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Grieving Parents Seek Justice; DHS Wants National License Plate Data Base Tracking; Internet Trolls Take Toll on Society; Interview with Olympians Meryl Davis, Charlie White; Worldwide Clown Shortage.

Aired February 19, 2014 - 11:30   ET



MICHAEL PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: The parents of a teenager shot dead after an altercation over loud music, they are speaking out. The shooting death of their son, Jordan Davis, has drawn parallels to the death of Trayvon Martin, both black teenagers killed in Florida. Neither case resulted in a murder conviction. Both grieving parents are still seeking justice.


RON DAVIS, FATHER OF JORDAN DAVIS: For me, I'm in constant contact with Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father, and I text Sabryna, all the time. I just want to let them know that every time I get justice for Jordan, it is going to be justice for Trayvon, for us. The ultimate justice for me, I want Michael Dunn to be tried and found guilty of killing my son, of letting him know it was wrong to kill my unarmed 17-year-old. And all the other 17-year-olds out there, they shouldn't have to fear the adults with the guns that are running around shooting them at will. If you throw popcorn in someone's face, they want to shoot you because you threw popcorn in their face. That's what we have come to but we have to stop.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Those are the parents of Jordan Davis on "Good Morning, America."

"ABC News" also spoke to one of the jurors in the Dunn trial. That jury found Dunn guilty of three counts of attempted murder for firing into a vehicle full of teenagers. However, three jurors believed that Dunn was justified in shooting and ultimately killing Jordan Davis, not juror number four, the one who was talking. She says she agrees with many people in the public who now say Michael Dunn got away with murder.


UNIDENTIFIED ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: How could you all convict Michael Dunn of attempting to kill the other teenagers but not for killing Jordan Davis?

"VALERIE", JUROR: Pretty much my purpose for being here. We had a lot of discussion on him getting out of the car and the threat has now gone. Your intent is yet to still go ahead and pursue this vehicle?

UNIDENTIFIED ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: So for you all, a dividing line was when he initially fired in the car, thinking there was a weapon, that's one thing. But when the car pulled away and he kept shooting, everyone thought he crossed the line there.

"VALERIE": Yes. That's the exact words we used.


PEREIRA: Crossed the line. That speaks to the heart of the argument. Jurors thought it was OK to fire into the car thinking there was a weapon. No weapon was ever found. Is fear, even if it is an irrational fear, license to kill?

BERMAN: The key there is irrational. The law says it needs to be a reasonable belief that your life is in jeopardy. If there is no testimony, no proof that there is a gun, what's the reasonable belief that your life is in jeopardy? Why do you feel like you could come to serious harm there? That's what's so troubling here. I can't come up with a possible reason other than these teenagers were threatening him because of the race issue.

PEREIRA: That's the key. That's the key. Reasonable to one person is another person's overreaction. The other thing that's so hard. I watched her. She felt he got away with murder, yet she didn't see justice done the way she felt it should be done.

BERMAN: The troubling thing is, is being afraid of black kids a justification for shooting. That's the legal issue here that is so troubling.

PEREIRA: For so many families all across America.

Let's take a look at this. The government is looking into a new license plate tracking system. It is making civil libertarians pretty nervous. The "Washington Post" reporting the Department of Homeland Security wants a national database with tags of every vehicle.

BERMAN: Now, the government thinks it will have helped catch fugitive, illegal immigrants. The question is, what about law-abiding citizens. Is it justified or even legal to keep track of our movements, even when we're not under any kind of criminal suspicion?

Joining us to talk about this is Michael Balboni, former director of New York's Homeland Security; and Kade Crockford, from the ACLU's Technology Liberty Project.

Kade, I want to start with you, here.

The ACLU -- I have read your opinion on some state cases here. A rather nuanced opinion here. The ACLU doesn't have a problem with looking at license plates in toll booths and other places to see if they match with any felons or any wanted people out there. You are scared of what, then, the storage of this information? KADE CROCKFORD, TECHNOLOGY LIBERTY PROJECT, ACLU: Yeah, there are different ways that they can use this technology. One is to scan license plates and look for hits and flag those and pull them over and deal with the violation. The second way of using this technology is to actually turn license plate readers into license plate trackers. That is happening all over the country. It is already happening in every state. The Department of Homeland Security, in fact, already has access to this huge database with nearly two billion records of perfectly innocent people's driving habits. So this is the problem. When the information against people, against whom there is no allegation of wrongdoing, is maintained in databases held by governments and private companies, then used by governments for whatever sort of purposes, it is quite analogous to the NSA's call record program. The idea is we want to collect everything on perfectly innocent people and then dip into it whenever we feel like it, based on decisions made behind closed doors on what police departments are interested in. There have already been quite a few cases of abuse. Essentially, the problem is that this is creating a nationwide warrantless location tracking list.

PEREIRA: Let's get Michael involved in the conversation.

Kade, we appreciate your thoughts on this.

Michael, why is this license plate system necessary? One would argue we already have law enforcement and they are doing the job.

MICHAEL BALBONI, HOMELAND SECURITY POLICY INSTITUTE: The analysis begins with what's the expectation of privacy when you take a government-issued license plate and drive down a public street?

The second issue is that this already exists. There are 71 percent of the law enforcement municipalities throughout this country that already have some form of license plate readers. In addition to which, there is a private company, the National Vehicle Location Services, that has 800 million license plates in their database. 2200 law enforcement agencies already use that. The latest statistic I saw this morning was 800 million. Whether it is 800 million or two billion, it is a heck of a lot of information with no restrictions as to how you can use that.

The point of the matter is, how do you use these things. I had a personal experience. I was in the 2004 national Republican convention center command post and there was a missing tractor-trailer full of gasoline from New Jersey. There was obviously that we perceived. To be able to track that immediately, that's a huge essential issue. But more over, what would you do instead of this? Have only these disparate databases to go into individually? The nationalized use of the database is not the issue. It's how we use it and that's about the laws you enact to make sure it's no abused.


CROCKFORD: Respectfully, we completely disagree.

(CROSSTALK) CROCKFORD: Respectfully, we completely disagree. This is the equivalent of pooling information about -- especially as the technology becomes more and more ubiquitous, which it will, in part, actually, due to the Department of Homeland Security funding the procurement of these machines for state and local law enforcement throughout the country. What's happening now is the DHS is coming to reap the information from the investment that it sowed when it gave departments, quote, unquote, "free money for these tools." Basically, what's happening is that a system has been created which enables either a member of a private corporation or a cop at any level or an FBI agent --


BERMAN: All right, Cade Crockford --

CROCKFORD: -- the U.S. military --


BERMAN: -- we have to jump out.


BERMAN: Cade Crockford, Mike Balboni, thank you so much for joining us. I do think we will have an opportunity to talk about this a lot more in the future. Thanks very much, guys.

Ahead for us, AT THIS HOUR, that shocking new study that finds that Internet trollers are terrible people. We knew that. What you may not know are the surprising ways this nastiness is taking a toll on our whole society. Stay with us.


PEREIRA: We talk about Internet trollers --


PEREIRA: You know those people that leave the nasty remarks in online comment sections or somebody who wants to friend you just to tweet mean-spirited things at you. So bad that some companies are trying to weed out some of these hateful and demeaning comments. A new study -- this is breaking news, people -- finds the trollers really are horrible people, just like we suspected.

BERMAN: Joining us is CNN technology analyst, Brett Larson; and Michael Fertik, of

The study found trollers are manipulative, psychopathic and sadistic. In other words, they are jerks. They found that they are jerks on line are jerks in real life. This is not surprising, is it?

BRETT LARSON, CNN TECHNOLOGY ANALYST: This study came as a total not- shock to me.


That it was finally we've put some actual science behind the fact that these are just horrible, bored people with -- if I can borrow a phrase from Sonny -- they have keyboard courage. They hiding safely, probably in their mother's basement with a can of Red Bull, and they are all over the web to talk about horrible, awful things. It's unfortunate because the Internet does have a great way of bringing us all together to have discourse. But it always devolves into this "You are stupid. You are ugly. You're this. You're that." It's like what does that have to do with what we are talking about?

PEREIRA: Aside from the fact that it feels awful, we have all been the recipients of a little bit of trolling.

LARSON: Absolutely. Absolutely.

PEREIRA: Michael, talk about the toll this can take on society as a whole and even an individual's reputation.

MICHAEL FERTIK, CEO, REPUTATION.COM: That's a very good question. Not only are the trolls discussed in the study nasty but they're very effective at being nasty. The part that's not covered in the study is that the people who are very intent upon doing very ill-spirited things to other human beings, often helpless human beings, are often very good at it. They are very adept at making sure their attacks are visible, permanent and indelible. Often the audience is a small audience, the audience of you, the person who is victimized, or you and your family or you and the classmate. But the attackers are often technically adept compared to their victim.

The second thing I think that we should highlight is they are sometimes offered a defense of the s-called free speech of trolls, that even their nasty speech should be protected. Maybe at law, it should be. At the same time, we have to understand that their behavior actually chills the speech, and censors the lifestyle and speech of other people. If you're in the classroom with somebody going out of his or her way to make fun of your body or to make fun of the comments you make or really to attack you in an ad hominine way, you can sometimes suffer very deeply. Someone I know and someone my company has worked with suffered PTSD, because she was in a class with anonymous trollers attacking her personally for her body type, the comment she made, the clothing she wore. There is a bit of an argument that we have to make sure we pierce the lens. This is not about protecting the speech of nasty people but it's about protecting the speech and life of everybody around them as well.

BERMAN: Brett, what do you do? What do you do about this? "Popular Science" stopped allowing that comments.

LARSON: Yeah. They shut it down. They got a mixed reaction to that where somebody were like, that is not the solution to stop everybody from being able to post. There is software. You can put actual people in place to monitor these things. That's what a lot of the larger places are doing. They're monitoring it with an actual person to see what is going on because if you're just skimming for words, that's not going to -- that's not going to solve everything. PEREIRA: Not to glib, but it makes you wonder what they did before the Internet with all of that angst that was inside.

Michael Fertik, Brett Larson, thank you for helping us explore this trolling existence.


BERMAN: Tweet us what you think, everybody.




BERMAN: -- our Twitter analyst AT THIS HOUR.


Ahead AT THIS HOUR, like all athletes, gold medalist ice dancers, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, trained for years, but you will not believe how they worked together to reach their goal.


BERMAN: All right. Olympic spoiler alert. It is a big, big one. If you don't want to know, turn away. Live in denial. But if you want to know the truth what's going on, here it is. A big win for Team USA in Sochi. Ted Ligety became the first American ever to win the men's Olympic giant slalom. He was unbelievable.

Now, take a look at where the medals are stacking up right now. The Netherlands in Russia are tied, each with 22. Both have taken six golds now. The U.S. is in second place with 21 total and seven golds. Norway in third place with 20 medals.

PEREIRA: Norway also has the distinction of holding the most gold medals at nine. Canada and Russia tied for ninth with the most silver.

Ice dancing, it is a popular one. We know the duo, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, made history this week with the first-ever U.S. gold medal for ice dancing. The world record-setting score was a result of a partnership that was 17 years in the making. The pair has trained together since they were 10 years old.

BERMAN: Let's listen to some of the things they said about how they train and how they work together to get, frankly, as good as they did.


RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I know you guys visualize every part of your routine, every moment. Did you visualize after you win a gold medal? MERYL DAVIS, OLYMPIC ICE DANCER: No, absolutely not. You know, Charlie and I have just been saying that we were so well-prepared for the programs, so well-prepared for what it was we were going to do on the ice. Kind of the aftermath of our performances was very new, uncharted territory for us. And we're just kind of taking it one step at a time. And as athletes, we have really planned so much of our lives that we're just trying to enjoy this moment.

NICHOLS: Most people can't imagine working one-on-one with the same person for 17 years.

DAVIS: Yeah. It's a really unique relationship. We have a hard time comparing it to anything else. But I think that as I said, we had a really great foundation from the start. And then from that foundation getting to grow up together and experience so much of our lives together has really only enhanced that foundation that we started with.

NICHOLS: Visa has this great commercial running now that shows video of you guys as kids. And it's amazing, the story is that you were so shy as a kid, you couldn't really look at him.

DAVIS: Yeah.

NICHOLS: And that your coach had to put a sticker on your forehead?


CHARLIE WHITE, OLYMPIC ICE DANCER: That's right. We were both very shy kids and the whole cootie stage.

NICHOLS: Sure. You were 8, 9 years old, right?

DAVIS: Exactly.

WHITE: But we loved what we did and we wanted to do anything we could to improve. So just put it right on my forehead so she didn't have to concentrate on looking in my eyes or anything like that.


WHITE: She could just focus on that. And it was, you know -- so it looked like she was looking up at me.

NICHOLS: And gazing at you.


DAVIS: Didn't actually have to make eye contact.

NICHOLS: That's important when you're 9 years old. You don't want to look at a boy too much. Right?

DAVIS: Exactly, yeah. I grew out of that, not so quickly, but eventually.


NICHOLS: And you've had this amazing rivalry with the Canadian champions. They won the gold medal in Vancouver. You won the silver. Flip-flop here. But it's gone back and forth. And you guys have pushed each other. What has that been like over the past four years?

WHITE: It's really helped us as a team, I think, having such amazing skaters and our close rivals training with us. We see them in practice every day. And, you know, just -- they're so talented. We always felt like, you know, we could never take a day off.


BERMAN: All right. Rachel Nichols joins us now from Sochi.

Rachel, a big day in men's hockey. Russia going down, and the U.S. takes the ice in just a few minutes against the Czech Republic.

NICHOLS: Yeah. Absolutely. Vladimir Putin made it clear, at the beginning of the Olympics, the one medal he cared about, the home country winning was the men's hockey gold. Guess what? Not going to happen, guys. This is a huge disappointment to the home country and puts a lot of pressure on the Russian figure skater going right now, Yulia (ph), 15 years old. All eyes are on her. She has to bring home the gold. These are the two most important sports in Russia and one of them is out.



BERMAN: Broad shoulders for a 15-year-old girl.


Rachel Nichols, in Sochi, thank you so much.

PEREIRA: This winter seems like one of the record books here in America, epic snowfall in the Midwest, ice in the east and even in the south. Imagine being a dog or cat. The Humane Society workers in Detroit did something bold to remind us, it's not OK to leave to pets outside in freezing cold weather. They spent a cold Michigan night sleeping outside in doghouses. Might seem like a crazy stunt, but they believe it's needed to raise awareness about the dangers of leaving pets outdoors in these bone-chilling temps.


UNIDENTIFIED HUMANE SOCIETY WORKER: I'm glad I have the straw. You can really tell the straw makes a huge difference.


PEREIRA: These folks are part of the Cruelty Investigation and Rescue Department. They know the danger firsthand. They get calls all of the time. In fact, the event was in memory of three dogs that died because they were left out in the cold. And apparently these house calls increase 30-fold during these cold snaps. We salute them and certainly are glad they didn't get hypothermia.

BERMAN: From wonderful people now to shame. I want to leave you with a healthy dose of cable outrage. Another example of how Washington is ignoring the needs of real people. And by real people, in this case, I mean those who wear pancake makeup, big shoes and red noses.


It has come to our attention there is a national clown shortage.

PEREIRA: Say it ain't so!

BERMAN: This is a real thing. Membership in the World Clown Association has dropped from about 3,500 to 2,500 since 2004. One clown official tells the "New York Daily News" the challenge is getting younger people involved in clowning. The problem, they say, is clowning isn't cool anymore. Now, we know what you want to ask here. No, not was clowning ever cool. No, not is there really a Clown Trade Association. Both those things are true. The real question you undoubtedly want to know is, what is Congress going to do about this? Sure, they can deal with the debt ceiling, but what are they going to do about the clown crisis?

PEREIRA: Important.

BERMAN: The bozo imbalance.

Here's an idea. The World Clown Association is short about 1,000 clowns. There are more than 500 members of Congress.

PEREIRA: You did not.

BERMAN: The math works.

PEREIRA: Oh, you did not.


BERMAN: They have the disposition. I'm talking real solutions.

PEREIRA: It's @Johnberman, if you want to comment on that.


BERMAN: We just talked about trolling. Don't troll me.

PEREIRA: I might have to troll you on that.

That's all for us AT THIS HOUR. Thanks very much for joining us.

BERMAN: "LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts after this.