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Not-Guilty Pleas From Three Teenagers Charged With Savagely Beating Three Homeless Men; Interview with Rosanne Cash

Aired February 22, 2006 - 09:30   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We've got this news just in to AMERICAN MORNING, coming to us from a Florida courtroom: not-guilty pleas from three teenagers who are charged with savagely beating three homeless men, one of them to death. The case, of course, got international attention after investigators released this, the security videotape of one of the attacks.
John Zarrella is right outside the courthouse in Fort Lauderdale this morning.

John, good morning.


Well, those not-guilty pleas were not a surprise. We had been told by attorney that the three defendants would in fact enter not- guilty pleas to the charge of first-degree murder in the beating of one homeless man, and the charges of attempted murder for the beating of two other homeless men on the night of January 12th.

Now the three teenagers, William Ammon (ph), Thomas Daugherty and Brian Hooks all entered the courtroom separately today, one at a time. The three came in wearing handcuffs and shackles. They did not speak during the proceeding, the arraignment hearing, which lasted for all of about five minutes. Attorneys representing the three entered those pleas of not guilty and waived the reading of the indictment. So it was a very, very short proceeding.

Some family members were in the courtroom. A couple that I recognized. The mother of William Ammons and the mother of Thomas Daugherty. Both of them were there. At one point Ammons looked over at his mother, waved and said hi, mom. She was visibly upset, broke down in the courtroom and had to be comforted during this very short proceeding.

Certainly very, very difficult times for many people involved, many lives ruined by what transpired on January 12th in those brutal attacks, and certainly the family members very distraught.

No date now set for any further action, but attorneys tell us after the hearing this morning that they were glad now to get this arraignment over with, because now they can move on to the discovery process and look at the evidence that prosecutors have. One other piece of information, Soledad, we still do not know if the prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Ammons and Hooks. Both of who are 18. That decision not made. Daughtery faced life in prison if convicted. He is a minor, 17 years old.

O'BRIEN: Just brutal. This case is just brutal. John Zarrella for us this morning in Fort Lauderdale.

John, thank you for the update, and that news just in to CNN.

Weirdly enough, unfortunately, this kind of violence is not unheard of. I mean, if you look at the national statistics, teenagers, on average, account for 10 to 15 percent of violent crime arrests.

Joining us this morning is adolescent psychologist Karen Binder- Brynes.

Nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.


O'BRIEN: Were you surprised when you heard -- I mean, these are not kids, these three kids. And their kids. I mean, they're young men. It's not like they have these long rap sheets. One has a little history of trouble, but they are not like hardened criminals.

BINDER-BRYNES: I wasn't surprised, because this has gone on all through time. I think that there's media attention to the issue right now, but I was doing some research about this, and that in this country, the -- there's a lot of problems with homelessness and crime against homelessness, and what I found out is that most homeless attacks and murders are committed by white suburban males opportunity under the age of 20.

O'BRIEN: Really? So are these kids -- we're looking at the videotape, which is sort of to some degree eventually tripped them up, because a lot of it was caught on camera. Are they sociopaths, or psychopaths or whatever psychologists call somebody who has no emotion and feeling about somebody else's life?

BINDER-BRYNES: Unfortunately they may not be sociopaths. Sociopath is not a common problem in this country with teenagers. It's a pretty serious mental illness.

O'BRIEN: So what's wrong with these kids?

BINDER-BRYNES: You know, this is a very interesting question, that I think need a lot more research to be understood, but I think that there's an issue with a lot of teenagers today that we are absolutely saturated with violence. There's research that shows that the more violence teenagers are exposed to on TV and in the media creates more violence.

O'BRIEN: I totally hear you on that. But at the same time, there's a big difference between watching a violent movie, or a violent video game and going out and beating a human being to death. I mean, there's a large number of teenagers who wouldn't think of doing that. So why do some of these kids do it? BINDER-BRYNES: Well, I think in a case of homelessness, these are people, we don't have a caste system in this country like other countries have. But unfortunately, a lot of these kids perceive homelessness as a very untouchable situation, that these people are untouchable, that they are not human, and they are victims, because these children use them as the children are predators to people that are weaker than them. And I think in a case like this, where these boys actually said they did it for kicks, they did this for fun.

O'BRIEN: So it's -- to me, that makes it more horrifying. For fun, to kill a human being, who is sleeping on a bench?

BINDER-BRYNES: Excuse me. But I think that there was a lot of peer pressure involved here, and I think that's something to understand. Most of these attacks are not carried out by individuals. You very rarely see that. So I think one of the things that goes on is that there's peer pressure, that if we go more into these boys' backgrounds, I think that we're going to find information that says that one of these boys or two of the boys may have been more the leader type and the other boys were following. And this is an issue for a teenagers.

O'BRIEN: You have tips, and I'm going to run through them. You say parents need to be involved in their child's life, know what's on TV and on the computer, know your kids' friends, tune into mood change. And to some degree, these are all tips that, you know, like every parent -- I've got four kids. Even with a toddler, you want to sort of know all of this stuff. How do you make sure that you don't have a child who is turning into one of the kids that is going to kill a human being?

BINDER-BRYNES: Right. Well, I think this is not a problem for parents, but it's a problem for the communities as well. I think it's very important for parents to stay involved. You know, most homes in this country are run by single parents. People are working. Couples are working.

O'BRIEN: Yes, everybody is working around the clock.

BINDER-BRYNES: It' very hard. But I think that communication with your kids, trying to spend time with them, knowing who their friends are, monitoring their Internet use wherever possible, monitoring their behavior, changes in behavior, very important, how they're dressing, how they're doing.

O'BRIEN: I think you're right. I think eventually when there's a closer look at their backgrounds, we're going to get a lot more information.

BINDER-BRYNES: But I do want to just add one thing. It's so important for the communities to be involved, for children to learn ways to solve their problems and deal with aggression in more socially acceptable ways.

O'BRIEN: It's a terrible story. On a lot of fronts, it's a really awful and sad story. And psychologist Karen Binder-Brynes, thanks for talking with us this morning. We really appreciate it.

BINDER-BRYNES: OK, thank you very much.


ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: Andy Serwer is here with a little check on business. What's happening?

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: I am, you guys. We'll go down to Wall Street and see how the action is faring this morning. Plus, what happens when abrasiveness meets political correctness. Larry Summers is out as president of Harvard. We'll talk to you why that happened, coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


MARCIANO: After day one of the women's figure skating at the Olympics, the reigning U.S. champion leads the European champion by just three hundredths of a point. Very slim margin.

CNN's Larry Smith is live in Torino this morning with a look at that and the long form -- or the long program happening tomorrow night. But it's anybody's race, isn't it, Larry?

LARRY SMITH, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it really is. That's what really thrilling about this. It's already -- women's figure skating already is the crown jewel of any Winter Olympics, now in these 20th games already.

But, you know, considering that these two are now in a virtual heat going into tomorrow's night free skate. It does add an extra layer of intrigue. Sasha Cohen, ridiculed a bit by her critics for having never won the big one. Finally did that by winning the U.S. Nationals last month. So the 21-year-old coming in, and she was near flawless last night, as you mentioned. She just narrowly beat out Irina Slutskaya for the top spot.

Slutskaya won silver behind the America Emily Hughes -- or make that Sarah Hughes in 2002. I knew I was going to do that at some point. But Slutskaya, coming in as a favorite. She was phenomenal as well until Cohen finally outdid her on the final skate.

Don't forget about Kimmie Meissner. The 16-year-old only the second American ever to land a triple axle. Very athletic. She was second behind Cohen in nationals. Right now, she stands in fifth, and Emily Hughes stands in seventh.

And by the way, yes, Sarah Hughes, 2002 champion, not competitively skating right now. She's on a break right now from her classes in Yale. But keep in mind, though, Rob, Sarah Hughes is also -- has dual citizenship in Canada. It has been talked about she possibly could skate for Canada in the 2010 games in Vancouver. Let's go back to you.

MARCIANO: Interesting little side note there. Thank you, Larry. Hey, Shani Davis, Chad Hedrick, the speed skaters, some drama there. You think it would be all over after they raced last night, but apparently there were some more words exchanged.

SMITH: Yes, it really is. And, well, they still have one more race to go. I think they're both going to run in the 10,000 meters this weekend. But yesterday they were on the medal stands for the first time together. Shani Davis outdoing Hedrick by taking silver in the 1500 meters to Hedrick's bronze.

And as we see a picture of them, you can see the two of them kind of smiling there a little bit. But here are some words that we had from Shani Davis. We've yet to hear about him in this controversy.

And he says, quoting, "It would have been kind of nice after I won the 1,000 meter if he would have been a good teammate and shook my hand," talking about Hedrick, "just like I shook his hand or hugged him after he won the 5,000. Shakes my hand when I lose. That's typical Chad."

That's Shani Davis. So much of this going back to Hedrick upset at Davis when he refused to run in the team pursuit. Hedrick said he wasn't going to be a good teammate, and he felt that that cost the U.S. a gold medal. They ended up finishing sixth in that event. And so it goes here in Torino.

MARCIANO: Larry, they're telling me I'm out of time, but Soledad wants to ask you about the food.

O'BRIEN; They've been complaining about the food, aren't they?

SERWER: In Italy!

MARCIANO: Yes, how can they complain about the food in Italy?

O'BRIEN: Come on now.

SMITH: Well, I tell you what. We're at an advantage, because we're here in downtown, and we've got a chef right here, we know. His name is Kiku (ph). He fixes us anything we want. I mean, he is outstanding. But these guys are up in the mountains in Cestiaire (ph), in the Alps, and we hear there's some problems with the food up there. I feel bad for them.

O'BRIEN: No, you don't. Look at him.

SMITH: Let me tell you...

O'BRIEN: He's like, I feel bad for them.

SMITH: It is true. Here in downtown Torino. Hey, let me tell you...

O'BRIEN: Feel bad for us, Larry. Larry, we have terrible food here.

MARCIANO: Enjoy yourself, Larry, thanks.


O'BRIEN: He looks like he's put on a couple pounds...

MARCIANO: He looks happy.

SERWER: He's been eating a lot of manicotti. He's having a great time over there.

O'BRIEN: We're just kidding you, Larry.


O'BRIEN: Straight ahead this morning, we're talking "A.M. Pop." Rosanne Cash is going to join us live in the studio. She's got a new album. There she is. Hey, good morning. It's a project that you have to imagine was very emotional for us. It's called "Black Cadillac." We're going to go over her family's incredible legacy, too.

That's ahead. Stay with us, everybody.


O'BRIEN: "A.M. Pop" this morning. Family history often finds its way into a country song writer's lyrics. And the work of Rosanne Cash no exception. The latest album from the eldest daughter of Johnny Cash is called "Black Cadillac." And it is a work that's filled with the anguish and the pain of loss. The songs were written over a two-year period in which her father, mother, her stepmother all died.

Rosanne Cash joins us this morning.

And more. Your stepsister, too, died. An aunt died as well in that period.

ROSANNE CASH, SINGER-SONGWRITER: Someone said it was my personal tsunami.

O'BRIEN: Yes, really.

And I mean, you know, and you're sort of laughing, but really not because...

CASH: Really not.

O'BRIEN: It's a horrible time for you.

CASH: I'm still actually -- my mother has been gone less than a year. So I'm still kind of in it.

O'BRIEN: But you know, before -- I knew this before I listened to the album, and I thought it was going to be sort of this weepy kind of mess, and it's not. CASH: No.

O'BRIEN: It's not. It's a very thoughtful approach to relationships and really life on the planet, and before you leave the planet.

CASH: Well, it's true. These songs came out of that period. But loss is so complex. Loss is not about grief. It's also about anger, and confusion and about renegotiating these relationships. Because I really believe that a relationship founded on love doesn't end when one person leaves the planet.

O'BRIEN: That must be hard when you parents go.

CASH: It's awful. It's transformative on every level.

O'BRIEN: You're a public family, which has got to be hard, because everybody feels like they know your dad, you know, that he's part of their family and that's got to be a little bit creepy in some way.

CASH: Yes, I mean. I was very good about protecting myself about that in the first year after his death, because there was an appropriation of grief for him.

But I didn't lose Johnny Cash, so I didn't have to participate in that. I was mourning losing my father.

O'BRIEN: You start the album in a really interesting way. There's a little clip, a little snippet of sound. And I think it's your dad talking to you, I guess, when you're a toddler. And remind me what it says exactly. It's like, come one.

CASH: He says, come on. Well, I found that little piece the day I mastered the record. The day I mastered the record, I found that little piece on a tape my sister had given to me, and it just says, "say come on."

O'BRIEN: He's trying to get you as a toddler to talk.

CASH: To speak, right. But it was a great way to kick off that song, because the song just grooves and drives.

O'BRIEN: It's great.

CASH: Yes, it's a great way to start.

But you know, it's not a tribute record in that way. It's not about these famous people who died. It's about my experience of loss and renegotiating these relationships.

O'BRIEN: I like the way your husband kind of pushed you to really think about it. I mean, it's thoughtful. It's not just dwelling, dwelling, dwelling in pain.

CASH: Right. I was very careful not to topple over into self- pity or sentiment, because it would have ruined the songs, and I think I became a better song writer because of that.

O'BRIEN: It's a beautiful album.

"Walk the Line," obviously, is a movie comes out. That's got to be tough to see. Did you see it?

CASH: I did see it. They were gracious enough to screen for it me last summer before it came out.

O'BRIEN: How weird is that, to watch a movie about your parents, and your stepmother and -- parents relationship and it's got to be -- you must look at it and say that's wrong, and that didn't happen and that wasn't done.

CASH: Well, sure. I mean, I loved the movie "Ray," but I bet if you talked to Ray's kids, they would say it wasn't quite like that for me.

O'BRIEN: That was not my dad, yes.

CASH: Right. I mean, you know your parents. Nobody can play your parents because you know them so well. And it did kind of take surreal to a new level for me.

O'BRIEN: Can you step back and appreciate it as a movie?

CASH: Not really.

O'BRIEN: I'm done seeing it. I'm done.

CASH: Not really. I lived it. Because it covers some very painful things in my childhood. And who wants to see their childhood on the big screen.

O'BRIEN: Right, right, exactly.

CASH: It's a little tough.

O'BRIEN: I was surprised you live in Manhattan.

CASH: Only four blocks from you Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I know. We're like girls in the hood.

But, OK, I live in Manhattan, because my studio is right here. You're a country singer.

CASH: Well, that's debatable, isn't it?

O'BRIEN: No. Are there are a lot of country singers in Manhattan?

CASH: I don't know.

O'BRIEN: Do you go back and forth a lot?


O'BRIEN: Really?

CASH: I haven't had a record on country radio in 18 years.

O'BRIEN: Yes, that's true. But I guess I always just think of you as like...

CASH: No, you'll have to reframe that for yourself and think of me as a songwriter.

O'BRIEN: I'm thinking of you as my girlfriend in the hood now. Forget the...


O'BRIEN: It's so nice to have the album. It's so beautiful. It's wonderful. Run out and buy it for everybody who...

CASH: Will you follow me around and say that?

O'BRIEN: Absolutely.

I'm Soledad O'Brien for Rosanne Cash this morning. You want to get the CD.

So nice to catch up with you. Thanks for being with us this morning.

CASH: You, too. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We've got a short break. We're back in just a moment.



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