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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL
Cleveland Strangler Investigation Spreads Worldwide; Missing Woman`s Family: Police Not Doing Their Part
Aired November 10, 2009 - 19:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, seismic development in the case of the Cleveland Strangler as the search for more victims goes global. Anthony Sowell lived all over the world. Now a woman in California claims she was raped by Sowell 30 years ago. FBI agents frantically going through records, searching for any rape and murder cases that could be linked to this former Marine. Sowell was stationed in South Carolina, California, and even Japan. Could this house of horrors in Cleveland be just the tip of the iceberg? And tonight`s big issue: how drugs can turn the unthinkable into a grim reality.
Also, a father at his breaking point. Disturbing new details in the mystery in Malibu. Mitrice Richardson was arrested by police, then arrested in the middle of the night. She hasn`t been seen since. That nearly two months ago so why won`t cops let us see the video from the release? Was there even a video? We`re going to talk to this young woman`s father as he desperately searches for his missing child.
And a teenaged boy doused in alcohol and set on fire. Now the three teens accused of this horrific attack are being charged as adults. But they look like kids. Meanwhile, this poor kid is clinging to life with burns on 60 percent of his body. Now some sicko plays a disgusting prank, burning dolls and throwing them in the swimming pool. What`s wrong with people?
Plus, a dramatic courtroom finale in the NASA love triangle. Former astronaut Lisa Nowak learns her punishment, if you could call it that. She`s stalked and attacked her romantic rival. Cops say the jilted lover packed her car with a BB gun, rubber tubing, plastic gloves and diapers, and drove 900 miles to confront her ex-lover. You`ll hear the emotional words from that romantic rival about how she still has nightmares about the attack. Is the sentence an outrage?
ISSUES starts now.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, did the accused Cleveland Strangler leave a trail of death across the globe? The search is on to determine whether Anthony so well is linked to unsolved crimes in California, the Carolinas, and even Japan, all areas where the alleged serial killer lived when he was a U.S. Marine.
Back in Cleveland, investigators have now identified nine of the 11 victims found hidden inside Sowell`s house of death. Forty-nine-year-old victim Janice Webb was a mother and a grandmother. She disappeared in June.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just told me that her body was intact. That`s all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it`s still devastating, nevertheless, that she died in this manner and was found in the backyard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Webb`s sisters say she was a drug addict, a trait Sowell apparently looked for when picking his targets. Drugs and alcohol are the common threads throughout this nightmare. Addiction made the victims especially vulnerable. Did it also make Sowell even more ruthless and cruel?
Here is one of his alleged victims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLADYS WADE, ALLEGED VICTIM OF ANTHONY SOWELL: He just kept twisting my neck. Twisting it. Twisting it. Twisting it. And I was gouging his face at the same time. I was trying to take his eyeballs out. It was like the devil, you know? Eyes glowing. You can tell he was demonic or something. You can just see the demons in him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cleveland is still reeling from that revelation that Sowell`s ex-girlfriend, his ex-girlfriend, is the mayor`s niece. That`s right, the mayor of Cleveland has a niece who went out with the alleged serial killer. She lived inside that putrid house of death for more than two years. More on her wild story in just a moment.
Now, what do you think about this horrific case? Give me a call: 1- 877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297. I want to hear from you.
Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: Judge Greg Mathis of "The Judge Mathis Show." Delighted to you have here tonight, Judge. Ken Sealy, famed addiction specialist, interventionist and author of "Face it and Fix it"; Cleveland city councilman Zack Reed; clinical psychologist Michelle Golland; and investigative reporter Michelle Sigona of MichelleSigona.com.
Michelle, I said it last night. I`ll say it again. Dare we ask, what is the very latest?
MICHELLE SIGONA, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: The very latest tonight, Jane, is that the behavior analysts from the FBI are together. They`re working on a crime time line to piece together Anthony Sowell`s life.
Now what has happened is they were on the ground in Cleveland throughout the weekend up until yesterday. There were two agents. I spoke with Special Agent Wilson from Cleveland earlier today. And what he told me is, is that they will look back at Sowell`s life, from before he went into the military all the way up until the point where he was taken in and arrested. They will look at the places where he lived, the neighborhoods that he visited, and any unsolved crimes throughout the nation, and even over to Japan.
Sowell did serve time over in Japan, in California, and North Carolina, and also South Carolina.
In addition, there is a funeral that is set for one of victims. Thirty-one-year-old Talieka Foreston (ph) will be -- there will be services for her that will be held this upcoming Thursday.
And in addition to that, right now Anthony Sowell yesterday was indicted on rape charges and kidnapping charges and a few other charges. In addition, he is being held at this point on a $5 million bond.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow! Is Sowell linked to murders outside Cleveland? One of the big questions tonight. The feds have now stepped in, and they have taken this investigation global. That`s right. They`re focusing on unsolved cases in areas where Sowell lived during his military service. He was stationed in the Carolinas, he was stationed in California, and even Japan.
Now, a woman in Coronado, California, told police she was raped, possibly by Sowell. He was stationed less than 50 miles from Coronado at Camp Pendleton. After leaving the military, Sowell then went to prison for attempted rape. So far he`s accused killing women he came across right in his Cleveland neighborhood.
Judge Greg Mathis, you have presided over some many these kinds of horrific cases. In your opinion, does he fit the profile of a killer who strikes outside of his comfort area? Could be -- could this be the tip of a global iceberg?
JUDGE GREG MATHIS, HOST, "THE JUDGE MATHIS SHOW": Absolutely. And I think that what he looks for, as you`ve said, Jane, is vulnerable women who perhaps are drug- or alcohol-addicted, and that`s the scores as prevalent throughout our country, whether it`s in rural America, whether it`s in Appalachian or urban America. Wherever you find poverty you find people trying to escape poverty through drugs. And I think that`s what we see here. You see a drug addict praying on other drug addicts.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight`s big issue, you just raised it, Judge, did Anthony Sowell get away with this for so long because everybody around him was in a drug haze? The niece of the mayor of Cleveland admits that she lived with the suspected Cleveland Strangler for two years, with both of them doing drugs. Is that perhaps why she didn`t notice all the dead bodies hidden around her?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just wonder why -- why would he do this? He took care of me, good care of me, and I never thought that no bodies was in the house.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever smell something funny in the house?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes I smelled stuff, but he also told me -- at first he said it was his stepmother downstairs. And then I guess after she left he told me it was Ray`s Sausage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Addiction specialist Ken Sealy. Is it feasible that she was incapable of realizing she was living with the overpowering, unmistakable stench of death? Can drugs make you impervious to smells, or is it perhaps that you crave the drug so much you ignore the smell if you`re getting the drugs you desperately need?
KEN SEALY, ADDICTION SPECIALIST: That`s exactly it, Jane. What`s happening is that she needs the drugs to live. So no matter what her environment looks like, she`s going to ignore that in order to keep her drug addiction alive and moving forward.
So you know, the signs are all there. The family members had to have seen this. And that`s the part that`s killing me. We all see it as a society and we could take the actions, but we`re turning a blind eye. And why? Because they live in a less-fortunate area? Not acceptable. We have to step in and help these people.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Councilman Zackary Reed, you are in there in Cleveland, Ohio. This is your area. The picture that`s coming together is that these women were primarily drug users. They had records. He preyed on these women. He lured them in with offers of malt liquor and possibly, for all we know, I would suspect drugs, as well. And some of them died. And he`s just accusing, hasn`t been convicted yet. Some of them escaped. And said, "Hey, this guy tried to kill me and I got the heck out of there."
Now, there are claims from family members that police were not taking this seriously, that when they went to them and said, "My daughter`s missing," they said, "Ah, she`ll come back when the drugs run out." What do you make of it?
ZACKARY REED, CLEVELAND COUNCIL MEMBER: Well, that`s one of the reasons that I will continue to say that there needs to be an independent, thorough evaluation of this entire system. Because you hit the nail right on the head. And I think the judge said it also.
There -- people want to bring race into this situation. And although you can`t devoid (ph) it from race, the underlying, common denominator that lured them into that house of horror was the addiction to drugs. And the addiction to alcohol. And the question goes back: how do we put a system in place that, whether you`re on drugs or whether you`re on alcohol and you go missing, we`re going to do all that we possibly can to you back with your family members?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, and also get you off drugs. I mean, that would be, Michelle Golland, the ideal.
MICHELLE GOLLAND, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Because if they had their wits about them, they may have not have gone into the house in the first place.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And certainly that woman would have smelled the corpses around her, had she not been stoned out of her mind.
REED: I think it goes back to this huge debate when we talk about health care. I mean, if you`re rich and you`re well off, you can go to these nice drug treatment plants and Betty Ford and all the like. But if you`re poor and underprivileged, you`ve got to suffer on the streets, day to day, night by night.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, there are recovery programs that don`t cost money, and I think we all know that. So I`m not sure that I`m buying that 100 percent. OK? Because you can get sober without spending any money whatsoever, in fact. All that`s required is the desire to get sober. We`re going to talk about that.
More next, more on the accused Cleveland Strangler. We`re also taking your calls: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.
Plus, shocking developments in the NASA love triangle. Remember Lisa Nowak? You know, that crazy ex-astronaut? She got a slap on the wrist today. Is this fair? We`re going to hear the stomach-churning testimony from Nowak`s victim.
But first, hard-core drugs and mass murder. We will take a look inside the toxic life of the so-called Cleveland Strangler.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lived with him from 2005 to 2007. He didn`t kill me, but he killed all of these girls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you ever there when he had other women there? Or...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, he did it when I wasn`t -- he did it when I wasn`t there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONNITA CARMICHAEL, VICTIM`S DAUGHTER: It`s still very unsettling that there wasn`t a deeper, closer forensic or whatever look at to where this smell was coming from. I mean, in 2007, our mom went missing in 2008. So if this smell was identified a year earlier, perhaps my mother, as well as some of the other victims and their families in this case, this all could have been prevented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And tonight`s big issue, drug haze. Did drugs allow accused serial killer Anthony Sowell to live with almost a dozen stinking dead bodies with nobody figuring out in the entire community?
Most of the dead women identified were known drug users with criminal records. Did Anthony Sowell count on police not being aggressive in finding them because of that background?
He allegedly told one woman he attacked, quote, "You`re just another crack bleep from the street. No one will know if you`re missing," end quote.
He may have been right. One woman who says she tried but couldn`t file a missing report on her missing relative said cops belittled her. Quote, "They told me to wait a while, because she would return once all the drugs were gone," end quote. The corpse of that missing woman was finally found inside Sowell`s house of horrors.
Michelle Golland, drugs: beginning, middle and end.
GOLLAND: Yes. Yes. Jane, I think we need to be concerned on so many levels. Particularly the fact that the police were so dismissive of the family members, but also of the women who -- two of the women who had brought allegations of rape against him, and they were dismissed.
And I`m also very curious as to why the -- did the sheriff`s department who monitors sexual predators, were they notified that there were allegations from the police department? I mean, these are things that agencies need to be communicating to each other about.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is a broken system. And...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... there is no communication.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And it would seem that the sheriff`s officers, who did the knock, had nose plugs on, because they didn`t smell the stench of death either. It goes all the way around.
Jessica, California, your question or thought, ma`am?
CALLER: Yes, Jane. Love your show.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you.
CALLER: And I love your book.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you.
CALLER: You`re welcome.
My question is, how in the world does law enforcement and agencies like the health department -- did not follow through? I`m sure this question has been asked a dozen times. And I...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Councilman? Jessica, I want to thank you. That`s an excellent question. I`m going to take it to Councilman Zackary Reed.
Councilman, it seems like there is blame to go around. Not just the police department but Health department, as this caller said. And of course, the parole, the people who checked on him, because he was a registered sex offender. They didn`t catch it either. Nobody caught it.
REED: Jane, you hit the nail right on the head: it`s the system. It`s a broken system. And what we`ve got to do is we`ve got to have this thorough evaluation of a broken system so that all these agencies, public agencies, including me. I got the first call in 2007 from one of my residents, who said, point blank, "Councilman, there`s an odor in the neighborhood."
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did you go to the area?
REED: I went to the area.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did you smell it?
REED: I also -- I never smelt it, but I got to believe my resident. But I immediately called the health department. And the health department has gone out there. You had police that had gone out there. We had a sheriff who had gone out there. You`ve had state inspectors who`ve gone out there and, for some strange reason, no one could not [SIC] identify the smell of dying corpse.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ken Sealy, I`ve got to go back to you, because you`re the one with the expert on drug addicts. Inside that house there`s no way you could have missed it. And yet, it would just seem that the need to have that drug is more important than -- "Oh, my gosh, something really smells foul here. I`ve got to get out of here."
SEALY: Yes, no. The drug addict is going to stay there, but as everybody`s saying it`s the system, because it doesn`t matter if they are poor living in that environment or if they`re wealthy. It`s still they`re setting double standards. It doesn`t work. The system needs to be fixed to help these people with their addiction issues.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jane --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.
MATHIS: You know what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Couple of quick issues.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I know you do, and we`ve got bring you all back, because this story is -- we could talk about it for hours. Thank you, fantastic panel. We`re going to stay on top of this one. It is a metaphor for our addict nation.
We salute the troops every day on HLN. Today Robin Meade has a salute from a Pennsylvania mom to her son.
ROBIN MEADE, HLN ANCHOR: Well, thanks, Jane.
In today`s salute, Private First Class Aaron William Oxenford gets a heartwarming shout-out from his mom. Aaron is in Iraq and celebrated his birthday last Saturday on Halloween.
ROBIN GREGORY, MOTHER OF SOLDIER: Hi, Robin. I`m Robin Gregory, and my salute is going out to my wonderful son, Private First Class Aaron Oxenford. I`m sure he`s going to pick on me by the end of this, because I am going to cry.
But, Aaron, we`re all very proud of you. We want you to be safe. Please know that we love you. And we can`t wait for you to come home. I might not understand why you`ve joined the Army fully, but I`m very proud of what you`re doing.
I do want to let you know my dog still does not have hair. He shaved my dog`s hair off. And it didn`t grow back!
MEADE: These are great stories. His mom says that Aaron is a huge animal lover and that everyone, including the dog, Curtis, misses him so much.
Back to you.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Love it, Robin.
Moving on, a father`s desperate search for his daughter. New developments in the Malibu mystery. We`re going to talk to Mitrice Richardson`s dad. He`s demanding answers from the cop.
And you remember that former astronaut who did that crazy thing, driving around, stalking her rival? We`ll have the latest.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: In the "Spotlight" tonight, a family`s anguish over their missing daughter. The search for 24-year-old Mitrice Richardson is increasingly desperate. She vanished nearly two months ago. The honors grad student was arrested on September 16 after allegedly not paying a nearly $90 tab at a Malibu restaurant and for a small, small, small amount of pot that she`d possessed.
The owner of the restaurant claims authorities were called because Mitrice was acting oddly, even telling people she was from Mars and speaking gibberish. The sheriff`s department claims she seemed fine and was not under the influence of alcohol, so they released her at about 1 in the morning on September 17 in a relatively remote area. She has not been heard from since.
Mitrice`s family and friends have been critical of authorities for not putting her on a medical hold. The family is now complaining cops are just not doing enough to find this young woman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LATICE SUTTON, MITRICE`S MOTHER: This is my daughter, Mitrice Richardson. My daughter, a citizen, was failed by the authorities who are hired to protect and serve us. They are not simply here to enforce and arrest us, but they also have a duty to protect us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Joining me now, Michael Richardson, the father of missing Mitrice Richardson.
Mr. Richardson, thank you. I know that this has got to be agonizing for you.
MICHAEL RICHARDSON, FATHER OF MITRICE: Yes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me start with this. Have there been any leads, viable tips, sightings, any developments at all in the search for your daughter?
RICHARDSON: Not at all, Jane. We`re religiously going out there, looking, find any possible sightings, any look-alikes. And that`s exactly what they`ve been. They`ve just been a lot of great, great look-alikes, so I can`t fault them for that, but it`s not been Mitrice.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And the police, sheriff`s department, what are they doing?
RICHARDSON: Nothing. They`re giving us more hard time. I cannot be that critical of LAPD. They`re on it. I was able to meet with their commander last Friday -- last Thursday. He`s seeming to get the ball rolling, but there`s still just too much red tape as it comes to the L.A.`s sheriff`s.
I`ve posted all of the information that is so critical to helping us find Mitrice on BringMitriceHome.org. We recently do not -- still going into eight weeks have Mitrice tapes, even being seen leaving the sheriff`s station.
You know, I know Geoffrey`s, the owner of Geoffrey`s has been on this show, talking about he`s doing everything that he could do. Well, you know...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s focus on the law enforcement, if we can.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`d like to leave Geoffrey`s out of it for a minute. The sheriff`s department says they can`t -- this is a quote from one the officers. "I can`t imagine how videotape from the station, if it existed, would help find the missing person. We have no perimeter video, and I`m just" -- he goes on to explain, "We have cameras around the station, but there they`re a live feed. They don`t videotape."
What do you make of their explanation?
RICHARDSON: That`s a lie. If there is an assault on an officer in that parking lot, they`re going to tape it. If there is a shooting, if there is a riot, they`re going to show you. So why all of a sudden Mitrice Richardson is missing they can`t show you a tape of her entering or coming out. They`ve just been lying.
Their police reports, lied, altered, whited out. Four days, five days after press releases they want to add addendums to the information about the police report.
They`re just non-cooperative. They`re not doing anything to help. They`re putting up -- and it`s to the point now that we`ve given them eight weeks. It`s just the point that we`re going to have to start possibly a lawsuit to get the information that we need.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We want to have you back. We`re running out of time. We`re going to stay on your story.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: A teenaged boy doused in alcohol and set on fire. Now the three teenagers accused of this horrific attack are being charged as adults but they look like kids. Meanwhile this poor kid is clinging to life with burns on 60 percent of his body.
Now some sicko plays a disgusting prank burning dolls and throwing them into a swimming pool? What is wrong with people!
And a dramatic courtroom finale in the Nassau love triangle: former astronaut Lisa Nowak learns her punishment, if you could call it that. She stalked and attacked her romantic rival. Cops say the jilted lover packed her car with bb gun, rubbing tubing, plastic gloves and diapers and drove 900 miles to confront her ex-lover.
You`ll hear the emotional words from that romantic rival about how she still has nightmares about the attack. Is the sentence an outrage?
Stunning new developments: three young teens who allegedly doused a 15-year-old boy with rubbing alcohol and then lit him on fire have been charged as adults. The boys have been identified as 15-year-old Denver Jarvis, 15-year-old Matthew Bent, and 16-year-old Jesus Mendez. They`re all charged with second degree attempted murder as adults. Now two other teenage boys allegedly involve face lesser counts of aggravated battery.
The victim, Michael Brewer, is in critical condition. He has burns over 65 percent of his body. He`s heavily sedated. He is breathing through a ventilator. He cannot speak. Bandages cover his open wounds and have to be changed daily; a painful four-hour process.
His doctor says he is slowly recovering but he admits, "our expectation is survival, but I don`t think that we would be surprised if he didn`t." We will talk to his doctor in just a moment.
The mother of the two of the alleged attackers issued a public apology. Listen to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERRY JARVIS, SUSPECT`S MOTHER: We`d like to express how horribly sorry we are. This is a horrible incident that should have never occurred and we pray for Mikey`s -- or Michael`s recovery every day. That he gets stronger which we know in our hearts he will. And I just say I don`t have the words to express anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Should these teenagers be tried as adults or are they still kids who need to be dealt with in juvenile court?
Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: also joining me tonight: criminal defense attorney Bradford Cohen and Dr. Nicholas Namais, the doctor at University of Miami Jackson Memorial Hospital who is treating young Michael Brewer. Dr. Namais, thank you so much for joining us.
DR. NICHOLAS NAMAIS, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI JACKSON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: Thank you.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What is the very latest on Michael`s condition? What are the biggest risks to him now?
NAMAIS: Well, every day we have some ups and some downs, and today we were fortunate to have a nice little upside event. We were able to remove the breathing tube today. This isn`t a cause for a celebration because we know that at about 5 percent to 10 percent of the time we would have to put that tube back in the first 24 hours, but for now it`s a nice little -- a nice little improvement.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re happy to hear that. Michael Brewer`s head was so severely burned he lost most of his hair and his eyelashes. Thankfully his face and his hands were spared.
It`s extremely difficult to recover from burn injuries. Take a look at this. Michael Jackson, his scalp was burned in 1984. You`re seeing it go on fire right here during filming for this Pepsi commercial. His injuries were much less severe than Michael Brewer`s; still they were excruciating and they led to Jackson developing an addiction to painkillers.
Jackson befriended fellow burn victim David Rothenberg. David was 6 years old when his dad set him on fire. Rothenberg was burned head to toe over 90 percent of his body.
Dr. Namais, we pray that Michael Brewer survives but how long will his recovery take? Describe what he will go through. How many years before he`s out and about?
NAMAIS: Well, this is a life-changing event. Things will never be exactly the same. But we hope and we expect that he`ll get back to a reasonably good quality of life.
We still have some operations to do for skin grafting. There could be further reconstructive operations after the grafting depending on how the healing goes. And there`s at least a year of intensive physical and therapy. And after that it all slows down a little bit as things stabilize but it`s a life-altering event.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now we have to move on to tonight`s big issue. We`re talking about teen justice. These young teenagers are charged as adults with attempted murder. The question is, is that the right way to deal with this situation?
This issue came up just this week in the U.S. Supreme Court. They`re tackling this tough question. Is locking up teenagers for life cruel and unusual punishment?
Now the big case they`re discussing Joe Sullivan. He was just 13 when he was convicted of raping a 79-year-old woman. His attorney argued sentencing him as a teenager to live out his entire life in prison until he dies is cruel. But the state of Florida argues juveniles should be able to get life sentences without parole especially when a teen has committed a vicious crime.
Get this, in the United States right now; there are about 2,500 teenagers -- 2,500 teens -- doing life without parole; almost all for murder. Only 111 teens are serving life without parole sentences for non- murder.
And where are most of those teens? Bradford Cohen, most of them are in Florida. Florida has been called the toughest state on teens.
BRADFORD COHEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It doesn`t shock me.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: These teens in this Florida case are dealing with that possibility of a very, very long sentence. Could these teens get life? And would that be unconstitutional?
COHEN: No. They`re being charged with second-degree attempted murder; so they`re looking at 15 years a piece. But really, the adult system is not set up appropriately to deal with teens. It really should stay in juvenile court. And the reason for that is because juvenile court is set up just for that. To deal with individuals that are not emotionally attached, that are not emotionally prepared to move onto a felony-type crime in adult court.
These teens should have been charged in juvenile court. I feel it should have stayed in juvenile court. Now the out that the judge will have in the adult court system is he could sentence them as juveniles to a lesser sentence but it would always follow them for the rest of their lives as opposed to being filed in a juvenile court where it may be sealed after they turn 18.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know Michelle Golland...
MICHELLE GOLLAND, PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I am so torn about this case.
GOLLAND: I know.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Because I`m so nauseated over what the kids did.
GOLLAND: I know. Yes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But nevertheless, when -- we`re going to see it in a little bit; there was a picture of them today at court. And they look like kids.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: They look like 14 and 15-year-old kids. They`re 15 and 16. And I just don`t know how to reconcile that heinous act with the fact that they`re not developmentally at the level of adulthood yet.
GOLLAND: And they`re not -- I know. And that`s -- I know and that`s really the issue is that you know, 18 is an adult. Because really we know that brain development of teenagers and children is different than adults. So they have a different ability to consent to things, to know what their actions will lead to. I mean that`s really the issue here.
And again I think we go back to the system. That if there is a way to help these children -- these kids, obviously not commit these crimes again, but even more importantly is that when they become adults if they`ve been in juvenile custody, a way to actually evaluate them and to know if they`re a danger to society, I think that`s the issue. It`s about understanding, are these children a danger to the society.
COHEN: And what`s going to happen, Jane...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think what we need to do is, improve the juvenile court system...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... so they can adequately deal with these kids in a manner that`s appropriate as opposed to pretending -- there is the picture I wanted to show you. Look at them. They look like kids there. There they are in court and they look like three little kids that you would see running down the street and yet they`re going to jail, to the slammer, as adults?
This whole thing is hideous because what they did is so awful, allegedly. They have to face justice, obviously.
But I want to go back to the doctor. Doctor, this -- we only have a couple of seconds. This whole thing is so heart-wrenching on so many levels. So many families destroyed because of this one senseless, stupid act.
NAMAIS: Absolutely. You said it all. It`s senseless.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s just so senseless.
GOLLAND: And again I think that teenagers when we look at like what happened at Richmond High School. We also, Jane, as you have said it before, we need to educate our children about consequences, about conflict resolution and how to handle these situations.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And about right and wrong.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Before we learn American history and the revolutionary war and logarithms, right and wrong.
COHEN: More now than ever.
GOLLAND: Moral development, emotional development.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, thank you fantastic panel.
Coming up we pray that that young boy survives.
An intoxicated woman loses her balance and falls onto the tracks and there`s a train coming. And it`s all caught on tape. Does she survive? Look at this wild scene.
Plus today`s sentencing of Lisa Nowak. The NASA love triangle story finally comes to a crescendo. Was she given a slap on the wrist? Is she doing time? We`re going to tell you. Give us a call. We want to hear from you about this kooky story. 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And let`s meet today`s winner, Caitin from Ohio. What a great story -- she`s a suburban mom who had a big secret. On her tenth wedding anniversary her husband asked her to quit drinking but she just cut back and only for a while. Slowly she went right back to her addiction.
In her letter to me Caitin writes, "When I saw the story about the woman whose husband still insists she was not drunk when she was driving the wrong way and killed herself and kids among others, I shuddered. It could have been me so many times."
Well, I`m happy to say Caitin found sobriety in June of 2006. She wants to tell her story in the hopes that it will help other women in the same situation with that toxic secret of alcoholism.
Caitin, for sharing your courageous story you`re going to be getting an autographed copy of my New York Times` best-selling book, "I Want," and a chance to win a trip to New York City and visit me right here on the set of ISSUES. We`ll have a sober fun time.
If you are struggling with addiction or know somebody who else, please check out my new book, "I Want" at cnn.com/Jane. It can help.
Remember that NASA love triangle? The former astronaut who was accused of driving across the country, diapers were involved, to get revenge on her ex-lover? Slap on the wrist is what she got today. Was it fair? We`re going to hear from the victim.
First, "Top of the Block" tonight: amazing video from Boston; a woman lucky to be alive. Check this out. A drunk woman waiting for the subway. She loses her balance and oops falls right onto the tracks. You could see by the light, another train actually bearing right down on her. The train`s conductor doesn`t see the woman.
Luckily some Good Samaritans start frantically waving their hands trying to gets the conductor`s attention. At the very latest moment the train slams on the emergency brakes and literally stops right next to this woman`s head. She`s actually underneath the train but not crushed.
The drunk woman suffered minor scrapes and was taken to the hospital. Now, she told cops what do you think she told -- well I`ve been drinking is what she told cops. Boy she could really have had a bad hangover if not for that hero conductor who slammed on the brakes. You know what I mean?
All right "Top the Block" take two. The man accused of trying to extort $2 million from David Letterman says oh he was just trying to sell the late-show legend a screenplay -- likely story. Joe Halderman in court today asking a judge to throw out the extortion charges, claiming it was all a big misunderstanding. And the whole sexual blackmail thing was just a commercial transaction.
Halderman is accused of trying to extort Letterman when he discovered that his girlfriend, Stephanie Birkitt, was having a sexual relationship with David Letterman; sounds like we do have enough material for a screenplay now. We`re going to stay on top of this one.
That is tonight`s "Top of the Block".
Moving forward to disbelief and outrage over a slap on the wrist sentence given to that former astronaut accused of attacking her romantic rival. You remember Lisa Nowak -- who could forget her -- she`s the former NASA captain who apparently went bonkers when her boyfriend broke up with her and started seeing another woman.
Cops say Nowak suited up in a diaper so she could drive nonstop for a thousand miles from Houston to Orlando International Airport in a plot to attack the other woman, Collen Shipman (ph). Nowak`s defense team disputes the whole diaper story, by the way. Nowak also wore a wig and a trench coat, followed Shipman to her car, and then sprayed her with pepper spray.
Hours ago Nowak copped a plea and guess what she got. She got a year`s probation for this attack. The judge gave her two days in jail and two days credit time served so you do the math. That spineless sentence came on the heels of this gut-wrenching and I mean gut-wrenching victim impact statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLEEN SHIPMAN, VICTIM IN LOVE TRIANGLE ATTACK: Shortly after I turned 30 years old, Lisa Nowak hunted me down and attacked me in a dark parking lot. Her attack was part of a well-researched, well-planned and deliberate crime. Now almost three years later, I`m still reeling from her vicious attack. And I`m still trying to put my life back together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Collen Shipman was not shaken for long. Moments later she was seething with anger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHIPMAN: I knew in my heart when Lisa Nowak attacked me that she was going to kill me. It was in her eyes; a blood-chilling expression of limitless rage and glee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now wait until you hear and see Lisa Nowak`s bizarre apology. We have so many clips to analyze from today`s hearing. And I know you will have an opinion so give me a holler. What do think about this sentence?
Straight out to my experts: Ken Seeley, interventionist, addiction specialist; Darren Kavinoky, criminal defense attorney, legal analyst for the "Insider" and our own voice of reason; and Steve Helling, staff writer with people.com.
Steve, your article in people.com about this jaw-dropping sentence also includes reader comments. What exactly are they saying?
STEVE HELLING, STAFF WRITER, PEOPLE.COM: Well, people can`t believe how light the sentence was. Especially after hearing the -- as you called it the gut-wrenching testimony of Collen Shipman. And then a year`s probation; it didn`t seem to add up.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s an outrage. I will say that myself. Personally, I watched this. I saw this -- this victim crying and saying her life was destroyed. She`s the one who had to leave the military.
This one is still unbelievably on active duty in a Naval base in Corpus Christi, Texas. What`s that about?
HELLING: That will probably change now that there is a guilty plea. The Navy was waiting to see what will happen and now they know; so disciplinary action should come soon.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t get it Darren Kavinoky. This just doesn`t seem fair. This woman, the victim described in how she w as terrorized. She felt Lisa Nowak was out to kill her. And she doesn`t even do -- this is what`s wrong with our criminal justice system is there`s no rhyme or reason to it. It`s arbitrary and capricious.
KAVINOKY: There is...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: This woman is -- oh, she looks remorseful to me; therefore I`m going to let her go without any jail time.
KAVINOKY: No, there is rhyme and reason to it. Ultimately, good deals for defendants are obtained for one of two reasons. Either the defendant is a stellar human being and certainly that could be a factor here, or there`s some risk of loss for the prosecution.
And the defense lawyer did an excellent job of chipping away at the evidence in this case, challenging the admissibility of statements that Lisa Nowak made the night that she was initially interrogated; challenging the evidence that was obtained as being illegally confiscated. So...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, please.
KAVINOKY: .. it`s exactly those things that create the risk of loss.
And now hang on a second, Jane. I will have to say this; if we can be allowed a little bit of levity. Her lawyer...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, you`re going to have to wait until after the break. We`re going to have more of your opinion and mine in a moment. And I want to hear from you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA NOWAK, ACCUSED OF ATTACK ON ROMANTIC RIVAL: I`m glad to have this opportunity to apologize to Miss Shipman in person.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why don`t you turn and face to Miss Shipman when you do this?
NOWAK: I`m glad to have the opportunity to apologize to you, Miss Shipman, in person. I am sincerely sorry for causing fear and misunderstanding and all of the intense public exposure that you have suffered. I hope very much that we can all move forward from this with privacy and peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is it me, or does she have some kind of a smirk? And take a look at this. This is her in 2007. Her mug shot after her arrest -- whoa.
What a character here, Ken Seeley. Is this woman simply an addict and she was addicted to a man as opposed to a drug? This guy was her drug?
KEN SEELEY, INTERVENTIONIST: Jane, that`s exactly the same symptoms that I deal with in my private practice every day, is these are the extremes that people do.
What I`m seeing in this case, though, the problem is the faulty system once again. What`s going to happen when we`re back here and she does commit that crime, that crime that that woman was so fearful from and she does commit that crime and we say oh, we should have held her accountable and monitored her?
She needs some kind of treatment. Probation, we all know what that is -- nothing.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.
SEELEY: I see people every day that are loaded on probation.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Darren Kavinoky, what if she does it again?
KAVINOKY: Ken, hang on one quick second here. There is a significant legal dispute about exactly what kind of harm befell that victim. And this is something that her lawyer was advocating zealously about, that there was a significant fight about whether or not she`d actually been harmed by this pepper spray in the first place.
There was a real conflict in the evidence. So...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wait a second, wait a second...
KAVINOKY: I don`t know if any of us are in a more dangerous position tonight because Lisa Nowak is...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: This woman says in her life was destroyed, that she has had nightmares. I mean, this woman that you`re looking at here, the victim, says her life has been shattered by this.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Marianne, New York, your question or thought.
MARIANNE, NEW YORK (via telephone): Hi, Jane. How are you?
MARIANNE: I`m a great fan of yours.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you.
MARIANNE: But Jane, I have a disagreement with you.
MARIANNE: We just saw the three boys that attacked that young man...
MARIANNE: ... who`s going to be disfigured permanently for life.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right, yes.
MARIANNE: His scars are never going to go away. He does have a life sentence. The fact that -- that you`re upset that these kids are going to -- might spend the rest of their life in jail does not make sense to me.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Marianne, let me just say this. Look at the disparity. This is another case that happened in Florida. And this woman here is not going to jail for one day.
Now, admittedly, the woman didn`t suffer physical injuries. She suffered a lot of other injuries. And she could have hurt her. I mean, what if the woman had put the pedal to the metal because she was hit with pepper spray and slammed into a wall?
Steve Helling, what do you make of the disparity? This is the problem. Everything seems so arbitrary and capricious in how these people are sentenced.
HELLING: Well, it`s hard to say because you know that Colleen Shipman, when she was testifying, she was really pushing for a hard sentence. And ultimately, that didn`t happen. And there`s so much -- there`s so much wiggle room in the law of how much time that these defendants can get. And we might have seen a different result if it was a jury that was voting on something rather than a judge.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, very, very good point. It was one man`s opinion. Thank you, fabulous panel. You`re watching ISSUES on HLN.