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The Mistress & The Murderer; Is Sochi Ready; "Blackfish" Sparks Debate; Interview with Neil Patrick Harris

Aired October 28, 2013 - 08:30   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A sensational trial. Let's bring in Stephanie Elam with the very latest.

Good morning, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) daughter of Martin and Michele MacNeill and we -



ELAM (voice-over): Gypsy Willis testified on Friday she's the alleged mistress and the motive, the prosecution says, for Martin MacNeill to kill his wife, Michele. Charges MacNeill has denied. Authorities say MacNeill and Gypsy met in 2004, a few years before Michele died.

SAM PEAD, PROSECUTOR: Did the relationship become sexual?

WILLIS: It did.

PEAD: And when was that?

WILLIS: I think that was in January of 2006.

PEAD: And how often were the two of you having sexual relations?

WILLIS: It was a very casual thing. It was just whenever we had time and it could be arranged.


WILLIS: And it was -

PEAD: Go ahead.

WILLIS: I think we probably had sex half the time. I mean sometimes it was just lunch.

ELAM: Prosecutors argue MacNeill forced his wife to get an unwanted facelift and then filled her with a lethal concoction of prescription drugs. Soon after she died, MacNeill rushed to hire Gypsy as a nanny. It quickly became clear there was more to the relationship

RACHEL MACNEILL, DEFENDANT'S DAUGHTER: It just was obvious that she's -- she's just goo eyes at my dad.

ELAM: Rachel MacNeill, Martin and Michele's eldest daughter, was the first family member to testify against her father.

MACNEILL: He specifically said to me that he was concerned that there'd be a police investigation, that he didn't want it to -- anyone to think that he murdered my mother.

ELAM: As for MacNeill, he found it hard to look at his daughter while she struggled through her testimony. And this week may not get any easier when the jury will hear from his youngest daughter, Ada, who was just six when her mother died.

CHAD GRANANDER, PROSECUTOR: Ada was the first one to find her mother in the bathtub and she can talk about exactly what she observed.

ELAM: But she won't exactly testify. Instead, the jury will see a videotaped interview she gave authorities in September 2008.


ELAM: Now, while the judge is allowing for Ada to testify through this videotape that she did in 2008, she is expected to take the stand and could be cross-examined by the defense. So that would be different than anything we've seen before.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All of this is. Stephanie, thank you very much for the reporting this morning. We're going to talk about the impact of the 12-year-old, what should happen there or not.

But let's bring in Joey Jackson. He's a legal analyst for HLN.

Great to have you here.


CUOMO: We'll talk about Ada in a second. But first, Gypsy Willis. The name alone is provocative. The testimony even more so. The prosecutors want to use her to prove one fundamental point and then to bother the jury, right?

JACKSON: Absolutely. Look, it's about motivation. Now, Chris, while you never have to establish motivation to establish the case, jurors want to know, inquiring minds want to know, why would you commit this crime? And so if you have a mistress there and someone who he's smitten with, certainly that gives him the motivation to get rid of his wife so he can be with her.

CUOMO: Texts on the day of the murder, going to the funeral of the dead wife, horrible stuff. But proof of a crime?

JACKSON: Not proof of a crime, but, again, it goes to the establishment of the motive. Not only on the day of the murder you have these phone calls and the text messages, but during the funeral service they're texting each other. What might that tell you about his state of mind, about his wiliness to engage in this act and get rid of his wife so he can be with the one he really loved who was Gypsy. That's the prosecution's point here.

CUOMO: And then, of course, you have the daughters. You know, family is the last to come forward against somebody. Here you have an older daughter's impassioned. The 12-year-old. I get about the sensitivity. But if you're going to let the 12-year-old testify, and she saw the body, why can't she testify to what she saw?

JACKSON: OK, a couple points here, Chris. First of all, as to the family members, when you have daughters coming forward, OK, let's talk about the adults first -

CUOMO: Right.

JACKSON: And they're saying, my dad's guilty, that's powerful because, as you mentioned in your question, they're the last people to come forward. Now, as to the six-year-old then, 12-year-old now, that's Ada.

CUOMO: Right.

JACKSON: All right, she's so young at the time. And so you have to question, did she really see what she saw. However, you have to let her testify, but here's what the judge said. The judge said, you were so influenced over the years, Ada, by your sister, who you're staying with, Alexis Summers, that she, in fact, has guarded your testimony, she has made your mind and manipulated you in such a way that it's not going to be not only credible, but it's not something we could even allow the jury to hear. So we'll hear the videotape and allow the defense to question her on that videotape thereafter.

CUOMO: A savvy conclusion?

JACKSON: Absolutely. I think that, look, the judge had to balance the equities here -

CUOMO: Right.

JACKSON: As you do in any trial, and the judge said, OK, she's important, but should we let anything she said after that interview come in, when it was so suggested to her and her mind could have been molded and melded? No.

CUOMO: Right. Relevance versus prejudice.

JACKSON: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Relevance versus prejudice.

JACKSON: You remember that very well.

CUOMO: And to not be prejudicial ourselves -

JACKSON: Yes. CUOMO: There was a big point made for the defense as well, where they have the expert witness for the prosecution, presented by the defense with an e-mail he wrote to investigators that said, "there's not a smoking gun in here that I see." The defense was big on that.


CUOMO: What does that mean? And he said, well, no, no, no, it was a poor choice of words. What did the testimony mean?

JACKSON: Well, listen, a couple of things. First of all, we're talking about the doctor here. He's the toxicologist and he's testifying, you know, alone these meds in her body would not have caused her to die, but they would have so suppressed her central nervous system to make it - make her susceptible and vulnerable to be killed. All right. So when he evaluated the medical records on behalf of the prosecution, he wrote that e-mail, Chris, saying, look, there's no smoking gun. But he retracted in some measures saying, there's not a smoking gun to suggest that killed her, but there is the smoke to suggest that it made her so venerable that he engaged in this act which was the drowning of her to cause her death.

CUOMO: Boy, so fascinating. One of the reasons this case is so compelling to follow is, it all sounds so terrible, but as we saw with that e-mail, as bad a person as the prosecutors may display Mr. MacNeill to be, doesn't mean they can prove he committed the crime.

JACKSON: Got to be proof. Absolutely.

CUOMO: Joey Jackson, thank you so much.

JACKSON: The defense will have a lot to say about that.

CUOMO: Absolutely. And we'll be following it right here with you. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

JACKSON: Appreciate it.

CUOMO: Kate, over to you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, the race against time. Will Russia be ready for the Sochi Winter Olympics? We are heading there to find out.

Also, you love him on "How I Met Your Mother," you love him as host of the Emmys and the Tonys, so much more Neil Patrick Harris here in studio joining us live. Fix yourself up.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

There are just three months to go, but how ready is Sochi to host the Winter Olympics at this point? Phil Black has a progress report from Sochi, Russia.

Good morning, Phil.


Yes, they've achieved a lot, built a lot, but there is still so much to do here. Construction is pretty much working around the clock. The noise, the dust are both constant features of life in this city at the moment. It's not just about building sporting venues. They are trying to relaunch this city, this neglected city, as one that is capable and worthy of hosting an Olympics. It's ambitious and that is why these are on track to become the most expensive games in Olympic history.


BLACK (voice-over): From a distance, this Olympic park looks close to ready, shining new sports venues finished and tested. But look closer, there's still so much to do. Top of the list, finish the stadium. It's not hosting any sport, but it will be the stage for the opening ceremony. The people directing that spectacle have demanded big changes to the design, including a roof.

Russia is not famous for its efficiency, so delivering all this on time will be a statement to the world. It's one reason why President Vladimir Putin is taking such a personal interest. Dmitry Gregoriev manages the speed skating arena. He says Putin's regular visits and direct oversight have made a big difference.

DMITRY GREGORIEV: I'm not going to say why or how, but it has, believe me.

BLACK (on camera): But you're seeing things happen fast (ph)?


BLACK (voice-over): Sochi's other challenge, overhauling the city's Soviet era infrastructure. The skyline is a mess of cranes and partially completed buildings, many of them much need hotels. And then there's the traffic. It's appalling. Sochi's mayor, Anatoly Pakhomov, is firmly on team Putin and insists somehow it will all be fixed in three months.

Security is an especially big concern at these games because Russia's Islamic terrorists have promised to disrupt them and organizers can't even rely on Mother Nature to deliver the white stuff. It's subtropical here, so snowfall is patchy. That's why they're storing vast amounts of last season's snow, just in case.


BLACK: The estimated cost, $50 billion and counting, for all the delays and cost overruns, don't underestimate the power of the Putin factor. The expectation here is that somehow this will all come together, largely because the president is determined to make a statement to the world about the greatness of modern Russia, regardless of the cost.

Back to you, Chris. CUOMO: The power of the Putin. Thank you for that, Phil, appreciate it, this morning.

The CNN film "Blackfish" is causing some heated debate over the future of keeping killing whales in captivity. Viewers have taken to the web in droves to give their take. Martin Savidge is at the CNN Center with more.

Good morning, Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Chris.

Yes, ever since CNN aired the film "Blackfish," thousands have tweeted and signed online petitions to free killer whales in captivity. The film really has stirred controversy and its conjecture, rather, that the whales are to intelligent to keep in captivity. Take a listen.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): The CNN film "Blackfish" is taking social media by storm. On Facebook and Twitter, thousands debate the ethics of keeping killer whales in captivity in aquariums in marine parks. Many say they were stunned by the movie's allegation that mistreatment of some killer whales, also known as orcas, may have led to deadly consequences for trainers.

"After watching this documentary, I can never be happy at Sea World again," said one. And another post says, "heartbreaking to watch the whales in captivity. How can anyone think this is okay?"

But it's not just the Internet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not fair to the animal that they have to be taken out of their natural environment just so that we can be able to see them and learn about them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they're really big fish usually kept in small quarters. It doesn't seem right.

SAVIDGE: "Blackfish" tells the story of Dawn Brancheau, a veteran Sea World trainer, dragged into the water and drowned by a killer whale she was working with in 2010.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden the whale just latched onto her and took her under.

SAVIDGE: Now former trainers like Colin Baird believes killer whales should be released back into the wild or retired to sea pens.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Why do you think they're still in captivity?

COLIN BAIRD, FORMER KILLER WHALE TRAINER: Well, there's dollars to be made, and they're a very - you know, a big draw for these facilities that have them.

SAVIDGE: It's a business? BAIRD: It's a business.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Sea World declined our request for an interview, but did provide a statement, saying in part, "the film fails to mention Sea World's commitment to the safety of its team members and guests, and to the care and welfare of its animals, as demonstrated by the company's continual refinement and improvement to its killer whale facilities, equipment and procedures." Sea World brings in around $1.5 billion a year and supporters say millions of visitors are not just entertained but educated and inspired.

PAUL BOYLE, ASSOC. OF ZOOS & AQUARIUMS: People are having less and less daily encounter with animals and so these kinds of exhibits are teaching people about the wild. If people don't know animals, they won't care about them.


SAVIDGE: In a lot of ways it is a kind of double-edged sword for Sea World. In other words, we didn't know much about killer whales until Sea World came along and made the public fall in love with them. And now that the public is in love with them, many believe we can no longer hang onto killer whales.

Chris and Kate.

CUOMO: Martin, it's a complicated subject. It really is. Big emotions. The film really touched on a lot of key points. The debate is going to continue. Thank you for laying it out for us this morning


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, he can sing, he can dance, he can act, he can do a whole lot more than we can. Neil Patrick Harris is here to show us what else can he do. Can anyone say mm-magic?


PEREIRA: Good moment what do you say, good music, good Monday and a great guest. You might know Neil Patrick Harris from, oh, any billion of times that he's on the stage. We can talk movie roles, we can talk about hosting awards shows like the Tonys or the Emmys or from the little show you might have heard of "How I Met your Mother" which is in its final season. If you live in America, people, you know Neil Patrick Harris, he joins us now. Season nine.


PEREIRA: And the final one.

HARRIS: We're closing it up, closing shop.

PEREIRA: And you're closing it up in kind of an interesting way. You kind of do a play-by-play is this true of the -- of the days leading up to the wedding? HARRIS: Sort of, yes. My character, Barney and Robin, the girl that he's getting married to, the whole season is happening in the 55 hours leading up to the wedding and simultaneously Ted, who is the protagonist of the show will end up meeting the mother, she's at the wedding as well. We've met her so it's just kind of watching all of these things collide.

PEREIRA: It's amazing.

BOLDUAN: What's it like being part of a show that is such a huge success?

HARRIS: Well really our show wasn't a big, giant success, it just plugged along really well. We're conveniently on CBS during a time when they needed some comedy, and they didn't move us for all of our nine years. We were on Monday night and our ratings were OK, but like "Dancing with the Stars" would crush us for a while and then "The Voice" would come along.

But yes they never really panicked and so that we just -- because we were at the same place at the same time every week I think people got used to seeing us there and we developed a smallish fan base and then when it starts airing every day on syndication, then suddenly you're in people's living rooms more so it's been a great, great run.

BOLDUAN: Do you think it's time to wrap it up, do you think it's the appropriate time?

HARRIS: I do. Yes I mean nine years is a long time. I don't feel like we're -- we've jumped the sharp quite yet and I think that riding on the show is pretty smart and the structural design of the show I think is good so you know lots of good callback stuff and I think it's time to jump on to other things.

BOLDUAN: Yes which you have.

PEREIRA: Well speaking -- speaking of jumping on to other things so let's talk about the show that just went, a magic show.


PEREIRA: Is it fair to call it just a magic show, it's an illusion show. So it's from L.A. to New York?

CUOMO: You're not going to bury yourself in the ground or put you're self --

HARRIS: No, I'm not in it. I'm directing the show it's called "Nothing to Hide" it's at the Signature Theater, two amazing card magicians, named Derek del Gaudio and Helder Guimaraes performed at the Magic Castle, and I'm the president of the Academy of Magical Arts there at the Magic Castle. I saw them do the show together. It was wildly successful but only in that little small world.

So I had them do it at the Geffen Playhouse in L.A., it broke records there, it extended four times. And so now we're bringing it to New York. So these guys doing card magic like you've never seen it's about 150 seats. And they're in previews right now.

PEREIRA: So you won't be doing that --

HARRIS: They do far better things than that.

BOLDUAN: Why magic?

HARRIS: I'm a big fan of like live variety arts. I've always loved it. I love the Cirque Du Soleil, I love the David Copperfield, I love going out and seeing things. That's why I'm like a proponent of theater and the Tonys and all of that.


HARRIS: Because I think there's a better, more complete experience when you're -- when you're immersed in something as opposed to just sitting in Washington.

CUOMO: I agree and even though magic is seen his old school I think it remains the one thing that deals with suspension of disbelief.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

CUOMO: There's nothing else can, when you're right there, you see it happen and you can't figure it out, there's no substitute for that.

HARRIS: It sears into your brain in a different way. When you're watching magic and you're physically looking right at it and something is blowing in your minds it's just devastating in a good way.


PEREIRA: And you are the president of the -- how did that come to be --

CUOMO: He's not just a member.


HARRIS: I was a junior member of the AMA.

PEREIRA: A junior member.


BOLDUAN: In case you didn't know.

HARRIS: Is that what you're talking about?


PEREIRA: You went from junior member to president just like that?

HARRIS: No I have to -- I was on the board of directors for a little while and they asked me to vice president. I said what does that mean? They said nothing it just means you get you a different title and then our president resigned so I was suddenly de facto president there.

CUOMO: It's not the magic that makes it interesting it's the Internets and politics and the fiduciary responsibility.


BOLDUAN: The dictator of --

PEREIRA: He's got a great show that he's also involved in, there's more, because apparently he doesn't need to sleep at all, has to do with sleep kind of. We're talk with Neil Patrick Harris after the break about a show you also have to see. We're very busy with projects that Neil Patrick Harris is involved in.

BOLDUAN: Yes, very busy.

HARRIS: Yes, it's not nearly enough right now.

CUOMO: Versatile.

PEREIRA: That's the word -- versatile.


PEREIRA: Singing and dancing on the way back into the second part of our interview. We're back with Neil Patrick Harris. I want to talk about you "Sleep No More". Tell us -- for those at home that are not familiar, explain the concept of "Sleep No More".

HARRIS: Well, as we're talking about before, I just love like the more immersive something can be I think the better the experience. There's a group in London called Punchdrunk that did a show called -- had a show called "Sleep No More". They brought it here. They've taken a five story place in Chelsea and turned it into a fictitious hotel called the McKetrick Hotel (ph) and it's sort of loosely based on Shakespeare's "Macbeth".

You -- everyone in the audience is wearing masks, the same kind of mask, and you wander this 100-room hotel and you sort of can witness people doing -- there's no real talking in it. It's just kind of dance based and each room you can open drawers, read letters, and it's really dark and twisted and very interesting.

And so, they asked -- I'm friends with them -- and Citibank has a new card, the Citi Thank You Card, and they have exclusive things that you can do if you're Citi Thank You Card members. They asked me if I would host a might at "Sleep No More". So I'm going to be there. I think you can get tickets only through the Citi Thank You thing. I get to be there and welcome everybody and be a part of the show.

PEREIRA: Is every show different because of that -- because of the different doors? Or is it the famous --

HARRIS: Well, they run the same track, all the actors, and then you can sometimes they'll pull someone into a different room like a one on one experience that you'll have and there's so much going on simultaneously that you can't see it in a linear way so it's really exciting. I'm super stoked about it.


CUOMO: I have a question for you, man with three names.

HARRIS: Yes, sir.

CUOMO: You are one of the few three-named people who are not attached to a homicide. And I think that that is proof --

HARRIS: Yet. Yet.


CUOMO: I'll tell you what; do you appreciate in yourself how you are one of the rare people in entertainment today that everyone likes. Everyone likes what you do. They seem to encourage what you do and it's rare. Is it something you're able to appreciate or you're just kind of moving one step along?

HARRIS: No, I appreciate it very much, thank you. I've been acting since I was a little kid.


CUOMO: I was looking for angles.

HARRIS: I've been doing this since I was a little kid so I'm anxious and enjoy the longevity of it all. I didn't want to work for a spell and then have to figure out another profession so I've been very fortunate in having multiple chapters in a longer book as it were and so it's been very randomly diverse.

I've gotten to do TV shows and award shows and now I'm venturing into movies. I'm in a new David Fincher movie.

BOLDUAN: I was going to say.

HARRIS: It's called "Gone Girl" -- it's based on the book.

PEREIRA: It's a great book.

HARRIS: It is so cool.

BOLDUAN: I feel like I will get to see that. I feel like we're an infomercial with you. And there's more --

HARRIS: That's part of it.


BOLDUAN: And there's more, Neil Patrick Harris great to meet you. Thank you.

That is it for us. We're going to hand it off to Poppy Harlow in for Carol Costello -- PEREIRA: Look at that Poppy Harlow.

BOLDUAN: -- in the "NEWSROOM" this morning. Hey Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hey good morning. Neil Patrick Harris, huge fan -- can't wait to see "Sleep No More" when I get back to New York. Have a great day guys.

"NEWSROOM" starts now.

Happening now in the "NEWSROOM," jailbreak, through a shower.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not for sure they're armed but you got to think they might be.


HARLOW: Now the national manhunt for these four men who pulled off the escape, which played out like a scene from "Shawshank Redemption".