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Will Pistorius Get Bail?; Winter Storm Standstill; Chavez Treated for "Respiratory Insufficiency"; 38-Year Sentence for Peterson; Shooting Leads to Fiery Crash on Vegas Strip; Google Stepping Up Laptop Game

Aired February 22, 2013 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now, the decision on bail for Oscar Pistorius will happen just hours from now. Will the Olympian accused of killing his model girlfriend be freed on bail?

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Shootout on the Las Vegas strip. Police this morning on the hunt for the gunmen who left three dead in a hail of bullets and a fiery crash in front of some really terrified tourists.

ROMANS: Going nowhere. National Guard troops are searching for stranded drivers in the Midwest. Snow, sleet, freezing rain could spell dangerous driving conditions for a massive portion of the country.


ROMANS: Look at that.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. It's Friday. I'm in for John Berman today.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Friday, February 22nd. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

So, let's get started.

Happening right now, we have just learned that in two and a half hours, at 7:30 Eastern, we will learn whether Oscar Pistorius will learn the decision in his bail hearing. This is day four of f the bail hearing, which has played really like a mini trial.

The Olympic "Blade Runner" is charged with premeditated murder. Pistorius claims he mistakenly shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, believing that she was an intruder.

CNN's Robyn Curnow has been at the courthouse in South Africa from the very beginning.

What can you tell us that's happening right now in the courtroom?

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When it's all starting to wrap up, I can confirm that we are expecting a decision by about 7:30 a.m. Eastern Time. So, stay tuned to that. We'll bring that to you live on CNN.

But in terms of what's happening now, the defense has been responding to the prosecution's final argument. Essentially, they're maintaining that Oscar Pistorius shouldn't be charged with murder, that it should be culpable homicide. That it's not a murder charge.

On the other hand, of course, the state arguing that his intention was to kill. They say even if he didn't know it was Reeva, but the fact was that he intended to shoot, to fire, to kill. On the other hand, again, the defense saying, listen, he shot blindly. That in itself is an indication that he did not intend to kill, that it was just a panic kind of reaction.

Either way, this has been such a dramatic case. Of course, we're waiting anxiously to hear which way the magistrate has decided to go on this issue.

SAMBOLIN: Robyn, another big issue was whether or not he was a flight risk. Have they talked about that?

CURNOW: Yes. Absolutely. There have been some sort of quite strange exchanges in the court over whether or not he's a flight risk, because, of course, that's one of the bail conditions. Can they release him on bail? And is there a concern that he's going to sort of leave the country, flee?

You know, the defense has been arguing -- well, this is a man who has prosthetic legs. He needs special medical treatment. He's also a very well-known famous athlete. Where is he going to hide? How is he essentially going to skulk out of the country?

But at the same time the prosecution says it's possible. Look at Julian Assange. He is a well-known person. He left.

So, it's that kind of debate that's going on, slightly potential arguments coming from both sides. But I think it all boils down to this is not about whether or not Oscar Pistorius is going to escape the country or whether he's a danger to society. This is about the state really, essentially, doing a shrewd legal trick by pushing for this premeditative murder charge, they forced the defense to show their cards.

He has to submit an affidavit on the stand. They put an affidavit out. His version is now on table, it gives the state's prosecution months and months and months now until a trial to prepare their case around his description of events that is already put on the table.

SAMBOLIN: And, Robyn, one other thing I want to talk about was the bombshell developments yesterday, former legal investigator now, Botha, being charged now with seven counts of attempted murder. I've been following all of your tweets as they're coming out of that courtroom, which has been fantastic, kind of a play by play, talking about how this investigation was handled that may have been botched in certain circumstances.

Has it been compromised? The investigation, has it been compromised in any way?

CURNOW: Well, I think it depends who you talk to. If you talk to Oscar Pistorius' lawyers, I think they are going to argue in that final trial that there were compromises to the investigation.

Just think about it. They managed to get this investigating officer to admit that he probably contaminated the scene by not wearing protective shoes. He admitted on the record that he found that there were no inconsistencies in Oscar Pistorius' version of events. And that, of course, goes against his very own prosecution's angle.

So, there are a number of really interesting statements made by this prosecutor that I'm sure the defense team is going to pick on to try to pick apart the state's case. In terms of the state, they now have one of South Africa's top detectives on this. And, you know, just how that impacts the efficiency and the success of the case, you know, and how this is all processed, of course, that might also impact Oscar Pistorius. It appears someone far more -- I don't know, apt at doing his detective work than the previous incumbent.

So, it's going to be interesting how it plays out in court. But only at a trial, which is possibly eight months away, maybe more.

SAMBOLIN: All right. I just want to confirm again that we are expecting a decision from the magistrate on the bail for Pistorius at 7:30 Eastern Time. Is that correct? Around.

CURNOW: Yes. That's in about -- yes, 2 1/2 hours time.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Robyn Curnow, thank you very much. We'll check back in with you.

And at the bottom of the hour, we'll talk with Allison Leotta, author and former federal prosecutor about the Pistorius murder case.

ROMANS: The other big story we're following for you this Friday morning. A lot of folks buried ion more than a foot snow. A massive winter storm spanning 20 states, bringing everything to a halt on streets, highways and, of course, airports. Passengers on this United Airlines flight had to wait an hour and a half on the tarmac at Wichita airport as crews tried to dig them out.

And watch this, the ice and now proves too much for this downtown bus. The driver losing control of the bus and slamming, ouch, right into the light pole.

We've got this extreme weather for you.

Erin McPike is in Wichita and our Jennifer Delgado is in the CNN weather center in Atlanta.

Erin, you've been -- you've been there when the snow first started to fall and when it stopped and now comes the cleanup.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, and right now, today, it's a lot colder here this morning than it was yesterday. It's about 14 degrees. So, we hope our fingers don't freeze off.

But if you can see behind me, they're already starting to dig out. So, we've got that. Now, the National Guard is patrolling for stranded motorists throughout the state. Wichita, where we are now, got a near record snowfall, about 14.2 inches. Their record is 15.2 inches.

So, most of the states, schools are still closed today. Although the airports are now open, starting to dig out there, too.

But believe it or not, what they're calling the blizzard of Oz here in Kansas is a welcomed development for a lot of residents. I spoke to one yesterday, Kristen Woodburn. Here she is.


KRISTEN WOODBURN, WICHITA RESIDENT: It snows so infrequently here now. We've been in a really bad drought for several years. Really, really hot temperatures in the summer and just no moisture. So, we're thrilled to see snow, ice, whatever moisture we can get.


MCPIKE: This is the third straight year of drought in Kansas. And the Department of Agriculture expects that it's going to continue into April. Officials say that the state needs between two and seven inches of rain to ease the drought. But it takes about 10 inches of snow to equal about one inch of rain.

An official told me yesterday that it's bringing some welcomed moisture but not yet enough. But, of course, some residents are still just happy to see snow. We talked to some yesterday who were sledding. Here is one of them.


BRIAN NELSON, WICHITA RESIDENT: We don't get a lot of snow. Most of the time it's ice and rain and stuff like that. So, it's -- everybody forgets about it and how much fun it is.

MCPIKE: What do you think of the snow?



AIDIN NELSON: Because it's so deep and you get to sled and this is our first time sledding in the whole entire year.


MCPIKE: Still very icy here. I'm sure we'll see a lot more of that today, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Erin McPike in Wichita, thanks.

SAMBOLIN: So this storm is enormous. Millions of Americans are dealing with storm warnings, watches or advisories this morning.

So, let's get to Jennifer Delgado now at the storm center in Atlanta.

So, where is it headed next?

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, right now, it is in parts of the Upper Midwest, as well as into the Ohio Valley. And it's weakened a lot since yesterday. But look at all the snow it dumped in these locations, about 18 inches of snowfall. That is Nashville, Kansas, not Nashville, Tennessee. And in Kansas City, they picked up 9.2 inches of snowfall.

So, you can still see it for areas like Nebraska, as well in Minnesota and into Wisconsin. Chicago, you've picked up about 0.81 inches of snowfall. That's welcomed but still not a lot. We're looking at a wintry mix right now still stemming from this last storm system. It's bringing some of that through to West Virginia, as well as Ohio.

But down towards the South, our other story is going to be flooding. We're going to talk more about that flooding over the next couple of days. You see these numbers up towards areas like in Minnesota, three inches of snow.

Well, down toward regions like Tennessee, as well as even into Georgia, we're going to see potentially three to six inches of rainfall. You see a line of storms right now moving through and this is going to continue to pile up. And this means we're going to be dealing with a flood threat over the next couple of days.

There's also a chance for some winter weather to move through parts of the Northeast. It looks like some new watches and advisories were just issued. But it looks like in some locations, we could pick up about six inches of snowfall. Some locations may be even a foot.

We'll talk more about that next hour.

SAMBOLIN: I suspect we're going to be talking about travel problems as well.


SAMBOLIN: Jennifer Delgado, thank you. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. New developments this morning with the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The government spokesman says Chavez is being treated for what's being called a respiratory insufficiency. The spokesman said the condition is a result of his recent cancer surgery in Cuba.

Chavez returned to Venezuela on Monday after spending two months in Cuba. The type of cancer he's battling has not been revealed.

SAMBOLIN: Attorneys for former Illinois police officer, Drew Peterson, say they will appeal his 38-year prison sentence. A judge handed down the punishment to Peterson yesterday for his conviction in the 2004 murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. The defense argued that Savio's death was an accident, that she fell in her bathtub, hit her head and drowned.


JAMES GLASGOW, PROSECUTOR: I don't think there's anybody that has any doubt in this universe that we proved beyond all doubt that Kathleen Savio was murdered. Accident is off the table.


SAMBOLIN: Savio's death was initially ruled an accident. But the case was reopened in 2008 after the disappearance of Peterson's fourth wife, Stacey, who is still missing.

Yesterday, Peterson screamed out in court, "I did not kill Kathleen" right before he was sentenced. Savio's sister shouted right back, "Yes, you did. You liar."

ROMANS: A suspect identified this morning in the killing of American tourist, Sarai Sierra in Turkey. Turkish police say they're searching for a man known only as Ziya T. He may be in the southern province of Hatay where some of his family members live.

The body of Sierra, a New York mom who's on solo vacation, was found earlier this month near ancient stone walls in Istanbul.

SAMBOLIN: Smithfield Packing Company is recalling 38,000 pounds of pork sausage because plastic bits have been found in the meat. The recalled products include one-pound packages of Gwaltney, I think it is, G-W-A-L-T-N-E-Y. It's mild pork sausage, with a use by date of March 12th. They were sold in 11 states and Washington, D.C.

Are you familiar with that brand?

ROMANS: I am not, but I'm certainly going to check.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, check your brand at home. Yes.

So, tourist hub turned into a violent crime scene. The latest on the wild gun battle and car crash on the Vegas Strip and tourists were looking on as all of that was happening.

ROMANS: Plus, the search for a Navy SEAL, a Navy SEAL missing in the Pacific. We've got the latest on that when we come back.


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START.

New this morning, police are on the hunt for a gunman who killed three people in a dramatic shootout that ended with a fiery involving a taxi and Maserati right on the Las Vegas Strip. This happened yesterday, close to the Flamingo Resort.

Among the dead a rapper known as Kenny Clutch. Maseratis are featured prominently in some of his lyrics, Facebook pictures and YouTube music videos. Miguel Marquez explains what police say happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Horrific nature, the fiery end to this horrible accident.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A shocking shoot-out right on the Vegas Strip, in a city not easily shocked.

CHRISTINE GERSTENBERGER, TOURIST: You could be in Vegas, like all the lights and, you know, whole thing. But like -- I mean, I don't believe it still that this is actually happening here.

MARQUEZ: Police say it started at 4:30 a.m. Someone in a black Range Rover with dealer plates fired into this Maserati, killing the driving, causing it to go out of control. The Maserati continued through an intersection and then smashed into this car. Hard to tell, but that is a taxicab. It burst into flames. The driver and passenger trapped inside died.

SGT. JOHN SHEAHAN, LAS VEGAS METRO POLICE: This is -- investigating the engineering and mechanicals of that vehicle to determine why it exploded and why it started on fire immediately.

MARQUEZ: Still on loose, the black Range Rover with dealer plates, a common vehicle here. Police warning citizens the occupants are armed and dangerous.

SHERIFF DOUG GILLESPIE, CLARK COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: What happened on the Strip today will not be tolerated. These individuals will be found. They will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

MARQUEZ (on camera): Authorities say that taxi exploded because of the sheer force of that Maserati hitting it. They also say there's now a multi-state dragnet for that black Range Rover.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Las Vegas.


SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Miguel.

And the taxi driver involved in the crash is now identified, as 62- year-old Michael Boldon. His brother fighting back tears, says whoever did this needs to pay.


TEHRAN BOLDON, VICTIM'S BROTHER: My life mission would be to see them punished and brought to justice for the thing that they did. They don't know who they touched.


SAMBOLIN: Boldon moved to Las Vegas about a year ago to find work. ROMANS: Breaking news from South Africa. We now know we'll get a decision on bail for Oscar Pistorius just over two hours from now, 7:30 Eastern Time we're expecting the bail decision.

Pistorius bail hearing is now in its fourth day. He is charged with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend. There she is, Reeva Steenkamp. She was fatally shot on Valentine's Day. The defense claims Pistorius mistook her for an intruder.

SAMBOLIN: And happening now: a fierce winter impacting 20 states, 60 million people, blanketing the Plains States. Record snowfall has covered parts of Kansas, cancelling flights, causing a mess on the highways. The Kansas City bus trying to negotiate a left turn. Look at that. Ooh! It fishtailed and took out that light pole.

Wichita now digging out from 14.2 inches of snow.

ROMANS: Rescue crews in Hawaii are trying to find a 34-year-old Navy SEAL diver this morning. He got separated from his unit Tuesday during open water training exercise off Oahu. Searchers have been using computer models to figure out where the currents might have taken him.

SAMBOLIN: Former First Lady Laura Bush has asked a group that supports same-sex marriage to remove her image from a television spot supporting rights for gay couples. This is a little part of the ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None of us would want to be told we can't marry the person we love. That's why a growing majority of Americans believe it's time to allow marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

LAURA BASH, FORMER FIRST LADY: When couples are committed, they ought to have, I think, the same sort of rights that everyone has.


SAMBOLIN: So Mrs. Bush made those comments in a CNN interview in 2010, but a spokeswoman says the former first lady did not approve her inclusion in that particular ad. The Respect for Marriage Coalition has agreed to change the spot.

ROMANS: Danica Patrick is set to make history on Sunday when she starts from the pole position in the Daytona 500. No woman has accomplished that feat in the 54-year history of NASCAR's signature event. But it's no guarantee of victory, of course. In fact, odds makers think half the field of 42 drivers has a better chance to win than she does.

One hour from now, on EARLY START, we're going to be joined by a woman who knows what it's like to race in the Daytona 500. Former NASCAR driver Shawna Robinson will be here.

SAMBOLIN: Nobody in that pole position has won since 2000. So I say it's about time, Danica. (LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: All right. Google getting into the lap top business. We are minding your business. That's coming up next.


ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. Minding your business this morning.

Stock market is looking to rebound from the largest two-day loss so far this year. Futures are pointing higher at the moment. Worries about consumers, plus some disappointing economic data on jobless claims in housing spooked investors yesterday. So, chances of hitting an all-time high will have to wait until next week. The Dow is 283 points away from that.

All right. In tech news, tablets and smartphones are had and PC maker Hewlett-Packard is still cold. Sales fell in almost every HP business unit last year and the results beat Wall Street's super low expectations. So, CEO Meg Whitman says Hp's turn around will not be linear, and she says there are no plans to break up this company.

Rival Dell is also struggling and its founder, Michael Dell, is planning to take that company private, a move he hopes will help deal with an extremely competitive market.

And Google is stepping up its laptop game. The company unveiled the Chromebook Pixel yesterday.

Here's what it features -- touch screen technology, enhanced cloud computing and built-in cellular network. Wi-Fi only models start at 1,300 bucks. And LTE version will cost you $1,450. That's right. The Pixel is available for purchase now.

This is a big step for Google. Its previous Chromebook goes for about $250. This move expands Google's hardware business taking aim at Apple and Microsoft.

So, watching markets overall, though, today. I mean, we're looking for a bigger rebound in futures but we had a bad couple of days in stocks this week. So, we'll see if it can bounce and --

SAMBOLIN: Bounce back.

All right. Thank you.

Twenty-five minutes past the hour. No rest for the snow weary today. It's a huge storm. It's burying much of the Midwest. We're going to have a lot more coming up.

And, folks, if you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us any time on your desktop, even on your mobile phone. Just go to

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: Breaking news. A ruling now just a couple of hours away. CNN crews right now at the courthouse. Will a judge free Olympic icon and accused murder Oscar Pistorius on bail?

SAMBOLIN: And a winter storm still pummeling a huge swath of country this morning. Record snow in parts of the Midwest. National Guard troops sent to look for all the stranded cars.

ROMANS: A hair-raising rescue for three Army paratroopers. They jumped from a plane only to get hung up in some towering trees.


ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY -- if you thought you had a tough day on the job, right?

I'm Christine Romans, in for John Berman this morning.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is 29 minutes past the hour.

We have breaking news. In just two hours, we will hear the decision from a South African judge whether accused murderer Oscar Pistorius will be granted bail. The ruling is expected to come down at 7:30 Eastern this morning.

The prosecution and defense have been making final arguments in the fourth day of Pistorius' bail hearing. He is charged with premeditated murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Steenkamp.