CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Premeditated Murder Charge Against Pistorius; President to Hold Press Conference; Rpt: Chinese Army Behind Cyber Attacks; Prince Jackson: Next King of Entertainment News?

Aired February 19, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's Tuesday, February 19th and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome back, everybody. We begin with breaking news in the Oscar Pistorius murder case. Court has just adjourned for the day. They have not made a decision though on bail for Oscar Pistorius. They'll reconvene tomorrow morning our time, 9:00 in the morning in South Africa.

The former Olympian faces upgraded charges of premeditated murder and he released a statement to the court, saying this, "I fail to understand how I could be charged with murder as I had no intention to kill my girlfriend."

Some new pictures this morning of Pistorius in court. He was sobbing in the court.

Robyn Curnow has just gotten out of the courtroom in Pretoria, South Africa. What's the very latest on where this case stands right now, Robyn?

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. Well, indeed, it was very emotional. Oscar Pistorius could barely contain himself at times. I watched him literally hyperventilate. I was, you know, worried there was going to be some sort of -- he was going to collapse or something at one stage. It was very, very tough for him. Every time he heard Reeva Steenkamp's name, he burst into tears.

Now, we heard his version of events, the first time we're hearing what he said happened and it's quite emotional stuff. He said that, in the middle of the night, when it was pitch dark, he woke up, he heard sounds, he heard noises in the bathroom. He thought intruders had climbed through a bathroom window. He said he didn't have his prosthetic legs on, he got his pistol, .9 millimeter and hobbled on his stumped and he shot at the door thinking there were burglaries inside.

Only then did he yell to Reeva, his girlfriend who he thought was sleeping in the bed next to him and he told her to call the police. It was only then he said he realized she wasn't in the bed with him. He then bashed down, he says, the door and picked her up, took her downstairs and he describes how she died in his arms.

And also, we heard in this very, very tightly packed courtroom about 150 people squashed into a courtroom that really only should seat 60 people. We also heard emotional statement from a friend of the couple saying that Reeva had told her if Oscar had asked her to marry him, she would have said yes.

O'BRIEN: Wow.

All right. So, let's talk about some of the relevant evidence that we know will play a part in this at least down the road. The cricket bat, there were some reports this bat had been covered with blood, we're now hearing in this bail hearing that he used that bat to break down the door. Does that explain the condition of the bat?

CURNOW: I would say so. What we understand was that Reeva was -- he said he found her slumped in the bathroom. And Reeva, we understand, was still alive, her heart was still beating and she was hit at least three times we understand.

So there was a lot of blood because her heart was still pumping, as he moved her downstairs from the bathroom, that there was actually an extraordinary amount of blood according to sources. So that's why they knew she was still alive and that's why there might have been so much blood on this cricket bat as he pounded it to get the door open.

The question is, and this is the question state asked, was if this is his defense that he thought there was an intruder in the house, why would a burglar lock the bedroom door -- the bathroom door. And it's those kinds of questions that are going to constantly pick at him -- perhaps try and pick apart this very riveting and emotional testimony.

O'BRIEN: Or I guess the question also, why would Reeva lock the bathroom door? Or, right, a burglar, too. Why would a burglar lock themselves in the bathroom? Why would a girlfriend lock the bathroom door while she's in the bathroom and he's sleeping? Did those questions come up at all?

CURNOW: Well -- no, that hasn't come up. I mean, the basic statements of what each side, you know, thinks and is putting in as evidence was literally given to the court today. There hasn't been any cross examination or anything like that.

I mean, if you look at it on a plain and simple based on facts, Reeva according to Oscar went to the bathroom, went to the toilet, in the middle of the night. Why she locked the door, well, you know, there's no answer to that, unfortunately. I don't have it.

The state argues that she was perhaps terrified and hiding in the bathroom, you know, and it's up to Oscar Pistorius' defense team to say that was not the case. And his version of events that he tragically mistook her for a burglar is the one that is true.

O'BRIEN: Robyn Curnow, watching the story for us as we mentioned, that bail hearing goes into day two tomorrow at 9:00 a.m., Robyn's time, which is 2:00 in the morning for us here on the East Coast. Thank you, Robyn.

Reeva Steenkamp's family laid her body to rest this morning. More than 100 family members and friends gathered to say good-bye, happened along the southern coast of South Africa. Some of them are sending some messages of love for Steenkamp, calling her an angel.

And there was anger there, too, toward Oscar Pistorius. No surprise. One person told at the funeral told "Reuters" that without a doubt, Pistorius is a danger to the public and he must stay in jail.

I want to get to Anne Bremner this morning. She's a criminal defense attorney, former prosecutor, civil trial attorney. She knows lots about how these cases go and certainly international angles as well.

Thank you for being with us, Anne. Let's start with the very latest --

ANNE BREMNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: My pleasure.

O'BRIEN: Let's start with the latest we now know, what the defense is clearing shaping up to be, which is a story of fear of an attacker being in the bathroom. When you know hear this side, it's the first time we've heard Oscar Pistorius' version of what happened that night. What do you think of what he's saying?

BREMNER: Well, it sure seems like, you know, in something like this, they say we don't concede this is murder. That's what his defense lawyer said, which is kind of a weak statement at best. And there's somebody, you know, basically an intruder in the bathroom.

It's probably better not to say much right now about the defense until they know more about the forensics and how it's going to shape up, frankly.

O'BRIEN: So, you think that they -- I mean, for his bail hearing he has to lay out some kind of defense, doesn't he, or he's not going to get bail. And, right now, bail is looking relatively unlikely with these upgraded charges.

BREMNER: It might be better to wait. The judge can revisit bail at a later date and look at exceptional circumstances if they exist.

But the fact is, you know, right now, does it make sense he thought there was an intruder in the bathroom when she'd been in the bed earlier, they'd argued earlier, she's been there since 6:00, you know, et cetera, they can say simply there was a scenario for an accident and be, yes, less specific about, because regarding locked into some defenses that are widely kind of disbelieved apparently in South Africa, at least in the reported press.

O'BRIEN: So you think that an answer that is general, as you try to figure out what the evidence ends up revealing.

BREMNER: Yes.

O'BRIEN: I mean, there's an argument to be made for those of us who aren't lawyers, if he's saying the truth, right, he wouldn't need to wait and shape it to the evidence, he could just say what he thought happened. BREMNER: Yes. Again, I mean, it's the whole truth but the fact is right now, there's a lot of, you know, contradictory evidence to this intruder theory and in breaking down the doors, shooting through a door, I mean, a lot of it like the prosecutor said she didn't get a go anywhere, "you're going nowhere" is the first thing he said. And the second thing is you don't have a burglar in the bathroom usually.

The question is, is it reasonable for him, Oscar, to basically use deadly force. And when someone's in the bathroom and you're shooting through a door, is that really reasonable?

O'BRIEN: I'm curious to know, Ron Brownstein, and I don't know if we know this, if there is a similar "Stand Your Ground" law in South Africa, because in a way you could see them potentially shaping up to be creating this kind of a case for Oscar Pistorius. I was distraught, I had no idea, it was middle of the night, it was dark, I was afraid, I didn't have my legs. He wears prosthetic legs.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Regardless if there's a law, there is an atmosphere of fear that exists in South Africa, well-known.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

BERMAN: I mean, crime is rampant. There are people living in gated communities there and there are stories, and certainly, the Pistorius defense is trying to put them out of people defending themselves in their own home.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. You know, I don't know -- we have "Stand Your Ground" law, we have the Castle Doctrine and we have equivalent things in the U.S. But I think, as the attorney points out, I mean, it's interesting to commit yourself to a version of a specific version of events so quickly when there may be evidence to the contrary going forward.

O'BRIEN: So, Anne, let's talk about that a little bit more. Is some of that, committing yourself to a specific version of events because you're talking about someone who is an international star? I mean, you obviously were a representative of Amanda Knox and you know that to some degree you had to have a story and get that story out because there will be this groundswell of opinions if you don't jump in, and help shape that opinion.

BREMNER: Absolutely. In Amanda Knox's case, we have to turn around a super tanker of misinformation because our group came in a little bit later, about her and then get up publicly and talk about the evidence, the evidence, the evidence. And that's not what I think they can do now here. I think it's too early.

But, you know, accident -- just say it's an accident, it's tragedy, it's sad, it's horrible. I like the atmosphere of fear in South Africa argument, the gated communities, et cetera, et cetera. But don't be too specific.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. You know, a judge will hear this case with two assisting magistrates. It won't be a jury. The jury system was abolished in South Africa. I wonder how that will influence how this case will --

BROWNSTEIN: Also, the time line in the South African system, when will the actual facts be argued in court?

CHARLES BLOW, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": When will they share the defense? That I think is the more striking thing, when you lock yourself in, as we've been saying before, before you get what the argument will be with the evidence from the prosecution is very, very, very dangerous, and the --

O'BRIEN: What if it's true, right? Because, I mean, I heard Anne say, and this is why I love attorneys, because she said I like the information about how dangerous South Africa is. It's also is a fact, you know. And there is this fear.

So, you know, you're right, attorneys are cherry-picking like this works for our case, there is an argument to be made of what happened.

But, Anne Bremner, always nice to talk to you, Anne. Thank you very much. We continue, of course, as this case unfolds.

BREMNER: Nice to talk you. Thanks.

O'BRIEN: They have the continuation of the bail hearing tomorrow so we keep watching it.

Other stories making news, and John has that for us.

BERMAN: Yes, Soledad.

You know, we're following several developing story this mooring. First, police in Turkey issuing hundreds of arrest warrants in response to a deadly attack at the U.S. embassy there. Officials looking for members of the radical group called the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party Front. That's their actual name. That group claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on the U.S. embassy in Ankara earlier this month, where a Turkish embassy guard was killed.

Another developing story this morning. A huge jewel heist at the Brussels airport this morning. Police say eight masked thieves in two vehicles stole $50 million worth of diamond stones. They reportedly cut a hole in a security fence at the airport then drove onto the tarmac and robbed the diamonds from a Swiss-bound plane before speeding off.

CNN has a reporter on the way to Brussels. We will bring you more on the incredible story throughout the day. We have a lot of questions about that one.

Meanwhile, a new report suggests a possible motive for the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. CBS News quotes law enforcement sources saying Adam Lanza, who killed 20 children and six adults in Sandy Hook, may have been trying to outdo a notorious mass murderer.

Norwegian Anders Breivik killed 77 people, mostly teenagers, at a summer camp, a year before the Sandy Hook shootings.

A report in a "Hartford Courant" says investigators found articles about Breivik in Adam Lanza's home.

Police in California want to know if a suspected rapist is using the popular dating Web site ChristianMingle.com to target potential victims. Investigators say suspect Sean Banks of Delmar raped a woman he met on the site. The 37-year-old Banks who used a screen name "Rarity" is pleading not guilty. He's free after posting $500,000 bail.

President Obama is holding a news conference in a few hours on the massive government budget cuts that will be automatically triggered in just 10 days. He'll urge Congress to take action. The president will be joined by first responders whose jobs are threatened if those budgets are slashed.

You're going to want to stay with CNN for live special coverage of this event that begins at 10:45 Eastern Time.

And new this morning, the first look at Duchess Catherine's baby bump. Look really, really carefully.

O'BRIEN: Is it really there?

BERMAN: Really carefully you can see it. This is the first public appearance since announcing her pregnancy back in December. The former Kate Middleton spent the day at an addiction treatment center in southwest London, amongst a swarm of press, excited to get a glimpse of that royal bump. You can barely see it there. She's four and a half months pregnant.

Not everyone, though, is quite as enthusiastic about the duchess. Recent comments made by Hillary Mantel at a talk (INAUDIBLE) review book called "Royal Bodies", whipped up some major controversy. The award winning author cried Catherine as, quote, "a machine made doll with a plastic smile who lacks the personality and human frailty shown by Princess Diana."

O'BRIEN: Somebody's jealous, somebody's jealous --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: What would Cromwell have made of Kate Middleton after that?

O'BRIEN: Please. That's ridiculous.

ABBY HUNTSMAN, HOST, HUFFPOST LIVE: I think she looks better pregnant than I've ever seen her.

BERMAN: Really?

HUNTSMAN: I think she's finally coming into her own.

BERMAN: I don't recall her looking badly ever. BROWNSTEIN: Right.

BERMAN: Ever. So that's just me.

O'BRIEN: Why would Hillary Mantel say that?

BROWNSTEIN: That's kind of funny and odd. Certainly, you know, she's at the apex of like anyone's career, winning the Pulitzer Prize twice in a row -- not friendly, I agree.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about Chinese hackers.

Let's talk a little bit about the Chinese hackers. The headquarters might be this building right there. There's a new report that claims that this Shanghai office tower is said to be where the Chinese military is conducting cyber warfare against the United States. We'll have a live report on that, coming up next.

And it was a 70 million to one chance of happening, a woman gives births to two sets of identical twins, all at the same time, no fertility drugs involved. We're going to talk to her, her husband and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, too, about it.

(CROSSTALK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. A new report this morning claims there's a secret unit of the Chinese military that's behind massive computer hacking campaigns against the United States. Reports say it happens from inside this white 12-storey office tower in Shanghai, China, and that the People's Liberation Army is responsible.

China blacks out CNN's broadcast signal whenever we talk about hacking from China in any way, shape or form.

CNN's Sandra Endo has details for us this morning. She's in Washington, D.C. He, Sandra. Good morning.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. The American cyber security firm Mandiant says it has linked one of the world's most prolific groups of computer hackers to the Chinese government. The security firm traced the activity of four networks near Shanghai with some of the operations taking place in a building housing a secret division of China's military.

The report claims over a six-year period, hackers have stolen large volumes of intellectual property, blueprints, and business plans, but the report does not list the companies that have been hacked. The Chinese government dismissed the claims saying China is also a victim of cyber crimes and claims most of their attacks come from the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HONG LEI, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): Internet hacking is an international issue. It should be dealt with through international cooperation based on trust and mutual respect. Making baseless accusations based on premature analysis is irresponsible and unprofessional. And it doesn't help solve irrelevant issues. China resolutely oppose --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ENDO: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta -- outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, last year, cyber attacks could cripple Wall Street or disrupt the power grid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: There is obviously a growing technology, growing expertise in the use of cyber warfare and the danger is that cyber could -- I think, the capabilities are available in cyber to virtually cripple this nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ENDO: And President Obama says this is a big concern. He addressed it in the State of the Union speech last week and signed an executive order to strengthen the nation's cyber security network -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Fascinating reporting there. All right. Thanks very much for the update. We certainly appreciate it.

We want to get to a new story about Michael Jackson's son, Prince, has a new gig in the spotlight. We'll tell you what he's going to be doing up next. That's a trending story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Adrenalin pumping, Prince Michael warms up for his very first job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back. "Minding Your Business." Stock futures pointing higher this morning, but the games with modest, so far. Investors have some important reads on housing market later this week. Corporate earnings also rolling in. We'll see if any of that can push the Dow back up to its all-time high. In case you're keeping count, the Dow now just 183 points away from that record.

Shares of Office Max and Office Depot both up big ahead of the open. The retail chains reportedly in talks to merge as both of these struggle to compete with the rival Staples and online retailers like Amazon. Companies aren't talking publicly yet. They're worth about $1 billion each. Market value could get a nice boost on that news today.

Gas prices getting a boost, and that's not good, up today for the 33rd day in a row. The new national average, $3.75 a gallon, but Californians are paying more than that, $4.17 a gallon on average. That's second highest in the country behind Hawaii. And one auto dealership in Sacramento is taking it seriously.

Customers must be pre-approved for a loan and they have to replace the gas they used during a test drive. Dealership tells our affiliate, KTXL, that it's charging customers because many come in, test drive multiple cars and then don't end up buying, that, they say, costs up to $3,100 a month in gas.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: That's probably the only car dealer in Sacramento --

(LAUGHTER)

HUNTSMAN: Energy independence.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: And we have that exact conversation every single time we have a conversation about gas prices rising.

BROWNSTEIN: I mean, it depends on foreign oil. It's the lowest it's been in over a decade. And fuel economy is rising. People are reacting in perfectly slowly. Things are moving in the right direction on that front.

O'BRIEN: The number of people who own a Chevy Volt, small but growing.

BROWNSTEIN: We're growing. And you know, we've mandated big improvements in fuel economy. So, people might actually, over time, be saving money even if gas prices go up because they're using less per gallon.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about what's trending this morning online. Hackers, apparently, having a little bit of beef with Burger King. BK, say it's not so. People hacking into the fast food chain's Twitter page swapping the golden arches of McDonalds for the Burger King logo. They even made it seem Burger King had been bought out by McDonald's.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Also trending this morning, Michael Jackson's oldest son, Prince, might be the next king of entertainment news. Check out -- look at this video, 16-year-old has become a guest correspondent on "Entertainment Tonight." His first assignment, interviewing the stars of the upcoming film, "Oz: The Great and Powerful. Remember his father played the scarecrow in "The Wiz" with Diana Ross but all comes full circle.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Sixteen years old, already a correspondent. BLOW: Pro-anthem is classic.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I feel confident he'll do just fine.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, we're following developing stories on this Oscar Pistorius case for you. The court has now adjourned for the day. They'll be back tomorrow morning. We're live in South Africa with the very latest on what happened today in court, and it was stunning.

Also, a woman gives birth to two sets of twins at the same time. No fertility drugs involved. We're going to talk to the parents and meet their four little precious bundles from their hospital room, Baby Ace, Baby Blaine, Baby Cash, Baby Dylan, and the doctor who brought them all through it. That's straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)