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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

FBI Conference; Hate Crime Shooting; Prosecutor's Wrath

Aired April 14, 2014 - 12:30   ET

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


PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: We are expecting a police and FBI news conference to start any moment now on the Jewish community center shootings near Kansas City.

Authorities say a former KKK leader opened fire Sunday killing three people and wounding two others. The suspect Frazier Glenn Miller, seen here from his Web site, is due in court this afternoon to face murder charges.

And Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered the shootings be investigated as possible federal hate crimes, the attorney general issuing a statement saying, "I was horrified to learn of this weekend's tragic shootings right outside Kansas City.

"These senseless acts of violence are all the more heartbreaking as they were perpetrated on the eve of the solemn occasion of Passover.

"No matter what, we will do everything in our power to ensure justice is served in this case on behalf of the victims and their families."

And, as I said, we're standing by for a news conference any moment now. We'll be able to see it live right here on CNN as soon as it happens, but first let's go right to the scene of it all in Overland Park, Kansas, just about 13 miles south of Kansas City.

George Howell is there. He's been following this story. George, tell us what more do we know about the victims and the status of Frazier Glenn Miller, the suspect in this case?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, starting with the victim, again, we know that five people were shot at when Cross came here onto campus and opened fire.

I do want to read the names of the people that we understand at this point. First of all, 14-year-old Reat Underwood, he was a teenager here for a singing competition, and his grandfather was here with him. We know that his grandfather, William Corporon, was here --

BROWN: George, I'm going to interrupt you here as we go to the press conference here with the FBI and local officials there to learn more. Let's take a listen.

CHIEF JOHN DOUGLASS, OVERLAND PARK, KANSAS, POLICE: ... what has happened and are supporting those folks who were at the community center on the campus and absolutely the families of the victims.

I'd also like to point out that the Jewish community center is one of the organizations on the Jewish Community Campus, but there are a large number of organizations on the campus, all of which have employees and patrons, and certainly all of which are feeling the impact of what has taken place so far.

To represent the views of some of those folks, we have the CEO from the Jewish Community Center, Mr. Jacob Schreiber. He'd like to make a statement, and I'd like to introduce him at this time.

Mr. Schreiber?

JACOB SCHREIBER, DIRECTOR, VILLAGE SHALOM RETIREMENT COMMUNITY: Thank you, Chief Douglass.

We are deeply saddened by the tragic events yesterday at the Jewish Community Campus. Our heartfelt prayers go out to the families senselessly affected by the horrific shootings. They are dear to us. We ask for your prayers for them.

Our entire community stands united as we prepare for the Jewish holiday of Passover this evening, a time of peace, hope and freedom. We are heartened by the outpouring of support by both greater Kansas City and around the world for our Jewish community. It strengthens us as we move forward from this tragedy.

Amidst our grief and compassion from those most affected, we're working very closely with the Overland police department which has been a longtime and highly trusted partner to our entire Jewish community.

We're especially grateful to Chief John Douglass for his long-standing dedication and appreciate, as well, the partnership of the mayor along with the officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. attorney's office and the district attorney.

All have assured us of their unequivocal commitment to protect the Jewish community center, Village Shalom, our community partners and the broader community, as well.

The Jewish community center and Village Shalom are steadfast in our commitment in continuing to search our community with a safe, caring, impactful environment.

We call on all members, participants and friends of our community to join together with us and demonstrate the power of love and community prevails over violence.

Thank you for your support.

DOUGLASS: Now that we have more information and have details that we can confirm, I'd like to confirm some of that information with you and possibly present some things that you may or may not know.

A lot of this information has already, through various sources, become public, nonetheless we are taking the opportunity to confirm that for you today. First of all, from the first call at 1:01 p.m. until the suspect was taken into custody 20 minutes later, our dispatchers received a total of 28 911 or emergency calls related to the shooting.

This information was instrumental in apprehending the suspect as it led to a critical description of a vehicle which was apprehended a very short period of time later. And I would point out that the second shooting has been reported by some agencies as having occurred in Leawood. Village Shalom is also in Overland Park, so these crimes were committed in Overland Park.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Kansas Highway Patrol, the Leawood and Olathe police departments and the Johnson County sheriff's office in responding to our initial request for assistance during this active-shooter incident.

As you may understand, active shooters are fluid events, and we have a protocol in this area where multiple agencies will respond and flood the area with any kind of support necessary, and we are very grateful to our local community partners.

As has been reported in the press, we now will go ahead and verify the names of the victims. Again, please understand we offer our sympathy and our condolences. I cannot imagine with the tragedy and the loss of a family member, let alone two family members, but certainly all those involved deserve both our respect, our concern and our grief.

Dr. William Lewis Corporon, 69-years-old, of Overland Park, his grandson Reat Griffin Underwood, who was 14, of Stilwell, Kansas, both were fatally shot at the Jewish Community Campus, and Theresa "Terri" Rose LaMano, 53, Kansas City, Missouri, fatally shot at the Village Shalom Retirement Center. Her maiden name was Hastings.

She was a member of St. Peter's Catholic Church, Kansas City, Missouri, and she was working at the Children's Center for the Visually Impaired. At the time of the shooting he was visiting her mother who is at Village Shalom and had been visiting her mother every Sunday for some time.

We are starting to receive calls from people with possible information related to the case. These are vital to us. These witnesses didn't realize at the time, but may have seen something or have important information on this case, but now have begun to contact our investigators based upon the context of what there was.

The Overland Park police department is ask anyone who believes they may have information about this case or the suspect please do not hesitate to call 913-895-6910 -- again, the number is 913-895-6910 -- or the FBI at 816-512-8200.

Also, it has been reported we have arrested Frazier Glenn Cross, Jr., a 73-year-old white male from Aurora, Missouri. He also goes by the alias of Glenn Frazier Miller. We have unquestionably determined through the work of local and federal law enforcement agencies that this was a hate crime Now, yesterday, it became fairly apparent that it was probably a hate crime, but as we told you yesterday, we needed the verification of some investigation to make this determination. It's more than just an opinion. It's actually a legal status. And it took us a while to reach all of the triggers which allow us the opportunity to say officially we believe this to be a hate crime.

Because it's a hate crime, we are working with the federal government in a duplicative role, trying to seek every venue in the prosecution both at the state and federal level. And I'd ask now for FBI special agent in charge, Mr. Kaste, to be able to describe what a hate crime is, federally, and how we'll proceed from here.

MICHAEL KASTE, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Thank you, John.

So, first, before I talk about hate crime, I want to talk -- I want to express my sentiment and my heartfelt condolences to the families and the victims that were killed in this senseless tragedy.

Yesterday's attack at the Jewish community center and the Village Shalom strikes at the core, fundamental freedoms of why -- how our country was founded and what we live by every single day. And as Chief Douglass pointed out earlier, we've now determined that the motivation behind this was a hate crime.

As the chief talked to you yesterday, we mentioned that it was still too early to talk about that, but in the last 22 hours we've learned that the acts that this person committed were the result of beliefs and his -- were the result of beliefs that he had and that he was trying to hurt somebody based on their ethnicity, race, religion. There are a whole number of categories under a hate crime.

The FBI investigates hate crime, and it's our number one priority under our civil rights program. And a hate crime is a traditional crime, usually murder, arson, vandalism, but the difference is they're motivated by bias. And that's why my office is involved in investigating this.

We are committed to work aggressively with our law enforcement partners. As the chief mentioned, this will be a dual investigation going forward.

I want to express my condolences to the victims, and also I want to commend the Overland Park police department for their very quick response in apprehending this subject. That was outstanding police work by Overland Park and I just want to make sure everybody's aware of that.

Barry?

BARRY GRISSOM, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR DISTRICT OF KANSAS: Like everyone else, the members of the United States attorneys community express our condolences to the families of these poor souls who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and had the unfortunate experience of firsthand encountering evil. Based on what we were able to put together yesterday, the United States attorney's office will be filing hate crime violations against this defendant this morning. This morning, the president mentioned Overland Park in his prayer breakfast. I've received communications from Attorney General Holder expressing his concern and his condolences.

But we are in a very good place from an evidence standpoint of moving forward with this case, and we will be presenting it to the grand jury in the not too distant future.

STEPHEN M. HOWE, JOHNSON COUNTY, KASAS, DISTRICT ATTORENY: Many of you have already contacted the Johnson County district attorney's office to inquire about charges that will be filed.

Barry and I have been communicating throughout this investigation, and we hope to have some information for you tomorrow morning in regards to possible charges, so we would ask you to wait until that time that we'll be able to provide you some additional information some time tomorrow morning.

DOUGLASS: I think we're prepared to answer questions that you might have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any sense of why he targeted this particular community?

DOUGLASS: There's no telling why it was this particular community. Obviously, we believe that his motivation was to attack a Jewish facility, but -- and we have one. And we're one of those areas that is fortunate to have one in our community. That's the only reason I can think.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said the first call came at 1:01. Can you give us a timeline? (Inaudible) 20 minutes he was apprehended. So, did he get to both locations in 20 minutes? Can you take us minute by minute?

DOUGLASS: I can't tell you minute by minute. I can tell you that the first calls came in here at 1:01, which means the act had taken place and people were calling in as he was leaving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the first one.

DOUGLASS: At the first one at the community campus. He then went to Village Shalom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About a mile and a half away.

DOUGLASS: Approximately. It's pretty close. And then he was over there at a school off of Lamar.

So, within a half hour, he committed both acts and we found him in the parking lot of a school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you be more specific about the information that led you to believe this was a hate crime that transpired over the last 24 hours?

DOUGLASS: I can tell you in general terms. From an evidentiary standpoint, that's why we won't be specific in telling you what he said.

But we have some statements that were made that allow us to believe that it was in that direction. Again, I can't tell you what those were.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us about the people that actually caught him? How did that happen? How did they find him so quickly? Was he armed at the time or did he resist at all?

DOUGLASS: Two of our patrol officers spotted the car, approached the car. He was armed. There were weapons in the car. They told him to surrender, and he did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So he's facing federal and state charges? You mentioned a grand jury, Barry, and then you also mentioned possible state charges?

GRISSOM: Yes. It was -- Steve and I discussed this starting yesterday afternoon. It's our belief that based upon these horrific acts that either one of us would be derelict in our duty if we didn't lift every arrow in our quiver. And both of us are going to be going forth in our charges.

If at some time either one of those decides for reasons from an evidentiary standpoint or some other nuance of prosecution that we need to step aside, then we'll do that.

By the same token, if you'll remember in the Oklahoma City bombing, those individuals were prosecuted not only in federal court, they were prosecuted in state court as well, so that is not an unusual occurrence.

BROWN: All right, I want to bring in Sunny Hostin, legal analyst, as well as George Howell who is there on the scene in Kansas.

Sunny, I want to start with you. We heard from police there in Kansas, we heard from the FBI calling the shootings a hate crime, and as we heard from Eric holder saying he wanted this to be investigated as federal hate crimes.

What does that mean, if it's on the federal level?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure. And I think at this point we can be clear that it is on the federal level. We heard the U.S. attorney indicate - or the representative from the U.S. attorney's office indicating that there would be grand jury action. And so at this point, this is a federal hate crime case.

And what it means is that they have determined that the crime was motivated in whole or at least in part by the offender's bias against a particular group, whether it be race or sexual orientation, in this case clearly it's religion. And what that means is that the federal government, in all of its investigative power, will take the lead on this. There could certainly be state charges. But make no mistake about it, the federal case will proceed.

And there is the federal death penalty and so that is certainly a possibility in a case like this. The Justice Department is very well versed in trying these kinds of cases in conjunction with the civil rights division and I suspect that that is where this is going.

BROWN: So to be clear, Sunny, the federal hate crime charges will supersede the state charges if we do see that. Again, we're still waiting to learn what those charges will be. And the federal charges will have a stiffer punishment in that if he's convicted he could face the death penalty, is that correct?

HOSTIN: Not necessarily a stiffer punishment -

BROWN: OK.

HOSTIN: But certainly that is an option, the death penalty, the federal death penalty. And we do sometimes see that in these kinds of cases. I will say that, you know, there always is this tension between federal prosecutors and state prosecutors. I recall dealing with that tension when I was a federal prosecutor.

But I think it's been made clear that the federal government will take the lead here and -- but there are still -- there is still the possibility of state charges. We don't know what that will be. This is a very strong case. It apparently seems, from what we've just been told, a four witness case. And a hate crime case is significant. And we have three victims. Three lovely people. We're learning a little bit more about the victims. And so justice demands, I think, a federal case in this instance.

BROWN: And speaking of the victims, Sunny, I want to go to George Howell, because we're learning more about that third victim, Terri LaManno. And we now have a picture of Terry. George, what can you tell me about - what we know about Terri LaManno?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hearing from investigators that Terri LaManno visited Village Shalom to be there with her mother. Again, she worked for the Children's Center for the visually impaired here in Kansas City. She's worked with them for at least eight years. And, again, she was there when this happened. This is about a mile away from where we are now.

This is hard for people here. Just a few minutes ago, while the news conference was happening, a gentleman came by here - and I don't know if you can, Jordan, but zoom into that. It's been the light now. it's been blowing around in the wind which has been pretty tough out here -- but he brought flowers here. He took his hat off in respect and then walked away. And you can tell that, you know, this has been very difficult for people, a senseless shooting, three victims who were killed randomly.

BROWN: Yes, senseless indeed. Thank you so much, George Howell, Sunny Hostin, we appreciate it. And again we want to reiterate, Frazier Glenn Miller, the suspect in this case, will be appearing in court later today. And this is being investigated as a federal hate crime case.

All right, and now I want to turn over to the Oscar Pistorius trial that has been ongoing. And we're going to learn more about what happened in court today right after this break. We hope you stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: He's the blade runner's toughest completion yet. We're talking about the prosecutor in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. And he is hoping to break him, picking apart the Olympian's testimony piece by piece. Day four and counting. Pistorius insists he mistook his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, for an intruder. But as Robyn Curnow explains, the prosecutor is out to prove his story is impossible.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new week for a persistent prosecutor, ready to move his cross-examination into its next phase, from attacking Oscar Pistorius' character --

GERRIE NEL, CHIEF PROSECUTOR: And being argumentative, Mr. Pistorius, is not good for your credibility. Will you accept that?

OSCAR PISTORIUS, DEFENDANT: Yes, my lady.

CURNOW: Gerrie Nel, now putting the state's case front and center.

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In many respects the state's case started today. They elicited testimony striking at the heart of the charges about negligence and intention. And even managed to cast doubt on the boundaries of his defense, casting doubt on his version of events.

CURNOW: The differences between the two versions of events --

NEL: My argument would be that that blood splatter on the duvet and on the carpet was caused when you carried the deceased past that area. What are you saying about that?

PISTORIUS: I understand that, my lady.

NEL: But on your version, it can't be.

CURNOW: At times painful for the Olympian to hear.

NEL: You fired at Reeva. The other versions of yours cannot work.

PISTORIUS: It's not true, my lady.

NEL: You fired at her. You did. Why are you getting emotional now?

PISTORIUS: I did not fire at Reeva. CURNOW: Nel forcing Pistorius to continuously recount the night he shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, who he allegedly thought was a burglar.

PISTORIUS: I screamed. I said, get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of my house! Get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of my house!

CURNOW: The prosecutor further detailing their narrative of that fateful night, concluding Steenkamp's jeans, found on the floor in the athlete's bedroom, must have been left after they were arguing as she tried to escape an angry Pistorius.

NEL: She wanted to leave and get dressed.

PISTORIUS: My lady, the denims are inside out. So it would make sense that that's when she took them off.

CURNOW: The prosecution also asking the athlete a crucial question. If Steenkamp was awake when he got out of bed to bring in the fans and close the curtains, why didn't she ask Pistorius where he was going.

NEL: Normal people would say, when you get up, she would say, where are you going or so you say - you don't expect her to do that?

PISTORIUS: My lady, I'm - I'm not even sure it would be a probability that if someone gets up in the night that their partner would even ask them what they're doing or if they can't sleep.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: All right, for the legal view, I want to bring in now CNN commentator and defense attorney Mel Robbins and CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor.

And, Paul, let's start with you. It is clear here that the prosecutor is trying to poke holes in Pistorius' story and trying to undermine his credibility and reliability here really. Do you thing the prosecutor has been able to effectively do that so far?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think he's been highly effective, Pam. This is sort of the functional equivalent of a prosecutor water- boarding a defendant through cross-examination. I mean he's been torturing Pistorius on every unlikely detail of the Pistorius story. And as he focuses in and he gets closer and closer to the meat of the case, I think he's persuasively demonstrating that the story doesn't hold up. It's quite a cross.

BROWN: And on that note, Mel, we saw in Robyn's story that the sobbing from Oscar Pistorius.

MEL ROBBINS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes.

BROWN: And we've heard the prosecutor ask him, are you doing this to mask your difficulty answering the questions? What is your take on his emotion that he's showing very outwardly on the stand? ROBBINS: Well, I thought in the beginning of the case, Pamela, it was extremely effective because you've got to remember, his defense, which also seems to be changing now that he's being questioned from, I shot at an intruder to, I was so overcome with fright, I didn't even know I was shooting, you know, before the bullets got off.

But, you know, at this point, if I were his defense attorney, I would slap him across the face because I think it's starting to work against him, frankly. And, in fact, one of the most powerful moments today was the clip that you played when the prosecutor said, wait a minute, why are you crying right now? And he was suggesting to the court, like this is getting ridiculous. And after today, I think that the prosecutor's done an extremely effective job making Pistorius' story look a little bit like Swiss cheese with a lot of holes.

BROWN: And, Paul, let's talk about that because, as Mel mentioned there, he seemed like he's changing his defense. You know, first we heard it was an accident, didn't intend to shoot anyone, then we're hearing it was more self-defense. Do you think that this is hurting or helping his case?

CALLAN: Well, I think it's hurting his case because -- and a couple of things happened today that I thought were fascinating. He got Pistorius to say that one of the things he screamed when he was in the bathroom was, get the f out of my house. Now, that certainly sounds like something you might scream at your girlfriend if you were having a big fight with her, which, of course, is what the prosecution's theory is.

He also demonstrates -- he's into these little details, this prosecutor. For instance, a blue light was on, on the amplifier in the bedroom. Now, why is that important? Well, a red light would have indicated the amplifier was off. The blue light being on means that the two of them were up at 2:00 in the morning and, because they probably had the music on in the background, that's why the amplifier is on. That's at odds with Pistorius' story that she had gone to sleep earlier and there was no fight going on. So, point by point, meticulous cross, his story's falling apart.

BROWN: And, Mel, let's talk a little bit more about the forensic evidence that was brought up by the prosecutor. Let's talk about the fact that Pistorius says that they ate after 7:00 and then went to bed, but then you have the evidence, the forensic evidence saying that she had eaten with only a couple of hours before her death. How big of a deal is that discrepancy to the judge, do you think?

ROBBINS: On its own, it's not that big of a deal.

BROWN: OK.

ROBBINS: But when you start to stack up all the tiny little discrepancies between Pistorius' bail statement and what he's saying in court, and you add on the jeans that were on the floor and everything else was packed up and you start to make a believable case that perhaps there was an argument. But the fact remains that it's still the prosecutor's burden and a very skilled defense attorney, which Pistorius has, can absolutely argue, look, the guy was panic stricken. He genuinely feared that there was somebody in the apartment. And you don't have any conclusive evidence to refute what he says happened in his mind that night.

And that's essentially his defense. He was scared out of his mind. And, in fact, he said, before I could make sense of the situation, I fired four shots. He said, I never intended to shoot anyone, which is the first time that he said this. So, again, I think the defense attorney can still argue that, you know, he's innocent.

BROWN: All right, Mel Robbins, Paul Callan, thank you so much for your input and analysis. We appreciate it.

CALLAN: Thank you, Pam.

BROWN: And thank you for watching LEGAL VIEW. "Wolf" starts now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, Ukraine on the brink. Pro-Russian demonstrators seizing more government buildings with no sign of a promised crackdown by the Ukrainian government. This as a Russian military plane flies provocatively close to a U.S. Navy warship in the Black Sea.