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Jury Selection Begins in Double Murder Trial of Alex Murdaugh; Pressure Mounts on Germany to Let Leopard Tanks be Sent to Ukraine; Leading Economic Index Falls 1 Percent, Points Toward a Recession. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 23, 2023 - 10:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, right now, Alex Murdaugh is in court. Attorneys there beginning jury selection in his double murder trial. The disgraced and disbarred South Carolina attorney is charged with two counts of murder and possession of a deadly weapon for the shooting death of his wife and son.

Now, prosecutors say he killed Maggie and Paul Murdaugh at the family's hunting property in 2021. And in court documents they reveal what they say is a key piece of evidence, a Snapchat video which Paul, who you see in those pictures, sent to friends just about an hour before the window would open in which they -- the window of time in which it is believed that they were killed.

Joining me now is Misty Marris. She's a defense and trial attorney. So, there is so much talk this morning about this Snapchat evidence and what it could ultimately reveal. There is also a chance that it is not admitted.

MISTY MARRIS, DEFENSE AND TRIAL ATTORNEY: Absolutely. So, right now, all we know is that the prosecutors are seeking to get this into evidence. In order to do so, they have to do what is called laying the foundation. First, showing that this evidence is relevant, the second part showing that it is authentic, and that is why we see this decision allowing a representative from Snapchat to come in. They're going to talk about has this been altered, where did it come from, when was it posted.

And we still don't really know what the content of the Snapchat is. Is it something that Paul said? Is it something that could be seen in the background of the video? All of that is going to be relevant ultimately whether it gets admitted. But step one, authenticating that document with the representative from Snapchat.

HILL: It is interesting because the prosecution has basically said this is critical, right? So, now the only evident they're going to be looking at, there is also financial evidence because this is part of the prosecution's whole case here as to why they say Alex Murdaugh murdered his wife and son. MARRIS: Yes. So, this is going to be fascinating to see what plays out at trial. Remember, there are 100 criminal charges waiting for him on the other side relating to financial crimes. There are civil lawsuits. There are allegations of drug problems. All of this would normally not come in. And it would not come in for the purpose of proving the underlying case, which here is the murder of Paul and Maggie.

However, prosecutors can get it in for another purpose. And I think there will be -- there is definitely going to be a fiery courtroom argument between the defense and prosecution because this is the prosecutor's theory for motive, that Alex Murdaugh actually wanted to distract and preserve his reputation, and his way of doing that was to murder his wife and child. That is going to be the prosecution's theory.

So, we're definitely going to see that play out in the courtroom. We may see a situation where some is admitted and some is not, but there is definitely an opening to get at least some of those financial crimes into the courtroom and before the jury.

HILL: There are so many parts of this story and this case, as you and I were talking about in the break, and I think probably a lot of people have been talking about if they followed even a small portion of the story that just seems unbelievable that, you would end up with all of these twists and turns, but there is such a long history with the Murdaugh family in this particular county in South Carolina, especially in terms of being prosecutors. The judge in this case had one order. He ordered that a portrait of Murdaugh's grandfather be removed from the courtroom, which is fascinating, and also raises the question of, are they going to be able to find a jury in a place where everybody seems to know at least one of the Murdaughs?

MARRIS: Yes, this is a great question. And the removal of the portrait, if I were the prosecutors, I would want that out of the courtroom because, remember, this family has such a long history within the community. They're well-known. This goes back generations and generations. So, they don't want a situation where there could be argument that there's prejudice or that the jury is tainted, whatever it might be.

But to your question about getting a fair jury, you're not going to find jurors who have never heard of this case. And that is not the goal of either side. What they want to do is seat jurors who, despite having knowledge of the case, can put those preconceived notions aside and focus on what is happening in the courtroom. And that is going to be the inquiry here.

There were jury questionnaires that came up beforehand. The judge is going to conducting voir dire, which is asking jurors questions, in order to make that assessment.


But it is a difficult situation when you're in this tight-knit, small community with a high-profile individual. HILL: It's going to be fascinating. We'll continue watch it, expected to last at least a couple of days for that jury selection. So, Misty, I have a feeling we'll be talking about it again. Thank you. Nice to see you.

MARRIS: Thank you.

HILL: Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the city of Atlanta sadly saw a weekend filled with violence. A 13-year-old boy shot and killed Saturday night. Police say there has been a spike in fatal shootings involving children specifically under the age of 16 in that city.

HILL: Now, on that same night, six people were arrested downtown when protests against a proposed the police training facility nicknamed Cop City turned violent.

CNN's Ryan young is in Atlanta. So, Ryan, these protests actually coming just days after the fatal shooting death of a demonstrator who police say fired on law enforcement officers. What more is happening on the ground there today?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And I've been talking to my sources who say that officer is still recovering at a hospital that was shot just last week. But so much of this has sort of wrangled up the entire community when it comes to what will happen in terms of how Cop City will move forward.

The street behind me right here, that is Peachtree Street and that's where the cop car was actually set on fire. Then protesters started running down the street with heavy rocks and they started damaging things, like this Wells Fargo location. You could see the screens have been smashed out here and all of these boards have been set up because the windows have been busted out.

Those people are protesting Cop City, which is a $90 million facility, to train police and fire. And there are some folks who don't believe that land should be touched. But right now, what the city has been focused on is the fact that the protests have turned violent. Listen to the mayor of the city talk about what happened Saturday night.


MAYOR ANDRE DICKENS (D-ATLANTA, GA): Make no mistake about it, these individuals meant harm to people and to property.

And we continue to protect the right to peacefully protest, we will not tolerate violence or property destruction.

My message is simple to those who seek to continue this type of criminal behavior. We will find you and we will arrest you and you will be held accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP) YOUNG: Now, something that we want to show you, we'll show you the pictures of the people who were arrested. There six of them. Five of the six who were arrested are from out of town. That's something that's been stressed here. This Cop City has sort of been spreading, the protests has been spreading across the internet so they do believe that people have come from out of town to be a part of these protests.

You see the pictures here, they have been each charged with four felony charges, domestic terrorism, arson in the first-degree and criminal damage. So, you can understand they do face a litany of charges but there is so much conversation in the city about how to move forward because the protests haven't stopped in terms of how they've organized and shown up at that site to a point where they're not even sure when they're going to be able to clear the area to even start construction on what is being called Cop City. Guys?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Ryan Young, thanks so much.

Overseas now. Poland says it is ready to send Leopard tanks, you see one there, to Ukraine, but only if other NATO allies join in. Russia's warning if that happens, Ukraine will pay. We're going to discuss the importance of these tanks. There is some disagreement over that. That is all coming up.



SCIUTTO: Well, this morning, some are pressing Germany to authorize the delivery of Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine. This is the NATO ally Poland pushing for the same but says it will only do so if a small coalition of other countries will also send tanks.

Let's get some perspective from CNN Military Analyst retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. General, good to have you on this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, President Zelenskyy says, there is no alternative to battle tanks like this but there is a school of thought, including on the U.S. side, that tanks are not what Ukraine needs right now and that there are a whole host of challenges standing in the way of them being a true game-changer on the ground. So, what is your view?

HERTLING: Jim, I think we have to go back to what the goal has been from various allies and which has been led by Secretary Austin. The goal to provide Ukraine with the kind of equipment that they can immediately use which will have a positive effect on the battlefield and which Ukraine can easily sustain. All three of those factors are really dynamic in terms of decision-making on what equipment that they need.

Now, when you talk about tanks, that requires sovereign decisions on the part of the western alliance, like we're seeing with Germany right now, but there is a lot of complexity behind decision-making process, the availability of the vehicles, the ammos, the parts, the fuel, the training requirements, the ability of the gaming unit to sustain the vehicles on a highly mobile and high op tempo and dynamic battlefield interconnectedness with other allies, the military goals of the operation. We could discuss those ad nauseam.

But fact of the matter is, to answer your question, yes, it would be great to give Ukraine tanks and have them fall into their battle positions without a need to train or sustain the Ukrainian army on, but that is not going to happen really soon. Other nations have donated a whole lot of combat vehicles that I think will contribute significantly to the kind of operations Ukraine is going to be conducting in the very near future.


SCIUTTO: Yes, that is point I've heard, is they've had a lot of success with these kind of small unit forces, highly nimble, right, in terms attacking Russian armor, which is frankly far more numerous there. I mean, is there something else, then, that you believe Ukraine needs more of and quickly? I know there has been a constant frustration from the Ukrainian side, sort of thank you for all you're giving us, but we need more and we need it faster.

HERTLING: Yes. You know what I'd say. I mean, when the announcement was made for the Bradleys and the Strykers, I thought those were very good complementary vehicles to what Ukraine is trying to do. They want to move fast without a long and dynamic supply line. And they want to have a lot of tank-killing capability. Both of those vehicles, if you put ten soldiers in the back of a Stryker with each one with a javelin, you can really get behind enemy lines very quickly, get through the front. It is an infantry bus. It doesn't have a lot of weapon systems on the vehicle itself. But what is in the back of the vehicle is critically important. Same thing for the Bradley. Bradley has got TOW killers and a lot of infantry men at the back.

SCIUTTO: That is right. You mentioned the Javelin. That's a tank killer. The Bradley has the TOW missile, which could also kill tanks.

Can you give us a sense of where this war stands? It has been a brutal battle. I think a lot of folks at home just don't know the level of casualties that are happening on a daily basis on this eastern front. You hear of death tolls sadly amounting in the dozens every single day. I mean, have we reached something of a war of attrition there in the east?

HERTLING: It has been a war of attrition since about April, Jim. But the attrition truthfully, and I watched this battle every day very closely, what you're seeing is not dozens of casualties on the frontlines, you're seeing hundreds.

Mark Milley, General Milley, said the other day that Russia has sustained close to 100,000 casualties. That is unfathomable and that is lower than what Ukraine is suggesting they have suffered. They're putting the numbers up to about 120,000 in 11 months of war. Of course, Ukraine, we don't know how many casualties they've suffered, but I would suggest it is an awful lot.

This is a World War 2 battlefield and it is just unbelievably dramatic and challenging. And what we're seeing right now is not a stalemate, there are a lot of battles going on, as you've reported multiple times, both in the east and the southeast. Russia is trying to get more mobilized soldiers. Unfortunately, those soldiers are not trained. So, they're more cannon fodder or meat, as they say in Russia, to the frontline. And Ukraine is trying to get moving and conduct operations that are offensive in nature.

SCIUTTO: Yes, that phrase cannon meat has always struck me as a demonstration of the lack of protection, respect that Russia often has for its frontline forces. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, good to have you on.

HERTLING: It is great to be with you, Jim. Thanks.

HILL: This just into CNN. A key economic index has been released. Why economists say it is another recession warning sign. That is next.



HILL: Brand new economic data in this hour offers yet another recession warning sign, according to economists.

SCIUTTO: Yes. We've heard a lot of conflicting data here. This one seems to be pointing in a negative direction, the index of U.S. leading economic indicators, as they're called, down and more sharply than anticipated. This is the tenth decline, monthly decline in a row.

CNN's Matt Egan, he joins us now. Matt, Christine Romans, your colleague, our colleague, will often say the trend is your friend. Well, what does the trend show us here on the LEI?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Jim and Erica, this is sort of an early warning system for the economy. And rather than looking at just one single economic indicator, they've put together ten of them and they looked at what does it say about where the economy is going next. And this report shows that for ten months in a row, as Jim just mentioned, it is down. And the conference board, which puts out this report, they say that that is a signal that a recession is likely on the way.

Let me read you a key quote from this report. They say, quote, there was widespread weakness among leading indicators in December indicating deteriorating conditions for labor markets, manufacturing, housing, construction and financial markets in the months ahead. And they warn that overall economic activity is likely to go negative in the coming month.

I think the truth is, though, this is a mixed picture when you look at the economy, right? I mean, on the negative side, consumer spending, it has slowed. We learned just last week that consumer spending, retail sales actually dropped at the end of last year. Manufacturing service sectors, they're shrinking. Housing is getting crushed by the spike in mortgage rates. But there are some real bright spots that are leading some economists to say, listen, maybe there won't be a recession here, including the fact that inflation is come cooling off. I mean, wholesale prices dropped at the end of last year. The unemployment rate is historically low and the Fed is no longer slamming the brakes on this economy.

I think if you put it all together, it is clear that a recession is a real risk here but it is not a foregone conclusion.

HILL: Which is important, because it does get so confusing when he see all the data, to Jim's point, right, and we have to look at the trends here where they are actually taking us, and in fact that even if it happens, it is likely not to be what people thought perhaps months ago.

EGAN: Right. Hopefully, if there is a recession, it would be a mild one.

HILL: Matt, I appreciate it, thank you.

EGAN: Thanks.

HILL: Well, coming up, family and friends gathering at Graceland to honor Lisa Marie Presley in a music-filled and emotional memorial.



HILL: Axel Rose there, one of many musicians paying tribute to Lisa Marie Presley over the weekend. She was laid to rest yesterday at Graceland.

SCIUTTO: That is quite a powerful song he was singing there. Alanis Morissette, Billy Corgan, they were also there. And we heard from Presley's mother, Priscilla, who read a poem from Lisa Marie's oldest daughter.


PRISCILLA PRESLEY, LISA MARIE PRESLEY'S MOTHER: Now she is home where she always belonged but my heart is missing her love.


She knew that I loved her. I fear I'll never touch her.