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Differing Accounts of Trayvon Killing; Obama's Health Care Reforms On Trial

Aired March 27, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.


We are bringing you the news from A to Z. It is 5:00 a.m. here in the East.

We start with your top stories.

Hundreds demonstrate outside the Supreme Court while the battle unfolds inside over the constitutionality of the president's health care reforms. In just five hours, we could be witnessing the defining moment of this historic debate.

BANFIELD: We're now learning more about what may have happened the night 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. According to a leaked police report, Zimmerman claims that he was attacked and beaten by Martin before the shooting. And witness accounts corroborate that account, too.

SAMBOLIN: And happening right now, a deadly wildfire in Colorado. Take a look at these pictures. Strong winds are fueling all of those flames, at least a handful of homes burned to the ground. That's in Jefferson County. Evacuations have been ordered for nearly 1,000 homes.

BANFIELD: Researchers report that Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused a lot of damage to coral formations deep beneath the surface of the Gulf. Scientists spotted one coral colony covered in what they call black gum, seven miles from the scene of that gusher.

SAMBOLIN: And President Obama caught in an awkward open mic moment.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.

DMITRI MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: I understand you. I transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you.


SAMBOLIN: The president is trying to make light of that moment but his Republican rivals are not laughing.

BANFIELD: One minute now past 5:00. The highest court in the land is going to be getting to the heart of the health care reform debate. It starts about five hours from now. Are you ready?

SAMBOLIN: I'm read. Bring it on.

BANFIELD: Bring it.

Hundreds of protesters outside the Supreme Court yesterday for and against the president's health care overhaul. We're going into day two, folks. It all gets down at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

But today's big issue is really the core of the issue, can the government force you to buy something you may or may not want? And Americans seem to be split about this, although it does tip one way.

A new CNN poll shows that 43 percent favored what's called the insurance mandate, the individual mandate, 50 percent, though, oppose it.

Politics is huge here, too. It's playing such a role in this debate -- outside the court, inside the House, inside the Senate and, of course, presidential as well. Sixty-eight percent of Democrats approve of the president's health care reforms. Ten percent of Republicans support it. That should tell you the story.

Listen to the Republican candidates though on the campaign trail for a big part of the story.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a power grab by the federal government. It violates the 10th Amendment. It violates the economic principles of economic freedom in this country. It's wrong. It needs to be repealed.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's going to take our freedom away. It's going to destroy the economy of this country. It's going to raise unemployment rates. It's going to balloon the size of the government and it's going to dramatically increase our deficit.

This is a loser on every single front.


BANFIELD: Well, that's pretty strident stuff, but, of course, there are many who also support this legislation.

Our congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan is live in Washington, D.C. this morning.

And here's my thought. You and I talk about this stuff pretty regularly. But it is a lot to try to digest -- 2,700 pages, about, what, 450 some odd provisions. It's a lot for the public to digest. So, how much do you think the public is getting from the campaign trail and from what politicians are saying? And how much do they really know about this stuff?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean I think it comes down to the individual. I think a lot of people followed this fight through Congress. I think -- but also they are hearing a lot of information on the campaign trail, as well and you can be sure more eyes are on this Supreme Court case than I think we've seen probably in a decade. I don't know -- everyone is talking about the same time something this big came long was the Bush v. Gore case at the Supreme Court. So, that's just how big this case is.

But when you think about it, it is very complex law but this issue today is pretty simple to understand and it gets to the crux of the fight and the constitutional battle they're facing. This individual mandate -- they're having two hours of oral arguments on the question, is the individual mandate constitutional? This is the provision requiring Americans nearly all Americans to have some form of health insurance beginning in 2014 or pay a financial penalty.

Three federal judges previously ruled that this law, the law to be constitutional. One other federal judge ruled it to be unconstitutional. In that ruling, calling it a breathtaking in its expansive scope.

And this circuit split all but assured the Supreme Court would have to take up the matter and have the final say on this. And, of course, that is what they're doing.

Twenty-six states -- a coalition of 26 states, they are suing. They are challenging this, saying that the federal government does not have the power under the Constitution to force Americans to buy something they may or may not want.

But important to also point out that Obama administration, they are supporting it, defending this law saying that Americans respect necessarily choosing -- choosing to participate because every American is going to need medical care at some point in their lives and that's why they say this law is constitutional.

BANFIELD: And I know you spent the better part of the day at the Supreme Court, Kate, and you had a chance to talk to one of the attorneys that's actually on the part of fighting this at the Supreme Court. I always love to know what it's like being an attorney walking in and getting ready to do, you know, your arguments.

But tell me what he said.

BOLDUAN: Yes, no kidding.

This is Paul Clement. He is the man representing the coalition of 26 states. He is the man taking on the Obama administration. He's become really the go-to guy for conservative causes, really a rock star in conservative legal circles. And he will be speaking today in this -- in these oral arguments. I had a moment to speak with him a little while ago, kind of -- to pick his brain about what he was thinking leading as he was heading into the courtroom. Take a listen to this.


BOLDUAN: Do you still get nervous when you go before the justices?

PAUL CLEMENT, ATTORNEY: Absolutely. Have you seen the arguments? Have you seen the justices? Have you seen what kind of questions they ask?

I mean, you know, I'm not crazy. That's why I continue to get nervous. It's a nerve-racking business.

BOLDUAN: So, do you leave the courtroom knowing that's a "W" or --

CLEMENT: No, definitely not. And I've just -- you know, I've seen too many arguments where I did the argument or somebody else, you walk out and you think, maybe they're going this way and then they surprise you.

BOLDUAN: So, they still can surprise you?

CLEMENT: Yes, absolutely.


BOLDUAN: Still, they'll be all listening very closely to -- especially where the more conservative justices, where their line of questioning is, because everyone is trying to get the inkling, Ashleigh, where are they leaning? What direction are they going?

And that's all we've been trying to call for today.

BANFIELD: It's what we call reading the tea leaves from the questions from the justices. All right. You've got your work cut out for you. Thanks very much, Kate Bolduan.

BOLDUAN: Thanks.

SAMBOLIN: It is six minutes past the hour here.

The parents of Trayvon Martin will be on Capitol Hill today, meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. They're also expected to attend a house hearing on racial profiling and hate crimes.

Meantime, there are new details and new questions about the circumstances surrounding Trayvon Martin's death. A police account published in "The Orlando Sentinel" says George Zimmerman told them he was attacked by Trayvon before the shooting and that witnesses corroborate the story.

Zimmerman's friend told CNN's Anderson Cooper last night it's proof the shooting was in self-defense and not racially motivated.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": So he is saying he was on his way back to his vehicle and Trayvon Martin actually attacked him?

JOE OLIVER, JOE ZIMMERMAN'S FRIEND: Yes, that's what he is saying. That's what the police report is saying. That's what he has talked with me about.

I do believe George Zimmerman was in fear for his life, yes. I do believe at some point in that confrontation George felt like and believed with al his heart he had to make a decision to defend himself and to save his life.


SAMBOLIN: But other witnesses tell CNN that is not what they saw.


MARY CUTCHER, WITNESSED SHOOTING AFTERMATH: Zimmerman was standing over the body with -- basically straddling the body with his hands on Trayvon's back and it didn't seem to me that he was trying to help him in any way. It didn't seem to me -- I didn't hear any struggle prior to the gunshot. And I feel like it was Trayvon Martin that was crying out because the minute that the gunshot went off, the whining stopped.


SAMBOLIN: Meantime, there were more calls for Zimmerman's arrest at a town hall meeting in Sanford, Florida. Trayvon's parents admit their son had been suspended from school because of marijuana residue in his backpack but they say that's irrelevant.


SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER: They've killed my son, and now, they're trying to kill his reputation.


BANFIELD: Rallies demanding justice for Trayvon continue across the country. Protests held in a dozen cities yesterday, stretching from Atlanta all the way to San Francisco.

CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Sanford, Florida.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's been a lot of reaction in many different directions actually. You know, first of all, this information coming out, this leaked police report, was certainly very unsettling to the family members and very unsettling to a great number of protesters.

You know, they begin to wonder what about the timing. It was exactly one month since the shooting of the 17-year-old and suddenly, this police report comes out and it's a police report that now apparently paints the young student, the young 17-year-old as the aggressor in this particular case.

And up to this point, of course, many people have been demanding the arrest of George Zimmerman.

Now, it would seem to support the account that George Zimmerman has given to authorities. But as you've already heard there's a great deal of conflict between some of the testimony that other witnesses have given, the family members certainly don't believe this is a true account.

However, the attorney for George Zimmerman says, yes, it fits the whole story they've been telling because George Zimmerman has a broken nose and that he has injuries on the back of his head and all of that would seem to support the idea that there was a fight that took place.

However, family members and supporters of Trayvon Martin will say, look, this wouldn't have happened if George Zimmerman hadn't spotted their son and made a call and said that he looked suspicious and that was the key trigger of events.

So it has not settled anything in this controversial case --Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Martin Savidge -- live for us in Sanford, Florida -- thank you very much.

BANFIELD: And we also want to remind you, at 7:30 Eastern, on "STARTING POINT", Soledad O'Brien is going to talk with George Zimmerman's friend, Joe Oliver, who you saw briefly in the report.

SAMBOLIN: And a 3,000-acre wildfire burning right now in Colorado's Jefferson County. And officials warn it has the potential to be really bad. At least one person, so far, has been killed. Evacuations have been ordered in that area. Livestock have also been removed from the area.

At least a handful of homes have been destroyed and nearly 900 are in danger. Officials say it has been an extremely dry month and that is fueling the fire. Strong winds are also preventing firefighters from getting a handle on this situation.

Let's go right to Rob Marciano at CNN Atlanta for an update on this.

How is their area being affected? Are they going to continue with those strong winds?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, the wins have died down thankfully in Jefferson Country and throughout much of Colorado. But the damage done, as you see, the winds yesterday were gusting over 60 miles an hour in spots -- 82 as a matter of fact in Boysen, Wyoming, Red Mountain Pass in Colorado seeing 75-mile-an-hour wind gust and Grand Junction seeing 65.

This is all part of a strong system that moved through southern California the day before and now moving into the plains. And we've got high wind warnings and red flag warnings for a good chunk of Nebraska and parts of South Dakota, as well, for winds gusting 50 to 60, maybe more than that miles per hour throughout the day today.

So, this is going to be a dangerous spot for wildfires. But that fire that's burning, deadly fire in Jefferson County, the winds will be lighter today. No rain on the forecast.

But hopefully, the hopefully, the lighter winds will allow those firefighters to get a handle on things.

Severe thunderstorms possibly in just of Chicago later on today, and high pressure building into the Northeast. Chilly shot of reality feeling more like what March should feel, I suppose. With freeze warnings that have been posted from the lower hand of Michigan, all the way to the Delmarva.

And some of these areas were in the 80s last week, the fruit trees have already bloomed, so there may be damage to some of those orchards. Seventy-six for the high temperature in Chicago, Atlanta, after a chilly start, 51 degrees in New York City. That's a far cry from what we saw just a week ago.

Guys, back up to you.

BANFIELD: All right. Thanks very much, Rob Marciano.

And this just in, folks -- gas prices rising, 18 days straight now. AAA just announced the new national average for gas: $3.90 a gallon. It's just a bit of an increment, though, just 1/10 of a cent but, look, 10 cents away from that yucky $4 gas.

Gas prices are up almost 20 percent so far this year.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my gosh.

BANFIELD: Inching closer and closer. Yes, 20 percent. We're only three months in.

So, people start adjusting their spending habit apparently when you hit $4. It's that psychological barometer. So, we're only 10 cent as way.

Some places in the country, I hear you and I feel your pain. You're already paying it and have been for a quite some time. It's just that's a national average.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thirteen minutes past the hour here.

Still ahead, new information on an Afghanistan -- the sergeant accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians was spotted by fellow troops in between the killing sprees. Can some of the deaths been avoided?

BANFIELD: And also, Bobby Brown back in trouble after a traffic stop in Los Angeles.

SAMBOLIN: Well, listen to this, Ashleigh. A little northern exposure. A Canada court ruling offering a safer world for sex workers. Oh, we have that story for you. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back.

Seventeen minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning.

Here is Christine Romans.

Good morning.


The critical second day of arguments set to begin at the Supreme Court in less than five hours. On today's agenda, the individual mandate in the president's health care overhaul. The justices must eventually decide if the federal government can require citizens to buy health insurance even if they don't want to.

Military officials say troops saw staff sergeant Robert Bales on base between his alleged killing sprees in Afghanistan. Investigators say Bales told other soldiers he just killed military aged Afghan men. Bales is suspected of killing 17 Afghan villagers in two separate attacks.

Singer Bobby Brown is facing drunk driving charges in Los Angeles this morning. A California highway patrol officer pulled Brown over for talking on his cell phone and gave him a field sobriety test which he failed. He was released a few hours later.

The Canadian government will likely appeal a court ruling that legalizes brothels in Canada. Prostitution is legal in Canada, but there are several laws that still make sex workers subject to arrest. The top court in Ontario called most of those laws discriminatory because they limit prostitutes' ability to work in safe environments.

For an expanded look at all of our top stories this morning, head to our blog, -- ladies.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much.

Eighteen minutes pas the hour.

And we're getting an early read on your local news that is making national headlines. This morning, we have papers from "Sioux City Journal" and "The Chicago Daily Herald."

We begin with you.

BANFIELD: Yes, let's start with "The Sioux City Journal." Remember this story about ground beef and the percentage of pink slime that's considered contained within?

Well, some people call it pink slime and other people call it lean boneless beef. Whatever you call it, it's had such a hit in social media and such negative connotations to what it's all about the company that manufactured it shut down three of its four plants. It's taking a huge financial hit. Very upset with all of the advertising and all the talk of this saying it's been unfairly characterized.

Yet, what it is, is beef scraps mushed together with ammonia. It's completely safe according to the FDA. I know it looks gross and it sounds gross.

SAMBOLIN: And you're in the middle of breakfast, I apologize.

BANFIELD: I hate to tell you that. But, you know, it is only fair to say -- look, the company has said there have been a lot of lies and misrepresentations about our products. We've been selling these products for years without any problems. Schools have been using it. It's in like 70 percent of the grocery stores out there.

In fact, BPI is the name of the company. Their product is found in an estimated 70 percent of the nation's ground beef.


BANFIELD: So they're very upset this has happened. They represent about 1,500 employees, family-run company and they're very upset with how this is all --

SAMBOLIN: The way you explain it, too. It just -- it sounds gross.

BANFIELD: And you know what? Social media -- took off but that's really taking a huge hit on their bottom line.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Let's move on to "The Chicago Daily Herald". Girls twice as likely to talk and text while driving.

The study was used in car video, or it used car video footage. Females are 50 percent more likely to reach for an object in the car and 25 percent more likely to eat or drink while driving, as well.

Listen to this. Males are twice as likely to turn around in their seats and more likely to talk with people outside of their car while driving. Car accidents remain the leading cause of death in teenagers. Kind of stuff we knew but now they've done studies.

BANFIELD: Talking to people outside the car?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, yes. And so, you're driving, and your, hey.

BANFIELD: I'm not sure it's hey. I think it's hey! What up?

All right. Twenty minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. And still ahead, we have some video for you. Call it extreme, call it what you will. Watch this smash and grab.


BANFIELD: Yes. So that's a way to get through a locked door. You take the jeep and ram it through a jewelry store window and look at the grab. Check it out.

We'll look more about this in a moment.

SAMBOLIN: And the Fed chief speaks and the markets rally. Is it for real? Of course, it is. We're taking a look at the state of the economy.

You're watching EARLY START.



BANFIELD: Well, you're also saying "yikes" when you hear this. I'll tell you.

Twenty-four minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. We're minding your business this morning, with the closing bell and some very good news for your 401(k).

Ding, ding, it was a stellar day for the markets yesterday. The Dow, the NASDAQ, the S&P 500, each rising more than 1 percent and it's all because of some pretty good news. Good comments from the Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke about the economy.

SAMBOLIN: So, Christine Romans is here.

And so, I said yikes because I know that the stocks are happy but I worry that they're going to become sad. That's a conversation we were having.

ROMANS: That is essentially the meaning of life, isn't it? That my 401(k) is great today but it wasn't so great four years ago. What will it be like tomorrow? That's what we want to know.

BANFIELD: There's a bluish (ph) song somewhere in.

ROMANS: I want to show you a chart of the S&P 500 because the stocks in your portfolio are most likely to track the S&P 500. You can see the S&P 500 it went off a cliff in 2009 and has doubled since then.

Look at that -- stocks have doubled. And now, we're back near a four- year high for the S&P 500. The credit yesterday went to Ben Bernanke, the Fed chief, who essentially told fellow economists he's going to keep stimulating the economy. So, Ben Bernanke Fed is going to keep going.

But he thinks that the signs of life we've seen in the labor market aren't quite back to normal yet. He's still concerned about long-term unemployment. He's still watching a slow speed recovery and saying the Fed is going to be there to help if we need to because he's concerned overall about what he says is a labor market, job market, that's been showing signs of strength but thinks that's out of sync.

BANFIELD: Just labor or housing? I mean, are you concerned about -- ROMANS: Well, you know, I mean, he has been concerned about housing for awhile. Housing -- let's show you sort of our three gauges of what you feel in the market, right?

So, the state of jobs, you know, that's been doing better. Bernanke says it's been doing better but --

BANFIELD: Ain't great.

ROMANS: He's concerned about long-term unemployment.

Housing, I would put that sideways to lower. Look, home prices are still down but home sales are picking up. Stocks have been great.

So these are kind of the three things you feel, right? How you get your money from your paycheck. What you live in your house, whether you are renting or you own, and stocks in your 401(k).

SAMBOLIN: And interest rates? What he's going to do about that?

BANFIELD: Interest rates are going to stay low for a very, very long time in the market. So, market -- the Fed sets a Fed funds target and then the market responds with its own interest rates. We've seen interest rates very, very low in the market.

If you are looking to borrow money to buy a house, you could see interest rates start to tick up in the near term because they have been showing -- the 30-year fixed rate is above 4 percent.

BANFIELD: Not to suggest it changes in abdominal way --

ROMANS: Uh-oh, there it is. It's the word of the day.

BANFIELD: It was word of yesterday. We get abdominal every seven days. But did have that spike in the interest rates, a lot of people concerned that was just the beginning of a lot --

ROMANS: But even a spike in interest rates is still like so low. It's still so low you can't believe it.

I mean, talk to your parents. When they did buy a house, it was 18 percent interest, right?

BANFIELD: Good point. Excellent. Thanks, Christine.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ahead on EARLY START, a heated moment on the campaign trail.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Quit distorting my words. If I see it, it's (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Come on, man. What are you doing?


BANFIELD: Come on, man. Come on, man.

SAMBOLIN: Rick Santorum explains why he cursed out a "New York Times" reporter. Have you ever him say that before?

BANFIELD: I have not heard him say that before.

And also coming up, the shooter in the death of an unarmed teenager named Trayvon Martin in Florida is claiming that he's within his rights under the "Stand Your Ground" provision in that state. Is he on firm legal ground? We're going to talk with a lawyer who actually was involved in a case exactly regarding that law.

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It is 31 minutes now past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's time to check the stories that are making news this morning.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): New details about the night Trayvon Martin was shot dead. According to a leaked police report in "The Orlando Sentinel," George Zimmerman claims a teenager punched him in the face and slammed his head to the ground before he shot him in self-defense.

The individual mandate in the president's healthcare overhaul will be the focus of the debate later this morning at the Supreme Court. Opponents of the law say it is unconstitutional to force Americans to buy something they may not want. The justices are expected to decide the matter sometime in June.

An autopsy will be performed on the body of a woman believed to be that of a missing teacher in Vermont. The car belonging to 33-year- old Melissa Jenkins (ph) was found not far from her rural home Sunday night. The motor was running and her two-year-old son was inside unharmed.

And the hunt is on this morning for two thieves who wasted no time, look at this, a smash and grab robbery at a local jewelry store. The robbers crashed a stolen jeep through the front door of the store in Akron, Ohio. They stole an unknown amount of jewelry -- Ashleigh?


BANFIELD: Thirty-two minutes now past 5:00, Zoraida, and new questions this morning in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin after details of that account that the shooter gave to police ended up being leaked to "The Orlando Sentinel Newspaper." And according to the newspaper report, George Zimmerman told police that he was returning to his SUV when he says the teenager approached him and then punched him in the nose. His lawyer says his nose was broken. He then says that the teenager climbed on top of him and slammed his head into the sidewal,k and his lawyer says he suffered a head injury. "The Sentinel" also quotes, quote, "authorities as saying much of the account is corroborated by witnesses." We're also learning more about Trayvon Martin, that he'd been suspended from school three time, once after marijuana residue was found in his book bag.

Trayvon's parents confirmed that last suspension but say that it is irrelevant to this case. They will be meeting in Washington today planning to meet with members of the Congressional Black caucus, and also, they're expected to attend a House hearing on racial profiling and hate crimes.

Thousands of strangers from across the country have been rallying behind those parents. Protesters hitting the streets in a dozen cities yesterday demanding an arrest of George Zimmerman. A Florida grand jury scheduled to begin deliberations next month against the neighborhood watch leader, George Zimmerman, but only if that case goes to the grand jury.

So far, no such consideration. George Zimmerman has claimed that he shot Martin in self-defense. His lawyer says that his client plans to invoke his stand your ground as a defense. So, how does that law actually work and what does it mean in this particular case?

Someone who might know something about it, Brad Conway, he's an attorney in Florida, and in 2008, he successfully defended a security guard who shot and killed a young man who was acting aggressively. He joins me now live. Brad, thanks very much for coming in to talk to us. I appreciate it.

BRAD CONWAY, ATTORNEY: Good morning. My pleasure.

BANFIELD: I wanted to say sort of right off the bat for those who don't necessarily know what stand your ground is. When does it come into effect? When the police arrive on the scene and make a determination that they don't need to make an arrest, because they can se that someone was acting in self-defense or does it come in in the courts later on?

CONWAY: Well, it's a little bit complicated, Ashleigh. It's not cut and dry. The police can make that determination if all of the facts corroborate what the shooter or what the individual who used deadly force is saying. If the facts don't corroborate what he's saying or she's saying, then you've got to go to other witnesses.

If there are no other witnesses, then, typically, it's going to be left up to a grand jury to determine what the facts are.

BANFIELD: Ah, so typically, if there are no other witnesses, and at this point on the scene, we don't have the full picture, but it seemed as though George Zimmerman was the only witness alive to give his account to the responding police officers, and yet, this one didn't automatically go to the grand jury, which is the big complaint that's out there. CONWAY: It is the big complaint, and in this case, you know, what probably should have been done is a more thorough investigation. And the case that I handled, police were on scene taking statements from witnesses that were in their homes, where standing nearby as well as all of the security officers that were involved in the shooting.

So, they immediately preserved the evidence and the facts for later presentation to a grand jury if that was necessary, but there's a police review, a state attorney review, and then, decision was made, in my case, to let a grand jury review it just to make sure that all the Ts have been crossed and Is dotted.

BANFIELD: But you went in with your client. You took him in to the police to give his account and to sort of voluntarily say, here, listen, I want you to know everything before memories start to dry up, before witnesses accounts maybe start to change. Why was it you did that?

CONWAY: Self-defense in the justifiable use of deadly force is an affirmative defense. So, when you use deadly force, you better be ready to articulate why you were in fear for your life or great bodily injury. In this case, after talking to the three security guards and my client, I knew that the best thing to do was get in there right then, preserve all of their testimony, and let the police take further statements from there.

BANFIELD: So then, Brad, do you think in this particular case, the attorney for George Zimmerman should be doing the same thing or are there nuances that are different from your case? Look, in your case, we didn't have people marching all over the country and demanding, you know, justice.

And then, also, in one particular case, the New Black Panthers putting on a bounty, a $10,000 bounty that I think has increased since for the capture as they call it, citizen's arrest of George Zimmerman, but in this particular case, do you think his attorney should be thinking about the same action that you took?

CONWAY: Absolutely. He should be cooperating with authorities. He should make sure that there's a full statement. If the injuries that George Zimmerman claims he received that evening did, indeed, occur they should have been documented and provided to law enforcement, provided to the state attorney's office, and ultimately, provided to the grand jury if they hear it.

BANFIELD: All right. So, that's a good if. And I actually want to talk a little bit about the big if here. If George Zimmerman's account, so far as we know it in the facts, and clearly, you and I don't know everything and nor does anybody else out there in TV land, but if the facts as we know it so far are true, did George Zimmerman act lawfully that night?

CONWAY: If you take George Zimmerman's attorney's statement as fact, he did act lawfully because what he's say that he was attacked by Trayvon Martin from behind, that he was on the ground being beaten by Trayvon Martin. BANFIELD: Brad, not just his attorney, not just what his attorney says, what he has said to the police, what the police have leaked all the different accounts from the witnesses. What we know so far is the collection of facts and, again, they're incomplete as we note in the public sector, but if those collections right now represent the story, did he act lawfully?

CONWAY: If you take those facts as true, yes, he did, because he was on the ground being beaten and that's when he used --

BANFIELD: So, should it go to the grand jury?

CONWAY: I believe it should. Ironically, this is a case where both individuals could claim that they had a right to stand their ground. If you turn around and Zimmerman was the pursuer, Trayvon Martin did not have a duty to retreat. So, the state would claim that on behalf of Trayvon Martin, his lawyer will advance that.


CONWAY: And those facts on behalf of Zimmerman.

BANFIELD: Good to talk to you again. I know we spent a lot of time together on the Casey Anthony case. Nice to see you again, and thanks for your insight into this, Brad.

CONWAY: Thank you, Ashleigh. Good to see you.

BANFIELD: Brad Conway joining us from Sanford, Florida this morning. I want to remind you as well that at 8:30 eastern time on "Starting Point" with our colleague, Soledad O'Brien, she's going to talk to the Florida state attorney, Angela Corey. She's a newly appointed special prosecutor investigating the Trayvon Martin case and see if she can shed an insight as to whether this will go to the grand jury or not.

And Soledad is also going to host a town hall meeting "Beyond Trayvon: Race & Justice in America." You can see it Friday at 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. eastern time right here on CNN.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Rick Santorum is trying to explain his ugly confrontation over the weekend with the "New York Times" reporter, and he seems to be suggesting it is all Mitt Romney's fault. On Sunday, Santorum called Romney the worst Republican in the country to put up against President Obama. "New York Times" reporter, Jeff Zeleny, questioned Santorum about that comment. Here's their exchange.


RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Would you guys quit distorting what I'm saying.

JEFF ZELENY, "NEW YORK TIMES" REPORTER: You think he's the worst Republican to run --

SANTORUM: To run against Barack Obama on the issue of healthcare, because he fashioned the blueprint. I've been saying it in every speech. Quit distorting my words. If I see it, it's (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Come on, man. What are you doing?


SAMBOLIN: Well, you know the Romney camp pounced on that, question Santorum's temperament in order to be president, and Santorum was on "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer yesterday. Here is how he explained that outburst.


SANTORUM: They sent a Romney person to our speech. He fed the line to all the reporters. We saw it happening. And everybody in that -- everybody in that room, even the reporter said, we understood what you meant, but you know, the Romney people said this to us so we had to ask you about it.

That's what happened. And so, you know, look, I understand the game. But this is -- you talk about desperate and pathetic, Mitt Romney can't run on his record.


SAMBOLIN: So, as you can hear, Santorum is not apologizing for his language. He also says, quote, "If you haven't cursed out a "New York Times" reporter during the course of a campaign, you're not really a real Republican." That "New York Times" reporter was Jeff Zeleny -- I think I mispronounced his name there.

BANFIELD: I don't know that it goes with a sweater vest, though. I got to be honest. Little incongruent.


BANFIELD: Twenty-one minutes now past 5:00, and the open mic comment that everybody is talking about, a private conversation in South Korea between presidents, whispering quietly touching each other's arms. Obama and Dmitry Medvedev discussing NATO missile defense systems in Europe.

You've got to listen real close. You've got to read along with your screen too as president Obama is caught on tape asking Medvedev for a little space on the issue until after November's election.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA: I understand you. I transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you.


BANFIELD: How about that? Well, President Obama decided to make a little light of his open mic comment, because the next morning, he started joking by covering up the microphone before shaking Medvedev's hand. Republicans, though, don't think any of this is funny. In fact, Mitt Romney on the campaign trail took it as an opportunity to pounce, and this is what he told our Wolf Blitzer.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Russia continues to support Syria supports Iran, has fought us with the crippling sanctions we wanted to have the world put in place against Iran. Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage, and for this president to be looking for greater flexibility where he doesn't have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia is very, very troubling.


BANFIELD: Well, he didn't stop there. Mitt Romney also accused the president of pulling his punches with the American people. For their part, though, folks at the White House said that Mitt Romney was distorting what the president actually said.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And coming up, from king of the world to king of the sea. "Titanic" director, James Cameron, makes a death-defying dive. We're actually going to hear from him.

Plus, Herman Cain, out of the race and out of his mind? The message behind the bunny killing featured in his latest ad. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: It is 46 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories making news this morning. Here is Christine Romans. Good morning.



ROMANS (voice-over): In just over four hours, the individual mandate in the president's healthcare overhaul will be front and center in the Supreme Court. Day two of arguments set to begin at 10:00 a.m. eastern time. The justices expected to decide in June whether it's constitutional to require citizens to buy something they may not want.

New troubles for former IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He's been charged with aggravated pimping in France for allegedly participating in a prostitution ring. Strauss-Kahn was forced to step down from the International Monetary Fund after a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault and attempted rape last May.

Some quick thinking firefighters in Oregon rescued a horse that had fallen into an old septic tank. Rosie was stuck in that hole in their backyard in Portland for half an hour. Firefighters used a hose to pull her to safety. She suffered minor bruises. Good for you, Rosie.

And director, James Cameron, talking about his record-setting journey to the bottom of the world in a one-man submersible. Cameron resurfaced after plunging nearly seven miles down to the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean floor, the Mariana Trench. He's the first ever to make that descent alone.


JAMES CAMERON, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER-IN-RESIDENCE: My feeling was one of complete isolation from all of humanity. I mean, I felt like I literally in the space of one day, had gone to another planet, and come back.


ROMANS: Cameron filmed his deep dive into that abyss in 3D for a National Geographic special.


ROMANS (on-camera): I keep thinking -- think of Mt. Everest upside down.

BANFIELD: And more.

SAMBOLIN: And then some. Yes.

BANFIELD: He's like a modern day Magellan. That's really -- imagine how frightening it would be to be under that much pressure?

ROMANS: You know, they did it in the 1960s. The navy divers did it in the 1960s, and the time they got down, it kicked up so much muck they couldn't even take any pictures. Hopefully, a good look, -- I mean, really the first.

BANFIELD: And Christine, wasn't this the issue was that yes, it had been done before, but nobody had stayed down there. It was too difficult, just too much pressure. Those atmospheres made it just too inhospitable to be able to stay down there for any amount of time.

ROMANS: And alone. That will be, too.


SAMBOLIN: Which, actually, I think was kind of cool for him to be alone, right?

BANFIELD: He tweeted, though, from down there, which is great. How do you get reception? Kidding. Kidding.

All right, 48 minutes. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: Forty-eight minutes now past 5:00 on the east coast. It was his first big test as a New York Jet. By all accounts, Tebow aced it. The team introduced its new backup quarterback to the media. This was insane, folks. Look at them walking him out on the field. They're at the practice facility in Florham Park, New Jersey. They had to move this press conference to the stadium, because there were so many press. More than 200 press wanted to get in on this action. He was pretty excited. You could say he was so excited he said the word "excited" -- I lost count at about 25 times. He went out of his way to downplay the conflict, too, between the current Jets starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez, saying that they have a great relationship, that they've been chatting and texting back and forth.

He didn't sidestep any questions about wearing his religion on his sleeve and the impact that might have on his teammates.


TIM TEBOW, NEW YORK JETS: But I think the greatest way to share the gospel is by acting it and by them seeing who you are as a person and that's how I approach it. It's not by what I say, but it's more about how I act and who I am as a person. And I think that's the greatest way that you can have an impact on people's live is by who you are and your integrity, your character, and how you go about handling yourself.


BANFIELD: Amen, my friend.

SAMBOLIN: Who can argue with that?

BANFIELD: I want my sons to be just like that. Tebow said the news conference was not his idea. He was only too happy to blame the bosses too for trotting him out in front of all those folks. May not look like 200, but yes, a lot of people.

SAMBOLIN: He looked good, and he handled it well.

BANFIELD: He did. He was cool as cucumber, and he got great press. So, there you go.


BANFIELD: Can't argue with that.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Late light -- late night laughs now. Former vice president, Dick Cheney's heart transplant leaving Jay Leno in stitches.


JAY LENO, HOST, THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO: Seventy-one-year-old former vice president Dick Cheney received a heart transplant. Yes. And I thought this was nice. They let him shoot the donor himself.


LENO: I thought it was -- so many people don't get a chance to --

Actually, you see how they selected the donor for Cheney's heart transplant? Interesting shot, but the donor process is done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rose Aberdeen (ph).



BANFIELD: I'm speechless.


BANFIELD: I don't like that. Let's move on. I love Jay Leno. I'm such a fan, but that was kind of gross.


BANFIELD: Oh, Jay. I love you, anyway.

Still ahead at 5:51, why Herman Cain saw fit to kill a little bunny rabbit in an ad? Don't worry. He didn't really kill it but, man, was that graphic stuff. What was that about?

SAMBOLIN: And plain (ph) skirt, smart skirt, I'm loving this. Microchips embedded in school uniforms. Parents, stay tuned for that. You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: We are keeping you in the pop culture loop this morning by taking a look at what's trending on the interweb, social media. And this one really stood out. The ad from Herman Cain featuring bunny killing.

SAMBOLIN: It's crazy.

BANFIELD The new ad, not bunny boiling, bunny shooting. It was yanked from YouTube, too. It's all about a movement that he calls "sick of stimulus." I don't know why the rabbit played a feature part in this, but you should probably see what it was all about. Here it is, the rabbit being shot dead.


UNIDENTIFIED KID: This is small business.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: This is small business under the current tax code.


UNIDENTIFIED KID: Any questions? Any questions?


SAMBOLIN: Lots of question, right?

BANFIELD: Hey, I think we do -- SOS, maybe stick of stimulus, but SOS may be aw. That's really painful stuff, and maybe your metaphor (ph) for the death of a tax code, but the video was flagged. It was taken down by YouTube. But Herman Cain got mad.

He took to Twitter saying, that's a violation of my free speech. So, it went back up on Twitter, and now, we think maybe the ad is only missing one little moment. Remember this? Take a look.





SAMBOLIN: Taking a little liberty there with that one.

BANFIELD: We think the smile was missing from the original campaign ad.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Because taking attendant (ph) to making a phone call so last century, right? 20,000 grade school students in Brazil are now wearing uniforms, listen to this, embedded with microchips that will send parents a text message if your student cuts class. So, this is for kids ages four to 14.

The government has spent $670,000 designing and manufacturing the shirts that the students will wear. They plan to expand it to all 43,000 students. How do you like that?

BANFIELD: So, what if you just take your shirt off and put it in your locker, and then, you bust out to go smoking --

SAMBOLIN: They're in a uniform, right? So, if you take off the shirt, you're going to have problems.

BANFIELD: I wore a school uniform. I had like three shirts. I could have busted that system like that.

SAMBOLIN: And then, they bust you for smoking in --

BANFIELD: The boys' room.


BANFIELD: Fifty-six minutes now past 5:00, and coming up next on EARLY START, a critical day. It's day two in the healthcare debate, and yes, we're geeking out on you because the Supreme Court is really up for one of its biggest decisions ever.

Today, going to talk about the individual mandate, your health insurance and whether this is constitutional or not. Can the government require you to buy something you may not want? You're watching EARLY START.