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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Wild Wicked Weather; Arizona "Religious Freedom"; Ex-Cop Tied to Dubious Confessions; Nicki Minaj's Wig Designer Sues

Aired February 21, 2014 - 12:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Wild, wicked weather pummeling the states across the U.S., leaving freezing rain, snow and hail in its wake.

In Illinois, storm chasers spotted several tornadoes while strong winds knocked out power lines, damaged buildings and spawned floods.

Some 24,000 people lost power across Tennessee, winds gusted as high as 95 miles per hour. Several towns were pelted by rain and hail.

Cincinnati, Ohio, also hit with heavy rain and high winds as a thunderstorm rumbled through overnight.

The twin cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, declared snow emergencies after winter storm dumped 10 inches of snow across Minnesota and created dangerous conditions, causing a major traffic backup.

Chad Myers joins us from the CNN Center to let us know what is ahead.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Deborah, the front that made the severe weather, tornadoes and hail yesterday, is now just pushing through Baltimore, D.C., down and into North Carolina.

There's the front moving to the east. Once the weather goes by you, you are in the clear. I know these watches, some of them go to 5:00. People in D.C. calling all the -- what's going to happen now, until 5:00. Trust me, it's over.

Once it goes back, once that line finally goes by you, nothing more is coming. But now Baltimore into Philadelphia, maybe Wilmington, still not in the clear just yet as storms are flying through.

D.C., you're in the clear. The weather has moved to your east, but the Eastern Shore may pick up something as the storm rolls across parts of Virginia.

And seeing some rotation into North Carolina with one tornado warning well south of Fayetteville in wide open land right now.

But in a few hours this moves offshore and out of the way, but it will be colder behind this front, because yesterday temperatures were probably in the 60s and 70s all along here.

Tomorrow only in the 30s and 40s for highs, because it's a pretty good front. It's a cold front, not an arctic front and not polar vortex and all of that.

Now, it's going to get colder next week. Temperatures are going to be 20 degrees below normal for next week across a lot of the East Coast, but for that matter, this is just the first of many, many more storms to come this spring, Deborah.

FEYERICK: A little bit of a roller coaster, but once it passes, relax.

All right, Chad Myers, thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

FEYERICK: Somebody vandalized a statue of a civil rights icon on the campus of the University of Mississippi.

The statue honors James Meredith who broke the racial barrier at Ole Miss, the first black student in 1962.

Riots followed. Two people were killed.

Someone draped a noose recently around the statue's neck.

The university chancellor says Ole Miss will have a, quote, "even greater commitment to promoting the values engraved on the statue, courage, knowledge, opportunity and perseverance."

A new report due this hour could shed light on why an elderly Washington, D.C., man was apparently allowed to die right across the street from the firehouse.

Seventy-seven-year-old Cecil Mills collapsed last month. His daughter says passers-by banged on the door of the fire station.

But get this, firefighters reportedly refused to help. They said they had to be dispatched first.

The Dalai Lama came calling at the White House this morning. He held a private meeting with President Obama despite opposition from China.

China routinely objects when world leaders meet with the Tibetan spiritual leader. Beijing accuses him of pushing for Tibet's independence from China.

A new law that purports to give people more religious freedom in Arizona could actually end up taking away the rights of others.

We'll have the LEGAL VIEW on that, coming up on the other side.

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FEYERICK: Sometimes one person's freedom is another's repression. Case in point, an Arizona bill that would let businesses actually refuse to serve certain people if they claim that serving them would violate their religious beliefs.

The measure cleared the legislature and is sitting on the governor's desk.

Supporters don't see what all the fuss is about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSH KREDIT, CENTER FOR ARIZONA POLICY: In America, people should be free to live and work, according to their faiths.

ADAM KWASMAN (R), ARIZONA STATE LEGISLATURE: I don't see this as an attack in so far as those who believe in when you're protecting your right to, A, practice your religion and not engage in a contract.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: Well, opponents call it the "Right to Discriminate Bill." That's what they say it should be called. And they say that it's bad for business, besides.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN HAMMOND, OPPONENT OF ARIZONA "RELIGIOUS FREEDOM" BILL: It's sending a message to progressive world of global-based companies that this not a friendly environment to work within or to have a business within.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: Arizona is not the only state to take up legislation widely seen as singling out gays and same-sex couples in particular.

So-called "religious freedom" bills have been proposed in all of these states. Take a look. But some have been tabled or killed.

So, I turn, once again, to our lawyers, Joey Jackson and Sunny Hostin.

When you think about this, what they're essentially saying is, my religion says that I don't have to serve you.

How is that possibly not even close to discrimination as they say it's not?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's so unbelievable, but there's been this sort of effort for a real long time.

And I think one of the reasons is that, unfortunately, gay and lesbian and transgender people are not a protected class under the Constitution They really haven't reached, I think, that status, although they should have reached that status.

It's arguable that after DOMA passed perhaps a challenge will show that, yes, these people are protected and should be protected. But right now it's almost open season on those people. And it's just unbelievable to me.

And let's face it. This is code for discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender.

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: It doesn't have to say it, but by implication, that's what it means.

FEYERICK: Absolutely, because you can be denied, you can walk in and they can say, no, I'm not going to serve you and then you can't file a lawsuit against them.

They say no, I'm protected under my religious beliefs.

JACKSON: Therein lies the problem. If you peel this back and look at the amendments in general, right? None of the amendments are absolute.

If you look at the First Amendment, right? You have the freedom of speech. Of course, you do. But you can't defame someone. You can't yell "fire" in the theater, right?

You have the right to bear arms, but it doesn't mean that we all walk around with submachine guns.

So why am I saying that? Because it speaks to the larger issue. Yes, we have freedom of religion.

What does that mean? Should freedom of religion be viewed in the context of if it doesn't comport or comply with my beliefs, I can do whatever I want.

I do think there is larger problems with this bill, whether it becomes law or not. And that larger problem is the United States Constitution.

And let's start with the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. And that clause speaks to equal protection for all. And that has been a clause that's been used to challenge things like, Plessy versus Ferguson.

Remember that, 1896, separate by equal, the law of the land, right? And so, you know, African-Americans, second-class citizens until Brown versus the Board of Education.

HOSTIN: The challenge. And unfortunately, I don't think that we are there yet with gay rights. And I don't understand why we are not there.

FEYERICK: But some --

HOSTIN: Everyone has been so reluctant to embrace -- you cannot discriminate against anyone.

FEYERICK: Let me play devil's advocate for a minute. People with strong religious views are saying don't discriminate against me. If I don't believe it's right, based on the tenets of my religion or what it says in the Bible, the way I interpret it, then I shouldn't be at risk of being sued.

Isn't that their argument?

HOSTIN: People have hidden behind religion to discriminate for centuries, and it's about time that we get past that.

I think what's so scary about this particular statute, and Joey and I were talking, is it is very broadly written.

It doesn't -- it says, not only if your religious beliefs are compulsory, so let's say I'm Catholic. On Ash Wednesday, I can't eat meat and I've got to get my ashes.

It says -- it doesn't even have to be compulsory. It can be broader than that, even if it's sort of you believe a tenet of your religion.

JACKSON: Therein lies the problem.

HOSTIN: And therein in lies the problem.

So what if they don't believe in contraception? Can they now not provide me -- if I go somewhere, can they not sell me condoms?

JACKSON: Under this bill? Probably.

HOSTIN: Yes.

FEYERICK: Do you see the people pushing forward this bill, they have no expectation that they will ever be discriminated against in one way or another.

HOSTIN: Right.

FEYERICK: Because the people who are doing this necessarily are saying, well, if they were to walk in some place and say, Oh, I'm sorry, this is a gay establishment. We don't serve your kind.

Would they walk out and not get their feelings hurt?

JACKSON: Understood, Deb, absolutely right.

And to your larger point, initially, great, people do have the right to religion, freedom of religion. We respect that. God bless them.

But as I mentioned, the constitution talks about balances of that. And it doesn't mean that I could impose my views upon you.

And when we get to the point where it's an imposition and the law says, you know what, I really don't feel like gay and lesbians or anyone else comport with my views, so I don't have to serve you.

That becomes problematic and also becomes unconstitutional.

HOSTIN: And very reminiscent of what happened during the civil rights era.

I will tell you, I think what's going to happen is, this law likely will pass. It will likely be signed by the governor. And then will have to be challenged.

FEYERICK: Absolutely. No question.

OK. So let's move on. A detective makes with evidence to frame a man for murder. That man has been freed after being wrongfully imprisoned for 23 years.

The LEGAL VIEW on how the detective's dirty work could impact many other cases is coming up just ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FEYERICK: From the injustice files, a whopper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Motion to vacate the adjustment of conviction is granted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: Take a look. The man in the green jacket is wrongfully convicted murder David Ranta. He was freed from a New York prison last March after serving 23 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit. It turned out that an eyewitness had been told by a Brooklyn detective to pick Ranta out of a lineup. He even gave physical characteristics. Well, two other witnesses flat-out lied and a confession Ranta supposedly gave that same detective, Louis Scarcella, was most likely made up. More about him in a minute.

Now, David Ranta is back in the news because the city of New York just agreed to settle a lawsuit that he hadn't even filed yet and they gave him $6.4 million while still pursuing an unjust conviction claim against the state. Scarcella, that detective, he's retired now, strongly denies that he framed or railroaded anyone. Yet dozens of cases that he closed with confessions or eyewitnesses alone, those are all now under investigation again. More David Rantas may be languishing in New York prisons.

Back now to my legal team, Sunny Hostin and Joey Jackson.

You know, it turns up that - can they ultimately now prove that this detective really did make up those confessions, cutting and pasting one after another, using the same witnesses to tell a similar story again and again and again? Could this detective go down?

JACKSON: Well, you know what, I won't indict him yet based upon what we - what we know, but it is very troubling to me. And here's what I mean by that. In the event that he did this, it's (INAUDIBLE), it's wrong, he needs to be prosecuted for it.

Because in the court of law, Deb, what happens is, is confessions could be very valuable. Sunny Hostin was a federal prosecutor. I was a state prosecutor and then defense attorney, and confessions could really be the missing link in the puzzle. So what they need to do and will do is go back and unpack this. If there's independent, cooperative (ph) as to guilt, that's one thing.

FEYERICK: Right.

JACKSON: If the confession was just the icing on the cake. However, where the confession was the centerpiece of the case -

FEYERICK: Right.

JACKSON: I think that becomes further - it becomes problematic and these injustices need to be undone.

HOSTIN: I want to mention something, though.

FEYERICK: Yes.

HOSTIN: And I know it's that I have my former federal prosecutor hat on, but, you know, generally, detectives, FBI agents, they do a great job. They are trained at how to interrogate people and how to get confessions. And oftentimes, I mean, one of the issues here is that the detective in - and most of his confessions sort of start out the same way, meaning the confession starts out with, you got it. I got it - you got it - you got me, right, I was there.

FEYERICK: Right. I got it. You got the right guy. Yes, yes, yes. Right.

HOSTIN: And now, when you learn interrogations, and I did that at the Justice Department, you do sort of use catch phrases. You say to the guy, you were there, right? I mean, do I got it right? And so sometimes that language does make its way into confessions. That's not to say that the confession is false.

FEYERICK: Sure.

HOSTIN: And so I'm not where Joey is.

FEYERICK: But at the same time, to play devil's advocate on all of this, you know, part of the problem is, is that when they look at some of these cases, they found that the language is to similar -

JACKSON: Right.

FEYERICK: The charges were too similar.

JACKSON: That's a problem.

FEYERICK: The way they'd been interrogated. One of the people that they questioned was a, quote, crack addicted prostitute, was one of the main witnesses in many of these.

JACKSON: Yes.

FEYERICK: So how do you even know that she's telling the truth and that he doesn't have something on her?

JACKSON: Deb, well-stated. And to your further point, that witness that you mentioned happens to be the same witness in case after case after case? That should raise red flags in and of itself.

HOSTIN: Well - well, I disagree.

JACKSON: And the fact that the city cut a check for $6.4 million --

HOSTIN: That's an indictment. I agree with that. But often --

FEYERICK: And it wasn't even the legal department that cut that check, it was the city controller (ph). He just said -

HOSTIN: Yes, I agree.

FEYERICK: You know, let's just get this off the table.

HOSTIN: But, listen, when you're prosecuting a case, your witnesses to these types of crimes are witnesses that are out at 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning, like crack-addicted prostitutes. When I was a prosecutor --

JACKSON: And she sees six murders?

HOSTIN: Yes. When I was a prosecutor, hey, I wish that I could traipse in front of the jury all sorts of wonderful, well-spoken people.

FEYERICK: Yes, but the detective got very lucky if he had one witness in six different murders.

HOSTIN: But that doesn't always happen.

JACKSON: Deb, too lucky as far as I'm concerned. Way too lucky.

FEYERICK: OK.

JACKSON: And if he's doing something wrong, it needs to be uncovered.

HOSTIN: I think we need to review all of them, yes.

FEYERICK: Absolutely.

HOSTIN: But I don't think that we can make this sweeping indictment of every single case.

JACKSON: To the new -

FEYERICK: Well, it's still unfolding. It's still unfolding.

JACKSON: To the new D.A. in Brooklyn, Ken Thompson, I say, I know he's going to do a great job of evaluating these thing and getting to the truth.

FEYERICK: Yes, all right. Joey Jackson, Sunny Hostin, it thank you so much. We are going to be switching gears, because a designer is actually flipping his wig over singer Nicki Minaj. He is taking - oh, love that hair. He's taking legal action. He claims that the singer wigged out on a deal to market her trademark hair designs. We're going to be -- here goes -- splitting hairs on this case, just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FEYERICK: To the man who designed singer Nicki Minaj's eye-catching wigs, his creations are so special that he actually names them, including the foxborough (ph), the pink high top, the super bass (ph). Well, now he's suing the singer saying that she stole his ideas and she's trying to cut him out of the profits. And there are a lot of the profits. The suit was filed just three hours ago.

In it, Terrence Davidson says that Nicki Minaj is, quote, "arguably known just as well for her wigs as she is her music." Well, even by Hollywood standards, this suit really does stand out. We want to talk with our entertainment correspondent, Nischelle Turner, and also our legal team, Sunny Hostin and Joey Jackson.

First, Nischelle, what does this suit allege, because this is serious.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: I mean you think of Nicki Minaj, you think of that hair, you think of that style, you think of that whole person.

TURNER: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes, I mean, all -- the whole package is kind of what made her. This is a $30 million lawsuit. So while people think you're talking about hair? Is really is big business and big bucks. And Terrence Davidson said he was her hair stylist and her wig designer from 2010 to 2013. He also filed this suit in district court today, like you said, in Atlanta. He alleged that not only did she steal his wig designs, but she also cost him a potential reality show deal that he was discouraged from pursuing. He's asking again for $30 million.

You know, I know that you're going to talk with the legal folks about the legal issues, but just to put this into context a little bit, her debut album was released in 2010. And as big as that record got, she also became famous for her flamboyant looks. I mean we're seeing it right there on the screen.

FEYERICK: No question.

TURNER: Absolutely. And we talk about hair, and you might think, what is this about? We're talking hair. But this is a multibillion-dollar industry. Listen, I'm an African-American woman who wears weaves, wigs, her own hair. You know if you're wearing a good wig, they're thousands of dollars each, one. I mean you can pay $10,000 to $15,000 if you're wearing a really good one.

FEYERICK: Right.

TURNER: So this isn't small potatoes that we're talking about here.

FEYERICK: Yes, Chris Rock had that whole movie about how expensive hair is.

TURNER: Exactly. Exactly.

FEYERICK: And I mean - no, I'm fixed (ph) by this.

TURNER: It's true.

FEYERICK: But the serious question is this. Look, if he creates a wig for Nicki Minaj and she becomes famous for wearing this wig, does she own the intellectual property, which is that piece of hair, or is it still hers? Does he have a percentage of that? What do you think, Joey? What do you think, Sunny?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, see, I feel strongly about this because I love Ellen Levar (ph), my hair stylist, and I think it's just bad business -

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Does a great job.

HOSTIN: Thank you. I think it's bad business to cut your hair stylist out because - as also as an African-American woman, hair is everything. I think, though, it may be a bit difficult because, I mean, in terms of intellectual property, you know, did he have any sort of trademark on his design, did he have any trademark on his wigs? But bottom line is, I think he has a strong case because we all know Nicki Minaj, in part, made it because of her hair.

FEYERICK: Right.

JACKSON: OK.

FEYERICK: Absolutely.

JACKSON: Although -

HOSTIN: So the one male - the one male --

FEYERICK: I mean she's identified -- she walks on the stage -

JACKSON: Right.

FEYERICK: She walks on the stage and you know exactly who she is -

JACKSON: Sure.

FEYERICK: Because of that sort of bubble gum pink hair.

Joey.

JACKSON: Although I'm the least qualified here to talk about this, I'll say this from a legal perspective. Listen, there's something called unjust enrichment. And what does that mean? It means that if she's formed her image, her reputation, her likeness and everything else as a result of the good work that he's done, and as a result now she cuts him out of that process, particularly, Deb, when there was going to be a joint venture between the two - HOSTIN: And maybe they had an agreement.

JACKSON: Absolutely. That leads to a larger issue of whether or not he should share in the proceeds. And with the agreement -- Sunny speaks to the issue of implied contract.

FEYERICK: Right.

HOSTIN: Yes.

JACKSON: And that means that if they really were going into this venture and she said, well, you know what, wait a second, let me do this on my own, it becomes problematic because she misappropriated what rightfully was his (INAUDIBLE).

FEYERICK: It's just so -

HOSTIN: And it sounds like it's -

FEYERICK: It's just so - what if it's verbal?

JACKSON: Right.

HOSTIN: (INAUDIBLE) design.

FEYERICK: What if it was verbal agreement? Does it still count?

HOSTIN: Sometimes verbal contracts are enforceable.

JACKSON: Right.

HOSTIN: And again, can't cut out your hair and makeup people! That's what makes you huge (ph).

FEYERICK: You cannot. You know, that -

TURNER: And she's made (ph).

FEYERICK: That is so fundamentally wrong.

TURNER: She has made a mint off of her hairline, too.

JACKSON: Right.

TURNER: I mean she really has made a lot of money off of it.

HOSTIN: Come on, Nicki.

FEYERICK: So what do you think? I mean do you think that she just comes off looking really bad and wrong and cheap for lack of a better word?

TURNER: I don't like it.

JACKSON: I think based on the dollars involved, I don't know that she cares how she comes off because there's so much money here. But I do know that ultimately if they move forward with this lawsuit, it certainly has merit, and there's some settlement value in it too.

HOSTIN: Right.

JACKSON: So does it go to trial, Deb? Well, maybe not, but -

HOSTIN: It's bad for her image, though. It's bad for her image. I mean Jessica Simpson went in with her extensions guy and they both made money.

FEYERICK: Yes. Well, that's exactly - well, that's exactly right. And, you know, Terrence Davidson also -- this is the hair stylist -- he can take his creativity and his genius and he can go elsewhere it.

HOSTIN: Sure. Sure.

FEYERICK: So, anyway, all right, Nischelle Turner, Joey Jackson, Sunny Hostin, you all look fabulous. Love your hair.

HOSTIN: You've got to protect the weave.

FEYERICK: Thank you so much.

JACKSON: Especially mine.

FEYERICK: Exactly. Exactly. You spend a lot of time, Joey. Do not kid us with this (INAUDIBLE).

TURNER: Poor baby (ph).

HOSTIN: Protect the weavology (ph).

FEYERICK: All right, thanks, everybody, for watching. Wolf Blitzer, that's just about to start. Have a great Friday.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, Ted Nugent apologizes. He says he crossed the line when he called the president of the United States a "subhuman mongrel."

Also right now, a peace deal reached in the Ukraine.