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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Italian Supreme Court Calls Amanda Knox Back to Italy for Retrial; Supreme Court to Hear Gay Marriage Cases; Tiger Back on Top; Teenager Sells App to Yahoo!; Interview with Ted Simon

Aired March 26, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, breaking news, a stunner in Italian court. A retrial has been ordered for Amanda Knox for the murder of her British roommate. This morning, we're hearing from Amanda Knox, talking to her attorneys, live in Rome.

The other big story we're following for you this morning, thousands of people gathering outside the Supreme Court as justices will take up the issue of same-sex marriage. That starts in just a couple of hours. CNN's legal expert, Jeff Toobin, will tell us what we should be watching for.

And then, he's back. Tiger Woods says there's only one reason why he's number one in the golf world after a 29-month slump.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: A developing story. North Korea saying it's going into combat-ready position, ready to attack the U.S. and american interests. We're live just outside North Korea with details.

Plus, how much money were you making when you were 17? Meet this British kid. His app just earned him $30 million and a job at Yahoo! Oh, yes, and he hasn't graduated from high school yet.

O'BRIEN: It's Tuesday March 26th, and "Starting Point" begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. We start with breaking news from overseas this morning. Italy's Supreme Court is ruling that American Amanda Knox must once again stand trial for the death of her former roommate. The decision came down about two hours ago. Knox spent four years, you'll remember, in prison before an appeals court overturned the murder conviction in the 2007 death of Meredith Kercher. Kkercher was found inside a Perugia apartment semi-naked, her throat slashed. Knox returned to the U.S. in 2011 when her conviction was overturned.

All this brings us right to CNN's Ben Wedeman who is standing by live for us in Rome. Ben, good morning to you. I know you had a chance to talk to Amanda Knox's attorney. What's been his reaction to the court's decision? BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes that's Carlo Dalla Vedova representing Amanda Knox. Obviously they're very surprised at this verdict. He had said yesterday morning when he went in to the Supreme Court that they expected the acquittal, the October, 2011, acquittal of Knox to be upheld. This is what he said this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLO DALLA VEDOVA, AMANDA KNOX'S LAWYER: We're upset. But at the same time we're looking forward to read the motivation. We don't know exactly what are the motivation behind the situation. 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, she's ready to continue on and win this fight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WEDEMAN: So, what we understand from the Supreme Court judges is that they have 90 days to publish the reasoning behind this ruling, after which the defense and the prosecution have another 45 days to make their arguments. So we're not -- the retrial could take place as early as this summer. But the wheels of the Italian justice system do grind rather slowly. Some lawyers saying they're expecting the retrial at the beginning of next year. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: So, walk me through how the Italian legal system is different from the American legal system. As you well know, here in this country, that would be considered double jeopardy. To be convicted, and then have that conviction overturned would mean you wouldn't, I believe, be allowed to be retried for the same crime.

WEDEMAN: That's correct. But the Italian justice system is really based upon the principle that the defendants should get every right to have their case heard. Sort of the appeals system is much more lengthy. That is because after World War II when the system, the Italian justice system was being rewritten, they wanted to avoid the kind of kangaroo courts that existed under the fascist dictatorship of Mussolini.

So the courts can have endless appeals. We've seen in the case of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi that you can be convicted. You can appeal. You can appeal again. It really is a system that makes lawyers very happy and very rich. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Ben Wedeman, thanks, Ben. Appreciate it.

Back in September I had a chance to sit down with Amanda Knox's ex- boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and I asked him about what he thought about the potential of a retrial. This is what he told me back then in September.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Prosecutors would like to continue with this case. And that's, I guess, in theory could mean you could go back to prison.

RAFFAELE SOLLECITO, AMANDA KNOX'S EX-BOYFRIEND: It's far away, so it's not -- they can't do that yet.

O'BRIEN: Are you worried about it, though?

SOLLECITO: Well, I'm a bit worried. But I'm still -- I wrote the book because this has been an opportunity to make all the people understand the truth. If all the people realize the truth of this case, then I have nothing to worry against, because I'm innocent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That was Raffaele Sollecito. He had just written a book about his life, and the trial. Be sure to watch CNN's latest on this story, of course. And then on Friday night, Anderson Cooper has a Special Report called "Murder Abroad, The Amanda Knox Story" at 10:00 p.m. eastern on "ANDERSON COOPER 360."

Another big court case we're following for you is the Supreme Court set to begin two days of arguments on same-sex marriage that will begin in just about three hours. People have been rallying since this weekend in anticipation of the court taking up an appeal of Prop 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage. And then tomorrow the justices will hear arguments about DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal Defense of Marriage Act. CNN's Joe Johns is live for us at the Supreme Court this morning. How's it looking, Joe, good morning?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. People have been out here for days, as you said. They're waiting for a rally that's going to happen in just a little while. At the heart of this is a very simple question, is it OK for the government to discriminate? Is it OK for the government to treat same-sex couples differently from straight couples?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: First up, a challenge to California's Proposition 8 law banning gays and lesbians from marrying. On Wednesday it's the challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's very important to be a part of history.

JOHNS: Expected in the audience as a guest of the court, Jean Padraski of San Francisco and her partner. Padraski is a lesbian cousin of Chief Justice John Roberts. In a statement she said, quote, "I feel confident that John is wise enough to see that society is becoming more accepting of the humanity of same-sex couples and the simple truth that we deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and equality under the law."

How much Roberts' personal relationships might affect his decision on same-sex marriage is an open question. Paul Smith has some insight. He's an openly gay attorney who argued one of the landmark cases involving gay rights, striking down laws banning sexual relations between same-sex couples. Before that, he was also a clerk for Justice Louis Powell. PAUL SMITH, CIVIL LIBERTIES LEGAL EXPERT: I think it has some impact on people to know family members and friends who were out and gay and happy and functioning in society. On the other hand, it's not by any means going to be a good predictor.

JOHNS: The lawsuit against prop 8 is brought by California couples, who say they have a right to marry just like heterosexual couples.

JEFF ZARRILLO, PLAINTIFF IN PROP 8 CASE: The term marriage is important. It has global recognition. No one celebrates a domestic partnership-versary. They celebrate an anniversary of marriage.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: These cases are not likely to be decided until June. The court tackles these cases at a time when public opinion has really shifted on the issue of same-sex marriage. Just a few years ago, most Americans said they opposed it. Now most Americans say they're in favor of it, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Joe Johns for us this morning. Thanks, Joe, appreciate it.

I want to get some more on these two big legal stories with Jeff Toobin, CNN senior legal analyst. He's outside the Supreme Court for us this morning. So, Jeff, let's start with the Supreme Court, since that's where you are. Give me in a nutshell what both of those arguments are going to be. The core of those arguments that you think are going to be the most persuasive for and against.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the question of today, today's case is about Proposition 8. And this is really the more fundamental of the two. The question here is, does the constitution require that same-sex couples be treated like straight couples? Is this case like the famous case in 1967 of Loving versus Virginia, the case that said states can no longer ban racial intermarriage? Will the court say the same thing here, states can no longer ban same-sex couples from getting married?

There are also various lesser steps they can take. They can take an approach that just affects California. They can find a procedural route to get rid of the case altogether without reaching the merits. But that's really the heart of the case.

O'BRIEN: So we're going to have an opportunity for those of us who are not at the Supreme Court to hear the audio of those very arguments. What are you going to be listening for specifically, not so much in the presentation, but really in the questions that the justices have for the attorneys?

I'm going to listen -- I will be listening for what Justice Anthony Kennedy says. I think we can fairly safely assume, based on prior statements, prior records, that the four democratic appointees, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan will all vote for marriage equality. Will they get a fifth vote? The most likely person to get them a fifth vote will be Anthony Kennedy. He is a generally conservative, Ronald Reagan appointee, but he's the author of the two most important gay rights decisions at the Supreme Court. What will he say that signals which way he's leaning?

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you now about the Amanda Knox news which was breaking news right at the top of the hour for us. So clearly they're going to move forward with a new trial, although Ben Wedeman thinks that it could be in a while, could take them a little while to actually get to the trial. It seems clear that Amanda Knox is not at least now going to be going back to Italy to be part of that trial. Do they try in absentia? And could she be forced to go back and take part in that trial?

TOOBIN: First of all, nothing in this case is going to happen quickly. This is a case where time is measured in years, not in months. So the first point is Amanda Knox is never going back to an Italian prison. That is just never going to happen.

Yes, in theory, it is possible that she will be retried in absentia. But in the unlikely event that she is convicted, and that conviction is upheld through many years of appellate proceedings, the odds against her being extradited -- the extradition process is even slower than the Italian justice system. This is -- she is never going back to an Italian prison. This case is likely to kick around the legal system for a long time. But in terms of the real world, she is never going back to prison.

O'BRIEN: Is that because she's Amanda Knox? Or is that because -- or is it because extradition of anybody, let's say we weren't talking about Amanda Knox, we were talking about a drug kingpin who the United States was happy to turn over and send back to Italy. Wouldn't that extradition be much faster? You think there's a reluctance on the part of the U.S. to send Amanda Knox back if, and that's a big if, if she were to be convicted?

TOOBIN: I think it's a combination of things. The extradition process is never smooth. You know, there has been a long dispute in the Italian and American legal systems about a former CIA agent who were tried in absentia in connection with the extradition after 9/11 of detainees in connection with the war in Afghanistan. That has been kicking around the legal system for many years. This -- so is it Amanda Knox? Is it just the legal system? Probably a combination of the two. But you can be sure that she's just never going back.

O'BRIEN: Wow, two big legal stories to start our morning. Good morning.

TOOBIN: All right that's good.

O'BRIEN: We'll be chatting with you later this morning. Appreciate it.

Also, following a developing story out of North Korea this morning, Christine's got that. Good morning.

ROMANS: Good morning to you. This story coming in overnight, North Korea now saying it plans to place military units on combat ready status for possible strikes on U.S. bases in the Pacific. The U.S. defense department this morning issued what's become its standard response, saying, quote, "The U.S. is fully capable of defending ourselves and our allies against an attack by the DPRK. We are firmly committed to defending the republic of Korea and Japan."

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

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a good question. It's a very unpredictable regime, a very volatile regime. You're right, they're making threats almost on a daily basis against the United States and its allies in the region, particularly japan and south Korea.

You get the sense here that perhaps they're more bark than they are bite. It's a lot of bluster. And you get the sense they're not really capable of carrying out the kind of attack that they're threatening. Of course, they may be physically capable but it's not something they want to do. The response would be absolutely overwhelming.

Nevertheless -- bolster the military alliance with South Korea and they feel like they have to respond in some way so they use words. Fortunately they have neither the will, the capability to actually follow through it seems.

ROMANS: All right, Matthew Chance monitoring the story for us. There in South Korea.

Authorities have now linked the murder of Colorado's prison chief to a suspect killed in a Texas shoot-out. Tests show the gun Evan Eble used is the same gun used to kill Tom Clements at his home two days earlier. Eble was an ex-con and a member of a white supremacist prison gang. Investigators still trying to figure out if he had accomplices, and what the motive was.

The Dragon cargo capsule now headed back to earth. It separated from the international space station a short time ago. The capsule should splash down in the pacific after 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.

Lottery officials in New Jersey have $338 million jackpot to hand out and they're just waiting for the winner to come forward. This man, Pedro Quezada caused a frenzy at the Passaic, New Jersey, liquor store where the winning ticket was sold. Quezada told everyone there that he is the winner but he did not have the ticket with him to prove it.

O'BRIEN: There's always one of those.

ROMANS: New Jersey lottery officials say they are aware of his claims but until they see the winning ticket they aren't calling anyone the winner. Actually I have the winning ticket. Can I borrow $400,000, Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Sure, as long as you really have it, Christine, I'm happy to give you the money. Every time there's always the guy or the woman. ROMANS: You're right.

O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, lots to talk about. Tiger, for one. He's number one again. We'll tell you what is holding him back coming up next. And then $30 million and a new gig, that's what a teenager was given by Yahoo! for an app that he created. We'll tell you about what he's done straight ahead on STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Excuse me. Tiger woods is back on top. He's reclaimed the number one spot in the world's golf rankings after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando. It's his third tournament win this year. And the first time he's been ranked number one since back in 2010. He says there is a simple explanation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: 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 be where I'm contending in every event. Contending in the major championships. And being consistent day in and day out. If I get healthy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: "Bleacher Report's" Andy Scholes has more on that for us this morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, CORRESPONDENT, "BLEACHER REPORT": Hey, Soledad. You heard him say it right there: if he got healthy, he knew he could get back to playing at a high level. We've definitely seen that over the last few months. He's won six of his last 20 PGA starts. He's already got three this year. But the thing everyone still wants to see Tiger do is win that major. He hasn't won one since the U.S. Open in 2008. The last time he won the Masters, which was the next one he'll be at, was 2005. People still want to see him do that. All indications are that he is back, his game is good, he's putting well. His private life is stabilized as he announced just a week ago that he's dating skier Lindsey Vonn. After he won yesterday she tweeted "Number one." Tiger was asked afterwards if there was any correlation between his successful play on the courts and him dating Vonn. He said people are reading way too much into this right now. It's a matter of fact that he's healthy and everything else seems to be wrapping up and going right for him at the same time.

O'BRIEN: He's having a good week, isn't he, that Tiger Woods? Hopefully he can keep that up. All right, Andy, thanks very much. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a teenager rakes in big money when a major internet company wants his app. Seventeen-year- old's big pay day up next. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. Let's intro the team this morning. Richard Socarides is with us, former senior adviser to President Clinton. Now a writer for "Newyorker.com." Also this morning, Christopher John Farley, senior editorial director of digital features at "The Wall Street Journal" and editor of their "Speakeasy" blog. And Gloria Reuben is back, this time on our panel. She, of course, is an actress and a philanthropist. Nice to have you with us. Christine Romans is with us, as well. She's going to look at the day's business.

ROMANS: Good morning, Soledad. We're "Minding your Business" this morning. Stock market looks like it could rebound after those losses Monday. The concerns about the eurozone still front and center. We're going to get some data on the U.S. economy this morning. In particular the housing market. That could put stocks back in rally mode. The S&P 500 pretty close to record highs, about 13 points or less than 1 percent away. Okay, Yahoo!'s latest acquisition, an app invented by a teenager in England. The kid's name is Nick D'aloisio. He's 17. He's about to be worth tens of millions of dollars. Yahoo! reportedly just bought his company and the tech blog, "AllthingsD" (ph) put the price tag at $30 million. He invented a news reading app called Summly. In December he told CNN's Piers Morgan how he got the idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICK D'ALOISIO, CREATOR, SUMMLY: Sure. I started programming when I was 12, and had been doing apps for a few years, and the way I thought of this idea is I was revising some history exams and I thought if I could build a piece of technology that could take pre-existing content and summarize it and condense it, it would really help people my age and everyone else consume it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The app turns articles and takes them, turns them into short summaries to make it easier to read on your smartphone. Nick still has to finish high school so he'll work from Yahoo!'s London office. He, of course has to comply with the new policy that band telecommuting. So, he'll be studying for his finals and working from Yahoo! and counting the money in his bank account, all at the same time.

O'BRIEN: Wow. Love that kid.

GLORIA REUBEN, ACTOR AND PHILANTHROPIST: When I was 12, I was listening to led zeppelin. I didn't even know --

O'BRIEN: You weren't programming?

REUBEN: I wasn't. I should have been, clearly.

O'BRIEN: It's like the Cliff's Notes. Basically he made Cliff's Notes.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, "NEWYORKER.COM": For everything. For everything. And like some of our news like is like some people think the news is like in too much of a summary fashion already. But now this is going to summarize it and condense it even more.

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, WRITER, "SPEAKEASY": Can I still adopt him? Is he too old to adopt?

(CROSSTALK)

SOCARIDES: You'd be rich.

O'BRIEN: I love that story. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we're following lots of breaking news that we'll be talking about. An Italian court has ruled that Amanda Knox should stand trial again in the death of her roommate. What now? One of her longtime defense attorneys is going to talk with us coming up next.

And don't blame the groundhog. We'll tell you about Punxsutawney Phil's handler says it is not his fault that he got the spring prediction wrong.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Following new breaking news this morning out of Rome. Italian Supreme Court judges say American Amanda Knox must, once again, stand trial for the death of her former roommate. The decision was announced about two and a half hours ago. Knox spent four years, you'll remember, in prison before an appeals court overturned her murder conviction in the 2007 death of Meredith Kercher. Joining us now to talk a little bit more about that is Amanda Knox's longtime defense attorney Ted Simon. Nice to see you, Ted.

First and foremost your reaction to what has now come out of the courts that, in fact, she will face trial again?

THEODORE SIMON, AMANDA KNOX'S ATTORNEY: Well, I mean, I think Amanda has really captured it in her statement. You know, it was very painful for her to receive this news. She continues to feel, as we do, that the charges are wholly unfounded and unfair. It was very reasonable for us to believe that after his appellate court jury had very, in a searching inquiry, looked at all the evidence in the case, whether it was the prosecution witness testimony, whether it was physical evidence or forensic conclusions, and openly determined that the true facts were much different as found, and that the evidence as found by the trial court was really absent, nonexistent, inaccurate or just unreliable.

So there was good reasons to believe, after that very, very exhausting and searching opinion by the appellate court jury that her acquittal would be affirmed. But let's be clear. The Supreme Court of Italy didn't do that much. They determined on a procedural grounds, and we still await their ruling, to send it back for revision. The appellate court, again, may simply continue to affirm her acquittal. Her appearance is not required. And, in many ways, not much has changed. Yes, there's a lot of fanfare, but there never was any evidence, and there never will be any evidence.

O'BRIEN: Well, there was a lot of fanfare --

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON: These charges are --

O'BRIEN: Let me hop --

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON: These charges are simply unfounded, and the family who has demonstrated unparalleled grace and persistence and resilience and courage will continue to fight these unjustified allegations.

O'BRIEN: So let's say --

SIMON: I'm sorry, what were you saying?

O'BRIEN: So my question to you was does she have to show up if this now goes to trial? And I know that it's a very long and slow process. Does she have to physically appear? And would she physically appear? Would she go back to Italy in any way shape or form?