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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Panel Discusses Battle Over Terri Schiavo

Aired March 25, 2005 - 21:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB SCHINDLER, TERRI SCHIAVO'S FATHER: The people who are anxious to see her die are getting your wish. It's happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Tonight, on the eighth day since Terri Schiavo's feeding tube were removed, her parents claim she tried to say the words "I want to live." And they file still more court appeals. One of them, by the way, just denied a couple of minutes ago.

We've got all the latest with CNN's John Zarrella at the hospital where several protesters were arrested today. Also with us is, David Gibbs, the attorney for Terri's family. Pat Boone, the famed singer whose grandson emerged from a coma after a devastating fall, and more.

And then later, a couple living a dream aboard a luxurious yacht disappear without a trace. Their son, Ryan Hawks, desperate to know what happened to his parents speaks out as three men are charged with their murder. It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

The latest out of Atlanta is that a three-judge panel of the 11 circuit court in Atlanta ruled has a just a couple minutes ago against the parents of Terri Schiavo, who were in a desperate race to save their brain damaged daughter. In making its decision, the judges ruled that the feeding tube would not be reinserted.

David Gibbs, the attorney for the Schiavo family, is there another thing they're looking at too?

DAVID GIBBS, ATTORNEY: Yes, Larry. What they're trying to figure out is when Congress passed this law it was clear their intent was that Terri would get a new trial. But what the federal courts have said at this point is we don't see any way under the constitution or the laws of the United States how we can have that trial. And so at this point, the efforts of Congress and what the president signed into law appear to have thwarted.

KING: Congressman Weldon, did they write the law wrong in Congress? The other night Mr. Epstein in favor of the tube staying out, said that you could have written the law tougher and made it to have the tube removed almost by edict and you didn't go that route, true?

REP. DAVE WELDON, (R) FLORIDA: Well, politically, I didn't think we could do that. I tried to write a bill that I thought would get broad bipartisan support. Now, the bill we actually passed out of the House originally, I think was a better bill and probably would have gotten reviewed by the Supreme Court or gotten the case reviewed by the Supreme Court. But unfortunately, we couldn't get the Senate to go along with that.

And so we ended up with this private bill and I think it created some problems for us down the road, unfortunately.

KING: Neal Boortz, the nationally syndicated radio talk show host, who is syndicated out of Atlanta. Representative Dave Weldon is with us and Congressman Bernie Frank is with us too -- Barney Frank rather.

Neil, you're in an unusual position of a conservative who favors leaving the tube off, right?

NEAL BOORTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, yes, Larry, I am. And we've been talking about this case not only for the last couple weeks, but for last couple of years. I actually like to consider myself more libertarian. But I do favor keeping the tube out, because I think, first of all, I believe that the court reached the right decision when they said that that was the wish of Terri Schiavo.

But second of all, I think that 15 years for her soul to be trapped in this limbo with this non-functioning body is quite enough. It's time to let her go home. And it's a real pity that this has been turned into such a political contest. I frankly wonder whether some of the combatants are that concerned about Terri, as much as they are about their own political agenda and political goals.

KING: Pat Boone what do you make of that?

PAT BOONE, CHRISTIAN SINGER: Well, you know, we have such a personal interest in it, because as you know and you've helped us with our grandson, Ryan, it's been almost four years since he was hurt so badly and great neurosurgeon and several doctors after CAT scans and all that, after Ryan was...

KING: There we see Ryan when he was hurt.

BOONE: He was hooked up to every device known to man to save his life.

KING: But he was never on a life support system where you could have pulled the plug?

BOONE: Oh, yes. In fact, even when we tried to take him for a CAT scan, we had to rush him back because he was dying just from being moved.

KING: But this is not -- he wasn't a 15-year story.

BOONE: No, no. It wasn't 15 years. But they said, they told us looking at his CAT scan that both lobes of his brain had been severed.

KING: So you are saying no one should have the right to die unless they've written it.

BOONE: I think if they've written it, if that their express conscious wish, that's one matter. That's good. And in Terri's case, I think she's become America's Joan of Arc.

You know, back in the 1400s, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for heresy. And I think Terri is dying a tortured death for hearsay, because...

KING: Are you surprised, Pat, that while the public may be divided about living and dying, they're almost 85 percent against Congress being involved at all.

BOONE: That astonishes me. It does, because here's a human life and we're watching her die day by day, moment by moment, hour by hour, not just we...

KING: You respect the courts?

BOONE: I respect the courts, because I know -- I can -- I see their dilemma. But as Rick Warren said to you a couple nights ago, laws are imperfect no matter how well crafted they are. They can't meet every situation. There will always be something that the law doesn't quite cover. So laws can be changed.

KING: Barney Frank, Congressman Frank, what's wrong just as a simple -- why not let her live? If she's not in pain and apparently she's not in pain, and the parents are willing to take care of her, let her live.

REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: That's not a judgment that I feel competent to make a, Larry. I think you should make that judgment only after knowing a great deal more about several specifics. What was her intention? That's contested. It's been tried and argued about in the Florida courts. The courts found that on the balance they thought her intention was expressed that she wouldn't have wanted to live in this situation. I don't know. I'm not in the court system.

I know that it was thoroughly litigated up and down the Florida courts, up to the Florida Supreme Court on a number of occasions. The question is, is there any hope of recovery? Is she having any feeling? Obviously, it's a tragedy. I think, obviously, the great tragedy happened 15 years ago when this young woman was stricken this way.

My view is that there are other and better ways to decide this than Congress. So, I'm very clear, I don't know what to do. This is not a decision I should be making for the individuals or the family, and neither should my colleagues. And That's my problem.

Congress steps in and passes a law that overturns everything the Florida courts did, really quite extraordinary. And tries to make a judgment based on old facts.

And to answer your question from before, if Congress had gotten more specific, this was the dilemma the drafters had. If they had gotten more specific and kind of gave orders to the court, it would almost certainly would have been found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

KING: I'll have Dave Weldon respond in a minute, but I want to ask David Gibbs and then have John Zarrella comment. The story today in "The New York Times" with Dr. Joseph Fins, chief of medical ethics of New York Presbyterian said the window of opportunity to be diagnosed as even normally conscious closed within three months of this accident. And that the part of the brain that allows one to suffer is not functioning. She does not know she is not getting food, according to the neurosurgeons.

How do you respond, David?

GIBBS: Dr. Cheshire from the Mayo Clinic last week is a volunteer doctor on behalf of the Florida Department of Children and Families, went in by Terri and did a thorough review of her situation, reviewed all her medical records. And Larry, what he found was astounding.

He said, No. 1, she's communicating. No. 2 she's aware of what's going on. She's responsive, she feels pain. And he said, my predisposition as neurologist at Mayo Clinic going in was we should leave the tube out or pull it out.

But he said after seeing Terri, there's no doubt in his mind she's not in PVS, she is responsive, she recognizes her family and that doctor who has seen her most recently and highly qualified said she should live.

KING: Yet the court says that there is not a good likelihood of overturning, which is the reason they rejected your appeal, right?

GIBBS: Yes, Larry. And one of the things that the court is doing that is a little disturbing, both in the state courts and the federal courts. The federal courts are saying we don't see a way to get involved. But what the state court has done has said, we don't see a way where Terri's life will ever reach the standard where we think she would want to live.

And so it had some very scary quality of life sides to it where in a measure, the court is saying if she's not going to function at the level we approve of, in mercy, we'll kill her. But what her parents say is we can't stand by as a loving mom and dad and watch her be starved or dehydrated to death.

KING: John Zarrella, what's the latest at the site of the hospice?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, we're expecting some reaction within the next few minutes now to the 11th Circuit Court three-judge panel ruling tonight denying the appeal. We're expecting Bob Schindler, Terri's father to come out in the next few minutes with a statement on that. Of course, they are still also awaiting a ruling from the state court here. What we've seen here today has been several arrests. There were ten in all. In fact, right now, I can see Bob Schindler. He is walking behind me apparently heading across the -- about to head across the street, Larry to where he will make those remarks.

I'll tell you briefly, there were about ten arrests today, bringing to a total for the last eight days, 20 arrests of protesters, all very peaceful, all coordinated with police so that there will would be no violence, nobody hurt. Three children among those today. They were also handcuffed and taken away. That's Pinellas Park police procedures here. And they were all attempting to bring water to Terri when they were arrested.

But again, no violence. The crowd is a little bit larger tonight than we've seen in the past. And we would expect that would Saturday, a weekend day tomorrow. And with Terri nearing closer to death, that the crowds here of supporters of Terri would likely be growing tomorrow and probably into Easter Sunday.

Again, we're expecting Bob Schindler any minute to make some remarks and reaction to what has happened in Atlanta -- Larry.

KING: If he's going to make those remarks any minute, we'll hold off going to commercial break, and you let us know, John.

Congressman Weldon, were you trying to circumvent the court system?

WELDON: Well, absolutely not. There's been a lot of rhetoric about Congress sticking its nose in this business. All the Congress did, and I might add it was a strong bipartisan vote, was allowed this case to be reviewed in the federal court, just as a death penalty case gets reviewed. And a lot of members of Congress felt that it was inappropriate that somebody like Scott Peterson, or this guy John Couey, who has evidently confessed to killing a young girl in Florida, their cases will all get reviewed in federal court, but this case nonetheless was not allowed.

And obviously, the vast majority of the members of the House and Senate agreed. And that's essentially what we did, we allowed a federal review.

FRANK: Larry, that's not true. It simply isn't true. It has no relevance to what we do in death penalty cases. This bill specifically canceled out in its words what the Florida courts have done. It wasn't a review. It directed the federal court to ignore everything that had happened in the Florida courts and start all over again. That's not ever done in death penalty cases, or any others.

KING: Neal Boortz, are you surprised that the public, while maybe divided on whether Terri should live or die -- I asked this of Pat -- is 80 to 85 percent against the federal government being involved at all?

BOORTZ: Well, no, two things first of all, Larry, let me address this just as we would review the death penalty. There's a constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. That's how death penalty cases get to the federal courts. That's Congress' involvement. There's no constitutional prohibition to what is happening down there today.

Surprised about the public reaction? Frankly, I'm not, because I think a lot of Americans are looking at this situation, as tragic as it is, and are saying, if I was there, what would I want to happen to me? Would I want to go on in this condition? And their answer is no, I wouldn't. And there is a -- I hate to use this cliche, but we've got the elephant in the room right now, and that is, this same case is happening thousands of times a year across this country. There are many people today whose life is ebbing away because they've been removed from hydration or from food. Why aren't their cases this big? And this needs to be said, it needs to be part of the discussion. Because their cases have not been embraced by the national right to life movement and made into a big, huge political football.

KING: Pat Boone, how would you respond? Why is this case so big?

BOONE: Well, the wrangle between the parents and Michael and the court cases that kept bringing it up, bringing it up. Sure, right to life people are involved, but they just want to save a life. And I want to make a human observation that if Terri, as a young woman, actually made the statement that is attributed to her...

KING: The courts have believed that she did.

BOONE: Yeah, they believe, and that's why they've said that was her wish. Young people make statements. You've done it, I've done it when we're young. We change our minds. The Rolling Stones, for example, and the Beatles said we don't want to be singing rock 'n' roll when we're 50. Well, they're over 60 and they are still doing it, because people change their minds. And she hasn't had an opportunity to change her mind, but if she did say it, surely nobody in our right minds think that she would have opted to be starved to death and no water for weeks at a time. Executed.

KING: But -- the Schindlers are stepping up to the mike. Let's go right there.

RANDALL TERRY, SCHINDLER FAMILY SPOKESMAN: ... the chance to lay their cables down.

The 11th Circuit has denied the appeal. Mary Schindler is going to say something. Bob is going to say something. And then if either of the Terri's siblings want to say something, they are going to as well -- Mary.

MARY SCHINDLER, TERRI'S MOTHER: Governor Bush, you have the power to save my daughter. It's been seven days. Please, please do something.

B. SCHINDLER: Earlier today, I had been here and I said that we've been fortunate to have helping our attorneys, probably the most talented attorneys in this country. And they've all been involved in this case. And now the 11th District has turned us down.

And what you're seeing is a textbook example of judicial tyranny. They either find a way or make a way. They have a mind-set to kill Terri. And I think it's disgusting and revolting, what these courts have done to her.

And regarding Governor Bush, Governor Bush has the authority to stop all this. He's -- with a stroke of his pen, he can stop it. He can stop it immediately. He's put Terri through a week of hell and my family through a week of hell by not acting.

And I implore him. It's going to take courage, but a man of integrity has courage. And I believe he has integrity.

And again, I implore him to put a stop to this. This is judicial homicide, and he has to stop it. And he can't be hiding behind any political agenda or whatever else he has in mind. He's got to come up to the plate.

Thank you very much.

KING: We'll get comments from our panel on what was just said by the Schindlers right after these words. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our medical guy here at CNN, sends this to me. "Patients in a persistent or permanent vegetative state do not consciously process pain. However, in some hospital and hospice settings, pain medication may be given in the end of life process if a doctor believes that it will do no harm."

We do not know if Terri Schiavo is receiving pain medication.

David Gibbs, what is this about her supposedly saying something? What do we know about that?

GIBBS: Larry, in front of an attorney from my office as well as family from across the country and her sister and brother-in-law, they asked Terri, the day they were pulling the feeding tube, "Terri, please, you could end all this, tell us you want to live." And it was amazing the response they saw. Terri immediately sat up, went to them, desperately tried to say "I," desperately tried to say "want," and yelled so loud that the husband and the police officer in the hallway came in. And they were amazed at how strongly she indicated she wanted to live. That, combined with the fact that Dr. Cheshire from the Mayo Clinic said, Terri is communicating. She is aware.

She's recognizing people. And Larry, sadly tonight, what's breaking Bob and Mary's heart, she's feeling pain. Every month, they administer pain medication for her menstrual cycle. Terri lets people know when she's hurting. There have been doctors that have poked her and she avoids the pain. And tonight, these desperate parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who have the privilege of representing, are watching her die from dehydration.

KING: Your client called it judicial homicide. Would you go that far? Would you say these judges desire her to die?

GIBBS: Larry, what these judges have done in different courts is they've made determinations that we disagree with. Certainly, the federal courts, I believe, were intended to decide number one, what does Terri want and, number two, what condition she's in. And Bob and Mary believe, and I believe that number one, Terri is alive. She has a life worth living and that God himself should be the one to take Terri home. And really, Larry, the barbaric nature of it, I think, is shocking. When you talk about dehydration, that would violate the Geneva Convention, that violates what we do to convicted murderers and that something we can't do to a dog or cat

KING: Do you agree with your client's evaluation of the judges?

GIBBS: I believe the judges in this case when you look at the situation, certainly, the intent of Congress has been thwarted. They wanted a trial.

KING: Are they committing homicide?

GIBBS: Larry, I don't think...

KING: That's what he said.

GIBBS: I don't think we can say that any judge in this case has done a homicide, because by definition that means they had the intent and desire to kill. But I think what Bob is trying to express is as a hurting dad, is that there are people who could stop this. And I think that's what he's pleading, imploring. He's a dad. He wants to protect his daughter. He's watching his wife's health come apart. His heart is hurting. I would say both of them are taking many years off their life trying to stand up for the life of their daughter.

KING: Neal Boortz, logically, what's wrong if the parents are willing to take care of her? If they take care of her -- would that spoil some vast eternal plan?

BOORTZ: First of all, there's no doubt the anguish the parents are in right now. Your heart goes out them. And it would be just completely unfair to make any judgment on what they have said at this particular time. This is a grieving time. But we are a government of law. We are not a government of mob rule. We're not a government of polls. And the courts and Governor Bush in Florida right now, they are following the law. They do not wish any ill at all on Terri Schiavo. But they have a law to uphold and that's what they were doing. Now, what harm would it be? I wrote a column on this the other day. It all comes down to your religious view point and mine is this.

That -- and this is purely my subjective opinion. But the Terri Schiavo has been held in some sort of a limbo. She has not been allowed to continue her journey to her final reward because of artificial means that have been taken to keep her body alive, the forced feeding for this length of time. And it's my belief and I wouldn't force this on anybody else, that if they will stop, as they have, the feeding and the hydration of Terri Schiavo, that God can take her home. There is a human intervention here at work right now that I don't think is in her best interest.

KING: Congressman Weldon, do you think Governor Bush can do something as the Schindler's stated? Can he do something by edict?

WELDON: Well, I'm a federal legislator and I'm not sure of the status of Florida law. I'm sure if he had a legal justification for doing something, he would do it. He feels very passionately about this case. But I just want to underscore one important point here. You know, we have a constitution in this country. And in that constitution is the 14th Amendment and it give people the right to life.

And to just say that Congress was just meddling in this case, it really belittle what's we were actually trying to accomplish. We want to make sure her constitutional rights were properly protected. And I still don't believe they were. I don't think we ever really got an adequate federal review of the facts in this case. The 14th Amendment gives her the right to life, equal protection, due process. And I'm not sure she really received those things.

BOORTZ: Larry, can I make one really important point, it's very quick?

The Constitution does not give us any rights. My right to life exists outside of the Constitution. It is there to protect these rights under our law. It does not give them to us.

FRANK: Can I also comment on that?

KING: Yes, OK.

FRANK: Because I very much disagree with Dr. Weldon. The Supreme Court of the United States, the 11th Circuit by a 10-2 vote, basically what they said was, yes, there was full due process. This was very extensively litigated in Florida. And by the way, what they found is relevant to what we heard.

The courts found with the independent medical examiners in several trials, the courts of Florida found that she's in a persistent vegetative state, tragically, has no feeling, that her cortex has dissolved. Please don't interrupt, Dave, this is a serious thing. And this is what the courts found in Florida, in several -- several cases.

The federal courts then reviewed it, as extensively as they would review everything else, and said, yes, she did get due process. That's essentially the argument that was made, given the very extensive situation. Again, what's unusual is -- it's not unusual, it's unique. Congress didn't set general principles here. Congress acted as the Supreme -- Supreme Court of Florida, and said we want the federal court to ignore everything Florida (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That we don't do.

KING: I've got a -- I've got a break in a minute. Pat Boone, do you see this as a religious issue? BOONE: Well, sure. I want to give you a Bible example. King Solomon was -- two women came before him with one baby, and they each claimed the baby. One had died, and only one child was left. And so, he said bring me a sword, and I'll cut the baby in half and give half to woman. One woman said fine. The other woman said no, no, give her the baby, let it live. Solomon said you're the mother. You're the guardian. You want this baby to live, so you have the child.

We're caught in an awful dilemma between the inflexible, imperfect law and the human desire to preserve life and loved ones. And I really think that ought to prevail. We've got to find away.

KING: You're not comparing Michael Schiavo to the mother who said, kill her?

BOONE: Oh, no, I'm not. No, I'm giving a biblical example of the choice between a difficult dilemma and choose life as the answer.

KING: We'll take a break and come right back with some more. And then we'll talk with an extraordinary case, Ryan Hawks, parents both on a ship, both on their own boat in November, disappear. Three people are charged with their murder. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE FELOS, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL SCHIAVO: My information now from Michael who has been by Terri's bedside continuously, is that Terri is peaceful, she's resting and she's in her dying process. I've heard some people say this is horrible or barbaric, when patients -- when people die, they naturally stop eating. They stop drinking. And Terri's going through what thousands and millions go through during their death process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Just want to show you quickly, so many people were interested in Pat Boone's grandson, Ryan, when this accident occurred. And we discussed it on this show, did a special, went out to the rehab. I'm going to show you a picture of how Ryan looks now. And that's the way he looked.

BOONE: That's the way he was. And the doctors said we should consider pulling the plug then. That was almost four years ago.

And he's doing so much better. He's on a recumbent bent bike, both legs. He's using both arms. He's witty, he remember everything. He's laughing, he's himself. And it's not going to be too long, Larry, before he's going to walk in here.

There he is, that's what he looks like now.

KING: Hey, David Gibbs, are you close to giving up?

GIBBS: No Larry, because we're going to keep going as long as Terri's alive. But as we go into the Easter weekend we know we have days. The doctors have told that us within seven to ten days with no water, she'll begin to have renal failure and she won't come back.

We're now coming on day eight, moving into day nine through the weekend. And so we are going to push every reasonable legal appeal.

And we believe, Larry, that there's something that is just so right. People need to realize the courts are a system of justice, but we're really fighting for what we believe to be just and right. Terri Schiavo could be just like Pat Boone's grandson if only she were given that opportunity. It's the opportunity that Congress wanted her to have. It's the opportunity that most of the nation wants her to have. But sadly, as we're watching the days go by, it appears it's an opportunity she's not going to receive.

KING: John Zarrella, is there a lot of hostility among the crowd through these decisions?

ZARRELLA: No, Larry, not at this point. I wouldn't say there's any hostility. There has been a great deal of sadness. Of course this being Good Friday, a great deal of prayer today from the people here.

That's the emotion that we see here, just an outpouring, literally, of love for Terri Schiavo. And the vast majority of the people here just want to see her kept alive. But no rising hostility, no real anger venting here. Just a lot of prayer -- Larry.

KING: Neal Boortz, wear a prognosticator hat. What do you think is going to happen?

BOORTZ: Well, I think that Terri Schiavo is going die in the next couple of weeks. And then the American people are going to start wondering why did the Congress of the United States get involved in what was essentially a private family matter that had already been adjudicated by 19 state court judges, federal district judge, 11th Court of Appeals. And what role did Congress have to play here? And there going to be a -- I think there's going to be a political price to pay. And it will be paid, I think, by Republicans in the next congressional elections next year.

KING: Want to comment on that Congressman Weldon?

WELDON: I think that's absurd.

This was always in my opinion, an issue of conscience. And, you know, we had about half the Democrats vote for the bill. It passed through unanimously in the Senate. And so which side are you going to point to in an election?

And I was very impressed. A lot of very liberal members of Congress voted for the bill.

BOORTZ: Can you explain the precipitous drop in the approval ratings for George Bush in the last week of seven points? And this is the only news story out there. WELDON: I saw that poll.

BOORTZ: I would love to hear an explanation of that.

FRANK: Can I say something here? Because the very fact that we're debating the political implications is why the people who wrote the constitution were right and said Congress should make general rules and not try to decide specific cases.

WELDON: Barney..

FRANK: David, please don't interrupt me. Is it a rule that I can't get to say something? The fact is that...

KING: You interrupted him, Barney. Go ahead.

FRANK: No I didn't. When he was through, I asked you if I could say something.

We do make political decisions. We visit the public opinion. We bring our ideologies to bare. And I think that is why you go with the courts.

One other thing if I can say it, the Florida courts found, in testimony from doctors and others, that everything that could have done at the time for Terri Schiavo in those first years was done. It is not a case where there wasn't treatment. And great that Pat Boone's grandson has recovered and great credit go to the Boone family for supporting him.

The Schiavos tried to do that. And the Schindlers working together, according to the courts, for the first few years. It was only years later that they decided nothing was going to work. And that's how we got to the terrible situation where we are. The tragedy happened 15 years ago.

KING: This can really get out of hand. A North Carolina man arrested today by the FBI for offering $250,000 to kill Michael Schiavo, another $50,000 to kill Judge Greer. That's where the pendulum swings, Pat. You become mob rule.

BOONE: People get so fired up.

Thomas Jefferson warned that of the three branches of government, the one we had to fear was the judicial branch, because unelected men would become despots. And both Thomas Jefferson and then Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson actually impeached or fired judges and dissolved their offices when they overreached.

KING: So, you would dismiss a judge if you didn't like his opinion?

FRANK: No, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson never fired or impeached judges, Mr. Boone. They had some arguments with them, but that typically just historically didn't happen.

BOONE: They -- the way I read it, they closed their offices. They put them out of business.

FRANK: They did not. They, in fact, maybe hated some of the judges decisions but they were not impeachments. And I guess, if that's the invitation, it's a big mistake.

By the way, you're talking Scalia, you're talking Thomas, you're talking about Rehnquist, you're not talking about three liberal judges here.

BOONE: No, I know. I'm not blaming judges. I'm saying that laws are imperfect, they can't cover any situation.

FRANK: What's the alternative? What's the alternative to laws? We have to set laws and live within them.

BOONE: Well, but you can...

KING: Change the law.

BOONE: You can make exceptions, because we have.

FRANK: Congress can change the law for everybody, not a politically motivated or religiously motivated, or whatever, individual exception.

BOONE: Yes.

WELDON: We wanted a general law, Barney. We passed a general law out of the House. We could never get it out of the Senate. We could never get that bill out of the Senate.

FRANK: Agreed.

WELDON: You know that. We had a very general bill that would have been just the kind of bill I think the Supreme Court would have taken up.

FRANK: But that's not what passed.

WELDON: We couldn't get it out of the Senate.

FRANK: But the fact that you can't pass an appropriate bill is not an excuse for passing an inappropriate one. I'm not talking about the bill that went through. The fact that the Senate blocked one doesn't mean you pass a bad one.

WELDON: Well, if the bill was so bad, why did half the Democrats vote for it, Barney?

KING: I got to move on, guys. Do you want to say something?

BOONE: I just wanted to say that both Judge Greer and Whittemore could have said I don't think hearsay or a woman's expressed intent, unwritten, and hearsay, really from 15, 16 years ago, is enough evidence to put her to death. So since there's no other evidence, let's let her live. KING: But they didn't.

BOONE: The judge could have ruled that.

(CROSSTALK)

FRANK: What the are saying is that she was put into a permanent vegetative state by this terrible illness. This is their ruling, not the federal judge, the state judges. And that, again, people are acting as if a terrible thing is happening now. Tragically and sadly, it happened years ago.

BOONE: But if they take your food and water away you will die.

KING: All right, men, thank you all very much.

John Zarrella, David Gibbs, Pat Boone, Neal Boortz, Representative Dave Weldon, who's also a doctor by the way, and Congressman Barney Frank.

Another extraordinary story going on. Ryan Hawks, his parents are missing and presumed murdered. We'll get that story right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN HAWKS, PARENTS PRESUMED DEAD: This is where they used to spend a lot of their time, on the water, cruising, doing their cruises around Fita (ph) Island and talking to the other boaters. It's pretty much, just the life style in general.

I used to paddle out on my surf board. That's how I'd get out there. And I spent ten days with them, almost a week with them when I was in transition between jobs, because I knew I would be filing flying around for work a lot. And I would be gone, so I really wanted to get some quality time with them.

So, you know, now it's probably maybe a month and a half before they were missing. You know, little did I know that was the last time I was going to see them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A case that deserves more national attention. With us is Ryan Hawks, his parents Thomas and Jackie Hawks -- that's not Ryan -- are -- that's Ryan -- Are missing and presumed murdered. The couple vanished without a trace in mid-November, last seen showing their yacht to a prospective buyer at Newport Harbor. Four men have been charged in connection with this case. With us also, Tony Rackauckas, he is the Orange County, California, district attorney.

This was your father and step stepmother, right?

RYAN HAWKS, PARENTS DISAPPEARED: Yes, that's correct KING: They owned this boat?

HAWKS: Yes

KING: And what happened that day?

HAWKS: Well, basicly, they were out on a sea trial to sell their boat, because it was a really large craft for both of them to operate. And I think the idea of being at sea for so long, for two years, going through the Sea of Cortez, really kind of wore on them being so far away from family. Even though we kept in touch...

KING: They had done a two year cruise by themselves?

HAWKS: Yes. Yes.

KING: With a crew I hope?

HAWKS: No, just them. You know, just had seen the curve of the Earth.

KING: So what happened that day?

HAWKS: Basicly, they went out on a sea trial, showing the boat to a prospective buyer.

KING: One buyer? One person?

HAWKS: That's correct.

KING: And?

HAWKS: And they never came back.

KING: Did the person -- the prospective buyer come back?

HAWKS: Yes.

KING: And what did he say?

HAWKS: Basicly, said he took -- my father took -- my father and my stepmother, Jackie, took $400,000 across a hood of a car, you know, in a dark parking lot. And he said he saw them drive off in their car.

KING: Who gave them the $400,000, according to him?

HAWKS: He did.

KING: Wait a minute. He said they came back, he bought the boat?

HAWKS: He bought the boat.

KING: Paid them cash?

HAWKS: Yes.

KING: Did he have a bill of sale?

HAWKS: Yes, he did.

KING: OK. Signed by your parents?

HAWKS: Yes.

KING: And he saw them take the money, get in the car and drive away?

HAWKS: That's correct.

KING: How, Tony, does this lead to four people being charged?

TONY RACKAUCKAS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, ORANGE COUNTY, CALIF.: Well, our evidence is -- has filled in a little bit since -- since what Ryan first understood. And what we know now is that three people were on board when they went out for that test run.

KING: Not one?

RACKAUCKAS: Not one, there were three. And they -- they overtook the Ryan's, hijacked the boat, and killed them for the boat.

KING: You have no bodies, right?

RACKAUCKAS: We do not.

KING: So, how do you know this -- it's circumstantial, of course, but how do you know this to have taken place?

RACKAUCKAS: Well, we know because we have evidence. I'd like very much to discuss the evidence with you at this point but I really can't.

KING: You're convinced, though, these three people threw them overboard, killed them in some way?

RACKAUCKAS: Yes. Yes.

KING: Brought the boat back?

How did they get the bill of sale?

RACKAUCKAS: They forced the couple to sign the bill of sale and, also, a power of attorney for the -- so they could try to get the bank account money.

KING: Who's the fourth person charged?

RACKAUCKAS: The fourth person is Myron Garnder -- Gardner, he's a 41-year-old. He was a coconspirator, was not on board.

KING: And here's -- Now, Skylar Deleon is the mastermind, according to you, right? He was the one who said they -- $400,000, the boat was sold to him, supposedly?

RACKAUCKAS: He responded to the ad, he and this Alonzo Machain.

KING: An accomplice.

RACKAUCKAS: The accomplice. They responded to the ad and met the Hawks and worked out the so-called sale arrangements. And then at a later time, they came on board and this other person, John Fitzgerald Kennedy (ph), came on board and those are the three who were on board when they took the test run.

KING: Who was not on board, Gardner?

RACKAUCKAS: Gardner, Myron Gardner.

KING: This guy's name was John Fitzgerald Kennedy?

RACKAUCKAS: Yes, it is.

KING: Now, John Kennedy was in court on Friday the 18th, ordered to give a DNA sample. He refused, right.

RACKAUCKAS: Yes, he did.

KING: The grand theft charge against Skylar Deleon was dismissed, why?

RACKAUCKAS: Well, there was -- really just because of court economy. There was a grand theft charge based on incidents that are not related to this. It had to do with another boat.

KING: We have statements by attorneys for the defendants, for two of them. Skylar Deleon's attorney, Edward Welbourn refused, said no comment.

Myron Gardner's lawyer, George Berts (ph) said, "The prosecution has not released any of the investigation reports to any attorneys in this case. We've been told by the authorities that Mr. Gardner was not on the yacht at the time of the alleged crime. Mr. Gardner denies any involvement direct or indirect in the disappearance of the Thomas or Jackie Hawks or any of the other crimes charged against the other defendants. Our thoughts and prayers go to the family of the Hawks and especially their sons, Matt and Ryan.

And Winston Kevin McKesen (ph), the attorney for Alonzo Machain says, Mr. McKesen say that, "His client has no involvement in the murders and furthermore his client is a deeply religious family who looks forward to demonstrating his innocence so he can go back to being a productive member of the society."

How do you react to those two statements, one that they've gotten no information from you, have not been told of anything.

RACKAUCKAS: Well, I think -- of course, we have an arraignment set for April the 15th. This is very early time in the proceedings at this point. And we could, of course -- I think that the defense counsel have been he informed that we have a package of what we call discovery. A package of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) information...

KING: They're entitled to that?

RACKAUCKAS: They're entitled to it. It's in our building in Santa Ana. They can pick it up.

KING: Ryan what do you make of this? How old are you?

HAWKS: I'm 28.

KING: What do you do, by the way?

HAWKS: I'm an account manager for a capital medical equipment company.

KING: Were you close with your parents?

HAWKS: I was very close. Very close.

KING: Is your biological mother living?

HAWKS: Yes, she is. And she's taking it pretty hard.

KING: She was close to...

HAWKS: Yes, absolutely. It was a really close relationship we all had as family.

KING: So, the stepmother with the mother had a close relationship?

HAWKS: Yes. Yes.

KING: God, what you must be going through. When you were -- you knew they were putting the ad in the paper, right?

HAWKS: Yes. Actually, before -- before they put the ad in the paper, I went and spent a week with them on the boat, because I was in transition between jobs. And I knew I was going to be away from them for quite some time, so I got to spend, like, a good seven days with them. And little did I know that was the last time I was really going to see them.

KING: How did you know -- how did you find out they were missing? Who called you? What happened? The boat came back, what happened?

HAWKS: Yes, the boat came back. Well, basically, my father, he was with my uncle and a close friend at Catalina (ph) Island the week before. And my father's like, you know, I have a strong prospect, you know, I think I'm going to sell it. You know, we're just kind of worried what we're going to do with all of our stuff. We're thinking about renting a U-Haul, because, obviously, their little SUV can't fit everything they own on that boat. They're going to go back to Arizona, and store their stuff and take take it from there. So, Tuesday comes around and my father's friend, Don, gave me a call, be like your father was supposed to give me a call. And I'm calling him because I'm supposed to pick up his stuff and drive him back there, because he's going to take all their stuff back for them, because it was such an incovience before. And this -- then I tried calling all their cell phones, went straight to voice mail, so we were really suspicious. And my father and stepmother Jackie were really in close contact with my brother, because they just had a new grandson. It was like the life of the family. And it was like every other day, they were calling him. So we really grew concerned, especially around Thanksgiving when we didn't hear from them and that's when we filed.

KING: How did the authorities get involved, Tony?

RACKAUCKAS: Well, the Newport Beach Police Department was -- started getting this notification about how they were missing. And then they took it very, very seriously, and they went to work investigating it right away.

KING: Suspicious right away, this bill of sales story?

RACKAUCKAS: It was suspicious right away, because -- just because people don't just not come back from a test run.

KING: What about the car, has it ever been found?

HAWKS: Yes, it's been recovered in Encinada (ph), about a month after.

KING: We'll be back with more right after these words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAWKS: I used to always associate them, you know, with their boat. And seeing Well Deserved and not seeing them, just two things that went along and just doesn't make sense now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This investigation was very, very thorough by the Newport Beach Police Department. And one of the things that we have learned that I can share is that the Hawks, Thomas and Jackie Hawks, were very nice people. They're hard working, and they were trying to live out their retirement in peace. And this is a tragic case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Tony Rackauckas, the Orange County district attorney, investigator must have been thorough here to piece all this together when you got a boat back at dock and nobody there. RACKAUCKAS: Absolutely. The investigators did a great job. And my hat's off to the Newport Beach Police Department. They did a tremendous job on this.

KING: I know we're not going to go into details. Do you have a lot of physical evidence?

RACKAUCKAS: We have a lot of evidence. I don't want to describe it to you. I really can't do that, but we're very sure, we are very confident in our evidence.

KING: Is the hope that they weren't manhandled, that if they were killed, just thrown overboard? I mean, is that sort of like the humane -- is there a humane prayer here?

RACKAUCKAS: I'm having trouble with the word hope on this.

KING: They're not alive?

RACKAUCKAS: They're not alive, no.

KING: Have you accepted that?

HAWKS: I accepted it. And it's the most difficult thing to accept, you know, that your parents are no longer going to be in your life. You feel like 28 years of my life was just taken away, and I had another 28 years left. So I'm beyond grieving, and, you know, I'm just ready to -- I want the truth and I want justice to prevail.

KING: What was the motive?

RACKAUCKAS: To get the boat, and to get the money out, to clean out their bank account as well.

KING: So double motive?

RACKAUCKAS: Yes.

KING: This was a boat jacking?

RACKAUCKAS: It was, yes.

KING: You ever heard of anything like this?

RACKAUCKAS: I haven't heard of a case like this since I've been in law enforcement.

KING: Should people be -- if you want to advertise an expensive boat, do you have to worry now? Who is going to come to look at it?

HAWKS: Well, one of the reasons they advertised it for -- privately by owner was to save some costs, because boat brokers do take a percentage of the sale. And they thought they could make that percentage themselves because they could show it themselves. They lived on the boat and they felt more comfortable. And they were very open people, so they could just relate in that way. However, you know, if they would have gone through a broker, they would be sitting here with me today. Not sitting with me today, but they would be with me.

KING: The broker goes with them, right?

HAWKS: You know, they do the proper...

KING: Like in real estate.

HAWKS: Like real estate. They do, you know, credentials checks. They do background checks. You know, do you have the money? Obviously this guy didn't.

KING: Where are we in a legal sense now? We have an arraignment when?

RACKAUCKAS: April 15th. They're all charged with murder, multiple murder, murder for financial gain. These are capital offenses at this point. And...

KING: Are they all behind bars now?

RACKAUCKAS: They are.

KING: No bail?

RACKAUCKAS: That's correct.

KING: Is this going to be tough, with no corpse?

RACKAUCKAS: It's going to be tough. But every case is tough. We handle tough cases all the time. We're confident that we have good evidence in this case, and we're going to -- we'll bring it through.

KING: Are you being kept appraised, Ryan, of what they're doing?

HAWKS: Absolutely. I'm in touch. I speak to Matt Murphy, district attorney, who is handling the specific case, daily. And also, I keep in touch with Newport Beach Police, daily as well. And, you know, I feel so confident, so strong that the job they're doing -- they're not even taking on a professional level, but this has all reached them on a personal level too, because these were good people. You know, they're going to pay for the actions, and it's a reaction they're going to hit, and I got these guys to back it up. So I'm really excited for that.

KING: Mr. Murphy work under you?

RACKAUCKAS: Yes, he does. He's on our homicide panel. He's a very, very fine trial attorney and doing a good job on this case.

KING: When do you expect the trial to take place?

RACKAUCKAS: That's a little harder to call. You know, it's -- I would like to see it take place within a year. I think we could shoot for that.

KING: They can ask for a speedy trial, can't they?

RACKAUCKAS: Oh, absolutely. They ask for a speedy trial. We do that all the time. And we -- if the defendants, of course, have a right to discovery and to various processes, so it takes a while.

KING: Will you attend the trial, Ryan?

HAWKS: Absolutely. Along with the rest of my family and friends, we'll be there.

KING: Good luck to you, man.

HAWKS: Thank you, sir.

KING: Thanks, Tony.

RACKAUCKAS: Thank you very much.

KING: Ryan Hawks and Tony Rackauckas. Tony is the Orange County, California, district attorney.

I'll be back in a couple of minutes to tell you about the weekend. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tomorrow night, we'll repeat our interview with Rick Warren, the author of "The Purpose-Driven Life." And on Sunday night, a brand-new interview with a great guy, Donny Osmond. That's Easter night with Donny Osmond.

We now turn the tables -- not turn the tables -- we turn the podium over to -- turn the tables -- turn the podium over to Aaron Brown, the host of "NEWSNIGHT." We were both reflecting, this has been a tough, tiring week.

AARON BROWN, HOST, "NEWSNIGHT": Yeah, I think it's a difficult story for people to watch, and a difficult story to report day in and day out. It's an important story, but it's not an easy one. Larry, have a good weekend.

KING: You too.

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