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Space Shuttle Discovery Retiring; Congress Investigates GSA Scandal; Judge Asked to Recuse Herself from George Zimmerman's Trial; British Lawmaker's Obama, Bush Bounty?; Breivik Testifies At Murder Trial; Six People Killed In Woodward Twister; Woman Finds Ring In Tornado Rubble; Fireball Erupts On The Sun; Discovery's Final Flight; Chin Up!; Closer Look At Murder Suspect; Were Tulsa Shootings Racist Revenge?; Buffet Rule Voted Down In Senate; Who's In The Lead?; Public Backs Buffett Rule; Tupac Ressurected

Aired April 17, 2012 - 06:59   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: And thank you very much. Our STARTING POINT this morning is a new legal twist in the Trayvon Martin case. His accused killer now wants a new judge. We'll tell you why.

Plus, the secret service prostitution scandal is soaring (ph) up now, going up the ladder. We've got more details for you.

And there's this --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pathetic. I got to tell you that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Moments ago a --


O'BRIEN: Oh, yes. That's what it looked like yesterday as lawmakers tore into the GSA's head honchos for drinking and partying and (Inaudible) people's money in Las Vegas. We'll tell you how that ended up and the other investigations that are underway.

And this, a live look at Kennedy Space Center, the space shuttle "Discovery" taking off just moments ago with its final flight heading to just outside Washington, D.C. This time, it's a passenger traveling on the back of a jumbo jet and literally flying right into retirement.

It is Tuesday, April 17th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Well, Will Cain I like the playlist, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Californication" I love that. I like it, I like it.

Joining us this morning is Will Cain, and back with us Mark Lamont Hill, professor at Columbia University, and John Fugelsang, political comedian. He's with us too. I love watching the shuttle take off going into retirement after 39 different flights. WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Even when it's taking off on top of a jumbo jet?

O'BRIEN: Yes, Will Cain.

CAIN: It's amazing. Look at how huge that is.

JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: I watched it many times from my parents' yard in Florida.

O'BRIEN: That's 39 times, more than any other shuttle. It's a piece of history. They'll take the Enterprise, which is at the Smithsonian now, and was a test model in the 1970s and bring that Enterprise to New York to the Intrepid museum right near where I live and they'll swap and the Discovery will go into the Smithsonian, so it's a win/win.

FUGELSANG: And they'll both enjoy their retirements and hear my Jimmy Buffett song.

O'BRIEN: Our STARTING POINT this morning, papers filed and waiting to hear if the judge in the Trayvon Martin will remove herself from the case. George Zimmerman's defense saying Judge Jessica Rickseidler has a conflict of interest because her husband is a law partner of CNN legal analyst Mark Nejame. Nejame and his firm had been asked twice to represent Zimmerman, but offered five other attorney names, including Mark O'Mara, who now represents Zimmerman. Let's get right to Mark Nejame because he can update us on what's happening here. Thanks for being with us.

MARK NEJAME, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning, everybody.

O'BRIEN: Are you surprised at the request to have the judge removed from the case?

NEJAME: No, actually I would expect it. I think it's appropriate. Lawyer has to do what a lawyer has to do in the best interests of the client. And the biggest issue is not whether she has a conflict of interest but whether there's an appearance that she may. So the public is safeguarded and they look at the legal system in the best possible light which is a challenge and these are the reasons these are done to make it so the system maintains integrity.

O'BRIEN: Were you surprised she waited to be asked versus immediately when it was clear that you're a partner with her husband, which a lot of people started to think, hmm, this is going to be a problem, she didn't offer?

NEJAME: I don't think it's going to be an issue. She could have done it one of two ways and I think a lot of people would suggest she did it the right way, she waited for the lawyers who are really the parties in the action to file the appropriate paperwork so that the record would be clear and she would be doing the right thing based on the motions filed. So either way it could have been done, but I think this is rather routine, and it will happen very fast. She routinely recuses herself from any cases we're involved with. This is a twist because I'm in this position as a CNN legal analyst and her husband happens to run the personal injury division of our law firm so it's not the normal situation. I don't think she did anything out of the ordinary for this extraordinary situation.

CAIN: Mark, Will Cain. I don't understand. How is it your firm's relationship to the judge and your relationship with CNN creates a conflict? Can you explain how that works?

NEJAME: It's an appearance of a conflict or appearance of an impropriety. You read the blogs and many people have a conspiracy theory but could I be speaking to my partner to get word to her about the way she's acting on the bench if she was presiding over a case, could she be talking to him at home and him say something to me and that would affect what I would say which would affect the case or the impression. Those are the types of things that wouldn't happen, didn't happen but some suggest could happen so to avoid all that, to avoid the suggestion that anybody's acting with prejudice or bias you avoid the I impropriety or appearance of an impropriety just by leaving and allowing a fresh start to occur.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the other judges. There's the honorable John Galluzzo (ph), the honorable Kenneth Lester, and the honorable Debra Steinberg-Nelson. Can you tell me about the judges?

NEJAME: Every one of them has a lot of experience. They've been around, I don't know of any significant controversies surrounding any of them. I think that a fair trial will, with Mr. Zimmerman with any of the judges I don't think anybody has a negative thing to say. They're all going to be under the public eye. I'm not sure any of them have had a case of massive publicity the way this has but they're mature on the bench and they'll act appropriately and do the case proud as it relates to rulings.

O'BRIEN: Mark Nejame, we're going to talking a lot about this as this goes forward. We appreciate your time this morning.

NEJAME: My pleasure. Thank you all. Good morning.

O'BRIEN: A thousand more times as this case is followed.

All right, got to get to other headlines. Zoraida has a look at the headlines. Hey, Z, good morning.

SAMBOLIN: Hi, Soledad, good morning.

Breaking news, five more victims who died in the wreck annual of the Costa Concordia cruise ship have been identified. Reuters is reporting the bodies were found last month. They include two Germans, an Italian and the two Americans who have been identified as Barbara and Gerald Heil of Minnesota. And 30 people died in the disaster and two others remain missing.

The prostitution scandal shaking up the Secret Service is wide widening. Eleven members of the agency have had their security clearance yanked for allegedly bringing prostitutes back to their hotel rooms in Colombia two days before the president arrived for a summit there. The chairman of the House committee telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer this is the worst possible transgression.


REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: No matter what the ultimate penalty is, this is a serious, serious violation of everything the secret service stands for. What these 11 agents did put the potentially puts any president at risk or themselves at risk, leaves themselves open to blackmail and to threats. Obviously finding out who those 11 women are and exactly what their backgrounds are, what their connections and associations are is extremely vital to the investigation.


SAMBOLIN: Ten members of the U.S. military are also being investigated for possible involvement in the prostitution scandal.

In an attempt to hike taxes on the richest Americans not going anywhere in the Senate. Last night Senate Republicans voted down a plan to move ahead on a so-called Buffett rule which would require millionaires to pay a minimum 30 percent tax. The president responding to the vote blaming Republicans for, quote, "choosing once again to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest few Americans at the expense of the middle class." The GOP argued it would hurt small businesses and wouldn't make a dent in the deficit and it would hurt small businesses even though the Treasury says it would only hit about one percent of them.

A new CNN/ORC poll shows an overwhelming amount of Americans support the Buffett rule -- 72 percent in favor of the tax hike, only 27 percent oppose it.

And minding your business this morning on Wall Street, stocks are set for modestly higher open. The Dow, NASDAQ, and S&P 500 futures up about half a percent which follows a rally overseas. Investors are pleased to see the report on investor confidence in Germany came in higher than expected, noteworthy because it comes against the backdrop of the continuing debt crisis in Europe. Earnings from Goldman Sachs, Coca Cola, and Johnson & Johnson are due out before the bell in addition to report on the struggling housing market.

And a mega mystery solved, we're finally going to find out which lucky person owns that final winning ticket in the $656 million mega millions jackpot. The winner will be revealed at a ceremony today in Red Bud, Illinois. Ever heard of it? That's where the ticket was purchased. The lucky person is accepting a $218.66 million check. Illinois requires its winners to go public.

O'BRIEN: I feel badly for that person. Imagine if you really don't want people to know you won millions.

SAMBOLIN: I was wondering why you feel badly for that person.

O'BRIEN: Not for the money. I'm really happy for that person for the money but they'll lose their privacy.

CAIN: Would you sell your privacy for $250 million?

O'BRIEN: In a hot second. I sell my privacy every day on the show. Exactly.


O'BRIEN: The space shuttle Discovery now in its final voyage to a retirement home, aka, a museum in Washington, D.C. Just moments ago the shuttle took off on the back of a 747 jumbo jet making the trip from Florida up the eastern seaboard to be on permanent display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. John Zarrella joins us live watching us from Kennedy Space Center. Good morning, John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Soledad. Just absolutely spectacular, discovery headed down the beach now, we're expecting it to turn around and come back over us one more time here at the Kennedy Space Center and make it up to Washington, D.C., flying over several landmarks before landing at Dulles.

Discovery is the oldest of the three remaining orbiters, flew 39 missions, 148 plus million miles. And it's tough here because so many people have lost their jobs with the end of the space shuttle program. So many people wish the shuttles were still flying, and so many think they could still have been flying if not for politics. They basically decided NASA was going to go in a new direction and they were going to retire the shuttle fleet and go back to expendable rockets and capsules. Lot of things changing here in Florida, and not the least of which is the retirement of these magnificent wing flying vehicles that in our life times we will likely never see again anything like this. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: That's such a beautiful shot as people watching as the sun is rising and seeing that takeoff. John Zarrella thanks for updating us on that this morning.


O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, another day, another hearing on the GSA. Today we're going to be hearing from the whistleblower who blew the lid off the $800,000 conference scandal. We'll talk to the Republican chair about what they expect the whistleblower to say.

And our "Get Real" this morning. Maybe it is a metaphor -- see this, shattered, oops. Crystal, not handled carefully, awkward as my daughter would say.

And if you're about to head to work, don't miss the rest of the show. Check out our live blog at our website John Zarrella has a playlist. John Zarrella listens to Ozzy Osbourne, who knew? "Mama, I'm Coming Home." You're watching STARTING POINT. We'll be right back after this break.



O'BRIEN: I could listen to Lauryn Hill all morning. "Everything is everything." That's off of John's playlist.

For the first time since the GSA spending scandal broke, how long have we been talking about the GSA?

CAIN: A week or two?

O'BRIEN: Two and a half, I think. We're going to hear from the woman who blew the whistle on the agency's lavish conference which cost taxpayers more than $800,000. In just a few hours the house transportation and infrastructure committee will be holding the second of four congressional hearings looking into the matter. On Monday the house oversight committee held its hearing on the matter. One of the toughest exchanges was between the Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who joins us on this show, and the GSA administrator, Martha Johnson, who resigned over the scandal. Here's how it went.


REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, (R) UTAH: Why were you giving out bonuses when the president said there was a pay freeze?

MARTHA JOHNSON, FORMER ADMINISTRATOR, GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION: The senior executives were entitled to bonuses under our -- were entitled to bonuses. I don't believe the pay freeze affected the bonuses.

REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R) CALIFORNIA: Would the gentleman yield for one question?

CHAFFETZ: As long as it doesn't take my time.

ISSA: The gentle lady seemed to say "entitled." I thought it was there were possibly going to be granted. Entitlement seems to be something the gentleman may want to follow up on.

JOHNSON: I apologize. I did not mean entitlement.

CHAFFETZ: I think you did mean entitlement. I think that's the fundamental problem that America gets and that government doesn't get. There are a lot of good federal employees that work hard and are patriotic and are frugal with their money. But when you see this widespread abuse of money, and you as the former administrator say, well, they were entitled to it, that's where there's frustration steaming out of our ears. It is totally unacceptable. And for the president of the United States to look at the American people in the eye and say we got a pay freeze in place while you're getting bonuses and going on trips is totally unacceptable.


O'BRIEN: Joining us this morning the man who will chair today's hearing, Republican representative John Mica, Republican of Florida, head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Thanks for talking with us. Why four committee hearings? Why do we need four?

REP. JOHN MICA, (R) FLORIDA: Well, they have different jurisdictions. I serve on the House Oversight Committee and that committee has very broad jurisdiction. They went in to some of the questions about what the White House knew, when they knew it and did nothing about it. Our committee is a little bit different. We do have public buildings. We oversee GSA in a legislative authorization manner. So we're more responsible for a lot of the operations and legislation for GSA. And I think what we're seeing here, too, is just the tip of the iceberg of an agency that's out of control.

O'BRIEN: And maybe an agency that had been out of control for quite a while if you believe Ms. Johnson, doing her testimony yesterday. Susan Brita will be testifying today, the whistleblower, and it was interesting to hear her role in the hearings yesterday. What do you expect to hear in your testimony?

MICA: First of all, she worked for our committee, and she's an outstanding public servant. As soon as she heard about this, she blew the whistle, and rightfully so, while others tried to cover up the outrageous expenditure of taxpayer monies.

But really, this is just the tip of the iceberg because this agency is losing billions of dollars sitting on incredible public assets. We did a report that was entitled "The federal government must stop sitting on its assets" and we highlighted GSA. That's online. People can look at it. This is more than two years ago when we held our first hearing just a couple blocks from the White House in a property vacant for 15 years. We dragged the bureaucrats in there in 32 degree weather. Some of the people will be on the panel today, we've been after them and they've stonewalled us. So now we're going to get answers.

O'BRIEN: You mentioned cover-up, and I didn't really get a sense of that in the testimony yesterday. Who do you think was responsible for the cover-up?

MICA: We'll look at the sequence of when things happened. It looks like Susan Brita did go, as soon as she heard about it, she went to the inspector general and proper authorities. People from the White House knew about it, did nothing, kept it quiet until just a few days ago when a statement was released by the president condemning the act. But we think that, again, they've held this information, we've been asking for information on their --

O'BRIEN: Forgive me, sir, I just want to understand. Are you alleging a White House cover-up in this?

MICA: Again we want to find out exactly the sequence of who knew what and when, and who went forward. It also appears the bureaucrats within GSA tried to deep as quiet and sweep it under the rug as much as possible. O'BRIEN: Who specifically? Reading that testimony yesterday I didn't see that. Who specifically at the White House would you say had a cover-up and who specifically would the bureaucrats try to sweep it under the rug? When you read miss Johnson's testimony sounds like she was slow and wanted to wait for a full report.

MICA: We have hundreds of pages of testimony and some of that will come out in today's hearing, and in fact, people did let the White House know, and the White House did not choose to intervene or to take action early on. Nothing happened until just a few days ago and thank goodness for people like Susan Brita and also for the inspector general, who got, who blew the whistle and got the information and made it public.

But again this is small dollar amounts, when they're wasting billions of dollars, we have 14,000 buildings and properties they oversee that are partially vacant or vacant sitting around for years wasting taxpayer dollars so this is an agency in need of some serious reform.

O'BRIEN: It was fascinating to watch yesterday, and very rarely do I tell people to look up a transcript, but it's really an interesting read so I would recommend that, and also obviously to watch what you're hearing in the transportation and infrastructure committee is going to be doing today. Congressman John Mica joining us, Republican of Florida. Thank you for your time.

MICA: Thank you, good to be with you. Bye now.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead and joining us the man who led the panel in grilling GSA official Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, the ranking House Oversight Committee chairman. And he was on fire, some of the details are fascinating. We've been following the story for a while, so it's been interesting to continue to follow.

Still ahead this morning, our "Get Real" -- this beautiful crystal trophy cost $30,000. It's a trophy for college football's national championship. Someone dropped it. Wait until I tell you how, so sad.

Also doctors are blaming Facetime and Skype for an explosion of one kind of plastic surgery. Is it because you look so bad in Skype you need to get work done to look good? Here's Marc's playlist. You're watching STARTING POINT.


CAIN: That's music right there.

O'BRIEN: All right, that's Rolling Stones.

FUGELSANG: Your audience is in tatters.

O'BRIEN: It is. If I were taking bets it would have gone John, Will, and then it's close between you two. Listen, that's my song and I have to say it's kind of my husband's song, we got married, it was my collection and his musical collection which was the Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead, but 17 years later we're working it out. Most embarrassing thing --

FUGELSANG: Anything you want to talk about --

O'BRIEN: Just musically.

The worst thing you've ever done in front of a large group of people that would make it to the news? Anybody, most embarrassing thing. I'll share a horribly embarrassing thing.


O'BRIEN: Hey, hey, hey, my children watching the show, they haven't gone to school yet. Anybody else want to jump in?

CAIN: I can't think of anything. Tell us yours. I'll be thinking.

O'BRIEN: No matter what you come up with, you cannot beat this. Alabama football player's father accidentally tripped and knocked over the $30,000 trophy from the display, smashing it. Now the university is working to get it replaced. The BCS trophy is handmade, sculpted in Ireland.

FUGELSANG: It's not easy to fix?

O'BRIEN: After trying to glue gun it together the crystal doesn't work like that. Not the first time the coveted the trophy is destroyed. The captain of the Spokane Chiefs.

FUGELSANG: That was great.

O'BRIEN: Sad. Broke the memorial club after winning the hockey club tournament and last year they're holding the trophy, watch clos closely. Real Madrid dropping the trophy and it was run over by the bus. Yes, $30,000, much less expensive.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a British lawmaker accused of putting a bounty on President Bush and President Obama's head doesn't go over very well. An exclusive interview with the man accused of gunning down five African-Americans, killing three. She'll tell us why he's not a racist. She joins us with a prison interview, she's incarcerated. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Got to love Zoraida's play list this morning. Good morning to you. Let's get some headlines.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning, that's gotten me through a lot of workouts, Soledad. On to the news now.

Great Britain's Labor Party has suspended a member of the House of Lords over claims he offered a 10 million pound bounty for the capture of President Obama and George W. Bush.

Lord Ahmed, a Pakistani-born lawmaker denied the allegation, but he has criticized the United States for offering a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of the founder of a Pakistani militant group who is accused of attacks in India.

A British newspaper quoted Ahmed talking about the bounty, but he denied using those words.

And happening right now, Anders Breivik who confessed to killing 77 people in Norway last year is having his day in court. He took the stand a day after pleading not guilty to the charges. Breivek is a self-described right wing extremist.

Meantime, one of the five judges hearing the case has been dismissed for saying the death penalty was the proper punishment for Breivik.

The tough cleanup now getting under way after a weekend of deadly twisters across the south and the Midwest. Six people were killed after a tornado barrelled through the town of Woodward, Oklahoma around midnight on Sunday.

Survivors are saying that they are truly blessed. One literally finding a bright spot on all of the rubble, she found her wedding ring. She left it on the bathroom counter and searched all day with a metal detector.

Our Rob Marciano talked to her as she went through the remains of her home.


ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: So what went through your head when they said they found it, when you got word finally?

EMILEE NEAGLE, TORNADO SURVIVOR: My goodness, really? I mean -- right now, I'm just over whelmed. I'm so excited, but just I couldn't believe it. In all this madness that one of the ladies searching is the mother of one of my students that I teach and she was bound and determined she was going to find it today and sure enough, they did.


SAMBOLIN: That's incredible. That's not all. They found a neighbor also picked up the family dog that they were forced to leave behind.

Here's the coolest thing that you will see all day long, NASA cameras capturing a fireball erupting on the left side of the sun. NASA refers to it as giant prominence. That was accompanied by a solar flare. NASA says the eruption was not aimed at earth.

No countdown, no fiery launch, just a space shuttle "Discovery" riding off into the sunrise. "Discovery" is making its final flight from the Kennedy Space Center to the nation's capital on the back of a 747 jumbo jet. The shuttle will be on display at the Smithsonian for all the world to see.

A new trend alert, the fastest growing plastic surgery procedure right now believe it or not, chin implants. The number of Americans getting chin implants jumped 71 percent between 2010 and 2011.

Experts say every 25 minutes in the United States, someone gets a chin implant. Some doctors are saying it's social media making us more insecure about our chins.

With Facebook and Skype, Americans are seeing more photos and live images of their faces and apparently, some see a little room for improvement.

O'BRIEN: A chin implant?

SAMBOLIN: I have to say that I have someone in my family that could use one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, and they're watching right now, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: There you have it.

O'BRIEN: Chin implant. You know what? Honestly, I think in Skype, you just need better lighting.

JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: Most of us want fewer chin, not a bigger one.

O'BRIEN: That's weird.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can see eyes. I can see a nose job.

O'BRIEN: No, it's just really -- it's all about good lightning and maybe a makeup artist. You just look bad in Skype.

Our next story this morning involves this case out in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the attorney for a man who is accused of being involved in that hate crime shooting of five African-Americans, three were killed.

He's now trying to paint a different portrait of his controversial client, Jake England is the client's name and he says Jake is not a racist. Yesterday a judge in Tulsa entered not guilty pleas for both England and Alvin Watts.

Both are accused of killing three people, wounding two others in a rampage that was aimed at innocent victims. Now England's attorney is giving the public a much more personal look at his client.

Including a 7-minute long interview that was done from jail as well as a letter from England's mother who is herself serving an 18- year prison center for first-degree arson and she writes this in the letter.

"I am desperate to help my son any way I can. I believe the media, the justice system and the wounded African-American community will be so eager to make an example out of Jake that his humanity, youth and core of essential goodness will be forgotten. Please help my son."

She wrote that letter to Mr. Brewster. Clark Brewster joins us this morning. The mother, Teri Alexander is supposed to be joining us by phone from the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in Oklahoma. We are trying to get that connection established.

But we'll start with you first, Mr. Brewster, if I may. Were you surprised you got this letter from your client's mother, Teri?

CLARK BREWSTER, ATTORNEY FOR TULSA SHOOTING SUSPECT JAKE ENGLAND: Well, I had never met the family before so the letter came out of the blue, but we from time to time do get letters from people incarcerated requesting help for themselves or their family. But when I read the letter it was so compelling and poignant it really did speak to this young man.

O'BRIEN: It was very emotional letter. What was her reaction? I mean, was it the letter that said, OK, I'm going to take on his case?

BREWSTER: No, it was the letter that caused us to go and speak with this young man. We spent parts of three days speaking with him before we made a very careful decision to accept his representation.

O'BRIEN: As you know, he and his partner are facing three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of intent to kill and five counts of malicious harassment, which in the state of Oklahoma, I don't need to tell you this.

That's equivalent to a hate crime charge. The big issue here is, is your client racist? Did he go out and target African- Americans and try and shoot and kill them? It seems like you've been saying no. Why?

BREWSTER: Well, first of all, I think that the letter gives us a little bit of history as to where this young man came from and what he was about, and what he went through in life.

And as this case was progressing nationally, with the theme or premise that this was a hate crime, when we met the young man and understood more about him we realized that was a complete mis- premise.

He grew up in North Tulsa, which is predominantly African- American, that's where his home was. Most of the people that he counts among his friends, close friends are African-American. His neighbors are African-American.

Nobody's ever really that knew him ever claimed that he was a racist, and I think the circumstances of this case given all the evidence will show that he did not have that motivation whatsoever.

O'BRIEN: So he posted to his Facebook account this about his father, he said he was shot by a curse word, "n" word and I think a lot of people are pointing to that as saying.

Well, you can have black friends and grow up in a black neighborhood and have African-Americans in your family. And still as evidenced by that particular posting, inherently be a racist.

BREWSTER: Well, I don't know if that's correct. I would say just the opposite. The fact that he uses that term and is comfortable in using that term in describing in a derogatory fashion one person does not make him a racist.

That term is used rather frequently by people that live in that area, both black and white. And it is a very derogatory term and he used the most derogatory term he could to describe the person that he witnessed shoot his dad in the heart.

O'BRIEN: I want to bring in Teri Alexander, your client's mom, Jake's mom. She's joining us from the Mabel Basset Correctional Center in Oklahoma.

Teri, I appreciate you calling in to talk to us. You wrote this letter to Mr. Brewster. Why Mr. Brewster? What were you hoping to accomplish with this letter?

TERI ALEXANDER, MOTHER OF JAKE ENGLAND (via telephone): Well, I heard he was one of the top assist lawyers in Tulsa and because of all of the publicity and everything my son needed somebody that is the best.

O'BRIEN: Your letter is very personal. It's very emotional. You walk through a lot of the difficulties and challenges and tough times you've had.

I'm going to read a little bit from your letter and then ask you a question on the other side, Teri. You wrote this, "We divorced when they were young," talking about you and your husband.

"Carl raised the kids mostly on his own. He was a loving parent, but overwhelmed at times, I'm sure. I had a severe drug problem that culminated me going to prison nearly a decade after committing arson in an attempt to end an abusive relationship."

Tell me a little bit about your son, Jake England, who's now -- looks like he could be facing a lot of time, if not the death penalty in this case.

ALEXANDER: Jake was like probably about 6 when me and his dad separated, and he was really close to his dad. He worked with him all the time. He was a good kid, a very good kid.

O'BRIEN: What went wrong? You know, you ultimately three people were killed, two other people were injured, black people, apparently and his friend drove into a black neighborhood and started shooting at people. What do you think, where did the transition go from being a good kid to what he's been charged with today?

ALEXANDER: I really can't even imagine that Jake did that. I'm still devastating from the news, and I just, I can't wrap my head around that.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to give the final word to Mr. Brewster. I know did you an interview with Jake in prison and it's an interview as a journalist I'd like to redo and ask him questions as well.

You talked a lot about, questions about his girlfriend's suicide. Before I let you go, would you give me a little bit of context on that, sir?

BREWSTER: Well, this young man at age 17, virtually after his father's death was left in raising his family and that was his sister and he met this young woman, Shiran Wild, his girlfriend, they had a child together.

And he's only 18 at this point and she was coming to grips with a lot of issues and had a little baby that was 2 months old in January of 2012 and in front of Jake in a fit of depression, shot herself.

It was a devastating thing to Jake. I mean, he loved her thoroughly and she loved him. And it was just one more thing in his life of a cascade of events that just took him to the lowest point.

O'BRIEN: Is your argument going to be that he didn't do it, your argument going to be that he did it, but he's not a racist.

BREWSTER: Well, I think I'll save that for the courtroom.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. I'm sure we'll talking about this more. Thanks for joining us, Mr. Brewster and also, Teri, thank you as well for talking with us. We appreciate your time this morning. Obviously, another case that we're going to follow.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we're talking politics, two new polls. One shows President Obama is up. The other shows actually it's Governor Romney who's up. We'll discuss that.

Plus the "Buffett Rule" dead on arrival in the Senate, it's going to be a talking point though on the trail for both parties. We break it down with Congressman Jeb Hensarling straight ahead.

And the real TUPAC California love. We talked about this yesterday. Now the details about taking the hologram on the road. You're watching STARTING POINT. Got to take a short break. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: That's Congressman Jeb Hensarling's playlist "Vertigo." Democrats insisting they're not giving up after Senate Republicans blocked the move to open debate on the "Buffett Rule."

It's one of President Obama's election year priorities. It calls for millionaires and billionaires to pay a minimum 30 percent tax on a sliding scale.

Now both parties are going to no doubt make it a campaign issue as the nation heads toward the election, which is tipping toward Obama according to a new CNN/ORC poll.

The president there leads Mitt Romney 52 percent to 43 percent. Different picture though if you're looking at the Gallup poll. In the Gallup poll, Governor Romney is leading. It's within the margin of error 47 percent to 45 percent.

Let's get right to Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas. He's the chairman of the House Republican Conference. It's nice to see you, sir. We like your choice of music this morning.

REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: I like it, too.

O'BRIEN: Appreciate it. All right, let's talk about polls and the ones I just showed obviously are contradictory. How do you explain that? Give me some analysis on that.

HENSARLING: Well, I think it's early, very early in the process. November is a long time away. I think people are just now beginning to focus clearly. The president has an opportunity, I guess, to use a basketball analogy to go dribble up and down the court and do lay-ups as the Republican primary works its way through.

So I'm very confident that ultimately the president is not going able to run on his record. It's one of the reasons he's turned to the politics of division and envy. People are going to ask themselves, are they better off than they were four years ago and for once working Americans, the answer is going to be no.

O'BRIEN: If those very people ask themselves do I like the "Buffett Rule," the answer would kind of be a resounding yes. I'm going throw up some statistics in a new CNN poll and there's another poll as well.

This one says 72 percent in favor, oops, that's not my poll. Let's get rid of that poll. Give me the "Buffett Rule" poll, 72 percent say they favor the "Buffet Rule" for 30 percent tax rate for people who make more than $1 million a year.

You know that that's a sliding scale obviously, 27 percent opposed it. If you look at it, it's broken down by party though, Democrats overwhelmingly support it at 90 percent, independents at 69 percent and Republicans are split on it, but a little bit to the direction of approving it, 53 percent.

I would look at that independent number. Does that smell trouble for you?

HENSARLING: Well, I don't think the president has shared all the fact and I think this is obviously more about politics than it is about policy.

First as a policy, the president said this would go out and stabilize our debt, but if you look at the budget he submitted to Congress, which by the way, got zero votes in the House of Representatives, the "Buffett Rule" isn't 1 percent of what he plans to spend.

It's not 0.1 percent. It's 0.01 percent. So without any spending discipline, without any form, it doesn't do anything to the deficit, number one. Number two, I think when people focus on it, in this economy why would you want to raise taxes on anybody?

And then finally, when it comes to fairness, fairness is not found in taxing some people more. It's about subsidizing them less. When they focus on the fact that Republicans want a tax code that is fair, flatter, simpler, more competitive, it's what we put in our budget, a two tiered flat tax system that Americans can fill out on the back of a postcard.

I think when they focus, that's the true system that they want. Ultimately Americans, you know, they want their children to have a better life than they've had. So the politics of division and envy maybe you get a short-term bump in the polls. Ultimately that's not what America is all about.

O'BRIEN: John wants to ask you a question.

FUGELSANG: Good morning, Congressman. I have a simple yes or no question for you. Thank you for joining us. Do you believe that individuals who don't work for their income, that is individuals who live off investments and interest, deserve to pay a lower percentage of their taxes than individuals who work for their income?

HENSARLING: Well, I think a lot of those people are paying taxes twice because of the corporate income tax rate.

FUGELSAND: A lower percent?

HENSARLING: Corporations don't pay taxes. People pay taxes. So if you would get rid of the corporate income tax, then I think a very good case can be made about equalizing the two.

But again, if you look at the facts, the top 1 percent of all Americans are paying about 38 percent of the income taxes. We can debate whether that is fair or not.

According to IRS data, those who pay between 50,000 and 100,000 in income are paying an average of 9 percent. Millionaires pay an average of about 24 percent. Again, we can have a debate about what's fair, but we ought to have a debate about what are the facts.

The president wants to single out six or seven loopholes in the tax code. Republicans want to pick up internal revenue code and throw it in the nearest trash can and start over again with something that's fair, flatter, and simpler for all Americans. Not trying to have politics and division and envy, which the president is trying to have.

FUGELSANG: So that's yes. Thank you.

HENSARLING: Again, you can get rid of corporate income tax otherwise you are paying twice. I mean, a lot of times dividends and capital gains is taxed at a 35 percent rate first then it goes onto the individual for a second go-around. That's another 15 percent. So it may give the illusion of paying a lower tax rate, but in fact, it's a higher tax rate.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Jeb Hensarling joining us, a Republican from Texas. It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for your time this morning. Appreciate it.

HENSARLING: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the real Tupac in California Love, but is the future of live entertainment dead or maybe people who have been deceased? Got new details about the hologram. Tupac, both on stage and online.

If you are about to head to work, you don't have to miss the rest of our program. Go right to our live blog at our web site Here's Marc's playlist. You're watching STARTING POINT.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. I told you about the story yesterday. The rapper, Tupac, was killed more than 15 years ago. He had this performance at the Kochila Music Festival on Sunday night.

And it happened via hologram. It was both really cool, but kind of creepy too. Take a look. There's a "Wall Street Journal" report now that representatives for Dr. Dray and Snoop Dog are now thinking about a virtual tour with Tupac or that version of Tupac.

In the meantime, there's a parody Twitter account. He tweets this. Get ready for my new album, "All Eyes Through Me."


O'BRIEN: So many digital haters can now judge me. Only Tron can judge me.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: When you told us this story yesterday, as amazed as I was, I kind of thought this was old archive or footage they made into three-dimensional hologram. This is new. These guys with interact with Tupac.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a whole new thing.

FUGELSANG: Don't let Paul and Ringo know about this please.

O'BRIEN: It's a company that Digital Domain Media Group. They say this is not old performance that captured on film that they are reflecting up on the stage. Not old and repurposed.

This is an illusion. Not archival footage. They have created something new. They create the image on a computer and they sort of recreate the motion and then he's able to actually create something new.

CAIN: Snoop dog and Tupac can interact with each other.


O'BRIEN: Would you go see it though?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, I'll go see it. I'll talk about how creepy it was.

FUGELSANG: It keeps the music alive. I can guarantee you somebody at Graceland is already making a phone call about this. It's going to bring it new people. He died 16 years ago.

I agree it's creepy, but a whole generation of young people that didn't know his music or lame white people not into it when it mattered, can now get the experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can listen. Do you watch to watch him on stage?

O'BRIEN: I believe Marc Lamont Hill said it correctly, which it's creepy and we're all -- what?

Got to go. STARTING POINT ahead, a scientist tells a police officer your entire theory is completely faulty. It was basic physics and four-page paper to beat a ticket.

Also GSA officials set for another grilling today after nearly wasting a million dollars in Vegas. The inspector general investigating now possible bribes and kickbacks. We're going to talk to Democrat Elijah Cummings straight ahead.

And on the congressman's playlist (inaudible). You're watching STARTING POINT.