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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Murder Conviction Thrown Out; "They Are Heroes, Each And Every One"; Texas Flooding; Washington State Bridge Collapse; Why Sunscreen Is A Must; Special Moments At Indy 500; First Openly Gay MLS Player Makes History; "It's Totally Surreal"

Aired May 27, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


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JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. It's great to see you this morning. I'm John Berman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. Jodi Arias' trial dominated the news, but there's another notorious murder case out of Phoenix making headlines. Debbie Milke used to be one of the most reviled mothers in the country. She was convicted of killing her 4-year-old son after sending him off to the mall to see Santa Claus. But she could walk free after a federal court overturned her conviction.

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ROMANS (voice-over): A death row inmate convicted of killing her 4- year-old son could walk free next month. Debra Milke had her conviction overturned by a federal appeals court after arguing for years that she was the victim of a crooked cop. Known locally as Death Row Debbie, Milke has been sitting on Arizona's death row for nearly 23 years for the murder of her son Christopher in Phoenix.

MARK MILKE, FATHER OF 4-YEAR-OLD MURDER VICTIM: He was my pride and joy. I mean, he was so much more brighter than me and stronger.

ROMANS: In December 1989, according to the prosecution, Christopher was told he was going to see Santa Claus at a local mall. Two male friends of Debra Milke drove him instead to a desert where one of them shot the young boy three times in the back of the head, allegedly on her instructions.

The two men told police the boy disappeared at the mall, but a day later one of them confessed to police and led them to the boy's body. Prosecutors argued the boy was killed to collect on a $5,000 life insurance policy. She has always maintained her innocence, but the key witness, Detective Armando Saldate Jr., said she confessed to the plot to him and him alone.

DETECTIVE ARMANDO SALDATE JR., KEY WITNESS IN TRIAL: She then manipulated two other gentlemen to get rid of the child, and they got rid of the child, and made up a story that he had gotten lost at a mall. ROMANS: The appeals court said prosecutors should have revealed Detective Saldate's history of misconduct, which included lying under oath in other cases. Because Milke's guilty verdict was based largely on Saldate's testimony, the appeals court overturned her conviction.

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ROMANS: Joining me now from Phoenix, Arizona, is Debra Milke's lawyer, Lori Voepel. Thanks for joining us here. She's been on death row for 23 long years. I know you were the one who called her on March 14th to say that the -- that the conviction had been overturned. What did she say to you?

LORI VOEPEL, ATTORNEY FOR DEBRA MILKE: She said, Lori, my gosh, are you kidding me? This is wonderful. She was thrilled.

ROMANS: How long would it have been before she would be put to death if this hadn't been overturned?

VOEPEL: Well, this was the habeas stage, the Ninth Circuit. If we would have lost here, and if we would have then lost before the U.S. Supreme Court, absent some new issue, or new argument that we were able to get the court to take notice of, she could have been executed properly within the next two or three years.

ROMANS: So the two men who took her little boy to the mall, where they originally said that he -- he -- he was missing, or he -- he was lost at the mall, and then they were later convicted, they never pointed the finger at her, did they?

VOEPEL: No, they did not. One has always very much maintained her innocence that she had nothing to do with this whatsoever. The other one very early vaguely said that the mother was somehow involved, but he refused to testify against her, even in exchange for a plea offer to save his own life. He said that he could say what his lawyer wanted him to say, but that it wouldn't be what was the truth.

ROMANS: So that early suggestion, sort of vague suggestion that maybe the mother was involved, that's where this detective took that suggestion, and ran with it, you say. Now you are still asking for the personnel records now of this detective, Armando Saldate, to look at his past accusations in the past. He has lied under oath. Tell me a little bit about that and how that testimony is what was really the nail in the coffin for your client?

VOEPEL: Yes, this detective has a history of misconduct, lying to grand juries under oath to secure grand jury indictments. He has falsified and coerced confessions of severely vulnerable suspects. He has tainted photo line ups, and even early on, when he was a patrol officer, it basically extorted a woman who he had pulled over who had an arrest warrant for sex.

And that was later discovered by the Phoenix Police Department. He was suspended for five days, and they indicated that that called his credibility, and his integrity into question. And not withstanding that, he was later made a detective. Now, most of this Debbie's trial attorneys did not know about. They knew about one case and a little bit more.

And they tried from the very beginning to get the detectives' personnel file and we've tried all the way through to get his personnel file. Finally, in post-conviction proceedings years ago in the state court, a team of researchers was able to uncover all -- or quite a bit about Saldate's misconduct in other cases.

ROMANS: So that's what's proving to be so critical here, as this whole conviction overturned. Lori Voepel, attorney for Debra Milke there in Phoenix. Thanks for joining us today.

VOEPEL: Thank you.

BERMAN: It's 35 minutes after the hour right now. President Obama wishing Americans a happy Monday with their families, but also reminding everyone what this day is supposed to be about, respect for the men and women who gave their lives in service to the nation.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: They are heroes, each and every one. They gave America the most precious thing they had, the last full measure of devotion and because they did we are who we are today, a free and prosperous nation, the greatest in the world.

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BERMAN: The president will mark this Memorial Day by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. That happens later today. This is a live picture of the cemetery, and the Tomb of the Unknowns. You'll be able to see it as it happens live today, the wreath laying at 11:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

ROMANS: All right, the death toll now stands at three in San Antonio as the result of severe flooding in South Texas. Yesterday, the body of an 18-year-old was found one day after he was reported missing near a local creek and two women died Saturday. A 30-year-old and a woman believed to be in her late 60s. CNN's Weather Center says the worst of that rain fall is now over and the National Weather Service is expecting flood levels to quickly fall.

BERMAN: Good news for commuters in Washington State. Authorities say temporary steel girders could restore traffic over that collapsed bridge by mid-June. Three people were injured in the collapse Thursday after a truck slammed into an overhead support. An accident closed a big portion of a crucial artery between the U.S. and Canada. A permanent new bridge is expected to be finished sometime in September.

Weatherwise it's been a wild weekend so far. That's an understatement to say the least. Flash flooding killing several people in Texas. Storms dumping snow in Vermont and upstate New York. CNN's Indra Petersons joins us now with a look at what's ahead. This is nuts.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I mean, it's unbelievable especially the snow part. We were talking about that over the weekend. Yes, hard to believe and that's just a little destined, they got three feet of snow in Vermont, but the good news is temperatures are slowly changing. In fact, in Vermont, it's quickly changing, 30 degrees warmer today. It's going to feel so much better out there.

Unfortunately, in the Midwest, we're still talking about all this soggy, wet weather. It's Memorial Day, look at all the instability. A lot of lightning and thunder around the Des Moines area, that's going to remain with you throughout the day. So still look for another half an inch, even inch of rain, of course, heavier amounts within the thunderstorms themselves.

On top of that, you're going to be talking about the gusty winds, plus here's the good news, for everyone, it was soggy, wet and cold. That was us here in New York. Things are improving. Temperatures are good anywhere from 5, 10, 20, 30 degrees up towards Vermont. So the warmer air really starting to kick on through and it feels so much better, 70s and sunshine after that cold, soggy weekend.

Texas is also good news. Things are drying out there, but we are now monitoring a slight risk. So we're talking about not really a tornado threat, very minimal there but definitely some isolated thunderstorms, with large hail and strong winds. That's going to be stretching from the Dakotas even down through Texas and even in through Illinois. But we talked about middle of the week, the threat does enhance unfortunately for Oklahoma by Wednesday.

BERMAN: Let's hope they make it through that. All right, Indra Petersons, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to summer. That means sun and time to break out the sunscreen. You may find yourself confused when you head to the store asking which is best.

BERMAN: The answer according to a new report may really surprise you. A lot of money does not necessarily get you the best protection. CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us to break it all down for us. So Elizabeth, who won? What's the best sunscreen?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: All right, I have the list of the top three sunscreens according to consumer reports and I must say when I was at the store before going to the pool with my kids yesterday I brought it with me because you're confronted by this huge array. You don't know what to get.

So here are the top three according to consumer reports. Up and Up Sport SPF 50 that's a spray from Target, Equate Ultraprotection SPF 50 from Wal-Mart, and Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50. You'll notice Wal- Mart, Target, not necessarily the most expensive ones. And actually we have some examples here that I'll show you that show you these price differences.

And for example, here's one Kiss My Face, $3.96 an ounce, $3.96 an ounce versus this Hawaiian Tropics, which is $1.35 an ounce. Now there's nothing wrong with the Kiss My Face. They just said that it gives actually less protection for more money.

We reached out to the "Kiss My Face" folks and they said the active ingredients in our minerals sunscreens form a physical block against the sun's broad spectrum rays. We are proud of our 100 percent natural products, but again, less protection for more money.

BERMAN: I got to say, Elizabeth, I was at the beach yesterday and everyone was talking about this study. Wal-Mart, Target, cheaper, cheaper, may be better, really interesting to hear. Thank you so much, Elizabeth Cohen. Appreciate it.

COHEN: Thanks.

ROMANS: Sometimes all that packaging looks really neat. It looks really shiny and you're paying for packaging. Ahead on STARTING POINT, 35 Boston marathon runners, get to do what they couldn't the day that two bombs exploded in Boston. Cross the finish line. We're going to show you where and how.

BERMAN: And then a woman in labor makes it to the hospital in the nick of time, just one problem. She never made it inside the hospital, her remarkable story and the incredible pictures just ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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BERMAN: You'll remember many Boston marathon runners never got a chance to cross the finish line, but yesterday at the Indianapolis 500 several of them had the opportunity to finally cross a line of a different sort. Andy Scholes joins us now with more in the "Bleacher Report." Hi, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, "BLEACHER REPORT": Good morning, guys. The best part of a marathon has to be crossing the finish line. The officials at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wanted to help give that feeling back to those Boston marathon runners who were robbed of it after the bombings. Non-finishers from Indiana and surrounding states were invited to come to the track and finish the marathon before yesterday's Indianapolis 500.

Now about 35 people took them up on the offer, and they ran the half mile stretch from turn four to the yard of bricks as the crowd of over 250,000 chanted USA. Once the race got going it was a good one. There was a record 68 lead changes and with three laps to go, Tony Kanaan took the lead and shortly after that Dario Franchitti crashed and that would be it. Kanaan takes the checkered flag under caution to finally get his first win at the Indy 500 and afterwards he thanked his fans for sticking with him.

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TONY KANAAN, WINNER OF 97TH INDY 500: In a way they spoiled for me because every year they did the same, me winning or not. So this is just is a lot better, for all the support they gave me all these years, I couldn't do it, you know, I couldn't do a better race for them. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Well, it was a bizarre afternoon for everyone involved at the Coca-Cola 600 yesterday in Charlotte. A TV cable above the track snapped during the race, and Kyle Busch, he ran right into it. His car was damaged, along with a few others. During the 27-minute delay, Busch would get his phone, take some picks of his damaged car for Facebook or Instagram or something like that, don't know. But 10 fans were also injured by the cable, but luckily no one was seriously hurt.

Last night in L.A., 26-year-old Robbie Rogers made MLS history as he became the first openly gay athlete in the U.S. to compete in a professional game. Rogers had retired from pro soccer back in February when he made his sexual orientation public. After a few months, Rogers decided to make a comeback and he says he hopes he can be a role model for gay teens. A pretty cool moment, guys. He came into the game last night in the 77th minute with the Galaxy up 4-0 and he got a pretty nice ovation as he went on the field for them for the first time.

BERMAN: And a lot of hugs from his teammates as well. It was great to see the support that he got. All right, Andy, thanks so much.

ROMANS: Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, a woman in labor makes it to the doorsteps of her hospital before time runs out. She tells us her amazing story live next. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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BERMAN: So it's something some people do, they take pictures of the birth of their baby, and it's what Amy and her husband, Joe, planned on doing. They both worked at the "Orlando Sun Sentinel" along with photographer, Emily Robinson, who they asked to document the arrival of their second child. All sounds normal so far. What they did not anticipate was that the pictures would go way viral. Why, because Amy gave birth on the doorstep of the hospital, not inside the hospital, but on the doorstep in a wheelchair.

ROMANS: Yes, she was barely able to walk the six steps from the hospital -- from the hospital curb there into the front door after she went into labor. She went into labor, delivered her child, John, two hours after the first contraction right there. She was clutching the hospital exterior for support. Two hours, first contraction. She was holding her daughter in her arms.

New mother, Amy, and her friend and photographer, Emily, join us. First of all, congratulations, your baby is gorgeous and we're so happy that she had a healthy delivery at the doorstep of the hospital. What were you thinking? At the very last moment, you just -- the baby was coming. You couldn't even get into the hospital. Tell me what happened.

AMY BETH CAVARETTA, GAVE BIRTH TO HER BABY GIRL ON A SIDEWALK: Well, as I was leaning up against the wall of the hospital, it just was really obvious that it was going to happen right there. And I had the most fantastic midwife and I said to Lori, you know, the baby's head is out. And she just was all business and she just dropped down and kind of grabbed her head between my legs and held her there.

And said to Joe, Lori even had the presence of mind to say to my husband, Joe, that, you know, rattled off the phone number to call to get a wheelchair and he actually was able to just run inside and grab one. And I never ever made it into the wheelchair ever. I just leaned on it for support and you know, push the baby right out, right there.

BERMAN: One of the great pictures we have is of your husband with the utter look of jubilation. It's unusual that it's happening outside the hospital right there, but it's the look that many fathers have when they first see their child.

Emily, you know, we're in the business. We're all about getting pictures, but this is a rather unique thing that went on there. So when you see that this is all going to go on right there, you're not getting in that building, what are you thinking?

EMILY ROBINSON, BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER: I just was completely overjoyed with the moment. Everything was happening really quickly and it was so amazing and Joe and I just kept looking at each other and grinning just in complete shock. And it was so happy and fast and wonderful and amazing. I just kept clicking and kept taking shots and in between looking at Joe and looking at Amy and looking at the midwife and it was just such an incredible moment that I couldn't really think about it while I was shooting.

ROMANS: You know, Amy, you said that your first birth was pretty quick, too. One of the things they tell pregnant mothers, they say spend as much time as you can at home. You don't want to spend all this time in the hospital. You know, just wait at home as long as you can before you go to the hospital. Two hours is so quick. You must have had no idea that this one would come so quickly.

CAVARETTA: No, you know, I knew because Sophie was only six hours that this one would be quicker, but I was thinking you know, four, four and a half, and I wasn't in any particular rush. And then once my water broke, it became really obvious that, you know, it was going to happen right away. So unlike with Sophie where we didn't leave for the hospital right away when my water broke, this time I was definitely giving my husband the let's go now.

BERMAN: Sienna had to leave there because she wanted to be the star of the interview.

ROMANS: Apparently she had her own version of events but we don't speak her version of events.

CAVARETTA: Sienna wanted to get fed.

BERMAN: She's on her own schedule as she has been from the very beginning apparently. So you give birth outside the hospital. Usually when an expectant mother arrives, she arrives with the baby still inside. You walk into that hospital holding the child. What was the reaction? CAVARETTA: Well, at that point I was sitting in the wheelchair and I was holding her and I said to the midwife before we went through the door, do we have to go in, can I go home? We're done, right? And she convinced me that, no, it's probably better if we go upstairs. So we went in and I think that the most freaked out person of all was probably the security guard as we went past. He looked pretty shaken. But other than that, I mean, the reaction was just, you know, we have a happy healthy baby. Let's go enjoy her.

ROBINSON: I think that security guard may have been surprised to see me pop out with my camera while this was all happening.

ROMANS: What is going on here, that's what he thought.

ROBINSON: We don't do anything normally.

ROMANS: Amy, it's so nice to meet you and your beautiful daughter. Best of luck to your family. And Emily, nice job getting all those awesome pictures. What a great story. I love birth stories and that one really tops it.

BERMAN: Now it's viral. It's 56 minutes after the hour. Ahead on STARTING POINT, we're going to share you some pictures here you will not believe. This is snow fall in Vermont. This is not a picture from February or the winter. This is from Memorial Day weekend, the end of May. We're going to have more on this extreme weather we're seeing across the country.

ROMANS: As we go to break this Memorial Day, a live picture from Arlington Cemetery. There you see a soldier laying roses on each headstone. STARTING POINT continues right after this quick break.

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