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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Interview With Lisa Marie Presley; Undercover and Alone
Aired April 14, 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. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
We have the incredible story of one man who went undercover inside one of the most notorious motorcycle gangs in the country and lived to tell about it.
ZAHN (voice-over): An undercover agent deep inside a biker gang's world of drugs, violence and murder.
BILLY QUEEN, AUTHOR, "UNDER AND ALONE": ... shoot me in the back right here. There was nothing I could do.
ZAHN: So deep, at times, he didn't know right from wrong.
QUEEN: And I sat there for a little bit, thinking to myself, I wonder if I do know what I'm getting into here.
ZAHN: Tonight, the mole and the infamous Mongols.
ZAHN: And Lisa Marie Presley.
LISA MARIE PRESLEY, MUSICIAN: Wow. None of you have any idea who I am.
ZAHN: Her rock 'n' roll roots, her regrets and a rhythm all her own.
ZAHN: First thing up tonight, a story drenched in blood.
The Mongols are one of the country's most lawless and feared motorcycle gangs, 350 strong, more violent than the Hells Angels. Its members deal in illegal drugs and in just about any criminal activity you can imagine, even murder. We know this, thanks now to an undercover agent's incredible, almost foolhardy courage. He joined the gang, won their trust, and brought dozens of them to justice.
QUEEN: I was out there by myself. If the crap went bad, I would have been in serious trouble.
ZAHN: Forget the way he looks. This man was a top undercover agent who, for two years, was assigned to penetrate one of the country's most brutal outlaw gangs, the Mongols.
QUEEN: Certainly not as big as the Hells angels, but although not as big, probably the most feared outlaw motorcycle gang out there.
ZAHN: Billy Queen worked for ATF, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. And he discovered that, while the Mongols use ruthless violence to enforce their criminal rule, they also enjoy the violence for its own sake.
QUEEN: The guy with all of the tattoos on him is Rick Slayton (ph). He's a Mongol. This guy in the hat right here is the guy that threw stuff.
What's happening is, they're surrounding him now. He's got no place to go. They're going beat the crap out of him and they're going to beat the crap out of all of his buddies. The knives are going to come out. People are going to be stabbed. And over here, they're stabbing a guy. After the Mongols get through doing that they're doing, the guy with the hat, he is still hanging on to his hat, hitting him with the chair. Now it is over and now what happens is, the Mongols just disappear.
ZAHN: When the night was over, five people were hospitalized and none arrested. This is the violent gang world that Billy Queen infiltrated. Starting out as a prospect...
QUEEN: When you first come in the club.
ZAHN: Like a fraternity pledge, Billy progressed through the ranks of the gang, earning special patches or rockers along the way.
QUEEN: After a certain period of time, a month, maybe two months, they'll vote on whether you should go to the next step and they will give you your center rocker.
ZAHN: After more than a year with the Mongols, Billy was actually voted treasurer of California's San Fernando Valley chapter.
QUEEN: This patch here is an officer patch.
ZAHN: But unknown to the president and other Mongol officers, Billy Queen and his ATF colleagues were secretly recording the illegal drug deals, thefts, gunfights, stabbings and murders. And, along the way, he often had to prove his loyalty to this vicious brotherhood.
QUEEN: Rocky (ph) pulls out his knife, slits that plastic bag and he lined out two lines of meth out on the table. He turned around at me and he put the knife at my face and he said, is that line too much for you? I looked down at it and said no, Rock. That's fine with me. I'll get my dollar bill and we'll take care of business. And I'm thinking to myself, gee, what are you going do? What are you going do?
My face was getting red. My ears were getting ready. And I step between Rocky and the dope and I bent over with it like I was snorting it and went and wiped it off in my hand. And I reached up and Rocky looked around and he saw the dope gone. And he looked at me, yes, he did it. Cops don't do dope.
ZAHN: But he was a cop. And he was touched by the chilling advice Rocky later gave him.
QUEEN: And he said, this is not a club. We're outlaws. And you need to know that. You need to know what you're getting into.
I sat there for a little bit thinking to myself, I wonder if I do know what I'm getting into here.
ZAHN: Some gang members remained suspicious of the new Mongol they knew as Billy St. John and Billy Queen learned to live with fear.
When fear becomes a part of you, you start feeling it, then you slow down. Fear is a good thing in a situation like that. Where you use it for survival.
ZAHN: And one of the most fearsome Mongols was a prison-hardened leader known as Red Dog.
QUEEN: He suspected me practically the entire time that I was in. But they took me out in the middle of nowhere in an abandoned orange grove. And when I got out there, there's six or eight of these guys standing around. They all got guns.
So, Red looks at me, says, so, if I put a bullet in the back of your head, nobody is going to know where to start looking for you. I said, that's right, Red. And then he looked at me and said, turn around and go out there in the field and set some targets up.
ZAHN: Billy Queen faces a life-and-death moment of truth, far from any police backup, when we return.
ZAHN: Federal agent Billy Queen knows he's lucky to be alive. He's infiltrated and actually become a member of a viscous outlaw motorcycle gang the Mongols. And then his worst fears come true. The gang's leader, Red Dog, accuses him of being a cop. Billy Queen still shakes when he remembers that day.
QUEEN: Red Dog looks at me and starts saying, how long was your academy, Billy? And he get kept getting louder, kept getting louder, got closer to my face and putting in his finger in my face and, how long was your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) academy, police academy?
And I am trying to shake him off, shake him off. And he says, who did you tell you were coming up here? Who knows you are with the Mongols today? Who knows that you're up here? Nobody, Red. Nobody. So, if I put a bullet in your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) head, nobody is going to know where to start looking for you. Is that right, Billy? And I said, that's right, Red Dog. And he said, turn around and go set up the targets out there.
And I turned around and started walking out in the field. And I thought, if they've made me, this is it. They're going to all shoot me in the back right here. There was nothing I could do. I didn't have a gun. I had bluffed them as far as I could bluff them.
ZAHN: But it turned out it was Red Dog who was bluffing.
QUEEN: You know, I turned around and looked while I was setting the cans up and they're all joking with each other and stuff like that. And so I get my heart going again. And I pull myself back together, so I can play the game for the rest of the night.
ZAHN: For most federal agents, the line between enforcing the law and breaking it is clear. But for undercover agents in as deep as Billy Queen, that line sometimes disappears. It happened when the Mongols accidentally ran into a rival gang in a bar. It didn't take long for the fight to start. And a brother Mongol, the chapter president, was in the middle of it.
QUEEN: Right when we went in, there was a guy that was leaning up against an ice machine. He had a beer in one hand. And, finally, the president looked at him and said, what the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) are you looking at? And this guy looked back at the president and said, you. And when he did, the president just decked him, just bam. Beer went up in the air. He took one swipe and hit me in the side of the head.
I hung on to him and I swung back. And when I did, he reached in behind him and he came out with this knife. And I let go of him, obviously. And he swiped the knife across my jacket, slit the front of my jacket. I'm afraid he's going to kill me. I'm righteously afraid this guy is going to kill me. So, I hollered for Rocky, the chapter sergeant at arms, to shoot him.
And I'm hollering, shoot him, Rocky. Shoot him. I'm going around in a circumstance with this guy. As far as I was concerned, the case was over with at that time.
So, is it always clear? No, it is not clear. When a fight breaks out in a bar, and the clubs come out and the knives come out, stuff like that, and you're slugging it out in the bar, you hit somebody, that's an assault, or is it an assault? Are you protecting yourself? What are you doing?
ZAHN: That question first began for Billy Queen when his mother died suddenly during the investigation.
QUEEN: I didn't ask anybody anything. I told the Mongols, hey, look, my mom died. And I told the ATF. And I'm taking a break. I got to go home. My mom died.
ZAHN: When he got back to his undercover life as outlaw biker, to the people who knew him as Billy St. John, he began to see things in a new light. QUEEN: And I rode over to Evil's (ph) house. And when I walked up to the door, Evil and I put my hand out for that handshake, and he grabbed me around the neck and said, Billy, I'm sorry about your mom, buddy. I love you, brother. And I almost -- I almost cried. I almost dropped to my knees and cried.
ATF hadn't said a word to me, not when I left, not when I went and came back, not the case agent, not anybody in the office. Nobody said, sorry about your mom. But that first Mongol that I saw grabbed me around the neck and said he loved me and he was sorry about my mom. And the next one that I saw did the same thing. And the next one did the same thing. And I told myself, this is where I belong. I wanted to be a Mongol at that time. I didn't want to be Billy Queen.
I wanted to be Billy St. John. And I wanted to get on that bike and ride off with them.
ZAHN: In the end, after two long years riding with the gang, Billy finally did leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His undercover activities, which were at great personal risk and sacrifice from the agent...
ZAHN: As a direct result of his undercover work, 54 Mongols were arrested. And 53 went to jail for crimes that included murder, illegal drug dealing, and weapons violations.
QUEEN: It was hard for know sit there on the witness stand and look those guys in the face, them looking at me. They had called me brother and told me that they loved me. They did love me. They loved Billy St. John. And it was hard.
ZAHN: He knows the Mongols will never forget that. And he's haunted by a deadly threat that one day the Mongols will take revenge.
QUEEN: I know that I'm always going to be looking over my shoulder. I would be foolish not to. I don't go anywhere today without a gun. And, when I go bed at nighttime, I sleep with a double barrel shotgun right by my bed.
ZAHN: Billy Queen has now retired from the ATF. He's written a book about his experience with the Mongols called "Under and Alone."
Now, get this. Mel Gibson has the right to making this into the movie. And who will be playing Billy Queen? Mel Gibson himself.
Still to come, Lisa Marie Presley talks about stepping out of her famous father's shadow and trying to make her own kind of music.
ZAHN: Still ahead, Lisa Marie Presley survives a sheltered childhood, a traumatic death, a stressful marriage, and searches for music to call her own. And a little bit later on, a convicted killer's story, how Pope John Paul II saved his life.
But, first, just about 15 minutes past the hour, Erica Hill of headline news is standing by to update the top stories.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Paula. Good to see you.
HILL: A massive fugitive roundup resulted in a record number after rests this past week. We're just learning more about it.
Law enforcement officials announced the details of Operation Falcon today. U.S. Marshals coordinated the nationwide effort that nabbed more than 10,000 fugitives, hundreds of them wanted for violent crimes, including murder and rape.
The House approved legislation that makes it more difficult for people to wipe out their debts through bankruptcy. The measure will make it tougher for individuals to qualify for what is known as a Chapter 7 filing. Chapter 7 allows courts to cancel debts after your assets have been sold off. Many of those people will now be shifted to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which requires them to continue making payments for up to five years. And President Bush says he will sign the measure.
A U.S. Air National Guard pilot and master sergeant are behind bars accused of smuggling ecstasy during an official mission. Authorities say the pair used a cargo plane to smuggle up to 290,000 pills worth millions of dollars into the U.S. from Germany. Federal agents arrested them on Tuesday after they landed at a New York military base with the drugs on board, an amazing story there.
And, Paula,, that's the latest from Headline News at this hour. We'll see you again in a little bit.
ZAHN: And we'll see you in about a half-hour, give or take a couple of minutes. Thanks, Erica.
Time to vote for our person of the day. Your choices, the Washington Nationals for bringing big league baseball back to the nation's capital after a 34-year absence. Check that out, the president throwing out the first pitch at tonight's game. Helis, the beluga whale -- yes, we have bent the rules again -- for trying, but not yet succeeding, to find his way back home after getting lost in the Delaware River somewhere between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. And Teresa Anderson for agreeing to be a surrogate mother for a couple who had been trying to conceive for nine years and finding out she was pregnant with five boys. Vote now.
Go to our Web site, CNN.com/Paula. The winner at the end of our hour.
Coming up next, she's the daughter of Elvis and Michael Jackson's ex. And now she's finally ready to sing for you and for her critics. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
L. PRESLEY: I knew that I was a real music lover and I knew that I know music. And I knew that I didn't -- I guess what I was surprised at was them thinking that it wasn't going to be and that they were already thinking it was going to be some bubblegum sellout crap.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Coming up, Lisa Marie on -- that would be Marie Presley on her music, her dad and a whole lot more. Please stay tuned.
ZAHN: Of course, the King is a tough act to follow. But Lisa Marie Presley is used to standing in the shadow of her very famous dad. Well, now she is staking her own claim to stardom with the release of her second CD. And she doesn't seem to be afraid of picking up where her dad left off.
Here is tonight's "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS."
ELVIS PRESLEY, MUSICIAN: Rock 'n' roll music, if you like it and if you feel it, you can't help but move to it.
That's what happens to me. I can't help it.
ZAHN: With a curl of the lip and a twitch of the hip, Lisa Marie Presley finally entered the building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: DNA rules the planet. And it is undeniable when you look at her perform or you listen to her sing.
PETER CASTRO, "PEOPLE": It is Elvis' face on that body.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her eyes and her mouth are him.
CASTRO: It is the oddest thing.
ZAHN: Famous since the moment she was born, for 35 years, we watched. We read. We thought we knew everything there was to know about Elvis Presley's only child. But beyond the tabloids, it is the artist and musician who has finally arrived. And this month, the raven-haired rocker returns, looking even more like her daddy and airing even more dirty laundry.
The debut single, a classic remake, the new album, raw, honest, no-holds-barred Lisa Marie Presley.
L. PRESLEY: I knew that it was real and I knew that I was a real music lover and I knew that I know music. What I was surprised at was them thinking it was going to be some bubblegum sellout crap. And that's kind of what they were set up for. So, I was like, wow, none of you have any idea who I am.
ZAHN: To know who she is, we open in Las Vegas. The date, May 1, 1967, the state of the world, abuzz.
NARRATOR: Elvis Presley weds Priscilla Anne Beaulieu and one of America's richest teenage singing idols promises to love, honor and obey. Why did the pelvis desert bachelorhood? Said he, it's about time.
ZAHN: And exactly nine months to the day, on February 1, 1968, at the Baptist Hospital in Memphis, the King's daughter was born.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was the first grandchild. And, of course, Elvis was the typical father, just doting and excited and showing her off.
ZAHN: With iconic parents, she began her life behind the famed walls of Graceland. The Presleys' lifestyle was extravagant and Elvis spared no expense on his little heiress.
CASTRO: Elvis adored Lisa Marie and lived for her. He would do such sweet things.
CYNTHIA SANZ, SR. EDITOR, "PEOPLE": She would show up in diamonds and mink coats. Her father flew her to Idaho once so she could see snow.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Going to Vegas, having a little slot machine in the hotel room, and even room service -- staying in a hotel and having room service could be a lot of fun when you were with Elvis Presley.
ZAHN: But, by 1972, endless tours and his rock 'n' roll lifestyle had gotten in the way of marriage. Following a year-long separation and a torrent of media speculation, Priscilla filed for divorce. In the coming years, a nomadic Lisa Marie would split her time between Beverly Hills and her father's beloved Memphis.
L. PRESLEY: You know, mostly, it was breaks. It was very inconsistent. Sometimes, a car would show up to pick me up at school and I wasn't ready for it, because he just sent for me.
ZAHN: As time went by, returning to California became increasingly difficult.
CASTRO: Well, you know, Elvis and Priscilla were two very different types of parents. Elvis was laissez-faire, hey, baby, go have a good time. And Priscilla was really like the commandant.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unfortunately, Priscilla had to be the bad guy for quite a few years. But somebody had to be. It surely wasn't going to be Elvis.
ZAHN: And it certainly wasn't going to be Elvis' new girlfriend, Linda Thompson. Befriending the youngster, their friendship would span some 30 years.
LINDA THOMPSON, FORMER GIRLFRIEND OF ELVIS: I met Lisa when she was 4 1/2. I never had a problem with Lisa, never, like, you know, you're not my mom; I don't have to do what you say. I kind of played along with her, because I was kind of a kid, too.
ZAHN: Sleep all day, party all night, by 1976, those were the rules of Graceland. And as tabloids followed his every move and paparazzi sprung from every corner, the 8-year-old watched quietly as her father's health declined.
Coming up, lights out, a grim discovery on August 16, 1977.
THOMPSON: This little 9-year-old girl called me long distance and, you know, in a breathless tone told me that she had just found out that her father died.
ZAHN: Hard living came easy to
ZAHN: Hard living came easy to Elvis Presley in his final years. A young Lisa Marie was sometimes there at Graceland looking on. Lisa herself walked on the wild side for a while before mining her own life as raw material for her music. And this week she released her second CD.
Tonight's PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues.
ZAHN: (voice-over): By 1977, 9-year-old Lisa Marie Presley was living two lives: one of discipline in her mother's California, one of indulgence in her father's Tennessee. Increasingly, however she was noticing a change in Elvis. And the Memphis fortress he had created.
Elvis' decline had been marked with ballooning weight, and an addiction to prescription medication. But no one was prepared for what happened next. The date was August 16, 1977.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening. Elvis Presley died today. He was 42. Apparently it was a heart attack. He was found at his home in Memphis not breathing.
LINDA THOMPSON, ELVIS' FORMER GIRLFRIEND: This little 9-year-old girl called me long distance. I was in Los Angeles. And, you know, in a breathless tone told me she just found out that her father had died.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lisa was there and saw all the commotion and she pretty much got glimpses of her father, you know, being taken out of the house in the ambulance.
ZAHN: By the thousands, fans flocked to Graceland. And within 24 hours, the white mansion was open to the public as the king of rock 'n' roll's body lay in state.
LISA MARIE PRESLEY, SINGER: There were so many masses of people mourning. I remember watching as the casket was there, they were coming through and there was a line. And I just remember sitting on the stair well not knowing what to do with that.
ZAHN: The following day on August 18, 1977, with media coverage by land and air, Elvis Aaron Presley was laid to rest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There the hearse carrying the body of Elvis Presley, which was such a powerhouse of movement, on the stage, and now still by death, leaves Graceland mansion for the last time.
ZAHN: In the coming years, the king's death would only deepen the mystery surrounding his only child. Drugs, demons, rebellious teenage years followed. And on October 3, 1988, the media circled once again. The king's only child had wed in a small service at the Los Angeles Scientology center. Eight months later, Daniel Riley Keogh was born.
With wild days behind her, Lisa Marie Presley, wife and now mother, began to think about her future. With the help of Keogh, she took a deep breath, turned to music and recorded a demo.
GARY HOMEY, UNCLE: She went to meet with record people with a manager. And the deal was just about set. She didn't do the deal because she became pregnant with Ben, her second child. So it all got put on hold. A year or two later, whatever, she became interested in singing again, which happened to coincide with the time she met up with Michael.
ZAHN: Five years into Lisa's marriage to Danny Keogh, the relationship was buckling. It was during this time that a fledgling friendship with Michael Jackson began to evolve. What came next shocked the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch on the sidewalk behind me.
ZAHN: Crowds swarmed, headlines screamed, Michael and Lisa Marie had secretly wed. Graceland meets Neverland. And everyone was scratching their heads.
HOMEY: She said she loved the guy. And said that's fine as long as you're happy and safe is the only thing I really care about.
ZAHN: One jaw-dropping music video later, an announcement that took no one by surprise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the marriage destined for divorce from the start?
ARTHEL NEVILLE, CORRESPONDENT: What may be the real reason Lisa Marie Presley is divorcing Michael Jackson.
ZAHN: After 20 months of marriage, Elvis Presley's only child had filed for divorce.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's used to everything his way. She never really had to answer to too many people. And I don't think she was going to succumb to his whims.
ZAHN: And in the year 2000, there was yet another high profile relationship. This time with actor Nicolas Cage.
CASTRO: When things were good, they were really good, as she said. And when they were bad, they were really, really bad.
ZAHN: Theirs was a tumultuous pairing from the get go. Dating on and off for two years, they married on August 10, 2002. Just three months later, Cage filed for divorce.
HOMEY: I think they should have dated. But, you know, who am I? I'm just a, you know, an uncle. It was a wonderful wedding, though.
ZAHN: And in April 2003, with three husbands and 35 years behind her, Lisa Marie Presley finally faced her legacy. Long awaited, highly anticipated, aptly called "To Whom it may Concern." One gold record and two years later, Elvis' one and only returns with her latest "Now What?" And although the dreaded personal questions persist...
PRESLEY: Every time I wear a ring on my left finger, I'm engaged.
ZAHN: No one can deny after year of living in the shadow of her famous father, the king of rock 'n' roll's daughter has finally come into her own.
PRESLEY: I want to affect people as I've been affected through music. I just want my own fingerprint.
ZAHN: So Lisa Marie is back out on the road with -- touring, with her new album in the South, East Coast and Canada. And tomorrow our PEOPLE IN THE NEWS segment weighs in on actress Kirstie Alley. She's turned her 100 plus pound weight gain into a gold mine. She's not afraid to have fun with it. It is the focus of her new comedy "Fat Actress." We'll talk about that tomorrow.
What is on your dog's iPod: country music, rock n' roll, pop. Well, in just a minute, Jeanne Moos introduces to someone who is actually creating music with your little doggy in mind.
And if all dogs go to heaven who will keep them company? Top of the hour, LARRY KING LIVE, asks the panel of religious experts what happens when we die.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: All right. If you're worn out today, time to relax and have a little fun. Some people these days might think music has gone to the dogs. But that is exactly what one songwriter has in mind.
And our Jeanne Moos tried out the concept with the target audience.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here boy! Come on, girl Call your dog over to the TV so we can see if the CD lives up to its title "Songs to Make Dogs Happy."
MOOS: The creators say these songs were tested on doggy focus groups.
We found getting dogs to focus on music wasn't easy. But the CD's creators used more controlled focus groups, not to mention an animal communicator channeling their thoughts.
DR. KIM OGDEN, ANIMAL COMMUNICATOR: I love this song, but I'd rather lick you.
MOOS: The result, a 12-song CD featuring numbers like "Squeaky- Deakey!"
Here at Biscuits & Bath doggy day care, we tested big dogs and little dogs.
SKIP HAYNES, PETCDS.COM: (INAUDIBLE) number one hit, yes.
MOOS: Skip Haynes created and performed "Songs to Make Dogs Happy."
HAYNES: We wrote a song that the entire lyrical content of the song is, "you're a good dog," and dogs like to hear that.
MOOS (on camera): See how you like this one?
Don't like that one.
(voice-over): I couldn't fathom what Rudy here really thought. Pet communicator Kim Ogden says she can, word for word.
OGDEN: It's pleasant, but it's not the best thing I ever heard.
I am hearing them speak to me just like I'm having a conversation with an old friend.
MOOS: In English no less. Nutty as this sounds, Kim's supporters cite deeds like diagnosing animal ailments that are later confirmed by vets. Musically speaking ...
OGDEN: Dogs love happy things. They love happy things. MOOS: One adventurous dog seemed to want to turn down the volume. Sam the Beagle sent mixed signals -- wagging his tail, but later...
(on camera): Are you growling? Why go you growl? Why do you keep turning it off?
(voice-over): Sam even whacked the CD. You're a bad dog.
Was it the mushy music that inspired romance? But who needs all that fake panting, when you've got the real thing.
ZAHN: As for my beloved Nigel, he doesn't care what you're playing, just as long as that dog bowl is out there early enough. And one last note, the CD that Jeanne Moos introduced us to seems to be catching on with dog lovers. "Songs to Make Dogs Happy" comes in at No. 3 on one new age music chart. We're just not sure how any of the dogs would rate it.
Coming up, the day Pope John Paul II asked a Baptist Southern governor to do the unthinkable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He got to my husband, he stopped and he paused. And he looked him directly in the eye and he said, mercy from Mr. Mease.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: It was a plea for the life of a convicted murderer, just days away from execution. The killer himself picks up the story when we come back.
ZAHN: Still to come: A convicted killer remembers when he was scheduled to die, and remarkably how Pope John Paul II helped save his life.
But first, moving up on about 14 minutes before the hour, time to check in one last time with Erica Hill tonight at HEADLINE NEWS. Hi again, Erica.
HILL: Hi again, Paula.
Some interesting news here on the weight loss front. A once popular supplement could soon be back on store shelves. A federal judge has struck down the FDA ban on Ephedra. Now, you may recall, the supplement was pulled from the market a year ago after being linked to 155 deaths. A Utah supplement company, though, challenged the ban, arguing that the FDA was regulating Ephedra as a drug instead of as a food. Well, today's ruling sends the matter back to the FDA for more consideration. President Bush's choice to become the first U.S. director of national intelligence approved by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today. John Negroponte's nomination could come up for a full Senate vote next week. His confirmation is expected.
And President Bush has ushered in a new sports era for Washington, D.C., after throwing out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals' home opener tonight. The city has been without a baseball team since 1971, when the Senators moved to Texas and became the Rangers. The Nationals were formerly the Montreal Expos.
And that is the latest from HEADLINE NEWS. Paula, back to you.
ZAHN: How about that president's pitching arm, Erica?
HILL: Not bad. A lot better than mine, I'll tell you that.
ZAHN: I remember, we've compared him to some of the other presidents who've pitched opening games before.
ZAHN: And that one held up there. That was the consensus here.
ZAHN: See you tomorrow night.
HILL: Sounds good. Have a good night, Paula.
ZAHN: Time to check in with Larry King, who's coming up at 9:00. Hi, Larry. Who is going to be joining you tonight?
LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: We have a whole panel of folks, Paula, from all different faiths. The subject tonight is the greatest mystery of all, death. The overall concept is what happens when we die? Where do we go if anywhere? We'll try to pose that question, see if we get some answers, and take viewer calls. That's tonight: The mystery of death -- Paula.
ZAHN: Well, a lot of us have a lot of questions, particularly after witnessing the Terri Schiavo case for many, many weeks, and that leading into the pope's death. Should be an interesting hour. Thanks, Larry.
KING: Thanks, Paula.
ZAHN: At the top of the hour.
And in just a second, you're going to meet a man who actually cheated death, but it took what can only be described as divine intervention. But first, the closest vote ever for a person of the day. For a while, we didn't know who would win. The tally has just come in. Would it be the Washington Nationals for bringing baseball back to the Beltway? Or Helis the wayward whale, trying to go home after getting lost in the Delaware River? Or Teresa Anderson, the surrogate mom who is carrying five baby boys for one childless couple?
You weighed in, and here it is. Tonight, Helis the whale celebrates the krill of victory.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watch right there. Right there.
ZAHN (voice-over): We'll be the first to admit a white beluga whale isn't a person. Then again, a white beluga whale isn't supposed to be 80 miles up the Delaware River. And this one is certainly there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look for the whale.
ZAHN: And at last report, heading up river, not back out to sea.
There are herring in the Delaware River. So it's not a red herring to say the whale may just be hungry.
One expert is pretty sure it has the same scar on its back as a whale that was seen in the Saint Lawrence River a couple of years ago. If it is the same, he already has a name, Helis. Does it take two years to swim the 800 plus miles from the Saint Lawrence to the Delaware? Maybe. Helis didn't take the direct route. Believe it or not, there are laws on the books that say, don't feed the whales, but there is no law against naming it our "Person of the Day."
ZAHN: As the cardinals of the Catholic Church get ready to choose a new pope, millions around the world are still marveling at the way Pope John Paul II touched their lives, including one American whose life was spared because of the pope. Chris Lawrence has his amazing story.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: By most accounts, this man should already be dead. He shouldn't be shaking hands, shouldn't be serving time in this Missouri prison, but something happened six years ago, when a man who had never met Darryl Meese stepped in to save his life.
In January 1999, Meese was sitting on death row, when Pope John Paul II made his last visit to America, and celebrated mass at the St. Louis Cathedral. At one point he stepped down from the altar and walked over to Missouri governor Mel Carnahan who was there with his wife, Jean.
JEAN CARNAHAN, FMR GOVERNOR'S WIFE: Then, when he got to my husband and he stopped, and he paused, and he looked him directly in the eye.
LAWRENCE: The pope leaned toward the governor and asked one thing. CARNAHAN: He said, mercy for Mr. Meese.
LAWRENCE: The leader of the Catholic Church asking a Southern Baptist governor to have mercy on a convicted killer.
MICHAEL CUNEO, AUTHOR "ALMOST MIDNIGHT": Darryl had a classical hillbilly upbringing.
LAWRENCE: Professor Michael Cuneo wrote a book called about Meese, called "Almost Midnight."
CUNEO: He was by all accounts a fine and respectful kid. A lot of people assumed that Darryl was destined to become a preacher.
LAWRENCE: It didn't quite work out that way. Meese fell in with a local drug lord, Lloyd Lawrence (ph), who ran a methamphetamine empire.
DARRYL MEESE: I wanted to make money, quick money.
LAWRENCE: But the relationship went bad, and when Meese snatched a batch of meth and left Missouri, Lawrence put out a contract on him.
MEESE: I had a $10,000 price tag on my head, and a bunch of crackheads trying to collect it.
LAWRENCE: But, in the middle of 1988, Meese and his girlfriend Mary came back.
CUNEO: And surely, Lloyd, Darryl reasoned, would have bought off much of the local sheriff's departments in southwest Missouri, and by the way, Darryl was right. Lloyd had.
LAWRENCE: Meese hid in a duck blind with a rifle, then he ambushed Lawrence, his wife Frankie and their disabled grandson.
CUNEO: Three murders in the space of 15 seconds. He went up to Lloyd, and he shot Lloyd at point blank range through the head. Then he did exactly the same thing to Frankie (ph), blew the back of Frankie's head off and also shot Willy (ph) in the head, spraying bits of brain all over the creek and all over the road.
LAWRENCE: After briefly going back on the run, Darryl Meese was arrested in Arizona and brought back to Missouri.
MEESE: I shot him, then I shot Frankie and then, I shot Willy.
LAWRENCE: The jury convicted Meese of first degree murder and he was sentence to death by lethal injection. Some 10 years later, state officials scheduled his execution. It was the same January date Pope John Paul II would be celebrating mass in St. Louis. To avoid embarrassment, the state delayed the execution until February.
So, when the pope appealed for an end to the death penalty during that St. Louis mass, Darryl Meese had only two weeks to live. So, the pope sent his archbishop to speak with the governor. Joe Bednar attended that meeting, as governor Carnahan's chief counsel.
JOE BEDNAR, FMR CHIEF COUNSEL TO GOV CARNAHAN: We went in, and Archbishop Regali (ph) explained to us that the date of the execution was changed so that it won't occur until after we leave, and that has kind of put us in an awkward position. And the pope was hoping that something might be able to be done for this man.
LAWRENCE: 38 people were executed during the Carnahan administration. There was no reason to believe Meese would be any different, until that last mass when the pope stood inches away from the governor.
CARNAHAN: I always felt that, you know, at the time their eyes met, their hands touched, and their hearts touched.
LAWRENCE: A year later, Governor Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash. But his friend and former counsel still remembers the night he decided to commute Meese's death sentence.
BEDNAR: It's a tough decision for a Catholic, and here this Southern Baptist, really amazing.
LAWRENCE: And Darryl Meese probably will spend the rest of his life here, behind the walls of a maximum security prison. But he did have access to a TV during the pope's last days.
LAWRENCE: Did you watch TV at all as he was dying?
MEESE: It did affect me somewhat when he died, more than I thought it would.
LAWRENCE: But Meese understands that, for those weeks in 1999, he was a dead man walking.
Do you think Darryl Meese is lucky or blessed?
CARNAHAN: Whatever it is, his life was saved, and he was spared. It certainly was one of those things he did not deserve, and yet it occurred. It was a merciful act.
LAWRENCE: Darryl Meese has never really shown obvious remorse for what he did. In some ways, he was the least deserving of mercy. But perhaps, for the man who pleaded his case, that's why he needed it most.
ZAHN: Over the years, the pope pleaded to stop other executions, including that of Carla Fay Tucker in Texas, when George W. Bush was governor. But only his in-person request for Darryl Meese's life was honored. Now America's Catholic bishops are urging an end to the death penalty nationwide.
That wraps it up for all of us here tonight. CNN prime time continues with the question that all of us ask at some time or another, what exactly happens when we die? An expert panel will be joining Larry King to try to answer some of those very tough questions. He's coming up right after this.
Thanks again for being with us tonight. Good night.
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