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CNN NEWSROOM

Bail Set for Ariel Castro; The Psychology of Survival; Castro Wrote a Suicide Note; Jodi Arias Back in Court

Aired May 9, 2013 - 11:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAROL COSTELLO, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me today.

CNN NEWSROOM continues right now.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, reporting live, where justice is finally catching up with a woman named Jodi Arias.

Just hours after her first-degree murder conviction in the grisly death of her boyfriend, Travis Alexander, the very same jury is going to return to this courthouse for another round of testimony that will help decide what's going to happen to her now, her sentence.

I'm going to have comprehensive coverage on the verdict and these crucial next steps in a death-penalty prosecution.

But we're going to begin in an entirely different courtroom right now in Cleveland, Ohio, where Ariel Castro was brought in this morning to face four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.

And believe me, those words don't even begin to describe the horrors that this unemployed, former school bus driver allegedly inflicted on three, young women on a daily basis for between nine and 11 years.

Castro was preceded in court by his brothers, Pedro and Onil Castro, who were taken in with him on Monday night, but are not being charged in the brutality that was inflicted on Seymour Avenue.

They did face some outstanding misdemeanor charges, and in unrelated cases that were, believe me, very old cases, but they were dispensed with quickly.

Ariel Castro, on the other hand, barely looked up, and never spoke a word as the judge set bail at $8 million. And that is more than the prosecutor, Brian Murphy, was even asking for.

Mr. Murphy called the alleged offenses, quote, "premeditated, deliberate, and depraved," end quote, and just how depraved is made woefully clear in police reports from the night Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michele Knight were all rescued from that horror house.

Dr. Drew Pinsky and Lisa Bloom are going to join me with much more on that just minutes from now.

But, again, we are in Phoenix as well. Two big breaking stories. Five hours now, the aggravation phase of the Jodi Arias murder trial is set to begin and that's when the prosecution is going to try to prove that Travis Alexander's murder was especially cruel, and those words are crucial, especially cruel, and warrants the death penalty.

We're going to get into more of that in just a moment. First, though, this is Arias's reaction as the verdict was read in open court, guilty of first-degree murder, and all 12 jurors agreed it was premeditated.

A short time after the verdict came down, she spoke exclusively to KSAZ Fox reporter, Troy Hayden. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JODI ARIAS, CONVICTED MURDERER: I said years ago that I'd rather get death than life and that still is true today.

I believe death is the ultimate freedom, so I'd rather just have my freedom as soon as I can get it.

TROY HAYDEN, REPORTER, KSAZ: So you're saying you actually prefer getting the death penalty than being in prison for life?

ARIAS: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Really unprecedented, seeing an interview like this.

HLN legal correspondents Beth Karas and Jean Casarez, both here with me in Phoenix, both of them attorneys as well, and both know everything about this case from the top of the bottom.

Jean, let's just start with those comments, first of all, and the extraordinary, unorthodox aspect of getting an interview like this before this trial is even over, and what her comments about wanting to die actually prompted authorities to do.

JEAN CASAREZ, HLN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: It was amazing. I've never seen anything like it.

It appears as though she went straight from the courtroom to the sally court area, sat in the seat with the cameras ready and did the interview and she said that she wanted to die.

What that sparked was, immediately she was put in suicide watch at the jail, and we went to the jail and her mother came shortly after. We'll probably talk about in a little bit.

Her mother, though, knew that she wanted to die. Her mother was distraught and got in there to talk with her as soon as possible.

BANFIELD: And I know that you were actually at -- this is the Estrella jail where she was taken after she was let out of these cells here where she conducted the interview.

And when her mother arrived, you were able to watch not only her mother arrive, but her aunts and her grandmother, and you were able to speak with her mom?

CASAREZ: Yes, her mother said that she had not seen the interview. She knew that Jodi said she wanted the die.

And her mother is shaking when she's telling me this, and she said that her daughter had to live because she could give -- she could be worth something in prison to others and help others during her duration there.

BANFIELD: Now there are a lot of people watching right now who would say, this is all fine and dandy, and it's very sad for the Arias family, but more important, the Alexander family and the friends of Travis Alexander.

They took up three full rows in that courtroom, and you were there as that verdict came down. Give me a feel for that family and those friends.

BETH KARAS, HLN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: There was a lot of relief on their part. This is the verdict they hoped for. This is the verdict they have been waiting five years for, a lot of tears, smiles also, hugs in the courtroom.

And as Jodi Arias left, I stayed in the courtroom and watched her family and her grandmother especially, looking over at the Alexanders and supporters all embracing and crying and her grandmother just stared at them.

And I just thought, wow, she must be wondering, wow, my grandmother caused all this pain to them. I mean, her mother said to the police the day Jodi was arrested -- we have the interrogation video -- what's going to happen, she's going spend the rest of her life in prison, at a minimum, yes.

BANFIELD: At a minimum.

KARAS: (Inaudible).

BANFIELD: And that leads me, actually, to my next question.

And, Jean, weigh in on the technicalities of what comes next. There is a sentencing phase, and it is broken into two distinct phases itself. Start with the first one.

CASAREZ: It's very unique. And that's what will be today, the aggravation phase.

And there was a pretrial hearing, so the prosecution can only try to prove one aggravator, and it is extreme cruelty, not just cruelty, but extreme cruelty. They're going to put on the medical examiner, we believe, to show the cruelty that Travis Alexander felt and knew that was happening to him. But the case law has been very vague. What is extreme cruelty? Here is how it is defined in Arizona law. It is disposed to inflict pain, especially in a wanton, insensitive or vindictive manner, sadistic, depraved, marked by debasement, corruption, perversion, or deterioration.

Do you know what the amazing thing is? Debasement? That word is the definition for extreme cruelty. Do you know that Jodi Arias used that word when she was talking to Travis in that sex tape?

BANFIELD: Debasement.

CASAREZ: Debasing, that is so (inaudible).

BANFIELD: And a whole lot of other words that we can't repeat on the air.

So there is actually a verdict that they have to render. It's not guilty or not guilty. It's different.

KARAS: Right. It's proven or not proven. And the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt --

BANFIELD: That's the standard.

KARAS: -- this cruelty.

BANFIELD: Beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard again.

KARAS: Yes, beyond a reasonable doubt.

And there was only one aggravator ever charged. A prior judge had the case, and this is the hearing that Jean was referring to. It was heinous, depraved or cruel.

And the previous judge said, it's not heinous or depraved, but it's cruel. And the law says it's especially or extremely cruel.

But the definition of cruelty Jean just read has depravity in it, yet a prior judge said it's not depraved.

CASAREZ: But here's the ironic thing. The defense in the trial said that she shot him first, and then he wasn't incapacitated so he kept going after her.

But now they're going to have to turn that around and say that shot did incapacitate him, so he had no vision of what was happening, thus it wasn't cruel.

BANFIELD: There is so much more that we're going to cover on this case. I'm going to ask you to stand by, and thank you.

Your legal expertise, by the way, has been absolutely topnotch throughout this while case. And you've brought it to a level that has been difficult to do given some of the awful testimony that we've heard. Thank you both. Jean and Beth are going to stand by for a moment. And then we're going to switch gears as well to the other big breaking story out of Cleveland.

Brand-new evidence, information from those kidnappings that we've all been following during -- following this case as well, revealing, if you want to talk about depraved, how about the depraved thoughts and the mindset of the suspect.

We are live in Cleveland, next.

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BANFIELD: In Cleveland at this hour, $8 million stands between Ariel Castro and the outside world.

So essentially, it is now Castro who is locked away under bail he cannot possibly post, and the three young women he allegedly imprisoned for a decade are now free on the outside. My, how the tables have turned.

CNN's Pamela Brown joins me now with Castro's brief first court appearance. She also has some terrible details that have been recorded by the police the night that this case was broken wide open.

But, Pam, I just want to start right off with some brand-new information that's been coming to light about some of Ariel Castro's own words that he wrote, and that have now been discovered by police.

Can you shed some light on this?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Ashleigh, we're learning about an apparent suicide note that was found inside Ariel Castro's home when authorities searched that home a couple days ago.

This is according to law enforcement officials who have seen this note. In it, Castro talks about being abused by another family member. We don't know which family member that is or any other details, but we know he talks about being abused in that apparent suicide note.

Ashleigh, this was written in 2004, so a couple years or a year or two after at least one or two of the alleged abductions.

BANFIELD: And, Pam, there was a very loud siren behind you. And I just want to make absolutely clear, this is a suicide note they discovered in his house written by his hand.

And now is it true that he is also under suicide watch as a correlation here?

BROWN: We don't know if there is a direct correlation, but we know that he was under suicide watch when he was in the city jail. That's according to his defense attorney, and now he has been transferred to the county jail as of this morning.

Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: And, Pam, the Castro brothers both appeared alongside him. They have been photographed and they've been processed alongside him. They were announced as having been arrested alongside him.

But today, there was nothing that was brought up in court that had anything to do with these horrors for those men. What was the story behind their appearance?

BROWN: Yes, and you're right, Ashleigh. They appeared in court today facing misdemeanor charges of open container and drug abuse charges. And essentially, it was a very quick proceeding. They were dismissed.

But, Ashleigh, there are still so many questions about did they never go inside Castro's home? Did they never see anything? Did they not know of this? Have the girls said anything to investigators about the brothers?

So -- but at this point, authorities are saying that there is no evidence at this point linking the brothers to this specific case. These misdemeanor charges are unrelated to this.

So I think a lot of people, Ashleigh, still have a lot of questions. And yesterday, authorities were saying that they're not letting this go. They're still asking questions themselves, but at this point, no evidence linking those brothers to this case.

BANFIELD: Pam, just quickly, I know you were able to get your hands on the incident report that the police wrote up. And these are just the initial observations of the police as they began this horrifying investigation.

There are some details in there that are just mind-chilling. Can you outline what you have seen?

BROWN: Really just unspeakable details, Ashleigh. There are so many parts of this initial report to talk about. But what really jumped out at me is what Michele Knight allegedly went through.

The report talks about how she was pregnant at least five times, and when Castro found out she was pregnant, he would reportedly starve her for weeks at a time, punch her in the stomach so that she would have a miscarriage.

It also talks about how Knight was forced to deliver Amanda Berry's baby, and Castro told her that if the baby died, that he would kill her. At one point, the baby stopped breathing, Knight had to administer CPR. But we're still wondering, Ashleigh, why Amanda Berry was allowed to give birth to her child, and Knight was forced to have those miscarriages. Again, a lot of questions surrounding that as well.

BANFIELD: There are so many questions, and Pam, probably just the tip of the iceberg what you've been reading in that initial report.

Pam Brown with the very difficult job ahead of you. Thank you for that.

"Something must have clicked." That's a quote. It's actually what the police said about the mindset of Amanda Berry, the 27-year-old who on Monday night evidently said enough is enough. And pulled off a daring escape from the home where she'd been held captive for a decade. But a different story for the two women who'd been held alongside her. A source saying when it was time to run, they did not. Describing them as brainwashed and fearful.

And joining me now, Lisa Bloom. She's with Arvo.com, and also HLN's Dr. Drew Pinsky.

Dr. Drew, I just want to begin with you. Obviously there are so many people who would have so many questions about why those other two would have stayed behind and what would have given Amanda the courage to do what she'd been unable to do for a decade.

Can you shed some light on that?

DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST, HLN'S DR. DREW: I suspect, as many have speculated, that the reason she finally sort of -- could take it no longer, after having been indoctrinated, as the other two had been, into sort of a Stockholm syndrome of learned passivity, I believe that when this monster started going after Amanda's child, that's when her maternal instincts kicked in and she had had enough.

I think any woman can understand, particularly those of you that are mothers, that at that point, you don't care if you live or die, you just are going -- you're going to put it all on the line for that child, and we've all heard reports of superhuman strength and superhuman effort, and that's precisely what broke through here and saved all of their lives.

BANFIELD: And Lisa Bloom, I know you've done an extensive amount of work with sex crimes victims and abuse victims as well and domestic assault victims. When it comes to Michele Knight and Gina DeJesus, I don't understand. If they hear other voices and they can hear an escape route being kicked in, why wouldn't that have been enough for them to have taken that chance?

LISA BLOOM, LEGAL ANALYST, ARVO.COM: Well, Dr. Drew is right. It is possible, the Stockholm syndrome, learned passivity. But there are other possibilities as well. We know that there are reports from neighbors of screaming and pleas for help in previous years. The police allegedly came, knocked on the door, nobody answered and that was the end of it. So this may not have been the first time they made that effort.

We know there was a very heavy inner door that was kept locked. This time, thank goodness, Ariel Castro did not lock it and that's how Amanda was able to call out for help. So they may have tried other times. They may have been threatened into silence. I mean, a guy who would beat a pregnant woman, force five abortions, abduct girls is obviously capable of anything.

And he probably threatened them and they were scared out of their minds. He probably told them if one of them escaped, the other ones would be killed, and so they had to protect each other. I mean, there's a lot of facts here that we still have to learn.

BANFIELD: And as you said, some of these details that Pamela Brown just mentioned, being chained and being starved for weeks upon end to force these abortions, these miscarriages, and to assault someone to force this to happen.

Dr. Drew, I -- this is your science. I don't understand how anyone could endure, first of all, that length of abuse, and then secondly, how they can go on living.

PINSKY: Well, a human -- I mean, it's very easy to sort of brush this off as the resiliency of the human spirit. But the fact is our brains are highly resilient. Now that they are out, though, this is not something that they are going to magically be able to get over, now they're going to celebrate being home and everything's magically OK.

This is going to be a scar that will stay with them for life. They are going to be developmentally arrested. And where they were captive -- where they were taken captive, they'll have to mature their way into their life again and they will have to deal with the overwhelming and shattering, chronic, chronic trauma, which again, affects the brain and it's going to require years and years of treatment and will never be something that they will ever be completely over.

BANFIELD: And Drew, is there anything that you can help to sort of understand with regard to this brand new reporting that CNN is learning about a note that was found inside the home.

PINSKY: Yes.

BANFIELD: Allegedly authored by this --

PINSKY: Yes.

BANFIELD: This alleged perpetrator, suggesting a suicide attempt? What can you tell us about that?

PINSKY: Not at all surprising. This guy -- usually -- often perpetrators have themselves a history -- an (INAUDIBLE) history of abuse, as this guy obviously did, and people that were traumatized will often contemplate suicide. In my experience of dealing with people with sexual deviancy, they often are aware that they -- they will call themselves a monster. This guy -- I hate to be on the same screen with him -- is categorically that.

Now we see him with his head hung low, expressing shame here. That does not begin to satisfy any of us that see this man as who he is.

Here's the grill message in all this for anybody out there who may have been suffering, who may have impulses that they can't contain. There's no excuse for this. There's no excuse for what's happened here. If you have impulses, if you've been through traumatic experiences, if you are thinking about harming yourself or other people, that's when you get help. If you wait until you get to this point or where Jodi Arias is or where, you know, anybody else who's perpetrated a crime, it's too late. Then it's god help you after that. But now is the time, get help before it's too late.

BANFIELD: Well, you know what? Since you -- since you've just mentioned Jodi Arias, she's probably not long from ending up in a holding cell behind me. And the process against her is continuing in a matter of hours. I know you know about this interview that she just conducted, Drew, where she has essentially said, you know, if I'm going to get the death penalty, that would be preferable to living out my life in prison.

I'd love you to weigh in on that and the psychology behind that.

PINSKY: Yes. Well, I'm glad Lisa is here, because to have an attorney's point of view of the client going rogue like this will be very interesting. I'm sure if Lisa were the attorney, she'd want to grab her with her bare hands because this undoubtedly will be used in court against her. But this is more of Jodi Arias' manipulation. We know she has borderline personality disorder. Borderlines often have preoccupation with suicide. They don't typically, necessarily complete suicide though they are higher risk for that than the average population.

We don't know if this is just another manipulation by Jodi Arias or is -- I'll tell you one thing, Ashleigh, that I discovered from that interview. Everything that Jodi says is unsatisfying. She's very slippery, very cagey. She leaves the blame back with Travis in a very subtle way, telling the family that they should just remember them as they wish to remember him, as opposed to the way she really knew him as the evil guy who had it coming.

Very unsatisfying interview. More manipulation. And I think the jury is probably going to grant her her freedom, as she framed it, through the death penalty.

What do you say, Lisa?

BANFIELD: And, well, Lisa, go ahead, weigh in quickly. I was going to get you to weigh in after the break but go ahead.

BLOOM: OK. Well, first of all, the day that we see Ariel Castro with his head hung in shame and yesterday with Gina DeJesus with her thumbs up sign, we are already seeing justice in that case when the shame is on the perpetrator and not on the victims.

With regard to Jodi Arias, it's not all that unusual that people on death row actually volunteer to be put to death. 137 death row inmates have volunteered for death and gotten it since the 1970s, including many in Arizona. The question is not what she says to the news cameras. The question is what she does in court beginning today. Does she instruct her jury -- her attorneys not to fight the death penalty phase or are they going to go in there and put forward evidence of mitigation? That's when we'll see what she really wants.

BANFIELD: And of course, her competency a huge part of all of this.

Lisa, we'll touch on that in a moment. Lisa, I'm going to ask you to stay on if you will.

Dr. Drew, thank you very much for your insight this morning. We're actually going to go back to Phoenix after this break. That verdict in the trial here of Jodi Arias.

Dr. Drew mentioned it, he talked about Travis Alexander, and there's no one more relieved than that that victim's family and friends, to hear this verdict. What's clear is that he was loved. One of his friends and co-workers, Julie Christopher, is going to talk to us in a moment about the time she had an eerie experience, a dinner with Travis and Jodi, and how she had warned him to watch his back.

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