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Jon Corzine's Bombshell Email; Vigil Demanding Justice for Trayvon Martin

Aired March 23, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And we have breaking news right now. A vigil beginning in Florida demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. We are going to go there live.

But first, moments ago a bombshell e-mail from Jon Corzine's last day of the CEO have a announced a defunct trading company MF Global. The biggest bankruptcy since Lehman brothers. The email from a firm executive says Jon Corzine gave quote, "direct instructions to transfer client funds to cover and overdraft in another account." It was just three months ago when Jon Corzine told members of Congress this --


JON CORZINE, FORMER EXECUTIVE, MF GLOBAL: Anyone at MF Global to misuse customer funds, never intended to, and as far as I'm concerned, I never gave instructions that anybody could misconstrue.


BURNETT: Well, how damning is the e-mail we now have. Marc Fernich is the defense lawyer who has represented John Gotti Jr. and Steve Matthews. OUT FRONT tonight.

Looks like there was a $200 million in a segregated customer account. They got put into another account, treasure of MF Global has in an e-mail, quote, "this was per JC" Jon Corzine's direct instructions.

MARC FERNICH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right. Well, Erin. Obviously, Corzine didn't write the e-mail. We don't know if the moneys that were transferred were actually client monies. We don't know even if they were client moneys that Corzine knew they were, because the account also contained firm funds which were, could have been transferred out properly, and apparently Corzine and the firm nobody ever represented in writing that they weren't client funds. So, I think --

BURNETT: Do you think there's room to dance around here?

FERNICH: Exactly, the legal room. It looks bad at first blush but it's by no means open and shut.

BURNETT: And obviously, this is a House committee on financial services report as they continue to investigate this.

FERNICH: Well, that maybe the bigger problem if he lied previously to congress. He is going on whole heat of trouble more than anything he would have done in terms of the underlying conduct.

BURNETT: What's your take on where this eventually goes? There's been a lot of talk. Because bankruptcy since Lehman Brothers, no financial executive or anyone linked to the financial crisis has gone to jail, including countrywide CEO, Angelo Mozilo, charges dropped. Will Jon Corzine be the first?

FERNICH: I could be two ways. He could be scapegoat but in all probability, I think that he'll wiggle out of it no matter how bad it looks right now.

BURNETT: And do you think because this memo, this e-mail we have, this is the worst evidence that they have? I mean, is that good news or, for him or --

FERNICH: Unless they're holding something back. If this is the smoking gun, the smoke is pretty hazy.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much. Marc, we appreciate the perspective.

We need, if this continues, as think investigation continues by the house financial services committee of Jon Corzine.

Well, other breaking news story tonight, literally at this moment, supporters gather for a candlelight vigil in Sanford, Florida for teen shooting victim Trayvon Martin. The vigil is beginning as we speak. Martin's family and supporters continuing to demand the arrest of neighborhood watch man, George Zimmerman. Zimmerman claims he shot the teen in self-defense. The teen's death sparked rallies across country. And for the first time today, President Obama weighed in.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son he'd look like Trayvon. And, you know, I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and that we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.


BURNETT: Also learning tonight, that 28-year-old George Zimmerman has hired a defense attorney. Craig Sonner is his name and he spoke with CNN just a couple moments ago and says right now Zimmerman is in an undisclosed location for his safety. He said he's under a lot of stress but then he is cooperating with the police.

Now, let's go to John Zarrella who is at the vigil in Sanford, Florida, for the latest.

So, tell us a little bit about of what's happening there. Obviously, as dusk descends.

JOHN ZARELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just now getting started. People are still gathering here outside the Allen chapel where this candlelight vigil is just getting started. And, the idea tonight is to put a cap of a week of activities in this community as they honor the memory of Trayvon Martin. With me lighting of candles here during this one-hour ceremony.

You know, last night a very large crowd, seven to 10,000 people, there have been marches and demonstrations all across the country. Dozens of high schools, walk-outs during the past two days here in Florida by students showing support.

Another rally planned on Monday in Atlanta, and, of course, another big event here on Monday at the city council meeting. A marched plan to that city council meeting by people here in the community and then they expect their voiceless will be heard Monday at that meeting.

But, you know, this has been a very long week here, and you get the sense, Erin, that people here are emotionally drained. If not in many respects physically drained - Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, John. Obviously, hard to hear there. As it ramps up. We'll keep you posted on how many people come and how that vigil in Sanford, Florida, is tonight.

You heard president Obama weigh in into the case. That was just this morning. And later today the Republican candidates followed suit.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's chilling to hear what happened, and, of course, the fact that law enforcement didn't immediately go after and prosecute this case is another chilling example of, you know, obviously horrible decisions made by people in this process.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have faith that the American system of justice will, in fact, work. And that this is why you have a balance between the police and the district attorney. The district attorney has the ability to step in and say, wait a second. Let's look at this again. They're clearly doing that. The police chief himself has been suspended. And I think that Americans can recognize, and while this is a tragedy, it is a tragedy, that we're going to relentlessly seek justice and I think that's the right thing to do.


BURNETT: Mitt Romney did not comment, obviously, on camera, but he did release a written statement publicly saying quote, "what happened to Trayvon Martin is a tragedy. There needs to be a thorough investigation that reassures the public that justice is carried out with impartiality and integrity."

Our political panel is here. John Avlon, Reihan Salam, and Jamal Simmons.

John, let me start with you. Did the president go far enough? Did he go too far, did he get right?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think he walked the right line. He was speaking as a parent reminding everyone of the commonality that all parents should feel when a child, a teenager is murdered. And question remains. So, I think he hit it at the right tone. It wasn't political. It was personal, and speaking as the president of the United States, that's a more powerful message than it could be by politicizing.

BURNETT: , you were tweeting today that some GOP candidates were followers because the president came out first.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, not just because the president came out first. I've been sort of tweeting and facebook-ing all this all week that Romney and Santorum as leaders in the president's campaign on the Republican side hadn't come out and said anything.

Three days ago I noted Sam Youngman from the hill, asked Mitt Romney on the rope line for a statement on this and Mitt Romney walked away and wouldn't say anything. Today he didn't say anything on camera. He put it out on a statement, and the governor of Florida asked for a task force today. I'm just wondering whether or not the Republicans decided to sit back and let the Republican governor of Florida lead on this before they came out and said something. I think if they want to be leaders they should have come out a little earlier and said something earlier than today.

BURNETT: Reihan?

REIHAN SALAM, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY: It's interesting that Jamal says that. My sense that there's been a remarkable consensus. The other Republican governor of Florida saying, you know, something we might need to revisit the law surrounding this incident. You have the co-author of the legislation saying the same so-called "Stand Your Ground" legislation saying the same thing.

You have major these Republican presidential candidates saying this is a profound tragedy. You have the Senate Republican majority lead are saying the same as well as democratic leaders across the board. You have a huge outpouring of sympathy and deep concern.

And so, I've got to say, saying that, well, you know, this person came first, that person came first. That doesn't seem to be the key message here. The key message seems to be that everyone is deeply troubled.

And the other thing I want to say about what the president said is this. There are a lot of people in this country who don't feel as if the criminal justice system is truly legitimate. That it actually gives them equal justice and that they feel genuinely left out and disenfranchised. And so, I think it was very valuable not only for the president but his candidates to say, wait a second, we believe this system is going to work and hope that it works.

BURNETT: It's bipartisan. Go ahead?

SALAM: On that point, five days ago the justice department initiated its investigation of this. The Republicans are running for president would have to make a decision whether or not they would have asked the DOJ or FBI to get involved in this and that was really the question to be answered. Whether or not them, aspiring president's works have asked for the department of justice to investigate and nerve her -

SIMMONS: This happened in late February and it's bubbled up in way that was very unpredictable that is driven by social media and it's not the kind of thing where every single person, every constituent would do it the same way.

BURNETT: Mitt Romney could have stepped up and tried to make a mark. And say, you know what, I would call for a justice department investigation.

SIMMONS: The job of a attorney general -- the job of the attorney general, fundamentally different of a job of a presidential candidate. It's absolutely to the attorney general. And a Republican or democratic attorney general should pay attention to incidents like this. But the truth is that to hold every candidate in every race accountable, I don't know if that makes a lot of sense.


AVLON: One of the remarkable things about the case, of course, is the way that this present. Here's a murder that occurred last month and it's grown in public awareness and public outrage. And I think it reach as point where we can depolarize the conversation.


AVLON: I do think it is incumbent upon Republican candidates in particular to try to adjutant today they did some quite eloquently, some less than that.

BURNETT: And let me - let me just make it a little bit more personal. Because when the president said, Jamal - that if he had a son it would look like Trayvon, obviously, it was a comment about race, Jamal. And you said it reminded you of something that president and his wife said in a "60 minutes" interview back in 2007. And so, I just wanted to play that and give awe chance to talk about it. Here it is.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: The realities are the, you know, as black man, you know, Barack can get shot going to the gas station, you know. So you know, you can't -- you can't make decisions based on fear, and the possibility of what might happen. We just weren't raised that way.



SIMMONS: Well I think -- I brought that up, because, you know, some people were criticizing the president for waiting so long before he said something. But there's something clearly in the first family. They identify with this. They lived on the south side of Chicago. They know the violence that occurs in communities. They know the pressure of being followed, and all of those things that happen to black males.

And when the president came out and he said that Trayvon could be my - he looks like, if I had a son he would look like Trayvon, it struck a core in me and a lot of people across the country that this is a real issue, and that we as a country have to deal with how we face up to this and especially at this moment where we kind moved past race on so many issues and people are willing to try to find a way to work together. We still have this lingering problem that exists in the country.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, all three of you. We appreciate it.

The jury's decided the fate of a millionaire charged with a deadly DUI. And it's official. Sergeant Robert Bales has been charged with the murder of 17 Afghan civilians. Will he face death? I'm going through the charges all day. We break down the case with a military lawyer.

And an American mother has been told that her twins are not American citizens. That story.


BURNETT: A guilty verdict today in the DUI case of a Florida millionaire and polo tycoon. John Goodman made headlines two years ago for legally adopts his 42-year-old girlfriend to apparently avoid losing his fortune in the case of killing a man in a drunk driving incident.

He was charged with vehicular homicide after a 2010 drunken crash when he drove his Bentley through stop sign. Former New York City prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, Paul Callan, joins me.

So, guilty verdict in this case. And obviously, he had tried to say, I hit the guy. I was so distraught. I went and got drunk, and -- tried to change the cause and effect. Obviously, that did not work. Are you surprised by this verdict? PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Not at all. I mean, what I'm surprised by was the defense. I mean, you know, the claim was he ran a stop sign. He had double the legal limit. He then, this kid was in the car and he floated to the bottom of the canal. Maybe he could have been saved if somebody called 911. So he fled the scene, and then started drinking apparently. And his lawyer, a very famous lawyer and a very good lawyer, Roy Black, said he was in so much pain he started drinking.

But, you know, guess what? He had a bottle of vicodin in the glove compartment of the Bentley. So, if he was in such pain, why not take the vicodin? Instead he went drinking. Prosecutor said he was drinking all night and of course, the jury believed the prosecutor.

BURNETT: He is facing up to 30 years in prison. Do you think he will get that?

CALLAN: I don't think he'll get 30 years but I do think that he's going to get a very tough, very high sentence, because --

BURNETT: Like what is tough and high?

CALLAN: Well, I would say, it is not going to be 30 years but, you know, it could be 15. It could be 20.


CALLAN: You know, it's going to be a substantial sentence, because he took the stand and he testified, and I think the judge is going to think he perjured himself under oath. The jury didn't believe this testimony. And I think there's an element of disrespect almost given to the victim of this by somebody saying that, by telling such a story that the jury so utterly rejected.

BURNETT: Refuted.


BURNETT: And then the adopting the girlfriend. This is obviously a criminal case. Now, we have a verdict, there's a civil case, and that's where of course, you could -- a lot of money could be at stake. He was a wealthy man. That's the reason he adopted the girlfriend to put the money in her name. Will that protect the assets in move like that in this case?

CALLAN: Well, it's a complicated thing because number one, there's already been - there's a rumor out there that the case is secretly settled. A sealed settlement. So, maybe - maybe this makes no difference whatsoever.

But the claim is, that this is money that was in a trust that would have been protected from attachment anyway. So, when he transferred it to his girlfriend, he wasn't really protecting the money. It was totally protected in when the names of his natural children. So I don't -- that's the press on this.

BURNETT: You are saying the motivation for adopting the girlfriend may have been differ.

CALLAN: I think --

BURNETT: At least money was somewhat - I mean, tasteful, understandable. Why else adopt your girlfriend?

CALLAN: The money's involved. What he's doing is she has the ability to control as much as possibility $100 million through the girlfriend. It doesn't mean that the people who were suing can now not get the money, but it does mean he has control over it. So, there's -- he has a motive to adopt a girlfriend.

BURNETT: Tragic story. A student hoop, who, was killed. Paul is going to stay with us. Because we have another case. This is a fascinating and very strange case. An American woman was living in Israel. And she had in vitro fertilization and it affected her children's citizenship. We're not kidding. Ellie Lavi was told by the U.S. consul in Israel that if she wanted her babies to have U.S. passports she must prove they have DNA from an American.

Matthew Chance spoke to her about the story.



MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): When Ellie Lavi gave birth to her beautiful twins, she couldn't have been happier. Months of fertility treatments paid off.

But when this woman of Chicago native, living in Israel went to the U.S. consulate to get little Maya and Sierra a passports, she was shocked.

LAVI: A guy took all my paperwork, asked all the questions and all of a sudden he said, one minute. And I knew that that meant something. I just had a gut --

CHANCE: What followed was a line of questioning Lavi says was offensive and humiliating.

LAVI: He brings out this woman and she said over the loud speaker, are those your children. I'm like, I don't understand. Of course they're my children. You have their birth certificates, and she said, well, where did the sperm come from? Whose eggs are they? And I just -- like, my world stopped.

CHANCE: Answer, of course, was not what the U.S. authorities needed to hear. The vice fertility treatment like many other women's involved egg and sperm donation. She's their legal but passports were denied.

As the law stands, there has to be a biological link between parents and children for them to qualify for a passport. Citizenship, in other words, follows the DNA. Problem is, the law hasn't kept up with advances in reproductive technology. And that means children like Maya and Sierra with an American mother (INAUDIBLE).

But now the family's case is drawing media attention amid growing calls for U.S. law to be changed. It could affect many other families, too.

LAVI: It actually makes the parent, is it the biological link or is it everything else that goes around it? Changes to keep up with life and fortunately, unfortunately, this is life today.

CHANCE: And as Lavi pointed out, children adopted by Americans from abroad already get U.S. citizenship. So why not hers?

Matthew chance, CNN, Tel Aviv.


BURNETT: Paul Callan joins me again. All right. So, this story, in a sense its sounds very bizarre. I mean, this woman has these children. These children were in her stomach. She gave birth to them. They are her children. Why is this happening?

CALLAN: Well, it does sound bizarre on the face of it. But, if you look at the immigration laws of the United States, they're very, very complicated. I mean, most people think it's in the U.S. constitution. Right? If you're the son of an American citizen, or the daughter of an American citizen you're an American citizen.


CALLAN: You think the constitution says that. In fact, the constitution only talks about the fact that you have to be an American citizen to become president. Of course, we had the whole birther controversy with President Obama.

In fact, Congress enacts these statutes and they're very complicated, and they haven't kept up with in vitro fertilization. So now you have foreign sperm for an egg implanted in American citizen living in Israel, and you know what they're saying? It's not American DNA. So it's not an American citizen. Well what is American DNA? We all come from someplace else. Right?

BURNETT: Well, yes. And I'm also curious, what are the rules for adoption? Because adopted children are adopted without American sperm or egg, they come to the United States and they become citizens. Right?

CALLAN: They become citizens. But, they only citizens after a lengthy period of time. They come over as non-citizens, and if they remain in the country for an extensive period of time, and their parents remain in the United States, they apply to become naturalized American citizens. And this Israeli mother, is really American mother. She has dual citizenship could bring this child to the United States and probably go through that procedure and get naturalized. BURNETT: But will the rule change now for in vitro fertilization?

CALLAN: I think it will. Because it hasn't kept up with technology. We got all these new procedures. Single mothers giving birth under these conditions and I think it's time for Congress to step up to the plate and get with the modern technology. So I think we'll is see changes here.

BURNETT: All right. Let's hope we do. Because this doesn't make sense otherwise in this case.

Paul Callan, thank you.


BURNETT: Two years ago today, the controversial health care bill known to critics as Obama care became the law of the land. But on Monday, it is facing its toughest challenge before the Supreme Court. A challenge, the president has embraced.

At the heart of the matter is whether it is constitutional to force every person in this country to buy insurance or face penalties if they don't. And health care is a hot ticket like as hot as getting the new ipad or seeing "hunger games."

I'm only slightly exaggerated because tickets to watch the oral arguments are in such demand that there are a few people who have signed are already waiting in line. I know that's not an ipad line. All right. But it's really rare to have people waiting to go to a Supreme Court case.

The legislation is complicated. There is a lot of rhetoric from both parties about what it does and doesn't do. So, we actually wanted to get to the bottom line. Some facts to this rather emotional debate. Who does the bill help and who does it hurt?

Lizzie O'Leary put a storybook spin on those questions.


LIZZIE O'LEARY, CNN AVIATION & REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Meet jack and Jill. They're married with two kids and together make $49,000 a year. About the middle American income. But like 15 million people with similar incomes, they don't have health insurance. Not good if you're worried about falling down a hill.

Under the new law, Jack and Jill are winners. They can buy private insurance from what's calmed an exchange starting in two years.

The idea is that lots of people buying at the same time month get a better price. And the plans have to meet minimum standards set by the government. Jack and Jill would also get a subsidy to help them buy their plan. Mary only makes $13,000 selling little lambs. She's also a winner. She can get insurance under an expansion of Medicaid. Seventeen million Americans like her will be eligible for that. And about 51,000 kids with pre-existing conditions, like Hansel and Gretel are also winners. They can't be denied coverage and all kids can stay on their parents insurance until they're 26.

Where's the money come from? Well, that brings us to the losers. Including the roughly 19 percent of Americans who have high-cost gold- plated health care plans. Like prince charming here.

Starting in 2018, that fancy plan he gets from his job at the castle would be taxed at 40 percent. He will also see his payroll taxes go up like the three million other Americans whose make more than 200,000 a year.

Also in the losing end, companies like fairy godmother industries. It employees more than 50 people making glass slippers. So it has to offer insurance or pay a fine.

Ninety four percent of similar sized companies already do. So, only a small number would pay more under the new law.

We end this story with a toss-up. Insurance companies would both win and lose. They'll have to pay the government more than $8 billion a year, but they get up to $40 million new customers, like Jack and Jill, who by law must get insurance or pay a penalty.

Lizzie O'Leary, CNN.


BURNETT: A very creative takes and answered a lot of questions.

Well, next OUT FRONT, we go to France. An inside, the bullet riddled apartment of the man who killed seven people over ten days in Toulouse. And a U.S. soldier officially charged with murdering 17 Afghan civilians. A military lawyer comes OUT FRONT to talk about the punishment.


BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about where we focus in our own report and do the work and find the OUT FRONT five.

And first tonight, President Obama getting ready to get on a plane. He's flying around the world to meet with other world leaders for a nuclear security summit in South Korea. The president arrives in Seoul on Sunday. It's a long flight. A big-time change. One of the main topics what to do about North Korea's pursuit the nuclear weapons.

North Korea announced last month that halted nuclear activities. No one believed them though Gordon Chang, who wrote a book on North Korea has told OUT FRONT, the country likely had hidden facility. Secretary of state, Hilary Clinton was also very cautious.

Number two, France's prime minister said today police had no grounds to arrest a gunman before his killing spree which left seven dead. Mohamed Merah had been under surveillance. And on the U.S. no fly list after trips to both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

France 2 television got video from inside Merah's apartment. As you can see there with all those bullet holes. This video came right after the 32-hour standoff which ended with police shooting and killing Merah.

OUTFRONT spoke with Merah's attorney, Christian Etelin, who told police wouldn't let him be a part of the negotiations. He thinks that the outcome would have been different if he could have talked to Merah, maybe he wouldn't be dead and they would be able to get information from him.

Number three: a temporary blackout of Malian state TV sparking rumors of continued clashes, but the leaders of the coup in the African country are still in power tonight, and the president is still unaccounted for. The United States is threatening to suspend aid to Mali which it fears is increasingly becoming a refuge for al Qaeda extremists.

The African Union suspended Mali's membership today as well. The leader of coup, Captain Amadou Sanogo, said he took action because the government wasn't taking on extremists and rebels. A source who spend considerable time in Mali was there last month, told me that while he thinks most Malians are not interested in the extremist Islam or Al Qaeda, they were upset when Moammar Gadhafi was executed. My source tells me that Gadhafi was buying hotels, investing in the country and his death added to dissatisfaction.

Number four, the groupies and devotees of "The Hunger Games" books are in high heaven. The movie opens tonight. Experts say it will have the biggest March opening ever and could be the biggest movie of the year. Lionsgate, which made the film, said "Hunger Games" brought in nearly $20 million alone in midnight sales. Analysts say it could bring in $125 million in its first weekend -- fewer than 20 movies in history actually opened at more than $120 in a weekend.

"Hunger Games" is what the box office needs, because U.S. theaters actually have seen a 4 percent drop in sales over the past year.

Well, it has been 232 since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Housing continues to be a problem. Today, sales of new homes came in. They fell in February by 1.6 percent. A little bit of a silver lining, though, for the market overall and them selling, prices up 8 percent.

Well, the Army staff sergeant accused of killing Afghan civilians in a shooting rampage was officially charged this afternoon. Now, there were 17 counts of premeditated murder. Thirty-eight-year-old Robert Bales also faces six counts of assault and attempted murder. Defense officials say more charges could be coming his way.

Now, if convicted on even one of the 17 murder charges, Bales will be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Now, the maximum he could face, the death penalty.

Ted Rowlands is in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, outside where Sergeant Bales is being held. He has been covering the story from Fort Leavenworth from the beginning.

Let me just ask you, Ted, first of all, if you could clear up. You know, last night, we were trying to make sense of why there were 17 charges when there have been reports of 16 civilians murdered. Obviously, it turns out there was another person killed, right?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's interesting, Erin. The Afghan government still has their casualty list at 16, but the United States government and charging documents released today say they have evidence that Robert Bales killed 17 innocent Afghani citizens. And that's what he's charged with.

BURNETT: And, Ted, I know that Sergeant Bales spoke to his wife for only the second time. Do you know what they talk about?

ROWLANDS: We don't. But we do know that the Army allowed that conversation to take place during a blackout period. They made a special exception to allow Bales to talk with his wife.

It was a phone conversation. She didn't come here to Leavenworth. But they did talk we understand for a period of time and the Army allowed them to have that conversation, even though technically, he was in a blackout period for another few days.

BURNETT: Ted, I wanted to ask you about these mitigating factors. I know that you have spoken to Sergeant Bales' attorney. And this morning, he tried to talk about those quote/unquote "mitigating factors" again in an interview on "CBS This Morning". Here he is.


JOHN HENRY BROWNE, ATTORNEY FOR ROBERT BALES: "The Hurt Locker," Charlie, you know, that's a Disney movie compared to what these guy, going through. You know, just seeing people blown apart next to you, picking up body parts, putting them in bags.


BURNETT: Ted, is there any way that they do not go for the death penalty because of things like that?

ROWLANDS: Well, absolutely. There's a chance that they will not pursue the death penalty down the road. Coming up next, you're going to have the Article 32. But before that or during that procedure, during that ongoing Article 32 investigation, they could also have a panel to evaluate Sergeant Bales mentally. See, have a psych panel and look to see if there are these mitigating factors that his lawyer claims are present, that would change the charges against him, or at least possibly the penalties.

But this is a long, drawn out process, and we haven't heard that that has taken place as of yet or that there are any plans to have that take place.

BURNETT: Ted Rowlands, thank you -- live from Fort Leavenworth tonight.

And now, Sergeant Bales, this whole issue of the death penalty and whether that is what prosecutors will go for. Obviously, being accused of premeditated murder, a lawyer is fighting back.

Listen to -- we just played with the lawyer told Charlie Rose, and he's trying to talk about the body bags and things he had seen, his client -- how painful the situation may have been.

Joining us is Jeffery King, defense and military lawyer.

Jeffery, when you heard what Sergeant Bales' attorney said just this morning, do you think that he has a real case for mitigating factors here or not?

JEFFERY KING, DEFENSE & MILITARY LAWYER: Absolutely, without question. The mental status of Staff Sergeant Bales is going to be the overriding factor in this case. The first thing that's going to happen actually, that the reporter was mentioning, it's called a 706 board.

And actually both sides most likely ask the commander to convene this board and have a medical board, medical personnel, evaluate Staff Sergeant Bales for really two things. The first would be his mental responsibility at the time of the incident. And, secondly, if he's even mentally competent to stand trial.

BURNETT: And isn't there, though, going to be -- supposedly it's a legal proceeding, but immense political pressure to go for the death penalty when 17 innocent people were killed.

KING: Absolutely. I mean, that's -- and that goes to why this is actually going to be such a long, drawn out process.

There is no defense attorney in his right mind is going to let this thing go to trial anytime soon, because the whole world is so fired up and wrapped around these issues. So, it will take a long time to bring this thing to trial and for that very reason.

BURNETT: And how long will it take? I know we've talked about -- that it could take years. I mean, it could take a decade theoretically for the appeals process to go through. But given the politics here, given that this is a war zone and the United States' role in Afghanistan may depend in part on how this is handled. Isn't there going to be pressure to move this quickly, finish the investigation and get the trial done, not stall? KING: Well, I think there'll be pressure to get answers and move things along from outside parties, but it's going to take a very long time to actually bring this to trial, and there's so many factors that play into that. For instance, as the attorney was saying earlier, with the fact that they don't seem to have any forensic evidence. I mean, we're talking about a crime scene in a combat zone. Everything is exponentially more difficult not to mention more dangerous when you're trying to preserve a crime scene in a combat zone.

So, all that has to be evaluated, and we have to gather all that evidence first before we can get this thing underway. So, for a trial, I would imagine at a minimum, about two years out until even arraignment, possibly.

BURNETT: Wow. Sort of hard to believe. Well, Jeffery King, thank you very much. Appreciate it -- military and defense lawyer.

And Israelis and Iranians are worried about the prospect of war. But they went online, Israelis and Iranians, and they did something pretty special.


BURNETT: We have breaking news.

Word just in to CNN that the Brevard County sheriff's office has arrested a man who sent a threatening e-mail to Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee with the subject line, "coming after you". Bill Lee stepped aside yesterday amid the fury over the handling of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

In other news, the shooter, George Zimmerman, has hired a defense attorney, Craig Sonner.

And Craig is coming OUTFRONT right now.

Craig -- so, thank you very much for coming OUTFRONT.

And could you tell me why you decided to take on this case?

CRAIG SONNER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Well, at this point, there seems like the case is spiraled into being an issue over race. And upon talking with my client, I don't believe that that's the case at all. I've talked with him and with people who know him, and he's not known for being a racist.

And whatever transpired that night, whether -- I think the issue is, was it an issue of self-defense or what actually occurred that night? Rather than an issue of race.

BURNETT: What has George Zimmerman told you about what happened that night?

SONNER: I have not discussed that, and that would be attorney/client privilege that I couldn't reveal at this point anyway. He has been cooperative upon my advice -- cooperative with police and with law enforcement in their investigation of what happened that night.

What evidence they have and so on -- I haven't seen all of it and don't know the details of it. There's an ongoing investigation and I'm not going to make any comment on those issues at this point.

The thing that we want to come out with now is that issue is not over race.

BURNETT: And why not? What did he tell you about race? Have you had a conversation with him about whether he just made an assumption because it was an African-American teenager he felt more threatened, because of Trayvon's race?

SONNER: No. As I said, I mean, was race an issue in this? And he said -- and he told me, no. I talked with -- he was a mentor to some African-American children. There was a single mother who had a 13-year-old -- 14-year-old boy, and a 13-year-old girl, and George mentored the boy and his wife mentored the girl. What that entailed was a program where they every other week, they'd take them somewhere for two or three hours, maybe to the mall, maybe to lunch, maybe to the science center, or maybe just go play basketball somewhere.

And that's something that George did with these children. And I spoke to their mother, and their mother trusted him. And I said, do you believe that George is a racist? And she said, no. And he also participated in fund-raisers for their church, which is primarily African-American.

And, you know, the people I've talked to so far and as well as George, I don't see any indication that it had to do with anything with race.

BURNETT: Is George Zimmerman concerned for his safety?

SONNER: I'm concerned for his safety, and I believe he is, too. There have been numerous threats. I've come out with this press release with these interviews just since 5:00 today. I've already gotten threatening phone calls myself.

So I think that he should be fearful of any retribution. I mean, there's, within the -- as lawyers say, within the four corners of the document, there's a poster out there on 8 1/2x11 sheet that says, wanted dead or alive with his picture on it.

And my advice to him, to my client, is, you know, take that seriously. There are people who really mean you harm.

BURNETT: What kind of threats you have received, Craig? I know George received specific --

SONNER: I just -- I don't know -- I don't have the specifics of George's. I guess, but there were so many as I understand that they got unlisted numbers at this time. Mine was saying that I was a racist and I forget what other profanity they used and hung up on me. So --

BURNETT: Do you have police protection, Craig?

SONNER: There's a lot -- not at this time.

BURNETT: Do you feel that you need it?


BURNETT: One key question a lot of people have here that all of us have had trouble understanding is how someone who has a gun ends up killing someone who does not have a gun. Trayvon Martin did not have a gun, right? I guess it's an Arizona iced tea and Skittles is what he had.

How are you going to prove that it is justifiable homicide to kill someone who did not have a gun? Regardless of the race issue?

SONNER: Well, that's a good question. And it's going to come down to what the evidence shows. And I don't know what all the evidence is or what transpired that night. That's what the trial is going to be about. And that's hopefully what the trial will stay about and not about being angry over a racial issue.

And that's, I think that's the point I'm trying to make this evening, is that, you know, let the police -- let the investigators do their job. Let's see what the evidence shows.

My client claims it was self-defense. And, of course, I'm -- inclined to believe him and hope we can prove that it was self- defense, and prove that in a court of law, and force the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he -- that it was self-defense if it -- and where it should be --


BURNETT: Craig, are you using the "Stand Your Ground" defense? Specifically, the "Stand Your Ground" statute?

SONNER: In my opinion, in my legal opinion, that's not really applicable to this case. The -- statute on "Stand Your Ground" is primarily when you're in your house. This is self-defense. That's been around forever. You have a right to defend yourself.

So the next issue is going to come up is, was he justified in using the amount of force he did? And that will be the question when we go to trial, if it goes to trial.

BURNETT: And finally -- a final question for you, Craig. Do you have a message for Trayvon Martin's family?

SONNER: We're -- I'm very sorry for their loss. The loss of a child is just, it's got to be -- it's devastating. It's just a terrible thing that happened that someone lost their life in this way.

BURNETT: All right. Craig Sonner, thank you very much for taking the time to join us tonight. George Zimmerman just hiring Craig as his defense attorney late this afternoon. So, we'll obviously continue to see how that transpires but very important to hear that he says he will not use the "Stand Your Ground" defense to defend his client. He thinks that self-defense is the appropriate way to go.

Let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look on what's coming up on "A.C. 360" -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Hey, Erin, I'm actually going to speak more with that attorney. Interesting enough, he told me he's been working for George Zimmerman for about two or three weeks now. Not just today. I also asked him if George Zimmerman has a message for Trayvon Martin's family. He said, no, he does not. Not at this time.

So, we're also going to speak to the mayor of Sanford, Florida, about how this community is coping with this tragedy and if the mayor himself has confidence in his own police department's investigation. It turns out many residents of Sanford certainly don't have much trust in the police department.

Tom Foreman looks at the reasons why cases in the past that have raised a lot of questions.

Also ahead, the night before the GOP primary in Louisiana, where he's leading in the polls, Rick Santorum spent the day on the defense over something he said yesterday.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, thank you.

Well, an Israeli artist is pushing for peace with Iran, which is a pretty amazing story. It's next.

And a bagel man's big idea.


BURNETT: So take a look at this. An Israeli graphic designer named Ronny Edry posted this picture of himself and his daughter on Facebook last weekend. It got a lot of likes. So he started a whole page called Israel loves Iran. A page which now has over 29,000 likes and has inspired dozens of other Israelis to upload their own messages of peace.

It was amazing to go through them today. Now, Ronnie told "The National", which is a newspaper from Abu Dhabi, quote, "Israelis think of Iranians as crazy people who want to bomb them. I wanted to reach the other side and show that they are people just like us, mothers and fathers who want the best for their children."

And that brings me to tonight's number, 7,256. That's how many likes the page Iran loves Israel has gotten. That's right. A group of Iranians have started a page to send the love back to Ronnie and Iranian.

Despite heavy government censorship in Iran, Iranians of all ages found ways to post anti-war messages and images on this page. We went on today and we saw messages like, quote, "why must people suffer because of their government?" And, yes, of course, some people made fun of the campaign and created parodies.

But for the most part, people have embraced the campaign's original anti-war message. And that's good because governments can get in the way of and act against the wishes of those they represent.

And social media, because -- or perhaps because of the anonymity often lends itself to relentless negativity in bringing people down -- but not this time. For a great, great opportunity, social media is being used to build people up and inspire our leaders to work towards peace. And that is something we celebrate tonight.

Well, something else we celebrate tonight is a little bit more in the mundane but it is something that, frankly, changed the world of bagels forever. That's next.


BURNETT: Tonight's "IDEA" -- the man who disrupted the way America eats. Murray Lender was a true innovator in his field. And tonight, we remember him.


BURNETT (voice-over): The bagel's long journey from urban Jewish street food to one of America's favorite breakfast foods began with -- get this -- a slice of pizza and a charismatic and quirky man named Murray Lender.

MURRAY LENDER: I haven't gone soft. I just hate bagels that get hard the day after you buy them.

BURNETT: Almost 70 years ago, Murray was enjoying a big slice of pizza when he was struck with an idea -- what if he could teach the non-Jewish world to love bagels as much as he loved pizza? But there was a problem, how to keep them fresh? At the time, bagels had to be consumed day of and couldn't be transported.

So, young Murray did something no self-respecting bagel-maker at the time would have ever considered -- he stuck the bagels in the freezer. Lender's became first bakery in the world to freeze bagels and is now the best-selling bagel brand in America, a staple on grocery lists.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do. I buy them (ph) a lot.

BURNETT: Murray Lender passed away on Wednesday at the age of 81. But his seemingly small idea shaped the bagel literally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Oh, I love that bagel even more than ever before, they go down so nicely and I'll do it again once more.


BURNETT: Anderson Cooper starts now.