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CNN Presents: Narco Wars; Twisted Justice
Aired January 22, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CNN PRESENTS, "Narco Wars." It's been called the most dangerous place in the world. Violence fueled by drug cartels.
KAJ LARSEN, CNN PRESENTS CORRESPONDENT: There's an airplane carcass right there below me. There's about 30 to 40 aircraft, just laying out here.
ANNOUNCER: Can the violence be stopped? Kaj Larsen travels to the front lines of a war few people know about.
RICHARD DIGUGLIELMO, JR., FORMER NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT POLICE OFFICER: I just saw him up with the bat and he started to swing, and that's when I -- I reached for the gun.
ANNOUNCER: This New York City cop says he fired to save his father's life.
DIGUGLIELMO: I was convicted of second-degree murder.
ANNOUNCER: But he would walk free after that conviction was overturned. So how did he end up back in prison?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN PRESENTS CORRESPONDENT: You must have been crushed? Crushed when they told you you had to go back.
ANNOUNCER: Revealing investigations. Fascinating characters. Stories with impact. This is CNN PRESENTS, with your host tonight, Brooke Baldwin and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good evening.
The bloody drug war in Mexico has gripped the world's attention.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: But way off the radar, just south of Mexico, is a region that's even more violent.
GUPTA: In fact the commander of the U.S. Southern Command has called the northern triangle of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras the deadliest place in the world outside of active war zones.
BALDWIN: In fact, the homicide rate in Honduras alone has more than doubled in five years.
CNN's Kaj Larsen journeyed to the heart of the violence.
LARSEN (voice-over): In the past year, over 17,000 people have been murdered in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. In Honduras, over 90 percent of crimes like murder are never solved. They call it the impunity rate.
I asked the chief of police in San Pedro Sula, the second biggest city here, if they would take us along when a call came in on a crime. A minute later, we got our wish.
(On camera): So we jumped in the trucks and we're headed there right now to see what's going on.
It's completely real. We're not making up how violent this place is. We've been here four hours and our first body has turned up. Hearsay he's been shot. The impact wound appears to be right here on the right side of his head. And the police commissioner told us that, you know, as is very typical in these situations, nobody saw anything, nobody heard anything, and nobody knows this guy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, amigo. (speaking foreign language)
LARSEN: Nobody wants to talk, which suggests that people are definitely afraid in this neighborhood, as they should be.
(Voice-over): For years, the region has been plagued by violent gangs, started by gang members deported from California. But in the last few years it's also become the main corridor for narcotics coming up from South America. As the big Mexican cartels have looked for staging areas here, murder rates skyrocketed.
(On camera): So this is the entrance to the morgue in Tegucigalpa. There must be 15 bodies here.
(Voice-over): Yesterday they received seven bodies and this morning five more.
(On camera): They get new bodies every day. Eighty percent of them are from violence. They're usually shot either with a pistol or a rifle.
There's not much to say. I mean, this woman and her mother, who just lost two sons. They're two of the bodies I just saw inside the morgue, that's the son and the brothers of these two women.
There's a -- there's a human cost to the drug war, and the Hondurans are paying it in blood.
I just came from the morgue and there's literally bodies piling up in the hallway. Why is this country so violent?
LISA KUBISKE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO HONDURAS: Well, the violence is not actually traditional in Honduras. And it has increased as the drug traffic through Honduras has increased. And so I think a lot of it has to do with drugs.
LARSEN (voice-over): The murder rate here is 16 times the U.S. rate. Murder has become so normal here that there are some Hondurans who don't seem to spend a lot of time agonizing over it.
Outside the morgue, I met Darwin, who led me to his place around the corner.
(On camera): He's telling me that this is a king-sized one for a fat person. So Darwin is probably the happiest, go-luckiest coffin builder that I've ever met in my whole life so he speaks really fast, so I didn't understand everything, but the one takeaway I got from being here is that the coffin business is booming in Tegucigalpa.
(Voice-over): Insecurity pervades every aspect of life here. Even to visit a violence reduction program backed by the U.S. government, we had to have an escort of heavily armed policemen to patrol the street out front.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it's violent in Honduras, but that's what we're working on.
LARSEN (on camera): Can you ask them how many of them have seen violence? How many of them have seen somebody killed or somebody shot?
Raise your hand.
(Voice-over): It's hard to get a sense of what it's like to live here when you have a heavy police escort everywhere you go. So we found someone who moves freely through the neighborhoods then let us come along.
(On camera): So we should leave our phones, money, everything.
(Voice-over): But first we are warned, no valuables, no phones, no passports, nothing that could get us killed.
LAURENCE GAUBERT, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS, HONDURAS: Yes, welcome. This is a piece of Doctors Without Borders, so if you want to come with me.
LARSEN (on camera): Sure.
(Voice-over): Laurence Gaubert moved from the Congo to Honduras early in 2011 to head the office here of Doctors Without Borders.
GAUBERT: We're trying to tackle the violence, and tackling the violence is quite a big challenge.
LARSEN (on camera): Were you surprised at the level of violence when you got here?
GAUBERT: I was shocked. I was shocked. I didn't knew, when I just reached here, I was thinking, yes, it's the United States here, we can go down, like I can do everything, you have access to everything. But in fact, you meet exactly the same problems as you can meet in Congo. And we're in the capital city.
LARSEN (voice-over): Laurence's helped Doctors Without Borders launch a street outreach mission. Every day, a team of doctors and social workers walk the most dangerous areas of the Tegucigalpa.
(On camera): You're not -- you're not scared?
GAUBERT: I think we have to be scared in order to protect ourselves also. If we're just going and thinking that it would be easy, we would be very at risk.
LARSEN (voice-over): What goes hand in hand with the violence here is extreme poverty. The Doctors Without Borders street team was giving medical and psychological care to homeless people on a side street off a busy market. It looked like so many neighborhoods throughout Latin America. If we hadn't been told, we wouldn't have guessed that it was so violent.
(On camera): So what he's telling -- what he's telling me is that this is where he lives, under this tarp, these are his spare clothes. And he's got -- and this is his kitchen, where you see these three fish being cooked right here.
Yes. And they cook for all of the street children here, is one of the other things that he's saying. The other thing that you notice when you're speaking is that there's all these kids around here. But even in plain view of the cameras, all of them are sniffing glue.
(Voice-over): Because we are the first foreigners, let alone journalists that the Doctors Without Borders street team had ever taken with them, they were extra alert to security.
(On camera): Hey, you guys, the security driver just said that it's time to go so we should -- we should go.
(Voice-over): As we headed back to the van, the market began to close down, night was falling, and the city, now even more dangerous, was getting ready to shut down.
GUPTA: It's been called the most violent place on earth. It's a small area of Central America where our Kaj Larsen met one man who's fighting a war against a tidal wave of drugs and murder.
LARSEN (voice-over): A police surveillance camera in Guatemala City captures a scene that has become common. A car stops at an intersection at midnight. A man is forced out and shot.
It was one of the nearly 6,000 murders in Guatemala in 2011, eight times the U.S. homicide rate. Fueling the violence, narco trafficking, as Mexico's cartels, including the ultra violence Zetas, move south.
(On camera): What we're talking about, really, is in many of these areas is ungoverned space, right, like the Zetas are the authorities in these areas?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LARSEN (voice-over): We were briefed by a DEA agent who asked us not to reveal his face.
(On camera): The M-240 machine gun fires a 762 round and we need it up in the country where we're going.
(Voice-over): Dodging storms, we flew with the DEA in two Huey helicopter gunships into a no man's land in Guatemala, land that soon becomes uninhabited stretches of jungle, much of it flooded because of the rainy season. Soon we were flying over clandestine landing strips, hundreds of them, used for smuggling drugs coming up from Venezuela. Sometimes the planes crashed, but since one load of cocaine more than paid for a plane, often they were just abandoned.
(On camera): There's an airplane carcass right there below me. You can see it right there. It's got some birds on it, crash landed. It's a little flooded right now from the rains, but when it's dry, there's about 30 to 40 aircraft just laying out here. All that were abandoned after they brought the drugs in.
(Voice-over): After the U.S. helped beefed up the Guatemalan defenses, the traffickers began looking for another place to land drugs. They chose Guatemala's violent neighbor, Honduras. And it has become the new front line of the narco wars.
JAMES KENNEY, U.S. DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION, HONDURAS: It's the first entry point --
LARSEN: Jim Kenney has been fighting that war for more than 12 years.
KENNEY: That lands, the first point, either by boat or an air track, an illicit airplane coming in. The best opportunity to stop the drugs is at that point.
LARSEN: As head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement office in Honduras, Jim Kenney runs America's first line of defense, with the support of only two other DEA agents. If Jim's small team can't intercept the drugs when they land, the likelihood is that they'll make it all the way to the U.S./Mexico border.
It's highly unusual for a DEA agent in overseas operations to be seen on camera, but I was allowed to follow Jim around Honduras.
(On camera): I mean, we're out there now, right? This is the Wild West.
KENNEY: As close as you get to it, yes. They're saying 75 to 80 percent of the 25 plus tons that come through here a month is maritime. LARSEN (voice-over): The boat we were riding on was one of the interceptor boats the Honduran Navy uses to try to stop smuggling boats whenever the DEA gets intelligence about a load coming in from South America.
KENNEY: Yes, these are all from drug boats.
LARSEN: When we got to the naval base and saw some of the go-fast boats confiscated from smugglers, it was easy to see how outmatched the Honduran Navy is. In this surveillance footage, you can actually see a smuggling vote firing on a Honduran Navy boat that's trying to intercept it.
KENNEY: As a matter of fact last night we had a pretty good information about a go-fast that was coming up that was off the Roatan Island. Unfortunately, we were not able to find them. Very difficult. Very difficult. You know, you go out in a very vast, wide area.
LARSEN (on camera): Yes, it's a needle in a haystack, right?
LARSEN (voice-over): Jim says that in the last 2 1/2 years in Honduras, he feels like he's aged 10 years.
KENNEY: It's frustrating at times because we a lot of times have the knowledge and the intelligence to be able to respond and do things, but because of the lack of resources, it's difficult.
LARSEN (on camera): Puts some gray in the old beard, is that --
LARSEN (voice-over): But Jim has been making progress, changing a crucial piece of the puzzle here.
(On camera): So this is your piece right here, these guys coming out?
KENNEY: These guys are the vetted team that we trust, that we can pass very sensitive intelligence to.
LARSEN (voice-over): This is Jim's vetted unit, specially selected Honduran police officers chosen for their skills and their honesty.
KENNEY: Corruption is an issue here, as it is in Central America and other countries, South America. They've all been polygraphed. They're all drug tested. They're all interviewed. And they all get trained. And then we train each one from evidence handling to the tactics.
LARSEN: When Jim gets a tip about an elicit aircraft headed towards Honduras with a load of cocaine, it's the vetted team's mission to fly to that landing site and intercept it.
(On camera): There's a high likelihood that they could get in firefight on one of these missions, right?
KENNEY: Yes, yes, and they have been in firefights. Very dangerous. These guys are very brave. They know that there's a very high possibility that there's going to be some type of confrontation.
LARSEN (voice-over): When Jim arrived in Honduras early in 2009, the vetted unit had seven officers. Now it has 41. And of the 94 smuggling planes that landed in Honduras in 2010, the government of Honduras was able to intercept seven, five of which were intercepted by Jim's unit. That doesn't sound like a whole lot, except that the total for the previous year was zero.
(On camera): Is it exhausting?
KENNEY: It can be. Yes, you know. There's lots of long days. You hope it's fruitful at the end of it.
BALDWIN: They are outmanned and outgunned, so in order to win the war against drugs in Central America, authorities will have to overcome overwhelming odds.
GUPTA: But you know amid the spiraling violence and this culture of corruption, there are a few signs of glimmering hope.
Kaj Larsen concludes his special report from the front lines of the narco war.
LARSEN (voice-over): It's Saturday night in the Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, the most violent nation on earth. Police here may look tough, but, in fact, they're outmanned and outgunned. Their control over many parts of the city is virtually nonexistent.
(On camera): The police just stopped our caravan to bring us up to this little bluff right here to point out this piece of graffiti on the side of the building here that says, if you touch us, we will kill you, and for them that's an indicator of what they're facing.
(Voice-over): It took 30 police officers with assault weapons for us to be able to visit this neighborhood.
(On camera): It's hard to know what the right call, right? This is the most -- one of the most violent neighborhoods in the world. Not just in the city, in the world. And the police, while their tactics seem a little heavy-handed, this is -- their only attempt to wrestle control back from the gangs who have basically overrun the city.
(Voice-over): There doesn't seem to be much hope in Honduras. The murder rate keeps rising. But next door in Guatemala, we found signs of progress. In Guatemala City, I met the Interior minister. In a region notorious for corruption, Carlos Menocal is a crusader who has shaken up the system.
CARLOS MENOCAL, INTERIOR MINISTER, GUATEMALA (Through Translator): In Central America, six out of 10 murders are drug related.
LARSEN: The drug trade flooding Guatemala dwarfs the country's resources.
MENOCAL: $10.5 billion in four years.
LARSEN: He says this past year, his government seized about $3 billion worth of drugs. The entire budget of the government is only about $5 billion. Menocal says anti-narcotics operations alone won't bring down the horrific murder rate. To do that, he had to convince the public that murders would actually be solved. Step one, create a team of trained detectives.
In the basement of the Ministry of Justice, I visited the barracks of Guatemala City's CSI unit. Here teams of investigators take turns living in shifts, like firefighters in a firehouse.
In this room, crime is monitored 24 hours a day. When a crime is committed, the radios start going off.
(On camera): And then they launch the investigators to the scene of the crime.
In the last week, how many times have you gone out on calls to investigate crime scenes or murders? Six times? Wow.
(Voice-over): Minister Menocal says the new efforts are already paying off.
MENOCAL (Through Translator): In the past couple of years, after they began making the police more professional, the murder rate has begun to decline.
LARSEN: But it takes more than training investigators. Radical surgery had to be performed to fight one of the region's biggest and oldest problems -- corruption.
This is the large suburb Mixco. Population, one million. It used to be one of the more violent areas in metropolitan Guatemala City. Then two crime-fighting pilot programs were introduced. With aid from the U.S. State Department.
(On camera): What's unique about this police station is that they actually fired 100 percent of the police officers here and they took all rookies out of the academy. The reason, of course, is because corruption is so endemic that they had to start with fresh officers who had never been on the street.
(Voice-over): The results have been dramatic. Police say that the conviction rate on cases filed has moved from practically zero to 98 percent.
In Mixco City Hall, I met Amilcar Rivera, an energetic mayor who, along with U.S. aid, commissioned a surveillance camera system that's had a big impact. In one neighborhood called Milagro, 53 cameras have been installed and crime has dropped by 90 percent.
MAYOR AMILCAR RIVERA, MIXCO CITY, GUATEMALA (Through Translator): And crime throughout the entire city is down 28 to 30 percent.
LARSEN: This is one of the murders that the cameras were able to solve.
(On camera): This guy just jumped out of a van right here, white sweatshirt, pulled out a gun, and now he's shooting.
What this is, is that they took a screen grab of prior to the murder that we just saw up on the big screen, and it allowed them to identify the guy who committed the murder as well as that you have this guy in this purple sweatshirt, who actually handed the guy who committed the shooting of the gun.
(Voice-over): In addition to watching the criminals, the cameras are also a way for the mayor to observe his own police force. So when the officers show up on scene, they're required to salute the cameras to show that they're on the job.
(On camera): It's kind of funny, right, but in a place where police accountability is a huge issue, for him to be able to see his officers saluting on the job is actually a huge, huge improvement.
(Voice-over): The murder rate here in Guatemala has just begun to decline slightly. Still, it's eight times the rate in the United States. Minister Menocal has a message for America, the largest consumer of illegal drugs.
MENOCAL (Through Translator): Consuming drugs has consequences. Every kilo, every gram is paid for in blood in Latin America and Central America.
GUPTA: And Kaj Larsen joins us, safe and sound, thankfully. You look good, all cleaned up.
LARSEN: Thank you.
GUPTA: Live here in the studio.
LARSEN: No flack jacket or anything.
GUPTA: That's right.
BALDWIN: It's nice to see you this way. You know, and we see so many narco trafficking stories out of Mexico, but to see these images coming out of both Guatemala and Honduras, what led you to this story?
LARSEN: Well, I think, like you said, there has been a lot of focus on Mexico in the news, and the violence there has been very disturbing and it's been very visible because they're our nearest neighbor. But increasingly, the corridor in Central America has become a major trafficking route for narcotics. Just four years ago, less than 1 percent of the drugs moved up through that corridor. And you fast forward to today, over 60 percent are moving via land.
And with that has become an exponential increase in violence in places like Honduras and Guatemala. So much so that even this month the Peace Corps is pulling out of their operations in Honduras.
GUPTA: You've got the demand, as you point out in the piece, but the supply, sort of stopping the drugs moving along that route, I mean, what's being done for that?
LARSEN: It's the right question because it's such a critical choke point for narcotics. You know over 90 percent of the cocaine is making its first stop in Honduras. And law enforcement increasingly is beginning to pay attention to this area, but it's a very difficult battle. There's a U.S. joint task force run by the military there that's supporting the Hondurans with air assets and intelligence. I embedded myself with the DEA and their vetted unit.
GUPTA: I mean, I think you're making a point that the DEA really is fighting an uphill battle here. I mean what -- how do they feel about in terms of their resources?
LARSEN: Obviously, they'd like to bring more resources to the fight. The DEA is a very tough, very professional organization, but the power of these cartels, which are effectively operating as multinational corporations with supply chains and distribution centers, I mean, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquin Chapo Guzman, was on the "Forbes" list. So these are very, very powerful organizations, and they're very hard to combat.
GUPTA: That's frightening. I learned a lot, though. Appreciate it.
BALDWIN: So much.
GUPTA: Appreciate it.
BALDWIN: (INAUDIBLE) best reporting.
GUPTA: And again glad you're back safe and sound.
BALDWIN: Kaj, thank you.
LARSEN: Great to see you guys.
BALDWIN: Up next, was it murder or a miscarriage of justice? The story of two families torn apart by a deadly shooting.
JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras in the Severe Weather Center. There's a very dangerous situation unfolding tonight across southern parts of Arkansas. The tornado threat is extremely high and we have two warnings we're very concerned about right now.
Just to the southeast of Little Rock, trained storm spotters are reporting a funnel cloud here near the town of England. We also have very large hail associated with this storm, and then another one to the south of here. This is unconfirmed, but I'm hearing from the storm chaser community right now that there is likely a tornado on the ground near Fordyce. So we're watching this extremely strong to severe line of storms all across Arkansas right now. It's also producing heavy rain with the potential of damaging winds, around 80 miles per hour.
Now to the north of there, we also have the severe weather threat. A new watch has just been issued. A tornado watch that includes parts of Illinois into Kentucky, into Indiana as well.
We'll watch this severe weather situation unfold. Complete coverage coming up tonight at 10:00 Eastern.
ANNOUNCER: We now return to CNN PRESENTS, with your hosts tonight, Brooke Baldwin and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
BALDWIN: Our criminal justice system is based upon the promise of a fair trial.
GUPTA: But what if a trial isn't fair? What if the prosecution has stacked the deck against you unfairly?
BALDWIN: Deborah Feyerick brings us this story of a man who is now sitting in prison, maybe for life, even after the trial that put him there was found by a judge to be full of holes.
DIGUGLIELMO: I was convicted of second-degree murder with depraved indifference in 1997 and I was sentenced to 20 years to life.
FEYERICK (voice-over): New York City Police Officer Richard DiGuglielmo served 11 years in prison before a judge tossed out his conviction and he was sent home. His friends and family celebrating his release.
(On camera): When you walked out --
DIGUGLIELMO: It was surreal. I couldn't believe it. My ankles weren't shackled and I was like, wow, this is real.
FEYERICK (voice-over): A free man, DiGuglielmo spent two years rebuilding his life. He got a job, an apartment, a wife, then just as suddenly, in a twist of the criminal justice system, it was all taken away.
DIGUGLIELMO: I still cannot adjust being back here. It is difficult. It is difficult. FEYERICK: Richard DiGuglielmo's bizarre journey began here, Dobb's Ferry, a charming village 30 minutes outside New York City. On October 3rd, 1996, the small community was rocked by a deadly shooting, triggered over this parking space. The shooter was off-duty New York City Transit Officer Richard DiGuglielmo, Jr. or Richie for short. The victim was Charles Campbell, an amateur boxer who worked with under-privilege kids. His older brother called him Chaz.
REV. WILLIAM CAMPBELL, CHARLES CAMPBELL'S BROTHER: He was a wonderful athlete, a wonderful person. He was a Christian. He loved kids. Loved people. All people.
FEYERICK: It started around 5:00 on a clear autumn day. Richie DiGuglielmo was working behind the counter of his family-owned deli. He'd stopped by to help his brother-in-law and father, Richard Sr., who was recovering from a heart attack.
(On camera): Parking was a major problem along this busy street. The DiGuglielmos owned the building and say tenants has been withholding rent to protest the lack of open spaces. Well, Charles Campbell didn't know about the ongoing tensions when he pulled his new Corvette into this reserved spot and then went across the street to get a piece of pizza.
(Voice-over): Richie's father remembers that day.
RICHARD DIGUGLIELMO, SR., OWNER, VENICE DELI: I asked him if he could please move to the other lot and then he refused to do it.
FEYERICK: So the deli owner did what Dobb's Ferry police had told him to do, plaster a sticker on the window. Here's what father and son say happened when Campbell saw the sticker on his new car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, listen, I need a cop over here at Venice Deli in Dobb's Ferry. A fight just broke out outside.
DIGUGLIELMO, SR.: Richie was in the store and he saw him running across the street. He came and I was like this, and he came behind me and he stepped like this, and he put his hands up like this, and he said, there's no need for this.
FEYERICK: And then --
DIGUGLIELMO, SR.: He hit Richie in the face.
DIGUGLIELMO: It sounds like getting hit with a hammer. They were hammer blows. He just was out of control. He was somebody who didn't want to listen to reason or anything like that at the time.
FEYERICK: The fight spilled into the middle of the parking lot as father, son, and brother-in-law wrestled Campbell to the ground.
DIGUGLIELMO, SR.: When I went to put my hand underneath his head, he said, that's it, I've had enough. So I said to Richie, that's it, it's over. We let him up, now whenever I had a fight, when I was a kid, it was over, it was over. FEYERICK: But the fight wasn't over. And what happened next changed everything. Charles Campbell, outnumbered three to one, went to his car. But rather than leave, he pulled out a bat.
(On camera): This man with a bat in his hands, how much more of a threat did that make him to your father?
DIGUGLIELMO: It made him a deadly threat.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Back in the store, Rich DiGuglielmo says he saw Campbell strike his father not once, but twice with the metal bat.
DIGUGLIELMO: I just saw him up with the bat and he started to swing and that's when I reached for the gun.
FEYERICK: The off-duty officer grabbed the gun from under the cash register and raced outside, firing three times, hitting Charles Campbell in the middle of his chest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody was shot.
DIGUGLIELMO: From the time that bat came out until the time the incident was over, it was a matter of four seconds, five seconds, and my training just kicked in.
FEYERICK: DiGuglielmo doesn't remember the moments immediately after the shooting, only that one of the responding officers handed him the gun and asked for help removing the bullet clip. Then he, his father and brother-in-law were taken to the police station.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When do we want it?
FEYERICK: Rumors spread like wildfire that the shooting was racially motivated, confirmed in part by the district attorney, Jeanine Pirro.
JEANINE PIRRO, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: There were racial epithets that the victim was cursed at, at the time, just prior to the shooting. That information has been confirmed.
FEYERICK (on camera): Did you ever use any racial slurs?
DIGUGLIELMO, SR.: We never used a curse word and we never used a racial -- any racial words at all. None.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Campbell's brother, William, was not there, but describes events as he came to understand them.
CAMPBELL: He's going to probably try to work around to get to his car, and that's when Richie came out, and I think he came out from behind the truck, and he said die, die, and then shot him three times. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Witness Michael Dylan says the --
FEYERICK: Eyewitness Michael Dylan less than 30 feet away did not hear any racial slurs, instead telling a WNBC News crew he saw the bat aimed at the elder man.
MICHAEL DYLAN, WITNESS: Full force swings hitting him at least in the legs and almost the head. That's pretty much what I saw. You could hear the smacks, like, block away. That's how hard he hit him. You see your father getting beat with a bat, you're going to do something about it. So it was self-defense, is what I saw.
ROSEMARIE DIGUGLIELMO, RICHIE'S MOTHER: I remember at one point watching Dylan on television saying, you know, if you see your father getting beat, you got to do something. It was strictly self-defense. And I remember saying, oh, thank god for this witness.
PIRRO: We brought murder charges --
FEYERICK: But that same night, District Attorney Pirro charged Richie DiGuglielmo with both intentional murder and murder with depraved indifference.
DIGUGLIELMO: I was like, how is this murder? I don't understand it.
FEYERICK (on camera): So this is the first time you killed a man? How heavily does that weigh on you?
DIGUGLIELMO: Not a day I don't think about it. I believe I saved my father's life that day.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Coming up, the trial that outraged a judge.
(On camera): Was this a miscarriage of justice?
RORY BELLANTONI, FORMER JUDGE: I believe it was a miscarriage of justice.
GUPTA: In the case against a former NYPD officer, did prosecutors suppress crucial evidence that could have changed the jury's verdict?
Deborah Feyerick found one judge who's convinced that's exactly what happened.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Richard DiGuglielmo, Sr. is consumed by the shooting that sent his son to prison to serve 20 to life.
DIGUGLIELMO, SR.: I wish my son was never there. Whether I got killed or not doesn't make any difference to me. What do I have now? My family is torn apart. Literally, torn apart. Where's my son? FEYERICK: We wanted to talk about the shooting to both the Dobb's Ferry Police Department and the then Westchester County district attorney, Jeanine Pirro. Repeated interview requests were denied. In her book, Pirro says no question the shooting was racially motivated.
Race dominated the headlines, but never came up at trial. Instead, prosecutors claimed DiGuglielmo shot Charles Campbell in a murderous rage. Assistant district attorney, Patricia Murphy, telling the the jury, quote, "This is a case about revenge. This is a case about retribution. This is a case about payback."
Prosecutors argued the father, son, and son-in-law ganged up on Campbell so that Campbell had no choice but to grab a bat from his car.
CAMPBELL: I know Chaz. When he grabbed that bat, the idea of getting that bat was to just show, all right, y'all, back on up. You know, I'm not trying to start nothing here, but I will finish it. They kept charging him. So he swung, I think, once at the father.
FEYERICK (on camera): Do you think Charles Campbell could have killed your father had that third hit struck him?
DIGUGLIELMO: Sure. Absolutely. It was a metal baseball bat.
FEYERICK: Everyone's saying it's over a parking space but --
R. DIGUGLIELMO: But it was about a baseball bat.
DIGUGLIELMO, SR.: If there wasn't a baseball bat, there wouldn't have been a gun.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Prosecutors, supported by eyewitness testimony, convinced the jury that Campbell, despite holding the bat, was backing away. The jury acquitted the DiGuglielmos of assault, but Richie was convicted of murder with depraved indifference.
DIGUGLIELMO: I never denied shooting Charles Campbell. I said shot Charles Campbell to stop him from beating my father with a bat. Is that an act of intent, yes. You could say so. Definitely not depraved indifference murder.
FEYERICK: The DA insisted justice was served.
PIRRO: We brought murder charges, he was convicted of murder. That's what this case is about.
CAMPBELL: I'm happy that the jury came back, I'm happy when it came back in the light that I wanted them to come back in. But I can't feel victory. Two families were totally destroyed.
FEYERICK (on camera): But there was something wrong about the case against Richie DiGuglielmo. Two eyewitnesses came forward saying they told police DiGuglielmo was acting in self-defense. They say police pressured them to change their story. A new hearing was ordered and in 2006 Rory Bellantoni got the case. (Voice-over): Bellantoni was an appeals court judge.
BELLANTONI: What I dealt with was whether or not certain witnesses were coerced, and if so, whether the jury was made aware of this coercion.
FEYERICK: Although some witnesses from the original trial supported the prosecution's version of the shooting, two who were closest to the shooting did not. One of those witnesses was Michael Dylan.
DYLAN: I saw about four guys --
BELLANTONI: After giving his original statement on the night of the shooting, he was picked up by police officers, night and day, until he changed his statement.
DYLAN: The Dobb's Ferry detectives just kept asking me to -- the same questions over and over again, night after night. It was like an interrogation.
FEYERICK: Here's what Dylan originally told police.
DYLAN: To my best recollection, the black guy was swinging the bat at the older male when the shots were fired.
FEYERICK: But the jury never heard that. Instead, Dylan testified at trial that Campbell wasn't swinging the bat. Another key witness, who refused to change his story and was not called to testify, was James White.
JAMES WHITE, WITNESS: They were telling me that other people said this and other people said that, and I said, but I'm not interested in what other people said. I'm telling you what I saw and this is the truth.
FEYERICK: White was standing inside the deli, and he saw Charles Campbell, not as victim, but as aggressor.
WHITE: They held him down, only as long as it took for him to cease attacking. And once he did that, they would let him up.
FEYERICK: White says that's when Campbell got the bat, swinging at the elder DiGuglielmo.
WHITE: I'm looking at him saying, my god, he's going to kill him.
FEYERICK: The jury never heard that version either. Bellantoni found the autopsy report supported White's story.
BELLANTONI: One of the things the District Attorney's Office couldn't get around at the hearing was that the bat was being held upright. The only way you get five wounds with three bullets is this bullet went in the forearm, out the forearm, into the chest.
FEYERICK: In a scathing 69-page report, Judge Bellantoni called the district attorney's case a wholesale assault on the justice system, and criticized prosecutors for a "win-at-all costs" mind-set. He overturned the conviction and set Richie DiGuglielmo free.
(On camera): You had started working, you had moved into your own apartment. Tell me what else.
DIGUGLIELMO: Met a woman, fell in love, got married. And then had to come back here.
FEYERICK (voice-over): The prosecutors appealed, arguing Bellantoni had overstepped his authority, and in a stunning reversal, a four- judge panel on New York's highest court ruled, even had the jury known witnesses changed their stories, it likely would have changed the verdict.
BELLANTONI: I don't know how they can say that. If 12 people heard that he stuck by his story and finally changed it because he just didn't want to be harassed by the police department any longer, and might the verdict have been different? The answer for me was yes.
FEYERICK (on camera): Was this a miscarriage of justice?
BELLANTONI: I believe it was a miscarriage of justice.
DIGUGLIELMO: Today I'm here of my own free will, to surrender to this court, and I will continue to fight this fight.
FEYERICK (voice-over): On June 3rd, 2010, Richie returned to prison to finish his sentence of 20 to life.
CAMPBELL: I feel for Richie, because irregardless of what he was thinking, I forgive him, not his action.
DIGUGLIELMO: It's been a tragedy from day one, and I won't belittle that in any way, but how does a judge send you home and another judge says, oh, no, well, we don't agree with you, so we're going to send you back?
FEYERICK (on camera): Would you have rather stayed in prison, knowing what you know now?
DIGUGLIELMO: There was a time where I would have said yes, but then I would have never met my wife. That's the sunshine in this dreary world.
FEYERICK: So there's hope?
DIGUGLIELMO: There's always hope.
BALDWIN: And Deb Feyerick now joins us.
You talk in your piece about a possible miscarriage of justice. The question is, has the DA at all answered this charge that the jurors never quite heard the full story?
FEYERICK: Well, the former Westchester County district attorney, Jeanine Pirro, ultimately did give us a statement. She never answered any questions as to why race never came up at trial, nor did she explain why these key eyewitness statements were suppressed. She does say, however, that she describes Charles Campbell as an unarmed man and she says, quote, "Richard DiGuglielmo's guilt has repeatedly been affirmed by three appellate courts," and that is indeed correct.
GUPTA: Despite the fact that he's holding the bat, which I guess is at issue, so what happens next? I mean what recourse does he have in all of this?
FEYERICK: Well, the U.S. Supreme Court is out. They declined to hear this case. His lawyer is going to appeal to a federal court, present the new evidence, hopefully to say these eyewitness statements should have come in. And then -- but really, his legal options are running out. So he may have to wait until 2019, which is when he's up for parole, and the court actually said those two years he was out, he's got to serve those in prison. So he gets nothing.
GUPTA: And he fell in love while he was there as well.
BALDWIN: She is just standing by him?
FEYERICK: She's absolutely standing by him. She's got total faith in him, he's got total faith in her, but he is losing a little bit of faith in the justice system.
BALDWIN: Deb, thank you.
GUPTA: Deb, thanks. Yes.
BALDWIN: Now it's up to you to decide. Was justice served for Richard DiGuglielmo?
GUPTA: You can go to our blog at CNN.com/presents. Let us know what you think.
BALDWIN: That's it for tonight's show.
GUPTA: But we leave you, though, with a preview of the next CNN PRESENTS. It's my special report on the dangers of concussions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's laying on the bed and his head is swollen. He's not moving, he's not talking. He needs help breathing from this, you know, this respirator. I mean, I just lost it.
GUPTA: 10:05 a.m., less than 72 hours after his first concussion, 16- year-old Jaquon Waller died.