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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

What is the Nigerian Government Doing to Rescue Kidnapped Girls?; Texas Judge Partially Blames Rape Victim; Pistorius Trial Resumes

Aired May 5, 2014 - 12:00   ET

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


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: I'm Michaela Pereira.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: And I'm John Berman.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: An admitted convicted child rapist could have been given 20 years for forcing himself on a 14-year-old girl at school. But instead, this judge passed judgment on the victim and decided that her attacker deserves days instead of decades behind bars. We'll tell you what the judge thought of the victim.

Also this hour, the blade runner murder trial back in session with Oscar Pistorius' neighbor among the first on the bloody scene telling the court, "I saw the truth that morning."

And a twisted terror group that kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls now threatening to sell them on the open market -- yes, I said sell them -- as punishment for daring to defy Sharia law by getting a Western education.

Hello, everyone, I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Monday, May 5th. And welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

The ordeal of more than 200 girls abducted from their Nigerian school three weeks ago just became even more horrifying. A video was just released showing a man who claims to be the leader of a terror group called Boko Haram. That group is claiming responsibility for stealing those girls. Have a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from translation): I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: It is unconscionable. I just want to read a couple of parts of this outrageous statement. And it says, "I abducted your girls. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women." His words made even more disturbing by his tone. He was laughing at times throughout the statement.

The group claiming to be behind the mass kidnapping is called Boko Haram. The State Department designated Boko Haram as a terrorist organization in November of last year. The group is responsible for several attacks on Nigerian military, on government and civilian targets over the last several years.

One attack killed 160 innocent civilians in September 2013. Boko Haram's name translates literally to Western education is a sin. The group opposes the education of women under its version of Sharia law. Those are the facts.

CNN's Isha Sesay is in Nigeria. She's been following this story closely. I know we have a bit of a delay, but just get me up to speed on the latest today and what the government is doing about this.

ISAH SESAY, CNNI HOST: Hi there, Ashleigh. Well, that is the question. That is the question that we are on the ground at CNN trying to get clear answers on. What is the Nigerian government doing to find these 200-plus girls that were snatched from their beds almost three weeks ago now in the middle of the night from their school there in northeastern Nigeria?

And actually, an important point that we need to make clear to our viewers, the place that they were taken from, that school, that town, was under a state of emergency, so there was a mobilization of large numbers of Nigerian military in that area.

And yet, Boko Haram for to I intents and purposes was able to move into that school and take those girls out of the area. And they have not been seen since.

The feeling on the ground is one of frustration. It is one of anger. And it is one of great disappointment on the part of many that the Nigerian government has not spelled out what exactly they're doing to find these girls.

The president spoke on television, on camera actually, for the first time since this happened on Sunday, yesterday, in which he said that they were doing their utmost to find these girls but, Ashleigh, they do not know where they are.

Three weeks on, they don't know where these girls are. All he could give in form of operational detail, they're using helicopters, they're using aircraft to scan the area. We don't know whether they have foot troops. We don't know where they are right now. We don't know numbers. So much that has not been answered. Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Isha Sesay. And you know, just before I let you go, could you just explain to me why we're hearing the president of Nigeria saying that somehow the families of these girls have been this thwarting the efforts to find the girls? They're not releasing photographs. They're not helping with the identities. There's a good reason for this, isn't there?

SESAY: Yeah, I mean, there are multiple reasons that could factor into this. There's this whole issue of trust. A lack of trust between people there in the northern part of Nigeria -- at least some people and the Nigerian government, the federal government.

You have to remember that the federal government declared a state of emergency in this area some months ago and has been accused by some human rights groups of human rights violations as they go after Boko Haram, and they're using widespread violence. So there's -- you know, there's kind of a breakdown of trust between some and the government.

But there's also another point that we have to bring to light for our viewers. There are those parents, we have been told, who are afraid to give that information, the names of their kids and photos, because they fear that Boko Haram could be watching places like CNN, could be paying attention to the media. And if it is brought out that these are their children, these children that are already in captivity will be further victimized. So there's a lot of fear. There's a lot of mistrust. There are many issues that play into that.

But what I will tell you, is that that will not have gone over well with a lot of Nigerians, to hear the president say that their issues have been hampered, thwarted by the parents when really it is their job to use intelligence and use all the means at their disposal to find these girls. Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Isha Sesay, reporting live for us from Nigeria, thank you for that.

I also want to touch base regarding this clash between Sharia law and Western law and culture with Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" on CNN, as well as commentator and defense attorney Mel Robbins.

First, to you, Fareed. This may sound new to some in the American audience, this group Boko Haram. This is not new to anybody in this part of the world. They have been striking fear into the hearts of people in Nigeria and beyond for some time now. Are they al Qaeda affiliated? Is there something larger to their network?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: They're not al Qaeda affiliated, but they have, as you say, they're very dangerous; they've been around for a while. Northern Nigeria's highly unstable because of this. And this is largely a power grab. These are groups, gangs, really, that are trying to wrest control of areas from the Nigerian government.

You watch that guy, and you look at how he's dressing. This is a sort of military fatigue operation where they operate like guerrillas. They're not sitting around praying a lot, as far as I can tell. But they use the language of Islam and they use the language of a kind of extreme Sharia as a way to gain legitimacy.

And unfortunately, this is what you always see when you see these kind of Islamist extremists, there is a very strong anti-female aspect to them. Whenever they have a voice, whenever they come into power, the first thing they want to do is to stop women from going to school, to get women to cover themselves. So there's -- there's a lot of this which seems like a lot of young angry men who want to have control over their lives in a world maybe where things are going out of control, and the one thing they know they want to do is control women.

BANFIELD: So this started 12 years ago. The founder has since died. But the essence was to sort of get a stricter form of Sharia law. It's not a story that we haven't heard elsewhere in the world. I mean, we hear about this a lot. But why did they get traction? How are they able to perpetrate over 200 girls in the middle of the night in a convey, disappearing into the woods? How does this happen? It can't happen anywhere else, you would think.

ZAKARIA: It's a great question. And you know, the thing we have to remember is Nigeria, you hear a lot about it, it's this big oil producing country. It has just, actually this week, surpassed South Africa as the richest country, the largest economy in Africa.

But it's a basketcase. And most importantly, the state doesn't function the way we would think, you know, a normal state does. So, you know, as you just heard, there was a state of emergency in this area.

But of course that means nothing. The state does not have proper policing. It does not even -- the army is not particularly good. And these people, the Boko Haram people are ruthless. They will kill mercilessly. And that's why, again, some of the parents don't want to talk because --

BANFIELD: They're terrified.

ZAKARIA: -- they rule -- this is very much the way the Taliban does it in Afghanistan. They terrify people. It's not that people support them, but they know that the cost of opposing them is death. The cost of opposing the government is, you know --

BANFIELD: That is terror defined. Can you just explain legally speaking, Sharia law and culture? Because there's a big difference between law and culture, especially when it comes to the West versus people who are just this step above Cro-Magnon.

MEL ROBBINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, well, I mean, when you're talking about a rogue group like this, you're talking not about laws that have been enacted, but more of words that people are using. And they're using terror and fear.

You asked a question, well, how could they disappear? They attacked a government school in the middle of the night. This is a very remote region that this Islamist terrorist group already controls. There are no cell phone signals. There is already great fear up there.

And so, of course they were able to do this because they're already controlling the area, and nobody wants to go up there for fear that they're going to get killed. And you're right about these families. I wouldn't show a photo of my daughter on television for fear that that guy laughing on the tape would be pulling her out and making her an example to the world of just how serious he is.

BANFIELD: Fareed, I think one of the big questions a lot of people have when they hear about these sheer numbers and then the terror of him suggesting they will all be sold into some kind of slavery if not false marriages. Is there any chance that we will see these girls again, that they will be rescued, that they will be found, that other countries that are neighboring could at least help in those fringe areas?

ZAKARIA: Look, we have to hope. I think you can't imagine the fate for these poor girls, but Boko Haram is ruthless. It has a bad history. It is not a group that negotiates that much because their demands are essentially a kind of -- they're crazy. They're sort of -- they want all of Nigeria to follow, you know, the strict Sharia law. Remember, Nigeria has lots and lots of Christians. So this is not -- this is not as though -- it has no support, no traction. A very tough situation, we just have to hope.

BANFIELD: By the way, I just want to draw people's attention to the screen. There have been protests all around the world, including here in the United States, the #bringbackourgirls. If you want to be a part of the conversation about this.

Like I said, just some of the places where these protests happened, over the weekend in London, in Los Angeles. It is a movement -- in Washington -- that is getting a lot of traction. Secretary of state having visited as well and weighing in on this. But we will continue to follow this story. Again, #bringbackourgirls.

Fareed Zakaria, thank you so much.

ZAKARIA: My pleasure.

BANFIELD: Good to have you on the program, as always.

Mel Robbins, stick around, I've got a couple other questions for you, not the least of which this case out of Texas, a judge's word about a 14-year-old rape victim. I'm going to save it for her own words and how they make you feel. But here they are. During commercial, ponder this.

"She's not the victim she claimed to be." Again, a 14-year-old rape victim and an admitted rapist. We're gonna have a legal view on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: The crime itself was outrageous, an 18-year-old high school student rapes a 14-year-old student at school, admitting, quote, "She kept saying no and stop, but I just didn't stop."

But then came the trial, and a 45-day jail sentence, and some incomprehensible comments about the young victim from none other than the judge herself.

Dallas County Judge Jeanine Howard told "The Dallas Morning News" paper that she considered medical records that purport to show the victim had had sex before, and, in her words, she said this victim had even given birth. That's in dispute.

Quote, "She wasn't the victim she claimed to be. He is not your typical sex offender."

She, the victim, says she's never been pregnant and has never felt more betrayed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was shocked that a judge, someone that I trusted with this case would go behind my back and make these allegations that she knows nothing about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: A couple of lawyers here who cannot wait to weigh in on this.

Mel Robbins is a defense attorney, CNN commentator, as well. Paul Callan is a former U.S. prosecutor, now defense attorney and CNN legal analyst. And Jean Casarez is a lawyer herself, a CNN correspondent working the story today.

And before I ask you any of the questions that I'm dying to hear from, I want to just add this. In addition to jail and probation, the judge initially ordered the offender to work 250 hours -- ready -- at a Dallas rape crisis center.

Let that germinate for a bit. Want you to listen to what the director of that center had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOBBIE VILLAREAL, DALLAS RAPE CRISIS CENTER: I'm sure that she probably thought it was his way of, you know, giving back perhaps, but it's just not an appropriate place for him to do his community supervision. Just having a criminal defendant in the office could be a triggering effect for many of our clients.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: So that part of the sentence was scrapped. And we still don't know what other issues of the probation will be.

What we do know, though, is a lot of this is just straight-up fact, Jean Casarez. It's just straight-up fact, the kind that most people don't believe could happen in our system of jurisprudence today.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's look at the facts, because I love to look at the facts.

Here are the facts. They were both students at a high school. And he was 18, she was 14. And they had talked about having sex. And she had agreed to it. But she said, I don't want to do it at school.

So what does he do? He forces himself on her at school. She repeatedly says no. And there's no issue that he committed rape. He committed rape. He pleaded guilty right before jury selection was supposed to begin. The issues --

BANFIELD: He not only pleaded guilty -- let's just -- let's call it what it is. He said in his statement, I just did it, I couldn't believe it, I was shocked.

She was bleeding. He was upset that that is what he caused to happen. There was a lot to his statement that was so clear. There was no question this was a rape. He knew he'd done it as soon as he done it. He felt bad about it. She was crying.

I mean, it's astounding that this isn't anything more than what it actually is, a rape that has nothing to do with the victim.

CASAREZ: But some of that probably came to help him in sentencing, accepting the responsibility.

BANFIELD: OK. Let me talk about that for a minute.

Mel Robbins and Paul Callan, sentencing oftentimes can be light depending on what Jean just said. Sometime there's a great deal of contrition. Sometimes there's a great deal of apology. Sometimes these things are really important. You don't have a billing criminal background like this young man.

But the things the judge said, that sometimes just never happen, does it, Mel?

MEL ROBBINS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, it may happen. But it's shocking that a judge would open her mouth and actually talk to the press about the fact that she considered the victims purported sexual history in deciding what the sentence should be.

I should just say I don't have a problem with the sentence itself. He's going to be registered as a lifetime sex offender. I do think that you have to take things be on a case-by-case basis.

He did show remorse. He didn't have a criminal record. There's a lot she could have considered. But what she told the press, this is why I hope she's unemployed very soon, is she said that based on the medical records, press, I've got a 14-year-old who's not the victim you think she is. She's had three sexual partners. She's had a baby. Now the victim has come out and said, hey, none of this is true.

BANFIELD: Does it make you more of a rapist if you've had sexual partners? Is it ever mentioned at all, if the rapist was a virgin?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, it's not.

BANFIELD: Never.

CALLAN: It's never mentioned, and I disagree with Mel. I have a major problem with this sentence.

This case is a clear-cut case of rape. She's only 14-years-old. And, by the way, when you look at the fact pattern, you say, maybe the girl was sort of saying no, but with her actions saying yes to him.

Well, if you read his statements --

BANFIELD: There's no question.

CALLAN: There's no -- because she said no, no, no --

BANFIELD: Stop, stop.

CALLAN: -- at every point. Then when it was over, he said, I can't believe I did that to her. This is a clear-cut rape, and clear-cut rapes deserve lengthy jail sentences, so this is an absurd disposition of this case.

BANFIELD: The judge apparently also -- was it a spur of the moment decision to give him the community service at a rape crisis center? Who does this?

ROBBINS: Well, obviously, we've never heard of it before. The point was to clean the floors and to clean the toilets. However, it's something that I don't think any of us ever heard of. I do want to say there's 25 points here on his probation that he has to comply with, and one of them being a registered sex offender. That is not --

BANFIELD: Let's give you that. There's some serious probation issues here. He has to serve some time every anniversary for the next five years.

But, generally speaking, this kid could have had 20 years for this kind of infraction. The young woman, and I'm just going to close this way, she now says she regrets have coming forward at all. God help anybody after her who hears this story and says, I don't want any judge saying that about me.

And I think, Mel, you said it earlier. That judge could face civil action.

ROBBINS: I hope she does. She deserves it.

BANFIELD: If that young girl had never been pregnant before and that judge publicized that, that's what you call libel, slander, right there.

CALLAN: Judges are generally immune, but --

BANFIELD: Not when you're talking to the press. No way.

CALLAN: When you give a press conference, you waive immunity, so she could have a problem.

BANFIELD: Jean Casarez, Mel Robbins, and Paul Callan, thank you, all.

Stick around, though, because the trial for "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius might have been on hiatus, but it is back on track, folks, and it picked up right where it left off, with emotional testimony, weeping and crying in court, Pistorius himself in tears. On the stand today, the first person he called after shooting his girlfriend dead and what that witness said on the stand about him. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Who's the first person you would call if you committed the biggest mistake of your life, shooting and killing someone you love?

When Pistorius shot his girlfriend to death, he didn't call the police first. He called the manager of his gated community and he claimed that he thought his girlfriend was a burglar.

The Olympian returned to court today after a two-week break. And he was greeted by a supporter who hugged him outside the courthouse. That's nice.

But as Robyn Curnow reports, it was the two other supporters inside the courthouse and on the stand whose impact was far more important, and whose testimony tore the Blade Runner apart.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHAN STANDER, COMMUNITY MANAGER: I saw the truth that morning. I saw it. And I feel it.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In an attempt to prove Reeva Steenkamp's death was a tragic mistake, Oscar Pistorius' defense team calling the manager of the Olympian's gated community.

STANDER: He begged God to keep her alive.

CURNOW: Stander was the first person Pistorius called the night he shot and killed his girlfriend.

STANDER: Come to my house, please. I shot Reeva. I thought she was an intruder.

CURNOW: He and his daughter were also the first to walk inside Pistorius' home moments after she was shot four times.

Stander says Pistorius had the expression of innocence.

STANDER: The expression on his face, the expression of sorrow, the expression of pain.

CURNOW: Pistorius, head in hands, as Stander's daughter described the Olympian pleading for help.

CARICE VILJOEN, STANDER'S DAUGHTER: He was begging me to take her to the hospital.

CURNOW: The Olympian's defense team attempting to bounce back from a grueling cross examination two weeks ago.

GERRIE NEL, PROSECUTOR: Your life is just about you, what's important to Oscar.

CURNOW: Pistorius, grilled by prosecutor Gerrie Nel for five days.

NEL: You killed her. You shot and killed her. Won't you take responsibility for that?

OSCAR PISTORIUS, OLYMPIAN ACCUSED OF MURDERER: I did, my lady.

CURNOW: The Olympian frequently overcome with emotion.

NEL: Why are you getting emotional now?

PISTORIUS: I did not fire at Reeva. She was --

CURNOW: Nel doggedly pressing the athlete on his version of events, unwilling to believe the shooting was anything less than murder.

NEL: Reeva doesn't have a life anymore because of what you've done.

CURNOW: Oscar Pistorius, again emotional in court, head in hands, crying often, as Monday's witnesses described his state of mind almost immediately after the shooting, saying he was begging, pleading, praying, for Reeva Steenkamp to stay alive.

Robyn Curnow, CNN, Pretoria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: I want to bring back in CNN commentator and defense attorney Mel Robbins and CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, who's also a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor.

All right, apart from the tears making a big splash at this day in court, there was something I thought that was significant.

The prosecutor under cross-examination was able to get this witness, this estate manager, through the tears and all the rest, to admit that, in fact, Oscar Pistorius didn't say to him he'd accidentally done it because he thought that his girlfriend was an intruder, that was something he added to the story. That is big when you're dealing with a judge who's deciding fact.

CALLAN: That's an enormous concession, Ashleigh, to get in a cross- examination. I mean, he's throwing a defense into his view of the evidence. And it's not there. He's making it up.

BANFIELD: Tells you what kind of guy he is. He is a big supporter.

CALLAN: Of course he's a big supporter. This is like having Elvis living in your condo development.

He's got the most famous athlete in South Africa, and of course he's going to be on his side.

BANFIELD: So, Mel, I always say friends and family, well, are lovely. They don't count. They might count for a jury who's never been to this rodeo before --

ROBBINS: Depends what they say, Ash.

BANFIELD: This is a judge who has been to this rodeo many times before. You can't sway with crocodile tears a lady who knows the law.

Does it matter? Do you think that really matters, all this emotion?

ROBBINS: I think it matters an enormous amount, because Mr. Stander, who was testifying today, broke down on the stand as he was describing not only Pistorius' reaction, and so did his daughter who had accompanied him to the scene. And she was describing what was going on with Reeva's injuries and trying to save her.

And I think what you're seeing happened here is Pistorius took the stand, and then he was pummeled on cross-examination.