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Sex Offender Search; Life Support Battle; 'Crash' Course

Aired May 6, 2005 - 8:59   ET


ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody.

A terrible story to tell you about. A 13-year-old boy goes to the hospital with a headache and a toothache two weeks ago. Well, 48 hour later, doctors tell the family that their son is brain dead and that they're going to take him off life support. Well, the family fought that decision.

They've raised the issue of just who should control the life support for this child. We've got that story ahead.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Also in a moment, some kids get left behind because of the No Child Left Behind program. One boy in Florida is repeating the third grade for the third time because he cannot pass a standardized test. That is just one story in a primetime documentary that airs this weekend here on CNN. We'll give you a preview coming up this hour.

O'BRIEN: Mr. Cafferty back with us.

Good morning.


Students up there at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- these kids are given way more brain cells than the rest of us get -- are having their first ever time travel convention at MIT's campus this week. Since its' Friday, we thought we would go along for the ride on AMERICAN MORNING.

If you could travel somewhere in time, where would you go?

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.

Back to the headlines and Carol Costello now.

Carol, hello.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. Good morning, everyone.

"Now in the News," President Bush is heading to Europe this morning to commemorate 60 years since the end of World War II. The president left Andrews Air Force Base two hours ago for Riga, Latvia. He will also make stops in the Netherlands and in Soviet Georgia, former Soviet Republic of Georgia, I should say. President Bush is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday.

Congress is poised to approve another $82 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure includes sweeping immigration overhauls and boosts the total spin on fighting terrorists since 2001 to more than $300 billion. The House approved the measure on Thursday. The Senate is expected to give its OK sometime next week.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says being elected for a third term is "a tremendous honor." Early results show Blair has secured an historic third win, but with a smaller lead than before for his Labor Party. Final results are expected later today.

The prime minister, by the way, is celebrating his 52nd birthday. So happy birthday.

Suspected Atlanta courthouse shooter Brian Nichols could face the death penalty. Nichols was charged Thursday with 54 counts related to the March 11 shootings. Four people, including a judge, were killed in the rampage. Nichols is expected to be arraigned later this month.

And three doctors may face up to 10 years in prison for reportedly supplying the mob with drugs like Viagra. The U.S. Attorney's Office says the physicians gave suspected crime figures prescription drugs in exchange for favors ranging from construction work to auto repairs. The defense denies the claims and says the government is just trying to turn legitimate medical work into a crime.

We'll keep following this story.

HEMMER: True, with a twist, huh? Thank you, Carol.

Police in Palm Beach County, Florida, searching for a convicted sexual predator at this hour. The electronic monitoring tracking device was taken off, cut off, apparently. And investigators and neighbors are concerned now that the fugitive from justice could strike again.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't seen anybody that looks like him or anything suspicious about anybody. But it does worry me that he's, you know, close by.

HEMMER (voice-over): Police believe convicted sex offender Patrick Wayne Bell removed his GPS ankle bracelet earlier this week and fled. Bell had served five years in prison for child molestation and was given an early release just last month.

After his release, Bell was not allowed to live at his mother's home in Riviera Beach, Florida, because her home was too close to a day care center. The 39-year-old Bell was later kicked out of a motel when the owner learned that Bell was a sexual predator. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Patrick was wrong for what he did. The state was wrong for what they did.

HEMMER: Bell's mother claims her fugitive son is also a victim. She says the state failed to secure proper permanent housing, and that faced with the prospect of going back to jail because of it, he ran.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His stipulation was when he get out of prison he must have a place to go. It was their job to find him somewhere to go. They didn't do that. They didn't do that. They led him to a brick wall.

HEMMER: Worried parents in Florida's Palm Beach County say they're keeping a close eye on their children.

It's a problem when you cut that ankle bracelet off. That's a real big problem. That means that you're not cooperating with the law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never know what you're facing when you're one-on-one with a person like that.


HEMMER: Some parents on alert there in Florida, clearly.

Detective Larry Wood, he's with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department. He says that it is possible that Bell may still be a threat.


DET. LARRY WOOD, PALM BEACH COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT.: He's a desperate individual. He's been convicted of crimes in the past that were violent. Like I said, he knows he's going back to prison if he is caught. Who knows what he is capable of doing right now.


HEMMER: Detective Wood also telling us earlier today, he says they're hot on the trail, but would not tell us how close they are to finding him. Bell's criminal record also includes grand theft, cocaine possession and robbery -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, Bill, now to a story that caught our attention in the aftermath of the battle to save Terri Schiavo's life. This one pits the family of a 13-year-old boy from the Bronx against a New York City hospital. At issue is who should decide when the boy, who the hospital said is brain dead, should be taken off his respirator.

National correspondent Kelly Wallace with us this morning.

Nice to see you, Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nice to see you, Soledad. It was two-and-a-half weeks ago Teron Francis complaining of a severe headache and toothache. He goes to Bronx-Lebanon Hospital. That hospital apparently discovers that an infection had spread to his brain. We understand the boy becomes unresponsive, and then he's transferred to another hospital in the Bronx, Montefiore Medical Center, and that is where this family's battle begins.


WALLACE (voice-over): Thirteen-year-old Teron Francis hoped to become a professor some day. His family remembering his dreams as they prepare for his funeral Saturday.

MARCERYLN FRANCIS, MOTHER OF TERON FRANCIS: No parent should be burying their child. It's hard.

WALLACE: It was back on April 21 at Montefiore Medical Center when Teron's family says two doctors and a social worker told them Teron was brain dead and that the hospital would take him off a respirator in 24 hours.

(on camera): People at the hospital, what did they tell the family?

ROBERT GENIS, FRANCIS FAMILY ATTORNEY: They just said, "Your child is dead." And they repeated it three times.

FRANCIS: I couldn't believe like -- you know? I said, "No." I started to scream.

WALLACE (voice-over): Montefiore refused our repeated requests for an on-camera interview. The hospital has denied it planned to take the child off a ventilator without the family's consent. Records show the hospital issued a death certificate for Teron Francis back on April 21, then publicly declared that the boy was dead.

DR. GARY KALKUT, DIR., MONTEFIORE MEDICAL CENTER: Teron is not on life support. Teron is dead. To say that he is on life support is confusing and can only serve to give false hope to a family.

WALLACE: Teron's family took their battle to court. New York State Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon decided to bar the hospital from removing or terminating any and all life support systems. He went to the hospital three times to personally see Teron. He says he wanted to show the compassion he felt was lacking in the fight for Terri Schiavo's life in Florida.

JUSTICE DOUGLAS MCKEON, NEW YORK SUPREME COURT: It was necessary to respond to that in a compassionate, caring, concerned way. And I wanted my own involvement in Teron's case to be marked by that.

WALLACE: Asked what message Teron's family wants to get out?

GENIS: I think the laws need to be changed, certainly in New York State. It was a shock to me to learn that a family could not make a decision as to whether or not their child should live or die or be on support or not on support. That it was totally up to the sole discretion of the hospital.

WALLACE: Six days after the family went to court, an independent doctor evaluated Teron and declared he was brain dead. After that, Teron's mother decided it was time to let him go. She credits Justice McKeon with giving her a miracle she asked for in prayer.

FRANCIS: He gave my son seven more days that I could hug him, kiss him, tell him, you know, I love him.


WALLACE: And the family, again, preparing for that funeral tomorrow. We understand Justice McKeon will be there. And, Soledad, he told us he's received hundreds of e-mails from around the country, some even from overseas, applauding his personal approach in this case.

O'BRIEN: Well, what does the law say about who has jurisdiction essentially over deciding when someone is dead?

WALLACE: My understanding, states vary in terms of the law. But ultimately, hospitals have to determine -- if someone is brain dead, they have to follow certain criteria.

But if you're found to be brain dead, then legally you're determined to be dead. The hospital is supposed to let the family know what it's doing, adjust to any religious or moral, you know, objections that the family might have. But the hospital has the authority if a patient is declared dead under the law to pull off the respirator.

And what the judge is saying, that a case like this, when you have a family objecting perhaps to the fact that they don't believe their child is brain dead, that perhaps the law should be adjusted to bring in perhaps a judge, or bring in an independent party so that they can get an independent assessment and then accept the fact that their child is gone and move on.

O'BRIEN: Did the judge visit the boy not only to show compassion, but did he want to see exactly the state of the boy? Or did he disagree with what the doctors were saying?

WALLACE: Great point. To see the state.

He said he's hearing from the medical staff at the hospital that the boy is dead, and continuing on, you know, he will deteriorate. So he wanted to see that for himself, get a sense of the situation, be there as well for, you know, a compassionate observer to the family.

O'BRIEN: What a terrible story for that family.

WALLACE: Very tragic.

O'BRIEN: Kelly, thanks.


HEMMER: About 10 minutes past the hour. Talking about the weather over the weekend, Chad Myers talking about a whole lot of rain if you live up and down the East Coast.


O'BRIEN: And coming up in just a moment, the 11-year-old boy who might be a poster child for an educational crisis. His teachers say he is smart enough to move on from the third grade, but he's been held back three separate times all because of a pretty simple and controversial test.

HEMMER: Also, a crash course in race relations. Toure sits down with the stars of a film that is earning rave reviews, and also asking some important questions, too. That's ahead. A bit of a preview with Toure after the break.


HEMMER: The clash of cultures in Los Angeles has been the subject of a number of Hollywood films, "Short Cuts" and "Magnolia" and "Grand Canyon." The latest film to take on the subject is "Crash." It opens this weekend, today, in fact.

Getting rave reviews, too. And it's got one heck of a cast. Toure has seen it. He's here this morning.

Good morning.


HEMMER: Great.

TOURE: Over the last year, screenwriter Paul Haggis has been on top of the world. He wrote the reigning Oscar best picture winner "Million Dollar Baby" and got to direct his first feature film.

But 12 years ago he was carjacked at gunpoint. And over the years that followed he thought about the jackers (ph) and wondered about their lives and whether they were friends. And eventually those thoughts turned into the new movie "Crash."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "CRASH": We're the only two black faces surrounded by a sea of over-caffeinated white people, patrolled by the trigger-happy LAPD. So, you tell me, why aren't we scared?

TOURE (voice-over): "Crash" is an ambitious independent film about race and racism that looks at the snap decisions people make based on appearance and how everyone can make poor judgments based on first impressions. It stars a slew of notable actors: Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Terrence Howard, Brendan Fraser, Larenz Tate, the rapper Ludacris, and Matt Dillon, who plays an outwardly racist cop. MATT DILLON, "CRASH": I can't look at you without thinking about the five or six more qualified white men who didn't get your job.

From an acting standpoint, I loved it because the film is all about confrontation. It's about, you know, the human race struggling against each other.

DILLON, "CRASH": You think you know who you are? Huh? You have no idea.

TOURE: "Crash" is a character study that deals with a monopoly of racisms. Not just anti-white and anti-black, but anti-Arab, anti- Asian and anti-Latino. It was written and directed by Paul Haggis, who wrote "Million Dollar Baby."

PAUL HAGGIS, WRITER, DIRECTOR, "CRASH": It's a film in which no one leaves unscathed. This is a film in which, oh, these horrible white people do all of these things to these lovely black people. This is a film where every single group, you know, has their own feelings and their own -- their own situation.

TOURE: Haggis doesn't think this movie is about racism.

HAGGIS: I think it really is about -- is about fear of strangers.

TOURE: The actors say it was the script that drew them in.

DILLON: He wrote a great character that I wanted to play. And I think that we all felt that, you know? I think what we look for is we look for a character with an arc. This was that.

TOURE: For example, Sandra Bullock plays way out of type as an ornery, angry, uptight political wife.

SANDRA BULLOCK, "CRASH": But if a white person sees two black men walking towards her and she turns and walks in the other direction, she's a racist, right? Well, I got scared and I didn't say anything. And 10 seconds later I had a gun in my face!


TOURE: It's a lot of fun watching Sandra Bullock be nasty like that. "Crash" will be in theaters today.

And if you're wondering if the success of "Million Dollar Baby" helped Haggis put together this great cast, no. Haggis was already filming "Crash" when Clint Eastwood called and said he wanted to make "Million Dollar Baby" into a movie.

HEMMER: It looks intense.

TOURE: It is intense.

HEMMER: Is it all about race? TOURE: It is. It is. And a lot of weird moments like, you know, Matt Dillon has to save a black woman from a car crash who he's put into a strange situation because of her race earlier in the film.

HEMMER: Well, not to give away too much, films like these often reach a conclusion. They want you to walk away with a certain thought. Does this do it?

TOURE: Yes, this -- no, this is not putting it on a platter. There's no simple answers here.

HEMMER: We'll check it out this weekend. It looks great. And a wonderful cast, too.

TOURE: And Tony Danza and you saw Ryan Phillippe and...

HEMMER: The list goes on and on. Have a good weekend.

TOURE: You too.

HEMMER: Thanks -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Another well-known actor, Brooke Shields, known for her performances, of course, on the screen. But now she's stepping out in her role as a mother as well. Paula Zahn Saturday down with Shields to talk about her new book. It's about postpartum depression.


PAULA ZAHN, "PAULA ZAHN NOW": You mention in the book several times that you had suicidal thoughts. You said, "I was scared to be alone. I thought I might try to escape or wouldn't be able to stop myself from swallowing a bottle of pills."

How much of a temptation was it to kill yourself?

BROOKE SHIELDS, ACTOR: It wasn't the scene in the movie where you want to end it all and you run to your cabinet and you just take them all, or you -- you do anything rash. It was, "How can I fade so far into the background that I no longer exist? How can I do it and how can I just not be anymore?"


O'BRIEN: Paula's interview with Brooke Shields is tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Coming up in just a moment, one extremely brave airplane pilot shares his incredible story. He's shot in the head while he's helping cops track down a suspect. Well, somehow he manages to land the plane anyway. You're going to meet him up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Pilot Mike Spicer was just trying to do the right thing the other day when he went up in his plane to try to help police track an armed suspect. The good deed, though, almost got him killed. Here's how he landed the plane, though, after he got shot in the head.


MIKE SPICER, PILOT: I just heard a loud crack, and the bullet entered the right side of the aircraft, through the window, exited right here. That's the hole, if you can see it right there, the exit. And my head was, as you can see, was too close.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we can see. But, you know what? It turns out you were very lucky, because you were quarter of an inch from being killed by that shot. How did you bring the plane down?

SPICER: Well, I heard the crack. I didn't feel the wound. In an instant, there was massive blood on my head. And I told Arnie, I said, "Arnie, I've been hit."

Arnie helped grabbed the controls, stabilized the aircraft, while I tried to tend to myself and take care of the blood. And I threw my glasses on the floor so I could see. And I grabbed the corner of my coat and held it up over my head to try to stem the blood flow.

And between Arnie and myself, we were able to get the aircraft turned back around. We were headed directly away from the airport. We were about five miles southeast of where we're standing right now, so we were very close to the airport.

O'BRIEN: And we should mention -- we should mention that Arnie, not a pilot at all, really just a passenger in this regard.

SPICER: That's correct.

O'BRIEN: I read that you'd be willing to help the sheriff out again if he called and asked you to get up in the air and look for a suspect. And my question is, now why would you want to do that?

SPICER: We're a small town. That's part of our community service. That's what we do.


O'BRIEN: Spicer was sent home after only two-and-a-half hours of treatment at the hospital.

HEMMER: I like the other thing he said, too. He said, "It wasn't my time to go."

O'BRIEN: Yes, apparently so.


Hey, Jack. What's happening?

CAFFERTY: William, the "Question of the Day" concern as bunch of kids up at MIT. They're going to have the first and only time traveler convention at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The student organizers argue that technically you only have to have one of these because time travelers from the future can attend it any time they want.

"The New York Times" says the organizers are roping off part of the campus to be used as landing pad for the time travel machines that are expected to show up so they don't hit the trees or the dormitories.

The question is this: if you could travel through time, where would you go?

Dennis writes from West Virginia, "I would travel into the future to bring back evidence of our effects on the environment."

Brad in Illinois writes, "If I were to go back if time, it would probably be to the afternoon of October 10, 1986. I would cut the fuel lines to my car. That way I wouldn't have met my future ex-wife in that parking lot."

Tom in West Virginia writes this: "I'd go back to that day in 1967 when I met my wife. I wouldn't change much, except we'd be healthier and maybe have a few more bucks. It's been a wonderful ride with a lot of bumps and ups and downs through the greatest time in history, and I couldn't have asked for a better traveling companion."

O'BRIEN: Oh, that's nice.

CAFFERTY: And Peter writes from Texas, "If it's Friday, the question has got to be stupid."


HEMMER: How do you rate that, Jack?


HEMMER: Stupid? I don't think so.

O'BRIEN: I thought the guy's answer about his wife and the ride, I thought that was sweet.

HEMMER: Clever.

CAFFERTY: You're just an old romantic, aren't you?

O'BRIEN: Yes, I am, Jack. And I'm hear to counterbalance you, mister.

HEMMER: I think it would be cool to go to the end of our own lives to see how it all turns out. And come back again.

O'BRIEN: No. Oh, well, maybe that part.

HEMMER: Yes. That's part of the deal of the time machine.


HEMMER: You get to go and come back. CAFFERTY: Yes?

HEMMER: That's like -- what was that Michael J. Fox film, "Back to the Future"?

CAFFERTY: I didn't see that.

HEMMER: Rent it this weekend. You'll like it.


HEMMER: All right, Jack. Thanks.

It's been a rough year so far for Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. Expected to get a whole lot better, though, for him tomorrow -- maybe. It's the Derby day, and we'll explain that in a moment here.

First, this question, which horse holds the record for the fastest time eve, Funny cide, War Emblem or Secretariat? The answer's after a break.




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