December 4th, 2013
11:01 AM ET

Supreme Court Appears Split Over Frequent Flyer Case

A Supreme Court dispute over frequent flyer programs was left up in the air Tuesday, as the justices appeared split during oral arguments over whether the airline or a well-traveled rabbi should prevail.

Binyomin Ginsberg claims his WorldPerks Platinum Elite membership was revoked after being told he had "abused" his privileges, repeatedly filing complaints for upgrades and other benefits.

Northwest Airlines, which was consumed by Delta Air Lines in a 2008 merger, said it had "sole judgment" over the program's general terms and conditions to make such determinations.

At issue is whether Ginsberg has a right under state law to bring his case or whether it is preempted by a 1970s-era federal law that deregulated the airline industry.

That law prohibits parties from bringing similar state claims against airlines relating to a "price, route, or service" of the carrier.
The court offered contrasting views in an energetic hour of arguments.

"If the airline has an unreviewable right to terminate this agreement for any reason or for no reason, then it's an illusory contract," said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "If one party can get out willy-nilly, what kind of bargain is it" for the consumer?

But Justice Antonin Scalia said the statute in question was designed to preempt state laws. "The whole purpose of the (federal law) was to deregulate airlines," he said. "Let the free market handle it, and there be will be no state regulation."

Ginsberg runs an educational consulting firm for parents and schools in Minneapolis, and travels frequently to lecture and teach.

He joined Northwest's WorldPerks frequent flier program in 1999 and reached Platinum Elite status - the program's highest - in 2005.
But in June of 2008, Ginsberg claimed a Northwest representative called him and told him his status was being revoked on grounds that he "abused" the program, according to court papers.

He said the airline also took away the hundreds of thousands of miles accumulated in his account.

"I think I did exactly what they wanted and they should have said thank you for giving us this feedback," Ginsberg told CNN's "New Day" in an interview on Wednesday.

SEE FULL SEGMENT ABOVE

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December 4th, 2013
10:52 AM ET

No Smoke For a Minute After Walker Crash

The fire that engulfed the Porsche carrying actor Paul Walker apparently did not erupt until a minute after the car clipped a light pole Saturday, CNN's Casey Wian reports.

That conclusion is based on security camera video obtained by CNN that shows black smoke starting to rise from the crash scene 60 seconds after it shows the light pole and a tree falling.

Could Walker and the other occupant in the car have made it out in those 60 seconds? That's hard to tell. The two may have died on impact when the car struck the light pole.

The answer might be clearer when the coroner's office releases its preliminary findings of the autopsies of the remains of two men - presumed to be Walker and friend Roger Rodas, a coroner's officer said.

The autopsies were completed Tuesday, Los Angeles County Coroner Lt. Fred Corral said. But investigators have placed a "security hold" on it for now. The coroner will not even disclose if the identities have been confirmed using dental X-rays. Officially, the dead are only identified as case numbers.

Corral did not give a reason for the secrecy, which can be requested by law enforcement agencies during an investigation. It is often done in cases involving criminal probes, but there has been no indication this is anything more than a traffic accident investigation.

The autopsies should be able to confirm whether Rodas, as witnesses reported, was behind the wheel with Walker in the passenger seat.

Video obtained by CNN Tuesday from a security camera posted on a building on the opposite side of the street from the crash does not show the Porsche Carerra GT crashing along a business park street in Valencia, California, Saturday afternoon. It does show the light pole and tree falling. Smoke is faintly visible above the scene 60 seconds later, followed by a heavy plume of black smoke after two minutes.

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December 4th, 2013
10:33 AM ET

Lotto Officials Track Down Woman to Give Her 50 Million

In today's edition of the "Good Stuff," Canadian Lotto officials track down a woman to give her the massive prize she never claimed. CNN's Chris Cuomo reports.

Kathryn Jones purchased the winning ticket last year and lost the paper. But Canadian officials found her!

Mike Hamel, with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., said "We figured out the time, date and location of the purchase. We obtained store security video which clearly shows the identified winner purchasing the winning ticket."

Jones almost didn't open the door for the committee when they came to tell her she won.

"We almost didn't want to let them into the house because we weren't sure who they were. "

We bet she's glad she opened that door.

 If you have #GoodStuff news, let us know! Leave a comment, post on Facebook, or tweet to @ChrisCuomo & @NewDay using #NewDay and submit your story on iReport.

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December 4th, 2013
10:20 AM ET

Innocent Man: How Inmate Michael Morton Lost 25 Years Of His Life

Imagine being out to dinner with the love of your life and your beautiful, smiling, 3-year-old child. It's a double celebration: your birthday and the end of your young boy's difficult recovery from surgery for a heart defect.

As you cross the street afterward, holding hands and swinging the little one up in the air, you think, "This is what it's about."

You know it's one of the best days of your life.

For Michael Morton, that day was August 12, 1986. He had just turned 32.

The next day, it was all taken away. The dream became a nightmare.

Christine, his wife, was attacked and killed at their home in Williamson County, Texas, just outside Austin. Michael Morton was at work at the time. Still, authorities suspected him.

"Innocent people think that if you just tell the truth then you've got nothing to fear from the police," Morton says now. "If you just stick to it that the system will work, it'll all come to light, everything will be fine."

Instead, Morton was charged, ripped away from his boy, and put on trial, CNN's Chris Cuomo reports.

The prosecutor, speaking to the jury in emotional terms with tears streaming down his face, laid out a graphic, depraved sexual scenario, accusing Morton of bludgeoning his wife for refusing to have sex on his birthday.

"There was no scientific evidence, there was no eyewitness, there was no murder weapon, there was no believable motive," Morton says. "... I didn't see how any rational, thinking person would say that's enough for a guilty verdict."

But with no other suspects, the jury convicted him. "We all felt so strongly that this was justice for Christine and that we were doing the right thing," says Mark Landrum, who was the jury foreman.

Morton spent nearly 25 years in prison.

He saw his son Eric only twice a year. "I would love seeing him, I was fascinated with his every move," Morton says. But Eric "was becoming more distant," Morton says. "He was becoming less mine."

As a teen, Eric had no memories of his father outside of prison. Letters his dad wrote him were "just a window into a life that never happened," he says. His father "barely existed in my life. I didn't have memories of him outside of the visits to prison."

Eric decided to stop visiting. "I think it was embarrassing for me to think that I had to go to jail to see my dad."

Michael Morton wrote Eric saying he had to come and tell him that in person. He did.

"It was another one of those numb, painful things," Morton says. "I just looked at my sister-in-law and said something like, 'Take care of my son.'"

Eric also changed his last name to that of the relatives who raised him.

A few years ago, a group of attorneys, working pro bono on Morton's behalf, managed to bring the truth to light. Not only was Morton innocent, but the prosecutor, Ken Anderson, was accused of withholding crucial evidence.

The little boy, Eric, had seen the attack and told relatives that daddy was not home at the time. He described the man who did it. Neighbors had described a man parking a green van behind the Mortons' house and walking off into a wooded area. A blood-stained bandana was found nearby. None of that evidence made it into the trial.

It took years of fighting, but Morton's attorneys finally got the bandana tested for DNA. It contained Christine Morton's blood and hair and the DNA of another man - a convicted felon named Mark Norwood.

Norwood had killed Christine Morton. And since no one figured that out after her death, he remained free. He killed another woman in the Austin area, Debra Baker, in similar circumstances less than two years later, authorities say.

Norwood has now been convicted in Morton's killing, and indicted in Baker's killing.

Morton was freed in October 2011. He was 57 years old. "I thank God this wasn't a capital case," he said.

SEE PART TWO OF MORTON'S STOY:

For much more about the dramatic exoneration of falsely accused murderer Michael Morton, watch CNN Films' "An Unreal Dream, The Michael Morton Story," airing Thursday, December 5, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CNN TV.

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