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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Why Wasn't He Stopped?; White House "Stonewalling"; Amanda Knox's Murder Trial

Aired December 3, 2009 - 23:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We're on the trail of the guy who killed four cops. He's dead. But how did he get out on bail? We want answers so this doesn't happen again. This killer was paroled from Arkansas, facing fresh charges in Washington.

Tonight we've got new evidence that the state of Arkansas which freed this guy in the first place made it impossible for Washington to hold him, in effect, letting him go free again this time to kill. We're "Keeping them Honest."

Also tonight, "Digging Deeper" the White House crashers, snubbing a Congressional committee today. Apparently, the only real invitation they've ever rejected. But the White House also snubbed Congress, refusing to let its social secretary appear. Is the Obama administration now using the same playbook the Bush administration used when it came to accountability?

And later, "Crime & Punishment" Amanda Knox, the American accused of murder in Italy, a verdict could come tomorrow. Tonight, the evidence: is she a killer or the victim of an anti-American court? We'll put the facts before you so can you decide for yourselves.

But "First Up" tonight: "Keeping them Honest." Why was Maurice Clemmons, the man who killed four cops out on the streets and not locked up behind bars? He was facing felony charges in Washington, three times managed to make bail. Three times went free even though the charges against him were serious and his past criminal record was sobering.

By now you probably know that Mike Huckabee granted him clemency back in Arkansas nine years ago. Well, Clemmons moved to Washington while still on parole from Arkansas. He was arrested this spring on assault and child rape charges.

Well, tonight we're learning how the system broke down and why a war of words has now broken out between Washington and Arkansas.

Joe Johns has been retracing the steps across two states, numerous bureaucracies, looking at piles of documents inside an organization you've probably never heard of, an outfit set up specifically to keep us all safe.

Joe, what did you learn? JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, there was supposed to be a safety net. As you know, felons with a violent past like Maurice Clemmons were supposed to be kept off the streets if they violated parole. But e-mails, letters, legal documents obtained by CNN showed gaping holes that allowed Clemmons to murder four police officers in Washington.

Here is the chronology: May 9th of this year, Clemmons was arrest for throwing rocks and assaulting police officers, failed to show up for court the next day. That failure to appear in court meant he was a fugitive.

The state of Arkansas found out about it, on May 28th issued this nationwide fugitive warrant for parole violations. Would have allowed any court anywhere in the country to hold Clemmons with no bail.

July 1st, Clemmons finally does show up for that court appearance and then officers charge him with second degree rape along with everything else. Clemmons was in custody that could have been the end of the story but something happened.

Just 15 days later, Arkansas rescinded its nationwide fugitive warrant. What that means is that suddenly Maurice Clemmons is eligible for bail in the state of Washington which, remember, is where he was being held at the time.

That's what it all comes down to. Why did Arkansas rescind the fugitive warrant and, thus, break the safety net?

COOPER: So why would they rescind a fugitive warrant for a guy who had parole violations? I mean, isn't the whole idea of parole violations, you lock the guy up if he gets in trouble again?

JOHNS: Well, it's a legal system. We know Clemmons had lawyers in Arkansas and Washington State pushing hard for his release. They argued that the charges against him in Washington State weren't solid. And that seemed to fuel the disagreements between the states.

Washington State was very skeptical when Arkansas dropped the fugitive warrant. A Washington State official wrote in an e-mail to Arkansas, quote, "I'm concerned you have no problem releasing your offender into our community based on his behavior." But Arkansas, on the other hand, seemed to buy into Clemmons' attorneys' arguments that charges against Clemmons in Washington State might not be so solid, writing, "The fugitive warrant was rescinded. When the pending charges are adjudicated we will reconsider the case."

COOPER: Well, we've also heard something about Arkansas's failing to check a box on a form that could have kept Clemmons in jail. Was that a mistake or was that on purpose?

JOHNS: On purpose as far as we can tell, in some ways freedom for Maurice Clemmons came down to a pair of check the box form sent to Washington State from Arkansas. The first form said a warrant had been issued, "keep us apprised of offender's availability for re- takings." This sort of means Arkansas saying, "No bail, hold him for us."

Then there's a second form, it's identical from the first form sent from Arkansas to Washington. This comes in October. This time the officials check a different box. Indicating he's not a fugitive, no longer a fugitive from Arkansas.

So under Washington State law, a judge was required to set bail for Clemmons and we all know Clemmons then posted bail and five days later, he was out and killed four police officers.

COOPER: So Arkansas made a mistake?

JOHNS: To be clear, there's no evidence that I've seen in any of these documents indicating a mistake was made. You read the e-mails of correspondents, it's pretty clear this is the way they wanted it. We just don't know why yet.

COOPER: All right. We got some additional new information about Maurice Clemmons' attempt to escape after shooting the four officers; charges against an alleged accomplice. A guy named Darcus D. Allen is accused of helping Clemmons flee. That's him.

Clemmons and Allen did time together apparently. And like Clemmons, Allen has received parole despite not being a model prisoner. Unlike Clemmons, he at least served the minimum required for parole and did not receive clemency.

Joining us now is Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County, Washington Sheriff's Department. Detective Troyer, who do you blame for this? I mean Arkansas -- do you believe they're telling the truth?

ED TROYER, SPOKESMAN, PIERCE COUNTY, SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Well, no, they're not telling the truth. And we have the paperwork documentation to back it up. And we're very disappointed that they didn't just stand up and say, "We made a mistake. We learned from the mistake, so let's move on."

I mean, it really dishonors our four dead police officers out here that they're doing cover-ups and lying and not been able to back up what they're telling us.

Well, we can. We have all the paperwork. We've done everything. The local media has really dug into it hard. And the whole thing is just really, really sad because on the back end of this we have four dead police officers and we have people back there that are sending us felons that we don't want out here.

And even though we catch them and tell them we have them, we do everything to keep them incarcerated here and tell them we have them instead of taking them back they quash the warrants.

COOPER: It's confusing for a lot of folks, including myself. So what do you believe that Arkansas is covering up?

TROYER: Well, I think they're not covering up anything intentionally. I think what they're doing is now that this guy's killed four police officers they've gone and entered warrants after we've had people in custody. We've had -- we've proven that. They've gone and said they did certain things when they didn't. They're saying that, "Well, we reissued the warrant." But it didn't matter, because it was too late at that point.

So what they're trying to do is cover up by doing what they were supposed to do before. And we've seen the time stamps and the documentation, they're doing it afterwards. And unfortunately, people are getting on listening to some bad advice and not really doing their home work on the documentation to prove that they were wrong in what they said.

COOPER: And could this happen again? I mean the whole point of going over this, I mean, because Clemmons is dead.

TROYER: Well, you know what?

COOPER: But I mean, could this happen again?

TROYER: Oh, it already happened. It's the second time for us. We had Daniel Travers (ph) out here who killed the young couple that came out of Massachusetts. I mean, it's almost like Pierce County.

I'm sure if we took a hard look around the state of Washington, there is a dumping ground for other people's felons. And per our Sheriff Paul Pastor, we're done doing that. We're going to do everything we can to make sure that these guys don't come from out of state with these heinous criminal records and hurt our people, hurt our citizens and hurt our law enforcement officers.

COOPER: Detective Troyer, stay right there. I've got to take a quick break. I want to talk to you more as well as with our legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Let us know what you think of this. Join the live chat underway at AC360.com.

When we come back, we'll talk to Jeff and Mr. Troyer about how the parole system really works or fails as the case may be. You probably don't spend a lot of time thinking about it, but maybe we all should.

And later, is the White House stonewalling? They didn't let their social secretary testify today about those party crashers and the party crashers didn't show up either. Now they're facing a subpoena. And we're "Keeping them Honest."

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Back now, "Keeping them Honest." New information on the table about how this man, Maurice Clemmons, ended up on the street free to kill. The seemingly incomprehensible blame game starting to clear up. The evidence reported moments ago by Joe Johns that the state of Arkansas took steps that made it impossible for authorities in Washington to hold Clemmons.

All of this, though, no matter who is to blame, putting a harsh spotlight on the criminal justice system and how it breaks down across state lines.

Back now with Pierce County sheriff spokesman, Ed Troyer and also with us senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, you were saying, you were listening to what Ed Troyer was saying. You're basically saying that the system penalizes states who had their act together, like Washington.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's right. This system is a mess. It's incredibly complicated. There is this organization called the Interstate Compact for Exchanging Parolees. We have a look at the chart that they put out...

COOPER: Oh.

TOOBIN: ... about how they shift around prisoners. I mean look at how complicated even their own chart is and in real life it works even worse than that.

But the thing that's so perverse about it is that basically the way the system works is state A, let's say Arkansas, asks state B, can you take our parolee? And if state B, Washington, is well organized, they say, sure. And so what happens is well-organized states, they accept these parolees because parolees should be allowed to move around. It's a mobile country.

But the problem is the well-run states that accept these parolees get a lot of them. And the poorly-run states don't get the parolees. So Washington is stuck with these dangerous parolees from all over the country.

COOPER: Jeff -- I mean Ed, I understand that last year Washington State received over 2,500 parolees while you guys only transferred about 1,000 nationwide. So you're saying you've become a dumping ground?

TROYER: Well, absolutely. We have become a dumping ground because we have our act together. And our governor has stood up and said enough of this. Christine Gregoire has said that she's going to take care of it and do something. And we're going to -- in law enforcement, we're going to hold her to it. And we're going to hold our politicians to make sure that happens.

I mean, it's not just the officers that were killed. But we've had citizens killed, young couples. And we've had violent crime against people out here from people out of state. It's just happening way too many times.

COOPER: Ed, now there's this guy Darcus Allen who's been accused with helping Clemmons evade the police. He's an ex-con from Arkansas, also wanted in his home state. What do we know about him? TROYER: Well, he was a getaway driver. And he, from what we know, he did -- was supposed to be serving two counts of murder one in Arkansas. He did nine years of a 30 or 40-year sentence. When we look at these guys' ages and we look at their sentences, you do the math, you know something's wrong.

I mean way at the very, very beginning. They go through the judicial system. They get sentenced to all these years in prison and here they are young men living out here committing crime.

COOPER: So, Jeff, I mean, when you look at what Arkansas did, is this just, in your mind, a bureaucratic mistake? Something intentional they did?

TOOBIN: I think it's a bureaucratic mistake. I think it's an effort to sort of move people through the system. I don't think they intentionally wanted a dangerous criminal on the street. But they wanted to sort of push the paper, get him off their books. And that's what they did briefly which made him eligible for bail which is what he got and that's when he committed his crime.

Another factor here that's interesting is that Clemmons, in his very checkered career, worked in the bail bonds business for a while. It's a complicated system. It's in many ways a corrupt system. We have a system in most states where bail bondsmen, not government officials, decides who gets released.

That's perverse. These are -- you know, one of the bail bonds here -- companies -- is called Jail Sucks Bail Bonds.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: Do you think that's a company that should be deciding who goes free or not? I mean that's a real problem in the system. Four states have gotten rid of bail bonds altogether. A lot more should.

COOPER: Ed Troyer, I appreciate...

TROYER: Well, Anderson...

COOPER: Well, go ahead, Ed.

TROYER: Well, in this particular case, in the jail bond, when they got the $150,000 bond, the family raised $40,000 cash and they came up back with the arrest. The bonds company is still worried about him and it's the bonds company that made him put the ankle bracelet on. It wasn't ordered by the court.

So the bonds company is the one that put the ankle bracelet on him that we found when we did one of our tactical operations when we were searching for him that have been cut off.

COOPER: So he just cut off the ankle bracelet?

TROYER: Yes, he just cut off the ankle bracelet. If it would have been imposed by the court, and it wasn't there we would have been notified right away that was cut off through our system. And automatically we got a notification and send officers there. But it wasn't tied in to the police or courts. It's just that the bond company is afraid that there is a good possibility this guy is going somewhere. And that's why the ankle bracelet was on him.

COOPER: And...

TOOBIN: This is why bail companies -- bail bonds companies should not be in the law enforcement business. Law enforcement should be in the law enforcement business.

COOPER: All right, again, we're following this just trying to figure out exactly why it happened so that we can make sure it doesn't happen again.

Ed Troyer, I appreciate you joining us tonight. We'll continue to follow it. Jeff Toobin as well.

TROYER: Thank you, we appreciate it. Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead tonight, the White House party crash and the question of a double standard. Are Republican lawmakers investigating this scandal more interested in grilling the White House social secretary than talking to the pair of publicity seekers who actually did the crashing?

Or is the White House stonewalling by not allowing the social secretary to go? They claim they were going to be a transparent White House. Are they now going back on that? You can decide for yourself ahead.

And from Italy, the Amanda Knox murder trial approaching a verdict. We have the facts so can you judge for yourself if she's a killer or a victim of unfair justice.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: I want to update with you what happened today with those reality show wannabes who crashed last week's White House state dinner. This isn't just a story about the extent two publicity loving people went to social climb. It's now become a story about security of the White House and whether the Obama administration which talked about transparency is now trying to hide something.

Today the couple in question snubbed the House Homeland Security Committee. They were asked to testify but the Salahis skipped the hearing, so did the White House social secretary, Desiree Rogers (ph), who -- the woman who oversaw the guest list.

Now the director of Secret Service Mark Sullivan did show up. He was grilled about the security breach and admitted his staff wasn't even aware of the lapse until the next day. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), D.C.: How did you discover that the Salahis had entered? Did you discover through their Facebook or was it your own discovery that some interlopers had entered?

MARK SULLIVAN, DIRECTOR, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: We did not discover that on our own. We were advised of it the following day.

NORTON: And advised by whom, sir?

SULLIVAN: The Facebook.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: By Facebook. These are the pictures the Salahis posted on their Facebook page; their desire to be seen is basically the reason they got caught. The Committee chairman said he's asked his staff to prepare subpoenas for the Salahis and said, if they continue to deny his request, they could be found in contempt of Congress.

Meantime, the committee's ranking Republican accused the White House of stonewalling by blocking Ms. Rogers, the social secretary, from testifying about her role in the breach and their justification they're using for blocking her is one they used to criticize.

Ed Henry tonight is "Keeping them Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even though they were invited this time, the Salahis didn't show up, leaving the Secret Service to take the hit.

SULLIVAN: This is our fault and our fault alone. There's no other people to blame here.

HENRY: Actually, Republicans think blame for the gate-crashing fiasco also lies with White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, an old Chicago intimate of the President and First Lady who also ignored the committee's invitation to testify.

REP. CHARLES DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We always expect the Secret Service to take a bullet for the president. We don't expect the Secret Service to take a bullet for the president's staff.

HENRY: Rogers' refusal to testify is raising eyebrows especially because she's serving a president who said his administration would be different. No secrets, no special protection, full transparency. It's a pledge he made throughout his campaign and repeated on his second day in office.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known.

HENRY: Some want to know about Rogers' role in the state dinner foul-up.

DESIREE ROGERS, SOCIAL SECRETARY: We are very excited.

HENRY: Especially since she broke with past practice by not having an aide at the front gate to check names on the list. But no one is sure why.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: On this issue, where we're talking about the security of the President of the United States, the person who made that decision is not going to be here. I think it's wrong. I think its stonewalling.

HENRY: Rogers refused to testify about the mishap on constitutional grounds.

ROBERT GIBBS, PRESS SECRETARY: Based on separation of powers, staff here don't go to testify in front of Congress.

HENRY: Legal experts have never heard of a social secretary being protected like this. But Republicans C. Boyden Gray, former White House Counsel in the first Bush administration, defended the White House by saying Rogers should be shielded.

C. BOYDEN GRAY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I do not think that the system of our government works if the Congress is in the office of the White House asking questions every day. And so the system only works if the separation of power is observed.

HENRY: But this is a president who promised to shake up the system, rather than looking out for friends from Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now some new information tonight. Three Secret Service officers have been placed on administrative leave over this incident. Officials say they're likely to be fired. Meanwhile, the president has given his first comments on this whole controversy to "USA Today" saying clearly the system did not work but he still has full confidence in the Secret Service to protect not only him but his wife and his children as well -- Anderson.

COOPER: But Ed, I mean, so three Secret Service guys are going to take the hit. What about Desiree Rogers, I mean, is the one who is supposedly ran this list. She apparently knew about these people. And she herself attended the party as opposed to working.

HENRY: This White House doesn't seem to want to let her face any scrutiny. On Monday I first started asking Robert Gibbs about this at the daily briefing whether White House aides bore some responsibility. He essentially said, no, it really lied with the Secret Service. And they had no plans to change anything in terms of who was at the gate and whether the social secretary should be there.

Then yesterday the White House changed their policy and said, you know what? We're going back to the old policy that previous two administrations have and a social secretary aide will be at the gate for future state dinners. That seemed to be an acknowledgment that something went wrong last time. But at least for now, Desiree Rogers is not really being scrutinized here -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, the Secret Service guys taking the hit. All right, Ed, I appreciate the reporting.

Let's "Dig Deeper" with senior political analyst and former presidential adviser, David Gergen. David testified before Congress during the White Water investigation when he was a member of President Clinton's staff.

So the White House is saying, all right, separation of powers, that's why she can't testify. Do you buy that?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALSYT: Not really.

COOPER: That is usually used for extremely serious things, not a social secretary.

GERGEN: Not really. But let me say a couple of things preliminary. I think people ought to get off her back personally on a couple of counts.

First of all, the one thing this White House has done well is they've had a ton of people come through that White House, children and various people from poor neighborhoods.

COOPER: And she's in charge of that.

GERGEN: She's done a very good job with that. People ought to appreciate that.

Secondly, it is not her job to protect the White House for security purposes. That is the Secret Service's job. They did have a lapse here. And they're willing to take the hit.

Having said all that, I think the White House will be far better off to say, of course Desiree Rogers is willing to sit down with members of Congress, with member of staff up there. Yes, we have executive privilege. We have the right to say no.

But many presidents who've said, ok, I reserve the right to say no but I'm going to go ahead and voluntarily send my people up there. It happens regularly.

COOPER: If the president does, I mean, open himself up to criticism of a double standard. Here's what he said when he was running about the reason the Bush administration refused to let people testify, Karl Rove in particular in the firing of the U.S. Attorneys. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There's been a tendency on the part of this administration to try to hide behind executive privilege every time there's something a little shaky that's taking place. And I think, you know, the administration would be best served by coming clean on this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I mean -- and that was talking about firing of U.S. attorneys. This is the social secretary.

GERGEN: Absolutely. I mean the president is full of contradiction. That is clear. The president ought to go back to where his original position and have her go there and testify or just meet with the staff.

And Anderson, I can't tell you how often Reagan and the Iran- contra scandal, he could have invoked executive privilege. He told every single aide, go out and testify voluntarily. He said let's take every piece of paper in the White House that's been sent to me and give it to -- give voluntarily.

COOPER: And you yourself testified on the White Water.

GERGEN: I was working for President Clinton. And a ton of us went up to testify voluntarily on the White Water matter. And I can tell you, there is an hypocrisy here because the Democrats were pushing Harriet Myers, you know, George W. Bush's staff legal counsel to come up there.

And they said there's no privilege. They have to come testify. Come on, guys, what's good for one is good for the other. That's a double standard.

COOPER: Yes.

GERGEN: But Desiree Rogers is a good person. They ought to get her out of this and just let her go and talk.

COOPER: All right, it seems like very possibly she will end up talking in one way.

GERGEN: It's a good thing. She'll acquit herself well.

COOPER: All right, David Gergen, I appreciate it. Thanks. "Keeping them Honest."

This story just keeps getting weirder.

The Washington Post" is now reporting that Mrs. Salahi apparently faked her way on to the Washington Redskins alumni cheerleading squad.

Erica, I don't know if you heard this. She apparently performed with the cheerleaders three times. TMZ has found this photo taken in 2005, when Salahi took part in a halftime event at FedEx Field. No, she wasn't on -- she was never a cheerleader. She was never on the Redskins cheerleading team but...

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Which makes it tough to be an alumni. But somehow... COOPER: Somehow she got herself in to actually perform. And she was apparently such a bad performer, the other cheerleaders started to notice.

The president of the Cheerleaders Alumni Association told "The Washington Post," Salahi was listed on their 1991 roster under her maiden name Missy Holt based on her quote, "misrepresentation to us."

Salahi has apparently been about paying dues since 2005 and last performed with the squad in September at a Redskins-St. Louis Rams game.

HILL: Wow.

COOPER: She apparently showed up at rehearsals with a camera crew in tow as part of the whole "Real Housewives of DC" audition.

HILL: Oh, yes.

COOPER: Yes. Apparently some of the actual cheerleaders had doubts about Salahi when she couldn't perform some of the basic routines.

HILL: Yes, apparently didn't remember things that she should have known.

COOPER: Right, and the key basic routine.

HILL: Had she's been a Redskin cheerleader.

COOPER: But it wasn't until the White House since last week that they decided to check her credentials. The squad is none too happy about being duped. There's one cheerleader put it and I quote, "It's really a privilege to wear the burgundy and gold. So I'm resentful for her to get out there and think she can just shake her pompoms is upsetting."

HILL: Amen.

COOPER: And David Gergen agrees.

HILL: And David Gergen agrees, and you know, one of the women who was on the squad for a number of years and then choreographed it for a number of years...

COOPER: Right.

HILL: ... said that the production company asked them to switch things around when they were filming this...

COOPER: Right.

HILL: ... as a possible thing and asked them to put her in the front. And she said, no, because she was too tall and she couldn't dance.

GERGEN: Anderson, can hardly keep a straight face with this story.

COOPER: I think you can't shake your pompoms. It's not easy. It's not an easy thing.

HILL: Girl thing, yes. Pompoms, no.

COOPER: Exactly. All right, ahead on 360, "Crime & Punishment" serious stuff. The trial of an American exchange student accused of murder in Italy and it's nearing its end; could get a verdict tomorrow. The latest in this case that has ignited charges of anti- Americanism.

Plus, a terrifying evening for the daughter of a U.S. senator; she was carjacked while driving home. Wait until you find out how they caught the suspect.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Just ahead, a very close call for the daughter of Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. She was the victim of a carjacking last night, just blocks from her family's home. Suspects are in custody. We'll tell what you led police to them.

First, Erica Hill has a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

HILL: Anderson, in Somalia's capital a suicide bombing during a medical school graduation ceremony caught on a home video camera. We want to warn you though, before we show you these images, they are graphic.

Nineteen people were killed in the attack. Somali officials say three government ministers were among the dead. The male suicide bomber was wearing women's clothing. The Somali president blames the Islamist group Al Shabab (ph) for the attack.

Tough day for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at his senate confirmation hearing for a second term. While some of his supporters were even calling for limiting the Fed's powers due to its past failures of oversight. As for his critics, they were blunt, some promising to block his appointment by any means necessary.

Meantime the senate today, casting its first votes on that sweeping health care overhaul backing a plan which would make it easier for women to get preventative screenings including mammograms. The amendment would eliminate insurance co-pays and deductibles for the preventative test. Democrats also backed more than $400 billion in Medicare cuts.

And the first family taking part tonight in their first lighting of the national Christmas tree; it's a 40-foot Colorado spruce planted in 1978. Inside the White House, the holiday decorations are also on display; an 18 and half foot Douglas Fur which you may recall it was delivered last week is decorated with hundreds of ornaments. There's actually ornaments that have been recycled from previous administrations and then they were sent out to community groups to refurbish. The garland is also recycled and those lights, why, yes, they are the (INAUDIBLE) little jelly bee balls Anderson you're right.

My personal favorite, well, really the personal favorite of the writers: a 390-pound gingerbread house...

COOPER: Wow.

HILL: It's made with honey from the White House bees. It's covered in white chocolate. And on it there's a tiny version of the Obama's dog, Bo (INAUDIBLE) and a replica of the First Lady's garden.

COOPER: Wow. Is that little chandelier edible?

HILL: I believe it is but the chef -- I think, I was reading something yesterday -- the chef said that really it's always tough to try to get somebody to eat it. Nobody ever wants to.

COOPER: All right, yes. Well...

HILL: It just look too pretty.

COOPER: Yes. I would eat it.

HILL: Ok.

COOPER: All right. Coming up, the serious stuff.

This trial in Italy that we have been following; the devil with an angel's face, that's what the Italian media is calling an American murder suspect, Amanda Knox. Next on the program, what she told the court today on what could be the eve of her verdict in the case.

And later, are your kids sexting, sending their girlfriends or boyfriends explicit photos? This may be a story you don't really want to hear. But you should know what your kids maybe up to on their mobile devices. We've got some surprising eye-opening new numbers about just how many kids are sexting these days.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment", Amanda Knox on trial for murder in Italy. The young American woman may know her fate as early as tomorrow. There may be a verdict. She's accused of a brutal crime: cutting the throat of her roommate in a sexually charged attack.

For months, the jury was given two very different portraits of the defendant. Is she a killer, however, or the victim of anti- American sentiment?

Erica Hill reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HILL (voice-over): All eyes on Amanda Knox today as she entered the courtroom to declare her innocence one last time.

Speaking in Italian, the 22-year-old American told jurors she's not what the media has dubbed her, the "Devil with an Angel's Face."

"I fear to lose myself, to have the mask of assassin force upon me." Knox said, "I fear to be defined by someone I am not."

Earlier, her Italian ex-boyfriend also addressed the court asking for his life back and saying he hopes the real killer confesses.

Their testimony on the eve of jury deliberations marking perhaps the most dramatic moment in this year-long trial. It is a sensational case. And it's no mystery why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not think we would be here today if this young woman Amanda Knox was not American, was not young, was not pretty.

AMANDA KNOX, ACCUSED OF MURDER: Are you taking movies right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

HILL: Knox, a foreign exchange student from Washington State and her former lover are accused of killing her roommate, 21-year-old Meredith Kercher in 2007. Prosecutors say the British woman was the victim of a sadistic sex game with Knox taunting her and her ex- boyfriend and another man Rudy Guede, sexually assaulting her.

While the victim was being held down, the prosecution contends, Knox cut her neck with a kitchen knife. Prosecutors say Knox hated Kercher and admitted to being in the flat when the murder took place.

Knox says Kercher was her friend and she was not there when the young woman was killed.

KNOX: They called me a stupid liar. And they said that I was trying to protect someone.

HILL: The third suspect Guede was tried separately, convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He is appealing. Prosecutors say there is a mountain of evidence against Knox, including a knife they say was the murder weapon and has Knox's DNA on it.

Her defense attorneys have tried to tear holes into the case, arguing the evidence has been tainted and contaminated by shoddy police work. Knox's parents believe authorities made their daughter a scapegoat and are confident the jury agrees.

CURT KNOX, AMANDA KNOX'S FATHER: She knows she had nothing to do with this. And, you know, they just can't put an innocent person behind bars.

EDDA MELLAS, AMANDA KNOX'S MOTHER: There's no way that with no evidence they could convict her of a crime she didn't commit. HILL: If convicted, Knox could spend the rest of her life in prison. And her fate could be decided within days.

C. KNOX: We have to try to do our best to put on a face that it is going to work out.

MELLAS: And we keep telling her that that it's taking way longer than we ever expected but she will get out of there. And she's innocent. And they are not going to put an innocent 20-year-old in jail for 30 years. It's just not going to happen.

HILL: Erica Hill, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, let's see what happens tomorrow.

Let's "Dig Deeper" in the case. Joining us from Los Angeles legal analyst, Lisa Bloom; in Washington, Doug Preston, a journalist and author of the book "The Monster of Florence"; and on the phone from Perugia, Italy, Barbie Latza Nadeau, who is covering the Knox trial for "Newsweek" as well as the "Daily Beast."

Douglas, you think Amanda Knox has been railroaded. You've been very critical of the prosecution in Italy. In fact, the prosecutor I think has threatened to arrest you for interfering in the case if you return to Italy. How are you so sure that Amanda Knox had nothing to do with this murder?

DOUGLAS PRESTON, AUTHOR, "MONSTER OF FLORENCE": Well, when you examine the evidence and there is a mountain of evidence out there, you see that it's all bogus. I'm not saying some of the evidence is bogus or there's a misinterpretation of it. This evidence is manufactured. It's bogus. The science used for those DNA studies is completely -- its pseudo science. It verges on fraudulent. There's no evidence that she was involved in this crime.

COOPER: Barbie, I know you disagree. You say the trial was justified. At the very least there was enough evidence to prosecute Amanda Knox, correct?

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU, CONTRIBUTOR, DAILY BEAST (via telephone): Yes. No, I think there is definitely enough evidence to prosecute her. You know, the question really is that Rudy Guede the man who's already been convicted of this crime. His conviction is based on the same scientific evidence tested in the same laboratories that Amanda Knox's evidence is being tested in.

So it works for Guede but it doesn't for Amanda Knox. I think you have to judge it all basically on the same scale. And because trial -- trials go on because there is a reason to believe that she may have been involved. And I think we have to wait and see tomorrow if that evidence is sound enough to convict her or if it's not.

COOPER: Lisa, do you buy the prosecution's story that some sort of sex games led to this killing? Does this add up? LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they were never clear as to what these supposed sex games were until the very end of this trial when now, they come up with this whole theory of sexual taunting. There's no evidence to support. That nobody ever said in this trial that Amanda actually did that. And when you talk about taunting, you're talking about something that there is no DNA evidence, of course, to support.

Look, here's how I approach this case. The prosecution's theory is preposterous. It's that this young college girl participated or even was the ringleader in the rape and murder of her peer. That's extremely unusual for a young female to do. But it's possible.

So let's look at the physical evidence. There's very little physical evidence to connect Amanda Knox to this crime. There's no evidence connecting her to the crime scene itself. There is her DNA on the knife which the prosecution experts said couldn't even say for a certainty that that was the murder weapon. And there is her DNA in the house because she was house mates and lived there.

But the whole theory doesn't make a lot of sense to me. There isn't sufficient DNA where there would be in this brutal kind of crime.

COOPER: So...

BLOOM: And the bottom line for me is what do you think this unknown intruder came in, raped and murdered her and he's already been convicted for it or this young girl was the ringleader? It just doesn't hold a lot of water to me.

COOPER: So Barbie, what evidence do you point to as being legitimate, that at least to bring it to trial?

NADEAU: Well, I think primarily the fact that she originally confessed to being at the crime scene and she accused another man of the crime. I think that alone justifies the trial. I think, you know, that Rudy Guede was convicted not as a lone assailant but as one of three people who committed the crime.

I think a lot of people don't understand that. If Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are found not guilty, then Rudy Guede will almost automatically win his appeal because his conviction is based on a three-person crime. It's a very complicated case.

You know, I think the jury's got a really tough job ahead of them tomorrow and it's going to be really difficult for them. And I think it's going to be difficult for the family of the victim Meredith Kercher, all of this. It's a complicated case in a complicated legal system.

COOPER: Doug, it's interesting. I mean, the way she's being portrayed in Italy in the press and among the people. I mean, she is being viewed as a spoiled man-hungry American with no remorse who literally did cartwheels during her interrogation. What did this trial reveal about who she really is? Or has it revealed anything about who she really is?

PRESTON: Well, in the absence of any real evidence, the prosecution's been coming up with all these stories about how she's a strange person. And it's all just fantasy.

I mean the chief prosecutor in this case, Giuliano Mignini, when I was a journalist working in Italy, called me in for an interrogation. And he accused me of being an accessory to murder. He accused me of being involved in satanic rights and a sect. And he charged me with perjury and obstruction of justice and suggested I leave the country.

It was absolutely fantastic. I had never been through an experience like that. And I think the same thing happened to Amanda Knox, only she was interrogated for 14 hours.

COOPER: Do you think she's going to be found guilty tomorrow?

PRESTON: I believe she will be. Although I thought her lawyers did a splendid job over the last few days of completely devastating the prosecution's case.

COOPER: Ok, very brief, Barbie, do you think she's going to be found guilty tomorrow?

NADEAU: I think really it's draw at this point. I think it could go either way, absolutely.

COOPER: All right, Lisa?

BLOOM: For the sake of justice, I hope that she is.

COOPER: Lisa Bloom, Barbie Latza Nadeau and Douglas Preston, I appreciate you all being here. Thank you very much.

Coming up, are your kids sexting, sharing explicit photos? It's more common that a lot of folks think; a surprising new research ahead.

And hand washing horrors: my personal account of one washing gone wrong. It's our "Shot" of the day, it's what on Regis this morning.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Erica was filling -- oh I should point out. Oh, I'm sorry, right before the break, I think Lisa Bloom misspoke. She said that she hoped -- basically she hopes that Amanda Knox is found not guilty. It made it sound like she was hoping Amanda Know was found guilty tomorrow. She wanted us make clear she believes that Amanda Knox is innocent of these charges. Hope she's found not guilty.

Erica, I was filling in for Regis Philbin on "Live with Regis and Kelly" which is always fun. And as always, the very funny and talented Kelly Ripa managed to make me laugh and share some embarrassing things. We're making it tonight's "Shot."

HILL: I love this moment.

COOPER: And me too, yes. Oh no, not really take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY RIPA, "REGIS & KELLY SHOW": Men have something they want to get off their chests, their shirts, ladies. Man cleavage is back in a big way.

Now, let me tell you something. I have been sporting man cleavage for years; beautiful hairless man cleavage.

COOPER: Like the chest of a 14-year-old boy.

RIPA: Oh, it's sexy, it is. I tell you, when they put together the new Menudo, they're going to call me first, I know it.

COOPER: Menudo.

RIPA: Anyway, Gelman has been sporting the man cleavage look for a long time.

GELMAN: Just slight, you know, no tie.

RIPA: You're a delicate man.

COOPER: So what is that? Two buttons unbuttoned?

GELMAN: Yes this and a lot of buttons. Sometimes it's a little more.

RIPA: Why don't you give us one more button just for today? One more button.

GELMAN: No, it wouldn't be right. It's morning.

RIPA: What about you, what's with the tie?

COOPER: Yes.

RIPA: Look at Adrian Brody. He's down to four buttons. And he's showing...

COOPER: He's Adrian Brody.

RIPA: ... his showing his navel in this picture. You can see the full skull and cross bone necklace in his man cleavage.

COOPER: You see, if I reveal any of my chest it's like a star burst because I'm so pale and white, it's like people get blinded.

RIPA: Well, we'll be the judge of that.

COOPER: Yes. So what else have you got?

RIPA: I got -- I got seven more minutes to get that shirt off. And by the way, America is waiting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: Is America still waiting?

COOPER: Oh yes, it's going to be a long time.

A few minutes later I told Kelly about my awkward encounter here at CNN with Howie Mandel. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The other day I was on CNN and there's, like, a green room at CNN where the guests congregate before going on. There's a really nice bathroom in the green room that's much better than the employee bathroom that we all have to use.

RIPA: Right.

COOPER: So occasionally I'll sneak in through the green room to use the green room bathroom.

RIPA: As you should. You are Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Yes, I think I've earned it. Ok, right, although now it's going to be locked to me. Because I just revealed it on television.

RIPA: Right.

COOPER: And this was my little secret at CNN.

RIPA: Your dirty little secret.

COOPER: So anyway, so I'm in the bathroom as I hear some people coming into the green room. So I think ok, so someone's guest is coming into the green room. So I better make sure that not only have I washed my hands but my hands are super dry. Because don't you hate it when you get out of the bathroom and your hands are a little bit wet and suddenly someone says oh, hi, nice to meet you.

RIPA: Right.

COOPER: And then, you're like, you just shake hands with them and then your hand is wet and then you have to explain...

RIPA: And he said, I just washed my hands.

COOPER: I just washed my hands.

RIPA: I'm a very clean person that is soap and water.

COOPER: Right, exactly.

RIPA: Yes.

COOPER: And then, forever their story is oh, yes I shook hands with Anderson Cooper and his hand was dripping wet.

RIPA: Clammy, right.

So I do this, I'm just sitting in there drying like a maniac. And I'm completely dry and I go outside and it's Howie Mandel...

RIPA: Oh my God.

COOPER: ... is in the green room.

RIPA: Fantastic.

COOPER: Right, nice guy. You know, I've met him briefly once. I love watching him on this show on his various stuff and I merely go to shake his hand. And now I remember, of course, Howie Mandel is a germphobic and doesn't like to be touched like he doesn't shake hands. He doesn't do that.

RIPA: Right.

COOPER: So then, I -- literally, my panic was in my eyes because I could see in his face, like -- he's germphobic.

RIPA: Yes.

COOPER: Anderson Cooper is just -- right, right, not only hands but the hand that just came out of the bathroom.

RIPA: Thank you.

COOPER: Like I see Howie Mandel like looking at me and I'm like -- and then I sort of retract my hand and then it's incredibly awkward...

RIPA: Yes.

COOPER: ... and then he goes for the fist-bump...

RIPA: Right.

COOPER: And then I like, I just convert my handshake into a fist bump.

RIPA: Right.

COOPER: As if I meant to do that. And so then, I'm like you know, as if it's some new kind of handshake. Exactly right. I'm such a loser. Right, such a total loser.

RIPA: Yes. COOPER: So anyway, I ended up fist bumping with Howie Mandel to make a long story short. And then, I just felt bad about it all day long...

RIPA: Yes

COOPER: ... and I tweeted about it and apparently he read the tweet.

RIPA: I read the tweet. I read your tweet and his tweet.

COOPER: I didn't know he tweeted back, see because I'm not on the Twitter.

RIPA: He did tweet back. He re-tweeted your tweet and then talked about being panic stricken when the fingers came at him. He saw fingers, fingers and you know your fingers are very white.

COOPER: Yes, that's true. It's like being...

RIPA: It's like five newts.

COOPER: Yes, yes, it's like the little newts moving toward you to shake hands with you, yes, it's like you open up a rock the little newt, it's little pale albino newts who jump out at you. That's what shaking hands with me is like.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: You know what I think that teaches us all?

COOPER: What?

HILL: It's not as easy being Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: That's right, well, imagine how it is being Howie Mandel. You know it's that much harder.

HILL: It's rough.

COOPER: We'll he's been a great sport about the whole thing and yes, he's recovered apparently.

Coming up next; E.T. phone Denver? The city may form an official extraterrestrial welcoming party. Think I'm kidding? Well, stick around.

Also a serious stuff about a senator's daughter being carjacked; we'll tell you why authorities were able to catch the suspects so quickly.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: All right, let's get a quick check of some other headlines, Erica Hill joins us with the "360 Bulletin" -- Erica. HILL: Anderson sexting it turns out is increasingly common; more than a quarter of young people have sent sexually explicit photos, videos and text messages by cell phone or online; that's according to Associated Press and TV poll.

In Washington, the daughter of Tennessee Senator Bob Corker's daughter's discovery -- recovering, that is, after being carjacked. The 22-year-old was dragged from her family's SUV and thrown to the ground. She rolled down her window when someone approached the vehicle. She was not seriously hurt.

As for the SUV, it was located in Maryland with the help of the vehicle's on-start tracking system and along with it, two suspects located who are now in custody.

And if space aliens are indeed out there, then you want to plan a trip to Denver. Next time voters will decide whether the state capital should form an extra-terrestrial affairs commission. Think of it as a welcoming committee for space aliens or whomever there may be out there.

It's the idea of a resident who actually gathered nearly 4,000 signatures to put it on the August ballot. I have but one little piece of advice.

COOPER: Yes.

HILL: If they have some sort of a meeting, they may want to have some Reese's pieces there. Remember?

COOPER: Yes, I do, I do. You're good, Erica Hill.

HILL: Well, I have my moments, Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: So that does it for "360." Thanks for watching. See you tomorrow night.

"LARRY KING" starts now.