Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Murder Caught on Video?; Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Found Guilty; Police Officer Charged with Murder; Victim's Brother Speaks Out. Aired 4- 4:30p ET

Aired April 8, 2015 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:04] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty on all 30 counts. And now the big question, will he be sentenced to death?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead. After 16 days of testimony, it took a jury 11.5 hours to find Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty of 30 counts related to the Boston bombing terrorist attacks. Survivors now reacting as the world wonders, will this now convicted terrorist pay the ultimate price?

Our other national lead today: a police officer arrested for murder after shooting an unarmed man in the back. The new video that exposes the deadly confrontation, did it also capture the cop planting evidence?

Plus, the officer, Michael Slager, had at least one other complaint lodged against him for use of excessive force. What comes next for him? He, too, faces possible death penalty.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin today with breaking news in our national lead, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all counts, a federal jury ticking off guilty verdict after guilt verdict over and over and over, 30 times, 17 of them death penalty counts. The jury says the defendant is responsible for the deaths of Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, 8-year-old Martin Richard, and of course MIT police officer Sean Collier, on top of maiming so many other people, people we now know, Jeff Bauman, and the Norden brothers, altering countless lives, dozens, hundreds, when he planted that pressure cooker bomb by the finish line with his brother Tamerlan.

Martin Richards' family, Sean Collier's family, all of them in the room as these guilty verdicts came down, as was CNN's Alexandra Field, also joined by Deb Feyerick.

Alexandra, let me go to you first. You were in the courtroom as the verdicts were being read today. The trial now moves into the penalty phase. I don't know we yet know when that part of the trial will start.

Did the now convicted terrorist show any emotion at all as he found out he could face the death penalty? ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, we have been in that

courtroom with him for weeks and every day we describe his demeanor as being impassive, disaffected, showing no emotion. And today was no different than any day preceding this day.

Yes, he walked into the courtroom, he stood up, he was ready to hear the verdict. His attorneys from the beginning have said he did it, so perhaps he was prepared and should have been prepared to hear the word guilty 30 times read aloud in that courtroom. He briefly glanced over at the jury, but he didn't seem to attempt to make any eye contact.

For the most part, he would look down at his hands. Halfway through the reading of the verdict, he seemed to fidget, to sort of play with his chin, to scratch the back of his head. His head was down for a lot of it. He communicated a little bit it seemed with his attorney, Judy Clarke, who stood by his side.

The jury filed in, 12 jurors who have been deliberating for 11.5 hours before reaching that verdict of guilty on 30 counts, and, Jake, they barely looked at him, 11 of the 12 jurors staring ahead at the clerk, staring ahead at the judge, not looking off to the side to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. One juror seeming to try to look over at him.

Of course, the rest of the courtroom, all of our eyes were glued on really just the back and the side of his face. That's all you can see from the back of the courtroom. But it is where the survivors of the bombings sit. It's where the family members of the victims sit.

And when the jury filed into the courtroom, it was just completely silent in that room. Jake, you could see some of the family members really trying to get a good look at the faces of the jurors, trying to see if they could read anything on their faces. You would also see them look over at Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to try and have some sort of sense of how he was interpreting all of these readings of the word guilty.

But, frankly, Jake, it was just stunning, amazing, almost breathtaking to take in the silence that you heard in that courtroom. So many of these survivors who have waited nearly two years for this day making no audible noises, making no visible reaction, just hearing that word guilty repeated so many times, getting a piece of the justice that they have been waiting so long for, Jake.

TAPPER: Deb, you and Alexandra both spent a lot of time in the courtroom listening to these witnesses, almost a hundred for the prosecution, forensic evidence, eyewitness accounts from survivors and first-responders.

You watched the jury closely. Deb, was this verdict a surprise to you at all?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. Jake, the verdict really wasn't a surprise, because some of the testimony was so powerful, so emotional, hearing people describe how they felt they were going to die that day, how they lost limbs, how they are still suffering. One woman just recently, months ago, undergoing another amputation,

still people with pieces of the bomb embedded in their body. The jury at times was moved to tears. And I think it's a very small courtroom, as Alexandra described. It is an intimate setting. When you hear the power of these people testifying and the cold, calculated way that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, went about what they did that day and showing no -- and seeing no reaction from Dzhokhar, it didn't come as an overall surprise.

[16:05:12] Interestingly, Judy Clarke, Tsarnaev's team, his lawyers were hoping that perhaps there would be some guilty verdicts that were not guilty, which would there implicate his brother moreover than it did him, but, in fact, no, the jury finding Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all 30 counts and all substantive, substantiating counts as well -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Deb Feyerick, Alexandra Field, thank you both so much.

Let's bring in CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin to get some more perspective on this.

Sunny, thanks for joining us. This jury clearly has zero doubt that the defendant's guilty and it's also the same jury that's going to hear testimony in the penalty phase of this case, which in many ways is almost a bigger deal. What angle might the defense try to play next?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is going to be a very academic exercise and I know people don't want to hear that. They think it's more of an emotional exercise, but when you are talking about the federal death penalty, it is statutory.

This jury will be informed by the judge that they are to weigh the mitigating factors against the aggravating factors. And they will get what's generally called a special findings form, wherein the defense team will list what mitigating factors they think they have shown, and then the government will list all of the aggravating factors they believe they have shown.

And it is not, Jake, sort of this quantitative weighing process. It is really a qualitative weighing process. That is what the jury will -- the judge will instruct the jury. But the bottom line is, when you look at the statute, it is very clear that the government is going to really show just overwhelming aggravating factors.

You can get the death penalty, Jake, if you kill a police officer, a law enforcement officer. We know that happened. You get the death penalty or you are death penalty-eligible if you kill a young person. We have an 8-year-old that was killed. If there is substantial planning and premeditation, that is an aggravating factor. We know that that happened here.

If there are multiple killings and multiple maimings in one incident, that is an aggravating factor. We have 264 victims and four murders, and so the government really has an easy job. The difficult job is going to be for this defense team. What are some mitigating factors? Well, the youth, the age of Tsarnaev will be considered a mitigating factor, whether or not he was a minor participant. And we know that the defense is going to argue that, Jake.

I think the fact that he has no priors and the fact that this defense team is going to argue that he was radicalized merely by his brother. I don't think that that is going to in a qualitative weighing process carry the day, because I think the government, if I were prosecuting this case, the one thing quite frankly that I would point to are the writings that he made in the boat.

TAPPER: And that's what I wanted, Sunny, because he clearly wanted to die.

HOSTIN: Sure.

TAPPER: And this is a thing obviously when it comes to Islamic extremists, the idea of martyrdom. Can that be used by the defense; don't give him martyrdom?

HOSTIN: That can be used by the defense in argument. Certainly, that is not a mitigating factor. But it can be used in the argument. We are going to see sort of a mini-trial. But I think it weighs perhaps in favor of the prosecution, because if the defense is arguing that he was under this Svengali lure of his brother, they need only, the prosecution, point to his writings in the boat, when he says, I'm jealous of my brother who has received the reward of heaven before me.

He talks about holy warriors. He says, now, I don't like killing innocent people, it's forbidden in Islam, but it is allowed given these circumstances.

If you point to those writings, that shows sort of to this jury his true intent, not his brother's intent, but what he was thinking when he thought he was dying in this boat. And so I never say it's a slam- dunk case, but the death penalty certainly is reserved for the worst of the worst. I can't imagine that this jury doesn't think that Tsarnaev is the worst of the worst.

TAPPER: Sunny Hostin, thank you so much.

Let's bring in former Boston City Council President and the man who was acting mayor that day almost two years ago when the bombs went off, Steve Murphy.

Mr. Murphy, thanks for joining us.

I want to get your initial reaction to the verdict. What was going through your mind as you heard each count read, guilty, guilty 30 times?

STEPHEN MURPHY, FORMER BOSTON CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: I didn't think that there was much of a chance of anything other than guilty 30 times could happen, since there was an admission at the beginning of the trial by the defense that, in fact, Dzhokhar was part of the perpetrators of the bombing on Boylston Street. So, this was expected, I think.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: CNN reporters say that the defendant had no reaction as the judge was reading the verdict. As this case moves into the penalty phase, what do you want to see happen to him?

[16:10:10] MURPHY: I'm sorry?

Well, I would like to see him spend his life in prison, Jake, because there is this -- the West, not just the United States, but the West is at war with radical Islam right now. And I don't know if everybody in Washington has got that, but it's trickled down to the neighborhoods of Boston. I was there that day.

It was an act of war, perpetrated on innocent civilians, children, elderly, and there's a different value system here at work in the radicalization of Islam. They believe that to die for a cause is something that gets them to a greater beyond.

And I don't feel that us imposing a Western standard of the death penalty will do anything but invite copycat folks from all over the country trying to gain their entrance into the afterlife through the Islamic way.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: So, in other words, denying him the martyrdom is the worst punishment?

MURPHY: Denying him the martyrdom is the thing that we should do.

TAPPER: Yes, interesting.

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: I think it is, even though I believe -- I would like to pull the switch myself, because I believe he's guilty and, you know, probably he should forfeit his life, but I think that feeds right into their warped sense of what they believe is important and different from Western standards.

TAPPER: Of course, next Wednesday, the 15th, will mark two years to the day since that horrible day. You were at the finish line when the pressure cooker bombs went off.

MURPHY: I was.

TAPPER: Thankfully, you were not hurt. But do you feel personally connected to the horror of that day?

MURPHY: Well, I do. I could have been in the middle of the first blast. There was a group in our party that had just crossed over the media bridge that got her high heel stuck in the grating material that makes up the media bridge. And that delayed our travels down Boylston Street by about 45 seconds. Were we 45 seconds ahead of where I was standing, I might well have

been in the first blast zone. And it was just horrific. It was like a scene from -- well, civilians should never see that. Our first- responders are trained for it, military folks are trained for it, but what we saw and experienced on Boylston Street that day was really like an act of war.

And so many innocents paid with their lives and with the injuries that are horrific, and have changed their lives forever. And it's just -- the savagery of the whole thing was just -- and just before it went off, I was walking down the south side of Boylston Street with my party and we were remarking how many young children were out with their parents that day and how remarkable a day it was, that we were able to be out there and everybody was happy, and waiting for their family members and friends to cross the finish line, and, then boom, you know?

TAPPER: Yes. Yes.

MURPHY: And life changed for a whole bunch of people.

TAPPER: The horror of that day perhaps only, only outshone by the magnificent way that your great city responded to the challenges of that day. Thank you so much for your time.

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: There was a lot to be proud of, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes, and best wishes, thoughts and prayers with our friends in Boston right now.

MURPHY: Thank you. Thank you.

TAPPER: In other national news today, horrifying video of a police officer shooting and killing an unarmed black man as he attempted to run away, that officer now in custody and charged with murder. But would the police officer even have been charged if not for the cell phone video recorded by a witness?

That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:17:58] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our other national lead today: a white police officer charged with murder after gunning down a black Coast Guard veteran who had been trying to run away from him in North Charleston, South Carolina. Even more frightening, perhaps, this man's family and the country would have been none the wiser if a bystander had not recorded the shooting with his cell phone camera.

We should warn you that what you are about to see is graphic and disturbing. Officer Michael Slager seen here shooting at 50-year-old Walter Scott eight times as Scott tried to run away. Scott crumbled to the ground. He died where he fell. The officer then handcuffed Scott, then more than 30 seconds go by in the video and the tape shows Slager dropping something by Scott's body.

Today, the Charleston County coroner's office officially ruled Scott's death a homicide. This all started early Saturday morning when Slager pulled Scott over for a broken brake light.

Now, all the details of what exactly happened in the ensuing minutes remains unclear. But in the hours after the shooting, police officials spun a narrative that Slager felt threatened and had to fire his gun as a last resort.

A story in "The Charleston Post and Courier" published on the day of the shooting began this way, quote, "Police in a matter of hours declared the occurrence at the corner of Remount and Craig roads a traffic stop gone wrong, alleging the dead man fought with an officer over his taser before deadly force was employed," unquote.

Now, the video seemingly contradicts at least some of that version of events.

Let's get right to CNN's Jason Carroll live in North Charleston.

Jason, Slager has now been fired, he's been arrested, he's been booked, he's in prison. City officials held a news conference today to talk about the incident. Protesters interrupted a few times with chants of "no justice, no peace." It was very testy.

So, describe that for us.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Testy would be an understatement. Some parts of that were downright unruly, when the mayor there stepped up, also city police chief, Eddie Driggers, when he was there as well. At one point in particular, when the police chief was questioned about CPR, as you know, according to some of the police officers showed up there at the scene immediately following the shooting, suggested that and simply said that the officers performed CPR.

[16:20:15] Some there at the press conference were questioning that. It doesn't appear at least in some parts of the video if the officers performed CPR. In other parts of the video, it's unclear. And then there's a later part in the video where it does seem as if one officer does seem to be performing some sort of life-saving type of activity there.

But this was the point when the police chief was questioned about it, his answer didn't satisfy some of those there who showed up at the press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF EDDIE DRIGGERS, NORTH CHARLESTON POLICE: In the end of it, what I saw was what I believed to be a police officer removing the shirt of the individual and performing some type of life-saving -- but I'm not sure what took place there. REPORTER: You don't know if CPR was performed?

DRIGGERS: I do not know -- I was told that life-saving, they tried to save his life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: I do not know. That did not satisfy some of those who were there. Another point that was brought up, that had to do with the officer's taser.

As you said, Michael Slager simply said that what had happened was there was some sort of struggle over his taser and at one point in the video, it seems to show the officer dropping an object near Scott's body. A lot of people there who showed up at that press conference feel that that object that was dropped was in fact the taser and that what the officer was trying to do was trying to plant that taser.

The police chief was asked about that during the press conference. He said he could not talk about that simply because the investigation as you know has been turned over to an independent entity, that being the South Carolina state law enforcement division.

So, a lot of people who showed up simply in this community still looking for answers, still not getting the answers they are looking for -- Jake.

TAPPER: Jason, what happens next to this officer?

CARROLL: Well, as you say, the officer has been fired. His attorney who was representing him all the way up until just yesterday has dropped him, his attorney dropped him after that damaging video surfaced. So, at this point, we're going to have to wait to hear from the new attorney, whoever that attorney may be. At this point, who that attorney is, is simply unclear.

TAPPER: Jason Carroll live in North Charleston, thank you.

Let's bring in Anthony Scott. He's Walter Scott's brother. Also with him, Chris Stewart, co-counsel for the Scott family.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

Anthony, my deepest condolences on your loss and the horrible circumstances surrounding your brother's death.

What did police and the city initially tell you and your family about your brother's death before this video emerged?

ANTHONY SCOTT, VICTIM'S BROTHER: They initially told us that there was a struggle for the taser and that my brother was accidentally shot.

TAPPER: The person who --

SCOTT: After that struggle. TAPPER: The person who --

SCOTT: By the police officer.

TAPPER: Yes. The person who filmed the video brought this video to your family. When was that and what was your reaction and your family's reaction when you saw it?

SCOTT: I was shown the video on Sunday.

TAPPER: And your reaction to it?

SCOTT: I didn't bring it to all my family. It was just me.

My reaction to it was that we have to get ahold of the video. And that this was key evidence, key evidence in this case and we had to get it. We had to get it. The country had to see this.

TAPPER: Were you -- were you angry? Were you saddened? I mean, I can't imagine the host of emotions that must have been running through your mind.

SCOTT: Yes, you are correct. The main ones were a little bit of anger and happy at the same time because based on what the video was showing, it was discrediting what the officer had initially stated.

TAPPER: Chris, when did you first see the video and what was your reaction? What did you do next?

CHRIS STEWART, CO-COUNSEL FOR WALTER SCOTT'S FAMILY: You know, once I actually saw the video and like I said, doing this type of work, doing personal injury, wrongful death and police brutality, I have seen all types of terrible pictures and videos. This was the first time that I watched something and tears actually almost came to my eyes. I had to walk away from the family so they wouldn't see my reaction to watching it. That's how powerful it was.

[16:25:01] TAPPER: Anthony, on Saturday, your mother called you to tell you that your brother had been tasered at a traffic stop. Tell us what happened next.

SCOTT: Well, I proceeded to go to this traffic stop and once I got to the traffic stop I noticed that it had police tape around his vehicle and the officer's vehicle. I know that's not normally the way it's handled for a traffic stop. But then, I know a taser had already been used in the incident, but when I arrived on the scene, my nephew told me that my brother was gone.

And at that time, I lost it, actually, and wanted to know what happened. So, I proceed to ask the officers that were parading around what had happened, and no one wanted to give -- no one had any answers, no one was saying anything. All they were doing is policing the area and an officer eventually came to me and told me that they would send somebody over to talk to me later.

TAPPER: Anthony, what do you think it is, that object the officer drops on the ground near your brother's body?

SCOTT: To me, it looks like a taser.

STEWART: Yes.

SCOTT: The taser gun.

TAPPER: Chris, what do you think it is? You suspect that that's the officer planting evidence?

STEWART: Yes. It's pretty clear from slowing the tape down and the highlights that have been done to it that he drops the taser, kills Mr. Scott, walks all the way back, picks something up off the ground from where he was taking the shots, comes back to the body, waits a second, drops it on the ground and then pretends to be recovering it and putting it back on his holster.

Why we believe that is because it fits in line with his initial reports of what happened out there. I mean, he just committed murder. He needed something, a justifiable reason to use lethal force. That's the only thing he could think of.

TAPPER: Anthony, where do you think we would be right now if that bystander hadn't happened to have been there and had the presence of mind to film this incident?

SCOTT: Well, actually, I think we wouldn't be at the point that we are now. But being shot in the back four times, there is absolutely no way you could cover that up. And it doesn't -- it doesn't -- based on what he said happened, the officer said a struggle, you would be shot from the front. You wouldn't be shot from the back. So, that didn't line up.

So, what he was saying in his initial report did not line up with what we saw of what was happening. So, eventually we would have gotten to this point but not this fast.

TAPPER: Anthony, do you think it's been hypothesized that your brother, who had had some run-ins with the law mainly because of arrests for failure to pay child support, do you think he was running because -- why do you think he was running?

SCOTT: That very well could have been the reason, not to be arrested for the warrant that was on him for child support.

TAPPER: And last question, Anthony, and I really appreciate your strength. You must hate to talk about this. Your brother had four children.

SCOTT: Thank you.

TAPPER: Your brother was in the coast guard, he was a veteran of this country.

SCOTT: Yes, he did.

TAPPER: What do you want people to remember about him?

SCOTT: Yes.

I want them to remember my brother for the one that changes the course of America. The one that makes the difference that all our law enforcements across this country will change the way that they operate and make choices when they shoot firearms and hopefully the body cams will come into place nationwide so no one else would have to go through this same thing.

TAPPER: Anthony Scott, our deepest, deepest condolences on the loss of your brother. Thank you for talking to us.

Chris Stewart, thank you as well, sir.

SCOTT: Thank you.

STEWART: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, we know that Officer Michael Slager has been with the police force for more than five years. We are now learning more about his track record, including a complaint that he used excessive force and tased a man for, quote, "no reason". Whatever happened to that complaint? That's next.

Plus, the officer's lawyer quit just yesterday. So, who is now representing him? And what will his defense be? That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)