This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Feb. 21, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.
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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The deadly club fire [in Rhode Island that's so far resulted in 97 deaths] is going to raise a lot of legal questions like who's responsible? Who's going to pay? And the big one, is anybody going to jail?
FOX News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano is here. Let's start with the big one — jail… [as a club owner or members of the band staging pyrotechnics at the club], you have to go through all these steps. And if you don't, you're into the criminal negligence zone, aren't you?
JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: You absolutely are. The crime is called criminally negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter. It means that you engaged in an act. You didn't intend to kill. You intended to do the act. But you behaved as if you were ignorant of the dangers around you, which is exactly what happened here. Someone started that fire, ignorant of the close proximity of flammable materials and the poor availability of escape.
GIBSON: Well, if I can split hairs with you. [The owners/management and band presumably] saw the wall was right there. Negligent to understand the effect it would have?
NAPOLITANO: Correct. Either they were ignorant or they didn't take it into account. They exercised a judgment without considering the facts around them.
GIBSON: If you are guilty criminal negligent homicide involving 97 people, what happens?
NAPOLITANO: Well, in most states, it's 10 to 15 years per death. So, you're talking about a sentence of life imprisonment. Not capital punishment, because this is not intentional murder. But you're talking about life in prison for the human being or human beings that caused that to happen. Who caused that to happen? A jury will have to decide. Just like in civil liability. Was it the fault of the management for not seeing what was obvious under their noses? Was it the fault of the band for not getting the permit? A jury will have to decide whose fault it was.
GIBSON: It's a lesser consideration, but what about money? Civil suits?
NAPOLITANO: Well, that's the reason permits are required, because a permit carries with it the requirement of mandatory insurance. [There would need to be] a great deal of insurance for the duration of the pyrotechnic act and for that evening. Without a great deal of insurance, John, you can bet there is not enough money here to cover 97 wrongful deaths and 150 injuries.
GIBSON: Judge Andrew Napolitano. Thanks a lot.
NAPOLITANO: You're welcome.
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