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Pistorius Bail Hearing: Day 4; Winter Blast Pounds 20 States; Interview with Allison Leota; Reaching Out to Republicans; Day Four of Pistorius Bail Hearing, Danica Patrick Plays It Safe

Aired February 22, 2013 - 06:30   ET


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

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: It's like a movie, right?

ROMANS: I know.

Welcome back to EARLY START this Friday morning. I'm Christine Romans, in for John Berman today.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Friday, February 22nd, 30 minutes past the hour now.

In one hour from now, we should find out if Oscar Pistorius will walk out of court today, or will he stay locked up as he awaits trial on murder charges. It is day four of a contentious bail hearing that has seemed more like an actual trial. Court is adjourned as we wait for the magistrate's ruling.

Allison Leotta is a former prosecutor and she is joining us to talk about this.

What I want to start with was that dramatic development yesterday, and that was with the lead investigator, Mr. Botha. He was accused of attempted murder. Seven charges of attempted murder and then he was removed from the case.

Will this have any bearing whatsoever on the decision that the magistrate makes on the bail for Pistorius?

ALLISON LEOTTA, AUTHOR, "LAW OF ATTRACTION", "DISCRETION": I don't think it will have that much bearing on what the judge decides. You know, he's going to be looking at whether Oscar Pistorius is a risk of flight and whether he'll present a danger to the community if he's left out of jail.

The thing with Hilton Botha is a huge distraction and obviously changes the tenor of the case, but it doesn't really change the equation in terms of whether Oscar Pistorius should be let out of jail now, pending trial.

SAMBOLIN: It has been four days of a lot of information that they have been diving into, trying to figure out this bail hearing. Is that unusual?

LEOTTA: A four-day bail hearing is fairly unusual. It has been like a trial within a trial.

SAMBOLIN: So let's talk about Botha's mistakes, perhaps, and how they could potentially affect the outcome when there is a trial, or maybe even the bail hearing, because what we do know is he's been criticized for some things.

He did not wear protective clothing at the crime scene. He overlooked the bullet that was in the toilet bowl. He said that he found two boxes of testosterone, but they're saying maybe it was an herbal supplement.

Will that affect the magistrate and the decision that he makes? What specifically is he looking at?

LEOTTA: That's right. I think actually those factors that you listed are going to be a lot more probative and a lot more important to what the judge is thinking in terms of is it likely that Pistorius deliberately shot this woman, as opposed to the thing that's sensational that Botha has these charges against him.

But the little facts that you just listed are much more on the judge's mind as he sits making a decision right now.

SAMBOLIN: Now, we know that the magistrate is making this decision and that there is no jury involved. But he does have the option to have two additional people weigh in. Do they weigh in now during this bail hearing? Or is that just when it goes to trial?

LEOTTA: I'm sorry. Can you say that again?

SAMBOLIN: A little bit different the court system out there. So, the magistrate is presiding over this and will preside over the trial as well. There's no jury. But he does have the option -- and I don't know if you know this or not, to use two additional people when it does go to trial. And I'm wondering if this is just a single decision by the magistrate now, or does anyone else weigh in on the decision?

LEOTTA: I don't know. I can't comment on the South African judge's ruling, whether he's going to consult with others.

SAMBOLIN: And do you think that all of the trauma surrounding this case will affect the magistrate at all? If it was a jury, I could see that affecting people individually, but do you think that because it is just a single judge in this case that it will -- he will react differently to the information coming from all angles?

LEOTTA: You know, I think he can't help but be affected by the fact that there is a spotlight on this case and so many people are watching it. But he's going to have to go back to whether he's a risk of flight. Whether Pistorius is going to be a danger to the community and make that decision.

Even at this point -- even if he is let go on bail, I think the prosecution has scored some points in that they have forced Pistorius to put this affidavit on the table. He is now locked into the story and even if he's let go on bail, the prosecutors now have something that most prosecutors don't have the luxury of having, which is knowing what the defendant's story is going to be as they prepare over the next few months for the trial.

SAMBOLIN: It's interesting that you mentioned that, because they had the option to put Pistorius on the stand, right? Or to submit the affidavit. Do you find it unusual that they chose to submit the affidavit?

LEOTTA: No, it's much more conservative and a smarter move for the defense to submit the affidavit, because they can craft it, the lawyers can help him decide exactly what to say, and how to say it, and you don't have the surprises that might come when you put the live witness on the stand. So, it was definitely the right move on their part.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Allison Leotta, former federal prosecutor and author of "Law of Attraction" -- thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

LEOTTA: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: And tonight at 10:00 Eastern, on "A.C. 360," a special, "Blade Runner: Murder or Mistake." That is right here on CNN.

ROMANS: Happening now, much of the Midwest shoveling and shivering after a fierce snowstorm blanketed the region. Several inches of snow covering parts of Kansas, Missouri, and Indiana, cancelling flights and causing a mess on highways.


MELISSA FREEMAN, DRIVER: We saw a car that had hit a tree and so I put on my blinkers and was going to pull off to the side of the road to make sure nobody was injured, and the gentleman in front of me, due to the ice, hit me from behind.


ROMANS: She's not the only one who had trouble. Take a look at this Kansas City bus, trying to negotiate a left turn on a snow-covered street and fishtail.

SAMBOLIN: You don't want to be on that bus.

ROMANS: I know. It took out a -- here it goes, it took a light pole. The system has millions of Americans in its paths, dealing with storm warnings, watches or advisories this morning.

Jennifer Delgado tracking it from the CNN weather center in Atlanta.

Good morning.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. You know, we are still seeing some delays out there for Chicago. Of course, that is due to that snow that's departing. And then, for Kansas City, you are, of course, still closed. No word yet on when it's going to reopen. I'm sure they're working really hard at it.

But this is what's left from the storm system yesterday. You see the snow is, and, of course, the rain, and also found a little bit of wintry mix, moving through parts of West Virginia, as well as into Ohio. Now, a lot of this is really just going to change over to all rain by about noon, so we're really not expecting much in the form of accumulation for snow or any ice accumulation now.

The rain is going to be piling up. We're talking flood warnings and watches in place across areas, including Louisiana, all the way up towards South Carolina. And some of the locations, we're going to see about three inches of rain today and then the rain keeps coming.

As we go through Tuesday, we could pick up potentially four to six inches of rainfall. Of course, anywhere in red, this is where we're going to see the heavier amounts. So, certainly you need to be careful if you're traveling on the roadways over the next five days.

Now, on wider view, a ridge of high pressure in place across parts of the Midwest. I know you get all of the snow there. The good news is the sun is going to come out. Out to the West, we're going to see rain, as well as snow in the Pacific Northwest, and, of course, where the rain is going to be. We'll see that potentially moving up towards the Northeast and bringing some snow to parts of New England on Saturday. Some of these locations, they could see a foot or more.

Here are the temperatures out there. A lot of 20s, 30s, 50s. You want a 70? Go to Houston.

ROMANS: All right. Jennifer Delgado, thanks for tracking this for us. A big -- there's a lot there.

SAMBOLIN: That's a mess.

Thirty-seven minutes past the hour.

Here's a look at some of the stories trending on

An autopsy done on the body found decomposing in a water tank on the roof of an L.A. hotel. But it could be weeks before police know how 21-year-old Elisa Lam or how her body wound up in that tank. Police are treating the death as suspicious.

One clue? Security video from the last day Lam was seen. It shows her in the hotel elevator, pushing buttons and peeking out the door as if she's hiding or maybe even looking for someone.

People at the hotel were using water from the tank nearly three weeks before the body was found. The water pressure changed and they went looking and that's what they found.

ROMANS: Also trending this morning: three Army paratroopers rescued from tree tops. High winds blew them off course during a training jump in Washington state. Take a look. Their chutes tangled in the trees. No one was hurt.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Be careful what you say to your kids. They may take you literally. Shamayne Rosario found out the hard way. This Brocktonr, Massachusetts, mom was trying to get her 10-year-old son Danny to go to bed Wednesday night when he threw a temper tantrum.


SHAMAYNE ROSARIO, SON CALLED 911: He got really mad at me and he's like, "You're mean, I'm going to call the cops." And I said, "Go ahead, call the cops."


SAMBOLIN: Yes, that's exactly what he did. When the 911 operator answered, the little guy hung up. So the dispatcher called back.



911 DISPATCHER: Hi, this is 911. Somebody just called from there.

ROSARIO: Yes, it was my son. My 10-year-old son.


SAMBOLIN: So the 911 operator sent an officer to the home, just to be sure that everyone there was OK. When he got there, Danny had no issue with going to bed. We are told he hid under the covers and was too scared to come out.

Ten years old. I'm surprised he picked up the phone and called 911.

ROMANS: When mom says go to bed, it's time to go to bed.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it is. And new details on the manhunt that captivated the nation. The tip from a former mentor that led cops to accused killer Christopher Dorner, that is coming up.

ROMANS: Plus, imagine blasting off on a round trip to Mars. The effort under way to make that happen.

SAMBOLIN: And CNN at the Oscar Pistorius courthouse, ready to give you live coverage with the judge's decision on bail. It is due within the hour.

We'll be right back.


ROMANS: Soledad O'Brien joins us with a look at what's ahead on "STARTING POINT." SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Right. In just about 45 minutes, we are expected to find out if, in fact, Oscar Pistorius will be granted bail or not in the shooting death of his girlfriend. Right now, the court is adjourned. We're going to bring you that decision when it comes down. We're expecting to see that at 7:30 Eastern Time.

Also, some cars stranded on major roadways, flights grounded. We'll take a look at where this major massive winter storm is headed and a look back at what -- thank you, Zoraida, you are making me cough. The two of us.

Also, the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, Sylvester James, their town was hit very, very hard. He's going to join us live to talk about that.

And start your engines. The Daytona 500 gets under way on Sunday. Big question, of course, is all about Danica Patrick. She makes history and she crosses the finishes or not?

We're going to talk to Kyle Petty this morning. He's a former NASCAR driver and owner. And he's going to join us to talk about Danica Patrick.

SAMBOLIN: She's already made history, right? So --

O'BRIEN: Yes, but, of course, the history she wants to make.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, winning, winning. We wish her well. Thank you, Soledad.

All right. Forty-four minutes past the hour.

President Obama reaching out to Republican congressional leaders with forced budget cuts looming. The White House confirms the president spoke to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Mitch McConnell by phone yesterday. But they're not saying much else. Eighty-five billion dollars in domestic and defense cuts begin kicking in March 1st, unless Democrats and Republicans strike a debt reduction deal.

ROMANS: When it comes to battling gun violence, Joe Biden says political survival must take a back seat to our children's survival. The vice president spoke at a conference on gun control in Danbury, Connecticut, yesterday, just 10 miles from the scene of the December Sandy Hook Elementary massacre.

And he warned lawmakers there's a moral price to play for inaction.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People say and you read, people write about the political risk and why they are unacceptable to take on. I say it's unacceptable not to take these on.

(APPLAUSE) It's simply unacceptable.


ROMANS: The vice president went on to say no law-abiding citizen should fear their constitutional rights will be jeopardized by tougher gun control laws.

SAMBOLIN: And we are hearing for the first time from the woman who trained Christopher Dorner to be an L.A. cop and gave the tip that led police to actually hunt for him.

Theresa Evans says she had a feeling Dorner killed a police captain's daughter and her fiance. She said it was a hunch and a long shot but something inside told her the killings were payback after Dorner was fired. Evans called in the tip and the manhunt began. Dorner eventually was killed after a shootout and a fire in Big Bear, California.

ROMANS: Interested in exploring Mars up close? You might get your chance, but not until 2018 at least. Next week, a nonprofit called the Inspiration Mars Foundation is expected to announce a round-trip flight to Mars. The leader of the group is the multimillionaire Dennis Tito, who spent $20 million to travel to the International Space Station in 2001.

SAMBOLIN: Question is, would you go?

Former President Jimmy Carter says he is a proud grandfather because his grandson, James Carter, had a role in uncovering that infamous videotape.

ROMANS: Where -- that tape, remember, where Mitt Romney privately told supporters that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government, believe they're victims, and will vote for Barack Obama no matter what? That tape? The former president talked about it last night in a CNN exclusive with Piers Morgan.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT: Do you think that was the pivotal moment --

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT: I think it was the pivotal moment.

MORGAN: -- in destroying Mitt Romney's chances?

CARTER: I believe it was. It was something that he could not deny and it stuck with him for the rest of the election. And I think it was a major factor, if not the major factor.


ROMANS: When President Obama was in Atlanta last week, he thanked James Carter personally. SAMBOLIN: And America will be watching as Danica Patrick makes NASCAR history this weekend. Today's bleacher report is live from Daytona coming up next.

ROMANS: And how would you like to live in a shipping container? The story behind these homes, ahead.

SAMBOLIN: And we're counting down to a major ruling in the Oscar Pistorius case, in a little over half an hour. Live coverage here on CNN.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. We're following breaking news for you right now. In less than an hour at 7:30 Eastern, we will know if a South African magistrate will allow Oscar Pistorius to go free on bail. We will bring that announcement to you live from the courtroom.

Pistorius is charged with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. His coach says if Pistorius gets bail, he expects him to resume training next week.

ROMANS: Boeing wants to get its 787 Dreamliners back in service as soon as possible. So today company officials will meet with the Federal Aviation Administration to go over plans to resolve problems with the batteries that are part of the Dreamliner's power system. Batteries on two of the 787 caught on fire in January which led to the grounding of all of those Dreamliners.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So one man's shipping container is another man's home? Believe it or not, 70 brand new apartments are being built in one Texas town -- look at this, folks -- primarily out of these recycled shipping containers.

David Monnich, the owner of -- and developer behind the project, hopes that the trend catches on.


DAVID MONNICH, OWNER AND DEVELOPER: We brought these two containers in and we bring them together, weld them together and seal them up. It literally took us a day and a half to put up the buildings that you see here.


SAMBOLIN: So because they're so cheap and so easy to produce, these homes can go up really fast. The developer hopes to expand this rapid housing business online.

ROMANS: That's interesting.

SAMBOLIN: But how will it -- you know, like bad weather and tornadoes, and heavy winds, and I don't know.

ROMANS: After two qualifying races the field for the Daytona 500 is set. The objective for Danica Patrick yesterday was simply -- she didn't want to crash.


SAMBOLIN: Joe Carter is in Daytona with more in today's "Bleacher Report."

You have the plummest (ph) assignment, I have to say.

JOE CARTER, BLEACHERREPORT.COM: I know, right? And so plush. It's going to be 85 and sunny here today, 80 tomorrow. So don't be too jealous.

Yes, so the plan was simple for Team Danica Patrick yesterday as you said, guys. Do not wreck. She wanted to go out there, compete, get a feel for the track. But as she said, she wanted to, quote, "drive cautiously aggressive." And she did. She started from the front, at the beginning of the duel races. Quickly went to script, and dropped all the way to the back, because by rule if she would have wrecked yesterday, she would have been forced to drive from the back of the -- back row and the start of the Daytona 500, rather than starting from the front row, which as you would imagine, it would diminish her being the first woman to win the pole in the history of NASCAR.

So the mission yesterday, finish in one piece and for Danica Patrick and her team, mission accomplished.


DANICA PATRICK, NASCAR DRIVER: For that last few laps, it's not a lot of fun to drop back like that. But it's the right thing to do. And it's more important to start on the pole for the Daytona 500 than it is to get those last few laps of chaos.


CARTER: That's driver Kevin Harvick showing his baby boy Keelan where daddy sits when he goes to work. Yesterday Harvick went out and did great work by winning the first duel race of the day, he's 2-2 here in Daytona. He also won an exhibition race on this track last weekend. The question is, can he make it 3-3 come Sunday? No driver has ever been able to.

Kurt Busch, he won the second duel race yesterday which means Busch and Harvick will start in the second row behind Danica Patrick and Jeff Gordon, who will start in the front row Sunday.

Well, the snow is gone in Arizona and so too are the top two golfers in the world. Plain and simple, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy just didn't get it done at the world's most unpredictable golf tournament. Tiger didn't have one bogey yesterday but poor putting down the stretch did him in. Rory McIlroy, the number one player in the world, struggled with his iron play on 15. McIlroy just blew it. He hit the ball all over the place.

You know, many wanted to see Tiger and Rory play in the finals in the desert, but instead both are out after just one round. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIGER WOODS, ELIMINATED IN THE FIRST ROUND OF WGC MATCH PLAY: I played well. You know, I really did. I hit a lot of good shots out there. As I said, you know, I'm -- I didn't make a bogey out there. Unfortunately, it's -- you know, it's the nature of the format, and, you know, I'm -- I'm not advancing.


CARTER: For all of your entertainment sports news, go to Tonight is the truck race, Saturday, of course, the nationwide race and then all of the eyes in the world will be on Danica Patrick in the field Sunday for the big race.

But it is going to be a beautiful weekend here at Daytona. Of course, last weekend weather was a big problem. We had a race on Monday but this weekend, 80 degrees and sunny.


CARTER: Actually I might have just jinxed us.


SAMBOLIN: Be sure to enjoy it. Thank you very much.

Fifty-four minutes past the hour. The Olympic icon, his model girlfriend, and the murder case that's captivating people around the world. And we are now just minutes away from a judge's ruling in the Oscar Pistorius case -- bail hearing.

ROMANS: You'll hear it first live on "STARTING POINT" at 7:30 Eastern. EARLY START back after this break.


ROMANS: That is it for EARLY START.

SAMBOLIN: Have a great weekend, everyone. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody. Your STARTING POINT this morning, 30 minutes away from the breaking news where accused killer Oscar Pistorius is going to find out if he'll go free on bail.

A judge has to decide if the Olympian will get bail in this sensational murder case. We're going to bring you that decision live when it happens at 7:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

Covering the story from every angle CNN legal analyst Jeff Toobin joins us. Sandra Neveling from South Africa's "Heat" magazine will be with us. And Ted Simon, a prominent criminal defense attorney who worked on the Amanda Knox case will join us as well.

Then our other developing story this morning. The monster winter storm wreaking havoc across 20 states now. The National Guard looking for stranded motorists who are stuck on some major highways, also wreaking havoc on the roads and at the airports. The blizzard is not done yet. We'll have live team coverage on where it's going next.

ROMANS: And the search is on this morning for the killer behind a wild Vegas chase and shootout. This morning we're learning more about the victims, one an up and coming wrapper, the other, a cab driver who just recently moved to the city for a job.

And Tim Tebow cancelled a controversial talk. What changed his mind?

O'BRIEN: It's Friday, February 22nd, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

All right, welcome back, everybody. We start with breaking news this morning, coming to you from South Africa. We're less than half an hour away from knowing whether the accused murderer, Oscar Pistorius, is going to be able to walk out of jail on bail.