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Judge May Rule On Lawsuit Aiming To Ban Abortion Bill; Judge Agrees To A Jury Viewing Murdaugh Murder Scene Property; Ex-Husband Of Dismembered Hong Kong Model Arrested. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired February 27, 2023 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A new focus on Texas as a federal judge could rule as soon as today on a lawsuit seeking to block access to a long-approved abortion pill. The drug is Mifepristone. And it's been approved for use by the FDA for more than 20 years. Now, an anti- abortion group is challenging the FDA's authority.

Jessica Schneider is in Washington tracking all of this. Jessica, I have never once said the name of this medication correctly, so please correct me. But there's also a new twist to this with a countersuit of sorts that was filed just on Friday, what's going on here?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What we're seeing here, Kate, is really both sides of this abortion debate prepping for what really could be a big decision from this one federal judge in Texas that will have nationwide implications. So, this judge is being asked to block access to medication abortion nationwide.

And given that he's a Trump-appointed judge with a long history of anti-abortion activism before he became a judge, all sides really anticipate here that he will in fact block the use of this drug. So, this pill in question, it has -- it has been approved by the FDA for more than 20 years. And right now, medication abortion makes up the majority of abortions nationwide.


So, if the challengers to this drug win as it is expected, it would really mean that women in states where abortion has been virtually halted, they wouldn't have this drug as another option if they did need an abortion. Even in states where abortion is still legal, it would mean that women wouldn't have this medication abortion option, and that means it would really create backlogs at abortion clinics. So, this really is the biggest court decision since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Kate, you mentioned the countersuit of sorts. On Friday, 12 states, they were led by Democratic attorneys general, they actually sued the FDA on the other extreme of this saying that the limits the FDA put on the abortion pill are too strict. The other side is saying they aren't strict enough. And court watchers are saying you know that since Democrats know

they're probably going to lose this abortion pill case in Texas, they, on Friday, went on the offense with this suit against the FDA really in hopes that this whole question over medication abortion eventually makes its way to the Supreme Court, which is very likely here, Kate.

But in the meantime, it is also very likely that medication abortion could be blocked for the time being if this judge rules soon, and it goes through the appeals process. So, a lot to watch. We don't know when the judge will rule, but it really could be at any time now.

BOLDUAN: All right, Jessica, thanks for laying it out. I appreciate it.

Here with me now is CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers. Jen, I'd love to get your take first on the case in Texas with this judge. What do you expect to come here?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I do expect as Jessica just said --

BOLDUAN: You do.

RODGERS: -- that he will issue this nationwide injunction that seems to be where it's headed. So, that's going to of course cause chaos nationwide as doctors and their patients you know will have to deal with not having this drug. But -- so, of course, if he rules that way, then the Biden administration can appeal, goes to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

That's a very conservative court. It will depend on the panel that it draws. But, you know, we don't know exactly what they will do. But it's a dispute that's likely to end up either way in the Supreme Court.

BOLDUAN: Just to reinforce how impactful this decision can be because right now, these are drugs that are using more than half of abortions in the United States. It was more than half of abortions even before the Dobbs decision. And it's become increasingly more necessary after the Dobbs decision. The impact of the judge's -- singular judge's decision in Texas, though, can have an impact nationwide.

RODGERS: Yes. So, this is really a problem that's just become more stark in recent years as individual judges sitting in a district court, you know, wherever the case may be here in Amarillo, Texas, can stop something from happening nationwide. I mean, we saw it with the Muslim travel ban.


RODGERS: You know, we've seen in different instances. Through the years, this is really becoming a problem that, frankly, the courts, and if not the courts, Congress needs to fix. But yes, a single judge can make a decision. Next thing you know, these abortions with this drug are shut down nationwide causing thousands and thousands of women to either not get their abortions or have to seek a surgical procedure.

BOLDUAN: But it's also not just something you've also -- you're also highlighting and hot on as well. It's not just the -- if you -- the issue, the concern, the impact one district judge can have, is also puts into a real -- in the spotlight, this concept of judge shopping. What is it?

I mean, we -- it is what it is. It's shopping around for the judge to be most sympathetic to your case. It does seem in -- both more liberal causes and more conservative causes do this as well, but it seems to be happening more and more and more in these very, very important issues.

RODGERS: So, Texas is a state that has a real uneven distribution of judges. There's only one judge in Amarillo. There's only one judge in a couple of other places and these are very conservative judges. So, if you're a right ideological group and you have a lawsuit to file, you know exactly where you're going to go. You're going to go file it in Amarillo or one of these other places.

And so that is happening more on the right than on the left because of where these judges with this outsized influence happen to sit. But it's a problem without an ideological spin inherently. So really, it's a problem that needs to be fixed by -- the courts can fix it and they have fixed it in the case of patent litigation, they just haven't gone towards the more ideological types of cases that --

BOLDUAN: It could -- it might be well served to go far beyond patent litigation (INAUDIBLE) is some of the issues that we see. Talk to me really quickly about this. I'm calling it a countersuit of sorts, even though I know it is a separate -- completely separate lawsuit that attorneys general from Democratic-led states have now -- they're basically saying to the FDA, you're getting it wrong as well, but for completely different reasons when it comes to these abortion pills.

RODGERS: So, interestingly, I'm not sure they really think the FDA is getting it wrong.


RODGERS: But you have to have a controversy in order to file a lawsuit in the first place. So, they have to say, FDA, you're doing something wrong, you're going too far the other way. What it does is it sets up a potential of a clash of two different opinions.

So, if the Supreme Court sees that two circuit courts especially but even district courts have come out opposite ways on the same question, they're much more likely to take it up and take it up quickly so that if nothing else, we'll at least have certainty about where things stand.

BOLDUAN: All right. Let's see. I'm glad you're here. It's good to see you. Thanks, Jen.

RODGERS: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it. Let's see what happens in Texas and Jennifer will be back to talk about then what's going to happen next.


All right, so they are back in the courtroom in South Carolina in Alex Murdaugh's a double murder trial where the defense is focusing today. We'll be -- we'll take you there.


BOLDUAN: Court is back in session in South Carolina Alex Murdaugh's double murder trial. And the judge just handed down what couldn't be a big decision allowing the jury to go to the scene of the crime where Murdaugh's wife and son were murdered.

Randi Kaye is outside the courthouse. She's joining us again. Back at it. This is a big week, Randi, that we're kicking off here. What's the latest from inside the court?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know now, Kate, as you said that the jury is going to see Moselle. We don't know when. That's the property. It's a 1700-acre property where the murders took place. It likely will be tomorrow or Wednesday.


We understand from the defense telling the judge this morning that they do expect to rest this afternoon. The state was opposed to this visit by the jury to Moselle. They say that the property has changed, the trees are thicker, and they just don't think it will give the jury the real picture of what it was back in June of 2021.

We also know that some people had gone by the property over the weekend, dozens of people in fact, according to the defense to take selfies, Kate, at the feed room where Paul Murdaugh was killed. So, this is sort of become an event here, so the defense was requesting that the judge make sure that the property is secure for the jury to visit.

But also, we know that Alex Murdaugh has now, after more than 20 months of lying to investigators, admitted on the stand on Friday that he did lie and that he was indeed at the kennels where the murders took place around the time of the murders. He said he left the kennels at 8:47 p.m., drove his golf cart back to the house at 8:49 p.m., that's around the time that prosecutors say the murders took place.

He said he went down for a nap, Kate, for a short time. And just 13 minutes later, according to data presented in court, his phone started showing a lot of activity and a lot of steps. And he was asked about that by the prosecutor in court. Watch this.


CREIGHTON WATERS, LEAD PROSECUTOR: You would agree with me that from 9:02 to 9:06, your phone finally comes to life and start showing a lot of steps.


WATERS: What were you doing?

MURDAUGH: I was getting ready to go to my mom's house.

WATERS: That's far more steps in a shorter time period than any time prior as you've seen from the testimony in this case, so what were you so busy doing?

MURDAUGH: That's --

WATERS: Going to the bathroom?

MURDAUGH: No, I don't -- I don't think that I could go to the bathroom.

WATERS: Get on a treadmill?

MURDAUGH: No, I did not get on the treadmill. And what I wasn't doing is doing anything, as I believe you've implied that I was cleaning off or washing off or washing off guns, putting guns in a raincoat. And I can promise you that I wasn't doing any of that.


KAYE: And in addition, Kate, to that -- all those steps that he was taking, he was also making a flurry of phone calls that he said he was calling his father. But the state of course is suggesting that all those phone calls were just to help establish an alibi for him following the murders and allegedly killing his wife and son.

The defense of course trying to show, Kate, that this was someone else who did this. They put a forensic expert on the stand who said that he analyzed the trajectory of the bullets and said that it had to have been someone much shorter than Alex Murdaugh who did this. Alex Murdaugh is about six-four or six-five. He predicted it with someone five-two to five-four. So, that was a real change in terms of the trajectory and how this might have happened.

Of course, the state saying that this was not a random person who entered the property, that there was nobody else down at the dog kennels around that time. In fact, the prosecution asked Alex Murdaugh if the dogs were acting funny or if they sense that someone else was there. And he actually said there is no -- nothing to suggest that the dog sensed anyone else was at the property at that time, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, let's see what happens today. Randi, thank you so much.

So, the death of a model and social media influencer, and now the arrests that are sending shockwaves across Hong Kong, but police are saying about the investigation and the four people charged in connection to her murder. That's next.



BOLDUAN: A new and helpful at-home test. The FDA has authorized the first at-home test that can detect both flu and COVID-19, uses a single nasal swab, and gives a result in about 30 minutes. It is said to have a 90 percent accuracy rate for positive flu results and an 88 percent accuracy rate for positive COVID results. And you can also get it without a prescription which is wonderful for everyone, especially this season.

Let's turn out of this finally today, a disturbing story out of Hong Kong. Four people have been charged in connection with the murder and dismemberment of a model and social media influencer. Abby Choi was reported missing Wednesday last week and then parts of her dismembered body started being found two days later.

Kristie Lu Stout is in Hong Kong with the latest. And a warning, the descriptions in the story you may find disturbing.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): A fashion model and mother brutally murdered in Hong Kong in a case that is sending shockwaves through the usually safe city. 28-year-old Abby Choi was a well-known social media influencer with more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, who just weeks ago appeared on the digital cover of a luxury magazine. She was reported missing on Wednesday.

On Friday, police say pieces of her body were found in a refrigerator in the northern Tai Po district of Hong Kong. They also found a meat slicer and an electric saw. And later, police discovered a head, ribs, and hair in a soup pot.

ALAN CHUNG, SUPERINTENDENT, HONG KONG POLICE: It's a skull with hair, OK? And as I said, unfortunately, there's a hole on the right side rear of the skull. So, if -- the pathologist believed that should be the fatal attack on the victim.

STOUT: Police arrested Abby Choi's ex-husband on suspicion of murder on Saturday. Police said they caught him at a pier on the city's Lantau Island.

(on camera) Reuters reports that Choi's ex-husband Alex Kwong appear here at the Kowloon City Magistrates' Court on Monday along with his father and brother. They are all accused of murder. Now, Kwong's mother also appeared in court. She's accused of obstructing the case. All four were denied bail.


(voiceover) Over the weekend, authorities launched a massive search operation to track down the rest of the model's remains. They deployed more than one hundred police officers including an abseil team and divers to search a cemetery in nearby catch water in the area of Tseung Kwan O.

They're still looking for several body parts. A gruesome murder of this young woman in the spotlight who leaves behind four children including two from the ex-husband who is now in custody. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


BOLDUAN: My, God. That's just horrible. All right, Kristie, thank you for bringing us that update.

And thank you all so much for watching. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING" starts after this break.