Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Boston Bomber Sentenced To Die; Amtrak Train Sped Up Before Flying Off Tracks. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 15, 2015 - 16:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to our coverage of the decision by a jury in Boston to sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death. You're looking at the defense team for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the convicted Boston bomber terrorist, including Judy Clarke, that's her in the front.

She defended Ted Kaziczynski in the past. They are walking passed reporters opting to not take any questions or not react to the jury's decision.

Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We are continuing our breaking news coverage of our National Lead, the convicted terrorist whom a jury found guilty today of killing four people.

Those four, Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, age 8, Lingzi Lu, Sean Collier, one person was 8, the other three in 20s including a police officer. In addition, of course, dozens of others were wounded in the horrific attack that was two years and one month ago.

At any moment we are expecting to see prosecutors walking up to these microphones you see on your screen outside the Boston federal courthouse.

Let's go to Deb Feyerick right now. Deb, the defense team obviously disappointed, they had really put all of their emphasis on the sentencing phase and not on whether or not he was guilty. They basically conceded he was guilty.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. I was there when Judy Clarke basically pointed back to her client and said, it was him, but she also asked the jury to keep an open mind and then she would explain to hopefully sentence him to life in prison, clearly they did not.

But you know, you talked about the defense, and while this verdict was being read, and all the different factors were being gone through, Miriam Conrad, the federal public defender, who was one of Tsarnaev's main lawyers, who has been there, who has actually shown some sort of kindness to him during the whole proceeding.

She was furiously writing on a legal pad each time one of the sentences was read and the findings of the jury was read. So whether that suggests that they plan to appeal, but, boy, she was looking and -- I guess the way to characterize it, Jake, is nobody quite knew what to feel in that court.

And somebody just texted me very much that, said it's over but I don't know what I want to happen. So whether they decide to appeal, but they really didn't buy the Tsarnaev defense team's argument that, in fact, this was all Tamerlan.

That, in fact, if Tamerlan had never been born this may never have happened. Possibly it wouldn't have happened, but they bought the prosecution's argument. They accepted it. In fact, these two brothers conspired to set off a weapon of mass destruction, two of them, at the Boston marathon.

That they deliberately picked the Boston marathon and you know, it was interesting, because when asked whether they felt he was remorseful, only two of the jurors said, yes. They felt there was some remorse there.

[16:35:05] Now, I do want to talk about his demeanor in court because the judge was very clear with the jury telling the jury, look, do not take his failure to testify, do not take his demeanor, you know, as any sort of evidence, and, in fact, at the end of the trial, once the jury was out, they thanked Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The judge thanked dzhokhar tsarnaev for the propriety he showed in the courtroom, the respect that he showed in that courtroom. The judge was very aware. I've been speaking to a number of people about this judge and they all think he's a fair man.

They all think that he really held a very tight ship that he did what he was supposed to do, but during the whole course you always see the defense taking different notes as to whether they're going to appeal or not.

And it was interesting to see David Brooke also say he wanted the jury polled. He wanted to make sure that each of those jurors was comfortable in rendering the decision that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be sentenced to death.

Because we heard it was unanimous that David Brooke wanted to make sure that each and every one of them could take responsibility for the sentence they had now imposed.

TAPPER: All right, Deb Feyerick, thank you so much. I want to bring in our legal team just to remind you we're awaiting federal prosecutors and possibly also family members of the victims, if not victims themselves, who suffered wounds on that horrific day, April 15th, two years ago to come out and react to the decision by the jury to sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death.

Let's check in with our legal team, though, Jean Casarez, Paul Cowen, Jeffrey Toobin also join me. Paul, let me bring you in. I'm looking at this questionnaire, this form for the jury in terms of what the charges are, the gateway factors, et cetera.

There is a section that Deb Feyerick has referred to a few times about mitigating factors. These are reasons why Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could be not sentenced to death. They have to deal with the fact that he was 19 at the time of offenses, had no prior history of violent behavior.

Deb has said that two of the jurors thought that he did feel remorse, and three of them felt that he was under the influence of his older brother. What is the practical application of mitigating factors when the jury is polled on these issues?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's an interesting way that they set it up, because the opening questions, the aggravating factors, were essentially, you have to commit the aggravating offenses in order to even qualify for the death penalty.

But then what they do is, under the mitigation section, is essentially they're listing all the defense arguments as to why it would not be right to give him the death penalty. But none of them are mandatory.

In other words, all 12 could agree that he showed remorse, and they could still give him the death penalty. So what it really is, is the court giving them a clear outline of what the defense contention is as to why he should not be given the death penalty and allowing them to check off various factors.

Which then would become part of a larger discussion in the jury room about whether this case is an appropriate case for the death penalty, and obviously, when that discussion was over, even those jurors who thought that he demonstrated some remorse concluded in the end he deserved the death penalty.

TAPPER: And, Jean Casarez, in past cases like this, those mitigating factors have resulted in a jury deciding that the individual should not be put to death?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly right, because it's a balancing test. Once they get the aggravating factors and the mitigating factors they have to balance it out. I think that's where the defense thought they had an edge.

Here's how important the penalty phase was to the defense in this case. They produced 63 witnesses in 13 days, and Judy Clarke has really made a reputation for keeping people off death row and I think in the closing argument she went out on a limb, because she said, go ahead and check off, did he intentionally commit the crimes.

Go on and check off that he premeditated the crime, but he does not deserve the death penalty. This is not the worst of the worst, and the jury obviously did not go along with that.

TAPPER: Jeff Toobin, one of the things that I think Jean cited in the testimony, one of the very moving moments, important moments, came when it was described, the message, that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had written while he was hiding in that boat, in which he expressed very clearly no remorse for what he did.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think that is an enormously important piece of evidence in this case, because, remember, the chronology.

[16:40:01] By that point, Tamerlan Tsarnaev is dead. He's been run over by a car, the confrontation in Watertown, it's over, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is on his own. He could have surrendered.

He could have expressed some sort of fear, remorse instead, he finds this boat to hide in, and while he's there, on his own, he writes about how he was avenging the deaths of Muslims. He expresses pride in what they did.

So, you know, the core argument here that the defense made and I don't blame them for making this argument. I think it's the only argument they had, was that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was manipulated by his evil older brother.

But the writing in the boat is such an important reputation of that because he was on his own and he was not compelled to write that, and that's, that was just a very powerful piece of evidence in this case for the prosecution.

TAPPER: Unremorseful and also offering something of a motive, this Islamic extremism, this Jihadi ideology. Coming up, we're still waiting for the news conference from the U.S. attorney in Boston. We'll go to that live as as soon as it starts.

Victims are also expected to speak as well plus we just received word that National Transportation Safety Board investigators have met with the engineer of the Amtrak train that crashed leaving eight passengers dead in Philadelphia earlier this week, we'll have much more on that. We're going take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We have new details raising new questions about the deadly derailment that killed eight people and injured more than 200. The National Transportation Safety Board now says preliminary data shows Amtrak 188 was already trucking along at 70 miles per hour when it accelerated into that curve before it launched off the rails.

We are also now getting word that NTSB investigators have, in fact, interviewed the engineer of the train. Let's get right to CNN's Rene Marsh. She is live in Philadelphia. Rene, what can you tell us?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, I can tell you that the NTSB was supposed to be holding at this moment their final press briefing. However, that's not happening right now, because investigators as we speak are interviewing not only the train's engineer, but two assistant conductors.

So that is happening right now, they are gathering all the facts from those individuals and once they have all that information they will share that with us at this press briefing.

This is critical for investigators because for the first time they are getting a face-to-face with Amtrak's crew.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): It's a critical point in the investigation, Brandon Bostian telling the NTSB his account of Tuesday's deadly derailment. The NTSB says the train accelerated as it approached the sharp curve in the track.

Data from the train's video camera shows 65 seconds before the crash, the train was moving at 70 miles per hour, 22 seconds later, more than 80 then 90 before exceeding to 100 miles per hour. The brakes heard as it approached the curve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mere seconds into the turn, we could see the train tilting -- approximately 10 degrees to the right and then the recording went blank.

MARSH: According to friends, Bostian has a passion for trains and was a train safety advocate. Following a deadly 2008 Metro Link crash in California, blamed on an engineer distracted by text messages, a post on a train enthusiast web site believed to be from Bostian read, quote, "That's why it shouldn't take an act of Congress to get industry to adopt common sense safety systems on their own."

Bostian, apparently, is an advocate for safety technology that could have prevented his own crash. Meantime, we're now hearing from emergency crews who helped pull people from the wreckage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw a lot of people injured. A lot of head wounds. A lot of -- arm injuries, leg injuries.

MARSH: Officer Daniel Cozme seen on the far left was one of the first to arrive after 911 calls flooded in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy, he was laying on the floor holding his leg. He had a broken leg a broken ankle, grabbed each other's hands to make a chair so he can sit down and then we carried him through the whole way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: First time hearing from some of those first responders there who were on the scene. Again, just a reset, Jake, we are outside of the building where the NTSB will hold its final press briefing, but at this point it is delayed, because as we speak they are speaking to the crew of that train that derailed.

One other point, Jake, we did find a press release from Amtrak dated 2010 in which they talked about how they would aggressively install PTCs, positive train control, on all of their tracks in the northeast corridor by the end of 2012.

Well, we know that did not happen. It is now 2015. We reached out to Amtrak to find out what caused the delay. Back to you, Jake.

TAPPER: Rene Marsh in Philadelphia, thanks so much. But let's go back to our breaking news right now, Dzhokhar

Tsarnaev sentenced to die. Right now, we are waiting to hear from the U.S. attorney, Carmen Ortiz, who helmed the prosecution, and also from victims maimed injured in the Boston bombings. They are expected to speak as well as soon as they step to the microphones, we will bring that to you live.

[16:50:11] But let's bring back our legal team right now as well as reporter, Deb Feyerick, Jean Casarez, Paul Callan, Jeffrey Toobin, thanks so much all of you for joining us. Paul Callan, what was your reaction to the sentencing today? Were you surprised at all?

CALLAN: I was surprised, because it's, of course, a Massachusetts jury, and we know statistically that they're opposed most generally to the death penalty in Massachusetts, but on the other hand, this case was such a strong case, Jake.

If you ever were going to impose the death penalty, you know, they talk about only the worst of the worst cases. Well, what could be worse than this? What could be worse than the deliberate maiming and killing of innocent American citizens by someone who professed to do it for an ideological reason, almost -- it was almost a --

TAPPER: Paul, I have to cut you off. I'm sorry. I apologize, but we see individuals stepping to the microphone right now. We believe these are -- this is the prosecution. Let's take a listen.

CARMEN ORTIZ, U.S. ATTORNEY: I want to begin by thanking the jurors in this case for their service. They have sat through months of grueling and oftentimes heart wrenching testimony and evidence. They have been incredibly attentive and ought to be commended for their commitment to their service.

I also want to thank the many victims, survivors and witnesses who testified in this case as well as those who came every day to support them in court. Truly, the victims and the survivors are the voices of Boston strong, and the living proof that there was much love in this city on the afternoon of April 13th, two years ago.

I want to thank them for their testimony and their presence. Our goal in trying this case was to ensure that the jury had all of the information that they needed to reach a fair and just verdict. We believe we accomplished that goal.

And that the trial of this case has shown the world what a fair and impartial jury trial is like. Even in the wake of horror and tragedy, we are not intimidated by acts of terror or radical ideals on the contrary.

The trial of this case has showcased an important American ideal. That even the worst of the worst deserve a fair trial, and due process of law. Today the jury has spoken, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will pay with his life for his crimes.

Make no mistake. The defendant claimed to be acting on behalf of all Muslims. This was not a religious crime. And it certainly does not reflect true Muslim beliefs. It was a political crime designed to intimidate and to coerce the United States.

Although the defense claimed that the defendant was himself intimidated and coerced by an older brother, the evidence did not bear that out. The defendant was an adult who came to believe in an ideology of hate, and he expressed those beliefs by killing, maiming and mutilating innocent Americans on Patriots Day.

Today is not a day for celebration. It is not a day for political or moral debate. It is a day for reflection and healing. Our thoughts should now turn away from the Tsarnaev brothers for good, and remain with those who will live in our memories forever, Krystle Marie Campbell, Martin Richard, Sean Collier and Lingzi Lu.

Our thoughts and prayers should also be with the 17 brave individuals, who lost limbs during the marathon bombing and all the other victims and survivors who still cope with injury, with loss and are still healing as well as our hearts should be with this great city of Boston.

After two years of investigating this case and 12 weeks of trial it is time to turn the page in this chapter. I want to briefly acknowledge the hard working commitment of the investigators, the prosecutors and the victim witness advocates in this case in particular, assistant U.S. Attorneys William Weinreb, Alshack Ravardi, Maydeen Paligrini and Steve Melon.

Anyone who has watched their work over the last two years knows that the United States has not been better represented. Their commitment not only in the courtroom, but to the victims and survivors themselves has been incredible.

[16:55:06] I also want to thank all of my law enforcement partners, local, state and federal agencies, in particular the FBI who along with the JTTF as well as Boston Police Department, Massachusetts State Police, Watertown and MIT police worked tirelessly from the very beginning to find those who were responsible for these heinous crimes, and to assist in holding them accountable.

I have never been prouder to be a part of such a dedicated group of law enforcement officials, and now I'm going to turn it over to my colleague, Vince Lisi, the special agent in charge for the FBI's Boston Field Office.

VINCENT LISI, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Good afternoon. First I'd like to thank the amazing team that came together in the face of this horrible tragedy, and I don't just mean the team represented right here on this podium.

I mean, the first responders and the health care professionals, who jumped into action on that horrible day and acted so heroically to save so many lives. And then the investigative team that came in behind them, who worked side by side and worked as one team to gather a tremendous amount of evidence used to convict this terrorist.

One thing people need to know is that the FBI and law enforcement partners show up to work every single day for the victims, who rely on us to bring these people to justice and that's just what we did here.

But the most amazing thing was the inspiration and motivation that these victims gave us every single day. It was, they're unimaginable strength was a constant reminder to us why we had to keep pushing forward and pursuing every single lead.

So to the victims I just want to say, thank you. Your strength has been nothing, but inspirational and strengthened our resolve to continue to show up to work every day for victims of all crimes.

ORTIZ: Any questions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you read -- op-ed in the "Boston Globe" if so did you -- (inaudible).

ORTIZ: I read their letter and I responded to it. I believe "The Globe," I know "The Globe" wrote a piece containing my remarks at that time. What they had to say, their position, was very, very important to me.

It had a great impact as well as really what also the other victims and survivors that I have encountered in this case have said. And that we came to this decision of pursuing the death penalty not lightly.

When I say, "we," the Department of Justice, the attorney general, who approved it and there was a long, careful process in which there was a tremendous amount of input from different levels of my office and the Department of Justice.

And when the attorney general approved it based on the nature of the crimes in this case, and the degree of the harm, we then continued on that path. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you -- (inaudible) a death verdict was not returned for Officer Collier?

ORTIZ: I would say that I don't want to comment on my personal feelings. I will say this -- the jury had a really difficult job to do, and this was not an easy result for them to arrive at, and it was clear that they've been so attentive, so thorough.

We appreciate the incredible service that they have provided, what they have been through, and so we're really -- we're gratified with their service and I will be reaching out to the Collier family and I will personally be talking to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given the long-term -- prospects of the death penalty in the United States, do you think Tsarnaev will ever actually be put to death?

ORTIZ: I don't want to speculate on that. I would believe so after all the appellate process and so forth but I mean, I agree with you. It is a long process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) confident that charge anybody that acknowledged -- his crime?

LISI: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LISI: Absolutely. Our investigations have been thorough and exhaustive, that if somebody had anything to do with this bombing we brought them to justice. It was these two brothers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about Tsarnaev's wife? Do you have any sense whether she might be --

LISI: I'm not going to comment on anything to do with anybody that hasn't been charged or convicted, pending investigations. We may or may not have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- involving Tsarnaev? What happens next on, in terms it of where he goes and the, how he might be -- (inaudible).

ORTIZ: Well, right now, Mr. Tsarnaev will remain in the custody of the U.S. marshals.