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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Knox's Acquittal Overturned; Pivotal Day In Gay Rights Battle; Tradition Versus Equality; Denouncing DOMA; Tackling Race Based Admission Again; North Korea's New Threats; Winter's Late Hit Buries Old Records; Gun In Shootout Used To Kill Colorado Prison Chief; Representative Bachmann Under Investigation; Dragon Capsule Getting Ready To Leave ISS; Tiger's Back On Top; Miami Heat Runs Winning Streak To 27; Change May Be in the Air; Same-Sex Couples Missing $8,000 Tax Break

Aired March 26, 2013 - 06:00   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: -- and I'm Christine Romans. I'm in for John Berman for 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.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Rome with the very latest. Ben, you just talked to Knox's lawyer. What can you tell us?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He was obviously very surprised by this ruling. They had been confident before they went in to the court yesterday that the acquittal would be upheld. This is what he told me.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN: We're joined by the lawyer for Amanda Knox. Mr. Dalla Vedova, what is your reaction to this?

CARLO DALLA VEDOVA, AMANDA KNOX'S LAWYER: Well, it's a disappointment first of all because we thought that the grounds for this decision for the Supreme Court to reinstate the case were not there.

But after the decision was yesterday, we felt that something was going in the wrong direction. So we're upset. But at the same time, we're looking forward to seeing the motivation. We don't know what are the motivations behind this decision are and we are ready again to fight.

I spoke with Amanda. Amanda is upset, surprised, because we thought that the case was over. But at the same time, as she did in the last five years, she is ready to continue on and win this fight.

WEDEMAN: And many people are interested, will she return to Italy for the retrial?

VEDOVA: I don't think she will come back for many reasons. First of all, she's a very young girl, and she has her life, and it will have an impact on her. So she can come, of course, she's a free person. There are no limitations of liberty, but for the time being I think that she has her life back in Seattle.

WEDEMAN: All right, thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN: So there we have it. Amanda Knox free for the moment, but there will be a retrial. At this point, we also spoke with one of the lawyers for Meredith Kercher, the murdered British exchange student. He said that Kercher's family is happy about the verdict. They had felt all along that there should be a retrial.

ROMANS: So, Ben, do we have any sense of why? Why the court ruled in favor of a retrial?

WEDEMAN: Well, we understand that the prosecution yesterday, and during this lengthy deliberation, made a very good argument that the broad body of evidence that had been collected, and of course, of the investigation, was damning, amounted to enough certainly to put Raffaele Sollecito, the former boyfriend of Amanda Knox, and Amanda Knox, behind bars.

They said that the defense in winning their acquittal back in October in 2011 had focused on the problems, the shortcomings of the police investigation, but that the evident simply is there. So it appears that the Supreme Court agreed with the argument made by the prosecution, and that's, perhaps, why they ruled for a retrial.

Now we understand that the reasons, the motivations for the judge's decision will be public, in 90 days, after which, the defense and the prosecution have 45 days to make their arguments. So we are being told by legal experts that there may be a trial sometime early next year.

ROMANS: All right, Ben Wedeman, thank you so much for that great interview with one of her attorneys. Really giving us insight into how shocked and surprised she is by this turn of events. Ben Wedeman in Rome, thanks.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Tough for both families to have to face this. It's 4 minutes past the hour, the other big story that we're following for you this morning, a pivotal day in the battle over gay rights and the definition of marriage.

Later this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court begins hearing arguments on the constitutionality of two laws, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and Proposition 8, California's ban on gay marriage.

So some folks have camped out for nearly a week in order to get one of those 250 seats that are available to the public. So the big question, will justices follow the shift we've seen in this country? Look at this. A new CNN/ORC poll shows the number of Americans who support same-sex marriage has spiked 12 points in six years. Shannon Travis is at the Supreme Court for us this morning.

And, Shannon, today the justices actually examine the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Walk us through that.

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, we expect for the arguments pro and con to be substantial and potentially even heated. On the pro side in terms of arguing the case of Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage, supporters of that, we expect to hear arguments basically saying that this is a voter approved referendum.

They approved this measure back in 2008. So it should be up to the voters to decide this. We also expect for them to reiterate what conservatives, many conservatives have long said, that the institution of marriage in the U.S. has always been defined as between one man and one woman.

On the con side, opponents of this Proposition 8, we expect for them to argue that the constitution does guarantee same-sex couples the right to be able to marry under equal protection clause.

And also, to basically press the justices on placing a higher scrutiny on not discriminating against gays and lesbians, because this is a class of Americans that have just traditionally been discriminated against -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: So Shannon, we just put up these numbers to everyone, the court is hearing arguments amidst growing public support for same-sex marriage. Could those changes affect at all the court's decision?

TRAVIS: It could. I mean, think about it this way. On the one hand, you just cited some poll numbers that show majority and growing support in favor of same-sex marriage. But on the other hand, you have nine states and the District of Columbia that have banned it.

Thirty eight states -- sorry, that have allowed it, 38 states that have banned it. So there's a central question about whether or not the justices should step in with a judicial solution, or whether they should allow this to be worked out in the electric electoral process.

Let voters decide who their representatives are or let them handle it this way or through voters referendums like the one we saw in California -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right, well, we will see. Shannon Travis live at the Supreme Court. Thank you for that.

So ahead of tomorrow's DOMA arguments before the high court, some senators are publicly denouncing it and coming out in support of same- sex marriage. The "Huffington Post" reports Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and fellow Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri voiced their support for same-sex marriage yesterday. Also, Democratic Senators Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Tim Johnson of South Dakota announced they no longer support DOMA. Both supported it when it became law in 1996.

ROMANS: Also this morning we've learned the Supreme Court has agreed to tackle race-based college admissions again. This time, the court will just consider whether Michigan's race-based affirmative action ban called Proposition 2 is constitutional.

Voters approved it in 2006, but a federal appeals court struck it down last year. The Supreme Court said it would hear the appeal before ruling on attending a affirmative action case involving University of Texas.

SAMBOLIN: And developing news overnight, 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 against the U.S. mainland, Hawaii, Guam, and other American military units in the pacific.

North Korea is angry over tougher U.N. sanctions and joint military exercises by the U.S. and South Korea, and this is the latest in a string of threats. The U.S. Department of Defense has responded saying it can fend off whatever the north comes up with.

ROMANS: If the weather were a football game, winter would be flagged for late hits, spring would be whistled for delay of game and millions of people dealing with another day of snow. Slush and chills nearly one week after spring officially began.

This month will go down in the record books in many, many parts of the country. CNN's Martin Savidge live for us this morning in Pittsburgh. We are doing severe weather stories almost at Easter -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Almost, almost. Yes, it's so cold here this morning here in Pittsburgh. I mean, they predicted snow overnight. Fortunately that didn't happen, but it's definitely cold enough to snow. And snow is in the forecast.

It's supposed to be an average 62 degrees today. They won't even get close to that by far, and it's not just here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Gone but not forgotten. The spring storm that dumped snow from the Colorado Rockies to the Jersey Shore is now a melting memory, but not before crushing snowfall records in parts of the Midwest. In places like St. Louis and Peoria, Illinois, records for March dating back a century or more were buried beneath a foot to a foot and a half of snow.

Springfield, Illinois, got 17 inches. That's the most ever in a single day. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there was snow on the ground Monday in nearly half of the lower 48 states. Compare that to less than 8 percent a year ago. And the storm system had wide-reaching effects, making roads a mess. Keeping airlines grounded and delivering powerful thunderstorms, high winds, and cold air to the sunny south. In most areas the snow only added up to a few inches. But it quickly turned into thick, heavy slush. In Pittsburgh, even the plows had problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's slippery underneath. It's a very heavy snow even though the trucks are heavy it's pushing the trucks around a lot.

SAVIDGE: Snow blowers, bogged down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wet, heavy. So that was surprising. That shocked me. I thought it was going to be a lot lighter.

SAVIDGE: Snow remains in the forecast for the next few days leaving people here and elsewhere wondering whatever happened to that thing called spring.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: There is a 40 percent chance of snow in Pittsburgh today, 40 percent chance tonight, and 30 percent tomorrow. It goes on like that. I'm ready to put out an all points bulletin for spring. You can get a picture put on a milk carton, have you seen me?

ROMANS: At least you have a smile on your face, Martin. I mean, at this point, all you can do is smile and laugh. I just got a tweet from somebody in Glendale, Arizona, who said we're smiling. Maybe we're laughing a little bit at all of you. Thanks, Martin.

SAMBOLIN: I was just in Arizona, 85 degrees and sunny. Not bad. Not bad.

ROMANS: There's a reason why they have people from the Midwest there all winter long.

SAMBOLIN: That's right. It's 10 minutes past the hour. The murder of Colorado's prison chief now officially linked to a shoot-out in Texas. Tests show the gun Evan Ebel used in the shoot-out is the same one used to kill Tom Clements in his home two days earlier. Ebel was killed. He was an ex-con and a member of a white supremacist prison gang. Investigators are still trying to figure out if he had any accomplices.

ROMANS: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann under investigation. An ethics panel is looking into alleged misuse of funds during her short- lived 2012 presidential campaign. The allegations include improper transfer of funds and under the table payments by former senior campaign staffers. Bachmann's attorney says the Minnesota Republican is cooperating with the investigation.

SAMBOLIN: And you are looking live at the Dragon cargo capsule getting ready to leave the International Space Station. Earlier, it began the undocking process. The capsule should splash down into the pacific off Baja, California, this afternoon just after 12:30 Eastern Time. The unmanned Dragon arrived at the station about three weeks ago with supplies for the crew.

ROMANS: It took about three years, but Tiger Woods reclaimed his spot as the world's top golfer. He did it by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando. It's Tiger's third tournament win in already this year three this year. He says the reason behind his improved play is simple. He's healthy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIGER WOODS, REGAINS WORLD NUMBER ONE RANKING: I had to look at it. If I get healthy I know I can play this game at a high level. I know I can, I can be where I'm contending in every event, contending in major championships, and being consistent day in and day out if I got healthy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: This was the eighth time Tiger Woods has won at Bay Hill, next up, the Masters in two weeks.

SAMBOLIN: There was a reporter that asked if his relationship Lindsey Vonn had anything to do with it. And he said you are reading way too much into that. Number one again.

So keeping the heat on high, Lebron James and the Miami Heat, yes, they have won 27 straight games. That's more than nine NBA teams have won for the entire season. Lebron led the way with 24 points in a 108-94 victory over the Orlando Magic. The Heat now just six away from the NBA's record for consecutive wins. It's held by the 1971-72 L.A. Lakers who won 33 in a row.

ROMANS: Have you been watching them?

SAMBOLIN: It's a really good team. You know they're playing really good ball and they have really incredible superstars on that team. Everybody expected them to do it but the synergy, the chemistry of working well together.

ROMANS: It's all there. Coming up why soon you may be able to keep electronic devices turned on during takeoff.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Sixteen minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. Let's get you up-to-date.

Tradition clashes with the fight for equality as gay rights take center stage in D.C. today. 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 is the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The court's decision expected later this year.

ROMANS: Prosecutors say a senior terror leader captured at sea nearly two years ago has turned out to be an intelligence watershed. In papers unsealed in court Monday, it was revealed that 25-year-old Ahmed Warsami pleaded guilty to being a commander in a Somali terror group with ties to al Qaeda in Yemen.

Intelligence officials say he provided enormously valuable information about terror training, operatives and potential plots.

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

ROMANS: Lottery officials waiting for the winner of a $338 million Powerball jackpot.

SAMBOLIN: Here he is.

ROMANS: Pedro, P-E-Y-D-R-O.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: The fourth largest lottery jackpot there. That man that we showed you there, Pedro Quezada caused a frenzy at the Passaic, New Jersey, liquor store where the winning lottery ticket was sold. He said he hit the jackpot but didn't have the ticket with him to prove it. So, New Jersey lottery officials say they're aware of his claim but until they see the winning ticket, they will not call anyone the winner.

SAMBOLIN: Three hundred and thirty-eight million dollars. Imagine holding that. I would have a heart attack.

ROMANS: Hmm.

SAMBOLIN: Eighteen minutes past the hour.

It looks like change is in the air for using electronic gadgets in flight. Two anonymous sources, an official with the FAA and a member of an industry group, telling "The New York Times" they expect the FAA to announce plans to relax the rules for reading devices during takeoff and landing. By the end of the year this is expected. The change would reportedly not include cell phones. That will make people happy.

ROMANS: Yes.

In today's "Road Warriors", a recent study find airlines charge an estimated $36 billion in fees last year -- billion with a "B." The trend continues. Travelers may notice even more services being offered, but they often come at a premium. For some, the added convenience may be worth the price. United Airlines is helping you get to your gate and your seat faster, its premiere access service starts at $9. It allows passengers to move quickly through check-in and security using exclusive lanes and giving them priority boarding for 9 bucks.

United is also making it easier for you once you're at our final destination they've signed on to a service that will deliver your checked bags to your home, office or hotel room within 100 miles of the airport. Convenient. The fee starts at 30 bucks a bag for the first bag. It's available at 36 airports.

You want to catch up with your favorite flicks, Southwest Airlines lets you stream movies on your laptop or your tablet. That will cost you $5 for every movie per device. So in booking your next flight make sure you're clear on all these fees. You can check out your airlines website or visit travelnerd.com to compare.

SAMBOLIN: Nice perks but everything costs dough, right?

ROMANS: It sure does.

SAMBOLIN: OK. Nineteen minutes past the hour.

Coming up, what happens to your money if the Supreme Court overturns the law that defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning, again. Welcome back to EARLY START.

Minding your business this morning. Stocks look like they might rebound from Monday's losses. Futures are higher right now. Developments in Cyprus striking new concerns about the eurozone. But investors seem to be looking past that at least for now. We get a big report on home prices, about half hour after -- or before, rather, the opening bell on Wall Street.

Banks in Cyprus will remain closed until Thursday. Regulators say they need more to time to prevent a run on the banks. New reports this morning say the country's biggest depositors could face a 40 percent hit to their bank accounts. But the exact percentage has not been determined quite yet.

Limits on withdrawals were put in place last week. Still there are long lines at ATMs.

The banking sector in Cyprus, seven times the size of its economy.

We're also watching shares of electric carmaker Tesla this morning. Its CEO sent a couple of -- I don't know -- provocative sweets last night that got investors excited. Elon Musk posted this tweet Monday, "Really excited that Tesla Motors announcement coming up Thursday. I'm going to put my money where my mouth is in a major way."

Following the tweet, Tesla's stock shot up more than 4 percent in after-hours trading. The CEO then tweeted that he'll have to move the announcement to next week to avoid distracting the company's end of quarter financial practices.

Certainly got a lot of attention and moved the stocks.

All right. The one thing you need to know about your money today, $8,000, 8 grand. If the Supreme Court overturns the federal law that defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman, same-sex couples will save $8,000 or more in income tax.

There's about 1,000 federal tax breaks that same-sex couples can't claim because of the Defense of Marriage Act. That's according to the new analysis by H&R block. You can check out the full article on CNN Money this morning.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Twenty-five minutes past the hour.

Ah, no, new this morning, the teenager who asked supermodel Kate Upton to his prom, may be in for some bad news.

ROMANS: But every girl in his high school is now happy because they won't have paparazzi.

SAMBOLIN: (INAUDIBLE)

ROMANS: If you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us any time on your desk top or your mobile phone. Just go to CNN.com/TV.

SAMBOLIN: Paparazzi coming --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Breaking news this morning: Amanda Knox's acquittal overturned. She is now set to face a retrial for murder. We are in Rome with brand-new developments.

ROMANS: On the verge of history. The Supreme Court just hours away from hearing a case that could change the definition of marriage and family in America.

SAMBOLIN: Pricey former president -- Bush, Clinton, Carter, the things being dished out for things like pension, office space, even phone bills.

ROMANS: And pay what you weigh. Uproar this morning over a proposal to hike your plane ticket price if you're fat.

Welcome back to EARLY START.

SAMBOLIN: Can you imagine?

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. I'm in for John Berman.

A lot of people talking about that story.

SAMBOLIN: We want your name, we want your weight and your height when you're booking an airline ticket.

I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Tuesday, March 26th. Twenty-nine minutes past the hour.

And we begin with breaking news overseas. Amanda Knox will be retried for the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher. The decision came down about an hour ago. Knox spent four years in prison before an appeals court overturned the original 2007 conviction.