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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Senate to Vote on Anti-Bias Bill; New Video in GA. Gym Mat Death; Tom Cruise Sues Publisher; MacNeill Bombshell Won't Be Heard by Jury; CNN Employee Helps Save Others from Burning Building.

Aired November 7, 2013 - 11:30   ET

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


LISA BLOOM, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY, BLOGGER & CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah. People are shocked.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: You can't do that if you're black. You can't do that if you're Jewish. How can you do this if you're gay? But you can.

BLOOM: Yeah.

BANFIELD: The argument against this bill is that it will cost jobs and create frivolous lawsuits. Why is that?

BLOOM: That's absolutely silly. I've been a practicing civil rights lawyer since 1986. I've been pushing, along with many other people, have been pushing for this law for so long. It is so overdue, right? Under federal law, you can't discriminate on employment on race, sex, disability and religion and some other factors. And sexual orientation clearly needs to be on that list. People shouldn't have to choose between their private life and their employment. This is a basic civil right.

I live in California and practice in California and New York. There are protections in those states. As you say, in the majority of states, you can fire somebody openly because they're gay. That's outrageous.

BANFIELD: Here is the argument against it. How can you argue against fairness and equality? The argument against it is that if you do open this up to litigation, there will be thousands upon thousands of lawsuits filed out there from someone who maybe got fired because they stank at their job but they're going to come back and say you did it because I was gay. They're calling these frivolous lawsuits, that it will cause the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to have to create new positions to handle this massive new work load.

BLOOM: That's completely untrue. We don't say that about race, race discrimination should be illegal because people may bring false claims. We have a system in place to protect against small claims. It's actually fairly difficult to bring an employment discrimination case and the EEOC has plenty of people in place. There are not a rush of claims in states where sexual orientation discrimination is illegal.

(CROSSTALK) BLOOM: People call me up every day. I say what kind of evidence do you have? Do you have an e-mail, a witness? Did somebody make a comment? The person would have to prove their story, just as in any case.

BANFIELD: It's nice to see you as always. It's like our old Court TV days where you don't age and I do.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOOM: I don't know about that. I'm not afraid of aging.

BANFIELD: Lisa, thank you for joining us.

BLOOM: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Appreciate it.

All right. In other news that we've been following, we have been watching a lot of surveillance video coming out in this one particular case that has to do with a young man, Kendrick Johnson, a young man who is no longer with us, found dead, rolled up in a gym mat in a Georgia high school. Here is the problem. The more video you get, when you think you're getting answers, in fact, it's raising more questions on just how this young man died.

Victor Blackwell has been doing a remarkable job at pressing for these answers and keeping this case open.

So what about these new videos? What do they tell us, if anything, Victor?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They actually create more questions. We have comments and statements that were e-mailed to us. I have them on my phone. We'll look at them in a moment.

Here is a look at video inside the gym. This is where Kendrick Johnson was.

If we can start this video over, I'll point out what's important here.

The surveillance that was released as part of this lawsuit, Kendrick, you'll see in a moment, runs in from the right here. He is wearing a white t-shirt.

Guys, if we can start this video over and show Kendrick coming into the gym, we can show you exactly -- so we can't start that video again.

He runs in from the right and then disappears. Here is another image. Kendrick runs to this corner. You see him there. He will disappear and then watch. You see other students then playing basketball. The question is, was this video edited? That's the question from the attorneys. You see one image and then to the next.

Then let's go look at the other really important image here. 36 cameras, there's only one imagine that shows the corner where the mats are. They're up here. You see here this video is blurred. It's difficult to make out any faces, any images. This is the only angle that would show the full investigation that happened at the gym.

BANFIELD: Why is it blurry?

BLACKWELL: The question is, why is it blurry?

BANFIELD: Yeah, what is it. Did they do it or is the camera a mess?

BLACKWELL: No explanation on why it's blurry. But I'll tell you what the school and the sheriff's office are saying. We have statements from them. They e-mailed them to us. First from the attorney from Lowndes County Schools. He says, "What we produced to the sheriff is a raw feed with no edits." So we went to the Lowndes County Sheriffs Office and their attorney says, "My client has confirmed that the video was not altered or edited by anyone within Lowndes County Sheriff's Office.

Again, 36 angles. The only one that shows the mats where Kendrick Johnson was found dead, you can't make out that corner or see any of these people.

BANFIELD: So frustrating. It must be so hard for the family that's getting pieces and pieces of information.

Victor Blackwell, again, thank you for working so hard to get this information out there.

Victor joining us live from Atlanta.

Thank you, Victor.

Tom Cruise. Famous guy. Famous face. You've seen him on every magazine. He has a new mission and it may not be impossible. He is defending his reputation as a father because he is sick and tired of pictures and headlines that just aren't true, he says. He says he has 50 million bucks on the line. Who he is suing and what they said, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Family and friends of the Michigan woman shot to death early Saturday morning say she died simply because she was black and needed help. 19-year-old Ranisha McBride was killed on the front porch of a house that she approached after a car accident. Her aunt is telling the "Detroit News" the owner of that house shot McBride in the head, quote, "for knocking on his door," end quote. Reportedly the Wayne County prosecutor right now is deciding whether any charges are warranted in this case.

A California high school is being criticized today for naming its sporting team the Arabs. The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is accusing Coachella Valley High School of stereotyping and demands that they drop that name. They also want a change in the mascot that depicts a large nose, a heavy beard and a head covering. You can see him there on your screen. School officials, on their part, are saying they will try to resolve the issue. Whatever "resolve the issue" means, yet to be determined.

A mega movie star is defending his real-life character and roles a father. Tom Cruise is opening up about his divorce from actress, Katie Holmes, for the first time. And despite the headlines in the tabloids, Cruise says he is a good dad to his baby girl, Suri. He is so upset about this, he is suing a publisher for $50 million for what they've been writing in their headlines.

Michaela Pereira picks up the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SHOUTING)

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is famously known for keeping his mouth wide shut when it comes to his personal life, but now Tom Cruise is defending his actions as a father in a very high-profile way. On Tuesday, Cruise filed this document in his $50 million lawsuit against Bauer Publishing, striking back against a 2012 cover story in "Life & Style" and "In Touch" magazines where they claim Cruise abandoned his daughter, Suri.

BRIAN BALTHAZAR, EDITOR, POPGOESTHEWEEK.COM: By filing a $50 million lawsuit, he is taking a stand. He's saying he will not put up with headlines that he believes are not only false but destructive of his reputation.

In the filing, Cruise says, "The assertion that I abandoned Suri after my divorce is patently false. ACTOR: I have in no way cut Suri out of my life, physically, emotionally, financially or otherwise."

Industry insiders say for Cruise, it's not about the $50 million price tag. It's about the priceless value of his reputation.

BALTHAZAR: He has seen his share of scandalous headlines before, but this brings into the spotlight his parenting and being a father and for him that was just hitting below the belt. That's where he drew the line.

PEREIRA: In the document, Cruise acknowledges that he was shooting back-to-back films at the time the magazine hit the newsstands but he says, "Even during the times when I was working overseas and was not able to see Suri in person, we were and continue to be extremely close."

BALTHAZAR: And I think the general public will sympathize with what he is going through. Truly no one really knows what's going on behind closed doors unless you're Tom, Katie or Suri.

PEREIRA: Michaela Pereira, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: Another interesting point, Mr. Cruise -- some call him Tom -- he wants to know those confidential sources who were the sources for the stories. These stories are a crutch for many entertainment publications. They're unnamed. And so in the suit, they're just called Does. Almost a dozen Does, as in John or Jane.

I want to get the "Legal View" of this from Lisa Bloom, who is joining me now.

I was just about to launch into this question when, up on my e-mail popped a comment, statement from the publisher. Bauer Publishing is sending this out. I want to get this out away. "'In Touch Weekly' and 'Life & Style' stand behind the reporting and articles in issue in Mr. Cruise's action. This litigation has established that the editorial teams had a wealth of evidence substantiating that, following his divorce from Ms. Holmes, Mr. Cruise was absent from his daughter for long periods of time, that seeing her was not his first priority, and that she was emotionally struggling as a result of her father's extended absences."

To me, that sounds like a double down. Big time.

BLOOM: Wow! The question is, what does the word abandon mean? That was their headline, that he abandoned Suri. If he's off doing a movie and having phone calls with her, is that abandonment? What if they chose that --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: A soldier deployed does not get to see or Skype at times. Is that abandonment?

BLOOM: Right. The big picture is, I think these tabloids can be very cruel. Tom Cruise is saying he's going to take a stand. And good for him. They publish a lot of things that are not accurate. They choose words like this very carefully to hide behind. He has a tough legal standard to meet.

BANFIELD: Amen to that. Here's my question for you. His issue, when I read the complaint, is that, look, you put out these massive headlines that once you turn the pages and go inside, which very few people ever do --

BLOOM: Right.

BANFIELD: -- they're not substantiated with facts.

BLOOM: Right.

BANFIELD: Ultimately, where he may be morally right, maybe even have some shred of correctness in these facts, the standards for a guy like Tom Cruise, as opposed to a life like Joe Schmoe, are entirely different when it comes to lying about them in the press. Why is that?

BLOOM: Right. The legal standard is called Actual Malice, which means he has to prove that the publications knew the statements were false or they acted with reckless disregard as to whether it was true or not. He has to prove that they intentionally lied or they just close their eyes to the truth. They'll just put anything out there. That's a very high standard to prove.

BANFIELD: Very high standard. Like I said, that statement, doubling down.

BLOOM: Yeah. They're standing by their story.

BANFIELD: He wants a jury trial, wants to see this in court. 50 million bucks at the very least. That's the first set of punitive damages.

BLOOM: The lawyer says he would give it to charity. Good for them.

BANFIELD: You'll have to come back when we see more on this.

BLOOM: I would love to.

BANFIELD: Thank you so much.

Coming up, jurors in the trial of a doctor accused of drowning his wife are hearing from snitches, former inmates, and a mistress named Gypsy. We'll take you to Utah when we come back and we'll tell you about something they are not going to hear that, if you hear it, you would want to convict him right away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: MacNeill murder trial, prosecutors are planning to wrap up their case. One of the biggest bombshells yet is getting a lot of attention. One of the former mistresses of that man, Dr. Martin MacNeill, is claiming that he killed his own brother by drowning him in a bathtub. Yes, you're right. Not only that, that he tried to kill his mother when he was just a little kid. All of this came out in a pretrial hearing but it's been pretty darn quiet. And certainly the jury is not going to hear any of that during this trial.

Our Ted Rowlands is live from Provo, Utah.

Why won't the jury hear about this? It sounds an awful lot like what's being alleged in this case.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, but it is awfully prejudicial, Ashleigh. There's no way the judge will let the jury hear this.

This is another mistress, not Gypsy Willis, who is on the stand now, by the way. This is another mistress that came out in a pretrial hearing about a year ago that MacNeill told her that he had killed his brother when he encountered him during a suicide attempt. And instead of helping his brother, he drowned him in a bat tub. The cause of death was suicide. The judge rightly said, no way, the jury is not going to hear this. Because, as you said, if the jury did hear this, way too many coincidences. It would be game over likely for the doctor.

BANFIELD: It's just astounding. Every day you bring us something that makes us shake our heads even more.

Ted Rowlands for us, thank you, from Provo, Utah.

Good to see you, Ted.

I want to bring in HLN legal analyst, Joey Jackson, on this one.

Joey, I hear you. I hear Ted. It's prejudicial. It's not as probative as prejudicial. That's what evidence is, when you're a prosecutor.

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: It's true.

BANFIELD: It's prejudicial. You are trying to tell the jury that guy is a bad guy.

JACKSON: Absolutely. But here's the difference. Trials need to be about what they're about. We don't want to talk about fraud you committed last week, right? The murder you committed two weeks ago. We want the jury focused on the task at hand. So the idea is, there are certain things, Ashleigh, a jury cannot see through. Think about it. If they learn an inkling of, you were involved in your brother's death, you tried to kill your mother when you were 8, what are they going to do? They're going to presume you're a kill, it's propensity, and find you guilty.

BANFIELD: Counselor, I hear you. Here's where I'm going to fight back. A lot of times in a case, that stuff all gets tossed out. That argument when there's a pattern. And if his brother was drowned in a bathtub and that pretty lady right there was drowned in a bathtub, why is that not a pattern and, therefore, admissible?

JACKSON: Great point. You do have exceptions.

BANFIELD: It is.

JACKSON: Of course it is. You know that. There are exceptions. You can get certain things in when they go to motive, when they go intent, when they go to opportunity. So there are certain exceptions but there's still that balancing test, Ashleigh, any court has to do. At the end of the day, it's about a fair trial. The balancing test is, is it relevant? Yes. But is it overly prejudicial? Is it too harmful, something that's so inflammatory that it's going to impair your ability to have a fair trial? And if the judge concludes that it is, it's thrown out. Find and convict someone on the evidence before the court, not on what we call collateral matters.

BANFIELD: Have you ever interviewed some of your jurors after your case is over about the facts not in evidence?

JACKSON: Yes. Yes.

BANFIELD: Do they freak out and lose their heads over it?

JACKSON: It is amazing, because jurors are only permitted to hear certain things, right? Trials are a search for a truth. To some extent they are. But there are things that a jury doesn't hear. At the end of the trial, the judge says you can talk to the attorneys if you want. Most run away from me.

(LAUGHTER)

But ones that speak to me, you tell them the things they don't hear, they say, really, really, that would have influenced my opinion about the trial. That's why, here, the judge keeps it out.

BANFIELD: That's the very point. But it is so counterintuitive. First thing you want to know, as a person, if you're going to date someone, you want to know what dates they had in the past.

JACKSON: Exactly.

BANFIELD: This isn't dating. It's murder. Thank you very much. Well, it's alleged murder.

JACKSON: Alleged.

BANFIELD: Joey Jackson, thank you. It's coming to a close soon, too.

JACKSON: Yes, it is.

BANFIELD: All right. So you'll be back.

Coming up this afternoon, CNN -- on CNN, Brooke Baldwin going to anchor a special report on a topic that impacts a lot of Americans but still has a stigma attached to it. "Exposed: Mental Health in America" is airing at 3:00 this afternoon right here on CNN. Encourage you to watch that. Brooke does an excellent job in her reporting.

Just ahead, a man risks his own life to save others from the burning building. You know something? You're going to meet him. And mostly, because I meet him every day. I'm working with him and he's standing next to me right now. Amazing Bruce All Mighty.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: So what makes a hero? Take a look at this video and you're going to find out. Nice, young, handsome man named Bruce Duncan saw something orange flickering across the street last night in Brooklyn. Turns out it was a roof fire and that fire was growing by the seconds. So what did he do? Yeah, he ran into the building to make sure that everybody inside who didn't know about it got out. And then like a dutiful CNN employee, he started rolling video and captured all of these pictures.

Bruce Duncan happens to work with me every day here at CNN as a stage manager. And normally, he's sort of off-camera giving me the signals about when to wrap it up and stop talking. We call him today Bruce All Mighty because we know where we need to be when you're around.

And you, my friend, came to work this morning and did not tell anyone about this.

BRUCE DUNCAN, CNN EMPLOYEE: It's something if you're walking down the street, I was walking down the street, I see smoke, I see a little bit of sparks, and I start thinking to myself, nobody's barbecuing on the roof in November.

BANFIELD: Right.

DUNCAN: Something must be going on. I pause, I looked, the wind started whipping sparks, you know, further out. There's a fire on the roof. I called 911, I run up to the building, I started banging on the door, "Fire, fire, everybody out, let's go, everybody out," you know. People had no idea. Somebody thought maybe there was a something on -- some work going on on the building --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Your daughter lives across the street?

DUNCAN: My daughter lives across the street. Once I called 911 --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: These people in the building had no idea about the flames up top?

DUNCAN: No idea. I saw people in apartments through the windows walking around nonchalantly.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: How did you know when everyone was out?

DUNCAN: I asked. I asked, "Is everybody out"? A couple came out. A lady with a family came out.

BANFIELD: Bruce All Mighty, had you ever imagined you'd run into a burning building in your lifetime?

BANFIELD: You know what? I really have to say, I appreciate -- I appreciate, you know, the accolades and the acknowledgement.

BANFIELD: You wouldn't tell anyone. Your friends called to tell us.

DUNCAN: It's New York City Fire Department. What am I going to say? The firefighters, they were -- they got there so fast, they got the fire out.

BANFIELD: How much do I have until the show's over right now?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

DUNCAN: You need to start wrapping this up.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: I pulled you off your job to make you a news reporter.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Thank you for doing this. I love you every day. But I love you even more today. You're officially, all around these halls, Bruce All mighty. He's a hero. CNN hero, if I might say.

DUNCAN: Anyway, thank you very much.

BANFIELD: Great work.

DUNCAN: I appreciate it.

BANFIELD: You're awesome. That's it. You're always.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: You always are, but especially awesome.

Bruce Duncan, everybody, my friend and colleague.

And another friend and colleague's about to get started as well. AROUND THE WORLD with Suzanne Malveaux starts right now.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: It's being called the strongest storm on earth this year. How a typhoon headed to the Philippines is expected to cause more damage than Superstorm Sandy.

Plus, remember the asteroid that hit Russia? That was just the beginning. How the world can expect to see more damaging asteroids hit earth.

Then, President Obama uses it. The pope uses it. You can own a piece of it, for a price. Twitter goes public.

You're watching AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Michael Holmes is off this week.

Talking about the strongest storm anywhere in the world this year. It's called Typhoon Haiyan. Expected to hit the Philippines tomorrow. Winds equivalent to the category 5 hurricane, the most powerful hurricane on measurement scales.