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Election Coverage; Working to Free a Convict; Economic Stimulus

Aired January 19, 2008 - 11:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And a remarkable twist to tell you about in a murder conviction that has haunted a Colorado cop for decades. She's been trying to free the man that she helped convict. And now, stunning new developments.
But first to politics. We've got presidential contests on both sides of the country today and with no clear front-runner in either party, the results could be a major influence in shaping the race.

Republicans holding a primary in South Carolina and both Republicans and Democrats holding caucuses in Nevada. A total of about 80 delegate seats at the national nominating conventions, are at stake, 55 of them Republican, 25 of them Democratic.

We want to get started in South Carolina the Republican primary is happening and where voters have been casting ballots for a little more than four hours now. And CNN's Dana Bash in Charleston, South Carolina. Good morning to you, ma'am.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, T.J. I am at a polling station in Charleston County. You can see behind me, there is sort of a steady but slow group of voters that have been coming here for the past four hours. I just spoke with the clerk here who said turnout isn't overwhelming, but it doesn't seem to be as slow as it is in the northern and western part of South Carolina where they are experiencing some snow which South Carolinians are not certainly used to.

That is already, we're told by Mary Snow and our producers up there, seems to be affecting turnout there. Here it is raining, but there still are voters coming here. Eight precincts are voting where I am right now. And T.J., this is a state for Republicans where they take a lot of pride in the fact that they at least in recent history they have determined the Republican nominee. But if you look at what the impact of today is, it might not just be for these Republican candidates, that they have to beat each other, it might also be an early test of whether or not they can beat a Democrat in November.


BASH (voice-over): Mike Huckabee's final plea for South Carolina votes goes like this.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And if you want someone who understands what life growing up in the south, growing up like so many of you did would be in the White House, I ask for your vote and your confidence.

BASH: Fred Thompson is going for southern bonding too. His drawl a bit thicker here.

FRED THOMPSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It sure is good to be among folks who don't think I know that I talk funny and know how to cook green beans.

BASH: Any advantage helps for GOP candidates facing their first southern contest.

HUCKABEE: Every year since 1980 South Carolina has picked who the next Republican nominee will be.

BASH: Critical because of that and winning in the south is also a test of whether a Republican can win the general election. Look at this map. In 2004, the only big northern state George W. Bush won was Ohio. It was the southern states in red that propelled his victory.

TUCKER ESKEW, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: If you cannot win in the South, you will not win the presidency. That's a fact of life for Republican candidates. It's actually a fact of life for Democratic candidates as well.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to join together here in Nevada in a great campaign to make sure ...

BASH: Which makes former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's decision to leave South Carolina in search of delegates in Nevada risky.

SCOTT REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: One of the biggest challenges for Romney is can he compete in the South? Can he appeal to social conservatives, the evangelical wing of the Republican Party?

BASH: But South Carolina poses the greatest challenge for this man.


BASH: John McCain must prove he can win among Republicans outside New Hampshire where independents fueled his comeback, trying his form of South Carolina bonding.

MCCAIN: It has enriched my life to be able to be among the most patriotic citizens in this country.


BASH: Now, John McCain will be here at this polling station where I am in Charleston, South Carolina, in about a half an hour. He's going to be accompanied by the speaker of the house here in South Carolina. And that is one of the many, many differences that John McCain's camp hopes they have this time around than they did eight years ago when he lost big in this state to George W. Bush. This time he has a lot of the establishment Republicans behind him. He's going to prove that by accompanying the speaker of the South Carolina House to vote here where I am again in just about a half an hour.

John McCain is banking on this part of the state where I am, along the water where there tend to be more moderate voters that might be more accustomed to do voting for somebody like John McCain, a lot of veterans. This is where he is banking on his base, where I am right now.

As opposed to Mike Huckabee, he is relying on voters who are in the northern and western part of the state where they tend to be much more conservative. This is going to be a fascinating day to watch, T.J., because of the fact that you really have three candidates, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and, of course, Mitt Romney, who have all won three big contests. This could be the determining factor, which one becomes at least in command of a very, very jumbled Republican field right now.


HOLMES: Dana, you kind of mentioned it there, that Huckabee would be depending on voters in the north. It's snowing up north, it's raining where you are. Do we know who it helps if the turnout is low because of the weather or is it just anybody's guess what's going to happen?

BASH: To be honest, it's anybody's guess. However, I will tell you that Governor Huckabee himself, when he went to the polling station in the western part of the state this morning, he said he's actually worried about the fact that it's snowing there because South Carolinians are not used to this.

And what Governor Huckabee relies more on then anything else is passion. He relies not on the organization, which John McCain does have in this state, deep organization. Mike Huckabee, just like in Iowa, relies on this unofficial coalition of voters where it's churches and home schoolers, evangelical schools. That's what helped him in Iowa. That's what he's banking on here. If the weather is bad, it might not be as easy for them to get to the polls. So that's why Governor Huckabee is suggesting it hurts him that the weather is not so good today in South Carolina.

HOLMES: You can do all the campaigning you want, but nothing you can do about the weather. Dana Bash for us there in South Carolina. Dana, thank you so much.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, in Nevada the weather is fine and the republican caucuses begin in less than an hour. The Democratic caucuses will start about three hours later. CNN's Jessica Yellin is there now live in Las Vegas. Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Susan. It's still early in Las Vegas. If folks are up, they've probably been up all night. But I can tell you outside Caesars, they're going to offer a new service in addition to gambling and dining, etc. They're also going to offer caucusing.

That's because this casino is one of nine that will for the first time ever allow folks to caucus right here on their property, and it's designed to encourage some of the residents here to increase their participation because so many shift workers will be on the job during the hours that the caucus happens today.

And they're really determined to try to increase turnout. But no one has any sense what will happen because Nevada has never had a caucus this early. It's never mattered this much in the nominating process. They just don't know if people will turn out. We talked to one of the political experts here in town who told us that folks here do seem to be more energized about voting than they've ever seen before, especially on the Democratic side.


JON RALSTON, "LAS VEGAS SUN": Suddenly the candidates descended here right after New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton's in a neighborhood, Barack Obama at a high school. Bill Clinton is here with Magic Johnson, Michelle Obama is here.

All these people are coming. I think there was a certain intensity that started to build. And I think people are interested now. Now, compared to Iowa and New Hampshire where they've been doing this for decades, no. But people are more interested in politics right now than any time I've seen.


YELLIN: And he mentioned Iowa. We're told by the folks at Caesars that they actually brought in people from Iowa to teach folks here in Nevada how the caucus system works, how to make it happen. It's a very tight race still. Hillary Clinton has a slight advantage in some of the polls. Buy it could be anyone's win today. Barack Obama got a key endorsement from the Culinary Workers' Union. They represent many of the shift workers here at the casinos. But Senator Clinton has a long and very sophisticated organization here in Nevada with a lot of establishment politicians involved.

So it really could go either way and folks are seeing this as a tiebreaker. One got New Hampshire, the other got Iowa. Let's see how Nevada goes. Susan?

ROESGEN: What about the tone of the caucusing there, Jessica? Has the race been fairly friendly?

YELLIN: Well, not so much. They've been talking about the economy and focusing on some issues and just as quickly hitting each other. It's been sort of nasty, in fact. The group that endorsed Obama is running a Spanish language ad saying Senator Clinton is trying to prevent folks from caucusing because of a lawsuit that she was not connected to. And Senator Obama has criticized Senator Clinton for taking parts of his economic plan which they dispute.

Bottom line, a lot of sniping, not that friendly.

ROESGEN: Nevadans may be new to it, but they're going to catch on fast, I think.

YELLIN: Exactly.

ROESGEN: Thanks, Jessica.

HOLMES: Congressional Democrats say they're willing to work with President Bush to boost the slumping U.S. economy. The president called for $140 plus billion package of temporary tax incentives both for businesses and consumers. In his weekly radio address today Mr. Bush tried to reassure Americans that despite recent setbacks, the economy will continue to grow.


GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm optimistic about our economy because people like you have shown time and again that Americans are the most industrious, creative and enterprising people in the world. That is what has made our economy strong, and that is what will make it stronger in the challenging times ahead.


HOLMES: The president is calling on Congress to act quickly so that the stimulus package will have an early impact.

ROESGEN: But some of the details of the stimulus package haven't been worked out yet, and the devil is always in the details. So Tom Foreman tells us about some of the details that are being debated on the campaign trail.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Everyone in both parties knows the goal, get more money into more hands and spent in more places. But out on the trail contenders are working some of the states hit hardest by the downturn, and they disagree on how an aid package should work. Republicans want to appear fiscally responsible, so they don't want anything that looks like a quick-fix handout.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE" What we need to do to start with, before we go any further is stop the out-of-control spending.

FOREMAN: Democrats suggest the Republicans are leaning too much toward giving tax breaks to employers, not employees.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: According to what we've been told, it leaves out 50 million working Americans.

FOREMAN: For all the talk on the trail, an answer to the puzzle of the crashing economy will have to come long before the election. So in DC, economic analysts say leaders letter block out the campaign noise.

BOB GREENSTEIN, CENTER ON BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES: You have to have a clear single focus. Does it boost the economy right now? Anything else, no matter how meritorious for the long term, if it's not stimulus, it doesn't go in the package. That's got to be the test.


ROESGEN: Well, the economy has become the number one issue for a lot of people in many of these early voting states. So we've got a special live campaign edition of YOUR MONEY.

Join Wolf Blitzer, Christine Romans and Ali Velshi in Las Vegas at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. And at 2:00, Wolf will stay with us for election center in New York and you can get the first results from the Nevada caucuses. Then be sure to stick around for more of CNN's "Ballot Bowl," we're bringing you the candidates unfiltered in their own words. CNN's "Ballot Bowl" kicks off at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

And it is brutally cold in much of the country today. This cold Arctic Express moving all the way down. In Chicago today, they say it's supposed to top out at 9 degrees, not including the wind chill.

And as you've heard already, we could see rain and have seen rain in Charleston, South Carolina. And they're saying it's starting to snow in the western part of the state. Not such a good day to get out and vote in the primaries. Reynolds Wolf is in the severe weather center for us to let us know what's on the way and when it will end.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, I've got some good news for you in terms of South Carolina. Now let's go with the good news. The good news is we're not expecting quite as much snowfall. At least the latest computer models indicate you can see about an inch or so in South Carolina.

However, when you get farther to the north, North Carolina, in the Piedmont region, parts of the Appalachians, you could see more snowfall there. Snow or not, you're still definitely dealing with some heavy rainfall through the Carolinas, that could certainly cause some issues in many spots or people trying to get to the polls.

For Myrtle Beach southward into Georgetown, seeing scattered showers now. From Monk's Corner down to Charleston mainly light to moderate rainfall. In Columbia, still seeing rain. A little dryer coming in at this point. Back into Greenville, even there, you're going to have the slick roadways to deal with, possibility with some of these stronger storms to come in. Not severe thunderstorms, but still enough to give you downburst winds. Could see some issues on the roadways with some broken branches and what not.


ROESGEN: Now, picture this. You're in your home and robbers break in. What do you do?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come out! Come out!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He looked at me with a complete dumbfounded expression. He was, like, what? Where did she come from? (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROESGEN: Yeah, she was caught in the closet with the burglar. In the NEWSROOM.


ROESGEN: And it's time to take a trip across America on this Saturday, January 19th.

HOLMES: Police pull a young driver from his burning car. The back of the car was already in flames when the officers showed up. They weren't even sure anybody was in that car, but seconds after the bold rescue, fire swept over the rest of that car. Look at that. The driver was not burned in this thing. Investigators believe he hit a light pole and in the parking lot and that punctured the gas tank.

Well, another rescue still here to tell you about, this one in South Florida, a car carrying two women, an 85-year-old woman and her daughter and good citizens dove right in for the rescue.


JIM LACAFTA, RESCUED WOMAN: She goes I don't know what she was thinking. She just drove off the corner. And I says, well, you're going to be all right. I says, the only thing is, I'm going to try to open up the door so I can get you out. I says, can you swim? She says, yes. I says, when I open the door, the water is going to rush in. She says I'm all right. Just watch my purse.


ROESGEN: Don't let go of the purse. The police think the daughter hit the accelerator when she meant to hit the brakes.

Now, this is a horror movie staple. It's a scene where a teenager is in the house hiding in the closet while the bad guy is roaming around looking for it. For one Utah girl, that movie was real. Here is reporter Sarah Dallof with Salt Lake City affiliate KSL. She brought us this story on Friday.


SARAH DALLOF, KSL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's the 911 call 21- year-old Brittney made yesterday. Police say these three men rang her door bell and when no one answered, let themselves in. The suspects smashed the window, climbed inside and headed upstairs to see what they could find, all while Brittney was home.

BRITTNEY: It's all surreal. I can't even comprehend the feelings.

DALLOF: As the burglars got closer, Brittney hid in an upstairs closet. At one point, you can hear the three on the 911 recording arranging for a ride. John (INAUDIBLE) was the 911 operator on the other end.

911 OPERATOR: It got pretty intense sometimes throughout the call.

DALLOF: Listening as one of the men opened the closet where Brittney was hiding looking for stuff to steal.

BRITTNEY: I was just standing right here. He pushed it open and he was just bumping my legs, my boots.

911 OPERATOR: I do have officers in the backyard and an the corners of your house, OK?

DALLOF: The burglars spotted police and scrambled, one jumping into the closet, inches from Brittney.

BRITTNEY: He was standing right here, like, I could probably kiss his cheek if I would have stood on my tiptoes.

DALLOF: She stayed still and silent until officers entered the room. Then --

BRITTNEY: He just looked at me with a complete dumbfounded expression, like, what? Where did she come from?

DALLOF: The three were taken into custody without any problems. And today Brittney met John.


911 OPERATOR: Hi. I'm John.

BRITTNEY: Hi, John. Nice to meet you.

911 OPERATOR: You, too.

DALLOF: The man who kept her calm during those tense minutes.

BRITTNEY: I felt OK being on the phone with someone. It helped.


ROESGEN: Wow. The suspects are charged with aggravated burglary, but it could have been so much worse because they actually had two knives and a set of brass knuckles that they didn't use.

HOLMES: Well, stay here, folks. We're going to talk about one homeowner's bad luck and how that could pay off for another.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Purchasing at least another six houses tonight.


HOLMES: Finding fortune in foreclosures.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROESGEN: As T.J. and I have pointed out all morning, the mortgage foreclosure story could be the dominant issue of this 2008 presidential campaign. It's the economy, stupid, once again. And more and more Americans have been losing their homes because of the high-risk mortgages.

HOLMES: Yes, and with today's caucuses in Nevada, it's worth noting that the foreclosure rate is four times higher as the national average. But it's a troubling trend no matter where you live. Our own Josh Levs looking into that for us this morning. Good morning to you again, sir.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Good morning to you. It's happening all over the country. We're seeing more and more foreclosures. The numbers can be staggering. Some people wonder what actually happens to the homes. I went to an auction this week, a foreclosure auction and I found there the few who feel that amid this whole crisis, they might actually come out ahead.


LEVS (voice-over): It's fast paced, big bucks and a sign of America's new reality as the mortgage crisis leads to record numbers of foreclosures, more and more people are spotting opportunities and packing into foreclosure auctions, mostly investors like Reginald Jackson.

REGINALD JACKSON, INVESTOR: You can make an average, at least 10, 15, $20,000 per property. Depends.

LEVS: He's done his homework, scoping out modest homes and long term investments. The homes are listed online. So the bidders arrive knowing what they want. Jackson already bought six foreclosed homes this week.

JACKSON: Purchasing at least another six houses tonight.

LEVS: You know that sounds like monopoly.

JACKSON: Yes, I do. I'm pretty good at that game too.

LEVS (on camera): All right, so another property sold. This is one of many auctions taking place in the Atlanta area this week. They're selling more than 500 homes valued between about $30,000 and $700,000.

(voice-over): Many sell well below market value, but some folks here want the prices high. Realtors who list the properties. Michelle Gilbert now focuses on foreclosure.

MICHELLE GILBERT, REAL ESTATE AGENT: That's the way to go now. Unfortunately, the market is going in that direction.

LEVS: And for the company that runs the auctions, it's a booming business.

DAVID WEBB, HUDSON & MARSHALL: Last year alone we did about 8,000 assets. This year we'll do 12,000 to 15,000.

LEVS: And when you look ahead, it's going to be more, right.

WEBB: It's going to be more. There's plenty on the market and really the auctions, the institutions that own these properties real like to be able to go into a market area and move a lot of property in a very short period of time.

LEVS: Which explains why at these auctions, speed is the name of the game.


LEVS (on camera): Now think about this. There's generally an 18- month delay between when a home is foreclosed on and when it can actually hit an auction. All of those homes we were seeing up for auction there actually had foreclosures in 2006. Which means, T.J., when we look what's going on now, more and more foreclosures this month, we can expect a ton of these kinds of auctions, maybe even every few weeks in our communities all across the country for at least the next couple of years.

HOLMES: It just seems a little sinister. Something seems not right about people profiting from other people's pain. But still, it's not their fault and what not. But we're talking about people trying to make a profit. They are investing in their homes.

But what about the people who lived in these homes?

LEVS: And that's the tragic side of all of this. A lot of people losing their homes. And in many cases, there were victims of predatory lending. And many people, if they have crunched the numbers, realized that interests rates might go up, may have made a different decision. Most of these people are no longer in their homes. By the time the home gets to auction, because of that delay, they are generally gone by the time this kind of auction actually takes place.

What you find, people who experience foreclosure, as a rule, you find them sometimes moving in with family, sometimes moving to a cheaper city. Very often, unable to own a home at all. They end up in a rental property somewhere while they try to resort their finances and very often completely start from scratch.

HOLMES: That's sad to hear.

LEVS: It's awful.

HOLMES: Josh Levs for us this morning, we appreciate you and appreciate that story. And also folks, you can stay right here at CNN with the latest information regarding your financial security. Susan?

ROESGEN: Well, they are the fastest-growing population majority and could determine the winner today in Nevada. The Latino vote. Coming up in THE NEWSROOOM.


HOLMES: Well, it's 11:30 now. Here's a look at what's happening. Voting under way in the year's first southern presidential contest, the South Carolina Republican primary. Also on today's campaign calendar, the Nevada caucuses. Democratic hopefuls have been campaigning heavily in that state. But Nevada Republicans also caucusing there as well today.

Meanwhile, Democratic congressional leaders say they are willing to work with President Bush to hammer out an economic stimulus package. The president is calling for $140 billion in tax incentives.

ROESGEN: And now back to today's Republican primary in South Carolina. It is this year's first southern primary. And today Governor Mike Huckabee told T.J. that he's hoping to do well there.


MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're expecting a win here, T.J. We're seeing the momentum, feeling it, sensing it. And if the voters come out, I know the weather is bad here in South Carolina today. That's not a good sign. But on the other hand, I think our voters are committed. And we're telling our voters, no matter what the weather is, go vote. If you're not voting for me, stay home, watch cartoons, make a big pot of chili, don't even think about now going out there.


ROESGEN: CNN chief national correspondent John King reports that the candidates, all of them, were working for votes right up to the last minute.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the end, it comes town to message.

HUCKABEE: We affirm that marriage just means but one thing. It means a man and a woman.

KING: And organization.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please be sure to go vote for Governor Mike Huckabee.

KING: The fight for South Carolina is always a defining moment in Republican nomination battles.

MCCAIN: We will win tomorrow, we will win tomorrow.

KING: The struggling economy was one closing focus. All of the leading Republicans generally back the president's plan to negotiate a stimulus package with Congress.

HUCKABEE: Clearly there's some things in this country that are on the wrong track.

KING: John McCain, though, said it can't just be new tax rebates.

MCCAIN: And my friends, what we need to do to start with before we go any further is stop the out-of-control spending.

KING: And Fred Thompson suggested the best help could come from the Federal Reserve.

FRED THOMPSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would expect them to cut rates again by half a point probably.

KING: Most of all, though, the final day means playing to your strengths. Evangelicals are critical to Governor Huckabee who hopes the energy on the state's Christian campuses help deliver a win that would make him the conservative favorite.

HUCKABEE: Some of the presidential candidates on our side don't even support the human life amendment, but I'm going to tell you why I do.

KING: Senator Thompson needs those same conservative voters. And so with his talk of dealing with big problems like Social Security came digs to Huckabee on foreign policy and illegal immigration.

THOMPSON: When he was governor, he resisted any attempts to control illegal immigration. He welcomed it. Now he's tough on immigration. Tough on the border.

MCCAIN: It's great to be back at Myrtle Beach.

KING: Senator McCain spent most of his day along the more moderate South Carolina coast, an area also packed with military installations and retirees.

MCCAIN: In case you missed it this morning, front page of the "USA Today." I don't know if you can read that or not. It says 75 percent of areas in Baghdad secure.

KING: Security and leadership are his calling cards.

MCCAIN: And I'd like to serve our country. That's what I did when I was 17 when I raised my hand and became a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy.

KING: His campaign derailed here eight years ago and he hopes a deeper organization this time makes a difference. John King, CNN, Spartanburg, South Carolina.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, the Latino vote could determine the outcome in Nevada today. Latinos make up 20 percent of Nevada's population. And it's the fastest-growing minority in the country. CNN's Jessica Yellin reports on the Latino factor in the Nevada primary race.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And together ... YELLIN (voice-over): From Barack Obama, a rallying cry made famous by the late labor activist, Cesar Chavez.

OBAMA: Si, se puede. Si, se puede.

YELLIN: From Senator Clinton, the human touch at home with Hispanic voters. Hispanics make up nine percent of eligible voters nationwide, but 12 percent here in Nevada. And with a race this tight, they could decide who wins the state.

ADAM SEGAL, DIRECTOR, HISPANIC VOTER PROJECT: If you have to win the state and if this is a state that the Democratic Party set up as an example of the influence of the Hispanic voters in the Democratic Party, you have to be able to demonstrate that you can win Hispanic support.

YELLIN: Obama scored a crucial boost when the state's Culinary Workers' Union endorsed him. Most of their members are Latino and will be encouraged to caucus for Obama. But Senator Clinton countered, announcing the endorsement of Cesar Chavez's brother, organizer Richard Chavez. And the Latino community has a long history of loving all things Clinton.

Their top concerns are the same kitchen table issues that worry the rest of the nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're really focused on whether they're going to have a job over the next six months or a year, whether they're going to be able to afford health care and whether the local education system is adequate for them and their family. Certainly the war and Iraq are obviously enormous issues but the Democrats are not really using those issues as a wedge issue in the primary battle.

YELLIN: Whoever is able to win the most Hispanic voters here will have bragging rights as they head to California, New York and New Jersey, states in which the Latino vote could also be decisive.


HOLMES: Well, the economy has become issue number one, so we've got a special live campaign edition of YOUR MONEY. You can join Wolf Blitzer in New York. Ali Velshi, he is going to be in Vegas and that comes your way at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. At 2:00, Wolf stays with us for special coverage of our election center - from our election center in New York.

You can get the first results from the Nevada caucuses and be sure to stick around for more of CNN's "Ballot Bowl." We're bringing you that candidates unfiltered in their own words. CNN's "Ballot Bowl" kicks off at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

ROESGEN: We've even got our meteorologist Reynolds Wolf in on it. He's checking the rain in South Carolina.

WOLF: The rain and potential for snowfall. Don't you know all the candidates were hoping for just perfect, pristine conditions so that everyone could make it to the polls and vote for the candidate of their choice and sure enough, look what we're dealing with, a mix of rain, sleet and snow. For South Carolina, the good news out of all this, we are dealing with a little bit of scattered snow showers mainly back towards Alabama and into Atlanta.

But into the Carolinas, looks like pretty much a rain event at this time. Check out parts of north Georgia, where we're seeing scattered snow showers. Not the situation in South Carolina, from Charleston to Goose Creek, Georgetown, even Myrtle Beach, "looks like all rain. A little dry air coming in, but with that overrunning moisture, you're going to be seeing snow. Not necessarily here in South Carolina, but farther to the north up to Piedmont, from North Carolina up to Asheville, that's where you can see already you're seeing some echoes starting to pop up.


ROESGEN: Politicians hate it, but kids love it.

WOLF: They do. But the kids don't vote. That's the problem.

ROESGEN: They vote forgetting out of school on Monday. That's what they vote for.

WOLF: Exactly. Good point.

Folks, we have a story to tell you about. A shocking turn that this case has taken. This is a Colorado murder case. Some drawings you're looking at here sent a man to prison for a murder he did not commit.


HOLMES: On a solemn holy day for millions of Iraqis, the festival of Ashura has been ripped by new violence. Take a look at this.

That's the sounds of battle you're hearing there in the southern cities of Basra and Nasariya. Sixty dead after attacks by the radical group Soldiers of Heavy. Street battles between the group and Iraqi troops ongoing. Meanwhile in the north in Kirkuk, a bomb killed at least two people, pilgrims marking Ashura. It was hidden in a trash heap.

ROESGEN: And we have some new images of the fugitive marine, Cesar Laurean. Police have a shot of him using an ATM card. They say it belonged to his victim, Maria Lauterbach. In this image they say Lauren is trying to cover the security camera lens. Also some surveillance video from a hardware shows him at the home improvement store a few days after Lauterbach's death. Laurean buys paint, concrete blocks and a wheelbarrow. Police say Laurean burned and buried the woman's body in his backyard. They believe he's on the run somewhere in the southwestern U.S. or maybe even in Mexico.

HOLMES: All right. Follow us along here. Colorado, February, 1987, Peggy Hettrick (ph), stabbed and sexually mutilated and found dead in a field. Police immediately focus on a 15-year-old boy who lived nearby. Though no hard evidence links Tim Masters to the crime. A dozen years later, we'll fast forward now, go by before police actually arrest Masters. Now a jury convicts him largely based on violent drawings he had made. Now, after nine and a half years in prison, there's been a stunning DNA discovery.

Drew Griffin, keeping them honest.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When she heard that after 12 years Tim Masters had finally been charged with murder, the former lead investigator, Linda Holloway was thrilled until she saw the new evidence that broke the case.

LINDA WHEELER-HOLLOWAY, POLICE INVESTIGATOR: I kept thinking, there's no way he's going to get convicted. They don't have any evidence against him.

GRIFFIN (on camera): But what prosecutors did have were these. Tim Masters' own drawings, one of them, a body, bleeding, being dragged across the field. Another showing what could be a stabbing, a wound. A diagram of the field, the spot where the body was placed.

(voice-over): A forensic psychologist hired by prosecutors told the jury these all add up. Whoever drew them was the killer and, worse, could kill again. That psychologist, Dr. Reed Malloy wouldn't talk to CNN for this report and by the way, never interviewed Tim Masters. And remember this, 12 years had passed. Tim Masters was no longer 15 years old and skinny. He was a grown man.

ERIK FISCHER, ATTORNEY: The basic gist of what we understood from the jurors was, again, what I said before, they were afraid to let him go.

GRIFFIN: But the testimony on the drawings wasn't the only damaging testimony. Linda Holloway was also called to the stand. She was asked by Erik Fischer point blank, you don't believe Tim Masters is guilty, do you? Holloway froze, afraid her answer would throwaway years of detective work. She said nothing. Masters was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life.

So doesn't is bother you that when you were there and had the chance to defend an innocent man, you didn't?

WHEELER-HOLLOWAY: By answering that one question, yes.

GRIFFIN: Now Holloway is back on the case, this time on the side of the defense. The defense says new DNA testing proves Masters never even touched Hettrick, let alone stab her to death and drag her into the field.

Keeping them honest, we have a state prosecutor assigned to review the case, says the original prosecutors and police failed to disclose four significant pieces of evidence that pointed away from Tim Masters. Including that surveillance of Masters produced nothing suspicious. That an FBI profiler hired by police told them Masters' sketches proved nothing. And a plastic surgeon hired by police who said it would be difficult for a 15-year-old boy to make such skillful incisions to the woman's body.

(on camera): Significant pieces of evidence.

DON QUICK, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. How significant is something that still needs to be determined.

GRIFFIN: You're a prosecutor.

QUICK: Right.

GRIFFIN: Would it be significant in a case you were prosecuting?

QUICK: I think that -- that's why we stipulated to them.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Late Friday night in a stunning development, special prosecutor Don Quick went just beyond stipulating withheld evidence. He announced new evidence, DNA tests pointing to a new suspect, not Masters, as the more likely killer.

QUICK: The results of this comparison was to confirm the presence of DNA consistent with the alternate suspect and inconsistent with Tim Masters. It is our belief as special prosecutors in this case that this new evidence meets the constitutional requirements of rule 35-c that requires a vacation of the original conviction and sentence and entitles Mr. Masters to a new trial.

GRIFFIN: Tim Masters' next court appearance is Tuesday when it is expected he will be freed from prison. The alternative suspect, Masters' attorney tells CNN, is an old boyfriend of Peggy Hettrick who Ft. Collins police only briefly suspected him 21 years ago. Drew Griffin, CNN, Ft. Collins, Colorado.


ROESGEN: Incredible story.

Coming up, a border battle. Not one that you've seen before. The issue is immigration, yes, but a wildlife refuge is the battleground.


ROESGEN: You know, immigration is one of the hot issues of this presidential race, and a year from now the Department of Homeland Security expects to have 700 miles of fence line all along the Mexican border. But a physical barrier affects more than just the people who live there. Here's what's happening in McAllen, Texas.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There he goes, an accipiter (ph) flying right.

ROSEGEN (voice-over): At the World Birding Center in McAllen, Texas, people come from all over the country and the world to see birds they can't see any where else.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The birds are God's artwork. They're just so beautiful.

ROESGEN: But while Mary looks for rare birds, the U.S. Border Patrol looks for something else. In 2006 along this part of the Rio Grande, the border patrol caught 73,000 illegal immigrants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I don't have an agent there, if I don't have my sensors, if I don't have my lights, my cameras there, watching everything that happens. I could bat an eye, come back and the person is gone.

ROESGEN: Reporter: in fact, right behind the birding center is one of the most popular spots for sneaking into the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably came a large group. Probably could put between five and ten people, I've seen, on a tube. This could very well have been 15 people.

ROESGEN: The Border Patrol wants to put up a series of fences along the river all along the birding center and other nature preserves, but environmental groups say fences would destroy native plants, cut off the animals' access to food and fresh water and wipe out an entire wildlife habitat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mammals, the butterflies, the birds, everything is a ring of life. The fence would block off the mammals.

ROESGEN: At the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, the fear is the fences will hurt not only the wildlife, but also the ecotourism industry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has an economic impact of about $125 million in the economy. Creates about 2,000 jobs. It is one of the emerging industries that we have in this area.

ROESGEN: And there's another way a fence here could cost the rest of the country millions of dollars.

(on camera): For the last 26 years American taxpayers have been spending $80 million dollars to turn part of this area into a federal wildlife refuge. Now what happens to that $80 million investment if the fences damages or destroys the refuge?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This is the matter of reasonable balancing, balancing risk and considering not only the environmental consequences but the human consequences of what we do at the border.

ROESGEN (voice-over): Homeland security director Michael Chertoff has said he will consider environmental concerns, but locals fear the fences will go up, no matter what. In this fight against the federal government, Mother Nature can't be fooled, but she could be overruled.


ROESGEN (on camera): And, in fact, just in the past couple of weeks, Secretary Chertoff has said that the Feds will start suing land owners who had been refusing to let the fence surveyors on their property. All right. The NEWSROOM continues at the top of the hour with Fredricka.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. Good to see you, Susan. Always good to see you in person.

Obviously, weather is impacting a good part of the country everywhere, including here. But does that mean there might be slip sliding to the South Carolina voting precincts, primary precincts, we'll be checking in on that.

But obviously, the economy is top of the list of the issues that people are thinking about when it comes to this presidential contest. But there's yet something else out there that's influencing the vote, that being race.

A candid conversation with our Suzanne Malveaux as she scouts around South Carolina, kind of getting the pulse of what people are thinking and how race, indeed, is influencing their vote this season. All that, straight ahead, noon hour.

HOLMES: It's out there. People say it won't affect their vote, but it's something in there.

WHITFIELD: Sometimes it's spoken and sometimes it's not.

HOLMES: Fredricka, thank you so much.

Folks, this happens every -- why do people do this? They steal Jesus. Why would somebody steal a Jesus statute?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A phone call in a real raspy voice over the phone saying check your mailbox.


HOLMES: Holding Jesus for ransom. That's next.


ROESGEN: And just want to give you a quick look now. This is presidential candidate John McCain. He is outside a polling place in Charleston in the rain where they're having the South Carolina Republican primary.

HOLMES: Keep an eye on this all die. We'll be watching that and have results for you a little later this afternoon and into the evening.

But here we have a story to tell you about. Jesus is missing from one woman's life. After a big neighborhood stink. Not missing because she hasn't been to church or lost touch with the Bible. No. Somebody actually stole Jesus. Here now is Nick Monacelli with affiliate WZZM in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


JEAN MANSEL, MISSING JESUS: It was setting on that cement right there.

NICK MONACELLI, WZZM CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For about a year, Jean Mansel has cherished her cement Jesus statue, an heirloom from her late uncle.

MANSEL: There were footprints behind it and footprints in front of it.

MONACELLI: But Thursday morning Jean walked outside only to find that Jesus was gone.

MANSEL: My husband got a phone call in a real graspy voice saying check your mailbox.

MONACELLI: In the mailbox, a ransom note.

MANSEL: The note basically said they were holding Jesus for ransom.

MONACELLI: The note reads we are holding Jesus ransom until you clean up the poopy from your wieners. And trust us, we see you take your wieners for long walks without picking up their poopy in our yards. This has upset us dearly, so please clean up all the wiener poopy if you want to see Jesus unharmed.

MANSEL: It has to be a young person because they put these little lines next to the word Jesus. No adult is going to waste their time doing that. And referring to wiener poopy? My gosh.

MONACELLI: Jean has four wiener dogs and admits there was a complaint last year about their leavings but says she's cleaned up every pile since.

MANSEL: I take my dogs for a walk. I carry a plastic bag with me and I pick up anything they do.

MONACELLI: Now, Jean just wants her statue back.