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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Knox Facing Re-Trial For Murder; North Korea's New Threats

Aired March 26, 2013 - 05:30   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: At issue, DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and Proposition 8, California's ban on gay marriage. The arguments stretching out over the next two days, and some people, look at this, they've camped out for the better part of a week. They are vying for those 250 seats that are available to the public.

Shannon Travis is live at the Supreme Court for us this morning. And Shannon, today, the justices are examining the constitutionality of Proposition 8. What is each side arguing?

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. Each side is basically -- at the core of this issue, of course, Zoraida, as we've been mentioning is whether or not the constitution guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry, right?

So, to your question about what each side is arguing, the people who are supporters of Proposition 8, this ban on gay marriage, they basically say, listen, in the United States, this institution of marriage has always been defined as between one man and one woman. They also say that Proposition 8 is a voter-approved measure that was approved by voters in 2008 in California.

The opponents, obviously, of Prop 8, they think differently. They say that the constitution does guarantee same-sex couples the right to marry, and they also say that a higher standard has to be applied. Any time you're talking about discriminating against a class of people, in this case, gays and lesbians, in their minds, they feel that this is a class of citizens of Americans that's historically been discriminated against.

So, any time you're talking about denying them a right, that it has to face a higher scrutiny, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Shannon, there's a really great write-up in "The New York Times" that kind of explains all of this. So, if the justices say Proposition 8 has to be overturned, there would be three ways that they could actually go about it. If they choose to oppose Proposition 8, which path do you see is most likely?

TRAVIS: Well, it's really anyone's guess exactly which path is more likely, but let's go over the three different scenarios, Zoraida. Path one could be, they could say this only -- they could rule a decision that only applies to California. And that's because California is the only state, Zoraida, that actually granted these rights to same-sex couples to marry and then took them away with Proposition 8. So, the justices could say, no, that doesn't stand, but it only applies to that state. Conversely, path two, they could basically say that allowing civil unions is discriminating against people who actually want to get married. So, it's not allowed. And the other states that allow civil unions you have to allow for marriage.

And the third path, obviously, is just to completely strike down the ban on same-sex marriage altogether throughout the country. A lot of people think that that's probably a dramatic step too far, but that's also a possibility, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. I was reading that's probably the least likely scenario.

TRAVIS: Exactly.

SAMBOLIN: Shannon Travis live for us at the Supreme Court. Thank you.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. To our breaking news now, an Italian Supreme Court has ruled that American, Amanda Knox, she must stand trial again for the killing of her former roommate. This decision was announced just a short time ago. Knox, of course, spent four years in prison in Italy before an appeals court overturned her murder conviction in the 2007 death of Meredith Kercher. Kercher was found inside their Perugia apartment with her throat slashed.

CNN's Ben Wedeman's standing by live in Rome with the latest developments in this case. Ben, where does this case go from here now?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand that the judges, the five Supreme Court judges, have 60 days to issue the reasoning behind their decision to overturn the acquittal. After that, the defense and the prosecution has 40 days to put forward their arguments.

We're being told that a trial may not begin, actually, or the retrial will not take place until sometime, perhaps, early next year. Now, a little while ago, we had the opportunity to hear from Carlo Dalla Vedova, one of the lawyers for Amanda Knox. He said that Amanda is shocked and very sad by this ruling, but she's strong and willing to fight.

She is worried because, according to Dalla Vedova, because she doesn't quite understand the Italian system, but she told him that she has confidence that it is a fair system.

ROMANS: Wow. Do we have a sense as to why the court ruled in favor of a retrial? Any indication what it was about the evidence or the process that made them think that it is necessary and right to do this again?

WEDEMAN: Well, we understand that the prosecution made a very good, very strong argument for a retrial during the (INAUDIBLE) very long process. That if you look at the broad body of evidence that was collected in the course of the investigation, that it amounts to a very strong case. And therefore, it appears that the Supreme Court seemed to agree with that.

Now, the prosecution yesterday was arguing that the defense was very sort of good at pointing out little bits of evidence that were weak on the prosecution side, but obviously, that did not sway the judges.

ROMANS: Do you know -- do we know, Ben, if Italy would seek her extradition for this trial? How do you think the American authorities might respond here?

WEDEMAN: Well, we understand that she will remain free as well as Raffaele Sollecito, the other person involved in this case until much further down the line. Now, obviously, if it gets to the point where there is a complete retrial, they will be expected to appear in court. But at this point, there's going to be no request made for her extradition.

ROMANS: All right. Ben Wedeman live for us in Rome. Clearly, some shocking developments. An attorney telling you that she is shocked, sad, but willing to fight. Ben Wedeman, thanks.

SAMBOLIN: There's a lot of news today. We have new developments overnight from North Korea, serving up its latest round of threats against the United States. It says it plans to place military units on combat-ready status for possible strikes on U.S. bases in the pacific.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Yeonpyeong near North Korea. Matthew, with so many threats coming from Pyongyang, is there a sense that some kind of action from North Korea is now a matter of when and not if anymore?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very difficult to say, Zoraida, because it is such an unpredictable country that we're focusing on that is making all these rash claims and rash threats. The latest one that it's put its armed forces on high alert. Those forces that are attached, assigned in a sense, with striking U.S. bases in Guam, in Hawaii and on the U.S. mainland as well as areas in South Korea.

It's a repeat of a threat it made a few days ago in response to over flights by U.S. strategic bombers (ph), B-52s over South Korea, which it does on an annual basis with its ally in South Korea. But all of these issues have angered the regime in the north very much indeed. Of course, in the past, they have made good on some of these threats.

In fact, I'm talking to you from one of the places which they shelled three years ago, this island of Yeonpyeong off the west coast of South Korea. It's a South Korean island, but as you mentioned, very close, indeed, to the maritime border with North Korea. It shelled this place in the past. Lots of concern that that could happen again.

SAMBOLIN: There was an article in "The New York Times" yesterday that said South Korea and the U.S. made plans for defense. Do we have any indication now as to what the response will be from the United States? CHANCE: Well, I think the response has already been given in the sense that United States has signed up with its ally, the South Koreans, to agree to take part in any military action against the north, should that be necessary. Up until now, it has been at the discretion, really, of the U.S. military whether they would join the South Koreans or not in any response to an attack.

SAMBOLIN: You know, this article says this would be South Korean-led and U.S. supported. That response. So, we'll wait and see. Matthew Chance live for us. Thank you very much.

ROMANS: All right. Our other top story this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): No plea from the two teenage suspects charged in the horrifying murder of a baby in Georgia. Seventeen-year-old De'Marquis Elkins let his lawyer do the talking during his first court appearance since his arrest. A 15-year-old suspect also was in court. The pair charged in the shooting death of a 13-month-old baby boy while attempting to rob the baby's mother. The mother was shot in the leg but survived.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The Russian businessman found dead in his home died by hanging with no signs of a violent struggle. That is the latest word from British investigators. He was in (INAUDIBLE) England after a falling out with the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin. That fueled a lot of speculation about his death, but police say there's no evidence a third party was involved.

Berezovsky, apparently, was having money problems. Toxicology test results will take several weeks, however.

ROMANS: Searchers from Philadelphia to Boston will be back on the trail today of a missing college student. Sunil Tripothy (ph) hasn't been seen since March 16th. He left his apartment in Providence, Rhode Island, without his cell phone or his wallet. The FBI is helping in the search. The family has set up a Facebook page encouraging him to come home.

SAMBOLIN: This will go down as the lost week of spring, perhaps. The powerful snowstorm has moved out, but another cold day is shaping up in many parts across the country. People from the Midwest eastward are still dealing with a lot of snow, slush and all that ice storm yesterday. And parts of the south, the south, are under a freeze warning.

ROMANS: I know. My brother was driving back from Florida on spring break with his family and his little children. They got stuck in Champaign, Illinois for, you know, a day and a half.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (on-camera): Worst condition he says he ever seen (ph). All right. The new Google glass internet headset hasn't even hit the market yet, but one West Virginia lawmaker already leading an effort to keep drivers from wearing these internet eyepieces behind the wheel. State representative, Gary Howell, has introduced legislation that would expand existing laws against texting while driving to pivot using a wearable computer with a head-mounted display.

Howell says he fears drivers could be easily distracted by these kinds of gadgets. What if you're watching a movie and driving? That's not a problem.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Do you really think people would wear them while they're driving?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: I didn't think people would be texting and driving.

SAMBOLIN: It's true.

All right. Microsoft cofounder, Bill Gates, offering up a challenge with a hefty payout this morning. He wants to give $100,000 to the person who can create the next generation of condoms, "protection that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure." Those are his words. The idea being more people around the world would use protection if condoms were designed better.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says a start-up grant could lead to $1 million in additional funding as well.

ROMANS: And of course, it's about preventing disease and saving lives.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, absolutely.

ROMANS: And breaking down a lot of cultural barriers around the world to get more people to protect themselves.

SAMBOLIN: I read this full story and I was really surprised, and he makes a very valid point and that is that there has not been a redesign in condoms since they were invented, really.

ROMANS: It's interesting.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

ROMANS: All right. So, geeks of the world. Bill Gates is actually --

SAMBOLIN: There you go. Million bucks.

ROMANS: Coming up next, he's the man who may keep Jodi Arias off death row, but is a psychologist in this case too close to Arias to be trusted? Details after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. The Jodi Arias murder trial entering its final phase with the last defense witness taking the stand. On Monday, a crucial witness for the defense faced a brutal cross examination that may be a big blow. CNN's Miguel Marquez was there for the courtroom confrontation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JUAN MARTINEZ, PROSECUTOR: She met that criteria. And you can bang on it all you want, and it's still your judgment, isn't it?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aggressive cross examination. Prosecutor, Juan Martinez, hammering away at the credibility of a key defense expert psychologist, Richard Samuels (ph).

MARTINEZ: Right. You wouldn't see that that way because you have feelings for the defendant, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I beg your pardon, sir.

MARQUEZ: Martinez all but taunting the witness, telegraphing to the jury the idea that Samuels cannot be trusted, that he's too close to Jodi Arias.

MARTINEZ: Isn't it true that in this case, you lost your objectivity?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Objection --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not.

MARQUEZ: Samuels' testimony critical in explaining Jodi Arias' 18 days of testimony and keeping the 32-year-old off death row for killing her on again-off again boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in 2008.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Samuels is a critical witness for the defense, because if jurors believe Dr. Samuels, then Jodi Arias really doesn't remember the details of the killing.

MARQUEZ: The trial going nearly three months now is attracting snowbirds like Steve Pinto (ph) from New Jersey. He's been watching on TV since day one. Today's his first day in court. He lined up at 4:00 a.m.

Why? What has hooked you into it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because she looks so innocent, but the crime that she made is very, very fierce, that which she's done.

MARQUEZ: But you don't believe she's innocent, though?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, definitely not.

MARQUEZ: The trial now entering its final phase. The level of interest here only growing. (on-camera) Dr. Samuels has now finished testifying. And the defense's last witness is now taking the stand. It's their last chance to prove how Jodi Arias could have carried out this horrible crime and be excused for it.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Phoenix.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Miguel. It is 46 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Tradition classes with the fight for equality as gay rights take center stage in D.C. Starting in about three hours, the U.S. Supreme Court begins hearing arguments on the constitutionality of two laws, Proposition 8, California's ban on gay marriage, and DOMA. That's the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The court's decision expected later this year.

Democratic senator, Tim Johnson, of South Dakota's expected to announce his retirement today. A press release says his event at the University of South Dakota would be regarding the 2014 election. Johnson would be the fifth Democrat to announce his retirement in 2014.

He was first elected to the senate in 1995 and has served three terms. He survived a near-fatal brain hemorrhage in 2006 and went on to win re-election in 2008.

ROMANS (voice-over): Secretary of state, John Kerry, is now on route to Paris following an unannounced visit to Afghanistan where he met up with President Hamid Karzai. Monday's meeting followed weeks of tension between the U.S. and Afghanistan over control of Afghan prisoners and accusations that the U.S. had been working with the Taliban.

But it's not all hard work and diplomacy for the secretary of state. This morning, he got to use his head to get in a little playtime with a women's doctor team in Afghanistan. Secretary Kerry left Kabul within the past hour after his first Mid East tour as secretary of state.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: He needs a little more practice there.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: She's good.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Yes, she is. Forty-eight minutes past the hour. Don't blame the groundhog. Why Punxsutawney Phil's handler says it's not the furry guy's fault we haven't seen spring, even though he predicted it was right around the corner. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS (on-camera): In legal news, the prosecutor in Ohio who wants Punxsutawney Phil indicted for botching the winter forecast might be backing down. The groundhog's handler says he's the one who should be thrown under the bus, not Phil. You know, the man we're talking about, the one with the cool hat, the big gloves.

Yes. He actually said Phil did predict six more weeks of winter, but he misinterpreted Phil's message. The prosecutor says he'll think about a pardon.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, it certainly hasn't felt much like spring around a good chunk of the country. Jennifer Delgado in the weather center for us this morning. We just want to know when it's all going to go away and we could actually enjoy some spring temperatures.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. You don't want to go back to Punxsutawney Phil to get his expert advice.

SAMBOLIN: No.

DELGADO: You know, I would give a bum forecast, too, if you woke me up and drove me out of my hole all the time, too. But yes, temperatures outside are very cold out there once again. Temperatures in the 30s, lower 30s down towards the south. Across parts of the northeast, right around 36, 38 degrees. That includes New York.

But we do have a freeze warning in place, and this one extends all the way from Central Texas all the way over towards the Carolinas, and that means we're going to be looking at temperatures dropping down into the upper 20s as well as into the lower 30s, and we could see this happening once again tomorrow, because we have this big ridge of high pressure that's going to be building in and allowing that cool air to settle in place.

Now, this is still what is left from yesterday's snowstorm, still lingering through parts of the Ohio Valley. Not expecting much, maybe about an inch of snowfall right around the lower apps. You might, of course, see some heavier amounts in those higher elevations across parts of the northeast. We are going to keep the clouds around. We're not expecting snow. We will keep some sprinkles around throughout the morning, but overall, we're going to keep you dry.

Now, we talk about the cold air and when we're going to see some relief. Well, there's some good news. We're going to start to see the jet stream retreating as we head until the end of the week, and that means temperatures are going to start to rebound. Here's a look at your high temperatures today. Notice still running 10 to 15 degrees below average, but notice 40s for Chicago as well as New York City. You'll still be in the 40s and you'll finally get to more normal temperatures by the time Easter rolls around on Sunday. So, that's the good news. However, it's still cold out. Back to you guys.

SAMBOLIN: Well, thank you. We appreciate it. A little good news on the horizon.

All right. Fifty-four minutes past the hour. Pay what you weigh. The controversial, new proposal to have obese people pay more for airline tickets. We're going to have all the details, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning! Welcome back to EARLY START. A look at what's trending online this morning. Turns out, Jamie Foxx wasn't Quentin Tarantino's first choice to play the title role in his Oscar nominated revenge fantasy "Django Unchained." Actor, Will Smith, tells "entertainment Weekly" he turned the part down because the Django character was second fiddle to the bounty hunter played Christoph Waltz.

Smith said, I need to be the lead. Waltz, you'll recall, won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Will said he thought the film was brilliant but just not for me.

SAMBOLIN: All right. In a push to implement a pay what you weigh pricing system for obese, airline passengers is being called way out of line. A professor writing in the European Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management says there are fuel and other costs associated with transporting heavier passengers, so they should pay more.

But one travel expert says people already pay for extra baggage and called imposing a so-called fat tax distasteful.

ROMANS: Economists had looked at this before, because when you're flying in an airplane, you're using jet fuel, right? And space, a finite amount of space. And they really looked at the economics of maybe you should pay for how much you're using in that plane, whether you're thin, average, or overweight.

SAMBOLIN: That is going to be very controversial.

ROMANS: Oh, it already is.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my gosh.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: All right. Check out other top CNN Trends at CNN.com/Trends.

ROMANS: EARLY START continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS (voice-over): Two major stories we're following for you this morning. First, breaking news that Amanda Knox will be retried for murder. Her acquittal has been overturned by the highest court in Italy. We're live now in Rome talking to her attorney.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): And the other big story, the wait is over as crowds line up to witness history. The Supreme Court just hours away from taking up the issue of same-sex marriage.

ROMANS: A slushy winter mess to start our spring. The CNN fact- checking team is digging deep into whether it really is spring. We've also got freeze warnings on top of all that.

SAMBOLIN: And for the first time since 2010, Tiger is back on top. He's number one and he says there is a pretty simple reason why he's again the world's number one golfer. It has nothing to do with his new girlfriend, he says.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. We're glad you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ROMANS (on-camera): And I'm Christine Romans. I'm in for John Berman today. It's Tuesday, March 26th, and it is 6:00 a.m. on the nose in the east.

Up first, breaking news overseas. Italy's Supreme Court ruling that American, Amanda Knox, should again stand trial for the death of her former roommate. The decision came down about an hour ago. Knox spent four years in prison before an appeals court overturned her murder conviction in the 2007 death of Meredith Kercher.

Kercher was found inside their Perugia apartment with her throat slashed. Knox returned to the U.S. in 2011 and did not attend this hearing.