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Teenage Drunk Driver Spared Jail; Making Meat Safer; "Golden" Contenders

Aired December 12, 2013 - 08:30   ET


ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Behavior has real consequences. The 16-year-old admitted to drinking alcohol the night he caused the chain reaction crash that killed four people and severely hurt two others in Tarrant County, Texas. His sentence, 10 years of probation, not the 20 years of prison prosecutors asked for. The teen's defense and the judge's lenient sentence have sparked outrage. His victim's loved ones are stunned.

MARLA MITCHELL, DAUGHTER WAS KILLED: He'll be feeling the hand of God definitely. He may think he's gotten away with something, but he hasn't gotten away with anything.

ERIC BOYLES, WIFE AND DAUGHTER KILLED: The wounds that it opened only makes the healing process that much greater and much more difficult.

MACHADO: Eric Boyles lost his wife and daughter that night in June.

BOYLES: We had over 180 years of life taken, future life, not 180 years lived, but 180 years of future life taken. And two of those were my wife and daughter.

MACHADO: Hollie and Shelby Boyles were helping Breanna Mitchell, a 24- year-old, whose car had a flat tire. Brian Jennings, a youth pastor, also stopped to help when Couch's vehicle slammed into them. All four were killed.

OPERATOR: Sir, how many people are injured? Do you know?

CALLER: One, two, three. Multiple.

OPERATOR: Multiple?

CALLER: I don't even know how many.



MACHADO: Three hours after the crash, Couch's blood alcohol level was .24, three times the legal limit in Texas. The term "affluenza" came from a psychologist put on the stand by the defense who reportedly said Couch was brought up to spend money instead of saying sorry if he hurt someone and that he never learned that sometimes you don't get your way. The judge opted for probation and therapy over prison time. SCOTT BROWN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Taking him away from his family and teaching him to be a reasonable citizen, that's a consequence.

MACHADO: But for the families of the victims, that's simply not enough.

BOYLES: Money always seems to keep Ethan out of trouble. This was one time I did ask the court that -- for justice and that for money not to prevail. And ultimately, today, I felt like money did prevail.


MACHADO: Now, the families of Couch's victims have filed civil lawsuits against the teen and his family. One of those victims includes a teen who was riding with Couch and who is now paralyzed because of the crash.

Chris. Kate.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Alina, thank you.

Sunny Hostin, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, joins us now.

You do not agree. You do not like this.


CUOMO: Let's discuss why in terms of the law and the policy. What do you see here?

HOSTIN: You know, I think in terms of the policy, this really flies in the face of our criminal justice system. There has to be consequences to actions. And that's what our system is about, even for juveniles. I think a lot of people feel, well, you know, the system is about rehabilitation.

And that's a part of it, no question about it, but it's also about punishment and sending a message to not only this defendant, but other people, that this type of behavior won't be tolerated. You can't kill four people, Chris, and paralyze another one and then get sent to a rehab facility, a Tony (ph) rehab facility. I think the cost is about $450,000 a year that his parents are going to pay for, rather than being sent to prison where you learn real adult lessons.

CUOMO: Or you can be, right, because that's exactly what the judge just did.

HOSTIN: Well, that's what the judge just did, exactly, sent him to this rehab facility. And I've got to tell you, you know, we're hearing for the first time this "affluenza,." How many kids have suffered from poorenza, like I suffered from in the south Bronx, get, you know, have terrible upbringings and dysfunctional families, yet get put in jail for a lot less. And so I think that really is the problem here.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Have you heard of this defense before? HOSTIN: I've never heard of it before. And, in fact, this psychologist says he's been using it for about 30 years, but this is something I've never heard of. In fact, again, this sort of flies in the face of what we do hear of every single day in our justice system, which is, there are consequences to actions and for poor kids and rich kids, those consequences should be the same.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I was watching that poor mother saying he thinks he may have gotten away with something, and that's, I think, the concern of a lot of people is that, you know, we're doing a great disservice to this young man. If we think he can - if he thinks he can coast through life like this.

HOSTIN: Exactly. Exactly. And that's the message I think that's being sent. And it sets this really dangerous precedent.

PEREIRA: A terrible precedent, right? That's the other thing.

HOSTIN: Because are we going to now hear about "affluenza" from other defense attorneys?


HOSTIN: Of course we are.

PEREIRA: Oh, not my fault. Not my fault.

HOSTIN: Of course we are. And it does a disservice, I think, to this young man especially.

I suspect, though, that the government may -- and I don't know if Chris will agree with me -

PEREIRA: You think (INAUDIBLE) over.

HOSTIN: May try to challenge this sentence. And it's not often done. It's rarely done. I know in federal court at the U.S. attorney's office it was rarely done and you had to get permission from your supervisors. But if there is a too lenient sentence or even perhaps a sentence that's too harsh or perhaps a sentence that's illegal, you can challenge the sentence. And it's something that we saw in that Montana case with the -



HOSTIN: With the rape -- the teacher that was given 30 days for rape.

PEREIRA: Yes. Yes.

HOSTIN: We saw that sentence challenged by the government and I suspect, and I hope, that these prosecutors will do that in this case.

CUOMO: And, you know, it's - the only - I don't disagree with you, it's just that it's very rare. HOSTIN: It is rare.

CUOMO: That's the point that you need to highlight, too harsh, illegal, yes, yes, (INAUDIBLE).


CUOMO: But too lenient.

HOSTIN: Sometimes too lenient. Sometimes.

CUOMO: Very - very rare.

HOSTIN: Exactly.

CUOMO: And here the judge laid out what she did. Here's my thing that I'm trying to get my hands around. I can't -- you listen to the family members, you listen to the relatives of the victims, it's just too much to hear. It's like the best people in the world, everything that we want to implicate (ph) into society wound up being punished by this kid who was doing everything wrong.

HOSTIN: Sure. Good Samaritans.

PEREIRA: Yes, helping someone else out.

CUOMO: And it's almost impossible to get past that in the analysis. But I think we have to. And here's why. I don't like when poor kids get sent to jail when they shouldn't. If they were better lawyered up, it wouldn't have happened. I don't like when people are punished as some type of proxy for change because as we both know it doesn't happen unless you're an exceptional individual.

Why isn't the concern in a situation like this that more kids should get this kind of benefit of doubt and the idea of forgiveness and redemption? We throw away so many lives into the system. I'm not sure what bothers me here more, that this kid used money, influence, whatever you want to put, "affluenza," I've never heard of that, but is that it? Or is it the frustration that, why does he get it when the kid who did the thing wrong one time for whatever reason doesn't get that second chance? That so many don't get a chance. Is that the frustration?

HOSTIN: You know, I think you make a great point because certainly there is always the argument that we just warehouse our kids, warehouse our youth into prisons, right, and they really do need rehab instead. I think this case is very different though. I think it is in stark contrast -

PEREIRA: How is it different?

HOSTIN: Because you're talking about someone who killed four people. This is not --

PEREIRA: Right, and paralyzed another.

HOSTIN: And paralyzed another. This was not his first rodeo.


HOSTIN: He had another drunk driving situation before. And so to now give him a pass this time, given the egregious nature of his conduct, four deaths, it's just incomprehensible to me. It's something that sort of stands alone.

CUOMO: So why do you think she did it?

HOSTIN: You know, I -

CUOMO: Judge long record, never censured (ph) before for this kind of thing. Yes, she's not running again, but what do you think?

HOSTIN: Yes, she's not running again. I think that she bought this sort of "affluenza" argument. I think she's probably seen the juvenile justice system not rehabilitate young people. And I think she thought, well, I'm going to try to make change within the system and not send him to prison.

PEREIRA: So it's a way to make those changes.

HOSTIN: And this was the wrong thing to do. This was the wrong message. And I think she should be censured, quite frankly, and I think this sentence should be challenged.

BOLDUAN: We'll see. Sunny, thank you so much.

HOSTIN: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: All right.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, as you're getting ready, probably making some breakfast, ponder this one, steak with a side order of antibiotics. Does that sound very tasty? Probably not. Well, the federal government apparently doesn't think it's healthy either. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to be joining us to talk about new rules to try and make meat safer.

CUOMO: Hey, Golden Globe nominations are coming up. You're looking at them live right now. Big surprises. Big snubs. We'll have them for you.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

It's time now for a "New Day New You." It's a growing concern for many people. How safe is the meat, the chicken, the poultry, all of it, that we're feeding our families? Well, now the Food and Drug Administration has announced new measures to make us safer, to try and make us safer by limiting the use of antibiotics in animals. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is joining us.

Now, many families, many parents are going to pay attention to this - to this decision, Sanjay. Why is this so important? Lay it out.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, two words, really, antibiotic resistance. We talk about this a fair amount, but about two million people a year get sickened with these infections that are very hard to treat with antibiotics. We just don't have good medications for them. And about 23,000 people die. What happens is, if you use too many antibiotics, certain bugs are going to survive and those ones are going to replicate and they are going to become increasingly resistant.

Here's how it applies to food. Take a look at the diagram. Antibiotics are placed in feed. And then that feed is then given to these animals, which are either -- go towards poultry or some sort of meat or they're actually -- go to the farms as well actually for vegetables and things. Eventually, the point is, it gets into your system, into our system, and that's how this antibiotic in feed is causing problems in humans.

Also, 80 percent of the antibiotics in this country are used that way, in feed. Only about 20 percent directly to humans. So you can see the magnitude of a problem like this.

BOLDUAN: And that really lays out why some people might be surprised that the FDA would be taking this on. But that really lays out why they're taking on this issue because if you said 80 percent of antibiotics are used in livestock, not humans.

GUPTA: That's right and that can have all sorts of different manifestations. Again, it could be that it get into the food, it could infect farmers or it's actually, if it's used for other things, including something that can get into our vegetable supply, you start to worry about outbreaks.

Look, you know, you may remember, Kate, this past summer, there was 134 people sickened. It was a chicken outbreak. And the bacteria was a resistant bacteria. So people were getting sick with something that was incredibly hard to treat because of the food they were eating. And that's obviously a huge concern.

BOLDUAN: And, Sanjay, of course then the next question is, if you remove antibiotics from feed for livestock, is there also then kind of the opposite risk that meat -- the antibiotic free meat could also be at risk for humans?

GUPTA: Yes. And that's part of the concern. And there's this balance right now that's been going on for a long time in farms trying to balance, you know, growth promoting medications, these antibiotics, with the filthy farms.

So, two things could happen. One is that you still run the risk of having animals that are in fact infected, although it's a much smaller risk, and also, yes, you're probably going to have an increase in cost because they're not promoting the growth of these animals and the farms are going to be increasingly regulated to keep clean as a result. So those are good things probably, but it can, you know, it can lead to higher costs. I should point out as well, and I say this as a doctor, Kate, this isn't just the agricultural industry. If you look at, you know, the medical industry for humans, about 80 percent of the antibiotics prescribed for upper respiratory tract, you know, sort of cold like things, are unnecessary. Eighty percent. So we wildly over-prescribe antibiotics and now you're seeing the consequences.

BOLDUAN: Yes, coming from a doctor family myself, I've heard that over and over again. Really for the years.

GUPTA: Just give the Z-Pak, doctor. You hear all the time.

BOLDUAN: Exactly, the Z-Pak, doctor. Exactly right.

So is there anything, real quick, Sanjay, that consumers are going to see differently on this shelves with this FDA decision right away?

GUPTA: Not right away. It's going to take a couple of years. And some of this is also -- these are guidelines the FDA is issuing basically to the manufacturers. So, it's not mandated yet, but two of the big ones have already complied.

And basically, what's going to be necessary is that farms are going to require a prescription for antibiotics from a veterinarian before they can get them, indiscriminately. Right now, they can go buy feed that has antibiotics in it. No questions asked. No prescriptions necessary. So, that probably what changes.

BOLDUAN: Sanjay, thank you so much. It's great to see you.

And to all of our viewers, do not forget to tune in to "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D." It airs weekends. You probably know that, of course. But to remind you, weekends, right here on CNN. Saturday, 4:30 p.m. Eastern, and Sunday, 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

Coming up next on NEW DAY: who is golden in Hollywood? Golden Globes just announced. Did your favorite make the cut?


PERERIA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

The battle for Hollywood supremacy is getting serious. That's right. This year's Golden Globe nominees were just announced and our Nischelle Turner is in L.A. to break the big contenders, the big surprises and the big snubs. And I should mention, just talk about the fact that the Globes is the best party of them all.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Isn't it, though? It is such a party. It's so much fun. The actors all let loose. They have a little libation at their table and have a good time while getting some awards.

This is kind of like my Super Bowl this time of year, Michaela. So, let's get to the nominations this morning, because there were definitely some prizes, definitely some oohs and ahhs, but I want to tell you who the big nominees are.

First of all, in best picture category for drama, the nominees, "12 Years a Slave," "Captain Phillips," "Gravity", "Philomena' and "Rush".

And also, let's move on to the actors category. Best actress in a drama nominated this morning: Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jazzman," Sandra Bullock for "Gravity", Judi Dench for "Philomena", Emma Thompson for "Saving Mr. Banks", and Kate Winslet for "Labor Day".

In the comedy category, Amy Adams was nominated for "American Hustle", Julie Delpy for "Before Midnight." Greta Gerwig for "Frances Ha", Julia Louis Dreyfus for "Enough Said", Meryl Streep for "August Osage County".

And let's move to the men now. In the best actor category in a drama, the nominees this morning, Chiwetel Ejiofor for "12 Years a Slave", Idris Elba for "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom", Tom Hanks for "Captain Phillips", Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club" and Robert Redford in "All is Lost".

In the comedy category, Christian Bale nominated for "American Hustle", an almost unrecognizable Christian Bale in that movie. Bruce Dern for "Nebraska". Leonardo DiCaprio for "The Wolf of Wall Street". Oscar Isaac for "Inside Lou and Davis". And Joaquin Phoenix for "Her".

So, that's the big categories this morning, Michaela. There were some surprises, especially in the television category. You know, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are hosting the awards this year. Amy Poehler was nominated for best actress for a comedy, "Parks and Recreation", her show, was nominated for best comedy. But Tina Fey was not nominated, and that's because her show "30 Rock" ended and did not qualify for the Golden Globes this year.

So, some people were thinking where's Tina Fey? Where was "30 Rock"? Where was Alec Baldwin? Well, that show did not qualify people are wondering about that one, Michaela.

PEREIRA: Well, Nischelle, I think also, we "Downtown Abbey" fans are wondering why the big snub for our favorite British import.

TURNER: You know, I know. And I am a big, big fan of it as well. That's a good question as well. There were a lot of other snubs.

You know, I came in late, but I'm a big fan of that, so not a lot of love this morning. Also in the movie category, "The Butler", the movie Lee Daniels "The Butler" was shut out. No nomination for Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, no nomination for Lee Daniels or the movie itself. No "Dallas Buyers Club" best picture nomination, no "Mandela: Walk to Freedom" best picture nomination. And no "August Osage County" for best picture as well.

But the actors and actresses were nominated in those movies. So, it should be a very interesting year at the Golden Globes this year, January 18th, like you said, the biggest party in Hollywood. I'll be there. PEREIRA: You will, you will. And it's a big precursor. Those nominations big indicator for what we'll see at Oscar time. Netflix also have a fantastic year with nominations as well.

Say hello to our friends in Los Angeles, Nischelle. Have a great time. Thanks so much for that.

And, Chris, you'll be pleased to see your show, "Ray Donovan" getting some nods from the Hollywood foreign press.

CUOMO: Strong, strong. I look forward to watching. It's always nice.

BOLDUAN: Strong.

CUOMO: Coming up, a Christmas miracle. Listen to this, a down on his luck dad finds an artificial Christmas tree. That's good luck, right? Wait until you hear what he found in the box that came in and what he did with it. That's what makes it the good stuff.


CUOMO: All right, guys. Favorite part of the show, "The Good Stuff".

How about a little couch action, shall we? Come on.


CUOMO: All right. Time for "The Good Stuff".

Anthony Garofalo is down on his luck. A single dad and he's actually sifting through trash to make ends meet.


ANTHONY GAROFALO, SINGLE FATHER: I'm disabled and the economy so tough right now, trying to raise this little guy by myself and with no help from anybody.

BOY: What about me, daddy?

GAROFALO: You're the man, that's why.


CUOMO: OK, his son is impossibly cute, but they're also really impossibly down on their luck. Three years ago, he came across an artificial Christmas tree in a box. He held on to it because all this time, his son was too young, but he's like at least I have this for him.

He finally opens the box years later, inside, $50,000 in bearer bonds. Bearer bonds, OK?

Anthony could really use the money, but guess what he's decided to do? Return it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GAROFALO: What's right is right and what's wrong is wrong. And, you know, I have no right to that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you wouldn't be opposed to a reward?

GAROFALO: Oh, no, not all. No, anything you can do to help me would be incredible. We're struggling to survive here.


CUOMO: And what an amazing thing. Anthony was able to determine the rightful owner. His name is Donald H. Tran in Ohio, but all the numbers have been disconnected and address listed as wrong.

So Mr. Tran, if you are listening, we got your bonds. Anthony Garofalo has them for you and all he's asking in return is doing the right thing. So that's why is good stuff.

BOLDUAN: And that is good stuff.

CUOMO: It is absolutely.

Nice to have you.


PEREIRA: Welcome indoors.

CUOMO: A lot of news for you this morning. Carol Costello has it all in the "NEWSROOM" and we give it to you.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much. Have a great day.

Happening now in the NEWSROOM: signing scandal. The interpreter on the world stage at the Mandela memorial telling his side to CNN. He says he's a champion of sign language.

Plus, family feud Republicans square off and split up over a budget deal. Your money on the table and they're playing with it.

And shut down. Hear what the Redskins coach is making RG3 ride the pine.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thanks so much for joining me this morning.

We begin in South Africa where the interpreter from the Nelson Mandela memorial is fighting back after he's being called a fake, and sparking outrage in the deaf community. He says he's more than qualified and has appeared at many high profile events.