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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
CVS to End Tobacco Sales; Another Winter Storm Approaches NE; Four Arrested in Dealing Deadly Heroin; Jury Selection Underway in Michael Dunn Trial
Aired February 5, 2014 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: It's the four-letter word when you are flying from central Kansas to Central Park, snow, snow, and more snow. It is everywhere.
Hundreds of thousands of people right now are without power. Here is the worst part. It is going to get worse before it gets better with another foot or more piling up from New York to Maine.
Also, this hour, the nation's biggest drugstore chain says, no more smokes for sale. CVS is stripping all cigarette and tobacco products off of its store shelves.
The hunt for the dealer who sold Philip Seymour Hoffman the fatal heroin dose leads to a raid and four arrests. The investigation is far from over as police look for more clues in what they just found, his personal journal.
Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Wednesday, February the 5th. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW.
Here are some important words, important and bold, profoundly positive, a powerful example, all of this high praise from President Obama, the American Cancer Society and many others for what can only be described as a bombshell decision by the nation's largest drugstore chain to stop, quit, quit selling cigarettes.
CVS Caremark says the sale of tobacco products of any kind is, quote, "inconsistent with our purpose," end quote, and they'll be gone by October 1st.
Our Casey Wian joins me live now from Los Angeles with more.
So, why the decision now and why wait until October, which is months and months away, for this to actually be carried out?
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, we just got off a conference call with the president of CVS, Larry Merlo, and he says that selling tobacco products goes against all that CVS stands for.
When you walk into one of these drug stores, you see cigarettes behind the cash register. You walk back where the pharmacy is, you see smoking cessation products. It is sort of like a drug dealer owning a rehab facility. CVS saying they are going to get out of the cigarette business, and they're going to double-down on their smoking-cessation product business.
Now, a formal statement, the company saying, "Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS Pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health."
"Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose."
We're talking about 7,600 CVS stores, the company saying it's the first national chain to do this.
They're also saying they hope it sets an example for other stores, other pharmacies, that they will follow suit and do this, as well, CVS admitting that just this move by the one company is not going to have a huge impact on smoking, but if other pharmacies follow suit, it could.
As for why they're waiting until October to do it, they didn't address that on the conference call, but they have agreements with these tobacco companies, they have a supply chain, so it's probably not that easy to unwind this sort of retail-supply chain any time sooner than October 1st, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: And, Casey, this isn't a surprise. A lot of people knew this was coming, as well, especially in the leadership roles.
We are seeing amazing tweets coming in from people in very high places. Talk to me a little bit about feedback.
WIAN: Feedback from President Obama, so far, the White House releasing a statement saying, "Today's decision will help advance my administration's efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs, ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come."
And the first lady herself sending out a personal tweet saying, "Thanks, CVS Extra. Now, we can all breathe a little easier and our families can live healthier."
Also, we are likely hear a lot of applause from the American Medical Association, the American Pharmacy Association. Both of those organizations have been urging pharmacies to do this for years, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: Casey Wian joining us live from Los Angeles, thank you for that.
Our Christine Romans is live with me now in New York on this.
And I can't help but think, they sell chips and junk food and weight- loss products, as well, at the same time. So I'm just sort of trying to wrap my head around whether this is a moral decision and a bad business decision or something far more complex than that.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Or if it is a very good business decision.
You look, Ashleigh, they say about $2 billion related to sales in cigarettes and tobacco. $1.5 billion is actually tobacco sales. Another half a million is actually the gum and the stuff you buy when you're going to get a pack of cigarettes. So $2 billion is not chump change.
But if CVS is able to forge some big, important, lucrative deals with hospital chains and healthcare professional chains, so they could be doing more of these minute clinics and more of the monitoring blood pressure, monitoring -- doing blood work and all that kind of stuff inside of their stores, that is a huge growth market. Wellness is a huge growth market in this country.
And, look, when we look at the number of people who smoke right now, for example, it's about 19 percent. One-in-five Americans is a smoker. In 1965, that number was much, much bigger. It was 42 percent.
So this is actually a shrinking market in this country. Tobacco users is a shrinking market. A growing market, wellness, people who are monitoring their condition as they get older, a very big, vast group of baby boomers, overall.
Now, we asked R.J. Reynolds what they think -- R.J. Tobacco what they think about this. And basically they said, look, we've had a nice working relationship, a long-term working relationship with CVS. We value that, but we respect their commercial decision.
This is a commercial decision. It is something that's being hailed and lauded by health care experts, of course, and the former-smoker-in- chief, the president of the United States, but indeed, this is something that's about its brand and what the growth markets are for CVS.
In terms of other companies following suit, we know that Rite-Aid and Walgreens are evaluating their product mixes, but have made no commitment to this.
We also know that Wall Street analysts will be wondering if some of the dollar stores and some of those sorts of chains will see their sales actually increase, gas stations and the like, because they will be the place to go instead of this drug store to buy cigarettes and tobacco products, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: Be interesting to see what happens around the world, too, because when Mayor Bloomberg stopped smoking here, all of the sudden, people are doing that all over the globe, as well.
Christine Romans, live for us in New York -
ROMANS: You're welcome.
BANFIELD: -- thank you for that.
ROMANS: A couple of other really big headlines that we've got on the docket, today, today Texas is set to execute a woman, a woman who led a group that kidnapped, tortured and murdered a mentally disabled man in 1998.
She is 59-year-old Suzanne Basso, and she is scheduled to die by lethal injection tonight.
She would be the 14th woman executed in the United States and the fifth in Texas since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume back in 1976.
A bond hearing is under way right now in Florida for a former police captain who is accused of killing a man in a movie theater back in January.
Seventy-one-year-old Curtis reeves is charged with second-degree murder for shooting that man in the theater.
Remember this story? All of it allegedly after an argument over texting.
The director of South Carolina's department of transportation, arrested and charged with DUI, Robert St. Onge, Jr., submitted his resignation on Friday.
So, we've got the dash-cam video, too. Take a peek.
State troopers say that he was driving erratically, and then failed what you typically see, that field-sobriety test. His blood alcohol was more than twice the legal limit.
Did I say he's the director of South Carolina's department of transportation? Yes, I did.
Power outages, school closures, flight cancellations, the latest round of winter weather, I know you're sick of me saying it.
This is creating pure misery from Oklahoma to Maine. Our Chad Myers says even more is on the way.
And it is the local Super Bowl commercial that millions of people are now watching. If you didn't see it, you have got to.
And you're going see it soon and you're going to hear from the personal injury attorney behind the ad and behind the message.
BANFIELD: This is the winter that just will not seem to quit, another winter storm with 120 million people in its path.
The Northeast is expecting as much as a foot of heavy, wet, dangerous snow. This is two days after a record blizzard hit this area.
The entire state of New York officially is under a state of emergency. Freezing rain is making it potentially dangerous for power outages from Baltimore to New Jersey. A half million more businesses.
In Arkansas, another 30,000 customers in the dark. In Missouri, a jet got stuck in the snow bank. Yes, it happens to jets, too. This as it was trying to taxi to a gate.
Two Delta planes got stuck this morning on a runway in Detroit because of thick, heavy snow. Already today, more than 2,500 flights have been canceled.
Meteorologist Chad Myers, picking it up from there.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: From Wyoming to Maine, more than 100 million people are waking up to another round of snow and ice this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Horrible, horrible.
MYERS: Overnight, snow beginning to pile up in New England where more than a foot of snow is forecast in some parts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been crazy. Snow-pocalypse.
MYERS: In the Midwest, up to 11 inches of snow blanketed parts of Kansas. The state's governor declared a state of emergency.
In Illinois, your whiteout conditions coupled with sleet and ice sent car after car skidding off the road.
Snow emergencies were declared across southern Michigan as heavy snow fell at a rate of an inch per hour.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've had crews out since early morning.
MYERS: Down South, icy roads abound, leading to this fatal crash.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The temperatures are perfect for icy conditions.
MYERS: And, in Oklahoma, a school bus transporting students, because the driver feared getting stuck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is beautiful for a little bit, but too many times, yeah, makes it a hassle to get around.
MYERS: This is the seventh winter storm battering the Midwest and New England since December.
Nearly 40 inches of snow have fallen in Detroit last month alone.
And across the country, it's the coldest winter in 20 years.
MYERS: And, Ashleigh, the stuff that fell in Central Park and all across New York, Pennsylvania, all the way down to D.C., is not going away on its own.
This is heavy ice slush. This is not going to melt until spring. It is going to be here, here, there and until temperatures get well above 50. And I don't see that for weeks.
So here is the forecast for the rest of the day. We have snow across all of Ohio, back into parts of New York and also into New England. That's where the snow is at this point in time.
To the South, in that pink, is what we had almost all day long, rain, sleet, and freezing rain, temperatures at about 31 degrees.
Finally, Philadelphia, you're back down above freezing. You're now about 33. Although it is raining. That is some good news.
And, up into Boston, you are still seeing the snow, and more snow to come.
It's the winter that really won't end. I have been all over the Northeast.
The only place I haven't been is the West. Ashleigh, the West has been 10-to-12 degrees above normal all season long.
They can't get any snow out there. We have it all here.
BANFIELD: You just sound so upset. I'm sorry, I have been watching you since 5:00 this morning. You were pelted with sleet. And can I just tell you, you have been so busy doing the weather stories and being out in the weather. Did you even know it is national weather person's day.
MYERS: I just got an e-mail with that. But I think it's just a bad joke.
BANFIELD: I got you some hand warmers, my friend. Come back in soon, Chad. Good luck. Poor dear. Such a good sport too.
We're going to continue to watch that weather story for you and all the of the things that come with it. Then, there is this. So we've been following the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman and now four people have been hauled in possibly connected to the heroin that killed him. What does that mean for those people? Does it make them killers or are they just suspected drug dealers like so many others out there. You'll find out.
BANFIELD: We've just learned the names of the four people who were arrested overnight in connection with the slew of drugs that were found in Philip Seymour Hoffman's apartment. According to investigators they are Juliana Luchkiw 22-years-old, Max Rosenblum 22- years-old, Robert Vineberg 57-years-old, and Thomas Cushman 48 years- old.
It is without a doubt their arrests are not going to bring back this talented actor, this long-time partner, this father to three children. But it could bring justice, and it could also lock up these people who may have, just may have, provided envelope upon envelope of the killer heroin that took his life.
It is clear Hoffmann was truly battling some inner demons. Now, his secrets may actually be contained inside his personal journal. We've also learned that investigators found that journal in the search of his apartment. That journal and whatever is inside it could be a huge break in this case. CNN entertainment correspondent, Nichelle Turner, joins me now. First off, what do we know about these people who have been arrested in connection with this case, Nischelle?
NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Okay, Ashleigh, there are a lot of things at play here right now. First of all, the people that were arrested overnight. Three men and a woman, they are going to be charged with various drug offenses. I do think it is really interesting that authorities have made it very clear and been very specific that they will charge them in connection with the drugs that were found in Hoffmann's apartment, not necessarily with his death at this point.
I think that they are trying to make a clear distinction because there were some indications that maybe the drugs they found in the apartment. They found 350 glassine bags which they think have heroin in them at the apartment of these four. They didn't have that same stamp on the bags that they found in Philip Seymour Hoffman's apartment. So, they've got some things to connect here. They do believe these people were connected to the drugs found in Philip Seymour Hoffman's apartment.
BANFIELD: I was at the screening last night of "The Monument Men" when George Clooney spoke to this huge theater, and the very first thing he said was just how tragic it is to be in New York among all these entertainers and the entertainment community at a time when they have lost one of the most powerful voices. It was very sad, and very profound. Nischelle, thank you. Good to see you.
BANFIELD: So, CNN's legal analyst and defense attorney, Mark O'Mara has something pretty profound to say about this as well. The LEGAL VIEW on this, and this is where I really need to drill down to the bottom of what these four people could be facing. Is it charges in relation to the death or sentencing in relation to the death? As Nischelle was saying, charges may be in relation to the heroin, but charges in relation to the death or sentencing, potentially, if there's a guilty verdict in relation to the death. Clear that up.
MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure. Under New York state law and many state laws, there is no direct connection between the death of the person using the drugs and the drug dealer. Although some legislatures are trying to do that, they are trying to expand what we call the felony murder rule, which is to say if in fact you give the drug and it causes a death, you should be responsible. Morally, that sounds really right and proper for us. However, a state law doesn't exist yet in New York.
Under federal law, however, for drug traffickers or drug dealers, if a death occurs as in this case it obviously did, if they can connect the drugs that Hoffman had to the drugs that were given to him by these people, then it is a sentencing enhancement so you can get a much higher sentence in the federal court because your drug dealing resulted in a death.
BANFIELD: What does that mean, much higher? Because when I think felony murder, you commit a felony, you drive the getaway car and someone dies in the bank, you didn't pull the trigger but you could still go away for life. What about this? What - how high could an enhancement take that sentence?
O'MARA: The enhancement is not significant in cases like this, or at least not with the current law. So, it may a couple to a few years to a sentence, maybe a touch more than that based upon prior record. There is civil liability as well. At least the Feds acknowledge that the death occurring from a drug dealing event should increase the sentencing. Felony murder rule is a little bit more difficult to address.
BANFIELD: It makes my blood boil. To me, it looks simple. You are the expert and I am not. Maybe there will be some laws that change, when it's this high profile.
Stay with me, Mark, if you will; we've got another story that you are a perfect voice on. A shooting at a gas station, all of it over loud music. There is a death and there is an arrest. A Florida man is on trial for this, and he says he shot in self-defense. Now, will his attorneys push stand your ground. (AUDIO GAP) Again, loud music and a car where you can get away? Can you do that? LEGAL VIEW next.
BANFIELD: Loud music and argument and then the death of an unarmed teenager. This is the Michael Dunn trial, not what you thought. The Michael Dunn trial has in fact been called a sequel to what you may have thought, the George Zimmerman's case. It seems that Dunn's attorney may be taking a page out of the former neighborhood watch captain's playbook.
Dunn's attorney is telling CNN as of yet, he is not planning to pursue a stand your ground defense for his client, just like George Zimmerman. Instead, Dunn's attorney says his client, his defense, may instead rely on justifiable use of deadly force, you guessed it, once again just like George Zimmerman's defense. The jury selection in Dunn's trial could wrap up today and CNN's Tory Dunnan explains the arguments both sides are expected to make once the trial gets into full swing. It will be fascinating.
TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: November 2012, authorities say it began with a fight over loud music at a Jacksonville, Florida gas station and ended with 17-year-old Jordan Davis shot and killed.
LUCIA MCBATH, MOTHER OF VICTIM: I do not wish this on any parent.
DUNNAN: Flash forward to February, 2014. The trial now underway for 47-year-old software developer, Michael Dunn, charged with first- degree murder and three counts of attempted murder. Dunn pleaded not guilty and claimed self-defense in the shooting of the unarmed teen.
During the police interrogation, Dunn told investigators he asked Davis and the three other teens, who were parked next to him at a Jacksonville station, to turn down their music. Then he says he heard threats from the teens, and saw a gun in their car.
MICHAEL DUNN, ACCUSED OF FIRST-DEGREE MURDER: The guy in the back was getting really agitated. I had my windows up. I can't hear anything he was saying but there was a lot of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) this and that. And then the music comes back on.
DUNNAN: Saying he feared for his safety, Dunn retrieved his gun from inside his car. Then, police say, he fired four shots into the SUV Davis was in.