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U.S. Vet Disrespected on Delta Flight; Young Man Shot in Florida; Controversial "Stand Your Ground" Law as Defense; "A World Made of Blood"; The Movie "Allegiance"

Aired December 14, 2012 - 08:30   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. We begin this morning with John Berman who has a look at the day's top stories for us. Hey, John.


A teen is charged with attacking a Medal of Honor recipient. Kentucky State police say Dakota Mayer got in a fight with the 18-year-old man at a party. Mayer left with minor injuries. It's not clear what the fight was about. Mayer was given the nation's highest military honor after he risked his life to save three dozen troops caught in a firefight.

President Obama is talking about legalized pot since the first time since voters in Colorado and Washington state approved it. The president tells ABC's Barbara Walters he does not support widespread legalization at this point.

Here is the big news thought. As for going after users in the states that have legalized marijuana he says "It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined it's legal." That doesn't sound like he'll be going after people smoking pot.

When asked about his own pot use he mentioned in his memoir "Dreams of My Father," he said there are many things he regrets doing, that substance abuse isn't good for kids, and that it's something of course he wants to discourage.

Some veterans are angry with Delta Airlines for what they feel is disrespectful treatment given to a fellow veteran. Marine Lance Corporal Christian Brown served in Afghanistan and lost both legs. "The Washington Post" says veteran on the flight from Delta, Brown was clumsily wheeled to the back of the pain, he was pained and humiliated and when the crew was asked to move Brown to first class they refused. Delta says the incident is under investigation and that service members are always held in high regard.

Talk about putting people on the spot, a couple of students at BYU had a little fun with students, staging a fake Christmas survey underneath some surprise mistletoe that came down from the sky. They got a few pecks out of it and one open palmed slap. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mistletoe like over the door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess so. Or would you?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have never to done it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you would do it.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Merry Christmas, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, I'll go for it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great. Best I've ever taken.


BERMAN: It seems like it's going so well, but then, I tell you. Everyone can't be a winner on that.

O'BRIEN: That's cute, very cute.

We turn to a story we've been following now for several weeks and it is a tough, tough story, the man who killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis in a Florida parking lot is scheduled to appear in court on Monday. He is 45 years old, his name is Michael Dunn and he is charged with first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder for firing into a car where Davis and three of his friends were sitting.

Dunn says he felt threatened by the teenagers, after he asked them to turn down their music, so it was basically over loud music and that he shot them in self-defense, and there is some word his first attorney said that they might focus on Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law in his defense. Now, since then, he has switched attorneys.

Joining to us talk about this is Lucia McBath and Ron Davis, Jordan Davis' parents, and their attorney as well. John Phillips joining us as well.

It has been a horrific three weeks for you. I cannot imagine how awful it has been, if you can, Ms. McBath, tell me how you found out that Jordan had been killed. What happened? LUCIA MCBATH, MOTHER OF JORDAN DAVIS, TEEN SHOT IN PARKING LOT: A phone call from his father, my husband and I were in Chicago for thanksgiving and I happened to come up to the bedroom and I saw Ron's name pop up, and I knew the moment I saw his name, that late at night, I knew it had to do with Jordan.

O'BRIEN: Did you know it had to be bad?

MCBATH: I knew in my spirit it was not good. I knew that it could not be good that late at night for him to be calling.

O'BRIEN: When did you, Mr. Davis, learn the details of what had happened in the parking lot, because the shooting was horrific, but the details around the shooting awful as well?

RONALD DAVIS, FATHER OF JORDAN DAVIS, TEEN SHOT IN PARKING LOT: Yes. Its first call I got was from the best friend of my son, and he had phoned his mother while in the car, and his mother called me, and I rushed to the hospital to see about my son. And when I found out that he had been shot and killed and the way that we been shot and killed, I got home and told my wife what happened, and it was the most excruciating thing. I mean, it just tears at your gut and tears at your heart all at the same time, and you're unsteady.

And then to make that call to her, and just to, just to try to soften the blow, you know, just a little bit for her, because that's our only child, the only child we were going to have together, and he was our special child. He was just great, a great, great child, and we'll never recover from it, and this gentleman has just torn the fabric of our family apart.

O'BRIEN: Before we talk about your son, let's talk a little bit about the case. Mr. Dunn says he had a concealed weapons permit. He took, we know, the gun out of the glove compartment, fired eight shots into the car. And his attorney, first attorney, he's now swapped attorneys, said they might focus on the "stand your ground" law.

And Mr. Phillips, you can jump in if you feel like this is a question that needs to go to you. Here is what the first attorney has said about what happened that night. Let's play that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill that mother -- you dead -- and he sees that much of a shotgun coming up over the rim of the SUV, which is up higher than his Jetta and all he sees are heavily tinted front windows that are up, and the back windows that are down and the car has at least four black men in it, and he doesn't know how old anybody is, he doesn't know anything, but he knows a shotgun when he sees one.


O'BRIEN: So that's her explanation of what happened. Is this case about race? Is this case about loud music? What is this case really about, do you think? DAVIS: It's about loud music and it's also about anger, about having a concealed weapon in your car, knowing you have it and feel bold enough to use it because you're being shielded in the state of Florida. They tell you if you have a concealed weapon these are some of the things you can do. If you feel you're threatened in any way, then you are allowed to use your weapon.

So he was angry, and he heard loud music, of course you got 17-year- olds, they don't do what you say if you're in a public place. You're not their parent and he decided that, well, you know what? If you don't turn the music down I'm going to take my weapon out and shoot at the car at least eight times at the car in a gas station.

O'BRIEN: The "stand your ground" law says you're justified to use deadly force if you reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent eminent death or great bodily harm to yourself. You were going to say?

MCBATH: If it is about race for, Mr. Dunn, he's the only one that knows that. We're not going to use that, because that doesn't justify anything that has happened for Jordan, it doesn't justify anything that has happened for Trayvon Martin. It doesn't justify anything that happens for anyone else that falls victim under this law. It just doesn't. So he's the only one who understands and knows where he was and what was in his heart at that time, and he has to deal with that.

O'BRIEN: Did you worry about Jordan when the Trayvon Martin case happened? I've had so many parents say to me --

MCBATH: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: -- oh my god that could have been my kid.

MCBATH: Absolutely, you think about that all the time. As we've said before when your children grow up and go on, you have to give them a freedom, chance and opportunity to be who they are and they make friend and do things, there's always the undercurrent, always a little bit of that fear that you're concerned because you can't be there with them, you can't hold their hand anymore. You've trained them and you've done everything that you can do but they do have to go out in the world. You do your best that you can to protect them.

DAVIS: Soledad I'd like to really say that I just want the community and the world, America to know that when you allow people under this shield "stand your ground" you're putting in jeopardy your kids that have nothing to do with the two people that are facing each other. You have people, the kids are playing hop scotch, kids are jumping rope, riding bikes, your nephew, your niece and two people decide to draw down on each other, they're going to hit anything that's in the way.

So America has to know that it's not just the two people involved, it's the people that have nothing to do with the 10-year-old kid, the 10-year-old girl, somebody's niece, somebody's daughter, that happened to be playing near the two people that decided to draw on each other. O'BRIEN: It's unclear if he's going to in fact use the "stand your ground" law. The second attorney that has come in has not indicated that either way but what would you like to see for him?

JOHN PHILLIPS, ATTORNEY FOR JORDAN DAVIS' FAMILY: That's the problem with the "stand your ground" law, based upon a reasonable person's standard and the only witness to the reasonable person whether that person was being reasonable was now killed in every one of these cases and that's a major problem.

O'BRIEN: What would you like to see happen? Mr. Dunn, he goes to court on Monday, arraignment.

MCBATH: We have actually already begun to fight against the "stand your ground" laws. We've started And on that site you can go and sign the federal petition to go to Washington. We're going to Washington to make amends to the federal "stand your ground" laws. We have to do it federally because that mandates all the states to take a look at this, not just the state of Florida.

So we've already begun that walk, We only need 25,000 signatures by the end of this month for Washington to take a look at it.

O'BRIEN: Thank you for talking with us this morning. I know this is a terrible, horrific thing to have to discuss and something I'm sure as a parent you can't even imagine.

DAVIS: Yes, thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Lucia McBath and Mr. Davis, thank you.

We have to take a short break this morning. Ahead we're going to talk about a young journalist who ventures into war torn Africa and puts his life on the line to get the truth, the new book called "A World made of Blood." It's incredible he'll be here to discuss that coming up next.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Sebastian Junger is better known I think for often being out in the field, facing danger, writing about it. He's had a bestselling book, like "The Perfect Storm," "War." His latest work of fiction is an eBook called "A World Made of Blood," and it tells the story of a young American journalist trying to survive his latest assignment which is a war-torn country in Africa.

Talk to me a little bit about why you decided to write this story and put it out as an eBook and also some of the really what's behind some of the other projects you're really passionate about, helping journalists like the guys you talk about in the story.

SEBASTIAN JUNGER, AUTHOR, "A WORLD MADE OF BLOOD": Yes well, I've always been a journalist, I've covered a lot of civil wars as a journalist and after Sierra Leone was my first civil war in Africa, it was incredibly terrifying. And I was at a situation at a checkpoint we were stopped by rebel forces, stepped out of the jungle and stopped us at gunpoint and for about 15 minutes it seemed like they were going to kill everybody.

I spent about 15 minutes trying to get myself ready for that. And it didn't happen obviously. I wrote my story and then several years later I kept thinking about that really traumatic episode. And I thought I want to write a piece of fiction that goes to where -- you know what happened with me and keeps you going and how would I react, how would people react and so that was why I came to -- I came to write fiction.

It's not something that most journalists do but it was a really interesting experience. It's a short story and I put it online because this is -- you know I wrote this in '04 but now like this is -- that's how you reach people is online, it's on by liner and we're getting an incredible response. People are really reading it.

It goes to the dangers of the job. I mean, people in this last year more -- more journalists have been killed this past year than you know in like several previous years combined. It's incredibly dangerous now.

O'BRIEN: Especially for the freelancers.


O'BRIEN: I mean, we all get in, if you work for CNN we go through this training if you're going to be in a war zone. If you're a freelancer sometimes you just show up with a backpack and kind of have to navigate and learn as you go. It's terribly dangerous.

JUNGER: The first war I was in, it was Bosnia in '93, and I just went there with a backpack, a sleeping bag and a bunch of notebooks. And that's how I broke in as a freelancer. I didn't have an assignment.

In the Arab Spring now it's wide open for that kind of opportunity for young people and that's why the -- the mortality rates are so high. I started an organization called Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues.


JUNGER: RISC and it's to provide free medical training, combat medical training to freelance war reporters. I had a very good friend Tim Hetherington who was killed last year in Mesrata, Libya from a mortar attack. He might have been saved but no one around him knew what to do medically, he just bled out. Had I been there I would have watched him die, I couldn't have helped him.

So I started this training program, it's a non-profit in New York three -- three sessions a year to train freelance war reporters on how to save lives.

O'BRIEN: It's always amazing to me how many things that do you in terms of non-profits and things after stories that have really touched you. And this is not the first thing that you've done. You had "The Perfect Storm" as well.


O'BRIEN: And you were moved to make a difference in addition to being the reporter around it. Is that a way for you to sort of get your head around all of the things that you see and deal with?

JUNGER: You know journalists have to stay out of the story and if it's a painful story there is a kind of moral anguish there. I think non-profits are one way to deal with that anguish.

O'BRIEN: Thanks for talking about it with us. The eBook is called "A World Made of Blood". Everybody is going to download that right now. Sebastian, thanks. We've got to take a short break.

Still ahead the new movie captures the struggle faced by thousands of U.S. National Guards as they prepare for a war. We're going talk to actor Aidan Quinn about his new movie called "Allegiance".


O'BRIEN: In 2004, National Guard troops were sent to Iraq. Thousands of men and women who've signed up for anywhere from a weeks to a month for a part time duty were now facing a year of combat in a foreign country. New film called "Allegiance" the actor Aidan Quinn plays a battalion commander who has to prepare a part-time unit for combat.


AIDAN QUINN, ACTOR: Gentlemen, the deployment order is out and I've instructed the Sergeant Major to lock down the base. In less than 48 hours, we will be inside one of the most dangerous combat zones in the world.


O'BRIEN: The film explores issues of loyalty versus duty and is resonating with veterans. It's nice to have you Aidan Quinn. It's a pleasure.

QUINN: Nice to be here.

O'BRIEN: So why did you want to take on this film. I mean, "Allegiance" is -- is a military film but really isn't just obviously for people who are interested in the military.

QUINN: No I just loved the script, the characters. You know the gentleman, the young man that wrote it and directed it did a phenomenal job. And talking to him, he convinced me that he was going to do a good job and indeed he did.

O'BRIEN: He's a veteran and then he surrounded himself I mean, the entire movie, people who are funding it, people who are helping out on it were all veterans.

QUINN: Yes absolutely. Absolutely. O'BRIEN: What kind of expertise do you think that they brought to make it even better and more realistic?

QUINN: You see a tremendous amount of expertise in all the characters, whether it's, you know, the leads, by Seth Gabel, Pablo Schreiber you know they do great work. They were trained by Navy Seals and people that were in the military, we had military always there, so they just made sure that they kept it real.

O'BRIEN: Is it a true story?

QUINN: I think it's based on some of the things that happened to the director. I don't know how much of it is actually true, but it's based on a lot of things that happened to Mike Connors, the director.

O'BRIEN: It's the story of allegiance, when a fellow soldier has to go AWOL because he's trying to -- to see his son who is dying and, of course, he's a part-time soldier who now suddenly has become a full- time soldier in another country. I want to show a little clip --


O'BRIEN: -- of a little of that.


QUINN: Do you honestly think I want to let you walk out of here without even a slap on the wrist? Hell no. But these are the decisions I have to make for the good of the unit. For the good of the men. That's all, Lieutenant.


O'BRIEN: Do you think we're seeing more movies out of Hollywood on the military?

QUINN: I don't think so. I think Hollywood is very afraid of any military films because they're tough -- they're tough for the audience because we have conflicted feelings about our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think the great thing that has changed is we have 100 percent, almost seems like 100 percent approval of our veterans and support for our veterans. You know I know that is a huge improvement.

O'BRIEN: Right, so where there is conflict it's not over the individuals.

QUINN: Right. Right.

O'BRIEN: I think you're right, I think most people look at them as heroes.

QUINN: Right.

O'BRIEN: Regardless of how they feel even about the spending or the war itself.

QUINN: Right exactly.

O'BRIEN: This is -- this film is being released first on Video on Demand.

And then will go into movie theaters which seems to me to be a complete flip of how it used to work.

QUINN: Right, right. It's exactly the opposite of how it used to work but how -- it's now how it's done on good low budget films. Because the idea is to get word of mouth, get it talked about on the Internet and this and that and then you -- and then you release it so you're actually getting free, if you will, publicity by getting people talking about it on the Internet, and it's quite successful.

O'BRIEN: Interesting, getting all the people that are watching it on Video on Demand to be your marketers to drive people to go the theaters.

QUINN: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: The movie is called "Allegiance". Aidan Quinn, it's so nice to have you. Thank you so much.

QUINN: Very nice to be here thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet. The movie is coming out on December 28th in New York, January 4th in Los Angeles. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: We'll start with "End Point". Will Cain will start us off.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sebastian was just telling us about his new short story, "World Made of Blood" and he said it was inspired by 15 minutes when he was confronted with rebel soldiers in Sierra Leone. I just was hoping he could tell us more. How did those 15 minutes play out?

JUNGER: It was one of the few times in my life where I was standing face-to-face with someone who was going to -- said they were going to kill me and or seemed like they would. And I tried to get myself ready.

And the main thing, I didn't have any grand thoughts. I felt very bad about my family and I was worried it was going to hurt. It was pretty much, it was pretty simple.

O'BRIEN: What happened at the end of those 15 minutes? I mean obviously you're here to tell the tale so you survived it. What happened?

JUNGER: They didn't shoot. They eventually let us go and I don't know why. There was a lot of yelling. There was a lot of threatening and cocking of guns. And eventually they let us go.

O'BRIEN: Why did you go back to covering war? I think that would be the thing that would make you never ever, ever go cover a war again.

JUNGER: You always think you can manage the risks.

O'BRIEN: Thanks. Nice to have you with us. Sebastian Junger, we appreciate it.

JUNGER: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Also guys, thanks so much.

We have to take a break. We're going to hand it off now to "CNN NEWSROOM" and Don Lemon. I'll see everybody back here on Monday morning. Have a great weekend. Hey Don, good morning.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, have a great weekend as well.

O'BRIEN: Same to you.

LEMON: Good morning to you.