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Maryland Authorities Hope to Catch Sniper Before Another Strike; Family of Victims of Female Serial Killer Discuss Her Imminent Execution

Aired October 8, 2002 - 20:00   ET


CONNIE CHUNG, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Connie Chung. tonight, life in the crosshairs, and the desperate search to stop a sniper before he strikes again.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight a community gripped by fear and anger; a high caliber killer on the loose, hundreds of leads and still no suspects.


CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: Now, we're stepping over the line because our children don't deserve this.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight: What does it take to find a serial sniper?


AILEEN WUORNOS, FEMALE SERIAL KILLER: I'm so sick of hearing that "she's crazy." I've been evaluated so many times. I'm competent, sane, and I'm trying to tell the truth.


ANNOUNCER: Aileen Wuornos, the serial killer who took the lives of six men, tonight on the eve of her execution the family of one of her victims shares their story with Connie. He's taking on the coaching ranks of the NFL. He's defending the man who says these cops went too far; tonight, Johnny Cochran on the case with Connie. This is CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT live from the CNN broadcast center in New York -- Connie Chung.

CHUNG: Good evening. Tonight for miles around Washington, D.C. you could sense the fear, parents picking up their kids at school rather than letting them take the bus, extra security on Capitol Hill, schools canceling outdoor activities, Starbucks rolling up outdoor seating at dozens and dozens of locations.

With eight bullets, a sniper or snipers took down eight victims. Six of the shots were fatal. Each time the shooter lined up the victim from a hidden vantage point. But tonight, there is some new evidence.

CNN's Kathleen Koch is on the story.


KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Critical evidence, a shell casing found in these woods at the sight of Monday's sniper shooting at a Maryland middle school.

CHIEF GERALD WILSON, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY POLICE: It was found over, I would say, 100 feet or yards into the woods on the same side as Benjamin Tasker. It could have been ejected from the weapons used by the suspect, could have been.

KOCH: The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is performing analysis like this on the shell casing, looking for markings that would indicate the type and make of the rifle used. Police showed off a variety of cases they say the gunman might use to carry or hide the high-powered rifle, hoping the public might recognize something. Authorities are comparing the details of the eight shootings with crimes in databases across the country looking for similarities.

MIKE BOUCHARD, SPECIAL AGENT, ATF: We've entered the information from this case into that system to query if there are any other similar type projectiles or cartridge casings in that system nationwide.

KOCH: Maryland's governor challenged the killer to surrender.

GOV. PARRIS GLENDENING (D), MARYLAND: We're talking about a person here who's basically a coward. This is not an individual who is out there doing something strong or manly or anything of this type.

KOCH: Investigators now say it's possible the killer may have begun his attacks last month. September 14 a young man was shot with one bullet fired from a distance outside this store at a Montgomery County shopping center. He survived but ballistics tests on the bullet are inconclusive and officials are not ruling out a link with the other shootings.

KOCH (on camera): Tips in the shootings continue to grow, some 1,400, as does the reward now nearly $240,000. And finally one positive development in this tragic story, the Virginia woman shot Friday has been released from the hospital. Kathleen Koch CNN Montgomery County, Maryland.


CHUNG: And bringing us the latest information now on the investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Special Agent- in-Charge Michael Bouchard joining us from Rockville, Maryland. Good evening, Mr. Bouchard. Thank you for being with us. What is the latest on the investigation?

BOUCHARD: Well, we had a briefing earlier tonight. We're working just as hard as we have been throughout the weekend. We're bringing in another 25 agents from ATF to work on this case. As the amount of leads come in, all of the agencies involved are adding more resources as appropriate. The cooperation here is unprecedented. All the agencies are working closely together. Everyone is putting their best people forward. It's tough to even get the investigators to go home at the end of their shifts. Everyone is very determined to resolve this case as soon as possible.

CHUNG: That's reassuring to hear. Now, I'm told that there have been something like 7,500 tips from the tip line and 1,400 of those are credible leads. Have any of them panned out?

BOUCHARD: Well, Connie, we're looking at all the leads and we certainly don't want to prematurely identify anyone as a suspect. We're giving everyone a chance to explain any of their actions. We're thoroughly going to investigate any of the tips that come through and, quite frankly, the more tips we get the better off we are.

CHUNG: Are there any individuals who have come close to being suspects that you have questioned?

BOUCHARD: I really couldn't comment on that, Connie. I don't think it would be appropriate for me to talk about that right now.

CHUNG: Yes, sir. This is really quite astounding I would say, eight shots fired, six of them people have died, two seriously wounded, and yet am I correct in saying that there are no real witnesses to the specific shootings?

BOUCHARD: Well again, Connie, I couldn't say whether or not eyewitnesses have seen anything. We're certainly continuing to investigate this case and interview anyone who has been in the area at the times of these shootings.

CHUNG: Would you say, sir, that in many ways this is a national manhunt because anything that you can pull in, in terms of evidence, would be applicable?

BOUCHARD: Certainly and in the case of the ballistics, we've entered that into the National Integrated Ballistics Identification Network and we're querying that system regionally first and then we've expanded that out to the United States to see if any of the ballistics evidence that we've recovered here is consistent with any in the rest of the United States.

CHUNG: How would you characterize what is going on here? I mean would you say that this is a man who's playing a deadly game of catch me if you can?

BOUCHARD: I really don't know what the motive is of this person. You know all of us are just as concerned as the public is about this whole thing.

CHUNG: You know earlier I -- some might believe that authorities may have given this killer unwittingly a direction to go in and that is once a child was shot, authorities had just earlier said you know our schools are safe. Do you believe that there might have been an unwitting clue given to the killer to say yes, you can go there?

BOUCHARD: I'm really not sure about that. Again, that goes to the motivation of this person which I really don't know right now.

CHUNG: All right, one other thing. You said, sir that all of us have children going to school and obviously you do too. Isn't it difficult to feel that your children will be safe going to school?

BOUCHARD: Well it certainly is. It's tough more so to explain to your child why something like this would happen to a child going to school, and again I've said before just after the 9/11 tragedies, how do you explain that to your children when none of us had to go through that type of thing when we were a child? We don't have any of these types of experiences to talk to our children about, so it's just as tough for us to try and explain to them as it is for them to figure this out.

CHUNG: Obviously you have children, sir. What have you told your kids?

BOUCHARD: Yes, ma'am.

CHUNG: What have you told your kids?

BOUCHARD: Basically the good guys are going to win. They need to go on with their life, you know, just be a little more leery, that there are bumps in the road that they're going to have to go through with life and these are just some of them, but there's always a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

CHUNG: All right, Michael Bouchard thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate your time.

BOUCHARD: Thank you.

CHUNG: And with us now from Boston to talk about what could drive someone to pick up a rifle and go hunting for innocent people to kill, criminal profiler and professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University James Fox. Mr. Fox, who is this killer?

JAMES FOX, CRIMINAL PROFILER: I would suggest that this is an insignificant nobody who through this killing spree feels very much important. He feels that he's overpowering a whole community. He feels good about the fact that he can outsmart the police. This essentially is very different than most mass killers and serial killers in terms of motivation. This appears to be killing for sport. He's enjoying holding the entire community in his grip of terror.

CHUNG: That sounds just awful. I mean is this a man who...

FOX: It is awful. We'd like to think that most killers have motives. Yes, there's a motive. It's not the kind of motives we generally think about, jealousy or rage. This is someone who's basically turning Montgomery County, the whole D.C. area into his own personal shooting gallery.

CHUNG: Is this someone who is living alone or does have friends, does have a job? FOX: Well, this is only speculation. I mean there's a good possibility that the person does live alone but we can't rule out the idea that he's married, that he has kids. If I had to take a hunch based on what we know statistically from other kinds of shooters like this, he would live alone, a man in his 20s, perhaps 30s, certainly a sharpshooter, certainly someone who feels comfortable with guns. For him, guns makes him feel important and he's using this gun to achieve a certain sense of satisfaction, power, control.

CHUNG: I had just asked the ATF official if authorities had might perhaps unwittingly gave the killer a direction to go in when they said that the schools are safe for their children to go to and just strictly unwittingly. What do you think?

FOX: It was probably a challenge, unintended challenge. A killer such as this would likely read all the clips; see all the news stories about him. In fact, he's enjoying the fact that he's notorious and he's following the news very closely, and if the police during the weekend at a news conference say schools are safe. There's no evidence he's attacking schools that gives him a challenge. Oh, I'll show them. They're not so smart. Here's a school.

Last week there was discussion about geographic profiling. Here is the cluster of sites that he hit on Wednesdays and Thursdays and we're looking at locales as an indication of where he may be. What does he do next? He commits a shooting at a school 50 miles away to say, I'm not over there. I'm over here. You're not so smart. I'm smarter than you. So, he's enjoying the publicity and indeed he may be reacting to what's been said about him.

CHUNG: And is this someone who actually probably lives in that Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia area?

FOX: Probably. I mean these killers tend to be creatures of opportunity. They're not going to travel 200 miles for a victim when there's a victim right there in their own neighborhood. It's important that this guy feels comfortable, safe where he is doing the shootings. He likely knows the streets, knows the escape routes. He's unlikely to go to a place that's completely foreign to him for fear that he may be caught not knowing where to go to evade the police.

CHUNG: All right, Professor James Fox, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it. And when we come back, the personal side to the sniper story, you'll meet a friend of the boy who was shot down at school yesterday morning. Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER: Still ahead, she's been called the Damsel of Death. She now prepares to pay the price. CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT continues in a moment.


CHUNG: The 13-year-old boy shot yesterday is still in critical but stable condition tonight at Washington, D.C. Children's Hospital. He has had parts of his stomach and other internal organs removed. He also has parents and friends who are pulling for him. Otha Akrea is one of those friends and joins us now, along with his mother, India Haskins from Bowie, Maryland. Thank you so much for being with us.

India, let's start with you. I know that your son was on his way to school and you had -- you knew that this 13-year-old boy was a friend of your son but how did you find out that there was a shooting at your son's school?

INDIA HASKINS, MOTHER OF SNIPER VICTIM'S FRIEND: Where I work at we have a television and someone came to me and they told me to look on TV at something that happened in Bowie, and so when I got up, he said someone had gotten shot and I was like are you sure? And, my heart started pumping. I went running to the television set and I seen the school, the diagram of the school. So, I said oh my God, that must be Benjamin Tasker, and it was, and my boy. They told me to get my stuff and leave to go to my son's school.

CHUNG: So you did and you rushed there and were you able to find your son?

HASKINS: Yes, I was. When I got to the school, I gave them my ID and told them who I was looking for, and at that moment they announced for me to come downstairs and my son, which his name was included, and he came and when I seen him I just held him. I was just nervous, every type of emotion went through me.

CHUNG: Sure, I can imagine. Otha, how did you find out that it was your friend who had been shot?

OTHA AKREA, FRIEND OF MONDAY'S SNIPER VICTIM: When they had called me, when they had called me down to the media center, I had went down there and one of the ladies was standing up on the stage and they had announced that somebody has been shot, and they said his name. And, they had repeated it and I said that was my friend so I started to cry and I felt very devastated.

CHUNG: Yes, I'm sure you couldn't imagine what you heard was real.

AKREA: No. No, I couldn't.

CHUNG: Tell me about your friend, would you?

AKREA: OK. He's very funny, exciting, adventurous. He makes people laugh a lot. He cracks me up.

CHUNG: Is he as big as you? You're a tall 13-year-old, aren't you? Are you 13 or 14?

AKREA: Thirteen and he's only like a little, a couple, like one inch shorter than me, so not really that short.

CHUNG: And what did you do together?

AKREA: Last year we went to a class together and this year I just see him in the hall or at lunch. CHUNG: Did you get a chance to talk to his family or try and go to the hospital?

AKREA: No. I don't think since they were doing the surgery or since he was in the bed, I don't think they would let anybody in there, so I didn't go.

CHUNG: Otha, did you stay home from school today?

AKREA: Yes, I did.

CHUNG: Why did you stay home?

AKREA: Because yesterday had me worried and I didn't think I was going to -- I didn't think I wanted to come to school today because of what happened yesterday and thinking about it, I felt very sad coming back to the school during the same time or the same, you know, moment that the thing happened so I just didn't feel I wanted to come.

CHUNG: Were you also scared?

AKREA: Yes, I was scared. I was very scared.

CHUNG: Sure. Mom, I know you have another child, an 11-year-old daughter. Did she also stay home today?

HASKINS: Yes. She stayed home as well.

CHUNG: Why? Why did you feel it was necessary?

HASKINS: Well, I was afraid. Well, because of what happened in September and then this year to me it was too close to home and it was a double tragedy for me because we also lost friends on September 11, and then with this here I was just so shaken up, I'm just afraid right now.

CHUNG: I don't blame you. What's going to make you feel better, you know, to let your kids go to school? Do you feel you just need to keep them at home longer?

HASKINS: Well, maybe another day or two just so they can be able to deal with it and I want them to be able to get up in the morning and come to school and don't have that worry on their minds because if they're unable to concentrate in school if their mind is on his friend or anybody else that got shot or, you know, or some reason anything can happen. I just want to wait a couple of days until I feel a little bit more better as well as the kids.

CHUNG: Sure.

HASKINS: And then my son, I'm going to let him see someone.

CHUNG: India, isn't this just incredible? I mean have you ever...

HASKINS: It is. I just can't believe it. I can not believe it because the area that we're in is a very friendly neighborhood and the people are very nice. They have so many different activities. It's very family oriented and it seems like everybody is very close and now this to happen in this area is just, it's awful. It's just awful to happen anywhere, not only in this area but anywhere.

CHUNG: Yes. Otha, tell me do you think that counseling might help you and some of the other students, or -- yes, go ahead.

AKREA: Yes, I think it would because me telling, you know, letting them know how I feel and stuff, I think that would be good for me to let them know what I'm thinking and how I think it and stuff, so yes.

CHUNG: All right, Otha we thank you so much for being with us, and India we thank you as well.

HASKINS: OK, thank you.

AKREA: Thank you.

CHUNG: Now the sniper's decision to put a 13-year-old boy in his crosshairs led area schools to go to a Code Blue as it's called. That means no outdoor activities, no field trips, stepped up security measures. Iris Metts is the CEO of Prince George's County Schools and that's the equivalent of being superintendent. She joins us now from Bowie; Iris thank you for being with us.


CHUNG: Tell me, you met with the family of that 13-year-old boy who was shot. Can you tell us how they're holding up?

METTS: I'm confident that right now under the circumstances they were waiting for the end of the operation and for the doctors to talk with them, but I particularly felt that they were a strong family. The aunt who was actually with the child coming to school actually took the child to the emergency room and perhaps saved his life by giving him immediate medical attention.

So, it's a very strong family, a very loving family. There were other siblings, relatives in the school system and, of course, we will counsel them as we're counseling all of the children in the face of this tragedy.

CHUNG: Earlier, Iris, you had said that it's important to send your kids to school at this time and honestly I have to tell you, you know, I'd be hesitant. I would worry. I wouldn't want to send my child to school and I'm sure you can understand that kind of feeling. Why is it important that parents go ahead and send their kids in?

METTS: I think it's so important because children need the stability. They need the structure. They need to have someone to talk to. Perhaps parents could be home with them, but in most cases they need to go back to work, so by bringing the children into the schoolhouse you surround them by a lot of caring, talented people to counsel, talk to them and help them.

As a matter of fact, I was at Tasker Middle School today and it was a good day. Students were on task. Teachers were teaching and I had a chance to tell the young people how proud I was of them and how proud I was of the school.

CHUNG: Tell me was attendance down a bit today, though, wasn't it?

METTS: Attendance was down a bit. Throughout the district, it dropped by about five points. Usually we have attendance rates of about 95 percent. Today, all over the district it was at about 90 percent and at Tasker Middle, it was about 67 percent at a point where we usually have about 95 percent attendance. This is a strong school, a high performing school, so it was unusual.

CHUNG: All right, yes. I think you and anyone else would clearly understand why. Iris Metts thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.

METTS: Thank you.

CHUNG: Coming up, America's first female serial killer. In just about 13 hours, she's scheduled to die. We'll talk to the family of one of her victims. Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, if there's a controversial case you can bet he's there.

JOHNNIE COCHRAN, CO-AUTHOR, "A LAWYER'S LIFE": It doesn't fit. If it doesn't fit, you must acquit.



CHUNG: By the age of 15, Aileen Wuornos was a prostitute. By the age of 35, she was a killer. But Aileen Wuornos won't be making it to 55. At 9:30 tomorrow morning, the State of Florida is scheduled to give Wuornos a lethal injection killing the first known female serial killer in America's history. We're going to meet the family of one of her victims in just a few moments, but first CNN's Mark Potter puts the Aileen Wuornos story in focus.


MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Over the years, Aileen Wuornos was called The Highway Hooker and the Damsel of Death. She was convicted of murdering six middle-aged men in north central Florida in 1989 and 1990 and received six death sentences.

WUORNOS: I killed those men. I robbed them and I killed them as cold as ice and I'd do it again too.

POTTER: Last year after a decade on death row, Wuornos volunteered for execution. WUORNOS: There's no chance in keeping me alive or anything because I'd kill again. I have hate crawling through my system.

POTTER: Police say Wuornos was a prostitute who worked the Florida highways and lured some of her victims by posing as a stranded motorist. She became known as the nation's first female serial killer. Her case drew international attention.

SGT. BOB KELLEY, VOLUSIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: She's the first female predator. There have been other women that have killed their children, that have killed family members or people that they know, but she's the first one that was actually a predator out there hunting innocent victims down and taking their lives.

POTTER: Sergeant Bob Kelley of the Volusia County Sheriff's Office investigated the murder of Richard Mallory, Wuornos' first victim.

KELLEY: This is the scene where the body was recovered just on the other side of this tree line.

POTTER: Kelley says Wuornos shot her victims to death, robbed them, and then dumped their bodies. At first, Wuornos insisted she was acting in self defense but in later years changed her story.

KELLEY: After she was convicted of the first murder of Richard Mallory she then pled guilty to the others and after a certain point in time she started to recant and say that she wasn't a victim, that she simply robbed and killed these men for -- to gain their personal property and to gain money.

POTTER: Recently as the execution date drew near, a defense attorney raised questions about whether Wuornos was mentally competent to demand her own death by lethal injection. But Wuornos insisted she knew what she was doing.

WUORNOS: I'm so sick of hearing this "she's crazy" stuff. I've been evaluated so many times. I'm competent, sane, and I'm trying to tell the truth. And I'll take a polygraph on every single word on those pages.

POTTER: After examining Wuornos, a panel of three psychiatrists ruled her competent for execution, and the governor agreed.

POTTER (on camera): Wuornos' case was the subject of books, movies and even an opera. In time, she apologized to her victims' families. She also said, there is no point in sparing me. It's a waste of taxpayers' money.

Mark Potter, CNN, Miami.


CHUNG: Although Wuornos had said she wants to be executed, an anti-death penalty group has filed one last appeal with Florida's supreme court. Many legal observers watching the case say the execution will go as scheduled.

When we come back, people who have waited a long time for it. A victim's family members.

Stay with us.


CHUNG: At 9.30 tomorrow morning, Aileen Wuornos, the first woman in U.S. history to meet the classic definition of a serial killer is scheduled to be executed. Three people with a particular interest in that execution are Florida state attorney John Tanner. Also with me, family members of Troy Burress, who was shot dead by Wuornos, his sister, Wanda Pouncey, and his daughter, Letha Prather.

Thank you for being with us.

Wanda, let's start with you. Tomorrow morning...

WANDA POUNCEY: I'm his daughter.

CHUNG: I'm so sorry. Forgive me. I did know that, and I got it incorrect. Forgive me. Wanda, when tomorrow morning comes, at 9:30 this woman will be executed for killing your father. Is this what you wanted?


CHUNG: Do you feel that this is finally justice served?

POUNCEY: Yes, I do.

CHUNG: You will be there, will you not, for the execution?

POUNCEY: Yes, I will.

CHUNG: Tell me why?

POUNCEY: Yes, I will.

I want to know that justice is done. I want to know that she is dead.

CHUNG: You have never seen anything like this before, no doubt, but do you believe that you'll be able to find some closure when you watch this execution?

POUNCEY: Yes, there will be some closure.

CHUNG: All right. Lisa, I know you were very close to your brother. You were best buddies, and you even double-dated together. How did you find out that your brother had been killed?

PRATHER: His wife called me the night that he disappeared. And I spoke with her, and I just had a bad feeling because that wasn't like him not to come home. And I went to her home, their home, and we called the police a lot of times, and they said, you know, he had a right to leave if he wanted to, and I knew, of course, he did not just walk off and leave. And there was a lot of different versions because he did drive a truck, and he had company money, that maybe he needed money. But I knew that wasn't true also. So of course, I was very scared, and my husband, at the time, went out to run his route to see if he could find out anything, and he did find his truck. He and the police got there about the same time. But the truck was empty.

CHUNG: Do you know...

It was locked.


PRATHER: It was locked, so they had to get someone -- it was a refrigerator unit -- and to get them in to see if he was inside. And he was not.

CHUNG: Do you know why this woman targeted your brother?

PRATHER: I think because he was a really friendly man, because he did work in sales a lot and he had his own cleaning business, pool cleaning business in Delray Beach. He liked people, and he loved to talk to almost anyone. So I feel that in speaking to her or she probably asked him for a ride, and he was glad to give people a ride because he wanted to be helpful.

CHUNG: And didn't you caution him just that day or the day before...

PRATHER: The day before

CHUNG: To not pick up hitchhikers?

PRATHER: Yes, I did, because the truck didn't have air conditioning. And he said it was so hot that he sometimes wanted to pull off on the side of the road. And I said, you don't go to sleep do you?

He says, no. And I said, well, you used to pick up hitchhikers, you can't do that anymore. It's too dangerous. He said oh, I know, but I hate to pass someone up, if they need a ride, and that was the end of the conversation. So it didn't make much impact, I don't think.


Mr. Tanner, I know that you had been on this case for a decade. How would you describe Aileen Wuornos?

JOHN TANNER, FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY: She is probably as cold a person as I've ever met. Aileen knew what she was doing. You know, we come in contact with a lot of killers, but Aileen was as dispassionate and methodical as any that we've ever apprehended.

CHUNG: Has she ever shown any remorse? TANNER: She did towards the end. Last year in her last hearing, she publicly apologized to the family members of all of the victims. She said that none of these men did anything wrong. That none of them tried to assault her or attack her, and that her stories of self- defense had all been lies and that she apologized for that and said she was sorry she killed them.

CHUNG: Back to Wanda. Wanda, do you think that for her to die of lethal injection is good enough for you, in your mind?

POUNCEY: No, I don't.

CHUNG: Why not?

POUNCEY: My dad suffered, and all those other men suffered. The families suffered, and she is a mean, evil woman, and, no, I think she ought to suffer just as well.

CHUNG: Can you find closure at all, if tomorrow morning you do witness her execution and you know her life is over?

POUNCEY: Yes, there will be some closure. It will never be forgotten, but there will be some closure.

CHUNG: And tell me how do you remember your father?

POUNCEY: I love my father very much, and he loved me, and we had a good relationship. It just wasn't long enough because she took it away from us.

CHUNG: And what has this ordeal done to your life? I mean, this has been a long haul for you, particularly with this woman.

POUNCEY: Yes. It's been horrible. I will, you know, by tomorrow, I will know there will be no more pictures, no more books, no more movies. I won't have to see her wicked face again.

CHUNG: Well, we appreciate your being with us, and we wish your family our condolences after all these years. Thank you so much for being with us, Wanda and Letha. And thank you both for sharing. Mr. Taylor, thank you for sharing your thoughts, as well.

Still ahead...

TANNER: Thank you.

CHUNG: ... two words: Johnnie Cochran. If you don't sit, you'll miss it.


CHUNG: We'll talk with former O.J. Simpson dream team lawyer Johnnie Cochran in just a moment.

But first, tonight's "Off the Radar" segment looks at a Simpson lawyer who came along way before the dream team. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): O.J. Simpson assembled his so-called dream team of defense attorneys for his trial on charges he killed ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman. But decades before they came along, his lead counsel was friend, former roommate and frequent tennis partner, Robert Kardashian. His connection with Simpson was so tight he read Simpson's letter after the killing.

ROBERT KARDASHIAN, FMR. O.J. SIMPSON LAWYER: "First, everyone understand, I have nothing to do with Nicole's murder. I loved her, always have and always will. If we had a problem, it's because I loved her so much."

CHUNG: And Kardashian almost became part of the trial, when prosecutors wanted him to testify about Simpson's bag, which he was seen carrying shortly after the murders.

KARDASHIAN: I've always wanted to tell the truth. I wanted to show everybody that it's a total smoke screen, and this really has nothing to do with anything. And you'll find that out when I get the opportunity.


CHUNG: Nothing was ever found in the bag, but Kardashian's more than a quarter century of friendship with the Simpson ended not long after the trial. Why? The answer when we return.


CHUNG: What happened to the long-standing friendship between O.J. Simpson and attorney Robert Kardashian? Kardashian cooperated with a book and a TV movie about the trial. And Simpson claimed that Kardashian violated attorney/client confidentiality in doing so. Simpson filed suit to block the movie, but the suits failed.


CHUNG: During the O.J. Simpson trial, millions of viewers would have loved to have been able to read Johnnie Cochran's mind. Well, the closest they're liable to get is to read his book "A Lawyer's Life," in which he reflects on race, the law and the Simpson case. But before you go read it, you can hear about it because he's with me, now, to tell us all about it, as well as share some of his other thoughts on, for instance, the NFL, of all things.

Johnnie, it's so nice to see you.

COCHRAN: It's great seeing you, Connie. It's good to be with you.

CHUNG: I remember we had breakfast, and we had something like pancakes and bacon, and we just -- we ate too much.

COCHRAN: I remember that. CHUNG: It was right about during the Simpson trial.

COCHRAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. I remember that.

CHUNG: Now, it has been seven years, since that breakfast and since the trial. Tell me, do people still come up to you, recognize you and talk to you about the trial?

COCHRAN: Absolutely. Today in fact, somebody did. They always say words like, well, if it doesn't fit, you must acquit. Something of that nature. After all this time. It's been seven years, as of October 3. People -- it rings with people's consciousness, it seems.

CHUNG: Tell me, and you have to tell the truth. You are sworn to tell the truth.

COCHRAN: I'm sworn to tell the truth, and I will.

CHUNG: Exactly. Do they say that they think you -- that he got away with murder and that you got him off?

COCHRAN: You know, it depends who's talking. Sometimes, people will say -- most people say something like, well, gee, you know, I don't agree with that verdict, but if I'm ever in trouble, I want you to be my lawyer. It's words like that. But some people will say, you know,...

CHUNG: You know what that says? That they mean that they think he's guilty and that you got him off.

COCHRAN: Yes, some people think that. Other people will say, you know, great job and that sort of thing. Rarely, do I hear anybody say, well, you know, I hated that verdict, and I hate you. I don't hear any of that.

CHUNG: They don't despise you.

COCHRAN: No. Not at this point. I think this has been seven years removed from that. But there were strong feelings about the verdict in that case.

CHUNG: Usually, along racial lines?

COCHRAN: Yes, but there are crossovers. You'll people, you know, some said, I'm a white person who thinks Simpson was innocent. You'll hear people say that. So but usually, it's along racial lines, people would say.

CHUNG: Do you think he's innocent?

COCHRAN: I do. I think based upon what I knew of the facts of the case. He always maintained he was innocent. But, you know, our team is such -- everything he told us we checked out. And really, the real reason was the time line. I could never reconcile the time. If you believe the killings took place at 10.40, 10.45, be almost impossible for him to have shed the clothes, do all those things and be home, coming down the stairs to get into the limousine at five minutes to 11.

CHUNG: But you don't sound unequivocal about it. You said, based on what I know or what he told me.

COCHRAN: Well, I always try to say. I wasn't there. You know, I wasn't there that night in...

CHUNG: Is that your wiggle room to get out?

COCHRAN: No, no, no. I really don't. But I think, based on everything I knew, I believe he's innocent because, I think, there was not enough time. And he always maintained that. And we never saw anything to the contrary. I really do. You know, as I said -- it's so interesting when people have all these strong opinions. I said, well, how do you know? You weren't there.

There's only about three or four people who know. And I think, also, it was very difficult for one person to have committed this crime in the fashion that it was committed. But you know.

CHUNG: What individuals do you believe committed the crime? Who?

COCHRAN: I really don't know, I mean, quite frankly. But I think that there are a number of theories that abound and about it. We always felt that perhaps the friend, Faye Resnick, somebody...

CHUNG: The friend of Nicole.


COCHRAN: ... some involvement, you know, with her, perhaps had been involved. I really don't know. The problem with this case was that the LAPD made a decision. They didn't want to own up to the fact that they focused on him from the beginning. As we say, they rushed to judgment. They never looked at anyone else, to this day. And I think that was one of the problems in the investigation.

CHUNG: Do you still talk to O.J. Simpson?

COCHRAN: I talked to him earlier in march of this year. I was down in Miami for a fight. Ray Jones was fighting, and I had seen him at the fight. But no, we don't talk, regularly.

CHUNG: Have you sworn off criminal work now, only civil?

COCHRAN: I have sworn off criminal work, and I did that over the P. Diddy trial.


You know, I think over a period of time -- first, that was a very difficult case. We were fortunate to win it. I mean, the prosecution tried very hard to convict him. But you know, I said this before, Connie, that you know it's time to get out of criminal law when you are now representing the grandchildren of the grandfathers you used to represent. So look, I been doing this too long. CHUNG: And you look the same.

COCHRAN: And nobody's learned anything. So I'm not doing this anymore. And when I went into the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) case, I said, this is it. And when I finished it that Friday night, I'll never forget it, I said this is it, and I've turned everything down since then, all the criminal cases. I'm doing civil things. I'm doing civil things.

CHUNG: During those criminal days -- I have to go back to this. It's something that's really fascinating in your book. Did you ever defend anyone you believed was guilty or who told you he was guilty?

COCHRAN: Yes, I did. In fact, I talk about it in the book, you know, without revealing any names or really so that you could tell who it was. I tried a murder case once, and it was very difficult. It was a difficult murder case. And the defendant took the stand. He testified. And he was a really remarkable witness. We went back in the lockup after that...

CHUNG: So obviously, this isn't O.J. Simpson.

COCHRAN: No, this is not. This is not O.J. Simpson. Went back in the lockup. And he said, if I tell you something, you can't tell anybody, can you? I said, no, that's basically true. It's attorney/client privilege. He indicated that he had been involved in this. And I was astounded. I mean, I couldn't believe it, you know, and that was the first time that ever happened, and I hope that's the last time that happens. You want justice to be done. In that case, justice would have been, he would be convicted if, you know, he's guilty.


COCHRAN: And the jury went out. Stayed out a number of days, and he was acquitted.

CHUNG: Oh, my gosh.

And it was so difficult.

And I saw this guy afterwards. I just -- I was sick. I couldn't sleep. It was horrible. You know, people always wondered, can you sleep at night?

You can't sleep at night, if you know somebody who's committed a crime got away with it. I didn't have those feelings about Simpson. This other case, though, haunted me because, you know, I then now knew, and all I could say to him was that, you know, he had to, you know, get help or whatever and not ever, you know, put himself in that situation, hopefully, ever again.

CHUNG: Did he ever commit any other?

COCHRAN: As far as I know, he did not. But I mean, it was just a horrible, horrible experience.

CHUNG: Normally, you don't ask the person the question?

COCHRAN: Normally you don't. Because most times, you see, 90 percent of the cases are resolved. Ninety percent of the cases, the -- you work a plea. There's a plea deal. You don't get into trial. It's the 10 percent who ask for trial. Say, I'm not guilty, and I want to go to trial. Most of the cases turn out. Very rarely does a client say, I really did this. That never happens. Just this one time in 40 years.

CHUNG: I know one of the issues that you're are very passionate about and have stepped forward regarding is the lack of African American NFL coaches.

COCHRAN: Yes, I am. I'm a sports fan. This is not anything where you -- I'm just trying to get a lot of money or publicity out of this. Especially after Dennis Green was fired by the Minnesota Vikings. Here's a guy who had a remarkable career. He won games. He had one bad season, he was out. We commissioned a study by an economist, a labor economist, who came back with a report that showed that the black coaches did generally better than the white coaches. They got the playoffs...

CHUNG: In terms of?

COCHRAN: In terms of comparing their records. They had more winning records more times in the playoffs and that sort of thing. But they were, still, the last hired and the first fired. 400 NFL coaches in history. Only 6 are black. Seventy percent of the players are black. So these guys will have no place to go to be coaches, and so I'm saying. But these owners, you know, they have a lot of money, and they do what they want to do. So we've asked to meet with the commissioner. I think he's been very progressive about this. They need to improve this. Everybody pretty much acknowledges that. Hopefully, we can do it. Nobody wants to litigate, unless you have to.

CHUNG: But you could?

COCHRAN: But we could, and we would.


CHUNG: The NFL said, in response to Johnnie Cochran's claims, that progress has been made and is expected to continue. Spokesman was quoted as saying, there are more black coaches in the pipeline. OK.


CHUNG: Tomorrow, he has won the Pulitzer prize for his insights on the Middle East, and sometimes, he's actually been the news, not just covered it: Columnist-author Tom Friedman.

And coming up next, on "LARRY KING LIVE," Teri Garr goes public about the fight of her life.

Thanks you for joining us. And for all of us at CNN, good night. See you tomorrow.


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