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CNN NEWSROOM

Train Derailment Investigation Continues; Newtown 911 Tapes Released; Stranded Whales

Aired December 4, 2013 - 15:00   ET

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


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I want to continue my conversation, bring in my two guests. We have clinical psychologist Jeff Gardere and former police detective Steve Kardian.

And, Steve, you heard the tapes as well, and again the takeaway, the calm. These folks did their jobs.

STEVE KARDIAN, FORMER NEW YORK STATE POLICE DETECTIVE: They did, Brooke. I want to put together two words you just said, is a professional calm.

By the officers maintaining that demeanor, they're able to keep as possible -- as much as possible the other people on the other line calm, extract information, who's injured, what do we need. And this is all done at hyperspeed, so they had to get the Connecticut State Police, get mutual aide there, ascertain, are there injuries?

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Quick, quick, quick, quick.

KARDIAN: Very quick, very professional, and well done.

BALDWIN: On a day like today, and again, not only is this happening today, but then you have the one-year anniversary happening in two Saturdays from now.

Jeff Gardere, how -- just talk about the emotional toll, the -- I don't know if it's reinjuring would be the correct way to say it, for the families, for the community.

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Sure.

And we know the community, the families, the survivors, all of us really, but specifically those people, are still experiencing their PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, and they need to continue to heal. This is going to take a long, long time. There's never going to be a normal again. Now there needs to be a new normal.

But part of what has been released today, part of what we know, I think gives us some comfort to know that the previous shootings, we have learned from them. We're going to learn from this shooting, and hopefully, we can minimize the shootings in the future, but I would say to those families, survivors, victims, and so on, continue to talk about this. Continue to get treatment. Continue to have an informal support group to discuss what that day was like.

It's the catharsis of getting it out there that makes you healthier.

BALDWIN: Dr. Jeff Gardere and Steve Kardian, thank you both very much.

United States officials are working today with Mexico to try to locate this truck, a stolen truck with a radioactive payload.

Justice reporter Evan Perez is on the story for us from Washington.

And how did they find out about this?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, the radioactive payload that you're talking about is cobalt-60.

And it's inside a device that's used in hospitals to treat brain cancer and other types of diseases. What happened is in Mexico apparently on Sunday, a truck that was carrying a device that was essentially being discarded from a hospital was stolen at a gas station in Central Mexico. The Mexican authorities have alerted U.S. authorities, as well as international authorities that deal with radioactive materials to try to make sure that this doesn't get out of the country, this doesn't pose a danger elsewhere.

At this point, what they're looking at is they believe that perhaps these thieves didn't know what they were getting into. There was other material inside this truck, there was some scrap, there were other things that were being thrown away. Perhaps the truck itself was the target.

And from a standpoint of public safety, it's just obviously not something you want just running around out there in the public. There is obviously a big danger here and a concern, especially for U.S. authorities, to try to make sure it doesn't get across the border.

As you know, since 9/11 in the U.S., there's been a lot of concern about the possibility of a dirty bomb or somebody using radioactive material to try to do some big dirty bomb inside the United States.

Now, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has these devices all across the border, at border crossings to try to make sure that border officers can detect the stuff if it tries to come across in a truck. They say they're on alert for that. They don't believe that's the case. Again, at this point, it's more of a public safety danger rather than a concern about a dirty bomb.

BALDWIN: Evan Perez in Washington, Evan, thank you very much.

Coming up, was it highway hypnosis or did this train operator simply nod off? Conflicting information about what exactly happened to the driver of that train that derailed early Sunday morning in the Bronx, killing four people, injuring at least 67 others. What could happen to that driver? I'm talking legal ramifications here.

Later today: Four students at University of California, Santa Barbara, have been diagnosed with the virus that causes meningitis. One of those students even had to have his feet amputated. We will tell you what the university is doing about this when it comes to the rest of the community there.

And, next, these pictures today. Look at these whales, 45 pilot whales stranded in the shallow waters. You can see some of them beached there. This is the Florida Everglades. The race is on to guide these whales back into the open ocean.

We're live in Florida next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: It is not every day you see dozens of whales just stranded on this remote beach, but look at these pictures here, 45 of these whales right now near Everglades National Park in Florida. Wildlife officials are desperately trying to rescue those trapped in nearby shallow water. You saw those are now really just washed up on the sand.

These are pilot whales, typically smaller whales. At least six of the beached whales have died, and the surviving ones, we're being told, may have to be euthanized.

CNN's John Zarrella is in Florida. He's en route to these whales. He's on a boat as I speak. As soon as we can make the connection with John Zarrella and he can paint a picture in person, we will get to him.

But let me move on to Alistair Dove. Alistair Dove is the director of research and conservation at the Georgia aquarium.

And, Alistair, nice to have you on, though I hate the circumstances here. These pictures are just awful to look at. Can you just first explain to all of us, how does this even happen that you have 45 whales just suddenly stranded?

ALISTAIR DOVE, GEORGIA AQUARIUM: Unfortunately, it's a little bit of an enigma.

We really don't know to this day while whales beach. There's some thought that maybe it's something to do with their social structure, that they have a very prominent male lead in the social structure. And the thought is if that animal gets sick and beaches itself, all of the rest of the animals are forced by their social structure to follow that animal on to the beach, which is really unfortunate.

But the truth is we really just don't know a lot of the time.

BALDWIN: So, Alistair, if you're down there, walk me through what's happening right now to get the whales who are rescuable out of there and into deeper waters. DOVE: So, a big part of the challenge is that these animals have beached themselves in a really remote area. Just getting to them is a significant challenge.

But the fish and wildlife officials who have got there and some volunteers who are helping, they will have been trying to push the animals back into the water that have beached but are still alive. But unfortunately, in a lot of these cases, the prognosis is not particularly good, and a lot of the animals will continue to beach themselves over and over. And they will end up having to be euthanized.

BALDWIN: Hang on, you said pushed. We're not talking physically, these rescuers are in the water shoving these whales? How do they literally get them out of there?

DOVE: It wouldn't be a case of shoving. A lot of it, you're going to rely on the tide. You wait for the tide to come back in and provide a little bit of buoyancy to help you get the animal off the mud bank and back into the water.

But there is a certain amount of manual effort. You literally have to push the animals back into the water. We don't encourage people to do that. If you run into one of these situations, the best thing to do is call the competent wildlife official and they will come and assess the situation and provide the help. But volunteers do sometimes get involved to help put the animals back in the water.

BALDWIN: At what point do they make the call to euthanize them, and why? To put them out of pain?

DOVE: Usually, there will be a veterinarian who is supervising the activities. At some point, if they determine that the animals are a lost cause, they continue to bring themselves back up on the beach or if they become injured or dehydrated or they're showing signs of exhaustion or there's no good option for rehabilitating the animal in a facility anywhere, they will be faced with the unfortunate decision of having to euthanize them.

BALDWIN: And just quickly, finally, of your knowledge of these types of whales, if we're talking 45 are stranded, what is your best guess as far as how many could be saved?

DOVE: I really couldn't tell you. A lot of it is to do with the remoteness, I think, which is going to hamper things in this situation, but I bet you the wildlife officials are working as fast as they can and as hard as they can to save as many animals as possible. This is probably a whole pod that is stranded all at once, and that makes things especially difficult.

BALDWIN: Alistair Dove, thank you so much for joining me.

Again, we have John Zarrella on a boat. As soon as we can make contact with John and he can paint a picture, hopefully, there are these folks who are there and beginning that rescue process as soon as possible. Coming up, though, we will take you to California because four students at UCSB, Santa Barbara, diagnosed with the virus that causes meningitis. One of the students even had to have his feet amputated. What the university is doing about this crisis, that is next.

And ahead, the engineer at the controls during the deadly train derailment here in New York suffered from -- quote, unquote -- "highway hypnosis," at least, this is according to his lawyer. A union representative says he nodded off. We will talk about this engineer's legal ramifications, his future here. Stay with me "On the Case."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: A Massachusetts judge arraigned a 14-year-old boy accused of murdering his high school math teacher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guilty on not guilty?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not guilty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Here he is. This is Philip Chism. You heard him say not guilty, pleading not guilty to an adult charge of killing 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer. He also pleaded not guilty to aggravated rape and robbery, charges he faces as a minor, again, 14 years young here.

The judge will determine later if he will upgrade those offenses to adult court. A source says, on October 22, Chism followed his teacher into a bathroom at Danvers High School, murdering her with a box cutter.

And now to a frightening meningitis outbreak here, two colleges on opposite sides of this country on alert today. Eight cases now of meningitis reported at Princeton nearly two weeks ago, and now four cases of the disease that can cause meningitis confirmed at University of California, Santa Barbara.

CNN's Paul Vercammen has more on what the university there is doing about this -- Paul.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, in just a short while, about 700 students will walk into a university center where nurses will give them a powerful antibiotic pill aimed at boosting their immune system against meningitis.

The university also taking another step, telling sororities and fraternities not to sponsor any parties where students might swap utensils or cups at this time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHARITY THOMAN, SBC PUBLIC HEALTH DEPARTMENT: These are some particular Greek organizations on campus that we discovered the students all had some link to. And so out of an abundance of precaution, and because we have a fourth case, we now have taken the step to recommend that some of the social activities be curtailed.

ADAM EPSTEIN, STUDENT: It's scary considering how much we all share containers, how much we're all in such a close proximity with each other, that this virus could like be carried and transferred really easily in this environment. So everybody has to be on just high alert to kind of be careful about it. But it's definitely concerning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: As for the 700 students who will take that powerful antibiotic, their name was gleaned from a list of students who might have had close personal contact with the four meningitis patients here at U.C. Santa Barbara. As for those patients, we understand two have recovered and are back on campus. One is still recovering off campus, and that fourth patient, Aaron Loy, is still in the hospital in San Diego.

He's the student who unfortunately had to have his feet amputated -- back to you now, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Paul Vercammen for us in Santa Barbara, thank you.

Coming up here in New York, was it highway hypnosis, or did this man just simply nod off? Conflicting information today about what exactly happened to the driver of that train that derailed early Sunday morning, killing four people. What could happen to him?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: The 911 calls from the mass shooting at Newtown Sandy Hook Elementary School are now public.

CNN has listened to them and here is some of what we have learned. The dispatchers were incredibly calm. A hero janitor gave the 911 operators crucial information in those moments to help police. We have heard one teacher trapped in a classroom with those students talking to the 911 operators, being told to lock to door.

The release of these tapes, though, has been a huge debate. Many Newtown families have strongly opposed the release of these 911 calls.

Let me bring in two voices here, CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter in Washington, and senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin here with me in New York.

But, Brian Stelter, let me just begin with you here because a number of folks have heard these tapes now. They're out. In your opinion, what is the news value of these 911 calls?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, when there is a mass shooting like the one that happened last year and you can hear how the first-responders were informed about the shooting, and you can hear what was happening inside the school, there is some inherent news value to that.

But networks and news organizations are making very different decisions about what to play and not to play. For example, you can hear gunshots in some of the audio recordings. Some networks may broadcast that. Others will definitely not broadcast the gunshots.

BALDWIN: Jeff Toobin, you have heard the tapes.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I have.

BALDWIN: First of all, just quickly, what was your takeaway?

TOOBIN: I was so impressed by the 911 operators. That was my primary takeaway, that they were very...

BALDWIN: Calm.

TOOBIN: The calm, professionalism.

Also, what makes them horrible is what we know happened, what we know now.

BALDWIN: Now.

TOOBIN: The tapes themselves are not terribly dramatic. You can't hear children. Most of the callers are also pretty calm. Certainly, the janitor really does a tremendous job in describing what is going on.

BALDWIN: Hero.

TOOBIN: But it's what they mean, not how they sound, which is so disturbing.

BALDWIN: Journalists argued, and with the Freedom of Information Act, wanted this public release of the tapes. Prosecutors have said, please don't release them. This could hurt the investigation. You're a legal mind. What do you think?

TOOBIN: Well, the Connecticut judge who did release them, I think, had it right. There really was no choice here. There's a law in Connecticut that says 911 tapes have to be released at some point.

There was no -- and that's just basically the beginning and end of the story. I also think a public service is served by releasing these tapes. There are various conspiracy theories that have floated around this case. Anything that can dispel that, which can inform people about the truth of what really happened, and, also, this is a major event in American history.

BALDWIN: Major.

TOOBIN: The Congress almost voted gun control...

BALDWIN: Right.

TOOBIN: ... because of this. I think that means it's something that the public needs to know about. There is nothing inflammatory. There are no voices of children on the tapes. It's not gruesome in any way. I thought the Connecticut courts did the right thing.

BALDWIN: Brian Stelter, you know this. I know this. There are 911 tapes released. The FOIAs happens all the time. But this, I think, to Jeff Toobin's point, this is like none other. You have these 20 first graders. This seems different.

STELTER: Well, I personally have not listened to the tapes yet. And I don't think I want to. I don't think I want to hear the entire tapes.

But, for example, CBS News tonight will play portions of the tapes. CNN later today will play portions of the tapes. And by exercising that kind of caution, hopefully, it will be somewhat comfortable, and at least not excruciating to hear what was happening.

And to Jeffrey's point, you're not hearing the voices of children, thank God, in these audiotapes. But ABC just now -- just looking at my e-mail during this segment -- has said they're not going to broadcast any audio at all. So, you can see how there are different decisions being made by different outlets about how to handle this today.

BALDWIN: Yes. I think we will a little later tonight, giving context and we're going to move on.

TOOBIN: It just -- remember, this is the age of the Internet. They're all out there for anyone who wants to listen to them.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: You're absolutely right. You're absolutely right.

Jeffrey Toobin and Brian Stelter, thank you both very much.

Let me move on and tell you about this man imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit. Back in 1987, Michael Morton was convicted for the brutal killing of his wife. He went on to spent 25 years behind bars, cut off from the world, losing contact with his only son. And then, flash forward, this DNA evidence proved what Morton claimed all along, that he was innocent.

"NEW DAY"'s Chris Cuomo sat down with Morton ahead of the airing of a CNN film of his story, "An Unreal Dream."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MORTON, EXONERATED: I'm probably the personification of that old axiom you remember from school about, you can't prove a negative. How do you prove you didn't do something?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: How rough was it inside? MORTON: I never liked it. But I got used to it.

CUOMO: How long did it take you?

MORTON: Probably 14 or 15 years.

CUOMO: Fourteen or 15 years?

MORTON: To get to where I was used to it.

CUOMO: Are the first years the hardest?

MORTON: The first years are hard, just because it's a shock and it's new, and it's constant adjustment, constant recalibrations.

CUOMO: What did your son mean to you?

MORTON: As I began losing pieces of myself, my reputation, my assets, most of my friends, as those things diminished, my son's importance rose, just, if nothing else, supply and demand.

CUOMO: And how were those visits?

MORTON: To me, it was just -- I'm a starving man looking at some food on the other side, and I'm just eating it up, and it's great and it's wonderful.

I have since found out, well, he's looking at me as this guy that really doesn't exist in his life, somebody he just sees once in a while.

CUOMO: As he started to grow up and wanted distance, how did you deal with that, and what ultimately did it lead to?

MORTON: He suspended the visits.