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Sinkhole Tragedy: Search For Body of Man Swallowed By Sinkhole Continues; Order For "Dumb and Arbitrary Cuts" Signed Last Night; The Truth About the Spending Cuts; Puerto Rico: The Tropical Vacation You've Been Looking For; Headline Court Cases

Aired March 2, 2013 - 12:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. Lots straight ahead. We're going to begin with that incredible sinkhole. It's hard to imagine you're sleeping in your bed and then suddenly the ground opens up.

I know you've been talking to --

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: It's unfathomable. --


KEILAR: I couldn't believe it.

WHITFIELD: I know. We're going to hear more on that. Right outside of Tampa, Florida, where rescuers are trying to resume that search for the body of the man who was swallowed by that sinkhole.

Authorities say Jeff Bush was asleep when witnesses heard a deafening sound, and then that sinkhole simply opened up right under his bedroom. His brother tried to save him, but it didn't work.


JEREMY BUSH, SINKHOLE VICTIM'S BROTHER: I heard a loud crash, like a car coming through the house. And I heard my brother screaming, so I ran back there and tried going inside his room, but my old lady turned the light on and all I seen was this big hole, real big hole.


WHITFIELD: The fire department says the sinkhole is still expanding and could eventually take the whole house with it.

Eighty-five billion dollars in widespread federal spending cuts in effect today. So what happens now? We'll go live to Washington to explain who will suffer the deepest and when the bleeding just might begin. That is straight ahead.

And she's been on the stand for almost two weeks as prosecutors chip away at her stories. Now Jodi Arias' attorney is preparing her defense. Initially, Arias told police that she had nothing to do with her ex-boyfriend's death. Well, now she says it was self-defense. If Arias is convicted, she could get the death penalty. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is said to be fighting for his life, this as the opposition leader takes to Twitter, accusing the government of lying about his condition. Aside from photos, Chavez has not been seen nor heard since October elections.

Meantime, his supporters held a mass in the chapel of the Venezuelan military hospital where Chavez is said to be receiving cancer treatments.

After weeks of warnings, what ifs and threats, Americans now face $85 billion in federal funding cuts. President Obama signed an order late last night for what he described as dumb and arbitrary cuts.

CNN's Dana Bash explains what happens from here.


DANA BASH, SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The House Speaker walked out of an unproductive White House meeting about spending cuts going into effect now and instead focused on the next looming crisis, the end of this month, March 27th, when funding for the government runs out.

JOHN BOEHNER, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I'm hopeful that we won't have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we're dealing with the sequester at the same time. The House will act next week, and I hope the Senate will follow suit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did it go? Your (inaudible) wasn't --

BASH (voice-over): John Boehner and House Republicans plan to pass a bill next week to keep the government funded through September 30th, the end of the fiscal year and, along with that, deal with some of the pain from forced cuts going into effect now, just for the military, by giving the Pentagon some leeway in its new budget.

REP. MAC THORNBERRY (R), VICE CHAIR, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It is going to help update the categories which will reduce some of the damage.

BASH (voice-over): But that does not necessarily mean crisis averted.

Why? Congressional Democrats are skeptical about helping the military and not other Americans hit by spending cuts, like children and Head Start programs.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI(D), CHAIRMAN, APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: We need to have programs in there that meet compelling human need -- housing, education, health care. And we also need to look at transportation.

BASH (voice-over): Senator Barbara Mikulski, who heads the committee in charge of spending, at work while most of her Senate colleagues are home for the weekend, expressed frustration that Congress is gone.

MIKULSKI: I'm here. I'm ready to go. I'm waiting for the photo op back at the White House to come here to give me instructions. BASH (voice-over): Speaking of Congress skipping town, the president took note of the empty Capitol while trying to put real-life faces on forced spending cuts.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now that Congress has left, somebody's going to be vacuuming and cleaning those floors and throwing out the garbage. They're going to have less pay, the janitors, the security guards. They just got a pay cut. And they got to figure out how to manage that.

BASH (voice-over): But we checked on that, and it turns out the president was not exactly right. The Senate sergeant-at-arms told CNN neither Capitol police nor janitors will see salaries slashed, only limited overtime. The only announced effect so far at the Capitol is some entrances will close, a small inconvenience to lawmakers and their aides.


WHITFIELD: And Dana Bash with us now live.

So looking ahead, you made clear the next showdown is going to be about keeping the government running. But what are the chances of that government shutdown? That's certainly something nobody wants at the end of the month.

BASH: It is something nobody wants, and that was one of the most interesting things, I think, that did come out of yesterday's meeting, maybe the only productive thing that came out of yesterday's meeting, Fredricka, which is we heard similar statements from the president and from the House Speaker, saying that they simply do not want a government shutdown.

So they're determined to figure out a way to make that work. But as you just heard from the piece, there definitely are some details that they have to work out to make that happen. We're going to see as soon as next week the House move a piece of legislation to keep the government running.

The question is can they bridge the differences that they have with Senate Democrats. But sources that I talked to in Senate Democratic leadership late yesterday said that the signal that they got from the president was figure it out, fix it; we don't even want to go there on this government shutdown.

WHITFIELD: All right. Dana Bash, thanks so much. We'll chat with you again in a few minutes.

Meantime, there are a lot of myths and rumors about these spending cuts, and a lot of viewers are actually writing in with their questions.

So our Tom Foreman is in Washington with some answers, or at least you're entertaining a lot of the questions.

What are people asking you, Tom? TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. A lot of terrific questions, really; I've been very impressed with the questions people have asked.

Sun Devil Sal (ph) asks, "Isn't it true that the sequester forces a cut in the rate of growth? Government is still spending more than last year."

That's 90 percent correct. The actions we're talking about right now are an actual cut to the budgets of the affected agencies, or at least most of them. I haven't gone through every single line so I don't know what they requested for this year compared to last year.

But federal spending in all these categories combined will be less this year. However, for the next nine years of this deal, the sequester will only slow the rate of growth.

So if, for example, a department expects a 6 percent increase, they may only get a 3 percent increase, but it will still be an increase. It's an important point to many of our viewers out there and one that we should make. A cut in Washington is not always the same as you might think a cut would be.

JBZ Mama (ph) tweeted to ask, "Do these spending cuts include the president and Congress and their security?"

Yes and no. Yes, both the Capitol police and Secret Service budgets are being cut 5 percent, but there will that affect security for Congress and the president? No, probably not. You saw Dana's report a moment ago, talking about what's happening with the police up at the Capitol.

The Secret Service helps with counterfeiting and fraud cases that take care of visiting dignitaries' embassies; in other words, there are many, many other places they, too, can and likely will absorb the cuts before there's any reduction in the president's protection.

Mike Y 1056 (ph) -- and Mike (ph), I got to tell you, your handle sounds a little bit like a tax form, asks, "What about mail delivery? Will there be Saturday delivery?" The Postal Service has said it needs to cut Saturday deliveries to save money. Some industry groups and congressional types say they don't want that to happen; they are fighting back.

But this has nothing to do with the sequester. I can understand why you might think it does, but it doesn't. The Postal Service does not use taxpayer money. It's funded by its own revenues, which have been in trouble for a long time because of the rise of e-mail.

And finally, Kaneek (ph) tweets a question we keep hearing over and over again, "Why are not congressional salaries being cut?"

Weirdly enough, congressional salaries can't be cut because of a protection that was put in a long time ago for us as taxpayers.

Fred, you may know about this, but this is fascinating to me. The 27th Amendment says a change in congressional salaries can only be enacted for the next Congress. So for example, Fred, if you and I were in Congress, we can't give a raise to ourselves. We can give it to the next Congress. That was put there because they didn't want Congress members giving themselves big raises, rewarding themselves financially.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And they don't want the financial incentive, right, to serve the people.


FOREMAN: Yes, and amendment also, though, it makes it impossible for them to take cuts right now, even though some of them have said they voluntarily want to.

WHITFIELD: Fascinating stuff. All right, well, there are still lots of questions, Tom, and some of our folks here on staff will also have some answers, Ali Velshi among them. Dana Bash is going to be back as I promised earlier. And Jim Acosta will be joining us. We'll have a little panel discussion on the impact and the politics of these forced spending cuts.

And accused killer Jodi Arias broke down in tears on the stand. But is it the prosecutor's behavior that may change this trial? Our legal guys weigh in next.



WHITFIELD: The forced spending cuts are under way, but not everyone will be impacted immediately. If you live near military installations or if your family relies on federally funded child care, you will feel it over the next seven months or so.


OBAMA: We will get through this. This is not going to be a apocalypse, I think, as some people have said. It's just dumb. And it's going to hurt. It's going to hurt individual people, and it's going to hurt the economy overall.

BOEHNER: The president got his tax hikes on January 1st. This discussion about revenue, in my view, is over. It's about taking on the spending problem here in Washington.


WHITFIELD: All right.

Joining us now from Washington, our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi; Dana Bash, who covers Congress and Jim Acosta joining us from the White House, our national political correspondent.

Good to see all of you. So, Ali, you first. Help us understand this, $85 billion in cuts. How might it be impacted in the economy, hurt or help?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's probably not going to hurt as much as some people, including the president, had been saying it was going to hurt. It's likely not to be helpful at all. And I'll explain why. It's not that you can't cut waste out of the government or excess fat out of the government. It's the structure of these cuts.

When the president said it's dumb, it's that it was across the board. I -- the example I've been giving is that if you have -- your expenses are too high and you want to cut them by 10 percent, you can't cut 10 percent off your mortgage and 10 percent off of your groceries and 10 percent off of your heating bill and things like that.

You cut a lot of stuff out of, let's say, your entertainment bill or your -- you know, the coffee that you get at Starbucks. But you have to still pay your rent or your mortgage.

WHITFIELD: And so this is across the board, 9 percent --

VELSHI: This is across the board.

WHITFIELD: -- 13 percent on some agencies. But most agencies and -- will experience 9 percent.

VELSHI: That's exactly right.


VELSHI: So it's the lack of precision in the way they're applied. The net effect of applying them in this way means that the end goal -- we keep taking about deficits -- the end goal is actually reducing the debt. That is actually not achieved here.

In order to do that, you would have to reform both the tax code and entitlement spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, stuff that nobody is touching in the sequester, these forced budget cuts don't do.

WHITFIELD: So, Dana, you know, both -- the White House and congressional Republicans in particular are agreeing that there has to be less spending, but they differ on the whole issue of tax increases.

Is that what, in large part, really led to this latest stalemate?

DANA BASH, SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For the most part, yes. That was -- it was the philosophical difference between the two parties on the issue of taxes, pretty much on the surface, and that is the White House and Democrats, they offered a proposal to replace these cuts with a plan that is about half spending cuts and half tax increases that they would do that by closing some tax loopholes.

The Republicans said, no, we're done talking about tax increases, because many of them felt burned or frustrated because of the deal that they struck at the end of 2012 to deal with the last crisis, the fiscal cliff, because they agreed to many more tax increases than they wanted to.

And just to sort of answer that question in the political vein, which is, let's face it, that's what this is all about. I was just looking down at my BlackBerry to find an e-mail that I saw this morning, that came from one of the most conservative and powerful groups, Americans for Prosperity, sending an e-mail to the House Speaker, thanking him for standing his ground on spending cuts.

And that is a very different kind of message that the Speaker has been getting from his fiscally conservative right flank, because they have really been criticizing him. So this is a very different thing. It might explain exactly why we are where we are.

WHITFIELD: And I (inaudible) imagine that's something to celebrate. That isn't the kind of message that the American people in general want to hear.

People have expressed their frustration over this Congress, Republicans in particular, for what many have been describing as being obstructionist. And this falls into that same category in the view of so many who have already been rather disgruntled and upset about the process.

BASH: Well, some. I mean, that is true for many Americans.

But for the people in the grassroots, conservative grassroots, who have been frustrated, not because of the lack of comity, not because people aren't getting things done in Washington, but they've been frustrated because they elected a Republican House and they haven't stood their ground on spending cuts.

Those are -- it may be a small percentage if you look at the overall electorate, but they are a very loud percentage and those are the people who vote Republican primaries and that's why they matter so much.

WHITFIELD: OK. We're going to talk more about this, particularly that whole issue of standing their ground.

I can't wait to ask you, Jim Acosta, if the White House is poising itself for the next four years that they just might not be able to get anything done. There may not be any kind of compromise if there's that sentiment of standing the ground. We're going to continue this political discussion in a moment.

Who wins, who loses, and could it cost some people in Washington their jobs ultimately? We'll have some answers straight ahead.


BASH: You're on your way out; are you on your way home?


BASH: So you're not going to be here in town when these cuts kick in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they call me back, I'll be back.

BASH: But what do you think about the idea that Congress and you all won't even be here when these cuts kick in?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got to go to the airport.

BASH: Got to go to the airport? OK.


WHITFIELD: On the go and not too keen to explain why these congressmen were leaving Washington with those forced spending cuts set to hit every American just about.

Dana Bash, back with us now; along with Chief Business Correspondent Ali Velshi and Jim Acosta, national political correspondent there at the White House.

So, Dana, back to you first. They didn't want to talk to you. They were certainly on the go. Some are maybe facing some political fallout at home. Or is it the feeling that they won't be subjected to that?

BASH: You know, I mean, each member is going to have an individual set of repercussions. Some of the members who weren't literally racing to get to the airport -- it's a dangerous place to be in between a congressman and his flight home -- but some members did explain it.

And they said that they -- from the perspective of House members, Republicans, they said that they had their plan and that they were waiting for the Senate to act. Some Democrats said that they were frustrated beyond belief that House Republicans who run the House said we're just going to leave.

But, look, there is, I think, by and large, there is frustration in understanding that this was not the way to cut. If they're going to cut, as Ali has pointed out, this is not the way to cut. You have to look at the part of the budget that really matters, which are entitlements, Medicare and Social Security, which were intentionally taken out of this. So people do get that (inaudible) political (inaudible).

WHITFIELD: So I wonder, Jim, is the White House preparing itself for more of this lack of compromise, so to speak, that, even though there was a last-minute meeting on Friday, you know, nothing happened and the ball just simply wasn't moved? Is it preparing for just more of this over the next four years?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think they're ready for that. I think they know that that is going to be the case when it comes to these fiscal matters.

But I will tell you, Fredricka, the White House is pointing reporters to what the president said yesterday, and that he's going to be moving on to some of his other priorities. And so gun control, immigration reform; we're going to be hearing the president talking about those two issues, I think, over the next couple of weeks.

And so he may be shifting away from what he calls these manufactured crises that Washington has been in the middle of.

But as to what Dana and Ali were just talking about a few moments ago with respect to just, you know, trying to cut this federal deficit and how this may not be the best way to go about it, I mean, if you go through what this letter says to the Congress last night from the Office of Management and Budget, there are some cults in there that I think a lot of people out there might deem stupid.

There are $10 million in cuts to the federal health program to 9/11 first responders. Now there are some of these items, if you go through this report, that a lot of people haven't really focused in on.

And as the days and the weeks and months develop, people are going to be looking at this and saying, oh, my goodness, we didn't know that was in there.

And, you know, Fredricka, I think all of this goes back to the failure by the president and the House Speaker to reach that grand bargain back in 2011, you know, when they had entitlement money on the table; when they had spending cuts and they had tax reform on the table.

It is almost as if -- as they've gone through these individual manufactured crises, as people like to say here in Washington, each side has been sort of extracting some kind of part of what was a grand bargain out of that process.

The president got tax increases as part of the fiscal cliff. Now House Republicans are getting these very deep spending cuts as part of what people call the sequester.

But yet as Dana just mentioned a few moments ago, the entitlements aren't being touched, and so that's why there's a lot of frustration in Washington right now, that they're -- they may be attacking the deficit, but maybe not in the best way.

WHITFIELD: And there is a lot of frustration across the board.

And so, Ali, you know, people at home are wondering, you know, is it going to impact them? Or will it only impact some people who rely on, you know, federally funded programs?

VELSHI: That's an excellent question.

WHITFIELD: You know, the child care, et cetera. And if we're talking especially over a six-, seven-, eight-month period.

VELSHI: You know, I've been having a Twitter argument with one particular person all morning who said none of this touches me. And I said, OK, that's interesting. So you don't work for the government. You don't have anything to do with the government. You don't live in a state or a municipality that gets any transfer payments from the government. You don't travel, you don't -- you must grow your own food and not have -- (CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: In some way, shape or form, you will be --

VELSHI: It touches everybody. It's going to touch some people disproportionately more. The problem is, go back to 2008 -- and I'm not suggesting that this is going to crash the economy; I don't think it is at all. But remember, when there are things that affect overall growth in the economy, in some fashion it gets to you.

You may have never been laid off because of the financial crisis, but in 2008, the end of 2008 you may have not known anybody who got laid off. Now I think everybody in America knows a lot of people who were laid off, not shopping at the local stores, not eating out at the restaurants.

So it does all affect us and we need to think about it both in terms of a very personal siloed way and in terms of the larger economic impact.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ali, Dana, Jim, thanks so much to all of you. Appreciate it.

And, Ali, we're going to see you again, 1 o'clock Eastern time. Ali Velshi and Christine Romans will have a special live edition of "Your Money" as they break down the impact of these forced spending cuts.

And at 2 o'clock Eastern, we'll hear from Steve Bell, former staff director for the Senate Budget Committee. He'll give us an insider's perspective on the cuts. He said it wasn't good years ago and it's still not good to see the spending -- these forced spending cuts. That's at 2 o'clock, actually, right here in the CNN Newsroom.

All right. As her lawyers prepare to take the stand, our legal guys weigh in on Jodi Arias' case of self-defense.

But first, a perfect time to take a tropical vacation perhaps. Holly Firfer shows us a place that's beautiful and pretty easy for most Americans to visit.



FIRFER (voice-over): Puerto Rico is an easy tropical vacation.

GABE SAGLIE, TRAVELZOO.COM: This is a U.S. territory, which means that you don't need any passport documentation to travel there, and, of course, once you're on the ground, you don't need to exchange any money. You don't need to learn a new language. But it's that quintessential Caribbean experience nonetheless.

FIRFER (voice-over): Puerto Rico is located between the Dominican Republic and the British Virgin Islands. U.S. flights alive in the capital of San Juan, which is also the top cruise ship destination in the Caribbean. SAGLIE: San Juan, the sprawling metropolis, home to Old San Juan, Pinones (ph), which is a haven for people looking for nature trails and coral reefs and fortresses that go back 400 or 500 years.

There is Vieques, an island that, for the most part, was a military testing site until 10 years ago, now a haven for unspoiled beaches. El Yunque Rain Forest, 28,000 acres of luscious land. Fajardo, big haven for yachters and divers. And there's Rincon, which is quickly becoming famous for its very sophisticated surfing culture.

FIRFER (voice-over): Puerto Rico can get crowded, especially during spring break and Easter.

SAGLIE: Push your vacation into May, those shoulder season month, and you'll see manageable crowds. The weather tends to be still pretty nice and you're avoiding a lot of the price hikes that we see.

FIRFER (voice-over): Holly Firfer, CNN.





WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back to the Newsroom. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. If you're just tuning in, thanks so much for joining us this afternoon. Here's what's trending online.

WHITFIELD: Doesn't it seem like every day someone's got a new version? Well, this one has hit to the air. Everyone on board there, 30,000 feet up.

The FAA, however, is look into this video of a group of college students doing that Harlem Shake on their flight between Denver and San Diego. The dance, by the way, is the latest viral video dance craze. The FAA wants to know if the plane was on final approach and if the passengers should have been buckled up.

All right. And in a season of lows, golf's number one player, Rory McIlroy, hit a new low as he simply walked off the course following a disastrous start to the second round of the Honda Classic in Florida. The defending champ said one of his wisdom tooths (sic) was actually hurting, McIlroy's wisdom tooth was hurting. That's what he says.

And one of TV's most beloved moms from a 1970s sitcom is being remembered. Bonnie Franklin, a Tony award nominee, played a single mom on the hit TV show "One Day at a Time." She died Friday of complications from pancreatic cancer. Bonnie Franklin was 69.

All right. Perhaps you are looking to sell your home as the housing market improves perhaps. Well, find out how spending a little now just might help you make a little more later.

And fans who got hurt at the Daytona Speedway last weekend, can they sue? Stay tuned for our legal brief.


WHITFIELD: The housing market is slowly healing. We all know buyers have been taking advantage of low prices and low rates. But things are starting to look even better for sellers as well.

As Christine Romans shows us in this "Smart Is the New Rich" report, it pays to spend a little now to make more later.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This home has 30 seconds to make a first impression.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Curb appeal can make or break your deal. Clean up the beds, cut back anything that should be cut back.

ROMANS: Torre Topp (ph) is a home stager. She's prepping this house for sale outside and in.

TOPP (PH): Home staging gets your home sold faster and usually for more money.

ROMANS (voice-over): A study by the Real Estate Staging Association claims 73 percent faster. The idea: you've got to spend money to make money, usually 1 percent to 3 percent of the asking price. Homeowner Marissa Torres is in.

MARISSA TORRES (PH), HOMEOWNER: I'm hoping that when we're ready to sell that this house will get top dollar and people are going to come in and be -- have the "wow" factor.

ROMANS (voice-over): Achieving that "wow" factor will cost her $7,000 if she acts on all of Torre's (ph) suggestions.

She has to declutter and repaint the kitchen.

TOPP (PH): So I'm really trying to either pull out the gray or a lighter gray so that the cabinets stand out. You want to keep a minimum of three large appliances on your countertops. Another great tip is to remove everything off of your refrigerator.

ROMANS (voice-over): The living room furniture should be downsized and rearranged.

TOPP (PH): This is a really spacious living room except it's not really looking like that right now because of those large pieces of furniture in here. So the rule of thumb is to remove more than keep it in here.

ROMANS (voice-over): Same thing in the bedroom.

TOPP (PH): If you have a master bedroom that has a sleigh backing on it, it's really eating up 6 to 12 inches of your square footage in your home. ROMANS (voice-over): New hardwood floors go in here, which will be staged as a second bedroom. But the biggest expense is redoing this master bath.

TOPP (PH): So the tile that they had in this room was old. And it was starting to crack. The bathtub actually had some cracks in it.

ROMANS (voice-over): All in, it's a $7,000 gamble her realtor says will pay off.

ELIOT LONARDO, REAL ESTATE BROKER: I would say that she could probably get between another $15,000 to $20,000 return on her investment.

TOPP (PH): Think about all the money you're going to be making.

ROMANS (voice-over): It's a bet this homeowner is going to take -- Christine Romans, CNN, New York.




WHITFIELD (voice-over): All right. A brutal cross-examination of suspected killer Jodi Arias, but were the tears genuine or was it part of an act? Straight ahead, our legal guys weigh in on the twists and turns of this case.



WHITFIELD: All right. It's a case that's been quite riveting. People have been gripped by this case, murder case.

Jodi Arias, she has been on the witness stand now in her murder trial for almost a month. She is accused of stabbing, slashing and shooting her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander.

But it was during her fifth day of tough cross-examination that she actually broke down crying. It happened when prosecutor Juan Martinez went on the attack, demanding that she answer specific questions about how she killed Alexander and that she look at pictures from the crime scene, very gruesome pictures.


JUAN MARTINEZ, PROSECUTOR: Ma'am, were you crying when you were shooting him?


MARTINEZ: Were you crying when you were stabbing him?

ARIAS: I don't remember. MARTINEZ: How about when you cut his throat? Were you crying then?

ARIAS: I don't know.

MARTINEZ: So take a look, then. And you're the one that did this. Right?


MARTINEZ: And you're the same individual that lied about all this. Right?


MARTINEZ: So then take a look at it.

According to your version of events, you would acknowledge that that stabbing was after the shooting, according to you. Right?

ARIAS: I don't -- yes. I don't remember.

MARTINEZ: I'm not asking if you remember, ma'am. I'm asking if you acknowledge that it would be you that did it. Correct?



WHITFIELD: OK. Let's bring in our legal guys here.

Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor, joining us from Cleveland, good to see you.


WHITFIELD: And Richard Herman, a New York criminal law defense attorney and law professor, joining us from Washington, good to see you as well.

You both are just always on the go, traveling to so many cities.

All right. So first, you know, let's just put a big warning out there that we will be showing some pictures that were shown during testimony, very graphic, of the crime scene, of the death of Mr. Alexander.

So on the stand, Arias has no qualms about admitting that she did kill Alexander. No one's disputing that. But she says it was self-defense, and we heard her say, just in that clip, so many times, that she doesn't remember.

So, Avery, is the prosecution able to establish that there was premeditation or is she protecting herself by being able to say I didn't remember, and so, you know, might her attorneys be thinking about pleading insanity somewhere down the line, or is it too late for that? FRIEDMAN: Well, I'm sure if it were available, Fredricka, they would have used it already. I mean, this has been an utter disaster. If you're going to go on national television like "Inside Edition" and "48 Hours," tell the whole story. I don't know what kind of legal counsel she had at that time, but it's all coming out and it came out this week with Juan Martinez, the prosecutor in the case.

And the differences in the stories are not merely inconsistent. They are colossal. They are cavernous. And I think the jury is now learning about the cold-blooded nature of this defendant. I mean, even the details, such as stabbing Travis Alexander in the back nine times. So I think --

WHITFIELD: And not remembering that.

FRIEDMAN: -- supposed to do -- it -- and not remembering it. I just don't think the jury is buying it. Again, you know, the defense is going to be coming back this week. But, man, oh, man, there is premeditation evidence all over the place.

WHITFIELD: Yes, Richard, you agree? Is this disastrous for the defense?

HERMAN: Well, I thought the week was about the worst cross-examination I've ever seen or read in over 30 years of litigation, except for the last day, where the prosecutor scored heavily, and now the jury has three days to think about it and judge her credibility and whether or not her story meshes.

Fred, we know people lie prior to going to trial. They try to cover themselves and protect themselves. Here she is at trial. She's trying to tell the jury, now I'm coming clean. The prosecutor built a history of lies from her. Why did she lie to the police, why did she lie to detectives. She lied to protect herself.

In his summation, he's going to say she lied to all those people and she lied to you during the trial. It's devastating when you go to summation with that information.

But listen, next week the defense expert shrinks will come in and the testify that the type of episode and the type of brutality -- brutality that she endured from Travis -- and the physical and mental abuse --

WHITFIELD: So she was abused --

HERMAN: -- sustained from him led to this episode and amnesia is part of it and that's why she doesn't remember. Look, the jury --

WHITFIELD: And to the self-defense.

HERMAN: Yes. Self-defense.


FRIEDMAN: She's denied the abuse. She denied the abuse. HERMAN: No, she's not denied the abuse. We -- she's pathetic on the stand. You can see the abuse. But the judge will also instruct the jury, you do not have to buy what the expert says.

FRIEDMAN: That's right. That's right.

HERMAN: And I think that's where it's going to come down.

WHITFIELD: OK. It is a fascinating case and certainly a lot of people are just simply riveted by it.

All right. Another case we want to talk about, this just a week after we all watched it on television. This was a NASCAR race and, you know, car -- a number of cars crashed and then careening into the fence there, some of the parts going into the stands.

Spectators got hit with debris from tires to pieces of engines, et cetera.

And then three days after the race, some of the fans have retained an attorney. And so, Richard, on what grounds if they were to pursue it -- I mean, you imagine they're getting their attorneys because they're thinking about lawsuits, but who would they be suing? The speedway? The driver? Or perhaps the manufacturers of that fence?

HERMAN: They got to charge it to the game on this one. They are going to sue Daytona, the hallowed Daytona Speedway. That's who they're going to sue. And they're going to say that any small print in their ticket is not a binding contract.

They're going to say that Daytona knew that there was a dangerous propensity for cars to injure patrons; hence they put up a fence.

The question is going to be whether that fence was put up properly, whether that fence was defective. If that fence was put up properly and cleanly, Daytona, I think, is going to escape liability.

WHITFIELD: Oh, really? So you talk about the disclaimer on the tickets, on the back of, you know, the tickets for this Daytona race and perhaps some other NASCAR races.

It will say -- and in this case it said, "The holder of this ticket expressly assumes all risk incident to the event, whether a occurring prior to, during or subsequent to the actual event and all its subsidiaries are hereby released from any and all claims arising from the event, including claims of negligence."

So, Avery, why even bother pursuing a lawsuit if it's written right there on your ticket?

FRIEDMAN: Well, except most courts will find that kind of language on a ticket against public policy in many instances is unenforceable.

I think the bigger issue, though, is whether or not there is a defect in the manufacture of what's called the catch fence in this case. Remember, there were about 30 people injured; 14 went to the hospital. Two or three were seriously injured. And the question is, if there is an inherent danger in the design of that catch fence, indeed, Daytona and the rest of the people involved in this may be on the line.

I think it's going to be very difficult to overcome assumption of the risk, which gets them scot-free in this thing. But I do think that that's one issue that, if suit has been filed -- and by the way, it has not. If it is, that's where the potential liability is in this case.

WHITFIELD: Wow. This is fascinating. All right. We'll see. This is really just the beginning of what could unravel into a fascinating suit or a number of suits.

All right. So Avery, Richard, we'll see you again in a few moments, because a U.S. Supreme Court justice is making a comment, so surprising that people who heard it actually gasped out loud. His controversial words and the case that sparked them straight ahead in the Newsroom.



WHITFIELD: Is the Voting Rights Act still necessary to protect against discrimination nearly 50 years after the start of the Civil Rights Movement? Well, that's the issue the U.S. Supreme Court just took up, the case is considered one of the most important the justices will tackle this term.

And during the debate Wednesday, the conservative judges seemed to lean toward striking down a key part of the law while the liberal judges defended it.

Our legal guys are back, Avery Friedman in Cleveland, Richard Herman in Washington.

OK, so gentlemen, you know, people heard a loud gasp, you know, during the hearing on Wednesday when Justice Antonin Scalia said, reauthorization of the act would be the, quote, "perpetuation of racial entitlement." Justice Sonia Sotomayor challenged him, asking, quote, "Do you think racial discrimination has ended? Is that what's really at issue here?"

Avery, before even moving forward on this, is it an issue of whether it's outdated or whether racial discrimination no longer exists?

FRIEDMAN: Well, it's silly, frankly, to argue that racial discrimination doesn't exist. The law that's involved here was a law enacted as a result of the 13th Amendment, the abolition of slavery. This is anti-slavery legislation.

Because it still exists on some level, it may not be like it was before; there's a reason to have (inaudible) clearance by the Justice Department in the nine Southern states. That's the United States argument. They're saying there are still badges of slavery.

Shelby, Alabama, argues, Fredricka, that this is a badge of shame. We should be free. We should (inaudible) some change in the South.

And at the end of the day, while a lot of commentators are talking about 5-4 in validating it, if it happens, Congress is going to go back and repass legislation. But I'm not sure that we're going to see an invalidation. Keep your eye on Chief Justice Roberts. We'll see what happens.

WHITFIELD: And so, Richard, we're talking mostly about the impact of these nine states, where there would have to be some sort of special permission to the federal government before making these kinds of changes?

HERMAN: Yes. And it's not only these nine states, Fred. It's also countless counties all over the country, for instance, in New York; the Bronx County is also bound by this. But it was just -- it's just absolutely incredible that a Supreme Court judge would make the kind of comment that Scalia made, that it's a giveaway to blacks and Latinos. I mean, what does that mean? That sounds racist to me.

But you know, I'm not as brilliant as Justice Scalia. But it sounds like racism to me. And when Justice Roberts chimes in and says, well, you know, the black-to-white ratio is the worst voting ratio, is the worst in Massachusetts and the best in Mississippi. They seem to be drinking the same Kool-Aid here.

I don't know. It's no semblance of reality, it seems from the Supreme Court. It's the province of Congress to address this. I don't think the Supreme Court should get involved. And when states like Texas and some other states move voting booths some 800 miles away from areas --

FRIEDMAN: Yes, (inaudible) on, that's the point --

HERMAN: -- voting areas to preclude that minority vote, and President Obama seems to win the election by a huge minority advantage, come on. It's pretty transparent.

WHITFIELD: And it's not unusual --

FRIEDMAN: But Congress will repass it if it's invalidated anyhow --

WHITFIELD: And it's not -- oh, sorry, guys.

FRIEDMAN: Well, that -- the point is that in the worst scenario, if it's invalidated, Congress is going to revisit, come up with a new formula for preclearance. So it maybe a tempest in a teapot.

WHITFIELD: And so --

FRIEDMAN: We'll see.

WHITFIELD: -- Avery -- and you, Richard -- I'm just wondering, you know, how unusual is this, you know, to hear, you know, Justice Sotomayor's comments, where she really was challenging, you know, Justice Scalia on that point, on his perception of society versus the kind of legal arguments that you hear being challenged between justices.

HERMAN: Well, look, she's a minority, and you know, you go, girl. I mean, this is -- you know, she took it personal and she let it rip. And, you know, kudos to her.

FRIEDMAN: Wow. It's more than that. It's more than that. I think it's philosophically a very different view of what the 13th Amendment is and what the Voting Rights Act is. And I think you just see this difference in what they believe the Constitution provides for here. That's what there was. May have been personal, but I think philosophically these two justices are miles apart.

HERMAN: It's partisan politics. Partisan politics is what's going on.

FRIEDMAN: It's not politics on the Supreme Court.

HERMAN: Yes, it is.

FRIEDMAN: I don't buy it.

HERMAN: It is.

WHITFIELD: All right, Richard, Avery, thanks so much. We know there's no politics between you guys.

We just like --

FRIEDMAN: Oh, never.

WHITFIELD: -- and sometimes you just simply don't see it the same way.

All right, gentlemen. Always good to see you. Thanks so much. Of course, the legal guys are here every Saturday, don't want to miss them, this time, noon Eastern hour, taking on the most intriguing legal cases of the week, and sometimes of the day.


WHITFIELD (voice-over): All right. Here they come. The Vatican will soon be flooded with cardinals. They're there to vote for a new pope. Details next.



WHITFIELD: All right, a look at our top stories right now. The reign of Pope Benedict XVI is over. Now cardinals are making their way to the Vatican to choose a new leader of the Catholic Church. And the first in a series of meetings begins actually Monday, but there is no word yet on when the papal conclave will take place.

Back in the U.S., the financially troubled city of Detroit is about to get a helping hand. Republican Governor Rick Snyder is appointing an emergency manager to run the city. That manager will have the power to cut spending, including salaries of elected officials, and throw out contracts and labor agreements.

And I'll be back at 2 o'clock Eastern time with all the latest breaking headlines right here in the CNN Newsroom. And during that hour, we'll tell you what some alert passengers did when their bus driver passed out at the wheel, all caught on camera, as you see right there.

And then at 3:00 pm Eastern hour, a prize Westminster Show dog dies. And we'll have more on reports that he was poisoned.

At 4 o'clock Eastern, an 8-year old is shot; gang violence is suspected.

Next, the forced budget cuts that were never supposed to happen are now the law. So what comes next? Ali Velshi is live from Washington for a special live edition of "YOUR MONEY." I'm Fredricka Whitfield. "YOUR MONEY" starts right now.