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GOP Race Heating Up; Outrage Continues Over Mississippi Pardons

Aired March 14, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And tonight: a 360 exclusive: how two of these convicted killers who were pardoned by Mississippi's then Governor Haley Barbour got unusually favorable treatment from at least one state official and reportedly even got car-buying help from the governor's wife.

The details are pretty stunning. As I said, it is exclusive reporting you won't see anywhere else from our Ed Lavandera. That's coming up.

But, first, we begin with the GOP race and our "Keeping Them Honest" report.

As you know, for candidates and their campaigns, part of the game is trying to spin us and spin you. Now, last night, Mitt Romney's senior adviser tried to put the best possible spin on Governor Romney's failure to win in either Alabama or Mississippi.


ERIC FEHRNSTROM, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Our goal was to take out one-third of the delegates and possibly do slightly better than that. I think we will exceed that goal. It's important to --

COOPER: Your goal wasn't to win one of these states?

FEHRNSTROM: I don't think anybody expected Mitt to win Alabama or Mississippi. As Mitt said early on in the campaign that this was an away game for him. And I think that's -- I think that's true.

Look, this is a delegate contest and like I said, our goal was to come in, take a third of the delegates.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest," though, on that claim that nobody expected him to win Alabama or Mississippi. In fact at least one person did expect, Mitt Romney in Mobile, Alabama.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to win tomorrow. We need your help. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was the night before the primaries. Not to single out Governor Romney, of course, listen to Newt Gingrich spin the results.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to tell you this a second. What will become a challenge is we'll now have three or four days of the news media and they'll all say why doesn't Gingrich quit. These are the same people, by the way, who said last June that I was dead. They recycle this every six weeks. And the biggest challenge will be raising money because we came in second which is as much as we wanted and we will have gotten delegates.


COOPER: I don't know if you just heard that about wanting to finish second. Let's play it again.


GINGRICH: We came in second, which is as much as we wanted.


COOPER: So "Keeping His Honest," Mississippi and Alabama were two states that the Gingrich campaign just last week described as -- quote -- "must win." Last night Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond, the man who actually used those words, "must win," jokingly said this to reporters -- quote -- "Whoever said that should be flogged." He went on to say the campaign would go on because he didn't expect any of the contenders to win the 1144 delegates necessary to secure the nomination before the convention in Tampa.

Now each campaign, in fact, has its own scenario for either getting to 1144 delegates or preventing -- or prevailing at the convention without the 1144 going in. Now the question is, does Newt Gingrich have a path to the nomination?

In a moment we'll hear from a senior Gingrich campaign adviser. But first John King runs the numbers -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In a word, Anderson, path to the nomination you mean clinching, the answer is no. And let me show you. First let's just look at the state of play after last night. You see a lot of Santorum purple especially down here as you noted. The Gingrich campaign once said it would win from Spartanburg, that's South Carolina, over to Texas. Senator Santorum ruined that plan last night so they're on plan B or C.

A lot of Governor Romney, a lot of Santorum, two wins for Gingrich. Now, OK, can he come back again? Let's take a look. Let's go to the delegate map and let's look at where we are after last night. You need 1144 to clinch. Governor Romney is just shy of 500. If you add up Gingrich, Santorum and Paul, you don't get Governor Romney. Speaker Gingrich at the moment in third place.

Again these are estimates so his campaign might say it's a little higher, other campaigns might say it's a little lower, but about 140. So here's a scenario for you. Now remember, Speaker Gingrich won South Carolina, he won Georgia. He was just denied in Alabama and Mississippi. But for the sake of a hypothetical, what if Speaker Gingrich came back suddenly and won everything? Everything from here on out. Won every single state. OK? I'm going to do that for you.

Under this scenario, Romney and Santorum and Ron Paul are still in the race. So in the states with proportional delegates, they split. In the winner-takes-all, Gingrich gets them. I'm going to save you time and go all the way to the end. I get a little -- this up. That's a Santorum strategy for you. Now watch this. Watch this. We go back to today.

This is Gingrich wins them all, Anderson. Gingrich wins them all. You see he's winning Texas, he's winning in the middle. He would get, under this scenario, he would catch up almost to Governor Romney, not quite. Now the Gingrich campaign would say, under this scenario, if you got to the convention, they would have momentum at the end, they could go to the convention and make the case, we came back late.

I just want to say, though, for the sake of reality here, you call it "Keeping Them Honest," it's very hard to see Speaker Gingrich, even if he does come back, winning the state of Utah. You have to assume Romney gets that. Very hard to see Speaker Gingrich win Rick Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania. Let's turn this one purple. I have a hard time seeing Speaker Gingrich winning Connecticut. I know we might have an argument in a moment or debate about that. I'm going to give that to Mitt Romney.

The state of New York, I'm giving that one to Mitt Romney. So if Gingrich wins most, there are others I could be skeptical about here. Santorum has been stronger in the Midwest. His campaign would argue he has a better chance than Speaker Gingrich in Wisconsin.

I will stop here. But I switched a few of them back. And this includes, this scenario, even if I stop, it includes Gingrich winning New Jersey here, it includes Gingrich winning California here. I'm a bit skeptical about that. But under this scenario, I have been very generous to the speaker, Romney at 924, Gingrich would then be in second place, Anderson.

Their point would be right, nobody would have clinched. Gingrich would be in second. This is a dream scenario. Most people watching at home would think who know the rules pretty implausible.

COOPER: John, stay with us. I want to bring in Randy Evans, who's a senior adviser to the Gingrich campaign.

Mr. Evans, thanks very much. You heard what John King said. A lot of people are saying you're not winning. Santorum is. If you exit the race, Mitt Romney will face united conservative opposition. Why is that wrong? RANDY EVANS, SENIOR GINGRICH CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Because we're just -- we're not even to halftime yet. Halftime comes on April 24, which is Louisiana. After halftime we hit the third quarter. Here, let me just show you this little chart here which is helpful. There are three big dates that you want to focus on. April -- March 24, it will be halftime. May 22 will be the beginning of the fourth quarter, and June 26 will be overtime.

And why are those dates really important? No candidate by the time we reach Louisiana will have one-half of the number in order to secure the nomination. And the reason that's true is because there are so few legally bound delegates. For example, John used Pennsylvania. Well, Pennsylvania's 69 votes aren't legally bound. It's true for many other states. There are almost 500 not legally bound.

This will go to overtime, this will be a July nomination. And if you take what John just showed you, and I agree with him, that map saves a lot of time. The CNN map is the best map. It shows the numbers. It enables you to calculate your own numbers. But if you took John King's map -- John, add Santorum's number and Gingrich's number and tell me what you get, because that's what happens when you get to July if you don't have a nominee.

You have conservatives -- conservative delegates who have rejected Governor Romney making the decision about who the nominee will be and they come to a decision before they get to Tampa.

COOPER: John, what about that argument?

KING: That is a possibility. I concede the point. If you can stop Governor Romney from getting to 1144, and I'm going to be very clear here, I have no horse in this race, it's hard to do that. It's hard to do that but not impossible. Randy is right about that. It's not impossible. So it's not impossible to stop him.

This scenario stops him with Speaker Gingrich in second place, and you're right, if you add up Gingrich and Santorum, that's not even enough to clinch there but it would be close and it will be past Governor Romney.

Let me show you, Anderson and Randy, just for the sake of argument. I'm going to show you a different scenario. This is one the Santorum campaign thinks is more likely. I'm going to show you this scenario and I'm going to skip the states in the middle. We'll just go to the end.

The Santorum campaign thinks Speaker Gingrich is effectively dead as a candidate. I know Randy disagrees with that. But let's just look at another scenario. This is Santorum. I'm being very generous to Senator Santorum in places like Kentucky and West Virginia. Romney clinches in this scenario. Let's say that, you know, if Santorum or Gingrich -- let's assume this is not -- I'm not giving these to any candidates.

If you take away California and New Jersey, you get him behind, the other two add up to roughly Romney. Sure, you can come up with a scenario, and I think the next 10 days if Romney stumbles some more would tell us whether or not it's a reasonable scenario to think about of getting to the convention denying him. Then the conversation becomes is it Speaker Gingrich in second place, then he has leverage heading in.

Is it Santorum in second place? He has leverage going in. Can there be an alliance? Sure. Has this happened in any of our life times? No.

COOPER: Mr. Evans, let me just ask you. What changed between last week when people in the Gingrich campaign were saying Alabama and Mississippi are must-win and today when Speaker Gingrich did not win them and people in the campaign are saying, OK, well, they're no longer -- they were no longer must-win?

EVANS: Well, I don't know who said that last week. I know that I wrote a piece --

COOPER: R.C. Hammond said it.

EVANS: Well, that's great. I know that if I wrote a piece, which was disseminated to the media and sent out to all of our volunteers that said that we're in a -- we're in uncharted waters. This would be an historic nomination where no candidate will receive the legally bound number before the process ends.

I think Governor Romney even conceded today that it'd be a couple of months, which is effectively saying that it will be into June. At the end of the process we'll end up without a nominee. But the one thing that we do know is that two-thirds of the delegates don't want Mitt Romney. And so we know who it won't be.

The only way Governor Romney can actually win is to force the nomination by securing the number, but mathematically that's now not possible.

And John, I will disagree with you on one point. I think the most important part of this process will be that May 22 through June 5 time period. A three-week period where 500 plus delegates get picked. They begin with Arkansas, Kentucky.

KING: Right.

EVANS: And those can be -- those can be away games for Governor Romney, but it doesn't get the trick. Arkansas, Kentucky leads into Texas, 155 delegates. And then you go into June 5 where you have two winner-take-alls.

Why is winner-take-all so important?

KING: In California.

EVANS: It's California and New Jersey. And why is that important? There is no second place, there is no third place, there is only first place. Five hundred delegates added to any one of those totals.

COOPER: John -- EVANS: Any one of those totals changes the whole math.

COOPER: John, finally, do you believe that Speaker Gingrich is going to go all the way to the convention? I mean, we're hearing now his campaign is saying that, yes, that's the plan.

KING: I take him at his word right now. I think he's a politician. I take him at his word and I take him as -- I also know he's a good, loyal Republican. I think after every one of these he will sit down and talk to his wife and his team, including Randy, and think about it. But today I take him at his word.

And, Anderson, I want to make the point that Randy is right, especially about the big prizes at the end. Texas has moved back. New Jersey is at the end. California is at the end. This is just what any other campaign would say. And I applaud anybody who's loyal to a candidate who says my guy can still win. But what any other campaign would tell you, what most Republicans would tell you is looking at this map, why are we to believe that the guy who only has two wins now, when Romney and Santorum have so many, is going to be the guy who's winning at the end?

So if Speaker Gingrich is going to have this end game that includes New Jersey, Texas and California, that's plausible. However, he needs to start winning in Illinois and Wisconsin and Missouri and places in the middle to have any credible argument that he's going to be the guy closing strong at the end.


EVANS: Well, John, I would just point out that after we leave Louisiana, we go to the District of Columbia, where Senate Santorum is not even on the ballot.

KING: That's true.

EVANS: So don't forget that those kind of things, those operational issues early in the process take their toll when you don't fill slates or where you don't get on the ballot.

COOPER: Randy Evans, appreciate you being on. John King as well. And gentlemen, thank you.

Let us know what you think at home. We're on Facebook, Google+, follow me on Twitter, @AndersonCooper. I'm tweeting tonight.

Up next, a 360 exclusive. You won't see this report anywhere else, another outrage in the pardons of these killers in Mississippi. Now we're learning about preferential treatment that two of these killers got, even before they were set free by the then outgoing governor, Haley Barbour. And what does the governor have to say about it?

Well, we're "Keeping Them Honest." Later, the growing national outcry over a teenager shot dead in Florida in a gated community. An African-American teen. New details coming to light about the neighborhood watch captain who shot him and questions about whether Florida' self-defense law is a license to kill.

First let's check in with Isha -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, as the violence in Syria goes on, we're getting a new window into one of the worst episodes. New video emerges, taken during the brutal siege of Homs. If you ever had any doubts about what the Syrian people are up against, you won't when you see our exclusive report. That and much more when 360 continues.


COOPER: "Crime & Punishment" tonight: a story that frankly gets even more mind-blowing with every new angle that we uncover. We're talking about Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour's decision to pardon about 200 criminals as he was leaving office, including these convicted killers who worked as servants at the Governor's Mansion.

Well, tonight some stunning new details about the favors that two of these killers received from state officials before they were even set free. As one state lawmaker put it, treating killers like kings.

Now we've been telling you about the governor's factually challenged defense on why he let these men go. His refusal to answer questions about it, his broken promise to talk once the state Supreme Court ruled, which it did last Thursday. We haven't stopped digging, though, because as you'll see in a moment there are victims and families living in fear right now because of his decision, a decision that the former governor is now ducking accountability for.

Here's how he defended it in a statement put out by his office on the day of the Supreme Court ruling -- quote -- "These were decisions based on repentance, rehabilitation and redemption leading to forgiveness and the right defined and given by the state constitution to the governor to offer such people a second chance."

Now, in the single appearance he did make on CNN weeks ago on John King's show before this turned toxic for him, he also tried to make the case that these killers were somehow uniquely safe to set free. Listen.


HALEY BARBOUR (R), FORMER MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: For decades, our governor's mansion has been served primarily by -- mansion by inmates from the state penal system. Almost all murderers, because the experts say, people who committed one crime of passion in their life, after they have served 20 years, and these have served on average 20 years, are the least likely to ever commit another crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest," as the experts who came on our program have pointed out repeatedly, people kill on impulse who commit so-called crimes of passion that the governor calls them in the heat of the moment, they are no less likely to kill again than anyone else. In any case, you would be hard pressed to describe what some of these killers did as crimes of passion as all.

For instance, Joseph Ozment, this man, stuck up a convenience store. He shot the clerk three times on the way in the door and then twice more before leaving the scene. It wasn't a crime of passion.

After arguing with his wife, Anthony McCray, this man, left the scene. Then later returned with a gun and shot her in the back. Not exactly heat of the moment. Neither is this, David Gatlin. He stalked his estranged wife Tammy Ellis Gatlin for weeks before striking. He shot and killed her while she held her baby in her arms. Their baby. He badly wounded her friend, Randy Walker.

Now ever since we began bringing these facts to light, we've been asking Governor Barbour to come on the program and speak to the issue. Or come on any program, frankly. Our correspondents have sought him out for comment. Here's how that worked out.


BARBOUR: How are you doing?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can we talk to you real quick?

BARBOUR: Let me go get my instructions first.


COOPER: Governor Haley Barbour who's refused our repeated request, by the way, to be on the program.

Governor, we would love you to come on this show and answer some questions.


LAVANDERA: Governor, can you talk to us about the pardons?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have got business right here.

LAVANDERA: All right. We'll wait for you out here then.


COOPER: Again, an open invitation stands for Governor Barbour to come to this program.


LAVANDERA: Can you come out and talk to us for a second? (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now despite repeated requests Governor Barbour will not come on this program. We've tried multiple, multiple times.


LAVANDERA: Governor, can we get a few minutes to talk about the pardons with you?

BARBOUR: Not really. When the Supreme Court rules, it will be the time to talk. But I'm not so presumptuous as to --

LAVANDERA: But there's news --

BARBOUR: I'm not so presumptuous as to predict what the Supreme Court is going to do. But when they rule, then we can talk.


COOPER: Well, and as we said, once again today, the former governor's office declined our invitation to come on the program saying he'll be traveling for at least the rest of the month.

With or without Mr. Barbour's help, Ed Lavandera has not stopped searching for answers. And as you'll see right now, he's come up with some truly striking new details that you won't see anywhere else.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Just days before these two Mississippi killers were pardoned by Haley Barbour, CNN has learned David Gatlin and Charles Hooker were issued brand new driver's licenses, even though they were still technically incarcerated working as trustees at the Governor's Mansion, which begs the question, how do two inmates get driver's licenses while they're still in custody of the prison system?

(on camera): Well, Haley Barbour's chief security officer tells CNN he personally drove both men from the Governor's Mansion here over to the driver's license office himself. He told us that he knew both men would be pardoned and he hoped having licenses would help them find jobs. We asked him if he thought this was unusually favorable treatment for an inmate to get and he told us it probably would be.

(voice-over): He said that Governor Barbour did not direct him to do this and yes, it's also legal. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety says inmates can acquire and renew licenses while still in prison.


LAVANDERA: Randy Walker was shot in the head by pardoned prison trustee David Gatlin. Walker is furious that the man who shot him would get so much preferential treatment. WALKER: That's just mind blowing. I mean, where is enough is enough? I mean, it should be -- it should be enough that they gave a convicted killer his life back. LAVANDERA: Barbour's security chief suggests the licenses would help them find jobs, but why else would either of these men need a driver's license? To drive their newly purchased cars, of course.

CNN has obtained these investigator's reports from the Mississippi Attorney General's Office which detail how Gatlin and Hooker also had cars ready for them the day they were pardoned. According to the report, Haley Barbour's wife called a salesman at this car dealership. It says, "Marsha Barbour contacted him regarding the purchase of vehicles for Hooker and Gatlin." The salesman allegedly told investigators that the inmates had been brought to the dealership on January 6, 2012, in a black Ford Crown Victoria to complete paperwork for the sale.

January 6 is the very day that their pardons were signed but two days before the men were officially released. The salesman also stated that he delivered both vehicles to the Governor's Mansion.

We asked Governor Barbour about it, he refused to answer directly, but the governor's spokeswoman told CNN in an e-mail that our questions regarding the driver's licenses, the purchase of the cars, and the role of his wife were -- quote -- "based on assumptions of fact which simply are not true."

The Mississippi Department of Public Safety tells CNN, "To our knowledge no policies were broken," but a Democratic state representative who oversees the Department of Public Safety calls the preferential treatment appalling.

DAVID BARIA (D), MISSISSIPPI STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Not only just to turn these folks loose, but to give them -- treat them like kings essentially. And I think it's -- you know, it's just -- it's way out of bounds. It's outside the bounds of, you know, common decency and what we expect of our government.

LAVANDERA: So who paid for the cars? The short answer, no one is saying. According to the report, Hooker told investigators his son helped him buy the car and made the first three payments on his 2007 Ford Focus. David Gatlin got a 2009 Chevy HHR.

According to the investigative report, Gatlin was asked by investigators where he got the car. Gatlin allegedly replied -- quote -- "I can't tell you."

To Randy Walker, it's just one more injustice, one more example of a situation beyond corrupt.

WALKER: Where's my handout? I mean, I had -- there's thousands upon thousands upon thousands of medical bills that nobody helped me pay. You know, stuff that's a necessity, I had to have this medical stuff done. I'm not one to go to -- you know, to fits of anger, but it really -- I mean, my blood pressure is boiling.


COOPER: Ed, I know the former governor has declined to speak with us. You've gotten a statement from him. What did he say?

LAVANDERA: Well, several days ago we sent a lengthy e-mail to his spokesperson detailing all of these questions, very specific, many questions. And basically most of those questions were ignored in the statement. But he did say that -- the governor said that throughout his tenure as governor and having this trustee program, that they did everything they could to help these trustees succeed once they completed the program and went on to return into regular society. And in his words that they had done everything they can to make sure that these men would continue and remain to be law-abiding citizens in the future.

COOPER: Ed, thanks.

Next I want to bring in Tiffany Ellis Brewer whose sister Tammy was murdered by David Gatlin and Tiffany's mom, Betty Ellis.

Tiffany, when you hear about the preferential treatment that the man who murdered your sister received, what goes through your mind?

TIFFANY ELLIS BREWER, SISTER OF TAMMY GATLIN: It's disturbing, very disturbing. I mean, you know, it just -- you don't really know what to say. It doesn't surprise me, after all that's gone on, you know. It's not a surprise. But it is disturbing.

COOPER: And, Betty, we're also hearing that the governor's wife, Governor Barbour's wife called a car dealership and talked to a salesman on behalf of these men. I mean, these are benefits that common citizens don't get, for murderers to get them, it kind of stuns me. Does it shock you?

BETTY ELLIS, MOTHER OF TAMMY GATLIN: It really upsets me because, you know, I wrote Miss Barbour a letter and asked her to consider asking her husband not to pardon David. And she didn't even do me the courtesy of responding to my letter, but she had time to take the inmates and get them a car. I don't know what you think about people that have that kind of mentality. It's sad to me that we had a governor that we respected and everyone thought was doing a really good job. But he was doing all this kind of stuff, which is -- I mean, it hurts.

COOPER: Has -- it's amazing to me the governor's wife didn't reach out to you after you sent a letter. Has the governor tried to reach out to you to at least explain what he was thinking subsequently? I mean, in the wake of all this, has he at least reached out to just explain himself to you?

ELLIS: No. The governor has made no attempt to contact me or my family.

COOPER: Tiffany, knowing what you know now about the level of aid provided to at least two of these men, does it -- I mean, does it change your feelings about the governor, about the role he played in all this?

BREWER: Well, you know, when all of this started when he first did this, I lost respect for him then. So, you know, I think he's -- you know, just not a very good person apparently to put all of his faith in people like this, you know, and give them things that they have not earned. I mean, you know, he basically made a business deal, you know. These people went in there. He shook hands with these men and said you do this for me and I will do this for you and that's it, with no regard to our families.

COOPER: Betty, what would you want to say to the governor, to his wife, and what would you want to say to him?

ELLIS: I would say that what happens at the mansion doesn't always stay at the mansion, and, you know, I just can't understand your thinking of why you think more of criminals than you do of people that work and pay taxes and try to live a decent life. That just -- it just amazes me, governor -- ex-Governor Barbour, that you would think more of these people than you did of a regular citizen. I cannot understand it. I will never understand why you did what you did.

COOPER: Tiffany, do you feel like the system failed you, that it failed the memory of your sister?

BREWER: Yes. Definitely. I feel like that, you know, Tammy, she was a wonderful person. And people don't know that, you know, and I can't express it enough. And it's almost like her death is just in vain, you know, like she didn't matter, and she did.

COOPER: Yes. Well, Betty and Tiffany, again, I appreciate you being back on the program. And you know, we'll keep on -- we'll keep on this story and see if any changes will occur. Thank you so much.

BREWER: Thanks, Anderson.

ELLIS: Thank you.

COOPER: I feel so bad for them to have to keep talking about this.

Still ahead, another city becomes a killing field in Syria. What happens in Homs is now happening in Idlib. A reporter who was there describes what she saw firsthand the day the onslaught began.

Plus, growing outrage over the death of an unarmed Florida teenager in a gated community. He was shot by a community volunteer watchdog who hasn't been charges or even arrested. He says it was self-defense. The young man's family wants the 911 tapes released.


COOPER: This week is the one-year anniversary of what started out as a peaceful revolution in Syria but has turned into a wholesale blood bath. Tonight a disturbing reminder why the world needs to know what is happening in Syria and why we continue to report on this nearly every night.

Now, the Syrian regime, led by President Bashar al-Assad, is killing its own people and denying about it. They're lying about it. They've been lying about it for a year now.

We need to warn you: what you're about to see is extremely tough to watch. The people who died, though, deserve that their story be told, and so does the sole survivor that you're about to see.

Here's Arwa Damon.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The men crouch as they move across rooftops, crawling through holes they've smashed through the walls. It's taken them nearly a week to get this far, to reach a house on the sectarian fault line that runs through Homs.

"We're rescuing the bodies of the martyrs," the voice on the video narrates. They've heard that a Sunni family has been killed. What they find, shocking beyond description.

The first body, that of a woman. In the room next to it, bodies crowded into a back corner, as if they were trying to hide. The dead child's face, a mask of fear. Blood splatters the walls.

"Let the world see," the voice claims. "Look at this massacre in just one house." He curses the Shias, the Allawis (ph) and Bashar al- Assad.

The video is said to have been shot in the neighborhood of Sebid early in February. "Oh look, people, look," Sheikh Abu Rahim (ph) says, overcome with emotion as he, too, curses the regime, and the world.

The camera pans over to show more bodies slaughtered in the bathroom. Suddenly, on another floor, a tiny whimper. The child cries out, clearly terrified. He comes into view, having to crawl over a body lying in the doorway. He must have been hiding for days.

"Don't be afraid. You're safe now. Don't make a sound," one of the men tells the boy.

It's not known who killed his family or why, but the men who found the bodies are sure this was a sectarian massacre carried out by thugs allied to the regime.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Beirut.


COOPER: And as we reported just in the last couple of days, activists say there was another massacre after Syrian forces took control of the neighborhood of Baba Amr after shelling it for many weeks. Tonight the slaughter of innocent civilians continues in Syria and so do the lies. Activists say at least 56 more people were killed today, including 29 in the city of Idlib.

Idlib has become another Homs, maybe worse, according to one reporter who has seen the killing in both cities firsthand. We're going to hear from her in a moment. She got into Idlib last week and was there with the onslaught began.

These are some of the videos that we've been seeing on YouTube. We can't independently confirm their authenticity. The Syrian regime will not allow outside journalists into that city.

Reports from inside Syria describe a scene much like in Homs: government forces pummeling the city. They launch their assault on Saturday morning. Heavily armed troops and tanks poured into the city, overpowering the opposition.

At the very same time this was happening -- now remember, at the same time the guns were firing and people were being killed, U.N./Arab League envoy Kofi Annan was in Damascus, meeting with Bashar al-Assad trying to have a diplomatic end to the regime's crackdown. While they were talking, homes were being destroyed, civilians were dying.

Anita McNaught, a reporter for Al Jazeera, was in Idlib when the assault began. She managed to get out safely late Saturday night. Here's what she told me earlier today.


ANITA MCNAUGHT, CORRESPONDENT, AL JAZEERA: It was a relentless, indiscriminate, inhumane bombardment by heavy, heavy artillery, by tank shells, by armored personnel carriers that scoot around firing heavy caliber machine guns. And then, of course, backed up by sniper fire. The snipers of the Syrian regime were simply sitting there in their invisible emplacements, taking out anyone that they felt walking by.


COOPER: The assault at Idlib raged for four days. Government forces reportedly now in control.

Today Syrian state-run media said security forces, quote, "have brought safety and security back to Idlib, which witnessed terrorist acts by armed gangs."

Still ahead tonight, growing outrage over the shooting death of an African-American teenage boy in Florida. Some say the gunman's claim of what happened just does not add up. Isha, though, first has a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the American soldier accused of murdering 16 civilians in Afghanistan has been flown to Kuwait. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta addressed Marines at Camp Lebanon (ph) in Afghanistan. He'll also meet with Afghan officials angered about the deadly rampage.

Investigators in Switzerland are working to determine what caused a horrible bus crash that killed 28 people. Most of the victims are children. The bus crashed into a wall inside a tunnel. But investigators already say it was not speeding and that no other vehicle was involved.

Actor George Clooney testified before Congress today about what he called a campaign of murder by Sudan's government against some of its own people. He traveled to Sudan last week to document the conditions that some Sudanese are living through.

And Anderson, history is made at Iditarod. Twenty-five-year-old Dallas Seavey crossing the finish line yesterday in Nome, Alaska, becoming the youngest musher ever to win the competition. The Iditarod is a thousand -- nearly a thousand-mile race across the Alaskan wilderness where teams of dogs pull their sleds.

COOPER: Did you say "moosher"?

SESAY: What does? Isn't it "moosher"?

COOPER: No, it's musher, isn't it? It's musher.

SESAY: I'm from England. I'm going "moosher." I can see you being a "moosher."

COOPER: Moosh. Moosh, everyone. Moosh. No, it's mush.

SESAY: This will be my contribution to the English language, mooshing.

COOPER: Oh, Isha, Isha, Isha.

SESAY: I know. I can see you doing that.

COOPER: What am I going to do?

SESAY: I don't know, teach me English.

COOPER: All right. Isha.

Still ahead, a story that's been getting a lot of coverage locally in Florida and just starting to get more national coverage, as it should. Calls for justice for a Florida teenager shot to death in a gated community.

Now, the teenager wasn't armed. He had some Skittles on him. The man who shot him says it was self-defense. The case is shining a light on Florida's self-defense law and whether it can be seen as a license to kill. It's also raising a lot of questions about race. We'll have a report on that ahead.

Also new video of that American Airline flight attendant who had a meltdown -- I guess you'd say on the tarmac. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get out of my way!



COOPER: We're "Digging Deeper" tonight on a case in Florida that's triggered a lot of outrage there and far beyond.

Trayvon Martin, a high school junior, was shot dead in a gated community in Sanford. He wasn't carrying a weapon. He had a reason to be there. He was visiting family members, and he was going to spend the evening watching a basketball game. He went out to buy some snacks and never made it back. He was just 17 years old.

Now, the man who shot Trayvon hasn't been charged. He's claiming self-defense, and the case is raising new questions about Florida's self-defense law. More on that in a moment.

But first, David Mattingly has the details on that deadly night.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trayvon Martin walked out of this convenience store buying a bottle of iced tea and a pack of candy, goodies in preparation of watching the NBA all-star game. He would have easily made it back to the condo, where he was visiting, in time for tipoff.

(on camera) It's possible that Trayvon entered the neighborhood here, cutting between these two buildings off of the main road there, on his way home. It should have been about a ten-minute walk, a little less than half a mile, and even though it was a little after dark, his family probably wasn't concerned at all. This was generally regarded as a safe neighborhood, a safe place to be after dark.

(voice-over) One of the reasons for that safety was 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watch captain. But a recent break-in had people worried.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And someone broke into this one right here.

MATTINGLY (on camera): During the daytime?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. They walked in.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Frank Tapley (ph) believes Zimmerman kept him from becoming a victim just a month ago, alerting police to a suspicious person outside his condo.

(on camera) What was your perception of him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George seemed to be a very congenial, amiable person. And we admired him for stepping up and taking over the job as a neighborhood watch captain. COOPER (voice-over): Tapley (ph) says residents didn't know Zimmerman was armed or about a scuffle with police seven years ago that got him arrested. The case was later dropped.

Zimmerman drew a hard line for people parking in the wrong place and playing loud music. Yet on this Sunday night in February, Zimmerman had his eye on Trayvon Martin, a lone, black 17-year-old walking in the dark. Zimmerman alerted police to a suspicious person.

(on camera) It's probably about right here where Zimmerman made that call to police. You can see we're not very far from the entry gates into this neighborhood. At the time it was a little after dark, and it was raining, so Trayvon very likely had his hood up over his head. And his family says it's very likely he was listening to music on his iPhone, not aware of what was going on around him.

(voice-over) Dispatchers told Zimmerman police were on the way, to not get out of his vehicle. But that's not what happened.

NATALIE JACKSON, ATTORNEY: He got out of his car and he -- there was some confrontation with Trayvon.

MATTINGLY: Natalie Jackson is Trayvon Martin's family attorney, who says it's clear the young man was walking away from Zimmerman, down this sidewalk, around a corner. Police won't say how the encounter turned violent.

JACKSON: There's only one person alive who knows what happened, and that's Zimmerman.

MATTINGLY: One resident tells CNN she saw fighting, heard shouting and screams for help. Then a gunshot. Trayvon Martin was shot in the chest, pronounced dead at the scene less than 100 yards from making it home.

David Mattingly, CNN, Sanford, Florida.


COOPER: The state attorney's office is investigating the case. Trayvon's family, attorneys and supporters say he's the victim of racial profiling. They're demanding that the shooter, Zimmerman, be charged with murder.

But because of the way Florida's law on self-defense is written, this case is anything but simple. I spoke earlier to CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor, Sunny Hostin.


COOPER: One of the things that doesn't really seem to make sense in this is that this man Zimmerman is claiming self-defense, and yet it seems like he was the one who pursued this young man.

HOSTIN: Well, that's right. And that's because in Florida, it's one of 15 states that has this "stand your ground" law. And it's very broad in Florida. And what it means is if you feel threatened, you can defend yourself even with deadly force, if you feel in fear of this great bodily harm.

COOPER: And you're not expected to run away? Or...

HOSTIN: You can't -- you're not supposed to run, you're not supposed to retreat.

COOPER: You can use deadly force.

HOSTIN: Exactly. But you sort of hit the nail on the head. There's an exception to that, and that's the first aggressor rule. So if you pick a fight and then you get beaten, you can't then walk away and get a gun and shoot someone. And that seems to be, in my view ,the facts of this case.

When you think about it, Anderson, you have a kid who had Skittles and a can of iced tea and was walking back to his father's home. And then you have this sort of neighborhood watch person who deemed him suspicious.

He calls the police department. They tell him to stand down, that a police cruiser would be dispatched. Well, he takes the law into his own hands, and I believe pursued him. In that type of fact scenario, you are not entitled to claim self-defense. That's a self- protection law.

COOPER: It's not clear how a fight or how the altercation actually ensued, but it is from what we know, this Zimmerman guy, the neighborhood watch guy, got out of his vehicle and pursued...

HOSTIN: That's right.

COOPER: ... this young man. I mean, you have to look at race, as well, in this, and a lot of people -- a lot of people in Florida are saying there's race -- this involves race.

HOSTIN: Well, I think so. I mean, you're talking about a black kid, 17 years old with a red hoodie. Why does that make him suspicious? And why does he get gunned down? I mean, this night watchperson brought a gun to a Skittle fight. The kid was completely unarmed. It just doesn't make sense.

I do think race perhaps played a role in it. Why was this child suspicious? We're talking about a child.

COOPER: Right. The question is why was he viewed as suspicious, because he was walking in this gated community?

HOSTIN: Exactly, walking in a gated community. It was raining. He had a hoodie on. And apparently, he was walking slowly, and that made him appear suspicious.

COOPER: And local news reports say that people have heard the 911 tape, which has not been released, claimed that Zimmerman said, "These a-holes always get away." HOSTIN: Always get away. That's right. And I want to know what did he mean by that. These what, these black kids, these black people? What did he mean by that?

And so I think if all those facts are true and you look at them, he can't avail himself of this self-defense law.

I think also, Anderson, what is so troubling is he hasn't been arrested by the police. And now the case is in the hands of the state.

As a former prosecutor, I hope that they have the guts to charge this guy. Let a jury decide what happened, because one of the witnesses to this, Trayvon Martin, is dead. He was, in my view, murdered.

COOPER: And again the family wants the 911 tapes released in the hopes that that will have some evidence of what occurred. Apparently one shot is actually audible during one of the 911 calls.

HOSTIN: Yes. And I think it will sort of shed light on what really happened here. Was he the first aggressor? What did he say to the police? What was his motivation for pursuing this young man?

And if he indeed pursued him, then that, in my mind, when I put my legal hat on, means he's the first aggressor. He cannot avail himself of that defense, and he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

COOPER: Sunny, appreciate it, thanks.

HOSTIN: Thanks.


COOPER: Let us know what you think about this case. A lot of the details aren't known at this point. The 911 tapes have not been released. But let us know what you think on Twitter, @AndersonCooper.

Just ahead a close-up new look at that incident on board an American Airlines flight. Do you remember that flight? A flight attendant's apparent nervous or mental breakdown. Details ahead.


SESAY: I'm Isha Sesay with a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

A newly-released video shows a closer angle of an American Airlines flight attendant's apparent meltdown on the tarmac in Dallas before she was restrained.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone call 911. Stewardess is about to kill passengers before takeoff! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop, stop!


SESAY: Well, passengers say they heard the flight attendant say she was bipolar and hadn't taken her medication. The airline isn't commenting on that.

And mixed day on Wall Street. The Dow was up 15 points, and the NASDAQ was up a point. The S&P fell 2 points.

And a girl from Virginia has become the youngest contestant eligible to participate in the Scripps national spelling bee. Lori Anne Madison is just 6 years old. The national spelling bee is in May. Good luck, Lori Anne.

Now back to Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, there's going to be no more print edition for the Encyclopedia Britannica. The end of an era and the beginning of "The RidicuList."


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList," and tonight, we're adding the end of the encyclopedia. After 244 years, Encyclopedia Britannica has announced it is not publishing any more print editions. No more books. Britannica's editor in chief essentially says it's a sign of the times.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, most of our users are digital users. And therefore, we want to focus all of our attentions on producing digital content that can be delivered onto computers, laptops, smart phones, and tablets.


COOPER: It's true. Now, when was the last time you looked up anything in an actual, non-digital encyclopedia? It's so inconvenient. Try it; I dare you to.

Go to the nearest encyclopedia set. Look up, I don't know, Henry David Thoreau. Now, first of all, there's no "like" button anywhere, so how is that guy you sat next to study hall umpteen years ago supposed to know what you're doing? Not to mention there's no comments section, where you can read a wealth of poorly-spelled misinformation about "Walden," which then somehow inexplicably devolves into an argument about Lana Del Ray in which strangers call each other Hitler. No, the encyclopedia is just you, a book, and some straightforward information. How incredibly passe.

These days, the encyclopedia is about as old-timey as rotary phones, VCRs, and genuine human interaction. So it's easy to forget, not so long ago, having an encyclopedia set at home was pretty revolutionary.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now what am I going to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help your kids succeed by having the information they need right at home with Encyclopedia Britannica, the library that never closes.


COOPER: It's true. Back in the day, if you had to do a report in space, the encyclopedia was the only game in town.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody knows this is the greatest encyclopedia in the world. Helped me get a "B" plus.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too long. I found so much great information, I put it all in. Overkill.

The next report, I think, was for my science class, on the human body. Look at all this great stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: See, the kids today can find out a whole lot more about the human body just by Googling. However, most of it I would not recommend putting in a report for school.

Maybe there should be no more books at all, no more books of any kind. Let's just -- let's just "Fahrenheit 451" this baby once and for all. We have everything we need right there on our phones. And as is often the case, the most cogent commentary on that comes from Louis C.K.


LOUIS C.K., COMEDIAN: Just the constant, nobody takes in life unless it comes through this. Like, I think if Jesus comes back and starts telling everyone everything, it will just -- everybody is just going to be twittering. And they won't -- be like, "I am Christ and I have returned."

"Oh, my God, Jesus is right in front of me. I swear to God."

"But this is -- I am now going to impart to you."

"Jesus, oh, my God. He's trending. Jesus is trending right now."

"All right. OK."

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: And yes, #EncyclopediaBritannica was a trending topic on Twitter when this news came down. And that, for better or worse, speaks volumes.

Hey, that's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.