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Execution Botched; No Response From Sterling On Lifetime Ban; Other Owners Must Vote On Sterling's Ouster; Technology Used By Australian Company To Find Possible Wreckage; NBA Owners Must Vote; Private Company Finds Possible Plane Wreckage

Aired April 30, 2014 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, the debate over cruel and unusual punishment is back in the spotlight after an execution by lethal injection goes horribly wrong. We'll speak with the journalist who saw it all happen.

Also right now, Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, has been banned by the NBA for life, but there are still legal and business issues that need to be resolved.

And right now, CNN is getting an inside look at the technology an Australian company used to find what could be wreckage, potentially at least they say, from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. He was convicted of heinous crimes, murder, rape, kidnapping and robbery. But his botched execution is raising questions about the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Last night, Oklahoma tried a new cocktail of drugs to put a convicted killer, 38-year-old Clayton Lockett, to death. Prison officials say lethal injection usually takes less than 12 minutes but this dragged on to a torturous 43 minutes. Witnesses say Lockett was clearly still conscious, trying to talk 16 minutes into the execution.


COURTNEY FRANCISCO, REPORTER, KFOR: Right before they closed the curtain, he said, man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he had full body upper movement. He was able --

FRANCISCO: He was struggling --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- to lift his head and his shoulders from the gurney.

FRANCISCO: -- to talk. He was struggling to talk but those were the words we got out. Man, I'm not, and something's wrong.


BLITZER: Joining us now, another eyewitness to the execution, Liz Exon, who's the News Manager at OETA Public Television in Tulsa, as well as our Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Liz, I take it this is the first time you've witnessed an execution. Describe what you saw.

LIS EXON, NEWS MANAGERR, OETA PUBLIC TELEVISION: Yes, it was my first time. And, of course I was nervous going in but really thought it would be seamless, as I've been told they usually are. That he would just go to sleep and it would just take a few minutes

What happened was Lockett was placed on the gurney. They asked him, do you have any last words? He said, no. At 6:23, they started the first intravenous lines into both arms with this new drug called Midazolam. And Lockett just continued to stare at the ceiling, occasionally licking his lips. And that went on from 6:23 to 6:30 -- from 6:23 to 6:28, so a full five minutes there. Then at 6:29, he finally closes his eyes. A doctor in the execution chamber goes over to Lockett, pulls back the sheet, opens his eyes, kind of rubs, taps his chest. And he says, he is not unconscious.

Then at 6:33, the doctor did the same thing, pulled the sheet back, eyes, chest, and he declared Lockett unconscious. At 6:34:55, Lockett, still breathing. Then at 6:36, he mumbled something. And it sounds like he mumbles, something's wrong. And during this time, Wolf, he is lifting his whole upper shoulders and head off the gurney. And writhing and is clearly in distress. At one point, he does it again and he goes, man. Like, oh, man.

And at 6:39 -- and this is going on and on, of him kind of spasming up pretty violently. At 6:39, he does it the last time. And then it is announced, we are temporarily closing the shade. And, of course, there were 12 media witnesses and also his two attorneys. The director of the Department of Corrections was in there as well as some other authorities. And the director got up and left, so did the head of the department of public safety. They were gone for --

BLITZER: Lis, let me interrupt for a moment. At that point, when they put the shades down, he was still alive, but they didn't want you to eyewitness anything else. Is that what happened?

EXON: Yes. And I think all of us in the media are raising a lot of questions about that because, you know, we're not just reporters at that point, we are witnesses to a state sanctioned execution. And we were not allowed to see what was happening behind that shade.

BLITZER: All right, Lis, hold on for a moment. Jeffrey Toobin, our Senior Legal Analyst, is with me here in Washington. All right, so, what do you make of this? It's not -- it's supposed to be quick. It's supposed to be, you know, relatively smooth and this was anything but.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there's a lot of history. You know, the lethal injection has been in use for over a decade. But in the past year, all the European companies that used to supply the drugs have refused to do it anymore. They said, we don't want any part of executions. So, the states that are trying to execute people have been trying to improvise new protocols. There was a huge legal fight in Oklahoma before this execution about the Condemned Men's (ph) trying to learn what was in the formula and how it would be done. They ultimately lost that battle. The execution went forward. But I think this shows it is quite clear that there is not an -- a clearly effective execution technique on the books now. And not just Oklahoma, but Texas, Florida, Virginia, all the states that do most of our executions are trying to figure out how to proceed under these new rules.

BLITZER: All right, Lis, pick up the story now. The curtain goes down. He's still alive. And what do they tell you? What do you see then? What happens next?

EXON: Well, we're all just in this room with complete silence. And we're all incredulous and shake -- I was shaking. And I don't know how long the director was out of the room. He took a phone from in the room with the court outside. And we couldn't see because we couldn't wear watches and the only clock was in that execution room. But finally he came back. And he said that we have had a failed execution. And he was -- that he ordered the execution to stop. And he said we've had a vein failure.

Later, when we were taken other to the media center, what he said was that Lockett's vein blew. But we were held in that media room for I don't -- I don't know how long. It seemed like an eternity. I don't -- I guess he was just dying in there while we were sitting there.

BLITZER: And, eventually, they say he died of a heart attack. Is that right, Lis?

EXON: Yes. When we got back to the media center, they said he died of a massive heart attack at 7:06 and he died in that death chamber on the gurney where those drugs were first inserted.

BLITZER: All right, Lis Exon. Thanks very much for that eyewitness account.

Jeffrey, do you want to just wrap this up? A final thought?

TOOBIN: Well, the death penalty is in decline in the United States, whether it's DNA evidence proving people innocent. There are fewer death sentences. There are fewer executions. And one reason is that we have not figured out a way to conduct executions that is both constitutionally permissible and effective. And certainly events like this are going to raise even more questions about why a death penalty (INAUDIBLE.)

BLITZER: When people say he brutally killed a young girl, tortured her, raped her. She was still alive --

TOOBIN: Buried her --

BLITZER: -- after he shot her.

TOOBIN: -- alive.

BLITZER: Buried her alive. Obviously, he was a very, very evil individual.

TOOBIN: He was an evil person and most of the people who are executed are. We have a new study, though, that says four percent of the people on death row are innocent. The problem is the deaths -- our legal system isn't perfect and the death penalty is such an absolute penalty that there's a tension there.

But there's also the tension of why should we care at all about whether he suffered a little, given the kind of suffering he imposed on others? The legal system doesn't work that way. The Supreme Court has said there has to be a measure of dignity and a lack of significant pain. But it's easier said than done as this illustrates.

BLITZER: As we just saw from the -- from Lis Exon, an eyewitness. Jeffrey, Lis, thanks to both of you very much.

Just a note to our viewers. Less than an hour from now, the Oklahoma governor, Mary Fallen, expected to hold a news conference on this botched execution. You'll see it live here on CNN once it happens.

Still ahead, Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, has been banned by the NBA for life, but there's still legal and business issues that need to be resolved. Much more on this coming up next.


BLITZER: We turn now to the fallout from the racist comments by Donald Sterling and the decision by the NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, to ban him for life from his team, the Los Angeles Clippers, and from the NBA. There's been a lot reaction to Silver's decision, almost all of it very popular, positive reaction to what the commissioner did, including this from Magic Johnson.


MAGIC JOHNSON, HALL OF FAMER, NBA: Well, it was great. It's a great day. It's a great day for, you know, the United States. It is a great day for the NBA. It is a great day for all people of all races. But especially, you know, African-Americans and Latinos who, you know, he was speaking out against. And so, I think that I'm just happy that Commissioner Adam Silver came down hard and showed that we can't let people get away with this and even if you're an owner.


BLITZER: Magic Johnson called on all the owners of the NBA, all 30 of them, to do the right thing.

Let's discuss what's going on. Rachel Nichols is joining us. She is the host of CNN's "UNGUARDED." Jeffrey Toobin, our Legal Analyst, is still with us as well. Rachel, I'm told that tomorrow, Adam Silver will have a conference call with the Advisory Finance Committee of the NBA, that's nine owners, there are 30 owners altogether, to begin the process of trying to force Donald Sterling to sell -- to sell the Clippers. In the end, they need three-fourths, 23 owners, to vote yes. Is there any doubt they'll get to that 23 number? RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN HOST, "UNGUARDED": I mean, there's always doubt. You're going to have a process where they notify him. He has five days to respond. Then within 10 days, they have to have this meeting. And Donald Sterling is going to get the chance to be in a room with 29 other owners, many of whom he's been friendly with and away at retreats on and all kinds of things for nearly 30 years. And he's going to get to plea his case directly to them. And one of the things, I would imagine, that he would say is, look, this could be you next.

It is, to use Mark Cuban, of the Dallas Mavericks, words, a, quote, "slippery slope." And even if you don't agree with me or what I said, one would think that his next argument would be, think about the process. This isn't an OK process.

One thing that's come out recently that's sort of interesting is, you know, Donald Sterling, as we know, and Jeffrey Toobin has so well- articulated, he's pretty much bound by whatever this decision is. He wouldn't have a lot of leeway within the court system. But there are still some people around him who have come out and said that they do think that he could decide to sue, not so much because he thinks he could win or try to go around this process that we're talking about, but just the threat of that lawsuit and the threat of all the documents that he could then enter into the record, he's been with these guys for 30 years, he knows the secrets, he knows where the bodies are buried and he -- maybe he's going to bring that up in that hearing, we don't know.

BLITZER: Yes, he does have a history, Jeffrey, as you well know, of lawsuits. He's not shy about getting into legal battles.

TOOBIN: It's true, but -- and I'm not saying he won't sue. Anybody can file a lawsuit. But look at the context here. Adam Silver is the toast of the United States today. The owners, the players, the alumni of the NBA. Everybody has saluted what he's done. The owners are not going to turn around and now repudiate Adam Silver and say, oh, no, we're not going to force Sterling to sell the team. Of course he's going to get what I expect will be a unanimous vote of the owners. And then we'll see if Sterling wants to fight it. My guess is he's going to put this team up for auction, $700 million, $600 million. Who knows how much he'll get on a $12 million investment. He'll take his money and go away.

BLITZER: Yes, he bought that team when it was in San Diego for about $12 million.

TOOBIN: $12 million.

BLITZER: I think it's going to be closer to $1 billion -


BLITZER: If the Milwaukee Bucks, which just sold the other day for, what, around $600 million, that's a relatively small media market in Milwaukee. Rachel, pick this up. Los Angeles, the Clippers, that's the largest media market out there. If he decides to sell it, he potentially could walk away with $1 billion just from that team.

NICHOLS: Absolutely. I do want to just follow up on the end of Jeffrey's point though, which is that, you know, he did buy that team in San Diego. He moved the team to L.A. without the NBA's permission. In fact, he expressly went against an NBA decision that he wasn't allowed to go do that. They fined him $25 million. He, of course, sued them, even though that fine was permissible under the regulations, and they ended up settling for $6 million. So he got that fine down from $25 million to $6 million because he had counter-sued them for $100 million claiming loss of revenue. So this is a guy who does not follow the NBA constitution. We've certainly seen that in the past.

But I agree, certainly the best way for him to proceed is to go gently into the good night because that is the ultimate resolution here. There's no question about that, this is where this will eventually end up. And then you get to start playing the fun game of who's going to get the team. This is one of the most desirable teams in the country in any sport. You're in the L.A. market, the Staples Center, mince (ph) money.

So we've had people come out the woodwork already. Floyd Mayweather has said that he's interested. I'm not sure if he's that attractive a candidate for the NBA considering his past legal problems. But you've also had this super group come out, David Geffen, Larry Ellison and now David Geffen has made statements saying that he thinks Oprah Winfrey is going to join their group. I think between the three of them, they could find just in their pockets loose change that would pay for this team.


NICHOLS: I mean you're talking about three of the richest people in America. You would think that they would outbid anybody else. And, honestly, wouldn't care how much it would be because, again, not any significant amount of money to them. So it's going to be fascinating. Oprah apparently is interested in having another minority owner in the NBA, joining Michael Jordan. It would be great for the league.

TOOBIN: And don't forget about the possibility of Magic Johnson getting involved with some group because he's now a part owner of the L.A. Dodgers. He's got some experience. No one is more popular in L.A. than Magic. So, you know, you're right, Rachel, there's going to be a long line of people.

BLITZER: Yes, and maybe that $1 billion number I threw out will be low. Maybe it will be -- even be more than that. We shall see.

All right, guys, thanks very much.

We're going to get much more on this story coming up here this hour. I'll speak with the L.A. attorney who has some personal history with Donald Sterling and the allegations of racial discrimination.

But up next, the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. An Australian company now stands by its claim that the plane may be at the bottom of the Bay of Bengal. Now ships are actually heading that way to check it out. Our panel getting ready to weigh in on the latest developments.


BLITZER: Bangladesh today sent two navy ships to the Bay of Bengal to look for any signs of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. A private Australian company claims it has found what appears to be, they say, plane wreckage in that location. Wreckage that could be from the missing jetliner. Officials with GeoResonance say they went public after investigators ignored their findings for several weeks. Our correspondent Anna Coren give us an inside look at the company and its claims.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As the search continues for MH-370, more than seven weeks after the plane's disappearance, a team of scientists from an Australian mining exploration company believe they may have found its location more than 5,000 kilometers away.

COREN (voice-over): GeoResonance is convinced that through its high- tech spectral imaging gathered from satellites and planes, it has found the remains of an aircraft in the Bay of Bengal 190 kilometers off the coast of Bangladesh.

PAVEL KARSA, MANAGING DIRECTOR, GEORESONANCE: We are not into making theories. It is a scientific, proven fact that we guarantee that at that point, at that location, there are chemical elements that are part of a plane.

COREN: Their search began four days after the plane's disappearance, testing for elements such as aluminum, titanium and copper found in a Boeing 777. And while many are skeptical of the technology, the team stands by the science and their findings. Their final report was sent two weeks ago to Malaysian Airlines and all countries involved in the search, but they got no response.

COREN (on camera): Now, no one at GeoResonance is saying that this is in fact the remains of MH-370, but they're calling on authorities to investigate, saying it's their moral obligation to the families of the victims on board.

Anna Coren, CNN, Adelaide, Australia.


BLITZER: Let's get some perspective from our experts. Peter Goelz is a CNN aviation analyst, former NTSB managing director, Tom Fuentes is our law enforcement analyst, a former FBI assistant director.

At this point, Peter, they have no choice. They have to go check it out.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes, they do. And I think, you know, we've got to thank the Bangladeshies for sending out two vessels to see if there's anything on the surface of the water. And they do, they have to check it out now. BLITZER: Look, there's nothing on the surface, but they have equipment to look - sonar equipment to look at the bottom of the water?

GOELZ: Yes, if they have -

BLITZER: It's not as deep there as it is in the southern Indian Ocean.

GOELZ: No. Right, it's considerably more shallow. And if they have the equipment, they'll take a look. And if not, there are other ways to test their claims. There are a lot of wrecks off the coast of Australia. They can reposition their satellite and see what it shows.

BLITZER: I'm going to play for you what Angus Houston, who's in charge of this Australian-led part of the investigation, said today. Listen to this.


ANGUS HOUSTON, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTRE: It's certainly something that needs to be looked at. And I believe - I believe it probably has been looked at. But, you know, I'm not aware of any of that detail. I'm focused on the search in our area of responsibility and I'm focused on that -- that arc.


BLITZER: All right. So like so many others who are directly involved in the southern Indian Ocean search, he sounds very skeptical.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sounds - he sounds like it, right. And I think, in a way, you're wondering why, if the plane went down in that location, it's surrounded on three sides by land pretty close compared to the southern Indian Ocean. So the lack of debris on the surface all this time in busy shipping lanes, as well as nothing washing up on shore or being seen on radar, you know, by India, Bangladesh, the other surrounding countries. So I think there's a lot of reasons why people are very skeptical.

BLITZER: And if it were there, though, and most people suspect it's not going to be found there, but if it were there, the pings from the - from those so-called black boxes, they will prove to be not really genuine, the satellite, the Inmarsat handshakes, as it were, they would have proved to be a waste time. A lot of people are not yet ready to make those conclusions.

GOELZ: Yes. I mean if this ends up being it, it would just be extraordinary. But I think the investigators are obligated to look. When I was at the NTSB, we would get tons of suggestions and theories. And many of them tied to new technology that was going to be a breakthrough. And 90 percent of the time, 99 percent of the time, it was nothing.

BLITZER: Yes. And when you worked in the FBI, you used to get a lot of tips, leads?

FUENTES: Oh, absolutely. (INAUDIBLE). BLITZER: Most of them turned out to be junk.

FUENTES: Right, most investigations like that. But I was going to add, another argument for the 90-day pinger battery -


FUENTES: Is that it wouldn't be hard, then, to drop a pinger locator now. But now they have a different situation.

BLITZER: A lot of lessons to be learned from what happened to this Malaysia airliner.


BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

Up next, we'll have more on the lifetime ban imposed on the L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling and how he has dealt with discrimination allegations in the past.