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College Athlete Accused of Killing Own Newborn

Aired September 20, 2007 - 20:00:00   ET


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Breaking news tonight. A star athlete and honor student in biology and medicine charged with asphyxiating her secret newborn baby girl. Police say college coed Teri Rhodes gives birth at her exclusive university campus apartment, then the infant is suffocated in a trash bag. Then she denies the child`s existence. Tonight, stunning development. So far, prosecutors refuse to pursue murder one charges. And as of tonight, the would-be mom is walking free.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eighteen-year-old Mercyhurst coed and volleyball player Teri Rhodes hides her pregnancy from family, friends, teammates and coaches. The sophomore even lies to school doctors about the pregnancy, and she`s cleared to practice just two days before giving birth, that birth right there in the bathroom of Rhodes`s campus apartment. Police say moments after giving birth, Rhodes puts the infant in a plastic bag and into the bathtub. Then the coed takes a shower. Ten minutes later, the infant is dead.


GRACE: And tonight: Thousands converge to protest a two-tiered justice system after six African-American students charged with beating a white student after months of tension at a local high school. Well, it all started when white students hung nooses on a tree with little repercussion. Then a white student, apparently in retaliation, was beaten with a tennis shoe, but then attended a school function that very same night. Prosecutors up the charges on the six black teens to attempted murder. All the while, the white kid`s not even expelled from school. Well, here`s the kicker. The attempted murder conviction has been reversed, but the one guy is still sitting behind bars.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The small Louisiana town of Jena has drawn some national attention. We see the thousands of activists from across the country that are there to protest the treatment of six African-American high school students. Supporters of the so-called "Jena six" say the teenagers faced unfair punishment for their part in a high school fight. That fight ended with a white student in the hospital.

Sixteen-year-old Mychal Bell was tried as an adult. He was convicted on battery and conspiracy charges and has been in jail ever since. Now, some say Bell`s punishment was overly harsh. Bell`s conviction was overturned last week, and supporters say the fight was prompted by numerous incidents. They note that prior to the fight, three white students hanged nooses from a tree on the high school campus. They were suspended but did not face criminal charges.


GRACE: Good evening. I`m Nancy Grace. Thank you for being with us. First, a coed at exclusive Mercyhurst College walks free after allegedly suffocating her secret baby to death.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tonight, this 18-year-old college student, Teri Rhodes, facing a string of charges, including criminal homicide and concealing the death of a child, the charges connected to a secret baby Rhodes gives birth to at her campus apartment at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania, after months of hiding her pregnancy from family and friends, lying to campus doctors and even the hospital staff for hours. Police show up in Rhodes`s apartment to find a messy crime scene in the bathroom, an infant girl wrapped in a plastic bag in the bathtub, suffocated. The investigation uncovers numerous Web site searches on Rhodes`s computer about pregnancy and how to end it. Released by the court to her parents` care, Rhodes escapes first degree murder charges and sitting in jail until trial.


GRACE: Let`s go straight out to Kevin Miller with 1020 KDKA. What happened?

KEVIN MILLER, NEWSRADIO 1020 KDKA: Well, what happened right now, Nancy, is Teri Rhodes is out on $25,000 bail after a hearing where both the first district attorney and her defense attorney ruled that this was a tragic case, that she`s not a risk to flight. This is her first offense...

GRACE: Kevin, Kevin...


GRACE: Tragic for who, the infant baby who couldn`t fight back, who was just born in a bathtub and then asphyxiated in a trash bag? What -- what -- tragic for who?

MILLER: Well, the attorneys on both sides told the judge it was tragic for this individual, that they should have sympathy for her.

GRACE: What individual?

MILLER: Ms. Rhodes.

GRACE: The woman, the grown woman?

MILLER: Yes, ma`am, Teri Rhodes.

GRACE: Did anybody happen to bring up the dead baby, the dead baby that couldn`t fight back?

MILLER: According to court documents, the baby was not brought up. It was just brought up to her fragile psychological condition. They worried that she might harm herself and that she is not capable of being in jail at this time, Nancy.

GRACE: Hold on. Hold on. Kevin Miller, I`m going to come straight back to you.

Trenny Stowall, help me out. Nobody even mentions the baby, the baby that was alive? Do you know how many millions of people in this world would want a little baby to love?


GRACE: Nobody even mentioned the baby in court today?

STOWALL: This is absolutely ridiculous to me. I am not concerned about her mental state. And if the court found that she was not -- or if the reason they released her was because she wasn`t in a mental state to be locked up in jail, then she should have been at a psychiatric hospital.

But I don`t believe that there`s, like -- if you kill someone, you probably are having a difficult time mentally. However, she should be in jail. There is no excuse or no exception for this. That baby is dead. This is murder. She went on the Internet. She knew what she was doing. This is not a postpartum psychosis. This was intentional. She planned to kill that child, and that evidence of that research shows it.

GRACE: Kevin Miller, explain what Trenny is talking about, about the...


GRACE: She`s a star athlete.


GRACE: She`s on scholarship. She studies biology and medicine technology. Don`t tell me she didn`t know she was pregnant, like she told everybody. But that`s not a felony, to deny a pregnancy, OK? The felony comes in when you suffocate a newborn baby, leaving it in a trash bag like it`s trash. That`s where I get concerned. You can deny pregnancy, you can lie to your friends, your family, your work. Don`t care. In fact, under our law, you can go get an abortion if you don`t want a kid. It`s legal. But homicide is not.

Nobody even mentioned the baby in court? What were they talking about?

MILLER: Well, they were talking about her psychological had condition, Nancy, and they were talking about that this is a tragedy. They`re looking at third degree murder, as opposed to first degree murder. Now, the district attorney later on did say that he is reserving the right to go after her for first degree murder. He doesn`t have enough evidence at this time.

Nancy, if they did charge her with first degree murder she would not be out on bail in Commerce, Michigan. The bail is $25,000. So there`s a big difference between third degree murder -- she`s out -- first degree murder, she would be in. Right now, she`s charged with general homicide. Nancy, that covers everything from first degree murder in Pennsylvania to involuntary manslaughter. The DA has not chosen which one he`s going to go with yet.

GRACE: Out to Melinda in Colorado. Hi, Melinda.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Nancy. Congrats on the kids. And we love you.

GRACE: You know what? The minute they heard the theme music tonight for the show, they started kicking like mad.



GRACE: They do! They`re crazy! What`s your question, dear?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My question is, in this day and age, why did this young woman -- and I`ve been in her same circumstances -- why did she not go to the fire department to leave this child, the police department, a church, a community? This just breaks my heart.

GRACE: You know, Melinda, I agree. I want to go out to Randal Yakey with "The Oakland Press." Randal is covering the story from the defendant`s hometown. Randal, thank you for being with us. Are there safe havens there? Could she have taken the baby to a church, to a hospital, somewhere instead of -- instead of -- to my reading of the facts -- and correct me if I`m wrong, you`re on the scene -- she has the baby, basically suffocates by asphyxiation, suffocates the baby to death in a trash bag, puts it at the foot of the bath, and then she takes a shower and gets all cleaned up, with the baby lying there dying at her feet.

RANDAL YAKEY, "OAKLAND PRESS": It`s absolutely correct, Nancy. Absolutely correct. And there are safe havens, especially here in Michigan. If she chose to stay here, she can bring it to a police department. There are no questions asked. She could have done that. Obviously, she chose to do otherwise.

GRACE: And she`s super-smart. That`s why I don`t -- it`s not like she`s a 13-year-old girl that doesn`t know any better or a 12-year-old girl that doesn`t even understand what`s happening to her. Long story short, she`s a biology student.

YAKEY: Yes, ma`am. Yes, ma`am, she is. And I`ve had calls here to say, Well, she`s just a child. She`s 18 years old. I have to tell people that have called my newspaper that, No, she`s not a child. She is an adult. She is 18 years old. And there were opportunities for her to come forward to tell people.

To be quite honest, I`ve talked to friends of hers or acquaintances of hers here in the community, and they have said, We saw Teri this past summer. She did not appear to be pregnant. She appeared to be happy, jovial, engaged in conversation, working at a local bar and grill up here, and never mentioned to anyone that she was with child.

GRACE: Look, you know, what, Randal? How she managed to go to a college volleyball practice is beyond me. But you know what? Power to her on that one. And I don`t care that she denied it to people. That`s not a crime. If she wanted to get an abortion, that is her business. In that jurisdiction, that is not a crime.

But to give birth, Richard Herman, and then kill the baby, that`s a crime.

RICHARD HERMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Nancy, that is a crime. This woman is absolutely -- you know, intellectually, she may be healthy. But emotionally, 18-year-old woman delivered her own baby in her dorm room, I mean, hid this from everyone -- who knows what was going on in her mind here. This is a manslaughter case, Nancy...

GRACE: Unless she`s insane, John Burris, or has a mental defect, what do we care what`s going on in her mind? What`s going on is she did not want her family, her community there at Mercyhurst College -- did not want them to know about it.

Let`s unleash the lawyers. Joining us tonight, Richard Herman and John Burris, of course, Trenny Stowall, a child advocate attorney, all three of them veteran trial lawyers.

John Burris, unless she`s going to claim mental defect -- which is going to be hard to do because she had the guile to lie to police with the baby sitting there in a trash bag in the shower -- it`s going to be hard to show any kind of mental defect. Unless she had a mental defect, what do we care what she was thinking about?

JOHN BURRIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, we care because she is 18. Look, I`ve been in a similar situation. I think the defense lawyer`s done an admirable job in getting this case down potentially to an involuntary manslaughter or a manslaughter. But at the same time, you know, you do have to consider and should consider the totality of this woman. She may be 18 and she may be smart as hell, but that doesn`t mean psychologically, she`s healthy and all.

And having a baby in this kind of situation, I think this goes to mitigation. It goes to mitigation. Obviously, you could have a first degree case, given how smart she is and what she`s done. But as a defense lawyer, you`re looking to find out what are the circumstances surrounding this. And I think you can get mitigation here to get this case down to manslaughter...

GRACE: I`m sure you do think that, John Burris.

BURRIS: I`ve done it in the past. I have.

GRACE: I`m sure you have. And you know what I noticed? After prosecuting felonies for about a decade, I noticed that whenever a child is the victim, whether it`s an infant or a 3-year-old or a 12-year-old that really can`t go to court and say, I was hurt, this happened to me -- when a child is the victim, the cases are pled down to voluntary, to involuntary, to less time. It always happens. And it is wrong!

BREMNER: That`s the prosecutor`s job, though. The prosecutor is the one who could stand up for them, if he felt that way, but he did not do it.

GRACE: You know what? You`ve got a good point. But you`re the one talking about her state of mind.

BREMNER: Well, I`m a defense lawyer. I`m a defense lawyer...


GRACE: I`d like to finish! And I noticed that neither you nor Herman came up with a valid mental defense.

To Bethany Marshall, Dr. Bethany Marshall, psychoanalyst and author. Weigh in, Bethany.

BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOANALYST: Well, you know, women who commit neonaticide -- that is the killing of a newborn infant -- usually, they disavow or deny the fact that they`re pregnant. So the baby is just like an object passing through their body. And so it`s just like a thing they want to get rid of. I know what the defense is going to say. They`re going to say she was ashamed, she was ashamed to tell her family.

GRACE: That`s not a defense.

MARSHALL: Right. Hey, I agree with you because look at Mark Hacking, felt ashamed that his wife was going to find out that he didn`t have a medical degree, so he shot her while asleep. Being shamed is not a defense. Or they`re going to say this baby was just an object to her. Well, that`s not a defense, either, because, you know, for O.J. Simpson, Nicole Brown was just an object, too.

And look, he could premeditate murder or they`re going to say she couldn`t think of solutions. Well, think of Scott Peterson. He didn`t think of nuanced solutions. He could have thought of abortion, divorcing his wife, marital counseling. He was incapable of thinking of solutions, which is part of the matrix of a homicidal mind. So in my mind, all these defenses are out of the way. This is just premeditated murder.

GRACE: Out to the lines. Colleen in Texas. Hi, Colleen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I have a question. Are they going to try to use -- what is her mental background? Do we know any of her history or if she was abused? What if the defense tries to use that against her adult thinking?

GRACE: Excellent question. Out to Kevin Miller. Has she ever had any mental illness history? From what our research showed, nothing. She`s a star student, honor roll. She`s on partial scholarship...

MILLER: Right.

GRACE: ... captain of her volleyball team in high school, model student, goes on to college. She makes the team there, good grades, the whole shebang.

MILLER: Right, Nancy. And her dad is a basketball coach and her mom was a lunch mom, so she had a great family. And quickly, by the way, in Pennsylvania, you can deliver a newborn child up to 28 days after birth with no criminal charges, as long as the child is, in fact, healthy. So there was an option for Teri, as well.

GRACE: You mean take it to a safe haven?

MILLER: Yes. For 28 days, you can do that in Pennsylvania.

GRACE: For 28 days. You know, I want to get back to the on-line searches. What can you tell me about those, Kevin Miller?

MILLER: Well, we have it right here. It took five weeks for the Erie Police Department to actually go forensically over her computer. They found three disturbing titles which could lead into premeditation -- What can kill a fetus, Herbal abortions, and the last one, Alternative methods of ending pregnancy. These were all found. These were all issued in court. And it took five weeks for the Erie County Police Department to forensically go through her laptop to find these searches.

GRACE: Out to Lisa in Pennsylvania. Hi, Lisa.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Nancy. I love your show.

GRACE: Lisa, thank you for watching and for calling in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And congratulations.

GRACE: You know what I was just thinking about, Lisa? And you say congratulations. Once you start a feeling that the baby`s kicking or once you see a sonogram, it changes everything. It really -- it really does. The other day, I actually saw a face. It changed everything. And it`s just so hard for me to imagine putting the baby in a trash bag at the foot of your tub, then you just take a shower, like you dropped the soap and it -- but what`s your question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes me physically sick. And I agree with you. You know what I`m really concerned about? I`m from the town where this happened. She had a pre-sports physical done at a local medical center. Why did the physician who questioned her, Is she pregnant, not run a pregnancy test?

GRACE: What about it, Randal Yakey? What happened? I understand a lot of people were asking her -- and again, in that jurisdiction, you want to have an abortion, fine, you can go get an abortion and that is legal. But you cannot give birth to the baby and then suffocate the baby to death. So what happened with all of these exams she was having, Randal?

YAKEY: It appears -- it appears that nobody really checked for that. She was given the OK to play by physicians, to participate in sports. She was actually on the volleyball court at 9:00 AM the day that she gave birth. She then told athletic coaches that she felt ill and needed to go home. So when she went home and gave birth...


GRACE: They did not force a pregnancy test. When we come back, Dr. Daniel Spitz, forensic pathologist, and Mike Brooks are joining us.

But very quickly, to tonight`s "Case Alert." The parents of a beautiful 3-year-old baby girl, baby Maddy, reportedly snatched during a luxury resort vacation, will not -- repeat, not -- be re-questioned by police. Is the police case crumbling? Prosecutors announce police have not produced new evidence since the McCanns named official suspects in baby Maddy`s disappearance.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Teri Rhodes, who was captain of her Lavonia (ph) Ladywood (ph) high school volleyball team, returned to Pennsylvania in August to start her sophomore year at Mercyhurst College. Her attorney says she went back early so she could begin volleyball practice. According to this affidavit, on August 12, Teri Rhodes`s roommate heard her groaning in their bathroom and noticed spots of blood on the carpet. She called the assistant volleyball coach for help. When that coach got to the apartment, she took Rhodes to the hospital, unaware Rhodes had just given birth.


GRACE: This is a star student. She`s an honor student majoring in biology and medical technology, has been given every privilege the world can offer, at exclusive Mercyhurst College, gives birth to a secret baby girl, the child asphyxiated, suffocated to death.

Let`s go out to the lines. Clara in Utah. Hi, Clara.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Nancy. Congratulations. I am the older sister of four twin brothers and two twin sisters.

GRACE: Oh, my gosh!



GRACE: You know, I really am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do we know whether or not the pregnancy resulted from some kind of a sexual assault? Or did she have a relationship with the father?

GRACE: To Mike Brooks, former D.C. cop, former fed. I have heard nothing about a sex assault.

MIKE BROOKS, FORMER D.C. POLICE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Have heard nothing about a sexual assault, Nancy, and have heard nothing about any relationships that she had.

And you know, going back to the charges -- to me, this is totally premeditated. The Erie County district attorney`s office said that he did not have enough to go ahead with first degree murder. But now that we heard, after five weeks, they have this forensic evidence from her computer, I say he`s got enough and he ought to get on the ball and charge her with first degree murder. Totally premeditated, Nancy.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Rhodes somehow managed to hide her pregnancy from everyone she came in contact with up until a short time after she delivered the live baby. And I emphasize live baby.


GRACE: A healthy six-pound baby girl suffocated and left in a trash bag. The mom is walking free, given every privilege many students in this country would kill for.

Out to Dr. Daniel Spitz, forensic pathologist, medical examiner. Dr. Spitz, explain to me how you can tell the baby was born and then asphyxiated, versus a stillborn death or an abortion.

DR. DANIEL SPITZ, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST, MEDICAL EXAMINER: Right. Well, that`s the most important part of this case from a forensic standpoint. The determination of a still birth from a live birth basically dictates what`s going to happen with the charges in this case. The way you do it, really, is to really carefully examine this child and do a thorough exam, with doing special tests to show that this child actually did take at least one or more breaths after being delivered.

GRACE: How do you tell that?

SPITZ: You do that by analyzing the lung tissue. You can do a test where the lungs will float in a solution. And if that is the case, generally, that indicates that they did actually take a breath after being delivered.

GRACE: You know, you have to think, as a prosecutor -- you have to think what the defense is going to be. Are you telling me they could tell the child had been breathing, so it wouldn`t be a case where she thought the child wasn`t breathing? The child was breathing.

SPITZ: Well, that would be something that she can testify to. She should notice that this child is breathing and has a heart rate. But that`s going to be the big question here. And if there`s some evidence that this child may not have been breathing, then this whole case may fall apart.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the hospital, police say, Rhodes first denied she had given birth but eventually admitted it. The affidavit states Rhodes told police she delivered a baby in her apartment bathroom and claimed the baby was stillborn. But investigators say the little girl was full-term and alive for up to 10 minutes before being suffocated.

Police found the baby in a plastic garbage bag in the bathroom tub of Rhodes` apartment. According to that affidavit, Teri Rhodes said she didn`t think she was pregnant. But on her computer, police discovered she conducted recent Internet searches on what can kill a fetus, herbal abortion techniques, and pregnancy termination.

Teri Rhodes, who was captain of her Livonia Ladywood High School volleyball team, returned to Pennsylvania in August to start her sophomore year at Mercyhurst College. Her attorney said she went back early so she could begin volleyball practice. According to this affidavit, on August 12th, Teri Rhodes` roommate heard her groaning in their bathroom and noticed spots of blood on the carpet. She called the assistant volleyball coach for help. When that coach got to the apartment, she took Rhodes to the hospital, unaware Rhodes had just given birth.


GRACE: The star athlete and star student is walking free tonight. And in court today, nobody even mentioned -- mentioned -- the defenseless child, the baby girl, a newborn left dead in a trash bag. Nobody even brought that up in court today.

I want to go back out to Randall Yakey with the "Oakland Press." Describe the scene. What can you tell me about the placenta?

RANDALL YAKEY, REPORTER: Well, from what we understand, Rhodes initially said she didn`t understand she was pregnant until she saw the child`s legs protruding from her body. At one point, she had taken a pair of scissors to cut the umbilical cord. I guess she put the placenta in another bag while she was also putting the child in a plastic bag there in the bathroom.

GRACE: Kevin Miller, weigh in.

KEVIN MILLER, REPORTER: Well, also, Nancy, police describe the scene as a bloody tub, the infant in a white plastic garbage bag, blood everywhere, and as Randall said, the scissors were taken in as evidence and everything in that bathroom. She tried to text message her roommate, "Don`t go into the bathroom, it`s a mess." It certainly was a mess, a bloody mess.

GRACE: You know, Trenny Stovall, how can you go nine months as a biology student, a biology and medical student, nine months without having a period and give birth, apparently breech first, and not know you`re pregnant?

TRENNY STOVALL, CHILD CUSTODY ADVOCATE: She didn`t. The answer to that is she didn`t. She knew very well that she was pregnant. It was premeditated in all numbers of ways. She intended to look for ways to destroy the baby before it was born. She intended to go in there and go into labor. She knew what she was doing, because she took plastic bags, and scissors, and all of that into the bathroom with her. She knew she was about to give birth. And for the record, if we were dealing with someone that was indigent, someone who didn`t have resources, who wasn`t nice and didn`t come from a good religious family, would we be even having this conversation about whether...

GRACE: No, because remember the other day, Trenny, right here on this show, I think you were with us, we covered the woman that worked a double shift and her kids overheated and died in the car, she put them in a trash bag and left them. Oh, yes, everybody wants her to go to jail, including me. But on this one, nobody even mentions the baby in court.

Out to the lines, Raquel in Florida, hi, Raquel.

CALLER: Hi, Nancy. Thank you for your show, and congratulations on your baby.

GRACE: Thank you.

CALLER: Nancy, my question is, what type of relationship did she have with her parents that she couldn`t talk to them? And I only know I had one -- I hope you let me ask two. I want to find out, was she in jeopardy maybe from this birth of losing her scholarship?

GRACE: Interesting. Now, that is an interesting question.

Bethany Marshall, Dr. Bethany Marshall, what about the relationship with her parents? They were in court, hugged her, are supporting her. And she is at home with them right now.

BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOANALYST: The mom was a lunch mom. The dad was a coach. The mother hugged her in court. They`ve been with her every step of the way. So I would doubt it has anything to do with her parents, maybe a high degree of religiosity and guilt. But, you know, really...

GRACE: Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hold on. To many of us that are religious or at least try to be, that doesn`t necessarily involve guilt.

MARSHALL: But, you know...

GRACE: No, you`re dragging your own baggage in.

MARSHALL: Can I reframe?


MARSHALL: People who are really disturbed abuse and they misperceive religiosity, they use it in very strange kinds of ways. You know pedophiles who they find Jesus afterwards as they`re about to go to jail. So talking about an abuse of religiosity, but really I want to think about sociopathy, which often leads to homicide, is a profound disorder of attachment, and she didn`t care about the child.

GRACE: Randall Yakey, would she have lost her scholarship if she had gotten pregnant, because she had gone back, had the baby, and come back to school?

YAKEY: We`re really not clear on that. Obviously, she couldn`t have been able to play right then.

GRACE: Well, obviously, she could play, because she was at practice that morning. Hello?

YAKEY: Obviously, she wanted to play. Obviously she wanted to be on the court, but it`s hard to tell whether she would have lost her scholarship...


YAKEY: It is a religious -- Mercyhurst obviously is a religion-based school.

GRACE: Hold on. Hold on. I`ve got a legal problem with that. Richard Herman, you cannot discriminate against a woman because she`s pregnant, OK? You can`t just yank away somebody`s scholarship. Obviously, she was out on the volleyball court that morning.

RICHARD HERMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Unbelievable. Two days before she delivered the baby, she had a physical and they said no problem. That`s just incredible.

GRACE: They couldn`t have taken her scholarship away, in answer to Raquel`s question. Now that I`m thinking it through, that would be total discrimination against a protected class, that being women. OK, Julie in Indiana, hi, Julie.

CALLER: Hi, God bless you, Nancy, number one, for speaking up in the child`s behalf.

GRACE: Thank you.

CALLER: And what my concern is, how do we know that this woman has not been pregnant before and had a similar situation in the past?

GRACE: Out to Mike Brooks, I have not heard anything or discovered anything in the research suggesting a prior pregnancy.

MIKE BROOKS, FORMER D.C. POLICE: None whatsoever, Nancy. And, again, it looks like a religious family. And we go back to the scholarship issue and talking about her religiosity, you know, this is a Catholic school. Catholic colleges have extremely, extremely strict policies. And that`s probably one of the reasons she didn`t want anybody, including her parents, to know that she was pregnant.

GRACE: I still don`t think -- and this is at first blush -- she would have lost her scholarship. Everybody, remember these moms, Amy Grossberg and Brian Peterson? They were college students, given everything on a silver platter, beat their little boy to death, and they got light sentences. Melissa Drexler, the prom mom, she gave birth in the bathroom at the high school prom and then asked for Metallica`s "Unforgiven" to be played on the dance floor. She got 15 years, only did three on voluntary manslaughter. The stats show lighter scientists when children and infants are victims.

When we come back, to Louisiana and the Jena Six controversy.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Civil rights leaders from all across the country are there. They are protesting the treatment of six African-American high school students. Supporters of the so-called Jena Six say the teenagers faced unfair punishment for their part in a high school fight. Now, that fight ended with a white student in the hospital.

Sixteen-year-old Mychal Bell was tried as an adult. Now, he was convicted on battery and conspiracy charges. He has been in jail ever since, but Bell`s conviction was overturned last week, while the D.A. decides what to do next, whether to pursue charges in the juvenile system. Now, supporters say that fight was prompted by a number of incidents. They note that, prior to that fight, three white students hung nooses from a tree on the high school campus. Well, they were suspended, but they did not face criminal charges.


GRACE: Thousands converge in Jena, Louisiana, claiming a two-tiered justice system. Out to CNN correspondent there in Jena, Susan Roesgen.

You know, it`s a very complicated fact scenario. Break it down for me.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think, Nancy, you have to remember in high school students always like to claim their territory, stake out a spot for themselves, like the jocks who always sit at the cafeteria table. In this case, there was this tree in a school courtyard that the white students sat under. The school is about 85 percent white, only 15 percent black. One day, some black kids wanted to sit under that tree. The next day, there were nooses hanging from the branches, and that`s really what started the racial tension here, Nancy.

GRACE: Then what happened?

ROESGEN: Well, then, after that, there were some off-campus fights...

GRACE: Wait, wait, wait, Susan, Susan, when the -- was it confirmed that the white kids placed the nooses there?

ROESGEN: Oh, yes, absolutely. In fact, the school identified the three kids and suspended them for three days.

GRACE: Now, was it suspension out of school or was it in-school suspension?

ROESGEN: In school.

GRACE: So they didn`t even get kicked out of school?

ROESGEN: No, I don`t think their school policy would have suggested that.

GRACE: Well, it`s my understanding that the school principal wanted them expelled because, to a lot of us, hanging a noose like that is like putting a swastika on a synagogue or lighting a cross on fire in somebody`s front yard. It is very, very symbolic and creates terror, like a terroristic threat. I thought the principal wanted them expelled, and he was disallowed from expelling them.

ROESGEN: That is true, Nancy. He did want the students expelled, but they weren`t. They were just suspended. But certainly, you know, hanging a noose, it`s a very powerful symbol of pre-civil rights era lynchings. That`s something that the black students found very offensive and very threatening.

GRACE: Then what happened?

ROESGEN: Well, then what happened, there was this, again, escalating racial tension, back and forth, some on-campus fights, some off-campus fights, words exchanged, some harassment. And the next thing you know, in December of last year, one white student, who some students said had been harassing the black students, was really just cold-cocked, Nancy. He was hit from behind in a school hallway. He was knocked unconscious. And then, according to witnesses, six black classmates allegedly stomped on him while he was down on the ground.

GRACE: OK. Then they get prosecuted -- the black students get prosecuted for attempt -- well, the original charges were adult charges for attempted murder, right? Later, they were reduced to ag-battery.

ROESGEN: Right, still a felony, still carries more than 20 years in an adult prison.

GRACE: OK, so the white kids who hang the noose don`t even get thrown out of school; the black kids get prosecuted as adults for attempted murder. OK, I see a problem there.

Out to Jeff Johnson, investigative journalist, he marched in the protest today. Explain to me, in a nutshell, why the one kid is still behind bars even though his case has been reversed. Well, he`s not really a kid. He`s a juvenile. And, yes, I know he`s got a juvenile history of ag-assault. I know that, or assault. I know that. But his case has been reversed, Jeff. Why is he still sitting behind bars?

JEFF JOHNSON, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: That`s the same question that I`m asking. I think we`ve got not only an overzealous, but in many cases unethical D.A. here, that`s got a hard-on for these young people that have gone above and beyond the cause...

GRACE: Mr. Johnson, Mr. Johnson, "hard-on" is not a technical legal term, so let`s not use it on the air.

JOHNSON: I`ll make sure I try to keep the colloquialisms aside. But at the end of the day, he is, in a sense, pushing towards creating a legal precedent that has not previously existed by charging Mychal Bell with a crime that`s not consistent with what he did.

GRACE: I want to go out to Bob Noel, attorney for Mychal Bell. This is the young man sitting behind bars. Mr. Noel, after having prosecuted many, many, more than I even count, juvenile cases, typically there are many certain designated felonies like rape, child molestation, arson, murder, armed robbery, those cases get bound over to adult court. Juveniles having a fight in high school usually is not treated as a felony. Explain.

BOB NOEL, ATTORNEY FOR MYCHAL BELL: Well, Nancy Grace, the big problem in this case is that it`s a manipulation of the system. Obviously, they wanted this child to be tried as an adult.

GRACE: How old is he?

NOEL: So they charged him initially with an enumerated offense, and then they, prior to trial, they amended it to aggravated second-degree battery and a conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery, which, under our law, you can`t try a juvenile for.

GRACE: OK. Question...

NOEL: It was quite obvious to us.

GRACE: Bob, with me, attorney for Mychal Bell, the young man still sitting behind bars, one of the black juveniles beat up a white kid at school, is it true that the white kid went to the hospital, got out in three hours, and actually attended a school function that night?

NOEL: That`s true. And that was the testimony in Mychal Bell`s first trial.

GRACE: OK, I don`t know how they`re getting attempted murder out of that.

Out to Jessica in Alabama, hi, Jessica.

CALLER: Hello.

GRACE: Hi, dear. What`s your question?

CALLER: Yes, I was just calling to see if they had investigated Mychal Bell`s criminal background before this.

GRACE: Yes. As a matter of fact, Mr. Noel, your client does have a criminal background, yes?

NOEL: He`s got a juvenile background for four misdemeanors, two simple batteries and two criminal damage to properties, which are minor misdemeanors in Louisiana, and definitely minor, as far as being a juvenile case. His juvenile record was released over our objection, by the way.

GRACE: To John Burris, it seems to me that they all should have been handled in the juvenile system, the white juvenile and the black juveniles, and the white juveniles that put up the noose. Everybody belongs in juvenile court; they all should be prosecuted. This has gotten totally out of hand.

JOHN BURRIS, FMR. PROSECUTOR, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: I think that`s correct. And I think they all should have been placed in juvenile court. But I will tell you, another possible solution that would have been even better, and that would have been to deal with this in a socially aggressive way inside of the school itself. You bring everybody in, "Let`s talk about this. These are issues that we ought to deal with"...

GRACE: Hold on. John, I`ve got to quickly go to "CNN Heroes," and I`m going to be right back with John Burris. Now, "Heroes."


JOSH SUNDQUIST, "COMMUNITY CRUSADER": There`s no way you can sort of separate having an amputation from the rest of my life. People say, well, did it change you? It changes everything.

As a kid, no one my age had ever beat me in a foot race. I figured I was probably one of the fastest people in the world. That`s kind of what I told myself. I started having pain in my left leg when I was 9 years old. The doctor found cancer. A lot of the grieving sort of happened for me before I lost my leg. I really remember thinking, can I just go out and live a normal life with one leg?

An amputee that I met was a guy named Larry Chloupec. He drove a convertible. He had a normal job. And I was just like, wow, you know, he lives like a normal life. That was really what kind of turned the corner for me. I don`t think most amputees have friends that are also amputees.

Online, there wasn`t really a good place for people to like meet centrally, provide information, and ask for information, and meet other people, and so I thought that just needs to happen.

I`m Josh Sundquist, and I created an online community for amputees to meet other amputees, ask questions, and get answers. I wanted it to be a catchy name, you know, like Give Me a Hand, or like A Leg Up. And every pun I could think of was taken. So finally I thought of Less Than Four, which admittedly is not quite a pun, but it`s kind of catchy and also can be sweetly abbreviated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I stumbled across this site looking for a t- shirt with an amputee on it. The site seems pretty cool.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a bad habit of staring at people that are staring at my arm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You make me laugh, and if you only knew how much that helps me out.

SUNDQUIST: The best thing about it is that the community is sort of rising up. Leaders from within are sort taking the baton to like help other amputees, and I think that`s pretty cool.



GRACE: Thousands converge today at Jena, Louisiana, to protest a two- tiered justice system. Straight back out to John Burris, defense attorney, you were saying how you, legally, think this should have been handled, quickly?

BURRIS: One, I don`t think charges should have been filed, but I thought that the city and school officials should have brought everybody together, bring all the students together, let them talk about what the underlying issues are and try to develop some kind of communications and understanding. It was a wonderful opportunity to kind of heal the community and get away from the divisiveness taking place.

GRACE: John Burris, I`m all for healing, but you put a noose up on the tree, where I come from, that is a terroristic threat.

BURRIS: No question.

GRACE: That is like a swastika on a synagogue; that is like burning a cross. Uh-uh. They should have all gone to juvenile jail. They can`t get away with that. They weren`t even expelled. And then beating a kid from behind, they should have gone to juvenile. Nobody needs to be sitting in adult court behind bars, especially following a conviction that was reversed. He`s still sitting there!

Back quickly to Bob Noel, you`ve got a hearing on Friday, right?

NOEL: We certainly do. We`ve got two motions pending. One is a motion to recuse the judge, and the second is a writ of habeas corpus that we`re having a hearing on, and we`re seeking to have our client released. We firmly believe that he should have been released or transferred to a juvenile facility after the decision last week by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

GRACE: He`s 16?

NOEL: He`s 17 now, but he was 16 at the time of this incident.

GRACE: OK, well...

NOEL: Now, four of the juveniles -- four of the teenagers involved actually were adults under Louisiana law. Seventeen you become an adult. At 15, there are certain offenses that you can be prosecuted for.

GRACE: But they still have to be designated felonies to be treated as adults. We`re on the story.

Let`s stop to remember Army Corporal Juan Alcantara. He was 22, New York, killed, Iraq. Enlisted straight from high school, loved basketball. Dreamed to join the NYPD like his sister and become a U.S. citizen, which he was granted after death. Leaves behind mom, Maria, fiancee, Sayonara, sisters, Fredolinda and Samantha (ph), and a newborn baby girl he never met, Jaylani. Juan Alcantara, American hero.

Thank you for being with us and inviting us into your homes. See you tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. And until then, good night, friend.