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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
Internet Bullying Legislation Needed; Rape Case to be Reopened; Martin MacNeill Case Continues.
Aired October 18, 2013 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: If you didn't know this, October is national bullying awareness month, and you may have been hearing a story that's been making the news about a 12-year-old girl in Florida who jumped to her death after being bullied by two former friends, 12 and 14 years old. Those two girls have been charged in the death of Rebecca Sedwick. Cyber bullying charges, so to speak. But now, a prominent Florida attorney, one you know well, Mark O'Mara, says that legislation needs to be drawn up to hold the parents of bulliers accountable. Think about that.
Mark O'Mara joins me live now. He's not only tried bullying cases but wants to write a statute.
Mark, thanks for being with us.
MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure. Good to be here.
BANFIELD: Intuitively speaking, that sounds right. Technically speaking, I just can't see how you can make that constitutional. Can you?
O'MARA: It's going to be difficult. There are going to be constitutional questions that have to pass. But the idea of holding a parent responsible for a child's actions does have precedent. We know parents are responsible if they're kids don't get to school, if they have a gun. So the idea that they have some responsibility does have some foundation. We look at a case like this, and "first forecast" of all, I never like knee-jerk reactions by getting new legislation.
But this is truly an epidemic. The Internet can be a great tool. But like a knife, it can be a scalpel and used as a deadly weapon. The problem with the Internet, those it's a great resource, kids and people are using it for such things as child pornography and now cyber-bullying.
BANFIELD: And I want to take you back to the idea, because it sounds logical when you say somebody who operates a parent's car, that parent can be held accountable. A child who operates a parent's gun, there's accountability there. But when you're talking about say the case of Rebecca, this is a suicide. This isn't a direct action. The car caused the death, the gun caused the death. But this is a suicide. I'm not exactly sure how you can make the leap. I know a lot of people will agree with you. O'MARA: It's going to be difficult to prove that there was a causal connection between her death and what the two girls did to her. But if, in fact, it can be made, and it looks pretty strong in this case, then they can be held responsible. Now the other connection that has to be made, were the parents aware or at least were they negligent in not watching and surprising their kids' behavior.
We have to start with the family. We've talked about cops and how they have to act responsibly and prosecutors and how they have to act responsibly. But the reality is the new tool that we are not familiar enough to handle properly, the Internet, we have to look to the family as the first vanguard. And if they fail their obligation, we have to hold them responsible.
BANFIELD: I have two little boys, six and seven years old, but they're heading into the area where I know my job is going to be difficult. But I have to say, that's a monumental task to know what you're child is up to.
Thanks. Good to see you.
BANFIELD: I want to take you next to Missouri where a girl says that she was sexually assaulted at a party. Charges were filed. And then they were dropped. But they could soon be re-filed. There was a lot of cop fusion around the case. We're going to get the "Legal View" coming next.
BANFIELD: The new details this morning on an alleged teen rape case in Missouri. We have now learned that the case is in the process of being re-opened. It stems from this. Two girls accused two high school football players of getting them drunk and raping them at a party. The victims say the case was dropped because one of the boy's grandfather is a former state legislator. At least one case was dropped, not two.
Our Ana Cabrera has the details.
DAISY COLEMAN, ALLEGED SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIM: I was more than excited. I felt like I was going to be able to work with someone who was actually excited about this case and willing to put forth a real effort.
ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alleged sexual assault victim, Daisy Coleman, and her mother say it's a small victory to have their case re-opened.
ROBERT RICE, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: I have asked the court to appoint a special prosecuting attorney to conduct an independent review of the facts and determine whether to re-file charges. CABRERA: For the first time, the man at the center of a controversial case is speaking out. Prosecutor Robert Rice under fire after dropping charges in the alleged sexually assault of Daisy Coleman. While now asking for a separate review of the case, he stands by his actions claiming Daisy and her friend Paige, another alleged victim, refused to testify.
RICE: I can't go into their minds. I don't know. Ma'am, I can tell you we were very careful and deliberately to make sure we were recording that there was no misunderstanding that when they at that time invoked their Fifth Amendment right was going to force the dismissal of the case.
CABRERA: The Coleman family believes they dropped the charges against 17-year-old Matthew Barnett not due to lack of evidence, but because of Barnett's deep-rooted ties to the communities.
UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER OF DAISY: I think it was football player and had lots of power and connection, and we didn't matter.
CABRERA: Matthew is the grandson of long-time Republican State Representative Rex Barnett.
(on camera): Can you understand people's suspicions?
REX BARNETT, MATTHEW'S GRANDFATHER: Sure, I can understand why they think I knew that if it drug on very long I would be pulled into it just for political reasons. So I made it a point not to talk to the prosecuting attorney, to the sheriff, to any of the witnesses directly or indirectly. And I talk to that.
CABRERA: Do you have a relationship with prosecuting attorney, Robert Rice?
BARNETT: We're acquaintances, not close friends or anything like that.
CABRERA (voice-over): Rex Barnett retired from politics in 2002. Rice became prosecuting attorney in 2010.
One thing is for certain, outrage is growing. The Maryville mayor, Jim Fall, says he and many others are started to receive threats from supporters of Daisy Coleman.
JIM FALL, MAYOR OF MARYVILLE, MISSOURI: The language, town, the vulgarity is unbelievable.
CABRERA: He, too, wants action that can bring about a swift resolution.
Ana Cabrera, CNN, Maryville, Missouri
BANFIELD: So what may be complicating this case somewhat, and our two attorneys are here to sort it out, CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan; and HLN legal analyst, Joey Jackson, is that two young girls going to a party both alleging rape, one 13, one 14. The 13-year-old case pled out. Automatically, when you're 13, it doesn't matter if you confess.
PAUL CALLAN, LEGAL ANALYST: That's rape.
BANFIELD: That's rape. The other young girl, Daisy, is 14. Now you've got to find consent. Is this where the problem began, Paul?
CALLAN: Yeah. Different situation. Statutory rape, you just have to look at girl's birth certificate. If he's under 13 and an older boy had sex with her, he's guilty of rape. That's it. We have what we call Romeo and Juliette a la U.S. And between 14 and 17, if the boy and the girl have sex, the idea is if it's voluntary and consensual, we don't want to make them criminals.
BANFIELD: And at this party there are witnesses who say it was consensual. Yet Daisy can't remember a thing and was completely blacked out --
CALLAN: Daisy gets there and is handed a clear liquid and said, drink it. She drinks. And she becomes dizzy. Then she goes into a bedroom with the kid, Matt, who is related to the Senator and then they have sex. And they go back out of the bedroom and then there's testimony she has seven to 10 shots of vodka and they go back into the bedroom again, no sex on the second encounter.
BANFIELD: Now consent becomes cloudy and difficult.
CALLAN: That's right.
BANFIELD: But let me ask you this. That young girl, 14 years old, ended up with no shoes, no socks, in 20 degree temperatures at 4:50 a.m. on her front lawn. And by the grace of god her mother looked out to see her in the cold. And the only charges they came up with were misdemeanors that they didn't render the kind of assistance, Joey?
JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And then you don't move forward on them. And then the question becomes, why not? Well, then you say, there was no cooperation. The victim says it was plenty of cooperation and, indeed, we did want to move forward. So I think that the appointment of a special prosecutor to determine two things: Number one, why wasn't this case pursued in the first instance? And number two, is there a viable case now? If so, let's see what's there.
BANFIELD: I want to be super clear on this. There were felony charges that were dropped. After those felony charges were dropped against the 17-year-old football player, the mom and Daisy invoked their Fifth Amendment right not to testify because of misdemeanor charges.
CALLAN: That's where this thing gets very -- (CROSSTALK)
BANFIELD: They were upset that the felony charges had been dropped.
CALLAN: It really gets suspicious. I'm looking at the dates here. The boys are arrested in January. March of 2012, felony rape charges dropped. In May --
BANFIELD: Timing is critical.
CALLAN: -- the Fifth Amendment is asserted.
BANFIELD: Guys we are going to continue talking about this. Thank you.
CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan; HLN legal analyst, Joey Jackson, thank you both. Appreciate that.
A former beauty queen gets a facelift, and days later, she's dead in a bathtub. Nancy Grace in Utah covering the trial. She is next.
BANFIELD: Accident or murder? It is the key question that a jury is going to have to decide in Utah when it comes to Martin MacNeill. He was a doctor who prosecutors say doped up his wife with so many drugs that she could not fight him off before he finally drowned her in their bathtub, April 11, '07. Today is day two of the testimony in a trial against him. And one of his neighbors, Christie Daniels (ph), is on the stand right now. You never know what a jury is going to season. So every detail is critical.
Nancy Grace joins us right now. She's been covering the case.
Yesterday, Nancy, when we checked in with you, we were at the beginning. And it was the state laying out the case and shocking us with details that we haven't heard before. Then you always know the defense comes right after. There was a lot they did to poke holes. Now the evidence comes in and it's state's evidence. What's happening to the holes in what the defense said yesterday?
NANCY GRACE, HOST, NANCY GRACE: Well, the state is putting on a very good case. I was a little disturbed that one of their main witnesses so far, that is, we're only a few days into the trial, the 911 dispatcher, all along it had been presented that Martin MacNeill gave the wrong address to 911. He didn't. The 911 dispatch operator was cross-examined and had to state that he gave the right address.
Now, trial strategy 101. When you make a mistake, you clean up your own mess in front of the jury. You should say, now, you know, isn't it true that for a while it was believed he gave the wrong address, but in fact, he didn't, did he? And you clean up your mistake in front much that jury. Don't let the other side correct you. You have the right information to start with. Be prepared. But number two, if for some reason the witness has given you the wrong information, you clarify it with the witness yourself. And that way the jury keeps its trust in you.
BANFIELD: That's a shocking mistake, too, because that is a big fact that allegedly he had given the wrong address to 911. Now we know that not to be true. There's stuff not coming into the case which really astounded me when I read it, although, I get it. But I want to just put something on the screen so our viewers know what this jury is not going to know.
They will not know that he disinherited his children. They will not know that he severed the relationship with his daughters. They will not know that he stole adoptive daughter's identity. An adoptive daughter of his, he stole their identity to help his mistress. And they will not know that he transferred assets to his lover, the lover being Gypsy Willis who ended up moving in as the defacto nanny although she had no nannying skills.
These are facts that could really make a jury hate him. Is that the reason they won't find this out or is there something else?
GRACE: I think the judge is being overcautious and let me emphasize overcautious. I think you should be cautious when you let in evidence. I don't know that it's been presented to the judge in this way, but several of the things that you just mentioned are being withheld from evidence because the judge believes that they are "prejudicial." Lawyers use that term of art, prejudicial, rather than probative. In other words, what does it prove? But if you analyze the things you just mentioned, they are probative because they go to motive.
First of all, cutting off ties, disinheriting his children, when did he do that? After they became suspicious, he murdered their mother. OK? To me, that's probative. The fact that he was using the children, his adopted children's names for his mistress so she could get a clean credit report, that is probative as to course of conduct, frame of mind, his M.O., modus operandi, and it goes to motive. Everything you mentioned goes to motive and course of conduct.
BANFIELD: Just real quickly, I got to wrap it up, but I got to ask you this. The defense was very vet adamant in opening statements that the cause of death was never determined to have been he over drugged her and she O.D.'d and drowned. That you can't underestimate what a jury will say if they don't have a cause of death that matches what the state wants it to match, can you?
GRACE: Well, are nothing medical examiner would ever state over drugged her and caused her to drown because that's going into the jury's province. But as a matter of fact, there is a medical examiner that does say that she had all that cocktail of drugs in her system and she did drown. So there is a medical examiner, the former chief medical examiner of Broward County who handled the Anna Nicole Smith case. Joshua Perper is going to say on the stand she had medications in her system and she drowned.
BANFIELD: OK. All right. Nancy, it's always great to get your take. I'm glad you came out for us.
GRACE: Thank you.
BANFIELD: I know you have to get right back in. Come on back to us and report on this, if you can, throughout next week, as well.
Nancy Grace live in Provo, Utah.
GRACE: I will, thank you.
BANFIELD: Good to see your smiling face. Have a good weekend.
Coming up next, a soldier lost his legs on the battlefield but came home to find a new mission. That mission was to help others.
BANFIELD: We're shining a spotlight on the top-ten "CNN Heroes" of 2013. And Dale Beatty, he's making life easier and safer and better for fellow vets. Take a look.
DALE BEATTY, CNN HERO: I'm a combat wounded Iraq veteran. As I was recovering at Walter Reed, my community approached me and said they wanted to help build a home for my return.
People would come and work on my project just because they respected the sacrifice that I had gone through. All veterans have been taught to be responsible for the guy to your left and the guy to your right. Other veterans haven't had it as easy as I have. So I sat down with my battle buddy, John, and we decided to level the playing field.
I'm Dale Beatty. And it's now my mission to help other veterans get the support and the homes they deserve from their communities.
There's thousands of veterans right here in our midst. People don't realize the need that's out there. Purple Heart Homes can help any service connected disabled veteran regardless of their age or war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the young man why we're all here today.
BEATTY: It's just getting the community engaged to get a ramp built or a foreclosed home remodeled or an entire house built from the ground up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Narrow doorways that I couldn't get through. I had to crawl in on my hands and knees. To have them build a whole new bathroom was unbelievable.
BEATTY: We want to make their life easier, safer, just better, and their emotions are being rehabbed, as well.
Regardless of when you serve, we're all the same. They just need to know that someone does care about them.
BANFIELD: And Dale is just one of our top-ten honorees, one of whom will become "CNN's Hero" of the year and receive a $250,000 prize to further their work. Who is it going to be? You're the one who gets to decide. Go to CNNheroes.com and you can vote every single day. You can share your vote on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks so much for watching, everyone. Have a great weekend. AROUND THE WORLD starts after this break.