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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Shocking Tragedy on Lake George; Bush Names White House Counsel to Serve on Supreme Court

Aired October 3, 2005 - 19:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: What was supposed to be a picture perfect boat tour turns into a shocking tragedy. Tonight, 360 investigate. What's caused this boat to go under? And why did so many people die?
President Bush names his former personal attorney to serve on America's highest court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I'm proud to announce that I am nominating Harriet Ellen Miers to serve as associate justice of the Supreme Court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Who is Harriet Miers? And why are some conservatives outraged over the president's pick?

It's not over yet. Forecasters warn there could be at least two more hurricanes before the end of the season. Tonight, what you need to know about when and where these storms might hit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not guilty of the crime of murder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Marking the tenth anniversary of O.J. Simpson's acquittal. Tonight, a candid interview with Nicole Brown Simpson's sister, Denise Brown. And a look back at how the O.J. Simpson trial changed the way we watch TV.

Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening again. We have a lot to cover in the next hour. First, let's get you up to date on what's happening right now "At This Moment."

A Texas grand jury has indicted Republican Congressman Tom DeLay on a second count. DeLay is now charged with money laundering. Last week DeLay he was forced to resign as house majority leader, was indicted on criminal conspiracy. We'll have more on this developing story in just a moment. Today President Bush nominated Harriet Miers to fill Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the United States Supreme Court. Miers is the White House counsel and a confidante of the president. She has never served as a judge. A lot more on this in the hour ahead.

And another body's been found at the St. Rita Nursing Home outside of New Orleans. Authorities now say 35 elderly patients died there in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana attorney general has filed criminally negligent homicide charges against the owners, accusing them of failing to evacuate the residents.

And some incredible pictures out of Florida courtesy of WSVN. A tractor trailer exploded. The 18-wheeler burst into flames on the Seven-mile Bridge near Marathon. That's in the Florida Keys. Apparently the truck crashed into an SUV. No word yet on injuries.

And we begin with the developing news tonight concerning Congressman Tom DeLay.

A Texas grand jury has indicted the Republican lawmaker on money laundering charges. Now this comes less than a week after DeLay was forced to temporarily step down as house majority leader after being indicted on other charges. Joining me from Washington with the latest, CNN Congressional Correspondent Joe Johns.

Joe, what are these latest charges?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay now stands accused of money laundering. He was indicted on charges of criminal conspiracy late last week. This additional charge comes after some fast-pace legal maneuvering in Austin, Texas, showing what kind of a legal grudge match this is going to be. Perhaps already is.

Late this afternoon, attorneys for DeLay filed a motion claiming that the conspiracy charge should be thrown out because conspiracy did not apply when the alleged crime occurred in 2002. The Travis County Prosecutor's Office apparently responded by upping the ante, going before another grand jury and getting a money laundering indictment against DeLay apparently as insurance.

DeLay is furious. He's already accused the prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, of political motivations in bringing this case before a grand jury. He just put out a statement which says in part, "Ronnie Earle has stooped to a new low with his brand of prosecutorial abuse. He is trying to pull the legal equivalent of a 'do-over' since he knows very well that the charges he brought against me last week are totally manufactured and illegitimate. This is an abomination of justice," the statement says. We're told in just a little while the lead attorney for Tom DeLay is going to hold a news conference.

Anderson.

COOPER: So, Joe, the fact that this is a separate grand jury relating, though, to the same event that caused the first charges to be brought, is this an acknowledgment that the first charges that maybe DeLay's team was right, that the conspiracy charge didn't apply back in that time?

JOHNS: That's precisely the question. And if you look at the pleadings that they did put out, it gives you a strong indication that the law was changed in Texas in 2003, and that's when they put in conspiracy as applied to this count. So the suggestion is, just looking at it on its face, is that the attorneys for Tom DeLay are right, which certainly would be, if true, a big embarrassment for Ronnie Earle, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Joe Johns, thanks. A fast-moving story. We'll keep following it throughout the next couple hours.

On to an event that was otherwise guaranteed not to be noticed by any news organization anywhere, no matter how small. A group of elderly Midwestern tourists taking an afternoon boat tour on a peaceful mountain lake in upstate New York. Awful to say, that outing now is news because of the way it ended. Tragically, 20 people drowned. Very many others shocked.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER, (voice over): It was a picture perfect Sunday on Lake George in New York. The weather, warm. The waters, still. Many boats were on the lake, including the Ethan Allen, a 40-foot glass- enclosed tour boat carrying the captain and 47 senior citizens from the Detroit area. The scenic cruise was supposed to be fun and relaxing. But that all came to a horrific end at just before 3:00 p.m.

ANDREA SAUSE, WITNESS: I've lived here my whole life and this is the worse thing that's ever happened.

COOPER: Authorities suspect a wake created from a larger boat caused the Ethan Allen to rock violently side to side. The captain says he tried to steer the boat but could not control it. And within seconds, the Ethan Allen turned upside-down and capsized, sending its frail passengers into the water. A rescuer describes the scene.

FRANK SAUSE, BOAT RESCUER: One guy as I was taking him off, he was very shook up. And he said, that was my wife. They just took my wife and they put her over there. And she's dead. I know she's dead. I said, you know, don't jump to conclusions.

COOPER: The death toll was staggering. And, according to the New York State Police, unprecedented. Of the 48 people aboard the Ethan Allen, 20 perished. Some of the victims were in wheelchairs. Others used walkers. Authorities say not one of them was believed to be wearing a life vest, which under New York state law is not required.

This afternoon, police divers and recovery crews resumed the grim task of salvaging the Ethan Allen from the bottom of the lake to help them find out exactly what went so terribly wrong and why. Something we all want to know, especially this woman. Her parents were on the boat. Her mother survived. Her father did not. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They liked to travel. They were both really very active, which is why I just don't understand. My dad was a wonderful swimmer. And I don't know what happened yet with him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We should point out, police are still investigating this. They say at this point there's no evidence of a criminal nature that they are looking at. The boat had obeyed all the laws that required. There weren't too many people on the vessel. It might just be a terrible accident at this point. They are investigating.

Twenty of those aboard the Ethan Allen died when it capsized and sank. Twenty-eight others, one of them the boat's captain, were saved. Clearly on the shores of that beautiful lake, in the middle of a fine day with terrible trouble, there were some remarkably quick rescue work being done. CNN's Alina Cho has more on that part of the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): It is 9:00 in the morning and the Rahal family is on a mission. Mounir and Joanne are skipping work. Their 13-year-old daughter Allie is skipping school. It is that important.

JOANNE RAHAL, RESCUED ACCIDENT VICTIMS: Because these people could have been my mother, they could have been my father, my brother, my sister.

CHO: The Rahal's are spending the day visiting survivors of Sunday's tour boat accident, giving hope to the people who, right now, need it the most.

MOUNIR RAHAL, RESCUED ACCIDENT VICTIMS: You don't have to be related to people to love them.

CHO: The family is familiar to many of those who were on the boat.

The Rahal's were on Lake George themselves, on their own boat enjoying their Sunday afternoon on a day much like today, when all of a sudden Joanne saw a plume of smoke.

JOANNE RAHAL: So I said, Mounir, go over, go see what's going on. And, you know, as soon as we got over there, the boat had already tipped over and there was, you know, quite a few people just holding on for their lives.

CHO: The Rahal's immediately began throwing everything that floated out to sea. Mounir even used a long metal pole to pull people to safety. All the while, he kept hearing this . . .

MOUNIR RAHAL: Help. Please help.

CHO: Thirteen-year-old Allie played a big role, too, putting to use the CPR she learn in school. The teacher said, when you get there and you're in the moment . . .

ALLIE RAHAL, RESCUED ACCIDENT VICTIMS: You just know what to do. It just comes to you.

CHO: In all, the Rahal's pulled eight people to safety, 20 others weren't as lucky. Mounir spent 30 minutes washing the blood off his boat. The memory of what happened is not so easily erased. And yet the Rahal's say they wish they could have done more.

MOUNIR RAHAL: Helping other human, I think that's the best thing you can do for your own kind. That's the best thing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: The Rahal's say a big reason why they spent the day visiting survivors is because they have five children of their own and they wanted to set a good example. They also say their family of seven has now grown to 15. The eight new members of their family, they say, Anderson, are the eight people they saved.

Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Alina, thanks.

The president nominate a White House insider for the Supreme Court. A woman he once called a pit bull in size six shoes. But it's conservatives who seem to be the most upset about the nomination. We'll tell you why ahead.

Plus, hard to believe, there are several potential hurricanes predicted for this month. A leading scientists explains why he believes we are still in danger.

And signs of life in New Orleans as a handful of schools welcome students back for the first time.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: As chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, presided over his first day on the bench today, President Bush was nominating his choice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor at the same time. Her name is Harriet Miers. She serves as the White House counsel and as part of the president's inner circle. Now you'd think those credentials would make conservatives pleased with the pick, but many are not. CNN's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, explains why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. HARRY REID, MINORITY LEADER: Hello, everyone. I'm happy to be here today with Harriet Miers.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Miers has never been a judge. A resume which prompted a conservative group to call her possibly the most unqualified choice since Lyndon Johnson tapped his lawyer. Meanwhile, the Senate's top Democrat sang her praises.

REID: So anyone with that background makes me feel good. Someone who has been in a courtroom, tried cases, answered interrogatories, done all those things that lawyers need to do.

CROWLEY: In the first week of a nomination, supporters are usually effusive and critics are polite, if not always by miss manner standards.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: And my first reaction is a simple one, it could have been a lot worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see no negatives at this stage in Harriet Miers.

CROWLEY: But this time is different. In the yin and yang of Washington politics, if two left leaning Democrats are not unhappy, then right-leaning Republicans must be. Conservative Commentator Rush Limbaugh took the case to the vice president.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Some acknowledge on you part that there's some disappointment out there that there's not somebody that can be immediately rallied around and you've got people saying that they're depressed and they're thinking that this is a decision that has let them down and they're frankly a little worn out having to appease the left on all of these choices.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You'll be proud of Harriet's record, Rush, trust me.

CROWLEY: But conservatives don't want a nomination that require as leap of faith. Stung by an unexpectedly liberal Justice Souter, another choice with a short paper trail, the right wanted a well- documented judicial conservative. Some Republicans believe Miers is a copout by a president without the polls or a stomach for a fight. "Her selection," wrote conservative William Kristol, "will unavoidably be judged as reflecting a combination of cronyism and capitulation."

Yikes. When the friendly fire is that loud, what must the president's most reliable critics be saying? Pretty much the same thing.

TOM MATZZIE, MOVEON.ORG PAC: What we know about her is that she's a friend of the presidents. And when the president is choosing a friend, that wreaks of cronyism.

CROWLEY: The White House is busy reaching out and reassuring wounded conservatives while Democrats sit back and enjoy the show. The noise was so loud from the right that the Democratic National Committee decided it could wait a day or two before adding its voice to the mix.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, conservative writer, Bill Kristol says he's disappointed, depressed and demoralized about Miers. We asked CNN chief national correspondent John King to look into Miers life and her record.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): She is a trail- blazing Texas attorney, a trusted friend and advisor to the president. A little known but tough conservative voice who could tip the ideological balance of the nation's highest court.

LEONARD LEO, FEDERALIST SOCIETY: If Harriet Miers is confirmed, this court will be more judicially conservative than it was before.

NANCY KEENAN, NARAL PRO-CHOICE AMERICA: This is Justice O'Connor's seat. This is the moderate seat for those of us that have fought to protect women's freedom and their right to choose.

KING: Abortion, without a doubt, will be a confirmation flash point, one of the key questions as the Senate and America try to determine just who is Harriet Miers.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Harriet Miers will strictly interpret our Constitution and laws. She will not legislate from the bench.

KING: The White House says the president didn't ask her views on the landmark Roe versus Wade abortion rights case. So what do we know? In 1993, she unsuccessfully lobbied the American Bar Association to drop its support for abortion rights, calling instead for a neutral position. And she has attended several events organized by the anti-abortion group, Texans United for Life.

KEENAN: It sends up red flags for us. Absolutely.

KING: Miers operates mostly behind the scenes at a White House where she has he'd several top positions: staff secretary, deputy chief of staff, and White House counsel the past six months. This is how she describes her new job, assuming she's confirmed by the Senate.

HARRIET MIERS, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: And to help ensure that the courts meet their obligations to strictly apply the laws and the Constitution.

KING: That language was deliberately chosen to address conservative worries the president put personal loyalty over judicial philosophy. Some Democrats call that loyalty cronyism, suggesting they will question Miers independence.

LEO: What's wrong with the president picking a nominee who he knows shares his judicial philosophy. That's not cronyism, that's commitment to our constitutional order.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KING: Now like many conservatives in Texas, she was a Democrat until the late 1980s, even giving money to then Senator Al Gore when he first ran for president back in 1988.

Anderson, the White House acknowledges the first fight here is with nervous Republicans. It says, yes, there's no paper trail, but you should trust a president, a conservative president, who has known Harriet Miers for more than a dozen years. The White House also says, remember her role in picking a long list of previous Bush judicial nominees with impeccable conservative credentials.

Anderson.

COOPER: All right, John King, thanks. We'll learn more in a couple days. We'll have more on Miers in just a moment with Legal Analyst Jeff Toobin.

But first, Erica Hill from "Headline News" joins us with some of the other stories we're following tonight.

Hey, Erica.

ERICA HILL, "HEADLINE NEWS": Hey, Anderson, nice to see you.

We start off in Indonesia where police are still trying to identify at this point the three suicide bombers who struck in Bali over the weekend. The bombings Saturday night at two cafes and the third at a restaurant killed 19 people and wounded at least 132 others. Now the attacks came near the third anniversary of the deadly 2002 nightclub bombing in Bali. Those were blamed on Jemmah Islamiyah, which is a terror group with ties to al Qaeda.

Meantime, near Los Angeles, firefighters making progress on several wildfires. They're due to the colder weather. One fire along the border of L.A. and Ventura Counties that has destroyed more than 24,000 acres is now 85 percent contained. And a 1,000-acre fire in Burbank is 67 percent contained.

Meantime in Deland, Florida, a sky diving plane crashes on takeoff. Luckily, though, no one was killed when the plane plummeted to the ground after reaching a height of up to 300 feet. The FAA is sending a team to investigate the crash.

And aboard the International Space Station, an American millionaire. Gregory Olsen paid a cool $20 million to be a space traveler. The New Jersey scientist blasted off from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz capsule over the weekend.

And, you know, that's how he spent his weekend, Anderson, on the way to space.

COOPER: Yes, his weekend and his $20 million. Yikes.

HILL: Yes, it's a pricey weekend trip.

COOPER: I guess so. Erica, thanks.

Coming up on 360, hurricane season is far from over. I hate to even say this. A leading scientist tells us why October could be a treacherous month.

Also ahead tonight, it is an unbelievable task for moving the 22 million tons of garage in New Orleans. We're going to take a look at the difficult job ahead. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: So when he nominated Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court today, President Bush hailed to White House counsel as someone who's talent, experience and judicial philosophy make her a superb choice. Some of the loudest voices of protest over the nomination, however, have been from conservatives. Writer Bill Kristol penned an article saying he's disappointed, depressed and demoralized by the choice. We asked CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin to come in and weigh in.

Jeff, were you surprised?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Shocked. Totally shocked. I mean, you know, it's one thing not to be a judged. That's rare. All nine justices currently on the court were former judges. But, OK, put that aside. There are people who can serve . . .

COOPER: There's precedent for that.

TOOBIN: Right. William Rehnquist, Felix Frankfurter, Earl Warren, none of them served as judge before. But they had big, public profiles. They stood for something. We knew what their public positions were. Harriet Miers is invisible. We don't know how she stands on anything, much less the kind of things that . . .

COOPER: Must less the kind of things that becomes a prominent attorney, I guess, in Texas. She was labeled as one of the most influential attorneys.

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, she was relatively prominent as a corporate attorney. And corporate attorneys sort of do corporate work but they don't really hold high-profile positions on issues for the most part.

COOPER: And on constitutional matters.

TOOBIN: Certainly not on constitutional matters. She we're you know, we're picking at (INAUDIBLE). She attended some pro-life fund raisers apparently but she also gave money to Al Gore in 1988. So, you know, basically, it comes down to President Bush saying, trust me.

COOPER: And that's what Vice President Cheney said on Rush Limbaugh's show today and the response was, well, I think, you know, why do we have to trust you? There were all these other picks whose's credentials were obvious.

TOOBIN: That's right. And, you know, the president is saying, look, it's not just someone I was introduced to the way David Souter was just introduced to his father. You know, I worked with Harriet Miers closely for five years. I really know her. But, you know, Democrats may say, well, yes, we know your beliefs so we'll fight her because we're going to trust her. So she doesn't have the natural constituency that, you know, most other picks would.

COOPER: What does it say to you about President Bush? I mean, you know, there are already charges of cronyism. Obviously we've seen that with FEMA. But it's interesting because she was actually head of his the selection committee to find other Supreme Court nominees, just as Dick Cheney was head of the committee to find vice presidential picks.

TOOBIN: I want to be head of a selection committee for President Bush. But, no, I think this is a president who goes with his gut. Who really does not even worry about . . .

COOPER: And the personal it seems that the personal matters with this president.

TOOBIN: And, you know, sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. What's odd about that in this context is that, by definition, a Supreme Court justice has nothing to do anymore with the president. It's one thing to pick your own staff, people you're comfortable with. But Supreme Court justices, the Constitution says they have to be independent. So, you know, whether that personal chemistry will matter in determining whether she's a good Supreme Court justice seems a little more shaky to me.

COOPER: There was also, just from a political standpoint, those who had anticipated a very clear, conservative choice, given criticisms over President Bush for spending so much money, spending, you know, huge amounts of money. He, already in conservative circles, he's under fire. Did it surprise you that he didn't try to shore that up?

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, he's sort of boxed in because, you know, Democrats are embolden, too, and a conservative choice might really have drawn a filibuster, which is what the Democrats can do. Look, I think the important thing to remember is there are still 55 Republicans in the Senate. A filibuster will be very difficult to maintain among Democrats to hold more than 40 of them together. So I think the odds overwhelmingly favor confirmation of Harriet Miers. But as for what kind of justice she really will be, I don't think it's fair to say that anybody has any clear idea at this point.

COOPER: Do you think the president has a clear idea?

TOOBIN: I think he has a reasonable guess. But, you know, mostly you know, remember when John Roberts looked at Chuck Schumer in those hearings and said, you know, I'm not an ideologue. Look at the opinions I've written. Look at my record. You know, she can't say that. She doesn't have a record that anyone can look at. Chuck Schumer the Democrat, liberal senator from New York. So . . .

COOPER: Who, by the way, today said about Miers, it could have been worse.

TOOBIN: It could have been worse. So I think the hearings will be unusually important because it will really be the first clue of any sense of what she stands for.

COOPER: It's going to be interesting.

Jeff, thanks very much.

ANNOUNCER: It's not over yet. Forecasters worn there could be at least two more hurricanes before the end of the season. Tonight, what you need to know about when and where these storms might hit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not guilty of the crime of murder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Marking the tenth anniversary of O.J. Simpson's acquittal. Tonight, a candid interview with Nicole Brown Simpson's sister, Denise Brown. And a look back at how the O.J. Simpson trial changed the way we watch TV.

360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Seventeen named storms. Nine of them hurricanes. Could we be getting even more this month? A disturbing forecast for October. 360 next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A lot more ahead in the next half hour. But first, we'll get you caught up on what's happening right now at this moment.

A Texas grand jury has indicted Republican Congressman Tom DeLay on another charge, money laundering. This is different than the charge from last week. DeLay was forced to resign as House majority leader when he was indicted last week on that conspiracy charge. This time it's money laundering

The tour boat that capsized on Lake George, New York, yesterday was recovered this afternoon. They pulled it up. Twenty of the 47 passengers elderly passengers aboard were killed when the boat turned upside-down and sank. Authorities believe a wake from another boat may have caused the accident.

And encouraging signs out of New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers says it expects to declare New Orleans completely dry by tomorrow or Wednesday. Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city. Parts of the city were flooded again during Hurricane Rita. Well with all we've seen this hurricane season, it's hard to imagine that we've got almost two months left of it to go. Forecasters do not believe it's going to end quietly, if you can believe it. Tonight, five weeks after Katrina killed more than 1,000 people, there is still concern that another deadly storm is ahead of us. We asked CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano to look into it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): It's a sight we've grown accustomed to: families boarding up their homes and fleeing, howling winds that make trees bend like rubber and tear rooftops apart and flood waters that destroy homes, towns and countless lives. In the world of weather, 2005 could be called the year of the hurricane. Of the 17 named storms this year, nine of them became hurricanes and four: Dennis, Katrina, Ophelia and Rita made landfall. But according to hurricane expert Professor William Gray, we're not out of the woods yet.

PROF. WILLIAM GRAY, HURRICANE FORECASTER: We're calling for three named storms, two hurricanes and one major one for the rest of the season.

MARCIANO: At Colorado State University, a leading center for hurricane forecasting, Professor Gray uses computer models to analyze and predict the path of hurricanes. He and his team are predicting a more active than normal October, with storms likely to form in the Caribbean and move into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, or up the east coast of the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This month the probability of a hurricane making landfall somewhere along the U.S. coastline is about 21 percent.

MARCIANO: With the recent increase hurricanes some argue global warming is to blame. But Gray disagrees. He says it's part of a natural weather cycle caused by the great ocean conveyer belts. An ocean current a circulates warm and cold water across the globe. Today, it's bringing a strong current of warmer water.

GRAY: When it's stronger, as it's been since 1995, we tend to have more major hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. And when it's weaker, we tend to have fewer.

MARCIANO: Gray says it's a cycle that plays out over 25 to 30 years. If that's the case, we could start looking for the next inactive season in about the year 2020.

Rob Marciano, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That's a long way off.

There have been some major signs this week that life is coming back to the New Orleans area. St. Louis Cathedral in the historic French Quarter in New Orleans held its first Sunday mass yesterday. And today, some school children went back to class. That is surprising.

CNN's Randi Kaye has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's 6:00 a.m., time for 8-year-old Elijah Mcgee to get ready for school. Since he evacuated his home in Metairie, Louisiana the day Katrina hit, Elijah and his siblings, Edwin, Ian and Emani went to a temporary school near his uncle's house in Baton Rouge, but only for a few days.

ELIJAH MCGEE, STUDENT; Hundred percent waiting to come back to my old school.

KAYE: How come 100 percent?

MCGEE: Because I hated that one.

KAYE: Before Elijah could think about school back home, like many evacuees across the Gulf, there was plenty of work to be done here. Cooking.

MCGEE: The stuff is kind of red.

KAYE: And cleaning out the shed with his brothers and sister.

MCGEE: Whoa!

KAYE: The stench, too much for Elijah's sensitive nose.

(on camera): What happened in there?

MCGEE: Those clothes stink. I had to throw up. And I just threw up.

KAYE (voice-over): The last month has been tough for them, crammed into their uncle's apartment with a dozen others, then a hotel for three weeks.

CYNTHIA MCGEE, ELIJAH'S MOTHER: They're not learning anything. I can only do so much, you know, trying to, you know, help them out, teach them certain things with the workbooks that they have. But they need to be in school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So good to see you.

KAYE: On the first day back, Elijah and the others were greeted by hugs. Students followed a yellow brick road inside. There's no place like home, the theme of the day.

In class, they colored paper eagles to return to the nest. And after a special assembly, a Mardi Gras parade. There was also the beginnings of a quilt, each square a story of survival. All part of a special lesson planned to help these kids cope with what they learned one month ago in mother nature's classroom.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Randi, how was student turnout in Jefferson Parish today?

KAYE: Well, Anderson, the numbers aren't very encouraging. There are about 49,000 students in the entire district and about 27,000 students, we are told, actually showed up for class today. So they're missing about 22,000 of those kids. They think they either found other schools to attend or just weren't ready to go back to school.

COOPER: All right. Randi, thanks.

Still to come tonight on 360, mounds of garbage, enough to cover 200 football fields throughout the city of New Orleans. What it's going to take to removed. We'll look at that.

Also ahead, it was called the trial of the century, hard to believe but ten years after the acquittal, we revisit the O.J. Simpson case.

And a talk with Denise Brown, what's happened to her in the decade since her sister was murdered. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The waters that turned New Orleans' streets into rivers after the hurricanes are now almost completely gone. As we told you earlier tonight, the Army Corps of Engineers says it expects to declare the city dry by tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest, which is a great achievement, no doubt about it. But now of course there's the garbage to deal with, tons and tons of garbage. We asked CNN's Rick Sanchez to find out when it's going to be picked up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a mountainous mess: an estimated 22 million tons of garbage that residents are now returning home to.

(on camera): What's it like to come home to a place that looks like it's been hit by a bomb?

JAMES COMINITA, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Devastating. It -- it's like -- can't explain it.

SANCHEZ: Essentially, contract garbagemen from all over the country hired by FEMA to take part in what is one of the largest trash removal projects in our nation's history.

(on camera): To get a sense of just how big a job this is, imagine, if you would, 200 football fields, all of it stacked with trash, 50 feet high. That is what officials say they're dealing with here. ALVIN CLOUATRE, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: People are coming home, little by little right now, and as they're coming home, they are hauling the debris out from their houses and hauling it to the curbside, where we can pick it up.

SANCHEZ: So that means you may pick up some neighborhood's trash today and have to go back there next week because somebody else came home and put it out?

CLOUATRE: That's correct. That's correct.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Army Corps of Engineer officials tell us the job will take six months to a year to complete. Residents are throwing out just about everything within their walls that Katrina's winds and rain ruined -- furniture, refrigerators, carpets. In some cases, even the walls themselves. The hazardous waste that has to be disposed of is estimated at three to 10 pounds per household.

(on camera): Do you see an end in sight to all of this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't. There's trash everywhere.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Army Corps of Engineers officials say they're sifting and separating the hazardous materials from other debris, like construction waste and fallen trees. They also say they have enough landfills to burn of bury the garbage locally, without having to take it across state lines.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Rick, how is that possible, I mean, to have enough landfills for all that garbage? I mean, that requires just huge amounts of land.

SANCHEZ: They've got three in the New Orleans area. Two of them are already filled up. A third one, they're working on, and they're looking at the possibility of creating even some more landfill in this area -- Anderson.

COOPER: And the environmental impact?

SANCHEZ: Oh, that's obvious that there's going to be an impact here. The question is, what can they do about it? Because they've got to pick everything up.

Look at the house behind me. Just typical home in New Orleans. Like any of our own garages. You see paints, you see bug sprays, you see detergents. You see the type of things that one or two probably wouldn't have an impact on the environment, but now multiply that times 100,000 or 200,000 homes that have either been leveled in one way or form or another, or the floods have taken this stuff and washed it out.

Now, collect all that stuff into one big giant heap of refuse. Are you going to have an environmental impact? Most definitely.

COOPER: And who is paying for this? Is this FEMA?

SANCHEZ: Well, FEMA's going to pay the governments, the municipalities, to take care of their employees and get the job done. But it's all government funds. It's your tax money and mine that we're paying to the federal government that essentially is taking care of this, to the tune of, when last we checked with officials, between 1.5 and $2 billion. It could still go up after that, though.

COOPER: Amazing. Rick, thanks.

Coming up next no 360, 10 years later, O.J. Simpson acquitted of murder. It's been 10 years. Do you remember where you were when it happened? A look at what he is up to now. We'll give you a hint, he's signing autographs. Also, I will talk to Nicole Brown Simpson's sister, Denise Brown. How she is dealing with O.J.'s acquittal and what's happened to the rest of her family.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Once upon a long time ago, there was a retired football player turned bit part actor and commercial spokesperson who was reasonably well-known in the U.S. Then there was a grizzly crime, and that reasonably well-known minor celebrity became something else entirely: Famous to some, notorious to others, a man whose initials alone have been enough ever since to conjure up an entire troubled time.

The initials are O.J. Today we found O.J. writing those initials and presumably the rest of his name, too, for money, for autograph seekers on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the end of what many called the trial of the century.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The defendant, having been acquitted of both charges, he is ordered transported to an appropriate facility and released forthwith.

COOPER (voice-over): Ten years ago today, a relieved and happy O.J. Simpson walked out of a California courtroom. He was a free man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is still the story of the hour, the Simpson murder case...

COOPER: His trial, which took nearly a year, provided much fodder for tabloids and countless hours of programming for television networks. Some called it the trial of the 20th century. It would most certainly change the way many Americans viewed our justice system.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: People know a lot more about how a criminal trial works, because everyone followed the Simpson case.

COOPER: The crime that sparked the Simpson trial was gruesome. The night of June 12th, 1994, the bodies of Simpson's estranged wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, were found in her front yard, stabbed to death; she nearly decapitated. Even if you weren't watching the constant news coverage of the case, some moments will no doubt still stand out. This is one of them. Five days after the murders, O.J. Simpson, about to be arrested and with police in pursuit, takes to the highway, driving slowly in his white Ford Bronco, with a gun and a friend at the wheel.

TOOBIN: There we had on live television the entire country, even more than a Super Bowl audience, following this car, wondering where he's going, what's going to happen? Is he going to kill himself on live television?

COOPER: When the chase ends, O.J. was arrested, and the pieces were in place for the trial to begin.

O.J. SIMPSON: Absolutely 100 percent not guilty.

COOPER: It looked for many who were watching like a slam dunk case. There was testimony from Nicole's family about the couple's abusive relationship, supported by tense 911 tapes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911 emergency.

NICOLE BROWN SIMPSON: Can you get someone over here now, to 325 Gretna Green? He's back. Please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. What does he look like?

N. BROWN SIMPSON: He's O.J. Simpson. I think you know his record. Could you just send somebody over here?

COOPER: There were the blood droppings on Simpson's driveway, smudges in his SUV, bloody socks and one bloody glove. O.J. seemingly unaccounted for time when the murders were being committed, and there were the characters in this macabre drama. Perennial house guest Kato Kaelin. Nicole's friend Faye Resnick, accused by the defense of dealing drugs. The much maligned judge, Lance Ito. O.J.'s maid Rosa Lopez, and a parade of police and scientists, faces and names burned into the memories of just about anyone who followed the trial.

But the man who would stand out above the others as he attempted to dismantle the state's case piece by piece was Johnnie Cochran, lead lawyer on O.J.'s prestigious and pricey dream team.

TOOBIN: What being in that courtroom every day taught you was that Johnnie Cochran owned that room.

COOPER: Cochran exposed now infamous police investigator Mark Fuhrman for his use of racist language. He took the L.A. crime lab to task for its sloppy procedures, and in one show-stopping moment pointed to a bloody glove to plant reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury.

JOHNNIE COCHRAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: If it doesn't fit, you must acquit. COOPER: And that is just what the jury did. After eight months of testimony, with hundreds of pieces of evidence, as an estimated 150 million people watched, they reached their verdict in under four hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury in the above-entitled action find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty...

COOPER: One criminal trial, two murders, and 10 years later we're still talking about the profound effect it had on our perception of justice.

TOOBIN: The important legacy of the Simpson case is that racial divisions still exist, and even a bizarre celebrity murder trial can bring out some very important differences in realities about American life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, it is easy to forget in all the hoopla over the trial that a crime occurred and two people died. Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. We're joined by Nicole's sister, Denise Brown, in Irvine, California right now. Ms. Brown, thanks very much for being with us.

BROWN: Well, thank you. Boy, you just brought everything back just watching that.

COOPER: Yeah, anniversaries are difficult for anyone who has lost a loved one. Today must be terribly so for you as well.

BROWN: Well, you know, you just want to remember all the positive things about somebody and the fun times that you had. And now all of a sudden, the timeline that you just went through, it was like, whoa, it just brought right back again. And the horrific stuff that happened, the politics that played in it, you know, because I learned so much about a criminal trial, our justice system, and how politics played such a huge part in his acquittal. And I just, oh, my God, you just brought me back to all of that again.

COOPER: You say politics. How do you mean?

BROWN: Well, I think that Gil Garcetti, I think he made a very political move, especially when one of the jurors that was -- that was picked, who -- when all the jurors were picked and they went down the elevator, and one of the jurors said, oh, it's payback time. They went back behind closed doors with Judge Ito, and, you know, they let the woman go that said, you know, that went back and overheard the conversation. And I think that Gil Garcetti had a huge part in that, because he didn't want to have South Central or downtown Los Angeles burned down, because that was -- that's what they were thinking, because it was going to cost billions of dollars to fix it up again.

COOPER: You said that you try to remember the good times. It's hard often for people to remember the way their loved one lived their life as opposed to the way their life ended. Do you find that difficult? I mean, do your thoughts go back to what happened to your sister, or are you able to focus on the positive?

BROWN: You know what, I try to focus on the positive. Every time there's -- well, I guess I hate to use the word anniversary, but every time there is something like this that goes on, I am brought back to the first interview with Marcia Clark, which I thought was horrific, and that was walking into her room and seeing Nicole, a big huge poster of Nicole's body and her decapitated head. And that is what I really hate about it, because I really just love to remember the good times that we had as kids, the good time that we had as children, and as teenagers and growing up, and the concerts we used to go to and the, you know, the boys and, you know, just the fun times.

COOPER: Are you able to see the kids, Sydney and Justin?

BROWN: Yes. Yes, we are.

COOPER: And I mean, I don't want to pry, so if you don't want to talk about it, it's fine, but I mean, what are those times like?

BROWN: Well, you know, we have great times. I mean, it's Christmastime and the summer. But we don't talk about this at all. You know, this is something that we don't talk about.

I love to remind them of what their mother -- who she was. And just so they don't forget. I don't ever want Nicole to be forgotten, for them especially. I don't want them coming to me in a year, two years, five years, 10 years down the road and saying, oh, my gosh, I don't remember her voice, oh my gosh, I don't remember what she looks like, what she did. I just want her to be remembered, just as the wonderful human being that she was.

COOPER: Are you -- I mean, we saw earlier a picture of O.J. Simpson signing autographs, which is remarkable to me that anyone wants that.

BROWN: Yeah.

COOPER: Have your family been able to receive any of the money that was awarded to you in a civil case?

BROWN: Well, it wasn't awarded to us. It was awarded to the estate of Sydney and Justin -- or Nicole's estate for Sydney and Justin.

Yeah, I know, the thing is is that it was really bizarre that he picked this weekend, because we just had a fabulous event for Nicole's House and Nicole's House are transitional homes, 18 to 24-month homes for women and children. And that's how I want to remember Nicole. I want to remember the positive things that we're doing, the great work that we're doing, trying to save lives, trying to help people. And really, he is just like absolutely nothing to me. And he never will be.

And, you know, I just think that, yeah, Johnnie Cochran did do a huge disservice to the American public by dividing us racially. I, you know, I just think that that is really sad, because it was not about white and black. It was about one man who murdered two people. And that's what the public needs to remember.

COOPER: And we want to try to remember those two people tonight as opposed to all the rest of this. Denise Brown, we appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

BROWN: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next on 360, a lot more ahead. And also, well, who's that on "SNL"? I don't know. We'll look. We'll find out. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Of course, it can also lead to some big laughs. And I've got to tell you, it's been kind of surreal to be out of New Orleans and out of Mississippi and back here. It was made a little bit even more surreal this weekend when I turned on "Saturday Night Live" and, well, I saw this. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Painting is wonderful!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this is interesting. Let's take a look over here. We've got a pair of Oscar-nominated carpenters of sorts. We have Sharon Stone and Al Pacino. Here we are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Anderson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sharon, tell us, do you have any previous experience with construction?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not. But I have partied with a few construction workers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Mr. Pacino, I'm no expert here, but I think you're trying to put a door where a window is supposed to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anderson, we are building a new house in new New Orleans. We'll put the doors wherever we want. Oh. There's a shih-tzu stuck in a Spanish oak tree. I go to save that dog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Geraldo Rivera for FOX News.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, it's 360, I'm Anderson Cooper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm reporting live from the cretinous crater from the Crescent City catastrophe, where in the last few days I've saved literally thousands of babies -- black babies, white babies. This morning, I saved an Asian baby. When it comes to saving babies, Geraldo Rivera is colorblind. In fact, I'm about to save this baby right now. He is going to go...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, man. He ain't no baby. He's 32 years old. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you can see, this young man is in the grips of a dastardly delirium brought on by the buffeting blasts of Katrina's gale-force onslaught. My first priority is to get him to safety aboard my flotilla fashioned from flotsam and jetsam and the silky hairs of my own moustache.

And that's it for me, Geraldo Rivera, FOX News.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's it for me. Thanks. Join me again at 10:00. I'll be back on "NEWSNIGHT." Heidi Collins is in for Paula Zahn. Hey, Heidi.

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