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NBA Bans Sterling for Life, Clippers Win; Dangerous Storms Threatens East Coast; Firm Claims Possible Flight 370 Wreckage Found; Court Details Knox Conviction

Aired April 30, 2014 - 08:00   ET


DOC RIVERS, L.A. CLIPPERS COACH: I've been proud of the ownership. We're all in a better place because of this.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRSPONDENT (voice-over): The commissioner's bold action igniting resounding praise from players, owners and fans alike.

Charlotte Bobcats owner and NBA legend Michael Jordan saying he applauds the commissioner's swift and decisive response. LeBron James echoing the sentiment, as did Magic Johnson, adding he wished he could be at the game.

Diehard Clippers fans also relieved by the NBA's response.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basketball is our sanctuary, where, red, white, and blue, everybody, all races, come together as one and cheering a team on to a victory.

ELAM: Many NBA teams showing solidarity online with the slogan "We are one." The fans on their feet, loudly cheering and proudly wearing Clippers gear, waving signs of support.

The energy inside the packed stadium electric, the sentiment clear -- we root for the team, not the owner.

The players later expressing their gratitude to Silver, their coach, and their fans.

CHRIS PAUL, CLIPPERS PLAYER: When we ran out for warm-ups, one of the most emotional things I think I've ever been part of. Almost brought tears to my eyes just to feel the support.


ELAM: Donald Sterling has yet to utter any words of remorse for his racist rant, but many believe that he is litigious by nature and that he's gearing up to fight to keep the ownership of the Clippers, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It will be interesting, Stephanie, because there is a contract among all the owners. And it could be as simple as what the terms of the contract says and what it allows. So, we'll take it on as it develops. We also want to tell you this morning about day three of potentially deadly weather, all the way from the Gulf Coast to southern New England. The flooding is so bad, in Florida, a person has already drowned. They have declared a state of emergency and shut down schools. Meteorologists Indra Petersons is going to show where the system and where it will be going.

But let's start on the ground with Martin Savidge live in Kimberly, Alabama, where they're still reeling from tornadoes that hit earlier this week -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Chris. They're doing OK this morning despite the devastation you may see behind me. They know here, it could have been a lot worse. Overnight, the weather delivered kind of a one-two punch. We had a return of the tornadoes to the South.

But then we have this torrential rain, really remarkable. Take a look.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): Breaking over night, a third round of severe weather barreling through the Southeast, spawning a deluge. The Florida Panhandle pummeled by over nine inches of rain and a massive thunderstorm. At least 65,000 lightning strikes light up the night sky.

Alabama hit hard yet again, flash flooding taking over streets and neighborhoods in Mobile, Alabama, inundated with 12 inches of rain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's touching down. It's touching down.

SAVIDGE: On Tuesday, at least one tornado and multiple funnel clouds were spotted in central North Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's all sorts of stuff falling out of the sky.

SAVIDGE: Visible from space, the massive three-day storm system tearing through large swaths of the South.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, no.

SAVIDGE: Packing a mile wide EF-4 tornado, survivors barely making it out alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The moment of death is just an inch away.

SAVIDGE: Mississippi and Alabama still reeling from Monday's wide spread destruction. Homes pulverized, cars tossed around on the sides of the roads, and tens of thousands still without power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a big problem with power poles down all over the southwestern portion of the county.

SAVIDGE: The tornado outbreak claiming 35 lives since Sunday, including 21-year-old John Servati, a member of the University of Alabama's swim team, after a retaining wall in his basement collapsed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just unreal. The wind came up and it just roared. Just roared.


SAVIDGE: Real quick, let me tell you about where we are. This is Kimberly, Alabama. It's located to the north of Birmingham, Alabama. Small down, 2,500 people, this was their only fire department, part volunteer, part professional. It is all in ruins.

Maybe off in the side you can see some of the building still standing. That is the place where the fire chief, his wife and two other people sought shelter. They obviously chose wisely in that part of the building. As for the rest of it, the fire trucks would have been right here. They've been damaged somewhat, but they're going to be looked over and are expected to be returned to service.

I should point out one other fact and that's this thing. You always see these with tornadoes, it's quite remarkable every time -- the rack of hoses in the back. Those hoses are neatly stacked. That's the way the tornado left them. Destroyed everything in the fire department but apparently left them pretty much unmolested.

In this town right now the fire service is being backed up by the local neighbor, warrior is that community. They'll be responding to any emergencies if they happen here. That's the way people are down in the South and in much of this country.

Back to you, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Especially when tragedy like this hits. You used the right word, it is remarkable what's demolished, what's devastated and what remains standing. Martin, they have a huge job ahead of them. You can see it just behind it.

Thank you so much.

The storm system is blamed for 36 deaths since Sunday. Unfortunately, the threat isn't gone yet.

Meteorologist Indra Petersons is looking at and looking at the forecast for you -- Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I mean, just take a look at these pictures right now. This is what it looks like this morning and still looks like out towards Pensacola, Florida, this morning. We are talking about heavy amounts of rain and severe flooding.

Keep in mind more deaths occur from flooding than any other severe weather event. Keep that in mind, as this will be continuing for the next several hours. Let's take a look at what it looks like in the last six hours.

This is what we call training -- training is we talk about thunderstorms developing over and over again in the exact same spot. It's like that rain cloud over your house that won't go away causing severe flooding. In fact, take a look at the last 24 hours. We really keep seeing this as the wind is coming off the gulf here, you really see all that moisture, you add in the heat, it's just to continue those thunderstorms developing.

That will continue to be the story today and also spreading into the northeast. Already seeing rain in the Northeast -- no, it will not be as strong, but heavy rainfall, even one to two inches is enough to cause flooding there. Flooding concerns are from New York City, all the way through Florida.

But keep in mind, in the Southeast, places like Mobile, Pensacola, Panama City Beach, they found rainfall rates of 5.5 inches an hour. So, that's one side of the equation.

The severe weather threat still with us. We're talking about from D.C., all the way back through Florida, if you're heading out of the Philly airport or into it, already looking at delays from low cloud cover, about 111 minutes, Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Indra, thanks so much. Keep with CNN. Our meteorologist and weather team will keep you apprised of all that's happening weather-wise.

Checking some other major headlines for you right now. This morning, the state of Oklahoma is reviewing its execution procedures after a lethal injection went very wrong. Clayton Lockett died of a heart attack more than 40 minutes after being injected with a controversial drug cocktail that was supposed to kill him. Now, the state has called off a second execution for at least two weeks as it tries to figure out just what happened.

Ukraine's interim president says his country's armed forces are now in full combat mode because of threat from separatists. Pro-Russian aggressors don't seem to be slowing the offensive. In Ukraine, hundreds stormed government buildings in one of the eastern provincial capitals and raised their flag. This all comes despite new sanctions from the U.S. and the E.U.

Right now, Iraqi voters are heading to the polls amid fierce bloodshed. At least seven people have been killed in attacks on polling centers. This comes as Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is battling for a third term in office. He's facing strong opposition with sectarian violence at its most intense in more than five years. This is Iraq's first election since withdraw of U.S. troops some three years ago.

Those are your headlines. Over to you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Thanks, Michaela.

More than 50 days after Flight 370 vanished, could the best new lead be thousands of miles from the current search area? This morning, we're digging into an Australia company's claim it has located wreckage of some kind and they believe it could be the wreckage of missing Flight 370, as we said, thousands of miles from where they're searching at this point.

Let's continue the discussion with two CNN aviation analysts, Mary Schiavo, former inspector general at the Department of Transportation, and Miles O'Brien, PBS science correspondent.

Good morning, again, to you guys.

We started this conversation. I say let's continue where we were.

Mary, we're talking about everyone is skeptical of these claims. Some are giving a little more leeway than others. Should this one way or the other be tested and dismissed? How quickly do you think they can do that?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I think it's going to have to be tested and dismissed unless they come up with something at their search site because the families are so frustrated and so upset. We had the pings, we had the satellite handshakes.

The Australians were so confident when they went right to the area, the first day they got the ping when they sent the Ocean Shield there. But with this many days and nothing, I think they have to look at other theories, whether they want to or not just because they have the lock of results where they're searching.

So, I think it's inevitable. The question now becomes, because it's gone on for so long, who is going to pay and are they really going to shift assets? I agree with Miles, I don't like the idea of shifting assets away from where they're dedicated to search. But there's a question of money and assets at this point.

BOLDUAN: Miles, who do you think should handle that? If they need to run this theory down and it at some point does include moving assets, some navy is going to have to get out there, who do you think will handle this?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, let's not get the cart before the horse here. Before we start steaming in this navy of high- tech tools that will verify this, there are simpler ways to do this.

Number one, if they would train their satellite on a known wreckage site and prove they can actually do this, there are ditching sites the world over that we all know about where the planes are still there. We know where they are. Let's see where they are. I'm from Missouri, show me on that one.

And number two, why don't they train their satellite on the search zone and disprove that the plane is there? What's the matter with that?

Before we start moving ships on the water, very expensive, painstaking and most important, taking assets away from where the evidence leads us, I think they should do this.

BOLDUAN: Mary, do you agree with Miles? SCHIAVO: I do. And what people have to know and other people probably have seen this, too, I know Miles gets these every day, we get dozens of -- some of them with extensive research. But we get dozen tips, the plane has to be in China, the plane has to be in the Diego Garcia, the plane has to be in the Arabian Sea. Every day people have gone in. People have done a lot of work, very impressive work.

So, there's no shortage of tips and possible sites that have come in. It really is tough on the investigators, on the Australians and Malaysians to decide among so many leads.

And this one is getting traction because they went public.

BOLDUAN: That's a very interesting perspective, because when I spoke with the director of GeoResonance, he said they had been ignored and that's why they decided to go public with the research they had.

Miles, do you think what Mary is talking about here, that maybe being ignored wasn't necessary -- that Australia and Malaysia are ignoring them, they are just inundated with so many theories, this is just kind of par for the course.

O'BRIEN: They were ignored because there is no known technology to do what they did, period. It doesn't exist. It's made of unobtainium. So, that's why they were ignored.

And now, 50 days in, when the media is looking for another story, they release this information. I think it's cruel to the families, period.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the actual search that has the evidence that we know and the searchers are focused on. We've now moving into the winter. We have seen over the past few days, because of conditions, they have had to call off the search for the day. At what point do you think we're going to hit that part of the season where we're going to have to bring the assets in and we're going to have to wait this out?

SCHIAVO: Well, actually, it's probably pretty soon. I mean, that has happened in other searches in the past. Angus Houston, the Australian also be the ones to make the call on that, because they're most familiar with the conditions and the seas. I guess the U.S. Navy could if they're not going to send the ships out there, particularly with the Bluefin anymore, the supply ship and the Bluefin ship.

But I think the Australians will and they'll call it off soon. You know, they can use the time very profitably in doing some of the things that Miles suggested, in finding out if the fingers really degrade from 37.5 to 33.5 over time in ocean water.

There are a lot of things they can do to beef up their search. It certainly doesn't mean they're ending it. That's had to happen in many searches. They've had to stop for bad weather conditions.

BOLDUAN: I wanted to get your final thought on that, Miles, because when I saw the release from the Australian search group -- the search leaders this morning that said we're going to transition into this next phase over the coming weeks, I thought, oh, that sounds like a delay. As Mary is saying, there's a lot of work to be done even before then.

O'BRIEN: Well, let's remember, in the case of Air France 447 when they found wreckage on the surface, it was two years before they found the wreckage below. So, you know, we have a disconnect between the patience that we have and the families have and the patience required for a search like this.

I would encourage everyone, including my fellow reporters, to remember this and to remember every time you report a wild claim that is completely unsubstantiated, there are families' emotions being toyed with and I think it's cruel.

BOLDUAN: I think it's important perspective. Why we've got you guys talking about it, when it becomes part of the conversation -- any theory that has made such a splash and gotten so much attention.

All right. Miles and Mary, thank you so much.


CUOMO: All right. Thanks, K.B.

Coming up on NEW DAY, a shocking twist in the years-long Amanda Knox case. A new legal theory, a new murder weapon. We break down how an Italian court came to its conclusion and an update on Amanda Knox herself that you're going to want to hear.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

The Amanda Knox legal saga just got stranger. New this morning, an Italian court is explaining its reason for reconvicting her. But for the first time, the court says the murder wasn't a sex game gone wrong, but that Knox killed her roommate over money.

The court also claims there was more than one murder weapon and more than one murderer. Knox, who is planning an appeal, still would face possible expedition to Italy in this matter.

So, let's discuss how they figured this out and if it makes sense.

We have Joe Tacopina, criminal defense attorney, and senior CNN analyst Mr. Jeffrey Toobin.

Thank you both for being with us.

Jeffrey, let me start with you.

Let me get it -- do I have it right that the judge says prosecutors, you're right, she did it, but your whole reason, the whole reason, your whole motive, which matters in Italy, not here, is wrong. We're going to believe the killer and his take about the relationship between the two girls.

Is that accurate?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's right. I think, just to remind people because, gosh, this has been going on so long now. There is someone in prison, Rudy Guede who is generally and I think overwhelmingly believed to be at least one of the killers. I mean, his fingerprints were on the knife. I mean, this is a guy -- there's no doubt that he was a principle figure involved in the murder of Amanda Knox.

Now, the question here and the one raised by the appellate court decisions yesterday is were Amanda Knox and her boyfriend, Raffaelle, were they also involved in stabbing her? That's a theory.

This money theory that hadn't been put forward before. I find it strange given my background in the legal theory -- in the American legal system, that the prosecutors can sort of come up with a new theory seven years after the murder. But, you know, on the surface, it is not implausible that this is the way it could have unfolded.

CUOMO: Coming up with new theories not implausible, Joe Tacopina. But do you see in this decision the proof, the evidence to support it?

JOE TACOPINA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No. This is ridiculous. This is basically like a James Patterson novel. They've come up with new facts, new theories based out of holed cloth. There's absolutely no new facts, Chris. And listen, I spent almost three years in Perugia during the investigative stages --

CUOMO: Perugia is during the main trial, where it happened.

TACOPINA: Yes. I spoke with the prosecutors, the police, the defense attorneys, local defense counsel. And I will tell you, there's not a stitch of evidence that implicates Amanda Knox or her boyfriend in this murder.

CUOMO: You think she would have been arrested, indicted, charged in the United States?

TACOPINA: She never would have been charged. There's absolutely no way it would have gone past the grand jury phase.

CUOMO: Alan Dershowitz, great legal mind, respected by all of us to be sure, he says, Jeffrey Toobin, that people are in jail for murder in the United States for less on the record than Amanda Knox has in this case. Do you agree?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, I can't speak to every person in prison the United States. I'm a little -- I'm not as categorical as Joe is in thinking this is a completely bogus case against Amanda Knox.

CUOMO: So, what's the best part of the case?

TOOBIN: Well, her statements -- her presence at the scene. I mean, there are -- she did not behave in a particularly exculpatory manner, but the physical evidence has always pointed much more to Rudy Guede. The question is, you know, could she have a role as well?

I thought the acquittal was the right judgment. It's worth keeping in mind that this judgment will go to the Italian Supreme Court before it's final in Italy again. So this is not over even in Italy.

TACOPINA: You know, but that being said, there really is -- there's not a fact that implicates here, the way she acted --

CUOMO: Maybe her behavior was bad, maybe she didn't do the right things. Maybe the story -- it doesn't sound great that she and her boyfriend told. But that doesn't make her guilty.

TACOPINA: But she arrived at the scene, she lived at the scene. It was her house, so she was supposed to be there. The fact of the matter s in that room which was a bloody mess, there was DNA of Rudy Guede all over the place. There was not a stitch of evidence, fingerprint, anything, that would link Amanda Knox to this. She would have had to be flying in mid air for her to be clean.

CUOMO: But the decision says, the motivation says that they cleaned it up and removed their DNA. Forensic experts say it would have been hard to clean this scene without basically torching the place.

People have legitimately poked holes in the rationale story, the alibi story of Sollecito, her boyfriend, and Amanda Knox. But is there a difference between saying my story as the defendant isn't great, and making the case against me? They're very different things, aren't they, Joe?

TACOPINA: Very different things. You can't supplant an implausible story and make that the evidence in the case. I mean, look, inconsistent story, incredible story, coupled with some evidence is one thing.

But I tell you, Chris, I ask Jeffrey if he can articulate otherwise, there is not a stitch of evidence, scientific evidence that implicates Amanda Knox in this homicide.

CUOMO: And you think you have to have it.

TACOPINA: Yes, to have a conviction, where someone to spend their life in jail, I think you need some evidence.

CUOMO: Final quick point, Jeffrey. Got to go.

TOOBIN: She's never going to get expedited anyway. That's my larger point.

The American government is never going to send her back, even if the conviction is ultimately upheld. As long as she decides to take her vacations in some other country but Italy, she's never going to prison for the rest of her life. This is theoretical really.

CUOMO: That may be a relief to her supporters. You know who it's not a relief to? Amanda Knox. Amanda Knox has told me she does not want this to come down to the United States and some expedition thing. That she is not ready to accept injustice.

Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much.

Joe Tacopina, thank you very much.

And how do I know that? Because Amanda Knox wants to speak about this. She has never hidden from the case and she wants to come out and discuss and obviously, everybody wants to hear what she has to say about this latest turn and what her response will be.

So, tomorrow night, at 10:00 p.m., we have an exclusive interview with Amanda Knox. You will find out what she has to say about these new claims, she says she will back away from no question about what the court has to offer and you can judge for yourself.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, a botched execution in Oklahoma raising the question again about the big question and the controversy over executions in that state and across the country. We're going to speak with someone who witnessed the execution and ask what went wrong and what she saw.

Also ahead, the owner of the L.A. Clippers is out of the picture for now. But will Donald Sterling try to hold on to the team despite his ban from the NBA? We'll discuss when NEW DAY returns.


PEREIRA: Now, time for the five things to know for your NEW DAY.

We start at number one, as always, the state of Oklahoma now giving its execution guidelines another look after a lethal injection went very wrong. Clayton Lockett did die 43 minutes after receiving the first injection.

The NBA says there is no place in their league for Donald Sterling after his racist remarks. He's been handed a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine.

Dangerous storms threatening millions of people from the Gulf Coast to New England this morning. There's historic flooding in Pensacola, Florida, nearly a foot of rain shutting down roads and schools and triggering a state of emergency.

Leaders of the search for Flight 370 are dismissing an Australian company's claims that it spotted plain wreckage in the Bay of Bengal. Meantime, the final aircraft assisting in the search has begun to leave Australia.

President Obama will hold an afternoon event touting a federal minimum wage hike from $7.25 to $10.10. The Senate will hold a procedural vote on the issue today.

We always update those five things to know. So, be sure to go to for the latest. Chris?

CUOMO: All right. Thanks, Chris.

The Donald Sterling story is not over. So far, the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has banned him for life for his racist remarks and fined him the maximum $2.5 million. He's also pushing for team owners to force Sterling to sell the L.A. Clippers. It's unclear if they will, or Sterling will accept, and what happens if he doesn't?

So, let's discuss. Rachel Nichols, host of CNN's "UNGUARDED", is with us.