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Massacre in Syria; Birther Controversy; Dangers of "Bath Salts"

Aired May 29, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: OUTFRONT next women and children executed in Syria. The U.S. expels the Syrian ambassador, but doesn't go any further. Why one country, not this one, could hold the key to stopping the blood shed.

And then Donald Trump and Wolf Blitzer, mano y mano over the birther issue.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Donald you are beginning to sound a little ridiculous. I have to tell you.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: No I think you are Wolf. Let me tell you something. I think you sound ridiculous.


BURNETT: Donald is with Mitt Romney tonight. Will this hurt the Romney campaign?

And a new drug is it to blame for a brutal attack where police say -- and this is truly gruesome -- a man chewed of the face of his victim.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight tipping point. The latest Syrian pictures of 49 murdered children in Syria have made people ask whether America must step in. The year-long uprising has left more than 12,000 Syrians dead with the rest of the world watching from the sidelines. And today the only response was symbolic, eight countries including the United States expelling Syrian diplomats. In the year when the president is running on his foreign policy victories including killing Osama bin Laden Syria is becoming a lightning rod.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This administration has a feckless foreign policy which abandons American leadership. I know because I visit with these people that they are ready to help these people and they are already helping them some, but it cries out for American leadership.


BURNETT: And today Mitt Romney said the president's quote "lack of leadership has resulted in a policy of paralysis and we should work with partners to arm the opposition." Now, that is something a lot of people -- that's a lightning rod in itself. And the Obama administration is holding firm on its stance of no military action.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No military action is always an option. You never -- and we haven't in this case removed options from the table. We do not believe that militarization -- further militarization for the situation in Syria at this point is the right course of action. We believe that it would lead to greater chaos and greater carnage.


BURNETT: But will American intervention stop bloodshed? Now that is the key question as Jay just raised. Let's just look at the last time. It was after all only a year ago in Libya the United States spent more than a billion dollars on air strikes with NATO. Today the weak transitional government said it has to delay elections. Tribes are still fighting and the lawlessness has spread to neighboring Mali where al Qaeda and Islamists say they've created their own country, which will be the sixth biggest in Africa.

Getting rid of Gadhafi had a lot of unintended consequences, which could blow back on America. But there is another country that has the influence to stop the massacre. Vladimir Putin's Russia is Bashar Al-Assad's arms dealer. Assad bought nearly $5 billion in weapons in just four years. That's about 10 percent of all Russian arms exports in the past decade.

Reuters today reporting a Russian ship loaded with arms was schedule to arrive in Syria's Tartis (ph) port this weekend. Russia also recently signed a half billion dollar deal to sell fighter jets to Syria, which already flies 555 Russian MIG (ph) fighter jets. Russia has nearly 5,000 tanks including the T-72, as you see there, which has a 125-milimeter gun, a range of about 6,000 feet. It's Russian.

Add the 4,000 plus surface-to-air missiles Syria's military is one of the largest in the region thanks to Russia. Here now Jamie Rubin, former assistant secretary of state for public affairs and Andrew Tabler, author of "In the Lions Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington's Battle with Syria". Let me start with you, Jamie.

Russia has -- there is a means question and then there's a will question, but let's talk about the will because sure they have come around now to condemning the massacre of children. But they still seem to be with a ship going in, right, you know reportedly now with weapons very much still supporting Bashar Al-Assad.

JAMES RUBIN, FORMER U.S. ASST. SEC. STATE: Right. I don't see a lot of evidence that the Russians feel pressure from the world from these crises and these massacres on the ground to suddenly do what I know Washington and some of our all allies in Europe are hoping which is to engage intensively to convince the leadership in Syria that they need to change Assad and move him out. What they are calling the Yemen option where the United States was able to do in Yemen was to help with the Saudi Arabian involvement to get that leader out and that calmed a civil unrest.

This is not an aligus (ph). I don't see Russia having what you mentioned the will to do this. They have as you said a good military relationship with the Syrians. And they don't feel the pressure that we feel when they see you know people being killed. They blame both sides.

BURNETT: Right and they have repeatedly blamed both sides, Andrew. What about the means? I mean it's one thing to sell and be reliant on Syria for 10 percent of your weapon sales. That is a powerful incentive to keep doing what you've been doing all the way along, but even if they stop what means does Russia have to stop what is happening in Syria?

ANDREW TABLER, SR. FELLOW THE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE: Well the theory is that the Russians have assets inside the Syrian military that can convince the generals who run the military to oust the Assad family and to eject them from the country. And that would be similar to the Yemen plan. Now the problem with that though is that Yemen wasn't a minority dominated regime.

Syria's regime is dominated by Alawites, the sect from which the Assad regime and those generals hail. They hang together especially when under pressure. And I agree with Jamie. I don't think we see any sign that the Russians intend to really do that. That is the hope. That plan, that Yemen option is an old plan. It was recently respun (ph) in the newspapers. That goes back six, nine months.


TABLER: It's hardly something new and most of it has been I think by now discredited.

BURNETT: Jamie, what will the Obama administration then end up doing? I mean this puts them in a tough spot because it looks like they can't force Russia to do it or get Russia to do it with them or whatever it might be. And as these images continue to come in it does continue to put pressure on the president or does it not?

RUBIN: Well I think it does and it doesn't. It does in the sense that Syria has been going on for a year now. There are you know tens -- over 10,000 people dead. This is a pretty dramatic uprising in the region. The part that I think people haven't begun to focus on is what I would call the major difference between this and Libya, which you mentioned.


RUBIN: Libya it served a moral purpose. We helped the people avoid a massacre. But after Gadhafi was gone the Middle East didn't change. If Assad goes however, if we were to contribute to the overthrow of Assad that would be a dramatic plus for the West, for Israel, for the region because Assad and Syria is Iran's only entry point into the Middle East.


RUBIN: That would go away instantly with the end of the Assad regime --

BURNETT: If we knew who was coming in after, right, that's the question --

RUBIN: Well almost anyone that would come in afterwards would not have the kind of relationship that Assad has developed with the Iranians. There's just no scenario I can imagine in which that would maintain itself.

BURNETT: All right. Well thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate it, Andrew and Jamie. Everyone let us know what you think about this one. It's a tough one, a moral and financial and military conundrum for the U.S.

Well still OUTFRONT two Americans held in the death of a foreign national after a night of partying at a Nikki Minaj concert. This is what some are calling the next Amanda Knox trial.

And what in the world is holding up the John Edwards verdict? I mean this has been going on and on. We get updates every day oh they're breaking for lunch. They're doing this. They want this and apparently all kinds of bizarre stuff is going on there. The judge made an unusual warning. We have it and then this --


TRUMP: Well I think if you look at the birth certificate, take a look and you tell me really, you analyze the birth certificate. There are many people that don't agree with that birth certificate. They don't think it's authentic, Wolf.

BLITZER: I don't know. When you say many people don't agree --

TRUMP: Many people.

BLITZER: Like who?

TRUMP: There are many people.

BLITZER: Give me a name of somebody in position of authority in Hawaii who says --


BLITZER: Give me a name.

TRUMP: There are many people. I don't give names.


BURNETT: Donald Trump doubling down on the birther issue just before taking the stage with the presumptive GOP nominee tonight. The Romney campaign's "Donald Danger".


BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT, on the night when Mitt Romney is going to pick up enough delegates to clinch the Republican nomination, a night when he should be celebrating and full of pride something else is happening. He is under fire for holding a fundraiser in Las Vegas with Donald Trump. You may say, why? Well there is a reason. Well it's the birther controversy. Listen.


TRUMP: A lot of people don't agree with that birth certificate.

BLITZER: But if the state of Hawaii --

TRUMP: A lot of people do not think it's authentic --

BLITZER: -- authorizes it -- if the state of Hawaii says this is official, he was born in Hawaii on this date. Here it is. Why do you deny that?

TRUMP: A lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate.

BLITZER: How can you say that if the --

TRUMP: A lot of people -- now you won't report it Wolf, but many people do not think it was authentic. His mother was not in the hospital. There are many other things that came out.


BURNETT: OK, after that CNN contributor David Frum took to Twitter writing quote "that was a big steaming plate of 'blank' spaghetti Trump just deposited on CNN for his supposed friend Romney." David Frum, of course, is a Republican, so what does Mitt Romney gain by having Trump with him tonight? John Avlon, Reihan Salam and Jamal Simmons are (INAUDIBLE) right now. Mitt Romney probably pretty upset right now.

REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: As well he should be, but you remember that the pitch for the dinner with Trump and Romney was the idea of reaching out to donors who are making donations as small as $3.


SALAM: And one thing that's really important to understand --

BURNETT: You win a dinner or something like that -- SALAM: Indeed, indeed, who knows what would be served at this dinner, but racketing (ph) that question some Trump stew perhaps. So basically you are looking at $3 donations and Mitt Romney has not attracted a lot of the small dollar donations.


SALAM: And the reason why those donations are important is partly because those are voters who are in a way say hey I buy into this campaign. I'm invested in the campaign and then you have got a list of people who are more active and engaged supporters. And you can use that list for a variety of reasons. Now is Donald Trump the best way to gin up active and engage supporters? That is an open question.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Let's answer that question --

BURNETT: Who was behind this today --


AVLON: I mean he's not. That was the theory is that he would help raise money for the campaign, these low dollar donors, gig gill (ph) fundraiser in Las Vegas tonight, but here is the point. Donald Trump has made himself completely radioactive to the Romney campaign. He's stepping all over his story, a guy whose name used to be synonymous with success. Maybe he's better building a brand than running a business but he would seem to be symbolize success. He now is a clownish conspiracy theorist who lit his hair on fire just hours ago on CNN again and he could be doing more damage to the Romney campaign --

BURNETT: You had to make a hair joke about Donald Trump.

AVLON: Oh I will do it again. I mean here's the point. You know right now he couldn't be doing more damage to the Romney campaign if he was a secret double agent for the Obama campaign. He is their best friend right now because he is so totally out of control and such -- making such a fool of himself on this totally settled issue.

BURNETT: And you know what Jamal let me just -- you know to make it very clear for those watching where Mitt Romney stands on this. His campaign put out a statement today saying quote "Governor Romney said repeatedly that he believes President Obama was born in the United States. The Democrats can talk about Donald Trump all they want. Mitt Romney is going to talk about jobs and how we can get our economy moving again." Mitt Romney himself has said he doesn't agree with all the people who support him, but does he need to come out himself personally, vocally and say something about this Jamal?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He does need to come out personally and say something about this. But he also needs to in general start standing up for common sense. He wouldn't stand up to Rush Limbaugh when Rush Limbaugh called that Georgetown law student a slut. He wouldn't stand up to Rick Santorum when he said the president was a snob because he wanted kids to go to college and now he won't stand up to Donald Trump when Donald Trump said the president was born not in the United States.

You know at some point he has got to put the loo-loos (ph) back in the cage and tell them like listen I would love to have your support but not under these circumstances. Meanwhile the president of the United States spent the day with Madeleine Albright and Delores Horta (ph) and you know Tony Morrison (ph), you know bestowing these medals on them and Mitt Romney is with Donald Trump. It is just a great contrast for the Obama people.

BURNETT: Reihan here is an ad the Obama campaign is playing about this issue. Here it is.


AS the Republican nominee, John McCain stood up to the voices of extremism in his party --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, POLITICAL AD: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It is my distinct privilege --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, POLITICAL AD: We are scared of an Obama presidency. I have to tell you he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared as president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, POLITICAL AD: I have read about him. He's an Arab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, POLITICAL AD: No ma'am. No ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with.


Why won't Mitt Romney do the same?


SALAM: I've got to say one thing that frustrates me is that there are a lot of decent family men citizens who are also Arabs, but that is a whole separate issue.


SALAM: But that's a whole separate issue. I think that here is the thing. When you are running a campaign it totally makes sense to say let's make Mitt Romney apologize for everyone who seems vaguely connected with conservatism in some broad sense rather than Mitt Romney allow him to make this case based on the state of the economy regarding whether or not President Obama should be reelected. Now I think that you know and similarly in 2008 there were a lot of folks who tried to make Barack Obama apologize for various statements that he made, for example, this whole notion that lipstick on a pig was an insult toward Sarah Palin.


SALAM: It makes perfect sense to try to distract us --

BURNETT: That's a fair analogy, but he is choosing to campaign with him, appear with him. You know he is using all the good things about Trump then in that case aren't you sort of morally obligated to say well look what this person is saying here is ridiculous --


BURNETT: I mean if he wasn't campaigning with him I could hear you but --

AVLON: Absolutely. That's the key point. I mean you know if this was just some random --


SALAM: And I will say that I think Donald Trump is not the ideal choice, but I think that also look there are a lot of people who are going to be surrogates, who are going to be in the next year and I think that this is just not a central issue. Do I think Romney made a bad call by campaigning? I think that they might be thinking the exact same thing --


AVLON: This is not a self appointed surrogate roaming the airwaves. This is somebody who the campaign and the candidate has chosen to embrace and at some point it is a measure of leadership to say you know what that is too far. That is appealing to the worst instincts. That does not represent me and therefore he will not represent me.

SALAM: Well I think having said that he opposes --

BURNETT: OK. Wow Reihan was so good I thought you were going to finish your sentence.

SALAM: Sorry about that.

BURNETT: I was just doing my little minor (INAUDIBLE). All right thanks to all three of you, now everyone knows how we you know kind of go in and then you go in again.

All right OUTFRONT ahead, a brutal attack. A naked man tried to chew off another man's face. This is horrific. It is not science fiction. It happened in Florida. The doctor on the case thinks that there is a new drug that could have caused the attack for a specific reason and then later post cards from Richard Branson's Memorial Day (INAUDIBLE).


BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT tonight drugs known as "Bath Salts" being blamed for a gruesome scene in Miami. This is a naked man. He was shot dead on Saturday by police because he was gnawing off another man's face. Obviously that sounds horrific and it is. I want to warn you that the pictures we are about to show you are very disturbing. Thirty-one year old Rudy Eugene (ph) was described to be in a zombie-like state when he was caught by police.

Armando Auglar (ph) president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police suspects Eugene was under the influence of so-called "Bath Salts", which are sold as cocaine substitutes or synthetic LSD. When he was found what he had done to this man's face -- victim was 65 years old. Truly horrific apparently all that is left is his goatee. His eye balls were gone. His face -- it is -- it is unbelievable.

Doctor Charles Sophy is a psychiatrist at the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and he is OUTFRONT now. Dr. Sophy, have you ever heard of anything like this? I mean it is awful to even talk about some of the things I just said that this man did to his victim's face.

DR. CHARLES SOPHY, PSYCHIATRIST: Absolutely, there are many reactions that your brain can have when you are putting in a substance such as this. These are very cocaine-like substances that will have a very aggressive reaction within your brain and the behavior that comes out of that could be anything from aggression to ripping off basically someone's face, severe, severe reactions and they are not able to be tested these drugs. So we are putting in substances into our face that we -- into our bodies that we don't know what is going to happen when we do that.

BURNETT: So when we use the name "Bath Salts" which I guess is the street name. You said a little like cocaine like I mean what -- what would be in it? I mean does it vary every single concoction? Or what's really in quote unquote "Bath Salts"?

SOPHY: Well that is a really great question because the bottom line is these are not substances that have been properly studied and so we don't really know what is in them. We just see the kinds of reactions and can kind of guess what chemicals in the brain they are reacting with and then hence the behavior. So that's why the studies need to be done and then we can make the testing that needs to be in place to be able to see if people have taken these or not when they are behaving this way. Because right now we could do a test and not even know if they have taken them.

BURNETT: And my understanding is that Eugene had been at some sort of a music festival, the police there had said that these "Bath Salts" were sort of something people were doing. Is this something that is spreading that you're hearing more and more about? I mean I'm just thinking back to the days when you know meth and meth heads was just sort of an occasional story you heard coming out of the Midwest and then all of a sudden became a national crisis.

SOPHY: Absolutely. Over the past year we have heard more and more and I have had more and more patients with this type of issue, so they are out there. I think there is going to be a band if there isn't already in the availability of them until the studies can be done and tests can be developed. But yes, we are hearing more about it.

BURNETT: And where do people usually get them, the drug?

SOPHY: I think most of the time they are sold at head shops under various names, but they're available over the counter until I think most recently.

BURNETT: And one of the side effects that appeared in this case was the man was naked, the perpetrator. I mean is this something that would go along with that that he'd be naked? What in the drug would cause him to do that? And he was growling -- I should tell everyone too -- he was growling like he was some sort of a dog as he was eating the man.

SOPHY: Right. I mean what is happening is you are putting these substances into your brain. You're moving your brain chemicals around and then there's going to be behaviors that come from that, anything from growling to animalistic aggressive behaviors, convulsions. You could be looking like this man did, a zombie-like, but you're in a trance and you're not under control of your own body.

BURNETT: Dr. Sophy thank you very much, truly bizarre and horrific story.

Well still to come OUTFRONT an Irish national found strangled to death after a concert in Japan. Two Americans who partied with her are being held right now for that crime.

And the strange tale of John Edwards, the trial is getting even stranger, flirting with a juror, wardrobe malfunctions and a warning from the judge. Yes, this is America.


BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our own reporting from the frontlines.

And tonight, Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers student who was found guilty of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's romantic encounter with another man, well, he's issued a formal apology. He says, quote, "I accept responsibility for and regret my thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices that I made. My behavior and actions which at no time were motivated by hate, bigotry, prejudice or desire to hurt, humiliate or embarrass anyone were nonetheless the wrong choices and decisions. I apologize to everyone affected by those choices."

Ravi adds that he would turn himself in on Thursday to start serving his 30-day prison sentence. He also faces a $10,000 fine.

Well, a new study has found that bluefin tuna of the coast of California carrying radioactive contamination that leaked from Japan's Fukushima reactor a concern. Small amount of the radioactive cesium was found in the 15 tuna caught in August of last year.

It's not enough to be harmful to humans experts say. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson tells us OUTFRONT that this traces of cesium in our food supply are predictable and unfortunately are a sign of things to come.

Well, there are a couple of big name tech companies that had a grim day. Facebook still on that list. The stock fell today by another 10 percent, closing below $29 a share.

Meantime, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion had a business update. We checked it out. The company has hired bankers to explore options. What that means is exploring (AUDIO BREAK) says it's going to lose money this quarter. It's also going to fire people. The shares of the company fell in after-hours trading.

Well, it's been 299 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

It was a good day for stocks, other than those tech terrors. All three of the major indices were up more than a percent.

Well, now, our fourth story OUTFRONT. Major tension in the John Edwards trial. This has been -- this has become a saga. Everyone thought one way or the other and would happen quickly. But it has been seven days. They didn't want to be done the Friday before memorial weekend. They're going to come back tomorrow.

Judge Catherine Eagles told jurors today that many things can happen during long deliberations and that, quote, "some aren't good." The judge also held two closed door meetings with lawyers for both sides about a, quote, "juror issue".

Now, this came after very strange reports that the four alternate jurors are dressing alike. And one alternate juror was describe by courtroom observers as flirting with John Edwards.

The former president candidate is on trial for using campaign money to hide his affair and child with Rielle Hunter.

Joe Johns has been following the trial in Greensboro, North Carolina. Paul Callan is also here with me. Both OUTFRONT.

All right. Thanks to both of you.

Joe Johns, let me -- let me start with you. I'm trying to understand exactly what's happening here because it does sound strange. What's behind the tension in the courtroom as far as you can tell?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: You know, this is a tough case to try for one thing. They have been at it a long time. They could be tied up in knots.

And, you know, we only get to see this jury probably about 10 or 15 minutes every day. They come in right before lunch and file out before dinner before they go home. You get to se them just for a couple of minutes.

What I have seen in body language is, you know, arms crossed, heads in hands. I have seen people looking down at the floor. Read into that what you will.

It's a tough case to try. When you look at this jury, you also got to know this case is about politics and you know how divided this country is over politics.

BURNETT: That's true, even as people, Paul, try to do every juror does. Take our job incredibly seriously.

But the judge gave jurors instructions to deliberate together and not in small groups. So, does that mean we have a little cabals going on. They're not even deliberating together?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's a clear indication because usually when you get to this stage they have been going at it for seven days now. They are requesting all kinds of exhibits to be sent in. It sounds like a majority, maybe seven or eight, are trying to beat up a minority who are holding out. Now, I don't know which side the majority is on, or which side the minority on.


CALLAN: But that's what it sounds like.

BURNETT: Joe, you were jumping in there.

JOHNS: Yes. I mean, that's absolutely right. You know, I was a jury foreman 100 years ago. Sometimes juries actually form teams, you know, it's like the yeas against the nays, A against B.

The judge had been trying to get them not to do that. She has given the instruction to them now twice this session today and the last session on Friday, trying to tell them not to do that. Still it's sort of human nature. It's not impossible to get a verdict like that but it's very difficult.

BURNETT: Paul, what about this dressing alike by the alternate jurors and one person saying there was possible flirtation. Dressing alike, I mean, is this bizarre?

CALLAN: The dressing alike is bizarre, but it plays into this group mentality thing that they have formed a group of their own. They are on a team and now the team is dressing the same way. So, I see why the judge is giving this instruction, hey, you are all supposed to be deliberating together. Now, these are the alternates who are dressing strangely.

On the flirting thing -- first of all, if it was flirting. If it was flirting, it's clearly improper behavior. But I have to tell you that during the trial, lawyers are always looking to see if a juror is making eye contact with me or with the defendants in the case.

BURNETT: Right, they're --


CALLAN: Yes, they are. Because they want an ally. They want somebody who's friendly. And if it's flirting, they'll take that anything to get an ally.

BURNETT: Quickly, before we go on the word, will this -- will we get a verdict or will it be a hung jury?

CALLAN: I don't know. They are continuing to deliberate. The Blagojevich case two weeks, they got a verdict. It was only on one count, but they got a verdict. So, I don't think we can say no verdict yet. I think there's a possibility of a verdict.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks, Paul, and Joe Johns, of course. We'll be covering this tomorrow. We'll see if he has that verdict tomorrow.

Well, now, two young American men are in Japanese police custody tonight, and this is following the mysterious strangling death of another exchange student. Twenty-one-year-old Nicola Furlong, she's Irish, was found dead last week in a Tokyo hotel room. Investigators say Furlong and a friend met the American men at that Nicki Minaj concern and then went back with them to their hotel.

One suspect is 23-year-old James Blackston, a hip hop dancer, also known as "King Tight." Police have not identified the second suspect but they know and have told us he is a 19-year-old musician who was also in the room with Furlong.

Now, right now, they are being held for sexually assaulting Furlong's friend. They could be charged in Furlong's death as well.

Ted Simon is a defense attorney who represented Amanda Knox, the American student accused and then acquitted of murdering his British roommate when they're studying in Italy. He is OUTFRONT tonight.

Thanks so much for coming OUTFRONT, sir. Let me just ask you -- I mean, Japanese police are being very guarded about the suspects. It's unclear what charges may be filed. What do you think is going on?

THEODORE SIMON, INTERNATIONAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think they are in the beginning of their investigative phase. The way it works in Japan, once a person is arrested, the police must refer to case to the prosecutor within 48 hours. And the prosecutor has 24 hours to take one of a number of actions, either, one, prosecute the case, move for a pre-indictment detention or release the person. They have moved for that pre-indictment detention.

The exact charges if any are not really clear but they are certainly investigating for an indecent assault and/or the homicide.

BURNETT: So, what is the Japanese system like? Death penalty? What kind of repercussions are there if there are charges?

SIMON: Well, yes, the system is I would say a hybrid system. It is probably more adversarial than inquisitorial. It does have many of the same principles that we're familiar with, the presumption of innocence and burden of proof and right to counsel. All of those things do exist there. Probably the most different feature is in really serious cases like murder, the jury is a mixed jury. That is unlike the United States where we have 12 citizens who decide the facts and it has to be unanimous verdict.

In Japan, it's a mixed system where you have three professional judges and six lay persons and decide by majority rule. So, it's different.

BURNETT: Yes. It's different. I mean, Paul Callan was telling me they do have a death penalty there. He was saying there is death by hanging. I mean, there is a bit more of a graphic problem than we are used to here.

SIMON: Well, yes, they do have the death penalty there and it is enforced through hanging. But it's very rarely used.


SIMON: So whether it will be in this case, of course, we don't want to prejudge this case. Very few facts have come out so far. It's very hard to say what if anything has happened here other than we know it's been a tragic loss.

BURNETT: I mean, it's a horrific story. Are you surprised that we know so little? I mean, when you look back, people are saying this could be the next Amanda Knox case. Obviously, it's so difficult to say at this point, because no one knows if they're going to be a charge.

But do you see similarities in terms of what's happening? We have a picture of you and Amanda actually up on our screen right now.

SIMON: Right. I would really not want to prejudge this case or make any comparisons to Amanda's case because as you well know and as so many people well know, for four long years, Amanda and her family suffered a monumental miscarriage of justice of unimaginable and epic proportions and we can't say what is happening there whether or not the facts justify a prosecution or not.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Ted Simon, thank you very much.

And still to come, a city on edge following a deadly earthquake overnight. And in-depth tonight, the group of votes, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are going to have to duke it out for. You have to win these guys to win. Who are they?


BURNETT: We're back with tonight's "Outer Circle" -- where we reach out to our sources around the world.

And we begin tonight in Italy where at least 16 people are killed, 350 injured when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck northern Italy today. The earthquake came just nine days after one hit the same region. Barbie Nadeau is in Italy and I asked her how the Italians are coping.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, the situation is especially difficult. These people have had nine days of terror, 800 after shocks since the last earthquake struck on May 20th. The earthquake this morning struck at 9:00 when people were at their places of work, people getting ready for their day. It was far more deadly than the one last week. Last week, seven people lost their lives last week. So far, 15 people have been known to have lost their lives.

The damage to business was especially hard on this community. This is the industrial heartland of Italy. Thirty percent of the industrial GDP is produced here. And there's been so much damage and loss of employment to so many people -- Erin.


BURNETT: All right. Next to Moscow where experts are calling a newly discovered computer virus, quote, "the most sophisticated cyber weapon ever unleashed". The virus is called "Flame." It's has been gathering information from computers in the Middle East since 2010, and a statement on what purports to be an Iranian cyber security Web site confirmed that Iran suffered mass data loss due to the virus.

Phil Black is in Moscow and spoke to the Russian computer security company that discovered the virus. And I asked him what they know so far.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I met one of the experts at Kaspersky Lab, the Russian company that discovered this piece of malware that has become known as "Flame". And he said it is the most powerful, most sophisticated piece of malware he or his colleagues have seen. To quote, they say it is a new age in cyber warfare. They say that this malware has targeted at least seven North African and Middle Eastern countries including Iran and Israel.

And they it's essentially a very clever, snooping device for intelligence gathering. It can gather up e-mails and passwords, the usual malware stuff but also so much more than that. It can capture images from screens. It can turn on computer microphones to listen in and record conversations.

All of this information is sent somewhere to whoever is controlling it. That's the one thing the experts haven't worked out just yet, who is behind this. But they say all of the evidence points to this being a state run operation -- Erin.


BURNETT: All right. And now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360".

Hey, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": (AUDIO BREAK) burial trenches from the massacre in the Syrian town of Houla over the weekend to compel the world to do something. Those are children, dozens of children buried. The U.S. and other Western nations today expelling Syrian diplomats. But is that enough? Or is it too little too late?

We'll speak to the reporter who's been on the ground in the city where those atrocities took place. We'll also joined by author and "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman.

In raw politics tonight, America's best known birther Donald Trump back in the headlines and doubling down on where the president was born. Governor Mitt Romney, who doesn't doubt President Obama is born in Hawaii, will stand side by side with Trump at a fundraiser today. We'll talk about that with the Romney supporter, Kevin Madden.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" and a lot more, at the top of the hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, looking forward to all of that.

And now, our fifth story OUTFRONT: fighting for the Latino vote. This is the key to who wins the White House in November.

Mitt Romney campaigned in two battle ground states today, Colorado and Nevada today. Both have Latino populations of importance.

Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT in Colorado, where the outcome of the race could come down to the decision of just a few thousand people.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sergio Evangelista runs a bustling grocery store in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

(on camera): And this is a family business -- this is your wife, your mother.

SERGIO EVANGELISTA, UNDECIDED VOTER: My wife, my mother, my brother is over there.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): A U.S. citizen since 1999 and a registered Republican ever since, this year, he doesn't like either candidate.

(on camera): To get your votes, what will one of those candidates have to do?

EVANGELISTA: Something about immigration. It has to do with immigration. I have two friends that got deported. They come out with immigration law that can help a lot of people. It's going to be better for the economy. MARQUEZ (voice-over): Evangelista is exactly the type of voter both contenders hope to win over. With Republicans and Democrats evenly split here, swing voters will make the difference and the margin of victory here is expected to be razor thin.

(on camera): More than 2 million Colorado voters are expected at the polls. The presidential race will be decided by a tiny fraction of that. The whole state could be won by as few as 40,000 votes.


MARQUEZ: Pollster Floyd Ceruli says Latino voters at 12 percent to 14 percent of the electorate are critical. Not only are they swing voters, but they decide late in the game.

(on camera): Twenty thousand or 30,000 votes could make the difference for the state.]

CERULI: It certainly it could. If this is a 2 percent race here, 40,000 votes, there is half your vote right there.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): It's easy to see how divided Latinos are. In just a few minutes at a park here --

(on camera): Who do you like? Obama or Romney?


MARQUEZ: Romney or Obama.


MARQUEZ: Porque?


MARQUEZ (voice-over): She likes Romney she says because he has Mexican heritage.

(on camera): Neither has convinced you yet?


AD NARRATOR: President Obama kept his promise --

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Both campaigns in high gear early.

Campaign ads so heavy looks more like fall than early summer.

Obama hurt by an economy that isn't rebounding fast enough. Romney distrusted among Latinos because of his emphasis on deporting the undocumented. Voters like Sergio Evangelista caught in the middle. His business is doing well. But --

EVANGELISTA: I'm not only thinking about me, I'm thinking about everything that's going around, because most of the people are hurt by economy. But immigration is an issue that concerns me more than the economy.

MARQUEZ: Latinos here waiting for answers, ready to deliver Colorado and maybe the country to whoever offers the best solution.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Denver.


BURNETT: Talk about a power position.

OUTFRONT tonight, CNN contributor Ruben Navarrette and our contributor John Avlon.

John Avlon, let me start with you, because obviously Miguel is in Colorado, crucial state. We say this group of Latinos can decide the whole state. What are the states where they're going to swing at?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Let's just take a look. This map shows where the Hispanic population is concentrated throughout the United States. Obviously strong throughout the southwest, but really growing enormously, fastest growing minority group.

Let's take a look at three other swing states in addition to Colorado that could determine the winner of this election. First, Nevada, where Mitt Romney is tonight. We've got more than a quarter of the population now Latino.

Now, Barack Obama won this population by 3/4 in 2008. But -- and you're going to see these in all three states -- they elected a Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, a Hispanic Republican governor in 2010. So, it shows just what a swing state this is and how pivotal it can be. How much it's up for grabs.

Let's take a look at the next one. New Mexico, one of the big bellwethers. Almost 50 percent Latino in the state.

BURNETT: That's amazing.

AVLON: Also elected Hispanic Republican governor in 2010, Susana Martinez.

So, this dynamic again showing one of the real states up for grabs.

And finally probably, the big kahuna, Florida. Florida, Florida, Florida -- the infamous swing state. 2010, they elected Senator Marco Rubio. Here, too, you see the Hispanic population very diverse, Cuban American, in addition Mexican American. But this again so key to winning this ultimate swing state.

BURNETT: And, Ruben, interesting as John points out, I mean, this population went overwhelmingly for Barack Obama last time, but since then have elected a lot of Republicans in their states.

Is the enthusiasm in the Latino population there for President Obama this time around? RUBEN NAVARRETTE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, it is not. There's no question about it. You have a deep ambivalence in the Hispanic community. Let me be clear about this -- they're not enthusiastic about voting for Mitt Romney. That's a long shot. They don't like Romney.

But they don't trust Obama either. They don't believe him. It's not just a question of Obama breaking his promise to fix the immigration reform -- or fix immigration system, it's the fact that he deported over 1.2 million people breaking up hundreds of thousands of families in the process.

Latinos are very clear on one thing. Do what you want, break all the promise you want, but don't mess with the family. The family is our most important institution.

Barack Obama needs to figure that out and fast.

BURNETT: We're talking about Mitt Romney obviously campaigning with Donald Trump tonight in Las Vegas, which has a huge Latino population. But you're saying Latinos don't like the president but they really hate Mitt Romney. How come?

NAVARRETTE: Well, I think that Romney has the same problem with Latinos had had with Tea Party voters and other voters in the primary. And people can't relate to him. He's living a life different than the lives most of us live. There's a problem there.

Also, Mitt Romney has been extreme in his rhetoric. He's portrayed immigrant, Hispanic immigrants in particular as takers, as people who come here for freebies and benefits. He's never admitted to the fact that the reason we have illegal immigration is we have so many American employers hiring these illegal immigrants.

So, I think the people fault him. They see him as an opportunist and someone who is willing to try to score points off this population.

AVLON: Just to add one thing to that. What will Mitt Romney did hurt himself with the appeals he made to the right wing base during the primaries.


AVLON: But the number one issue for Latinos is not immigration, it's the economy. That's where the Romney campaign hopes to make a broad, general election argument picking up some Latino voters as well.

NAVARRETTE: I'll disagree with John here. The number one issue for Latinos is respect. Neither one of these candidates respects them. That's why they're both having trouble with Latino voters.

AVLON: On policy issues.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks to both. Interesting you heard Miguel in his report said one woman said she was going to vote for Mitt Romney because of his Mexican heritage. That's an interesting angle to this story.

All right. OUTFRONT next, boats, bikinis and Richard Branson.


BURNETT: So Donald Trump and Mitt Romney aren't the only ones wheeling and dealing in Vegas tonight. The world series of poker kicked up yesterday. And right now, thousands are playing to win a gold bracelet and more importantly tons of cash.

Last year's winner took home about $9 million. This year, $12 million is up for grabs and the brand new million dollar buy in charity event. That's right. You've got to play a million dollars to play poker.

OK. That was the craziest tournament I'd heard of until the one I stumbled on this weekend.

The British Virgin Island hosted the Leverick Bay poker run. Watch my tail. I saw 150 boats and 2,000 boaters arrive with a roar, billed as the most anticipated nautical event in the BVI with the goal to make the best poker hand possible. As you see, they line up with beers in hand waiting up to an hour to pick up one car at five different islands. It was a lot of boats, a lot of beers, and it was a heck of a lot of bikinis.

Now, at the time, I thought the only thing that could make this crazier was if someone like Richard Branson the BVI's most famous resident showed up. And then he did. I bumped into him on the dock as he jogged back with his card.

Now, see. There he is. He told me he had three boats in the race. That was his boat. And when he drew his first card, he told me it was of course an ace.

But you know what? It didn't matter because he still didn't win. First prize went to Joseph Smith, the BVI local who took home $7,500. Second prize went to Predator from Miami. Now, the Predator -- I got to show you the Predator.

That's the predator. It was insane. See that? It was literally made out like a caddy complete with fins and a lot of very attractive people, a couple at least sitting on that boat.

Now, some of you might say this is ridiculous. This kind of event is silly. It's a gas guzzling horrific thing. But you know, it was a lot of fun to watch.

And the hometown hero won. I'm not sure if the 7,000 bucks even covered his fuel because these things were real guzzlers. But he gets to say he beat Richard Branson's three boats. And since 2002, the event has raised $86,000 for a local children's charity. It was sure a lot of fun to watch. Everyone having such a good time.

All right. Thanks so much as always for watching. See you back here tomorrow. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.