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Ohio Kidnap Suspect Appears In Court; Kidnapping Victims Return Home; Death Penalty Possible For Jodi Arias; Bombing Suspect's Body Entombed; Elizabeth Smart On Rescued Women; Student Missing in Georgia; Obama Speaking in Texas Today

Aired May 9, 2013 - 13:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: That will do it for us. Thanks for watching "AROUND THE WORLD."

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: CNN NEWSROOM with Wolf Blitzer starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: His home was a prison for the women he abducted. Now, the suspect, Ariel Castro, is behind bars after his first court appearance today. Plus, new details emerging right now about the horrifying conditions the women lived through.

And guilty of first-degree murder, the jury has to decide now if Jodi Arias will live or die. She says, give me the death penalty. Also, the first hearings in the Boston bombings beginning up on Capitol Hill. The top priority, did someone miss any warning signs? What lessons can be learned?

This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

An alleged kidnapper and rapist goes to court in a case that has shocked people around the country. This is Ariel Castro's latest mug shot. Earlier today, Castro stood before a judge to hear the charges against him. He didn't speak during the hearing, but the prosecutor had plenty to say. He told the judge that Castro turned his home into a prison for three young women.


BRIAN MURPHY, ASSISTANT PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: -- community charges against Mr. Castro based on premeditated, deliberate and depraved decisions to snatch three young ladies from Cleveland west side streets to be used in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he sought fit. Two of the victims incurred this horrifying ordeal for more than a decade, a third was close to a decade. And (INAUDIBLE) eventually to a little girl believed to have been born to one of the women while in captivity. Also, while in captivity they withstood repeated beatings, they were bound and restrained and sexually assaulted. They were never free to leave this residence.


BLITZER: Horrifying details. And there's a lot more. Castro didn't enter a plea. He faces four counts of kidnapping, three counts of rape. Bond was set at $8 million. $2 million for each of the four victims. Police say, he lured them one by one into his car and then held them captive for a decade. Ariel Castro is accused of kidnapping Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight from the same Cleveland neighborhood between 2002 and 2004. And police say, the women survived a horrifying ordeal. The prosecutor says, now the tables have turned and Ariel Castro is the captive.

Pamela Brown is joining us now from Cleveland on more of today's awful, awful hearings, those details that keep emerging, Pam. The prosecutor has some tough words for Castro that he didn't say in the courtroom either.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Some very pointed words directed at Castro. We heard from the prosecutor saying -- basically summing up the torment that these three women and the little girl went through over the past several years. The prosecutor saying that the women were bound and restrained, beaten, sexually assaulted, never allowed to leave the home. He went on to say that Castro kidnapped these women to use them in a self-gratifying, self- serving way. The prosecutor just talked about how the victims, two of them, endured this for more than 10 years, another victim enduring this for a little bit less than 10 years. But basically painting a picture, Wolf, of what these women have gone through in talking about how now the tables have been turned, that now Castro is the one held captive.

BLITZER: You know, it's hard to believe a human being could act like this especially, Pam, as you've done and I've done, you've read the actual police reports. And you've been digging into some more of the details of what these women went through. Fill us in on what else you've learned.

BROWN: Yes, Wolf. Just to think of the stark contrast between Ariel Castro today, he was despondent, expressionless, never raised his head one time during the hearing. And then you read the details coming out of this initial incident report about how he chained the girls in his basement, that he lured them into his car, kidnapped them, chained them into his basement and that Michelle Knight, she was pregnant five times she told authorities, and that Castro would hit her in the stomach, starve her for weeks so that she would have a miscarriage.

And also, in this police report, we're learning that Michelle Knight telling authorities that she was forced to deliver Amanda Berry's baby in a plastic baby pool inside the home. She was told by Castro that if the baby died that he would kill her. At one point, the baby stopped breathing and Knight reportedly performed CPR. We're learning in this report that none of the women over all this time ever received any medical attention at all.

But, Wolf, there was a part of this report that really gave you chills when we learned about those dramatic moments following the 911 call from Amanda Berry. The report talks about how the officers -- police officers, went into the home where the two other victims were and that Michelle Knight ran out and threw herself into the arms of the officer. And then Gina DeJesus ran out of a bedroom and also threw herself into the arms of the officer. You can just imagine the sense of relief. I don't know if any word can articulate what they were feeling in that moment after so many years in captivity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pam Brown in Cleveland for us, thank you.

Today, Amanda Berry and Georgina, or Gina, DeJesus are back at home. They're spending time with the -- their families. But Michelle Knight is still in the hospital. It's unclear what Knight is being treated for but she's listed in, quote, "good condition." Family members have visited her, but her mother says, she hasn't gotten to see her yet. Here she is describing what it felt like after realizing her daughter was alive.


BARBARA KNIGHT: I'm thrilled and all I want to do is hug her and say I love you and I'm glad it wasn't you that died. And it really hurts because, you know, I haven't seen her in so long and I can't wait to see her, because she was my daughter and my best friend.


BLITZER: Knight's grandmother told the Cleveland plain dealer that many family members and police believed Knight wasn't kidnapped back in 2002 but instead ran away on her own. Her grandmother says Knight was angry about losing custody of her son. Her mother says, she never believed she ran away and so she searched for her for years.

One man who played a big role in bringing the women home after their escape on Monday is the Cleveland city councilman, Matt Zone. He'll join me live later today in "THE SITUATION ROOM" 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Much more on Cleveland coming up later this hour.

But there's another story we're following, a big one. Will the convicted murderer, Jodi Arias, live or die? Jurors go back to court in three hours for the next phase of her trial. The 32-year-old woman was stoic in court yesterday. Her eyes briefly filled with tears as the clerk announced that the jury had found her guilty of first-degree murder for killing her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander. Shortly after that verdict, Arias shockingly spoke out in revealing interview with a Phoenix television station, KSAZ. Let's listen to her reaction to the guilty verdict.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a couple minutes ago you heard the verdict from the jury, what are your thoughts?

JODI ARIAS, CONVICTED OF MURDER: I think I just went blank. Just, I don't know. I just feel overwhelmed. I think I just need to take it a day at a time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it unexpected, do you think, this verdict?

ARIA: It was unexpected for me, yes, because there was no premeditation on my part. I can see how things look that way but I didn't expect the premeditation. I could see maybe the felony murder because of how the law is written, but I didn't -- the whole time I was fairly confident I wouldn't get premeditation because there was no premeditation.


BLITZER: In that same interview, Arias makes it clear she wants death. Let's play that portion of her comments.


ARIAS: 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 soon as I can get it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you're saying you actually prefer getting the death penalty to being in prison for life?



BLITZER: The same jurors who convicted Jodi Arias of first-degree murder will now decide her fate. Casey Wian has been following the trial for us from the start. He's joining us now live from Phoenix. Casey, explain this next relatively brief phase, what's called the aggravation phase of the trial.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what gets underway in a couple of hours from now, Wolf. And that is where prosecutors now have to prove to that jury, they have to decide unanimously, that this murder was particularly cruel, that Jodi Arias tried to inflict a lot of pain and cruelty on Travis Alexander while she is -- while she was killing him.

One of the witnesses that's expected to be called, perhaps the only witness that's expected to be called in this phase of the sentencing phase, is the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Travis Alexander. The photos of -- the postmortem photos of Travis Alexander and his wounds are likely to be discussed and displayed in court. I've seen them. They're very, very graphic, very, very difficult to look at.

And what's going to be key is sort of the timeline as to how these injuries unfolded. He had 27 stab wounds in his body. He had his neck slit from ear to ear and he had a bullet hole in his head. How those wounds unfolded, what order they unfolded will be key for the jury to decide how much he suffered and whether this was an unusually cruel and horrific killing.

Once they decide that, if they unanimously decide it was, then it moves onto the penalty phase. That's when the jury will decide whether he gets -- Jodi Arias gets death or life in prison. That's when these mitigation witnesses, these friends and people who defend Jodi Arias will be brought to the stand. If that doesn't happen, the judge will then decide between life in prison or 25 years to life, if the jurors don't find aggravating circumstances today unanimously -- Wolf. BLITZER: The nature of cruelty or being cruel, if you slit someone's throat from ear to ear, you stab someone 27 times and then you take a gun and you -- and you shoot that person, that sounds, on the face of it, common sense -- that sounds horribly cruel. How could anyone say that isn't cruel?

WIAN: It certainly does. What the defense is expected to argue is that Travis Alexander -- that maybe these wounds did not happen in that order, that maybe he was shot first and that he was basically incapacitated and that these stab wounds and slashings were not something that he was maybe particularly aware of, that he was already incapacitated. But there has been evidence presented that this killing, this process, lasted over a minute. I think to most people, they would think that that is very cruel. But it's going to be interesting to see what the jury says and how the defense is going to be able to explain how they think it's not an extremely cruel killing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know this next phase is going to be relatively, relatively short, a few days. All right, thanks very much, Casey, for that.

Here's what else we're working on this hour. The Dow and the S&P opened with record highs. Will the trend continue? We're watching the markets. Plus, the highly contentious issue of what to do with the body of the bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, apparently has been resolved.

And Elizabeth Smart says it's a dark, hard journey after being abducted as a child but forgiveness is possible. We're going to hear from her. That's ahead. And a lot more news right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.


BLITZER: Let's get back to the Jodi Arias trial. Prosecutors are now pushing for the death penalty. They'll have to prove that she killed her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in an especially cruel manner. That happens in what's known as the, quote, "aggravation phase' of her trial that begins in just a few hours. Arias shockingly came out in an interview yesterday shortly after the verdict making it clear, she actually says, she wants death.

Joey Jackson is a criminal defense attorney, he's a legal analyst for our sister network HLN, he's joining us from the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. A lot of questions, Joey, but first of all, is she likely to get what she wants, death?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think she very well could, Wolf. That's predicated upon the brutality of this crime and not only the brutality of this crime but also the days she spent testifying or test-allying, as the jury would say, because they rejected her theories about the victim, Travis is a pedophile, Travis is a sexual deviant, Travis tortured me and beat me. I think that was resoundingly rejected and I think it doesn't resonate with the jury. So based upon that as well as the cruelty this jury could determine, she could very well be on her way to death. BLITZER: I covered these kind of trials for a long time, murder convictions. How unusual is it? I think it's pretty extraordinary to me someone is convicted of first-degree murder. And then within minutes sits down for a television interview. What's going on here?

JACKON: I'm in accord with that, Wolf. It's very bizarre. But what confounds me is is that these interviews have to be planned, right. You need a camera crew there, there needs to be approval by the authorities in the facility, so you would think that the lawyers would certainly either, A, know about it in which case they would never allow it, you would think. Or, B, it would be a client gone rogue. In either of those scenarios to express herself in any way much less the way that she did, right after being convicted, it's really as I mentioned confounding and certainly doesn't help her cause for staying alive.

BLITZER: A lot of people have said to me maybe she's using some reverse psychology. She's telling the jurors, kill me, I want to die. And they hate her so much they're saying, all right, we're going to let her live in a prison cell for the rest of her life. That would even be more miserable for her. You buy any of that?

JACKSON: Well, interestingly enough, I happen to be of the view, Wolf, that it's reverse psychology. She's been determined to be very manipulative. She's very intelligent, if you listen to her testify for 18 days. So quite frankly anything she's selling I'm not buying. And I don't know that the jury buys it either. What will be critically important is when she takes the stand if she does, whether or not she's going to beg for her life or whether she'll just say kill me. And so we'll have to see if she says that how the jury will interpret it then and what they'll ultimately do. But I happen to think she is playing the jury.

BLITZER: On this definition of murdering someone in an especially cruel way, if it's shown -- and you may know this already, that she took the gun and shot him before she stabbed him 27 times or slit his throat from ear to ear, would that be a proper definition of cruelty? If she did all those other things, the stabbing and slitting of the throat after she shot him with the gun?

JACKSON: Sure. You know, interestingly, Wolf, this is something that's been the subject of much debate throughout the course of the trial. Was he shot first, was he shot last, and many people, observers, would say what does it matter he's dead. But it matters and it's very relevant to the issue of cruelty. And of course the prosecution alleges that it happened after. That what she did was she stabbed and she cut which is vicious within itself but then thereafter for good measure she shot and killed as if to say take that. And I think anyone would say that that is unusually cruel.

BLITZER: Joey, thanks very much. Joey Jackson, our legal analyst for our sister network HLN always giving us some good insight. Appreciate it very much.

I want to go to Texas right now, Austin, Texas. There you see the President of the United States. He's walking down the stairs. He's going to be received, we believe, by the governor of Texas, Rick Perry. Should be waiting there at the bottom of the steps. Is that the governor right there? Yep, that's him right there the Governor Rick Perry and the President of the United States. The president coming into Texas, going to be speaking in Austin, which is where they landed just now.

Going to be speaking about jobs, job creation, he's got a couple of executive orders he's going to be releasing. Look, there's been some tension as all of us know between the president and Rick Perry on various issues over the years. Most recently on guns and immigration, very sensitive issues. But nice of the governor to show up. The President of the United States comes to his home state, arrives in Austin, Texas. There's the governor ready to receive him. The governor obviously wanted to be President of the United States, ran for the Republican presidential nomination, didn't exactly work out well for him.

He has not necessarily, by the way, ruled out the possibility he'll seek that Republican nomination once again in 2016. We'll see if he does or doesn't. But we see the president there chatting on the tarmac in Austin, Texas. He'll be heading over to do an event there in the capital of Texas. And then he'll move on. All right. There they are smiling. Nice gesture on the part of the governor to show up, welcome the president to his home state. They're going to get in the limo, they're going to drive over to the event and that will be that.

BLITZER: Stocks, by the way, they're hovering near record highs. Right now, the Dow up almost 20 points since the start of the year, by the way, the Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 are up between 13 percent and 15 percent. That's very impressive.

Another good economic indicator, first time unemployment claims fell last week to the lowest level in five years. Very good indicator indeed.

Also, the number of homes that foreclosed last month hit a six-year low. RealtyTrac reports foreclosures were down a whopping 23 percent compared to last April. We're seeing this decline because places that were hit hard during the housing recession, they are now recovering. The states that still have the highest foreclosure numbers include Nevada, Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Illinois.

Families across the country, they are holding out hope, hope that their missing loved ones will be found. In Georgia this college student disappeared without a trace never returning to his dorm room.


BLITZER: Police across the southern states right now they're looking for a college student who's been missing for two weeks. Jmaal Malik (ph) Keyes is 19-years-old last seen April 25th on his school campus. Since then not a word, not a clue as to where he might be. His family understandably is frantic. CNN's Alina Machado has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Volunteers and family members help search the quiet streets of Cochran, Georgia hoping to find clues that will lead them to 19-year-old Jmaal Keyes, a student at Middle Georgia State College near Macon. Keyes has been missing since April 25th.

JA'LISA KEYES, JMAAL KEYES'S SISTER: He's patient. He's loving. He's friendly.

MACHADO: His sister Ja'Lisa says Jmaal had no enemies and was looking forward to wrapping up his first year of college.

KEYES: He didn't seem like anything was wrong. He was anticipating returning back to be with us for the summer.

MACHADO: But the family became concerned when they called Jmaal April 21st.

KEYES: Everything seemed fine up to the point when we realized his phone was going straight to voicemail that Sunday. And then we got worried.

MACHADO: And that's when they called authorities. Campus police tell CNN surveillance video shows Keyes leaving his dorm April 25th.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes during finals we'll see that students tend to stay with friends or other family members while they're studying. We hoped that was the case in this situation. But as I said earlier, we'll continue to follow all leads.

MACHADO: A friend told police he had given him a ride the day he went missing dropping him off near a convenience store. It is unclear if he ever made it to the store. Several searches of the area near the store have turned up empty. Now his family is left to wonder what happened.

KEYES: We still don't know.

MACHADO: The family says they hope someone will see Keyes' picture and help bring him home. Alina Machado, CNN, Atlanta.


BLITZER: Hope so too.

It's a question that many people are asking right now, why did the abducted women in Cleveland stay with their captor? Why didn't they run away when he left the house? Up next we're going to hear from a woman who was held captive by her own husband and she says it's not as easy as you think.


BLITZER: Appearing in a packed Ohio courtroom today Ariel Castro, the man suspected of kidnapping three women and holding them prison in his home for nearly a decade. He was arraigned on kidnapping and rape charges. He's now being held on an $8 million bond. Castro kept his head down during the entire proceeding.