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Intern Gets Jailhouse Confession from Carlton Dotson

Aired July 31, 2003 - 19:17   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a Dallas newspaper carried a dramatic jailhouse interview today with a man accused of killing Baylor University basketball player Patrick Dennehy.
Now, as you might imagine the interview with Carlton Dotson, conducted by a college intern, is causing some controversy.

Ed Lavandera reports now from Waco, Texas.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A reported jailhouse confession made banner headlines in Thursday's "Dallas Morning News."

The story quotes Carlton Dotson as saying Patrick Dennehy betrayed him and that Dotson suggests that he shot his basketball teammate in self-defense.

Dotson reportedly said quote, "If someone points a gone at you and shoots and it doesn't go off, what would you do?"

Dennehy's accused killer apparently told all of this to a 20- year-old intern for the newspaper, who did not take notes during the interview but instead, immediately dictated what was said during the 10-minute meeting to the paper's editors.

Carlton Dotson's attorney accuses the newspaper of using a bogus method of getting inside the jail. Grady Irvine tells CNN the intern did not identify herself as a reporter to Dotson. Instead, he says, she claimed to be part of a prayer group that was praying for him.

The newspaper stands behind its reporting and insists that Carlton Dotson knew full well he was talking to a reporter for the "Dallas Morning News."


LAVANDERA: Now, you might wonder how it was that an intern got this scoop. The newspaper officials say that they had sent one of their own reporters into the jail to try to get an interview with Carlton Dotson. That reporter was turned away, and the newspaper says they decided to try a different approach and that's why the intern was sent in.

Grady Irvine, who is Carlton Dotson's attorney, says he's still investigating this matter, as to how this might have happened and he says he will try to get to the bottom of this. But he just hasn't quite gotten there yet -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. A different approach, indeed. Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

COOPER: Now the intern who conducted that interview, Shani George, 20 years old, she's a student at George Washington University. A short while ago she spoke with me from Washington.


COOPER: Well, Shani, I guess my first question to you is, did you identify yourself as a reporter to prison authorities before asking to meet with Carlton Dotson?

SHANI GEORGE, "DALLAS MORNING NEWS": Yes. I spoke with the first jail officer and I told her that I was not a friend of his, and that I was here to ask him questions.

COOPER: Did you show identification as a reporter for the "Dallas Morning News"?

GEORGE: No. Well, I did leave her a sheet of paper with a note and my credentials were photocopied.

COOPER: But that was only after the interview.

GEORGE: That was after the interview.

COOPER: So before going to the interview you didn't show I.D. to anyone at the prison?

GEORGE: My personal identification.

COOPER: OK. But not I.D. saying you were with the "Dallas Morning News"?


COOPER: OK. Now Carlton Dotson comes into the room, you're sitting there -- I know there's Plexiglas or glass, and you were talking on the phones.

GEORGE: Right.

COOPER: What was the first thing he said to you or you said to him?

GEORGE: Well, I first identified myself to him because he had been corresponding with a staff writer that works with "Dallas Morning News," and he actually said that he was going to call him the next day. But the conversation continued after that.

COOPER: How did you identify yourself?

GEORGE: I'm Shani George with the "Dallas Morning News."

COOPER: So you have no doubt that he knew you were a reporter?

GEORGE: No. Because he had acknowledged that he knew my coworker, as well.

COOPER: Now, we talked, obviously, to Mr. Dotson's attorney, who says that, according to him, you did not identify yourself as a reporter and that Carlton Dotson was under the impression that you were working for a prayer group of some sort.

Did you say anything like that?

GEORGE: I haven't spoken with the attorney and I did not represent a prayer group.

COOPER: But did you say to Carlton Dotson that you represented a prayer group?


COOPER: That you were praying for him?

GEORGE: No, I did not. He said pray for me. And I said they're praying for you. But there was no reference to me being a member of a prayer group.

COOPER: How did he seem to you?

GEORGE: In the beginning he was constantly looking over his shoulder, asking me if I saw anyone behind him. After that continued, we went on to -- with more question and answering.

COOPER: At one point, you report he said, I'm going to put this on the screen -- a quote -- that, quote -- this is you, a quote you attribute to Carlton Dotson, "I thought he was my friend, but he betrayed me... If someone points a gun at you and shoots and it doesn't go off, what would you do? If someone is pointing a gun at you and they start putting more bullets into the gun, what would you do?"

GEORGE: I asked him where his relationship went wrong with Patrick Dennehy. And that's how he described their friendship. He said Patrick wasn't a friend to him and at some point he betrayed him. I don't know the details of what that betrayal consisted of.

Then I asked him can he recall what happened, tell me what he remembered, and that's when he responded, "If someone pointed a gun at you, what would you do?"

COOPER: Why didn't you take notes during this interview?

GEORGE: Initially, there's a sign at the door that says you can't bring n recording devices. And I was under the impression I wasn't allowed to do any recording.

COOPER: But that is not the case?

GEORGE: What is not the case?

COOPER: I mean, I guess you now know you are allowed to bring in a pen and paper, you can't bring in actual recording devices?

GEORGE: I'm still not certain of what's allowed in there.

COOPER: Well, that is the rule. Did you ask prison officials if you could bring in a notepad or a pen?

GEORGE: I just saw it initially at the door and didn't ask to bring anything in. And as soon as the interview was over I called directly into the managing editor and told him what it was that we discussed.

COOPER: You saw that note at the door inside the prison?

GEORGE: No, before you enter.

COOPER: I see. So it's outside the building?

GEORGE: Right.

COOPER: OK. Did you -- I mean, I ask the question because, you know, you quote very specific quotes, you attribute these quotes to Carlton Dotson and yet you had no notepad or pen to write with.

GEORGE: Right.

COOPER: You must have a very good memory.

GEORGE: The conversations were really brief. I've never done an interview like this before and it was very memorable.

COOPER: Overall, your impression of him? I mean, he spoke, according to you at one point, about hearing voices. What did he say the voices said?

GEORGE: He said, "We are many, we are strong, we support you, we're behind you, we're at war. A spiritual war." That's verbatim. That was the only -- that was what he said the voices were saying. No more or no less than that.

COOPER: Why was it that after the interview was over, you then presented -- you gave some sort of -- we talked to the warden and we talked to a prison official there who said that you gave some sort of a note to be sent to Carlton Dotson, in which there was some sort of credential of yours in there. What was in the note?

GEORGE: Well, he said to me that he would give me another interview and asked for my contact information, so I did that. And that was a note that I had presented just in case I wasn't able to get the interview, he would still be able to contact me.

COOPER: OK. Well, Shani -- Shani George, it was an interesting interview and I appreciate you coming in to talk about it.

GEORGE: Thank you.


COOPER: Shani George. Again, CNN made numerous calls to Dotson's attorney, Grady Irvine today. He would not comment on any specifics of the "Morning News" article. Irvine has told the Associated Press he has no knowledge of his client being with Dennehy when guns were present.


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