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Catastrophic Storm In The South; Senate Debt Ceiling Vote; Senator Sues President Obama; Admiral: Destroy Bin Laden Photos; Massive Child Car Seat Recall; Gold Medal Tie In Women's Downhill; Self-Defense Or Murder?

Aired February 12, 2014 - 08:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problem is going to be the loss of power.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a deadly and potentially catastrophic storm pounding the south. Major cities at a standstill, flights canceled, thousands already without power, and it's just getting started. The northeast in the cross-hairs next.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Taking the stand, a blockbuster day in court. Michael Dunn testifying in his own defense accused of killing a teen after an argument over loud music. So did Dunn help or hurt his case? The jury could get the case today.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Olympic history, a tie for gold, this has never happened before in the games. Plus Shani Davis hitting the speed track at this hour. Our Rachel Nichols live from Sochi.

BOLDUAN: Your NEW DAY continues right now.

Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, February 12th, at 8:00 in the east. John Berman joining us this morning. Chris Cuomo is on assignment. Breaking right now dangerous ice coating the Deep South, people in Georgia and the Carolinas are dealing with a winter storm that some forecasters predict will be historic. Ice is coating trees, power lines and roads raising the risk of spin outs, car accidents and massive power outages.

More than 20,000 customers without power this morning. Another major concern, air travel, more than 2,600 flights canceled right now. We're following the storm's every move for you. Meteorologist Indra Petersons is tracking its forecast and its path, but let's begin with "NEWSROOM" anchor, Carol Costello, who is out in it for us joining us from Atlanta. Good morning again, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, ANCHOR, CNN'S "NEWSROOM": Good morning. The snowpocalypse has begun in the city of Atlanta. Actually it's more like a frozen sleety slushy kind of thing. This is the texture that's coating the roads right now. The perfect thing to put in your beer cooler in the summer, which I keep dreaming of. Anyway, it's sleeting, snowing in the mountains. The biggest problem we'll have later on is as the temperatures grow colder all of this stuff will turn to ice.

Atlanta is blessed with beautiful trees all over the place that ice could coat the trees. The trees could come down on power line and cause massive power outages. The best news people are heeding the warnings this time.


COSTELLO (voice-over): More than 50 salt trucks converged on to a truck stop in Atlanta overnight, the city preparing for a potentially catastrophic winter storm slamming the south east stretching from Texas to the eastern seaboard. Freezing rain causing what may be the worst ice storm in a decade forcing Georgia and Virginia into states of emergency.

GOVERNOR NATHAN DEAL, GEORGIA: There is no doubt that this is one of Mother Nature's worst kinds of storms that can be inflicted on the south.

COSTELLO: Up to an inch of ice could make travel treacherous in some areas. The National Guard on the move preparing to rescue anyone sliding off the road.

PFC DARIAN DAVIS, GEORGIA NATIONAL GUARD: We're going to go out and make sure all our citizens are OK.

COSTELLO: Sleet, ice, and snow suspending some Amtrak trains and canceling thousands of flights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn't expect this.

COSTELLO: At Atlanta's airport, Delta employees actually had to sleep in planes because there aren't enough hotel rooms. In North Carolina, a truck crashed in the guardrail as the popular I-95 corridor has now becoming a dangerous icy roadway. The potentially catastrophic ice accumulations already pummeled Texas on Monday riddling roadways with accidents.

A firefighter after stopping to check on one spun car died when another driver lost control on an icy bridge knocking him off the overpass on to the ramp below. For much of the southeast, temperatures will continue to be below freezing for another 24 hours. Officials are bracing for the worst.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wherever you are, you need to plan on staying there for a while.


COSTELLO: That is true because sadly 30,000 people already without power in the state of Georgia. And it's only going to get worse. The only bright news, Kate, it's going to be 50 degrees on Saturday.

BOLDUAN: Silver lining. Keep it out there, Carol. Thank you so much. Carol will have the latest on the storm on her show, CNN "NEWSROOM," beginning right after NEW DAY at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

BERMAN: All right, this is a big storm, a lot of people in its path. Let's get the forecast from Indra Petersons -- Indra.

INDRA PETERSON, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This could be worst ice storm they've seen in ten years. You can see what the freezing rain is doing. We're seeing icing out there. Again it's the second wave. First wave yesterday we knew was not going to be strong one but many places saw a quarter of an inch. Here's comes the second wave. Atlanta seeing ice. Charleston seeing ice. More headed in their direction as this low really develops.

Now remember, I said yesterday quarter of an inch. Look at these numbers, guys. We are talking almost an inch of ice possible. That's crippling. That's where they are talking about this thing, historic event. Power lines they weigh 30 times more with just a half an inch of ice. You think it's not a big deal. They could weigh 500 pounds. That's the only first part of the system.

First the storm in the southeast and snow comes down, intensifying. Remember February 2010 this snowstorm is expected to be worse than that one. We're right on that borderline of cold and warm air. It's making its way to the northeast, overnight tonight in through Thursday. First the southeast with ice and then the northeast with snow.

BOLDUAN: OK, Indra, thank you very much. On Capitol Hill today, the Senate is set to vote to raise the debt ceiling. The measure is moving through the House in a rare moment of bipartisanship, Democrats, Republicans, coming together to pass the measure. The bill approved without any conditions attached, which is unusual from past experience. But looking to the Senate will one senator hold up its progress and also hold up lawmakers pending departures from Washington. CNN's Athena Jones is on Capitol Hill for us this morning. Good morning, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. The goal among the senators who want to see the debt ceiling raised is to get it done quickly certainly ahead of this snowstorm that's coming. The country already hit its debt limit on February 7th. That's last Friday. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has warned Congress that by February 27th, the department would probably exhaust these extraordinary measures it's been using to make sure America can keep paying its bills and we're not just talking about paying bond holders.

We are talking about social security checks, paying government contractors, paying federal workers and troops and we're also talking about America's credit rating. There's a whole lot at stake in this debt ceiling issue here. But that doesn't mean that the vote in the Senate is going to come without drama.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz said he'll filibuster the clean debt bill that's coming over from the House the one that raises the debt ceiling with no strings attached. Cruz said he wants to see meaningful spending cuts included in the bill and that's something the president and Democrats oppose. Cruz said he'll for the Senate to reach that higher 60 vote threshold in order to pass the bill and we'll be watching all of these developments closely today -- John.

BERMAN: We have more big political news. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is suing President Obama and top NSA officials over U.S. surveillance. This morning the senator's political action committee is expected to file the class action suit. Why, you ask? Senator Paul is a well- known critic of government snooping. He's a potential 2016 presidential candidate.

The Kentucky senator will be joined by some big Tea Party leaders later on this morning when he announces this class action lawsuit against President Obama, the director of national intelligence, and the director of the NSA. They are going to be alleging in this class action lawsuit the NSA surveillance activities violate Americans' fourth amendment protections against unreasonable search.

And seizure and as you mentioned, John, Rand Paul is weighing a run for the presidency. So some of this, of course, involved in this announcement because Rand Paul has been talking about the NSA surveillance activities as being a violation of civil liberties in an attempt to go after those civil libertarians who opt for Democratic candidates. This comes as Rand Paul has been upping his profile for 2016, talking a lot about Clintons earlier this week -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: Jim Acosta, thank you. Let's look at our headlines. Just after the top of the hour. Pictures of Osama Bin Laden's dead body are at the center of a growing battle. Newly released documents show within two weeks of the raid that killed the al Qaeda leader then vice admiral sent an e-mail ordering photos that were not turned over to the CIA that they would be destroyed immediately. Conservative group judicial watch said it filed a freedom of information act request for the pictures beforehand.

Two cross country skiers are dead after being caught in an avalanche in Oregon. Six people have been killed in avalanches in recent days including two others each in Wisconsin and Colorado. Amazingly one man did survive being swept up by an avalanche. You can see the whole thing captured right there. Frightening moments on his helmet cam.

Infant car seats, Graco recalling 3.8 million seats for faulty buckles. It involves car seats from the 2009 to 2013 model years. Graco is offering free replacement buckles.

Some wild video out of Wisconsin, a bus driver and a student get in a fight on a moving bus. The student instigating the fight when the driver said his bus pass was no good. The driver gets out of his seat and fights back. The bus hit several parked cars. The driver has been fired, but the union is working to try to get his job back. The teenager for his part is this is facing felony charges.

One young man is doing what he can to make something good of all of this snow. That's a gigantic snowman. Dave Granty built this 20-foot snowman in front of his Wyoming home. Since the carrot wouldn't do he used a traffic cone. It's his last hurrah before he turns 20 -- somebody said where's my good plates?

BOLDUAN: I love that voice too.

BERMAN: Your kids are going to love that voice one day?

BOLDUAN: John Berman goes where's my plates.

BERMAN: I'm always wondering how the guy got that snow all the way --

BOLDUAN: A ladder, bucket and lots of friends.

PEREIRA: You roll them and lift them up.


BERMAN: Very, very impressive.

PEREIRA: I'll head to Wisconsin to find out.

BOLDUAN: Inquiring -- want to know.

Spoiler alert, we're about to give you some results of the Olympics in Sochi. There was history made today after two skiers shared the podium tying for gold in the women's downhill. We're talking about the tenths of a hundredths of a second, same time. Later today more opportunities for Americans to medal.

CNN's Rachel Nichols has more for us live from Sochi. Let's get to what happened or is going to happen. The weather has been a factor. Last time we checked in with you in Sochi it's pretty balmy. You said it was 60 degrees last time. What is it like now?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS: Yes. I got to do some hard hitting reporting and tell you the thermometer has popped up to 61 degrees. One of our CNN photojournalists was wandering around in a pair of shorts earlier. That's great for the spectators not so great up in the mountains. They had to supplement the natural snow with manufactured snow, actually using stored snow, old snow from last winter.

The guys are unapologetic about it. They point out in past Olympics they had to postpone events by a couple of days because of too much snow. Got a problem here. They put all the events on as scheduled and what a group of events it's been. Take a look.


NICHOLS (voice-over): And it's a tie. For the first time in Olympic history, two athletes are bringing home the gold in Alpine skiing, Slovenian skier, Tina Maze and split skier, Dominique Gisin, both clocking in at the exact same time, both now embracing their sweet victory.

In another major surprise, the halfpipe left Shaun White empty handed. The game's most iconic snowboarder coming down hard, in the end falling short of his goal of three straight gold medals, but short of the podium. The 27-year-old was disappointed after coming in fourth overtaken by a 25-year-old Iouri Podladtchikov or I-pod as he is nicknamed.

The charming Swiss snowboarder with Russian roots won with his signature yolo flip proving you do indeed only live once. While White might be singing the blues on the slope, he now says he's going to channel that energy into his band, bad things. There was a major victory for Team USA on the lose track, the 27-year-old Erin Hamlin chasing her dreams and grabbing the bronze becoming the first American to ever medal in single luge.

And in the women's ski jump, while the U.S. didn't clinch a medal, American Sarah Hendrickson soared into history. The 19-year-old becoming the first woman to ever compete in ski jumping at the Olympics. Meanwhile, in pairs figure skating, the Russians nicknamed the "Dream Team" took the lead with a short program that left the crowd wanting more catapulting themselves into the record books.

With the best ever scores for a short program. At the cross country venue, Russian skier, Anton Garafov (ph), taking a nasty spill, but helped by Canadian Coach Justin Wadsworth. The ultimate day of sportsmanship, two countries coming together on the trail, a very Olympic day indeed.


NICHOLS: Certainly a nice moment. We've had another nice moment happen over at the hockey rink. The U.S. women are playing the Canadian women. They are in their first intermission, still tied at 0-0. U.S. men's team came down and satin stands. NHL players, nice to support the American ladies --

On another note, not as good news. One of the U.S. Hopefuls in the women's halfpipe, 17-year-old Arielle Gold, unfortunately, she had to withdraw from that competition. That's going on right now as well. She injured her wrist so she's not going to be able to compete today.

BOLDUAN: How devastating that would be. You make it feel -- and you have to withdraw because of injury. So many highs, so many high highs and low lows for the U.S. team over there this year. Rachel, thank you so much. A lot to keep talking. We'll keep watching it.

One more look now at the medal count for you. Thanks to the latest cross-country event where one bronze. Norway racking it up, adds to its total lead now with 12 medals, four of them gold. They're followed by Canada, the Netherlands, the U.S., and Russia.

BERMAN: You know, there are 13 people in Norway, and they've won 12 medals, so far.


BERMAN: So, it's very, very impressive.

BOLDUAN: They're all very good at winter sports.

BERMAN: Next up on NEW DAY, Michael Dunn taking the stand in Florida's loud music murder trial in his own defense, but could his fiancee's testimony have a bigger impact on jurors. We're about to get this case.

BOLDUAN: Plus, catastrophic, mind-boggling, historic, you pick it, we'll say it. That's what forecasters are saying about the storm marching across the south this morning and now also heading east. Can power lines hold up against the onslaught of the snow and ice that's headed their way? A live report just ahead.


BERMAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. Happening today in Florida, closing arguments set to begin in a murder case that started with a confrontation over loud music. The defendant, Michael Dunn, has now taken the stand in his own defense. He called it a matter of life and death when he opened fire on a group of teens killing 17- year-old Jordan Davis.

CNN's Alina Machado was in Jacksonville where jurors could get the case today -- Alina.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, that's right. The jury could get the case today. And yesterday, Michael Dunn spent several hours walking the jury through his version of events and his testimony is key because he is the only witness who said he saw a gun the night of the shooting.


MICHAEL DUNN, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER: I'm looking out the window, and I said, "you're not going to kill me you son of a bitch," and I shot him.

MACHADO: Michael Dunn took the stand in his own defense, telling the jury he had no choice but to fire his gun during a confrontation with the group of teenagers over loud music.

DUNN: It was Jordan Davis who kept escalating this to the point where I had no choice but to defend myself. It was life or death.

MACHADO: Seventeen-year-old Jordan Davis was killed in the 2012 altercation. And on Tuesday, Dunn spent more than three hours on the stand, telling the jury about the night of the shooting.

DUNN: I asked for common courtesy.

MACHADO: His demeanor mostly calm and controlled, but he became emotional several times when talking about his puppy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what was his name?

DUNN: His name is Charlie.

MACHADO: And when he discussed his fiancee, Rhonda Rouer, who was with him that night.

DUNN: It wasn't just my life I was worried about.

MACHADO: Dunn says he and Rouer had stopped at this Jacksonville gas station to buy wine after his son's wedding. When they pulled up next to this red SUV, Dunn says he noticed thumping (ph) music coming from the vehicle.

DUNN: Body panels on the SUV were rattling. My rear view mirror was shaking. My ear drums were vibrating. This was ridiculously loud music.

MACHADO: Dunn says he asked the teens to lower it, and at first they did, but then things turned, quote, "ugly." Dunn testified he saw a barrel of what he believed was a shotgun, sticking out of a window in the SUV.

DUNN: I drew the continued threat of your dead (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Now, the door opens and this young man gets out. And as his head clears the window frame, he says, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) going down now.

MACHADO: According to Dunn, he grabbed his gun and started shooting. Nine shots were fired. When Rouer came out of the store and got back in the car, they quickly drove off. Investigators say they never found a firearm in the SUV. On the stand, Dunn said he told his fiancee the teens had a gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they have a weapon of any kind?

DUNN: Yes, they did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did. What did you tell her? Tell the jury the term that you used to describe the weapon.

DUNN: I don't know what I said, but I told her they had a weapon, they threatened my life and they were -- he advanced upon me.

MACHADO: But Rouer had a different story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the defendant ever tell you he saw a gun in that red SUV?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the defendant ever tell you that he saw a weapon of any kind in that SUV?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no mention of a stick?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no mention of a shotgun?

ROUER: No. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no mention of a barrel?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no mention of a lead pipe?


MACHADO: Dunn also explained to the jury why he did not call police that night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That didn't go through your head like maybe I just shot somebody because they point a gun at me, I should call the police?

DUNN: You know, you're right. It sounds crazy and I couldn't tell you what I was thinking when it was happening. I just can tell you that I didn't do it.


MACHADO (on-camera): Closing arguments are scheduled to take place this morning. The jury could have the case as early as this afternoon -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: The way things are going. It looks like they will. Alina, thank you very much for that.

Let's talk much more about what happened yesterday and what today could mean. CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Sunny Hostin, been in the courtroom. She's joining us now from Jacksonville. Sunny, it's great to see you. You were in the courtroom and I definitely want to get your perspective on what you saw and how the jury reacted. We were talking about this earlier last hour.

It seems generally everyone understands that even though Michael Dunn was on the stand for more than three hours, that the defense gained little if any ground in his testimony. How did the jury react to his testimony?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, the jury certainly was very riveted by his testimony and that isn't unusual. It is very, very rare for a defendant to testify in a first degree murder case. They rarely do so. And so, the jury was certainly paying attention.

However, when the prosecution started its cross-examination, I thought the prosecution's cross-examination was so very effective especially the rebuttal case when Michael Dunn's fiancee got on the witness stand and basically contradicted every single thing that he said, every important thing that he said on the witness stand.

The jury, in my view, Kate, really seemed to be paying much more attention to Rhonda's testimony, and during the cross-examination, their eyes were directly on the prosecutor. In my experience, that means that they had a bit of trouble with the defendant's credibility. BOLDUAN: You could really see the anguish on Rhonda's face as she was being asked and answering those questions. That key moment, Sunny, I want to get your take on that as well. When she was asked and she said there was no weapon, there was no gun, there was no stick, no shotgun, no barrel, no lead pipe.

And she's answering it and her voice gets quieter and quieter it seems as she's answering the key question that contradicts her boyfriend's own testimony. What was the jury's reaction to that?

HOSTIN: The jury's reaction was really remarkable. Remember, Kate, this is a female heavy jury. The majority of the jurors are women. When the defense on cross-examination suggested that Rhonda was so emotional, so troubled that she couldn't possibly remember what her fiancee told her about the shooting, I looked directly at some of those jurors.

One juror, in particular, a woman in the front, her jaw just dropped open, almost in a way of saying that's ridiculous. And so, I think that that was not well-played by the defense, especially with a jury filled with women.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And then looking to today, with the -- let's assume that the jury, the closing arguments will happen and that the jury will get the case. But with closing arguments, especially, what should the defense strategy be when it seems that the defense has a lot to overcome in this closing argument.

HOSTIN: The defense really, I think, in a sense has to make the defendant's testimony much more credible. It has to sort of bolster it with everything else that was said all the other testimony and the forensic evidence.

I think that's going to be very difficult to do because, remember, once the defendant testifies in a first degree murder trial especially in a self-defense trial, it's all about what the defendant said and whether or not this jury finds the testimony credible. I'm not so sure what the defense is going to do about that today.

BOLDUAN: And of course, it is impossible and you've been in many more courtrooms than I have. It's impossible to read what's going to happen from the jury's faces in the courtroom to what they're going to discuss and deliberate when they go behind closed doors. But you really need -- for the defense, you need one juror, you need just that doubt, I guess.

Do you think there is a chance that the defense could win one juror over that could change the course of what seems to be the direction where this trial is going right now?

HOSTIN: You know, I certainly think that there is a chance. I never say, especially as a former federal prosecutor, that any case is a slam dunk. You're right. The defense only needs one juror to hang this jury and that is always possible because this is, again, going to be just a credibility call. Do they believe Michael Dunn or don't they? BOLDUAN: That's what it's going to come down to. His, some would say, strange emotional reaction in the courtroom, the moments that he became emotional, visibly emotional and didn't, that seemed to probably hit the jurors as well. But the reaction and the testimony of his girlfriend, that is definitely going to be key to the deliberations inside that jury room. Sunny, you'll be there. We will check back in with you. Thank you so much.

HOSTIN: You bet.

BOLDUAN: We'll see you later -- John.

BERMAN: Thanks, Kate. Next up for us on NEW DAY, a dangerous mix of snow and sleet and ice that is just blanketing the south right now. Thousands of flights have been canceled, there will be more. Thousands of people are without power. There will be more. We will go live to Charlotte, North Carolina where nearly a foot of snow is coming.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And a real mystery, in fact a deadly mystery. A retired lawyer killed his wife, severely injured when a package sent to their Tennessee home explodes. Was this a random act or could this couple have been targeted?