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Shooting of Unarmed Teenage Girl in Massachusetts Raised Legal Questions about Self-Defense and Stay Your Ground Laws; KLM Royal Dutch Airlines CEO Talks about Reconsidering Safety Standards; Netherlands Come Together in Mourning Flight MH-17

Aired July 25, 2014 - 08:30   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A few minutes went by and then they did hear multiple shots fired.

PEREIRA: Police say Plotz shot and killed the case worker, 53-year- old Teresa Hunt before turning his gun on Silverman, but according to police Silverman was quick to act ducking under his desk for his own firearm and shooting Plotz (ph) three times, twice in the torso, once in the arm. Other staff members tackled the suspect and held him until police arrived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Together we were able to disarm him and take the weapon away.

PEREIRA: Silverman didn't escape unscathed. According to officials he was grazed in the head by the suspect's bullet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the police came in droves and they locked down everything. They chased everybody on the inside and then we are seeing the SWAT team come in.


PEREIRA: Terrifying moments there. The gunman underwent surgery at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Thursday night. He could be charged with murder later today.

CUOMO: That is a weird story.

PEREIRA: It could have been so much worse.

CUOMO: It could have been.


KOSIK: True.

CUOMO: It could have been. Thanks. All right, let's take a little break here on NEW DAY. Here's the questions: was she asking for help or was she breaking in? That is the focus of a murder trial in Michigan. A man shooting an unarmed teenage woman. We are going to bring you the latest from the courthouse and the analysis.

KOSIK: And first MH-17 were shot down, then another flights went down in Taiwan and Mali. Safety questions are growing louder. So, how will the airline industry respond? We will ask the CEO of a major airline. He is going to join us live.


CUOMO: All right. You are ready? There is a big trial going on in Michigan, issues of race, stand your ground colliding once again. This time, it's taking place in Detroit, Michigan. All right, so here is what we know. 54-year-old white man Theodore Wafer. Why am I saying he is white? Because the victim, 19-year-old black woman Renisha McBride he shoots her on his porch in the middle of the night. Quick fact pattern. It is the middle of the night. He is asleep. Pounding on a door. Bang, bang, bang. He gets up, he doesn't know what is going on. Here's again, bang-bang-bang. Goes to the door, opens it, sees a shadowy figure, he says, moving off the porch, a shooting occurs. At first he says it was an accident, he didn't mean it, didn't think the gun was loaded, then it becomes a self-defense case. What do we know about McBride, 19, that crashed her car, had been partying assumed she was looking for help. That was not his assumption. All right. That is the fact pattern. What is the analysis? We have legal analyst former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin, and legal analyst Danny Cevallos, criminal defense attorney. All right, so let's start at the beginning. Here, Sunny, you are undecided, but on the facts as we understand them, the first curious thing, self-defense accident? How do you get both of those and be consistent?

SUNNY HOSTIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, I think it is going to be difficult, quite frankly, for that fact pattern for the defense because initially he said this was an accident and he didn't even know the shotgun was loaded and then now he is saying, actually, this was self-defense because I feared for my life. So, I think that is certainly an inconsistency. But I've got to tell you, after listening to opening statements yesterday, we heard two very, very different stories. We did hear sort of this compelling story about a man woken up at 4:30 in the morning hearing banging on a side door, then hearing banging on the front door and not being - he doesn't have a land line, can't find the cell phone, approaches the door with a shotgun. On the other hand, we heard from the prosecution, which I also thought was rather compelling, which is why, Chris, I'm so undecided, we hear that he shoots through a locked front door and he is secure then in his home. So, I think the real question is in terms of how do you protect yourself when you are in your home? Where are the legal boundaries? Is it on the front porch? Is it inside of your home? Can you protect yourself in your garage? And I think that is really going to be the question here.

KOSIK: Danny, does stand your ground laws come into play here?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In a way. Michigan is one of those states that has really two sections that deal with this. The first section is basically self-defense. And in Michigan you must honestly believe you are in apprehension of imminent serious bodily harm. But a second section says that if you are in a certain place like your home then a presumption arises. And that presumption is, that your use of deadly force, your apprehension, your honest belief of fear for your bodily injury is a reasonable one, and that presumption can be overcome. But that is an example of a kind of stand your ground. That while you are in your house you get the benefit of that that presumption that your fear is real.

KOSIK: OK, so given that it sounds like this case would meet that standard.

CEVALLOS: It does initially. But then you have to look at some of the inconsistent statements that he gave. And it is true, in fact, in 2001 the federal court in Michigan did suggest that someone can - a jury can be instructed on accidental self-defense in a way. In other words, a defendant pulled his gun in reasonable fear of danger, but then after that it went off accidently. I should add that in other courts in the country they have rejected this idea - accidental self- defense.

CUOMO: Rejected a lot more than it's accepted. Tell more, Danny. Tell more.

CEVALLOS: It is logically inconsistent.

HOSTIN: That's right.

CUOMO: Access the word "honestly believing." Reasonably makes sense. Reasonable is something all lawyers are taught - it means that under the circumstances, this is what a common person would do. Honestly believing it is, you know, very difficult to test.

HOSTIN: And I think that's really going to be the question here what would a reasonable person do in the situation. And during jury selection there were a lot of questions about race. And I think that is also going to come up.

CUOMO: Do you think they are legitimate questions?

HOSTIN: I think they are legitimate questions.


HOSTIN: Because we are talking about ...

CUOMO: Through locked door, how did he know what color of the person was?

HOSTIN: Well, he claims that he saw - I think initially when this case broke, he did make statements about seeing a black person.

CUOMO: Black or shadowy?

HOSTIN: Shadowy, yes, but also a black person on his porch. And so, I think that is why the jury was questioned about it, we know that there are four black jurors on this jury. The jury was questioned about race. And I think it's going to be front and center.

CUOMO: We are talking about this case. The lawyer, as Sunny said, did do a good job in raising some issues. Let's take a listen to what his lawyer had to say, the defendant's lawyer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boom, boom, boom, boom. He is awoken. He is like the hairs on his arms and looks out that peep hole. He sees the shadowy figure coming off the porch and going around the side of the house. That is all he sees, a figure. He knows it is a human. And at this moment because of the side and the front. He thinks it is not one person, it's two or more people.


KOSIK: Danny, what do you think of that argument? It makes sense that he would be scared out of his mind when you hear it depicted that way.

CEVALLOS: That is a terrific example of an opening. There is a lot of theater there. And the defense attorney focuses on putting the jury there. It is one thing to say, hey, I heard something go bumping in the night. It is another thing to shout those words over and over again, and put the jury there imagining if they woke up at 4:00 in the morning. And the defense attorney wants the jury to be thinking about how would you think if you hear pounding at 4:00 in the morning?

CUOMO: When is the last time you heard an intruder knock on your door? You know, she says boom, boom, boom like they were gunshots. It's someone knocking on the door.

HOSTIN: It's someone knocking on the door. Yes, on the side, and then again on the front door, but for me, I think, and I think this is going to be very difficult for the jurors, why do you then shoot through a locked door? You are in the security of your home, and again ...

CUOMO: Did he ever say anything? Did he ever reach out? Did he try to identify who was there?

HOSTIN: Apparently not.

KOSIK: But he thought they were breaking in.

HOSTIN: He thought they were breaking in, but the bottom line is they had no one had broken in. He was still secure in his home.

CUOMO: No signs of breaking in?

HOSTIN: Exactly. Still secure in his home, and I think that's going to be the argument.

Can you protect yourself from inside of your home by shooting someone outside of your home? I think it is unreasonable. I think that is why the government brought this case. I think, you know, that the question is going to be close, but this is a seminal case, this is a really important case because it really will draw the line as to how you protect yourself. Can you protect yourself from inside of your home? I think it's going to be fascinating. CUOMO: Now, what we left out of our analysis today because the trial is still new, obviously, we just had openings. It's a lot of information about her, as well. Not like character information, but what had been going on that night that could come into play about how she was behaving and how she should have been ...

HOSTIN: She was intoxicated.

CUOMO: At a minimum, it's not so much about just state of mind, but just where she was coming from entering into this situation, which he couldn't have known, but may come into ...

HOSTIN: But to your point --

CUOMO: I'm being a little vague, but I mean, you know, they have to lay out the case before we judge it.

HOSTIN: Right. We, you know, it has been reported that she was drinking, had smoked some marijuana and got into a car accident, crashed the car, but that was three hours before this incident. So, you know, three hours is a pretty long time in terms of whether or not you are still under the influence.

CEVALLOS: Well, to be fair, she was playing a drinking shot game with hard liquor and smoked a pretty sizable blunt. So three and a half hours later ...

KOSIK: But you're still not supposed to get shot in the face.

CEVALLOS: Yeah, I mean let's not paint it like she was at a cocktail party clinking wine glasses.

HOSTIN: But does that matter?

CUOMO: See. And that's why I left it out of this.

HOSTIN: I don't think it matters whether or not she was at the cocktail party, Danny. But I think three hours, you know, going past is significant in terms of intoxication.

CUOMO: But I want to wait to see how they laid it out. That's why we are time -tack, but I want to leave it out of that segment. Because let's see how they use it and then we will judge how prosecutor and defense use it.

HOSTIN: So, it's very dangerous to character of assassinated.

CUOMO: It's true.


HOSTIN: You usually deserve.

CUOMO: That is true.

KOSIK: Good point. Sunny, Danny, thanks so much.

CUOMO: Let's take a break, when we come back after a week that brought three deadly air disasters, serious questions about could they have been prevented. We are going to talk with the CEO of a major airline about aviation safety.


KOSIK: The wreckage from the Air Algerie Flight that crashed and killed the 116 people in Mali has been found by the French military. That accident followed two other aviation disasters in one week, including the attack on MH-17. Those tragedies have many taking a hard look at aviation safety and wondering what could be done differently to prevent future trouble. So, joining us this morning from Paris is Camiel Eurlings. He's the president and CEO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, as well as the former minister of transport for the Netherlands. Mr. Eurlings, thank you for joining us.


KOSIK: It has been a terrible week, I don't have to tell you, for the airline industry with three catastrophic crashes. Is the airline industry doing some soul searching today as to what it could be doing differently in terms of airline routes?

EURLINGS: Yes, it has been a black week for worldwide aviation. Three of these disasters in one week time is unimaginable, and then, of course, the nature of the first disaster, the MH-17, makes it even all the worse. I can tell you that it has been the most impact - emotionally impactful week of many Dutch people, many of my colleague citizens and also for many people at my company KLM. We are a partner with Malaysian Airlines, have tried to support the airline as much as we could. But once you see the names, all of these names of people that are not alive anymore. And then when you meet the families -- I have been speaking to the families of the deceased ones, together with my colleague from Malaysian Airlines, those are moments you will never forget for the rest of your life.

KOSIK: Two of these flights, the Air Algerie and MH-17 suffered this catastrophic events at above 30,000 feet. That is very unusual. Is there any discussion in the airline industry about, again, different routes of trying to avoid massive thunderstorm patterns or not flying over conflict zones?

EURLINGS: Yeah, let me make very clear, the route above the eastern part of the Ukraine was considered safe, not just by the Ukrainian air traffic control, but also by the worldwide organization of traffic control, the CONZO (ph), and by Ikeyo (ph), which is the worldwide government body of aviation. So, it was declared safe to fly. That is why almost all companies were using that routes. Having said that, before it was considered to be safe above ten kilometers high. And I think after this horrible atrocity evidence proving it was a missile attack many questions will be asked. And as we speak the AYATA (ph) commissie (ph), the commission that is dealing with safety is already talking about the question whether or not a change of the worldwide rules is necessary.

KOSIK: Yes. Because you say that it was considered safe, but it was only considered safe, as we understand it, above 32,000 feet because of the fear of a missile strike. So that is a very small margin, if in fact, they were flying at 33,000 feet.

EURLINGS: Yes, but I'm not the specialist to judge on this. I can only conclude that it was considered to fly safely on the level the Malaysian plane was flying. It says proven wrong and that is extremely tragic. And we just need to look over the rules again. And that is what all of the colleagues I have been talking to in the aviation industry want, a true evaluation of the safety guidance.

KOSIK: As of this morning we understand KLM is still not flying into Tel Aviv. Here in the U.S. the FAA has lifted that ban. Why don't you think it is safe?

EURLINGS: We always take precautions. And I think the Tel Aviv case shows that even if the international rules say it is safe, airlines often raise the bar. So, with Tel Aviv we - that the American companies were not flying anymore, we stopped flying. We have decided this afternoon just one and a half hour ago to resume flying to Tel Aviv starting tomorrow.

KOSIK: So, what was is the difference? What was not safe yesterday and safe today when given what we have been talking about that is still a conflict zone?

EURLINGS: Yes, there has been contact with the American authorities and the evaluation has been done and like the American companies we have now concluded that for the moment it is safe enough. But once again, officially you can fly, and the last days we could fly to Tel Aviv. And I think that Tel Aviv example shows that airlines are often more critical than the international rules.

KOSIK: We have heard from some of our experts that one of the issues is that there isn't a lot of information sharing between the airlines. They are sort of ciloed (ph), the information. Do you think that these tragedies this week will lead to some sort of governing body or some way that airlines can share information about dangerous flight routes?

EURLINGS: That is always good information to share it. And if it can be done better it should be. But let me make one thing clear. We know where other airlines are flying and not flying. And we knew that almost all airlines that are operating on this route were flying over the eastern Ukraine. So that has not really been a discussion. The question is whether, now it is proven -- possible if it is proven. That is with these kinds of missiles even above 10 kilometers terrorists can strike, the question is whether we should not raise the bar on putting international security rules at an even higher level. KLM is very much enforced into this discussion, we have the first safety person of company being in the commission that is already discussing this since we are very anxious, of course, to obey the outcome.

KOSIK: Mr. Eurlings, are you ...

EURLINGS: This moment, if I may --

KOSIK: Yes, yes, go ahead.

EURLINGS: Sorry. This moment away from - I speak, said something as a Dutchman. Our country is in grief. We lost 194 Dutch people. Everyone is united in mourning. May I thank everyone that has shown compassion? The president of the United States signed the condolence register at the Dutch embassy in Washington. It is very much appreciated. And we just strive at our company to support the families of the deceased once of the Malaysian flight, and Malaysian Airlines as much as we can. But it is a moment of great grief for all of our nation.

KOSIK: And Mr. Eurlings, we have watched with heavy hearts from here your country come together and that incredible show of support and poignancy during the procession of those caskets. It was very beautiful on some way to watch your community all pull together. And my last question, Mr. Eurlings, is, are you afraid after this week that these incidents will have some sort of chilling effect on airline travel? I mean yours is an industry that demands the public confidence. What do you think the effect of this week will have?

EURLINGS: I asked exactly the same question to my colleague to CEO of Malaysian Airlines when he was together with me visiting - after visiting the families of the deceased ones. And he told me he had not seen a big reaction. And perhaps the explanation is that I think everyone ...

KOSIK: Sadly, we have lost Mr. Eurlings. But wonderful points from him in terms of what the airlines are going to do now in the future. Let's go over to Chris for what is coming up.

CUOMO: All right. Let's take a quick break and see you in a second.


KOSIK: We want to get back very quickly to Camiel Eurlings. He - we lost his signal. We had a technical problem right before the break that he has a CEO of KLM. And we were talking about whether or not this will have a chilling effect on the airline industry. How is KLM doing?

EURLINGS: KLM is doing relatively well. And that is quite an achievement. I am happy with it since the European economy is still very lukewarm. The economy is still very weak. Then it's really strengthened, and secondly, some of our competitors put in a lot of extra capacity, which, of course, has a downward effect on the prices of the tickets. Having said that KLM improved its operating income in the last quarter, which around 60 million Euros, which is a two percent margin increase compared to last year. And those are the big group - KLM, has increased its margin year over year by about two - two and a half percent. So I'm happy with this result because the economy doesn't help. So, it is only because our own cost cutting and also our seamless cooperation with other companies like Delta Airlines and the United States.

KOSIK: Well, the best of luck to you, Mr. Eurlings, and to KLM, and we hope that this airline industry is not too hurt by what happened with the tragedies this week. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

EURLINGS: Thank you for all the attention you devoted to these disasters. It is well appreciated by the Dutch countrymen. Thank you very much.

KOSIK: Thank you.

CUOMO: And it is equally appreciated how the Dutch have come together as a people, 17 million strong, and given dignity to the dead after a week of watching such abuse of the sanctity of their lives and of the crime scene in general. So, it was really to see a country at its best.

KOSIK: Their community has been so touched and so touching for us to watch.

PEREIRA: It has been.

CUOMO: Interesting to see what happens going forward, because it's not over yet.

PEREIRA: Not ...

CUOMO: But our show is - and I want to thank you very much for being with us. You've made it so easy.

KOSIK: Thanks for making ....

CUOMO: Thank you always for the warm welcome back. It's good to see you.

KOSIK: You too.

CUOMO: Go get breakfast. A lot of news this morning. So, let's get you to "NEWS ROOM" with Carol Costello. Carol?