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Interview with Florida Governor Rick Scott; Death Drugs; Extreme Weather; Who's Got Next?; Killer Dies After Botched Lethal Injection

Aired April 30, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All I have got to say, those proverbial May flowers, they better be extra beautiful after this.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead, yes, that's an airboat on what should be dry land in Pensacola, Florida, the roads washed out, terrified people fleeing to their attics, hoping for rescue. And this torrential rain is not yet done with the East Coast.

Also in national news, well, it had the desired effect. He's dead, after all, but the lethal injection for this convicted murderer did not go even close to plan. Where did Oklahoma get the drug combo it used for the first time on him? And why are states allowed to be so secretive about this?

The sports lead, now it's clear the NBA will not stand for racial insensitivity once it's made public. Will Clippers owner Donald Sterling sell the team now that he's banned for life? Will his fellow owners force him? Who would buy it?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We will begin with the national lead. It started coming down and it still has not stopped. The deadly storm system that has tortured much of the Eastern half of the nation for days is now creeping up the Eastern Seaboard, causing some of the worst flooding in a generation, 37 million people now at risk.

The Florida Panhandle up through New England catching deluge right now. Today, it's hard to tell the Gulf Coast from the actual Gulf. Here's something you don't see every day, even in Florida, an airboat replacing cars as the best mode of transportation. This is just blocks from downtown Pensacola.

There are reports of people still trapped by rushing waters like these. Pensacola got more than 17 inches of rain in 24 hours. That's more than a quarter of its average annual rain total in just one single day. And it's still coming down.

The storm hit amazingly fast. Three busy bridges in the area are reportedly destroyed or significantly damaged. At least one person is dead from the flooding, adding to the 36 other people killed by the violent weather system so far. Floridians are no stranger to flooding. These are folks who stare down superpowered hurricanes time and time again. But even for them, this flooding's extraordinary.

Our meteorologist Chad Myers is standing by for us live in Pensacola, Florida.

Chad, you have covered incredible flooding so many times in the past. Put this into perspective for us.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I would be waist-deep in water 12 hours ago. It has gone down, but that's what a flash flood does.

If the water goes down, it doesn't dry out your drywall, it doesn't dry out your floor, it doesn't dry out your TV or your couch. It stays wet. The flash flood got all the way into the people's homes here in Pensacola. Now, we talked yesterday, almost the exact same time, I was chasing tornadoes in Tuscaloosa. They never happened.

Why? Because the Gulf Coast stopped pushing its moisture into Mississippi and Alabama and the rain came down here. We didn't get tornadoes here, but it rained and rained and rained for hours on end. Some people say that today, they saw on their rain gauge, a little click of a rain gauge in the backyard, five inches of rain in just one hour. That water came up.

It's still up. It's still here through the park. It's still going through neighborhoods. It's still running off and into the Gulf of Mexico. That eventually runs downhill because the Gulf isn't really that far away. But the water came up and it came up quickly. It came through the homes and now receding. But people have a lot to pick up, a lot to do here.

We're grateful that we didn't get the number of tornadoes that we were expecting yesterday in such a moderate risk day, but, boy, the people here paid for that.

TAPPER: Chad Myers, thank you so much. Stay dry, my friend.

Next door, parts of Alabama are also getting record-setting floods. Rescue workers have been at it around the clock to reach those who are trapped.

I'm joined now on the phone by Reggie Chitwood. He's by the deputy director for the Baldwin County Alabama Emergency Management Agency.

Reggie, thanks for joining us.

Is there anyone still in need of rescue in your county that you know of?


The rescue requests have become sporadic over the last few hours. In fact, we haven't had any in the last hour or so. We look to be finishing up those operations some time later this afternoon.

TAPPER: You have had to rescue people from some very tight and tricky spots. Tell us about it.

CHITWOOD: Well, the flooding happened pretty fast. It came up pretty fast. And the waters rose at a historical level, I would say. People had to scramble.

We had one person who had to scramble up into the attic. We had people who were standing on furniture, people who had to get up on their roofs to wait to be rescued. It happened quite fast and it caught a lot of people by surprise.

TAPPER: You refer to this as historical flooding. You have never seen it this bad before in your part of Alabama?

CHITWOOD: I have not, no, sir.

TAPPER: What is travel like in your area right now? Is anyone able to get anywhere?

CHITWOOD: Travel is -- we're back -- I won't say we're back to normal with travel, because we do have a lot of infrastructure -- reports of infrastructure damage to some roads and bridges.

We have got some people out now doing some preliminary damage assessment on those. We -- the schools and the county offices were closed today to keep people off the roads until we could make some assessments about what the damage was and make sure everybody was safe and sound.

TAPPER: And what is being done to help the victims, and how bad did it get for them?

CHITWOOD: We currently have opened three shelters last night. We're down to just having one shelter open now with just a few people left in it. We have been able to provide them a place to go to get out of the weather until they can get back with some family and friends who can help them get on their way.

TAPPER: Reggie Chitwood, the deputy director for the Baldwin County, Alabama, Emergency Management Agency, thanks so much for joining us. And our thoughts and prayers are with the people of your great state.

Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 26 counties. He canceled his events today, including a fund-raising event where he was to appear with his fellow Republican, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in order to get on top of the major flooding situation in his state.

Earlier, Governor Scott toured through Pensacola. He saw the destruction there with his own eyes.

And now Florida Governor Rick Scott joins us live from the scene in Pensacola.

Governor, good to see you again.

Earlier today, you said crews handled 200 rescues out of 300 requests. How many are still left?

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: We think all the rescues have been done. We had people up in their attics. It's just unbelievable the amount of flooding we have had, roads torn up, water clear through homes.

I went to one home where the foundation was gone. We had -- it happened quickly. These residents got up 12:00, 1:00 in the morning, felt water underneath them. Their dogs woke them up. So we walked through homes.

And like Chad said, the water's receding now. Fortunately, we haven't had rain in Pensacola in a few hours, but we're going to have problems in these houses. We have got water. They're trying to push the water out of. We have got water in the walls. But you know what? People in Florida are resilient. We have gone through hurricanes. They are showing up.

I have been downtown and saw some of the businesses flooded there. And they said, down here, people are coming to help us. So, they have so many people helping them clean up those stores.

TAPPER: How many people in Florida are still without power?

SCOTT: There's about 18,000 homes without power right now.

We have -- what I have done is, I have brought in National Guard. We have brought in 24 high-water vehicles. We have brought in boats from Fish and Wildlife, vehicles from Fish and Wildlife. But we still have some people without power.

But Gulf Power, which is the biggest utility down here, is getting that under control. But your heart goes out to these individuals that lost their homes. They are having to move out of their apartments. But people are showing up to help each other.

TAPPER: You mentioned the hurricanes that your state periodically has to endure. Some people in Pensacola have told CNN reporters that this is actually worse than hurricanes such as Ivan and Katrina, at least for the Pensacola area. Is that right? Do you agree?

SCOTT: That's what everyone has said.

They said, we didn't have this sort of flooding with Ivan. And their homes weren't flooded. Their businesses weren't flooded, didn't have that much water. But they think as much as 22 inches of water, as much as five inches in an hour.

And the water just came up so fast when you talk to these families. And you saw cars just thrown down a road, just pushed down upside down. And people have lost everything. And they didn't buy flood insurance because they didn't think they were in a flood area.

TAPPER: Do you plan to ask the federal government for help?

SCOTT: What we do is, we go through and make sure we fit within the damage assessment.

FEMA's coming down. We have been talking to FEMA all day. They will be coming down on Friday to help do assessments. And if we meet the federal standards, we will be asking for assistance.

I declared a state of emergency for 26 counties earlier this morning. I flew up from Tampa first thing and went to the emergency center in Tallahassee, and then came right over here as soon as I could fly in.

TAPPER: Is there anything you want from the federal government that you're not getting?

SCOTT: No, not right now.

We have a very good relationship with FEMA. Our local emergency management is working with the state. We have got the Department of Transportation here dealing with our roads. We have got National Guard here. We have got Fish and Wildlife helping. So, we -- the sheriff's doing a great job. All the elected officials here are showing up and doing their job.

TAPPER: All right, Governor Rick Scott, thanks so much. Good to see you. Sorry it's not under better conditions.

SCOTT: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD: His comments were appalling and his punishment severe, but is Donald Sterling's lifetime ban a dangerous precedent for the NBA to set?

Plus, two naval ships now heading to the site where an Australian company says missing Flight 370 might be, but with Australian officials dismissing the company's claims, are those resources being wasted?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

The sports lead now. Picture this. The cameras zoom in on center court. The ref heaves the ball up in the air, and then one of the teams walks off the court. That was the plan for the Golden State Warriors, at least according to "The San Jose Mercury News." They would leave if NBA commissioner Adam Silver did not adequately punish Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

But now, with Sterling banned for life and Silver committed to forcing a sale of his team, suitors are already lining up to make bids on the franchise.

Magic Johnson, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, former record label head David Geffen, boxer Floyd Mayweather, even Oprah are all reportedly interested. But what if Sterling fights the sale? Joining me now, sports law attorney Jeffrey Kessler.

First, Mr. Kessler, does the league have the power to vote Sterling out? He is a lawyer. He could fight it, one thinks.

JEFFREY L. KESSLER, SPORTS LAW ATTORNEY: Well, he can try to fight, but he agreed to the NBA constitution and bylaws, and in those documents, it says that, 3/4 of the owners can vote to terminate the ownership of any NBA owner if they are found to have violated various provisions of the constitution of bylaws. I believe in this case the league will have very significant arguments that it can proceed in exactly that fashion.

TAPPER: Now, Silver, when asked about the fact that this was apparently an illegally recorded phone call, because California's a state that requires consent to record a phone call, leaked, Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner said, whether or not it was private, it's public now and this is what's in the best interest of the NBA. Legally, does Sterling have any recourse here at all?

KESSLER: Well, again, I'm sure he has many talented lawyers and they may come up with some type of claim. But you have to look at what that claim would be. The constitution says that the owner waives any right to go to court, to challenge any decision to exclude the owner from continuing in the NBA.

Now, he might make an argument that if he has an antitrust claim, that that waiver should not apply. But to state an antitrust claim you have to show there's something anti-competitive, that competition's being restrained, there's some effect or intent to restrain competition. Frankly, I don't know how you can claim that in this case which is about a particular owner making racist remarks that were so foul that the entire basketball community is united in saying, this guy has got to go.

TAPPER: And I can understand why they would say that and his remarks certainly are foul. You talk to a lot of people in the sports world as a sports attorney, as a leading sports attorney, are there any concerns among anyone you talk to about the precedent being set here? This was a private conversation. It was illegally recorded and leaked.

Obviously, no one is condoning what he said, but I have a tough time imaging that every single player, owner and coach affiliated with the NBA would withstand the same kind of scrutiny.

KESSLER: Well, this isn't a precedent for anybody but an owner who will in the future say such foul things. And if they do, then it will be a useful precedent. Beyond that, this is really a fact-specific situation.

It has nothing to do with players, for example. Players are subject to different rights and remedies because they have collective bargaining agreement. So, it's not the same. If you're an NBA owner and you want to have the stewardship of this type of a franchise and this type of a business, then I would suggest that you do not engage in this type of behavior, whether publicly or privately or in any other context where it's going to express that there's really not fit to continue as an owner in the NBA.

TAPPER: Moreover, you probably shouldn't say things like that because they're heinous things to say.

Jeffrey Kessler, thank you so much.

KESSLER: That would be a good reason as well.

TAPPER: Thank you so much. We appreciate your time.

KESSLER: Thank you.

TAPPER: When we come back, a convicted murderer dies 43 minutes after a chaotic execution attempt. It's raising questions about the drugs used for lethal injections and the secrecy surrounding them.

Plus, later, a new report on the missing plane should be released in a few hours. Will it include specifics on why the plane disappeared? That's coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

The national lead, he was convicted of a barbaric crime, shooting a teenager, watching as she was buried alive. So, few were shedding tears when Clayton Lockett took his final steps last night along death row. But today, after state of Oklahoma botched his lethal injection, the way that he died is making headlines, even getting the White House's attention.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have a fundamental standard in this country that even when the death penalty is justified, it must be carried out humanely and I think everyone would recognize that this case fell short of that standard.


TAPPER: Clayton Lockett did die last night, but according to witnesses, he certainly did not just quietly and painlessly fade away.

Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown has that story for us.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the botched execution in Oklahoma is reigniting debate over the politically and ethically charged issue of the death penalty and putting focus on state's efforts to shield the names of suppliers used to kill inmates like Clayton Lockett.


BROWN: Seven minutes after officials start pumping the first drug, witnesses say inmate Lockett appeared to be conscious, 16 minutes in, it was clear the execution was not going as planned.

LIS EXON, NEWS MANAGER, OETA: He mumbled, something's wrong. He is lifting his whole upper shoulders and head off the gurney and writhing.

BROWN: It was then officials closed the blinds shutting out the media gathered to witness the death of the man convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a young woman who was then buried alive. The execution was stopped but Lockett died of a heart attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was my decision at that time to stop the execution.

BROWN: Officials used a cocktail of three drugs -- the first to sedate, a second to stop his breathing, and the third to stop his heart. But the deadly mixture is cloaked in secrecy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They wanted to hurry up and get it done, with as little transparency as possible.

BROWN: A majority of the 32 death penalty states, including Oklahoma, have shield laws so that no one, not even death row inmates can know where the drugs came from. Lockett's defense team pressed to learn where drugs were made but lost a lengthy legal battle.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The supplier are afraid they'll be put out of business by cooperation with the death penalty process. If the doctors that they sell prescription drugs to are aware that they're supplying the drugs of death to places like Oklahoma, these companies are fearful that they'll lose prescription business.

BROWN: Some suppliers won't let states use their drugs for executions. Those that do want their identities protected for fear of retaliation. A recent shortage of lethal injection chemicals has forced some states to try new drug combinations or use drugs from loosely regulated companies. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any drugs for the use in executions.

CALLAN: Physicians, a lot of times, are not involved in the process because it's a violation of medical ethics and a Hippocratic Oath to assist putting somebody to death. So, it's become a real amateur operation in terms how we actually put people to death in the United States.

BROWN: In fact, it's not even a doctor administering the deadly shot. Prison officials do it because the American Medical Association bans doctors from giving lethal injections.


BROWN: And another inmate was supposed to be executed right after Lockett, but Oklahoma's governor put a halt on the execution for two weeks pending an investigation. Meantime, the next planned execution in this country is May 13th in Texas. Officials there have been using a single drug since 2011 and so far, haven't had any issues -- Jake.

TAPPER: And this is hardly the first time this year, even, that an execution has gone wrong.

BROWN: That's right. In fact, less than four months ago, Jake, there was an execution in Ohio involving a Dennis McGuire and he was executed with a new combination of drugs due to unavailable of tested drugs and his lasted for 25 minutes. Much longer than it should have, Jake. Witnesses say, for about 10 to 13 minutes he was seen gasping for air.

So, that is the latest example of a botched execution.

TAPPER: Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

When we come back, Malaysian officials bombarded with questions today about missing Flight 370. How did they respond when families ask why emergency transponders never signaled a crash?

Plus, just days ago, a Nevada rancher was wondering if African- Americans might have been better off as slaves. Now, a black congressman causing a stir for calling Clarence Thomas a, quote, "Uncle Tom". That's ahead.