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Ray Lewis and His Attorney Hold News Conference

Aired June 6, 2000 - 3:17 p.m. ET


KYRA PHILLPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're back here in Atlanta, where we're actually going to break away from TALKBACK LIVE for a moment and go to a press conference out in front of the Fulton County Courthouse where we've been following the Ray Lewis murder trial all throughout the day. We're going to listen in to his lawyers.


ED GARLAND, ATTORNEY FOR RAY LEWIS: "I am relieved that I am no longer on trial. I feel I have been vindicated from the false charges of murder that were placed against me. But I am absolutely not celebrating, because two people died here in Atlanta, and I was a witness. And I am very sad for the families of those men who died.

"I have searched my soul and asked God to guide me. I accept my responsibility for the way I handled myself with the police and with the witnesses to this tragedy. Now I'm looking forward to being with my family and playing football with my team. I want to thank all who have given me strength and support during this ordeal. The people of Baltimore, my fans, my family, my friends and other people who have sent their support to me. I look forward to putting my life back in order, and I will see everybody in Baltimore and answer questions in a few days."

"Ray Lewis."

QUESTION: Mr. Garland, it appears that he will immediately go back to Baltimore.

GARLAND: No, I think he is going to collect himself for a day or two. You can imagine the highs and lows of going through an ordeal like this, one day being a defendant and the state asking to put you away for life, and the next day going through being a witness in what was the worse event of his whole life. He has finished that. He will collect himself, then he's going to go on with his life.

QUESTION: How difficult was it for you and Ray Lewis to prepare for him to take the stand and testify against his friends and co- defendants?

GARLAND: It was not difficult at all. We spent no time planning what he was going to say to the district attorney and no time getting him ready to testify, other than to say to him, Ray, just tell the truth and tell it like it is. We did not prepare him in his meeting with Paul Howard. He was prepared, because he knew what he had seen and what he had done, and we had gone over that many times in anticipation of him testifying in his own defense, if necessary.

QUESTION: How did he feel at the end of the day?

GARLAND: How do I feel?

QUESTION: How did he feel at the end of the day?

GARLAND: I think he's pretty wrung out. He is now meeting with his probation officer at this time. It is my understanding that he will report once a month, probably by telephone, and that he will have to obey and abide by all the conditions of the probations, which he is delighted to do. Ray has said to me that he is going to be a better linebacker this coming year than he was last year. He's going to conduct himself better, and he's going to be a better player, and he feels he can do it.

QUESTION: I think both defense attorneys who examined Ray Lewis did a very fine and loyal-like job. They did not in any way attack Ray Lewis' credibility. In fact, neither the prosecutor nor the defense implied or asserted that Ray Lewis had been false on any answer.

QUESTION: One of the things that family members had told us is that Ray Lewis wants to say something to the victim's families. Are you aware at this all?

GARLAND: Yes, I'm aware of it. As I said earlier at lunch, Ray has a great deal of compassion, and he understands that for some period of time, these people have felt like he was involved. I hope they now know that he was not. I recall those families saying that they wanted justice and that they did not want the wrong man convicted. And I would expect in the not too distant future that he will ask for a meeting with them, and to share his sorrow with them about what happened.

QUESTION: And as an attorney, do you think his testimony helped or hurt Sweeting and Oakley?

GARLAND: I think it both hurt and helped them. It helped them in that it painted the picture of a group of not just the few people that had been presented by the state, but a group of six. If you believe Ray Lewis, those witnesses from Ohio who testified that they just came along and looked on the ground and saw somebody unconscious, and ran to their car and got a gun, you would say that they are not telling the truth, that they were in the fight, in the fray. If you recall, Miss Keeler said she looked out her window, she saw vicious beating taking place, she saw a man in a red coat, and we now know the man wearing the red coat. The red coat in evidence was Mr. Burros, who said by the way, he wasn't in the fight, but he just wound up shooting seven shots in the side of the limo. So from that standpoint, it helped the defense case to establish the link between the number of people, the number of people at the corner, and tie it back into the vicious beating being administered by the man in the red coat and other big people. I think it hurt the defendants to the degree there was testimony about the swinging motion into the chest by Mr. Sweeting and further testimony about the swinging motion into the chest of Mr. Baker by Mr. Oakley. So it was a mixed bag. It hurt and helped both sides and it varied with the questions.

QUESTION: Did he say anything to Sweeting and Oakley, Ray Lewis? What is his feeling now toward Sweeting?

GARLAND: Well, I think his feeling is this way: He never wanted anybody in a fight, and those people that got in a fight and caused this to happen, these things to happen to him, these charges to be brought, he is not friends with those people. During the course of this case, I did not see him speak with or talk with the other defendants unless they were put right in his path.

So I don't believe Ray is going around being angry, because he so much wants to put this behind him, but I don't believe you will see him in their presence ever again.


QUESTION: Does Ray know who killed those men?

GARLAND: I think you got the answer of what he knows on the witness stand. And he was careful to say to Mr. Howard and to the jury in answer to questions that he wasn't sure who killed those men.

He believes that what happens to them is up to a jury. He doesn't want to prejudge. He don't want to declare. He doesn't want to make any remarks. He wants them to have a fair trial and let justice be done, whatever it is.

Your question has several parts. I wouldn't agree with a number of them. There's no evidence that Joseph Sweeting was part of a Ray Lewis policy or that Ray Lewis had any posse. I think the evidence in my investigation shows that dozens of people because of his wealth and access to sports events and tickets found their way to him. And as a 24-year-old boy, he just didn't really know how to say no to people and keep them away. I would view these people as hanger-ons and people who attach themselves to him.

So to answer your question, I don't think he has spoken any code that he was a part of. I do think that it is good that Ray Lewis made a determination to face and admit what he had done wrong. And I hope that the NFL, and the players and the public realize that. The prosecution had given up on its case, and all they asked in order for him to take that stand was that he admit what he had done. And he was more than happy to face it, and I hope that's a good sign for everybody.

PHILLIPS: You've been listening to press conference. Ed Garland, attorney for Ray Lewis, was reading a statement, or read a statement from his client Ray Lewis, mentioning that he is relieved to be vindicated, that he's looking forward to going back to Baltimore and playing football, being with his family. Our Brian Cabell has been across the street from the Fulton County courthouse. He's been monitoring the murder trial and the press conference, and has more for us. Brian, do you think Lewis' testimony helped or hurt his case today?

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, I think Mr. Garland was absolutely accurate, this was a mixed bag for the co-defendants. Ray Lewis certainly help the co-defendants, his former co-defendants by bringing up the very distinct possibility that they reacted in self-defense. That was brought up throughout the morning and afternoon, that in fact, this is what they're saying, that perhaps they were provoked by the victims and the victims' friends, that they were threatened by the victims' friends, and that in fact, those friends may have started the fight. So that certainly would weigh heavily on the jury's mind.

Secondly, Ray Lewis never said he saw the knife in anybody's hands during the fight, so he cannot say that so and so, either Sweeting or Oakley, actually stabbed anybody, so that certainly helps both of their sides. He hurt them in a couple of respects, a couple of conversations he had. First of all, beforehand, the two gentlemen showed him a knife, he said, boy, you guys are crazy -- or tripping. And secondly, afterwards, he had conversations with them, and both of them said they had been in a fight. In fact, one of them, Sweeting, showed him a knife afterwards, which, again, clearly indicated, at least to some, that perhaps he had used that knife.

But again, a mixed bag, the trial will go on, and Ray Lewis will go home.

I'm Brian Cabell, CNN live, in Atlanta.

PHILLIPS: OK, Brian, a lot of people were mentioning they felt there was a lot of contradiction going on in the testimony today. Did -- can we talk a little bit about that, and maybe bring up a few situations? Did you follow that? Do you think that, I don't know, played a difficult part today?

CABELL: Well, I think contradictions were exactly how the fight started, who started threatening first, who started fighting first. We heard about a bottle hit over a head. We heard about words being exchanged. We heard about threatening people. And so the question certainly becomes, who started the fight. And it's not clear. You talk to Ray Lewis, Ray Lewis was standing there the whole time just asking people to stop fighting and trying to pull people away. We heard earlier in the trial that he was, in fact, perhaps kicking somebody, that perhaps he was hitting somebody, that he was tussling, so we certainly have contradictions.

PHILLIPS: We're going to break away from you for just a minute. Ray Lewis is coming out of the courthouse, and stepping up to the microphone. We're going to listen to what he has to say.

RAY LEWIS, PROSECUTION WITNESS: I previously sent Mr. Garland out to make a statement for me, but I felt that I know for a fact it wouldn't be right, because two young men's lives are still gone, no matter that Ray Lewis is free. But like I said from the beginning, when this first started, I was innocent, and I'm saying it now that I'm innocent. I never did anything. I was nothing in this whole case but a witness at the whole time. And what I just said today was to prove to the world I've always been a witness.

Everybody had their things to say, but, you know, I have someone who's a higher authority, which is God, and that's who's always been on my side. And I just want to say thank for all my fans, to all my teammates, to everybody who supported me through all this. Now I can get back to playing football and do what I do best.

Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Ray Lewis -- OK, he is stepping away. We thought he was going to address reporters one more time but there you have it. Ray Lewis came out of the murder trial. He says he's vindicated, feeling relieved. He's excited about going back to Baltimore, playing football. And he thanked his fans and his teammates for all the support they had given him.

And he said it proves what he said from the very beginning was that he was innocent, he's glad that it's over, and he is going back home to be with his family.

Now we're moving on to another breaking news story that we have for you. We have been telling about a very bizarre chopper crash after a inmate and his pilot escaped from a treatment center in Florida.

The news is the sex offender who we had been telling you about and the chopper pilot who helped him escape from the treatment center in Indian Town, Florida, have been captured. Stephen Whitsett and the chopper pilot have been captured. They were captured 10 miles from the treatment center at the Cobblestone Country Club. We will bring you more information on that as we get it -- that news just breaking.

We're going to go to a quick break.



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