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Report: Richard Matt Drunk, Sick When Shot; Louisiana Gay Couple Denied Marriage; One Florida Hospital Facing Scrutiny Over Surgeries, 9 Babies Dead; NASCAR to Ban Confederate Flag from Tracks. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 28, 2015 - 07:30   ET



[07:31:34] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, we're learning much more about the final days of prisoner escapee Richard Matt. The Buffalo News cites unnamed source who is say the convicted killer and fugitive was ill when police tracked him down and shot him. The paper also reports that police believe Matt was likely drunk.

This is coming as the search for Matt's fellow escapee David Sweat intensifies. Searches are focusing on, look here, a 22-square mile area.

CNN's Polo Sandoval joins me now from northern New York.

And, Polo, the Buffalo News says that Richard Matt may have consumed bad food or bad water. Understandable since he's really got few resources, we understand.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That could answer that key question of how were these two escapees able to manage and survive for three weeks before that deadly confrontation with Richard Matt on Friday. Now, again, as you mentioned that newspaper reporting that Richard Matt was likely not only sick but possibly even intoxicated at the time of that deadly confrontation with federal agents on Friday.

So, as we wait to learn more about that autopsy and wait to see if those results confirm reports, I can tell you that the situation here on the ground is really deteriorating, going from bad to worse. It's very uncomfortable for us. You may imagine what it's like for not only police officers manning the checkpoints in and around the area, if you're in Upstate New York, but also for the men and women who are trekking around the treacherous terrain at this hour, trying to find David sweat, because as you may recall, the last concrete evidence that ties Sweat to this area came last weekend when evidence was recovered from a cabin where they were able to tie his DNA to that location.

Since, there haven't been any positive or confirmed sightings of David Sweat. So now the question is was he here at the time his left- hand lane alleged accomplice was gunned down by federal agents. And is he still here? I can tell you, though, law enforcement steadfast and determined in their mission to find him, finding some closure for the people who live here and the shadow, and the rainy shadow at the time of the Adirondacks, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Polo Sandoval there for us, thank you very much.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Let's bring in retired Lieutenant Colonel James Reese.

James, thank you so much for being with us.

You are, some people might not realize, a trained human tracker. You got your expertise at the Malaysian tracking school. So, let's look at some of these details here with you. First of all, if Matt was sick, would you also assume that Sweat could be suffering in some way as well?


Yes. There's a great possibility, especially if they were traveling together. People who are on the run, you know, psychologically, they start to panic and they start to lose their sense of right and wrong. What I mean by right and wrong is making the right decision making out there to elude law enforcement aspects.

And like we said in the report, they start running out of provisions and food, they start to drink from the stream and someone gets a gastrointestinal disease and get sick. That could absolutely be absolutely -- or just because they get wore out and someone catches the flu and they're close to each other.

But I also believe that could be a reason why they might have split. One becomes weaker, one becomes stronger.

[07:35:00] And the stronger one just decides that the weaker partner is slowing him down and he literally just leaves him for prey for the law enforcement and begins his movement without the weaker element.

PAUL: OK. And we do not -- and we should point out we do not know when they may have split up if that was the case. But we know you being trained in tracking. Help us understand as searchers out there, what specifically are they looking for? Because there has been no sighting of him.

REESE: Right. Well, everyone has got to understand that it's not just one golden nugget for tracking. It's several aspects that happen. In today's world of technology, the tracking tools that could be used out there, along with the tools from hundreds years ago, you know, of watching and understanding what that the terrain looks like, and the natural lines of drift when people take when they're walking through these wooded areas can help those trackers do it. What I like right now is the weather has changed. That's great for the trackers, because the weather has changed. That helps with the people that are fleeing. They're making

mistakes. There's disruption in the terrain. So, for that, what I'd call the basic elements of tracking, there's elements to look at for the trackers. But also for the thermal imagery and other types of imagery that law enforcement can use right now. That difference in the temperature and grade can really help bring out those different elements to focus in on these 22 miles they're looking at right now.

PAUL: Yes, all right. Lieutenant Colonel James Reese, boy, so appreciate your insight this morning. Thank you.

REESE: Thanks, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Well, all over the country this weekend there are gay pride celebrations after the decision from the U.S. Supreme Court deciding that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Now, a lot of people with getting married, but not the couple you're about to meet. They were told they could not get married in their home city just yet. They'll join us next.

Also, CNN report leads to a big investigation of a Florida hospital where at least nine babies died in a short period of time following open heart surgeries. A live report and new development straight ahead.


[07:40:44] BLACKWELL: Twenty minutes to the top of the hour now.

And all over the country this weekend, there are gay pride celebrations that are happening. But they became more special after the Supreme Court rules that bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional. And for those who haven't said I do yet, on Friday, there was a rush to get marriage licenses.

You're looking at pictures from Texas, a few from Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky as well. Some of the couples have waited decades to be legally wed.

Now, among those couples, first in line to get married were Earl Benjamin and Michael Robinson. They've been together for 14 years. So, when the court made its decision, they stood in line bright and early at the New Orleans parish marriage license office, but the excitement turned to tears and frustration when the couple was told they still could not get married in their home state.

Now, if you're wondering how Louisiana could seemingly ignore the ruling of the highest court in the country, well, Earl and Michael are, too, and they are joining us now.

Good to have both of you with us.



BLACKWELL: So, let's start with the story you were told. Initially I understand it wasn't the governor's reflection on the high court's decision. It has something to do with the form saying bride and groom. Explain what happened initially.

ROBINSON: Yes, well, initially, I started filling out the form bright and early that morning. I was first in line before any couple. And it was very frustrating at the very beginning at the top of the day.

I was thrown by the fact that the forms had not been changed. I felt as if everyone around the country knew the possibility of this happening. So I was struck and found it odd and it was a bit disheartening to see that the forms had not been changed and that gave me some kind of sign that maybe they weren't going to be prepared for this today.

BLACKWELL: And the wait went on hour after hour. We understand four hours until you learned from a spokesperson there that despite the Supreme Court's ruling, Governor Jindal would not allow same-sex marriages until the lower federal appeals court ruled on the Louisiana same-sex marriage ban.

Earl, when you heard that, and there were cupcakes and celebrations and pictures being taken, and you were told, not today. What did you feel?

BENJAMIN: We kind of saw it coming probably about 30 minutes before it actually happened. But I didn't know I was going to feel that emotional. But I felt very emotional. I was upset.

And as Michael stated earlier, it was a sad moment. Here you have been told this morning -- that morning that we have the right to marry one another and validate our love. We are there. We are seeing our fellow Louisiana's come in and out and congratulate us. And seeing discrimination right before your eyes, it was just -- it was just a situation.

But one thing that made me hopeful -- and I think it's important for people to know this is about Louisianans, that all of the couples which came in. They were diverse. They were young, they were old, they were African-American, they were Asian -- they all congratulated us and they all told us to stick in there and they were all excited.

I think the country has -- the Supreme Court has made a decision and I think the country is favorable of that decision and it's time to move on. The Supreme Court did not say 25 days, 24 hours or two weeks. It should be marriage equality now in Louisiana.

BLACKWELL: Michael, this is from Governor Bobby Jindal who is now running for president. He through a statement, marriage between a man and a woman was established by God and no earthly court can alter that. The decision will pave the way for an all-out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision. That's from the governor. What do you want to say to Governor

Bobby Jindal?

ROBINSON: Well, I believe that people have the right to feel the way they believe.

[07:45:03] I believe in religious freedom even. But I do believe that where one person's rights end at the other person's nose. So, I feel that to be fair and equal and to just have equal rights for all citizens, that it's imperative that we look at the civil rights of gays and lesbians across the country, and recognize that their love should be validated, recognize that they should receive the same benefits that all married couples are able to have.

So while I'm not against anyone -- I'm a believer myself. I believe -- I'm a Christian and I believe in God. And I believe that this is what my God wants for me.


ROBINSON: I know that a lot of people may not be able to accept that. But just the way that I respect their opinion about marriage equality for gays and lesbians, I feel that our civil rights are being violated and we should be respected as well.

BLACKWELL: We're hearing the fight coming from not only the governor of Louisiana. To be fair, we have to say it's coming from Mississippi, Texas, other states as well.

Well, Michael and Earl, thank you for sharing your story with us and I wish you very well. Congratulations on whenever the nuptials happen.

ROBINSON: Thank you, Victor.

BENJAMIN: Thank you.


PAUL: So, CNN conducted an investigation into alarming mortality rates among infant heart patients and it prompted a second agency now in Florida to look into the safety of that Florida hospital. Elizabeth Cohen is bringing us the latest, next.


[07:50:40] PAUL: Well, the nation's largest accrediting agency for hospitals, the joint commission says, is now evaluating St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. This announcement follows our own CNN investigation and our finding showed a mortality for pediatric open heart surgeries from 2011 to 2013 was three times the national average.

Here's our CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.


Davi Ricardo Brandao, Davi was born with a severe heart defect called truncus arteriosus, his mother says. Instead of having two main blood vessels coming out of his heart, Davi had only one.

Nationally, 90 percent of babies survive the surgery to correct this defeat. Davi's surgery in March didn't go as well as expected, his mother says, and so he had a second surgery later that month. In April, St. Mary's Medical Center told us the patient is recovering well and the prognosis is good. It is not known why Davi died.

What we do know is this: Last year, an expert panel sent in by the state of Florida reviewed the St. Mary's program. The head of the team, Dr. Jeffrey Jacobs, advised St. Mary's to stop doing hearth surgery on babies like Davi, under six months old.

But St. Mary's continued, saying that was just a recommendation, not a mandate. Davi is now the ninth baby to die after heart surgery at St. Mary's since the program started in the end of 2011.


PAUL: My goodness.

Joining us to talk about this our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen obviously now.

Elizabeth, as I understand it this is the second investigation into the -- into the hospital?

COHEN: Right. The center for Medicare and Medicaid services is also looking into this program. Now that's a part of the federal government. Getting an investigation by CMS, or by the joint commission, which is an independent accrediting group, these two -- these are heavy hitters. It is a big deal to have evaluations from these groups.

PAUL: How long do they usually take?

COHEN: It can take a long time. I mean, it can take months. So these are not done quickly. They're done very carefully.

PAUL: Have you talked to any of the families? I mean are they getting any sort of relief? What are they telling you about -- I mean, most people watch them, I just can't imagine losing a child.

COHEN: You know, they are feeling relief. I mean, these are families who are grief stricken, families who've been through a lot of difficulties and what they told me is we're glad that someone's looking into this, because for them, in their eyes, something went wrong at this hospital. And they want to know what happened.

PAUL: And real quickly, we've talked about this but I just want to reiterate this point, that you go in to a hospital and you just assume that everybody is trustworthy, right? But there is some work that we need to do as patients before we agree to something like this. COHEN: Right. When you're taking your child in for a specific

procedure, you can ask, and you should ask, show me your data. Show me your statistics. So many hospitals that do these kinds of pediatric open heart surgeries, they will put their statistics out there on their websites.

St. Mary's, when these parents were looking, they didn't. So they had no idea. What's the mortality rate? How often do they do these surgeries?

So, that's an important thing for parents to ask -- show me the data.

PAUL: OK. All right. So good to know.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

PAUL: Great work there.


BLACKWELL: (INAUDIBLE) the confederate flag now extends to sports. We'll talk about that in just a moment.


PAUL: All righty. Here's a look at some of the other stories making headlines now.

BLACKWELL: In Charleston, South Carolina, hundreds of people are expected to attend the funeral of Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor later today. The 49-year-old was among the nine victims at the Emanuel AME Church. Myra Thompson's funeral set for tomorrow evening. And funeral plans for the last victim, Reverend Daniel Simmons Sr. have not yet been announced.

Look at this. Video of a helicopter hoisting people out of water. Police say a boat carrying nine people was swept over a dam near the town of New Market, Maryland. One person drowned, and the other eight, they barely made it out alive.

Hey, last hour, we asked if you -- if fans of NASCAR, rather, should get on board with a plan to ban the Confederate flag from the racetrack.

PAUL: Coy Wire is back with your reaction.

I'm seeing so much of it on Twitter.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS: Great reaction from you guys.

Get you caught up really quickly -- NASCAR chairman Brian France said the flag is a, quote, "offensive and divisive symbol" and they released a statement supporting the removal of the confederate flag from South Carolina state house and they're reaffirming their stance against the use of the flag at their events.

Now, NASCAR has banned the use of the flag at their events for more than a decade but it still found its way into events. Now, NASCAR has taken strong stances against the flag in the past like in 2012 when it banned pro golfer Bubba Watson's plan to drive the Dukes of Hazzard car at the track in phoenix because the car has the confederate flag on its roof.

Now, we love when you our NEW DAY family joins us in the conversation. Now, here's who you've had to say, Being a hot button topic there was mixed reaction. Zack said NASCAR wants to ban the flag? Quit saying a prerace prayer because it might offend an s atheist. How about chandler, it may be banned but that won't stop people finding ways to bring it in and showing their southern pride.

This may be the quote of the day. Jesse Jones, "NASCAR is for racing, not racism. Lose the Confederate flag."

And finally, Suzie said, "It's the principle. What's next? Reverse our history? Flags should remain."

Hot topic. Conversation for sure guys but thanks as always for joining us in the conversation. #NewDayCNN, or @CNN. We're there to listen and have you join us in the talk.

PAUL: Yes, we want to know what you think.

Coy, thank you so much.

WIRE: Thank you, guys.