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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

President Obama Wraps Up Trip to Latin America; Off-Duty Police Officer Mocks Murder Victim

Aired April 19, 2009 - 08:00   ET

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


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And from the CNN Center, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING for this April the 19th. It's 8:00 o'clock at our CNN headquarters here in Atlanta, Georgia. It's 7:00 a.m. in Memphis, Tennessee.

Good morning to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, good morning, everybody. Thanks for being with us today.

All right. So, after days of handshakes with unlikely leaders, President Obama is ending his four-day trip to Latin America today. He has attempted to warm up relationships between the U.S., Cuba and Venezuela, and he is set to give closing remarks in Trinidad and Tobago just before noon Eastern.

Plus, have you seen this story out of Erie, Pennsylvania? It is sparking a whole lot of outrage. And basically, this is the premise: An off-duty police officer is caught on camera at a bar mocking a man he watched dies.

HOLMES: Yes. Now, we're going to show you a piece of this now. We're going to show you more of it later. But we want to warn you, pretty graphic stuff here -- some graphic language and also, just disturbing to hear these things being talked about. Again, this is the police officer in a bar joking as he discussed this murder investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COUSINS II, POLICE OFFICER: The mom arrives on the scene. They (BLEEP) lift the (BLEEP) bag off the face and she says, "Yes, that's him, that's my son!"

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: OK. He is talking about the mother of that murder victim there and her reaction on the scene. He goes on. This is like an eight-minute clip here.

But the video is sparking a lot of outrage and protest as well. The NAACP is now involved. And coming up in about 10 minutes, the president of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, he will be here with us live, along with the mother of that murder victim. Yvette Jennings, she will be here. Yvette Jennings will be here with us as well.

NGUYEN: You really want to hear what she has to say about this.

As we mention, though, the Summit of the Americas comes to a close today. Leaders from 34 nations are there, but two in particular are stealing the spotlight: President Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Suzanne Malveaux joins us now live from Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

And, Suzanne, tell us what President Chavez has proposed to the U.S. -- because it seems like, perhaps, we may be on the road to normalizing some relationship there?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, you certainly would think so. The last 48 hours or so, what we've heard from Hugo Chavez is that he wants to put an ambassador from Venezuela back into the United States. He also wants to have a U.S. ambassador in his country. This was something that was cut off in September.

So, U.S. officials that I talked to say that they are optimistic, they are encouraged by this. But they don't want to play it up too much. But I want to show you, really, what we think is the anatomy of the detente.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Call it the diplomatic book club. Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, reaches out to President Obama with a handshake and a paperback. When asked a little later, Obama responds in good humor.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: You know, I thought it was one of Chavez's books. I was going to give him one of mind.

MALVEAUX: In front of a clamoring international press, the exchange stole the show. The book, "The Open Veins of Latin America" documents centuries of American and European exploitation of the region.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is the president going to read this new book?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it's in Spanish, so that might be a tad on the difficult side.

MALVEAUX: And U.S. officials say it will take much more than pleasantries to change relations.

JEFFREY DAVIDOW, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: A shake and smile does not constitute a new relationship. We have a strange relationship with Venezuela. I think what we have to do is rebuild the civil relationship.

MALVEAUX: Chavez, who once called President Bush "the devil" has been one of the U.S.' fiercest critics, most notably on Cuba. Like Chavez, many Latin American leaders here are openly pressing Mr. Obama to bring Cuba back into the fold, and normalize relations and lift the trade embargo.

Mr. Obama said he was encouraged by Cuban President Raul Castro's offer for talks, but also wanted to see action on democratic reforms.

OBAMA: I think we're making progress at the summit.

MALVEAUX: U.S. officials caution that decades of tension with the communist regime will take a good deal of time to change.

MIKE HAMMER, SPOKESMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: We'll just have to see what happens in the next few days and weeks in terms of how the Castro government decides to proceed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: So, Betty, White House officials I spoke with -- really, they see some encouraging signs from both Cuba and Venezuela, but also, you can tell they are being a bit cautious about this. One of them says, "Look, you know, you have someone like Hugo Chavez. He is known to be kind of blustery, if you will, but maybe in a couple of weeks, he'll start to criticize President Obama."

So, they're just going to see how this all unfolds. But they do think that, at least the last 48 hours has really laid out a good beginning -- Betty?

NGUYEN: No doubt. All right. So, as we look at the summit, what are the broader implications of what's come out of it?

MALVEAUX: Well, certainly one of the things that is very telling as one of the president's top economic advisers, Larry Summers, has been traveling with the president, he's here. We had a chance to talk to him.

And what Summers told us is that the top priority among all of the Latin American leaders hands down is that the U.S. economy succeed, because they have such a large impact on the exports of these countries, whether or not they can employ their own people, that that is something that many of them, hands down, are unified about. They want to make sure that President Obama is taking care of the U.S. economy because it spills over into their countries and how they are doing economically as well, Betty.

NGUYEN: Yes, it seems no matter where he goes, it is all about the economy.

Suzanne Malveaux joining us live -- thank you, Suzanne.

Well, before President Obama leaves Trinidad and Tobago, he is holding a press conference. CNN will bring that to you live at 11:45 Eastern this morning.

HOLMES: And after that press conference, the president will start the journey back home. He'll leave Trinidad and Tobago at 1:00 o'clock Eastern this afternoon. Air Force One is scheduled to touch at home five hours later. Tomorrow, the president holds his first full cabinet meeting. He'll ask the department heads for ideas on where to trim their budgets. Also, Congress is coming back to work this week after a two- week long spring break.

We turn now to some weather. And we have been seeing some nasty stuff. Look at some of this video here. This is from Oklahoma. A line of storms and strong winds hit Oklahoma overnight. This is in the northeastern part of the state.

The National Weather Service is confirming that a tornado did, in fact, touch down in Langston, Oklahoma. That's not too far outside of Oklahoma City. Four homes we know of leveled. Also, a horse trailer was turned upside down.

No reports of injuries from this tornado, but you can see the damage that it did leave behind.

NGUYEN: And we are watching it very closely because it is springtime and a lot of times, Reynolds Wolf, these types of storms just pop up out of the middle of nowhere.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's about the change of seasons. And right now, we can see another round of rough weather. We certainly had it yesterday in parts of Galveston.

We have an iReport that we are going to share with you. Here it is. We're going to take the video full and show what we had in this part of the world. Yesterday, take a look at this yesterday.

This is sent in from John Hayman, where in Galveston -- you'll remember just last year, they dealt with just devastation of Ike. Well, the city, for the most part, has been cleaned up, but there still are areas with very poor drainage. And you see how it played out there just yesterday. Chances are -- the problem is that we could see that play out once again in parts of Louisiana, perhaps into Alabama, and maybe even into Tennessee.

As we go back to the weather computer, at least the magic wall -- let me show you what we have here. On a national perspective, the big thing we're dealing with is that same storm system. The area of low pressure is actually moving across parts of Arkansas as we speak, but the heaviest rainfall right now is actually forming just near New Orleans. So, downtown in the French Quarter, you're dealing with the heavy scattered showers right now and a few thunderstorms. Nothing severe at this point, but these are going to be big rainmakers.

Now, as we take a look at the next 30 seconds or so, something else I want to show you, is we're going to see that chance of severe weather extend not just into parts of Louisiana, but into Alabama and, as I mentioned, back into Tennessee -- namely Nashville. You have a good chance of storms, especially in the afternoon hours, let's say, between 3:00 and 6:00.

There's the shot for you. That is WSMV in Nashville. Cloudy skies for you this morning. Possibly, you're going to see some rain later on. Guys, keep those umbrellas handy, you'll need them. And for the eastern seaboard, you probably going to need them when you head back to work into Monday.

That is a look at your forecast. Again, very scary times, especially in terms of that rough weather. It does happen, it always seems this time of year -- back to you.

NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Reynolds.

HOLMES: Thanks, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet, guys.

NGUYEN: Checking in shortly.

In the meantime, though, we really have a heartbreaking story out of Texas to tell you about. Five children are dead after the car they were in veered off the road and it was swept into a flooded creek. The children were ages one, three, four, six and seven. Now, the driver and another person did escape and police say that driver lost control when he tried to answer a cell phone. But they say alcohol and the weather may have also played a role.

HOLMES: Before the September 11th attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing was the deadliest terror attack on American soil. That was 14 years ago today. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombed the Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, hundreds of others were injured.

A life picture we want to show you now from Oklahoma City, where the residents there, government officials, and also, many, many others, will be taking part in ceremonies marking the 14th anniversary of that attack. We'll have more from the services coming up at 8:30 Eastern this morning.

NGUYEN: Well, you know, one of those stories that you just might have to hear for yourself to actually believe it. I want you to listen to this police officer talking about a man who was just shot to death.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COUSINS: I swear to God it looked like (BLEEP) out of a movie. It was (BLEEP) perfect. Right in the middle of the (BLEEP) forehead. Right in between the (BLEEP) eye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Yes. This is a story we're going to be getting to in a moment. But you heard him say it was perfect, talking about the gunshot wound to a man's head. That's just the beginning of that video. The murder victim's mother, also the NAACP president, are going to be joining us live -- next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: "One less drug dealer to deal with, cool." That is a direct quote from a police officer, an off-duty officer, who was caught on video talking about a murder victim. The cop's name is James Cousins II. He is from the Erie, Pennsylvania, Police Department.

His video is now on YouTube. When I saw "his video," this is video that was shot in a bar watching him talk to other patrons. Now we're not sure where the video came from, who actually shot it, but it made its way onto YouTube. Seven minutes and 40-plus second, you see this officer mocking people he has encountered on the job.

We're going to play just a bit here for you. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COUSINS II, OFF-DUTY ERIE, PA, POLICE OFFICER: I swear to God it looked like (expletive deleted) out of a movie. It was (expletive deleted) perfect. Right in the middle of the (expletive deleted) forehead. Right between the (expletive deleted) eyes. He's (expletive deleted) bleeding, not really so much from the (expletive deleted) (INAUDIBLE), really, out of the back.

(LAUGHTER)

COUSINS: And he's laying on the ground, and his (expletive deleted) leg is doing one of these.

(LAUGHTER)

COUSINS: Did you see it? Let me show you again. He's twitching like a (expletive deleted) chicken.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Some disturbing stuff. Again, it goes for about eight minutes, that video. Again, not sure, no one has come forward and claimed that they have shot this video. We don't know who shot it but it did end up on YouTube.

We have also gotten in contact with the Erie Police Department. We were asking them for them to bring someone on with us or to give us some official comment. We got no comment from them but we do know an internal investigation is -- Internal Affairs investigation is going on there at the police department.

Now, I do want to bring in Ben Jealous, who is the head of the NAACP. And also, Yvette Jennings, who is the mother of the murder victim that the officer is talking about.

Thank you both for being here. Sorry it's under these circumstances. Ms. Jennings first. Condolences to you in the lost of your son. But, still, after that pain, what was your reaction when you first saw this video?

YVETTE JENNINGS, MOTHER OF RONDALE JENNINGS, MURDER VICTIM: Well, I was shocked and disturbed. I was distraught. And it just added a whole lot more pain on top of what I was already feeling. HOLMES: Were you familiar with this officer from the investigation? Do you remember him specifically?

JENNINGS: No.

HOLMES: You don't remember him?

JENNINGS: No.

HOLMES: All right. Ben, let me bring you in here.

BENJAMIN TODD JEALOUS, PRES. & CEO, NAACP: Sure.

HOLMES: When you saw it, I assume your reaction might have been something simpler, but for different reasons?

JEALOUS: Yes, that's right. You know, this cop really should resign. You know? His job is to inspire trust and to make the people of Erie feel that they will be protected, that their cases will be taken seriously.

We have a man here that we know is a father, that we know is a son. We do not know that he is a drug dealer. There is no one who has come forward to say that he is a drug dealer.

But there are officers going on stereotypes. And he is being profane not just with his, language but in his actions, not just towards the family but toward the entire community.

HOLMES: Ms. Jennings, how does this make you feel about -- and I'm not sure about how the investigation is going or has been going into your son's death. But I guess how much does this shake your confidence about your dealings with the police and how seriously they took and how hard they might have tried to find the killer?

JENNINGS: Well, first, I applaud the work that they did, because they did find his killer. And this officer's actions like added insult to injury. And it makes the whole department look bad, but I know the whole department isn't. But he represents the Erie Police Department.

HOLMES: Do you want to see this officer? He is right now on leave without -- with pay, I should say. But do you -- would you like to, Ms. Jennings, see him fired or some other action taken against him?

JENNINGS: He needs to be held accountable, greatly accountable. He is not someone who I feel confident to be able to protect and serve me or my family.

HOLMES: And, Ben, do you think -- you say you think he should resign. If he doesn't, do you think he should be fired for -- a lot of people will say he just happened to be caught on camera this time, but behind the scenes who knows what this officer or anybody would be saying behind the scenes? He just happened to be caught on camera saying it. This is off time. He appeared to be, at least, intoxicated.

JEALOUS: This guy was drunk doing a stand-up routine at a public bar. Caught on tape doesn't really describe what happens to somebody who decides to do a stand-up routine at a pub.

But the -- you know, we have grave concerns about the chief, because he has not treated this officer in the way that one would expect. We would expect that he would suspended without pay. We would suspect that they would call on somebody from the outside to investigate. That's why we've gone to the DOJ and we have asked for a pattern and practice investigation to be launched.

HOLMES: And I want to make sure I clear this point up, that he was suspended by the Erie Department with pay. He was suspended by another department -- a local department he worked part-time for, he was suspended by them without pay. So a couple of different jobs there that he does have.

Well, Ben, is this a matter of education and whether he is fired or not, does something still broader need to be done? Some kind of a sensitivity training to help bridge that gap and that divides so oftentimes we see between the community and officers when, of course, a ton -- most, the overwhelming majority are good officers out there doing a good job, but things like this continue to hurt sometimes, the community's relationship with the police?

JEALOUS: Yes, that's right. There needs to be a real conversation and healing in the local community. They also have to look seriously into the behavior of the department from the top down.

You know, in 1973, there was a discrimination lawsuit against the EPD. And, at that time, there were three black cops on the force. Thirty-six years later, there are four. In 2005, they lost a lawsuit for discriminating against women.

And to have the chief come out -- you know, what is odd here is that the chief in the wrong town did the right thing but the chief in Erie did the wrong thing. And that is why we need more than just an internal review.

HOLMES: All right. Well, Ms. Jennings, again, thank you for being here and sharing. I'm sorry we had to bring you on and meet under these circumstances. But, ma'am, thank you for being here. We will continue to follow this story and your son's story.

And, Ben, of course, we will be checking in with you again. And tomorrow as well, you all are expected to take some action. So thank you both.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

JEALOUS: Thank you, T.J.

HOLMES: And we do want to tell our viewers, again, we did reach out to the Erie Police Department and got a "no comment" from them. There is an internal investigation going on right now into that video which is still up on YouTube, a video that we are not sure who shot it, no one has come forward to claim they have shot that video, but it has made its way on to YouTube. So more to come on that story. But disturbing stuff, eight minutes of that.

NGUYEN: Yes, no doubt. And his mom, I mean, that's like she said, insult to injury just to see that and play it again and again. And this investigation is continuing. So that is just going to keep it in the forefront of minds.

HOLMES: And do need to know, we are expecting possibly some kind of action, some kind of decision to come from that investigation tomorrow, may hear something from them possibly as early as tomorrow so we will continue to keep an eye on it.

NGUYEN: Good stuff there.

OK. Well, here's a question for you. Is there a war within the Republican Party? It is, if you ask Senator John McCain's daughter. "STATE OF THE UNION's" John King weighs in on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: All right. A lot on the table today. American journalist faces jail time in Iran. Venezuela's president appears to want a new relationship with Washington.

HOLMES: Yes.

NGUYEN: And some Republicans want to change the party's opposition to gay marriage. That's a lot.

HOLMES: That's a lot. So, who is going to tackle all of that stuff? That's John King. You know? He is coming up at the top of the hour for "STATE OF THE UNION."

John, a lot to talk to you here about. But the only thing on people's minds right now is the handshake heard around the world -- and I mean, Chavez knows how to steal a show, does he not?

JOHN KING, "STATE OF THE UNION": He is a showman, without a doubt, whether you support him, think he is a detestable figure. Hugo Chavez is quite a showman and a performer on the world's stage and he has, several times now, managed to get himself into a photo opportunity with Barack Obama, the president of the United States.

And it's quite fascinating, because yes, Mr. Obama has said he wants to change the way diplomacy was done in the Bush administration but this is a man, Hugo Chavez, you see him there handing the president a book who has called the former president, George W. Bush, "the devil." So, there are some risks in this. The new, friendly face of the Obama administration is saying, "We're willing to talk as long as you prove that you won't just talk, that you'll actually do things that we believe are helpful and progressive."

But this is a fascinating moment, as we still are getting to know this new president, and we'll see -- this one has the new overtures from Cuba, quite an interesting time.

NGUYEN: Well, John, let's talk about that book for just a moment, because -- as you mentioned, you know, it's on Amazon's best- selling list. But it's more than just a gift. Wasn't Chavez sending a message with that particular book?

KING: Absolutely, Betty. The book is about the exploitation of Latin and South America by the United States, by other western powers over the years. And essentially, what Hugo Chavez is saying to the president is, you know, you are responsible for this. Your country is responsible for this.

And so, it is -- look, he's at a public event with other world leaders. Somebody hands him a book. You can't expect the president to push him away or throw the book back, but you will see critics saying, "Why are you making nice with this guy who has a socialist government, who, at times, can cut off the supply of oil?" Venezuela is a big oil producer and jack the price up a little bit, who has called our previous president "the devil," whether you support or didn't support George W. Bush, that's a pretty harsh term.

So, there's no doubt President Obama will face some criticism for just interacting with this guy. The big question though is: What happens from a policy standpoint in the weeks and months ahead? Is this really just photo ops and just laughing and good cheer, and good nature or is it an opening to have some productive business? We'll see.

HOLMES: And you talked about, he's not going to throw the book back in his face, but that would have been good video as well, I imagine, if he had done that. But, it almost like, you talk about it being risky, but have you -- you talk about Cuba, a softening their of relations, you're talking about Venezuela, you can take in Iran now, you can take in North Korea -- all of these issues.

A lot of people are wondering how he would deal with some of these hard-line governments. Well, the way he is dealing them, yes, a different face -- but what are some of those greater risks if, you know, God forbid, North Korea goes and does something else wacky, if Venezuela -- if Chavez does? Will those critics start to ramp up and say, "See, we told you, you can't go about it this way, you got to be -- you got to use more sticks than carrots"?

KING: One of those smiles, T.J., could be turned into evidence. Again, the critics would say evidence of some weakness, that being nice opens the door to them saying, "See, I have a buddy in the United States. Now, I can up and do my thing," sort of counterproductive to the region, counterproductive to the U.S. interests.

So, there is a risk there. A big test, you mentioned Iran, you know, an American citizen, someone with dual citizenship, now being jailed there -- a journalist. The Iranian government says she is a spy. And President Obama has said, "Let's talk. Let's try to talk and resolve so many differences over the nuclear program, over meddling in Iraq. Let's sit down and try to have a productive relationship and I'm willing to talk at the highest level if you prove to me we can have a dialogue." Well, here's a test right here for this president.

And we've talked about all the domestic issues in the recent weeks that he is dealing with. You just mentioned, North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela, and there are more -- a very busy international plate as well, a lot of challenges.

NGUYEN: And you know, coming up on your show, I know the Republican Party has been very busy as well. Some say there's a war within. You are going to be delving into that?

KING: We certainly will be. The "war within" you're mentioning is Meghan McCain and Steve Schmidt, the Republican operative who ran Meghan McCain's father's presidential campaign. Both in the past 72 hours or so have said, "Look, the Republican Party needs to grow its coalition. And one way to do that is -- don't be so reliant on social conservatives and it's time maybe we should talk about supporting same-sex marriage."

And that, of course, is controversial. George W. Bush was firmly against it, wanted a constitutional amendment, in fact. John McCain, the Republican nominee, did not support the position his campaign manager and his daughter have now taken.

So, there's a lot of soul-searching in the Republican Party. They are thumped in 2006, thumped in 2008. Here's another issue for them to debate as we go forward into 2010.

NGUYEN: Boy, it's going to be a good show today, lots of really interesting topics, as always. John King and "STATE OF THE UNION" is coming up at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

KING: Thank you, guys.

NGUYEN: Thanks for that. See you soon.

HOLMES: See you shortly.

NGUYEN: In the meantime, though, there is some global outrage to tell you about. Some reaction this morning to an eight-year prison sentence Iranian officials gave to an American journalist. We heard John King talked about that just moments ago.

HOLMES: Yes. And we're going to have the reporter's father. You're going to be talking to him live this hour. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Hello again and welcome back to the CNN SUNDAY MORNING. I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Yes, good morning everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

All right, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she is deeply disappointed that Iran has convicted an American journalist of spying and sentenced her to eight years in prison. Roxana Saberi's trial was closed to the public so it's not clear what type of evidence may have been brought against her.

And Clinton says she's going to press to get details on the court's decision. And Saberi's father well, he says he is going to appeal and in fact Reza Saberi is on the phone with us now from Tehran.

And the first thing I want to ask you, Mr. Saberi, is how is your daughter doing? We are getting word that she has lost a lot of weight. She's been in confinement for three months now and there is a possibility that she may go on a hunger strike?

REZA SABERI, FATHER OF JAILED JOURNALIST (via telephone): Yes, she's very weak and frail physically. And if she goes on a hunger strike, of course, it will be very dangerous for her health. So we have, so far, encouraged her not to go on hunger strike.

NGUYEN: Yes. I know that you're really working on an appeal. We'll get to that in just a moment. But help us understand exactly how all of this played out because the trial was closed to the public. There are very few details, but back in the beginning of this your daughter's press credentials they were revoked in 2006.

So how was she able to file reports for National Public Radio and other media outlets without those credentials?

SABERI: I think they -- she was just preparing some short stories from the news which were also -- already out in the newspaper and media here in Iran. So she was not getting anything firsthand to NPR or other media.

NGUYEN: Any idea how this went from not having the proper press credentials to being charged with espionage?

SABERI: Yes, I don't know how they went from that one, but probably they have this in mind from the beginning but they could not make up their mind -- I don't know.

NGUYEN: She was sentenced to 8-years.

SABERI: On the beginning they started yes -- they start with like buying wine, a bottle of wine then work without permit and...

NGUYEN: So she starred out telling you that she was picked up for buying a bottle of wine and then it turned in she didn't have the proper press credentials and then all of a sudden she is charged with espionage.

SABERI: Yes.

NGUYEN: Any indication of how this appeal might play out? Because we know that the trial was closed and you're concerned that she may have been coerced into making some damaging statements?

SABERI: Yes, the trial, of course, was not a real trial. Very quick and it didn't take even one hour and Roxana, herself, didn't even know there was a trial. Fifteen minutes into the trial, she still didn't know that there was a trial and then they say this is it, this is the trial.

So, yes, this was just a mock trial, it's not a real trial, and somehow they sentenced her for eight years prison for something that there is no evidence for it.

NGUYEN: Fifteen minutes and it was over. All right, Reza Saberi, we do really appreciate your time today. Best of luck with the appeal. Obviously, we'll continue to follow this very closely. Thank you.

SABERI: Thank you very much.

HOLMES: We turn to Johannesburg now where today, Nelson Mandela made a surprise appearance in an election rally with South Africa's ruling party at the African National Congress. This was the party's last big event before the voters hit the polls on Wednesday.

Crowds went wild when they saw Mandela who is now 90 years old. Analysts say his presence will likely give a boost to his party which is facing harsh criticism for its handling of crime, poverty and AIDS.

Well, in Oklahoma City this morning people there, remembering that attack that forever changed that city and this country. It was 14 years ago today when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombed the Murrah Federal Building; 168 people killed in that attack and hundreds injured.

Here, live pictures from Oklahoma City where memorial service will take place later this morning. Residents, government officials, and many others will be taking part in the ceremonies there marking the anniversary. Services will also include a moment of silence that will last 168 seconds to honor those killed in the bombing.

NGUYEN: Well today, we're also remembering the 13 people who were killed in the massacre at Columbine High School. The tenth anniversary of that shooting is tomorrow. It's kind of hard to believe it's been ten years.

HOLMES: It's been ten years, each time we see these anniversaries, I mean, even the Oklahoma City...

NGUYEN: Yes.

HOLMES: ...you think it was 14 years ago.

NGUYEN: Wow.

HOLMES: But yes, we have another anniversary here, a sad one too commemorate. Now Adel Arakawa from our CNN affiliate KUSA shows us that the families who lost their loved ones still trying to heal from Columbine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAWN ANNA, LAUREN TOWNSEND'S MOTHER: I mean the emotions have been all over the place. But always Lauren is there. Always, I know that people will probably say it has been ten years, how can you still be thinking of her every day or why are you not over it? Or, you know, why? Why do you still cry?

But, you know, it's -- yes, you know, you still think of her every day. She is my daughter, you know? I love her. Why would you ask me not to love her every day or think of her every day?

But I likened it to if I had lost an arm and if I would get up every day and try to go about my day without the use of an arm. You know even if I had a prosthetic to strap on, I would still be having to function in a new normal. And I think that's what all of us have learned to do and that is what all of us go about our lives doing, always, always thinking of the one that we've lost.

ADEL ARAKAWA, CNN AFFILIATE KUSA REPORTER (voice over): That's the common thread among the families. When you think of Columbine, don't think of the ugly images. Think of those who died with sadness, but peace.

PHYLLIS VELASQUEZ, KYLE VELASQUEZ'S MOTHER: I want them to think of the names, but not just because they were names of victims. They were so much more than that. They were our loved ones. They were beautiful children and a wonderful father and teacher. They had so much to offer.

And their lives were cut short, way too soon. And I think that when we reflect back on that, we need to reflect on their lives and what they accomplished to that date and the gifts that they left us here. Not just their families. But I think they touched the entire world.

ARAKAWA: The Columbine Memorial stands as a symbol of those lives lost. It also stands as a reminder of what's important in life.

AL VELASQUEZ, KYLE VELASQUEZ'S FATHER: I think what I would really like is for people to take this day and to show the love for their kids just on this date, because it was such a tragedy, you know, to have your child go to school one day and not come back anymore.

But if it would be a day where they could, you know, spend time with them, set aside their busy day, whatever. But just spend time with their kids and know how lucky you are that you still have your kids.

BRUCE BECK, LAUREN TOWNSEND'S FATHER: We lost 12 wonderful, you know, growing expanding souls that were going to make a difference in so many lives and that is the most important thing.

ANNA: But I will never forget to -- coming back down the street after we had seen Lauren for the first time. It had been five days, it took us five days to be able to see her. But we came down the street and the flag was at half-mast.

And I grew up in the military and the flag at half mast means that a President had passed away. That's when I was growing up, that's what a flag meant flying at half-mast. And this is such a personal tragedy and it was such a personal loss.

I saw that flag at half-mast and I turned to Beck and said, "Oh, my gosh, something horrible has happened." And we had been so wrapped up in our own lives that, you know, we hadn't read papers. I turned to him and said, "What's happened?" And he said, "Dawn, that's Columbine."

I was shocked that it impacted the nation. To me, it was our community, it was our house, it was our family. It was our community, and to see the flag that way and to realize that it had struck not only our home, but the nation and the world, it was just -- I couldn't speak.

ARAKAWA: They will never forget and they hope you won't either.

P. VELASQUEZ: It's still a very beautiful world. It's still wondrous and a nice journey. And I think that if we can continue that journey with joy and hope, that we will come to the end of our days and look back and say, yes, it was peaceful, it was joyous, and we had hope.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Well it's time for some "Extra Credit" and that means Carl Azuz. Carl is here with us every Sunday.

CARL AZUZ, CNNSTUDENTNEWS.COM: Yes, every Sunday but Easter.

NGUYEN: Except holidays.

AZUZ: Credit in church.

HOLMES: Yes that helps. But again, I think our viewers are up on it now, what student news is and what you do...

AZUZ: Yes.

HOLMES: ...but give them the quick, the standard like we have to do it just to remind them.

AZUZ: Sure thing, ten minutes commercial-free news for the classroom. Our target audience is middle and high school students but we have adults. We have an audience now in Japan watching.

HOLMES: Right.

AZUZ: So anyone can check out CNNstudentnews.com and see all the free stuff we have to offer.

HOLMES: All right.

NGUYEN: And when it comes to student news, I mean, what's the big thing that they're talking about these days?

AZUZ: Everything. A lot of the stuff that you guys are covering, we're covering as well.

HOLMES: Yes.

AZUZ: This past week, we focused on -- we were talking about a controversy involving Citifield but we broadened that a little bit. I mean, you hear Citifield, you've heard of Invesco Field, we have Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center.

A lot of times more and more you're hearing corporations or stadiums I should say, named after corporations.

HOLMES: Yes.

AZUZ: So we asked students does this affect -- does this matter to you when you go to see a game? Does it make any difference? We have blog comments from CNNstudentnews.com.

One, from Amy who says: "If you name a stadium after a big business or rich industry, it goes to show what the institution really values: money."

NGUYEN: That's insightful.

AZUZ: Yes, it really is and then, one from Ryan who says though on the other side: "All this is, is advertising. If paying to get their name on the stadium helps businesses get a few extra bucks, then I say have at it."

So in a lot of different situations, we have a lot of controversy on CNN student news and controversial stories, we asked their opinions. And we do find them oftentimes divided right down the middle.

HOLMES: And you have so many students and you're reaching new audience but still students have a tendency -- young people -- all of us sometimes, have a short attention span.

NGUYEN: Oh yes.

AZUZ: Oh yes.

HOLMES: How do you keep their attention?

AZUZ: Well, you know -- and we are covering a lot of the big stories that you guys do. We have covered President Obama's trip to the Summit of the Americas. We covered the Tea Parties.

What we do, is like to show students -- the news can be a little bit on the fun side. For example, if you're getting tired of your daily rat race...

HOLMES: Right.

AZUZ: ...well, check out the running of the rodents I should say at Spaulding, University. The theme this year was celebrattee, they featured such stars as Hannah Rattana, Borat, we have my favorite, Rat King Cole and it would have been a race to the finish if a lot of them had actually finished.

But this sort of story...

NGUYEN: It looks like chaos -- controlled chaos.

AZUZ: It is, like many classrooms in America. But what we're showing is, hey, look. We do cover the heavy stuff but the news isn't all political. It's not all hard news, sometimes it's a lot of the fun goofy stuff that people do and as you can see from the costumes and the rats.

NGUYEN: Pretty entertaining rats.

HOLMES: Well, yes, it is.

NGUYEN: All right, so I know you've got to get your shout-out really quickly.

HOLMES: You've got to get them in.

AZUZ: Oh, yes, oh yes. Every chance we get. We want to give a couple shout-outs this morning. One, to Coach Reidel's World History classes, in Spring, Texas. Thank you, guys, for getting up on Sunday morning to check out CNN Sunday Morning.

And one to Ms. Hogan's classes, in Tallahassee, Florida. We thank you for watching and we will be doing more shout-outs on our show, CNN Student News this week.

NGUYEN: Yes, if you want to shout-out, send us a picture as well of the classroom.

HOLMES: Right.

NGUYEN: We'd like to see who you are.

AZUZ: Sure, send it to our Facebook site -- I know you each have Facebook sites...

NGUYEN: Yes.

HOLMES: Yes.

AZUZ: ...we have the official CNN Student News Facebook site -- always looking forward to pictures, comments, you name it.

NGUYEN: That would be great. All right...

HOLMES: Appreciate it all ways, Carl.

AZUZ: Thank so much.

NGUYEN: Thank you.

HOLMES: Good to see you, my man.

AZUZ: All right.

NGUYEN: When it comes to a recession, sometimes not even a prayer can protect your money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. H. BEECHER HICKS, PASTOR METROPOLITAN BAPTIST CHURCH: The church is also a business institution that is affected by the financial realities that surround it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Hard times. The clergy in our "Faces of Faith."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: A lot of people, of course, this morning getting ready to head out for church. But some sanctuaries will be empty. The dreams of building a new house of worship on hold; stopped by this ruthless economy. No green means no green light to build. So just how is this affecting the faithful?

Here now is CNN's Jim Acosta in our "Faces of Faith."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Metropolitan Baptist is more than a megachurch; it's a Washington institution. Founded by freed slaves in the 19th century, the church once played host to President Clinton. With all its success, Metropolitan secured financing for a new bigger church in the suburbs three years ago.

REV. HICKS: We're ready to go on that as soon as we can get the available finance.

ACOSTA: Today, the $30 million, 3,000-seat sanctuary sits unfinished. The church has run out of money to complete construction.

It must be frustrating to not be able to move into your new home.

REV. HICKS: Well...

ACOSTA: I'm just thinking like a homeowner. A homeowner would feel that way.

REV. HICKS: Absolutely. And if I had my way, I probably would have written this scenario a little bit differently.

ACOSTA: Pastor H. Beecher Hicks pastor says sky-rocketing construction costs during the housing boom sent the project over- budget. Then the recession hit and collections plummeted forcing Pastor Hicks to seek out new lenders.

REV. HICKS: The church is also a business institution that is affected by the financial realities that surround it. ACOSTA: Bishop Joe Marcus Johnson knows that all too well. When collections dwindled at St. Andrew's Anglican Church on Maryland's eastern shore, Bishop Johnson could no longer pay the mortgage.

His picturesque church was foreclosed on last year by the local bank. The bishop, like many troubled homeowners across the country, is packing up.

BISHOP JOE MARCUS JOHNSON, ST. ANDREW'S ANGLICAN CHURCH: When St. Andrews purchased this historic campus in the middle of 2005, of course, everything was going swimmingly for the whole country. The word economic -- the phrase economic failure simply did not yet exist.

ACOSTA: Recent study of church finances found 28 percent of congregations across the country falling short at collection time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we've had over the last decade is lots of expansion and lots of church building. Yes, it's true, some churches have overextended themselves.

ACOSTA: Metropolitan Baptist is in a tough spot. It's already moved out of its old church and is holding worship services at this D.C. school.

REV. HICKS: We believe that victory is only a moment away.

ACOSTA: Where the faithful pray for divine intervention.

(on camera) One financial institution that specializes in church lending puts it this way; before 2007, it had never foreclosed on a church, now it's foreclosed on seven, with more, likely this year.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: Senator John McCain's daughter says there is a war within the Republican Party so we're going to look into what all the fighting is about.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: All right. Hello. Good morning.

We're going to talk about this for just a second -- same-sex marriage. An issue that gays and the GOP don't see eye-to-eye on and that can be problem if you're gay and in the GOP. Like the Log Cabin Republicans.

HOLMES: Yes. The group is holding a conference in Washington this weekend. And they've invited some names that might seem to surprise some. One of those is Meghan McCain, of course, the daughter of John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I feel too many Republicans want to cling to the past successes. There are those who think we can win the White House and Congress back by being more conservatives. Worse, there are those who think we can win by changing nothing at all about what our party has become.

I think we're just seeing a war between -- I think we're seeing a war brewing in the Republican Party right now. But it's not between us and the Democrats. It's not between us and the liberals. It's between the future and the past. I believe most people are ready to move on to that future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: As Dana Bash reports, Meghan McCain is not the only party faithful saying the GOP needs to change its stance on same-sex marriage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A surprising challenge from the man who ran John McCain's presidential campaign. Republicans should drop their opposition to same-sex marriage.

STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER JOHN MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It cannot be argued that marriage between people of the same sex is un-American or threatens the rights of others. And our great Republican party should always be on the side of expanding freedom and equal rights.

BASH: Steve Schmidt told this gathering of gay Republicans that allowing same-sex marriage is in line with a conservative credo to live and let live and keep government out of your life. And he argued raw politics. The GOP must be more open if it wants to reverse an alarming trend; a shrinking coalition, especially among younger and more accepting voters.

SCHMIDT: People are turned off in large measure by what they see as intolerance coming out of the party.

BASH: Schmidt has personal experience, a gay sister. And knows his is a minority view; even McCain, the candidate he worked for, ran against same-sex marriage.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: One man and one woman. That's my definition of marriage.

BASH: But the group Schmidt addressed the Log Cabin Republicans, hope other party leaders now realize that election losses prove that GOP catered too much to social conservatives.

CHARLES MORAN, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: It's great that the Republican Party is going through the soul-searching moment right now because Republicans are thinking outside of a box.

BASH: These days, their grassroots organization is reaching out to sympathetic Republicans in states debating same-sex marriage initiatives. And this week, another Republican group, GOProud, formed to push a prouder agenda advocating traditional conservative issues like low taxes and small government on behalf of gays.

JIMMY LASALVIA, GOPROUD: Well, there is a misconception that if you're gay, you're liberal. You know, just like there is a misconception if you're conservative, you're a bigot, you know?

BASH (on camera): Nearly 3 in 10 self-identified gays and Republicans voted Republican in the last election but still GOP operative Steve Schmidt admits most Republican leaders won't drop their opposition to same-sex marriage any time soon. But he also says he thinks that will change as people get to know gay couples and committed relationships, as he has with his own sister.

Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And coming up next hour, John King "STATE OF THE UNION."

But first, a quick look at the headlines.

NGUYEN: Now in the news, President Obama is ending his four-day trip to Latin America and he may have succeeded in warming up U.S. relations with Cuba and Venezuela. He's going to make some remarks before leaving the summit of the Americas and, of course, CNN is going to bring that to you live when it happens.

It's going to take place at 11:45 a.m. right here on CNN. Stay tuned because "STATE OF THE UNION" with John King starts now.