CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Tour Bus Overturns; Senate Attempts to Move Gun Bill; Gun Violence in America; Push to Overhaul Military Court-Martial System; Lawsuit Demands Pot Full of Cash.

Aired April 11, 2013 - 11:30   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of agencies on scene. We'll keep you posted on a lot of breaking news. We're going to scour our resources and get you updated with even more just after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Just wanted to keep you updated on the story we've been following. These pictures coming to us courtesy of our affiliate, KTVT, in Dallas, Texas, just north of the Dallas downtown area. It's an area called Irving, Texas. The freeways are extraordinarily busy in that area. There's a whole labyrinth. This is on one of the freeways, an overturned private tour bus with reportedly, according to CBS, 34 people on board, many injured. One in particular pinned, rescued and apparently in serious condition, according to CBS. And 15 apparently taken by air ambulance to local area hospitals and dozens of responders in that area. Traffic in one of the busiest -- I have to say having driven that area for four and a half years -- one of the busiest systems of freeways I have seen in my megalopolis. And that would cause quite a difficulty for the people of Dallas and Irving and also that was apparently a tour bus that was headed north to Oklahoma, headed for the casinos. Getting new information. This was a bus owned by Cardinal Coach Line just south of the Dallas area. Again, headed to the casinos up in Oklahoma. We're going to continue to follow that story as well.

And just as we didn't have enough breaking news, we are also watching a live shot of the U.S. Senate, which is right now trying to take up a gun violence bill that's inspired by the horrors in Newtown, Connecticut. Prospects for overcoming a GOP filibuster on that bill, that threat, well, the prospects got a lot better today. This time yesterday, when a GOP Senator stood with the Democrats to unveil a compromise on gun-buyer background checks. If supporters of the measure that also include a gun trafficking ban and school security funds can muster at least 60 votes, 60, the magic number, then the Senate can actually get on the debate and vote on the bill itself and the numerous amendments that will follow. We're watching for that magic number to be reached. That's cloture, folks. It means -- let's go live. They're going to announce some of the results.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: Majority leader.

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: I appreciate everyone's cooperation. (END LIVE FEED)

BANFIELD: You don't even need to hear it. You can see it on your screen, yeas, 68. That means they have achieved that important number to move on. Move on and get on with it, Congress, and go ahead. There will be no filibuster if what I see on my screen is accurate. We'll continue to watch that story as well.

Since we're talking about it, since we're talking about gun legislation, probably appropriate to talk about gun violence. In the United States, it's in the news every single day. I am getting very sick of it personally. The United States outpaces every other country in the developed world in gun-related murders, countries like Israel and Turkey and Chile and Britain. And every one of these shootings has a story behind it, a story to tell. The gun victims and families and friends and coworkers. Everyday here on this show we are now going to be committed to telling you those stories about the real gun violence.

Our crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, is kind enough to join me now with a couple of these stories.

First, Joe, if you could just lay out for me to start with, you know, it's hard to -- now we're at two hours -- to give all the details behind these stories, but start with your first one.

JOE JOHNS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's true. Ashleigh, you know -- good morning. These reports that we see coming through here are staggering. They're frequent. It's a problem Americans are witnessing firsthand both in major urban areas as well as small towns. And while police officers face gun violence daily, guns aren't ordinarily what the citizens or first responders expect to see on the job.

Take a look at this first story. You probably heard about the case in metro Atlanta within the last 24 hours. A gunman in apparent financial ruin took four firefighters hostage. We now have the radio communication between when the firefighters alerted their dispatchers that there was a problem. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: We're in a situation where we have a -- an armed person, and he is requesting a certain -- certain utilities to be turned back on at his house, and he is armed, and we are in the room with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Oddly calm and sort of matter of fact there after several hours and growing fears that the guy with the gun might harm the firefighters. Law enforcement officials ended up shooting and killing the suspect.

And it's story about a Chicago store owner fighting back against would-be robbers. It's all caught on video. Two bad guys have a very bad day. They tried to hold up a Chicago souvenir shop and they shot the owner in the leg, but he fought back. The 62-year-old grabbed a bat and started swinging. One of the suspects accidentally shot his accomplice in the leg. He limps out of the store. The gunman jumps over-the-counter. The owner's brother-in-law throws a chair at the other robber and then chases him with a fire extinguisher. The owner is recovering from his injury. Police are still looking for those guys. What a scene to catch on video -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Oh. I can't take my eyes off that video -- Ashleigh?

JOHNS: Yes. It's just unbelievable.

BANFIELD: For one thing, look, if anyone finds themselves in a circumstance facing down a gun, while that may be extraordinarily brave, it can also get you killed.

JOHNS: Yes, for sure.

BANFIELD: A baseball bat is just no match.

JOHNS: I wouldn't recommend it.

BANFIELD: Thank god. Yes, Joe, thank god he is OK. Lord, that is violent.

Let me turn to something violent but just remarkably tragic in the nature of little children being involved now and gun violence. What do you know about this next story?

JOHNS: Right. This is just a truly tragic story out of Toms River, y New Jersey. The New Jersey star ledger reports today that the families making funeral arrangements tomorrow for 6-year-old Brandon Holt. He was shot earlier this week by a 4-year-old neighbor as the two boys played a pretend shooting game. The 4-year-old reportedly goes into his house returning a few minutes later with a loaded .22 caliber rifle that had been left unlocked and within reach of the toddler.

The neighbors are just still trying to make sense of this tragedy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED NEIGHBOR: They were just here for Easter dinner, and always smiling, always laughing. The cutest, cutest little boy.

UNIDENTIFIED NEIGHBOR: This is, you know, something that shouldn't have happened. I mean, it's horrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Brandon was shot from 45 feet away and died later in the hospital. "The Star Ledger" says the young shooter's family had recently moved into the neighborhood. Now the prosecutors are looking into this case to determine whether or not any charges are going to be filed -- Ashleigh? BANFIELD: Joe Johns, thank you. I'm sorry that task is morbid and difficult, but it is important. It's important for people to know what is happening in this country daily.

Joe Johns reporting for us.

And I want to take you back live now to Irving, Texas. There's a news conference that's getting underway with details of that overturned bus. Let's listen in.

SGT. LONNIE HASCHEL, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: We have two that are confirmed deceased right now. The passengers have been taken to hospitals throughout the Metroplex. We have agreements with several fire, police, EMS, that kind of thing. They're working to get the folks triaged. That's what you have seen in the live shots. That big yellow tarp that's out there, they're assessing injuries, determining who has the most serious injuries and then shipping those folks off to various hospitals depending on the severity of their injury.

BUD GILLETTE, REPORTER, CBS, 11 NEWS, KTVT: We were told that it's a Cardinal Coach out of Mansfield, is that correct?

HASCHEL: I don't have any information on the name of the coach or carrier or anything yet. That will all come out in the investigation. They were headed to one of the casinos. I do know that. Other than that, that's all I have for now.

GILLETTE: Do you know where they picked everybody up this morning, where they started?

HASCHEL: I don't have negotiation as to whether they picked everyone up or initiated. We're still on the emergency management kind of a stage while we're tending to those injured. Investigators will talk to the witnesses, the injured parties, and such.

GILLETTE: What happens now? I mean, this is a major freeway, 161. This is a toll way and 161 merges. It looks like it's all toll road, but it's actually -- this seconds is a Texas state highway because it was built before the toll road. What happened now? How long does it stay closed? What would you advise drivers who don't want to use this to do?

HASCHEL: Bud, we're going to keep the roadway closed until we have the investigation complete. We'll come out and do what he this call map the scene. They're going to take very specific measurements so we can figure out what happened and where everyone was at the time of the crash. We would encourage everyone if they're planning to take this home for a lunch meeting or something this afternoon, stay off of 161. It's going remain closed for some time. It's going to be closed for a while.

GILLETTE: The two people you say are deceased, were they taken to the hospital? Did they die en route?

HASCHEL: I don't have that information as of right now. I've just been informed that there are two deceased.

GILLETTE: Where is the ambulance taking the almost two dozen other people?

HASCHEL: The other folks are transported in the command staff for the fire department and EMS to make a determination as to the severity of the injury, where the people are transported. They're being taken to various hospitals throughout the Metroplex. They determine whether it goes via ground ambulance or air ambulance depending on the severity of the injury.

GILLETTE: Do you know how many went by air ambulance or ground ambulance?

HASCHEL: It's way too early for me to have that. They're still down there, when I came up to meet with you folks. They were still down there assessing injuries and getting people transported. They had ambulances lined up. I can't tell you that right now. That will come out later.

GILLETTE: I understand DART was president to service bringing the bus out here to remove people. Were they going to hospitals or taking the less injured back to where they started? Do you know what the function of the DART bus was?

HASCHEL: I don't have that information. If it's going to be a medical issue, that's probably going to be taken care of by an ambulance. But if we have people that were uninjured, that's where we call on the assistance of the DART folks to get people to a safe location.

GILLETTE: How important was it to have a mass casualty plan in place and to have all this -- all these other -- sorry -- looking for the word.

HASCHEL: We're fortunate here in the Metroplex to have a very well trained fire, police, EMS organization. They train well together and train together routinely for mass transit accidents, hoping it never happens. If it happens, like this afternoon, they've been trained and they're doing their job really well.

GILLETTE: Did this they do that here many this instance? Did it go according to plan when they found out the severity of this?

HASCHEL: We are working with what they call a mutual aid agreement, and when that happens everybody comes running. That's, again, we're very lucky here in the metro area to have the help of the police, fire, EMS, everybody working together.

GILLETTE: Sergeant, thank you very much for your time.

We are out here live still for this accident. Again, we have fatalities here. An unknown number at least at this position. An unknown number of people who have gone to local hospitals. Some in critical condition, we're told. Two of the people have been transported -- one was transported by helicopter. The rest have gone by ground according to the Sergeant Lonnie Haschel.

This highway is closed right now, and because of the fatalities, it's going to take a long time to do the investigation. It's likely to remain closed most of the day. We will certainly be here to keep people informed of what's going on, and bring you the very latest as we try to get our arms around the enormity of this tragedy out here in Irving.

Live in Irving, I'm Bud Gillette, CBS, 11 News.

BANFIELD: Again, Bud Gillette reporting for us from our affiliate, KTVT.

We're also getting pictures from our additional affiliate, WFAA. You can see the significance of this accident and you have also heard after now two dead, several injured, and I believe that statistic was one taken by helicopter to one of the local area hospitals.

The significance of these thoroughfares being closed down is not a small issue. North and east of Dallas, that is an extraordinarily busy series of freeway arteries. And you heard that trooper say they will remain closed until this investigation is done. But if you have ever been in that area near Texas State, the former Texas stadium, the toll way and 161 where they merge. It is going to be a very difficult day for those in Dallas, Texas, to be able to get around.

And obviously, families waiting to hear about the conditions of their loved ones who were injured in this crash in two tragic stories of those two who are deceased as well. More as we get it.

Meantime, a call from the defense secretary to overhaul the court- martial system that's been in place in this country since the 18th century. We're going to look at what the changes would mean, why it all came about, and changes for the accused and the victims of sexual violence in particular.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Lieutenant Colonel James Wilkerson was sprung from a military prison last year. He completed only four months of a year- long sentence for an aggravated sexual assault. How did the dangerous offender get out so soon? A fellow general dismissed his conviction. Tossed it out completely. There was absolutely nothing illegal about that, because it turns out there's a strange little exception in military justice that allows a commander to have some extraordinary powers that date back to the British empire. But now that power may be crumbling in a new push to overhaul the entire court-martial system.

Joining me now is Steven Raiser, who is a defense attorney and a former prosecutor and a judge advocate general, which we all know now as a JAG.

I thought of you because the first thing I was trying to get my head around, why it is something called a convening authority, which is essentially a commander, has such extraordinary power. Why in the first place does that exist?

STEVEN RAISER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, FORMER PROSECUTOR & JUDGE ADVOCATE GENERAL: Well, he's tasked with the responsibility of creating an atmosphere of control and discipline in the military. So in other words the buck stops with him. And he wants to make sure that his command is under his control. And there is literally nobody in that system that can override his opinion as to what the case requires.

BANFIELD: Totally legitimate argument. However, there is still a series of things you have to do in order to exact justice. We don't do summary justice in civilian courts. We don't do summary justice in military courts, but that's a summary justice.

RAISER: In a way, it only screams that way in one direction because what happens is he decides whether or not the case goes forward to begin with. The case goes forward and then it goes -- it's in part out of his hands. Once the trial begins, he's no longer part of it. So the trial begins and then a verdict is reached not by the commander but by a panel, a jury in essence.

BANFIELD: And then he can come in at the very end and say, you know, I'm not too fond of that outcome.

RAISER: That's exactly right. However, he cannot change the verdict from a not guilty to a guilty. But he can modify the sentence, and he can modify the verdict downward.

BANFIELD: So he can downwardly depart from what the jury of the peers decided in that action?

RAISER: Correct.

BANFIELD: In that process?

RAISER: Yes.

BANFIELD: And that is a bit similar to civilian justice, isn't it? Don't judges also have the authority to downwardly depart from not only verdict but sentences?

RAISER: Well, a judge can't depart from a jury verdict. The jury verdict stands. The only time there's some narrow exceptions to that --

BANFIELD: Well, I'm just thinking off the top of my head. The British nanny accused of shaking the child in her care, the judge actually said no to the jury verdict.

RAISER: Well, that's right. That's something that can be done. It is extremely rare. And it is based upon a review by the judge that would be subject to appellate review which indicates that the evidence was so sparse that no jury could have found a guilty verdict in that particular case. What's interesting in this case though first of all the military does not work that way. The commander does not need to give any justification and certainly not justification such as that. In fact, in the commander's justification in this particular case he indicates that there was in essence a prima facie case. In other words, the prosecution if you believe their theory of the case, they proved their case. He just felt that there wasn't enough evidence. So in essence --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: So juries are the finders of the fact, you know.

RAISER: He overruled that. That's the problem. That's what screams for changing the system.

BANFIELD: You have to come back because if what, you know, the Pentagon now wants to do is such a huge overhaul and stop this from happening, I want to see what it looks like. Will you come back?

RAISER: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: It's on the record, right here.

RAISER: Thank you very much. I'll be here.

BANFIELD: Steven Raiser, thanks very much. I appreciate it. I'm cutting you off early because I do have updated information on the bus crash in Irving, Texas.

We're now being told 36 people in total were taken to the hospital after that bus overturned. And I also know from the trooper interviewed live by Bud Gillette, the reporter for the affiliate that just did that for us, at least two died. They did not survive their injuries. We're continuing to watch for updates on that as well. We also know that the helicopter flights were enacted as well to get people even closer and quicker to the area hospitals even though ambulance traffic would have been fairly quick from that particular location.

Going to take a quick break and update you more when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: In Colorado, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office is in a bit of a pickle stemming from a marijuana bust, that they thought they were doing the right thing. The trouble is there was absolutely nothing illegal about Kaleb Young's pot plants. He was licensed to grow medical marijuana. Even though he provided documents proving that, they took away all of his plants. To make matters worse, they let those plants die while they were being held in evidence. And now Kaleb wants the next best thing to his plants back, he wants the sheriffs to pay up to the tune of nearly $250,000.

I want to bring in attorney, Rob Corry. He is representing Kaleb Young.

Rob, thank you for being with me on this.

First and foremost, in any case evidence is gathered, is the issue that the sheriff gathered it and he was acquitted? Or is the issue that the sheriff gathered the pot plants and didn't look after them while they were being held in evidence?

ROB CORRY, ATTORNEY FOR KALEB YOUNG: The issue is that the sheriff destroyed the value of the property before they got a conviction against the man they were trying to prosecute. And they never got a conviction, obviously. A jury exonerated Mr. Young completely, found he did nothing illegal. So at that point, normal principles of justice say the person gets a not-guilty verdict, the person gets all of his or her property back and everyone moves on. In this case the property was destroyed and the value of it was destroyed prematurely. So we're asking for compensation. And the numbers that we're using are law enforcement's own numbers for the value of these plants.

BANFIELD: OK. About $5,000 a plant, right?

CORRY: That's what they say.

BANFIELD: Do the math.

CORRY: That is correct.

BANFIELD: Let me ask you this, I don't think anybody would argue that the evidence was destroyed and it was destroyed in the possession of authorities. The only issue I want to ask you about as the defense attorney here is the federal law says that you're not allowed to grow pot plants. And that would effectively ask the sheriff deputies to be growers if they were supposed to sustain those plants, they would have to break federal law, isn't that right?

CORRY: No. That's not a legitimate argument. Federal law also says it's illegal to possess marijuana. So obviously the police possess marijuana. They took marijuana into their possession. But the bigger issue is local law enforcement has an outright exemption from federal law in the performance of their duties. So the performance of their duties if it is to acquire evidence then they won't be prosecuted under federal law. And in all of the tens of thousands of marijuana seizures that have happened in this country by local law enforcement authorities nationwide not once ever has a local law enforcement officer been prosecuted by the federal government for possession of marijuana even though police take possession of marijuana every day all over the United States.

BANFIELD: Rob Corry, thank you. Fascinating case. I look forward to finding out how you prevail. You'll have to come back and update us and join us. Thanks very much, Rob Corry, joining us live today.

CORRY: I'd love to. Thank you.

BANFIELD: That's all the time I have. Unfortunately, I'd love to talk to you forever, but I have to pause now because AROUND THE WORLD is coming up next.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Michael Holmes. Hello everyone. Happy Thursday. We do begin in Texas. Bad news out of there. MALVEAUX: Breaking news. This is out of the Dallas area. At least two people have been killed in a bus accident. This is on President George Bush Turnpike. It's a charter bus that was heading to casinos in Oklahoma when it overturned. You can see it there, just a dramatic picture, tragic there. Two people have been killed. Dozens now taken to the hospital.