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

Aired May 9, 2001 - 09:35   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: Welcome back as we resume our coverage of the cross-examination of Nathaniel Brazill, the 14-year-old who is standing trial right now for the shooting death of his teacher.

And while you all were away, during the break, we did have one rather significant moment. He's being cross-examined right now about questions that did not come up yesterday. He's having, according to the prosecutor here, he's having something of a memory lapse from what happened -- from questions he was asked yesterday. He could not remember.

All of a sudden, he is remembering some things that he did not bring up yesterday, one of which, he just said moments ago, was a statement that he made to a friend about him saying he was going to bring a gun to school and shoot Mr. Hinds. So things are starting to heat up a little bit in that courtroom.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Our Mark Potter is outside of the courtroom in West Palm Beach. He's been following this also.

Mark, probably one of the most compelling things thus far is lawyers got right to the point, had Nathaniel Brazill hold the gun and demonstrate how he used it.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, and in the course of that, they scored another point. They -- they asked Nathaniel to show the jury, with the gun in hand, how he could have fired it off accidentally. That's his claim, that the gun just went off, and Nathaniel said he couldn't do that. He didn't know how to do that. And it was left hanging.

And, of course, the prosecution's claim is that this was clearly not an accidental shooting, that he intentionally pulled the trigger, and it -- it's a big point for the prosecution when the -- the witness cannot show -- cannot replicate his version of what happened, that the gun went off accidentally. He said before the jury he couldn't do that.

The other key point, if you recall, was when the -- the prosecutor asked him what happened moments after he shot Mr. Grunow, as -- as the man lay dying on the floor. He asked him, "Did you help him? Did you fall to your knees? Did you go for help? Did you cry?" and to each of those questions, Nathaniel had to say, "No," "No," "No." He didn't do any of those things. He -- and he said ran he because he was scared.

And our assumption is that -- again, that scores big points for the prosecution, showing a young man who says he cares very deeply for this teacher, he was one of his favorite teachers, and as the man lie bleeding on the floor, he did absolutely nothing to help him.

HARRIS: That's interesting. You bring up that other point. That's a point that has been made so often about this young man, his relationship with the teacher, that they actually liked each other, and he liked this teacher, but I heard moments ago earlier in the -- in this first half-hour of testimony a statement that he had made, I guess, to his mother that he did not like the teacher he had this year, and that was Mr. Grunow.

POTTER: Yeah, that was a statement that he made in the -- in the police department when his family came in to visit with him. They were in a room where there was a surveillance camera he didn't know about, and Nathaniel argued that away, saying that he wasn't talking about Grunow, and it was unclear exactly what he meant.

But, again, that's a point that the prosecutor makes, that some of the things that -- that Nathaniel has said in either his testimony yesterday or before the -- with the police on the day of the shooting, after his arrest, that -- all of that's being attacked right now, and the prosecutor is just doggedly going after statement after statement after statement, questioning it.

And in some instances, he has scored points refreshing Nathaniel's memory, getting him to say things that he didn't seem to remember yesterday. You -- you gave that example from the moment when we were in the break. And the prosecutor is just going one after the other.

HARRIS: All right. Thanks, Mark.

Well, they have just now resumed in the proceedings there in the courtroom. Let's go back.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MARC SHINER, ASSISTANT STATE'S ATTORNEY: Do you remember making that statement?

NATHANIEL BRAZILL, DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

SHINER: And that's exactly what you wanted to do, you wanted to be all over the news, right?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Did you make that statement intentionally or unintentionally?

BRAZILL: Intentionally.

SHINER: Was that your motive or your goal at the moment you were walking off the school campus on May the 26 of the year 2000?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Matter of fact -- we're backing up a little bit. As a matter of fact, you've been all over the media for the last 11 months, haven't you?

BRAZILL: Yes.

ROBERT UDELL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Objection, Judge.

JUDGE RICHARD WENNET, 15TH CIRCUIT COURT: Overruled.

SHINER: And you knew that by killing a teacher would cause such a -- cause such a stir in this community that your face would be blasted all over every major newspaper and network in this country.

(CROSSTALK)

SHINER: True?

BRAZILL: Yes.

WENNET: Oh, excuse me -- overruled.

SHINER: True?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You got what you wanted, didn't you?

BRAZILL: That's not really what I wanted.

SHINER: Not really what you wanted?

BRAZILL: No, that isn't what I wanted at all.

SHINER: You have been giving interviews to major magazines, haven't you?

BRAZILL: My...

UDELL: Objection.

WENNET: Overruled.

BRAZILL: My attorney told me to do that. That's the only reason I gave interviews.

SHINER: My question is you have been giving interviews, yes or no?

BRAZILL: My attorney said to do it.

UDELL: That's ridiculous.

Can I get a standing objection in so that I don't have to continue to interrupt?

WENNET: Well, you may have new grounds.

UDELL: Yes.

WENNET: I mean, on the other grounds, the ruling is the same. But if you have some other basis, which you may.

SHINER: I can short-circuit us and help this judge.

UDELL: Very well. Very well.

WENNET: I'll let you read.

Is there something else?

UDELL: Yes, the objection is to the question...

WENNET: Do you want curative instruction? Do you want some help along that line? Would you like to approach the bench?

UDELL: Please.

HARRIS: Now while the attorneys are taking a break in the courtroom, let us take a break. We'll be back with more in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Welcome back as we continue to monitor the courtroom in West Palm Beach, Florida, where Nathaniel Brazill, a 14-year-old boy, is now standing trial for the shooting death of his teacher. We're going to be getting back to the activity in the courtroom in just a moment.

PHILLIPS: We're going to bring in our Mark Potter once again.

Mark, they've taken a bit of a break. The issue at hand is what can or cannot be used with regards to an interview that Nathaniel had given to "The Palm Beach Post" and another magazine.

POTTER: Yes, he was asked if he got his wish to be all over the news. It's been alleged that that was one of the things he wanted to do and that he said it to a girlfriend. And the prosecutor pointed out that he had, indeed, been interviewed.

Nathaniel shot back that he did that because his attorney told him to do it.

And at that point, his attorney stood up and objected. They went to a sidebar conference with Judge Richard Wennet, who is speaking right now. That's what that's all about: The prosecutor trying to make the point that Nathaniel has been all over the news for 11 months, his face is on every network, in every newspaper and magazine, and this is exactly what he wanted. That's the prosecution's point. Nathaniel says, No, that's not what I wanted -- I was just saying that. And again his point was he went and did that interview because his attorney made him do it.

That's what they're arguing about, and it sounds like it's about to be settled there.

The judge is relaxing back in his chair, and we're going over to seeing Marc Shiner, the prosecutor, who now is talking to Nathaniel.

SHINER: My question is after you killed Mr. Grunow, you spoke to people from major magazines, correct?

UDELL: Objection.

WENNET: Well, sustained. Nathaniel, that question need be answered only in yes or no, and if an explanation is necessary, we'll let counsel, in his redirect examination, ask you for a explanation, OK?

BRAZILL: OK.

Yes, sir.

SHINER: You did, right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: OK.

Yesterday you spoke in response to your attorney's questions, and you said you went to your grandma's house to get the suspension lifted because it was important to you. Do you remember saying that?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Isn't it true that you couldn't go directly to your house to get your firearm because your grandma had your key?

BRAZILL: Say that again.

SHINER: Sure. Did you have a key to your house as soon as you were suspended from school -- yes or no?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: You had to go see your grandma to get your key, in order to get your firearm, correct?

BRAZILL: I had to see my grandmother to get the key, yes.

SHINER: You wanted your key to get your firearm, true?

BRAZILL: No, no, sir.

SHINER: And your bicycle? BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: What are you going do, go lay down and relax in front of the television?

BRAZILL: That's what I -- not really lay down, but I was going to watch TV.

SHINER: When did you decide to do that?

BRAZILL: After I had arrived at Pete's place.

SHINER: I should go home and watch TV?

BRAZILL: That's what I planned on doing.

SHINER: And that's what you planned on doing after you said, I'm going to kill Mr. Hinds, and I'm going to be all over the news. Do you want us to believe you were going to go home to watch TV?

BRAZILL: I was just saying that out of anger.

SHINER: And what are you saying you wanted to watch TV out of -- compassion?

BRAZILL: What do you mean by "compassion"?

SHINER: That would have been the right thing to do, right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: The smart thing to do?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: That way none of us would be here, right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You wouldn't have been all over the news?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: And Mr. Grunow would still be alive.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And your family wouldn't be upset that you're sitting in a circuit court in front of this jury and the media -- true?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: All you had to do was stay home and watch TV?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Control your anger, right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You couldn't do that, could you, Nathan?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Yesterday, you told Mr. Udell that you can't remember meeting with Mr. Spann, and saying, It's possible -- I don't deny it. Do you remember making that statement?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Today -- the next day -- do you remember meeting with Mr. Spann?

BRAZILL: No, I don't.

SHINER: OK. Do you know him as "Big B"?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: You don't know him as Big B?

BRAZILL: No, I don't recall him as Big B.

SHINER: Are you 100 percent positive?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: OK.

All right, you don't remember meeting Mr. Spann on May 26, 2000, after suspension -- that's true?

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: OK.

SHINER: And you've never called him Big B, you're telling us?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You're positive about that?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You ever hear him being referred to as Big B in your community?

BRAZILL: I heard my cousin call him that once.

SHINER: But you had never called him that?

BRAZILL: No, sir. SHINER: Okay. Do you deny meeting with Big B or it's just that it's something you can't remember? Or is it something you don't want to talk about?

BRAZILL: It's something I can't remember.

SHINER: You sure?

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: Is it something you'd like to forget or is it something that you honestly can't remember?

BRAZILL: I honestly can't remember.

SHINER: Yesterday, you told Mr. Udell that Mr. Spann is basically lying. You didn't use that word, but you said he wasn't telling the truth about the gun -- that you never asked him for a gun?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: So you think Mr. Spann is not telling us the truth?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Do you remember not asking him for a gun or do you -- or are you saying it's something I would never, ever do?

BRAZILL: That's -- I don't remember.

SHINER: So it's possible you would have asked him for a gun; you just can't remember that?

BRAZILL: I don't think I would have.

SHINER: Does he have any reason to come in here and tell all these people here that you asked him for a gun?

BRAZILL: I don't know.

SHINER: Can you think of a single reason why Mr. Spann would do that to you, Nathan?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: There is no reason, is there?

BRAZILL: No, not that I know of.

SHINER: You've had 11 months to think about a reason why Mr. Spann would say that to the police, didn't you?

BRAZILL: I didn't really think about that.

SHINER: It didn't bother you that Mr. Spann gave a statement to the police saying you were going to go "f" up the school with your auntie's car because you got suspended -- and you were mad and wanted to kill the teachers?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

(CROSSTALK)

SHINER: That didn't bother you?

BRAZILL: Yes, it did.

SHINER: Weren't you thinking about that over the last 11 months, whether or not -- why would Mr. Spann say this about me? Why would he make this up?

BRAZILL: I had only found out a few months ago.

SHINER: Well, in the last few months, then, weren't you thinking in your own mind what reason: Why in world would Brandon Spann want to tell people that I was going to go mess up the school? Did you ever think of that?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Can you think of a single reason?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: There is none, is there?

BRAZILL: No, none that I know of.

SHINER: And you told the jury yesterday that you knew the gun was at my house. Why would I ask him for a gun?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Well, isn't it true that your grandma -- you didn't see your grandma first and you didn't have the key to your house -- that you would -- the first person that you would see on the way to your grandma's house would be Brandon, Mr. Spann?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Big B -- what quicker way to get a gun then by somebody who you think might be in a gang? Wouldn't you be asking him for the gun first because you didn't have access to yours?

BRAZILL: He said that we met on 12th Avenue, at -- he said that we met on -- that he saw me on 12th Avenue, which was -- which is 12th Avenue is here. I didn't go to 12th Avenue until after I had already left my grandmother's house.

SHINER: But you can't even remember meeting him, can you?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: So, if you didn't have your key, it would certainly be quick access to the gun, right.

BRAZILL: Possibly, yes.

SHINER: Did you ask him about -- what it's called? CPT, CTP, what's that?

BRAZILL: I don't know.

SHINER: You never heard that before?

BRAZILL: Yes, I have.

SHINER: Well, do you remember asking Mr. Spann, "Aren't you a member of" -- what's it called, by the way, CTP or CPT?

BRAZILL: Something in that letter -- in those letters. Let's see. There's a street called C. Terrace

(CROSSTALK)

SHINER: C. Terrace (ph) posse?

BRAZILL: I don't know about no posse or something like that.

SHINER: Back on the May the 26th of the year 2000, did you say, in fact, to Mr. Spann, "Aren't you a member of C. Terrace posse?" or CTP?

BRAZILL: Not that I can remember, no.

SHINER: Are you denying that?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: So it's possible you may have said that to him?

BRAZILL: There's a big possibility.

SHINER: A big possibility.

WENNET: Excuse me, please...

BRAZILL: There's a big possibility that I -- there's a big possibility...

WENNET: Would you please lean forward and speak directly into the microphone?

BRAZILL: There's a big possibility that I didn't say it.

SHINER: That you didn't say it.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: How could there be a possibility, even if it's 1 percent, that you said that to him? BRAZILL: I don't know. I don't remember.

SHINER: Why would you have to say that to Brandon Spann, if you had the key to your house and you had access to your gun like you told us yesterday?

BRAZILL: I don't know. That's what I'm asking, too.

SHINER: Good question, huh?

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: You wanted to get a gun as quick as you could, didn't you?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: You didn't?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Remember telling Mr. Spann that you needed to go to your Aunt Liz's house because you wanted to get her car to get back to that school quick, to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up the school?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: You don't remember saying that to him?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Do you deny that? Or are you saying you can't remember?

BRAZILL: I'm saying I can't remember.

SHINER: Do you have any reason why Mr. Spann would come into a court of law and say that under oath? Can you think of a single reason why he would want to leave that impression to the members of our community about you.

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: If it wasn't true?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Because it is true, isn't it, Nathan?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Are you denying it?

BRAZILL: Not that I can remember.

SHINER: Oh, you can't remember that?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

HARRIS: What you're seeing right now is, you're seeing the prosecuting attorney Marc Shiner here keeping track of different discrepancies or different changes, he believes, in Nathaniel Brazill's account of what happened and the way things stood that particular day of the shooting, comparing testimony that he gave yesterday and statements he'd given to the police. And he's keeping track of those on that white board you see there next to Nathaniel Brazill.

We'll take a break right now and we'll come back with more in just a moment. Don't go away.

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