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Philip Seymour Hoffman`s Final Fatal Hours

Aired February 4, 2014 - 19:00:00   ET


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: Tonight, a haunting image surfaces of Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, slumped in his seat and seemingly passed out on a flight from Atlanta to New York, hours after being spotted appearing drunk at an Atlanta bar, just three days before his death. This is new information. It`s pouring in tonight about the final fatal hours before the "Capote" actor was found dead with a needle in his left arm.

And an astounding 70 -- 70 -- bags of heroin littered throughout his multimillion-dollar rented Manhattan apartment. Tonight we`re learning that the 46-year-old star withdrew $1,200 from this ATM machine. You`re about to see transaction after transaction after transaction, for a total of six transactions, all while talking to two mystery men who were wearing messenger bags, men who are tonight suspected of being drug dealers.

Also tonight, cops hot on the trail of those drug dealers. And we`ve got brand-new details about the actor`s stunning admission at the Sundance Film Festival. Why did he tell a complete stranger that he is a heroin addict? The man who had that conversation with Philip Seymour Hoffman joins me tonight live.

Good evening. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell coming to you live.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about the drugs? Where did they come from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Street name, Ace of Spades.

PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, ACTOR: Mr. Dilly (ph). Truman Capote from "The New Yorker."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He seemed, quote, "high."

HOFFMAN: My friend sent me exactly the self (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why were there six ATM withdrawals?

HOFFMAN: You get panicked. You get panicked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened in the hours leading up to his death?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So very tragic. And tonight cops are piecing together new evidence about Hoffman`s final moments. His longtime lover, Mimi O`Donnell, said he appeared high when she saw and spoke to him the day before he died.

Some of the last people to see him alive say Hoffman seemed out of it, walking the streets in a big puffy jacket the night before his death. Tonight cops trying to trace the 70 bags of heroin in the Oscar winner`s apartment that were labeled Ace of Spades and Ace of Hearts.

Plus, they found more than 20 used syringes. They also found numerous prescription pills, including anti-anxiety meds and muscle relaxers. Also tonight, we`re going to talk live with the magazine journalist who spotted Hoffman at the Sundance Film Festival, but didn`t even recognize him. This from ABC News.


JOHN ARUNDEL, JOURNALIST: After I asked him who he was and what he did, he said, "I`m a heroin addict."

And I looked at him and he took off his hat. And I said, "Oh, you`re Philip Seymour Hoffman."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to hear what you`ve got to say. Call me: 1- 877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

Straight out, and we begin with TMZ news manager Mike Walters.

You`ve got new information. What have you learned tonight, Mike?

MIKE WALTERS, NEWS MANAGER, TMZ: Well, Jane, you were talking about the specific heroin that was found in Philip Seymour Hoffman`s apartment, the Ace of Spades. Well, there was another one called Ace of Hearts. And what it is, is a bag with a picture of a playing card on that. Here`s the unbelievable information we found out so far.

There was a young lady who overdosed, not that long ago, off the exact same brand. It`s been widely going around the New York area for several months. And I can tell you, this young lady took what she claims is a tiny bit of heroin, a very small injection, dose of heroin, and the next thing she knew, within seconds they were doing CPR and reviving her. Not only did she almost die, Jane, she says she knew that this brand, which they did find in Philip`s house, that was deadly strain, a very strong heroin. She even went to the NYPD, and said, "Guys, this is going to kill people in the heroin scene. You`ve got to do something about it." That was in September.

And unfortunately, this was one of the bags they found in his apartment. And they are now trying to see if this is exactly what happened to him, a really, really strong fatal dose.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Mike, you have reported on Philip Seymour Hoffman expressing that he was going to die.

WALTERS: Yes, Jane. Basically, like your other person on the show was saying, he was telling people around the New York area, "I`m back on heroin. I`m injecting it. And if I don`t stop, I think I`m going to die." He told that to several people. And I think what he was doing, Jane, and you as an addict know this, he`s reaching out for people to help.

And I can tell you, one of the drugs they found in his house was an addiction medication to get off of opiates. So the really tragic thing here is he was trying to get help. He was going to AA meetings. He even had medication to stop doing heroin. And unfortunately, by the looks of how many bags there were and unused needles and full heroin bags, he was hunkering down for a long binge, Jane.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I`ve got to tell you, in a second we`re going to play a clip from somebody who has conquered, at least for the time being, heroin one day at a time and talk about the power, the extraordinarily overwhelming power of heroin and what it feels like and how that`s so overwhelming.

Now as you heard Mike, and Mike, it`s great to hear from you. Thank you. Mike Walters, TMZ.

You heard him say just a second ago, that he was at the Sundance Film Festival. So I want you to take a look at these photos that we`ve obtained of Philip Seymour Hoffman at Sundance, the famous festival, where people say he looked disheveled, exhausted, and out of it, promoting his new movie "God`s Pocket."

We`re very happy to be joined tonight by the magazine journalist, John Arundel, who actually spoke to Philip Seymour Hoffman at Sundance. Thank you for joining us. And I just want to ask you to take us through the entire interaction that you had with Philip Seymour Hoffman at Sundance. Describe his appearance, demeanor and what he said to you.

ARUNDEL: Well, Jane, I have to tell you, it was probably one of the most bizarre incidents I`ve ever had with a celebrity. Because usually when we interview the celebrities when they come through here in Washington, it`s under very controlled circumstances. And we speak to them through their agents and their publicists. And it`s -- there`s not a whole lot that they really can say.

But on this night, I think I got him at a very unguarded moment.

I first want to say that I`m deeply saddened by this as a father of two children. It`s extremely upsetting to see somebody that you just adore so much, and is your hero, act in the way that he did. I was out at one of those late-night parties in Sundance. And I was talking to a gentleman at the bar. And I didn`t recognize him at all. He was wearing a floppy hat.

And I said, "What`s your name?"

He said, "Oh, you don`t recognize me."

And after that, he took the hat off, and I said, "Oh, you`re Philip Seymour Hoffman."

He said, "Yes, and I`m a heroin addict." And at that point I was just dumbfounded. And he said, "Bingo, you got my name," and off he went into the night. And before he went off he said, "I`m in rehab."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So he said he`s in rehab. Well, first of all, that doesn`t make sense. Because if you`re in rehab, you`re not at the Sundance Film Festival.

ARUNDEL: Well, he just got out of rehab.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: By the way, your -- your conversation made the headline of the "New York Post": "I am a heroin addict." There is the quote.

ARUNDEL: Wow, I hadn`t seen that yet.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And this still making headlines. Seymour Hoffman`s haunting confession to you, "I am a heroin addict." So obviously, what he said to you is very significant.

But describe how he looked. Because people said he looked disheveled, out of it, that his hair was askew. I mean, this is him posing for a photo shoot at this point. But numerous people have said he seemed kind of out of it. What would you say?

ARUNDEL: He did seem out of it. Yes. And I`d met him at the Cannes Film Festival and also I`d met him at Sundance two years before. And he actually had it all together. And he was charming, and he was ebullient. And he`s a guy that just really appreciates his fans and appreciates all the publicity that we as journalists give him.

But that night he was disheveled. He seemed just out of it. And his shirt was untucked. And it was just sort of a very different person. It was sadly -- sadly pathetic, because when you worship a star like that, and when you see them in that kind of condition, you really feel sorry for them. And then when they burst out with something like that, "I`m a heroin addict" -- You know, "What do you do for a living?" "I`m a heroin addict" -- it really is a shocking thing to hear.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Unbelievable. I want to go to Jon Leiberman, JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL contributor, investigative journalist. You have been talking to your sources here in New York who are trying to find out who sold him the drugs. What have you learned tonight?

JON LEIBERMAN, HLN CONTRIBUTOR: We have a lot of new information, Jane.

First of all, one focus of this investigation is, as Mike alluded to earlier, was this heroin laced? Was it laced with fentanyl, which is 100 times as powerful as morphine, and it`s been linked to dozens of deaths just in the past six months, in the northeast? That`s one new piece of information that that is now a focus of this investigation.

Now, another focus is this. Police have an eyewitness who says that he saw Mr. Hoffman, as you mentioned, withdraw $1,200 from the ATM and then do a transaction with these two gentlemen with messenger bags, presumably the drug deal. Police believe it happened literally within steps from where the ATM machine was.

The problem is this. There`s no video surveillance at the bodega, at the grocery store where this is located right outside of. So while they have an image, I`ve learned, of Mr. Hoffman on the ATM camera, they don`t have any images of these two guys with the messenger bags. So that is hindering this investigation, but what they`re doing is...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What you`re telling me is it`s very likely they`re never going to find out who these individuals are. And everybody who`s clamoring for, oh, arrest the drug dealers, that may never happen.

LEIBERMAN: Well, it may never happen. But these are some of the best narcotic detectives in the country, frankly, that work in Manhattan. And they have all hands on deck right now to try and track down these guys. They`re going through databases. They`re going through Seymour Hoffman`s cell phone, his computer. They want to know if these were his regular suppliers or if these two were out-of-the-ordinary suppliers. Maybe just for this one time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And that`s the role, Capote, he won the Oscar for. Let`s go to the phone lines. Carol, Indiana, what do you have to say? Carol, Indiana?

CALLER: Hey, Jane. Excuse me. Thank you for taking my call. And I have a comment.


CALLER: I`m 17 years -- for 17 years I`ve snorted heroin. My husband used to shoot it up. I used to watch him and his friends in Chicago. I`ve been nine years sobriety.


CALLER: No. 1, you cannot tell me this man has been off for 25 years, when you are mainlining. It takes a whole long time to get off of that. And these drug rehabs, they get them fixed, and they put them right back where they came from. So that defeats the whole purpose.

And may I add another comment, Jane?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Briefly. Sure, Carol.

CALLER: OK. These doctors prescribing these pills. Listen, these people, we all know that they say a back injury is hard to figure out if you`re on the up-and-up or not. Instead of giving them these prescriptions, tell them to get an ice pack or a heating pad and send them on their way.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, you are so right. You are talking my language, Carol.

Experts are saying, well, first of all, the reports are that Philip Seymour Hoffman flipped on prescription pills after 23 years of sobriety. This is the common story: "Oh, I either went to the doctor. I had a problem. I had depression. I took a pill that has a heroin-like high. Next thing you know I`m doing actual heroin."

If you can`t understand how this man could have left behind his three beautiful kids, his longtime lover -- there she is, that beautiful woman -- a wildly successful career, listen to this courageous heroin addict who is now in recovery, after going to rehab 13 times talk about the incredible power of heroin, and we`ll have more on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After he did it, this rush I had, I can`t find the right word to explain it. It was out of this world.

It got to a point I always told myself I`d rather die high than sober.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you ever miss the high from the heroin?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. If anyone said no, they`d be lying.




HOFFMAN: Don`t twist my words. What I`m saying is I`m not going to promise you it. But he was a decorated senior from the first Gulf War. He protested the second. He left the state with a balanced budget and the fourth highest education rate. Republicans have no one out there that can touch this guy. So for this moment, this election, this primary is the presidential.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s "The Ides of March."

What the cops have learned about the 24 hours before Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his bathroom Sunday morning. Saturday morning he visited this West Village coffee shop alone, chatted with the staff. They say he seemed perfectly fine, very happy, good spirits.

1:30 Saturday afternoon, his assistant spoke with him over the phone. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

But by 2 p.m. Saturday, his ex-girlfriend, the mother of his three kids, said she saw Hoffman near his apartment, where he seemed high.

At 5 p.m., a witness saw Hoffman walking, wearing a big, puffy coat, looking out of it. That night, Hoffman had dinner at this trendy West Village restaurant with two friends. He ordered a cheeseburger, no booze. But he reportedly did not look well.

8 p.m., his ex-girlfriend says she spoke to him on the phone and, again, he seemed high. Between 8 and 9 p.m., cops say he went to the supermarket ATM and withdrew $1,200 in six different transactions, while talking to two guys wearing messenger bags, who are suspected of being his drug dealers.

9 a.m. the next morning, Sunday, the actor was supposed to pick up his three adorable kids where they live with his ex-girlfriend, just three blocks from his rental apartment. He never showed up.

11:15 a.m. Sunday morning, his friend finds him dead in his bathroom wearing a T-shirt, shorts, his glasses still on his head, with a needle sticking out of his arm.

Kelly Sprague, certified addiction specialist, recovering addict who has used needles, what does this timeline tell you?

KELLY SPRAGUE, CERTIFIED ADDICTION SPECIALIST: The timeline tells me that he began his run and that he withdrew $1,200, and that`s why there`s so much heroin there, is these are $20 bags of heroin. So that would make some sense.

And then, in addition to that, he -- there`s no quality control with street drugs. And so obviously, what he was shooting was too much. And I believe that it just overdosed him, and nobody was there to revive him and that`s why he died.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now you, yourself, have used needles. You are in recovery.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I congratulate you for that. You know, I`m a recovering alcoholic with 18 years of sobriety.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But in terms of needles, some people are saying that the heroin is laced with something that now can kill you like that, even if you take a little bit. But does that make sense when he had 20 used syringes and a bunch of used heroin bags in his apartment, that he died of this tainted heroin? Because it would have seemed, at least from the surface, that he took a lot of it. Which means that he would have died a long time before that, had he been taking tainted heroin.

SPRAGUE: Yes, I mean, it obviously is very random. Overdoses can be very random. Where some -- this batch would be this quality and this batch would be this quality and then one bag could be at a very high quality.

And it sounds like in New York, that there has been this issue happening prior to this situation with this -- with this very talented man.

And as far as the needles go, if you can use a new needle every time you shoot up, that`s the preferable mode of...


SPRAGUE: ... getting high.


SPRAGUE: I feel that, you know...


SPRAGUE: Because the needles get dull every time they go into your arm. If they get barbed, they pull out your veins. They cause abscesses; they cause infection. And you know, you have to try to file the point so it`s sharper.

You know, the preferable thing is to have a brand-new needle. It causes less pain, causes less infection. It`s more sterile. And you`re not using it over and over again, so it`s actually sharp.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, we`re talking about this. There`s a criminal investigation, a manhunt for drug dealers, as well, tonight.

Comedian John Belushi, as we all know, died of an overdose of cocaine and heroin, also known as a speedball, way back in 1982. And of course, he starred in the classic "Animal House" movie from Universal.


JOHN BELUSHI, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Thanks. I needed that.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Art imitates life, or vice versa.

Cathy Smith -- you see her there -- a Hollywood backup singer, told reporters she injected Belushi with that final lethal dose. She was arrested, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, and spent 15 months behind bars.

Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor, cops are trying to figure out where Philip Seymour Hoffman got his drugs. If they find the person or persons who sold him the heroin, what could that person be charged with?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, you know, it`s such an interesting question. I think, first of all, the autopsy will tell us whether this was an overdose or bad drugs. And that`s important.

And then if they find these people, which is a big if, although I`m sure the cops have a sense of who it is. This is a market they know well. There`s a new United States Supreme Court case that bears directly on this issue. And I was at the Supreme Court a few weeks ago, and it was sort of relevant to the case I was there for, that I filed a brief for.

The court was asked to answer the question: Can a heroin dealer be held liable for causing the death of a user? And the court said only if the sale of the heroin, the heroin that they sell, is the sole cause of death. If it`s only a contributing cause, there can be no criminal liability. That`s a really important question.

But I think the Supreme Court`s going to think carefully about this case and wonder whether they are getting it wrong. There`s a heroin epidemic in this country. Every day you read statistics. Governors in the states all over the place are saying the numbers are doubling year after year. This is such a huge problem.

You need a court like the United States Supreme Court to send the opposite message, that we will hold them liable.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And on the other side of the break, some people are saying, "Oh, well, that`s why we should stop any campaign, any movement nationally to legalize marijuana." I disagree. The problem is prescription drugs. There`s a prescription drug overdose epidemic in this country. There`s prescription overuse. Doctors who know precious little about addiction are prescribing pills that have a heroin-like effect on people. That gets them hooked on the heroin-like high. And the next thing you know, they`re going to heroin.

We`re going to talk about that on the other side of the break. Stay right there.


KEVIN BACON, ACTOR: Terrible, terrible. I`m speechless. I`m just heartbroken. You know, he was a great, great guy.

HARRY CONNICK JR., SINGER/"AMERICAN IDOL" JUDGE: It`s a strange life, man. You know, we kind of pass through, and the time we have on earth is so short. And it just makes me hug my children a little tighter and hug my wife and think how blessed we are to have each other.





HOFFMAN: A woman sashayed up. She said -- she said, "My friends -- my friends bet me that I couldn`t get a selfie with you."

And I was like, "You`re not."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here`s the headline of "The Daily News." Seventy bags of heroin, 20 needles, 5 prescription meds.

And you know, the irony in all this is that Philip Seymour Hoffman was 23 years sober, 23 years sober until he relapsed last year. TMZ reporting that many people in Hoffman`s sober community considered him a guru. OK? Considered him somebody that would give inspirational speeches that would help them stay sober.

Hoffman talked to "60 Minutes" about getting sober at the age of 22.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this was drugs or alcohol or both?

HOFFMAN: Oh, yes, all that stuff. Yes. Anything I could get my hands on. Yes. Yes. I liked it all. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why did you decide to stop?

HOFFMAN: You get panicked.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: After more than two decades clean and sober, Addie Jaffe, co-founder, Alternatives Addiction Treatment and recovering addict yourself, you know, Hoffman fell hard last year.

This could be what they call old timer`s syndrome. You know, you get so much sobriety under your belt that you kind of turn into a grandiose wise person and start assuming you`ve actually beat the addiction. And ironically, that often leads to a slip. Your thoughts as a recovering addict?

ADDIE JAFFE, CO-FOUNDER, ALTERNATIVES ADDICTION TREATMENT: Well, I think one of the things that I want to talk about, either -- either he got so much time that he didn`t think he had to watch out, but there`s also another thing that we really have to talk about, and that is the immense amount of shame, the stigma that comes along with having this problem.

And I think if there`s one lesson that I learned from this is, after that much time of being sober, if the guy slipped and -- you know, my sense is if it was an overdose, either it was tainted heroin or he had just recently started using again.

And that`s the big risk for people who have gotten treatment for heroin addiction. When their tolerance goes down, it increases their odds of them dying, ironically, after getting treatment more so than before.

But the thing is, you know, we see all these addicts, all these people with drug abuse problems, when they relapse they slip. And it`s such a shame. There`s such a shame along with being able to stand up and say, "You know what? I screwed up. I`m back to square one." Or "You know, I kind of need to look at my problem again."

And so they don`t. They hide it. They get a bunch of drugs and, you know, hunker down in their apartment. And we see these sort of results.

And we see it time and again. When Cory Monteith died, all of his friends were drinking with him earlier that day. Nobody knew he was back to using heroin. And we got the exact same result.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree with you. When you slip after that many years, the shame is exponential. It`s not like you`ve been sober six months and you slip. If you`ve been 23 years sober and you slip, it`s like, "Oh, my God. I`ve got to face all my sober friends and admit that I`m not the wise person that they looked up to, the guru, the one who gave the grandiose speeches." You feel like a fraud. That`s got to be horrible, especially for somebody famous. That also compounds the shame.

Ruben, Montana, what do you have to say? Ruben, Montana.

CALLER: Well, I just don`t understand. You know, all these big stars and everything, they all have got all kinds of money, too much time on their hands. What kind of example are they setting for the younger generation, the actors and so forth? When you look at Miley Cyrus and all these people coming out, doing what they`re doing.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) They have too much time on their hands. I`m supposed to be taking 4,300 milligrams of medicine a day for my bipolar, manic depression. You know what? I don`t like that stuff. I`ve never tried drugs. I don`t drink. I read the Bible three times a day. Hey, we`re losing this country really fast. What is it going to take for them to get accountability for their lives...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ruben -- Ruben, we only have a couple of seconds. But I want to give Wendy Murphy a chance to answer that. Because you know what? This has been happening from time immemorial. You look back and stars who have died, it`s not a new phenomenon. We can list the stars who have died from lifestyle issues all the way back to the silent movie days.

MURPHY: Yes. But here`s the thing, Jane. I think one of the things we`ve done wrong in this country is respect the individual`s freedom to destroy him or herself. I really believe that we need to butt into the lives of people with addiction. I feel so much for people with addiction. And if we leave them alone out of respect for their freedom, then we`re partly responsible. I say...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: No. You know what that leads to? That leads to what`s happening in Russia. Let`s round people up based on who they are.

MURPHY: No. I disagree.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I do feel we should take the money that we spend on imprisoning people and use it to offer rehab. You can take a horse to water but you can`t make the horse drink. You could force people to go to a 12-step program because they`ve been pulled over for DUI. If they want to get help after that it`s up to them. Nobody can force an addict to hit bottom and get sober except the addicts themselves. That is the frustrating part of addiction.

On the other side, we are talking about this extraordinary case, Michael Dunn, middle-aged software developer guns down a 17-year-old -- a good student. Did Michael Dunn make the false assumption that he was dealing with a thug based on race?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our suspect Michael Dunn made a comment for them to turn the music down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard what had sounded to be like some really weak gunshots.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just heard are gunshots at the gas station.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- opened fire hitting Jordan more than once.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have shots fired in the parking lot. The person firing has left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, it was like pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Florida`s next huge trial just heating up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Didn`t like the loud music that my son and his friend played in their car.

MICHAEL DUNN, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER OF JORDAN DAVIS: I said "Hey, would you guys mind turning that down." I`m just like (inaudible) "Don`t give me any trouble."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a dead kid in a car, ok? And we`ve got a guy who shot and hauled ass.

DUNN: I reached in my glove box, unholstered my pistol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you remember how many times you shot?

DUNN: Four.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can Michael Dunn find an impartial jury in a state that set George Zimmerman free?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A 17-year old unarmed African-American boy gunned down by a middle-aged white man who was on trial for murder, but a man who insists, oh, it was all self-defense. So many parallels to the Trayvon Martin shooting by George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman.

Yes, we`re on to Florida`s latest blockbuster trial. Is it an open- and-shut case? Not so fast. We are learning the jury being chosen right now will be sequestered. That could be a game changer. Will an anonymous hidden jury be more likely to acquit Michael Dunn, the man in the orange there?

The fatal confrontation started at a gas station when the 46-year-old software developer asked four teens in the SUV just feet away -- a red SUV -- to turn down their music. Dunn claims one of the teens threatened to kill him as a shotgun was raised from within the red SUV. So Dunn says he started shooting. 17-year-old Jordan Davis was killed.

Police say none of the teens, all African-American teens, in the red SUV had a gun. No gun. Do Michael Dunn`s police interrogation tapes reveal the hidden motive, the secret motive behind this shooting? Is the suspect a gun lover with a short fuse, who became enraged that a 17-year- old African-American was mouthing off to him?


DUNN: The guy that was in the back was getting really agitated. And I had my window up. I couldn`t hear anything he was saying but, you know, there was a lot of (EXPLETIVE DELETED), (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And then the music comes back on. You know, just like -- you know, live and let live and don`t need any trouble.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: He says "I didn`t need any trouble. I just said live and let live." But then he pulls out a gun and starts shooting repeatedly at the vehicle. A witness heard this suspect, Michael Dunn, tell the victim, "You are not going to talk to me like that." And moments later he had silenced Jordan Davis forever.

What`s your take on this case? Call me 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

Straight out to my fantastic "Lion`s Den" panel. I want to begin with Mark Starling, reporter-anchor, News 96.5 down there in Orlando, Florida. How much of a role is race playing in the jury selection? What`s the mood in the community about race in about this case?

MARK STARLING, REPORTER/ANCHOR, NEWS 96.5: Jane, you know, with the Trayvon Martin case being so close by, I mean Sanford is only just a hop, skip and a jump away from Jacksonville. You know race is obviously going to play into this. This is pretty much the same situation that we`ve seen.

Some of the people that I`ve heard and talked to on the street about this are basically saying a conviction of Michael Dunn would be justice for Trayvon, not only Jordan Davis.

So obviously whether or not race was a side on Michael Dunn`s portion of it, I don`t know. But as far as the community goes there are a lot of the people in the community that want to see somebody brought up on the charges still for the Trayvon Martin shooting.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well yes. There are so many parallels. But there are differences, because there was a physical altercation in the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman conflict. There was no physical confrontation in this case.

STARLING: Right. Differences.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are a lot of differences, absolutely. List a couple and then we`ll move on.

LEIBERMAN: Well, Dunn was -- Dunn was arrested almost right away. Zimmerman was not. Dunn left the scene. Zimmerman stayed at the scene. And perhaps most importantly this case has a ton of witnesses. There are the teens in the car that witnessed what happened. And then there are at least four other independent witnesses who are going to testify, too, as to what they saw and saw clearly. So those are three major differences.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right after Michael Dunn shot up the SUV --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a bigger one.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- ok, go ahead. What`s a bigger one?

JANET JOHNSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The bigger one is, this case, Dunn, and I`m here in Jacksonville, Dunn is charged with first-degree murder. Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder. So if we`re comparing these two how come Angela Corey`s office who prosecuted both of these cases is charging Dunn with a higher level offense if it`s the same crime? Why is he overcharged? I think the jury is going to have a hard time with that.

ELEZ-MITCHELL: You think he`s overcharged? Sierra Elizabeth, attorney out of Los Angeles, what do you think?


SIERRA ELIZABETH, ATTORNEY: Absolutely not, Jane. Of course he`s not overcharged in this case. Listen, this is an African-American male in the car, unarmed. There`s no gun. No stick, no bat, no weapon of any kind. We also had --


ELIZABETH: Mr. Dunn was coming from a wedding.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: One at a time.

ELIZABETH: And he was -- I`m sorry he was literally drinking at a wedding before that he came to the scene. So we have a very, very strong case for the prosecution here. There`s absolutely no reason that they should go below and charge a second-degree murder.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Your response to that, Janet Johnson?

JOHNSON: Well, you know, if we keep comparing this, the whole country is saying this is the same as Zimmerman. It`s the same as Zimmerman. The same office is prosecuting. Why are they prosecuting a level higher? If it`s the same facts, why are they prosecuting a level higher? And I think we all --

MURPHY: It`s not the same facts.

LEIBERMAN: Because it`s not the same facts. That`s the point -- it`s not the same facts.

MURPHY: It is not the same facts.

LEIBERMAN: This is a much stronger case.

MURPHY: Look -- look --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wendy -- Wendy Murphy.

MURPHY: If Dunn had just shot once, we might be able to argue that they`re sort of the same. But this is a gun, not a punch. And he shot not four times, eight times -- eight times. There is no way --


ELIZABETH: And what about the fact -- what about the fact that Dunn was in a car. Dunn was in a car and he had the ability to get away from the scene as soon as he could. As soon as he felt like he was in a threatening position. So why would they charge --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ll have more debate on the other side. And we`re taking your calls.


DUNN: The music started. And I rolled down my window, and I thought I was polite. I asked them nicely, hey, would you guys mind turning that down. And they shut it off. I was like, thank you. Cordial -- everything`s cordial.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last shot around when the truck was backing away from you and you put four more shots into it. Now, they`re backing away. It`s no longer a threat.

DUNN: Yes, sir, I understand that. And in my mind they had a weapon.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right after Michael Dunn shot up the SUV, he left the scene with his girlfriend, went to a hotel, walked his dog, ordered pizza, and fell asleep. He did not call police. He says he didn`t stick around, wait for cops to show up because he was still in fear for his life even though the SUV had driven off, fleeing his gunfire.


DUNN: When I was there (inaudible) and what I should have done is put the car in reverse. But a shotgun come up from wherever and it was fight or flight. I don`t there was any time for flight at that moment because I was going to get shot.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Sierra Elizabeth, you don`t have to prove a motive to get a conviction technically, but I think in a controversial case like this, prosecutors really need to explain to jurors what they believe Michael Dunn was really thinking.

If there`s no gun in the car, why did he shoot? One possible motive to me obviously is that he had a fit of pique. He was furious that some young teenager that he regarded as a thug -- because he used that word with his girlfriend saying it was thug music -- before anything happened; that this young African-American teenager had the nerve to mouth off to him and he was going to show him who was boss. What do you think about that theory?

ELIZABETH: I totally agree with that theory. Listen, the fact that he fled and didn`t call the police is one thing. If you`re really defending yourself, if you`re in a fear of your life, and then you get away, why don`t you call the police just for the sake that you shot a man and he may not be dead and he may be able to be saved by the ambulance? Or by the police or someone at the scene? He literally had no care in the world for this boy`s life because he was angry. He was angry.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Janet Johnson, how do you -- how do you defend that?

JOHNSON: Well, you know, as a defense attorney, what I would say is, he didn`t know he had killed anyone, until he saw it on the news the next day. He did not even know that. He had a dog that he wanted to get back to and he had to walk. He said that he thought he saw a gun. What Corey`s (inaudible) or the defense attorney is going to say is they had an opportunity to ditch the gun. They`re not stipulating that there was no gun. In fact, they said the car left the scene, there is a gap in time, and the police didn`t search the dumpsters. There are ten dumpsters in the area.


MURPHY: It doesn`t matter because even if there was a gun, he shot eight times. And then he didn`t do anything. He went and clammed up.



MURPHY: You cannot -- the law is called Stand Your Ground, not blow people up. You can`t do what he did at all -- period.

LEIBERMAN: Not to mention --

ELIZABETH: And he shot while the car was leaving.

LEIBERMAN: Not to mention, Jane, that the girlfriend has given statements to police saying that Dunn never mentioned anything about a gun being in the other vehicle.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, he said at one point well maybe it was a tick -- they didn`t find a stick either. I want to go out to the phone lines.

JOHNSON: But it`s a moot point.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Barbara, Nevada -- Barbara, Nevada what do you have to say?

BARBARA, NEVADA (via telephone): Yes. My son at 17 was wearing a hoodie, and he listened to their so-called thug music, the only difference between him and every one of these young boys is that he`s white. He still listens to that music today and he still wears a black hoodie.

I don`t think they should be picking these kids out and saying they`re a bunch of thugs because of that music. My son is white and has been. He`s 100 percent white, not black.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me say this. As far as wearing hoodies, which of course became famous in the Trayvon Martin case because he was wearing a hoodie. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook wears a hoodie. And the perception of what hoodie it all depends on who`s wearing it in our culture.

Stay right there. We`re going to have more on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She saw Dunn put his gun black in the glove box. Dunn told her he shot at the car with the loud music. She asked him why.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said I feared for my life. I said why? He said, they threatened to kill me.





DUNN: I shot four times and the SUV pulled out. And like I said, in my mind they`ve got a gun. I was still scared. And so I shot four more times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s no weapons in that car. I don`t know what you saw.

DUNN: (inaudible) when they drove off, they dumped it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They never left the parking lot. They drove off, circled right back around and came right back to that spot.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The jury will be sequestered. Will that mean Michael Dunn will walk? Think about it, sequestered jurors may feel anonymous, maybe even less accountable, they`re not as worried somebody`s coming knocking on their door if they render an unpopular verdict.

Just look at the two other blockbuster Florida cases where jurors were sequestered. The murder trials of Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman -- two sequestered juries, two not guilty verdicts. Let`s debate it starting with Sierra Elizabeth, attorney out of Los Angeles.

ELIZABETH: I`ll just give you my final thoughts, Jane. This case really is depressing because the fact that Mr. Dunn has a Stand Your Ground defense here is ridiculous. There`s statistics from Texas A&M University that say murders have increased in Stand Your Ground states.

This is an open-and-shut case. Mr. Dunn needs to go to prison. A guilty verdict is obvious here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Janet Johnson.

JOHNSON: Well, I`m here in Jacksonville, and I was in the courthouse this week, and I`ve seen the potential jurors walking in. There are a lot of white faces. If they`re sequestered and they`re hidden behind that anonymity and if they`re older, what I`m hearing at the courthouse is this is about age, not about race. And there are people who sympathize with the idea that loud music could trigger this kind of basically conflict.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You can`t kill people because they`re playing loud music. Jon Leiberman, ten seconds.

LEIBERMAN: Look, Angela took this case undoubtedly. She`s trying it herself because she thinks she has a very strong case. And you can expect Mr. Dunn to take the stand as well. That will be compelling, especially on cross.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, that will be. We`re all over this trial every single night. We are going to cover it beginning to end. They`re calling it the next George Zimmerman case.

Stay right there.




VELEZ-MITCHELL: Don and I love this show called "The Fosters". And it`s about foster families, so we`re starting our own little reality show called "The Rescues". Little pups, cats, the new kid on the block the other animals are getting jealous. How do we deal with --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s just a little preview of my brand-new weekly online reality show called "Meet the Rescues" starring my rescues, Cabo, Foxy, Rico and Tux. You can see the whole thing on my Facebook page. Go to Janevelez-mitchellfacebook or I`ve got to tell you, episode one with is "Foxy`s Jealous". You know what I mean.

Nancy next.