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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

U.S. Soldier Goes on Killing Spree in Afghanistan; Rick Santorum Makes Controversial Comments Regarding English and Puerto Rican Statehood; Mississippi Immigration Bill Passes House; Edwards' Ex-Mistress To Testify; Obama Hitting Road, Raising Cash; Biden Tells Ohio Autoworkers: Republicans Will Bankrupt The Middle Class; Study: White Rice Linked To Diabetes; Extreme Dine and Dash; Teen Killed By Neighborhood Watch

Aired March 16, 2012 - 06:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: It's Friday. I'm willing to take that. Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, but first, hint of a possible motive for that massacre of Afghan civilians. The accused U.S. soldier apparently saw a friend gravely injured the day before the rampage. Officials are quoted as saying he just snapped. Now, the soldier has hired a high-profile lawyer.

Plus, the GOP candidates are eyeing Puerto Rico's primary. Rick Santorum is standing by his mantra, and that English to be a requirement for statehood for Puerto Rico. We're going to talk about the various iterations of what he said and then said again and said again and said one more time before Mitt Romney weighed in with what he says. That's ahead.

Plus, talk about March madness.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you seen Mills trying to come over and draw the charge. Rodriguez has already let the ball go. And he's a freshman, but he's about as cool as they come right now. No facial expression whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Yes. Cool as they come. No facial expressions because that's the members of the band from Southern Mississippi University letting loose with a chant, "where's your green card?" "Where's your green card?" That's what they're saying while he's trying to (INAUDIBLE) anyway, we're going to talk about that. That's our "Get Real" segment this morning.

It is Friday, March 16th. It's Friday, March 16th, yay, 2012. And STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

O'BRIEN: Yes, we're starting with Kanye. Today is my all Kanye all day tribute, the clean version.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You had viewer submissions?

O'BRIEN: Yes. You know, I didn't have time to get that together. I was busy. It's going to be al Kanye for me today. We had to use the clean version obviously because this is a family show. Welcome, everybody. Our panelist this morning Marc Lamont Hill is back, professor at Columbia University. Abby Livingston is back as well. She's a conservative commentator and all the daughter of governor -- oh, my gosh, the Long Island just came out here -- the daughter of Governor Huntsman. You are on Long Island. And Will Cain is here, contributor for TheBlaze.com and for CNN as well.

STARTING POINT this morning is the details about this U.S. army soldier who is accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians as Afghan president Karzai has been meeting with the family members of those victims. The "New York Times" quotes a senior U.S. official saying that the soldier just snapped, a combination of stress, alcohol, and marital problems. Now, that's according to a U.S. military official. The shooter now has a lawyer and he is contesting some of those things.

The lawyer, by the way, is this renowned Seattle defense attorney, John Henry Browne. Browne says the suspect is a highly decorated soldier and should never return to combat after he was injured twice on three tours in Iraq. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, which we talked about earlier in the week. But also apparently he lost a part of his foot as well. And then as we mentioned, a friend was gravely wounded a day before the massacre. And that could be the first hint at a possible motive. John Henry Browne announced that he wants his public to know about his client and this is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HENRY BROWN, ATTORNEY: It's a tragedy all of the way around. There's no question about that. I think it's of interest that we had a soldier who has an exemplary record, decorated soldier who was injured in Iraq to his brain and to his body, and then despite that setback I think that's an issue. I think that's a concern. I think the message for the public in general is he's one of our boys and we need to treat him fairly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: You get a sense from how he's going to be approaching his defense of his client. I believe he also represented Ted Bundy and I believe he also represented the barefoot bandit, who was that kid who, you know, would steal planes and things like that, an interesting background. I don't know too much about military trials. It will be interesting to learn a lot as we go through this.

A couple of things that stick out to me is trying to create the mindset of the soldier. He said he was injured before. He says marital problems is what the U.S. military is spaying and problems after being deployed. On imagines that's going to be a big strategy for them, multiple deployments.

CAIN: So as this conversation moves from how this incident reflects on the war at large, it will move to who is at fault here, the trial aspect and have two different sides essentially. This guy and his lawyer's side will be this is a product of four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, the product of the war and of this injury that he apparently suffered to his head at some point in his deployment, versus the military. You can see this in our quotes, we will talk about his personal issues. Supposedly he was drinking the night it happened, that he had marital problems. It will be set up that he is a deviant. He is an aberration. These are the stories you'll hear, an aberration at large.

MARC LAMONT HILL, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: When you send someone on four deployments when someone has been in Iraq four times, and significant brain injury and the trauma of war alone suggested this happens to a lot of people.

O'BRIEN: But wouldn't the argument then say if it's something that happens to a lot of people. If everything that you listed is not particularly unusual you don't see mass killings. They're very unusual in and of themselves, evidence of this being an aberration.

ABBY LIVINGSTON, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: If that is the case, take a stronger look at soldiers that go through injuries before you send them out and carry a machine gun? Is that something that with should take a harder look at if this is really an issue?

O'BRIEN: The lawyer -- the first thing the lawyer does is to start painting the picture of the soldier as a human being versus the things that we knew. Here's what he said about sort the soldier background in the military. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWNE: He was told that he was not going to be redeployed. His family was counting on him not being redeployed. And so he and his family were told that his tours in the Middle East were over and that literally overnight that changed. So I think that it would be fair to say that he and the family were not happy that he was going back.

I think it's of interest that we have a soldier who has an exemplary record, decorated soldier who was injured in Iraq to his brain and to his body, and the despite that was sent back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Later he said that he was decorated many times over. He's trying to flesh out that picture. It's interesting, I have a friend who has served in the military recently and he said one of the things -- he actually -- and many have said this, he's surprised it doesn't happen more. He said when he had traumatic experiences, the death of someone very close to you, he said there's nowhere to go out in the field. You come back. You're treated for PTSD, which he was. You come back and people analyze how you're doing. But out in the field they send you to the chaplain, the priest, who is in the military, and that he saw that was one of the biggest issues is that you just didn't have, in the field, a real psychological help.

LIVINGSTON: I was going to say the hardest thing about this is that he was under the influence. And how do you work with someone with that issue? You know, how do you really know what was going on in his brain at the time because he was under the influence.

HILL: Many soldiers do that, too.

O'BRIEN: He was drinking apparently -- military officials say that information comes from two of his buddies drinking with him at night. And you can say those two did not go out and do anything.

CAIN: That's the thing, all of these circumstances we keep talking about, he's not going to be the only one who suffered an injury, not the only one to have drank in the field, not the only one deployed after the injury, but he seems to be the only one who went on a shooting rampage. I think it is important to see, the when we see this lawyer talk, you're beginning to see the defense of a month long process. We're going to see a month long trial play out.

O'BRIEN: I think much longer than a month. I think it's going to be another interesting issue, where do you hold the trial? He's obviously right now being held in Kuwait. They believe that they're going to bring him to Leavenworth in Kansas. Apparently the Kuwaiti officials were surprised he was brought to Kuwait, which surprise is never a good thing, I think, in international affairs in some ways.

The question becomes, if you have massacred citizen or alleged massacred citizens in Afghanistan and the witnesses are afghan villagers and you're holding a trial in Kansas, how do those logistics work out?

LIVINGSTON: That's going to be an issue. They've already expressed --

HILL: They're demanding it happens in Afghanistan. They may have a strong case.

O'BRIEN: That is never going to happen.

HILL: It's never going to happen.

O'BRIEN: Strong case.

CAIN: If that trial is held in Afghanistan.

O'BRIEN: I think that's the weight, isn't it? You're trying to manage between do you have a trial in Afghanistan and deal with the security issues around that or do you have a trial in Leavenworth, Kansas, or somewhere in the Midwest or wherever they end upholding the trial in the United States and have the issues with witnesses and the fallout from that? Those are things we're going to be looking at this morning. We're going to talk later this morning with military officials who have experienced with these military trials. That's fascinating, to bring in military lawyers in addition to civilian lawyer. John Browne is a civilian lawyer. All that is ahead.

First, though, I want to get to some of the other headlines. Christine Romans has those for us. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. Another developing story out of Afghanistan this morning, a NATO helicopter crashing in the capital city of Kabul. The coalition says 12 troops were killed but they did not say their nationalities. The chopper reportedly crashed into a home after experiencing technical problems. There were no immediate reports of civilian casualties.

North Korean announcing plans to blast a satellite into space on the back of a long-range rocket. It's a move that could jeopardize a new agreement with the United States that calls for a moratorium on all nuclear activities in exchange for food. The North arguing this satellite launch is part of a peaceful separations program.

Homes torn apart, more than 200 people forced to get out as a rare march tornado touches down in Michigan. Amateur video of the funnel cloud just outside Ann Arbor, a tornado ripping through that community. Reports of three funnel clouds in the area, the storm damaging or demolishing many homes and downing trees and power lines and sparking fires. The twisters were part of a nasty storm system that stretched down through the south. Heavy rains caved in the roof of a commercial building in Kentucky. Seven people were hurt. Reports say the drainage system was clogged.

U.S. stock futures are trading just slightly upwards this morning ahead of today's market open, that after a week of solid gains and positive economic news. The S&P 500 stock index is by far, by the way, the broadest measure of major U.S. listed companies and best reflection of Americans retirement investments. It closed Thursday above 1,400 for the first time in four years.

Just one more hour until a brand new iPad goes on sale. Tech heads lined up all over the world this morning. Here in New York City people are camped out at Apple's flagship store. The price for this new iPad starts at $499. Those are live pictures of the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

All this anticipation sending Apple shares even higher. For the first time ever Apple shares topped $600 at the opening of the stock market yesterday. The company roared past $560 billion in value just, and just month ago that it soared past $500 a share. Imagine that, $100 in a month.

Post things about your bosses online, you might pay. An American Airlines flight attendant learned that the hard way. A 24-year veteran of American airlines was fired and he's fighting back. He was pretty well-known in some flier circles for his videos poking fun at American's financial trouble. One of his characters, the "aluminum lady" like Margaret Thatcher's the "iron lady."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People on the ramp creep me out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam, regional managers, who is the weakest link?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I tell you right now the woman that's running the flight attendant in Miami is probably the most ineffective person I have in the whole company.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, don't fire her. I like it like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: American filed for bankruptcy a few months ago, said it needed to get rid of 13,000 workers, or 16 percent of the workforce. American's spokesperson didn't mention these videos were talked about the firing told NBC Miami told private details of American passengers and promoted its competitors on his website.

O'BRIEN: I'm always surprised that people are surprised when they get 2350ifired when they bash the company. They get fired from the company when you bash the company, which I believe is your god given right, but you're going to get fired. You have a right to do so on video or on YouTube, yes.

ROMANS: And they have a right to subordination clauses.

O'BRIEN: I'm always surprised by the surprise. All right, Christine, thank you.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we'll talk about dining and dashing. We'll tell you how four customers skipped out on their check from 55 floors up.

And Rick Santorum says English before statehood for Puerto Rico. We'll talk about that because he says it a couple of times a couple of different ways.

Our "Get Real" this morning is March sadness. A player subjected to taunts during the NCAA basketball game while he was trying to make his free throws. He was absolutely cool. Marc Lamont Hill's playlist plays us out to the break. More from STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're listening to Abby's play list, it's Train, "Drive By." You can go see our entire playlist on our Web site, CNN.com/startingpoint. I love train. Always have classics.

HILL: You've got to step it up, will. Two good songs in a row.

CAIN: It doesn't faze me anymore.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: This morning we're talk at the controversy brewing in Puerto Rico ahead of the territory's GOP presidential primary on Sunday. Rick Santorum campaigning there this week, asked whether he would support statehood for the island. That's a big issue. They're going to take that to a vote in November. He was quoted in the local paper as saying this, "Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law. And that is that English has to be the principle language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii, but to be a state of the United States, English has to be a principle language."

Senator Santorum said he was misquoted, and he was a little bit. Here's what he said to the newspaper that was caught on camera that they were rolling. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They have to speak English. That would be a requirement. It's a requirement put on other states, it's a condition for entering the union. We are not doing anybody in this island a favor but not following the law, which is that this is a society that will speak English in addition to speaking Spanish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: OK. So you heard that. They have to speak English. That would be a requirement. That was key. That was caught on camera. Then he softened his stance a little bit. On Wednesday he said this. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: What I said is language has to be learned as a language and has to be a country where English is widely spoken and used, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should it be a requirement for this territory to become a state?

SANTORUM: I think English, English and Spanish -- obviously Spanish is going to be spoken here on the island but this needs to be a bilingual country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So the tap dancing is going in full force because now he's saying English and Spanish obviously has to be spoken. Then he in that same interview he was kind of pressed about the comments earlier about, you know, is it a requirement. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the -- except they don't want English.

SANTORUM: I think that will be a condition. I think it's important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So he says that's a condition. That is a condition of statehood in his mind. He thinks it's important. And then we had, of course, Mitt Romney weighing in through his people and this is Andrea Saul, a Romney spokesperson, jumped into the fray and said this -- "Puerto Rico currently recognizes both English and Spanish as the official languages of the commonwealth. Governor Romney believes that English is the language of opportunity and supports efforts to expand English proficiency in Puerto Rico and across America. However, he would not, as a prerequisite for statehood, require that people of Puerto Rico cease using Spanish." Which, by the way, is not what Senator Santorum ever said.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Let's get right to Carlos Gutierrez, the former commerce secretary under President George W. Bush and he's also the co-chair of the Hispanic Leadership Network, and he's supporting Governor Romney for the presidency. So you've heard kind of all of this back and forth. What do you make of the conversation in general?

CARLOS GUTIERREZ, FORMER COMMERCE SECRETARY: I think, first of all, it shows that we don't know as much about Puerto Rico as we should, which doesn't surprise me. I was born in Cuba, and I have to keep reminding people, it's 90 miles south from the southernmost tip of Florida, et cetera, et cetera. I think Puerto Rico today is probably one of the most bilingual areas in the Caribbean, countries in the Caribbean. So they don't have this problem. I don't know why we're talking about this in Puerto Rico.

Governor Romney, I believe, hit it right on. English is the language of prosperity, it's the language of opportunity. We want everyone to learn English. But we don't want to give people the impression that there's something wrong about speaking a second language. The Chinese could read our plans, we can't read theirs. We should be having a major national program to get people to speak a second language.

So in the spokesperson's comments, though, responding to this whole kerfuffle that Senator Santorum brought upon himself, he said he would not as a prerequisite, this is Romney, require that the people of Puerto Rico cease using Spanish. Senator Santorum had never had any point said they should not speaking Spanish.

GUTIERREZ: That's true, he did not say that. But there is an attitude and impact that you have on children if all of a sudden you have to speak English, he doesn't speak English, I have to speak better, then Spanish becomes something that people don't want to speak. I've seen it. I believe children who started speaking Spanish and then went to English, you can't tell people that you would prefer them to speak English, because after a while what you will have is a society that begins to lose its Spanish.

CAIN: I think that's an unfair extrapolation of what Senator Santorum said. The dozens of people that keep up with everything I say on this program will know that I am not a Senator Santorum supporter orphan. That being said, I'm also someone who is fair. I understand this. When he makes that statement he's you drawing upon a philosophical argument which says it has a central cohesion, ties us together. English or any language for that matter is part of that process. If you do your official business in a common language, it brings us together. I think that is the instinct behind what he is saying, not a culture xenophobia.

GUTIERREZ: I don't agree with that. The way it sounds to me is that either he doesn't know Puerto Rico, and --

O'BRIEN: That's where fall on this, by the way, especially when there are conversations about, in order to be part of America. It's like Puerto Ricans are Americans. We haven't even started quoting it.

CAIN: Not statehood, Soledad It's unfair. Like my sinking fairness in this conversation.

LIVINGSTON: I think that Governor Romney is using this to his advantage. Romney is dancing around the issue and sounding a lot better about it.

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: That's exactly right.

O'BRIEN: One at a time.

HILL: Explain the difference between Romney's position, because to me they're exactly the same.

GUTIERREZ: The difference, and there's attitude and there's law. Governor Romney is saying, of course, learn English. You should learn English. It's important. We will encourage you to learn English. Santorum said you have to learn English before becoming a state. We're talking about one person. When you say let's make English the official language of government, which some people have.

O'BRIEN: In 31 states.

GUTIERREZ: What happens is if you go and fill out a form, a driver's license form or you go to a passport agency, or whatever it is that you want to do with the government, you get one language. And I think today is a good gesture that we have, for example, the census, I think, is in 13 languages because we have some Korean citizens, because we have -- because we are a multi-cultural society of hopefully multi-language society.

HILL: So Romney doesn't support the idea of English as the official language?

GUTIERREZ: He has not come out in favor of that. There was one debate where he says, I raise your hand.

HILL: He said that before. GUTIERREZ: It was a debate where everybody raised their hand and said, you agree that English should be different?

HILL: He said, yes. He understood the question and said yes.

GUTIERREZ: He raised his hand along with all the others. English is the language of the United States. How can we argue that it isn't? Why are we discussing these issues in Puerto Rico that really aren't issues? Puerto Ricans speak English and they speak Spanish, and we should not begin to introduce requirements.

LIVINGSTON: I think it's a way for Romney to get the upper hand to move to the next primaries, because he came in third in the last two primaries. This is a situation where they said I don't have the upper hand. I'm going to say it in a way that I sound a lot better.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Final word.

GUTIERREZ: Just to be fair, I thought the comment was a little bit on the snobby side.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: We'll talk more about it because we're going to be talking to the governor of Puerto Rico coming up in our next hour, that is Governor Luis Fortuno. Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, we're going to talk about this teenager shot and killed by the neighborhood watch in Florida. We're going to have an exclusive interview with the parents of Trayvon Martin straight ahead.

And our "Get Real" this morning, a Hispanic player subjected to taunts during the NCAA tournament. They're saying "Where's your green card? Where's your green card?" We'll tell you. We're talking about that straight ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

CAIN: Wonderful.

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes, and the next segment, too. That's off of Will Cain's playlist. We do give you a hard time about your playlist.

O'BRIEN: It's said with love. That was the Gypsy Kings, of course, "Hotel California." March Madness is under way. And last night it was Southern Miss versus Kansas in the NCAA tournament. We want to show you a little bit of what was caught on camera as Angel Rodriguez, a freshman, was about to throw his free throw. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mills is trying to come over and drop the charge. He's a freshman but he's about as cool as they come right now. No expression whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Do you hear that? "Where's your green card? Where's your green card?" That's what they're chant behind him. You see he kind of messed up that free throw, wasn't so great. But apparently he was really key in the game, scoring 13 points and eventually Kansas won. After that, the Southern Miss President Martha Saunders apologized to the young man and to the school.

And promised there would be disciplinary action against the students who were in the band. Those were band members from Southern Miss who are chanting that at him.

By the way, Angel Rodriguez is from Puerto Rico, right? Because he doesn't need a green card. He is American.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I got to tell you I don't like this juxtaposition of this story following one we just did.

O'BRIEN: Totally unintentional, by the way.

CAIN: Because, again, the last segment we did the conversation over language was not one about xenophobia and what some people take to racism and this story that we're doing right now is much more legitimately about that.

O'BRIEN: Or you could argue this story is also in part people not understanding what it means to be from Puerto Rico, right? No, truly, I mean, like green card -- also being or horrifically awful to a young man, who's a freshman, who's trying to shoot a free throw.

But at the end of the day you don't need a green card people and I think that part of what's going on earlier in the debate is not understanding sort of the dynamics of Puerto Rico. Your dad is on the campaign trail. How is it work? Do people just hand you research?

ABBY LIVINGSTON, DAUGHTER OF FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JON HUNTSMAN: All the time. You know, you really see a difference in the candidates that do their research before they do their interviews like Santorum did in Puerto Rico.

But at the end of the day, he wants 20 votes, whatever it is. If you're going to be the president of the United States you need to understand the people. You need to understand the issues.

And I think this really brings to fruition how unfortunate this situation is. They don't know some of the biggest issues out there.

O'BRIEN: How exhausted was your dad?

LIVINGSTON: Never, we never -- very exhausting. O'BRIEN: Some of that just at some point you're physically exhausted.

LIVINGSTON: That's why it's so important to have someone who has just a basic understanding of some of these issues.

O'BRIEN: The basic understanding.

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: It's not just the nuances of the facts. It's also a general disposition that people have toward race and ethnicity and things like that.

Because when I hear Rick Santorum talking, when I hear Mitt Romney talk, I hear a disposition of anti-immigrant. I head a language of English is the language of imperialism.

O'BRIEN: Shouting where is your green card as part of that. We could argue this point in the commercial break or in another segment when we revisit this issue at 8:00. I'm glad that Abby is separating the two of you.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we're going to talk about racial tension in Central Florida. I know. We're talking about this young man you see in there. His name is Trayvon Martin.

He was shot and killed. The gunman is remaining free. We're going to talk to his mother and his father and also the family attorney.

And the Meghan McCain interview in "Playboy" magazine. There she is fully clothed. She's going to tell "Playboy" what she said is missing from the race this year and what she thinks the country would look like if, in fact, her dad had won.

That's all ahead. Going to leave you with more Kanye. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: All right, Talib Kweli. I am kind of worn out this morning already from the tenseness. I love it. Love it. Love it. Let's get right to Christine Romans. She's got a look at our headlines this morning. Hi, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

Controversial immigration bill on the verge of passing in Mississippi. This measure would require police to check the immigration status of people arrested. It would ban illegal immigrants from obtaining drivers' licenses. The bill was approved by the State House is now headed to the Senate where it is expected to pass.

The ex-mistress of former presidential candidate John Edwards is expected to testify in his federal trial next month. Rielle Hunter is expected to appear as a prosecution witness.

Prosecutors say Rielle Hunter received campaign money from former North Carolina Senator Edwards. Edwards denies it, says the money was a gift.

If he's convicted, he could face 30 years in prison. Federal prosecutors granted Hunter immunity from criminal charges for anything she says on the witness stand.

President Obama hitting the road to raise some campaign cash. He's headed to Chicago today for a couple of midday fundraisers then he's off to Atlanta for three more.

One of them is at Tyler Perry's home. Another is at Perry's studio where Celo Green will perform. He'll be back in Washington Saturday with an expected $5 million raised.

Vice President Joe Biden hitting the campaign trail on behalf of his boss, telling auto workers in Ohio if they elect a Republican, middle class America will pay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Our philosophy, ours is one that values the workers in the success of a business. It values the middle class in the success of our economy. Simply stated, we're about promoting the private sector. They're about protecting the privileged sector.

(END VIDEO CLIP0

ROMANS: Hitting back against those GOP claims that this administration is against business. The speech was the first of four events the Obama campaign has planned for Biden in the coming weeks.

Let's get a quick check of the weather now. Meteorologist Rob Marciano joins us. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine. We start you off a video out of Michigan, a tornado touching down in Dexter, Michigan just north west of Ann Harbor. This is one of three touchdowns yesterday, but it did damage.

Some serious damage to a neighborhood, luckily no serious injuries or fatalities, but certainly putting a scare on the folks there as this happened during the dusk hours yesterday evening. One of three has mentioned tornadoes.

We had over 200 hail reports yesterday. All of this stemmed by or spawned by all the record-breaking heat that we've had. This is actually a fairly weak front, but it's slamming into some toasty temperatures, a slew of record high temperatures yesterday, hundreds of record high.

This is just a few of them, 88 in Columbia, South Carolina. It's 87 degrees as far north as Norfolk, Virginia. Today, 76 in Chicago. That's a good 30 degrees above average. Again, this trend will continue it looks like right through the week.

Daytime highs for your St. Patrick's Day, 62 New York, 76 in D.C., 81 in Atlanta and 78 degrees in Chicago. That will likely be the warmest St. Patrick's Day on record. The next 90 days don't look much cooler.

The CPC Prediction Center is saying above average temperatures for a good chunk of the country right through the rest of spring -- Christine.

ROMANS: Enjoying Chicago. Green river and you can wear shorts. Thanks, Rob.

Today's "A.M. House Call" researchers say eating a lot of white rice could put you at risk for Type II diabetes. New study finds that Americans who eat high amounts of white rice are 12 percent more likely to develop that disease than others.

The risk is higher in Asian countries where white rice is a main part of the diet. People in China and Japan who eat the most rice are 55 percent more likely to develop Type II diabetes.

A group of daredevils take the dine and dash to the most extreme level. Four men skip out on their tab by jumping off the restaurant balcony 55 floors up in the skyscraper of Melbourne.

The men walked in the restaurant wearing parachutes under their business suits. They changed in the bathroom and then leaped off the balcony and shuttled away in their getaway car.

O'BRIEN: What was the point of that? I'm going to guess it was bravo.

CAIN: If you're going to parachute off the top of the building take something more than a free meal.

ROMANS: Because we would talk about it.

O'BRIEN: The whole point, right, of the free meal was to stiff them because you got to get into the story as if jumping off the balcony of a restaurant wasn't enough, also had to support a wait staff person.

LIVINGSTON: All or nothing.

O'BRIEN: Wow, that's crazy, 56 -- that's -- that could end badly if you don't do it right. All right, thanks, Christine.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, racial tension in Central Florida. A teenager, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed. The gunman though remains free. We're going to have an exclusive interview with his mother and his father up next.

And then some insight into the shooting rampage that killed 16 Afghan civilians. We'll tell you why officials say the United States soldier who is allegedly responsible just snapped. You're watching STARTING POINT. A short break and we're back in just a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Heartbroken family is speaking out for the very first time. Outraged at the man who killed their son is still walking free. The boy was 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. He was shot dead on February 26th.

He was walking home from 7-11 near Orlando through a gated community, which is where his father's fiance lives. A neighborhood watch captain by the name of George Zimmerman, that's his picture there, admits he shot Trayvon Martin, but he claims it was in self- defense. The family says it was racial profiling. An unarmed black boy shot by a larger armed white man.

Joining me this morning for an exclusive interview is Tracy Martin, his Trayvon's dad, Sybrina Fulton is Trayvon's mom, and Benjamin Crump is the family's attorney.

It's nice to see you all of you and I thank you for joining us.

Mr. Crump, I'll start with you because when we spoke last you were outraged that there had been no charges filed against George Zimmerman. The 911 tapes had not been released yet. What's changed since we last spoke?

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY: Nothing, nothing at all. The Sanford Police Department has passed the buck to the state attorney's office. And now they are doing an investigation. So more nights go by where these parents go to bed knowing that their son is in a grave and the man who killed their son is free sleeping in his own bed.

O'BRIEN: Tracy, I want to ask you a little bit about Trayvon. Do you feel that there's been enough focus on him and his story? Tell me a little bit about him.

TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FATHER: I think that they're trying to focus -- they're trying to turn the focus away from Mr. Zimmerman. Certainly Trayvon's story is getting out. And the whole world see that this is a tragedy. It's sad. It's sad as a father to have to bury your child. As a parent, you never want to imagine about burying your kids. And for me to have to bury my son is just -- it's sad.

O'BRIEN: I got to tell you, we can't even imagine. It's just absolutely heartbreaking to hear you say that.

Sybrina, if I could ask you, tell me about Trayvon as a kid, 17 years old. What were his hobbies, tell me about, you know, what he liked.

SYBRINA, FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER: He was into sports. He loved playing football. He loved watching football. He loves basketball. He loves to eat everything in your house.

O'BRIEN: Seventeen-year-old boy, yes. (LAUGHTER)

FULTON: Yes. He loved music. He loves kids. He loves to baby- sit and wash cars and just a normal kid.

O'BRIEN: We're hearing in the absence of 911 calls sort of fill- in conversations from some of the neighbors. And I'm going to play a little bit of what one neighbor had to say. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY CATCHER, WITNESS: We were both standing in here. And as we heard the kid crying, we kind of looked at each other and that's when we heard the gunshot immediately. Once the gun went off, the crying stopped.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: It's the neighbors, Benjamin, that have had to sort of fill in the gaps because the 911 tapes had not been released. What are you hearing? What are the details you're getting from the neighbors?

CRUMP: It's real clear that the police chief said the reason they could not arrest this homeowner's association loose cannon is because they said they had no evidence to contradict his claim of self-defense. Well, that isn't true. These women called the police. They said several times. And the police either disregarded them or tried to attack their statements.

And that is the pattern we're seeing, Soledad, that anything to effect an arrest on George Zimmerman, the Sanford Police Department continues to deny or try the frustration of these parents saying we're not going to arrest him.

O'BRIEN: Why do you think that is, Mr. Martin, or Mrs. Martin? Why do you think that they seem to be so reluctant to move forward on, you know, the guy representing the homeowner's association?

MARTIN: I have no idea. It's surprising. It's shocking. It just leaves -- it lets me know that justice is just not being served here. All we want is justice for our son. We're not asking for anything out of the ordinary. We're asking that justice for Trayvon is brought upon the American people.

O'BRIEN: We're going to take a short -- yes, go ahead, Mr. Crump. Excuse me.

CRUMP: I was just going to simply say, they are trying to espouse this claim of self-defense. Trayvon Martin had a bag of Skittles. He was walking home. These witnesses say the kid was the one crying for help. And that seemed like he was trying to get home. And it was Zimmerman who was pursuing him.

Now why the police won't arrest Zimmerman, it is baffling. If Trayvon would have been the person who pulled the trigger he would have been arrested day one, hour one, and he wouldn't have even been given bail.

O'BRIEN: We're going to continue this conversation, if we can, right after this short break. And we're going to bring in Jeff Toobin to talk a little bit about the law that a lot of this rests on in the state of Florida.

A short break and we're back in just a moment.

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O'BRIEN: And we're back with Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton and their lawyer Benjamin Crump. And I appreciate you sticking around to talk to us.

So I want to know how much of this, do you think, is about race? Here's what the Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said. He said, "Our investigation is color blind and based on facts and circumstances, not color. I know I can say that until I'm blue in the face but as a white man in a uniform I know it doesn't mean anything to anybody."

Is this ultimately, in your minds, about the race of your son who is a 17-year-old black kid?

MARTIN: To me, if Trayvon had did the shooting, he would have been arrested. He would have been arrested on the spot.

O'BRIEN: Sybrina -- yes, go ahead.

CRUMP: So there is a history, we think, with the Sanford Police Department that they had other instances like this and it really goes to your series, "Black in America." It's a different reality at times, and these parents -- you know, they are just outraged. You think that if my son doesn't have a weapon and somebody kill him in cold blood, you at least arrest him. He can make that self-defense argument, but that's in court with the judge and the jury after he's been arrested.

But for him to not ever be arrested and he gets to go home the same night that he killed my son and sleep in his bed, it's just -- there's something going on here that doesn't pass the common sense test.

O'BRIEN: Benjamin Crump is the family attorney and Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton are Trayvon's parents.

Our condolences to you and we appreciate you talking with us about this case this morning. Thank you.

MARTIN: Thank you.

CRUMP: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: All right, Jeff Toobin, a lot I want to get to in this. First of all, do you think it is as unusual as we hear from the family attorney that in fact George Zimmerman has not been arrested? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Not necessarily, because here you have a guy who is not going anywhere. I'm sure he's -- he is -- the police have been told that he is not going to disappear. It's important to do a thorough investigation, but it's important to do an investigation.

This is an appalling, appalling case, and it's important to remember that this guy, Zimmerman, he was not a cop. He was just a private citizen so he had no training in how to use a gun. He had no training in how to be a law enforcement officer. So I think, you know, his behavior is suspicious, to say the least.

O'BRIEN: Well, part of the case is going to have to hinge on what police told Zimmerman, which was when he called in to 911, and there's a lot that's been said about these tapes which haven't been released yet.

TOOBIN: Right.

O'BRIEN: That they said stay put. And he did not stay put.

TOOBIN: Right.

O'BRIEN: He completely, you know, dismissed the instructions. What kind of role could that play in the case, do you think?

TOOBIN: I mean, I think it is relevant but it is not the determining factor. The real issue here is is self-defense the -- you know, was there self-defense here? And you know, the police have pointed out that Zimmerman apparently did have some wounds. He had a bloody nose, he had blood on the back of his head, so there is at least some evidence that there was some sort of struggle.

O'BRIEN: OK --

TOOBIN: But you can't kill people.

O'BRIEN: I was going to say --

TOOBIN: You can't kill people.

O'BRIEN: What -- self-defense of what? Being beaten up, being punched in the nose?

TOOBIN: Right. But, I mean, that's where the facts, we don't know the facts. But Florida has an unusually protective self-defense law, the so-called stand your ground law which does give a defense to people who respond to provocation. But --

O'BRIEN: So will that mean George Zimmerman gets off?

TOOBIN: Well, it may mean he gets off. I mean that's -- I mean look, this is a really awful case and you cannot kill people just because you feel threatened, but, you know, the facts are murky at this point.

O'BRIEN: But Jeff --

TOOBIN: And I don't blame the police for not arresting right away and doing a thorough investigation first.

O'BRIEN: We have -- we have to take a commercial break. And we're going to ask you to stick around the commercial break so we can keep talking about this.

Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, we're going to have new information about the U.S. soldier who's charged with slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians. We'll tell you what some people he just snapped.

Plus Megan McCain is in "Playboy." He says how America would be different if it was her father who was the president.

And the new iPad 3 makes its debut. Of course the lines already long outside the Apple store. That's a live picture. And it's raining today so that's going to be just a hot mess. We'll tell you about that.

We're listening to Abbey (INAUDIBLE) playlist. This is Rihanna, "We Found Love."

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

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