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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
Michael Dunn "Loud Music" Murder Trial Verdict; Suspected Craigslist Killer Says She's Killed Others; Pastor Dies from Snake Bite
Aired February 17, 2014 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The verdict in the Michael Dunn trial has left a lot of people confused, emotional, upset, outraged. The list goes on. Guilty on three counts of attempted murder and another lesser charge of shooting a projectile, but a hung jury on the most serious charge, the first-degree murder.
I know you know this. He was accused of shooting into a car full of black teenagers after a fight over loud music. He killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis, endangered the lives of three teenagers.
How did the jury get so stuck? Was Michael Dunn simply believable to some, but just not to others? When he took the stand, here is what he said in his own defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you still in fear for your life?
MICHAEL DUNN, DEFENDANT: I became even more fearful at that point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. At that point, what did you believe was about to happen to you?
DUNN: I thought I was going to be killed. This is where Rhonda starts coming into my mind, because I know she has heard the shots. It wasn't just my life I was worried about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: All right. Some say very convincing, but as the hours wore on, some others say he appeared to sound less genuine, perhaps more coached, in his answers.
I want to replay that first time that Dunn's own attorney asks him about those words, imminent fear.
Those are important words. They're in the statute. But listen carefully as Dunn continues to repeat those critical words. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At that point, what was going through your mind in terms of fear? Were you still in imminent fear?
DUNN: Absolutely. I had already been afraid for my life. But now the fear was imminent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In your mind, did you think he was just going to get out to yell at you some more?
DUNN: No, I -- this is the point where my death is imminent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: All right. So you heard it repeated. Did that speak to you? Did it speak to the jurors?
They're not speaking to us, unfortunately, so we may never know what they were thinking and what hung them up.
But our legal panel joins me now to break it down, CNN legal analysts Danny Cevallos, Paul Callan, and HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson.
Joey, I want to begin with you. There are a lot of people quick to blame this jury for being either racist or stupid or anything else.
When you hear that, being a lawyer and appreciating American jurisprudence even when maybe it's hung, how do you explain that?
JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Listen, Ashleigh, jurors have a difficult job, and we have all been before them. And it's not easy evaluating evidence, especially when there are two professors in the room.
Professor One, the prosecution, and then, of course, everything the prosecutor says, I'm trying to say is wrong, from a defense perspective.
But this is what I could discern about it, and we have to give them credit. They spent 30 hours on this case. I think they really gave it a crack.
But they were not sure. And what weren't they sure about? They weren't sure about the critical issue, was Mr. Dunn in reasonable fear for his life?
And we know that they weren't sure as to that issue, Ashleigh, because the jury had to consider murder one, premeditation, but if they thought that he was not justified, they could have went down to second degree, which is the absence of premeditation or even manslaughter.
They didn't do that. They hung as to that point. So it leads you to conclude that there were some jurors -- we don't know the breakdown. It could have been 11-one, it could have been 10-two, it could have been six-six, and as you mentioned, Ashleigh, we'll learn that eventually, I hope, if they come and speak to us.
But you've got to think that there was some hang-up as to whether or not his fear was rational, reasonable, or not. And that's what it was.
But I know one thing. There was no at all confusion, right, as to what they did find in attempted murder --
BANFIELD: That second car.
BANFIELD: The second car.
JACKSON: The second -- the volley of shots when those teenagers --
BANFIELD: Too much, unnecessary.
JACKSON: Exactly. And they got him on that.
BANFIELD: OK. So Paul, weigh in here.
You know, people have watched a lot of it play out on TV, in part, because I'm sure not one person was able to follow every single moment of that case, no matter how hard they tried.
They've seen it in the headlines. They've seen analysts screaming.
Not helpful. Not helpful when it comes to law.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I think what we all know, having tried these cases, is that a lot happens in a courtroom that the press doesn't cover.
And I often find, when I'm sitting here, about to give my opinion, I'm thinking, Gee, did that letter get into evidence or not? How did the witness look in court?
Well, we leave this up to juries to decide, so I think it's really unfair for us to second-guess the jury in the way that this jury has been second-guessed.
I do think it's fair game for us, though, to talk about the law. And I will say here that the combination of "stand-your-ground," ready access to guns and sort of the mentality that's created by these laws and even the "stand-your-ground" thing didn't play big, although the jury is instructed on "stand-your-ground," but it --
BANFIELD: But the defense attorney didn't argue "stand-your-ground" --
CALLAN: He didn't have to argue -
BANFIELD: -- let's just be clear.
CALLAN: He didn't argue it, but the judge submits it to the jury as part of the law as it was in the Zimmerman case. And it creates a mind-set, and the mind-set exists among the jurors that, hey, this guy's got a right to stand and fight, stand and defend himself. It's instructed. We hear about it in the press.
It's very different from other states like New York, for instance, where you don't have that mentality, so you're more likely to get a hung jury in Florida than you would in New York on this fact pattern.
BANFIELD: So there you go, Professor. That's law you're talking about.
BANFIELD: And Danny Cevallos, I know you teach, as well.
Is this a teachable moment more about law, or is this a teachable moment more about culture and what we as Americans need too do to open up our cultures, understand each other more, so that maybe we don't have to be challenged by law, whether you're black, white, purple, yellow, green, male or female at this point?
DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Maybe. But to me, this has always been actually a really fascinating self-defense case, far more so than Zimmerman, because you have a lot of self defense issues in this case.
You have issues of flight. You have somebody who left the scene, who never reported anything to police.
You have the issue of using excessive force with 10, nine, 10, shots fired off. You have somebody shooting at a fleeing vehicle.
To me, I'll leave the sociology of this to finer minds than myself, but when it comes to legally, there are plenty of issues to dissect, just in the world of self-defense alone. And this case raised a lot of them.
I think the jury's verdict gave us a real insight. Most -- a lot of verdicts, you have no idea where the jury was, but this one really gave you a good idea. This was always a second-degree murder case.
BANFIELD: Can I throw in? The total peanut gallery thing here, honestly, I feel like this prosecution failed in really hammering down the moment that Michael Dunn said he was so scared he had to flee.
He kept looking out the window for these kids that were going to come back with their friends.
But he was so scared, he didn't call the police?
CALLAN: It was total --
BANFIELD: He didn't call the police to protect his beautiful fiancee? I've got wrap it there, but --
CALLAN: It was total nonsense, and his fiancee takes the stand, and he doesn't tell her about the gun? Please!
JACKSON: (Inaudible) is perception, that you can have a law that's predicated on what I perceive you to be.
If you are being with me, a threat, and I'm scared, then that law justifies your death. And that's problematic.
BANFIELD: And I think this is a long series. It's not just a five- minute segment on "LEGAL VIEW."
This is a week-long series where every color is represented, every notion, every attitude, and they're all able to speak freely without all those death threats sent on Twitter.
JACKSON: 100 percent agree.
CALLAN: By the way --
BANFIELD: Call it back, folks. Stop threatening to kill people on Twitter because you don't like what they're saying. That's the problem.
If we can't communicate, we are never going to know what the problem is. And this is a case that outlines it.
CALLAN: And what you're describing, by the way, is a jury, OK, where you can have that discussion over 30 hours, and not sound bites on television.
They argued about that. And we don't know --
BANFIELD: And I've got a TV show and I'm critical of TV.
JACKSON: There needs to be a broader discussion about the issues to flush it all out, not just a sound bite out, but to have a legitimate discussion about the laws, about race, about sensitivity, about tolerance, about "stand-your-ground." Have it all.
BANFIELD: And you know what? No Twitter. For that show, no Twitter.
I have had it with people who are threatening me and my kids and my family over simply commenting on the law and criminal procedure and respecting juries, because they do work hard.
They work way harder than I do and they work way harder than the rest of those people making those bad, peanut-gallery comments.
I'm done. My head is about to pop right off.
Guys, thank you. Appreciate it. Let's reconvene this over the course of an hour.
I've got another big story that we're following, as well, and this was a real head-shaker, and it's just so distressing.
A woman is confessing to being a serial killer. She's charged with killing a man that she and her husband are accused of luring with a Craigslist ad. And now in a jailhouse interview, she's telling a reporter that she's a Satanist and she has killed more than 20 people. In fact, she has just lost count, she says.
The "LEGAL VIEW" on her confession, coming up next.
BANFIELD: A shocking confession from a 19-year-old woman who claims to be a satanic serial killer, her name is Miranda Barbour, and she is admitting she and her 22-year-old husband murdered a man they met on Craigslist.
And now in a stunning jailhouse interview, Barbour is telling a reporter she killed about two dozen or more people all over the country.
But is this fact or fiction? CNN's Susan Candiotti reports investigators are taking these claims seriously.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A stunning new development in the case of accused killer, Miranda Barbour, Barbour and her newlywed husband are currently charged with luring a man to a meeting using Craigslist, then stabbing and strangling him just for the thrill of it in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.
She now claims to be a serial killer, with so many victims, she can't remember them all.
"When I hit 22, I stopped counting," she told "The Daily Item" newspaper in Pennsylvania.
She says she went on her alleged killing spree in Alaska, Texas, California and North Carolina.
But do police believe her?
CHIEF STEVE MAZZEO, SUNBURY, PENNSYLVANIA, POLICE: I don't want to discount her credibility. At this point, we're taking her claims seriously, and we are liaisoning with different state and federal authorities to determine whether or not there is validity to her statements.
CANDIOTTI: The newspaper quotes Barbour admitting to the Craigslist murder, and 22-plus others.
"I feel it is time to get all of this out. I don't care if people believe me. I just want to get it out," she told the newspaper.
Sunbury police told CNN their investigation is ongoing.
MAZZEO: We have exhausted every avenue, every lead. We have devoted literally thousands of man-hours to this, and will continue to do so until it is successfully resolved in court. CANDIOTTI: According to the paper, Barbour says she was 13 when a satanic cult leader forced her to help him shoot a man who owed him money.
She claims she went on killing.
BANFIELD: Thank you, Susan Candiotti, for that report.
And joining me now again, legal analysts Danny Cevallos and Paul Callan.
Danny, let me start with you. It's one thing to give a confession to interrogators. Those can be challenged constantly and often can be thrown out. You give an interview to a reporter on jailhouse equipment, a telephone, not so easy to toss out.
CEVALLOS: Oh, forget it. And even sometimes the confessions you give to police, because police will characterize it as an interview, if they can. Once they characterize it as an interrogation, that's when all your constitutional protections start attaching. But if you are in prison, and I can't tell you how many of a - how many defendants I know of who burn themselves by making phone calls to friends, writing letters in the Michael Dunn case, and giving interviews. Every word that you give to a reporter can be used against you, not only in the public forum -
BANFIELD: And will. And will.
CEVALLOS: And will be used against you in court. What's happening now is with the proliferation of technology, we have so many venues for getting your words out there, and they are saved forever. I can't tell you how many defendants I see, both juveniles and adults, time and time again, burn themselves.
BANFIELD: You tell them - you tell them when you meet them, shut up, and they don't take that advice.
CEVALLOS: Some people can't do it. Some people can't do it.
BANFIELD: They just can't.
CALLAN: Here's the problem, though, with this case, in terms of linking her to all of these homicides. It's not enough to confess. A confession has to be corroborated -
CALLAN: By one small fact. If you find a body, that would be enough. But will they find the body? Will there be enough details to show that there actually was a specific homicide to make the case a provable case?
BANFIELD: Just quickly, is she - is she crazy like a fox? Is she setting up an insanity defense by doing this kind of thing? Is there a possibility that - she's 19, let's not forget.
CEVALLOS: I don't think she's wily enough, but who knows. I will say this. Statistically, and from an academic perspective, a female serial killer is exceedingly rare. There are virtually none in existence. There's -- the numbers are something like 96 percent -
BANFIELD: Yes. Eileen Warnos (ph), who stands out, Google, it's the craziest thing ever.
CEVALLOS: There are a few.
BANFIELD: But there's - you're right, it's very, very rare.
CEVALLOS: Exceedingly rare.
BANFIELD: And I have like 10 seconds left, but does she implicate this husband with her words or not?
CALLAN: I think the husband may be implicated in some of them. I haven't seen all of the details of the confession.
BANFIELD: All right.
CALLAN: And, yes, it helps insanity defense in some respects.
CALLAN: But hurts in others because she's planning these homicides. So, hard to say.
BANFIELD: Well, stay tuned. They're investigating. If they came up -- if they come up with that corroborating evidence, it will be fascinating.
If you can stick around, guys, I have some other material I want to go over with you as well.
BANFIELD: Thank you for that.
A pastor who handled poisonous snakes as an act of worship and does so on TV, strangely enough he dies after being bitten by one of those poisonous snakes during a church service. Could the makers of the reality show he appeared in be exposed here legally? Are they liable? Let's talk about this, just ahead.
BANFIELD: A Kentucky pastor who held and sang to snakes in his church has died of all things of a snake bite. Jamie Coots was bitten during a church service on Saturday. He's a reality show star, and he refused to go to the hospital after the bite to get treatment. Turns out he built his faith around a Bible passage that suggests poisonous snake bites can't harm believers, as long as they are, quote, anointed by God. Coots died at his home. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CODY COOTS, JAMIE COOTS' SON: I kept smacking him in the face, like, dad, come on, talk to me, get responsive. And after he passed out in the bathroom, he never did say nothing else. We - I mean that was -- his last words were, he said, "sweet Jesus," and that was it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: I want to bring back Danny Cevallos and Paul Callan to weigh in on this one. "Snake Salvation" aired on National Geographic Channel. It's not clear yet whether this was actually part of filming for the show, so we can't definitely say whether the show had any involvement here. But if it did, are they liable for this death?
CALLAN: Probably not. You know, we have all of these very risky reality TV shows that are on and very strict waivers are signed by these shows. So, you know, I think they wouldn't be held liable.
Also, another thing about Coots, he was bitten nine times previous to this by venomous snakes and he survived. So he knew what he was getting himself into. So it would be hard to blame National Geographic. They didn't - that didn't induce him to do it.
BANFIELD: Yes, but, you know, if you're an ice road trucker, you've driven those ice roads hundreds of times before one finally cracks and you die. I'm not suggesting that happened or is going to happen, it's just a hypothetical.
Danny, waiver or no waiver, I've heard of all sorts of waivers being useless because there's a lot of pressure when you're signing them. Here's a whole bunch of money staring you in the face, just sign the waiver. Does that play in at all?
CEVALLOS: Sure, it's a contractual issue and it's a case by case basis. You can't contract away all of your liability simply by asking someone to sign on a dotted line. Certainly you cannot if a reality show is creating the actual risk. And there are certain reality shows that there are some that just follow people doing what they're doing and there are others that actually place them in a particular place in a particular surrounding. So it varies. It runs the gamut from reality show to reality show. But some have been held liable and some have held on to those waivers.
CALLAN: But that's why I say here, because he's got a history of doing this. He's been bitten nine times before. They weren't creating the situation, they're just filming him doing what he does, playing with venomous snakes, which is why I think they're not going to have a case against the network.
CEVALLOS: And remember also, some of these shows, including this one, are filming people doing an illegal activity, whether it be intervention or drug addiction. This -- Kentucky was actually it the first state to outlaw snake handling, and it raises a constitutional issue, which -- but it's been upheld. And in Kentucky, if you're handling snakes, it is illegal. So that raises another issue in liability.
BANFIELD: I'll tell you one thing, for all the criticism that reality show gets saying that they're fakes, they're liars, I think this guy clearly believed what he was preaching, otherwise he would have been the first to race to the hospital and hope the cameras weren't - you know, weren't filming.
CALLAN: Yes, he's a - he's a believer. And, of course, the passage that's cited is that, you know, God will save you. (INAUDIBLE).
BANFIELD: Well, it didn't - it didn't work for him at this point. Danny Cevallos, Paul Callan, spirited show. Thank you for being on it today. We appreciate your perspective, as always, and your incredible legal acumen.
A deadly drinking game perpetuated by videos posted on social media. And so far, five people have died. See this guy drinking? It's straight gin. Yes. What could go wrong? That's ahead.
BANFIELD: Georgia's supreme court hears arguments today over a death row inmate's stay of execution. Warren Lee Hill was given the death penalty after he bludgeoned a fellow inmate to death back in 1990. All that while he was serving a life sentence for murdering his girlfriend. Not a good guy.
That's not the issue. What is the issue is a new state law that conceals the names of the state suppliers of that lethal injection drug that is supposed to kill him. Hill's lawyers are questioning the safety of the drug. I know that sounds odd, but they're also questioning whether it would cause unnecessary pain and suffering. That's something that could be considered unconstitutional. Stay tuned.
There is a dangerous new online drinking game that has gone viral, and it is spreading around the world. It's called "neck nomination." People drinking crazy amounts of alcohol, then going ahead and posting it online and daring others to do it too. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) brand-new, just opened, as you heard, seal of Sam Buca (ph) here. (INAUDIBLE) some wicked, as well, and in the pint, I do believe. OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: So, yes. You're seeing it. After all of that, drinking it all, he challenges his buddies to one-up him. And whether it's in costume or drinking out of a toilet, it's not just stupid, it turns out it's very deadly. At this point, the count is going up. Five people in Britain and Ireland have died. One person drank two pints of gin. It wasn't that guy you were seeing. It was another guy. Deadly. Be careful, please.
Thanks, everyone, for watching. WOLF starts right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, new numbers are out showing President Obama's approval rating.