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President Barack Obama To Visit Middle East; Steubenville Teens Convicted Of Rape; 68-Year-Old Man And 14-Year-Old Boy Killed In California Racetrack Accident; Pope Francis Delivers First Angelus Prayer

Aired March 17, 2013 - 17:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to the NEWSROOM. I`m Fredricka Whitfield. Here is a look at our top stories right now.

Two rising stars on an Ohio high school football team, now convicted rapists. Today, a judge in Steubenville found 17-year-old Trent Mays and 16-year-old Ma`lik Richmond guilty of raping a drunk, 16-year-old girl. Richmond was sentenced to a minimum of one year in a juvenile facility and Mays received a two-year minimum sentence. The teens broke down after the verdict was read. Richmond`s mother openly wept.

Both boys apologized to the victim and her family. We will hear from them and the victim`s family straight ahead.

A deadly accident at a Northern California racetrack last night. Two people were killed when a race car lost control during warm-up laps and slammed into the pit area at the Marysville raceway. We will go live to California in just a couple of minutes to get the latest details.

In Pennsylvania there will be a memorial this evening on the campus of Seton Hill University near Pittsburgh. They are remembering lacrosse coach Kristina Quigley. The 30-year-old pregnant coach and her unborn son were called when the team bus crashed on the way to game yesterday. The driver of the bus was also killed. Two other members of the team remain in the hospital.

And now, back to the verdict in the Ohio rape trial that made headlines around the world. Two Steubenville, Ohio high school football players, Trent Mays and Ma`lik Richmond, will soon have to register as sex offenders. They were convicted today of raping a drunk teenage girl. The victim`s mother issued a statement to the boys after they were sentenced to a juvenile detention facility. Here`s some of what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You displayed not only a lack of this compassion but a lack of any moral code. Your decisions that night affected countless lives including those most dear to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Our Poppy Harlow was in the courtroom and she is joining us live now.

So Poppy, the evidence the judge was referring to earlier when he said he remembers it all, it included cell phone pictures taken of the victim, lurid text messages from the defendants, how much did all of that play in to the judge he`s verdict?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it played into it a lot, Fredricka. But eyewitness testimony was also very damning for these two men now convicted rapists. Three eyewitnesses saying that they saw the boys sexually assault the girl in a way that when it`s not consensual is considered rape in the state of Ohio, three eyewitnesses all of them friends with these two boys.

Talking about the social media, the text messages, this all unfolded and played out online, on Internet in front of the world. And that`s what makes this case increasingly upsetting for everyone involved. It did not only was this girl degraded over and over as the prosecution put it, but she was done so after the fact again and again online. Pictures of her really seemingly unconscious being posted on Instagram, people texting, tweeting, making fun of the incident, that 12-minute you tube video that`s now infamous of people joking around it later that night. So, a lot of that also was at play and was presented in this court.

I want to our viewers, part of the judge`s decision that came down this morning, that verdict, guilty verdict, on all counts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE THOMAS LIPPS, FOUND DEFENDANTS GUILTY IN RAPE CASE: I closely examined all the evidence and I read all text messages that were sent in this case. Many of the things that we learned during this trial that our children were saying and doing were profane, were ugly, with alcohol consumption shown as particular danger to our teenage youth.

Throughout a trial, the court is able to view the demeanor of the witnesses, judge their credibility and weigh the evidence presented to the court. The court has done so in this case and it is the court`s decision that both of the defendants are hereby adjudicated delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt on all three counts as charged.

For those of you who are not familiar with adjudications of delinquency in juvenile law, it is similar to a finding of guilty in the adult court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: And Fredricka, the judge made the final call. This was not a jury trial. Because it was a juvenile case, it was the judge that rendered this decision after it was made. The two convicted rapists were taken out of the courthouse here and they went immediately in to detention in a juvenile detention facility.

WHITFIELD: And the defendants did address the court and the victim`s family, seemingly very apologetic, very remorseful. Did that in any way play a role in the type of sentencing that they received?

HARLOW: No one will know for sure because the judge did give them a chance to stand up and address the court, which they did before he handed down his sentence. So, no one will know whether that changed his mind or not. He could have given them a longer sentence than he did, but I want our viewers to get a moment to listen to these two boys as they apologized to the victim`s family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MA`LIK RICHMOND, CONVICTED DEFENDANT: I would like to apologize to you people. I had no intentions to do anything like that. I`m sorry to put you guys through it.

TRENT MAYS, CONVICTED DEFENDANT: I would truly like to apologize to (bleep) my family and the community, all pictures that have sent around for as long it takes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: I can tell you sitting in the courtroom watching, listening to this myself; it was difficult for everyone involved to see everything that played out today. But you have to remember the victim, a 16-year-old girl raped, she is at the center of this and they are guilty of raping her.

WHITFIELD: Poppy Harlow, thanks so much from Steubenville, Ohio.

And Poppy will be back in a few moments with more of what happened in court today, including when the victim`s mother spoke out. And we will talk with a legal expert about what`s next in this case.

All right, let`s get back to the deadly accident at a California racetrack last night. A 68-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy were killed when a car lost control and slammed into the pit area of the Marysville raceway.

Paul Vercammen is following the story for us.

So, this crash occurred even before the race actually began. It was during the warm-up laps. What happened exactly?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, one theory is, Fredricka, that it was a stuck gas pedal. And we know that it happened in the pit area.

Now, from what sheriff`s deputies told me this morning, the victims are 14-year-old Marcus Johnson. He`s the cousin of the driver. The other victim is 68-year-old Dale Wondergem. Now, both of them were in thus pit area and according to the sheriffs they had a legitimate reason to be there. In other words, they were connected to the race.

Now, this happened in Marysville, and this is an oval track. Its bank is very short, a quarter-mile long. And here`s what one witness told me over the phone today. He said he thinks he heard what went wrong and that is that that gas pedal was stuck and that the throttle was wide open and that`s why very unusual he went into the pit area going at an extremely high speed. Let`s take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL HAWES, RACEWAY OWNER: He was not trying to come off the track. He was trying to make the corner and he didn`t make the corner and he didn`t make the corner and went flying out the exit. It started tumbling and struck two people at a quad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is devastating for me to have a good time and fun and especially people in the pits. But you never know what`s going to happen because, you know, it is racing and, you know, so, racing can be dangerous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: Now, the driver was extremely experienced. Though 17 years old, he`d been at it for four years and won rookie of the year trophies in the Sprint Circuit Northern California. His name is Trace Johnson. He is from a well respected, well liked racing family, the Johnsons. They are based in Petaluma, California. And the Petaluma racetrack, I was talking to be earlier today, and they said they are deeply saddened and they wish for healing in all of this.

All of the drivers donated their entry fees from last night to the victim`s families of this accident -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Paul, this apparently isn`t the first accident, fatal accident to happen at this track. Is there anything to be said about this particular track?

VERCAMMEN: Not so much the particular track, although the sheriff`s department did confirmed that back in 2010 in August they have semi-truck racing there and there was also a fatal accident at this very same Marysville track -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Paul Vercammen, thanks so much.

President Barack Obama heading to the Middle East Tuesday. It is his first international trip of his second term. He will make stops on the West Bank and in Jordan as well. And he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The White House says the trip`s agenda is quite full.

And Pope Francis has delivered his first angelus prayer. He blessed the crowd of more than 200,000 in St. Peters square this morning. And breaking from tradition Francis walked out from the Vatican grounds and went right there kissing and conveying, you know, his messages one and on to these cheering well wishers.

It`s very green in many places around the world. It`s St. Patrick`s Day. Check out the dancing and celebrations going on in shanghai, China just a short time ago. And the duke and duchess of Cambridge, Will and Katherine, celebrated at a parade near London as well. They presented shack rocks to the first battalion Irish guards. And here in the U.S., folks in Chicago well, you know, the tradition there, dying the river green. Chicago`s annual parade draws thousands of people there every year. But that looks like a new trick.

All right, we are taking you back to Steubenville, Ohio straight ahead. The rape case that`s shaken the small town came down to a judge`s decision today. Up next, the mother of the victim. More of her comments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: For the first time since the Steubenville, owe rape trial began the victim`s family is speaking out. The mother of a 16- year-old girl who was raped by two high school football players issued a statement, a recorded statement to the boys who committed the crime.

Our Poppy Harlow was in the courtroom. She is joining us live right now. And this was an audio recording that was played in the court at what time of the proceeding?

HARLOW: Fredricka, it is an audio recording. It was not played in the court. This is a statement that the mother gave to us, the media, after the court had ended this morning, after the verdict had been read, after the sentence had been handed down in a separate room, she gave the statement. It is obviously very difficult coming from the mother of this 16-year-old victim who was raped by these two boys back in August. It is the first time that we have heard publicly from the family in all of this so we want to play you the entirety of her statement so you can hear for yourself.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It did not matter what school you went to, what city you lived in or what sport you have played. Human compassion is not taught by a teacher, a coach or a parent. It is a god given gift instilled in all of us. You displayed not only a lack of this compassion but a lack of any moral code. Your decisions that night affected countless lives, including those most dear to you.

You were your own accuser through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on. This does not define who my daughter is. She will persevere, grow and move on. I have pity for you both. I hope you fear the Lord, repent for your actions and pray hard for his forgiveness.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HARLOW: And just as you heard the pain in the voices of the courtroom from the two convicted boys, from their parents, you hear it clearly in the voice of the mother of the victim. And that it is very difficult to listen to but you can hear her anger at what happened and also saying that her daughter will get through this, that she will persevere. And right now, frankly, she`s just trying to get back to being a teenager in high school here in this small Ohio town trying to somehow put her life back to normal. WHITFIELD: And Poppy, did the victim`s mother or even the victim or perhaps even the attorneys representing the victim say anything about what they thought of the sentencing, if they thought it was just appropriate, et cetera.

HARLOW: You know, we haven`t heard from the victim`s family, what they thought about the sentencing. We are expecting to hear more possibly tomorrow so if I do talk to her I will ask the family what they think of it.

But, you know, when you look at the sentencing, the maximum sentence these two juveniles could face is to serve until they are 21 years old. The judge gave Ma`lik Richmond a sentence of one year and Trent Mays a sentence of two years because both were found guilty of rape but Trent Mays was also found guilty of taking an illegal nude photograph of this girl that night when she was not consenting to anything. So, that is illegal as well. So, he will serve two consecutive years.

Both of them are going to get credit for the time, the few months that they`ve already served but after their release they are going to have to register as sex offenders wherever they live, Fredricka. So this will stay with them.

WHITFIELD: Poppy Harlow, thanks so much in Steubenville, Ohio.

Meantime, the Ohio attorney general says that he`s asking for grand jury to see if more charges should be filed in the case as it relates to at least 15 other people who may have been eyewitnesses. We will talk about that with a former prosecutor up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: We have been bringing you details of the rape case that has rocked the town of Steubenville, Ohio and riveted the nation. Two teens have been found guilty and sentenced for raping a 16-year- old girl after a night of partying last summer. But charges against those who witnessed the rape could also be filed soon. Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine is asking a grand jury to convene on April 15th.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE DEWINE, OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL: We`ve gathered a lot of evidence, but this case just -- we can`t put this thing to bed. I mean, we cannot bring finality to this without the convening of a grand jury. There is 16 witnesses who wouldn`t talk to us. We have other evidence that we want to present to that grand jury.

This community desperately needs to have this behind them. For this community also desperately needs to know that justice was done and desperately needs to know that no stone was left unturned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Let`s turn to former prosecutor and professor of sexual violence law, Wendy Murphy. Good to see you, Wendy. WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Good to be here.

WHITFIELD: So, what kinds of charges are we potentially talking about for maybe as many as 15 witnesses that the attorney general was talking about?

MURPHY: Yes, well, at a minimum we are talking about a prosecution probably for many of them at least I believe there`s plenty of evidence to prove the crime called failure to report a crime. Not every state has this but in a nutshell it simply means if you know that a crime happened, you have a duty under the law to report it and if you don`t, you could be prosecuted.

There is also the possibility after more serious crime of accessory to the actual rape itself or even a joint venture prosecution which simply means if you were there while the crime is happening, if you are participating in some meaningful way, in other words, cheering the guys on, taking part enough that the law says you should be held responsible to some extent, even if you never touch her, then that can be pursued either as a joint venture or accessory crime. And those are serious crimes. Thos are potentially felony prosecutions.

It is interesting that the attorney general says so many of the guys who were witness did not cooperate, didn`t give evidence. You know, that is probably ramped up his desire to take this case to a grand jury. We know that some of the guys have cooperated, were given immunity from prosecution and testified. So, you can bet, they are going to be called to the grand jury and ask not only what did you see in terms of the rape, but what did you see in terms of the other people that were there surrounding the circumstance, what did they do or not do to facilitate the crime.

WHITFIELD: And when you talk about grand jury, you talk about potential felonies, you are talking about adult court, aren`t you, as opposed to this juvenile detention setting.

MURPHY: Well, it depends. Under Ohio law there are provisions depending on the nature of the crime, provisions for kind of almost automatic transfer to adult court depending on your age. All you have to be is over the age of 14 and you can be transferred to adult court under Ohio law for certain kinds of crimes. But it is not mandatory so it remains to be seen based on age and degree of criminal involvement.

WHITFIELD: You know, something else happened in this proceeding. You know, the defense conceded that she was -- the victim was very drunk and that apparently the young men thought that she was consenting. But where is the line between, you know, being drunk and being so woozy, I guess, but there is consent involved because that was a point of contention here, that there was an interpretation that it was OK but then there`s also the defense that says she just wasn`t able to comprehend what was happening.

MURPHY: Right. Good question, Fredricka. I mean, it is such a difficult question for me to answer. I actually lecture at universities all over the country where this is an even bigger problem. And the name of my lecture is called what`s the difference between rape and sex with a buzz because it is an important difference. One is a felony and the other is pleasurable. And there is no easy answer.

All I can say it under Ohio law and like most states, if you are substantially impaired so that you`re not acting with free will, that you`re not making the choice of your own free mind, then there is a really good chance if another person touches you in a sexual way, they are committing a serious crime.

Now, not all sex that involves even a high degree of alcohol ends up being reported to police. So, it could be an invisibility problem. Sure, it is sort of a crime but if nobody tells then, you know, it`s not really a serious enough offense to rise to the level in this case.

But here`s an important issue. The problem with being very incapacitated, whether by alcohol or drugs, is that even a good prosecutor who wants to bring charges can`t. Because if you don`t have a victim with a memory, how are you going to prove what happened? So in this case, and I think it is a very important lesson especially for potential offenders out there. We now that cell phones, iPods, everything, at the crime scene recording these events occurring. So you no longer need a victim conscious enough to testify about what happened because we have eyewitnesses in the form of people in a lot of these cases but also in the form of ready available technology.

WHITFIELD: Wendy Murphy. Thanks so much. Lots of lessons learned from this case. Thanks so much.

MURPHY: You bet.

WHITFIELD: All right, 23 candidates, 3,000 voters but only one could win the first straw poll of the 2016 presidential race. What? We will tell you who won.

And 68 teams are vying for spots in the NCAA tournament, the Miami Hurricanes is just one of them and they scored a historic win today. What it means for their chances in the big dance.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: The results of the first straw poll of the 2016 presidential race are in. Republican senator Rand Paul of Kentucky won the non-binding polling at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Paul kept 25 percent of the vote slightly edging Florida senator Marco Rubio.

So, does winning the CPAC straw poll mean anything? Just how significant is this win for these two rising GOP stars?

I asked our Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s better than losing but, you know, we are so far away from 2016. But there is no doubt that conservatives are still at the core and a part of the Republican Party. It certainly can influence primaries, so it is a good start. It keeps them in the headlines.

They are up and comers and you always want to kind of keep it going, but you can`t rest on that alone. There`s a lot more of a journey between now and 2016.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And among those potential up and comers, now Dr. Ben Carson. He was there at the Conservative Political Action Conference and he certainly got the audience very excited and was very critical of the Obama administration. You also talked with him this morning on your show.

Let`s listen to what he has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. BEN CARSON PEDIATRIC NEUROSURGERY CHIEF, JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL: It`s not really right stuff or left stuff. It`s logical stuff. You know, it`s talking about what has happened historically to people who don`t control their budgets and a whole host of other things in terms of destroying the harmony in the nation and pitting people against each other, how those things are not useful.

I think a lot of people resonate with that. They don`t have to be Democrats or Republicans. They just have to be logical people who want America to succeed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So is he a serious contender potentially?

CROWLEY: I don`t think he is a serious 2016 contender, at least not by his own admissions. But it does tell you, he sort of faced off with the president, at least was in his proximity when he criticized the president about a month ago at the prayer breakfast. This made him an instant darling of conservatives.

They -- conservatives basically feel that on Capitol Hill and elsewhere that conservatives have not confronted the president, have not been tough enough. And so he was heralded as this new conservative voice.

He clearly has an interest in politics. He`s going to retire from medicine. He`s a man of substance. He`s a man with a great background and he certainly could have certainly a political future if he wants it.

But there`s, again, a big distance between sort of wanting to kind of get -- jump in to the fray. Today he talked about being an independent, which to me says that at some point he`s going to say something that will really upset conservatives.

So politics is more a day by day thing than anything that would lead us to believe right now that it really is going to have an impact on 2016. Again, he says he wouldn`t be a candidate for president in 2016, but I think he`ll be a player.

WHITFIELD: Candy Crowley, host of "STATE OF THE UNION," thanks so much.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Training for a triathlon, no easy task. And getting to the finish line requires months of dedication and hard work. So for Fit Nation participant Annette Miller, training has been a triumph. Miller has lost a whopping 146 pounds in just 14 months. CNN`s Dr. Sanjay Gupta tracks her training.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Just two months ago we sent our six Fit Nation participants loose on their journey to become triathletes.

Now one of them I`ll point out, Annette Miller, she started her journey even earlier. In January of 2012 she weighed 385 pounds. And by the time she applied for our program she`d already lost more than 100. Well, now it is 146 pounds off the scale. Last week I got to see her in Nashville.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNETTE MILLER, FIT NATION PARTICIPANT: When it comes to working out, you only get out of it what you put into it. And I can remember not being able to maintain for 30 minutes and I can run for two hours now or when I`m doing a spin class I still have steam left at the end of an hour. So it feels good to just keep building on that. It`s like, oh, I can do a little bit more today than I did yesterday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: And there`s more to the story than that. Annette also inspired her own sister, who was considering gastric bypass surgery but had a change of heart when she saw Annette`s progress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILLER: About a month ago she just told me, she goes, "You know, I`ve been watching you and I`ve seen how you`ve done this and how you`ve changed your life and I`ve seen your attitude change. And I`m going to try without the surgery first."

She said, "Because you`ve done it, I think I can at least try."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: That`s a great story. It`s what this is all about. And we`re going to keep checking in with Annette and her sister.

And Annette, I will see you at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon hopefully at that finish line in September.

WHITFIELD: Fantastic. We wish them well.

And it`s crazy March Madness is here. And fans of the Miami Hurricanes are pinching themselves this St. Paddy`s Day. We`ll give you an inside look at the team that could end up being the surprise number one seed for the big NCAA tournament.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. South Florida is cheering on two very impressive basketball teams, the Miami Heat just won its 22nd straight game and the University of Miami Hurricanes just won their first conference championship in school history.

And they could be a top seed when the NCAA brackets are announced during selection Sunday night. John Zarrella visited the campus and says basketball is no longer taking a back seat to football on that campus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Packed stands, five home sell-outs: unheard of. University of Miami Hurricanes basketball has for years, well, to put it bluntly, been an afterthought. The U has always been about cleats, not sneakers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We never thought we`d see this. This is awesome.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): The men`s basketball team ran off 13 straight ACC wins at one point, moving into rarefied air, ranked second in the nation. That had had never happened ever.

They`d never won an ACC regular season title until now. They beat North Carolina twice, knocked off Duke when the Blue Devils were ranked number one.

ZARRELLA: What do you tell your kids and grandkids down the road about this magical experience you`ve had?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tell them we beat Duke by 27.

(LAUGHTER)

ZARRELLA (voice-over): So what happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is kind of hard to imagine. I mean, it`s really been a dream come true for us. But we`ve talked all season about it just being a testament to our hard work.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Was it some cosmic force, an alignment of the planets? In a way, it`s all of that. Four or five starters are seniors.

JIM LARRANAGE, MIAMI HURRICANES HEAD COACH: They realize, hey, this is my last chance and I need to make this work. And it makes them a little hungrier.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Then there`s Jim Larranage -- Coach L they call him. In his second season at Miami, he came with a winning pedigree. In 2006 his George Mason team was the Cinderella of the big dance, making it to the Final Four.

ZARRELLA: The basketball program`s winning ways couldn`t have come at a better time to raise spirits. An NCAA investigation determined there was a lack of institutional control, primarily with the football team. That`s the worst possible violation.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): The key figure in the investigation, a one-time booster, Nevin Shapiro (ph), now serving time for running a nearly $1 billion Ponzi scheme. During an eight-year period he allegedly doled out money and favors to players and recruits. NCAA penalties have not come down yet. It`s unclear whether this could impact the basketball program. But for some fans, none of that matters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really don`t care what the NCAA has to say. We`re just here to support the team.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): And for this slice of time, no matter how brief it may be, at the U, it`s about sneakers, not cleats -- John Zarrella, CNN, Coral Gables.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Wow. And as we said, today is Selection Sunday for the NCAA tournament. The 68 teams vying for college basketball`s biggest prize will be announced. And that means you can start filling out your brackets tonight.

And you can test your bracket skills against me and other CNN anchors in the official NCAA March Madness bracket challenge game. Just go to CNN.com/brackets and join the CNN group to see if you can pick the NCAA bracket better than me. That`s my challenge.

All right. The evidence is mounting that the housing market is making a comeback. In a minute we`ll find out if real estate is ready to get red-hot.

And Pope Francis gave a speech from that famous papal apartment but it`s what did he on the streets that`s capturing everyone`s attention.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. The clues are starting to mount. The real estate market is making a comeback. In the last employment report there was a surprise spike in construction jobs. And this week we could see evidence of even more houses being built and sold.

Sam Stovall is the chief equity strategist for S&P Capital IQ. All right. We saw a jump in construction as well as new construction of homes and construction jobs. Why is all this important?

SAM STOVALL, CHIEF EQUITY STRATEGIST, S&P CAPITAL IQ: Well, Fredricka, it is very important because it`s estimated that anywhere from two to three new jobs are added to our economy with every single new home that is built. So with the February numbers coming out this week, and it expected to show about twice as high as what it was at the trough in April of 2009. That`s good news.

WHITFIELD: All right. So how can you tell when the real estate market is just warm or when it`s really about to get red-hot?

STOVALL: Well, red-hot I guess I wouldn`t describe it right now. We`re still about 21/2 times lower than we were at the peak in January of 2006.

But certainly when you`re looking at the S&P Case Schiller home price index and you see it up 10 percent year over year, that`s a pretty good number. And then inventories are relatively lean, that implies that there are an awful lot of people that might be competing with you.

WHITFIELD: OK. And the Federal Reserve meeting this week and what they decide on interest rates quickly trickles down to the rest of us. So should we be getting ready to pay higher interest when we borrow money for a new car or perhaps even a new house?

STOVALL: No, I don`t think that`s going to be a concern right now. The Fed has told us already that it plans on waiting until 2015. And with all of the debt that`s coming due, they certainly don`t want to refinance that government debt at much higher interest rates. So they`re going to keep rates low for a while in our opinion.

WHITFIELD: OK. And then the markets have been pretty good. On a great roll for 10 days in a row until Friday, then it went negative. But what can we expect for the week ahead?

STOVALL: Well, I think we`re starting to get some news out of Cyprus, out of Europe, about problems with the debt situation again, so maybe that will end up being the excuse for those who had run up the market to take some profits in the week ahead.

WHITFIELD: All right. Sam Stovall, thanks so much, good to see you. Have a great week.

STOVALL: Thank you. You, too.

WHITFIELD: All right.

All right. The new pope giving his first Sunday message before thousands of followers. But wait until you see what he did outside the Vatican today. That`s a hint right there.

And a reminder to watch CNN`s new show, "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER." It starts Monday afternoon 4 o`clock Eastern time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: The new pope delivered his first Sunday message from his papal apartment today, but it`s what he did outside the Vatican that`s captured a whole lot of attention. Ben Wedeman is covering Pope Francis for us in Vatican city.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, if Benedict was the intellectual`s pope, Francis is quickly shaping up to become the people`s pope.

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WEDEMAN (voice-over): It could be any church, the priest greeting worshipers one by one after Sunday mass. But it wasn`t any church and it wasn`t any priest. It was Pope Francis at the Santa Ana Parish Church in the Vatican. His charm offensive moving full steam ahead, he stepped outside the Vatican and into Italian territory to greet well wishers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was watching some of the video when he came out of the church, and obviously he seems very personable. He was really connecting with the people.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): In his first Sunday as pope, Francis appeared at the window of his papal apartment overlooking a packed St. Peter`s Square, speaking of forgiveness and compassion and eliciting a laugh when he insisted he wasn`t providing free advertising for a cardinal whose writings he praised. He ended his message with a simple wish, "Have a good Sunday and have a good lunch."

WEDEMAN: Just four days on the job and Pope Francis is already shaking things up. Even his own television station, Vatican TV, is calling him the unpredictable pope.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Maria Laura Deprese (ph), an Argentinian like the pope, already feels closer to the church.

MARIA LAURA DEPRESE (PH), ARGENTINIAN: One of the problems that the Catholic Church has had is that they were so high, and we we`re a little too low, so now he`s coming closer. And we are happy for that.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): His personal style is going down well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He seems like a very nice guy, very humble, very down to earth.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): With a new hand at the Vatican`s helm, the faithful are dancing to a new rhythm.

WEDEMAN: And it`s a rhythm that might bring new life to a church in need of change. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Ben Wedeman. Wow, lots of vigor coming from the selection of Pope Francis. It`s fun to see people excited like that.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I love it.

WHITFIELD: (Inaudible), yes. Hey, Don, how are you?

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LEMON: Oh, we`ve got a lot going on. Great. I like the green.

WHITFIELD: Thank you. I like the green, too.

LEMON: We`re matching today.

OK, Fred, so you have heard all the speeches at CPAC, right? Now let me explain this before we -- before we go to it.

Rand Paul, you`ve heard Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, (inaudible) bring it back to both of us, so there`s this panel at CPAC, and it`s called, "are you tired of being called a racist when you know you`re not one?" All right? So --

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LEMON: -- that was -- enough said with that. But then there was a disturbance that broke out because there`s a gentleman holding the panel, and he is a Frederick Douglass Republican, so he`s an African- American Republican.

And he -- a gentleman gets up and says he feels disenfranchised as a white man. And he said -- and the guy, the moderator explains and says -- he reads a letter by Frederick Douglass to his former slave master, saying he forgives him, and the guy says why? For providing him with food and shelter? And that`s when this argument breaks out.

Go ahead. Roll it.

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K. CARL SMITH, FOUNDER/PRESIDENT, FREDERICK DOUGLASS REPUBLICAN: (Inaudible) slavery, I think 10 years is when he`s had to escape from slavery, he writes a letter to his former slave master and said, I forgive you for all things (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For giving him shelter and food all this time?

SMITH: No. (Inaudible).

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LEMON: OK, and then it goes on after this.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my. So this elicited quite the response and discussion there. And you`re going to take it further this evening? LEMON: I am going to take it further. That`s only one person. He came to the CPAC conference, he had a Rick Santorum sticker on his car. He had -- his friend was wearing a rebel flag, and you know, he`s one person. But this is exactly what conservatives are trying to get away from, the image that they`re trying to get away from.

So the party leader is coming up with a plan, Reince Priebus announced it this morning on "Face the Nation" to address, to reach out to blacks, Hispanics and Asians, but again, this is exactly what the party doesn`t want. And so is something like this going to throw a thorn in that whole process?

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WHITFIELD: (Inaudible) that discussion was permitted during the CPAC conference, so someone thought it was an appropriate conversation to be had?

LEMON: Right. I don`t understand the topic because are you tired of being called a racist if you know you`re not one? If you know you`re not a racist, then I`d -- then it doesn`t apply to you. Right?

WHITFIELD: We`re going to be listening tonight.

LEMON: We`re going to be listening.

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LEMON: Yes.

WHITFIELD: Look forward to more conversations about it.

LEMON: Yes, it`s going to be good.

WHITFIELD: All right, Don.

LEMON: (Inaudible).

WHITFIELD: Much more of the "NEWSROOM" just minutes away. But before we get to Don Lemon and the "NEWSROOM", what do Kim Kardashian, Tiger Woods and a new BlackBerry phone have in common? You`ll have to stick around to find out.

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WHITFIELD: All right, let`s take a look now at the week ahead.

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WHITFIELD (voice-over): Tuesday is a big day for President Obama. In the morning, he meets with the prime minister of Ireland. And then in the evening, he leaves for Israel, his first trip there as president.

On Wednesday, singer Bobby Brown reports to jail. He`ll begin serving a 55-day sentence for drunk driving. It`s Brown`s third DUI conviction.

And a different legal issue for Kim Kardashian. The reality TV star heads to court for a divorce hearing. She and NBA player Kris Humphries split just 72 days after tying the knot in August of 2011.

Thursday, Tiger Woods competes at the Arnold Palmer PGA Tournament in Orlando, Florida. He has won the title seven times and hopes to defend his title with an eighth victory.

On Friday, BlackBerry`s new touch screen-only Z10 phone will go on sale to customers through AT&T. BlackBerry is hoping its new phone will take a serious bite out of Apple`s iPhone sales.

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WHITFIELD: All right. We`ll see what that`s going to happen. I know a gadget guy who can`t wait to put his hands on a new piece of technology. That`s Don Lemon. He`s got much more in the "NEWSROOM" after this.

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