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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

This Is Life With Lisa Ling: When Women Kill. Aired 22-23p ET

Aired November 3, 2019 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: ... National Security Council officials and two State Department officials are also scheduled to appear this week. That does it for this special report, WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS: THE IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY. Thanks for joining us. Up next THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LANG.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY GRACE, HOST: This is a phenomena, an unusual phenomena.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LISA LANG, CNN HOST(voice over): When a woman kills, it always makes headlines. The perpetrators are cast as monsters.

In America, only 11 percent of murders are committed by women. What makes them different? Why do women kill?

Tonight we feature two firsthand accounts from women who ended a life. One who thought she had found true love, the other who feared she had lost control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANG: The only other person who really knows what happened is dead now. Why should people believe you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury in the above-entitled action, find a defendant, Orenthal James Simpson not guilty of the crime of murder in violation of Penal Code Section 187-A.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): The early '90s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Bobbitt denies ever having forced sex with his wife.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): When abusive men became tabloid darlings and battered women became late night punch lines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NORM MACDONALD, CANADIAN STAND-UP COMEDIAN: Johnnie Cochran once abused his first wife. In his defense, Cochran said, "Hey, at least I didn't kill her like some people I know."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): But there were thousands of cases no one heard about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD POTTER, KILLED BY HIS WIFE: (Inaudible) ...

CRYSTAL POTTER, KILLED HER HUSBAND: Incriminating evidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): This is Crystal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: Where's daddy heading?

No, you're going to run me over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): And that's Richard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: I didn't think anybody could have a prettier face than me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): It's spring 1992.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: Besides my husband, of course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): In four months, Richard will be dead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: Hey, it's Richie, snoozing.

If Richard knew I was doing this, he would kill me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG: It's been almost 30 years since Crystal shot and killed her husband, Richard. And we're about to meet her now not in prison, but at her home here in Southern California.

LANG(off-camera): Crystal has been a free woman since 2012, but I want to go back further before she became a convicted felon, Crystal was a farm girl.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(off-camera): Have you always had horses?

C POTTER: Yes. Yes. Horses are a passion of mine.

LANG: You rode bareback.

C POTTER: Yes. Yes. I still do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Crystal grew up in a poor neighborhood in Duluth, Minnesota. She and her siblings ran wild all day while their father worked.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: I was a rebel. I was very independent as a child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): But Crystal paid the price when he came home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: We used to get beat a lot, the strap, bare butt, lean over on the couch and he would just whip us from top to bottom.

LANG: So you don't have very many pleasant memories of childhood.

C POTTER: No. No. No. I was just determined to go as far as I could and get away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): At 19, Crystal got her chance. She joined the Air Force and got transferred to California.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: I love the camaraderie, the family unity, annual traveling and living all over the world, it was great. Here's my Afro, that was in the '70s.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): As a military police officer, Crystal learned how to defend herself and trained men to shoot big guns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) C POTTER: I'm about 110 pounds and I got a 45 on my hip bigger than

my leg and these guys didn't want to take me seriously until I had to show them that I meant business.

LANG: Did being in the military make you feel strong?

C POTTER: Yes. But then I would come home and I'm reduced to a quivering little 110-pound female.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): For more than a decade, Crystal dated a string of abusive boyfriends.

[22:05:09]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANG: Because of your background with your father, do you think you had become used to getting abused by men. Did you almost expect it?

C POTTER: Not expect it so much as I'm familiar with it. It's like, "Oh, here it is again."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Then, at age 36, just when she was ready to give up on romance, Crystal met someone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: I met Richard at a nightclub. From a distance he looks like Jack Nicholson. So I approached him and I offered him a drink. And when he smiled, it was like the whole room lit up.

Yes.

R POTTER: How do I look?

C POTTER: You look like Don King.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Richard was a quiet man who analyzed computer systems for real estate company. The two bonded over their shared love animals and dreams of travel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: Are we rolling? Are we on tape?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we're on tape.

C POTTER: Get my war paint on here.

We got married on his property. And I had to fold gown the whole nine yards. It was beautiful wedding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Six months after meeting, Crystal moved into the house Richard's parents had built.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: I did a lot of work on the property, clearing it and maintaining it. And I enjoyed it so much and we had our chickens running free and our dogs running free. It was like Dr. Dolittle. It was our paradise.

R POTTER: There, yes, mother and son.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): But from the very start, Crystal's paradise hid secrets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANG: When did things start to go wrong?

C POTTER: Our honeymoon night. We're at the hotel and he wanted to make love and I was exhausted. And I didn't think that it was a big deal to say no, because we've been having sex for six months, come on. But - and he slapped me.

I was taken back, because of all of the guys that I thought would never touch me, he did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): At the time, Richard's mother was dying. So Crystal cut him some slack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: I thought he's under a lot of stress, so it's going to be better and that's what I did every time he struck me.

Looks at these little ants.

R POTTER: Let's make them happy.

C POTTER: Oh, Richard. Are you burning them?

R POTTER: Ow.

C POTTER: Don't do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): That year, Richard took out a loan on their house for a business deal. The deal fell through, the money vanished and Crystal bore the fallout.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

R POTTER: Look at her go. What an accomplished trike-riding tart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: Punching with his fist, I had some cracked ribs, and black eyes and fractured my finger. A lot of bruising, of course. And he didn't care enough to hit you where it wouldn't show, he didn't care. He would hit me in the face.

LANG: Did you tell anybody?

C POTTER: No. You don't tell.

LANG: You didn't tell anybody?

C POTTER: No. Because there's that fear that if he found out that you told, I would get beat even more.

I'm going through some deja vu right now. It's very emotional. The house is right up here.

LANG(off-camera): On the right side or left side?

C POTTER(off-camera): It'll be on the right-hand side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Crystal takes me to the house where she and Richard lived together. A house that would shut her out from the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANG: Are you OK?

You were really isolated up here.

C POTTER: We were very isolated.

LANG(off-camera): Were there days that you just didn't even leave the property?

C POTTER: Days, and days, and days and days. I wasn't even allowed to come down to the mailbox. He didn't want me associating with neighbors or the mailman.

LANG: It's real because the only other person who really knows what happened is dead now. Why should people believe you?

C POTTER: People need to educate themselves and understand about domestic violence. It takes a lot when a woman finally does raise a hand.

[22:10:07] We don't just kill for nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): I think I can grasp how getting punched for months might propel a woman to pull the trigger, but the jury didn't see it that way. Because crystal pulled the trigger nine times with two guns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:14:00]

LANG(voice-over): By the summer of '92, Crystal's husband Richard was beating her weekly and yet something compelled her to stay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(off-camera): Did you have any good times?

C POTTER: One day here, one day there.

Yes, it's pretty out here.

We would take walks out in the canyons.

R POTTER: I can't get down.

C POTTER: You want a push?

It was like when we were dating again. I lived for those moments. I felt like I was still in love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Crystal held on to hope for the man she loved even as he forced her to quit the Air Force.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: He started reading books about Armageddon. He had holes buried on the property where he had weapons stashed and rice and dry food.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Soon, three new recruits join the family unit.

[22:15:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: He got two Rottweilers and a Fila Brasileiro. He was training them to kill.

Ow. R POTTER: Bite them, Chaos. Rip out her arm.

LANG: So between when you got married and when he's like becoming delusional ...

C POTTER: A couple of months.

LANG: A couple of months, that's it.

R POTTER: No, I am zooming in on the Glock. The Glock.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Convinced the apocalypse was near, Richard built an arsenal in their house.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: He'd never touched a weapon a day in his life until he met me and he wanted to learn how to shoot, so I taught him how to shoot. And I always had fear that he would pull one on me.

Ooh, you didn't tell me there was a cave here, Mr. Potter.

How far? You said there's a circle?

R POTTER: (Inaudible) ...

C POTTER: It's too dark to see. Look, ladies and gentlemen, it's a caveman.

All right, good boy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): On August 8, 1992, Crystal left home on her horse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: I was gone for a couple of hours and when I came back I could see him standing outside waiting for me. And he said, "I'm going to kill that horse."

Come on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): A fight broke out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: (Inaudible) ...

He grabbed me by the hair and started punching me and calling me all sorts of names. And he dragged me up to the house. I don't know where he got the gun, he had never, never drawn a weapon on me in all the fights that we had. He had made comments, but to actually look down the barrel of this gun, things changed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): All of a sudden, Crystal's battle instincts kicked in. She grabbed a gun from a nearby table.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: And I kept looking at his hand and I said if he moves, I'm done. And I saw his hand move, so I raised my gun and I fired.

When you're trained on the firing line in the military, we're trained to kill because we are soldiers, so I shot him in the head first. And for some reason, I just kept firing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): When Crystal's gun jammed, she grabbed Richard's and fired nine rounds in all. At trial, those nine shots became Crystal's undoing. The jury felt this exceeded the bar for self defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: I spent two weeks on the witness stand and every time I wanted to say he had done this or he had beaten me that day, all that was stricken from the record, you can't say that. They only wanted to know what happened that day. So the jury didn't get a clear view of what I had been living through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): In California, a self defense motive only considers imminent danger, not long-term abuse. Thirty-eight-year-old Crystal was sentenced to 20 years to life for the murder of her husband.

On average, women who killed their partners are sentenced to more than twice as long as men for the same crime.

I want to understand why. So I reach out to an old friend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANG: Sunny.

SUNNY SCHWARTZ, LAWYER: Oh, Lisa.

LANG: So good to see you.

SCHWARTZ: Great to see you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Sunny Schwartz is an attorney who has spent her career reforming prison programs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANG: Do you believe that the court system is unfair to women?

SCHWARTZ: Absolutely. Up until recently, battered women's abuse was not allowed into evidence. Think about if a man was sleeping and there was a home invader with lethal weapon, that homeowner would defend himself. He would not only be not convicted, he would be hailed as a hero.

One woman I talked to, she called the police 41 times in a year and a half and she hit her husband over the head with a wine bottle and he died of these injuries. She got 25 to life. There are hundreds of women inside as we speak who only defended themselves who are rotting in prison for decades.

[22:20:04]

C POTTER: This is Luna. And we're going to get the dust off of Luna's beautiful white ...

LANG: Oh, she's so soft.

C POTTER: ... isn't she?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): When Crystal got out of prison, she was 59 years old.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANG: After spending 22 years behind bars, what was it like to taste freedom?

C POTTER: Well, it was like stepping into star track. I saw people walking down the street talking to themselves on their phone, so I thought, "Oh, my god, everybody out here is crazy."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): In a world she barely understands, Crystal is rediscovering who she is and letting go of the years she missed out on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C POTTER: When you're out there riding out in the woods, out in the country, it's just you, this animal and nature. I like that feeling of freedom.

LANG(off-camera): Did you want to kill your husband, Crystal?

C POTTER: No. I just wanted him to stop. Sometimes, I think to myself, when I saw his hand flinch that had the gun in it, was he just flinching? But I don't regret defending myself because if I didn't do what I did, I would have died that night. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): It's taken Crystal 30 years to find peace with her crime. But there are some crimes that make peace impossible.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(off-camera): Hi, Sarah.

SARAH BENTLEY JOHNSON, CONVICTED OF SUFFOCATING HER DAUGHTER: Hi.

LANG(off-camera): How are you doing?

S JOHNSON: All right. Nervous. I'm feeling a little nervous, a little bit.

LANG: Take a deep breath.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:25:43]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON(voice-over): I just kept thinking this cannot be my life. That couldn't possibly be me. That couldn't be me in cuffs. I guess something underneath that thought that I could go on and no one would know and no one would be hurt. But I still couldn't believe what I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): At the foot of Alaska's Chugach Mountains is Eagle River, a district with a nature center and a women's prison. I'm at the prison. I've traveled all night to hear a story that would completely change my idea of a murderer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Hayes (ph).

LANG: Hi, Sarah.

S JOHNSON: Hi.

LANG: Lisa.

S JOHNSON: Hi, Lisa. Nice to meet you.

LANG: Nice to meet you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Sarah has been locked up since 2015 for killing a family member. It's the first and only crime she's ever committed. She's a model inmate, so she's earned some privileges like coloring time with friends.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm working on this sting ray.

S JOHNSON: It's pretty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hate this picture.

S JOHNSON: You hate this one?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

S JOHNSON: You see ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But Sarah, what you do a lot is you'll work on something and you'll hate it, but then you'll set it aside and you'll go back and you'll fix it and it'll look wonderful.

S JOHNSON: There's no fixing this. It's just going to turn into a red blob.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just ...

S JOHNSON: This isn't one of those false modesty thing. This is I really am a bad color artist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that's perfectly nice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): I've only just met Sarah and the first thing I pick up on is how critical she is of herself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

S JOHNSON: I had bulimia for several years. I'll say about six years. It was a way I could control something, control what I eat, I can control what I weigh. It was just a way to control the whole world.

LANG: Can you describe your childhood?

S JOHNSON: The whole time I was an adolescent child, my parents were alcoholics and violent ones. I moved to schools a lot. My sister went to group homes, boarding homes, just sent away to schools.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): I want to know more about Sarah's past. So I call her sister, Michelle, in Idaho.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE KARNES, SISTER OF SARAH BENTLEY S JOHNSON: Hello.

LANG: Hi, Michelle. She says things got so bad that neighbors called the police.

KARNES: Our parents would get in fights and things would be all over the floor. They would answer the door and say, "Oh, everything is fine here." When I look back on that time period, it's not the physical abuse that really scarred me, it's the psychological torture.

LANG: Do you think you and Sarah dealt differently?

KARNES: Yes. She had been medicated for depression. She just sort of shut down inside of herself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): While home life simmered at 16, Sarah found someone new to focus on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANG: How did you meet your husband?

S JOHNSON: My first job ever was at a veterinary clinic in St. Charles and we were both kennel (ph) techs at the time, which is a glorify name for cleaning kennels (ph). And he just became my whole universe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Ben and Sarah live like free spirits through their 20s traveling the country before settling in Anchorage in 2001.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

S JOHNSON: We had absolutely no conflict ever and I thought that was success based on what I saw growing up. He was so many things that I wasn't and I just kind of merged into him and idolized him like he could do no wrong and he was so gregarious and charismatic and had a lot of different interests and I had none, I had him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): While Ben honed his skills as a beer brewer, Sarah went to work at a Social Security office where she met Jamie.

[22:30:08]

JAMIE: Sarah and I used to work together. I really liked her. Sometimes you see a co-worker and I'm like, "Hi," and avoid them. But she was one of those people that I always wanted to chat with, because she's really smart and interesting.

LANG: Do you remember when Sarah got pregnant?

JAMIE: Yes. She seemed really happy and really excited about being pregnant.

S JOHNSON: There's a new level of excitement for me, just the fact that something was going to grow in me and come out and it would be a person and it would represent the two of us. We named her Charlotte and I made the huge faux pas (ph) of, I told everybody. It went on social media. It was like, "I'm pregnant." And that was within just a few weeks of finding out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Sarah was over the moon, ready to start a new chapter at age 33 until a nurse notice something wrong with the ultrasound images.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

S JOHNSON: The lady came back in the room and she just right then, just her look resonated with me that it was the most fatal form of dwarfism. She's like, "Any baby born with that, doesn't make it," and I can't breathe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Sarah faced two options, deliver a terminally ill baby or seek out an abortion in her second trimester.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

S JOHNSON: It was a two-day process, having her removed at 21 weeks, all along in my head I'm thinking of the failure of it. I just thought, "OK, I'm going to protect Ben from it." I stuffed it, I just stuffed all of that grief.

KARNES: It wasn't many more months between then and when she got pregnant with Pepper, it was really fast. Five or six months max.

LANG: And how was she during that pregnancy?

KARNES: Terrified.

LANG: I mean, as someone who has had multiple miscarriages and every time I've been pregnant, it's been just nail biting because you just think something could happen at any time.

KARNES: Yes, that's how it seemed to me. So much so that she went off of her antidepressants that she'd been on for a long time.

S JOHNSON: It's like I almost waited for the other shoe to drop immediately, just waiting for it to go wrong. Right from the get go, don't get sucked in, don't get attached, don't get overconfident.

LANG(off-camera): Did that fear persist throughout your entire pregnancy?

JOHNSON(off-camera): It not only persisted, it escalated. My husband was growing more distant. He was rising in the beer brewing world and I felt like shrinking away into my own worry, my own anxiety and I made myself an island.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Sarah was thousands of miles from her family, about to give birth and trapped in her own head. Had she been able to look beyond her terror, she might have seen the waters rising and the tide rushing in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:37:35]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

S JOHNSON: Super embarrassed now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG: We've all had run ins with failure. Some of us can dust ourselves off and move on. But others sit in our failure, letting it gnaw away at us until we believe it's who we are.

In her final weeks of pregnancy, Sarah spent hours scouring the internet for the best diaper brands, paranoid about screwing anything up. Then, at long last, the baby arrived.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON(off-camera): It was my first time staying in a hospital, so all of it was very kind of out of body.

LANG: How did you feel when you heard your baby crying, when you looked at her?

S JOHNSON: I can't even tell you now what I felt because I don't feel like I was there. She just screamed the whole night and the nursing wasn't working and at some point the nurse said, "Well, I can take her into the nursery, so I can get some sleep." And I thought, "No, no, if I fail at this - like I have to be able to do this."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Sarah's husband, Ben, saw she was struggling and helped out when he could and her sister, Michelle, offered support from afar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARNES: I said, "It must seem like a dream, right?" And she said, "No, more of like a nightmare." I'm like, "All right. What's wrong?" "Everything is wrong. This doesn't feel right. I don't know what to do." I said, "You're going to have to find a way to be okay with this."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Sarah wasn't sleeping and before long, Ben returned to work. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

S JOHNSON: Ben came home at some point and I was just on the couch, just a mess and crying and she was crying and he said, "What's wrong?" And my answer was, "No, I can't do this." And I know he thought I meant the breastfeeding and really it just meant all of it, like all of it. I just needed somebody to come in and take over, but I didn't have anybody in my life. That was that role.

[22:40:00]

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Two weeks in, Sarah switched to formula. She gave up worrying about diaper brands.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

S JOHNSON: It was like life or death to me to not have sleep or rest or peace or just to be able to breathe. Then I started having thoughts about ending her life and those got so loud, it got so loud.

LANG: Tell me about that day.

JOHNSON(off-camera): I drove to Ben's work. He was finishing up a brew, I think he's maybe a hundred feet away or so and I just - I was looking at him working and I looked at her in her car seat. Like I wanted him to come and save her, so I think I knew what I was going to do.

And we got home and I remember holding her and actually feeding her. I don't know why but I remember her looking at me.

LANG: It's all right.

S JOHNSON: And I actually said, I said, "You know, don't you?" I said like, "You know I have to do this." And then I suffocated her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911, what's the location of your emergency?

S JOHNSON: West 76th Avenue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's going on, ma'am?

S JOHNSON: My baby is not breathing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god, you need to stay calm. We'll get you some help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Sarah lied to police about how three week old pepper died. For days, no one knew.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANG: How did you find out?

KARNES: We were texting at one point. In the middle of a conversation and all of a sudden she calls me. Her words were, "It was me, I did it." I didn't have a lot of time to react to that, because my next task was to keep her alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Sarah was trying to drink herself to death. When that failed, she tried pills. A concerned friend called the police and named Sarah as a suspect. They asked Ben to call Sarah.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN JOHNSON, HUSBAND OF SARAH BENTLEY S JOHNSON: Why would they think you did it, you know?

S JOHNSON: Because I did it.

Cops were everywhere at that point. Low apartment complex was full of them and they put cuffs on me. I almost think I was relieved. Like, "OK, you could rest now because it's over."

LANG: How did you hear about what happened?

JAMIE: The news and then everybody at work was freaking out. Everybody was like, gobs of emails just going back and forth like people could not believe it because she was so excited to finally have a baby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): Meanwhile, on lockdown, Sarah faced her worst demons alone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANG: What happened to Ben?

S JOHNSON: When I was standing before the judge behind the plexiglass, I just kept trying to look for him and try to gauge what's going to happen and what he thought of me. And at some point as the judge was reading something, Ben just walked out and so that was the last time I ever saw him.

LANG: Ever.

S JOHNSON: Ever.

I've needed help for a long time, been over it a million times in my head, like all the things I could have done and I didn't. I just kept it to myself and then snapped, you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): before meeting Sarah, the mere thought of infanticide filled me with rage. Now, what runs through me is just profound sadness.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANG: I am feeling very emotional after talking to Sarah because as a mother who experienced pregnancy, childbirth, multiple miscarriages and childbearing, there were so many things that she said that I really related to.

[22:45:00]

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LANG(voice-over): So many mothers experienced depression around childbirth and tragic as it sounds, I'm about to learn Sarah's crime is not as uncommon as you might think.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANA BARNES, MARRIAGE & FAMILY THERAPIST: I stand by the fact that this is an illness and the illness is the perpetrator here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:49:17]

LANG(off-camera): At Sarah's trial, prosecutors described a heartless killer, but one witness disagreed. Dr. Diana Barnes is an expert on infanticide. She believes Sarah suffered from a severe illness, postpartum psychosis.

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BARNES: Postpartum psychosis is a total break with reality, characterized by delusions, false beliefs about yourself, about the baby.

LANG: For you, was there no question that she suffered from a psychotic episode?

BARNES: Absolutely, no question at all. First of all, there was a sudden onset to her symptoms. She described feeling like something switched suddenly inside of her.

[22:50:00]

Feeling as though she was on the outside of her body, watching what she was doing. Kind of this what we called dissociative experience. And then, of course, one of the other things that I'm always looking at when I'm on a case is somebody's history. She has a history of trauma.

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LANG(voice-over): Close to 300 women a year with this illness are at risk of killing their baby.

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BARNES: When we read about these horrifying, tragic, heartbreaking events, it really is about the relationship between mother and infant. It's gut wrenching because we know in our society to take a life is wrong and it may sound very controversial, but women are victims of this illness as well as their infants.

S JOHNSON: I think that's the cutest.

LANG: Yes, a cute baby.

S JOHNSON: Super cute.

LANG: I just wonder, Sarah, why you keep these pictures of Pepper?

S JOHNSON: I think I wanted to feel like she was mine. There's always two parts of me. There's the part that took it all away and ended her life and all she could have been, and then there's the part of it like I'm still a mom. That's still me under here and I wanted her so bad.

LANG: The prosecution painted you as a monster who had no remorse? Did you have remorse?

S JOHNSON: I would give anything to help her alive, anything. And maybe the prosecutor was right because everything I did was for self preservation. So if I can try and be there for other people, that's what my life needs to be now.

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LANG(voice-over): Day by day, Sarah is finding that after failure comes mercy. That compassion can show up in our darkest hours. And that with the time she has left, she might yet do some good.

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S JOHNSON: All I can do is say use what I've done, use my mistakes, use my shame, use my monstrous act, if that can help even one woman and her baby, I want my life to mean something more than the worst thing I've done.

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LANG(voice-over): I started the show with a question, why do women kill. I've heard two different stories from two different women. But I think at their core, both Crystal and Sarah acted on the same instinct to save themselves.

In our country, at least 14,000 women are locked up for murder right now. How many felt they had no way out?

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[22:57:07]

LANG(voice-over): At 64 years old, Crystal is still working to rebuild her life.

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C POTTER: Honey, your coffee is ready.

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LANG(voice-over): But she isn't doing it alone.

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LANG: How long before you started dating again?

C POTTER: A little over two years. It was a piece of cake when I was young and pretty, but now I'm a senior citizen so I had those concerns.

LANG: But you also are convicted murderer.

C POTTER: Yes. That was a concern as well.

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LANG(voice-over): Rudy (ph) proposed to Crystal in May, he'll be the second husband of a woman who killed her first.

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LANG: When Crystal dropped the bomb, how did you take that?

RUDY: Yes, it's shocking. Did I feel like I wanted to leave? No. People make mistakes. She was sincere enough to tell me upfront. And I wasn't judging her because I may miss the opportunity with a great person.

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LANG(voice-over): Rudy (ph) was also victim to an abusive partner. When he and Crystal found their common ground, love blossomed.

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C POTTER: Pancakes. You spoil me rotten. Give me another kiss.

I had to turn 60 something and do 22 years in prison to find the right man, so be it. It was worth it. I found out that there is love after domestic abuse. There are good men out there.

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LANG(voice-over): A week after we film together, I got a letter from Sarah. She writes, "I think most of us can, with a stretch, put ourselves in the shoes of some people who commit homicide. We can fathom being so intoxicated that we kill another driver on the road or we can sympathize with a beaten wife who defends herself one day."

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S JOHNSON: My crime is much harder. But imagine treading water in the middle of the ocean, ominous night sky, black water, so deep the depth seems to tug at you.

You're churning your exhausted limbs to keep your face above the choppy surface.

Your one leg is unbelievably heavy and getting heavier. You start hoping, fantasizing that a shark will rise up and snap that limb off so that you won't have to do what you know you have to do, sever it yourself.

The only humanity is so far away. They're on distant cruise ships faintly twinkling with tiny lights. If those ships came close enough, they would see a new mom swimming with their healthy happy baby.

END