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Judge Declares Mistrial in Lynddie England Case; The Science Behind Firefighter's Sudden Recovery

Aired May 4, 2005 - 14:29   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Susan Candiotti there in Fort Hood, Texas. She was in the courtroom.
What does this mean, Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, this is a bombshell. In fact, as you indicated, a mistrial has been ruled by the judge in this case. As you indicated, Lynndie England, the private first class from Rawl (ph), West Virginia, the army reservist, had already pleaded guilty. But things changed as they moved into the penalty phase.

When her first defense witness of this day took the stand, it was her ex-boyfriend, Charles Graner. And Charles Graner began talking about a particular photo for which Lynndie England posed. This photograph was her pulling a detainee by a dog leash tied around his neck. Graner testified before the jury in an effort to try to earn their sympathy for Lynndie England. He said that she was just following orders and that this was, he described it, a legitimate technique for pulling a prisoner out of a cell.

Well, at that point, the judge stopped the proceedings cold. And when the jury was excused from the room as well as Graner, he was very angry. And he gave a tongue-lashing to the defense. He said you can't have it both ways. On the one hand, we just heard from a witness who said Lynndie England was just following orders. And he said, well, if that's the case, the judge said, she should file a not guilty plea. But since she's already pleaded guilty, she said -- remember, she already said I knew what I was doing, it was wrong, there was no order.

So the judge took a recess. He said think about what you want to do here. And when they came back, sure enough, the defense said we want to plead not guilty. Not guilty. So with that, the judge said, there's nothing else I can do here. I'm declaring a mistrial. We're throwing the case out.

So what does that mean? Well, there are a few things. First of all, this means that's up to the military prosecutors to decide now whether they want to refile these charges and ultimately, it's up to the commander here, the commanding general, Lieutenant Thomas Metz (ph), the commander of Ground Forces, to decide what they want to do. It could even go before another Grand Jury if they refile the charges.

At the same time, the defense, if that happens, will go back and try to renegotiate a plea deal with the prosecution. In fact, that's what may happen. Remember, Lynndie England is a new mother. She would face -- once again, since the plea deal was thrown out, up to nine years in prison. She had already worked out a much lower deal, secretly, of only two years.

So we don't know what's going to happen next. But one thing we do know is this: this court-martial is over -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Wow. A lot of back and forth. Is the possibility still out there, then, considering this mistrial and what could happen next, I mean, could she walk free?

CANDIOTTI: Well, certainly if the military -- if the Army decides to walk away from the whole thing, yes, she could. But it's a question as to whether they want to do that. Remember, her own attorney, of Lynddie England, called her once the poster child of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Her photograph has been out there for the world to see in all of these photographs.

And initially, she did plead not guilty and say that she was just following orders, as many of the other defendants have done. This, obviously, turns things around. She's going to reverting back to that plea if they refile charges. That's what it looks like. But if this happens, they'll probably try to renegotiate another plea deal. We don't know for sure.

PHILLIPS: Wow. Bombshell, indeed. Susan Candiotti, thank you so much. We're going to take a quick break. More LIVE FROM right after this.


PHILLIPS: Stories "Now in the News," President Bush praising Pakistan for finding and capturing a top al Qaeda suspect. Abu Faraj al Libbi is the alleged operations chief and number three man in al Qaeda. He was captured Monday. Pakistani authorities blame al Libbi for masterminding two assassination attempts against Pakistan's president.

A Pentagon analyst is in custody, charged with passing secret information to a pro-Israel group. Larry Franklin is to appear in U.S. District Court today. He's accused of giving up secrets about potential attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. Government officials believe the alleged hand-over of classified info occurred during a lunch meeting almost two years ago.

Before an audience of lawmakers, Montell Williams is touting the benefits of medical marijuana. The TV talk show host, who suffers from M.S., is joining a number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill this hour to push for legal protection for medical marijuana patients.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you just saw live here on CNN. Family and doctors telling the story of a brain-damaged firefighter, mute for almost ten years, now talking and telling jokes. Doctors had given him little hope, when suddenly what appears to be an amazing recovery. Some people call it a miracle. How does medical science, though, explain such a phenomenon? Let's bring in a neurologist expert on such matters. Dr. Martin Goldstein of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, joining us from New York. Dr. Goldstein, good to have you with us.


O'BRIEN: I was very interested in watching, and I'm sure you are, when the doctor, the attending physician, talked about how three months ago he changed the drugs that he gave Don Herbert. What are your thoughts on that? What could the drugs have been? I know I'm asking you to watch this from afar, but give us a sense of the kinds of drugs that might change the outcome for somebody like him.

GOLDSTEIN: Sure. From best what I can tell, Mr. Herbert was in a minimal consciousness state, or a high level of a minimal consciousness state, which is a relatively new diagnosis. So he preserved arousal, as we saw, which is also present in persistent vegetative state, as we saw in the Terri Schiavo case. But he also had some level of awareness. He had some intentional motor activity and some preservation of some capacity for comprehensive language, although it's very unclear from the videos how much we can tell from that.

He seems to have advanced from that impaired consciousness state to have now an improved level of awareness of his environment, including restoration of one of the highest forms of demonstration of awareness, which is language and especially expressive language. So somehow Mr. Herbert's functional neuronatomic hardware, that handles expressive language, has come back online. And that's what's really remarkable about this case.

O'BRIEN: Now, as you were speaking, I was told that our producer on the scene there, after we dropped away from the news conference, got the specifics, that the drugs given to Don Herbert were ADHD drugs, Parkinson's drugs and then anti-depressants. Any of that surprise you? Does that sound like something you'd normally give in the course of action for somebody in this state?

GOLDSTEIN: Sure, conceivable from a number of different mechanisms. Some of these drugs work on the main power systems from primitive structures brainstem that sort of put on the power supply, turn the lights on, to use an analogy. Medications like Medafono (ph) or Provigil (ph), Hemaline (ph) or Cylert (ph), often work in this way.

Other medications, activating anti-depressants, some Parkinson's medications, work on frontal systems, in higher levels of the brain in the frontal cortex that handle attentional systems and help modulate awareness better. Awareness is more of a higher level cortical activity. It's a distributed function in the highest and most evolutionarily developed...

O'BRIEN: All right, you know what? You're losing us with all of that. Can you give us a little more layman's terms here? I tell you what. Help me out. Because I'm not a doctor and I try not to play one on TV, either. This is a model of the brain. These two blue areas are labeled as speech areas. Because his brain was deprived of oxygen, we can assume that the damage was sort of uniform all around the brain, correct?

GOLDSTEIN: Difficult to say. Sometimes if he had some dysfunction related to loss of oxygen, he could have some scattered areas of loss of function. And that might explain some preserved areas, including preserved language areas that had been dormant.

O'BRIEN: So it isn't always uniform. There might be a spot, for whatever reason, that is not as deprived of oxygen as others and might not be as damaged as much? Is that what you're saying?

GOLDSTEIN: Exactly. And it was dormant and we would have assumed that it was as damaged as other parts of the brain, but for some reason, through perhaps a combination of extended healing, perhaps some plasticity. The brain can sort of redirect function to other areas and, in fact, for some of the reasons that the doctor explained, that adding these stimulants that sort of increase the power supply to areas, was able to release these areas of the brain that handle language, especially expressive language and enable them to come back online when they were, in fact, merely just dormant or inhibited.

O'BRIEN: All right. Well help me out with an analogy here. As you talk about the distributive nature of the brain -- there are two spots here for sure that are linked to, at least in this diagram, to speech. And I know there are others that actually, together, create speech. It's kind of like the Internet. If you lose one of the processors, the others can make up for it and can actually compensate? Or are all those individual spots regenerating in some way?

GOLDSTEIN: Regeneration is less likely in those parts of the brain. We have found that parts of the brain can regenerate, but it's less likely in those parts of the brain that you just pointed out. However, language is organized in sort of functional modules of its hardware. And it's possible that those locations that you just identified, especially the one in the front, in the frontal lobe for Mr. Herbert, was preserved.

Exactly, right there. That's sort of the main hardware for expressive language. If that was preserved, but nearly lying dormant because other structures that provide power supply to it or provide other inputs to it were inhibited, then that may have been able to come back on to function. The other possible explanation is that other parts of brain may have subsumed the function that that area that normally handles expressive function was not able to handle. And that's plasticity, and the brain can show remarkable capacity for that.

O'BRIEN: It's just -- it's fascinating. It's fascinating how the brain is damaged and also how it is able to bounce back. We could talk longer, but we're out of time. Dr. Martin Goldstein, who's with Mt. Sinai. Thanks for your time. Appreciate it.

GOLDSTEIN: Sure. Not at all. O'BRIEN: Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Just ahead on LIVE FROM, lunch is served. We hope you've a very big appetite.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: I'm Brooke Anderson at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. And I'm joined by some special Disney guests, who are decked out in their finest duds. Mickey, Minnie in gold. We've got Pluto, Chip and Dale. And after the break, we'll have more excitement and more details on what changes you can expect at Disneyland in the next year and a half.


O'BRIEN: All right. Tinkerbell's castle is sparkling with gold today. Disneyland is serving up a spectacle, not Mickey Mouse in any way, to promote its 50th anniversary. Actually, that's the one place where if you call it Mickey Mouse, it's a compliment.

CNN entertainment correspondent Brooke Anderson, live at the original Disney resort in Anaheim. Hello, Brooke.

ANDERSON: Hello, there, Miles. The original Disneyland, you're right. And this 50th anniversary celebration is called the happiest homecoming on earth, very appropriately, I would think. 50 years ago, Walt Disney himself transformed an orange grove here in Anaheim, California, into his dream, a place where both kids and adults could go to have a good time. And it has withstood the test of time.

It's a cultural phenonemon and it's withstood the competition, as well. Over the years, many theme parks have popped up since Disneyland opened. You've got Busch Gardens, Six Flags, Sea World, Universal Studios, (INAUDIBLE) and Disney remains dominant in the theme park industry, raking in $8 billion worldwide each year. That's not chump change, is it?

Also, we've got new attractions, new sights to see for this 50th anniversary celebration, which will last for the next 18 months. And they spared no expense. We saw earlier today the new parade of dreams. It's the biggest parade Disneyland has ever done. More Disney characters than they've ever assembled before, more than 50 actually. And you've got more than 100 performers, as well, floats nearly 20 feet high. You've got characters bungee-jumping. And that's not all.

Senior creative director Steve Davison told us recently about some of the more magical changes you can expect.


STEVE DAVISON, DISNEY CREATIVE DIRECTOR: What's wonderful is from the moment you enter the park, Disneyland has transformed, from the golden lamp posts leading you up to the new castle that's totally decored with fantastic grounds, featuring legacy of the last 50 years, to our new historical exhibit at the Opera House, where you can see Steve Martin in a new film kind of highlighting, you know, Walt Disney's dream through today

The original attractions from 1955 are being goldenized. We're taking one of the attraction vehicles from all those attractions. Like Dumbo will have a golden Dumbo flying in the sky. There's a golden tea cup. There's a golden Atopia (ph) car. So all of those original Walt attractions actually are coming back in a shiny new way.


ANDERSON: And we saw that golden Dumbo unveiled earlier and it looks great. Yesterday's gone smoothly here today, but yesterday, things didn't go quite so smoothly. Kelsey Grammar was here. He was master of ceremonies at an event and he fell off the stage during a the show. Whew! He was here because he's the voice character for the 50th anniversary commercials. But never fear, he's OK. He's doing well. We saw him here earlier. He's enjoying the festivities.

Miles, for the next year and a half, all the Disney parks worldwide will be celebrating Disneyland's 50th birthday party.

O'BRIEN: All right. Actually, that looked like that hurt. Brooke Anderson there. You know, every day is like Disneyland or world for me because I work with Goofy.


O'BRIEN: All right, thanks, Brooke.

ANDERSON: Wait, I need to put on my Mickey Mouse ears to tell you guys goodbye, right?

O'BRIEN: Oh yes, go ahead. Oh, very nice.

ANDERSON: Fitting.

O'BRIEN: Gold-plated, of course. All right, take it away, Goofy.

PHILLIPS: I wish I could say what I'd like to say.

O'BRIEN: No, don't go there.

PHILLIPS: Yes, but I'd probably get fined and fired. All right, we're going to sink our teeth into a truly beefed up burger.

O'BRIEN: Denny's Beer Barrel Pub would like to be home of the world's biggest burger. They're on their way, I think.

PHILLIPS: And this poor little boo boo.

O'BRIEN: Speaking of Dumbo.

PHILLIPS: Panicked pachyderm. We'll tell you -- no, that's not mine.

O'BRIEN: Dumbo could fly. PHILLIPS: It's a little lost elephant, but he was saved. We'll tell you about it.


PHILLIPS: It's time for the big stories of the day. OK, it's weak, but to be more specific, here's -- are stories about some really big things. How's that? This, from our gigantic gourmet desk. Denny's Beer Barrel Bar -- say it six times -- in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, brings in the belly buster burger. Say that six times. It's got 10-and-a-half pounds of beef, 25 slices of cheese, a head of lettuce, two onions and will feed ten healthy appetites, or one, if you've got a really big stomach.

O'BRIEN: Where's Jethro?

PHILLIPS: Well, if you've managed to consume one of those, then you're going to need one of these. Levi's displays the biggest pair of jeans in the South Korean capital of Seoul. This pair is as tall as a 10 story building and weighs 500 pounds. What you can't see is the world's smallest pair of jeans less, than half an inch tall.

Even though he's a baby, you can't miss this guy. Baby elephant, fell into an abandoned well -- his name is not Jessica -- happened in India. The alert was sounded by the infant pachyderm's mother, after he slipped into the 10-yard deep hole. Rescuers had to dig a slope into the side of that well to help the little youngster get out.

O'BRIEN: Do we know how much he weighs? Boy, that was some operation there. Congratulations getting him out of there.

Operation Salami Drop: ahead on LIVE FROM..., a New Jersey deli ships a taste of home to some well-deserving troops in Iraq.

PHILLIPS: And Mohammed Ali's daughter joins us next to talk about life with her famous dad, and coping with Parkinson's disease. She's out with a new book.

O'BRIEN: What's going on on Wall Street, you ask? The Dow Jones Industrial's up, 103 and change. All that interest rate changing doesn't seem to faze the market, I guess, because it was measured.

PHILLIPS: You and measuring...


O'BRIEN: In Colombia, authorities have detained two U.S. soldiers for an alleged arms smuggling plot. The two soldiers taken into custody yesterday at a home near a Colombian base where American forces are stationed. Colombian authorities report finding a large weapons cache at the home. A U.S. embassy spokesman confirmed the detainment of the two U.S. soldiers, but refused to provide any other details to us at this time. We're working on it.

The attorney for runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks issues a statement. It says, Wilbanks is regretful about the pain she caused her family, her fiancee, friends, and the community, and hopes her experience will perhaps help others in similar circumstances. Her attorney does not believe Jennifer committed any crime, but that's up to Gwinnett County's district attorney to decide, perhaps ultimately a judge.

No rest for ethics-embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. As he left a Republican news conference and headed for his office, DeLay was mobbed by reporters and photographers. They are still asking him about his overseas trips, who paid for them. More details, plus the latest poll ratings on DeLay are coming up -- 30 minutes now, on "INSIDE POLITICS."


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