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Loud Music Defense Speaks Out; Northeast Buried By Winter Storm; Virginia Same-Sex Marriage Ban Struck Down; Britain Battered By Epic Flooding; Officials Slammed For Storm Response

Aired February 14, 2014 - 07:30   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I get the scenario of possibility. I'm not stopping you to be unfair. I'm stopping you because, you know, we get. We've heard but --


CUOMO: But you're the one playing who is playing on the possibility here, not the prosecution. They didn't find a weapon. There were no ballistics evidence that could show that there had been a weapon. Nobody says there was a weapon. Nobody saw them hide a weapon. It was never found. So you're the one who's saying because there's no weapon found, we'll suggest it was lost.

You are the one who is playing on possibility not the prosecution there. The fact is there was no gun found and -- and your client's girlfriend says he never mentioned a weapon to me in all that time afterwards. Why wouldn't your client mentions weapon if it was so fundamental to his reasonable fear for his life?

STROLLA: Well, let me go back to the first part because you're completely wrong in what you're saying. It's not our burden to say it's a possibility. The evidence shows that the police never checked the plaza. They didn't even look for a weapon that night anywhere at any time for five days. And I proved it with their own records.

Of course, they looked in a truck where we know that that truck left. We know that the witnesses instead of calling 911, the alleged victims in the truck decided to call their friends and family.

And when I crossed examined them and asked them, who did you call? I can't remember. I can't remember. So apparently calling your friends to come down to the scene were more important than calling 911 for your alleged best friend being shot and killed.

CUOMO: Did anybody see a gun?

STROLLA: Who's going to say they had a gun? None of the boys in the car would even admit that Jordan threatened him because every time I question them. We couldn't hear everything he said. Apparently the music was so loud. They couldn't hear everything he was saying. When I asked every single one, is it possible Jordan Davis threatened Michael Dunn's life, yes, it's possible, but I didn't hear it.

CUOMO: Talk is cheap, right? STROLLA: It is when there is a weapon. Talk is not cheap because under the law if you have a reasonable imminent fear that someone is about to commit a felony against you or try to hurt you, you do not have to wait to be a victim. In this case, you're asking us to disapprove a negative. If somebody hides a gun in the parking lot and a friend picks it up, how am I supposed to prove that?

CUOMO: Well, the prosecution says, we don't find a gun and you're saying the possibility is you didn't find it because they hid it, but there's no proof of that either, which then takes us to the girlfriend saying he never mentioned a gun to me. And of course, everything that happened after. The man fires ten shots, knows he hits somebody, never contacts 911, how do you explain that in a positive way?

STROLLA: OK, let me go back to your first point of Ms. Rouer, his fiancee. If you watch cross-examination, she even testified on the night of the shooting, her mental state was worse off than when she testified on the stand. This woman was so emotionally upset and hysterical on the stand. She had to be escorted by a bailiff out of the courtroom just to stand up.

So if that what her mental state, how on earth is she going to hear and remember everything my client said? And I asked her, is it possible he did say he had a gun and you don't remember it? Is it possible he made that phone call and you just remembered hearing him talking on the phone?

She said yes, that's possible. In that mental state of being in that situation, she was so fragile that of course she's not going to remember everything clearly. And the state wants to play on that. She didn't hear it. She didn't hear it. It doesn't mean he didn't tell her and she doesn't recall it because of her mental state.

Now, on the second point, of course my client has a right to defend himself. And unfortunately he didn't call the police and he was in a panic. He even testified -- he told the police the next morning when he was in a federal law enforcement officer's house calling the police. They called him to come outside for the arrest.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office knew where he was and was contacting police. They said go arrest him right now because they wanted to show that he never tried to turn himself in which is completely fabricated. Even the sheriff's office said, yes, he was on the phone with our agency and we went in and arrested because Jacksonville sheriff said he is in there, go get him.

CUOMO: How often in your experience have you heard of an innocent man firing ten shots, knows he hits somebody, goes has pizza, watches a movie, has a drink, doesn't contact authorities?

STROLLA: First of all, he never had pizza. That was for his fiancee. Again, if you watch the trial, even Mr. Rouer testified that was ordered for me. I got the information for that. I was sick to my stomach. I hadn't eaten. Mr. Dunn never even touched it and the only reason he made a drink at the hotel with Rhonda is because they couldn't stop shaking. Now does it sound irrational? Of course, it sounds irrational? But have you ever been in this situation? Chris, has anyone ever pulled a weapon on you, and said you're dead, Mf-er? I'm killing you and this is going down now?

We can all second guess what should have been done. But until you're in that situation, until somebody put's a weapon in your face and said this is going down now. You're dead and gets out of a truck to you. There is no way any of us can sit there and say, that's how I would react. This is what I would do.

It's easy and it's cheap. It's very cheap to say that you didn't do that and I would. You know what, someone put a gun in your face and threaten you and then tell me what you would do.

CUOMO: Better be a gun though.

STROLLA: Chris, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. Under the law if it's a weapon -- of course, they didn't find a weapon. Of course, they didn't because they didn't search, Chris, for five days.

CUOMO: They searched the vehicle.

STROLLA: Right, and the vehicle left -- Chris, come on. As an attorney, you know better. The vehicle left. They had plenty of time to ditch the weapon. They called their friends instead of the police. They all lived five minutes away. Family members were on scene of the kids in the truck.

If the driver is on felony probation, he knew he was in violation. Guess what you can't have on felony probation, Chris, a weapon. So if he got with a weapon, that kids go on to prison, but guess what? Did he get punished for violating probation? No.

The state attorney's office and DOC, the Department of Corrections didn't prosecute Mr. Storns (ph). They gave him a free pass. How many people are sitting in prisons all over the country right now because they violated probation for anything, and Mr. Storns got to violate probation and walk free because he was a state's witness. Plain and simple -- Chris.

CUOMO: Last point and then I'll let you go. I appreciate you taking the opportunity. Obviously I'm playing the prosecution --

STROLLA: That's OK, Chris. I'm OK.

CUOMO: Do you think it's going to be prejudicial that the statements your client made about how he feels about thugs and thugs culture, what does this tell you about the mind set of this man when he went into the situation?

STROLLA: Well, I can tell you the mindset that he went in the situation. He was just coming from his first born son's wedding. He was with his fiancee. He even told the police in his interview, I have everything good to live for. I'm not looking for any trouble. This is the last thing I ever wanted to happen. His mind set was the music. If you listen, there are about a thousand jail phone calls, Chris. There are a dozen of letters that were not introduced. My client repeatedly said this is not black and white. This is not an ethnicity.

This is a subculture of young kids who listen to very violent music, watch very violent movies and they try to emulate what they see and we are not blaming. Mr. Dunn is not blaming --

CUOMO: It was sound like he was blaming thug culture that he doesn't like him and he thinks more people should act against them. That's what it sounded like.

STROLLA: No, no, and I understand that. Again, it was one letter out of dozens. What he's conveyed to me personally is if you're going to go around and grab a weapon, whether it's a firearm, a stick, a screw driver, and you're going to threaten another man or woman's life, you better be ready to forfeit your own because in this state and in this county where there is laws that protect you. It is better to be judged by 12 than carried by six and that was his mentality that night.

CUOMO: Cory Strolla, thank you very much for taking the opportunity. Again me playing the role of prosecutor, you are obviously defense counsel. Thank you for doing it. It's helpful to people. This jury is going to make their decision, but the case is going to be tried by the public as well because of the issues involved. Thank you for taking the opportunity. We'll talk to you after the verdict.

STROLLA: You're welcome. Thank you.

CUOMO: Kate, over to you.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up next on NEW DAY, forecasters said the recent winter storms would be bad. The warnings were out there so why are some government officials blaming the forecast for lack of preparation? We'll discuss.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Let's take a look at your headlines. Obviously, we begin with winter and this weather. A one-two punch has the northeast reeling. New Yorkers buried under more than a foot of snow by the back end of that bruising nor'easter.

More than a half million people from Arkansas to Maine are without power this morning, major airports from D.C. to the big apple at a virtual standstill. Eight thousand flights canceled in just the last 24 hours.

Breaking overnight, it might be the strongest rejection to date of a voter approved ban on same-sex marriage. A federal judge in Virginia striking down that state's ban as an unconstitutional. The judge did issue a stay of her order pending appeals. It prevents same-sex couples from marrying immediately. More downpours and gale force winds in the forecast for the U.K. today. Towns close to the river are already flooded and the third major Atlantic storm to hit the region could make things every worse today. The river is now at record levels that they haven't seen in some six decades.

Got to show you what one Aurora-Illinois man tired of sending the old flowers and chocolates for his special Valentine. It took Tyler Moric over four hours to create this gigantic message by shuffling his feet through the snow on a frozen pond in subzero temperatures. It reads, I love you, will you be my Valentine? I don't know if he got the chopper to go in. That's extra charge right there.

CUOMO: That is quality.

PEREIRA: Very nice. Happy Valentine's Day. Next up on NEW DAY, a break here, the forecast was clear a bad storm was on the way. So why -- why did some officials say they didn't know what was coming? Who's to blame for this storm response?


BOLDUAN: Many thought Thursday's winter storm was a guaranteed snow day, but not in New York City. Now Mayor Bill de Blasio is under fire for not closing city schools ahead of the storm. Criticism even came from veteran weatherman, Al Roker, who called out De Blasio on Twitter.

Saying this, in one -- one of his several tweets, "New York City Mayor's Office says snow was faster, heavier than expected. No, Mr. Mayor, it came as predicted. Don't blame weather for your poor policy. And listen here to the mayor's response.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASION, NEW YORK CITY: I respect Al Roker a lot, watched him on TV for many, many years. It's a different thing to run a city than to give the weather on TV.


BOLDUAN: There you go. But it's not just New York City. Many city and state officials have been slammed for their weather response recently, and they in turn seem to be blaming the weather. Why?

Let's bring in CNN political commentator and host of "INSIDE CITY HALL" on New York One, Errol Louis as well as our own meteorologist, Indra Petersons.

I want to start first with you, Indra. We've talked a lot about this on air as well as off. The forecast is never an exact science and things can change, but how on point was the forecast this time around?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: There you go. You are so on the money. That's the thing I want to establish. There is no such thing as really one forecast. You have several water models and people constantly seem to misunderstand this. They need to understand that you have some forecasts like in this one gave five inches, other gave even 15, 20 inches of snow.

And that's not the only thing. The mayor was actually talking about it was the rate of snow. So let's just say, the forecast one of them did have high amounts of snow which we got. But he was talking about how fast the snow came down in particular hour.

We had snowfall rates of 4 to 5 inches per hour. So there is a lot of variables in between the big because they need to understand the extreme cases as well as the minimal cases and be prepared for all of it. But I do have to say, in fairness to the mayor, keep in mind here, let's say an extreme case didn't happen.

A lot of times they get blamed for using tax dollars out there and then not having the storm happen. So that's exactly the conflict everyone is concerned with. They don't want anyone to miss a free lunch in case it doesn't happen as well. There is a lot really to be taken in consideration. It's really a battle.

BOLDUAN: I think the unusual thing here. Thanks, Indra. Errol, I'm going to bring you in on this, is the blame game that's been going on very publicly, blaming the weather that happened in Georgia. It seems to happening here in New York City. What is going on with city and state officials? Are they getting that information or are they just making excuses?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think they're getting good information. The thing is, you know, it's uncertain information and then you pile on top of that the response model and that adds even more uncertainty. Do you have enough streets that could be cleared?

Do you have enough salt, enough personnel? You add it all up, and a disaster can happen, which is kind of what happened yesterday. I mean, the snow fell at exactly as predicted. Except all of the snow as you pointed out, fell at 5 inches an hour for two hours. And it was the worst two hours. It was at 7:00 in the morning when everybody was trying to get to schools.

So the mayor was delta bad hand. Probably he and most politicians should recognize it. They have maybe less credibility than the weatherman and try not to blame the meteorologist and simply say we did the best we could with the information we had. Sorry it didn't work out, but we had to do it this way for a lot of different reasons including the free lunch, which really matters a lot.

PEREIRA: It does matter to so many people. It makes me wonder whether it's extreme heat out west, drought conditions or there's a lot of rain and flooding or snow. Maybe there needs to be an option seat. Instead of closing schools or opening them, the schools stay open so kids do come have a modified program and lunch available. For families feel it's not safe those kids won't be penalized for having missed class. Isn't there a way to not be black or white on the issue?

LOUIS: It's a great idea, but you know, in New York State, kids have to be in school 180 days out of the year. Because of the diversity we take off a lot of days because of religious holidays. More than most people in the country would ever even recognize. New York really only has about three snow days. One of which we've already use. We don't close very often. There's been 11 snow days called since 1978.

CUOMO: That came out of the mayor's office. We checked. That seems to be right. The point you're touching on still isn't getting enough attention with all due respect to Al Roker who is a friends and knows what he's talking about, but there's ignorance in terms of what goes into the decision.

One, was there any injury yesterday to any child in New York City as a result of this storm. The answer is no. So if you are going to judge the action, you have to judge what happened in the conclusion. No kid got hurt. That matters too. Can't be well he got lucky. Nobody got hurt.

And, there are families who have to go work. Employers are inflexible. They have no one to take care of their kids. More families like that than we want to admit. The meal is two meals for their best chance of nutrition. I don't think that's not getting enough attention because it's part of the reality that, Errol, that I believe --

LOUIS: You're right. There are 20,000 kids in New York City who are under the age of 18 who are in homeless shelters. That trip to school is not a small thing. It's food. It's comfort, it's shelter, it's a chance to do something other than stay in a homeless shelter. That's for 20,000 kids. It's not a small thing at all.

CUOMO: If you're going to judge it, if somebody got hurt, God forbid we would talk about it. The fact that nobody got hurt should be factored into the equation.

BOLDUAN: Good point. Errol, great to see you. Indra, great work as always. Your forecast is always on point. We always listen to you.

CUOMO: Making sense.

Errol, thank you very much. Appreciate your perspective as always. New York won. Big time politics.

Coming up on NEW DAY, an arrest in the deadly package bomb case out of Tennessee killed a retired lawyer and his wife. The suspect is a relative. We'll have the latest as authorities investigate motive.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. There's no piling up all over. What if you could shovel your driveway from the comfort from your own living room? Jeanne Moos introduces us to a remote controlled snowbot that gets the job done that could also plow through your savings.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You can shovel or use a snow blower, but wouldn't you rather make heads spin with your very own remote controlled snowplow?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't really have a fancy name.

MOOS: Let's call it the plow that wows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that, doing 360s.

MOOS: It made its debut this week not on the Home Shopping Channel but on the Weather Channel. It's sort of like a rumba that plows instead of vacuums. It hasn't make on YouTube with a cat on top dressed as a shark. The remote controlled snowplow lets you plow inside from your toasty warm house. Its six-wheel drive, runs for two hours on two car batteries, an air compressor lowers and raises the blade with a new-matic hiss.

Charlie Payne's company, Superdroid Robots, made it as a novelty product. Usually they build search-and-rescue robots or SWAT team robots for police and fire department. To prove the plow's strength it performs feats like pushing pallets or pulling up a pickup truck. The meteorologists on the Weather Channel seemed smitten.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's beyond awesome.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know what I'm asking for Christmas next year.

MOOS: You need some income to afford one. The price tag is $8,500. But like Charlie's wife says what's $8,500 bucks compared to a hospital bill for a wrenched back or a heart attack. In a big storm you have to use it a few times every three or four inches. Actually the remote controlled snowplow isn't their weirdest creation. This is. Superdroid created the remote controlled golf cart as a prank.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were racing the golf cart around and lost control of it a couple of times and went through the chain link fence.

MOOS: So they are not actually selling it. As for the snowplow, imagine what the dog would make of it and what it would make. Probably walk all over it. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


PEREIRA: In a word genius.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, a bus driver seen on tape fighting with a high school student, loses his job, right call? We're talking with the union rep pleading the driver's case. You decide.