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Feinstein vs Cruz; Portman's Same-Sex Marriage Switch; Transplant Patient Dies of Rabies; Key Witnesses Drop Bombshell in Rape Trail; Hollywood Murder Mystery

Aired March 15, 2013 - 14:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: As conservatives chat about their future, a prominent Republican reverses his stance on gay marriage, while another is accused of patronizing a female senator. My panel faces off.

A shocking revelation in the search for a movie executive. Why infidelity may have played a role.

Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And our toilets weren't working. And when I pressed it, the water rose up. Like you would at home if your toilet was clogged, the water would start to rise up to the top of the bowl.


LEMON: A PR nightmare. What Carnival must do as spring break season heats up.

And three lives right now in jeopardy after a man who received a kidney transplant dies of rabies.

Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, in today for Brooke. Thanks for joining me.

Just moments ago, you saw him, Mitt Romney, gave his first big speech since losing the presidential election at the big meeting of political conservatives in Maryland. Guns were the focus when the NRA's Wayne LaPierre took the stage earlier at that same meeting.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Senator Dianne Feinstein admitted that she had her gun ban bill ready to go a year ago, tucked away in a drawer, just waiting for the right opportunity. Really? Waiting for an unspeakable tragedy to push her political agenda?


LEMON: So we're going to start with this. We're going to start with guns and the showdown that everyone is talking about. Senator Dianne Feinstein's clash with freshman Senator Ted Cruz. Feinstein says Cruz patronized her with an unsolicited civics lesson on gun legislation.

Let's get straight to our panel now. CNN contributor and Republican consultant Margaret Hoover. She is in Washington. Patricia Murphy is the founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. She's right here in Atlanta. And Democratic strategy Jamal Simmons in Washington.

Boy, this has created some fireworks everywhere it is resonating.

Patricia, I want to start with you. What's your take on the Feinstein/Cruz smackdown?

PATRICIA MURPHY, FOUNDER & EDITOR, CITIZEN JANE POLITICS: Well, I have many takes, of course. First of all, I think that Ted Cruz was totally out of line. Senator Feinstein is a 20-year veteran of the Judiciary Committee. She wrote the first bill on the assault weapons ban. She doesn't need a lecture on the Constitution.

So, in addition to being rude to her, this man has been in the Senate for 60 days, he was also wrong on the facts. He is trying to say -- he was making his case that there are limits -- there -- well, unlimits -- no limits, rather, to the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment. There should not be limits to the Second Amendment. Really, all three of those points are wrong and the Supreme Court has held that there are limits to the Second Amendment. That is really what Senator Feinstein was saying. And Ted Cruz was wrong in every point that he was making against her.

LEMON: You're talking about -- you're talking about the Constitution. You're talking also about the Heller decision from 2008, right?


LEMON: Which said that -- held the Second Amendment up. That the United States' Constitution protects an individual's right to poses a firearm. But it also says -- it also says -- the same thing says that their -- the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not unlimited. He is getting it not only from Democrats, but also from Republicans, from conservatives as well. Joe Scarborough went after him this morning on "Morning Joe." Take a look.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, "MORNING JOE": Did they teach Ted Cruz to read what the Supreme Court said? Especially in the landmark -- the landmark decision regarding Second Amendment rights. Over 200 years was written in 2008. And I'm just wondering, why would he use his seat on the Judiciary Committee -- if he went to Harvard -- to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Clarkson (ph).

SCARBOROUGH: To put forward a willfully ignorant statement about this bill violating the Second Amendment. Because it does not.


LEMON: Margaret, willful ignorance. Do you agree with Scarborough? MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: No. No. Well, look, let's step back for a second here. Let's put into context what's really going on. You have a freshman senator. He's trying to make his name on The Hill. He was elected by a Tea Party wave. He represents, you know, firmly the right wing of the conservative movement. And he's making ripples. I think the country is looking for style, a tonal shift. I think that this rift -- like this bothers people, the tone and tenor that he's taken.

But the truth is, Ted Cruz is representing a vast number of gun owners who frankly don't want their gun rights taken away. I think we've seen categorically across the country there is a high degree of support for some institute -- some controls being implemented.

LEMON: Margaret, I understand what you're saying.


LEMON: And had he said that, but that's not what he said. That's not what he said. Creating ripples is one thing, but telling the truth and the facts, that's another thing. He's not -- what he's saying is inaccurate about the Constitution.

HOOVER: Well, look, I mean he -- it's my understanding, Don, that -- and, first of all, we know that he has a JD from Harvard. We also know that he has argued gun cases in front of the Supreme Court. My understanding is that he was party to the Heller case. He is a man who is imminently familiar with the law. I don't think he I sitting -- using his Senate seat uttering falsities about what the Constitution says. He was making a case for the Second Amendment.


HOOVER: I think what we're upset about is the tone and tenor he took with Dianne Feinstein, which is -- which is -- which is a fair -- a fair point.

LEMON: Jamal, he's already on the winning side. This assault weapons ban probably will not get passed and people are wondering what his point is.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I mean, his point, I think, as Margaret was just referring to, his point is to appeal to his Tea Party base. You know, I've sat with Dianne Feinstein. I've heard her tell the story firsthand about being in the city hall in San Francisco the day when the shootings occurred that lead to her ultimately taking the mayor's office. I think she does not need anybody like Ted Cruz sort of telling her what to do.

And this issue around gun violence, I think we have to recognize is different for people who come from rural areas versus people who come from urban areas. I mean, I saw the first gun when I was in middle school. Some -- a kid who held it, you know, during a robbery. I think that people who live in cities understand that this is something that is life or death for them and they watch what happens in the Senate and it just looks like a couple of, you know, old people or a couple of older people, like, who are distanced from where they live, kind of arguing about the philosophy and not talking about what's really happening on the ground in these places.

LEMON: Yes, I understand that. And, listen, you both are correct in that. But we're talking about the facts and what the law says about that ruling and about our Second Amendment. And I think that is what Dianne Feinstein is saying and I think that is what people like Chuck Scarborough are saying, facts are fact, and you can argue whatever way you want, you can try to create ripples, but you shouldn't try it mislead people with wrong facts.

Let's move on now. I want to switch gears now and talk about a CNN exclusive. Senator Rob Portman, he's changing his stance on same-sex marriage and his son reveals that he's gay. Is it OK for politicians to change their minds or is this just flip-flopping? I'm going to start with you, Jamal?

SIMMONS: Absolutely I think it's OK for them to change their minds. I mean a lot of us have wrestled with this issue in politics for years. I can remember being involved in races, you know, in 2004, as late as 2004, where civil marriage, civil unions was considered to be a pretty forward position for a politician to take who was running for president. Now, gay marriage has become so widespread in terms of it being accepted that a lot of politicians, including the president, have been scrambling to try to catch up to this issue and where the public is on this. So I think we're going to see a lot of politicians have some road to Damascus conversions.

LEMON: Patricia Murphy, I mean his son is obviously very happy with him. He tweeted today -- his reaction was, I'm "especially proud of my dad today." He obviously feels, as Jamal feels, hey, his dad evolved on this issue.

MURPHY: Yes, his dad evolved on the issue. But I think what is so interesting about what Rob Portman did today is that he also wrote an op-ed for a local Ohio paper and he didn't just say this was a personal conversion and this is a private decision. What he also said was that I made this decision because I'm a conservative, not in spite of the fact that I'm conservative. This is entirely consistent to be conservative and say that the government has no role in telling people who can and cannot be married. So he says it's more conservative to stay out of the bedroom for the Republican Party.

And he also said that he sees this as a tribute to traditional marriage and not a threat to traditional marriage. So I think that what he did was so important. And that we've seen a number of politicians change their minds on gay marriage if they have a relative or a friend or a colleague who they know and is gay and they see them have long-standing, committed relationships. But what Rob Portman has done that is so different is that he's also taken several policy positions that make it very consistent (ph) for Republicans to follow him -- to follow behind him and I think that's what's most interesting about what he did today.

LEMON: Margaret Hoover, you're an official with a new super PAC that funds Republican candidates who also support same-sex marriage. So I'm very interested in what you have to say about this. But, listen, he said his son came to him in 2011, I believe. I'm not exactly sure when he evolved on this. But his son came to him in 2011. He didn't mention him when he was running for president in 2011, 2012. We didn't hear any of this. So why not do you believe and how do you feel about this?

HOOVER: Well, look, I think Senator Portman's a leader here. And I think he represents, actually, something that we haven't seen percolate up to the highest levels of politics yet, but it's happening all across the country in the Republican Party and in the conservative movement. Do you know, over 200 representatives -- Republican legislatures across the country in different states have voted for the freedom to marry and not lost their seat. They have not been primaried by other Republican candidates for their vote in favor of marriage.

Additionally, we just saw last week, 135 high profile Republicans sign on to amicus (ph) brief to the United States Supreme Court arguing that there is a conservative argument, a constitutional case, for freedom to marry. So there is a movement, there is a lot going on in the country and in the conservative movement and in the Republican Party about people like Rob Portman who are having conversations like this, with his son, and people across the country saying, hold on a sec, gay Americans should have all the same opportunities and rights that straight Americans have and that not letting them is actually creating a second class of citizens that don't have full access to the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution. And so, you know, I commend Rob Portman for having an honest conversation. What he said to himself is -- what he said to Dana is, look, I just hadn't had the chance to really think deeply about this until my son approached me about it.


HOOVER: And, you know, I focused on economic issues before.

LEMON: Well, Margaret --

HOOVER: And so now is the right time to do it.

LEMON: I hope your Republican colleagues are listening to that.

Thank you.

MURPHY: Yes, just two sitting members of Congress have signed on to that for Republicans.

LEMON: Yes. We have to run. Thank you, Patricia Murphy. Thank you, Margaret Hoover.

HOOVER: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you, Jamal Simmons as well. We appreciate it.

And don't forget to tune in to Jake Tapper's new show. It's called "The Lead." It's at 4:00 p.m. Eastern starting right here on Monday on CNN.

Now some of the biggest stories in a flash. "Rapid fire." So, roll it. All right, first up, North Korea's threat of a preemptive nuclear strike on the United States has promoted or prompted the Pentagon to increase our domestic missile defense system on the West Coast. The Pentagon is deploying 14 additional ground-based missile interceptors in Alaska and California, but it could take two years for all the systems to come online. Angered by U.S. led sanctions of its nuclear military program, North Korea has threatened to turn Washington into a sea of fire.

A dog mauls a four-year-old girl after crossing a New York City street to get her. Surveillance camera captures how the animal refuses to let the child go and the girl's grandmother tries to stop it. Several strangers had to pull the dog away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And everybody came to try to, you know, to protect the girl, but the dog was -- hold the (INAUDIBLE).


LEMON: Well, the child was hospitalized for treatment. Police ticketed the dog's owner for not having the dog on a leash. No word on what's going to happen to the dog or if its owner will face criminal charges.

Samsung putting on a Broadway extravaganza for the launch of its Galaxy S4. This phone does things the iPhone just can't, like the air gesture where you can scroll by waving your hand. And then there's a smart pause where the phone stops a video when you're no longer looking at it and it starts it again when you look back. So, some tech analysts are also saying the Galaxy is not an iPhone killer.

Wall Street flirting with an 11-day winning streak. The Dow flat today after 10 straight days in the green. We're going to keep an eye on the big board in these last couple of hours of trading for you.

We have some disturbing news today to tell you about that could affect tens of thousands of people who are eagerly awaiting organ transplants. A Maryland man who received a kidney more than a year ago has died of rabies. Not only that, three other people also received organs from the same donor and now must undergo rabies treatment. Want to get to our senior medical correspondent now, Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, obvious question, what happened?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I know. Well, let's go over again what exactly happened here.

LEMON: All right.

COHEN: So this man dies in Florida. And his kidneys and his liver and his heart are sent to patients in Florida, which is where he lived. Also Georgia, Illinois and also to one other state. And -- to Maryland, obviously, because that's where the guy died. So what happened was is that this one person came down just recently, just last month, with rabies and then the other ones, well, they don't know, they might possibly have rabies too. So while they test them, they're giving them some drugs to make sure that they don't die of rabies.

LEMON: How did this happen? I mean don't they test donors before they send them out for things like rabies?

COHEN: They do. They do test organs before. So they test them for HIV. They test them for West Nile, for Hepatitis. However, they do not routinely test for rabies. And there's two reasons. Rabies is incredibly rare. There's maybe one, two, three cases a year. So you're testing for something that's most likely not going to be there.

LEMON: Right.

COHEN: The other thing, there aren't a lot of labs that know how to test for rabies in humans. You've got labs in Georgia, California, New York and we're told by the CDC, that's pretty much it. So if you live in another part of the country, they're going to have to ship part of that organ in for testing or blood or whatever. And then -- by then the organ's not useful. By then, too much time has passed. So there's no efficient way of doing this.

LEMON: So are you just taking your chances here? Is that the best way to do it?

COHEN: To some extent you're taking your chances, but there is a great empowered patient message here. If you or a loved one are about to get an organ from a cadaver, or actually -- from a cadaver, you should say, what killed this person, why did this person die?

I was just talking to a transplant surgeon who says too often the patients are told, you got a liver, let's go.

LEMON: Right.

COHEN: Say, no, no, what killed this person? And if they say encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain --

LEMON: Right.

COHEN: Of unknown organ. A person had encephalitis and we don't know why, you might want to say, hold on, I'm not so sure I want that organ.

LEMON: Because that's rabies or something like West Nile or something like that?

COHEN: Could be rabies or -- well, it could be rabies. It could be something else that they're not able to test for. If someone has inflammation of the brain and they don't know why, what killed them could also kill you if you get their organ. So you want to ask, what was the cause of death.

LEMON: And that's the best piece of advice if your loved one is waiting for an organ transplant.

COHEN: Yes. When one comes around, say, what killed this donor?

LEMON: All right, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

LEMON: A pretty scary story. Thank you very much. We appreciate it, Elizabeth Cohen.

And coming up, bombshell testimony today in Steubenville, Ohio, where two star football players are accused of rape. Up next, what one key witness said about what he saw happen in the car.

Plus, any minute now President Obama speaking for the first time this week since holding closed door meetings with members of Congress. We'll hear what he has to say.


LEMON: $40,000 will be given to two women who were accidentally shot by Los Angeles police during a manhunt for killer ex-cop Christopher Dorner. The money is for the loss of the blue pickup truck that police shot up in early february. The truck looks similar to the one that Dorner was thought to be driving. Still to be considered are damages for personal injuries and suffering.

To Steubenville, Ohio, now, where a bombshell is dropped by two key witnesses in that rape trial involving two star high school football players. CNN's Poppy Harlow was just inside the court and she joins us now.

Poppy, what did this latest witness say?


Well, this is day three of the Steubenville, Ohio, rape trial that has truly captured the nation's attention. We're talking about the allegations by a 16-year-old girl who prosecutors say was raped and degraded multiple times over the course of an evening between multiple parties.

I want to make something clear. In Ohio, digital penetration is included in the definition of rape. So it doesn't mean just having sex. It means penetrating someone with your fingers or with an object.

Also, what we heard today was from two eyewitnesses of this alleged rape. It is the first time we've heard from any eyewitnesses in this trial. Both of them tried to plead the fifth. They're both teenage boys. But the judge granted them immunity to compel their testimony today.

The first witness, who was a friend of the two accused boys, Ma'lik Richmond and Trent Mays, talked about that evening. He talked about a car ride between parties. And he said that in the car ride, sitting next to the alleged victim and Trent Mays in the back seat, he being Trent Mays, quote, "inserted his fingers into her vagina." Now, this witness says he knows this because he videotaped it, four minutes, on his iPhone. He then says he deleted that video the next morning when he realized that it was wrong to take it.

He then talked about the group going into the basement of a house. And he said that Trent Mays, in that basement, after the car ride, quote, "tried to receive oral sex from her," the alleged victim. "She didn't really respond to it."

I want to move on now to the second eyewitness that we just heard from this afternoon. That eyewitness, also a teenager, also a friend of the two accused boys, talked about what happened to the girl in that basement. And he talked about Ma'lik Richmond, the co-defendant in this case. He said that the girl was lying naked on the floor, that Ma'lik Richmond was standing behind her, and that he was, quote, "using his fingers to penetrate her."

This is the first time we have heard from eyewitnesses. The defense obviously trying to say that the boys are reconstructing their memory from all the social media out there and trying to right the wrong that has allegedly been done here, Don.

LEMON: Poppy, can you tell us about the text messages that were read to the court?

HARLOW: Yes, I can.

So this happened yesterday. Another key witness for the prosecution here, Joanne Gibbs (ph), she's a computer forensic analyst for the state, for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations, she read off hundreds of text messages that were -- came from 17 phones that were analyzed in this investigation from different teenagers. And two of the key ones that I want to read you.

One, she says, came from Trent Mays in response to a friend asking the day after this alleged incident, what he did with the girl. And if he did anything with the girl. That text read, quote, "yeah, dude, she was like a dead body. I just needed some sexual attention."

She also read off a text coming from the alleged victim to a friend of hers on August 13th, two days after the alleged incident. It read, in part, quote, "I think I was drugged. I have no memory after that."

The key to this case is consent. It is also how intoxicated this girl was. Was she in a state of mind where she could make decisions or not. We know that she wanted to go with Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond to that next party. That has been testified over and over again.

LEMON: Right.

HARLOW: But what state was she in when this allegedly happened? We're yet to hear from her. We expect she may take the stand. We're yet to hear from the co-defendants, Don.

LEMON: Poppy Harlow, thank you very much.

A Hollywood movie exec disappears without a trace. Now new evidence surfaces in this case. Find out why infidelity may have played a role. We're on the case, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: To the case now of the missing Hollywood movie executive. It is now been ruled a homicide. Gavin Smith, who worked at 20th Century Fox, disappeared last May. His black Mercedes sedan was located last month at a storage facility in Simi Valley. Police now say they have concluded that Smith is dead.


LT. DAVE DOLSON, LOS ANGELES SHERIFF'S DEPT.: Now we're at a point in the investigation, based upon the condition of the vehicle. And based upon information that we have gathered from witnesses who are cooperating, we believe that this case is a homicide case. As of now, with the evidence that we have and that we've been able to view and receive, we believe that Gavin Smith was murdered.


LEMON: All right, so police haven't made any arrests or named any suspects, but almost immediately a connection was made to a convicted drug dealer named John Creech. His home was searched last June. Police say Gavin Smith and Creech's wife met in rehab and had some kind of a relationship. Criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson is a contributor on "In Session" on truTV.

Joey, so police have already said that Creech is a person of interest. The storage facility where the Mercedes was found, linked to him. And he had a relationship with Creech's wife. The math is pretty simple here. It seems to add up.

JOEY JACKSON, "IN SESSION": Oh, yes. Well, the police are doing a thorough investigation. And in that investigation, Don, they've executed over two dozen search warrants. They've spoken to numerous people and it's because of the people they've spoken to and the information they were able to provide them that they actually concluded that it was a homicide. Now the point is to put it all together because what don't you have yet, right? He's missing.

LEMON: Right.

JACKSON: No body, OK?

LEMON: No body.

JACKSON: And if there's no body, if there is a prosecution, if they have to get someone, you know, that they want to bring them justice, you want to make sure you prosecute effectively.

LEMON: That always amazes me that when there's no body that they say they can do homicide, they can do murder. How is that?

JACKSON: You know, interestingly enough, and there's a good example of that, because, of course, you remember Drew Peterson, right?

LEMON: Right. Right. JACKSON: Right, in Chicago. The murder of his wife. And he was brought to justice, right? Because a number of people came together. Now, remember, there's things called direct evidence, but there's also circumstantial evidence. People talk, information comes together, information is gathered, forensics is gathered and it becomes compelling. DNA linking people to the crime, fingerprints linking people to the crime, blood linking people to the crime. So we'll see what the police have here.

LEMON: Is it believed that he acted alone or are there other people involved?

JACKSON: At this point, the police are hush-hush. And that's -- you know, in any investigation, it's not surprising that the police don't want to reveal too much to the public. So I think in due time we'll know, because they'll let us know when they go after whoever they decide to prosecute, right now it looks like potentially the husband of the, you know, the person he was walking around with, the drug dealer, all right. So at that point, they'll allow us to know exactly who was involved, how many people were involved, and they'll bring those people to justice.

LEMON: Careful who you get involved with.

JACKSON: Oh, yes, indeed.

LEMON: Yes. Joey Jackson. Appreciate it, sir.

JACKSON: A pleasure, Don. Good to see you.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you.