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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Thousands Without Power in U.S., Canada; Rescue Within Sight for Stranded Ship in Antarctic; 2013 Winners, Losers in Legal World; Top-10 Entertainment Stories of 2013

Aired December 27, 2013 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. and Canada are waiting desperately for someone to turn their power back on. Snow and ice storms earlier this week are to blame for the outages. At least 19 people have died, many of them from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Meteorologist Jennifer Gray joins us live from the CNN Severe Weather Center.

Jennifer, will crews have good weather to get the power back on? How's the wind looking in those areas?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, they only have a window of a couple of days. We're watching our next system start to develop in the Gulf of Mexico. This is an hour-by-hour forecast. This is Saturday morning at 11:00. You can see rain spilling into south Louisiana into the Deep South. Atlanta will be very, very rainy for most of the day on Saturday and this storm will continue to lift into the mid-Atlantic. By Sunday morning and then by Sunday evening you can see rain over most of New York City and Boston. The good news with the storm system is it looks like it's mainly going to be rain. It doesn't look like it's going to be a big ice event or even a big snow event.

We can still see quite a bit of snow but it's going to be concentrated in areas of Vermont, New Hampshire, and even in northern Maine. That's what we'll be looking at over the end of the weekend to the very beginning of next week. Could see 10 inches or more in extreme portions of northern Maine. We'll see two to five inches in Vermont and New Hampshire. These numbers are fluid. We're still watching it a couple of days away. Things could change of course. Today we're seeing a couple of lake effect snow showers around Watertown. We're seeing a few in buffalo. Burlington picking up a little bit of snow as well. Temperatures still very chilly in these areas, Pamela. Temperatures of 29 in Syracuse. Detroit is up to 34. A lot of areas that lost power are expected to get above freezing for today and the next few days.

BROWN: Thanks so much, Jennifer Gray. We appreciate it.

It looks like the ice is causing problems elsewhere as well. A new research -- a new problem for a research ship stranded in the thick arctic ice. Whipping winds from a blizzard pushed ice around the Russian research ship freezing it in place 100 nautical miles from a French base on Christmas Eve. 74 crew members are on board. The Chinese ship stalled out six miles from that ship.

CNN's Diana Magnay has the very latest on the rescue efforts.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Rescue now within eyesight of the stranded vessel. It's been stuck in frozen waters around the ant arctic since Monday evening. There are 74 people on board. All of them safe. All of them in high spirits says Chris Turney, the expedition leader. He's been broadcasting aboard the vessel since Christmas day. He sent out a May Day distress signal on Christmas day but since then he's been doing plenty of interviews. He's saying they had a great day, they're all warm but looking forward to an imminent rescue. Three rescue vessels were sent towards them. All of them are ice breakers. The first is almost there, the Chinese vessel the snow breaker. What needs to happen now is simply that they carve a route through the ice. The boat is intact. It can't escape the frozen waters. The whole purpose of this expedition was to retrace the steps of the Australian explorer, Sir Douglas Morrison. That's why this expedition is called the spirit ever Morrison. He spent two years in ant arctic call from 1911 to 1913. It's certainly a relief to all of those on boards that they're not spending anywhere near that amount of time there.

BROWN: Diane, thank you so much.

It is a cruel, disturbing, and sometimes deadly trend some people are calling it, where strangers randomly sucker punch unsuspecting victims all with the goal of knocking them unconscious. Now the Justice Department is acting on the so-called knockout game with a new charge. We're going to tell you about this right after the break.

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BROWN: The U.S. Justice Department isn't playing around when it comes to the violent and sometimes deadly trend known as the knockout game. You've seen the videos likely, strangers randomly sucker punching people on the street with the goal of knocking them unconscious with a single blow. Well now, this man right here, Conrad Alvin Barrett of Texas, has been charged with a hate crime for allegedly attacking a 79-year-old man because he was black. He hit the elderly man with such force that he suffered fractures, was hospitalized for several days and had to remove teeth and insert metal plates into his jaw.

Our panel of legal experts joins us. Paul Callan is a CNN legal analyst. Alan Dershowitz is a professor and an author, "Taking a Stand, My Life in the Law."

Thank you for being here with us.

Alan, I'm going to start with you here. Why is this particular case being singled out at the federal level? Because we've seen other cases linked to the knockout game being prosecuted as hate crimes on the state level. Why this one on the federal level? ALAN DERSHOWITZ, LAW PROFESSOR & AUTHOR: I suspect it's the race of the people involved that -- the victim here was an elderly black man. The motive -- the racial motive seems very clear. The only thing that makes this case a little bit more difficult is apparently the defendant has a history of mental illness. Now for me the real issue is even if there isn't a racial motive here, when you walk over to some person and just knock them down for sport, that should be a serious enough crime whether there's a racial motive or a motive to go after somebody who's elderly or any other protected class. I don't think we should diminish the seriousness of these crimes even if it's done randomly or not for a racial motive. When it's done for a racial motive obviously it exaggerates the seriousness of the crime and brings in federal authorities as well.

BROWN: What do you think? Hate-based crime -- or laws like this good or bad, Paul?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The jury's very much out on it. The idea behind it was that it would sort of send a message that society won't tolerate picking on people because of their gender, or their color, or their sexual orientation, but statistically it's too soon for us to know whether it's had an impact. I mean, Texas, you know, getting back to the question you just asked, why this case? Because a lot of people are saying --

BROWN: Right.

CALLAN: -- there were a lot of other cases.

BROWN: Right. Right.

CALLAN: There were some in New York involving victims who were white which were not prosecuted as federal cases, but New York has strict hate crime legislation and even Texas, by the way, has its own local statute. I was looking at the penalty. I think the penalty is more severe under Texas law. He could have faced 20 years in prison. It's 10 years under the federal statute. It's interesting why the federal prosecutor grabbed this case instead of saying to the local prosecutor you should bring it under the Texas law.

BROWN: That is interesting.

Alan, I want to go to you talking about the prosecution's case. They have video where basically he is admitting to committing the crime and it was racially motivated. Is this a slam dunk case for them?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, it seems like a slam-dunk case other than the mental issue. If he has a serious mental illness, that might either eliminate the racial motive or make him irresponsible of the crime. It may be more difficult to prosecute, but it seems to me that what people are doing now is they're videotaping their own crimes. This is just a continuation of a trend we're seeing in society where people are videotaping and putting on Twitter and putting on Facebook terrible things that make them look horrible and I guess there are some people out there who claim that, you know, when you do this kind of thing you look good in the eyes of some people and, I mean, it raises another question about whether or not -- a first amendment question, whether or not YouTube or whether or not other outlets should be showing these films of hate crimes and thereby perhaps encouraging them. That raises a conflict with the First Amendment and on the other hand the inciting this kind of violence.

BROWN: Yeah. You wonder, in light of what you just raised, the fact that people are taping themselves committing these violent acts and posting them online, if prosecutors are using this case to send a message. We will be following this.

Paul Callan and Alan Dershowitz, stay there. We still need you. We have more legal topics to discuss.

In fact, we're going to be diving into the legal winners and losers for 2013. Some winners this year, same-sex marriage proponents, and hot losers. What about the big losers? Paul and Alan give us their take right after this break.

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BROWN: Welcome back, everyone.

As we know, 2014 is just a few days away, and as we welcome in the New Year, let's take a look at some of the winners and losers of 2013. The issues that pushed forward in the legal world.

For that we want to bring back in Paul Callan and Alan Dershowitz. Once again, Alan's new book is "Taking a Stand, My Life in the Law."

Six states have legalized in 2013 same-sex marriage. Bringing the tally to 18 states and the District of Columbia.

Your reaction? Alan, to you first.

DERSHOWITZ: This is all winners. This is win-win. People who love each other are allowed to get married. That trend will continue. In five years we won't understand why this was an issue. There are no losers because it's nobody's business except gay people who want to get married that they want to get married. Nobody else has the right to complain about that. It doesn't endanger heterosexual marriage. It doesn't endanger religious rights of others, so it's a win-win.

BROWN: Paul, what do you think?

CALLAN: On a personal basis I agree with Alan. I think the law should not restrict the rights of people. There are people of religious conscience who believe that this is a violation of their religion, that the state should not be sanctioning this and they perceive themselves as losers in this. They perceive themselves as people who have voted as they did -- the majority of people did in California against gay marriage and they've now had it imposed on them by the courts. So on the loser's side of it, those people are going to classify themselves clearly as losers.

BROWN: All right. Let's move on to another hot topic of the year, the NSA leak. Paul, who do you think the winner was in the NSA leak? CALLAN: Well, that's a great question because, you know, Snowden, who has been vilified widely because he stole so much intelligence information from the United States will claim vindication here because here's this federal court decision that came obviously, seemed to indicate that he had released and exposed a very, very dangerous level of surveillance by the U.S. government. On the other hand, the NSA allowed cameras in for the first time, television network covered it and people got a better understanding of why they're doing this, why they're tapping to protect the American public. So you can see it on both sides.

BROWN: Alan, you had a different take on this. You don't think Snowden was the winner, is that right?

DERSHOWITZ: No, I don't think he was a winner. In order to be a civil disobedient, you had to do the least amount of harm necessary to make your point. He released lots of information about us surveilling foreign leaders. That's not illegal. We're entitled to do that outside the country and yet he revealed that. He could have easily gone to Congress, he could have simply revealed the existence of the program without revealing the content and, finally, if you're going to be a civil disobedient, stand up and take the consequences. Don't run to Russia where they can steal more secrets and hurt the national security of the United States. He's a deeply, deeply flawed hero if he's a hero at all.

BROWN: You think the winner is the public in that case, Alan, quickly?

DERSHOWITZ: The public has been the winner.

BROWN: Paul Callan and Alan Dershowitz, thank you very much.

DERSHOWITZ: Pleasure.

BROWN: We appreciate it.

Still to come right here on LEGAL VIEW, from Beyonce to the Biebs, to the dark, dark heart of (INAUDIBLE), can you guess number one?

But first, a big year in news, of course, means a big year on Twitter. Here's a look at the most tweeted news events in 2013. At number one, the Boston Marathon. That drew 27 million tweets. Game seven NBA finals between the Miami Heat and the Spurs got 26.7 million tweets. And in third place, the outage at the Super Bowl. Remember that? That combined with Beyonce's performance drew 24 million tweets. One million were sent after MTV's Music Awards, thanks to Miley Cyrus, for the most part. Rounding out the top five, the announcement of the new pontiff, Pope Francis, garnered more than 130,000 tweets per minute.

We'll be right back.

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BROWN: Pop star Miley Cyrus throws another shovel full of dirt on her wholesome alter ego Hannah Montana. Take a look at her brand new video, the parts we can show you on television.

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BROWN: The video has the cyber verse all on Twitter as you can imagine. Miley wasn't alone in making headlines this past year.

CNN's Nischelle Turner counts down the top-10 entertainment stories of 2013.

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NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bieber's bad-boy behavior. Justin Bieber hasn't left the spotlight since hitting the scene in 2009, but 2013 found the teen heartthrob making news for the wrong reasons. In fact, "The Daily Beast" declares it Bieber's year of affluenza.

JUSTIN BIEBER, POP STAR: What'd you say?

TURNER: From paparazzi brawls to pet monkey drama to neighborhood disturbances, Bieber struggled to stay out of trouble this year.

Kimye is born. Kanye and Kim Kardashian continue their reining the royal tabloid couple in 2013. West had a number one album and hit tour but nothing made news as much as his love life. They welcomed the birth of their first child in June. In the year of the selfie and in typical Kardashian fashion, Kim took to social media to unveil her post baby body. West then rented out AT&T Park in San Francisco to surprise Kardashian with a marriage proposal.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We have been following this breaking news actor Paul Walker has died.

TURNER: A "Fast and Furious" death. Fans heart broken after Paul walker's unexpected passing over Thanksgiving weekend. The 40-year- old actor was killed in a car crash outside Los Angeles. Fans and famous friends came out to show support for the box office powerhouse who also found success in films such as "8 Below" and "Flags of Our Fathers."

Beyonce's return to the stage. The singer caused waves after lip syncing the national anthem at the presidential inauguration in January only to prove her star power in a Super Bowl show. Beyonce spent most of the year touring the world before surprising everyone with the release of her fifth studio album. It quickly became not only the fastest-selling album of her career, but also an iTunes history. Queen Bee is ending the year at the top of her game.

Basic cable ruled TV. The "Walking Dead" rose to record ratings proving we're still inflicted with zombie fever. The acclaimed "Breaking Bad" conclude its five-season run and nearly blew up social media in the process. And "Duck Dynasty" revealed reality TV is still guiding the conversation. Star Phil Robertson's recent anti-gay comments stirred controversy but basic cable shows still kept people buzzing.

From Oscar gold to box office magic, Jennifer Lawrence received the best actress award for her performance in "Silver Linings Playbook" and won over while falling to collect the award. It wasn't long before she found herself at the top of the box office with the release of "The Hunger Games" sequel "Catching Fire." Ranking behind only Angelina Jolie on Forbes' list of Hollywood's highest paid actress. Lawrence is already receiving award buzz for her scene stealing performance in "American Hustle."

Angelina's brave choice. Angelina Jolie shocked everyone with her "New York Times" op-ed revealing she underwent a double mastectomy. The mother of six underwent the procedure after learning she carries a gene mutation. The announcement inspired other women to consider the procedure as an option.

Paula Deen's down fall. A year ago, the celebrity chef was on top of the world. That all came crashing down after the release of a deposition in a lawsuit by a former employee. In the deposition, Deen admitted using the "N" word in the past. Fans turned their back on the southern star as did many of her endorsement deals. Deen went on to apologize but it's yet to be seen if she can reclaim her throne.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: HBO is confirming that actor James Gandolfini has died.

TURNER: James Gandolfini's unexpected passing is sent shock waves through would. The "Sopranos" actor died at the age of 51 while on vacation in Italy. The Emmy winner's final film, the comedy "Enough Said," opened after his death to critical acclaim and earned him his final SAG Award nomination.

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TURNER: Miley Cyrus got everybody talking with her on stage antics. Cyrus made news with her controversial performance at the MTV'S VMAs. The former Hannah Montana star proved her teen persona was a distant memory. Cyrus followed is the performance with news of breakup with long-time fiance, Liam Hemsworth. Her first number one hit "Wrecking Ball." It's Miley's world and we're just living in it.

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BROWN: Nischelle Turner, thank you for that.

Next month, an Alabama lawmaker will propose a symbolic resolution supporting reality TV star, Phil Robertson. As you just heard from Nischelle in that story, he is the "Duck Dynasty" patriarch made controversial comments calling homosexuality a sin. A representative says what he says is completely supported by the majority of people. A&E suspended Robertson and an online petition calling for his return has more than 250,000 signatures. And the "Duck Dynasty" controversy is writing a new chapter on social media. As you can see on this new Facebook page, fans of the reality show are encouraged to wear camouflage clothing and eat at Chick-Fil-A next month. Notice the spell has been altered to P-H-I-L, for Phil Robertson, the show's star who was suspended.

Thank you so much for being with here with us on LEGAL VIEW. We appreciate you watching on this Friday. Happy New Year, everyone.

AROUND THE WORLD starts now.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A deadly blast kills six people including a former ambassador to the U.S. investigators believe he was targeted.

And ice breakers are making their way to a stranded ship off Antarctica. Now there's a new issue slowing down the rescue.

And a glitch allows travelers to score some incredible airfares. Round trip flights as low as 25 bucks. And the airline says it will honor those amazing prices.

Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Suzanne Malveaux.

An explosion went off in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, today. It was a car bomb that killed an outspoken former government official.

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WHITFIELD: Six people died in this explosion, including the likely target of the attack.