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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Jerry Sandusky's Child Sex Abuse Trial Gets Under Way; Catholic Church Endures Controversy over Role of Nuns in Faith; Holder Faces Contempt Charge; Giffords' House Seat Up For Grabs; Florida Woman Set On Fire; Father Kills Daughter's Molester; Official On Tape Beating Stepson; The Recession And Your Money; Family Net Worth Drops; Eyewitness To Massacre In Syria

Aired June 12, 2012 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, ladies. Thanks. I'm in for Soledad.

Our "Starting Point," victim number one preparing to take the stand and come face-to-face with Jerry Sandusky. This witness, the one who triggered the entire criminal investigation that led to the Penn State football coach's arrest.

And elected official in California facing felony child abuse charges after being videotaped by a neighbor beating his step-son with a belt. His attorney is here. He'll tell us his side of the story.

Plus, America's catholic nuns angry about accusations of radical feminism and straying from their church doctrine, taking their case right to the top of the Vatican today.

And the kings of the hockey world dancing in the streets in Hollywood as Los Angeles celebrates its first Stanley Cup championship.

It's Tuesday, June 12th, "Starting Point" begins right now.

Good morning. Our "Starting Point," prepare for high drama in a Pennsylvania courtroom today as victim number one prepares to take the stand in the child sex abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky. This is the witness whose allegations trigger the criminal investigation that led to the arrest of the former Penn State assistant football coach.

Our Susan Candiotti is live from Bellefonte, Pennsylvania this morning. Good morning, Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. This alleged victim number one is only now 18 years old. And he testified before the grand jury previously that he was sexually assaulted, allegedly by Jerry Sandusky, at least 20 times when this young man was only between the ages of 11 and 15. He said the attacks occurred in testimony both at Sandusky's home and at his own high school when he was also interrupted once by a wrestling coach and also belonged to Second Mile. We expect this to be dramatic testimony just as it was yesterday when we heard from alleged victim number four, who took the stand to talk about being assaulted, raped and fondled allegedly by Sandusky over many years. He's now 28 years old. They played shower games, for example, in which Sandusky got soap all over him and then assaulted him.

We also -- he faced some tough cross-examination and at one point asked by Sandusky's lawyer, why didn't you stop this? He said, "I was afraid. Besides, I was getting gifts." Then he turned the question around and said, "I wish I had, perhaps I could have saved other children." Back to you, Christine.

ROMANS: Susan, a very dramatic first day in the courtroom. We know you'll be there all day today too. Thank you, sue an. I'll talk to a former child abuse and sex crimes prosecutor Wendy Murphy about what's next in the Sandusky trial after that very dramatic day in court yesterday.

Let's get to Zoraida Sambolin for the rest of today's top stories. Good morning, Zoraida.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Christine.

Monster wild fires still burning completely out of control. This is in Colorado. The High Park fire near Fort Collins, Colorado, is blamed for one death. It has exploded in size, scorching 64 square miles since the weekend. Thousands had to evacuate their homes and the fire destroyed at least 100 buildings.

The Justice Department moving ahead with plans to sue the state of Florida in an effort to stop the purging of voter rolls. Florida's Republican governor Rick Scott wants all non-eligible residents barred from voting. The Justice Department concedes they can legally remove non-eligible voters but argues the Florida program fails to follow proper legal standards. Governor Scott says up to 100,000 names need to be purged from his state's rolls and now plans to sue the department of homeland security for access to federal citizenship database. We'll ask the governor about that and the timing of all of this when he joins us live at 8:00 a.m. eastern.

It's still not clear why police in Alabama left a home in Montgomery where the Auburn triple murder suspect was believed to be hiding. SWAT teams surrounded the house since yesterday. Desmonte Leonard has been the target of an all-out manhunt since the shootings over the weekend. He is accused of killing three people, two of them former auburn football players.

New this morning, the White House announcing John Bryson is taking medical leave as he's being investigated for a possible felony hit-and-run. Police say Bryson hit two cars in southern California Saturday and they found him unconscious behind the wheel. White house officials say Bryson suffered a seizure but it is not clear when that actually happened.

A U.S. Navy crashing into a marsh near Salisbury, Maryland. Officials say the unmanned aircraft was still in development worth $176 million and was able to fly without refueling for $30 with altitudes as high as 11 miles. No one was hurt there. Los Angeles is title town this morning, but not the Lakers or the dodgers doing the celebrating. It is the L.A. Kings. The Kings won their first ever Stanley Cup eliminating the New Jersey devils in six games, finishing them out with a 6-1 rout. Paul Vercammen is live in Los Angeles where it has been a celebration 45 years in the making.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Zoraida. The kings overshadowed by the Lakers in their own building then they have the Anaheim ducks join the league in the 90s and even the ducks won a cup. So the kings waited a long time for this. Finally after 45 years, it came tonight. It's a multigenerational thing. We ran into one young fan on the street with his dad and rather poignant sign. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been so long to have three games to nine and lose the other day and back to New Jersey and they lost. You feel like you waited a lifetime literally for it to happen. I'm so happy and my son is spoiled because he's one for one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: Memory of a lifetime, I'm sure the little kid won't remember it but dad will show him the pictures, maybe even that clip. What a night for Kings fans. They are celebrating and rather civilly, no major incidents. Some of them have hoarse throats and make they can douse that with creme Brule or champagne.

SAMBOLIN: I'm sure soon they are going to be shouting repeat.

VERCAMMEN: I'm sure they will.

SAMBOLIN: Back to you.

ROMANS: Sounds like sports fans screaming all night for Los Angeles.

SAMBOLIN: I was. I was.

ROMANS: Have a cup of tea. I'll see you in a few minutes.

Back to our top story this morning. Jerry Sandusky's child sex abuse trial gets under way in two hours. This time he'll face victim number one. Wendy Murphy, a former sex crimes prosecutor, worked on several cases for privacy rights for victims of violence and she's following this case closely. Good morning to you.

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR: Good morning.

ROMANS: Usually the first day there's preliminaries and opening statements and talking about the mechanics of a case and suddenly, that was a very dramatic day of testimony yesterday. Victim number four, the first witness, with some shocking revelations, this isn't touching or horse play, this goes beyond to many, many allegations here of very serious crimes against a child. What is the jury thinking going into the second day after a day like yesterday?

MURPHY: Yes, you know, most jurors have no experience with this kind of behavior. So often there's a feeling of shock, which interestingly enough, can sometimes benefit the defense. If a jury just can't get its head around the idea, that a man a seemingly masculine guy is capable of this sort of thing, that can push jurors against willingness to believe these kinds of allegations simply because it's too disgusting and too shocking.

The problem for the defense is that once the second and third and fourth and all the way up to eight different victims testify that the same kind of behavior happened, then I think it becomes impossible for a jury not to believe, assuming their credible, assuming they are credible.

ROMANS: Let's talk about victim number four, alleging some 50 times sexual assault, 50 different times, abuse lasting for years, Wendy. He didn't immediately break contact. He was a child. He didn't immediately break contact and didn't contact or report the abuse and later even introduced his fiance and young child to Jerry Sandusky. How will that play with the jury?

MURPHY: Again, it's one of these facts that jurors with no exposure to this kind of behavior think that's weird. If that happened to me, I wouldn't be friends with the guy. That's a problem for these kinds of cases. On the other hand, you can bet that once they hear many victims say something similar, which is that I had mixed feelings. I was disgusted and terrified, and I was a child. On the other hand, this is a guy who was so kind to me in other ways, I was confused. I didn't know what to do. I didn't feel I had the power.

And frankly in some ways kids think of this kind of attention as a good thing, as confusing as that may sound. If it feels like a good relationship, 90 percent of the time, kids learn to put up and cope with the bad stuff. Jurors are going to hear that kind of thing over and over again, and I think it will start to make more sense to them, even if they've never heard of this kind of behavior before.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the defense attorney Joe Amendola, he suggested that Sandusky, might take the stand himself. We've heard from Sandusky before in the public. Reporters, he's talked a couple of times on camera, on the phone to a radio show. What's the actual likelihood of hearing from Sandusky and how does it help his case?

MURPHY: Make no mistake, that man will never get on the stand.

ROMANS: Really?

MURPHY: Never. Never. And I think what Amendola was suggesting by implying to the jury that he would, was that you're going to hear those televised media interviews and I think he will play those. He wants the jury to hear from him in some way that makes him look sympathetic.

But he can't take the stand. The cross-examination would be brutal. It would destroy the defense to the extent there is one. I think this is a non-defendable case, frankly, because of how many victims there are. Once you have this many victims, defense attorneys usually try to make a deal. I think the prosecution didn't offer a deal which is why this case has gone to trial. But Sandusky will never take the stand. Those media interviews will very much play a central role to say see what a nice guy he is, absolutely.

ROMANS: The defense also suggested he may suffer from histrionic personality disorder, and the National Institutes of Health defines this in which people act in a dramatic way to draw attention to themselves. What is this little -- histrionic personality -- they are saying the victims are lying, but then they are also saying there's this other thing over here about the personality, the way that Jerry Sandusky behaves. What's all this about?

MURPHY: You can hire an expert to say virtually anything about somebody's mental health problems. I think what's funny about this, it's typically a condition attached to women. Why the defense thinks this is going to make any points for them, I'm not sure.

I think why it's there is because those letters. Remember, yesterday there was vid testimony corroborated to some extent by seeming love letters, really strange, odd, creepy letters. The defense has to say to the jury, here's why a guy would write that kind of thing. I know this doesn't make sense to you, but you see he has a mental health disorder, that's why he was writing those letters. It's not the real Jerry Sandusky, it's Sandusky with a mental health disorder. I don't think it's going to discount the jury's feelings about the grotesque nature of these charges. I think they are going to think defense found somebody they could pay to testify that the guy was a little fruit loop.

ROMANS: Wendy Murphy, nice to hear from you this morning and I'm sure we'll talk to you soon as this very odd and twisted case goes on. Thanks so much, Wendy Murphy.

MURPHY: You're welcome.

ROMANS: All right, a group of American nuns scalded by the Catholic Church taking it to the Vatican. The church's looming moves to the nuns is a hostile takeover.

Plus a town where a slip of profanity will have you shelling out cash, today's "Get Real." Don't miss this, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and Jesse Ventura and Starbucks CEO Eric Shultz and cast of the new "Dallas." You're listening to my playlist, John Mellencamp.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Catholic nuns are going straight to the top today to address these claims that they have strayed from church doctrine. Members from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will meet with Vatican officials. A report from a church watchdog accuses the group, which represents about 80 percent of Catholic nuns, of radical feminism and says they are too silent on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. But the nuns say officials are focusing on what they don't do instead of good they do perform. Sister Maureen Fiedler is here. Welcome to the program this morning, sister.

SISTER MAUREEN FIEDLER, HOST, "INTERFAITH VOICES": Thank you, Christine, it's good to be here.

ROMANS: I'm curious, are you a feminist or radical feminist? And why exactly is this such a big bone of contention with Rome?

FIEDLER: Well, radical feminist is in the eye of the beholder, I think. I certainly am a feminist, and proudly so. And feminism properly defined means a belief in the fundamental equal of women and men. And the Vatican confirms this when they say every time of discrimination based on sex is to be overcome as contrary to god's intent. And furthermore that was the example of Jesus in the gospels. I'm not quite sure what they mean when they say radical feminism.

ROMANS: Tell me a little bit about what you're hoping to achieve and what your group is hoping to achieve when you talk to the Vatican and move forward here. Clearly there is a very big difference of opinion between the nuns in the U.S., your group, and Rome.

FIEDLER: Well, that's true. I want to hasten to add, I'm not a member of the leadership conference. And those are the women, the president and executive director who are meeting with various officials at the Vatican today. However, every nun in the United States is attuned to what's going on there. And I think they are concerned that the assessment they received, which was sprung on them unexpectedly, once they've had a chance now to examine what's in it, they believe there are unsubstantiated allegations. There was no transparency in the process by which it was developed. And let me say, we nuns are used to now since the Second Vatican Council, very open and collaborative processes in our communities. And furthermore, they believe, as I think many people do, that it has caused grave scandal in the American church. Witness the great support that we have received from the laity across the country.

ROMANS: Women can't be priests. If you follow church teaching can't use contraception and women -- I guess in the catholic church, you walk in and Mary is in full view and is pray to Mary but women in the church when you look at the teachings, there's a war on woman in your church and add what's happening with nuns in the U.S., it's a good question.

FIEDLER: It's a fundamental question that a lot of people ask. It's certainly try that at the institutional level women are not treated as equals in the church, and they need to be. Even to follow the very teachings which I just quoted, which the bishops of the world spoke back in early 1960s. And I think that's a deep concern for many of us.

You know, another concern is that these teachings and practices that you've cited can change. It's a myth to think that the teachings of the church never change. And when people push for changes, or look at things with new theological insights, that's how the evolution of teaching and the development of teaching takes place in the church. ROMANS: Are sisters evolving faster than Rome is, is that what the issue is.

FIEDLER: I dare say sisters have been evolving considerably faster than Rome, yes.

ROMANS: What about the American Catholic Church compared with Rome? Is this a sign of a Catholic Church that is much -- evolving faster than Rome too?

FIEDLER: I think that's probably true, yes. Unfortunately, I think that the officials at the Vatican seem entrenched in what I would call a pre-Vatican Two model of church, which is non- collaborative and so forth. And I think the American church by and large has embraced the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, which puts emphasis, which we do, which puts emphasis, as nuns, on social justice, on the needs of the poor, on relieving the plight of the o pressed or helping victims of violence around the world. Those are the kinds of concerns we bring to this church.

And I've run into laity, and this makes me sad, who have said to me after they heard about this Vatican action against nuns, they said, you know, sister, how can I go to church next Sunday? This really makes me sad. And it makes me sad too to hear them say that.

ROMANS: Sister Maureen Fiedler, so nice to have you on the program, we'll talk to you again soon, host of "Interfaith Voices." Thank you, have a nice day.

Ahead, a disturbing video, a stepfather caught on tape beating his son with a belt. The defense, the kid has severe behavioral problems. His attorney is going to join us live.

Plus, swearing in public could hit you where it hurts your wallet. How one town is facing obsessive profanity. Margaret's playlist, Dr. Dre. You're watching STARTING POINT. Good morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Roland Martin, the empty chart right here. That's his playlist, there's Roland martin. Finally I agree with Roland.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is the dream come true, the virtual pause button I've been looking for right here. I can think. I can thing.

ROMANS: Get him, will. Get him.

So this is the beautiful panel, Margaret Hoover, the author of "American Individualism," Will Cain, columnist for TheBlaze.com, and here he is, Roland Martin.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I have a daily segment on the morning show --

ROMANS: He gets this hall pass that no one at CNN gets. You come and go.

MARTIN: This is a rough economy, black man got to have at least four jobs. Come on, now.

ROMANS: Time to get real.

MARGARET HOOVER, AUTHOR, "AMERICAN INDIVIDUALISM": Every time with you.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: We have a get real this morning that you've all done it, walking down the street and stub your toe and drop something and outcomes a string of profanities, in Middleborough, it's not so simple. Cursing in public got so bad in this town senior citizens said they were afraid to go shopping downtown because the swearing was so intimidating. So the town decided to do something about it. Last night in a 183-50 vote, residents approved fining excessive swearing in public to the tune of $20 per incident. That's one -- that's one swear jar. The vote actually decriminalized swearing, was originally against the law. The fine violates the first amendment especially since there's no clear defer in addition of profanity. Please don't tell me, I'm not asking you to tell me.

MARTIN: We'll show you.

CAIN: You have the - like if I said this -- or if I said -- I have to move my mouth.

MARTIN: That don't work well.

ROMANS: They are reading your mind.

CAIN: I think I'm moving my mouth it would be --

(LAUGHTER)

CAIN: In all seriousness, one man's profanity is another man's lyric. That is a legal concept as well. You can't go around and regulate profanity. You have to more narrowly tailor your law. If it is fighting words, used to incite violation --

ROMANS: Doesn't this old lady have a right to go shopping without being insulted?

HOOVER: Local communities get to regulate themselves, 158 to 50 shows there is strong feeling and you say it is directed towards violence, apparently these people felt intimidated walking to buy something because somebody was yelling profanities at them. It's a hotbed of the original sensibility in the United States.

MARTIN: I totally understand, but we also did a story earlier a couple of months ago that dealt with cursing also relieves stress and lowers blood pressure. Sometimes you have to cuss somebody out.

CAIN: Community sensibility, I like the quote from the one lady opposed to the law. She said, "If you think your legal budget is big enough to handle this, it's a question of the first amendment rights."

ROMANS: All I have to say, my mom always said that cursing shows you don't have -- creativity.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: No, you can curse creatively. You can have really --

ROMANS: We'll have a break and you can cuss creatively all you want. How much sleep did you get last night? If it's less than six hours, you might be putting yourself at risk for a stroke.

And a disturbing video of a father disciplining his stepson. This video looks terrible, but should the parent be charged with a felony. We'll get his side of the story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Let's get right to Zoraida Sambolin for today's headlines. Good morning.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning, Christine.

A House committee is considering holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. A vote is scheduled in eight days. The committee says Holder has had more than enough time to produce documents they've requested for their investigation of "Fast and Furious," a flawed gun smuggling program that wound up arming Mexican cartels.

A battle for Gabrielle Giffords' House seat will be decided today in a special election in Arizona. Former Giffords' aide, Ron Barber faces a tough challenge from Republican Jesse Kelly, an ex-Marine and an Iraq war vet who's backed by the Tea Party. Barber was wounded in the 2011 Tucson shooting rampage that critically injured Giffords and killed six others.

Take a look at this shocking video of a Florida woman set on fire in an apparent domestic dispute in Boynton Beach. Police say the suspect, 52-year-old Roosevelt Monster poured gasoline on the mother of his 4-year-old son and torched her after pulling her out of a convenience store. He is behind bars this morning facing attempted first degree murder charges.

And a father's rage turns deadly, but neighbors in the small town of Shiner, Texas are feeling his pain. Police say the father beat a man to death after catching him molesting his 4-year-old daughter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF MICAH HARMON, LAVACA COUNTY, TEXAS: Defense of her trying to get her away from him, he struck the individual in the head several times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think he should be arrested for it. I don't think any charges should be filed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If somebody abused my grandchild like he did, I think he deserved everything he got.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Especially 4 years old. That's terrible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: The sheriff says the little girl suffered mental trauma, but physically she's OK. The father has not been arrested. A grand jury will decide on possible charges in that case.

In this morning's "House Call," are you sleep deprived? If you get fewer than six hours of sleep each night, you could have a higher risk of stroke, even if you are otherwise healthy.

A study from the University of Alabama found that early symptoms of strokes like numbness down one side of the body, vision loss, dizziness or losing the ability to express yourself could be associated with less sleep. But scientists say more research is needed there.

A huge blow to autism researchers. A freezer malfunctioned at Harvard's brain bank damaging a third of the world's largest collection of brain samples used to study autism.

Officials say the freezer's temperatures rose too high and the alarms that were supposed to go off did not sound. Researchers say the damaged brain samples were a priceless collection. Investigators say foul play cannot be ruled out. Boy, that is terribly unfortunate -- Christine.

ROMANS: I know and on Twitter this morning, a lot of people who are advocates for finding, you know, the source and cure for autism are frankly just really upset about this.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely.

ROMANS: A lot of parents talking about it this morning too. Thanks, Zoraida.

A disturbing story, a stepfather caught on camera, hitting his stepson with a belt during a game of catch. He could face some felony child abuse charges.

The Imperial County Sheriff's Office plans to file a case with the district attorney this afternoon. A neighbor took this video of Anthony Sanchez, hitting his stepson in their backyard last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm having a problem with you for beating the -- because he won't catch the ball.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know my son?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know your son, but I'm watching you. I'm -- a father too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Sanchez was arrested after turning himself in. He has since resigned from his elected post there in the town. Joining us now are Anthony Sanchez's attorney, Ryan Childers and psychologist, Dr. Dale Atkins. Thanks for both being here.

I want to start with you, Ryan. First of all, the video looks bad. He knows it looks bad, right? He's seeking parenting classes or counseling. But this is not abuse, you say, this is him disciplining a child with behavioral problems?

RYAN CHILDERS, ATTORNEY FOR ANTHONY SANCHEZ: Well, what I'm saying is that my client in doing this was intending to discipline his son. It wasn't about a son --

ROMANS: Disciplining him for what?

CHILDERS: I want to be careful. My client wants to be careful. We don't want to make this about Zach. This isn't Zach's fault. My client understands that.

So I don't want to go into that, but a lot of people said this is about a game of catch and because he wasn't playing catch correctly. This is why this happened and that's not the case.

ROMANS: This is during a game of catch. Tell us in your client's words what was happening here.

CHILDERS: Again, to do that, I'd have to get into what was going on with Zach and I don't want to make this about Zach. This isn't Zach's fault. My client has seen the video, I've seen the video.

We realize that it's hard to watch. My client has regrets about this and realizes he may need to learn some better skills for dealing with a childhood behavioral issues such as this.

But the question here, should my client spend six years in prison on felony charges? Is this illegal? Spanking is not illegal in California and California law --

ROMANS: Was that a belt? Because we can see it from the video that he reaches down to pick something up. He was throwing the ball earlier and he had something on the ground, looks like a belt. Picked up the belt to go -- that was a belt that he was spanking him with?

CHILDERS: This is a belt that he was spanking him with. But again, California law says that using something other than your hand does not make it illegal. The question here, parents can decide for themselves what's right and wrong in their own discipline, but the question for us is what's illegal. ROMANS: What does the boy's mother, she's on a pre-planned, family vacation, your client stayed behind. How is she doing and how is the child doing?

CHILDERS: Well, needless to say the whole family is torn up by this entire event. I mean, this -- before they went to authorities, this was put on Facebook.

And so my client has suffered tremendous amount of outrage about this and of course, young Zach has had an event that was horrible for him, exposed to the world.

This is something that he's going to have to deal with when he goes back to class and for quite a long time.

ROMANS: He's aware -- Zach is aware of this has become a national story.

CHILDERS: The family has tried to shield him as much as possible, but it just couldn't be done to the extent they would like. So he is aware, yes.

ROMANS: How often would your client discipline the child this way?

CHILDERS: In my understanding is that from the mother, the maternal grandfather and everybody who has been around my client, they've never seen an instance where they felt that his discipline with young Zach was ever inappropriate or crossed the line.

ROMANS: You talked about his behavioral issues. The family is dealing with the behavioral issues -- this is how they are dealing with it?

CHILDERS: I can't speak to other instances of discipline, but certainly they believe that spanking is an appropriate form of discipline. That's not --

ROMANS: And this is the spanking?

CHILDERS: In this instance there was a belt used and I'm not saying in every instance of discipline, there's a belt used. I can't speak to that. I don't know about that.

ROMANS: I want to bring in Dr. Dale Atkins here. I want to ask you. For childhood behavioral issues, is this an appropriate response?

DR. DALE ATKINS, PSYCHOLOGIST: It is generally inappropriate response. Children with behavioral issues particularly children who have attention issues, have difficulty regulating themselves. They have difficulty staying in the moment.

And they really do better not with aggression, which then teaches them that it is a way to deal with problems and do deal with their own self-regulation issues. But rather ways you can deal with them more appropriately are trying to address them personally --

ROMANS: And when you talk self-regulation, I mean, I think for a lot of parents, this is when I child is compelled to do something. A child can't say. I'm not going to do something. Whether it's a movement or a sound or acting out, they can't regulate themselves.

ATKINS: That's exactly right. That's one of the issues. When people talk about trying to discipline a child who has behavioral issues, the issue is the child has issues regulating their own behavior.

And that's what this -- in part this is about, but I would like to go back to one thing you said, which was this really isn't about the child. This really is about the child.

I know you're speaking about a legal perspective, but what we're talking about is how we deal with children. Whether they have behavioral issues or not, and I believe that if we all had a sense of when a parent is angry or when a parent is frustrated.

This is the time that you don't want to be engaged in a physical interaction with your child. That's when many people are interacting --

MARTIN: So you're saying never spank a child? Are you saying at all?

ROMANS: This isn't a spanking --

MARTIN: I got you, but the reality is, spanking is going to be a part of this conversation because it goes beyond this incidence. I'm asking you, do you believe in never spanking a child?.

HOOVER: Let me preface that. There has been a change in thought about this from professionals over the course of time. When I was quite young, spanking was considered the standard for disciplining children.

ATKINS: You're asking me a direct question and my direct answer is that I do not believe in spanking children. I do not believe in hitting children. I believe and so much of the research in my own 40 years of experience working with children and working with families, dealing with abuse for most of my life, is that it does not have a positive effect.

Not only on the child, it does not have a positive effect and has a deleterious effect on the relationship between the parent and child often. It does nothing to enhance a child's self-esteem and makes parents feel terrible about themselves afterwards and children remember very, very well, not only what was said to them, but was done to them.

MARTIN: Isn't there a difference between abuse and spanking. I can tell you flat out, I got spanked and I can tell you right now that had my dad not disciplined me and my brother and my three sisters.

Look, we would have been off that deep end and not one of his children he had to go bail out. So some people sit here and I can tell you right now, some people say that's not right and proper.

I can tell you right now, from my own experience, I can imagine where I had been had my dad not put his foot down and discipline us.

ATKINS: There are ways to put one's foot down. There are ways to deal with children and most people in this country have been spanked. Most children have been humiliated. Most children have been made to feel in a situations where they are really not in control of themselves that they are made to feel less than.

One of things about hitting kids, is that what it says is it's OK for a big person to hit a little person. It's OK for a strong person to hit a weaker person. I think there are ways -- I don't know the discussion about having is spanking good or bad. The issue is what are we doing to our children and what are we doing as a society that's my point.

ROMANS: A lot of us come from the angle of what happened to us when we were kids. This is a story about child with behavioral issues and this particular case and whether this is routine spanking, which I think anybody watching this does not think this is a kid being spanked.

This is a belt and some -- an adult who's clearly angry. We can't hear what was going on there. You don't want to tell us exactly what the behavior was an elicited this response. Is your client going to do something like this again do you think?

CHILDERS: Well, I don't believe -- I think that my client has learned that this may have been excessive and he's very sorry about the fact that there may have been some excessive action here.

But again, this comes back to is this a felony that he should spend six years in prison for? Is this something that is illegal? I realize people have opinions about discipline and seeing the video inflamed a lot of people.

But what is the appropriate legal course here or has the sheriff's department overreached because of the pressure they've gotten from social media and the blogosphere.

ROMANS: Can I ask you another question? Is this family -- do the school district or whatever, do they have help in support with the behavioral issues and the ADHD part of this story?

CHILDERS: Absolutely.

ROMANS: Because there are a lot of professionals, early interventions, a lot of things that states trained adults who can help families figure out how to handle behavior that is hard to contain.

CHILDERS: And Zach has had treatment and ongoing treatment both with a psychiatrist and a psychologist. ROMANS: Ryan Childers, thank you so much. Thank you so much also, Dr. Dale Atkins. I'm sure it's a discussion we'll continue to have.

Coming up, some startling news, the American family's net worth drastically shrinking. We can actually quantify what went down the drain. How many years of savings and investment was lost in the recession. We'll tell you what that number is after the break.

Also a photo journalist risks his life to show the world was going on inside Syria. His amazing video of a country at war with itself. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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ROMANS: All right, nearly 40 percent of your net worth gone because of the recession. That's what new numbers show from the Federal Reserve this week. Median net worth fell from $125,000 in 2007 to about 77,000 in 2010.

That means the recession wiped away according to the fed about 18 years of savings and investment for the typical American family and the family's net worth is down to where it was in 1992.

It's also interesting about these numbers as they show for middle -- middle chunk of income strata fell, but the top 10 percent did OK. So kind of feeds a little bit into the 99 versus the 1 theory that we hear so much about.

CAIN: Setting aside the 1 percent versus the 99 percent, which isn't my favorite discussion in the world that we seemed to indulge. This --

MARTIN: Shocking.

CAIN: This is a statistic that resonates much, much further than this little one versus 99 percent debate. This is your economic recession in a nutshell right here, 40 percent decline in net worth. That cannot be overstated. The effect that has on consumer spending, economists debate that, that's a massive number.

ROMANS: It's 18 years of savings and investment that's what really did it for me because even covering the financial crisis, trying to quantify the people, this means you can't retire when you want to. This means you have to work longer. This means you have to work two or three jobs. This means 18 years of progress was erased from the typical family. That's tough.

HOOVER: And to say this isn't going to have political ramifications either. I think the political party in November going to have the most success is the one that can convince -- and it's not just the middle class, but also -- and I think here Republicans need to learn to talk about how to help people get out of poverty.

And how to continue social mobility so that people can grow net worth and how to address these core problems because we see the Democrats a lot of times talking about poverty and the poor. But Republicans shirk from these issues.

ROMANS: Why?

HOOVER: You know what? It's a great question actually. I think it probably goes to the nature of conservatism. We talk about how the rising tide raises all votes.

ROMANS: You think when Romney talks about poverty, he doesn't know about poverty?

HOOVER: Rudy Giuliani talked about a lot. Rudy Giuliani talked a ladder out of poverty and how do you get there. So there are some reform Republicans and urban Republicans who have been able to talk about it successfully.

MARTIN: Any Republican who does not talk about the issue of poverty is an absolute idiot because if you look at the poorest states, the bottom 10, eight of those 10 are so-called red states, OK?

You can talk about Mississippi, Alabama. You can go to West Virginia. You can talk about Louisiana. They are at the bottom. It's a real issue. But when you talk about this particular housing issue here, it also forces us to have a different conversation in that we had this false economy, if you will.

Folks were flipping houses. They were sitting here, the values were going up. And so what happened was in some cases, my brother has a house. The house next to him was flipped so many times that house was selling for almost $500,000.

The house really should have been around $300,000 and then what happens, the property values go up. And it really was a false -- a false economy. And all of a sudden, people say I lost it, but we were operating really with a false sense of security.

And specifically we talk about African-Americans, 53 percent of black wealth has been wiped out and that will affect the next two generations. Typically, you start your business with a home loan. You can't do it because you don't have a home now.

ROMANS: All right, guys, that's a tough number, 18 years wiped away.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

ROMANS: An eyewitness to the massacre in Syria, a photo journalist risked his life to tell the world the real story of what's happening there. He's going join us with that story next.

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ROMANS: Now a CNN exclusive. We take you inside Syria to document the unimaginable slaughter of civilians. The images you're seeing are courtesy of photo journalist, Robert King.

He risked his life to show the world the truth about what's happening there. These pictures were taken in a makeshift clinic in Homs Province, an area that's under siege from government troops, and has been for months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doctor, what has happened here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. The army, you see, you see this child. They cannot go to any hospital in Syria. They will kill the wounded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even the children?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even the children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Photo journalist Robert King joins us live from Beirut. It's the children. The whole story is just harrowing for the civilians in Syria, but it's so many children and the images of children. What did you see? What's happening there?

ROBERT KING, WAR PHOTOGRAPHER: I saw only a small part of what is taking place in the whole country. This field hospital was overwhelmed with the numerous amounts of wounded from civilians to children to fighters. And they were doing life saving operations with very little medical equipment. That was available to them at that time.

ROMANS: Tell me, how are the people being wounded? Are they being wounded in the door-to-door sort of hand-to-hand combat? Is it mortars? What's happening?

KING: Just random -- they are being wounded, you know, just -- they are being targeted because they live in civilian populated areas. So it's not -- it is random, but it's more direct than random.

Because they seem to be targeting all people within the rebel held areas whether it's from sniping to mortars to rockets. It is effective and disgusting.

ROMANS: Has any -- are the people that you talk to --

KING: It's a crime against humanity.

ROMANS: Is anyone saying that Bashar Al-Assad, the president of Syria, that his group is slipping or is he strengthening his grip on Homs?

KING: Well, it's apparent that he's losing his power just by his desperate acts of slaughtering civilians and trying to drag his country into an all-out civil war. You know, it's obvious to me and to the people of Syria that if he leaves, he wants the country to be in flames.

So his legacy will be one that prevented this type of sectarian violence. In reality, he is promoting sectarian violence. He is killing the offspring of the revolutionaries in a brutal and gruesome way.

ROMANS: The images are certainly brutal and gruesome. And we know it's dangerous to try to get those videos and those pictures out of there.

Photo journalist Robert King has been doing that. He is joining us from Beirut. Thank you for telling your story and showing us those pictures.

Don't miss the next hour of STARTING POINT. Florida Governor Rick Scott, former Minnesota Governor Ricky Ventura, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, the cast of the new "Dallas," yes, and Will, Margaret and Roland are here too.

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