Return to Transcripts main page


Bowe Bergdahl Speakers Out for First Time; Baltimore Officer on Trial in Freddie Gray Case; Calls for Chicago Mayor to Step Down; Justice Antonin Scalia Under Fire. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 10, 2015 - 11:30   ET



[11:31:02] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in his own words for the first time since being released after years in Taliban captivity and charged with desertion. Today, Bergdahl breaking his silence on the wildly popular podcast "Serial." In the first episode released today, Bergdahl details why he left his outpost in 2009 and what he endured during those five years. Listen here.


SGT. BOWE BERGDAHL, U.S. ARMY (voice-over): I can't scream. I can't risk that. So it's like you're standing there, screaming in your mind. In this room, you're standing in this blackened dirt room that's tiny. And just on the other side of that, these little wooden doors that you could probably easily rip off the hinges is the entire the world out there. It's everything you are missing. It is everybody -- everyone is out there. You know, that breath you're trying to breathe, that relief you're trying to get. Everything is beyond that door.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now to discuss is CNN senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter.

Brian, you've gone through the first episode of this podcast. Truly amazing it exists in the first place, but he always gets to the question everyone is asking, why did he leave?


BOLDUAN: What was his motivation?

STELTER: People have wanted to know this for more than a year. A filmmaker, Mark Boal, got to talk to Bergdahl and got the answer. He's working on a film that may come out in the future about the Bergdahl case. Then he gave these tapes over to the producers of "Serial" for this new season. It will be coming out in the next nine or 10 weeks. But in the first one, we hear Bergdahl say why he walked off base. He said he wanted to get attention. Attention of his superiors. He knew by walking off base, it would get their attention. Then he said he did it because he wants to prove the kind of fighter he can be. Here's what he said.


BERGDAHL (voice-over): I was trying to prove to myself, I was trying to prove to the world, anybody who used to know me, that I was capable of, you know, being that person.

UNIDENTIFIED RADIO PODCAST HOST: Like a super soldier, you mean?

BERGDAHL: Yeah. Capable of being what I appeared to be. Doing what I did was me saying I am like, I don't know, Jason Bourne.


STELTER: It's so striking to hear him refer to a movie character, a book character in that way. He was trying to prove himself. He also said he wanted to get the attention of his superiors. He obviously did in a way he never expected to. And, of course, he's still facing charges. We will see in the months to come if the government does press charges.

BOLDUAN: That's the thing that's truly amazing, that he would want to do this because he's still facing such serious charges. How did Mark Boal how this came about, how long they even talked? How many interviews?

STELTER: There's 25 hours of tapes. And the producers of "Serial" will be using those in various ways. They're speaking to representatives of the Taliban, other soldiers, as well, American soldiers, so we get a variety of perspectives. Mark Boal originally taped these just as background.


BOLDUAN: He never wanted them to be public?

STELTER: Bergdahl did consent to them and to share them. Originally, it was just preparations for a movie. Strange to see it turn into this podcast. It's a form of journalism, this "Serial" podcast, to hear all sides of the story.

BOLDUAN: You hear him in his own words, and that's something none of us have able to hear since he's been released.

Great to see you, Brian. Thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

[11:35:36] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, it felt like an eternity. A Baltimore police officer on trial for the death of Freddie Gray. He testifies in his own defense about the time it took for a medic to arrive. Up next, new details in the case as another witness takes the stand.

Plus, fighting for political survival. The growing calls for Chicago's mayor to step down. We're going to talk to an Illinois lawmaker who is one of those folks who wants to remove Rahm Emanuel from office.


BOLDUAN: Happening AT THIS HOUR in Baltimore, the second day in the trial of Officer William Porter is now under way. He's one of six officers who stands accused of playing a role in the death of Freddie Gray. Yesterday, Porter took the stand, testifying in his own defense. That brought some very tense moments during cross- examination. Prosecutors asked if Porter was part of the stop- snitching culture, mentioned earlier in the trial when Porter said he couldn't identify a fellow officer who put Gray in the police van.

Joining me now to discuss the importance and the impact of him testifying in his own defense is CNN's Jean Casarez, live from Baltimore; and Laura Coates, former assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

Jean, you've been in the courtroom. Four hours of testimony, he was on the stand. There's another important witness on the stand now. Bottom line, did William Porter help his case?

[11:40:52] JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, that's for the jury. I can tell you his demeanor. As he was testifying, he was calm, he was real, down to earth. Some of his answers appeared a little rehearsed, based on my experience, and just some words that maybe were given to him to say. On cross-examination he didn't really become defensive, except for that one area when he was asked about the code of silence when it came to identifying other officers on the scene on April 12th when Freddie Gray was put into that transport van. He couldn't remember one of the officers that initially helped. He said, "I'm insulted by that. I can't remember. I can tell you it was a white officer and he was slim."

But right now, timothy Longo is on the stand. That is the chief of police of Charlottesville, Virginia. You might remember the Hannah Graham case last year when she went missing and it was Timothy Longo that was at the forefront of the missing persons case. Now the defense has called him, conceivably to be that expert, that officer who is in the field to know what a police officer is to do, what shouldn't do, what is right, what is wrong?

A major witness also this morning for both the prosecution and the defense, defense witness, Dr. Matthew Amarman (ph), a neurosurgeon out of Washington, D.C. He testified Freddie Gray's injury was a catastrophic injury. And once he broke his neck, because in laymen's terms, that's what happened, he said he would not be able to talk or move at all. And so, at stop four, when the defendant in this case, William Porter said, "What do you need?" "I need help." The fact is, the injury had not happened yet. And that is helpful for the defense theory in this case.

BOLDUAN: And lawyer remarks I want to get our take. As Jean points out, this testimony backs up what William Porter said, he didn't think prior to that stop that Freddie Gray needed medical attention. He didn't seem it was a medical emergency. He couldn't say exactly what his injuries were. Is that enough, though, for him? LAURA COATES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA & CNN

CONTRIBUTOR: It's crucial. The fact the prosecution's case is hinged on what William Porter specifically knew about Freddie Gray's injury, the fact you have competing experts, one of which is the forensic pathologist who is no rookie. The person who testified yesterday talking about the catastrophic injury is also somebody who was not only involved in the Lee Harvey Oswald case but also in defense for George Zimmerman. He knows what is at stake for defendants in these sorts of cases. You have the combination of an officer who's a professional witness coming to his own defense, and the prosecution's case hinging on what nobody knows, which is, what happened to Freddie Gray inside of that van? And absolutely it is a crucial element of testimony that he had to take the stand.

BOLDUAN: And the testimony continues right now in that case.

Jean, it's great to see you. Thanks so much.

Laura, thank you.

COATES: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Let's turn now to Chicago, though. After a day of heated protests -- you see them here -- that led to clashes with police, some arrests --there -- more calls now for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to step down in the face of growing controversy over cases coming to light at the deaths of hands of police.

One of those speaking out now is Illinois state representative, La Shawn K. Ford, who has introduced legislation to try and recall the mayor.

Representative Ford is joining me now from Chicago.

Representative, thank you for joining me.

Mayor Emanuel, he --


STATE REP. LA SHAWN K. FORD, (D), ILLINOIS: Thank you for having me, Kate.

BOLDUAN: He offered an emotional apology yesterday about the city's handling of these cases. For our viewers, here's a little bit of what the mayor said.


RAHM EMANUEL, (D), CHICAGO MAYOR: No citizen is a second-class citizen in the city of Chicago!


EMANUEL: If my children are treated one way, every child is treated the same way. There is one standard for our young men. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: You can hear his voice breaking. You can see the emotion on his face. And he offered an apology as well when he was speaking there. Did that apology -- what he said make any difference to you?

FORD: Kate, it didn't make a difference to the voters that asked for the recall bill. They went right out to the streets and set down Michigan. Looking behind me, Michigan is great, everything is back to normal. But yesterday, after the mayor's speech, the streets were filled with protesters. So, they're not satisfied with his rhetoric.

BOLDUAN: We often hear calls for leaders to step down in the case of community outrage. In this circumstance, with what Chicago is facing and what you're proposing, what offers you the confidence whoever replaces the mayor, whatever comes next, will make a difference?

FORD: Well, we know that the mayor that's going to be elected by the people again in Chicago will be one that listens. I think we've had enough of a strong type mayor that runs the Chicago public schools and shuts down 50 schools and runs the entire police department and yet he continues to say that he has no knowledge about what's going on. And so I think Chicago has said, enough is enough. It's time for us to give the power back to the people in the city of Chicago. We have blacks, whites, everyone marching together saying, we must do something different in Chicago.

[11:45:28] BOLDUAN: Is there any way you think you can work hand in hand, rather than replace, but work with Mayor Emanuel to bring about these changes for the city of Chicago?

FORD: Well, I think that we plan to continue to work hand in hand with him. I'm going to meet with his CEO of Chicago public schools after this interview because I want to continue to push quality education in Chicago. So until Rahm Emanuel is out of office, I'm going to continue to try to work with him. That's what I have to do. So, the recall mechanism that we're trying to put in place in Chicago is the call of democracy from the people in Chicago. And I think that when you look at what's happening in Chicago, people are fed up.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, Representative, have you heard from the mayor in light of you putting forth this legislation?

FORD: I have not heard from the mayor and I have not heard from his office. I think that the mayor realized that he's got work to do. I don't blame him. I wouldn't call me either. I'm doing everything I can to stand with the people of Chicago that demand we have a better city, a city that's fair and just for everyone.

BOLDUAN: We'll follow this and see where your legislation goes. It will need to pass the state house and state Senate before it gets there.

Thank you very much for your time.

FORD: Thank you, Kate. BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is under fire today after seeming to suggest some African-American students are better off at, quote/unquote, "lesser schools." But what did he mean? Were his words taken out of context? We'll discuss.


[02:51:33] BOLDUAN: New this morning, Senator Harry Reid, the top Democratic in the Senate, is slamming Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for his comments about African-American students.

During oral arguments in a highly-charged affirmative action case, Scalia raised a theory that some African-American students are more successful at less-advanced colleges. Here's what he said. I'll read from the transcript from the argument. Scalia says this, in part, "There are those who contend it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less, a slower- track school where they do well."

One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don't come from schools like the University of Texas. The University of Texas is the school in question in the center of this case we're talking about now. Senator Harry Reid said all of that is racist. Well, it's certainly raising eyebrows today.

Let's bring in Gloria Browne-Marshall, a constitutional law professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

You were in the court. You were there for the oral arguments, Gloria. What did you think when you heard Justice Scalia lay this out?

GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Well, many people in the room just gasped. I mean, I've been in the court many times, and so when Justice Scalia make these comments, as in the Shelby County case about, you know, these privileges, or entitlements. He's always very provocative but this time he really shocked the audience.

BOLDUAN: When he was citing from a brief, offer the context if we can. This is a popular theory amongst those who are opponents of affirmative action. It goes back to this mismatched theory.

BROWNE-MARSHALL: Yes, and so the problem we have with this idea of a lesser-advanced school is the HBCU, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, graduate many of our doctors and scientists. Those are not less-advanced schools. That's a different choice in schooling. And so to call those less-advanced schools I think is a form of bigotry about what the HBCU represents. But also it's the sense that the choice is not there for the applicant. Justice Alito said something to Justice Scalia's remark that - hasn't been getting the same publicity. That is Justice Alito said, well, what about the standardized tests that undermines the potential of those applicants by not indicating that they can do well, and the Harvard brief of course was also support of affirmative action saying these students do do well when they go into the schools and they do well after graduation --


BOLDUAN: So you think --


BROWNE-MARSHALL: That's just one part of this whole proposal.

BOLDUAN: There's a whole lot to it for sure. You don't think this legal argument holds water to say the very least. But do you think as Senator Reid does, yes, he's a politician, do you think it's racist when he said it?

BROWNE-MARSHALL: Well, I think it's disconcerting from a racial perspective. It's not my place to call Justice Scalia a racist or his comment racial or from a standpoint of prejudice. I will say it shows that he is not within the scope of understanding of what an HBCU is, what it does for its graduates, nor does he really understand that there are black students within the University of Texas and other schools that have to deal with racism, that have to deal with bigotry, that are dealing with all these issues we see in an outside world. I think he's become so narrow-minded in his thinking, that he doesn't understand that this idea of people not doing well, because they're African-American, is a prejudice statement.

[11:55:07] BOLDUAN: The important thing is the audio will be released tomorrow so everyone will be able to hear in real-time like you were there in the courtroom.

Gloria, thank very much for coming in. I appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: And thank you all so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

"Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield will start right after this.


[12:00:08] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. And welcome to "Legal View."