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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Closing Arguments in "Loud Music" Murder Trial; Huge Ice Storm Hits South; Package Bomb Kills TN Lawyer; Washington State Halts Executions; Human Factor Spotlights Chris Klug

Aired February 12, 2014 - 12:30   ET

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


MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm sure Strolla is going to focus on the fact there was a tripod in there, and maybe Davis thought -- he didn't mean it, maybe he thought he was going to be bravado, but if he put that tripod up against that window and Dunn thought he saw a shotgun, then it was justified.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Let me ask you this. Whether it was or not, ultimately the true story came out. We all know exactly what the story is now. Jordan Dunn, a 17-year-old kid, and those three others were kids. And that's not lost on this defendant.

Yet the tears only flowed over a puppy dog and the fiancee, and not over the death of a 17-year-old as he looks across the courtroom at the father. That is a problem. And that is not lost on jurors.

OMARA: Two main problems with that, you just pointed out the huge one, which is you can't cry over a fiancee and a dog and not emote somehow for the idea that the young life was lost. Even if in your mind it was justified, you still have the trauma of taking a life.

The second thing that I don't think -- that I didn't like about his direct examination and his cross was that he seemed a little bit too coached, the idea of using words like "imminent," the idea of having this waking nightmare and using that three times, the way he seemed to use words out of the jury instructions.

If that comes across coached to the jury, then they're going to disbelieve him. And if they disbelieve him, he's convicted.

BANFIELD: Yeah. And my apologies, I flip-flopped the names, Jordan Davis being the victim in this case and his father in that courtroom facing down on that witness stand, looking right at a man for two-and- a-half hours, testifying so methodically, like it's just a technical case, not the death of a kid.

That could be tough for Michael Dunn.

Mark O'Mara, stand by. Thank you for that. Obviously, you're going to provide an excellent voice as we continue through the day.

And this case is not over, continuing after the lunch break, are those defense closing arguments, so we'll continue to watch, as well, here on CNN.

I don't think you need me to tell you this, a Canadian, but driving on ice is not recommended.

So many cities across the South have told their citizens to stay off the roads today. Take a look at these live pictures in Atlanta, metro Atlanta -

(AUDIO BREAK)

-- traffic out there.

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BANFIELD: I want to get you back to this hour's breaking news right here on CNN.

This is a winter storm that forecasters warned would be one for the history books, and talk about the headlines telling the story. This is today's "Atlanta Journal Constitution" on how it arrived at the home of one of our viewers this morning, Phil Finkel (ph).

"Bracing For the Worst," that's actually the newspaper sitting on his door step. Holy cow, what a picture.

And then I want you to take a look at this ghost town, what a shot.

Millions of people normally commuting this morning stayed off the streets instead and let the snowplows get a jump on what may be several inches of snow and ice that could accumulate before that storm is finished its devastating work on that community.

And, remember, it was just two weeks ago when people responded very differently to a snowfall in Atlanta. And we saw that it terrible gridlock that lasted well into the next day.

Well, this morning, people were taking officials' advice, and thank god the officials finally gave it, publicly. People stayed home.

And I want to just tell you that sometimes the studio radar and the warning from the governor isn't enough for people to realize what it really looks like, and this is why we have the media giving you the images of just how bad it is.

Hopefully this will sort of inoculate you to the notion that you could actually manage yourself out there.

George Howell is on those roads, very carefully driving Atlanta for us, and also Chad Myers watching very carefully in downtown Atlanta right now.

George, give me a feel again for what you're seeing out on the roadways.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly. So to the north, Ashleigh, we hear about snow accumulation. To the south of Atlanta, it's all about the freezing rain, the sleet and the ice.

And I want to give you a good example of what we're talking about here. Bear with me. Look at the antenna, the radio antenna, here on our car, our SUV. You can see the ice build-up there. And as we get layer upon layer of rain as it comes in, the freezing rain, that's what you see on the trees. That's what you see on the power lines.

The weight of this ice and snow on top of it, the weight will bring down trees. The weight is bringing down power lines.

Want to switch over now to show you our camera here on the road, here on Interstate 20. We are following these power crews as they do their work.

We know at least 187,000 people are without power. That number continues to go up by the hour.

But again, the concern right now, Ashleigh is that this is a multiday event. We know that we'll get more of this in the next several hours, and as the temperatures continue to drop, the concern, again, is about those power lines going down.

BANFIELD: I remember when I was out in a terrible storm on 95, George, and public officials said that the media was given a bit of a break from the ban on driving, just because it really does help to get the message out to people.

Rather than just a weather report, to actually see what's going on and have that firsthand really does chasten people and stop them from going out on to the road.

So, thank you and please be very careful. I'm glad you're with officials in front of you, who are obviously, you know, setting the groundwork for you as you continue to travel carefully.

That image of the -- wow, of the antenna, was just amazing.

Chad Myers, doesn't that just perfectly describe what's going on with all of those trees and power lines? They're just caked in that ice/

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. For a while this morning, we had sleet, which are little pellets of ice that fall down from the sky.

It's warm enough up there to make rain, but when it tries to rain, it falls and freezes on the way to the ground. Now it's not freezing on the way down, it's literally -- it's freezing on the ground.

Let me show this little plant guy right here. This is a piece of ice that's coming off of that plant. That's a good quarter-inch thick right there, and it's still coming down. And it will for the next 13 hours.

I'm going to turn this way. I'm going to point our camera into the wind, and all the sudden you're going to see all of these little drops of rain hit the camera. That's what's hitting these trees. These trees are now beginning to get covered up. Got to be careful on this (inaudible) right here. These trees are now completely covered in ice, and all of this weight doesn't want to stay up there, because the wind now, Ashleigh, is blowing almost 30-miles-per-hour, and these trees just literally want to fall over.

We have very big trees in the South, but these trees are in trouble right now, especially with this wind and 13 or so more hours of ice.

We're going to see a lot more power lines down than what we see right now. This will be an all-day and all-night affair.

The difference between this storm and the last storm, though, although people took advice, the difference is also started at 2:00 a.m., not 2:00 p.m.

BANFIELD: Yep. Huge, that was a significant issue.

Plus, the message is getting out, you know? Finally, those public officials took action and made it real serious and gave you the message to give out, as well.

So. Chad, be careful out there and try and stay dry and warm. That's not a fun assignment.

But great visuals, it really helps to show exactly what's happening out there.

MYERS: Thank you.

BANFIELD: And, by the way, no matter where you live we want you to send us your iReport photos, the videos, as well.

Tell us what it's like, the weather in your community. Just go to iReport.com, upload, send us your report. Some of the best stuff -- really, some of the best stuff comes from you, our viewers, and we're very appreciative.

A package bomb kills a retired attorney and seriously injures his wife, and then, not to mention, leaves a community in fear and confusion.

Investigators want to know, why was he targeted? Just ahead, the details on what the FBI and other authorities are uncovering.

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BANFIELD: I want to take you to a very strange story that's developing 30 miles east of Nashville.

A 74-year-old retired lawyer goes to his mailbox and gets a package, brings it inside to his kitchen, opens it.

It explodes and kills him, seriously injures his 72-year-old wife, and no one knows why.

CNN's Evan Perez, covering this story from Washington because the FBI is in on this.

Do they know anything we don't know, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, the FBI, ATF, the local authorities in Tennessee are all in on this, and right now there's still a lot of mystery as to what exactly happened here, why this couple was targeted.

They do know that -- they do believe that these two were targeted. They've ruled out any accidental blast from anything of the house. We know that the attorney's name is John Setzer. He's a retired bankruptcy lawyer in this area, Lebanon, Tennessee. We're told by sources, new information at this hour, that they've recovered a note that may -- may have been attached to the package.

Now, they're going through the house today to try to catalog everything. The blast was so powerful that it went -- it extended almost through the entire house, knocked out the windows. And so one of the things they're doing today is they're going to check to make sure -- there's some labels on the ground, for instance. They're going to make sure to see whether or not perhaps that was attached to this package or whether it was perhaps a package that came earlier in the week.

They're also trying to figure out whether there's any threats to this family previously. That's something they don't know just yet. There is a lot of open questions here, and they're all trying to get to the bottom of this, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Seventy-four, retired bankruptcy, he's a pastor, he served in the Army Reserve. It's just perplexing.

PEREZ: It is.

BANFIELD: Evan Perez working that story for us. Thank you for that.

So if you watch this show regularly, you know that I go off when it comes to just how bad we are at actually carrying out a death penalty from start to finish. Look, it's not about the morality of it, it's about just how imperfect we are. And apparently the governor of Washington agrees with me. Says there's too many doubts, too much at stake. And, guess what, ain't going to be no more death penalty executions in that state under his watch. What does that mean? Still going to happen, later, after he's over? LEGAL VIEW on that coming up next.

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BANFIELD: Too many doubts, too many flaws. Six very simple words coming from that man, the governor of Washington state. In saying that, he was explaining his decision not to sign the death warrants for state prisoners who have been convicted of capital crimes there. His name is Jay Inslee, and he goes on to say, "equal justice under the law is the state's primary responsibility. The use of the death penalty in this state is unequally applied sometimes, dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred." Washington state is just one of 32 that still imposes death on criminals deemed the worst of the worst, but it hasn't carried out an execution since 2010. Jeffrey Toobin joins me again to talk through this one.

You know that I go crazy about these issues, and that just touches the surface, that maybe some counties don't have enough budget to do what other counties can.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Right.

BANFIELD: There are a myriad of other reasons why we don't apply this properly as human beings. You know (ph), we ain't perfect.

TOOBIN: Well, and there is a quiet revolution going on about the death penalty in the United States.

BANFIELD: Not from this chair, it ain't quiet.

TOOBIN: Well, no, but, I mean, it's changing. You know, in 1999, there were 98 executions. Last year, there were only 39. I mean, that's almost two-thirds fewer. Death sentences are down. Prosecutors asking for death sentences is down. You know, now we have yet another state, Washington, that is not going to execute people, at least for a while. And people should know that these --

BANFIELD: Different. Yes, let's make this clear.

TOOBIN: Right.

BANFIELD: There's a difference between reprieve and pardon and commutation.

TOOBIN: Right.

BANFIELD: He's doing a reprieve. What is it?

TOOBIN: A reprieve is simply saying, I am not going to sign death warrants for the foreseeable future for the people on death row in Washington. They're not going anywhere. They're not being released. In fact, if another governor comes along, or if Jay Inslee changes his mind, they could yet be executed. Frankly, given what he said, it strikes me as very unlikely he would ever sign a death warrant for these -

BANFIELD: Well, he's already said, it's not going to happen while I'm governor, ever.

TOOBIN: Right. Right. So -

BANFIELD: Yes.

TOOBIN: But he is leaving open at least the possibility that a subsequent governor could execute them.

BANFIELD: Is that politically so that, you know, he doesn't offend people who are pro-death penalty in the state?

TOOBIN: I - right, I think, you know -

BANFIELD: Yes.

TOOBIN: It's a middle ground between actually signing death warrants and issuing commutations, which would guarantee that they would never be executed.

BANFIELD: Can I just say again, before I get hate mail and hate Twitter and all the rest, this is not a moral decision. I'm sure if something happened to one of my family members, I might be able to flip the switch myself. This is not about that. This is about innocent people, and God forbid you should ever find yourself in need of the protections of the Constitution and our laws and our labs and our people who actually do the investigations that they're so perfect and certain that you're the guy.

TOOBIN: Well, you know what, but it's a moral issue, it's a practical issue, but it's also a budget issue. And I thought that was something that was very interesting that Governor Inslee said, that the different budgets of counties have a big impact on who gets the death penalty.

That's been true in Texas, as well. Texas is widely known as the capital of the death penalty in the United States, but counties there have been asking for it less, in part because it's so expensive to try these cases and continue the years of appeals.

And so there are all sorts of forces at work. You know, obviously, the work of the Innocence Project, all the DNA evidence that has exonerated people, jurors are more reluctant to impose it. But also there are these very practical issues like budgets that are reducing the death penalty.

BANFIELD: If people only knew the true, wide, vast story of how bad we've been and how many innocent people we've actually put to death. So that's murder, by the way. That's murder. Putting an innocent person to death, that's murder in my book. So, anyway, Jeff Toobin, this is not the last you and I will talk about this issue.

TOOBIN: All right. We are interested in this subject.

Can I tell you one more thing?

BANFIELD: Quickly, quickly, I've got -

TOOBIN: Deathpenaltyinfo.org. It's the Death Penalty Information Center. They do fabulous work. Anything you want to know, research, data, deathpenaltyinfo.org.

BANFIELD: Nonpartisan?

TOOBIN: Very nonpartisan.

BANFIELD: All right, good to know. Thank you, Jeff Toobin. A three-time U.S. Olympic snowboarder becomes the first Olympian to win a medal after getting an organ transplant. You're going to hear his story straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: While the race for the gold is on in Sochi, one of the pioneers of the U.S. Olympic snowboarding team got an unexpected diagnosis and it put him in a fight for his life. Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has his story in today's "Human Factor."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chris Klug, he's had numerous successes on the snow, but a routine check-up when he was only 21 almost ended his budding career.

CHRIS KLUG, THREE TIME OLYMPIC SNOWBOARDER: They said, you have a disease called PSC, primary sclerosing cholangitis. And I said, doc, you got the wrong guy.

GUPTA: Unfortunately, Klug was the right guy and his liver disease was slowly damaging the bile ducts inside and outside of his liver. He spent almost six years on the transplant list before finally receiving a liver.

KLUG: I said, I'm going to do everything in my power to give myself the best chance to bounce back strong from this.

GUPTA: And he did. Klug's body reacted well to the transplanted liver.

KLUG: It was like a new engine got dropped in me. That summer, I had my best snowboard results ever and I was on the World Cup podium four times.

GUPTA: In 2002, he became the first-ever organ transplant recipient to compete in the Olympics. He won bronze in parallel giant slalom. But Klug didn't forget how he got there. He started the Chris Klug Foundation to help bring together organ donors and recipients.

KLUG: The donors are the real miracle of this whole process.

GUPTA: And this father of two isn't taking that second chance at life lightly.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: And good luck to all of our U.S. Olympians who are overseas.

I just want to remind you that CNN is on the weather story for you. We are servicing everyone who is in the path of this really monstrous and dangerous storm, all the way from the southeast, all the way up to the northeast. And, trust me, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are going to be in this path directly - the danger of the roads and the driving, but also you may be at risk of losing your power. So, stock up now, get what you need now, get your radios and your flashlights ready. This is going to be a real ugly one.

And Wolf Blitzer's going to continue our coverage. His program, "Wolf," begins right now.