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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Thousands To March For Trayvon Martin; Healthcare Reform Heads To High Court; Mass Rally For Trayvon Martin; "The Hunger Games" By the Numbers; Dick Cheney's Heart Transplant

Aired March 26, 2012 - 05:59   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: It is now just before 6:00 a.m. on the East Coast. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN HOST: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you the news from A to Z. It is almost 6:00 a.m. here in the East, so let's get started for you here.

BANFIELD (voice-over): And we're looking to have the biggest collection now of crowds. They're getting larger. This rally today planned in honor of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, one month after that teenager was gunned down by George Zimmerman, a man who was not charged in that death.

His lawyer though is now speaking out in saying George Zimmerman suffered a broken nose and a bruised and cut head and says that the whole story still has to come out.

SAMBOLIN: Health care reform heads to the Supreme Court. The justices begin hearing arguments this morning, 26 states are challenging President Obama's health care overhaul. At heart of the debate, whether the individual mandate is even constitutional.

BANFIELD: President Obama among more than 50 world leaders attending the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, this morning and the president had a harsh warning for the neighbor to the north, North Korea, all of that even before his official welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Police officers in Oklahoma City are under investigation this morning. They were caught on surveillance tape, look at this, dragging a hand cuffed man through an airport, face down, that after tasering him.

BANFIELD: I smell a civil suit there. The video says a lot, doesn't it?

And the final four is set, check your brackets. There is no Cinderella story this year. It will be Kentucky and Louisville and Kansas versus Ohio State on Saturday in New Orleans.

SAMBOLIN: And one month after he was gunned down, Trayvon Martin has become a national symbol. Today, thousands are expected to march in the biggest rally for justice yet. That's for the unarmed teenager whose life was cut short by a neighborhood watchman named George Zimmerman.

That march begins with a rally at 4 p.m. right outside the First United Methodist Church in Sanford, Florida. Crowds will then make their way to the civic center that's about a half a mile away.

It is at the civic center where city officials will hold a town hall meeting. It is also where Trayvon's parents are expected to speak. Yesterday, worshippers traded their Sunday best for hoodies in churches across the country, something that has become a national symbol of the fight.

CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Sanford, Florida, with the latest on that march and what we could expect. Good morning.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Zoraida. You're right. Thousands of people are anticipated, tempers and emotions are expected to be running high. In fact so high that the family of Trayvon Martin has already put out a statement in advance they will be participating tonight, but they're asking that civility rules at this particular meeting that is taking place.

There are concerns of people's passions, their tempers, and their attitudes could get out of hand. The family certainly does not want that. They are asking that this is a town hall meeting, it is a chance for people to speak to one another, not to rage at one another.

And that's the concern that they have about this meeting that's going to take place tonight. We should point out that the family of Trayvon Martin has been very outspoken.

That's the reason they believe the tragedy reached not just across the nation, but in some cases all the way around the world. They say that now the world knows who their son is -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Have we heard anything more on the investigation per se?

SAVIDGE: Well, all eyes right now, of course, remain on George Zimmerman and waiting to see if he is going to say anything. We know that he has spoken to authorities on at least one, perhaps two occasions talking about the fatal shooting that happened that night.

But other than that, all of the talking has come from his attorney Craig Sulner and so far, Craig Sulner is saying that the stand your ground law, the one that is particular to the state of Florida he says it does apply in this particular case to his client and that's where things stand right now as the sprinklers come on here at the park.

SAMBOLIN: Gosh, sorry about that. Martin, you handled it well. Martin Savidge live for us in Sanford, Florida. Thank you.

BANFIELD: Have to move him out of the way quickly right. It's now 3 minutes past 6:00 on the east coast and in four hours, the nation's highest court will begin the process of determining whether or not President Obama's health care overhaul is constitutional.

The Supreme Court will begin the oral arguments at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Twenty six of our 50 states are challenging this health care measure and the arguments, are you ready? Make sure you get a seat pause they're going to be six hours long, over the course of three days.

Don't expect a quick judgment, though, we never do get those a couple of months at least, maybe in June we'll hear the argument or at least the decisions handed down.

The individual mandate says that most Americans must buy health insurance by 2014 or they're going to have to pay a penalty. Some people say it's a tax. Is it legal?

Kate Bolduan is live at the Supreme Court this morning. So Kate, day one is broken down into sort of the jurisdictional thing. Can we even be hearing this case today? Take me from there.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's broken down as you well laid out, Ashleigh, four issues, six hours over three days. This shows just how important this case is, just how much importance the justices are putting on this case because this rarely happens when they give this much time to oral arguments.

So as you said, today begins in a little bit more dry of an argument, but important issue. Can the justices, should they even be hearing this case right now because many of the main provisions including the individual mandate don't go into effect until 2014.

Should they even be hearing the case until it's all in place? They're going to be hearing 90 minutes of oral arguments on that today. Then looking into tomorrow that is the main event, the central issue, really what this entire case hinges on.

The justices will be hearing two hours of oral argument, on the question of the individual mandate, is it constitutional? Twenty six states sued, are challenging this saying that it is not constitutional.

The Obama administration is defending the law, of course, that it is saying it is constitutional, should stay in place, that is what we're all have our eyes on when we will be on the courtroom. Very important how the justices will be leaning, we'll be looking at how they lean, the questions that they ask, very important tomorrow.

Looking into Wednesday, you're getting two issues, also important, but we're kind of considering a little bit of the side issues, the issue of severability, as we talk about it here in front of the court.

If the individual mandate is ruled unconstitutional, does the entirety of the rest of the law have to be thrown out as well? That's one issue. The final issue is having to do with Medicaid.

Can the federal government force the states to expand their share of the costs of covering the Medicaid program, when the eligibility of being able to get into Medicaid expands under this law?

Twenty states are suing saying they cannot. It's a states' rights issue versus the leverage that the federal government has. Twenty states are suing as I said. The Obama administration is defending their position on that as well.

So many issues, but again, we're trying to keep it focused on the central issue, what this case hinges on, Ashleigh, is the issue of the individual mandate.

BANFIELD: So here's a weird question. I'm not sure anybody has been able to answer this one so I'm certainly not going to push this on you. It's dark outside the Supreme Court.

BOLDUAN: Bring it on.

BANFIELD: If we don't get any kind of decision today regarding the jurisdictional issue meaning we can't decide this until it's challenged. The new can't have a challenge until it's actually in place. Do we shut down the whole week or can we move on to the Medicare/Medicaid issue?

BOLDUAN: You will get passed today. They will have all three days of oral arguments. The gateway issue, the jurisdictional issue, why it's so important, whenever we get the ruling, be it in a couple of weeks, June, which is expected.

If they rule first that they cannot hear this case until the rest of the entirety of the law goes into effect that basically puts the brakes on all the legal proceedings. It will delay any further legal action.

It doesn't necessarily stop it, but delay it a few years really before they can move forward with the major challenge against the individual mandate. So this is kind of considered the sleeper issue in this case.

It could be important, but again, if it comes out they say yes, we can hear it, because interestingly if I have one more second to tell you, both sides, both of the main players in this case, the 26 states that are suing as well as the federal government.

They both at this point agree that they should move forward, they should get a quick decision on it, they should be able to hear the rest of the case, that this jurisdictional gateway issue should not impact the rest of the law.

The justices had to bring outside counsel to argue that point because neither of the big players were standing on that side of the issue.

BANFIELD: Two words we don't hear when it comes to the nine justices, quick decision. Kate Bolduan, thank you.

BOLDUAN: It's good thing though, you want them to consider this slowly and methodically. BANFIELD: Thanks very much. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: It is eight minutes past the hour. Still ahead: the wife of the soldier accused in the Afghan massacre is speaking out saying he loves children, that he would never do that. Other military wives coming out to support her as well. We will talk to one of them.

BANFIELD: A major earthquake strikes Chile, one of the same areas that got hit and hit hard two years ago. We'll take you there.

SAMBOLIN: And former Vice President Dick Cheney recovering from a heart transplant, but is he too old to get one? He is 71 years old. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 12 minutes past the hour. Busloads of college students and protesters are heading to Central Florida today to join a mass rally.

One month ago today, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman. Martin's parents will speak at a special town hall meeting this afternoon in Sanford, Florida.

Parishioners at churches across the country wore hoodies yesterday showing solidarity with the victim's family. The 17-year- old was hearing a hoodie when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.

And in Baltimore, Reverend Jamal Harrison Bryant wore a hoodie while leading Sunday services at the Empowerment Temple. You can see in this video from "The Baltimore Sun."

He helped organize today's rally and joins us this morning from Sanford, Florida. Reverend, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Can you tell us who you are expecting to attend the rally?

REVEREND JAMAL HARRISON BRYANT, EMPOWERMENT TEMPLE, BALTIMORE: Good morning to you. I think that all different walks of life will come. Students are coming from college campuses, families are coming, church groups are coming.

This is really a new generation stepping up to take the baton of civil rights. You're getting ready to see a demographic that previously has not shown up, that the demographic between 18 and 45. And it's so an alarming moment for so many of us who realize it could have been any one of us.

SAMBOLIN: Now you say that this is going to be this generation's Selma, Alabama. Could you explain that?

BRYANT: Yes, I think that this begins the birth of the hip-hop generation's embracing of civil rights. Heretofore, we've not seen our generation involve and engage in this capacity. But when you see these demonstrations happening around the country, it says that young people are really gravitating behind this Trayvon Martin issue because the young man was not in a club, he was not in some seemly situation. He was walking home, and the reality is if you don't feel safe going home, where can you feel safe?

SAMBOLIN: Now you mentioned the hip-hop generation, right? And the hoodie has kind of become a symbol of that generation. I want to read something, too. I want you to listen to something Fox News's Geraldo Rivera said that sparked a lot of outrage and then I want to talk about that hoodie in particular.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Now, your sermon was focused on the hoodie as well. And we understand that this incident is not just about the hoodie, but perception really is important here, right? And unfortunately the perception seems to be that if you wear a hoodie like that, that perhaps you're a thug.

So when you're trying to change the perception here, isn't it important to address what these youngsters that you're going to have at your disposal the whole issue of the hoodie?

Oh, I'm not certain that you can hear me. Reverend, can you hear me?

It seems like perhaps we have lost communication with the reverend here. Oh, too bad. Gosh! I'm terribly sorry but we lost our communication there with Reverend Jamal Bryant. So, we'll try to get him back.

In the meantime, at 7:00 a.m. Eastern on STARTING POINT, Soledad O'Brien will be discussing the Trayvon Martin case with the Reverend Jesse Jackson as well and, hopefully, we can continue this dialogue -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: It's now 16 minutes past 6:00.

Time to check our top stories making news this morning with Christine Romans standing by -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Ashleigh.

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake hitting central Chile. That quake shook buildings in the capital of Santiago and triggered an evacuation along parts of the coast. Three people were injured but no major damage. The region is still reeling from a devastating 8.8 magnitude quake back in 2010.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney recuperating in a Virginia hospital after heart transplant surgery this weekend. The 71-year-old Cheney was on the transplant waiting list for more than 20 months and he was nearing the age limit. We'll talk to CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen about this procedure and the process later this hour.

Hollywood's next big thing lived up to all that hype. Oh, there was so much hype. "The Hunger Games" smashing box office records with a $155 million opening weekend. That makes it the third best debut ever, and best by a non-sequel.

And guess what, Ashleigh and Zoraida? The cinema score rating give it an A among people who are 25 and younger, A-minus among people who are 25 and older. Very big group of young people seeing this movie. You know, that's always a recession-proof age group.

It made a lot of money, made a lot of money this weekend.

BANFIELD: A and A-minus. That's it.

ROMANS: A and A-minus. That was the score.

BANFIELD: Not a lot of disparity there.

All right. Christine, thanks very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: Seventeen minute past 6:00, and it is never too early to see something blown up real good. Have a look at the screen.

SAMBOLIN: Something blown up real good.

BANFIELD: That blown up good, didn't it? Look at that, the "Orena". Oh, man, look at that! Look at that! You know, I don't know what it is, I think we all feel the same way, don't we? That's the former home of the Magic, coming crashing down. Find out why, how this thing ended.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: We are minding your business at 21 minutes past 6:00 on the East Coast.

"The Hunger Games" with a huge weekend box office opening. First of three installments, meaning that this series is going to make the studio a lot of money and that's Lionsgate.

SAMBOLIN: Definitely. Yes.

Christine Romans is here with more fun facts about this big opening weekend.

ROMANS: Fun facts about a movie about teens fighting to death. I mean, that's the premise of this movie is that these teens live in a place that's sort of a post-apocalyptic America and there are these different districts and then a kid is chosen and they have to fight to the death. The one who lasts until the end, then their people get food.

And it's really -- it is really a income equality on a very Hollywood scale. It all plays out on reality television, too.

So, there are all these interesting twists and turns that relate to tweens, I think. And, in fact, 39 percent of the audience this weekend were kids under the age of 18, and it was a slight majority, 61 percent were women. So especially women were appealed by this.

So, it came in the third best box office haul ever. "The Dark Knight" and second "Harry Potter" film beat this one out. When you look, it was more than $155 million it made over the weekend in this country, more than $200 million when you pulled in worldwide.

The highest grossing non-sequel. And why is that important and you pointed that earlier yesterday that look, this was a book, right, and it's not like those, the "Twilights." It did better than all of that "Twilights" or the "Harry Potters" or "Spider-Man," you know what it's about, brand new, came out of the gate, number three. A very big weekend.

SAMBOLIN: That says a lot, right? I mean, you expect the other ones are going to blow everything away because that first book was really incredible.

ROMANS: And a lot of people are salivating, because there's another one coming, I guess, in -- November 2013 will be the next one. So, it costs $80 million. So, it cost $80 million and one of the reasons why they could keep the costs down so much was because of tax credits from North Carolina where they shot it.

So, you got to imagine that the producers of the money behind this film are just doing a little victory dance today.

Now, they must have spent a fortune on marketing. As I was hearing about "Hunger Games" every time I stepped out, I saw "Hunger Games" something. It was already in all the celebrity magazines, pictures of this elaborate costuming of the people who are the top 1 percent. You know, you've hearing and seeing a lot about it. I didn't know what it was about and never seeing about it, and it paid off.

SAMBOLIN: We're talking $80 million, we think it's a lot of money. But it's really low.

BANFIELD: "The Dark Knight" costs somewhere around $250 million.

ROMANS: To make?

BANFIELD: Yes.

ROMANS: Wow.

BANFIELD: Eight million to $250 million -- shazam. What do you got?

ROMANS: Shazam.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Christine, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome, ladies.

BANFIELD: Twenty-three minutes now past 6:00.

One month since Trayvon was killed, but he was in a neighborhood watch area, and the person who shot him was the captain of the neighborhood watch program. So, do these programs work? You might be surprised. We'll let you know.

SAMBOLIN: And look at this, folks, look who won. Tiger Woods ending a 923-day dry spell.

You're watching EARLY START.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSE GOMEZ MARQUEZ: My name is Jose Gomez Marquez and I use toys to make affordable medical devices.

When you're using toys, it demystifies the process of medical technology. Often, we look at these medical devices and we think that they are black box and they need and expert to even take a screw driver at it.

You may not have the courage to have $1,000 device, but you definitely have the courage to have something that's $5 and if you got to live in the ingenuity to become something as powerful as $1,000 medical device.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Twenty-eight minutes past the hour here. Welcome back to EARLY START.

BANFIELD: Hi, everybody. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

It's time to check the stories that are making news this morning.

Rallies will mark one month since Trayvon Martin's death today, the unarmed teenager who was gunned down by George Zimmerman. Yesterday, churchgoers across the United States wore hoodies to show their support and to demand justice.

George Zimmerman's lawyer says the killing was justified, telling ABC that Zimmerman's nose was broken in that confrontation.

In less than four hours, the Supreme Court begins hearing arguments to determine whether President Obama's health care overhaul is constitutional. A ruling evict is expected in June. At the heart of the debate: whether the individual mandate is actually constitutional. It would require most Americans to buy health care insurance or face a tax penalty.

Look at that, like the Shaquille O'Neal slam. There it goes. Orlando's Amway Arena gone. This was under 10 seconds. It was old home of the Orlando Magic.

The building imploded in front of hundreds of people. A man two blocks away was actually hit in the leg with a piece of shrapnel from the blast. But luckily, he was not seriously hurt.

Well, he's back. For the first time in over two years, Tiger Woods is a winner on the PGA Tour. Tiger woods ended the drought at the Arnold Palmer Invitational yesterday, with a five-stroke victory. Tiger finding his form just two weeks before the Masters tees off -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Now, 29 minutes past 6:00.

Let's take you to Florida, shall we? George Zimmerman was the leader of a neighborhood watch in his gated community. He ignored a police dispatcher's instructions not to follow a teenager he said looked suspicious. That teenager, Trayvon Martin, who ended up dead.

But even when volunteers do stick to the rules, do these neighborhood crime watches reduce crime rates?

Brian Palmer is a columnist for "Slate" magazine and he's been digging deeper on that story.

Brian, thanks for coming in. I'm really glad to talk to you about this today because I almost feel at times seeing that neighborhood watch sign becomes part of the white noise of our environment. I almost don't notice those signs anymore, but they're out there and there are a lot of neighborhood watches, aren't there?

BRIAN PALMER, COLUMNIST, "SLATE": And a 2000 study suggested that 41 percent of Americans live in neighborhood watch areas.

BANFIELD: Wow.

PALMER: It doesn't mean too much, though, because like many people, I grew up in a neighborhood with one of the signs and I'm sure there were no meetings and there was no definitely patrol.

BANFIELD: So, what is it? Is the sign -- what exactly does it mean?

PALMER: In theory, what it should be is that neighbors are supposed to meet periodically, get to know each other and establish lines of communication. This all started in the 1970s. There was a big surge in them and many of the signs are still up from that time.

Some neighborhood watches involve patrols, that is very rare, the kind they did in Orlando. Most police officers don't want people doing that.

BANFIELD: So, you're saying some of those signs are still up there and have been forgotten and there is no neighborhood watch and we're sort of lulled into the idea that we got someone looking out for us?

PALMER: Even the ones where there are looking out for us don't appear to work particularly well. So, the signs don't have a lot of meaning.

The biggest study was in 2008, they looked at a compilation of old studies and they indicated that there is a 16 percent reduction in crime in neighborhood watch areas. There's a lot of reason to think that study is wrong.

BANFIELD: Why?

PALMER: In the earlier study looking at the same data found that 75 percent of the studies that they relied were scientifically unsound. And based on the few studies that are scientifically rigorous, there is no crime reduction at all.

The big problem is that it's hard to get a neighborhood watch going in an area where there's actually crime because people don't have time in those neighborhoods to come to the meetings or walk around the streets.

BANFIELD: Or do they even feel safe enough to be sort of citizen patrols?

PALMER: Exactly. Many of them don't trust their own neighbors and a lot of them don't trust the police either, and don't want to get involved in something like this. So, participation is very, very low. And in 1980 study, biggest one of these studies, in Minneapolis, it was a complete disaster.

The more resources they put into getting low income, high crime, the less participation they actually got. The few neighborhoods that did participate were -- have virtually no crime to start with, were wealthy middle class neighborhoods. The neighborhood watch lasted for a few weeks and then people gave up when they realized it wasn't doing anything at all.

BANFIELD: So, I think I read somewhere that originally, the idea here back in again like you said the '60s and '70s was that people were going inside and watching TV a lot more than they used to sit outside on their stoop and that actually effectively changed crime in America?

PALMER: That's one of the theories. So, there's an urban renewal movement in the '60s and Jane Jacobs is kind of a main mover behind the movement. And her study was that people used to sit on their stoop look out their front window, I guess drink coffee and chat.

BANFIELD: Ice tea. But harder to commit crimes when there's all those people outside, right?

PALMER: Perhaps.

The issue isn't really people outside as much as people looking outside, I guess, which is where we get confused between the patrols and the watch.

BANFIELD: The thing that I found most fascinating about the establishment of the neighborhood watch was that the whole idea especially in light of this Trayvon Martin case, the whole idea behind it was that citizens would be looking out for people who they hadn't seen in their community before. And George Zimmerman seemed to be indicating that to his 911 dispatchers, rightly or wrongly. He said I don't see this guy before.

And it turns out his dad's fiancee was a renter. This is a foreclosure-ridden complex, had a lot of people transient, a lot of ran-down places because of that.

So, in n that respect, was George Zimmerman doing what the program sets out for you to do?

PALMER: Not really. In most of the initial meeting that you have for neighborhood watch, they're run by a police officer or police officer or employee. In the case of the George Zimmerman watch, one of the things they train you to do is know when to call 911 and when not to call 911.

So, it is true you're supposed to be looking out for people who don't live there, people you haven't seen before but that is not supposed to trigger a call to 911. That is supposed to trigger increased scrutiny. And then you have --

BANFIELD: Following?

PALMER: Following, absolutely not. In fact, the civilian employee who ran the neighborhood watch before George Zimmerman claims that she told him they're not supposed to do patrols, they are not supposed to follow subjects and they're certainly not supposed to carry guns.

BANFIELD: I think that's the critical issue. Without question.

PALMER: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: Brian Palmer, it's nice of you to join us and it's interesting that you had such trouble finding data that was reliable in this. I think a lot of people would have been surprised by this. Thanks very much.

PALMER: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Zoraida?

SAMBOLIN: And still ahead, former Vice President Dick Cheney recovering from a heart transplant. But is he too old to get one? We're going to ask Elizabeth Cohen what the norm is.

And look at this wedding crasher. It's the queen, she pops in on a couple of commoners.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 38 minutes past the hour.

We're finally hearing from the wife of the soldier accused of going on a killing spree in Afghanistan. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales has been charged with 17 counts of murder. New reports this weekend suggest he may have broken that killing spree into two parts, returning to his base in between.

And this morning, his wife, Karilyn, is opening up for the first time in an interview that will air today on NBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARILYN BALES, BALES WIFE: He loves children. He's like a big kid himself.

MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: He is accused of killing nine children.

BALES: Right.

LAUER: Innocent children.

BALES: It's unbelievable to me. I have no idea what happened, but he would not -- he loves children and he would not do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Military spouses have been speaking out to show their support for Karilyn Bales.

And one of those women is Heidi Collins, married for 13 years to an Air Force major. She's also a member of the Officers' Wives Club support group at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, and a blogger for SpouseBuzz.com.

Thank you so much for lending us your time this morning.

From what we've heard, Karilyn Bales hasn't seen her husband since December. You share some of her experiences here. She still has very few details about what actually happened.

What do you think is going through her mind right now?

HEIDI COLLINS, MILITARY WIFE FOR 13 YEARS: Just like you said or just what was shown in the interview before, I can understand how she would feel it's unbelievable her husband would be capable of doing this. So, I can -- it's mind-boggling to even try to hut yourself in her position or even in his position.

SAMBOLIN: But put yourself there for a minute, right? Your husband was deployed. He was in Iraq, right?

COLLINS: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: So you said when your husband came back home that he was a changed man.

COLLINS: Yes, he was.

SAMBOLIN: Tell us about that. How had he changed?

COLLINS: He was very silent. He still has a hard time if there's a helicopter that flies too closely. There's those kind of things that happen afterwards. But it's, it takes a long time for that readjustment to find their place back into the family both on the spouse part as well as the active duty member part.

So it really is, there's adjustment period but it depends on each person, if my husband -- it took a while plus we moved about a month after he returned from his deployment, in Iraq. So, there were those stressors on top of it. So, it did take a while for both of you to try to find our way because a couple and as a parenting team to be with our boys, and also just to be a family member.

SAMBOLIN: Sergeant Bales, we know, was deployed four different times. And you have a blog that you write for frequently. What are other military wives saying about this situation? Is it a different dialogue than the one that we're having?

COLLINS: Yes, it is, because just like this is my opinion on the matter, everybody has a different viewpoint about deployments. There are many families out there that have had less time together than they have apart. So it's one of those where there is some anger, there is some understanding that this could be a very difficult time for the family. But there's also a point where it's hard to believe that this actually happened.

There are many, many systems and services in place to help support both the family and the active duty member, both before, during and after a deployment. So, it's kind of one of those things that just -- it makes you scratch your head.

SAMBOLIN: Well, it seems unbelievable definitely to the wife. She said she can't imagine how this could have possibly happened. What are the women, the other military wives saying on the blogs, do they think that he could have committed this crime? Do they think that perhaps PTSD played a role in this?

COLLINS: Well, I know, right now, we're trying to get away from the depart (ph). It's just post traumatic stress.

No one is pointing fingers. Nobody wants to blame. I know that's the first human instinct to do, is to say, whose fault is this? Is this the fault of military? Is it the fault of Sergeant Bales? Is it the fault of leadership?

It's very difficult until you've been in their shoes and been in his family's shoes to really say whose fault it is. No one is saying whether he is guilty or not.

You know, the great thing about America is you're innocent until proven guilty. So, it's one of those things where no one is pointing any blame or saying that this did or did not happen.

SAMBOLIN: Now, you mentioned that there is some support available.

COLLINS: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: What kind of support do you think Sergeant Bales' wife and the children are getting now?

COLLINS: Well, I'm hoping -- there's a program called the key spouse program where there is a peer spouse that is kind of mediator between leadership and the families, I'm hoping that system is in place and that they've offered her the kind of counseling and support she needs right now, as well as -- I don't know specifically for the Army, but I know for the Air Force, there is the airmen and family readiness center that do the same exact things.

And for anybody else that is out there, for the family, who may have questions about what to do or friends, there's always militaryonesource.com, which is available, has many, many, many links to about counseling, about grief, about sorrow, how to help and support the family.

SAMBOLIN: When your husband went away and came back, how long did it take him before he became the same husband and father?

COLLINS: I don't know necessarily if he's ever been the same and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's also a good thing. He was much more appreciative of being home, and didn't take us for granted as well as we did not take him for granted either.

So, the differences in him not necessarily is the negative thing. We actually, you know, try to see the positive in this and try not to take any day for granted that he is here and with us because you never know when he's going to be gone again.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Heidi Collins thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us this morning.

COLLINS: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Ashleigh, back to you.

BANFIELD: Forty-four minutes now past 6:00 on the East Coast. Time to check our news making top stories this morning. Christine Romans is standing by with that.

Hi, Christine.

ROMANS: Hi, Ashleigh.

The biggest rally yet planned for Trayvon Martin is today in Sanford, Florida. The unarmed black teen was shot and killed by George Zimmerman one month ago today. Zimmerman's attorney is now speaking, saying the public is only hearing part of the story. He told ABC News that his client's nose was broken in the scuffle.

Health care reform heads to the nation's highest court this morning. The Supreme Court justices will hear arguments for six hours over the next three days. They're expected to decide in June whether the individual mandate requiring most Americans to buy health care insurance by the year 2014 is constitutional.

President Obama and more than 50 other world leaders are in Seoul, South Korea, this morning, attending the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit. Before the official welcome, the president publicly challenged North Korea to, quote, "have the courage to pursue peace."

Queen Elizabeth, wedding crasher. She unexpectedly dropped in on a wedding while in Manchester on official business. The bride and groom, they looked ready, though. There you go. The town curtsied, the official protocol to the queen.

They say she was invited almost as a goof. They didn't think she'd come. But the queen said she wanted to meet the couple since she was going to be in Manchester anyway.

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(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: And technically not a crasher then, right, because she had an invite.

ROMANS (on-camera): I guess so, but still not an unexpected party guest.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look what is ahead on "Starting Point." Good morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Hey, good morning to both of you. Ahead this morning on "Starting Point," you've been talking about the big rally that planned in remembrance of Trayvon Martin. This morning, we're going to talk to the Martin family attorney. Her name is Natalie Jackson (ph), talk about some of the plans for this week ahead, also with Reverend Jesse Jackson as well.

Plus, he takes a licking and keeps on ticking. That would be Newt Gingrich following what happened in the state of Louisiana. He's staying in the race. This morning, we'll talk to his daughter, Jackie Cushman (ph), about what the strategy is ahead.

Also, this story about an Easter egg hunt had to be canceled because the parents were too aggressive. (INAUDIBLE) in order to get those eggs for their little kids because they were going to win that Easter egg hunt no matter what. That stories and much more this morning on "Starting Point." We'll see you right at the top of the hour.

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BANFIELD: It is 49 minutes now past 6:00. Welcome back to EARLY START.

He was once a heartbeat away from the presidency, and now, former vice president, Dick Cheney, is recovering after heart transplant surgery over the weekend.

SAMBOLIN: Cheney, who is 71 years old, had been on the transplant waiting list for 20 months. He suffered five heart attacks and a pacemaker for the past decade as well.

CNN's senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins us live from Atlanta. Good morning to you. Here's the big question, 71 years old. Everybody is saying isn't he too old to be receiving a heart?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, some hospitals say that it's so risky to give a heart transplant to somebody over 70, Zoraida, that they won't do them, but many hospitals will do them depending upon the health of that 70-year-old. If you take a look at the statistics, there's no question that a 70-year-old has less of a chance of being alive five years after a heart transplant than somebody else.

But, again, having said that, hospitals are allowed to really, you know, do whatever they want to do. Now, some people have ethical issues with giving a heart transplant to a 70-year-old, and Zoraida, that's because these are precious resources.

I mean, a heart from a cadaver is a precious resource, and some people feel why should we give it to someone who we know has less of a chance of being around five years later because of their age.

SAMBOLIN: Well, not only that, this is a prominent person, right? So, a lot of people are also wondering whether he jumped to the head of the line.

COHEN: Yes. We always hear that. When a prominent person gets an organ from a cadaver, we always wonder. But take a -- these numbers, I think, will help explain that. The former vice president waited 20 months to get that heart from a cadaver. The average wait time in his hospital in Virginia was nine months. So, he actually waited longer than most people at his hospital to get a heart.

And so, I think, you know, it appears that that's not the case. Sometimes, I think, Zoraida, we focus so much on whether prominent people get, you know, get to the head of the line, the big issue is which is that people with good insurance get to the front of the line. It costs $1 million to get a heart transplant and get care for that.

Exactly, a million dollars. You've got to have really great insurance to pay for that. If you don't have insurance or if you don't have fabulous insurance, you're not even in the line.

BANFIELD: Hey, Elizabeth, insurance aside, don't you have to be really, really super healthy as well? Because I've been looking at those pictures of the vice president over the years, slimmed way down. It seems as though he's been watching his diet, being very careful. I mean, you do have to be in perfect health, don't you?

COHEN: Ashleigh, that is a great question, and it's going to give you a funny answer. You have to be a combination of really healthy and really sick. In other words, your heart has to be in bad enough shape that you need a transplant. I mean, this is in -- what you do when you can't do anything else, all right? So, this is a last resort.

So, your heart has to be bad enough that you need a transplant, but the rest of you has to be healthy enough to take that heart and to live for many years thereafter. So, for example, if your kidneys are in bad shape or your liver is in bad shape, they're not going to give you a heart transplant. So, the rest of you, you're right, does need to be in good shape.

BANFIELD: We are pulling for him. That's for sure. Former vice president, all the best. Thanks, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thanks.

BANFIELD: Fifty-three minutes now past six on the east coast. And still ahead, rallies marking one month since Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Florida. The supporters saying it is more than just a call for justice. We'll be live to Sanford, next.

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SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is just about seven o'clock here. Two big stories that we are watching today. Actually, we only have one for you.

BANFIELD: Well, at this point, Martin Savidge has been watching the Trayvon Martin case, the shooting case in Florida, what the plans ahead. And Martin, a lot of people are expected to turn out today in Sanford.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly right. It's been one month since the tragic shooting took place here in the Central Florida community here, and as a result of that, there was a protest as planned. It's going to start at four o'clock. It will go to a community town hall meeting. So many people anticipated they moved it to the civic center.

If that gets full, they'll come here to the park for a large screen television. The family of Trayvon Martin is already asking appealing for a calm, because at this particular point, they're worried that emotions are running high. The passions are running high. Some people have a great deal of anger against the police force and against the government in this community.

So, the Trayvon Martin family is just saying, look, we ask that everyone be civil. They'd be given the opportunity to speak. We'll see how long it goes, but you're right. It could be the largest crowd, so far. They've seen down here, security is being beefed up for it.

BANFIELD: So, Martin, to that end, what kind of security, because it's one thing for the family to appeal for comments (ph), the other thing to have the city planning for what they don't know.

SAVIDGE: Well, I think you know, you have to be careful here. Of course, you don't want to make it look like a police state in any way, shape or form, but, they have a responsibility to maintain order. They have a responsibility to make sure that nothing gets out of hand as people make their way through the downtown area and ahead of the civic center.

So, I imagine that there's going to be a combination of some police. They'll have other forces that will be waiting just in case they need to intercede in some way, shape or form, but they are hoping that the lesson out of all of this is that calm needs to rule today.

BANFIELD: All right. Martin Savidge for us live in Sanford. Of course, also on the agenda today, yes, day one. I love this. I'm so nerdy, but I love that the Supreme Court that's going to be over the course of three days begins today on the president's healthcare bill.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And I know that people were waiting since Friday in line to actually get into that courtroom. I'm surprised you weren't one of them.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: I asked for the day off, just so you know.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: No. Kate Bolduan and a number -- like a whole, you know, team. But here's the deal. This is critical and what happens today, tomorrow, and the next day is going to set the agenda for what the campaign is going to look like as we head into the election in November.

SAMBOLIN: But isn't it really one key issue, because it is very complicated, those, three days of them talking and deciding, you know, the fate of the healthcare bill, but there's one key issue.

BANFIELD: For folks out there who are wondering, it really boils down for you to whether or not the government is going to be able to say to you, buy insurance or face a fine. There's other stuff, though, with Medicaid and how the states pay for it and the force that the federal government can actually exert on states, so that's going to come up, too, but it will be fascinating. Trust me.

That's "EARLY START," the news from A to Z. I'm Ashleigh Banlfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.