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

Aired May 9, 2001 - 10:00   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: Welcome back, as CNN LIVE THIS MORNING continues with our special coverage of the so-called teacher shooting trial under way right now in West Palm Beach Florida.

You're seeing now 14-year-old Nathaniel Brazill. He is now being cross-examined by prosecuting attorney Marc Shiner. Brazill is now standing trial for the shooting death of his teacher, Barry Grunow. Let's get right back to it.

MARC SHINER, PROSECUTOR: You remember telling us yesterday, you went to your house, then you went to your aunt's house...

NATHANIEL BRAZILL, DEFENDANT: Yes.

SHINER: That was to steal her car so you could get to school in a hurry. Isn't that true?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: And that was going to be your getaway?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Why would Brandon Spann say that's what you said to him?

BRAZILL: I don't know.

SHINER: Was that a lie or was that the truth?

BRAZILL: I assume that was a lie. I don't remember that, sir.

SHINER: Well, is he telling the truth or is he not?

BRAZILL: No, he's not.

SHINER: So he's lying?

BRAZILL: I don't remember it.

SHINER: Any reason he'd say that against you?

BRAZILL: No, sir. SHINER: When you decided to go back to the school you knew you needed to get out of there quick. You needed a getaway vehicle, didn't you?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: You knew that when you shot the teacher, or teachers, the police would be all over you.

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: You didn't know that?.

BRAZILL: I didn't plan on shooting anyone.

SHINER: But you needed a car to get to school.

BRAZILL: I was going to my auntie drive me to school.

SHINER: That's what you want us to believe today, right?

BRAZILL: That's what I was going to do.

SHINER: You were going to go mess up the school and you needed to get there fast.

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: You needed to escape fast.

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: How did you learn to break into people's houses with scissors, Nate?

BRAZILL: My cousin taught me.

SHINER: What gave you the right to break into your aunt's house?

BRAZILL: I didn't break in.

SHINER: You picked their lock.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Did you have a right to do that?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: You want us to believe you did it because you were worried that her car was there and you were afraid that something happened to her?

BRAZILL: I didn't know what was wrong. Her car was there. She's hardly ever home -- she's hardly ever gone without her car. SHINER: Is that what you want us to believe? That you were worried about your poor aunt? That her car is there and: Oh, my God, she may be laying dead on the floor?

BRAZILL: I didn't know what was wrong at the time.

SHINER: Do you remember telling that's what your motive was yesterday? Do you remember saying that, Nate Brazill?

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: Is that what you want us to believe?

BRAZILL: I don't care if you believe it or not, but that's the truth.

SHINER: Isn't it true you broke into her house so you could get her keys to the car?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: That's the truth, isn't it, Nate?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: You don't want anyone to know that, do you?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Because then we'd know what you were thinking.

BRAZILL: Go back, please.

SHINER: Sure. That's the truth, that you wanted a car to get to school to kill people.

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: And if we knew that, we'd know what you were thinking prior to killing Mr. Grunow.

BRAZILL: OK. Can you break that part down?

SHINER: Sure. You don't want us to know what you were really thinking prior to killing Mr. Grunow, do you?

BRAZILL: Yes, I do.

SHINER: That's why you can't remember so far the things I've written down and the other things you've said. Isn't that true?

BRAZILL: Those things I don't remember.

SHINER: Because you don't want any of us to know what you were thinking, do you?

BRAZILL: Yes, I do.

SHINER: Now, you told us yesterday that her bedroom door was locked.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You didn't stay and call the police, did you?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: What if she was laying there dead?

BRAZILL: I knocked on the door and I -- actually, I banged on the door.

SHINER: My question was what if your poor Aunt Lizzie is laying there with a heart attack or she's dead or killed. If you were that concerned, how did you know she wasn't laying there in her bedroom?

BRAZILL: The alarm went off.

SHINER: What's that all about? You never told us about that yesterday.

BRAZILL: When I opened the door the alarm went, "beep beep."

SHINER: How does that prove she's alive or dead?

BRAZILL: Because the police would have came.

SHINER: The alarm was on?

BRAZILL: I don't know. I heard the noise. I assumed it was.

SHINER: Did you shut it off?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Did the sirens start going?

BRAZILL: I didn't hear any -- I just heard, "beep beep."

SHINER: Did you go in the house?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You didn't hear the siren?

BRAZILL: That's all I heard, was "beep beep," when I opened the door.

SHINER: Were you worried the police would come in and they would find you?

BRAZILL: No. SHINER: Why didn't you pursue? Why didn't you knock on the -- why didn't you go call the police and say: "My poor Aunt Lizzie's there, laying there in the bedroom, possibly"?

BRAZILL: Because -- say it again?

SHINER: You want us to believe that you wanted to the house because your Aunt Lizzie, you wanted to see her. And you were so concerned that you jimmied the lock with scissors to get inside. You hear some noise. "Beep beep," right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And yesterday you told us her bedroom door was locked.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: And then you left?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Why didn't you do anything about it if the truth is you were trying to see if your Aunt Lizzie's OK?

BRAZILL: You mean as far as call the police?

SHINER: Yeah, or call a neighbor, or do something? Why didn't you stay to find out -- her car is there. The door is locked. Oh, my God, something happened to her.

BRAZILL: Or maybe she could have been gone.

SHINER: My point is did you do anything to check?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Because you weren't there to check on your Aunt Lizzie, were you?

BRAZILL: I was there to get my auntie to go back to the school.

SHINER: You knew she was at work.

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: You wanted the keys to her car.

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Couldn't find them?

BRAZILL: No -- I didn't look for them.

SHINER: Was her door locked?

BRAZILL: Yes, sir. SHINER: So you had no choice but to get you bicycle?

BRAZILL: I wrote a letter, left a letter on the caller ID, wrote her a note saying that I was there in case if she was gone. And then I got back, I went back out, got my bike. And then I went back to school.

SHINER: The time was running out because you knew Mr. Hinds left at 4:15, 4:30, right?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: You know Michelle Cordovez and Dinora Rosales -- whatever your intent was with them -- I'm sorry, Dinora and Vonae. Whatever your intent was with them, you knew that they'd be leaving around 4:00.

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: You had to get to that school quick.

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: You went home, got your bike. Right?

BRAZILL: My bike was already at my auntie's house.

SHINER: OK, you didn't tell us about that, did you?

BRAZILL: Yes, I did.

SHINER: Tell us more about that.

BRAZILL: I said I went to my house, went to my grandmother's house. After I left my grandmother's house I went to my auntie's job. When I left my auntie's job, I went home. That's when I got my bike and that's when I got the gun. I did say that yesterday. When I left my house, I went to my auntie's house. When I left my auntie's house, I went back to the school.

SHINER: You remember that perfectly?

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: No doubt about that?

BRAZILL: There might be some doubt.

SHINER: Do you know the mileage between the houses?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Yesterday you were pretty...

BRAZILL: About -- let's see. I think from about -- from my house to my grandmother's house about -- about 1/4 a mile. From my auntie's -- from my grandmother's house -- hold up. From my house to my grandmother's house, about 1/4 a mile. From my grandmother's to my auntie's job, that's about 1/8 of a mile, somewhere in there. From my auntie's job to my house is about 1/4 a mile. From my house to auntie's house is maybe about between 1/4 of a mile and 1/8 of a mile.

SHINER: And how far to get to the school?

BRAZILL: Maybe about a mile or so.

SHINER: Were you pedaling fast?

BRAZILL: I don't remember.

SHINER: Well, if the testimony from Officer Baxter saw you pedaling fast, would that be true or untrue?

BRAZILL: It could possibly be true.

SHINER: You were in a rush, weren't you?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You had a goal in mind.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You were determined.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You were the big man with a gun.

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: You were going to be in control?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: You were going to take charge.

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: You did, didn't you?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You knew when you got back to school -- did you see the video that all of us saw?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: That was you on the bicycle coming to the front gates wasn't it?

BRAZILL: I was going around the front gates. SHINER: Well, we first saw someone on the bicycle that didn't look like you. That wasn't you, was it? The first person on the bicycle?

BRAZILL: I don't think it was.

SHINER: All right. The person coming down the road heading directly to the double gates to the front of the school -- that was you, right?

BRAZILL: I assume so, yes.

SHINER: Then you veered off.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Because you saw Officer Baxter, another police officer. And Mr. Hatcher is three times your size.

BRAZILL: I didn't see -- I didn't know who they were. At the time I saw someone standing near the flagpole.

SHINER: You saw the police officers, didn't you?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: You were scared to go to the front because they had bigger guns than you.

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: And that they knew, possibly, that you were coming back to kill, and F up the school.

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Because you told Michelle that 20 minutes before, half hour before. An hour before. You told your friend Michelle that.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You didn't know if she called the school people, the administrators, and said: Hey, watch out.

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Nate's on the war path.

BRAZILL: I wasn't thinking about that.

SHINER: You weren't thinking about a lot of things, were you?

BRAZILL: Not really.

SHINER: You didn't know if she did that, did you?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Nevertheless, you decided: I'd better not go through the front. They're going to catch me.

BRAZILL: I knew that Mr. Hinds would be near the front. That's where his office was.

SHINER: Didn't you just know that they would catch you if you came through the front? Yes or no?

BRAZILL: I didn't know what would happen if I came through the front.

SHINER: Why didn't you go through the front?

BRAZILL: Because Mr. Hinds was at the front and I attempted to avoid Mr. Hinds.

SHINER: Is that what you want us to believe today?

BRAZILL: That's what happened.

SHINER: You didn't go through the front because you saw the police officers and Mr. Hatcher there, true, Nate Brazill?

BRAZILL: I saw someone standing at the flagpole. I did not see the police officers.

SHINER: You weren't ready for a gun fight with someone who could do battle with you, were you?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Instead you picked on poor Mr. Grunow, who was completely defenseless.

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Did he have a weapon?

BRAZILL: No, sir, not that I know of.

SHINER: Was he able to defend himself?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Did he have any idea what was about to hit him, prior to you shooting him?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Did he have any idea what was going through you mind? The anger and the hate that you may have had towards people?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: There's no way he could have known what was about to hit him, is there?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: What right did you have to shoot that man between the eyes?

BRAZILL: I didn't do it intentionally.

SHINER: What right did you have to do it unintentionally, Nate Brazill?

ROBERT UDELL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Objection. What's the relevance in that. What right he had? Objection. It's also been asked and answered six times. It's also argumentative. Objection.

JUDGE RICHARD WENNET, 15TH CIRCUIT COURT: Overruled, this is cross-examination. You may proceed.

SHINER: What right did you have -- what allowed you to do that? What makes you think that you can shoot this man between the eyes or anywhere on his body?

BRAZILL: I didn't try to shoot him.

SHINER: You unintentionally shot him?

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: You unintentionally stole your grandpa's gun?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: You intentionally stole it, didn't you?

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: You unintentionally brought to your house and hid it from everybody?

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: Except your friends?

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: Did you unintentionally show Kervin how it works or was that intentional?

BRAZILL: That was intentional.

SHINER: You wanted to him to know, to feel comfortable that his friend knew how to work a firearm, right?

BRAZILL: Somewhat, yes.

SHINER: And you did. You knew how that gun worked, didn't you, Nate Brazill?

BRAZILL: Not to the full extent.

SHINER: You had pretty good working knowledge for a 13-year-old young man, didn't you?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Now, when you dropped your bike, you talked to Mr. Udell yesterday, you were talking about dropping your bike. And I think you said it was in the middle of the gates?

BRAZILL: I didn't say that.

SHINER: Well, did you drop your bike in the middle of the gates in the back entrance of the school?

BRAZILL: That's what Officer Baxter said.

SHINER: I want to know what you say.

BRAZILL: I'll say yes.

SHINER: Do you agree with that?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Weren't you worried cars wouldn't go by and possibly run over your bike?

BRAZILL: It was during the middle of school. I didn't think any cars would be going through there. It was still in the middle of school. I didn't think that cars would be leaving anytime soon.

SHINER: You didn't know it, did you?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: You just needed a quick getaway, right?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: And you didn't want anyone to find your bike, did you?

BRAZILL: No, sir -- yes, sir -- well, they would have found it if I left it right there in middle of the gates.

SHINER: My question was: At the time you went to the school campus, you didn't want anyone to find your bicycle?

BRAZILL: I don't quite know what you mean by that.

SHINER: You didn't want anyone to catch you?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Of course not, right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You know what you were there for, right?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: You had a gun in your pocket.

BRAZILL: That's not the reason I was there.

SHINER: My question is, you had a gun in your pocket?

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: You were mad?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Now you're not mad?

BRAZILL: At that time, I was mad, but then I was more calmed down than I was mad.

SHINER: And you went there -- is what you want us to believe -- because you wanted hugs and kisses, I think you said to Mr. Udell, from your friend Dinora and your friend Vonae?

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: And you bring a gun so you can get hugs and kisses. Is that what you want us to believe?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: I don't remember you yesterday talking about Jules Noel (ph). Did you say anything about Jules?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Who's Jules Noel?

BRAZILL: He a -- he's the one that test -- that got on the stand yesterday?

SHINER: Right, who is he to you?

BRAZILL: Nobody.

SHINER: Enemy?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: Friend?

BRAZILL: No. SHINER: Associate?

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: How would you classify him?

BRAZILL: I wouldn't classify him.

SHINER: Well, is it someone I just found from New Mexico and brought him here to testify? Or is it someone who went to your school?

BRAZILL: I assume he's someone who went to my school. Yes, he is someone that went to my school. I remember seeing him a couple of times. But I've never talked to him.

SHINER: All right, was he your friend or an enemy or nothing? He's just nothing to you?

BRAZILL: Nothing.

SHINER: I want to ask you some questions about Jules Noel. Have you ever spoken to Jules prior to May the 26th the year 2000?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: All right, after you drop your bike off, you agree the person you saw on the video walked past the gates, past the SUV -- do you know what I mean by SUV?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Past that truck, walking, was you?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: Real fast?

BRAZILL: I don't remember how I was walking.

SHINER: You were walking slow?

BRAZILL: No. I doubt it.

SHINER: You were determined, right?

BRAZILL: What do you mean by determined?

SHINER: You had something that you needed to do.

BRAZILL: Yes. Not necessarily something that I needed to do, something that I wanted to do.

SHINER: Right -- would have been better to stay home and watch TV.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: But you couldn't do that that day, could you?

BRAZILL: I could have went back home and watched TV.

SHINER: But you didn't.

BRAZILL: No.

SHINER: And that's why we're here.

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: So you walk into the school and sitting there is a young man names Jules Noel. Did you know his name?

BRAZILL: Yes, I did.

SHINER: What did you call him, Jules? Mr. Noel? Did he have a nickname?

BRAZILL: I don't know.

SHINER: What did you call him?

BRAZILL: I didn't call him nothing.

SHINER: Never -- you never called him by his name?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Never said, "Hey Jules, you'd better go home"?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Can you remember that? Or are you saying that's not true, you didn't do that?

BRAZILL: That's something I remember. That's not true.

SHINER: All right. So that's a lie?

BRAZILL: Yes.

SHINER: What possible reason would Jules Noel have to say that about someone he barely knows, Nate Brazill?

BRAZILL: I don't know.

SHINER: You can't think of a single -- can you -- can you tell us a single reason why Jules would immediately tell the police that: Nate Brazill walks by me and I can't figure out what in the world he said to me, or why he would say, "You'd better go home," when there's only 15 minutes left of school.

Can you think of a single reason, one reason, or any reason why Jules Noel would say that about you?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Because it's true, right?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: You don't want the jury to know that, do you?

BRAZILL: Sir, that's not true.

SHINER: You don't want them to know that, do you?

BRAZILL: Sir, that's not true.

SHINER: Because if they knew what you were thinking, it means you went there with the intent to mess up the school.

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: You were going to shoot people, weren't you, Nate?

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Just like you told Brandon Spann.

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Just like you told Michelle Cordovez.

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: And you were warning Jules Noel, "You'd better go home before the trouble starts."

BRAZILL: No, sir.

SHINER: Why would you say that to him if were just going to -- well you deny saying it, right?

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: 100 percent?

BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: No chance in the world you would have said that to him?

. BRAZILL: Yes, sir.

SHINER: OK.

WENNET: Mr. Shiner?

SHINER: Yes, sir. WENNET: We're probably going to need to take a morning break. And when you get an opportunity, when you think it's a good idea -- I don't want to interrupt your examination -- you would let me know.

SHINER: Whatever the pleasure of the court. I could stop now. I have probably 15 minutes left, 20 minutes -- whatever the court desires.

WENNET: Folks, what would you like to do? Do you think that we need a break? Yes? All right.

Ladies and gentlemen, let's take -- actually, let's take -- let's come back at 20 minutes to 11:00. That gives you a little more than 20 minutes. And if I can see...

HARRIS: All right, there we have the word from the judge. They'll be taking a break there in the courtroom until -- for another 23 minutes or so. They'll come back about 20 of the hour.

Let's go now to our Mark Potter, who's been sitting outside this courtroom listening to the proceedings.

Mark, what do you make of what we've heard in the last 20 minutes or so?

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is very dogged questioning, certainly a much different scenario than we heard yesterday when Nathaniel Brazill was questioned by his attorney.

This is grilling -- grueling for the witness -- cross- examination. The prosecutor burying in on statements that Nathaniel is making, questioning of what he is saying -- saying that it doesn't make sense, trying to get the young man to agree that things that he has denied don't make sense and the prosecutor has been going after it over and over and over.

He started doing that at the outset of the trial when he asked the young man to show the jury how he could have possibly fired the gun accidentally. Nathaniel said that he could not do that. That sort of set the tone for the rest of the day.

The prosecutor says he has about 15 to 20 minutes left. We just heard that. And our presumption is that the questioning will be of this same type. He is trying to wear the young man down and trying to convince the jury, quite frankly and categorically, that Nathaniel Brazill is lying.

HARRIS: Well, I'll tell you, you talk about trying to wear this young man down. I've been watching this now -- I've been watching him on the stand for two days now and he seems to be pretty much the same as he was when he first sat down. He hasn't really has not changed that much -- hasn't changed his expressions or his demeanor very much at all.

And we saw the prosecuting attorney really trying to dig under that facade by trying to, I guess, agitate the young boy, and particularly when he was talking about what was happening at his aunt's house. What did you make of that?

POTTER: Well, he -- again, he's trying to convince the jury, through the young man's demeanor and his answer to the questions, that he is simply not telling the truth -- trying to point out to the jury that what he is saying about what happened at his aunt's house -- that he went in there, he was very concerned about his aunt maybe being injured or dying on the floor, something like that -- and then not really checking out the house.

His point, over and over, is that the things that Nathaniel is saying simply do not make sense. And then he gives the jury another possible scenario to think about: that Nathaniel actually went to that house to get his aunt's car to steal it, so that he could drive to school and commit this murder.

HARRIS: And what about the point...

POTTER: And he's been doing it over and over.

HARRIS: And again, he kept hitting on, over and over again, about what right do you have -- did you have to shoot Mr. Grunow between the eyes? And I noticed that when he kept hammering away at that, even though the defense attorney lodged a couple of objections, Nathaniel Brazill, again, his -- he did not change his demeanor or his expression at all.

POTTER: No, he's been very straightforward. And that's something that the defense predicted would happen. Their take on this is that Nathaniel is telling the truth, there's only one story here. And if you believe him, this was an accidental shooting.

We were told by the defense yesterday that this is what we could expect, that he would not get under Nathaniel's skin. He hasn't done it, but he has made some points with the jury, I think, particularly with the business about asking -- the point that you just made -- asking him why he didn't help his favorite teacher who was lying on the floor. Why didn't he help him? Why did he run away? I think that probably scored some points.

And again, that business with the gun, asking him to show the jury: How is it that you could have shot that gun off accidentally? Try to replicate that for us. Make that happen again."

Nathaniel said he could do not do it.

HARRIS: All right, Mark Potter, you continue to stand by.

Folks, as we said, they are taking a -- about a 20 minute break. They're in the courtroom. We'll go back to them, once the action gets under way again.

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