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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Knox to be Retried in Italian Court; New Focus on Sandusky Trial; Interview with Wendell Pierce; From Actor to Entrepreneur; Proud to be the Face of MS

Aired March 26, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're following a stunning development this morning, coming to us out of Rome, where Italy's highest court is ordering American Amanda Knox to once again stand trial for the murder of her former roommate Meredith Kercher. Knox just released this statements, in part it says this: "It was painful to receive the news that the Italian Supreme Court decided to send my case back for revision, when the prosecution's theory of my involvement in Meredith's murder has repeatedly revealed to be completely unfounded and unfair. I believe any question to my innocence must be examined by an objective investigation and a capable prosecution." You will remember, Knox spent four years in prison before an appeals court in 2011 overturned her murder conviction. Knox's attorney says he doesn't expect her to travel to Italy for the trial.

Christine Romans has a looks at some of the other stories making news as well.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Call it the lost week of spring. The powerful snowstorm has moved out. But many parts of the country are facing another cold day. People from the Midwest eastward are still dealing with snow, slush, and ice from yesterday. And parts of the south woke up to freezing temperatures.

New developments from the deadly gas explosion last month in Kansas City. Six employees of the restaurant where it happened have filed a lawsuit. A gas company and contracting company are two of the defendants. The contractor was laying fiber optic cable when a worker hit a gas line. The explosion came about an hour later. A woman was killed. More than a dozen other people hurt, including those plaintiffs.

An extreme stunt cost a man from Utah his life. Authorities say the 22-year-old man died when he attempted to rope jump the Corona Arch, hundreds of people have done the extreme sport at the site after it was popularized by a Youtube video. The Grand County sheriff says the man, who was with five friends, miscalculated the height and used a rope that was too long.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. ROMANS: A Massachusetts drug compounding firm, is recalling more than a dozen products after an inspection turned up foreign material in vials of drugs. Pallimed Solutions of Woburn (ph) announced a voluntary recall of injectable drugs produced after January 1st of this year. The drugs are used for treatment for ailments from nail fungus to sexual dysfunction. The company says to date, no injuries or illnesses reported.

People prone to cold sores may be more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease later in life. Neurologists have found a link found between the virus that causes cold sores and lower scores on memory loss and other cognitive tests. The link between infections and memory loss was greater among women, with people with lower levels of education, and among people who do not exercise. Researchers say more studies need to be completed.

The new Google Glass internet headset isn't even on the market yet, but already, one state lawmaker is leading an to keep drivers from using this high-tech eyepiece while behind the wheel. West Virginia state representative Gary Howell has introduced legislation that would expand existing laws to ban texting while driving to prohibit, quote, "using a wearable computer with a head-mounted display" end quote. Howell says he fears drivers could be easily distracted by these kinds of gadgets.

O'BRIEN: Doesn't it seem a little early?

GLORIA REUBEN, ACTOR: We are just steps away from having a chip in our head.

ROMANS: Turn off the car when I'm surfing the internet.

O'BRIEN: A port where I can plug a mike in.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRIS JOHN FARLEY, WRITER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": People who also shouldn't wear Google Glass, people who are maybe if you are trying to get a date, you shouldn't wear Google Glass. To a job enter view. They look terrible.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: A bluetooth behind one ear, Google Glass on one.

O'BRIEN: All right, well so we're turning to something very serious and bizarre. Once again, Jerry Sandusky is back in the news. And here are some of the words of the convicted rapist, convicted pedophile. He declined, if you remember, to take the stand during his trial. But nearly a year later, he is speaking out, still maintaining his innocence. Talking to a filmmaker named Jonathan Ziegler, from behind bars. Ziegler was on Piers Morgan last night to talk about the interview and what he discovered during his interview with Jerry Sandusky.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JONATHAN ZIEGLER, FILMMAKER: This is an interview he gave to an FBI trained investigator, former police officer on the day Joe Patern was fired, saying nothing happened that night. Mike McQueary is lying that investigators tried to get him to lie so say what they wanted to hear him say. That is powerful and this is proactively coming from a person who was a 24-year-old married sergeant in the Marine Corps at this time, proactively coming out and saying, wait a minute. I'm not saying nothing happened in the shower. What I'm saying is that had we known that on November 9, of 2011 people would have said, wait a minute, hold on, this is a rush to judgment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Wow.

REUBEN: You know what? Why is he yelling?

O'BRIEN: He speaks so quickly. I say that as someone who speaks quickly. That's really, wow. He's certainly energetic. The question of course goes to to Jeffrey Fritz this morning. He's the attorney for a young man known as Sandusky Victim Number Four. And nice to have you back talking with us. So you heard that clip, that Mr. Ziegler says he has exculpatory information from the second victim, the second victim we know never testified. What do you make of that display?

JEFFREY FRITZ, ATTORNEY FOR SANDUSKY VICTIM #4: Good morning, Soledad. The -- you know, the issue here, let's look at the source of this. Mr. Zeigler says he's putting together this documentary to search for the truth. It looks like it's more of a search for attention either from Sandusky or Ziegler. The fact of the matter there was a jury of Sandusky's peers that convicted him of those crimes. To go back and rehash this, just adds insult to injury to the victims.

O'BRIEN: Well, I don't know. I mean, I think that no one has really had an opportunity to hear from Jerry Sandusky and I thought some of the -- some of what he says in the interviews and reading the transcript is just bizarre. It's so odd, I'm going to play a clip of Zeigler's conversation with Jerry Sandusky, when they talk about the shower incident that Mike McQueary said that he witnessed. The tone was really, really odd. Let's play that.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ZIEGLER: You don't remember snapping towels yourself, do you?

JERRY SANDUSKY, CONVICTED RAPIST AND PEDOPHILE: I'm not actually sure. I would have been more inclined to do slap boxing or something like that. And I'm not sure. And I remember, he always, no matter, he's always get the last lick in. He would get the last lick in. He would get the last smack. And then I would chase him like. And I ran into a wall, but then I was like pulling him back to go back into the area of the shower where we were showering, and then that was it. You know, I never saw Mike McQueary. I don't know whether the young man saw him. I don't know.

ZIEGLER: You're sure you never saw Mike McQueary?

SANDUSKY: I'm sure.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So, I guess it's so interesting. Ziegler focuses on did you see Mike Mcqueary, but really, it's the description of that scene that's coming from Jerry Sandusky himself that is so disturbing I thought.

FRITZ: It is disturbing and it would be disturbing either for that victim or any victim or any survivor to hear the constant denials from Jerry Sandusky. But it's not surprising to hear him say and characterize things the way he has done. He's maintained through his lawyer publicly that this was just all horsing around incident which is just ridiculous. But keep in mind, in his mind, he views the rape of a child to only be horsing around. So it's not surprising, but it is frustrating and disturbing for these victims to hear that and hear that coming from him.

O'BRIEN: Ziegler says his entire point in all of this is less about Jerry Sandusky and more about Joe Paterno, and clearing his name by showing a rush to judgment. Do you think there's any evidence he's done that through this interview?

FRITZ: I don't think so. Fact of the matter is that Judge Freeh, Louis Freeh, his report relied upon interviews of multiple witnesses, relied upon black and white evidence, documentation, e-mails, it's undeniable about what Penn State knew about Jerry Sandusky. Now, there is a middle ground here. If Joe Paterno didn't know exactly what to do about that information that he learned from McQueary, that's a failure of Penn State as an institution in protecting the safety of children.

O'BRIEN: Jeffrey Fritz is the attorney for a young man known as Victim Number Four. Thank you for talking with us. It's always nice to have you. We appreciate it.

FRITZ: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You bet.. Have to take a break. STARTING POINT back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You are watching STARTING POINT. You know the actor Wendell Pierce from the roles he's played like "The Wire," and then on HBO's "Treme" where he plays a trombonist, a music teacher in his native New Oleans. Well, now Pierce is working on his entrepreneurial skills. He's opening a grocery store chain. It's called Sterling Farms and the goal is to provide healthy and fresh food alternatives for people in low-income neighborhoods, or what they often call food deserts, of which there are many in New Orleans. Areas where nearly 60 percent of residents have to travel more than three miles to reach a supermarket. Wendell Pierce is with us this morning. Nice to have you with us, Wendell. Talking about my favorite city, the world, New Orleans. It's interesting --

WENDELL PIERCE, ACTOR: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: The degree to which these food deserts exist across the country, not just in New Orleans, but of course post-Katrina has made things very even more complicated about bringing fresh produce, and fresh food, and healthy food to people, hasn't it?

PIERCE: Yes. You know, food deserts are an issue across the country, and not just low-income neighborhoods. We have New Orleans east, still looking for commercial districts to come back and it's something for me shouldn't be part of the American landscape. The first lady put out a call of action to ask American business to come off the sidelines and go into those under-served communities and Sterling Farms is heeding that call.

O'BRIEN: So, tell me about Sterling Farms. Because now, you're a grocer. You're an actor, we did a documentary on your work in Ponchartrain Park, so you're a developer then. Tell me about your involvement and the financial model that's going to make this work.

PIERCE: Well, as we were rebuilding Ponchartrain Park, I realized that the commercial districts weren't coming back as fast as I would like. And then I was made aware of the problems of food deserts. And so I realized that there was pent-up demand. And those under-served communities, people have demonstrated their loyalty of brand, loyalty of different grocery stores by going great distances to outside of their communities, outside of their neighborhoods to support those grocery stores. But yet, in return, those American industries wouldn't come to their community. And I felt as thought that that is an emerging market. We go into India, we go into China. Those are emerging markets, and I felt as though in our under-served communities right here in America. We should see that as an opportunity to do well and do good.

FARLEY: You know it's great to make this food available. I'm wondering what else you're doing to sort of make the awareness available to kids, young people should be eating this kind of fresh food. And especially grade school kids, high school kids. I mean I see among some of my son's peers, they're drinking sports drinks instead of water, milk or other things.

O'BRIEN: And it's a huge problem in your state, certainly. In the state of Louisiana.

PIERCE: Right. Yes.

Well definitely. I'm a part of a board, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation which is its sole purpose is to end childhood obesity. And also you have to understand that obesity and hunger go hand and hand, hunger comes from the fact that there is lack of food access. Lack of food justice really and that's what we're dealing with -- with Sterling Farms to go into those communities and give people a choice. You know because economic development is also the social justice movement of the 21st century.

And to have American neighborhoods, American communities to not have access to just fresh food is -- is something that is unacceptable.

O'BRIEN: The work -- the way you've worked it out is that the rent will be a percentage of the intake for the store over a certain number. Right? Give me a sense of how that --

(CROSSTALK)

PIERCE: Oh yes.

O'BRIEN: -- you are in a low-income area in Herrera which is across the Mississippi River and a quarter of the households --

(CROSSTALK)

PIERCE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: -- have an income of you know less than $25,000.

PIERCE: Yes. We look at low average median income in the neighborhood that we're in, that we're launching our first store in, and because we are going into an area where -- where other businesses have stood on the side lines, they saw that they didn't see the demand that we saw.

Our landlord has given us the benefit of a decent rent, where they are meeting us halfway. If we changed the paradigm and come in there and take the risk where other American businesses are risk averse, he met us halfway. So he's incentivised to bring us in, we're incentivised to bring him in because we share in the fresh food initiatives that come from federal dollars and local dollars, like the ill tap (ph) here in Louisiana and the federal dollars that come from the food trust to actually incentivise American businesses to take the step that we're taking.

And that's the thing that we want to give that benefit to our landlord as well and so that -- that way we change the paradigm, everyone has skin in the game and at the same time we can change what's happening in that community.

(CROSSTALK)

FARLEY: What's going to make people choose fresh food over say a snack food, when all of the snack food companies have all the money behind marketing of their products?

PIERCE: First of all, that sort of study of human behavior is something that we're all searching for, you know. What -- what makes people make a good choice over a bad choice? The first thing you have to have is the ability to make the choice. If you don't have the store there, if you don't have access to fresh food, fresh produce, fresh fruit so you can make those better choices, you're going to choose what's available to you, fast food, processed food and -- and that's where bad choices come from.

You know when you look at hunger, even, you know, it's because you don't have the choices and you make those bad choices, the only thing that's affordable to you, is something that's -- that's not good for you. And so that's -- that's the first step that you have to make. Even before we get to what changes human behavior, we have to get to give the people the choice and that's what Sterling Farms is all about.

O'BRIEN: Wendell Pierce, congratulations on your store opening. It's going to be one of four grocery stores and they're going to do a convenience version of it too -- four of those. So congrats. Always nice to check in with you.

You got a new show right, with Michael J. Fox, who plays an anchor. I wonder where he stole that from -- us.

PIERCE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And you play the news director. When is that coming on? What's the name of that show.

PIERCE: I play the news director.

O'BRIEN: Yes when is it going to --

PIERCE: That's going to be -- that's going to be in the fall. That's going to be in the fall on NBC, with Michael J. Fox. He's a news anchor who is coming back. He has Parkinson's and I'm trying to get him back in the newsroom, I'm the news director. And it's called "The Henrys". I'm looking forward to it.

O'BRIEN: Oh I love it. We're looking forward to it too. Of course Wendell Pierce, always great to have you. I appreciate it.

PIERCE: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Still ahead on STARTING POINTS this morning making it to the NBA was a dream for Chris Wright, then he learned he multiple sclerosis. We'll his story, coming up next.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: He's been playing for the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, but make no mistake, Chris Wright is a trailblazer. The first known NBA player who has multiple sclerosis. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has his story. It's this week's "Human Factor."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With less than three minutes left against the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks point guard Chris Wright is in the game. Playing in the NBA has been his lifelong dream but it almost didn't come true.

CHRIS WRIGHT, DALLAS MAVERICKS: While a student, my whole right leg went numb, right foot went numb, basically it went all the way up to the right side of my body.

Last year, Wright was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis -- MS, a disease that damages the protective covering of nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. It's a disease he had never heard of.

WRIGHT: I just have to do what I have to do to maintain my life.

GUPTA: Doctors told Wright he would never play basketball again. But he responded well to treatment and less than three months after his diagnosis, Wright was back on the court. He made history when he signed a ten-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Becoming the first person with MS to play in the NBA. While it may have only been a short stint, Wright believes this won't be the last time he will play in the NBA.

WRIGHT: Everything happens for a reason, and everything you go through definitely is not a coincidence.

GUPTA: Monthly treatments are keeping his MS from progressing, and he's not shying away from his diagnosis. Wright he's proud to be the face of MS.

WRIGHT: Don't be afraid to step out and do what you want to do. That's my message to everyone ahead. Don't believe that's a crippling disease that will define (ph) you the rest of your life.

Gupta: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.

O'BRIEN: That's a great story. All right, "End Point's" up next. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: This is my favorite part because I don't have to do a darn thing. All right. Who wants to start "End Point"?

FARLEY: I want to talk about numbers, you know. 33 -- that's the streak that the Lakers set in terms of the number of consecutive wins. 27 -- that's where the Miami Heat are right now. If they can beat the Lakers' streak at 33, it's bigger than championship because it shows that they're a dominant team, that they belong in the conversation about the best teams ever in their sport.

So we'll see whether Lebron can get it done. They have to go through the Knicks, the Bulls, and the Spurs to do it. But it's fascinating.

O'BRIEN: I think it's doable. I really do.

REUBEN: I want to say a few words on same-sex marriage. I mean it's hopeful, and really inspiring and encouraging that a lot of people are broadening their perspectives and opening their hearts when it comes to this issue. And personally I feel like if you are 18 or over, and you love someone and you want to get married, have at it. Issue done.

O'BRIEN: We'll see what the justices have to say about that when they make their decision. REUBEN: Exactly.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, "NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE: It's going to be such an important argument this morning that's going to start at 10:00. Ted Olsen, a Republican conservative former solicitor general is going to be arguing for the gay rights side -- for the plaintiffs trying to overturn Proposition 8. There is a lot of legal talent in that room not just on the bench.

The Supreme Court, they have had such interest that they're going to release the audiotapes of the arguments earlier. Usually they wait for a while, wait for a couple of days. But within an hour they will be available on the Supreme Court Web site. So it's going to be a very thrilling morning.

O'BRIEN: Everyone's going to be watching it.

Thank you for being with us. Gloria, always nice to have you.

REUBEN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You're welcome back any time. And you gentlemen as you know already, we love having you.

Coming up tomorrow on STARTING POINT, we'll be analyzing the first day of the same-sex marriage arguments in front of the court with some of those audiotapes that we'll have. And also, the actress Julia Stiles will join us. She has a new movie, it's called "It's a Disaster".

That's all ahead tomorrow.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning.