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Teacher Murder Trial: The Cross-Examination of Nathaniel Brazill, Part I

Aired May 9, 2001 - 09:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to begin with the Florida trial that has refocused attention on school violence and cases where juveniles are being tried as adults. A 14-year-old boy is charged with first-degree murder, accused of gunning down his middle school teacher.

We want to take you there live to the courtroom. You see there Nathaniel Brazill has just taken the stand. We have been listening to his cross-examination.

As we prepare -- as we wait while these lawyers prepare to begin this cross-examination, let's bring in our Mark Potter, who is covering this trial, which is under way in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Mark, we actually saw the direct examination yesterday of this young boy, correct?

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that was the friendly questioning from the defense attorney, who led the young boy, helped him -- helped him with his story. It's going to be a different scenario today.

This will be prosecution cross-examination. The prosecutors had all night to go over the transcripts and to prepare for this, to prepare their questions. They are going to try to tear down this young boy's story that this was an accidental killing, that he did not intend to kill his teacher, one of favorite teachers, he says, Barry Grunow.

And they are going to go after him in a much different tone than the boy faced when he was questioned by his attorney, Robert Udell. Marc Shiner, the prosecutor, is going to start right now. He has been introduced by the judge. And if you want to listen in, we can do that. It's going to being right now.

MARC SHINER, ASSISTANT STATE'S ATTORNEY: May I approach the witness, Your Honor?

JUDGE RICHARD WENNET, 15TH CIRCUIT COURT: Please.

SHINER: Mr. Brazill, I'm going to hand you what's marked as state's exhibit No. 2 (OFF-MIKE) I want you to show the members of the jury how you shot Mr. Grunow between the eyes unintentionally. Can you show us?

NATHANIEL BRAZILL, DEFENDANT: I held the gun up, and with both my hands like this.

SHINER: Can you show us how you pulled the slide back on the gun, please?

BRAZILL: I don't quite remember that. I think it might have been something like that or like that.

SHINER: All right. You don't remember?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Did you pull the slide back on the gun?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you remember a bullet coming out of the gun, out of the top of the gun?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: You don't remember that?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Are you able to tell us whether a bullet came out of the top of the gun?

BRAZILL: From what I saw in the pictures, yes.

SHINER: No -- with your own memory from being there?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: You have no way of knowing that?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Did you know bullets come out of the top of the gun when you pull the slide back?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Are you sure?

BRAZILL: Once the gun is fired, I knew that the empty cartridge would come out.

SHINER: But did you know a live round would come out when you pull the slide back without pulling the trigger, that a live round would come out once you had bullets in the chamber already set to fire? Did you know that?

BRAZILL: No. SHINER: You positive?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you understand my question?

BRAZILL: A little bit. So what you are saying that, if there's a bullet already in the chamber, that if you pull the slide back, that the bullet will come out.

SHINER: Did you know that prior to -- did you know right before you shot Mr. Grunow? Did you have any idea that would happen?

BRAZILL: Did I have any idea that there was a bullet already in the chamber?

SHINER: Yes -- and that it would come after you pulled the slide back?

BRAZILL: I didn't -- at the time, I didn't know there was a bullet already in the chamber.

SHINER: All right, let me be more specific. When you had the gun, you were holding it like this.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Two hands?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Raised your back foot?

BRAZILL: Something like how you are doing.

SHINER: Front foot (OFF-MIKE) forward?

BRAZILL: I think my right food was in the back. And my left foot might have been something like that.

(CROSSTALK)

SHINER: ... this way?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And you had the gun -- I won't point at anyone. But you had the gun up like this?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Higher?

BRAZILL: I think that's about it right there.

SHINER: Right aiming dead square at Mr. Grunow's head? BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Now, my question is: When you pulled the slide back, if you did it like this or like this. At the moment you did that, either that moment or any time before, did you have any idea or knowledge that a bullet, a live round that was already in there would come out of the top?

BRAZILL: Yes. Yes.

SHINER: How did you know that?

BRAZILL: It's kind of simple.

SHINER: Explain it to me.

BRAZILL: There's already a bullet, and you pull the chamber, and you pull the slide back, if one is not in -- if one is already in there, the other one would go into the chamber and knock that one out.

SHINER: And you knew that back on May 26 of the year 2000, the last day of school.

BRAZILL: I didn't know that there was a bullet already in the gun.

SHINER: But you knew, the way the gun worked, that a live round would fly out if there was one already in there.

BRAZILL: Somewhat, yes.

SHINER: And you wanted to make sure a live round was in there, right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: That's why you pulled the slide back prior to shooting the man between the eyes, right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: I'm going to hand you this -- may I approach again, Judge?

I'm going to hand you this exhibit again. I want you to show the jury how your hands were shaking prior to shooting him between the eyes.

BRAZILL: They were shaking sort of how they are now.

SHINER: Show me, again, please.

BRAZILL: My hands -- you can't really see it that well. But I can feel my hands are shaking.

SHINER: And that's the way you were holding it. BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Your hands weren't going like this, was it?

BRAZILL: Talking about such as in a big movement?

SHINER: Yes, up and down, like: Oh, my God. What's going on here? I'm about to kill my teacher. What am I doing?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: You were pretty steady, right?

BRAZILL: Somewhat, yes.

SHINER: Show us how the trigger got pulled. Can you show us?

BRAZILL: I didn't intentionally pull the trigger. My finger was on the trigger.

SHINER: How did you unintentionally pull the trigger? Can you display for the jury in this courtroom, put the gun in your hand and show us the way you were holding it, shaking, whatever you were doing? Show how it could unintentionally fire.

BRAZILL: I was -- I was holding the gun in my hand. My finger was on the trigger. I was holding it with both hands, holding it kind of tightly. And that's when the gun went off.

SHINER: Who pulled the trigger?

BRAZILL: I did.

SHINER: Show us how it can go off unintentionally. Can you replicate or duplicate that for us in court this morning?

BRAZILL: What do you mean?

SHINER: Can you show how it can go off without you meaning it to go off? Can you show us?

BRAZILL: Not really.

SHINER: Why not?

BRAZILL: Because I don't know how much the thing is.

SHINER: It takes a lot of force to pull that trigger, don't it?

BRAZILL: I don't know.

SHINER: You have pulled it before, haven't you?

BRAZILL: Just that once.

SHINER: You can't answer that, how it went off unintentionally, can you?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: May I have the gun back? Thank you.

By the way, you know this is a safety, right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And you showed this to Kervin?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And you showed him how to load the bullets in here?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You knew how to take the clip out prior to May 26 of the year 2000?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you know how to put the clip in just like I just did?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: When you showed him the gun, it was fully loaded, right?

BRAZILL: It had five bullets in the clip.

SHINER: OK. And you put the safety on, right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Because you knew it was important to make sure nobody would get shot by accident, right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And you said even told Kervin, "Now it's safe."

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And you knew how to work this gun, didn't you?

BRAZILL: Not really. I had never fired the handgun -- a handgun before.

SHINER: You started off in a big way, huh, first time when you fired it?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: I want to talk to you about the statement you gave to the police. You remember telling your attorney Mr. Udell yesterday and the members of the jury that everything you said in there was true and correct?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You remember when Detective Boland asked you, "Sir, do you have problems with anybody at home or at school?" Do you remember telling him your answer was "No"?

BRAZILL: Say it again.

SHINER: Detective Boland asked you on page 12 -- and if you need a copy to refresh your memory, I will be more than glad to give you a copy of your statement -- but do you remember telling Detective Boland that you have no problems with anyone at school or at home?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And he said, "Are you sure?" And you said, "Yes."

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And do you remember telling Detective Boland, when he asked you what kind of gun it was, in the very beginning of your statement, you said, "It's a .22 or a .25 automatic"? Do you remember saying that?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you remember Detective Boland asking you is this the type of gun where casings come out of the side when you pull the trigger?

BRAZILL: Do I remember that?

SHINER: Sure.

BRAZILL: I remember from watching the video.

SHINER: You said, yes, this is the kind of gun that, after you fire it, a casing will come out of the top. Do you remember telling him that?

BRAZILL: I thought you said the side.

SHINER: Out of the side, sure.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You knew that?

BRAZILL: That a case would come out of the side?

SHINER: Yes.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: After you shot a bullet, the casing would fly out -- you knew that, right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You knew that on May 26, when you spoke to the police?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And you knew that when you shot Mr. Grunow?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You told the detective you were the one who put the five bullets in the clip, right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And you told him you kept the safety on because when I saw the safety, I kept it on. Do you remember telling him something like that?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And you told him you hid the gun in your bag. Do you remember telling him that?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you remember when you got home and you told him that you took the clip out of the gun and put the safety on before putting the gun in your draw?

BRAZILL: Yes. Well, I remember from watching the video.

SHINER: Well, you told him that, didn't you?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Were you tell him the truth?

BRAZILL: Say that again.

SHINER: Were you telling him the truth?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You new you were in big trouble that day, didn't you?

BRAZILL: On what day?

SHINER: The day you were speaking to Detective Daniel Boland?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And you knew that when you came home, that it was really important for you to put the safety on the take the clip out, because you have a little sister and maybe she and her friends might get the gun -- true?

BRAZILL: Yes, yes.

SHINER: Do you remember telling Detective Boland -- and I'm right now talking about what you told Detective Boland, OK?

BRAZILL: OK.

SHINER: If you don't understand my questions, I'll be more than glad to rephrase them, OK?

BRAZILL: OK.

SHINER: Do you understand everything so far?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you remember telling Detective Boland that you went to your grandma's house to get the key, and she gave it to you? Do you remember telling that to Detective Boland?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you remember the question that detective Boland asked you?: Why did you get the gun from your dresser drawer? Your answer was Because I was, like, really mad. Do you remember telling Detective Boland that?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And then you said because I was never -- was never under suspension -- do you remember making that statement to Detective Boland?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you remember telling Detective Boland that you asked Mr. Grunow to speak to the girls, and him saying no?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And that then he pushed me away and told me to go to class?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And he had a smile on his face, and he was laughing, and that made me mad?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You made those statements, right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: I'm going away from the statement for a second. I want to ask you a question right now. When you had the gun in your hand, did you feel like you were the boss, that you were the man in control at that time?

BRAZILL: A little bit, yes.

SHINER: Is that why you took the gun to school with you?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Just like the movie "Air Force One," where the terrorist took over the plane?

BRAZILL: Let's see.

SHINER: Do you remember the movie you talked about watching the day before you testified, yesterday?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Your favorite movie.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Is that why you took the gun so you could be in control?

BRAZILL: Not really.

SHINER: So you could be the boss?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: So you could tell the teachers what to do?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: So you could go back and exact your revenge?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Going back to your statement, do you remember telling the detective that you pulled the gun out, you were shaking, and it just all went from there. Do you remember saying that?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Mr. Grunow said, no, you couldn't speak with Vonae and Dinora, and you were mad. Do you remember saying that, again?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you remember telling the detective that you were about 10 feet to 12 feet away from Mr. Grunow, and you were mad?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you remember saying you were already mad from being suspended by Mr. Hinds?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: So you were angry prior to going to school, weren't you?

BRAZILL: Going back to school?

SHINER: Yes, sir.

BRAZILL: A little bit.

SHINER: You were mad, weren't you?

BRAZILL: Are you talking about furious mad?

SHINER: You tell us.

BRAZILL: I wasn't that mad.

SHINER: You were mad enough to kill someone, weren't you?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: You were going back to F up the school, to mess up the teachers, weren't you?

BRAZILL: No, I was not.

SHINER: You wanted to be all over the news, didn't you?

BRAZILL: No, sir, I did not.

SHINER: Do you remember that the detective asked you what was your reason for bringing the gun to school this afternoon, and your answer was I was just mad. Do you remember saying that again?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you remember telling the detective that you think you hit Mr. Grunow with the bullet, because you think you saw blood, and when you saw the blood, you ran?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You knew he was shot, didn't you?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You didn't stop to try to help him, did you?

BRAZILL: I was scared.

SHINER: You did not try to stop to help him, did you?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Did you drop to your knees and start crying?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Did you drop the gun?

BRAZILL: No, I did not.

SHINER: Did you scream out for help?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Did you just let the man die there?

BRAZILL: Sir, I was scared -- I was ran.

SHINER: You did nothing to help that man, did you?

BRAZILL: I was scared.

SHINER: Yes or no, sir?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: You did nothing to help him?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: When you came outside of the school, you told Detective Boland that you saw Officer Baxter running away...

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And that he was taking your bicycle -- remember?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And you remember that he was putting it on the back of your golf cart?

BRAZILL: Say that again.

SHINER: On his golf cart?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You remember that, huh?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you remember there was another officer there with him?

BRAZILL: Yes, there was.

SHINER: Were they wearing uniforms?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Both of them?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You didn't turn yourself into them, did you?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Why not?

BRAZILL: I was scared.

SHINER: Because they had bigger guns than you?

BRAZILL: Yes -- well, not necessarily.

SHINER: Mr. Grunow didn't have a gun, did he?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: You weren't scared when you threatened to kill him, were you?

BRAZILL: Threatened to kill him?

SHINER: Yes, when you had a gun pointed at his face and were saying, I want to see the girls now.

BRAZILL: I did not use that tone of voice.

SHINER: That's not true? You never said that to him?

BRAZILL: Yes, I did.

SHINER: You didn't say it in a stern voice like you've never spoken before?

BRAZILL: Yes, but not the way you just said it.

SHINER: Well, show us, because I wasn't there. So show us how you said it, Nathan.

BRAZILL: I said, Mr. Grunow, can I see and Dinora and Vonae?

SHINER: That's the way you've spoken for the last three hours, from yesterday and today. You didn't say it any louder?

BRAZILL: I think it was.

SHINER: You said it in a deep voice, and none of the students ever heard you talk like that before. Isn't that true?

BRAZILL: Yes, from what I hear.

SHINER: You agree with that, don't you? BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Because you were in control?

BRAZILL: Say that again.

SHINER: Because you were in control of the situation?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: You were the man with the gun?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: It made you feel like a big man, didn't it?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you remember telling the detective that you wanted to scare Mr. Grunow, but not shoot him?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: So you admit to this court that you had a gun -- a loaded gun -- pointed at Mr. Grunow's head, and it was your intent at that time to scare him. Is that what you're telling us?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: With the firearm?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: That's something that was your desire at that time?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And you knew you did not have a legal right to be back on the school property, correct?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And you knew if they caught you, you would have been arrested, right?

BRAZILL: I don't know what would have happened.

SHINER: There was a good chance they'd throw you off, wasn't there?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You could possibly get arrested?

BRAZILL: Possibly.

SHINER: You knew you had no right to be back on the school grounds, correct?

BRAZILL: Yes, yes.

SHINER: You took the gun out, you told Detective Boland, and you told Mr. Grunow to move out of the way, correct?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you remember when your family members came in?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Your mom was hysterically crying.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Your grandma, your aunt, and everybody was extremely upset.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Did you realize that the Grunows at that time were being told their son, their dad, and their husband was just murdered by you?

BRAZILL: Say that again.

SHINER: Did you realize, when your mom was so upset that at the same time the Grunow family was finding out that their loved one was killed?

BRAZILL: At that time, did I realize that?

SHINER: Yes.

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Did you realize it a little later, when Detective Boland told you?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you remember telling one of your family members -- see page 31 -- that you didn't like the teacher this year. Do you remember making the statement?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Do you want me to show it to you?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: May I approach, your honor?

WENNET: Go right ahead.

SHINER: Page 31 -- read as much as you want, but I highlighted the portions of the questions I asked you.

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