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Obama Welcomes French President; Southeast on Alert; South Prepares for Storm; Shooter May Testify Today in Loud Music Trial

Aired February 11, 2014 - 09:30   ET



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To our French friends, I say let's do even more together for the security that our citizens deserve, for the prosperity that they seek and for the dignity of people around the world who seek what we declared two centuries ago, those unalienable rights, those sacred rights of man.


OBAMA: President Hollande, members of the French delegation, we are honored to have you here as one of our strongest allies and closest friends. Welcome to the United States. (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).


PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FRANCE: Mr. President, dear Barack, dear Michelle, ladies and gentlemen, it's cold in Washington, you're right, but it's a beautiful day. A great day for American friends. I now will speak in French because I am blessed (ph), I am obliged (ph) to do that for my country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, TRANSLATOR: We have received here my delegation as myself as friends. I am particularly touched by this reception by the president of the United States.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are always united by a common history from your town to the beaches of Normandy as you said so rightly, each of our countries knows what it owes to the other, its freedom.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yesterday we were in Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's residence, a great American statesman, once ambassador to France who remains one of the most beautiful symbols of the ties that unite us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This afternoon, at the Arlington Cemetery, I shall award the (INAUDIBLE), the highest French distinction, to the American unknown soldier. And I shall present American veterans who fought in the Second World War with an award. And I'd like to pay tribute to these men.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thus doing, I wish to demonstrate the fact that France will never forget the spirit of sacrifice shown by these American soldiers, nameless heroes who left their homes to liberate my country and Europe. We shall pay tribute to them during the celebrations that will take place in France to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landing. And I hope, Barack, that you will join me on the 6th of June, 2014, 70 years after D-Day landing.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're going to step away with this as the French president continues his remarks to this - I don't know, this beautiful crowd at the White House. What a beautiful setting.

Let's head to the White House. He's standing nearby. Jim Acosta.

Nice speeches, but I must be honest with you, they didn't really say very much.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, these -- this is a formal setting and so they're not going to get too political. But it is beautiful, but also frigid here in Washington. And you could hear both leaders using the international language of weather. The president saying that this is not really springtime in Paris, it's winter in Washington.

And President Hollande using some English there to say it's cold in Washington. But he went on to say that he is going to be paying tribute to veterans and fallen soldiers from D-Day and World War II in the liberation of France. And this just goes to show you how deep and really unbending the ties are between the United States and France, or at least it seems that way in this day and age.

Carol, I was just looking at a Pew Research Center poll that came out in the last 24 hours. Get this, Americans have - 59 percent of Americans, according to this poll, have a positive view of France. Contrast that with just 29 percent in 2003 when there was that disagreement between the U.S. and France over the Iraq War.

But, obviously, you could tell that this long relationship, this long friendship between the United States and France, it has persevered, it has made it through that period. And a lot of that, of course, is on display here today here at the White House on a very beautiful, but very, very cold day here in the nation's capital.

COSTELLO: I know it looks so nice and sunny on television, but I know it's bitterly cold. Jim Acosta, many thanks to you.

We're going to take a break. We'll be back with much more in the newsroom.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: Here we go again. Schools closed, store shelves picked clean and more than a thousand flights canceled. Less than two weeks after the winter storm paralyzed Atlanta, more waves of snow and sleet and freezing rain are hitting the southeast this morning. Officials are warning the amount could be, quote, "catastrophic." Nick Valencia is live outside CNN's headquarters here in Atlanta.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we're hearing words like "historic," "epic." And from the looks of the weather right now, it's just a mess already. The headline in "The Atlanta Journal Constitution," Carol, it says it all, you said it yourself, "here we go again." The southeast directly in the path of a double dose of severe weather. I don't have to tell you, we all saw what happened last time. You guys at home saw it. We here in Atlanta saw it. Officials here pulling out all the stops to make sure that that doesn't happen again.


VALENCIA: Southerners on alert this morning stocking up on supplies as a major winter storm is expected to wallop the region this week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This time it is a mixture of some ice and some snow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Widespread freezing rain. The potential for an ice storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do know it's going to hit and we do know it's going to be significant.

VALENCIA: In Georgia, the governor giving the National Guard advance warning well before the wintry weather moves in.

BRIAN ROBINSON, SPOKESMAN, GEORGIA GOVERNOR'S OFFICE: We're getting ready and trucks are coming here right now. Workers are coming here right now.

VALENCIA: Officials trying to stay ahead of the storm this go around after this gridlock nightmare caught them by surprise just a couple of weeks ago.

GOV. NATHAN DEAL (R), GEORGIA: We have been confronted with an unexpected storm.

VALENCIA: This morning, parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee are expected to see a wintry mix of snow, sleet, and freezing rain. This mess then making its way down to Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Snow made for dangerous driving conditions in Pennsylvania on Sunday. This tour bus crashing on the highway. State police say the driver accelerated too fast on the snow covered road and lost control. Nearly 30 injured, at least one in serious condition. This storm pushing its way over from the west where freezing rain, snow and high winds lashed out in Washington and Oregon, freezing drivers in their tracks. And in northern California, heavy rains triggered mud and rock slides.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a tuck down there that got buried in the slides.

VALENCIA: Isolated flooding also blocked some roads.


VALENCIA: And back here live in Atlanta. The rain has started to pick up. But what's happening right now, Carol, it's nothing compared to what meteorologists are predicting for later. More snow and then ice is going to be a really big problem. This thing could last all week.


COSTELLO: I'm prepared, although I didn't go to the grocery store. So I probably don't have enough toilet paper. Poor me.

Nick Valencia, thank you very much.

VALENCIA: You got it.

COSTELLO: Let's bring in Indra Petersons for the latest on the storm.

Indra, I believe you 100 percent. So, hit me.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, there's the thing, everyone keeps throwing out that word "catastrophic." The reason they're talking about the potential for this to be catastrophic is because the amount of ice. So a little bit of a different picture. Places in Georgia could see over a half an inch of ice. That's the threshold that can bring down power lines. It can also knock down trees. That is the concern. The big takeaway we want everyone to pay attention to, the wave you're seeing today, it is the first wave. It is the second wave of this system that will be the strongest. So, there we go, historical and catastrophic ice storm possible into the southeast.

But that's not where we're going to stop. In places like D.C., they're expecting over five inches of snow. That's worse than what they saw four years ago. And some of the models are extreme. I mean some of the models bring in over a foot of snow into the Mid-Atlantic and kind of extending in toward the northeast. So this is the concern here, a lot of ice and then a lot of snow eventually going towards the Mid- Atlantic.

What do we have right now? Already freezing rain this morning in Birmingham, Atlanta. So on the border right here. You have temperatures warm, above freezing, just to the south, that's why you're seeing the rain, and then below freezing just to the north. So that's what it's such a tricky forecast how much ice and how much snow you're going to be getting. Here's the first wave that's moving through right now. And notice it exits offshore tonight. It is the second system. Remember, too, don't forget this, do not underestimate this second system that starts to move in through tomorrow. Lasts throughout the entire day. And then, once that low forms, it starts to move up the coastline. So, there you go, Wednesday through Thursday, no longer is it a southeast problem, it is a northeast problem into the Mid-Atlantic.

It looks like right around Thursday morning, right around midnight, seeing it move in towards New York City. And then throughout the day, you start to get that heavy snow. Here's the thing, it's all about where this low goes. Closer to the coastline, heavy snow into the northeast. Farther inland, heavier snow inland. That's the concern. So many factors that we need to continue to track here. And that's going to be the story of the next several days, tracking the ice storm then tracking the snowstorm, Carol.

COSTELLO: Thank you very much, Indra Petersons.

I've got to take a break. I'll be back with much more in the NEWSROOM.

I'll be back with much more in the NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: Now let's return to Jacksonville, Florida in what could be a pivotal day in the so called "Loud Music Murder Trial". Michael Dunn the man who claims he fired in self-defense and killed a teenager could take the stand.

CNN's Alina Machado is covering this trial for us. Alina court was supposed to get underway at 9:00 it's been in recess for quite a while now. What's the holdup?

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes Carol the jury was supposed to be brought back into the courtroom at 9:00 to start listening to testimony. But that was delayed because both sides were discussing whether to allow testimony from an expert witness that the defense would like to present. He's a family therapist, a marriage counselor. And they were going to present his testimony as an expert acute stress syndrome, acute stress response.

At this point however no decision has been made. They are in court right now continuing to discuss whether to allow this testimony. And the jury is still waiting for what could be what is expected to be the final day of testimony in this trial.


MACHADO: It was an emotional day in court as jurors saw autopsy photos and the blood-stained clothes worn by 17-year-old Jordan Davis the night he was shot and died. The prosecution's final witness, a former associate medical examiner who detailed the path of the bullet that killed the teenager in November of 2012.

DR. STACEY SIMONS, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Over here, it perforated the right lung and continued on behind the heart and in front of the spinal column to perforate the aorta.

MACHADO: Prosecutors say 47-year-old Michael Dunn opened fire on Davis and three friends during an argument over loud music outside this Jacksonville gas station. Dunn claims he fired the shots in self-defense telling police he thought he saw a gun. Investigators did not find a gun in the teen's SUV.

In her testimony, the medical examiner said evidence shows Davis was leaning away from the door and not toward Dunn as the defense suggests during the shooting. Jordan's father Ronald Davis told the jury about the emotional visit he got from the teens who were with his son when he died.

RON DAVIS, JORDAN DAVIS'S FATHER: The boys were just so sorry that my son was killed and they were trying to console me.

MACHADO: Dunn's family and friends took the stand for the defense describing the software developer as a mild and kind hearted man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you aware of Mr. Dunn's reputation for peacefulness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes a very nice guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never have I observed anything other than a very calm demeanor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have always thought he was a gentle man.

MACHADO: It's unclear if Dunn himself will take the stand. An attorney representing the Davis family believes he will testify.

JOHN PHILLIPS, DAVIS FAMILY ATTORNEY: He is the only one that can testify that there was a gun. He's got to put it there, the only one that can put it there. The only one that says he saw it is Michael Dunn.


MACHADO: During this hearing, we have learned that the defense is planning on calling Michael Dunn to the stand to testify. Right now we are continuing to wait to see whether the judge will allow this expert to testify -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Alina Machado reporting live from Jacksonville, Florida. Thanks so much.

The attorney for Trayvon Martin's family, Benjamin Crump, is here to talk more about this case. He is live in Tallahassee, Florida. Welcome.


COSTELLO: Good morning. You've had experience with Florida's Stand Your Ground law. Is this the right defense for Mr. Dunn? CRUMP: Well Carol, here's neither team can come up of what strategy they want. We certainly predict that during the Trayvon Martin journey that if his killer was exonerated every Tom, Dick and Harry was going to be saying Stand Your Ground when they killed somebody.

And that's really troubling because in Trayvon it was -- and he had a hoodie on. In Jordan, it was loud music. Whether they start a minority kid winks at me, I feel threatened. And I kill him. And stand your ground. We got to stop this.

And even though they are saying that Jordan Davis killer like Trayvon isn't stand your ground as an accepted defense. Well the stand your ground instruction is read to the jury and it is very confusing when they say he had a right to stand his ground. So we all have to deal with this Stand Your Ground law.

COSTELLO: Right. George Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara says this is not like the Zimmerman's case because in that trial he said, we had physical evidence of an extended fight. In this case the gun case, we have none of that. Does Mr. O'Mara have a point?

CRUMP: Well I think in these two tragedies, there are a lot of similarities and then there are a lot of distinguishable aspects. You have both Trayvon and Jordan, 17-year-old. Both Jordan and Trayvon are African-Americans. Both their parents are being put through hell trying to get justice and holding the killer's responsibility for taking their child's lives.

But the big difference is you have live witnesses in this case. In Trayvon's case, you just had to take his killer's word because he was the only one left. All the witnesses had been killed -- Trayvon wasn't there to tell his side of the story. So that's the big difference.

I think that in both of the tragedy, the killers, if they would have stayed in their cars, it would all have been avoided. That's the thing that's so troubling for so many people in America specially parents of young, black males.

COSTELLO: I hear what you're saying but many legal experts say Mr. Dunn does have to take the stand even though there were witnesses at that gas station that because those witnesses didn't see exactly what transpired between those cars. They were parked very close together. In your estimation, does Mr. Dunn need to take the stand?

CRUMP: Well Carol, there is a saying amongst lawyers in a self- defense case that if you have a chance to walk, you have to take the stand and talk. It is going to be a strategy that him and his representatives have to make. But I agree that there is nobody who has put definitively into evidence that he saw a gun. I believe he is the only one that can say that.

I think Attorney Philips who represented Jordan's family is correct on that point that he has to take the stand. If not, it is going to be very hard to say it was self-defense when they don't have anybody to actually assert self defense -- Carol COSTELLO: Right. So we do expect Mr. Dunn to take the stand at some point this morning. Benjamin Crump, thank you so much for your insight. I appreciate it.

CRUMP: Trayvon's parents wish their prayers to Jordan Davis and his family.

COSTELLO: Thank you so much.

We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

This just in to CNN -- yes, we have breaking news. We are learning the House GOP will abandon its current debt bill and vote on a clean one tomorrow. In other words, it will vote to raise the debt ceiling, no strings attached.

Political director, Mark Preston, is in Washington. This is a big deal.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's a huge deal right now. And of course, we want to see what the markets actually - and how they will react to this news now coming just now out of Washington.