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Death Penalty for Dzhokhar?; Rand to Run in 2016; Can Rand Paul Escape Father's Shadow?; Feminist Icon to March Across North Korea. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 7, 2015 - 09:30   ET



[09:32:30] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, I want to take you live to the White House, to the East Room, where Easter celebrations are continuing this morning. The president is welcoming religious for the sixth annual Easter Prayer Breakfast. It marks the beginning of Holy Week. Obviously the vice president, Joe Biden, is speaking now to those religious leaders. The president soon will take the podium. And when he does, we'll dip back in.

In other news this morning, jury deliberations happening now in the Boston bombing trial. In this first phase, jurors will decide if he's guilty. And, if so, of how many counts. And then they will decide Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's fate. Tsarnaev's lawyer has admitted his guilt, but she says he was influenced by his older brother. The question is, does he deserve death? Here's Danny Cevallos.


DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: One of the hardest questions for our society to answer is, when do we put our own citizens to death?

When it comes to the death penalty, we're all over the place. As a very general proposition, capital crimes are usually reserved for murder. And not just murder, but murder plus some additional facts that make it particularly egregious. But even that's not an absolute rule.

Sometimes, as in the case of felony murder, a capital crime is when an unintentional killing results during an inherently dangerous felony. Suppose you and a friend rob a bank, but your friend loses it. You know, you've seen that movie, it's always the friend that loses it and shoots the clerk. Well, you can be responsible for that murder even though you never pulled the trigger and you never intended for anyone to get hurt.

Capital crimes are defined differently from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some states don't have the death penalty at all, but federal crimes may surprise you. Some federal capital crimes don't even require a victim to be killed. You can be put to death for espionage and crimes like treason. Perhaps the most famous example is Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who

were convicted as spies and both executed, husband and wife. The interesting thing is, because federal courts do have the death penalty, it can be said that there doesn't exist a non-death penalty state. So, for example, in Massachusetts, the state may not have the death penalty, but the federal government does and that's why someone like the Boston bomber can be prosecuted in federal court and put to death for crimes and a trial that existed completely in Massachusetts.

[09:34:58] Ultimately, it might be really difficult to articulate a rule. Whether or not to even seek the death penalty is usually discretionary. You might think all this inconsistency is a bad thing, but maybe it isn't. No two crimes are exactly alike. And in a life or death situation, maybe prosecutors need discretion and maybe the courts do, too.


COSTELLO: All right, my thanks to our CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos for that report.

I want to talk about this a bit one with someone who opposes a death sentence, Diane Rust-Tierney. She's with the executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.



COSTELLO: Good morning.

Some might say if anyone deserves the death penalty, it is this kid. He planted a bomb near an eight-year-old boy. That little boy died. And then he went to buy milk at Whole Foods and chips later at a gas station. Why should Dzhokhar Tsarnaev live?

RUST-TIERNEY: See, well, the question really isn't, why not use the death penalty in this case. The real question is why. And I can't put it any better than Cardinal O'Malley put it earlier this week when he said, you know, this defendant has been negotiated in a way away from being dangerous. He cannot harm us anymore. He's been made impotent. And so we don't need the death penalty to keep us safe. And so that's why not use the death penalty here. As the pope said, we are better than capital punishment.

COSTELLO: But capital punishment is legal in this country. The jurors who are deciding his fate all are open to passing down the death sentence. That's how it works in this country at the moment. You know the other point is this -- let's say this kid was influenced by his older brother. Let's just assume that. But he's shown absolutely no remorse in court. He's barely paid attention to victims who lost limbs because of him. If Dzhokhar Tsarnaev doesn't care if he lives or dies, why should we?

RUST-TIERNEY: Well, I can say this. You know, we don't know the whole story yet. We're at the very beginning of the process, as I think you point out earlier in a segment here. We don't know all the story and we don't know whether or not at the end of the day this is the kind of person who should be put to death. The reality is that the death penalty is on the books in the states but it's really in decline. It's in a state of flux because it isn't working.

COSTELLO: Prosecutors also say Tsarnaev killed innocent people because he hated America. Shouldn't it matter that this is a different kind of crime than the crimes that other killers commit? He's a terrorist. Again, I ask you, why should he live?

RUST-TIERNEY: Well, the question is, why should we kill him? At the end of the day, he's been incapacitated. He can no longer harm us. And the public is saying, you know, we don't need the death penalty anymore. The death penalty is in decline by every stretch of the -- of every measure. Executions are down. Death sentences are down. State after state is looking at the death penalty and they're finding that it doesn't work. We don't have a death penalty that actually keeps our community safer and so why go through this pointless exercise when you're better than the death penalty?

COSTELLO: And to your point, according to this pole that WBUR took, that's a local station in Boston, most in Boston think Tsarnaev should get life in prison over the death penalty, which actually surprised me since so many people in Boston were touched by what Tsarnaev did. Do you think though that the jury will feel the same way after looking at the pictures of those victims, after hearing testimony from those victims who lost limbs?

RUST-TIERNEY: Well, first of all, let me speak about the victims for a moment. You know, this is -- must have been a very difficult time for them and, you know, really, we have to really acknowledge that there's no right or wrong way for a victim to feel about this issue. We have to honor that. That however you feel about the death penalty is how you feel as a victim and we can't ignore that. We have to honor that. But the real focus should be on healing. The real focus should be on those things that actually work.

We know what kinds of things actually make us safer and we should be doing those things. The death penalty is actually a distraction from those things. Keeping our neighborhood safe is about making sure we're dealing with mental health issues, making sure we're dealing with families at risk, making sure we have education systems and -- that provide people with the skills to have real jobs. We don't need the death penalty. And that's why we're seeing it in decline. And that's why it's not clear that we're going to see a death sentence in this case.

COSTELLO: We'll see what happens. Phase two will begin after the jury makes its decision on Tsarnaev's innocence or guilt.

RUST-TIERNEY: Thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: Thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, from Washington, senator to populous outsider, that could become the theme for Rand Paul as he wades into the 2016 presidential race.

[09:39:40] Also as Rand Paul courts millennials, I'm picking their brains. I recently talked with a group of Kent State journalism students. Embrace yourself for the pending marriage apocalypse. One student told me, "I didn't go to college for four years to be a mom. I'm OK being single forever as long as I'm happy." So in my new op-ed I tackle the question, would it be so terrible if we all remained single? Head over to I'd love to know what you think. I'll be right back.


[09:43:48] COSTELLO: Move over Ted Cruz, you're about to get a little competition in the battle to be the next Republican presidential nominee. Rand Paul taking to his website and telling voters, quote, "I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government." Kentucky's junior senator set to formally address the public this afternoon in Louisville, but he may be giving a hint about his upcoming campaign on social media where his Twitter handle now reads, Dr. Paul instead of Senator Paul. A nod to his ophthalmologist career. But it could also be a play to distance himself from Washington and shore up his credentials as an anti- establishment candidate.

Here to talk about all of this and more, Ana Navarro is a CNN political commentator and Republican strategist who served as director of immigration policy for then Governor Jeb Bush, Paul Begala is a CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist who was also a senior advisor to Priorities USA, a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC, and David Gergen is a CNN senior political analyst and former presidential advisor.

I'm out of breath now. Welcome to all of you. Thanks so much for being here.


COSTELLO: Senator Paul changed his Twitter handle to Dr. Paul, as in I'm an eye doctor first, not a Senator.

[09:45:00] Paul, why do this? Smart strategy? Does it matter?

BEGALA: Oh, I think it's a little overt. If he really doesn't want to be associated with the Senate, he can always resign. That would be a very principled move. By the way, Bob Dole did that. Senator Bob Dole was the majority leader of the Senate and he stepped down when he became a presidential candidate so that he could devote his full time to that campaign.

If Dr. Paul wants to return to be a doctor, he could do that. But I think what he's trying to do is tap into a pretty powerful antiestablishment minority in his own party. But before he even gets to the general election, and there may be some power there.

COSTELLO: Sort of like Ben Carson, David? DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I suppose you can

run a campaign saying he wants to heal the nation, but I think Paul is absolutely right. Of course, he wants to separate himself out from the dysfunctionality of Washington even though he just got here and he has very little experience. But he has this name, family name, and he has a lot of followers. There's a lot of energetic people out there for Rand Paul. He's in the top tier right now, I would think. I would be interested in hearing what others think. Btu if you separate out by tiers, I think he's in at least the top three.

COSTELLO: Yes, he comes in third in our most recent poll among Republican contenders. Ana, Paul's motto, "Defeat the Washington machine. Unleash the American dream." That's his populous antiestablishment slogan. Do his words match his motto though?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think what he's going to try to do is to stick to this libertarian anti-big government, antiestablishment theme, but at the same time I think he's going to inch a little bit to the right on issues like foreign policy and defense. We've already seen him start to do that. He's about to give a speech later this week at the U.S.S. Yorktown in South Carolina where the military issue is really one of their priorities in that state and which is an early primary state.

He has got to keep a hold of his father's very libertarian folks, but at the same time grow his share of the pie without antagonizing those first votes. So it's going to require a level of acrobatics, frankly.

COSTELLO: And he's trying to, you know, maintain his balance in that acrobatic act, Paul, because Paul's position seem contradictory. On one hand, for example, as a libertarian, he's noninterventionist. Yet later he said he had mixed feelings about airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq. So what exactly is he?

BEGALA: I think that's right. In principle, he's quite a libertarian. And of course he supported his father who at one point left the Republican Party and ran for president as a Libertarian because the Republicans weren't conservative enough for him.

This tension, the thing that put Rand Paul on the map in the Senate was he gave a 13-hour speech opposing the NSA's domestic surveillance program, the stuff that was leaked from Mr. Snowden. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina is likely to run for president as well. He's a very strong supporter of that program. So you can have a really interesting debate in the Republican primaries about privacy, on the one hand, national security on the other. This is the one thing I think campaigns are at their best. And I do hope that Dr. Paul, senator Paul, will stick to those principles so we can have an honest debate. And I think you'll have others from the more hawkish wing of the party, like Senator Graham, who could really have -- this could be a great debate. I mean this. And I don't say this as a Democrat; of course I just want them all to look silly. But the truth is you can have a wonderful and important debate for our country.

COSTELLO: David, apparently, as Politico put it though, Senator Paul has daddy issues, which is odd because his dad, Ron Paul, put him on the map. So how should he use his father going forward?

GERGEN: Oh, I -- I -- a lot of the folks here have got daddy issues, frankly. Rand Paul can draw heavily on his father's base and the two early states that have caucuses -- and this is what really -- the environment works well for his candidacy. And that is of the four early states, two are caucuses. That's where the libertarian movement, all the energy, enthusiasm that you see among college kids for the libertarian position, that really comes into play. He can do well in caucus states.

And in New Hampshire, you famously have a state that -- live free or die. And his campaign is all about small government here at home. He's changed his position on defense. He wanted to cut defense; now he wants to increase defense. But here at home he's still a small government guy and that's the theme we're hearing today. So that's why I think keep an eye on him because he could do better in these early states. He's -- it's a more natural environment for him.

COSTELLO: But, Ana, I don't know if you heard Dana Bash say it though, Ron Paul will be at the big announcement in Kentucky today. But he'll just appear with the Paul family. He won't be speaking at all. So already you're seeing that Senator Paul's keeping his father at arm's length already.

[09:50:03] NAVARRO: Well, you know, you want to get the benefit of being Ron Paul's son, and he already has. I don't think if he wasn't Rand Paul's son he would have been elected, first time he ever runs for anything without having any political experience. He was an eye doctor, as we've all said. So he wants to get the benefit of being Rand Paul's son but doesn't want to get the detriment of being Rand Paul's son.

Ron Paul was seen as a fringe candidate; he really never broke out of the single digits in the campaign. He got something like maybe 9 percent or 10 percent in Iowa, 8 percent in New Hampshire. Rand Paul needs to grow that. And, yes, there's people with daddy issued in this race. There's people with hubby issues. And there's people who just have issues. So we're going to just have to figure out which he falls into.

And like I said, it is two big challenges for Rand Paul. One, grow his daddy's share of the pie without antagonizing his father's followers and, two, also have to deal with the issue that he is a rookie freshman senator without executive experience. And that's an issue that I think all senators who are thinking or who have announced for this race will face, because of the shadow, because of the daddy issues, hubby issues, and Obama issues. Republicans have had an issue with President Obama being a rookie senator without executive experience.

COSTELLO: We'll see what happens. Ana Navarro, Paul Begala, David Gergen, thanks to all of you. I appreciate it.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Gloria Steinem wants to march where? Why the feminist icon might be making a trip to North Korea. We'll talk about that next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:55:35] COSTELLO: One of the world's most famous feminists may march across the world's most fortified and guarded border next month. North Korea just giving Gloria Steinem the OK to walk across the demilitarized zone that separates the country from South Korea.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us this morning. Good morning.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. This is just plain strange. Kim Jong-Un's regime apparently OK-ing this walk by a prominent women's group just as Kim is bringing back a practice of young women being at the beck and call of him and his inner circle, and not long after they were accused of other oppressive treatment of women.


TODD (voice-over): Bold ambitious plan apparently sanctioned by Kim Jong-Un. Is he in league with the women's group to promote peace between North and South Korea? A prominent women's activist group joined by feminist journalist and publisher Glory Steinem is planning a symbolic and controversial walk across the demilitarized zone, the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea.

We spoke with Christine Ahn, the organizer.

CHRISTINE AHN, ORGANIZER, WOMEN CROSS DMZ: We wanted to end the state of war on the Korean peninsula.

TODD: Ahn says North Korean government officials have given the green light for the walk in late May. One analyst and a human rights advocate say there's a good reason why.

GREG SCARLATOIU, COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA: What I know about some of those participating in this group is that they have views that are fairly pro-Kim regime and pro-North Korean.

PROF. SUE MI TERRY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Ms. Ahn written articles that are more sympathetic to North Korean issues and North Korean causes.

TODD: Ahn says the notion that she's a North Korean sympathizer is flat out inaccurate.

AHN: Basically that is Cold War (INAUDIBLE) mentality, and that kind of framework is what has enabled Korea to remain divided. I am pro- peace. I am pro-engagement. I am pro-dialogue. I am pro-human rights.

TODD: But analysts say a women's group sanctioned by this walk by North Koreans is at least odd. The U.N., the State Department, and human rights groups say Kim's regime routinely reppresses women, throwing them in prison camps, subjecting them to rape, torture. One prison camp survivor testified before a U.N. commission she knew of a starving woman who gave birth in a camp. A prison official heard the baby's cries, beat the woman, and forced her to drown the child.

JEE HOON A, NORTH KOREA PRISON CAMP SURVIVOR (via translator): With her shaking hands she picked up the baby and she put the baby face down in the water.

TODD: The North Koreans deny it. According to South Korea's "Chosun Ilbo" newspaper, Kim's just brought back a practice his father and grandfather were known for, using so-called joy brigades of attractive young women.

TERRY: The joy brigade is there to please men, please the ruling elite. They dance, they sing, they give pleasure.


TODD (on camera): What does Gloria Steinem think of this? When we asked about North Korea's record with women and the comments that the group she's aligned herself with is pro-North Korean, a representative for Steinem e-mailed us saying, "On behalf of Ms. Steinem, quote, 'I am proceeding on advice of women I trust and who know the region, including Christine.' End quote."

That's a reference to Christine Ahn. For now, this women's group says it plans to press ahead with the walk and is just waiting for permission from the South Korean government.

We reached out to officials in Seoul and at South Korea's embassy her in Washington to see if that permission would be granted. So far, officials have only said this request is under review. Carol?

COSTELLO: Interesting. I'm sure you'll continue following this story. Brian Todd reporting live for us this morning.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM after a break.