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Texas Mother Accused of Murdering Her Children Acquitted; Spanish Troops Under Fire in Najaf

Aired April 4, 2004 - 07:30   ET


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not guilty by reason of insanity.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A Texas mother accused of fatally bludgeoning her children with rocks is acquitted of all charges.

Welcome back, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. That story in a minute. But first, here are the headlines at this hour.

Spanish officials say the man they believe directed the massive train bombings last month is dead. He was among the suspected terrorists who died after setting off explosives in a Madrid suburb yesterday, killing themselves and a Spanish policeman.

In the holy city of Najaf, Spanish troops came under fire, leading to a four hour gun battle between insurgents and Spanish soldiers. The insurgents are supporting the influential Shi'ite cleric and were reportedly attempting to free prisoners in Spanish custody.

Hundreds of Iraqi Shi'ites protesting the treatment of cleric Luftata (ph) Al-Sadr blocked areas outside Baghdad's Green Zone. The move prompted coalition officials to temporarily restrict travel in the area. Al-Sadr is an outspoken critic of the U.S. presence in Iraq.

Tens of thousands of Catholic pilgrims gather in St. Peters Square for the traditional Palm Sunday mass. Pope John Paul II presided over the first event of the Vatican's holy week.

It took a jury a Saturday afternoon to reach a verdict in the case of a Texas woman, who said God told her to kill her children. Bill Brown of CNN affiliate WFAA brings us the reaction and the verdict.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury, find unanimously and by a preponderance of the evidence the defendant, Deanna Laney, not guilty by reason of insanity. BILL BROWN, WFAA NEWS CORRESPONDENT: After days and days of tears of horrific photos and emotion draining testimony, in the courtroom, the reaction was mostly quiet. A fear tears. The father of the boys, Keith Laney, hanging his head in deep sorrow.

All members of his family and the defendant's family left quickly, saying nothing. The opposing lawyer said this has been a tough, wrenching case.

MATT BINGHAM, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I don't think anybody in this room or anybody in that courtroom wasn't touched by the evidence in this case. You know, it's for the rest of my life, I'll remember Aaron, I'll remember Joshua, I'll remember Luke. I'll never forget what happened to them that day, but you have a job to do. And I think -- I know the defense did what they had to do and I did what I had to do.

BUCK FILES, LANEY'S ATTORNEY: Deeply grateful. And that's summing, in all candor, she is so emotional at this particular time, that she did not saying anything other than simply, "Thank you, thank you, thank you to all three of us.


WHITFIELD: That report from Bill Brown of CNN affiliate WFAA. Laney remains in a county jail, awaiting a hearing Tuesday that will determine the next step. The state is expected to ask for her to be sent to a maximum security state hospital. Medical evaluations will determine when Laney is released from custody.

The legal wrangling is far from over in the case of two former Tyco executives. Prosecutors say they'll re-try Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Schwartz at the earliest opportunity.

Meanwhile, Tyco says they'll pursue their own civil actions against the pair. And as CNN's Alina Cho reports, any further actions may benefit from lessons learned in the first trial.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The $2 million party on the Italian island of Sardinia, the $6,000 shower curtain. Those images became symbols of the Tyco trial, played over and over in the media.

But the jury never considered the allegations of conspicuous consumption in its 12 days of deliberations. That was revealed after the judge declared a mistrial.

GREG SUTTON, TYCO JUROR: In the grand scheme of things, these were little, tiny parts of this case.

CHO: Juror Greg Sutton says he and his peers wanted to know instead if ex-CEO Dennis Kozlowski and former financial officer Mark Swartz used Tyco as their personal piggy bank. How much they spent, Sutton says, was irrelevant. SUTTON: This is the land of opportunity. I mean, more power to you. If you make $100 million a year, and it's justified, congratulations. I'd like to be in your shoes.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: The question at the heart of this case always was did the board authorize the payments to the defendants? And the jury focused on that, not the amount of money or how they spent their money.

CHO: CNN's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin believes this is a case of the media focusing on salacious allegations.

TOOBIN: We in the news media clearly were just wrong about what the heart of this case was. We thought it was the shower curtain, the party in Sardinia. And the jurors simply didn't care.

CHO: And on the streets of New York...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think of him as the phallic ice statues. And Sardinia was an image that resonates for sure.


CHO: What about the shower curtain?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, everyone has a $6,000 shower curtain. So that doesn't really bother me too much.

CHO (on camera): Kozlowski and Swartz will likely be tried again on charges they looted Tyco of $600 million. But legal experts say a second trial will focus much less on lavish spending and much more on whether they were authorized to use the money in the first place.

Alina Cho, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: Time now for some other stories making news across America. A Baltimore hospital is trying to notify more than 2,000 patients that results from lab tests may have been wrong. Maryland General Hospital found testing procedures for AIDS and Hepatitis C to be unacceptable due to faulty equipment.

In Florida, a teenager is in critical condition after being thrown from a ride at the Miami Dade County Fair. The accident occurred on the Gravitron, which spins at high speeds, pinning riders against the sides of the ride. Six others were injured in that accident.

In Washington, 14-year old soccer phenom Freddy Adu made his much anticipated professional debut. Adu entered in the 61st minute of play, but he didn't score. Adu's D.C. United team did, however, win the game over the San Jose Earthquakes.

For those not interested in Adu's debut, instead headed to the annual Cherry Blossom Parade in the nation's capital. Around 100,000 people stood by as bands, balloons, and floats made their way past the 3700 cherry trees along the tidal basin.

Well, many businesses are feeling the pinch of record level gasoline prices. And some of that cost is passed on to you. A look at how America deals with the rising price of gas in a live report, coming up next hour.

Then at 9:00 Eastern, it was 30 years ago this weekend when the largest tornado attack in history roared off the East coast. More than 300 people were killed. A survivor joins us live to tell us how it changed his life forever. Also at 9:00, forget about the Final Four. It's Peoria versus Rockford, Illinois to see which town can walk to the moon and back first, sort of. You'll have to tune in to see about that. The mayors of the two cities square off, live right here.

And next, children spend hours playing video games and watching television. Is it time to unplug your kids? Find out when we come right back.


WHITFIELD: Real estate, casinos, beautiful women, and now a hit television show. Does Donald Trump have the Midas touch? A look at his ups and downs, ahead on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.


WHITFIELD: More than two-thirds of every American household with children has at least one video game system, that's according to the National Institute on Media and the Family. Some experts say that's not necessarily a good thing.

There are documented cases of gamers with video addictions, apparently. In fact, there's a loud cry out there, calling for parents to unplug their kids, send them outside to play. Take them to a library or something, anything but video games and spending hours in front of a television set.

With some other suggestions, the author of "Remote Control," Dr. Leonard Jason. His book offers strategies for pulling your children away from the television set. And Professor Jason joins us live now from our Chicago bureau. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right, on average, 6.5 hours of a child being in front of a monitor or a television screen. Is that a day?

JASON: You know, 6.5 hours a day. And you know, children spend more time in front of, for example, the TV than any other activity, except sleep. And they actually spend more time watching TV than they do in school.

About 30 years ago, children were watching about 2.5 hours of TV a day. Now it's about three hours a day.

WHITFIELD: That can't be...

JASON: And not only that, but now the children have the Internet, can have different types of games. So 6.5 hours is the average. That means about half the children are actually watching more than 6.5 hours a day.

WHITFIELD: Wow, that's remarkable. So obviously, you are advocating some kind of intervention.

JASON: Well...

WHITFIELD: Parents or teachers, somebody's got to get a hold of this. So...

JASON: Yes. Yes, absolutely. And the reason is a lot of parents are concerned about the violence, about the kind of aggression. You know, children, by the time they're finishing elementary school, I've seen 8,000 episodes of killings, 100,000 acts of violence. And this exposure to violence makes children over time, some children more aggressive.


JASON: In addition, if children are watching 6.5 hours a day, they don't have chance to do other types of important intellectual activities like studying. In addition, children who are watching all this type of TV or in front of the monitor or the computer, you know, they tend to eat more. They get more passive. And what are they eating? Salty types of things, things that are fatty. Well, we've got an epidemic of obesity in this country.

You know, two-thirds of Americans are overweight? 30 percent are obese. And for children, the number of children who are obese over the last 30 years had doubled.

WHITFIELD: And it doesn't help that phys/ed is cut out of so many school programs across the country. So aggression, obesity, those are some of the side effects from all this. How about impatient, even shorter attention spans? A lot of these kids are not paying attention once they get into school because these video games, moving so fast, it kind of gets them a little antsy, doesn't it?

JASON: Absolutely. And not only that, but children, when they kind of see all those types of violence, they actually think the world is even more violent than it is. That gets them less likely to go outside.

WHITFIELD: All right.

JASON: And want to actually participate in community activities.

WHITFIELD: So quickly, professor, let's talk about some of the alternatives. What do parents need to give these kids its options? Remove the television sets, the computers from their rooms for one. What else? JASON: Well, there's the low tech and the high tech solutions. The low tech is parents need to take control. Basically parents have to get involved, communicate, sit down, watch programs together. You know, parents need to think about is it best to have a -- these types of TVs and electronic media in the room of the children that's unmonitored? Maybe they've got to think about the TV.

Think about your house. Does your TV kind of -- and does your monitor system, like the altar in the house? Is it like a religious kind of event, where everything is around it that's actually the most expensive part of the house?

If it is, you might want to de-emphasize...


JASON: ...that type of TV watching.

WHITFIELD: Wow, just too much of a good thing. Professor Leonard Jason of Depaul University, thanks very much for joining us this morning from Chicago.

Well, we've got a free "Housecall" for you on this morning. American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that you use the rating system. In place, you can get more information on those ratings at They also recommend that setting time limits for your kids, no more than two hours a day perhaps on television or watching videos. And watch with your child. And keep the televisions and the VCRs and the video games out of the kid's bedroom. Another recommendation, remember, there are other things out there besides television and video games. Give your kids some options like sports or perhaps even some hobbies.

The game show "Jeopardy" has revived an old favorite, the power players edition. Among the luminaries appearing on the show, CNN's host of "360", Anderson Cooper. Also, CNN "NEWSNIGHT" host Aaron Brown and "CROSSFIRE'S" Tucker Carlson. They're battling for $50,000 which will go to charity.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "360": I'm hoping for like obscure pop culture references from the 1980s. I know it's kind of a specific category, but it's when I went to high school and when I paid most attention to like obscure, you know, ridiculous pop culture stuff.

And there's like a whole category on "Flock of Seagulls." I'm going ace it. I'm going to do really well. Anything on world events. I think I'll pretty well on. Geography, Southeast Asia, Africa, parts of the world I've spent a lot of time in.


WHITFIELD: Every little bit counts. Well, the week of power players will begin May 10th. Well, speaking of power players, he's rich and famous, but has Donald Trump always been riding the save of success? A look at his ups and downs next on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.


WHITFIELD: Donald Trump has made billions in real estate. And now, he's raking in the dough for NBC, sort of. He kind of complains they're not paying him enough, actually. His show, "The Apprentice," has been a ratings gold mine for the network. And last night, he even pitched in as host of "Saturday Night Live."


TRUMP: To all you people out there, stop by and enjoy. And to all you chickens, you're fryered (ph).

GROUP: (Singing) You know our wings will make you happy. Jump in! You know our wings will fill you up! Jump, if you want a plate with all the chicken wings, yes, Donald Trump's House of Wings.

ANNOUNCER: Donald Trump's House of Wings, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right next to Al Sharpton's Casa de Sushi. If you pass (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Taco Hole, you've gone too far.


WHITFIELD: Humor he has, rhythm, nah.

Well, the Trump rollercoaster has seen its share of ups and downs. The Donald is at the top of his game now. Will the momentum continue?

Gary Tuchman reports.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over: There is Donald Trump, the businessman.

TRUMP: This is a tough one. You're fired.

TUCHMAN: And now Donald Trump, the TV star, thanks to "The Apprentice." But could Trump be headed for a fall because of money problems? It's a question posed by "The New York Times" and one Trump has been familiar with. Back in 1990, a somewhat reluctant New Jersey Casino Board granted permission for Trump to receive a loan, so he could keep his casinos open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, are you stung at all by the criticism the board gave?

TRUMP: Not at all. We had a great victory. I'm happy as hell. Thank you very much.

TUCHMAN: Brash then, more brash now. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I think we're going to see him come through this with flying colors.

TUCHMAN: "The Times" says his casino holdings are mired in nearly $2 billion of bond debt. But his portfolio now is much more extensive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are more people that are going to want to be involved in him, that are going to want to put up some money, so that they can just bask in the Trump glow.

TUCHMAN: Not so shockingly, Trump exudes confidence.

TRUMP: My company today is a much bigger, stronger company than it ever was in the 1980s or 1990s even.

This is week two of your 13 week job interview.

TUCHMAN: So what would it take for him to fall? A publicist who did some work for Trump during those tough times more than a decade ago says...

KENT HOLLAND, PUBLICIST PLESSER ASSOC.: Unless he's shot one of the apprentices on screen, there's no way Donald Trump is not going to continue his run until he wants to stop it.

TRUMP: You're fired.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


WHITFIELD: Well, there are many more Trump tidbits to come here on CNN. Tonight, "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" takes an in-depth look at the mogul and his hit show. That comes your way at 7:00 Eastern.

But before that, get a unique look inside the Trump dynasty this morning at 9:00 when the author of "The Trumps: Three Generations that Built an Empire" joins us. Her name is Gwenda Blair. And I'll talk to her live in about two hours right here on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

So are you awake yet or is the move to Daylight Saving Time throwing you off? If you are one of the 70 million Americans with sleep problems, you go to see this weekend's "Housecall" at 8:30 Eastern time. In case you missed it yesterday, Dr. Sanjay Gupta will tell you how to get enough sleep.

Gas prices these days can probably keep you awake. Our e-mail question of the day is whether you are changing your vacation plans because of rising prices at the pump. We'll read what you wrote, next on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

Plus, check this out. Can you believe they got slimed? You got to have a sense of humor at the Kid's Choice Awards. We've got the highlights from last night's show, coming up next.


WHITFIELD: Well for get the Emmys, the Grammys, and the Oscars. What really counts is which celebrity can burp the best. Actor Hugh Jackman took that honor at last night's Kid's Choice Awards on Nickelodeon. Outkast was chosen the favorite music group. And their hit, "Hey Ya" was the favorite song. Comedic actor Mike Myers hosted the show, along with Cameron Diaz, who in the past has been honored for her burping.

Well, to show Mike the love, he got slimed. And so did the Olson Twins, Mary Kate and Ashley. By the way, getting slimed is considered a great honor among the pre-pubescent set.

I don't think so, Jackie. I don't feel like being slimed.

JACQUI JERAS, METEOROLOGIST: Oh, may not today. It's that lack of sleep, you know, the whole hour time change.

WHITFIELD: No, never.

JERAS: Hey, anyway, let's warm you up and make up you think about good things. How about a beautiful beach? Does that make you happy, Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Makes me very happy.

JERAS: Yes, just go to a happy place. Take a look at this.

Clearwater Beach, Florida, gorgeous conditions. Look at those waves rolling in. 60 degrees is your temperature. Looking for a high around 71. A little bit cooler than you should be this time of the year. About five to 10 degrees below average, but still not a lot to complain about there.

A lot of people have spring break this week. What can you expect for your spring break forecast? Going to hit a couple of highlights for you. There's the beach ball. You want to have some fun. Daytona Beach looking for 77 today. 70 tomorrow, and 75 degrees on Monday. There you can see sunshine all the way across the board in Cancun as well. And we'll take a look at South Padre Island. Some isolated showers and thunderstorms possible the next three days.

Now another destination some people go to on Spring Break is Phoenix. Unfortunately not going to be ideal weather here for sunbathing. Looking for showers and thunderstorms once again for today. And temperatures cooler than normal. You only made it into the upper 60s yesterday. Didn't even hit 70 degrees. We'll get a little closer to that 70 degree mark today and probably into the middle 70s, we think, for tomorrow.

Our upper level low pressure storm system still really taking its time, progressing up to the East. Slight risk of severe thunderstorms into West Texas and down in the Rio Valley area. Very blustery, much colder conditions on the way to Northeast. Even a little snow possible in a few big cities. We'll have more details on that coming up in about 25 minutes -- Fred? WHITFIELD: All right, thanks a lot, Jacqui.

JERAS: Mm-hmm.

WHITFIELD: Well, topping the headlines this morning, the suspected mastermind behind the March 11 train bombings in Madrid apparently died in an explosion at the suspected terror hideout. That's according to Spain's interior minister. The terror suspects apparently blew themselves up in the apartment as police closed in. One police officer was killed as well.

And in Iraq, Shi'ites have been holding large demonstrations in the holy city of Najaf and in Baghdad. They're upset by reports that an aide to a popular Shi'ite cleric was taken into custody. Coalition authorities deny the man has been arrested.

And you asked or rather, we asked, and you answered. Is the high cost of gas affecting your vacation plans? And this is what Mitchell in Tennessee said. "Gas prices are out of the barrel. Good things my plans weren't set in stone. Home sounds good now."

And Savdan2, that's how he signs it, "Not only will these prices affect my vacation plans, but it will also affect my vote come election day."

Keep those e-mails coming and we'll get them on the air for you. The next hour of CNN SUNDAY MORNING begins right now.


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