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Looking Dazed, Shooting Suspect in Court; "He Has No Right To A Sad Face"; Campaigning After A Tragedy; Skirting The Issue Of Gun Control; NCAA's "Stark Wake Up Call" For Penn State; Iraqi Officials: Attacks Kill 82 People; 13 Die in Texas Pickup Truck Crash; Stocks Drop On Worries About Spain; 30,000 Lbs. Of Ground Beef Recalled

Aired July 23, 2012 - 16:18   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So there you have it.

Lisa Damiani, she is a lawyer in California. She's been practicing 20 years. But she now represents the family of James Holmes, the accused killer, in Aurora, Colorado, the 24-year-old student, former student.

He dropped out of a PhD program at the University of Colorado, is now accused of going into that movie theater Friday night and killing 12 people, wounding 58 others, shooting 70 people in total, the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.

She came out to speak to reporters to clarify a very important point -- a point involving James Holmes' mother, Arlene Holmes. There you see James Holmes with the red hair -- dyed red hair in court today. She wanted to make it clear that when ABC News, someone from ABC News called on Friday to ask about James Holmes, she uttered the words, "You have the right person," she was referring to the fact -- this is Arlene Holmes, the mother, the ABC News person was speaking to the mother of James Holmes.

She was not implying, not suggesting in any way anything was wrong with James Holmes. That, in fact, she knew James Holmes was involved in this incident at all, and the attorney is now wanting to make it clear that the mother had no idea what was going on in Colorado, had no idea that her son was involved in anything along these lines.

We've got a lot to digest. We're here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer. We'll take a quick break.

When we come back, we'll go to the scene. Our Casey Wian is on the scene for us. Ed Lavandera is in Aurora. There are important developments happening in the case.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Today's first court appearance by the suspects in a Colorado theater shooting raised more questions than it answered. James Holmes appeared daze, grimacing, blinking his eyes, paying no attention to what was going on around him.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us from Aurora, Colorado, from outside the courthouse right now.

What are officials saying about the suspect's rather bizarre appearance during that courtroom event today, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, prosecutors aren't saying much about it. We've got calls into the sheriff's department here in Aurora to find out if he was under any kind of medication. We have not heard back.

But the image that we saw today of James Holmes is very different from the pictures and images that we have seen in the couple of days leading up to today.


UNIDENTIFIEDMALE: Good morning, everybody. Please be seated.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): James Holmes didn't say a word during his first court appearance in Colorado. So, we're left trying to read body language, looking for clues, signs of emotion, remorse, satisfaction, anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have the right to remain silence.

LAVANDERA: But in just moments, it wasn't the shaggy, orange hair with the red on top, it was the range of bewildering facial expression that captured everyone's attention. At times, it seemed like James Holmes struggled to keep his eyes open as the judge ordered him to have no contact with the shooting victims or their families, it wasn't clear that Holmes was processing the words, staring blankly at something in front of him. Holmes face would then turn to looking confused. Then his eyes would open wide, freeze briefly, and his head would just drop down.

Next week, prosecutors begin detailing the criminal charges against Holmes. Prosecutors say the death penalty is a very real possibility.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's so much victims will have to take into account. They will be impacted in an enormous way for years if -- if the death penalty is sought. That's a very long process that impacts their lives for years. And so, they will want to have, and we will want to get their input before we make any kind of a decision on that.

After the short court appearance, James left the courtroom in shackles, seemingly an even bigger enigma to everyone, trying to understand the mind of the suspected mass killer.


LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, just to reiterate, we're trying to reach to officials in the county jail where James Holmes is being held in solitary confinement to find out if there were any medical reasons or prescription medications that would explain some of the very sedated- looking behavior that we saw here today.

And what's interestingly enough, is that since James Holmes was taken into custody in the early morning hours of Friday morning, that authorities here in Aurora had refused, essentially, to release his mug shot. A great deal of sensitivity to the families and obviously today was the very first day that the victims' families got to see what James Holmes looks like today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, Ed, just to be precise, law enforcement is not saying whether or not he's on any medications that may have contributed to the dazed look that we saw?

LAVANDERA: We've got calls in to find out if that's the case. Now, not -- whether or not they'll answer the question, you know, it's clear, I'm sure there's patient privacy issues there. So it doesn't seem they would be inclined to have to answer that answer or explain it in any kind of way.

But, you know, doing our jobs and try to explain if there's any kind of -- other explanation that may explain the behavior that we've seen, especially since there's been so many reports that we've heard over the last few days that suggest that he's been acting very erratically inside the jail. So it seems like two very different pictures for what we've seen. And, of course, we only have a 10-minute window to gauge what we can from seeing James Holmes up close.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera, we'll check back with you. Thanks very much.

Up next, we're with some of the victims as the suspect, James Holmes, appeared in court. We're going to take you back live to Aurora for their reaction.


BLITZER: Certainly, so many of us were disturbed by today's television pictures of James Holmes. His appearance was an absolute shock for survivors of the attack and victims' relatives who were in the courtroom.

CNN's Kyung Lah spoke with some of them. She's joining us now.

How painful this must have been for all of them, Kyung. Tell us what they said.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly painful, because remember, most of them, even if they were inside that theater, only saw a dark figure with weapons. Now the hair is getting a lot of attention. That's the thing that first struck them. But what one survivor told us is that something he will not forget now is the expression on this man's face.


LAH: Here, you're going to finally get a close-up shot of this 24- year-old shooting spree suspect.

The first look for Corbin Date. He sat in the second row of the theatre as the shooting began, coming within feet of the mass killer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You finally take off the mask and you see who this person really is, it's like a shock.

LAH (on camera): Can you reconcile this image with the man inside the theatre?

CORBIN DATE, SURVIVED ATTACK AT COLORADO THEATRE: I did not expect that at all. It was shocking. First thing, he was covered in black. The visual coming into my mind was somebody who was -- I would say somebody very buff, somebody who works out, somebody who probably has a history of knowing weapons inside and out.

LAH (voice-over): James Holmes' hair grabbed attention for most people, but Date couldn't get past the expression on his face.

DATE: He has no right to come into court looking like he has a sad face. It's not all right. The look that he has right now is not something that's going to be believable.

LAH (on camera): Do you think it's an act?

DATE: Yes. He had this thought out very well.

LAH: So do you think the hair and the face, this is all part of an act?

DATE: It's an act.

LAH (voice-over): Across Aurora, the community turned to their televisions to see the alleged gunman's face. Others like Dave Sanchez came to the courthouse. He's the father-in-law of victim Caleb Medley who is in criminal condition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the appropriate punishment for this guy?


LAH: With the crime scene in the background, Corbin Date says he's working on trying to forgive the man he believes almost killed him. But seeing his face today didn't help.

DATE: What are you trying to pull with the face? Who are you trying to fool?


LAH: So while there was a lot of confusion over the expression of this defendant. The sense of we're getting at least from one survivor is that this is all part of a calculated dance.

That's what he believes right now. He is hoping that the full force of U.S. justice will be falling on this defendant -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I can only imagine. Thanks so much, Kyung Lah on the scene for us.

A very, very sensitive time to be out there on the presidential campaign trail. How can President Obama and Mitt Romney keep up the attacks after such a huge national tragedy? We're going to discuss that in our "Strategy Session."

A historic punishment for Penn State University. What it could mean for college sports.


BLITZER: Lots of important developments happening today in the Aurora shooting incident. We finally saw James Holmes. He makes his appearance in court.

We also just heard a statement, an attorney representing Arlene Holmes, his mother in San Diego, just heard a statement refuting the initial interpretation of what ABC News was reporting when they contacted her immediately after the shooting.

We're going to get back to all of that as well. But there's huge political fallout from what's been going on in Aurora, Colorado. Let's discuss that in our "Strategy Session."

Joining us now our CNN contributor, the Democratic strategist James Carville and a former Republican senator, Norm Coleman of Minnesota. He is a foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

Gentlemen, thanks to both of you for coming in. How long will it take, James, in your opinion to get back to all the nasty politicking out there after a huge national tragedy like this? Shouldn't there be a decent interval between the time that both of these candidates cool it?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, there's going to be some. It will probably be a little bit long in Colorado, as well as the rest of the country. But unfortunately, you know, this is not the first time something like this has happened.

It's really, really tragic. You know, it's better to get in two days too late than two days too early. I hate to put an omen on it, but we're probably not close just yet.

BLITZER: So you think it's going to be -- they're going to be relatively restrained over the next few days at least. Is that what you're saying, James.

CARVILLE: I think so. You would rather be a little too late getting in it than too early. I think the image of this guy on TV today, couldn't stop to think of the poor people who were suffering in Colorado. Friends and parents and families and stuff like that. Take a look. I think it's still pretty raw.

BLITZER: Yes, this is the largest mass shooting in American history. More people were shot, 70 people and 12 of them killed than ever before. Senator Coleman, I assume you agree with James on this.

NORM COLEMAN, FORMER REPUBLICAN SENATOR OF MINNESOTA: You know, Wolf, listen in tears today reading stories about boyfriends falling themselves on top of girlfriends and sacrificing their lives. Young kids trying to protect the 6-year-olds who dies. In Minnesota when I ran for the Senate in 2002, Powell Stone, his wife and his daughter, two pilots, a staff member got killed in a plane crash. It was 10 days before the election.

In Minnesota, we let the families, wait for the families to bury their loved ones and didn't begin to campaign until a few days before the election. So you need to do that.

Particularly as James said in Colorado, they got to get a chance to grieve. The nation is grieving. They are going to grieve longer in Colorado. I said, I don't expect any heated political activity in Colorado for a while.

Let the families bury their loved ones. There are still folks in the hospital who are in serious conditions. So there's going to be a longer period of mourning going on here, as there should be, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, James, should the president and Mitt Romney heed the advice of the New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and start talking about serious gun control?

Even in the midst of the political campaign, with all of the potential political fallout that could generate pros and cons.

CARVILLE: You know, like it or not, the reality of American politics is the NRA has a very dominating presence in Washington and somewhat around the country. And I don't think that between now and Election Day there's going to be a lot of discussion about gun control --

BLITZER: Why is that, James? I can understand maybe on the Republican side, but what about on the Democratic side? The president, why is he reluctant to talk about this?

CARVILLE: Well, he's always been reluctant to talk about it. He never like, you know, to start to come out for it. You know, maybe he's not much of a gun control type guy. Maybe in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, you know, even Colorado, this issue is not a decided issue.

I think the people that advocate gun control has not been as effective as the people who fight these laws. It tends to play out in elections. That's the reality of American politics. That's the way it is. We've seen it right now.

BLITZER: You know, Senator Coleman, when he was governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, he favored pretty strict gun control, a ban on assault weapons. That was in Massachusetts. Now he's running for president of the United States. He's changed his position on some of those issues. You acknowledge that.

COLEMAN: Well, first, let me say this. This is not about the NRA's power. The voters don't believe it's effective. A year ago, there was a massacre in Norway. A mad man killed 77 people.

Norway has the toughest gun control laws in the world. So the voters know it doesn't work. It doesn't help. It's not going to solve this problem.

So yes, at some point, after they mourn, there should be a discussion about gun control. But the result, I think is going to be the toughest gun laws in the world don't make us safer from madmen, from evil people. That's the reality. It's both a political reality, Wolf, as it is a practical reality.

BLITZER: I want both of you to look at this. Law enforcement in Aurora, Colorado, they have now released the mug shot. There it is, the mug shot of James Holmes, shortly after he was arrested in connection with that massacre at that movie theatre Friday night -- early Friday morning, I should say, after midnight Thursday night. And I want your quick reaction. Look at that picture, James, and what does that say to you?

CARVILLE: You know, the feeling I saw on TV, I thought about the poor people -- the angst they must be going through. This guy I don't have any sort of sense, I think of one of my children or my friends or anybody like that.

All I can think of is the pain that must be going through these people and their hearts and their minds. It's just awful. Obviously, a very -- you know, Wolf, there's something very wrong here.

He's one person. Think of all the thousands and tens of thousands of people that have the personal angst out here. It's just awful.

BLITZER: He colored his hair red. He told police after he was arrested he was the Joker, the villain in the Batman films. Senator Coleman, what goes through your mind?

COLEMAN: I totally agree with James. I don't think one thing about this. I'm not thinking about him at all. I'm thinking about the pain, the suffering, the angst that families are going through, those who lost loved ones.

Those worried about losing loved ones. I don't want to see the face. There's a lot of pain going on there. They're not thinking about this monster.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks so much to both of you for coming in, Norm Coleman and James Carville.

We're going to be taking you inside the courtroom in Colorado. Our own Jim Spellman was inside that room. We're going to talk to him in the next hour. He's going to tell us what was actually going on behind the scenes. What you didn't see on TV.

Also, it keeps getting worse for Penn State University. We have new details on the unprecedented punishment handed down by the NCAA.



MARK EMMERT, NCAA PRESIDENT: No matter what we do here today, there is no action we can take to remove their pain and anguish. But what we can do is impose sanctions that both reflect the magnitude of the terrible acts, and that also ensure that Penn State will rebuild an athletic culture that went horribly awry.


BLITZER: The NCAA is calling it, quote, "A stark wake-up call to everyone in college sports." An unprecedented punishment is handed down to Penn State's University football program.

It's all part of the continued fallout from the child sex abuse scandal involving the former assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky. The university will be fined $60 million over five years.

Money that will be used to fund programs serving victims of child sex abuse. The team is banned from playing in the lucrative post season Bowl games for four years.

The program will lose 20 football scholarships a year for four seasons decimating one of the country's power house programs and the winningest coach in major college football history will be stripped of all of his wins after 1998.

That bumps long time coach Joe Paterno down from number one to number 12 on the wins list. CNN's sports anchor and correspondent, Mark McKay is joining us now.

Mark, put this into perspective for us. I'm saying it's unprecedented, but give us your sense.

MARK MCKAY, CNN SPORT ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, that was the one word, Wolf, that we herd used so many times here at NCAA Headquarters in Indianapolis, the word, unprecedented.

It came from the NCAA president himself, Mark Emmert. He used them a number of times when he met the media here this morning. Not only the sanctions unprecedented in terms of their severity.

But it's also unprecedented how quickly the NCAA acted in this case. Mark Emmert was given power by the NCAA's Board of Directors and its executive committee to actually penalize Penn State without due process of a hearing. Emmert is telling us today that his organization needed to act and act quickly -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So what's the message, the direct message they're trying to send by these steps, these punitive steps?

MCKAY: Well, the NCAA president said the statement is of this case, but the broader message of the whole day and the way these sanctions came down is that the NCAA is sending a loud and clear message to the universities.

That the message that the president and the chancellors are in charge and not necessarily the athletic directors and the football coaches. The NCAA said that every university across the United States needs to have a gut check after what was able to happen at Penn State -- Wolf. BLITZER: In your sense, Mark, how will these sanctions impact college football in general?

MCKAY: I think it will force universities, Wolf, to assess their priorities. Where does major college football and major college sports actually stand in the pecking order? It certainly appears that this case and the sanctions that the NCAA has imposed will certainly empower the sports governing body. But it also, I think help seek in a small measure a sense of closure to what the NCAA president told us today, Wolf, was, quote, "an unprecedented, painful chapter in the history of the intercollegiate athletics."

BLITZER: Certainly was. Thanks so much. Mark Mckay reporting for us.

Important news if you purchased ground beef recently. A company recalls 30,000 pounds of beef for fears of salmonella contamination. We're going to tell you which company, what store is selling it. Standby.

And dozens die in Iraq. Car bombs and roadside bombs go off all across the country.

Plus, we'll have much more in what's going on in Aurora, Colorado, in the aftermath of the shooting.


BLITZER: A very deadly day in Iraq. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM" right now. Lisa, what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Iraqi officials say at least 82 people were killed and dozens more wounded from several attacks across the country. Car bombs and roadside bombs exploded in several cities.

The deadliest was at a residential complex north of Baghdad where 32 people were killed. Insurgents have routinely targeted Iraqi security forces and civilians since the U.S. withdrew troops in December.

And a Texas state trooper is calling it one of the worst fatalities involving a vehicle he has ever seen. A Ford pickup truck packed with two dozen people in the cab and bed slams into two large trees on the side of the highway.

Killing at least 13 people and injuring 10 others. Police say there was no evidence of alcohol at the scene and no other vehicles were involved.

And a tough day at Wall Street today. All three indexes finished down as worries that Spain may need a full-blown bailout to spark the global selloff. The Dow sank 101 points after shedding more than 220 point earlier in the day.

The bank of Spain report the nation's economy contracted in the second quarter. A sign that eurozone's fourth largest economy could be in recession for quite some time.

And a company Cargill is recalling 30,000 pounds of fresh ground beef because of a possible salmonella contamination. Investigators have tied five illnesses to the strain of salmonella found in the beef.

They are investigating 33 other patients. The beef has been traced to New England's Hanaford grocery stores. Last year, Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey due to salmonella so some concerns there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, better to be safe than sorry to be sure. Thank you, Lisa.

A quote, "a safe exit" is offered to Syria's president, Bashar Al Assad. It comes as fierce clashes erupt in two major Syrian cities. CNN is inside Syria right now with a first-hand look. Standby.

And paying for the arsenal so where did the accused Colorado killer get all the money, thousands and thousands of dollars to buy all those guns, the rifles, the ammunition? We're digging into his finances that's coming up in our next hour.