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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Bail Hearing for Oscar Pistorius to Conclude; Severe Winter Storms hit U.S. Midwest

Aired February 22, 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: Welcome back everybody. We start with breaking news this morning coming to you from South Africa. We're less than a half an hour away of knowing whether accused murderer Oscar Pistorius is going to be able to walk out of jail on bail. That's when a judge is expected to make a ruling.

Now we're going to have an opportunity to bring that ruling to you live from the courthouse when it happens. Pistorius is accused of premeditated murder of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. After the prosecution and the defense rested their cases this morning in the fourth day of the Pistorius bail hearing court was adjourned until the judge's decision, which we are awaiting, which is now 29 minutes away. CNN's Robyn Curnow is live for us in Pretoria. Walk though what lies ahead this morning. Robyn, good morning.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. Well, it's half an hour to go until we hear that judgment from the magistrate on whether or not Oscar Pistorius spends tonight and the next few months, perhaps the rest of this year behind bars or whether he walks free for now and goes home. And, of course, the journalists standing outside here, the Pretoria magistrate's court, all waiting anxiously. Also we know inside that court, his family, he has a large family, they have been incredibly supportive. They have literally standing behind him, sitting behind him, often putting their hand on his shoulder, and they are all pretty anxious.

And we can see also Oscar Pistorius' demeanor, is he drawn, he hasn't slept well. And this is a man who I think is slowly coming to terms with the realization that he's facing a formidable battle ahead to stay out of jail.

O'BRIEN: Robyn Curnow for us this morning, thank you for the update. We will continue to follow the story.

Last night, a close friend of Oscar's told CNN's Piers Morgan that he never saw a dark side of Pistorius. Piers asked him about an incident at a restaurant when a gun that Oscar Pistorius was carrying accidentally went off. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN LERENA, CLOSE FRIEND TO OSCAR PISTORIUS: That was a major mistake, what happened, from Oscar party. It wasn't intentional, and that could have been a very bad event and something that could have been very tragic. We were all very fortunate that day. And after that event, Oscar was very apologetic. That's how dangerous guns can be, by no means, do I think he was negligent with the gun. It was pure accident as to what happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Kevin Lerena said the last time he saw Oscar and Reeva together, back in January, they appeared to be very much in love.

Let's bring in Jeff Toobin, CNN's legal analyst. Interesting, did that help Oscar Pistorius or hurt him to have a friend talk about a past incident with guns? Or is it irrelevant?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's largely irrelevant. He has so many bigger problems than an incident that happened quite some time ago. He killed this woman. That's indisputable. That's one fact that dominates this proceeding and dominates his legal future. That's what he has got to deal with, not some incident in the past.

O'BRIEN: Walk through what's new today. First we know obviously in 27 minutes, there will be the ruling on the bail hearing. In fact, the judge will reveal the case first it will probably take 10 to 15 minutes to walk through the entire case over the last couple of days, and then he'll give his ruling on bail yes, bail no.

Also, the question is Oscar Pistorius a flight risk. He clearly has disability. Famous, almost impossible for him to get out of the country and the prosecution countering, in fact, other famous people able to get out pretty easily and finally the defense talking about culpable homicide. And I thought there was an interesting back and forth about intention. Didn't he intend to kill? He intended to kill a burglar. What kind of impact does that have on what they are talking about?

TOOBIN: It's a big impact. In the United States we would refer to that between the difference between second degree murder, premeditated intentional murder, and something like manslaughter. In South Africa it's true there are lesser penalties if it is not premeditated murder.

So this is an intent case. I think the facts -- the important fact we know is that Pistorius killed Reeva. That's not disputed. He's admitted it.

O'BRIEN: It's all about, who did he think she was?

TOOBIN: Exactly. That's what the whole trial will be fought over.

O'BRIEN: Is the charge, as the defense contends whether or not he intended to kill Reeva, right? The back and forth they are having, there was an intent to kill a person in the bathroom. Was it an accidental intent in terms of he didn't know it was Reeva, or was it still intent?

TOOBIN: Well, the difference is whether you intended -- if he intended to kill Reeva, it's a very different crime than if he intended to kill a burglar. That is what this trial will be fought about. He is very likely to have some criminal culpability even if he wins that argument.

O'BRIEN: Meaning what? He could face jail time?

TOOBIN: Jail time, absolutely. And the prosecutor has made that point several times, is that he looking at prison time under all scenarios here, even in South Africa where crime is so epidemic and a lot of people have guns to protect themselves, you can't shoot at a door without knowing who is behind it.

O'BRIEN: And he has admitted to firing blindly.

TOOBIN: So the only question is how much time he spends in prison, not whether or not he goes to prison.

O'BRIEN: We're about 24 minutes away of the magistrate coming out and reviewing the case before he gets to his ruling on whether or not Oscar Pistorius will in fact be granted bail. At the bottom hour, we'll speak with Andrew Neverling. He is the editor with "Heat" magazine in South African. The last interview that Reeva Steenkamp did was with "Heat" magazine, and he has a lot of insight about the relationship between Oscar Pistorius and his now deceased girlfriend.

And tonight at 10:00 p.m. eastern we have an "AC 360" special on the Pistorius murder case, "Blade Runner, Murder or Mistake?" You can watch that right here on CNN.

Other developing stories we're watching this morning, much of the Midwest shoveling and shivering after a fierce winter storm covered lots of that region with snow, ice, and sleet. Classes have been canceled. Universities closed. Kansas City international airport is shut down. It just reopened a couple of minutes ago. But a United Airlines flight stranded on the tarmac for an hour and a half because of heavy snow.

And this Kansas City bus, take a look at this, trying to negotiate a turn, fish tails, takes out a light pole. It shows you how messy and dangerous it is. The storm affects 20 states, millions of people affected. We have the story covered from all angles with Erin McPike is in Wichita this morning and Jennifer Delgado in the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta. Erin, let's start with you.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. It is freezing here, a lot colder than yesterday. It's 14 degrees. And here in Wichita, they got the second highest snowfall in recorded history, 14.2 inches, so because of that, lots of school districts remain closed. Wichita was a ghost town yesterday. They're trying to dig out today. Most of the flights out of Kansas City international airport are canceled this morning until 9:00 central. The airport is open, though, as you mentioned, and flights look to be on time throughout the afternoon. We'll keep monitoring that for you. The Wichita and St. Louis airports are also open. Dozens of cancelations, so viewers traveling to and from those areas need to pay attention. The roads very icy, so officials want people to stay off the roads if they can, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Erin. Let's get right to Jennifer Delgado. Good morning. JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Soledad. The good news is, for areas in Wichita, as well as into parts of Missouri, they will be dry today. This is what's left of the storm system, producing light system. We're not talking about more than two inches. Louisiana, Mississippi, this whole area is going to be dealing with very heavy rainfall. For today alone, we could see potentially about 3.5 inches of rain. And as we go through the next couple days, more systems moving through. That means four to six inches of rainfall. This will be a big area for flood threat, and the same energy moving up toward the northeast and potentially bringing a foot of snow or more, starting Saturday for parts of New England.

Overall, in the wider view today, things are looking pretty nice. A little bit cold, temperatures in the teens in parts of the Midwest where people have been stranded on the roadways. That's cold.

O'BRIEN: Yes it is, a mess. Jennifer, thank you very much. We'll talk about Kansas City Mayor Sly James about what's happening in his community. We also want to talk about new developments in the wild chase and shoot-out that happened in Las Vegas. Christine has that and other stories making news.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It was really something, Soledad. Police this morning are still on the hunt for the gunman that caused that terrifying shootout that ended with a fiery crash right involving a taxi and a Maserati right on the Las Vegas strip. This happened yesterday close to the Flamingo resort. Among the three people dead, the taxi driver, his passenger, and a rapper known as Kenny Clutch. The Maserati are featured prominently on some of the rapper's lyrics, his pictures and YouTube videos. The taxi driver has been identified as 62-year-old Michael Rolden. His brother, fighting back tears, says whoever did this needs to pay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Rolden moved to Las Vegas a year ago to find work.

High drama inside the courtroom as a judge sentenced a former cop Drew Peterson, a judge giving him 38 years for the murder of his wife Kathleen Savio in 2004. Peterson screamed out "I did not kill Kathleen." Savio's sister shouted right back, "Yes, you did, you liar." The former cop vows to appeal. The defense claims Savio's death was an accident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 of the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Savio's death was initially ruled an accident, but the case reopened in 2008 after Peterson's fourth wife Stacy disappeared. She is still missing.

Rescue crews in Hawaii have not given up hope of finding a 34-year-old Navy SEAL diver. He got separated from his unit Tuesday during an open water training exercise off Oahu. Searchers are using computer models to figure out where the ocean currents might have taken him.

Three army paratroopers caught between a rock and a hard place. Their chutes got tangled in the trees in training exercises in Washington state. Heavy winds blew them off course. The paratrooper had bumps and bruises, but thankfully no serious injuries.

And 38,000 pounds of pork sausage recalled this morning because it might contain bits of plastic. The packing company recalling one- pound packages of Gwaltney mild pork sausage roll with a use date of March 12. They were sold in 11 states and in Washington, D.C. Food safety inspectors say the plastic likely came from worker's gloves.

New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has canceled an April appearance at a Dallas mega church that's causing a lot of controversy. The pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas Robert Jeffers has been very outspoken with his criticism of gays and members of other faiths. The church blamed Tebow's cancellation on the news media for grossly misrepresenting the pastor's opinion and for putting pressure on the football star.

O'BRIEN: Interesting to see that.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, more on our developing stories. Kansas City slammed by the winter storm. The National Guard taking to the highways looking for stranded motorists. Airports are jammed. A bus right there slamming into and taking out a light pole. We'll ta talk to the mayor, Sylvester James Jr. up next to talk about the dig out there.

And then business news.

ROMANS: Google stepping up its game. A new look at Google's laptop in moments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Breaking news as we await decision on whether Oscar Pistorius is going to get bail. The magistrate there in South Africa is expected to deliver his bail decision at 7:30 a.m. eastern time. He will read through the arguments, sum up the last four days in court and make his ruling, whether or not Pistorius will get mail or denied bail and be remanded to jail. Could take about 10 or 15 minutes before he gets to that decision. We'll cover that live when it happens, and we will take that live.

Let's get back to other top story, which is this monster storm that has slammed to Kansas City. The roads a mess, impassable, in fact. Cars struck on roadways forced the national guard to go out find stranded motorists. The city declaring a state of emergency as its digging out. Sylvester, Sly, James is the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, he joins us by phone. Nice to talk to you, sir, I know you are really busy. How does it look this morning? I know it was pretty much shut down last night.

SYLVESTER JAMES, MAYOR, KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI: Good morning, Soledad, things are actually looking considerably better. We were able to work all night and get a lot of the arterials plowed. They have all been plowed, as a matter of fact. Today we will be trying to clean them curb to curb. We are hampered to some extent by the fact that we have 6400 miles of street, 2700 of which are primary and 3700 of which are residentals in the city.

O'BRIEN: That's a lot. I'm talking to you while I look at pictures of cars stuck on the highway. I know the national guard had to get out there and help rescue people who couldn't move. What is the status of that right now?

JAMES: Well, it's still an ongoing process to try to get people of the roads. Fortunately, we're in much better shape than we were. At one point yesterday we had 60 buses actually stranded, stuck in the height of the storm. So you can imagine how many vehicles, other than buses were as well. But it got to be pretty bad at one point in time and as you can probably imagine, pulling buses out of a ditch is not the easiest thing in the world. We actually also have a number of tow trucks or plow trucks that were stuck as well.

O'BRIEN: Mayor Sly James Jr. joining us from Kansas City, Missouri. Good luck to you sir, thank you for talking us with. I know it's a very busy morning for you, we appreciate your time.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, continue to follow the breaking news in about eight minutes. We'll find out if Oscar Pistorius will receive bail. The South African magistrate will hand down the decision at 7:30 a.m. eastern. We'll cover that for you live when it happens.

And Google trying to compete with Apple, we'll look its new laptop. Coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans "minding your business" on this Friday morning. The U.S. stock market poised for a bit of a rebound today. Big losses over the past two sessions have put hopes of hitting an all-time high on hold. The Dow now 283 points away from that marl

New this morning, the recession in Europe is getting worse. The European commission it expects economic growth to contract more than originally thought. Many of the 17-member nations in the Eurozone are struggling with austerity measures, it's also a preview of what this country could face if forced spending cuts aren't avoided. That's just one week away.

Google stepping up its laptop game. The company unveiled the chrome book pixel yesterday. Here's what it features. A touch screen technology, enhanced cloud computing, and a built-in cellular network. Wifi-only models start at $1300 and the LTE version will cost you $1450. The Pixel is available for puchase now. That's a big step for Google. The previous chrome book goes for about $250. This move expands the hardware business, taking aim at Apple and Microsoft.

O'BRIEN: It's so interesting to see how they moved into this arena. And see if they'll be able to really support that with all the (INAUDIBLE).

ROMANS: Stock's near a record high. See that? It's above (ph) $800.

O'BRIEN: Another thing we should have bought a lot of back in the day.

All right, we're just a couple minutes away now from finding out whether Oscar Pistorius is going to get bail.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, we'll take you inside that courtroom for the magistrate's decision. CNN Legal analyst Jeff Toobin will join us for analysis.

And remember when Mitt Romney said 47 percent of Americans were victims. President Carter's grandson exposed that infamous comment. We'll speak to President Carter, who spoke to CNN about what President Obama had to say about that.

Plus, love on the court. When we return, we'll have the slam-dunk proposal worth watching.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We start with breaking news this morning. Want to show you some pictures of a helicopter crash that happened at Oklahoma City, happened at 5:58 local time. We're told three people are on board. Two are confirmed dead. There is one survivor who apparently has been able to -- is conscious. We're not exactly sure what they have been able to tell rescuers. Police believe on board were all helicopter crew members and apparently it was a medical chopper, but we don't have more details on this crash. Looking at pictures from affiliate KOCO. We'll bring you more as we get details on it.

Other breaking news we've been talking about all morning. We're just a couple of minutes away from the big ruling in the sensational Oscar Pistorius murder case. The big question, of course, whether the judge will allow the Olympic track star to go free on bail. Court is about to resume, and CNN's Robyn Curnow live outside the courthouse in Pretoria, South Africa. They're just a couple of minutes away. How will the judge, the magistrate, make this ruling?

CURNOW: Well before we even get there, Soledad, the tension outside this court is palpable. All of the journalists on the sidewalk, literally poised waiting for and information on our blackberries (ph). We have CNN producer inside the courtroom. And I want to give you a sense of what she says, how she paints a picture of what's happening in the moment. I will read it to you from my blackberry. She says it's getting hot in there. Everybody is squeezed together on the benches behind the dock. Friends, journalists, writing, tweeting, talking. The big question she asks, that everybody is talking about in the tiny little courtroom, will he, or won't he get bail? Of course we haven't been able to call it. The magistrate has asked some probing questions of both legal teams. I certainly wouldn't put money on him going either way. Legal experts have been me it's more than likely Oscar Pistorius will get bail. We are expecting some sort of judgment. It's not called a judgment because these are the lower courts, this is a magistrate. But, he will give reasons for his decision. Unclear how long that will take.

O'BRIEN: We're told, Robyn, in fact, the magistrate will read through all of the arguments over the last several days. And then he will announce his ruling as well and it could take 10 to 15 minutes as he recaps the last couple of days, presenting what the prosecution is alleging, presenting what the defense has said, getting to the affidavit itself of what Oscar Pistorius has read in court, all that comes before we get some kind of decision of whether or not Oscar Pistorius will be granted bail. Robyn Curnow is watching it for us this mornign, thanks Robyn.

Let's get right to Jeff Toobin, CNN senior legal analyst. I also should mention that Chris John Farley is with us, he's the senior editorial director at Digital Features of the "Wall Street Journal." And Cameron Russell is back with us, a model and student as well. Nice to have you with us. It's about a minute and a half away of the decision coming from the judge. What is your expectation? Bail or no bail, having heart the last couple of days of testimony.

TOOBIN: I want to have appropriate humility about my knowledge and ability to predict the results in the American legal system, much less in the South African legal system. If the charge remains premeditated murder, it seems unlikely he will get bail, but if the judge lowers the charge somewhat, as he has the ability to do, then bail -- bail seems much more likely. It's important I think to emphasize the huge stakes of this decision, just at a human level.

O'BRIEN: For who? Beyond Oscar Pistorius obviously.

TOOBIN: Well also for Pistorius himself. Being in prison in South Africa is a very big deal. Particularly if you were detained before trial, the conditions are often worse than if after you are convicted. Being a disabled person in prison is very difficult in any country, but especially in South Africa.

O'BRIEN: One would have to image all of that would be taken into account, or would it not? As a judge, the magistrate, considered whether he will be remanded to a jail cell?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. Bail is a decision where the judge takes everything into consideration. Although, the biggest issue is risk of flight. Both sides have reasonable arguments on that groung. Pistorius' lawyers say he's one of the most famous people in South Africa, he has no legs, pretty easy to identify. Not like he will sneak away. The prosecution says he is a very wealthy person, especially in South Africa. He could charter a plane, leave. There are arguments that the judge could buy one way or the other.

O'BRIEN: We're waiting for the judge, the magistrate, to then make his announcement. He's going to first being, any minute now, by recapping the last four days of testimony and then he'll rule.