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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Prosecution Hammers Arias On Stand; Arias Defense Calls Expert Witness; Steubenville, Ohio Rape Trial; New Robert Menendez Probe; TSA Director Won't Back Down; Dog Viciously Mauls Girl; Interview with Harry and Joe Gantz; The Great American Winter; Calling For Help In Portland; Interview with Bernard Hopkins, The Oldest Boxing Champion

Aired March 15, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. In our STARTING POINT this half hour, 18 days on the stand. Accused killer Jodi Arias finally ends her testimony about the death of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander. She shot him, stabbed him dozens of times and slit his throat.

Arias claims it was all in self-defense. She ended her testimony Thursday, kind of a showdown with the prosecution over her ever changing story about the knife.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JUAN MARTINEZ, PROSECUTOR, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA: It would have taken time to actually look for it, wouldn't it?

JODI ARIAS, ACCUSED OF MURDERING EX-BOYFRIEND: I guess under that theory.

MARTINEZ: Sure, under that theory. It would take time, right?

ARIAS: Yes, I guess.

MARTINEZ: You needed to go get that knife at that point, correct?

ARIAS: No. It's possible Travis grabbed the knife first.

MARTINEZ: You never told us he had any knife there, did you?

ARIAS: No, I wasn't asked.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: The drama just goes on and on and on. The judge and attorneys will meet today for an evidentiary hearing regarding the testimony of a defense psychologist. If found guilty, Jodi Arias could get the death penalty.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's talk about this. Let's bring in criminal defense attorney Jose Baez who successfully defended Casey Anthony during her murder trial in 2011 and following the Jodi Arias case here really since day one.

Jose Baez, welcome. A lot to talk about, but I want to talk about the one issue where you say this is really the smoking gun, these photographs. So we know this camera was found in the washing machine, and there were multiple pictures with timestamps, that the time, the date, here on those photos, some of which actually captured this bloody, gruesome attack. Why do you say these are key?

JOSE BAEZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, if you ask any prosecutor they'll tell you of dream cases when the murder is caught on tape. This is probably the second-best thing you can get. Which is, you know, you have photographs of them beforehand, and you have photographs of him alive, and then 62 seconds later, you have a dead -- I photograph of him bleeding, or dying at that point. So, I think it's -- it's as much of a smoking gun as you're going to ever get after a video, of course.

BERMAN: So Jose, Jodi Arias finally done on the stand and yesterday we heard from the first time from Dr. Richard Samuels, psychologist who started talking about PTSD. Let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. RICHARD SAMUELS, DEFENSE PSYCHOLOGIST: People who suffer from stress producing trauma will frequently not recall what happened for a certain period starting at the beginning of the trauma until sometime thereafter, which could be measured either in hours, or even days, and sometimes even weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So now we get the PTSD defense kind of trying to explain the gaps in her memory or the inconsistencies in her answers. Do you think this might hold water with the jury?

BAEZ: Well, this is what you're seeing now is the actual defense of this case. They had to put Jodi on in order to put these mental health experts on. Otherwise, they wouldn't be able to testify as a matter of law.

So they went through these 18 days, and I guess they came out, they may feel they survived it or not, but it's all going to depend on how convincing these mental health experts are going to be.

What a lot of people don't realize, this is a death penalty case and the first thing you do in a death penalty case is try to save the client's life. So, that sometimes will conflict with the guilt or innocence stage, and you know, at this point it really is about trying to save a life and nothing more.

BALDWIN: Having talked to attorneys they say this is why this is going on for so long. It started in January. You really don't want to leave any stone unturned in a case that involves somebody's life for sure.

It's interesting, Jose. You mentioned the word surviving, right, so survived the stand for 18 days, a lot of back and forth, especially with those juror questions, which is so unique in the state of Arizona. How do you think she's done?

BAEZ: Well, it's -- it's really a double-edged sword here. In one sense, I think what the defense was doing was trying to humanize her with the jury. And she spent 18 days talking to them directly, having interaction with them through the questions.

So, in that sense, they probably accomplished that goal. However there was one question that I really didn't like as it related to the death penalty and that's when one juror asked, you mentioned you were -- thought about committing suicide multiple times.

What stopped you? If I'm a defense lawyer, sitting at that table, I'm cringing at that question. It does not look good if the rest of the jury feels that way, too.

BERMAN: Every lawyer also has to be something of an amateur psychologist. Jose Baez, our thanks to you.

BAEZ: Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: Now to Christine Romans. It's 35 minutes past the hour. Christine for today's top stories. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Happy Friday, the alleged victim could take the stand today in day three of the Steubenville, Ohio, rape trial. Two high school football players are charged with raping the 16-year-old girl last summer.

The case exploded on the national scene after pictures of the girl looking as if she was passed out were posted on the internet. So far the prosecution's case has focused on those cell phone pictures and text messages from the defendants.

New this morning, a grand jury in Florida is reportedly investigating New Jersey Congressman Robert Menendez. According to "The Washington Post," the FBI has interviewed several people in a probe of the Democrat's role in advocating for the business interest of his wealthy friend who is also a major political donor.

Last year, Menendez wrote a check for $58,000 to reimburse that friend for a trip to the Dominican Republic.

TSA Director John Pistole defending his controversial decision to Congress to allow passengers to bring small knives on planes even though, get this, the entire airline industry opposes Pistole's idea. He's refusing to back down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN PISTOLE, TSA DIRECTOR: The small pocket knife is simply not going to result in catastrophic failure of an aircraft, and I provide explosive device will. And we know from internal covert tests in searching for these items which will not blow up an aircraft and distract our security officers from focusing on the components of an IED.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The new rule allowing passengers to bring knives on planes takes effect on April 25th.

Check out this dramatic video of the rescue of a hiker who fell into a gorge in Arizona. The man was hiking with a friend this week when he fell off the canyon wall plunged 70 feet, crews reached him. They stayed with him through the night. He was then airlifted out of the canyon and is being treated for several broken bones.

Surveillance video captures a dog viciously attacking a 4-year-old little girl in New York. Before showing you this video we want you to know that this little girl is OK. The dog comes out of nowhere, darting across the street, attacking the girl while she's holding the hand of an adult.

Within seconds, seconds, Good Samaritans were able to pull this dog off of her. I know it's just chilling. The little girl amazingly suffered only puncture wounds on her right arm and leg. But I'm telling you, that's why kids are afraid of dogs.

BERMAN: Thank goodness those other people were there to help.

ROMANS: I know. I know.

BALDWIN: That's frightening.

BERMAN: All right.

ROMANS: I can't believe it.

BALDWIN: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BALDWIN: Ahead this morning, a compelling documentary. We want to show you part of this. You don't want to miss this. We have award winning filmmakers joining us here in studio to talk about, these are personal stories, emotional stories of families, kids, here in one town, and the extraordinary measures they take to try to just make ends meet.

BERMAN: And then, the 48-year-old boxer who just became the oldest champ to win a title, breaking his own record. Bernard Hopkins looking pretty good. He is here live just moments you're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: This morning we're talking about this new documentary with pretty unique look as to how one town, and a number of its families, are struggling just to put food on the table, make ends meet.

BERMAN: So the makers of American winter spent months in Oregon's 211 call center as people desperate for food, shelter, money, called there looking for help. Here's a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks for calling 211. How can I help you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need help with our electric bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just got an eviction notice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you sleeping in your car?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under a bridge, actually.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, and it's cold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came home, no lights, no nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been three days since the water got turned off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To get foreclosed on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not making the money to pay for our house. He's working his butt off to try to find a job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went through the whole phone book, not one of them said they were hiring.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I hear them saying we skipped dinner because we need to feed our kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Working for minimum wage you'll never achieve the American dream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forget dreams, how do we make it to tomorrow? Tomorrow is the dream.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: It's so hard for me to listen to the kids talking about that.

BALDWIN: Forget the dream. We just have to make it to tomorrow.

BERMAN: "American Winter" debuts Monday on HBO at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. With us now are the award winning producers, Joe and Harry, thanks so much for joining us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for having us.

BERMAN: The families you profiled here and you really do tell some unique personal stories here, these are families that three, four years ago were all doing OK. They were comfortable, and now they have fallen on hard times. Why did you decide to tell that story?

HARRY GANTZ, PRODUCER, "AMERICAN WINTER": Well, we had seen a lot of films that had been done on the causes of the great recession, but very few about the results, the human space of the recession. That's what we wanted to do, tell the stories about the -- and it's in this country, almost the majority of the people, they say, are receiving some type of social services or close to the poverty line. So we wanted to tell the story from their point of view and especially the kids' point of view.

BALDWIN: Right, right. To hear the kids say I know my parents are skipping dinner so I can have a warm meal to eat at night. The next question, then, is so you all were sitting at this 211 call center, in Oregon, where you call if you need help.

So you're basically picking some of these families, you determine who you want to profile. Obviously they all have in common this struggle. But beyond that, what else sort of binds all these families together?

JOE GANTZ, PRODUCER, "AMERICAN WINTER": So, we're listening to calls, and hundreds of calls are coming in each day, families who can't pay their water, their electricity, they're on the verge of being evicted, health issues, can't put enough food on the table, and then we started working with them.

What I noticed is the stress that these families are under. Not knowing if they have to pay one bill or another, if they're going to be able to take care of their families, the stress is just overwhelming. And there's no quality of life. It's just morning till night worrying how they're going to make ends meet.

BERMAN: The kids again, I can't get it out of my head. What's it like talking to these kids? Ohio much do the kids actually understand?

H. GANTZ: Well, the kids, even though the parents do their best to shield them from the economic stresses they're under, it's impossible to do that. Because if you come home and the lights aren't on and you're trying to study or there's not enough food on the table, it can't help but affect them. And they grow up very, very quickly. They have to be -- take on adult stresses at an age when they should just be a kid.

BALDWIN: The lights not being on I just want to play one more clip. When you're talking to a man not being able to pay his electric bill. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talking to my dad, he tries to keep my head up. He'll help when he can. This last month, I had to call him up, and have him pay the electric bill. It's not easy. You're a 50-year-old man, and you have to call your dad to pay the electric bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

H. GANTZ: And John has a down syndrome child he raises.

BALDWIN: So you hear these stories, through tears, or children, and my next question is, so you have this film, but then what? I mean, it's privately funded grant, correct, private what was it private donations, what's the takeaway?

JOE GRANTZ: Well, there are so many myths and stereotypes about the families who need social services. They're lazy, they're not trying hard. They made mistakes. This film really dispels that. These are hard-working folks. They've been working since they were teenagers and they want nothing more than to get some help and get back on their feet so they can be contributing members again in society.

BERMAN: Can I just ask quickly, is there reason for hope? Has anything turned around since you finished filming this for any of these people?

H. GANTZ: Some of them have gotten into a better situation. But for instance a lot of them were working at jobs that are $20 an hour and they got rehired at jobs that were $12 or $13 an hour. The hope is the fortitude these families have, what it takes to survive in those situations.

They are the heroes, and the takeaway is that the hope is in the love they have for each other, and hopefully, that the government will come around and fund the social safety net in a way that can help them get back on their feet. Because it's a lot cheaper to fund them before they fall into abject poverty than to try to get them out of it.

BERMAN: Our hopes are all with them. Joe Gantz, Harry Gantz. Thank you so much for joining us. The film debuts Monday night at 9:00 on HBO. Thanks a lot.

J. GANTZ: Thank you.

H. GANTZ: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Best of luck.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, history in the ring. We're talking about 48-year-old Bernard Hopkins. He just became the oldest boxer to win a major title and he did it by knocking out a guy like 17 years younger. He's here live to talk about that victory. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: You have to take a look at this video. This is history in the making. I'm talking about boxer Bernard Hopkins. He is there in the purple trunks. Just amazing and beating Tamarus Cloud, 17 years his junior. Hopkins became the oldest fighter ever to win a champion belt. He broke a record he knew something about because he said it two years ago.

BALDWIN: He is now 48 years young, right? Is that what we're saying? He is after the unanimous decision from the three judges. The title belt here on the table in the studio. Watch the entire fight on HBO demand. We have the champion right here in person. Bernard Hopkins with the huge belt, hold it up. Is it heavy?

BERNARD HOPKINS, OLDEST BOXING CHAMPION IN HISTORY: Yes. It has some weight to it, 25 pounds.

BALDWIN: How are you feeling? Congratulations.

HOPKINS: I'm feeling great. Thank you. I did a soft workout after the fight.

BALDWIN: Define soft workout for me?

HOPKINS: Soft workout, jumped rope, shadowboxed with my coach and out of the gym in the hour.

BERMAN: But no one was punching you.

HOPKINS: No physical.

BERMAN: Because that's the thing, in boxing, people do punch you a lot, which is why it's a young man's sport. At 48, you are much older than a lot of guys that are you fighting. How on earth are you doing this?

HOPKINS: I'm outsmarting the guys, strategy is better. I think in the end, when you look at health and awareness we have in front of us, I took advantage of that early in my career, and really extended my career, health wise, and I'm playing it out.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about the health. On the commercial break, you say, look, I walk the walk, I talk the talk. You have been doing this for 2-1/2 decades. You eat well, you work out. You are not out drinking. That is key.

HOPKINS: I don't drink at all. Wine, nothing.

BALDWIN: Nothing.

HOPKINS: It's well documented.

BALDWIN: So if we do all of that at 48 we can look like you and feel as good?

HOPKINS: You got to start earlier in life. I tell people, you didn't get that way overnight and you are not going to get healthy overnight. It's a process that takes place. You have to take time, work your way up to as they say a championship level. I tell people that in life. You work your way up. Don't try to accomplish it in two days, three days.

BALDWIN: It's not an overnight thing.

HOPKINS: Yes. Nothing is really that quick to progress. So you have to take time. Put time in, and put work in.

BERMAN: And you are boxing really smart now. You're boxing differently than you might have 20 years ago.

HOPKINS: That's that part of that longevity because that extended what I've been doing for the last, you know, five years, or longer and being 40. Once I hit 40, you know -- you know.

BERMAN: I do.

HOPKINS: Most people saying today. She definitely don't know. But most people know when you are 40, you should be well out of boxing five years ago. You know, 35 is normally the window where they really start writing you off, 35, fighting a guy that's 25. But I really superseded everybody's expectations to where I'm at.

BALDWIN: Somebody said you get a second wind in your 40s. Have you experienced that yet? Obviously you have.

HOPKINS: I have my third wind.

BALDWIN: Let me ask you this though, your mother who is no longer with us. Did she make you promise no more fighting after 40?

HOPKINS: She never wanted me to fight past the age where I couldn't protect myself. She was being a mother of concern. She grew up in Philadelphia, to Joe Frasers, people she knew in the neighborhood wasn't physically in great shape so any mother's care and love would say, don't fight past, you know, this date or this year or this birthday.

At that time I was in my 30s, and so she was concerned about that. And it was a promise and, you know -- but I believe she's part of my success, protecting me with the boss upstairs at the roundtable. I don't know how much time I've got, I have to get out of boxing sooner than later, but I extended my career way past my expectations.

BERMAN: Is this it? Are you retiring?

HOPKINS: No. But I'm not going to fight until I'm 50 like it's said over the air waves.

BERMAN: You look good, my man. Bernard Hopkins, congratulations.

BALDWIN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, a CNN exclusive, the stunning reversal on gay marriage by one of the leading conservative voices in the U.S. Senate. Reaction, pouring in this morning to the story from our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash getting this one-on- one on why Ohio Republican Rob Portman is now a supporter. We'll talk about that ahead.

BERMAN: "Veronica Mars" coming to the big screen after devoted fans -- fans, coughed up more than $2 million to make it happen. We're going to the creator of the cult classic, Rob Thomas, coming up. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Good morning, happy Friday. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Great to see you today. Soledad is off. STARTING POINT, a really surprising change of heart. Rob Portman reverses his decision on gay marriage for a very personal reason. Dana bash with the exclusive TV interview and the reaction that is really coming in quick.

BALDWIN: And you have to see this. We have this video. Minutes ago, this wild police chase, through the streets of Detroit. Look at him going here. Cars, slamming into one another before the police finally surround the driver. That full story, coming up.

BERMAN: Then more trouble for Carnival cruise passengers. Yes, more. One liner is stuck in port, another having heat issues. These are just the latest in a string of incidents in the last month. We will have a live report.

BALDWIN: And the dream coming true for John Berman and millions of "Veronica Mars" fans. I don't know. We'll talk with the show creator, Rob Thomas, live this morning about this record breaking. I'm talking millions in terms of this Kickstarter campaign to get this film made.