Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

Shooter Goes Free; Iraq's Constitution Countdown; al Qaeda Video?; 'Grizzly Man'; Internet Birth

Aired August 11, 2005 - 07:29   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. The commute clearly under way this morning. It is just about half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING.
Coming up, it was the -- one of the really deadliest school shootings at the time. Jonesboro, Arkansas, remember back in 1998?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, yes. It was really a cruel thing, because they hid in the woods, and they just picked people off as they came out of the school. Four students and a teacher were gunned down that day by two teenagers. And today one of the killers is getting out of prison. So, how is the community reacting? We're going to talk to the sheriff in just a couple minutes.

O'BRIEN: They changed the law, didn't they, when they realized there were such huge loopholes that would allow both of these young men...

COSTELLO: To get out on their 18th birthday. The only reason they could keep them until they were 21 was because they charged them with weapons charges. But now the law has changed.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And they've expunged their records, too.

COSTELLO: Yes, free and clear. They can buy guns. They can do whatever.

O'BRIEN: It's pretty shocking. We're going to get to that in just a moment.

First, though, let's let a look at the other headlines with Fredricka Whitfield. She's at the CNN center this morning.

Hey, Fred, good morning.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Carol and Soledad.

"Now in the News."

Two fugitives wanted in connection with the shooting death of a Tennessee prison guard are expected to face first-degree murder charges. George and Jennifer Hyatte were captured without incident last night at a motel room in Columbus, Ohio. The woman was apparently injured in the shooting with corrections officers. Authorities say they'll both be extradited to Tennessee after hearings in Ohio later today.

President Bush is meeting with his defense and foreign policy teams today during his working vacation. The meeting of the minds is taking place today at the president's Texas ranch just one day after he signed a massive transportation bill in Illinois. On the agenda today, the ongoing violence in Iraq and the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea.

Tropical Storm Irene is getting bigger, and forecasters say it could eventually become a hurricane. Irene had been downgraded to a tropical depression earlier this week, but it regained strength overnight. The storm could potentially make landfall along the East Coast early next week. We'll check in with Chad just ahead for the very latest.

And the seven-person crew of the space shuttle Discovery is back with their families. The crew was greeted Wednesday by some 700 supporters at a plane hangar in Houston. Meanwhile, the space shuttle itself is expected to be loaded onto the back of a special 747 and then flown back to Florida next week -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Thanks, Fredricka.

As we mentioned, a convicted killer will walk free today, sending a chill through Jonesboro, Arkansas. Seven years ago, Mitchell Johnson took part in a school shooting there. Four students and a teacher were killed. Ten others were wounded. Well, Johnson turns 21 years old today. And due to a loophole and Arkansas' juvenile justice system, he must be set free.

Craighead County Sheriff Jack McCann is live from Jonesboro, Arkansas, near Westside Middle School, where those shootings took place.

Good morning, sir.


COSTELLO: How is the community feeling today?

MCCANN: A little apprehensive. This happened seven years ago, and to most people that may seem like a long time, but to the people in this area it's just like it happened yesterday.

COSTELLO: It seems like such a cruel crime -- an extra cruel crime. They steal a high-powered rifle from one of the boy's grandfathers. They hide in the woods. One of the boy's runs into the school, pulls the fire alarm so the students will come out. And then the boys simply shot them from the woods, killing a teacher and those four students. Did they ever give a reason of why they did this?

MCCANN: No. And I think that's one of the major problems everyone has with this case. The boys have never given a reason why. They've never expressed any remorse for their actions.

COSTELLO: Have you ever talked to the boys? MCCANN: I have not.

COSTELLO: You talked to one of the boy's mothers?

MCCANN: Yes. I talked to Mitchell Johnson's mother just the other day.

COSTELLO: And what does she say about the crime?

MCCANN: Well, we didn't get into that. I was just asking if Mitchell was going to be -- when Mitchell was released was he coming back to Jonesboro, and she assured me that he was not.

COSTELLO: She still lives near the school where this happened, correct?

MCCANN: Well, within about a mile of the school, yes.

COSTELLO: Will her son go back to live with her?

MCCANN: No. She assured me he will not be moving back to this area.

COSTELLO: I want to read you a quote that she gave to a local newspaper. She says, he'd give anything, he'd give his life 100 times over to turn this thing back. The best thing, I really believe, the best thing to do is to give him a chance. Let him get out there, spread his wings and help other people.

Supposedly he's going to become a minister. You've been involved with the law for a long time. Is it possible that this boy has been rehabilitated?

MCCANN: It's possible. I'm always skeptical of when statements are made like that. I agree, let's give him a chance and see what he does. We just have to wait and see what happens.

COSTELLO: What should have happened to Mitchell Johnson?

MCCANN: Pardon?

COSTELLO: What should have happened? What should his punishment have been?

MCCANN: In my mind and in the mind of most people in this area, he should have at least served life in prison.

COSTELLO: When he gets out -- and I know you've offered to protect the mother and kind of prepare her for what lies ahead -- how do you suspect the community will relate to him if he does stay for a while in Jonesboro?

MCCANN: There could be anything happening from just minor harassment to something very serious could happen if he stays here. We could not guarantee his safety if he moved back to Jonesboro.

COSTELLO: So, have there been death threats, things like that?

MCCANN: No, not that I'm aware of. But if some of the victims' families was to run into him at a store or a mall or whatever, I'm afraid their rage or their anger would come to surface. And I just feel like something bad very well could happen to him.

COSTELLO: The last question for you. This boy's record will be totally clean, everything expunged from his record. That means what? He'll be able to go out and buy a gun perhaps?

MCCANN: Absolutely.

COSTELLO: And live life as if those murders never took place?

MCCANN: And that's true, and that's another issue that everybody here is having to deal with.

COSTELLO: Well, Sheriff Jack McCann from Craighead County, Arkansas, thank you for joining us AMERICAN MORNING this morning. We appreciate it.

MCCANN: You're very welcome. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: That is tough for the community to swallow there.

COSTELLO: Can you imagine?

O'BRIEN: No, I really cannot.

Let's turn overseas now. With just four days to go and many major issues unresolved, the authors of Iraq's new constitution are struggling to meet Monday's deadline.

Aneesh Raman in Baghdad for us this morning.

Aneesh, clearly compromise is going to be very hard to find.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, yes, good morning.

A huge roadblock as well emerging today, one that could very well destabilize this entire process. Shia leaders in the south, amid protests, calling for an autonomous region there, similar to what the Kurds have in the north. Immediate opposition coming from the Sunni minority, as well as from Shiites in the government, including the prime minister, who see this as a possibility towards a very weak Iraq, one that would essentially be a federation of small states.

There is also, of course, the issue of money. Oil in Iraq is mainly in the north and in the south. And if there are autonomous regions there, do those local governments get to the keep the predominance of revenue from oil? Or does it go to the central government?

So, as you say, time running out, Soledad, for them to write this constitution. Compromise, it seems, is as well -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: What are the options, Aneesh, do you think, to overcome the impasse?

RAMAN: Well, given that compromise is essentially not an option, it seems at the moment, unless some major breakthrough comes about, the only option they have left is to really sideline these controversial issues and let a parliament that would come in at the end of this year for five years deal with them with specificity as amendments. Everyone here knows that Iraqi politics, all of it is global. The world is watching. It's incredibly local, but it has global import.

And so, they are very keen to try and meet that August 15 deadline as the world is pressuring them to do so. What it will take to get there is what we're waiting to see --Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Big obstacles and lots at stake obviously. Aneesh Raman in Baghdad for us this morning. Aneesh, thanks.

The Navy releasing some disturbing images from a new propaganda tape that's reportedly from al Qaeda. The two-hour videotape appears to show the photo I.D. one of the Navy SEALs who was killed back in June in eastern Afghanistan.

Correspondent Zain Verjee has more.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A disturbing sight. The Pentagon confirms to CNN that this is the photo I.D. of U.S. Navy SEAL Danny Dietz, killed in an ambush in Afghanistan. He went missing on June the 28th. His body was recovered on the 4th of July.

It's part of a highly-produced propaganda film, allegedly from al Qaeda, called "The War of the Oppressed People." Subtitled in Arabic, this video claims to show jihadis of different nationalities training for terror in a mountainous area.

In parts of the two-hour program, the alleged militants show off their weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, and what could be bomb-making materials.

The film, also contains interviews and anti-western diatribes, not only in Arabic, but in French and English as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our people of the west, don't be fooled by the lies of Blair and Bush that you are free nations. For the only freedom that you have is the freedom to be slaves of your whims and desires.

VERJEE: The production first aired on the Arab network al Arabiya, which wouldn't say how or where it was obtained.

Zain Vergee, CNN, Atlanta.


O'BRIEN: That tape has not been authenticated. It's unclear if any or all of the people in it are actually members of al Qaeda.

COSTELLO: And we're going to be talking much more about this with Peter Bergen, our terrorism expert. A highly-produced tape. You know, it makes you wonder, where do they put this thing together?

COSTELLO: Clearly, anytime somebody has a tape where they interview Osama bin Laden or his number two, three, four deputies, and clearly there's a production team behind it.

O'BRIEN: Where is the facility?

O'BRIEN: Exactly.

COSTELLO: Well, maybe Peter Bergen will help us out with that.

Right now, though, we travel down to Atlanta to check in with Chad.


O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, the architect of one of the biggest fraud cases in U.S. history learns his fate. Andy has got that as he minds your business just ahead.

COSTELLO: And a chilling new documentary hits the big screen. An intimate look at the man who was killed by the animals he vowed to protect. That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: They're starting up again, and it seems like they will never stop. The Rolling Stones treated fans in Toronto to an intimate concert last night at 10 bucks a ticket. The rockers, now in their 60s, are fine-tuning their set before launching into a world tour to promote their upcoming album, "A Bigger Bang."

And one of the album's tracks seems to go against the Stones' adage that it's only rock and roll. The song, "Sweet Neo Con," appears to directly attack President Bush.

Here's the lyrics: "You call yourself a Christian. I think you're a hypocrite. They say you are a patriot. I think you're a crock of (EXPLETIVE DELETED)." I beeped that out. "One thing that is certain: Life is good at Halliburton," the song goes on. "If you're astute, you should invest in Brown and Root."

David Haffenreffer of "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" asked Keith Richards and Mick Jagger about that political slam.


MICK JAGGER, ROLLING STONES: It's not an attack on President Bush. It wouldn't be called "Sweet Neo Con" if it was an attack on President Bush. No, I mean, it certainly criticizes policies he espouses, I'm sure. But, you know, it was really a spark by some rows I had with some Republican friends of mine. We disagreed and we argued about Iraq, and we argued about this and that and the other.

KEITH RICHARD, ROLLING STONES: I don't know. It's really quite just against one person. But actually, I mean, it is Mick's song. And to sort of set this straight, I said to Mick, 'Hey, you know, that's pointy pointy.' And my only thing about this song was that the album is good by itself. I don't even want to be sidetracked by some little political storm in a teacup.


COSTELLO: Does he not look like Johnny Depp in the movie? Because, you know, that's who Johnny Depp modeled.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Can you translate that, though?

COSTELLO: I don't know what he said.

O'BRIEN: I have no idea what he said.

SERWER: That's the beauty of Keith Richards.

O'BRIEN: Pointy pointy.

COSTELLO: And teacup.

O'BRIEN: What does that mean?

SERWER: Pointed, I think, maybe. But...

COSTELLO: It was like such a small thing it could fit in a teacup. That's all I got from that.

SERWER: A tempest in a teacup perhaps from Keith Richards.

COSTELLO: We're going to have more of the interview later on AMERICAN MORNING.

SERWER: Fun stuff.

O'BRIEN: I'm looking forward to that. I hope I can understand what he has to say.

Let's talk business now. The WorldCom saga is coming to an end today. With that and a preview of the market, Andy Serwer has got that.

Really? Scott Sullivan who learns his fate, I guess it's fair to say.

SERWER: That's correct. He's the last man to be sentenced.

Let's talk about the markets, first of all. Yesterday, some interesting stuff on Wall Street. The Dow was up over 10700 in early trading. Some optimism over earnings. But then guess what? Some of those numbers about higher oil prices started to creep in, and stocks sank, as you can see here. And it really just shows how much the stock market really is a prisoner of oil prices these days. Futures are up this morning again, though. So we shall see.

And then there was one. Scott Sullivan faces the music at 10:00 a.m. Eastern this morning in Manhattan. Judge Barbara Jones...

O'BRIEN: What's he looking at?

SERWER: Well, he is looking at -- probably he could face 25 years. But remember, that's what Bernie Ebbers got, his boss, who he testified against. So he will not -- there's Sullivan right there. He will not get 25 years, Soledad, but he will probably get between 3 and 10 years, because, after all, he was culpable. He was one of the architects of this massive fraud. So he cannot get off Scott-free, so to speak, but he will get some time.

O'BRIEN: We'll see what he gets.


O'BRIEN: Interesting. All right, Andy, thanks.

SERWER: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: The central figure in a chilling new documentary film skirts a fine line between adventure and lunacy. Director Werner Herzog focuses on a man who lived so close to wild grizzly bears he could almost touch them. That is, until the beast he had sworn to protect turned on him.

Correspondent Brooke Anderson takes a look at the latest documentary to make it to the big screen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love them with all my heart. I will protect them. I will die for them.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The opening scene of acclaimed director Werner Herzog's documentary film, "The Grizzly Man," offers a hint of things to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go back. Go back.

WERNER HERZOG, DIRECTOR/NARRATOR: I think it became a film not on wild nature. It became a film on our nature and human nature.

ANDERSON: The human in Herzog's film is Timothy Treadwell. And for 13 Alaskan summers, Treadwell, an activist, educator and amateur filmmaker, taped himself living dangerously close to grizzly bears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, I am just feet away.

ANDERSON: In October of 2003, Treadwell and his girlfriend, Amy Hugenard (ph), were attacked and killed by a brown grizzly bear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They needed a caretaker. They needed someone to look after them, but not a drunk person, not a person messed up. So I promised the bears that if I would look over them, would they please help me be a better person?

ANDERSON: Herzog paints a complex portrait of Treadwell, a man who was passionate and committed, but also probably mentally unstable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tabitha is hungry! Melissa is eating her babies! I'm like a nut.

SAM EGLI, FRIEND OF TREADWELL: Treadwell thought these bears were big, scary-looking, harmless creatures that he could go up and pat and sing to. He had lost sight of what was really going on.

HERZOG: We have to see if Treadwell is a deeply-troubled man, but at the same time he was a man of courage. He was a man who had a vision. It's not simple to nail him down at this or that quality that makes him so fascinating.

ANDERSON: Brooke Anderson, CNN, Los Angeles.


COSTELLO: Herzog's "Grizzly Man" opens in theaters in Los Angeles and in New York tomorrow.

O'BRIEN: It seems kind of bizarre, doesn't it?

Still to come on AMERICAN MORNING, a pretty incredible story to tell you about out of Iraq. A soldier virtually, if not literally, by his wife's side as she gives birth thousands of miles away here in the U.S. They're going both join us to tell us how they did it. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: What's more amazing than witnessing the birth of your child? For one sergeant serving in Iraq, modern technology meant he could be virtually by his wife's side when she delivered their daughter on Monday. Sergeant William Hamrick is in Balad, Iraq. His wife, Angela, and their new baby, Elena, are in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Good morning to both of you -- all three of you. Thanks for being with us this morning.

Angela, let's begin with you. It's been 48 hours since the baby was born more or less. How are you feeling?

ANGELA HAMRICK, WIFE OF SOLDIER IN IRAQ: Pretty good. I mean, a lot of Tylenol, but pretty good.

O'BRIEN: That's what it's all about. Keep taking the Tylenol.

William, you were able to coach Angela, but virtually through streaming video and a phone line that had been set up. Was it frustrating for you not to be able to hold her hand and really be there physically for the delivery? SGT. WILLIAM HAMRICK, II, SAW BABY'S BIRTH OVER INTERNET: Yes, ma'am, it was a little frustrating not to be able to be there. But, you know, it was -- it was good for what we had and for the situation.

O'BRIEN: I guess it certainly was better than not being there at all. Angela, what kinds of things was William telling you during your delivery? Was he helpful?

A. HAMRICK: Well, what I can remember . I mean, the most thing I remember is him being able to see the baby. Going through it, I mean, he was being morally supportive and stuff, but there were so many people talking in the room that I just -- the only thing I really honestly heard was how much he said how beautiful his daughter was.

O'BRIEN: Oh. Well, that's the most important part. The rest of it doesn't really matter, right?

So, tell me something, William, what's it like at that moment when -- I mean, watching any birth is amazing, but when it's your own child, what was it like for you to see baby Elena come out?

W. HAMRICK: It really truly was amazing to be halfway around the world in a war zone and able to be at my wife's side when she gave birth to our daughter.

O'BRIEN: And at that moment, did you burst into tears? Did you laugh? Did you -- what did you do?

W. HAMRICK: Oh, I shed a tear or two, I must confess. I surely did.

O'BRIEN: You did. You decided on the name Elena ahead of time. Is that right, Angela?


O'BRIEN: And she weighed 6 pounds, and she was born at 4:04. Those are all of the facts we've got to get out there. You're doing very well, by the way, simultaneously doing an interview, feeding the baby and rocking the baby and talking to your husband, too. You're juggling it all. And you know what? You're going to need those skills, because now you have a 2-year-old and a newborn. How are you going to be able to manage it all, Angela?

A. HAMRICK: With my mom's help.

O'BRIEN: And the Tylenol. Stick with the Tylenol when you need it.

A. HAMRICK: Yes, yes, I have some Tylenol.

O'BRIEN: Congratulations.

A. HAMRICK: Definitely Tylenol.

O'BRIEN: Congratulations to you, Angela Hamrick. We're really -- the baby is beautiful. From what we can see, she's adorable.

A. HAMRICK: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: And Sergeant William Hamrick as well. Do you guys want to take a moment while we have the link up to say anything to each other?

W. HAMRICK: Angie, I love you. Chance, I love you. Elena, I love you. I miss you guys. Hang in there. I'll be home soon.

COSTELLO: OK. That got me. That's a great story.

In just a moment, fresh off the success of Discovery, NASA prepares to launch a new mission to Mars. We'll tell you what secrets they hope to uncover. That's just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.