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Case Against George Zimmerman; Rocket was a Dud; Failed Rocket A "Provocative Act"; The Case Against George Zimmerman

Aired April 13, 2012 - 05:00   ET


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

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you the news from A to Z.

It's 5:00 a.m. in the East. So, let's get started.

After weeks in hiding, George Zimmerman made his first court appearance for the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Prosecutors outlining their murder case saying the neighborhood watch volunteer followed the unarmed teenage after a police dispatcher told him to back off.

BANFIELD: Pyongyang we have a problem. North Korea fires another dud, depositing a long-range rocket right smack into the ocean. But the damage is done. United Nations Security Council is going to talk about this, the North Korean threat, later today.

SAMBOLIN: Newark, Jew Jersey Mayor Cory Booker, he is already a rising star in political ranks. Now, he's a superhero, after he ran into a burning home to help save a woman. He was hospitalized. We will have an update on his condition.

BANFIELD: And the government agency using your money to reward something they call a jackass, GSA, the gift that keeps on giving. We'll explain.

Up first, though, at 5:01 on the East Coast, the state versus George Zimmerman. It's official, Florida prosecutors laying out their case against the man now accused of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. After weeks in hiding, we got our first full look at the neighborhood watch volunteer as he went before a judge.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Zimmerman, you're appearing for your first appearance at this time for charge of murder in the second degree. And you are represented by Mr. O'Mara, is that true?



BANFIELD: Via video, the judge ruling there is probable cause for the case to proceed. Prosecution alleging that Zimmerman, quote, "profiled" Trayvon Martin and disregarded a police dispatcher's request by continuing to follow him.

Zimmerman's attorney says he's worried about getting a fair trial in Sanford, Florida.


MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN ATTORNEY: He is very concerned about the way he has been portrayed and the way this case has sort of seemingly gotten almost out of control. He doesn't quite understand it. He doesn't understand why people view him in a way that he perceives to be so different than his reality.


BANFIELD: CNN's Anderson Cooper talked to Trayvon Martin's family about watching Zimmerman in court.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": What is that like to see it? This is something you've been wanting for so long, ever since your son was killed.

SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER: It actually helps a little to see that the person that shot and killed Trayvon will be held accountable for what he has done.


BANFIELD: Zimmerman's next court hearing is scheduled for May 29th.

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

And the facts are sort of coming out fast and furious, some of them facts, some of them allegations, even in the affidavit. So, we have to be clear that what he prosecution is saying, Martin, are these allegations. But there is a lot still on the docket.

What's up next?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I was just referring back to that probable cause affidavit because, really, that's kind off the cliff notes that we get from the state as far as what their case is outlining against George Zimmerman. And it's kind of interesting what they say. It's very one-sided account, of course, which you might expect.

But, basically, and I'm looking at my notes, it says that George Zimmerman, when it comes to Trayvon Martin, profiled him, pursued him, frightened him, confronted him, eventually shot him after some sort of altercation. And that is very much in keeping with the account that Trayvon Martin's parents have given all along.

But it greatly discounts, of course, George Zimmerman's tale of what he said happened to him, which is that he stopped following Trayvon Martin, that he was returning back to his car and Trayvon confronted him, punched him in the nose and that's what began the life-and-death struggle on the ground.

So, there are a lot of differences here. You know, the account says, quote, "Zimmerman confronted Martin." It also maintains, the state does, that the person calling for help was Martin and it apparently relies very heavily on the testimony of the girlfriend that was on the telephone with Trayvon Martin right up until -- just before the shooting occurred.

Last night, Mark O'Mara was on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT," and he that his client, George Zimmerman, is very frightened.


O'MARA: I think that type of trauma, being involved in a situation where someone passed away, carries with it a lot of stress and, of course, he's facing second-degree murder charge and a potential life sentence. I think if any of us had that going on it would be an enormous amount of stress.


SAVIDGE: Right now, George Zimmerman remains in administrative confinement, they call it, which is essentially that he's being kept away from the general population -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Well, we heard a report from ABC that he may have been seen weeping while he was, as you described, in administrative confinement last night. But he has also has a chance to avail himself of some of the comforts of the jail as well. What do we know about that?

SAVIDGE: Well, you know, we got a look -- it's amazing the detail that comes out, as to the shopping list and what he purchased at the jail store. It appears that he is stocking up on planning to be there for some time because he purchased clothing. He purchased a deck of cards, snacks, drinks, crossword puzzles -- a lot of things that would suggest he knows he's going to be there a while.

BANFIELD: Also suggests he's already got an account set up, at least with $74.89 in it.

Martin Savidge, thanks very much for that. Appreciate it.

SAMBOLIN: It is five minutes past the hour.

And after all of that, it was a dud. North Korea making good on its threat to fire a long-range rocket, only it broke up after launch and ended up in the ocean. No matter how embarrassing it is, it is considered an escalation. It is not the first time a North Korean rocket failed. But it is the first time they have admitted failure.

Here's U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson who has visited North Korea several time.


BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: I wouldn't want to be the head of North Korea's space agency right now. It is a failure. There's obviously a gap in the technology, the ballistic technology of North Korea. I do believe it was a cover, this launch, for ballistic missile technology, long-range military purposes, but it's a failure.


SAMBOLIN: And a third nuclear test may soon be coming. And the United Nations will be talking about the threat moving today -- forward today.

Stan Grant is in Pyongyang, North Korea.

And, Stan, I think it was about a week -- are you there for us? Oh, I'm sorry. Here he is.


STAN GRANT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the media center you can see around me here. We've been in a holding pattern now for hours, ever since we learn of the rocket launch. Now, North Korea has taken a great gamble bringing all of these crews here, a crush of cameras, to be able to see exactly what has been going on here. They were so confident that this would actually be a success. Well, now we're hearing from state media here in North Korea that they are confirming that this was a failure and scientists are now looking into exactly what the cause of that may be.

We heard that earlier from the United States, from South Korea and Japan. They are also now scouring the sea off the coast to see if they can find any debris. That of course is going to be very important in trying to indicate exactly how much technology North Korea has.

You can't under state what an e embarrassment this is. Not just because the media are here, because this was meant to be the pinnacle of the massive celebration planned for the centenary of the birth of the founding father of the country, Kim Il Sung. There is a huge celebration here, they've been putting up banners right across the city. There is a massive display planned as well, and this rocket launch was really going to seal this.

And all of this now raises questions, not just about the technology they have and their ability to call this off, but also about the risks that they have taken here. This raises real question marks about ongoing food aid from the United States and, of course, raises the stakes in a very volatile region.

Now, we're expecting to hear something from officials here in the coming hours. At the moment, there's just been an empty chair over here surrounded by microphones.

When with we finally get that confirmation from the officials themselves, we can see what story they are going to tell. Do they concede what the rest of the world is saying? Or will they be able to convince their people that, despite this failure, they are still a powerful and prosperous nation?

Stan Grant, CNN, Pyongyang.


SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Stan and our apologies to you. We lost him at the last minute there.

BANFIELD: And it is now eight minutes past 5:00. This just in -- gas prices, can you guess? Dropping.

SAMBOLIN: That's what they're predicting. Lets' hope it continues.

BANFIELD: It's good. So, dropping for the seventh day in a row -- if you've been watching, you had a nice little run here, haven't we?

The national average cost of unleaded is now $3.90 per gallon. Price of gas is still up about 19 percent since the start of the year, but, hey, seven drops in a row, we'll take it. Thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, we will.

And still ahead, President Obama defends Mitt Romney's wife and other members after a Democratic strategist says Ann Romney never worked a day in her life.

BANFIELD: And give the man a key to his own city and look what he goes and does with it? He goes rescuing people. Our hero mayor of Newark. Why Cory Booker is the man of the day, maybe the week, maybe even the year. Find out what he did when he saw his neighbor in a burning building.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: It is 12 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories making news this morning.

A road map for the prosecution in the Trayvon Martin shooting. George Zimmerman making his first court appearance yesterday to answer second-degree murder charges. Zimmerman claims it was self-defense, but the state's probable cause affidavit says he profiled the black teenager, then confronted and murdered him.

North Korea launching a long-range rocket, but it broke apart in flight. The U.N. Security Council will discuss the launch today.

The Obama administration says the United States will no longer provide food aid to North Korea.

And a deadly shooting at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Brooklyn, Ohio, that is a suburb of Cleveland. Police say a gunman opened fire, killing two and wounding a third. He was shot dead by police after refusing to surrender outside of that restaurant. Authorities say the suspect was apparently distraught after his wife said she was leaving him.

BANFIELD: An armed standoff happening right now in Greenland, New Hampshire. Authorities there facing down a suspect they say killed one police officer and wounded four others in a shootout. Police first arrived at the home as part of a drug investigation. Authorities say the alleged gunman is now barricaded inside with an unidentified woman. The town's police department has only 10 members.

Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen has now apologized for saying Ann Romney never worked a day in her life. Her remark about the stay- at-home mother of five set off a political sonic boom yesterday, with the White House trying to get as far away from it as possible.

President Obama even weighing in, saying that doesn't reflect what he believes at all, using his wife and mother as examples.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no tougher job than being a mom. And, you know, when I think about what Michelle's had to do, when I think about my own mom, a single mother raising me and my sister, that's work.


BANFIELD: President Obama making a historic trip to Colombia as well. His weekend visit said to be the longest time a U.S. president has spent in the country. The president is attending the Summit of Americas, a gathering of leaders in North, Central and South America. He's suspected to address the economy, trade, energy as well as regional security.

And Rick Santorum is now revealing that money is one of the reasons he dropped out of the GOP presidential race. He told FOX News yesterday that his loss in Wisconsin made it difficult to raise campaign cash. He also says that he has not discussed the possibility of endorsing any of the remaining candidates.

And for an expanded look at all of our top stories, you can head to our blog

Fifteen minutes past the hour.

Frightening new research now revealing tornadoes are striking more parts of the U.S. and more often. That report says a so-called tornado alley is growing wider and it's more now like a tornado field. Tornadoes have typically threatened plain states like Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, but researchers say recent storms confirm the Midwest and Deep South are also at risk. That's surprising there with the results.

Let's go over to Rob Marciano live in Atlanta.

You could have told us that, right?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We've known that for a while. We actually nicknamed the area through Tennessee and Alabama and Mississippi, Dixie Alley. It becomes so active. It's a little earlier in the season, little closer towards wintertime, but the bottom line is that tornadoes there can be just as big and just as deadly.

Let's talk about the threat for tornadoes today across traditional tornado alley. You get into mid to late April, into May and even June, this is the area really that sets up almost day after day. It's a repetitive process because of a bunch of different things coming together a lot more often.

Today, I think we got a little short wave heading across the area. So, from Kansas City down to Oklahoma City, we got a slight risk of seeing thunderstorms that could produce large hail and damaging winds and tornadoes.

But looking ahead towards tomorrow and tomorrow afternoon, the Storms Prediction Center out of Norman, Oklahoma, has not only issued a moderate but a high risk. To do this two days in advance, this is serious business and it means that tomorrow, tornado or tornado outbreak is likely, especially in the red and pink areas here, basically including the same area as today, but a higher risk from Oklahoma City up through Wichita and central parts of Kansas, stretching into Nebraska as well. So, tomorrow is going to be a heads-up day for sure, potentially a deadly day if one of those tornadoes hits a small town.

San Francisco to Los Angeles, that's where your storm, that's where the energy is coming out through tomorrow. That will eject into the plains and give us the threat for severe weather. East Coast looks good today and through most of tomorrow.

Guys, back to you.

BANFIELD: Nicely done, thank you, Rob.

It is 17 minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. And that's the time that we like to get an early read on your local news making big headlines.

This morning, we got papers from everywhere. Papers, we got your papers, from New Jersey, all the way to California, let's start in New York with the "Star Ledger." He had us at hello. He had us at hello.

Hello, Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Are you ready for his latest title? Hero. He saved the life of a hero trapped in the building next to his home.

It turns out he came home to find that her house was on fire. And what did he do? He raced right in and picked her up and carried her out of her bed. And he did it with, like, grave concern to himself, too. It turns out he was actually injured. He was treated for smoke inhalation.

Then he tweeted about it said, "Thanks to all who are concerned. Just suffering smoke inhalation."

SAMBOLIN: No biggie.

BANFIELD: No big whoop. "We got the woman out of the house. We are both off to the hospital. I will be OK."

By the way, if you're counting, it's not the first time that Cory Booker has helped his constituents. Here he is again, Superman, during the blizzard last December. He bounced around the city helping to shovel streets and helping snowed-in residents.

Did I say he had us at hello?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, got to love the guy. If you're watching right now, give us a call. We want to see how you're doing.

BANFIELD: Good friend of the show, too. We've had him on a couple of times. And I'm going to make the prediction right here. It won't be long until he runs for president.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes.

BANFIELD: I kid you not. He's got some great financial backers here in New York. It won't be long before he runs for president.

SAMBOLIN: He is definitely a people person.

All right. Let's go to the "San Jose Mercury News." I don't know how I feel about this one.

California Supreme Court ruling employers in the state have no obligation to make sure lunch breaks are work-free. Employers must provide uninterrupted meal and rest breaks, but they cannot be sued if employees choose to work through their breaks.

The employer groups say the decision will derail future lawsuits over break times. Worker reps say ruling is a strike -- this ruling is a strike against bosses who try to discourage breaks.

I feel like we've done this all along, right?

BANFIELD: I don't remember the last time I had a lunch break, got to be honest.

SAMBOLIN: No, no, no. I agree. But you could take it if you wanted to.

BANFIELD: Not even.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, really?

BANFIELD: Not in this business. Are you kidding me?

SAMBOLIN: Oh, I think you could if you figured it out, right? I don't quite get this. I don't understand it.

BANFIELD: I hope they do figure it out, though, because to some that is critical, especially for moms have to race home, to organize, that kind of thing.

Nineteen minutes now past 5:00.

Are you ready for this? A government agency giving out something they call the jackass award. You're welcome.

The award that you paid for. More embarrassing details of waste at the GSA, that's the agency in charge of saving your taxpayer dollars. What on earth are they up to this time? You'll find out.

You're watching EARLY START.


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

New details continue to emerge showing the GSA scandal could be even bigger than you can possibly imagine.

At first, it was embarrassing videos of employees mocking government waste, a lavish Las Vegas conference and eight government workers disciplined.

BANFIELD: If you think that's a lot, apparently it could be just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Alina Cho is basically swamped with documents.


BANFIELD: Look at this -- this is it like amazing. She's been following the story and has even more.

And it's -- you watch prime-time on CNN and you get a whole deluge of this stuff and you've got to tune in once again because there's even more this morning.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, and we like to break it down. I like to call it the gift that keeps on giving. I mean, honest to goodness. Good morning.

At the center of the latest allegation is something being referred to as the jackass award. It's a fake award that was allegedly created to justify spending on taxpayer money on dinner events for GSA employees. And apparently this happened not just once but repeatedly.

Remember, all of this started earlier this month when government inspectors revealed that the GSA spent more than $800,000 of taxpayer money on that four-day conference in Las Vegas in 2010. Some of the expenditures included $4 shrimp, a clown and a mind reader.

Now, Capitol Hill newspaper "Roll Call" apparently has a transcript of an inspector general's investigation into GSA spending. Now, in one exchange, an employee says they used a loophole to invent the fake awards for an excuse to hold taxpayer-funded dinner events at conferences. And again, not just once, apparently, several times.

Some of these awards apparently were legitimate, marking years of service. Others not so much.

Take a look. That person said, quote, "Well, I just remember one year got like the jackass award or something for doing something stupid."

"The jackass award got everybody food."

This employee went on to say, Ashleigh and Zoraida, that, I mean, there were a bunch of them. There were a bunch of goopy awards.

SAMBOLIN: You know, we were talking about this this morning because it is all the talk. My producer who was an intern not too long ago said, the interns got in on the action as well.

CHO: Oh, yes, they did. I mean, as I mentioned, the gift that keeps on giving. It really is unbelievable when you break it down and look at all the separate components coming out.

Listen at this. CNN has received documents from the House Oversight Committee from another inspector general review, and that includes that in May of 2010, there was a five-day conference, you're right, Zoraida, for interns at a resort in Palm Springs. Now, some people who attended reportedly stayed in suites.


CHO: A congressional investigator said it was yearly and interns were flown in from across the country. The conference, like so many of the others, included a catered awards ceremony.

In fact, one employee said, quote, "I estimated out of my mind that they spent $100 a person on finger food."

And if you're thinking this is some small conference at a small place in Palm Springs, you're wrong. It was a 120-intern event with 20 GSA employees and apparently, as you heard, this didn't happen just once but several times.

BANFIELD: I wonder if any of those interns actually ended up getting hired? I mean, was it worth it to spend the money?

CHO: Oh, let's hope, right?

BANFIELD: A hundred and twenty interns, rather, flown in from across the country.

SAMBOLIN: And they do work hard, right, interns, but, oh, my goodness.

BANFIELD: We know, it's a thankless job, right?

CHO: Yes.

BANFIELD: I think the bigger issue is the (INAUDIBLE).

One of the gifts that we got yesterday -- again, this is the gift because it's just so unbelievable you can't believe you're reporting on it -- is these costs that were incurred for things that really shouldn't cost so much.

CHO: Right. We're talking about relocation, right?


CHO: Pretty unbelievable. It really only gets better. CNN's Dana Bash has learned that one government worker was paid more than $300,000 by the federal government to relocate from Denver to Hawaii and then, quote, stayed on for just one year and quit.

Now, that is it according to a transcript of a GSA inspector general interview with an event planner. Now, where did all of this money go? Well, apparently, to a house-hunting trip, rent for temporary quarters for up to 90 days. One vehicle shipped to Hawaii, and grocery and laundry expenses.

In fact, in one exchange that event planner was asked how much the GSA spent on relocation. Quote, "Oh, millions." "How many employees are we talking about?" "I'd say right now probably about 15 files on my desk."

Now, we should note that it is unclear from the transcript whether the government was actually reimbursed for any of that relocation money. But nonetheless none of it --

BANFIELD: That isn't important.

CHO: It is an important point. And we are looking into that. But, remember, there's been tremendous fallout from this. The head of the GSA, Martha Johnson, stepped down, as did seven others. They were either fired or suspended. And so this is --

SAMBOLIN: It started with $800,000. Yes. So, it keeps getting bigger.

Thank you, Alina. We appreciate it.

BANFIELD: Keep going. Come back next hour.

CHO: I will.

SAMBOLIN: Thanks, Alina.

Twenty-eight minutes past the hour.

Still ahead on EARLY START: George Zimmerman in the flesh in court to answer murder charges. We'll talk to a former Florida district attorney about the case going forward in the Trayvon Martin shooting.

You are watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Thirty-two minutes past the hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BANFIELD: I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Nice to have you with us. Time to check stories making top billing on the news headlines this morning, and we begin with this.


BANFIELD (voice-over): George Zimmerman making a first videoconference in court to answer second-degree murder charges. The prosecutors in court papers say Zimmerman profiled 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, alleging he stocked him down before he shot and killed him.

A provocative act. That's what the president is calling North Korea's attempt to launch a long-range rocket, even though that rocket was a dud. North Korea basically dropping a billion dollars into the ocean while it can't even feed its own people. United Nations Security Council will be talking about that move later on today.

And a bad breakup that turned into a deadly shootout at a cracker barrel restaurant in Ohio. Police say a man killed a woman and a girl before he was gunned down.

President Obama heading to Colombia for the summit of the Americas. But on his way, he'll stop in the key swing state of Florida. He'll be in Tampa, site of the 2012 Republican convention, pushing the importance of a trade summit -- or a trade ahead of that summit.

SAMBOLIN: George Zimmerman will wake up this morning in administrative confinement. That is separated from the general prison population for his own safety. No move, so far, on the bond hearing, we understand. At a brief court appearance yesterday, Zimmerman's arraignment was set for May 29th. In the affidavit that led to Zimmerman's arrest, prosecutors say he profiled Trayvon Martin before confronting him and then shooting him in the chest.

The document also says Trayvon's mother, quote, "reviewed the 911 calls and identified the voice crying for help as Trayvon Martin's voice." Last night, Sybrina Fulton told Anderson Cooper she has no doubt that Zimmerman was the aggressor.


SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER: I think it was deliberate. He got out of that vehicle with the intent to shoot and kill my son. And that's what I believe. That's what I've said from the start, that he chased my son down like an animal, and he killed him.


SAMBOLIN: So, what does this all mean for the murder case against Zimmerman? Defense attorney, Phyllis Kotey joins me from Miami. She is a former Florida state attorney and a judge. Very nice to have you this morning. So, you have looked at this affidavit. What can we learn from it?

PHYLLIS KOTEY, FORMER FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY & JUDGE: Well, I think what we learn from it is exactly what the state is going to be depending on in order to prove their charge. I mean, certainly that this was a deliberate act on the part of George Zimmerman, that he profiled Trayvon Martin without good cause and using that profiling as that act that then becomes reckless or reckless disregard or depraved mind.

SAMBOLIN: We also see that his mother says that it was Trayvon's voice on the tape. And, you know, there's been a lot of speculation as to whether that is the case or not, and there have been some experts who have weighed in. How much weight does it carry that his mother says that?

KOTEY: You know, I think it's going to carry the weight of a mother, and certainly, the emotional weight of a mother listening to the last voice or last words of her son. But I think you will have the testimony of any sort of scientific evidence that may refute that, as well, because certainly, it's not a conversation where you're actually hearing the person talking or speaking into the microphone. So, I think there may be some issue in terms of what one is able to hear.

SAMBOLIN: Phyllis, I want to read part of what they describe that Zimmerman actually did. Martin was on his way back to the townhouse where he was living when he was profiled by George Zimmerman. Martin was unarmed and was not committing a crime. Will the matter of profiling be a big factor in proving a murder case?

KOTEY: I mean, certainly sounds like it's going to be, because, remember, one of the things they're going to have to prove is certainly not that this was first-degree murder, but that the act itself that was done by George Zimmerman was so reckless that it events (ph) a depraved mind.

So, that this act of profiling, probably based on the affidavit, will become the key for the prosecutors in this case.

SAMBOLIN: What about the stand your ground defense that we've talked about so much? Where does that stand? KOTEY: You know, the stand your ground defense will still be available, and we don't know exactly where we will hear it or how the attorneys will decide to have this evidence dealt with. I mean, certainly, there can be a motion for a stand your ground hearing before the case actually reaches trial.

But even if defense attorneys are unsuccessful with that stand your ground defense during or before trial, they still will be able to insert it during trial. So, we may see it a couple of places.

SAMBOLIN: I want to talk about another revealing part of the affidavit. It involves a controversy over the 911 tape, specifically, which words Zimmerman actually said. So, listen to this part.




SAMBOLIN: So, we've heard that a lot, and the prosecutor's version is this. "While talking about Martin, Zimmerman stated these blank holes, they always get away and also said these f'ing punks." So, they're not asserting that Zimmerman used a racial slur here. How does that affect the case, because we talked a lot about, perhaps, there being federal hate crimes against him, as well.

KOTEY: Well, you know, I always thought that would be a difficult avenue for the prosecutors, certainly, in term of the hate crime, but I think what becomes obvious when you look at the words that they're looking at here is that this was an individual intent on not letting someone get away.

So, there will be those actions of these blank holes, and they're always getting away or they're getting away. And even after being told not to pursue, that pursuit by George Zimmerman, that appears to be key for the prosecutors.

SAMBOLIN: And another issue here, the charge of second-degree murder. When we talked to you yesterday, you said that there's a high proof required for that. So, now, we know that Zimmerman goes before a judge for a hearing. Is there any possibility here that the charges would be dropped?

KOTEY: Well, I mean, certainly, the defense attorneys should look at the evidence and may, in fact, file a motion to dismiss with the case being dropped because of the stand your ground defense. I mean, certainly, that is a possibility.

SAMBOLIN: And my last question to you, the judge assigned to the case, her name is Jessica Rock Siegler (ph). She's only been on the bench, I understand, a little more than a year. What do you know about her?

KOTEY: You know, I don't know anything about her, but what I do know about, because I was the associate dean of our Florida Judicial College is that Florida has an extensive training program for their new judges. So, she's been on the bench for 16 months. She's gone through extensive training if not through the actual experience, but through simulated experiences of how to handle a case and what is proper.

And I'm told from all intents and purposes that she's a very bright judge and a very good judge in terms of what she's done, so far.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Phyllis Kotey, always nice to have you. I almost want to be a student in your classroom, I got to tell you. You break it down so well. Thanks a lot.

KOTEY: Thank you.

BANFIELD: I want to be a student. I always want to be.

SAMBOLIN: She's a little far away to be going every day, but I would love, love to sitthat.

BANFIELD: I kind of like Florida, too.



BANFIELD: Thirty-nine minutes now past 5:00. And up next, a dud that is still making a lot of noise. North Korea's big hyped-up rocket launch turns out to be, uh, not so much. But it sure got a lot of attention, and it got the attention of us here in the U.S.

And the U.N. is going to meet about it today? What does it mean for North Korea's ability to strike the United States or its neighbors? You'll find out. You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Ignoring international pressure, North Korea launched a long-range rocket this morning, but it broke apart before even reaching orbit. So, the rocket flew for more than a minute, got up to an altitude of 400,000 feet, but then it broke up and fell into international waters.

North Korea claims it was attempting to put a weather satellite into orbit, but a lot of nations, including the United States, say that the North Koreans, instead, were attempting to develop a missile that can strike the United States, an ICBM. White House has called the move, a quote, "provocative action that threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments."

The administration also announced that in the wake of North Korea's defiance food aid that we had planned to send to North Korea will not happen. And today, the U.N. Security Council is meeting to discuss a response to North Korea's actions as well. Joining me now to talk about this is retired army general, Spider Marks, who is also the senior intelligence officer in Korea for the combined forces in command. So, there could be no one better, Spider, to talk about this than you. First off, right off the bat, the failure of this rocket, some call it rocket, some call it missile, the failure, does it tell us anything about their capacity and about how far they've come in their program?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Ashleigh, what it really tells you is that North Korea remains a regional threat. If they had been able to get this missile into an orbit, you know, extra-atmospheric in its launch and its telemetry (ph) data, it would be a far different problem that we'd be talking about right now.

Remember, North Korea is a nuclear power. It is weaponized three to five -- they've got three to five bombs, and it's a matter of marrying up that capacity with the ability to launch that thing out of the region and to threaten folks almost anywhere. That's not the case right now, because they haven't been able to demonstrate that they can produce a capacity that can move that nuclear capability, that nuclear threat, someplace else.

So, they remain this morning where they were a day ago, which is a very vitriolic, very isolated, the hermit kingdom, doing essentially what they want to do and remaining very much a regional threat, but not an international concern except you have six nations that are very much apart of this discussion that circle around North Korea.

BANFIELD: So, you know, the layperson looks at this and says, big failure. You're probably nowhere better than you were in your last launch attempt which was in 2009. But then, I sort of hearken back to our space program, and NASA had some real disasters with challenger in Colombia, and yet, a global force to be reckoned with, some of the most elite, you know, astronauts in the world.

So, I sort of look at our failures and our space explosions, and I wonder if this is a blip or if it truly does signal that they're kind of really nowhere they need to be at this point if that's what they want to be.

MARKS: Well, they have the ambition to be more than what they have demonstrated they are right now. Understand that North Korean philosophy that has driven their existence for the last 60-plus years is the notion of (INAUDIBLE), total self-reliance. However, North Korea has, you know, incredibly strong relationships with China.

They walk China -- Beijing walks a very fine line between its relationships with Pyongyang and relationships elsewhere in the region, Seoul and in Tokyo, and clearly, with the United States. And, China understands that its role is extremely important vis-a-vis North Korea, and North Korea knows that as well.

North Korea also understands, Ashleigh, that they have a complete pass. They can get away with almost anything they want. And I guarantee you, the United States is going to continue to give food aid, anything else they can do, to try to reduce the suffering of the North Korean people.

BANFIELD: Yes, because it seems that, you know, punishing the people and withholding food aid doesn't seem to matter much to the leadership in North Korea. But let me ask you this. Oftentimes, we go to Barbara Starr and her reporting from the Pentagon is top-notch.

MARKS: It is.

BANFIELD: And we see these satellite photos that give us some indication of what the North Koreans are up to. And I always wonder just how much is that Intel? Is that the tip of the iceberg? Are we great at this? Do we have a really good handle on exactly what they're doing? Or do we even have any dirty intelligence on the ground?

MARKS: Yes. The real issue with North Korea is that we have not been able to effectively penetrate on the ground what's taking place. It is completely isolated. Our collection capabilities on North Korea are quite extensive. We do have human intelligence. It's very sporadic. It's not very deep. So, we get snippets and insights in terms of how decisions are made and what the life and the conditions are like on the ground.

In fact, we can draw some pretty good conclusions. The challenge that we have is that most of our collection in Korea is all technical. It's done from overhead systems. It's done from offshore. So, we have what I would call a partial understanding of what really takes place in North Korea.

Clearly, we have a picture of what the suffering looks like for the people. But that is such an isolated regime, and until they raise their hands and say, you know, we want to change our behavior, there's very little that any international body can do to influence that. Influence campaigns are exceptionally difficult to try to get started in North Korea.

We've tried for years and years, and we don't have a lot of success. So, it really becomes an issue of containment. Let's not let this thing get too far out of control and let it grow and become a major problem that we're now going to have to deal with, which would have been the case had they been able to get this bad boy into space.

BANFIELD: It's great to talk to you, Spider, as always. Hope you can stick around for our next hour, as well.

MARKS: Thanks, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: All right. Spider Marks joining us live this morning. Zoraida, back to you.

SAMBOLIN: It is 48 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning. It lasted just minutes.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): George Zimmerman's first appearance on charges of second-degree murder in the Trayvon Martin shooting. The prosecution's probable cause affidavit suggests Zimmerman profiled Martin, chasing him down, confronting him, and eventually killing the teenager.

Police in suburban Cleveland investigating a deadly shooting at a cracker barrel restaurant last night. Two people, a woman and a young girl, were killed, and another girl was wounded. Police say the gunman was killed after he refused to surrender. He, apparently, became distraught after being told by his wife that she was leaving him.

In new developments this morning, an unarmed (ph) standoff in New Hampshire. Authorities in Greenland now saying two suspects have been found dead. Police believe they died in either a murder/suicide or a double suicide. The man and a woman are connected to an earlier shootout with police that killed one officer and injured four others. The town's police department has only ten members.

Newark, New Jersey mayor, Cory booker, taken to the hospital last night after he acted like superman and saved a woman from her burning home. Booker said he came home to find his neighbor's house in flames. A woman was trapped inside. Booker said he raced in, grabbed her out of bed, carried her out. Booker was later treated for smoke inhalation.

And he tweeted about it, saying, quote, "Thanks to all who are concerned. Just suffering smoke inhalation. We got the woman out of the house. We are both off to the hospital. I will be OK." Happy to hear that -- Ashleigh.


BANFIELD: Do you love that he says, just suffering from smoke inhalation.

SAMBOLIN: No big deal.

BANFIELD: No big -- no big whop (ph). Cory Booker!

It's 50 minutes past 5:00 on the east coast. And still ahead, trouble in Candyland. Why Mike and Ike are splitting up. Where is the hot tamale in all of this? Just too tempting (ph)? Kidding, of course. But what's the story behind this, really? You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Tricky. It's tricky.

SAMBOLIN: This is tricky, actually.


BANFIELD: Fifty-three minutes now past 5:00 on the -- what coast are we on? East coast.

SAMBOLIN: We're on the east coast, yes.

BANFIELD: I've been checking.


We like to take a look at what's trending on the interwebs at around this time. So, it looks like the relationship went sour. You're supposed to know what that means. Look at this. If you're going to the candy store --

SAMBOLIN: This makes me sad.

BANFIELD: It's adorable, isn't it? If you're going to the candy store and you see a Mike and Ike's and you see what looks like so much like a magic marker and scribbled out one of the names, it turns out Mike and Ike are getting a divorce. I'm not kidding.

SAMBOLIN: Come on!

BANFIELD: Yes. The boxes are hitting the shelves with either Mike scribbled our or Ike scribbled out. And it's not the work of some crazy person. It's actually a campaign that's coming from the elevator group. If you're wondering who the elevator group is? It's an advertising company, apparently, thought it could boost sales by announcing a same-sex breakup.

Mike apparently is leaving Ike to pursue a music career, and Ike wants to focus on his art. Mike also claiming that Ike was loafing around too much and playing words with friends too often and posted this on his a Tumblr blog.

SAMBOLIN: No way. Serioiusly?

BANFIELD: I kid you not.

SAMBOLIN: All right.

BANFIELD: "Heard about Ike and me splitting up? Yes, it's true. We just don't agree on the candy. My red, his red, my lime, his lime, my box ideas, his box ideas. So over it." Anyway, that's that. Mike and Ike, splitting up.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, what do you do when you fall to number three for the first time in the fast food race? You add more bacon.

BANFIELD: Oh, yes.


BANFIELD: Good one.

SAMBOLIN: Burger King, apparently, now testing out a new dessert.

(LAUGHTER) SAMBOLIN: Seriously. It is a bacon sundae. I tweeted about this this morning. How do you feel about that? Yum, yum, yum. It's your basic ice cream sundae. It's vanilla ice cream, dribbled with caramel, chocolates, sprinkled with chopped nuts and bacon bits.

BANFIELD: That is so not kosher.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. It's only offered in certain markets right now. Someone in Nashville snapped a photo of design, posted it on Twitter. We felt compelled to share it with you. If you taste it, let us know.

BANFIELD: I feel like that has to be a joke. Really? Bacon sundae?


BANFIELD: Do you know anybody who tried?

SAMBOLIN: No, no, no. that's what I'm saying. If you have, let us know.

BANFIELD: Crew? Anybody?

SAMBOLIN: Sweet and salty.

BANFIELD: Again, they're asleep. Guys, wake up. We're having a show here. Come on! Get with the program. Literally, got with the program. All right. Would you try it?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I think I'd try it. I think I'd try it. I don't think I'd like it, though.

BANFIELD: That teeny tiny body, bacon sundae?


BANFIELD: All right. Creating a fake jackass award is an excuse to party and score free meals. That your government hard at work for you, folks. The GSA scandal growing this morning, and we've got even more to tell you about. You're watching EARLY START.