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Pirtorius Charged with Murder; Carnival Triumph to Reach Mobile Today; New Information in Dorner Case; Arias Claims Self Defense; Press Conference with Carnival VP

Aired February 14, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Carol. Hello, everyone. Welcome to the program.

Talk about "Triumph" that crippled, helpless and altogether nasty Carnival Cruise ship is finally due to reach port in a few hours and we are positioned in the air, the sea, on land and all of it to show as this ship comes in..

And a South African model is dead, her boyfriend, the world famous "Blade Runner," now officially charged with her murder.

And we begin with a shocking Valentine's Day murder. The man charged, double amputee and London Olympic star, Oscar Pistorius. The victim, his girlfriend, and model, Reeva Steenkamp.

It happened at Pistorius' upscale home in Pretoria, South Africa. Amanda Davies is a CNN International sports anchor and she has interviewed Pistorius. She's covering the developments in London.

What more do we know, Amanda?


I can tell you that Oscar Pistorius has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend. He's set to appear in court in Pretoria in South Africa on Friday morning.

This all happened very much as we were waking up here in London, reports of a fatal shooting at the house of the 26-year-old Oscar Pistorius. Initially, there were reports that it was perhaps a Valentine's surprise that had gone horribly wrong, that Pistorius woke to what he thought was an intruder and shot that intruder dead.

The police, it has to be said, have said that they don't know where those stories have come from, so throughout the course of the day, it was then confirmed that it was, in fact, Pistorius' girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, as you said, who was shot and killed.

And then it has emerged it is Pistorius who has been charged with her murder.

BANFIELD: This is devastating to hear that is a report that's out there. Do we know that has been knocked down, Amanda, that this might have been a Valentine's Day surprise gone terribly wrong? Because there have been statements made in the past about grabbing a gun when I heard my alarm go off by Pistorius. He's been interviewed in the past and he's said these things.

Is that just a rumor or is that something the police are actually trying to follow?

DAVIES: We don't know. There is still a lot of questions here that are very much unanswered.

What we have heard officially is from Pretoria police spokeswoman. She gave something of a news conference outside Pistorius' home.

Because of the South African laws, a lot has to be left unsaid until the official court hearing which has been postponed until Friday morning.

But she did say, we understand there have been reports that this was an intruder, an unfortunate accident. She said, we do not know where those came from.

BANFIELD: It is just so distressing.

Amanda Davies for us live in London. Thank you so much.

Oscar Pistorius was no stranger to guns. That according to Michael Sokolove, who wrote a profile of Pistorius in "The New York Times Magazine."

He spent some time with Pistorius two years ago in Pretoria and he says that, hanging out with him, he found that he was a unique and complex young man.

Michael Sokolove is here with me now to talk about this. Michael, is this a surprise to you to hear this? Given what you know about the temperament of this young athlete?


You know, Oscar is a young guy. He's an adrenaline freak. He drives his cars very fast, 140-miles-an-hour.

So he does everything fast. He's impulsive, but I never saw him angry. I never saw him violent. He's a very likable guy ...

BANFIELD: But when you ...

SOKOLOVE: ... so, yes, it's a shock.

BANFIELD: When you wrote this in your piece, "Hanging out with Pistorius can be a great deal of fun, you also quickly understand that he is a little more" -- or "that he is more than a little crazy."

Is that said in tongue-in-cheek, in fun, or do you find him to be somewhat reckless? SOKOLOVE: I absolutely find him to be reckless. Certainly, the way he drives. He had a speed boat accident in which he seriously injured himself, and I worried about him after I left. But I worried about him hurting himself.

Here, the allegation is that he has hurt someone else. Whether it was in anger or not is something we don't know right now.

But I didn't see him as angry, and, you know, sitting here, I have no way of knowing what really happened. I don't know that any of us know that at this point.

BANFIELD: And then you also mentioned that at one point, he said, a security alarm had gone off in his house and that he had, the previous night, grabbed his gun, tip-toed downstairs. It turned out to be nothing.

So, when you hear what Amanda said has been sort of being widely reported, but the police have not yet confirmed, that this could have been a Valentine's Day surprise gone wrong, does that fit with the characterization of how you know him to be, where there are guns in his house, how he feels security?

SOKOLOVE: Well, yes. I mean, I have no way of knowing what happened, but I know when I was with him the night before, one night, he said, oh, I heard a noise in my house and I grabbed my gun and I came downstairs.

Now, that's not terribly unusual in South Africa. People are very fearful, you know. It's a society in which there's a huge gulf between rich and poor and the people who have more money feel threatened.

Now, with what we know now, maybe Oscar, as courageous as he is on so many fronts, maybe he feels overly threatened. Maybe he is a fearful person, you know?

But I don't know what happened. I didn't see him as an angry person. That doesn't mean that he didn't strike out in anger. As a writer you never want to pretend you know someone better than you do.

BANFIELD: The police said, Michael, that there had been domestic incidents in the past at this home. I don't know that it meant between these two people in this relationship.

But they said that they are not strangers to that home in terms of domestic incidents they've had to respond to. I just want to read one more thing that you wrote.


BANFIELD: He suggested to you, when you said to him, you hadn't used guns before. Maybe you should go to the range. Maybe you should do this more. If you practice, I think you could be pretty deadly.

Knowing now that he said these to you in this light, that's got to be a bit haunting.

SOKOLOVE: Well, it is haunting. You know, when we were at the range, we were target shooting. I mean, there's no doubt that Oscar likes guns.

I will say one thing about the domestic incidents. I don't know anything about that. It was never reported before. And I don't want to be in the position of defending Oscar. I have no idea what happened.

But it should also be noted that he has a roommate at that house, a mixed martial arts fighter who was a friend of his. So, whatever happened in that house may have involved Oscar. It could have also involved his roommate or someone else.

I mean, I think that, you know, we don't have the ability to do great police reporting at this point from South Africa as we might in New York, so I don't know.

BANFIELD: And we should say, that -- it's interesting that you mention this about the roommate with this background in martial arts. But we do know one thing and the police said these two are the only two who were in the home at the time of the shooting.

But I think you're right, a lot of questions. No one should be guessing or second guessing at this point until the investigators have had their chance to go in and take look at this.

But just very distressing all around. Thank you very much for coming in so last minute with all of your insight having time to spend with him, Michael Sokolove, "The New York Times Magazine."

By all accounts, we should say Reeva Steenkamp was looking forward to today, Valentine's Day. In fact, she sent out this tweet just yesterday, the fashion model saying, "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?"

As we know now, she didn't live to celebrate today, shot dead, allegedly by her boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius.

Friends and family say that she was a loving and considerate young woman who was fun to be with. Certainly, she was just beautiful.

The managing director of the model agency that represented her spoke about her and her relationship with Pistorius earlier today.


SARIT TOMLINSON, REEVA STEENKAMP'S PUBLICIST: They were people that were going out. They seemed happy.

I can't comment as to, as I said, the intimate relationship that they had behind closed doors, but they looked happy as any couple would when out.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BANFIELD: One model who knew Steenkamp tweeted, "Heaven gained a beautiful angel today."

More on that story as it continues to come in to us.

And, also, the cruise that turned out to be anything of a vacation is just now hours away from finally reaching dry land.

Thousands of passengers will finally get a hot meal, a hot shower, and apparently some cold, hard cash, too.


BANFIELD: This may not look like heaven to you, but let me be honest. For 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members aboard the Carnival Triumph, this is really going to be heaven. Trust me.

Not soon enough, they will reach this spot. Triumph's arrival in the port of Mobile, Alabama, has been delayed yet again. Now, it looks like they are not going to reach dry land until midnight, Eastern time.

That ship has been marooned in the Gulf of Mexico for five days and let me just say that marooned is putting it lightly. There's very little power. There are few working toilets and the food supplies have been dwindling.

A lifeline of sorts arrived yesterday when a Coast Guard helicopter dropped off a generator, the pictures capturing it as it was being swung to the deck.

But the Triumph owes its rescue to these, four big sturdy tugboats that pulling the massive ship over rough seas all the way to Mobile.

We are following the progress by land and by sea and, as well, by air. CNN's David Mattingly is dockside. Victor Blackwell is floating in Mobile Bay.

David Mattingly, let me start with you, what is the very latest in terms of these poor people and their effort to just get back to some kind of normalcy?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ashleigh. They just can't seem to catch a break.

The conditions with the current and the wind are such that it's slowing down their arrival. It's getting pushed back hours from what had been anticipated yesterday.

But when they finally do get here, they're going to find that there's going to be food waiting for them. There's going to be busses here to take them to a hotel if they want it.

So, you know, there's going to be so many people, long, long overdue for a very hot shower. And if they want, they have a bus, also, that will take them all the way back to Texas if they want to go back and reclaim their car and drive home later tonight.


BANFIELD: David, stand by for a moment. I want to get out to Victor Blackwell, literally monitoring the seas.

What are the seas like and the weather and the wind and why these delays?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's talk about the wind first, about 15-miles-an-hour, and that has been a concern from the start when this was just kind of drifting around and it was pushed 90 miles north.

They were supposed to go to Progreso, Mexico. They came to Mobile, Alabama, because of the winds.

Light chop on the water and 45 degrees. These people were going to Cozumel to a resort with summer-like temperatures. They certainly don't have one of these.

I want to show you back here, though. These two boats with the orange life savers, the life rings there, that's the Mobile and the Alabama. Those are the pilot boats that will head out to guide the Triumph through Mobile Bay.

We're told they're going to leave here in about an hour, but that could change as the time goes back. Eight miles from the sea buoy where those pilots will likely climb on board and guide it into port.

Hopefully, they come in during the daylight because we've been told by the port manager that this ship cannot be towed in during darkness because it's unsafe.

So, if they get to the mouth of the bay at dusk, the question is, will they have to wait until morning to come in. We're, of course, going to try to get an answer to that. Hopefully, they can get in and get back to the port before dusk tonight.


BANFIELD: Oh, dear. I mean, you're right. They cannot catch a break because now we're hearing the delay is until midnight, so -- and like you said, I see you have your hat on. The temperatures, I think the low is in the low 60s, like 63 degrees. So, for those who have been sweating it out on a hot, stinky ship, sure the cool air is welcome, but are you kidding me? That cold?

All right, Victor Blackwell, thank you. Appreciate the position that you've taken to monitor this.

And, also, our Sandra Endo is continuing to monitor things from the air. She's been flying in a chopper all day. Going to reload that chopper with fuel, get it up all day and be able it to monitor.

Not all the passengers, by the way, are likely to be too thrilled with the $500 and the free airfare as a compensation package. And no doubt, some of them are going to chart a course straight for the courthouse. Will there be any roadblocks in the way of that effort if they want to seek that effort? We're going to talk about that dynamic with our legal panel in just a couple of minutes.

We are now getting a clearer picture of the cop killer Christopher Dorner and his final hours and the encounter that set everything in motion to catch him. Karen and Jim Reynolds walked into their cabin and came face to face with Dorner on Tuesday. Bound, gagged, and tied up with plastic ties and extension cords, this couple miraculously was able to free themselves within minutes of him leaving.

They both were able it to get to their knees, pull off the pillow cases on their heads and, the turning point, Karen, getting up and managing to get to her feet eventually, shuffle to the open bedroom door -- shuffle to the bedroom door and open it, eventually finding a cell phone on a coffee table and calling 911.


MALE REPORTER: Did you think he was going to kill you then?


JIM REYNOLDS, FORMER HOSTAGE OF CHRISTOPHER DORNER: When he had me laying on the ground, yes, I really did. I thought he's changed his mind, he was trying to calm us down and get us in here and he's going to do it.


BANFIELD: Dorner told the couple, quote, "I just want to clear my name," they say. His ex-girlfriend, who dated Dorner for five years, says she that she, quote, "sort of expected violence."

Here's what she says about his personality.


ARIANA WILLIAMS, CHRISTOPHER DORNER'S EX-GIRLFRIEND: I don't think it's in any way justifiable, someone going out and killing anyone because they're stressed out of work. There are ways and outlets of releasing stress. Chris was, unfortunately, one of those people. He bottled up a lot of his emotions and he wasn't very good at expressing himself.


BANFIELD: In just 30 minutes, the lingering questions about police tactics, something called the burners that were called in, and whether that cabin with Dorner still inside was deliberately burned down or not.


BANFIELD: All right. So until now, a trial we've been covering with Jodi Arias on the stand has been more about sex than it's been about the actual murder of the victim in the case, named Travis Alexander.

Jodi Arias admits to stabbing her ex-boyfriend 27 times and then to also slitting his throat and shooting him in the head. Talk about overkill, but she says it was all in self-defense. And after seven days on the stand, yes, seven days of listening to this under her own lawyer's questioning, she's starting to talk a lot less about all the twisted sex stuff and a little bit more about all of the violence, and how she's a victim, and how she compares herself to a helpless little dog.


KIRK NURMI, JODI ARIAS' DEFENSE ATTORNEY: If he were to get mad at you, you would shake?

JODI ARIAS, DEFENDANT: Yes. Like my nerves, like how a Chihuahua shakes, you know. They just kind of tremble a little bit.


BANFIELD: A chihuahua with a shake. It's a very odd comparison, yes, but it is strategic, make no mistake. It is strategic to her image and, of course, to her defense, which up until now has been quite easy because it's only her questions doing the asking.

Let's bring in the best legal brains who've been following this case closely: Beth Karas, correspondent for "In Session" on our sister network truTV, also former prosecutor, so she knows a thing or two around a courtroom; and Sunny Hostin, CNN's legal analyst and also former federal prosecutor. Boy, I've got the tough ladies on today.

I have talked at length about how direct examination is the -- is the easy part. Your lawyer coddles you when you're on the stand, and then it changes, the dynamic changes when the cross-examination happens.

But Beth Karas, start this for me, will you? When talking about all the sex and the relationship with this ex-boyfriend, is this a strategy to suggest that he was -- he had some kind of double life as a Mormon and an elder in the church, but then, with her, was twisted? And she alleges a pedophilia -- pedophile, et cetera? Is that what this is all about?

BETH KARAS, CORRESPONDENT, TRUTV'S "IN SESSION": Yes. Exactly. And, in fact, they have this allegation that he was a pedophile, or at least attracted to little boys and little girls, and it's absolutely uncorroborated. It's Jodi Arias' word. But that's all the jury has right now and they want the jury to believe that she had this little secret of his and he knew that it would destroy him professionally in his church, in his social circle, if anyone knew. She actually threatened at one point to expose it. So that the acts of violence, physical violence, escalated to two or three after she learned this. And so when her experts testify after Jodi Arias is finally done, whenever that is, they'll talk about her state of mind and why this overkill. But some say, you know what? This is overkill of his reputation right now.

BANFIELD: Ah, I'm glad you brought that up. Sunny, I want you to discuss that part, because seven days, seven days of beating up a victim, you know, a murder victim, someone who is no longer here to defend himself, and we're not even at the killing yet --

I need to interrupt for a moment -- Carnival Cruise, at this point -- ladies, stand by if you wil -- Carnival Cruise is speaking about the cruise ship currently. Let's go live to the news conference and listen to what they're saying.


TERRY L. THORNTON, CARNIVAL CRUISE, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT: And the last name is Thornton. It's T-H-O-R-N-T-O-N. Senior vice president. It's a long title. Just senior vice president - revenue planning. .


THORNTON: OK, everybody got that? OK.

We'd like to start by telling you that the Carnival Triumph now is getting in close position at the sea buoy at the entrance of the main channel coming into Mobile. The channel is a long channel.

In normal operation, if the ship had normal power, and actually when Carnival Cruiselines used to operate from here in the Port of Mobile, that transit would normally take three hours. But because of the circumstances of the power of the ship, we're expecting that the transit will take somewhere between seven and ten hours once the ship reaches the sea buoy and starts into the channel.

So we have all of the logistics set up for that, so -- meaning that the pilots to bring the ship in are going out to meet the ship. We actually have customs and border patrol agents going out to meet the ship, which will help us expedite the process once the ship gets alongside later on. And our first response team from the Carnival organization going out as well to meet the ship and to transit with the ship coming in as it comes in to the cruise terminal here.

I just want to caution everybody, be very clear, this is going to be a long day. This is not a process that's going to happen fast. There's no way we can actually speed up the process to get the ship alongside sooner. So just understand that it's going to be a long day as we get the ship alongside, but we're making every effort we can to get the ship alongside here in Mobile as quickly as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speak up, please.


What our plan is for today in terms of updating all of you is that we'll be out periodically as we have more new information. As of this point in time, we don't have anything more to tell you other than the logistics we're talking about right now, but as we have more information, new information, for you today, we'll provide that on a periodic basis as we go through today.

MALE REPORTER: Sir, you said they're close to the buoy. How close?

THORNTON: I don't have that information, but it's relatively close at this point.

FEMALE REPORTER: And right now, what's the estimated time for docking at the port?

THORNTON: Well, as we've said, the ship is close to the sea buoy. Once it reaches the sea buoy, it will be a roughly seven to ten-hour transit. And at that point in time, then, the ship will be alongside here at the cruise terminal in Mobile.

MALE REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). Will Carnival pay for rooms for people here in Mobile for passengers who want to stay?

THORNTON: Let me finish the comments and then I'll come back to what we're doing for the guest logistics, because part of that was in the information you've received already. But let me finish and I'll come back to that.

I just want to go over a couple other things that we wanted to update you on that we've done since we've done our last Carnival statement. An update. So we have mobilized about 200 of our Carnival staff that are here in Mobile to assist the guests and our crew and the operations and logistics here, as well as what's going to happen later on today. We fully coordinated the whole process with the Coast Guard, with all the authorities, obviously the city of Mobile, with the port here in Mobile, and we've got all that coordination well under way.

We have delivered additional provisions to the Carnival Triumph. That happened last night and the ship is in excellent shape now and will be fully provisioned to provide all the food services for the guests certainly by the time the ship docks later this evening.

We did also deliver one additional small generator to the ship and this generator was helpful mostly last night in providing some extra power and allowing us to provide additional hot food service. So the guests had a better, improved meal service last night because of the addition of this generator.

So I thank you all for your time and, as I said, we'll be updating you periodically through the day.

MALE REPORTER: Could you just address that question. Many people have wondered why is it that they have to get on a bus to go to New Orleans when you could provide them with accommodations here, according to the officials of Mobile.

THORNTON: Let me answer the first question I got first and I'll come to that question.

So what is happening with guests? I think we have updated this in our statement before but just so everyone understands what's happening with guests today, so as they come off the ship today, they have two options, really, that they've already kind of told us which one they wanted to do.

For guests -- most of the guests will be boarding motorcoach transportation, going to New Orleans, to stay in a hotel tonight, to get a hot meal, to relax, and we've arranged for a very large bank of charter flights for Friday that will take them back to Houston. And then there will be ongoing transportation for them from Houston. If they have their car parked in Galveston, we'll be providing that transportation to get them back to their car.

MALE REPORTER: So no plans to pay for them here in Mobile, to stay in Mobile. Get a bath, take a hotel.

THORNTON: Let me finish this, sorry.

The second option that people had was, if they need to be home right away, we have arranged for motorcoach transportation for them to leave directly from Mobile and proceed directly to Galveston or to Houston. And that service will be provided for people that want it, and we have the numbers of people that need to do that.

Now we've also accommodated, if plans change and guests come off the ship and they want to do something different than they planned, we have plenty of capacity to either allow them to go on the motorcoach or allow them to go on the hotel situation, and so we've got extra capacity in both in case people change their minds as they come off the ship.

Let me come back to --

FEMALE REPORTER: Will the ship be able to pull in tonight? Because we had heard if it arrives after dark, it won't be allowed to come in.

THORNTON: No, our understanding right now is the ship will be alongside this evening.

FEMALE REPORTER: Even if it comes in after dark?

THORNTON: Well, the ship will start in, as they said, very shortly. We're at the sea buoy. The ship will begin the transit during daylight hours.

FEMALE REPORTER: Is there any possibility that if it arrives after dark, it will be held off because it's after dark (INAUDIBLE)?

THORNTON: Our understanding is that will not happen. Now, let me --


MALE REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). Why not do it four days ago? THORNTON: Let me address one question at a time, please. I'll address your question relative to Mobile. The question was, "Why didn't we stage all of this hotel operation and air transportation from Mobile?"

The answer to that is, when we had our logistics expert look at what the air charter requirements were going to be, and the number of people who were going to move, and the size of the aircraft we were going to need, --