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PAULA ZAHN NOW

President Bush Kept in the Dark on Port Security Deal?; Martha vs. the Donald; Could New Police Technology End High-Speed Highway Chases? Controversy Over Death Penalty in California

Aired February 22, 2006 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening. Appreciate all of you being with us tonight.
Some new questions about the president's role in the controversial deal involving our nation's harbors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): On the CNN "Security Watch" -- the fight over the security of our nation's ports keeps growing.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If this transaction were blocked, this would not change port security one iota.

ZAHN: The president stands his ground. But why wasn't he part of the original decision?

MCCLELLAN: The president learned of this recently, and he became aware of it.

ZAHN: Is there really anything to fear?

The "Eye Opener" -- and the chase is on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, he hit that car.

ZAHN: Ever since O.J., riveting television on two wheels.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, look at this, a wheelie, right through traffic.

ZAHN: Four wheels -- no wheels at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have got a lot of nuts here. That's what makes it so unique.

ZAHN: But could a new police weapon put an end to L.A.'s freeway follies?

And the clash of the billion-dollar egos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why he's the Donald. He takes no prisoners.

ZAHN: Prime time wasn't big enough for both of them, and now it is turning downright ugly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's going to rip out your throat.

ZAHN: Tonight, what is behind the feud between Martha and the Donald?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And we start with the nationwide furor over the government's decision to let an Arab company managed six major ports here in this country. They are in New York, Newark, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia. And furor is still the right word tonight.

Consider the one-sentence letter President Bush got today from a Republican congresswoman. Representative Sue Myrick of North Carolina writes -- quote -- "In regards to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates, not just no, but hell no" -- end of quote.

Tonight, the company involved, Dubai Ports World, isn't taking no for an answer. CNN has learned that it has hired, among others, former Senator and Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole to lobby on its behalf.

And Congress starts hearings on all of this tomorrow. Senator John Warner of Virginia, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has arranged for a public briefing on the deal's national security implications.

Well, President Bush, meanwhile, isn't backing down from this threat to veto any attempt to stop the deal. But, today, his aides are also admitting they blew it by not warning the president before the whole mess got started.

In a few minutes, we will hear, for first time, from a member of the committee that actually approved the ports deal.

But, first, let's go straight to White House correspondent Dana Bash for the very latest on all this controversy.

So, you reported today, Dana, that not only wasn't the president aware of this deal; neither were many of his senior aides. So, how much of a blame game is going on at this hour there?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Blame game is one way to look at it, for sure, Paula.

But the bottom line is that when I talk to Republicans in Congress, and even talking to some -- many people here at the White House, they understand that a big part of the problem here -- some -- some Republicans are upset about this, who -- who were briefed, but the biggest problem for them is that there were Republicans on Capitol Hill, and, of course, in the states where these ports are -- are -- are housed, who didn't know anything about this.

And that is sort of politics 101. When you know that something is going to be political dynamite, which many people here at the White House did know, then you exact -- you try to get the information out, and you give them talking points, if you will. And you try to assuage their concerns, before they have to go public.

That didn't happen here, in part because of the way this process works. It is a secretive process. And they do focus on national security. Even people who are involved in the panel understand and even have gone public now, saying that perhaps they didn't pay enough -- enough attention to the kind of political firestorm this would cause.

Perhaps they should have told some top White House officials earlier. But that's, essentially, what is going on with that.

ZAHN: So, does anybody get fired over this, since the president is taking so much heat?

BASH: It is hard to say never, but I would say, probably, it is unlikely, be -- primarily because that -- this particular panel -- it is a 12-agency panel, usually. Fourteen deliberated over this issue. They, basically, did their job.

They are not charged with giving a heads-up to the White House or to Congress when something might be politically dicey. They're charged with one thing, and one thing only, and that is national security: Is the national security going to be intact?

They made the decision that it was yes. So, they followed the process. But there is discussion, Paula, about whether or not that process should change.

ZAHN: And that's when the fireworks got reignited again.

Dana Bash, thanks so much.

So...

BASH: Thank you.

ZAHN: ... the question tonight is, exactly who approved the port deal in the first place?

Well, the answer seems to be a group that almost no one has ever heard about, which looks at information they can't tell us about, and actually makes a decision that hardly anyone ever asks about, except, this time, everyone is asking questions.

And to get some answers about who OKed all of this, CNN's new senior national correspondent, John Roberts, takes us "Beyond the Headlines."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): (AUDIO GAP) a process guarded by secrecy. So, who signed off on the deal? CNN has learned, the two main players on the Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States were Stewart Baker, from the Department of Homeland Security, and the Treasury Department's Clay Lowery. And, yes, they feel stunned by this enormous backlash.

(on camera): You know the way that this is being portrayed. You know, who -- who -- who are the dunderheads who made this decision? Does -- does that perception trouble you?

CLAY LOWERY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY: I think it does to a degree, I mean, as one of the, I guess, the leader dunderheads.

ROBERTS (voice-over): Lowery stands fully behind decision and the people who vetted it, many of them, he insists, experts, whose sole day-to-day concern is national security.

LOWERY: Why is it that they would change what they do every single day because of one single transaction? They didn't do that.

ROBERTS: The pending sale of terminal operations at six East Coast ports has thrown new scrutiny on the process and whether the committee, formed during the Cold War, operates within the new realities of the war on terror.

Clark Kent Ervin, former inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security, and a CNN analyst, believes, CFIUS, as it's called, is sorely in need of reform.

CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: If treaties and trade agreements are important enough to require congressional approval, it seems to me that the sale or acquisition of a key strategic asset in the age of terror, likewise, requires congressional sign-off.

ROBERTS: Ervin isn't the only one who has problems with CFIUS. Last September, the Government Accountability Office issued a report critical of the committee's narrow definition of what constitutes a threat to national security. It also faulted the opaque nature of the process, limiting information provided to Congress.

Lowery says that committee's deliberations have to be secret to protect proprietary corporate information. And, unless there is a national security concern, which, in this case, he insists there wasn't, there is no need to notify Congress, or even the president.

LOWERY: The president not knowing about it is -- shouldn't shock people, in that we -- there's a number of transactions that happen every year. I believe there were 65 last year.

ROBERTS: In fact, we learned today, Lowery's boss, the secretary of the treasury, was in the dark, until after the deal had been signed off on.

That staffers made such a sensitive decision, and without involving their superiors, say critics, is a troubling sign of creeping complacency in the war on terror. ERVIN: I think America, frankly, is in danger of having gone back to sleep. Because we haven't been attacked in five years, we're beginning to assume -- whether we're conscious of it or not -- that we're never going to be attacked again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: In terms of the actual decision itself, Lowery told me today that he would not have done anything differently, had he had the opportunity to go back and do it again.

What he says he would have done differently, though, Paula, was, he probably, given the sensitivity of this, would have kicked it upstairs to some of his superiors, and informed Congress, gotten out ahead of this, before the firestorm took hold.

ZAHN: Did he really seem that surprised by the fallout from this?

ROBERTS: They were pretty surprised.

Because of the fact that so many port operations in this country are handled by companies that come from third countries, such as Denmark, Singapore and Taiwan, they really thought that there wasn't any big deal, as long as the national security implications had been addressed.

ZAHN: John Roberts, good to have you on our broadcast.

This is first appearance on this show.

Welcome to CNN.

ROBERTS: Thank you, Paula. Good to be here.

ZAHN: Glad to have you on our team now. Good luck.

Supporters of the port takeover keep on emphasizing that there will be no change in the people who actually work at the docks. So, what do those folks think about the deal?

The longshoremen Adaora Udoji spoke to are blasting the decision.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE GROFFO, LONGSHOREMAN: Zero-six with that.

ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Groffo has been working the New Jersey Port, just across the river from New York City, for more than 30 years.

GROFFO: We handle a wide array of containers here.

UDOJI (on camera): From all over the world.

GROFFO: From all over the world. UDOJI (voice-over): Some of the people who manage the terminals also come from all over the world. Today, a Danish company and a Chinese company each runs a terminal here.

GROFFO: Six level here, so that the people can...

UDOJI: That doesn't bother Groffo, who is the safety director at the company where he works.

GROFFO: None of them are at war with America.

UDOJI: However, he and many of his fellow longshoremen are vehemently opposed to a United Arab Emirates-owned company taking over one of the terminals, a country where, they believe, some are tied to terrorism.

GROFFO: I know how they feel about us. And I -- I don't want something like that to happen here in America, where we possibly could be looking at another 9/11.

(CROSSTALK)

UDOJI (on camera): So, you're worried that they are not going to have their eyes open as much as, say, another company would?

GROFFO: I feel that there is a possibility that their backs could be turned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people say they might put bombs and things in containers and ship them over here. That's all.

GLENN GOODWIN, LONGSHOREMAN: You know, for the last four years, we have been hearing about -- you know, our president telling us that, you know, the Middle Easterners are the enemies. But, yet -- and, still, now it is OK to go to the negotiation table with them. You know, I mean, it is ridiculous.

UDOJI (voice-over): Longshoremen here say a Dubai Ports World takeover won't change their jobs. And their union acknowledges, security will still be handled by the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs, among many others.

But, still, five years after the World Trade Center attacks, they feel betrayed by President Bush.

GROFFO: I thought it was great when he went after Osama bin Laden. I thought was great that he went into Iraq. But, now, I don't understand this, and I want answers. I'm not comfortable.

UDOJI: Groffo is promising to do his best, to tighten security, to remind his fellow workers to keep their eyes and ears open, because they are, he says, a first line of defense for a city that has seen what terrorists can do.

Adaora Udoji, CNN, Newark, New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: From the longshoremen working the docks, to the lawmakers who are home this week, getting an earful from their constituents, everyone is concerned about who is running our ports. Is it really a matter of security or bigotry? That's a question lots of people have at the boiling point tonight.

Radio talk show host Mark Williams has been getting plenty of calls opposing the deal. He joins us from Sacramento. And in Washington is Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which promotes tolerance.

Good to have both of you with us tonight.

MARK WILLIAMS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: So, Ibrahim, this week, a columnist with a UAE daily called "The Gulf Daily News" wrote -- quote -- "Islamophobia is rising, and has become like an infectious disease that spreads in the West."

Are you going to really tell us tonight that anybody who is opposed to this deal is an anti-Arab bigot?

IBRAHIM HOOPER, SPOKESMAN, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS: No.

But I think the politicians on both sides are exploiting underlying anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments and post-9/11 fears to try and use this as a political football, to say, I'm more in favor of national security than you are, and, therefore, vote for me in the fall.

But what I'm really concerned about is how this whole issue is being mischaracterized. You could almost say it is being -- it -- we're being lied to about it. You read earlier a letter from a congresswoman to the president: Don't sell our ports to Arabs.

Come on now. Nobody is proposing that. The Coast Guard is going to be there. The DHS will be screening all of the -- the cargo. Longshoremen, the same ones, will be unloading...

ZAHN: All right.

HOOPER: ... and loading the ships. Nothing is going to change.

ZAHN: All right, so, Mark, what about that? Even the government stressed today that the security for the ports will remain in control of American personnel. What are you afraid is going to happen, if this Dubai deal goes through?

WILLIAMS: Well, a government of which the president and the defense secretary were absolutely clueless, until this was brought to their attention a week ago.

And, no, it -- it has got nothing to do with race. Terrorists kill plenty of Muslim as well. I have been to Iraq, and I have seen that. What we have got here is a country which is a pragmatic country. It will go whichever way the wind blows.

They have delivered nuclear technology to Iran. They're the laundromat for money for al Qaeda. They will -- they have been funding and aiding the insurgency in -- in Iraq.

And, yes, every once in a while, they will turn over a terrorist to the United States. It is not even a matter of whether or not they should do business in the United States. If they want to buy a shopping mall in Dayton, Ohio, more power to them.

This is talking about controlling six major seaports, and two additional ports in Texas, through which 40 percent of our military material to Iraq flows. If things go up in -- in the Middle East right now, and if we have to go in after Iraq, or God forbid -- excuse me -- Iran -- or, God forbid, Israel does, what happens then? Whose side is the UAE on, and do we find our shipping ports...

ZAHN: All right.

WILLIAMS: ... shut down?

ZAHN: So, Ibrahim, you...

HOOPER: I mean, look at -- look at the...

ZAHN: ... had made the point earlier that you think folks like Mark are exploiting 9/11 fears.

HOOPER: Well, look -- look at the distortions he made.

ZAHN: But do you concede that a lot of Americans share these same fears?

HOOPER: They share the...

ZAHN: And do you understand why they do?

HOOPER: They share the fears, because look what he said, complete distortions, that the -- the UAE is funding the insurgency in Iraq -- nobody has ever made that claim -- that they're sending nuclear weapons to a place -- nobody has made that claim -- that they're a laundromat for money.

They're a banking center for the world. Money goes through Dubai, and through the UAE. These are the distortions that are feeding this fear and hysteria that is leading people to come to a -- a completely distorted conclusion.

WILLIAMS: They -- they -- they facilitated...

ZAHN: Mark, do you -- Mark -- Mark, just answer this question.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

ZAHN: Do -- do you have any faith at all in the American personnel that will be in control of the security of these ports, if this deal gets through?

WILLIAMS: In...

ZAHN: Goes through?

WILLIAMS: In the personnel, absolutely. In the three stooges who are running the show, no.

HOOPER: I mean, the COO of the company is an American. It is a multinational company...

WILLIAMS: You -- you know, this...

HOOPER: ... that has...

WILLIAMS: This company was instrumental in the -- in the assisting of Pakistani scientist Khan in getting centrifuge technology to Iran, so they can build a nuclear weapon.

They are a renowned international laundromat for terrorist money and other criminal money. And, yes, legitimate money goes through there as well. This is a matter of American national security. We don't -- we do not outsource the security of this nation. That's absolutely senseless. We have already outsourced our manufacturing capability.

HOOPER: And this deal doesn't...

WILLIAMS: You can't make an airline reservation without...

HOOPER: ... outsource...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: We got...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: ... to -- got to leave it there.

But, once again, I have got to repeat a point the government made again today, saying, this is not outsourcing of security...

HOOPER: Exactly.

ZAHN: ... that the security of these ports will remain -- be -- remain in control of American authorities.

Mark Williams, Ibrahim Hooper...

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

ZAHN: ... thank you for both of your perspectives tonight.

WILLIAMS: Thanks for having...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Now, federal authorities are telling us, they are sure they have stopped a terrorist plot in Ohio. So, exactly who are the accused, and what do their families have to say about the arrests?

Also coming up, hot pursuit and even hotter ratings. Why can't Los Angeles TV viewers get enough of high-speed chases?

Well, more than 19 million of you visited our Web site today.

And our countdown of the top 10 most popular stories on CNN.com begins in New York with the retrial of the son of the late mob boss John Gotti. John Jr. is accused of murdering underlings to kidnap and beat a radio host.

Number nine, a New York man has been hospitalized in Pennsylvania with a case of anthrax. He happens to be a drum-maker who uses raw animal hides, which probably caused his infection.

Just a reminder: This infection cannot be passed person to person -- numbers eight and seven straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight, we're beginning to get a clearer picture of an alleged terror plot targeting American forces in Iraq -- a plot the government says was hatched by three men in Ohio.

We're also hearing from the stunned relatives of the suspects themselves.

Alina Cho takes us "Beyond the Headlines" tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The three men allegedly hatched their secret terror plot in Middle America, Toledo, Ohio. They came here to live, to work, and, the government says, to conspire to wage a holy war against U.S. troops in Iraq.

Their families describe all three of the men as devout Muslims, but say they were not close friends, and they're not aware that they spent any time together. The arrests came as a surprise.

BILAL MAZLOUM, BROTHER OF ARRESTED TERROR SUSPECT: He was like a dad to me. He was not like a brother to me.

CHO: Bilal Mazloum is the younger brother of suspect Wassim Mazloum. He says he was there when the FBI came to arrest his brother, that he was handcuffed and questioned, too. Calls to Mazloum's attorney were not returned.

MAZLOUM: It is really hard to believe that kind of stuff.

CHO: Federal authorities, in a 12-page indictment, say Mazloum, along with alleged co-conspirators Marwan Othman El-Hindi and Mohammad Zaki Amawi, tried to set up and finance terrorist training camps, that they downloaded videos, similar to this one, showing how to make suicide bomb vests...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(EXPLOSION)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: ... and improvised explosive devices.

The government says, they even recruited a former U.S. serviceman to teach them how to use those explosives, and even discussed plans to practice setting them off on July 4, when fireworks would mask the noise. It is not clear if they ever did. Mazloum allegedly used his family's Toledo car dealership as a cover to travel to Iraq on sales trips.

Suspect Amawi worked at a Toledo travel agency. In his free time, authorities say he fired off shots at a nearby shooting range. The government says he did more than that, that he made verbal threats against President Bush. Amawi's brother, who spoke to CNN in silhouette, said Amawi had nothing against the president, just U.S. foreign policy in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED BROTHER OF TERROR SUSPECT MOHAMMAD ZAKI AMAWI: No, he said that he doesn't like, you know, the war, and he was against the war. You know, that's why he said that.

CHO: Lawyers for suspect El-Hindi call their client a law- abiding family man, a married father of seven who arrived in Toledo in 1986.

El-Hindi turns 43 tomorrow. He will celebrate with his lawyers, who admit, defending him will be tough.

STEPHEN HARTMAN, ATTORNEY FOR TERROR SUSPECT MARWAN OTHMAN EL- HINDI: Let's face it: The atmosphere in America now, if there is an allegation of terrorism, and you are Middle Eastern, you're Muslim, people are going to assume you're guilty.

CHO: In the Muslim parts of Toledo, people tend to agree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all against this. We don't like this. We're in fear.

CHO: Bilal Mazloum says his brother didn't even know how to use a gun, that he is certain a court will exonerate him.

MAZLOUM: He liked to help people. He never tried to hurt nobody. I mean, he never done anything bad.

CHO (on camera): The government won't say how far along the suspects were in the alleged planning of the attacks or if an attack was imminent. All three will be back in Ohio courtrooms later this month. Alina Cho, CNN, Toledo, Ohio.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And there is this: If convicted of the most serious charge, all three men could face life in prison.

Still ahead, three seemingly normal teenagers appear in court, accused in brutal attacks on homeless people. What was their motivation for this vicious crime? All that is coming up.

First, though, here is Erica Hill at Headline News with this hour's other top stories -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Paula, the debate over a South Dakota proposal to ban nearly all abortions in that state is one step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court -- this after South Dakota's Senate approved the measure today. Final House package is expected soon. And that is likely to trigger a Supreme Court challenge.

A government health advisory panel has added children from ages 2 to 5 to the list of those who should receive their yearly flu shots. The vaccine is already recommended for infants and pregnant women, as well as seniors and those with chronic health conditions.

And, just south of London, armed robbers broke into a security company, tied up the staff, and got away, Paula, with the equivalent of more than $43 million -- scary, and a big loot there.

ZAHN: All right, Erica, thanks so much.

You got that right.

We're going move along now to our CNN.com countdown. Nineteen million of you logged on to our site today.

On to number eight on that countdown -- the Supreme Court has ruled that the Postal Service can be sued by a woman in Pennsylvania -- get this -- who tripped over mail left on her porch.

Number seven, NASA says Atlantis will be the first of three shuttles to be retired in 2008. Atlanta has been -- Atlantis, that is, has been flying since 1985.

Numbers six and five are just minutes away.

Also, coming up, California has millions of doctors, so, why can't it find even one to help execute a condemned rapist and murderer?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ted Rowlands along Highway 101 in Los Angeles.

Coming up, we're going to take a look back at some of the most memorable car chases in California history, and show you a new device that police are using to try to stop those chases. It is still ahead -- as PAULA ZAHN NOW continues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight, the capital punishment system in California has ground to an absolute halt. And the reason may force a national reexamination of exactly how prisoners are executed.

And it is all because of one judge's ruling that medical professionals actually have to help with the execution of a man convicted of raping and murdering a 17-year-old girl. And they can't find any doctors, or nurses, willing to do it.

Here is Peter Viles on a story "Outside the Law."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The death chamber inside San Quentin Prison was empty today, and will be, until California can resolve its crisis over executions. It centers around Michael Morales, convicted of torturing, raping and murdering a teenage girl, Terri Winchell, 25 years ago.

Last night, Morales learned, his execution was postponed indefinitely.

LIEUTENANT VERNELL CRITTENDON, SPOKESMAN, SAN QUENTIN PRISON: He was quite relieved to find that he was not going to be executed. He smiled. He nodded. He thanked me.

VILES: Today, Terri Winchell'S mother said, it was like a punch in the stomach.

BARBARA CHRISTIAN, MOTHER OF TERRI WINCHELL: We want to have a closure. It won't bring Terri back. But at least it -- we can close our mind and never have to think of the word Morales again.

VILES: The issue isn't the crime; it is the punishment.

Now, by tradition, the executioner in California was a prison employee, not a doctor. And the executioner was never seen. He was in a room next to the death chamber, administering a lethal cocktail of drugs that traveled through an I.V. from his room to the death chamber.

Like most states, California used three drugs, first, a sedative, then a drug that caused paralysis, and then a drug that caused a massive heart attack and death. Lawyers for Morales, though, claim that inmates might regain consciousness during the execution and suffer severe pain.

DAVID SENIOR, ATTORNEY FOR MORALES: They use three drugs and the second drug that they use paralyzes the inmate, which doesn't allow the person administering the drugs to know whether the sedative, which is the first drug is actually working. The third drug is excruciatingly painful that they pump into the inmate.

VILES: So to avoid possible pain, federal judge Jeremy Fogel ordered the state to have medical professionals in the death chamber to make sure the inmate was truly unconscious. But the state couldn't find willing doctors or nurses.

DR. JOHN MAA, PROFESSOR OF SURGERY, UCSF: There is a significant concern that the physician-patient interaction will be distorted by physicians being involved in taking the life of a prisoner. The California Medical Association and the American Medical Association have long opposed physician participation in executions.

VILES: Judge Fogel also offered the possibility that a doctor or nurse perform the actual execution inside the death chamber, directly administering a fatal dose of sedatives. Again no doctors agreed. And since the executioner would be seen, the prison system also found that hard to accept.

LT. VERNELL CRITTENDON, SAN QUENTIN PRISON: An individual actually delivering that method, being identified as an executioner, I question how appropriate that is. I feel that they are carrying out the will of the people.

VILES (on camera): The next stage in this drama will be a federal courtroom. There will be a hearing in May on whether all executions performed by lethal injection are cruel and unusual punishment. Peter Viles for CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And there's another thing for all of us to keep in mind, 37 other states use a three-drug cocktail like California and that means that this death penalty controversy could affect executions all over the country.

Tonight, some Florida teenagers are being described as contrite and distraught. So how could they be accused in a series of brutal beatings and a murder?

In Los Angeles, people surf to find high-speed car chases. Why can't they seem to get enough of them?

First, though, onto No. 6 and five on our CNN.com countdown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Hundreds of high-speed chases happen every year all over the country. But in Los Angeles, they happen to be a spectator sport with T.V. stations locally competing to get them on the air the fastest. Take a look at this one that happened just last night. It has become such an obsession with California T.V. viewers that we asked Ted Rowlands to find out why for tonight's "Eye Opener."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unbelievable, look at that. He's out of control. Head on, into a pickup truck.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They play out on a daily basis in California and many times end up on T.V.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, there's four vehicles that he just ran into.

ROWLANDS: Police chases, which some consider the ultimate in reality television.

JUDY GRAFFE: PURSUIT WATCHER: I have to tune in.

ROWLANDS: Judy Graffe, along with thousands of other viewers love to watch people on the freeways and streets of California trying to get away from the police. Judy is such a fanatic that she actually subscribes to a service that alerts her with a phone call when a chase is underway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa, look at that, right between those two calls.

GRAFFE: No one single car chase is like another. I mean, anything from what neighborhoods they go to the speeds they travel to who it turns out they are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There he goes, he's out and he's in the lanes of traffic.

ROWLANDS: Over the years, there have been some memorable California chases. There was the stolen tank in San Diego. There was the hijacked bus in Los Angeles, the driver careening through the streets like a real-life version of the movie "Speed" without the Hollywood ending.

GRAFFE: That one was absolutely fascinating to imagine somebody hijacking a bus and thinking they could get away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's over 120 miles-an-hour here.

ROWLANDS: Police have chased practically everything on wheels. From motorcycles...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, look at this, a wheelie right through traffic.

ROWLANDS: ... To R.V.'s. This chase lasted more than four hours, part of it off road. Everyone seemed relieved when this ended.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nature called.

ROWLANDS: 7-Up received some free advertising while police pursued this stolen truck. There's even been a case of ambulance chasing. Literally. Sometimes the suspect runs, many times they give up. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it's a foot chase and we'll see if the officers -- he runs out of steam.

ROWLANDS: This person decided to turn things around, putting the car into reverse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very bizarre behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It went through the interchange, continuing northbound on the 405.

ROWLANDS: And, of course there was the ultimate celebrity pursuit, O.J., the slow-speed chase seen live around the world.

GRAFFE: Who knew where that was going to go? I mean, it was anybody's guess and so I think that sort of hooked me into car chases.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will take you back to regular programming now.

ROWLANDS: Interrupting television programming to show chases started before O.J. It has been a part of southern California life since the early '90s.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been live with you now just about an hour on channel 9 following this.

OFFICER JOE ZIZI, CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL: These people do not want to go to jail.

ROWLANDS: Joe Zizi is an officer with the California Highway Patrol, who's been in a number of chases. He says people may enjoy watching them on T.V., but for officers involved, it is very dangerous.

ZIZI: Who knows? You could be chasing after America's most- wanted suspect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, look at this, smoke coming out of his tires as he brakes. Oh, he hits a car, hits that car, but he's still in -- no, he jumps out the window.

ZIZI: About 60 to 70 percent of people that flee are either driving a stolen vehicle, are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or are wanted by the police.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who knows what is going through his mind.

ROWLANDS: Some of these chases go on for hours. Some become standoffs leaving television anchors to speculate about anything so they can fill time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's probably so -- you know, he's just belligerent as all get out.

GRAFFE: I'm fascinated at how the anchors call the car chase. It is a little bit like a play-by-play and a sports event.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going off the road. He's spinning out, spinning out. Whoa, he's going down the hill, spinning out, its rolling over. One, two, three.

ROWLANDS: Sometimes drivers know they are on T.V. and play to the audience. This guy made the time to show everyone his softer side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just mooned them.

ROWLANDS: This woman being pursued even stopped to talk to bystanders who had come outside after watching the pursuit on T.V.

ZIZI: We've had several citizens watch it on television, see that it is approaching their house and get outside to either try and cheer the suspect on or try and get involved to stop the suspect's vehicle.

ROWLANDS: In this case, police got some help from a couple of truckers who say the chase coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well it looks like these big rigs are doing it on purpose. This is great.

ROWLANDS: And sandwiched the suspect between them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's stuck.

ROWLANDS: Police don't encourage the general public to intervene. They have their own tactics to try to put brakes on chases.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have the spike strip, the pit (ph) maneuver.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putting down another spike strip to blow out the rear tires.

ROWLANDS: The spike strip flattens tires but doesn't stop cars cold like this driver who continued for miles until the SUV actually started to fall to pieces. This is what is called a pit maneuver, which is used to disable a vehicle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to get up alongside that vehicle bump it, push it, to a side, make it spin out, and hopefully incapacitate, stall out the engine.

ROWLANDS: But it is not always an immediate success. The newest weapon for police is a satellite tracking device they can actually shoot onto a vehicle which allows them to back off a bit and keep officers out of danger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's getting out. Starting to run.

ROWLANDS: Many times the suspects are armed. When they are, the chase can have a violent ending. This one was just last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to run.

He just got shot. Oh, my God.

ROWLANDS: As for the question of why so many chases here, many people think California is unique because there are more freeways and more cars. But Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton points to the people.

CHIEF WILLIAM BRATTON, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPT.: You got a lot of nuts here. That's what makes it so unique, quite frankly.

ROWLANDS: Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Scary to watch. To put this all into perspective, according to the Los Angeles Police Department, its officers were involved in more than 600 chases last year alone.

Here in New York, we're following a very different kind of reality show. What the heck is Donald trump saying now about Martha Stewart? get those ear plugs in.

Now, number four in our CNN.com countdown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: There is some news to report tonight in a shocking and brutal crime that made headlines all over the world. Last month, three homeless men in Florida were viciously beaten. One of them was killed.

The attack on one of the men who survived was actually caught on videotape and that helped lead police to four teenage suspects. Well, today, three of them appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to the crimes. So who are these teens charged with such a brutal series of crimes?

John Zarrella has been digging into their backgrounds for this story outside the law.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): William Ammons, 18, liked computers. All 18 year old Brian Hooks talked about was fishing. Thomas Daugherty, 17, was into wakeboarding. Now they are charged with first degree murder in the beating death of Norris Gaynor, one of three homeless men attacked one day last month in Fort Lauderdale.

A school surveillance camera recorded the beating of Jacques Pierre. He survived.

MICHAEL GOTTLEIB, ATTORNEY FOR THOMAS DAUGHERTY: I think that that tape shows a young man under the influence. He's having trouble standing and walking and moving. I think that tape speaks volumes as to how or why this crime was committed.

ZARRELLA: Michael Gottleib, Daugherty's attorney, says in his client's case, drugs and alcohol were likely involved. Gottleib paints a picture of Daugherty as a lost young man, a follower, who fell in with the wrong crowd.

For the past couple of years, he had bounced between his father's home here and his mother's home in Tennessee.

GOTTLEIB: He certainly wasn't an exemplary student but he went to school, didn't have fights, wasn't a disciplinary problem, doesn't have a criminal history to speak of.

So it is really truthfully out of character.

ZARRELLA: Chris Milmoe says the same of Brian Hooks. The other young man in the video. Milmoe owns this restaurant, Lefty's, where Hooks worked the past 18 months.

CHRIS MILMOE, RESTAURANT OWNER: A busboy. Worked like three or four days a week. Always did what he was told, always yes, sir, no, sir. Always, you know, I was very surprised.

ZARRELLA (on camera): Hooks spent hours fishing in the canals around his neighborhood. He loved inline skating and was in his high school's horticulture club. Kids say Hooks tried to act tough, a bully type. But there is no record of any real trouble.

William Ammons is the third teen charged but not seen in the video. Ammons has more of a bad boy image, but his attorney and his mother say that perception is wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN, MOTHER OF WILLIAM AMMONS: He's a warm hearted kid, always stands up for the underdog.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): He was charged with robbery two years ago. The charges later dropped. Police are investigating his neighbor's claim that Ammons poured axle grease over his head.

BUZZ FURBER, NEIGHBOR OF WILLIAM AMMONS: Took some of the tubes of grease, greased me up.

ZARRELLA: Buzz Furber slugs off this and other run-ins he said he had with Ammons and his friends.

FURBER: Didn't have any problems with him. Not too much. They get a bunch of rocks and break into windows. Put them back again.

ZARRELLA: Brett Circe says he knew a different William Ammans, one who watched his house when he was away.

BRETT CIRCE, NEIGHBOR OF WILLIAM AMMONS: He was just very quiet. He liked computers. We talked to him about summer internship at my office. ZARRELLA: Police say they are looking into whether the three may have been involved in other incidents including the beating of an 80-year-old woman. If convicted of Gaynor's murder, Daugherty, a minor, faces life in prison. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty for Hooks and Ammons. John Zarrella, CNN, Plantation, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And at the top of the hour, one of the most famous sidekicks in TV history, Ed McMahon is the guest on "LARRY KING LIVE."

(BUSINESS REPORT)

ZAHN: She cooks, she decorates, she creates a media empire. So why can't Martha Stewart impress The Donald. Find out what they've been saying about each other, now.

Before that, number three in our CNN.com countdown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Today is Washington's birthday. Maybe that's what inspired Donald Trump to try to chop Martha Stewart down to size. Here's Jeanne Moos on the battle of the tabloid titans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the story of how the Donald flipped his wig over Martha.

REGIS PHILBIN, TALK SHOW HOST: Trump blows his top.

KATIE COURIC, NBC ANCHOR: Yes, I don't think those two are going to be going out for sushi anytime soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is furious.

MOOS: And to think that not so long ago, the two were merrily plugging each other's show.

DONALD TRUMP, SHOW HOST: My original "Apprentice" plus "Apprentice Martha Stewart." It just doesn't get any better than that.

MARTHA STEWART, TALK SHOW HOST: Donald, it can always get better.

MOOS: Or worse.

LINDA STASI, TV CRITIC, NEW YORK POST: Her show was such a dog, it needed a leash to go out. I'm sorry, Martha, but it stunk.

MOOS: NBC canceled Martha's "Apprentice" and Martha told various magazines the reason it failed was there were too many apprentices. But originally she was supposed to fire the Donald. TRUMP: You're fired, fired, fired.

MOOS: Killing off his "Apprentice" when hers appeared. The show's producer confirmed there had been talk of that adding thank God that didn't happen. But in a Dear Martha letter, the Donald trashed Martha's show.

"Your performance was terrible. I knew it would fail as soon as I first saw it."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He did not.

MOOS: Oh yes he did. And there's more. "Essentially you made this firing up just as you made up your sell order of ImClone."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's brutal.

MOOS: Lying about ImClone's stock was what sent Martha to jail. Referring to Martha's daytime show, the Donald added a P.S. "Be careful or I will do a syndicated daytime show, perhaps called 'The Boardroom' and further destroy the meager ratings you already have."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe he'll do a cooking show.

MOOS: Martha's response to the Donald's attack...

STEWART: I'm disappointed. I'm hurt. And I'm really very upset at my long-time friend. And that's really all I want to say.

STASI: She'll probably send him a thank you note on hand- engraved stationary.

MOOS: Some smell something fishy. After all, the new season of Donald's "Apprentice" is about to begin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like a ploy to keep your name in the papers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just a bunch of trumped up fluff.

MOOS: It struck me that both of them are acting like characters on "The Apprentice."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they're both idiots.

MOOS: Watch it, lady, or the Donald will send you a poisoned pen letter.

STASI: Donald Trump takes no prisoners. That's why he's the Donald. Remember that old movie, "The Breakfast Club," where the principal says "You mess with the bull, son, you get the horns."

MOOS: Martha got the horns. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And then some. And today in an interview with "Extra," Donald Trump complained that Martha Stewart never even thanked him for being her biggest cheerleader and says she owes him an apology.

At the top of the hour, two more of the biggest names in T.V., Ed McMahon reminisces about Johnny Carson on "LARRY KING LIVE."

First, No. 2 on our CNN.com countdown. Lindsay Lohan tells "Allure" magazine that she doesn't want to be called a teen queen, but wants to be considered a serious actress. No. 1 on our countdown is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Another beautiful night out there in Columbus Circle, our front yard to the Time Warner center here. Now onto No. 1 on our CNN.com countdown, eight Nebraska meat packers claim the record Powerball jackpot of $365 million. Way to go. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. Tomorrow, teenagers kidnapped and forced to rob banks. Who's behind it? Find out tomorrow night. We'll be back, same time, same place again. Thanks for dropping by. Larry is next.

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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