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Air Force Nuclear-Missile Officers Cheating on Competency Tests; Photos Appear to Show Marines Burning Iraqi Insurgent Corpses; Voice of Caller to Anarchy College Radio Show Appears to Be Adam Lanza; Christie Speaks on Sandy Recovery; Ohio Prison Uses Pharmaceutical Cocktail for Lethal Injection

Aired January 16, 2014 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. Air Force officers responsible for launching nuclear missiles caught cheating on their competency tests, and if that's not bad enough, the scandal was exposed by a drug investigation.

Also this hour, is this the voice of the new town shooter Adam Lanza?

Tapes of a call in to a radio station a year before the massacre sympathizing with this chimpanzee -- this chimpanzee that was gunned down by police after attacking a woman, nearly killing her.

And the voice compares this animal to a teenage mall shooter.

And a Little League lawsuits with big implications, a coach suing one of his players. Is he way off base, or does he actually have a case? You are going to be able to make that call.

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Thursday, January the 16th, and welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

If there's anyone who needs to be on the ball, fully trained and committed and alert and engaged, each and every minute of each and every day, you would think it would be the people in charge of nuclear missiles, right?

That is why it makes our top story an absolute bombshell, pardon the pun. Almost three dozen nuclear-missile launch officers are caught in a cheating scandal involving their competency tests.

Our Joe Johns has the details.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It started with a probe into illegal drug possession, but unexpectedly led investigators to an Air Force cheating scandal.

Nearly three dozen airmen, mostly from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, the Pentagon says some cheated on a proficiency test last August and September.

Others apparently knew about the cheating, but didn't stop it or report it.

All involved have been decertified and restricted from missile-crew duty.

The cheating was accomplished using text messages.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.

DEBORAH LEE JAMES, SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE: This is absolutely unacceptable behavior and it is completely contrary to our core values in the Air Force.

And as everybody here know, the number one core value for us is integrity.

JOHNS: There's a long list of scandals involving missile-defense personnel.

In October, Air Force Major General Michael Kerry, a commander of three nuclear-weapons' units was relieved of his duty and reassigned for excessive drinking and fraternizing with women on an official trip to Russia.

The missile unit at Maelstrom failed a safety and security inspection last year.

The defense secretary recently visited one of the missile bases to try to lift morale.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: To re-emphasize how important your mission is, how important your work is, how we depend on your professionalism and how you do your work.

JOHNS: Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates is weighing in on this scandal. He fired the Air Force's top general back in 2008 for multiple mishaps involving nuclear weapons.

Gates spoke last night to CNN's Piers Morgan.

ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is one of those capabilities in the military where there's no room for any error, no room for any misbehavior, no room for sloppiness at all.

And so I think that having this kind of behavior among those that are responsible for some element of the nuclear arsenal is extremely troubling.

JOHNS: And it's not just the Air Force. A Navy vice admiral overseeing nuclear weapons was recently removed from command after being implicated in a gambling investigation.

Studies show manning the missiles can be a very lonely, isolated job, and DOD personnel assigned to the nuclear arsenal have suffered from burnouts, been involved in domestic violence, even napping on the job.

But a CNN military expert says cheating on tests must be dealt with as a question of character.

MAJOR GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MAKRS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This isn't bad behavior. This is unethical behavior, and it gets right to the core of the culture of this group.


JOHNS: The Air Force has now begun the process of retesting all of its launch officers.

One expert told CNN there's a question whether the rigorous examination of these DOD personnel somehow sets them up to fail.


BANFIELD: Joe Johns, live for us, thank you for that. Appreciate the live reporting.

There's also some other headaches that have been going on for the Pentagon this week, headaches because a 10-year-old set of photos has emerged, appearing to show United States Marines burning the corpses of Iraqi insurgents.

CNN's Brian Todd has that.


TODD: The deadliest fighting Iraq has seen in years. In recent days al-Qaeda- backed militants have been battling Iraqi security forces for control of Fallujah and Ramadi

This is the territory U.S. Marines fought and died to capture during the height of the Iraq war.

Now, U.S. military officials tell CNN they're investigating these photos taken in 2004.

The Web site TMZ published the photos and turned them over to the Pentagon last week. TMZ was told they were taken in Fallujah

The photos appear to show U.S. Marines burning the dead bodies of Iraqi insurgents.

In one photo, a Marine's pouring liquid on a body, in another the same body in flames, and this picture of a Marine kneeling next to a skull

There are many more.

Analyst Jonathan Rue served with the Marines in Iraq.

JONATHAN RUE, FORMER MARINE CAPTAIN: This looks really bad, but we don't know exactly what was happening and we don't know what the circumstances were.

TODD: U.S. military officials can't tell us what unit these men were in. They're trying to determine their identities. Rue says the 2004 fighting in Fallujah was some of the worst urban combat the Marines had seen since Vietnam.

RUE: They literally had to clear the entire city, house to house.

Some houses would be empty, some houses would have booby traps and some houses had, you know, three, four, five, 10 insurgents inside ready, waiting to fight to the death.

TODD: Why examine this case now?

EUGENE FIDELL, FORMER JAG OFFICER: There is certainly a value in our society condemning this kind of conduct.

And give the world, including the Iraqi people, an explanation for what we're doing.

TODD: Analysts say it's possible the bodies could have been burned for hygienic purposes, but it's a crime in the military to burn human remains or to possess or distribute personal photos of them.

Still, prosecuting these men will be difficult.

FIDELL: If they're not still on active duty then you have really serious issues as to which court, if any, they can be prosecuted in.

TODD: Eugene Fidell says that means it's not clear if the men could be prosecuted in a court or not.

Fidell also says there's likely a statute of limitations for these crimes, and if there is one, it probably expired a long time ago.

Brian Todd, CNN, The Pentagon.


BANFIELD: Brian, thank you for that.

Normally, you wouldn't want to go to the Jersey Shore in January, or maybe you would. Certainly if you're the governor, you're going there live.

In fact, you can see just behind the podium, Chris Christie is being received by some of the officials in Manahawkin, New Jersey, at a volunteer fire house.

In fact, we're going to go to break, and as soon as these introductions are over, when we come back, Chris Christie is likely to take to the mike.

He is about to announce some pretty important aspects of the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Your might call it a milestone.

We'll explain what that is, coming back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: So we're watching the live camera out of Manahawkin, New Jersey. Just off to the left of the speaker, you can see Chris Christie waiting for his turn at the microphone.

He's at the volunteer fire house at the Jersey Shore today, and this is his first public appearance since his Tuesday State of the State address.

This is all about highlighting the Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts. He's meeting with homeowners there. He's going to address how some of the money has been spent on the recovery efforts.

Of course, there is this ongoing look into some of the ads that were spent on the recovery efforts and whether featuring his family was the appropriate thing to do during a campaign, but that's a separate event from today for sure.

He's also going to be discussing something called the state's recovery milestone, so as soon as Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey takes to the microphone, we're going to get you up to speed, as well.

And there's another big story that's developing here on the East Coast, up in New York. I want you to look at one of our newspapers, the "New York Daily News" today, "Speak of the Devil" with a picture of Adam Lanza.

There's some really chilling new audio that's been surfaced. And the "Daily News" says that the audio is Adam Lanza, that 20-year-old who shot and killed 20 kids and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary last year.

We can't confirm at CNN that it is, in fact. his voice, but if it is Adam Lanza's voice, it could certainly be a window into what motivated this young man and how he justified the murders.

Pamela Brown is going to take you through, right now, a very strange interview with an Oregon college radio show. Have a listen.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is this the voice of Adam Lanza?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some little thing he experienced was the last straw and he was overwhelmed by the life that he had.

BROWN: According to a report in the "New York Daily News" it is.

A cover story includes what is purported to be recently uncovered audio recorded a year before the 20-year-old committed one of the deadliest mass murders in American history.

The paper spoke to two classmates of Lanza who said it was him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn't act really any differently than a human child would.

BROWN: The audio obtained by the "Daily News" is from an Oregon College radio show called "Anarchy Radio."

The man the paper identifies as Lanza wanted to discuss the death of a domesticated chimp named Travis with radio host himself proclaimed anarchist John Zerzan.

In 2009, Travis was shot and killed by a police officer after he brutally mauled a Connecticut woman.

The caller, who identifies himself as "Greg," compares the violent chimp attack with that of a teenage mall shooter in an over seven- minute interview.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His attack can be seen entirely parallel to the attacks, random acts of violence that you bring up on your show every week, committed by humans which the mainstream also has no explanation for.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An actual human, I just don't think it would be such a stretch to say he very well could have been a teenage mall shooter or something like that.

BROWN: Zerzan doesn't know who the caller was, but remembers the call.

ZERZAN (via telephone): The voice was kind of odd, sort of robotic, and maybe he was trying to disguise his voice or something. I don't know.

BROWN: According to a blogger cited by the "Daily News," Lanza posted in an online forum under the user name "Smiggles," a name Sandy Hook investigators say he may have used in instant messages.

In one 2011 post uncovered by the blogger, "Smiggles" wrote about calling into John Zerzan's radio show.

CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST: I think the subtext of what he is saying, violence is innate and instinctual to humans and really should not be punished because it is their natural basis.

That's the message I think he is trying to get across, and the parallel to himself is obvious.

He feels possessed by this need, this compulsion, to commit violence.

BROWN: Pamela Brown, CNN New York.


BANFIELD: And I want to get you right back out live to Manahawkin, New Jersey, where the governor, Chris Christie, is speaking live. Let's listen.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: ... and that was the job he accepted. After October 29 of 2012, I also said, oh, and by the way, do you think you could administer a billion-dollar housing program after a disaster to try to help folks get their lives back to normal?

He has done an amazing job in dealing with the federal government, in dealing with the local governments and with making state government move, so I appreciate him being here.

The mayor has been a leader for this municipality, not just by virtue of his elected position, but also based upon his actions and his conduct in dealing with the people of this municipality.

And I thank him for being here as well.


CHRISTIE: Now, as I said quite some time ago, you know, the recovery from Sandy was going to take a long time.

I said that at least two years was going to have to go by before host people in the state had their lives back to normal.

And if we remember the devastation of what happened, we know that things like this don't happen overnight.

But, you know, we're doing things to make sure that, every day, we try to make it faster and easier.

And one of the things I heard from Gabe was that, you know, in the beginning when he was dealing with the programs that we set up brand- new at the end of May that it was a bit confusing to him and difficult, but that each month that's gone by, it's gotten better and easier for them to deal with it.

That's great to hear, because you can't expect things are going to be perfect right off the bat. We've never done this before. Except for folks in Louisiana and Mississippi after Katrina, no one has done this before on this scale.

And given how densely populates New Jersey is, the number of people we have here, the number of housing units is significantly different in terms of the volume of work that needed to be done. So, that's why we petitioned and received, as Rich mentioned, that extra $145 million.

The good news about the $145 million is that that was money that we had dedicated to business redevelopment. And what we found over time is that we didn't need as much for businesses. Businesses were able to get back up on their feet much more quickly and with less money. And so, our original game plan was to have this $145 million to go towards businesses. We didn't need it and so we went back to the president and said, let's take that $145 million and let's put it towards homeowners. We need for money for them. They know that. And we were glad we were able to do that. Rich said a thousand people came off the waiting list for (INAUDIBLE) because of this approval. That's going to be great.

But, as of today, you know, we've reached --

BANFIELD: So, as the governor of New Jersey continues to highlight some of the milestones in the recovery efforts one year after Superstorm Sandy, the president, not to be outdone, is also going to be having a news conference of his own with the first lady. Entirely different topic. It's about college opportunity, how to pay for college, how to get low income students into the stream. They've lagged far behind the numbers of middle and upper income students, maybe understandably so, but certainly morally something he wants to hilight and talk about in just a few moments.

We're watching that live microphone. A lot of moving parts today. There's something else going on in Chris Christie's world. Later today the New Jersey general assembly convenes at noon to get a special committee together to investigate that bridge scandal. That committee is going to have subpoena power. That's a big deal. When you subpoena people under oath to tell the truth, that's what a lot of people want to hear. They want to get to the bottom of whatever happened and what people know and when they knew it. We're going to watch both of those live events for you.

And also this: prisons across the country are running low on drugs that are used to kill people - lethal injections, the legal kind when we execute people. So, just minutes ago, one state executed a killer using something entirely different, previously untested -- a cocktail, so to speak. Is that cocktail cruel and unusual? Here's the big question, does anyone care? We'll get the LEGAL VIEW next.


BANFIELD: So we're keeping a live eye on the White House. This is officially billed a as a White House summit. The president and first lady are going to take to the microphone to discuss the opportunities for low income students to get student loans and pipeline them a little bit more into college, because the stats are bad.

Effectively, you'll probably remember the Obamas themselves announced that just nine years ago they were able to pay off their student loans. That's the president. We're going to keep an eye on that for you, and as soon as they get to the microphone, I understand the first lady is going to be introducing the president. We'll get you live to the White House summit.

But we're also looking at something that just happened, and this is very distressing to a lot of people, and very acceptable to a lot of other. Just a short time ago the state of Ohio executed a man that raped and killed a pregnant woman. What was different about his execution, was that it was done using these drugs: midazolam - I hope I'm pronouncing this right - and hydromohphone. Pretty sure I'm pronouncing that right. What I do know is that this is a combination that had never before been used in lethal injections. They're typically used for colonoscopies. The usual lethal injection drugs are not available anymore. There's a lot of reasons for that, but Maguire's lawyers tried to get a stay on this saying he would suffer intensely in his last moments before death. The state didn't agree but that state also couldn't say if they knew whether he was going to suffer.

CNN's legal analyst Paul Callan and HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson are both here with me to talk about this. Isn't this really what it's about, whether when we execute people it hurts. And I know that sounds simplistic, but Paul why don't you take it from there why that's an issue. Isn't it really painful to execute any way?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I would say in most cases it is however certain drug combinations -- this by the way I was checking out this morning. Most know these as versed and delouded (ph). And versed kind of eliminates your memory, relaxes you. Delauded is an opiate, and it will stop your breating, so it's a form of morphine. Was he likely totally unconscious and pain free on those drug dosages, I would say yes. Better than being shot, or hung, or electrocutes which all have been upheld by the Supreme Court as proper methods of execution.

BANFIELD: It's difficult to parse this down to those moments. We're talking potentially minutes. Nobody could tell with the new cocktail how long it was going to take for this man to die. Isn't it like an O.D. where you just kind of go out on the table and effectively stop breathing, your heart stops? Why is it painful? Where's the pain here?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: It's an interesting point. And just backing up a minute. If you accept the death penalty is barbaric to begin with and some do. Others believe it's a proper method. To the extent that you execute going back to Paul's point, whether a shot in the heart, whether it's an electrocution, or whether it's through lethal injection, what's the distinction? Well, here's the distinction. The distinction is we have the eighth amendment, obviously we have a constitution in the country. That constitution speaks to cruel and unusual punishment. The concern with the lawyers here, Ashleigh, was whether or not this was humane which sounds a bit contradictory when you look at the death penalty as inhumane in the first instance. And that's the issue.

BANFIELD: Well, let me - let me throw this up there. This all just happened. This execution has just taken place. They're not releasing yet whether they actually used this cocktail, or in the 11th hour chose something else. So let me just put that out there for now, but if in fact going into this, the arguments were made based on this cocktail. I couldn't understand the lawyers arguing against the state suggesting his client would go through or at least be at risk to go through something called air hunger. This is a phenomenon where somebody experiences terror as they try to catch their breath. ]

JACKSON: Exactly. And you're gasping and you're gasping.

CALLAN: Oh, that's because the delauded would -

BANFIELD: My question isn't about the medial part. My question is about the terror. That's being included in part of the cruel and unusual punishment. It's terrifying to walk to the chamber. That's terrifying. All of it is terrifying. What is terror have to do with any of this? CALLAN: Well, I'll tell you what it has to do with it. It really has to do with people who oppose the death penalty are using every argument they can come up with to stop executions. They're trying to say that any kind of situation that puts somebody to death puts them in pain and fear. And unfortunately for that argument, the Supreme Court doesn't buy it. It's upheld shootings, hangings, and electrocutions.


CALLAN: Do, this argument and the eighth amendment has never been applied to the death penalty.

JACKSON: Right, but the issue though, and in fact old sparky, if you remember, they took out, they used to call old sparky the chamber in Florida because it was actually burning people. That goes back to the issue whether or not this is proper and appropriate. Should it be humane to sentence someone to death, to have the death penalty applied and to have them gasping for air or should you kill them in a painless and quick way.

CALLAN: And the reality is, there's no humane way to kill somebody. There's no human way. You're ending a human life as punishment for a brutal crime. Remember the brutality of this crime. He murdered a pregnant woman. A jury found him guilty, numerous appellate courts upheld the sentence. He got due process. As long as America says the death penalty is constitutional, there's going to be pain and terror in execution.

BANFIELD: You're both lawyers. Do you find it the least bit intriguing that pharmaceutical companies have shut us out and said, you know what we're not giving you the dope to do what you do.

CALLAN: To me, it's ironic because they oppose the death penalty as being inhumane. By withdrawing the drugs from the market, they increase the likelihood that someone will die in a painful manner.


BANFIELD: Or will they increase the likelihood that Americans will finally say I don't think we can do this.

JACKSON: But at the same time, think about what they're doing. Everybody makes the argument it's about money. It's about dollars and cents. If you're making the drug not available to us, they're losing money.


CALLAN: These are European pharmaceutical companies that have withdrawn the drug because Europe doesn't recognize death penalty.

BANFIELD: I'm going on record here and I'm not even going to discuss the morality of whether it's right to kill someone who killed somebody. I'm just going to say from the legal perspective, we stink at what we do. We are not perfect, we make loads of mistakes. If we are an imperfect society, we sure shouldn't be deciding who dies and who lives. Only for that factor. I'm not getting into the morality. I have that too, but that's something else. Don't you agree that we make too many mistakes, and jail and kill innocent people on a regular basis?

JACKSON: The problem is is that there's too much finality with the death penalty and at the end of the day -- CNN did a documentary if you recall, on the person who after 25 years was declared innocent.

BANFIELD: Happens all the time. It drives me crazy. That's why I say what I say. Not because I'm imposing morality over anyone. I just want people to know we really stink. We do our best, but we stink.

CALLAN: The majority of people in this country have traditionally supported the death penalty. We are a democracy. We have a court. The court has upheld.

BANFIELD: We learn more about how bad our process is. Our labs are mistaken, juries come back and say --

CALLAN: And that's why we have elected representatives. Let them vote it out. And vote it down.

JACKSON: And 32 states in the country have the death penalty. It's a prerogative of every jurisdiction. Legislatures and people we elect will continue to make those decisions on our behalf.

BANFIELD: A one hour show we need to do on imperfections as of us a people and jurisprudence. We're the best at it but even that isn't good enough. Paul and Joey, thank you. That came out of nowhere didn't it? I got on my high hog.

We're watching the president as well. There is a live event happening at the White House. The live mic is ready for the president and first lady. It's on the cost of college that's soaring. What's the president going to do about it? You're going to hear about it in a minute.