Return to Transcripts main page
PAULA ZAHN NOW
'Pillow Angel' Controversy Continues; Missing Boys Found in Missouri; Duke Sex Case Prosecutor Steps Aside
Aired January 12, 2007 - 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, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
A lot of breaking news to talk about -- first, a startling discovery. Two missing boys, one who hasn't been seen since 2002, turn up alive in Missouri.
There's also breaking news out of the Duke University sex case. It is a story that has brought America's hidden intolerance out in the open. Is tonight's news the beginning of the end for allegations that white lacrosse players assaulted a black dancer? We're going to get to the Duke story in just a few minutes.
But I want to start with tonight's truly startling breaking news from Missouri. A boy who vanished on Monday and another who has been missing for more than four years have been found together, and are apparently OK. Police arrested a 41-year-old man, charging him with kidnapping.
The story is still unfolding in Kirkwood, Missouri, tonight. That is a suburb just outside of Saint Louis.
John Lawrence has just filed this report.
JOHN LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two missing Missouri boys have been found. One has been missing for more than four years, the other just a few days.
Franklin County officials said they were found alive in the same Kirkwood apartment. Thirteen-year-old Ben Ownby was last seen Monday getting off his school bus, while Shawn Hornbeck was last seen in 2002, at age 11, riding his bike to a friend's house.
Prosecutor Bob Park said, police have made one arrest.
ROBERT PARKS, FRANKLIN COUNTY PROSECUTOR: The Franklin County prosecutor's office has charged one Michael J. Devlin, at this time, with one count of kidnapping in the first degree. And we have asked for and received $1 million bond.
LAWRENCE: Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said police were led to the 41-year-old's home while serving a warrant in his apartment complex. GARY TOELKE, FRANKLIN COUNTY SHERIFF: This all started last evening, based on information that was received from two Kirkwood police officers. They went to a residence in an apartment complex to serve a warrant. While they were at that location, they found a vehicle that fit the description of the truck that we were looking for.
LAWRENCE: Few details have been released by officials. But the sheriff did say both boys seemed unharmed.
TOELKE: Both boys appear, at this point, to be OK. Obviously, they will be checked out to make certain that they're -- they are in good shape.
LAWRENCE: John Lawrence, CNN, Atlanta.
ZAHN: And the Associated Press is reporting tonight that the man who is charged with kidnapping the boys, Michael Devlin, is a registered sex offend with two convictions in Texas.
Joining me on the phone right now is Kim Evans, a friend of Shawn Hornbeck's family and a member of the support and information gathering foundation that was set up after he disappeared in 2002.
This is an absolute miracle. When and how did the Hornbeck family find out?
KIM EVANS, FRIEND OF HORNBECK FAMILY: The family -- the found out this afternoon. They got a call from prosecutor (INAUDIBLE)
ZAHN: And I know, throughout this very long four-year wait, they never gave up hope.
Have you had any conversations with them since they got this incredible news?
EVANS: I talked to Pam just a little bit ago, maybe about 20, 30 minutes ago.
ZAHN: And what did...
EVANS: And she's just so excited.
ZAHN: What else did she share with you?
EVANS: Just that it is Shawn, that he's doing pretty well, considering. And they are just so happy to be together. He's happy to be with them. It's wonderful.
ZAHN: Did she describe how he looked to her?
EVANS: Older. (LAUGHTER)
ZAHN: Yes, of course.
EVANS: He looks great.
ZAHN: And was she able to give you any information at all about what his life has been like over the last four years?
EVANS: No. We really didn't have time to get that detailed yet. They're just -- we didn't want to interrupt their time with Shawn to start with. And we just haven't gotten there yet.
ZAHN: I guess the most impressive thing about this is -- is, parents deal with this kind of drama in all different ways.
But the Hornbeck family, even after years and years of false leads and no good news, they never gave up, did they?
EVANS: No. They have looked right up until the very end. They have been searching all the time just constant, and tips coming in. And they never have stopped looking.
ZAHN: And, of course, the mystery still continues about what happened that day Shawn went missing.
Can you share what you think is the most accurate story with our audience tonight about what went wrong that day?
EVANS: To be honest, we just have no idea. Until we really talk to Shawn and see what happened, we are just -- we're as dumbfounded as everybody else.
ZAHN: He was believed to have been on his bicycle, though, right?
EVANS: And we have heard nothing about the bicycle or where it is or anything like that. The bicycle was never found.
ZAHN: And, Kim, you have hung in there all these years, too.
Just a personal reflection on what this news means to you tonight.
EVANS: I am just so happy for the family, and for Shawn, and that he's OK.
ZAHN: It is quite an extraordinary turn of events.
Kim Evans, thank you.
EVANS: Nothing short of a miracle. ZAHN: No. I would agree with you on that one. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us tonight.
EVANS: Thank you very much.
ZAHN: And, of course, we will continue to follow this story and bring you the latest information as soon as we get it.
Now we move on to another breaking story tonight, a criminal investigation that has been grabbing national headlines, sending shockwaves through Duke University for nearly a year. It has been out in the open since March, when a black exotic dancer accused members of Duke's lacrosse team of attacking her at a drunken party.
All of the accused players are white. They all deny any wrongdoing.
Tonight's breaking news, the controversial prosecutor in the case wants out.
Our Jason Carroll has been following this story from the beginning.
Here is his latest report.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Embattled Durham district attorney Michael Nifong left the county courthouse Friday evening, making just a brief comment about his latest legal troubles.
MICHAEL NIFONG, DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I'm not talking about the case or anything. You all have sources. You need to talk to your sources.
CARROLL: The source is the North Carolina state attorney general's office, which has confirmed to CNN Nifong asked to be recused from the Duke lacrosse case. Nifong wants a special prosecutor to take over.
A defense source sees this development as a step in the right direction. Attorneys for the three indicted players, Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and Dave Evans, have been critical of Nifong for pursuing a case they say is extremely flawed.
In December, Nifong dropped rape charges against the three players, after the accuser said she could no longer say with certainty that she had been raped. Two separate DNA tests showed no match between any of the players and the accuser.
On Monday, in an open letter, Duke University's president asked Nifong to step aside. Late Friday, the university released a statement, saying: "We welcome the news that the district attorney has asked to be removed from this case. We hope this change will lead to a fair and speedy resolution of this case." The three players still face sexual offense and kidnapping charges. Defense attorneys hope the attorney general will ultimately decide to drop all the charges.
CARROLL: And, of course, defense attorneys are now trying to determine what the attorney general's next move will be. Will they honor Nifong's request and -- and appoint some sort of special prosecutor? Or will the charges end up getting dropped altogether? -- Paula.
ZAHN: Something we will be following very closely from here.
Jason Carroll, thanks.
We are going to turn now to our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.
Jason has been reporting for a very long time that district attorney Nifong has been nothing short of -- of toast.
Is he jumping before he gets thrown off the case?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I doubt he would actually be thrown off the case. But I think the case looks pretty much doomed at this point.
ZAHN: Why is that?
TOOBIN: Well, because the case is so weak. A fresh look at it by an objective prosecutor, with no stake in the outcome, as the attorney general will presumably do, it seems to me, can't help but lead -- lead to that prosecutor saying: Enough. We just can't prove this beyond a reasonable doubt. We are going to have to dismiss the charges.
ZAHN: Why do you think this case was doomed from the start? Because of an overzealous prosecutor here who was running for district attorney in a hotly-contested race against a black candidate, and he didn't have the black vote?
TOOBIN: He arrested these people far too early.
I mean, the really disturbing thing about what he did was, he didn't have to arrest these people. They were not going to be fugitives. But, instead, right before the primary, he filed these charges, which certainly lends a political tinge to what he did. And the evidence, as the investigation continued, just turned out not to be there, whether it's DNA, the testimony of the accuser, or the lineup testimony.
I mean, it just all has fallen apart. And, certainly, this new look, it seems to me, will lead to the end of the case.
ZAHN: So, what do you think his motivation was for rushing this case?
TOOBIN: Unfortunately, the only interpretation is the most cynical one, which is the one you gave, which is that he had a primary, a Democratic primary, with a heavy black vote. And this, at least initially, was very much portrayed as the big, rich white college students at Duke against the victim, who was a black woman.
And he had a very outspoken appearance in front of a black group and was sounding like he was going to defend the black community. And it was, it seemed to me, a very political decision that has made everyone connected with it look terrible.
ZAHN: And, Jason, you have been covering this case very closely from Duke University.
ZAHN: Is anybody giving Nifong the benefit of the doubt tonight?
CARROLL: There are a few people who feel as though, perhaps in the beginning, he really thought he had somewhat of a solid case, and, then, once he realized how the case was developing, had backed himself into a corner, and simply didn't know how to get out of it.
And maybe this is one way that he feels as though he can get out and save some sort of face, by asking to be recused from the case, and having the attorney general take a look at it.
TOOBIN: Another face-saving possibility is the one that took place in the Kobe Bryant case, where, instead of saying, well, we can't win this case, they will say, well, the accuser doesn't want to go forward. So, in deference to the accuser, we are going to drop the case.
Look for that as a possibility down the line.
ZAHN: If the case is dropped, the rest of the charges completely, are we talking about this happening in a matter of days? What are your sources telling you?
TOOBIN: No. I can't imagine it would be days, because this all -- all the evidence has to be turned over to a new prosecutor.
The new prosecutor has to study it. I assume there will be a delay of weeks before things crank up again.
ZAHN: And Jason nodding in agreement.
ZAHN: Jason Carroll, thanks so much -- Jeffrey Toobin.
And I should point out that we will all be in Durham, North Carolina, at Duke University next Tuesday for a PAULA ZAHN NOW "Out in the Open" special. Join us for "The Duke Rape Case, A Question of Race." It's at our usual time, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, on Tuesday.
Now I want to bring in tonight's "Out in the Open" panel. Michael Gross is a lawyer who deals in constitutional rights. Joe Madison is a talk show host at Washington's WOL Radio -- and Miguel Perez, who is a syndicated columnist.
Great to have all of you with us tonight.
ZAHN: You just heard Jeffrey Toobin say, if you look at this move cynically on District Attorney Nifong's part, you could read into it. This guy was in a hotly-contested battle for DA against a black candidate, wanted to court the black court -- vote -- and wanted to appear as though he was coming down pretty hard on a bunch of privileged white guys.
Did you read it that way?
JOE MADISON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, not initially.
ZAHN: Do you read it that way now?
MADISON: Well, I don't know. I think the special prosecutor is probably the best way to go. It will be a set of fresh eyes. There's no question about this.
What has happened, of course, is that you had a group of white guys that decided that they were going to have their jollies with probably a fantasy-type sex situation. You know, the bottom line is, something happened there. But one of the things I have learned...
ZAHN: They say they have ruled the possibility of rape now.
And one of the things I have learned is that, you know, this is such -- because of race, we have to be very careful. And you always have to wait until all the facts are in.
I think what people do is that they rush. They rush to judgment. They rush to an opinion. And I have learned down through the years the hard way. Let's take our time. Get all the facts in, and then see what happens.
ZAHN: And I just misspoke when I just talking to you, and I said ruled out the possibility of rape...
ZAHN: When they dropped the charges, that isn't what they meant, but they certainly didn't have evidence to support the rape charges.
MADISON: But I'm not crying tears over these guys.
MICHAEL GROSS, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: ... charges have been dropped. I certainly agree that there has been a rush to judgment.
ZAHN: Do you think race played a critical role in this?
GROSS: I think that a bunch of guys hired somebody to do other than read poetry or give them a dance lesson. They hired a known prostitute for sex.
Now, we haven't heard from any of them as to what they did. We have only heard: I didn't do it. It wasn't me. I didn't rape her.
Now we have got one victim, who is all alone, who has got a lousy reputation, which she earned.
ZAHN: And whose story has changed.
GROSS: Whose story has...
MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Changed.
GROSS: ... has changed, like Abner Louima's story changed. These conditions are not so easy to understand.
I -- I don't say they're guilty. I say let the evidence be presented. You know, when you something as this DA did last April, he knew that he didn't have DNA of any of the lacrosse players from her specimen. Well, he should have announced that. He should have made that clear. And holding that back...
ZAHN: All right. But now some -- now we know that one of the people critically involved in gathering that information...
ZAHN: ... saying that that was left out of one of...
MADISON: He sort of whitewashed this thing. I mean, did you hear? I mean, he went, some guys hired some girl. Now, look, let's be honest. These white guys hired a black woman. You are going to tell me that, in -- out in Duke, you couldn't have found a white stripper, a white prostitute? They were there -- race was a factor.
ZAHN: How big of a factor, in your judgment?
PEREZ: It was a factor. And it was even a bigger factor because the media made it a bigger factor.
I think, if it had been a white woman raped by a bunch of white guys, we wouldn't have made such a big deal over it. So, it was the media's hand also making...
ZAHN: Oh, give me a break. That still would have been a huge story.
PEREZ: That's the point. That's the point.
ZAHN: Whether it had been a white woman who was raped or a black woman.
PEREZ: That's the point. So, why is this a racial issue, then? It's not -- you know, why are we making it a racial issue? If it had been a white woman raped by a bunch of famous, or so-called famous, players, lacrosse players, we would have -- it would have been a serious -- the charges were very serious to begin with.
ZAHN: But you don't deny the fact that it is a factor, maybe perhaps in the speed at which Mr. Nifong approached this case?
PEREZ: If he was -- it was was politically motivated, as it appears to be now, and pretty stupid, to begin with, because, you know, how could he take such a weak case, or a case that really wasn't all together, and try to make political hay out of it?
ZAHN: All right, very quickly, because I have got to move on to some breaking news now.
GROSS: I was a prosecutor. It wasn't all that fast.
You have a victim in a rape case. You submit her to the grand jury. The grand jury indicted. That's not all that fast. What's really been slow is how we got -- why don't -- why didn't the case go to trial?
ZAHN: All right, Michael, Joe, and, Miguel, we are going to get back to you in a -- a little bit.
We have got to move on to some breaking news right now.
Let's go back to that story out of Missouri. We have just gotten in pictures of the suspect in the kidnapping of the two boys in Missouri.
Michael Devlin has been charged with first-degree kidnapping. Officials found the boys at his apartment this afternoon. One of the boys had disappeared on Monday. The other has been missing since 2002.
We are told that the -- law enforcement happened to be in the apartment complex where Mr. Devlin was arrested, actually investigating something else, when they spotted a vehicle he was believed to have been driving the day that second little boy went missing.
We also are understanding that a neighbor of Mr. Devlin reported to the local press that she always believed that the young boy who was kidnapped in 2002 happened to be the son of Mr. Devlin. How he ever blended in, in that apartment complex with local kids is a mystery to all of us tonight -- investigators really not giving us too many details at this hour. But, when they do come in, we will bring them to you live.
Now, this week, we have brought out in the open a story of the disabled girl they call the "Pillow Angel." Her parents surgically stunted her growth to make it easier to care for her and, they say, to make her more comfortable.
When we come back, we are going to meet another family with a severely disabled child who made a completely different choice. We will see what they have to say about Ashley's parents.
And, then, a little bit later on, we are going to take you to a small Northern town where the black mayor says he's never worried about intolerance, but now he's getting death threats. Why? We will examine that when we come back.
ZAHN: We have more to tell you tonight about a growing controversy we have been following all week long, a fascinating story, the story of Ashley, the severely disabled girl whose parents call her their "Pillow Angel."
Since we brought her story out in the open, we have heard from so many other parents of disabled children. Some empathize with the decision to sterilize Ashley and stunt her growth to make her easier to care for, and her parents to say -- say that it makes her more comfortable, while others can't imagine ever making such a drastic choice for their child.
In tonight's "Vital Signs," medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen brings us the story of two parents who are allowing their son to grow up, despite his disability.
SUE HOOD, MOTHER OF DISABLED SON: All right, let's go.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Matthew Hood has a lot in common with Ashley, the girl whose parents intentionally stunted her growth.
Both are severely disabled. They can't walk, talk, or even sit up by themselves. But, while Matt and his parents have carved out a quiet life for themselves here in Illinois, Ashley and her parents have become the center of protests...
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Accommodate, not operate!
COHEN: ... and angry blogs.
Matt's mom, Sue, is one of the people who is most furious, furious that Ashley's parents arranged for drugs and surgery to keep their daughter forever small.
(on camera): So, the very first time you heard that they limited her final height by giving her drugs...
HOOD: I was shocked. I was totally shocked. And I was not only shocked; I was flabbergasted.
COHEN (voice-over): Or, as another parent blogged: "I am truly just sick to my stomach to imagine that it's acceptable medical practice in any case to surgically stunt a child's growth."
(on camera): Sue, this would be a lot easier if he were smaller, right?
HOOD: Well, it would be easier. But I just don't think it's the right thing to do.
COHEN (voice-over): The Ashley controversy centers on this: If someone's brain is like a baby's, is it OK so make her body stay small, too?
Ashley's parents say, for their daughter, yes. They want to be able to carry Ashley for the rest of her life, so they can more easily cuddle her and include her in on family activities. She's nine now.
And they write: "We are currently near the limits of our ability to lift Ashley, at 65 pounds."
Matt weighs more than twice that.
(on camera): So, Matt is 5'9'', 150 pounds.
COHEN: That's bigger than Ashley would have been full grown. HOOD: Right.
COHEN: And you lift him.
HOOD: I lift him.
OK. Good job.
COHEN (voice-over): Sue Hood says, of course, it's tough lifting her 15-year-old son, turning him, changing his diaper.
HOOD: You see, once you have an idea on how to work with these kids and how to dress, it's really not such a big deal.
(on camera): Can you understand why they did what they did?
HOOD: No. I can't understand for a minute why they did what they did. I still think it's appalling. I can't understand why anyone would choose that for their child.
COHEN (voice-over): Matt's parents say it's easy to cuddle with him. They want him to go through puberty, just like everybody else.
HOOD: We don't need to lift you like a baby to get a hug, no.
I put him in the tilt wheelchair every Saturday and I shave his face for him, you know, and I put on some aftershave on him. And we talk about being a man, and how, you know, he's like his dad, and isn't that a great thing, to be a man? You know, he -- they get that.
COHEN: Ashley's parents say a child-sized body without breasts is fitting and dignified for their daughter.
They have inspired others. One mother asked doctors to do something similar to her disabled daughter, but was told no.
In an e-mail to Ashley's parents, that mother wrote, "Your experience has given me the strength to revisit the situation with the doctors."
Ashley and Matt both spend their days in wheelchairs, lying in bed, listening to music. She loves opera. He prefers country music.
HOOD: All right. Good job. You did it.
COHEN: But their parents have very different definitions of dignity, have made very different choices for their children, who cannot make those choices on their own.
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Woodridge, Illinois.
ZAHN: No one, of course, knows the challenge of caring for a disabled child better than the parents themselves. And you are about to meet a man who has some very strong feelings about that. Bennie Waddell is the father of 7-year-old Ben. He strongly supports the decision of Ashley's parents. He's even been in touch with them to offer his encouragement. And Bennie very much wanted us to meet Ben. So, they both join us tonight from Greenville, South Carolina.
Delighted to have both of you join us tonight. Thank you.
BENNIE WADDELL, FATHER OF DISABLED SON: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: So, Bennie, among other things, you have heard Ashley's parents and the ethicists and doctors that made the decision described as child abusers, mutilators, evil, playing God.
What is your response to that criticism?
WADDELL: I'm appalled, to be honest with you.
When I first heard those terms, it really angered me to the core of all I am, the accusations that the parents were lazy, that they don't care for their child, that they are abusing their child. Having lived a similar journey, I think it is just a ridiculous -- they are just ridiculous accusations.
ZAHN: I know you feel very badly for Ashley's parent. But the disabled community seems very, very activated by this case.
You saw close to a couple dozen people protest outside the American Medical Association offices. What did you make of their outrage that day, and what they want?
WADDELL: It's bothered -- well, it's bothered me a great deal. They -- you know, I think they're -- they wanted the American Medical Association to condemn the doctors for what they did.
And it is just absolutely ridiculous for somebody in the disability community to go against, so strongly, one of our own. I consider Ashley's family to be part of my family, part of my -- my extended family. And that's how most of us feel that are raising these kids that have severe disabilities.
ZAHN: And I know, in your own blog, you have gone as far as calling some of these critics disability-rights Nazis, imbeciles, jerks, uneducated idiots.
ZAHN: They do have a right to express their opinion, though, don't they?
WADDELL: No doubt, but the way they are expressing their opinion, I think, is in a -- in a dirty, lowdown form. And, if they want to make accusations, in a sense, toward my family, toward Ashley's family, for making decisions for our children that we think is the best interests, well, I'm going to get down and dirty with them just as well.
ZAHN: And I know, Ben -- or, Bennie -- your son's disability is not all that similar to what Ashley confronted. But could you imagine ever having to face the choice that Ashley's parents have?
WADDELL: Well, we have faced a lot of choices like they have -- not as drastic, not as intrusive.
But every day that Ben lives, every day that he has lived, we have faces choices that, as one of your quotes earlier from Ms. Cohen's piece, that we're playing God.
Well, we do play God. It's an unfortunate side of this life, that, you know, do you do things like give Ben a trach? Do you give him a feeding tube? Do you buy him a pair of glasses?
You know, all of these things are choices. And, very early on, we had a situation where we were offered the ability to give Ben hormone treatments to increase his size, because part of his syndrome is that he will be much smaller than the average-sized child.
ZAHN: And that is something that you opted not to do, after a great deal of thought.
I know all of these choices are very, very personal. And we really appreciate your sharing your story with us tonight.
WADDELL: Well, thank you.
ZAHN: And -- and I would say Ben is a very lucky guy to have you as his father.
WADDELL: I'm lucky to have Ben.
ZAHN: Yes, I bet you are. Thanks again for joining us tonight.
Coming up next: a shocking story of hate directed at the first black mayor of a small town in New Jersey. Even he said they have never had race problems before. So, what is behind it?
And, then, a little bit later on, we are going to take you to a neighborhood that is changing drastically, bringing intolerance between blacks and Latinos right out into the open.
ZAHN: Slashed tires. Racist phone calls. A death threat. We're bringing out in the open tonight a disturbing series of hateful acts against a small town mayor in New Jersey. He's the first black mayor of South Harrison, a town so small it doesn't even have traffic light. But the racism is more than just disturbing, it's mysterious, because everyone, even the mayor, says the town which is nearly all white has never had any racial problems before.
Allan Chernoff has been looking into this and filed this report.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): South Harrison, New Jersey's new mayor, Charles Tyson, has spent all of his 64 years in this small rural town of 2,700 people that's almost exclusively white. Tyson says the community has always been friendly until December 14th when he walked out of this restaurant to find the tire on his Jeep slashed.
CHARLES TYSON, MAYOR OF SOUTH HARRISON, NJ: Right in here. Right along the side wall. Cut about six inches. It looked like they stuck it in and just ripped it.
CHERNOFF: The next day, Tyson says he got a threatening, racist phone call. The caller said we're watching you and then called Tyson the "n" word.
TYSON: We're watching you, and then just said that, about three times. We're watching you, and then they used the "n" word, again, and we're watching you.
CHERNOFF: That's got to be pretty scary.
TYSON: It's very scary. Very scary.
CHERNOFF: The racist calls continued, Tyson says, almost every day for the next two weeks. At the number for his landscaping business and on his cell phone. Tyson won't provide his recordings, citing the police investigation.
On January 1st, Tyson was sworn in as South Harrison's new volunteer mayor. Then last Friday Tyson says he got a death threat. The caller saying that the mayor was dead and again, calling him the "n" word.
This has been especially shocking to Tyson because in the '50s, a time of racial turmoil in this country, when he was one of only two African Americans in his class at South Harrison Elementary, he says he was actually sheltered from such tensions.
Did you ever have any racial problems growing up?
TYSON: Never, never.
CHERNOFF (on camera): Nothing at all?
TYSON: Nothing at all. Nothing at all.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): South Harrison residents Wednesday night insisted their community remains an island of tolerance. Expressing their outrage at a community meeting.
PAM FULLER, SOUTH HARRISON RESIDENT: Racism is alive and well. But South Harrison residents are not going to put up with this. We don't live like this. CHERNOFF: Mayor Tyson says he's pretty sure who is behind the threat.
The voice was very familiar to you?
TYSON: Yes, yes. Very familiar.
CHERNOFF: Information he's shared with local police and the county prosecutor who are busy building a case.
WARREN MABEY, SOUTH HARRISON POLICE CHIEF: It's unfortunate. We have taken this very serious.
CHERNOFF: Tyson finds the experience especially sad when driving past the police car now parked in his driveway every day.
TYSON: They don't want me to be the mayor. Especially African American mayor. It's really amazing. I mean, I've lived here before, I'd say 90 percent of the people that live here now.
CHERNOFF: But in f racism can emerge in his idyllic town, Charles Tyson says it can ravage any place in the country. No matter how harmonious it may appear on the surface. Allan Chernoff, CNN, South Harrison Township, New Jersey.
ZAHN: Mayor Taylor (ph) is serving a one-year term and he says there is nothing that would prevent him from serving that term out.
Another story we are bringing out into the open tonight. A national trend that is affecting many historically black neighborhoods. We are going to see the trend in the changing face of South Central Los Angeles.
ZAHN: In Los Angeles two young men, suspected members of a Latino gang are due back in court next month to face murder and hate crime charges. They were accused of killing a 14-year-old black girl last month. We are bringing this story "Out in the Open" because it looks like a sign of the growing tension between Latinos and blacks which may only become even more intense over the next 50 years as the number of Latinos in the U.S. passes the number of blacks. Ted Rowlands has the very latest now from Los Angeles.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The only reason 14-year-old Cheryl Green was shot and killed last month, police believe, was because she was black. These two suspects in custody are Latino and are facing hate crime charges. Cheryl Green is just the latest victim in an ongoing racial battle between some African Americans and Hispanics in Southern California.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to do something about this. ROWLANDS: The tension between race isn't new. Over the past several years, it's shown up in gang violence, prison brawls and high school fights. The root of the problem is much deeper though. And involves a change in historically black neighborhoods. Areas like South Central, Watts and Compton, where Hispanics are now the majority.
DOMINIQUE DIPRIMA, WKLH RADIO HOST: Are they talking about this on Latino radio?
ROWLANDS: On KJLH, a Los Angeles African American radio station, the tension between Latinos is blacks and a regular topic.
DIPRIMA: I don't think it's about some kind of endemic hatred of one another. I think it's about who happens to be at the bottom right now. And who is competing for those very increasingly scarce resources.
CEDRIC BLACKMON, BUSINESS OWNER: The African community is angry because what we have has been taken. And the job opportunities are no longer there.
ROWLANDS: Cedric Blackmon owns a property management company. He says he spent his entire life in Watts.
BLACKMON: It used to be like the Greens used to own that house or the Walkers used to own that house. And now the Martinezes own that house.
ROWLANDS: Blackmon says the change happened so fast, many African Americans didn't see it coming.
BLACKMON: Some of the Mexican people here, we've grown up together and we have gotten along fine. But they never said hey, we're coming in big numbers and it's going to be all Hispanic for a minute. No one ever said anything.
Before you know it, there was the Martinez brothers and Ramirez shop, this used to be all black. Now it's all Hispanic. There's anger in the black community.
ROWLANDS: Anger because some African Americans believe they've been steam rolled by an exploding population of Hispanics that works for low wages and helps each other find jobs. And there's a feeling amongst some in the black community that as Hispanics have gained economic and political power, African Americans have been pushed to the side.
Tino Bocanegra is man says he's lived in Watts for more than 20 years. He owns an auto repair shop. He says it's true that some Hispanics try to avoid doing business with African Americans.
TINO BOCANEGRA, BUSINESS OWNER: I talk to other, like guys with a businesses like this. They are scared dealing with black guys because they think they are bad. ROWLANDS: Nicolas Vaca is the author of "The Presumed Alliance" which documents the tension between blacks and Hispanics. He says as the Hispanic population continues to grow, this battle is going to play out in other cities around the country.
NICOLAS VACA, ATTORNEY/SOCIOLOGIST: Latinos are going to exert their power. They are doing it in California in a significant way.
ROWLANDS: Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.
ZAHN: We want to get straight back to tonight's "Out in the Open" panel. Michael Gross, Joe Madison, Miguel Perez. Welcome back. Help us understand why so many Latinos feel threatened by blacks and changing neighborhoods.
PEREZ: I think it's the other way around. I think it's blacks that feel threatened by Latinos. It's Latinos that are coming in - it American history first of all.
ZAHN: But the Latinos clearly don't have a degree of acceptance by their black neighbors.
PEREZ: But blacks didn't feel a degree of acceptance from white neighbors too. It's very unfortunate nowadays to hear African Americans talking the way whites used to talk about them when they moved into their neighborhood. So it's history repeating itself.
It's not about Latinos, it's not about black, it's not about Hispanics. The newest group of immigrants, they always move into the poorest neighborhoods. That's what's happening. It's not about race but about economics.
ZAHN: It's about a fight over the crumbs.
MADISON: No ifs, ands, buts about it. We saw it when -- I'll give you a perfect example. The River Rouge Plant incident. Where Eastern Europeans had worked for Ford Motor Company that wanted to form a union, the UAW. What did Henry Ford do? He sent boxcars down to Alabama. He put the poorest black people on those boxcars and drove them past the picketers into the factories. The blacks had to sleep and live in those factories to try to break the union.
Now what happened? The UAW decided here's what we have to do. Let's get all of those who are on the bottom rung together. Because both sides are being economically exploited. This shouldn't be about black versus brown. This really should be about those people who want to economically exploit Hispanics, Latinos and blacks for that bottom crumb.
ZAHN: But as we've seen these divisions, what could you conceive of that would possibly bring these two groups together?
GROSS: We have to go to war. We went to war on drugs and we went to war on terror. This is underlying all of that. Racism and intolerance. The work you are doing in exposing this is critically important to all of our lives. This is worldwide. We are all xenophobic. We are frightened of differences in other people. We have to get affirmative about that.
We have not done nearly enough to make hate crimes punishable. Not nearly enough to help out in labor problems. Sure when we have North American treaty -- Free Trade Act, we have to take care of those people getting put out of work. We have got to stop blaming people who come to our country. We are all immigrants.
ZAHN: In the meantime though ...
MADISON: The people who should have been arrested in the swift incident -- it should have been the owners.
ZAHN: A lot of debate. People don't remember what happened. There was a major operation by ICE ...
MADISON: Handcuffing going in the car.
GROSS: All of our immigration policies are a reflection of our ignorant racism and bigotry. There is no such thing biologically as race. We learned with DNA and the genome the differences between us is immeasurable. Shades of skin.
MADISON: We're cousins.
ZAHN: You're my brother and I'm your sister.
GROSS: Let's get together.
ZAHN: But in your judgment, how big of a challenge is it today? If you are talking about the economic deprivation of two very specific minority groups. Can we beat this.
PEREZ: It's about knowledge and about educating both African Americans and Latinos about how not to fight for the crumbs. You know, there's huge pieces of this pie that we are not taking advantage of.
ZAHN: Like what, for example?
PEREZ: Well, you know, you see people fighting about benefits. You know, when in fact, we are all entitled to benefits.
GROSS: We are putting ...
PEREZ: It's like oh, they are going to get my benefits. I'm going to lose my benefits because it's going to be given to Latinos. No, you are both entitled to same benefits.
MADISON: We now need Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King mentalities. They understood each other. Cesar Chavez understood, I am not going to sit up here and allow these illegal immigrants, whatever you want to call them, to break the back of trying to make a level playing field. We've known each other for years. I've worked with Latinos from all countries. When that playing field is leveled, you don't have any problems.
GROSS: It's down the fence.
ZAHN: Final thoughts.
GROSS: No more borders. Those are myths. Take down the fence. We are not protecting ourselves by building fences across our borders. This is a melting pot. Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. That was America.
ZAHN: I will give you all of the e-mails that come in in support of that fence that want to debate you one on one. Gentlemen.
GROSS: Let's talk.
ZAHN: Thank you, Michael Gross, Joe Madison, Miguel Perez, appreciate your time.
Still ahead tonight, pulling the trigger. Allegations that police are all too eager to use stun guns. And too often use them against minorities. We'll bring that story "Out in the Open" when we come back.
ZAHN: Right now we are bringing the controversial use of stun guns right out into the open. Devices that deliver a painful paralyzing jolt of electricity. They may save lives, but there are growing allegations that minorities are far too often at the receiving end of 50,000 volts.
Just today police in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills released a video showing a confrontation between one of that town's police officers and an off-duty Detroit detective stopped for allegedly running a red light. The detective was eventually tasered. An incident he claims was provoked by race.
Meanwhile Ed Lavandera found another striking case in Houston, Texas. Here's his report.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a November afternoon a 6'4 black male weighing more than 300 pounds was pulled on a Houston highway for failing to use his signal to change lanes. Police say the drive r became verbally combative and then made a threatening move towards one of the officers. So one officer tasered him. He dropped to the ground.
The driver turned out to be Fred Weary, a lineman on the Houston Texans football team.
CHARLES DAVIDSON, ATTORNEY FOR FRED WEARY: I think the police, these two officers drew the completely wrong impression and decided they were going to stop with this guy and they were going jack with him.
LAVANDERA: Weary's attorney says he's left wondering if race played a role in the altercation. Weary was charged with resisting arrest, but a judge dismissed the charges. The case has triggered a high-profile controversy raising questions about whether Houston police officers are unfairly using the taser weapon against African American suspects.
(on camera): According to the department's statistics, in the last two years, 63 percent of all suspects tased by Houston police officers were African American. But that number represents less than one percent of total arrests made during that time.
(voice-over): The mayor is asking for an independent review on how the department uses the weapon. Until the report is complete, city councilwoman Ada Edwards is calling far moratorium on the use of tasers.
LAVANDERA: You look at those statistics someone who might say maybe it's just a coincidence, you don't see that?
ADA EDWARDS, HOUSTON CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: I don't think that if it was 60 percent white males in that age group, I don't think they would be looked at as a coincidence. I think people would at least like to know why.
LAVANDERA: Police chief Harold Hurt says race does not play a factor in taser incidents. He says that because disenfranchised minorities are more likely to interact with police, that that explains why more African Americans have been tasered. Fifty percent of all suspects arrested by Houston police in the last two years were black.
HAROLD HURT, HOUSTON POLICE CHIEF: We are not indiscriminately going out and selecting the individuals and tasering them. We are in most cases, 60 percent of the cases that we use them against African American males or black males as a result of calls from people in the community or their own family.
LAVANDERA: Supporters of the taser even suggest the weapon has saved lives. Houston city councilman Adrian Garcia worked as a police officer for 24 years. He says since the taser was employed on the force, there have been 40 cases where police officers could have used their gun but instead used the taser.
ADRIAN GARCIA, HOUSTON CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: The taser I had understood it would be an alternative to a firearm. That it would be a device that could be used to prevent a physical confrontation from escalating into a deadly force confrontation.
LAVANDERA: Officers stunned Fred Weary with two taser shots. Houston police say the officers acted properly. But Weary says the taser shot numbed half his body and that was more painful than anything he's ever experienced on the football field. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Houston. (END VIDEOTAPE)
ZAHN: And coming up, at the top of the hour, we change our focus with LARRY KING LIVE. He'll be talking with Suzanne Somers. Her first interview since that fire that destroyed her Malibu home. Other than the short one she did for some of the local affiliates. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: And that wraps it us for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for joining us. Next Tuesday I'll be in Durham, North Carolina at Duke University for an "Out in the Open" special. Join us for the Duke rape case. A question of race. It's at our usual time. 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday. Hope you'll join us then.
Until then have a great weekend and hope to see you back here next week. Good night everybody.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com