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Seaworld Responds to Criticism; Duck Dynasty Family Closes Ranks; Michigan Man Charged with Murder in Shooting Death of Unarmed Teen; Teenager Raped, Left for Dead on Chicago "Safe Passage" Path; Prostitution to Become Legal in Canada

Aired December 20, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Seaworld says it is time to set the record straight, insisting that it is in the business of saving and not capturing and mistreating whales and other sea creatures, but can Seaworld turn back the tide of criticism?

Also this hour. Is TV's "Duck Dynasty" doomed? Without Phil, could Willie and the others walk away from their absolute runaway TV smash hit?

And silent night suddenly not quite so holy. Wait until you hear how they changed the song and how the audience reacted.

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It's Friday December 20th. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW. It's nice to have you with us today.

I want to start with something that's maybe not quite so nice. I'm so sorry to say. It is the question on everyone's mind. How am I going to get home for the holidays? Will my loved ones get here safely, or am I going to be in that hot mess like I was over Thanksgiving.

The ice, snow, that's just one thing that's going on right now. Take a look at this nightmare in Salt Lake City. Thanks to a broken power pole that dropped power lines onto the freeway turning it into a parking lot for hours. AAA is projecting 94.5 million of us are going to be traveling 50 miles or more from home starting tomorrow. And that goes through January 1st.

So, what can we expect? Well, the best person to turn to at this point when you're looking for the forecast and how your few days are going to go is meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She's live in the CNN weather center. Please tell me that the only thing I'm going to be facing is the nightmare Delta just told me about taking the seats away from my two small children and putting them with someone else?



GRAY: This system is not going to be identical to the one we saw on Thanksgiving. This has several different components for it. And the reason for it, we have warm air pulling into the southeast. So this will mainly be a rain event. We have a severe threat to it, so we could see severe storms Saturday and Sunday. Yes, we will see ice, we will see some snow, but most of the country will be dealing with the rain.

This is a look on Saturday. What we're going to see for the severe weather threat. It stretches from eastern Louisiana all the way through Mississippi, including Memphis. We could see some very gusty winds. We could see isolated tornadoes as well with this. And this includes the Ark-La-Tex. This will be pushing to the east as we go on Sunday.

This is the snowfall threat. It's mainly going to be affecting interstate 70, 80 and 35. We could see anywhere from two to four, maybe up to six inches of snow in isolated locations. And we have an ice threat, new freeze watch or warning has been issued for Tulsa. This is a possible ice threat as we go through northern Oklahoma. Depending on where you're traveling, you could see rain, snow, ice. So it's going to be a tossup as we go through the weekend.

BANFIELD: And this was my sendoff to the holiday vacation?

GRAY: I know. Good news is it looks like it does get better by Monday and Tuesday.

BANFIELD: Oh good, when I'm not traveling. I'm going to throw this out there to the people who are seated beside my six year old and my eight year old, just keep opening the backpacks. We've got snacks in there, I'm sure it'll quiet them down. Yeah, this could be a seven hour flight from hell is all I'm going to tell you.


GRAY: Good luck with that!

BANFIELD: Thank you for that. And happy holidays to you.

Another big story that's brewing, and this is something we've been following for a while now. Seaworld. And it's got a much bigger problem than losing performers. Since the documentary "BLACKFISH" aired right here on CNN, Seaworld is now losing children. And not just the elementary school kids from California that we told you about yesterday who canceled their overnight field trip. Now students at Point Loma High School (ph) in San Diego have chimed in calmly and articulately in a video letter to the park. Have a listen.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for all the amazing memories.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The penguin encounter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the cute cuddly teddy bears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But after watching the documentary "BLACKFISH" on CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of those memories have totally been cheapened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it true the orcas in your exhibits were kidnapped from their families?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it true their lifespans are shortened in captivity?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it true there have been numerous attacks on human trainers at your parks?


BANFIELD: At first Seaworld did not respond, but now the park has written an open letter from Seaworld's animal advocates, saying it is time to set the record straight. Our Martin Savidge is covering the story. He joins me now live from the CNN center.

So, what is the response from Seaworld?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Throughout the whole "BLACKFISH" film saga, Seaworld has maintained there's been impact on ticket sales or attendance. And yet, then you see these huge full screen ads that have come out in all the major national newspapers. At least the "USA Today," "The Wall Street Journal," "New York Times," and a number of others. And they go into some of the specific issues that are raised by the film "BLACKFISH."

I'll raise a couple of them here. First point, they say Seaworld does not capture killer whales in the wild. We haven't collected a killer whale from the wild in 35 years. That, of course, is true. There was a time that they did. Tilikum which is the whale that was the focus of "BLACKFISH" was actually captured in the wild, but now they have a very efficient breeding program.

Another point they bring up, they say we do not separate killer whale moms calves. Of course anybody who's seen the documentary knows that that's an extremely emotional point that's raised. Seaworld did do it in the past, but apparently says now they do not.

And then the other they bring up is to say that Seaworld's killer whales' life spans are equivalent to those in the wild. I've talked to a lot of marine biologists, not activists but scientists and they disagree adamantly. They say those in the wild live a lot longer than those in captivity. They say that's clearly documented.

BANFIELD: It's one thing to put out the statement and to try to get, you know, their part of the story out. It's another thing to have the marketing disaster that has become children. Children are leaving. This is their bread and butter. How are they managing with the financial losses that they might be incurring from this?

SAVIDGE: First and foremost, to that elementary school that you mentioned, they have responded and said that's the first cancellation of that kind Seaworld has ever had. And on top of that they haven't talked about the high school students. To be honest, those numbers will be insignificant. But if children begin to change, we all know as parents what an impact that has on how we spend our money. If you're child says, I don't want to go to Seaworld, you're probably not going to go.

BANFIELD: All right, Martin Savidge, reporting for us live. Thank you for that.

I want to get us over to London now where the roof of the famous Apollo Theater has now been declared secure. That following a terrifying collapse that injured dozens of people, seven of them seriously. The ceiling falling apart about 40 minutes into a play at the Apollo.

A strong new reading this morning on the American economy, and the arrow goes up. The gross domestic product grew at a rate of 4.1 percent in the third quarter. That's the fastest rate of growth in two years and much higher than the economists had previously estimated.

The "Duck Dynasty" family is standing by their patriarch and his controversial comments to a magazine. Will the, in fact, be the show stopper? What is the future of this amazing program?


BANFIELD: Phil Robertson may not be blowing his duck call much longer on his reality show. Family and supporters are circling the wagons after A&E suspended him for making controversial remarks about gays and African Americans in a magazine interview -- GQ to be specific. Now adding fuel to the fire, a video has surfaces of Robertson ranting about morality from three years ago. And that's triggering calls for him to be booted off for good. Nischelle Turner now with all the details.


NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORERSPONDENT (voice over): Talk about rocking the boat. Just a day after A&E suspended the backwoods Louisiana star Phil Robertson from his hit reality show "Duck Dynasty" for making anti-gay comments, a fire storm erupted.

Now as his critics and supporters are lining up getting their ducks in a row, Robertson's family has addressed the controversy for the first time. Saying, "While some of Phil's unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Phil would never incite or encourage hate."

But now, surfacing a video from 2010 showing Robertson in a Pennsylvania pulpit preaching morality.

PHIL ROBERTSON, CAST MEMBER, "DUCK DYNASTY": Women with women, men with men -- they commit indecent acts with one another. And they receive in themselves the deep penalty for their perversion. They're full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God haters.

MATTHEW BREEN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE ADVOCATE": He has the right of course to say what he likes to say. But A&E I think made a very good decision when they decided that those views are not American views, those views do not represent their brand as a network and they pulled him.

TURNER: But now coming out of the woodwork are Robertson's supporters even pledging their support on Twitter with the hashtag #StandbyPhil. Republicans like Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin taking a stand behind the boys from the bayou as well. Palin saying on her Facebook page, "Free speech is an endangered species. Those intolerants hating and taking on the 'Duck Dynasty' patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us."

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: The left keep saying they're for tolerance except for people that disagree with them. You know, it's -- it's stunning to me after all of those antics that Miley Cyrus was still be on TV and Phil is the one getting kicked off.

TURNER: Robertson's supporters say they are fighting the good fight. But critics say it's an old fight likely to lose in a new world.


BANFIELD: Nischelle Turner is here now live to talk about this. I was watching that. I had a tough time actually hearing what he was saying in that video. But essentially he mentioned things about, I'm paraphrasing here so I'm sorry if I butcher this, but that homosexuality is evil and that there's murderous thoughts and that they're God hating. I mean that's really strident stuff.

TURNER: Yeah, essentially, that's the gist of what he was saying. We did see him in the pulpit. It's different than what we usually would see him as, as kind of the jovial patriarch on the show. We saw him in the pulpit talking about his beliefs, and that's kind of what we've seen this week. So, this now we're getting a little bit different of a picture. Let me say this, this family has never been shy about what they believe when it comes to their religion. We just haven't seen it on the show. But this is what this family believes.

BANFIELD: By the way, off camera, just as you were making your comment, I was handed a statement. This is actually what Phil Robertson was saying in that clip, if you had trouble hearing it. I thought it was just me. But I think it was hard to make it out. "Women with women, men with women, they've committed indecent acts with one another, and they've received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions. They're full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They're insolent, arrogant, God haters."

Ouch. Here's the thing -- while this is getting a lot of traction and it's caused this whole thing to blow up on TV, I'm not hearing as much about the comments he made about African Americans. That pre-civil rights era they were singing merrily in the fields and didn't have any issues? TURNER: Well I think there has been some, you know, brush back now by the NAACP. They released a statement condemning what he said. They called his speak racist speak. That is not what other people believe but that is what they said. I think generally what has happened here is that the other comments were so inflammatory that these seem to pale a little in comparison. Although, there are a lot of people offended and disagree with those comments about how black people were treated in the pre-civil rights era, in the Jim Crow era.

BANFIELD: I think this is not going away any time soon.

TURNER: I don't think so either.

BANFIELD: Did you make Christmas plans?


BANFIELD: I don't know about your flights.

TURNER: There's a "Duck Dynasty" marathon on this weekend by the way.

BANFIELD: Oh, so it continues nonetheless. All right, Nischelle, it's good to see you. If I don't see you, happy holidays, my friend.

A Michigan homeowner is one step closer to going to trial, because he heard a noise on his porch, opened the door and fired. And the woman who had been in a car accident who was knocking and asking for help was killed. So is he to blame for this? Talk about that in just a moment.


BANFIELD: A major development this morning in a story we reported and started following last month. A Detroit judge has ruled that the man accused of shooting an unarmed 19-year-old on his porch is going to stand trial for doing that.

Theodore Wafer is facing charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter for killing that woman, Renisha McBride. She showed up on his porch in the middle of the night after wrecking her car. Her family says she was asking for help, but Wafer says he feared for his life. National correspondent Susan Candiotti with the details now.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After a two-day hearing, including testimony that Theodore Wafer's shotgun did not fire accidentally --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you load a shot shell into the chamber?


CANDIOTTI: A Michigan judge ruled there's enough evidence to let a jury decide whether Wafer is guilty of second degree murder and manslaughter. He's pleaded not guilty. Wafer is accused of shooting teenager Renisha McBride in the face on his front porch, through his screen door in the middle of the night. What Wafer didn't know was that McBride crashed her car several blocks away after a night of heavy drinking and smoking pot.

The judge questioning whether the homeowner had to pick up a gun at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He could have not answered the door. He could have called for help. It suggests to this court, the defendant made a bad choice.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Those word have a sting coming from a judge who's heard the evidence in the case, to say that clearly Mr. Wafer had made a bad choice in what he did.

CANDIOTTI: Defense attorneys offered a new theory about why they say Wafer feared for his life.

CHERYL CARPENTER, THEODORE WAFER'S ATTORNEY: We have evidence the screen frame was so violently banged that it broke. So if you're at 4:30 in the morning, by yourself hearing that at the front door, what do you think is going on in your mind?

CANDIOTTI: Prosecutors were furious.

DANIELE HAGAMAN-CLARK, WAYNE COUNTY ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR: That is ridiculous. That's ridiculous. You open up the front door because you're so afraid of whatever it is that's out there?

CANDIOTTI: For Renisha McBride's family, a long road ahead waiting to learn whether someone will be held responsible for their daughter's violent death.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York.


BANFIELD: Now a shocking case of rape out of Chicago. A 15-year-old girl was walking to school when she was brutally attacked and then left half naked in the freezing cold. This all happening just a half block away from one of what the city calls is a safe passage school route. This all putting Chicago's problems with violence under the spotlight yet again. Our George Howell has the details.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A 15-year-old girl was on her way to school when someone attacked her. Police believe a man hit her on the head and dragged her between these two homes where she was sexually assaulted and left lying in the snow for hours until the man who lives here found her.

MICHAEL KLOCKOWSKI, FOUND VICTIM OUTSIDE HIS HOME: I opened up the door to take maybe a morning sweep of the sidewalks, and to find something like that is shocking. HOWELL: Michael Klockowski found the young victim bloodied and half naked on the sidewalk. The snow here still stained by what happened Tuesday. A chilling reminder of how dangerous the streets can be to parents like Ada Cambron.

ADA CAMBRON, MOTHER: Everybody is worried because in the morning you never see police walking around and stuff like that.

HOWELL: Now today you're seeing them all over.

CAMBRON: Because something happened. But it should be that way.

HOWELL: The attack happened not even half a block away from a so- called safe passage route. A program established, with much publicity, by the Chicago public schools to put men and women on patrol helping children get to and from school safely. The number of safe passage routes doubled this year to accommodate more children. But is it working?

SHARON RAFAEL, MOTHER: I think it works, but it just needs a little bit more security on it.

HOWELL: What do you mean?

RAFAEL: Like. You can patrol it right now, but later on probably like in a few weeks, they'll forget about it and they won't -- they won't be around anymore.

HOWELL: Police say the attack happened around 6:00 a.m., when it's still dark this time of year in Chicago, and was 30 minutes before the safe package route was paroled. Still, Alderman Ariel Raboyras says it raised questions about safety.

ARIEL REBOYRAS, CHICAGO ALDERMAN, 30TH WARD: We can't say it was a result of a problem with safe package. But we know it's not supposed to happen.

HOWELL: Police are still searching for the suspect. The teenage girl he attacked is still in the hospital in critical condition. But the whole thing has parents thinking twice about whether these signs are enough or if more needs to be done.

George Howell, CNN Chicago.


BANFIELD: If you're watching this program in America, there's a pretty good chance that prostitution is just not legal where you live, but one of our neighbors is making some serious changes. North? South? Does it really mean that prostitution is come out from the shadows and above ground? A high court has weighed in. We'll tell you what happened.


BANFIELD: The Supreme Court of Canada today sent down quite the ruling, that laws against prostitution actually violate the constitutional rights of prostitutes. So it struck those laws down. Which basically means that laws against brothels and laws against street walking and laws controlling living off somebody else's prostitution profits are off the books. All of that happening our neighbor to the north. I want to bring in the brain trusts here on this one. And what does it mean, necessarily, for this country?

CNN's legal analyst and defense attorney Danny Cevallos, and HLN legal analyst and defense attorney Joey Jackson. I knew you guys would jump at the chance to talk about this one.


BANFIELD: First let's just get it out on the table what this effectively means. These laws have been stayed or at least it's been stayed for a year so that parliament can deal with it and maybe re-jib and figure out how to handle this sort of thing. But basically does that mean it's all good? I mean, essentially after a year if they don't deal with it, prostration 100 percent legal in Canada.

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, it certainly could be. Look, the reality is that obviously laws in the domain of the parliament to make, create, do what they will. However, they have to have a constitutional - you know they have to pass constitutional muster.