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Potential for Dangerous Storms; Home from Vacation Hell; Two Jodi Arias Jurors Speak Out; Zimmerman Defense Setbacks

Aired May 29, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tornadoes tearing through the Midwest. Wildfires raging in the west. Extreme weather on the rampage from coast to coast. And the conditions today, perilous.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Cleaning up the wreckage after a freight train smashes into a truck, the crash causing an explosion that could be felt from blocks away.

BERMAN: And the picture that grips the world. The child cut out of a sewer pipe. Police say the mother flushed the baby down the toilet. Now, we get the mother's side of the story. Could this really have just been an awful mistake?

ROMANS: You see that little guy's face.

BERMAN: Such a sad picture.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It's Wednesday, May 29. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

We begin with a severe threatening weather slamming the nation's heartland. Conditions today ripe for more dangerous storms, damaging tornadoes reported for a second night in Kansas, and the worries of more are headed their way this morning and throughout the Midwest and the Plains. This just nine days after the devastation in Moore, Oklahoma.

Indra Petersons is following the extreme weather for us.

What can we expect today?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I mean, unbelievable. The wild weather is not just in the nation's midsection. It stretches from coast to coast.


PETERSONS (voice-over): A new round of tornadoes ripped through the heartland late Tuesday. Storm chasers getting these images of twisters in rural Kansas.

Storm chaser Sean Casey reported as he followed one of the twisters. WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Sean, I understand you're chasing a tornado right now. What's going on?

SEAN CASEY, STORM CHASER (via telephone): This is my first interview while looking at a tornado. So, we were hoping it's going to come up onto our road and we will drive right up to the southern half.

PETERSONS: Casey's team captured this rare and frightening video inside a tornado in Smith County, Kansas, on Monday.

The potential for super cell thunderstorms, damaging winds, and hail threaten a number of states from Texas to New England today.

In the Plains, strong damaging tornadoes are possible. In areas littered with damage, meteorologists warn of high wind gusts kicking up and carrying dangerous debris across the area. On the West Coast, dry conditions fueling wildfires in Santa Barbara, California, scorching over 1,800 acres in Los Padres National Forest.

In Valencia, helicopters attacked the blaze from above as brush fires near Magic Mountain burned 25 acres in less than an hour.

The Northeast contends with a much different picture, from snow this weekend to what could be a record breaking heat wave, temperatures rising double digits across most of the region.

With the threat of extreme weather coast to coast, there's a high probability of storm chasers capturing more images like these.


PETERSONS: Yes, it's really been an unbelievable couple of days here. And, unfortunately, we're still going to be seeing a lot of changes.

Over the Northeast, we have a lot of rain yesterday. Now, we're going to be talking as the warm front kick through. Temperatures really jumping up.

Look at the temperature change. Yesterday, 60s in the New York. Today, the 80s. And 90s in the forecast. And that's something we're really going to start seeing here.

And the big section of the Northeast, up towards New England, though, we could still see some more thunderstorms today as the cold front sags into the area.

West Coast is still looking at some high wind advisories fueling the fire danger on the West Coast, and even through portions of New Mexico.

But another threat we're going to be looking at is now, yes, Alvin was our first tropical storm of the season. It looks like now -- we go ahead and flip this next map here. We have a little trouble to flip, they're not working this morning.

We're going to show you the next one is Barbara. Now, currently moving Northeast at 5 miles per hour hanging just off of Mexico. Remember, Alvin didn't make landfall, but Barbara will -- 60-mile-per- hour winds, gusting about 70 miles per hour. It is expected to make landfall late this afternoon, in through the evening.

Let's take a look at the current track here. You can see, it's expected at 30 mile, Thursday, at about 11:00 a.m. So, it's not expected to bring much of six to 10 inches of rain.

Christine, John, the biggest threat will be, again, as we talk, the severe weather outlook across the Plains as we're looking at more severe weather right through Oklahoma and Kansas.

ROMANS: Wow. All right. Indra Petersons, we'll continue to check in with you for more on that. Thanks, Indra.

BERMAN: Everyone, a high alert today, to be sure.

Meanwhile, you have to check this out. If you can see it, that is, this is a rare dust storm triggering a series of freeway accidents in Lancaster, California. Authorities say a 60-mile-per-hour wind gust kicked up the sand storm, created near zero visibility and caused more than two dozen vehicles to crash. They had to shut down 14 Freeway for hours.

And this just in to CNN: Michelle Bachmann is out. She announced this morning she will not run for a fifth term in Congress. Bachmann did not give any indication on what she may do after leaving Congress, but she says she is not ruling out a future run for political office.

ROMANS: New this morning, a notorious French gangster who held guards at gunpoint and used dynamite to escape from prison last month, he is back behind bars. Redoine Faid was the subject of an international manhunt following his dramatic escape from a prison in Leo, France, on April 13th. Back in the 1990s, Faid established himself as a high profile criminal in France, with a series of armored truck robberies.

Also new this morning, the mother of a new born baby rescued this weekend in China after being trapped in a sewer pipe now says she deeply regrets what she did. Police still trying to figure out exactly what happened, what they say may have been just an awful mistake.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The woman started to feel a stomachache and rushed to the toilet. After she stayed in the toilet for a while, she gave birth to the baby. She tried to grab something to help herself because there was too much blood. She couldn't hold the baby anymore, and he slid into the sewage through the hole in the toilet.


ROMANS: That baby boy is still in intensive care this morning.

But that rescue, John, was amazing. BERMAN: Those pictures are just stunning.

This morning, investigators still are trying to determine what caused a terrifying fire on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Grandeur of the Seas. Well over 2,000 passengers found themselves stranded in the Bahamas Monday, halfway through their vacation.

And as Erin McPike reports, many of them have now found their way home.


ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three days before their vacation was scheduled to end, the first of 2,200 Royal Caribbean cruise ship passengers returned safely to the port of Baltimore Tuesday. The Grandeur of the Seas journey was cut short by a fire on board at 3:00 a.m. Monday morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pretty terrifying at first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the water, you could see the glow of the fire, but we didn't have -- we had no idea how big the fire really was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think people were just in shock, and it was early and just wondering what was going on.

MCPIKE: Some passengers said when they saw life boats lowered, they thought the Grandeur of the Seas was sinking.

It was the latest scare in what has been a string of debacles for the cruise industry.

Last year, 32 people died when the Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Italy. Carnival's Triumph stranded passengers off the Gulf of Mexico in February. And Carnival's Dream left others without power in March.

Executive director of the Global Maritime Center, Richard Burke, says the incidents don't spell out a pattern for the industry.

RICHARD BURKE, MARITIME COLLEGE, STATE UNIV. OF NEW YORK: They're among the safest ships afloat.

MCPIKE: The latest black eye for the industry intensifies the public relations problems they face, but attorney John Hickey says passengers have little recourse in nightmarish vacations.

JOHN HICKEY, HICKEY LAW FIRM: If passengers don't have any physical injuries or the threat of physical injury, they're basically under the terms of the ticket and federal statute not allowed to sue.

MCPIKE: Royal Caribbean is giving full refunds and vouchers for future cruises to Grandeur of the Seas passengers. And some say they will cruise again.

Erin McPike, CNN, Baltimore, Maryland. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: A dangerous collision between a truck and a freight train. And this morning, federal investigators are trying to figure out how it happened. They're on the scene in Baltimore where several of the derailed cars exploded and caught fire moments after the accident.

The explosion was felt blocks and blocks away as clouds of black and white smoke filled the area. Firefighters had to rescue the driver who was trapped in the truck. Officials from the railroad told firefighters that the burning substances were not toxic.


KEVIN KAMENETZ, BALTIMORE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: We received word from CSX that there's no toxic inhalants, which is really just a reassurance through the area that it's not an unsafe area. You don't have to evacuate.


BERMAN: Residents of about 70 homes in the area were told they could leave if they felt unsafe, but they were not forced to evacuate. Several industrial buildings in the area, as you can see, were also damaged.

ROMANS: The State Department has not identified two state members of the U.S. embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, who were shot and wounded at a strip club early Tuesday morning. Police have no suspects in custody. CNN has learned the men are members of the defense attache support team. They were shot after a fight broke out at the Antonella 2012 club. Their injuries are not life threatening.

BERMAN: Two jurors in the Jodi Arias murder trial breaking their silence, talking about voting to put Arias to death for the murdering ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander. In the end, the jury could not reach a decision on the fate of Jodi Arias. A new jury will have to decide if she will live or die. But both juror number 6 Diane Schwartz and alternate juror number 17, Tara Kelley, voted for the death penalty, and both say they would be disappointed if she did not get it eventually.


DIANE SCHWARTZ, ARIAS JUROR NO.6: We have to make sure that she's treated within our criminal justice system fairly. Inside my own personal, a little bit of disappointment, but I know we've done our job as jurors.


TARA KELLEY, ARIAS ALTERNATE JUROR NO.17: Yes, again, what Diane said, I would be disappointed, but I'm not going to be upset. And I feel that if it comes to the judge having to decide, I'm not worried about what she would decide either.


BERMAN: Schwartz admitted that she mouthed the words "I'm sorry" to Alexander's family when it was clear the jury could not reach a unanimous decision.

ROMANS: Coming up, George Zimmerman's defense team loses a key ruling in the Trayvon Martin case.

BERMAN: Plus, Apple with some game changers, including some fashionable, wearable items. Really, wearing an Apple computer?

We're back after this.


ROMANS: Welcome back.

A gang member who's been arrested 38 times before now charged with first degree murder in the fatal shooting of a 6-month-old baby. Koman Willis is accused of shooting Jonylah Watkins inside her father's parked minivan March 11th.

Investigators believed a theft of a PlayStation video console may have sparked the shooting.

CNN's Ted Rowlands has more from Chicago.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The killing of 6-month- old Jonylah Watkins shocked the city of Chicago. Her tiny casket became the image of a new low in Chicago's struggle with gun violence. Jonylah was shot in her father's arms while they were sitting in this minivan.

JONATHAN WATKINS, FATHER OF SLAIN CHILD: It's been rough for me and my wife. It's been rough.

ROWLANDS: Jonathan Watkins says he had pulled over to change Jonylah's diaper and was kissing his daughter just as the gunfire erupted.

WATKINS: She was crying when they were shooting off the noise. So I crawled out the car and had her on my chest, and she was looking at me eye to eye.

GARRY MCCARTHY, CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: Jonylah was obviously not the intended target of this assault. Her father, Jonathan, was.

ROWLANDS: Police say the suspected shooter, 33-year-old Koman Willis, was trying to kill Jonathan Watkins over a Sony PlayStation which had been stolen, along with some drugs, from his home.

In court Tuesday, prosecutors allege that Willis admitted to the shooting to a friend and that cell phone and surveillance evidence links him to the crime. Investigators say Willis was an early suspect, and while it took nearly three months to build a case, they were determined to solve it.

LT. KEVIN DUFFIN, CHICAGO POLICE: This was a real hard one for the team. Everybody up here, almost without a doubt, we all have our own kids, especially when it's a young childlike this.

ROWLANDS (on camera): Jonylah's father, who was wounded in the attack, won't say whether or not he stole that Sony PlayStation. Koman Willis made his first court appearance on Tuesday. He is charged with first degree murder and aggravated assault. He has not entered a plea. His lawyer says he is innocent. He is due back in court next week.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Chicago.


BERMAN: It is sentencing day for the wife of a Philadelphia abortion provider. Kermit Gosnell received three life terms earlier this month, performing late-term abortions at his west Philadelphia clinic, his wife Pearl could be sent to prison for racketeering and performing any legal abortion.

Gosnell apparently turned down a plea deal that would have kept his wife out of jail. The defense lawyer says the Gosnell name is like being Mrs. Frankenstein.

ROMANS: Ft. Hood mass shooting suspect Major Nidal Hasan wants to represent himself at his upcoming trial. And today, a judge will consider that request. Hasan is accused of killing 13 people and injuring 32 more at the Texas base in 2009. His trial is scheduled to start June 5th. A Dallas station reports Hasan has been paid $278,000 since his arrest, and that his salary cannot be suspended until he's found guilty.

BERMAN: Some big losses in court for George Zimmerman. The judge refused to allow evidence that the defense argues may be crucial to their client's case.

CNN's Blackwell now has the story.


JUDGE DEBRA NELSON, SEMINOLE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: Neither will mention this in opening statement. Neither side will mention it all during the trial. I can't imagine there's any circumstance under which that will become relevant, but if it does, it will be done outside the presence of the jury.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We now know what will not be presented to the jury when George Zimmerman's second degree murder trial begins June 10th. The former neighborhood watch captain says he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in self-defense.

Seminole County, Florida Judge Debra Nelson granted a slew of motions made by the prosecution Tuesday. The jury will not see Martin's school records, his social media postings, nor a picture of Martin wearing false gold teeth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're asking the court to prohibit the defense from making any reference or suggesting that Trayvon Martin prior to this date had ever been in a fight.

BLACKWELL: Judge Nelson agreed. And those texts and photos Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara released to the media Thursday of a marijuana plant and a gun, those are off limits too.

MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: The drug and the history of his chronicity, his chronic use of drugs and his familiarity with fighting and, to a certain extent, his familiarity with guns is completely relevant to the theory of defense. So, how could you keep us from arguing our theory of defense?

NELSON: Because the rules of evidence keep you from doing it.

BLACKWELL: Toxicology reports showing the presence of a chemical found in marijuana in Martin's system the night of the shooting may be introduced but not during opening statements.

Ben Crump represents Martin's parents.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S PARENTS: This information was not relevant. It was inadmissible. And so, we have to not let people get away with trying to pollute a jury pool.

BLACKWELL: O'Mara's request to sequester the pool of 500 jurors was denied as was his request to take the jury to the community where Martin was killed February 2012.

If Zimmerman is convicted, he'll spend a minimum of 25 years in prison. That detail will be kept from the jury, too.

Victor Blackwell, CNN, Sanford, Florida.


ROMANS: All right. Talk about Boston strong. Sydney Corcoran not only made it to her prom last night, she was crowned prom queen, because six weeks ago, the 18-year-old Lowell High School senior suffered serious injuries to both of her legs in the Boston marathon bombing. It was an emotional evening last night, something Sydney wasn't sure she would get to experience.


SYDNEY CORCORAN, PROM QUEEN: When I was in the hospital, I didn't think this was going to be hospital. And then I got to the rehab, and I just -- because I was up and doing stuff, it felt more like I could do it. I keep feeling like I'm going to cry because I'm happy to be back. But, see, now, I'm going to start crying. It's good to see everyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Sydney's mom Celeste lost both of her legs in the marathon bombing. She's now waiting for a pair of prosthetics. We wish them both the best.

BERMAN: We were so happy for Celeste. That is awesome, as they say in Boston.

So, Apple promising several new game changers soon. Among them, fashion. CEO Tim Cook released a tease, wearable computers, at a technology conference yesterday. He played coy and wouldn't give any concrete details on what, if anything, Apple was working on. But he did say the deal was ripe for exploration. Apple shirt, maybe some trousers or slacks.

Cook also says he has a grand vision for television that goes beyond its existing Apple TV streaming device. He won't give any details about that either.

ROMANS: And that's the Holy Grail for Apple. I mean, they want to remake television, how we watch television, the way they remade music and how we still buy and experience --

BERMAN: They're unfair expectations on Apple. They always have to reinvent something. If they're not reinventing something, people say they're not doing enough.

ROMANS: All right. Speaking of reinvention, coming up, women bringing home the big bucks. New information on why women are the breadwinners these days.


ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. Minding your business this morning.

Good news on the state of the economy. Your money, your house.

Let's start with stocks, another record close. That's 22 record closes this year for the Dow. It's up 17 percent this year. Wow, 17 percent.

That is great news for your 401(k). No surprise. New data shows consumer confidence at the highest level since 2008.

Americans say they're feeling better because of the job market. They say that it's strengthening and that job market over the past year has been averaging gains nearly 175,000 positions a month, net new positions.

Also, home prices are rising. We've learned that home prices in March jumped by nearly 11 percent, the biggest increase since the housing boom. The housing recovery is spreading across the country, too, by the way. Home prices in Phoenix, San Francisco, Las Vegas, up more than 20 percent for March 2012.

Those were areas hardest hit by the housing bust. There's a lot of investor activity in those areas, too. Not necessarily, you know, first time home buyers buying a house for the first time with low mortgage rates. It's a lot of cash investors.

Meantime, another really interesting stat for you this morning. A record number of moms are bringing home the bacon. A new study from Pew Research says mothers are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of households.

In 1960, it was 11 percent. Two things driving this. First, more women are working obviously. We now make up almost half of the labor force.

Second, women are making more money. A growing number of married moms are making more money than their husbands. Not everyone thinks it's a good thing. Fifty percent of those surveyed say the increasing number of women working outside the home makes it harder for a successful marriage, 74 percent say it makes it harder for parents to raise their children.

Of course, a lot of big questions and conversation around those statistics. But still, no lie. Still 40 percent of women are the primary breadwinners.

BERMAN: Big change.

All right. Up next, a family's desperate plea for help. An American woman behind bars across the border accused of smuggling drugs.


ANNA SOTO, DAUGHTER OF YANIRA MALDONADO: She's an honest woman, and she's innocent.


BERMAN: They say she was framed. We're going to get the latest on her efforts to win her release.

ROMANS: And from the other woman to queen in waiting. Camilla, duchess of Cornwall, makes her international debut, and the reviews are in.