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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Prosecuting Dealers; CNN Documentary "Weed 2"; The Mystery of Flight 370

Aired March 11, 2014 - 12:30   ET

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


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.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mary Schiavo is the former inspector general of the Department of Transportation. She and other experts agree, something catastrophic happened.

Authorities in Asia and the U.S. say there's no evidence yet to say the Malaysia Airlines flight is connected to terrorism. The Boeing jet is known as the toughest twin-aisled intercontinental aircraft ever made, but Flight 370 did have one past problem.

This is the right wing of the plane. August 9th, 2012, it collides on the tarmac with the tail of a China Eastern plane in Shanghai.

Again, a possible clue in this mystery. The answer is with what's left of Flight 370, wherever it's found, a hard truth for the families waiting, like the brothers of passenger Philip Wood.

TOM WOOD, BROTHER OF MISSING PASSENGER: You know, we know as much as everyone else. It just seems to -- it seems to be getting more bizarre, you know, the twists in the story, where they can't find anything, so we're just relying on faith.

LAH: Kyung Lah CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: So what happens next while searching for this plane? What happens if they never find anything? Is that possible?

I'm going to talk with a former U.S. Transportation Department inspector, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continues to get more serious by the moment. Still, nothing has been found, four days in. Just about an hour ago, the head of the CIA, John Brennan, says he's not ready to rule out terrorism, that despite the fact that shortly after the head of Interpol had suggested it didn't appear necessarily to be terror- related.

In fact, Interpol's secretary general said, quote, "The more information we get, the more we're inclined to conclude that it was not a terrorist incident." Not so sure with that wording that it is necessarily ruled out by Interpol.

I want to speak now with somebody who knows a lot about all things aviation. Mary Schiavo is the former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

With every piece of information, Interpol says, we are being led away from terror, and it leads me to think of your role in the mechanics as opposed to the political and the terror roles.

Since 9/11 and prior, how blended have all of these agencies become in terms of the critical nature of sharing information so that you each can lead each other to the necessary conclusions.

SCHIAVO: Yeah, since 9/11 and since the investigation of TW 800, the agencies have come together. The FBI must work hand-in-hand with the NTSB. They must work hand-in-hand with the military agencies and the CIA and much more so.

In the past, it was a very clear delineation, a lot of infighting, but not anymore. They must work together, and I think it's too early to rule out either mechanical or terrorism. And that's a very important lesson to learn from past investigations, because in some cases, we thought it was terror; it was mechanical. In some cases we thought maybe this is a mechanical, and it was terror.

BANFIELD: God forbid, neither scenario preferable, but God forbid this is intentional and this is a terrorist act. We're at day four. Mary, is this surprising that we wouldn't have had some kind of claim of credible responsibility by now?

SCHIAVO: No. Because in the past in terror incidents, sometimes it's taken a very long time, and remember, in the Libyan downing of Pan Am 103, they denied it for years, for decades.

And it took a lot of investigation, a lot of families, our firm worked on that, too, to finally pull out all those responsible.

Sometimes they do, but in some cases, they wait a long time before they take credit for such a horrible thing.

BANFIELD: And then my suspect nature, I always think, is there another reason? Is this possibly a red herring why Interpol would lead us away, or at least lead the public away from thinking this is terror- related?

Is it a red herring? Do we want terrorists to let their guard down so that the communications go up and we're ultimately able to catch them? Is it a lie to catch the truth?

SCHIAVO: Possibly. But I think Interpol is focusing on the passport issue, and I think the passport issue -- it's so large, the fake passports and fake driver's license and all that.

And I think they're wise to focus on that and get that problem solved, but it does not look like it's related to this, because there have been other planes that have crashed with fake passports on it and it wasn't terror.

BANFIELD: Is there any difference -- and this may sound foolish, but it is a curious issue.

Is there any difference between terror as it relates to incidents in other countries, terror between other countries that just doesn't involve America, and perhaps the alacrity with which the terrorists will claim responsibility or the agencies will respond or the energy they will actually devote to it?

Is there a difference between targeting Americans or targeting others in solving these problems?

SCHIAVO: Yes, I think there is, because sometimes we use descriptions like, you know, it's located in a particular area or it's between ethnic groups, et cetera.

And, of course, in the United States of America, our alarm bells are always al-Qaeda and the plots that were hatched by them and specifically aimed at us and also at the large-scale plots. And I think that's what we often focus on.

But people around the world have to deal with terrorists and terrorism of different sorts.

BANFIELD: OK, so there is this -- it's sort of a remarkable -- it feels very new to me, but maybe I'm just sort of behind the eight-ball here. There is crowd sourcing going on right now.

There is a website that's offering the average Joe in his living room an opportunity to scan thousands and thousands of satellite pictures on their own to see if they can see anything that might look unique. And they actually have the opportunity to pinpoint it, and then there is someone who is collating this and can turn it over to authorities.

And I just wonder if someone like you with the amount of experience that you have and the vastness that you know exists within our governmental agencies, is this actually helpful? The average Joe, the public out there across the United States in their living rooms, looking at satellite imagery?

SCHIAVO: Yes, it is. So much of this technology we actually don't use in aviation. We could live-stream video from the planes and from the cockpit today. We could download those flight-data recorders every five minutes in flight. This is another kind of technology that could help. In some ways, our aviation is behind the technology scale, you know, just getting computers and phones on the plane. So I think if this can help, by all means do it, and we'll get everybody involved in maybe trying to help stop future accidents like this or terror.

BANFIELD: So, I'm scatterbrained most days and today very scatterbrained, because I brought this piece of paper to the desk thinking I had the address for the website. I do not. But we do. The power of CNN certainly does. It's -- Digital Globe is the company that has the satellites that they're training all in one area.

But the website itself I'm going to get, and after the break I'll bring it to you in case you want to log on and look at photographs yourself. Vast swaths of ocean effectively, is what most people are looking at.

Mary Schiavo, always great to --

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

BANFIELD: I hope we can get some source of information and some answer, especially for all those families.

SCHIAVO: Soon.

BANFIELD: The rest of us, we fly, we worry, but those families are going through utter hell.

SCHIAVO: I think it will come soon.

BANFIELD: All right, it's good to talk to you. Thank you.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

BANFIELD: The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman raised awareness about the national epidemic of heroin overdoses, and now prosecutors in one state have had it.

They're using an old law to bring new justice to the people who push, the dealers who sell or pass along fatal doses of heroin users to the one who overdoses and dies.

The LEGAL VIEW on that, just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: So before the break, we were talking about how you can get involved in helping to search for that missing airplane that was headed from Malaysia to China, and here is the Web site.

It's tomnod.com, T-O-M-N-O-D.com. That's the page you'll see, and effectively, you can just search through satellite imagery of the terrain in that area and the ocean in that area. And then make little markings like that.

And they'll collate a lot of those to figure out if there is any correlation between the thousands and thousands of people doing this. It would be incredible if we could get answers through this kind of a process. There you go, crowdsourcing for you.

Want to move on to something else, and it is heroin. It is such a big problem in this country that the attorney general, Eric Holder, has been declaring this an urgent and growing public health crisis.

In the meantime, law enforcement is stuck struggling with how to hold the dealers responsible when their customers just so happen to overdose on their product.

For example, the suspected dealers linked to Philip Seymour Hoffman's overdose are not facing any charges related to the death of Hoffman, they're just facing the drug possession charges. And Rosa Flores reports now on how prosecutors in New Jersey are finding a way to find some justice for the overdose victims and their families.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I miss the old days, yes.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a manner of death that rarely finds justice, drug overdose.

MARIANNE FARINO, SON DIED FROM OVERDOSE: A lot of fun that day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. I know it was. It was.

FLORES: Marianne Farino found her son Ray lifeless inside her New Jersey home last year.

FARINO: Praying. Praying to God that he would make it.

FLORES: Moments later, medics arrived.

FARINO: And I remember the doctor came in and told us that no matter what they did, they couldn't save him.

FLORES: What the Farinos did not know was that Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato was already seeking justice for their son, as well as every other overdose death in the jurisdiction using a 1980s law called strict liability for drug induced death.

JOSEPH CORONATO, OCEAN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY PROSECUTOR: If you're going to be a dealer and that heroin is going to kill somebody, we're going to take that death, we're going to take that overdose when we get there and we treat it as a homicide.

FLORES: Coronato kicked off the effort a year ago after his county suffered eight overdose deaths in a week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Follow the pathology.

FLORES: He changed police protocols. Now homicide detectives respond to each overdose case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're asking the court to impose a serious sentence -

FLORES: In Ray Farino's case, Kenneth Staunton pled guilty to manslaughter. Some of the key evidence, heroin bags stamped "el capo (ph)," text messages exchanged between Farino and Staunton moments before his death.

We tried talking to Staunton in prison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said no.

FLORES (on camera): He refused?

FLORES (voice-over): Not the case in open court.

KENNETH STOTIN: To Ray's family and (INAUDIBLE) especially to his mother, I'm truly sorry for your loss.

FARINO: My bottom line is, is like I know that he, per say, did not kill my son, but he did sell him stuff that he died on.

FLORES: And in Ocean County, New Jersey, that's enough for a homicide charge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, Ray. Miss you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: And Rosa Flores joins me live now to talk a little bit more about this.

It's so enlightening to know that there's something else out there for the people who have to live with the pain of the actions of the dealers every day. Strict liability for drug-induced death. How many times have they tried this and how many times have they been successful?

FLORES: You know, the prosecutor that we talked to in Ocean County said that since he started, 12 times. But here's the breakdown. One is the guilty plea from Kenneth Staunton, which we saw in the piece, four others are pending indictment and then there's seven that are in the early investigation -- part of the investigation. And he says, look, here's the goal. The goal is for any drug dealer to think twice about selling drugs in his jurisdiction.

BANFIELD: Yes, that's better than I thought, actually. I thought it was going to be a lot tougher for them. But the pleas, you know, guilty pleas are just as good as a conviction in a courtroom by my book.

FLORES: Yes.

BANFIELD: Anyway, I want to bring in Mel Robbins and Danny Cevallos into this conversation, as well.

Mel, this is sort of a fascinating concept because so often, as you know, and certainly in the case of Philip Seymour Hoffman, when heroin, you know, addicts overdose, they're often, you know, a cocktail of different drugs --

MEL ROBBINS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right.

BANFIELD: Are found in the system. And how can you say that the dealer of one of the drugs is actually the one responsible for the death?

ROBBINS: Well, you know, I think you're pointing out something really important, which is, this isn't so cut and dry. I mean basically, if you read the strict liability statute, it kind of says if Danny hands me some heroin and I happen to take it and I die from that heroin, he's liable for murder, for killing me, by giving me that heroin. And yet, you're right.

The other -

BANFIELD: If you were loaded up with Oxycontin at the time?

ROBBINS: Well, see, it's so interesting that you say Oxycontin because I was just sitting here saying, I applaud this law enforcement officer -

BANFIELD: Effort, sure.

ROBBINS: For doing something creative. We have an epidemic. One hundred and five people a day in the United States die. It's the third-largest killer of people in Massachusetts, opium overdose. Did you know that? I mean it's crazy what an epidemic it is.

BANFIELD: No. Incredible.

ROBBINS: But, see, I worry that you're just kind of barking up the wrong tree. And instead of sending this guy to jail for $30,000 a year, we've got to start to look at the wholesale problem of Oxycontin, of treatment that's not available, of the fact that the FDA just approved a drug that is ten times more strong than Oxycontin, even when the medical board said that they shouldn't. So I see that this is an act of desperation. I don't really like it.

BANFIELD: So, Danny, you know, Rosa's talking about this spectacular effort in New Jersey, but we've got a lot of states out there that have the same kind of problem, maybe not to the extent of some of them. But do they effectively prosecute the same way? Are there similar laws on the books elsewhere? Are they effective? I mean I looked at that law and I thought, forget about it. I'm not even a defense attorney and I could find a defense like that.

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, they shouldn't -- other (INAUDIBLE) follow suit because this law is problematic. Look, when it comes to strict liability, strict liability should be sparingly used. Understand that it removes the prosecution's burden of intent. In every crime, almost every crime, the prosecution has to prove your act and the intent. What was in your heart and your mind. But when you remove that, you make it exceedingly easy to obtain a conviction.

BANFIELD: You mean like going through a stop sign. Your intent wasn't to go through the stop sign, you're just an idiot. CEVALLOS: And you just hit on it. You just hit on something great. Most of us in our lives encounter only strict liability crimes because the public policy is they should only be reserved for administrative type crimes, like speeding. Hey, officer, I didn't know it was a 45- mile-an-hour zone. Too bad, so sad. So, fortunately, most of our encounters with the criminal justice system are with strict liability crimes because they are meant to be only administrative.

So this is exceedingly problematic. When you remove not only the element of intent from a crime, but more. This crime removes intent where somebody else goes on and does something of their own. In other words, you hand out some form of opiate or drug, and then they go and make an independent decision, namely to overdose. It's almost unprecedented when it comes to a strict liability crime to say that your --

BANFIELD: It's like selling someone the car and they kill someone because they speed, you know?

CEVALLOS: Let's go to the dealership - let's go to the --

FLORES: Except the car is illegal, though, because the drugs are illegal.

CEVALLOS: Yes.

BANFIELD: Yes. Right. No.

CEVALLOS: Let's go to the dealership and start prosecuting dealers because they sold a car to a guy who looks like he might go out and have a few beers and drive.

BANFIELD: Or drive too fast, yes.

ROBBINS: Well, you know, and I think the other problem with this is that this is going to go and prosecute fellow addicts, not necessarily the drug dealers that are manufacturing the lethal (INAUDIBLE).

FLORES: In New Jersey -

BANFIELD: (INAUDIBLE). Quickly, I have to wrap it there. Last comment.

FLORES: Yes, sure. In New Jersey, the people who are with you have immunity. So you -- if you're with a buddy, that person has immunity, because then that person can give you information about who's actually selling the drug.

BANFIELD: Love and hate that immunity thing. I've got to be honest. That is the love/hate relationship of my life in the courtroom.

To all three of you, thank you very much. Rosa, great report. Mel Robbins, love to see you. Danny, as always, great to have you, as well. Thank you, three.

Medical marijuana, pardon the pun, but it's getting a lot of buzz. So how does it work? And what does it actually do to the brain? And is it as helpful -- is it as hurtful as some say? Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has gone through both avenues. He's going to break it all down for you in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: It turns out pot sales are lining the coffers in Colorado. The state has raked in about $2 million in tax revenue from recreational marijuana in just January alone. That's the first month that pot was legal to sell for non-medicinal purposes in that state. Two million! Tax revenue. The new legalized marijuana industry is a big business. And CNN's groundbreaking reporting on weed continues tonight at 10:00 Eastern Time. That's when Dr. Sanjay Gupta's special, which is "Weed 2: Cannabis Madness," gets underway. We've got a preview for you of Dr. Gupta's latest marijuana documentary. Have a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Let's talk about marijuana and your brain. It's a rather complicated process, so let's start off with what's familiar to you. THC.

THC is the chemical in weed that gets you high. You feel light-headed, feel giddy, sometimes relaxed. Marijuana you can smoke it, you can eat it in an extract (ph) of food, you can inhale it with a vapor pen, of course, consume it in an oil form. It's especially good for little kids who are taking it as a medicine. No matter the method, THC goes through your bloodstream and into your brain. And there the THC is going to latch on to these special receptors. When they are stimulated, they release dopamine that sends signals to various nerve cells all around your body and makes the user feel high.

Not all cannabis is going to get you stoned. That's because marijuana contains another chemical known as CBD. That's cannabidiol. Marijuana plants that have low THC and high CBD can work really well as a medicine. They can treat things like epilepsy. It works because the CBD chemical can quiet the (INAUDIBLE) electrical and chemical activity in the brain. I know this three-year-old girl who went from having 300 seizures a week to two per month after her parents gave her cannabis with high levels of CBD.

When it comes to marijuana, there's some 500 different chemical compounds. All these compounds work together. It's something known as the entourage effect. That's important because you can't just take a chemical out of marijuana and make a medicine. You need the whole plant, especially when it comes to using pot instead of pills.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Sanjay Gupta, you had me at hello. He joins me live now from Edwards, Colorado.

Sanjay, I watched "Weed 1" and I was glued to the set. And I think the girl that you were just referring to, the three-year-old, was Charlotte. I could not believe that story. I believe I actually shed a tear watching it. I am dying to know what you've uncovered this time and what "Weed 2" is going to tell us.

GUPTA: Well, you're going to meet many more patients, Ashleigh. You know, they are children, obviously, as you met in the first documentary, who have benefited pretty tremendously from these strains of cannabis. But there's also adults. You'll meet a man who has chronic pain, who was on narcotic pills for quite some time but really suffering the side effects from that. A woman with MS as well, who was wheelchair bound, who is now getting significant relief from a cannabis-based medication. She lives in England. This medication that she's taking is now available widely in England. And, in fact, in 25 countries, but not here in the United States.

So we're going to get at the science of what it is, why it works, a little bit you just saw there. But also what the state of affairs are here in the United States. You have this bizarre situation. I'm in Colorado, Ashleigh. So if somebody comes to Colorado with the hope of finding a strain of cannabis that might help them and let's say it does, they're kind of stuck at that point. They can't take that medication back home. That would be drug trafficking. And that's a real problem.

BANFIELD: Right.

GUPTA: And if it's not available in their home state, they're really -- they're really - they have - they're at a loss. So a lot of people are uprooting and moving their entire lives here to Colorado just because of the way the laws are. So we're going to look at both the science, which is real, you can under this issue better, and the politics which people are dealing with right now as well.

BANFIELD: Well, when I said you had me at hello, I meant it. And I'm not the only one because there are a lot of legislators who came out very prominently after your first documentary, said you changed their minds. That it was very critical reporting and it's fascinating. And coming from you, Dr. Gupta, I listen to every word you say.

Sanjay, thank you. I look forward to it tonight.

GUPTA: You got it.

BANFIELD: I didn't get my advance copy, so I'll be right there along with everyone else. Sanjay Gupta reporting live for us from Colorado.

By the way, just to remind you again, be sure to tune in tonight to "Weed 2: Cannabis Madness." It airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time and Pacific.

Thanks, everyone, for watching. My colleague Wolf takes over the baton now.