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Missing Girls Escaped from House of Horror; Ariel Castro Charged with Kidnapping And Rape; Jody Arias Found Guilty, Claims She Prefers Death Sentence to Life in Prison

Aired May 9, 2013 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much.

Good to see all of you. I'm Brooke Baldwin, live here in Cleveland for special CNN coverage of two major stories unfolding this hour.

First, very soon, Jodi Arias will be walking into a courtroom for a mini trial to decide whether she lives or dies. We will take you there to Phoenix.

But, first, here in Cleveland, as the --

I'm Brooke Baldwin live here in Cleveland for special CNN coverage of two major stories unfolding this hour. First, very soon, Jodi Arias will be walking into a courtroom for a mini trial to decide whether she lives or dies. We will take you there to Phoenix.

But first, here in Cleveland as we learn more about the horrors that these three young women endured during their nearly ten years in captivity in that house right there. Let me just fill you in on what I have been up to the last half hour. I walked around the back of this home and talked to a home owner.

We couldn't go anywhere near this home. It's actually still considered part of the crime scene, but I sat there with him and I looked at this pictures that he took. We know that these young women were freed on Monday. And, he said the very next day, we've seen the activity in the front of the house, but this was the first time we heard about what was happening in the back.

We have seen these FBI agents dressed from head-to-toe in these white protective suits with shovels and dogs. We know that they have gone around to the back of the house. And, so I saw with my own eyes these photographs that we were working on getting to show you showing a hole, a big hole in the back of the yard.

I saw one of the FBI agents sitting in the hole. So, just from looking at the picture, it appeared to be may be a foot, two feet deep. And, one other thing that this gentleman actually pointed out to me was a tiny white cross in Ariel Castro's backyard. What that means? We don't know. We are working on getting those photographs for you. But again, this is just the beginning of what we are hearing has been happening in this backyard here on Seymour avenue.

And, we also got our first glimpse today of the man accused of the unthinkable. Ariel Castro faced a hearing, accused of holding three young women and a child prisoner in this home. Starving these women, raping these women, impregnating these women, and beating them. I want you to watch his face as he learned of these charges.


BRIAN MURPHY, ASSISTANT PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: I would like to say that the charges against Mr. Castro are based on premeditated, deliberate and depraved decisions to snatch three young ladies from Cleveland's Westside streets to be used in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit.

Two of the victims incurred a horrifying ordeal for more than a decade, a third for close to a decade, and the ordeal eventually resulted in a little girl believed to have been born to one of the women while in captivity. Also, along with captivity, there were repeated beatings. They were bound and restrained and sexually assaulted, basically never freed to leave this residence.


BALDWIN: His bail set at $8 million. The prosecution using the words "self satisfying" and "depraved" to describe this alleged captor and the brutality that he is accused of committing here on Seymour Avenue.

In one of these disturbing incidents, Amanda Berry, the woman, that the hero, who managed to escaped through this unlocked door here, this front door, we have now learned she gave birth in some kind of kiddy pool and her baby almost died.

Her fellow prisoner, Michelle Knight, telling police that Ariel Castro punched her in the stomach until she miscarried her pregnancy. Here are the charges that Castro now faces. Four counts of kidnapping, four counts. One for each woman and child held as prisoner in his home and three counts of rape.

CNN's Brian Todd was in the courtroom. And, Brian, I mean, I was watching this morning and almost wanted to spit out my coffee looking at this man. I know he is innocent until proven guilty, but you were in there. What was his demeanor like?

BRIAN TODD, CNN NEWSROOM CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, it was much as you described. He looked really down and despondent. He did not make eye contact with seemingly anyone. He did not look at the judge. And, from what we saw, he did not even make eye contact with his defense attorney, Kathlene DeMetz.

She was counselling both him and his brothers through this entire court proceeding and then was kind of laying out to the judge his circumstances, saying that he had lived here for 39 years; 52 years old that he was on unemployment compensation in a seeming effort to maybe get bond reduced.

But, that was no sale for this judge. $2 million for each of the four cases against him, a total of $8 million bond set for Ariel Castro. And, after the hearing Kathleen DeMetz, the defense attorney told us that he -- this was essentially a no bond hearing, that he doesn't have that kind of money. So, he's not going to be leaving jail any time soon.

But, his physical demeanor looked almost non-functional, Brooke. He walked in a very wooden manner. He was handcuffed, but he didn't have leg shackles on. He walked in a wooden manner. He looked straight down. He did not speak. And, another highlight here, he did not interrupt plea. That will come within 30 days in a formal arraignment hearing, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. Brian Todd, thank you so much, here in Cleveland. And, now, police say that there is nothing to indicate that Ariel Castro's brothers had a thing to do with these allegations that are piling up against him.

Today in court, his brother Pedro pleaded no contest to a 2011 open container misdemeanor charge. The court dismissed misdemeanour drug use and open container charges against O'Neil that were filed 12 years ago. And, I spent my morning outside of these brothers' home, just a couple of blocks from where I stand here, and I can tell you that neither of them went home yet today.

Now, to the details of this alleged sexual slavery in this home here on Seymour Avenue. The original police report explains how Ariel Castro allegedly got these young women, these victims, lured them inside this home, and kept them there. This report says that Castro offered each of the women a ride home at various locations.

I walked these locations yesterday, just a couple of blocks away, all on Lorain Avenue. Castro allegedly told Amanda Berry that his son worked at the same fast food place that she did. She was last seen walking away in her Burger King uniform about ten years ago.

Gina DeJesus, the report with regard to her says that Castro didn't need a ruse since DeJesus was actually good friends with Castro's daughter Arlene, and so he told Gina DeJesus that he would just give her a ride, so she could meet up with her little friend. Castro's daughter spoke out today, talked to "Good Morning America."


ARLENE CASTRO, ARIEL CASTRO'S DAUGHTER: I really want to see Gina, and I want you to meet my kids. I'm so sorry for everything.


BALDWIN: The police report says that the victims were at first being kept in the basement in chains, eventually moving up to the second floor of his home. Two of the women became pregnant. This report says while he forced Knight to miscarry, Castro actually threatened violence if Amanda Berry's daughter Jocelyn wasn't saved. I'm quoting this police report now, quote, "Michelle stated that Ariel told her if the baby died, he would kill her." Michelle stated that Jocelyn stopped breathing at one point, but she breathed into her mouth and breathed for her to keep her alive.

This was Christmas day of 2006. The document also reveals that Jocelyn did not know the women's real identities, didn't know their names. It goes on to say this, quote, "Amanda stated that Ariel would sometimes take Jocelyn out with him. She stated that Jocelyn didn't know Michelle or Gina's real names in case she said their names in public.

As you just heard, the details of this case are absolutely horrifying. I feel we're running out of adjectives to describe what is alleged to what has happened in this home here on Seymour Avenue. But, while the stories of survival and ultimate rescue of these women are also uplifting and they are incredible, day by day, more details are emerging in this case.

So, we're getting a better picture of what happened here on Seymour Avenue. So, right now, Brian Cummins of the Cleveland City Council joins me, because I know you've been in contact with a lot of these folks in the police department, law enforcement. Tell me today, we've already heard all of this, which is tough for anyone to wrap their heads around. What more have you learned?

BRIAN CUMMINS, CLEVELAND CITY COUNCIL: Well, not much because the primary information that you have just described came to us through some sources and then yesterday I think there was a breach relatively released of that report was not intended to be released by the Cleveland Division of Police.

So, a lot of us had been hearing in the initial days some of the same information. All we can assume is that that information has been conveyed today. So, we really haven't learned that much more information today, other than what that police report and, of course, other than the charges that were brought today.

BALDWIN: What about -- let me just ask you specifically about some of what we've learned. So, it strikes me the fact that the way allegedly Ariel Castro treated Michelle Knight, right? That she became pregnant, who knows really how many times that he, according to this report, starved her, beat her; ultimately, she miscarried. But, how he treated her and how he treated Amanda Berry, threatening Michelle Knight's life if she couldn't make sure this child was alive.

CUMMINS: Well, I think, you know, the fact is that, as you said, you can't even conceive the adjectives. It's horrific. And, I think the main issue here, I don't think anybody would think that, that he somehow -- this monster, gave too much preferential treatment.

I think, you know, we are working with a lot of mental health experts right now. They are going to be trying to help these women, help their families deal with this and frankly, the community, as well because it's absolutely astounding, incredible. I just can't believe it. And, you know, what we're hearing is the mental duress, the fear, and the intimidation, combined with the physical duress is just an unbelievable to conceive. And, we have been told, you know, by experts in the health professions that this mental duress is equally as damaging as the physical. It's just horrendous the combination.

BADWIN: How did he intimidate them? I had read that he would test them, right? He would make them think that he was leaving to see if they would try to escape.

CUMMINS: Well, first of all, I have been working on trying to get a fund for the family -- the women and the families together. We have a meeting this evening. You know, to be honest, I took a look at the report that was actually showed to me by a media person, and I didn't really get a chance to read it all.

I have heard and received information from sources that, of course, discussed to some degree, and in people who are wanting to know this, you know, did they have full access to the house.


CUMMINS: You know, from what we understand from sources, they clearly were controlled very tightly for some initial period of time. Now, how long is that period of time? I don't know. I mean there are reports from the victims that they were there for a long time.

People hear that and they say, "Well, a long time." You know, 11 years and ten years, is a very long time.


CUMMINS: So, it's extremely hard to understand, but clearly, he had mental and physical abilities to put such fear in these women that he was able to control them somehow. If it evolved from the basement to controlling them more and allowing them greater access, that's what we can assume at this point. But, I personally don't have full knowledge of that yet.

BALDWIN: And, allowing them to move on enough again according to this report to be able to watch television and watch vigils about their disappearance and see tearful mothers wanting their daughters return and they couldn't do anything. Brian, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

CUMMINS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up, we speak live with someone who just visited with Gina DeJesus today here in Cleveland. We'll talk about the survivor's mind set and condition after years of being trapped inside a home.

Plus, just a short time from now, Jodi Arias walks into the courtroom for another mini trial, this one is to decide whether she lives or dies. Will her courthouse interview impact that decision? Stay right here. You're watching CNN's Special Live Coverage from Cleveland.


BALDWIN: Welcome back. I'm Brooke Baldwin live here in Cleveland. The home here on Seymour Avenue, the focus of this investigation. Now, that these three young women are free. And, just quickly, let me tell you before I move on, we have just learned from sources according to my colleague, Pamela Brown, that the FBI -- as the FBI moving around behind me, they are now back in this address searching another home.

We don't know if it's the specific home in which Ariel Castro lived or possibly the one they were searching yesterday. Two doors down, but that's what's happening right now here in Cleveland.

Let me switch gears, go to Phoenix, Arizona, because the Jodi Arias drama will enter now this riveting new phase in less than two hours. In essence, this is the penalty phase. It starts at 4:00 eastern time. Quick reset for you, we watched this play out yesterday.

I mean, Jodi Arias, look at her face, found guilty of murder one, first-degree murder. Choked back tears as she listened to the verdict. The family of the victim, Travis Alexander, their reaction, as you can imagine, tears, gratitude, palpable sadness, but how about this, hundreds of people outside the court --

Listen to the cheers. They are applauding the jury's verdict, which sets the stage for a possible death sentence. And, to top it all off, Jodi Arias gave an extraordinary interview after the verdict. And, you know what? She told this reporter she prefers to die.


JODI ARIAS, CONVICTED OF FIRST-DEGREE MURDER: I said years ago that I would rather get death than life, and that still is true today. I believe death is the ultimate freedom. So, I would rather just have my freedom as soon as I can get it.

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



BALDWIN: Now, Jodi Arias is on suicide watch. Joining us now from Philadelphia, Sunny Hostin, CNN Legal Analyst and Criminal Defense Attorney, Danny Sevalo. So, Danny and Sunny, welcome.

And, I have to begin here with this interview. I just want to hear again from Jodi Arias. This time she's expressing surprise at the verdict of guilty to first-degree premeditated murder. Here she was.


ARIAS: I don't know. I just feel overwhelmed. I think I just need to take it a day at a time.

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

ARIAS: 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 felon murder because of how the law is written, but the whole time I was fairly confident I wouldn't get premeditation, because there was no premeditation.


BALDWIN: So, Sunny Hostin, I want to begin with you, a little disconnect there. You have Jodi Arias expressing shock at being convicted of first-degree murder, and yet the jury, after a four-month trial took a mere four days, 15 hours, to reach this verdict. Do you think there is an omen in that for Jodi Arias as we enter the penalty or the death phase?

SUNNY HOSTIN, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, certainly, this is the most important part of this trial for Jodi Arias. We knew that going in. And, I will say this, what is striking to me is that all of the jurors found premeditation.

Some of them even went further and found premeditation and felony murder. So, they didn't believe her story. And, so, for her to get on television and sort of refute what the jury found is bizarre in itself. But, what's even more bizarre, Brooke, is that I have never seen a defendant just having been convicted of this type of heinous, cruel, depraved crime give an interview.

I mean, again, this is the very beginning of the most important part of this case for her. And, let's make it clear to our viewers, I mean, an aggravated phase, a death penalty phase. It is like a mini trial. There is evidence that's going to be put forward, and if she wants to save her life, it would be a good idea for her to get on the witness stand and not, not, to have this interview out there that the prosecution could very well play for the jury.

BALDWIN: Danny, it was absolutely bizarre. Here she was apparently, she told this reporter, "Yes, if I'm found guilty of murder one, Yes, I will talk to you." She did. How do you react to that?

DANNY SEVALO (?), CNN LEGAL ANALYST: A number of different ways. First, I was a little surprised that a defendant just sentenced -- just convicted, was permitted to speak to the media. I mean anyone who's involved in the criminal justice system knows that the deputies will take them away almost immediately.

I rarely get more than a few words with a client when a sheriff's deputy is taking them away. So, that obviously concerned me or seemed odd. But, what is more concerning is she is about to enter into a sentencing phase, which is every bit as important as the guilt phase, although to many people, it's not discussed as much in the media. But, this penalty phase will be absolutely critical, and she gives an interview shortly afterwards asking for death?

I just don't know who counseled he r to do that or I have to believe her attorneys who are just unaware -- unaware that she did that bit as important as the guilt phase, although to many people, it's not discussed as much in the media, but this penalty phase will be absolutely critical, and she gives and interview shortly afterwards asking for death? I just don't know who counseled her to do that. I have to believe her attorneys were just unaware that she did that.

BALDWIN: What about this, though, from a defense perspective, here she is, and it's absolutely odd that she's talking to the media. But, could this help her at all because maybe it's showing her mental state. The fact that she's agreeing to this kind of interview, you know, you don't put someone showing mental capacity or lack there of to death, right?

SEVALO: That's a very good point. However, number one, she's never pleaded insanity. Number two, this same jury has just heard days and days of competing experts testifying as to whether Jodi Arias did or did not have different mental or emotional for lack of a better word, disabilities or conditions.

So, I think this jury, more than any human beings in America, are able to understand or able to make a decision about whether or not Jodi Arias has a sympathetic emotional problem or otherwise. And, I think their answer was just given with that guilty verdict loud and clear.

I don't think this jury is liable. Even this additional interview, they've already heard the no jury will convict me interview. I can't imagine they would be any more shocked by the "I just want to die interview," because they've already heard it all from not only Jodi, but both from the defense and the prosecution --


SEVALO: If any group of people know more about Jodi Arias's mental state, remember, that was the entire gist of this trial, not who done it, but why she done it. And, therefore, this jury more than anyone know about her mental state in the coming days.

BALDWIN: We'll take you later. OK. OK, Danny Sevalo and Sunny Hostin. That happened in last 2 hours. There is a many trials. This many trial, this penalty or death based. We will take you there. Why.

Back in Cleveland as one of the kidnapping victims recovers at home. "Her grandmother spent all of this years wondering, is my baby alive?" Coming up next, you will here the emotional message to Amanda Berry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER: Amanda, you hang in there, honey. You be strong. I'm praying for you. And, I love you.


BALDWIN: Back here live in Cleveland. Some bright moments are emerging from these dark stories. Families reuniting, feeling absolute relief. And, they include Amanda Berry's grandmother, Fern Gentry. She is giving this message for all those people in Cleveland, who never gave up searching for her granddaughter, and she also shares some special words for Amanda. Here she is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FERN GENTRY, AMANDA BERRY'S GRANDMOTHER: Amanda, you hang in there, honey. You be strong. I'm praying for you. And, I love you. And, we all love you down here. So, you remember that. And, day by day you will get and we are all going to be together, pretty seen. But, I love you with all my heart. God, I hope you are OK.

And, that you can't make it day by day one day at a time. And, I would like to say thanks -- if she hadn't got out, I don't think any of them would have lived very much longer. And, I thank them from the bottom of my heart, and I'm just glad Amanda was strong enough to come to that door and come on out.


BALDWIN: Amanda's grandmother also said that she hasn't seen her granddaughter or her great granddaughter yet. Will certainly be an amazing reunion, obviously, when that happens.

It was about 24 hours ago that we witnessed this emotional scene. It was so great to bring in to you. We brought you, as it happened live, the happy homecoming of Gina DeJesus. Her relative's arms slung around her shoulder and the yellow Hoodie. Next we're going to talk to woman, who was inside that home talking with Gina and her family about this very special moment.