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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN

A Look at DNA Evidence

Aired May 17, 2005 - 22:00   ET

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


AARON BROWN, HOST, "NEWSNIGHT": Good evening again.
Picture this -- a man on trial for murder wrongly accused but doomed until science identifies the real killer. "CSI: Miami?" Try Mark Twain, Missouri, Puddinghead Wilson, 1895. And the science? Fingerprint identification. Today it's DNA. Either way, we seem endlessly captivated by the idea of using science to solve crimes, and just as certain, it works better in fiction than fact. For every prisoner freed or killer caught because of DNA, there are thousands who are not, even when the evidence, and as you're about to see, sometimes even the suspect, is in the hands of police. We begin with CNN's Deborah Feyerick.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robert Patton, Jr., 04CR39...

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even to a serial rapist, it seems crazy.

ROBERT PATTON, JR., CONVICTED RAPIST: You got to have maybe half a refrigerator full of my DNA.

FEYERICK: DNA samples sitting, just sitting, year after year, untested.

PATTON: How can you wait 15 years later to come up with a possible suspect when you've had it all along? Somebody ain't doing somebody right.

FEYERICK: In January, in front of a handful of his victims, Patton pleaded guilty to raping some 40 women in and around Columbus, Ohio. His spree lasted 16 years. It ended last summer, one day after he attacked his final victim.

DIANE CUNNINGHAM, RAPE VICTIM: They'd had his DNA on file. They had the DNA matchups, and there was just a matter of when they were going to go pick him up.

FEYERICK: Diana Cunningham identified Patton from a mug shot.

CUNNINGHAM: I'm sitting here, like you guys couldn't have gotten him yesterday? Thanks.

FEYERICK: Patton had been locked up several times for burglary. He last got out September 2001, but before being released, he had to give over a saliva sample as required by state law. The timing was good for Patton, horrible for his next 13 victims. Federal funding to test inmate DNA had just run out, and though it has since been restored, Patton's DNA went untested for close to three years.

RON O'BRIEN, PROSECUTOR, FRANKLIN COUNTY, OHIO: We need to, if we're going to collect them, to process them or otherwise you may as well not collect them in the first instance because they're not doing you any good as a piece of evidence.

FEYERICK: With his DNA on file, Patton was covering his tracks.

CUNNINGHAM: And while I was in the shower, he watched me to make sure that I washed myself because I think he knew that otherwise I would have left it so that, you know, the police would have better evidence.

FEYERICK: In Ohio, the attorney general got fed up waiting for federal grants.

JIM PETRO, ATTORNEY GENERAL, OHIO: We self-funded it. We no longer have any back log.

FEYERICK: He took state money intended to compensate victims and had all 19,000 outstanding DNA samples tested. Nearly 300 of them turned up links to unsolved crimes, including 10 murders and 71 rapes.

Prosecutors and police across the country believe that's the tip of the iceberg and that the half a million DNA swabs that are untested could ultimately put a lot of bad people behind bars.

As for Patton...

PATTON: I'm not even sure if you can get a death penalty for what I've done. But in my mind, that's what I think I really want.

FEYERICK: Prosecutors asked the judge to give Patton 50 years. Patton asked the judge for even more time, saying he wanted to give his victims peace of mind.

PATTON: I think the crimes that I've committed against any female, no matter how old, is probably one of the most horrendous crimes that you can ever do, besides murder.

FEYERICK: The judge gave him 68 years, a virtual guarantee he will never get out.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And tomorrow in Ohio, a new law goes into effect that requires the collection of DNA samples from everyone convicted of a felony or a serious misdemeanor, which in turn will almost triple the workload on crime labs that already have more work than they can handle.

Not primetime drama, primetime news. Here's NEWSNIGHT's Beth Nissen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the top rated show "CSI," DNA testing is a key tool in investigating, solving crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Check for DNA on the sexual assault (INAUDIBLE) and the fingernails, please.

NISSEN: On TV, DNA analysis of blood, semen, saliva, and hair, and bones, and teeth is always prompt, quick and conclusive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to my DNA data, the types are 814 quadrillion to one that your suspect is our killer.

LINDA ERRICHETTO, DIR, LAS VEGAS POLICE FORENSIC LAB: You don't see a machine spit out data analysis at you and you don't read a result and get a name and, you know, walk out and arrest somebody. That's not how it works in DNA analysis, certainly.

NISSEN: "CSI" depicts only a tiny fraction of the work done by analysts in the real police crime lab in Las Vegas. For example, swabbing a stain on a pair of pants worn by a suspect in a homicide and determining that the substance is blood. But TV doesn't show the long series of steps to follow: determining if the blood is human, then if it is, trying to extract DNA from the material. That takes hours of chemical treatments, centrifuge separations, and washes, before DNA analysis can even begin.

High-tech equipment and computer software help sort, tag and identify DNA fragments, but humans like forensic analyst Tom Wahl, still have to interpret the results.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we can see that suspect one still matches the blood.

NISSEN: He checks for matches at different DNA locations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a match. Now we're nine for nine.

NISSEN: One at a time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still have a match. We're batting 1,000.

NISSEN: Thirteen locations in all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suspect one matches the blood from the crime scene in 13 loci.

NISSEN: A match strong enough to take to court.

Getting a match can take weeks, months, or if there are no suspects to compare samples to, much longer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It certainly doesn't happen as quickly as it does on TV. I mean, they've got 40-some minutes to wrap up their episodes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Immediate co-workers are being asked to give DNA samples.

ERRICHETTO: Some of our cases aren't solved for years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are we on those DNA samples?

NISSEN: Real DNA analysts says "CSI" does get one thing right, the dramatically increased demand for analysis nationwide.

ERRICHETTO: I think we're victims of our own success. We can get DNA profiles from blood, semen, vaginal secretions, the inner lining of the mouth, muscle tissue, hair, ear wax, even.

NISSEN: And get results from smaller and smaller samples even those that wouldn't have been usable only a few years ago.

ERRICHETTO: We're had a case where a woman was sexually assaulted, and her assailant licked her breast. That area was swabbed by the sexual assault nurse examiner and from that swab we obtained a genetic profile of the assailant.

NISSEN: That kind of result depends on trained, experienced DNA analysts, and nationwide, there's a shortage of those. The Las Vegas lab has only two working cases, often juggling evidence from three or four cases at a time, and they still can't keep up.

ERRICHETTO: In most forensic labs across the country, you're going to find that backlogs are way of life. None of us have enough personnel. We don't have enough equipment. We don't have the money that we need.

NISSEN: This lab, like most, has thousands of untested pieces of evidence, rape kits from hospitals, and mouth swabs taken from convicted offenders in the state. The Las Vegas lab has to send out backlogged samples to a private lab to be analyzed before they can verify, then upload results into CODUS, the national DNA database.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything has to be in CODUS, asap.

NISSEN: In real life, as on TV, that database often matches that crime scene evidence to perpetrators if their DNA profiles are there.

ERRICHETTO: That can really help to solve crimes and prevent future crimes and it's just not getting done.

NISSEN: That weighs heavily on already stressed forensic scientists, that untested evidence sitting in storage might help identify and capture criminals before they rape or kill again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You're all free to go.

NISSEN: Or might exonerate a suspect sitting in jail.

THOMAS WAHL, DNA ANALYST: You can't get to the evidence soon enough and maybe two months later you work the evidence and find out the person may not be the perpetrator.

ERRICHETTO: It haunts the lab managers. It haunts the criminalists who are DNA analysts. I think it haunts everybody. I don't think we're really reaching the full potential of what DNA analysis can do.

NISSEN: What DNA analysis can only do for now on television.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need to see his DNA from the crime scene.

NISSEN: Beth Nissen, CNN, Las Vegas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Just for perspective, as of two years ago there were 6,000 cold case murders on the books in Los Angeles County alone, waiting not for DNA testing but plain old-fashioned fingerprint matching. In the words of a local prosecutor, horse and buggy stuff. So high-tech or low-tech, there are problems.

We're joined tonight by Larry Kobilinsky of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the author of "DNA: Forensic and Legal Applications," which is probably on everyone's bookshelf right now.

Of course!

Nice to see you.

LARRY KOBILINSKY, M.D., FORENSIC SCIENTIST: Same here.

BROWN: Someone said today that there were in the country 700,000 backlog cases. Is that number in the ballpark somewhere?

KOBILINSKY: I think that that is correct. And depending upon what happens in the future, that number may be extremely small compared to reality.

I say that because there are some states that are now interested in testing all arrestees, which would take that backlog and multiply it to another dimension.

BROWN: Well, all right. Someone's arrested for burglary. And it's not that they're asking to take a DNA sample. They're asking to test that sample and run it against every unsolved crime that jurisdiction has?

KOBILINSKY: Well, that's not as complicated as you might think. There is a national database. There are people that commit crimes that are recidivists, rapists, for example, so that if you have an evidentiary item that has DNA and you generate a profile, a genetic profile from that evidence, it's quite simple to test out that sample against the national database. It is all computerized, digitized. So the answer comes back rather rapidly.

BROWN: Why then are we sitting here with 700,000 or 500,000 or 600,000 or whatever many hundreds of thousands of backlogged cases? Why are we in that situation?

KOBILINSKY: The answer is quite simple. And that is that because of legislation, there are huge numbers of felons and, as you reported just a moment ago, even people that commit misdemeanors that are now obligated to turn over DNA.

Now, there just aren't enough people, there isn't enough equipment, there aren't enough laboratories to handle that load. So important cases go to the wayside.

BROWN: I thought it just gets pumped into the national database system and you just plug it in. If there's a match, there's a match.

KOBILINSKY: But before you plug it in, somebody's got to do the analysis of the evidence. And as you heard, it's a long process.

BROWN: Are we putting money -- almost everything in life comes down to cash. So let's look at it that way. Are we putting resources in this day and age in -- I don't want the detectives angry at me -- but in detectives when we should be putting it into scientists?

KOBILINSKY: I think we're very fortunate because I think the legislators are recognizing the need to pump money into the laboratories. There's the Coverdale Bill. I know that is contributing millions of dollars to accredited crime labs to clear up the backlog.

The president has put aside about $1 billion over five years to help forensic science move forward.

BROWN: Let me ask you one more question. This goes back in my life a decade or more. The first time DNA became, I think, widely understood by people was the Simpson case. One of the things we learned in the Simpson case is that you got to be really careful and methodical about the chain of evidence, how it's tracked, how that testing is done, the skill of the criminalist, all of that.

KOBILINSKY: Absolutely. From the moment you enter the crime scene, the evidence is there. It's got to be handled properly or else it gets questioned later on and could be inadmissible when it comes time to getting it into evidence in the courtroom. So we've got to be very careful not only at the crime scene but during the procedure itself. Remember, humans are involved and humans err sometimes.

BROWN: And is there a great difference from one jurisdiction to another? I'm not picking on anybody, but a guy from Wyoming and a woman in Las Vegas, is there a great disparity in the skill and the training of these people?

KOBILINSKY: That's a good point. There is certainly a difference in the size of the force that deals with DNA. Some labs have only a couple of people. Some labs have hundreds.

As far as skill is concerned, I think that there are standards that the FBI has developed. I think everybody doing DNA in an accredited laboratory is highly skilled in doing it the right way. BROWN: Do you cover everything in your class?

KOBILINSKY: Absolutely, we do it.

BROWN: Nice to see you.

KOBILINSKY: Same here.

BROWN: Thanks for coming in.

KOBILINSKY: It's a pleasure.

BROWN: Straight ahead, she was haunted by a rape that shattered her life nearly two decades ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER THOMPSON, RAPE VICTIM: I went home to plan my suicide. The pain at that point was so great that I just wanted it to go away.

BROWN: But instead of killing herself, she made it her mission to find her rapist. She thought she had memorized the face of the man who raped her.

THOMPSON: During the attack, I was looking at his hairline. I was trying to see like how far apart his eyes were, just anything, any little thing that I could remember and engrave in my mind.

BROWN: Later she picked him out of a lineup. She was wrong.

To some he is a hero. Others call him a terrorist responsible for the murders of 73 people. Why he's how Homeland Security's worst headache.

And a member of the British Parliament takes on the U.S. Senate.

GEORGE GALLOWAY, BRITISH PARLIAMENT MEMBER: I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington. But for a lawyer, you're remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice.

BROWN: What the senators said to set him off.

From New York, where we always try to keep our cool, this is "Newsnight."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: In a moment, a rape victim pushes for DNA analysis to solve her case that was long ago sent to the cold case file.

But first, at about a quarter past the hour, depending on how flexible you are, Erica Hill joins us with the headlines from Atlanta.

Good evening, Ms. Hill.

ERICA HILL, CNN HEADLINE NEWS: Hi, Aaron. Nice to see you. The battle over President Bush's controversial nominees to the federal bench takes center stage in Washington today. Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown met with Senate Republican leaders. Earlier they met with the president at the White House.

Tomorrow the Senate begins debating Judge Owen's nomination. If Democrats move to filibuster, Republicans say they will use the so- called nuclear option and disallow filibusters.

Moderate senators on both sides, though, are trying to work out a compromise to avoid a clash.

And tonight Mexico's government has issued an apology over remarks made by President Vicente Fox. He caused an uproar last week when he said Mexican immigrants fill jobs in the U.S. that Africa- Americans don't want.

Jesse Jackson will meet with President Fox tomorrow in Mexico City to talk about relations between blacks and Hispanics.

And that's the latest from Headline News at this hour, give or take a few minutes.

Aaron, back to you.

BROWN: Erica, thank you. We're talking about a half an hour, give or take.

Years after a woman in Texas was raped, her case languished in the cold case files of the Dallas police department. She pushed and pushed for it to be reopened, hoping that advances in DNA testing would lead to the capture of a man who not only attacked her but changed her life forever. What she found, the good part and the not so good part, is reported tonight by CNN's Kelli Arena.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It happened nearly two decades ago, but Debbie Shaw remembers every detail.

DEBBIE SHAW, SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIM: I was asleep in my bed, and at 4:30 in the morning, this man broke into my home and he came in. He slid his arm under the pillow, and he grabbed my jaw, and then he kept his head over here out of view so that I wouldn't see him. And he pushed -- I started screaming, and he said, if you don't stop screaming, I'm going to kill you, and he pushed my face into the pillow, and then he assaulted me. He raped me.

ARENA: She was taken to this hospital and examined, evidence taken and set aside for investigators. But back then, there was no DNA database. Shaw had no idea who the attacker was, and there were no leads. According to police files, the investigation was suspended after only 10 days.

Shaw, a 31-year-old single mother at the time, says she felt helpless, afraid the rapist would return. SHAW: I went home to plan my suicide, and I took a pad of paper and a pen and I crawled into bed with it, and I was trying to figure out what to say. And every time I thought about my son, you know, I cried even more. I couldn't see the paper to write anything, and I didn't know how I was going to accomplish it. But the pain at that point was so great that I just wanted it to go away.

ARENA: But she says her family and her belief in God got her through.

SHAW: It was my faith, a great part of it, because I grew up in church, so I had my faith to rely on.

ARENA: Fast forward 15 years to September 11, 2001. The attacks motivated Shaw to find a way to help her community.

SHAW: Hi. This is Debbie Shaw. I'm from Family and Victims' Services.

ARENA: She became a volunteer counselor to crime victims, a job that she now does for pay. During training, she learned about unsolved crimes, cold cases and how some have been solved with DNA testing.

In July of 2003, she went to the Dallas police, requested her case be reopened and was put in touch with Sergeant Patrick Welsh, who heads up the adult sexual assault unit.

SGT. PATRICK WELSH, DALLAS POLICE DEPT.: This type of crime affects these women for a lifetime, that they never forget,and I felt that they deserved everything that law enforcement could do for them to solve their case, and I needed to pursue that for her.

ARENA: For all those years, the evidence from Shaw's rape was sitting on a shelf at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences, part of a nationwide backlog of about half a million DNA samples. The lab ran the DNA through a database, and even though it took almost a year, found a match.

DR. TIMOTHY SLITHER, SOUTHWESTERN INST. OF FORENSIC SCIENCES: She was really very proactive in trying to get her case through the system. It would have gotten through there once the police agency made the request, but I think it was certainly to her credit that she pushed the system.

ARENA: Based on the DNA evidence, Detective Welsh told Shaw that her attacker is a man already sitting in a cell in Texas for burglary.

SHAW: The closure has been wonderful. I just sat there and cried for a while. I just couldn't believe it.

ARENA: But then she got the bad news.

SHAW: The statutes of limitations ran out five years after the offense, and so he can never be charged with my offense, and it took me a while the absorb that. ARENA: Her alleged attacker is up for parole in 2007, and Shaw plans on appealing to the parole board to keep him behind bars.

SHAW: This is a picture of what he looks like and gives some specifics of different offenses.

ARENA: Now, you've asked us not to show this picture.

SHAW: Right.

ARENA: Why?

SHAW: Should he get out on probation, then if he sees this segment, then he would be able to know who I am.

ARENA: Shaw says just knowing where he is, at least for now, gives her a new sense of peace, a feeling she wants to share.

Working with Sergeant Welsh, she is trying to get other victims of cold cases to have their investigations reopened.

SHAW: It's very gratifying to be able to let them know that, you know, they can make it, and no matter what the outcome is, that they're going to be OK.

ARENA: But unless victims like Debbie Shaw take action, push their own cases, DNA samples could just sit there, holding answers to unsolved crimes.

For CNN's America bureau, Kelli Arena, Dallas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Coming up on the program, the science of eyewitness identification. Can you really trust what you see?

And later, the art of crime and justice in still photographs. A break first; this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: There's a story -- perhaps it's only a story -- about a politician caught in the act of taking a bribe. Who are you going to believe, he asks the cops as they take him away, me or your lying eyes? As it happens, he was on to something. Of the 159 people freed so far on DNA evidence, 75 percent of them were convicted largely on faulty identifications. A handful of states are now reconsidering the way law enforcement conducts identifications. You can be a perfect witness and still be perfectly wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): It is this simple. On the 28th of July in 1984, Jennifer Thompson was raped.

THOMPSON: During the attack, like I said, I was looking at his hairline. I was trying to see like how far apart his eyes were, if his eyebrows were bushy, the flare of his nostrils, his lips, just any thing, any little thing that I could remember and engrave in my mind.

BROWN: She immediately worked with the police to create a sketch of her attacker.

THOMPSON: So it immediately went into the paper, and it was in the morning edition. The phone started ringing at the police department.

BROWN: One call came from a woman who identified the man in the sketch as her neighbor, Ronald Cotton. Ronald Cotton was picked up.

THOMPSON: I was called to come down to the police department and look at a photo lineup.

BROWN: Ms. Thompson was then shown what they call a six-pack lineup, six photos of six different men, shown all at once, each man resembling the sketch.

THOMPSON: I pointed to a picture of Ronald Cotton. And they said, are you sure? And I said, yes, I'm positive, that's the man who raped me.

BROWN: A few days later, Ms. Thompson was called for a live lineup. Again, she pointed out Ronald Cotton as the man who raped her.

LAURIE LINSKY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: When a jury, a judge, when that packed courthouse hears someone point to a defense table and say, that's the person who committed the crime, it's incredibly powerful evidence. It's like a bell that can't be unrung.

BROWN: It took the jury just four hours to convict Ronald Cotton. He was sentenced to life in prison.

THOMPSON: We went back to the district attorney's office and had champagne, and we toasted our judicial system working. We were all very, very pleased, very happy that Ronald was going away forever.

BROWN: A happy ending except for this fact -- Ronald Cotton was innocent.

GARY WELLS, PH.D., PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY: When a witness views a lineup, the tendency is to home in on who looks most like the perpetrator relative to the other lineup members.

BROWN: In 1995, DNA testing proved that Ronald Cotton was not the rapist. Police say the actual rapist was a man named Bobby Poole, who committed five rapes after he raped Jennifer Thompson, and was already in prison.

Cotton had served over a decade for a rape he did not commit.

THOMPSON: I felt this overwhelming sense of guilt and shame when I found out that this mistake had been made. And it had cost another human being 11 years of his life.

BROWN: In 1997, she met with the man she had wrongly accused.

RONALD COTTON, WRONGLY CONVICTED OF RAPE: Just looked up, you know, she says, well, I'm sorry. I said, well, I forgive you. You know.

BROWN: But they didn't move on. They moved closer to a friendship.

COTTON: I just felt maybe we should say what we had to say to each other. And she went on with her life, I went on with mine. But you know, it wasn't like that, you know. It just developed, you know.

THOMPSON: If you had told me 20 years ago, and 20 years ago I'd just finished a trial, Jennifer, in 20 years now, you and Ronald are going to love each other, and you're going to travel and you're going to go on speaking engagements to teach people. I said, yeah, yeah, no.

And here we are.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And here we are, grappling with the limitations of eyewitness testimony and the implications for how justice is done.

Elizabeth Loftus has made a career of how we see and remember what we see. She's a professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California in Irvine, and we talked with her earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: How can it be that someone in the middle of a rape can make a conscious effort to identify her attacker -- the hairline, the way his eyes looked, the way his nose and mouth looked, and really focus on that in the way that you'd actually want a victim to focus on it, and yet get it wrong?

ELIZABETH LOFTUS, PROFESSOR, UC IRVINE: Well, that can happen for a lot of reasons. Somebody can get it wrong because a lot of time passes. They're essentially given a memory test in the form of being shown photographs or being put in front of a lineup that isn't a fair test. They may not be paying as good attention as they think they did, or they tried to do. You have a situation where there's a cross- racial identification, a person trying to identify a person of a different race than their own race. That makes things more difficult for people. So lots of different factors can cause somebody to make a mistake even when they're really trying.

BROWN: To what extent does -- you've been researching this for as long as I've known you, which is a while now. To what extent does stress play a role in how we think we remember something?

LOFTUS: Well, what extreme stress and fright can do is, contrary to a common lay belief that it creates some sort of indelible fixation in the mind, in fact, quite the opposite can happen. You can have lots of difficulties or impairments in memory, particularly for the peripheral details. So if you're confronted, say, with somebody's trying to rob you and there's a weapon, what sometimes happens in that situation, people zoom in on the weapon and they aren't paying that much attention or focusing in on the details of the person holding the weapon.

BROWN: And has the advent of now fairly widespread use of DNA testing in certain kinds of cases, rape cases for one, change the way prosecutors, for example, in courts, for example, see the certainty of an eyewitness testimony?

LOFTUS: The one clear message from those DNA cases, the DNA exonerations, the couple of hundred cases that we know about where people have been proven, often by DNA but even in some other ways, to be actually innocent, an analysis of those cases and why the mistakes happen, why those innocent people were convicted is a faulty memory is the number one cause of mistaken testimony or wrongful conviction.

And so we've learned a lot from those DNA cases that has led to even our government coming out with a document -- a guide for law enforcement on how to interact with eyewitnesses so that mistakes are minimized, so that you don't convict an innocent person, leaving a guilty one on the street out there committing more crimes.

BROWN: It's nice to see you. It's been a long time. Thanks for your time today.

LOFTUS: Right, my pleasure.

BROWN: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Professor Elizabeth Loftus. Still to come tonight on the program, the rough beauty of photography from the intersection of Hollywood and crime.

And later, some rough talk from a British lawmaker accused by American lawmakers of taking millions to do the bidding of Saddam Hussein. Take a break first. From New York and around the world, this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: One of the first steps in a murder investigation is to dispatch a forensic photographer to the crime scene. We expect the photos they take to be gritty and gory. We don't usually think of them as art.

For decades, neither did the Los Angeles Police Department. For 70 years, some 400,000 photographs of Los Angeles crime scenes were stored away in a warehouse. And then they became a book, and a traveling exhibit that heads to Zurich this summer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's something so very chilling about this.

RICK MORTON, EXHIBIT COORDINATOR: These were photographers going out seven days a week, 24 hours every day shooting. And what makes this collection unique to me is that this is the only police department in the United States that has, you know, so-called Hollywood in it. So there's a great feeling of Hollywood throughout these photos.

We were the first ones ever allowed into these files. Let's see what we have here. Open the treasure chest and see if there's any treasure inside.

I actually have my hands on history. The day this was taken, there was something happening. Someone was killed. There's the victim.

LT. JOHN THOMAS, LAPD: Look at the lighting. Why did the photographer see this crime scene this way? Because obviously, some of the angles in some of the shots have little to do with capturing evidence.

MORTON: That was one of my reasons, really, was showing something that had never been seen in this city and let the public have access to really see this work that's been stuck away and housed for 70 years.

MARK POMEROY, FORMER CHIEF, LAPD: They're so crisp and clear compared to many of our modern photos, our color photos. We do have one color photo on exhibit and maybe that goes to what I'm talking about when I say art. You look at that and you are absolutely chilled by the image of Charles Manson.

TIM WRIDE, PROJECT CURATOR: I wouldn't say that every photo in this exhibition is art. But then again, I wouldn't say that every photograph hanging in a gallery is art either.

But, you know, one of the wonderful things about watching a photographer's eye -- and this is really what you get a chance to do here. You get to watch the photographer think. How does he frame the shot? What does he leave in? What does he leave out?

You see a lot of photographs here where the evidence is almost secondary. It's there. It's documented. But there's something else going on.

There's, you know, vectors of shadow that pierce through the pictures. There are really funny tilts and perspective. Or there's this amazing cinematic quality that runs through some of these pictures. It's Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Ahead on the program tonight: Freedom fighter or terrorist? How will the government handle a very rough customer who once worked for the CIA?

We'll take a break first. This is "Newsnight" from New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: I'm Erica Hill. We'll have more "Newsnight" in a moment.

But first, the headlines.

Tonight a major recall by Toyota. The auto-maker is recalling more than 750,000 sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, including the Tacoma 4Runner, Tundra and Sequoia. Toyota says it's concerned with potential problems with the front suspension that could cause drivers to have trouble steering. The company says, though, no injuries have been reported.

An update now on a story we told you about in March. Oil giant BP says the explosion at its refinery in Texas City, Texas, was caused by employee error. Fifteen workers died in the blast. An internal company report cited what it called "deeply disturbing mistakes" that led to the explosion. The company says some employees may lose their jobs.

That is the latest from Headline News at this hour.

Aaron, back to you.

BROWN: Erica, thank you.

It's not every day that a member of the British Parliament is called to testify before the U.S. Senate. Today was special in that regard.

George Galloway appeared before a Senate panel investigating corruption in the oil-for-food program. The panel had accused him of trading oil, 20 million barrels of oil, with Iraq while the program was in place. It is fair to say that Mr. Galloway took issue with the accusation when he faced the senators today.

Reporting tonight, CNN's Richard Roth.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA: You swear the testimony you're about to give before the subcommittee is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.

GALLOWAY: I do.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Taking the oath was about the only thing that British Parliament Member George Galloway accepted from the Senate subcommittee investigating the oil-for-food corruption. The fiery Galloway was accused by the committee last week of being rewarded by Saddam Hussein with the rights to 20 million barrels of oil for opposing economic sanctions.

The committee chairman, Senator Norm Coleman, reminded him.

COLEMAN: Senior Iraq officials have confirmed that you, in fact, received oil allocations and that the documents that identify you as an allocation recipient are valid.

ROTH: Right from the start, Galloway went on the attack.

GALLOWAY: I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one and neither has anybody on my behalf. For a lawyer, you're remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice.

ROTH: Usually witnesses before a congressional committee show deference, not the anti-war activist who vowed to appear with both barrels blazing.

GALLOWAY: Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong. And 100,000 people have paid with their lives, 1600 of them American soldiers, sent to their deaths on a pack of lies.

ROTH: The bipartisan committee report said that Galloway funneled oil allocations through two companies and a charity named after a 4-year-old Iraqi girl suffering from leukemia.

GALLOWAY: What counts is not the names on the paper. What counts is: Where's the money, Senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars of money? The answer to that is nobody. And if you had anybody, whoever paid me a penny, you would have produced them here today.

ROTH: Later, Senator Coleman said it wasn't a wrestling match but important to get on the record.

COLEMAN: And I think that Mr. Galloway's credibility is certainly very, very suspect. And if, in fact, he lied to this committee, then there will had be consequences to that.

ROTH: Galloway praised Kofi Annan and U.N. efforts to stop the war in Iraq. He can heap scorn on this Senate panel, but United- Nations-approved investigation into oil-for-food and connections between Saddam Hussein, businesses and politicians is anticipated this summer. Galloway says he has nothing to fear.

Richard Roth, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: In a moment: Freedom fighter or terrorist? An awkward question for the government. A break first. This is "Newsnight."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: The arrest of a man who was either a hero or a terrorist, if you are to believe his supporters or critics, has put Homeland Security officials in a difficult position. The man is a former CIA operative with a controversial past. Here's CNN's Susan Candiotti. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Weeks after sneaking across the border from Mexico and going into hiding in Miami, fugitive Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles was whisked away by U.S. Homeland Security agents. The former CIA operative is wanted in Venezuela as a suspected terrorist. He was taken into custody not long after his supporters used cloak-and-dagger techniques to drive reporters to an apparently not so secret warehouse in Miami where Posada could explain his recent request for political asylum.

No, I am not a terrorist, he says. They would disappear me, get rid of me, Posada says. Cuba and Venezuela have been after Posada for decades over his alleged role in blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing 73 people.

I had nothing to do with it, Posada said, again denying any part in the terrorist attack. Yet recently declassified material from the National Security Archives raised doubts about Posada's denial.

"Some plans regarding the bombing of Cubana airlines were discussed in Caracas, Venezuela," says one FBI document. "Posada Carriles was present."

Posada refused to take any questions about his alleged role in a eries of Havana tourist hotel bombings in 1997. One Italian tourist was killed.

Posada told an American newspaper he planned the attacks, then later claimed he lied. In 2000 Posada was convicted in Panama with two others of hatching an assassination plot against Fidel Castro. Panama's president pardoned Posada when she left office.

I'm not renouncing violence. I'm a soldier, Posada said. Cuba's Fidel Castro staged massive demonstrations in Havana Tuesday, accused the U.S. of hypocrisy for harboring a terrorist and called Posada a monster.

Do I look like a monster? Posada asks. After his arrest, Cuban officials question whether the Bush administration would, quote, "help an old friend or turn him over." Posada's longtime supporters in Miami call him a hero, not a terrorist, for opposing Castro. They're angry he was swept up by authorities.

SANTIAGO ALVAREZ, POSADA SUPPORTER: I am upset because they did at the moment when Castro was making a big show in Havana, and it looked like the United States is trying to appease the Cuban dictator.

CANDIOTTI: Many questions remain. Posada is said to be on a terror watch list. Why pick him up now, weeks after he admitted crossing the border illegally and filing an asylum claim? U.S. law enforcers will only say they are reviewing his immigration status. They have no arrest warrant charging Posada with any crimes.

If Posada's asylum claim is rejected or withdrawn, is it virtually assured he would not be sent back to Cuba. Officials say he might be allowed to leave for another country that would take him in. Homeland Security officials say they have two days to decide what to do with him.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: A couple of quick papers after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Hardly a second to spare -- one or two quick papers. "Christian Science Monitor," "Senate on Cusp of Grand Showdown," Florida debate begins today, could lead to vote on shutting down filibusters, century-old tool of minorities. They're going to rue the day this all began, I'm telling you.

Weather tomorrow in Chicago is nifty.

We're back with you, 10:00 Eastern time. Join us. Until then, good night, for all us.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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