Special prosecutor will not use grand jury in Trayvon Martin investigation
April 9th, 2012
11:46 AM ET

Special prosecutor will not use grand jury in Trayvon Martin investigation

[Updated at 12:11 p.m. ET] State Attorney Angela Corey, appointed as a special prosecutor in the February shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, has decided against sending the case to a grand jury, her office said Monday.

"The decision should not be considered a factor in the final determination of the case," Corey's office said in a statement.

The grand jury, set to convene on Tuesday, was previously scheduled by the former prosecutor.

Corey previously said she has not used grand jury's in cases like this and added that from the time she was appointed she said she may not need a grand jury.

The decision about whether or not to charge George Zimmerman in the case now rests with prosecutors.

"At this time, the investigation continues and there will be no further comment from this office," in the statement.

The decision means that the timetable for any possible charges remains up in the air.

"We had hoped she had enough evidence without the need to convene a grand jury,” Ben Crump, the attorney for the Martin family said about Corey. “The family is trying to have patience and faith through all of this."

Crump said they are hoping for charges and an arrest as soon as possible.

"We know we want that day to come,” Crump said. “We want a very public trial so the evidence can come out and show people that the justice system works for everybody."

Crump added that he believed the evidence that has come out has “made it clear” that charges should be filed, without the need of a grand jury.

George Zimmerman's new attorney, Hal Uhrig, told CNN that he was "not surprised" by the announcement.

Uhrig said he doesn't know what her ultimate decision will be but that the move to go without a grand jury is a "courageous move on her part."

Martin ventured out from his father's fiancee's home in Sanford to get a snack at a nearby convenience store. As he walked home with a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea, he was shot and killed by Zimmerman.

Sanford police questioned Zimmerman and released him without charges.

From there, the case has evolved into opposing allegations from Zimmerman's supporters, Martin's family and authorities.

Zimmerman says he killed Martin in self-defense after the teen punched him and slammed his head on the sidewalk, according to an Orlando Sentinel report that was later confirmed by Sanford police.

The case  has triggered a nationwide debate about Florida's "stand your ground" law - which allows people to use deadly force anywhere they feel a reasonable threat of death or serious injury - and race in America.

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Filed under: Florida • Trayvon Martin
February 29th, 2012
05:35 PM ET

Covering the Ohio school shooting felt too close to home

Editor's note: The following is from CNN correspondent Martin Savidge, who has been covering Monday's school shooting that killed three students and injured two others in Chardon, Ohio.

I’ve covered more than enough school shootings. (One, by the way, is enough. But I’ve seen a half-dozen more.) So on Monday, sadly, maybe the headline of another wasn’t so shocking, but the location was: Chardon, Ohio. Unlike the other tragic places such as Jonesboro or Columbine, I know Chardon. I grew up in Northeast Ohio.

Right away, I called my wife's brother, who has two kids at Chardon schools. I got Bobby as he was waiting at the middle school to pick up his youngest son. I reached his wife as she was waiting at the elementary school to get their 18-year-old, who was evacuated there. You could hear the edge in their voices. I could also hear the anxious crowd of other parents talking in the background. Thankfully, both boys were all right, but five other students were not, and neither was the town I knew. I called CNN and volunteered to go.

Chardon sits about 30 miles east of Cleveland. It looks classic Norman Rockwell. There’s a still functioning old square with a courthouse and gazebo. Old homes date to the 1800s. The streets are two-lane and tree-lined. It’s where parents like to raise their kids, because they know they’ll be safe.

Locally, Chardon is known as the snow capital. They get lake-effect snow here. When a winter storm might drop 2 inches of snow to the west of Cleveland, it might drop 2 feet of snow on Chardon.

This winter, there hasn’t been much snow, and now Chardon's other constant, its safety, has disappeared.

When I arrived in Cleveland, I drove to my brother-in-law's house. His son, the senior, had been in constant contact as I traveled, telling me what happened and finding kids who were there and able to talk about it with CNN. Many kids were there in the cafeteria, hallways and classrooms. But now, hours later, the shock had set in, and most wouldn’t or couldn’t talk. Of course, we understood. But a few did want to let it out.

There was Ryan Doyle, the freshman who had study hall in the cafeteria, where it all began. He said the first gunshot sounded like the slap of a book hitting the floor. When he turned to see what happened, he saw the shooter with a gun extended toward a student on the ground. Then more shots. Ryan was struck by the sight of the muzzle flashes and that there were no words, no screams.

There was also Kaylee O’Donnell, who had been handing out papers in math class when the principal announced “Lockdown!” As she crouched on the floor, she thought it was a drill until she watched her teacher, Joseph Ricci, walk calmly to a closet and pull out and put on what the kids say was a bulletproof vest. He then slipped into the hallway, armed with only a hammer, to face the unknown and protect his students. He returned carrying a badly wounded student, Nick Walczack. Ricci and others comforted Walczak. Kaylee and several students prayed.

Finally, there was one other girl I interviewed. She’s 16, and her parents want her to remain anonymous. She was a rarity in Chardon because she had known the suspect, T.J. Lane, since middle school. Hers was the most compelling interview of all. She had the insight so many people wanted: What was T.J. like, and what had happened? She was our window into his world, and she spoke with an eloquence and wisdom far beyond her years. Most of all, she spoke with such soulful sadness of the “sweet” boy she befriended in middle school. He was different-looking and quiet; he was also funny. That was the T.J. Lane she once knew, the same T.J. Lane now accused of something she could not possibly understand.

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Filed under: Crime • Ohio
A prison of his own making
The building with its roof damaged and askew sat silent and vacant -- only it wasn’t.
December 3rd, 2011
12:01 PM ET

A prison of his own making

The sprawling Victory Base Complex was America’s largest in Iraq, located near the Baghdad Airport.

It was essentially an American city, at one time home to more than 40,000 troops. 

Now as the United States ends its military mission and troops head home, the base has been turned over to the Iraqis.

There are nine of Saddam Hussein’s palaces here.

The grandest are the four that stand on an artificial lake.

Hussein was so impressed with the ones at Versailles, the story goes, he decided to build his own. 

And one of the four held a secret.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Iraq • Military • World
On a highway to Hilla …
A U.S. convoy arrives at Camp Virginia, Kuwait.
December 3rd, 2011
11:51 AM ET

On a highway to Hilla …

It's rush hour on Hilla Highway, the main road out of Baghdad south to Kuwait, as U.S. forces close up shop on nearly nine years of war. And from what I’m hearing from U.S. military officials, Hilla can be a hell of a drive.

Since the U.S. downsizing began in October, the number of attacks on U.S. troops has been on the increase.

According to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, chief spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, U.S. troops are attacked on average three times a day. Now that’s nothing compared to the bad old days of 2007 when U.S. and Iraqi forces were being hit 145 times a day.

But the concern of U.S. military leaders is that the level of violence against U.S. forces will increase, perhaps significantly, over the next two weeks just as the U.S. military cuts its numbers and ability to defend itself.

Buchanan says Iranian-backed militant groups such as Asaib Ahl-Alhaq want to give the illusion that U.S. troops are retreating under fire.  Bases have been struck by mortars and rockets.

The good news is there are fewer bases to hit – from 505 at the war’s peak down to six as of this writing.   The bad news is the bad guys know U.S. troops are now concentrated in just a half dozen places.

Then there are the moving targets called convoys.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Iraq • Military • U.S. • World
Man detained in missing-woman case ordered to stay in Aruban jail
Robyn Gardner was last seen in August on a beach on the Caribbean Island of Aruba.
October 28th, 2011
02:45 PM ET

Man detained in missing-woman case ordered to stay in Aruban jail

An American man detained in connection with the disappearance and presumed death of a Maryland woman in Aruba has been ordered to remain in police custody for another 30 days as authorities continue their investigation, Aruba's public prosecutor announced Friday in a press release.

An Aruban judge issued the order Friday for Gary Giordano, who was arrested on August 5 "on suspicion of involvement in the disappearance and death" of his traveling companion, Robyn Gardner, three days earlier, the prosecutor said.

Giordano, a 50-year-old Gaithersburg, Maryland, resident, has told investigators that he went snorkeling with Gardner on August 2 and that she failed to return to shore with him as they snorkeled at the southern end of the island.

Giordano's attorney had argued at a court hearing Friday that his client's "life is being destroyed" and that he should be released from custody.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Aruba • Crime
Father asks Natalee Holloway be declared dead
Natalee Holloway disappeared on Aruba in 2005.
September 14th, 2011
01:11 PM ET

Father asks Natalee Holloway be declared dead

The father of Natalee Holloway, the Alabama teenager who vanished while on a graduation trip to Aruba in 2005, has asked a court to declare his daughter dead.

Dave Holloway filed a petition for the presumption of death of persons missing more than five years with Jefferson County Probate Court in Alabama on June, 21, chief clerk Jackie Rhodes confirmed to CNN.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Aruba • Crime • Natalee Holloway
September 7th, 2011
01:38 PM ET

American held in woman's disappearance in Aruba to remain in jail

A three-judge Aruban panel on Wednesday denied American Gary Giordano's appeal of a ruling keeping him behind bars for another 60 days as authorities investigate the disappearance of his American traveling companion, his attorney said.

Attorney Michael Lopez said Giordano was sad and disappointed with the ruling. Giordano is being detained improperly, he said, and his rights are being violated. Giordano left the hearing with a shirt covering his head.

On Tuesday, authorities on the Caribbean island questioned Giordano for an eighth time in connection with the disappearance of Robyn Gardner.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Aruba
August 15th, 2011
09:28 AM ET

Familiar spotlight on Aruba after disappearance stirs up local frustration

The disappearance of Robyn Gardner has brought the international media back to Aruba, and Arubans aren’t happy about it. After the prolonged investigation without resolution in the Natalee Holloway case the summer of 2005, tourism took a hit. The locals are nervous and not keen to see us again.

There is no way to keep a low profile on an island when you’re CNN. A photograph of us reporting in front of the prosecutor’s office was on the front page of the island’s most popular paper, The Diario, the day after we landed.

Since then, other networks have followed us to Aruba. NBC’s satellite dish now sprouts from the hotel grounds. An unnamed television team was having lunch near the site where Gardner reportedly vanished while snorkeling. Once the manager of the restaurant knew they were members of the media, he threw them out, refusing their money for the meal they had already been served. It’s a very strong reaction for a place whose maroon and white license plates boast “One Happy Island.”

That’s an extreme example. I have been here many times, and always, unfortunately, for bad news. I was here for much of the Holloway frenzy, but even now, I find most here are extremely polite and friendly. However, if you ask them if they know anything about the current case and would they be willing to be interviewed, people grow silent. Twice my requests were met with the same response. One person said “here is someone who could talk" to me while writing down a name and phone number. Only it was the number for the island’s solicitor general, and I already had it.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Aruba
August 9th, 2011
11:39 AM ET

Path to a dream: From a family that fled Castro to first Hispanic NBA owner

The new owner of the Atlanta Hawks (pending NBA approval) faced the media with two surprising confessions: He’d never held a news conference before, and he was very nervous.

In fact, it took three tries just to get the obligatory Hawks cap on his head. He's not the typical high-powered, mega-wealthy kind of guy you might expect. He had something unexpected: humility.

To understand where that comes from, you have to understand where he came from.

Growing up, Alex Meruelo loved basketball. He was a starter for his California Catholic high school team. He loved the sport, but he was smart enough to know he wasn’t going to make a living at it. So when his dad offered for him to take over the family tuxedo business, you could say Meruelo’s basketball career came to a formal end.

This son of Cuban immigrants quickly found that although he was good at basketball, he was great at business. The empire he has created makes everything from pizzas to wind turbines. He got rich and got back to basketball. He will be the first Hispanic majority owner of an NBA team.

And I asked whether he knew, when he was negotiating the deal, that would be the headline.

"I’m not sure if you really think about it. It’s something that just happens. It happens," he said. "It’s something that, there’s no question that it’s a big responsibility. It’s something that at the same time, I’m very privileged. I’m honored. I want to make sure I do a good job.”

Media reports tell of his father leaving Cuba, setting up a new life in America. It's the American dream. So for Meruelo, emotions were likely to factor in.

"Emotion is a tremendous part of this deal. And I am trying to contain myself as much a possible because to explain it, how I feel or what I believe, is very hard to put into words right now. Very hard," he said. "It’s a dream come true, and Atlanta, I am so happy to be here. I’m happy to be part of this organization, and I am so committed to making sure we do the right thing, and I want to make sure that I own the respect. The loyalty of the Atlanta Hawks fans is something that is even more important to me.”

FULL POST

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Filed under: Basketball • Sports
Tornado survivors' stories: Flying Jeeps, moving earth, neighborhoods gone
Some of the worst damage from Wednesday's tornadoes was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
April 28th, 2011
01:57 AM ET

Tornado survivors' stories: Flying Jeeps, moving earth, neighborhoods gone

[Updated at 9:57 p.m. ET] More than 280 people have been killed by the wave of violent weather that has swept across the South the past two days.

Survivors told of entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble and the terror of tornadoes ripping through their homes and businesses.

Here are the voices of some survivors:

Shortly before a massive tornado tore through her Tuscaloosa, Alabama, neighborhood on Wednesday, Lucy Arnold Sykes decided the weather was ominous enough to shelter her 3-year-old and 6-year-old children in a bathtub.

"I ran in with the kids and kind of joked (to my husband), 'Don't make fun of me for putting the kids in the bathtub, but I think this is serious,' " she told CNN's "The Situation Room" on Thursday. "He went out for one last look, and … he came back in with kind of a strange look on his face, and he said, 'It's right outside the door.' "

Have the tornadoes affected you? Share your stories, photos and video

The edge of the tornado passed across the street, but the wind tore apart a corner of the house, sent a tree crashing onto the roof, broke nearly all the windows and flipped her vehicle from the curb onto her front lawn.

The family is OK and stayed with friends on Wednesday night.

"(The kids) want to know when they’re going to go back home. I don't think that will be anytime soon. We're going to be looking for a new house," she said.

FULL POST

May 9th, 2010
12:23 AM ET

Napolitano visits hard-hit flood areas in Tennessee

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano toured flood-ravaged Tennessee on Saturday, traveling with state and local officials to see firsthand the devastating effects the deluge of rainfall had on the state last weekend.

FULL POST