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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Snow, Ice Snarl Roads, Runways; More Snow, Ice on Way; Obamas Set Out for South Africa; Netanyahu Sends His Regrets; Bride on Trial for Pushing Husband Off Cliff; Airline Merger

Aired December 9, 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: And work's been piling up around the House, and I do mean that literally. Just wait till you see the week's to-do list for the "do-nothing" Congress. Is there time to get it all done and avoid another government shutdown?

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It's Monday. Happy Monday. It's December 9th. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

Here is the bad news of the day. The airline flights aren't the only casualties of the snow and ice that have coated much of the country. Take a look at your screen. The Bronx River Parkway just north of New York City where snow turned to rain, which turned to ice, freezing overnight and causing a 20-car pileup. Believe it or not, despite these images, no one has seriously hurt.

In Dallas this morning, the morning rush was anything but. People there do not mess around with icy roads. Take a look at the slow going. But icy roofs in Dallas can be even more treacherous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh! Oh, my God!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Yeah. That's something. Those are two-inch thick slabs of ice falling five stories to the ground. Here is the other view of it. Wow.

Obviously that parked car did not fare very well, and eight parked cars in total were smashed.

Amazingly, though, I hope nobody was walking on the road, the woman says. And luckily, at the time there was no one out walking dogs, which is typical in that area.

But here's something else, more than 600 airline passengers spending the night the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. And while that's bad, it is down from 2,000 the night before. And while that's bad, it's down from 4,000 on Friday.

James Archibald has been there since Thursday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES ARCHIBALD, STRANDED IN DALLAS: This is day four, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Times are getting desperate. I don't understand why they can't get the ice off the runway. I'm from Canada. We've got four, five feet of snow on the runway. Boom, plows go by. I know it's for our own safety, but it's getting a bit silly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: I hear you, Mr. Archibald.

My CNN colleague Rosa Flores hears you, too. She's out watching the comings and goings on the New Jersey turnpike.

It was pretty icy out there this morning. How are things going now, Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of that ice has turned to slick roads, so emergency management officials are saying be very, very careful out there.

But let me set the scene as to what we're looking at right now. If you look around me, you'll see there's a visibility issue, and that's what officials are worried about. The clouds are low. Visibility is low, so you want to be very careful out on the roads.

They're slick. They're -- in some cases. we talked to folks out here who were saying there's black ice on the roads. One gentleman said that he did a 180 on the highway and, of course, he's counting his blessings this morning.

But I did talk to state police. They say that they're not seeing any major accidents at this hour on the roadways. But, Ashleigh just mentioned that 20-car pileup in Yonkers. There was a 30-car pileup in Wisconsin yesterday that we were following. Also, those road conditions are very treacherous.

Now, the state of New Jersey has about 2,000 pieces of equipment to spread salt to plow the roads. They told me those 800 of those were out, overnight.

And what they're doing right now is they're reassessing the situation because they're expecting more snow tomorrow, Ashleigh. So again, what they're saying is be very careful out on the roads because they're slick, they're wet, and it can turn very dangerous, very quickly.

BANFIELD: Yeah. And sometimes they don't look so dangerous when they are. It's that nasty black ice that can form.

Rosa Flores, thank you for that.

I want to turn now to Chad Myers at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta. Chad, I don't know if you were watching just a few seconds ago when we showed that video, and I don't know if the control room can re-rack it. I think it's worth seeing it again.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The ice?

BANFIELD: When that ice slab was falling off the roofs Dallas, it's unbelievable the power and the weight and the danger that -- look at this. Let's just listen to it for a second.

MYERS: You know, we expect that.

BANFIELD: I want to listen, hold on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god. Holy crap.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Yeah. I mean, honestly, Chad, they were so lucky that there weren't people out there. That is deadly.

MYERS: We expect that in Buffalo, Toronto, Ontario, Detroit, but not Dallas. Dallas had so much ice come down, literally an inch of ice, even some spots more than that. It just puddled around and froze on top of that building. And then it just slid.

When it gets a little bit warm, slippery or wet ice, one of the most slippery natural substances in the world out there, and that ice slid right off the roadway.

We do have some airport delays because of the ice and snow and low clouds and all that, really the main ones, LaGuardia and Newark. If you're heading to Charlotte, you're probably being stopped on the roadway right now because -- or, the airport way because of the snow there coming down. And it's going to take, I would say, probably another 30 minutes for that to really cool down and get back to normal.

Delaware, Newark, you had a foot of snow. Penns Grove, New Jersey, I had someone -- I was at a horse track this morning -- yesterday, and one of my friends called me and said, hey, dude, what's up with Philadelphia? We were supposed to get flurries. I've got seven inches of flurries in Philadelphia.

So, yes, it did to Philly, 8.6, officially; Wilmington, Delaware at 8.5. And there are still 5,000 planes in the sky. Not every plane is canceled. You're talking about how many cancellations are out there. There should be about 5,800 about this time of day, so about 800 not in the sky that should be at this hour.

So Ashleigh, we'll watch it for you for the rest of the day, but it gets better from here. There's one more batch of light snow and ice for the Northeast in the next 36 hours. But you know what? This pattern is stuck now. What we see is what we get. Every single snowstorm, every single low that comes up the East Coast is going to be almost the same kind of thing, hopefully in a lesser scale than what we saw over the weekend.

BANFIELD: And whenever I see that picture behind you, it's kind of -- it's a little disconcerting.

MYERS: I know.

BANFIELD: The planes aren't that big in real life. It just looks like the entire country is covered in airplanes.

MYERS: There will be no global warming if the planes were this big because we would never see the sunshine.

BANFIELD: That's a very good point. All right, Chad, keep an eye on things for us. Thank you, sir.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: By the way, the icy weather is not going to slow some travelers down. And I'm talking about the ones who have the easiest time traveling.

President and Mrs. Obama set out early this morning for South Africa and quite possibly the largest gathering of world leaders in African history. The occasion, of course, is the public memorial for Nelson Mandela who died last Thursday at age 95.

More than 90 heads of state or government are going to join some 90,000 South Africans and the mourners who will converge on the soccer stadium in Johannesburg and that is set for tomorrow.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, will not be among them. A source in his office says that the trip would cost too much, and because of the short notice, security could not be guaranteed for the prime minister.

Tomorrow's service is by the far the largest of the 10-day mourning period for the "Father of South African democracy," but it's not the only one. From Wednesday through Friday, Mandela's body will lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. On Sunday, he'll be laid to rest in his ancestral hometown of Qunu.

One of the last known photographs of Nelson Mandela was snapped in May during a visit by his 3-year-old great grandson. Look at them. They're holding hands. It's really sweet. Just great. It might be the last known photograph as well, being made public now. That beloved icon was at his home in his favorite chair holding hands with a child who knew him only as "Baba." The boy's father says this is, quote, "something he'll treasure when he's old enough to understand." And that is an understatement.

The House of Representatives has a lot to do in this country before adjourning are for the year on Friday. They've got to find common ground on, you know, the little things, like unemployment, and the farm bill subsidies, and they've got to reach a budget deal to avoid another government shutdown. What a busy five days.

Meanwhile, the Senate is going to return today from a two-week Thanksgiving break. Stay tuned to this space to see how much they get done. Senator Charles Schumer and Richard Blumenthal calling for cameras on trains, nationwide. Talk about that in a moment.

Federal prosecutors also saying a woman shoved her husband off a cliff just days after they were married. She says it was all an accident. Now the murder trial of this 22-year-old Montana woman has begun. Does her defense stand a chance?

Also, imagine dozing off on a flight only to wake up the only person left on the plane and locked in. It happened to this man. His unbelievable tale, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Was it an accident or was it a murder? That's what a jury is going to have to decide when Jordan Graham goes on trial for pushing her husband off a cliff in Montana's Glacier National Park, all of this just eight days after the two of them were happily married, or as it appeared in the photos, anyway.

Jury selection starts today in this case, but as Stephanie Elam explains, prosecutors are already over the first hurdle, and that was getting Graham to admit that she was even with her husband in the first place.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What started as a wedding is now ending in a courtroom trial.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you kill Cody? Did you mean to push your husband off a cliff, Jordan?

ELAM: This morning, Jordan Lynn Graham, accused of killing her new husband, will go on trial for murder.

Federal prosecutors say that 22-year-old Graham deliberately shoved her 25-year-old husband, Cody Johnson, to his death off a cliff in Montana's Glacier National Park on July 7th, just eight days after their wedding.

Friends of Cody Johnson say they noticed problems from the start.

CAMERON FREDRICKSON, CODY JOHNSON'S FRIEND: When they were exchanging vows, Jordan was looking down and wasn't looking at Cody.

ELAM: Graham's attorneys are claiming it was an accident, saying the couple started arguing, and that when she tried to remove her husband's hand from her arm, he lost his balance.

Investigators say she initially did not report the incident and was lying when she later told them that Johnson had driven away with friends. She later admitted that she was having second thoughts about the marriage, but she has pleaded not guilty to murder and to making a false statement.

But other explosive charges in this case have drawn national attention. Prosecutors are saying they have evidence Jordan may have blindfolded her husband before pushing him, while Graham's attorneys are claiming prosecutorial misconduct, using confusing interrogation techniques and claiming inappropriate touching during Graham's polygraph testing. The FBI agent denies the claim.

Whatever the outcome of the trial, Cody's friends have already made up their mind.

MAXIMO ROCHA, CODY JOHNSON'S FRIEND: He didn't deserve whatever end she gave him.

ELAM: If convicted, Graham faces life in prison.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: The stakes only get higher when it's a death-penalty case.

Paul Callan is here, our CNN legal analyst, to talk about this.

So here is what's fascinating about this case. There were only two people who know what happened on that cliff, and one of them's dead and the other one is fighting for her life. So your credibility already is in question when you're the only other person in the room, so to speak.

How do you see this case playing out, even after the fact she was not quite honest from the get-go?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: First of all, I don't think there's any realistic possibility of it being a death-penalty case.

This is a federal case and it's being tried because it happened in a federal park. And it's also a heat of passion kind of case that even in a death-penalty state, unlikely the death penalty would apply.

But how do you convict of her this? She's alone with the husband on the cliff. There's no satellite surveillance, so nobody knows what really happens. Prosecutors, however, are saying what she did after he disappears is so suspicious that it's what we call a "consciousness of guilt" and that a jury is allowed to consider that. He disappears. She says she doesn't know where he is. She lies about this. And then eventually she's drawn back to the scene and says --

BANFIELD: And discovers the body. That was a bit weird.

CALLAN: Well, they discover the body. Yeah, and she's got contradictory stories. She says self defense, accident, all of these things.

BANFIELD; I hear you. Consciousness of guilt is one of those things you hear in a courtroom and it's easily refutable by people who panic and behave in bizarre ways because something horrible has just befallen them and they don't know how to react. So you can always fight consciousness of guilt with that other notion of we all mourn, we all fear differently, we all behave differently. Am I wrong?

CALLAN: You sound like the defense attorney in this case. That's a great summation to the jury, and that's exactly what they're going to say. Hey, what are you going to do convict her of murder because she didn't react the way you would have reacted if somebody -- you know, a loved one fell to their death? However, we have some other things -- when I say we, I mean the prosecution has other things.

BANFIELD: Tools in their tool chest.

CALLAN: Not just consciousness of guilt. Before the wedding she was having second thoughts about it.

BANFILED: That doesn't a murderer make.

CALLAN: It doesn't a murderer make, but suddenly the husband is found dead next to a cliff. She denies knowing where he is. Then they go back. She tells two contradictory stories. You know something? It's starting to get -- be a strong circumstantial evidence case. So you know, I think the prosecution can put together a compelling case here.

BANFIELD: So when a defense attorney stands up and looks at a jury and says, "This is all circumstantial people," the truth is there are some cases that are even stronger because the circumstantial evidence is voluminous and strong. They can be very strong.

CALLAN: They can be very strong. You know, they said one of the charges they used is footprints in the snow. You see footprints in the snow going to a house. Is there any doubt in your mind that a human being entered the house? That's circumstantial evidence.

BANFEILD: Very strong.

CALLAN: Very strong. You don't have to worry about an eyewitness who didn't have good eyesight, you know, circumstantial evidence.

BANFEILD: Professor Callan, thank you. Can you stay?

CALLAN: Absolutely.

BANFEILD: Good. I've got another couple for you as well.

CALLAN: OK.

BANFEILD: Thank you for that.

So with this nasty winder storm we were talking about just before we broke for the crime story, the northeast really girding itself. Thousands are trying very hard to get on an airplane to get home safely.

But for one man the problem wasn't so much getting on a plane; he couldn't get off a plane. He was locked inside a cold, empty airplane all by himself. How is it that they missed him on the sweep? He's going to explain in a moment, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: The world's biggest airline officially opens for business today. American Airlines and U.S. Airways joined forces, all the result of American's bankruptcy and U.S. Air's long search for a partner. American Airlines will end up keeping the name. The merger survived a challenge by the government and criticism from consumer groups. The new American and three other airlines now control 80 percent of United States air travel.

And speaking of air travel, it certainly has its risks. Falling asleep on an airplane definitely should not be one of those risks. But a man on a United Express jets (ph) flight fell asleep and nobody woke him up when the plane landed in Houston. No one even noticed him it turns out either. When they swept the plane, no, nobody saw him. Earlier on NEW DAY he talked about the experience of being locked into the plane.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM WAGNER, AIRPLANE PASSENGER: What's going on here? And then I was like, I looked down the aisles and nobody was there. I got up and I walked around. I had to go to the bathroom. So I worked my way to the back and found it. And I called my girlfriend, Debbie, I said, "Listen, you got to call the airlines. I'm locked in the plane."

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: She didn't really believe you at first, did she?

WAGNER: No. She's like, "Tommy, stop" because I play games with her once in a while, you know, joke around. And she says, "Tommy," -- I said "Debbie, I'm locked in the plane. You've got to call the airlines." And she started laughing. I said, "I'm serious." And she said, then she was still laughing. Then she finally hung up, and I guess she called the airlines. And then I called my sister. Because I figured I ain't going to make my next flight.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And you definitely didn't make the next flight. So, Tom, you gotta explain this to me. Are you the deepest sleeper that ever lived?

WAGNER: No, I'm really not, you know? I just sleep, you know? And like I get a lot of questions like, "Didn't you feel when you landed?" and I'm like, "Well, you know, I'm a captain on a offshore oil" -- you know, work for the oil field industry, and sleeping like bouncing around is kind of the norm.

BOLDUAN: I guess so, well, par for the course for you.

So it takes a half hour for you for finally get out.

WAGNER: Well, I don't --

BOLDUAN: You get out, and then what do you say to the gate agents? WAGNER: Well, they were like, "What are you doing on this plane? I said, "I was a passenger. I woke up and I was locked in the plane. The workers came on first. Those are the ones who found me."

BOLDUAN: Uh-huh.

WAGNER: And I was standing. I was going to open the door. I walked up toward the cockpit, you know, the boarding door, and I had my hand on there, and I said, "No, no, I better not do that." And a couple of minutes later the other side door opened up. The one worker come in and says, "Who are you? What are you doing on this plane?" I said, "Dude, I was a passenger on the plane. I fell asleep and I woke up." And he said, "Where's your badge?" And I said, "I don't work here." I says, "I was a passenger on this airplane." And he was like, "No, no, no."

PEREIRA: And what I think I understand, too is that they did a sweep. The airline said they walked through to make sure nobody was left on the plane. They somehow missed you. And, fella, you look like you're a fairly substantial man. I don't know how they could have missed you.

WAGNER: I don't either.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: I don't either. How do you miss a man on the airplane? OK, well, for their part, in a statement, the airline says it's investigating to determine how this occurred. I think that's the understatement, also saying we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this caused the passenger. Mr. Wagner seems to be taking it all in good stride. What a character.

So this is no secret. Congress really hasn't done a whole lot this year, right? They've been busy, but not accomplishing stuff. And that's putting it politely. But they still have a heck of a lot to do and guess what? They only have one week left to do it -- this week to do it all.

So can the so-called do-nothing Congress actually do something before the recess? Coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ORLANDO SALINAS, CORRESPONDENT: Step on to the asphalt and you're squared away. But when you get to that overpass, once again I'm telling you, it ain't pretty.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANDFIRELD: Wow. Not pretty. Not safe, either.

Take a look at this 20-car pileup on an icy expressway just north of New York City. Hard to believe when you look at those pictures that nobody was seriously hurt. Although, and I will say this, dozens of people did have bumps and bruises they report. Now look at this picture, slow going. An icy morning in Dallas. That is how you drive in Dallas when the ice storm cometh.