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@THISHOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

NBA Fines, Bans Clippers Owner for Life; Botched Execution in Oklahoma Raises Questions; Who is V Stiviano?

Aired April 30, 2014 - 11:00   ET

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


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling banned for life from professional basketball, the NBA commissioner vowing to force him to sell his team, but will the owners vote that way and will Sterling put up a fight?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Chaos in an Oklahoma prison when the execution of a killer is botched. The man writhes and moans in agony. We'll tell you what happened, next.

PEREIRA: Streets turn to rivers in Florida. People trapped in their attics, flood waters rising. Killer storms claim yet another life. Thirty-six people dead in this week's weather and it's not over yet.

Hello and good morning to you. I'm Michaela Pereira.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It's 11:00 a.m. in the East, 8:00 a.m. out West.

Those stories and much more, right now, @ THIS HOUR.

Some of the stories we're watching right now, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banning Los Angeles Clippers owners Donald Sterling from the NBA for life, this comes just days after the release of those racist remarks that sterling now acknowledges that he did in fact make.

No word "allegedly" any more, he made them.

And some of the game's brightest stars have been weighing in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I'm extremely proud of Commissioner Silver. You know, he was as aggressive as he possibly could be.

You know, a lot of the owners, including the owners of the Sacramento Kings, have zero tolerance for comments like that. You know, we hope the other owners feel as strongly as we do.

This issue, you know, transcends basketball. I think the punishment is just right.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: So that punishment also includes a $2.5 million fine, a lot of money, and a vow by Commissioner Silver to do everything he can to force Sterling to sell the team.

In just a moment, we will speak to an NBA great, Thurl Bailey, about all the issues surrounding this.

PEREIRA: In other news, a botched execution in Oklahoma, raising all sorts of new questions about the death penalty, a three-drug cocktail was being used to execute Clayton Lockett when his body started to convulse and he began mumbling.

The execution was halted, but Lockett died later of a heart attack.

What exactly went wrong here? We'll have details for you, ahead.

BERMAN: Another big story affecting a lot of people, torrential rains along the Gulf Coast turning neighborhoods into rivers. Check that out. That is Florida.

More than a foot of rain -- think about that. More than a foot of rain has already fallen near Pensacola. The spokesman for Escambia County says rescuers are having to cut into the roofs of homes to free people who have been trapped in their attics.

We will speak to that official later this hour.

Authorities have asked people to stay off the streets, keep them clear. Roads and bridges have just been washed out, and police say the floodwaters have now killed at least one person. That brings the death toll from these severe storms that have stuck over so much of the country this week to 36 people.

PEREIRA: And so many people now having to rebuild.

BERMAN: Just beginning.

Back now, though, to our top story, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, banned for life from the NBA.

PEREIRA: Joining us is Thurl Bailey, of course, former NBA player, vice chairman of the NBA's Retired Players Association.

I know you watched that press conference yesterday with a keen eye, and I know you were waiting to see what the commissioner would do.

He was quick. He was decisive. Are you happy with the punishment?

THURL BAILEY, BROADCASTER, UTAH JAZZ: Yeah, I am. I'm very satisfied, like I think a lot of people are.

It was swift. It was just. It -- and as far as money goes, obviously the 2.5 million was the maximum, but I don't think any number would have really made a difference.

But I think what everybody was really looking for was the fact that he was banned from being around the Clippers and NBA basketball forever , but also the fact that the next move is for him to be able to collect the votes he needs to take the ownership away from him.

BERMAN: So, when you think about that, because that's a key part of this, he's done everything he can as commissioner at this point.

He leveled the maximum fine. He issued the maximum penalty, a lifetime suspension. That's the most he can do.

Now the owners have to weigh in. They have to vote, three-quarters of them have to vote, to force Donald Sterling to sell the team. Do you think that will happen?

BAILEY: Even if that happens, I think Donald Sterling will definitely put up a fight, but I'm under the impression that when I listen to Adam Silver talk yesterday that, before he made that statement, he probably did some homework to make sure that he had the majority. That's what I believe.

That's something that we don't know, but I think that's true. So I don't know if he would go and make that statement unless he had talked to some of the owners.

I'm not sure you'll have 100 percent of them, but I think he'll get that vote.

PEREIRA: Oftentimes when we see a situation that brings an issue like this to the forefront, we see repercussions in terms of how policies are made and how they're changed.

Do you think we're going to see penalties changed at all? Do you think the NBA is going to look at some of their rule structure on these type of violations?

BAILEY: I think the language will probably change, because based on Donald Sterling and his history, I think there were a lot of things that were missed, so I --

PEREIRA: Do you think they'll look a little closer at the owners?

BAILEY: I think so. I think they'll look a little closer. I think, you know, there will be some type of no-tolerance, which there is now, but maybe a little bit stronger, no-tolerance for the kinds of things that we've been talking about.

BERMAN: But what about the players? There are a lot of players who come in and out of this league. Players say things, too.

What if a player says something like this? Should that player then be banned for life?

BAILEY: I think the focus has been on the players for the most part. I don't know from a players position that they should be banned for life.

The player is a contracted worker, so to speak, of the owners. Donald Sterling is in a different position.

PEREIRA: Some people have even talked about that, that the players have, like we do here, often, a morality clause of some sort in their contract about the way they comport themselves out in public as a representative of the team, as a representative of the NBA.

And some people are saying that the owners should have to stand up to such --

BAILEY: They should. As a player, your contract could be void as a player. For player it's really about his work and it's about earning a living, doing that work.

So I think there should be some of the same standards for owners, but I think even at a higher level.

When you look at what's going down right now, I think you have to seriously look at the criteria for even being an owner.

BERMAN: Let me ask you about Adam Silver, because this guy, he lowered the boom yesterday. And this is the first chance a lot of people had to look at him.

And so they took the measure of the man. I mean, I think he could eat a little bit more. He needs to put some meat on those bones.

BAILEY: Scrawny.

BERMAN: It's true. It's true.

PEREIRA: Hello, pot, kettle.

BERMAN: But besides that, what kind of message does that send now to the league, to the players? To me, it seems like this guy is saying, I'm in charge.

BAILEY: First of all, I had a chance with the board of directors with the Retired Players Association to sit down with Adam Silver as he was taking the reins from David Stern.

And we sat down and had a great conversation. And I think we could tell at that point that he always talked about being grateful for the tutelage he got from David Stern, but he was really ready to put his own mark, his own ideas on this league.

And that's -- those are tough shoes to fill. But I don't think he expected to start like this his first up-at-bat. But I thought he did an excellent job.

BERMAN: I've never heard praise leveled on a commissioner by players of any sport as being issued right now.

PEREIRA: In a word, yes or now, you think new era for the NBA?

BAILEY: In some ways, yes. I do. I do think it's a new era. I think it was unprecedented what happened, and so I think it goes like we've been talking about beyond the NBA and into society with our kids.

PEREIRA: Good message for our kids.

BERMAN: Thurl Bailey, one of the good things about this story, we got to spend some time with you here in the studio, really appreciate you being here.

PEREIRA: Really delightful. Thanks so much.

BAILEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, coming up, it's being described as torture and utter chaos, an execution botched when something goes wrong with the execution.

How can something like this happen? We'll explain later @ THIS HOUR.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: So last night an execution in Oklahoma went horribly, horribly wrong.

Several minutes after a doctor gave Clayton Lockett a lethal injection, he was writhing and clenching his teeth on the gurney, lifting his head and mumbling.

Officials say what had happened was a vein had exploded. They stopped the execution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT PATTON, DIRECTOR, OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: After conferring with the warden and unknown how much drugs had went into him, it was my decision at that time to stop the execution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREIRA: Lockett died about 43 minutes later of a heart attack.

He was convicted of first-degree murder, rape, kidnapping and robbery of a teen back in 1999. He was convicted of terrible, terrible crimes, but the question is should he have died in this painful way?

We want to bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, also CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos. Gentlemen, good to have you with us. This is a topic a lot of people are looking at with this situation out of Oklahoma.

Sanjay, let's start with you. This is the first time that Oklahoma used this three-drug cocktail, and specifically, this drug, Midazolam. I hope I'm saying it right.

It's new. It's somewhat controversial. Why don't you break down for us this cocktail and how it works?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Midazolam is a commonly used drug in hospitals every day as part of getting people ready for operations.

It can be in high doses something that's quite sedating, but it can also be used in lower doses to relieve anxiety.

The second drug there is a paralytic. And the important point there is that it paralyzes the muscles in the body, including the diaphragm. If the diaphragm can't move anymore, someone can't breathe, and the final drug stops the heart.

That's what's supposed to happen. If the first drug gets into the body properly, then it should basically cause enough sedation that someone is unaware of anything else. They're sort of out of it, so to speak.

But they -- and they also won't remember anything in a situation like this.

What seems to have happened is because the vein blew, that's the terminology we use, we don't know how much drug got into the system here. And it sounds like they recognized that partway through this whole thing.

BERMAN: Danny, I want to bring you into this. You have done so much work on legal ethics, and I want to talk about why this is such an important issue, why we are talking about it.

What's the law here? What does the law say about how people need to be executed if there is going to be the death penalty?

Why have they chosen to do something like lethal injection, you know, as opposed to the firing squad, as opposed to the guillotine? What's the reasoning behind even trying these drugs?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: A lot of people say ethically it's a strange situation, because if he was to be executed, well, mission accomplished. He did die.

But that's not really the analysis. It's an Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment, and it creates a paradox. If we're going to humanely execute people, we have to do so in a way that isn't cruel and unusual, and some of these clearly are causing pain if he's aware.

The Midazolam is a relatively new use, a new application of this drug. It causes some memory loss, but maybe the person is conscious while it happens.

But it's because it's new and untested, we're now sort of tinkering with the pharmacology of it, because the Supreme Court's approved three-drug cocktail, some of these pharmaceutical companies in Europe are no longer allowing the U.S. to purchase these drugs for executions, so it's created a paradox.

Now we're experimenting. These prisons are experimenting with these drugs, and when you experiment, things can go awry.

PEREIRA: And, Dr. Gupta, I want to ask you about that specifically, because something you said made me wonder if this was less a drug issue, because it sounds like there was some concerns about the drug.

But was this more a mechanical issue, his vein blowing? Could it be administering of the drug was not correctly handled?

GUPTA: Yeah, I think that that was definitely a factor here from what we've heard, and the director there made that comment, as well.

When you are giving medications through a vein, you count on a certain dose getting into the blood. If the vein blows, it means the vein opens into soft tissue and that same medication is now getting into soft tissue as opposed to blood. You'll still absorb some, you are still getting it into the body but your dosing is all off.

PEREIRA: He wouldn't have been adequately sedated.

GUPTA: That's quite possible. And it sounds like at some point during the whole process they recognized the vein had blown. When exactly it started to fail is unclear.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So, Danny, this guy as we said was convicted of terrible, terrible, heinous crimes. Now though, that his eighth amendment rights seem to have been violated as you say because of cruel and unusual punishment, does his family have any legal recourse? Is there action they can take?

CEVALLOS: This isn't a lay-up in terms of liability. You can already hear -- the prison or other people are already saying that it may have been because of his vein and something that was unavoidable. Certainly a defense would be that this would have happened without drug error, without prison official error, without executioner error if his veins were in bad shape or an unforeseeable reason. But you are right, there could be a wrongful death type claim here even though arguably he was scheduled to die any way. That may seem like a paradox but it's not about whether or not he died or expired. It's about whether it was done in a cruel or unusual way, and that's the test a plaintiffs attorney will look at.

PEREIRA: Something to point out here, there was another man scheduled for execution, Charles Warner I believe his name is, his execution was stayed after this situation. His attorney is saying that they are now going to take legal action because of what happened to Lockett. What kind of legal footing do they have, Danny?

CEVALLOS: Well, this is going to call into question the entire process. The entire use of this three-drug cocktail. Many of these executioners are experimenting because they no longer have access to the same drugs that they did before. So this is going to call into question the entire lethal injection process, which I think commonly is viewed as the most humane. But wouldn't it be ironic if somehow things like execution or firing squads or hangings were somehow viewed as more humane than three-drug cocktails because they cause this kind of agony when people are dying. If it can be proved.

BERMAN: Forces some uncomfortable discussions. Can you be sure? Danny Cevallos, Sanjay Gupta, great to have you here with us. Really appreciate it. PEREIRA: Short break here. Australian company thinks it has found a plane at the bottom of the ocean. We've been talking about this. We know it's way in the Bay of Bengal. We checked out a bit of the evidence. We are going to talk about it coming up at THIS HOUR.

COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: Bad weather once again forcing searchers to call off the blue bluefin-21's 17th mission looking for flight 370. Meanwhile searchers express skepticism of an Australian firm's claim that it may have found plane wreckage. The finding is off the coast of Bangladesh, south of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal. GeoResonance, the firm, says it's technology has sensed a lot of aluminum and other elements that may will be from a Boeing 777.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The elements that you found look incredibly similar to the outline of a plane. Can you explain that to us?

PAVEL KURSA, MANAGING DIRECTOR, GEORESONANCE: What we did, we identified again more than 11 benchmark elements make up a modern airplane. What we are seeing here is a projection of a source of that electromagnetic radiation on the surface. If you just concentrate on the anomaly for the time being. That's how the projection of aluminum elements looks on the surface. Aluminum, titanium, copper and other elements. We also tested for hydrocarbons and some alloys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: We'll talk more about this later @ THIS HOUR. meanwhile, China is set to pass the United States as the world's largest economy. The world bank predicts that it will happen this year. That's a lot faster than a lot of people expected. China's economy is expected to have grown up to 24 percent between 2011 and 2014. While the U.S. is expected to show only 7.6 percent growth in that period. By the way, the first quarter of this year, anemic growth for the U.S., just 0.1 percent, so the Chinese takeover will come four years earlier than economists previously predicted.

PEREIRA: In Georgia, governor Nathan Deal has signed a law requiring some applicants for welfare benefits undergo drug testing. A person failing the test would temporarily lose their benefits although their children could receive assistance through another adult. Opponents call the law unconstitutional and they say they will challenge it.

BERMAN: @ THIS HOUR, storms continue to pound the south. People trapped in their attics by flood waters. Had to use chainsaws to cut through the roofs to get them out. We'll have the latest from the middle of the flood zone next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: A lawyer for the woman at the center of the Donald Sterling scandal reportedly says that she is devastated over what happened. V. Stiviano's attorney tells "L.A. Times" she's not Sterling's mistress and she had nothing to do with releasing the audiotape of Sterling's racist comments.

BERMAN: Who exactly is this V. Stiviano. CNN's Deborah Feyerick looks into her background.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As she left her Los Angeles home Tuesday, V. Stiviano's intuition proved correct. The 31- year-old woman posting online quote.

V. STIVIANO, GIRLFRIEND OF DONALD STERLING: One day I will look back at Instagram and say I have been there and done that.

FEYERICK: It was her Instagram page, and this photo with Magic Johnson, that reportedly sent her boyfriend, Donald Sterling, over the edge. Stiviano was president of the company bearing her name. She was suspended in 2008 by the California franchise tax board. Though it's unclear what the company did, Stiviano describes herself as artist, lover, writer, chef, poet, stylist, philanthropist. Saying, I do it all.

HARVEY LEVIN, TMZ: She definitely likes the rap world.

FEYERICK: Court records and public records show Stiviano used at least five names including Vanessa Maria Perez, Monica Giago's and Maria Valdez. During the now famous recorded argument, Sterling seems at a loss for words. His girlfriend lays out her ethnicity.

VOICE OF V. STAVIANO: I'm a mixed girl and you're in love with me. And I am black and Mexican. Whether you like it or not.

FEYERICK: Born October 1982, Stiviano is almost 50 years younger than the 80-year-old billionaire. She met the mogul about four years ago. He apparently began supporting her almost immediately. In a lawsuit filed before the tapes went public, Sterling's wife alleges Stiviano targeted her husband and initiated and participated in a sexual relationship with him in exchange for gifts allegedly worth more than $2.5 million. Those gifts include a $1.8 million L.A. Duplex and two Bentleys and Ferrari with license plates that say I heart you V and V hearts you. According to TMZ sports, Stiviano says she was archiving Sterling's conversation at his request.

EVAN ROSENBLUM, TMZ: Yet she claims she's not his girlfriend. Just an employee. An archivist, who was tasked with recording conversations and working with the Clippers related charity.

FEYERICK: A team spokesman says Stiviano did not work for the Clippers organization. Sterling had several other family charities.

Stiviano's lawyer says he plans to respond in the next several days. Now, it's unclear when the relationship ended or if it ever did officially. However, Sterling's wife is suing Stiviano, saying her husband had no right to use the couple's community property to buy the girlfriend anything. Not the apartment, not the cars, nor anything else. The wife wants it back.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: You're the one who lives in Los Angeles.

PEREIRA: Oh I'm so to explain for all of that? I don't even know where to begin.

A lot of people are - I've heard people say we're villifying this woman for having released those tapes. She claims that she didn't. But there are other people that are saying, hey, they revealed this man for the racist they believe he is. So.

BERMAN: Look, I think whatever she did or didn't do, who she is or isn't, is completely moot when you're considering what he said at this point.

In any case, coming up for us, an Australian company says it found wreckage that could be - they think it could be connected to the missing Flight 370. However, officials in charge of the search, they are skeptical. We'll explain why ahead @ THIS HOUR.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)