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Mystery of Flight 370; Searching the Ocean; Olympian's Murder Trial; "Blade Runner" Murder Trial Continues

Aired March 11, 2014 - 12:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The CIA not ready to rule out terror, or some other sort of foul play in the disappearance of that flight, flight number 370. But where is the evidence? Who were those two Iranians on board with stolen passports? And what are passengers' families being told about all of this today?

Also ahead, the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp. It wasn't the first time that Oscar Pistorius fired shots. It wasn't even the second time. What does today's troubling testimony reveal about the blade runner and his propensity to fire a weapon?

And hitting heroin dealers with homicide charges. The new push to prosecute pushers as fatal heroin overdoses hit new highs in this country.

Hello, everyone, I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Tuesday, March the 11th. And welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

Four long days --

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BANFIELD: Those are what you call agonizing. Four days into the mystery of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. The director of the CIA is now weighing in, and is not ruling anything out. Here's John Brennan speaking just minutes ago in Washington.


JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: I think there's a lot of speculation right now. Some claims of responsibility that have not been, you know, confirmed or (INAUDIBLE) at all. We are looking at it very carefully. We, CIA, are working with FBI and TSA and others. Our Malaysia counterparts are doing everything they can to try to put together the pieces here. But clearly this is still a mystery, which is very disturbing. And until we actually can find out sort of where that aircraft is, we might have an opportunity to do some of the forensic analysis that will lead us in the right direction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this point you're not ruling out that it could be --

BRENNAN: No, I wouldn't rule it out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some sort of terror -- BRENNAN: Not at all.


BANFIELD: And while Mr. Brennan was speaking, there were ships and planes from 10 different countries searching thousands upon thousands of square miles of land and blue sea and still not turning up any solid leads.

Malaysian police and Interpol have had a somewhat easier time identifying both men who boarded that flight, flight number 370, with stolen passports and they were quick to put up the pictures. One of them is an 18-year-old Iranian national who was trying to join his mother in Germany. The other man, also Iranian, 29 years old, trying to reach Denmark. Investigators say the men's motive appears to be illegal immigration, but maybe not necessarily terrorism.

I want to bring in CNN's Joe Johns from Washington, D.C.

I think a lot of us were kind of surprised on the heels of Interpol suggesting that this likely was not terror related and suggesting with every new piece of evidence or information they get it leads them away from terror, to hear John Brennan say, not so fast.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right. And there's plenty of confusion out there. I mean there's the report that the transponder was turned off or wasn't seemed to be working. And then the question about the plane turning around and flying at a lower altitude. All of that has to be considered here, Ashleigh.

But there's a search for the plane and then there's the search through the histories of the passengers and the crew, in fact. Malaysian authorities, who are leading this investigation, are looking for clues in the records of the passengers, looking at pictures of them trying to piece together profiles, anything that could point to hijacking or sabotage, psychological problems or other personal problems that might help determine a possible motivation to cause a problem on a plane. So did somebody on a plane buy huge sums of insurance, for example? All of these are questions that need to be answered.

And as you mentioned, Ashleigh, the head of Interpol, the international police organization, Ron Noble, a well-known American law enforcement executive, speaking in Leone, France. He said, the more information they get, the more they're inclined to conclude this was not a terrorist incident. And it appears to be part of human smuggling, though there's no clarification on that or what he meant by that.

What --

BANFIELD: Joe, the discrepancy - you know, I just, look, I'm a layperson in all of this, but I tend to think that there's good communication when there's something of this magnitude. And I only wonder if the Americans know something that they're just not sharing or if there's any benefit to just not sharing this. JOHNS: Right. Well, I mean, parsing the statement from the Interpol executive very carefully, he really does seem to be saying the same thing as the CIA. He seems to be suggesting that terrorism has not been completely ruled out, and that while we have a search, until we get something conclusive, they're going to continue looking on all fronts, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: All right, Joe Johns, live for us in Washington, D.C. And, again, these developments just happening. So, Joe, keep us posted if there's anything more that the CIA director says, as well.

Now, this area that's being searched has certainly grown since yesterday. And even if the teams knew exactly where the wide-body jet went down, the telltale signs would certainly be traveling with the currents, especially after all of this time. CNN's Saima Mohsin spent part of her day flying 500 feet above the Malacca Strait at the mouth of the Andaman Sea.


SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is no easy task. This C-130 plane has been carrying out regular search and rescue missions since flight MH-370 disappeared. It's the first time the minister for defense and transportation and the chief of defense force have been out to survey this massive operation. They invited CNN to join them.

MOHSIN (on camera): I have to put this life jacket on because we're now descending to just 500 feet above sea level.

MOHSIN (voice-over): Flying low, the doors are opened for the search to begin. We flew past a number of ships scouring the sea for the plane, those on board, or any clues at all to what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to find the plane, you know, at all costs. And as long as we are still standing and as long as people are out there praying for us, we will continue to persevere. And this is something that I will not stop. This is what I promised the families.

MOHSIN: We flew to the Malacca Straits to the west of Malaysia. This isn't the scheduled flight path for the Malaysia Airline flight, but it's a possibility the search team is taking seriously, in case the plane turned back and lost its way.

MOHSIN (on camera): There are 16 ships surveying this area. That's more than 12,000 nautical square miles. They're joined in the air by 14 aircraft.

MOHSIN (voice-over): And that's just the area to the west of Malaysia. There are more than 30 aircraft and more than 40 ships in the entire operation. As we look out across this vast expanse of water, far into the horizon, holding his head in his hands, the minister tells me he's overwhelmed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you're looking for something in this wide sea, it's a reality check how to find even a huge aircraft like a 777. But we must never, never give up hope.

MOHSIN: The team onboard maintains this is still a search and rescue operation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm hoping against hope.

MOHSIN: But four days on and with no explanation, all understanding of what's happened to flight MH-370, the question is, just how long can they continue to search for survivors?

Saima Mohsin, CNN, the Malacca Straits, Malaysia.


BANFIELD: Olympian Oscar Pistorius on trial, accused of murdering his girlfriend. A forensics expert is up on the stand. It's a bit of a show-stopper. His testimony is certainly poking holes in the story that man told authorities about what happened the night he killed his girlfriend. And the details of it are straight ahead.


BANFIELD: An explosive day seven of Olympian Oscar Pistorius' murder trial. And perhaps the most damning witness in the trial so far, the pathologist, the guy who actually conducted the autopsy on Oscar's girlfriend, the model, Reeva Steenkamp.

And what he says versus what the blade runner says happened in the early hours of that Valentine's Day of 2013, well, they are not exactly the same thing. And that is problematic when facts are at stake. Our Robyn Curnow has been wall to wall with this trial, gavel to gavel, as we say, and she joins me live from Pretorius, South Africa.

So what was the issue that was so different that really had people sitting up and taking notice on this one, Robyn?

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this pathologist was just such a credible witness. He was medical, clinical, of course, in his assessment of her wounds. But I think what was very clear under cross- examination, he did not waiver and he kept on saying, going back to his testimony, that he believed Reeva Steenkamp had eaten within two hours of her death. He said he found vegetable matter in her stomach. And this, of course, goes against Oscar Pistorius' affidavit where he said that they had gone to bed at 10:00.

So why had she got up two hours before 1:00 in the morning and eaten? What was she doing up? Why was she having this meal? Obviously questions that are going to be -- tried to be answered throughout this trial. And I think what is also important to note, our legal analyst saying, don't forget, the defense also has their own pathologist, also well-respected, who will look at the same evidence and obviously perhaps bring about his own interpretation of it. But definitely contradictions between Pistorius' version of events and the pathologist's assessment of the facts. BANFIELD: Ah, I think I have the answer to that. Robyn, interesting, thank you for that. In fact, I'm going to ask our legal analysts about that.

We also heard from a friend of Oscar Pistorius in court today. Apparently, Oscar Pistorius asked the friend to take the rap for something he himself had done. The LEGAL VIEW on what that reveals about the Olympian's character and also what that man said about another gun incident does not speak as well for the blade runner. That's just ahead.


BANFIELD: Back to the "Blade Runner" murder trial, Oscar Pistorius' friend, Darren Fresco, was someone who witnessed two previous incidents where Pistorius allegedly fired a gun, and he just so happens to be facing charges for those two incidents in this case.

One of the incidents was back in September of 2010 when witnesses say Oscar Pistorius just raised the gun and shot out of the sunroof of a car.

It all started apparently when this friend, Fresco, got pulled over for speeding. Pistorius was in the car, and got into it with the police officer.


DARREN FRESCO, OSCAR PISTORIUS' FRIEND: There was an altercation, a verbal altercation, between the accused and the metro police officer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was it about?

FRESCO: The officer had picked up the accused's weapon off the passenger seat. To which the accuser replied, "You can't just touch another man's gun."


BANFIELD: This friend, Fresco, got slapped with a fine for speeding and says Pistorius was absolutely furious after this run-in with the police, and as they were driving away, here's what he said happened next.


FRESCO: I was driving. The accuser in the passenger seat. Sam Taylor was in the back of the car. And then without prior warning, he shot out the sunroof.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you say anything?

FRESCO: Apologies for my language, my lady, but I asked him if he was (inaudible) mad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did he say? FRESCO: He just laughed, my lady. By that stage, it literally felt as if my ear was bleeding.


BANFIELD: For the LEGAL VIEW, I want to bring in two of my special guests, Mel Robbins, all the way from Boston, thanks for coming, and Danny Cevallos, all the way from Philly, every day. Nice to have you both.

Let me start with this. When I ever hear testimony like that, the first thing that comes to my mind is, with friends like these, who needs enemies.

However, you tell the truth. You're sworn to tell the truth. You have no choice. But is this as damning as it sounds?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's -- you know, I'm of two minds, because when it comes to -- forget jailhouse snitches. People who think your darkest secrets are safe with your buddy or your barber or whomever are in for a rude surprise.

Once the prosecution dangles any kind of agreement or, in this case, there's some quasi-immunity, those people will sing for their supper.

So, there's always that part where, can this be reliable testimony if this person is receiving a benefit, and that benefit is some kind of immunity from prosecution? You have to ask yourself, what would you do to stay out of prison?


MEL ROBBINS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I would say whatever I needed to, within the bounds of the truth. And Danny and I went to high school together, so I know a lot about Danny. So you better watch it, because if you're ever in trouble, Danny, I'm singing.

BANFIELD: There were a couple things that happened today, and a lot of our court-watchers who are in Pretoria suggested this pathologist was actually the most damaging part of the trial so far.

I thought it was the witnesses at the beginning who said they heard all the screaming prior to the shots. That was troubling.

The issue with this pathologist saying that Reeva Steenkamp had stomach contents that indicated she had eaten within two hours of dying, that does not jive, supposedly, with Oscar Pistorius saying that we'd gone to bed about three-and-a-half hours before the shooting.

To that I say, what's to say the girl did not get up, go to the kitchen and eat something an hour after going to bed?

ROBBINS: Well, it's certainly possible that that happened, but it's not likely --

BANFIELD: Why not?

ROBBINS: -- as far as I'm concerned.

Well, first of all, there's so many things about this case that bother me, because they fall into the realm of something that could have happened, but probably didn't.

For starters, they say that they went to bed at 10:00 at night. Yet they're going to show that he was surfing on the Web, and that his activities online had nothing to do with a couple that was just hanging out.

Also, the thing that bothers me the most about this case is the fact that she was in the bathroom, fully clothed, with a cell phone and a locked door. Who does that in a house where they're with their lover?

BANFIELD: Well, you know, I wondered about that. I think a lot of people and in the whisper gallery are asking, do you ever take your BlackBerry or cell phone to the bathroom. And surprisingly a lot of people do.

Maybe in the middle of the night she wanted to send a note or receive a text and that might be a problem.

So the fact she was in the bathroom with these phones could speak to either side of this issue. She is racing because she needs to call for help, or she's secreting away because she wants to just chat.

CEVALLOS: Oh, come on. The iPhone has replaced the "New York Times" for what people bring into the bathroom.

It's not about sending text messages. People are on They're reading. People do a lot with their phones, and they are loathe to put them down, even if they go to the bathroom.

So, you're absolutely right.

BANFIELD: Two of them? But two of them?

CEVALLOS: That's interesting.

BANFIELD: That's a little odd.

ROBBINS: As a woman, and I'm getting a little hot here as a 45-year- old woman here on national TV, but as a woman, I'm going tell you right now. If she's got two cell phones, she's probably checking out one of his. And the other one is hers.

And to me, this conversation --

BANFIELD: Wait, wait, wait, that fact would have come out, if she had his --

ROBBINS: There were two cell phones in the bathroom.

BANFIELD: But have they not established -- (CROSSTALK)

ROBBINS: -- yes, whether or not one of them was his.

But, you know, to me, this whole case harkens back to O.J., harkens back to George Zimmerman trial, harkens back to Casey Anthony.

We're going to have a case here where most of us sit at home and watch and say, this guy is guilty. He's certainly guilty of being negligent.

And I think we're probably going to see an acquittal in this case, because as you sit here, and rightfully so, say, well --

BANFIELD: I try to pick the best defense at all times. I try to give the benefit of the doubt at every single fact.

And in this case, I actually can find a benefit of the doubt in each of these establish facts.

ROBBINS: In every single fact, exactly.

BANFIELD: Overall, though, I see a horrendous case of recklessness.

ROBBINS: Me, too.

BANFIELD: No matter how this shakes down, horrifying recklessness, no matter what.

And I can't imagine that there will be any kind of acquittal on some sort of serious recklessness. That's just me, though. And you know what? We're different here in the U.S.

Can you guys stand by?

ROBBINS: Absolutely.

CEVALLOS: Of course.

BANFIELD: If you've got some time, I have some other cases for you.

Mel Robbins and Danny Cevallos, "On the Case" for me today.

We've got some more details on the search for that mystery missing plane. There's even a website where you can be a part of this. It's called crowdsource, and you can join the search from the comfort of your living room, honestly. And it is helpful.

That's just ahead.


BANFIELD: Want to take you back to the Malaysia airplane mystery. There are so many questions and certainly nowhere near enough answers, and people are having a very hard time grasping how this can possibly happen.

Just about every one of you watching has been on an airplane at some point, probably many, and you rarely think this can happen.

What with modern technology and flights going everywhere at every moment, how can a massive aircraft just simply vanish?

Kyung Lah digs deep near that question.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A clearly, early Saturday morning in Kuala Lumpur, 12:41 a.m., Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 takes off to Beijing.

MIKAEL ROBERTSSON, FLIGHTRADAR 24: It was a completely normal departure.

LAH: FlightRadar 24 is watching. The app tracks planes around the world. The Boeing 777's transponder appears to be working normally.

But then, about 45 minutes into the flight, the plane slows slightly and then turns from 25 to 40 degrees. Seconds later, it simply vanishes off radar.

What do you mean by just disappeared?

ROBERTSSON: Suddenly, what -- we stopped to receive signals from this transponder, and this is something amazing. I've never seen anything like this before.

LAH: What is it like for you in this part of the world to suddenly see a plane disappear?

ROBERTSSON: It looked really suspect, and, yeah, not good.

LAH: How do you find a plane that's vanished? If Flight 370 is the needle, this is the haystack.

Three dozen aircraft, 40 ships from 10 countries comb three Southeast Asian seas, and still three days in, not a single sign of the plane, the 227 passengers and 12 crew.

Aviation experts say it's an astonishing mystery in modern flying, a jumbo jet in today's world, seemingly evaporates.

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT: I'm surprised they haven't found it yet, because it was so abrupt.

There was no mayday call. There were no messages back from the plane. There was no hijack squawk on the transponder.

LAH: Mary Schiavo is the former inspector general of the Department of Transportation.