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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Amber Frey Testifies in Scott Peterson Case; President Bush Taps Porter Goss as CIA Head

Aired August 10, 2004 - 20:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, the star witness in the Scott Peterson case, champagne, strawberries and sex.

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY FOR AMBER FREY: We are going to hear about how Scott Peterson wormed himself into Ms. Frey's life and into her heart.

ZAHN: The ex-mistress takes the stand.

And:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The greatest show on Earth!

ZAHN: Kids love the circus, but what about the animals? In Denver, a teenager takes the circus by the tail. And today, the city votes on banning animal acts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Good evening. Welcome. Glad to have you with us. Appreciate your joining us.

Up to now in the Scott Peterson case, prosecutors have spent an awful lot of time trying to show why Peterson would have wanted to kill his pregnant wife. Well, today, they got to the heart of their case. They put their key witness on the stand, Amber Frey, who had an affair with Peterson in the weeks before Laci Peterson was murdered. Frey described her first date, a blind date with Peterson.

She said they danced at a karaoke bar, went to a hotel, drank champagne with strawberries, and then had sex. After today's testimony, Frey's lawyer, Gloria Allred, talked with reporters, pointing to tapes of phone calls played for the jury.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLRED: The ones that were of particular interest to me were December 31. Why? Because it was supposed to be Scott Peterson's New Year's Eve. According to Scott Peterson, he was in Paris at the Eiffel Tower with his friend Pascal (ph).

Actually, for those of us who remember December 31 and the significance in this tape, it's no laughing matter, because December 31 happens to be the date of the vigil for Laci and Conner, may they rest in peace. And there were volunteers out there searching, volunteers setting up for that vigil and for the search for Laci and Conner.

And Scott Peterson, according to testimony, was there. But what was he doing? Was he the grieving husband? It doesn't appear so. If you listen to his voice on the telephone, recorded conversations, he sounds like a just happy, carefree bachelor, New Year's Eve in Paris, calling his loved one, Amber, and saying, miss you. That was Scott.

Why wasn't he what everyone expected, the grieving husband? Did he really care if Laci was missing? Was he happy if Laci was missing? The jury's going to have to make those decisions for themselves. So that's what I thought was most significant, were those phone calls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And joining us now from Redwood City, California, "San Francisco Chronicle" reporter Kelly St. John, who's been in the courtroom all day long. And with me here in New York, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Welcome to both of you.

ZAHN: So, Kelly, how provocative were those phone calls to the jury?

KELLY ST. JOHN, "SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE": They had a big impact, because I think for once we were hearing it straight from Scott's mouth. He sounded very breezy, almost silly, that he's at the Eiffel Tower watching fireworks, when we knew that at the time he was at a vigil for his missing wife.

ZAHN: Were you able to see jurors as they listened to these tapes?

ST. JOHN: Absolutely. They were listening very intently through the entire day, but sitting forward in their seats. Some were taking notes. Some glanced over at Scott or at Amber, definitely very interested in today's testimony.

ZAHN: And how effective a witness was Amber Frey today?

ST. JOHN: You know, she did really well. She was dressed in a conservative black suit. She was wearing a gold cross around her neck. She answered the questions matter of factly.

She even did well when she was sort of asked sort of awkward questions about being intimate with Scott. She did her best and she came across as very credible.

ZAHN: Were you surprised by the level of detail in her testimony today?

ST. JOHN: Yes, there was new stuff. There was a lot of tidbits about kind of their courtship, Scott's courtship of her, whether it was that he brought strawberries and champagne to their first date, that, you know -- and the series of lies that he told her about, living in Sacramento, that he was going to be in Alaska fishing with his parents over Thanksgiving. There was just a lot of juicy tidbits in there that we hadn't heard before.

ZAHN: And, Jeffrey, you monitored a lot of this as well today. Is there anything in this as a former prosecutor that makes you take the leap from cad to murderer?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's the challenge.

And the goal of the prosecution here is to make him seem sinister. And what's so important about the phone call on New Year's Eve is that it's beyond, it seems, just the sort of normal, if that's the right word, normal lies a married man would tell to seduce a vulnerable woman. This sounds nuts, that he would go -- call from a vigil and say he was in Paris. It really makes him seem almost pathological.

Mark Geragos' goal on cross-examination is to return him to the simple, ordinary, everyday cad, but not someone who might be a murderer.

ZAHN: So if had been sitting on the jury today, would you have been persuaded by any of this?

TOOBIN: I would be persuaded. I think Mark Geragos' best track, though, in cross-examining might be to dismiss her and say, yes, he lied to seduce her, but that tells you absolutely nothing about whether he's a murderer or not.

ZAHN: There was a bit of testimony, Kelly, today where Amber Frey talked about her daughter and the fact that Scott Peterson was very nice to his daughter and actually played with her. Where was that supposed to take a jury?

ST. JOHN: I think they had some interesting conversations, too. He told her that he wanted to have a vasectomy, that he was -- would be happy to not have any children of his own and just be with Amber and to raise Amber's daughter together as his own.

ZAHN: But there was a point, though, too, where Amber testified, or at least said to him, that she would perhaps want to have another child.

ST. JOHN: Yes, and that would seem to be a potential bone of contention in their relationship, because she thought it was unusual that a young man of his age was talking about wanting to have a vasectomy so young. And that seemed suspicious to her.

ZAHN: And, Jeffrey, coming back to the defense strategy, you said if you were on their team, then you'd dismiss her

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: You say, this was an element in their relationship. What relationship? This was like a month-long fling. That is I think what Mark Geragos will want to dismiss this whole thing as sure, he told her stories. He got her champagne. He bought her roses. But this is all irrelevant to the question of whether he's a murderer or not. At least, that's what he's going to want the jury to believe.

ZAHN: Jeffrey, before we let you go tonight, big development in the Kobe Bryant case, a civil case filed. What does this mean?

TOOBIN: Well, this means is that the criminal case, which was hanging by a thread, is even hanging by a smaller thread, because, basically, this means that if the accuser ever testifies in a criminal case, she will now be confronted with the fact that she has filed a civil suit, that she could be dismissed as in it for the money. She's always said through her representatives that she wasn't interested in money. Now, obviously, she is interested in money. The criminal case looks even less likely to proceed than it did yesterday.

ZAHN: Jeffrey Toobin, thanks so much.

Kelly St. John, thank you for your observations tonight. Appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Coming up, the president taps a former spy for the nation's top intelligence job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He knows the CIA inside and out.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: A person should not be the director of central intelligence who's acted in a very political way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: The choice of Porter Goss triggers another political controversy -- that story straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back.

Today, President Bush named a Republican congressman and former CIA operative to be the next CIA director. And in the middle of a presidential campaign, at a time when the nation is consumed by terror alerts and warnings that the nation's intelligence gathering desperately needs a vast overhaul, the nomination of Porter Goss has instantly become a big partisan political battle.

Here is national correspondent Bob Franken on the man suddenly at the center of it all.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One lesson Porter Goss clearly learned from his time in the CIA, how to keep a secret. Just ask his son.

MASON GOSS, SON OF PORTER GOSS: This today was a huge surprise. We didn't know it was coming today.

FRANKEN: Not that it was exactly classified information that Goss was under consideration.

BUSH: He knows the CIA inside and out.

FRANKEN: Goss was in the agency for nine years, after all, but says he still can't discuss exactly what undercover work he did. He has acknowledged being in Miami during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

His murky career track also took him through Haiti, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Western Europe. What he did after he came in from the cold was to enter the heated world of politics in 1974; 30 years later, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he's still involved with both intelligence and politics, and his critics say maybe a little bit too much with politics.

PELOSI: A person should not be the director of central intelligence who's acted in a very political way.

FRANKEN: That's exactly what Democrats complain Goss had been doing ever since he knew he was being considered for central intelligence director. On June 1, for instance, the Bush for president Web site posted his critique of John Kerry's speech on national security as political me-tooism. And a little more than two months later, he's the president's choice to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

BUSH: Now, with the agreement of the U.S. Senate, the CIA will have another strong leader in Porter Goss.

FRANKEN (on camera): To use the words of the last CIA director, agreement by the Senate is not a slam dunk. There will be pointed questions about the go-slow approach advocated by Goss for the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

(voice-over): The most controversial would create a new national intelligence director who would oversee the entire landscape. That would include the CIA domain Goss wants to control, the shadowy one he used to prowl.

TIMOTHY ROEMER, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR NATIONAL POLICY: That's the challenge and the big question today. Can Congressman Porter Goss use that institutional knowledge, that background, that experience in operations to change a system that has become dysfunctional?

FRANKEN: The question will be whether Porter Goss can be above politics if he runs the CIA. On that issue, the Senate decides whether his nomination will live or let die.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: That was Bob Franken.

Joining us now from Washington, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman. She is the ranking member on the House Select Intelligence Committee and has also served with Porter Goss on the Select Committee For Homeland Security.

Good of you to join us, Representative Harman.

What do you think of this recommendation?

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, it's been a big day, Paula. We just learned that Goss has now resigned as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. We have a hearing scheduled tomorrow, and he's asked the speaker to name someone else as acting chair. And he says he'll stay on the committee. So not only has he been nominated for something, but he's abandoned a position he's held for about eight years.

My reaction is, this is a guy I know well. We've traveled together, worked together, talked together for years about restructuring the intelligence community. His confirmation is up to the Senate. And according to some comments by those on the Senate Intelligence Committee, they're going to ask some tough questions.

But the more important question is whether or not this White House is going to step up and adopt or get us in Congress to adopt the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. That's what the public wants to know. That's what the 9/11 families want to know. That's what will make America safer.

ZAHN: You're not saying the appointment of Porter Goss would be irrelevant, then? You're just saying that you wish the recommendations of this commission would be taken seriously right now?

HARMAN: You bet.

While the president has the right to nominate anyone he chooses to be CIA director, and there's only an acting director there now, although an experienced fellow, but that nomination is not central to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Those recommendations are to change the way we run the intelligence community. The CIA director will be one piece of that, but not the whole deal. It's 15 agencies and we need to put one person in charge.

And the president did not address that this morning when he spoke about Porter Goss.

ZAHN: Do you have any faith this White House wants to move on it?

HARMAN: I haven't seen them do it. Last week -- a week ago, the president held a press conference generally saying that he supports the 9/11 recommendations and saying there ought to be a national intelligence director, but it was up to Congress to act. A week later, he is nominating someone to the old job, director of central -- not even that, CIA director, not even director of central intelligence. He didn't mention that today.

ZAHN: But what everybody's trying to figure out tonight is, if this nomination goes through, how effective Porter Goss would be. You mentioned during periods of time that you worked with him over eight years. You have experienced some bipartisanship.

HARMAN: Right.

ZAHN: But it was you yourself back in January, when you and Mr. Goss disagreed about a public hearing on the leak of a covert CIA officer's name, said -- quote -- "Bipartisanship on the committee just got a lot harder." Do you think that's going to be a problem for him?

(CROSSTALK)

HARMAN: This has been a very tough year. The poisonous partisanship on the Hill is well known in the country. Sadly, even our committee is no longer immune from it.

But I don't think we know the answer to that yet. We don't know when the hearings will be scheduled. We don't know how long they will take. So we don't know when he will be confirmed. There's only 90 days until the election. Meanwhile, there is every opportunity for this White House to step up and act on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Those could be done sooner than a confirmation hearing.

ZAHN: In addition to some Democrats blasting this recommendation today, you had the former head of the CIA, Stansfield Turner, saying that -- quote -- "This is a bad day for the CIA and that Goss was chosen to win votes for President Bush in Florida." Is there any truth to that?

HARMAN: I'm not going to comment on that.

I think that the CIA certainly deserves an organization chart that meets the threats of the 21st century. Very good people work there. I commend them for their hard work. But, clearly, the old job, the old org chart is dysfunctional. That's what the 9/11 Commission has proved. The system is broken. It needs to be fixed. And the question is, will the White House step up and support the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission? Or are we now going to focus solely on who should be the director of the CIA?

ZAHN: Representative Jane Harman, thanks for your thoughts tonight. Appreciate it.

When we come back:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D'WAYNE JERNIGAN, DEL RIO SHERIFF: I don't think the public understands what's happening, no. I don't think they would put up with it for a minute if they were aware of what was happening. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Security at the nation's borders. What about the thousands that get away?

That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: As America focuses on terrorist plans, it may be a real shock to learn that, every year, tens of thousands of illegal immigrants are stopped at the border and then let go, free to disappear into the U.S.

Well, today, the Department of Homeland Security says it is closing that legal loophole that has allowed that to happen. But some law enforcement officers are afraid it's way too late.

Here's Ed Lavandera.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a South Texas day in early July, some 30 Brazilian men were wandering through the border town of Del Rio. They were looking to cash some checks. Some were looking for ways to get to Boston just days before the start of the Democratic Convention.

When Sheriff D'Wayne Jernigan found out the men had just been released from Border Patrol custody and that $7,000 had been wired to three of them, he started sounding the alarm, calling anyone who would listen.

D'WAYNE JERNIGAN, DEL RIO SHERIFF: What is their purpose for going to Boston just before the convention and why is someone from Boston sending them such large amounts of cash?

LAVANDERA: The men were held for a couple of days and checked out. But these illegal immigrants were eventually released and the sheriff has no idea where they went or where they are now.

From Texas to California, this kind of incident is frustrating local law enforcement officers and border patrol agents.

JERNIGAN: I don't think the public understands what's happening, no. I don't think they would put up with it for a minute if they were aware of what was happening.

LAVANDERA: The police chief of Eagle Pass, Texas, knows all too well what is happening. As Tony Castaneda drives us around town, he sees as many as 50 illegal immigrants every day, sometimes casually walking through a golf course, like we found, but usually they're around the bus station.

Rudy Benicio (ph) is from Guatemala on his way to Rhode Island.

(on camera): When did you cross? This morning? About five hours ago. You can Salt Lake see his shoes and jeans are muddy.

(voice-over): The U.S. government calls Rudy an OTM, which means he comes from a country other than Mexico. OTMs are often handled differently than illegal immigrants from Mexico. If Rudy Benicio were Mexican, he would have been sent right back across the border. But, instead, following a background check, he's given what's called a notice to appear, an order instructing him to meet with an immigration judge at a date to be determined later.

But the majority never show up. That's why these forms are often called notices to disappear.

TONY CASTANEDA, EAGLE PASS POLICE CHIEF: It's a major loophole, a major, major, major hole, in that it's being created by this particular policy in the national security.

LAVANDERA: In Eagle Pass, it's easy to spot OTMs. They usually walk out of the Border Patrol station carrying that white piece of paper and start looking for the fastest way out of town. Castaneda thinks it would be easy for a terrorist to blend in here.

CASTANEDA: If you can go to a university and learn how to speak Spanish and you're from the Middle East or you're a terrorist, and you master the language and then just come across and say, hey, I'm from Honduras, I'm from Colombia, but you're still nevertheless a Middle Easterner, you could very easily pass, light colored complexion, fair skin, I think very easy.

LAVANDERA: Homeland security officials say this year alone, almost 50,000 OTMs have crossed the Southern border. About 22,000 of those were released into the United States. Budget shortfalls and lack of bed space make it impossible to hold all illegal immigrants who are captured. So each immigrant is handled on an individual basis.

Victor Certa oversees the homeland security division responsible for deciding who is detained and who is released.

VICTOR CERTA, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: The concern that we're releasing terrorists, I would say the system is out there to absolutely prevent that from happening. And I feel confident that it is working.

JERNIGAN: Welcome to the Val Verde County Jail.

LAVANDERA: Back in Del Rio, Texas, Sheriff Jernigan says he doesn't just see Hispanic immigrants coming through here anymore. In the last three months, records show illegal immigrants from Somalia, Kenya, and Macedonia, to name a few countries, also have been caught.

JERNIGAN: In fact, they're Border Patrol bringing some people in now.

How you all doing?

LAVANDERA: A year ago, his jail housed 300 OTMs a day. That number is down to five a day now. He says, in a post-9/11 atmosphere, immigrants are being captured and released too quickly.

JERNIGAN: Are they terrorists? We don't know. Do you know? Does he know? Does he know? Who knows? We're not really checking them out. We're not even holding them long enough to really make a determination. That's frustrating.

I keep it here all the time.

LAVANDERA: Sheriff Jernigan keeps reminders of 9/11 around the office. He knows the vast majority of immigrants who come across the border are simply looking for a better life. But it's the fear of that one villain who might sneak through the border in his town that makes him sound the alarm.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And still ahead, the terror map expands. Investigators say Southern cities were staked out as possible targets. The details when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: In this era of heightened security and fears about terrorism, even simple things can look suspicious. Just ask authorities about that in New York, New Jersey and Washington, or even in Las Vegas and, as of today, in cities all across the Southeast.

Homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has details of an unsettling case in North Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Does this man have terrorist ties, or not? Right now, investigators simply do not know, but they are taking a very close look at Kamran Shaikh, also known as Kamran Akhtar.

The Pakistani was arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina on July 20.

OFFICER ANTHONY MAGLIONE, CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG POLICE: Observed a gentleman taking videos of the skyline. Once I slowed down to take a closer look at him, he started acting a little irrational, turned away from me, tried to become evasive. I stopped my vehicle; he started to walk away.

MESERVE: Maglione says Shaikh made inconsistent statements about what he was doing.

According to an affidavit unsealed Tuesday, Shaikh was videotaping the headquarters of the Bank of America and Wachovia Bank in Charlotte. And he had other tapes featuring downtown Atlanta, Austin, Houston, Dallas, and New Orleans public transportation systems in some of those cities, and what appeared to be the Mansfield Dam in Austin.

The police chief in Dallas said the tape of his city appeared fairly innocuous.

CHIEF DAVID KUNKLE, DALLAS POLICE: It was really just scanning various buildings and facilities. And it didn't appear to be directed looking in any vulnerabilities of any particular buildings or access points.

MESERVE: Shaikh, who lives in Elmhurst, New York is being held on immigration charges while the investigation into whether he has terrorist connections continues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And let's go back to Jeanne Meserve now in Washington -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Paula, law enforcement sources say there is other information beyond the videotapes which raises their suspicions, but Shaikh's name has not shown up thus far in any searches of terrorism- related databases -- Paula.

ZAHN: But he was caught taping banks in the South. Does there seem to be a theme here that's emerging that's of great concern?

MESERVE: You know the terror threat level was raised in the financial sector in New York, in Washington, and in New Jersey, because they found very detailed surveillance information in Pakistan about certain sites in those cities.

Now, this arrest in Charlotte, North Carolina, predates the raising of the threat level. So it did not grow out of that investigation.

But this guy was taking pictures of banks, allegedly, in Charlotte at least. Investigators certainly are looking to see if there could be any connection. Thus far, they haven't found one.

And I should mention he wasn't just shooting banks; he was shooting things like transit systems, too, according to the affidavit.

ZAHN: On its surface, it appears as though his arrest was pure chance. Is this just a single initiative, or is there really -- is this part of a broader effort?

MESERVE: Well, you know, it always comes down to whoever is on the street, be it you or me or be it the police.

If there's one lesson that authorities have learned about al Qaeda, it is that they do very thorough surveillance. That lesson was reinforced by those materials that they found in Pakistan.

So there have been directives that have gone out to law enforcement just in the past week or so, reinforcing to them the importance of looking for that kind of activity, pointing out the kinds of things they might -- they might be looking for, what they should do with the information they find. Also, they repeatedly say to citizens, if you see anything unusual, report it to the authorities. It really does come down to you and me.

ZAHN: There are also tapes getting a lot of attention tonight, and these are tapes that allegedly at first, we were led to believe, were surveillance tapes of Las Vegas. Now we learn tonight something quite different.

What is the significance of these tapes? What are they?

MESERVE: Well, Kelli Arena has been talking to a variety of sources about this.

The crux of the story was that there were these tapes and that when an FBI agent from Detroit took them to Las Vegas, that security personnel for the casinos did not take a look at them.

What Kelly's sources have told her is that, in fact, security personnel had already seen those tapes. They had been shown to them by the FBI.

When the Detroit agent came back with the tapes, he was trying to build a case and he was looking for them to sort of do a play-by-play with the tapes, pointing out what vulnerabilities might be exposed in the tapes. The security personnel from the casinos were not interested in doing that, so they did not attend.

There's also been noise made about the fact that the mayor didn't see these tapes. These are not the sorts of things a mayor would ordinarily see if there wasn't a very specific threat.

ZAHN: And earlier, Jeanne, tonight I actually did speak with the mayor of Las Vegas, Mayor Oscar Goodman. And he told me that he now has gone to the FBI office and watched this videotape.

Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAYOR OSCAR GOODMAN, LAS VEGAS: To be perfectly frank with you, it looked very amateurish. It had pictures of young ladies and gentlemen who were eating a lot of ice cream in Las Vegas, playing a couple slot machines, all the things that Las Vegas is supposed to be antithetical to their beliefs about. And they were having a pretty good time.

As far as being a surveillance tape, as far as having anything on it which would suggest that this was a casing of the joint, so to speak, absolutely nonexistent.

ZAHN: So what is your response to the accusation on the part of some law enforcement officials that you didn't take these tapes seriously enough, and that you were afraid to take them seriously because it might cost Las Vegas some business? GOODMAN: OK. Well, as far as the allegations by one person, as I understand it, it's a gentleman who was a former prosecutor who's under siege, who is being charged with prosecutorial misconduct, because he failed to produce exculpatory evidence to the defense in a case up in Detroit. It looks like his case could be reversed.

He's the one who's made this allegation. Nobody, and I give you my word of honor on it, nobody ever said to me that there was a problem as far as tapes are concerned with Las Vegas.

Or I've never been told that there's any credible information that Las Vegas is a target of the terrorists. If I had been told, believe me, I would have done something about it. And the first thing I would do, because I believe in telling the truth, is to tell the public about it.

But until yesterday morning, I never even knew there was an issue.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And that's an important issue, Jeanne, because you've got some 73 million people traveling to Las Vegas every year. It's almost the No. 1 tourist destination in the world right now.

What's the bottom line here? That -- that any tapes that are being shot by someone of a suspicious origin will be suspect?

MESERVE: That's right. In fact, any tapes shot by almost anyone will be suspicious.

I was talking to the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, after news came out about this arrest there. He said in the past six weeks, they've stopped 16 people in his city videotaping and talked to each and every one of them about what they were doing.

Only one has been suspicious. That's the gentleman we talked about this evening.

ZAHN: Jeanne Meserve, thanks for covering so much territory for us this evening. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, a tradition challenged: a vote on whether the circus can come to town.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Election years always bring an interesting crop of ballot initiatives. In today's Colorado primary, voters in Denver are saying yes or no to a proposal thought up by a teenager who was worried about the treatment of circus animals.

As Chris Lawrence reports, it could have the effect of keeping big circuses out of the city.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For years, families have been going to the circus to see the extraordinary and impossible.

But today, voters in Denver had to decide if they'd seen enough. They voted on an initiative that would ban the display of exotic animals for entertainment.

HEATHER HERMAN, STARTED BALLOT INITIATIVE: It's not natural when you've got elephants standing on each other and tigers jumping through fiery hoops.

LAWRENCE: Heather Herman is no animal rights extremist. She goes to zoos, wears leather, and eats meat. But the 15-year-old started this movement after researching how circus animals are treated and trained.

HERMAN: It is going on because of the, you know, the documents and facts that I've seen.

LAWRENCE: And it's an issue that goes beyond Colorado. Right now, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Brothers Circus is facing a federal investigation after one of its lions died on an animal train in California.

In other cases not involving Ringling Brothers, animal rights activists say elephants have been chained to the floor of their cages, and sometimes beaten to break their spirit.

One ex-circus employee says some trainers use bull hooks to grab animals by the ear and yank their heads down.

TOM RYDER, FORMER CIRCUS WORKER: And it's very painful to the elephant. I mean, they scream and try to get away.

LAWRENCE: Under the Animal Welfare Act, the USDA can take action against violators. And in the past, the agency has changed procedures, imposed fines and revoked licenses.

(on camera) If complaints are any indication, the problem is getting worse.

The USDA investigates allegations of commercial animal abuse. And the number of investigations has gone up each of the last three years, topping out at 365 last year.

(voice-over) But Colorado residents who support the circus say it's been coming to the state for more than 50 years.

PANCHO HAYS, "KEEP THE CIRCUS IN DENVER": It's never been a complaint or an allegation or anything enforced.

LAWRENCE: And some trainers say circus animals often live longer and better lives than the animals in our own homes.

JOHN KIRKLAND, RINGLING BROTHERS CIRCUS: Our animals receive the best treatment of any animals anywhere in the world. In fact, our animals are better taken care of than most people's pets.

LAWRENCE: Both big circus companies and animal rights activists see the Denver vote as an important test case.

Because no animals mean no circus.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And that was Chris Lawrence.

To debate the circus issue and the treatment of exotic animals, I'm joined from Denver by city councilman Charlie Brown, who is against Initiative 100, and by Heather Mahoney in Denver for Cruelty- Free Circuses, a group which supports it.

Welcome to you both.

CHARLIE BROWN, CITY COUNCILMAN: Hi, Paula.

HEATHER MAHONEY, DENVER FOR CRUELTY-FREE CIRCUSES: Hi.

ZAHN: Charlie, you're about 15 minutes away from polls closing in Denver. Do you think this initiative is going to pass?

BROWN: No, I do not. I think common sense will prevail, because the voters in this city know that if the circus is banned in Denver with animals, it will simply cross the county line and go into Adams County or Arapahoe County or even up north.

So this is why both papers, the "Rocky Mountain News" and "Denver Post," have come up strongly against this movement.

ZAHN: Heather, do you agree with that assessment, or do you think this has any chance at all of flying?

MAHONEY: I feel very positive about it. I feel in the same way as Councilman Brown feels, people have common sense. I do, too. And I feel that they're going to look at everything that they've seen in the past month here.

They know Clyde was a 2-year-old lion that died of heat exhaustion on a train car going across the desert. We also just recently found out about Ricardo, who's an 8-month-old baby elephant who was bred from a 7-year-old elephant. She shouldn't have been bred for another ten years at least. The mother rejected him, and his bones are brittle. He fell off of a platform, broke both hind legs, and had to be euthanized. This was days ago, not even a week ago.

ZAHN: Heather, before you go further, let me read to you a statement from the Ringling Brothers Circus that was given to us tonight.

It says, quote, "These activist groups behind Initiative 100 sensationalize stories of animal abuse, circulating inaccurate and misleading accounts of the circus and presenting them as the norm. Their claims are simply untrue." What kind of proof or evidence do you have to share with our audience tonight that these stories are, in fact, valid?

MAHONEY: Well, yes, actually, there's this big, thick book here, which is compiled by three different animal welfare groups. And this is about two inches thick, as you can tell.

It's going to be used in federal court against Ringling Brothers. This is on the mistreatment of elephants under the Endangered Species Act.

ZAHN: All right.

MAHONEY: And this is also with Tom Ryder, former employee who is -- has eyewitness accounts of abuses.

ZAHN: Charlie, do you have a reason to believe that the information in that report is legitimate?

BROWN: Paula, all I deal with is what happens in Denver. The circus has been coming here and thrilling adults as well as boys and girls for more than 75 years. There has never been one incident of any abuse.

Secondly, they are really heavily regulated by the federal state, and local government here.

Thirdly, Barnum and Bailey now opens up a tour in the back of the big tent. So you don't just see the animals underneath the big tent; you can take tours behind the big tent and see how the animals are treated, how they're bathed, how they're fed.

And I can assure you, the citizens in Denver, if they see any wrong, if they see any mistreatment of animals, they will call us. And so far, that has not happened.

ZAHN: What about that, Heather?

MAHONEY: Well, I would like to say that there are only 100 USDA inspectors that oversee 12,000 facilities in this country. That includes circuses, zoos, puppy mills, breeding facilities.

It's impossible for them to keep up and make surprise inspections all the time, as often as they're needed.

In fact, Ringling Brothers especially usually knows when the USDA is coming for an inspection days ahead of time. You know, they have time to clean it up.

Citizens that go to the circus see it for an hour before the show.

ZAHN: All right.

BROWN: OK.

ZAHN: Charlie, I see you looking at Heather, just rolling your eyes.

BROWN: I can't even see her.

ZAHN: Just a final thought about what she is saying and the lack of inspectors you have to go around to make sure these animals are treated properly.

BROWN: We -- We have plenty of inspectors here in Denver, and they're willing and able and ready to go once they've received that phone call. We had 150,000 visitors to the circus last year. We didn't get a phone call.

Now, the other issue is consumer freedom. If the animal rights folks don't like the circus, vote with your wallet and vote with your feet and don't go.

But don't try to ban a family entertainment venue here in Denver. Let our folks who come from Wyoming, New Mexico and Nebraska, and all our citizens in this great state, enjoy the circus.

ZAHN: We're going to have to leave it there, you two. Heather Mahoney, Charlie Brown, thank you for both your perspectives tonight.

BROWN: Thank you, Paula.

MAHONEY: Thank you.

ZAHN: And we'll be keeping track of that vote. And once again, polls close just about 14 minutes from now.

Coming up next, is there a new variety of Teresa Heinz Kerry on the campaign trail? You decide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: If the Oval Office changes hands in the upcoming presidential election, look for a big change in style for the new first lady.

Teresa Heinz Kerry has always been known as a woman who tells it like she sees it and does things her own way.

But as Candy Crowley shows us, Mrs. Kerry has undergone something of a transformation lately on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TERESA HEINZ KERRY, WIFE OF JOHN KERRY: You know, if John had told me ten years ago, "I am going to run for president one day," I would have said, "Hello! Not with me you're not!" Not that I don't think it's important and a great thing, but it would have scared me.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Frightened? Hard to believe, because baby, look at her now. Teresa Heinz Kerry, hanging out with construction workers, waving to the throngs, and sometimes, oh, so very Teresa. T. KERRY: And I have a husband, all of nine years, so you know, it's past the seven-year itch.

CROWLEY: Mame Eisenhower she's not. But the Kerry campaign has done an artful pivot with Mrs. Heinz Kerry, that loose cannon reporters wrote about and the campaign fretted about...

T. KERRY: They want four more years of hell.

CROWLEY: ... is now lauded as a strong, outspoken woman. And it's 2004, who could argue with that?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She speaks her mind. And she speaks the truth. And she's pretty quick on her feet, too.

CROWLEY: The stream of consciousness rifts on the benefits of sunscreen and growing up in Mozambique are mostly gone. Now she's more likely to introduce her husband by giving his speech.

T. KERRY: You never want to go to war, unless it's the last thing you have to do.

CROWLEY: Still, in a highly stylized kabuki theater that is now the campaign trail, Teresa Heinz Kerry adds an element of street theater.

J. KERRY: Yes, sir, before you get up on that, I've got a note here from...

CROWLEY: The candidate, who can take a hint, turned over the microphone so his wife could discuss the wonders of organic farming, a speech not entirely welcome by the crowd of Missouri farmers.

Still, she is no Eleanor Roosevelt, no Hillary Clinton. Her views on first ladyship are very Mame Eisenhower.

T. KERRY: I will keep him honest. I will keep him humble.

CROWLEY: She calls herself an old fashioned modern woman. It's as good a description as any.

T. KERRY: You go, girls.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: A couple of big political program notes for you now. Join Larry King for an exclusive interview with President and Mrs. Bush on Thursday. That is 9 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And then next week, I will be in Canton, Ohio to host a one-hour CNN election special. Many political pundits say Ohio could be the deciding factor in November's election, so we are holding a town hall meeting there. We'll come to you live from Canton next week with 200 likely voters as our guests along with representatives from the Bush and Kerry campaigns. The people of Ohio will have an opportunity to quiz the campaigns and to find out just where the candidates stand on issues that matter most to voters: the war in Iraq, terrorism, the economy, jobs, health care, and education.

We hope you'll join us for that. That is next Wednesday night, 8 p.m., August 18.

Still to come tonight, when star witnesses take center stage. Some moving and legendary moments of past celebrity trials when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We began this hour with a look at Amber Frey's dramatic appearance at the Scott Peterson murder trial.

As we watched the reports come in today, it brought back some vivid memories of other dramatic moments in other trials, when the courtroom hushed, the jurors strained to hear, and all eyes were on the star witness.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICIA BOWMAN, WITNESS: And I was yelling, "No, stop!"

ZAHN (voice-over): Patricia Bowman in the William Kennedy Smith rape trial.

Kato Kaelin and a cast of other characters in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. For one reason or another, these people became star witnesses, capturing our attention and putting a human face on our legal process, bringing high drama and sometimes low comedy along with their testimony, whenever they walked into a courtroom.

In the trial of Joel Steinberg, who in 1989 was convicted of killing 8-year-old Lisa Steinberg, it was battered and broken Hedda Nussbaum's testimony which brought home the tragedy of her daughter, Lisa's, death.

HEDDA NUSSBAUM, WITNESS: So I called 911, or Dr. Heisen (ph), the pediatrician. And I said, "No, Joel said he would take care of her. He'd get her up when he got back." And I didn't want to show disloyalty or distrust for him.

ZAHN: But testimony doesn't take center stage only in notorious murder trials. Consider the 2001 trial over Anna Nicole Smith's late husband's billion-dollar estate. The former Playboy playmate's bombshell looks got attention.

ANNA NICOLE SMITH, WITNESS: That night he died on me and it was Pierce. Pierce was the one who made the orders, "Do not do anything."

ZAHN: So did her passionate testimony about the man more than 60 years her senior. For some reason, these witnesses become legendary, as famous as the trials themselves. And while over time we might forget the outcome of certain trials, somehow we always seem to remember the names of the star witnesses.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here this evening. Thanks so much for being with us tonight.

Tomorrow night, you won't find the latest breed of standup comic in a smoky nightclub. The new trend, Christian comedy. We'll share that with you tomorrow night.

Again, thanks for dropping by tonight. Hope you'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Have a great night.

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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