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AMERICAN MORNING

'Gimme a Minute'; Kobe Bryant Case

Aired March 26, 2004 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. It is just about half past the hour on this American morning. Miles O'Brien is sitting in for bill hemmer who is on a short vacation.
So nice to have you.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's a pleasure to be here.

And in a few minutes, we'll look at a big decision for the judge in the Kobe Bryant case. The family of the woman making the rape accusations now says her life is in a shambles. We'd look at what they'd like.

S. O'BRIEN: Also this morning, is the pain all in your mind? New research is finding that some of the most promising treatments for pain actually come from harnessing the power of your brain.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to join us to talk about that.

M. O'BRIEN: Power of positive thinking. Maybe there is some science to it.

Let's check the news for you. Connecticut's governor says a fiery tanker crash could snarl traffic on a major highway for weeks now. A tanker truck crashed and burned on Interstate 95 in Bridgeport, Connecticut last night. The mile-long stretch of highway links New York and Boston. The fire was so intense that it melted part of an overpass, traffic being detoured this morning.

The Department of Homeland Security has reportedly declared a partial hiring freeze. According to "The Wall Street Journal," new hires are on hold until these two units, both of which deal with border safety, the newspaper says the freeze is due to a possible $1.2 billion gap in the department's budget. Officials say the exact cause of the funding hole is unclear. And it could simply be a computer glitch.

The U.S. is passing new legislation to protect an unborn child. The Senate approved the unborn victims of violence act yesterday, a month after the House passed it. The bill makes it illegal to harm or kill a fetus during a crime. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law.

Seniors eligible for Medicare may soon get discounts on their prescription drugs. The Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday that 28 private health care insurance companies have now been authorized to offer the discounts, which could amount to 10 percent to 25 percent off of regular prices. Critics say that price increases on prescription drugs in recent years will cancel out any savings from the cards, however.

And another Hollywood couple apparently gone bust. Actors Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz have split up, ending their three-year relationship. The high-profile couple broke up in January, but managed to keep it quiet until now. Their publicists say the pair remain good friends, no longer cruising, though. That was too easy, too easy.

S. O'BRIEN: I, for one, am devastated, what can I say.

M. O'BRIEN: Beside yourself.

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: Every Friday around this time, the need to know meets the need for speed in a little segment that we like to call "Gimme a Minute." Here is our expert panel today. In Washington D.C., CNN political analyst Donna Brazile.

Hey, Donna, good morning.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POL. ANALYST: Good morning.

S. O'BRIEN: In New York for us this morning Jonah Goldberg. He's with the National Review Online.

Jonah, good morning. Nice to see you.

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Good to see you.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

And Andy Borowitz from "The New Yorker" joins us as well.

Andy, hello, nice to see you.

ANDY BOROWITZ, "THE NEW YORKER": Hello.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, let's get to it. And we're going to begin with Jonah this morning. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, as you well know, has said that she will testify in private before the 9/11 commissioners, but she will not do a public testimony. Do you think that she's made the right decision there? And do you think that she actually should come before the public as many people are demanding, Jonah?

GOLDBERG: I agree certainly that it's terrible politics for her not to do it. But the Bush administration, when it does stuff for political reasons, it gets lambasted for doing stuff for political reasons. When it does stuff on principle, it's get lambasted for doing stuff on principle. They're really in a no-win situation.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, that is so sad, Jonah.

GOLDBERG: I know it breaks your heart.

S. O'BRIEN: You're breaking my heart this morning.

Donna, at the same time, many people have said, there's no precedent for this, that she's certainly been very willing and very open, Dr. Rice that is, to come and talk to the commissioners, and not really trying to answer the public's complaints really serve more of a political issues, as Jonah says, than actually providing real information.

BRAZILE: Well, September 11th was a tragic day. And I believe that Dr. Rice should go public. She's very smart and very savvy. Look, the victims and their families deserve better from this administration. So why not go before the witness stand and testify.

S. O'BRIEN: Andy, would you advise Dr. Rice to go public, or would you say keep doing what you're doing?

BOROWITZ: I don't know. I mean, look at the toll that testifying has taken on Dick Clarke. I mean, he looks like nothing like he did on New Year's Rocking Eve.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, we move on to the next question. As you all know, the lovefest of the Democrats held last night had the former presidents there, as well as the former rivals of Senator Kerry, all flanking him, holding hands, you know, the whole nine yards. How do you think Senator Kerry, Donna, should best leverage the support of Howard Dean? Because sometimes he's not loved some of the things that Howard Dean has been saying.

BRAZILE: Let me tell you something, Howard Dean is still a rock star within the Democratic Party. I was there last night. It was like going to church on a Thursday night. Everyone who got up was a hit with the crowd. But Howard Dean has a special role to play, and he is ready to rock 'n' roll this fall.

S. O'BRIEN: Going to church on Thursday? I don't think I've ever been to church on Thursday night. I wasn't sure what that meant. Jonah, do you think that Senator Kerry needs to be careful about this? Or do you think, frankly, the GOP is like, great, bring it on, embrace Howard Dean, that's only good for us?

GOLDBERG: I think it's great. The more they show up together and the more John Kerry uses Jimmy Carter as a surrogate, the more delighted Republicans are going to be. Kerry says the Democratic Party is the most unified than it's been. That's sort of like saying the safest street in Baghdad. It doesn't really stand for much. So I think it's all great.

S. O'BRIEN: Interesting. And, Andy, what do you think?

BOROWITZ: I think the Dean thing is big, because now John Kerry can say he has supporters from foreign countries and another planet.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Let's talk serious stuff here, as you -- I assume all of you guys attended the correspondents' dinner. I was invited, but I didn't go. Hemmer went on my behalf. It was very funny, parts of it, but some of the jokes that the president made, especially the ones where he said, weapons of mass destruction? Not here. Not there. Things like that didn't go over so well. We got lots of e-mails actually here at CNN, people complaining about those jokes. They felt they weren't funny. Jonah, let's throw it to you. Do you think that in fact that was a mistake, or do you think people don't get the humor?

GOLDBERG: It was probably a mistake. You know, Bush -- that's not something that he should get caught joking about. At the same time, it's one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't things with him. He was acknowledging the criticism, which he's been criticized in past for not acknowledging. So he shouldn't have done it, but I don't think it's a huge deal.

S. O'BRIEN: Donna, what do you think?

BRAZILE: It was just a little tasteless in my judgment. As you know, that was one of the major reasons that he gave in terms of going to war. And after so many lives have been lost and so many billions of dollars spent, I just thought he could have left that out of his script.

S. O'BRIEN: I always mess up the bell, don't i?

Andy, you are the arbiter of humor today today. Did you think it was funny, or do you think it was tasteless?

BOROWITZ: You know, as a comedian, I'm willing to go pretty far for a joke, but I'm not sure if I would have invaded Iraq. I just don't know. Seems a little far.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about what went under the radar that we missed today. Whose turn is it? I'm completely lost. Donna, I think it's your turn to start.

BRAZILE: I'll start. I've been noticing in wire reports all across the middle America, there are a number of unemployed workers who are planning to descend upon Washington D.C. I haven't seen any national stories, but it's on wire stories all across the country.

S. O'BRIEN: Interesting. Jonah, what's your story?

GOLDBERG: Amidst all the terrible news for Bush in the past week with Dick Clarke, one of the things that was missed was that John Kerry was caught in a long-standing lie about being in a meeting where the plotted assassination of U.S. senators was discussed. It's gotten very little attention and should get a lot more.

S. O'BRIEN: Interesting.

Andy, what's your final thoughts this morning?

BOROWITZ: Well, while California man argued to remove the words under god from the pledge of allegiance, Donald Trump decided to add the words you're fired. S. O'BRIEN: That would go over big.

All right, you guys, as always, nice to see you. Have a great weekend, guys. We'll see you back next week -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, the parents of the woman accusing Kobe Bryant of sexual assault say they want their daughter to have her life back. And so they're asking the judge in the case to do something about it.

Gary Tuchman has details for us from Eagle, Colorado.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kobe Bryant knows this courthouse well with eight pretrial hearings in his sexual assault case but still no trial date after nearly nine months. Now the accuser's attorney being frisked, her father in the blue shirt and her mother behind the plant say they've had it.

The lawyer has filed legal papers saying: "She has been forced to quit school. She cannot live at home. She cannot talk to her friends and she has received literally hundreds of phone calls and e- mails threatening death or mutilation."

Lawyer John Clune is calling on the judge to swiftly set a trial date.

CRAIG SILVERMAN, COLORADO ATTORNEY: This clearly puts the ball in Judge Ruckriegle's court. The motion was real and heartfelt. I think he'll seriously consider it and he might expedite proceedings from here on out.

TUCHMAN: The alleged victim's parents, whose faces CNN has decided not to show, have written a letter to the judge saying in part: "We are constantly worried about her safety. My daughter has lived in four different states in the past six months. Her safety is at risk and she has to move again."

The letter comes after a hearing on the alleged victim's sexual past with testimony from a slew of her friends, alleged sexual partners, and herself.

CYNTHIA STONE, COLORADO COMMISSION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT: It strikes us as a circus. It also strikes us as sort of a show, a deliberate show by the defense to say, this woman has had lots of different sex with different men in her life.

TUCHMAN (on camera): The judge has not issued any response into the swift trial motion, as of yet. Meanwhile, the hearing into the accuser's sexual past is not yet over. It will be continued in four weeks. A hearing into statements Kobe Bryant made to police that were secretly recorded isn't over either. It will be continued in one week. There is still a lot of preliminary work to do.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Eagle, Colorado. (END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: Now the accuser's attorney say the prosecutors have no objection to setting a trial date. The prosecution spokesman didn't have a comment about that.

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come, could the secret to controlling pain all be in your mind? Compelling new research shows how your brain may soon be able to control all that pain.

M. O'BRIEN: And very soon it will be easier to order up your Big Mac and fries. Who needs cash.

AMERICAN MORNING rolls on in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: New medical research is putting a new spin on the power of positive thinking.

As Dr. Sanjay Gupta tells us, two studies suggest that medicine not taken may be a good for what ails you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By traveling the cavernous folds of the brain, researchers have found not only the pathways of pain, but ways that it can be controlled without standard medication.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have more control over our own minds than we think we have.

GUPTA: The pain region of pain is just behind your eyes, the anterior singulet (ph) cortex.

DR. MATTHEW LIEBERMAN, UCLA: It kind of serves as an alarm system that tells the rest of the mind that you need to pay attention to this painful thing that's occurring.

GUPTA: Researchers say alarm system is less active when drugs called placebos are given to patients.

Before, researchers considered the placebo effect something patients just made up.

DR. TOR WAGER, UNIV. OF MICHIGAN: We think that the placebo effect is real, so it really changes our experience of pain. That's something that we haven't really known before.

GUPTA: These are brain scans performed on patients with irritable bowel syndrome, who thought they were receiving pain relief, but received a placebo. Even with no medication, the area of the brain that controls how they perceive pain was active.

LIEBERMAN: They suggest that there really is a physical basis in the brain, there's a pathway by which these thoughts and expectations about pain relief can actually lead to pain relief.

GUPTA: Another study from the University of Michigan suggests that merely believing in or expecting pain relief actually makes pain less intense. In that study, people who got a placebo had 25 percent less pain activity in their brains. They also reported 25 percent less pain.

WAGER: When you're expecting pain with placebo, you might feel safer, you feel let anxious. Something in your brain is saying, I think this placebo's going to work, I'm going to be OK.

GUPTA: Research is ongoing. But scientists say one day our own minds could control pain as well as medications can.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: The study offers the strongest evidence yet of how the brain thinks about pain -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: A judge in Cincinnati is considering new evidence that may prove a man is in jail for a crime he did not commit. Chris Bennett did not remember who was behind the wheel in May of 2001, the night his friend was killed in a drunk driving accident. Well now, the Ohio Innocence Project thinks that Bennett was the passenger in the car, not the driver.

Bill Hemmer recently talked with Mary MacPherson. She is a University of Cincinnati law student who was involved with the Ohio Innocence Project. And he began by asking her why they decided to take on Bennett's case in the very first place.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY MACPHERSON, OHIO INNOCENCE PROJECT: Chris's letter that he wrote to the Innocence Project was very compelling. And as with all our cases, we have to have the potential for either DNA evidence to prove his innocence, or some other very compelling new evidence, and his case presented that.

HEMMER: If he was not in the driver's seat originally, why the guilty plea in court?

MACPHERSON: Well, part of the problem was that he suffered a fairly severe head injury from impacting the windshield on the passenger side. And as a result of that, the hospital records are very clear that he had no memory of the accident. And faced with what appeared to be very convincing evidence that the prosecutors said they had, and no memory and no way to defend himself, he decided to try and take the less -- you know, the plea bargain in order to get lesser time.

HEMMER: Now you tracked down a new witness. What did that witness tell you, Mary? MACPHERSON: The witness told us that he was actually the first one on the state. And the state witness actually was the one that pointed us to this new witness, and he said he arrived someone between 30 to 60 seconds after the accident. And that when he got there, Chris was in the passenger seat with his right arm out the passenger window.

HEMMER: Now, you've done some investigation of your own. You found the van about a week before it was to be destroyed.

MACPHERSON: Yes.

HEMMER: What did you find DNA wise in that windshield that convinces you that he was actually the passenger all along?

MACPHERSON: Well, along with accident reconstructionist work that clearly shows he was the passenger, we were able to find DNA on a paper towel that was wedged under the bloody area of the windshield. And between the front of the dash in that windshield. We found blood on the back of some rocks that were located on this construction van dash. We found hair of Chris Bennett's that was lodged down in a recirculating vent on the dash, and another clump of hair that had been torn off his head and located on the passenger side.

HEMMER: I have to think, Mary, that that van was an absolute mess. Is there a possibility that there could be DNA all over the inside of that van?

MACPHERSON: Well, I don't believe so, because one of the things that was really critical for us when we looked at the van initially, was that we took photographs having not seen any of the accident scene photographs yet. We hadn't collected them from the state highway patrol. And what we were really pleased to see when we got the accident scene photos in from the day of the accident was that none of the evidence that we've collected and we've tested had moved from the position it was in at the time of the accident.

HEMMER: Mary, if you can prove this in court, that he was a passenger, not a driver, will he walk free?

MACPHERSON: Well, unfortunately in Ohio, there is no statutory provision to just allows someone to prove their innocence and just walk out. And because Chris took a plea bargain to get a shorter sentence, since he couldn't defend himself without a memory, what we have to do is petition the court to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea. And if the court grants that, then the prosecutor has two options: the one, of course, we hope that they take is to simply allow Chris to leave prison since he is innocent. The other option is that they could choose to reindictment him and take him to trial. And at that point, we would feel that was a vindication as well, because we don't believe any jury could find him guilty based on the evidence that we have.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: The prosecution in the case has filed a motion to dismiss Chris Bennett's petition to withdraw his guilty plea, reading, in part, this: "His -- Bennett's -- assertions that there is evidence that demonstrates his innocence of the crimes he pleaded guilty to does not support his actual claim of innocence. Bennett conveniently ignores the evidence of his guilt, while searching for the smoking piece of DNA evidence that would exonerate him. No such piece of evidence currently exists. None of Bennett's proposed evidence definitely shows that he and not Ron Young was the passenger in the vehicle at the time of the crash."

The judge is now awaiting another prosecution response to the brief that was filed by the Ohio Innocence Project before making a decision -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Still to come on the program, a big deal in the land of the Big Mac. Can't afford those fries? Hey, you can finance them. Stay with us, on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Things are getting a little hot between Southwest and USAir. That as the FAA makes an optimistic prediction. And McDonald's says, McCharge it.

Christine Romans is in for Andy Serwer. He's on a little vaca. She's Minding Your Business this morning. Nice to see you.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there.

S. O'BRIEN: What shall we start with? This battle, you told us first about this first yesterday.

ROMANS: Absolutely, USAir was saying that Southwest Airlines was coming to kill it, and now Southwest Airlines says we are not a Viking killer ship. Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher says they're going to double the number of flights into and out of Philadelphia. That is an important hub, of course, for USAir. We'll have 28 flights as of July 6th. This is not the Viking Killer ship coming in. But the USAirways CEO told his employees this week, you know, this guy wants your job, he wants our market, he wants our business. So this is a real interesting fight going on between USAir, a traditional carrier, and of course, Southwest Airlines, which is a low-cost carrier.

It comes at a time when the government's actually saying that this year, between this year and next year, it looks as though air travel in the United States is going to recover for the first time since September 11th, up 4 percent, or 686 million passengers. So an airline forecast of growth in 2004. But a real fight going on between the old and the new.

Really weird to see two CEOs talking about killing literally each other.

(CROSSTALK)

M. O'BRIEN: Herb Kelleher doesn't not mince words. And it might be 28 flights now, but I'm sure U.S. Airways is watching very closely. (CROSSTALK)

S. O'BRIEN: What about this McDonald's thing? I didn't realize you can charge your lunch at McDonald's.

ROMANS: Yes, 3,000 different McDonald's restaurants allow you to charge your lunch. They're going to double it by the end of the year.

It's an interesting time because this week the American Bankers Association said that more and more people were having trouble paying their credit card bills on time. Looks as though people who are underemployed, people who are jobless are using their credit cards sort of bridge financing.

So, yes, you can charge your Big Mac, but remember, folks, pay off your credit card at the end of the month. The credit card debt is not the kind of debt you want to carry.

S. O'BRIEN: It would be terrible if your $2 Big Mac -- I don't know what they cost. i buy one all the time, I should know. But if it ended up costing you $40 or $50 by the end of all the financing.

ROMANS: I know. Cashless payment is very good. But it doesn't mean, charge it, charge it, charge it.

M. O'BRIEN: Gives new meaning to the term super size. The bill would be super Sized.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the market, about 30 minutes away.

ROMANS: Looks like flat opening for today but we told you yesterday, a really big rally, 170 points the Dow gained yesterday. Best day for the Nasdaq and the S&P since July/ The futures, that's a little, you know...

M. O'BRIEN: You're getting more upbeat as the morning goes on, Christine. You were dark and gloomy an hour ago.

ROMANS: That's because it was an hour earlier.

M. O'BRIEN: Stick with the coffee, it's doing you well.

(CROSSTALK)

M. O'BRIEN: Am I a lucky guy or what? The luckiest guy in Midtown Manhattan right here (AUDIO GAP) new al Qaeda tape have the power to influence an ally in the war on terror? A live report from Pakistan is just ahead.

AMERICAN MORNING continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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