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Fate of Jodi Arias Being Decided; Eric Holder Grilled on Capitol Hill

Aired May 15, 2013 - 15:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield reporting live in Phoenix, Arizona, for a special day of coverage of a blockbuster day when it comes to courtroom drama right across this country and people sitting in hot seats, all happening this afternoon.

First, I want to bring you the Jodi Arias update. She's in court for what is really considered a mini-trial of sorts. It is the first part of her sentencing phase. And this phase in this murder trial, this is the phase that determines whether she gets life in prison for murdering Travis Alexander or whether she will be put to death.

Washington, D.C., Eric Holder is being grilled on a pair of scandals that have been rocking the Obama administration right now.

But we're going to start right away in Las Vegas, where America's most famous defendant, you could call him, the bottom of your screen, he takes the stand, O.J. Simpson in prison blues, feet shackled, hands shackled to his waist, walking into court and prepping for testimony, taking the stand and talking.

It is all because he wants to win a brand-new trial in that robbery and kidnapping conviction. He did not take the stand at the double murder trial that he went through 20 years ago or so, give or take a year. He did not take the stand at the robbery and kidnapping trial that landed him here in the first place, but, today, as the marshals get him up on the stand, and actually unlock his right hand, so that he can write and drink water, he takes the stand and tells it to the judge.

CNN's George Howell has been in the courtroom. He's covering this case.

So where do they stand right now? I know that O.J. has been talking for a while. But how far into his story and his plea to this judge to get a new trial, to throw his lawyer under the bus, because he says that's why he deserves a new trial, how far into it is he, George?


Ashleigh, look, we have been monitoring these details and there are a lot of details that O.J. Simpson is laying out here, a lot of groundwork that we're hearing. Again, O.J. Simpson explaining the details of confronting these two sports memorabilia dealers before -- the night before it happened, the day that it happened, and then the aftermath of that.

But, Ashleigh, the issue, the real issue is this, the first question, did O.J. Simpson's then attorney, Yale Galanter, he did give him bad legal advice? Simpson says, yes, that happened the day before the confrontation -- or, rather, before the confrontation, Simpson says he talked to his attorney and the attorney told him that as long as there was no trespassing involved, as long as he didn't use force, it would be OK for Simpson to confront these two men.

We have isolated a couple of sound bites from this long day of testimony. Just take a listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Had the plan at that point, was any use of force discussed?


It wasn't. Yale say we can't do it and I wouldn't have gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. That's what I'm asking you. What's his advice to you regarding the entire plan?

SIMPSON: That they didn't give me the stuff, you have to call the police.


SIMPSON: And that's what I told everybody involved, that if they don't give it to me, I'm going to get the police in there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Did you have any understanding whether you could detain people or not?

SIMPSON: No, until the police came.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Was there any talk at that point, hey, these guys don't have any guns?

SIMPSON: There was no talk about guns at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. You heard his testimony that he came up and told Mr. Ehrlich that there were no guns?

SIMPSON: No. I don't recall that.


SIMPSON: I wasn't there if he told him when he first told him, but I don't recall that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, you never heard that the (INAUDIBLE) don't have any weapons? SIMPSON: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there hadn't been any weapon discussion at that point?

SIMPSON: No. I wouldn't have fathomed in my wildest dreams that these guys would have guns, that Mike Gilbert or Riccio or any of those guys would have guns. Well, not Riccio. I didn't know him (INAUDIBLE) but I knew Mike and I knew Bruce.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So were you expecting any trouble?




HOWELL: So Simpson in court basically going through the details, saying that he was in Vegas for a wedding. He did admit there was a lot of drinking before the wedding. There was a lot of waiting before this plan that he had, but all along, he says he never knew, never asked for anyone to bring guns, did not think guns would be involved.

And, Ashleigh, the other point that I want to make, Simpson claims that his attorney did not tell him during the trial about a possible plea deal that could have given him two years, instead of what he has now. He indicated obviously that's what he would rather have taken, so, you know, we're listening to all the details and hearing those two main points that Simpson wants to make to try to get a new trial.

BANFIELD: I know a lot of people are just sort of mouths agape, listening. It doesn't matter what he's saying. It's just that he's talking for the first time in half-a-decade.

HOWELL: Right.

BANFIELD: George Howell, thank you. Go ahead.


HOWELL: Well, the thing about it, he's at ease.

You hear Simpson in court, he's at ease. He seems comfortable, almost, you know, happy to be back in the spotlight.


HOWELL: Just very interesting to see him for first time talking about this.

BANFIELD: Hey, George Howell, look behind you. That spotlight has diminished a lot, because when we have covered these cases up until now, right, you look around, where are all those placards and the crazy people dressed in bird suits to come out saying, O.J. is guilty, O.J. is innocent?


HOWELL: Right.

BANFIELD: It is not there anymore. People have just -- kind of just had it with his details, but they're still kind of fascinated by him or at least his voice anyway.


BANFIELD: All right, George, keep us posted on what the Juice says on the stand. Do appreciate your work there in Clark County, Vegas.

HOWELL: Certainly.

We have got news just in to CNN right now. Want to switch your attention to the IRS. Don't we love talking about the IRS, especially with scandal is involved? Because everybody is doing that now. A source is now telling CNN that the IRS itself has pinpointed two -- quote -- "rogue employees," apparently, working at its Cincinnati office.

The acting commissioner saying those two employees primarily responsible, and this is the acting commissioner's description, for overly aggressive handling of conservative groups' tax documents.

According to same source, the IRS acting commissioner describing the employees, again, these are his words, as off the reservation. Attorney General Eric Holder just testified about this matter on Capitol Hill. Take a look.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: To the extent that there are enforcement gaps that we find, we will let this committee know and hopefully work with this committee to make sure that what happened and was outrageous, as I have said, and hope -- if we have to bring criminal actions, so that that kind of action, that kind of activity does not happen again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand that certain officials in the IRS have apologized. Does an apology immunize you from criminal prosecution?



BANFIELD: Ah, not immune from criminal prosecution.

Listen, it has been a whiplash couple of days when it comes to what the White House has been juggling in terms of controversies. So in addition to the IRS scandal, let's turn our attention to the Justice Department secretly seizing the phone records from the Associated Press, because that's got tails and tongues wagging too,not only that, but the deaths of four Americans at an embassy outpost in Benghazi, Libya.

Here is how the White House has been responding to these questions over and over again. Take a look.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: All I can tell you is that I cannot and he cannot comment specifically. I can't comment on this specifics of that. We simply can't comment on the specific investigation.

But I cannot and he cannot appropriately comment on the specifics. This, I think, refers to this investigation, so I cannot comment on that. And we can't comment on an ongoing criminal investigation. I'm not going to comment on the specifics of an investigation here. I just can't comment on the specific reports that you cite. I cannot comment on this specific investigation for all the obvious reasons.

It would be inappropriate to comment on the specific investigation. You know, I cannot comment on this specific case.


BANFIELD: Now, that's some math, let me tell you, some rack producers putting in those graphics there.

Listen, this has been a really tough time for Jay Carney and that press corps will not let him go on these.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is live in Washington, D.C.

All right, so the press corps has been tough on Jay Carney, but Jon Stewart has been even tougher, it seems, on the White House. Before I ask you the questions I have for you, Gloria, I just want you to watch how Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show," which I know a lot of people watch, you may say he plays fast and loose with some of the facts, but generally speaking, pretty good journalist. And this is how he depicted how the president's been learning the news of all these controversies. Have a peek.


JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Mr. President, when did you find out about the IRS targeting conservative groups?


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this. I think it was on Friday.


STEWART: Nobody at the office thought to run that one up the flagpole for you prior to the news reporting it? Let's say the acting head of the IRS, who has known about it for about a year?

CARNEY: He found out about the news reports yesterday on the road.

STEWART: And yesterday's news that the Department of Justice had seized two months of phone records from AP reporters. You know, I wouldn't be surprised if President Obama learned Osama bin Laden had been killed when he saw himself announcing it on television.


STEWART: Oh, wow, we did that? Why doesn't anyone tell me these things?


BANFIELD: Pretty funny stuff, but actually pretty serious too, Gloria. What is the voracity when it comes to how the president learns about these extraordinary events?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what I think we need to understand here is that in many cases the White House Counsel's Office, the president's lawyer, right, if you will, is informed about a lot of things.

And decisions are made whether or not those things then rise to the level of informing the president. In the case of the IRS investigation, for example, the White House Counsel's Office was told a couple of weeks ago.

There is -- there was an inspector general report that was pending, and so they got a heads-off. The question then is, why didn't they tell the president? And I don't know the answer to that, other than the president, they may have wanted to wall him off from it. They may have felt until they got the report, he didn't need to know about it. Then the story exploded and I guess he did need to know about it.

But that's how these things kind of happen. You know, everything does not wind up on the president's desk.



BORGER: You might say it should have, but it didn't.

BANFIELD: Yes. Good point.


BORGER: Right. Right. BANFIELD: Look, a friend of mine used to do the presidential daily briefings at 7:30 every morning in the Oval Office and they are intricate and they are broad and vast.

I don't understand how something this significant -- look, two big things just off the bat, the Associated Press raid, so to speak, and then the IRS issue, how could those not have been in the PDBs, the presidential daily briefs?

BORGER: Well, the presidential daily brief contain a whole lot of things, including the president every morning learning about national security threats to the United States.

In terms of the Department of Justice investigation, you know, there is a wall between what the Justice Department is doing and what the president knows about, because if there were not that wall, Ashleigh, we would complain that the president was directing his Justice Department to do investigations, which cannot be the case.


BORGER: In fact, the whole notion about investigating all of these national security leaks actually came from Republicans who were saying, you know what, we really need to figure out how to stop these leaks, and that is exactly what the Justice Department is doing in this case.

They may have done it badly, as we know, with this huge broad secret subpoena, but that's what they were doing.

BANFIELD: All right. Well, more to come on that.


BANFIELD: Gloria, thank you for your time, for your expertise.


BANFIELD: Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the Oval Office today.

Thank you for that.

I just want to get some breaking news to our viewers right now. I'm in Phoenix, Arizona. I'm reporting live on this extraordinary capital murder case, death penalty case that has captured this nation's attention. That's a very quiet courtroom in the Jodi Arias case right now because the prosecutor not only wrapped up his summation of this secondary phase, part one of a secondary phase, in this death penalty trial, but the judge has now given this to the jury.

Now, the jury has to decide an important question before anyone can do anything more in this case. They are now going back to the deliberation room to decide if the way that the victim in this case, Travis Alexander, died was especially cruel. That's the question for them. They will deliberate, if not right away, in moments. And then when they come up with the decision, yes or no, it can take a vastly different turn. We will explain all that coming up next.


BANFIELD: We have got breaking news as we report live out of Phoenix, Arizona, that for about eight minutes now, the jury in the Jodi Arias case has been deliberating the second question on their list of jobs to do in this marathon four-month-long trial.

Job number two, as those in the gallery sit and wait, attorneys who are milling about the courtroom, family members on both sides of this well are literally waiting for this jury to decide if what Jodi Arias did, when she murdered her ex-boyfriend, was cruel. Effectively, that's the only question they need to answer. Did she do something in a cruel manner when she murdered Travis Alexander?

And because this is a mini-trial of sorts, they were actually presented with testimony for about two hours this morning, one witness and one witness alone, the medical examiner. And who best but the guy who actually performed the autopsy to let the jurors and everybody else who was watching that proceeding know how painful it was when Travis died and how long he endured that pain and suffering?

That's the question this jury needs to answer.

CNN's Ted Rowlands has just left the courtroom. He has made his way to the plaza about a block or so away from me.

So, Ted, give me the mood inside this courtroom. The picture is silent and we're not allowed to listen in when they're not in the -- when the jury is not in the courtroom at this point, but give me the description of how things seemed to progress.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, first off, you know, I have been in a lot of courtrooms in different phases, and you have as well, where it is very emotional. This was one of those periods of time where Jodi Arias was crying, Travis Alexander's family was crying, as Juan Martinez went through the very, very graphic images of Travis Alexander's body after he was brutally murdered by Jodi Arias and telling this jury to look at these wounds, and explaining how painful and how cruel this murder really was.

And, you know, at one point, he stopped for two minutes in length and said nothing and had the jury just take in that period of time and imagine being stabbed repeatedly over that two-minute period of time. It was dead silent in the courtroom. And it was effective. It was very emotional. The jury has just received their case now.

And they have gone back to the jury room. Whether they will take lunch or start deliberating right away, we don't know. But it is up to them --

BANFIELD: Actually, Ted --

ROWLANDS: -- whether we move to now the next phase.

BANFIELD: Actually, just getting breaking news from our Grace Wong, who is covering the proceedings live as well, that what you just said is accurate.

And there has been some movement just since you started your live report. The judge in this case has actually just told everyone to leave the courtroom. I don't know if we have a live picture available. Typically, when the judge stops proceedings, they ask the live camera to focus straight up on the seal.

And it is the seal on the wall. You can read it. It says "The Great Seal of the State of Arizona." The reason that the focus of the camera right now is on the seal is because, Ted, the judge has just asked everyone to leave so that she can conduct a sealed hearing. We're getting a lot of that in the last five days, quiet, private proceedings in judge's chambers.

There was ex parte meeting in judge's chambers last week, which only involves one side of the proceeding. That extended to a non-ex parte, where the other side, the prosecutors, were then involved. And also, Ted, I can just report to you as well that the jurors, they were about eight minutes with this case and they requested to go to lunch.

Our Grace Wong had also seen some of the jurors leaving, five of them wanting to go to lunch, two of them wanting what we see all the time in these cases, a smoke break, not unusual.

But and just quickly wrap that up for me, Ted, if you could, a sealed proceeding. This is not unusual in this very unusual case.

ROWLANDS: Yes, it is not unusual that they're having a behind- closed-door meeting, if you will, with the judge.

A lot of this is under seal. I suspect they're talking about the scheduling if this jury does come back with a yes answer. Are they going to go right into that final phase or not? But one thing we should point out, Ashleigh, this hearing was post-conviction, but it was also post-interview of Jodi Arias where she said she wanted the death penalty.

And it seemed as though the defense in this case, and this is my opinion, was very basic. There wasn't a lot of passion from Kirk Nurmi in the opening or the close. It almost looked like they mailed it in. And I wonder if part of that reason is that Jodi Arias claim that she actually wants the death penalty. But it seemed to me astounding the difference between the two arguments today from Juan Martinez and Kirk Nurmi in terms of passion.

BANFIELD: Well, I can't -- for the life of me, Ted, I can't imagine being a defense attorney, putting your life into this case for the last several years and certainly the last four months, trying to save your client's life, and only to have her completely thwart that effort in that ridiculous courthouse interview, just remarkable.

And I wouldn't be surprised if that plays its way into the legal proceedings as well. Ted, stand by, if you will.

I have got a couple of other stunning developments I want to bring our viewers up to speed on as well, this one out of that kidnapping case, the house of horrors in Cleveland. Sources are now telling us at CNN that Ariel Castro allegedly played favorites with his victims, his captives, one of them -- quote -- "his punching bag," according to family sources. I'm going to speak live with a psychologist about whether this could produce any kind of dynamic between three victims and how these women would cope with and without each other.

Stay right here. CNN's special coverage continues after the break.


BANFIELD: We are learning a lot of disturbing details about what one of the Cleveland kidnapping victims, Michelle Knight, went through, allegedly at the hands of her accused captor, Ariel Castro.

A family friend of Michelle's says that Michelle -- quote -- "was Castro's main punching bag" -- end quote, saying that she was beaten to the point that she is said to have suffered vision loss and joint and muscle damage. We also know, of course, that she told police that he beat her while pregnant, causing five miscarriages and that he starved her repeatedly for weeks at a time.

Joining me now is David Swanson, a licensed clinical psychologist. He's live in Los Angeles.

David, I don't even know where to begin with the questions that I have for you. There is just so much to cover, but maybe you could just start with this notion that our Pamela Brown has been able to get information from her sources that there were apparently favorites that were being played, although in very small degrees, that all three of these women suffered horribly, but that there were varying degrees of favoritism.

Does that surprise you in any way, given the dynamic that we have been hearing about there?

DAVID SWANSON, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes, it actually -- unfortunately, Ashleigh, it does not.

And very oftentimes, these types of abductions are driven by a sexual compulsion. And when you see these things start to happen, the person who has the compulsion starts getting kind of satiated, we will say, with the one victim he has and so you see him go out and try to find more. This is a really sad situation because, when you're a survivor, when you're one of these girls, you learn your role quickly and you maintain that role.

Unfortunately, I got to think that in this case she probably didn't receive him well. There was probably something that she did to get on his bad side, and from that point forward, I think this is where you see this type of behavior occur, where she's beaten and lashed out at all the time.

BANFIELD: But, for 10 years, I mean, it just doesn't seem plausible. I know many of us are having a very difficult time getting our heads around just the -- just overarching stories that have come out, but the details are just indigestible.

And I wondered if you could shed any light on what those three women would have gone through, in terms of trying to protect each other and protect themselves. Do they ally with one another or do they protect themselves and just sort of in essence try to survive?

SWANSON: Yes, my guess is that these types of situations lead to these women being separated when they're in the house. They're taped up, they're chained up, very oftentimes kept away from each other so that, you know, the suspicion of having a plan or trying to escape doesn't actually come to fruition.

This is a very controlling, dominant person who uses tactics of fear. I'm sure he waited outside the house and tested them. And when they tried to escape, I'm sure he beat them senselessly as a result of that. I'm sure that he tried everything he could do to make them afraid to leave. So if you put yourself into that situation, and you're one of these girls, you know, you're scared for your life.

This is such a huge trauma, and we hope that they can recover from it. The idea that you're actually thinking about the other girl who is held captive with you, that really doesn't make any sense whatsoever. I think the primary concern for each one of these girls, with the exception of having a daughter, is that you're just trying to get by day to day and survive. You're just thankful that he doesn't beat you one more time.

These were, for 10 years, terrifying years for these girls, for all three of them. And I got to think on a daily basis they were just concerned with doing what they needed to do to survive one more hour with this man.

BANFIELD: Oh, God bless them in their recovery efforts. They have such a long road ahead of them.

David Swanson, thank you for your insight today. And I wish we could have met on a different set of circumstances, but I appreciate your insights.

SWANSON: Me, too, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: David Swanson live for us in Los Angeles.

I want to turn your attention to Boston, Massachusetts. We are at the one-month mark since the bombing that left four people dead and hundreds others injured. This is a live picture of the memorial that is right there on Boylston Street, as we learn more about how not only first-responders were able to ply their trade at the day of the bombing, but also how firefighters have now stepped up and said they were not happy with their leadership. We have got an update coming in just a moment.