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Boston Bombing Investigation; Michael Jackson Wrongful Death Trial; Jason Collins Makes History; S.C. Congressional Candidates Come Out Swinging; Six Months After Sandy

Aired April 30, 2013 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So how did female DNA get on a Boston marathon bomb fragment? FBI agents seeking answers at the home of a suspect's widow.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And, John, a huge barrier broken in big league sports. Will other well-known pros come out as gay now that Jason Collins has paved the way for them? We're talking to ESPN's "Mike and Mike". Looking forward to that.

And a parade of star witnesses on tap in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial set to start just hours from now. Why one lawyer promises it is going to get ugly there.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Glad you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman in Boston. It is Tuesday, April 30th. Thirty minutes past the hour.

A lot going on all over today, but we're going to start here in Boston because up first, female DNA found on a fragment of one of the Boston marathon bombs. Now the big question is, where did this come from?

The FBI has now visited Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow, Katherine Russell, at her parents' Rhode Island home. Agents seen leaving with bags of DNA evidence.

Meantime, the Massachusetts medical examiner has determined that Tamerlan Tsarnaev's cause of death, they have determined his cause of death, but the examiners are not releasing the details because neither Russell nor anyone else has claimed the body yet.

As for surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, another lawyer has been added to his defense team, death penalty expert Judy Clarke. Her past clients include Susan Smith, you may remember she was convicted of drowning her two children. Other people she represented, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Tucson shooter Jared Loughner.

Now, these high profile clients were all spared the death penalty, getting life sentences, instead. What everyone's talking about this morning, the discovery of female DNA on bomb fragments has opened up a new path for investigators to follow. And yesterday, FBI agents searched the Rhode Island home of Katherine Russell's family. They also met up with the mysterious Misha.

Lots to talk about in the investigation and Pamela Brown is live in Devens, Massachusetts, where they are holding Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Pamela, let's start with the female DNA. What can you tell us about that?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, a lot of new developments here. Authorities found female DNA on one of the pressure cooker bombs used in the Boston marathon bombing.

Now, we don't know who that DNA belongs to or whether its presence means that a woman may have been involved in any way in the attack. It is simply too premature to know that.

But at this point, it appears the investigation is focusing on Katherine Russell, the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. We saw yesterday, FBI agents entering the home she's been staying in in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. They carried out two black equipment cases and clear plastic bags marked "DNA samples'. Authorities want to see if Russell's DNA matches the DNA found on the bomb materials.

Important to note here, though, even if her DNA does match that DNA on the bomb, that doesn't necessarily implicate her. Her attorney says she had no involvement in the attack whatsoever, and has been fully cooperative with authorities.

Here's the quote the attorney gave to "The New York Times." She says, "We want to state what we stated before: Katie continues to assist in the investigation in any way that she can" -- John.

BERMAN: We're also learning more about a very intriguing character in this investigation, this Misha figure, who relatives of the Tsarnaevs say was key in radicalizing the brothers. So what have we learned about Misha?

BROWN: Well, John, we've learned his real name is Mikhail Allakhverdov. He lives in West Warwick, Rhode Island. And he has been interviewed by FBI authorities.

Now, Misha is the man that relatives of the suspect say was a key influence in radicalizing Tamerlan. But Misha denies any wrongdoing. He's saying that he had no involvement, he hasn't seen Tamerlan in three years and he was not his teacher.

Here's what he told a "New York Review Books" reporter. Let's take a listen.


CHRISTIAN CARYL, JOURNALIST AND CRITIC: He was very, very, very intent on explaining he had nothing to do with any kind of radicalization. What he told me was, I was not his teacher. If I had been his teacher, I would have made sure that he knew that doing something like this was wrong. (END VIDEO CLIP)

The attorney for Misha's family says they have been fully cooperative. Again, we know FBI authorities have interviewed him. We don't know exactly what came out of that interview. But at this point, John, there are no other suspects.

BERMAN: All right. Pamela Brown in Devens, Massachusetts with the latest on the marathon investigation.

And we should say one aspect of the marathon, it's flying into the other key story of the day, Jason Collins acknowledging that he is gay. Jason Collins, a basketball player, said the marathon bombings really changed his outlook on life -- Zoraida.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. He says life is fragile so he was seizing this opportunity.

So fans and fellow athletes are voicing their support for long time NBA player Jason Collins who revealed in a "Sports Illustrated" article that he is gay. Collins tweeted his thanks, saying, "All the support I have received is truly inspirational. I knew that I was choosing the road less traveled. But I'm not walking it alone."

Collins, a 12-year veteran, is the first openly gay athlete still active in a major American pro-team sport.

Last night CNN's Anderson Cooper got reaction from former NBA great, Charles Barkley.


CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER NBA PLAYER/TNT ANALYST: Well, the first thing, I was happy for Jason, because I'm -- you know -- people should get to be who they want to be. But knowing there's a gay player in the NBA, I think anybody who thinks they never played with a gay player is an idiot. I played with several gay players. It's their own business. And I think they should get to be who they want to be. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Always telling it like it is.

Collins has played for six NBA teams in twelve seasons and most recently with the Washington wizards. Right now he's a free agent and hoping to catch on with another team this season.

And in just a few minutes, we're going to talk with Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg, ESPN's "Mike and Mike", about Jason Collins coming out and all of the reaction that they are receiving.

Thirty-four minutes past the hour.

Testimony is set to begin in just a few hours in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial. The witness list is star-studded. But if yesterday's opening statements are any indication, this civil trial expected to last several months could get down and dirty. CNN's Kyung Lah has more from Los Angeles.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You could barely see Jackson Family members amid a crush of cameras. They arrived at the wrongful death civil trial, the familiar circus that follows Michael Jackson even beyond the grave.

Part of the performer's rehearsal for his ill-fated "This Is It" tour was the first video clip played by his family's lawyer during opening statements.

Jackson's mother, Katherine, and her three grandchildren, Paris, Prince Michael, and Blanket, say concert promoter, AEG Live, was a greedy commercial enterprise that put profits ahead of Jackson's health, by hiring and controlling Dr. Conrad Murray. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for injecting the insomniac pop star with the lethal dose of the anesthetic, Propofol.

Seated in the court's first row, 82-year-old Katherine Jackson listened as her lawyer, Brian Panish, told the jury, AEG ignored the obvious red flags and they hired Dr. Murray. They were ruthless, and they wanted to be number one at all costs.

The Jacksons say AEG live should pay.

On the witness list, Jackson's defense attorney in his child molestation trial.

THOMAS MESEREAU, JACKSON'S CRIMINAL ATTORNEY: The question is, what was Michael Jackson's life worth?

He died at 50 years of age. He was the son of a wonderful woman, Katherine Jackson, the father of three beautiful children.

What was his life worth? And it was worth quite a bit. He was the best-known celebrity on the planet.

LAH: But AEG Live defense attorney, Marvin Putnam, told jurors the blame at Jackson's death lies with Jackson, promising the case will get ugly. Putnam said Jackson's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, helped administer Propofol 10 years ago and his decade long use of the drug was Jackson's deepest, darkest secret.

"They didn't see this coming. They had no idea," said Putnam. "They were a concert promoter. How could they know?"

(on-camera): The next step, testimony begins. And what promises to be a star-studded lineup, from Sharon Osbourne to Spike Lee and Jackson ex-wife, Lisa Marie Presley. This trial could last well into the summer.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SAMBOLIN: And we will continue to follow all of those developments for you.

Thirty-seven minutes past the hour. What impact will Jason Collins' groundbreaking announcement have on professional sports? And can we expect other athletes to follow? We're going to talk to the two Mikes, Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg of ESPN.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Good morning.

Christine Romans joins us with a look at what is ahead on "STARTING POINT."


Well, today, we've got a startling discovery in the Boston marathon attack investigation. Female DNA found on part of a bomb fragment. Now, investigators are looking more closely at the deceased suspect's wife.

Then, an American athlete makes history. Coming out as gay while still active in one of the major sports leagues. Has NBA player Jason Collins knocked down the barrier for closeted professional athletes? We're going to hear from his high school coach this morning.

Wade Davis, former NFL player who came out last year. We'll also talk to Rick Welts, president and COO of the Golden State Warriors.

And remember when President Obama joked about getting a drink with Senator Mitch McConnell at the White House Correspondents' Dinner? Well, Mitch McConnell is returning the laugh and he is ready to accept, (INAUDIBLE) for the president.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, waiting for the president.

Thank you very much, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Forty-one minutes past the hour.

More on that groundbreaking announcement from NBA player Jason Collins. In his essay yesterday for "Sports Illustrated" he said, "I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to the start the conversation. If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."

The 34-year-old has gotten support from all corners of the sports world, from NBA commissioner David Stern to former teammates.

So let's talk about the reaction with Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg. They are the hosts of "Mike & Mike" on ESPN Radio and ESPN2. They're joining us this morning. Thank you very much.

So, Collins is the first active player in a major U.S. sport to come out. How big of a deal is this?

MIKE GREENBERG, "MIKE & MIKE" ON ESPN RADIO & ESPN2: Well, it's both an enormous deal and I think no big deal at all. With regard to the individual, at least in my opinion, it's no big deal at all. I don't know why anyone was that concerned about Jason Collins sexuality before this or after.

But in a bigger picture, when it has never happened before, we're now dealing with new territory. Well, in a macro sense, it's a very big deal.

MIKE GOLIC, "MIKE & MIKE" ON ESPN RADIO & ESPN2: We're dealing with firsts now, is what we are. First time now, into the locker room. First time now in front of fans at home. First time now in front of fans on the road.

So there are a lot of firsts that Jason is going to start here. Hopefully, and quickly, we will move to this is no big deal. But one of the big exceptions being a former player is going to be the locker room because we have heard players already tweet about this disagreement with this. So you know there are more players that feel that way, as well.

So that's why I think the player is going to feel some trepidation.

SAMBOLIN: Gentlemen -- I do want to talk about that, because he actually deals with that very specifically in his essay. He -- the question was how will other players respond, right? And he says, "The biggest concern seems to be that gay players will behave unprofessionally in the locker room. Believe me, I've taken plenty of showers in 12 seasons. My behavior wasn't an issue before and it won't be one now."

So why is this a concern still?

GREENBERG: Well I really don't know, to be honest with you. I mean it seems to me that Jason Collins is exactly the same person on Tuesday that he was on Sunday. And he has played with any number of players, hundreds of players over the course of his career. He's played on multiple teams so he's played with hundreds of guys and there's never been any issue. There's no reason to think there would be one going forward.

GOLIC: Common sense would say that but we know we aren't always dealing with common sense. I think the good thing here is my kids are 23, 22, 18, Green's are 12 and 10. So I think this generation coming along is way more accepting of this. So I think even younger players in sports I think will be accepting of this.

SAMBOLIN: How are your viewers reacting? Or your listeners, excuse me?

GREENBERG: Well, listen, listeners and viewers, as you would expect, I mean, it's a huge cross-section of the United States.

So I think the majority say good for him. And let's get on with it. And let's talk about the NBA playoff games last night, and there were some who had different opinions and I suppose that's to be expected.

SAMBOLLIN: Well, somebody specifically on your network, as well, had a very negative reaction, it seemed like. So I know that the dialogue will continue. We certainly appreciate your time this morning. And we're hoping that, you know, the dialogue stays positive, gentlemen.

Thank you, Mike and Mike. Appreciate it.

Forty-four minutes past the hour. And this just in to CNN, armed men in trucks with anti-aircraft guns mounted on them surrounding Libya's justice ministry in Tripoli. We are told ministry staff have been allowed to leave, and no one is being allowed inside. More on the story throughout the morning as we continue to get updates on this.

And Mark Sanford may be running for Congress, but he can't outrun his past. The former South Carolina governor is trying to rebuild a political career that ended in disgrace after he lied about an extramarital affair. Sanford claiming he was hiking the Appalachian trail when he was really visiting his mistress in South America.

During a spirited debate last night, Sanford's Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, couldn't resist revisiting her opponent's record.


ELIZABETH COLBERT-BUSCH, (D) S.C. CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: When we talk about fiscal spending and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn't mean you take that money we save and leave the country for a personal purpose.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She went there, Governor Sanford.

MARK SANFORD, (R) FORMER GOVERNOR: I couldn't hear what she said.



SAMBOLIN: So, Sanford never actually responded to Colbert-Busch's comment. The two candidates square off in a special election that is scheduled next week.

And up next on "Starting Point," six months after hurricane Sandy destroyed his home, we'll meet up with a 13-year-old Staten Island boy whose quick thinking helped save his family.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. We wanted to update you now on new developments in the Boston marathon bombing investigation. Investigators say they found female DNA on fragments of one of the explosive devices that were detonated near the finish line here. The FBI is taking a closer look at Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow.

They were seen leaving her parents' home with potential evidence, including a bag containing DNA samples. Investigators also reportedly trying to get DNA samples from a number of other people as they try to figure out if anyone else was involved either before, during or after these attacks.

As for surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, another attorney has been added to his defense team, death penalty expert, Judy Clarke. Her past clients include Susan Smith. You may remember Susan Smith was convicted of drowning her two children. This lawyer, Judy Clarke, also represented Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, and Tucson shooter, Jared Loughner, as well.

These clients all avoided the death penalty, getting life sentences, Zoraida, instead.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much, John.

It has been six months since hurricane Sandy caused massive devastation in New York, New Jersey, and in Connecticut. In Broad Channel, New York, the Panetta family had to flee their home to escape the rushing water. Thirteen-year-old Ryan led his family to safety. But they've got a long way to go before things are actually back to normal.

CNN's Poppy Harlow has more.


POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM (voice-over): Ryan Panetta rescued his family from the rushing waters of superstorm Sandy.


HARLOW: You jumped out here in the water.

RYAN PANETTA: Yes. I wasn't even thinking that like a log would hit me or anything.

HARLOW: Or the electrical power lines?


HARLOW: You swam to this house?

RYAN PANETTA: Yes, right here. And, they took us in to their second floor.

HARLOW: What did you think when your 13-year-old son jumped in the water?

KAREN PANETTA, RYAN'S MOTHER: You know, I -- I was panicking. I was panicking.

HARLOW: Did Ryan help save your family?

KAREN PANETTA: Absolutely. No question. Absolutely.

CHRISTIAN PANETTA, FAMILY SURVIVED HURRICANE SANDY: I was thinking that water was going to come --

HARLOW: You feel like your brother helped save you?


HARLOW: He didn't just lose his home that day. His school was so damaged he had to move to a temporary one. A lot to deal with at just 13.

RYAN PANETTA: When something brings you down, you got to get up.

HARLOW: You OK, buddy? What makes you so sad?

RYAN PANETTA: I honestly don't know.

HARLOW: Everything.

RYAN PANETTA: It's everything.

HARLOW: They worked long hours, determined to rebuild. The one thing that gave them hope. But six months after Sandy, the Panetta Family could only stand and watch. After all that work, they were told the foundation was shot.

KAREN PANETTA: It was like my baby. And to watch it just be broken down like this is tearing me up.

RYAN PANETTA: Tough to go through like watching my house just come down.

HARLOW: Their home, gone in an hour.

KAREN PANETTA: The impact of Sandy is we're living it every single day for the last six months. It's just a nightmare that we're never waking up from.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is here. This is everything we've ever done. This is our whole life here.

HARLOW: They're still paying a mortgage on the home that is no longer there. Their fight right now is over insurance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to do the foundation is going to cost $60,000 to $80,000. Oh, my God. You know, how do you justify that? It turns only pay you to what you had, not for what you need.

HARLOW: They say they'll rebuild right here. They'll have to build higher and get approval from the city.

I think a lot of people would ask, why rebuild here? It could happen again.

KAREN PANETTA: There's no other way for me to explain other than we love it here. We love it here.

HARLOW: That's one thing Sandy couldn't take away.

RYAN PANETTA: We're all going to stay together (ph) as a family.

KAREN PANETTA: As long as we all have each other, that's going to get us through everything.

HARLOW: Poppy Harlow, CNN, Broad Channel, New York.


SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to poppy for that. Fifty-four minutes past the hour. Just in this hour to CNN, Libya's justice ministry in Tripoli surrounded by armed men. This story developing minute by minute. We're going to have the latest coming up on "STARTING POINT."

EARLY START back after this.


SAMBOLIN: Remember seven-year-old cancer patient, Jack Hoffman? He captured the nation's heart when he scored a 69-yard touchdown at a Nebraska football game earlier this year. Now, he gets to cross another major achievement off his list. Look at this. Meeting the president. Hoffman who is battling brain cancer traveled to the White House and recently spent some time in the oval office with, as you see there, President Obama.

He's seen here holding a football which the president actually signed. We wish that little boy well.

All right. That is EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. John Berman continues our coverage live in Boston with "STARTING POINT" right now.