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Co-pilot Hijacks Flight Over Europe; Venezuela Expels Three American Officials; Ukraine Occupation Ends; Science Project Explodes, Boys Hurt; Stranded Men, Children Hike 19 Miles; Spotlight On "Stand Your Ground" Law; Costas Returns To Olympic Coverage

Aired February 17, 2014 - 07:30   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: He landed that plane safely in Geneva and escaped through the cockpit window using a rope. He has since been arrested and thankfully none of the 202 passengers on board were injured.

Three American officials have been expelled from Venezuela on orders from President Nicolas Madura. He is accusing the diplomats of conspiring against his government. The U.S. Department voiced concerns in recent days after three anti-government protesters died in clashes, and authorities blamed an opposition leader issuing a warrant for his arrest.

This morning for the first time in months, protesters are out of city hall in Kiev, ending their occupation in an amnesty deal that will clear them of all criminal charges in exchange for ending their protests. Demonstrators have been on the streets since December, upset at Ukraine's president and his close ties to Russia.

A pair of teenage boys are in the hospital this morning after their science project set off an explosion inside a home. The father of one of the teens says his son and a cousin were working on model rockets and apparently used fuel for the rocket to help start a fire in the fireplace. Those boys were seriously injured we are told. The explosion also blew out windows and shot debris into their yard.

Nineteen miles in the snow, that's how far two men, William Merkel (ph) and John Jillian (ph) walked to get help with their children after their SUV got stuck in a snow bank in rural Idaho. Their story is amazing. Take a look.


PEREIRA (voice-over): A frantic mother looking out the window waiting to be reunited with her daughter and husband. Two Boise dads and three young children got stuck in a snow bank on Saturday night during a leisurely drive. Search teams fanning out to find those families, their loved ones back home fearing the worst.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone in the street, on the street kind of pitched in, jumped in their vehicles and just immediately went out to search for them.

PEREIRA: The pair of dads and children forced to hike for hours in the snow, a total of 19 miles until they stumbled upon a cabin where they called their families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My gosh, I was like with three kids, that's creepy. It's a monumental task.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think your first words will be when you see him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am so mad at you, but I love you.


PEREIRA: Yes, that's the thing. I'm so mad at you, but I love you and what we're told from police, everybody is OK, just tired. I'm sure there were some very tense moments out there, for both the families waiting at home and for the men with all those kids.

CUOMO: Nineteen miles -- unimaginable.

All right, big story this morning, the verdict in the Michael Dunn case, a jury did not convict him for killing teenager, Jordan Davis, but did find him guilty on three counts of attempted murder and a fourth count. The hung jury and memories of George Zimmerman's acquittal are raising new questions about the defense law in Florida.

Let's break it down. We have a great panel of experts for this discussion. We have CNN legal analyst, Mark O'Mara. You remember him he defended George Zimmerman. We have CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin and on the how do we fix this side, Democratic Florida State Representative Alan Williams. He's been calling for the repeal of stand your ground. So it's to great to have him as well.

Representative, Mr. O'Mara, Mr. Toobin, great to have all three of you. Jeffrey, let me start with you. Let's start with the case in the specific. Break down two elements for us. First, somebody on this jury must have thought that there was a gun. Tell us why and what that means, and the findings of the jury about different volleys of gunfire and how that led them to their conclusion.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: OK. Well, the heart of the case is that the prosecution proved to the satisfaction of the jury that the -- that Dunn attempted to kill the other kids in the car, but the jury couldn't reach a verdict on the actual death of the child of course who died.

And the question is how can you reach those differing conclusions? Apparently, we haven't had a full briefing from what went on in the jury room is that apparently they did believe that Dunn thought there was a gun, that Dunn reasonably believed that there was a gun pointed at him. But they did not believe he had any right to keep shooting as the getaway car -- not getaway car -- as the victim's car pulled away.

BOLDUAN: Which is why I think it continues to be -- your explanation makes sense but it's still confusing on a very basic, logical level of how this all played out. Mark, I want to get your take on what happened in the courtroom and get your take on what you think happened in the jury room because here's my question and you've written about this.

I'm wondering at this point if we are asking juries to take on an impossible task, which is to determine if someone had fired a weapon out of fear or out of anger and how a jury can determine if someone reasonably had a fear that they had their life threatened so then they could take on lethal force. Is that an impossible task for a jury to take on?

MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think in close cases like this one turned out to be close and with this jury, it was in fact an impossible task. Because like you say if there had been a shotgun in the car, for example, then it would have been a lot easier for the jury to say there was a shotgun, Dunn saw it, therefore, it was a reasonable fear.

But now we have to look into Dunn's situation, what he was looking at as a reasonable person and if in fact there was the tripod or something else that somebody may have used or that that Dunn saw, then the jury has to look at that and say did Dunn look at it and say I believe I'm in fear and make the shot at Jordan.

That's why I think they could not decide on that. I think they were thinking between either self-defense or maybe second degree murder. We know they weren't considering first degree murder for the Jordan event. Because they only came back with second degree murder for the other three.

So I think that was the conundrum. Self-defense has been around since our brain stems started, it's just self-preservation. It's much more difficult to try and decide what's in a person's heart when they pull a trigger.

CUOMO: Right, but Representative Williams, the different ways that we can design the laws to deal with self-defense, the charge is clear, Florida has a law that makes it too easy to get away with murder. Do you agree with that proposition and, if so, why don't you change the self-defense rulings there?

ALAN WILLIAMS (D), FLORIDA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I agree with you, Chris. You know, first of all, our hearts and prayers go on to Ron and Lucy who have been just (inaudible) in this tragedy that has played out here in Florida. But I will tell you that we've made an attempt back in November, how we put forth the repeal of the "Stand Your Ground" laws.

Unfortunately, the committee that it went before voted against it. I will tell you that the reason why we put it forth is because as you saw in Sanford and as you saw now here in Jacksonville, the law is ambiguous. I will tell you that law enforcement communities around the state have problems with applying it.

You have state attorneys -- my state attorney here in Tallahassee, Florida is opposed to stand your ground. And so we have to do something different because if we continue to show the world that Florida is not safe for young boys or individuals in movie theaters or wherever the case may be, they're going to be confused as to really what the law really does for the common person.

And at the end of the day, stand your ground was a law that was really a law in search of -- a solution in search of a problem. As Mark said, this law has been around since the beginning of time as far as self-defense. So we have to go back and revisit that.

CUOMO: Right. But Representative, let me have Jeffrey pick up on that point. Self-defense laws can be designed a lot of different ways. The castle doctrine gives a lot of protection that many states don't.

TOOBIN: That's right. But let's also keep the political context clear. The stand your ground law is part of a series of laws that Republicans pushed after they took control in states after the 2010 elections, in some states earlier. I mean, this is a political disagreement. Stand your ground is something that the gun lobby has pushed because they want it to be easier to use a gun in self-defense.

So it's not that this is some abstract discussion about what the best law might be. There is a difference between what Democrats and what Republicans want on stand your ground. This is a political issue. It's not purely a legal issue.

BOLDUAN: Mark, jump into this as well, because do you think if the stand your ground law specifically was not there, it would change the outcome in this case?

O'MARA: Neither one of them, the Zimmerman case and the Dunn case are absolutely not stand your ground cases or whatsoever. Nobody said that Zimmerman or Dunn had an opportunity to retreat, didn't do so and therefore properly used stand your ground. Look, stand your ground is sort of the weird uncle of self-defense.

It doesn't come out of the shadows very often. Very few percentages of the cases use stand your ground. We have to be very careful not to allow the action and passion that comes along with verdicts like this to be concerning self-defense. Self defense in every state this year, more than half the states have this stand your ground, I have said that we wanted to be careful with a suggestion to now 100 million Americans that they think they can stand their ground and use force without reasonable fear. That's the focus.

If Dunn was in reasonable fear then he's allowed to use deadly force. If Zimmerman was, anybody was, they're allowed to use deadly force under any state's law. We can't throw the baby out with the bath water so to speak and say because Florida is stand your ground state, every case that happens in Florida is up for review. It's not true. These are traditional stand your ground cases.

WILLIAMS: Mark, I have to disagree.

O'MARA: I'm sorry.

WILLIAMS: We may not be throwing the baby out with the bath water, but we're definitely throwing the teenager out. I think we do have to be concerned, right? And although the self-defense was not -- stand your ground was not used in the Zimmerman case, it was used when the police had confusion as far as how to arrest him. It was used when the judge applied him in the jury instructions.

And so as my colleague, former State Senator Dan Gelber, who was a legal expert here in Florida stated many months ago that these jury instructions that include the stand your ground defense confuse juries. So if they're confusing juries, if they're confusing law enforcement communities, if they're leaving a lot of disbelief and untrust in the citizens of Florida and around the country, we must do something about it.

BOLDUAN: Representative, let's take a break really quick. We're going to continue this discussion on the other side of the break. Mark, stick with us as well. Jeffrey, of course, will be here with us. We're going to continue this discussion right when we come back.

And we are also going to be bringing a lot of talk about the Olympic games, which was Bob Costas' eye watch and his now expected return to primetime tonight. We're going to tell what you need to know about what he was dealing with.


CUOMO: Welcome back. A verdict in the Michael Dunn loud music trial is about more than just the facts of that case. It raises real questions about self-defense laws, about prejudice and about how we protect our kids. So we have our panel. We have Jeffrey Toobin, Mark O'Mara, and Representative Williams from Florida.

Guys, let's take a look at some of the bigger issues here. And I'll start with you, Mark O'Mara. Yes, you have the facts of this case. Yes, you have self-defense law and what may be inadequate about it or too lenient in Florida, but there are two bigger concerns.

One, someone on this jury decided to believe that it was possible that four black kids in a car would have had a gun, even though there were no evidence presented to them that there was a gun in the car. So that goes to a cultural presumption.

You have a second one, which is as a country, we seem to be getting more and more comfortable using violence with each other at the smallest threat, do you see those two issues and what do we do about them?

O'MARA: Without question, we have become a nation that uses guns as the default position for response to a threat. It's not yelled back. It's not argue. It's not reason. It's not discuss. It's not even leave. It is take out your 9-millimeter and start shooting, and we have to stop doing that.

We are not only killing more black males and we are killing them at a high percentage and we're killing other people left and right with our weapons. I have guns, I understand the second amendment, I agree with it, but I don't think the founding fathers decided that we should have a well-regulated militia to start using 9-millimeters in kindergartens or in theaters or in situations where you in a car that can drive away.

And that's one of the true social problems that we have is we just become a society that uses guns and as to the race issue, look, there is no denial. You can't ignore the fact that we put young black males into the system at a higher percentage than their population.

Some of it we can blame young black males for that they put themselves in criminal situations a bit more, but we can't deny the systemic prejudices against young black males because here's a perfect example, Dunn looked at this and said I probably have good reason to fear here and the first moment it was realized, was it the loud music, was it the cursing or the - tripod that he reacted to, whether he would have if they were not black.

BOLDUAN: Representative Williams, I want to get your final take. We are looking at what can be done. It's a question that Chris is asking. It's a question that we should all be asking. You're on the ground floor of that. You've been trying to make efforts to get stand your ground laws repealed in this state. They hadn't worked at this point so what more can you do?

WILLIAMS: Well, I'd tell you, first of all. We've been doing -- you're right, Kate. We've been working hard at it. We're going to continue to work hard at this. We are going to continue to try and get the law repealed and start over. We think that, you know, folks have a right to a second amendment, but we also feel like folks should have the right to a safe community and safe neighborhoods.

Justifiable homicides are up since 2005 when stand your ground was put in effect. John McCain in Arizona said that stand your ground laws should be repealed. So from a political standpoint, we understand that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. Senator Chris Smith here in Florida is working on a law -- a bill that should hopefully amendment it.

If we can't repeal it, we need to repair it. At the end of the day, we know that both Jordan and Trayvon, both 19 years old, this would have been their first election to vote in, in November. So we need folks to come out and if they're going to vote, vote for themselves, but also vote for Jordan and Trayvon, who can't be here to vote for themselves.

BOLDUAN: Jeff, what's your final take?

TOOBIN: Jordan was killed because he was black. I mean, that's what happened in this case and I think that's just a horrible thing to think about in 2014. You know, I don't think -- you can talk about the legal aspects of it and they are obviously very important, but this is a kid who was killed entirely because of his race and that's a -- just a depressing, upsetting thing to think about in 2014.

CUOMO: You got to ask what went on in that jury room that they were able to be deadlocked on the issue of whether or not there was a gun in that car with no evidence offered that there was one there. It's all about the speculation that they could have gotten rid of it and maybe there was one, and obviously someone there had to buy it. TOOBIN: And what do you presume about a car full of four black kids?

CUOMO: All right, thank you very much, gentlemen. Appreciate the conversation. It must continue. All of you at home, please weigh in. You know the hashtag, #newday. It's a discussion that must be had.

We'll take a break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, Bob Costas is getting set to return to the broadcast booth at the Olympics. What was the deal with the eye thing that he had working there? Was it a disease? Was it an infection? We're going to have a doctor in the house to make sure we can all avoid this fate.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back. Now to the Olympic story that seems to have everyone talking and it has nothing to do with sports. Bob Costas will return to his Olympic hosting duties tonight after a nasty eye infection forced him to take time off. It was the first time that Costas didn't anchor the primetime coverage of the Olympics since 1988. Let's talk about it.

Dr. Jennifer Caudle is joining us now this morning from Philadelphia. Dr. Caudle, it's great to see you.


BOLDUAN: Of course, so we've all dealt with pink eye in one way or another throughout our lives, but poor Bob Costas he seems to have a particularly nasty case of it. Did it surprise you or surprise anyone how many days off he was forced to take because of it?

CAUDLE: No, it really doesn't surprise me at all. You know, we talk about pink eye or conjunctivitis. We're talking about an inflammation or an irritation on the inside of the eyelid and also the white of the eyes and that's why the eye turns pink because it's irritated. Remember that there are a few different causes. I'd say the main cause of pink eye is viruses or bacteria, the infectious causes and also allergies.

But there are other causes such as fumes and odors. Sometimes even using contact lenses can cause pink eye, but when we talk about infectious causes of pink eye. No, it doesn't surprise the length of time that was taken.

BOLDUAN: Do you -- clearly you haven't treated Bob Costas. But we got a pretty close up look at his poor eyes, what do you make of his symptoms?

CAUDLE: Right. Well the symptoms can be very hard for patients. It's something I treat in my office all the time and I'm telling you a lot of people with pink eye are very uncomfortable. Sometimes the eye can get swollen. There's tearing of the eye as well. Sometimes light sensitivity. A symptom that a lot of people say infectious, complain of waking up in the morning and their eye is sealed shut because of the mucous and discharge. That can be particularly bothersome. So those symptoms can be troublesome and they can be -- they could have really be hard to work with and it's really something to take note of.

BOLDUAN: It is so contagious, that's the other thing that I think scares people so much. So what do folks need to know?

CAUDLE: Right. I mean, the infectious causes of pink eye absolutely can be terribly contagious, can spread like wildfire. You know, a lot of people say how do we prevent pink eye, how do I keep from getting it. Truth of the matter is the infectious types of pink eye are often caused by the viruses and bacteria that cause things like the common cold and ear infections.

So you want to do the same things that you do to prevent the colds and the flus and stuff, that you know, you want to do that to also protect yourself against pink eye. You got to wash your hands with soap and water. Also avoid sharing towels and other things like that. And really if you're sick, if you got pink eye, I think one of the best things that Bob Costas did was to take time off. You don't want to expose other people if it's infectious.

BOLDUAN: Keep your hands out of your eyes, which seems probably impossible when you're dealing with what he was dealing with. Dr. Caudle, it's great to see you. Thank you so much.

CUOMO: You don't want to expose the people you're working with or the viewer either. That was rough, but it's good to see that he is getting back.

Coming up on NEW DAY, a shocking new claim from a woman already in jail on a murder charge. She now says she killed 22 people. Is she a serial killer? Authorities believe she may be. We'll tell you why.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will continue to wait for justice for Jordan.


CUOMO: Facing a retrial, the Florida man accused of shooting and killing a teenager over loud music avoids a murder conviction. Are the state's self-defense laws allowing people to get away with murder?

BOLDUAN: Speaking out. George Zimmerman sits down with NEW DAY. What he says he'll do differently about the night he killed Trayvon Martin and what he says about his recent run ins with the laws and those infamous paintings.

PEREIRA: Killing admission, a woman admits to killing a man who she met on Craigslist with her husband. Now she said she's murdered at least 22 other people. Is she a serial killer?

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY continues right now.