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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Texting Man Shot Dead in Movie Theater; Reports Say That DEA Cut Sweetheart Deal With Sinaloa Cartel, Texas Law Keeps Pregnant Woman on Life Support Despite Family's Wishes

Aired January 14, 2014 - 11:00   ET

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


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... try a group calling itself Hula Fantastica. Their Venice Beach video was the inspiration for the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders.

But it was an uphill battle for the cheerleaders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They hadn't had a lot of experience with the hula hoops. They couldn't get those cool twirls.

MOOS: But Corbin Perkins, the Cowboys' multimedia editor, seemed to get the hang of it. He can be seen diving into the beach grass to get out of the shot while the cheerleaders twirl.

Nobody seemed to be complaining about the skill level. Instead, there were comments like, "That is one lucky hula hoop," "I want to be that hula hoop."

The next best thing, to be the hula hoop handler. It's like being a fly on the wall of the hula hoop, dizzying.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAROL COSTELLO: Thanks for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Forget the NSA, wait till you hear this DEA bombshell, stunning new evidence suggesting the government of the United States worked side by side with one of Mexico's most powerful drug cartels for more than a decade, apparently allowing that drug cartel to traffic in billions of dollars worth of drugs in exchange for info on rival drug lords.

Also this hour, a father sending a text in the movie theater while the previews were rolling. That sending another movie-goer over the edge. The shocking story behind a senseless shooting in Florida.

And her husband says she is brain dead and he is fighting to have her removed from life support. But what about their unborn baby? What the law in Texas and many other states says may just surprise you.

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Tuesday, January 14th. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

Let's begin here, shall we? A deadly movie theater shooting in Florida, a father shot dead amid the seats in the middle of the afternoon, his wife wounded in the shooting as well, the suspect really not someone you would imagine and the alleged motive, simply incomprehensible.

Rosa Flores looks at what led to the fatal fight through the people that sat nearby and witnessed it for themselves.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A little girl not even 3-years-old has just lost her dad, because according to police and witnesses, a man shot and killed him Monday afternoon, all because he was texting at the Cobb 16 movie theater in Wesley Chapel, Florida.

The movie was "Lone Survivor," and it hadn't even started.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a 1:20 starting, so we know that they were probably going through the previews.

And it is absolutely crazy that it would rise to this level of altercation over somebody just texting at a movie theater.

FLORES: Forty-three-year-old Chad Olson was on a date with his wife, Nicole. He was texting their daughter's daycare to check in on her.

That's when witnesses say 71-year-old Curtis Reeves, a retired Tampa police captain, seen here dressed in white, became quite irritated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their voices started going up. There seemed to be almost a confrontation and, bang, he was shot.

FLORES: Charles Cummings, a retired Marine who served in Vietnam, said it was absolutely shocking to be caught in the crossfire, once again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He staggered two seats over, fell on my son and I.

FLORES: The father and son say she watched in horror as Reeves shot Oulson in the chest with a 38-caliber handgun. killing him.

Oulson's wife was shot in the hand as witnesses say she tried to shield her husband.

After he was shot, Mr. Oulson staggered and fell on another man and his son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said, "Man, I can't believe I got shot." Blood started coming out of his mouth.

And I was like -- I just held him. I was trying to hold him up, and he just fell down.

FLORES: In the midst of the chaos, other moviegoers tried to help. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A fellow was in the movie. He said he was a nurse, jumped down. He started pumping the gentleman's chest until the paramedics arrived.

FLORES: An off-duty deputy who just happened to be in the theater detained the suspect and secured the gun until the police arrived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't believe people would bring a pistol, a gun, to a movie.

I can't believe they would argue and fight and shoot one another over popcorn or even a cell phone.

FLORES: Reeves is now charged with second-degree murder.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: And Rosa Flores joins me now live.

So second-degree murder, this is extraordinarily serious. What's happening today for this suspect?

FLORES: We know the suspect's first court appearance is today at 1:00.

We've also learned that Oulson's autopsy is also scheduled for this morning.

Now, Ashleigh, I've got to add something from the arrest affidavit, because I've got it in front of me, and I know you are going to be interested in this.

Now, this is information from that affidavit that the suspect gave to the police. And he says that he was in fear of being attacked.

We're talking about Florida, so I thought it would be important for me to point that out to you.

BANFIELD: That sounds like a defense in the making without question.

And, at this point, that appearance today, but other than that, no more witnesses have come forward to say anything that we've heard so far, right? Anything other than what we've heard?

FLORES: The only thing we have, and it was in the piece, but it is good to mention, is the information about how this altercation even started, because, yes, there were text messages.

But this affidavit just going into a little more detail. It talks about the altercation escalating, them having a conversation, then having a confrontation about these text messages and then the defendant in this case walks out.

He comes back. They have this altercation again. And according to the affidavit, a bag of popcorn was thrown at the defendant and then he pulls out his gun, allegedly, at the -- at Oulson, so a little -- a few more details, and this, of course, a lot of these accounts from witnesses that were inside the theater.

BANFIELD: All right, Rosa Flores, thank you for that.

The very odd thing, as well, it seemed as though, from all accounts, the suspect in this case had been talked about as a really stand-up guy.

He's a retired captain with the Tampa police department from back in 1993. He was instrumental in establishing the department's first tactical response team.

Later, he was the director of security at Bush Gardens. That was until 2005.

Our HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks joins me now.

This is not the story you expect to hear, Mike. He used to be a D.C. police detective and a member of the FBI joint terror task force.

Does any of that play into this, either for him or against him?

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, I think it would go against him, because he knows, Ashleigh, what deadly force means and what has to be done to you to use you.

But it was interesting. He did say he was in fear of being attacked. And, after he was Mirandized, according to the affidavit, that he said that the victim struck him in the face with an unknown object.

We know now, apparently from apparent witness accounts, that it was popcorn that the victim threw in his face.

But, Ashleigh, that doesn't put him in fear of death or serious bodily harm, having popcorn thrown at you.

So, you know --

BANFIELD: And, you know, look, I have to say. That's just one or a couple of the witness accounts. There may be other things. That's why I was asking Rosa about what else have we heard.

There could be other accounts that haven't been made public yet. But this is a dark theater, OK, so that's part of the problem of establishing exactly what happened, exactly what kind of fear someone would have had.

But do you see anything that could amount to a "stand-your-ground" defense or a self-defense?

BROOKS: No, not here. Not so far. Not from what I'm reading from the affidavit and all the other news accounts. Nothing so far on anything "stand your ground."

BANFIELD: Troubling.

BROOKS: But he will be in court at 1:00 this morning. It is, especially with someone with his background, and his son, Ashleigh, is also apparently a patrol officer in the Tampa police department.

BANFIELD: So distressing -

BROOKS: It really is.

BANFIELD: -- on all sides of this.

Mike Brooks, thank you for your insight. We appreciate it, Mike reporting live for us.

Talk about a deal with the devil, legal documents are suggesting that the United States Drug Enforcement attachment cut a deal with one of Mexico's most notorious drug cartels.

And get this -- the deal allegedly let that cartel smuggle billions of dollars worth of drugs into this country while the drug agents looked the other way.

They say there was a very good reason. Find out what it was next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Police officers make deals with crooks every day, and usually it is for leads or evidence on other crooks, but you may never have heard of a deal like the one I'm about to tell you about.

Some newly uncovered U.S. court documents claim that the Drug Enforcement Administration, the DEA, made a deal with the biggest and baddest drug cartel in Mexico, a cartel that's responsible for billions of dollars in illegal drugs that flood into this country every year, a deal to look the other way in exchange for information on rival drug cartels, other drug cartels, the competition, so to speak.

CNN's Rafael Romo joins me with much more on a bombshell that's first reported in a newspaper called "El Universal."

For starters, really? Secondly, how did this happen? How did this whole thing come about and how did it come to light.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITORS: Ashleigh, as they say, the devil is in the details.

And, first of all, we have to tell our viewers where the information comes from, right? As you mentioned, it was published by "El Universal," "The Universal," a very credible newspaper in Mexico City.

They had some copies of a deposition in a case out of Chicago in which a drug lord from the Sinaloa drug cartel, a Mexican -- a very powerful Mexican drug trafficking organization, he was being tried there in Chicago. I have a copy of it right in front of me.

And the claims result from a defense attorney stating that in court. So the question is, how much validity do they have? It is just a matter of opinion.

But let me give you an idea of what this defense attorney on behalf of Vicente Zambada-Niebla, the accused drug trafficker, said.

He said, "Mr. Loya-Castro" -- this is an attorney for Mr. Zambada -- "stated that agents told him that, in exchange for information about rival drug trafficking organizations, the United States government agreed" -- listen to this, Ashleigh -- "to dismiss the prosecution of the pending case against Mr. Loya-Castro, not to interfere with his drug trafficking activities and those of the Sinaloa cartel, to not actively prosecute him, "Chapo," "Mayo," and the leadership of the Sinaloa cartel and not to apprehend him.

"The agent stated this arrangement had been approved by high-ranking officials and federal prosecutors."

Now, Ashleigh, we reached out to the DEA when this report first appeared. They said they had no comments. And some of the agents that the report mentioned are not even working with the DEA anymore.

BANFIELD: They had to know this was coming. This was officially in an affidavit, a DEA agent and a Justice Department official being interviewed.

I think the best question here, though, honestly, for anybody just mortified that this is possible, was there a payoff? Did it do anything?

If our people were looking the other way, while floods of drugs were coming into this country, what was the up-side?

ROMO: Well, the up-side was really -- it's just very difficult to talk about that. Let me tell you what happened, for example, between 2006 and 2012.

It was an explosion of violence in Mexico with tens of thousands of people, some people are saying as many as 60,000 people, dead in clashes between drug cartels, the military and rival organizations in Mexico. If the idea here was to help violence decrease in Mexico, it certainly didn't work.

What I can tell you, though, is that a lot of drug leaders, top capos (ph) in the Mexican drug cartels were arrested in that period, as many as 25 out of a list of 37, which arguably, you can say is a victory for the law enforcement organizations, both in Mexico and the United States. The reality is that experts will tell you this. Drugs continue to flow from Mexico to the United States. Weapons continue to go south of the border and the status quo when it comes to this kind of crime remains pretty much unchanged, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Well, I'll tell you what, just looking at some of the stats on Sinaloa, this cartel that's just so incredibly powerful, apparently it supplies about 80 percent of the drugs entering Chicago. They are better with a really good payoff. Chicago has been under siege with respect to the crime. ROMO: That's a very good point, Ashleigh. The leader of the Sinaloa cartel, Joaquin Chapo Guzman, was named by "Forbes" magazines as one of the top billionaires just to give you an idea of how powerful they are.

BANFIELD: Stay on it, Rafael, awesome story. Just a great story. Thank you. Rafael Romo reporting for us live.

Another big story that's getting a lot of ink. A pregnant woman kept on life support against her family's wishes. Now, a legal battle is intensifying between her family and the hospital that insists she stay alive because of someone else. We'll explain in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: A Texas man is facing perhaps the most difficult decision that any man could make in asking doctors to take his wife, who is apparently brain dead, off of life support. Making it worse is the fact she is pregnant. The hospital is refusing to pull the plug saying it is not allowed, citing Texas law that requires that life support continue in order to save a fetus. But there is a bit of a twist, a legal twist. CNN's Ed Lavandera has the latest on the family's next move.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This week, the family of Marlice Munoz is expected to take legal action against the Texas hospital that refuses to unplug her from a ventilator. Munoz is pregnant and collapsed in late November after suffering a blood clot in her lungs. John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth says Texas law requires that Munoz be kept on life support in hopes of saving the unborn baby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were told she was brain dead November 26th.

LAVANDERA: Munoz's family says Marlice never wanted to be kept on life support. It's a conversation her husband says they had often. They're both paramedics and the parents of a 15-month-old boy.

ERICK MUNOZ, HUSBAND: We've seen things out in the field, and you know, we both knew that we didn't want to be on life support.

LAVANDERA: The Munoz story has sparked a debate over laws that overwrite a woman's right to be disconnected from life support if she is pregnant. About 30 states have these laws on the books. If Munoz is indeed brain dead like her family says, even the people who help write the Texas law say, her husband's wishes to disconnect should be followed.

THOMAS MAYO, SMU LAW PROFESSOR: If she's brain dead, she's already dead so letting her die isn't really the concept. But can he say take her off the ventilator? I believe he can.

LAVANDERA: Attorneys for Erick Munoz tell CNN legal action is expected this week. John Peter Smith Hospital officials say they're encouraged by this development because the courts are the appropriate venue to provide clarity, direction and resolution in this matter. Marlice Munoz is now about 21 weeks pregnant, but medical experts say it's hard to know for sure if the fetus can survive.

DR. JEFF ECKER, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: The same as saying that things will be well because you can have important affects from situations like this that aren't manifested as things that can be seen on ultrasound or MRI.

LAVANDERA: Marlice Munoz's body remains inside this hospital while the debate over what should happen to her rages outside. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: And joining me now with their expert take, CNN legal analyst and defense attorney Danny Cevallos, and Lisa Bloom, who is a legal analyst for Avvo.com and civil rights attorney as well. There is so much at stake in this case. There are so many critical details in this case.

Lisa, let me start with you. As I was looking through the laws in Texas, what stood out to me was the fact that a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment. But life-sustaining treatment would suggest there is life. The doctors, according to the family, have declared this woman dead, brain dead. So how does that square?

LISA BLOOM, LEGAL ANALYST, AVVO.COM: Well, you're really putting your finger on the gray area in the law. Similarly, Texas law provides that a pregnant patient must be kept on life support. If she is brain dead, she is legally dead. She is not a patient. She is a corpse. I'm sorry to use these very harsh terms but that's the way the law would look at her. The bottom line is that Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land. Women have the right to constitutionally determine what happens with their bodies, including the right to terminate a pregnancy, and if she is not able to make that decision, her family, husband can make that decision for her. She was 14 weeks gestation when this matter arose, when she became brain dead. It was his right to make the decision. It was not the right of the state of Texas to intervene and interfere with that family's decision.

BANFIELD: So, Danny, if that all makes perfect sense until you hear that Texas law also recognizes the personhood of a fetus from the point of fertilization, in the cases of homicide and assault. If you try to wedge that issue into this, could life-sustaining equipment also extend to this personhood fetus. Meaning it is not just life- sustaining of the mother. It is the life-sustaining of this recognized person in other circumstances. Does that make sense?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Constitutionally, yes, you've got it. That's what the state is trying to do. It's trying to assert its interest in protecting its citizens. What is a citizen has always been a subject of constitutional debate.

The problem is, statutes like Texas' and many other states present two very real constitutional problems. As Lisa said, after Roe and Planned Parenthood, those cases stand for the idea that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion certainly prior to viability, the ability of the baby to live outside the womb, but then there's separate right recognized by a case called Kruzan (ph), which says we all have the right to refuse unwanted medical treatment. Since we are able to create advanced directives which are living wills, saying what he we want done with ourselves if we are unable to make decisions. This creates, these statues may be - really create constitutional problems because they seem to essentially be flouting established supreme court law from both cases and the progeny.

BANFIELD: Well, ok, advanced directives to me usually mean something you write down, sign, seal and have an attorney present. What about this notion that the dad says, we talked about this. My wife didn't want to be on life support. How much of an advanced directive is it to just say, I had a chat.

BLOOM: It's probably not enough legally. Everybody should have an advanced directive, but in this case, ironically, it really wouldn't have mattered because the Texas statute makes no exception even if Ms. Munoz, before she became incompetent had written out her wishes, the state of Texas under this law would not have recognized it. The state of Texas has decided that it is going to come in and make this decision for pregnant women and for their families. That's what's causing this uproar.

BANFIELD: She is now 21 weeks. The clock keeps ticking. It is very distressing, and it is sort of a decision that needs to be made very, very quickly.

All right, Danny Cevallos, Lisa Bloom, please stay with us. More to come in a moment. A tense situation at a convenience store. A man holding a woman hostage decides to turn her into a human shield just as the police move in. We are going to show you what happened next.

Also, the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, is getting ready to hit the mikes again. Likely, that bridge incident is going to be mentioned in a state of the state? Imagine. We are going to dig deeper in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: A little bit of news we are following here. A suspect is apparently being held after a shooting today at Berrendo Middle School in New Mexico. We now know the suspect is being held after the shooting. It is very unclear as to exactly what motive might have inspired this. There was a Facebook page that was part of this investigation, the Roswell Police Department's Facebook page at least indicating that they were able to get some information out there.