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New Catholic Church Scandal?; Family Lost at Sea

Aired February 25, 2013 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight with breaking and a warning for tens of millions of you out there, three simple words that could save your life. Do not travel. That's because, if you do, you could get stuck in this. And if you do, rescuers could get stuck trying to reach you. That warning, by the way, comes straight from the National Weather Service.

Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas all getting hammered by a storm even more punishing than the one last week. We're talking about more snow in some places than people have seen in the last 42 years. And in one part of Oklahoma, drivers are stranded with snow piling up to six feet high in places.


COOPER: I want to tell you, though, about another, a storm of a different sort entirely happening now.

It involves scandal, hypocrisy, conspiracy theories, dysfunctionality, and we're not talking about what is going on in Washington, D.C. This multifaceted storm involves the Vatican and allegations about what could be going on behind the scenes there.

There's a string of child sex abuse scandals surrounding some of those who will choose a successor to Pope Benedict, and now surprising allegations against a top British cardinal that some media outlets believe that played some role in why the pope is stepping down, the first pope in nearly 600 years to do so.

Pope Benedict's last day, you know, is Thursday, after which the College of Cardinals will meet to pick a new pope. Now, as always, they gather in secrecy, but this time, their conclave will be accompanied by open, loud controversy. Today, we learned the archbishop of Scotland will be stepping down after allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances allegedly to priests in training. He was supposed to be part of the papal conclave. Now he will not be.

Cardinal Roger Mahony also of Los Angeles will be part of the conclave, despite damning new revelations of his handling of pedophile priests over many years. Victims and others say that Mahony shouldn't be part of the group of cardinals choosing a new pope, saying that it sends a terrible message. But in addition to those two scandals, there are those explosive allegations about what may have been going on behind the scenes in Vatican City.

More on that now from our Ben Wedeman.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "I will not abandon the church," Benedict told the faithful in St. Peter's Square Sunday. To the tens of thousands who listened and applauded, it was a sentimental farewell.

But to investigative newspaper journalist Concita De Gregorio, who has delved into alleged wrongdoing at the Vatican, Benedict's words carried different significance.

"This does not mean to abandon. It means to fight," she says. "Last Sunday, he said we are fighting against the temptations of power," temptations that may have proven too strong for some.

De Gregorio is one of two journalists who have reported on allegations of Vatican corruption and blackmail of gay clergy members by male prostitutes. Damning headlines in the Rome daily "La Repubblica," "Sex and blackmailed careers are behind Benedict XVI's resignation."

Compromised perhaps to senior levels, says Ignazio Ingrao, a writer for the newsweekly "Panorama." The details allegedly contained in a secret dossier prepared by three cardinals investigating leaked and highly sensitive Vatican documents.

Ingrao an says he believes attempts by Pope Benedict at reform were stymied every step of the way by the church's secretive bureaucracy. "In these eight years, the pope has repeatedly made calls to stop the divisions," he says, "to end the power struggles in the Curia and to have more transparency, but these calls were not heeded."

Vatican officials have strongly denied these claims, but it would be hard to deny the Catholic hierarchy is in crisis, the latest blow, the resignation of Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who stepped down as archbishop of Scotland amid allegations of inappropriate acts with four trainee priests in the 1980s. He remains a cardinal, but says he won't attend the conclave to elect a new pope.

Allegations, accusations, and scandal darkening the final days of Benedict's nearly eight-year reign. The two Italian journalists paint a picture of a Holy Father overwhelmed by an unholy mess, aging, unwell, and betrayed by those who were supposed to support him.


WEDEMAN: Benedict says he's not forsaking the church, but according to these accounts, it's the church bureaucracy, faction- ridden and weakened by scandal, that's forsaking him.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Rome.


COOPER: Well, it's obviously hard to pierce the walls of secrecy surrounding the inner workings of the Vatican.

I want to talk about it more tonight with Christiane Amanpour, host of "AMANPOUR." She is in Rome. And senior Vatican analyst John Allen is also there. He's a senior correspondent for "The National Catholic Reporter."

John, you say the idea of an existence of some sort of network of gay men or gay priests or high officials inside the Vatican isn't at all improbable, but do you believe that's the reason the pope is resigning?


I think for the most part, you have to take Benedict XVI at his word, that he's resigning because of his age and because of fatigue. Now, on the other hand, I think you have to ask the question why is he so fatigued? And I think at least part of that picture is that he has spent much of the last eight years frustrated that his efforts to be a teaching pope, to conduct a kind of global graduate seminar in the relationship between reason and faith and so on have been hampered by a kind of endless series of crises and controversies and meltdowns, some of them coming in from the outside and some of them self- inflicted.

I think that that is indeed part of the calculus, but fundamentally I don't think there's some deep, dark secret. I think this is one of those cases in terms of that what you see is what you get.

COOPER: John, what is known exactly about O'Brien? The allegations I have heard are there are a number of allegations apparently made by some current priests and even I believe one former priest of inappropriate efforts to have some sort of relationship or make some sort of pass at these people when they were priests.

And this is a guy who when the British government was considering gay marriage came out vehemently against it, saying -- and I quote -- "Their attempt to redefine reality is given a polite hearing. Their madness is indulged. Their proposal represents a grotesque aversion of the universally accepted human rights."

If this guy was in fact making advances at other male priests, the level of hypocrisy is great.

ALLEN: You're right.

It almost defies belief that someone would be leading such a double life and yet taking such a hard line in public. Now, of course, it is important to say that Cardinal O'Brien has firmly denied these charges. He has taken legal counsel -- that is, he has hired a lawyer to help him respond to the charges. And so, as this story plays out, it remains to be seen how much fire there is beneath the smoke.

I think what is relevant for the Vatican at the moment is that this has resurrected the drumbeat of criticism that it has faced over the years that its sort of moral preaching to the world about sexual rectitude, in some cases, at least, not matched on the ground by the behavior of some of its clergy.

COOPER: It's interesting, Christiane, because the church, there are some who are alleging that these revelations, these allegations are being made in a way to kind of influence who the next pope could be. How -- how would that influence who the next pope could be?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this was perhaps, I would have to say in my experience, a typical lashing out by those who are trying desperately to have a better spin on this story right now.

I don't buy that. I think it's the typical defensive mechanism of people who simply don't want to hear the truth. And the truth is if the church was trying to prevent, you know, a cardinal from coming here for a reason it couldn't, because there are so many of them -- I mean, the disgrace of this really is that it's touched every diocese in the United States. And it's exploded across Europe underneath auspices of -- or rather during the reign of Pope Benedict.

And I was told tonight this is probably going on in diocese all over the world. And one of the things that was incredible, one of the -- one former priests said that, you know, perhaps 50 percent of priests who enter the priesthood may be gay.

I talked to a longtime veteran journalist here in Rome who said it's well known that monsignors and others in the Vatican conduct affairs either with women or men. The real issue here is, there's a difference between having affairs and committing crimes against young boys, which is what happened under these priests for so many generations.

COOPER: What do you make of the church, the Vatican coming forward and making a public statement saying, essentially, this is an effort to influence the picking of the next pope? That's an extraordinary statement for them to have made.

ALLEN: Their insistence is that this secret dossier, which allegedly talked about a gay lobby potentially having a role in the Vatican leak scandal, this dossier, so far as we know, has only been read by one guy, and that's Pope Benedict XVI.

So the pretense to know its contents may well be open to question. One could argue that some sort of response had to be made, but I think the practical effect of using such high-octane rhetoric in the statement is that it has given additional legs to the story and made the hill the Vatican has to climb to get over this that much more steep. COOPER: Christiane Amanpour, John Allen, thanks so much.

Well, just ahead, the latest on the search at sea for a family, including two young kids and their final message, "We are abandoning ship." We will have the latest on that search.

And next, the latest you need to know about the "Raw Politics" happening right now in Washington, D.C., the search in a sea of finger-pointing for a deal to head off budget cuts at the end of the week. Our Gloria Borger, also Ross Douthat and Charles Blow from "The New York Times" join us, tell us what their sources are telling them. We will be right back.


COOPER: Let's talk about "Raw Politics" and finger-pointing because there's a lot of that going on right now.

Congress and the White House have less than four days to hammer out a budget-cutting deal before a string of painful automatic forced spending cuts take effect. Now, remember, these are part of the automatic cuts that both sides agreed to back in 2011 to force themselves to do what voters and business leaders want them to do, which is make a deal. Have they? The answer is no.

President Obama has been touring the country, warning about pain from the automatic cuts. Republicans have been turning up everywhere saying blame for the cuts should fall on the president.

Meantime, "The Washington Post"'s Bob Woodward said the cuts were a White House idea, but the White House is pushing back on that. And at times, it feels like there are more fingers being pointed than hands to hold them or to hammer out solutions.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These cuts do not have to happen. Congress can turn them off any time with just a little bit of compromise.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: There's no leadership from the president.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Unless the Republicans are willing to compromise.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: He's been out trying to blame Republicans.

SEN. JOHN HOEVEN (R), NORTH DAKOTA: So the question is, why won't he work with us?

RAY LAHOOD, U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: They need to come to the table with a proposal.

AYOTTE: I think the American people are tired of the blame game. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: With us now is chief political analyst Gloria Borger, also CNN contributors and two of "The New York Times"' best political writers, conservative Ross Douthat and liberal Charles Blow.

Charles, let me start with you.

You said this is an example, and I quote, "feeble government at its most ineffective and self-destructive."


CHARLES BLOW, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you. I appreciate that.

You said it perfectly. They did this to force their own hands. If you can't force your own hand to do something that I cannot for the life of me find anyone who thinks this is a good idea -- even the people who are basically saying, we will accept it. The Republicans basically are calling the president's bluff at this point. They're saying we will accept the defense cuts because we want the rest of the cuts, but even they are not saying it's a good idea to have it, you know, this kind of blunt instrument used to cut.

They think that it's just acceptable, it won't be as bad as the president says.

COOPER: Ross, it's interesting, though, because I think before, though, the Obama White House was thinking that Republicans would not be willing to accept these kind of defense cuts back when they came up with this idea, but now, clearly, there are a lot of Republicans who are willing, because they say cutting the budget deficit is more important.


I think five years ago, the Obama White House would have been right. But that was a different Republican Party, and the balance of power in the party has shifted from defense hawks, you might say, to deficit hawks. And so I disagree a little bit with Charles. I do think there are at least -- there are some Republicans who think this is acceptable, and there are also now some Republicans who will say, you know, defense has to be on the table as well. And so we're willing to do it.


BLOW: But is it good for the economy, though, Ross? Can you find anyone who says that in the short term, in the near term, that this is good for the American economy to use this kind of blunt instrument to cut this much from the deficit, that this actually it spurs the economy to do better and provides enough jobs, or does it eat into the job base the way that most independents that I have read think it does?

DOUTHAT: I think the Republican argument would be that whatever short-term pain it causes to the economy, steps like this, sort of these sort of painful but necessary cuts over an extended period of time, are necessary to -- basically to guarantee longer-term economic growth.

But that said, I think the problem Republicans have is the long- term deficit problem is an entitlements problem, and we set up this mechanism where we're making these deep cuts to discretionary spending and not cutting entitlements.


BORGER: This isn't the big piece of the pie. This is the tiny sliver of the pie. The big piece of the pie is Medicare, Social Security, things they're not even talking about right now.

So this is not a natural disaster. This is a manmade disaster that they made, and now that they can't figure a way out of it.

COOPER: Is a deal possible? What happens?

BORGER: Yes. A deal is possible.

BLOW: By Friday?

BORGER: I'm not going to say that. I'm going to say...


BLOW: Because I don't see that.

BORGER: I'm not going to say they can do it by Friday. But in the end, they can fiddle as they always do and say, you know what, we need some more flexibility so we don't take a meat axe to everything so we can decide within a certain agency what is it we want to cut and then come back and deal with it again.


COOPER: Charles, what do you say to those Republicans who -- I was listening to Rush Limbaugh, and he was saying that essentially this is a manufactured crisis, that this isn't a real crisis, these aren't real cuts. This is still more spending than was spent last year.

BLOW: Right, I think it's manufactured and real, like he separated it.


BORGER: But it doesn't all happen at once either.

BLOW: They manufactured it and it's very real because it affects so many jobs. It has the potential to affect so many jobs.

The estimates there range from a million to 2.1 million jobs at risk in one estimate I quoted in my last column. That could add 1.5 percent to the unemployment rate.


COOPER: Go ahead, Ross. Go ahead.

DOUTHAT: The thing where Rush Limbaugh has a point is if you look at the point of -- quote, unquote -- "cuts" that we have had over the last couple years, and you know, in dollar terms, they looked real.

But then when journalists go in and do an investigation and go to the different agencies and departments and so on, it always turns out they find a way to claim cuts. You know, they claim cuts on things that they were going to cut already and so on. There's more wiggle room in the federal budget often than those absolute numbers would suggest.

BORGER: Ross, here's the problem. The public doesn't know what to believe because we don't actually know what the truth is here.

And if you look at all these fiscal crises that we have gone through, you always have to consider what the default setting is. So, when you have the fiscal cliff, they couldn't go over the cliff because they didn't want to raise everybody's taxes.

When you had the debt ceiling, they couldn't do that because the full faith and credit of the United States was kind of on the line. In this particular crisis, and this is why Charles may be right, in this particular crisis, what's at stake here? Budget cuts, which, by the way, a lot of people think is a good idea.

DOUTHAT: In theory.


COOPER: Ross, do you see a deal by the end of the week?

DOUTHAT: I have been wrong betting against deals in the past. So I don't -- the story of the last two years is that, you know, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Barack Obama, and so on always find some way to pull a deal out of the fire. So it would be silly to bet against that, but I do agree with Charles. It's harder in this case to see -- I think you can draw it up on paper, but it's harder to see where the parties come together.

I think the reasonable thing to do would be to say, let's cut the amount of spending that we're going to be cut in half and let's just agree on say doing a little means testing to Medicare, which the White House and Republicans are both in favor of and let's not get so focused on absolute dollar figures.


DOUTHAT: I'm pretty sure that will not happen.

COOPER: The clock is ticking. We will follow it. Gloria, appreciate it. Charles, thank you, and Ross as well.

Up next: the desperate search for a family lost at sea off the coast of San Francisco, and later a murder trial that is making the Casey Anthony look, well, boring. It's got X-rated evidence, too many lies to count, plus a defendant, well, who won a singing contest from prison. The whole thing is bizarre.

We will be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back.

Rescue teams will work through the night searching the waters off San Francisco for a family that radioed the Coast Guard from their sinking sailboat. This was their final SOS call.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coast Guard, Coast Guard, we are abandoning ship. This is the Charm Blow. We are abandoning ship.


COOPER: That was yesterday afternoon.

Now, besides the sailboat's name, the Charm Blow, Coast Guard knows there were two adults and two young children aboard and they didn't have a lifeboat. Their names, though, are a mystery. Tonight, the Coast Guard is asking the public for help identifying them.

Dan Simon joins me now.

Dan, so you have been in touch with the Coast Guard. What is the latest on the search?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know the search will continue throughout the night. They have got aircraft up there, they have boats on the water.

They're going to be using infrared technology to see if they can isolate the individuals. They will reassess things in the morning. But we should point out that the water temperature very cold, about 50 degrees. It would be very difficult for anyone to survive. What we don't know is exactly how they abandoned the boat.

Were they able to get out in a makeshift life raft? Because we know there was no real life raft on board. They mentioned something in the radio communication about a styrofoam cooler and a life ring. And perhaps they could use that to get off the boat safely, but again, very, very chilly out there on that water. So it would be pretty tough for anyone to survive at this point, Anderson.

COOPER: I don't quite understand how nobody can know who these people are. Doesn't somebody own the boat? Isn't it registered somewhere? There were other distress calls. What was said on them?

BLOW: You know, it's a good question about the boat.

At this point, there's no registry for this name, for the boat's name, and so there are some people are speculating that this might be a hoax. Perhaps it would be a good thing if it were a hoax. Obviously, it would be a very cruel prank. In terms of what the Coast Guard is saying, they believe that this is entirely legit, however. We should point that out.

And the other radio communication, they were able to give an approximate location. That's why the Coast Guard is where they are, about 65 miles off the coast of Monterey. There were able to say that there were four people on board, a husband, a wife, their 4-year-old son and a cousin. And they also said that the boat was taking on water very quickly and obviously they had to get off.

COOPER: Well, if anybody can recognize that voice or has heard that name of that ship before, obviously, the Coast Guard would like that information.

Dan, I appreciate the update.

Up next, "Crime and Punishment" and a trial that has captured court watchers like few others in recent memory, if ever, the Jodi Arias trial. She admits she killed her boyfriend. She says it was in self-defense. But it's the couple's salacious sexual relationship that is detailed from the witness stand that has court observers stunned.

Randi Kaye takes an in-depth look ahead.


COOPER: A diet that can help you live longer. Results of a new study is making headlines. We're going to tell you the two things you can start eating tonight that can seriously improve your long-term health.


COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight, sex, lies, and audiotape in a murder trial full of testimony that would make Perry Mason blush.

In Arizona, Jodi Arias was cross-examined again today. It is her tenth day on the witness stand. If she's convicted, by the way, she could get the death penalty.

After lying about it to police and in extended TV interviews, Arias now admits the murder of her ex-boyfriend in 2008, but she now says that was in self-defense.

To say there have been some surreal moments in this trial is a vast understatement. Take this video, for instance. While Jodi Arias is behind bars awaiting trial on first-degree murder in 2010, she won a holiday singing contest.


JODI ARIAS, MURDER DEFENDANT (singing): Hear the angel voices. Oh, night divine...


COOPER: In the trial itself, there have been countless twists and turns, dirty text messages entered into evidence, nude pictures, audiotape of phone sex between the victim and the defendant played in court.

Randi Kaye reports on the case that has so many people riveted. But first, I just want to warn you: as I've said, there are some very graphic details woven through this case which may be too explicit for younger viewers.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Travis Alexander never had a chance: 27 stab wounds, a gunshot to the face, his throat slit ear to ear. When friends found his body, he'd already been dead five days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's -- he's dead. He's in his bedroom. In the shower.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So there's blood. Is it coming from his head? Did he cut his wrists?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. It's -- it's all over the place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has he been threatened by anyone recently?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he has. He has an ex-girlfriend that's been bothering him and following him and slashing tires and things like that.

KAYE: That ex-girlfriend is Jodi Arias, now on trial for murdering Travis Alexander back in 2008. She's facing the death penalty.

(on camera): This case has court watchers riveted. Not only because of the sheer brutality of it but also because of the couple's salacious sexual relationship. They videotaped themselves having sex and took provocative photos.

On the day of the murder, June 4, 2008, the two snapped naked photos of each other at Alexander's home, right before the killing.

(voice-over): Those pictures were recovered from the memory card of a digital camera police found in his washing machine. According to investigators, a photo taken at 1:40 p.m. shows Arias posing nude on Alexander's bed. Later, at 5:22 p.m., a photo was taken and deleted, showing Alexander naked in the shower. Then at 5:30 p.m., another photo of Alexander. Police say, just two minutes later, he was dead.

Five thirty-two p.m., this time-stamped photo shows Alexander's body on the shower floor.

What exactly happened that night is still unclear, in part because investigators can't get a straight or at least consistent story out of Arias. The first time she was questioned, July 15, 2008, Arias said she wasn't with Alexander the day he died. This was before she knew investigators had pictures putting her at the crime scene. Listen.

ARIAS: I was nowhere near Mesa. I was nowhere near Phoenix.

KAYE: Then, after police matched a bloody handprint at the scene to Arias and told her of the photos they'd found, she told a different story. This time, a home invasion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't run to the neighbors. You didn't try calling. You knew they were in his house.

ARIAS: I was really scared. I was really freaked out of my mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. I don't believe you.

KAYE: Two years later, in 2010, yet another story. Yes, she says, she did kill Travis Alexander, but it was self-defense. Her lawyer is making the case for domestic violence.

JENNIFER WILLMOTT, JODI'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Jodi believed that Travis was going to kill her. Travis left Jodi no other option but to defend herself.

KAYE: As Arias tells it, it all started with those naked pictures. She testified that, while she and Alexander were snapping photos, she dropped the camera, and Alexander got incredibly angry. So this time, she says, she grabbed the gun she knew Alexander kept in his closet.

ARIAS: I grabbed the gun. I ran out of the closet. He was chasing me. I turned around. We were in the middle of the bathroom. I pointed it at him with both of my hands. I thought that would stop him. If someone were pointing a gun at me, I would stop. But he just kept running.

He got like a linebacker. He got kind of low and grabbed my waist. But before he did that, as he was lunging at me, the gun went off. I didn't mean to shoot him.

KAYE: But what about the knife and those dozens of stab wounds? Arias told the court she simply can't remember how that happened.

KIRK NURMI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Once you broke away from him, what do you remember?

ARIAS: Almost nothing for a long time. NURMI: Do you remember stabbing Travis Alexander?

ARIAS: I have no memory of stabbing him.

KAYE: The couple first met back in 2006 at a convention in Las Vegas. She was an aspiring photographer. He was a salesman and motivational speaker who was active in the Mormon Church.

They started dating a few months later, even though he lived in Mesa, Arizona, and she lived hours away in California. Arias soon converted to Mormonism like her boyfriend and agreed to be baptized.

On the day of her baptism, she told the court Alexander tied her up while they were both still wearing sacred garments, then forced her to have anal sex.

NURMI: After this encounter on this spiritual day, how did you feel about yourself?

ARIAS: I didn't feel very good. I kind of felt like a used piece of toilet paper.

KAYE: Arias claims Alexander often abused her physically and sexually. But on the couple's phone sex tapes, played in court, she seemed to be enjoying herself.

TRAVIS ALEXANDER, MURDER VICTIM (via phone): The way you moan, Jodi, sounds like a 12-year-old girl having her first orgasm. It's so hot.

KAYE: How things turned from phone sex to this is still a mystery, but investigators say there's no question Travis Alexander suffered. The medical examiner says he was stabbed first, then shot, so it may have taken him some time to die.

Crime scene photos show his hands bruised and bloodied, which may indicate he struggled to fight off his attacker, who was stabbing him.

In court today under cross-examination, the prosecutor did his best to expose Jodi Arias as a cold-blooded killer and shatter her account of what happened the night Alexander was killed.

JUAN MARTINEZ, PROSECUTOR: Other than you, who would be sure about your statements?


MARTINEZ: Well, God's not here. We can't subpoena him, right?

ARIAS: I don't think so.

MARTINEZ: You don't think so. Are you sure that we can't? Because it seems like you're leaving the door open for that.

KAYE: No matter how hard prosecutors come at her, Jodi Arias has stuck to her story. Before the trial, she spoke to "Inside Edition" from jail.

ARIAS: No jury is going to convict me.


ARIAS: Because I'm innocent. And you can mark my words on that. No jury will convict me.

KAYE: Later in court, she said that was because she planned to kill herself first.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Fascinating trial. Joining me now, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos, co-author of the upcoming book "Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works and Sometimes Doesn't."

Jeff, I mean, the details of the case are explicit, to say the least. Have you ever seen a trial that's been televised like this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I didn't know you could say "lube" that often on basic cable. But you know, it's just all -- it's unbelievable.

I -- the thing is, you know, forget putting it on television. Why -- how a judge has allowed this is very interesting.

MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: How any judge has allowed her to sit on the stand on direct examination this long before even getting to cross is beyond me. Thirty years I've been doing this, I have never seen any defendant on the stand this long.

TOOBIN: The reason is, though, I think is actually straightforward; it's because it's a death-penalty case. This is actually an interesting lesson in why death-penalty cases take so long and are so expensive.

Is that the judge says, "Look, this person is on trial for their life. I'm going to let them try their case. I'm not going to really impose the rules of evidence."

GERAGOS: Ten days, though.

TOOBIN: I've never heard of anything that long, but clearly, she's got a defense, which is that "I am a victim of various men. Feel sorry for me. Don't give me the death penalty." I mean, that's the gist. And so she's allowed to do it.

COOPER: Mark, how do you, I mean, defend somebody who has lied consistently?

GERAGOS: You put her on for ten days or eight days or whatever it is, and then, you know, in that piece, the package you just did, that prosecutor was so over-the-top with that question about, "You sure I can't subpoena God?" You hope and pray as a defense lawyer that the prosecutor is going to lose his mind and start acting like a fool.

Because if that happens, the jury might say at the end of the day, "OK, we're going to convict her. Clearly, she's guilty, but after this amount of time, we're not going to kill her," because that's really what it comes down to.

TOOBIN: And that's -- and that's what they're trying to do. And they're trying, I think, to get the jury to know this woman in all of her eccentricities, in all her sort of oddness, her crazy history, and say "We're going to lock this woman up, but we will not take the step of imposing the death penalty."

COOPER: But I mean -- but she's saying self-defense. I mean, a throat slit so much the head was almost decapitated.

GERAGOS: That's just the vehicle. All of this stuff, whether it's battered woman, whether it's self-defense, whether it's (UNINTELLIGIBLE), all of that is just a vehicle, if you will, for the defense to get her up there and try to mitigate and save her from the death penalty.

COOPER: So you think her lawyers, they're not trying to get her off?

GERAGOS: If they get a "not guilty," those guys will faint right in the courtroom.

TOOBIN: This is a death -- this is all about a death-penalty defense. And frankly, since the judge is allowing it, it's probably their best chance, because she is emerging as a personality, as someone with a history, who is complicated, who is obviously a mess of a human being, but not someone, at least, that they hope, that the jury says, "We have to take the absolute maximum step and kill her." Yes.

GERAGOS: That's really what it is. You put her up there for that long, what you hope for is that the jury is going to say exactly what Jeff was saying. They're going to get to the point where, "OK, she's crazy. She did it, we know it. But do we really want to kill her? Do we want to put her -- I mean, do we want to put her down?"

And the more you -- usually, familiarity breeds contempt. In this case, it may have the opposite effect.

COOPER: Do you think the prosecutor has been doing what Mark has -- has sort of indicated, that he's making mistakes by kind of going overboard?

TOOBIN: You know, it's very hard to say. You know, that really takes being inside the courtroom and getting a sense of the dynamic.

You know, I think the prosecutor is right to show all the lies. I mean, what makes her story so, you know, unappealing from a jury perspective, it's not just this fairly bogus self-defense argument, but you know, first she wasn't there. Then there was an intruder. Then she came around to self-defense. And she's such an obvious and credible liar as well as someone who killed a man. That's what's really...

GERAGOS: I'll take a shot. They -- they are totally overplaying this. They could have -- I think less is more when it comes to this. And this kind of -- just staying up there, and being that sarcastic way, and doing whatever, that generally does not play well with juries.

COOPER: I mean, as a defense attorney, I can imagine just watching her talk to police over and over again, giving multiple different stories, and then doing television interviews and saying no jury is going to convict me, from a defense lawyer's standpoint...

It's your worst nightmare, but I always tell this to clients. I give them my card. I say when the police come, I write on it, I want my lawyer.

It doesn't matter. They still want to talk. They do not understand. I explain this to clients. If the cops lie to you, that's good police work. You lie to them, it's a felony.

COOPER: The police re allowed to lie to you.

GERAGOS: Of course. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that. So you lie to them, it's false statement, a violation of the U.S. Code, usually a felony in any other jurisdiction. But people have this idea that somehow they're going to talk their way out of it. You can't stop it.

TOOBIN: Usually they don't lie as extravagantly as she did. This was just off the charts. Yes, I mean, but you know, who's to say the jury isn't buying it? I mean, come on.

GERAGOS: What I can't figure out, the only mystery to me is why cable TV hasn't become fixated on this.

TOOBIN: You don't think they have?

GERAGOS: No. Not as much as they have.

TOOBIN: We're on cable TV right now.

GERAGOS: I want to tell you, it hasn't been wall to wall.

COOPER: This is pretty much the first time we're doing it, but I think HLN, they've been doing it.

GERAGOS: They need it.

COOPER: It's fascinating stuff. Mark Geragos, thank you. Thanks very much.

Just ahead, we'll update you on the breaking news, the blizzard that's pummeling Texas and Oklahoma. It's already smashed records. Look at those images. Unbelievable. Chad Myers joins us again with the latest on the storm's path.


COOPER: More on our breaking news now. This is what the Texas Panhandle is dealing with tonight. Take a look at that. Record amounts of snow. Historic, according to the National Weather Service. Amarillo got 19 inches just today. Amarillo, Texas. White-out conditions making almost all roads in the Panhandle impassable. Stranded motorists waiting for the National Guard to show up. That's how bad it is. Snow has been coming down fast all day, 2 to 3 inches every hour.

Oklahoma's also being hard hit; 56 of its counties are under a state of emergency tonight. A lot of motorists stranded there as well. It's the second major storm to hammer the region in a week.

Kansas is in its path, as well. Chad Myers joins us again with the latest.

Chad, what are we looking at right now?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Look at that snow now into Wichita. Eventually, it will be getting an hour or two into Kansas City and pretty heavy, and then pulling out of Texas, pulling out of the Oklahoma Panhandle, pulling away from where it has snowed so hard.

You talk about the stranded motorists, there were emergency vehicles trying to get to those people that were stranded that got stranded themselves. That's how deep and how quickly the snow just piled up with 5-foot drifts.

And we're still going to get more snow, don't get me wrong. But the snow is going pull out of Oklahoma, into Kansas and into Missouri over the next few hours. And that heavy snow will be there.

There's going to be only little fly here in the forecast of 20 inches or more still to come, Anderson. There's a lot of rain and severe weather along the Gulf Coast. This rain and severe weather is cutting off some of the moisture -- good news -- cutting off some of the moisture that could be snow. It's raining the moisture out rather than making snow farther to the north.

There's also the potential for some severe weather. Those big red boxes there, tornado watch boxes for the next few hours here into parts of Mississippi, Louisiana, even into parts of Arkansas. There are some of the winners, I guess. If that's the number you want to call it, 19.4, Amarillo. The old record, still the record, 19.3.

COOPER: Wow. And air travel is going to be messed up because of all that. Chad, thanks very much.

Let's get caught up on some of the other stories we're following. Here's Isha with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha. ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: Anderson, a "360 Follow." The cable contractor suspected of rupturing a natural gas line before last week's deadly restaurant explosion in Kansas City was working without a permit. One person was killed and several others were injured in the explosion.

The long-awaited civil trial against BP and its contractors opened today in New Orleans. A federal judge will decide if the oil company and others were grossly negligent in the massive 2010 Gulf oil spill. If so, BP could have to pay out billions more in civil damages. It's already pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to pay a $4 billion fine.

And you may want to stock up on extra virgin olive oil and nuts. A large five-year study of people at high risk of cardio vascular disease found that so-called Mediterranean diet reduced the number of heart attacks and strokes they had better than a low-fat diet -- Anderson.

COOPER: Isha, thanks very much.

Coming up, find out who's on "The RidicuList tonight.


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList," and tonight I am very pleased to announce that our long national nightmare is over.

For those of us who do not drink coffee, finally, finally, there is another choice. Today, like a 16-ounce neon can of realized dreams, Mountain Dew started selling soda that you're supposed to drink in the morning. It's called Kick Start. It's a sparkling juice beverage with caffeine, 5 percent real fruit juice, and 95 percent, well, other stuff.

Plenty of people already drink soda in the morning. But see, this new thing is especially designed for the morning, so I guess you don't really have to feel trashy about it.

From the press release, quote, "Whether it's catching the first waves at sunrise, managing bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way to the office or hitting fresh powder on the slopes at first light, new Kick Start by Mountain Dew offers a refreshing and energizing take on your morning routine."

Really, what better way to start the day than surfing or skiing while simultaneously holding a 16-ounce can of morning soda.

I am just glad there is now a socially acceptable alternative to coffee. The coffee people kind of have a monopoly, and let's face it, it can kind of get complicated even just ordering it, as Paul Rudd's character so elegantly demonstrates in the movie "Role Models."


PAUL RUDD, ACTOR: A large black coffee. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A what?

RUDD: Large black coffee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mean a venti?

RUDD: No, I mean large.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He means a venti. The biggest one.


RUDD: No. Venti is 20. Large is large. In fact, "tall" is large, and "grande" is Spanish for large. "Venti" is the only one that doesn't mean large. It's also the only one that's Italian. Congratulations. You're stupid in three languages.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Venti is a large coffee.

RUDD: Really? Says who, Fellini?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much is that? Here's a ten. You know what? Just keep the change.


COOPER: Now personally, I'm just not a fan of hot beverages. When I tried coffee the first time on my daytime show it didn't go so well.


COOPER: It just seems so watery. Yes. I don't see the point. Really? That's what people drink every day? I don't see the point in that.


COOPER: Yes. My first time trying coffee. So what? When Coke came up with a sort of Coke-coffee Franken-beverage that didn't go too well for me either.


COOPER: Since I don't drink hot things, I thought it's the perfect beverage for me, because it's Coca-Cola, which I drink all the time...


COOPER: And coffee. So what I thought is we could do a little taste test here.

RIPA: I like it. It kind of reminds me of...

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: That was Coke Black. I didn't really like it very much.

There's one way to consume coffee that I haven't tried and never will. This, like most cautionary tales, comes from a couple on the TLC show, "My Strange Addiction."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm addicted to coffee enemas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the past two years, Trina hasn't been able to function without her daily coffee enemas, a procedure where liquid is injected into the colon to clean out the lower intestine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My initial reaction was, "My God. That's disgusting." But I tried it. And now I'm addicted to coffee enemas.


COOPER: So that's two coffees to go, then.

I'll say it again. Some people are way too into coffee, and some coffee is way too into people.

It was high time for a new way to start the day on "The RidicuList."

OK, that does it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.