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Zimmerman Trial Starts Today; Supreme Court Hands Affirmative Action Case to Lower Court; Where is Edward Snowden?; Rotten Day on Wall Street; Paula Deen Stirs Up Controversy; Sex Offender Allegedly Kills Child;

Aired June 24, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Good morning, everyone, I'm Ashleigh Banfield and we've got a very big show ahead. Today's main news and then as always, our take on daytime justice. Let's being here, shall we?

What a day; Edward Snowden booked on a night from Moscow to Cuba, but did the plane leave without him?

The international tug-of-war between the United States, China and Russia gets more complicated and mysterious by the minute.

Expletives fly in the courtroom on day one of the Trayvon Martin murder trial as prosecutors portray George Zimmerman as an angry murderer.

And how much heat can Paula Deen stand? The Food Network already kicked her out of the kitchen and QVC is hinting it could be next. Can her Southern cooking empire survive?

And we begin here in Sanford, Florida, a huge day where helicopters have been buzzing over the crowds outside the courthouse, while expletives have been flying around inside the courtroom.

That's where George Zimmerman has been watching as day one of his highly charged murder trial has been playing out. Taking you inside the center now with live pictures. That's George Zimmerman. Of course you'll know now, by now that he admits that he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year.

But his entire defense is it was self-defense. And this morning right out of the gate, the prosecution opened with a string of curse words they say were right out of Zimmerman's own mouth just minutes before the shooting. And the defense, believe it or not, decided to lead its opening statements with a knock-knock joke.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) punks. These (inaudible) always get away. Those were the words in that man's chest when he got out of his car, armed with a fully loaded semiautomatic pistol and two flashlights to follow on foot Trayvon Benjamin Martin, who was walking home from a 7-Eleven, armed with 23 ounces of Arizona brand fruit juice and a small bag of Skittles candies. DON WEST, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Knock-knock.

Who is there?

George Zimmerman.

George Zimmerman who?

All right. Good. You're on the jury.


BANFIELD: Wow. Interesting tactic.

George Howell is live in Sanford, Florida for us.

I think I'm taken a bit off guard. I don't think I've heard an opening statement made in that way. Give me a little bit more of a feel for how things have been playing out. This is a very important time. Cases can be made or lost in openings.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, and really interesting, wouldn't you agree, to compare these two attorneys and their styles.

We're looking at Don West, a slower, more deliberate, in fact leading the jury through these examples, leading through diagrams. We understand that his opening statements could take some two hours as he describes that night of February 26 from George Zimmerman's account of what happened.

But again, looking at that comparison to John Guy, it was forceful, it was jarring, it was very direct, the words that he said directly to that jury. And he also took time to pick apart George Zimmerman's account of what he says happened that night.

For instance, the statement that Zimmerman says Martin made, that, "You're going to die tonight," West -- rather, Guy says that that did not happen. No one heard it.

Also the claim that Zimmerman got on top of Trayvon Martin and spread his arms out, Guy says that that did not happen. In fact, he says that Martin's hands were under his chest. So he's taking time to really pick it apart.

BANFIELD: And that could very well be the prosecution's main plan here, is to go bit by bit, what this defendant said and how it may or may not match up with the evidence.

All right, George Howell, I know you're busy watching all of these developments unfold. So back at her; we'll continue to watch this, as well. George is in Sanford, Florida, for us.

But Anderson Cooper is also going to hold a very special program on the Zimmerman murder trial; it's at 10 o'clock Eastern tonight. So please don't miss it. It's a watershed case. The Supreme Court -- speaking of watershed cases -- handing a key affirmative action case back to the lower court. It was a case that was brought by a young woman who says that her application to the University of Texas at Austin was rejected because she is white.

Joe Johns joins me live now from the Supreme Court.

So everybody was waiting for a big decision as to whether this would be a massive blow to affirmative action or not. Joe, what exactly is it when it's just a bit of a punt?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. I think the "or not" part is relevant here right now. They pretty much decided to kick it back to the lower court and tell the lower court that you have to use the highest standard available to decide this case. That's called strict scrutiny.

So what the lower court now has to do is decide whether the Texas affirmative action plan is narrowly tailored to meet a compelling government interest. That is the definition of strict scrutiny. Bottom line here, Ashleigh, affirmative action remains the law of the land. However, there is more to be decided down the road.

BANFIELD: And, look, I think it's important for people to understand, this is a public university and this is essentially public policy. But a lot of things seem to flow out of that, as well. If you look at Title VI, a lot of those decisions affect private universities, as well.

So are the private universities watching closely to see if all of a sudden things will change in their banks, as well?

JOHNS: I think everybody is watching this. And I can tell you that public universities certainly were all preparing to try to pivot and deal with whatever decision might have come out of the court. Important also to say what the University of Texas program is at issue. They take the top 10 percent of all classes of all high schools in the state of Texas.

And after that, anybody else who gets admitted from Texas has to go through a formula where race is one of many factors used to determine whether you get in. So all of this has to be looked at again and we'll be hearing more on this, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: OK, Joe Johns with another busy day at the Supreme Court.

And by the way, busy, even though WE haven't heard yet from same-sex marriage decisions, two of them, also voting rights and the court has just decided to add another day because we're running out of days in June. And we've been waiting on these decisions all month long. So stay tuned to that.

And also the president of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, is going to join us in about 30 minutes from now to discuss a little bit more about what this decision or indecision, depending on how you look at it, what this means for affirmative action around the country. Meantime, I've got to move onto this. The government is really mad. Think you could say fit to be tied this morning.

President Obama and all those who have something to do with this man not the least bit pleased because Edward Snowden, the leaker of the secret U.S. surveillance programs, has really sort of put his thumb in the eye of this country, as have the countries who have been refusing Washington's request to hand him back over here, those countries being China and Hong Kong and Russia and Ecuador. Not one of them willing to help the United States get its guy back.

But the most pressing problem right now, apart from all of those pressing problem, we don't even know exactly where this man is. No, you can look at where the planes could be. We do know that he left Hong Kong. He had been holed up for several days there. We do know he flew to Moscow. He knew he was expected to be on a flight to Cuba which left Moscow a couple of hours ago.

But we are also told that he apparently did not board that plane. So it's assumed his final destination was going to be Quito, Ecuador. That's where he's requested asylum. And Ecuador's foreign minister said earlier this morning that a decision will be made in due time.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is following all of the details.

So, Brianna, the question I have for you -- and I'm not sure what the government is saying at this point, but is the White House more angry or more embarrassed at what's going on right now?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that right now there is a lot of frustration, but I also think that when you're talking about the issue of embarrassment, I think it's more that the administration stands to be at risk of kind of being ineffectual in this situation.

Right now you've seen from the administration, from the president's National Security Council, a very stern warning to both Hong Kong and China for allowing Snowden to leave, a warning that relations with the U.S. could be stressed here, and also pressure on a defiant Russia to act, to no avail, at least so far.

And what you're seeing now is, it seems, a concerted effort among administration officials to paint Snowden as sort of hypocritical, raising questions about his sort of self-described being a champion of Internet freedom and freedom of the press.

Here is the secretary of state a short time ago.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: I suppose there is no small irony here. I mean, I wonder if Mr. Snowden chose China and Russia as assistants in his flight from justice because they're such powerful bastions of Internet freedom.

And I wonder if while he was in either of those countries he raised the questions of Internet freedom, since that seems to be what he champions.


KEILAR: One of the big issues here -- and, Ashleigh, I think you touched upon it, is that the president is at risk of appearing ineffectual when it comes to dealing with these countries. When you look at it just in the last couple of weeks, he's met with both the presidents of China and Russia, stymied by China when it comes to cyber-security, by Russia when it comes to Syria, and now this. So this is certainly a big challenge for President Obama, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: And I'm sure the first thing they want to know is where he is. So we'll keep checking in with you. Brianna Keilar at the White House for us, thank you for that.

Big story as well today, Wall Street: what a rotten day. Good Monday morning to you, the Dow plunging by triple digits within minutes of the opening bell. Down about 186 right now on the Dow, but it was down and it passed, I don't know, below 250.

Alison Kosik joining us now.

Listen, I know that China has been a problem. I know that a big hit in China has reverberations.

But is that really what has caused what we're seeing here, or is it more about our personal problems here, the Fed backing out on stimulus?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's a little of both. So you're talking about China. What happened overnight was the People's Bank of China, that's the equivalent, Ashleigh, of our Federal Reserve, what it did was it told the country's biggest banks there to get it together, to stop handing out its loans so easily.

So that has really propped up these worries about the stability of China's financial system. That's putting investors on edge here.

And then putting on -- investors on edge about when the Fed, our own Federal Reserve, could pull back on the billions of dollars that it has been pumping into the economy each month.

How on edge are investors? I want to show you. I know this is a chart, it's not school, but this is interesting to look at. It's the volatility index known as the VIX. And what it does is it measures the fear in the market.

Look how much it's jumped over the past several days, 28 percent. That's a big deal. That's a big deal because after the Fed said that the gravy train may start to go away, investors started running for the exits.

Just to give you a perspective, to, at the height of the financial crisis, we saw that VIX number all the way up to 80. Right now it's at 20. But still, to see that jump shows just how much investors are spooked by what Fed chief Ben Bernanke said last week, Ashleigh. BANFIELD: Yes. And we should definitely not mistake that big spike for good things. It's a big spike of bad, is what that is, that --


KOSIK: Exactly.

BANFIELD: All right, Alison Kosik, keep an eye on things for us. Thank you for that.



BANFIELD (voice-over): Got big top stories that we're following for you now.

Nelson Mandela's condition has taken a turn for the worse. The 94- year-old former president of South Africa has been hospitalized for most of this month. But now he's listed in critical condition. Family members are keeping vigil by his hospital bed.

President Obama is planning a big push for immigration reform today ahead of the Senate's first vote on a border security amendment. The president is scheduled to meet with business leaders who have the -- who have immigrated to the United States. That'll be the -- at the White House, set for this afternoon. And then the Senate vote is expected to happen later this afternoon.

That amendment, by the way, would beef up the border security portion of the overall immigration reform proposal.

What a feat, Nik Wallenda back on solid ground. I get dizzy just watching this chopper shot of him crossing the Canyon. Holy moly. But he successfully did it, folks, he made it across a quarter-mile wide little teeny gorge. Yep. Wow. Look at that. Nothing to help him along the way. He was 1,500 feet up. And that cable is as small as it appears on TV, 2 inches wide. No safety harness, nothing to help him. Even at the moments the wind got him nervous, made him crouch down to get a better balance, yes, Nik Wallenda is part of the legendary high wire family. And, yes, it was him walking across Niagara Falls last year. Wow. Next stop, apparently Manhattan. That's a tough one.

Paula Deen on the hot seat. She lost her TV shows, but what else could she lose after revelations that she used a racial slur?

Plus police are getting familiar with the inside of Aaron Hernandez's home. The latest on the investigation of involving the NFL star coming up in just a moment.


BANFIELD: Over the past few years, it has been hard to miss celebrity chef Paula Deen. She's had several TV shows. She was on the cover of pretty much every cooking magazine that you walked by in the supermarket. Her cookware seemed to be in every single superstore that you walked through.

And now not so much. Now she's on TV for using racial slurs and it's all over the tabloids instead of all over the cooking magazines. Her empire seems to be crumbling thanks to the publication of a deposition that she made in an ongoing court battle that she's facing, a civil action with some former employees.

CNN's Pamela Brown is here with me. So I'm looking through the "USA Today," one of many papers that I source every day, and I see this headline which I think is really sort of rough. I don't know if you can see this. Hmm. "Experts: Paula Deen is done."

Is that fair, Pamela? Is she done? I mean, how bad is this going to get for her?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Honestly, Ashleigh, I think no matter who you talk to, everyone's going to have a different opinion. She's a very powerful woman. She's had a very successful career so far. She's weathered other storms in the past of bad publicity. So it's yet to be determined if she's going to be able to weather this.

That said, her products are sold at several chains, so there could be more fallout following the Food Network's decision that it would not be renewing Deen's contract. And now her supporters are dishing out plenty of criticism of that decision while others are applauding the Food Network.


DEEN: I want to apologize to everybody.

BROWN (voice-over): Paula Deen's fans are standing by the butter- loving chef and threatening to boycott The Food Network for sticking a fork in her shows.

DEEN: I'm going to wrap it in bacon, and we're going to deep fry it.

BROWN: At her Savannah restaurant, the line was around the block this weekend as patrons showed support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She has apologized. I think we'll all take it for what it's worth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a learning lesson for her and it's a learning lesson for people that do forgive. I will forgive her.

BROWN: Deen stirred up controversy for comments she made while being questioned under oath as part of a racial and sexual harassment lawsuit against her and her brother filed by a former employee.

DEEN: Please forgive me for the mistakes that I've made.

BROWN: Friday she issued back to back video apologies online after readily admitting to using the N-word in the past.

DEEN: Your color of your skin, your religion, your sexual preference does not matter to me. I am here to say, I am so sorry.

BROWN: Deen is also accused in the lawsuit of wanting to plan a southern plantation-themed party with black waiters. Just last year, Deen spoke at a "New York Times" event about race relations in the south, and her views on slavery.

DEEN: Black folks played such an integral part in our lives. They were like our family, and we didn't see ourselves as being prejudiced. I think we're all prejudiced against one something or another. And I think black people feel the same prejudice that white people feel.

BROWN: Shortly after her public apology, the Food Network said it was not renewing her contract, putting an end to her three shows.

The scandal has whipped up more than 13,000 comments on the Food Network's Facebook page. "Food Network, I'm firing you, goodbye," wrote one user.

Others applaud the Food Network's decision to dump Deen. "Great move, Food Network. It had to be done. Disrespectful slurs will not be tolerated."

And the fallout could continue. Listen to what QVC, which carries Deen's line of cookware, told CNN.

PAUL CAPELLI, VP CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS, QVC (via telephone): We're watching those developments closely and reviewing our business relationship with Miss Deen.


BROWN (on-camera): Wal-mart, which sells Deen's products, has not yet commented on the future of their relationship. Meantime, the case she's involved in is ongoing. And Deen released a statement thanking the Food Network for 11 great years. Like we said, this whole case involving her former employee, it's not over yet.

BANFIELD: And there are pages upon pages of deposition that I think, as they start to come out, may actually work in her favor. As I've been reading a few things, it's a bit surprising.

BROWN: It is. But it's interesting talking to analysts who say could this have been avoided if she had just settled? I mean, so many people have a strong opinion about this.

BANFIELD: No kidding. All right, well, keep on it. Let us know what happens. Pamela Brown, thank you for that.

I have something else I want to tell you about. Right now, not far from Boston, investigators are looking through a wooded area around the home of New England's Patriot player Aaron Hernandez. Now, the police already searched Hernandez's home and then again, over the weekend, left with bags of potential evidence. Police are investigating the death of a friend of his, whose body was found a half mile from his home in a wooded area. Hernandez has not been named as a suspect and no charges have been filed against him as of this newscast.

A family in tears and an absolute shock trying to come to terms with what happened to their little girl. And now wondering why a registered sex offender was able to get so close to them.


BANFIELD: One minute, he was offering to help a mother and a daughter, buying them clothes and food at Wal-Mart. And the next moment, he was handcuffed as the chief suspect in the little girl's murder.

It all seemed to happen so fast. Eight-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle disappeared from the store with that brand new family friend -- but a friend with a dark past. A registered sex offender who had just been sprung from prison three weeks ago. Within a day, Perrywinkle was found dead. The child's mother was so upset she could barely stand at a vigil last night.

The mother's fiance says the family is in total shock.


AHARON PEARSON, FIANCE OF CHERISH PERRYWINKLE'S MOTHER: Very, very hard to accept. Like I say, I've raised Cherish since she was 10 months old. I'm trying everything I can not to break down in front of everybody. At least we have some kind of closure. I mean, there's a lot of families out there that their child is missing and they haven't found them.


BANFIELD: Alina Machado now has more on this very disturbing case. Take a look.


ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Cherish Perriyinkle, a vibrant 8-year-old girl who liked to play dress up and loved to sing. On Sunday, it was her 5-year-old sister who sang for her in a vigil to honor Cherish's memory.

Hours earlier --

JUDGE: (INAUDIBLE) having been arrested and charged with kidnapping and murder.

MACHADO: Donald Smith appeared in court. The 56-year-old Florida man is a registered sex offender. Police say he first met Cherish and her mother at a Dollar General store Friday night.

MIKE WILLIAMS, DIRECTOR, JACKSONVILLE SHERIFF'S OFFICE: That man offered to take them to Wal-Mart and buy her family some clothes, that they appeared down on their luck and he could help them out.

MACHADO: After being inside the store for a couple of hours, police say Smith offered to buy the family hamburgers.

WILLIAMS: As he walked to the front of the store, he took our 8-year- old victim with him. They walked to the front of the Wal-Mart towards the McDonald's and did not stop at the McDonald's. They walked outside and got in his van and left.

MACHADO: Saturday morning police arrested Smith soon after Cherish's body was found in a wooded area near a Jacksonville church where this memorial for her continues to grow.

UNIDENTIFIED REPROTER: Anything you can tell us?

MACHADO: According to the Department of Corrections, Smith has a lengthy criminal record that includes crimes involving children. He was most recently convicted of impersonating a public employee and aggravated child abuse. Court records show he was sentenced to a year in county jail and was just released May 31.


MACHADO (on camera): Smith is being held without bond. He has pled not guilty to the kidnapping and murder charges. Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Alina Machado reporting, but so disturbing. Thank you for that.

Coming up, man in the hot seat. Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and the verdict in his sex for hire -- yes, former prime minister sex for hire trial. Verdict is in. Stay with us for the latest.