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Handcuffing of Child Sparks Legal Battle; Ratzinger Papal Campaign Examined

Aired April 25, 2005 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: One month into spring and the snow keeps falling. A rare swirling storm brings more than a foot in some places. Where does this nasty weather go today?
The worst train accident in Japan in decades. Fifty killed, hundreds hurt. Many others are still trapped inside the wreckage.

And Pope Benedict XVI making a promise to non-Christians this morning, even as we learn new details of a long campaign to make him pope, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN broadcast center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Bill Hemmer.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone.

8:00 on a Monday morning here.

A very interesting story out of Florida. We're watching this videotape here, the legal battle brewing now over what police did to this 5-year-old misbehaving in class, in kindergarten. They put the girl in handcuffs. She screamed back, which is probably pretty much to be expected. We'll talk to the attorney for the girl's mother about what happens next. And we'll get you back to that story.

O'BRIEN: That's like the bizarre story of the day, I think.


O'BRIEN: Also this morning, we're starting our five-part series on retirement. One of the things we're looking at is -- stop saying yes. Stop cheering, Jack. There is an easy formula to figure out just how much money you're really going to need. It takes just about two minutes to do the numbers. We'll show you how it works.

HEMMER: You like that, don't you?


O'BRIEN: Are you really?

HEMMER: Oh, my.

CAFFERTY: I'll be watching that.

O'BRIEN: Are you really ready? CAFFERTY: No, I don't know.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I didn't think so -- good morning.


Coming up in "The Cafferty File," a death watch for the Hubble telescope on its anniversary.

America is the land of the free, except for two million of us who aren't.

And bad news for New York's famous red-tailed hawks, Pale Male and Lola.

HEMMER: Wow! Another twist?

O'BRIEN: Yes, really? What happened? Oh, I guess that's the tease. Can't you tell us the short version right now?

HEMMER: No chance in hell he's going to tell us now.

CAFFERTY: Pain, pain. When we get to the commercial break, explain how a program works to her, will you? Give her a little on the tease versus the...

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

We appreciate that. Oh, it teases what comes up later.

Thank you, Jack.

I appreciate that.

CAFFERTY: Wasn't that retirement thing air...

O'BRIEN: Oh, stop already.

CAFFERTY: ... come up soon.

HEMMER: Just moments away.

To the headlines.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

HEMMER: Here's Carol back with us -- hey, Carol, what's happening overseas?


O'BRIEN: I know. Poor me.

COSTELLO: I'm with you. I wanted to know right now, too.

Leave her alone, Jack. CAFFERTY: Well, you'll just have to wait.

COSTELLO: All right.

CAFFERTY: All right.

COSTELLO: Good morning, everyone.

Now in the news, search and rescue crews at the site of what's being called the worst rail accident in Japan in more than 40 years. Investigators say a packed commuter train jumped the tracks in an urban area west of Tokyo. At least 50 bodies have been recovered so far. More than 300 people have been rushed for medical treatment. No word yet on what caused the train to crash.

Some critics of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist say she's aligned himself with religious conservatives for political gain. At issue, a national broadcast on Sunday night. The Tennessee Republican called on Democrats to quit stalling against President Bush's judicial nominees, saying that filibusters hurt people of faith. Responding to his critics, Frist says he's not a radical and just wants senators to vote.

President Bush is expected to ask Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to help reduce oil prices. The two are set to meet around 12:00 p.m. Eastern at the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Crude oil is now at more than $55 a barrel.

Sentencing begins next hour for an American sergeant who attacked his fellow soldiers. Sergeant Hasan Akbar was convicted Thursday of killing two officers and wounding 14 others in a nighttime grenade and rifle attack. It happened two years ago in Kuwait as the troops were preparing to invade Iraq. Akbar could face the death penalty.

And three astronauts from the International Space Station are back on Earth this morning. Their space capsule landed safely hours ago in a remote area of Kazakhstan. Medical staff helped the worn astronauts out of the capsule. The three, an American, a Russian and an Italian, are said to be doing just fine. The astronauts landed with some 50 live snails, part of an experiment on weightlessness.

HEMMER: Really?

COSTELLO: No word on what will happen to the snails now.


COSTELLO: Escargot anyone?

O'BRIEN: Oh, and I'm saying they'll find a good home for those snails.

COSTELLO: They'll put a little (INAUDIBLE). I'm sorry.

HEMMER: Thank you, Carol.

COSTELLO: All right.

HEMMER: Let's get to the Vatican now.

Pope Benedict XVI keeping a busy schedule today, meeting with German pilgrims in one event then non-Christian leaders in another. At his formal inauguration on Sunday, the pontiff pledged to pursue a path of unity among Christians, as well as people of other faiths.

From Rome, "Time" magazine's Jeff Israely back with us, who writes in this week's edition of "Time" magazine about some intriguing items from how Ratzinger won this election.

Jeff, welcome back here.

You write about a campaign that started 18 months ago.

How did that begin?

JEFF ISRAELY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: At the time Ratzinger's name was announced to the piazza last Tuesday, it almost seemed inevitable that he would be elected. But as few as six to eight months ago, he wasn't considered a likely candidate. And we investigated last week when his name, in fact, was thrown back into the mix. And it seems to date all the way back to October of 2003.

At that time, John Paul had another health crisis and cardinals were already whispering about a possible Ratzinger campaign. He was, until then, seen as too divisive and problematic for too many of the cardinals. But apparently already back then, he was being considered.

HEMMER: You know, you also write in your article this week, and to quote you now, on the screen for our viewers: "My voice is tired because I've been talking all week, ' Ratzinger said on April 18, about a week ago." Then you continued to write: "It was like nonstop town hall meetings in the U.S. political campaign, with this caveat -- no one is allowed to campaign."

Did he circumvent that no campaign rule?

ISRAELY: No, I don't think so. I think right up until the end, his fellow cardinals felt that Ratzinger's prominent role, it was due, in fact, to the point that he was the dean of the cardinals and was given these tasks as the man who gave the homily at the pope's funeral and who led the general congregations, the meetings before the conclave. And I think he just emerged as someone who could do the job. And the cardinals were impressed by the work he was doing and the way he was, surprisingly to some, perhaps, able to connect with the worshipers at the pope's funeral.

But as for campaigning, as for saying I want the job, I don't think he did that at any point. And perhaps he may, part of him may not have wanted the job. It's a great responsibility and he's a man of 78 years old who, in the past, had even asked to retire from his job here in the Vatican and go back to his studies.

HEMMER: Jeff... ISRAELY: So it's not a campaign in the...

HEMMER: ... here's another...


HEMMER: I apologize for the interruption, just to move it forward a little bit here, you also write: "By the fourth vote, Ratzinger had won 95 of the 115 votes."

You're a good reporter. But how do we know this stuff and whatever happened to the vow of secrecy?

ISRAELY: Well, that piece of information I did not get myself, but from a collaborator, a long time Italian Vaticanista named John Carlos Disdila (ph), who spoke with a cardinal who was in there and who gave us some of the details of the voting, that Ratzinger, on the second ballot already, had 60 votes, and by the fourth ballot had quite a strong, strong majority.

HEMMER: The one other thing you touch on, Jeff, is this fact. You say: "The idea that the liberal cardinals were taken by surprise was quite stunning to them based on their lack of knowledge about the support Ratzinger had."

Why did this come as such a big surprise to them?

ISRAELY: Well, again, he was really off the radar, as one person -- one official put it. People had figured that he was not in the running, that he was seen as the symbol of a particular side of the debate, the ongoing debates in the church, and that someone like that couldn't win a two thirds majority.

And so I think some of the progressive cardinals felt he wasn't a factor. But he, when they, when the cardinals arrived here in Rome after the pope had died, Ratzinger was already in very good position to gain the papacy.

HEMMER: A good article, Jeff.

Thanks for coming back with us.

Jeff Israely there in Rome.

And you can read Jeff's article in this week's "Time" magazine. It's there on newsstands today -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: A 5-year-old girl in Florida was taken out of her kindergarten classroom for disruptive behavior last month. But after going to the principal's office, the girl was eventually led away in police handcuffs. The entire incident was caught on videotape.

And CNN's Tony Harris explains.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) TONY HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The camera was rolling as part of a self-improvement exercise for preschool children in St. Petersburg, Florida. You see a 5-year-old girl become disruptive...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not touching you. No ma'am, we're not touching you. You don't touch me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't touch anybody.


HARRIS: ... first throwing objects on the floor and resisting the efforts of a teacher and assistant principal to calm her down. Eventually, the girl's mother is called, but she's unable to come to the school.


HARRIS: The girl begins hitting the assistant principal and the police are called.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: No! I don't want them on! No!

HARRIS: The video is stopped soon after the girl's hands are fastened behind her. Now, no charges have been filed against the 5- year-old girl and she was released to her mother. But a lawyer for the girl's parents say that police went too far and that he plans unspecified legal actions against them. Police officials have launched an internal investigation.

Tony Harris, CNN, Atlanta.


O'BRIEN: From Tampa, Florida this morning, John Trevena is the attorney for the girl's mother.

Good morning.

Nice to see you.

Thanks for being with us.


Thank you.

O'BRIEN: When you look at the videotape, which we've just obviously shown, you can see that there was a meltdown, a big meltdown, before the cops arrived. Tony said in his piece that there was an attempt to try to reach your client, the girl's mother.

What happened there?

TREVENA: Well, she's at work. She was working as a certified nursing assistant and she had patients to care for and simply couldn't get away. It took about 45 minutes before she could get to the school.

O'BRIEN: Before we talk about her reaction to the videotape, I want to show it one more time, the arrest videotape of this 5-year-old girl.

Let's take a look.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pull her hands down.



O'BRIEN: Your client finally makes her way to the school 45 minutes later. Once she's seen this videotape and once she has seen her daughter in the back of the police car cuffed, what was her reaction?

TREVENA: She was horrified. Her child was in the back of a marked police cruiser with a cage in the back and she was bound by plastic ties, at this time, around her hands because the metal handcuffs were too large for a child that young. And her legs were bound. They were shackled with handcuffs, her legs.

So she saw her daughter in that condition and was very upset. And then the police then threatened to arrest her for interfering with their investigation.

O'BRIEN: This is not, though, the first time that there's been some kind of discipline problems with this little girl.

What would you or what would your client have liked the teachers and the assistant principal to do?

TREVENA: Well, see, there was a long history between the mother, the daughter and the assistant principal. The mother wanted her child transferred out of that class because the child and the assistant principal did not get along. And who do they send in when the child is disruptive? The assistant principal.

And I think that really exacerbated the situation.

O'BRIEN: Yes, but, you know, we're looking at videotape where this little girl is -- I mean this is meltdown that I think anybody with a 5-year-old has seen before. And at some point you have to say well, if she grabbed her, if she held her down and, you know, pinned her down hard, wouldn't she then be -- the assistant principal -- wouldn't the mother be calling you also and saying hey, you know, this teacher is abusing my child. Aren't they, the school themselves, sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place? They don't want to physically touch the kid, but she's having a meltdown. She's obviously disruptive.

What do they do?

TREVENA: No question about that. But I've been contacted by numerous child psychologists who have seen the videotape and they tell me that a couple of things should have been different. One, the child should not have been so cornered by the educators in such close proximity and a constant attempt of communication between the educators and the child. But most significantly -- and all of the experts agree on this point -- the camera should not have been on the child during this because children will intuitively act out for the camera, and that that was the greatest error in this, was keeping a camera. And then following the child to a different room with that camera.

So the child is acting out, at this point, for the camera, knowing that something special is happening because she's being filmed.

O'BRIEN: At the same time, the fact that all of this was caught on tape is part of the reason, I have to imagine, that you have good pictures to go with the story that you're telling.

Do you plan to sue? I mean what are you going for here?

TREVENA: We'll be going after the City of St. Petersburg Police Department for wrongful arrest. I mean we have to understand that in this case, you cannot -- no one can arrest a 5-year-old. A 5-year-old is legally incompetent as a matter of law. So anytime there is an arrest made of a 5-year-old, the 5-year-old is incapable of forming any criminal intent, then that is a wrongful arrest per se.

So there's no question that the officers' actions were unjustifiable and indefensible, as a matter of law.

O'BRIEN: John Trevena is the attorney for the girl's mother.

Thanks for talking with us this morning.

Appreciate it.

TREVENA: Thank you.

Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Bill.

HEMMER: Now to the spring time storm here taking residence. At least seven states over the weekend some time out of their weekend. A rare spring snowstorm barreling through Michigan and Indiana and Ohio, covering just about everything in white. As much as a foot of snow fell in southeastern Michigan. More than that in Detroit's northern suburbs, places like Pontiac. The Cleveland area saw up to 14 inches. Even residents as far south as the North Carolina/Tennessee border got about six inches of snow there. Along with that storm, heavy winds. Temperatures about 25 degrees below normal. Thousands left without power. That's for now. It's going to heat up, too.

For more on the storm and the temps today, hey -- Chad, good morning.


The storm really kind of winding down and pulling out. Still a few scattered light snow showers east of Cleveland, through Akron, all the way back into Pittsburgh and the turnpike, but that's about it. Really, the rest of the day starts to get better from here.


HEMMER: Thank you, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Coming up in just a moment, the quest for immortality. Two men develop a how to plan for living forever. We're "Paging Dr. Gupta" for details on their pretty controversial ideas.

HEMMER: Also in a moment here, our special retirement series starts today. It's called "Never Too Late." Today, an easy way to figure out how much money you'll need to retire comfortably. Stay tuned for that. Good information with Gerri Willis after the break.


HEMMER: Could living longer mean living forever? A good question this morning for Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who's been following one scientist's quest for immortality.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fifty-seven-year-old Ray Kurzweil's daily routine: 250 supplements, 10 cups of green tea, four miles of brisk walking, all part of his quest for immortality.

RAY KURZWEIL, AUTHOR, SCIENTIST: The diseases that kill 95 percent of us are not things that just hit us one day walking down the street. You can find out where you are on that process and stop that process and reverse it fairly readily with the right lifestyle and the right supplements.

GUPTA: That right lifestyle is outlined in "Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough To Live Forever." Ray is not a doctor, but an award- winning scientist. He and co-author, Dr. Terry Grossman, recommend intravenous supplements for better digestion, acupuncture and regular biological testing to determine body age, all geared towards taking advantage of biotechnological advances they say are just over the horizon. KURZWEIL: I expect and hope to be in good shape when we have these powerful new techniques from biotechnology 10, 15 years from now; for example, have devices called the nanobots that can actually perform functions inside our bloodstream, augment our immune system, destroy pathogens in cancer cells, enhance our red blood cells, for example, so that we can breathe better.

GUPTA: Sound like science fiction? While oddly reminiscent of the 1966 film "Fantastic Voyage, " in which scientists travel in vehicles through the blood system, in fact, humans have made giant leaps in life expectancy. Consider this. In 1900, the average American life span was 47 years. By 1960, it had risen to the early 60s. Now, life expectancy is 77.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's for headache, earache, toothache.

DR. THOMAS PERLS, CENTENARIAN EXPERT, BOSTON UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: We're always going to hear some special potion or nostrum for immortality, and that's not new.

GUPTA: Dr. Thomas Perls, a leading researcher on centenarians, says that living healthier longer is a good message. But relying on Ray's plan to do it is another.

PERLS: Much of the book is based upon Ray and Terry's own anecdotal personal experience of what works for them. What the book is asking people to do is everybody to be a guinea pig. And I think that's very dangerous.

GUPTA: Anti-aging is a multimillion industry. And as baby boomers grow older, they want greater control over their own longevity.

KURZWEIL: I would like to keep on living indefinitely. I would like that decision to be in my own hands and not in the figurative hands of fate.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


HEMMER: Longevity is just one of Kurzweil's interests. He's also the inventor of a reading machine for the blind -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, did Martha Stewart overstep her bounds? Coming up, reports that she may have violated the terms of her house arrest.

Stay with us.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: Here's the Question of the Day.

And we are searching for answers, aren't we?

CAFFERTY: Indeed we are.


CAFFERTY: And we're getting some, too.

Diplomatic efforts to stop North Korea and Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons are going nowhere. Sunday, yesterday, Iran said it's going to resume uranium enrichment regardless of the outcome of negotiations with European nations. Two years, two years of talking to North Korea have yielded absolutely nothing. North Korea shut down its main reactor this month, possibly to harvest plutonium to make more weapons.

So far, the U.S. has refused to deal with either country one-on- one.

The question this morning is what should be done about North Korea and Iran's nuclear weapons programs?

George in Segun, Texas: "Bush has destroyed America's credibility on WMD with the fruitless war in Iraq. With our continued inflexibility in negotiations, there is nothing left except another foolish war."

Gregory in Houston Texas: "We don't have to do anything. Neither North Korea nor Iran will use nuclear weapons knowing that in retaliation they would be wiped from the face of the Earth."

Patrick writes: "A couple of well placed daisy cutters would solve everything. Remember what President Reagan did to Libya more than 20 years ago? Haven't heard boo from Qaddafi ever since."

And Mike in Minnesota: "Jack, simple solution. Send North Korea a few samples from our arsenal -- air mail."

O'BRIEN: Wow! Some people are kind of getting right to the draw -- from negotiation to bombing.

CAFFERTY: Yes. I don't know what the answer is. I mean, obviously, North Korea has made it very clear that they don't intend to cooperate with the international community. They, you know, will move ahead. They're dangerous. They're broke. They're poor. They're desperate. A nasty situation.

HEMMER: A good point to be made in there, though, about Iraq and the fact that WMD was the premise for this war and it has not been found. And how did...

CAFFERTY: Not yet.

HEMMER: Well, come on. Are you still betting on that?

CAFFERTY: No. I'm just kidding.

HEMMER: All right. Chuckle, chuckle, he says.

Thank you, Jack.


O'BRIEN: Thanks, Jack.

Well, there are reports today that Martha Stewart could be in legal trouble again. Did she violate the terms of her house arrest? Jeff Toobin has got the low down on that just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Good morning.

Welcome back, everybody.

Just about half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Coming up, the search for survivors still trapped in that massive train accident in Japan. Fifty people now confirmed killed. Rescuers fear, though, that that number could go much higher. We're going to bring you a live report from Japan just ahead.

HEMMER: A stunning story, too.

Also, we're talking about whether or not Martha Stewart has been having too much fun while under house arrest. Why do you ask? There are some published reports that say investigators may now be looking into whether or not she violated her parole. Jeff Toobin stops by to tell us what we need to know in a second. She went to this dinner. She was being honored at the dinner. Was that a violation or was she doing work?

O'BRIEN: Was it work or was it fun?

HEMMER: That's right. So...

O'BRIEN: That's kind of the question.

HEMMER: That's the rub. So we'll get to it.

O'BRIEN: We'll see what Jeff has to say.

Let's get the headlines first, though -- good morning, Carol.


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