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Justice for Jessica; The Monsters Next Door: Can they be Stopped?; Former Sailor Accused; America Votes 2008; Iraqi Miracle Baby

Aired March 7, 2007 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Keeping up with the Barbie Bandits. Teenagers accused of robbing a bank. We have the tape of what happened after the holdup. That's ahead.
But first, a crime so horrific it's almost hard to believe it ever occurred. But it did. And this was the victim, Jessica Lunsford. This is how's she's being remembered. A beautiful little girl who loved to laugh and loved to smile.

Her life ended brutally when she was just 9 years old.

Prosecutors say this man was her killer, John Couey. A man accused of kidnapping Jessica, raping her and then -- and this will make you sick to your stomach -- burying her alive.

Today, a Florida jury reach the its verdict.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The defendant is guilty of murder in the first degree. The defendant is guilty of burglary of a dwelling with a battery. The defendant is guilty of kidnapping. The defendant is guilty of sexual battery on a child under 12 years of age.


COOPER: Well, the jury will now decide if Couey lives or dies.

He never said a word in court, but he had plenty to say before the trial began.

CNN's Susan Candiotti has the words of a killer.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Evander Couey, cold-blooded killer, in his own words.

JOHN EVANDER COUEY, CONVICTED MURDERER: I went out there one night and dug a hole and put her in it. Buried her. (inaudible) ... plastic bag, plastic baggies.

DETECTIVE: Was she dead already?

COUEY: No, she was alive. I buried her alive. CANDIOTTI: Buried alive with her favorite stuffed toy.

DETECTIVE: Where, where's her dolphin at?

COUEY: In there, buried with her.

DETECTIVE: In the bag with her?

COUEY: Yes, sir. I let her keep it. She wanted to take it with her.

CANDIOTTI: A warped moment of humanity from a murderer who buried alive a 9-year-old child?

COUEY: It was like three days or something like that. She stayed in the closet, and I was feeding her. You know, I wouldn't let her starve, I gave her water and stuff like that.

CANDIOTTI: John Couey's confession was never heard by the jury for legal reasons. But it opened a window into a soul of a sexual predator.

Couey's troubles didn't begin with Jessica Lunsford.

When he was only 19, Couey broke into a home and kissed a 12- year-old girl. He did only about two years of a 10-year sentence for violating his probation on a burglary conviction.

In 1991, he was caught fondling a 5-year-old and was convicted of attempted molestation. He was sentenced to five years, but was paroled after only two. In a tape-recorded confession back then, he begged for a cure he didn't get in prison.

COUEY: So I will never have to do this again. I feel bad about it, really, I do. I don't want to go to prison. I just want to get help for myself. That's what I need. I want help for myself.

CANDIOTTI: After that confession, Couey told police he once molested his wife's daughter, but she kept it quiet because he gave her a divorce.

At that time, a police officer wrote, "Couey knows he has a problem, however, has never sought medical assistance to help him control his sexual attraction for young children."

And the system didn't give him help either, even after he asked for it. Couey was arrested 25 times by the time he was 46.

Finally, two years ago, Couey raped Jessica Lunsford and buried her in a hole. While she was still missing, he sallied up to this bar in Augusta, Georgia, appearing not to have a care in the world. A local TV station videotaped him by chance.

The next day, Couey's days of preying on children were over. Florida cops found him.


COOPER: Is there any effort to change the law so that people like Couey will actually stay in jail? I mean, the guy hardly served the sentences he was given.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): Things have changed for the better. And for one thing, Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford, he's been working hard to try to get laws changed in Florida. And they have been tracking offenders better. They've been getting more time in jail.

But it's uphill battle because, Anderson, there's only so much money to fund these bills with cutbacks everywhere these days.

COOPER: Susan Candiotti, thanks.

Mark Lunsford, Jessica's father, as Susan was just saying, was in the courtroom when the verdict was read. He spoke to Larry King earlier.

Here's Mark Lunsford in his own words.


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": How rough was it for you, Mark, to be in that courtroom?

MARK LUNSFORD, JESSICA'S FATHER: Well, it's -- it's -- it's a pretty hard thing to do. But, you know, I'm not going to leave my daughter to go through this alone. I mean, she already had to be alone when she was with him.

KING: Now, what was it like for you, as the father of this beautiful little girl, to look at Mr. Couey?

LUNSFORD: It just gives me more reasons to -- to go out and try to help other states understand that they need to pass tougher legislation, like Jessie's Law, or to be in compliance with the federal bills that -- that have been passed, the Adam Walsh Act, and for legislators to know we need more.

I mean, we need bills that will produce money for these other bills that we have already passed, so that law -- that the U.S. Marshals, the FBI, local law enforcement, prosecutors can get the tools that they need to get more prosecutions, and put these guys away longer, so we're not doing murder trials.

KING: But looking him, Mark -- looking at him, didn't -- didn't you hate him?

LUNSFORD: Yes, definitely, most definitely, I mean, but that's -- that's what fuels me. I mean, that's where I get -- that's -- that's -- that's where I get my energy to do what I do. It's the anger.

KING: So, all this has changed your life? LUNSFORD: It does, Larry. It changes everything about your life, everything between the grass being green and the sky being blue. Everything you ever known is changed.

You lose a lot of things. I mean, you lose people you love, because of your anger or because of what you're going through. But you gain a lot of friends, too, supportive friends that, you know, they just -- they're just there for you, no matter what.


COOPER: The father of Jessica Lunsford.

The penalty phase of the trial is next. And that's when the defense will try to save the life of John Couey.

I spoke about the case earlier with CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.


COOPER: If ever there was the case for the death penalty, though, I mean, when you pay attention to the details of what he did, it's a pretty strong case.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's -- it's hard to believe that he wouldn't get the death penalty.

In every death penalty case, the jury has to be called -- done -- they have to be death-qualified. That means each juror has to say that there are some circumstances they could imagine imposing the death penalty.

People who say they would never impose the death penalty are not death-qualified, so they can never be on the jury. I can't imagine any death-qualified jury not giving Couey the death penalty.

COOPER: The defense, of course, will say mitigating circumstance, try to come up with things from his background. They say there's history of -- of mental illness, possible mental retardation.

TOOBIN: They have to say something. And -- and, certainly, he's had probably a difficult life. And he's had mental problems.

COOPER: Not enough, though?

TOOBIN: But the magnitude of these crimes, and the number of them, and the recidivism, and the -- the brutality of this crime, I -- I just can't imagine, although, I mean, it only takes one juror. This does not have to be a majority. If it's 11 to one for the death penalty, it's not a death penalty, but, I mean...


COOPER: Hard thing for one juror to stand up, when -- when the entire jury and -- and much of the world is watching.


TOOBIN: The Moussaoui case, that's what happened.

The alleged -- the -- the not alleged terrorist -- the -- the attempted terrorist was denied the death penalty by a vote of 11 to one.

COOPER: Even if the jury does, though, suggest the death penalty, in -- in Florida, can that happen? I mean, Governor Jeb Bush put a moratorium on execution.

TOOBIN: Well, in -- in every state that has the lethal injection, there are now legal challenges to whether that procedure is cruel and unusual punishment. And Florida has had worse problems than most.

That problem is going to be worked out, one way or another. It will probably take years. There will be some new method of execution, or they will somehow refine lethal injection. In any event, even if he's sentenced to death in the next few weeks, he will have years of appeals anyway. So, I -- I don't think the -- the mechanical problems will -- will prevent him from being executed.

COOPER: It is just staggering, though, when you look at his record and how little time -- you know, he would get a -- a five-year sentence, and spend two years in jail. I mean...

TOOBIN: And so many of the crimes were the same kind of crimes...

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: ... this -- this -- this horrible behavior with regard to children. And abuse of children is a crime with terrible rates of recidivism.

That's one of the things that is inspiring, you know, the Jessica's Laws and all these laws, that -- that are trying to keep these people in prison longer, because there is no known cure.

I mean, you and Susan were talking about, well, they weren't getting help. He wasn't getting help.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: It's not clear how to help them, particularly.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: I mean, it's -- I mean, in certain cases, there's not enough money, but there's no treatment that is anywhere near foolproof.

COOPER: And we are going to talk about that a lot with a doctor...


COOPER: ... who does treat them, also with a sex offender himself who -- who claims he's not committed crimes again. We will talk to him just coming up.

Jeff, thanks very much for that.


COOPER: And we'll have more on the Lunsford verdict ahead.

We'll examine if sexual predators should be punished or as some think treated for an illness or some combination of both.

Also tonight, a family finding help for what they say is their miracle child.


COOPER (voice-over): Born in Iraq, saved in the U.S. The only hope for a baby boy is in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said he would do anything possible and I believed him.

COOPER: We take you inside the operating room where doctors give a family the greatest gift of all.

Also tonight, from allegedly robbing a bank to getting their hair done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want you make me really blonde. I want to be blonde like Barbie.

COOPER: The suspects, dubbed the Barbie Bandits, go on the lam in style.


COOPER (on camera): Convicted sexual predator John Couey was found guilty today of killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Florida.

Tonight, we're looking at these monsters next door and asking, can they be stopped?

Most communities, of course, don't want sexual predators. But when they finish serving their prison sentences, they have to go somewhere. Many states are now committing them to special treatment centers. But as you are about to see, they are expensive and it's not clear they really work.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I mean, there's unknowns out there. COOPER (voice-over): A therapy session at Larned State Hospital in Kansas. These are convicted sex offenders. They've served their time, but they're not yet free.

Kansas is one of 19 states that allow civil commitment, the indefinite confinement of sex offenders considered at high risk of committing sex crimes again.

TOOBIN: Traditional crime policy says, you serve a sentence, then you go home. Civil commitment says, after you finish your criminal sentence, you are confined to a very much jail-like setting, perhaps for the rest of your life.

COOPER: At Larned they're called residents, not prisoners or patients -- 151 of them. Their goal, to get the residents to a stage where they can be released safely back into society.

AUSTIN DES LAURIERS, LARNED CLINICAL PROGRAM DIRECTOR: The aim of the treatment program is to both provide safety for the citizens of Kansas by providing a secure environment, but also to provide a state- of-the-art treatment program for the residents.

COOPER: Some don't respond to treatment or don't want it at all, especially at the beginning, when they feel like they've already been punished.

DES LAURIERS: These people typically feel like the system has victimized them at that point, and they're usually quite angry about it.

COOPER: Right now officials say three Larned residents are refusing treatment, but everyone must complete the program even to be considered for release. And it's expensive to get to that point.

On average, the cost is $100,000 a year per resident. Compare that to the cost of prison, about $26,000 a year. In other words, programs like the one at Larned cost the taxpayers four times as much, and there's no guarantee they'll work.


COOPER: Dr. Richard Krueger is a psychiatrist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. He says civil commitment laws are not the best solution.

KRUEGER: They don't allow for adequate treatment or adequate community supervision once somebody is released. And this then impedes the ability of centers to release individuals and sets society up for an ever-expanding group of men who are enormously expensive to maintain who are going nowhere.

COOPER: Nearly 3,000 sex offenders have been in civil commitments since 1990. Only about 250 have been released. That's fewer than 10 percent. DES LAURIERS: We can offer all the treatment in the world, but until they make a decision that I want to change my behavior, it's not going to happen.

COOPER: There's no cure for sex predators, something the staff at Larned readily admits.

DES LAURIERS: It's not something that can be cured in the sense that once it's part of your behavior, you're always going to be capable of it.

COOPER: At Larned, they say the best they can do it help residents control their urges and behaviors.

For now, the sex offenders in these programs are off the streets. Society is safe from them, but they're paying for it.


COOPER (on camera): Well, earlier I talked about forced therapy with 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta. Dr. Fred Berlin of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic, and Jake Goldenflame, himself a convicted sex offender and author of "Overcoming Sexual Terrorism."


COOPER: Dr. Berlin, if there's any doubt whether a sexual offender can be fully rehabilitated, what should the system do? I mean, if you're saying a cure is not possible, what should all of us do?

DR. FRED BERLIN, JOHNS HOPKINS SEXUAL DISORDERS CLINIC: Well, first of all, if I may, we need to get past that hypocrisy. You know, we have a situation where a man goes into prison. And if he says he's ill and needs treatment, the attitude is who is he kidding? He's trying to beat the rap.

Then he serves his time, and maybe 20 years later, at that point, we say now he needs treatment. We can't let him go. We've got to provide that for him.

I'm very worried when it comes to civil commitment that this could be a ruse for preventative detentions, for keeping people who served their time longer. And if we're going to do that, let's at least talk about it openly, but don't pretend it's treatment if indeed that's not the intent.

COOPER: So in prison, Dr. Berlin, is there any real treatment?

BERLIN: In most cases there isn't. And I think civil commitment would make a lot more sense to me if we began treatment early on in prison, tried our best and then perhaps reserved it for those who either refused it or, in spite of it, still seem to be a considerable risk to the community.

COOPER: Jake, what do you think? Civil commitment, does it work? I mean, this is increasingly popular in states around the country.

JAKE GOLDENFLAME, CONVICTED SEX OFFENDER, AUTHOR: Anderson, I'm sorry to say that in my personal opinion, and I have been in a civil commitment facility where I've run recovery workshops, I hear from a lot of these guys in there. I know staff people who work in those programs.

By and large across the country, in my opinion, the civil commitment program is in breakdown because not enough people are being released for two reasons. And these are two defects the program has to adjust, if it's -- going to adjust to it if it's going to work.

One problem is, the release decision is always made by a civil jury. Now, imagine the average person sitting on a jury. How can they possibly go home and say, well, I let this guy out, and he's a convicted child molester or a convicted rapist. People can't do that so they don't let these guys out even though years have gone by since their offense and doctors say that these men have made progress.

The second problem is, staff itself is increasingly telling me they're getting pressure from politicians above them not to let anybody out, no matter what.

COOPER: Dr. Gupta, in your opinion from what you've seen are civil commitment programs effective?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think it could be effective, but I think one of the tenets, and I think what Dr. Berlin is sort of alluding to, is whether a crime was committed or not. And you can't -- the hypocrisy may be there.

But you can't get beyond the fact of whether there was a crime. And if there was, it needs to be punished like any other crime would. And if it's treatment that's needed as well, maybe getting the treatment within some sort of punishment sort of area might be a better way to do that.

COOPER: How, Jake, are these civil commitment centers different from prisons? I mean, if you can be held there indefinitely in some cases or for your entire life, how is that different than being in prison?

GOLDENFLAME: Well, it's kind of like the difference between having a chair that is upholstered to sit on or a plain metal chair without any upholstery. That's the difference.

I mean, prison is a harsh place. Things are very basic. And of course, you can't leave the place. In a civil commitment program, they're a little more comfortable. Cosmetically, it looks a little more like a treatment center or a day room than it does a prison. But you've still got the fact you can't leave there.

COOPER: Just so I'm clear, Dr. Berlin, your problem with civil commitment, besides the notion that some of these people should have gotten treatment earlier while they were in prison, is what? BERLIN: My concern as a physician is that we not misuse the medical establishment and the notion of treatment as a pretense to simply keep these men locked up indefinitely. If we want to do that, let's say that's what we're doing, but don't pretend we're treating if we're really not.

COOPER: Dr. Fred Berlin, Jake Goldenflame, Sanjay Gupta. Guys, thanks very much.

GUPTA: Thank you.


COOPER: So what do you think is the best way to treat sex offenders, if it's even possible. Weigh in at blog. We'd like to hear some of your comments. We'll read some of them later this hour.


An update now on our breaking news. A former U.S. Navy sailor is behind bars tonight, charged with passing along military secrets to suspected terrorists.

His name, Hassan Abujihaad. He's 31 years old. He was formerly known as Paul R. Hall. He was arrested hours ago in Phoenix. Now the Justice Department accuses him of supporting terrorists with an intent to kill U.S. citizens. Listen.


DEBORAH MCCARLEY, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: He was charged with providing information that was classified. Information that did not -- to individuals that should not have had that information. Basically, it was classified information relating to national defense, to individuals who were not supposed to have this information.


COOPER: Abujihaad allegedly provided classified information to al Qaeda about movement of a U.S. Navy battle group in 2001 as it traveled from California to the Persian Gulf.


COOPER: It looks like another Republican is ready to throw his hat into the presidential ring. Why this one is different. We'll have that story coming up, tell you who it is.

Plus, forced by gunfire to deliver her baby at home in Iraq. Now the baby needs special surgery in America. It is a story so amazing, the doctor called it a miracle on top of a miracle.


In Iraq today, nearly two dozen people were killed after a suicide car bomber struck a police checkpoint. Ten of those killed were Shia pilgrims heading to the holy city of Karbala for a religious holiday on Saturday.

Also in Iraq, three U.S. soldiers were killed today by a roadside bomb.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon says it's adding another 5,000 U.S. troops to the so-called surge of 21,500 announced in January. That will cost taxpayers another $1 billion.

Now, against this backdrop, another Republican is expected on Monday to announce his plans to run for president. Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, has become an outspoken critic of the Iraq war.

CNN's Bill Schneider joins us now from Washington.

I guess that is what separates Hagel from the other nine Republican candidates, the war.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh boy, does it. He is a passionate antiwar voice. He has called the war in Iraq the most dangerous foreign policy blunder this country has made since the Vietnam War. And he is a Vietnam War veteran, along with John McCain. They are very close -- closely allied. But they're polls apart on the issue of Iraq. He would be a passionate antiwar voice in this race.

And Anderson, that would -- that could just shake this race to pieces. Because an antiwar candidate in the Republican Party in the Republican primaries, we don't know what effect that would have, but it would be startling.

COOPER: That's what -- it really is a big unknown at this point. It just hasn't happened up until now.

SCHNEIDER: It has not happened, but about 30 percent of Republicans in our polls say that they oppose the war in Iraq.

You know what? That's the same level of opposition that we found long ago among Democrats a year before the 1968 election. Remember what happened in 1968? You probably don't, I do. What happened was an antiwar candidate, Eugene McCarthy, got into the race, articulated a passionate antiwar position and suddenly found himself with a constituency as opposition to the war grew and grew in the president's own party.

That's the kind of voice that Chuck Hagel could be if antiwar sentiment continues to grow.

COOPER: Also, as you said, he's a close friend of Senator McCain's. How does it affect their -- I guess, their friendship, also their cooperation, the fact that he may be entering the race?

SCHNEIDER: He is -- he was a staunch supporter of John McCain in 2000. As I indicated, they're both Vietnam War veterans. They've allied on a number of issues. Though they've had their differences on campaign finance reform. For example, McCain welcomed Chuck Hagel into the race, said he would be a good candidate and look forward to competing with him. But as I say, they are completely opposites in their view on the Iraq war. So that is going to be a very dramatic debate between two candidates who were very closely allied back in 2000.

COOPER: And where does he stand on other issues -- abortion, immigration?

SCHNEIDER: Pretty much a mainstream conservative on those issues. He is an antiabortion candidate. He opposes abortion rights except when the mother's life is in danger. He opposes late-term abortions. He was a sponsor of the president's Immigration Reform Bill, which McCain also was a co-sponsor of. On most issues, he's supported the president's tax cuts. He's pretty much a mainstream conservative.

He is distinctive, however, in that he has always been an ardent internationalist. He wants to normalize relations with Cuba. He believes in a multilateral international approach to problems. So that on foreign policy issues, he's been a quite distinctive voice in the Republican Party.

COOPER: This just -- this makes what is already a fascinating race even more interesting, I think.

SCHNEIDER: It shakes everything up. We don't know what's going to happen. But we know that if antiwar sentiment continues to grow as fast as it's been growing in the last couple of years, then suddenly you could find Chuck Hagel with a very strong constituency and becoming the hero to a lot of voters.

I know liberal Democrats out there who say -- some of them have said this publicly -- if Chuck Hagel runs for president, I'm going to cross party lines. I'd even register, they said, as a Republican to go over and vote for him because they so strongly believe in this issue which will define his candidacy if he decides to run.

COOPER: No doubt about that. Bill Schneider, thanks. Interesting.


COOPER: We're used to seeing pictures of the terrible toll the war is taking Iraq, of course. But for one family at least tonight, there is good news. An 8-month-old baby boy is recovering in Houston after surgery.

Now, the family flew to the U.S. after the baby's father made a desperate worldwide appeal for help.

CNN's David Mattingly has the story.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You wouldn't know it to hear him laugh and giggle, but this Iraqi baby boy, named Karm, has already seen a lifetime of trouble. It began at home in Baghdad.

KARM'S MOTHER: In our culture, the first baby is our hope, is our miracle, is our everything. So all this emotion was killed and we are only crying for nearly three days when we see the baby.

MATTINGLY: Fearful that associating with Americans could bring them harm, Karm's parents keep their identities concealed.

His mother recalls the night her dreams of having a healthy baby boy fell apart.

Turned away by gunfire and unable to reach the hospital where her husband worked as a pediatrician, Karm's mother, also a doctor, had to give birth at home, in the care of a midwife. And a long and agonizing delivery left her baby's right harm paralyzed.

KARM'S MOTHER: Sometimes at night, I wake up and see my baby. Maybe he move his army and see his frail arm like this and then I cry. I couldn't do anything.

MATTINGLY: Karm's father was able to diagnose the problem. He says the inexperienced midwife, using forceps, caused severe nerve damage to the baby's shoulder and neck, a condition that could become permanent without prompt surgery. But no surgeon in Iraq could help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was difficult for me. It's like my heart is broken.

MATTINGLY: So Karm's father appealed with video over the Internet to fellow doctors in Europe and the United States. But of all of the doctors he contacted, only one answered.

DR. RAHUL NATH, BRACHIAL PLEXUS SURGEON: As he said, he'd do anything in the world possible for his son.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Could you relate to him as a father?

NATH: Of course, yes. I have two children of my own, and the same sentiments exactly.

MATTINGLY (voice over): Agreeing to do the surgery for free, Dr. Rahul Nath, in Houston, Texas, was just the first of several miracles to fall into place.

Permission for doctors to leave Iraq is almost impossible. Visas to enter the U.S. can also take precious time. Time the child didn't have. But by chance, the story of Karm's plight spread through Houston's medical community and caught the attention of "People" magazine. And one big humanitarian effort later, Karm and his mother in Houston looking for that last big miracle.

NATH: We just have to move him over a little bit.

MATTINGLY: But now 8 months old, there's still concern his chances for a dramatic recovery may have diminished.

(on camera): Dr. Nath performs hundreds of these surgeries every year, but he says this might be one of his toughest. It's because he's not sure how extensive the nerve damage might be. So he's going to have to conduct a few tests first.

The question is, will this little boy's luck continue to hold out?

(voice over): Almost immediately, the damage prove to be worse than had been feared. Electrical impulses are sent through the nerves in the baby's arm, but the hand never moves.

NATH: It's a much more severe type of injury. This would definitely have been a permanent paralysis.

MATTINGLY: The good news here, the surgery had come in time. Nerves that were damaged could be repaired.

NATH: It was just a question of getting those fingers to close voluntarily, get some feeling down there. And that's what we're going to do right now.

MATTINGLY: In this advanced procedure, Dr. Nath rerouted nerves from the shoulder into the baby's arm. In a matter of months he should start to have feeling and movement all the way down into his hand.

NATH: I think it's really the only place that we could have taken care of it. So it is really just one little miracle on top of another that everything worked out within the right time frame, and to have the ability to offer something like that's really great.

MATTINGLY: And eight time zones away, Karm's anxious father hears the good news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything is good.


MATTINGLY: For the first time in months, he feels good about his child's future as they prepare for his return to the uncertainty of their Iraqi home.

David Mattingly, CNN, Houston.


COOPER: You can read more about the incredible surgery on our blog. Just log on to

Ahead on the program, conspiracy or coincidence? A secret agent caper takes another mysterious turn

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER (voice over): From Russia with danger. Is criticizing the Kremlin deadly? From the poisoned spy to a murdered journalist, who is next?

Also tonight, from allegedly robbing a bank to getting their hair done...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "I want you to make me really blonde. I want to be blonde like Barbie."

COOPER: ... the suspects dubbed the "Barbie Bandits" go on the lam in style.


COOPER: A well-known U.S. expert on Russia was shot at his home. A well-connected and, by all accounts, happy Russian reporter takes a sudden nose dive out a window and dies. A Russian-born doctor and her daughter fall sick from radiation poisoning. All this after the poisoning of a former Russian spy late last year.

Now, many are asking if there's any chance these events are a coincidence.

CNN's John Roberts investigates.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Was it a bad break or payback that put Russia expert Paul Joyal in the hospital, a gunshot wound to the groin? Joyal was a friend of Alexander Litvinenko, the KGB defector who died in November, poisoned by radioactive polonium-210.

While the Kremlin denies it, Joyal had no doubt Russian president Vladimir Putin was behind the killing and last week went on NBC's "Dateline" to say so.

PAUL JOYAL, RUSSIA EXPERT: The benefit from their standpoint is, we are letting everyone know that we will inflict a horrible death, a public, horrible death on those that speak out against us.

ROBERTS: Four days later, Paul Joyal's life nearly ended.

(on camera): Joyal came here to this downtown D.C. restaurant to have drinks with an old friend, Oleg Kalugin, who used to be the KGB chief in the United States. It was an appropriate place for them to meet, right next door to the International Spy Museum.

(voice over): They drank and talked until about 6:00, then headed home. Kalugin, himself a defector who was convicted of treason in 2002, soon got bad news about his friend.

OLEG KALUGIN, FMR. KGB: About an hour later, his wife called me and she was very excited, and she said Paul was shot. ROBERTS: Elizabeth Joyal told CNN she heard loud noises in the driveway, ran outside to find her husband gravely wounded. Two black men accosted him as he got out of his car, he said. He grabbed at one. The other yelled, "Just shoot him!"

Police believe it may have been a robbery attempt. Joyal's vehicle, a Chrysler 300, is a popular target of car-jackers.

Oleg Kalugin can't be sure.

KALUGIN: Well, I would not rule out any option, but professionally, it doesn't look like special services were involved.

ROBERTS (on camera): Joyal's shooting could indeed be just a random act of violence, and the story might end there, if it weren't for the fact that several critics of the Russian government have recently met tragic ends.

(voice over): First, it was journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who wrote harshly about Russia's campaign in Chechnya, shot and killed in an elevator last October. Then Alexander Litvinenko, who accused Putin of putting out the hit on Politkovskaya, dead a month later.

Last Friday, Ivan Safronov became the 14th journalist critical of Putin's government to die suspiciously. Russian police say he returned to his second floor apartment after buying a bag of fruit, then inexplicably walked up to the fifth floor and leapt out this window. Safronov's colleagues say he was investigating sensitive Russian arms sales to Iran and Syria.

ANDREI VASILIEV, EDITOR, "KOMMERSANT" (through translator): He could have been killed for his work. Everything is possible. But as yet, we have no evidence. I just know he wasn't the suicidal type.

ROBERTS: Add to that Tuesday's revelation from Moscow that a Russian-born American doctor from Los Angeles and her daughter had survived a mysterious poisoning by thallium, a favorite tool of assassins. They were in Russia for a wedding. Russian police so far have no clue how they were poisoned, where, or why.

Is it all just coincidence or a conspiracy to silence critics? Plenty of theories, but so far, no proof.

John Roberts, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, the mysteries continue. As John mentioned, 14 journalists who have been critical of Russian president Vladimir Putin's government have died. Their deaths are shedding new light on the dangers of the profession.

Here's the raw data.

According to a report yesterday, more than 1,000 journalists and their support staff have died in the past decade. Iraq and Russia are the deadliest countries for journalists. Nearly half of those killed were shot. Only one in eight deaths resulted in prosecution.

Pardon politics, what the president's next move could be in the Scooter Libby verdict. That's next.

Also tonight, stealing, then shopping. The two young suspects accused of robbing a bank, we have the tape of what happened after the heist. The so-called Barbie bandits before they were thrown in jail, what did they do? Well, they went shopping and had their hair done when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, now that Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been convicted of lying and obstructing justice in the CIA leak case, an interesting question is coming to light. Will President Bush pardon him?

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With the vice president's former confidante Scooter Libby awaiting sentencing, the White House is being pushed around like a Monopoly piece on the question of whether Libby will get out of jail free under a presidential pardon. The president says he respects the court, is sad about the conviction, but...

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's more legal procedures to take place. And at this time, it's inappropriate for me or the administration to be, you know, issuing comments about this serious matter.

FOREMAN: George Washington pardoned the men who led the Whiskey Rebellion, and ever since, presidents have pardoned or commuted the sentences of dozens of people, often because they believed the prosecution was political. Democrats said that about Bill Clinton's friend Susan McDougal, who went to jail over Whitewater.

SUSAN MCDOUGAL, WENT TO JAIL OVER WHITEWATER: I was pardoned on the last day of Bill Clinton's presidency.

FOREMAN: But some Democrats think Libby is just the fall guy for dirty dealings at the White House and is a potential witness against the vice president himself in the quest to find out who exposed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent.

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: Scooter Libby didn't do this all by himself. The best way that the president has to shut Scooter Libby up before sentencing is to pardon him.

FOREMAN: George Bush, as a governor and president, has granted pardons less often than others have.

(on camera): But this is not just about the president anymore. Sure, some Republicans see Libby as a political martyr who deserves saving, even as he works on his appeal. But others are painfully aware that ethics scandals have rocked their party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dilemma for the president is he's known for loyalty. His friends say that's his best quality. And yet, you have the presidential candidates in the Republican Party saying, hey, it's not just about you now. We have an election in '08, we can't afford to have the Republican brand stained with something that the American people feel was not fair.

FOREMAN: In bitterly partisan Washington, many complain manners have all but vanished, but the hottest game in town now is guessing what the White House will do if Scooter Libby says, "Pardon me."

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Up next, a crime of a different kind, the Barbie bandits. Look at what they did after they allegedly robbed a bank. The duo, well, kind of had their hair done. I think that was one of the things.

We've got the videotape. We'll show you that. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Tonight, a new look at the so-called "Barbie Bandits," because really they deserve a new look.

Two young Georgia women who achieved a form of fame, I guess, for all the wrong reasons, they're accused of robbing a bank and they were caught on camera in a different location after their alleged crime. It seems we can also call them the "glam duo".

CNN's Rick Sanchez explains.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Police say this is 18-year-old Ashley Miller. She's the brunette on the left, caught by a surveillance camera during a bank holdup. She and her friend, who police identify as Heather Lyn Johnston, 19, and blonde, were late arrested.

So what did the pair do the day after the alleged bank heist with their picture splattered in news accounts all over the world? The answer? They went to a hair salon, where they're greeted by hair stylist Amy Cooper.

AMY COOPER, HAIRDRESSER: As soon as she walked in, you know, I went up and greeted her, and I introduced myself. And I said, "So, what are we going to do today?" And she goes, "I want you to make me really blonde. I want to be blonde like Barbie."

SANCHEZ: Like Barbie? Doesn't she know that's exactly how she and her alleged accomplice will be forever known? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Barbie bandits.

SANCHEZ: Whatever the case, here they are again, caught by another surveillance camera, this time at the hair salon, to the amazement of salon workers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's them right there. And then they're going to walk over to this section.

SANCHEZ: Police now say the two young women, with the help of 22-year-old teller Benny Allen, pulled off an inside job at the suburban Atlanta bank and escaped with a considerable amount of money. All three are now charged with felony theft. But when these images were captured at the salon, the alleged teen bandits were still on the loose.

Did they seem anxious? Not according to salon manager Melissa Mathea, who says all they wanted to talk about was their planned dinner that night at the Cheesecake Factory.

MELISSA MATHEA, SALON MANAGER: They said that they had been at the pool all day. They were hanging out, so they came in with like real short shorts on and see-through tank tops and stuff. And that's the only thing that really had caught our eye about them.

SANCHEZ: And what did they talk about with their hairstylist? The same thing everybody in these parts seem to be talking about that day, the Barbie bandit case that was captivating Atlanta.

AMY COOPER: So, I was like, "Isn't that the dumbest thing you've ever heard?" I said, "Somebody would go rob a bank wearing sunglasses and think nobody would recognize them?" She said, "Yes, I know. That's crazy, right?" And then she got real quiet.

SANCHEZ: The girls are seen on tape mulling over a flat iron and splurging on some new earrings.

(on camera): Tonight, though, as they sit in jail, what they're most likely mulling over are the serious charges against them. Convictions could mean up to 10 years in prison. According to one of the attorneys that we talked to, they're expecting to plead not guilty.

Rick Sanchez, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Oh, the Barbie bandits. What could Ken think?

Back to our top story tonight.

Convicted sex offender John Couey found guilty in Florida today of killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford. On the 360 blog, we're asking if sexual offenders can be treated and cured.

The responses continue to come in here tonight. Here's some of what's on the radar.

Rebecca from Florida writes, "My daughter was assaulted by a predator about five years ago. He is still on the run with a gun. This is his second offense, and all they gave him was probation for the first. So you see where our system is."

Roseann from Colorado says, Sterilizing the predators is a guarantee. Why isn't anyone discussing that option?"

Maggie from Missouri writes, "Considering all we've seen, read and heard about these despicable pieces of humanity, I would say the answer is, obviously not, about whether they can be cured."

And Lee from Virginia tells us, "A critical piece of the sex offender issue is that not all predators are pedophiles. We need to put down the pitchforks and tailor consequences and policies to reflect the crime. All offenders are not the same."

As always, we welcome your comments. Go to, tell us what you think.

Coming up next, unwelcomed history destroyed, left in ruins. Find out why when 360 continues.



COOPER: Tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," who's expecting your produce?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They wash it in these big tubs. Yet, one contaminated head goes in the tub, it contaminates it all.


COOPER: Are voluntary guidelines enough, or is it a recipe for disaster? Find out tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING" with Soledad and Miles O'Brien, beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern.

And a reminder. We want you to help them keep them honest. If there's a wrong that needs to be made right in your community, go online, tell us about it,

I'll see you tomorrow.

Larry King is next.


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