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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
Was White Widow Involved in Kenya Mall Attack; Shiping Bao Is M.E. in Marlon Brown Death; Is Michael Jackson Wrongful Death Trial Based on Emotions, Money?
Aired September 25, 2013 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question because those that were in Syria last month, one of their tasks, the U.N. says, is to go to a town where one of the first alleged incidents of chemical weapons use came up around march 19th of this year when more than 20 people died as a result of something, some kind of suspicious weapon that did not leave blood stains or cuts or obvious bullet holes on the bodies of the victims and that's very close to the northern city of Aleppo, which is still very much split between rebel forces and government forces.
It's important to note, as you mentioned, these U.N. inspectors were in the country just last month and they did an investigation into a much larger and deadlier alleged weapons attack, and they came up with clear and convincing evidence, a U.N. reporter later concluded, that sarin gas has been used near Damascus -- Ashleigh?
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Ivan Watson, watching the story for us live in Istanbul. Thank you for that.
When we come back, a developing story in Kenya as those investigators pick through the rubble trying to find evidence and bodies. What about this mystery of the white woman seen as part of the terrorist group? Is she the White Widow? And why would al Shabaab even allow a woman to tag along? Those stories next.
BANFIELD: I don't know if you've ever heard the name Samantha Lewthwaite before, but that is her. She's better known as the White Widow, a mysterious terrorist still on the run. And now there is some suspicion she may have been involved in the mall shooting in Kenya.
Our David McKenzie went looking for her.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Intelligence officials believe that Lewthwaite spent a significant amount of time in this luxury villa. The caretaker says an Arabic-looking man paid three months up front but he never saw a woman.
In another upscale neighborhood, we catch a break.
"She did not want to say her name and she used to hide her face." A security guard -- didn't want to show his face -- says a white woman moved into the compound with her three young children. She was always in a full hijab.
"She never wanted people inside her house. It was just her and her children. So when she wanted to send me, she would give me money through the hole in the gates. She would send me to the store to buy water or meat."
MCKENZIE (on camera): Did you feel that was strange?
"Yes, it was very strange."
MCKENZIE (voice-over): Authorities say Lewthwaite was living with a naturalized Britain. They are both accused of planning terror attacks.
One day he watched the woman leave with her three children. At night, the police raided. The White Widow had vanished.
BANFIELD: Mysterious, indeed, but what might be more of a question is, how on earth was a woman, if she was involved, ever allowed to tag along with this particular terrorist group?
I want to bring in our CNN military analyst, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.
Colonel, it's not a secret that women have been involved in terrorist attacks before. We've seen people dressed in burkas suicide bombing. But this group, al Shabaab, is considered the most misogynistic of all the others. Why would they have a woman in their ranks?
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, this is really strange. It may reflect new thinking on their part. They're going to have to change tactics. They have been suffering a lot at the hand of the Kenyan military lately and what they have been doing in the past hasn't worked. So by bringing a woman in, that gives them an opportunity to get into this rather upscale area of Nairobi. Women generally are non-alerting. Security forces are not as readily keyed as they would be if they see a man. In this part of Nairobi, she could move around almost invisibly. So it's a good tactic to get her in there. Why she was part of this group, I don't know, unless it was for her ease of access.
BANFIELD: I have to note as well, they are still looking through the rubble. They haven't made any I.D.s. There is only suspicion at this point, but it does make for a fascinating story.
Colonel Francona, thank you for that. We'll watch to see if, in fact, the White Widow shows up in this story or not.
Coming up, we'll bring you back to the United States, Florida, in particular, a story that seems to be getting bigger by the moment. A man ran over as the police car chases. He's killed, but the medical examiner says he was never hit by that car. He just died under the car. And when you find out who the medical examiner was, you may be asking even more questions about this controversy. There he is. Recognize him? We'll sort it out for you in a moment.
BANFIELD: When Marlon Brown was pulled over by a police cruiser for a seat belt violation and instead decided to run for it, he had no idea that he was going to die underneath that police cruiser. And when the medical examiner looked at his body and determined he had not been hit by that police cruiser, a lot of people stopped and said, are you kidding? Have you seen the video?
The video, which we're going to show you, is very difficult to watch. I need to give you a big caution, especially if you have children in the room. But you need to see it because it's at the heart of a big problem.
Maybe the bigger problem, the medical examiner, the same controversial guy who showed up in the Trayvon Martin case.
Randi Kaye has a look.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the run from the police in Deland, Florida, Marlon Brown never expected that this was how his life would end. In an instant, he's gone. Brown disappears underneath the officer's patrol car. The officer had been chasing him for a seat belt violation.
Brown's family calls it an execution, saying Officer James Harris never slowed down or swerved to avoid hitting Brown.
But that's not what the medical examiner from Volusia County found. In this autopsy report, Dr. Shiping Bao called Brown's death in May an accident, and most controversially, that the car did not -- repeat -- did not hit Brown because there were no pelvic or skull fractures. Instead, the medical examiner found Brown died from mechanical asphyxia. The weight of the car cut off his oxygen.
The report was reviewed and signed by the chief medical examiner.
Willie Gary is Dr. Bao's lawyer.
(on camera): You're confident in his skills? You think he's qualified to be a --
WILLIE GARY, ATTORNEY FOR DR. SHIPING BAO: Absolutely. And I think his record speaks for itself. I think he's more than qualified.
KAYE (voice-over): That may be true, with more than 3,000 autopsies under his belt. But remember, Dr. Bao also performed the autopsy on Trayvon Martin after the teenager was shot by George Zimmerman. DEBRA NELSON, JUDGE: Call your next witness, please.
BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, PROSECUTOR: We call Dr. Bao.
KAYE: On the stand in July, Bao had attorneys for both sides shaking their heads. First, he didn't remember details about his own autopsy.
DR. SHIPING BAO, MEDICAL EXAMINER: All I know was in the morning I did autopsy. I do not have any memory of the day of autopsy. All I have here are the notes that I have.
DON WEST DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Let me make sure I understand --
BAO: Without those, I cannot tell you any fact.
WEST: You have no memory --
WEST: -- of any of the events surrounding the autopsy itself?
BAO: Yes. I try very hard.
KAYE: Then, Dr. Bao tersely refused to let the defense attorney see his notes.
WEST: May I see the notes?
BAO: I rather you do not see my notes. Nobody saw that before.
NELSON: Dr. Bao, if you're going to be reading from your notes, both attorneys are entitled to see what you're reading from.
KAYE: And finally, Bao suddenly offered a brand new conclusion about how long Trayvon Martin survived.
BAO: I believe Trayvon Martin was alive for one to 10 minutes after he was shot.
DE LA RIONDA: Are you saying that his brain is still technically alive, in other words?
DE LA RIONDA: OK. That's what you mean by still alive, in terms of conscious, his brain is still alive?
DE LA RIONDA: He can still feel pain, in other words?
BAO: Yes. KAYE: That conclusion was roundly mocked and things fell apart for Dr. Bao after that.
(on camera): In August, Volusia County sent Dr. Bao a letter notifying him that he was going to be terminated. He was given 30 days to find another job. When he didn't quit, he was officially fired on September 6th, losing his $175,000 a year job.
(on camera): County officials wouldn't say why he was fired. His lawyer says it was because the county needed a fall guy to help subdue the anger after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder. And they are currently planning to sue the county.
But this Marlon Brown case is only bringing more controversy to Bao's tenure.
KRYSTAL BROWN, MARLON BROWN'S WIFE: The video speaks the truth. And the truth is you can see Marlon being hit by the car. It's not about what I say, it's not about what I believe, it's about the video, the objective evidence, and what you can see for yourself.
KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Stewart, Florida.
BANFIELD: All right. So there are a lot of legal questions that come in here, to say the least.
In fact, Danny Cevallos and Joey Jackson, our legal analysts, are joining me now on this one.
First and foremost, if this family has a concern about an official autopsy that was done by the county, does the family have recourse, Danny?
DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Number one, they are going to want to have their own medical examiner. One thing to remember --
BANFIELD: They can do that?
BANFIELD: They can get a medical examiner, pay him and get a private autopsy?
CEVALLOS: Yes. But we need to make clear, while the funeral director, while he may be very experienced, may be no more interesting than a fact witness and not an expert. A funeral director's impression of broken bones and other injuries really isn't going to overcome a qualified medical examiner's conclusion as to the cause of death. If they get their own independent M.E., then that may counter that. But what we're hearing now about a funeral director's impression, again, very experienced. They've seen many more dead bodies than most of us will ever imagine seeing but not qualified to the extent that they can counter act the M.E.'s testimony, even Shiping Bao's.
BANFIELD: I like the way you said "even Shiping Bao's" because while it looked like, "You don't remember the Trayvon Martin autopsy, are you an idiot," he may have had, what, 20, 30 autopsies that day and, at that time, it was a controversial one and it's a year and a half ago.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a fair point, Ashleigh. If you ask anybody what they were doing three weeks ago on Tuesday, who could say what they were doing. The problem is, was he adequately prepped, did he do his job. It goes back to his competence.
But going back to what Danny was saying, I do agree that certainly an expert would be in a better position to give testimony having evaluated and looked at the body. However, this funeral director will be afforded great weight. What he's saying is, I've done this for 40 years and, in my 40 years, there was something that was noticeably distinguishable about this body. And that's what is going to be amped up here to otherwise try to get justice for this body which they perceive now to be an injustice.
BANFIELD: I thought there was not way to back to a grand jury with the same charge, vehicular manslaughter, and say have another look. We don't believe this was the case.
I've got to wrap it there. Thank you for that.
BANFIELD: An excellent point made about that. I don't know where I was yesterday. I don't know where I was in block A of this show.
JACKSON: Or what I had for breakfast this morning.
JACKSON: It's crazy.
BANFIELD: Always the way.
Thank you both.
Coming up, five months, seriously, this trial on Michael Jackson's blame game? Five months? And now it may all come down to an emotional 16-minute video that was played in court? Is this about heartstrings or is this about contract law?
BANFIELD: For those in Los Angeles who might be making their way to work because it is early there, it's not long from now that closing arguments in the Michael Jackson case are going to get back underway. And talk about some emotion in the courtroom yesterday. Videos playing, money being thrown around in the billions in what he would have been worth to his family.
Our Casey Wian joins me now to go through a lot of this.
Casey, this jury, I can't imagine they aren't exhausted after five months of tedious contract testimony, but when it comes down to it, these closing arguments are going for heart strings and purse strings, aren't they?
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely both. They're shown that video, kind of the greatest hits of Michael Jackson's career, in court yesterday, and you could see tears welling up in the spectator's gallery, watching that.
For me, personally, it was incredible to see. And you just kind of forget how talented this guy was and how many hits he had.
What they were trying to show, the Jackson family's defense team, is this guy's talent and the potential for future earnings had he lived. And they have put that figure at $1.6 billion, with a "B," dollars at the high-end.
Also yesterday, during the closing arguments, they revealed how much they believe Michael Jackson's three children and his mother should receive in noneconomic, so-called personal damages, and that figure, according to the attorney, should be $85 million for each of the three Jackson children and $35 million to Katherine Jackson because her life expectancy is shorter. So, you add it all up, you get close to $2 billion.
However, if the Jackson family is successful in this lawsuit -- the attorney realizes that the jury will most likely find that Michael Jackson was at least partially responsible for his own death. Whatever financial award they decide on would be reduced by how much responsibility they find that Michael Jackson had for what happened to him -- Ashleigh?
BANFIELD: Our Casey Wian live for us in Los Angeles. Thank you for that.
It's a good reminder as well to remember when these civil juries are looking at making their decision, it's not beyond reasonable doubt. It's preponderance of the evidence. It's kind of just the balance. It's not beyond a reasonable doubt. You've got to watch the outcome on this one. This could be a lot of money at stake.
That gives me reason to -- let me give you this special note of programming. Only about a month away until Conrad Murray is going to be released from prison. And at that time, he's given his story. Check out Anderson Cooper's special report, called "Michael Jackson, The Final Day." It's going the air this Sunday night at 10:00 eastern.
If you are a long-time CNN watcher, you probably well remember the name Leon Harris, a colleague of ours, an anchor here at CNN. What you may not know is that he died three times. I'm not kidding. He's alive to tell the story about it, and it is a remarkable tale. It's coming up next.
BANFIELD: If you have never heard of something called necrotizing pancreatitis. He died two times. And it comes courtesy of our former anchor here at CNN, Leon Harris. I said before the break he died three times. I was wrong. He died two times. Remarkably, he's alive to tell the story to our Sanjay Gupta in today's "Human Factor."
LEON HARRIS, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Leon Harris.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Leon Harris began his television career at CNN 30 years ago, not as an anchor, but intern, a cameraman, who rose to the number two spot in the network satellite department before his talents in front of the camera were discovered a decade later and he began anchoring for CNN.
He was onset for the network's coverage of many big news stories including the Oklahoma City bombings and the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
HARRIS: You are looking this picture. It is the Twin Tower of the World Trade Center.
GUPTA: In 2003, he moved out of local television as lead anchor for WJLA in Washington, D.C. All the time, he was the picture of health. But recently, Harris had a real and terrifying brush with death.
HARRIS: Woke up like I normally do, got out of bed --
GUPTA: But August 1st, turned out to be anything but normal.
HARRIS: -- had this incredible sudden pain in my stomach. It felt like a horse kicked me. And it literally knocked me to the floor.
GUPTA: But still, he thought it was possibly indigestion. But then --
HARRIS: I sat there on the floor with the worst pain in my life. You would think that a person with a college degree would know, hey, maybe you should go get some help. But no, I did the same thing I always do and it's the same thing I know a lot of guys do.
GUPTA: After an hour, Harris was found by his wife, Dawn, who immediately got him to the hospital.
HARRIS: If she hadn't come upstairs when she did, I wouldn't be having this conversation with you.
GUPTA: The necrosis?
HARRIS: Necrotizing pancreatitis. My pancreas decided to start dying and taking my kidneys and lungs and other internal organs with it.
GUPTA: Necrotizing pancreatitis is severe inflammation of the pancreas. The tissue dies and it causes more infection. It can often be fatal.
HARRIS: So, I ended up dying twice that one week. Fortunately, for me, I was unconscious. I had no idea what was going on.
GUPTA: In fact, Harris spent the first nine days unconscious on a ventilator.
HARRIS: Good to see you, man.
GUPTA: It took nearly six week, but Harris is on the mend. He recently got back on the air.
To this day, his doctors don't know exactly what triggered his illness, but Harris has this advice.
BANFIELD: Don't wait until you have as a close a brush with leaving this earth as I did before you decide that you're worth going to see a doctor.
GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.
BANFIELD: That's all the time we have. Thanks so much for watching. AROUND THE WORLD starts right now.
SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Sara Sidner. Suzanne Malveaux is off today.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Good to have you, Sara.
I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks, everyone, for your company.
Well, the man who would not stop talking, Senator Ted Cruz, well, he might have to stop soon. He's about to wind down because of Senate rules 21 hours after he began.
SIDNER: The Texas Republican, a Tea Party darling, pulled an all- nighter, blasting Obamacare, at times, with almost no one in the chamber. The bold freshman Senator is trying to stall the Senate from taking out the part of the House spending bill that pulls funding from Obamacare. He has just an hour left before -- no, actually, less -- a few minutes before he --