Return to Transcripts main page


Private Autopsy Results; Travyon Martin's Mom Reacts to Shooting; Another Violent Night in Ferguson

Aired August 19, 2014 - 08:30   ET




We're following another night of violent protests in Ferguson, Missouri. This comes -- this came after the release of a private autopsy commissioned by Michael Brown's parents. The results of that autopsy show that the unarmed teenager was shot at least six times, twice in the head, four times in the right arm. That report suggests that Brown was likely shot from the front. This is what is known, but what does it reveal about what happened between Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson?

Let's talk about that with forensic scientist Lawrence Kobilinsky. He's here with me this morning.

Dr. Kobilinsky, thank you so much.


BOLDUAN: So that is what we know. This is what we know from that one private autopsy. What do you think is most important in what we don't know in trying to understand what happened that day?

KOBILINSKY: There's a lot that we don't know.


KOBILINSKY: With respect to the autopsy, we know there were six shots fired, but we do not know the six shots that hit Michael Brown. We don't know how many shots were actually fired. To know that, you'd have to know how many shell casings were recovered? How many rounds were in the magazine? How many shots were fired? Was there a warning shot? We just don't know that information.

Also, we know that there were only three bullets recovered from the body. Where are the other bullets? Perhaps the police have those. So there's a lot of questions about that.

In terms of the autopsy, we have learned not only that there were six shots that entered the body, but we also know about a little something about trajectories. And we suspect strongly the last two shots were to the head. And clearly, you know, what medical examiners do is determine entry and exit points. Also, bullets sometimes will enter, hit a hard object, bounce around. So sometimes there is one entrance and sometimes an exit and then a further entrance. All that taken into account, it looks like there were six shots fired, and four to the right side of the body, to the right arm. It seems to indicate that the shots were fired to the front of Michael Brown.

BOLDUAN: It seems to indicate though.


BOLDUAN: Why is that important to kind of have that caveat?

KOBILINSKY: Well, there are no clear answers here because unlike the torso or the head, which is kind of fixed in one position, you have an arm which could be held upright like this where you would get a wound to the palm. That's a defense wound. You could have the hand in this position and not held up but down.

BOLDUAN: But this is not forever unknowable, right? With the rest of the rest of the forensic analysis, you can figure it out, right?

KOBILINSKY: That's - Kate, that's exactly right. You need to put the whole picture together. There's a lot that we don't know. There's gunshot residue on the clothing of Michael Brown that will help determine distances between the muzzle and Michael Brown. The vehicle itself, there is an allegation --

BOLDUAN: Now the suggestion that there's the struggle kind of inside the vehicle.

KOBILINSKY: In the car. And most importantly, which we're not hearing about, is DNA on the gun. If in fact Michael Brown touched that gun, transferred his DNA, a DNA analysis, using high sensitivity testing, should reveal both sources, both the police officer and Michael Brown.

BOLDUAN: That's a very interesting point, doctor.

On these autopsies, I mean it's an unusual situation that they're face, just showing how high profile this case really is, the fact that there are three separate autopsies that are taking place. What do you get from three different autopsies? While unusual, is it helpful?

KOBILINSKY: Well, you may get the same result three times. I mean pathologists can reach different conclusions. It has certainly happened. I think the issue about the third autopsy by the feds is that it's a matter of credibility. The people want some information outside of the state and outside of a private examiner. They want to hear it from the federal government, and that's what this is all about.

BOLDUAN: I mean, obviously, I don't know this, does the analysis deteriorate the more autopsies that are done?

KOBILINSKY: I would - absolutely I would think so because every time an autopsy is done, there is a dissection of the body, organs are removed -

BOLDUAN: As painful as it is to hear, that's exactly what it is. KOBILINSKY: It's never going to be the same after the first time.

BOLDUAN: That's very, very interesting. So you have differing accounts coming out now, right?


BOLDUAN: You have eyewitnesses. You have eyewitnesses and you have this account, the officer's account that's just starting -- we're just starting to learn more about. Can an autopsy, what we have so far, rule in or out one of these accounts?

KOBILINSKY: The answer is no, but taken together with all the evidence, the other forensic evidence, perhaps we will better understand what happened during that shooting.

BOLDUAN: From zero to complete, if that's even a scale, if you will -


BOLDUAN: How far along are we?

KOBILINSKY: You're about 20 percent. We haven't heard the bulk of the case yet. And it's going to take time. This investigation has to be done correctly because the protests are now occupying everybody's attention. It's very important -- people are frustrated but, to me, what's really critical is if you want justice, you got to do the investigation properly. It takes time. You got to wait until it all comes together and then perhaps a jury will decide.

BOLDUAN: Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky, thank you very much for your time.


BOLDUAN: It just shows us how much we know -- what we know is interesting, but what we don't know is just as much - just as important and as interesting.

KOBILINSKY: Exactly (ph).

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, perhaps no one knows better what Michael Brown's family is going through than Trayvon Martin's mother. She's written an open letter to Brown's family and she is joining us next to discuss this shooting and the aftermath, give her thoughts.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHORD: Glad you're back here with us on NEW DAY. Amid the chaos in Ferguson, the parents of Michael Brown are receiving support from a woman who knows their pain all too well. She is the mother of Trayvon Martin. She is Miss Sybrina Fulton. She's written quite an emotional and really beautifully penned open letter to the Brown family saying, "I wish that all of the pain that I've endured could possibly ease some of yours, but it won't. What I can do for you is what you have been doing for me, pray for you, then share my continuing journey as you begin yours." Sybrina Fulton joins me right now. She co-founded the Trayvon Martin Foundation after her son's death.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning and sharing a little bit more about this letter. I think the parallels are many between the case we're seeing now and the story of your son's death. Teenagers, unarmed, young black men, both becoming the symbols of a larger national movement. It seems it would be a natural thing for to you pick up a pen and write to them, but you decided to do it as an open letter. Why do that?

SYBRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: One of the things is because a lot of the words that I had to say to the family, I don't think I would have been able to say at this time personally to them. And so I felt that it was best that I let people know that, not only my family, but the Trayvon Martin Foundation supports their family, and I thought it would just be best in order for me to write an open letter.

PEREIRA: If they reached out to you, would you meet with them?

FULTON: Absolutely, absolutely. We have been in contact with the parents, Tracy and I have been in contact with the parents of.

PEREIRA: I'm so glad that that's happened, because I think there is power in your voice, joining their process of grieving and all that they're going through. I actually want to talk about that because the grieving process for the family is just beginning. They haven't buried their son yet. They haven't laid him to rest. The investigation continues. The legal process is also just beginning. In your case, George Zimmerman walked free. In Michael Brown's case, this officer involved is on paid administrative leave. That has to complicate the grieving process, no?

FULTON: Absolutely, but I think before we even think about the investigation, I think the first things first, and I think that they need to have a proper and decent home going service for their son. I think we're getting off track with a lot of things, but he needs to be buried and he needs to be laid to rest and that's going to be a very difficult moment in their life, and I don't want them to take that lightly. It's going to be very hurtful. It's going to be very sorrowful. It's going to be very disappointing to know that they're burying their 18-year-old son, and he had a full life ahead of him.

PEREIRA: Where did you find your support during that particular difficulty, Sybrina?

FULTON: As I said in my letter, I found my support through my faith, my family, and my friends, and I keep holding on to them because I know they've been there. They're still there, and that's all I have. All I have is my faith.

PEREIRA: You also say in the letter, you write this really interesting phrase, I'd like for to you explain more about what you mean. You say, "If they refuse to hear us, we will make them feel us."

FULTON: One of the things that I also said right below that is that people are going to take that out of content, and I know that they will, because they think that it's something negative when it's not. The reason why I think that they should, that they don't quite understand what's going on is because it's not happening to them. But I think once we start voting more and we start electing some of the officials that's in the capacity to try to help us out with our issues, we'll be in a lot better position. I think once we start educating ourselves and once we start getting good jobs and we stop shopping at the places that don't support us, they will really feel us, and that's what I meant by that.

PEREIRA: You know, it's interesting, you had to live out this very real horror in your life on a national and international scale. We're seeing this again for the family of Michael Brown, and part of that, there is this charge of character assassination, Michael Brown's family saying police were engaging in that. How do you deal with that as a mother and especially in light of the fact that you're defending your son who no longer has a voice?

FULTON: Well, I think it's necessary, because my son doesn't have a voice. I have to be the voice for him, and I just refuse to listen to all the negative things that people have said about him and that they will say. They even take shots at me and say that I'm not a good parent, but I did the best I could, and I still think he would have been followed. He would have been chased. He would have been pursued, and he would have been murdered, because it wasn't about Trayvon. It was about the person who pulled the trigger. Trayvon was 17 years old. Trayvon had a 17-year-old mind, so that's what I tell people all the time. I'm not going to justify his actions for being on the phone, for walking home, for even having on a hoodie. I'm not going to justify that within a 17-year-old child.

PEREIRA: Powerful words, Sybrina. We've all been watching and I think very disheartened by the scenes that we're seeing playing out on the streets overnight in Ferguson. It's hard to see a community struggling with anger and grief and then seemingly under siege. What do you think it's going to take to restore calm to that community?

FULTON: I think by seeing all of the militant, all the trucks and the guns and all of that, I don't think that's doing any good for that community because it frightens people. They have a right to protest, if they're doing it in a peaceful manner. I think that our leaders need to get together, our community leaders need to get together, and they need to set up something so that it's more organized, and they need to meet with law enforcement, so law enforcement knows what's going on, and they have a specific location. They shouldn't have them just walking up and down the street. They want to have them in an environment where they feel comfortable and they don't feel threatened by having guns and teargas and things like that being thrown at them. I think that it needs to be organized, whether it's the National Action Network, the NAACP, or the Urban League, or just community leaders or pastors in their area, but they definitely need to organize and let the people know their plan of action. PEREIRA: Or maybe all of those groups in coalition, working together

in a coordinated fashion would be even more powerful. Sybrina Fulton, the Trayvon Martin Foundation continues to do great work. Thank you so much for adding your voice to this conversation. We didn't want to sort of add fuel to the flames, but we knew you could bring a very, sadly, very unique perspective to this situation, and to what Michael Brown's family is going through. Thank you so much for your time.

FULTON: Thank you for having me.

PEREIRA: We'll take a short break here on NEW DAY. Ahead, we talk about the scene in Ferguson.


PEREIRA (voice-over): Dozens of people hit with tear gas overnight. Among them, a photographer covering all of this. We're going to hear from him next.



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Breaking in Missouri, another night that just turned violent.


CUOMO (voice-over): That started out of a peaceful protest. You're looking at the response here in Ferguson by police. They had to use tear gas, they say because they were being fired upon and demonstrators would not pay attention to the instruction to move back. But ,others have paid a price as well, not just these instigators who are looking for trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you all right man?

CUOMO (on camera): Freelance photographer Leo York, for example. You're looking at him there now with Jake Tapper. A tear gas canister exploded right above him, as you can see he had to drop to the ground in pain. They wound up pouring milk on his eyes.


CUOMO: Trying to help him as he described what sounded really terrible, the effects of the tear gas to a CNN crew there trying to help him with others. Earlier we spoke with Leo on NEW DAY about what he experienced. Here's what he had to say.


CUOMO: You've been in the military. You know what it's like to go through the chamber when they expose you to tear gas to get you ready. Nothing like last night, though? LEO YORK, FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER: No, it seemed a little worse, I

think it's because you weren't expecting it and then all of a sudden you're in pain and you can't breathe and, you know, snot and tears coming down your face. I guess, you know, it's part of the job but you don't expect it to happen, especially when you're media and I saw, you know, before I got hit with it, I saw them purposely shoot a tear gas canister to the media section, maybe not on purpose, but I was a little shocked and then hit me.

CUOMO: What do you think was going on that set all this off?

YORK: It was just people put cones in the road, you know, maybe these people are instigators or maybe they're just tired of being treated this way. I don't know why, but the police made it clear for about 30 minutes to get out of the road and then they put cones in the road and then it's just like all hell broke loose.

CUOMO: The event, the flashpoint, we're hearing maybe it was Molotov cocktail, maybe it was water bottle. Did you see anything at all?

YORK: I saw water bottle and I kind of want to clear up the Molotov cocktail, because I've been out here for five nights now, and I have yet to see one yet. That word is thrown around a lot, so I'm not really sure if there are, but I know for sure I saw water bottles.

CUOMO: Now, this idea of agitators in the crowds, that is a growing theme here about why they're unable to get this community under control. When I say they, I mean the community, because the leaders came out, Malik Shabazz and others were saying we can control this. What are you seeing? Do you see an insurgent group there?

YORK: Yes, I was hiding with a few people last night, and they were telling me that people were coming from Chicago, coming from California, West Virginia, and they're like, it's not us doing that. Though there probably are a few, but they're saying mostly the people are coming here to steal from their stores, just to take advantage of the situation.

CUOMO: What do they say they want? When you're with the real people from Ferguson

YORK: Yes.

CUOMO: Because again, we're dealing with a very small community here.

What do they want right now and what is their reaction to the police and security?

YORK: They definitely want justice for what happened, you know. They're getting this treatment for holding signs and protesting, but the guy that shot somebody and murdered somebody at point blank range or in the back, however it will come out, he's, you know, in a house somewhere, you know, on paid leave or --

CUOMO: The officer you're talking about. Shot versus murdered is a very big distinction, that is what the investigation is all about. YORK: Yes, totally.

CUOMO: Do you get the sense that people are following that investigation, or do you think it's just simple frustration right now, not so much information-driven, but emotional?

YORK: I think it's a mix of both. I think they're holding on to every word that leads, you know, closer to a decision of what he did, and so it's tough to say are you seeing emotion, are you seeing frustration? At the end of the day they just want justice, and I think that's the leading feeling, because they've been going through this for years, and you know, racism is terrible. And it's sad to say in 2014, it's still here in Ferguson.


CUOMO: Leo is an example of what happened last night. He's also a window into the complexity of this situation. You heard from his time spent with people here, he immediately defaults to thinking that this is a murder that they're angry about. We don't know what happened yet. The facts are very sparse and they're all over the place and you now have lawyers for one side going against the state officials, and local officials on the other side, trying to make sense of what happened. We don't know. We're going to have to wait. And for those wondering how such a small place like Ferguson is able to have such a big situation in terms of these protests, it's because the issues go far beyond the shooting of Michael Brown. There are a lot of issues of race and justice at play here. The question is how will they cycle out? That's what we're going to keep asking as we look forward to hopefully a peaceful night tonight.


CUOMO (voice-over): Coming up on the show, much more on the demonstrations in Ferguson, how they got out of control, and what will come next in the investigation to try to shed some light and move us toward justice?