Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: November 26, 2014
Guest: Gary Cohen, Dahlia Lithwick, Nina Turner
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Move over Al Roker, I have a new favorite
That`s amazing, Steve. I could watch that all night.
STEVE KORNACKI, "UP` HOST: Thank you -- well, I`ll do it all night and
break Roker`s record. For an all night forecast maybe.
O`DONNELL: Yes, do a Kornacki-thon, go ahead.
KORNACKI: There we go.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Steve.
KORNACKI: All right.
O`DONNELL: Well, tonight, it seems the only people in American law
enforcement who don`t know the law of land on the use of deadly force by
police are the two prosecutors in the Michael Brown case who presented that
evidence to the grand jury. That`s coming up.
But, first, we will go life to Ferguson tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s hope in the air that we`ve seen the final
bits of destruction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The parents of Michael Brown are praying today with the
families of other victims of police involved shootings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every city with a police department needs to engage in
MICHAEL BROWN, SR., MICHAEL BROWN`S FATHER: We`re just going to keep nigh
fighting, pray for a better outcome.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another controversial shooting that we`ve been
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The police shooting of a 12-year-old boy killed
holding what turned out to be a pellet gun.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is gut-wrenching.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How in the world has this happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Law enforcement has been on edge all over the country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shootings have sparked outrage nationwide.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With all the tough stuff
that swirls around in this office, it`s nice once in a while just to say
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Talk about a transition.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama pardoning this year`s national
OBAMA: I know some will call this amnesty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of these two 50-pound Ohio turkeys will get the
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their names, Mac and Cheese.
OBAMA: I will tell you, though -- turkeys don`t have the best looking
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Millions of Americans are trying to get home for
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Holiday travel, a mess from the roads to the skies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Travelers are being advised to pack plenty of patience
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rain, sleet, snow mix.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The airport delays are just incredible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We would have more luck playing pick up sticks with our
butt cheeks than we are getting out of here before daybreak.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is anybody going to get home to see grandma?
O`DONNELL: It`s been a quiet day and night so far in Ferguson, Missouri,
today. Michael Brown`s parents responded to Darren Wilson`s first
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: His statement, he said he could do it again.
LESLEY MCSPADDEN, MICHAEL BROWN`S MOTHER: His conscience is clear. How
could your conscience be clear after killing somebody, even if it was an
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And allow the body to sit there for four years.
MCSPADDEN: Exactly. We couldn`t even have my son`s organs donated. You
understand that? They`re wrong. They know they`re wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here`s how Michael Brown`s mother responded when asked how she
will face her first thanksgiving without her son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCSPADDEN: I`m just hurt. I don`t even want to think about tomorrow being
Thanksgiving. It`s just Thursday. I don`t even plan to celebrate because
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: At this hour, we are continuing to monitor protests across the
country, including in Oakland, California, where last night, close to 100
protesters were arrested.
Joining me now from Ferguson is MSNBC`s Zack Roth.
Zack, what`s the situation out there tonight?
ZACK ROTH, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, it`s calmer than it was
last night, which in turn was calmer than it was on Monday. I`ve just come
from the Ferguson Police Department, there`s about 40 or so protesters
chanting. The National Guard is out in force not just in front of the
police department, but all along South Florissant, the strip where a number
of businesses, many businesses suffered damage the last few nights.
So, it feels calmer, but at the same time, with the holiday coming up, you
talk to people who say it`s difficult to feel any -- to have any
celebration this year. People who are aware that Michael Brown won`t be
with his family this holiday season. There`s a feeling of sadness and, of
course, kind of lingering injustice about what we`ve seen in the last few
O`DONNELL: Zack Roth, check in with us if anything develops out there.
Thanks for joining us tonight, Zack.
ROTH: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: There is now another investigation of a police killing in
Cleveland, Ohio. This time, the victim was a 12-year-old boy.
The original police story was that Tamir Rice reached for his waistband
after being asked to put his hands in the air. We will show you a video of
what actually happened in a moment.
What brought police`s attention to Tamir Rice was a 911 call from a man
sitting in a park who saw him holding a pistol. In the 911 call, the
caller clearly says the so-called pistol is probably fake. He also clearly
says that the person carrying it is probably a juvenile. Here is that 911
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CALLER: I`m sitting in the park at West Boulevard, by the West Boulevard
Rapid Transfer Station. And there`s a guy holding a pistol. It`s probably
fake but he`s, like, pointing it at everybody.
DISPATCH: And where are you at, sir?
CALLER: I`m sitting in the park at West Cudell, West Boulevard, by the
West Boulevard Rapid Transit System. The guy keeps pulling it in and out
of his pants. It`s probably fake but you know what, he`s scaring the
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) out the people.
DISPATCH: What does he look like?
CALLER: He has a camouflage hat on.
DISPATCH: Is he black or white?
CALLER: Gray coat with black sleeves and gray pants.
DISPATCH: Is he black or white.
CALLER: I`m sorry?
DISPATCH: Is he black or white?
CALLER: He`s black. He`s sitting on the swing right now. But he`s
pulling it in and out of his pants and pointing it at people. Probably a
juvenile, you know? Hello?
DISPATCH: Do you know the guy?
CALLER: No, I do not. I`m getting ready to leave, but you know what?
He`s right there by the youth center or whatever. But he`s pulling it in
and out of his pants. I don`t know if it`s real or not.
DISPATCH: OK. We`ll send a cop there. Thank you.
CALLER: Thank you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Now, listen to how that information was transferred to police
officers in the field from a different person running the police dispatch
radio. She makes no mention of the possibility that the gun is fake, or
that the person is probably a juvenile.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DISPATCHER: Hey, we have a code 1 at Cudell. Everybody is tied up on
Supposed to be a guy sitting on the swings pointing a gun at people. It`s
at Cudell Red Center, 1910 West Boulevard, 1910 West Boulevard. In the
park by the youth center, there`s a black male sitting on the swings. He`s
wearing a camouflage hat, a gray jacket with black sleeves. He keeps
pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people. Code 1.
(INAUDIBLE) 8418, 8418.
OK. So, 2-6 is going to be primary, and 2-5, if you want to assist.
COP: That`s fine.
DISPATCH: All right, 15-20 then.
COP: Just head over there now and the address.
DISPATCH: All right. It`s 1910 West Boulevard, 1910 West Boulevard, CAD
DISPATCH: 15-20 then.
COP: Radio shots fired. Male down, black male maybe 20. Black revolver,
or black handgun by him. Send EMS this way and a road block.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here now is the security video that shows what Tamir Rice was
doing that provoked the 911 call. You can see right there that the gun is
clearly out. He`s holding it a pointing way that that 911 caller was
describing. That is what the 911 caller was describing when he called in,
pretty accurate description by the 911 caller.
And now, here is the silent surveillance video that shows what happened
when the first police car arrived on that scene.
(SURVEILLANCE VIDEO PLAYS)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now MSNBC`s Joy Reid and Ohio State Senator Nina
I want to actually show the audience that video one more time, because we
are not slowing it down for slow motion because I actually thinks that
distorts the sense of what happened. I want people to see just exactly how
fast this happened and see if any element of the original police story
holds up after you look at this video.
Let`s all watch it one more time.
(SURVEILLANCE VIDEO PLAYS)
O`DONNELL: Nina Turner, the original police story was he put his hand
towards his waistband and we told him to put his hands up. There`s
absolutely no time on that video for anything that the police said happened
to have happened.
STATE SEN. NINA TURNER (D), OHIO: Not at all, Lawrence. And I`m glad you
took the time to let your viewers hear the two different dispatchers,
because one dispatcher did take all of the information, but the way the
information was relayed to the police was not complete.
And just the mere mention of the word "black male" causes some police
officers to decide that they want to go out and shoot in that way.
Tamir Rice was not a black male. He was a 12-year-old boy. And his mother
and his father and his family is in agony right now because this little boy
-- boy, not man -- African-American boy, and too often in this country,
young African-American males do not get the privilege of being able to grow
And I say this to you, Lawrence, from a deep space of being the mother of
an African-American son who was racially profiled, having a husband that
was racially profiled. Almost every black male I know has been racially
profiled at some point in their lives. And my son is a police officer
So, I understand the burden of skin. And too many African-American parents
have to teach their children, especially their black males, their sons
about the burden of skin. This is heavy in every single way. It does not
And we should wait for the investigation, don`t get me wrong, and the Rice
family is calling for that, but what we do know tonight for effect is a 12-
year-old boy, somebody`s baby boy is dead.
O`DONNELL: And, Joy Reid, you know, did you see anything on that video and
the way that the police approached that looked like Tamir Rice had any
possible chance that there was anything he could possibly do to stay alive
with a police officer jumping out of the passenger side of that car and
JOY REID, THE REID REPORT: No. I think frankly absolutely not. Some of
the things that stood out first of all, it was the rookie officer who
jumped out of that passenger side of the car, basically jumped out and
instantly started shooting. There was no time at all for any human being
to comply with whatever orders he may have given. And obviously there`s
more sound on the video. The more experienced officer was still in the
The other thing is that video that you showed, Lawrence, was truncated. It
didn`t show the previous part of the video where you saw Tamir Rice
basically just being a kid.
REID: You know, he`s walking around, he`s making snowball, he`s doing very
child like things. And yet from the person who called 911, who can
understand someone sees a person with a gun, they get nervous and they call
But everything else the way people communicated about this little kid, who
was acting very child like, even pointing the guy -- you know what little
kids doing from time immemorial, they`ve been playing cops and robbers and
pointing sticks and pretending they were guns or toy guns or water guns and
pointing them around. These are how kids behave.
So, the fact that the fear of black men is so pervasive that A, he could be
described as being 20 when he`s 12. He`s described adds a guy instead of a
boy. And there have been studies that show that people perceive African-
American boys as men even when they are obviously children. And if you see
that picture of Tamir Rice`s face, he`s clearly a child.
And Senator Turner talked about her kids. My kids are both older than this
boy and to me they`re boys. They are children. They`re teenagers.
But the presumption of boyhood is absolutely missing from the lives of
young black men. They don`t just get to have boyhood, because they`re
always perceived as either men or super men, as incredibly powerfully,
palpably and almost inextricably evil and lunging and attacking and never
perceived as ever afraid, passive, or trying to comply. He didn`t have a
chance to comply.
O`DONNELL: And, Nina Turner, this gun was at some point described as a toy
gun. It turns out it`s a pellet gun that fires a soft edge rubber kind of
pellet that can`t really do any significant harm to anyone.
There was no way for the police officers at that speed to evaluate, is this
a toy? And they were not told by the dispatchers that the person who
called it in said it might be fake. They were given no reason to think it
was anything but a person with a gun by the dispatcher.
But it`s still their job on the scene to evaluate those facts for
TURNER: Absolutely, Lawrence.
And everything that you said is fair. That is fair. But we do need to
deal with, you know, from Tamir Rice to even John Crawford. If you
remember John Crawford at Beaver Creek, very similar even though John
Crawford was 22 years old, but the same thing. He`s in the Walmart. He`s
oblivious. He`s on the cell phone. He has a gun in his hands that`s sold
in the store.
And the police come in there and they shoot. Second later, he is dead.
Very, very similar circumstances.
We have to deal with how police relate to African-Americans and Latinos in
this country. The burden of skin should not be tolerated in the 21st
And back to a point that Joy made about some of the ways that even Darren
Wilson, when it comes to Michael Brown, how he described him. You know,
Professor Charles Carroll in the 1900s wrote this article, this essay
called "The Negro, The Beast". As he described, using the bible to
describe black people, particularly black men as beast-like.
That same phenomena, our issue with race in this country, we have to deal
with this and we have to go beyond conversations to action. And that need
to happen right now. This wait that is going on in 2014, this burden that
folks are carrying in 2014, it is about a sense of fairness. And you can`t
have communities of color who fear the police, who do not believe that
they`re going to get a fair shot. All of that is real.
And something that President Obama said in his speech about we have work to
do and we cannot pretend that America is everything that it can be. This
is all of our burdens to carry. And baby boys like Tamir Rice should not
be gunned down like that.
REID: And, Lawrence, if I could say one quick thing. The other thing,
African-Americans, we keep hearing responses from some, not from everyone,
that essentially these young boys are bringing this fate on themselves.
They`re not doing enough to comply. That somehow they`re causing their own
It rings very hollow to African-Americans when people say that. When you
have people walking around with actual guns for whom police stop, evaluate
and use their training. I know police officers. Where is the part of the
police training where you`re supposed to evaluate the situation, try to
communicate with the person, try to find out what`s happening. It`s just
instantaneous bullets flying.
When you have people walking around with real guns just as a demonstration
project and they`re spoken to and evaluated, but these black men and boys
are instantly shot, any other argument that that is -- something is wrong
with it will ring really hollow to African-Americans.
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid and Tina Turner, thank you both very much for joining
REID: Thank you.
TURNER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, in "The Rewrite", what the prosecutors in the grand
jury room in the Michael Brown case had to rewrite themselves before they
finished their work with that grand jury. An egregious mistake, if it
really was a mistake, was made by those prosecutors. And then they had to
correct it and they didn`t really correct it. I will read you the
transcript that shows you all that, coming up.
O`DONNELL: One of the busiest travel nights of the year in the weather in
the Northeast is pretty bad for air travel and for road travel and for
almost all travel. We`re going to update you on that travel next. And I
might just do that big board weather thing that Steve Kornacki did the hour
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just need to take our time, be conscious for one
another, we need to look out for each other as we`re driving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t want to deal with the traffic. You know it`s
not the weather. You know, nature is nature. You can`t -- you know, you
get mad over that, you`re setting your own (INAUDIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: One of the busiest travel days of the year and there`s rain and
snow in the Northeast, winter storms in the Great Plains, and snow down
This is video of Western Virginia and North Carolina. Today`s east coast
storm caused airlines to cancel more than 600 flights. Ten percent of all
flights at Philadelphia, Newark and LaGuardia airports were canceled. And
that then caused delays across the country.
And if you didn`t have to drive, this is what you missed on some roads.
Accidents from South Carolina all the way to Maine, along major highways.
Amtrak had record ridership last year and is expecting to break another
record this Thanksgiving weekend.
Joining me now is NBC meteorologist Domenica Davis.
Domenica, what`s going on right now?
DOMENICA DAVIS, NBC METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Lawrence.
Well, this storm is shrinking and that`s certainly the good news. At one
point earlier today, we were looking at this storm that pushed all the way
back down the coast and it was up to New England.
Now, look at it. We`re just seeing the tail end of this storm is now
moving out of New York and the leading edge is pushing up into Portland,
Maine. So, that is the good news. This system will be out of here by
On the back edge of this, we are getting some slight slow and some rain
that`s pushing in through the Midwest into the Ohio Valley. That will wrap
up by tonight as well.
Airport delays are getting much better. Logan see nothing delay at this
hour, along with most of the New York airports. The only airport was
seeing with a delay at this hour was Newark. They`re still hanging on to
about an hour delay.
But the storm is shrinking and that is the good news. So, we`re still
getting a little bit of snowflakes in New York. Where you are in Boston,
you`re still pretty much in the thick of this storm. You have a couple of
more hours then it will be out of here.
By thanksgiving, the entire storm is over and that is the good news.
Improving picture with a winter storm warnings now which pretty much extend
from Maine all the way down to Hartford. So, that as shrunk considerably.
So, by overnight, this is going to be pretty much history. And then we can
get on to our thanksgiving. Enjoy the holiday weather with no weather
worries from coast to coast. We`ll still have a few lingering snow showers
up through parts of Boston, right around the Mass Pike area. You`re
looking at the heavy wet snow.
So, shoveling, that is going to be on tap for tomorrow morning, but other
than that, no real problems. Even off to the West Coast, looking pretty
good. Seattle a few showers in the morning, but pretty good Thanksgiving
So, I would say, Lawrence, the worst is definitely behind us.
O`DONNELL: So, Domenica, I`m going to have no trouble getting from Boston
here back to New York on Sunday?
DAVIS: No, you`re going to be fantastic. That`s the good thing.
DAVIS: Everybody from East Coast to West Coast right through the weekend
are going to be fine. So the travel back, everybody trying to get back to
work by Monday morning will do so trouble free.
O`DONNELL: Domenica Davis, thank you very much.
DAVIS: Happy holidays.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, states making recreational marijuana legal are
facing new problems this Thanksgiving. How do you regulate -- this is a
serious Colorado question -- how do you regulate pumpkin pie with
O`DONNELL: In "Spotlight" tonight, and perhaps on your table tomorrow if
you`re in Colorado, marijuana pumpkin pie.
If you`re having your Thanksgiving dinner in Colorado tomorrow, you could
have some very interesting dessert choices. The sale of edible marijuana
products has boomed since Colorado legalized recreational pot use in
January. You can learn all about what`s going on in the legal marijuana
industry this Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. when "Pot Barons of Colorado"
premiers on MSNBC. The six-week series follows the men and women who are
building the legal marijuana business in Colorado and building their
fortunes in the process.
Alex Wagner narrates this report on the "Pot Barons of Colorado".
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR (voice-over): Many Colorado holiday shopper, at
least those of legal age, have a new option this year -- putting marijuana
on their shopping lists to both give and get.
And if they`re Christmas shopping in Denver, they won`t have far to look.
Denver has more marijuana dispensaries than liquor stores or Starbucks.
And one of the more popular gift items may be munchable marijuana, known as
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can try lots of different kinds of edibles. We
have chocolates, we have drinks.
WAGNER: Edibles are almost half of the nearly $1 billion in marijuana
products that will be sold this year in Colorado, one of the leading
companies Dixie Elixers (ph) makes pot-based soda. A drink which may
replace champagne in some Colorado homes this New Year`s Eve.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just grossly underestimated the demand from the
adult-use consumer and specifically the infused products.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is hash oil combined with butter. We average
2,000 to 3,000 bars a day.
WAGNER: Companies that make edibles, whether soda pop or chocolates, are
growing like, well, weeds. But so are the stores which sell them. Places
like Euflora which looks like a high-end Apple store.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can help the next person in line.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s been crazy busy. We`ve been slammed. We`ve been
blowing through all the popular strains.
WAGNER: And as Coloradoans set off for grandma`s house this holiday
season, they may be bringing a special desert, marijuana-infused pumpkin
For MSNBC, I`m Alex Wagner.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Joining me now is Gary Cohen, the
executive producer of the new series "Pot Barons of Colorado."
Gary, six episodes, six hours. We`re going to learn a lot. What is the
biggest problem that this budding industry is facing?
GARY COHEN, "POT BARONS OF COLORADO": You know, it`s -- I`d say the single
biggest problem is meeting the demand. The demand for product has been so
extraordinary that it grows like a weed and that`s just not fast enough.
There`s a lot of focus in the media on the banking issues which are
certainly the first thing the "Pot Barons" point to as an issue that they
want to have addressed. And -- but, you know, mostly there aren`t a whole
lot of problems. The sky hasn`t fallen. People still wake up in the
morning and go to work, and legal marijuana has not changed the world as we
know it which is an amazing thing.
O`DONNELL: Gary, I spoke to someone earlier this evening who has been
involved in the not-quite-so legal marijuana business in California and he
says the California growers are untroubled by this legal competition at all
because he`s indicating that Colorado actually does have such a big demand
that some of that California illegal product is still going into Colorado.
COHEN: Absolutely. You know, the black market is entrenched and has been
for generations. And the demand for the product is well established. It`s
just never been legalized before. So, you know, it`s only been 11 months
since you could legally buy marijuana without a doctor`s prescription.
And you know, yes, there`s a very healthy market for legal marijuana, but
the black market still exists. And it will be quite a while before the
legal market drives prices down low enough that the black market is going
to be seriously impacted. And that`s even in Colorado. So when you talk
about nationally, the black market is here for a while. And I think, you
know, it`s not going to go away right overnight.
O`DONNELL: The strangest thing about it as a business is that they
literally do not know what to do with their money. There are legal
jeopardizes to them, for example, depositing their profits in banks.
COHEN: Yes, it`s -- if it weren`t dangerous, it would really be funny.
What do you do? You have so much money you don`t know what to do with it.
The problem is that banks are federally regulated and according to the
feds, marijuana is a schedule 1 narcotic, and as such, the banks won`t do
business with marijuana companies. It`s called money laundering. And they
could be fined severely.
So the dispensaries are handling an awful lot of cash. They don`t get
business loans. They can`t run payrolls through payroll services. And all
kinds of different things are just squeezed, you know, through filters that
normal businesses just don`t have any idea how to -- you know, what they`re
O`DONNELL: "Pot Barons of Colorado" premieres this Sunday, 10:00 p.m.
Eastern on MSNBC.
Gary Cohen, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
COHEN: Appreciate it, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, why Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is happily working
away this weekend in her hospital bed. It`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: Eighty-one-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
is recovering in a Washington hospital after doctors placed a stent in her
right coronary artery. A stent is a mesh tube used to strengthen narrow or
A statement from the Supreme Court says Justice Ginsburg is, quote,
"resting comfortably and should be released within 48 hours."
Justice Ginsburg was working out with her personal trainer in the Supreme
Court`s gym last night when she felt some discomfort and was taken to the
hospital. NPR reports tonight that Justice Ginsburg is, quote, "awake and
"The Rewrite" is next.
O`DONNELL: Just before Officer Darren Wilson testified to the grand jury
investigating his killing of Michael Brown, the assistant district attorney
handling the case said this to the grand jurors.
"I`m going to pass out to you all, you`re all going to receive a copy of a
statute. It is Section 563046 and it says law enforcement officers` use of
force in making an arrest, and it is the law on what is permissible, what
force is permissible, and when in making an arrest by a police officer."
The assistant district attorney, Kathi Alizadeh, then handed the grand jury
a copy of a 1979 Missouri law that was ruled unconstitutional by the United
States Supreme Court in 1985. She was handing them something that had not
been law in Missouri during her entire legal career. But it was very
helpful to Officer Darren Wilson that the assistant district attorney
handed the grand jury an old unconstitutional law which said incorrectly
that it is legal to shoot fleeing suspects simply because they are fleeing.
By handing the grand jury that unconstitutional law, the assistant district
attorney dramatically lowered the standard by which Darren Wilson could be
judged. She was telling the grand jury with that document that Darren
Wilson had the right, the legal right to shoot and kill Michael Brown as
soon as Michael Brown started running away from him.
She was telling the grand jury that Darren Wilson didn`t have to feel his
life threatened at all by Michael Brown. She was taking the hurdle that
Darren Wilson had to get over in his testimony and flattening it. She was
making it impossible for Darren Wilson to fail in front of this grand jury.
She was doing all of that by handing the grand jury a so-called law that
has never been the law of Missouri during her entire legal career.
The portion of the Missouri law that was ruled unconstitutional says that a
police officer is justified in the use of such physical force as he or she
reasonably believes is immediately necessary to effect the arrest or
prevent the escape from custody.
That was ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 1985.
It was legal to shoot and kill fleeing suspects in most states until the
Supreme Court made it illegal in 1985, and everyone in law enforcement
knows that. Everyone except the two assistant district attorneys who were
presenting the evidence to the grand jury in one of the most important
cases of police use of deadly force in this country since 1985.
There is nothing more helpful the assistant district attorney could have
done for officer Darren Wilson before, right before his testimony than show
that incorrect, outdated, unconstitutional law to the grand jury. The
grand jury then listened to Officer Wilson`s testimony with the belief that
anything he did to Michael Brown would be fully justified legally simply
because Michael Brown at some point ran away from Officer Wilson.
There was a time when that`s all you had to do in America to be legally
shot and killed by a police officer, just run away from the officer. In
those days, American police were summarily executing people in the streets
for suspicion of crimes that if they were convicted for, they would not
have gotten the death penalty, and in many cases not even gone to jail.
Kids jumping out of stolen cars and running away from cops could be legally
shot in the back and killed in those days for a crime that obviously did
not carry the death penalty. There was actually one case of a man who spit
on a police officer and then ran away from the police officer and was
legally shot and killed by the police officer.
Spitting on a police officer was a crime in that state, but it did not
carry the death penalty. Unless you ran away from the officer.
The District Attorney`s Office allowed the grand jurors to travel back in
time to the good old days of American law enforcement when the cops could
shoot people for running away before Darren Wilson was born. That`s how
far back in time they went. The assistant district attorneys did that by
using the old, unconstitutional law as the window through which these grand
jurors would evaluate Darren Wilson`s conduct.
The grand jury listened to the officer`s testimony believing that according
to the law Michael Brown did not have to pose any kind of threat to officer
Wilson to justify officer Wilson shooting him dead. Weeks after Officer
Wilson testified, several weeks after that, just as the grand jury was
about to consider what charges they might vote for the assistant district
attorney Kathi Alizadeh knew that she had better amend the record of these
proceedings by introducing to the grand jury, the real law, the accurate
law on police use of deadly force in Missouri.
And so she told the grand jury, "Previously in the very beginning of this
process, I printed out a statute for you that was the statute in Missouri
for the use of force to effect an I arrest. So if you all want to get
those out, what we have discovered, and we have been going along with this,
doing our research, is that the statute in the state of Missouri does not
comply with the case law.
This doesn`t sound probably unfamiliar to you that the law is codified in a
written form in books and they`re called statutes. But courts interpret
those statutes and so the statute for the use of force to effect an arrest
in the state of Missouri does not comply with the Missouri Supreme -- I`m
sorry, United States Supreme Court cases. So the statute I gave you, if
you want to fold that in half, just so that, you know, don`t necessarily
rely on that because there is a portion of that that doesn`t comply with
She then handed out to the grand jury a new document explaining the law on
police officers` use of force and then said, "That does correctly state
what the law is on when an officer can use force and when he can use deadly
force in effecting an arrest, OK? I don`t you want to get confused and
don`t rely on that copy or that print out of the statute that I`ve given
you a long time ago.
It is not entirely incorrect or inaccurate, but there is something in it
that`s not correct. Ignore it totally. A grand juror then asked, the
Supreme Court, federal court overrides Missouri statutes?
Now we all learned the answer to that in high school. It is one word.
Yes. That is why we no longer have segregated schools in this country.
The Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional and illegal to have
segregated schools and that is the only reason states like Mississippi and
Alabama and Arkansas and, yes, Missouri, no longer have segregated schools.
But the assistant district attorney when asked the simplest question she
could possibly be asked by a grand juror, does the Supreme Court override
Missouri statutes, couldn`t bring herself to say a simple truthful yes.
Instead she actually said, quote, "just don`t worry about that." Her full
reply, word for word was, as far as you need to know, just don`t worry
The other assistant district attorney in the room added, "We don`t want to
get into a law class. America already had a law class on this when Alabama
Governor George Wallace stood in the doorway to prevent the first black
students from attending class at the University of Alabama because the
United States Supreme Court had ruled states segregation laws to be
The federal government crushed the little powerless, angry governor of
Alabama when he needed to be crushed in that doorway by the righteous power
of the United States Supreme Court and the federal government.
It doesn`t take a law class to explain to a grand juror that, yes, the
United States Supreme Court does indeed override Missouri statutes. It
takes one word. Yes.
But that is not the worst, most unprofessional aspect of Assistant District
Attorney Kathi Alizadeh presentation to the grand jury about this law. The
very worst part of it is that she never, ever explained to the grand jury
what was incorrect about the unconstitutional statute that she had given
them and left with them as one of their official papers for weeks and weeks
You will not find another legal proceeding in which jurors and grand jurors
are simply handed a law and then weeks later handed a correction to that
law and then the grand jurors are simply left to figure out the difference
in the laws by themselves. That is actually something you would do in a
law class. Figure out it by yourself.
With prosecutors like this, Darren Wilson never really needed a defense
O`DONNELL: The University of Virginia had an emergency board meeting on
Tuesday and they said they will change the school`s policy on sexual
assault to zero tolerance approach.
NBC`s national correspondent Peter Alexander has this report. Peter?
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, good evening to
you. The UVA campus, of course, is largely cleared out now for the
holiday, but students and administrators there are struggling to deal with
a deep-seeded issue as the president of the Intra-Fraternity Council
himself conceded sexual violence is a serious problem. It`s upsetting to
ALEXANDER: Your story is not unique?
EMILY RENDA, SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVOR: It`s not. I heard from a lot of
women like me.
ALEXANDER: Emily Renda knows firsthand about rape at UVA. As a freshman,
she says she was sexually assaulted at a fraternity house on campus. Her
attacker, she says, never punished because he transferred schools.
Now employed by the university, Renda counsels other sexual assault
survivors including Jackie whose detailed account of a vicious gang rape
published in "Rolling Stone" has exposed a cultural crisis within this 200-
Every student you say needs to look in the mirror?
RENDA: Every student needs to look in the mirror and decide what can I do
that reinforces a value system that supports survivors and stops it from
ALEXANDER: UVA`s board addressed the firestorm sparked by the "Rolling
Stone" article at an emergency meeting Tuesday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`d like to say to Jackie and her parents that I am
ALEXANDER: Weeks after Charlottesville Police investigated the
disappearance and murder of freshman Hannah Graham, the university
president has now asked Chief Tim Longo to investigate Jackie`s case.
CHIEF TIM LONGO, CHARLOTTESVILLE POLICE: There were bystanders. There
were people in that room who saw and heard what is being called shocking
and horrifying, and I hope that those bystanders have the moral courage,
the moral courage to come forward and help us with that investigation.
ALEXANDER: Even as protesters silently condemned the school`s policies,
one side of UVA`s founder reading, "Sexual Misconduct: A Jeffersonian
Tradition," the board vowed to come up with new solutions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we can`t deliver on this fundamental duty, then
we, all of us, we will have failed.
ALEXANDER: Urgent calls for change as this campus community undergoes
through a painful re-examination.
RENDA: We are facing a deeply kind of terrible thing that happened within
our community and that fundamentally undermines your understanding of trust
ALEXANDER: At the conclusion of its meeting yesterday, the UVA board
adopted a zero tolerance policy on sexual assault, but it`s really still
unclear exactly what that means and how it will be enforced. Lawrence?
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Peter Alexander.
Joining me now is Dahlia Lithwick, a senior editor and Supreme Court writer
Dahlia, what are the legal liabilities for the university in this
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE: I think that`s one of the things they`re trying to
figure out now. And I certainly saw in an e-mail thread this week,
Lawrence, suggesting that some of the faculty thinks that the university
really could be on the hook for in effect turning a blind eye for years.
I mean, the thing that I am hearing everywhere here in Charlottesville is
people saying that as shocking as that "Rolling Stone" article was, people
are not all that surprised that this has been known for decades as a party
school, as a school where the Greek life really takes precedence over, you
know, the rules.
And just a feeling that the university has not only known that this is
going on, but as the article alleges, kind of hidden it in some ways to
keep students from being perfectly informed. So I think there is a real
discussion going on now as part of the larger question about how the
university can fix this, is what is the university also on the hook for?
O`DONNELL: And is there any way of trying to determine how much of this is
a fraternity problem?
LITHWICK: You know, I was at that Board of Visitors meeting yesterday,
Lawrence, and one of the things they were trying to tease out was how much
of this is a Greek problem, how much of this is an honor code problem, how
much of it is just binge drinking. And I think that the single-cause
discussions are only helpful to a point.
I think probably the real answer is, and this is what the "Rolling Stone"
article getting to, we are not reporting rapes on campuses. The data I saw
shows that 5 percent of rapes on campuses are actually reported to the
police. And that by diverting them into these, you know, Title 9 hearings
or Honor Code hearing or these alternate systems that often encourage
reconciliation and encourage all sorts of things, encourage the survivor to
have to confront the person that may have harmed her, you get a system that
is simply not fundamentally meets complaints --
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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL