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Snow, Ice Snarl Roads, Runways; Congress Goes on Vacation Leaving Long To-Do List; Teens Drive Drunk, Friends Charged; Town Request One Year After Sandy Hook

Aired December 9, 2013 - 11:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And as treacherous as ice can be on the highways and roadways, you need to see what it can do on rooftops in that city.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see that guy right there?


BANFIELD: Wow. Oh, my god is right.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god. Holy crap.


BANFIELD: Yeah. You know, it's amazing that no one was down walking the dogs because it's a common time to walk the dogs apparently below those apartments. Those there two-inch slabs of ice fall to the ground. Eight cars smashed.

And look at these images, Detroit Ft. Worth Airport. 1500 airline flights canalled all around the country, a huge improvement from the weekend.

And things looking up for another winter scene we've been following. A deer in the middle of that image trying to get out of the crushed ice. A rescue going on in Willow Springs, Illinois. The rescuers managed to get that deer to drier and safer ground. Coaxing, nudging, dragging the animal, ultimately, getting the deer. Look at those pictures -- just amazing -- up onto the ice. And believe it or not there was a waiting animal ambulance. I diplomat know they had such things. But I love to see that they do this. Look at that. All of them together working in unison to make sure that deer was able to survive falling through the ice. Those are the winter stories. Welcome back, everybody, to "Legal View." I'm Ashleigh Banfield, sweater-clad today. Nothing to do with what's going on in Washington with the weather.

Both sides of the aisle are going to have to throw their full support behind something. And believe it or not, they all agree on it -- vacation. The House of Representatives is looking to flee the capitol on Friday for the holiday break. But before that leisure time, there's a bunch of pending legislation, you might say pesky legislation, still on the table: Gun control measure, farm bill subsidies, unemployment benefits. Most importantly, they need to reach a budget deal so we can all avoid another government shutdown. Let's be honest here. They're probably not going to get all of this done because this are the same lawmakers some people are calling a do- doing Congress because of the small amount of legislation they've been able to pass so far. How much are they likely to get done and how much are they likely to leave on the table.

CNN's Joe Johns joining me now.

That was a little list, Joe. There's a lot more, the farm bill, et cetera. What do we expect to actually happen in the next four and a half days?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, compared with the last 50 years, 2013 has seen record-breaking, verging on historic inactivity on the part of the U.S. Congress. And even as they get ready for the year-end sprint, it doesn't look like that's going to change.

The budget is top issue. Time is running out to get some type of deal to avoid another crisis, for example, another government shutdown as of January 15th, which is something both sides say it's something they don't want. The immediate problem is to try to give the agencies a work around from the Budget Control Act, which tied their hands, slowed spending to a trickle. There's been some speculation they're close to a deal about we've heard that before. This isn't the best environment for Democrats and Republicans to work together.

Also, there's growing concern about extending long-term unemployment benefits, which expire at the end of the month. It would affect about 1.3 million Americans. And it's really a philosophical issue for opponents who make the case that the unemployed would be better off if government removed the safety net. But many economists say the payment helped economy. And there's the farm bill, Defense Department policy bill, and even the tweak to Medicare fees to keep patients from being dropped from the rolls of health care providers. A lot of stuff on the list. Not clear at all that you a lot of that is going to get done -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Joe, last we left off back in October was when the big committee of I think 29 conference committee members were going to try to get together after the government shutdown and try to figure out another continuing resolution. And it all looked like there was a big Kumbaya. Patty Murray and Paul Ryan were spearheading this thing. And now as I'm hearing it, and correct me if I'm wrong, they're going to take their own plan and bypass that whole committee to the Congress and say, just do it, it's a cease fire, just do it. Is that it?

JOHNS: There's a question as to whether that strategy or any other strategy is actually going to be the thing they end up with. I think you have to say that opinions are mixed as to whether they're going to be able to get some type of a blanket deal or do something much smaller, which is what happened before when we've gotten pushed up get the deadline -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Joe Johns, thank you for that. We appreciate keeping an eye on Capitol Hill for us.

Elsewhere out of Washington, D.C., the president and Mrs. Obama are gone. They're on their way to South Africa right now. The occasion, of course, is the public memorial service for Nelson Mandela who died last Thursday at age 95. More than 90 heads of state or government are going to join about 90,000 South African mourners at the soccer stadium in Johannesburg set for tomorrow. That's the largest ceremony. But it's not the only one. From Wednesday through Friday, his body will lie in state in Pretoria. On Sunday, he'll be laid to rest in his hometown.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is in Pakistan trying to repair relations that have become strained over the drone strikes. As a result, some factions have shut down an important supply route to United States troops who are still in Afghanistan.

Senator Charles Schumer and Richard Blumenthal are calling for cameras nationwide on trains to monitor the engineer's compartment and also to monitor the tracks. They say it will help derail deadly accidents like the one that killed four people in New York last week.

Eight of the countries biggest technology companies want new curbs put in place on the National Security Agency. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the rest, they want the United States to take the lead on restricting online spying. They made a suggestion, stop the NSA from collecting information in bulk. They also want the government to publicly disclose when it wants that information and make the case before an independent court.

His amazing story of survival inspired a Hollywood hit. But Aaron Ralston, the hiker who amputated his own arm to stay alive, today is behind bars. We'll tell you why and how it happened.

And could you land behind bars for allowing a friend to drive drunk? It's happening possibly to two teens in Connecticut. But should they be to blame for perhaps what this young girl maybe should shoulder herself. That's next.


BANFIELD: The hiker whose story was captured in the movie "127 Hours" has ban arrested over allegations of domestic violence. In 2003, Aaron Ralston was trapped by a boulder and amputated his own arm in order to free himself. Sunday, he was arrested on assault and wrongs to minors and he is scheduled to appear in court today. A married couple stands trial for criminal homicide in an alleged thrill killing. According to police affidavit, they said they just wanted to kill someone. Police say Miranda used a Craigslist sex ad to lure this man into a car. The couple reportedly admitted trying unsuccessfully at other times to kill other victims.

If you let someone else get behind the wheel of a car and you know that that person is too drunk to drive, can you be held responsible if somebody happens? That's exactly what's hat the heart of a case in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Police there say two teenagers knew that their friend was drunk but that they let her drive home. The police also say because of that inaction, it cost their friend her life.

Pamela Brown looks at the charges they now face.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 17-year-old Jane Mooleski (ph) was driving alone in Glastonbury, Connecticut, in July when she crashed the SUV she was driving into a tree and was killed. Her blood alcohol level, according to police, was .27, three times the adult alcohol limit. Now two of the girls who were with her are being held accountable for allowing her to drive drunk.

JAMES KENNEDY, AGENT, GLASTONBURY POLICE: These juveniles knew she was intoxicated and knew she shouldn't be been driving and allowed her to drive.

BROWN: The police say the two teens were the last to get out of the car leaving the 17-year-old to get behind the wheel and drive herself off. She drove only half a mile before crashing.

After a thorough investigation, police arrested the teens this month and charged them with reckless endangerment.

KENNEDY: There were so many things that could have been done. And worried about getting in trouble for sneaking out. Is that really that important?

BROWN: The arrests sent shock waves through the community, still shaken up by the tragedy. On a Facebook page, one friend recently wrote, "Today brought me and many others, I'm sure, right back to the week you left us."

The case is once again raising questions about moral obligation versus legal responsibility.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: We expect adults to act with a certain degree of judgment and reasonableness. But when somebody is 16 years old, it's sort of hard to place the kind of the criminal responsibility on them that we would place on an adult who handed keys to a drunken driver.


BANFIELD: Our thanks to Pamela Brown for that report. You just heard Paul Callan talking about that core issue. How about this? Adults or teenagers, are we responsible for preventing a crime from happening? Think about that for a moment, and all the issues that come with it, and where you might fit into that argument. Paul is going to join us and sort it all out, next.


BANFIELD: Who is to blame for a 17-year-old's drunk driving death? Jane Mooleski (ph) left a part and police say she was far too drunk to drive. Her friends knew it. At first they stepped in to drive. But ultimately, they all dropped each other off and then they let Jane head on home all by herself despite her condition. They barely made it a half mile before she crashed into a tree and was killed. Now two of her friends are charged with reckless endangerment.

I want to bring in Paul Callan, a criminal defense attorney and a former prosecutor.

Here is what I don't get: Is it my responsibility to stop people from doing something like this? This sounds like it's a big precedent.

CALLAN: The law doesn't require you to stop somebody from doing it, but the law doesn't permit you to aid and abet them in doing it. And the charge here is that essentially a 16-year-old boy, whose name we don't know because it's a juvenile case, essentially handed the keys to an SUV to a very drunk 17-year-old girl who went on to crash into a tree and kill herself. They're saying, you sort of aided and abetted in that death by allowing this drunken person to drive a vehicle. And that's the essence of the charge here.

BANFIELD: Obviously, there are facts in this case we don't know yet, and that is what transpired between the now-victim, the girl who is dead and can't tell what happened, and the boy and the other boy, because two of them ultimately were the last drivers of the vehicle. They went and dropped one off and the driver got out himself and ultimately Jane got behind the wheel. But unless they're cheering her on and saying, go ahead, Jane, drive home, you're fine, do you see reckless endangerment? If they just passed the keys and said lock it up and then turned the other way and didn't see to it she didn't drive away.

CALLAN: There would be no case if they did that. But I'm assuming the cops can make a case they handed her the keys and said drive on your way. My problem with the case is the criminalization of childhood. The young boy who passed the keys to her is 16 years old. She's 17 years old. Connecticut prosecutors are saying a 16-year-old has the responsibility to tell a 17-year-old not to drive? He's not the parent. He's not a legal guardian. If it was a parent or a guardian, OK, I would say responsible adult, maybe you have the basis of a criminal charge, but a 16-year-old, who by the way was drinking himself, he didn't have the conscious disregard of a substantial risk that's required under the statute.

BANFIELD: But if that's your point, then should we ever be charging a teenager with an adult crime? Because ultimately, what we're saying as a society, if we're going to charge you as an adult for that murder, we believe you have all the capacity to, you know, to come up with a crime, the basis of mens rea. How is this different?

CALLAN: I think that's a fair question. The kind of crimes we charge as adults are intentional felonies. You take a gun and deliberately kill somebody.

BANFIELD: Drinking and driving is never intentional. It's just stupidity, reckless stupidity.

CALLAN: This is a judgment call. And these 16-year-old kids think they're immortal. This 16-year-old is not thinking she's drunk, she might hurt herself. He's thinking I drove, why can't she. She's 17. She should know better than me.

BANFIELD: They prosecuted. They've charged these two kids. Whether you think that's right or wrong, are the prosecutors going to prevail here?

CALLAN: I think they'll have a real uphill battle. It's being tried in juvenile court. So the penalties are limited. These are misdemeanor charges. Prosecutors are trying to send a message, and I agree with this don't drink and drive because somebody's going to die. But proving this case, very, very difficult.


CALLAN: How do you prove that he had responsibility over her? And that he should be held criminally responsible?

BANFIELD: Sometimes these are the only kinds of messages that teenagers hear. You can talk till you're blue in the face at the high school gym about the dangers of drinking and driving and until this happens, sometimes that's the only message. At least we're talking about it.

CALLAN: That's the argument prosecutors make. Everybody in Connecticut is going to know about this case and across the United States.

BANFIELD: Now it's on CNN.

CALLAN: Yes. Exactly.

BANFIELD: Paul Callan, thank you for that.


BANFIELD: Appreciate it.

Saturday, speaking of Connecticut, it's marking a very difficult time for not only people in Connecticut, this whole New York area, across the country. It's the one-year anniversary of that nightmare in Newtown, Connecticut. Today, the town leaders have come forward with a very big request. And you're going to want to hear it when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Officials in Newtown, Connecticut, are holding what they call an open discussion this hour about the upcoming anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. It's coming up this Saturday.

CNN's Poppy Harlow joins me live now with some details.

This meeting, it's kind of unusual. This is a full-court request of the media to back off.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. They said at the beginning of this press conference, the officials from Newtown, we've never done this before. The message coming from the first selectman, the mayor, the police chief, the superintendent of schools is, please let us heal in our own way. Please let us get through this on our own at our pace on the one-year anniversary, which is Saturday, December 14th.

You were up there covering it, Ashleigh. I was up there. It is tragic every time I go back, it is so sad. They're saying let us do it ourselves.

I want you to listen to why they are asking the media to stay away.


PATRICIA LLODRA, NEWTOWN FIRST SELECTMAN: Well, it's not personal. But we truly are hoping we have provided enough opportunity with the print media and the TV media and particularly the local media to answer questions and give the media the story that I know that the world's going to want to hear on the first anniversary. We're hoping when you leave here today at 12: 00 noon or whenever you leave our community, that you have what you need to satisfy your producers. So that when we say to you, please don't come, I mean, please respect our need to be alone and to be quiet and have that personal time to continue on our journey of grief in the way that serves us.


HARLOW: And she said we think you, as the media, can cover the story from where you are. You don't need to be here. She also said you haven't hurt us. We're just asking for time and space to heal. CNN as an organization that has made the decision to stay away from Newtown. We're not going to be there on Saturday. We're going to cover the story but not from there.

BANFIELD: We only have a couple seconds left. But it can't have helped Newtown has come out of a protracted long battle over the 911 tapes.

HARLOW: Right.

BANFIELD: And it was a battle against the media.

HARLOW: It was a battle against media. That did not come up in the press conference. Beautiful things were said. The leader of the Newtown congregational church said, "Newtown is cracked, we are broken, but there is light coming through the cracks and there are beautiful things happening."

BANFIELD: Thank you for that.

It's hard. You have to cover it. The world is, indeed, mourning and watching along with them.

HARLOW: But I think it's right to give them their space.

BANFIELD: I understand you.

Thank you, Poppy Harlow.


BANFIELD: And thanks for watching, everyone. I'm out of time. But AROUND THE WORLD starts next with Suzanne Malveaux and Michael Holmes.