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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Family Members of John Elliott Speak

Aired August 9, 2002 - 14:48   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take you back up to New Jersey. After jurors say they were deadlocked on two out of three of the charges, now the family members of one of victims, one of the men who died in a car accident by hands of the drunk driver -- that man was Johnny Elliott -- his family says he was hoping to be a Navy pilot.
Now up in New Jersey, the family members of Johnny Elliott are about to speak.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I am truly honored to have Mike Estrowksi (ph) as my chief assistant prosecutor and John Riley (ph) as my assistant prosecutor -- two fine prosecutors who I am very proud of the fine work that they have been doing on this case for the past two years. It is outstanding work, and it's an honor for me to have them as members of my legal staff.

Ladies and gentlemen, Judge Forester has continued the no-speak order in this case. So therefore what I am going to be able to tell you is extremely limited. So I apologize for that.

We have worked on this case for over two years, and we have put a tremendous amount of effort. It has been the hardest work in the highest order that I can even express to you. And I can tell you this, that you all know what the status is of the case right now, that the jury has acquitted on the manslaughter charge and they were hung on the two other charges, which are death by vehicular homicide and aggravated assault by automobile.

I am here to tell you that state of New Jersey, the Salem County Prosecutor's Office, we are prepared to proceed, to move forward in this case, and to reprosecute this with the same amount of vigor and the same amount of heart that we had in this case here for the past 3 1/2 weeks. And that is exactly what we are going to do.

So we will see you in January.

QUESTION: Does the law allow you to retry on all three charges? Can you explain that from the logistics standpoint?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The law allows us to retry on the charges that they were hung. And that was the vehicular homicide and the aggravated assault.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, you heard enough from me. We have the Elliott family here. And they are the parents of United States Navy Ensign John Elliott, a fine young man.

So Bill, Muriel, Jenny (ph).

MURIEL ELLIOTT, VICTIM'S MOTHER: We found friends in Salem County. Our friends are the prosecution, and I think our friends today were the jury, because I know they worked very hard and you can see it in their faces, the emotions of how they felt about this case. We thank them very much from the heart.

It has been very difficult for us because we've had to travel past the site of our son's accident each day, and for two years we didn't know exactly where that spot was. But it is marked, and I think everyone will know that a drunk driver killed our son on that spot. And our pledge is to never have this happen to any family. Our pledge is to our son. No one should have to suffer a loss like we have had to suffer.

And we thank you all for being here to spread the word that drunk driving is a curse and should never be allowed. Be a hero -- be a designated driver.

Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jen, you want to say something?

WILLIAM D. ELLIOTT, VICTIM'S FATHER: Today, you are looking into the faces of the saddest family in America. Not because of this decision today, but because two years ago we lost the finest son and brother that any family could hope for. John Elliott was a hero to us. He was named a hero of the year when he graduated from the United States Naval Academy and threw his cap in the air and pledged his life and his honor to protect the freedoms that we hold dear.

We have pledged ourselves of in the two years to honor that pledge and to honor the beliefs that our son had that this is a greatest country in the world because it believes in the price of freedom and the rights of individual and the preciousness of one person's life.

In addition to being sad, we're also the proudest family in the country. Because of who John Elliott was. He was a hero in life, he is a hero in death, and he continues to inspire us in our mission to make sure that we will keep the promise we made to him when he said our final goodbye: That promise is that we will do everything in our power to make sure that there is no more drunk driving in America from this day forward.

Let us pledge that today is the day that we decided to win the war on drunk driving in America. Our son deserves it, and so do the lives of 16,000 people killed each year because somebody decided it was a greater right to drive drunk than it was to protect the life of the innocent victims that they kill.

We ask you to join us in this great mission. We ask you to support this effort. Anger and vengeance and malice are not what motivate us. Love is what motivates us. Love for our son is the greater than the sorrow we feel and felt (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the day we lost him. Love is more powerful than any other thing on Earth. It is a lot more powerful than death.

And death does not separate us from our son. He is still with us. This ring is an exact replica of the ring he wore and so proudly displayed on the day he graduated the from U.S. Naval Academy. The original ring, which was damaged and cracked when he lost his life, is now on display in the United States Naval Academy, where John is also buried next to naval heroes.

There is a crack in that stone, and we left of the crack in there because it represents the price our son paid, and it represents the broken hearts that he left behind.

I pledge this, and we pledge this: that we will go forward.

We thank this jury for doing all they could to bring justice today. We saw tears in the eyes of jurors, which leads to us believe and gives us the comfort to know that John Elliott was not forgotten, that he did not die in vain.

And we will continue to support the efforts of the prosecutor to bring justice. We thank them for all they have done. We thank all of you. And we ask that you would join us in this great effort, because who among us would ever sacrifice a loved one -- a son or a daughter -- to preserve the rights of others to drive drunk. It is time we won this war. It's time we ended drunk driving in America.

Thank you.

WHITFIELD: You have been listening to words of a incensed, angry but heartbroken parent of John Elliott. John Elliott died two years ago when a drunk driver got behind the wheel and crashed into John Elliott, killing the driver, the drunk driver, as well as John Elliott. But on trial in New Jersey has been the friend by the name of Ken Powell, who apparently allowed his friend to drive drunk. Jurors today decided that they were deadlocked on two of three counts, of vehicular homicide and aggravated assault, against Kenneth Powell. But they also found him not guilty of manslaughter.

The prosecutors in that case have said they want a retrial, and they are going to try to try Kenneth Powell one more time on those two cases that the jurors were deadlocked on.

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