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CNN NEWSROOM

Supreme Court Overturns DOMA, Dismisses Prop 8 Case on Standing; Interview with Tony Perkins; Aaron Hernandez in Police Custody; Interview with Melissa Etheridge; Coverage of the George Zimmerman Case

Aired June 26, 2013 - 11:00   ET

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


TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Voters in California voted twice, so I think this certainly is a rejection of the voters of California who have twice gone to the polls to uphold the natural definition of marriage.

So they've completely ignored them as we can tell from the decision at present.

But again, in this case, the court could have gone much further and struck down these marriage amendments, which are in 30 states. They did not do that. This only applies to California and how it's going to be implemented we don't yet know as we are still combing through the opinion.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tony Perkins and Reverend Muller (ph), thanks to both of you for your weighing in on these historic decisions today by the justices of the Supreme Court.

Let's go back to the Supreme Court. Jake Tapper is covering this historic day for us there.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It is historic indeed, Wolf.

And while same-sex marriage supporters have been given big victories, we should take a moment, I think, to talk with our legal experts about what they did do and what they did not do today because today was not a ruling saying same-sex marriage is the law of the land.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Correct. The DOMA decision is an immense victory for the same-sex rights -- same-sex marriage supporters. No doubt about that. That will change the lives of thousands of married people in the 12 states where it's legal.

On the Proposition 8 case, the court could have said all 50 states have to have same-sex marriage tomorrow. The justices did not say that.

They certainly appeared to open the door to same-sex marriages resuming in California, but the other 38 states are not yet affected by this decision, although it certainly does look like the court is moving in the direction of saying that courts -- that everybody has the right to get married. TAPPER: Jonathan Turley, final thoughts on today's events.

JONATHAN TURLEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, it's absolutely correct. The decision on DOMA is sweeping, and it really -- you get a sense that these justices felt history.

With regard to Proposition 8, it's more of a victory by default. The only thing living after this opinion is the original order of the district court, which presumably could still be enforced.

What is really good news is they make it very difficult for the proponents of Proposition 8 to get standing for the next round of litigation, and as we look down the road ...

TAPPER: You would have to be a governor or an attorney general and right now

TURLEY: That's exactly right.

TAPPER: Now, when you say good news, you mean good news if you support same-sex marriage.

TURLEY: Yeah, right, if you support same-sex marriage, that's right.

TAPPER: And so, you would have to be a governor or attorney general, and right now, the attorney general and the governor in California are Democrats, and they are supportive of same-sex marriage.

They do not want to bring an end to the law being struck down, the ban being struck down.

TURLEY: Right. The only other option would be to pass a state law that gives an individual, a third party, the right to represent the state in this type of litigation.

TAPPER: We will have much more on this decision, and, of course, a lot of other breaking news going on this morning.

I'm going to go back to Ashleigh Banfield. Ashleigh, throwing to you.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

We've got a very busy show ahead, a lot of news breaking today in the George Zimmerman case, Aaron Hernandez, and then, of course, everything happening at the U.S. Supreme Court. We've got all of those stories coming your way, live.

In the meantime, history making in the -- look at that. That is jubilation, folks, supporters and opponents and the media and the masses, all gathered here today at the Supreme Court.

The justices just gave their blessing to same-sex marriage, and millions of lives have changed from this day forward.

Also, Aaron Hernandez just released by the New England Patriots football team after being taken into custody like this by plainclothes police.

And graphic testimony, so graphic, in fact, crime scene photos so gruesome, that Trayvon Martin's mother had to turn away. His father had to leave the courtroom.

So much to talk about only three days into George Zimmerman's murder trial, all of that coming up in just a moment.

First off, though, today, a historic moment when it comes to the rights of millions of Americans. The Supreme Court said "yes," yes to same-sex marriage this morning, repealing both DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, and Proposition 8 in the state of California.

President Obama, who is right now on Air Force One, on his way to his African tour, was quick to put out this tweet. Have a look at this.

"Today's DOMA ruling is a historic step forward for marriage equality. Love is love." There you have it.

Melissa Etheridge joins me live now on the telephone from New York. Melissa, it's no secret that you have been not only married yourself, but you have four children. This has been a very big case for you. This has been almost life's work for you. I want to get your initial reactions to hearing these decisions today.

MELISSA ETHERIDGE, SINGER (via telephone): Oh, love is love and America is beautiful. It's a wonderful day. It's a wonderful day for America, for all its citizens, and for our amazing Constitution.

And just, you know, God bless America and the Forefathers that put this sort of document in place that could withstand this sort of questioning and this sort of putting to test of our diversity in America, and our civil rights.

It's just an amazing, amazing day. I'm proud to be an American.

BANFIELD: So at the same time, Melissa, yes, this means federal recognition for anyone who's in a same-sex marriage in the states where that's recognized, but there are dozens of states that do not recognize.

So while it's a great day, there's still a very big battle ahead, isn't there?

ETHERIDGE (via telephone): Oh, of course. And this is -- this has been ongoing. I've been waving this banner for 20 years. So it's ongoing, and as we grow as a civilization, as a culture, as the fear of the other gets less, as people understand what same-sex marriage and love is, and as we have families, and we're your neighbors, and you work with us, and you understand that we are family, and we're a part of this America, those old fears grow old and they will die away.

And maybe it will take another 20 years, but I can feel the momentum. I can feel the movement in the direction towards liberty and freedom. And that's what we're about in America.

And it's, again, over 200-year-old American experiment is still working. It's a beautiful thing.

BANFIELD: So, Melissa, to your point about this being a 20-year battle for you, and what you consider the civil rights and the equal protection under the law for gay and straight people, I just want to read for you one of the most recent polls about what Americans feel when it comes to this issue.

Should marriages between gays or lesbian couples be recognized as valid? Fifty-five percent say yes. Forty-four percent say no.

I want to beam us all back to 1978 when 53 percent of those who were asked if homosexual relationships between consenting adults was morally wrong, they thought, yes, at that time. That's 1978.

Do you think we've made the kinds of strides that we should have in that amount of time, or are we on sort of an exponential curve when it comes to recognition of this as a right?

ETHERIDGE (via telephone): Oh, I think we're moving along quite well. I think it has taken us as homosexuals to accept ourselves.

It takes a lot for an individual to say, OK, I'm growing up, I'm a teenager, I'm a young adult, and I am indifferent to what the social norms say.

In the '80s, it was very, very difficult for us to stand up and go, wait a minute, no, I'm not -- I'm not a criminal, I'm not insane. I'm not mentally ill. I love someone else, and they happen to be the same sex.

And it takes each gay person to come to that inside themselves, and it's still a problem. It's still a problem within each, you know, individual. And as that comes easy -- as that becomes easier and easier for an individual to understand their own homosexuality, then they can stand in their community, they can stand in their family and say, I'm a good person, I am a contributing citizen to this family, to this community, to the state, to this country. And I'm a strong part of the social fabric.

And once that person becomes that, that's -- that's contagious. And it goes all around. And so, that's what we've seen, is our community get stronger. And so, then, our brothers and sisters who might not think they know a gay person, and, wait a minute, you know, that's Joe down the street, he's a good guy. I don't see any reason why he shouldn't get married, that sort of thing is what changes our nation and our world.

BANFIELD: well, when you mention family, you've got four conversations that I'm sure you're going to be having today with your four kids. I congratulate you, and good luck to you with your family as you navigate through this newness.

ETHERIDGE (via telephone): Well, it is about family, and I love my four kids. I called my -- well, now my fiancee. I'm looking forward to marrying my partner of three years we've been together, and I'm going to get married in the state of California. I woke them up this morning telling them that the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA, and I'm so proud of my daughter bailey, my son Beckett, Johnny Rose, Miller, I love you all.

I love everybody out there. It's great day. Thank you so much.

BANFIELD: Best wishes to you and your fiancee and your children, as you move through ...

ETHERIDGE (via telephone): Yes, thank you.

BANFIELD: ... today's decision. Thanks, Melissa.

This decision is going to have a big, big impact on not only Melissa, but a lot of people, especially the benefits that same-sex couples have not been receiving so far, like income tax benefits, health benefits, estate tax benefits.

Literally millions and millions of dollars that have been denied to gay people up until now, had they been married.

Our justice correspondent Joe Johns is live with us outside the courthouse right now with all of the energy in action behind you. Just take me there and give me the feel for what it's like where you are right now.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Pretty extraordinary moment here, quite frankly, Ashleigh.

If you look around, these people have been here, many of them, since quite early in the morn morning. There were cheers when I walked out of the courtroom.

Inside the courtroom, just a powerful, electric moment, I think, is the best way to describe it. The courtroom filled, as usual, in the front with all of the suits, the legal types and so on, the bureaucrats, but in the back, young people in summer clothes and flip- flops, who -- some of whom had stayed here all night long just to get an opportunity to come in and hear what the court had to say.

On the bench, when Justice Anthony Kennedy was reading the majority opinion, there was an audible gasp when he stated that the Defense of Marriage Act was, in fact, unconstitutional, a gasp, a squeal, however you want to call it.

It came from the back of the room, one of those many people who had been here for so long to try to get in.

I think otherwise, on the bench itself, very little reaction or emotion from any of the justices. Obviously, they're very familiar with this decision that was read today. With the notable exception of Justice Clarence Thomas, who curiously chewed gum almost throughout the entire proceedings today.

The other thing that was very interesting, Ashleigh, and you haven't heard much about it, was Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent, which was absolutely scathing from the bench.

He really went after the proponents of gay marriage, and, in part, attacking the majority for the type of language it used and the proponents of gay marriage have used in this fight to get the defense of marriage act overturned.

And as you know, Ashleigh, that's very interesting simply because Justice Scalia, of all the nine on the bench, is the one who has the way with words and the sharp language he uses in his opinions.

So just a fascinating day here at the United States Supreme Court, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: And yet another dissent from the bench. We're getting that all week long.

This is a big, big week, and a lot of heat and energy, a great job reporting from out there, Joe Johns, a lot of information coming down the pike.

We're not finished our coverage on this. I'm going to let Joe go, and we'll check in with Jeffrey Toobin later on in the hour, more analysis to this decision, the reaction, and the future implications of the decision. That's coming up.

But we have other breaking news, a dramatic turn of events playing out in the Boston area, New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez led out of his own home in handcuffs by plainclothes police officers, and not just a few. You see two in your screen. There are about a dozen of them there.

This happened in North Attleborough. Within minutes of his arrest, more bad news, the Patriots team announced that they released him.

Susan Candiotti joins us live now in Attleboro. So give me a feel for where we stand in this process right now.

I know he was headed for the arraignment. Is he still in there, or is it over?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, we understand he is still at the police department, Ashleigh, at this hour, even though he was arrested, oh, just before 9:00 this morning, so more than two hours ago.

He's at the police department. All we have is the official notification he has been arrested and that the arraignment will take place where we are standing.

He was arrested in one town, where he lives, North Attleborough, and then he will be taken to the district courthouse. That's the standard procedure here in Attleboro. It's a short distance away.

We don't know at this hour whether he has had -- been able to meet with his lawyers at the police department. We've reached out repeatedly to them, but have had no comment from them. All we know is that when his first arraignment is over, and that's what will happen next, when his arraignment first appearance is over, then the district attorney, who has been in charge of this investigation from Bristol County, will have something to say to the news media.

So until then, we don't know what the charge is, but what a scene it was this morning just before 9:00 a.m., when he was led out of his house, plainclothes officers going up to the front door, and just inside the front door, when the door opened, the handcuffs were placed on him.

He was led out, his arms cuffed behind his back beneath a white T- shirt. He was wearing shorts. And he spit as he was being walked to the squad car, and then he was driven away.

Of course, all of this is part of an ongoing murder investigation into the shooting death of Odin Lloyd. Lloyd is a friend of Aaron Hernandez. According to their own family members, the sister of Aaron Hernandez and the sister of the victim in this case -- or rather the girlfriends of both were sisters. And so that is one thing that connects them. And so occasionally they also went out together.

The body of Odin Lloyd was found less than a mile from Aaron Hernandez's house. It is a short distance from there. Hernandez's house has been searched at least twice in connection with this. Just a few days ago, we saw them bringing several bags out of the house with undisclosed items of evidence. Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Susan, I'm still curious, though. He hasn't been charged yet. We don't know what the charges are. We don't know if perhaps it's murder or obstruction or something else. And yet, the Patriots saw fit right away to cut ties with a man they were prepared to pay for five years $40 million just last year. Do they know something we don't know?

CANDIOTTI: Well, that may be possible, of course. We've been talking to them since the beginning of all of this, but they did release a statement.

So here's how it reads. Quote, "A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigators" -- or, rather, investigations -- sorry, lost my place there -- "into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. We believe that that's the right then to do."

That's what their statement says. By the way, Ashleigh, I also had a chance to speak with the sister of the victim in this case. Her reaction to news of the arrest, even knowing without the charges, she said, "God is good." She has said consistently throughout this that "I don't know whether he had anything to do with it, but at least we think, anyway, he knew something about what led to this."

Back to you, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: All right, Susan Candiotti reporting live for us from North Attleboro. Thank you and do let us know if and when you hear the specifics on the charges.

We've got so much more, a lot of breaking news today, not the least of which the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial. Coming up, photos you have not seen. Evidence you have not seen. But you know all about this legendary evidence. We've got more coming up in just a moment.

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BANFIELD: 17-year-old Trayvon Martin face down in the grass, his body lifeless and the Skittles and that fruit drink that he bought less than an hour before still in his pockets. These are photos of the evidence from that moment, and they were shown to the jury yesterday in the George Zimmerman murder trial, the neighborhood watchman who killed him, but he says in self-defense.

All of this was just too much for Trayvon's mother and father, both of whom eventually left the courtroom after several images had been shown. Also shown to the court, that much-talked-about hoodie. And there you have it. You've heard of it, seen a photo of it. That is the actual evidence from that night, the one that Trayvon was wearing the night he was shot in the chest.

Also, photos of the injuries that George Zimmerman says he sustained at the hands of Trayvon Martin. And we're starting to hear from those who witnessed the struggle between these two in that rainy darkness outside of that condo complex. We're hearing from more of them today, in fact. We're looking at all angles of this trial.

I want to start with our George Howell, who is live right now in Sanford, Florida. George, this has been a very emotional day in the courtroom, from audio tapes to witnesses and crying. Give me a bit of summary to everything we've been hearing so far this morning.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, absolutely. Very emotional for people in the courtroom. Emotional for Trayvon Martin's parents. You could see Sybrina Fulton tearing up as she heard the testimony of these witnesses.

What we're hearing today, these are people who lived in the neighborhood. Right now, on the stand, you see Jeannie Manalo. She says she heard howling noises and then looked outside and saw two people on the ground. We also heard a very similar story from Jane Surdyka. She says that she basically opened her bedroom window, heard two distinct voices, and then she called 911.

Keep this in mind. Very important for the prosecution, because they are relying on these witnesses to help them determine -- to help jurors decide -- who was screaming on that 911 audio. Was it George Zimmerman? Or was it younger Trayvon Martin?

Now, when you hear Surdyka's account of this, she says she heard two voices and one of them seemed to be a younger voice, she thought the voice of a young boy. I want you to listen to this 911 call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANE SURDYKA, WITNESS: An I'm looking out my window, like my backyard, and someone's yelling and screaming, "Help." And I heard like a pop noise. And they're both are still out there right now. I don't know what's going on.

911 OPERATOR: Well, I can tell you right now you're not the only person that's calling. We already have one officer on scene and another on the way.

SURDYKA: Oh, good. Oh my god, I see the person right now. I see him, like, walking. There's a man coming out there, people are coming out with flashlights. Oh my god. I don't know what he did to this person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The tension in that voice, the distress that you hear, that's what people are hearing in this courtroom right now. But in cross- examination, I do want to point out that the defense attorneys made the point that it's impossible for this witness to determine anything, because she didn't see it -- determine who was screaming, to determine the age of the person without seeing them.

So the defense is definitely trying to, you know, basically tear down this concept that a person can determine who was screaming without seeing it, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Well, and it was a dark and rainy and fearful night. You could hear the fear in her voice and you could see the tears on the stand. George Howell in Sanford, Florida, live for us. Thank you. And I want to remind you, you can watch the Zimmerman trial live as it happens on our sister network HLN.

And I want to bring back our CNN analysts Paul Callan and also with us defense attorney Danny Cevallos. Paul, let me just start with you. To the testimony that we have just been hearing about who it was screaming, you could hear Jane Surdyka talk about not only in the court, but sometimes even on the call, it's the boy. But at this point, no one knows the name George Zimmerman. No one knows the name Trayvon Martin. But yet she can determine, in her own thought, who the boy is. I need you to speak to me as a lawyer and what you would do with that information.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think this is some of the most important evidence in the whole case, because if it is a boy or a child screaming, that she hears, and then later on in other taped encounters, the jury's going to go against Zimmerman. Why is he shooting somebody on the ground screaming for help?

But can you determine it's a young person? Can you identify a scream? Ironically, they had a hearing on this with the top experts in the country and the judge said, you know something, scientifically, you can't determine whose voice it is in this tape. But the jury will be allowed to apply laypersons' opinion testimony to make that determination.

BANFIELD: And Danny Cevallos, understandably, this became an unbelievably massive story. It was wall-to-wall in the media. And at that time that Jane Surdyka began to give interviews and conversations subsequent to this incident, she had heard about a little boy. I mean, we'd all seen pictures of Trayvon Martin in his football uniform, I think, you know, in maybe fourth or fifth grade. So as a defense attorney, what would you do with what you're hearing on the stand?

DANNY CEVALLOS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, first, the defense already scored a major victory keeping out that science that just didn't meet the Frye or Dobert or the science standard, and allowing the jurors to make their own determination. The bottom line, it is the prosecution's burden to prove not only beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, but they also have to prove that -- they have to disapprove his self-defense defense.

So when it comes to this screaming issue, the jury ultimately is going to apply their own belief -- their own sort of experiences to determine whether or not they can --

BANFIELD: Yes, Danny, aren't you going to cross-examine her and say, "How did you know it's a boy? You didn't know who it was. You saw two men -- "

CEVALLOS: Exactly.

BANFIELD: " -- whom you describe one bigger, one smaller. But now you're suggesting it's a boy because there's been so much media coverage."

And that's why I ask you as a defense attorney, do you hammer away at this woman, who has nothing to do with any of this -- she's really a bystander -- and say, "Where did you get the idea this was a boy?"

CEVALLOS: No, you don't need to be harsh with a witness like this, that is unbiassed. It's very difficult because by now all of the attorneys have invested themselves emotionally. We saw that in Jodi Arias. But it's important to remain dispassionate and expose, not that this person is not credible or that they're dishonest, but rather their ability to perceive may have been compromised simply because they weren't there and they weren't looking directly at it when it happened.

BANFIELD: Not only that, but the descriptions that night, you know, were "bigger person, smaller person," and as the descriptions became more realistic to the television audience, Trayvon Martin ended up being a taller, thinner person, and George Zimmerman ended up being a smaller person.

Just quickly, Paul. Last --

CALLAN: Yes, Ashleigh, different attorneys have different approaches on this stuff, too. A lot of attorneys would be aggressive and go after her and say, "Hey, you're reading this in the newspaper and on TV. Now you're saying 'boy,' and it undermines your testimony." So it's different -- different styles for different attorneys.

BANFIELD: This is a big day for our legal show, not only because this case continues to develop at warp speed, but also -- Paul Callan, Danny Cevallos, don't go anywhere. We have a lot more coming up on the program. In particular, what this means today, what happened at the Supreme Court. More reaction and analysis and insight on a historic Supreme Court ruling.

You know how they feel. There is another side as well. The rulings on same-sex marriage and how America moves forward after this.

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