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New Search Warrants Released in Georgia Baby's Death Investigation; Decision on Clippers Deal Might Be Delayed; Man Survives Shark Attack
Aired July 7, 2014 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Michaela.
New search warrants just released this morning in the investigation into a Georgia father accused of letting his toddler die in a hot car. And now the mother of 22-month-old Cooper Harris is being eyed in this investigation.
For more now, let's discuss this with HLN's Nancy Grace. Nancy, thanks so much for being with us this morning.
NANCY GRACE, HLN HOST: Thank you for inviting me. Good morning.
BERMAN: So we get a look at the search warrants this morning. They include the desire to look at iPhones, computers, medical records, even the status of light bulbs in the house of Justin Harris. What more evidence do you think that investigators need to really make their case here?
GRACE: Well, as far as the father goes, Ross, I think that there is sufficient evidence right now to indict him, and right now it is in a holding pattern. We had a hearing last week. It is a bindover hearing; it's typically called that in this jurisdiction, where the case is bound over to the correct court. This would be a felony court for a homicide charge.
I strongly advise the district attorney to indict in the alternative, which means malice or premeditated murder and then felony murder based on child cruelty one, child cruelty two, and other charges. They brought forth so much evidence in the hearing last week that they got enough to go forward.
But over the weekend, more search warrants were revealed, were released, including, as you said, one for light bulbs. What's interesting about that is as follows. That day, the father, Ross, goes out to lunch with his friends. We don't know who really instigated that. He is the only one that wants to do shopping during lunch time. He gets one pack of light bulbs. He brings them back and in front of his friends goes to the car where the child is probably now dead, opens the door, throws in the light bulbs and slams the door and leaves.
They conducted a search, and -- based in a search warrant. We see the evidence of it -- to find out did they need light bulbs? Did they have extra light bulbs in the home? Or was all of this just a ruse to have his friends come by and see him nonchalantly look at the car.
BERMAN: Right, it's really interesting. You can see the case that the investigators are trying to put together here. I want to take a sidestep for a second. Because over the weekend, all I heard, Nancy, was people talking about the sexts. He was sexting while his son was in that hot car. It is stunning to hear that. It is unseemly to the nth degree. But in and of itself, the sexting, is that evidence here that a crime was committed?
GRACE: Well, a crime not related to the murder or the child's death, yes. Because he has now, and I'm talking about the father, Ross Harris, set himself up for another charge of possibly statutory rape, possibly enticing a minor. He was sexting a teen, including sending photos, let me just say, selfies, of himself naked, his private parts. He would send those to a teen girl. She had just turned 17. There were six different women that he was sexting that morning.
You know what's even more, to me, odder than a man obsessed with sexting? Is the fact that if you look at his computer history, he actually looked up people in the throes of death, and he would watch one video after the next, all under different circumstances. Some died in Iraq. Some committed suicide. There were various modes of death, but he would watch the video of someone actually dying over and over and over. He looked at the video that a veterinarian who I spoke to at length had created and posted, and the veterinarian sat in the car are in the hot car and explained to the viewer what a dog or an animal would go through in a hot car death. He watched the whole thing. And so did his wife.
And I'll guarantee you this, say -- you may say it means nothing, but for her to sit on the front row, looking bored, and snapping gum the whole hearing, that didn't help anything.
BERMAN: Let's talk about her a little bit right now. Because there is this idea --
GRACE: Let's do.
BERMAN: that -- that investigators are looking into her. Is she in trouble, do you think?
GRACE: Yes, I would say she's in trouble. However, and we're talking about Leanna Harris, the wife. Whenever a child goes missing or dies an unusual death, both parents in the immediate family are under suspicion. That doesn't necessarily mean she had anything to do with it. It does mean, however, that is where investigators look first.
So of course they're looking at her. Is it SOP, standard operating procedure? Don't know. But the fact she also says that she too looked up children dying in hot cars just before the baby dies, Cooper dies, there is no coincidence in criminal law. So of course they're looking at her. At the funeral, she said -- and I find this very unusual -- she said if she could bring Cooper back, she wouldn't do it. BERMAN: Yeah.
GRACE: That really struck an odd chord.
BERMAN: And people are also looking at comments she made when she found out her child was missing. She said, "Oh, my husband, must have left the child in the car." People think that's strange.
BERMAN: When she was at the police station, she asked her husband, "Oh, did you say too much?" She said a lot of odd things, including as you say at the funeral service. But when does odd, when does crazy, when does that become culpable? When does that become evidence that she did something wrong?
GRACE: Well, I don't know that I would call it crazy. I would call it probative, you know. You say tomato, I say tomato. But long story short, when one of the first things she says when she sees her husband is not, "What happened?" or break down in tears. She said, "Well, did you say too much to police?:" OK, that's way off the chart.
And -- and also, as you brought up, when she went to day care to pick up the baby, she goes, "Ross isn't here." And they go, "Oh, well, he was never -- your husband never dropped him off." And she said, "Cooper is not here." "Well, Ross must have left him in the car." And the day care worker said, "Oh no, no, no, there's a million things that could have happened." And she goes, "No, he left him in the car," as if she already knew that. That, to me, is damming.
BERMAN: Nancy, can I ask you if you were the defense right now, if you were the attorney, let's take it for the father now, let's stay with him, what would you be doing?
GRACE: Number one, I would get paid up front.
BERMAN: Besides getting paid.
GRACE: I'm telling you, this guy is looking -- yeah, definitely get paid up front. And I know the defense attorney and -- and the prosecutor in this case. Vic Reynolds is the DA The defense attorney is Matt Killgore (ph). He used to be on -- in a prosecution position at the attorney general's office, very, very good.
In fact, on a murder case that I had tried, he was working on the appeal. And I remember at the time thinking how very thorough he was, very impressed with him.
What would I be doing right now? Well, for one thing, I wouldn't let anybody talk because all of these statements that they -- the police have gotten is because they were yakking in the interrogation room. So -- all these phone calls from the jail, hello, they're recorded. Visits, don't talk. Because that's going to get them into a lot of trouble.
BERMAN: Nancy Grace, always informative and educational to hear from you. Great to have you with us this morning. Really appreciate it.
GRACE: Thank you for inviting me.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Always good to have Nancy on.
Coming up next on NEW DAY, the latest in the Donald Sterling saga. Could a last minute move by Sterling's attorney delay a decision on the deal to sell the Clippers? Oh, yes, it continues. Details on today's hearing, that's coming up.
And also this, a shark attack off the California coast. A swimmer who was bitten by a great white is speaking out about his terrifying experience. Don't wanna miss this. Thankfully, he's recovering.
BOLDUAN: The battle over the Los Angeles Clippers goes to court today. A judge will decide if Shelly Sterling is authorized to sell the team. Former Microsoft chief -- to -- to former Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer. But her husband Donald Sterling says she can't make the deal. And a last minute filing by his attorneys could delay the case.
CNN's Sara Sidner has more on Sterling versus Sterling.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald and Shelly Sterling are going one on one with $2 billion and an NBA team hanging in the balance. The fight is over whether she had the sole legal right to sell the L.A. Clippers. And it has gotten nasty, especially after two doctors hired by his wife determined Donald was mentally unfit to run the trust that owned the Clippers. According to court documents filed by Shelly's attorneys, Donald lashed out against those doctors on voice mail.
VOICE OF DONALD STERLING, L.A. CLIPPERS OWNER: I'm not incompetent. You're (expletive deleted) incompetent, you stupid (expletive deleted) doctor.
SIDNER: Crucial to the case, this letter from Donald Sterling dated May 22nd. His wife Shelly claims it gives her the power to sell the team.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the May 22nd letter, all it indicates is that Shelly has the right to discuss aspects of the sale with the NBA. It never references a third-party buyer.
SIDNER: Three weeks later on June 9th, Sterling changed his mind. That same day, Shelly and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer signed a binding multibillion dollar contract selling the L.A. Clippers.
(on-camera): Shelly contends she had every right to. Her attorneys entered this evidence into court. She says it shows Donald could no longer control the trust.
Now, two board certified doctors actually examined Donald and determined they have the early say of Alzheimer's and was mentally incapacitated. And in the Sterling family trust it states that is enough to remove him as a trustee.
(voice-over): Donald's attorneys contend he was tricked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to argue that their examinations were not complete, that there was fraud in the examinations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He issued public statements saying, "Way to go, Shelly, great deal." And then he changes his mind. You can't do that.
SIDNER: For months, the case has played out in the court of public opinion. But the ultimate decision will be made by a judge.
Sara Sidner, CNN, Los Angeles.
BERMAN: Interesting to see that one.
BOLDUAN: And it continues. My goodness.
BERMAN: Next up for us on NEW DAY, from taking a swim to being caught in the jaws of a great white shark. How a California swimmer survived a shark attack in his own stunning words.
PEREIRA: A long distance swimmer in California is recovering and counting his blessings this morning after surviving a great white shark attack. Steven Robles is speaking out, describing what was going through his mind as he came face to face with that shark.
STEVEN ROBLES, ATTACKED BY A SHARK: I really thought that that might be it. I thought -- I thought I might be dying.
PEREIRA (voice-over): Still recovering from the bite marks cut into his body, long distance swimmer Steven Robles describes his terrifying encounter with a great white shark over the weekend.
ROBLES: It's a burning sensation going along the bite marks, like a jellyfish sting that just keeps penetrating deeper and deeper.
PEREIRA: Officials say a 7 foot long juvenile shark had become agitated by a fisherman's hook when it attacked Robles, who was swimming near the Manhattan Beach Pier in southern California.
ROBLES: We saw each other. It did a sharp left turn, and then lunged right at me. Didn't even hesitate.
PEREIRA: His desperate cries for help all caught on tape.
ROBLES: It bit right into my torso. And I'm sitting there staring at this shark eye to eye, just right there. And I could feel the vibration of this entire shark gnawing into my skin.
PEREIRA: Robles says he acted on instinct, fighting for his life.
ROBLES: I grabbed his nose with my hand here, and I tried to pull it off of me. And fortunately the shark released itself.
PEREIRA: The attack sent nearby swimmers scrambling for safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shark! Get out of the water!
PEREIRA: Robles knows he's lucky to be alive, incredibly escaping with flesh wounds and a punctured artery in his hand.
ROBLES: It was just the scariest thing you could imagine.
PEREIRA (on -camera): Want to bring in marine scientist Chris Wojcik. We knew we'd have you back, but not so soon. I think right away we have to talk about -- would you consider this a true shark attack, given the fact that this shark was on a line, caught by a fisherman, on a fisherman's hook and essentially kind of bit the first thing he came in contact with.
CHRIS WOJCIK, MARINE SCIENTIST: No, I wouldn't consider this a real shark attack. I think this was sort of an unhappy coincidence.
PEREIRA: They described the shark as being agitated because it had a hook in its mouth. Tell us more about how they would react to that situation.
WOJCIK: Well, whenever I was out shark fishing and you brought the shark up to the back of the boat, they were very, very angry and they would be --
PEREIRA: I wonder why.
WOJCIK: Yes, exactly. And they would lash out at pretty much anything that was in front of them. They'd bite the back of the motor or the boat, they'd bite the boat itself, they'd bite the chum bag.
PEREIRA: A survival mechanism.
WOJCIK: Absolutely. I've been in the water with a lot of a lot of sharks, but I would never want to be in the water with one that is hooked.
PEREIRA: That was mad.
WOJCIK: For that exact reason. PEREIRA: So to that point, let's talk about the fact that this was on a fisherman's line. It's illegal to fish for -- to hunt for these type of sharks, the great white.
WOJCIK: It is. But unfortunately you can't distinguish which animal is going to bite on the end of your line. So you could sort surreptitiously be fishing for white sharks, but telling everyone you were just fishing for another species of shark, because the tackle is exactly the same. You might use a little bigger of a hook, but you could say I was fishing for the biggest leopard shark in the world, which really only grow to be five or six feet long.
PEREIRA: But the deal is you're supposed to cut the line as soon as you're able to identify that it's a great white.
WOJCIK: That's exactly right.
PEREIRA: This is -- we're getting differing reports, anywhere between 7 and 10 feet. That sounds look a juvenile.
WOJCIK: Yes, definitely. Just a year or two old.
PEREIRA: A year or two old. It's not uncommon to see them in the Manhattan Beach area in southern California at all. They kind of like that area.
WOJCIK: They do. And over the last couple of years they have had quite a few sort of take up residence this time of year off of that pier. I spoke to a friend of mine named Eric Martin, who is the director of the aquarium out on the end of the pier. And he said he's been out paddle-boarding specifically to film the sharks on his paddle board because it was that regular that they were there and he into that they would be there when he went.
PEREIRA: That regular, and this is where you tell us to pump the brakes a little bit. Attacks are very rare.
WOJCIK: Especially with one of these small animals. They're not used to hunting even sea lions and seals yet at this point in their lives. They're hunting for fish. So when they see something big like us, it doesn't even dawn on them that we are a prey item. Now, a bigger one would think a little bit more along those lines.
PEREIRA: It's a little hungrier.
WOJCIK: Yes, but smaller ones, they don't even really think about us as food.
PEREIRA: Highlight for us, again, I know you've been here to talk about it in the past but I think it begs repeating -- this shark is in bigger numbers because the food source is a lot greater now too, isn't it?
WOJCIK: The food source is a lot greater. We're doing more with conservation of their prey items. Marine Mammal Protection Act put an end to all killing of marine mammals. But also the fact that we stopped killing them back in 1997 has also done wonders for the population. Go figure.
PEREIRA: Our producer put together a little -- if you're feeling badly about the chances of getting attacked by a shark, they put together a little information. I think we can pull the full screen up.
Just so you know, you have a better chance of -- so this is the day that 13 fatal shark attacks in California, since 1950, that's -- you have a greater chance of getting killed by a cow. I'm not sure how that would happen. Maybe cow tipping of some sort. And then a little World Cup action, you have a greater chance of getting bitten by Luis Suarez, the soccer player, than you do of getting bitten by a shark. Overall, they're not coming after us.
WOJCIK: They're not coming after us. We're probably going to have more interactions with them --
PEREIRA: We're going to see them more.
WOJCIK: Yes, which is perfectly OK with me.
PEREIRA: Chris Wojcik, always a pleasure to have you here. Thanks for getting out of bed to talk sharks with us this morning.
WOJCIK: Thank you very much.
BOLDUAN: All right, coming up next on NEW DAY, a Wisconsin restaurant burns down. How a business owner turned tragedy into opportunity and helped renew a community. It's the Good Stuff. It's coming up.
PEREIRA: How about a little Good Stuff, friend? How about this? A Wisconsin business owner has turned tragedy into inspiration. A fire destroyed the Platteville Culver's Restaurant last November. Many expected the livelihoods of all 40 employees to go up in smoke too. But owner Bruce Kroll not about to let that happen. After his insurance covered his employees' payroll for 60 days, Kroll then kicked in the money to keep those checks flowing for an additional four months until the restaurant reopened.
But his generosity came with one simple request -- give back to the community. And they did at local churches, and at charities benefiting the disabled. One led an effort to give back to those who actually responded to the very tragedy that struck their workplace.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We set up a fund-raiser in honor of the local fire department. We raised over 2 grand and 100 percent of the donations were given to the fire department.
(END VIDEO CLIP) PEREIRA: It all just goes around in a circle. Isn't that great? All and all, Kroll paid out $144,000 out of his own pocket. But he has no regrets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE KROLL, RESTAURANT OWNER: It is just a building and Culver's is, Platteville is much more than that. It is the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: I gotta say, I love that. You say it is a lot of money that he spent, but it went right back. And it kept on going back.
PEREIRA: It did.
BOLDUAN: It's so difficult to have that perspective. It's just a building. When you know everything you put into it, but so important and amazing to me.
PERIERA: And you also realize what it means to the people that work there, right? They need it to keep going for their families and so on and so on. It's a powerful statement.
BALDWIN: I think that loyalty now of those employees will probably earn that $144 grand back.
BERMAN: They'll be showing up on time for a while.
All right, guys, we have a very fun way of ending the day. Not only the Good Stuff, but more Good Stuff. We can welcome a new member to the NEW DAY family once again. Our senior producer of new media, AKA the genius behind many of our --
BERMAN: Way new media right here.
BOLDUAN: James Reisner (ph) and his wife, they just had a baby. Christine delivered Layla Shell (ph) Reisner on July 4th. Very special birthday baby. The NEW DAY baby boom continues. It's very exciting.
BALDWIN: It's a very proud papa.
BOLDUAN: Congratulations, guys.
PEREIRA: Beautiful. What a head of hair too.
BOLDUAN: I know. BALDWIN: Love the name.
BERMAN: Congratulations, guys.
BOLDUAN: Yay. So excited. Yay, yay, yay. Baby Bolduan is going to have a lot of friends to play with.
BOLDUAN: All right, let's get over to NEWSROOM with Brianna Keilar in for Carol Costello. Hey Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there. There's something in the water up there I think, you know?
BERMAN: I stopped drinking.
KEILAR: I think you're all right, John.
All right, have a great Monday, you guys.
And NEWSROOM starts now.