What it is with MSNBC hosts and their proclivity, in racially-charged cases, to recklessly accuse people of "murder?"
Back in 2012, we caught Joe Scarborough branding George Zimmerman a "murderer" in the death of Trayvon Martin. Scarborough's accusation came before Zimmerman had even been arrested. And when Zimmerman was ultimately cleared of all charges, Scarborough declined to issue an apology.
Today, walking in Scarborough's sordid footsteps, MSNBC host Katie Phang accused Daniel Penny of "murder" in the death of Jordan Neely, the man Penny subdued in an NYC subway who had been acting in an aggressively threatening manner.
This wasn't some casual statement by a legal layman. As Phang often mentions, she is a former trial lawyer. And at 0:50 into the clip, listen to her pause and consider before making her accusation. Phang accused Penny of "murder" with malice aforethought.
MSNBC legal analyst Cynthia Alksne, a former federal prosecutor, poured a bucket of cold realism on Phang's irresponsible accusation. She said this was not a case of murder, and that the charge of 2nd-degree manslaughter was the right one.
Moreover, Alksne repeatedly opined that it is likely that the case would result in a hung jury, with at least one juror concluding that Penny was doing the right thing in defending himself and his fellow passengers from the threatening Neely.
Phang also said that the case has brought attention to the "mistreatment of homeless New Yorkers." And Phang accused Penny's lawyers of attempting to "taint the jury pool" by releasing Neely's criminal record.
What about the "mistreatment" of law-abiding New Yorkers, Ms. Phang? People afraid to enter the subway given the wave of attacks by deranged, violent people? The real outrage is that NYC's lenient criminal justice system had left Neely, and similarly sick and violent people, free to roam the streets and subways despite their repeated criminal behavior.
Neely had been arrested 40 times. In 2021, he was convicted of felony assault for attacking an elderly woman as she exited the subway, breaking her nose and an orbital bone. Yet Neely apparently did not spend a day in prison.
Alskne did preserve some liberal street cred by saying she believes that Penny should be convicted on the second-degree manslaughter charge. But give her credit for pushing back on Phang's irresponsible "murder" accusation against Penny.
On her MSNBC show, Katie Phang accusing Daniel Penny of "murder" in the subway death of Jordan Neely was sponsored in part by T-Mobile, GlaxoSmithKline, maker of the Shingrix vaccine, Dr. Scholl's, and Subway.
Here's the transcript.
The Katie Phang Show
8:16 am EDT
KATIE PHANG: According to Juan Alberto Vazquez, who recorded the altercation, 30-year-old Jordan Neely boarded a subway on May 1st in lower Manhattan, and began shouting. And the situation escalated, when Penny, a former Marine, put Neely in a chokehold for what Vazquez said was nearly 15 minutes.
Neely was later pronounced dead at the hospital, and his death was ruled a homicide. The video of the incident quickly circulated on social media, prompting days of protests, and debates on the mistreatment of homeless New Yorkers.
Daniel Penny surrendered yesterday, and is currently released on a $100,000 bond. He's expected back in court on July 17th.
Joining me now is Cynthia Alksne, MSNBC legal analyst and former federal prosecutor. Good morning Cynthia, it's always good to see you.
Let's start with Jordan Neely, and his, um, his tragic murder.
His family is pushing for Daniel Penny to be charged with murder. Why do you think D.A. Alvin Bragg went with second-degree manslaughter instead of murder? And can a grand jury actually return an indictment for a more serious charge?
CYNTHIA ALKSNE: Yeah, the State of New York could, the people of New York have six months from the time of the arrest until the grand jury makes a final decision.
But I have to say, I think this is probably the right charge. You know the murder one is, the murder one really has an intent to kill. And I think you're gonna be able to prove that he went with an intent to kill, or even during the chokehold.
A man one, which is a voluntary manslaughter, would be he intended to cause serious physical injury, and then it ended up causing death.
The second-degree manslaughter is, it seems to fit the bill. It's a reckless homicide. His behavior was reckless. The chokehold created a very serious, unjustifiable risk of death, that he disregarded the risk. And his behavior, the third element for the prosecutors, is that it grossly deviated from how a reasonable person would act in similar situation. That does seem to fit the bill.
I will tell you that, having tried cases in New York, I mean, I know it's been a while, but I've tried cases in New York. And I'm not gonna be surprised if this is a hung jury when it comes down to it in the end. My guess is the guy does not plead. There's a minimum on this, it's up to 15 years, a class E felony, but there is a minimum, and my guess is from the way his lawyer sounded, he doesn't plead and he rolls his dice with the jury. And I would bet that it hangs.
. . .
We have to be real about what happens in jury cases. I mean, any conviction has to be unanimous. It will be beyond a reasonable doubt. There will be 12 New Yorkers, and I think we need to prepare our viewers, and Americans, that to me, somebody who's tried cases, you've tried cases, I'd love to know your opinion too.
To me, it is very plausible that at least one person on a jury will say, you know what, the guy was scary, subways are scary, he was talking nonsense, and this Marine, who was, served honorably in our country, was just trying to help us, and hold on to him until police can get there.
I don't agree with it. I think it's properly charged. I think he should be convicted. But I think we need to be honest with people about what could easily happen in the courtroom.
. . .
PHANG: In this instance though, how important do you think the jury selection process is going to have to be?
ALKSNE: Yeah, I think it's very, I think it's the ball game . . . I think you're right to focus on the jury selection. And right now, we just don't know how the future will affect jury selection. But I agree, it's the ball game in this case.
PHANG: And I think Cynthia, that's why you saw Daniel Penny's legal team release a statement, before he was even arrested or charged with a crime, calling into, highlighting the history, the criminal history of the victim in this case. I think in an attempt to taint a potential jury pool.