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Two Missing in Avalanche; Dunn Convicted of Attempted Murder; Brutal Campaign by Islamists in Syria

Aired February 16, 2014 - 08:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: It looks like that. I don't know.

BLACKWELL: I don't know. It is funny, I give you that.

PAUL: We could be fools again, Victor.


PAUL: But you know what? It was funny and hope it made you smile this morning. Thank you for being with us.

BLACKWELL: Next hour of your NEW DAY starts now.


PAUL: We're so glad to have you company. It is 8:00 on a Sunday morning.

So, you know, you don't even have to get out of bed. Just turn your TV on and relax. We're here with you. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. It's 5:00 on the West Coast. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

PAUL: Yes. We're going to get to what everybody is talking about today is the Dunn case as we talk to Mark O'Mara.

But, first, we do have some breaking news that we need to talk to you overnight because there are two skiers who are missing after an avalanche in Lake County, Colorado. Emergency management officials say rescuers are going to start searching the mountains again today.

BLACKWELL: Now, the avalanche happened yesterday evening. Three other skiers are hospitalized with broken bones, a collapsed lung. Of course, we'll be following the developments on the story all morning and bring you updates as they happen as that search begins at daybreak.

Let's go to Florida and the strong reverberations for what some have called the loud music murder trial. PAUL: Late yesterday, after four days of deliberations, a jury in Jacksonville convicted Michael Dunn of three counts of attempted second-degree murder, each of which carries a minimum 20-year sentence. Those have to be served consecutively so that means 60 years in all.

BLACKWELL: Dunn also was convicted of firing on an occupied vehicle, another 15 years possible there. But jurors failed to agree on the big charge, murder in the killing of Jordan Davis. Davis was 17 when he was shot to death outside the convenience store where he and his friends were parked next to Dunn who asked them to turn down the music.

Dunn swears he feared for his life, but police and prosecutors say the teens were unarmed. Today would have been Davis' 19th birthday.

PAUL: A lack of a murder conviction sent the young man's supporters to the streets though. This was outside the courthouse, and they are calling for the state attorney's ouster.


PROTESTERS: Hey, hey, ho, ho! Angela Corey has got to go! Hey, hey, ho, ho, Angela Corey got to go!


PAUL: Let's bring in somebody who knows Florida law so well, attorney and CNN legal analyst, Mark O'Mara.

BLACKWELL: Mark, good to have you with us.

MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST (via telephone): Good morning, Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Good morning.

You defended George Zimmerman successfully. That was in the Trayvon Martin case, of course. But you always said the Dunn case was different.

How so? And are you surprised by the verdict from this jury?

O'MARA: Well, it's different in a number of ways. Primarily, it's different because there was absolutely no altercation, no argument or fight, physical fight between Dunn and Jordan Davis. And that type of evidence that existed in the Zimmerman case suggested that there really was a reasonable fear for at least injury and not great bodily injury, which is necessary in the Zimmerman case.

The problem with the Dunn case is that although there was the verbal altercation, there was back and forth, there were so many opportunities to get out of the scene. So certainly he could have backed up the car. That's one primary issue. Probably the biggest issue and difference and what led to a differing conclusion was that Dunn left and never called police. If there was one fact that gave the juries the concerns that they had to have in this case is if you shoot into a car with anybody, four males or anybody, you then call a cop right away. You don't wait a day. So that's the biggest significant difference.

As to the verdict itself, I'm not surprised with it. If you really look at it, and we can't blame the jury for not coming up with a verdict, because I think they did their job when they did everything they could and could not come up with a verdict, if you analyze it this way. Those three counts where they found Dunn guilty of attempted second-degree murder is a perfect response to what he did. I think to focus on the last three shots and said nobody anywhere has a right to shoot at a car as it's leaving with three kids in it, and that's where you got the attempted second-degree murder.

It wasn't first degree because I do not think the state presented enough evidence of that pre-meditation. This was at best a second- degree case, and we have to look at it that way. As to why they didn't decide on guilt on the Jordan Davis case, I think we have to almost congratulate the jury because what they said to us with that failure to acquit or convict is that neither the state nor the defense came up with a sufficient amount of evidence to make a decision.

PAUL: OK. Knowing that and knowing people are calling for Angela Corey to step out of her position. They want her to lose her job, some people -- and the fact that if you want to re-try somebody it's costly. Dunn's already going away for a long time. There are -- I'm sure there are going to be questions about whether they can seat another impartial jury.

Do you -- do you think it's likely that they will be able to secure a trial for that first count?

O'MARA: Well, if we take away the emotions, and I truly feel for the Davis feeling now with this verdict and to not have the closure that they really need and cannot now go on to the stage of grieving that they have, to but if you look at it purely analytically, an imperfect self-defense, which is what this is, overreacted to a perceived threat, quite honestly that's a manslaughter charge under our law, not just Florida law but almost any law because when you do something without justification, that's manslaughter.

This was never a first-degree case. I said that in the beginning that Angela Corey presented evidence to the grand jury to get a first- degree murder indictment, did it for the right reasons. I think that was an overcharge and now realizing he's going to die in prison, that's a foregone conclusion with a 43-year-old man. He is going to have to serve 60 years.

Maybe there's a way that we can start a healing process, work something out. The trial doesn't matter to anybody and maybe if Dunn were able to acknowledge his responsibility for what he did to Jordan Davis, then maybe there could actually be a healing process without another three or four months of trial and what it's going to put the nation.

PAUL: All righty. It's interesting because Cory Strolla, the defense attorney says Dunn was in disbelief. Even as he sat next to me how is this happening? It hadn't set in. I don't think it will set in any time soon.

So whether he's going to acknowledge anything is still in question.

But, Mark O'Mara, we thank you so much for being with us.

BLACKWELL: Let's get the latest on the games in Sochi. OK. Spoiler alert.

PAUL: La, la, la, la, la, do that.

BLACKWELL: Yes, do that. Thank you.

Joe has it.

If you don't want to know the results of the men's super-g alpine ski race, turn away and do the la, la, la, la, la thing.

PAUL: "Bleacher Report's Joe Carter, we're going to let him be the spoiler.

JOE CARTER, BLEACHER REPORT: Thanks for the job. Appreciate all the hate mail that you're getting.

PAUL: No, we're not.

CARTER: Just kidding.

This is a cool event. The men's super-g, a combination between downhill and slalom. These guys in the super-g event are flying down the mountain, but there has to be some precision here because they also have to make their gates.

Now, this morning Team USA had a good showing. They're back on the podium. Andrew Weibrecht won a surprise bronze medal in Vancouver four years ago. This morning, he won the silver medal, and get this, he's only been on the podium twice in his entire career, but both times are in the Olympics so good timing on his part.

And the old man of the mountain Bode Miller tied for the bronze this morning. That's his sixth Olympic medal, a record for U.S. skiers. The now 36-year-old is the oldest winner of an Olympic alpine skiing medal. He won his first two medals in Salt Lake City 12 years ago.

PAUL: Wow.

CARTER: So old man Bode Miller still making news, I love it.

Those performances put USA at the top of the overall medal list. They're tied with host nation Russia at 16 total medals. Norway, Canada and the Netherlands are right behind at 14 medals. Germany has 12, but seven of those are gold medals.

America has a new Olympic hero, and his name is T.J. Oshie. He iced a thrilling 3-2 victory for Team USA over Russia in hockey yesterday. The game had some reminiscing about the epic miracle on ice at the 1980 games. Oshie works plays for the St. Louis Blues, scored on four out of six shootout attempts. This win yesterday is a huge boost for Team USA as they head into the medal round next week.

And, OK, they are on the ice right now with Slovenia. End of the first period, USA up 2-0. This should be an easy win for Team USA, which should give them a bye game next week which gives them a little bit of time to rest but Slovenia definitely not great competition.

I think an NBC announcer said Slovenia is about the size of Delaware so there's not a crop of hockey talent in Slovenia.

So, USA 2-0 after one period.

BLACKWELL: All right. Thank you, Joe.

CARTER: You bet.

BLACKWELL: Still ahead on NEW DAY, mass graves, other evidence of sheer horror in a Syrian town ruled by Islamic militants. This is a CNN exclusive. You want to stick around for this report.

PAUL: Plus, heralding a new generation of Republicans. We're going to meet a Republican candidate running for Congress and ask why he decided to put his same-sex partner in his latest ad.


PAUL: You know, Syria's deadly civil war has gone from, you know, rebels fighting government troops to rebels fighting rebels, so it's kind of a war within a war now.

BLACKWELL: It is and Islamic fundamentalists -- they are trying to gain ground. They're waging a vicious campaign of brutality and fear, and CNN's Arwa Damon takes us inside one Syrian town for a look at these atrocities, and this is a CNN exclusive.



ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We cross from Turkey into Northern Syria escorted by armed rebels. For months, these lands were under the brutal and merciless control of ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. As we drive towards the town of Adana, Abu Jaffar (ph) tells us -- ISIS came in and took over the area and called it their Islamic state.

(on camera): This was the main ISIS checkpoint leading into Adana and as part of their terror tactics, eyewitnesses were telling us that they would leave some of the bodies of the people they executed lining the checkpoints so that every single car coming through will be forced to slow down and could not ignore that brutal message.

(voice-over): Across from it, the courthouse. Executions took place out front, freshly dug up dirt marks the graves of some of the victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are two corpses over there. Two corpses here and there are some corpse near the north end, some corpse.

DAMON: Anyone who dared defy them paid a price. Even smoking was banned.

(on camera): This was another of the ISIS headquarters and everything here, all of the walls were painted black. You can see that they've just been freshly painted over in white. And when ISIS was under control of Adana, at a time like this and it is Friday and it is prayer time, none of these people would have been able to be out on the street. They would have forced the markets to close.

(voice-over): Many here don't want their identities revealed or even to be seen talking to us. ISIS may no longer be in control, but many fear they could come back.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Adana, Syria.


BLACKWELL: And you can see more of our Arwa's exclusive reporting out of Syria right here on CNN, starting tomorrow morning on NEW DAY.

PAUL: You know, Chelsea Clinton is back in the spotlight again today with a new message of tolerance -- where her humanitarian work is taking her now.


BLACKWELL: Happening today. Chelsea Clinton takes the stage in Las Vegas. The former first daughter is the keynote speaker at the Conference for the Human Rights Campaign. The event is called Time to Thrive, and it focuses on promoting safety, inclusion and well-being for gay youth. Clinton currently serves as vice chair of the Clinton Foundation.

PAUL: Well, a second round of peace talks on Syria has really not gone very far. Some lawmakers are calling for more aggressive action as the humanitarian crisis as we know gets worse based on what we just saw from Arwa.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And joining us now from Washington is Candy Crowley, host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."

And, Candy, you've got Senator John McCain on with you today. What is he saying about all of this?

CANDY CROWLEY, "STATE OF THE UNION" HOST: Well, he is blaming sort of the past policies of the Obama administration. He's always been sort of the leading voice for helping to arm what has been called legitimate rebels in Syria. Part of the problem right now though is there are so many groups inside Syria, including Islamist militants, including those with al Qaeda links, that they are beginning to fight each other.

And it's very unclear that any additional assistance from the United States or anyone else would help rather than harm the situation. So, you know, we know that the senator has been very aggressive in his efforts to try to get aid to some of these anti- government rebels. Certainly he believes, as the Obama administration has stated in the past, that Assad should go, that the government of Assad should go, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards so the question is what now?

PAUL: All righty. Hey, Candy. Thank you so much. We'll be watching. Stay here.

"STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY" starts at the top of the hour, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Thanks, Candy.

BLACKWELL: And still to come on NEW DAY, is the Republican Party reaching a threshold or a tipping point? We'll introduce one conservative candidate for Congress who is shocking a lot of people with his campaign, and this ad.


BLACKWELL: Yes, there's not a lot about political ads that surprise people anymore.

PAUL: Not so much. Except maybe this one from California. It really caught our eye. Look.


AD NARRATOR: Our future is bountiful with the possibilities of a better day. There's a new way, a new approach for a new time. He believes in equality and diversity, and is a defender of our personal freedoms.


PAUL: OK. Did you catch that? That was Carl DeMaio, an openly gay Republican running for Congress in California. He's holding hands there with his partner.

BLACKWELL: And joining us now from his home district in San Diego is the candidate, Carl DeMaio. Good to have you, Carl.


BLACKWELL: So why did you choose to put your partner, I believe his name is Jonathan, put Jonathan in the ad? DEMAIO: Well, I don't see what the big deal is. Straight candidates for office have been putting their spouses, their children, their household pets in ads for many years. It gives you a glimpse of the person as an individual. Plus, what they stand for.

So, this ad is 88 seconds. It covers my experience in saving the city of San Diego from bankruptcy, getting pension reform done and getting it done on special interests. It also highlights my commitments that we respect people and stand up for personal freedoms. So I think the ad covers a number of topics, and like any candidate ad, it gives you a glimpse into who I am as a person.

PAUL: OK. So I know that we've seen a lot of laws regarding same-sex marriage shifting across the country, gay marriage ban overturned in Virginia recently, but then in Kansas we have this proposed law that would protect businesses who want to discriminate against gay couples based on their own religious preferences.

First of all, I'm assuming, I could be wrong here, so I want to ask you -- do you support same-sex marriage itself, and how do you view this changing political landscape we see?

DEMAIO: Well, of course, I personally believe in marriage equality, that people should be treated equally under the law, and I think that we are seeing sizable change across the country where people are concluding that this is simply not an issue for us to fight over in government but that we should allow individuals to make their own decision -- in the context of their own family beliefs and their own faith. And that's hopefully where we're going to head in the future.

I'd like to see our elected leaders not fight over divisive social issues but instead focus on the national debt, the poor economy, holding government accountable. These are issues that we elect people to solve in government, but they have been distracted, and they have been fighting on these divisive social issues and not getting things done for American people I think we need to change the conversation and refocus our efforts.

BLACKWELL: Carl, you might have heard this, that the president of the national organization for marriage has said that you're a trophy candidate that they, Republicans, can point to and say to the media, see, we're progressive, too. We're evolved.

I know that Eric Cantor has donated to your campaign, other leaders in Congress.

What about it that sentiment that you're a red herring to solve a problem for the party at large?

DEMAIO: Well, you know, I think that the most unique part of my candidacy is not the fact that I'm gay. I think the most unique element of my candidacy is that I've gotten major reform done in government. Politicians talk about reform all the time.

I've actually been able to turn the city of San Diego around from the brink of bankruptcy, get national attention for my pension reform plan, so, you know, I think that really what I'm trying to do is change the culture of the Republican Party so that we're a party that stands on principle, is positive and constructive with solutions and actually gets reform done, doesn't just talk about it.

We need to shake things up in Washington, and I think that's the biggest element of my candidacy that I'm most proud of.

PAUL: So what kind of support have you had?

DEMAIO: You know, the support has been pretty overwhelming. Obviously, within San Diego, this has not been an issue. I've had the support of social conservatives and also a good number of Democrats.

Nationally, we're seeing growing support of people who recognize that the party has to change its tone and its tenor, that we've got to get off the divisive social issues. Let people decide those on their own. Get government out of way on that issue, but focus on fiscal and economic reform and offer a constructive message.

So, so far, the support has been pretty overwhelming. There are some naysayers. We fully expected that, but we don't let that get us down. We stay focused on positive messaging.

PAUL: Carl, thanks so much.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Carl.

And thank you for starting your morning with us.

PAUL: Yes. "INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING" starts right now, with some good numbers (ph) today.