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On the Story

Dispatches from Moussaoui Trial; Will U.S. Attack Iran?; Duke Prof. Blogs About Rape Case

Aired April 16, 2006 - 13:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Checking some stories "Now in the News."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in the middle of that tornado! We're -- there it is right there in front of it! We're right over it!



WHITFIELD: Storm chasers in the middle of a vicious twister, these amazing pictures from inside a tornado in eastern Nebraska. Severe storms ripped through the area yesterday, damaging buildings and knocking down trees, but no injuries were reported.

Authorities in Aruba have detained a 19-year-old man for questioning in the case of missing Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway. The young man is not necessarily a suspect in Holloway's disappearance. She vanished during her senior class trip on the island last May.

And Christians around the world are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is the holiest holiday. At the Vatican Pope Benedict wished the faithful a joyous Easter in 62 different languages and he prayed for peace during Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square.

I'll have more news at the top of the hour. ON THE STORY begins right now.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN. And we are ON THE STORY from the campus of the George Washington University in the heart of the nation's capital. Our correspondents bring you the stories behind the stories they're covering.


VELSHI (voice-over): Kelli Arena is on the story of 9/11 trial. Chilling words and no remorse from a convicted terrorist.

Suzanne Malveaux is on the story of a potential stand-off between the United States and Iran over nuclear ambitions.

Jason Carroll follows the latest twist in the Duke lacrosse rape investigation.

While Internet reporter Abbi Tatton monitors university reaction online.

Ed Lavandera is ON THE STORY of the immigration marches from the streets of Houston.

And Brooke Anderson ON THE STORY of a true-life horror movie that some say hits too close to home.


VELSHI: Welcome. I'm Ali Velshi. Joining me here, Kelli Arena and Suzanne Malveaux. Now our correspondents are going to be taking questions from our studio audience, which is drawn from visitors, college students, people across Washington, and across the country.

We begin with the trial of convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui who took the stand in his own defense and expressed no remorse over the September 11th attacks. CNN's Kelli Arena was in the courtroom and she heard the chilling final moments of the doomed United Flight 93.

Let's click back to her report.


KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The cockpit voice recording, as you know, it's the first time that that tape has been played publicly.

And then you hear other voices saying, the best thing is the guys will go in. They've put an axe in it. And then you hear, let them look through the window. Now by this point we can only assume that the passengers have gone up to the front of the plane and were trying to figure out how to get into the cockpit.

You hear the famous words from Todd beamer that we've all heard before. You hear, roll it. You hear a crashing sound. It sounds like it was probably the cart that flight attendants use to serve drinks and so on.

It was incredible to listen to. Unfortunately, that tape will not be released to the wider public. Families of the victims of Flight 93 have heard that tape before, but the judge ruled that, because there were some families that did not want that released, they just didn't want to hear it over and over and over again, that she would only release the written transcript.


VELSHI: Kelli, I mean this in the best way, the emotional strain showed. That's a lot of information that you were taking in. But you have followed justice for so long. Tell me what the connection is between everything we know that happened on September 11th and Moussaoui. ARENA: Well, this jury has already ruled that he can be held responsible for at least one death on September 11th because he had information that if he had shared that with investigators when he was arrested, which was in August before September of 2001, that the government might have been able to either prevent 9/11 or at least limit the amount of casualties that we saw.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Kelli, what is really amazing, actually, to see you reporting this week, you brought so much passion and drama into it all. But tell me, what it was like to be there with Moussaoui in the courtroom, taking notes, the victims' families there, hearing the tape for the first time?

ARENA: It was very difficult. You go through so many different emotions. You have family members that are sitting there in the courtroom right with you. And they are, obviously, very -- they're crying and they're very tense and they're upset by what they're hearing.

You know, we're seeing things that we haven't seen or heard before. And so you're trying to -- you know, you're so caught up in the moment. And then you realize, oh, my God, I need to be writing this down because you've got to run out and relay it for everybody. And so, I mean, when Moussaoui was testifying, I took 20 pages of notes. He testified for nearly three hours.

VELSHI: You lost your voice from all the amount that you had to talk this week.

ARENA: I really -- I mean, it's just -- I have -- you know, it's been very long days and very emotional days. And I'm exhausted. I am.

VELSHI: Your name and where you're from.

QUESTION: My name Eelan (ph), I'm from Salt Lake City, Utah. I'm wondering how is the possibility of Moussaoui trying to become a martyr going to affect the jury's decision of whether or not they give him the death penalty?

ARENA: Well, you know, that issue has come up quite a bit. And we just don't know how the jury will react. As a matter of fact, Moussaoui himself, when he was criticizing his lawyers during his testimony, said, you know, you should have argued that, you know, putting me in jail was better than killing me because if you kill me, you make me a martyr.

And there are people who really buy that argument and there are people who just don't. And of course, we're not allowed to talk to the jury so we have no idea what they're thinking. But I'm very sure that, just like it's occurring to us, it is occurring to them.

VELSHI: Your name and where you're from.

QUESTION: Yes, I'm Mary, I'm from Pennington (ph), New Jersey. I'd like to know how well the judge is doing controlling the courtroom itself.

ARENA: She is amazing. She -- at first, when we first started the trial, Moussaoui started acting up and she threw him out and she said, look, you know, you will not be in there unless you behave yourself. And so he's very quiet during all of the proceedings. He usually yells after the jury leaves and the judge leaves. And then he gets up and he, you know, screams.

But she has kept things right on schedule. She has limited -- I mean, there was one point where the prosecution was just showing one horrible picture after another of body parts that were found after 9/11 in the streets. And I mean, they were so horrific to look at. And after they showed three of those, she was, like, look, enough. We've got the idea, you know.

And she's very aware of the emotional toll that this is taking on the jurors as well. So she takes longer breaks, more frequent breaks, ended some days early, you know, really keeping in mind that this is a lot to deal with.

VELSHI: Do you have to consider -- in a story like this you're covering, does the issue of how objective you can be come into play?

ARENA: Well, you have to be. I mean, you have to be. This is a man who is on trial. Now, we know he's already pled guilty. So that's not an issue. I mean, he's pled guilty. We know that he is a convicted al Qaeda terrorist. He says he is. But you still -- you know, you have to just say what's happening in the courtroom.

What's been happening in the courtroom is so intense, but you still can't cast a judgment. Like when she asked, well, how will they respond? I honestly don't know. They've got -- they'll do what they're going to do. But you have to always just walk that line.

VELSHI: Sir, your name and where you're from.

QUESTION: I'm John (ph) from Pennington, New Jersey. How do you suppose Moussaoui reconciles his two statements, I do not want to die, and, more people should have died on 9/11? And what do you think that says about his competency to stand trial?

ARENA: You know, he said to us in the courtroom, you all might think I'm crazy because I want to fly an airplane into a building, but I believe that this is what I should be doing. And he really does believe that -- or at least he pretends to believe that the Koran dictates that Muslims kill non-believers if they just don't accept Allah. He truly believes that...

VELSHI: But has he produced any evidence of that?

ARENA: He's read passages in the courtroom. And he also says that the jury has absolutely no control over whether he lives or dies. He said, I told the truth. I've put this in God's hands. We'll see how it goes. So in his mind, it's reconciled. And you and I look at it and go -- you know, but for him, he's got it together.

VELSHI: Well, we'll have more of this discussion a little later on in the show because that movie is coming out, "United 93."

ARENA: That's right, "93."

VELSHI: And we'll be talking about.

Well, coming up, there is a showdown brewing with Iran over its nuclear program. Will diplomacy work or is there really more military action on the horizon? CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is on that story. We'll have it coming up next.


VELSHI: We're on the campus of the George Washington University in the heart of the nation's capital. Iran was back in the headlines this week as that nation's tense relationship with the United States frayed just a little bit more over the nuclear dispute. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux watched events unfold from the White House.

Here is her "Reporter's Notebook."


MALVEAUX: The White House was rather alarmed by Iran and the moves. It looked like, of course, it was one step closer to having a nuclear weapon. But the White House did not want to get ahead of this. It was emphasizing diplomacy , the international community.

And President Bush, who usually boasts that he doesn't pay very much attention to the newspapers, was taking issue with a report the U.S. was poised to strike Iran.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What you're reading is wild speculation, which is kind of -- happens quite frequently here in the nation's capital.

MALVEAUX: Well, this week I got to cover two presidents. I was emceeing a dinner, an event in Washington. And President Clinton was there. President Clinton, I learned, had one regret, one of his biggest regrets of his administration was that he was not able to bridge the racial divide.

BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's still hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people, most of them people of color, who will die before their time, drop out of school, go to prison, never have a chance to live their dreams. It's galling and painful to me.


VELSHI: And back to what President Bush had to focus on, I mean, the good thing about being President Clinton right now is he gets to reflect on missed opportunities or...

MALVEAUX: To say anything he wants to say.

VELSHI: Right. President Bush continues to be faced with things like Iran.

MALVEAUX: And it's...

ARENA: Why is he so adamant that they're not -- or at least seemingly adamant, that they're not going to use military force?

MALVEAUX: Well, you know, really, I mean, when you think about it, all of the military efforts in Iraq and the fact that they really do not want to be alone or out ahead on this. They want the international community, they're making a point of saying, look, we have got the international community, the European community involved in this, because this is not something that they can afford to do by themselves. It's not advisable.

And so they're just letting this play out through the U.N. Security Council, hopefully trying to convince Russia and China that sanctions will be the way to go.

VELSHI: Yes. Let's see what our audience has to say. Sir, your name and where you're from.

QUESTION: I'm Shawn (ph) from Park City, Utah. My question has to do with Donald Rumsfeld. What is the significance of multiple former generals calling for his resignation?

MALVEAUX: Well, it really is quite significant when you think about it. It's just this last week, and Barbara Starr, Pentagon report did an excellent job. But essentially six former generals, some of those who were under the command, of course, with Rumsfeld in the Iraq war, said, look, he doesn't cooperate. It's time for him to go. We don't have faith or confidence in him.

What was extraordinary is what happened over the Easter break. President Bush, of course, coming out at Camp David, making a clear statement saying that he is behind Rumsfeld, that Rumsfeld is going to stay.

The White House thinking on this is essentially, look, this doesn't solve our problems if we get rid of Rumsfeld. A, Americans want the troops to come home and they want the casualties to stop. Rumsfeld is -- if he departs, it's just giving red meat to Bush's critics.

VELSHI: The problem here, is that, as you have told us for many weeks, things sort of get ahead of this White House. They sort of think something is kind of an issue, and sometimes misjudge it, and it becomes -- whether it was with the Dubai Ports situation or the immigration situation, I mean, these rallies all across the country, is this Rumsfeld thing going to become like that? Is that going to become explosive and get ahead of them?

MALVEAUX: Well, it's interesting because I think it really has reached a fever pitch at this point. And the president is very adamant that that is outside noise, that's background noise. As long as the people under his command in the Pentagon are satisfied, then that's the way it's going to stay. But loyalty for this president is extremely important, and they truly believe that this would be a show of conceding defeat or this would be showing that this was some sort of mistake going into Iraq. And that is something not -- that the president nor Secretary Rumsfeld believe.

ARENA: Speaking of loyalty, you know, the Scooter Libby situation and the whole leak, CIA -- the leak and his declassifying of information, I mean, will that resonate?

MALVEAUX: You know, it's -- I don't know if it will resonate. Because I don't know if Americans are looking at this closely enough and saying, we believe that there's a distinction here. The White House wants to make it perfectly clear that the president has the right to declassify information and he did so to justify his rationale for going to war.

Other people say, look, he's leaker-in-chief. He leaked this information. This was classified, and he leaked this information. The White House is trying to make a distinction. Whether the American people agree with that and whether or not they care is going to be something that will probably...

VELSHI: Right. You know that they have to do...

MALVEAUX: We will probably see how that plays out in the midterm elections in November.

VELSHI: It is normal -- not normal, I don't want to say normal. But a White House does leak things. Government officials do leak things to achieve their ends. So it may not be as fascinating to us. The trick is, is it interesting to everybody else?

MALVEAUX: Certainly, certainly. And also, I mean, you have to separate the fact that there's an ongoing case that's going on that involves the disclosure of an undercover CIA agent, which is not...


ARENA: Are you interested?

VELSHI: Do you find it interesting?

ARENA: Do people care about leaks?

VELSHI: Well, then, we had better keep voting on it.


VELSHI: All right. Coming up, new developments in the Duke University rape investigation as each side claims that the evidence supports its case. Well, Jason Carroll is on that story. And he'll join us just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VELSHI: We are ON THE STORY from the campus of the George Washington University here in Washington, D.C. Now, this week the spotlight remained on Duke University as investigations into rape allegations against members of the men's lacrosse team pressed ahead, in some cases raising more questions than answers. CNN's Jason Carroll was ON THE STORY.

Let's click back to his report.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Durham's district attorney, Mike Nifong, found himself in the hot seat, under fire from two candidates running for his seat, both strongly criticized Nifong for his handling of the case involving Duke University's lacrosse team and a young black woman who says she was raped by three white players.

Candidates accused Nifong of saying too much publicly about the case too soon, faulting him for making early promises of arrest. A stinging criticism after DNA test results showed no match between any of the players and the alleged victim.

MIKE NIFONG, DURHAM, N.C., DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It doesn't mean nothing happened. It just means nothing was left behind.

CARROLL (on camera): Nifong's challengers charge so much has been said about the case they worry defense attorneys will ask for a change of venue if there is a trial. They also say despite all the negative publicity, Durham's residents deserve to sit on that jury.


VELSHI: And Jason Carroll joins us now.

Jason, this is one of those stories that may appear to a reporter like you, who gets assigned to it, to be more cut and dried than it is. You get on the ground. The only thing sure about this trial is that it's unclear what's going on.

CARROLL: You know, you're exactly right, Ali. And, you know, I have to tell you, so many people thought when those DNA test results came back not showing a match between the players and this young woman, this whole thing would be over. A lot of people thought, you know, this whole thing is going to be over. We're going to be able to move on. No, not the case.

DA says, look, doesn't matter. Doesn't matter if there's not a match. I have got other evidence I'm pursuing anyway.

VELSHI: All right, and the last thing you need is criticism on this, but I want to just turn this around to the audience and I want to talk about, not you, but media coverage of this case because it's been spectacular. We've had a lot of it. I want to ask our audience, how many of you think that the media coverage of the Duke rape investigation has been fair? Give me a show of hands. All right.

How many of you think it hasn't been fair?

OK. It's roughly half and half.

Jason, I want to just take it to one of the audience members who -- I think you have said that you thought it might fair? Stand up and tell me why just real quick.

QUESTION: I think it has been fair personally because all the answers have been -- I mean, all of the statements have been given out. And it's the fault of the Duke players for not standing up and giving them side of the story. So all the information has been presented.

VELSHI: Jason, what do you think of that?

CARROLL: Yes, you know, in fairness to the Duke players, they have been advised not to talk. I have spoken to a number of their families, a number of these mothers and fathers who tell me over and over how desperately they do want to get out there, how desperately they do want to say something about their sons. But they've just been advised not to talk because of this ongoing case.

VELSHI: Let me throw it to somebody who thinks it has been unfair. You did think it was unfair, right? Tell me why.

QUESTION: Well, I think it's unfair mostly because it seems that the mainstream media has already thrown a lot of blame at these boys due to the fact that they aren't allowed to speak out, because they do have attorneys and they can't speak out. And as you just said, they really want to, but they can't. And as a result, many commentators have said, you're guilty boys, sorry, you're going to go to jail.

VELSHI: Interesting comment, Jason, because some people would also say that college athletes get preferential treatment. So you get down on the ground, you get down to North Carolina, and you know this is all spinning around you, this noise is all around you. How do you do it?

CARROLL: It is. And you know, from both -- I can really see both sides on this. I mean, you look at some of these Duke lacrosse players, some of they guys have never been in trouble. Some of them have had some problems in the past, you know, these minor offenses for drinking and disorderly conduct, things like that.

And I think in lieu of what is happening with these allegations, of course, you know, that just magnifies the situation, makes it appear even worse. I can understand why some people feel as though the media has been unfair to some of the lacrosse players because there's really not very many people out there who are close to them defending them right now.

And of course, this would be a parent, a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, and it's really difficult because they're just simply not allowed to talk at this time. So I can understand where she's coming from. I can only tell her that from my perspective, when I get out there and most of the reporters who are out there, we simply just do the best we can, just try to be as honest as you can, as truthful as you can, and as fair as you can.

VELSHI: All right. We had a question from the audience, Jason. Sir, your name and where you're from.

QUESTION: Michael from Ithaca, New York. If no one has been convicted of a crime, what is the basis for canceling the season?

CARROLL: Michael, good question I think the reason for that is simply because there are other things at play here. Again, Michael, I'm referring to the fact that a lot of these guys had some previous problems. And when you look at what happened that night, a lot of these defense attorneys will tell you, hey, yes, there was underage drinking there, they did hire this exotic dancer, you know, two things that this lacrosse team should not have been doing.

When you look at the fact that they had had problems before with this underage drinking, so I think that was the reason why. Also, we had this e-mail that came out, I don't know if a lot of people in your audience know about this, but it was really, you know, a very graphic e-mail that was discovered from one of these players talking about hiring another stripper, some very graphic language in that.

I think the university felt as though, we've got to do something here. We've got to take some sort of a stand.

MALVEAUX: And, Jason, what about the DA's case here? How is it affected in terms of -- he's up for reelection. I mean, obviously, that must make it even more difficult here.

CARROLL: Well, Suzanne, the DA will tell you that it doesn't matter to him that he doesn't have the DNA evidence. I think that's a little bit of a spin personally. I think any attorney will tell you it's great to have the science standing behind you. But having said that, I think the DA is going to say, I've got other evidence. This young woman checked herself into a hospital shortly after the alleged attack. I think he's going to be relying on whatever information comes out of that.

And, Suzanne, you're right. A lot of his critics have said this may be some way politically motivated. The election is May 2nd. And who's going to want to replace, you know, a district attorney in the middle of all of this? So you know, you've got both sides -- people on both sides having their point of view heard out there.

VELSHI: All right. This is a spirited discussion, and we're going to continue it. Jason, please stand by for us. We're going to take a quick break. But just ahead, we're going to get some online reaction from the Duke campus. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton is ON THE STORY of the Duke professor who's blogging about the rape investigation online. Stay with us.


WHITFIELD: Hello, I'm Fredrick Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. ON THE STORY continues in a moment. But first these headlines. In Oklahoma, grisly new details in the death of 10-year-old Jamie Rose Bolin. Police say the girl's killing appears to have been involving kidnapping, torture, sexual assault, mutilation, and cannibalism. First-degree murder charges are expected be filed tomorrow against Kevin Underwood. Prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty.

An Ohio man faces charges in the shooting death of an African- American activist. Michael Bailey, also known as General Kabaka Oba, was shot four days ago outside city hall in Cincinnati. He died yesterday. Police say the suspect in the shooting had a long-standing dispute with Bailey.

Milwaukee police say there are no signs of foul play in the deaths of two boys who disappeared last month. Their bodies were recovered from a park lagoon two days ago. Autopsies show they died from drowning.

Those are the headlines. I'm Fredrick Whitfield. More stories in about 30 minutes. Now back to more of ON THE STORY.

VELSHI: You are ON THE STORY. E-mail us at

Now campus reaction to the Duke University rape investigation has been mixed. Students, faculty, surrounding community, all of them divided over who is at fault and what should be done. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton has been digging into this topic online, and she says it's been a busy one.

Abbi, what is it looking like?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Ali, absolutely. It's staggering how much discussion, commentary this story is producing on local blogs, on national sports blogs, on message boards all over the place.

One local blogger is actually a Duke professor who has been blogging about this, usually blogs about political science. But his blog has all but turned over to the Duke investigation. He's been following it. His name is Chris Lawrence. He is joining us from his home in Durham, North Carolina, via Webcam.

Chris, thanks for joining us.


TATTON: You've been calling this "Duke under siege" when you've been blogging about it. And just turn to the campus reaction first of all. You've been talking about rows of satellite trucks. How are the students dealing with all of this media attention?

LAWRENCE: I think for the first week it was kind of like (AUDIO GAP) stand by and look at it. You know, it's unusual, it's disruptive. And I think by now, though, I think the students have really sort of almost tuned it out. I think they've gotten used to it. And, you know, they walk past reporters like there's nothing much going on. So it's kind of unusual.

But, you know, this past weekend, of course, we have had prospective students here and stuff. And they're reacting for the first time as though they're seeing for the first. So it's kind of a weird mix between the regulars and the prospective students, I guess.

TATTON: And I was interested in how you've been dealing with it on your blog. You've actually posted a warning to people about people posting comments in the comments section to keep it to some standards. How has that come about?

LAWRENCE: Well, there was one person who I -- you know, I don't know who it was exactly, who posted the name of the accuser that he had found out from a news search based on the account of her 2002 arrest. And so I had to remove that comment and -- or, remove the name from the comment, and post the notice that that was something I wasn't willing to put up with (AUDIO GAP) accusers or the alleged attackers at this point to any sort of public ridicule.

TATTON: Ali, I know you have a lot of questions from the audience over there.

VELSHI: This is incredibly energetic, this conversation. The response is now part of that is because so many of our students are -- so many of our audience members are students. Can I ask -- you said you had a question. Stand up and tell us what is, where you are from and what your question is.

QUESTION: Hi, I'm Megan (ph) from Colorado. I was wondering if the case has hurt the amount of incoming freshmen to the school.

LAWRENCE: I know that (AUDIO GAP) -- you know, letters of acceptance to people. I don't know what the specific rate is of acceptance or anything like that. I mean, you know, the scuttlebutt is that it hasn't had that much effect except perhaps on the lacrosse program.

I know that there has been some students who had promised to come to the lacrosse team that have since had been released from that obligation. But I don't know how it's been running as far as the general student body.

VELSHI: Chris, you know, we were just talking to Jason Carroll about how he covers this knowing all the passions that surround this case. You're not a journalist. Do you come into it with some knowledge of all those passions around the case? And are you careful about how you represent it? Or do you have a position on this?

LAWRENCE: Well, you know, I guess, you know, yes, I guess I'm not formally a journalist or anything like that, you know, worked for my college paper. But that was a long time ago. But, I mean, I think that, you know, both the professional journalists and the bloggers that are interested in this case on both sides really want to find out the truth here and realize that -- you know, I mean, as bloggers we're probably a little bit less objective as perhaps journalists are trained to be or, you know, as... VELSHI: Well, let's bring Jason in. Let's bring Jason in. Jason, talk to Chris about that. You know, one of the things about this case is you do a lot of complicated cases, but this one is really tricky because you've got to get your information from right there and the sources all have different things to say.

CARROLL: True. And basically, what you have to do with regards to that is just follow the facts and stick to the facts and just do the best you can to keep your personal opinions and thoughts out of the process.

I do want to bring up one point that Professor Lawrence made about some of the students and the students taking it in stride. And I wanted to ask him about this because I think some of the students at Duke have been very gracious, as well as at NCCU, North Carolina Central University, the university that the young woman attends.

But I've also run across a lot of anger, too, from both universities, especially at Duke, some riding by on their bikes saying, hey, go home, it's time to go home now. It's over. Get out of here. So I have run across some of that. And I'm just wondering what sort of frustration he's experienced on the part of students there.

LAWRENCE: Well, I mean, certainly there's that element. I think there's a lot of students that at this time in the semester, they have final exams in a week-and-a-half or two weeks, and they're senior, they're trying to get their graduation arrangements in order, and all of these things that are really -- and this is just one more thing that they don't really need to worry about.

And so they kind of feel like it's a distraction from what they're trying to -- what their (AUDIO GAP) and so, you know, I think there's kind of an undercurrent of that, particularly this week since the DNA evidence came out. There's been a lot of (INAUDIBLE) you said.

As you were saying in the previous segment, you know, it's like -- you know, perhaps it should be over. And a lot of questions are, well, why isn't it over...

VELSHI: Chris, we'll leave it there. Abbi...

LAWRENCE: ... at least as far as the allegations?

VELSHI: Chris, thanks very much for that. Abbi, there's just so much discussion about this. We didn't get a chance to get to all of it, but I'm sure you'll be covering a lot more of it in the days to come.

TATTON: Absolutely. And, Chris, thanks so much for joining us. Ali, back to you.

VELSHI: All right. Well, coming up, the battle over immigration. Protestors take to the streets in support of immigrants' rights across this country. CNN's Ed Lavandera is on that story next. Stay with us.


VELSHI: CNN is ON THE STORY from the campus of the George Washington University. Now from here in Washington to cities across the United States, the immigration issue ignites a passionate debate.

Now, this week hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to push for immigrants' rights. CNN's Ed Lavandera was at a rally in Houston. Check out his report.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: United, the people, united, will never be divided!

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You sense a lot of excitement from the people who are here on this hot, muggy day in downtown Houston, protesting and the chants over and over again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are here for our future. We want to stay here. We want to be legal. We want to have our residency. We want to go with a lot of this country and respect it the right way.

LAVANDERA: What we've heard over and over again from these people here is that -- and many of them have stories of relatives who are here illegally or who have been deported, that they continue to push for legal status for many of their family members that are illegal immigrants here in the U.S.

One of the things I expected to see a little more of and have not seen so far, even though we've seen a little bit, is the counter- protest to all of this, people who are clearly -- in a large segment of the population here in the U.S., who want to tight -- more tight controls of immigration and more security on the border.

VELSHI: And Ed Lavandera joins us now. Ed, the continuing theme of tonight's show, whether it's Kelli Arena's reports on the Moussaoui's trial or Suzanne Malveaux at the White House or Jason Carroll in North Carolina is the challenge of a reporter and objectivity on an issue.

These immigration rallies have been massive, the noise in Washington around it has been massive. And it's next to impossible to get straight to facts. Tell me how you deal with this.

LAVANDERA: Well, you know, I think this is probably one of the more fascinating issues that you get to cover as a reporter. Because to say that every American is for or against tightening the immigration policy in the U.S. is impossible to say. There's a huge, wide variety of opinions on that.

So from that standpoint, it's exciting as a reporter to be able to cover all of those different aspects. And then on the other side, when you cover the immigrant side of this story, I mean, to say that, you know, the Latino community comes at this with one viewpoint is also a very naive way of looking at it. Even within the Hispanic community in the United States, there's a wide-range of opinions.

Many Hispanics who would like to see the tightening of immigration, and there are many Hispanics who believe in a much more liberal and loose immigration policy. So from that standpoint, I think it's fascinating to cover this story that has a ridiculous amount of opinions on it.

VELSHI: Ed, let's go straight to our audience, because as you know from covering this, there are a lot of questions and opinions. Ma'am, your name and where you're from.

QUESTION: I'm Priscilla Macy (ph) from Arlington, Virginia. I noticed at the rally here in Washington, D.C., that all the speakers were presenting in Spanish. And I just wonder if there would have been a little more support from the general public if a little effort would have been made to speak in English, even faltering English. And have you gotten any feedback on that?

LAVANDERA: Well, I think the one point that I have noticed -- and believe me, I think these organizers are very conscious of how these rallies are playing out in the Anglo population, if you will, the more -- the non-Hispanic culture in the U.S. And one of the things that -- I noticed it the most, and I wouldn't doubt it if you see a change in this perhaps in the coming weeks as more of these rallies happen, if you remember early on, there were a lot of Mexican flags, Central American flags that were being waved at many of these rallies.

That, I think, has been clearly changing over the last couple of weeks where these organizers are saying, hey, wait a second. This is one of those criticisms that I think kind of stings a little bit. At the rally that I was at, and I think it played out at others across the country as well, there was a concerted effort to make sure the American flag was at the forefront of the rally as well as I noticed a lot of people carrying around small little American flags and making sure the people in the audience in that protest and in that march were carrying those as well.

So, yes, I think they're very sensitive to topics like that because, yes, this is an -- they want to get their message beyond just the people who are turning out to march. They want to, you know, reach people like you that are in the audience.

ARENA: Ed, this seems to have become a Latino issue. Where are the other immigrant groups in these rallies?

LAVANDERA: You know, I'm not sure. There was a decent number of non-Hispanic minority groups that have show up for this. But this is by and large I think an effort that has been mostly generated by Latino and Hispanic advocates across the country. And they've really tapped into this Spanish news media access throughout the country.

They go to Spanish radio, Spanish news outlets that, quite frankly, many of us don't pay a lot of attention to. And you'd be amazed at just how many people in this country listen and depend on these outlets for information. So a lot of people think, oh, I didn't even know this rally was going on. Well, you know, there are a million viewers in many markets across the country who only depend on Spanish-speaking news media for their information, and there's a lot of support and talk about these rallies that get generated like that.

And so I think that's why that Spanish media is so intense and has grown so much in the last couple of years. I think that's why you're able to see these people generate the most support.

VELSHI: Ed, it's probably no surprise to you, but there are a lot more questions in this audience we won't get time to get to tonight. Thanks for joining us, Ed Lavandera, on the immigration story.

Well, coming up, the 9/11 terror attacks. We are getting back to that topic because it's up on the big screen. Will movie audiences line up at the box office, or is it just too painful to watch? CNN Brooke Anderson is ON THE STORY of the controversial project heading to a theater near you.

Now CNN has been ON THE STORY from Washington to Dallas and elsewhere. Take a look.


SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nepal is experiencing its worst street violence since the country's king seized absolutely 14 months ago. Police say they are forced to use force because the protests are being infiltrated by Maoist insurgents who want to set up a communist regime in Nepal.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the end, it was a formality, a unanimous vote in the Israeli cabinet. And Ariel Sharon's five years as prime minister time came to an end. Olmert took over as leader of Kadima. It emerged the biggest party after recent parliamentary elections. By a twist of fate, Olmert is now set to become prime minister in his own right.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Twenty-five thousands votes separate the declared winner, Romano Prodi, and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Eighty thousands ballots are being contested. And with such a narrow margin of victory, every vote counts. Italy's highest court is expected to certify the vote count by the end of next week, but it will be many more weeks before the new prime minister is sworn in.



VELSHI: As the real-life drama of 9/11 is unfolding in a federal courthouse here in Washington, 9/11 the movie will soon be showing in a theater near you. CNN's Brooke Anderson gives us a sneak preview from her "Reporter's Notebook."


BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the first theatrical film to be about 9/11-related events. So it's uncharted territory. The movie trailer is intense. It is a sensitive subject that a lot of people aren't ready for.

(voice-over): In New York, enough complained that one theater pulled the trailer temporarily.

(on camera): The reaction from the families of the victims has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, Universal got consent from them, got approval from the families of the victims who actually make (ph) this movie.

(voice-over): Actually spoke with Alice Hoagland whose son Mark Bingham died on that flight.

ALICE HOAGLAND, MOTHER OF 9/11 VICTIM: The director has done a good job of trying to capture the character and personality of each one of the 40 innocent people who died.

ANDERSON (on camera): The timing of the movie's debut, while the Moussaoui trial is taking place, is ironic. But mum's the word on if there is any connection. I spoke with Universal Pictures, and they have no statement. They're not telling us if the timing of the release, of it was planned to coincide with the trial or if it's purely coincidental.


VELSHI: Brooke Anderson joins us now from Los Angeles. Brooke, as can be expected, there a lot of questions in the audience. So let's go right to them. Your name and where you're from.

QUESTION: Esther Tim (ph) from Centreville, Virginia. Some theaters have stopped showing the trailer. Will there be theaters where the movie will not be shown at all?

ANDERSON: We're not getting any word right now that that has been a decision that has been made. There are movie theaters, as you say, that have pulled the trailer, but Universal is going through right now with its marketing plan. A lot of times they don't want to do a 180. They've taken so long to plan their strategies for marketing. So right now the controversy surrounds the trailer, not so much the movie being pulled from theaters.

VELSHI: Brooke, I've wanted to bring Kelli into this because Kelli has been covering the trial. And as you said, mum's the word on whether there's a connection between the two.

But, Kelli, it's kind of like a parallel universe to what you're doing right now.

ARENA: It is. And, you know, the tape of what actually happened on that flight was not released because some of the families just couldn't bear to hear it on newscasts over and over again. But, as Brooke said, they seem to be behind this as a majority of the families were behind letting that tape go. And I think that they feel that it's a tribute to those people on that plane.

ANDERSON: They do, Kelli. In fact, I mentioned I spoke with Alice Hoagland whose son died on that flight. She was able to see the film last weekend with other family members of victims. And the response is overwhelmingly positive. She said it is a story of heroism, it's an inspirational story of courage, of valor, that should be seen by everybody.

They want these people to be remembered. She said, sure, there was consternation among families while watching it and that it was very difficult for her to see, but she encourages everyone, if they get a chance to see it, to go see it.

She says it needs no embellishment, that it is the true story of real powerful, intense events that should be remembered.

VELSHI: And it's one of those things where this is not just the only story. There are other films in the works right now. I know Oliver Stone is involved in one of them.

ANDERSON: Oh you betcha, you betcha, Ali. Including, as you say, Oliver Stone, the director, is releasing a film "World Trade Center" in August. And that is the story of two Port Authority officers who were rescued from the World Trade Center.

And a lot of people are concerned about that film as well, understandably, many people are still very, very shaken from those events. But we spoke with Nicolas Cage -- he who stars in that film, we spoke with him a few months ago. And he said, hey, he gets it. He understands there's trepidation, that people are hesitant to go see his film. But he says they are treating it as responsibly, as ethically as possible, and that it is a real story of the human condition. It's a positive story of the human spirit.

MALVEAUX: Brooke, is there anybody who's saying that perhaps people are capitalizing off of this tragedy, off of 9/11, whether or not it's the "World Trade Center" or "Flight 93"?

ANDERSON: Of course. A lot of people are saying, hey, there are mercenary motives here. And I spoke with uber film producer Peter Guber, he's done films such as "Rain Man," also "The Color Purple." And he said,, the bottom line is, that you have to -- as, in his words, get the butts in the seats in the theaters. He said, you want to attract moviegoers. You don't want to alienate them. It's a fine line. But he says that controversy sells. Look at "The Passion of the Christ," "Fahrenheit 9/11." Many people were outraged about those movies and their content, but they went on to make hundreds of millions of dollars at the worldwide box office.

VELSHI: Brooke, thank you for being with us. Brooke Anderson joining us from Los Angeles.

Coming up, we're going to take a sneak peek at what is ahead next week for our reporters ON THE STORY. Stay with us. We're coming right back.

VELSHI: As if this coming up week could be busier than the one we've just had, let's have a quick look ahead ON THE STORY.

Are you going back to the Moussaoui trial?

ARENA: Yes. Defense does its thing, maybe it will get to the jury.

VELSHI: Wow. All right.

MALVEAUX: New chief of staff Josh Bolten is taking the reins. We'll see who's in and who's out.

VELSHI: Yes, and whether he still wants his job at the end of the week.


VELSHI: And I'm going to be -- I'm starting my week off looking at making sure you're all filing your taxes. So I know you've been busy, but you have got until Monday night, the 17th of April. Thank you to my colleagues, thank you to our fantastic audience here at the George Washington University. And thank you for watching ON THE STORY. We are back each week Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Straight ahead, a check on what's making news right now.