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Final Trading Day in April; Jason Collins, First Male Active Pro-Athlete; Doctor Accused of Killing Babies; Mini Drones as First Responders

Aired April 30, 2013 - 09:30   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Checking the clock, just about 9:30 on the east coast. That means it's stock market time. It's Iron Man, there he is. Actor Robert Downey, Jr. ringing the opening bell this morning to coincide with this week's release of "Iron Man 3." Investors, forget about the movie, they're hoping it'll be another big day of gains for them following the news on housing we got about 30 minutes ago. There he is. Actually two Iron men there. What does that mean? How is he standing next to Iron Man when he is Iron Man? Too confusing. Too confusing, I have to get away from it. Alison Kosik. She's down at the New York Stock Exchange. Are you there, Alison?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I think he may have left his suit home for this occasion, Chris.

CUOMO: My head, my head.

KOSIK: So, the focus right now, as we see, stocks beginning mixed as the opening bell just rang. The focus is the home price report we got a short time ago. We found out that over the past year, home prices have jumped the most since May 2006. S&P Kay (ph) Schiller (ph) says home prices roast 9.3 percent in February (AUDIO BREAK) cities that are having the biggest growth. They include Phoenix, San Francisco, and Las Vegas.

Although, we're not seeing that positive affect trickle down to stocks, because it looks like investors are taking a breather after the major averages are coming off a very nice rally on Monday. Along with the housing market, the focus is also going to be on corporate earnings. Almost 40 S&P 500 companies are going to be clocking in with their report cards.

Today's also the final trading day of April. And I'll tell you what, it's been a pretty darn good month for stocks, the Dow and the S&P 500, are each up more than 1.5 percent since the end of March. The Dow's had five straight months of gains. The NASDAQ, the S&P 500, they're going on six months in a row of gains. Coming up in a half hour on the radar, numbers on consumer confidence, Chris, we'll see if that can give stocks a more definitive direction. Today, we'll see if the record run-up can continue today. Chris.

CUOMO: Allison, thank you very much. And obviously it matters even if you don't have money in the market because again a lot of this momentum that's positive finds its way into other parts of the economy. That's why we follow it so closely. Other top stories, Ford poised to make history in Myanmar. The company becoming the first major automaker to open a showroom in a country formally subjected to harsh international sanctions. Ford will export cart to Myanmar from its North American and Thailand plants.

And runners in next month's Cleveland marathon will get a chance to show their support for Boston. Race organizers are selling special blue wristbands inscribed with the phrase, "Boston Strong." The wristbands available May 17th, two days before the Cleveland marathon. Buyers can pay what they want to pay. All proceeds we are told will go to the On Boston Fund.

Other sports news, you're looking at the NBA's first openly gay player, Jason Collins. He says he also kept another secret. We'll show you that other secret, after the break.


CUOMO: All right. Welcome back to this special edition of NEWSROOM, Jason Collins will make history on June 8 as the first openly gay active athlete to march in Boston's pride parade. The 34-year-old finished the season with the Washington Wizards announced his sexual orientation Monday saying, quote, "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center, I'm black, and I'm gay." He also mentions how the recent Boston bombings put his life into perspective and he is tweeting his appreciation. Quote, "All of the support I have received is truly inspirational. I knew I was choosing the road less traveled, but I'm not walking it alone."

Rachel Nichols with CNN Sports joins me now. This is a big deal. We are all reporting it like major news, not just sports news.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's something that people in athletics have been expecting to happen for a while. It's just the right climate for it. It's the right time. There's more of an accepting mood in the country, a lot of major U.S. pro sports leagues have come out with anti homophobia policies, anti defamation policies, fines for player who say defamatory things on the court.

However, the big question who will it be? What sport was it going to be in? And I gotta tell you the fact that it was Jason Collins is the biggest surprise to everybody. Not just because he's a journeyman player that a lot of people have known a long time, and haven't seen this side of him. Not just because he's seven-feet tall and not what people stereotypically expect of what they think is a gay athlete should be, but because the guy's own twin brother, his best friend, didn't even know he was gay. This is something he felt he had to keep so close to the vest. You will see why. He's now decided it's time.


NICHOLS: For the past 12 seasons, Jason Collins has done the NBA's dirty work. His 7 foot 255 pound frame protecting the basket, night after night with little or no recognition. With his revelation in this week's "Sports Illustrated" that he is gay, that anonymity is over.

In explaining his decision Collins says, quote, "I have endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart in anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality, I felt whole for the first time."

President Obama called Collins to day he was impressed with his courage, while the first lady tweeted it was a huge step forward for the country. Many from the NBA community also expressed support.

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, NBA/TNT ANALYST: Character is found in those who lead. I would like to commend you, Jason, for coming out and showing us what leadership looks like.

KEYON DOOLING, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES GUARD: I'm glad he, you know, took that step and I know he feels liberated for doing it, and wish him the best. I hope that NBA guys can get past sexual orientation, all that BS. In the end of the day he's a good guy, he's a hard worker, he's a good basketball player and that's what he should be judged for, and that's what he should be known for.

NICHOLS: Not everyone is accepting of his sexuality. Chris Broussard, a prominent ESPN basketball analyst, called Collins a sinner.

CHRIS BROUSSARD, ESPN NBA WRITER & ANALYST: I'm a Christian. I don't agree with homosexuality. I think it's a sin. As I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and woman is.

NICHOLS: In his magazine article, Collins said he first thought about revealing it during the 2011 NBA lockout. But it was the Boston marathon bombings that pushed him to action, helping him realize things can change quickly and there is no perfect time to divulge his sexuality. Collins also revealed that he decided to wear rarely seen number 98 as a tribute to Matthew Sheppard, the gay University of Wyoming student tortured and murdered in 1998.

Collins is not the first male athlete to come out, but he is the first to do so while still playing for one of the four major U.S. pro leagues. That said, Collins is a free agent, which means right now he's looking for a job.


NICHOLS: Chris, I was in Brooklyn a few miles from here at the Nets/Bulls playoff game, last night. Talked to a bunch of the players about this. A few are actually former teammates of Jason Collins, some of them very outspoken. Wow, that's great that he's done this, we wish him the best, we hope that he finds a team next year.

Some of them a little more reluctant. Nobody speaking out against him or what he's doing. What I thought was so interesting, players like Kobe Bryant, because Dwayne Wade publicly went out on Twitter last night, and great things about Jason Collins, they really endorsed what he did. There was this undercurrent in the locker room of, if you don't agree with it you need to be supportive of his right to do it. That, I think, is the biggest change. It's not necessarily that everybody is in the same boat, but it's that the policy is the regular course of business, this is going to be okay. As opposed to the other way around which is what we had so long.

CUOMO: I'm thinking. Let's bring in Cyd Zeigler, cofounder of Great to have you here. Here is why I'm a little contemplative here. There's a part of me that doesn't like this story. I don't like that he has to come out, that he has to say this about himself, he has to announce it to himself. Maybe, and Cyd I'll direct this question to you first and Rachel you bounce on it, maybe you need steps like this to get to a point of acceptance where you no longer need Jason Collins to come out and make this such a central part of the definition of himself. What is your take on this, Cyd?

CYD ZEIGLER, CO-FOUNDER OUTSPORTS.COM: I don't like the letters that I get from gay youth talking about killing themselves. I don't like the fact that I can't marry my partner of ten years. We don't live in the world we should live in. We live in the world we do live in and in this place, being gay in sports is still strange to a lot of people, and is still very new. Jason Collins, in all of the history of pro sports, he's the first active male athlete to come out of the closet and so we could talk about what should be, but the world we live in is a place where some people don't like Jason because he's gay, but luckily the vast majority just don't care. They just want to win.

CUOMO: Absolutely. That's a great point, Cyd. Sports makes this more important, right because that would be even a tougher community to come out in?

NICHOLS: Sports also is what we like to see is the best versions ourselves, right? The guys who can fly the highest, who can jump the furthest. Everybody doing what everybody would love to be able to do themselves. We're all in the driveway at one point saying three, two, one, I'm so-and-so hitting the shot and the fact that gay teenagers can now look up to Jason Collins and say, hey, that guy looks like me and he can hit the shot and he can fly through the air. It makes you feel better about yourself. I did some stories with Victor Cruz, and he was saying hey, the fact that young Puerto Rican kids can look up to him and say, hey Cruz is on the back of his jersey, my last name is Cruz, my last name sounds like Cruz, that could be me one day. There weren't a lot of people blazing that trail before. You can say that about Jason Collins. It gives people a sense of what they can be that's different from what was out there before.

CUOMO: sHe certainly has to be applauded for taking this step, especially in a culture that isn't always accepting of it, not just the larger one, but sports specifically.

Cyd, let me ask you this, what else needs to happen now? What do we have to see with Jason Collins? Should there be endorsement deals that come his way to kind of validate this and bolster the strength of this existence? What do you want to see next here?

ZEIGLER: Somebody asked me earlier to rank this on scale of 1-10, and I gave it a 9. Because he hasn't stepped foot on a court as an openly gay man, in front of the fans, with his teammates, and the moment he does that in a regular season game this November, I am convinced he's going to get picked up. We just don't have many productive seven- footers lying around the NBA. Somebody needs him. When he steps foot on the court and I hope I'm there in that moment, that will be a deeply transformational moment. Because you will see exactly how his opponents and teammates and the fans in that arena, no matter where he is, feel about the fact that he's gay.

CUOMO: Interesting point. Rachel, Cyd, thank you very much. We always say here in this country that the thing that makes us great is the strength of our diversity. And this will be another example of it when he steps foot on the court. Appreciate you coming on, both of you, for this.

Still to come, the fate of a Philadelphia doctor accused of killing four babies and a woman is about to be decided by jury. We will tell you why the issue of race came up in closing arguments, when we come back.


CUOMO: Welcome to our viewers on the East Coast and those waking up on the West Coast. I'm Chris Cuomo with a special edition of NEWSROOM.

The headline: hype and exaggeration -- that's how a Philadelphia doctor's attorney is describing the case against his client. Dr. Kermit Gosnell is accused of killing four babies and a mother during illegal abortions. In closing arguments both sides say race is playing a role.

CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin joins us from outside the court. Sunny the defense suggests their client is being prosecuted because simply he is black. The prosecution says the doctor preyed on low-income minority women. So they are saying his issue of race him taking advantage of it. How do you see it?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes well certainly both sides did bring that up, because we know that this -- this physician is African- American and a lot of patients were minority patients.

But I've got to tell you Chris, apparently he had been practicing for many years. He's 72 years old and for about 20 years, there have been reports of his treatment or mistreatment of patients.

So the suggestion now that he's only being tried because of his race really I think is a red herring in this issue. What's so fascinating, though, is that both sides argued -- just so, so impassioned yesterday, about two and a half hours each side giving these closing arguments.

But what really wasn't discussed was abortion which seems to be at the crux of this case whether or not these babies born six months, seven months, eight months, were viable, were human beings. Thus this doctor would found guilty of first degree murder of four of those babies. That really is what the issue is in this case.

CUOMO: And the penalty at play is the death penalty? We know that the judge threw out several charges. But what is the status of it, what could be the punishment?

HOSTIN: That's right. He is facing death if he is convicted. This is a -- these are first degree murder charges Chris and also what we will hear, if he is convicted, we may even hear from the defendant himself during the penalty phase. I've got to tell you, everyone was shocked that the defense did not call, not one single witness, including the doctor.

He did not testify, of course you can't force him to testify. But many suspect that if he is convicted, he will get on the witness stand to save his life.

CUOMO: Well just to remind people, you know the defense has no burden to put on a defense, right, it is up to prosecution. They have the burden to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense doesn't have to do anything but simply to check their case.

So putting on your own case is an option but you would think Sunny in a case where you had three people who are working with the doctor plead to homicide charges, which almost never happens pleading to a homicide charge, a murder charge, that they would have wanted to put on some defense. What does that mean to you?

HOSTIN: Yes and I was surprised. And you're right. You don't have to put on a defense. Oftentimes defense attorneys don't do it. They don't choose to put their clients on the witness stand and they put the prosecution to their proof.

But in a case like this when your client is facing the death penalty -- and as you mentioned, there are people in his medical office that pled guilty to third-degree murder to homicide. You would think that the defense would try to put on some kind of case, perhaps some sort of medical case, some sort of medical expert to try to defend this doctor. That just didn't happen here.

But I will tell you that this defense team certainly -- certainly cross examined the prosecution's witnesses very, very vigorously and by all accounts, many are saying that his summation, the defense attorney's summation may have been a game changer in there.

CUOMO: Really quick word, do you think it's a rapid verdict or a very long time we're waiting?

HOSTIN: You know I'm holding in my hand a list of all the charges in this case. It is several pages. We're talking about four pages of charges. I don't think that they'll be able to come to a quick verdict especially considering what I mentioned before, which is that very, very difficult issue as to whether or not these babies were viable. So I suspect I may be here Chris outside of this courthouse for quite some time.

CUOMO: Hey it's great to have you there Sunny. I appreciate the perspective on it. We'll be coming back to you when we get an answer for sure. Thanks Sunny. Thank you very much.

And as Sunny was mentioning, no word of abortion there, but to be sure when this case is over that issue will be back on the table and there will be new perspective given the depth of these allegations.

Now we're going to take a break.

When we come back, mini drones to the rescue. A university lab develops tiny robots to act as first responders. Could they have helped in Boston? That's the story when we come back.


CUOMO: Imagine, if you will, tiny robots accessing an emergency scene before any human does. It sounds like science fiction right? But a university lab is developing mini drones that can act like first responders.

How do I know? CNN's Laurie Segall told me that's why. She's joining us from New York. Laurie those mini drones may have been able to help in Boston is that a fair assessment?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure I've got to say, Chris, it's fascinating technology. These mini drones they fly around in fleets. You've got to see it to believe it. I actually visited the lab where they're building out this technology. Check it out.


SEGALL (voice over): Here at the University of Pennsylvania GRASP Lab they're developing very small unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVS that will travel in fleets.

PROF. VIJAY KUMAR, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA GRASP LAB: Think of these as being the first responders. The idea is that it gets to the scene before a human first responder can.

SEGALL: It's technology being built by academics that is yet to hit the market.

KUMAR: What we really want to do is make these robots really small and then have them collaborate to perform tasks autonomously that individually they cannot perform.

SEGALL: They'll have sensors that help each other so they can work together. But unlike the UAVs used in combat these robots are intended to go inside buildings. They can map rooms and hallways.

KUMAR: If you'll look closely that's the window that you see at back of the room there.

SEGALL: They tested the technology in Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

KUMAR: We're able to show how these robots can actually map the interiors of the buildings.

SEGALL: The idea of using fleets of small UAVs in crisis situations appeals to campus security. MAUREEN RUSH, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA V.P. OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Since Columbine every police department in the country trains officers to go in as a unit. Wouldn't it be fabulous to have a robot who could go a few feet in front of them with a camera that could project back to a command center like the one we're in and say the gunman is actually in room 210?


SEGALL: And Chris, when you think about Boston, you think about what if these mini drones are flying over head and you have law enforcement going to the public saying show us anything you've got? You would have a lot of surveillance that could have been used for evidence. Also when those shots went off at MIT, these mini drones would be -- would go inside those buildings map it out and they'll be able to say whether or not there is an active shooter.

Unfortunately this technology really seems to be very relevant now -- Chris.

CUOMO: Right. The push back is big brother surveillance, right, that people are worried that the state, the government will be watching them and infringing on liberty. So there's some discussion to be had here. Very interesting report though.

On a much lighter note, I got my kid one of those unmanned aerial vehicles, this helicopter. He flew it up. It was gone. We've never seen it again. So you know, the people out there can help me get that thing back -- I'll really appreciate it.

Very interesting report -- Laurie. Thank you very much.

SEGALL: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. In the next hour, President Obama is expected to take questions in the briefing room. We'll be bringing that to you live. He's supposed to take to the podium around 10:15 a.m.

So we're going to take a quick break right now and be back with that and a special announcement that you're going to want to hear about the CNN family when we come back.