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Kidnapping Victims Speak Out; All Eyes on Barnes & Noble; Woman Tries to Hire Hit on Husband; Awaiting New Testimony in George Zimmerman Trial; Judge to Rule on Shooting Animation; Car Crashes into Gas Pump; Guardian Releases New Video of Snowden; Surviving Asiana Flight Number 214

Aired July 9, 2013 - 09:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: They are going through a discussion right now before the judge. The jurors have not yet come back into the courtroom on this -- in the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial. There you see Daniel Schumacher. He created an animation. The defense would like it to be admitted, showing what the defense says happened on that night when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. The prosecution, the state, doesn't want the animation released as evidence. The judge has to make a decision whether or not this animation, which is mostly, we're told, still photos of what the defense says happened when Trayvon Martin, they say, was on top of George Zimmerman, was beating him, and then George Zimmerman took out his gun and shot and killed Trayvon Martin in the heart.

We're monitoring this largely legal technical discussion that's going on before the judge. There you see Mark O'Mara, the criminal defense attorney for George Zimmerman. We'll go back there once we get word on this. Of course, once the jurors come back into the courtroom and the defense resumes calling witnesses, we'll have live coverage, so stand by for that.

But there's other news we're covering in the CNN NEWSROOM, as well. They were held captive for a decade and they finally got their freedom after a dramatic rescue two months ago and now they are breaking their silence. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michele Knight, they are speaking out in a newly posted Youtube video. CNN's Pamela Brown has been following the story for us from the very beginning. She was in Cleveland, she's joining us now and this is so emotional, Pamela, this video. I want you to explain to viewers who may just be getting up on the west coast who haven't seen this yet what is going on, because it is powerful.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So powerful, Wolf. As you mention, I have been in Cleveland several times over the past couple of months covering this story, learning about the horrific details of what these young women allegedly went through for more than ten years, and now to see them speaking out, seemingly doing well, is just incredible, Wolf. In this Youtube video, they talk about moving forward with their new lives, putting the past behind them, and they thank the public for giving them privacy. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: In a four-minute Youtube video, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michele Knight are speaking publicly for the first time to say simply, thanks.

AMANDA BERRY, KIDNAPPING VICTIM: I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal. Everyone who has been there to support us has been a blessing to have such an outpouring of love and kindness.

GINA DEJESUS, KIDNAPPING VICTIM: I would say, thank you for the support.

MICHELE KNIGHT, KIDNAPPING VICTIM: Thank you, everyone, for your love, support, and donations. Which help me build a brand new life.

BROWN: More than a million dollars has been donated to the Courage Fund to help the women heal after a decade of alleged abuse in captivity by Ariel Castro. Castro is charged with beating, raping, and starving them, even forcing the miscarriage of a baby he fathered, yet in the video made last week, the women seem upbeat, not bitter.

BERRY: I'm getting stronger each day and I'm having my privacy has helped immensely. I ask that everyone continues to respect our privacy and give us time to have a normal life.

KNIGHT: Be positive. Learn that it's important to give than to receive. Thank you for all your prayers.

BROWN: Michele Knight, held the longest, appeared to suffer the worst abuse. Here she hints at the pain of the ordeal and what she learned from it.

KNIGHT: I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation. I don't want to be consumed by hatred. With that being said, we need to take a leap of faith and know that God is in control.

BROWN: They were once known only as silent victims, now Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michele Knight want the world to know they have a voice and have reclaimed their lives.


BROEN: And, Wolf, the young women's attorney told me earlier, he reiterated this was their message delivered the way they wanted. There will likely be no more public announcements from these women any time soon, and again, they are continuing to ask the public for privacy so that they can continue to heal. Wolf?

BLITZER: They are making it clear, Pamela, they are not going to be sitting down for one-on-one interviews or anything of that nature. They just wanted to get this out on Youtube, thank everyone for all their support, all their help, and now get back to their private lives, is that right? BROWN: That's right, yes, that's right. This is really their way of just saying thank you. As their attorney told me earlier today, they really just wanted to say thank you, as we mention in the story, more than a million dollars has been raised for the courage fund. That will be split up in four separate trusts for the victims, the three young women, and the little girl. And 9,200 donations, apparently, have gone into that courage fund, according to the website, I looked at that earlier this morning. You know, this is really a way for these young women to speak out and also to show they are taking control of their new lives and just moving forward.

BLITZER: Very powerful video. Let's hope these three -- these three women can create new lives for them after the horror that they've gone through over the past decade. Pamela, thanks very much.

Signs are pointing to a fourth straight day of gains in the markets with the numbers nearing record highs. Alison Kosik is joining us now from the New York stock exchange. What's fueling this latest surge, Alison?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You look at the past couple of months, Wolf, and it's really been one of those times you've seen stocks really all over the map. Look at the Dow, it's now less than 200 points away from the record high that it hit in May. That record high was 15,409.

The major averages are taking their cues this morning from world markets. We saw gains in both Europe and Asia overnight, so investors are hoping for a decent corporate earnings season, as well. Aluminum giant Alcoa kicking off earnings season -- second quarter earnings season after the closing bell last night, the company edged past expectations in the second quarter, helping to add to the positive sentiment that we are seeing this morning.

Wolf, there is one stock we are keeping an eye on today, that's Barnes &Noble. Shares right now are up about 3.5 percent after falling more than 4 percent after the close yesterday. The book seller said last night that CEO William Lynch has resigned and the company basically is the last brick and mortar book store out there, but its biggest problem at this point has been its Nook e-reader. It's had a hard time competing with Amazon's Kindle and Apple's iPad. Even when people do go out there and buy physical books, they are buying them for cheaper online than in stores. In the latest quarter, Barnes & Noble lost almost $120 million. It says it has no immediate plans to name a new CEO, but investors look to be cheering their latest decision, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yeah, there are still a whole bunch of those little independent bookstores all over the country that all of us grew up with, all of us love, but they are struggling right now.

KOSIK: They really are struggling.

BLITZER: It's too bad that's the nature of the business. Stuff changes, but my heart goes out to them, because I still love going to those little bookstores and seeing what's on those shelves. Alison, you'll continue to monitor the markets for us, thanks very much.

We're waiting for testimony to begin once again in the George Zimmerman murder trial. Right now, they are going through whether or not there should be an animation, computerized animation released as evidence. The jurors are not in the courtroom. The judge will make a decision, we assume, soon. There's Mark O'Mara, the criminal defense attorney, who wants this animation released. The prosecution doesn't. We'll monitor that. We'll take a quick break, we'll be right back.


BLITZER: Once again, we're standing by for the trial, the second- degree murder trial of George Zimmerman to resume. The jurors have not yet returned to the courtroom. They are having a debate right now between the prosecution and the defense over this guy, this is Daniel Schumacher. He created an animation, the defense would like it to be released as evidence.

It shows the defense version of what happened on that night when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. The judge will have to make a decision whether this animation, this computerized animation, which Mark O'Mara says is largely some still photos animated still photos, if you will, whether or not this will be released as evidence. We'll monitor that. Once the jurors come back, we'll have live coverage of the witnesses that the defense will call on this day. Stand by for that.

In the meantime, we're checking some other news that's happening right now, including this amazing story. A young Michigan woman pleading guilty to trying to have her husband killed and why did she want him dead? It was easier than getting a divorce. That's what she told a hitman, who turned out to be an undercover police officer. All was captured by a surveillance camera. Here's CNN's Poppy Harlow.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The woman in the Batman sweatshirt is no super hero. According to prosecutors, she thinks she's hired a hit man to kill her husband.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to take him head on there, and I'm going to shoot him right in the face.

HARLOW: But the hitman, he's actually an undercover Michigan state police detective, and according to this surveillance tape released by prosecutors, he's meeting with 21-year-old Julia Merfeld.

JULIA MERFELD, HIRED HITMANT TO KILL HUSBAND: Terrible as it sounds, it's easier than divorcing him, you know I don't have to worry about the judgment of my family, I didn't have to worry about breaking his heart.

HARLOW: Instead of breaking his heart, she plans to hire someone to shoot him and make it look like a robbery. She even giggles as she tells the undercover officer she prefer the hit to take place outside.

MERFELD: Because it would be messy in the house. I could always have him clean out my car, my van's a mess.

HARLOW: In this meeting with the undercover detective, she seems to question the plan.

MERFELD: Is this a bad idea for me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, I'm willing to do it, you know, whatever your reasons are, I don't really care. You know, I just want the money.

HARLOW: Police reportedly set up the sting after they were tipped off by Merfeld's coworker, Carols Ramos, who says he went to authorities after she first tried to get him to carry out her plot.

CARLOS RAMOS, FORMER COWORKER: And when she brought it up about what she wanted done, she was laughing, so I figured she was just joking. The more she got into detail about how she wanted it done, where she wanted it done, then I went to the authorities and said this is what's going on.

HARLOW: In the video, she said she planned to pay the hitman thousands of dollars, money that would come from her husband's life insurance policy.


MERFELD: Thank you.


MERFELD: Thank you, good luck to you, too.


BLITZER: Julia Merfeld pleaded guilty last month to solicitation to of murder. She's scheduled to be sentenced July 30th. The judge reportedly says Merfeld could serve a minimum six years and a maximum of life in prison. We'll let you know what happens on that story.

Once again, we're waiting for testimony to begin in the George Zimmerman murder trial. There you see Mark O'Mara. He is arguing that a computerized animation should be released as evidence in this trial. The jurors are not in the courtroom right now. Judge Debra Nelson is hearing the arguments between both sides. We'll be right back with more coverage.


BLITZER: A major legal discussion under way, a lot of technical issues before Judge Debra Nelson right now. There's Daniel Schumaker, he's making the case for this computerized animation that he created of what happened when Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman.

These are largely still photos that the defense wants released as evidence. The jurors are not hearing this discussion they are not in the courtroom right now. That was Mark O'Mara, the criminal defense attorney. They are making a pitch to the judge, release this animation. The prosecution, the state, doesn't want it released.

Soon we'll find out, we assume, from Judge Nelson, whether or not she will admit this animation as evidence. And then after that, the jurors will come into the courtroom, we're told, and the defense will resume calling witnesses. We'll have live coverage of all of this under way.

You remember last night at the very end after the -- the jurors were dismissed, Judge Debra Nelson did allow the toxicology report, which showed that Trayvon Martin had some marijuana earlier in the day to be admitted as evidence. We assume that witnesses will be called to discuss that at some point, as well, maybe as early as today.

So stand by, we'll have live coverage. That's coming up.

And let's check some other news happening in the CNN NEWSROOM right now.

Americans are getting better apparently at paying their bills, according to a new American Bankers Association report. Delinquencies on bank issued credit cards have dropped below 2.5 percent, that's the lowest level since 1990. Experts say rising stock prices and a better jobs picture played a big role in that drop.

In weather, tropical storm Chantal may be racing towards Florida. With 50 mile an hour winds right now, the tropical storm is expected to pass over Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti in the coming days. It's not exactly clear where it will go next, but people in the south eastern port of the United States from Florida, up the coast they are being urged to start paying attention.

A Massachusetts judge has ordered papers about evidence collected in Aaron Hernandez's home to be publicly released later this afternoon. Attorneys for the former New England Patriots tight end can appeal the ruling. Patriots owner Robert Kraft is speaking to reporters now for the first time since Hernandez was charged with murder. "We decided" -- it was already said, "We decided the week prior to Aaron's arrest that if Aaron was arrested in connection with the Lloyd murder case that we would cut him immediately after." Kraft also says, "If this stuff is true, then I've been duped and our whole organization has been duped."

We have a warning about some terrifying video you are about to see. Fire engulfs a man after an accident at a gas station. And he survived. CNN's Michaela Pereira has the story.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It is not a scene from this summer's blockbuster action flick. This explosion at an Exxon gas station was captured on the Fourth of July by a surveillance camera in Clarksville, Tennessee. Look again as the driver enters oncoming traffic, careening through a gas pump, taking it out, and setting a man on fire.

MAGGIE LAWRENCE, ASSISTANT FIRE MARSHAL, METRO FIRE DEPARMENT: You can see him rolling back and forth, which is what we teach not only children to do, but adults to do as well.

PEREIRA: Here he is right before the crash, walking with another man. When the car comes barreling towards the two of them, there's no time for Porter to react before the explosion engulfs him in flames.

But fire officials say it was his stop, drop, and roll technique that saved his life.

LAWRENCE: He did everything properly. I was very pleased to see that he did not panic and run, because if he had panicked and ran, it would have fed the fire. He would have been burned, I'm sure, a whole lot worse than what he was.

PEREIRA: Porter is in critical but stable condition, suffering from burns on 40 percent of his body. According to Clarksville police, the man behind the wheel says he blacked out and the crash reports indicate there was no evidence of drugs or alcohol at the scene of the accident.


BLITZER: Michaela Pereira reporting. What a story that is. The driver, by the way, was not injured in that crash, and although the crash reports indicate no evidence of drugs or alcohol, a blood test is still pending.

All right, so we're still waiting for testimony to resume in the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial. We'll take a quick break. We're watching what's going on. Stay with us.


BLITZER: All right. So once again, the jurors have not yet come back into the courtroom, but they will, we assume, fairly soon. The judge is hearing pros and cons right now, whether an animation, a computerized animation of what happened between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman should be released as evidence.

George Zimmerman's lawyer, Mark O'Mara, you see him on the left, he's making the case for this animation to be released. He's got the witness, that's Daniel Schumaker, who created the animation, making the points on where -- where all the information came that resulted in this animation, which is largely a whole bunch of still photos, created, re-created, if you will, of the encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.

They're going back and forth on this, so we'll hear what the judge decides, we assume, fairly soon. Then the jurors will come back in and witnesses will be called.

Once again, defense witnesses. The state has already made its case. We'll see what the defense has in store for today. We expect some dramatic, important testimony, but we'll soon find out.

Meanwhile, there's some other news we're following, including Edward Snowden. He's still a man without a country. He's living in a Moscow airport, but now the NSA leaker appears to have several options. Venezuela and Bolivia are both offering him asylum. The British newspaper, "The Guardian," meanwhile, posted new video of an interview it conducted with Snowden on June 6th. So let's listen in. This was not earlier released.


EDWARD SNOWDEN, NSA LEAKER: I think the government's going to, to launch an investigation. I think they're going to say I've committed grave crimes. I've, you know, violated the Espionage Act. They're going to say, you know, I've aided our enemies in -- in making them aware of these systems, but that -- that argument can be made against anybody who -- who reveals information that that points out mass surveillance systems. Because fundamentally, they apply equally to ourselves as they do to our enemies.


BLITZER: Snowden remains in limbo, now more than two weeks after arriving at Moscow's international airport from Hong Kong.

We're also hearing more from survivors of Asiana flight 214, including a family of five and their desperate scramble to get out alive.

CNN's Sara Sidner has this exclusive report.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God. Oh, it's an accident.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The chaos of a plane crash, the sudden impact, the spinning, the dust, the fire, and then, the desperate scramble to stay alive.

ESTHER JANG, PLANE CRASH SURVIVOR: There was no warning or anything. It was just -- it just happened.

SIDNER: 15-year-old Esther, 13-year-old Joseph, 11-year-old Sarah Jane and their parents were all inside that plane, returning from a family vacation.

E. JANG: It was like, we were all bouncing all over the place. I just remember there being dust everywhere and I was freaking out and then it just stopped.

SIDNER: At first, the Jang siblings weren't even sure they had survived the crash.

JOSEPH JANG, PLANE CRASH SURVIVOR: I was also calling out for my parents and I was -- well, I couldn't breathe for like -- because I got the wind knocked out of me. So I couldn't breathe for a couple of seconds.

E. JANG: So after everything stopped and then I realized I was alive, and I looked over, and I saw my brother and sister. They were both fine. And then I looked over at my mom and my dad, and they were both on the floor, because their seats fell down. And then I called their names out, and they both, like, moaned kind of.

SIDNER: All five of them were hurt. The Jang family was sitting in the back of the plane when the tail hit the seawall. Their heads snapped forward, luggage fell, and seats buckled, making it challenging for them to escape quickly.

SARAH JANE JANG, PLANE CRASH SURVIVOR: Well, since the chairs fell on us, it was hard to get out.

E. JANG: Someone helped us out, and then my brother and sister both went out an exit on my right, and then I realized that I was limping, so I -- and their exit did not have a slide, so a flight attendant brought me to another exit, which had a slide, which was on the opposite side of the plane.

SIDNER: The entire Jang family eventually made it out alive.

J. JANG: When we all were reunited, like, my family and I, I was really glad, so I started crying.

SIDNER: The Jangs set out for a memorable trip, the first time the children were going to South Korea, for a glimpse of their heritage. But on the way home, they ended up learning a frightening lesson of survival.

Sara Sidner, CNN, San Francisco.


BLITZER: What an amazing story that is. Sara, thank you so much for putting it all together for us.

Once again, we're awaiting testimony to begin in the George Zimmerman murder trial. They're going through a back and forth now on whether or not an animation should be released as evidence. We'll continue our coverage in a minute.