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Waiting for Verdict in Amanda Knox Trial; Why Aren't Businesses Hiring?; 2010 World Cup

Aired December 4, 2009 - 13:59   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we are pushing forward now at the top of the hour. Finally, a jobless number that dipped. The latest figure showed the unemployment rate in the U.S. dropped a couple of percentage points in November to 10 percent. It's the best jobs report since December of 2007 when experts say the recession began. And it gave the president, some quote, "some modestly encouraging news" to talk about today during his listening tour on jobs. He visited a factory and a community college in the Allentown, Pennsylvania area.

And the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, in Belgium trying to galvanize support for the war in Afghanistan. NATO's promising to provide 7,000 more troops from at least 25 countries.

So, will she walk free or spend the rest of her life behind bars? American exchange student Amanda Knox sitting in an Italian jail cell right now while the jury decides whether she's guilty of slashing a roommate's throat during an alleged sex-fueled rampage. Knox made a plea -- a teary-eyed plea, rather -- to the jury yesterday, saying she didn't want a killer's mask forced upon her.

Here's Erica Hill.


ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (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?


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.


PHILLIPS: Well, she looks like a typical college kid, but when it comes to murder cases, looks can be deceiving, and the jury's still out on this one. Still, it seems everyone has an opinion about Amanda Knox.

Our Paula Newton is live in Perugia, Italy.

Paula, what are you hearing right now? And do you think that we'll get a verdict today?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We still believe we'll get a verdict. The jury's been deliberating for about eight hours now. The estimate was that they would go anywhere between 10 and 15. This could go right into the night, Kyra.

And, you know, what has been so fascinating for me is every time I've come here to cover this story, everyone believes she will be convicted, everyone in this town. I have met very few people who believe she will be acquitted. You can imagine how that makes Amanda Knox's family feel, considering they continually say she is absolutely innocent and that the prosecution has fabricated lies, fantasies, really, to make up this whole story -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: So, any word on the pending lawsuit against Amanda Knox's parents?

NEWTON: Well, one thing that's clear here, look, there are so many lawsuits flying around, Kyra, on one end and the other, whether she's guilty, whether she's pronounced not guilty. When this trial ends in the next few hours -- and we're only going to go a few more hours here, even if it goes into tomorrow -- there will be lawsuits, there are defamation cases. There will be appeals.

You will be hearing a lot more about this case, and I'll tell you why, Kyra. Those close to the prosecution have told me, we still don't know exactly what happened there.

They do believe Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend did kill Meredith Kercher, along with Rudy Guede, but they don't know exactly why, exactly how all the evidence isn't stacking up the way it would in a murder case that might be really a closed and shut case. There has been a whole cloak of mysteries surrounding this.

And get this, Kyra. We now have released to us -- they will not let us show it on the air, but the prosecution showed me today, frame by frame, what looked almost like a Lara Croft video that was a reenactment of what they believe happened that night.

In the middle of it, they put in some very graphic pictures of the autopsy of Meredith Kercher. This was shown to the jury for 23 minutes. And I can bet you, Kyra -- it had a great impact on me -- I'm sure they're going back to that entire scenario that I was privy to a few hours ago. And yet, even for me, believe me, it raised more questions than it did really answer anything about this case -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Paula Newton, we'll follow the case with you. Appreciate it.

Evidence speculation? Well, this international whodunit is sparking a legal firestorm among lawyers here in the U.S. Two experts told Anderson Cooper a lot of these clues just don't stack up.


DOUGLAS PRESTON, WRITER/JOURNALIST: 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 -- it's pseudoscience. It verges on fraudulence.

There's no evidence that she was involved in this crime.

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: 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 expert said -- couldn't even for certainty that that was the murder weapon. And there is her DNA in the house because she was housemates and lived there. But the whole theory doesn't make a lot of sense to me.


PHILLIPS: Well, a lot of speculation, as you can see, but no answers until the jury returns a verdict. So we'll just have to wait and see.

The White House jobs listening tour. President Obama in Allentown. Boy, times have changed since Billy Joel sang about it, wouldn't you say?


PHILLIPS: Well, here's something that didn't live up to expectations, and it's a good thing. The jobless rate down in November to 10 percent. It was 10.2 percent in October, the biggest one-month drop in three years.

The economy lost 11,000 jobs last month, well below any of the job losses posted over the last 23 months. And, of course, it's believed that the recession began about 23 months ago, in December of 2007.

President Obama had something good to talk about during his jobs listening tour today in Pennsylvania. He visited a community college and a factory in the Allentown area.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There may be gyrations in the months ahead. There are going to be some months where the reports are a little better, some months where the reports are worse. But the trend line right now is good, the direction is clear. And when you think about how this year began, even before I was sworn in, and we were losing 700,000 jobs a month -- a month -- today's report's a welcomed sign that there are better days ahead.


PHILLIPS: And, of course, yesterday the president kicked off a jobs summit to refocus attention on the economy. He called today's news modestly encouraging.

Things would be even more encouraging if businesses would hire. So why aren't they?

CNN's Allan Chernoff takes a look.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, getting companies to hire once again is definitely the hardest part of the economic recovery. If we think in terms of a domino effect, it's easy to see why. More than a year ago, our financial dominoes began collapsing.

First, the markets went down. When they went down, so did bank lending. Without money from the banks, business executives began worrying. And what they did? They laid plenty of people off to cut expenses.

Now, fortunately, over the past few months we have seen improvement. The financial markets certainly have been coming back up. Lending is improving, although it's not quite where we'd like it to be. The same for business confidence. Employment remains flat on its back.

And business executives are looking at these dominoes and they would like them to be more stable before they begin hiring. All the spending that's pushing this up? It's government spending, not private sector spending.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): Your federal tax dollars at work on the bridge expansion in Connecticut, a welcome contract for Waters Construction Company. But the road and bridge building firm is not hiring any new workers.

MARIO SMITH, PRESIDENT, WATERS CONSTRUCTION COMPANY: I can say that I am not laying off as much.

CHERNOFF: Waters Construction is laying off. Federal spending, Mario Smith says, simply hasn't accounted for that much new building, especially considering the cutbacks that strapped towns and states are making.

CHERNOFF (on camera): The economy seems to be picking up. Wouldn't that translate into more jobs for you?

SMITH: It might eventually. We can't turn construction on and off like a light switch.

CHERNOFF: Before hiring, business managers want to have confidence that they can increase revenue to cover the cost of adding people to the payroll. Right now though, many businesses don't yet have that confidence.

SMITH: We lost the bid by $7,000.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): A confidence buster. Smith has just lost a contract competition, even though, he says, his $3.5 million bid was rock bottom.

SMITH: Well, the profit margins are zero.

CHERNOFF (on camera): So there's no profit?

SMITH: No profit. The best we can hope for is to cover enough costs to pay for the overhead costs in the office.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Waters is operating so lean that job superintendent Mike Archer, a civil engineer, is doing double duty, allowing the company to avoid adding another worker to the payroll.

MIKE ARCHER, SUPERINTENDENT, WATERS CONSTRUCTION COMPANY: Even though I'm a superintendent, I'm out here working every day as part of our crew and then still doing the paperwork and the project management stuff.

CHERNOFF: Only the paving division of Waters is showing signs of a pickup thanks to some local projects. But until it wins more infrastructure spending contracts, Waters won't be hiring, keeping expenses low to help weather what it anticipates will be a tough winter.


CHERNOFF: And there are thousands of companies just like Waters Construction that are looking at these dominoes, fearing they could still come crashing down. And that's the reason more companies have not yet started hiring -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Allan Chernoff, thanks so much.

Well, are you feeling the fever, the World Cup fever? Or does it just kind of leave you cold?

Well, our Richard Roth -- that's right, Richard Roth heads to a bar in New York's East Village to take the temperature. We'll see how he's holding up.


PHILLIPS: And just in, The AFP reporting that two ferries have collided on the Nile in Egypt just north of Cairo. Early reports say that 50 people are missing.

That's all that we know right now, but we'll bring you more information as soon as we get it.


PHILLIPS: Well, is there some climate change sabotage at work? A leading scientist thinks so. He says that recent e-mail leaks may have been aimed and undermining this month's climate change summit in Copenhagen. The hackers stole documents from a research center in England and posted them on the Net. The scientist says that the hackers stole only documents that could help skeptics of global warming.

U.S. Marines and Afghan troops on the move right now in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. They have launched the first offensive against the Taliban since President Obama announced his troop surge. Their goal? Cut off Taliban communication routes and disrupt their supply lines.

In Pakistan, no end to a string of deadly attacks. Militants stormed a mosque in Rawalpindi, killing at least 36 people. Most of the victims were children. That mosque is near Pakistan's army headquarters itself, the scene of a previous terrorist attack.

Millions of eyes glued to their TV screens as the World Cup draw is announced. Well, the American team will play England in the opening game of next year's tournament in South Africa.

And CNN's Richard Roth with us now from Nevada Smiths bar in New York's East Village.

OK, explain the tuxedo. I have not ever seen you like this before, Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you never know. It's a big party atmosphere, and they're really partying here because the United States drew what many consider an easier group of countries to play against at the World Cup of soccer football in order to advance to later rounds.

With me are two huge United States fans. They have traveled all over the country and gone to Honduras and other places to root them on.

John Arisala (ph), what do you think of the United States' chances in South Africa following this draw of selection?

JOHN ARISALA (ph), FAN: I think it could have been worse. I think we have a good chance of getting out of the group. Algeria, Slovenia, I think we can beat them. But more important, we really want to beat England. They're cocky and they think that's an instant win for them. We beat them and move on.

ROTH: The U.S. beat them in 1950, a long time ago. They've have had a tough time beating better teams than Europe. ARISALA: Well, they're a perennial choker. So, I think if we show up on June 12th, we have a good chance of beating them, moving on, and hopefully playing Germany and beating them.

ROTH: All right. Hopefully the queen is not watching hearing that comment.

Cory Vesina (ph), what about this atmosphere? Why come here to a bar in the middle of the day when you could watch it on television?

CORY VESINA (ph), FAN: Yes. I mean, this is the best bar for soccer in New York City, Nevada Smiths. We hang out here for all MLS games, watching the USA, supporting them, home and away.

It's a great bar. It's a lot of fans. Everyone's singing, chanting. It's a great time.

ROTH: What did you feel when -- England, when the U.S. drew England?

VESINA: Well, we know we'll have an advantage getting gold. And hopefully we play a good game and we're able to win. But England is a tough team. All the games in the World Cup are tough, so we'll be prepared.

ROTH: What's the message to people who may be watching, who don't understand what the big deal is about soccer and football and the World Cup when they're used to the World Series and the Super Bowl?

ARISALA: Well, the World Series is very U.S.-centric. The World Cup is a global sport. It's the global sport.

And it's when 200 countries compete to get to the last (INAUDIBLE). You have billions of people watching. It really is an emotional thing for a lot of countries, and it's growing here in the U.S. I mean, it's going to keep growing.

ROTH: And you're going to South Africa?

ARISALA: I'm planning on it, yes.

ROTH: Do you have any tickets you can give me while we're in the crowd? Can I just take them from you?

ARISALA: No, you can't take them. I have tickets, but I'll sell them to you.

ROTH: All right.

VESINA: No, I won't. I'm joking.

ROTH: He's joking.

We're not joking. This is serious business. It's the World Cup coming up in June. The first game for the United States will be against England, which has its own problems and big tournaments.

Kyra, I'll see you in a bar on another day.

PHILLIPS: Yes, that's an understatement.

Now, Richard, are you a soccer fan?

ROTH: Oh, yes, a big one. I don't wear a tuxedo for nothing.

PHILLIPS: Well, that's what I figured. All right.

So who's your team? Is it the obvious?

ROTH: I'm sorry I couldn't hear you, Kyra. It's so hard when women approach me in the bar also. I'll get your number later. That's all I can tell you.


PHILLIPS: Such a handsome devil, you, Richard Roth. I'll buy you a beer.

All right. Well, Uncle Sam gives a regular paycheck to troops on the front lines, but the families back home are coming up way short. It's time to mobilize folks right here on the home front.


PHILLIPS: Well, those 30,000 extra U.S. troops headed to Afghanistan, they won't be fighting alone. U.S. allies are pledging 7,000 additional troops to fatten the rank, thanks in part to a push from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

She sat down with our John Roberts at NATO headquarters in Brussels today for an exclusive one-on-one, and she says she's encouraged by the support.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: These include decisions by governments to keep troops that they were about to remove, that they had sent only for the elections, plus new additional commitments. For example, today we heard from the Italians and the Poles and the Slovakians, and I'm probably forgetting some others, but we had some really positive new commitments.


PHILLIPS: Well, troops already on the ground in Afghanistan aren't waiting for reinforcements. There's no time like the present to launch Operation Cobra's Anger. That's the name, Cobra's Anger, the first offensive launched since President Obama announced the troop surge. Afghan troops are joining about 1,000 Marines for the tactical push in Helmand province. This might be the first of a ton of new offensives.

So, how are you feeling about it?

Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley live in Washington.

Candy, what are you hearing?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really interesting. We have a new poll out today, Kyra, and one of the things that I recall recently was when the president was on his way to Asia.

He went to Elmendorf, and he was talk to the troops there. And he said, " I won't send you to a war without the proper equipment," and that includes the backing of the American public.

So we have this new poll out, post his speech, when he announced that he was sending 30,000 new U.S. troops into Afghanistan, and look here. Sixty-two percent of Americans say they favor the president's plan to send 30,000 more U.S. troops. That's despite the fact that a majority still opposes the war. He still has the support of 62 percent of Americans doing that.

So, what's interesting is that, again, ,we have a majority saying this is a bad war, but, in fact, this is a president who does have their support.

Now, what's the other thing he said in that speech? He talked about beginning to bring troops home in the summer of 2011.

Look here. Even though they support the idea of the exit plan, 59 percent thought it was a bad idea that the president announced it. So, again, overwhelming support. About 66 percent thought, good idea to have the exit plan, but 59 percent said bad idea to announce it.

PHILLIPS: All right. So, on the domestic front, what are people thinking about how the president's doing right now?

CROWLEY: Well here's the surprise, despite that overwhelming support for what he's doing in Afghanistan, for the first time in a CNN poll we find that the president's approval rating has dipped beneath the 50 percent mark. Right now about 48 percent of Americans approving of how the president overall is handling his job, that is a seven point drop in less than three weeks.

So you look at these big numbers on Afghanistan, big numbers of support, and now you look at an overall approval rating that has slipped below the water mark, below 50 percent, and what do you have? You maybe have deep, deep concern about the economy. And I think inside those numbers -- I want to show you one more number that we have in there -- and where is the president losing support? He's losing support among whites who have never attended college. Thirty- six percent now support the president down in less than three weeks by 18 points.

Why is that? In general, those are the people who occupy the jobs that have been hardest hit. Manufacturing, mining, those sorts of jobs are the jobs that have really disappeared over the past year. So the president looking at that, I don't think it's any coincidence that the president was up in Allentown today talking about new plans to get more jobs into the U.S. economy.

PHILLIPS: Good to see you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Kyra.

Want to send a holiday package or card to troops stationed in Afghanistan or Iraq? Well, you've got a tight deadline. The U.S. Postal Service says the packages have to be shipped today in order to make it by Christmas. And if you don't know a specific soldier, but you still want to brighten the troops holidays, we have links in our blog that can help you do that --

Well, the holidays are tough enough with a mom, dad, son or daughter serving on the front lines, but get this, many of those families who have already sacrificed so much are struggling. They can't even put food on the table and they're not even able to get toys for the kids. And the charities helping them out are seeing a drop in donations.

One of the groups mobilizing to help out is Operation Homefront, and president and CEO Jim Knotts joins us from Fayetteville, North Carolina -- that's right near Fort Bragg -- where they're passing out toys to military families right now.

And, Jim, how is it going?

JIM KNOTTS, CEO, OPERATION HOMEFRONT: It's going just super. We have had a lot of families come through here today that were just thrilled.

Kyra, I know you're aware, this is one location where we're doing toy stores today through the very generous support of Wal-Mart. We're going to serve 3,000 military families and give toys for 10,000 military kids just today. And some of the families we have seen come through today didn't know -- they were surprised that Wal-Mart was the sponsor. And when they saw inside the toy shop we had set up at the mound of toys, we actually had people break down in tears. It's just been heartwarming for those of us who do everything we can to support our military families.

PHILLIPS: Well, Jim, this is what was so tough for us to read, not just toys, but they're having trouble even putting food on the table.

KNOTTS: Absolutely. Operation Homefront has seen a 86 percent increase in requests just for basic food assistance year over year. So the economy is absolutely impacting these families.

And that's why an event like this is so important, not only does it raise their morale, but it allows us to ensure that their kids are going to have a happy holiday and allows them to use their scarce resources, their little money, on more basic needs.

PHILLIPS: So tell us what we can do, Jim, to help out.

KNOTTS: Anybody that's interested, there are lots of ways to help out. You can go to and you can look for volunteer opportunities. Certainly, we welcome all the donations. And you can also go to and see other things that Wal-Mart is doing, find volunteer opportunities and those kinds of things.

So we welcome all of that support.

PHILLIPS: Well, and you can go to, we have got a link to your website, And I'm looking at the website right now, and you have gotten really creative in how we can pitch in and help.

What about donations? Is there any place that we can go, Jim, where we can take food or toys directly to families? Is that even possible?

KNOTTS: Directly to families is a little bit harder. But what you can do is, through our website, you can find one of our chapters that's nearest you, there are contact numbers, and you can work with them to make those contributions. Particularly for food items and cash donations, you can drop off things at those chapter locations.

PHILLIPS: Got it. Well, keep passing out those toys, we sure support you and salute you.

KNOTTS: Absolutely.

PHILLIPS: Thanks so much.

KNOTTS: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: We found this beautiful and loving holiday tribute to fallen military heroes at Arlington National Cemetery today. Volunteers with a group called Wreaths Across America are delivering the garlands. By the end of December, they plan to place 100,000 wreaths on graves and monuments honoring fallen heroes and America's vets.

Well he snuck into the Army at 16, surviving World War I. World War II comes around the corner and he's taken prisoner by the Japanese. Frank Buckles has lived a life of distinction, one that continues to this very day. Now 108 years old, he's the last American who fought in the Great War and he's just come to Capitol Hill to push for a national World War I memorial. Corporal Buckles has lent his name to that bill that would rededicate an existing memorial to D.C. vets that sits on the National Mall.

Because the father of our country couldn't send e-mails, he wrote letters. Remember the letter? Pen, paper, envelope, et cetera. A four-pager George Washington wrote to his nephew back in 1777 on the auction block now -- no lie. It could bring in $2.5 million and would be a record for a Washington document. It's interesting stuff, too. Washington writes about how he wants that new constitution ratified.

So what's in your Slim-Fast? If you've got the convenient canned version, well you might want to put it down -- fast. Something's in there that might make you very sick.


PHILLIPS: Top stories now.

We're watching central Italy where a jury is deliberating the fate of Amanda Knox right now. Prosecutors want a life sentence for the American exchange student accused of the stabbing death of her British roommate two years ago.

Director Roman Polanski under house arrest, make that chalet arrest. He's has been locked down at his Swiss chalet while Switzerland decides whether to extradite him to the U.S. where he faces sex crime charges dating back to the 70s.

He's calling it a listening tour, but he's doing plenty of talking. President Obama pushing his job creation plans near Allentown, Pennsylvania. The latest report says that 11,000 jobs were lost in November, the lowest monthly jobs loss since the recession started.

This story got a collective wow when it hit the NEWSROOM. Cans of Slim-Fast, millions of them, recalled. If you're about to have one for lunch, well you better hold on for a second. Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen here to tell us what the heck is going on.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, don't want to be drinking that for lunch.

Here's what happened. They did a quality check in the Slim-Fast factory and they found that they might have the presence of a bacteria called bacillus cereus. And so they are recalling every can of ready- to-drink Slim-Fast. Doesn't matter what -- you can see some of them up there.

If you have a ready-to-drink Slim-Fast, it doesn't matter when you bought it, where you bought it, or what the flavor type is, do not drink it. If you have any, you should not drink them and they are being pulled as we speak from grocery store shelves.

PHILLIPS: Has anybody gotten sick that we know of so far?

COHEN: You know, it's interesting, the FDA has gotten a number of complaints from consumers about things like vomiting and diarrhea and nausea. They didn't say exactly how many they had, and they're investigating them.

Now you can get very sick from this bacteria. The chances of you dying from it can be quite remote, but people do sometimes get very sick.

PHILLIPS: OK, we'll keep following up on it then. Thanks, Elizabeth.

A blast from the past blows back into court. We're going to take a look at the case against Drew Peterson. Charged with murdering one wife, suspected in the disappearance of another and still this guy is getting love letters in prison. What the...?


PHILLIPS: A New York store owner turns the tables on a would-be robber and turns both their lives around. That's just the beginning of the story. It has an ending that none of us could have predicted.

Here's our Mary Snow.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We first brought you Mohammad Sohail's story in June when he showed mercy to a would-be robber who came into his store demanding money, the ordeal all captured by surveillance cameras. Sohail grabbed a rifle and said the man began crying saying he needed to feed his family. Sohail gave him $40, a loaf of bread and made him promise never to rob again.

Six months later, the 47-year-old Sohail says that promise was returned in a way he never imagined. He recently received a letter with $50 inside and no return address.

MOHAMMAD SOHAIL, CONVENIENCE STORE OWNER: I thought what is that? And when I read the letter, that's the same person, you know, the guy come and tried to rob my store.

SNOW: He read it for us.

SOHAIL: Now I have a good job, making good money, staying out of trouble and taking care of my family. You give me $40 and a loaf of bread, here is the $50. Thank you for sparing my life, because of that you changed my life.

SNOW (on camera): Did you cry when you get that letter?

SOHAIL: Absolutely. Because all the time I'm thinking my mom. My mom say, help anybody if anybody need help.

SNOW (voice-over): The letter is signed, "Your Muslim brother," and the writer states he's now a true Muslim. During the aborted robbery, the man told Sohail he wanted to be a Muslim just like him and Sohail recited an Islamic prayer and told him he was converted.

While the man's life may have changed, things are also different for this Pakistani immigrant. At a store in Shirley, New York, he displays letters he's received from across the country.

(on camera): Dear Mr. Sohail -- what is this? -- I want to say no person has ever moved my spirit like you did. Wow. From, an admirer, your biggest admirer. Do you know who Lee (ph) is?

SOHAIL: I have no idea the people are sending me the letters.

SNOW (voice-over): And some have sent checks. Sohail says he has received a couple hundred dollars and now offers free bagels, rolls and coffee for several hours during the day, and he vows to help others.

(on camera): would you, one day, like to meet with this anonymous mystery man?

SOHAIL: Of course I like to see him. I want to see him. If he hear me, if he listening me, this person, come to my store.

SNOW (voice-over): While Sohail says all is forgiven in his eyes, the Suffolk County Police say this is still an open investigation as they have yet to find the mystery man.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


PHILLIPS: A blast from the past blows back into court. We're going to take a look at the case against Drew Peterson. Remember him? Charged with murdering one wife, suspected in the disappearance of another, and still this guy's getting love letters in prison.


PHILLIPS: Well he used to be all over the place, joking with reporters staking out his house, giving interviews with his girlfriend. Drew Peterson's dropped out of sight lately. Then again, that'll happen when you've been jailed on murder charges. There was a hearing scheduled today in the case of Peterson, of course, accused in the death of his third wife.

HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell joining us from New York.

So Jane, remind us how this case developed and how we got to this point.

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN HOST: Well, first of all, this was a bad day for Drew Peterson because the judge said you can't move the trial. He had desperately wanted a change of venue, arguing that he could not get a fair trial in that particular county; he lost on that front. And also, the judge allowed some hearsay evidence in, which means that his deceased ex-wife may be able to testify from beyond the grave, as they say.

Now, it's a very troubling timeline if we take a look at it. In 2004, wife number three, Kathleen Savio, is found dead in a dry bathtub. Nevertheless, it's ruled an accidental drowning, and she has a one-inch gash in the back of her head. So that tells you pretty much everything you need to know about this case.

Now about three years later he is remarried and wife number four, Stacy Peterson, disappears. Drew Peterson claims, well, you know, she called me and told me she was running off with another man. Nobody buys that.

A few months after she disappears and she doesn't turn up, the pressure is on law enforcement. Come on, let's take a look at the death of wife number three because Kathleen Savio's family had all along insisted that this was murder and they felt that nobody paid attention to them because Drew Peterson was a police officer. So they exhumed Kathleen Savio's body and lo and behold, voila, they suddenly decide yes, in fact it is a homicide.

And, of course, critics of how this was all handled say there was ample evidence that it was a homicide all along. Again, it's an accidental drowning in a dry bathtub? That doesn't make sense. She has a one-inch gash in the back of her head. She has bruises all over her body.

So that's pretty much the troubling timeline that brings us to today.

PHILLIPS: Explain something to me, this guy's been married for four times. One wife's been killed, another's missing, he's suspected in both. You know, it kind of has you scratching your head like, OK, what's the deal with this guy? And also he's getting love letters, there's other women that want to marry him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well he was engaged to a somebody who could have theoretically become wife number five at a certain point. And that woman's dad stepped in and said no way, Jose, that you are going to be spending time with this guy. And that was sort of on again off again. I haven't checked to find out where it is at this moment in time.

But yes, it's pretty astounding that anybody would hook up with a guy who has this kind of track record. But as we know, Kyra, when you're dealing with these charismatic type of individuals, women are attracted to them and the likes of some of these convicted criminals get love letters and they're married behind bars. Look at the Menendez brothers, look at Scott Peterson. I mean they are inundated with letters from women.

PHILLIPS: It's so hard to comprehend. I mean you cover so many of these cases and so many of these just bizarre, I mean these serial killers. It's like they're lifted up like movie stars and become attractive to all these women and it's just -- they show up on these visits totally unannounced.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, yes. And you can see that Drew Peterson does have a way with the camera, as it were. He goes into his front yard, when he was free, and would literally play games with the news media. He's very cocky. He has a very huge sense of entitlement and self-confidence.

His third wife, Kathleen Savio, had literally written a letter to a state's attorney saying, please help me, the cops are not listening and I think this guy is going to kill me. And nobody listened to that. There were something like an astounding 18 calls, police calls, to the Savio-Peterson home in the years leading up to her death. There were trips to the hospital. There were claims of domestic abuse. And despite all that, and despite the fact that she was killed at the tail-end of a nasty divorce proceeding, the powers that be decided that was accidental.

And that's why Kathleen Savio's family is so darned upset. Because they say this homicide declaration should have happened a long time ago. And had it happened a long time ago, Drew Peterson might not have been free at the time that Stacy Peterson disappeared.

PHILLIPS: "Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell," what are you talking about on your show tonight?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, boy. We've got so much tonight. We're talking about the Amanda Knox case. That's a humdinger. Of course, it's mesmerized all of Europe and a good part of the United States. They call her "Foxy Knoxy." She's a beautiful young lady from Seattle who is accused of murdering her British roommate. And, of course, we are talking about Tiger Woods and the latest head spinning developments in that case. And we're going to ask a provocative question, could there be an addiction angle to all of this? We're going to have an addiction expert on our show on "Issues" beginning at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on HLN.

PHILLIPS: Just another way to plug your book there. People want to learn about overcoming addiction, you buy Jane's book. It's a great read.

Great to see you, Jane. Thanks.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Great to see you to, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Likewise.

Let's see, do I say it's great to see you? Hmm, let's bring Jane back and see what she has to say.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: I think that would be the appropriate thing to do.

PHILLIPS: Rick Sanchez, about to come up with his hour. You know, I'm plugging Jane Velez-Mitchell, we're plugging you. What are you talking about? Are you talking about Tiger Woods again?


PHILLIPS: Let me straighten you tie there.

SANCHEZ: Thank you very much. Osama bin Laden.

PHILLIPS: Why are you talking about OBL?

SANCHEZ: Osama bin Laden apparently has been spotted in Afghanistan. It happened this year and it's significant, especially when taken in consideration that the United States at this point in time with President Barack Obama is doing more drone attacks in that border between Pakistan and Afghanistan than the Bush administration, for example, ever did. I think, in fact, there have been 40 attacks so far by this administration, compared to 30 the year before during the Bush administration.

As this comes out, there's this brand new BBC report that actually quotes someone who had a meeting with Osama bin Laden again, and this is significant, not in Pakistan, but rather in Afghanistan. And the reason given is, all the drone attacks that are taking place in Pakistan seem to make things safer these days for Osama bin Laden. So that's the news, we're going to drill down on it for you. And we'll have it for you in just really a couple of minutes. It will be no doubt our lead story.

PHILLIPS: Capturing Osama bin Laden -- you start to wonder, though, if indeed he were captured, killed, would that really make a difference, would it really make an impact on the war on terrorism?

SANCHEZ: I certainly think it would have made a difference if it would have happen back in 2001?

PHILLIPS: But now. Now should it still be on the agenda on the administration now? Should it still be a priority for military leaders to track him down?

SANCHEZ: We were attacked by Osama bin Laden. That's the person who attacked us. And it seems, and many have argued this, that the focus or the emphasis has moved away from that over the last several years. Maybe that's why this administration is putting such -- so much heat on going back to the original target in this case. Although, some in the last couple of days have argued that that's not exactly what this president smelled out in his last speech.

PHILLIPS: All right, see you in a little bit.

SANCHEZ: Thanks a lot.

PHILLIPS: All right.

A little ditty about Speck and dad John, two American guys living in the heartland. Smoker John says he won't kick the habit. Young Speck says come on, pops, I know you can. I'm going to tell you how Facebook figures into all of this now.


PHILLIPS: All right, well he sang about Jack and Diane more than 25 years ago, but there's one character that John Mellencamp could never leave in his past. Joe Camel. Mellencamp has been one of the rock premier smokers ever. It's been written that he puffed four packs a day at one point. Even a heart attack didn't make him quit. So I guess the nicotine just hurt too good.

How many lyrics can we put into this intro?

So how do you get a former cougar to quit? Well his teenage son Speck might have found a way and you actually can help too. Speck started a group on Facebook, it's called "1 Million to Join My Dad John Mellencamp Will Quit Smoking." Speck writes that he and dad made a deal, 1 million people join, dad kicks his old habit. Now in Facebook terms, Kyra Phillips like this. Last we looked, more than 130,000 Facebookers had joined the group. Take a look at that -- actually, 135,976 members have signed up. You can see that everybody's giving their responses right now. Here you go, a million people, come on here, join my dad John Mellencamp to quit smoking.

Speck, I tell you what, we salute your efforts, we hope that you make it. We hope we're doing -- we're doing a follow. And we hope that you and your dad come on the show and talk to us. Come on John, quit smoking.

Rick Sanchez takes it from here.