Return to Transcripts main page

STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Investigations Continue into Background of Boston Bombing Suspects; NBA Player Comes Out as Homosexual; Libyan Justice Ministry Surrounded by Armed Militia; Vigil for Murdered Girl to be Held Tonight; Female DNA Found at Boston Bombing Crime Scene; Lawyer Joins Boston Bombing Suspect's Legal Team

Aired April 30, 2013 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman live in Boston this morning. Our STARTING POINT today, investigators taking a closer look at the wife of an accused Boston marathon bomber after DNA belonging to a woman is found on one of the bombs. And for the first time, we're hearing the voice of the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, on a home video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at me. Give me a kiss. No. Give me a kiss..

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: CNN is covering this story from Massachusetts all the way to Russia. We're doing it like no other network can.

Then, an athlete in a major American sports league comes out as gay. NBA player, Jason Collins, making history. And over the next two hours, we're going to speak with Wade Davis, the former NFL player who came out last year, Rick Welts, the president and COO of the Golden State Warriors. We're also going to talk to Jason Collins' high school coach, Greg Hilliard.

Plus, trading jabs at a debate for a South Carolina Congressional seat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH COLBERT-BUSCH, (D) S.C. CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: When we talk about fiscal spending and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn't mean you take that money we save and leave the country for a personal purpose.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: She went there. Elizabeth Colbert-Busch comes out swinging against opponent, Mark Sanford. But, who won the night?

And this just in to CNN, a militia in Libya has the justice ministry there surrounded. We will have a live report from that hot spot coming up.

It is Tuesday, April 30th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Dramatic new developments to tell you about in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. Female DNA has been found on fragments of one of the explosive devices. Now the big question is, whose is it? The FBI is visiting Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow at her parents' home in rhode island and leaving with bags of DNA evidence. They're also trying to piece together Katherine Russell's every move in the days before and just after the attacks.

Meantime, the medical examiner knows what killed Tamerlan Tsarnaev but not releasing the details because the family has not yet claimed his body. As for surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, another lawyer has been added to his defense team, death penalty expert Judy Clarke is now part of that team. She has represented high profile clients in the past.

We want to get right to Pamela Brown live in Devens, Massachusetts with more on this investigation. Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John. Investigators are trying to figure out whether Katherine Russell, the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had any role whatsoever in the Boston marathon attacks. They went into the home she was staying in yesterday and did not walk out empty-handed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: FBI agents searched this home belonging to the family of Katherine Russell, the widow of Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who she married three years ago.

Agents carried out two block equipment cases and clear plastic bags marked DNA samples. Sources say the FBI took these samples to see if they match up with female DNA discovered on the pressure cooker devices used in the Boston marathon bombings. Russell, who has denied any involvement in the attacks, has been staying in this North Kingstown, Rhode Island, home, ever since her husband's death during a police shootout.

Nearby in this apartment, the FBI has interviewed Mikhail Allakhverdov, the mysterious man known as Misha, identified by the suspect's relatives as a key influence in radicalizing Tamerlan. The attorney for Misha's family says they're cooperating.

RICHARD NICHOLSON, ATTORNEY: Today they have answered all the questions that have been asked of them by the authorities. They're fully cooperating. And that's it. There's really nothing more to say.

BROWN: Misha denies any wrongdoing and says he hasn't spoken to Tamerlan in three years according to a reporter who recently interviewed him.

CHRISTIAN CARYL, "NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS": What he told me was, "I had not been his teacher. If I had been his teacher I would have made sure that he knew that doing something like this was wrong." So he was very, very emphatic about that. Very upset.

BROWN: This new YouTube video has surfaced allowing us to hear Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's voice for the first time as he plays with his niece.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at me, I said.

BROWN: He's now at this prison hospital here in Devens, Massachusetts, locked up in a 10x10 foot cell where he will spend all his time except for one hour allowed each day for outside activity.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Devens prison hospital officials say Tsarnaev is interacting, talking with medical staff, but they won't say whether he's taking advantage of that hour a day he's allowed to be outside his cell. Now we have learned that a judge has appointed Judy Clarke of California, the experienced death penalty lawyer, to Tsarnaev's defense team. She has represented a number of high profile clients, including Jared Loughner, the Tucson mass shooter. And interesting to note here, John, that most of her high profile clients have received life in prison rather than the death penalty.

BERMAN: The Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, as well. Pamela Brown live for us in Devens, Massachusetts. Thanks so much, Pamela.

It was kind of a milestone moment here in Boston overnight. We saw them repainting the finish line, the spot where the runners crossed the finish line here in Boston on Boylston Street. Traditionally they repaint the finish line the night of the marathon after the runners finish the race. This year for obvious reasons that whole process was delayed by a couple weeks.

If you want to know the impact, the reach of the story here in Boston it's had a direct effect on our other major story of the day, Jason Collins, the basketball player coming out as gay said the marathon bombings changed his entire outlook on life and was a key impetus to come out. Christine Romans back in New York with that story and the rest of the other day's top news. Hey, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, John. It's a brave new world for Jason Collins. The longtime NBA player who just revealed he's gay. In less than 24 hours the 34-year-old Collins who played for six teams in a twelve-year career has gone from journeyman to trail blazer. CNN's Rachel Nichols following developments for us this morning.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. There's definitely a feeling in the athletic community that this was coming. Whether it was the environment in the country, the people thought this might happen in the NFL. Even word of a group of NFL players coming out at the same time to lessen the media burden. Maybe the NBA. But nobody expected Jason Collins to be coming out on the cover of "sports illustrated." Giving you insight into just how much of a surprise this was, his twin brother, who also played in the NBA at one point said he didn't know that Jason, his lifelong best friend, was gay. But it turns out that Jason Collins, while not expected, might have been the perfect person to make this revelation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICHOLS: For the past twelve seasons, Jason Collins has done the NBA's dirty work, his seven foot, 255 pound frame protecting the basket night after night, with little or no recognition. But with his revelation in this week's "Sports Illustrated" that he's gay, that anonymity is over. In explaining his decision, Collins said, quote, "I've endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality, I felt whole for the first time."

President Obama called Collins to say he was impressed with his courage, while the first lady tweeted it was a huge step forward for the country. Many from the NBA community also expressed support.

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, NBA/TNT ANALYST: Character is found in those who lead. I like to commend you, Jason, for coming out and showing us what leadership looks like.

KENYON DOOLING, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES GUARD: I'm glad he took that step. I know he feels liberated for doing it. I wish him the best and I hope that you know, NBA guys can get past sexual orientation, you know, all that BS. You know at the end of the day he's a good guy, he's a hard worker, he's a good basketball player and that's what he should be judged for and that's what he should be known for.

NICHOLS: Not everyone is accepting of his sexuality. A prominent ESPN basketball analyst called Collins a sinner.

CHRIS BROUSSARD, ESPN NBA WRITER: I'm a Christian. I don't agree with homosexuality. I think it's a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.

NICHOLS: In his magazine article, Collins said he first thought about revealing his secret during the 2011 NBA lockout but it was the Boston marathon bombings that pushed him to action, helping him realize things can change quickly, and there would be no perfect time to divulge his sexuality.

Collins also revealed he decided to wear rarely seen number 98 as a tribute to Matthew Shepard, the gay university of Wyoming student tortured and murdered in 1998.

Collins is not the first male athlete to come out. But he is the first to do so while still playing for one of the four major U.S. pro leagues. That said, Collins is a free agent, which means right now, he's looking for a job.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NICHOLS: And that's really the big question, is we keep talking about him being a current player coming out. But we're going to find out just whether there is a backlash undercover or not. We're getting a very positive reaction from the league, from the teams. In fact I was at the Nets/Bulls game last night and the Brooklyn Nets organization, actually Jason Collins played for that organization for nearly seven years they came out very supportive of him. However they're not offering him a job, so we'll have to see if anybody does over the next few months.

ROMANS: Rachel Nichols stick with us. We're going to talk to two athletes who know all about this. Wade Davis is a former NFL player who came out last year. He's now on the advisory board of the you can play campaign which works to promote equality in sports, and Hudson Taylor is a wrestling coach at Columbia University and a former all- American wrestler. He's also the founder and executive director of Athlete Ally. That's a group who encourage straight athletes to fight homophobia and trans-phobia in sports. Nice to see both of you.

I want to start with you, Wade. President Obama called Jason Collins last night. Players are giving him support, like Steve Nash. I want to read something that Nash tweeted he said "The time has come, maximum respect." Of course the player with the Los Angeles Lakers, that's yesterday via Twitter. And Dwayne Wade said via tweet, "Jason Collins showed a lot of courage today, and I respect him for taking a stand and choosing to live his truth."

Here's the issue, though. We would be naive to think there isn't homophobia in some of those locker rooms and on some of those basketball courts. So does this change the game?

WADE DAVIS, FORMER TENNESSEE TITAN PLAYER: I think this changes the game on a multiple front. I think even the biggest game changer is that you have players like Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, and Dwayne Wade who are leaders in the locker room making comments like this, and a team will follow rank. You know, so if Kobe Bryant speaks for, the rest listens.

ROMANS: Does this help or hurt his chances of getting another job?

DAVIS: He can play so I don't think that it hurts him at all. He's 34 years old. He's in great shape. He averaged about 15 minutes last year. If he can help a team win someone will definitely --

ROMANS: You think the fans will accept this?

DAVIS: Definitely.

ROMANS: You don't think there's going to be anything cruel, any even in the heat of it on the basketball court from other players?

DAVIS: The NBA is a family. He's a member of that family. Everyone is going to support him.

NICHOLS: It helps being seven feet tall. And then he talked about that in this magazine article about, hey, he goes against the stereotype of what people think a gay athlete might look like or be like in the way people might talk to him. But it is interesting, because we've seen some teams say, they wouldn't want to be around players who attract a lot of media and who are a distraction. It's not necessarily homophobia. There have been players for all kinds of reasons we're watching Tim Tebow try to get a job and he's supposedly a distraction so teams don't want to take him for a totally different reason. It could be an issue as we go forward.

ROMANS: You know the tennis player Martina Navratilova told our Anderson Cooper that 30 percent of suicides -- are related to a sexual orientation crisis. I can imagine it's incredibly difficult in sports as well, that atmosphere. As a coach how do you identify with kids, how do you help kids and use what's happening right now to help kids who may be in crisis about their own sexual orientation?

HUDSON TAYLOR, WRESTLING COACH, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Sure. So you know, one of the most important thing as a coach and with athlete ally is victory through unity. We're going to be the most successful athletic community when we are the most united and any amount of homophobic or sexist language divides us. It creates a culture of individuals and makes us less able to accomplish our goals.

ROMANS: Maybe even thoughtlessly use words that that mean horrible words that are thrown around in sports.

TAYLOR: Absolutely. I think you know, I was raised by that athletic culture. Certainly I use that language for many years in my life. But you know, when you have athletes like Jason coming out, it gives this entire conversation context. It shows people that our words expand and resonate and can affect people in unforeseen ways.

And so Jason coming out I think not only serves as a reminder of why we need to start speaking out as allies, but also that the young LGBT kids can participate in sports at an elite level and be open about their sexual orientation.

NICHOLS: Here's the thing about young fans they want to see someone on the field who looks like them, who is like them. It's why Mark Sanchez has struck such a chord, because he has Sanchez for young American kids. If you are a young, gay teenager trying to find your way in the world, if you can look at somebody who you see as a hero, somebody who you see accomplishing things and say, they're like me, I can be like them, that can be only a good thing.

ROMANS: All right, Rachel, Wade, Hudson, thank you all for joining us this morning. Next hour we're going to hear from Collins' high school coach and also Rick Welts, the president and coo of the NBA's Golden State Warriors.

Breaking news just in to CNN, armed men in trucks with anti-aircraft guns mounted on them surrounding Libya's justice ministry in Tripoli. . Jomana Karadsheh on the phone from Tripoli right now. What's the latest? Jomana, can you hear me? OK we just lost her. Obviously we are covering a very fluid breaking news situation in Tripoli with the justice ministry that's been surrounded by trucks with guns mounted on those trucks. We're going to get our producer back and try to figure out what exactly is happening there. But again, militia fighters surrounding Libya's justice ministry, some unrest this morning in Tripoli afternoon there.

All right, a grim search in lower Manhattan this morning after Boeing confirms that metal found in a New York City alley is part of a wing flap that one of the jets that crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11th. The New York City medical examiner now looking for human remains in that alley. The plane part will be removed after the search for remains is completed.

Amanda Knox breaking her silence about her explosive murder trial in Italy. In an interview with ABC news the former college student from Seattle says she's glad her story can finally be told after six years. The case made international headlines with Knox being labeled a temptress and a she-devil.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANDA KNOX, ACCUSED OF MURDER: For all intents and purposes, I was a murderer, whether I was or not. And I had to live with the idea that that would be my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Knox was convicted in 2009 for the murder of her roommate but then had it overturned in 2011. Italian prosecutors want to try her again.

Mark Sanford running for Congress and trying hard to run from his past. The former South Carolina governor attempting to resurrect the political career that ended in disgrace after he told voters he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, when he was really visiting his mistress in South America. During a heated debate last night, Sanford's Democratic challenger Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, she couldn't resist revisiting her opponent's past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT-BUSCH: When we talk about fiscal spending and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn't mean you take that money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She went there, Governor Sanford.

FMR. GOV. MARK SANFORD, (R ) SOUTH CAROLINA: I couldn't hear what she said.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Sanford never actually responded to Colbert-Busch's comments. The two candidates square off in a special election for a House seat next week.

The rising Red River has the town of Fargo and neighboring surroundings on edge this morning. That's because the National Weather Service predicts the river will swell to 35 feet and that would make it the ninth highest crest ever recorded. All the late season snow that's melting is making this the latest date the Red River has ever peaked.

All right we're going to go now to Jomana for us in Tripoli. She is in Libya. We know armed men in trucks with anti-aircraft guns mounted on them surrounding Libya's justice ministry in Tripoli. Jomana Karadsheh on the phone right now from Tripoli with the latest. What can you tell us is happening there?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, according to the country's justice minister who we just spoke to the main building of the justice ministry here in the Libyan capital has been occupied by a force of about 20 to 30 armed men who are heavily armed in military fatigues. This is a continuation of what we have been seeing over the past three days. On Sunday armed men took control of the streets surrounding the country's foreign ministry, banning staff from entering the ministry. And a scene which has moved now to the justice ministry. While the foreign ministry does also seem to be under siege. This is a very dangerous situation here, Christine. As these gunmen are trying to force lawmakers to pass a law that would ban the Gadhafi-era officials from holding office in the current government. But they seem to try to do this using force.

ROMANS: So they have a very political, a very simple political message here, the one the one law that they're trying to push?

KARADSHEH: Yes, Christine. This is their main demand. This is a bill that has been under debate between lawmakers here in parliament for months now. It's very (INAUDIBLE). But lawmakers are saying they could not be used into pass (AUDIO BREAK) law. It is a very critical one (AUDIO BREAK) that needs to be certain of what law passes (AUDIO BREAK) really can isolate a large number of people, including people who hold positions in the current government. So this is a really dangerous situation. The justice ministry telling us basically gunmen are trying to blackmail the government and they're hoping that the Libyan government authorities here will take a firm stance (ph) in dealing with these armed groups.

ROMANS: All right, Jomana Karadsheh for us in Libya this morning, thank you. Stay safe. As you cover that developing story.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, police step up the intense man hunt for a person who stabbed an 8-year-old California girl to death. Who they're questioning now. That's next on STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: A developing story in northern California. A vigil will be held tonight for 8-year-old Leila Fowler after her 12-year-old brother found her stabbed to death in their home. CNN's Paul Vercammen is live for us in Valley Springs, California, with the latest on, on this manhunt for her killer. Good morning.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. And just not enough yet for a composite sketch of a suspect. And that means whoever did this is out there somewhere on the loose and that has residents here tense.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERCAMMEN: Sheriff's deputies on foot and in patrol cars made their presence seen at Jenny Lind Elementary School. This is where Leila Fowler, the 8-year-old girl stabbed to death in her Valley Spring home over the weekend, attended third grade. Some classmates held flowers for Leila. Their parents held on to fear.

WENDY CONVERSE, VALLEY SPRINGS PARENT: I'm scared for my kids and for the family. It's horrible. He was friends with her in class. Classmates. They sit together at school. It's very sad. Things like that don't happen here.

VERCAMMEN: Tell us what you have and why.

ELIJAH CONVERSE, LEILA'S CLASSMATE: I'm sad. I didn't want her to die.

VERCAMMEN: Leila's mother told CNN via Facebook, "We are devastated. She was full of life. Look at our baby girl. She didn't deserve this." Leila's parents appeared at a news conference Monday night. They did not speak and were understandably emotional. Through police, they asked for respect and privacy.

Michael Range lives near the Fowlers and heard of Leila's deadly stabbing from a neighbor boy.

MICHAEL RANGE, NEIGHBOR: I took my kids in instantly and locked the doors. And waited to find out what happened. It was scary. We've been inside all weekend.

VERCAMMEN: A lot of residents here feel trapped, pinned down after the mysterious death of Leila Fowler, who would have turned 9 in June.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERCAMMEN: And tonight, 7:00 pacific time, they'll hold that vigil for little Leila. Back to you now, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Paul Vercammen. Thanks, Paul.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, NBA player Jason Collins has made history coming out as a gay athlete. But will this help or hurt his career? You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, I'm Christine Romans. minding your business this morning. The S&P 500 record high, the NASDAQ 12- year high. Those two indices on track for six straight months of gains. Today being the last trading day of the month. All this comes as the unemployment situation in the eurozone, we're just finding out this morning, hit a record high -- 12.1 percent. Compare that with our 7.6 percent in the U.S. stock futures this morning are fixed.

Veteran NBA player Jason Collins announcing he is gay. Could it boost his marketability? Some experts are telling us yes. He could make maybe seven figures from this revelation. Right now Collins only has one endorsement deal, it's Nike. And Nike doesn't use him currently in any ads. That could change. Other endorsement deals, speaking engagements could follow. Brand experts pointing out that this kind of burnishes his reputation on the court. More companies are trying to seem tolerant and open-minded that's the kind of brand they wanted to be associated with Jason Collins.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, investigators looking into a possible Canadian connection between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and a boxer-turned- jihadist who was killed in Russia. We are live in Dagestan next.

Plus we could soon hear testimony in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial. Why lawyers are promising this will get ugly. And remember this little boy fighting cancer but scored a touchdown? He just scored another goal. We'll tell you what it is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: New this morning on STARTING POINT, an intriguing development in the Boston marathon bombing investigation. Female DNA discovered on fragments of one of the explosive devices that detonated near the finish line. Federal investigators taking a close look now at Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow Katherine Russell. Agents leaving their parents' home with evidence, including DNA samples. They're also trying to figure out what she did in the days before, and just after, the attack.

As for the surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, another lawyer has been added to his defense team. Death penalty expert Judy Clarke. She has some high profile clients in the past, including Susan Smith, who was convicted of drowning her two children. This Judith (ph) Clarke also represented unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Tucson shooter Jared Loughner.