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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Bridge Collapse in Washington State; Arias Jury Deadlocked; Tornado Survivors Rebuilding Lives

Aired May 24, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Christine Romans.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, overnight, a bridge collapses, plunging two cars and three people into the freezing river below. How safe was that bridge in the first place?

BERMAN: Then, a deadlocked jury and a mistrial in the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias case. What happens next as she waits to find out if she will get life or death?

ROMANS: And dramatic new video of an emergency landing at Heathrow Airport this morning. What went wrong and the pictures in a moment.

BERMAN: It is Friday, May 24th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

ROMANS: All right. Our STARTING POINT a bridge collapsed along an interstate north of Seattle, sending cars and passengers plunging into the frigid river 40 feet below. There are injuries, but miraculously, miraculously, no fatalities. And CNN has learned the bridge had already been classified as functionally obsolete by state transportation officials before it came crashing down.

All of this unfolding last night in rural Mount Vernon, Washington, Interstate 5 about an hour north of Seattle. That's where we find Katharine Barrett live this morning.

Functionally obsolete. There are bridges out this all over the country. Do we know what happened to make this one unsafe at that moment?

KATHARINE BARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the primary thing is probably it's age. It was built in 1955 and functionally obsolete, as bad as it sounds, actually does not mean structurally unsound. It's just means perhaps a design that's a little bit more antiquated perhaps narrower shoulders, lower clearance, and it could possibly have been that lower clearance that might have triggered this collapse, which took a smooth rolling interstate just after rush hour into this tangle of wreckage and crumpled concrete and cars.

One of those trucks still submerged in the wreckage keeps blaring its horn periodically as the waters apparently shorts its battery off and on this evening. Here's it all -- unfurled.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARRETT (voice-over): A dramatic scene north of Seattle. Two vehicles were crossing the I-5 bring when it collapsed. Three people inside those cars were tossed into the Skagit River. Fortunately rescue teams arrived quickly plucking them from the fast-moving waters. This man was on the bridge when it folded.

DAN SLIGH, INJURED IN BRIDGE COLLAPSE: There was a big puff of dust, and I hit the brakes. The weight of the trailer and everything else, we went right off with the bridge as it collapsed.

BARRETT: Washington State Patrol says right now their investigation is focused on an 18-wheeler.

CHIEF JOHN BATISTE, WASHINGTON STATE PATROL: For reasons unknown at this point in time, the semi-truck struck the overhead of the bridge causing the collapse.

BARRETT: A team from the National Transportation Safety Board is being sent to the scene to help authorities determine what happened. Authorities say the bridge was inspected twice last year and they say it was in need of repair. This survivor says he is grateful to be alive.

SLIGH: I am surprised to be here this evening and glad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BARRETT: And many around the state are glad and relieved that this was not worse. Some 70,000 cars pass this bridge each and every day. I drove across it myself just Monday of this week. So it's remarkable again that only two cars went in in this collapse and three people escaped with relatively minor injuries. Still, there will be tough questions about exactly how and why this failed so spectacularly -- Christine, John.

ROMANS: Katharine Barrett, thank you so much.

Again, we are so glad there were no fatalities. Imagine plunging into that icy water. Boy, everyone must have their wits about them completely to be able to get out of those cars and get out of there.

BERMAN: Amazing that everyone survived.

All right, overnight, breaking news, Jodi Arias' murder trial has become something of a national obsession, and now it's not going away any time soon. The judge declaring a mistrial in the penalty phase after jurors could not agree on life or death for Arias. Now a new jury will have to complete sentencing for the woman who was convicted of murdering her ex-boyfriend in a cruel, cruel fashion.

Casey Wian is following the developments live in Phoenix.

Good morning, Casey. CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. After a dramatic, nearly five-month long trial, jurors deadlocked 8-4 in favor of the death penalty.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, I understand you have reached a verdict?

WIAN (voice-over): There was confusion and surprise, even in the voice of the clerk who announced the jury in the Jodi Arias case was hopelessly deadlocked on the death penalty for the murder of former boyfriend Travis Alexander.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury, dually empanelled and sworn in the above entitled action upon our oaths, unanimously find, having considered all of the facts and circumstances, that the defendant should be sentenced -- no unanimous agreement.

WIAN: Arias sighed as members of Alexander's family began to sob. Jurors who declined to speak with a throng of reporters covering the trial were emotional and so was Judge Sherry Stephens.

JUDGE SHERRY STEPHENS, MARICOPA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the participants in this trial, I wish to thank you for your extraordinary service to this community. This was not your typical trial.

WIAN: That it wasn't. It lasted nearly five months during which Arias took the stand for 18 days and later made one last plea for her life. Under Arizona law jurors were allowed to ask more than 200 questions. Throughout there was sexually graphic images and recordings and most difficult to forget, gruesome photographs of Alexander's body with dozens of stab wounds, a bullet hole, and his neck slashed nearly ear to ear.

STEPHENS: Thank you. Please be seated.

WIAN: Judge Stephens set a new trial date for July 18th, only on the question of the death penalty. Prosecutors could be allowed to bring Arias' recent string of television interviews, according to lawyers with knowledge of death penalty prosecutions in Arizona. For example, this statement to a KSAZ reporter minutes after her conviction.

JODI ARIAS, CONVICTED MURDERER: Well, the worst outcome for me would be natural life. I would much rather die sooner than later. I said years ago that I'd rather get death than life and that still is true today.

WIAN: Nearly two weeks later, she told the jury a different story.

ARIAS: To me, life in prison was the most unappealing outcome I could possibly think of. I thought I'd rather die. But as I stand here now, I can't in good conscience ask you to sentence me to death because of them. WIAN: As Arias gesture to her family, the family of her victim, Travis Alexander, has clearly struggled with the jury's inability to agree. They won't be granting interviews until there's a sentence. And according to the county sheriff, neither will Jodi Arias.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: Clearly it could be very difficult to find a jury that has not been influenced by the intense media coverage of this case. One way out of the mess could be a negotiated settlement where prosecutors take the death penalty off the table in exchange for Arias accepting a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release and perhaps giving up her right to appeal but we don't know if Jodi Arias would accept a deal like that -- John and Christine.

ROMANS: So this ugly drama continues.

Casey Wian -- thanks, Casey.

Let's bring in HLN's Nancy Grace right now.

And, Nancy, clearly, emotions running very, very high here. The family of Travis Alexander must be really upset about these developments. What was the most surprising thing to you about this jury being deadlocked?

NANCY GRACE, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I was very surprised, although legally, if I was completely objective and hadn't listened to the testimony since January -- you know, this jury through a dire jury selection back in December of 2012. But when you look at the road signs, you could see the jury was having difficulty. Even when you watched, and now a lot of people don't think you can look at a jury and tell what's going on, I disagree.

I did it for over a decade. And when they come out stalking out of the jury deliberation room with their arms crossed, some of them are set apart from the others, there's not that same camaraderie they had before, the fact that they kept having questions, the fact that they even told the judge we're deadlocked, help us out on one occasion, should have pointed to the fact that there was going to be a mistrial. Deadlocked.

I found it hard to accept given the gruesome nature of the slaughter. And when I mean -- that's what I mean, slaughter. He was slaughtered like a pig out in the slaughter house. So I was very surprised this jury did not render a death sentence.

BERMAN: And the big question now, Nancy, is what next? How difficult? What are the challenges in retrying the penalty phase of a capital case?

GRACE: Well, the good thing is the evidence is still extremely fresh. I've had to retry a case 14 years after the original trial lawyer tried it. That's hard putting a case back together with that many years in the interim. It will be easy to reassemble the evidence. Here is the kicker. I think Juan Martinez, the prosecutor, will absolutely go forward seeking the death penalty unless Travis Alexander's family begs him not to. That they just can't relive six more months of looking at a picture of their beloved, nearly decapitated, and listening to Jodi Arias' lives.

The good note, all those TV interviews she gave after demanding hair and makeup, they can come into evidence.

BERMAN: We should know you are wearing -- that button you're wearing is of Travis Alexander. And you did mention the family. This has got to take an enormous toll on them.

GRACE: Man, last night it was just -- I had a physical response like a clench when I looked and saw that family. They panned down the front pew and the men were just stone faced, just starring at the jury like they couldn't take it in. And the women who were very, very physically beautiful, when you see them -- the camera doesn't really do them justice, their faces were just contorted, crying and clutching each other. They have told me that it's very difficult. They -- many of them live in California. They have to leave their jobs, their families, their children.

Have you ever had your kids say, please don't go to work? Please don't go to work? They beg them, don't go back to trial, but they go back every day to sit in for Travis Alexander. It's all starting again.

ROMANS: Nancy Grace, well, it's just -- it's just amazing, and we're going to -- it's going to continue to keep going on here as they empanel a new jury.

Nancy Grace, thank you so --

GRACE: Yes, they will.

ROMANS: So much, have a great morning.

"NANCY GRACE" airs at 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. Eastern on HLN. And don't forget to watch "NANCY GRACE BEHIND BARS," a two-night special event. That's coming soon on HLN. Nancy goes behind bars to talk to female inmates at the very same jail where Jodi Arias awaits her fate.

BERMAN: And this just in. We have some brand new video into CNN. An emergency landing at Heathrow Airport. This happened just this morning. This British Airways flight was headed to Oslo in Norway but had to turn back because of a, quote, "technical fault," but the airline did not specify beyond that. At least three people were treated for minor injuries. The London airport now says it is fully operational after some travel delays.

Ahead here on STARTING POINT, more of Oklahoma, putting itself back together again this morning as the first of the 24 victims laid to rest. We're going to return to the tornado ravaged town right after the break.

ROMANS: Then President Obama's counterterrorism speech interrupted by an angry protester. What happened after that, next.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

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BERMAN: The clean up and recovery in Oklahoma are really just beginning. A funeral will be held today for 8-year-old Kyle Davis who was killed in the Plaza Towers Elementary School. Yesterday family and friends remember 9-year-old Antonia Candelaria who also died at school. But in the middle of all this sadness, and there is a great deal of sadness, there is also so much hope, signs that this wounded and dazed community is really starting to pick up the pieces. They are strong.

CNN's Pamela Brown live for us this morning in Moore, Oklahoma.

Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you, John. No doubt about it, it will be a somber memorial day weekend here in Moore, Oklahoma, just a few days after that massive tornado. Survivors are starting the healing process. They're trying to get back to their daily routines and trying to rebuild.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Kenyetta Richard considers herself one of the lucky ones. Her house in Moore is still standing barely.

KENYETTA RICHARD, TORNADO SURVIVOR: It was the rain that caused most of the damage. The ceiling is caving in, the kids' clothes are getting wet, the beds are getting wet.

BROWN: Still, she's not letting that put a damper on her Memorial Day plans.

RICHARD: It's supposed to be sunny on Monday, and our friends are going to come, and I'm going to convince my husband to barbecue in the midst of all the rubbish. That's the plan.

BROWN: Slowly the rebuilding is beginning. Insurance adjusters are making the rounds. The cost of repairs is estimated at more than $2 billion with 4,000 claims filed as of Wednesday. Residents are returning to their demolished homes to salvage belongings with volunteers helping them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just found some important financial paperwork, tax returns, important documents like that.

BROWN: Neighbors comforted each other. Matt Hill once had a home. What is left of it now fits into this black bag.

MATT HILL, TORNADO SURVIVOR: This Xbox I bought the day before the storm. Walked it home. I was afraid I was going to lose it because I didn't buy it for myself. I bought it for my little brothers. BROWN: The heavy toll of the tornado is being felt in other ways, with funerals already underway. Including for Antonia Candelaria, one of the seven children killed at Plaza Towers Elementary. Surviving classmates and the teachers who protected them said emotional good- byes before summer break.

HOLLY HERBERT, PLAZA TOWERS STUDENT: We just don't really talk about nothing. We just gave each other hugs.

BROWN: Third-grader Holly Herbert hugged this stuffed lion she named after the five friends she lost. Sidney, Antonia, Kyle, Nicholas, Janae (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those were all your friends that died?

HERBERT: Yeah. That's all I know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I bet you you're going to hold onto that little guy forever, huh?

HERBERT: Yeah.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Graduation ceremonies here in Moore will go on as scheduled tomorrow. In the meantime, President Obama will be here Sunday. He'll be touring the damage, meeting with survivors, and some of the first responders. Christine and John?

BERMAN: It will be an emotional weekend there. Pamela Brown in Moore, Oklahoma. Thank you so much.

This just in to CNN, 15 missing teenagers who were separated from the rest of their classmates on a school trip to a Bruce Peninsula National Park. Canadian authorities say the missing hikers are 16 and 17 years old, some 15 missing hikers. That park is about 180 miles from Toronto. Emergency response teams is currently scouring the area. Again the news, 15 students separated from their fellow campers right now in a Canadian national park.

ROMANS: More than a dozen aftershocks are reported this morning after a magnitude 5.7 earthquake hit north California. That quake struck about 8:45 last night. The quake's epicenter located 27 miles south of Susanville, California, about 150 miles north of Sacramento. It rattled homes, set off car alarms. So far though, no serious damage or injuries have been reported.

BERMAN: President Obama delivering what could be the defining national security speech of his presidency. He's vowing to wind down America's war on terror, scale back the use of drone attacks, and move toward closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. But, he had some trouble finishing his speech, Thursday, thanks to a heckler from the anti-war group, Code Pink.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ma'am, let me finish.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How about (INAUDIBLE).

OBAMA: When we -- we went --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that the way we treat a 16-year-old --

OBAMA: He went --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That will make us safer here at home. I love my country, I love the rule of law.

OBAMA: Part of free speech is part of you being able to speak, but also you listening, and me being able to speak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: About 100 prisoners are on a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay right now. The president wants to lift a moratorium on prisoner transfers to Yemen and other countries to meet his goal, ultimately, of closing that detention camp.

ROMANS: Swift reaction this morning to the Boy Scouts' decision to allow openly gay boys to become scouts. The organization's national council voted Thursday to make that change. Gay rights groups praised the move, but also said it didn't go far enough. Meanwhile, some conservative groups immediately denounced it. The ban on openly gay leaders, scout leader, however still stands.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT. It is an unforgettable image. The man accused of killing a Brisish soldier in broad daylight holding a bloody cleaver. Who is he, and what drove him to allegedly commit this horrific crime. STARTING POINT, back in a moment.

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BERMAN: Developing this morning in Britain, new video of the suspects accused of murdering a soldier on a London street. The video shows one of the two men charging police after allegedly killing a soldier who's been identified now as 25-year-old Lee Rigby. The big question is why was he attacked? Dan Rivers in London this morning. Good morning, Dan.

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning. the two main suspects in this crime remain under armed guard in separate hospitals. A further two people, a man and a woman, have also been arrested in south London as the police continue to look into this appalling act of savagery. On the streets behind me you can see the floral tributes have been growing every hour as the authorities and intelligence services here try to find out more about the men involved.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROVERS: His bloodied image is already seared into our brains, brandishing a meet cleaver and knife he's suspected of using to kill a British soldier. But who is Michael Adebolajo? Friend Abu Barra (ph) shares much of his extremist ideology and says he has known him for more than seven years.

ABU BARRA, FRIEND OF MICHAEL ADEBOLAJO: He has always been very vocal and very concerned about the affairs of what Muslims and the people being oppressed. And he could never tolerate anybody to really be oppressed, and without to do is to say anything, and he feels very frustrated and helpless when he couldn't. As a person, he was always very caring, very concerning. He always had a heart for other people, and just wanted to help everybody.

RIVERS: But on Wisconsin it appears he wanted to kill. In this video you can see him and his alleged accomplice running towards the police brandishing knives as if they deliberately waited at the scene to attack the first police who responded. The officers who arrived were armed and shot both men.

Michael Adebolajo was a fixture at Islamist rallies like this one in London in 2007. He is understood to have converted to Islam from Christianity four years earlier.

British of Nigerian descent, he started at this school in Essex. He married in 2006, a marriage which Abu Barra was unable to attend because he was in prison for encouraging Muslims to kill British soldiers in Iraq.

RIVERS: Would you condemn what he did?

BARRA: I would condemn the cause of this, which is the British foreign policy. At the end of the day, Britain has taken these people, its public, to war, and it's taken its soldiers to war. And knowing full well, that war is a violent practice and people get killed in war. Soldiers are, you know, in full knowledge they could get killed. So Britain is the one who is responsible. The government, and I believe all of us, as a public, we are responsible. We should condemn ourselves. Why do we not do enough to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

RIVERS: But you don't condemn his actions?

BARRA: I would only condemn the one who is the cause of this -- the aggressor, the occupier, which is the British government and the British troops.

RIVERS: But it is this young soldier, Drummer Lee Rigby, who has paid the price for such extremism.

CNN understands spies at the British Security Service, MI-5, based here in central London were aware of Adebolajo and his accomplice while investigating other terrorist plots, but there was nothing to indicate either man were about to strike in such an appalling way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIVERS: And this does prove a real difficulty for the intelligent services, how on earth can they prevent this kind of attack that doesn't appear at the moment to involve a wider network. We still got no suggestion that the men have traveled to terrorist training camps, that they may have been radicalized at home by watching extremist videos and decided at some point to go from being involved in rallies and protests to carrying out something incredibly horrific, but incredibly low-tech, that's almost impossible to prevent.

BERMAN: Dan Rivers, in London for us. An appalling story, thank you for that report, really appreciate it.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, new details released in the Trayvon Martin case. Now George Zimmerman's defense says it plans to use all this new evidence at the upcoming trial.

ROMANS: Then, it's Memorial Day weekend, when millions of Americans hit the road. What you need ot know before you head out for the holiday.

BERMAN: And this is an unbelievable story -- a mother brought back to life after she gave birth. She had already technically died. We'll meet this incredible family next. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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