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Teens Arrested in Connection with Audrie Pott Suicide; Georgia High School to have First Integrated Prom; Latest in the Jodi Arias Trial
Aired April 12, 2013 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield and we begin with a storyline that we're hearing all too frequently about lately, teenagers, allegations of sex assault, cell phone photos, social media, and now suicide.
Gone is this girl, 15-year-old Audrie Pott. She hanged herself after learning that she'd been sexually assaulted and photographed while naked and passed out, drunk.
Now in custody, three 16-year-old boys who are accused of doing it. Here is CNN affiliate KGO.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of the 16-year-olds are accused of attacking Audrie Pott.
LAUREN CERRI, POTT FAMILY ATTORNEY: What happened to Audrie was tragic. It should never have happened. I hope that they are brought to justice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Detectives say, on December 2nd of last year, Audrie was at an unsupervised house party. She drank too much and passed out.
That's when they say three fellow classmates took advantage.
CERRI: She has no idea what occurred until she woke up the following morning and had some drawing on her body in some private areas.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The boys also took photos during the attack and not only showed them off at school, but also texted and posted them online.
Audrie quickly found out and posted this on her Facebook page. Quote, "They took pictures of me. My life is ruined. This is the worst day ever."
The 15-year-old took her own life a few days later.
SAMIR INGLE, STUDENT: Some friends told me what happened to Audrie and why it happened and who the people were and stuff like that, so it's really shocking at first, yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Saratoga High School was in mourning after Audrie's death. There was a moment of silence, counselors came to campus and, all the while, students say, the boys many knew were involved continued to walk the halls until today.
INGLE: That it took that long was pretty ridiculous. It was half a year. September? Yeah, I found that really, really disturbing.
BANFIELD: I want to bring in our CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin as well as CNN legal contributor and defense attorney Paul Callan.
Paul, let me begin with you. This has taken a long time to get to this stage now, charges, in fact, between seven and eight months long.
Does that sound like it's too long or just about right?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: No. It sounds like it's taken an awfully long time.
I'm very curious to see what the details are going to be. If we have photos of her being sexually abused or raped while she was helpless, that's clearly a rape under law and it's really shocking that it's taken this long.
But we're going to have to see what law enforcement had in their hands at the time.
BANFIELD: And you mentioned those photos. Sunny, I want to bring you in on that.
Apparently, the allegations are some of these photos were of her naked with drawings on her body. And I'm trying to equate that with the charge of sexual battery. What does that charge mean?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, the bottom line is, it's a sexual assault.
If you have a rape, including a sexual battery, you have someone being harmed and drawn on and that sort of thing. It escalates the behavior.
But I completely agree with Paul, this is -- I'm just shocked that law enforcement would take this long to act. This sort of situation happens all across our country. Unfortunately, you have drinking and then you have this kind of sexual assault happen.
And, so, I guess we don't know enough yet, but it's shocking to me that it took a little girl to commit suicide for law enforcement to act. It just really doesn't make any sense.
BANFIELD: And, look, this is not the first story we've told of this ilk.
BANFIELD: It's starting to get to the point where we're losing track.
Paul, right now I think they're looking at two felonies and a misdemeanor each and all of those related to just the sexual battery allegations.
What about all of the other things? Disseminating child pornography? Because that's what a cell phone picture is of a young girl that's naked. And what about the potential charges down the line that might connect to the actual death?
CALLAN: You know, it's reminiscent of the Tyler Clementi case, the Rutgers suicide case, of course. We went through much of the same discussion about New Jersey law. This is a different jurisdiction, California.
But the sexual battery, as Sunny said, a touching of the girl in the area of anything that's sexually oriented, her breasts or any part of her body like that, that might be depicted in the photograph makes out a sexual battery.
But we don't know what else law enforcement has. And I'm wondering, maybe they didn't have access to this social media. Maybe the kids had these things and now they've only come to light.
BANFIELD: Paul, a picture is a picture. If you e-mail a picture of a naked girl who's 15-years-old, that is pornography and there are kids who have actually become registered sexual offenders because of that.
CALLAN: Oh, it absolutely is. It's a violation of federal law ...
HOSTIN: That happened in Steubenville, right?
CALLAN: ... violation of state law.
BANFIELD: Yeah, we've seen it in Steubenville. We've seen it in New Jersey.
Legislators can't even keep up with this sort of notion of sexting and naked photographs of even children who have their own naked pictures of themselves on their phones. CALLAN: It's what you have to wonder about. You know, given Steubenville and the publicity that that received, that these kids are out there still doing this, taking pictures, it's utterly disgraceful.
And there's some message that's not getting through to these young people that this is criminal behavior, it's rape, it's sexual battery, and you go to prison for it.
Why is this message not getting through to these kids? I really -- I'm not -- I don't understand.
BANFIELD: Or perhaps -- Sunny, maybe weigh in on this -- this is all contemporaneous. It's all been happening, at least coming to light, a lot of these very high-profile cases in the last several months.
HOSTIN: Yeah. You know, I think it's a direct result of sort of the ubiquitous nature of the Internet and how all of the teens now have cell phones and now have the capabilities of taking these pictures rather than back in the day where they would talk about it, right, and perhaps talk about it amongst themselves.
Now we have people Facebooking and tweeting about it and taking pictures.
But I think to Paul's point, my goodness, is this a matter of educating our children? You know, the message needs to get out there.
But this is something, in my view, that's been happening for quite some time, this sort of date-rape phenom involving young people and drinking and drugs, ending in sexual assault
BANFIELD: We have a dead teenager. We've got a dead teenager here and that speaks to the question I asked earlier, and that was, what about the proximate notion that three days from the event she committed suicide? Is there any kind of connection that can be made with the charge there?
HOSTIN: I don't think so.
CALLAN: I'm sorry. Go ahead.
HOSTIN: No, Paul, I don't know if you agree with me. I don't think so. This is exactly like what happened with Tyler Clementi. I just -- I don't know that you can bring any sort of murder charge against ...
CALLAN: It has to be -- you know, though I agree with Sunny, the law says has to be, reasonable foreseeable that somebody would commit suicide.
Now I don't know. Maybe you could make an argument that this is such a tragic thing that you'd have to consider that suicide would be a possibility.
BANFIELD: If you can't make it with the prosecutor, maybe that can be made in civil court. I have to rap it up there guys, but if you could both stay with me, I have a bunch of legal cases I want to get you both to weigh in on, not the least of which, this one.
It's 2013, last we checked, and one Georgia county is about to make history because for the first time ever that county is having an integrated prom. Really.
Our Gary Tuchman is going to tell you all about this one, next.
BANFIELD: Next year marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that integrated education in America. In May of 1954, the court ruled that separating students by race is profoundly unconstitutional.
So it may come as a bit of a shock that in April of 2013, two weeks from tomorrow, in fact, a public high school in Georgia will have two proms, one white, one integrated.
You heard me right. Now try to wrap your mind around this little ditty. 2013 is the first year that students at Wilcox County High will even have the choice of a mixed race prom because, up until now, there'd been one prom for the white kids and another prom for the black kids.
And finally some kids said, that's it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARESHIA RUCKER, INTEGRATED PROM ORGANIZER: We share everything else together, why not have this one moment that means the world of us together?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Now, those students spoke with my colleague Gary Tuchman who is kind enough to join me from Atlanta.
So many questions and I think it's so surprising to a lot of people who are seeing this play out in real-time.
First to the technicalities, everybody says, that can't possibly be legal. But it is. Why is that?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you were talking about the decision Brown versus the Board of Education 59 years ago.
And after it was ruled illegal to have segregated school, there were a lot of academic institutions were very disingenuous, but they decided to deal with proms because so many parents were against their children mixing at the proms, was to no longer publicly sponsor the proms.
So they said, the proms will now be private. So all these years later, there are still some high schools in the United States that basically have these white proms and these black proms and the schools can't get in trouble because they're not officially sponsored. They're private proms.
BANFIELD: Private proms. So that's my First Amendment right to associate any way I please. I get it.
But I do want to read this statement from the Wilcox County school board, it says, "The board and superintendent not only applaud the idea on an integrated prom, but passed a resolution requesting that all activities involving WCS students be inclusive and nondiscriminatory.
"We support the efforts of these ladies and we praise their efforts to bring our students together.
"Instead of attacking our school system, we ask for your support and prayers as we seek to right the wrongs of the past and be the adults that our children look up to."
I'm just curious, how did you feel as you navigated your way through this story? Did it seem as though, if it weren't for just a handful of students, we'd still have the status quo?
TUCHMAN: I think this is what's really interesting, Ashleigh. Wilcox County, Georgia, which three hours south of here in Atlanta, a very pleasant place.
Cotton fields, it's beautiful, great weather, nice people, very nice people, and this is what is so interesting. When we've talked to people who have controversial viewpoints, a lot of them don't want to talk on camera, but everyone was willing to talk with me on camera there.
Everyone was very polite and very nice, despite the fact that many of these people, not only parents, but students had the same old-fashion views.
Listen to one of the former students who just graduated recently. Listen to what he had to say to me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There should be two separate proms.
TUCHMAN: Tell me why you feel that way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I don't feel like there should be black boys going with white girls, I don't like that. I don't believe in it. I wasn't raised that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: So, Ashleigh, he says he wasn't raised that way to accept black boys -- that's his quote -- and white girls at the same prom.
And you certainly hear that from a lot of people, but it's very fair to say that there are not only many students at Wilcox County High School, but many parents say it's time to make a change.
BANFIELD: And you've done quite an investigation. You've got a special report coming up tonight. You can give me the promo for it right now.
TUCHMAN: Yes, I will give you the promo. I'll be the promo person here at CNN, but I will tell you, yes, tonight on "Anderson Cooper 360," which is 8:00 Eastern time, 7:00 Central time, 6:00 Mountain time and 5:00 Pacific time ...
BANFIELD: Look at you, doing the math live.
TUCHMAN: I like to be inclusive. And I (inaudible) Hawaiian time and Alaskan time to my friends, but anyway, what I do want to tell you, not only will we have an update on this and more information about it, but we did get a surprise response from the school superintendent when we asked him, hey, isn't it time to have the guts to publicly sponsor a prom with white students and black students?
You have them in your high schools. You have them in your football and basketball teams. Isn't it time to publicly support this? His surprise response about that.
BANFIELD: We'll get that tonight? I'm assuming that's what you're about to say, right?
TUCHMAN: You'll get that tonight, yes.
BANFIELD: All right, thank you, Gary Tuchman.
I want to bring back in, actually, Sunny Hostin and Paul Callan on this because Gary and I just touched on this, but there is that very critical First Amendment right to associate with whomever you please at any time. And isn't that, Paul, essentially what this is all about down there?
CALLAN: Well, it is, in the sense that I suppose you can be a member of an exclusive country club and have your own rules for admission. But the problem I have with this -- we eliminated segregation in the early 1950s -- why hasn't the Board of Education down there said, "We're sponsoring an official prom and everybody come."
Instead, they're sanctioning this by saying, all right, we're not going to have a prom. Do your own. So you get a white prom and a black or African-American prom. And I think it's disgraceful in this day and age. They should step up to the plate and sponsor an official integrated prom and join the 21st century.
BANFIELD: And so Sunny, again, I can't help but bring up this argument. As outrageous as it may seem to see a segregated prom in 2013, this is sort of a demonstration of our dearly protected rights. I mean, if I want to have a girl's book club with you, isn't that kind of the same deal?
HOSTIN: Well, I think given the history of the south and given the history of our country, it's very different, actually. BANFIELD: How?
HOSTIN: I agree with Paul, that the answer here really is to have the board step up and the school --
BANFIELD: So it's a morality issue, it's not a legal issue, Sunny? That's what you're saying.
HOSTIN: It's not.
BANFIELD: It's a morality issue?
HOSTIN: Yes, it's a morality issue and I'm saddened by it on so many levels. You know, one, specifically as a person who's biracial, whose parents at some time in this country couldn't get married. And we're sort of run out. My father always tells this story about how he was with my mom in the Deep South and the KKK ran them out in the early '60s.
And so I'm saddened that in a time when we're talking about the Supreme Court considering gay marriage and considering civil rights issues, that you have people that aren't stepping up to the plate and you have people sort of living a way of life that I thought was really behind us.
BANFIELD: So since you brought up the gay marriage issue, Paul, I want to throw this one at you. It's a bit of an apples and oranges issue, but it's not. You know, elsewhere in Georgia, Masters Golf Tournament is underway, so it brings up the memory of last year -- women finally being allowed into that club. But the curiosity here is if places like Wilcox County or Augusta, do they matter when it comes to decision making for legislators and courts when they're dealing with marriage rights, same-sex couples, these kinds of things?
CALLAN: Well, they do because it sends a message. And you know, in a strange way, Augusta is sort of the classic private exclusive club and their exclusion of women sends a message that it's proper for the powerful and the wealthy to sanction this kind of behavior. It's a moral issue. Admittedly under the U.S. Constitution, the government can't force it. But I think places like Augusta should think long and hard about the message that they send to the entire nation, and this school district should think long and hard about it when it doesn't sanction an integrated prom.
BANFIELD: All right, so you have that from Paul and Sunny and also from Gary. And I just want to again promote. Gary's special report is coming up tonight "ANDERSON COOPER 360". It starts at 8:00 Eastern Time right here on CNN.
But I want to give the final word to somebody - we don't usually do this, but this one, for today, it's special -- a resident of Wilcox County who has seen a fair share of history, let me tell you that, and wants to see a little more. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really do believe it's time. Let bygones be gone and let's all live together in peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: The Jodi Arias murder trial has become such a huge case that even the witnesses are getting thrown into the national spotlight but not in the way that they'd like to. It's actually kind of scary, what's happening. The defense's domestic violence expert, Alyce Laviolette, has been on the stand for about 11 days now and in that time she's been absolutely eviscerated online.
CNN's Ted Rowlands has this story.
JUAN MARTINEZ, PROSECUTOR: Yes or no, thank you.
ALYCE LAVIOLETTE, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE EXPERT: I said yes.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENET (voice-over): Prosecutor Juan Martinez isn't the only one going after Alyce Laviolette. The domestic violence expert hired by the Jodi Arias defense team has become the target of trial watchers who want to see Arias convicted.
On Twitter, the attacks are nearly constant while she's on the stand, many of them personal and extremely profane. On Amazon.com, Laviolette's book, "It Could Happen to Anyone: Why Battered Women Stay," is getting slammed not by readers but by people attacking her because she's a defense witness for Jodi Arias. One reviewer writes, "Yes, we are angry at you," and calls Laviolette a fraud.
There's even a Change.org petition with more than 5,000 signatures to get her fired from a future speaking engagement. It was started by Erin Murray, who's watching the trial at home in Oklahoma.
ERIN ABRAHAM MURRAY, ARIAS TRIAL WATCHER: I don't feel bad for her if she's getting negative reactions from her testimony because she went in with her own free will to testify.
ROWLANDS: A friend who has been accompanying her here at the courthouse every day says that Alyce Laviolette knew it was going to be difficult to testify, but says that she is shocked at how vicious people have been to her.
And she's not the only witness to feel the wrath of Jodi Arias trial watchers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The truth, the whole truth, so help you God?
ROWLANDS: Gus Searcy, who worked with Jodi Arias, testified in January on her behalf. He says he was not prepared for the hate mail he received after getting off the stand.
GUS SEARCY, DEFENSE WITNESS: I had no idea there would be so much character assassination accumulated with it. ROWLANDS: Alyce Laviolette is going to finish her testimony before court adjourns for the week, leaving the stand open for the next witness, whose testimony may also bring out unwanted enemies.
Ted Rowlands, CNN, Phoenix.
BANFIELD: And Alyce LaViolette is going to be answering more jury questions today, so it's not over yet. And with every new day comes harassment online. And it goes even beyond just online harassment too. One of her friends told "The Arizona Republic" that LaViolette is getting angry phone calls and e-mails at her office in Long Beach, California, one of them so serious that her colleagues had to call the police.
In fact, the friend said that the stress of the harassment sent LaViolette to the E.R. last weekend for anxiety attacks and palpitation. And remember, there was one day last week that she ended her testimony early due to illness. Wednesday, she reportedly had dinner with her defense attorney, and someone followed her, took photos of her, and posted the photos online. It is quite a new phenomenon.
I want to bring in "In Session" correspondent Jean Casarez, who is outside the courthouse in Phoenix, and also joining me is criminal defense attorney Jose Baez, who defended Casey Anthony and knows a thing or two about threats and harassment and media circus, shall we say.
Jean, just to you first, for a little reporting on this. You're there every day. You see the throngs of people who come from even out of state, a long way away, to watch this trial. But even you as a regular court watcher and reporter, this has to be surprising to you, the level to which people have gone to harass this witness.
JEAN CASAREZ, IN SESSION CORRESPONDENT: I've never seen this level. I truly have not. And sitting in that courtroom, we continually see Laviolette along with the defense team go through the door to the judge's chambers. And I thought that it was because of the cross- examination, which is very strong and it can be strong, it should be strong, but it being looks like there's much more to this.
And I have seen her in the courtroom just not looking well. I mean, looking very pale and just seemingly going downhill healthwise. I've witnessed it. But the power of this social movement that is happening right now is very strong and I think any witness for the defense could be a target of it.
BANFIELD: And I'm going to touch on that with you as well in a moment because I want to get to the possibility, if there is a death penalty phase in this case, I want to see what the effect of what's going on now could be on a second phase.
But Jose, to you, you have been through this. You were at the center of a searing spotlight for months during Casey Anthony. Did it rise to this level for you or any of your defense experts?
JOSE BAEZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It got pretty bad but I think it's -- one, it depends on how you handle it. This is a witness and this is -- what I call this actually is e-lynching. People want to purvey the province of the jury and they want to be a part of the process, and they think that they can intimidate or bully someone into either changing their opinions or affecting their testimony or, worse, their lives.
This is pathetic. It's cowardly and it should be against the law. There should be a movement to change this.
BANFIELD: I have a legal question for you about that, because it got me thinking, you can't intimidate witnesses during a trial and oftentimes people are prosecuted for that very thing. But this is weird. These aren't people associated with the defense or prosecution. These are just people watching. So can't you say that this is their First Amendment right to express how they feel to somebody who's got a public online presence?
BAEZ: No, it isn't, because you don't have the right to harass or intimidate a person. That's called stalking. And you can cyberstalk someone, you can have harassing phone calls. They are all against the law. And if it rises to a certain level of harassment and intimidation, it becomes against the law.
But the problem is she's on the stand right now on a death penalty trial; she doesn't have the time to go on the blogosphere and Twitter to try and actually stand up to some of these people who are trying to ruin her name. I think it's nothing short of pathetic. If you want to be law and order, respect law and order.
BANFIELD: OK, Jean, just quickly to you, I've got 10 seconds left, but I need you to weigh in on the possibility that there may be other experts out there awaiting their turn on that same witness stand who may think twice because of what has happened to Laviolette.
CASAREZ: Well, let's talk about the penalty phase. Friends, family, associates to come to try to save her life, maybe they decide it's not worth it and not show up.
And, Ashleigh, I want to say very quickly, some of the juror questions are very personal to Laviolette. I mean, "Do you hate men?" basically, has been one of the questions. "Why do you continually look to your left?" And she says, "My 93-year-old father is in the gallery and my kindergarten friends that I have known my whole life have been to support me. I've looked at them."
BANFIELD: Well, you know what? I smell a potential appellate case if that's the case. It's very troubling and it's very unique, and I think we're in uncharted waters here.
Jean Casarez, thank you very much. And also be sure to watch today's testimony on HLN and CNN.com. Jean has just been doing phenomenal work on parsing through the very, very intricate issues of this case. And Jose Baez, you're going to stay with me for a moment because I have another story somewhat related to case, although a little bit different.
It's this woman, it's Casey Anthony. The thoughts inside her head -- effectively her life story -- can they be bought and sold before they are even expressed on paper? Does someone have the right to her brain, effectively? It is a weird legal question. We're going to try to figure it out in a moment.