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Obamacare Hearing Set To Begin; Colder Weather Moves East; Mystery, Grief After Beloved Teacher Killed; Obama: NSA Not Spying On Merkel; "Unsafe For Flight"; Madoff Case Coming Back To Haunt JPMorgan; YouTube Confessor Sentenced; HIV Baby May Be Cured: Kennedy Cousin Could Be Freed

Aired October 24, 2013 - 06:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, October 24th, six o'clock in the east. A lot going on this morning, including the mystery in Massachusetts. Why did a 14-year- old student kill a popular young teacher? We have new video this morning of that teacher and new information on the investigation.

The entire city of Boston rocked by the turn of events here, even a moment of silence at last night's World Series game.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, a powerful interview in our next hour, the story of Matthew Cordle in an online video confession he admitted to killing a man while driving drunk. And in a jailhouse interview, Cordle is talking to us on the first day of his 6 1/2-year sentence. Does he regret his confession? Does he feel his sentence is fair? All of that is coming up.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And finally, we have to show you this picture. It is not Photoshop. It is a real play during a college football game. Notre Dame running back's helmet gets knocked off. It's not hard to see why this picture is going viral. He's been called the ridiculously photogenic football player. I believe the words "smoldering eyes" may have been used on Twitter. You have to read the Twitter comments. More on him coming up.

CUOMO: If you watch the rest of the hit it may have been shock by the way.

First up this morning, we want to talk about the Capitol Hill hot seat. Today the private contractors who built the botched Obamacare web site will answer tough questions from Congress. But before members can fire off the first question we already know the answer. Don't blame us.

Let's bring in Jim Acosta. He's live at the White House. Jim, the hearing is already making headlines because of who won't be showing up, right?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius won't be at today's hearing on Capitol Hill, instead, it will be the private contractors that helped build the Obamacare website that will be on the hot seat as you just mentioned. Meanwhile, according to an insurance industry insider, some of the nation's top health insurers knew about the site's technical issues before they emerged, but that officials at the Department of Health of Human Services failed to tell the White House the full scope of the problems.


ACOSTA (voice-over): With the Obamacare finger pointing shifting into high gear, the private contractors that built the troubled website are already saying don't blame us. Still, they're offering conflicting stories of what went wrong and prepare testimony before today's hearing at the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

While one executive is expected to say the site passed eight required technical reviews prior to going live on October 1st, another contractor says a late decision requiring consumers to register for an account before they could browse for insurance products is behind some of the problems. Not only do House Republicans want answers --

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: It's our job to hold them accountable. When it comes to Obamacare, clearly there's an awful lot that has to be held accountable.

ACOSTA: Some of President Obama's fellow Democrats want heads to roll.

SENATOR BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: It's inexcusable. Somebody ought to get fired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kathleen Sebelius?

NELSON: No. They should wait and get the thing up and running and then determine and let somebody be accountable.

ACOSTA: A health insurance industry insider tells CNN contractors and officials at the Department of Health and Human Services knew about the site's problems, but gave a far rosier picture to the White House. That insider says no one wanted to go to the White House and say to the president that your signature legislative achievement may not go so well. But White House officials insist the president wasn't intentionally kept in the dark.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We did not know until the problems manifested themselves after the launch that they would be as significant as they have turned out to be.

ACOSTA: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN the president did not know about the problems until after the site was fully launched.

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMANS SERVICES: Well, I think it became clear fairly early on, the first couple of days.


ACOSTA: All the more reason, Republicans say, for the president to hold somebody accountable.

SENATOR LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENNESSEE: The president himself seems embarrassed by it. If he's not going to resign over this mess, he ought to decide who should.


ACOSTA: Now later today the administration is trying something new, holding daily briefings on the progress in terms of fixing the Obamacare website. One thing that we should also point out, the Department of Health and Human Services is trying to clear up some of the confusion as to when Americans have to sign up for insurance in order to avoid that penalty from the IRS, HHS says that deadline is March 31st. So circle that on your calendar, Kate. It is March 31st.

BOLDUAN: Showing just how tough this whole situation is and how politically charge it is. It's even confusing if that's a change of the previous stance of the administration or if that is exactly how the law prescribed it. We'll talk more about that one later.

ACOSTA: That's right. OK, it sounds good.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Jim. Tough questions surrounding Obamacare. Here's another tough question for you. Where did fall go? All of a sudden, the very real possibility of snow this morning, people from the plains all the way down the east coast are dealing with lower than normal temperatures.

Our George Howell is in a very chilly Chicago this morning. Good morning, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good morning. So I guess you have to get past the denial, accept the fact that it is cold here, a chilly 37 degrees here in the windy city and from Midwest to the northeast and even parts of the south, chances are you'll see it change as well.


HOWELL (voice-over): Grab the winter coats, shovels and ice scrapers. The season's first deep freeze is on its way. A blast of brisk winter-like temperatures swept over Boston's Fenway Park just in time for game one of the World Series. The opening pitch, slicing through 48 degree air, making it the third coldest start to the fall classic, a surge of cold air from Canada will sweep across the Great Lakes region, triggering lake-effect snow and frigid temperatures just in time for the weekend.

As much as a foot of snow could fall in New York State, just east of Lake Ontario. Charleston, West Virginia is gearing up for the impending snowfall. While residents in Ohio and shoppers in Wisconsin fled from the flurries. Meanwhile, residents down south are keeping their eye on the first hard freeze of the season, bad news for farmers and their crops.

Frigid temperatures are expected to coat several states with frost from Missouri across to the Carolinas, as this system moves east, a taste of winter before trick-or-treaters even hit the streets.


HOWELL: So here in the city of Chicago, we saw traceable snow just a few days ago. Last year, it wasn't until November that we saw snow. So colder temperatures, snow, scarves, you know, this just may be the new normal. We have to get used to it -- Chris.

CUOMO: A new normal. What an odd application. I never thought it would go to snow, George, but guess that's where we are today.

All right, we are going to tell you about a different story now, Danvers High School in Massachusetts, is open only for grief counseling as teachers and students cope with the murder of Colleen Ritzer, a teacher. Her body found Tuesday in the woods near the school. The suspect, a 14-year-old student, the new kid few people knew.

CNN's Pamela Brown is in Danvers this morning with the latest. Good morning, Pamela, what do we know so far?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Chris. I've been speaking with Colleen Ritzer's childhood best friend and have spoken to her long-time teacher and it's clear they are just devastated by her loss and say it just does not make sense. Right now, we have more questions than answers, mainly why a 24-year-old math teacher would be killed allegedly at the hands of one of her own students.


BROWN (voice-over): Known for her infectious smile and bubbly personality. This exclusive archive video shows Colleen Ritzer as a TV production student in high school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The entire room would light up.

BROWN: Jen Berger says her best friend since kindergarten was living her childhood dream of being a math teacher.

JENNIFER BERGER, RITZER'S BEST FRIEND: She was talking about how this year was such a good year. She was teaching freshmen for the first time. They seemed so enthusiastic and she was happy.

BROWN: Her life cut short, her body left outside the school where she loved to teach.

BERGER: I don't know what the world is like without her. It's a scary, scary thought.

BROWN: The loss felt by an entire community. Students and colleagues at Danvers High School say her enthusiasm was limitless, spilling over on to her Twitter, Facebook and her blog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was always the teacher to go the extra mile.

BROWN: So why would one of her own students, 14-year-old Philip Chism allegedly assault her to death. During his arraignment on a charge of murder, he stayed silent. Chism went missing after school Tuesday. Adding to the mystery, Ritzer's family reported she hadn't returned home that night. The teen was found in a nearby town, the teacher's body discovered sometime later in the woods behind her school.

JOE SPANISH, RITZER'S FORMER TEACHER: She's the last person to hurt anybody. Obviously, she was defenseless.

BROWN: Investigators allege Chism incriminated himself in police interviews and there was evidence on video cameras from Danvers High School as well as blood found in a second floor bathroom. A source close to the investigation says Chism went to the movies after allegedly killing Ritzer. As a new student at Danvers, Chism was making strides as a soccer player.

KYLE CAYHILL, DANVERS HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR: Nothing out of the ordinary, just quiet, normal kid.

BROWN: Ritzer's best friend still coming to grips with this tragedy.

BERGER: Something like this doesn't happen to someone like Colleen, someone who is so good and so pure. You know? It's not fair.


BROWN: And back live here you can see the candles lining up on the sidewalk. This was from a vigil last night. There were crowds of students, faculty, and friends of Colleen coming here to grieve and to show their support. You know, this is certainly a community going through a very, very tough time right now.

In fact, Danvers High School will be closed today, but there will be some grief counselors on hand to talk with any parents or students that would need some extra help in the wake of this tragedy. Also, the prosecutor's office has indicated that it wants to try Chism as an adult. At this point that decision will be up to the grand jury. We will keep you updated on any new developments -- Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Pamela, thank you so much. The few details coming out making it all the more confounding how this happened to this wonderful teacher. Thanks so much for that. Let's go over to Michaela for more of the headlines making news this morning.

PEREIRA: All right, good morning, guys. Good morning to you at home. Making news, the Obama administration this morning saying, the U.S. did not monitor German Chancellor Merkel's cell phone. Merkel called President Obama Wednesday saying it would be a serious breach of trust, but a White House spokesperson says the president assured her it was not true. Germany has now summoned the U.S. ambassador to discuss these allegations. It's first reported by a magazine. Major flight delay hitting passengers of Spirit Airlines, customers at Fort Lauderdale international saying they've been told the FAA deemed several Spirit Airlines jets unsafe for flight and are doing some sudden inspections. We're told some passengers have been waiting for hours to get on their planes. The airline only saying there are maintenance delays but not confirming the reason.

The Bernie Madoff fraud case could be coming back to bite JPMorgan Chase. Prosecutors think the company was aware of the Ponzi scheme but looked the other way. "The New York Times" reporting that the Feds are ready to make a deal, slapping the bank with fines and other concessions but backing off criminal charges. JPMorgan claims its staff acted in good faith in the Madoff case.

Mathew Cordle, the young man who admitted in an online video that he killed a fellow driver while drunk now knows his fate, a judge sentencing Cordle to 6-1/2 years in prison with no early release and his license was suspended for life. Prosecutors pushed for the maximum eight-year sentence and then backed off. Our Chris Cuomo will speak with Matthew Cordle in our next hour.

A medical first in Mississippi, a 3-year-old little girl born with the HIV virus, she appears to be in remission and may be cured. At first doctors were skeptical that the girl was even infected in the womb, but a new report confirms she was. Because of unusually aggressive treatments she received, she is no longer showing signs of infections and has been off HIV medications for 18 months.

This is obviously a story they're going to watch and a case they're going to watch and see if there's something they can do to make this more than one child.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

PEREIRA: Really interesting development.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela.

PEREIRA: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: So we have been talking about the cool temperatures in part of the country this morning. Let's get over to Karen Maginnis who is in for Indra Petersons for the rest of the forecast. So how's it looking everywhere?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: In the deep freeze, a continuation of that over the next several days, we see very little in the way of moderation, even by the weekend. Take, for instance, Cleveland, the temperatures should be typically around 60 degrees this time of year, only in the 40s now, 40s in Chicago. A little bit of snow, a couple of days ago. By Saturday, it should be 50 degrees but even then the temperatures close to 10 degrees below where it should be for this time of year.

And New York City, temperatures running a good 10 to 15 degrees below normal there as well. Bessemer, Michigan, in the past 24 hours we saw 6 inches of snowfall, lesser amounts wrapped around the Great Lakes. We have an area of low pressure moving through the Great Lakes. That kicks up the wind. Some of the wind may gust as high as 40 miles an hour later on today.

Cleveland, 14 degrees below normal. New York City, only 54 degrees for this afternoon, but with the brisk wind, it's going to make it feel a whole lot colder we'll be back with another look at your weather coming up in about 20 minutes from now. Chris, Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: All right, thank you so much, Karen.

CUOMO: All right, coming up on NEW DAY, a murder mystery 38 years in the making. It was Halloween in 1975 that Martha Moxley was killed. You're looking at Michael Skakel, the Kennedy cousin. He's been in jail for a decade. A judge just said he deserves a new trial. We'll tell you why and tell you the chances, if it sticks or not.

BOLDUAN: What a photograph, a Notre Dame running back getting quite a lot of attention for this amazing picture. We'll have the story behind that face, coming up.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone.

Let's get to new developments in a high-profile murder case involving a legendary political family. A judge ordering a new trial for Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel. His attorney says he'll try to get him released from prison on bond in the meantime.

Deborah Feyerick is following all the developments.

You covered the trial the first time around. Amazing, the turn of events.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is an amazing turn of events, and quite tragic for everybody who was involved. The judge who tossed aside the conviction essentially said that Skakel's lawyer at the time failed to create any reasonable doubt that someone else who had been wandering the neighborhood on that night actually killed Martha Moxley, somebody who perhaps had greater motive, somebody in fact related to Michael Skakel.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go. Come on. Let him --

FEYERICK (voice-over): Convicted murderer Michael Skakel, nephew to Ethel and Robert Kennedy, has been granted a stunning new trial.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR., COUSIN OF MICHAEL SKAKEL: I think everybody who knows Michael is overjoyed with it. We actually, my family, prays every night for Michael Skakel.

FEYERICK: Skakel's attorneys argued that his original defense lawyer, Mickey Sherman, failed to adequately represent him in court during the 2002 murder trial.

MICHAEL SKAKEL, CONVICTED MURDERER OF MARTHA MOXLEY: I felt that one of the main things we needed was a professional.

FEYERICK: The Kennedy cousin was found guilty of killing his friend, Martha Moxley in 1975, when both were 15 years old. Her mother Dorothy doesn't believe there's any new evidence.

DOROTHY MOXLEY, MOTHER OF MARTHA MOXLEY: Once we knew who it was, once we had the proof, I have not had one bit of doubt, no.

FEYERICK: Moxley's body was found in her yard in Greenwich, Connecticut, bludgeoned and stabbed to death by a broken golf club that was found near her body. That club was traced back to the Skakel home, but no fingerprints were found.

MOXLEY: They hit her so hard that the golf club broke, and then they took the shaft and they stabbed her with it.

FEYERICK: For two decades, the case languished.

MICKEY SHERMAN, MICHAEL SKAKEL'S FORMER DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Everyone assumes he's been guilty. He's been arrested. He's this Kennedy cousin. There's books, there's movies, there's a lot of spin, a lot of disinformation, and no one really knows the story.

FEYERICK: Prosecutors claim Skakel was jealous of his brother Tommy's relationship with Moxley and killed her in a jealous rage, a charge Michael denied. At trial, Skakel's lawyer failed to lay out the case against Tommy or other potential suspects.

Michael was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years to life.

MOXLEY: I do believe Michael Skakel killed my daughter. I don't believe there's any doubt in that.


FEYERICK: Now, I covered the trial back in 2002. The closing argument by prosecutors was incredibly powerful, using Michael Skakel's own words from a book proposal actually placed him at major point of the crime scene and the murder route. Still the judge said that Skakel's lawyers had a chance to ban that book proposal from ever being entered into evidence, yet failed to do so.

The Skakel family had the time, the mother had died, the father was away on a hunting trip, and the brothers that night had actually gone to a club and had been drinking heavily -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Deb, thank you so much. Now, one of the parts of the intrigue is a lot of the information in this decision has been around. So why now and what will it mean going forward?

Let's bring in legal analyst Paul Callan. He's a criminal defense attorney, a former New York City homicide prosecutor, knows these situations very well. Great to have you with us, Paul.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Nice being with you, Chris.

CUOMO: So, let's check these boxes. How unusual this is. Why is this happening now? Do you believe it sticks and there is actually a retrial?

CALLAN: Everything about this case is unusual. The trial occurs in 2002 but the murder was in 1975. This case has gone up on appeal a number of times and a number of Connecticut courts, including the Connecticut Supreme Court, has upheld the conviction in the past and now out left field, we've got a new decision by another appellate court saying an unfair trial occurred and Michael Skakel deserves a new trial. It's really a shocker in a lot of ways.

CUOMO: You think it winds up in a retrial?

CALLAN: Hard to say. This case was razor thin in terms of the strength of the evidence at the original trial. Very, very hard to prove a case that's 25, 27 years old which is what it was at the time of the first trial.

Will prosecutors be able to put it back together for a retrial? I think it's going to be really, really tough.

One of the key witnesses, a guy named Coleman, is already dead. That's one of the reasons the judge reversed it. His testimony that Skakel had admitted to the murder in a rehab program was a key piece of evidence in the case. And the judge said, hey, it was unfair to use that evidence.

CUOMO: One of the interesting things as a twist here to keep in mind is it's not about new evidence. It's about ineffective counsel. That is one of the few things that will overcome prejudice and expense to the prosecution. So it's an interesting basis for retrial.

Now, when we look at basis, one of the things this judge says is, you know, all through the appeals, when you follow the record of this, the judge says, you know what? And they could have looked at this through due diligence. This isn't new evidence. The lawyer should have found it.

Well, why wasn't ineffective counsel brought up then? Because that seems to be a case for ineffective counsel. Were they saving this? What is your thought?

CALLAN: Well, it's a strange situation. You're absolutely right.

And, you know, this is a lesson for attorneys who think they want to handle a high profile case. Mickey Sherman, who at the time was one of the most famous attorneys in Connecticut, he was highly respected by members of the bar, not only in Connecticut but across the country.

At the end of this case, Mickey Sherman winds up in jail on tax charges. He was suspended from the bar. He was largely destroyed professionally, as a result of it. Now, of course, this decision rips Mickey Sherman apart, says he's a totally incompetent attorney.

Yes, why is this being brought up now for the first time? Why wasn't it brought up in the original appeals? Everybody knew what the defense was. It's really kind of late in the game to be bringing this up.

But that happens frequently in what we call habeas corpus petitions which is what this is.

CUOMO: You have the body, let's present the body. Let's see if this is rightful, was done at superior courts. There were two levels of appeal to come, so we'll have to watch it.

The big factors, though, that I think we're going to hear from and I want to get your approval on this is, one, there was a cop on that jury who knew the investigators. Why would you do that? That's beginning to be an issue to review that hasn't really been vetted by the courts yet.

The second will be that it does point finger at his cousin a lot of the things in this decision. What will that mean to the family? We've already seen that the Kennedys don't want this to keep extending into their own family. It's a balancing test. Michael Skakel gets a new trial, maybe another Skakel winds up being in the crosshairs.

And then, we can't forget, a big part of the prosecution is that Michael Skakel said he did it, right?

CALLAN: Well, they say he said he did it. You know, Michael Skakel was taken to a rehab program in Maine, called the Elan program, a really tough boot camp kind of program where they yell and scream at you in therapy sessions.

And he was frequently accused of the murder in therapy sessions. And many times said I blacked -- I was drinking that night, I blacked it out, I don't know if I did it. Then finally they got a witness, this guy Coleman who said I heard him say and admit that he was the murderer.

That's what finally broke the case in favor of the prosecution.

CUOMO: You also said he was an heroin when he relayed that testimony about Skakel but later on said even though I was on heroin, I still stand to it.

CALLAN: Well, and what was interesting about was Mickey Sherman was so confident effectively discredited this guy when he cross-examined him at a preliminary hearing, he chose not to go into it in more detail at the trial. That was criticized by the judge here.

You know, the over thing you raise is critical. That is, there's a claim in this decision that Mickey Sherman, the attorney should have blamed Thomas Skakel for the murder.


CALLAN: Another family member.

Now, a lot of attorneys would think blaming another family member, another Skakel for the murder as your defense might turn on the defendant and make him look bad. I'd like to know why Sherman decided not to go with that strategy. It's not clear in the decision.

CUOMO: Highly unusual. We'll follow it going forward. Thank you so much for the insight, as always.

CALLAN: Pleasure, Chris.

CUOMO: Kate, over to you.

BOLDUAN: All right. Chris, thanks so much.

Coming up next on NEW DAY: in the hot seat, questions today for the contractors who worked on the Obamacare website. The first of what could be many Capitol Hill hearings set to begin in just hours. John King will be here with our political gut check.

And also breaking his silence, we talk with an Ohio man set to spend the next 6 1/2 years of his life in prison after admitted to driving drunk in an online video confession, coming up.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back. It's Thursday, October 24th. Time now for our political gut check of the morning.

Congressional Republicans today leading the hearings on the troubled Obamacare roll-out. Contractors who worked on the site are expected to testify. What answers will we get on what went wrong and what they're going to do to fix it now? That's a good question.

Let's go to CNN's chief national correspondent John King for some answers, joining us from Boston today.

We'll talk about Boston in just a moment, John.

But, first -- so, these hearings, this is a first of what, of course, will be a series of hearings in both the House and Senate trying to look at the problems of the Obamacare roll-out. What are you expecting that we will actually learn from the hearings?