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Official Death Toll Over 1,000 After Earthquake Devastates Morocco; President Biden Attends G-20 Summit In India But Chinese President Xi Jinping Does Not; Coco Gauff To Play against Aryna Sabalenka In Women's Tennis Finals At U.S. Open; Judge Rejects Former Trump Chief Of Staff Mark Meadows's Request To Move His Georgia Election Interference Case To Federal Court; Entire Fulton County Special Grand Jury Report Shows Recommendations To Indict GOP Senator Lindsey Graham; "That '70s Show" Actor Danny Masterson Sentenced To 30 Years To Life In Prison For Raping Two Women In Early 2000s; Documentary Examines How Technological Advances In Football Increase Player Protections And Safety. Aired 2-3p ET.

Aired September 09, 2023 - 14:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Destruction everywhere, that's how one survivor describes the aftermath of a powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco Friday, killing more than 1,000 people. It was the strongest to hit the area in over a century. Rescuers are now struggling to access the hardest-hit areas after roads were damaged, and we're now seeing images of patients waiting outside hospitals. Residents have been sleeping on the streets, fearing for the intense aftershocks.

I want to bring in CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman for more. Ben, these first few hours, you mentioned the first 72 hours are critical in trying to locate survivors. What are you learning about the kind of rescue efforts that actually can happen given so many roads and thoroughfares are impassable?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Keep in mind, Fredricka, that the epicenter of this earthquake, which happened at 11:15 Friday evening local time, was 45 miles southwest of Marrakesh in the high Atlas Mountains. Anybody who has been up there knows that these are very high mountains. The roads go through steep, deep ravines and crevices. It's a very hard area to navigate, certainly under the circumstances that follow an earthquake like this, 6.8 on the Richter scale. We've seen video that shows many of these roads have been blocked by boulders, so the effort is very complicated, and also complicated by the fact that this is an area with scattered villages and towns in remote areas, hard to reach in the best of times.

And keep in mind that Morocco has limited manpower and equipment to deal with this kind of disaster. The worst earthquake in the last century was in Agadir in 1960, and that left 12,000 people dead. So it's been a while since they've actually had to deal with earthquakes in that area.

Now, the death toll at this point, the last we heard, which was a few hours ago on state television, was 1,037, 1,200 wounded, of whom 721, according to state television, were in critical condition. So the hospitals are also under a lot of pressure dealing with this number of wounded. We have seen that people have been lining up to donate blood.

But there have been a series of aftershocks. Now night is beginning to settle down on Marrakesh, for instance, that's the main city, a tourist attraction, which is in the earthquake zone. Many people are sleeping outside again because of fear of more aftershocks.

Now, we have heard from the royal palace put out a statement saying that Morocco will be observing three days of mourning, that flags will be flown at half-mast. We're waiting to find out whether Morocco is going to accept all the offers of assistance that have been put out. For instance, the United Arab Emirates has said it's ready to establish an air bridge to provide personnel and relief supplies and equipment, if needed. Israel has assembled medical teams, emergency teams as well. France, the United States, says it's willing to send teams to survey the damage and see what's needed. But at the moment, the real focus is on the relief effort, which is going on, of course, around the clock, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and very carefully. All right, Ben Wedeman, thank you.

Let's go to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. Allison, there are reports of strong aftershocks. That is to be expected, but how bad is it?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right, so a lot of it comes from the original magnitude, which was a 6.8. And keep in mind, too, the depth of this was 11 miles.


And I know to normal people that sounds like it would be really deep, but in geological standards that's actually considered extremely shallow. From the time the earthquake happened, just 19 minutes later they had an aftershock of 4.9. And that may not sound strong, but what you have to understand is after the initial quake, buildings, homes are now structurally compromised, so even something like a 4.9 can cause significant subsequent damage, even though it's not necessarily as strong as the initial quake.

This was felt, the initial one, felt as far away as neighboring countries like Algeria and Portugal. And keep in mind, just to show the rarity of this area in terms of earthquakes, just since 1900, they've only had a handful of quakes that are magnitude 5.0 or higher. So this is very rare for this area.

Now, we've had the one aftershock so far. It is possible to continue to get more. Keep in mind, some earthquakes you get aftershocks, tons of them, within just the first few hours. Others, it can take days before you really start to see some of those aftershocks tick up. Every earthquake is different. But statistically speaking, you can see up to 10 on average of magnitude 4.8 and higher over the next several days and even the next several weeks.

One of the big factors here was the topography of where this quake hit, because as Ben mentioned, not only is it hard to get to, but the terrain plays a factor as well. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

To India now, where President Biden and other world leaders are gathering for the G20 Summit today. They agreed on a joint statement laying out shared views on climate change and economic development, which showed divisions within the group by stopping short of condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine. President Biden also announced the launch of a new economic corridor that will connect India, the Middle East, and Europe, a major challenge to Beijing's own efforts at expanding global trade.

Noticeably absent from the summit are Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. This is the first G20 summit that Xi has chosen not to attend since he took power. CNN's Ivan Watson is live for us in New Delhi. Ivan, we're learning President Biden commented on Xi's absence. What's he saying?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He sure did. And before the summit he said he was disappointed that Xi Jinping was pulling out and sending his premier instead, and he was asked again about this today. This is what the U.S. president said in response.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would be nice to have him here. But no, the summit is going well.


WATSON: Now, Fredricka, there was a lot of concern going into this summit that the G20, the combined governments, would not be able to come to agreement on a statement, but, in fact, they did. And one of the key issues that was addressed there in the beginning of it was the war in Ukraine. However, the Ukrainians, who are not present at the summit, are unhappy that the criticism of Russia was watered down. In fact, Russia was not specifically mentioned. Instead, there was a statement that no country should be able to invade another country and annex its territory, that the threat of nuclear war in totally inadmissible, and that the war in Ukraine is having an effect, a negative effect on the global economy, particularly on poorer countries.

Some of the fact that this is watered down has to be understood because Russia is one of the members of the G20, even though Vladimir Putin did not attend because he is wanted for alleged war crimes, so he doesn't leave Russia very much these days. President Biden was front and center, trying to follow up with the theme coming from the host government, India, which is trying to make itself a champion for the world's poorer countries. Biden came to New Delhi promising more investment into the World Bank to put more investment around the world, and promising this new economic corridor, an ambitious plan to link India to the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Israel, all the way to Europe, with pipelines carrying hydrogen, with trains and shipping by sea, and telecommunications lines, part of an effort that he says is trying to show that the U.S. does care about the world's poorer countries.

A final announcement that was made here is that the African Union has been invited to join the G20, and technically that would make it the G21, though we have not heard a formal statement changing the name of this diplomatic club. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Potentially the next chapter. Ivan Watson, thank you.

Later today, American tennis star Coco Gauff plays her first Grand Slam final. She goes head-to-head against the number two player in the world. We'll preview all the excitement with another former tennis champ next.


Plus, "That '70s Show" star Danny Masterson now sentenced to 30 years to life after being convicted on two counts of rape. The journalist who first reported that Masterson was being investigated by the LAPD back in 2017 joins me to discuss the case straight ahead.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. After two gripping weeks of action on the court at the U.S. Open, it all comes down to one match for the women's title this afternoon between home favorite Coco Gauff and world number two Aryna Sabalenka. Former world number seven tennis player, Austria's Barbara Schett, is joining me right now. And Barbara, you're right outside the warm-up court there, right? And I understand that you just saw the men's Medvedev and even the women's Aryna Sabalenka there. Yes? So is Coco on her way, too?



Hi, Fred. Yes, Sabalenka just left the court pretty much. She had a good warm-up. She was sweating. It's still very humid here today. Just behind me here on the right is Daniil Medvedev. He's getting ready for tomorrow's final, obviously, has played such fine tennis here, and getting a little bit of workout in. Just a little sweat, you know. I'm sure the tactics are ready for him. And we're expecting Coco Gauff very soon to hit the practice courts, to get ready for probably her biggest match in her career.

WHITFIELD: Absolutely. I mean, it's been hot. The playing has been hot, the weather has been hot. This is sizzling stuff. So give me an idea, what have you been most interested in seeing in terms of the kinds of adjustments that perhaps Sabalenka or even Coco Gauff might make in their play against one another? Because they're both incredible power hitters, we've seen that with the volleys. But they are in different leagues in terms of their styles of play. What kinds of adjustments do you think they are going to make as they meet up?

SCHETT: Well, first of all, I'm sure they've both talked to their teams, how are they going to go into this match tactically. It's a big match for both of them, so I'm sure they're both going to be nervous. You said it. They're both very aggressive players, Sabalenka probably hitting the ball a little bit harder compared to Coco Gauff. So I think that Aryna Sabalenka will try to target the forehand of Coco Gauff. We know in the past that has been the wing which sometimes was falling apart.

But then on the other hand, Coco Gauff has that variety. She can come to the net, she can throw in a drop shot, a slice. If she can manage the pace of Aryna Sabalenka, she definitely has a shot. And you know what, this is played in New York, so she will have the crowd totally behind her, which will help.

WHITFIELD: That mental toughness, we've seen that on display in lots of different ways. But as it pertains to Sabalenka, she just seems like a cool cucumber there. She's got the experience on her side, right. But then Coco Gauff, we saw a few moments where emotionally she got flustered, and it showed in her game. And then you saw her mom at one point, toward the coaches, like stop the yelling, stop the talking. Even Coco herself said there was a moment where she had to pull it together and it was better if no one was talking to her. So is it a matter of finding your rhythm, or establishing, I guess, that rhythm right off the bat, especially in the finals?

SCHETT: Yes, definitely. As I said before, for sure there's going to be nerves involved. And Coco Gauff, I think even though she showed a few emotions on the court and she a couple of times lost the first set, she won those matches. And I still think that she's mentally very tough, even though sometimes she might be a little bit vocal as well, telling Brad Gilbert, shut up, don't talk to me. And she found the way. And that's the most important thing.

I think she has the confidence. I think she's learned a lot from that final she played against Iga Swiatek last year in the French Open, which was a complete disaster for her. She doesn't want this to happen again. She has this experience now and she will use it. She's a quick learner, she's like a sponge, Coco Gauff. Whatever she hears, she takes it in and experiences.

And then on the other side, you have Aryna Sabalenka. She has won a Grand Slam title already. Of course, that's a big advantage, I think. She's been there, done that this year at the Australian open. And also that match against Madison Keys where she down six-luv, five three, she managed to turn it around. Also with a little bit of -- you know, she was outgoing and showing some frustration. But that would have given her so much self-confidence as well.

So it will be tactics, it will be how stable they are mentally, how they will control their emotions. It's going to be a big battle, for sure.

WHITFIELD: It's so exciting.

SCHETT: You can't wait because you love your tennis, don't you?

WHITFIELD: I can't wait. I wish I was there right alongside you. Today is the women's day.

SCHETT: Why are you not here?

WHITFIELD: I'm going to have to make arrangements next time. I don't know what I was -- I didn't plan my year right. So maybe next time. Or maybe I'll see you at a different open. We'll work something out.

SCHETT: Perfect.

WHITFIELD: So today is the women's day, very excited about that. I don't want to dis the dudes. Medvedev and Djokovic, what do you like about the potential for tomorrow?

SCHETT: I am so excited to see the two of them in the finals. It's a rematch of 2021 where, remember, Novak Djokovic was going for the calendar slam, and then it got all crushed Daniil Medvedev. I actually spoke to one of the agents of Novak Djokovic yesterday, I saw him in the players' lounge. And he said, and that was before Medvedev beat him, and he said I don't want Novak to play against Medvedev. So in the team, I think that's the player he least wants to play against, Daniil Medvedev. He's beaten Novak Djokovic already this year, so he knows how to play against him. The pressure is on for Novak Djokovic. It's going to be, yes, a tight match, I think.


It's going to be emotional for both players. Obviously, Novak, it's a big match for him, he wants to win and clinch the 24th Grand Slam title. So there's a lot at stake. It couldn't be more exciting having those two girls in the women's final today, and of course tomorrow, Medvedev against Djokovic.

WHITFIELD: It's incredible, incredible. We said it was hot. The U.S. Open is hot this year for many reasons. Barbara Schett, thank you so much. Great talking to you. We'll get our calendars together and we'll meet up at some other Open since I missed this one.

SCHETT: Perfect. Can't wait. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, cool, thank you so much.

Still ahead, a judge rejects Mark Meadows's bid to move his Georgia election interference case to federal court. What that might mean for Trump's indictment.



WHITFIELD: A federal judge has rejected Donald Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows's bid to move his Georgia criminal case to federal court. The district judge found the election subversion allegations against Meadows were largely related to political activities and not to Meadows's role as White House chief of staff. Meadows has appealed the ruling.

The order came on Friday, the same day the full special grand jury report was released. That report provides new insight into the 2020 election subversion investigation in Georgia. It shows the panel wanted to indict 39 people in the sprawling racketeering case, including Senator Lindsey Graham, former Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

CNN's Melanie Zanona has details on how Graham is reacting to the news.


MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Senator Lindsey Graham has weighed in for the first time since this news broke on Friday, and he is defending his actions. He said he was just doing his due diligence as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said he was just concerned about how the election process would work in Georgia. And he also noted that he did ultimately vote to certify the election results, including in Georgia.

But there is a conflicting account about a call that occurred between Graham and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Raffensperger has suggested that Graham pressured him to toss out legal mail-in ballots, and that made him uncomfortable. But Graham has denied that accusation. He said he was just inquiring about the mail- in ballot voting system, that he wanted to know how the signature verification system worked. And he also said that he wasn't even talking about the 2020 presidential election, that he was actually talking about a pair of Senate runoff races that occurred in Georgia in January of 2021. But let's take a listen to what he told reporters in South Carolina on Friday.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SC): This is troubling for the country. We can't criminalize senators doing their job when they have a constitutional requirement to fulfill. So at the end of the day, nothing happened. What I did was consistent with my job as being United States senator, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.


ZANONA: Now, Graham did testify before the special counsel grand jury, though he did try to fight that in court. He ultimately was forced to testify. And afterwards, he said he fully cooperated and was not expected to be charged.

But I do think it is a good reminder of just how many of Donald Trump's allies, including sitting members of Congress, were involved in the failed attempt to try to overturn the 2020 election.

Melanie Zanona, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEO TAPE) WHITFIELD: With me now to talk more about these developments is Kay Levine. She is a professor of law at Emory University School of Law. Great to see you, Professor. So what does this mean, that there were about 20 people who would have been indicted but weren't? Does that mean that they are scot-free, or might they be potentially called as witnesses? What could happen?

KAY L. LEVINE, ASSOCIATE DEAN FOR RESEARCH, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: They could potentially be called as witnesses. They also might be indicted at a future point. There's nothing that stops Fani Willis from deciding to amend the original indictment or file a separate criminal case against them. The only timeline that matters is the statute of limitations, and we're nowhere close to the statute running at this point.

WHITFIELD: So players like Senator Lindsey Graham, need they be very careful about what more they say about, whether it be the totality of the report or anything about the investigation?

LEVINE: I think they always should be careful. Anybody commenting on an ongoing criminal case should be careful. Anybody who has been identified as a potential target I think should be very careful about things he or she is saying in public or to people who are not trusted advisers. Attorney-client privilege would protect them, but just speaking to regular members of the public, those statements could be used as evidence.

WHITFIELD: So the former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, says through his attorney they're likely to appeal the decision. He wants to move it from the Georgia court to a federal court, hoping to appeal, but on what grounds?

LEVINE: So I can't really say. When we look at the decision from Judge Jones, it's very thoughtful, it's very careful. He documents the constitutional status, who is in charge of elections. According to the Constitution, Article 1, Section 4, it's the states. Congress, the federal Congress has a little bit of ability to supervise state elections, that's how we have something like the Voting Rights Act, keeping the states from doing something they otherwise would do.

But Judge Jones was clear, there's no authority at the executive branch to supervise state elections. So when Mark Meadows says I was working in my capacity as the White House chief of staff helping to supervise or look into these elections, there's no basis for that in the Constitution, there's no basis for that in the statute. So Judge Jones says you were operating on behalf of Trump's political campaign, not on behalf of any executive power you had.

WHITFIELD: Would the standard be different for former president Trump since through his attorney they're still entertaining the idea of making a very similar move?


LEVINE: He's got the same problem. The state's constitutionally can control their own elections. There is no power for the executive branch to meddle or interfere in state elections. So every time the former president has said, well, I was taking it upon myself to ensure election integrity, he has no power to do that as the executive.

WHITFIELD: How does this decision for the D.A. not to indict some 20 people who are spelled out, regardless of whether it was the recommendation of the grand jury, how does this potentially protect her against continued criticism that she made some political influence decisions here?

LEVINE: I think it gives Fani Willis some cover to the extent people were claiming she just indicted everybody. The first indictment looks like a kitchen sink, right, all these charges, 19 people. It turns out she didn't indict everybody. The special grand jury identified a lot of people who they felt were engaged in suspicious activity, who could potentially be indicted for things like perjury or false statements. And she chose not to indict a lot of people. So I do think it gives her some cover for the criticism that she used her power in an unrestrained way.

WHITFIELD: What next potentially are you watching here?

LEVINE: Every day I'm watching.


LEVINE: Every day it seems like something new is happening. I think next up, we would see judge Jones deciding the removal motions filed by the three people who were part of the fake electors scheme. We would see a removal motion decided on for Jeffrey Clark. Potentially the former president is going to file his own removal motion, but I think the order that we have now from Judge Jones --

WHITFIELD: That kind of set a tone?

LEVINE: Very clear signals to everybody else about their chances of prevailing. Meadows had a decently strong case relative to the others. The fake electors are not even federal officials, so it's not clear to me on what kind of basis they would claim they have that kind of protection.

WHITFIELD: And at least for Meadows, his appeal, if anything, that is a delay tactic, correct?

LEVINE: It is, but it's also very clear that the state proceeding continues to move forward while he is arguing about this in the federal court. So his appeal would be to the 11th circuit. I would think that they would extradite that because of the importance of this, but the state proceeding is going to continue to move forward.

WHITFIELD: Professor Kay Levine, thank you so much.

LEVINE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Good to see you.

LEVINE: Good to see you. WHITFIELD: Still ahead, "That '70s Show" star Danny Masterson is facing 30 years to life in prison for two rape cases. The journalist who first reported on the LAPD's investigation into Masterson six years ago joins me to discuss.



WHITFIELD: Actor Danny Masterson, best known for his role on that "That '70s Show," was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison on Thursday for raping two women in the early 2000s. It was the maximum sentence the court could give for the crimes. More now from CNN correspondent Stephanie Elam.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Danny Masterson was sentenced to 15 years for each count of rape that he was found guilty of in May. So that is expected to be served consecutively according to the judge, so 30 years to life for Masterson. And really a huge part of this because of the two named victims that came forward and also spoke in court. In fact, take a listen to the Assistant District Attorney Reinhold Mueller speak a bit about this.

REINHOLD MUELLER, L.A. COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I'm very happy for the victims because this is a day that they had been looking forward to, and they got their justice. It's a long time coming. That's first and foremost.

But also, being very thankful for the jury to kind of see through everything and recognize what the evidence is and that this defendant needed to be held accountable.

ELAM: Now, Masterson had pled not guilty to raping these women in his home in incidents between 2001 and 2003. His lawyer, Shawn Holley, also spoke after sentencing, and this is what she had to say.

SHAWN HOLLEY, ATTORNEY: Mr. Masterson did not commit the crimes for which he has been convicted, and we and the appellate lawyers, who are the best and the brightest in the country, are confident that these convictions will be overturned.

ELAM: The Assistant District Attorney Mueller did say that they have no intention of going back and re-prosecuting that third rape charge against Masterson, which the jury was deadlocked on. He says that they're satisfied with these two counts and are moving forward with that.

It's also worth noting that Danny Masterson is a well-known Scientologist, and the Church of Scientology was invoked in this trial and what role they may have played in this case. However, we reached back out to the church, and they referred us back to the statement that they originally sent out on May 31st of this year, which says, in part, "There is not a scintilla of evidence supporting the scandalous allegations that the church harassed the accusers. Every single instance of supposed harassment by the church is false and has been debunked."

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles.


WHITFIELD: News of the allegations date back to March 2017, when journalist and former "Village Voice" editor, Tony Ortega, wrote on his site "The Underground Bunker" that Masterson was being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department. And Tony Ortega is joining us right now to discuss this. Tony, so you've reported on this case for years. Your reaction to this sentence?

TONY ORTEGA, EDITOR, "THE UNDERGROUND BUNKER": Well, it was a long time coming for these women. The reason why I broke that story in 2017 was I found out about the investigation and that the LAPD was handling it very badly, and that these women were panicked about it and they were afraid of the Church of Scientology's influence. And that's really been a big story here, is how the Church of Scientology protected Danny Masterson for so long and punished these women for coming forward. So that's the story I set out to tell six years ago, to see if these women would ever actually get their day in court. And boy, they did.


They testified three times under oath. They were cross-examined each time. But this week they got to speak how they felt about things without being questioned. I think that was very important for them.

WHITFIELD: And so we saw in Stephanie Elam's report, she had a portion of a statement from the Church of Scientology, and here is a little bit more from a statement they had published on May 31 that says "There is not a scintilla of evidence supporting the scandalous allegations that the church harassed the accusers. The church has no policy prohibiting or discouraging members from reporting criminal conduct of anyone, Scientologists or not, to law enforcement. Quite the opposite. Church policy explicitly demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land. All allegations to the contrary are totally false."

That a little more elaboration on a statement coming from the Church of Scientology. So when you first started to report on this some six years ago, talk to me about what kind of obstacles you had in trying to get information, versions of events, et cetera.

ORTEGA: Well, first off, right off the bat, two things from that. The first thing they say is there's no evidence about harassment. But they can say that now because the civil lawsuit about harassment hasn't progressed enough to where they can bring the evidence in. I personally know about evidence that showed the Church of Scientology has tried to detail this case, and I expect it to come out during the civil lawsuit.

The second thing they talk about is how there's no evidence of Scientology discouraging anyone from going to police. They say this day in and day out, but during the case their own written testimonies were put into testimony showing that that's exactly what Scientologists are told. So you have their written policies in court as testimony saying that Scientologists cannot turn themselves in, and then you have the spokesman saying we don't do that.

As Mike Rinder told Jake Tapper yesterday, it's just a lie. Scientology lies, day in and day out. And that's what has made it so difficult for these women to get their day in court. But like Deputy D.A. Reinhold Mueller said, this court saw through that. This judge educated herself about Scientology. And I'm sure that's what the Masterson family will now focus their appeals on, are Judge Olmedo's ruling about how much Scientology she allowed into the case.

WHITFIELD: And Masterson's defense attorneys did tell reporters that they plan to appeal his convictions. Do you expect that they will be successful?

ORTEGA: Well, I know that they believe they have a lot to appeal on, because they will complain about the Judge Olmedo's rulings about how much Scientology to allow in. They're going to complain about the fact that there were a lot more references to drugging in the second trial than in the first trial. She also allowed in some testimony about harassment.

I am positive all of those things will come up on their appeal and they will argue to the appellate court that these were mistakes by the judge. The appeal will focus more on the judge than on the victims. And I'm told that when there's a jury involved and the jury believes this evidence that it's difficult for an appeals court to overturn that. But I'm sure the Masterson family is hoping that they find a judge that will see it their way.

WHITFIELD: Actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis were among dozens of celebrities who wrote letters to the judge in support of Masterson before sentencing. Was it at all impactful?

ORTEGA: I don't think so. I mean, Judge Olmedo only had one choice to make, whether to give him 15 to life or 30 to life. And based on the testimony and the things she had said about the severity of the crime, I would have been shocked if she had allowed him to have only 15 to life.

But yes, this is just a standard thing. The family and supporters of the defendant will send in letters to try to sway the judge. I got ahold of those letters yesterday. I published them on my Substack, and I think people were absolutely shocked to see the language in the letters from people like Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. But they are sticking by their friend, and it's caused a lot of controversy on social media.

WHITFIELD: Tony Ortega, thank you so much. Good talking to you.

ORTEGA: Thank you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: Back now to our breaking story, the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco Friday. More than 1,000 people have been killed. CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley has just arrived. Sam, what have you seen since arriving in Marrakesh?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, I think the first thing to say is that this is a nation that has been stunned by these earthquakes, particularly here in Marrakesh, because this is a city that doesn't have any memory at all of earthquakes, let alone one that has killed 13 people here in this city, but some 1,300 or more around the rest of the country. This is an ancient Minaret outside, or marking the outside of a very ancient mosque here in the Fnaa Square, and you can see how the top of it has just literally been shaken less. And these crenulations along the walls that mark the outer walls of the old city, as we've been driving along the edge of the old city, Fred, and we've seen a lot of those have been kind of snapped off. Some of them have been there for many hundreds of years. And if we look closer down here, you can see these extraordinary scenes where you've got a crushed vehicle that has been hit by falling debris.


And then just beyond it, tourists and other people enjoying a cup of coffee. A very sort of strange atmosphere that has gripped this city.

But Fred, elsewhere in the country, the disaster picture is very much more dramatic. There are whole villages that have been flattened, they end up looking like piles of rubble with a few houses remaining standing, many, many hundreds of people have been killed in this. The king of Morocco, Mohammed, has declared a three-day state of national mourning. But more importantly, he's mobilizing, inevitably, the emergency services to get out into the rural areas, particularly the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, in order to try to rescue people.

Now, just in the last few minutes, for example, on social media there have been images of a woman being pulled out from rubble in a remote area. We don't know exactly where it is. The epicenter of this earthquake was about 45, 50 miles outside of Marrakesh here, to the south. But really most of the devastation has been in the foothills of the ancient Atlas Mountains where you've got a lot of remote villages often set on the lower slopes of the Atlas Mountains. Many, many of them have been completely collapsed. And we've been speaking to eyewitnesses and survivors who are describing scenes of total devastation.

Now, the problem for authorities here is that a lot of the roads have been closed, Fred, by this earthquake. So getting help means getting there by air, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness, that is a gigantic obstacle, indeed. Sam Kiley, thank you so much. We look forward to more of your reporting there after you get a chance to talk to a lot of the people who are milling about and what their plans are, if they're going to be sleeping in the streets tonight just as many did after those first few tremors. Thank you so much, Sam Kiley.

Before we go to break, I want you to meet this week's CNN Hero.


YASMINE ARRINGTON, CNN HERO: What we're ultimately doing is ensuring that young people who have incarcerated parents are overcoming systemic barriers and also changing the trajectory of not only their lives, but their family's lives, and breaking the stereotypes and the stigma around having an incarcerated parent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get ready for graduation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations! I'm so excited!

ARRINGTON: What keeps me going is that proud mama effect to see our scholars just achieve and accomplish and, over time, gain a sense of healthy confidence. Just a little bit of support can go a very, very long way. It really is a snowball effect.


WHITFIELD: So fantastic. For more, go to

And we'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: This week officially marks the start of football season. CNN sports anchor and correspondent Coy Wire spent nine years playing in the NFL, and in the upcoming documentary, "Hard Hits, Can Football be Safe?" he visits an NFL funded research lab and its researchers all working to make the game safer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last year for the first time we saw a position specific helmet that was designed for linemen. They have more hits to the front of the crown of their head. This year for the first time we're going to see a quarterback-specific helmet. It's frequently because the back of their head hits the ground.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's on the lower end of what would cause a concussion.

WIRE: As awesome as that was, it was scary as hell. Now I understand why after game days it felt like waking up, I had been in a car crash. For me, thinking back to that's what I did, back when I used to hit wedges when they were legal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And here we go.

WIRE: NFL data shows that kickoff rule changes, including eliminating the wedge formation, reduced concussions by 38 percent on that play alone. It's just one of the upwards of 50 rule changes over the last two decades all made in the name of player safety.


WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. This is so powerful, and from your perspective, especially, Coy. So what exactly did you learn about just how dangerous this game is?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. I think it's no secret this is still a violent game delivering big hits, body blows, leave some players breathing snot bubbles. I have a titanium plate and four screws in my neck. I can account for it.

But listen, after some very scary high-profile injuries last season, we were reminded how brutal the game can be. So we wanted to investigate the continued fight to make America's most popular sport safer. And I think people will be as shocked as I was reporting on this topic by everything going on behind the scenes from that high- tech lab that you just saw there, how the hundreds of millions of dollars being put into research by the NFL is being used.

We visit, the helmets we saw there, Fred, they're developing at nine times the rate they used to. That's evolution that's going to keep players and kids safer.

WHITFIELD: That's promising.

WIRE: Yes. We visited with Christina Mack, an engineer and epidemiologist who presents injury data to the league's Competition Committee, driving the player safety-based rule changes. She says what they're on to will allow them to predict injuries in the future before they happen.

We visited with championship coach Andy Reid of the Chiefs. We visited with Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott. We talked to former and current players, and they're revealing a culture shift happening before our very eyes. Players are no longer seen as replaceable pieces of meat. We even spent time with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Dany Garcia, co-owners of the XFL, which is a spring football league, and they've developed some outside-the-box ways to make the game safer. And the NFL told us they're considering some of these changes that they've made.

So we've found, Fred, that not only is the game safer than it has ever been, it's constantly evolving, and it will likely keep getting safer. And I can't wait for everyone to see how in the episode tomorrow night.

WHITFIELD: Wow. You used some really pivotal words, that cultural change. That is everything. Coy Wire, I cannot wait to watch it. I know everybody is at the edge of their seat, can't wait to see it.