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CNN NEWSROOM

Newtown Shooter's Possible Motive; Top Afghanistan Commander Retiring; Update On Cop-Killer Investigation; NASA Reconnects With Space Station; Pistorius Overwhelmed Terror; A Hunt For Cosmic Souvenirs; IPhone Saves Documentary; Landza Tried To Top Norway Attack; Pistorius Speaks Out

Aired February 19, 2013 - 13:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: -- became a victim. Then he was obsessed with mass murders, Newtown, Connecticut shooter Adam Lanza's possible motive now.

Also coming up, he is a convicted murder set to be executed tonight but his mental state is being questioned. So, will a judge decide to reverse his fate? We're going to take a look at the Warren Hill case.

This is the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We are following the stories Just in to CNN now. General John Allen is retiring, issuing a statement requesting, of course, President Obama citing health Issues within the family. I want to bring our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr with the very latest. So, Barbara, explain to us why is he leaving and, of course, there is a shadow -- a great deal of service, very respected man, but a shadow in the last part of his career.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is, Suzanne. John Allen, United States Marine Corps, four star general, the recently departed commander of the war in Afghanistan, rotating out of that job. He was supposed to go to become the military chief at NATO headquarters. But that was put on hold when the inspector general of the Pentagon began investigating what was called potentially inappropriate e-mails that he wrote to a woman named Jill Kelley, the woman who was caught up in the Paula Broadwell, David Petraeus scandal late last year. Jill Kelley was the one that called an FBI friend saying she was receiving disturbing e-mails, turned out to be from Paula Broadwell.

But at the same time, General Allen apparently writing Jill Kelley also potentially inappropriate e-mails. It must be said, Allen was cleared of any wrongdoing in that matter several weeks ago. But he came back to the United States and it was very well known inside military circles he was thinking about retiring from the service after all of this -- Suzanne.

Barbara, do we know if that, in fact, is accurate? I mean, so we know if there is something -- that there is a health Issue that he has to deal with within his family, that that's the reason why he's leaving?

STARR: Well, right. I'm looking at the White House statement just like you. The president saying a short time ago he is accepting General Allen's request for retirement so he can, quote, "address health Issues within his family." One can only assume that it's true.

But several days ago, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also told reporters that he counseled Allen to take his time on whether or not he still wanted to pursue the NATO job after being cleared of these allegations. He was cleared of them. It was going to be his decision whether he wanted to still pursue the job. Panetta saying he told Allen to get some rest after being in Afghanistan so long, consult with his family, decide what he wanted to do to take some time. That was the advice from the defense secretary, take your time. So, I don't think at the end of the day, any of this is a huge surprise inside the U.S. military. We don't know what the health Issues are and certainly, of course, I think everyone wishes his family the best of health.

MALVEAUX: Real quickly, Barbara, here, had a chance to meet him, to speak with him in Afghanistan on the anniversary of 911 a couple years ago. You've had many conversations with the general. What do you think is going to be his legacy moving forward?

STARR: Well, there is a real question to be addressed on that point, Suzanne. Did, in fact, he turn around the lack of progress in Afghanistan? You know, under McChrystal and Petraeus, you had this counterinsurgency strategy which proved to be violent and very difficult to execute. Under General Allen, you began to see the end game take shape. And the end game is that the U.S. would departing at the end of 2014 and before that had put everything they had into training and advising Afghan forces. His legacy, I think, will be whether that is successful. The end game is upon us, less than two years from now. Will the Allen plan be the one that really works? There may not be enough time to switch gears even yet again -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Is -- do we know who's going to be behind him as the nominee for NATO?

STARR: Well, that's now the official guessing game in all 17 miles of Pentagon corridors, which four star, the bench is not all that deep at this point. I think a lot of people are already speculating they could reach down into the three star ranks, promote somebody into the job. But it's sort of like -- and no disrespect, it's sort of like the enclave to select a new pope in Rome, no disrespect, but it's the big guessing game, who's next?

MALVEAUX: All right, Barbara. Thank you, we appreciate it.

Napa, California, where a man is accused of raping a woman he met on a dating site, ChristianMingle.com. And police say, there might be other victims. Our Miguel Marquez, he's following this case from Los Angeles. Miguel, tell us, first of all, about the suspect, I believe his name is Sean Banks, pleading not guilty today, out on bond?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is out on bond. He was -- he actually bonded out in the past week. He was arrested last week and Mr. Banks was difficult for police to capture because he went by so many different profile names. They're not sure if he was on other Web sites on Christianmingle.com, but on the particular case that we're talking about now, he went by the name Rarity, the only name that this woman knew him by. He also went by names such as Ryland, Ryland Harbaugh (ph) and Ryan Butterwood, as well.

It's not clear, though, that he was on other sites with those. The way this particular case played out, police say, is that in November, a woman after having met him on Christianmingle.com, invited him to her home. That is a no-no in the Web site world, in the meeting online world, but she felt comfortable enough, they said, to invite her to -- invite him to her home. And then he became aggressive and he was charged with not only rape but burglary as well. And he is out on a half million bond at the moment -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Explain to us how this works. Do they have any ways of protecting folks who go on this particular dating site?

MARQUEZ: Well, the Web site says that they take all precautions that they possibly can. They say that they're completely working with police. Police do say that Christian Mingle and Sparks Network that owns Christian mingle, Sparks is the company that owns several religious-based dating Web sites, that they have cooperated with police, that they provided information, police say, that assisted them in their warrants and their affidavits. And the Web site itself says that it does everything it can from looking at individual profiles manually to their own sort of search engines to try to figure out if somebody is cheating the system -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, thank you. I appreciate it.

A Georgia death row inmate set to be executed at 7:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. Warren Hill killed his girlfriend, and then, years later, also killed a fellow inmate. Well, no one is actually disputing the crimes, but there is something else in the case that is raising serious concerns. While on death row, doctors have now determined that Warren Hill is mentally disabled. He has an I.Q. of 70. Victor Blackwell joins us. So, Victor, tell us what his fate is and are people trying to save him because of his disability?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are a lot of people who are trying to save him. And this comes down to really the threshold and state's interpretations of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision. Let's start with the time line, though, because in 1986 he killed his girlfriend, and he was sentenced to life in prison for that. In 1990, he then killed a fellow inmate and was sentenced to death. Now, the issue here starts with the question of mental retardation because that was brought up by his attorneys during the -- during the appeals process. Now, the word retardation I know offends a lot of people, that's the legal term, their word, not mine. So, I want to make sure that people know that's why I'm using it.

MALVEAUX: OK.

BLACKWELL: The state then had three doctors evaluate Hill. They said, at that time, he was not mentally retarded. But since then, those three doctors have come back and said they had rush jobs initially. They didn't have all the information they needed. And based on what they have now, indeed Hill is mentally retarded. Now, the U.S. Supreme court has deemed it unconstitutional for capital punishment against a person who has mental disability. A judge in Georgia even agrees saying that based on a preponderance of the evidence that he is mentally retarded.

MALVEAUX: So, is there any hope for him?

BLACKWELL: The question comes down now to the parole and the pardons board. And this is what his attorney said about that, and this group having the last option, the last group to save him from the death penalty tonight at 7:00 Eastern.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN KAMMER, ATTORNEY: There is now no dispute amongst any of the experts who have evaluated Mr. Hill over the last 22 years that he is mentally retarded. And so, I am hoping that the Board of Pardons and Paroles will reconsider its denial last year of clemency. And we are also -- we have also filed a court action, in state court, to ask a judge to reconsider the mental retardation claim based on this new information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: So now, this -- excuse me. In Georgia, and it's important to say this, although the U.S. Supreme Court has made this decision, Georgia has the higher standard. It's not based on the preponderance of evidence. It's beyond a reasonable doubt that no reasonable jurist would think this man has his full mental capabilities.

MALVEAUX: So, it is possible that they -- that somebody could save him before 7:00 tonight?

BLACKWELL: Yes.

MALVEAUX: This process is still continuing. There is still hope?

BLACKWELL: The Supreme Court has refused to hear it, but the parole and pardon board in Georgia can grant clemency and give him life in prison which --

MALVEAUX: They --

BLACKWELL: -- he was already sentenced to.

MALVEAUX: And they can make that decision up until 7:00.

BLACKWELL: Until 7:00. We made the call, and they said they're reviewing it, and we'll find out if they make that soon.

MALVEAUX: Let us know.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I will.

MALVEAUX: Thank you. I appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Sure. MALVEAUX: Right now, the LAPD giving an update on the Christopher Dorner investigation. You remember Dorner, he is the ex-cop who went on a shooting rampage two weeks ago after posting a manifesto that targeted the LAPD. He killed four people. The police chief says that manifesto raises a lot of issue, a lot of questions. His department is looking into a lot of them. They're going to issue their findings once this review is done. The massive man hunt for Dorner ended last week after a shootout and a fire at a California mountain cabin. That is where he was holed up. Autopsy results show he died from a sing gunshot wound to the head. We're going to bring you any new details as soon as we get them form the police.

And now, communication completely restored between NASA's ground control and the International Space Station. This morning, all communications were lost during a software upgrade. Just this last hour, I talked to a NASA spokesman, Josh Byerly, who told us about the mood on the ground control during the outage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSH BYERLY, SPOKESMAN, NASA: You know, it's not a panicked mood that takes over mission control. Anybody who's been here has seen that. I mean, these guys have procedures to do this and the crew has procedures, so they just talk to each other when they get the chance and make sure that the crew is aware of what to do and then they're work through the steps to get it back up and running.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Six crew members are on board the ISS including two Americans. Everybody on board safe and doing well.

Well, here's what we're working on as well for this hour. Oscar Pistorius breaking down in court. The judge upgraded the charge against him to premeditated murder. And for the first time, we are hearing Pistorius's version of what happened the night his girlfriend was killed.

And it fell out of the sky breaking into pieces that crashed to earth. Now, the hunt is on for meteorites.

And searching for Sugarland, the documentary getting Oscar buzz. But the story behind the movie is what's got all of us talking here. How an iPhone saved the film. This is CNN NEWSROOM. It's happening now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Shooter in the Sandy Hook Elementary school killings may have gotten his motivation from the Norway massacre back in 2011. Law enforcement sources tell CBS News that Adam Lanza might have been trying to compete with Anders Breivik. That is right. Breivik hunted down and shot 69 people at an island youth camp after killing eight others in a bombing in downtown Oslo. Susan Candiotti, she's joining us now. Susan, you've been looking into the comparisons, the reports. What do we know? SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne. As Connecticut police put it, we're dealing with a shooter who is dead and now we're trying to rebuild history. rebuilding history and trying to answer why did he do it? Investigators have found evidence that Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza was, quote, "obsessed with other mass murders" a source with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN. CBS news first reported Monday Adam Lanza may have been trying to outdo another mass murderer, Anders Breivik in Norway. He killed 77 people, mainly teenagers in 2011.

MALVEAUX: Is there any information that points toward this connection with Breivik.

CANDIOTTI: The Hartford Courant reports that news stories in the 2011 Norway massacre were discovered in Lanza's two bedrooms. Connecticut investigators reportedly went to Washington last week to brief federal authorities and share this theory about a possible motive.

Remember, Lanza shot his mother last December, then went to Sandy Hook Elementary and systematically killed 20 children and 6 teachers before taking his own life when police arrived. Lanza reportedly chose the school because of the large number of potential targets in a closed-in setting. CBS quotes sources who say the shooter may also have been in essence, satisfying a violent video game fantasy. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Do we know what the Connecticut police are saying about this?

CANDIOTTI: Well, a spokesman for the state police called the CBS report speculative, because no single motive has been confirmed yet. And because they're not naming any sources. However, the spokesman also told me nothing, including Norway, has been ruled out. A final report on their investigation is expected by this summer. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: We'll be looking for that. Thank you, Susan. As always, appreciate it.

We now know what caused that engine room fire on the Carnival Triumph, the cruise ship, but did you know that cruise ship passengers don't have the same compensation rights as folks flying? What do you need to know about your rights at sea?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: We now know what the cause of the fire that crippled the Carnival cruise ship Triumph. the coast guard says it started with a leak in a fuel and oil line running from one of the ship's engines. The leaking oil hit a hot surface starting the fire. The Triumph was on a four-day cruise from Galveston, Texas, to Mexico. More than 4,200 people were stranded until the ships was towed to Mobile, Alabama. That was on Thursday, you might recall. The passengers able to get off the ship on Friday. The ordeal went from bad to worse. You had no electricity or running water. Zain Asher, she's joining us from New York, and Zain now we know folks, they want compensation, three federal lawsuits now being filed against the cruise ship. Yes? ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Three lawsuits now. I mean, whether these lawsuits will be successful, Suzanne, that is the million dollar question. Can these passengers prove that the fire in the engine room was caused by improper maintenance? Can they prove they've been emotionally or physically harmed by this. This is the eight-page contract Carnival passengers sign when they pay for their ticket. I'm going to read part of it for you. It's a little long, but bear with me:

"Carnival shall not be liable to the passenger for damages for emotional distress, mental suffering except when such damages were caused by the negligence of Carnival and resulted in physical injury or risk of physical injury." Let me just translate that for you. Passengers have to prove two things here to file a lawsuit. First of all, negligence by Carnival. Secondly they have to prove that carnival's negligence directly resulted to exposure to physical illness. One maritime lawyer I spoke with says that raw sewage is not pleasant but he says that passengers will have a hard time proving they were in serious danger, or proving they've been emotionally harmed from this. Another maritime lawyer saying no. These people have clearly been exposed to hazardous conditions. He says that Carnival's response to the fire may have been negligent. Either way, Suzanne, a lawsuit is not going to be easy. This contract says that passengers must file suit in Miami, not convenient for everyone, within one year and they have no right to a class-action lawsuit. The whole point is to make it difficult to sue.

MALVEAUX: They have to go to Miami in order to sue, is that right?

ASHER: Yes, Miami.

MALVEAUX: How does that compare to folks who fly all the time and you know, you're stuck on a plane? What are your rights compared to those who are flying if you're stuck on a ship?

ASHER: Firstly, airline passengers have a bill of rights which protects them from tarmac delays, hidden fees, that kind of thing. There's no such thing in the cruise industry. Maritime experts tell me that cruise lines have spent years lobbying in Washington making sure maritime laws are in their favor. Also, a lot of these cruise lines are incorporated outside the U.S. right. So in the Bahamas or Liberia, they're not subject to the same safety regulations. Plus, Suzanne, a lot of cruise ship contracts list doctors and nurses aboard a ship as independent contractors. If you sustain an injury on a ship caused by an incompetent doctor you have no right to sue the cruise line whatsoever.

MALVEAUX: Most of those folks are plain out of luck, yes?

ASHER: Plain out of luck, it does seem that way.

MALVEAUX: Okay. Zain thank you. Appreciate it.

Oscar Pistorius is breaking his silence about the night his girlfriend was shot to death. He sobbed in court, broke down, coming up we'll hear his version of what happened. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Tensions between the U.S. and Russia are reigniting over Americans adopting Russian children. This time it stems from a case in west Texas. A 3-year-old child adopted from Russia died in the care of his adoptive American parents. The Russian government says the boy was abused. Police in Texas are investigating it, calling it a suspicious death at this point. This case comes seven weeks after Russia passed a bill banning Americans from adopting children there. The ban goes into effect next year.

And now to South Africa where Oscar Pistorius broke down repeatedly in a crowded courtroom, admitted that he shot and killed his girlfriend but that he did not mean to do it. The Olympic athlete was so upset at his bail hearing today, he broke down every time somebody mentioned her name, Reeva Steenkamp's name. The judge upgraded the charge against him to premeditated murder. For the first time, we are now hearing Pistorius's version of what happened that tragic night in his own words. His lawyer read the affidavit in court. Here's, in part, what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX (voice over): "I woke up to close the sliding door and heard a noise in the bathroom. Was scared and didn't switch on the light. I got my gun and moved towards the bathroom. I screamed at the intruder because I did not have my legs on, I felt vulnerable. I fired shots through the bathroom door and told Reeva to call police. I walked back to the bed and realized Reeva was not in bed. Then it dawned on me, it could be her in there."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: While the Pistorius hearing was under way in Pretoria, Reeva Steenkamp was mourned during a private funeral in her hometown of Port Elizabeth. Her family says her loss is very hard to even imagine. Nkepile Mabuse she is there and I understand that you have reaction from the family.

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Suzanne. As you can imagine, it was an extremely difficult and emotional day for friends and family of Reeva Steenkamp. They met in the morning and held a private service and her body was cremated. A few family members came out to speak to the media. Her uncle, Mike Steenkamp looked strong when he approached the media. He started to thank South Africans for the support, saying that they've received support from all corners of the globe. When he started to speak about Reeva Steenkamp, he broke down. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE STEENKAMP, UNCLE OF REEVA STEENKAMP: We are here today as a family. There's only one thing missing, it's Reeva. We've got to get (INAUDIBLE) I don't think I'll ever get over it with the lord's prayers. The statement she stood for, abuse against women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MABUSE: A lot of people at that ceremony just finding it extremely difficult to understand that this woman that they loved so much, that some described as an angel had to die in such a brutal manner, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Nkepile, Obviously they are mourning. Do they have feelings about Pistorius himself, or not they believe his story?

MABUSE: You know, Reeva Steenkamp's father spoke to a reporter from the U.K. (ph) and said that he has no feelings of animosity.