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Kevin Strickland is Interviewed about Being Exonerated; Cancer Screening Scans Drop Amid Covid; Katharine Esty is Interviewed about Living Life. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired November 24, 2021 - 08:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Is -- is that what --

KEVIN STRICKLAND, EXONERATED AFTER 43 YEARS IN PRISON: Just unbelievable that I finally made it.

KEILAR: Is that what was keeping you awake? Kevin, is that what was keeping you awake, sort of the disbelief of it, or what were you thinking about as you were having a hard time sleeping?

STRICKLAND: You know, I'm used to living in a close, confined cell where I, you know, I know exactly what's going on in there with me. And to be in a home, and you hear the -- the creaks, you know, of the home settling and the, you know, the electrical wiring or whatever else, it was -- you know, it was kind of -- I was kind of afraid. I thought somebody was coming to get me. I mean some stuff that you -- you probably wouldn't think I was thinking, but, yes, I wasn't comfortable.

KEILAR: You know, how are you -- how are you feeling? Do you -- do you have anger?

STRICKLAND: No. You know, I can't say that I have anger because, you know, I don't want people to think, you know, an event, something happen in a ten-mile radius of where I'm living, that I'm responsible for it. So, no, I don't have anger. You know, I'm paranoid, you know. Do I have anger, frustration, you know, disappointment? I'm not going to go with anger.

KEILAR: I certainly think you would be more than -- more than entitled, although I don't imagine there are many people who can know how it would feel to be you right now, Kevin.

One of the things is, obviously, that you've missed so much, including your mother's passing recently. And you had said that you wanted to visit her grave. Have you been able to do that yet or to make plans to do that?

STRICKLAND: Yes. I've already did that. I already did that. That was the first stop. First stop.

KEILAR: What was that like, Kevin? STRICKLAND: That was the first stop, yes. I mean, I -- to know my

mother was underneath that dirt, and I hadn't got a chance to visit with her in the last years because -- due to her, you know, diminishing dementia state, you know, it was -- it was -- it was -- I revisited those tears that I did when they told me I was guilty of a crime I didn't commit. So it was -- a lot of stuff came out. We -- I -- I talked to her for a minute. I believe she could feel me, hear me, I do. Yes. That's -- yes. That's my mother.

KEILAR: I certainly -- yes, no, I certainly hope so, Kevin. And you know she would have wanted to see this day as she stood by and supported you for all these years.

And, Tricia, I think one of the -- you know, there have been -- it's been so obvious for so many years that this needed to be righted. Just walk us through the last four -- few years and why it took so long.

TRICIA ROJO BUSHNELL, ATTORNEY FOR KEVIN STRICKLAND: Yes, I think, you know, Kevin's case really shows just how difficult the process is for every individual who's innocent, and particularly here.

So the first piece of evidence that you talk about that showed he was innocent, his co-defendant confessed in 1979, in front of a court and everything at a plea that he wasn't involved and named the other individuals who were involved, including some folks who have never been charged with the crime and said Kevin was not there.

So, since 1979, Kevin himself has been filing, he filed over 17 petitions with all this evidence, with evidence of the recantation of the victims, with these -- with these confessions from the real perpetrators, and no court would hear it. They wouldn't even have a hearing.

And so, you know, at that time, in Missouri, there's a question of whether or not innocence is a reason to get out of prison if you are not sentenced to death. And Mr. Strickland wasn't sentenced to death. So when the prosecutor at the -- the current prosecutor agreed that Mr. Strickland was innocent, we had filed that petition to help get him out on his behalf. But, you know, whether or not innocence is a reason to get out of prison keeps him from being in court. And so it was such a strange position here in Missouri where prosecutors didn't have the power to let someone out of prison, that we actually had to change the law.

That law went into effect in August and the prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker, filed that motion to overturn the conviction. But even then, that law provides for the attorney general to, quote, make an appearance, be at the hearing, question witnesses and make argument. And what that resulted in, in our state of Missouri, in an attorney general's office that has fought every innocence case for the last 30 years, was incredible delay as they sought to have the judge dismissed, to have every judge in Jackson County and to have, you know, the hearing delay after delay after delay. And so that's what it is. That's why Mr. Strickland didn't get to be with her mother -- with his mother when she passed.


KEILAR: Yes, and something I think that's going to stun a lot of people is that Missouri does not give assistance except for in some specific cases for people who have been wrongly convicted. So I just want to highlight the Go Fund Me page for Kevin, and we're also going to go ahead and tweet this out because I know a lot of people are going to be touched by this story.

But, Kevin, I understand that you want to see the ocean.

STRICKLAND: Yes. Yes. That would be a big win. Yes. I think anybody that's alive should want to see the ocean before they pass, you know, one time in life. So, yes, that's a big deal with me.

KEILAR: Can you tell us why? Tell us why.

STRICKLAND: Not just see it but get in it. Yes.

Excuse me.

KEILAR: And what else? And what else, Kevin?

STRICKLAND: Oh, I lost my hearing.

KEILAR: Oh, can we get that in there, Tricia?

BUSHNELL: Tell me why. Why? Why would you like to see that?

STRICKLAND: Well, I mean, I was -- I was big -- as a teenager, I was big on swimming anyway, so I've always liked the water. And, you know, God created a big deal there when he -- when he put all that water out there. And I need to get out there and see if I can ride a great white or something like that.

But, yes, that's, you know, the experience. I want to feel the power of the water, you know? I -- at 62, I believe I can surf. If they get me out of this chair, yes. So, it's -- the water's -- the water's wonderful. Me and water (INAUDIBLE) well. We -- I can swim. So, yes, that's what -- that's what the water's about.

KEILAR: You must have missed that so much, you know, just some of the simple things, obviously, in life here over the last 43 years.

Kevin, it is a privilege to speak with you, Kevin Strickland. And Tricia Rojo Bushnell, thank you so much for all of your work and for joining us this morning.

BUSHNELL: Thank you.

STRICKLAND: You're welcome.

KEILAR: Coming up, health officials sounding the alarm on cancer screenings after the life-saving test took a back seat during the pandemic.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And FOMO no mo. My next guest is 87 years young, triple vaccinated and not letting the fear of Covid dictate her life any longer.



KEILAR: Cancer patients could become indirect victims of Covid-19. Researchers are warning of a future spike in cancer deaths because so many people did not get screened during the first months of the pandemic. And many are still not going in for CT scans, for instance.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has more on this new reporting this morning.

I mean this is -- look, this is just bad news.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. It's a terrible side effect of the pandemic.

I think when we were in the midst of it, we were so busy thinking about Covid, as we should have been, that, you know, I think a lot of people might have missed what was happening because people weren't getting some routine and also some non-routine screening.

So, let's take a look at this data. It looks at CT scans for cancer screening. And what they found was that from March to May they went down 82 percent. And May to November, when things were getting a little bit better, they were down still, but only by 12 percent.

What went up during this period of time was cancer screenings, cancer CT scans, rather, from the emergency room, those went up 33 percent. That's not good. You shouldn't really be doing cancer screenings in the emergency rooms. That's not the ideal place to do them. It likely means that people were having symptoms and that's why they needed to have the screening.

So it's -- you know, it's hard to sort of get things back up and rolling, but that's where the effort is to get these screenings back into gear.


KEILAR: Yes, for prevention. So important.

Elizabeth, thank you.

COHEN: Right.

BERMAN: So, she's 87, vaccinated and boosted, and not letting Covid crush her joy anymore. Katharine Esty writes in "The New York Times," quote, every day as I venture out, there's a drumbeat in my mind, a constant accompaniment, is this too risky for me. But if the risk of getting sick with Covid is holding me back, there's something even stronger drawing me out. The fear of not making the most of my remaining time.

And Katharine Esty joins me now.

I really appreciate you being with us.

It's a really thoughtful op-ed you write. And I should note, you're a psychologist, so deep thinking is what you do here. But basically what you're saying is, you're going to go live right now. You're sort of, in a way, done with Covid.

KATHARINE ESTY, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Yes. I think that's a good way to put it. I am. I'm ready to resume my life again. And, you know, despite the recent surges here in Massachusetts of cases, I'm ready, I'm ready, despite the risk, to pick up the aspects of my life. This Thanksgiving eve I'm thrilled to be going to Connecticut to spend the holiday with my son and it's just very special.

BERMAN: It's not that you don't acknowledge that there is a risk, you're just saying it's worth the risk to go live.

ESTY: Yes, absolutely. I mean the risk -- and I still take precautions. I live in a retirement community and we -- when we go out of our apartments, we wear masks. And I'm happy to do this sort of as a person in a community and when I go to the grocery store and the other places I go when I've been back to my church recently, I wear a mask. And that seems fine, even though I really realize, and I've been backed up by the experts, that it's unlikely that I'm going to be a carrier with my two vaccinations and the -- and the booster.

BERMAN: I think it's interesting what you're saying, and there is nuance to it. You're not one of these people going out there and saying, let it rip!


You know, Covid, it's just going to spread anyway. I'm just not going to do anything and it's going to move.

You're wearing a mask. You're boosted. You're just going to do those things and not slow down at this point.

ESTY: Right. Absolutely. And there's some things I don't do. I don't go to -- well, I don't go to rock concerts. But I don't go to large crowds. And so that, maybe, you know, I'm with my family, I'm with my friends, I go to have dinner out, we've -- I've been to some restaurants, but, you know, not big crowded places. And so that seems right. So -- but I'm eager to be out and about. You know, I am done with -- it feels like I'm ready to go out. And I guess I feel too that right now in spite of the ongoing pandemic, which I gather may be with us for a year or more, so I have decided, well, there's really nothing to wait for now. And I'm going to be living as fully as I can.

BERMAN: What do you have against rock 'n' roll, Katharine?

ESTY: Well, I've only been to one rock concert and it was -- I was deafening, I'll tell you that. But it was -- so I -- I don't. I have a grandson that's a musician and I'm so in favor and he's into heavy metal and so I'm all for it, but --

BERMAN: Well, I can tell you are clearly a heavy metal fan. We appreciate you being with us, Katharine Esty. I think the message you're sending is, is a good one, people need to figure out how to live their lives, manage the risks, but go out and do it.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Best to you and your family.

ESTY: Well, thank you so much. And I think I will. I'm -- you know, I'm really seeing this Thanksgiving as not just picking up the usual, but something very special and not at all ordinary. And I guess, in particular, I just feel grateful for being alive, even more than I've ever felt before.

BERMAN: What a wonderful message. Really. I appreciate it.

Katharine, be well. Motley Crue sends their regards.

ESTY: Oh, thank you so much.

BERMAN: All right, while you were sleeping, this happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And lift off of the Falcon 9 and Dart on NASA's first planetary defense test to intentionally crash into an asteroid.


BERMAN: Crash into an asteroid. Where have you heard that before? "Armageddon" come to life at long last. How Ben Affleck finally may have saved us all.



KEILAR: Time now for "5 Things to Know for Your New Day."

Jurors in the trial of three men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery are now beginning their second day of deliberations in Brunswick, Georgia.

BERMAN: Three of the country's biggest pharmaceutical chains being held accountable for the opioid epidemic that's gutted parts of Ohio. A federal jury found CVS Health, Walmart and Walgreens substantially contributed to overdoses and deaths. The verdict could set a precedent for future decisions across the country.

KEILAR: And officials in Florida say that Brian Laundrie died by suicide from a gunshot wound to the head. His remains were found last month in a swamp after a manhunt that lasted weeks. Laundrie was considered a person of interest in the death of his fiance, Gabby Petito.

BERMAN: So, overnight, NASA launched a first of its kind mission, sending a spacecraft deliberately to crash into an asteroid. The space agency is using asteroid deflection technology to test what could be done if an asteroid threatens earth. KEILAR: Bruce Willis invited, said no, amazingly.

And, you know, it was an emotional night for the legendary college basketball announcer Dick Vitale. He returned to work for the first time since announcing that he has lymphoma. And before UCLA and Gonzaga tipped off, he tearfully thanked fans for their support.


DICK VITALE, BASKETBALL HALL OF FAMER: What being here does. I didn't want to cry. I can't believe I'm sitting here. It's just really a big thrill to me. I want to thank all you people. There have been so many great messages. ESPN, Jimmy Paterio (ph), all my buddies in the (INAUDIBLE), I want to thank certainly my family and all the fans. You've been unbelievable. On october 12th, I'll be honest with you, when they walked in to tell me I had cancer, they thought it was mild lung cancer and it was really going to be a serious surgery and all, I never dreamt at 82 (ph) I'd ever be at courtside again.


BERMAN: What a moment.


BERMAN: Those are the "5 Things to Know for Your New Day." More on these stories all day on CNN and And don't forget to download the "5 Things" podcast every morning. Go to

The daughter of a legendary astronaut now taking her own trip to space. "The Good Stuff," next.



BERMAN: It is time now for "The Good Stuff."

The daughter of the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, will follow her father's footsteps when on December 9th, she and five other passengers ride the latest Blue Origin mission aboard the New Shepard rocket and capsule named after her father, that is Laura Shepard Churchley. She will be heading to space on the next Blue Shepard mission.

Brianna, as I said, her father, Alan Shepard, was the first man in space, American man in space, the fifth to walk on the moon. Shepard famously hit a golf ball into space and Laura Churchley, she's only going to be in space or near space for ten minutes. I'm very curious if she'll try to do something athletic while she's up there in the ten minutes to sort of honor what her father did.

Another interesting fact is she's going to take her father's Naval academy ring with her to space, which has already been up three times. I guess Alan Shepard took it up the first time when he just went to space for a few minutes. The second time when he went to the moon. And I guess somehow it went up a third time. This will be the fourth trip to space for one ring, which is pretty good.

KEILAR: I mean, yes, that's amazing.

I would love to go, maybe -- you know what, to be honest, I wouldn't love to go -- or I didn't want to go before. But now having watched so many people do it, it has become almost normal, it seems, you know. And now we're watching what I think is going to be an amazing trip here, and I think a fun one, an entertaining one. Michael Strahan, he seems fun, right?

BERMAN: I've told the bosses that I'd be willing to go, but only for sweeps. If it's -- if it's for ratings, and then I -- then I would be willing to go. Science, I don't care as much. But for viewers, I would do -- I would do just about anything.

KEILAR: Yes. I'll send my rings. They can be very well traveled.

BERMAN: Anyway, but the Laura Shepard story I think is fantastic. I know Michael Strahan is getting a lot of press. But I do like the legacy of the next generation going to space.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. Be safe on the roads today.

CNN's coverage continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Wednesday morning. I'm Erica Hill.


Happening right now, jurors in the trial of the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery have reconvened this morning, beginning their second day of deliberations after deliberating for more than six hours on Tuesday. Each of the defendants, Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, face nine separate charges, the most serious carries mandatory sentences of life in prison.

HILL: Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, said after the prosecution's final rebuttal yesterday she is confident.


WANDA COOPER JONES, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: I do think that we will come back with a guilty verdict. And I want to leave with this. God has brought us this far and he's not going to fail us now. We will get justice for Ahmaud.


HILL: Joining us now, CNN senior national correspondent Sara Sidner, who's outside the courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, this morning.

[09:00:05] So, after more than six hours yesterday, the jury is back at it this morning.