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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Pistorius Bail Hearing: Day 4; Record Snowfall In Kansas; Chavez Treated For "Respiratory Insufficiency"; Search For Gunman; "Lose A Brother, It's Life Changing"; 38-Year Sentence For Peterson; Police ID Alleged Killer; Pork Sausage Recall; Danica Patrick Takes The Pole; Coffee Brands Drop Prices

Aired February 22, 2013 - 06:00   ET

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


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- my colleague, a CNN producer inside the court, all anxiously awaiting this announcement by the magistrate. We understand that he made an announcement -- he understood the severity of this decision he was making, whether he would be sending Oscar back into those holding cells or whether he'd be sending him home. So you know, how has this case played out over the past four days?

It's been very interesting. Twists and turns on all levels, highly emotional, quite traumatic for both families and also then in the middle of that dramatic announcement coming that the lead investigator was himself facing seven charges of attempted murder.

Sort of an astounding bombshell that dropped yesterday and in terms of police commissioner and the way the South African authorities are handling this, they say one cop's testimony, one cop's decision to shoot at a minibus full of taxis has no bearing on this case. So this is what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whether he performed excellently or not, a court going to tell us tomorrow. A lot of issues you are raising when there was contamination, we answer those questions in court. Botha is a very good investigator and Botha did his job, and he's got 22 years of experience, and I think he presented the case of the police well in court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: OK, well, a new investigator has been appointed to this case. He is one of South Africa's top detectives. Now throughout this case, I've taken copious amounts of notes. You can see my notebook here, it was full up.

And I was sort of browsing through it a bit earlier, trying to get a sense for myself of what I thought were the main points. I think that two lines that I've made note to is over the past few days, Oscar Pistorius and his statements saying, I didn't intend to kill my girlfriend.

But the state's prosecutor coming out saying we have a woman who in the early hours of the morning locked herself in the toilet. Why? Why did she die? What was the motive? What happened early on Valentine's Day morning? All these questions, they won't be answered just yet. But for now, we wait and hear if Oscar Pistorius is going to be freed on bail in the next hour.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: I think it's really interesting that you chose that particular statement. I did not intend to kill my girlfriend. I suspect that going to play out more and more. Robyn Curnow live for us, thank you.

At the bottom of the hour, we'll talk with Alison Lioda, a former federal prosecutor about the Pistorius murder case.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The other big story we're following this morning, digging out from more than a foot of snow, a massive winter storm spanning 20 states, bringing everything to a halt on streets, in highways and in airports. Passengers on this United Airlines flight had to wait, well, an hour and a half on the tarmac at Wichita Airport as crews tried to dig them out.

And watch this, in Kansas City, the ice and snow proved to be too much for this downtown bus. The driver losing control and skidding into a light pole. We have team coverage of this extreme weather.

Jennifer Delgado standing by with the forecast. Let's start with Erin McPike, she is live in Wichita, Kansas, this morning. Good morning, Erin.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. It is freezing here this morning. It's about 14 degrees, a lot colder than yesterday. Now, most schools in Kansas and Missouri are still closed this morning. Hundreds of flights were canceled throughout the region yesterday.

Now airports are trying to reopen. Again, the St. Louis Airport has already canceled dozens of flights this morning. So they are struggling a little bit there. Where we are here in Wichita, there are 14.2 inches of snow on the ground.

It's the second largest snowfall in Wichita's recorded history. But believe it or not what they are calling the "Blizzard of Oz" is a welcome development for many residents. I talked to one yesterday, Kristen Woodburn, here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTEN WOODBURN, WICHITA RESIDENT: It snows so infrequently, we have been in a 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCPIKE: This is the third straight year of drought here in Kansas and the Department of Agriculture expects that drought to continue into April. Officials say the state needs between 2 inches and 7 inches of rainfall to ease that drought.

So they say that, you know, the snow is a welcome development because 10 inches or so equals an inch of rainfall, but they still need some more. But of course, plenty of Kansas residents are just happy to see snow. I talked to a couple yesterday. Here is Brian Nelson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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, WICHITA RESIDENT: I love it.

MCPIKE: Why?

AIDIN NELSON: It's so beautiful and you get to sled. This is our first time sledding the whole entire year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCPIKE: Now it's still very icy, so people need to be warned to be careful when driving around the state. I think we'll see a lot more sledding today -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, great. A little bit of moisture they need, of course, because they had the drought. Thanks so much, Erin.

SAMBOLIN: So this system is enormous. Millions of Americans are dealing with storm warnings, watches, or advisories this morning. Let's get to Jennifer Delgado, who is tracking the system for us. Good morning.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. You know, this is what is left of that big storm system that brought almost 18 inches of snowfall through parts of Kansas and you can see the snow in the northern part, affecting parts of Minnesota, Chicago as well as down towards the south.

They are dealing with rain, a wintry mix coming down through parts of West Virginia and Ohio. A lot of the wintry stuff is going to be coming to an end later on this morning when temperatures warm up, but we're still talking about some of these locations like Chicago, potentially getting 3.5 inches of snowfall.

They desperately need it. They have also been in a drought and hoping for some snow. Now, down towards the southern part of the U.S., it's a different story there. Rain and a lot of rain, I'm telling you, it was thundering all night long, and we're dealing with a lot of lightning in some parts.

This is going to be a big mess in the south because we're expecting in some of these locations, anywhere between 4 inches and 6 inches of rainfall. Flood warnings and watches, they are already up and we're to be looking at areas flooding and this is going to last all the way through Tuesday.

Here's the wider view, ridge of high pressure building into parts of the U.S. in the central region, where all that snow came down. Temperatures are still going to be running about 10 to 15 degrees below average, sunny in the southwest.

You can see the highs for today, 28 for high in Kansas City, 30s in the northeast. Speaking of the northeast, you are going to see snow working into parts like New Hampshire as well as in the Maine and into Massachusetts. We could see a foot or more in some of those higher elevations that starts on Saturday.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Jennifer Delgado, thank you.

ROMANS: New developments this morning about the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. A government spokesman says Chavez is being treated for what is 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 is battling has not been revealed.

SAMBOLIN: Police this morning are on the hunt for a gunman who killed three people in a dramatic shootout that ended with a fiery crash involving a taxi and a Maserati right on the Las Vegas strip. This all happened yesterday close to the Flamingo Resort.

Among the dead, the taxi driver, his passenger and a rapper known as Kenny clutch. Maseratis are featured permanently in some of the rapper's lyrics, Facebook pictures and YouTube music videos.

The taxi driver identified as 62-year-old Michael Boldon, his brother, fighting back tears, says whoever did this needs to pay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Boldon had moved to Las Vegas about a year ago to find work.

ROMANS: Drew Peterson's defense team vowing to appeal the 38-year prison sentence he was just handed. That's the time the former Illinois cop faces for the 2004 murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. The defense says Savio's death was an accident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: That was initially ruled an accident, but the case was reopened in 2008 after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared. Stacy Peterson is still missing. Yesterday, Peterson screamed out in court I did not kill Kathleen right before his sister. Savio's sister shouted right back, yes, you did, you liar.

SAMBOLIN: A suspect identified this morning in the killing of American tourist Sarai Sierra in Turkey. Turkish police say they are searching for a man identified only as "Ziya T." He may be in the southern province of Hatai where some of his family members live. The body of Sierra, a New York mother on a solo vacation was found earlier this month near Ancient Stonewalls in Istanbul.

ROMANS: Smithfield Packing Company is recalling 38,000 pounds of pork sausage because of plastic bit that have been found in the meat. The recalled products include one-pound packages of Gwaltney mild pork sausage rolls with a use by date of March 12th. They were sold in 11 states and Washington, D.C.

SAMBOLIN: And we're on the cusp of NASCAR history. Danica Patrick poised to do something no other woman has done on the track at Daytona this weekend. We'll talk to someone who might know what that feels like, coming up.

ROMANS: And the real-life story that inspired the Oscar nominated movie "Argo." Former President Carter setting the record straight for the history books in a CNN exclusive.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Gentlemen, and ladies, start your engines. History will be made Sunday at the Daytona 500 when Danica Patrick becomes the first woman to start at the head of the pack in the pole position.

Former NASCAR driver, Shawna Robinson, is one of the few people to know exactly what that feels like. She won the pole at a nationwide race in 1994 in Atlanta. I got to tell you we are super excited to have you with us. Thank you very much.

So if you have raced in the Daytona 500, what does this mean for Danica Patrick having this pole position?

SHAWNA ROBINSON, FORMER NASCAR DRIVER: It is definitely history in the making. Just the fact that it took -- Janet Guthrie was the first woman to run in the Daytona 500. It took 22 years later when I ran in the Daytona 500 and then 11 more for Danica to run in the Daytona 500. But no one has ever had the pole position, fastest qualifier, Daytona 500 is the Super Bowl and she is the quarterback.

SAMBOLIN: But they say that this won't really give her an edge though, right? Because there hasn't been a pole winner that actually won since 2000, so does this really give her an advantage?

ROBINSON: Not really. Daytona is a track where you have to have partners, drafting partners and your car aerodynamics, just making the right moves at the right time. But, I mean, still, what she's doing for women and little girls that have dreams and women in motorsports, and women in any power position, she's -- it's a big deal to be up front and a lot of pressure also.

SAMBOLIN: So let's talk about her achievements because this woman gets a lot of criticism. She's a beautiful woman who has capitalized on her beauty, gotten a lot of endorsements, but a lot of people say she doesn't deserve the attention because she hadn't won anything of any acclaim.

ROBINSON: I just -- the timing when I drove, I tried to get people to think out of box and why do I also have to be in a uniform with the helmet under my arm that particular pose. You know, why can't be bring in a little more of the femininity into me. I knew I was a driver, I never questioned that I was driver. I don't think Danica does either. It's just she -- the time and year are much more aware of thinking outside the box and taking your appeal and selling it. You are selling a product. But she does perform on the racetrack.

She's really still fairly new in NASCAR so people expect when you are a rarity for things to just happen overnight and she's been racing for many, many years. She has the talent. And now, she's got incredible support behind her, and always has really since going into NASCAR. But open wheeled racing she was very competitive.

And I think she's definitely the one in the place that can -- that can win a NASCAR race. And a sprint cup race. I think she has the ability the next few years.

SAMBOLIN: Shawna, you are a beautiful woman. So, if you had to do it over, would you capitalize on that the way that she has?

ROBINSON: Oh, I think -- there's no question I would. If I had -- Danica is sponsored with Go Daddy and very much, they take advantage of marking her in a tasteful way, in the way that now it's not that unusual to do. In my era, you -- you couldn't really walk around the track with a V-neck shirt on and you had to wear certain golf shirt, usually that was somebody else's that you had to kind of make fit.

So I would definitely do that. I think that as long as it's done in a tasteful way which I think that's what they do, I would absolutely say. Just the athletes -- look at all the female athletes that are gorgeous, beautiful women, but they are still athletes, and that's part of who we are.

SAMBOLIN: One last final question. She is racing against her boyfriend. She gets a lot of attention about that as well. What do you make of that? How do you -- how do you think that's going to play out?

ROBINSON: Well, I think that that's something will be brought up, because they put themselves in that position, but it's -- it's funny. I guess I look at it like -- does anybody ever ask Tony Stewart who is dating? Like we don't really care.

But it does always come up to where your personal life and emotional state is always brought to the table. And I think that is something to where she's got her head on right and knows mentally she has to keep her head on right.

I think -- I'm sure she cannot wait to get the helmet on and go racing.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate that.

That boyfriend's name is Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 25 years old. And you are right, because every time he's in that interview, the first thing they ask him about is Danica Patrick. Thank you so much. We appreciate your time this morning.

ROBINSON: Right. Thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right. Seventeen minutes after the hour.

Let's get you up-to-date, some breaking news for you. After four days, a decision on bail in the Oscar Pistorius murder case expected to be announced in just over an hour from now. The judge will announce his ruling 7:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Court is now adjourned until that time.

Pistorius is charged with premeditated first degree murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

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 an open water training exercise off of Oahu. Searchers have been using computer models to figure out where the current might have taken him.

Former First Lady Laura Bush not too pleased she is part of a TV campaign supporting marriage rights for same-sex couples. So, she's asked the group behind the ad to remove her image. This is a portion of the ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Mrs. Bush made those comments in a CNN interview in 2010, but a spokeswoman says the first lady did not approve her inclusion in that particular ad.

The Respect for Marriage Coalition has agreed to remove her from the spot.

SAMBOLIN: The road to gold. The Oscars are this Sunday, and the big buzz surround I think your favorite movie now, "Argo." It is a movie about a daring rescue during the Iranian hostage rescue in 1979. It stars Ben Affleck.

President Jimmy Carter was in the White House at the time. In a CNN exclusive, he told our Piers Morgan what he thought about the film's accuracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I will say it was that 90 percent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian, and the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA. And with that exception, the movie is very good. But Ben Affleck's character in the film was only -- he was only in Tehran a day and a half, and the main hero in my opinion was Ken Taylor, who was a Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: President Carter did call "Argo" a great drama and says it deserves the Oscar for best film.

ROMANS: I really enjoyed. I really enjoyed. I now have seven more films to watch on Sunday.

Soledad is going to be in Los Angeles for a special morning-after Oscar edition of "STARTING POINT" beginning, Monday, 7:00 a.m. Eastern.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

And don't forget CNN's red carpet Oscar special, "The Road to Gold." That is at Sunday night, beginning at 6:00 Eastern Time, right here on CNN.

ROMANS: You could soon get a break on your morning cup of coffee. Find out what's brewing there.

SAMBOLIN: That's good news.

ROMANS: I know the price is not going up. I can't believe it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stock market is looking to rebound from a pretty bad couple of days, the largest two-day slide so far this year. Futures are pointing higher right now. That slide was because of worries about consumers, plus some disappointing economic data on jobless claims and housing spooked investors yesterday. So, the chances of hitting an all-time high have to wait until next week at least. The Dow is still 283 points away from that mark.

New this morning: gas prices up again. That's a hike of almost 49 cents in the last 36 days. That's a nearly 15 percent rise in a very short amount of time. The national average for a gallon of regular now, $3.78, according to AAA. There is concern by some analysts that high gas prices, along with higher payroll taxes and they're pinching consumers wallets just as the economy was gaining some momentum.

OK. So where can you get a break? Maybe with your cup of coffee. Kraft Foods is reportedly cutting the price of its Maxwell House coffee. Rival brand Folgers did the same earlier in the week. The brands usually matched their price changes. So, don't expect a cheaper cup at your favorite shop though.

Kraft is worried about U.S. consumers starting to cut back as they deal with a higher payroll taxes and rising gas prices and delayed tax refund. Walmart also expressed concerns in is earnings report Thursday.

The one thing you need to know about your money today, one week. That's how long Congress has to avoid massive forced spending cuts, one week. Those cuts to defense and many government programs hit March 1st. Check out CNN Money for full coverage of what we're expecting from the so-called sequester, which is big spending cuts.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-five minutes past the hour.

Anticipation building right now with word that a huge ruling in the Oscar Pistorius case is coming down within the hour. Will he get bail? We're going to dig into that, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Breaking news. The ruling due in one hour. CNN crews right now at the courthouse. Will a judge free Olympic icon and accused murderer Oscar Pistorius on bail? You're going to hear that ruling live from court.

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

ROMANS: A hair raising rescue for three Army paratroopers.