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Devastating Earthquake in Nepal; James Holmes to Go on Trial; Obama Takes Aim at Correspondents' Dinner. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 26, 2015 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:39] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HOST: 30 minutes past the hour. So grateful for your company. You know, we are talking about terrifying aftershocks this morning that are pounding earthquake devastated Nepal. Rescue teams are hunting for survivors, obviously, but the U.S. Geological Survey is reporting an aftershock with a preliminary magnitude of 6.7 hit just a short time ago.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: It triggered another frightening rounds of avalanches on Mt. Everest, where helicopters have been flying in to pick up injured climbers. Saturday's monster 7.8 earthquake killed at least 1,958 people in Nepal, and that death toll is rising. CNN's Ravi Agarwal has more on the staggering destruction.


ROB STILES, AMERICAN IN KATHMANDU: Right as we were literally walking out the door, things were starting to shake. We are both from California and we knew immediately what was happening.

RAVI AGARWAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chaos in Kathmandu. After a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit within 50 miles of the Nepalese capital. The quake struck just before noon local time on Saturday, rocking the city of some 1 million people with devastating force. Buildings and homes destroyed. Streets are covered in rubble. Police, local officials, neighbors rush to try and dig survivors out of the wreckage. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Medical supplies running short. The wounded line the streets. Residents terrorized by recurring aftershocks huddled outside for safety. An ABC News Australia reporter was in historic Varbara (ph) Square in Kathmandu when the quake hit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- extremely violent. People started screaming and running in all directions. It was a very built-up area, so there weren't many options in terms of safe harbor for people to go to. And before my eyes, several of the individual temples in that temple complex started collapsing, and it was a really disturbing and traumatizing scene.

AGARWAL: The powerful quake was felt thousands of miles away in India and Tibet and on the world's tallest peak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had quite a big avalanche coming down (inaudible), we had quite a bit of rock fall.

AGARWAL: Thousands across Nepal spending the night outside, and there is a growing concern of a potential humanitarian crisis. Power is out to much of the country and communications are limited. Food, running water and shelter are scarce.


BLACKWELL: That was CNN's Ravi Agarwal reporting for us. Now, at least 17 people died on Mt. Everest when the quake triggered avalanches all around them. This is, take a look at this picture, this is what climbers at the base camp there saw. Can you imagine? Snow and debris hurdling everywhere.

We have on the phone with us Kashal Neodi (ph) with Catholic Relief Services, he is there in Nepal. Give us an idea of what the situation is there now. Because we know the world is en route to try to help the people who need this support, but what is it like there now as they arrive?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation is very scary. That is one word if I may I have to say. Because, yesterday, just before 12:00, there was a (inaudible) shake, and then again today around 1:00 something, there was another big one. And in between, there was every 15, 20 minutes, there were aftershakes and aftershocks were there. And the people running in and out. People don't have a long history of managing and (inaudible) administration does not know about earthquake as such. There has been some minor ones, but then very limited and in a localized way.

This is a wide (inaudible), and people don't know what to do. There is a chaos situation. People are confused. Government doesn't know how to respond. The prime minister is not in country, nor he has (inaudible) today, and people are in deep trouble. They are facing a lot of difficulties, spending the whole night outside, out in the cold weather. It's anywhere around 10 degrees or so.


BLACKWELL: Let me ask you this. I hate to interrupt, but we know that just about three hours ago, a little more than that, there was a 6.7 magnitude aftershock, and there were avalanches again. But there on the ground in Kathmandu, is this creating more destruction, or are these aftershocks adding to the death toll, injuring more people? Or are what we are seeing here essentially what happened with that first big one on Saturday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We definitely don't know yet because (inaudible) are yet to come. But definitely more buildings are damaged. More losses of property. Just the neighborhood I was standing, while this (inaudible), I came out of the same neighborhood house just collapsed (inaudible), and probably the people can't live there completely, rebuild it again. Then in front of my hill, other side of the hill, I could see a lot of death resulting from the landslide, and then also a lot of people destructing the houses that collapsed and people running. Again, there were sirens for people to alert, and those kind of things. But that created a lot of panic among people. BLACKWELL: We have heard that actually people digging brick by brick,

using their bare hands to try to rescue people. Unfortunately, the rescues are less frequent than the recoveries here of the dead. Kashal Neodi (ph) with Catholic Relief Services there in Kathmandu for us, thank you so much for helping us understand what is going there on the ground.

PAUL: And guess what? A new round of storms is expected to slam large portions of the country today. This after damaging winds leave a path of destruction across the South. We're going to look ahead to see what you can expect today and if you need to take cover.



PAUL: Search and rescue efforts are under way in Alabama after a severe storm capsized sail boats during a regatta. Officials say they know one person is dead. Five people are still missing right now. More than a 100 sail boats took part in this event, and as many as 50 people had to be pulled out of the water. The threat of severe weather looks like it's not going to let up, especially with storms threatening portions of the south today.

BLACKWELL: You know the people who don't want to hear that? People who live in and around Jacksonville, Florida. They dealt with really strong winds. Look at this. The power lines are down, the trees are down. Let's bring in CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera. So more is on the way for some folks?

IVAN CABRERA, METEOROLOGIST: More is on the way. I don't think for Jacksonville at this point, so at least they'll be are cleaning up with good weather there. And the bull's-eye today I think will be in Texas.

Look at what happened yesterday, not just the severe weather, but the torrential downpours with some flash flooding as well. Dallas has been getting hit over the last couple of days, and another round coming for you again today. So that's going to be an issue.

Now, we are not talking about a big tornadic outbreak here. This is going to be more straight-line wind damage. Talking about large hail and the frequent lightning that is certainly going to accompany the heavy rain here, but we can't rule out an isolated tornado from San Antonio through Austin heading up towards Dallas and Oklahoma City. Where you see the yellow, that is the enhanced area today for some nasty thunderstorms, and then some areas picking up just some regular thunderstorms later this afternoon. Just not severe here. So that is what we have to look forward to.

There is the clock. And watch the storms as they bubble up. This is what we call the dry line (ph) that comes in with some dry air and moisture clashing around Dallas here, and that is for later this afternoon and into evening, that is what we are talking about, the severe weather potential. That moves further to the east, so then by the time we get into Monday

for the commute and for the evening commute certainly, showers and heavy thunderstorms once again. They expand from Texas heading into Louisiana and into portions of the western panhandle of Florida. Again, not a big tornadic outbreak, we're looking more at straight line winds. But you know, when your property gets damaged, you don't really care whether the wind was spinning or not, so you have to be careful with these storms as they begin to roll through. Guys?

BLACKWELL: Ivan Cabrera, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thanks, Ivan. The state of Colorado hasn't executed a convict in nearly 20 years. But that could change if Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes, if found guilty, in a trial that is scheduled to begin tomorrow.


NEIL CURRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a back stage pass to the world of the rock superstar. In a photographic career spanning four decades, Anton Corbijn's camera has been given access to document many of his musical heroes.

ANTON CORBIJN, PHOTOGRAPHER: Music is a very strong art form that can transcend you, and here and now to someone else in just a few chords. So that is incredibly powerful, and it's a medium that asks to be visually represented. So sounds and vision go very well together.

CURRY: The music scene proved very attractive to a man who grew up in a quiet part of the Netherlands where little happened. He used this remote area as a backdrop for a series of selfies dressed up as his favorite musicians.

CORBIJN: In part, my interest in music, and I chased a dream ever since, I guess. Of course, it held out the promise of a much more exciting world.

CURRY: In such impressive company, is there any left on the Corbijn wish left?

CORBIJN: I was always ashamed, I thought it was too late for Elvis. The person I don't feel I've taken the best picture of yet is Bob Dylan.

CURRY: Neil Curry, CNN, The Hague.




BLACKWELL: In just over 24 hours, James Holmes is expected to stand trial for his role in the 2012 Colorado theater shooting massacre. You'll remember, twelve people were killed, more than 70 people injured. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to more than 100 charges he faces in this bloody rampage, but the prosecution is after the state's highest punishment for Holmes, the death penalty. CNN's Nick Valencia has our look ahead.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, the state of Colorado has not had an execution in nearly two decades. That could all change if James Holmes is found guilty in a trial that is expected to begin on Monday.

Looking down, James Holmes sits expressionless in a Colorado courtroom. Nearly three years since the shooting, the man accused of murdering 12 people and injuring 70 at an Aurora movie theater will stand trial.

July 20th, 2012, Holmes opens fire at the packed movie premiere of the "Dark Knight Rises." Chaos ensues. Within minutes of the first 911 calls, Holmes surrenders to police without incident outside the movie theater.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got a suspect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we have got rifles, gas masks.

VALENCIA: Police say they find black gloves, a gas can, and ammunition in Holmes' white Hyundai hatchback parked outside the theater. Holmes admits he was the shooter that day, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Going to head back into your room?



VALENCIA: Pierce O'Farrill is one of the survivors who was shot. Here he is just a few months after the massacre.

PIERCE O'FARRILL, SURVIVOR: You could just hear gunshot after gunshot, and I just started praying.

VALENCIA: O'Farrill relives the nightmare.

O'FARRILL: I thought I was dying. I really thought I was just going to kind of fade away, you know? And then I just kept praying and praying with my face down, my eyes closed, and then he just walked away.

CORBIN DATES, SURVIVOR: It's like a shock.

VALENCIA: Corbin Dates came within inches of Holmes. The night of the shooting still haunts him.

DATES: He has no reason to come into court looking like he has a sad face. It's all right. The look he has now is not something that is going to be believable by anyone. [20:50:15]

VALENCIA: Holmes' defense will attempt to convince a jury he was suffering from a psychotic episode at the time of the shooting. The district attorney will point to things like his boobytrapped apartment, laced with explosives, as well as an ominous package mailed to one of his college professors as premeditation for the attack.

Perhaps the most important question of the trial will hinge on the mental health of James Holmes. He has already undergone two court- ordered insanity evaluations, but those are under seal. The results potential clues for the jury pool to understand why James Holmes opened fire. Victor. Christi.


PAUL: Thank you so much. HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson is joining us now from Warsaw. Joey, want to start with those two court-ordered sanity evaluations. Why have they not been released, and will we finally learn what's in them during this trial?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning, Christi. In terms of them not being released, what happens is, and you've heard this before, you always want to ensure there is a fair trial here. There is a jury pool there. And obviously if the contents of those evaluations were disclosed, it's something the jury could certainly be prejudiced by. And so I suspect that because his mental health is very much at issue in this case, we are going to learn a lot about his mental health and whether or not he was legitimately insane, as the standard is defined in Colorado, in the weeks and perhaps months ahead.

PAUL: And when we were listening to Corbin talking there, one of the witnesses to this, saying he has no right to go into that courtroom looking sad. How much does his demeanor play into this? And do you believe that there is true insanity in this man based on what you know thus far?

JACKSON: Interestingly enough, his defense attorneys were always instructing our client in terms of how they should behave, what they should do, what they shouldn't do, how they should look, because it's important and a jury evaluates everything. But ultimately, of course, you would hope that the jury is persuaded by what they hear on the witness stand, what they see visually in terms of the video, what they hear in terms of the audio, the various forensic reports and everything that is in, that is what should really guide their judgment here.

In terms of whether he was insane or not, that is the larger question. Of course, the prosecutors are going to have to prove sanity. It's interesting in Colorado, Christi, because the burden of proof rests with the prosecution to prove he was sane, unlike many other jurisdictions, where the defense has the burden of proving he was insane. So an interesting shift there.

I think, you know, based upon what he did, certainly the defense has a shot at it, but there is a lot of premeditation that the prosecution has to work with.

PAUL: It is an interesting shift with the prosecution having the burden there. With that said, we are talking about a state here, Colorado, that hasn't executed anyone in almost two decades. Do you think that the death penalty is going to come into play here?

JACKSON: Christi, here is why I think it's a very difficult challenge. Since 1977, put another way, right? Two decades, they haven't executed anybody, but since 1977 they have only executed one. So what is that, a span of about 38 years? So I think when you factor that in, in addition to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court said you cannot put to death someone who is mentally disabled in any way. And so I think based upon the appeals that may come from that, I think there may be challenges to it, but I think the prosecution has a very compelling case. Certainly as we saw Nick Valencia's very good piece on this, there are some strong and hard feelings, as there should be, based upon the horrific nature of this act.

So we know the trial will be bifurcated, meaning that first the jury will decide whether he is guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity, and if, Christi, they determine he is guilty, it will move to the next phase, and that is the death penalty phase. But even if they conclude he should get death, the larger question is will, based on appeals, will he actually be sentenced to death if the jury so finds?

PAUL: Right, right. Good point. Joey Jackson, always good to hear your perspective. Thank you.

JACKSON: Pleasure, Christi, have a great day.

BLACKWELL: We got more on breaking news on the earthquake in Nepal. New aftershocks have triggered avalanches and rock fall on Mt. Everest. Climbers are trapped, they are running out of food, the helicopters are running out of fuel. In just the last couple of minutes, the death toll has been increased again. We will have those numbers and more for you in a moment.



PAUL: All right, I want to try to give you a little smile this Sunday. Saturday Night Live comedian Cecily Strong, who can I say, looked gorgeous, just want to say it, made the first appearance at the White House correspondents dinner last night, and getting in some pretty good digs at the Washington elite.


CECILY STRONG: Okay. I promised, since I'm only a comedian, I'm not going to try to tell you politicians how to do politics or whatever. That's not my job. That would be like you guys telling me what to do with my body. I mean, can you even imagine? It is great to be here at the Washington Hilton. It's something a prostitute might say to a congressman.


BLACKWELL: They always take digs at the Hilton! It's not that bad. Of course, the night belongs to the president. Here is the best, and there was a lot of good stuff last night from the president, but here is the best of what he had to say last night at the dinner.


OBAMA: My advisers asked me, Mr. President, do you have a bucket list? And I said, well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list. Take executive action on immigration. Buck it. New climate regulations? Buck it. It's the right thing to do.

STRONG: Hillary's campaign slogan is it's your time. which I assume is what she says into a mirror while she's dead-lifting 200 pounds.

OBAMA: Being president is never easy. I still have to fix a broken immigration system, issue veto threats, negotiate with Iran, all while finding time to pray five times a day.

STRONG: I solemnly swear not to talk about Hillary's appearance, because that is not journalism.

[07:00:00] OBAMA: I look so old, John Boehner has already invited Netanyahu to speak at my funeral.

STRONG: Whenever a big story breaks, I can turn to CNN and watch Anthony Bourdain eat a cricket.

OBAMA: And they have found a fool-proof way to keep people off my lawn. There he is.


PAUL: Just make sure you got a little smile in today. Thank you so much for starting your day with us.

BLACKWELL: We've got a lot coming up in the next hour of NEW DAY, and it starts right now.