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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Husband Discusses Andrea Yates Case; Kobe Bryant to Raise Funds for UNICEF and Tsunami Victims; Virgin Group Partners with Oxfam in Relief Efforts
Aired January 6, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, NBA super star Kobe Bryant, scoring points for the massive tsunami relief effort as the disaster's death toll closes in on 156,000.
And Sir Richard Branson, the dashing chairman of the Virgin Group, using his billion-dollar business empire to get emergency supplies to thousands of victims.
Plus, heart rendering stories of those the tsunami left behind, desperately searching for loved ones still missing. And in some cases, for their bodies.
But first, the exclusive. Russell Yates, speaking out for the first time on today's stunning news. His wife, Andrea's, conviction overturned for the murder of three of their children.
It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We begin tonight with Rusty Yates. He's flown here from Houston to be with us this evening.
On June 20, 2001, his wife Andrea called police to her home and showed them the bodies of her drowned children: Noah, aged 7, John aged 5, Paul aged 3, Luke aged 2 and Mary aged 6 months.
In March of 2002, a Houston jury rejected her insanity defense, convicted her of capital murder for three of the deaths. They only prosecuted for three. She subsequently was sentenced to life in prison.
An appeals court today unanimously reversed that decision, citing false testimony of a prosecution witness. The prosecution says it's going to pursue a motion for a rehearing. Barring that, they may appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
How did you get the news, Rusty?
RUSTY YATES, HUSBAND OF ANDREA YATES: Got a phone call this morning, just you know, letting me know what the outcome was.
KING: Who called?
YATES: It was actually a producer -- that is pretty funny -- from a news show.
KING: You're kidding. Before your lawyer?
YATES: I was on my way in to work, yes. So they were reading the news off of the news service and called me right away. So...
KING: Did you know it was coming down soon?
YATES: No. Well, I knew it would be within the next couple of months or so, you know. We had oral arguments early last month, and they -- you know, they were saying anywhere from maybe two to six months, you know, to get a verdict from the judges.
KING: Frankly, were you surprised?
YATES: Extremely surprised, yes. It's -- we -- this court has really come under fire lately, because they -- they've, you know, habitually, I guess, you know, ruled against the defendants and in favor of the state and...
KING: Called Texas justice, right? They're tough.
YATES: Exactly. They're very, very tough. And -- and in our case, and our former police chief is now on this court, Sam Nuchia, and, you know, he -- you know, he found in favor of Andrea, which I was really surprised and happy -- happy to see.
KING: Also surprised it was unanimous?
YATES: Yes. You know, yes, you know, it's -- but I'm just happy, you know. Happy for Andrea.
KING: Have you talked to Andrea?
YATES: No. I talked to her Saturday. But I haven't -- she's not allowed to take phone calls or give phone calls.
KING: She can't make a collect call out?
KING: So when will you get to see her or talk to her?
YATES: Probably the first week of February.
KING: Even though she's won this appeal?
YATES: Yes. She'll stay in jail or in prison for now. I think until, you know, the state and Andrea's attorneys work out, you know, what the next step is, you know. The state's got to decide, are they going to retry Andrea, or are they going to drop charges against her, you know
KING: And have her committed mentally. She's never going to come out, right?
YATES: No, she could. I mean, if -- if they drop charges against her, then she'd go to a mental hospital. And then the doctors would decide when she's well enough to go home. And then...
KING: You have always been extraordinarily understanding of this, have you not?
KING: To the surprise of people. How do you explain it to yourself that there never appeared, Russell, to have been anger?
YATES: Just being able to separate, you know, the -- the horrific act that she committed from her intentions and her reasons and her mental state at the time. Basically, I know that, had she not been mentally ill, she would never have done what she did. So it's really that simple.
KING: You can separate the two? You're devastated by the loss of five children.
YATES: It's extremely devastating, and she's hurt me tremendously through her actions. But at the same time, she's a wonderful person, you know.
In many respects, she's a victim in all this, because she became ill. We were unable to get adequate treatment for her. She did this horrible, you know, thing that just devastated all of us, but you know, I can't lose sight of the fact that -- that this wasn't her.
KING: Here's why it was reversed. On the stand, psychiatrist Park Dietz. He's been on this show. In fact, he's testified many times across the United States.
Said that Yates may have patterned her killings on an episode of "Law & Order" for which he worked as a consultant. Dietz said the episode involved a woman found not guilty by reason of insanity in the drowning of her children.
Andrea was known to be a fan of that show, "Law & Order."
In its appeal, the defense said it contacted the producers of the show and determined that no such episode ever aired.
The court ruled today, quote, "We conclude that there is a reasonable likelihood that the Doctor Dietz false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury."
Why didn't you know it at the time that it hadn't aired?
YATES: Well, we were -- actually, we were suspicious of it when we first heard that that testimony was given. And I was myself, because I watch pretty much every episode of "Law & Order" with Andrea and I'd never heard of anything like that. But by the time we figured it all out and got confirmation that, well, indeed, that episode didn't air, the guilty verdict had already been rendered.
And so between the, you know, guilt or innocence phase and the punishment phase, Andrea's attorneys raised a motion for a mistrial, saying that, hey, this is information was false. Judge Hill denied it.
And we went into the punishment phase and they gave Andrea life in prison, which was really the least punishment that the jury could give her because the district attorney had chosen to seek capital murder -- well, he sought capital murder charges against her, which if the jury found her guilty, the minimum sentence was life in prison.
KING: Did Andrea tell you she hasn't seen such a show?
YATES: No, not at that time. No. It was just...
KING: But you had not seen it?
YATES: I'd not seen it, and it sounded kind of suspicious to me.
KING: Did the show ever air?
YATES: No, not up until that time.
KING: Did it air later?
YATES: Not to my knowledge, no. I don't watch the show anymore. But you know, he -- what was interesting about his testimony is he really fabricated the whole thing, because Mr. Parnham asked him, so you're a consultant on "Law and...
KING: Your lawyer?
YATES: Yes, Andrea's lawyer, Mr. Parnham, said, "Hey, are you a consultant on 'Law & Order'?"
He said, "Yes, as a matter of fact," and then he went into this long thing about how he consulted on an episode of "Law & Order" where a woman became -- you know, had drowned her children and claimed she was psychotic and got off on the insanity defense, you know.
And there was no such show. He made it all up.
And then the state used it to discredit one of the defense witnesses, Dr. Lucy Puryear, and the prosecutor used it in closing arguments to give Andrea some, you know, sort of said, Andrea had some premeditated plan. It was the only evidence presented that would indicate she had thought about this previously.
KING: One wonders how Dr. Dietz feels tonight.
YATES: I can't speak for him.
Do you sense also, beyond the legal, that this court had some compassion for Andrea?
YATES: I think that could be the case. I think this is a case in which, you know, there are a lot of good points the appeal made. I think this is a really good case, you know. The court's been under fire, you know, for always siding with the state. Here's a good case. You've got a real simple thing. Someone lied. People understand that.
There are a lot of other good points of appeal, like, for example, the jury -- in Texas law, the jury's not allowed to know what happens to the defendant if she's found not guilty by reason of insanity. So most of jurors just think, well, she'll just walk out of there. And that's not at all the case.
KING: They're not allowed to be told that she goes...
YATES: By law, they're not allowed to be told the law. That's the law in Texas. So...
KING: The law is they're not told the law?
YATES: Exactly. That's exactly right. So that was another point of appeal. There are other points of appeal like that where -- and I think this, you know, saved them from having to, you know, address those points of appeal. This is a very simple thing.
And I think, as you said, I mean, I think that, generally, people are more -- have a better feeling toward Andrea. You know, she's sort of the poster child for postpartum psychosis.
And even within the prison that she's in, I mean, the guards and all have gotten to know her and see what a great person she is, and they've also seen her sick. And they, you know, they've got a lot more sympathy.
KING: By the way, George Parnham, the attorney, George Parnham said today, he's not going to ask for her release now. He said she's in the very best possible place, all things considered, under these circumstances. Do you agree?
YATES: I wouldn't say she's in the best place. I think she needs to be in a state mental hospital until she's well. So you know, it's a prison setting.
And it's not a -- it's not a -- you know, they had an article in there that she's gardening and doing all these other things. And mostly, she's sitting in her cell and mopping floors. You know, that's -- and she's alone. She's very alone and isolated from everyone who cares about her. So...
KING: Rusty, by the way, is a project manager at the Johnson Space Center. We'll come back and we'll also include some phone calls. Kobe Bryant at the bottom of the hour. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cause number 880205. The state of Texas versus Andrea Pia Yates. We the jury find the defendant, Andrea Pia Yates, guilty of capital murder as charged in the indictment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did mention earlier that Satan was within you. Do you recall that?
ANDREA YATES, MURDER CONVICTION OVERTURNED: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And explain how that would work. So if he were punished, what would happen? How would you be punished?
A. YATES: By it being executed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So if you took your children's lives, you felt you were doing what was right for them, but you did know that it might result in your own execution and was that a good thing or a bad thing for you to be executed?
A. YATES: Probably a good thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would that be a good thing for you to be executed?
A. YATES: Because I'm not righteous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you're not righteous?
KING: We're with Rusty Yates. Her appeal, her conviction, won that appeal today, reversed because of false testimony.
I understand that in July of 2004, July of this year, around the third anniversary of the drowning of your kids, she'd almost lost 30 pounds, suffering from severe depression, had to go to the hospital?
YATES: Not that money pounds but did she lose a lot of weight. She dropped -- you know, for her, she's pretty thin anyway and she dropped a lot of weight.
She -- I came and visited her in the hospital -- I'm sorry, in the prison and she has bent over and she was just shaking uncontrollably. She was really getting toxic, I think, on lithium and relapsing. And they brought her to Galveston, really, for her physical health. I mean, she'd lost so much weight, they had to put an I.V. in her and took a week to get her back on her feet.
KING: Is she on medication?
YATES: Yes. She's...
KING: Is it true that every time she makes any progress toward some recovery and gains more acute understanding, she goes into a tailspin?
YATES: She's relapsed three or four times since she's been in prison. And I can't say that each time was necessarily associated with, you know, some traumatic event or some, you know, recollection of what she's done. That's a general stress in her life now.
I think most of the relapses to date have been due to changes of medication, you know, taking her off Halidol, increasing her dose of antidepressants. She relapses. Put her back on Halidol. It's kind of a cycle.
They really -- she's really doing pretty well right now. She was a little flat last time I visited her. But on the whole, they haven't got the right combinations of medicines for her yet.
KING: You divorced her?
YATES: I filed for divorce yes, in July.
YATES: It's a combination of things. I think the primary reason is that, although I forgive her for what she's done, in many respects have never blamed her, she has hurt me, you know, tremendously through her actions. And it's a kind of a place I can't go back to. It's not really a logical you know, thought.
KING: Couldn't live with her again if she were out?
YATES: It's -- there's too much pain. She's just caused me too much pain through her actions. And even though I understand it, even though I want the best for Andrea, eventually, I'd like her to be free.
You know, once she's stable for, you know, a few years, they've got the right combinations of medicine, you know, good counseling, you know, she's -- and she's ready to reenter society, I'd like to see her reenter society. But you know, I can't have the relationship with her I had before because of the pain.
KING: Does she understand that?
KING: Are you going on with your life? Are you dating? Are you...
YATES: Starting to. A little.
KING: Is that hard?
YATES: It's pretty good, really. I mean, you know, it's been a long time, you know. So...
KING: Do you have pictures of the kids around the house? To lose them that young, five?
YATES: I do have some pictures, yes. And it took me a long time -- in fact, I put the web site up for that reason, you know, because I had a lot of pictures hanging in the house. You know, my YatesKids.org web site.
I had a lot of pictures hanging up in the house. And it was really hard early on for me to see them every day, because you know, when you're working through a loss like that, it's the memories, really, that are painful. And you have to work through every memory, but can't get too much at once or it's too overwhelming.
So I had to take the pictures down. I put the pictures on the web site so I could visit them when -- at my leisure and when I was ready. And now, I've gotten to the point where I've got some of their pictures back up in my apartment.
KING: Do you think you would marry again, have children?
KING: Maybe not?
YATES: I would definitely like to be married again one day. As far as having children, just if I have an opportunity. You know, if not, not. I think I could be happy either way.
But children, I love children. They bring me a lot of joy. But you know, I'm getting older too. So it just depends on how I want to spend the balance of my life, you know.
KING: Do you think we know more about postpartum depression with all of this?
YATES: I really do.
KING: I mean, it would be hard to fathom that this was a planned criminal act.
YATES: Right. And you can see other similar cases that have occurred since that time. And I think all, you know, even in Texas, we've had some not guilty by reason of insanity verdicts in similar cases which really had much less, you know, supporting evidence than Andrea had, you know, in terms of supporting the fact that she was insane. I think the fact that we've really steadfastly supported Andrea through all this has made a big difference, you know, in terms of, you know, raising public awareness of the illness.
KING: What do you want to have happen? Do you want her to go to a mental institution?
YATES: I'd like to see her -- I'd like to see them drop the charges against her, and I'd like to see her go to a state mental hospital until she is well. And safe. And that could take you know, awhile. I mean, she's still not stable.
So I'd say stable, safe, you know, stable medically and also has worked through all of her trauma with the counselor. Maybe you know, a few years. You know, maybe get some daytime out.
You know, last time my mom visited, my mom was so nice. You know, my mom visited Andrea with me, and she said, at the end, she cried and said if we could just take her out to lunch, you know.
And I thought that was just so profound, because people can't appreciate the fact that Andrea's just stuck in, you know, cinder block walls and bars all day, every day. You know, there is no eating out. There are no movies. There's no nothing. You know.
KING: We'll take a break and come back, take a few phone calls for Rusty Yates and then Kobe Bryant. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did she seem happy, sad, indifferent? What?
GEORGE PARNHAM, LEAD DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR ANDREA YATES: Obviously, not being present, I can't really describe her visual reaction. But she -- she was -- she was surprised and not unpleased.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were you trying to accomplish then when you did take your children's lives?
A. YATES: They'd be in their innocent years. God would take them up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They'd be in their innocent years and God would take them up?
A. YATES: To be in heaven with him, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God would take them up to be in heaven, is that what you mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. And if you had not taken their lives, what did you think would happen to them?
YATES: They would have continued stumbling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And where would they end up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In hell?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Dr. Dietz, the subject of the matter that caused this to be overturned, has made a -- issued a press release today.
First, we have a letter that he wrote March 14 to the prosecutors and he says, "My memory about the content of the show was incorrect. I was confounding the facts of three cases I worked on: Susan Smith, Amy Grossberg and Melissa Drexler and two episodes of 'Law & Order' that were based on those cases."
Then in his press release today, he says, "In short, I made an honest mistake and took immediate action to correct it."
Why didn't the prosecutors do something with that immediate action?
YATES: With the -- well, that immediate action occurred after Park Dietz was, you know, I mean, it was discovered that no such episode ever existed.
KING: Yes, but why didn't the prosecutors then reexamine their case?
YATES: Well, the problem was that that didn't come to light until the guilty verdict had already been rendered. So -- so this letter came out after the guilty verdict had been rendered. So the damage was done. And then there's the motion for mistrial, which was denied. Then we went into the sentencing phase. So...
KING: So when he says today, "I made an honest mistake and took immediate action," do you buy that?
YATES: No. I mean, I think that he -- it's way too convenient, you know, to come up with a case that is, you know, exactly, you know, resembles the -- ours.
And I mean, here's a man who makes his living testifying about the facts of other people's lives, you know. And actually boasts about how he's, like, the holder of all truth, you know, in the trial. And here he doesn't even know the facts about his own life, you know. I don't believe it. KING: Let's take a call for Rusty Yates. Astabulah (ph), Ohio, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry, how are you?
KING: Fine. What's the question?
CALLER: Mr. Yates, I know that you are a religious person. And what I was wondering, do you believe that people can be tormented by Satan just like Eve was and how even Satan tried to tempt Jesus? And...
KING: Do you think there's Satanic involvement here?
YATES: That's an interesting question. You know, just from a religious standpoint you know, I mean, the Bible says that the devil, you know, runs about like a lion seeking someone to devour, you know, that he robs and kills and destroys. And that's exactly the way I felt after the first day.
So symptomatically, I'd say yes. I'd say the house seemed dark. I'd say, you know, symptomatically, it was there. But, you know, obviously, there are, you know, a lot of physical factors involved, too, in terms of Andrea's mental illness.
KING: What do you think is going to happy, Rusty? What does your gut tell you? Do you think they'll try to take it criminal again? What do you think they'll do?
YATES: I don't really know. You know, I've almost stopped trying to guess what the state's going to do in this. I mean, in every case, in ever instance up until this time, they've done -- they've treated her like a, you know, serial killer. I mean, it's just, you know -- and, you know, my feeling all along has been it was a big waste of the taxpayers' money to ever even prosecute her.
So I'm hoping what they do is just drop the charges against her. That would be -- at least, even though we've suffered a lot of damage. You know, my -- Andrea and I alone have lost $110,000 in legal expenses. Andrea's family, maybe $60,000. A lot of money is just wasted. A million taxpayer dollars are wasted.
And here, you know, they have a chance to just set us back to square one and say drop the charges, send her to a hospital where she belongs.
And -- and not to mention the suffering. I mean, you have no idea how -- how traumatic it is to go through a trial like this. And for Andrea, the single cruelest thing I've ever seen is having them set Andrea down in a courtroom in front of all these people, show pictures of our children's bodies, and point their finger at her. That's the cruelest thing I've ever seen.
And I don't think any of us want to go through that again. I know our family doesn't want to go through that again. And I don't think the state does either. So I'm not sure what they're going to do.
KING: You're hopeful though?
YATES: I'm hopeful that, you know, she's...
KING: Thank you, Rusty. Happy New Year.
YATES: Thank you.
KING: Congratulations. Some small bit of redemption today.
YATES: Good for Andrea, yes.
KING: Rusty Yates, the husband of Andrea Yates, that ruling of criminal conviction reversed today unanimously by the Texas First Court of Appeals.
We'll take a break. And when we come back, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers is next. Don't go away.
KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE. And this portion of the program was taped earlier today at the Lakers training center in El Segundo with the great Kobe Bryant, on of the great basketball players ever. He is currently the second leading scorer in the NBA, just 2 ticks behind Alan Iverson with 28.6, I think, to 28.4.
He's joining other basketball stars in a shoot-a-than to raise funds for UNICEF and tsunami relief.
This was the concept of your agent's?
KOBE BRYANT, L.A. LAKERS: Yes, SFX.
KING: How's it work?
BRYANT: Well, we'll donate $1,000 for every point that we score, you know, in an attempt to give back and try to help as much as we can.
KING: So the agency came to you and its other players?
BRYANT: Yeah. And they said, you know, we have this concept. You know, Jermaine O'Neal is taking part in it. Tracy McGrady is taking part in it. And I said, oh, I would love to take a part in that. Then when you sit back and you watch what's going on over there on the news and everything, you feel obligated to do something, to do something to help out any way that you can, and this is the way that we can do it.
KING: So tomorrow night when you play Houston, for every point you score -- in other words, if you hit your average, you would be donating about $28,000.
BRYANT: That's correct. KING: Just for one game?
BRYANT: Yes, sir.
KING: Do you think the league should do something?
BRYANT: You know what, it's our hope that by spreading out the word, spreading out the message other athletes will jump on board and do it. Not only athletes, entertainers, but just people as a whole. So you know, going to the grocery store or whatever it is, if somebody can donate a $1, $2, 50 cents, or whatever it is. I mean, we're talking about if masses of people donate $1, $2, I mean, that goes a long way, that makes a huge difference.
KING: Is it going to affect your game tomorrow, do you think? You know what's happening?
BRYANT: There's a greater good involved here. It's really...
BRYANT: It's going to be difficult to not let that affect it. But at the same time, you know, we're professionals. And we're just going to go out there and we're going to do our best for his team to win, and we're going to try to help out team win. And during the process, the greater good is going to come out of it.
KING: What do you think when tragedies occur? Are you thinking, does it question your faith?
BRYANT: No, it doesn't question my faith.
KING: It doesn't?
BRYANT: No, not at all. It strengthens it.
No, we're all God's children. You know, God has a bigger plan for all of us. Has a bigger plan that we can't understand, we can't begin to understand. But it's important to have that faith and to believe. And in difficult times, they say like there's no light, you know, those are the toughest times to have faith, but God will bring you through anything.
KING: Does it make your own adversity seem small?
BRYANT: Oh, absolutely.
KING: It dwarfs it, right?
BRYANT: Absolutely. You know, we all have crosses to bear. We all have crosses to bear. And you know, the cross that you are blessed to carry, may feel like a huge burden to you, but there's somebody out there who has a cross five times bigger than yours...
KING: You're not kidding. BRYANT: ...that's carrying that cross. And then there's another person who has a cross bigger than his. And so we're all blessed in our own way, to be able to just wake up in the morning and to be able to receive the Lord's blessing, and to carry that cross and carry that burden, because it's a blessing, and that's how it should be looked. Because in the process of going through adversity, you're learning something. It brings you closer to God.
KING: I know we're not going to talk about any of your -- you got things to settle and stuff, and hope one day we can sit down and have a real nice, long conversation about your extraordinary career and your life.
How's your wife? How's everything going?
BRYANT: Man, we're doing great, going great. You know, we had a good Christmas. My daughter, she -- she just loves opening gifts.
KING: How old is she?
BRYANT: She'll be 2 next month. She just likes unwrapping them, you know what I mean? It's not really like the gift that's in it, she just really likes unwrapping them. Then she opened one and saw Elmo, and she didn't want to open anything else after that.
KING: And everything is OK at home?
KING: That's difficult, though, to go through that kind of adversity.
BRYANT: It sure is difficult. But you know what, like I said, God brings you through the toughest of times. You know. He brings you through.
KING: Your faith sustains you.
BRYANT: My faith carries me. Carried us. You know, we've seen days where it was tough to walk, but you have have, it will bring you through. And so when I see something that takes place like the tsunami, I just say a prayer for them. I pray for them. I pray that they stay strong.
KING: What is it like to be the acknowledged leader of the team that you play on? In other words, you're the guy who wants the ball with five seconds left losing by one.
KING: A lot of players don't. A lot of ball players, baseball players that told me, ninth inning, World Series, don't hit the ball to me. Other players, hit the ball to me. What is that like? Have you always been that way?
BRYANT: I have. I can't remember a day where I ever shied away from it, that type of pressure.
BRYANT: I love it. I love it. It's the way I grew up.
KING: Having a father who played, did that affect it?
BRYANT: I think it helped. I mean, it drove me a lot more. Having a father that played, and a father who always challenged me to become a better basketball player than him. But ultimately, what helped me to become a good basketball player is just the love that I received from my family.
KING: But you like challenge, you like being, where the say the pressure is on you?
BRYANT: Oh, yeah.
KING: You enjoy that?
BRYANT: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, you know, life is about challenges. You know, it's about rising. You're not going to succeed every time. Sometimes you fall flat on your face.
But it's important to stand up. You might get knocked down, people might trample you, might walk all over you, but you know, stand up, brush it off, keep going.
KING: Are you able to put -- great athletes have told me that they're able to put the last game, the last pass, the last instance behind them? Because you can miss eight shots in a row. It will not affect your night.
KING: Is that true?
BRYANT: Yes, it is. It is. You know, the funny thing is, the game is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) games where before that game went (UNINTELLIGIBLE), two for 15, you know, something 8 for 25. But when it comes to that last shot and you make it. It's just something, you know, some reason, that's just how the cards tend to play out.
KING: Would you recommend to a young, gifted high school player to do as you did, come out and go right to pro early?
BRYANT: You know, I can't really say that there is...
KING: You ever regret having done it? You ever regret having not gone to college?
BRYANT: I can't say that I have. The decision that I made, I feel, was right for me. You know, LeBron's situation was right for him. You know, so forth and so on. And you have plenty of players who go to college, come out and stay four years and come to the NBA and don't have successful careers. You have high school players who come out high school who don't have successful players. The majority at this point have been pretty successful. But I can't recommend to a player to make the jump.
KING: Do you think there's anything you missed in making the jump? You would have gone to Duke, right?
BRYANT: Yes. Yes. I'd have been a Blue Devil.
KING: You think you missed college life?
BRYANT: Yeah, I'm sure I did. I really don't know what I missed. I just talked to friends who are going to college. Richard Hamilton, a dear friend of mine, he went on to UConn, had a great time there. Won a National Championship. And he and I talked about that, but I felt like my situation is the best thing to do.
KING: What was the hardest part about being 18 and playing in the league with adults?
BRYANT: Well, I feel the team chemistry was the hardest thing, for me, anyway. Now, it's a different era. Teams are substantially younger than they were. So you have teams now with guys who are 27, 25, 26. Whereas back then, when I came to the NBA, it was 29, 30, 31, 32. And I was 17, 17, 18, so I didn't have anything in common with the guys, there was not much to talk about. So it was a little difficult
KING: But you adjusted quickly -- well, fairly quickly, right?
BRYANT: Yeah, I adjusted very well. I did have great mentors. Eddie Jones, who plays for Miami now, is a mentor of mine. Byron Scott, coach down in New Orleans now was a mentor of mine. And they helped me through it.
KING: Are you glad you stayed with the Lakers?
BRYANT: Yes, I am. It was a dream of mine to play for the Lakers. Ever since I was a little kid, I had pictures in the house when I was, you know, 6, 7, 8...
BRYANT: I grew up in Italy. Back then, basketball wasn't as global as it is today.
BRYANT: Only games we saw were the Celtics and the Lakers. And I was a huge Magic fan. So, I had Magic's jerseys, I had the Lakers practice jersey, I had the whole gear. And here I am now, playing for them.
KING: Glad you played high school in Philly?
BRYANT: I love Philadelphia. KING: You do?
BRYANT: I love Philadelphia, absolutely.
KING: They give visiting teams a rough time, though.
BRYANT: But that's what good about them.
You know, growing up there, it toughens you up. So, when it comes time to compete, you know, you competing to win. You know what I'm talking about, it's a different mentality. And I grew up with that type of mentality.
KING: It's more eastern.
BRYANT: Yeah. It's a little grimier.
KING: So whatever you score tomorrow night, you match and it goes to tsunami relief. Congratulations, Kobe.
BRYANT: Thank you.
KING: Kobe Bryant on Larry King. We'll be right back with Richard Branson. Don't go away.
KING: More on the tsunami story now. Joining us in Denver, Colorado Morgan Browning. His girlfriend, Nicole Weissberg is missing in the aftermath of tsunami. In Santa Cruz, California is Carmen King. Her father, Brian King, was killed by the tsunami. His body was recovered and tagged and has now been lost. Let's start with Morgan. Were you and Nicole both there? Was she there alone, Morgan?
MORGAN BROWNING, GIRLFRIEND NICOLE WEISSBERG MISSING IN THAILAND: She was there alone. I was actually on a flight when the tsunami hit, to go meet her in Phuket on the 27th.
KING: What happened after you landed?
BROWNING: Well, I waited and tried to meet her, but when she didn't show up, I immediately started searching the hospitals around Phuket for about three days, then went up to Bangkok and searched at those hospitals as well.
KING: Never found the body?
BROWNING: Never have. We're still looking now.
KING: Do you know where she was when it hit?
BROWNING: Unfortunately, she was in Khao Lak which was devastated by the tsunami.
KING: How are you handling all this, Morgan? BROWNING: It's difficult. And it, it comes in waves. But we have great hope that she's still alive. She's extremely strong and I believe she's still out there.
KING: You intend to get married?
BROWNING: Well, we were very, very close. Yes.
KING: Carmen, your father Brian, what was he doing there?
CARMEN KING, FATHER BRIAN KING KILLED IN TSUNAMI: He was scuba diving and had plans to travel other parts of the country, other parts of the region.
KING: Is it true that he survived the 1964 tsunami and earthquake, where was that, Alaska?
C. KING: That was in Alaska. Yes, he did.
KING: He survived that?
C. KING: He did.
KING: How did you hear about what happened to him?
C. KING: We found out on the 26th, luckily, he was in an area where he had a friend who had a special interest in looking for him after the tsunami and was able to find his body.
KING: Now, they found the body. Did you go over there?
C. KING: No, we didn't.
KING: So what happened? They found it and lost -- explain.
C. KING: His body was found and his remains were identified and then later misplaced in the aftermath in the confusion of the tsunami. He was placed somewhere in a designated area in a designated spot, and then misplaced in the confusion.
C. KING: Yes.
KING: How do you feel about that? Are you bitter?
C. KING: No, I don't think it's anyone's fault and it's not so important to us that we get the body as much as we need the death certificate. And under normal Thai law, it could take up to two years to receive documentation without proof of the body. We just can't wait that long.
KING: Why is that so important to you, Carmen?
C. KING: There's technical reasons, technicalities when somebody passes. KING: In regard to the will and the like?
C. KING: Yes.
KING: Were you very close?
C. KING: Very close. We're from Alaska. We've worked on a fishing boat all of our lives together. So we have a very close family. We have a lot of special memories because of that.
KING: Was he an adventurer?
C. KING: Absolutely. This trip was very characteristic of his personality.
KING: He liked to take risks?
C. KING: I wouldn't say risks as much as I would say travel and adventure, new things, scuba diving.
KING: Morgan, why did your girlfriend go there?
BROWNING: Same reason. She was incredibly adventurous. She loved to travel and experience new things. And this was part of that experience.
KING: You say you still have hope. That hope is based on what, Morgan?
BROWNING: Just knowing her. Knowing the incredible person that she is, and knowing that she is not -- has not turned up dead yet. Until that, I will continue to have hope.
KING: Carmen, you face the possibility that the body may never be relocated, right?
C. KING: Yes.
KING: How are you coping with all this, Carmen?
C. KING: Well, putting my thoughts elsewhere, actually. I'd like to remind your viewers that the Red Cross is currently accepting donations. They have local departments in every state in the country. You can also visit the Red Cross at RedCross.org. It's an easy way to participate in the relief fund and get help to those who need it overseas.
KING: So you're being helped by helping others?
C. KING: That makes me feel a little bit better.
KING: And you keep your hopes up, Morgan. Thank you both very much. This is very difficult times.
Morgan Browning in Denver, Carmen King in Santa Cruz. People who want to donate to help tsunami victims, the Red Cross one of the possibilities. You can go to www.USAfreedomcorps.gov. That's all one word. The website gives you contact information, long list of reputable charities and relief organizations. They're glad to accept any contribution you're able to make. This concept was introduced last Monday. Appearing on this program that night were former presidents Bush and Clinton. We'll repeat that interview on Saturday night.
When we come back, we'll meet Sir Richard Branson in London, the founder and chairman of the Virgin Group. Christiane Amanpour, our CNN chief international correspondent and Matthew Chance, CNN correspondent in Phuket, Thailand. All next. Don't go away.
KING: Matthew Chance is our CNN correspondent in Phuket, Thailand. He's done outstanding reporting since this catastrophe began. In Sri Lanka is Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent, one of the best if not the best in the business. She's going to host a special at the top of the hour. First, we'll start in London with Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of the Virgin Group. Virgin is doing dedicated aid flights in cooperation with Oxfam. How does it work, Sir Richard?
RICHARD BRANSON, CHAIRMAN, VIRGIN GROUP: Well, we're fortunate to have three airlines around the world. And we've set aside a small team of people so that when there are crisis situations in the world, we can react quickly. And straight after the disaster struck, we managed to get the first flight to Sri Lanka. And we've sent flights into the Maldives and India. And we've obviously got a great team of people who can move quickly.
KING: Do you have -- are you going -- is it you're running this like shuttles?
BRANSON: We're really just sending as much goods as Oxfam needs us to send. Obviously, sending water by air is not cost-effective, but, for instance, in Sri Lanka, where we sent a 747 today, they just desperately need fresh water. So, you know, sometimes it's necessary. And so we basically told the agencies that our planes are available when they need them.
KING: And you're also promoting donations on all your flights, right?
BRANSON: Yes. I mean, you know, we're doing, I suspect, what, fortunately, millions around the world are doing. And we're using our various businesses to, you know, to promote and raise money in as many different ways as possible. And I think, you know, that, you know, business people around the world, and, you know, some, you know, some become extremely wealthy -- capitalism is the only method that works. But it's extremely important that those people that are in a position to help do help.
KING: Sir Branson has given 50,000 pounds of his own money to disaster emergency committee. What is the latest, Christiane, from Sri Lanka? AMANPOUR: Well, just listening to Richard Branson talk there just reminds me of the outpouring of private generosity that just really helped not just here in Sri Lanka but all over this affected area. You can't help but read all the time about businessmen, whether it be from Hong Kong, China, Japan, Australia, entertainers, sportsmen. Here in Sri Lanka, for instance, cricketers are big stars, and they're going out and hand delivering aid to some of the worst affected areas. And this is really something they're all doing as a community. They've all been moved to do whatever they can to help.
So that's quite -- that's quite an incredible thing. The death toll here stands at 30,000, a little bit over that, if you take just the government held areas. But then the government says that with the rebel-held areas, the Tamil-held areas, the death toll goes up to 46,000. That's the second hardest hit place, after Indonesia, which took the brunt of the earthquake obviously, on Boxing Day. But this little country, 700 kilometers of its coastline, 80 percent of its main industry, which is fishing, has basically been destroyed, and they have got a lot of work to do to get life back in order again. Not to mention the desperate loss of life.
KING: And at the top of the hour, in about six minutes, you're going to co-host a special on the children of tsunami. Since you're a mother yourself now, has this hit you with more impact?
AMANPOUR: Well, absolutely. And CNN decided, and I think rightly, to do a special that did focus on the youngest victims. And the children, you know, the first thing I met when I got off the plane to start working here, first story I did was of a young 7-year-old boy who had lost his parents, his siblings in a train crash. It was the worst wreck of this west coast of Sri Lanka. And you know, he's so young. He's so stunned. He can barely grieve. And there is so much that needs to be done for these children. Not just in helping them out, but also now in protecting them from bad gangs who are preying on them, you know, people are now very worried about sexual predators, exploitation, abuse. And all the governments in these affected areas have now cracked down. They want all their children registered. They don't want adoptions right now until they're ready to do it properly and formally. It's a big worry.
KING: Christiane Amanpour, who will host that, along with many other correspondents at the top of the hour, a special on the children of the tsunami.
What, Matthew Chance, is the latest from Phuket?
CHANCE: Well, Larry, in terms of the aid effort, the emergency aid effort, it's a very different situation here in Thailand than it is in Sri Lanka and of course elsewhere in the tsunami-affected areas. The Thai government has issues like food supplies, like shelter, like water very much in hand, and has made it quite clear that what it does need from the international community are expertise and equipment to assist in the reconstruction effort. And things like forensic teams. And there have been forensic teams and police come in from at least 25 countries from around the world here to Thailand, just to take part in the very long and difficult process of identifying all the dead bodies from the various different countries here.
The casualty figures as they stand here in Sri Lanka -- sorry, here in Thailand -- are 5,200 or more people confirmed dead. About the same number are still missing. So it is an enormous catastrophe to strike this holiday paradise area, where so many people from around the world were spending their vacations over the Christmas period. And it's because of that unique situation, with so many people from so many different countries, that the problems are so distinctive and so unique here, that they have to focus their efforts not so much on the emergency relief, as I say, but on identifying those people and getting their bodies back to their loved ones, Larry.
KING: And Matthew, are tourists back? Are there many tourists there?
CHANCE: There are still tourists here. But as you can imagine, it's nowhere near the same levels that this part of Thailand expects at this time of the year. This is the peak season. I suppose to some people involved in the tourist industry, bar owners, hotel owners, and things like that, they are saying that they reckon it's about 70 percent less tourists here now than they would expect at this time of year, normally.
We've spoken to some tourists as well. And it's interesting, because it's surprising, I know, to many of us that tourists would -- any tourists at all would come here, given the scale of the disaster. They're saying they're coming back simply because they want to give Thailand their support, Larry.
KING: Thank you. Matthew Chance in Phuket, Christiane Amanpour in Beruwala, Sri Lanka. Stay tuned for her special at the top of the hour. And the always welcome Sir Richard Branson, the founder and chairman of the Virgin Group.
Two notes before we leave you. Our condolences to Nelson Mandela. His only surviving son, Makgatho, has died of AIDS at age 54. Nelson Mandela remains one of the world's strongest campaigners against that terrible disease.
And heartfelt congratulations to former President George Bush and his wonderful wife, Barbara. Married 60 years ago today. This, therefore, is their diamond anniversary. Best wishes to a great couple. May the honeymoon continue.
Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned for a special. Good night.
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