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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Tension Risings in the Koreas; Jackson Wrongful Death Suit; Ware-Ing His Strength On His Sleeve; Interview with Joe Theismann; WSJ Op-Ed Unhappy with College Selection Process

Aired April 2, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman. Our STARTING POINT this morning is North Korea's latest threat it is planning to expand its nuclear arsenal. We are live at the Pentagon with details.

BALDWIN: New this morning, powerful reaction to reports the man behind the murder of a Colorado prison chief and pizza delivery driver was released four years early accidently. This morning, the driver's wife speaking out, and you can imagine she is furious.

BERMAN: Plus, the civil trial over Michael Jackson's death gets under way just hours from now. So, could the Jackson family actually get what they want? That's $40 billion, by the way. We'll live report in moments.

BALDWIN: And Louisville's Kevin Ware, check it out, already on crutches two days after his leg snapped during Sunday's NCAA game. We will talk this morning with former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann about what it's like to go through such a horrific injury.

It is Tuesday, April 2nd. STARTING POINT begins right now.

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BALDWIN: Our starting point here this morning, escalating tensions between North and South Korea with the U.S. got in the middle.

BERMAN: There's a new propaganda video playing on state TV in North Korea right now, which shows North Korean soldiers shooting at paper targets of American soldiers. Also this morning, Pyongyang announcing it plans to restart a nuclear power complex in Yongbyon. That's been idle for six years.

Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with these developments that's really breaking overnight -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Good morning Brook.

Well, in fact, more news now. Just a few moments ago, the secretary general of the United Nations spoke about all this. Ban Ki-moon saying, quote, "The current crisis has already gone too far," and adding, in his words, "Nuclear threats are not a game." But the words of the secretary general come as the United States is trying to figure out exactly what North Korea is up to.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): The U.S. Navy is moving a warship closer to the North Korean coastline. It's also sending this ocean going radar. The worry, North Korea may be planning more ballistic missile test launches.

U.S. officials say this missile called the Mosadan (ph) might be fired in the coming weeks with a 2,500-mile range, it's threatened South Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia. If fired and headed for land, the Navy ship would then try to shoot it down.

The ship, along with two F-22 fighter jets and B-2 bombers are Washington's latest moves on the chess board to challenge a North Korean provocation. The U.S. strategy --

GEORGE LITTLE, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: It's about showing the South Koreans and our friends in the region that we are ready to protect them in the face of any threat.

STARR: There are new images of Kim Jung Un looking ready for war, but is that his goal?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would reiterate that we haven't seen action to back up the rhetoric in the sense that we haven't seen significant changes, as I said, in the north in terms of mobilizations or repositioning of forces.

STARR: But analysts say that's small comfort.

VICTOR CHA, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL: This new leadership that's very unpredictable that will fire off the missile and at the same time sit down with Dennis Rodman and say he wants Obama to call him.

STARR: Victor Cha says North Korea's recent successful missile and nuclear tests play, perhaps, into the regime's ultimate goal, to not give up its weapons crown jewels.

CHA: You can't put it past them, the idea that they are also trying to establish a new equilibrium, in which they are accepted as a nuclear weapons state.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, what is the assessment? What's all this rhetoric really all about from North Korea? U.S. officials still think Kim Jung Un doesn't plan any massive attack against the South, against the United States, that this is really his effort to consolidate his own power within the North Korean military. They worry he may back himself into a corner, and they also believe that he has every intention of still pursuing both the nuclear and the missile program. BERMAN: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, our thanks to you.

Four minutes after the hour. We have some new developments this morning in Kaufman County, Texas, where police honored the slain district attorney and his wife. Officers paying their respects last night as the bodies of district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife were brought to a local funeral home. The couple of course, gunned down in their home over the weekend, coming just two months after an assistant district attorney was killed.

As a precaution, security has been beefed up for prosecutors across the entire state. Also, an interim district attorney has been named Brandi Fernandez will lead the Kaufman County office until Governor Rick Perry announces a permanent replacement. Still, with three deaths, public officials and residents in the close-knit community very much on edge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBBIE RAY, KAUFMAN RESIDENT: It's very close to home. People are on edge a little, and afraid for the rest of the city employees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: There will be a public memorial in Kaufman for the McLellands Thursday, before their funeral on Friday.

BALDWIN: Five minutes past the hour here. Christine Romans with some of the day's top stories.

Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to both of you.

The wife of the pizza delivery driver speaking out this morning about her husband's killer being released from prison due a clerical error, really sad story. We're getting reaction now simply to the stunning admission from the state of Colorado that ex-con, Evan Ebel, who is suspected of killing the state's correction's chief and a pizza delivery driver was released from prison, you guys, four years early due to a clerical mistake. The driver's irate widow says it's just unacceptable.

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KATHERINE ANN LEON, WIDOW OF SLAIN PIZZA DELIVERY DRIVER: A simple sorry ain't going to suffice, in my book. I'm a 30-year-old widow with two little 4 year olds that I have to go on the rest of my life explaining what happened to their dad, that this could have all been prevented. And it makes me sick, and it angers me something fierce. To sit there and think this all could have been prevented.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The family says no one from the court actually called them to apologize. They had to hear the news from the media. Evan Ebel was killed in a shootout with police in Texas two weeks ago.

New this morning, tough gun control laws coming up for a vote in Connecticut, in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre. A bipartisan task force of lawmakers has agreed on new legislation. It adds more than 100 types of guns to the state's list of banned assault weapons, limit ammunition, magazines to 10 rounds, requires a background check for all weapon sales and sets safety standards for school buildings. It's expected to pass as early as tomorrow.

After keeping a low profile for a month, Hillary Clinton is stepping back into the spotlight. Tonight, she'll attend an award ceremony in Washington that also features Vice President Joe Biden. Both ran for president in 2008 and are considered possible contenders in 2016. Another high-profile event this month will put Mrs. Clinton in the company of every president, at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

BERMAN: That will be fun, no doubt.

ROMANS: Yes.

BERMAN: Christine, thanks so much.

So, just a few hours, jury selection gets under way in a civil suit over the death of Michael Jackson. Katherine Jackson alleges the concern promoter AEG Live contributed to her son's death through negligence by hiring Dr. Conrad Murray to treat him. Murray is now in prison for his role in Jackson's death.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is live in Los Angeles with the details on this case -- Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning there, John. This is exactly what is at stake here. Who is responsible for hiring Dr. Conrad Murray?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL JACKSON, KING OF POP: This is it, and see you in July.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): "This is It" meant to herald Michael Jackson's comeback.

Like so many things in Jackson's life and death, it's become a supersized trial. Reports that Jackson family seeking from concert promoter AEG as much as $40 billion for the wrongful death of the 50- year-old King of Pop. Reports the Jackson camp denied.

KEVIN BOYLE, JACKSON FAMILY ATTORNEY: If the jury feels the family deserves $40 billion, that's what they're going to get. But I can tell you, no demand has been made by the Jackson family for $40 billion from AEG. That is just not true.

MARQUEZ: At the center of the trial, who hired Dr. Conrad Murray, found guilty in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter for injecting the insomniac pop star with a lethal dose of the anesthetic Propofol? PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: What do you think as his mother caused his death?

KATHERINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S MOTHER: I don't know. All I know is they used Propofol and they shouldn't have used it.

MARQUEZ: The plaintiffs, Jackson's mother Katherine and his three kids, blame AEG. Its lawyer says there was never a signed contract and, Murray, who was never paid anything, served only at the pleasure of Michael Jackson.

MARVIN PUTNAM, AEG ATTORNEY: If you look at the draft explicitly is that he was chosen by Michael Jackson to be there at Michael Jackson's behalf. Michael Jackson was the only person who could get rid of him at will.

MARQUEZ: Possibly testifying, Jackson's 16-year-old son, Prince Michael, and 14-year-old daughter Paris. Also on the list but not expected to testify, the artist Prince, who had his own history with AEG.

Musician Quincy Jones could take the stand to testify how much Jackson could have earned if he had lived.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, if this goes to trial, there's always a chance of a settlement. It will get ugly probably pretty quickly. The Jackson folks have documents they say prove that AEG hired Dr. Conrad Murray and the AEG folks want to bring up all of Michael Jackson's past, the 2005 molestation trial, as well, to prove that this was a guy basically trying to kill himself.

Back to you guys.

BERMAN: All right. Miguel Marquez in Los Angeles, thanks for being with us this morning.

We want to bring in Anne Bremner. She's a criminal defense attorney and a former prosecutor who has covered the Jackson trial extensively. Thanks for being here Anne.

And, you know, we heard in Miguel's piece that what seems to be the key legal issue here is who hired whom. Did AEG hire Conrad Murray and, therefore, was AEG responsible for all of his activity. That's what Jackson family lawyers are saying. Do they have a case?

ANNE BREMNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you know, the probability's really up to the jury and thanks for having me. I was at the Michael Jackson trial and also with CNN for six long months. So, a lot of history there, but this could be the wildest Jackson trial, that's been the quote.

But they may have a case, because there's e-mails talking about from AEG, we hired him, we want him to do this. He's responsible to keep Jackson up and standing and going for these 50 concerts that were to be done or to be performed in London. But there's also a question about whether or not the contract was signed, and we know that Conrad Murray signed a contract the night before Jackson died, no one else has signed it, but you don't need a contract to employ him.

And then, of course, you have the issue of Jackson never having paid him, but having employed him months before engaging in the negotiations.

And, then there was this, Anne, I want you to hear this. This is the attorney for AEG sort of acknowledging that, yes, they knew that Michael Jackson was known for doctor shopping. Take a listen.

BREMNER: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PUTNAM: If you go to a doctor and you pay with a credit card, obviously, MasterCard in that instance, the name of the credit card, is providing money for that services until you pay it back.

I think there's no way you can't look at Mr. Jackson's responsibility here. Mr. Jackson was a person that was known to doctor shop. He was known to be someone who would tell one doctor one thing and another doctor someone else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, hearing that, does that make them -- I see you're shaking your head -- less responsible, or does that indicate they knew he had issues?

BREMNER: Well, yes, it's really a mixed bag, because the fact is everybody knew he had issues, they said he had issues, and they also knew somebody at AEG who had toured with Jackson during the "Dangerous" tour and "History" tour and knew about this kind of practice of using doctors on tour for basically doctor shopping, you know, drug shopping issues. The judge acknowledged that, too.

So, you know, as much as you point a finger away from yourself, you're pointing basically three fingers back to yourself. That's how some of these statements sound right now.

BERMAN: Anne Bremner, attorney, thank you for joining us. You know, I can't believe what you said at the beginning here, that this might be the wildest Michael Jackson trial yet. So, we'll have to see what happens here today.

Our appreciation, thanks for being with us.

BREMNER: Yes, this is it, as they say.

BALDWIN: And stay tuned for this -- huge, huge CNN interview tonight, a live jailhouse interview with Conrad Murray himself, Randi Kaye sits down with him from prison. That is tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER" at 8:30 p.m.

BERMAN: That should be fascinating.

BALDWIN: Must-see TV.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, ahead on STARTING POINT: former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann. He knows all about devastating leg injuries. He's talking to us about Kevin Ware. That's when we come back.

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BERMAN: Just 24 hours after Louisville's Kevin Ware suffered a horrifying leg injury during Sunday's NCAA regional championship. The sophomore guard is now standing with crutches. Amazing. Ware endured a two-hour surgery inserting a rod into his tibia.

BALDWIN: For a lot of people, Ware's injury brought to mind another too painful to watch moment involving former Washington Redskins quarterback, Joe Theismann, his, leg. Look at the pain on his face from back then. His leg snapped on national TV. This was 1985 when he was sacked by New York Giant's linebacker, Lawrence Taylor, and Joe is still so many years later dealing with some of issues from that injury.

He joins us live this morning from California. Joe, good morning. Gosh, take me back to, what was that, Sunday night, it was Sunday night, Louisville/Duke game. You're watching live like the rest of us. You see Kevin come down, you see his leg. What was your first reaction?

JOE THEISMANN, FORMER NFL QUARTERBACK: Well, first reaction was it sickened me to see the injury the way it was, and then all of a sudden, it conjured up all the memories of what happened to me some 28 years ago. I mean, the vividness of it was incredible, and it has been in my mind. I mean, I can see the faces around me, smell the smells, hear the sounds, feel the moisture on my back when I closed my eyes.

It's like i relived that moment all over again through Kevin. And, my heart went out to him. That was -- when I said to tweet, I've said, you know, there aren't a lot of people that have experienced what this young man has and I have. And all of a sudden, now, we're joined in that regard.

BERMAN: I mean, no one knows what Kevin Ware is going through probably as well as you do right now, Joe. You texted him. You have been texting with him. What are these exchanges like? What are you saying to each other?

THEISMANN: Well, I sent him a text a day before yesterday just to let him know if there's anything I can do to help him, I'm there for him. And then, I had a chance to visit with him yesterday on the phone. We talked for a little while. He was in -- his spirits are incredible. I mean, he really understands, for a young man, I was very impressed. He understands the road ahead.

He knows he has to work hard. He understands that there's going to be patience involved, but the fact that they put a rod in, I think, will give him an opportunity to be able to keep the length of his leg. Mine wound up being 3/8 of an inch shorter and I walk on the outside of my foot because of the way the bone healed. So, those elements played into the rest of my life.

Plus, he's 20 years old, I was 35. So, I fully expect him to come back. The conversation was inspiring for me to talk to him and listen to his attitude.

BERMAN: Did he have any questions for you?

THEISMANN: Not really. We hadn't started yet, and that's the thing that I wanted to sort of contribute to him if I can is, down the road, I told him, I'll be there for him. Right now, there's so much activity going on, people in the hospital rooms. I didn't want to keep him long on the phone yesterday. Hopefully, we'll have a lengthy conversation with him at some point in time.

But right now, with just -- with all the activities going on, I just wanted to let him know that there was someone there that had gone through what he had gone through and if he ever had any questions about the rehabilitation the way he feels emotionally, psychologically, anything, I'd be happy to contribute anyway I can to his recovery.

BALDWIN: Joe, what would you say to him, because you know, none -- only you can really put yourself in his shoes, because I keep thinking about the excitement, of course, the fury around March madness. They're headed to Atlanta, his team. He's on the team, but he's not on the team right now. I mean, how do you sort of cope with that mentality moving forward and then beyond this weekend?

THEISMANN: You know, Brooke, it's interesting. You're sort of caught in no man's land. You're a part of it, but you're really not a part of it. You're hurt, but you don't want to hang around the guys because you're hurt. I mean, psychologically, it's a game you play in your head. I think for him the fact that he's going home to Atlanta, the championship, the NCAA championships are in Atlanta, are all very positive.

So, he has something to look forward to in this first week, but your mind gets playing tricks on you. You get disappointment. You have all these different emotions. There's the excitement of the tournament. There's the disappointment of not being a part of it. There's the unbelievable conversation that he had as he was carried off the field with his teammates say, go win it. Just go win it.

I think that told me an awful lot about where he was as far as whether he was in shock or not. He was very cognizant of what was going on. But you have a lot of conflicting emotions, because you're a part of it, but you're really not. And it's a lonely feeling at times. And that's why I wanted to let him know, you know, you're not alone.

BERMAN: The doctors that we've heard from tell us that it could be a six-month recovery and there's the outside shot, you know, he could be on the basketball court next year, which sounds amazing given what we all saw the other night. What's your advice to him in terms of getting back on the basketball court? Should he worry about walking and just the natural rehab or do you think it's good for him to have the goal of playing again?

THEISMANN: I think it's great to have the goal to play again. It's great to continue his dream to be able to go out and do it. We have a lot of guys that have rods put in and come back and play. Tim Krumrie (ph) in a Super Bowl, who played for Cincinnati, broke his leg in a Super Bowl, had a rod, and sort of came back and play. No other players that were able to do it. I don't have a rod in mine. So, you know, I can't relate to that aspect of it. But everybody I talk to feels like he'll be able to come back and do the things that he was able to do.

I told him, I said, you're going to be the NCAA college basketball player -- comeback player of the year next year. I believe that 100 percent and I believe he's going to be a great contributor for Louisville going forward for the next couple of years in Rick's program. But you have to have a dream. There has to be a reason to get up and go out and go through the anguish and the pain and the rehab.

BALDWIN: Quickly, Joe, do you plan on meeting him?

THEISMANN: I plan on spending some time with him when everything settles down a little bit more. I won't do it right away.

BALDWIN: OK.

THEISMANN: There's too much going on around him, but at some point, I really want to.

BALDWIN: Joe Theismann, thank you so much.

BERMAN: -- tough for Joe Theismann sort of reliving --

BALDWIN: Reliving.

BERMAN: -- this moment from 28 years ago. Thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT here, a high school student writes this op-ed, blasting requirements for higher education like the good SAT test scores, extracurricular activities. What should be required then? That is what is trending next. Twenty-one minutes past the hour.

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BERMAN: So, trending this morning, an eyebrow raising op-ed written in Saturday's "Wall Street Journal" by a Pennsylvania high school student. It has a lot of people talking right now. The student apparently upset about not getting into the college of her choice. Graduating senior Susie Lee Weiss (ph) made it very clear why she thinks, perhaps, she did not get selected. She says things like, "For starters, had I known two years ago what I know now, I would have gladly worn a headdress to school. Show me to any closet, and I would have happily come out of it, diversify."

BALDWIN: She goes on. She says, quote, "Colleges tell you just be yourself. That's great advice as long as yourself has nine extracurriculars, six leadership positions, three varsity sports, killer SAT scores, and two moms. I should have done what I knew was best. Go to Africa, scoop up some suffering child, take a few pictures, and write my essays about how spending that afternoon with Kinto (ph) changed my life."

BERMAN: Until a lot of people saying they're not just sure if this is, you know, a new generation of entitled kids or she's just not happy about being passed up, but it's a kind of a scathing commentary in the college admission process.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: The college admissions process is very subjective, right? So, kids want to know what is this magic formula I need to get in, and they are told, just be yourself. But, you know, colleges don't want a bunch of just yourselves. They want a kind of mix of kids who are in there. What I think it tells people like Susie is you should not put all your eggs in one school's basket, because you're like will go one.

You can be very successful not getting into whatever it is that school that you wanted. You know, a college degree is a golden ticket, but it's not going to be punched the same everywhere. It's what you do with your degree, not where --

BALDWIN: Welcome to disappointment.

ROMANS: Right.

BALDWIN: I did not get into my top choice, and I wound up in this profession called journalism, and you know, kind of worked out.

BERMAN: That's the way you've got to think of this.

BALDWIN: You know, it kind of worked out. So, you know, I was devastated at the time, but life moves on. I think it's a great lesson to learn early on.

BERMAN: One of my best friends did the best thing ever, which is rejection letter from Princeton, he corrected the grammar.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: So, that is the best revenge.

Right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, a big day on guns. The NRA comes out with its report on school safety. At the same time, Connecticut lawmakers agree to a tough new plan on gun control. So, will the rest of the country follow suit? Former Republican senator, Olympia Snowe, will be joining us.

BALDWIN: And, after all the publicity, why did Ashley Judd decide not to run for the U.S. Senate? Could it be sabotage? Sabotage --

BERMAN: One or the other.

BALDWIN: One or the other. Did I say I'm in journalism? You're watching STARTING POINT.

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