The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/08/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Great reporting from the field tonight, Chris.
Great to have you there, man. Thanks.
And thanks to you at home for joining us as well this hour.
There is a lot going on in the news today and even into tonight. We`re
going to have more coming up this hour on that South Carolina shooting
which has resulted in that North Charleston police officer being charged
with murder. We`ll have more coming up on that story a little later on
Also, of course, today was the day that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty
on all counts related to the Boston marathon bombing. We`re going to be
talking about that verdict this hour, but specifically about what`s going
to come next after the verdict because it`s actually the penalty phase of
the trial, the sentencing part of his trial, the question of whether or not
he`s going to get the death penalty that has even more suspense to it than
today`s very dramatic verdicts did.
So, that`s just some of what is coming up this hour.
We`ve also got a decoder ring for you this hour. A story that lots of
people on the political right are very, very upset about – but if you`re
not on the political right, you probably have no idea what they`re upset
about. We`ve got that story decoded for you in case you haven`t been
watching FOX News for the past week.
So, there`s a lot going on this hour. That`s all still to come.
But we`re going to start tonight in Tennessee, because in Tennessee,
something has started there as I think basically a bit of slightly random
home state excitement and confusion. A little bit of state news, used to
be just a local thing to Tennessee, but it is about to turn into kind of a
nightmare for the entire 2016 field of presidential candidates – almost,
almost the entire field.
These guys, look at that roster there. These guys are all about to be at
the same place. Look. This is basically the whole Republican field for
There`s one guy on there who is definitely not running for president, he`s
a sheriff from Wisconsin. There`s one other guy who we now know is not
running for president, although he might have made a run before he bungled
his way into a huge economic and pr disaster for his state. And now half
tried to get himself out of it and his state is still reeling. And nobody
quite understands anything that Mike Pence says anymore. So, Mike Pence
might have been a contender before last week, but now, he`s no longer even
Other than those two guys, though, everybody else in that set of pictures,
that`s basically the whole Republican presidential field for 2016 – Ted
Cruz, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Rick
Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, even Donald Trump – they`re all going
to be there, at the NRA convention which starts this week in Nashville,
Honestly, it is the whole field. The only ones who have been left out as
far as I can tell are Chris Christie, who was not invited, the NRA does not
like Chris Christie, even though he likes them. Interestingly, Rand Paul
was also not invited, although the NRA is not explaining that in terms of
them having some beef with Rand Paul. They just say they didn`t have time
to invite everybody. And that meant not inviting him.
Aside from those two, though, the entire Republican presidential field is
going to be attending the NRA convention which starts this Friday in
Nashville. At that convention, they`re expecting 70,000 people.
And this is a huge event, and because it is such a big event every year,
cities and states really compete to try to host this thing. It`s an
economic jolt to any local economy to get 70,000 people there for any
purpose. So, Nashville was obviously very excited to get the NRA
convention at their convention center this year. And the Tennessee state
legislature was just over the moon that Nashville was going to be hosting
The Tennessee state legislature has gone not just Republican in recent
years, they`ve gone like three-quarters Republican. Look, this is the
partisan divide in the Tennessee house and Senate right now, just huge
Republican majorities in both chambers in Tennessee. And in their
excitement about the NRA convention, this huge convention of NRA members
coming to Tennessee, Republican legislators in that state set aside a whole
week in the legislature last month to be gun week, basically to figure out
what sort of new state gun laws they could give to the NRA as a “thank you”
present for the NRA bringing their convention to their state.
Republicans in the state legislature considered everything from eliminating
all gun permits in the state. What could possibly go wrong?
They considered allowing people to travel with guns in ways that they
legally cannot in Tennessee. Now, ultimately what they decided to go ahead
with was this bill which would override any local law in Tennessee,
overrule any local community that wanted to ban guns from a public park in
Weirdly, the law said cities and towns could still keep up their existing
signs, saying that they don`t allow guns in parks. The signs could stay
up. But they would no longer actually reflect the law.
What was proposed by Republican state legislators this year, as thanks to
the NRA for the convention coming to town, is that any legally permitted
gun owner in Tennessee could ignore any sign banning their gun from a
public park, and that gun owner could take their gun to the public park
despite any local statutes otherwise if they wanted to.
So, that was their plan as their sort of sacrificial offering they were
going to lay at the feet of the NRA. Republicans in the state legislature
got working on that last month. Their plan was to pass it quickly.
And this is interesting – most new laws passed in Tennessee, you pass
something in Tennessee, it goes into effect January 1st of the following
year. Or if they`re really rushing it, and you pass your new law in the
first half of the year, you can set it so it goes into effect on July 1st -
- July 1st of the year in which the law is passed.
But for this one they made a special dispensation. For the “bring your gun
to the park” law, they wrote this bill so it would take effect immediately.
The law would change and the “bring your gun to the park” rule would go
into effect as soon as the governor signed the bill, instantly. Hopefully
like the day before the NRA got there. So the confetti would still be
falling when Ted Nugent and Wayne LaPierre rolled into town.
That was the local plan in Tennessee for how they wanted to welcome the NRA
to their state. It quickly got very awkward. There may not be very many
Democrats left in the Tennessee legislature, but the ones who are left
appear to be rather spunky. If Republicans in the state legislature were
going to override local community laws about where guns were allowed, and
where they were not allowed, would Republican legislators be willing to
live under those same principles themselves?
The Democrats proposed amending this legislation so it didn`t just get rid
of all the guns – all the laws banning guns in local parks, their proposed
amendment would also override the regulations that banned people from
bringing guns and other forms of weaponry into the state capital. It`s
kind of calling the question, right? Let`s see how Republican state
legislators feel about anybody being allowed to pack any kind of weapon
they want in the legislative chamber where those Republicans had their
offices and had to go to work every day.
Republicans said no to that. No, they did not want people to be able to
bring guns where they work. So, that was awkward.
Then, there was also what`s been called locally Tennessee`s Rambo problem.
In Tennessee, they call this guy the Radnor Lake Rambo. He`s a guy who
likes to walk around outside courthouses and particularly outside schools
while wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a very visible rifle.
Sometimes he carries a bolt action rifle, sometimes it`s a semiautomatic
assault rifle, fitted with a silencer which is a nice touch.
And this guy puts on his bulletproof vest, walks around outside schools,
fully armed, looking like a determined and well-prepared school shooter,
freaking everybody out.
And then, he does this, and inevitably when police stop him to check and
see what he`s doing to find out if he is, in fact, a school shooter, he
records his interactions with the police.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POLICE OFFICER: I don`t mind if it is not loaded, but I need to know if
it`s loaded or not. If I let you go and you end up shooting 12 people,
whose fault is it, mine or yours?
RADNOR LAKE RAMBO: Am I being detained?
POLICE OFFICER: Yes, you are. Put your hands down.
RADNOR LAKE RAMBO: No, I`m going to put my hands on my head. I don`t want
to get shot.
POLICE OFFICER: Nor do I. That`s why we`re stopping you.
RADNOR LAKE RAMBO: Really?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
So, for a while, Tennessee`s very own Radnor Lake Rambo, this guy has been
stomping around outside schools and courthouses wearing his bulletproof
vest, carrying his gun, scaring the bejesus out of people, causing school
lockdowns and all the rest of it.
And one Republican state legislature in Tennessee said, well, OK, as long
as we`re having Gun Week, as long as we`re trying to do some stuff on guns
in advance of the NRA bringing 70,000 people to our state, with all the
Republican presidential contenders, right, as long as we`re having gun
week, and we`re doing gun stuff, there is this one little local gun related
problem that we are having in Tennessee which maybe we can do something
So, because of the Rambo guy, this Republican state legislature proposed a
new amendment in that Tennessee guns in the parks bill that they`re rushing
to pass ahead of the NRA arriving in town this week. The trick is, though,
if you think about the strategy here, they can`t do anything to that bill
that might offend the NRA, that might upset the Republican Party`s positive
relationship with the NRA, right?
As it happens, they did find some language that the Republicans felt OK
about, they didn`t think would upset the NRA, and Republicans in the
Tennessee legislature actually voted for this change, for this amendment.
So, it`s in the bill now.
What they were able to bring themselves to pass is this, this language
which adds to their new law, a ban on squirt guns. It`s a ban on fake
guns, toy guns, things like squirt guns would be banned specifically
anywhere near Tennessee schools. No squirt guns, no fake guns within 150
feet of Tennessee schools.
Real guns are still OK. But squirt guns and toy guns would be illegal
outside of schools under the new law. The ostensible reason for this new
language was to respond to the Radnor Lake Rambo guy. “The Tennessean”
newspaper helpfully points out that that guy is actually carrying real
guns, so he would still be OK to keep doing what he`s doing under the new
law. But if your personal plan to stop that guy was to sully his bullet
proof vest with a squirt from your super soaker, you would be the Tennessee
gun criminal now, not him.
And so, now, you`ve got headlines in the local press like this one, which
is hilarious. That`s been the result of Tennessee Republicans and their
effort to show off for the NRA by okaying legal guns everywhere while
inexplicably banning toy guns near schools. And that result has even been
too weird even for Tennessee Republicans. So, now, it actually looks like
there`s not going to be any new NRA-endorsed gun law for the Tennessee
governor to sign before the time the NRA gets to town at the end of this
week. The whole thing has been slowed down a little bit as the process has
just gotten too weird.
But then, then there`s the matter of what is actually going to happen in
Tennessee when the NRA comes to town at the end of this week. You think
it`s weird the fake guns are banned but real guns are OK thing? Check this
out – the NRA obviously is a fierce advocate for guns being allowed
everywhere. Since the Newtown elementary school massacre, they have
advocated in particular for guns being allowed in schools.
The NRA is advertising their convention for Nashville this week as nine
acres of guns. But when they host their big NRA concert this weekend in
Nashville, when they host Jeff Foxworthy doing his comedy thing and Allan
Jackson doing a country show at the NRA convention, no guns will be allowed
at those NRA convention events. It wouldn`t be safe.
They also will not allow any of the exhibiters at the convention, the
people laying out those nine acres of gun. They will not allow any of
those guns to be operational. They are mandating to all their convention
exhibitors that they physically remove the firing pins from all the weapons
in the exhibition hall so none of them will be operational. Again, it
wouldn`t be safe.
At the same time, though, that`s not just – that`s not kind of a blanket
prohibition that they`re putting over everything at their event. It`s not
like a local law requires them to do this. It`s not like they`ve got a no
guns rule at every location for the NRA convention where they`re hosting
these 70,000 gun-owning convention-goers. It`s not a blanket rule.
I mean, sure, there`s no guns allowed in the room when Alan Jackson is
singing or Jeff Foxworthy is performing his comedy show. But in the grand
ballroom where the entire 2016 presidential field other than Chris Christie
and Rand Paul will be speaking this week, when all the governors and
senators and presidential hopefuls are going to be speaking at their
events, guns are fine. The NRA has decided to let everybody carry guns at
the speeches for Scott Walker and Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal and Mike
Huckabee and Rick Perry, and Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum and Jeb Bush.
Come see Jeb Bush at the NRA convention. Bring your loaded weapon, all of
The NRA told the spokesperson for the venue that they`re doing this at in
Nashville, that gun owners with proper gun permits will be allowed to bring
their weapons inside to attend the speeches of all the 2016 candidates.
We asked the venue today, it`s called the Music City Center in Nashville,
we asked them, and we asked the NRA as well whether the NRA has plans to
actually check people`s gun permits as they enter the ballroom. Whether –
they say if you`ve got a permit for your gun, it`s fine if you want to
bring your gun to Jeb Bush`s speech. We asked whether they are actually
going to check permits, whether they`re going to check to see if the people
who show up carrying guns are properly permitted to carry those guns.
In response to that direct question from us tonight, the NRA spokesperson
told us tonight, quote, “I don`t think so.”
But the NRA has basically just arranged for almost every Republican
candidate running for president in 2016 to appear before a large crowd of
people carrying presumably loaded weapons. And, no, before you stop
watching this and start Googling whether or not any of these guys have
Secret Service protection, none of them do. That doesn`t come until later
in the process.
Now, if the convention organizers at the NRA decide to change their minds,
if they decide they maybe want to keep guns out of that hall, maybe they
want to put up metal detectors or something like that, we will let you
know. But right now the plan is open carry, all the candidates. And
everybody just hope for the best.
MADDOW: We have some upsetting late developments tonight on an incident
that took place earlier this morning involving U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
This was in Jalalabad, which is in eastern Afghanistan. A convoy of U.S.
troops was there this morning providing security for a U.S. diplomat who
was meeting with provincial governors in that part of Afghanistan.
The U.S. diplomat in this case, you see here on the left, departed that
meeting with the Afghan officials, departed that meeting by helicopter.
Soon thereafter, the military convoy that had been providing security for
him at Jalalabad came under attack. What we`re told is that a man dressed
in an Afghan military uniform opened fire on those U.S. troops. We`re told
the shooter was ultimately killed in the firefight that ensued.
What we`re told by U.S. officials this morning was that one American
soldier was killed in that firefight. What we are now learning in addition
to that information is that seven other Americans were also shot and
wounded in that incident.
Now, it`s unclear at this point whether the shooter in this case actually
was a member of the Afghan military or whether he was just posing as one.
But this incident, one killed and seven reported shot and wounded, this
marks the first time since December that an American soldier has been
killed in Afghanistan. We will have more on this story as it develops.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Christmas Day 2009, this 23-year-old man was arrested for trying
to detonate plastic explosives that he had hidden inside his clothing on a
Delta operated plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit.
Two years after he was arrested, he pled guilty in U.S. federal court to
multiple criminal counts, including the attempted murder of the 289 people
on board the plane with him. He was sentenced to four life terms, plus
another 50 years, all without the possibility of parole. He will spend all
of the rest of his days on Earth at this super max facility in Colorado.
On May 3rd, 2010, this man was arrested for planning a car bomb in a
vehicle in Times Square in New York City. He pled guilty in U.S. federal
court to 10 criminal counts. A federal judge in the southern district of
New York sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
He will also spend all the rest of his days on earth at that same federal
super max facility in Colorado.
It rarely makes national headlines anymore, at least for long, when these
kinds of convictions happen. When these sentences go down and these guys
get sentenced to live out their days in well-deserved obscurity. But just
because it doesn`t make headlines all the time doesn`t mean it isn`t
happening frequently. The trusted bin Laden lieutenant who was just
convicted earlier this year in a federal courtroom in Manhattan, he`s
awaiting a sentence now that could be up to life in prison.
Earlier this month, it was Loretta Lynch, the federal prosecutor who
President Obama has nominated to be attorney general, her office just got a
conviction of an al Qaeda member who`d been part of the cell plotting to
hit the New York City subway and a newspaper office in Denmark and targets
in Manchester, England. That latest conviction this month was the fourth
one tried so par and the fourth one convicted. That was last month,
actually, March, not April.
Those are just a couple of examples. But the U.S. criminal justice handles
high-end terrorism trials all the time with remarkable success. When is
the last time a big federal terrorism trial resulted in a not guilty
verdict for the accused terrorist?
After the Boston marathon bombing, a whole clutch of Republican senators,
John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, Saxby Chambliss. They all came
out and said that even though Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a U.S. citizen and he
committed this crime in the U.S. and he was arrested in the U.S., he should
nevertheless be designated an enemy combatant.
Those Republican senators demanded that he be denied a defense attorney and
that he be held indefinitely in detention to gather intelligence. They
demanded that he be shipped off to some detainee prison somewhere or to
Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. They said, quote, “The least of our worries is a
criminal trial, which will likely be held years from now.”
The Obama administration rejected their demands, the Obama administration
decided that would not be an option. He is a U.S. citizen. Our U.S.
justice system can handle a case like this.
Today, after 11 hours of deliberations over two days, the federal jury
convened to hear this case in Massachusetts. Found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
guilty of all 30 of the charges against him, including 17 of those 30
charges which would make him eligible for the death penalty.
Had Dzhokhar Tsarnaev been brought to Guantanamo, who knows if he ever
would have been tried or by whom. Honestly, the military tribunal system
at Guantanamo is a practical, logistical and legal disaster.
“The Boston Globe” editorialized today against those early calls for
Tsarnaev to be sent to Guantanamo or somewhere else offshore. Even before
the verdict came in, “The Globe” described the good that has come from
holding an open, fair and untainted trial in the United States near the
scene of the crime.
“The Globe” says, quote, “The community learned important new details of
the bombing and drew a step nearer to putting the traumatic week of the
bombing and Watertown manhunt in the rear view mirror.”
Now that the verdict has come in, though, guilty on all counts, there is
another not so fine distinction that is suddenly very important in this
case. No, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was not tried in freakin` Cuba, thank you very
much. He was tried here at the scene of the crime, right?
But it wasn`t a Massachusetts case ultimately in which he was found guilty
today. The feds took over the Tsarnaev case. And that ends up being very
important now because had Dzhokhar Tsarnaev been tried by the state, had he
been tried in Massachusetts state court, he would not be facing the death
penalty right now. Massachusetts abolished the death penalty in 1984.
Because the Feds tried this case, now the same jury that has convicted him
will have to decide if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will live the rest of his life in
prison or if he will be killed. The federal government has the death
penalty. The federal government kills prisoners by lethal injection when
they do it. But the federal government has also only killed three
prisoners in the last 25 years.
What is the likelihood that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will also go to federal death
Joining us now is Michael Coyne. He`s dean of the Massachusetts School of
Dean Coyne, thanks very much for being here. I appreciate your time
MICHAEL COYNE, DEAN, MASSACHUSETTS SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, thanks for having
MADDOW: So, how will the part of the trial that comes next, the part where
they decide his sentence? How will that be different than what`s happened
in the trial thus far?
COYNE: Well, there will be some overlap because the government will still
want to present evidence of the victims suffering and carnage that took
place at the finish line. So there will be some redundancy in the
evidence. But the rules of evidence are relaxed in this phase, and the
defendant will be able to offer mitigating factors – his youth, his
adolescence, his upbringing, social factors that might have influenced him
here, and especially his corruptive, coercive influence of his older
brother as he sees it, and those will be mitigating factors that he will
The government will introduce what we call the aggravating factors, the
ones that justify the death penalty because we have young victims,
vulnerable victims, a police officer, and we have maiming as a result of a
weapon of mass destruction.
MADDOW: Because the trial is being held in federal court, but in
Massachusetts, federal jurisdiction which has the death penalty,
Massachusetts state law would not have the death penalty, there`s a sort of
spotlight on whether or not the jury might have some resistance to the
death penalty regardless of the crime. Just to the death penalty as a
Did they screen for that when they chose this jury?
COYNE: Yes. The jury is what we call death penalty qualified. They were
extensively interrogated with respect to their views and whether they could
apply it if the law demanded that he be put to death. So, they`re already
And it is a difficult job for the government to get a jury in Massachusetts
to determine that the death penalty, the most serious penalty we can impose
on anyone, is in fact appropriate under the circumstances.
But it`s been said with respect to this case, if this case isn`t the
classic death penalty case, frankly, also with the classic death penalty
jury at this point, a white middle class jury, then there isn`t a better
case that can be made for the imposition of the death penalty.
MADDOW: Judy Clarke, the defense attorney in this case, one of the defense
attorneys in this case, she has been very successful in arguing against the
death penalty in other high profile cases. From what you know of her
earlier cases, nothing`s exactly like this, but the way she`s defended
other people, do you have any insight as to how she might go about arguing
against having him put to death?
COYNE: There is. This defense team has been called the death penalty
dream defense team. They have highly talented lawyers led by Judy Clarke,
and what she`s done in other cases is really tried to get the jury to
empathize with the defendant. They will never understand how he got to the
place he did and participated in these mass destruction.
But what she needs to do is try to get them to have some empathy for his
upbringing, his adolescence, his immigrant status, and the coercive
influence of his older brother. She`s been very successful at being able
to personalize her unlikable client so that the jury can see that. She did
this with Susan Smith, with respect to the woman that killed her two
children. And she was able to successfully defend that case and avoid the
death penalty for her client.
She has represented other mass murders as well and been successful. She
does so because she brings in expertise to the matter, she brings an
enthusiasm and she`s a tireless worker. She`s a terrific advocate and he`s
fortunate to have this dream team of defense lawyers.
MADDOW: It`s interesting that there is so much more suspense about this
portion of the trial, after his conviction than there was even about the
COYNE: Well, this is the much harder burden for the government here. Most
of us expected that the jury would return a guilty verdict with respect to
the charges themselves. But 17 of them as you pointed out carry the death
penalty. This will be an uphill battle for the government.
MADDOW: Michael Coyne, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, been
following this case closely, thanks for helping us understand it tonight.
COYNE: Thanks, Rachel.
All right. Much more ahead, including the latest on the story of the man
who was shot and killed by a policeman in South Carolina. The
investigation of that case took a dramatic turn when the video of that
incident was made public late yesterday. We have the victim`s brother and
his family`s attorney joining us straight ahead.
Please do stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS STEWART, SCOTT FAMILY ATTORNEY: We have to really recognize the
strength and fortitude and fearlessness it took to come forward when you
know you just filmed a police officer murder somebody. How that should be
respected throughout this country is that this person came forward when
there were many people who sees another just regular person do something
and don`t come forward. That`s the kind of person that needs to be
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The lawyer for the family of Walter Scott yesterday calling out as
a hero the mystery bystander that took the video of Walter Scott`s death in
a shooting by a North Charleston, South Carolina police officer Saturday
Well, today in Charleston, South Carolina, NBC got an exclusive interview
with that bystander who shot that video that changed everything. We`re
going to have that for you as well as a live conversation with the brothers
of Walter Scott, next.
MADDOW: Yesterday, this video of a police officer shooting and killing
apparently an unarmed man who was running away from him at the time,
yesterday, the video was posted online by “The New York Times” after it was
made available to the family of the man who was killed in that video.
After the tape became public, the police officer who fired the shots was
charged with murder in the death of 50-year-old Walter Scott.
When we learned about the video yesterday, we did not know who made it. We
did not know who made the remarkable decision to keep filming this
encounter in North Charleston, South Carolina. Even with the shots fired.
A person who is plainly aware of what it was he had filmed, and then made
the decision to get that video to the victim`s family.
What we did not know yesterday was the identity of the shooter of the
video. Now we know. The man who filmed the video, his name is Feiden
Santana and he gave his first interview earlier this evening to NBC`s
In that interview tonight, he describes what he saw before he started
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: Was there a struggle?
FEIDEN SANTANA, SHOT CELL PHONE VIDEO OF POLICE SHOOTING: There was. They
were down on the floor. They were down on the floor before I started
recording. They were down on the floor.
I remember the police had control of the situation. He had control of
Scott. And Scott was trying just to get away from the Taser. The Taser,
you know, you can hear the sound of the Taser.
HOLT: He had been tased at that point?
HOLT: You hear the sound?
SANTANA: Yes, I heard the sound before I started recording. And I believe
he just wanted to get away of the Taser. But, like I say, he never used
the Taser again.
HOLT: So, Mr. Scott runs away.
SANTANA: He runs away.
HOLT: And then, so what does the police officer do?
SANTANA: As you can see in the video, the police officer just shot him in
the back. And I knew right away that I had something in my hands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was again Feidin Santana who was the bystander who took the
cell phone video of the killing of Walter Scott. Feidin Santana also spoke
with Craig Melvin of MSNBC and he told Greg the kind of amazing story about
he almost deleted the tape once he had it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTANA: I thought about erasing the video and just getting out of the
community of North Charleston and leaving for someplace else.
CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Leaving town?
MELVIN: Because you were that scared?
SANTANA: Yes. I knew, like I say, I knew that as soon as I saw the video,
I knew the cop didn`t do that right way – the right thing, and, like I
say, I feel kind of scared over that. I saw the police report. I read it.
It wasn`t like that, the way they were saying.
MELVIN: You read the police report?
SANTANA: Yes. Yes. And I saw on the news, and I say, you know, this is
not the right – this is not what happened.
And I had a friend of mine and I showed the video to him and I tell him
what I witness, and he was agreeing with me. So, you know, he told me
think about what you want to do with this. Like I say, and I just put
myself in the position of the family, you know, that I know if I would have
a family member, like I say, I didn`t – I couldn`t tell what was going to
be the decision in this case, if the police would be charged or not. But I
wanted them to have this, and do something about it. Because I know if I
wouldn`t give it to them, nothing would happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The bystander video shot by Feidin Santana, you just saw there, it
did make it into evidence, did make it into the public view and it changed
everything about this case. Before the tape, the only public narrative
about this case was the police officer`s claim that he was fearing for his
life and defending himself.
Today, after the tape was made public, North Charleston Patrolman Michael
Slager was arraigned on a murder charge. He spoke to a judge from jail in
a videotape conference today. He remains in custody tonight. Officer
Slager has now been fired from the North Charleston Police Department.
He also got a new attorney this afternoon, after the lawyer who had been
representing Mr. Slager withdrew yesterday once the video came out.
At a tense press conference today that was interrupted several times by
protests, North Charleston`s mayor and police chief told reporters that
there`s more video the public has not yet seen, footage from Officer
Slager`s dashboard camera is now in the hands of the state law enforcement
division, which is investigating the shooting. Local police say that that
agency will likely release that footage tomorrow. So, plan for that.
The mayor also announced that he has ordered 150 additional body cameras
for police officers on top of the 100 or so cameras the city already had
funding for, but had not yet started using.
He says every officer on the street will wear body cams as soon as a policy
is established and the officers are trained in how to use them.
Tonight, though, in North Charleston, with all the developments among the
living, Walter Scott`s family is grieving his death. The family announced
this evening that his funeral is set for Saturday.
Joining us now is Walter Scott`s brother, Anthony Scott, as well as the
Scott family attorney, Chris Stewart.
Gentlemen, I appreciate you both being with us tonight. I know it has been
a very difficult time for both of you.
ANTHONY SCOTT, WALTER SCOTT`S BROTHER: Yes, it has.
Mr. Scott, how are you – how are you holding up? How is your family
SCOTT: We`re not doing very well right now. But we feel a little relieved
that the arrest was made and he was charged with murder. And hopefully,
justice will be carried out.
MADDOW: Mr. Scott, can I just ask you to describe what you first saw? I
know that you actually arrived at the scene. I`m told your mother called
you to say your brother had been Tasered in an encounter with the police.
Can you tell us what happened and what you saw that day?
SCOTT: Well, when I got to the scene, the first thing I saw was the cop –
the police car and my brother`s car wrapped in tape, police tape. They
secured the area. And I knew something was wrong at that time.
And then when I walked up to my nephew, he told me that my brother was
gone. And then I proceeded to ask what happened to my brother. I know,
because a traffic stop, that`s no reason to have someone Tasered to death.
And that`s what I originally believed had happened.
But what actually had happened, he had gotten shot. But I didn`t learn
that until later on that day.
MADDOW: Mr. Stewart, I`ll ask you. A lot of people in the national media
in particular have been asking sort of counterfactual questions, what would
have happened had this video not come to light? What would have been the
course of this case?
And we`re making it up honestly, we`re speculating because only one thing
happened, and the video did become available. But is it clear to you from
what you understand of how it was investigated, what the police had done,
what was going to happen had that tape not come out?
STEWART: Yes. We`ll never really know the answer to that.
STEWART: What we do know is what was shown to us in the beginning. And
what was shown to us was the officer`s story, the officer`s incident
report, and the police station actually making a statement saying the same
thing that the officer said about him trying to take the Taser and use it
on the officer. None of that was true. And we now know the truth by
seeing the video. And I think if the video never surfaced, it would just
be the officer`s word against Mr. Scott`s.
MADDOW: Is it your belief that the – that after the shooting and the
video when you can see the officer dropping something next to Mr. Scott`s
body on the ground, that what he`s dropping is his service issued Taser?
STEWART: I think the video speaks for itself. It`s pretty clear. If you
put that together with the rationale that he wrote in the incident report,
in his public statements, that he got ahold of my Taser. I think he
officially called it in. He got my Taser.
So, he had to come up with a justification for just shooting somebody. He
had to come up with a real justification for shooting somebody in the back,
which he knew he had done. So he, on the video, ran back, grabbed the
Taser which he knew was nowhere near the body. If somebody got your Taser,
they would still have it in their hand, and he casually tosses it on the
ground. And that was going to be his story. He didn`t know anybody was
MADDOW: Mr. Scott, let me just ask you one last question. And I don`t –
I don`t mean to impinge on your grief and on what your family is going
through, but I know you have made a public announcement about your
brother`s funeral planned for this weekend. Do you expect – obviously,
there`s so much national concern, so many people want to be supportive of
you and your family in terms of what you`re going through, do you expect
there will be a lot of people who come out for your brother`s funeral?
What would be the most helpful to you and your family at this point?
SCOTT: Well, it`s open to the public right now. But media is not welcome
at this time.
MADDOW: Anthony – sorry, go on.
STEWART: The family really wants it to be a family-centered event, not a
big publicity thing. No cameras inside at all and just the family mourning
the loss of their loved one. We`re going to make that happen.
MADDOW: Chris Stewart, Scott family attorney, Anthony Scott, brother of
Walter Scott, who was killed this weekend – gentlemen, thank you for your
time tonight. I really appreciate having you here.
STEWART: Thank you.
SCOTT: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a lot to still come tonight. Believe it or
not, we actually have some breaking news from the White House tonight.
This story has just broken late. Nobody saw it coming.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: So, we have some breaking news tonight from the White House. One
hallmark of this presidency saw a lighthearted hallmark has been the
administration`s program that allows people to petition President Obama
about some issue or another. If you get enough signatures, the White House
will make some kind of response.
The most famous example was the petition for the Pentagon to build a “Star
Wars” style Death Star. That got enough signatures for a response. It did
get a response from the White House. But it was not the response that
petitioners had hoped for. No Death Star. Wah-wah.
Those “We The People” petitions have proved so popular that the
administration has raised the threshold for what you have to do to get a
response. It`s now much harder to get enough signatures to qualify for the
White House to weigh in on your issue.
But that is where we are tonight with one of these that was actually a
really meaningful petition that has resulted in a big deal pronouncement
from the White House tonight.
OK, this petition was inspired by Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender
kid from Ohio. In December, she posted a note saying that her life was not
worth living, that she had been kept from transitioning by her parents,
that instead she had been taken to religious therapists who told her she
After she posted that note, Leelah Alcorn committed suicide. She threw
herself in front of a truck, 17 years old.
A week later, this petition surfaced on “We The People” Web site at the
White House, enact Leelah`s law to ban all LGBTQ conversion therapy. The
petition told Leelah Alcorn story. It asked President Obama for his help
in banning therapy to try to fix or cure sexual minorities.
And they got enough signatures to qualify for a response. They met the new
and higher threshold of 100,000 signatures in one month`s time. And
tonight, they got their response.
The White House tonight said President Obama will in fact call for an end
to so-called conversion therapy or reparative therapy. “The New York
Times” reporting tonight that the president will not call for an explicit
federal ban, but he will say that he is open to conversations with
lawmakers in both parties about how to deal with this issue and stop this
kind of “therapy”, end quote, the therapy – quotes around therapy is what
I was trying to do there.
In the official response to the petition tonight, White House senior
adviser Valerie Jarrett noted that lawmakers in more than a dozen states
have introduced bans on so-called conversion therapy. She said that New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed such a ban into law back in 2013.
Well, this is still very new news. We don`t yet know how this is going to
play out exactly, what exactly the president is going to announce or what
it is going to lead to. But this is real news from that petition site
which previously has been treated mostly like a joke.
This is real news and a surprise tonight.
Stay with us. More ahead.
MADDOW: As you might have noticed, the 2016 race has begun in earnest –
at least on the Republican side. There is one Republican candidate who
would very much like to be president but who is now waiting to see whether
members of his own inner circle are about to be indicted in federal court.
There`s new front page news tonight on the potential indictments, and that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOST: I want to ask you if you had one do-over, one thing you could go
back and revisit and do it differently, what would it be?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Oh, gosh. I mean, I wouldn`t – I
wouldn`t have been as trusting with some people, I would have asked more
questions on certain things in general. And I wish I would have had that
to do over again.
HOST: How would that have worked? Really, I mean –
CHRISTIE: I don`t know.
HOST: I think I know what you`re talking about. You`re talking about the
bridge and you did ask people. The people that are going to lie to you,
they`re going to lie to you consistently.
CHRISTIE: Yes, it`s true. I think, you know, for me I`m pretty good if
I`m really aggressive about it. Maybe I could have been more aggressive, I
don`t know. It`s one of those things that`s still kind of surreal to me,
and I don`t really understand it still. But it`s certainly something that
has been, you know, a really bad period –
HOST: Sure, sure.
CHRISTIE: – for me, both personally and professionally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wearing an apron, bearing a
little bit of his soul into an interview on a new show. It`s called “Pasta
and Politics with Nick Acocella”. It premiered tonight on New Jersey
Interesting conversation, right? If Chris Christie could have one do-over,
he said it would have been his handling of the great New Jersey bridge
scandal, that nearly week-long hell scape ordered up on purpose for one New
Jersey town by at least one Chris Christie staffer apparently for political
reasons. It`s a still unresolved, unexplained scandal that has dogged the
governor`s administration since it was first uncovered in 2013.
Governor Christie did fire a couple of his staffers for their roles in that
But the federal prosecutor in the state, the U.S. attorney for the state of
New Jersey also opened a criminal investigation into the matter, which is
ongoing. Among the key figures in that scandal and among the federal probe
is this man, David Sampson, former New Jersey attorney general, widely seen
in New Jersey as Chris Christie`s mentor. Before David Sampson stepped
down a year ago from his state job, he was running the agency that
controlled the bridge where that manufactured traffic jam took place. He`s
also a founding partner of a law firm that`s reaped millions in state
business during the Christie administration.
Federal prosecutors reportedly have been looking for possible signs of a
conflict of interest between David Sampson`s government work and his
position at that lucrative law firm. Well, now comes news that David
Sampson has stepped down from that law firm. A spokesperson for the firm
telling “The Bergen Record,” “After heading the firm and working
relentlessly for 43 years, David Samson has been planning his ultimate
retirement and leadership succession for some time.”
In a very unusual turn, though, his firm is not just changing leaders, it`s
changing its name. The firm is called Wolff and Samson. It has become
arguably the most powerful and politically connected law firm in Chris
Christie`s New Jersey. But David Samson is now not just retiring, they`re
also stripping his name off the firm.
It`s not going to be Wolff & Samson anymore. I don`t know what they`re
going to call it. Chiesa Shahinian – I don`t know who these people are.
But it`s going to be a fresh start.
As Chris Christie starts his run for president in 2016, it`s hard to not
wonder about when and whether the other shoe is going to drop in terms of
potential federal criminal indictments in the bridge scandal that Chris
Christie says he regrets so much.
“The New York Times” posted this front page article saying indictments in
the bridge case are imminent. They`re coming as soon as next week.
But honestly, we have seen that prediction before, and it`s been 15 months
so far with zero news from that New Jersey prosecutor`s office, which does
not leak. That said, all those previous predicts also did not come on the
heels of Chris Christie`s mentor resigning from his law firm without
explanation, and his law firm inexplicably stripping his name off the
building before he was even cold.
So, still, lots of intrigue here, but so far intrigue is it. Watch this
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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