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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

"Blade Runner" Bail Hearing: Day 3; Biden Takes Gun Message to Connecticut; Sentencing Set For Jesse Jackson Jr.; Sandra Jackson Pleads Guilty; Arias: No Memory Of Killing Boyfriend; Cruise Passengers Become Plaintiffs; Disturbing Incident Caught On Video; American Imprisoned In Cuba; Fair Trade?; Threat Amid Bail Hearing; Armstrong Not Cooperating; Not So "Special K"; Exquisitely Evil

Aired February 21, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: -- points. For example, the prosecution, they have been claiming that Pistorius was on his prosthetic legs when shooting. They have talked about the angle, not just shooting through the bathroom door because I guess the toilet was at an angle.

But also the angle downward, which would imply that there was a sense of attacking someone specifically in a specific place and if he had time to put the legs on that, would change his version of the events.

In addition, the prosecution claimed that testosterone and needles were found. They claimed that witnesses heard shouting. They claimed that blood was found on cell phones and a cricket bat that later ended up in the bathroom.

The defense now saying this, testosterone was not testosterone, it was an herbal supplement. Police contaminated the scene. There was some testimony about the lack of wearing little footies to cover up the feet on the investigators' part.

No indications of assault when they looked and examined the body of Reeva Steenkamp. And those witnesses who talked about hearing the fight, those were maybe a thousand to 2,000 feet away from Pistorius' house. So as you hear some of these details, let's start with you, Ted.

TED SIMON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: What seems like the prosecution's case is getting weaker by the minute.

SIMON: Absolutely. I mean, you presented arguments, but where is the substantial evidence to support it? Let's take each of them. Prosthetic legs on when shooting. His affidavit said he was on his stumps when he went to the location and shot.

And if they're going to try to say the angle of the shooting is material, then they would have to produce forensic evidence that would substantiate that and they have not done that.

O'BRIEN: They might be able to, right? Ultimately at the ending of the day, this is a measurement of an angle. You'll be able to determine if he was up here or down here while shooting.

SIMON: But there's a lot of ambiguity. Did you hold it up, did you hold it down? I don't know how clear that's going to be in the end. But the point right now is they don't have it.

The second point, the testosterone. All they had to do was do a simple test and tell what's in it. Under cross examination, the officer, investigator, admitted he read a long name and that name is likely not testosterone, but an herbal substance so I think that doesn't hold much weight.

O'BRIEN: How about the witnesses who heard the shouting? We now know the distance. Is 1,000 to 2,000 feet too far in the middle of the night to hear people shouting at each other? They claimed between 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. there was an argument.

SIMON: Right. We heard it first that this yelling was three, four, football fields, five, six football fields away. Can you really say if someone heard something they would be able to say that it came from that specific location?

This is what happens in high-profile cases. A lot of noise occurs. People start saying things that are unsubstantiated. I don't think there's a lot of value in that and I think it's going to disappear.

And then the final point you mentioned was the so-called blood on a cricket bat. Well, as soon as you hear that you think of domestic abuse, but the problem is there's no evidence that she was battered with a cricket bat.

O'BRIEN: The evidence seems to be there are no signs of assault on her body.

SIMON: Right. It's so much more consistent at least for now that the bat was used to break down the door as was said and there was obviously a lot of blood because he carried her. So I think all of these points are arguments, but there's no substance to substantiate them.

And when you look at the question of bail, even though there is a burden on the defendant in a premeditated case to show exceptional circumstances, I think he is substantially adversely affected that the quality of the prosecution's case. That's why he likely will be given bail.

O'BRIEN: We're watching for that and we'll wait and see. I should mention Chris Frates has joined us at the table as well from the "National Journal." We're going to continue to talk about this case, which I have found just absolutely riveting as we monitor all of the details coming to us out of South Africa.

First though, Christine has a look at some of the other stories that are making news this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, listen to what's happening here right now. The vice president on the road today drumming up support for the administration's gun control proposals, Joe Biden will take part in a conference at Western Connecticut State University. That's just 10 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Former Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. faces up to five years in prison when he's sentenced on June 28th. He pleaded guilty yesterday to using $750,000 in campaign funds to buy personal items, like a $43,000 Rolex watch. Jackson's wife, Sandi, a former Chicago alderman, also pleaded guilty to filing false income tax returns related to the misuse of campaign funds. She faces up to three years in prison.

Dramatic and graphic testimony from a woman accused of brutally murdering her boyfriend in 2008. In her eighth day on the stand, Jodi Arias testified about the day Travis Alexander died. She recalled getting a gun to protect herself, but had no recollection of shooting and stabbing him dozens of times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JODI ARIAS, DEFENDANT: So I ran into the closet and I slammed the door and I intended to run through the opposite end of the door because it has another exit. As soon as I got in there and began to run, I remembered where he kept the gun. So I grabbed it. I jumped up on the shelf. He kept it on the very top.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you remember stabbing Travis Alexander?

ARIAS: I have no memory of stabbing him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Arias faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

Passengers aboard last week's nightmare cruise are now plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against Carnival. An Oklahoma couple filed this suit on behalf of the other passengers. They say unsanitary conditions on the crippled ship threatened the health of everyone on board, but a maritime lawyer doesn't think this is a slam dunk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT PELTZ, MARITIME ATTORNEY: Well, I think that the -- talking about those passengers who have not suffered a personal injury or some specific physical illness, the likelihood of recovery is going to be much more difficult.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The plaintiffs also claim Carnival knew the cruise liner "Triumph" could have engine problems because it had similar issues before.

OK, this is a shocking incident involving two young girls. Take a look at this disturbing video from here in New York City. These kids are being egged on by adults to fight. You're hearing the adults there urging the children to slap and punch each other. The New York Police Department is trying to identify the adults involved.

O'BRIEN: That might be a new low really. I mean, can you imagine? Those girls look like they're 7, maybe 8 years old?

ROMANS: That story and the story in Albany of the mom who hired strippers at the bowling alley for her son and the children were as young as 13. Those two are like parents of the year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's like cool mom gone wrong.

O'BRIEN: Sick moms. Shouldn't be parenting, I think.

Interesting case to update you on, 1,177 days is how long 63-year-old American contractor Alan Gross has been sitting in a Cuban jail. He's serving a 15-year sentence for bringing banned communications equipment into Cuba as part of a State Department program to spread democracy.

One of the largest congressional delegations ever to visit the island was in Havana this week. They're trying to free him. Cuban President Raul Castro has stated that Gross is not considered to be a spy, but they refuse to set him free. Gross' family is worried he might have cancer.

They want to bring him home to get examined and get treatment. Congressman Jim McGovern was part of the delegation and they just returned yesterday. It's nice to have you with us, Congressman. We appreciate your time.

You got to spend a little time with Mr. Gross so how is he doing? How does he look to you physically and emotionally?

REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Actually two members of our delegation were allowed to see Mr. Gross, Senator Leahy and Congressman Chris Van Hollen who is his congressman. They say he was in pretty good shape, although he's obviously irritated that he's still in Cuba in prison and not allowed to go home and see his wife and his family and his ailing mother.

So we raised the issue with President Castro, who seemed to tie it to the fate of the Cuban five. Those are the Cubans that we have in jail here in the United States. But look, what we need to do, I think we need to re-evaluate our entire policy and we ought to put together a formal structure.

Where we begin negotiations with Cubans on a whole range of issues, including Alan Gross, but also how we deal with the restrictions on travel, how we deal with the economic embargo and a whole range of things.

But this is a moment I think where we can not only move to release Alan Gross, but we can move to change our entire policies.

O'BRIEN: So let me ask you a question because you said when you had conversations with Raul Castro, he sought to tie Gross's fate to that of the Cuban five. Walk us through, who are the Cuban five and how realistic is that? Are you saying now that he's really being held as a hostage to be swapped for versus someone who's serving time in prison?

MCGOVERN: Well, we have in jail, in U.S. prisons across the country, five Cubans who are allegedly spying, relaying information back to the Cuban government on the activities of Cuban-Americans here in the United States. One of them has a sentence that carries a life term with it.

And what President Castro seemed to say is that, you know, you need to resolve that. These people in his opinion don't deserve to be in jail. We don't believe that Alan Gross ought to be in jail.

But this is -- unfortunately, Alan Gross is kind of caught in this web that's a result of this outdated policy that we have toward Cuba, a policy that has failed, a policy that is really a relic from the Cold War.

O'BRIEN: So getting him freed is not going to be as simple as a swap or as difficult as revisiting our Cuba policy, which means that Mr. Gross would not be freed for a long time?

MCGOVERN: Well, my hope is that if we begin kind of a formal negotiation sooner rather than later, we can get Mr. Gross home a lot quicker. But, look, the problem we have with Cuba is not just about Alan Gross, it's a whole range of things.

And so we -- I think the time has come for us to re-evaluate our policy. We ought to have a more mature policy. We've got to be thinking about normalizing relations between our two countries, tearing down these barriers that create paranoia, that result in terrible cases like Alan Gross.

He ought to be home and we pressed as hard as we could every Cuban official to say that he should be released, but I think we need to encourage our government to engage in a more formal direct negotiation with the Cubans on a whole range of issues.

This shouldn't just be about Alan Gross. Our problems with Cuba are much more complicated. We need to put everything on the table.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Jim McGovern is a Democrat from Massachusetts. It's nice to talk to you, sir. Thank you.

MCGOVERN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: So when they talk about this case and he seems to be saying it's not about Alan Gross, let's make it a bigger case, I would imagine that makes the case worse for Alan Gross, right? I mean, if you're trying to overturn the embargo, would they have better luck legally speaking saying, no, let's just make it about Alan Gross?

SIMON: I think you're absolutely correct. I mean, there are political issues and there are legal issues. We can't lose sight of the fact that Cuba is an independent country with their own judiciary just like we are. So to try to create a specific swap, I really don't believe as much as I'd like to see this man home that will ever happen.

The United States will never -- generally will never swap, however, they could engage in other possibilities. Negotiate what's called a prisoner transfer treaty or have Cuba become part of multi lateral treaties which permits some people in foreign countries to come back to their homeland and serve their time here and vice versa.

O'BRIEN: But that gets it back into politics which makes it very, very messy and may be impossible certainly.

SIMON: I think it become part of an international treaty and then it wouldn't be as direct.

CHRIS FRATES, REPORTER, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": I mean, the other piece you have here, Soledad, is the fact the State Department has said that Alan Gross did break Cuban law. So our own government is saying he did break laws in that country and it makes it even more difficult for us to negotiate something.

O'BRIEN: Because it then becomes political. We have to get to a commercial break.

Still ahead, you all know about James Bond obviously, but what do we know about all the villains. There's a new exhibit that highlights all the deliciously evil bad guys from Bond. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Back to breaking new this morning in the Oscar Pistorius case and that bail hearing that's now under way. Robyn Curnow who has been reporting for us for the last couple of days, she is sitting in the courthouse right now.

And she just sent out a tweet that the magistrate there says that there is a threat of some kind in that Pretoria, South Africa courtroom, unclear of the nature, and that they are now clearing the courtroom. The Pistorius bail hearing is in its third day.

We're waiting to see, of course, if he's going to actually be able to get bail. The threat apparently is outside, but the nature of the threat is very unclear. In any case, that courtroom, which has been watched not only across South Africa and of course, internationally, that courtroom now the focus of everyone's attention.

That's now been cleared while they try to figure out the nature of the threat and where they go forward. The delay, does it help the defense? Does it help the prosecution, is it a wash?

SIMON: Well, of course, we're not there so it's hard to assess what's going on. But my view of what we heard so far, delay will probably help the prosecution because it may give them additional time to present more evidence or make further arguments. If they could get some forensics into the courtroom that would demonstrate the allegations or the affidavit made by Pistorius is wrong, that could be a substantial basis to affect bail.

O'BRIEN: We don't know the details or the nature of the threat certainly, so we're waiting to get some details on that. Now we're getting word that it's a threat that's outside of the courtroom as opposed to something inside of the courtroom.

But are you surprised by that? Or is just the fact that this is a high-profile case? You're going to see things like this, not just at the beginning of this case as it gets under way but to the bitter end?

FRATES: I think you get it to the bitter end. These kinds of things, they're always very, very careful about orchestrating the security around this and the idea that we have some kind of threat.

I think this might be the first of kind of many different disruption, whether it's media or, you know, some kind of security threat. It seems to go along with the three-ring circuses that you get.

ROMANS: Just the bail part -- this is just the bail part of the hearing. I mean this isn't a trial yet. It just shows you the amount of scrutiny on this, the amount of I mess high profile. Sometimes these things attract people who are crazy, quite frankly, who are calling in threats and the like. We don't know what happened here, but this is just the beginning of what could be a very long process.

SIMON: Yes, we don't know the details of what this purported threat is, how serious, how likely, how, you know, how substantial it is. But obviously the court wants to be very safe. It wants to be safe for the participants and the community. So they're going to be reasonable and hold things up.

O'BRIEN: Robyn just sent us another tweet and she said this. Everyone is a bit confused. They're back in the courtroom now from the holding cell. Pistorius is out of the holding cell. He is now back in the courtroom. The magistrate is now back in the courtroom as well.

No one has said a word yet about this alleged threat that we were told was outside of the courthouse. So it is unclear and she hash tagged it confused, which means there's just not a lot of information forthcoming.

SIMON: On the flip side, he could simply grant bail, conclude the proceedings and everyone go home.

O'BRIEN: Is that likely, considering that the eyes of the world are watching this case?

SIMON: Well, they have already -- I think they have -- well, I don't know for sure, but it seems that they have completed their argument. If they have completed their argument, the case is ripe for a decision. He also could take it under advisement or continue the case. But I mean the first thing he's going to have to deal with is this purported threat because no one wants to take any chances of anything really horrible happening.

O'BRIEN: We're getting word that they're now back in the courtroom so it's unclear what that threat is. We'll obviously get Robyn to check in with us so we can get specific details of what's happening in that courtroom in addition to the bail hearing that is now under way and in its third day.

Also ahead this morning, there are rumors of a James Bond reunion at the Oscars to celebrate 50 years, but what about the bad guys? No one ever focuses on the bad guys. It's always Bond, Bond, Bond. Barbara Starr takes a look at the evil world straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back. A couple of top stories for you, it looks like Lance Armstrong is done talking. He is refusing to cooperate with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's investigation into the use of performance- enhancing drugs in cycling. USADA was hoping he'd provide names of coaches or doctors who helped him in his Tour de France winning teams illegally doped.

Check your cereal box this morning, Kellogg's is recalling three sizes of its Special K cereal with red berries because those boxes of cereal may contain glass fragments. It's the 11 ounce, 22 ounce and 37 ounce packages. They were sold at retailers across the country. There have been no reports of injuries, but toss it and you can contact the company for a replacement coupon.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning, Sunday night's Oscar ceremony is going to feature a star-studded celebration of Bond, James Bond. How did I do?

FRATES: Good.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Chris, thank you. Consider this, without the bad guys where would James Bond really be? Come on. It's the longest running franchise in movie history, but without the super villains and exquisitely evil schemes.

So now a museum exhibit is giving this rogue's gallery its due and CNN's Barbara Starr has details for us on that. Good morning, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Well, you know, as you say, Sunday night, the Oscar ceremony in Hollywood will pay tribute to 50 years of Bond. But here in Washington, we're celebrating 50 years of evil.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Bond, James Bond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The name's Bond, James Bond.

STARR (voice-over): From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, 007 has battled evil for half a century. As this year's Oscars celebrate 50 years of Bond --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you expect me to talk?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.

STARR: Here at the Washington, D.C., Spy Museum it's Bond's enemies that are in the spotlight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: James Bond, allow me to introduce myself. I am Ernst Stavro Blowfant.

STARR: Bond villains were a creative bunch. Here you can find the steel teeth of jaws used in "Moonraker."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His name's jaws, he kills people.

STARR: The tarantula in "Dr. No." The rope used to beat Bond in "Casino Royal," but it's more than just movie props. The exhibit "Exquisitely Evil" shows us how the villains changed along with the times. Museum Director Peter Earnest is a former CIA covert officer.

PETER EARNEST, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL SPY MUSEUM: When Fleming wrote the books and Young Productions produced the films they attempted to pick up on things producing anxiety in society, genocide or nuclear proliferation or terrorism or drugs.

STARR: Bond villains seemed to have one thing in common, causing mayhem.

(on camera): And that's what a lot of the Bond villains were about, manipulating the world but controlling it.

EARNEST: Yes, trying to cause the superpowers to clash.

STARR (voice-over): In the latest blockbuster "Sky Fall," the villain's weapon the computer, used in a cyber attack against British intelligence.

EARNEST: You'll recall in "Sky Fall" that the villain Silva, what he has, he has the names of all the MI-6 agents around the world and the pseudonyms they're using and the people they're employing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody needs a hobby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what's yours?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Resurrection.

STARR: Fifty years of Bond surviving evil, "Exquisitely Evil."

(END VIDEOTAPE) STARR: So what we've seen is it started back in the '60s, "Dr. No, Goldfinger, The Cold War Confrontation" and now we're up to Silva "Sky Fall" and the cyber attacks of the modern world.

But just think about the scope of this for one second. We looked it up and realized Daniel Craig was born six years after Sean Connery first starred in "Dr. No."

O'BRIEN: Says it all, doesn't it? My favorite villain was Jaws. He was awesome. Thanks, Barbara. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: Who was your favorite bond?

O'BRIEN: Sean Connery. He's the only one who did it for me.

Still ahead, we're following some breaking news in the Oscar Pistorius bail hearing, very closely right now the court is back in session. It was quickly adjourned when there was reported to be some kind of a threat outside the courthouse, the nature of that threat not clear at this point. We'll get you all the details from South Africa right at the top of the hour.

And then this woman is definitely not going to win mom of the year. Mom busted for having strippers, hiring strippers at her son's 16th birthday party. Now she faces jail time. We'll update you on that story straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT, breaking news in the Oscar Pistorius murder case, a threat clears the courtroom briefly. Now they're all back in session and back in that courtroom.

We're digging into what exactly happened, what the nature of that threat was. This is another bombshell dropped in this case. We've learned that the lead investigator himself is facing seven charges of attempted murder. We're going to bring you live outside that courthouse coming up.

Also a powerful winter storm a live look at Wichita, Kansas, 18 states are now getting blasted from the plains to the gulf coast. We'll have team coverage of this coming up.

ROMANS: Another developing story we're following, 35 people killed in a car blast outside the ruling party's headquarters in Syria, and then a horrifying moment caught on camera, new surveillance video shows the moment a deadly blast reduced a Kansas City restaurant to rubble.

O'BRIEN: At this hour, Oscar winning actress Octavia Spencer and talk about the Oscars coming up. It's Thursday, February 20th and "STARTING POINT" begins right now.