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Attorney Ben Crump "optimistic" about police reform legislation

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Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are negotiating police reform legislation. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who recently met with lawmakers along with family members of George Floyd and others, joins "CBSN AM" to discuss the latest.

Video Transcript

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: As protesters around the country call for police reform, lawmakers in Washington are negotiating legislation on the issue. Democrats are pushing to pass a bill named for George Floyd by May 25th. That day will mark one year since his death. For more on this, now I want to bring in Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump. Thank you so much for joining us again, Ben.

You were in Washington last week where family members of George Floyd and other victims of police shootings met with lawmakers from both parties. What did you learn? How close are we to actually having a police reform bill that's going to make a difference? When you spoke to lawmakers, is there heart in it?

BEN CRUMP: Anne-Marie, we're optimistic that we will have a meaningful police reform bill named after George Floyd before the one-year anniversary of the tragedy. I've met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as Senator Tim Scott, and Senator Lindsey Graham from the Republican side of the aisle, Senator Cory Booker, and Senator Dick Durbin from the Democratic side of the aisle, and Congresswoman Karen Bass, who is the author of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in the House that passed the House of Representatives.

And I was there with Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, the twin sister of Terrence Crutcher. And there's a family, the sister of Botham Jean, and Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner.

And I've mentioned those names and those meetings because they were very emotional. And the families bared their heart out, Anne-Marie, and they told those legislators that this proposed legislation will have our family's blood on it so it has to be meaningful. And they all committed that it would be meaningful legislation not watered down legislation.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: You mentioned Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, two Republicans. This George Floyd bill already passed in the House. One of the challenges will be the Republican Party, and there's some key Republicans that are in favor of police reform. Did they express to you though how the rest of their party feels?

BEN CRUMP: Well, Anne-Marie as they expressed, Tim Scott was leading the effort for the Republican Party. He's the only Black Republican Senator in the Republican Party in the United States Senate. And he talked to the family about as a Black man, he's been profiled many times. He knows how it is to be profiled. And he had the commitment from his party. He said that they will follow his lead on legislation that he felt he can agree with the Democrats on.

It became very emotional in that meeting. The families were baring their heart talking about if we don't pass this, how many more families in our Black community will die each day that we don't pass this legislation? And everybody had water in their eyes.

And as a trial lawyer, Anne-Marie Green that's very good because I understand if you're emotional, it compels you to act. It compels you to do something. And so it is our firm belief that they will do something for the first time in 57 years to get meaningful police reform in the federal government of the United States of America.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: So you know that you can try to rein in overpolicing or excessive use of force. But oftentimes, police officers are not held accountable because of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity reform needs to be part of any policing bill moving forward. It's a big sticking point in the negotiations. Can you just explain why it's so important? Because there are people out there that say, hey, police officers have a really tough job. They put their life on the line. It's not the same as the rest of us.

BEN CRUMP: Well, you know, Anne-Marie, I would put forward arguments that being Black in America is a really tough job when you think about the statistics of who's being killed. The police kill over 1,100 people a year and a disproportionate number of them are unarmed Black people.

And so I think we both have to look from each other's perspectives on how we can have better policing. And we believe qualified immunity is an impediment to better policing and more just policing, because literally what the Supreme Court said in qualified immunity, no matter how they kill us, how unjustifiable it is, how much objective evidence there is, all the police have to say is three words. And if they say those three words, I feel threatened, I feel fear. The courts say, oh, you can't Monday morning quarterback the police. You can't second guess them. You were not there.

And you say, but in this advent of the technology age, look at the video. Look at the audio. How many Black men got to be shot in the back before we say it is not objectively reasonable for the police to fear for his life when a Black person is running away from them? It doesn't happen to our white brothers and sisters. But it's almost a cliche in America the police shooting Black men in the back.

I can go down the list where there's Stephon Clark in Sacramento, California, Anthony McClain in Pasadena, California, Walter Scott in Charleston, South Carolina, Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Illinois, Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. And that's just off the top of my head. We can literally go the balance of your whole show talking about Black men who was shot in the back running away from the police, who 96% of the time cases were dismissed because of qualified immunity.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: I can ask you a whole bunch of other questions, but we are running out of time. So I'm going to ask you about the news that Derek Chauvin's attorneys have asked for a mistrial this week for a variety of reasons, including that they wanted the trial moved. You represent George Floyd's family. Your reaction to the latest motion.

BEN CRUMP: Anne-Marie, I fully expect his criminal lawyers to file a motion for a mistrial to file all the appropriate appeals, because criminal defendants in America have constitutional due process rights as expected. Do I think they're going to be granted? I do not. Every criminal defendant who's convicted of a crime files motions for a new trial.

And I want Derek Chauvin to get every constitutional right that he has, because far too often Black people are convicted of crimes and felonies in America. And we want to make sure that they get their due process rights because what we really want is equal justice under the law for all our citizens.

And so when they start talking about it was a public opinion and a juror did this or a juror did that, well, they can raise all those arguments, and the court will listen to all those arguments. And just like they do with the thousands of Black people who are convicted of crimes in America every day, I believe they will deny Derek Chauvin's appeal.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: I want to ask you about also another family that you represent, the family of Andrew Brown Jr. They just laid him to rest this week in North Carolina. Earlier in this conversation, you said, just look at the videotape. They are calling for the release of the body cam footage in that case.

I have two questions to that. Have they actually seen all the footage yet? Because I know they were told they were going to see the footage and they saw 20 seconds highly edited. So have they gotten a chance to see the footage as I believe a judge has said they should have access to it? And also, in general, how much of a game changer is bodycam footage when it is released unedited for the general public to see too?

BEN CRUMP: Anne-Marie, to answer your first question no, they have not seen all of the body camera footage. And just to be real with you, Anne, when it's a Black person killed by the police, they just change all the rules. They come up with this arbitrary rule that only one of his children, his son, Khalil can see the video with one member of our legal team who is born in North Carolina versus everybody see the videotape.

It is so unfair to put this burden on his son to then come out and try to be the interpreter for the rest of the family and the rest of the public about what's on the video where his father gets shot in the back of his head, and all the witnesses who are there say they were firing at him with assault rifles as he was going away.

Again, Anne-Marie, a Black person leaving the police trying to get away from not threatening them or putting them in violence, but yet they shoot and kill them. And the fact that why do the taxpayers pay all of this money to have these uniforms retrofitted with body cam video and when the time we need most, it's most critical to be able to be transparent they then try to say oh, you can't see the body camera video?

Well, I proclaim that a lie cannot live forever. The bodycam video is going to be released. And the longer they delay it, just builds this case to a higher level that when we see this unjustified killing yet again of another Black man within 48 hours after the George Floyd determination and Derek Chauvin trial was rendered, it tells us we have to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Accountability Act or we will see hashtag after hashtag after hashtag of Black people in America being killed unjustifiably by the police.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: And Mr. Crump, just really quickly, I thought the judge said that the family should have access to that video. Isn't that the case and why haven't they seen it yet?

BEN CRUMP: Well, they said 10 days after he issued his ruling. And apparently, his ruling has just been issued today. So it's this shell game. We believe the federal government should take over because we think there in North Carolina they are trying to give home cooking to Andrew Brown's Black family and his legal team, because they see us like they saw Martin Luther King and others, outside agitators causing trouble. But they don't see anything wrong apparently with the police shooting a Black man in the back of the head.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: Ben Crump, very good talking to you this morning. Thank you very much.

BEN CRUMP: Thank you, Anne-Marie.