Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ); Missouri Man Faces Execution Despite New DNA Evidence; Awe and Oddities From Celestial Show; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 22, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The admiral was not specific in term of how many U.S. sailors were found there. The other thing that happened was the Malaysian Navy, which has been assisting in this search, actually found a body in the waters near where this incident happened. That body in the process of being transferred to the U.S. Navy for identification.

So, John, clearly this is a recovery effort at this point with the hopes of finding anymore survivors really dwindling. But of course the other question is, why did this happen? How did this happen?

One thing that we've heard from U.S. Navy officials have told CNN that the steering actually failed on this ship shortly before this incident happened. But it's not clear at this point, according to that official if that was the actual reason for this accident. But that's all going to be part of what the Navy is calling a comprehensive review.

They recognize that there could be systemic problems here that they're going to look at because this didn't happen in a vacuum. There have been four incidents, including a deadly accident just in June where the USS Fitzgerald crashed into a container ship killing seven U.S. sailors aboard.

Four different incidents with ships deployed to this part of the world and so the U.S. Navy clearly saying we might have a problem on our hands and we need to figure out what it is -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Matt Rivers for us. Matt, thank you very, very much.

All right. It is a fine line if the president revs up his base. Does he risk roiling the rest of the Republican Party? We'll find out in a few hours.


[10:35:31] BERMAN: President Trump set to leave the White House shortly for his visit to Arizona where he will hold a campaign rally tonight. Not a campaign-style rally, I've been admonished, but an actual Donald Trump for President campaign rally. The president's problems going west with him. He is expected to be greeted by protests in Phoenix.

Joining us now to talk about all this, Congressman Rubin Gallego of Arizona, a Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. As you know, the president headed to your neighborhood shortly. And you say his mere presence there at this event is unpresidential. Why?

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D), ARIZONA, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, it's not his presence, it's coupled with the situation that he is leaving in Charlottesville and also with his unpresidential-like statements afterwards.

You know, we had an American citizen that was mowed down by a neo-Nazi and many others injured. The president equating both sides as being equally bad in that situation, and then about a week later decides to have a campaign rally in Phoenix, of all places, where we've had a lot of flash points when it comes to issues of race and immigration. And I think that it's not appropriate for him to be doing that at this point.

BERMAN: It wasn't appropriate for him to say what he said last week. I get that you were critical of that as many people have been. The question is why be critical of what he is going to say tonight when we don't know what he's going to say. In fact last night, let me tell you what he said last night which was clearly about Charlottesville.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all. When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together.


BERMAN: So, Congressman, in the vacuum that I know doesn't exist, but in a vacuum, if one did exist, those words, in and of themselves, are those the right words?

GALLEGO: Sure, if this was not President Donald Trump, we could actually believe what he was saying, but let's be honest, the president tried to do that last time around, the next day he flip- flopped on his statements and again, you know, tried to do both sides are equally culpable at this point.

I mean, look, it's nice that the president can say the words, but his actions also speak louder than his words and we'll see what he says. But, you know, our past experience with him, at least in the last nine months, and even during the campaign is that he is very much apt to stoke up any type of racial tension just to help them out politically.

Let's go back to the history books, if we have to. Who's the person that was the largest advocate for the birtherism movement? Donald Trump. Who is the person who questioned whether a Mexican American judge should be able to make decisions upon his court case? It was Donald Trump.

If you go on and on, you go back to 1970s, this is the man who accused five innocent black men of rape in Central Park and encouraged their execution. And then when it was discovered they were innocent, he has yet to apologize.

This -- you know, this president is not good on racial issues. So let's not be surprised when he comes to Arizona, claimed that he may or may not pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, that many of us in Arizona are questioning what he is doing and what his motivation is.

BERMAN: What do you think his motivation is? I mean, what are you saying you think? Because you're alluding to a lot of things here but what do you think the president believes when it comes to race?

GALLEGO: I have said it very clear, the president is clearly racist. I don't understand how much more history do we need or more example. Many people may not want to admit that we've elected a president that's racist, but he is. And we just have to accept him, we have to work within the confines of that. And I think he's coming to Arizona because he wants to, you know, stoke his base up and, you know, talk about the border wall. That's why he'll be talking about Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

But at the end of the day, we just have to admit it. The history, the evidence is staring us in the face the president is racist.

BERMAN: You do know that that is --- that's an explosive charge. Yes, you listed a litany of actions he has taken over the course of his life, which are racial, to be sure. But when you say someone is racist, you are saying what that person believes, how he feels about people of another race. And to call the president of the United States a racist is a big statement.

[10:40:06] GALLEGO: Yes. I kind of realize that. And that's why I'm saying it. And it's sad that I have to say it. But look, you have to look at other aspects of this. One, you know, his Muslim ban. Where did that come from? Obviously, that was, you know, a campaign rally, that statement that he tried to turn into policy and here he is actually executing that.

Again, it's unfortunate we have to say it, but at some point if somebody has been acting the same way since the 1970s particularly using racial animist for political gain or whatever gain, it is where it is. And the press may not want to admit it, other parties may not want to admit it, but this is who the president is. And we have to either vote him out or we can figure out how to pen him in.

BERMAN: He says -- these are his own words. He is the least racist person you've ever met.

GALLEGO: He says a lot of things. But look, one, we have to also admit that he's just an abject liar. And you know, no one is going to claim that they are a racist but the man is. You know, I apologize to the American public that we elected a racist as president. He is irresponsible with his words. You know, I'm sure in his heart, he doesn't think he is. But, look back since the 1970s and this is what you have -- this is what we have as our president.

BERMAN: Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona, clearly no fan of the president or his trip to your home state of Arizona tonight --

GALLEGO: Or racism.

BERMAN: Thanks for being with us, Congressman, appreciate it.

GALLEGO: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Attorneys for a man on Missouri's death row racing to stop his execution saying new evidence exonerates him. Will the Supreme Court agree? One of those attorneys joins me next.


[10:46:10] BERMAN: Last minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court as this man, 48-year-old Marcellus Williams is set to be executed tonight in Missouri for murder. Williams was convicted in the 1998 stabbing death of a former St. Louis dispatch reporter. But his attorneys and multiple forensic experts say new DNA evidence proves that Williams is not guilty.

CNN's Scott McLean is outside the Diagnostics and Correction Center, the place where Williams is set to be executed.

Scott, give us the story here.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. So that execution scheduled to take place now in less than nine hours. Marcellus Williams is inside the prison outside south of St. Louis waiting to be executed by lethal injection at 6:00 local time.

Now he, as you mentioned, was convicted of the 1998 brutal stabbing murder of Felicia Gayle, a former newspaper reporter in St. Louis. The case relied heavily on testimony from two other criminals, but there was never any physical evidence linking Williams directly to the crime scene.

Now his lawyers say new DNA evidence proves he is innocent. But it will be up to the Supreme Court now to decide whether or not that execution should go ahead. For the state, an execution would mean justice. For Williams' son, it's murder.


MARCELLUS WILLIAMS JUNIOR, SON OF MISSOURI DEATH ROW INMATE MARCELLUS WILLIAMS: This is a man who murdered, you know, and it's not right, with a lack of DNA evidence and all the other things that's going on, the victim being a white woman, him being black, Muslim, a towering figure, they've got to make an example. But I would want him to be released. You know, be around, be able to see his grandchildren, stuff like that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You used the word murder deliberately, why?

WILLIAMS: Because that's what it is. He is innocent. You know. So it's a person, their life taken away for something they didn't do or they didn't have control of. That's murder. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLEAN: And to clarify, that new DNA evidence shows that someone else's DNA was on the murder weapon, not Marcellus Williams'. Now the attorney general from Missouri, Josh Hawley, put out a statement that read in part, "Based on the other non-DNA evidence in this case, our office is confident in Marcellus Williams' guilt."

Now if the court allows the execution to go ahead, Williams could still have one more lifeline in the governor of Missouri, Eric Greitens. But we reached out to his office this morning. They told us he has not yet made up his decision -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Scott McLean for us, thanks very much.

Joining me now is one of the attorneys for Marcellus Williams, Kent Gibson.

Kent, thanks so much for being with us. I guess we're about, what, nine hours away from the scheduled execution. If this is not called off, how confident are you that an innocent man will be executed for a crime he didn't commit?

KENT GIBSON, ATTORNEY FOR MISSOURI DEATH ROW INMATE MARCELLUS WILLIAMS: I think the DNA evidence conclusively establishes his innocence. The state's theory was that an assailant broke into her house, was confronted by the victim, he grabbed a kitchen knife, stabbed her multiple times, and left the knife in the body.

Those kitchen knives are routinely washed after use. The male DNA profile that does not match Marcellus' has to be DNA of the murderer. It was found by touch DNA technology that is new on the knife. And I think under their -- even under the prosecution's theory, this proves someone else committed this murder.

BERMAN: If the evidence is as much of a slam dunk as you say it is then how can you explain the various state courts not seeing your appeals in this light?

GIBSON: Well, I think that there's really no process in Missouri under statute or court rule to hear claims of innocence.

[10:50:09] As precluded, you can't file a claim of innocence before a trial court, you can't file a claim of innocence under a State First Conviction Review Act. The DNA testing statute does not apply because it's too narrowly written which would give him a hearing. So the only remedy someone in his position has is to file a petition before the Missouri Supreme Court and most of them are just summarily denied like this one.

And apart from what I've told the United States Supreme Court, that they are never going to confront a more compelling case of innocence because usually states confronted with DNA evidence like this have some sort of corrective process. So here is the evidence. And this was not done. So not only is it an innocence case, this is a due process case because how can you allow an execution to go forward without at least giving a person a hearing in court and having a judge decide the case based on the evidence? And that's what's before the Supreme Court right now.

BERMAN: And so in some ways you have all your ratings in the basket of the Supreme Court right now. I heard your just phone ringing, I know you probably have very important time sensitive situations to deal with. But if you can, just tell us how is Marcellus Williams doing today?

GIBSON: Marcellus, my co-counsel and his son are visiting right now I think under the DOC, Department of Corrections policy that all visits must terminate at 11:00 a.m. And I expect to talk to him around that time, to see how he is doing. He's -- he's a very devout Muslim. He is obviously wants us to fight for his life. But he's not the type of person that would shout from the rooftops that he is innocent like I would probably do if I were in his shoes.

BERMAN: Right.

GIBSON: He believes it's in God's hands.

BERMAN: Can I ask you? You know, there's also, you know, the family of the victim here. You say it's not the victim of Marcellus Williams, but what's your message to the family of Felicia Gayle?

GIBSON: Well, they have kept a low profile, although about three years ago, an op-ed piece was written by the new wife, the husband, the (INAUDIBLE) mayor where she made it clear she was against the death penalty. I reached out to her at that time and asked by letter to see if she wanted to talk. And she hasn't contacted me. So they have been keeping a low profile and that's their right.

BERMAN: All right. Kent Gibson -- Kent Gibson, we'll let you get back to work. Thank you so much for your time, sir.

GIBSON: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: All right. We'll be right back.


[10:57:13] BERMAN: America survived the eclipse, barely.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has the proof.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Silly glasses. Who cares? Everyone from Superman to President Trump donned them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it is. It is incredibly dark. It is very eerie. It's a spooky, spooky experience. I may be speechless.

MOOS (on camera): I see a shadow covering the earth.

(Voice-over): It was the blanket news coverage of the eclipse. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Totality now arriving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So happy I could cry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a little breathless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was our two minutes of ecstasy.

MOOS: Coverage range from a couple that found ecstasy getting married during the eclipse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two hearts align today.

MOOS: For "The Washington Post" live streaming the eclipse is a fact on fainting goats, when they're scared, they sometimes do this. During the eclipse --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: They almost just didn't move.

MOOS: Bonnie Tyler sang her signature song on any clip's cruise.

BERMAN: Can you stare into a total eclipse of the heart without glasses?

BONNIE TYLER, SINGER: Look into my heart. I wear it on my sleeve.

MOOS: People sure were scared into wearing those glasses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not supposed to stare right at the sun, unless you hate your eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is concentrated energy that can not only burn your glasses. It can also burn your eye.

MOOS: When it was over, the "Guardian" pranked readers with a "how to tell if you damaged your eyes" article that was intentionally blurry.

Outside the path of totality, the 71 percent eclipse in New York City was underwhelming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's cooler to watch the people watching it.

MOOS: Especially people using odd ball boxes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You still see it?


MOOS (on camera): Does it work better if it's organic?


MOOS (voice-over): And though the president's glasses work, that didn't stop him from glancing up without them landing him on the cover of the "New York Daily News." This newborn was named eclipse. Others were dressed in eclipse

outfits and NASA released a photo of the International Space Station silhouetted against the sun, which was of course then Photoshopped from Chris Christie to E.T.

During the last solar eclipse over North America in 1979, a network anchor spoke of the next one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's 38 years from now. May they shatter of the moon fall and a world of peace.

MOOS: There was no peace, even from cars this time around.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you hear the car alarm? Apparently the car is excited about the eclipse.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BERMAN: As a favor to future generations, those box things, they do not work at all. Pass it down to your descendents.

Thank you so much for joining us today. I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" starts now.