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Aurora Shooter in Court Today; Hagel to be Nominated for Defense Post; Washington Scandal Over RGIII's Injury; BCS Championship Game Tonight

Aired January 7, 2013 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The case against James Holmes. We're just hours away now from prosecutors unveiling their evidence against the accused Aurora theater gunman.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: The boss is back. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets today with staffers for the first time since her blood clot hospital scare.

BERMAN: Gun without a trace. There's still no sign of Italian fashion mogul or his plane off the coast of Venezuela.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Glad to have you with us this morning. It is January 7th. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

It is a big day today in the trial of James Holmes. That is the accused shooter in the Aurora murder massacre. A pretrial gets under way. And it will be the first time the public hears evidence against Holmes.

He is charged with killing 12 people and wounding dozens more at the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." Of course, that was last July.

Anne Bremner is a criminal defense attorney and a former prosecutor and she joins us this morning from Seattle. Very nice to have you with us. Thank you.

ANNE BREMNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me. Good morning.

SAMBOLIN: We're delighted to have you. You prosecuted a number of cases. What can you expect today? What will the preliminary hearing actually determine?

BREMNER: Well, it's basically like a mini trial or coming attractions, so to speak, of what the trial will entail. The prosecution right now has many witnesses, hundreds of exhibits, or at least 100 exhibits. And they have to show a judge there is enough to bind the case over for trial. That there's probable cause to believe that James Holmes committed these 166 various felonies. So it will take about a week and rules of evidence don't apply, although there are some objections lodged to hearsay. And then the judge will make his decision. And I think everyone is predicting the case will be bound over.

SAMBOLIN: Now, there are reports that the prosecution plans to call a lot of witnesses. Is that unusual for preliminary hearing?

BREMNER: It is, because it's usually -- it's usually such kind of a bare bones presentation, just enough to show the judge that you have probable cause. You don't want to showcase, give away your cards so to speak, everything to the defense.

But in the case like this, I think there's a kind of something different going on. And it's this. They want to show the defense they have a strong case, but they also want the public to know what happened in this case, because there has been a gag order, and I think it's important for the public to know and have a public airing of the facts.

You know, there could be a plea bargain here, but it's only going to happen if James Holmes thinks he's in serious trouble.

SAMBOLIN: Now, you mentioned this will go on for a week. That there are going to be a lot of details.


SAMBOLIN: Specifically what?

I talked to the cousin of one of the victims last week, and she's actually going to be present in court. There's going to be a lot of graphic information they're going to share today, right?

BREMNER: Yes, it's going to be horrible for the victims and some have said, of course, it's too painful for them to go through it. This may be the only hearing are the facts are vetted. There may not be a trial if there's some kind of a bargain in the works in the future.

But there's going to be autopsy reports. There's going to be video from within the theater. There's going to be first-hand accounts of how he was shooting again and again and again at people. People are dying. There'll be in this hearing. It's going to be very tough for victims.

In my experience, victims, especially when I was a prosecutor, they want to be there. They want to know what happened. They want to hear the evidence. It's not cathartic and it's not closure, but they want to be there.

SAMBOLIN: It's really going to be difficult, because it's not just hearing it, it is seeing.

BREMNER: Seeing it.

SAMBOLIN: The defense team said Holmes is mentally ill, though they have not made a plea deal. You mentioned this a while ago. The insanity defense is handed differently there in Colorado in the courts.


SAMBOLIN: Could you walk us through that?

BREMNER: Yes. Unlike, there are only a few states like Colorado. And it's just like the federal law was before with John Hinckley. And, of course, everyone called for reform, because the law is this in Colorado: the state has a burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that James Holmes is sane. My state, many state, it's the opposite. The defense has to show it.

In Colorado, they have to show that he's sane, and prove beyond a reasonable doubt to 12 jurors. That's tough when he thinks he's Batman or the Joker and he's shooting randomly and had the house and this notebook and behaviors, how do they prove that? That's tough. The defense is going to put on mental health witnesses in this case.

And finally, in the death penalty case, we don't put to death the mentally ill. So, that will be the ultimate test in this case, even if he's not found to be insane, that he may not have the death penalty imposed because he could be found mentally incapable at least that phase.

SAMBOLIN: A lot of people are going to be watching this. We really appreciate your time today, Anne Bremner, criminal defense attorney, former prosecutor.


SAMBOLIN: Appreciate you.

BERMAN: Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is expected to be nominated for secretary of defense today. The president's pick to the top Pentagon post is already being blasted by Republican leaders. They are raising questions about Hagel's support for Israel, his unwillingness to back sanctions against Iran, and for questionable remarks about an openly gay nominee for an ambassador position back in 1998.

And this just in from the White House, the White House confirms to me that they will make their pick for the head of the CIA this morning. The White House tells me that pick will be John Brennan.

Brennan is currently the main counterterrorism adviser to President Obama. He talks to the president every day at the White House says about counterterrorism issues and Brennan also served in the CIA. He was part of the agency for a number of years.

So, the White House says he has vast experience in intelligence work. That nomination, again, will come today.

SAMBOLIN: And we're waiting to hear about that. All right. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returning to work this morning. It will be her first day back on the job since being sidelined by an illness, a concussion, and a blood clot. She'll be in meetings with her assistant secretary first thing this morning, and will play a big role in welcoming Afghan President Hamid Karzai to Washington on Friday as well.

BERMAN: Checking some of the top news stories trending on the web right now.

In India, a barbaric gang rape has caused nationwide outrage, worldwide outrage, in fact. Five men accused of robbing and assaulting a 23-year-old woman and her companion on a bus. They're appearing in court today, a juvenile court. The age of a sixth suspect claimed to be 17.

The companion told a French news agency that the woman was raped and beaten with a metal bar. He survived with a broken leg.

SAMBOLIN: And still no sign of Italian fashion mogul Vittorio Missoni. Rescuers are searching for his plan off the coast of Venezuela. The 58-year-old Missoni was traveling to Caracas with his wife, two friends and two pilots Friday when his twin engine aircraft disappeared 30 minutes after takeoff.

BERMAN: Some good news for hockey fans, who haven't had a lot of good news lately. There may be a deal to end the current lockout -- this lockout which has kept the NHL season on ice for months. The league and the NHL Players Association have come to terms on a tentative agreement following a marathon bargaining session over the weekend. The 10-year deal must now be approved by players and owners. But it seems like that will happen.

If both sides say yes, players could be back on the ice by next week.

SAMBOLIN: That is good news.

BERMAN: If you want to check our other top CNN trends, head to the Internet. Go to

SAMBOLIN: Bilbo Baggins, no match for a chainsaw at the box office. Can you believe it? "Texas Chainsaw 3D", a remake of 1974 classic took down "The Hobbit" in its opening weekend. "Chainsaw" was number one, earning $23 million. Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" was second, taking in $20 million. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," fell to third after three weeks at number one, making a mere $17.5 million.

BERMAN: Disappointment this morning at the University of Texas for an inspirational figure of the sports program there is quitting amid scandal.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, extreme weather forces a community water crisis. But this time, it's not the heat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: If you're traveling today, a lot of the storms that plagued us over the weekend are clearing up just in time. That's good news for everyone.

Meteorologist Karen Maginnis joins us now with more. Hey, Karen.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey. And, John and Zoraida, across much of the country, temperatures running five to 10 degrees above where it should be this year. The jet stream is pretty far to the north. But guess what? That's going to change.

As we go into next week, we'll see a big dive in the jet stream. And as a result, that brings down all of that cold, Arctic air. So, temperatures will be below normal.

And in places like Chicago that have seen about this much snowfall, for those temperatures, 30s and mid-40s, typical high temperature for this time year, would be around 31 degrees, Atlanta comes close to 60 degrees. Way above normal for this time year.

But a developing storm system across the Southwestern U.S. will trek in some moisture across the Gulf Coast region of Texas. And that is going to spell about four or five inches of rainfall. So, flash flooding is certainly likely, but we could see a chance for some thunderstorms, maybe an isolated tornado.

But you may remember, a week or so ago, around Galveston, that they saw a little over four inches of rainfall. That's the entire month's worth of rainfall that they typically see. We could see double that.

All right. Here we go on Tuesday afternoon or evening, along the southern third of the Texas region and then by Wednesday, we shift it from Corpus Christi, all the way to New Orleans with a chance for some heavy rainfall, damaging winds and as I mentioned, a chance of an isolated tornado -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much. Rain coming, too, huh?

All right. It is now 41 minutes after the hour. I want to get you up- to-date on all of the morning's top stories

A preliminary hearing for the suspect in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater massacre. James Holmes accused of killing 12 people, wounding dozens more in that rampage. Prosecutors will lay out their case in week against Holmes and a judge will decide if there is enough evidence for Holmes to stand trial.

SAMBOLIN: The track coach Bev Kearney has resigned from her job at the University of Texas will resign after she admitted to an affair with a student athlete that's begun back in 2002, and lasted about two years. University officials say the former student told them about the affair in October.

The 2002 SUV accident left Kearney with serious spinal injuries, but she continued to coach her team and eventually learned to walk again. Kearney won six national championships with the University of Texas. BERMAN: Lindsay Lohan expected in a New York courtroom. She's accused of punching a woman at a Manhattan nightclub back in November. Lohan will learn if the district attorney plans to pursue a misdemeanor assault case against her.

SAMBOLIN: Freezing temperatures are causing a water shortage in a mountainous area of southwestern China. Twenty degree temperatures are responsible for ice forming in the pipes that supply water to Chongqing municipality, leaving about 5,000 people without any running water. Can you imagine that?

Villagers have been carrying water in from elsewhere and are melting snow now to get water to wash their hands and their faces.

BERMAN: It's awfully pretty, but probably no fun for people living there.

SAMBOLIN: A big mess. Yes.

BERMAN: The state of Kansas is going after a man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple for child support. Now, he is getting support of his own from one of the moms. Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner found William Marotta on Craigslist. They did not use a doctor to conceive, but under a Kansas statute, a sperm donor is considered the father if insemination is not performed through a doctor. Bauer says Marotta shouldn't be forced to pay child support.


ANGELA BAUER, MOTHER: If gays and lesbians had equal rights in the state of Kansas, my name would have been the other name on that birth certificate, so I would be the person the state of Kansas was going after for child support. You know, I think it goes back to wanting equality.


BERMAN: This is awfully complicated. Following the baby's birth, Bauer and Schreiner broke up. The state also filed a motion to appoint a guardian for Mia (ph) who is now 3 years old.

SAMBOLIN: Carnival season is now under way in New Orleans. The funny 40 fellows started things off with a streetcar ride down St. Charles Avenue. And Joan of Arc project was also on hand. They staged a costume parade through the French Quarter. The fun will continue through Mardi Gras. That Tuesday is coming up, February 12th.

You know, I have never been?

BERMAN: You know, I'm sure a lot of people going to bed very early in New Orleans. I'm kidding. No.


BERMAN: It doesn't really work with your hours. The whole New Orleans thing. SAMBOLIN: Maybe we could do a live shot from there for us. Wouldn't that be fun?

BERMAN: That's right. I'm sure you would be in perfect condition to handle the TV live shot.

Forty-four minutes after the hour right now.

And it is the talk of Washington. It has nothing to do with politics. We're talking major scandal. One of the NFL'S brightest stars suffers a frightening injury when many say he should never have been on the feel to begin with. We're going to break that down, and we're going to preview tonight's college title game. That's coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty-eight minutes past the hour. Soledad O'Brien joins us with a look at what is ahead on "STARTING POINT". Good morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, "STARTING POINT": Hi. Good morning, guys. Ahead this morning on "STARTING POINT", President Obama, of course, bracing for another battle in Congress, expected to announce a former Republican Senator, Chuck Hagel, as the Defense Secretary nominee. A number of high-profile conservatives, though, are unhappy about it. One saying that it's an in-your face nomination.

We'll talk this morning with former Congress members, Connie and Mary Bono Mack, as well as Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy. They'll all weigh in on this topic this morning.

Plus, help on the way finally for Superstorm Sandy victims. Does it go far enough, though? We'll talk with Newark Mayor Cory Booker about that and his plans for a Senate run in New Jersey.

And the Crimson Tide takes on the Fighting Irish in tonight's BCS game. Several teams advanced in the NFL playoffs. We'll talk with ESPN's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" about football. One of my favorite topics, Zoraida.


O'BRIEN: Actually, I love talking to them. They really break it down for me. All that and much more right at the top of the hour at 7:00 Eastern.

SAMBOLIN: I know. We always start at the 101. Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we do.

BERMAN: It is, though, I have to say, consuming the nation and the nation's capital this morning. Washington reeling after their post- season dreams shattered and their star quarterback down. Robert Griffin III taking a bad fall that likely would have left -- it would ended the post-season, for sure, if the Redskins hadn't given up their two touchdown lead already to lose to the Seahawks, 24-14. Tonight, we're going to find out who the BCS championship goes to in college, number one Notre Dame, the team with so-called heart, or number two Alabama, this team with so-called talent.

Coy Wire has played football with the Buffalo Bills and the Atlanta Falcons as a linebacker. He joins us right now. And Coy, we're going to get to the college game in a second, but I got to talk the NFL because so many people this morning were saying what was Robert Griffin III doing in that game in the fourth quarter?

His knee clearly hurting. He went down, no one even touched him. Now, you know, next season very much in question.

COY WIRE, FORMER BUFFALO BILLS PLAYER: Well, you know, what was he doing out there? He was being a competitor, John. I mean, that's what this guy is. In the NFL, being tough, playing through adversity, that's like your badge of honor. And now, you had the leader of the team. A dynamic young player, going out there, giving everything he had for his team, for his city. I respect and admire him even more for the effort that he showed.

BERMAN: I can understand coming out and playing the game, starting the game, but in the first quarter, at the end of the first quarter, when they were up 14-0, you were watching, Coy. You saw it. RGIII starts limping, and then, for the next two quarters, the second and third quarter, he was ineffective, completely ineffective.

The knee was clearly hurting him. They might have played better, frankly, without him, forgetting even his health.

WIRE: You hit the nail on the head, John. I'm with you. I mean, it's one thing that he wanted to play, and that's admirable, but that the coaches left him in was a bit of surprised to me, because as you said, it didn't just limit the team, it actually hurt the team. I mean, he was making poor decisions.

You could see in his mind, he wanted to take off and run like he usually does, but then he didn't want to throw it, so he's very indecisive, had a fumble there at the end of the game on that (INAUDIBLE) because of the knee, he wasn't able to recover it, cost the team a victory.

BERMAN: So, who do you think that's on? Is that on RGIII for not speaking up and saying, "My knee hurts, maybe I should come out?" Is it on Mike Shanahan for not saying, "Hey man, you're limping a little bit? You should come out. We could do better with Kirk Cousins." Or what about the doctor, Dr. James Andrews? Famous doctor who weeks ago said that he holds his breath every time RGIII goes on the field with that injured knee?

WIRE: I'm never going to blame a guy with the heart of a lion. I mean, it's admirable what he did and that he wanted to play. The coaches, you have to question, did they leave him in too long? It clearly that knee got worse as the game went on. And then I think Dr. Andrews was the one, if anyone, who said, "I don't think you should play yet." So, a lot of people to question, but RGIII is not the one. I admire him even more because of his toughness and perseverance.

BERMAN: Let's go to college because Zoraida wants to talk about Notre Dame here. What a match-up tonight. Number one Notre Dame going against number two Alabama. You and Zoraida calling Notre Dame the team with heart, with, you know, Manti Te'o obviously so much heart there, but what about Alabama? I mean, they're just good.

WIRE: What about Alabama, John? What is it about Alabama? I mean, they've already won how many other past championships? The SECs won sixth straight. What about Notre Dame? It's going to be a great game, right? Notre Dame leads all of college football with 11 national titles. And guess who has the second most?

BERMAN: I would go with Alabama.

WIRE: Alabama with number -- with ten of them. So, this is an epic game. I'm really looking forward to, like you said, as ateam with heart power versus a team with horsepower., I'm going to stick with Zoraida on this one.


WIRE: And go with the fighting -- it's time for them to shine.

BERMAN: You have no spine going with Zoraida on this.

SAMBOLIN: I think they're better anyway.

BERMAN: Is anyone going to score in this game, though? I mean, is it offensive struggle? Can Notre Dame put up points against that Alabama defense?

WIRE: That's a great point. Notre Dame leads the nation with 10- point, three points per game, and Alabama's right (INAUDIBLE) 10.6. So, it's going to be a game of defense, but look for all the stops to be pulled out tonight. It's going to be fun and exciting.

SAMBOLIN: Coy, you made the prediction earlier. Care to repeat it? I'm going to hold you to it, you know?

WIRE: Doesn't matter what the scores will be.


WIRE: Notre Dame is win it. Alabama lose it. Zoraida, we win. John, you lose.

BERMAN: You talked to me about two players to watch, one for Notre Dame, one for Alabama tonight. Notre Dame, as soon as going to be Manti Te'o.

WIRE: Yes. There's no question, Manti Te'o. But also keep an eye on Golson. He's a sophomore quarterback and he's electrifying back there. He makes an extensive plays, make things happen. But then, also for Alabama, I love their running back. Eddie Lacey (ph), he's a beast and of course, because of their offensive line, a bunch of real grown men up there in the trenches for Alabama.

BERMAN: You say 21-20 Notre Dame. I'm going to go with 13-10 Alabama.

WIRE: You would, but, hey, John, at least Zoraida on Twitter said that I'm handsome and you're not. So --


SAMBOLIN: I think I called him so, so. I called you so, so, Berman.


SAMBOLIN: It's better than it could be. Coy Wire, the very handsome Coy Wire, thanks for being with us this morning.

WIRE: Thanks for having me.

SAMBOLIN: If you have eyes, you see it. All right. Fifty-four minutes past the hour. All you need to unlock your brain power is your iPhone, iPad, maybe even your laptop, some insects and a kid called the Spiker Box. Seriously.

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has this preview of "THE NEXT LIST."


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This is a Spiker Box, one of these along with a cockroach could make you an expert on he brain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying to make the tools like simple enough to be used. Things, people are always familiar with. Cell phones or a laptops and then our equipment has one button on it. You just turn it on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been enlightened by the neuroscience. I've been minding (ph) like how our brain -- better understanding of muscles and brains.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're almost up to 100 high schools, but I'm greedy. We want that across all the country, you know. We not just want one kid. We want every kid.

GUPTA (voice-over): Neuroscientist, Greg Gauge (ph), this Sunday on "The Next List."


SAMBOLIN: Who knew it could be so much fun making neuroscience accessible on "The Next List," Sunday, 2:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

BERMAN: There is nothing more fun than neuroscience. Let's just go ahead and let me (ph) say that right now.

Nothing more fun than "STARTING POINT" either. And coming up on "STARTING POINT," cars that drive themselves. Two major automakers now kicking the effort into high gear. Meanwhile, EARLY START back right after this break.


BERMAN: We are completely out of time.


BERMAN: That is all for EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.