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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

A look at Terry Nichols' trial

Aired June 12, 2004 - 08:00   ET

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


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. It is June 12th. Good morning to you. I'm Betty Nguyen. Thanks so much for being with us.
Coming up this hour -- flags and flowers, prayers and praise across the country, the sun is rising over a twilight of grief after Ronald Reagan is laid to rest in California. We'll bring you a live report from his presidential library. That's straight ahead.

Also, convicted Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols escapes the death penalty for a second time after a jury deadlocks in his trial. We'll bring you the latest on the jury's startling indecision.

And Ronald Reagan's battle with Alzheimer's disease sparks new discussion about stem cell research. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta brings us the latest.

In the headlines at this hour: Gunmen killed one of Iraq's deputy foreign ministers this morning by firing on his car. Bassam Salih Kubba was shot outside his Baghdad home shortly after returning from a U.N. meeting in New York. The second attack this week on an Iraqi government official.

One of three Lebanese kidnapped in Iraq has been killed. One has been released. The third is still being held. That's according to a Lebanese ministry source. No other details were available.

Meanwhile, seven Turkish civilian contractors taken hostage in Iraq have been released. That's according to their employer. Three of the Turks are seen in this video, apparently with their captors. Other details were not immediately available.

The FBI is warning law enforcement in 10 cities to be on the alert for possibly ecoterrorism attacks. No specific threat mentioned, but authorities say potential targets include auto dealerships. In its bulletin, a radical environmental group may stage violent protests this weekend in support of the jailed arsonist.

Bosnian Serbs have long been blamed for killing thousands of Muslims during the Bosnian/Serb war in the early '90s. Now an investigative report shows for the first time Bosnian-Serb officials admitted their security forces slaughtered up to 8,000 Muslims. It's considered Europe's worse massacre since World War II.

Our top story this hour: The final leg of a long journey. In a sun-bathed ceremony in California yesterday, Ronald Reagan was laid to rest, ending a week of national mourning. CNN's Miguel Marquez joins us live from the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.

It's a very early morning there, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's very early. The sun is starting to rise here over Simi Valley, and last night was the cap of a week-long state funeral, a bicoastal state funeral.

Perhaps one ever the sweetest moments during it was when Captain James Simons, a captain of the USS Ronald Reagan, the aircraft carrier, took the flag that had draped the president's coffin for most of the week, bent down on one knee, handed it to Nancy Reagan. Said a few words to her.

We also heard from some folks we hadn't heard from for much of the week. Patty Davis, Ronald Reagan's daughter, spoke about her father in a far more intimate ceremony than we had seen and remembered her father so many years ago when her goldfish died.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATTY REAGAN, RONALD REAGAN'S DAUGHTER: He was the one who generously offered funeral services for my goldfish on the morning of its demise. We went out into the garden, and we dug a tiny grave with a teaspoon, and he took two twigs and lashed them together with twine and formed a cross as a marker for the grave.

And then he gave a beautiful eulogy. He told me that my fish was swimming in the clear blue waters in heaven, and he would never tire, he would never get hungry and he would never be in any danger, and he could swim as far add wide as he wanted, and he never had to stop because the river went on forever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Another touching moment during last night's 90-minute service was when Mrs. Reagan approached the coffin for the last time, she put her hand on it, she was still clutching the flag. It fell on to the coffin. She said, "I love you" and broke into tears.

Her son, Ron Reagan, Jr. and daughter, Patty Davis, went up to her, comforted her and finally led her away from the coffin. It was the first time all week in what has been a very difficult week for her that she did break down publicly.

The library, for now, is closed. Mr. Reagan's body has now been interred here. It will reopen at 10 a.m. on Monday and remain open until 8 p.m. on Monday, somewhat extended hours for Monday and for much of the week as well, where it will remain open until 6 p.m.

Back to you, Betty.

NGUYEN: Miguel Marquez, at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, thank you. President Bush spoke at yesterday's state funeral honoring Ronald Reagan. Today the president is at his Crawford ranch in Texas. CNN's Elaine Quijano is there with the latest.

Good morning to you, Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Betty.

After spending the day yesterday in mourning, grieving for the death of Ronald Reagan, President Bush today will focus his attention on celebrating the life of his father, former President George H.W. Bush, today 80-years-old; an event that will be celebrated in a big way here in Texas.

But yesterday, it was a solemn scene in the nation's capitol at Washington's National Cathedral. President Bush, along with the first lady, paid their respects to former President Reagan, offering condolences to Nancy Reagan and the Reagan family.

In the audience, world and national leaders who also came to pay tribute. President Bush praised Ronald Reagan as a man who deeply loved America, who deeply loved his wife Nancy and who believed in the good of people. The president also said that Reagan was a man who help held fast to his principles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ronald Reagan's deepest beliefs never had much to do with fashion or convenience. His convictions were always politely stated, affably argued and as firm and straight as the columns of this cathedral.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: Now, yesterday, as I said, a day for President Bush to say good-bye. Today, in Houston, later today, he will focus on celebrating his father's 80th birthday. The elder Bush, 80-years-old today, will celebrate by doing something he has done before. This weekend he is scheduled to jump out of a plane. Something that is certainly familiar to him.

He will parachute to the ground. The elder Bush, of course, a World War II veteran, has done this before. We are told that the president, apparently -- former President Bush, rather, apparently had a sprained thumb, and so he had some concerns about that.

However, at this point, we understand that event is still slated to take place this weekend. But a weekend that certainly has been trying one, ending on a more positive note here, in Texas -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Elaine, any word on whether or not the current president will join his father in that jump?

QUIJANO: You know, I haven't heard anything on that, Betty. I am not sure that that will actually be taking place. We'll let you know, though. Certainly that would be big news if the current president did decide to do that, but we haven't heard anything to that effect -- Betty?

NGUYEN: It's going to be a fun day for that family. Elaine Quijano in Crawford, Texas, thank you.

Following Ronald Reagan's death we are asking: who do you think was America's greatest president?

Send your thoughts to wam@cnn.com. We'll be reading some of them a little bit later.

Terry Nichols escapes a death sentence again. Our "Legal Eagles" on how it all played out, that's coming up. Plus, take a look at this. Damage from tornadoes in Iowa.

Are more storms in the forecast for the Hawkeye state?

And coping with Alzheimer's disease, it's today's "House Call" topic, when CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: In Oklahoma, the jury in the Terry Nichols state trial deadlocked on the death penalty. That leaves the sentencing up to the judge. National Correspondent Susan Candiotti has the details.

This is the second time he's escaped the death penalty.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's true. And Betty, in this particular trial, for the state of Oklahoma, for many victims' families, this trial was mainly about seeing Terry Nichols pay the ultimate price for the Oklahoma City bombing. It was not to be.

After intense and troubled deliberations over three days, a jury of six women and six men failed to reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty for Terry Nichols. One juror told CNN they were split nearly in half, seven for death, five for life.

The deadlock forced the death penalty off the table, much to the relief of Terry Nichols, who is already serving a federal life sentence without the possibility of parole. For some still grieving relatives, devastation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROY SELLS, OKLAHOMA BOMBING VICTIM'S HUSBAND: So I would like to ask the jury, the whole jury pool one thing -- how many people do you have to kill?

I mean, they convicted him for 160 murders.

How many people do you have to kill before you get the death sentence?

Is it 500, 1,000?

I don't know. I'd just like to ask them that question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: Victims and survivors did take solace in getting something that alluded them in Nichols federal trial. Nichols was convicted of 161 counts of first-degree murder for all of the victim who were not among the eight federal law enforcement agents covered in the first trial.

As for the jurors, one of them told me last night that the deliberations were intense and difficult. She thought she would feel relieved when the trial was over, but she told me she did not.

Before dismissing the jury, the judge told them, "Please do not feel you let anyone down. You have done your job." Sentencing is scheduled for August 9th -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Susan, in speaking with the jurors, did they say if there was one issue in particular that caused this deadlock?

CANDIOTTI: No, as a matter of fact, very few -- none of them would elaborate on what went on in the jury room. So for now, we have yet to learn exactly what went on. We do know there they were certainly deeply divided.

NGUYEN: Susan Candiotti live in McAlester, Oklahoma. Thank you.

Tornadoes touched down in the Hawkeye State.

How much damage was done?

We'll have that, plus your weekend forecast when CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Now more on the Terry Nichols trial and the deadlock there.

We want to talk to our "Legal Eagles" this morning, and, of course, former Texas state prosecutor Nelda Blair, is in Houston and a civil liberties attorney Lida Rodriguez-Tassef joins us from Miami.

Good morning to both of you.

NELDA BLAIR, FMR. PROSECUTOR: Good morning.

LIDA RODRIGUEZ-TASSEF, CIVIL LIBERTIES ATTORNEY: Good morning.

NGUYEN: We see a deadlock, it is the second time Terry Nichols escapes the death penalty.

What was so hard for this jury to decide?

Let's start with you, Nelda. BLAIR: Who knows. That's the last thing that a lawyer learns and the first thing a lawyer learns is, you cannot possibly predict a jury. And every time I try, I thought for sure this Oklahoma jury would give this man the death penalty, because, in my opinion, he certainly deserves it. If he doesn't, I don't know who does. But we don't know why that jury deadlocked. It could have been the instructions from the judge, it could have been the fact that he supposedly found religion in prison. Who knows.

NGUYEN: Lida, what do you think?

RODRIGUEZ-TASSEF: Well, it could have been simply, Nelda, that the jury did not believe, or could not agree that he deserved the death penalty. Obviously, this jury deliberated a long, long time. They went out twice. They came back and told the judge, we can't go any further. We're all making the same arguments over and over again. They really tried.

So this is especially a perfect case to show that sometimes juries deadlock because there just not enough evidence to cause them to want to sentence some somebody to die. And it's important to note, in this case especially, that the person who was the mastermind behind all of this has already been executed. So the work of the jury here was done, and it was done well. And we shouldn't second-guess why it is that they could not...

(CROSSTALK)

NGUYEN: Lida, not enough evidence?

You mentioned not enough evidence. Family members are saying there is a mountain of evidence out there, and they're really confused why a decision wasn't made.

BLAIR: That's right.

RODRIGUEZ-TASSEF: Well, this happened twice with a jury. It happened previously with a federal jury that couldn't convict, couldn't sentence him to die.

BLAIR: Right.

RODRIGUEZ-TASSEF: And here, seven jurors were obviously, it seems, predisposed towards sentencing him to death and five were not. That is exactly the type of case where the death penalty should not be applied. Obviously, there was a lot of evidence, of the deaths themselves and the murder, but his involvement is what was at issue here.

BLAIR: Well, there was mounds of evidence and that is correct. One thing I agree with you, Lida -- I know you can't believe you are hearing that -- but I do agree that because the main person, Timothy McVeigh, who was the main perpetrator has already been put to death, most likely the jury felt he was the one most at fault. And this man just didn't deserve the death penalty. You're right. Five of them said he doesn't deserve it. That's the kind of case, it has to be unanimous to send someone to the death chamber.

NGUYEN: Let's shift gears now and talk about Martha Stewart. She is asking for a new trial on the grounds that a key witness lied on the stand.

Will she get, Nelda?

BLAIR: No way. No way. I know you're going to love this one, Lida. No way she's going to get a new trial.

That particular testimony, which had to do with the addition's some notations on a paper that was supposedly different ink than the original paper has nothing to do with what Martha was convicted of. As a matter of fact, her broker was not convicted of falsifying a document. The jury found him not guilty of falsifying a document and that's what that testimony was all about.

It had nothing to do with what Martha was actually convicted of. The jury, obviously, didn't listen to that testimony or didn't believe that testimony anyway. It is not enough to turn over her conviction. It's just another way that the defense is picking, even after the trial, picking at the conviction in the hopes that she won't be sentenced.

NGUYEN: Lida, you disagree?

RODRIGUEZ-TASSEF: Are you done now, Nelda?

You've got to be kidding?

The prosecution in charging this man, Larry Stewart, with perjury. This is a forensic scientist, Secret Service agent, they had him charged with perjury and in charging him with perjury they said he was very important to their case! Now, gee, the prosecution can't have it both ways.

He was so important to our case we're going to charge him with perjury. But he wasn't that important, didn't matter in the conviction.

There are three points to be made here, Nelda, and you know it. Number one, that he was important to their case. So important that they used him in their own cross-examination of the defense expert. He was passing them notes. Number two -- Martha Stewart was charged on purely circumstantial evidence with...

BLAIR: Right.

RODRIGUEZ-TASSEF: ...altering and kind of misleading the government, and the sole basis or the sole basis of that...

BLAIR: No, not the sole basis. RODRIGUEZ-TASSEF: Mind you, Nel, the central basis was that notation "at 60" that appeared on that work sheet, where Bacanovic argued he was told to sell "at 60". It was central. The third point to be made here, Nelda, that you forgot to mention.

BLAIR: Go ahead, Lida.

RODRIGUEZ-TASSEF: Hey, there were Secret Service agents in that room watching him perjure himself and they didn't say anything.

BLAIR: Lida, that had nothing to do...

NGUYEN: Ladies, we have to leave it there, a spirited debate.

BLAIR: We'll see.

NGUYEN: I see that you are on different sides on this. But we want to thank Lida Rodriguez-Tassef and Nelda Blair, for weighing in on these issues. Thank you.

BLAIR: Thank you.

RODRIGUEZ-TASSEF: Thank you.

NGUYEN: And we'll be right back with more CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER FORECAST)

NGUYEN: A quick update on our top stories.

A judge must decide the sentence for convicted Oklahoma conspirator Terry Nichols. Jurors in his state trial deadlocked on his punishment sparing him the death penalty for a second time. Under state law the judge is limited to giving a sentence of life in prison with or without parole.

A week of remembrances for former President Ronald Reagan ends with a hilltop burial ceremony in California. His surviving children remembered Reagan as a loving father who is now free from the grip of Alzheimer's disease.

Which leads us to our e-mail question of the day.

Who is America's greatest president?

We've been asking all morning long and we are getting your responses.

Jamus writes: "The greatest president in American history to mind has to be Thomas Jefferson because he strongly believed in a total democracy for the people of the United States."

Kevin also writes: "Best president? I'm not sure. They all faced different challenges, possibly Lincoln. But if you ask which president was the best human being, I'd have to say Jimmy Carter."

We thank you for all your answers. We want you to keep sending them into us e-mail us. Again, the question: America's greatest president? Who do you think it is. E-mail us at wam@cnn.com with your response.

About 20 million viewers tuned in every week last season to hear Donald Trump say "You're fired!" Now a radio network tells "The Donald" he's hired.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP: The thing that I'm most happy about in the history of radio, I am told, this is the largest opening of a show. So that's pretty impressive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: The billionaire signed a deal that will put him on the radio every morning in a segment called "Trumped." He talks about the new venture and why he's doing it in an exclusive interview we'll air tomorrow on "CNN Sunday Morning" at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, "The Donald Talks." Stay with us for that.

Also, living with Alzheimer's and new hopes for a new cure. Ahead on CNN a look at the disease that cripples millions of older Americans each year. At 9:00 a.m. Eastern, remembering Ronald Reagan. Our Robert Novak was at the state funeral, his thoughts on the 40th president.

And a circle of friends to help women quit smoking. Award-winning actress Edie Falco joins us to talk about a race being run today in New York today to increase awareness of tobacco-related diseases in women.

That's all ahead when CNN SATURDAY continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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