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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Murder Trial Continues for Oscar Pistorius; Restaurant Explodes in Kansas City; China Denies Hacking Accusation; Is Google the New Apple?;

Aired February 20, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning: some stunning revelations in court, testimony about testosterone, tantrums, exactly how Oscar Pistorius' girlfriend was killed. But right now, the defense is mounting its own case and starting to poke some holes in some of those details. We're live from South Africa in just a moment.

And then a developing story this morning, rescuers going through the rumble -- excuse me, the rubble of a Kansas City restaurant after an explosion injures 14 people. One person is now missing.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": And new this morning, a winter storm brewing. It's already hitting California and soon millions across the entire country will feel the effects. We have live team coverage.

Then, as China denies any involvement in the hacking of American companies, a CNN crew chased by a company in Shanghai. We will have a live report.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And topping business news this morning, is Apple's shine fading? Google taking over wall street. So does it mean it's now time to buy?

O'BRIEN: It's Wednesday, February 20th. And STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome, everybody. Our starting point this morning is the Oscar Pistorius case. Any moment now we could hear if the Olympic track star accused of murdering his girlfriend will in fat be allowed to get bail. A lead investigator in the case confirmed to the judge in just the past half-hour that he has told the family he does not oppose bail.

That comes as there are new developments out this morning. It is day two of the bail hearing. The first officer on the scene testified he believes Pistorius' actions were in no way self-defense. He later though conceded there were no signs of an assault on Reeva Steenkamp's body, no indications they had defended herself. He said two boxes of testosterone and needles were found. The defense though saying that wasn't testosterone. It was a legal, herbal medication.

And new details coming to light on what happened just before the shooting. Let's get right to Robyn Curnow outside that courthouse in South Africa breaking down some of the new developments for us this morning.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- what's happening in describing what's there. What's happening in that courtroom, and she tells me Oscar Pistorius is looking more confident, sitting upright. We chatted over the past few days. He has often been bent forward, cradling his head in his arms.

Perhaps there's good reason he is looking more confident, he's sitting more upright. His defense team is simply been shredding some of the evidence given by the investigating officer. You labeled and you describe some of these discrepancies in his testimony, but I think what is also important is that there was this issue around so-called ammunition, they said they would bring new charges, that there was unlicensed ammunition, it turns out that the police didn't even keep it. They didn't photograph it, and it turns out according to the defense that this ammunition was Oscar's father's.

All along, Oscar Pistorius has said that he killed his girlfriend thinking she was an intruder when she went to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The defense has said that has been proved by the autopsy which shows that Reeva's bladder was empty, again consistent with his line of events.

O'BRIEN: Robyn Curnow reporting for us live this morning from South Africa. Many questions remain. Let's get right to Mickey Sherman. He's the author of "How can you defend those people?" He is a former public defender and prosecutor and criminal defense attorney for people like Michael Skagel back in 2002 murder trial. It's nice to have you with us.

MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Good to be here.

O'BRIEN: So I think if we can talk about the big developments in this case. Number one, there are reports of testosterone. The defense is saying now that that is actually some kind of herbal remedy. Number two there are reports about position of the toilet which is relevant, because testimony on how the door was shot through. If you were going to hit the toilet, you'd have to actually shoot at an angle and aim essentially at the toilet.

And number three, you have past bad acts, I guess if you were a lawyer would you call them, the prosecutor talking about the background of Oscar Pistorius. Walk me through it. Let's start with number one. The testosterone which may not be testosterone.

SHERMAN: This is not Lance Armstrong. This is not cocaine or heroin. He's a severely disabled person, even if he is an Olympic athlete. So I think testosterone is not going to go anywhere for the prosecution.

O'BRIEN: How about the angle of the shot into the bathroom? This is relevant of course, because what the prosecutor is describing is that if you were trying to shoot at a burglar who you thought was in your bathroom, you would just fire straight through the door. And if you try to hit someone on the toilet, would you have you have to aim in that direction. SHERMAN: Who is to say what happened? Not only is the recollection tainted by the fact this is in the middle of the night, he's obviously shaken up, he's shocked, doesn't know who is in the bathroom. I don't think you can hold him to the same standard of someone walking down the street at noon. This is happening in a situation where he is totally terrified. You either believe that or don't believe it.

O'BRIEN: The prosecutors have raised a couple of past acts, for example saying there is an issue with a gun at a restaurant and Oscar Pistorius had someone else take the blame for that. We know earlier reports of some kind of -- I think they have been calling it domestic incidents in the home.

SHERMAN: Show me a person that's not involved in a domestic incident, whether violence or something else. Everybody fights for with their wife, their girlfriend, fiance, whatever.

O'BRIEN: I have never had police come to my house because of a domestic incident. I will go out on a limb and say Berman or Christine hasn't either.

SHERMAN: Never say never. There is no great shoe that's dropping here. I'll tell you the show to look for. When Scott Peterson was arrested, I said, don't look for the body of the wife. Look for his girlfriend. In this case, is there a girlfriend for Pistorius? Is there a boyfriend for the young lady who died? Is there going to be that kind of a shoe that drops?

O'BRIEN: You say it's not what exactly happening. You say that it's actually everything happening outside of that one night?

SHERMAN: Yes. And also, does he have a history. So far, the history is extraordinarily minimal and not damning at all. And more than that, he has a history of being a hero. Here is a man who overcame such an incredible handicap.

O'BRIEN: Does it hurt his case or help his case if you have someone who say hero? It's so interesting to follow the debate on twitter over this I think. There are people who immediately believe him and people who think he must be guilty.

SHERMAN: You're too young to remember, but -- we'll get that limo back. In 1977, a beautiful woman, married to Eddie Williams, the singer. She was dating Spider Savage, a ski champion. In the middle of the night, she gets up, she goes into the bathroom and shoots him, kills him. Everyone criticized him. She went to trial. The jury found her not guilty of everything except one misdemeanor. The judge apologized to her and gave her a $250 fine and a 30-day jail sentence, virtually the same facts you see here. It's a popularity contest. A trial is not dissimilar to the fifth grade class president election. If they like the man it will be OK. If they don't like him, it's not going to be OK.

ROMANS: They like the victim in this case. That's the other part here. Have you a very beautiful, very -- with a lot of potential young woman who is dead. And there's no question here that he killed her. It's what kind of death was this? Is this a murder or something less than that?

BERMAN: And the day here in South Africa is very different. There's no jury. We're talking about a judge that will be the decider in the popularity contest exclusively.

SHERMAN: For lawyers in America, it's tough for to us get our arms around it. We choose judges in very rare cases. But what bothers me a little bit is the diminution a little bit of the presumption of innocence. Yesterday, the judge did not allow bail because he couldn't rule out -- not rule in, but rule out the possibility that this was premeditated.

O'BRIEN: We'll see if he does, in fact, allow bail. We will see. He has said he is OK with bail. We'll ask you to stick around with us all morning as we sort of maneuver our way through different legal angles. We appreciate that.

We want to get to a story that's developing this morning out of Kansas City. A desperate search for one person who is still missing after what was apparently a gas explosion that leveled a popular restaurant. The blast blew off the roofs off of J.J.'s restaurant. Witnesses say it felt like an earthquake. They could smell gas well before the explosion. More than a dozen people were injured. Earlier Kansas City's mayor and the fire chief spoke to us on "EARLY START." They found one of two people unaccounted for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR SLY JAMES, KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI: There is now only one missing person. We were able to locate fire chief was able to locate the other person at about midnight at a local hospital. They had driven -- managed to get into the hospital. There is a missing employee of J.J.'s at this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: CNN's Ted Rowlands is live in Kansas City. Hey, Ted, good morning. What is the latest on the investigation?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. This explosion took place after 6:00 last night at a very popular restaurant in Kansas City, a restaurant that is now completely demolished.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLANDS: The explosion, which witnesses say could be felt blocks away, instantly engulfed J.J.'s restaurant, sending debris, including glass and bricks flying through the air, flames towered into the sky.

BETH SHELLY, WITNESSED EXPLOSION: We just felt our building shake two blocks down and we thought a car ran into our apartment.

ROWLANDS: There were reports of smells of gas hours before the explosion. Fortunately several people in the restaurant evacuated just minutes before the blast. The cause is still under investigation, but according to the gas company, a contractor doing underground work may have struck a natural gas line. After the fire was put out, dogs were brought in this case there were additional victims.

PAUL BERARDI, KANSAS CITY FIRE CHIEF: I would always fear there are fatalities in a situation like this. When we got to the scene, we had a fully involved restaurant that had patrons, several patrons inside at the time incident. That's why we're here searching as we are.

ROWLANDS: The injured range from people who were hit by flying debris to those who suffered severe burns and are now fighting for their lives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLANDS: And the search for that unaccounted employee will resume when the sun comes back up in Kansas City. They want to bring in heavy equipment to move the debris and bring in the cadaver dogs. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Ted Rowlands for us this morning, thank you, Ted.

Other developing stories we're watching out for this morning, John has the details for us.

BERMAN: Soledad, thank you very much. Happening now, live protesters demonstrate this morning in front of the parliament in Greece. You can see two big unions there, one representing the public sector, the other the private sector. They are upset with austerity program that has been imposed on the country by international creditors.

A large section of the southwest is under a winter storm watch. It's already started snowing in California. Heavy snowfall is expected all the way to Arkansas. In the southern California mountains, up to a half foot of snow is expected. Our Casey Wian is there this morning. He joins us live from Cajon Junction.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's pretty clear right now, John. It's gotten colder when I talked to you an hour or so ago. Right now it's not snowing. You can see behind me some snow moving equipment going to higher elevations and this Caltrans worker who is making sure that people who head up to higher elevations. We're at 3,100 feet. Anyone going higher needs to have chains or a four-wheel drive vehicle. We just heard him tell a motorist they will reopen the road in a half hour or some.

There were intermittent road closures on some of the major interstates in southern California overnight. But it seems the snow has pretty much left southern California. And the bulk of this storm that the middle part of the country is so worried about is headed out toward Arizona, and that's where the significant precipitation is going to be. Basically a nuisance is what this storm has turned out to be for most people here in California, John.

BERMAN: The question is, will it be more than a nuisance across the rest of the country? Let's get to Jennifer Delgado, who is tracking this winter storm system.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, John. Casey gets the easy part of the storm, because it is going to be moving toward the east. And what it's doing is bringing mountain snow to the four corners, and also talking about big snow setting up across the central plains and parts of the Midwest. Some of these locations, more than a foot of snow coming down. Plus we're talking freezing rain and some of what freezing rain accumulating.

You're going to see Oklahoma to Interstate 40 and south of interstate 70. You can see where the freeze line is, a lot of rain down toward the south. In parts of Texas we're expecting severe storms to pop up later today a slight chance of that. That will be impressive, more than a foot of snow. And some of the winds kicking in overnight into tomorrow morning, that's where we'll see the worst of the weather. You combine in a quarter to three-quarter inch freezing rain, that will lead to power lines and trees coming down.

BERMAN: That is a dangerous amount of freezing rain.

An 11th hour stay of execution for Georgia death row inmate Warren Lee Hill. A federal appeals court granted a stay of execution for the twice convicted killer just hours before he was scheduled to die. The court agreed to consider the issue of Hill's intellectual disabilities as reporters argue that Hill has an IQ of 70 and under the U.S. constitution they say he cannot be executed.

In less than four hours former Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. will be in a Washington, D.C. courtroom where he is expected to plead guilty to misusing campaign funds. Prosecutors say he took more than $750,000 from his campaign coffers and spent it on personal items like furniture, clothing, memorabilia, and a $43,000 Rolex watch. Jackson's wife --

O'BRIEN: Wow.

BERMAN: Wow indeed. Sandra Stevens Jackson, Jesse Jackson's wife, will make her own court appearance this afternoon. She will also plead guilty to filing false tax returns.

Apple says this morning it was hit by the same computer hackers who earlier targeted Facebook. Company officials say the computers of some workers were infected when a visiting website containing malicious software, the same malware used to launch cyber-attacks against Facebook last month. Officials say it appears no internal data was stolen. A lot of places getting hit right now by hackers.

O'BRIEN: Can we go back to the $42,000 Rolex.

BERMAN: That's a big Rolex.

O'BRIEN: I didn't know you could buy a Rolex for $42,000.

BERMAN: Some of the lawyers who are connected to this case say they have never seen abuse like this with campaign finance funds.

O'BRIEN: It's always bad when the lawyers are saying that.

Sill ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, while China denies it hacked American companies, a CNN crew chased by security in Shanghai. Leave report from that secretive nation, up next.

And of course we're taking a look at business news.

ROMANS: That's right. A battle of the tech giants. It's Google versus Apple on Wall Street, but can the search engine keep this momentum?

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O'BRIEN: New this morning, Chinese military denying that they have engaged in cyber attacks from a 12-story building in Shanghai, or really from anywhere else. We told you yesterday, this building is the focus of a report U.S. cyber security firm Mandiant. They say a hacking collective with direct ties to the Chinese military has stolen data from 141 organizations from around the world since 2006. CNN crew tried to roll their cameras through that neighborhood, and this is what they discovered. This is our crew being chased by Chinese security officers. CNN's David Mckenzie live in Shanghai with more. Walk me through exactly what happened when you tried to get access to that building?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, the security officers did say that we shouldn't be filming there. They said it was a military installation of some kind. And as we got closer with the camera, and drove past they outran the vehicle and had a relatively cordial chat and then demanded some footage, and then we were on our way.

The bigger picture is what is happening here? Shanghai, a major city in China, is the epicenter says Mandiant, the Virginia-based security company, of a major hacking ring. Tens if not hundreds of hackers working in those buildings they say. Attacking corporations, institutions, governments, particularly in the U.S. and stealing terabits of information. The this group is working in conjunction with the military and Chinese government. Chinese government not surprisingly, says they had nothing to do with this and call these claims, quote, irresponsible. The Chinese say they had nothing do with the hackers, is this just the next salvo in an international war? We're going to have to watch this very closely.

O'BRIEN: We're watching it very closely. CNN's David Mckenzie, watching it for us. Thanks David, Appreciate it.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a Colorado university is giving coeds advice on how to protect themselves against attackers, it involves vomiting on those attackers, claiming have you have some kind of disease. We'll tell you about the growing uproar around that, straight ahead.

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ROMANS: Good morning, welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans. Minding your business, this morning futures are basically flat. But stocks inching closer to the record highs. Yesterday the Dow hit a new five-year high during the trading day. Just now 128 points from a record, if you're keeping count.

Speaking of record highs, Google, now an $800 stock. That's the highest price since Google began trading way back in August 2004 at $85 a share. Some are calling it the new Apple. And those stocks - look at this. Apple and Google, look like opposites over the last six months. Apple is tanking, down more than 30 percent since September - since late August. Google is surging, up 20 percent over the same time. Analysts say more people are using the internet than ever before. Smartphones are in everyone's pockets. Google is also doing fairly well in the retail market with new line of Nexus phones and tablets, and its chromebook computers. Keep an eye on that stock, because a lot of folks are saying it could go higher.

A lot of other people say Christine, will it recover? Will are recover?

O'BRIEN: You tell them?

ROMANS: A lot of analysts are telling me that they like this pullback in Apple stock, because Apple still has some tricks up its sleeve, and is selling more of its products than we could ever have imagined a few years ago.

O'BRIEN: What is the average number of Apple products that an American family has? Five?

ROMANS: I don't know, that's a really good question.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: It depends where, I think in New York it's probably up to five. But in a big swath of the country, not as big (ph).

ROMANS: I mean, the Android, is a much bigger share of the market. I much bigger and a much faster-growing share of the market.

O'BRIEN: All right. Our team this morning as I mentioned, Mickey Sherman with us. Josh Barro is with us as well, he's a blogger for Bloomberg View. Nice ot have you both back as we continue to talk about some of these stories. I want to tell you this story out of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. They have this website post, where they're telling coeds how to defend themselves against sexual assault. Here's some of the advice: scream loudly, run, and use passive resistance techniques like vomiting, urinating, telling your attacker you have a disease, or you're menstruating. After an uproar from students, the university apologized, and then explained that the list came from a rape defense class and is taken out of context. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM HUTTON, UCCS SPOKESPERSON: It was part of a really supplemental information intended for women who had completed a self-defense class on campus that we call R.A.D.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: Now, R.A.D stands for rape aggression defense and corporal Lisa Dipzinski teaches the class at the university and says she stands by these suggestions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CPL. LISA DIPZINSKI, UCCS RAD INSTRUCTOR: If you can use anything to your advantage which would be to say you are going to urinate, that you are menstruating, that you're going to vomit, that you have a disease. I know it sounds way off the wall, but why not use something to your advantage. You could possibly get a perpetrator that is disgusted by one of these things and that could ultimately make them walk away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Christine and I were talking about earlier. This was the same advice we got when we were in college. Right? There was run the run, right, run for your life, scream as loud as you can, and then there was this list of here are all of the other things you can do to freak out your attacker.

ROMANS: If you find yourself pinned down, you have to do everything you possibly can after screaming and running doesn't work. I remember getting the same advice.

O'BRIEN: Right, and don't ever, ever, ever get in a vehicle, because once you get removed from the scene.

SHERMAN: Don't go to a different location no, matter what.

O'BRIEN: Because then your chances of survival. -- in a way, as crazy as it sounds, I guess it's do what you can to survive.

ROMANS: But an attacker, you know, look and I'm not expert on this kind of violence, but an attacker is attacking for other reasons, reasons of power. I don't know if you know what's in the mind of an attacker.

O'BRIEN: Obviously you've defended and prosecuted people on both sides.

SHERMAN: I've defended a lot of people charged with -

O'BRIEN: Does this advice sound crazy?

SHERMAN: No, it doesn't sound crazy at all. I think what people are upset is it says to be passive and just let it go on and let it happen. And that's not certainly the message here. If your life is in danger, don't endanger your life. That's what they are saying. And in a rape defense, you don't have to prove that the victim didn't put up a fight. People think that if there is no marks on the victim, she must have agreed to it. That went on maybe 70 years ago. Juries are sophisticated enough now to know that sometimes people just can't put up a fight, or they're just too scared, intimidated, or overwhelmed (ph). O'BRIEN: There is a sense if you didn't put up a fight, somehow, that you are not actually being raped. Would be the sort of sick interpretation of that.

SHERMAN: Right, and what I'm saying is that has gone away.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. Wow, again, same advice we got 20 some odd years ago.

ROMANS: 25 years ago in my case.

O'BRIEN: Also, the Russian government shifting its stance on the suspicious death of a little boy who was adopted in this country. We're going to take you live to Moscow with the latest details on that.

And the vice president, Joe Biden, shoots from the lip about guns, we'll tell you what he told one woman. Not exactly what you would expect.

And then take a look at this the sea otter, yes, he shoots, he scores. You're watching STARTING POINT, we're back in a moment.

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