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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Irish Sisters Fight for Justice for Murdered Brother; Bidding Good-Bye to a Colorful Juror

Aired March 16, 2005 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Welcome. Thank you for joining us tonight.
Tonight, our two big stories, an astounding end to the Robert Blake murder trial and fighting back when justice comes under attack.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Guardians of the courtroom, tough and getting tougher. Our Rick Sanchez looks at the latest in self-defense and security technology.

And surprise and shock in L.A., actor Robert Blake not guilty.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And that's where we begin tonight, 71-year-old actor Robert Blake cleared of murder charges, a stunning verdict in a case that has gone on for nearly four years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Superior Court of the State of California.

ZAHN (voice-over): Few people guessed that Robert Blake's trial would end this dramatically or with this verdict.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury in the above-entitled action find the defendant, Robert Blake, not guilty of the crime of first- degree murder of Bonny Lee Bakley, in violation of Penal Code Section 187, Subsection A, as charged in count one of the information.

ZAHN: Blake was accused of personally shooting his wife, 44- year-old Bonny Lee Bakley, on May 4, 2001, as she sat in their car, after the couple had eaten at a restaurant in the Los Angeles suburb of Studio City. Blake's alibi is that he had left the car to go back into the restaurant to retrieve his gun that he had left inside.

He married Bakley in November of 2000, after she became pregnant with his child. Prosecutors argue that Blake actually hated her, had killed Bakley himself after trying to hire a couple of hitmen. The defense labeled the alleged hitmen as liars and, in an echo of the O.J. Simpson case, said the L.A. police rushed to judgment and arrested Blake even though there was no physical evidence that tied him to the crime.

At a news conference after the verdict, jurors made it clear they didn't buy the prosecution's story.

THOMAS NICHOLSON, JURY FOREMAN: Basically, it was -- they could never connect all the links in the chain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just didn't have enough evidence to say whether or not he did or if he didn't.

ZAHN: Blake himself made this dramatic statement to the cameras.

ROBERT BLAKE, ACQUITTED OF MURDER CHARGES: In the past four or five years, all of you have interviewed a great many people. You've interviewed my friends. You've interviewed producers that worked for me. You've interviewed distant relatives and close, immediate relatives. You've interviewed, "Hey, I lived in his house. I know him inside out." Well, guess what? They're all liars. And about half of them are commode scum who were out to hustle you to make a buck over my hopefully dead ass. Well, they missed their bet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Not mincing any words there.

Joining me here in New York, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, a former prosecutor himself.

Were you surprised by this verdict?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Shocked. Astounded.

ZAHN: All right. Does that mean you think he got away with murder?

TOOBIN: That's what I think. Jury has spoken, end of the story. But I sure think he was guilty.

ZAHN: Tell me why. We had heard from the defense that the prosecution wasn't successful in putting the gun in Robert Blake's hand. True?

TOOBIN: This is a guy who hated his wife. There was no doubt he hated his wife. He is the last person to see her alive in that car. He is the first person to discover her dead. He has gun residue on his hands. He -- there's pretty darn good evidence that he asked other people to kill her. I mean, yes, it was a circumstantial case, but our prisons are full of people convicted on circumstantial evidence. This one, it wasn't good enough.

ZAHN: So, why do you think the jury didn't buy much of anything that the prosecution had to say?

TOOBIN: I think two things.

One is, you had one of the world's most distasteful victims. She was really an awful person. I don't think there was any doubt about that. She tricked him into the pregnancy. She had this sleazy business of enticing men over the Internet to send her money for dirty pictures. That's one big problem.

ZAHN: And some of those men could have gotten pretty angry. There might have been a motive to hurt her.

TOOBIN: There might have been. There was absolutely no evidence that any of those people were anywhere near the scene of the murder, but, sure, it was possible.

And the other big problem is that the two men he solicited, allegedly, to kill his wife were terrible sleazes as well -- drug addicts, proven liars, difficult witnesses for the prosecution.

ZAHN: Well, it was clear from our introduction, when we saw Robert Blake come out after the verdict, when he was calling certain folks commode scum, that he had become unplugged. We want to share with our audience now more of his reaction shortly after that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAKE: I'm going to get a job. I'm broke. Right now, I couldn't buy spats for a hummingbird. What did Johnny Carson say? You're innocent until proven broke. Well, by the time Gerry and these troops got here, it was the bottom of the barrel. I was a rich man. I'm broke now. I got to go to work.

But before that, I'm going to go out and do a little cowboying. Do you know what that is? No, you don't know what that is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

BLAKE: Cowboying is when you get in a motor home or a van or something like that, and you just let the air blow in your hair, and you wind up in some little bar in Arizona someplace, and you shoot one-handed nine ball with some 90-year-old Portuguese woman that beats the hell out of you. And the next day, you wind up in a park someplace playing chess with somebody. You go see a high school play where they're doing "West Side Story." And you just roam around and get some revitalization, that there are human beings in the world, that there are people living their lives that have no agenda, that have no agenda.

I've been involved in a world where, you know, the mafia is saying the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Well, in this world that I've been in, it's very much that way. People drift from one side to the other in five minutes, and you never know where you are or who's on your side or who's not on your side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOOBIN: Meanwhile, back on planet Earth.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: What was that? I have no idea what he was talking about. (CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: He sounded like he was reliving moviedom there.

TOOBIN: He's very relieved. He's very relieved. He's sort of stream of consciousness monologue. But, you know, he's just a little wacky.

ZAHN: So, bottom line, if you felt that this was a man that committed this murder, did the prosecution blow it or did the defense do a fabulous job?

TOOBIN: I think it is clear the defense did a fabulous job. Whether the prosecution blew it, I don't really know. They didn't have the best case in the world, but there are lots of people in prison on less evidence than this.

ZAHN: So, what is the lesson to be learned from this case?

TOOBIN: Well, the lesson...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Particularly because Tom Mesereau, who is now Michael Jackson's attorney, was involved with Robert Blake's case at its very early stages.

TOOBIN: Blake went through a lot of lawyers. And Mesereau did one of the most important things in this case, which was get him out on bail. And there are a couple of things you can learn. It's always worse to try a case years after the crime. Crimes get harder to prove over time. Also, the quality of the victim matters. Legally, it doesn't. In the real world, it does.

ZAHN: So, a distinction between someone like Laci Peterson, who was perceived as the all-American girl, and Bonny Lee Bakley, who was not?

TOOBIN: Who is not. Interestingly, in the Jackson case, the real struggle there is, is the victim a real victim or not?

ZAHN: Jeffrey Toobin, thanks.

Robert Blake had been a movie actor from the time he was a child, but it took a role as a cold-blooded killer to make him a star as an adult.

Here's Sharon Collins.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLAKE: Pictures of me. That's me and Donna Reed when I was a little kid. This is cool...

SHARON COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A visit to Robert Blake's house is a walk through Hollywood history. BLAKE: That's Elizabeth Taylor, and that's me. That's Darryl Hickman. And that's the girl I was in love with. I didn't care about Elizabeth Taylor. I was in love with her.

COLLINS: Few in Hollywood can boast of a career as long as Robert Blake's. He's been a working actor for 65 years.

STEPHEN J. CANNELL, PRODUCER: That early training that he got as a child actor was very helpful to his performances, you know. I mean, but he was -- he grew, you know, he grew out of that, grew out of Little Beaver, grew out of those roles and became -- he constantly reinvented himself and became, as an adult, a completely different kind of performer.

COLLINS: In the 1960s, he landed roles playing everything from a G.I. making his way up Pork Chop Hill in the movie of the same name, to one of the 12 Apostles in "The Greatest Story Ever Told."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD")

BLAKE: I've been baptized by John the Baptist. I'm Simon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: In 1967, he got his big break. Blake was chosen to play the part of real-life killer Perry Smith in the film adaptation of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood." His gripping performance brought him rave reviews. The former childhood extra was now a leading man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "IN COLD BLOOD")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I'm glad you don't hate your father any more.

BLAKE: But I do. I hate him and I love him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Starring roles now came his way. "Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here" in 1969, "Electra Glide in Blue" in '73. He was on the A- list.

BLAKE: Dustin Hoffman's doing "The Graduate," I'm doing "Cold Blood," Warren Beatty's doing "Bonny and Clyde." And next thing you know, I'm on television.

COLLINS: Blake moved to the small screen with the series "Baretta." Steve Cannell wrote the pilot episode.

CANNELL: He had been signed by Universal to do a series, and he was being told this was the one he was going to do. And he hated my script, you know, which turned out to be the first of about 90 scripts that he hated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BARETTA")

BLAKE: Don't be dumb, man, I'm the heat. Now, lighten up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Blake seemed tailor-made to play the street-smart cop.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BARETTA")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Get out.

BLAKE: Lady, I know what's...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: That's right. That's my mamma.

BLAKE: I told you to lighten up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANNELL: He ate the film, he was so good. And I was always a little disappointed that Robert didn't see how good the work was that he was doing on "Baretta." But, sometimes, you're blinded by those things.

COLLINS: "Baretta" was on the air for three years. It made Robert Blake a star and earned him an Emmy in 1975. But he always questioned whether he made the right move to switch from films to TV when he did.

BLAKE: Nothing wrong with a series. But you do a series on the way up or on the way down. You don't do a series when you're there.

COLLINS: Following "Baretta," Robert Blake put his celebrity status to work. Throughout the '70s and '80s, Blake was a high- profile supporter of various political causes, including the United Farm Workers' boycott against the grape growers.

BLAKE: Everyone in America one day soon will know that chemicals and pesticides are killing all of us.

COLLINS: It was during this time he met Tim Carpenter, a high school teacher and political activist.

TIM CARPENTER, POLITICAL ACTIVIST: The Robert I knew was the activist who cared a great deal about the issues, who committed himself, as I said earlier, somebody that not only talked the talk but walked the walk.

BLAKE: When I come here and someone says, Gee, we're so thankful that you're here, we really appreciate your support, it's, like, how did this become their problem, when it's my problem? You know, I don't want my grandchildren born deformed.

COLLINS: For Robert Blake, the '80s was a difficult decade on and off the screen. His 20-year marriage to Sondra Kerry, that had produced two children, ended in divorce. Never an easy man to work with even in the best of times, the good roles were quickly drying up. CANNELL: I've had 40 shows on the air, TV series, and I would say that he ranks up there, you know, as one of the most difficult guys to be -- to do a show with.

COLLINS: He finally hit bottom in 1985 after abruptly walking away from a television series called "Helltown."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HELLTOWN")

BLAKE: You don't fight tough. You don't sound tough. And you don't use talk for "Helltown."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLAKE: I fell apart. I mean, without getting real dramatic, it was the end of the road. And I came as close to really just sticking a .357 in my mouth as anybody could come.

COLLINS: The '90s found Robert Blake in a better frame of mind and looking to recapture his lost childhood.

BLAKE: I wanted to be in the Boy Scouts. I wanted a B.B. gun. I wanted a train. I didn't get none of that stuff. So part of my growing up is to go out and get all the stuff I never had, and that's my B.B. gun collection. Those are not regular guns. Those are B.B. guns.

COLLINS: He also resurrected his career, beginning with his starring role in 1993 in the CBS movie "Judgment Day: The John List Story." He portrays a man who murders his wife and children.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JUDGMENT DAY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Give me those damn pills.

BLAKE: Don't swear! I said, don't swear!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: He earned an Emmy nomination for his work in the movie. For Robert Blake, he says performing in front of a camera comes naturally.

BLAKE: The easiest thing I've ever done in my life is acting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: An interesting character, to say the least. That was Sharon Collins reporting.

Once again, actor Robert Blake found not guilty of the murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, in what is widely considered a surprise verdict.

When we come back, disturbing unanswered questions in the Atlanta courthouse rampage. We'll be back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Coming up, troubling unanswered questions about the suspect in the Atlanta courthouse shootings and what he may have been up to next.

Plus, five extraordinary sisters on a quest to bring justice to their brother's killer.

But, first, a shade after a quarter past the hour, time to turn to Erica Hill at Headline News for the hour's other top stories.

Hi, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Paula. Good to see you.

Law enforcement sources tell CNN the person of interest in the case of a missing 9-year-old girl is a convicted sex offender. They say John Evander Couey was last known to be in Savannah, Georgia. Jessica Lunsford was last seen in her bedroom in Florida on February 23.

Meantime, Rilya Wilson's former caregiver is charged with the missing child's murder. Geralyn Graham had said she turned over the 4-year-old to a Florida welfare worker in 2001. The child was not reported missing until April of 2002. But prosecutors say they have enough evidence now to convince them that Wilson was already dead by the time her disappearance was discovered. The child's body, however, has not been found.

A Superior Court judge in California has sentenced Scott Peterson to die by lethal injection. Peterson was convicted of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn child. The judge denied a motion to mitigate Peterson's sentence, calling the deaths -- quote -- "cruel, uncaring, heartless and callous."

A technical glitch aboard the International Space Station could affect May's planned shutting mission. NASA says a circuit break failed, causing one of station's three remaining gyroscopes to shut down. The station is now operating on the bare minimum of gyroscopes needed to keep it steady.

And that's the latest from Headline News -- Paula, back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks, Erica. See you in about a half-hour or so.

And we're going to move on now. After Friday's rampage at the Atlanta courthouse, authorities took a lot of heat for letting a woman deputy guard a taller, more powerful male suspect. Coming up, a behind-the-scenes look at the actual training of those deputies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're not capable of doing this. You say what?

LAUREN POOLE, POLICE TRAINEE: Meet me on the mat.

ED DEL TORO, DEFENSE TACTICS TRAINER: You're going to come up behind and wrap your arm around her throat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Up next, hard training, even harder questions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: In Atlanta today, the funerals were held for some of the victims of last week's courthouse shootings. Four people died before suspect Brian Nichols finally gave up on Saturday. Prosecutors haven't charged him yet in those deaths. They plan to soon. Still, there are many loose ends.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): First question, what happens to Ashley Smith? The young woman is widely seen as a heroine for calming Nichols down and preventing any more killings. She remains in seclusion and could soon be collecting tens of thousands of dollars in reward money.

Published reports say Smith is also getting offers from Christian and Hollywood production companies that want the rights to retell her life story.

Next, a disturbing question: What was Brian Nichols planning? "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" newspaper said authorities found a handwritten list of names in Nichols' jail cell after his escape. The paper says the list includes Judge Barnes' name, as well as friends of a woman Nichols is accused of raping and a former boss who testified against Nichols. Was he planning revenge, or are they simply Nichols' notes from the trial?

And, finally, what about security? There are 40 surveillance cameras throughout the Atlanta courthouse. We know a camera captured Nichols overpowering his lone guard and taking her gun. Yet, no one came to her aid. Why?

CNN has learned that Barnes' secretary pushed a silent alarm button twice, but, again, why didn't authorities respond until it was too late?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, courthouse security is where we turn now. Cynthia Hall, the deputy who was overpowered at the start of the rampage, is 5'1'', 51 years old. And a lot of people are asking tonight whether she should have been left alone to handle the 6-foot tall former college linebacker, Brian Nichols.

Here's Rick Sanchez with a story you'll only see here on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The live lines are always open and toll-free throughout South Florida.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): It's the talk on the radio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want it. It should not be a female job, shouldn't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes no sense, what you're saying. Some women may be small.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it makes perfect sense.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It does not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it does.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: And on the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She shouldn't have been trying to guard the guy that she was guarding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And move.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, yes, sir.

SANCHEZ: Here, though, at one of the nation's largest training facilities for police and jail guards, it's more than talk. In this building, it's a question of life or death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I need you to stand up straight. I need you to walk this way, sir.

SANCHEZ: These recruits, just two weeks from graduation, are being trained and retrained on how to handle a prisoner.

DEL TORO: OK. We're going into handcuffing. Remember, we need to give clear commands to the subject at all times.

SANCHEZ: How to handcuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, sir.

SANCHEZ: How to disarm a suspect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, why are you going to do this, sir? Get back, sir. Get your hands up. Get your hands up.

SANCHEZ: And perhaps, most importantly, what to do if that suspect turns on you.

DEL TORO: What we do also to mitigate the circumstance in which only the largest officer would win, we teach them to work with technique, as opposed to working with strength.

SANCHEZ (on camera): Every correctional officer, you believe, needs to know this technique?

DEL TORO: Oh, absolutely.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): In this class, recruits are taught to overcome what some might see as odds, including size and, yes, gender.

(on camera): To those who say you're a woman, you're not capable of doing this, you say what?

POOLE: Meet me on the mat.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): OK. So we did.

DEL TORO: OK, you're going to come up behind her and wrap your arm around her throat as if though you intended to pull her off balance and attack her.

SANCHEZ (on camera): So, I'm going to come behind her and put her in a choke hold?

DEL TORO: Right.

POOLE: Do it now. Put your...

DEL TORO: Notice the control she's maintaining over here.

SANCHEZ: OK.

DEL TORO: You all right?

(LAUGHTER)

SANCHEZ: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

SANCHEZ: Thank you.

(voice-over): There's something that's also getting applause from law enforcement officials these days. All over the country, courthouses are experimenting and wrestling with new technology, like the shock belt.

DEL TORO: They're growing in popularity and they've worked out very well for us.

SANCHEZ (on camera): Let me tell you what judges tell me when I bring this subject up. They say, I don't want a guy wearing a shock belt in my courtroom because the jury's going to see it, and it's going to prejudice the jury, and they're going to be more apt to find him guilty and then they're come back on an appeal and say, you know what, we got to have this trial all over again. That's what they're saying. (CROSSTALK)

DEL TORO: But you know what, Rick? That's not a valid argument anymore, because technology has made these devices small enough that we can conceal them under your clothing.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Holsters with double or triple latches are also a hot item with police or guards. The idea is to make it more difficult to grab the officer's gun.

DEL TORO: And he doesn't understand the mechanism to take the gun out.

SANCHEZ (on camera): Now, when it comes to technology, many in law enforcement recommend stun guns over real weapons. To show you how it works, I'm about to receive 50,000 volts of electricity.

Do it.

Stop!

(LAUGHTER)

SANCHEZ: Oh, it hurts. It's painful. But no one's dead.

(voice-over): And that is how law enforcement would like these scenarios to end up. In fact, they call it the wave of the future, a future that didn't arrive soon enough for countless officers, including the four who lost their lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: I don't want to act like I'm making light of what Rick just had to say in his piece. I'm just wondering what shape his body is in tonight. He got put through the paces there, didn't he?

Tonight, please join me again at 10:00 p.m. Eastern for a special edition of "NEWSNIGHT." Our focus, "The Purpose Driven Life," the book Ashley Smith said helped her win the trust of Brian Nichols.

And tomorrow night, join me for a "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" special: "A Hero's Journey: Ashley Smith," also at 10:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

Please stay with us, because we're about to be reminded that, no matter who you are, there are times you can't be pushed around.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just takes some people to stand up and say no, we're not having anymore. And that's what we're doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Coming up next, for Saint Patrick's Day, the story of five sisters' courageous quest for justice in the murder of their brother in Ireland.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And welcome back.

Now, how a bar fight, a murder and the victim's five sisters could change the world. They are making a courageous call for justice in a place where witnesses are routinely intimidated. And they're touching hearts everywhere.

Here's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Surrounded by TV crews wherever they go, these are perhaps the most famous sisters in the world right now: Donna, Gemma, Catherine and Claire McCartney. Their daring fight to bring their brother Robert's murderers to justice has made them instant celebrities. Because even as they're snapped by "People" magazine, they know they are pursuing some of the most dangerous people in the world: members of the Irish Republican Army, the IRA.

GEMMA MCCARTNEY, SISTER: We just keep thinking Robert. And then -- and how important it is to get these people to court.

AMANPOUR: And that's what they'll tell President Bush when they meet him at the White House on St. Patrick's Day.

We sat down with the McCartney sisters as they were about to leave Belfast. Even today, nearly two months later, talking of their brother's murder reduces them to tears.

They tell us that witnesses say Robert and his friend Brendan Devine were having a few drinks in this Belfast pub January 30 when a senior IRA man accused them of insulting one of his friends. Claire, Robert's youngest sister, says that she was told he and his friend Brendan Devine apologized and bought them a round of drinks.

CLAIRE MCCARTNEY, ROBERT MCCARTNEY'S SISTER: At which point the senior Republican says, do you know who I am? And Brendan Devine says, I don't care who you are. And then the next minute, there was a bottle broke on Brendan Devine's head. And a bottle stuck in his neck, and his head was yanked back and his throat was cut.

AMANPOUR: That's when all hell broke loose. Witnesses told the sisters that Robert got his bleeding injured friend out of the bar, but a group of men followed them.

C. MCCARTNEY: And at least five or six of them pursued Robert up an alley, beating him with sticks. And...

AMANPOUR: Claire can't finish the story, because it's too hard to talk about what happened next.

Witnesses have told them their brother was beaten and stabbed. And men even jumped on his face.

They left Robert and his friend Brendan for dead in the alley behind the pub. Brendan survived his severe wounds, but Robert died in hospital with his sisters at his battered side.

Besides his sisters, Robert left behind a fiancee and their two young children.

DONNA MCCARTNEY, SISTER: I just can't believe he's gone, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You all right?

AMANPOUR: Now that he's gone, though, the five sisters have gone all out to seek answers. They even met with the IRA Counsel. G. MCCARTNEY: We asked the IRA Council why, what was the reason for killing Robert? And they responded quite promptly there was no reason.

AMANPOUR: There seems to be no doubt the killers were members of the IRA , because afterwards the IRA made the sisters an extraordinary offer.

G. MCCARTNEY: Well, they were prepared to use the old traditional IRA method.

AMANPOUR (on camera): What is that?

G. MCCARTNEY: Execution.

AMANPOUR: They told you that they would execute his killers?

G. MCCARTNEY: Yes.

AMANPOUR: And you said no?

G. MCCARTNEY: No. We decided that justice was better for Robert in the conventional method, which is bring them through the courts.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The sisters were, in fact, disgusted by that offer and so were many in Northern Ireland. But so far they've had no luck getting the killers to court.

(on camera): You know who did it?

G. MCCARTNEY: Yes.

AMANPOUR: You know who these killers are?

G. MCCARTNEY: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Do you see them? Are they walking around?

G. MCCARTNEY: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Where are they?

D. MCCARTNEY: They're in the street. I passed one the other day. The senior Republican, I passed him. He was coming back from the local shop standing brazenly in the street talking to someone.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The McCartney sisters said they thought there would be quick arrests, since everyone, even the police, know who the main suspects are.

(on camera): And why do you think that hasn't happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Intimidation.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): So far, witnesses have been too afraid to come forward. (on camera): There was something like 70 people in this bar?

D. MCCARTNEY: Seventy people in the bar, and nobody's seen anything.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): After the murder, the senior IRA member at the pub allegedly ordered all forensic evidence cleaned up.

G. MCCARTNEY: And the individual then destroyed the weapon, destroyed the knife, seized CCTV footage and burnt it and burnt the murderer's clothes. And then went into the bar and basically told everyone in the bar that it was IRA business and nobody was to say anything and that they saw nothing.

AMANPOUR: But Robert McCartney's murder was so brutal and senseless that many in the Catholic community came out for a rare public display of support for the family. At least three members of Sinn Fein, the IRA 's political wing, were also in the bar the night of the murder. They too say they saw nothing.

CATHERINE MCCARTNEY, SISTER: hey haven't came forward yet. At one level Gerry Adams is saying people should come forward to the police ombudsman. He said himself that he would do that, but yet his party members have not done that.

AMANPOUR: The McCartney sisters say the world should know the IRA is squandering its historic position as defender of Catholic rights.

G. MCCARTNEY: This has all been dispelled by these individuals, by the night they murdered Robert for no reason.

D. MCCARTNEY: It just takes some people to stand up and say, no, we're not having any more. And that's what we're doing.

c. MCCARTNEY: We didn't think for one minute we were going to have to go through this. If it comes to it, we're going to have to do what some families in this country have had to do and battle for 30 years, we will do it. The truth will come out.

AMANPOUR: When we return, their courage has landed them a visit to the White House this week. And how their courage might impact all of Northern Ireland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The McCartney sisters' courageous battle for justice in the murder of their brother has earned them a meeting with President Bush tomorrow on St. Patrick's Day. And while they are winning friends around the world, they still face a very powerful enemy at home.

Here again, Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Belfast city center, site of the biggest bank robbery in British history; 26.5 million pounds were stolen. That's more than $50 million.

Hugh Jordan, a local crime correspondent, tells us how it happened just before Christmas.

HUGH JORDAN, CRIME CORRESPONDENT: The lorry was parked here, and the stuff was removed time after time and loaded onto the lorry right here.

AMANPOUR: They had inside help. This is a bank employee carrying out $2 million. He and another employee were forced to cooperate because their family members had been taken hostage the night before.

Hugh Jordan believes the IRA is increasingly turning Belfast into a mafia hub.

JORDAN: In many ways, it's Sicily without the sun. They know -- don't call the IRA the IRA any more. But your reference to the Mafia is now quite correct because people now call them the Rafia.

AMANPOUR (on camera): The Rafia?

JORDAN: Yes.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Northern Ireland's top police official blamed the IRA, and the heist caused an uproar here and in the United States. But it's a murder a month later that's really causing the IRA to be challenged, perhaps even its very existence.

(on camera) Throughout the so-called troubles here, the IRA has been blamed for 1,800 killings. It's been involved in gun running, smuggling, in kneecappings and punishment beatings, but nothing has put it so on the defensive as the murder of Robert McCartney in this darkened alley in January.

JORDAN: The McCartney sisters have damaged the republican movement and Sinn Fein in particular like never before, and it's because of their articulateness of the sisters they were able to go on and state their case and demand justice for their brother.

AMANPOUR: Chief Constable Ord (ph), Northern Ireland's top police official, agrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When that murder took place, the one thing that no one thought would happen was the family standing up and being counted.

AMANPOUR: Ord (ph) is as frustrated as the family that nearly two months after the murder at this pub, no one has come forth with evidence. Those asked say they were in the lavatory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They must have a very large toilet. It's back to the same problem. It doesn't really matter where they were if they don't want to tell us what they saw.

AMANPOUR (on camera): They know the murderers. They're walking around in their community. Why can you not go and arrest them and bring them in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's very simple. We need evidence. We operate within the rule of law. What we need are statements from the witnesses, and that community is clearly not at that stage yet.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): That's because they are afraid of the IRA. But the McCartney sisters are demanding witnesses come forward. Their public campaign is pressuring both the IRA and its political wing, Sinn Fein.

MARTIN MCGUINNESS, SINN FEIN: I think that those people responsible for the murder of Robert McCartney should appear before a court, and for me it couldn't happen soon enough. It is probably more in our interest that this issue is resolved than anybody else's, given the difficulties that it has created.

AMANPOUR: Difficulties may be an understatement. For the first time in 10 years, Sinn Fein leaders Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams have not been invited to St. Patrick's Day at the White House. They have also been shunned by some of their biggest supporters in Congress and barred from fund-raising in the U.S. this year.

(on camera) How do you think you'll be able to make amends, repair what look like fairly ruptured relations with your big backers in the United States?

MCGUINNESS: Well, I still think an awful lot of people in Irish America and many others who have observed the Irish peace process know that people like Gerry Adams and myself and all others in the Sinn Fein leadership have put our hearts and soul into this process. We've risked our very lives for this process.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): While Sinn Fein gets the cold shoulder, the McCartney sisters, who will be meeting with President Bush, do not think Sinn Fein is doing enough to make witnesses come forward.

(on camera) Do you have a message for President Bush? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just the difficulty we're having in getting justice for Robert.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sunday phone-in with Harry Castles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon to Willie Fraser and Margaret Hill.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): In Belfast, there is some hope that the sisters' bravery will encourage others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody now has taken heart for the fact that this family has got the strength and the courage to stand up.

AMANPOUR: There's hope that the sisters' stance will create a ground swell that leads to ending decades of violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many republicans are saying stop leading our children off to this. Stop kneecapping. We've had enough of it.

AMANPOUR: But such hopes for change have been dashed before, and with no witness testimony yet, the killers are still free, living in the neighborhood.

(on camera) Are you afraid about they might come back and make you pay for this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I mean, as far as we're concerned, they've done their worst. And the only thing we are afraid of is that these people aren't caught.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: What brave women. Christiane Amanpour reporting.

The McCartney sisters say they will keep up the pressure until their brother's killers are caught and convicted. It's a story we will continue to follow.

Coming up, convicted murderer Scott Peterson was formally sentenced to death today, something that no doubt will please this juror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHELLE NICE, PETERSON JUROR: He is a jerk, and I have one comment for Scott. You look somebody in the face when they're talking to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Coming up, the juror that hasn't gone home quietly.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Still ahead, the most colorful juror from the Scott Peterson trial. She isn't finished with him yet. Boy is she angry at him.

First, though, just about 10 minutes before the hour, time to go back to Erica Hill at Headline News for an update on our top stories tonight.

Hi, Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS: Thanks, Paula.

Topping the stories at this hour, another high profile case. Actor Robert Blake has been acquitted of murder in the death of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. Blake had been accused of shooting Bonny Lee Bakley outside a Los Angeles restaurant in May 2001.

Jurors cleared him of murder and a charge of solicitation of murder. The jury was deadlocked on the second solicitation charge, which the judge then dismissed.

Scott Peterson now faces death by lethal injection. That sentence handed down by a California judge today. In November, Peterson was convicted of murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn child.

President Bush says Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz would do a fine job as president of the World Bank. He is nominating Wolfowitz for the post, which will be vacated in June. Wolfowitz is a controversial figure in Europe because of his role in promoting the Iraq war.

And speaking of Iraq, that country's new national assembly met for the first time today. Rival parties have failed to reach final agreement on who will lead the new government, but the politicians pledge to bring stability to the country.

Triple A predicts U.S. gas prices could reach an all-time high tomorrow. The auto club's daily survey of gas stations finds the national average for unleaded regular, $2.053, a tenth of a penny shy of the record. Crude oil prices also set a record high today.

Tougher to fill up, Paula.

ZAHN: Ouch, ouch, ouch, as we're coming into that holiday travel period, Erica. Thanks. Got to say good-bye to you so I can say hello to Larry King.

Hi, Larry. What's coming up tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Hi, Paula. Like the "ouch."

Tonight we have a whole panel discussion looking at the sentencing of Scott Peterson. That same panel will also look at the verdict in the Robert Blake case. And we'll have jurors from both cases. That's all ahead at 9 p.m. tonight, right at the top of the hour, Paula.

ZAHN: Larry will be there for you. Thanks so much.

And in just a minute, the juror who is still giving her verdict about Scott Peterson, a pretty energized one at that. She keeps going and going and going and going. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Well, it has certainly been a busy day in courtrooms all over the country. Actor Robert Blake cleared of killing his wife. Scott Peterson sentenced to death for the murders of his wife and unborn son.

Some of the jurors in the Peterson trial have been very outspoken, and the way Jeanne Moos sees it, the scales of justice were hanging by a hair.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even in the background, she stuck out like a sore thumb, an inflamed thumb. The press dubbed the redheaded juror Strawberry Shortcake, after the cartoon character. And what a character she was.

NICE: He knows nothing, maybe this much.

MOOS: Whether being dismissive of another juror who had been dismissed or calling Scott Peterson a jerk.

NICE: He is a jerk, and I have one comment for Scott. You look somebody in the face when they're talking to you.

MOOS: Richelle Nice wasn't always nice, but she was always colorful.

NICE: As you can see, I'm an emotional wreck and have been.

MOOS: The unemployed mother of four boys was known for her nine or so tattoos and the ever-changing hue of her hair. She wore high heels and preferred pink. She used to work in a bank. When reporters asked her what did she think about something, she asked back.

NICE: What did you think?

MOOS: She would laugh. She would sigh. Raise an eyebrow, sometimes cry. Especially when the prosecution showed autopsy pictures in court.

NICE: Little man. That's what I call him, Conner. That was the hardest for me.

MOOS: Her 15 minutes of fame are just about up, but at least Strawberry Shortcake was never short on words, even if the one for Scott Peterson had to be bleeped.

NICE: (expletive deleted)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he's on his way home, Scott figures. Guess what, Scotty?

NICE: San Quentin's your new home.

MOOS: San Quentin, where her own brother spent time on drug related charges, prompting her mom to become a drug counselor.

Richelle Nice got us wondering, what is it about red heads that they tend to be such spit fires? From Fergie.

SARAH FERGUSON, DUCHESS OF YORK: Fergie, the duchess of pork.

MOOS: To Carrot Top.

CARROT TOP, COMEDIAN: I'm a hell of a kisser.

MOOS: To Ann Robinson.

ANN ROBINSON, HOST, "THE WEAKEST LINK": You are the weakest link. Good-bye.

MOOS: At least you can't say that about Strawberry Shortcake.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: As only Jeanne Moos can see it.

And once again, our top story tonight, actor Robert Blake has been cleared of murder charges in the death of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. According to some of the jurors we've spoken with, the evidence just wasn't compelling enough. They never felt that the prosecution proved the gun was even in Robert Blake's hand.

Later tonight, I'll be sitting in for Aaron Brown on a special edition of "NEWSNIGHT." We will focus on the book "The Purpose-Driven Life." Ashley Smith read it to the courthouse shooting suspect Brian Nichols, and she says it helped her to convince him to turn himself in. Tonight we'll hear from others who say the book has had a profound impact on their lives. Coming up later on "NEWSNIGHT" at 10 p.m. Eastern.

That is it for tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next tonight. We hope you'll be back with us same time, same place tomorrow night. Have a good 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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