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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Amanda Knox Now Facing Re-Trial; Winter's Late Hit Buries Old Records; Transformer Fire; Dreamliner Takes To The Sky; Groundhog Handler: It's My Fault, Not Phil's; Cinderella Story; Jon Secada's 20- Year Celebration

Aired March 26, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


THEODORE SIMON, AMANDA KNOX'S ATTORNEY: I'm sorry, what were you saying?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: 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? Will she go back to Italy in any way, shape or form?

SIMON: The -- the sending back to the appellate court, and their revision that they may undertake, does not require her appearance. So, that court will proceed, Amanda Knox and her family have always abided by all rules and regulations under rule of law --

O'BRIEN: Is that the same thing -- is that the same thing as being tried in absentia as we who are not lawyers think of it?

SIMON: Well, I think one has to look at this through the lens of the Italian justice system. And we have to await the directives of the Supreme Court, and when they send it back to the appellate court for revision then we'll know more precisely exactly what is required. But from what we know now, her appearance is simply not required, and that will proceed.

O'BRIEN: Let's say that were to change --

SIMON: -- reason to believe -- excuse me, Soledad. There's no reason to believe that any further review will result any differently. Keep in mind, there was no physical evidence against her.

And anything that was reviewed was considered unreliable, inaccurate, insubstantial so what I'm saying to you is, while, yes, we would have preferred the Supreme Court to simply affirm the acquittal, and it certainly was painful for Amanda to receive this news.

In the bigger picture, these charges still remain just as unfounded, just as unjust, as they were before.

O'BRIEN: Right, I hear you, Ted --

SIMON: -- changed it on the substance of the case.

O'BRIEN: Except that but what has changed it though, as you well know, is that the Supreme Court did not confirm the acquittal. The Supreme Court did the opposite, which is now, why we're kind of where we are right now. So my question for you is, let me just ask you the question that I think everybody wants to know. Does Amanda Knox ever --

SIMON: They didn't do the opposite. They didn't do the opposite. All they did is sent it back for further clarification.

O'BRIEN: So, does -- will she go back to Italy? As her attorney, would you ever advise her, go back, face the court, or would you say, there is no way that you should ever, ever go back to Italy, and in fact, extradition is so complex that it's better just to stay in the United States, or stay anywhere outside of Italy and not worry about it?

SIMON: I can understand why you might pose that question, but that's not within the legal landscape at this particular time. We have to await the directive of the supreme court of Italy and then we have to see what the appellate court does.

As I said before, you know, they -- Amanda and her family will scrupulously abide by the rule of law, and they are not required to appear for those proceedings. So let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Let's just see what happens, and we fully expect because these charges are totally unfounded. They're totally unjust and we fully expect that she will be exonerated as she was before.

O'BRIEN: Right. And I hear you on that, Ted, but my question was if I were her attorney and you know --

SIMON: I think I answered --

O'BRIEN: No, you did --

SIMON: -- I'm sorry but I think I did answer your question as best as I possibly can.

O'BRIEN: If I were her attorney, and I know about this much about the law, I would say, my client will never, ever go back to Italy because the extradition is so complex that I could just keep her out of that system. You're not -- you're not willing to say that at this point?

SIMON: Well, I don't think that's what's in issue at this point. You're looking at it from the lens of someone in the United States. We have to look at it through the lens of the criminal justice system in Italy.

And because the Supreme Court has simply sent it back for further review, that review will be taken in the ordinary course and a decision will be made. Her presence is simply not required for that.

And we have every expectation that upon that review, the same decision will occur. She will be found not guilty of this charge.

O'BRIEN: We'll wait and see. It's always nice to talk to you. Ted Simon, of course, we appreciate your time in walking us through the really complicated international legal system. Thank you so much.

SIMON: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Got a little weather to talk about this morning. Much of the country is cleaning up from a spring snow storm. Christine has got that and other top stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: A little weather to talk about this morning. You're so right. It never goes away. If the weather were a football game winter would be flagged for a late hit. Spring would be called for a delay of game.

Millions of people have another day of snow. Slush and still nearly a week after spring officially began. CNN's Martin Savidge live for us this morning in chilly Pittsburgh. Good morning, Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Yes, I mean, the good news is that the snow that they predicted to fall last night, didn't. And some of the snow that came yesterday has melted, but it is so cold. And it's not just here in Pittsburgh, but much of the east is freezing. And it's not likely to end soon.

(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 didn't think it was going to be heavy. 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: Back here in Pittsburgh, a 40 percent chance of snow today, 40 percent chance of snow tonight, and 30 percent chance of snow tomorrow. March comes in like a lion, usually goes out like a lamb. Maybe just a lion all month long -- Christine.

ROMANS: Or polar bear. Coming in and going out like a polar bear. At least you have a smile on your face.

All right, amazing video to show you, a transformer fire at a Washington state power plant sends flaming mushroom clouds into the sky. It happened at a facility in Washington. Nearby homes were evacuated out of concern that there may be toxic PCBs in the transformer. But a spokesman said it was filled with mineral oil. The smoke was not toxic.

Boeing clears a big hurdle. It says it's 787 Dreamliner's first test flight with a new lithium-ion battery went quote, "according to plan." Boeing says it wants the Dreamliner back in service by May 1st.

One expert told Reuters it will probably be three to six months after that because the FAA will want to make sure these batteries work as promised. Regulators grounded all 50 Dreamliners back in January after batteries overheated on two separate planes.

ROMANS: All right, a pardon for the groundhog? The Ohio prosecutor who wanted Punxsutawney Phil indicted for botching the winter weather forecast might back down. The groundhog's been made the scapegoat for the winter that just went quit.

But, Phil's handler now says the groundhog got it right back in February, and that he, the handler, is the one who blew it because he misinterpreted what Phil was foreshadowing.

Now we spoke with the prosecutor who says he also thinks it's time to diversify into Punxsutawney Philous, because some of these guys have been getting the forecast wrong year after year after year.

O'BRIEN: This is like a PR scam gone so awry. It doesn't end. Now they're -- remember the one day you put the kids in front of the TV. They're like look the groundhog.

ROMANS: Two months later --

O'BRIEN: Still in the news. Completely let's move on.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: It's a groundhog.

O'BRIEN: Of course, it doesn't work.

SOCARIDES: Well, it makes sense to me.

ROMANS: Our meteorologist Jennifer Delgado said, well, I would get my forecast wrong if you dragged me out of a hole in the morning and made me stand there and decide on the spot.

SOCARIDES: Seriously, wrong all the time. O'BRIEN: Yes, exactly.

ROMANS: Meteorologists have science.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Science continues to --

O'BRIEN: It's a PR scam, people.

SOCARIDES: She's right. What she said.

ROMANS: You can't trust anything anymore.

O'BRIEN: PR scam from the Punxsutawney Phil people. Anyway, ahead this morning --

SOCARIDES: Who are those people?

O'BRIEN: We're doing an investigation into Cinderella story of college basketball, tiny Florida Gulf Coast University makes it into the sweet 16. I love this story. We're live in Fort Myers with their story straight ahead.

Then Jon Secada has a new song celebrating his 20 years in the biz. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: So it is a Cinderella story of this year's NCAA tournament. A young team from Florida Gulf Coast University has made its way to the sweet 16. Florida Gulf Coast doesn't have a big reputation as a basketball school. The school was only founded in 1997, which is after most of the current players were born. The basketball program started in 2002.

CNN's George Howell is live for us in Fort Myers, Florida this morning. Hi, George. Good morning.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, good morning. So yesterday we got to meet the team, got to talk to the coach. Thousands of students packed into this arena here, but here's the thing.

You know, all the energy you would expect on a college campus like this in this situation, but Fort Myers, Florida, this is more of a retirement community than a college town, but yesterday we saw a mix of all ages. A lot of excitement as this little-known basketball team makes the name for this school.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL (voice-over): A 15-seeded team in the NCAA basketball tournament, advancing to the sweet 16, they defied the odds. At a school most of the country had never heard of. Even one of the team's star players admits.

(on camera): Before you got the offer to come here and play, had you heard of FGCU?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be honest, I had never even heard of it.

HOWELL (voice-over): But now Florida Gulf Coast University is on the radar and everybody's talking about them.

DAVID MOULTON, CO-HOST, "MILLER AND MOULTON IN THE AFTERNOON": A lot of people in Southwest Florida hadn't followed this school until Friday night.

HOWELL: Since defeating second seeded Georgetown in their first-ever NCAA tournament game, then going on to beat San Diego State, the FGCU Eagles surprised everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody is so excited to see their little small town, and their community of Fort Myers be getting so much, you know, national attention.

HOWELL: There's even a new rap song, renaming this school, and Fort Myers, for that matter, as dunk city.

And then there's the story about the team's coach, a self-made millionaire, Andy Enfield left it all to coach basketball.

ANDY ENFIELD, FGCU COACH: We're up tempo on offense. We play a tough defense like Florida State did when I was there.

HOWELL: A lot of attention has not only gone to Enfield and his team, but also his wife, Amanda Markum, a former model who's appeared on the cover of "Maxim" magazine to name just a few. And now this underdog story of his team is playing out on the 10th anniversary of the weekend Enfield met his wife.

ENFIELD: We went to Boston. I drove her and her friend from New York City to Boston to go to the Oklahoma State first and second round. And when I picked her up in the car, I didn't know her at the time. But I knew as soon as she got in my car it would be a great trip to Boston.

HOWELL: Enfield eventually won her over and now his team is winning the hearts of fans who had never heard of this school.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: So again we're talking about the first 15-seeded team to advance on to the sweet 16. Soledad, this is a big deal here and really around the country. A lot of people are paying close attention to this school, and what happens Friday when this team takes on Florida -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: It's a big deal here, too, because all of our picks were destroyed early. Now we're going to be rooting for that team. Thanks, George.

We got to take a short break. Still ahead on STARTING POINT, international superstar, Jon Secada, is marking 20 years in the music biz with a new single. It's already hitting up the charts. We'll tell you some of the highlights and some of the regrets of his career. That's ahead on STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Twenty million albums sold, three Grammy's, numerous hits in English and Spanish. Singer/songwriter, Jon Secada has lots to celebrate and he is marking his 20th year, 20th anniversary in the music biz with the release of a new single and music video. It's called "Never Too Far Away," and it's climbing up the chart.

John Berman had a chance to sit down with Jon Secada and spoke to him about his amazing career.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": You've been recording for 20 years, which doesn't seem possible to me because it doesn't look like you're old enough to have been recording for 20 years. But how has your music evolved over the years?

JON SECADA, SINGER, SONGWRITER: I still love the fusion of everything that I grew up with and more at this point. I still listen to the radio. I love pop music. I love how new artists try new things and always in the spirit of integrating new sounds and new things. And that's what I'm still all about and I love that. I enjoy that so I have a passion to want to do that.

BERMAN: You have recorded in English. You have recorded in Spanish and you even recorded in what you call "Spanglish." Do you have a favorite?

SECADA: I grew up bilingual. I grew up influenced by so much in both languages. I'm proud of that. Even though I sang in English first, immediately following, we encouraged the company to let me record in Spanish. So I've had that kind of career since day one and that's a blessing.

BERMAN: Do you write differently depending on the language? Does the music change?

SECADA: Well, definitely when it comes to translating, which really I call more adapting, yes, it does. When you switch gears, you want to share that, whatever you wrote in the initial language of the song, that it has just as strong a meaning. I group listening to artists that were doing the same especially Gloria Estefan, who I worked with many years.

BERMAN: Well, you brought up Gloria Stephan. You are one of the rare artists who has recorded smash hits that you have written, your own songs and you have also written songs that have been recorded and turned into hits by others, including Gloria Estefan and Ricky Martin. When you write a song and Ricky Martin turns it into a hit, do you ever wish like you sung it yourself?

SECADA: Well, it happened to be that kind of scenario happened with one of the songs with Ricky. I already had a career as a solo artist and I wrote this song intended for my CD. But in the midst of the process of recording it and working on the song in the studio, he heard it. He is doing his first CD and he fell in love with the song. He called me and at the end of the day, I ended up giving him that song.

BERMAN: Do you regret it? Yes, you look like you may regret it a little?

SECADA: Well, it really takes me back to how my career started, which is as a songwriter, as a musician, as a producer, as a background vocalist. I was flattered. It was his, but I have always -- always something I've balanced my career. Proud that I can say I started as a blue collar musician in the trenches of writing songs and being there.

BERMAN: So I have to ask you this. Last week, somehow, you ended up performing on the Carnival "Dream," which was one of the Carnival cruise ships with a lot of problem. This was the one that was stuck in port in St. Maarten. How did you end up on that?

SECADA: Well, interestingly enough, the day of, I guess, it was maybe the second morning following the fact that the ship was there. It was dock permanently for a little while. I was watching CNN, looking at the TV, wow, there is another Carnival ship. This must have been 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning.

By 12:00, 1:00, I get a call from the publicist, the senior vice president from Carnival. They really wanted to do things that were special for everybody on board. Somewhere between 1:00 and 4:00 or 5:00, we were able to put things together, to get me to St. Maarten.

It's a long ride from Miami, but we made it. I was able to do that. It was again a very sudden type of situation that materialize into really a very nice evening and quick evening, and first thing in the morning, the next day, I was out of there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: I love that man.

Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, more on the breaking story. We started our morning with Amanda Knox facing a re-trial in the murder of her British roommate. We're hearing Amanda Knox has now issued a statement. We're live in Italy with some developing details.

And then his hit show takes place in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans. Now Wendell Pierce is back and giving back with a supermart. He has a plan to bring healthy food into low-income neighborhoods. That's coming in the next hour. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, an early morning shocker in the Amanda Knox case. An Italian court has ruled that she and her ex-boyfriend now face a retrial overturning their acquittal in the murder of her British roommate. We have Knox's reaction. We're live in Italy with the stunning details.

And the other big story this morning, a historic day that could lead to a change in the definition of marriage. The rights of same-sex couples go before the Supreme Court. That starts in just two hours.

ROMANS: A developing story, North Korea saying it is getting ready for combat ready positions, ready to attack the U.S. and its interest. We're live just outside North Korea with the details.

And the defense wants him to keep Jodi Arias off death row, but is the psychologist in that murder case too close to be trusted --