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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
Pistorius Indicted; Mubarak Acquitted of Squandering Money; Fighting to Contain Beaver Creek Fire; Southeast Soaked; Filner Returns to Work as Petition to Remove Continues; Scotland Yard Look at New Info on Diana's Death; Penn State Starts Settling Abuse Claims; San Francisco Fire Department Bans Helmet Cams After Plane Crash
Aired August 19, 2013 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Monday, August 19th. And welcome to the "LEGAL VIEW" where we dig into the day's top legal stories and the top news stories, as well. And here's where we begin -- Olympian Oscar Pistorius has officially now, officially been indicted for murder. He was in court today on what would have been the 30th birthday of his girlfriend and victim, Reeva Steenkamp.
Look at the crush of the press. That may be the story itself, the remarkable circus around Pistorius as he left the courtroom this morning.
Now he admits that he killed her but says it was an accident. CNN has more live from Pretoria, South Africa.
Among the crush of journalists covering the story, Robyn, the significance of today because we already knew he'd be facing the charges, what did today mean in South African law, Robyn?
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, besides that circus, which I think is going to continue throughout this trial, there's intense, you know, media and public interest in, of course, the Oscar Pistorius drama
What was very key about today was that essentially the state's case was laid out. What is really important is that they decided to stick with that charge of premeditated and planned murder.
Now that comes with a basic sentence of 25 years. That's life under South African law.
Now, is there enough evidence, enough forensic evidence to back that up? Are they pushing their luck? Listen to what a legal analyst told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: If they appear to have a tenuous case for premeditated murder, the rest of their indictment appears to paint a picture of a fight and killing her in the spur of the moment.
It's difficult to argue on the one hand murder and spur of the moment, but premeditation at the same time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: OK, what was also interesting about this indictment today was the list of names of people who will be called as witnesses. There were more than 100 witnesses listed on this indictment.
Lawyers I'd spoken to say that's extraordinary. You know, in cases like this, you should have a handful, 10 at the most perhaps. What does that mean? Does it mean that the case is really -- the state is throwing everything at this case?
That they really, really want to secure a conviction, or does it indicate, perhaps, a weakness in their case? That there's perhaps not enough forensic evidence to back up this premeditative murder charge?
So what is clear about having more than 100 witnesses in addition to, of course, the defense's witnesses is this is going to be a very, very long trial.
BANFIELD: Robyn Curnow in a very noisy South Africa. The trial set to start next year.
Our legal correspondent, Jean Casarez, joins me now. You've been researching South African law. It is not the same as here. What's the biggest difference between how Oscar Pistorius will be treated over there as to how he'd be treated here?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: I would say he does not have a jury trial. It is a judge. That's similar to when I was in Peru for Jordan van der Sloot. There was a three-judge panel. This judge will determine his guilt or innocence.
Such a significant day today in South Africa because this case has now been bound over for trial from the lower magistrate court to the high court, and that is the court that entertains serious felonies such as murder.
BANFIELD: They don't have the death penalty.
CASAREZ: They do not have the death penalty, but it's interesting. In this indictment they do not say premeditated murder. They say intentional murder.
According to South African law, prosecutors can proceed on a number of theories. Premeditated murder is life in prison --
BANFIELD: Does life mean life there?
CASAREZ: Life means life. Yes. Yes, it does.
BANFIELD: A lot of countries life doesn't mean life. Life means maybe you might get out in 15. That the case there?
CASAREZ: Right. This is premeditated murder. Life is life.
When you look at this case, we now see the witness list, over 100 witnesses. They may not call them all.
This is going to be based on Oscar Pistorius' statement which says that he was on his prosthetic legs. The trajectory of the shot will determine if he's truthful in that or if he was on his stumps.
And also the trajectory into the body of Reeva. Was she on the toilet or standing at the sink, or was she couched in the corner?
And neighbors will be called as witnesses to testify the screams that they heard, the silence they heard, then the shots.
BANFIELD: So my assumption is maybe we go have a year worth of trial. They're probably going to bring in as much forensics in that case as we would see here because they do play huge into that.
Keep on it, and thank you for digging into the South African law. I know it's a tricky business. So, Jean Casarez for us, thank you for that.
A couple of other big stories to bring you up to speed on. Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak scored a legal victory this morning. A court in Cairo acquitted him in connection to charges of squandering public money.
You'll remember that Mubarak stepped down after the Egyptian uprising. That was the one in 2012.
He is still scheduled, however, to face trial over the alleged role of the death of some protesters. That could be far more serious for the former president.
Here in the United States, 1,200 firefighters in Idaho trying to get a handle on a massive wildfire before it gets any bigger. Look at the picture, swallowing a mountain.
The Beaver Creek Wildfire has burned one home and scorched more than 100,000 acres. Firefighters say it did slow down over the weekend. But the problem is it's only about nine percent contained.
And from wildfires to the antithesis of that, flooding and a lot of it in the Southeast. Just incredible video to show you.
John Fitzhugh of "The Sun Herald" took video in Gulfport, Mississippi, yesterday. That is a dangerous business walking along as the ocean creeps up on you.
Southern Mississippi got soaked with six inches of rain, leaving one church completely surrounded by waist-deep water. A lot of parishioners wondering if they were going to make it out to their cars or just stay and wait. Many doing the latter.
Flood watch flood -- flash flood watches out for Georgia and Florida today. Please heed the warnings, people. Flash floods are serious business, and they kill thousands of people every year. Please be careful. A petition drive is under way in San Diego, and it's to remove the mayor of that town, Bob Filner. Sixteen women have now come forward so far to accuse that mayor of sexual misconduct, but opponents need to get 101,000 signatures in a very short period of time, before late September, in order to trigger a recall vote.
Mayor Filner returns to work this week after undergoing what he called behavior therapy treatment.
Coming up this hour on the LEGAL VIEW, the death of Princess Diana in the news again today, 16 years after it happened. But there is some brand new fuel on the fire as to what killed her or who killed her.
Also today, New Jersey set to be the second state in the union to outright ban gay conversion therapy for minors, this coming from a Republican governor and a popular governor. We'll dig into the legality and strategy and the politics behind that decision.
Plus, a Marine, a hero, a veteran who fought for this country told by the NCAA, just sit on the sidelines while everybody else plays football, all this despite the university wanting him on that team.
What? What? What is behind this outrage? Steven Rhodes will join me live this hour.
BANFIELD: The lead British investigator in Princess Diana's death is now commenting publicly on some new conspiracy claims that Diana's death may not have been an accident, may have been a target.
In 2006, the former Metropolitan police commissioner, Lord Stevens, had an investigation that found there was no conspiracy. But today a spokesman for him said this.
"Lord Stevens presided over a thorough and far-reaching investigation at the time. If anything new has come to light, it should be passed to its rightful place at the Met" -- Metropolitan police -- "who will, no doubt, look into the matter appropriately."
Well, as it turns out, the police actually are looking at this new information, but -- but -- a big but -- not saying it's a reinvestigation. But what is it?
Erin McLaughlin has more.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New questions launched by a shocking new allegation claiming British special forces were behind the deaths of Princess Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Al-Fayed, it's the latest conspiracy theory about Diana's death coming almost 16 years after that horrific middle of the night car crash, a high-speed paparazzi chase through a tunnel in Paris with a deadly end.
Scotland Yard put out a statement saying it is, quote, "scoping" new information, "assessing its relevance and credibility."
According to the British newspaper, the "Sunday People," the claim surfaced in a seven-page letter written by the estranged in-laws of an unidentified special forces sniper.
In a handwritten letter, they allege their former son-in-law boasted that the British SAS was behind the deaths.
MARK SAUNDERS, ROYAL ANALYST: People don't want to believe that somebody as loved as Princess Diana can just die in a road accident. It just isn't enough. They want more.
MCLAUGHLIN: Scotland Yard has made it clear. For the moment, the new claims will not reopen the exhaustive investigation which concluded that Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were killed by the gross negligence of their driver and of the paparazzi chasing them that night.
Buckingham Palace is not commenting, but those who know the royal family have been quick to dismiss the claim.
DICKIE ARBITER, FORMER ROYAL PRESS SECRETARY: There's not a lot they can do. There will always be people coming up with conspiracy theories. And the best they can do is get on with their lives in the normal way.
BANFIELD: Erin McLaughlin joins me live now from London.
Listen, Erin, Princess Diana's death has been investigated and been questioned over and over for 16 years. Is there any thought that this new information is going to be a game-changer?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's not entirely clear, Ashleigh. Royal commentators I've spoken to says this changes nothing. It's just one more conspiracy theory, they say, to add to the pile.
However, this is the first new information that the police are assessing since the inquest into Diana's death concluded in 2008.
So why this information, and why now, just days away from the 16th anniversary of Princess Diana's death? The police here at Scotland Yard simply aren't saying, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: We'll continue to watch.
Erin McLaughlin, keep us updated. Thank you for that.
Coming up, a big settlement with Penn State University, one of Jerry Sandusky's victims getting his due, and he's not the only one because others are lining up for compensation.
Will the university be able to dole out what it needs to? Will the university avoid a public, messy, dirty courtroom battle?
That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BANFIELD: Welcome back to THE LEGAL VIEW, I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Penn State University has officially settled with one of the victims of Jerry Sandusky's abuse. It's supposedly in the millions of dollars, though no one is saying. According to the university's attorney, 25 more settlement are close to being finished. Sandusky is, of course, serving 30 to 60 years for sexually abusing numerous children. Joining me now is out legal team this morining, CNN legal analysts Mark NeJame and Paul Callan.
Let me start with you, Mark. Welcome, by the way. It's nice to see you up here on the set and the new show.
MARK NEJAME, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you.
BANFIELD: $60 million sounds like a lot of money. But when you have the number of victims that we're talking about in this case, A, is it enough money, and B, do they have to parse this out well in advance of getting into the discussions with each of these victims?
NEJAME: I think they estimated it, but you're right, it's really not enough if you think about the real abuse that got heaped on these young people. They've lost their childhood. How do you put a value on that? If in fact you take the number of purported victims, or victims who have come out, and you divide it by the 60, each is looking at a couple of million dollars.
BANFIELD: There's the question. That sounds like a logical way of doing it, but some people were affected by Jerry Sandusky's abuse before some of the authorities were supposed to have known about what happened, and some people were affected after, which, Paul, would make me think that their settlement might be higher because there is theoretically more blame on the university for not stopping the continuation of these acts. Is that true? Does it matter?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure. It's another way of saying it's a provable case in court. One of the big problems you have with the cases, the older the case gets, if the university wasn't on notice of this behavior, then it's hard to hold them liable. Now of course, the reports are that this settlement is with victim number five. And this went down supposedly after the famous shower scene when the university became aware that Sandusky had this problem. This was a strong liability case. I would imagine this is one of the stronger settlements that will be negotiated.
BANFIELD: What about wild cards? We don't even know, probably, the length of abuse and victims out there who've never came forward. But now knowing there might be money, how do you account for them?
NEJAME: You really don't. You just have to really put it out there. And I suspect that at some point there's going to be word out there that all claimants need to go ahead and have their claims put in or otherwise they do run the risk of losing it. But you know --
BANFIELD: You can do that? NEJAME: Well, it depends if statutes of limitations have passed on all these or not. And we don't know about the exact abuse that took place with each of the allegations. You can have a sex abuse with a statute of limitation, or you can have some that are cap sex battery and they're not going to have any statue of limitation.
BANFIELD: Sounds like we'll be doing this story more and more. The criminal cases aren't even done yet either. Paul Callan and Mark NeJame, hold those fought for a moment if you will. Love you to stick around because we have a lot more legal discussion for the two of you coming up.
Remember that plane crash at San Francisco airport, and the amazing pictures that came from the helmet cam of the firefighters on scene? We've got some of the pictures from the helmet cam, but now the chief says no more cameras like this. Why would the chief say that? Is it to protect her department, or is it to protect us, the public, because we also can be targeted with those helmet cams? Find out when we come back.
BANFIELD: Welcome back to THE LEGAL VIEW, I'm Ashleigh Banfield.
There is an ongoing investigation into the death of a 16-year-old girl, one of three people who were killed when that Asiana airliner crashed in San Francisco last month. A fire department rig ran her over on the runway. She was still alive when that happened. A firefighter's helmet cam was rolling at the time and caught a lot of the scene shots.
The still images of the footage were published in "The San Francisco Chronicle," and that opened a can of worms, because now the city's fire chief is banning the firefighters from using helmet cameras. That chief says that filming the scene may have violated both the firefighter's privacy as well as the victim's privacy. The critics are jumping in, and they're questioning the timing of the ban because the footage may actually implicate the department in that teenager's death.
I want it bring in legal analyst Lisa Bloom. She's an analyst for Avvo.com. Thanks for being on the program. Look, I understand both sides of this argument. But it does seem a little bit fishy, the timing of it all, doesn't it?
LISA BLOOM, LEGAL ANALYST, AVVO.COM: It's more than a little fishy. When someone's looking to ban photography, you have to look at whose interest is being protected. This remind me very much of those terrible ag-gag bills getting passed across the country that prevent people from taking a camera inside a factory farm and documenting the animal abuses that go on there.
This is not a private place. A jet runway where an accident occurred and firefighters are going in, anyone would have a legal right to take pictures of that scene. So this is not a privacy issue. This is not a matter of going into somebody's home, for example, or even their office. And clearly there's been so much criticism of the way that the firefighters handled that situation, potentially causing the death of a teenager. That clearly this is designed to protect the law enforcement and fire department.
BANFIELD: Yes, I see that point. But you know, here in New York, the stop and frisk issue also brought up the issue of privacy. Say, for instance, officers are responding to a domestic incident and there are children present. And by the way, where does that video live after the officers leave the scene? I mean, there are a lot of privacy issues if you think about it. Doesn't that factor in fairly?
BLOOM: Well, look, if police officers are going into someone's home and a camera is rolling, yes. Now we're talking about a place where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their home. But you can always hold onto that tape, that recording, you can have procedures in place to protect it and make sure it doesn't get out in the public domain if it is supposed to be private. That's a very different situation than what we're talking about with firefighters on the tarmac after there's been a plane crash.
BANFIELD: And I always wonder if the risk of the liability -- don't forget, this is all public money when it comes to suing the fire department. Means you're suing the citizens enthusiast jurisdiction. Does that risk of liability ever outweigh the benefit of having that evidence, and that evidence can be for criminal procedure, for civil procedure. It can also be for training, and for understanding what went right and what went wrong.
BLOOM: And Ashleigh, you and I have covered so many crime stories where, thank goodness, there was a videotape, thank goodness there was some recording of what happened so that we get out of a he said/she said situation and we can see for ourselves what happened. I mean these videotapes are incredibly important not only for firefighters to find out what happened if they made a mistake, let's look at the tape, let's find out what happened and correct it for the future. Not just for lawsuits but for taking corrective action and remedial actions for the future.
BANFIELD: Look, I work in TV. My business is based on video and television and images. I got a skin in the game here. Lisa, it's good to see you, thanks so much.
BLOOM: Our mistakes are recorded.
BANFIELD: I hear you. Lisa Bloom, legal analyst for Avvo.com, joining us live from the west coast. Always nice to see you. Appreciate your analysis.
BLOOM: Thank you.
BANFIELD: Another case coming up for you. This might just make your blood boil, because Involves a marine who fought for this country, fought for you and me, for five years. We should be giving him everything we can, right? Now Steven Rhodes wants to play a little college football and the NCAA is saying, nah, I think you should sit on the sidelines. What, what? What, what, what? He's going to join me. We're going to back this story coming up.