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Snow Fallout in Atlanta; Feds Seeking Death Penalty for Boston Bombing Suspect

Aired January 30, 2014 - 15:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And we begin hour two here with breaking news. Thanks for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

A death sentence, the heaviest punishment for what some say was the most vicious crime possible, the indiscriminate attacks on the Boston Marathon, a deadly bombing last April right there on Boylston Street. Now we are learning from Attorney General Eric Holder that he is allowing the feds to seek a possible death penalty for the bombing suspect, the younger Tsarnaev, the living Tsarnaev, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Tsarnaev and his older brother allegedly set off two pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of that storied race. Three people were killed. Days later, the brothers allegedly also killed an MIT police officer in his own patrol car, all part of their getaway.

As the hunt continued, his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a shoot-out with police.

And joining me now, Susan Candiotti, CNN national correspondent Sunny, Sunny Hostin, CNN legal analyst, and in Russia, where these Boston bombers come from, is our correspondent there, Nick Paton Walsh.

This is our correspondent there.

You, Susan Candiotti, first to you. Just tell me how rare of a move this is for the attorney general.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, he has been personally opposed to the death penalty all his career.

But he has always said that he would carry out this possibility as it is the law of the land. And so it is quite rare. And, interestingly enough, only three people have been executed in the United States under the federal death penalty since it was reinstated many years ago.

In fact, one of them was Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh back in 2001. I covered that case. This is very rare. And in the state of Massachusetts, there is no state death penalty. That's something else to consider here. Most people in the state of Massachusetts do not favor the death penalty. Those are the people who will make up this jury. BALDWIN: You can't help but not think of the victims, not just the families who lost loved ones and lives, but so many scores of people there in Boston and really beyond.

Nick Paton Walsh, you have a different perspective and you spoke moments before the decision came down to the Tsarnaevs' mother. What did she tell you?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She is clearly very distraught before she even heard this decision by the attorney general. I should add I spoke to the father a couple of times over the past few days and he had absolutely nothing to say at all.

But the mother clearly emotional, said she was tired and sick to the heart and kept saying how much she loved her son and she loved her Dzhokhar and kept wanting to say a million times she loved Allah, I think the Prophet Mohammed she said too and loved her Dzhokhar.

It's difficult to hear exactly what she said, the phone service here in Southern Russia often at times difficult and she is clearly distraught. But here's what she had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you even imagine what condition I'm in? And how can I even speak? Why can't you understand? Do you want me to cry? Or do you want me to scream? What do you want me to say? What do you think I will be able to say at all? What chance at all?


WALSH: In many ways, I think you can hear in the tone of her voice there, Brooke, perhaps expecting this decision. Many, I think here in Southern Russia a distrustful of the government's against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. That's perhaps born of a distrust of government in general in the corrupt -- of Russia, where I am standing.

But certainly she maintains her son's innocence and you can simply hear there the emotion in her voice and the past few months how difficult that has obviously been for her, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Not a surprising perspective from a mother.

But, Susan Candiotti, you and I both have talked to a number of these, the victims and the survivors really is what I like to call them of the Boston bombing, who have emotional stars forever, limbs lost

Have you been in touch with any of the victims' families since this decision came down?

CANDIOTTI: Not since the decision came down, but certainly in the past.

We have asked the opinion of many of these victims. A lot of them I think wanted to wait until this day to publicly share their views on the death penalty in this case. Many of them haven't said publicly if not most of them what has happened here.

But the U.S. government, the Justice Department did reach out to these victims, and we are talking about 250 people who were injured including the deaths of those two young women and the 8-year-old boy who was killed, along with police officer Sean Collier as well.

The survivors and/or victims were asked to fill out a questionnaire about what they thought about the subject, whether prosecutors should pursue the matter. And so that is part of what the government considered in this case, in addition to the weight of the evidence that they have built, that they are building in their case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, including, we might add, remember there laptops of his in which prosecutors allege that he downloaded instructions on how to make the pressure cooker bombs, in addition downloading jihadist material, signed by the likes of Anwar al-Awlaki, for example.

And remember the writing on the side of that boat by Dzhokhar that was discovered when he was hiding out before he was captured. We put together a quote there for you to remind you of it. He said in part -- quote -- "The U.S. government is killing our innocent civilians. I can't stand to see such evil go unpunished. Now, I don't like killing innocent people. Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop."

Some powerful evidence there for the government as they put together their case.

BALDWIN: And, Sunny Hostin, as a former federal prosecutor, and Susan mentioned there is no death penalty. It was outlawed in the state of Massachusetts in the '80s. This is rare on a federal level. What do you make of the A.G.'s decision?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think we should stress that there really is a protocol when it comes to the federal death penalty, which is a bit different than any other protocol. And that is that there is a capital case unit that gets the recommendation from the U.S. attorney in this case in Boston and reviews the case.

And then after it gets to the capital case unit, Brooke, it then goes along to senior attorneys on the A.G.'s review committee. And at that time, they not only meet with the capital case unit attorneys, they also meet with defense counsel. They also sometimes reach out to victims. They look at all of these factors and then they make a recommendation.

And then after reviewing all of that information, the attorney general makes this kind of recommendation. This is a well-planned, well- thought-out process and not a decision that is come to easily.

One thing I would like to mention is we have to remember that Dzhokhar did hire Judy Clarke. She is probably, and I believe she is, the best death penalty defense attorney in this country. Remember, she represented the Unabomber. She represented I think Jared Loughner. She represented Zacarias -- I'm pronouncing it incorrectly, I'm sure -- Moussaoui.

All of those men were facing the death penalty and they all got life in prison with Judy Clarke as their defense attorney. So, I suspect that at this point Judy Clark is going to reach out to the U.S. attorney's office and try to convince them that there enough mitigating factors so this young man because he is only 19 should go to prison for the rest of his life rather than be executed.

I think we will be hearing a bit from Judy Clarke very soon.

BALDWIN: Sunny Hostin, Susan Candiotti for us in New York and Nick Paton Walsh all the way in Russia, to the three of you, thank you very much.

More on our breaking news from the debacle happening in a major American city. More than 48 hours after the snowstorm paralyzed parts of the South, the city of Atlanta still digging out. Hundreds of abandoned cars still littering metro Atlanta roads. Hundreds more have been towed and the city is waiting for their owners to come and get them.

The big question though on the minds of many in Atlanta, the question on the front page of "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution," how did this happen? The two men who have been on the receiving end of much of the heat.

The two men who have been on the receiving end of much of the heat, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed satirized today in a cartoon showing them making snow angels while Atlanta was in the midst of a massive icy gridlock.

Both politicians on the defensive headed to friendlier ground to make their case, Democrat Kasim Reed appearing on NBC. He had appeared on CNN as well. And Republican Party Nathan Deal on FOX News.

CNN has been trying to get Governor Deal to do an interview. His office is just a couple of blocks away from me here at the world headquarters of CNN and thus far no dice. Then just about an hour ago, Governor Deal faced reporters at this hastily arranged news conference and he apologized right out of the gate. He apologized to all those stranded drivers.

He took responsibility and he promised to be better prepared if there's a next time.


GOV. NATHAN DEAL (R), GEORGIA: We will be compiling a new plan of action for similar events in the future.

I think we did not respond fast enough. We did not respond in the magnitude at an earlier enough time to be able to avoid some of these consequences. We can make excuses about the fact that this happened in the middle of the day during a workweek. That did, of course, complicate the situation.

But,nevertheless, we will be much more cautious and much more aggressive in terms of taking action in advance of future situations.


BALDWIN: And CNN's Martin Savidge was at the news conference that just wrapped up in which Georgia Governor Nathan Deal apologized.

It was quite the 180.


You have to realize of course there have been two big things going on here in North Georgia and Atlanta. The first one of course is getting rid of the snow and the other has been the kind of political mess that both the mayor and the governor have they felt they are in as a result of huge public backlash.

So many people affected and so angry.


SAVIDGE: Today, we saw the governor come forward. He was extremely contrite, began right away saying, I am sorry. And you could tell that he was obviously very, very sad about what had happened.


SAVIDGE: Let me just give you a couple of the quotes, because they were pretty interesting.

He said: "I am not satisfied with the response, but I am not going to look for scapegoats. I am the governor and the buck stops here," which of course a very strong statement to make. He is up for reelection, we should point out, in November. He wants to look like the man in charge now, if he wasn't the man in charge then.

He admits they goofed and they made a big mistake. I should only point out that it was GEMA, the man who was is the head of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency who said, actually, it's really my fault. He knew that the winter storm warning came out at 3:30 in the morning and he did not notify the governor's office until he says about 9:30 in the morning, six hours that went by when the state didn't act.

BALDWIN: So the governor of Georgia has been in the studio and I interviewed before. I'm sure you have as well. You asked him though because he has yet to sit in this room and let us talk to him one and one. You asked him why he hadn't done an interview with CNN.

What did he tell you?

SAVIDGE: He is angry at CNN.


SAVIDGE: He is angry in the sense -- he feels that the coverage has been highly critical, perhaps over-the-top critical. I think anyone who was trapped behind the wheel for 20-plus or was worried about their child that was in the school bus would say they had every right to be critical. But having seen the coverage, he said they didn't want to do. I said you are not going to grant an interview because you are angry at us, as opposed to just speaking to your constituents, speaking to the people of the nation?

And then he launched into a real sort of angry tirade, demanding an apology from CNN. There's no point in going into all of that.


BALDWIN: Let's listen. We have the sound. Roll it.



SAVIDGE: Governor, will you give an interview to CNN, please?


SAVIDGE: A one-on-one, sir, a one-on-one.

DEAL: I don't know. If they don't treat me any better than they treated the mayor, I'm not so sure that I will. If they don't get their predictions correct about the fact still saying that we had children in school overnight, when we didn't, they have to show some credibility on their part before I will entertainment it.

SAVIDGE: So, it's spite? You are not giving the interview because of that?

DEAL: No, not at all. I just them to get their facts and apologize for telling the world that we had children in school for two nights, when in fact we did not.

SAVIDGE: If you give us an interview, sir, we could discuss.


SAVIDGE: You saw how that went.

And the answer, we're not going to get that interview, not likely to get it for some time according to his press agent.

BALDWIN: OK. Thanks for trying for us, Martin Savidge. Appreciate it.

And how could all this gridlock have happened? We are asking two people who have very strong opinions about this coming up next.

Also ahead at any moment, an Italian jury is expected to decide if Amanda Knox murdered a British exchange student. This ruling will come more than two years after she was acquitted in the case. We will explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: More information on the Justin Bieber bad boy run. The Miami Beach police reporting indicates Bieber had marijuana and Xanax in his system when officers arrested him last Thursday for DUI and resisting arrest and driving on an expired license.

Here's just some insight on exactly what went down that night. The officer checked off all these boxes about the singer's behavior, noting he was excited, talkative, used profanity, cooperative, and yet insulting and cocky.

These are actually the words on the report. And in this crush of cameras, this was last night, the 19-year-old turned himself in for a case in Toronto, Canada. Police there have charged Bieber with assaulting a local limo driver for an incident back on December 30. There is another possible case. The L.A. County Sheriff's Department raided Bieber's mansion, looking for evidence he might have egged his neighbor's house. Remember the alleged $20,000 in damage from egging?

Joining me now, HLN's Nancy Grace.

So, Nancy Grace, we now have these three active cases in three separate parts of the continent. But first in Miami, we know he took the Breathalyzer tests and a source says they were under the legal limit. Then we are learning about the Xanax and we're learning about the pot at the time of his arrest. How do the other drugs play into that DUI charge?

NANCY GRACE, HOST, "NANCY GRACE": Here's the problem. Just because you are not at the legal limit, if you are driving under the influence or driving impaired, you still have a problem, especially as a 19- year-old, when you are not supposed to be drinking at all.

That puts him driving impaired with the Xanax. But that will end up being his word and all the witnesses' words against the cop, because it's going to turn on his actions. Did he see or act impaired? Because the limit, the amount of drugs or alcohol in his system is negligible.

And another thing about those charges, I'm not so sure that he really was up to speeds of 60 miles an hour in that neighborhood, which I consider to be one of the most serious allegations. I don't think that will amount to a hill of beans.

But if you look at the big picture, you have Toronto and L.A. and Miami Beach. It sounds like a tour leg. It's not. It's where he will have court appearances. The one that might cost him the most is L.A.

Where I come from, you got egg on your front door, OK, you hose it off.


BALDWIN: This is felony vandalism.

GRACE: Yes, out there in California, oh, yes. It will be eco-paint. They will have to remove the egg in a hazmat outfit. Is it an organic egg?

And then they're going to have their fancy paint that costs a lot of money. That's going to cost him.


GRACE: But money is like water to him. That means nothing.

BALDWIN: That means nothing. I'm still like how do you egg a house to do this much damage? But that's a whole other segment.

GRACE: Twenty thousand.


BALDWIN: Twenty thousand dollars of damage. What about the -- you heard about the calls for Justin Bieber to be deported. There's this petition.

GRACE: Blah, blah, blah.

BALDWIN: Hang on. There's this petition, it's getting a lot of signatures. You know the deal, Nancy, with the petitions. If you reach a certain number, the White House might have to review this. What do you think the chances are this guy is actually sent back to Canada, seriously?

GRACE: I'm not interested in politics.

I think they are all lying, but Barack Obama just said that pot is OK, so I doubt he will be that angry over Bieber. But another thing about the petition, I'm not down with that. I will tell you why. You get possibly deported if you commit an aggravated felony such as murder, rape, aggravated sodomy, armed robbery, those types of crimes, or a crime of moral turpitude, where you lie to the feds or you lie under oath.

He didn't do any of that. So, it depends on a petition, which to me is like a popularity contest. And 100,000 people don't like Bieber so he is kicked out of the country? That sounds like unequal treatment under the law to me. I would not act on a petition by a bunch of anti-Biebers.

He better be worried about Toronto, where he allegedly hit a limo driver. He is charged with a misdemeanor. He got a big character boost from the Toronto mayor, the one that was caught dancing after he did cocaine. Yes, I would not take life advice from him, no.


BALDWIN: OK. Nancy Grace, I'm going to quote you, Nancy Grace not down with that. Nancy Grace, we love having you on.

GRACE: That's a legal term. I took three years of law school to get that.


BALDWIN: Nancy Grace. What Nancy on our sister station HLN weeknights at 8:00 Eastern. Nancy Grace, thank you.

GRACE: Bye, love.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, two inches of snow led to scenes like this all across the city of Atlanta, the headline in today's paper. How could this happen? We will talk to two people who live in Atlanta. We will ask that question.

Plus, Georgia was not the only state dealing with major wintry weather problems. In Alabama, for example, big backup led to a new baby. We are talking live with the mother forced to deliver a baby while stuck at home in the storm. Stay here. You are watching CNN.


BALDWIN: Top of the hour, we told you the governor of Georgia is apologizing today for the debacle in Atlanta. People right now are headed out in the cold, going to retrieve their cars, the ones that they had to abandon on the highways and the interstates and the roads as the storm hit.

So many of them ran out of gas. They are just stuck. Take a look at the headline from today's paper out of "The Atlanta Journal- Constitution," four words. How did this happen? Who if any person is to blame for this mess and what impact will this have long-term on Atlanta if and when this happens again, heaven forbid?

Attorney and B103 radio personality Mo Ivory is with me here in studio seven. And Katie Leslie is the Atlanta City Hall reporter for the "AJC."

Ladies, welcome to both of you and let me just begin. We need to reiterate this and play the sound from Governor Nathan Deal from just about an hour ago. Watch.


DEAL: Having said that I'm not satisfied, I'm not going to look for a scapegoat. I'm the governor. The buck stops with me. I accept responsibility for it, but I also accept the responsibility of being able to make corrective actions as they come into the future.


BALDWIN: Mo Ivory, to you first. We heard the I'm sorry from Kasim Reed, the mayor, yesterday. And now finally a couple of days later, we are hearing it from Governor Deal. Do you think that's really just what people wanted, I accept some responsibility?

MO IVORY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Sure. People wanted that.

But it was a great performance and it even came off very sincere. It was just completely late. I just -- I felt like if you would have done that on the day that this was going on and gave parents some reassurance that, I'm sorry, I'm doing whatever I can. But it's just too late.

BALDWIN: What about his point on the flip side a couple days ago when he said, hey, if the roles had been reversed, if we had told everyone to stay home, you all would be getting on us because we would be wasting all the taxpayer money sending all the trucks out and you would be complaining that this was no big deal, two inches.

IVORY: I think that was a total crock. I really do. And I think it was just a way to say this is what would happen if I did this and this is what would have happened if I did this.

I don't think that would have been the case at all. I think people will always want to err on the side of caution. We make jokes about being in Atlanta, that the second it rains or they say it is going to snow, everything shuts down. How come this time it didn't?


IVORY: I remember on Tuesday, right when I got off of work at 10:00 a.m., I could feel the snow chill in the air.


IVORY: I knew the snow chill. How come they didn't?

BALDWIN: Katie, to you. What do you think of Mayor Kasim Reed's response? He has been through multiple storms before and both times people accused him of screwing up the city's response. Here he is on a national stage.

And then you have your paper, this cartoon today. Let's showed the paper, guys, because you have the mayor and the governor here making snow angels while people are stuck on highways.

What do you make of Kasim Reed's response?

KATIE LESLIE, "THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION": Right. And that cartoon certainly was provocative.

I think it's been interesting to watch the mayor kind of navigate, taking responsibility for what he could and not directly criticizing his political allies. I think it took a little bit for him to directly say I am sorry. I think we have seen a change in tone in the last couple days as he has made the round of media interviews and at times been combative.

Certainly, after 2011, we thought it will be better this time. The circumstances are entirely different, and obviously not with a better result.

BALDWIN: Yes. We had a heads-up at least on Sunday. I was here for that in 2011. So, we all sort of knew to stay off the roads.

In this case, it was like somebody blew a whistle and, bam, massive, massive gridlock.

This is another question. And I want both of you to respond to this, because this is really big picture Atlanta. If you are not in Atlanta and you're looking at the city of Atlanta, and perhaps this furthers the stereotype of, Atlanta can't handle two inches of snow.