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Mom of Toddler Who Died in Hot Car Speaks Out; Iraq in Crisis; Benghazi Suspect Pleads Not Guilty; U.S. Faces Belgium on Tuesday

Aired June 29, 2014 - 08:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, welcome to Sunday. I hope it's been good to you so far. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Eight o'clock here on the East Coast. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

A standing ovation -- that was the reaction to a surprising jailhouse from Justin Ross Harris. The Georgia father charged with murder after leaving his 22-month-old toddler in a blistering hot SUV.

PAUL: Harris wasn't allowed to attend his son's funeral yesterday remember. But he did address the crowd and he did so by speakerphone from jail, which surprised a lot of people. Police say Harris recently used the Internet, though, to search for information about child deaths inside vehicles, including what temperature it needs to be for that death to occur.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Nick Valencia has more for us this morning.

Good morning, Nick.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, the tiny red casket for 22-month-old Cooper Harris was placed in front of a crowd of hundreds who came to pay their respects for the toddler who died last week.

(voice-over): Under a light rain in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 22- month-old Cooper Harris was laid to rest, at a funeral service attended by hundreds. Not present, his father, Justin Ross Harris, who's accused of killing the toddler. But he did call in to thank funeral guests for supporting his son and apologized for not being there.

(on camera): While he was on the phone, his wife Leanna said that she's absolutely not angry at her husband. She called him a wonderful father and said that the truth would come out. Harris could be heard sobbing over the phone as the crowd inside gave him a standing ovation.

Earlier Saturday, new startling details emerged about the 33- year-old. According to search warrants obtained by CNN, Harris told police, quote, that he recently researched through the Internet child deaths inside vehicles and what temperature it needs to be for that to occur. The police officer went on to say, quote, "Justin stated that he was fearful that this could happen."

What remains unclear is exactly when that search was done. Friends and family say the man police paint as a murderer is not the man they know.

CAROL BROWN, FAMILY FRIEND: I want that he would be able to forgive himself.

VALENCIA: Family friend Carol Brown.

BROWN: It just seems out of character for Ross, and I know people change. It's been 15 years or so since we've had contact in the church, so -- you know, people change. But I -- it's just hard for me to imagine that that is the Ross, the sweet Ross Harris, the sweet little, funny boy that we knew.

VALENCIA: A lawyer has instructed Harris' family not to speak to the media. Those who have spoken off camera say a man with the moral fiber of Harris would never be capable of killing his own son.

Left for seven hours in his father's car under the blistering Atlanta son, Cooper Harris died. What is still unknown is what could have motivated Harris as police say, to kill his only child. Outside the University Church of Christ, friends and family grieve as they wait to find out if baby Cooper's death was a terrible accident or something more sinister.

(on camera): Justin Ross Harris is next due in court on July 3rd -- Victor, Christi.


PAUL: All righty, Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

Let's talk about this with Dr. Gail Saltz. She's a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.

Dr. Saltz, thank you so much for being with us.

I have to tell you there's a moment that stuck out for both of us when we read what Leanne Harris said. She said, "Am I angry with Ross? Absolutely not. It's never crossed my mind. Ross is and was and will be, if we have any more children, a wonderful father. Cooper meant the world to him."

When she said, "Am I angry? Absolutely not" -- I'm a parent. I love my husband. I know my husband would never do anything to intentionally hurt my kids. But on some level, aren't you angry or don't you have to be at some point in order to deal with the grief? Isn't that part of the process?

DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHOANALYST: Well, I wouldn't say that you have to be, but I would say it would be highly likely to be. However, if you think about it, if you have lost your child and you believe that your husband is not responsible for it, then all you have is your husband to lean on, to turn to and it might be really important to not be aware of any anger that you might have or be aware of it but feel that it's not logical, because you believe that it's an accident.

And in that sense, you know, say to yourself, it wouldn't be fair to be angry or I'm simply going to repress, deny through some defense mechanism say, I'm not angry.

PAUL: Won't you eventually be if you do that?

SALTZ: You know, not necessarily. I mean, it's certainly possible that you'll be motivated to do something, because unconsciously you'll be angry and it will come out in some other way, some other fight, being angry about something else, but it's also possible to keep that kind of thing really denied or repressed for a very long time.

BLACKWELL: So, let me ask you about what the dad said. He called in from jail and part of what he said was, "Thank you for everything you've done for my boy, good life. No words to say, just horrible. I'm just sorry I can't be there."

Should we have expected him to say, "What they're saying about me isn't true" or "I was not responsible" or does this crowd -- does he owe them that? Or did he even need to say it to them?

SALTZ: You know, I think that if your child -- let me just say this: your child dying is about the most stressful disturbing thing that can happen, and if this was not intentional, then that would probably be your sole focus, not "Am I guilty, I'm not guilty, don't believe them," et cetera. You would be so grieved and in a state of shock and even if you are not purposely responsible, guilt-ridden, that that might just be your sole focus, you know?

My son and I'm sorry, and I needed to be there for my son. That is logically your focus.

PAUL: Yes.

SALTZ: On the other hand, obviously, if there's something going on that wasn't OK, then you know, all that's come off because as we know, you know, people who are guilty lie to cover the truth, and then, you know, it's hard to know what to make of their words.

PAUL: You know, there's something else that the mom said that I think all of us can relate to. She said, "Some of you might wonder how I'm even standing today. I wonder that myself. I should be crumpled into a heap of tears under the dirt but the Lord is holding me up right now, he's holding Ross up."

In your experience, Dr. Saltz, how does faith play a role in recovery and healing and a notion of survival from something like this?

SALTZ: I think for many people, a huge role, and it does allow people to function in a certain way, and take their grief and feel to some degree that there must have been a reason that more importantly that their loved one is in a better place, and not that it ends the grief process by any stretch, but it is really a comfort to people who feel strongly about their faith, and it can be very healing.

PAUL: OK, and then lastly, I'm wondering -- you know, if this was an accident and this dad is dealing with this, how do you reconcile that in your life?

SALTZ: Well, that's very difficult. I would -- first, I'd have to tell you that people who have lost a child, a mother and a father, are at high risk for suicide in the first year after that loss, whatever the means may be.

And if you are responsible for it, I would say that would make you that much more at risk, so obviously, I'm not talking about if this was a premeditated act but if this was an accident and yet it was your accident, and it was the very accident you were afraid would happen, which has to make one question, did it sort of happen before, in other words, was there a leaving of the car and then an oops, oh, I forgot, and then a fear that that would happen.

But if you are responsible, I would be very concerned about that person having complicated grief, having depression and being at risk for suicide.

BLACKWELL: And police aren't telling us if he's under any type of suicide watch. We've asked several times.

Dr. Gail Saltz, thank you so much for your insight. A lot of questions here.

PAUL: Thank you, ma'am.

SALTZ: My pleasure.

PAUL: So, we also have to talk about the fierce clashes in Iraq today. The country's defense forces are getting some new fire power to battle ISIS militants.

BLACKWELL: And about 20 million people may be facing severe weather today, thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes possible, too. We'll take a look at the forecast in just a moment.


BLACKWEL: Iraqi defense forces have a fleet of powerful, new weapon this is morning in their battle against ISIS militants.

PAUL: Yes, five Russian fighter jets are in Iraq now, the first of 25 warplanes due to be delivered.

BLACKWELL: Meantime officials in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region have put tight restrictions on border crossings.

The move comes as desperate families just trying to get away from these airstrikes in Mosul.

PAUL: And there are conflicting reports about which side controls Saddam Hussein's home up to of Tikrit. A combatant tells CNN that Islamist fighters still have the upper hand.

BLACKWELL: Next hour, our colleague Candy Crowley will have much more on the crisis in Iraq.

PAUL: Yes, she's joining us now.

Candy, good morning. So, we understand, you're going to be talking with House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers?

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION": Right, and no shortage of questions to ask him about first of all, the suspected ring leader in Benghazi is now in the United States. We want to get his thoughts on that.

But we also want to talk about what's going on, on the ground in Iraq. We all thought ISIS could be in Baghdad by now, but it's not. So, what's going on.

So, there's plenty of stuff to talk to him about.

BLACKWELL: And I know back in Washington, this firestorm over those missing e-mails connects to you the IRS investigation and we understand you'll be talking exclusively with the attorney for the official at the center of all this.

CROWLEY: Yes, a man named Bill Taylor, you recall IRS official Lois Lerner who has since retired, she was kind of at the center of this probe about whether her group unfairly targeted conservative groups who were seeking tax exemptions. So, that's still an ongoing thing and in the midst of this, there's some of Lerner's e-mails for over a two-year period have gone missing, just a big crash and they're nowhere to be found and this is Republicans on fire.

So, we'll be talking to Bill Taylor as well as the chair of the Oversight Committee in the House, Darrell Issa.

PAUL: All righty. Candy Crowley, good to see you this morning. Thank you.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

PAUL: And be sure to watch her. "STATE OF THE UNION" coming up, at the top of the hour, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Well, as Candy just mentioned the alleged mastermind of the deadly 2012 Benghazi attacks pleaded not guilty this weekend in a brief appearance in federal court. Standing before a judge with long graying hair, the beard, Ahmed Abu Khattala appeared subdued, and he spoke only once, just a whisper, a whisper of his name in a barely audible voice.

So far, Khattala has been charged with one count. It's a count of providing material support to terrorists, but additional charges are expected and those could bring the death penalty. Khattala is due back in court this week.

PAUL: All right. Listen, 20 million of us today are going to be at the hands of extreme weather, flooding in the Midwest, tropical weather off the coast of Georgia.


BLACKWELL: They're going crazy in Rio, crazy. The nail-biter between Brazil and Chile, the World Cup match, Brazil now in the quarterfinals.

A look at how Team USA is prepping for its big game.


PAUL: All righty. Let's talk about weather, shall we, because it's going to be nasty today, right, Karen?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is, and just wanted you to know that this is just in from Shelby County, there's a flash flood emergency in Memphis. They've already seen between four and six inches of rainfall, an additional couple of inches of rainfall.

Let's show you some live pictures coming out of a tower cam in the Memphis area. There is a thunderstorm in Memphis right now. But beyond that, we've already seen such heavy rainfall with additional couple of inches of rainfall, they are saying that this is a particularly dangerous situation. A number of areas reported some flooding. We've had reports of parking lots, streets, apartment buildings, cars stranded.

There is another line of storms due across the region over the coming hours and in the red shaded area, flash flood warnings but as I mentioned for Shelby County, there is a flash flooding emergency. Strong line of storms along Interstate 70 through Kansas and Nebraska. Be on the watch for some hail, high winds and a potential for tornadoes going through the afternoon about 20 million people in this risk area, but there's a moderate risk today.

In Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and into Nebraska, we can expect about 3 million people there, could see the risk for tornadic activity later today. We'll keep you updated -- Christi, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Karen, thank you so much.

Seven people were wounded in New Orleans overnight after a late night shooting on Bourbon Street.

PAUL: Our affiliate WWLTV reports an eyewitness that a shooter intentionally shot one victim and then just opened fire into the crowd. Now, this morning, one of the victims is listed in critical condition. The other six in stable. Officials say the shooting happened around the corner from popular tourist attractions, including Preservation Hall and Pat O'Brien's. No word on whether they're looking for a suspect.

BLACKWELL: Yes, hopefully, they get more details from police there.

Hollywood is mourning the loss of Meshach Taylor. Film and TV veteran passed away last night. He was 67.

PAUL: He's best remembered by most for his role Emmy-nominated role as Anthony Bouvier on "Designing Women", and the larger than life, window dresser, Hollywood Montrose in a cult hit "Mannequin."


MESHACH TAYLOR, ACTOR: From the windows last night, film at 11:00. Yes, my dear, your favorite. She is gone, too.



BLACKWELL: Well, Taylor had been fighting a terminal illness. He was surrounded by family when he passed away.

PAUL: All right, I know that you have been glued to the television a lot, as you watch Brazil and Chile World matchup yesterday.


PAUL: Apparently, it was worth it down to the last second.


PAUL: I don't know why that always makes me smile.

BLACKWELL: Because you know it's coming. I mean, you can hear the quiet and hesitancy, and then -- boom! It was great! Must-see ending.

We have all the highlights, plus a look ahead at the big game coming up for Team USA.



PAUL: You think they're waking up this morning going oh my gosh, that's me.

BLACKWELL: I think they're still sleeping. I'm sure the celebration went late into the night. You see soccer fans here in Brazil, Rio specifically, celebrating Brazil's very narrow win over Chile yesterday, came down to the last few moments, earning them a ticket to the World Cup quarterfinals.

PAUL: You know we want that. As a Team USA fan, we're waiting to do the same thing on Tuesday.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Oh, wait, is it my turn?


BLACKWELL: You jumped ahead.

Hey, do or die. A lose will knock them out against Belgium.

JOE CARTER, CNN SPORTS: It's the elimination round so no more ties. We have to win. We have to have a lead at the end of the game, because obviously if it's a tie we go to PKs. That's what happened in the Brazil game. We'll show that in just a second.

PAUL: Yes.

CARTER: But, hey, today a short two-hour flight headed to Salvador. Now, I'll tell you what, Tuesday the weather is supposed to be crystal clear, a great 70 degrees, very little chance of rain.

So, on paper, obviously, Belgium a great team. They over the red, white and blue, and the roster is one of the highest paid in the World Cup. But America's head coach Jurgen Klinsmann says that after making it out of the group of debt, he believes his squad can take anyone and beat them.

And now, speaking of Brazil, the host nation is very lucky to be advancing. The game came down to a penalty shoot-out and who else but Brazil star Neymar was the man how made the difference. A stop and start job made the edge.

This is so great -- start, stop, score. Well, that would give them the advantage. Chile would have the opportunity to score the equalizer, one last chance on the penalty kick but it hits the post. The heartbreak for Chile, the celebration for Brazil, the host nation is moving on, they survive barely and they go play Colombia next.

And what a performance by 22-year-old James Rodriguez, he scored both goals against Uruguay. His first goal is being called one of the best of the tournament so far. Rodriguez, this guy, in his first World Cup ever leads all scorers with five goals, Colombia, Brazil Friday.

Later today, we got Mexico, Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Greece.

Great day of soccer, guys, enjoy. I know Team USA we're getting -- look at this goal.

PAUL: I know, wow.

BLACKWELL: Pretty amazing.

CARTER: He literally hits it off of his chest and hits it midair and scores. That's why it's being called one of the greatest goals in the tournament so far.

BLACKWELL: You know what I love is Neymar's finger-wagging.

PAUL: Yes, I know. There you go.

BLACKWELL: Got that.

CARTER: And his distinctive quaff.

PAUL: Yes, there you go.

BLACKWELL: They've all go great hair.

PAUL: Yes, Joe, thank you so much.

Hey, guess who else is in Brazil? Chris Cuomo is going to be live starting from there tomorrow on NEW DAY, starting at 6:00 a.m.

Go make some great memories today.