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Two Teenaged Murder Suspects on the Loose; Former President Ford Back in the Hospital

Aired January 17, 2006 - 07:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Miles O'Brien.
Two teenaged murder suspects on the loose. Police in two states fan out to find the escaped inmates. We'll have a live report ahead.


Former President Ford is back in the hospital. This time, he's got pneumonia. We're live in California with the very latest on his condition.

M. O'BRIEN: And a big night. One of Hollywood's big parties, the Golden Globes. A look at the winners and the new Oscar favorites, ahead this AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Welcome to Tuesday.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good to have you back. Good to have you us.

We start with that prison escape in Alabama. Two teens on the loose, both suspected of murder. And police say they believe both probably armed and dangerous.

Rusty Dornin live in Phenix City, Alabama, right on the state line with Georgia.

Rusty, tell us about the search this morning.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the searchers have been out all night, of course, on both sides of the border. You've got Phenix City, which is where the prisoners escaped from. And then you've got the Chattahoochee River, into Columbus, Georgia. The sheriff has already told us he does believe that the two escaped convicts may have gotten as far as Columbus, Georgia.

Three suspects, convicted killers, did escape from this detention center early Saturday morning, very early, right after midnight. They stabbed a guard 15 times with a homemade device commonly known as a shank with reinforced wire. One was captured very soon after, six hours after in a wooded area using helicopters and dogs.

The other two both, Lamar Benton and Johnny Earl Jones both remain at large. Now these two teenagers, one of them, Johnny Earl Jones, killed a 2-year-old child, and the other man, Lamar Benton, killed a 39-year-old woman with three children. They are considered armed and dangerous, although they don't know exactly what kind of weapons they might have. Of course it's very chilling in this community. It's one of those nightmares that, you know, kids go to bed thinking about, that kind of thing.

We have talked to people who are afraid. There are other people who say, look, I'm going about my business; I'm convinced that the sheriff's department will be able to find these men.

So of course the search does continue. The sheriff, Tommy Boswell, did tell CNN that you'd be surprised how far two men or, any escaped convict could get on foot, that they keep expanding the perimeter as time goes on.

So, of course, they're hoping to find these men before any problems happen, before they try to take a hostage or anything like that, but the search continues -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Rusty, have they ruled out the possibility that they have stolen a car? Has anyone reported a stolen car in the area?

DORNIN: Nothing that we know of yet. But we do know there was some information, one of the inmates has been talking -- the one captured, has been talking to the sheriff's department. They won't say exactly what he told them, but he did give them some kind of information in two different interviews. And of course they're interviewing these people families, their friends, that sort of thing. And there was some information that they went into Columbus, Georgia, so they're getting tips from somewhere.

M. O'BRIEN: Rusty Dornin in Phenix City, Alabama, thank you -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Former President Ford back in the hospital, second time in just over a month. He is 92 years old. He is being treated for pneumonia. Last word was that he is doing well.

Let's get right to Thelma Gutierrez. She's live for us in Rancho Mirage, in California, about 120 miles east of L.A.

Hey, Thelma, good morning. How is the former president doing?


Well, we're told that the former president is resting comfortably and that he is, in fact, doing well after four days of I.V. antibiotic treatment for pneumonia. Now, just last month, President Ford was admitted to the Eisenhower Medical Center for routine tests, but his chief of staff tells us that at the time he was battling this ongoing terrible cold, and she said she's not sure if this pneumonia is, in fact, related to the cold.

Now doctors had admitted the former president on Saturday because he is 92 years old, after all, and they said they just wanted to be a little bit more cautious with his condition, and they thought if he would undergo this kind of treatment, it would be best for him to be admitted to the hospital where he could be seen and cared for here.

Now, we've also been told that the president's wife, Betty Ford, the president's wife for 57 years, has come to visit her husband. After all the Fords live here in Rancho Mirage part of the year, and then part of the year, they live in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

And we are expecting an update a little bit later this morning, and the former president is expected to be released either Wednesday or Thursday -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Thelma Gutierrez for us this morning with an update. Thanks, Thelma -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Former Vice President Al Gore under fire this morning for his comments on domestic spying.


AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT: ... virtually compelled the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently.


M. O'BRIEN: The Republican National Committee says the former vice president is just trying to get attention. Suzanne Malveaux at the White House.

Suzanne, what's the administration saying this morning?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, really the criticism was swift and harsh from Ken Mehlman, the head of the Republican National Chair, saying essentially Gore will say or do anything to get attention, including misrepresenting the law and the facts.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a little bit more measured, a little bit more tempered in his response on "LARRY KING LIVE" last night. He, of course, is referring the administration in this debate, because he was the president's counsel at the time. And again, they make the strategy, they make the case here, that the president has a legal authority to carry out this domestic spy program through the Constitution and also through that congressional resolution authorizing the president to go after al Qaeda after September 11th. Another key part of their strategy, however, is to argue that under Gore's watch, the Clinton administration, they did it, too.


ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTY. GENERAL: It's my understanding that during the Clinton administration, there was activity regarding the physical searches without warrants, Alderin James, as an example.

I can also say it's my understanding that the deputy attorney general testified before Congress that the president does have the inherent authority under the Constitution to engage in physical searches without a warrant, and so those would certainly seem to be inconsistent with what the former vice president was saying.


MALVEAUX: So, Miles, we'll see if that argument actually holds up before congressional hearings approximate that is going to be held by Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. He also has questioned whether or not the president has the authority to carry out that domestic spy program.

M. O'BRIEN: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, thank you very much.

Alberto Gonzales was on "LARRY KING LIVE" last night. You can watch LARRY KING LIVE every night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: In Georgia, another emergency situation. A hostage standoff in Statesboro now in its 22nd hour. Earlier we told about that loud boom at the building where it's happening.

Terry Mann of the CNN affiliate WSB joins us from Statesboro. It's about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta.

Hey, Terry, what's happening now?

TERRY MANN, WSB REPORTER: Good morning, Soledad.

It's been a pretty uneventful and quiet standoff for the most part. Yesterday, and last night and even this morning. But just before the 6:00 hour this morning, we heard a loud boom, explosion, possibly even a loud gunshot from a handgun possibly, but police have not told us what that was. But it came from the direction of the hostage standoff about two or three blocks behind where I'm standing right now. Police are keeping us at a safe distance. We can't see the building from where we're standing, but this all started yesterday morning just after 9:00 a.m., when a man and woman went into an attorney's office who had represented them in the past. They apparently had some type of grievance with him, because they took the attorney hostage moments later, and they have not released him since that time.

Now, police have been able to negotiate with these people. They've been able to talk to them. They've sent in food and water for these people, but again, that explosion that happened sure sounded like a development of some sort has taken place. There was a scurry of police activity, but we are yet to find out exactly what that noise was.

The suspects have been identified as Robert and Connie Broward. Police say Mr. Broward has a police record going back several years -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Terry Mann for us this morning with an update on that hostage situation. He's with affiliate WSB.

Thank you, Terry. Appreciate it. We're going to keep our eye on that story, obviously, throughout the morning. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin raising some eyebrows with a call for repopulation the city. He is calling for the rebuilding of a "chocolate New Orleans." The mayor's comment came during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Speech. Before Hurricane Katrina, about two- thirds of the city's 485,000 residents were black.

Take a listen:


MYR. RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: This city will be chocolate at the end of the day. This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans.


S. O'BRIEN: Well, he also talked about God punishing New Orleans, especially black people, he said, because they've not been taking care of each other. And because of the war in Iraq, he believed that the hurricanes, the big hurricane season we had was God's punishment to Americans.

Coming up in our 9:00 hour, we're going to check in with a New Orleans civil rights attorney about Nagin's comments, all of them, and what effect they might be having on people in the city and outside as well -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: The buzz before last night's Golden Globes, all about "Brokeback Mountain," and the movie lipped up to the hype. I guess you could say it went for broke. "Brokeback" took the award for best drama. The movie led the way with four total awards. That includes Ang Lee winning for best director. "Brokeback Mountain" also won for best original song and screenplay. The best dramatic actress award, Felicity Huffman. "The Desperate Housewives" star won for her role as a man preparing for a sex change in "Transamerica." Philip Seymour Hoffman won best actor in a drama for his portrayal of the author Truman Capote.

Many more winners still to come. AM Pop is up in just a few minutes. We'll look at how Golden Globes success and failure may translate into Oscar honors.

S. O'BRIEN: And we're going to talk about what they wore. Come on.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. And why was that guy touching Scarlett Johansson's breast? What was up with that?

S. O'BRIEN: Because he's Isaac Mizrahi (ph)...

M. O'BRIEN: What? He gets away with that?

S. O'BRIEN: Actually. Kind of, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Really? He can do that? S. O'BRIEN: I'm not sure he got away with it, but she sounded like she was kind of annoyed. But yes, I guess he can. We'll see, right?

M. O'BRIEN: We'll see.


S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, more on all of the confusion over the new Medicare plans. Why didn't the government see it coming? Many people actually predicted it would happen. The Secretary of Health and Human Services is going to join us in just a few minutes.

M. O'BRIEN: Also, NASA planning to begin a historic odyssey to Pluto a little later today. A lot of folks are worried about something going wrong. That's because this particular spacecraft is powered by the most toxic substance known to man. We'll look at the concerns a little later.

Stay with us.



S. O'BRIEN: Much more American morning still to come. We're going to be telling you about the Golden Globes. That's ahead. We're back in just a moment.


S. O'BRIEN: Great fashion last night. We're going to talk about that a little bit later.


S. O'BRIEN: But we have a really exciting AM Pop this morning, because there's lots to talk about. The Golden Globes last night.

M. O'BRIEN: Here to talk about the winners and the losers, "Entertainment Weekly's" Jessica Shaw and Bradley Jacobs, "US Weekly."

And speaking of winners, six for six. I now bestow upon you the first ever "Ammy," 'A,' AMERICAN MORNING Ammy to Bradley Jacobs, six for six.

S. O'BRIEN: There's always next year, Jessica. Don't feel bad!


M. O'BRIEN: Congratulations.

Jessica, next year. There's always next year.

BRADLEY JACOBS, "US WEEKLY": Thank you. Well, yes, "Brokeback Mountain" did really well, didn't it? And the Hollywood Foreign Press Association completely teed it up to have an Oscar sweep. We'll know for sure on January 31st when the Oscar nominations come out, but it's likely to get the most Oscar nominations, and then, yes, it's likely to win best picture.

S. O'BRIEN: "Walk the Line," were you surprised at all? I mean, I know that you picked that, predicted it, but any surprise there?

JACOBS: There wasn't any surprise, because the Golden Globes divided into dramas and musical comedies, it was clear that "Walk the Line" was going to take that category. And the best part of the movie are the performances, Reese Witherspoon there on the left, and Joaquin Phoenix, you know, especially the duets together. The movie just comes to life beautifully. And no, I was not surprised at all that they won. And I think you're going to see Reese Witherspoon win the Oscar as well. Not sure about Joaquin Phoenix. I think that category is more likely to go to Phillip Seymour Hoffman, or possibly Heath Ledger.

S. O'BRIEN: He is already out in front on the Oscars.


M. O'BRIEN: You are feeling a little bold this morning, a little bold. He's got his Ammy.

Felicity Huffman, that was...

S. O'BRIEN: That was a nice speech she gave, I thought. It was really a nice speech.

JACOBS: Yes, that was the moment. You know, I think every award show has one or two moments if you're lucky. Last year, it was Jamie Foxx at the Golden Globes thanking his grandmother, and last night it was Felicity Huffman giving just a wonderful...

S. O'BRIEN: Fixing her dress.

JACOBS: Fixing her dress first. You know, she has to look right.

But she plays a male-to-female transsexual in the film, and she spoke up for the people in the margins over our society and encouraged them to be who they are, and that's the sort of golden moment that viewers and people in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association love.

M. O'BRIEN: It seems real, which is the real thing, right. It was nice to have a real moment, right?

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk TV, shall we? Jessica, you didn't do quite so well on your picks.

M. O'BRIEN: We still like you, though, Jessica. It's OK.

S. O'BRIEN: We're not going to give you a trophy, because I think you did I think maybe just one out of your six.

SHAW: I think I did more like two.

S. O'BRIEN: OK, not so bad. "Desperate Housewives," you saw a bunch of them cheering for "Felicity" there. But they won best comedy series. That was it.

SHAW: They won best comedy series, but four of them were up for best actress, and that eventually went to Mary Louise Parker for "Weeds." I think they all divided the vote, so...

S. O'BRIEN: Couldn't pick one.

SHAW: Exactly.

S. O'BRIEN: She had a pretty fun comment as well, I thought.

SHAW: Right, she wanted to make out with everyone.

S. O'BRIEN: And then she said I'm the most desperate housewife. I thought that was pretty cute.

M. O'BRIEN: Everyone. Wow.

S. O'BRIEN: Hugh Laurie (ph) from "House" -- was that a surprise?

SHAW: You know, not really. It was such a close category. I went with Matthew fox. But Hugh Laurie really could have taken that. It was a such strong category keeper; Sutherland, I mean, there were a lot of good guys. So that's good that he won. I support that decision. Foreign Press, I'm OK with it.

M. O'BRIEN: You're OK with that. I do like that show.

SHAW: And he -- that, to me, that was the best acceptance speech of the night. He was so funny. He pretended that his wife had written the speech, and it was hilarious, and that show will do very well because of I think it's moving to a new night.

M. O'BRIEN: Good buzz on it. It's a good, fun show.

S. O'BRIEN: Geena Davis, I thought she looked stunning. I mean, she just did that red dress. Absolutely gorgeous. And she sort of said thank you for honoring a little show like ours. You know, I'm curious to know, does this translate into more viewership?

SHAW: Yes, absolutely. You know, it will for a show like "Commander in Chief," which hasn't been on -- it's been on for, what, only nine episodes only. And I think the TV -- on the TV set of the Golden Globes, there were a lot of shots this year. The Golden Globes really rewarded a lot of new shows and newcomers like "Commander in Chief" and "The Office," where the movies were somewhat predictable, so...

S. O'BRIEN: That was a good move.

M. O'BRIEN: Are we grading on a curve here, is that it, or handicap or something?

JACOBS: That's her argument.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow! Yes, that's not going to work at all. Take your statue back!


S. O'BRIEN: There is always next year for you. So there is a takeaway. There is a real victor here.

M. O'BRIEN: Here is a ball of twine.

S. O'BRIEN: The AMERICAN MORNING ball of twine...

M. O'BRIEN: A consolation prize.

S. O'BRIEN: ... for those who don't get all six right, but get a couple. Thank you. OK.

SHAW: I think it will mean ratings, you know, for a lot of these shows, which is great.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, "Weeds" probably, especially, a little show that no one ever heard of, and maybe weren't watching.

SHAW: Sure. Right.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, well, that was fun to talk about. It's always nice to have AM Pop when we've got some good dish.

M. O'BRIEN: Congratulations to our winner and our first runner- up. Excellent. And you're on record for the Oscars already.

S. O'BRIEN: Already. Yes, you might want to, you know, think about that.

Thanks, you guys. We'll check back in with you.

M. O'BRIEN: Bradley Jacobs and Jessica Shaw.

Coming up, NASA's mission to Pluto. The new horizon spacecraft, powered by the most toxic substance known to man, and that has some folks just a little worried about something going wrong during the launch. Is the reward worth the risk? Ahead.



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