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George Zimmerman Team: Resting Their Case; Asiana Plane Crash Investigation; Accused Bomber in Court; US Jets to Egypt; Snowden Desperately Seeking Asylum

Aired July 11, 2013 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Closing arguments begin today in the Trayvon Martin murder trial. What prosecutors now want from the judge to increase their chances of convicting George Zimmerman.


911 CALLER: We're almost losing a woman here. We're trying to keep her alive.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Calls for help. The first time we hear the desperate 911 calls from passengers after their jet crashed in San Francisco.

ROMANS: Rescues on a track. Cameras catching the moment a man tumbles onto the subway tracks and the man who risks his life to save him. Whoa!

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

ROMANS: And Christine Romans. It's Thursday, July 11th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: We're going to start with what might be the final chapter, one of the most watch cases in years. It really does all come down to this.

Today, prosecutors in the George Zimmerman trial will make their final arguments to the jury about why he should be found guilty of murder for killing unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. In a huge trial with huge drama already, what happens in a few hours could make or break this case.

Meanwhile, George Howell reports the defense rested without the jury hearing from the defendant.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George Zimmerman answered the question on everyone's mind. Would he testify?

JUDGE DEBRA NELSON, SEMINOLE COUNTY, FL: Have you made a decision as to whether or not you want to testify at this time.


DON WEST, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I object to the court acquiring of Mr. Zimmerman as to his decision about whether or not to testify --

NELSON: Your objection is overruled.

HOWELL: But after a tense exchange between Judge Debra Nelson and Zimmerman's lawyers, he made his choice.

G. ZIMMERMAN: After consulting with counsel, not to testify, your honor.

HOWELL: There was also proof in court Wednesday, you can learn a lot from a dummy. During one of the most surreal moments in court, both sides straddled a foam dummy in attempts to illustrate the conflicting arguments as to what happened the night Trayvon Martin was killed.

Prosecuting attorney John Guy argued that it would have been difficult for Zimmerman to shoot at a 90-degree angle had Trayvon Martin been shot on top, as presented by the defense.

JOHN GUY, PROSECUTOR: Would it be consistent to 90 degrees if Trayvon Martin had been backing up and the defendant raised his gun and shot at 90 degrees?

HOWELL: Then, defense attorney Mark O'Mara grabbed the dummy to support his arguments.

MARK O'MARA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Will the injuries on Mr. Zimmerman's back of his head consistent with someone doing this?

HOWELL: And on the final day of testimony, George Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman, returned to the stand to address the screams heard on the 911 tape.


O'MARA: Is that an opinion you still have through today?

R. ZIMMERMAN: Certainly.

HOWELL: In another important ruling today, Judge Debra Nelson will decide whether or not to grant the prosecution's request to apply lesser charges of manslaughter and aggravated assault.

O'MARA: Self-defense is self-defense to everything. There shouldn't be a second degree murder charge and there shouldn't be any lessers.

HOWELL: George Howell, CNN, Sanford, Florida.


ROMANS: We are learning more about the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 final moments in the air and the chaotic scene on the ground. This morning, we are hearing for the very first time, the dramatic 911 calls from witnesses and from passengers on that plane immediately after it crashed at San Francisco International Airport, killing two passengers.

We get more now from CNN's Miguel Marquez.


911 CALLER: We just got in a plane crash and there are a lot of people that need help.

911 CALLER: We have people over here who weren't found and they are burned really badly.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A chilling description of the traumatic scene as passengers escaped the burning aircraft in a desperate plea for emergency medical assistance.

911 CALLER: We have been on the ground, I don't know, 20 minutes, or a half hour. There are people laying on the tarmac with critical injuries, head injuries. We're almost losing a woman here. We're trying to keep her alive.

MARQUEZ: And overnight, a somber moment on an airport runway, family members of the two girl who died and others who are injured on Asiana flight 214 visit the crash scene.

And for the first time, six members of the Asiana flight crew make a stand of solidarity. With six of their colleagues still in the hospital, emotion and anguish is written in their faces.

"We are putting in our best effort," she says, "to recover from this accident."

Many crediting the heroic actions of the flight crew for saving so many lives. Investigators now say three flight attendants were ejected from the plane, still in their seats. A fourth injured by an emergency slide that deployed inside the cabin. They also pulled out extinguishers and fought fires as passengers escaped.

Investigators now say it took a minute and a half for the evacuation to begin. This, as we are learning more about the investigation itself. NTSB saying two and a half minutes before impact, there were several changes to auto pilot and auto throttle modes. But still not clear whether the pilots themselves were making those changes.

The pilot of the aircraft also told investigators at 500 feet he was temporarily blinded by a light.

DEBORAH HERSMAN, NTSB CHAIRWOMAN: He talked to us about the approach and landing. He relayed that to us, but it was a temporary issue.

MARQUEZ: Airport and airline officials eager to get back to full operations as arrangements are made to move the charred remains of flight 214. Miguel Marquez, CNN, San Francisco.


BERMAN: Five minutes after the hour right now.

And witnesses say he smirked. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston marathon bomber, was in a Boston court Wednesday for his arraignment, dressed in an orange jail jump suit, with long hair and his arm in a cast. He pleaded not guilty to 30 charges against him, including killing four people and using a weapon of mass destruction.

Attack survivors and family members were in the court. And at least one said that Tsarnaev showed no remorse, smirking, when he turned around to look at the crowd.

ROMANS: They admit that he did it. The lawyers for accused Colorado movie theater shooter, James Holmes, now say in a court filing that Holmes did kill 12 people and wounded dozens more in Aurora, Colorado, theater last July. But they argue he should not be found guilty because he was in the throes of a psychotic episode caused by severe mental illness.

BERMAN: In Egypt now, the military is tightening its grip on the Muslim Brotherhood, ordering the arrest of its leader and nine others, as the Brotherhood pushes for the reinstatement of deposed President Mohamed Morsy. At least five other top officials have already been arrested. The military is blaming the Muslim Brotherhood for Monday's shooting outside republican guard headquarters that left 50 dead and hundreds injured.

ROMANS: Meantime, the U.S. shows no signs of cutting back its aid to Egypt in light of the coup. Pentagon officials tell "Reuters" they still plan to deliver four F-16 fighter jets to the Egyptian military in the coming weeks. The Obama administration has not called Morsy's removal a coup, meaning it doesn't have to halt aid to Egypt. And White House spokesman Jay Carney says they don't want to make hasty changes to USAID programs.

BERMAN: A Saudi princess is now a suspect on what prosecutors there in Los Angeles are calling a case of human trafficking. Authorities say Meshael Alayban, the wife of a Saudi prince, forced a Kenyan woman to work as her servant at her Irvine, California, home, 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for just $220 a month. The woman was apparently stripped of her passport, forced to move from Saudi Arabia to this country and not allowed to leave. An arraignment is set for today and police are investigating whether other women apparently found at the home were also being held against their will.

ROMANS: Some American service members may soon be getting a little less pay. The Pentagon reportedly considering cutting so-called "danger pay" in some areas, like for soldiers on the ground in Kuwait, and sailors passing through the Persian Gulf. The move would save about $120 million a year. Pentagon official tells "The Associated Press" some areas once considered dangerous simply aren't anymore. But Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots, those are still on the dangerous list.

BERMAN: We have lots of severe weather to tell you about. Check this out. This was a frightening scene in Colorado.


BERMAN: That is crazy.

Rock and mudslides trapping dozens of cars, sweeping others away. That's in the road in the town of Manitou Springs, just west of Colorado Springs. That is amazing.

These flash floods were triggered by more than half inch of rain falling just 10 minutes in the upper part of that canyon.

ROMANS: Oh, and Colorado needs rain, but not that fast.

Heavy damage from storms in Ohio, people in the suburbs of Columbus believing it was a tornado that blew through winds powerful enough to punch holes in some buildings and tear the roofs off others.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looked like a big bolt of lightning. But it just came out and went like that. And I've seen the whole roof just pull up through everything this way.


ROMANS: Thankfully, no storm-related injuries were reported.

BERMAN: So, Pittsburgh looks more like a lake this morning than a city. Flash floods swamped several of the main roads there. Three inches of rain fell in the area on Wednesday. Pittsburgh public safety officials are warning drivers to totally avoid certain parts of the city because of the high water.

ROMANS: I know, wow.

Major clean up also in parts of Indiana this morning after damage from a series of powerful storms. The storms caused significant property damage in central Indiana. Thousands of residents this morning are going wake up without power.

BERMAN: It goes on and on and on. What on earth is the deal here? Chad Myers?

ROMANS: Explain yourself.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And hundreds of miles long. We showed you a couple cities. But this weather was a big bulldozer, all the way from State College, all the way down into West Virginia, Cleveland, Columbus, back into Indianapolis, all of you in it last night. Now, it's dying off. That's the good news.

But not really that good news, because now that it's dying off, the sun is going to come out. When the sun comes out, the Northeast, when there's so much humidity in the air, we are going get more severe weather later on this afternoon. That's some weather closer to Atlanta earlier today. Now, that is all gone. I think we'll see some airport delays out of Atlanta this morning.

Cooler and less humid later on today. A cool front comes through. I'm leaving the city, so therefore, now, it's going to get nice. Temperatures into the 80s all weekend.

Heavy rains, storms across the Southeast, more flooding there. And still, that monsoonal rain out West, more of those type of mud and mud slides and a flash flooding out there in the West again today. That's great news in some areas, because like you said, they need the rain but you don't need in one minute, you know? Spread it out like a couple of hours, right?

ROMANS: When it's so dry, right, when it's so dry, and you get the rain fast it makes it worse.

MYERS: Plus, we have the burn areas that don't have any roots now holding that mud in. And when that happens, that mud just flow because the roots and the trees are now all gone.

BERMAN: They saw in Colorado. I have never seen pictures like that with the mud slide right by that canyon there. All right. Chad, appreciate it.

ROMANS: Thanks, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Some dramatic pictures to show you this morning from Washington, D.C. subway system. Check this out.

That man in a wheelchair, he was rolling forward. We had a closer look at the sign when he went over the edge at the tracks. It happened in one of D.C.'s busiest stations. I believe it was Metro Center. And with the man inches from the electrified third rail and a train likely to arrive in just moments, an Army specialist jumped to his aid.


SPC. MICHAEL MENCHACA, GOOD SAMARITAN: I jumped down there. I started helping him out, started pulling -- trying to pick him up. And I realized he still both strapped to his wheelchair. Every second felt like 30 seconds.


BERMAN: You see two other people helped out, too, lifting the wheelchair out of the tracks. The man in the wheelchair is recovering. The soldier says he is not a hero, he just did the right thing.

You know, that's wonderful. Three people jumping in to do the right thing with danger on the way there.


BERMAN: That's great.

ROMANS: That's great.

All right. Coming up, the man who told the world about the government's secret surveillance program. There he is. He may soon have a new home. But will Edward Snowden be able to get there without being arrested in the meantime?

BERMAN: And a new warming about diet soda. It might not be -- not be -- the healthy alternative.


ROMANS: Stunning pictures from southwestern China where raging waters are eating through buildings. The death toll in the Sichuan region is now at least nine. Sixty people, more than 60 people, John, are missing. Since Monday night, this region has been hit by nearly two feet of rain.

BERMAN: Look at the force. It's crazy.

All right. NSA leaker Edward Snowden has been holed up in a Moscow airport for more that two weeks now. And while it appears that Venezuela is the most likely landing spot for the asylum seeker, the big question right now is, how will Snowden, who is wanted here in the U.S., get to Latin America without being intercepted?

CNN's Phil Black live in Moscow for us with the latest.

Good morning, Phil.


Edward Snowden has no easy options for getting to Venezuela that will guarantee his continued freedom. We saw recently that flying the direct route across Europe and the Atlantic is not an option because European countries stopped the Bolivian president's plane, just on the suspicion that Snowden was onboard. So, he can't go that way.

That really just leaves a journey to the south and west, through the Middle East, across Africa. But that is highly problematic because he'll have to jump from country to country again trying to avoid U.S. allies, countries that maybe prepared to help the United States to get Edward Snowden back.

The only real guaranteed option that does not cross in to the sovereign air space of any other country is a long route, via the Arctic and the Atlantic, around 6,800 miles, mostly over an ocean, on one tank of fuel -- very difficult. Now, assuming that he doesn't have access to an aircraft that can perform that sort of trip, then his options become very limited, very quickly. And at the moment, Venezuela had not shown a willingness to send an aircraft or money that would allow Snowden to escape Moscow using any of these various options before him.

Back to you, John.

BERMAN: You can come here, we're just not going help you get here.

Phil Black in Moscow for us this morning, great to see, Phil. Thanks very much.

ROMANS: WikiLeaks is helping Snowden. And if the court martial for the army private who gave that site hundreds of thousands of classified documents, the defense has now rested. Bradley Manning is facing 21 charges against him, including aiding an enemy. He admits he did turn those documents over, but says he only was doing it to expose wrongdoing. The trial will resume Monday with prosecutors calling rebuttal witnesses.

BERMAN: A forensic anthropologist is the latest to testify in the murder and racketing trial of reputed Boston mob boss, James "Whitey" Bulger. Ann Marie Mires told jurors that three bodies found 13 years ago were those of people Bulger is accused of killing. Two of them have been shot in the head. A former Bulger confidant has already testified that he saw Bulger pulled the trigger.

ROMANS: In Newtown, Connecticut, today, a public meeting to deal with funds meant for families impacted by a tragic shooting there. The Newtown Sandy Hook Community Foundation has nearly $8 million in its coffers but it's still trying to figure out how to give the money to people affected by the killings of Sandy Hook Elementary. Members of the community have complained the process so far has been unfair to the families of those victims.

BERMAN: Crews in Arizona can finally put the deadly Yarnell Hill Fire behind them. Overnight, they reach 100 percent contained. Nineteen members of an elite Hotshot team from Prescott, Arizona, died battling that blaze. It's the biggest lost of life for firefighters since 9/11. The Yarnell Hill fire was started by a lightning strike and eventually grew some 8,400 acres.

ROMANS: All right. Think diet soda is better for you than the regular stuff? Think again. Perdue University researchers say they were shocked to discover people who drink diet soda don't seem to lose weight and have the same risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease as people who drink regular soda. The culprit is not clear, but possible, the body that treats artificial sweeteners the same as sugar and corn syrup. And those who drink diet soda think it allows them to overindulge in other foods.

The beverage industry dismisses the result as opinion from Purdue University researchers, not science, calling low calorie sweeteners safe and effective weight loss tools.

BERMAN: That's why I stick to milk shakes, you know? At least I know what I'm getting there, right? ROMANS: It's true.

You know, water is free. It has zero calories. You hear diet experts all the time say and financial experts frankly say, you know, water is free.

BERMAN: Coffee, water and milk shakes.

Coming up here: is the housing market on a rebound? New numbers show that fewer Americans are losing their homes to foreclosure.

ROMANS: It's a really good number, guys.


ROMANS: Good morning, New York.

BERMAN: Great morning in New York City.

Chad Myers assures us we are going have some very nice weather here over the coming days. A great (INAUDIBLE) to Chad for that.

ROMANS: Get up. Time to make the donuts, everybody.

Welcome back to EARLY START. It's money time.

A strong start for stock futures this morning after a mixed day at Wall Start. Dow, NASDAQ, S&P futures all sharply higher. Look at that, 1 percent. That's a good indication of a lift of the market opens about three hours, four hours, actually.

Look, a lift coming from a speech last night from the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke. He said he expects interest rates to remain low for a very long time. That stimulus probably going to continue at least for now.

Here is a hot headline for you. Yes, foreclosures. Actually, foreclosures have cooled. There you go.

They have fallen to pre-housing crisis levels. That's right. Housing foreclosures fell 14 percent since May. Housing foreclosures are down 35 percent from a year ago. The five states with the highest percentage of foreclosure filings last month, no surprise -- Florida, Nevada, Illinois, Ohio and Georgia. Same culprits.

But look, they are down sharply. And the experts are saying the national crisis in foreclosures appears to be over.

BERMAN: Good riddance.

ROMANS: Yes. Well, I mean, some people are still getting foreclosed on. But when you look at the numbers pre-housing bust levels.

All right. The parent company of KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut had another rough quarter in China. Yum Brands, that's the company, net income fell 15 percent from the same period a year ago. Sales in China down 20 percent.

China is very important for KFC. The company is still trying to overcome fallout from antibiotics and hormones allegedly found in chicken there which consumers did not like. So, Yum Brands, watch that stock today.

And if you are looking for Iowa sweet corn with your chicken this weekend, you may have to wait because of the wet weather. The crops have been cut. Remember last year, I was out in Iowa to cover a drought.

BERMAN: There you are, in fact.

ROMANS: A drought. And that's not sweet corn.

But look, Iowa farmers are having another tough growing season, this one because it's too wet. Look at that corn crop. So, we went from that last year, to now it's too wet. Too wet. At least now the sweet corn crop has been delayed.

BERMAN: Are you from Iowa?

ROMANS: In fact, indeed, I'm from Iowa. I am.

BERMAN: You never talk about it.

ROMANS: You know, I plan my summer vacation home to Iowa, around the sweet corn season on purpose.

BERMAN: Very good. Hawkeye.

All right. Twenty-five minutes after the hour.

ROMANS: Cyclones actually. But I'm (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: Coming up, a tragic story developing out of California we have to tell you about. A missing autistic boy found buried in a shallow grave. A family member arrested. This really is awful. The story is coming up.


ROMANS: Tornadoes, floods, mud slides -- severe storms slamming communities across the country. Is there relief in sight?

BERMAN: A missing child found, killed, buried in a shallow grave. Why a family member is now behind bars.

ROMANS: And terrifying moments for a Michigan mother when a driver plows into her child and takes off. All of this caught on camera.

BERMAN: That is unbelievable.

All right. Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's about 30 minutes past the hour this morning.

BERMAN: There's been some severe weather all over the country overnight and the cleanup is now underway.

We're going to start with amazing and frightening pictures that we want to show here, from Colorado where heavy rain and thunderstorms triggered rock and mud slides in the town of Manitou Springs. You can see the cars there just being swept away by the intense rushing mud and the waters from the flash floods there.

ROMANS: Severe storms spawning a tornado in Pennsylvania. Video capturing this funnel cloud as the twister touched down in the town of New Beaver. That's in western Pennsylvania, not far from Pittsburgh.

Heavy rain there -- wow, those pictures -- heavy rain from thunderstorms left parts of that city under water, leading public safety officials to warn drivers to totally avoid certain areas. Don't drive through water like that, right, Chad Myers?

BERMAN: And severe damage reported in several counties in central and northern Indiana as slow-moving storms there raked parts of the state.