: Good morning from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned yesterday`s shelling by
Syria that killed a reported 92 people, more than a third of them children
under 10 according to the United Nations.
Yesterday also saw the deaths of four NATO service members in
separate roadside bombings in Afghanistan. As well as the death of eight
people in one family killed by a NATO airstrike.
So, we begin today with my story of the week -- Memorial Day.
For the overwhelming majority of Americans, Memorial Day`s chief
significance is that it`s the beginning of the summer, and in occasion, for
the season`s first barbecue. That`s true in times of peace, but it`s been
true, oddly even during this long decade of war.
We fought more and more war with a smaller and smaller percentage of
the population taking part. There`s no draft and military service is
increasingly rare in elite circles. In a 2010 speech at Duke, then-Defense
Secretary Robert Gates spoke about the effect of this divide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, THEN-DEFENSE SECRETARY: It is also true, though, that
whatever their found sentiments for men and women in uniform, for most
Americans, the wars remain an abstraction -- a distant and unpleasant
series of news items that do not affect them personally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So while the fallen exist as people we think about in the
abstract, most of us don`t have them in our own families.
On October 10th, 2001, Master Sergeant Evander Andrews, a member of
the 366th Civil Engineering Squadron died in a heavy equipment accident,
while constructing an airstrip in Qatar, for use in American bombing
campaign in Afghanistan. He was the first American casualty of Operation
Enduring Freedom. The first door knock at the home, the first flag-trapped
coffin in this long era of war.
He left behind a wife and four children, when I reached his mother,
Mary, in her home in a tiny town of Solon, Maine, she wanted to make sure I
was pronouncing his name right. "It`s Evander," she said, "I know it`s in
the South, it`s Evander, but we`re from Maine."
Evander, her oldest child, enlisted right out of high school and
always had a heart for others. I asked her if the war and the deaths of
those who fought him seemed like an afterthought in American life. She
said, "I think people want to go on and not think about wars and losing
people and death and all that stuff."
She was critical of the president, telling me she felt he lacked the,
quote, "feeling for the military that he should have." And she said the
cause for which her son died was just.
She herself won`t be doing anything formal to mark the Memorial Day
because she`s volunteering at a women`s homeless shelter. "I think our
grief is too hard for public ceremonies and such," she said. "It`s very
hard for us."
Eleven days after Evander Andrews died in Qatar, U.S. warplanes
bombed a remote area near Turi village in Afghanistan, apparently targeting
a Taliban military base about a kilometer outside of the town. According
to Human Rights Watch, the bombing killed 23 civilians, the first confirmed
civilian casualties of Operation Enduring Freedom.
A 25-year-old man told named Samola (ph) told Human Rights Watch that
he was outside the village when the bombs started falling. He rushed back
to his home to rescue his family. He arrived at his family compound to
find his wife and three of his children dead, the youngest just eight
It is natural to grieve for those we don`t. It is why those of us
fortunate enough not to have lost anyone in this decade of this war can go
about America merrily barbequing this weekend and not think we`re being
callous. And it is natural to mourn our countrymen rather than strangers,
to grieve for people with names we can pronounce, who went to high schools
that look like our own.
But if the grief of our fellow citizens for their loved ones who
fallen in war is increasingly remote to a nation in which only a tiny
fraction serve in the military, the grief of those who mourn for their dead
halfway around the world is even more abstract. For them, we don`t have a
ritual, or day on the calender.
And it just so happen that the Memorial Day tradition emerged at the
one moment in America`s long war history when our dead and their dead
couldn`t be so neatly divided. The first act of public mourning and
moralization happened on May 1st, 1865, when the recently freed slaves of
Charleston, South Carolina, gathered on the city`s race track, a former
gathering place of the slave-owing aristocracy that had been converted into
an outdoor prison and they reburied over 200 Union POWs who had died in
Confederate custody and been dumped in an unmarked grave.
So, Decoration Day, as it was initially called, became a way of
celebrating the martyrs to the cause of ending slavery. Those who died in
service of freedom. Southern whites carved out their own version of
Decoration Day, memorializing those who fell in service to the lost cause.
Ultimately, the day would become a national holiday we now know as
Memorial Day. And as the civil war faded from memory, supplanted by
subsequent wars and subsequent war dead, we came as a nation to observe it
together, to mourn our dead collectively. But in those days when the
stench of death hung over a Union that had barely survived, it was that
hours that was contested, that was claimed by each side -- as Walt Whitman
said of them, the dead, the dead, the dead, our dead, or north, or south,
Today it can seem at times as if we barely inhabit the same union as
our own soldiers and we`re not in union with a peasant in a remote Afghan
village who is unfortunate enough to have his family scratching out its
meager living where one of our bombs falls.
But maybe Memorial Day can be a moment to reflect and to will
ourselves to grieve for Evander Andrews and to consider how broadly those
sacrifices emanate, how many are sacrificed against their will in places
unpronounceable, where a man comes home to find his 8-month-old daughter
killed from above -- the dead, the dead, the dead, ours all.
Joining me with their own thoughts on the meeting of this day: we
have Liliana Segura, my colleague at "The Nation" magazine, where she is
associate editor; Michael Brendan Dougherty, politics editor of
BusinessInsider.com; "New York Daily News" columnist John McWhorter, also a
contributing editor at "The New Republic" and a professor of linguistics
and American studies at Columbia; and "Newsweek/The Daily Beast" senior
contributing writer, Michelle Goldberg, also the author of "The Means of
Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World."
It`s great to have you all here this morning. Thanks for coming in.
I fell down a historical research hole this week, and most of the
research has been done by a professor named David Blight, a scholar of the
And I was so surprised to find the origin of Memorial Day. Because
it seems like something modern.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, NEWSWEEK/THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, I can`t believe I
didn`t know that until just now.
HAYES: I couldn`t believe I didn`t know it David Blight has
essentially was the first person to unearth this fact in a dispatch written
by a reporter from the "New York Tribune" who happened to be in Charleston,
South Carolina, during the first Memorial Day. And a few things are
remarkable about that first day. One is, there were no white people in the
city at that point, right? They had all fled.
So, the entire city was occupied by people who had been slaves weeks
or months earlier, just recently liberated. The interesting thing for me
with own kind of pacifist sympathies was to go back and think about
Memorial Day in the context in which memorialization of the war dead was
also a statement about the justness and rightness of the cause. Those two
things were obviously intimately connected, right?
I mean, they were saying, we, these are martyrs to our freedom.
There`s a sort of direct effect. And I think the difficult thing for
Americans as a whole as we think about Afghanistan, particularly, which is
this war that is profoundly unpopular, is how to think about the sacrifices
that had been made in the context of a war that the public basically says
we should wind to a close, I don`t know what it`s about. Why are we doing
JOHN MCWHORTER, NYDAILYNEWS.COM: Part of the problem is we don`t
have a draft. If we had a draft as we used to, there would have been much
more of a public outcry against something that continues for so long with
an increasingly vague mission.
But then I think another problem is that the civil war, was a war
that we had here, and we have photographs of corpses, but -- this is going
to seem trivial, but it isn`t -- they`re in black and height and they tend
to be a little bit blurry. After that in terms of when we see corpses in
colors, it`s the wars that we fought somewhere else. If there had been a
war here in say 1959, and we could actually see what all of this death is
like, I think they would have a lot more impact than anything like that we
see in Afghanistan does, on how we feel about war and how we memorialize
it, and whether or not we do, which obviously on this day, most Americans
are not doing at all.
GOLDBERG: Or you can compare it to how we memorialize the victims of
September 11th. You know, where there`s this constant every year,
incredibly solemn ceremony and we constantly talk about them and the
reading of their names.
HAYES: And the reason I think is because of their, their proximity
to us and us I`m now speaking as this you know, liberal caricature of
someone who doesn`t have someone serving in these wars and doesn`t --
hasn`t been personally by the deaths in the wars. The us there are the
civilians, the people that go to work every morning and are not part of
this nation within the nation that is our military forces that are so
separate and socially distant from the other nation.
And so, that`s why I think we have that morning, because the thought
of waking up one morning and going somewhere and being killed out of the
blue is so horrifying.
GOLDBERG: Intense identification.
MCWHORTER: And we can`t imagine that.
LILIANA SEGURA, THE NATION: There`s a serious problem with the way
we insist on imposing the moral frame on wars that are clearly immoral.
The discussion about throwing a parade for veterans of Iraq you know to
kind of commemorate their sacrifice in Iraq to kind of commemorate their
sacrifice in Iraq to me is mind-boggling. Just the image of a parade sort
of commemorating Iraq and what that might look like to Iraqis and the rest
of the world.
You know, this -- there were many military veterans commemorated on
Twitter and everywhere else criticizing this, and saying, you know, this
isn`t the way to honor us
GOLDBERG: But I can understand it. I mean, you come back from the
war and the immorality of that war was not at all the responsibility of the
people who fought it. You know, who do kind of come home that at least a
tiny part of the reason why some of them feel so adrift and why kind of
suicide rates are so high and why there`s such a crisis among veterans has
to do with the kind of profound disconnect.
It`s not like in Vietnam where people are kind of contemptuous of
them. But I understand they want -- it`s not a celebration of the war they
fought, a celebration of the sacrifices.
HAYES: I had the same instinct, because Rachel Maddow was someone
who has been advocating for these sorts of parades and there`s been some in
St. Louis and she and I have gone back and forth a little bit. I think I
share that instinct -- how do you distinguish, it`s such a fine line to
say, we honor the people that have made the sacrifices that are part of our
-- that are bound together in our social contract and we have them do these
things through our democratic process. At the same time without glorifying
what we have done there.
And I don`t know if you can do it. I mean, I sort of have -- the one
thing that changed my mind a little bit was when I saw there were parades
in Iraq when we left. I thought maybe we can have parades, too, like we`re
all glad this is over. You know what I mean? Like we were all glad this
MICHAEL BRENDAN DOUGHERTY, BUSINESSINSIDER.COM: I think it`s very
difficult because I think that in previous wars when dissent was actually
repressed by the federal government and the nation, there was a draft and
anyone could be involved, everyone knew someone who died, there was one
story that people could attach themselves to. You were part of liberating
Europe. You were part of stopping the Hun.
And that does not exist any more. Partly because we have so much
more freedom in public opinion to dissent from the wars and it`s very
difficult to separate that. I mean, Dick Cheney said if you want to
support the troops, you have to support their mission and a lot of troops
also feel that way, too. That`s how they tell their story.
HAYES: Evander`s mother, Mary, definitely feels that way. It`s a
hard discussion to have. And we`re going to talk with someone who has
spent a lot of time with families who have lost loved ones in the war --
right after this.
HAYES: Vice President Joe Biden was speaking to TAPS, which is
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, an event in Arlington on Friday.
I thought one of the most powerful addresses I`ve seen from a public figure
and also one of the most exposed and vulnerable and emotionally raw.
Obviously, Joe Biden has this tremendous tragedy that happened to him
in his own life, which is right after being elected to be the senator from
Delaware. His family was in a car accident. His wife and daughter died,
his sons were in the hospital.
He was only 29 years old. Moment in his life that should be -- I
mean, it was incredible the guy got to be elected to the Senate at 29.
He`s going to turn 30 right before he was sworn in and he got this phone
call. He talked about that grief was like and how that grief was
distancing and alienating.
And I want you to take a look at little bit of doubt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was down in
Washington, hiring my staff and I got a phone call, saying that my family
had been in an accident. And just like you guys know, by the tone of the
phone call, you just knew, didn`t you? You knew when they walked up the
path, you knew when the call came, you knew, you just felt it in your
bones. Something bad happened.
And I knew. I don`t know how I knew. But the call said, my wife is
dead, my daughter was dead, and they weren`t sure how my sons were going to
make it. For the first time in my life, I could understand how someone
could consciously decide to commit suicide.
By the way, the moms and dads, no parent should be predeceased by
their son or daughter. I unfortunately have that experience, too. I
remember looking up and saying, God, I was talking to God. Myself. You
can`t be good, how can you be good.
You probably handled it better than I did. But I was angry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That`s Joe Biden talking about his own experience.
I want to bring in U.S. Marines Lieutenant Colonel Steve Beck. He`s
an associate professor of naval science at Carnegie Mellon University. The
book "Final Salute," which is a really remarkable work, chronicles his
experience as a casualty about his work informing military families of the
death of a loved one.
Lieutenant Colonel, thanks for joining us this morning.
Lieutenant Colonel, I want to get a sense from you having done this
work for several years, what did you learn? What lessons did you take away
from the work?
LT. COL. STEVE BECK, FORMER U.S. MARINES CASUALTY OFFICER: Well, I
think a great -- many lessons, actually. And one of the most important is
that Memorial Day is every day for me. We`ve been at war for 10 years now
and I think that when I -- when I look at these families and I talk to
these families, I still am engaged with many of these families that I
notify of their loved one`s death.
I see them all the time. I was just with many of them in Colorado
this month. I`ll be talking with many of them tomorrow.
But many of the lessons I`ve learned was that we cannot forget the
sacrifices of these incredible heroes, we have to continue to tell their
stories to the world. And as we tell their stories, they live on and their
legacies of valor live on in our minds and the hearts of Americans. But
we`ve got to tell their stories.
HAYES: There was a moment in the "Rocky Mountain News" article,
which was the beginning of what became this book. And it`s a very
It was the mother of a soldier who has died says to you, looks to you
and says, was it worth it? And your response is, I can`t say that for you.
And I`m curious, how often you heard that question and how you think
about the answer to that question.
BECK: Well, that was Ms; Betty Willkie (ph), Joe Willkie`s mother up
in Rapid City, South Dakota. I remember that moment like it was yesterday,
and she asked me, was it worth it I told her, Betty, I can`t answer that
question for you. That`s a question you`re going to have to work out for
yourself -- because that would me telling her what the value of her son
And I can`t, I can`t answer that for her. I can tell her what the
value of her son was for me and for this nation. But for her, she wants
her son back. For her, there is no price that she wants to pay for her
son`s life. She wants him back.
And so, I only was asked that question one time and it was from her.
And I think that it might, in many people`s eyes be a question that`s asked
often. But I was asked one time, with as it worth it.
Many of the families -- many of the families believe that, their sons
or daughters lives were lost and the price was worth it. The cause was
just in their minds. Others feel differently.
MCWHORTER: Could you spell out what you would have told her or what
you did tell her about what the value of his death was, to the country and
to you, metaphorically? What was --
BECK: I mentioned it later in the conversation that I saw different
days for Iraq because of what her son and many of the service members were
doing over there 10 years go.
I saw new days for Iraq and that it might take over a decade to see
those days come to fruition. And indeed, that`s pretty much what it`s
taken. Those new days in Iraq have come. I still believe that there are
better days ahead for Iraq.
HAYES: Lieutenant Colonel Steve Beck, thank you so much for your
time this morning and your service to the country. I really appreciate it.
We`ll be right back.
HAYES: Thinking today and observing Memorial Day. That will be
happening tomorrow. Just talked with Lieutenant Colonel Steve Burke, an
officer with the Marines. Had to tell people. Beck, sorry.
I think it`s interesting, because it is, I think very difficult to
talk about the war dead and the fallen, without invoking valor, without
invoking the words heroes. And why do I feel so comfortable about the
I feel uncomfortable about the world hero because it seems to me that
it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. And I
don`t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect the memory of anyone that`s
fallen and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is
genuine tremendous heroism, you know, in a hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow
soldiers and things like that.
But it seems to me we marshal this word in a way that`s problematic.
Maybe I`m wrong.
MCWHORTER: Words take on resonances, and that happens to almost any
word. And sometimes you need to revise, I would almost rather not say hero
and come one a more neutral term, which of course would take on partisan
resonances as time went by.
But that`s true of the word sacrifice, that`s true of the word valor,
that`s true of a word hero. Instantly you get -- a certain way percent of
looking at things.
It is manipulative. I don`t think necessarily deliberately. We use
But nevertheless, I share your discomfort with those words, because
they are argumentational strategies in themselves often without wanting to
GOLDBERG: Well, they`re a little bit empty there are people who are
genuine heroes. But the kind of implication is that death is what makes
you a hero. As opposed to any affirmative actor, any moral act or I mean -
HAYES: Right. But I mean, the argument I think on the other side of
that is, right, is we don`t have a draft, right. This is voluntarily.
This is someone making a decision to take on a certain risk of that and
they`re taking it on because they`re bound to all of us through the social
contract, through this Democratic process of self-governance in which we
decide collectively that we`re going to go to war and how we`re going to go
to war and why we`re going to war.
And they also give up their own agency, for a liberal person like
myself, seems difficult to comprehend, submitting so totally to what the
electorate or people in power are going to decide about how to use your
body. But they do that all full volition and, yes, I don`t -- if the word
"hero" is not right, there`s something about that that is I think noble,
GOLDBERG: There`s something about it that deserves honor and respect
and admiration and commemoration. But it`s more than that -- so, if you
want to argue that kind of joining, by joining the military you are heroic,
I suppose that that would be a valid argument. But that`s not really the
way we`re talking --
GOLDBERG: Right. It`s more just that it`s a way of I think
ennobling sacrifices that have a lot of nobility for the individual. But
to say that someone kind of died heroically suggests that they died worthy,
or they died in the pursuit of a worthy endeavor.
SEGURA: I think the word hero is clearly deliberate. I think it is
meant to cast, drape these kind, wars in a sort of -- in a righteous way.
And I think we have to be comfortable or allow ourselves to say out loud,
like these wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan aren`t -- in my opinion, I don`t
think they`re righteous wars. That doesn`t mean that we have to disrespect
the people called upon to serve and who have chosen to devote their lives
to this, because there`s valor in that.
But we can`t be afraid of criticizing a policy at the same time we
DOUGHERTY: I mean the great poetry that came out of World War I and
even World War II, like Robinson Jeffers, they didn`t use these words like
hero when everyone else was. They were consciously fighting against this
and talking about the human waste and meaninglessness of these sacrifices,
precisely because they were trying to be critical of the political
structure that was at the helm of it. So in some ways, we have less
courage than they do.
On the other hand, I think a lot of times we use the word hero just
as a substitute for physical courage that we admire and we see so rarely in
our own lives. That`s why we use hero for every first responder at 9/11,
because it was tremendous physical courage which we rarely get to show or
HAYES: That`s interesting. It`s interesting to think about the
literature out of World War I and World War II and specifically the iconic
catch-22 which World War II obviously is the shorthand for worthy just
causes for all of us now, for very obvious reasons I think. And that book
is all about even embedded in what, defeating the Nazis, right, is the
absurdity of the undertaking.
GOLDBERG: But it`s easier when it`s something that you`re kind of
more implicated in. I mean, again, I think part of the reason that we
tiptoe around these things and use kind of language like hero and sacrifice
is because it`s very difficult to criticize or to even seem to kind of
criticize something that you`re so far away from. You know, whereas catch-
22, this is someone who fought in the war, has firsthand experience, who
doesn`t feel like he has to -- who feels like he can be a little bit
irreverent about it.
HAYES: I take it for myself as a journalist. I`ve done reporting
and talked to veterans and family members of folks who have died in the
war. But, of course, I haven`t walked a mile in their shoes and the
distance does seem totally insurmountable. I mean, that distance
insurmountable as a reporter a lot of times.
I mean, if you`re reporting on extremely poor kids in terrible school
or whatever it is. But there`s something distinct, there`s a difference in
kind in that kind of distance that does make people tiptoe -- I think
tiptoe rightly in the sense that there`s a certain amount of emphatic
respect that you want -- and deference that you want to have.
There`s another type of casualty not traditionally honored on
Memorial Day, the servicemen and women who have taken their own lives.
That number has been rising, from 1977 to 2003, rates of suicide among Army
personnel corresponded with rates in the general population. But from
2004-2008, the number of Army suicides increased by 80 percent.
Almost half of those who took their lives were between 18-24. More
than half were low-ranking soldiers, 69 percent and serve in active combat.
We`re going to talk to the mother of a son who took his life, right
HAYES: I want to bring in Mary Kirkland, whose son, Army Specialist
Derrick Kirkland took his life at the age of 23, after serving 15 months in
Iraq, and then being redeployed, despite being diagnosed with post
traumatic stress disorder.
Mary, thank you so much for coming on the show today. I really
MARY KIRKLAND, MOTHER OF ARMY SPC. DERRICK KIRKLAND: Thank you.
HAYES: Mary, can you tell me a little bit about Derrick and how and
why he decided to enlist?
KIRKLAND: Derrick was someone fun to be around, always laughing.
Trying to keep other people laugh. He joined the Army because he had a
wife and a child. He was working at IHOP as a cook.
So, he came from the military family, so the Army was the answer.
HAYES: And he, he deployed, he came back and how, you spent some
dime with him obviously after his first deployment. What was your
understanding of his mental state then? Was it clear to you that he was
struggling with some stuff?
KIRKLAND: Derrick forced laughter. He was drinking a lot. He had a
picture of an Iraqi man that he or his unit had killed. That he showed me
and said that when they kill over there, that they have to lay the body
down and put everything that they find in their pockets around them and
I told Derrick, I`m your mom, can`t look at stuff like that. A
different, a different person came back.
HAYES: He experienced some -- he, I think he was diagnosed with post
traumatic stress disorder. He was sent back for another deployment and
attempted suicide in-country, if I`m not mistaken, right?
KIRKLAND: Six months into his second deployment on February 10th, he
had a shotgun to his mouth and one of his friends stopped him. They ended
up sending him to the hospital in Germany, where he attempted to kill
himself again by trying to overdose on his medication.
He came back to the United States there at Madigan Army Hospital at
Fort Lewis on March 15th. They had kept him overnight. He met with a
psychiatrist the next morning. Who deemed him to be low to moderate risk
for suicide, had him sign papers saying that he will get counseling and go
to alcohol and substance abuse classes.
Two days later he tried to kill his self again by cutting himself,
drinking alcohol with his medication. On his suicide letter, he stated
that he bandaged his self up, went to formation on Friday. That he walked
around waiting for someone to notice him. That he felt invisible and
And then Friday night he hung himself in his barracks room, to which
I learned later, that that was against Army regulations for him to even be
in a room by himself.
HAYES: Do you feel that the Army -- I mean from the chain of events
you`ve described in reading about the story, it`s very difficult to
conclude that this was handled properly. Do you feel the Army failed your
KIRKLAND: Yes. On the autopsy report and the autopsy photos, they
said that my son, who hadn`t been eating or sleeping since January, that he
was a well-nourished, 110 pounds. The autopsy photos, I could sit there
and count his ribs.
Yes, I feel very strongly that the Army is very responsible for my
HAYES: There`s been an increase in -- we`ve seen an increase in
suicides among people returning from wars. The rate has now exceeded the
What do you want to see happen? Is there -- if you know, and this
may be a difficult question to answer. What do you want to see happen to
prevent the next young man or young woman who comes back from ending up in
KIRKLAND: I believe and it was just in the newspaper, I think the
article was either Friday or yesterday. When an own general says that the
soldiers who commit suicides are selfish, that that shows the mentality of
the leadership of our service members has to deal with on a daily basis.
I have a witness, Kevin Baker, that was in Derrick`s unit. That was
there the day my son walked into the break room and his first sergeant and
his lieutenant was calling my son a coward and a pussy, telling him he was
These are his leaders. It begins with leaders.
HAYES: Major General Dana Pittard was the major general who posted
to a blog that, "I have now come to the conclusion suicide is an absolutely
selfish act. I`m personally fed up with soldiers choosing to take their
own lives that others can clean up their mess, be an adult and act like an
adult and deal with their real-life problems like the rest of us."
That`s the quote you`re referring to, Mary.
The major general later apologized. That was taken off the Web site.
This is something that I think a lot of people hear about and it strikes me
that you get it exactly the core point, which is they`re being a cultural
shift that needs to happen in terms of recognizing this as a threat to
soldiers` lives as much as bullets might be.
Mary Kirkland, thank you for joining us today. I really appreciate
it. And, of course, I`m terribly sorry about your son.
KIRKLAND: Thank you very much.
HAYES: We`ll be right back.
HAYES: I guess I just want to debrief that conversation with Mary
Kirkland, whose son committed suicide after serving in Iraq.
We should note that -- I just want to be clear, that Eric Shinseki,
who is head of the V.A., has prioritized now mental health and mental
health services and there`s a GAO report about the wait time it took to get
mental health services, and there`s been responsiveness to policy makers to
this. This is not completely off the radar screen. In fact, it`s
increasingly on the radar screen.
The major general who Mary cited and who we quoted, himself actually
, his policy record on the base that he runs has been fairly good and
fairly enlightened in terms of thinking about getting the soldiers` mental
health. But again, the numbers right now are pretty dispiriting.
GOLDBERG: Right. As we were saying, the numbers right now are more
people, more veterans of these wars have actually killed and have actually
died in the wars themselves.
HAYES: That`s true in -- I think believe true in 2011.
GOLDBERG: I mean, what`s so astonishing is we`ve been talking about
this rhetoric and whether or not it`s hollow or respectful to talk about
these soldiers in these abstract terms like heroism and valor and sacrifice
-- what I think is indisputably hollow is the way we talk about these
people with such reference that`s completely unmatched by any tangible
policy support. I mean you`re right that they`re making progress. But the
V.A. is still underfunded. There`s still these kind of preposterous wait
And there`s also, from what I`ve read, a real a resistance to
acknowledge the fact that there`s a connection between the combat trauma
and -- it`s amazing they don`t want to acknowledge a connection between
combat trauma and -- I mean, it`s amazing to me that they don`t to
acknowledge that there`s a connection between the violence people witness
and commit in war and these mental health outcomes.
MCWHORTER: You know, there might be a little classism involved, too.
I get the feeling if there were more people involved in the military -- and
this is not to imply that everybody in the military are of working class or
of lesser income.
But if there are more people in the military who have been going to
Columbia, who have gone to Rice, and wrote blogs, or knew people who did,
then I imagine there would be more urgency here rather than people who
don`t get to speak up as much. And I`m not sure what we could do about
HAYES: That`s part of this broader issue, which is the fact that
this is something I write about a bit, Rachel does a very good job in draft
writing. Something I write a little bit about in my book -- the complete
alienation between the sort of, the institutions of meritocratic
achievement and elite selection in the Armed Forces, there`s a very clear
If you look at the numbers, how many people were enrolled in ROTC in
Stanford in 1950 versus 2012. It falls off a cliff. Stanford, ROTC was
kicked off the campus. So you have this real disengagement at very elite
DOUGHERTY: I`m interested in, you know, we talk about, is there any
connection between the stress in battle and the psychological stress. And
the very way we diagnose these things, medical establishment called them
post traumatic stress syndrome. World War I, it was called shell shock.
World War II, it`s called battle fatigue, where you couldn`t escape this
was a consequence of war.
The new diagnosis seems to locate the problem inside the person
themselves, like preexisting and somehow the war was just something that
elicited it, rather than the actual cause of it to them.
HAYES: That`s interesting. As we talk about how we think about
these terms, valor and hero and observe Memorial Day, I want to talk a
little bit about the broad sweep of public opinion. A new poll shows big
swing in how Americans view morality. That`s up next.
HAYES: This week we saw two seemingly contradictory shifts on public
opinion on two of the most intensely litigated social issues of the last 30
First, the massive, historic sea change in support for same-sex
marriage continues. A "Washington Post"/ABC News poll released Wednesday
found a record 53 percent of Americans now believe marriage should be legal
for same-sex couples. Only 39 percent said they oppose same-sex marriage.
Compare that to just two years ago when the same poll found
opposition to same-sex marriage at 50 percent.
The shift is especially striking among African-American voters, 59
percent now say they support same-sex marriage. That`s up from 49 percent
two months ago, two months ago.
Something happened in between those two polls. Which is the
president declared his personal support for same-sex marriage.
Let`s repeat it. In two months support for same-sex marriage among
black voters jumped a stunning 18 percent. The shift comes as a litany of
black celebrities and organizations, from Jay-Z to NAACP, had joined
President Obama in declaring support for same sex marriage.
On Wednesday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell added his name
to the list, endorsing the president`s decision in an interview with CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: As I`ve thought about gay
marriage, I know a lot of friends who are individually gay, but are in
partnerships with loved ones. And they are stable a family as my family
is. They raise children. And so, I don`t see any reason not to say that
they should be able to get married.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: For progressives, these are heartening developments,
discouraging news for them on other issues, reproductive rights. According
to a Gallup poll released on Wednesday, half of all Americans now say they
are pro life. While 41 percent describe themselves as pro-choice.
That pro choice number is the lowest in the poll`s history, down from
a high of 56 percent of American who said they were pro choice in the mid-
I find this sort of longitudinal polling on attitudes really
fascinating. Because the ability for a body politic to change opinion en
masse is in some ways the most important aspect of modern democracy, right?
The fact that we can all -- that you can have a society that says it is
sinful and it should be illegal for black and white people to get married
and come to the conclusion that that`s a ridiculous and horrible notion.
Let`s talk about the first part of this, which is the amazing change
in attitudes on same-sex marriage, particularly African-American attitudes
in same-sex marriage. Here`s Jay-Z, I just want to play this sound just
because I love Jay-Z. I love his voice particularly.
This is Jay-Z adding his support to marriage equality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAWN "JAY-Z" CARTER, RAPPER/PHILANTHROPIST: I`ve always thought it
as something that`s still holding the country back. You know, what people
do in their own homes is their business. And you choose to love whoever
you love. That`s their business. It`s no different than discriminating
against blacks. It`s discrimination, plain and simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Note so self, wear black suit with white t-shirt next
weekend. I like that look.
Here`s just a one example of some of the way the polling has flipped.
We talked about it broadly. Look at the numbers in Maryland. Opinion on
same-sex marriage among black voters in Maryland. In March, 39 percent of
voters supported same-sex marriage, 56 opposed. In May, those numbers were
flipped, 55 percent now supports same sex marriage, 36 opposed.
What do we make of this?
MCWHORTER: I think actually what`s interesting is that can you look
at that and think wow, something the president, it bears mentioning that
he`s black. The black president says something and all of a sudden this
opinion shift. And one might think, wow, what kind of influence this man
has, that`s a nice thing. He`s being a black president, in a way I don`t
think we thought about.
But it shows the opinion was low-hanging fruit. It shows that things
-- people would have said reflexively.
HAYES: Very good point.
MCWHORTER: They see him say this and then they realized that they
weren`t really as against gay marriage as they thought. And that`s a sign
of change in itself.
GOLDBERG: Right. They obviously didn`t feel strong about it and I
think as much as now just kind of supporting gay marriage becomes a proxy
for supporting the president.
DOUGHERTY: That, too.
HAYES: As a Vatican I Catholic, Michael Brendan den Dougherty, ha do
you make of the sea change on gay marriage.
DOUGHTERY: I`m amazed how dramatic this is. I mean, we`re talking
less than a decade ago when Vermont passed civil unions. This was
considered at the time extremely advanced. And that a state a few weeks
ago would vote, North Carolina against gay marriage, and also civil unions,
was conceived as totally retrograde.
I mean, we`re talking about a decade shift that`s unbelievably
dramatic. This issue was barely on the radar for most liberals and
progressives in the `80s.
DOUGHERTY: It was unthinkable. Gay marriage in 60 years, 100 years.
Well, no, it`s happening right now.
The shift on attitudes is amazing. I don`t actually even know what
accounts for it, really. I mean there`s, there`s been very little
organized opposition to it. I mean, in a sense of -- there`s plenty on the
service, political opposition, National Organization of Marriage, Karl Rove
and the ballot initiatives --
GOLDBERG: The Vatican, the Mormon Church.
DOUGHERTY: Right. But how much influence -- I mean, people don`t
get broadcasts from the Vatican into their living room.
HAYES: I`m curious. I want to ask you if you can imagine someday
the Vatican coming out in support of gay marriage. We`ll get to that
answer right after this.
CHRIS HAYES, HOST: Welcome from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
With me this morning, I have John McWhorter of Columbia University
and the "The New York Daily News"; Michelle Goldberg from "Newsweek/Daily
Beast"; Liliana Segura of the wonderful "The Nation" magazine; and Michael
Brendan Dougherty from BusinessInsider.com.
Right before we went to break, we were talking about two interesting
bits of polling from this week. One was on further evidence of the massive
historic sea change and a public opinion on gay marriage, particularly
among African-Americans, but broadly.
And, Michael, I asked you before we went to break, can you imagine a
day in which the Vatican favors gay marriage?
MICHAEL BRENDAN DOUGHERTY, BUSINESSINSIDER.COM: No. And for -- I`ll
lay that out on two levels. Like on the religious level, the church can`t
teach something contrary to its own moral or dogmatic teaching previously.
DOUGHERTY: It can change all sorts of little things. But the moral
law and doctrine dogma doesn`t change -- to change its teaching on marriage
would be to say that the church isn`t the church any more, by definition.
HAYES: And particularly because the doctrinal foundation for this is
that marriage is fundamentally procreative in its essence --
HAYES: -- and sanctified as part of the procreative endeavor. And
so, obviously --
DOUGHERTY: There`s a whole -- I mean, if people want to read this,
just Google theology of the body, and there`s all sorts of interesting
information, it`s why we don`t believe in gay marriage or in vitro
fertilization or lots of other things, that separate sex from potential
JOHN MCWHORTER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I gather, though, there are
aspects of Catholic doctrine that have been allowed, maybe passively to
become fossilized, that there are things that society just -- are there
DOUGHERTY: I think the teaching on usury has changed the most
probably, if any one in the Catholic Church.
HAYES: We should two hours on usury next week.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, NEWSWEEK/THE DAILY BEAST: I thought the theology
of the body -- my understanding initially of why marriage was sanctified,
was not so much for pro creation, was for people who couldn`t achieve the
ideal of celibacy, right, better to marry than to burn.
DOUGHERTY: I mean, that`s certainly part of it and --
GOLDBERG: So, I could see how if there`s an acknowledgement at a
certain point that the choices, that for gay people the choices are either
between kind of promiscuity or sex outside of marriage, or sex within
marriage, just as choices for most heterosexuals, that you could see some
kind of an effort for moral framework for that.
HAYES: Pope Dougherty, your thoughts.
DOUGHERTY: I mean, there`s no way around what we call the deposit of
faith, the Scriptures, the traditions. The prohibitions are so clear,
attempts to read around them. The sin of Sodom was inhospitality, or St.
Paul really isn`t authoritative just don`t work.
And not only that, and the generation of prelates within the Catholic
Church that were trying to do this are dying, like today. I mean, the
progressive movement, which I might call dissenting from church doctrine is
losing all its steam.
The younger generation is much more conservative traditionally.
HAYES: And I definitely have seen that in my own Catholic upbringing
in terms of my father`s generation, my father was a Jesuit seminary. His
generation was a much more politically-you know, progressive I think terms
DOUGHERTY: And the failure of progressive Catholicism, if we can
call it that, no idea really, it just falls by the side, is that they
didn`t inspire future generation to join the church. If you are denouncing
celibacy as a rule, people are loathed to pick it up.
HAYES: Right, that is exactly the problem. And you get this
Liliana, how do you understand this broader shift on gay marriage?
LILIANA SEGURA, THENATION.COM: I can`t claim to necessarily. You
know, but I was thinking as you were talking about the "Onion" headline
from a few years back, pope changes mind on same-sex marriage after meeting
like Steve and Dan or something. And it`s great, it`s hilarious, it speaks
to a central truth, which is generational, which is all of these things.
The more people, the more we know people personally, the more it`s very
easy to shift on this.
And you know, having conversations with like kids today is really
interesting. And yes, I`m in New York City, so maybe it`s slightly
different from other parts of the country. But there`s this kind of no-
brainer aspect to it and, obviously, the church and the Vatican is
disconnected from the day-to-day reality on the ground on many fronts, but
that`s how you explain the shift. Even within 10 years, I think that`s
HAYES: You point to something which is interesting, the accelerating
nature of it. It`s in the midst of a virtuous circle, right? I mean, from
our perspective, I don`t know from Michael`s. But that the increased
experience with, with people that are of the same sex and are married, or
in committed monogamous relationships, the increased support produces a
GOLDBERG: And it`s also true that the gay rights movement I think is
in a lot of ways the most successful civil liberties movement or certainly
the most rapidly successful civil rights movement we`ve ever seen. In
terms of the amount of progress it`s achieved.
And part of it is that once you kind of -- there`s a challenge
embedded in gay marriage and gay relationships to the primacy of
heterosexuality and to kind of gender hierarchies in marriage and gender
hierarchies that support marriage. But once you get over that challenge,
gay marriage challenges very little about the underlying society. You
know, unlike feminism which really does kind of call on huge numbers of men
to give up certain privileges and to kind of change the ordering of their
lives, or similarly, civil rights, which is an economic challenge to kind
of white power. The fact that two men can get married is actually fits
really well within the same.
HAYES: I could say the same.
DOUGHERTY: I agree with this in large part -- even though I don`t
find it agreeable. But as the state has moved in and filled marriage with
new meaning, new ideology, that these are two partners that are legally
GOLDBERG: But that`s not the state that`s filled that in. That`s
kind of a social revolution.
DOUGHERTY: That`s true as well.
HAYES: But the state has responded to the social revolution --
DOUGHERTY: And it`s also been kind of a co-belligerent in our
GOLDBERG: Are you saying that you disagree with two partners that
are legally equal?
DOUGHERTY: I`m fine with the legal equality, but the traditional
marriage idea that Catholic Church has is not based on post enlightenment
values or something like that.
GOLDBERG: My question is, don`t you think that that should be the
view of the state that are two partners that are legally equal? Is there
another a viable position for the state to take?
DOUGHERTY: Well, I don`t know -- I`m questioning if the state should
be involved in marriage as it is.
DOUGHERTY: Especially for telling the state constantly, you can`t
define marriage as a man and a woman, because you can`t define how people
love. While the state is very involved in it currently.
DOUGHERTY: In any case, churches and other private organizations are
loathe to take up cases and divide property.
But as marriage exists now in the minds of most people in America as
it exists in law, it`s very difficult to exclude gay people from it, and
fact -- and the thing that people aspire to in marriage is something that
most people think that gay couples and lesbian couples can aspire to.
So the virtuous circle that you`re talking about -- I mean, we`re no
longer talking about my friend, and former colleague, Justin Ramondo (ph),
a gay man in San Francisco, hates marriage equality. He`s part of this
older, radical critique, I don`t want your boring straight life.
And one of the things that`s happened internally to gay rights
movement, that part of the movement which used to be larger has been
diminished, there`s been total primacy put on front and center on marriage
GOLDBERG: And on joining the military.
HAYES: And joining the military, which are ways of assimilating
gayness into the normal fabric of America.
DOUGHERTY: And it also has stopped. When in the 1980s, many average
people looking at the news could see their portrayal of gay people, like
there was an episode of "Different Strokes" where a gay person was
portrayed immediately as a predator.
HAYES: Right, of course.
DOUGHERTY: You`re seeing this is a bath house culture, it seems
totally alien and it allows you to still call gay and lesbian people
perverts or something like that. That is disappearing as gay people are
aspiring towards white picket fences and the kind of wedding that you want
HAYES: That is in "The New York Times" wedding sections.
That brings us to a place where I think it`s easy to say, to fit the
framework or marriage equality and gay rights into a nice, tidy narrative
about moral progress and moral revolution. It`s much harder to do that on
abortion, given the new polling numbers.
Now, we should say one important thing, which is that if you dig into
the numbers, right, you find that the policy views of the American public
haven`t changed that much. In terms of the American people that say it
should be illegal in all circumstances, that`s still a minority view.
And the majority of people think it should be legal in some
circumstances and the some is the place --
GOLDBERG: The polling doesn`t tell you, that particular poll doesn`t
tell you which circumstances people think it should be legal in.
HAYES: Right. That polling is just the sum. The sum is the thing
that`s the contested territory in a lot of cases.
Why, though, to me what`s most interesting about the polling over
abortion is the degree of plateau. Is how contested it is, how it remains
contested and it doesn`t seem to be moving in either direction it seems
pitched at the same place it has been for a long time. It`s interesting to
me that we have other things where the see-saw tips and this one seems
balanced on a knife`s edge.
I want to hear what you think, what`s the answer to that is right
after we take a quick break, Michelle.
HAYES: All right. Polling on abortion, I just asked you why does it
not move, why are we sort of at this knife`s edge, intense fraught pitch
for a long period of time?
GOLDBERG: And part of the question is why doesn`t it move along with
progressive shifts on gay marriage. I mean, part of that is that gay
marriage ends in something to celebrate, a wedding. Once you kind of --
HAYES: That`s a really good point. Once you get under, over the
kind of underlying bigotry, there`s, you know there`s kind of just it`s
Whereas an abortion isn`t something to celebrate, right? It`s much
more morally fraught and so it`s not just I think kind of bigotry against
women or patriarchy that makes people uncomfortable with abortion. The
reason, my suspicion that for why the numbers are going down in terms of
identification with being pro-choice, especially since they`re not going
down on a policy level, it`s not that more people want to criminalize
abortion. We`re so far away from illegal abortion in this country -- you
know, one reason I feel so strongly about this is I`ve spent a lot of time
in countries where abortion is illegal and I`ve spent a lot of time in
hospitals that are full of victims of botch abortions.
But very few people, for most people in this country, that`s
something lost to the mists of time. So, they hear the question, do you
like abortion. Not do you want abortion to be criminalized.
MCWHORTER: Pro-life has a resonance at this point that you
acknowledge that there`s something to be said about thinking about whether
or not you`re going to end something which most people consider a life,
even if you are very much in favor of all the policies.
HAYES: Here`s Emily`s List president making exactly this point. "I
was born two months after Roe v. Wade was settled. So in a way, the battle
was won. Our grandmothers and mothers fought these battles with intensity.
When you`re fighting to hold onto something, rather than to get something,
it gets less intense."
And that`s reflective in the polling, the intensity of pro life and
pro choice voters -- 51 percent of pro life voters under 30 say abortion is
a very important issue. Whereas only 26 percent of pro-choice voters under
30 say abortion is very important.
DOUGHERTY: I actually want to contest the idea that it`s just that
we don`t see what the implications of a pro-life regime might look like. I
think there are other attitudes and things at work. I think a lot of
people -- I think especially upwardly-mobile people, impossible to prove
with polling, are so well-informed, so good at using contraception and
other things that they`re beginning to view, especially surgical abortion
as kind of irresponsible thing and they want to express some kind of
opposition or moral opprobrium to it, because someone who is responsible
would have contraceptive probably or would have taken some kind of a
morning-after or week-after pill.
I actually think that`s where the future of this debate is going. I
actually think that this elite view, maybe it`s a classist view if you look
at it from the left, will become more prominent, that surgical abortion is
somehow irresponsible and morally, more problematic maybe an early-term
SEGURA: Well, yes. I mean a contraceptive fails, for those people
who don`t have access to it. We will always need, I don`t think that`s a
good thing to sort of say that this is going to be --
DOUGHERTY: But people in you know, classes where means, do have the
means to take care of a child, if contraception does fail, too.
HAYES: There`s also we should, what you`re pointing to is something
we`ve touched on the show and some interesting writers on the left and
right write about this, which is a kind of bifurcation in American family
life and American sex life and American household ordering. Which is that
the upper middle class and above, have increasingly traditional family
formations, they wait longer to have kids, et cetera and that`s not the
case lower down the social hierarchy, in which there`s higher levels of
single parents, et cetera.
GOLDBERG: One thing that the polling, the polling I think can`t
quite get at this. I think you`re right that people have this idea that
there are women out there having abortions, kind of willy-nilly or as a
form of contraception as they want to express their disapproval of this.
So, there will be exceptions for those women.
People who do abortions or work in abortion clinics, will often say
that everybody believes in three exceptions, rape, incest and me. You
know, you often see people in clinics saying I don`t really believe in
abortion but you have to understand my situation.
MCWHORTER: I`m just not sure that I see people who read the "New
Yorker" and drink chardonnay calling them pro-life because of Michael, the
things you`re mentioning, which are I think very real. I don`t feel it in
that class of person, which I think I belong to. I don`t --
HAYES: You actually, you have an open bottle of chardonnay you stole
under the table and brie in your pocket.
DOUGHERTY: I want to give liberal viewers a note of despair from me,
which should give them hope, which is even though these polls reflect some
sentimental pro-life view that`s growing, I mean, fundamentally, the shifts
in modern America are not going to be conducive to pro-life laws or
attitudes in real life. As you say, the exception is rape, incest and me.
It`s because people don`t view child -- you know, having a child as
something that can be thrust on them or that is, you know, immediately
their responsibility, because of actions they took. They view it as a
choice that they make, volitionally with full awareness of every little
step along the way.
GOLDBERG: But it is certainly true that there are real-world
implications to these kind of growing hostility to reproductive anatomy.
There`s a woman named (INAUDIBLE) who just got out of prison after more
than a year because she tried to kill herself when she was pregnant and it
resulted in the death of this kind of -- the death of the baby at full
There are women who have been arrested and imprisoned all over the
country for trying to end pregnancies illegally. So, but the fact is these
are marginal people. The people going to prison right now are you know,
are kind of at the margins of society.
I think as long as people really can`t see anything like that
happening to themselves, these rights are going to be chipped away at.
HAYES: There`s been a huge spike in state anti-abortion laws in
2011, we can show this graph. Ninety-three laws restricting access to
abortion in 2011, shattering the previous record of 34 in 2005. I think it
actually is undetermined which way this ends up.
I mean, I don`t think I used to think that. We were doing research
and talking about this editorially. Women`s Christian Temperance Union is
founded around in 1875. They just kept at it. They kept at I, they kept
at it, they kept at it. It was a 50-year struggle. They won -- they won
briefly and eventually lost.
But it doesn`t seem -- I mean, given the preference in intensity
numbers and there`s increasingly mobilization on one side and more diffuse
mobilization on the other, I`m not sure how it ends up. A consistent
majority of American says they morally the death penalty.
In new report on innocent people sent to death row change their mind,
HAYES: This past week, the Center on Wrongful Conviction at
Northwestern University and University of Michigan Law School released a
report that found since 1989, more than 2,000 people convicted of serious
crimes were later exonerated. The researches also launched an online
national registry of exonerations, that provides updates on individual
In the report, Michigan law professor Samuel Gross tries to put the
problem in context, saying, "No matter how tragic they are, even 2,000
exonerations over 23 years is a tiny number in a country with 2.3 million
people in prisons and jails. If that were the extent of the problem, we
would be encouraged by these numbers. But it`s not. These cases point to
larger number of tragedies we do not know about."
Obviously, the stakes are even higher in death penalty cases. The
report found that 101 exonerated people had been previously sentenced to
death. Just this month, the Columbia Human Rights Law Review laid out
compelling evidence that a man named Carlos de Luna may have been innocent
of murder when a Texas judge put him to death. A judge who said he said he
was moved after reading about the De Luna case recently revealed he had
written an document posthumous excusing another man, (INAUDIBLE) whose 2004
execution he reviewed because of what he called overwhelming, credible and
reliable evidence. The third court of appeals prevented him from finishing
the document before he left the bench in 2010.
In a Gallup poll this month, 58 percent of Americans said they
morally accept the death penalty, while 34 percent called it morally wrong.
The approval rate is down from 65 percent last year, and the lowest in
Gallup`s 12-year history of asking about death penalty, it remains however
for opponents of the death penalty, such as myself, dauntingly high.
Joining us is Barry Scheck, law professor at Cardozo and co-director
of the Innocence Project.
It is a great, great pleasure to have you. Thank you for coming in.
BARRY SCHECK, THE INNOCENCE PROJECT: My pleasure to be here.
HAYES: So, let`s -- I want to get to the public opinion because
we`ve been talking about that. So, maybe let`s start there. You`ve been
working on this issue and working on innocence and exoneration for a while.
And we have five states in the last five years that have been banned
the death penalty. It`s going to be on the momentum in California. Do you
feel momentum? Do you feel like things are moving in the right direction?
Or is it like we were talking with abortion just a second ago, one of these
things that just stays where it is in the public imagination?
SCHECK: There`s no question, and you have to redefine the question.
The question is not whether the death penalty is morally inappropriate for
the most heinous of crimes, because if you go to Europe now and you take a
public opinion poll, you`ll see that those numbers, that 60 percent, are
What`s different in Europe and increasingly true in the United States
is that people do not trust the state to get it right, and with very good
reason. And that is really the significance of the Innocence Movement and
the significance of this registry, because the National Academy of Science
recently reviewed the literature. There is no deterrent effect to capital
punishment. It costs a lot of money.
What`s on the ballot in California is extraordinary. Just think
about it. They have over 700 people on death row. It takes 25 years from
the time of the death sentence to an execution.
They are closing down civil courts. The budget crisis in California
is extraordinary. It costs an extra $100,000 to keep somebody on death row
as opposed to general population. It`s calculated over the next five
years, the state will spend $1 billion more having capital punishment than
not, including a one-time $400 million cost.
These are conservative numbers that come out of blue ribbon panels.
So there`s no question that the death penalty is extremely costly.
It doesn`t deter and as a public policy matter, when you compare it to life
without the possibility of parole, that`s why in Connecticut this year, in
New Jersey, in New Mexico, in Illinois, and I predict in November in
California, which will be extraordinary, because it is a referendum, it`s
HAYES: Just to be clear, what`s interesting here is you`re saying
look, people`s moral commitments or moral intuitions about the
appropriateness of this penalty in the abstract are fairly common across a
bunch of different countries. The question is the attack on it, most
efficacious attack isn`t to try to overturn these moral intuitions, but to
point out the practical problems of implementation.
SCHECK: Yes. There`s no question. It`s a public policy choice.
I think perhaps the best book on this is Frank Zimring, "The
Contradictions of American Capital Punishment," where he really compares
Europe and the United States. It`s disturbing to know that the states that
execute the most, not have the most on death row, executes the most are the
11 states that did the most lynching historically in the United States.
And that`s not just a question of race. That`s a question of almost
vigilante justice and it`s disturbing.
But the key moral issue I think that is really changed everything now
is Innocence. And that`s why this registry is of significance, because
people now know and believe that there have been more, there are more
innocent people convicted of every kind of crime and certainly capital
punishment than anybody ever thought was true.
SEGURA: I wonder, you know, within the anti-death penalty movement,
of which I`m a part, in the wake of the Troy Davis execution, which was so
shocking, there were many of us that couldn`t believe he would actually be
executed, given how many times he had faced execution and the last-minute
stays and because the proof of his innocence seemed so compelling and the
wake of that and the Cameron Todd Willingham`s revelations and most
recently this Carlos de Luna case.
I`ve been sort of grappling on the question of -- you know, what are
the limits of the strategy and how do you go beyond it. Obviously it`s
shifted public opinion enormously.
But people who support the death penalty seem -- there are those who
would argue, well if percent we get one wrong every once in a while, it`s
still worth it.
SCHECK: Well, some say that, but as that argument begins to emerge
as the argument for people get extremely uncomfortable on a moral level.
And you see these coalitions emerging with people of faith, you know, for
good reason and the other side of the moral issue arises. But I think it`s
the, this is just terrible public policy.
HAYES: I want to ask you about the mechanics of the justice and why
we are, our system gets it wrong sometimes, right after we take this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICE O`NEAL, COMEDIAN: That`s why I don`t leave, I don`t throw
garbage in the street, not because I care about the earth, but I`m afraid
I`m going to be walking to a park drinking a toss, when I`m done I just
throw over my shoulder, fly over a bush and land on some dead white woman`s
head with my fingerprints on the can. Now I`m the Pepsi Cola rapist
because I`m lazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That`s the late, great, Patrice O`Neal, articulating his
fears of wrongful conviction of being, ending up on the wrong side of the
Here`s my question. I read the report that was compiled by the
Center for Wrongful Convictions of the University of Michigan talking about
the systematic analysis of the places where we know there`s exonerations.
They`re very clear to say, look, this is obviously just a shred -- a sliver
of false convictions.
Do you think it is the case, any endeavor will produce any human
endeavor will produce some amount of error and we just do so much of this
that in raw numbers, we have a lot of people that are going to be falsely
convicted? Or is it the case that the system is broken in certain ways
such that the percentage of error is higher than it should be?
SCHECK: Well, it`s definitely the latter. We know that.
The first thing to note is that the criminal justice system is an
extremely inefficient one from the point of view of a business model,
because first of all, we don`t keep the right data. That`s the real
message of this report.
We kept track of the post-convection DNA exoneration. So, you got
InnocenceProject.org, you see this 291. They`re a bit different than
these, because the post-conviction DNA exonerations that we put up, they`re
innocent, 40 percent of the time we find the real perpetrator.
Here, we`re looking at non-DNA exonerations, much broader, but what
we know about it is that we`re only scratching the surface, because we`re
finding out about these anecdotally. We weren`t even including in these
prior lists the mass exonerations like ramparts and actualia, where people
were just framed, Philadelphia Police Department.
But the real point is, what kind of system doesn`t keep track of
factual errors, total system failures?
MCWHORTER: Suppose we have a situation now which you`re I`m plying
is slightly better than before, because of the nature of the DNA. Would it
be possible for us to be a system efficient enough such where the death
penalty might formally make some kind of sense, or is it such that the
imperfections of human nature are such that we just shouldn`t have --
SCHECK: This is beyond -- we know a lot about how to fix this
system. The fact of the matter is that there are reforms about how one
does eye witness identification procedures that dramatically reduce wrong
identifications, without reducing correct ones. Right now the Innocence
Project is in the midst of a huge campaign to do that. Or you videotape
interrogations, forensic science. A lot of it is just not validated
We know these are the causes, and so there`s an enormous potential
for reducing error in the system. We just don`t keep track of the right
HAYES: Let`s talk about the eye witness identification, I sought
that was fascinating and this is something that, you know, has been
percolating a lot in the literature, there`s some very interesting
experimentation that`s being done in social psychology with eyewitness and
SCHECK: For 30 years.
HAYES: For 30 years, yes, this isn`t just new on the scene.
One of the things in the report, the factors for false accusations,
51 percent had perjury or false accusations, and 43 percent had mistaken
witness ID, 42 percent, official misconduct, 24 percent misleading forensic
Here`s a quick bite of Brandon Moon, who was arrested in 1987 for a
crime he didn`t commit. Let go, his photo remained on file and later
misidentified in a rape case. He`s explaining how it was he was tagged
with a crime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRANDON MOON, FALSELY CONVICTED: My photo was shown to every victim
of every crime on that part, in that part of town from that point on, which
was only a couple of months. Until someone said, well, you know, it might
be him. It could be. I`d have to see him in person.
And then we did a live line-up after the day I was arrested. And oh
yes, I`m pretty sure that was him. And by the time we got to trial, the
victim was like, oh yes, absolutely. I`m 100 percent. It`s a classic case
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Classic case of transferring. I want, Barry, for to you
explain why that happens and how we can prevent it right after we take a
HAYES: Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project.
Before break, I asked you one of the things that crops up a lot in
exoneration in false convictions is unreliable eyewitness testimony and you
talked about reforms. Why does eye witness testimony, why does it seem to
play a factor so often in these exonerations? And what can be done about
SCHECK: Well, first of all, you noted before we broke, Brandon Moon.
SCHECK: He was my client, we should say on Memorial Day that Brandon
was four years in the United States Air Force before he went to school at
the University of El Paso and was wrongfully identified and wrongfully
A few things about Brandon`s case that illustrates the problem. They
used eye witness identification techniques that were going to maximize the
chances of error in that case, and we now know -- and the New Jersey
Supreme Court has just decided a landmark decision on this, Henderson, that
recognizes this 30 years of social science, in new ways that if you
administer eye witness identification methods, you dramatically reduce the
number of errors without reducing correct identification.
Simple things like first of all, you might be shocked, but a key to
science, the person who administers the photo array of the line-up should
be blinded. Should not know the identity of the suspect, because we all
know the observer bias effects that happen. You should give a warning to
the witness, the real perpetrator may not in photo array of the lineup.
For 25 years, we`ve known that dramatically reduces errors, without
reducing the correct identification.
HAYES: You don`t have to come up with an answer.
SCHECK: Right, because people will naturally guess. There are a
number of other things we know about that and things you can say to juries
about the effects of cross-racial identification, which are profound. And
HAYES: Explain that.
SCHECK: Well, we -- it`s well known that certainly majorities, race,
people, this country would be Caucasian, are very bad at identifying people
of another race, blacks and it works the opposite way in other countries
where blacks are the majority. It works --
HAYES: That`s interesting.
SCHECK: There`s some, neuroscience can explain this, by the way.
But that is a known and clear effect. And you see it reflected in the
So eyewitness identification is an area where if we implement
reforms, which by the way, we just got in Texas. We have in Ohio and I
hope the New York state legislature before it adjourns this year. We`ve
had this bill now, that is recommended by the criminal justice council,
that`s the courts, Judge Lipmann (ph) and everybody else, finally gets it.
It`s very hard to get this legislation sometimes in New York as
opposed to, I don`t know, Ohio and Texas. Why am I having these problems?
HAYES: You report a lot on this. Do you great reporting on this.
Do you think there`s an appetite for these kinds of reforms?
SEGURA: I do. But I think a huge piece of this and what`s so
revealing about this exoneration database is also the role of misconduct.
There`s error and then there`s the misconduct, whether it`s police
misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct and the lack of incentive to go back
and revisit errors and their implications. The fact that these are
political positions, and people build their careers on these prosecutions I
mean, has a huge role to play.
SCHECK: There`s a few things, we`re talking about science, right?
And error reduction. And a very simple thing. If you have an error that`s
a total system failure, what you should go back and do in any institution,
in any business, is an audit. You would say, OK, here`s a cop --
HAYES: The plane crashed, why did it crash?
SCHECK: Tell the truth. Exactly, you ask what went wrong, how can
we fix it. You do a root cause analysis.
So, we do not do audits of cops who bring about, who lie, right? We
do not look at district attorney who is do misconduct. We do not
systematically audit defense lawyers who are completely incompetent and
don`t do the job.
We don`t take that kind of approach. Now, we`ve been recommending
that, we`re looking at conviction integrity units, where we work with our
colleagues and district attorneys offices to do that kind of auditing. But
it`s not done. We brought it to crime labs.
Brandon Moon -- not only bad eye witness procedures, but the serology
in this case was -- because we were doing serology on the semen there --
was completely screwed up. We demonstrated after Brandon was exonerated
with DNA, we got a forensic science commission passed in Texas. They have
now conducted an examination of the Brandon Moon case and saw that the lab
was analyzing the semen improperly and now going back and trying to audit
So we`ve been doing this in jurisdictions across the country. And
this Innocence Movement is spreading.
HAYES: Barry Scheck, director of the Innocence Project, thanks so
much for joining us today.
SCHECK: My pleasure.
HAYES: Come back soon.
What we should know for the week ahead, right after this.
HAYES: What should you know for the week coming?
We should know that Memorial Day was founded by recently-freed slaves
in Charleston, South Carolina who gathered to bury in May and commemorate
those who had given their lives in a war that provided their liberation.
You should snow that tomorrow marks the 11th straight Memorial Day our
country will observe while waging war for longest such period in our
You should know 122 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan this year
alone. And a staggering 164 active-duty Army National Guard and reserve
troops committed suicide in 2011.
We should know that thanks to a change in policy, the family of
soldiers who die of suicide receive a condolence note from the president,
but only if the suicide occurs in theater
You should know according to the Census Bureau, one on 10 of the
nation`s 12.5 million nonelderly veterans don`t have health insurance and
are using the V.A. health care system. You know, there are 1.3 uninsured
veterans and you should that if the Affordable Care act survives the
challenge before the Supreme Court, it will move this system into exchanges
which will provide access to insurance for all of the recent remarkable
trend showing a transformation of public opinion on the issue of America
marriage equality continues.
You should know that according to "The Washington Post"/ABC poll
released on Wednesday, 59 percent of African-Americans support same-sex
marriage and this should put to the rest the press` somewhat strange
obsession with African-Americans being uniquely opposed to gay rights.
You should also neat and liberal narrative about moral progress and
bending towards justice simply doesn`t seem to apply to American host of
other deeply contentious moral issues such as abortion and the death
You should know that despite that documentation of inequities and
dysfunctions of a criminal justice system, despite nearly overwhelming
evidence we have executed innocently people, Americans continue to favor
the death penalty. We should know moral revolutions take time and require
a whole lot of long, determined unglamorous work.
And speaking of revolutions, you should know that the candidates are
set in Egypt`s national runoff election for president. You should know it
will feature Mohammed Morsi of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood versus Ahmed
Shafiq, a veteran of the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak.
We should know a choice between the Muslim Brotherhood and a Mubarak
crony strikes many Egyptians as no choice at all. And you should know
Egyptian liberals are worried about the new government. You should know
the election will happen on June 16th and 17th, and the world will be
watching to see if the revolutionary promise on true democracy in Egypt is
You should know often the hardest part to revolutions are what come
after they are won.
I want to find out what my guests think we should know for the week
ahead. Let us begin with you Mr. John McWhorter.
MCWHORTER: The death penalty -- it makes me think of those who are
exonerated and go back to community as broken men. And in terms of what`s
coming up next week, I think particularly in New York and many cities,
we`ll continue the debate over stop and frisk which disproportionately
affect the minority community and people who have a private sense and there
are such people, that these excessive stop and frisks are something that an
alienated young black man somehow deserves because is he anti social.
People should understand this stopping and frisking creates exactly
the kind of alienated, semi employable black man that I think many people
think deserves to be stopped and frisked. It goes in a circle. It`s
disgusting. We should think about that during this week as the stop and
frisk debate continues.
HAYES: Excellent. Michelle Goldberg?
GOLDBERG: Well, since we have been talking about soldiers and
veterans, there is one group of veterans that`s often ignored in these
discussions. There`s a stunning documentary called "The Invisible War"
about the epidemic of rape of female soldiers in the military.
You know, I thought as a ball-busting feminist, I knew about this.
But 20 percent of women in the military are sexually assaulted, which I
find astonishing. This documentary is about these really, really brave
veterans who have taken on this culture of impunity and have created real
change, although change not coming fast enough.
HAYES: Yes, I have seen some of the people associated with the film,
heard amazing things about the film. I really look forward to --
GOLDBERG: Even if you think you know about this and won`t be
shocked, I think you`ll be shocked.
HAYES: Liliana Segura, what should folks know?
SEGURA: Coming from our discussion with Barry Scheck, there`s this
really interesting sort of must-read discussion that the "Texas Monthly"
just published in its June issue and it`s a discussion between an Austin
police chief, Houston D.A., a number of other people involved in the
criminal justice system, as well as Anthony Graves who spent 18 years on
death row in Texas. And the discussion is so valuable, because there is
this, you know -- very revealing in the tension it reveals between Anthony
Graves saying you guys tried to kill me, twice, and the discussions what
reforms might work and what the politics might be and what efforts look
like. And it paints a broad and detailed picture of the debate.
HAYES: It sounds like a good panel to have on the show.
Brainstorming here. Do you feel like -- one of the things you talk about
is the brokenness of people out of the system. Someone, very quickly, who
reports on this, do we do a good job of providing a soft landing for people
who are exonerated?
SEGURA: No, but also over years of meeting exonories, I am
absolutely amazed at the strength some of these guys have, like Anthony
Graves, like other former prisoner named Madison Hadley (ph), who come out
and hit the ground running try to fight the injustices and fight against
HAYES: Madison was in Illinois.
SEGURA: That`s right.
HAYES: I`ve met him.
HAYES: Michael Brendan Dougherty, what should folks know?
DOUGHERTY: I think a lot of people missed this week, there was an
interview that Mitt Romney did with "TIME" magazine, he was asked, if you
want to cut government spending, why don`t you do it in the first year?
Why do you have this long-term budge net four years out or ten years out?
And he said, what a remarkable break with Tea Party orthodoxy, hat cutting
government spending will hurt the economy and he said, by definition it
would hurt the economy is, and, in fact, the kind of government spending
done right away would tip us to depression or recession.
I think this is the first in a long series of moves that Mitt Romney
is going to be making over the next several months in which the Tea Party
is long forgotten, conservatives will -- he will depend on Barack Obama to
unite conservatives behind him and this interview is a sign of it.
The other thing, when I was young and the Rangers won the Stanley
Cup, I just want to say this. I thought hockey was getting big again and
then it faded out after a lockout. Well, hell has frozen again and you can
root for the Devils on ice, and I just want to say, and go, Devils.
HAYES: Go, Devils.
I want to thank my guests, Columbia University professor John
McWhorter, Michelle Goldberg, author of "Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power,
and the Future of the World," Liliana Segura from "The Nation" magazine,
and Michael Brendan Dougherty of BusinessInsider.com -- thank you all.
Thank you for joining us. We`ll be back next weekend, Saturday,
Sunday, 8:00 Eastern Time. Our guests will include Thomas Mann and Norm
Ornstein, making their long awaited controversial first appearance on a
national Sunday news program to discuss their new book on the causes of
political gridlock in Washington.
You can stay up to date on info about next week`s show by checking us
out online at Up.MSNBC.com. You can also go to "Twilight of the Elites" on
Facebook for a list of my appearances around the country, discussing my new
book out in just two weeks, "Twilight of the Elites."
Coming up next is the one and only Melissa Harris-Perry. We will see
you next week, here on UP.
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