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Special Event

Election 2000: Leon County Circuit Court Gets Set to Resume Hearing

Aired December 3, 2000 - 9:00 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take it right to Tallahassee, where our Bill Hemmer is standing by as we await the hearing to continue.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Morning, Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, Kyra, good morning again from Tallahassee.

Over at circuit court across the street from where we are positioned here expected any minute now for Judge Sanders Sauls to come back on the bench and reconvene the hearing that was concluded yesterday after nine hours.

CNN's Gary Tuchman also inside that courtroom by telephone now, Gary, quickly, before you make you shut that thing off. What's the mood over there this morning on a Sunday?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Bill. Once again they're letting us broadcast live from right inside the courtroom (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the proceedings starting.

And here's what we know at this point, Bill. The Bush team says it will call 10 witnesses to the stand this morning, it will be the last day of the Al Gore contest for the presidential election results. The Gore team only called two witnesses yesterday and then rested.

The Bush team says its 10 witnesses should be fairly quick, so this could end today, presumably. However, there are interveners in this case, common citizens who are also allowed to have their lawyer witnesses. We don't know how long that will take.

I just talked a short time ago to Phil Beck from the Bush team, to David Boies from the Gore team, and I asked them point-blank, Are you nervous today? These are big-time lawyers, but you might imagine they'd be nervous on such an important day. Well, not surprisingly, both of them said, No, we've done this before, we're not nervous.

I'm not so sure if they're not a little bit nervous, but that is their public statement, that they're not nervous, even though this could be the day that Judge N. Sanders Sauls, the circuit court judge who usually deals with county business here in Leon County, Tallahassee, could make a decision that will impact the whole world, who will be the next president of the United States?

But right now, in the court, Bill, it's very crowded. Everyone's anticipating quite an important and perhaps quite an historic day.

Back to you.

HEMMER: All right, Gary, hang on the phone with us shortly, quickly they'll want to get in our guests as well. David Cardwell's here in Tallahassee, and Greta Van Susteren is live up in Washington.

Greta, first to you. What do we look for today when this court hearing gets under way?

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think with the part -- the predominant thing we should look for is how fast it can get done, Bill. This is a race against the clock by both the Democrats, and of course they want to quickly get this over with and get a ruling from the judge, because if they get a ruling they don't like, they want to rush to the Florida supreme court in an effort to get relief there.

The Bush people have a different strategy. They want to stretch it out, because time is on their side. So what you're going to see is the constant tension between the two.

Incidentally, the lawyers both saying that they're not necessarily nervous, I don't buy that.

HEMMER: Yes, probably not. David Cardwell's shaking his head in agreement. David?

DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, things have gotten cold weather-wise here in Tallahassee, but I expect it's going to heat up in the courtroom. The pace may pick up today and we're -- as we move toward closing arguments, which will probably be the key to this case.

In fact, I'm anticipating that both sides already thinking there will be an appeal from whatever Judge Sauls, Sanders Sauls rules may already by having their appellate briefs being prepared by other lawyers outside the courtroom.

HEMMER: And if that's the case, ultimately we head right back to the state supreme court behind us here in Tallahassee.

Gary Tuchman, if you're still with us, you mentioned 10 witnesses on that list. Have you seen the list, Gary?

TUCHMAN: No, they haven't handed out an official list. They have basically said the first witness to be called will be a statistician. You may recall that in yesterday's case, the Gore side called a statistician. He testified that statistics show that people who used punchcard ballots had many more no-votes for president than people who used other types of ballots in Florida.

The point they're trying to make to the judge is people used punchcard ballots and many of them were disenfranchised because their chads did not go all the way through. We presume that when the Bush side calls its statistician to the stand today, we will see some very different statistics.

HEMMER: Indeed, probably right, Gary.

Outside the courthouse, here's CNN's Mark Potter. Mark, good morning to you.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.

Following up on the point that Gary just made, I was talking to Barry Richard, one of the attorneys for the Bush team, and talking about the testimony from the statistician. He said he predicted that it would be a boring morning for us and for the viewers, but he said it will pick up after that. He said that there will be people here, witnesses to talk about the situation in Miami-Dade County and in Nassau County, where there are questions about the counting of the ballots there.

The big question looming over us all is the one we can't answer, how long will this take? We just don't know. We have some clues. We know yesterday it took nine hours to get through opening statements and just four witnesses, the two that were put on by the Gore team and two -- the first two from the Bush team.

Judge N. Sanders Sauls has said he wants to end this in 12 hours total. That gives us three hours today. There's not very many people here betting that he'll be able to do that. One of the lawyers for the Bush team says he predicts this could go into Monday.

And it seems the judge is going to be coming into the courtroom soon. There he is.

HEMMER: Thank you, Mark. Again, Judge Sanders Sauls, back on the bench as we convene now day number two of the contest hearing in Leon County Circuit Court.

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