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tv   Nightline  ABC  April 2, 2021 12:37am-1:07am PDT

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this is "nightline." >> tonight, emotional testimony in the trial of a former cop charged with killing george floyd. >> it was an adventure, always, with him. >> new video before the deadly police encounter. >> if i would have just not tooken the bill, this could have been avoided. >> the lawyer fighting for floyd's family and so many others on a crusade for racial justice. >> the court of public opinion is far more powerful in some instances than the court of law. plus the queen of gospel. a bio-pic of mahalia jackson. ♪ humble roots, to the front row of history. >> tell them about the dream, martin. >> a star sings a new note. ♪
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accused killer produced raw and emotional recollections from that fateful day last may. this as the lawyer for floyd's family carries on in the fight for racial justice. >> i don't know if you've seen anybody be killed but it's upsetting. >> reporter: far 4 days an off duty firefighter, a teenager -- >> it wasn't right. he was suffering. he was in pain. >> reporter: a clerk in a convenience store, and others, have been recounting one moment last may seared in their minds, now embedded in the soul of america. >>-less, he didn't move, he didn't speak, he didn't have no life in him no more. >> oh my god. >> reporter: details graphic, emotions high, as witnesses for the prosecution take the stand in the trial against former minneapolis police officer derek chauvin. chauvin, who worked for the minneapolis police department for nearly 20 years, has been charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third degree and second degree manslaughter, accused of killing
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46-year-old george floyd during a police stop. the images of it forcing this country to confront the old and festering wounds of racial injustice. >> what do we want? >> justice! >> when do we want it? >> now! >> reporter: for the first time the jury and the public seeing video of george floyd in the minutes before the altercation unfolded. chris martin, who worked at the convenience store, describing floyd's demeanor. >> he seemed very friendly. approachable. he was talkative. he seemed to just be having an average memorial day, just living his life. but he did seem high. >> reporter: he says floyd paid for a pack of cigarettes with a phony 20-dollar bill. the store manager called the police. minutes later, martin is standing feet from floyd, his hand on his head. >> what was going through your mind during that time period? >> disbelief. and guilt. >> why guilt? >> if i would have just not tooken the bill, this could have
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been avoided. >> i haven't got a gun, man! i'm going to die in here! >> reporter: you can hear chauvin's voice. >> i've got to control this guy, it's a sizable guy. looks like he's probably on something. >> reporter: darnellla frasier, 17 at the time, seen here walking to the corner store with her 9-year-old cousin. >> was there anything about the scene that you didn't want your cousin to see? >> yes. >> what was that? >> a man terrified, scared, begging for his life. >> reporter: she then turned on her phone and recorded the last nine minutes of george floyd's life. that death, 10 months ago, leading to this moment. jurors in two courts, an ongoing criminal trial in minneapolis, the other on the streets in the court of public opinion. >> chauvin is in the courtroom, but america's on trial. >> this is huge. this is going to show everyone how this county and probably how this country views police violence against a specific
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community. >> reporter: for george floyd's family, the trial starting is the latest step in their journey for justice. their week starting with a vigil at a church in the heart of minneapolis. among those in the chorus of support are two brothers, 51-year-old civil attorney ben. >> i call him unc. a lot of people say, oh, that's your lawyer. but you can tell the difference when they're being business and when they're being personal. >> why can't black people be for justice too? why do we have to settle for half justice? >> one of the most telling things is when he was saying to the police officers, i'm not that type of guy. almost saying, i'm a legitimate person. and i think that's every black person's testimony in america. trying to convince america, i'm not what you think i am.
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treat me at least as a human being. >> reporter: crump has become a constant presence at the forefront of america's current civil rights movement. his mission, making sure the names and faces of the victims remain seared in the public's conscience. his resume, more than 300 civil rights cases. >> we have to say trayvon martin. mike brown in ferguson, missouri. tamir rice in cleveland, ohio. alton sterling. eric garner. the first "i can't breathe" case. >> i'm struck by the fact that not only can you recall their names like a good lawyer might, but you say it in the way in which a father would talk about his children. >> the reality is this. but by the grace of god, any one of them could have been our children. i know sometimes it's hard for our white brothers and sisters to fathom that. but i think most black parents, every day they wake up, they pray that it doesn't happen to my child.
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>> reporter: for this father of three, it's hard for his cases not to get personal. his two adopted sons, chancellor and marcus, around the same age as some of the young victims whose families he's had to represent. growing up in lumberton, north carolina, crump had to learn tough lessons himself. one of nine children raised in public housing by great grandmother minnie. >> we would read the newspaper. trying to guess and sound out the words together and figure out what they meant. but in reading those newspapers, it was showing me that there was a bigger world out there for me. >> reporter: a world he thought beyond the cruelty he saw as a boy in the south. >> had an uncle who was the first person in our family to go to college. came back to see us in the projects. i guess the local police wanted to show him that even though he was a college boy, he was still black. they brutalized him in front of
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all of us. huh. >> you're sitting here with me, but as you began to tell that story, it seemed you went someplace else. >> i thought about -- just my mother and my uncles and all the adults. because i was a child. how helpless they were in that moment. >> reporter: crump swore he would never be helpless, so the law became his shield and his weapon of choice. not simply defending his clients, but restoring their dignity. >> i learnt a long time ago that if you're going to represent marginalized people of color, you have to fight in two courts. first you have to fight in the court of public opinion. if you win there, then maybe you might get to fight in the court of law. >> fair to say you use the law, but when possible, you use the media as well? >> very fair. the court of public opinion is far more powerful in some instances than the court of law.
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>> you've been called the thurgood marshall of this generation. how do you see yourself? >> i am still a disciple of thurgood marshall, who's my north star. he really -- as he said in his own words, they never meant for the constitution to be for us. but we're going to make it ours anyway. it's not enough to say that was wrong. you also have to engage in, educate, and empower people to know what their rights are. >> reporter: over the years, crump has secured historic civil settlements. >> and we are honored to stand here with the family of george floyd. >> reporter: including $27 million from the city of minneapolis for george floyd's family, the largest pretrial settlement for a civil rights claim. >> it is my hope and belief that in a capitalistic society, if they keep having to pay these huge settlements and these huge
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verdicts, that it will be a deterrent for them to continue to shoot first and ask questions later. >> reporter: crump recalls the hundreds of police-related cases, only a few indictments and only four convictions. he hopes when it comes to this trial, it will be different. >> i believe in my heart he's going to be convicted. now my heart has been broken before. but i believe that video helped change america. >> doesn't it make you angry, though, that so many people have had to die and will die on that read to justice that you speak of? >> i think that george floyd getting justice hopefully gives some measure of justice to all these other black people who were denied justice. >> reporter: judgment day is days away, evidence still being presented to the jury. today the prosecution's first
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witness, floyd's girlfriend, courtney beatty ross. ross forthcoming about their struggles with opioid addiction. >> classic story of how many people get addicted to opioids. we both suffered from chronic pain. >> the defense is going to argue it's the drugs in his system, that's what killed him. he's focusing on the cause of death being a cocktail of drugs. the prosecution's going to do the exact opposite and say, it wasn't enough to kill him, they're going to focus on the knee, the defense is going to focus on the drugs. >> reporter: in the end, 12 jurors will decide the guilt or innocence of derek chauvin, fairly or unfairly swaying the court of public opinion. the question for them and all of us, not on the jury sheet -- will their verdict help heal america? or deepen her divide? "abc news live" will have continuing coverage of the trial tomorrow morning. coming up, mahalia jackson.
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how the queen of gospel conquered struggles on and off the stage. ep being you. and ask your doctor about biktarvy. biktarvy is a complete, one-pill, once-a-day treatment used for h-i-v in certain adults. it's not a cure, but with one small pill, biktarvy fights h-i-v to help you get to and stay undetectable. that's when the amount of virus is so low it cannot be measured by a lab test. research shows people who take h-i-v treatment every day and get to and stay undetectable can no longer transmit h-i-v through sex. serious side effects can occur, including kidney problems and kidney failure. rare, life-threatening side effects include a buildup of lactic acid and liver problems. do not take biktarvy if you take dofetilide or rifampin. tell your doctor about all the medicines and supplements you take, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have kidney or liver problems, including hepatitis. if you have hepatitis b, do not stop taking biktarvy without talking to your doctor. common side effects were diarrhea, nausea, and headache. if you're living with hiv, keep loving who you are.
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enroll now at coveredca.com. ♪ mahalia jackson's dynamic voice soothing the souls of millions of americans. a shining light in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. now a robin roberts bio-pic on the legendary singer. here's my "nightline" coanchor juju chang. ♪ keep us walking in the narrow way ♪ ♪ come on children and sing come on children and shout ♪
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>> reporter: mahalia jackson's voice lifted spirits and seemed to stretch to the heavens. ♪ come on children let's sing ♪ >> reporter: urging the faithful to come on children, let's sing. the queen of gospel's story -- ♪ sing his love for me ♪ >> reporter: now brought to life decades later in a new lifetime movie. mahalia ushered gospel music into the white mainstream of the '40s. ♪ even performing on the iconic "ed sullivan show," catapulting her career to new heights. ♪ sometime i wonder why ♪ >> reporter: breaking barrier after barrier, the first gospel singer to sell 2 million records or to take center stage at carnegie hall, even singing at jfk's inauguration. >> those were things that were really changing the game for black people.
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>> reporter: while many know mahalia as a musical pioneer, she was also in a way a hidden figure in the fight for civil rights. >> the beauty about music is that it's so universal. and it just kind of pierces right into your heart. and i think that's really how she was able to make the biggest impact. ♪ i feel it in my spirit ♪ >> reporter: actress danielle brooks dug into her southern roots for "robin roberts presents mahalia," the very first bio-pic about the icon's life. as executive producer, robin roberts gets to pick what stories get to be told and by whom. >> black excellence needs to be seen. i'm tired of only seeing a snippet of her in other movies. you satisfy little, oh, there's mahalia singing. she is no longer playing the supporting role, she's the star. >> dear lord, i always thought you demanded perfection to deserve your love. >> reporter: this film was danielle brooks' chance to flex her star power. >> you didn't need nothing from us but to love each other.
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>> reporter: despite robin's initial skepticism. >> i was like, you mean tasty? >> they call me facety! >> trust me, i watch "orange is the new black" but i just was not seeing it. >> reporter: robin quickly saw the light. danielle's juilliard-trained voice earning a tony nomination for her role in "the color purple." >> that is all throughout my bones. my mother's a minister, my dad's a deacon. if i could play anybody, who would it be? mahalia jackson. >> there as always belief that everybody deserves a chance at an education. >> that's a beautiful dream, mahalia. >> reporter: mahalia met dr. martin luther king jr. in the '50s at the dawn of the civil rights movement and quickly became one of his closest confidants. >> i think mahalia needed to have martin's words of encouragement. to be able to call on him when things weren't going left in her
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life, and the same with him. i think he needed her melody, he needed her rhythm. >> reporter: as depicted in the film, she was by his side at the march on washington. >> tell them about the dream, go on, tell them. >> if mahalia had not said to them, tell them about the dream, would we remember the march on washington as much as we do right now? >> mahalia drew up poverty stricken in louisiana, raised by an aunt, forced to quit school in the fourth grade to go to work. ♪ hallelujah lord don't you let me fade ♪ >> reporter: tony award winner kenny leon, who also hails from the south and whose mother is a gospel singer, directed mahalia. >> i'm sure people warned her, don't get too political. >> if you're a true artist, i think by the nature and definition of the word, you're political. you're stepping out to say something. and i felt like mahalia was saying great stuff that would
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uplift communities and uplift people. >> reporter: mahalia never wavered away from her deep faith, determined to use her voice for the glory of god, which to her meant gospel, rejecting pressure to shift to more lucrative genres. >> i think you could really sing the hell out of the blues. >> a negro can't sing the hell out of the blues. the blues can't guide you how to live like gospel. now gospel, that's the cure for the blues. >> she was someone who stood her ground. she said, that's not what i want to do, that's not what i'm called to do. my purpose is greater than that. >> reporter: her purpose, a calling also shared by those bringing her story and her legacy to life. >> there's so many layers to her story. i want people to see the history, to know the history, to recognize it, the power of it. >> my mother made us go to church eight days a week. and something about listening to
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mahalia jackson gave me comfort. i think it was a project that i was destined to do. i felt from the beginning that it was sort of anointed. >> i feel like this is something that i was called to do, you know. i feel like god put me on this earth to play her. >> mahalia jackson, who lived during the first pandemic in 1918, who lived during the great depression, who was involved with the civil rights movement. if she got knocked down all those times and got up, certainly we can get up. certainly we can look at what we've gone through in the last year and say, no, we've got to find our purpose in life and get up and still make it better. ♪ oh ♪ >> you can watch the robin roberts production on lifetime this saturday. up next, batters up for baseball season, back in full swing.
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