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Deadly Poison Ricin Found in Las Vegas Hotel Room/Parents of Girl Who Drank Herself to Death Sue Both Bar and Friends; Family Sues over Alcohol-Related Death; Shoppers Intervene in Child Beating

Aired February 29, 2008 - 20:00:00   ET


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Breaking news tonight. All across the country, people head there in droves to vacation, to sightsee, to gamble, to see the shows and all the glitz and the glamour. It`s Vegas. But tonight, it`s all on the skids after the deadly poison, ricin, with known links to terrorism, domestic and foreign, planted at a Vegas hotel. Tonight, the FBI on the case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police make a scary find in a Las Vegas hotel room. They`ve now confirmed it is the poison ricin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Investigators have no idea why anyone would have ricin in a motel loom. They say there are no legal and proper reasons for an ordinary person to even possess the poison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to give you an idea of how deadly this stuff is, the CDC says an amount the size of the head of a pin can kill an adult in three to five days. Well, we`re finding out a substance found in a Las Vegas extended stay hotel room is that deadly poison. The man staying there -- he`s in such bad shape, he`s hospitalized now for more than two weeks. Now he`s in critical condition.


GRACE: And tonight: A beautiful coed in a quiet Minnesota college town dead on her 21st birthday. Why? She literally drank herself to death while out on the town on her own birthday. Tonight, her parents point a finger at not only the bar that served her, but the friends who egged her on, filing lawsuits claiming wrongful death to the tune of thousands.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amanda Jax, an aspiring nurse, drank so much on her 21st birthday, she died. Jax was celebrating last October with friends at Sidelines bar in Mankato. According to a lawsuit filed today, she drank one or two beers at an apartment, then at the bar drank a pitcher of Long Island iced tea, five shots of hard alcohol, two more beers and something called a cherry bomb, a mix of cherry vodka and an energy drink. The suit says Jax passed out at the bar and friends took her to an apartment, where they found her dead the next morning, her blood alcohol level .46, nearly six times the legal limit for driving. Jax`s relatives aren`t just suing the bar, but five of her friends, saying they bought her the drinks and should have taken her to the hospital.

JENNY HAAG, MOTHER: I just wish they would have done something. I think my daughter paid a high price. She died.


GRACE: Also tonight: We`ve seen it all before, a helpless child being mistreated in a mall or a supermarket. But after a 3-year-old cries over a toy at a local mall, Mommy has a meltdown. But this time, the other shoppers took action.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s a mom meltdown, leaving onlookers at a crowded Staten Island mall in shock. A young mom punches and slaps her 3- year-old across his back and stomach right inside the mall entrance. Police say 33-year-old Yesenia Hausler goes berserk when her toddler throws a temper tantrum over a toy. Numerous concerned shoppers dial 911, the little boy rushed to the hospital with swelling and bruising, while his mom is rushed straight to jail. Tonight, Hausler facing felony assault and child endangerment charges and the possibility of losing custody of all three of her kids.


GRACE: Good evening. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us. One of the hottest vacation spots in America in shock tonight after the deadly poison ricin found planted at a Vegas hotel.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Associated Press is reporting one man in critical condition in a coma, six other people are hospitalized. Police recovered a small quantity of a compound from the man`s room. Now, preliminary tests suggest it`s the extremely toxic poison ricin. While police and federal agents say there`s no link between the discovery and any terrorist activity, they have no idea why he had the dangerous compound.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Several people are hospitalized in Las Vegas, meanwhile, after they were exposed to a very deadly poison in a motel loom. A man who stayed in the room is in critical condition, but other people show no signs of being exposed to the compound, which is identified as ricin. That is a particularly toxic poison. Now, police say the man fell ill two weeks ago and that investigation didn`t begin until the ricin turned up in the motel room.


GRACE: Vegas in shock tonight after a deadly poison linked to terrorism, both foreign and domestic, has been found planted at a hotel there.

Let`s go straight out to a special guest joining us tonight, Kara Finnstrom, CNN correspondent. She is there on the scene in Vegas. What happened?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was a press conference held this afternoon that gave us a little bit more information, but there are still an awful lot of questions here. And this actually gave authorities a chance, after scrambling for about 24 hours to really try and secure this hotel and make sure there was no big health threat, to try and dispel some of the rumors that had begun to circulate.

We learned two main pieces of information. The first was that further testing did confirm that the white powdery substance found in this hotel room is ricin, which is extremely dangerous, extremely powerful. And the second factor -- the "wow" factor of this whole press conference -- was what you mentioned. They found -- they shared with us the fact there is a man who is semi-comatose in a hospital that they now believe was exposed to this ricin two weeks ago, on February 14th, and is now in the hospital, unable to speak and unable to share his story.

GRACE: Out to Kristen Flowers with KXNT AM 840. What more can you tell us, Kristen?

KRISTEN FLOWERS, KXNT AM 840: Well, the interesting thing right now with this story is the timing of it. This is a big NASCAR weekend for us. We`ve got lots of people coming into town. And as you said earlier, this is a very, very toxic substance. It`s 6,000 times more toxic than cyanide, and it can be inhaled and it can get into food or water. And of course, I`m sure you know that this was found in the al Qaeda caves in Afghanistan. So the big question right now is why was it in the hotel room, who brought it in, and what were they planning to do with it?

GRACE: So back to Kara Finnstrom, CNN correspondent joining us there on the scene. Kara, I don`t understand. The man has been in the hospital for two weeks, but we`re just finding out about ricin in a Vegas hotel today?

FINNSTROM: Yes. This is how this actually occurred. He was in this hotel room. He began having trouble breathing, which is one of the first symptoms of ricin poisoning. Now, we should add that this is suspected ricin poisoning because they can`t actually give him a test. There`s no test to actually confirm this. But he is showing all the symptoms of exposure.

So the first symptom is trouble breathing. He calls 911. They come pick him up, they take him to the hospital. Since then, he has begun to develop a lot of the other symptoms, and they tell us he has been semi- comatose, that he`s unable to talk with police.

Subsequent to that, if you fast-forward about two weeks, there`s been no one in this hotel room all of this time. One of his friends or a family member -- they`re not quite clear of the actual relationship there -- goes back to this hotel room to pick up his belongings. And as he`s gathering everything, he finds what he thinks is a suspicious powder in this container, in a bag, and takes it to the manager because he`s concerned. But they tell us that they don`t believe this relative, this friend, really had any idea what he was bringing them.

GRACE: Back to Kristen Flowers of KXNT AM 840. How many people are possibly infected? And what does this type of substance look like?

FLOWERS: Well, what was actually found in the hotel room was castor beans, which is used to actually -- the breakdown of these beans is what`s used to make ricin. And also, some vials containing the powder were found. Six people, three police officer, three hotel employees and another person were sent to the hospital immediately. They were released. They did not show any signs of infection. The unidentified man that is currently unable to speak with authorities is the only one in critical condition right now. And of course, he`s the one that was directly exposed to it.

GRACE: To Dr. William R. Morrone joining us. Dr. Morrone...


GRACE: ... welcome. Explain to me how ricin works.

MORRONE: Ricin is a cellular toxin that prevents proteins from being manufactured, and cells die -- cells in the kidney, cells in the lungs, cells in the liver, cells in the GI tract. And you get short of breath. You get diarrhea. Your kidneys shut down. Blood starts in your urine. And the toxicity can be anywhere from 4 to 6 hours after exposure or 12 to 14 days later.

GRACE: Well, the guy in the hospital is in a coma, Doctor.

MORRONE: Well, what`s happened is he`s gone through respiratory arrest probably because of fluids that accumulate from the kidney failure. That`s very common. And he`s probably been intubated. And the key is there`s no antidote. There is no antidote. All you can do is supportive care.

GRACE: What do you mean by supportive care?

MORRONE: Supportive care is fluids, nutrition, oxygen. Supportive care is -- there is no chemical that will help reverse this, only the body`s time. And if the body`s damaged too much in the poisoning, it`s -- it`s really critical.

GRACE: How is it ingested, Doctor?

MORRONE: The three main ways ricin would come in is inhalation -- and the shortness of breath is a sign that he probably was exposed by inhalation.

GRACE: Inhalation.

MORRONE: Inhalation. He caught some kind of ricin dust. The second way would be ingestion, where it ended up on his mouth or mucous membranes and he digested it. The other way would be injection or under-the-skin exposure, which could be from open cuts and wounds.

GRACE: What does it look like?

MORRONE: It looks a lot like granulated sugar, you know, your artificial sweeteners. And this is the stuff. Approximately this amount could kill 500 people, if delivered correctly in an unventilated room.

GRACE: Could kill how many?

MORRONE: Five hundred to a thousand, maybe.

GRACE: That much of ricin?


GRACE: Where does it come from, Doctor?

MORRONE: In the processing of castor oil, the castor bean pulp what is the residue that ends up as ricin. Now, castor oil has absolutely no ricin in it, but it`s the leftover pulp. And it`s a process that`s probably -- third world countries can make this. It would be heavily regulated in the United States, or it would have to be made in a private, secret lab here.

GRACE: Out to the lines. To Shay in Texas. Hi, dear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, ma`am. I just want to tell you I love you and I`m praying for you. I`m curious if it`s -- you know, can you grow it in a garden?

GRACE: You know what? I`m not an expert in this. I`m going to have to go back to Dr. Morrone. And I want to thank for your kind comment, ma`am. Doctor, where do you get it? I mean, how is it created? You said a secret lab, but all you need is a particular type of bean to create such a deadly poison?

MORRONE: Actually, the amount of ricin that you have to extract and purify requires high-tech science. The castor beans come from foliage plants. They`re very decorative. They have one black end and they`re kind of bright red and orange. And they`re used but they`re not collected and they`re not commercially useful in this country. That`s why one has to think that there`s an evil plot from an evil person to bring this here and to do this.

GRACE: Is it a very difficult process to make this poison?

MORRONE: Unlike the myth on the Internet that it`s easy to make, it isn`t. It is difficult because it is so toxic, you need moon suits, ventilators and laminar (ph) full hoods.

GRACE: Who in the heck would do this? Who would make this deadly poison and then plant it in a Vegas hotel? Literally millions of people are coming in and out all the time in Las Vegas. As you heard from Kristen Flowers, a very big week, a NASCAR week for them there in Vegas.

Out to the lines. Pamela in New York. Hi, Pamela.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Nancy. My question is, are they considering this is a form of terrorism?

GRACE: What about it, Kara Finnstrom? Are they?

FINNSTROM: No, they`re not. At this point, they say there`s no evidence to suggest that. However, they do very clearly say "at this point." They do, however, say that they feel that there is some kind of a criminal underlying motive here because, as you say, why would anyone have this?

What`s unclear also is whether the man who is in the hospital now was an innocent victim of this or whether he may have had something to do with the ricin being there. Authorities say they just don`t know. They say he`s not a suspect at this point, but they also stress that their investigation is very early.

GRACE: To Kristen Flowers with KXNT AM 840. The reality is, though, Kristen, one of his friends, a friend or a relative, actually went to the management. It seems very unlikely to me that they would turn themselves in for ricin.

FLOWERS: Absolutely. But you have to look at it from a different angle. If you were staying in that hotel room and saw beans lying around and a vial of powder, the question is, wouldn`t you say something? Wouldn`t you notice it? That`s what`s all very curious about this situation. If you were staying in a hotel, you would have noticed it. He may very well be an innocent bystander of this, but of course, they`re not ruling out that he isn`t a suspect. But unfortunately, he`s unable to cooperate with authorities right now.

GRACE: To the lines. Lisa in Pennsylvania. Hi, Lisa. Lisa, are you there?


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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I was wondering, if there`s only one person who is -- that we know of affected by this, how come -- you know, how did it get there, you know? I mean, somebody else would have to be involved, don`t you think?

GRACE: To Detective Lieutenant Steve Rogers. You`ve seen it all. What do you think? What`s your opinion on how this ricin, a deadly poison that could kill thousands...

DET. LT. STEVE ROGERS, NUTLEY, NJ, POLICE DEPT.: I tell you, it`s a mystery. The police have a major "Who, what, when, where and why" problem on their hands. At the very least, thank goodness, they were able to eliminate a terrorism nexus. But I`ll tell you, Nancy, there`s probably more than one person involved in this situation, and video surveillance, if it`s in that hotel, that might tell us the story.

GRACE: To Gail in Canada. Hi, Gail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. How are you, Nancy?

GRACE: I`m good, dear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations on your twins.

GRACE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I hope your dad feels better.

GRACE: Thank you. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My question is, dear, I wonder, with this ricin -- we`re allowed to grow castor bean plants up here in Canada, and I do save the beans and I regrow them every year. And they are a beautiful plant, and I do keep them away from pets and kids. But I`m wondering, if it`s so available up here, why isn`t it so pronounced, then, for a terrorism act?

GRACE: Dr. Morrone, explain.

MORRONE: Well, there`s a process and then obtaining the raw materials to extract it, and all those are going to be regulated through -- like, you need acetone and you need high concentrations of lye, and you need the technology, the moon suits and the laminar hoods. But every step of that is something that the government`s put an eye on, and they`re watching this.

GRACE: To Pamela in California. Hi, Pamela.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. My question is, if this is so deadly, and like your last caller said, she keeps, you know, animals away from this bean, what exactly are we doing with it?

GRACE: You mean...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, what is the bean used for? And if it`s so, like, toxic that we have to keep plants and wildlife away -- I mean, pets and wildlife away from it, why are we still growing it?

GRACE: Dr. Morrone?

MORRONE: It`s used in making castor oil. And castor oil is a component that`s not meant to be in edible functions. There`s a cathartic effect to castor oil.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ricin is a poison produced when castor beans are processed to make oil. It can exist in powder, mist or pellet form, and it dissolves in water. Ricin made headlines back in 2003 because the feds feared terrorists could easily produce the plant toxins. But so far, police say this incident does not appear to be terror-related.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amanda Jax`s family never got the chance to say good-bye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can`t explain it to anybody how my heart is broken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The aspiring nurse drank so much on her 21st birthday, she died.

JENNY HAAG, MOTHER: Our daughter was a great girl. I don`t want this one incident to shape the whole life that she had before her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jax was celebrating last October with friends at Sidelines bar in Mankato. According to a lawsuit filed today, she drank one or two beers at an apartment, then at the bar drank a pitcher of Long Island iced tea, five shots of hard alcohol, two more beers and something called a cherry bomb, a mix of cherry vodka and an energy drink.


GRACE: That energy drink, Red Bull mixed with vodka. A beautiful coed at a quiet Minnesota college town dead exactly on her 21st birthday, out partying that night, her blood alcohol limit way, way over the legal limit. She died of blood alcohol poisoning. Tonight, her parents are suing not only the bar that served her but the friends that seemingly egged her on.

Let`s go out to Jeff McKinney with WCCO AM radio. What happened?

JEFF MCKINNEY, WCCO RADIO: Well, Nancy, this goes back to the night of October 29 of last year, and it was a 21st birthday party for Amanda Jax. She was celebrating back in the town of Mankato, Minnesota, with her former college friends there. She has a few drinks at the apartment of one of her friends. They then adjourn to a bar called the Sidelines bar and grill. They proceed to drink for a few hours. The attorneys for Amanda Jax`s family say Amanda consumed a total of 17 shots of alcohol at the bar. You heard the allusion just a moment ago to that full pitcher of Long Island iced tea, which are very, very alcoholic. She is then taken back to the apartment of her friend, where she vomits twice and passes out. Again, this is after about two hours of drinking.

Three other people are in that apartment that night in Mankato. They presume that Amanda is sleeping it off, even though she obviously was ill before she went to sleep. But in the morning, a friend discovers her body is cold, and within a few minutes, she is pronounced dead by paramedics. And as you said just a few moments ago, her blood alcohol content was just alarmingly high. It was actually .46, which is nearly six times the legal limit for driving in most states, 600 percent of the legal limit, so an alarmingly high amount of alcohol in her blood.

GRACE: Jeff McKinney, when the friends put her to bed the night before, was there any suggestion that she was this bad off?

MCKINNEY: There was every suggestion that she was very, very drunk. As I say, when they put her to bed in that apartment, she vomited twice, and she -- what usually would be described, I suppose, as passing out. She passed out. Her friends then just presumed that she was going to sleep it off, even though she had vomited.

But in the morning, one of her friends, about 7:00 AM, about six hours after she was put to bed, went to wake her up, went to check on her, touched her back, found it was cold to the touch, turned her over, found that she was purple. Paramedics were called, and she was pronounced dead within a very few minutes.



HAAG: (INAUDIBLE) our house, there`s an empty place at the table. I can`t explain it to anybody how my heart is broken. Our daughter was a great girl. I don`t want this one incident to shape the whole life that she had.


GRACE: A young girl dead on her 21st birthday, out partying with her friends. It was all good fun and innocent. She`s dead the next morning when her friends go to wake her up by over-the-limit blood alcohol poisoning, .46, nearly six times the legal limit of.08.

Joining me right now, her mother, distraught. Jenny Haag is with us. The parents now suing not only the bar that served her but also her friends who seemingly egged her on. Ms. Haag, thank you for being with us.

HAAG: Thank you.

GRACE: When did you decide to sue?

HAAG: Probably about a week or two after she had passed away. And it didn`t start out that way. My husband and I didn`t have any knowledge of what had happened to Amanda that night. Nobody was telling us what happened. They weren`t releasing the coroner`s report. And we decided we need to know. We just couldn`t live without knowing what happened to our daughter.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amanda Jax`s family never got the chance to say good-bye. The aspiring nurse drank so much on her 21st birthday, she died. Jax was celebrating last October with friends at Sidelines bar in Mankato.

According to a lawsuit filed today, she drank one or two beers at an apartment, then at the bar drank a pitcher of Long Island iced tea, five shots of hard alcohol, two more beers and something called a Cherry Bomb, a mix of cherry vodka and an energy drink.

The suit says Jax passed out at the bar, and friends took her to an apartment, where they found her dead the next morning, her blood alcohol level .46, nearly six times the legal limit for driving. Jax`s relatives aren`t just suing the bar but five of her friends, saying they bought her the drinks and should have taken her to the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just wish they would have done something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attorneys admit it could be a precedent setting case. For now Jax`s family just hopes their story sends a powerful message about drinking.


GRACE: The bartender claims he had no idea what was happening, but before 24 hours had passed, a 21-year-old girl was dead from alcohol poisoning. Dead on the eve, the night of her 21st birthday.

Joining us tonight, a very special guest. Her mother, Jenny Haag, is with us.

Ms. Haag, again, thank you for being with us. What happened in your life that evening? How did you find out what had happened?

JENNY HAAG, MOTHER OF AMANDA JAX: We got a phone call the next morning about quarter to ten, and the police wanted to come over and talk to me. And I tried to get them to tell me what that was about, and they wouldn`t. So I gave them directions to my house, and they came over and personally informed us that our daughter had passed away sometime the night before.

GRACE: Did they explain to you what had happened?

HAAG: They did. It started out as them saying it was an accidental death. And then they went in to say how they thought it was acute alcohol poisoning.

GRACE: Joining Ms. Haag is her lawyer, the attorney for Amanda Jax`s family, Alan Milavetz.

Sir, thank you for being with us. What is the basis of your lawsuit against the bar that served her and the friends that were with her?

ALAN MILAVETZ, ATTORNEY FOR JENNY HAAG: Thank you for having us tonight, Nancy. There are two parts of the case. And the case against the bar is well settled Minnesota law. A bar is not allowed to sell intoxicating beverages to someone once they`ve reach the point where they`re obviously intoxicated. There comes a point in time when a bartender, who has to be trained properly, has to know to cut someone off and stop giving them alcohol.

GRACE: OK. And what`s the basis of the lawsuit against the friends?

MILAVETZ: The basis for the lawsuit against these drinking companions is essentially this. If you`re going to provide alcohol to someone and you`re going to provide them alcohol to the point where they become obviously intoxicated, they are vulnerable. They are not someone that is able to make decisions for themselves anymore.

You take on a special duty of care to your companion, to your friends.

GRACE: OK. Alan...

MILAVETZ: ... and because of that you have to take them out of harm`s way. And that`s the essential point.

GRACE: OK. Alan, two quick questions. In a nutshell before we go to our panel, does your argument ignore the theory that we`re all responsible for our own actions? And -- I`ll let you answer that first. Go ahead.

MILAVETZ: That`s a great question, because it comes up all the time. Shouldn`t Amanda have known better? Shouldn`t she be responsible for herself? And that speaks clearly to a certain extent.

But the reality of it is, is that when someone goes into a bar and consumes alcoholic beverages, they become vulnerable and can`t make good decisions after a certain point. Perhaps not two or three drinks, but in this case we certainly reached that point when at some point leading up to 17 drinks, Amanda was clearly vulnerable.

And not only the people at the bar, but the people that were drinking with her should have realized when they were standing her up, keeping her awake, when they were laying her down on the street outside the bar, that this was someone that was in distress and needed to have medical help.

GRACE: Let`s go to the lines, Keith in Illinois.

Hi, Keith.

CALLER: Hi, Nancy. How are you?

GRACE: I`m good. What`s your question?

CALLER: My question is, is that how in the world would you charge the friends of this, you know, unfortunately deceased, considering, a, I mean, the attorney himself just pointed out bartenders must undergo, you know, specialized training to identify this.

I mean, I don`t know what the bars are like out there. But when a girl is being stood up, where I come from in Chicago, an ambulance is called.

And, B, you know, it sounds to me like the friends took more of an initiative to take all the right steps, to care for her. They took her home. They cared for her.

I mean, the mother said herself that she didn`t even receive a phone call nor make one on the daughter`s 21st birthday, when she knows exactly what is taking place, and make sure that her daughter is all right.

GRACE: Let`s go to the mom, Jenny Haag. What about that? The caller says you knew exactly what was taking place. There`s a big difference in thinking that your daughter`s going to go out with her friends for a night on the town and opposed to .46 blood alcohol, six times the legal limit.

HAAG: Yes. That`s quite a difference. And the caller made a point about saying that she hadn`t -- I hadn`t talked to her or she hadn`t called me. Well, she lived with us. I had seen her at -- you know, at quarter to seven she left our house. And I did know that she was going out. But for a few drunks. And, you know, she assured me she`d be back home and she`d see me tomorrow.

GRACE: Has she had a drinking issue in the past?

HAAG: Not a drinking issue, I would not say that. I believe that, when she went to college, that she did have on occasion a chance to drink, yes.

GRACE: Did she have a DUI?

HAAG: Yes, she did.

GRACE: How many?

HAAG: Two.

GRACE: That`s going to be a problem for you guys at trial. You`re going to have to find a way to overcome that, if you can.

Joining us tonight, another special guest is Mark Solheim. He`s the attorney for one of the friends named in the lawsuit.

Mark, what`s your defense?

MARK SOLHEIM, ATTORNEY: Good evening, Nancy. First of all, we`ve -- what we`ve heard tonight is obviously a heart-breaking and unbelievably tragic event, and our condolences go out to the Jax family.

My client is obviously very devastated over the loss of her friend. But her grief is further compounded by the fact that she`s been named as a defendant in what we believe to be a baseless lawsuit.

And when you look at the lawsuit, you really need to look at this question. Who created the risk? Was it the person who put a drink in front of the Amanda Jax, or was it Amanda Jax, the person who drank it, who has a documented history of problems with alcohol consumption?

GRACE: So your argument is really personal responsibility. Let`s see if the other lawyers agree with you. Then we`ll go back to the lines.

Eleanor Dixon out of the Atlanta jurisdiction joining us here in the New York studios. Daniel Horowitz, a famed defense attorney out of San Francisco area. And Kirby Clemens Jr., former prosecutor now defense attorney, also from the Atlanta jurisdiction.

Eleanor, weigh in.

ELEANOR DIXON, ATTORNEY: Well, first of all, there won`t be any criminal charges against these individuals. I think they were addressing - - one thing the caller asked, because they didn`t intentionally set out to get her intoxicated, didn`t intend any assault of any kind. In fact, as pointed out, they were trying to help her through all this. And they were just celebrating her birthday.

GRACE: OK, Daniel Horowitz?

DANIEL HOROWITZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think it`s involuntary manslaughter. They did something inherently dangerous to her life. Nancy, that is such a high alcohol level. If I guzzled a fifth of vodka on your show and waited about half an hour, that`s how much alcohol she had in her system. Her friends knew she was could die. They kept feeding her alcohol. Dangerous. They knew it. They`re responsible. They`re guilty, morally and legally.

GRACE: Kirby?

KIRBY CLEMENS JR., DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I concur 110 percent. They took her home where nobody else could help her. She`s throwing up. They took these feeble attempts of laying her on her side so she wouldn`t, I guess, swallow her vomit. But whatever happened to just dialing 911?

DIXON: I can`t believe Kirby Clemens of all people is saying that. He knows good and well you`re not going to be able to charge these people with anything. They didn`t do anything wrong. She has some responsibility. She`s the one with two DUIs.

GRACE: Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait.

CLEMENS: Criminally negligent homicide.

GRACE: Let me get this straight. Eleanor, in our justice system there is no Good Samaritan requirement. You don`t have to help anybody. You can drive by an accident. You don`t have to render aid in American jurisprudence. Yes, no, Eleanor?

DIXON: That`s true.

GRACE: Horowitz?

HOROWITZ: No, Nancy. No. They caused the problem. And that changes the rules. When you cause it, when you`re part you have to take care of the person.

GRACE: OK. Kirby?

KIRBY: He`s exactly right. Not only did they cause it, they took her home and secluded her.

GRACE: What about it, Patricia Saunders? Weigh in.

PATRICIA SAUNDERS, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Nancy, this is substance abuse institutionalized and normalized. Binge drinking on a birthday is a right of passage. Twenty-one-year-olds think they`re invincible and they`re invulnerable. Her friends were 21, and they were just as naive and unknowing as she was.

GRACE: Everyone, when we come back, a 3-year-old cries over a toy at a local mall, mommy has a violent meltdown, mistreating him right there in the mall. But this time the shoppers take action.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "I had to hit him and my hand got out of control." These are just some of the excuses from a young mom of three who pummels her little toddler boy at a Staten Island mall in front of terrified shoppers.

It all unfolds when the 3-year-old cries because his mom says no to a brand-new toy. Yesenia Hausler, accused of slapping and punching the boy for some time, leaving hand prints, welts and bruises on his back and stomach.

Some quick-thinking and horrified onlookers are able to stall Hausler in the parking lot while police race to the scene and arrest her.


GRACE: And when confronted after some resourceful shoppers got the police there, the mom said it was a cultural difference, that in her country, it would have been OK the way she beat the little boy.

She`s a U.S. citizen. What is she talking about, Jane Velez-Mitchell?

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: I`m equally offended by her explanation, Nancy. I`m of Puerto Rican heritage and my mother is and never laid a hand on me. So not only has she added insult to injury, but don`t drag down everybody`s culture because you`re a madwoman who assaulted your own child.

And I`m so happy that she was charged with felony assault and misdemeanor child endangerment and that nine onlookers has the courage to spot this pummeling and call 911 and follow her out of the mall so that she was caught by police. Thank God.

And it`s a message to everyone if you do this to your kid and somebody sees it, guess what? You`re going to get caught.

GRACE: You`re darn right, Jane Velez-Mitchell. I can`t tell you how many times when I was prosecuting I would totally badge a mother or a father mistreating a child.

And beyond that, now that I don`t carry a badge anymore, oh, yes, you`ve got to be willing to stand up, go to the plate and hit a home run to help protect a child. I`m torn between being angry at the mother and being proud of the shoppers for actually doing something.

Out to the lines, Sherry (ph) in Missouri.

Hi, Sherry (ph).

CALLER: Hi, Nancy. You have a beautiful glow about you.

GRACE: Thank you. Thank very much. You know what? I`m exhausted. I`ve been up since 4:30 this morning, but it`s all worth it. Lucy and John David, totally.

What`s your question, dear?

CALLER: I am furious with this lady. I don`t care where she came from. It doesn`t matter. To treat a child like that is just beyond me. And why somebody -- she`s probably lucky that nobody took matters into their own hands inside that store at the time that that happened.

My -- my question is, is, you know, we don`t know what goes on in the home. If this is what happens in the public, what in the world is going on at home? And is there any way to find out if this is something that is just worse behind closed doors?

GRACE: Well, I can guarantee you everything is worse behind closed doors. That`s been my experience in the criminal justice system.

Let`s go to the lawyers: Eleanor Dixon, Dan Horowitz, Kirby Clemens.

To you, Kirby, the reality is she is looking at a lot of time behind bars, and, yes, we`ve seen abuse cases worse than that. My concern tonight is, she`s out on bond, and the child was given back to the father. What do you want to bet, Kirby, that the mom`s right back with the child?

CLEMENS: I`m pretty confident the mother is actually back with the child, even if there`s a condition of bond. But I do want to say that, while what she did was extremely bad, we don`t have a history, and if you`re guessing at a history and assuming that, I think it`s unfair.

GRACE: We don`t have a history?

CLEMENS: You don`t have any school reports saying this woman has abused her child.

GRACE: He`s 3. He`s not in school yet, Kirby. I happen to know that you have children.

CLEMENS: Is he in daycare? I have two children. And I`m too big to hit them. So I...

GRACE: You know what? I can`t believe he just said that.

CLEMENS: No, you`ve got to...

GRACE: Eleanor Dixon, no history? Children find it very difficult to speak out, especially at age 3.

DIXON: Exactly. And you`ve got to remember, Nancy. As you said, what happens at home is often a lot worse than what`s public. And it must have been pretty bad what was going on in public for people, strangers, to come and report that.

GRACE: We`ll be right back with Daniel Horowitz out of the San Francisco jurisdiction. But right now, "CNN Heroes."


JOCK BRANDIS, COMMUNITY CRUSADER: In Africa alone, women spend four billion hours a year shelling peanuts by hand. I saw woman who lose fingers, literately bleeding from shelling peanuts for even just a few hours.

The women in the village said, can you get a machine that will help us do it faster? I said, "No problem. I can do that." I went back to America. It didn`t exist.

My name is Jock Brandis. I built a nut-sheller that goes 50 times faster than doing it by hand.

When I first realized that I couldn`t buy this machine, someone had sent me kind of a sketch, and I tried to duplicate that, and it didn`t work. A friend of mine just said, make a mold and pour some concrete in there.

When we started making our machine parts out of concrete, all of a sudden, you know, it opened up.

And turn the hand briskly, and they`re all done.

Every little welding shop in the world can cut and fabricate these pieces. People transform their lives and transform a whole village with very, very simple parts, $28 worth of material.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The women are doing good. They sell this food also. And they get some money for themselves. We are happy. It may help them for a long time.

BRANDIS: People that helped me do it out of the goodness of their hearts, and I felt that I should pass it on. And so it`s now -- it`s everyone`s machine. It`s Full Belly Project`s gift to the world.

I get up in the morning, have a cup of tea, and there`s an e-mail from a total stranger and a picture. It`s a happy person standing beside their machine with a big grin. That`s the best moment of all. That`s the one I live for.



GRACE: What a week in America`s courtrooms. Take a look at the stories and, more important, the people who touched our lives.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... Bobby Cutts Jr. was found guilt of committing do not outweigh the mitigating factors presented in this case by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We therefore unanimously find that the sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

GRACE: Let me get this straight: 26-year-old mom to be, nine months pregnant Jessie Davis and her unborn baby girl, Chloe, they get the death penalty, but he doesn`t?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paige Looney was just so drunk last week that she let her 13-month-old son wander out of an open sliding glass door, fall into the family pool, drown.

GRACE: With a nanny cam that she had just installed herself a few hours before, a mom gets a shock of a lifetime when she tunes in from work and sees her child being manhandled.

How did a 23-year-old surfer end up miles from his hotel, wrapped in a blanket and dead?

First of all, our condolences out to you, and our heartfelt prayers are with you. I can`t even imagine.

What a nightmare. What it must be like for a mom.


GRACE: I know a 15-year-old little lady that could use this, a cake of soap.


GRACE: Let`s stop and remember Army Corporal Christopher Nelson, 22, Rochester, Washington, killed, Iraq, on a second tour. Lost his life handing out toys to Iraqi children.

Loved football, riding ATVs, frosted sugar cookies and entertaining little kids.

Leaves behind grieving parents John (ph) and Pamela, four brothers, three sisters. Christopher Nelson, American hero.

Thank you to our guests, but most of all to you for inviting us into your homes.

A special good night tonight from the New York control room. Good night Liz, Bret. Who else do I see? Rosie (ph)? Good night everybody. I`ll see you tomorrow night, 8 p.m. sharp Eastern, and until then, good night, friends.