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Case Against George Zimmerman; Rocket Was A Dud; North Korea's "Provocative" Dud; Obama Defends Ann Romney; Two Suspects Found Dead After Standoff; Deadly Restaurant Shooting; Obama Heads To Colombia; Report: Tornado Risk Grows In U.S.; Mayor Booker Saves Woman From Fire; GSA Scandal Grows; Mayor Booker Saves Woman From Fire

Aired April 13, 2012 - 05:59   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm just saying, too.

BANFIELD: I'm just saying. It is just a hair before 6:00 a.m., but we want an early jump for EARLY START. Good morning. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you the news from "A" to "Z." Like she said, it's just about 6:00 a.m.



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

BANFIELD (voice-over): And Pyongyang may just have a problem. North Korea firing another dud. It deposited a long range rocket right smack dab into the ocean, but the damage is done, anyway. United Nations Security Council plans to talk about the North Korean threat today.

SAMBOLIN: President Obama defending his likely opponent's wife and all other stay-at-home moms.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There's no tougher job than being a mom. That's work.


SAMBOLIN: I guess all working moms. The president trying to get far away from a Democratic strategist comment that Ann Romney never worked a day in her life.

BANFIELD: And a government agency using your money to reward a jackass. Not kidding, their words, not ours. The GSA, the gift that keeps on giving.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, we should put that in quotes.

So up first here, a second night behind bars for George Zimmerman, and that's where he'll stay for the foreseeable future. Zimmerman made his initial court appearance yesterday as the prosecutors laid out their case against the man now accused of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.




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



SAMBOLIN: The prosecution affidavit alleges Zimmerman profiled a black teenager and disregarded a police dispatcher's request not to follow him. Zimmerman claims the shooting was self-defense. Attorney Mark O'Mara says his client is worried about getting a fair trial in Sanford, Florida.


MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: He is very concerned about the way he has been portrayed and the way this case has 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.


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


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN'S "AC 360"): What is that like to see it? I mean, 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.


SAMBOLIN: Zimmerman will remain in custody until his formal arraignment. That is scheduled for May 29th. CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Sanford, Florida.

So many developments yesterday, Martin and it looks like Zimmerman's lawyer is trying to humanize him. Can you talk a little bit about that?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is indeed, I mean, no question about it. This is a person whose face has been out there for so long and who has been accused, at least by one side, of murdering a young man of 17 who was totally unarmed.

You know, one of the interesting things, as we get a look at the probable cause affidavit -- and what's fascinating to me is that you basically now have had two different entities of law enforcement look at the same event and come up with completely opposite points of view.

The Sanford Police Department on February 26th basically said that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense and that the "stand your ground law" applied to him and that he shouldn't be arrested.

The state attorney's office looks at it and says, no, it's completely the opposite of that, and they basically have determined that George Zimmerman, well, profiled and then pursued and then frightened and then eventually confronted and shot and killed 17-year- old Trayvon Martin.

That is the account that Trayvon Martin's family has maintained pretty much all along. They seem to, the state does, play down anything that George Zimmerman claimed, which was he stopped following Trayvon Martin.

That he actually walking back to his car when Martin approached him, punched him in the nose, and began the life and death struggle.

The state also maintains that the cry for help that so many 911 callers heard, that was Trayvon Martin. So, you know, last night, appearing on CNN, the attorney for George Zimmerman basically said his client is terrified.


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 charges and a potential life sentence. I think, if any of us had that going on, there would be an enormous amount of stress.


SAVIDGE: He is essentially realizing the deep trouble that he is in -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Martin Savidge live in Sanford, Florida, for us. Thank you.

BANFIELD: It is now 4 minutes past 6:00 a.m. on the east coast. After all of the chutzpah and all the rest, it turns out the thing 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.

So no matter how embarrassing it is. It is considered an escalation nonetheless. Here's U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson, who visited North Korea several times, on Piers Morgan last night.


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.


BANFIELD: It's a failure. You heard him. CNN's Elise Labott is in Washington for us this morning. Embarrassing, yes, but intransigence is a whole other kettle of fish, isn't it?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT PRODUCER: That's right, Ashleigh. And as you were saying earlier in the hour, I mean, what the U.S. is not so much concerned about is the satellite launch itself, but the fact that North Korea continues to try and test this ballistic missile technology.

As you said, every time it tests, it learns. It gets more U.S. space program wasn't all that wonderful when it started, but now look at it so they don't want North Korea to keep making these provocations, making these tests, and they're also worried now about a possible nuclear test.

North Korea is really famous for that one-two punch. And so now they're looking, perhaps, North Korea trying to compensate for the fact that that missile failed to possibly do a nuclear test sometime in the coming weeks.

BANFIELD: So tell me about the reactions from the Chinese. As I recall, this launch pad is fairly close to the Chinese border. The Chinese are the closest allies of the North Koreans. Are they reacting to this mess-up?

LABOTT: Well, right now, China is saying, well, everyone should remain calm. No tension, no provocations. What China is really worried about right now is that perhaps this young leader, Kim Jong-Un seems a little vulnerable to his people right now and doesn't want the international community to press him any further.

But I think you're going to see a lot pressure on the United States to put pressure on North Korea to stop these types of actions, these types of provocations. The U.S. came out with a kind of bland statement last night, saying this was a provocative action in violation of North Korea's commitments.

But saying that the president was prepared to engage with North Korea so I think, if they're going to do that, China is really key here. They want China to put the screws to North Korea and say, listen, you can't do this anymore -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Good luck with that. Elise Labott, it's always good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

SAMBOLIN: It's 7 minutes past the hour. Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen has now apologized for saying Ann Romney never worked a day in her life.

The remark about a stay-at-home mother of five angered Republicans and had aides in the White House doing a rebuff. President Obama weighed in saying that does not reflect what he believes at all, using his wife and mother as examples.


OBAMA: There is no tougher job than being a mom. 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: It's seven minutes now past 6:00. And if you didn't hear this story, you've got to hear this story.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, he went to the hospital last night, but not before saving the life of his neighbor. There he is, Superman to the rescue. How he ended up in her burning home and how today he's being hailed as the hero.

SAMBOLIN: And a new report says tornadoes are threatening more parts of the United States and far more often.

And they were partying it up in Vegas, serious style. But now a government agency is being outed with something even worse, a jackass award, their words, not ours. You paid for it, folks. More embarrassing details of the waste of the GSA. We'll tell you about it in a moment.


BANFIELD: It's 11 minutes now past 6:00 on the east coast. Time to check the stories making top billing in the news. Here's where we start.

The road map for the prosecution in the Trayvon Martin shooting. George Zimmerman made his first court appearance yesterday to answer second degree murder charges.

Zimmerman is claiming it was self-defense, but the state's probable cause affidavit is alleging a lot of things, among them, profiling Martin before confronting him and murdering him. North Korea launching a long range rocket, but it broke apart in flight, and it didn't get much of a flight either. 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.

New developments this morning in an armed standoff in New Hampshire. Authorities in Greenland, New Hampshire, now saying two suspects have been found dead. Police believe they died either in a murder/suicide or a double suicide. The man and the woman are connected to an earlier shootout with police that killed one officer and injured four others.

A deadly shooting at a cracker barrel restaurant in Brooklyn, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. Police say a gunman opened fire, killing two people, wounding the third. He was shot dead himself by police after refusing to surrender outside of that restaurant.

SAMBOLIN: President Obama making a historic trip to Colombia. His weekend visit will be the longest time a U.S. president has spent in that country. The president is attending the Summit of the Americas, a gathering of leaders in north, central, and south America. He's expected to address the economy, trade, energy, and regional security.

Frightening new research now revealing that tornadoes are striking more parts of the U.S. more often. You knew this, but now it's been confirmed. The report says a so-called tornado alley is growing wider, and it is now more like a tornado field.

Tornadoes have typically threatened plains states like Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, but researchers say recent storms confirm the Midwest and Deep South are also at risk.

Here's how the story of the day. Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker taken to the hospital last night after he saved a woman from her burning home. Booker said he came home to find a neighbor's house in flames.

A woman was trapped inside. So what did he do? He raced in, grabbed her out of bed, and carried her out. Booker was later treated for smoke inhalation.

He actually tweeted about this as well. Apparently he does this a lot, 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." Humble dude.

BANFIELD: What a guy.

SAMBOLIN: For an expanded look at all of our top stories, head to our blog,

BANFIELD: It's 14 minutes now past 6:00 on the east coast. Know that song, "Reunited?"

Wow, you just pulled an Obama on me, didn't you? Take a look at that. Isn't that pretty? An Idaho woman certainly knows the feeling about reunited because sewer workers in the city of Tuna found her diamond wedding ring 18 months after she accidentally flushed it down the toilet.


MICHELLE RIEGER, RECLAIMED LOST WEDDING RING: I'm so ecstatic. I don't even know what to say it's so exciting. I just want to jump and scream.

And what makes it even more special is my husband and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in June. And so, to have this ring back that's a symbol of our 25 years together, it's the best feeling ever.


BANFIELD: I hope she had a little bleach on hand, right?

SAMBOLIN: I'm so happy for her. I can't even go there. That is so fantastic.

BANFIELD: And it is proof that miracles can happen, folks.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, that is beautiful.

BANFIELD: Eighteen months.


Fifteen minutes past the hour.

Where is Maury Povich when you need him? Paternity tests are coming back to find out who impregnated Teresa. Teresa is a female chimp living in a retirement community for older chimps in Louisiana. See, apparently, all the male chimps that are living around her had vasectomies, folks. So they suspect the father is a chimp named Conan, who has fathered two other chimps despite being snipped two times.

BANFIELD: You're kidding?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Conan has been vasectomized twice, and I have since re-vasectomized the group, and I have the daunting feat of vasectomizing all the males now in the colony.


SAMBOLIN: Does it happen to humans also?

BANFIELD: I just did the worst thing possible. I said I hope it's a chimp.

Vasectomized. I never heard that before. I didn't know you could make a verb.

That is definitely an anomalous situation, an anomalous situation.

SAMBOLIN: Her word of the day.

BANFIELD: Thank you. Finally, you have awakened, my crew, my friends. Word of the day.

Sixteen minutes now past 6:00.

And ahead on EARLY START, topping the news -- the man who killed Trayvon Martin finally faces the judge. The court session was brief, by video, but it did provide some key details, allegations anyway, about the case against George Zimmerman.

SAMBOLIN: And also still ahead, another embarrassment by the GSA. The agency using taxpayer money, your money to congratulate a so-called, quote, "jackass".

You're watching EARLY START. We got so many more details.


SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. Twenty minutes past the hour.

New details continue to emerge, showing the GSA scandal could be even bigger and messier than you could imagine.

BANFIELD: At first, it was embarrassing because videos of employees that were mocking government waste, and a lavish Las Vegas conference and eight government workers were being disciplined were the headlines. But it could actually just be the tip of a very large iceberg.

Alina Cho deluged with paperwork, following all the elements of the story.

Literally, you're just buried in all of these details.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What are you calling it, the gift that keeps on giving?

BANFIELD: To journalists anyway. Not to the GSA.

CHO: You're absolutely right.

You know, and what's most extraordinary about this is the center of the latest allegation is something being referred to as the jackass award. A fake award that was allegedly created to justify spending taxpayer money at dinner events at conferences for GSA employees. And apparently, this didn't happen just once, it happened repeatedly.

Now, remember all of this started early in April when government inspectors revealed the GSA spent more than $800,000 of your money, taxpayer dollars, on this four-day conference in Vegas back in 2010. Some of the expenditures included $4 shrimp, a clown, and a mind reader.

Now, the Capitol Hill newspaper "Roll Call" has a transcript of an inspector general investigation into GSA spending. In one exchange, the employee said they used a loophole to invent these fake awards as an excuse to hold taxpayer-funded dinner events at conferences. Some legitimate, marking years of service. Others, not so much.

Now, that person said, quote, "I just remember one year like someone got like the jackass award or something for doing something stupid. The jackass award got everybody food."

And apparently, it wasn't just, in their word, one goofy award, but several goofy awards. And this was a way to justify spending money on dinners, as the documents say.

SAMBOLIN: And they spent money somewhere we found kind of shocking this morning, which was on interns. They got in on it as well.

CHO: And we were saying, listen, it was -- being an intern is a thankless job, but I mean, it's a little --

SAMBOLIN: It's a little excessive.

CHO: This a little much, you're right.

And you are right, Zoraida -- I mean, CNN has actually received documents from a House Oversight Committee from another inspector general interview.

It shows that in May of 2010 there was indeed a five-day conference for interns at a Palm Springs resort. Some people who attended reportedly stayed in suites. A congressional investigator said this was a yearly event and that interns were flown in from across the country. And the conference, like so many others involving the GSA, involved a catered awards ceremony. In fact, one employee said, "I estimated out of my mind that they spent $100 a person on finger food."

In fact, the documents go on to say, not only $100 a person but a total of about $146,500 on sumptuous buffets and beverages.

BANFIELD: For interns.

CHO: For interns.

BANFIELD: Again, not to minimize the work of interns, it's extraordinary at times. This is an investment you're making oftentimes in employees when you do these conferences. Interns are temporary.

CHO: That's right. One hundred and twenty interns at least at that event with 20 GSA employees who were also there.

BANFIELD: I would love to know how many of those 120 interns ended up becoming employees at GSA, meaning the investment paid off.

CHO: That would be interesting.

BANFIELD: What about the incredible report of the money they spent to move some of their people in the GSA.

CHO: I have to say, this part of it was as surprising to me as the videos that have surfaced. I mean, it really you must listen to -- it really does only get better.

Our Dana Bash has actually learned that one government worker was paid more than $300,000 by the federal government to relocate from Denver to Hawaii, 300K. Then, quote, :stayed on for just the one year and then quit."

Now, that is according to a transcript of a GSA inspector general interview with an event planner. Where did all of that money go, the $300,000? A house hunting trip, rent for temporary quarters for up to 90 days, one vehicle shipped to Hawaii, and grocery and laundry expenses.

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

Now, one important note, unclear from the transcript, whether the government was reimbursed for any of that relocation money.

And, Ashleigh, as you pointed out earlier, that is an important point. If the government was reimbursed, well, then, at least that component not as big of a story, but nonetheless.

BANFIELD: I just want to know how they flew that employee to Hawaii. Did they get the Concorde back in service? Holy cow.

CHO: Well, I'll tell you -- one of the most interesting parts is the government apparently picked up the tab for closing costs on a home purchase. If the person relocating can't sell the house, they will buy it and resell it as well.

SAMBOLIN: Right. So, that's why that number was so high because it was extraordinarily high.

All right. Alina Cho, thank you so much.

CHO: You bet.

BANFIELD: It's 25 minutes now past 6:00 on the East Coast.

And coming up on "EARLY START," George Zimmerman is out of hiding, into jail, and out of court. Prosecution now has outlined its case, a few details. I will highlight a few. But there are two legal experts who know what that might tell us about where the case is going.

SAMBOLIN: New insight into what caused a deadly stage collapse at the Indiana state fair. That was back in 2010. And a new statement from Sugarland, the band at the center of all of that controversy.

You're watching EARLY START.


ANGELINA PAGLIA, PROFESSIONAL POOL PLAYER: Hi. I'm Angelina Paglia, and I'm a professional pool player. I travel around the world playing pool tournaments.

I would say that I play about maybe 13, 14, 15 major tournaments a year. If there aren't any major women's tournaments, I certainly will jump in with the men. I have no problem with that.

Not only do I travel as a professional player, but I really do like to be involved in charity. This shot is called the Evel Knievel shot. We do a lot of trick shots, exhibitions and a lot of challenge matches to raise money.

They'll charge $10 to be able to play us a game of pool. I mean, when do you get a chance to play a professional, right, and for such a great cause?

I normally always travel by plane. We have to check our pool cues because they're considered a dangerous weapon.

We really worry about checking our pool cues obviously for safety and damage. Sometimes, if I'm going to a place that's really far away, I will actually Federal Express by cues.

That's how a pool player travels. Thanks for watching. Off to my next tournament.



BANFIELD: It is 30 minutes now past the hour on the East Coast. That means 6:30. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are very happy that you're with us this morning.

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

George Zimmerman making his first court appearance to answer second degree murder charges. Prosecutors in court papers say Zimmerman profiled 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, stalked him down before he shot and killed him.

A provocative act -- that's what President Obama is calling North Korea's attempt to launch a long range rocket, even though it was a dud. North Korea basically dropping $1 billion in the ocean while it can't feed its people. The U.N. Security Council will be talking about that move today.

And updating a developing story for you. A tragic all night armed standoff in Greenland, New Hampshire, is now over. Police saying two suspects were found dead inside a home. Earlier, a gunman shot and killed the police chief and wounded four officers.

Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker, already a rising star in political ranks, now being called a super hero after he ran into a burning home to help save a woman. He was hospitalized, and we will have an update on his condition.

BANFIELD: George Zimmerman will remain in isolation in Seminole County, in a jail cell for the time being. And there's been no move so far towards a bond hearing to get him out. At a brief court appearance yesterday, Zimmerman's arraignment was set for May 29th. No plea entered in this either.

In the affidavit that led to Zimmerman's arrest, though, prosecutors are stating that he, quote, "profile" the teenager before shooting him. The court documents also say that Trayvon's mother, quote, "has reviewed the 911 calls and identified the voice crying for help as Trayvon Martin's voice."

Sybrina Fulton is her name and she told Anderson Cooper that 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 kill -- shoot and kill my son. And that's what I believed. That's what I've said from the start, that he chased my son down like an animal, and he killed him.


BANFIELD: So, those are the words of the mother of the victim and the words of the prosecutor. But what does it all mean with regard to the case against Zimmerman?

Jayne Weintraub is a criminal defense attorney in Florida. Beth Karas is correspondent for "In Session" on truTV, herself also a former prosecutor and one smart legal cookie, I might add.

Ladies, I'm glad that you're both with me.

There's a lot to digest. I just want to show you, quickly, "New York Post" says the case against George Zimmerman just highly profiling how much this is a cross-country story at this point.

Jayne, I want to start with you. The allegations that came out in this affidavit are quite serious, and they're very specific. But everybody has to realize these are allegations. But is there anything that leads you to think that the prosecutor has some additional evidence that we don't know about yet?

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, they definitely have additional evidence. In the autopsy report, it's going to be very crucial to both sides to find out how close they were when that gun went off, and that will be identified through forensic examinations.

BANFIELD: So, let me read for you one thing that really -- there are a lot of things that stood out in this affidavit. One in particular that stood out was a quote saying, "Later, while talking about Martin, Zimmerman stated, quote, "These blank holes, they always get away. And also said 'these f'ing punks'."

That is significant for a couple of reasons. And I want to touch on the first reason. Does this mean that the word "punks" is now settled and that perhaps the feds will back off the civil rights allegations that were being made against Mr. Zimmerman?

BETH KARAS, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, I suppose the feds don't have to agree with the state's assessment that the word was punks and not some racial epithet. But probably, they will back of because you really did need some very clear racist comment for them to find a civil rights violation.

BANFIELD: And they're working together with the state. The feds are working with the state on this, right?

KARAS: Yes. Right. But you know, often the feds will assist -- the FBI will assist in an investigation, especially in a smaller community although the FDLE, the state investigative agency is involved. I don't know how much they really need the federal assistance, but they're there if the resources of the feds are needed.

BANFIELD: So, then the other issue, Beth, would be the words "f'ing punks" and the -- it's hard for me to even say this on television, but they're critical because they're evidence, the blank- holes -- does that help us get towards the issue yesterday? We were talking on air that second degree murder requires indicating some sort of malice here, a depraved mind.

Do you see these comments are the prosecutor's lynchpin to get to that standard?

KARAS: I do believe those comments are pretty critical evidence toward the profiling allegation, why he was targeting this teenager, but also his state of mind.

But the malice, the evil intent, is actually a tussle. I mean, they were rolling around on the ground, probably on all likelihood, the way Trayvon Martin was found. The fact that he shot in the chest indicates he probably was on top of Zimmerman at the time. They're probably rolling.

But pulling a gun out in that scenario when Trayvon Martin doesn't have any weapons in his hand, he doesn't have a knife, he doesn't have a gun, that's probably more the malice or evil intent as opposed to the words that were expressed before.

BANFIELD: Let me jump to the next critical phase. And I know there's going to be the appearances, there's going to be the arraignment, there's going to be a plea entered in the deal here. Jayne Weintraub, the immunity hearing. When you claim stand your ground, something intriguing in Florida kicks in. You get a special hearing.

Don't we expect to hear a lot more evidence? Prosecutors have to tip their hand at this immunity hearing where it's in front of a judge, it's not in front of a jury, and the standard is pretty easy, isn't it?

WEINTRAUB: That's correct.

Well, the first time we're going to hear from the prosecution, as far as evidence is concerned, will be at the Arthur Hearing, at the bond hearing, because the prosecutors have the burden in the bond hearing to prove that the proof is evident and that the presumption is great. So they will put on a lead detective, and they will elicit information and facts that have not yet come out to prove their case to the judge of why their proof is good and that person should not have bond. So, that will be the first inkling, and that will be two weeks.

BANFIELD: The prosecutors will tip their hand there a little more than they did in the probable cause.

WEINTRAUB: That's correct. They'll have the police -- the lead detective there, and Mr. O'Mara on behalf of Zimmerman will be able to cross-examine the police officer and get some information out there.

BANFIELD: But won't there be -- Jayne, won't there be this little mini trial? I want to jump ahead to that immunity hearing because, by a lot of legal standards, people do -- people who are close to this process and work within Florida law say there is a probability that this case will never go to a jury if he prevails in an immunity hearing.

WEINTRAUB: Here's what it is. Here's what it is, Ashleigh. It's called a motion for declaration of immunity so that he cannot be prosecuted. It's a defense burden by preponderance of the evidence to demonstrate that Zimmerman basically had the right to use justifiable force or deadly force.

What that means is he will have to present evidence that he was reasonably in fear that, if he didn't use deadly force, he would have had deadly force used on him or great bodily harm. He's going to claim his head was bashed against the ground and that his nose was broken, that's the great bodily harm. That is going to come from Zimmerman himself.

BANFIELD: OK. So, Beth, 10 seconds left. What are the odds? You've covered these cases -- I'm not going to say dozens. I'm going to say in the hundreds. You've been in Florida a lot.

What are the odds that he might prevail in this I community hearing with that standard of preponderance, which is just the tip of a scale? What are the odds he could prevail?

KARAS: The odds are good, but I can't really comment on the quality of evidence. But it's an appealable decision. So, if the state loses at that hearing, they can take it up on appeal. It isn't necessarily over.

BANFIELD: Which means you're both invited back.

WEINTRAUB: And it's not the final bite. Zimmerman can always use it at trial when the jury -- remember we only have six people on the jury in Florida.

BANFIELD: Lots more to discuss, but I'm press out of time.

Jayne Weintraub and Beth Karas, thanks to you both. Appreciate it.

KARAS: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: It is 38 minutes past the hour.

Up next, a dud still making a lot of noise. North Korea's big hyped up rocket launch turns out to be an embarrassing failure. It got the attention of the U.N. They're meeting today.

So, let's get a quick check of your travel forecast. Here is Rob Marciano in Atlanta.

Good morning to you.


East Coast looking good today. A couple of problems as we point towards the West Coast in the central U.S. This storm will create severe weather across parts of the plains today, but a stronger system, which is pounding California right now with rain and snow all the way down to the Mexican border, this piece of energy will not only double a couple of feet in the sierras but will inject into the plains tomorrow, and a severe weather threat that's going to be pretty dangerous from Oklahoma City through Wichita, traditional tornado alley here. Storm Prediction Center, a high risk, dangerous situation unfolding.

You're up to date weather-wise. It's 39 minutes after the hour.

EARLY START is coming right back.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 42 minutes past the hour.

It was an $800 million dud. The rocket that North Korea said would launch a weather satellite into orbit disintegrated just minutes after its launch. The United States saying, despite the failure, this is a provocative act, adding that the launch, quote, "threatens regional security, violates international law, and contravenes its own recent commitments."

The White House also said because of that rocket launch, North Korea's starving people will lose out on food aid.

And today, the U.N. Security Council will discuss how to respond to the country's actions.

So, what can we learn from this failure, and what should we expect from the secretive dictatorship next?

Joining us to talk about it, Major General James "Spider" Marks, a CNN contributor. He was also the senior intelligence officer in Korea for the combined forces command. So, he is the perfect guy to talk about this.

Thanks for joining us again in this hour. So, what do you make --


SAMBOLIN: -- what do you make of the rocket's failure?

MARKS: Well, what we've learned from this is that North Korea remains a regional threat. They don't have the ability to reach out and touch anybody outside of their region. Clearly, if they'd have been able to get this missile into an atmospheric or orbit, now, we've got a real problem because they could then work through the steps of marrying up their nuclear capability. They've weaponized a nuke. Intelligence estimates are they have three to five of these things, and then they could launch it.

If they had been successful on this missile, and they would have been able to reach out and touch anybody outside of the region. That would have been a problem. But where we are now 24 hours later is where we were before, which is you've got the Kim dynasty, they do their own thing.

They're essentially immune from external pressures and influences. They will continue to march along this path to acquire this capability, with the help of China. It will be measured, but China plays an extremely large role in the development of almost all aspects of North Korea's diplomacy, its military, its fledgling economy, what it does, its sponsorship by Korea -- I mean, China remains in place.

So, North Korea today is very much like it was a couple of days ago, which is very much isolated, and essentially, a very capable military without much support. SAMBOLIN: Does it seem to you there was no expectation of failure? Because it seems like they were totally unprepared to address the fact that this did not happen the way that they expected it to. Was that surprising to you?

MARKS: Well, you know, what's very interesting is, when they brought in all the international media folks and they started opening up and we got folks in their command center, certainly, that's unprecedented. But my view of this, having looked at this for so long is none of that matters.

You know, it really doesn't matter. If the thing went sideways, they light the rocket, it goes sideways, we've got a problem here. Nobody really is concerned about that other than if you're in the rocket business in North Korea, you chose a bad career field, and you're going to have some problems going forward.

They will continue to develop a capability simply because they can spin the story any way they want, and they'll continue to march down the path. There's no contrition. And frankly, we talk about embarrassment. Clearly, it's an embarrassment, but what do you do with that embarrassment? What do you learn from that?

What they've learned is they don't have the technical capability. They're going to have to enhance it. Clearly, there are no indicators that they will get off this path to try to achieve this capability.

SAMBOLIN: And what are the consequences then moving forward?

MARKS: Well, you know, Zoraida, the United States has stated, at least initially, on the very heels of this that they're not going to provide food aid. Let me tell you, the United States and the rest of the international community --

SAMBOLIN: They don't care, right?

MARKS: They're going to provide food aid. They truly will. North Korea's got a major problem. The United States understands this. You know who really understands this exceptionally well is the South Koreans. And they, the south Koreans, very much want to have a form of reunification. This just stifles any efforts that might be in place, but it doesn't change the desired outcome, which is a reunified peninsula. It just makes it that much more difficult.

SAMBOLIN: That's really interesting. We thought for sure that the aid would discontinue because that's what the White House said. So, that's really interesting to know. It's good to know, actually. So, thank you very much for joining us, General James "Spider" Marks. Major General James "Spider" Marks. Thanks again -- Ashleigh.

MARKS: Thanks, Zoraida.

BANFIELD: All right. Thanks, Zoraida. It's now 47 minutes past 6:00. Soledad O'Brien joining us now with a look at what's ahead on "Starting Point." Hi, Soledad. SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Hey, good morning to you. This morning, we talk to a Rick Santorum supporter. He held up a sign that said "convince me" at a Mitt Romney rally. He says he represents many Republicans who still aren't sold that Mitt Romney is the right guy for the job. We're going to ask him this morning what would convince him.

Also, a coach has been identified as the man at the center of that NFL bounty scandal, the one, in fact, who blew the lid of it. We're going to talk to a sports writer who said the coach was let go and blackballed by the Saints organization.

And remember this Sammy, the fly girls, homey the crown, fire Marshall (ph)bill, "In Living Color" is back. Actor, Tommy Davidson, is going to join us to talk about it.

Also, we got the playlist this morning. Will Cain, John Fugelsang join us, and you can check out our live blog all morning, We'll see you right at the top of the hour.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 51 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 court appearance on charges of second-degree murder in the Trayvon Martin shooting. The prosecution's probable cause affidavit to just Zimmerman profiled Martin, chasing him down, confronting him, and eventually, killed the teenager.

BANFIELD (voice-over): Newark, New Jersey mayor, Cory Booker, taken to the hospital last night after saving a woman from her burning home. Booker race in, grabbed the woman from her bed, carried her out, and then tweeted about it, saying, "Thanks to all who are concerned. Just suffering smoke inhalation. " No big whoop. I added the no big whoop, but carried the woman out of the house. "We're both off to hospital. I will be OK." Fabulous.

Some new insight into what caused the deadly Indiana State Fair stage collapse. Investigative reports are claiming that the scaffolding was substandard and unable to withstand the heavy gust of wind that took it down. This happened back in 2010. The country duo, Sugarland, was just about to perform when the stage collapsed and killed seven people.

Sugarland released a new statement saying in part, "Jennifer and Kristen never told anyone not to delay the concert because of the weather. Nobody wants to get to the bottom of what happened more than they do."


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Fifty-two minutes past the hour. Still ahead, everything is better with bacon.

BANFIELD (on-camera): Really?

SAMBOLIN: That's supposedly --

BANFIELD: Ice cream.

SAMBOLIN: -- contested that out. This is their new dessert. It is a sundae with bacon and caramel and chocolate. We're going to talk about this. You're watching EARLY START.



BANFIELD: There's little kids at the set. Those are my little kids.

SAMBOLIN: They're adorable.

BANFIELD: Hey, guys. They're peeking through the glass. Time to take a look at what's trending on the interweb. Hey, buddy. Mike and Ike all scribbled out. Why? Why they supposed to scribble out? Turns out Mike and Ike getting a divorce. The new boxes are hitting the shelves with one name scribbled out, almost like an angry spouse would do that.

The new campaign is coming from the Elevator Group. It's an advertising company, apparently, thought it might give a boost to sales. They announced a same-sex breakup. Apparently, Mike is leaving to pursue a music career, and Ike plans to focus on his art. Mike also claiming that Ike was loafing around too much, playing Words with Friends just like Alec Baldwin.

Posted this on his Tumblr blog. Are you ready? "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.

SAMBOLIN: You know what I wish we could do is go over to Soledad right now, because she's looking incredulous. What the heck are they talking about?


O'BRIEN: Is this an advertising campaign? This is a gimmick to get people to buy Mike and Ike, right? They didn't actually break up. Got it.

SAMBOLIN: They're not actually getting a divorce. It's not breaking news. Thank you, Soledad. So, what do you do when you fall --

BANFIELD: No fighting. No fighting.

SAMBOLIN: -- to number three for the first time in a fast food race? This is what you do? You add more bacon. So, Burger King, apparently, is now testing out a new dessert. It is called a bacon sundae. This is what it is, folks. It's your basic ice cream sundae, vanilla ice cream dribbled with caramel, chocolate, sprinkled with chopped nuts, and bacon bits.


SAMBOLIN: It's only offered in certain markets right now. Someone in Nashville snapped a photo of the sign, posted it on Twitter. I asked you on Facebook and Twitter whether you tasted it before. Nobody apparently wants to.

BANFIELD: Would you try a bacon sundae?

SAMBOLIN: Of course they would. Little kids? Yes.

BANFIELD: Would you try -- here. Would you try a bacon sundae, buddy?


BANFIELD: He's looking at himself on TV.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I would too.


BANFIELD: Yes. They came in to visit mom. This is great. They're fighting.


BANFIELD: That is it. The news from "A" to "Z." I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN" starts right now.