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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Tracking Two Escaped Convicts From New York Jail; 22-Year-Old Man Jailed For Three Years Without Charge Commits Suicide; Two Former and One Current Rikers Guards Arrested And Charged With 2012 Beating Of An Inmate; Obama Administration's Initiative To Test Backlog of Rape Kits Around The Country Starts To Yield Answers And Arrests; Suzanne Somers Looks Back At The 70's. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 10, 2015 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:01] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Like most human endeavors, our criminal justice system well it is a unfortunately rightful mistakes, there are a lot, the system has a lot it happen.

But when mistakes are made in our legal system there really can be some tragic consequences as well.

I want to think about this young man about to talk about, 16 year old Kalief Browder. He was arrested for allegedly a stealing a backpack. And he was sent to Rikers Island, a notorious New York City jail complex.

He spent three years at Rikers. Two of those years were in solitary confinement. And he never stood trial. And he was never found guilty of any crime.

And the CNN's Brian Todd report, Browder was never able to cope with what he endured in those three years in Rikers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chaos inside New York's Rikers Island prison. Gang members assault detainee Kalief Browder, a 17-year-old, who never should have been there, this disturbing security-camera footage from 2010 shows the gang beating Browder being held back then barging into an isolation cell and beating him again. Corrections officers were powerless.

I mean that seems like lord of the flies, what's going on here.

ARNETT GASTON, FORMER COMMANDING OFFICER, RIKERS ISLAND: Out of confusion. There is obviously a lack of control. They do not have the capacity. And this is not to demean the officers- they're clearly outnumbered. And they do not have the physical capacity to totally protect the inmate.

TODD: This video was obtained by the New Yorker magazine, which first reported Kalief Browder's story. Two-years after the gang beating, this video shows Browder being slammed to the ground, his head smashed, this time by a corrections officer, after Browder appears to say something to him. GASTON: Verbal assaults, don't count. If we in corrections had responded to every verbal statement that was made that was derogatory in nature, we would be fighting every minute of every hour. That is common place it is part of the culture.

TODD: Browder was sent to Rikers, for allegedly stealing a backpack in the Bronx. He always maintained his innocence. But it was kept in prison for three years without a trial, two of those years in solitary confinement. He was ultimately released, the charges dropped.

KALIEF BROWDER: No apology, no nothing, they just said "Oh, case dismissed, don't worry about nothing like," "What do you mean, don't worry about nothing?" I just took over three years of my life. I didn't get to go to prom, graduation, nothing. So those are many years, I'm never going to get those years back. Never.

TODD: And he never did. This past Saturday, Kalief Browder committed suicide, hanging himself out a window of his mother's home.

His family is now suing the city, the police department, the Bronx D-A and the New York Department of Corrections for $20 million.

Arnett Gaston, a former commanding officer at Rikers is baffled by what happened to this young man.

GASTON: I cannot fathom why a person would be in that type of isolation for so long a period of time.

TODD: Contacted by CNN, an official with New York's Department of Corrections said Kalief Browder's death is a tragedy that their thoughts and prayers are with his family.

The official said the officer who slammed Browder to the floor is being re-trained, that the inmates who beat him were disciplined. And that gang incident is still being investigated.

Since Browder's released New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has improduced reforms moving to limit the number of cases where inmates are held at Rikers for a year while their cases are still pending and ending solitary confinement for teenage detainees.

Brian Todd, CNN Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Three years, just waiting for a trial. How is that possible? Don't we have a constitutional right to a speedy trial? How often does this happen? You might be shocked to find out.

Our legal panel is going to answer some pretty tough questions coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:37:35] BANFIELD: You're just joining us, we're discussing the tragic case of a young man named Kalief Browder. He was arrested when he was 16 years old for allegedly stealing a backpack. He spent three years locked up at Rikers. And two of those years he was locked up and solitary.

He was never able to cope with what he experienced. And on Saturday he committed suicide.

Joining me talk about Browder's case is CNN Legal Analyst Mel Robbins and Prosecutor Wendy Patrick.

I think the first reaction that most people would have is, how on earth is a 16 year old sent to Rikers for three years? Isn't he a juvi? Doesn't he has some kind of protection for being in solitary. How on earth we have a speedy trial right in the constitution. And yet this happens.

MEL ROBBINS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, yes to all of those things. One would think. One of the things I want to focus on Ashleigh because it was the bane of existence when I was a public defender representing clients in the New York court system going to Rikers almost every other week to visit clients, to prepare for cases is the speedy trial rule.

Basically what the speed of trial rule says is that if you're charged of a felony in the state of New York as he was, you have six months as a prosecutor to be ready for trial.

But here's what happens, prosecutor show up in court and they say judge we're ready. And then the defense attorney says "Well judge we're ready too, but we don't have all of the evidence yet, they haven't turned it over."

The judge then says "OK, well we will postpone trial for a later date." And then months if not a year worth of post moments, motions, arguing over the evidence in the case happens before a case ever goes to trial because the law Ashleigh only requires being ready and has nothing to do with the trial actually happen.

And that's one of the big problems here.

BANFIELD: So, so many questions about this. And I guess Wendy just -- if people are looking from other states at what happened in New York at Rikers, is this a problem unique to Rikers to New York, to bad funding and backlogs and cases they just can't get too and delays that, you know, these lawyers are requesting a week delay.

And instead, it ends up being a six week delay does it happen everywhere else.

WENDY PATRICK, PROSECUTOR: It does and I began my career as a public defender. So I share your experiences there. But I going to tell you, I've also prosecuted prison crimes against inmates. And even if this young man had been tried and convicted, we may very well be here, having the same discussion because of some of the things we saw on that video tape.

Due to the delay because that's the first issue, justice delay, is justice deny.

The second issue was we have the state taken it all to protect the folks that we house within our correctional institutions.

And when you get somebody that's treated like this, whether or not they're guilty or innocent we have serious concerns about reform.

[12:40:07] And that's only beginning to happen, now.

BANFIELD: And we're talking about people that we have a duty to protect if they're in, you know, custody. And you could say what you wanted about prisoners. They certainly enjoy the lowest statuses seemed no matter what the argument.

But this is a kid, this is a 16 year old kid who was beaten relentlessly by gang members, a guard even slammed him. The family of this young man they've launched a law suit, Mel and they're suing for false arrest, malicious prosecution and being denied a speedy trial. Do they have grounds, do they have a case?

ROBBINS: Well I think he certainly have a case whether or not it'll be successful as another matter.

BANFIELD: Why?

ROBBINS: Well this is an outrageous situation for sure. But you got to look also, he was Y.O., Youthful Offenders. So while he might not have had a pubic record, he was on probation.

So one of the first thing...

BANFIELD: You mean before he got arrested this time. He had a prior incident, he was on probation.

ROBBINS: Correct.

BANFIELD: It changes the game.

ROBBINS: It does and let me tell you why. And this is, this will make so many people so angry. But if he was on probation, it could've easily triggered a probationary hold which means you're not going anywhere while these other case is pending.

And so then you can't file for a read of habeas corpus because in the State of New York you can only file a petition with the judge to be released if you would qualify for immediate release, if it were granted.

So, there's so much just a wrap, but you've got mental health issues, he's 16 years old, he's in solitary confinement which means if he has an attorney like Wendy or me we can't even really get to him.

He is also only 16, so who doesn't understand he's legal rights. And so you've got this casserole of horrible things that happened. I think you'll see a massive settlement whether or not it goes to trial, that's another... PATRICK: But the lawsuit is also I think preventing us from getting the information we otherwise would get in the case like this. Because remember the lawsuit was filed in 2013.

So the three flowed information we see in cases like this hasn't occur. That's what we're getting it, bits and pieces, day by day.

BANFIELD: Right. So I do want to add that, you know, solitary sometimes is punitive and solitary sometimes is protective. And in his case, we do know that certain cases of his commitment in solitary was punitive because, they've been fighting or arguing or, you know, getting into scaffold.

I just don't know how much of it was protected given that he was so badly abused. I have to leave it there. But I think it's not the last we're hearing this case.

Wendy, Mel standby and thank you for that.

So this just in, by the way from one of the -- from the Rikers controversy there is yet another controversy at Rikers, federal prosecutors just announcing that two former guards there and one current guard have been arrested. And they've been charged at the 2012 beating of an inmate named Ronald Spear.

Two of the accused are expected in federal court sometime today. The third one is apparently cooperating with the authority. He pleaded guilty earlier this week to abstracting justice.

And we keep you posted on that case.

You know, those thousands and thousands and thousands of untested rape kits that you keep hearing about across the country just sitting in evidence rooms for decades collecting dust while there is one county finally doing something about it and you will not believe the results.

We're going to tell you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:46:58] BANFIELD: A handful of prosecutors around the country are delving into a dark past to put some very dangerous criminals behind bars.

It's part of the Obama administration's initiative to test these thousands upon thousand, tens of thousands of old rape kits, kits that are just sitting on shelves in evidence rooms around the country, collecting a lot of dust, years' worth, decades' worth.

The president's 2015 budget includes $41 million to pay jurisdictions nationwide to get moving on them and test those backlogs of rape evidence against the nation's DNA database. Maybe they'll get a strike. Maybe they'll find the guy.

And we're talking about some extremely serious criminals off of the streets. If you don't believe, just take a look at the statistics. 46 percent of rapists released from prison are re-arrested within three years, 18.6 percent of them are for violent offenses, 14.8 percent are for property offenses, 11.2 percent are from drug offenses, and 20 plus percent are for public-order offenses.

So, in Cleveland, the testing has already led to hundreds of arrest, but that's not the only success story.

I want to take you to Detroit. It's in Wayne County. And the prosecutor from Wayne County, Kym Worthy, is now 18 for 18 in her convictions of rapists from the thousands of backlogs cases in which rape kits were never tested in her jurisdiction until she got a hold of them.

Ms. Worthy joins me now on the phone.

I am just astounded at the success stories every time some jurisdiction, like yours, gets on it, dusts off of those kits, put them through the labs, find the hit, finds the guy, goes for a prosecution and get it.

So what am I not getting? Why isn't everyone doing this, Ms. Worthy?

KYM WORTHY, WAYNE COUNTY JUDGE: You got me. I don't understand. But to me it's no brainer (ph).

Each of these kits represents a victim, a victim of a violent crime, a victim that trusted the criminal justice system enough, to submit herself to a 4 to 10 hour rape kit examination, where literally every organs of her body was prove, like hair, it's fibers any evidence because she's off in doing this test that it can possibly to perpetuate.

And so, I don't understand that mindset at all.

BANFIELD: When you get a hit, do you have to look at the case and how old it is because it's my understanding that some of these kits are upwards of three decades old, do you need to look at whether you're going to get a conviction based on the fact that a lot of people might be dead, a lot of witnesses might be dead, a lot of police might be dead, you just might not be able to mount a successful case.

WORTHY: Yes, even a bigger a problem that that is a special indication. And so, some of these patients beyond, just by virtue of their age, we cannot even investigate at all, that doesn't mean that we don't test them because we do because we can use evidence from those kits that we cannot -- generate case, another cases.

But, yes, we still have to find the victim, we still have to find the defendant, we still have to find the witnesses. And the case don't have to put together the old fashion way, that old fashion police work because they charge anything even if have a prove of it.

[12:50:07] BANFIELD: And I kept hearing the excuse, "In a perfect world, we do everything we could, of course, to test these kits and get these people off of the street, but it's a funding issue. It's a backlog issue. We just don't have enough hands. We just don't have enough labs," et cetera, et cetera.

But with the statistics they just read, it seems to me that you want to get these guys off of the streets because they're not just raping, they're assaulting, they're robbing and they're creating a lot of victims out there over and over again. It just defines logic that this wouldn't have been a priority for all jurisdictions.

WORTHY: That's right. And not only that, every rapist, the research has showed rapes on average of 11 times. So each time you take one rape off of the street, you're really taking the 10 more down. So it's even more pervasive than that, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Well, it's fascinating. And I congratulate you on your step. I hope you keep that in thousand, and I really do. And I hope other jurisdictions see your success stories and followthrough as well.

Thanks Ms. Worthy, nice to see you. Well, it's nice to hear it from you anyway from the phone.

WORTHY: Thank you. Thank you.

BANFIELD: Kym Worthy, joining us from Wayne County.

Coming up next, the 1970s would not have been the same without her. You know her as Suzanne Somers, or if you are in my age, you know her as Chrissy. Hi Suzanne, you look so great.

SUZANNE SOMERS: Hi.

BANFIELD: I cannot wait to talk to you. After the break, Suzanne Somers is joining me with her look back at the '70s and how it changed who we all are, especially her. Talk to you in a minute, Suzanne.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:55:09] BANFIELD: We here at CNN are celebrating the grooviest and the swinginiest decade in American history, it is titled "The 70's" It was when this medium, this industry of television was one of the most powerful forces on earth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I get my T.V. I think it was 70's.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is this world coming?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American public was hungry for more.

VALERIE HARPER, ACTOR THE MARY TILER MOORE SHOW: Moore was allowed they haven't been before.

DAVID BIACULLI, TELEVISION CRITIC: It was the last decade where there is a camp fire television, where there was one in the living room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to watch all black show for change. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where you're going to find one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here is one, The Lost Angeles Lakers against the Milwaukee Bucks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: We cannot have a conversation about important 70's T.V. shows without these guys, Jack and Jeanette and Christie all living together under one roof and the hugely successful sitcom three's company.

Show not only funny, but it got main stream America talking about social issues never before seen on television.

And look who's with us right now. the one in the center Christie Suzzane Somers, it's so great to see you, not only a hugely successful actress that even more remarkable businesswoman and author, you have a library books that you have - that you've authored. And you're now in Vegas show called Susan sizzle and this is your newest book Tox-Sick from Tox-Sick to not sick Suzzane Somers

Welcome and how are you doing, you look spectacular every time I interview you, you get younger.

SUZZANE SOMERS, ACTRESS, SINGER, BUSINESSWOMAN, AUTHOR: Thank you, I walk my talk, you know, I have written now this health books about a new way to age and it's aging without drugs, which is probably an interesting way to go, because the 70's were a lot of out drugs, not in my world that they were.

And I remember in the 70's that you'd go to a Hollywood parties and cocaine was out as like it was a bowl of M&M's and it just never thing, I never took to it.

But anyway I am really healthy -

BANFIELD: I wanted to ask you about, when I watch your show I would go to school, you know, the next day and everybody will talk about the show we all watch, because we all watch just a few channels, so it seem to me that television had such a huge impact on society and really formulated things because we conversed, right now you watch everything and you come to work and everybody is seeing something different, do you see a big difference in how significant your role was in who we all became?

SOMERS: we'll I experienced something that no one will ever experience again at that time in the 70's, there were only three choices ABC, NBC, SBS, and being known the number one show in the country there was a collective consciousness because about half of everybody watching television on Tuesday night, was watching Three's Company's.

So the next day anywhere I would go, people say, "Hey I saw you on the show last night, that will never happen again." So I feel very fortunate that I got in at that moment and time, now it's so, diverse, I remember when (inaudible) went off the air and they were so excited because on a very last show was being on the cover of time and news, we can all of that, that they got a 25 share and I thought, we still regularly get 40 and 42 shares, which will never happen again.

BANFIELD: Yeah. No, you're absolutely right and...

SOMERS: ... that's why --

BANFIELD: That's why we have our collective memories I mean when I started singing your song during good morning meeting and everybody would new right away, you know, it just it's in our, Oh yeah, you know a little bit about, about what T.V. became since the Ken's laugh track sitcoms, now you have reality shows that push the envelope that there's a lot more profanity on television now, do you see anything happening say two to three decades from now, that will be as profound in the terms of affecting culture and Americana as what happens three decades ago.

SOMERS: Where could it possibly go, I mean I think about that. When Three's Company was on there were still this coterie of super funny Jewish writers and I've mention Jewish, because so many of them were children of parents of the holocaust. And either you retreat and go into place of depression or you find the funny side of life and I work with people like Harry Kreign who wrote the Jackie Gleason show and this super funny guys.

I don't see that kind of machine gun kind of humor anymore, you know, we do show, a show at five o'clock and then I address and then at eight o'clock we do air show and in between the writers would punch up and add to.

[13:00:00] And John Rider and myself had isolated cameras where -- when the audience was there, if something happened that we didn't rehearse, that way we could just free form. And so much of that free form ended up on the air which --

BANFIELD: Yes.

SOMERS: -- made it such a delicious experience.

BANFIELD: Well, it was -- a delicious experience is the best way to say it.

SOMERS: Did I answer your question?

BANFIELD: I adored watching it then. I adore looking at you now. And thank you so much for being with us today. I want to just remind people, don't forget, we're doing our 70s look back at the good, bad and the revolutionary in T.V. Our ORIGINAL SERIES, THE SEVENTIES premiers tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. And our thanks to Suzanne Somers.

And Wolf starts right now.