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Obama Sworn in as President; Latest Developments in Casey Anthony Case

Aired January 20, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our capacity remains undiminished and our time of standing pat and protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions, that time has surely passed. Starting today we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and...


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: Tonight, history is made. Barack Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States and our first African- American president.

Millions of people descend on the capital to take it all in. Millions more around the world watch on TV. His speech, powerful. The scene, emotional. It was a celebration of racial progress. It was also a celebration of democracy, a peaceful transfer of enormous power. It showed to the whole world that our country has the ability to change, to reinvent and to renew itself. This is a proud moment, a moment to be hopeful that Barack Obama will restore America`s reputation in the world and introduce a new era of peace.


OBAMA: Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism, not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us; nor does it entitle us to do what we please.

Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use, our security emanates through the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this earth. And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter, stronger and more united, we cannot help, but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass. That the lines of trial (ph) shall soon dissolve, that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A new era of peace. I want to talk about that heartwarming goal with my fantastic panel: James Boyce, Democratic strategist and John Avlon, author of "Independent Nation" and a columnist for the

I don`t know about you, John, I cried during President Obama`s speech. As he spoke, the images of the last eight years flashed through my mind. We`re talking the war in Iraq, terrorism, so much violence, so many places. When he said "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist," to me that was just so powerful. I believe he proved with that speech that peace is patriotic once again in America. What do you say?

JOHN AVLON, AUTHOR, "INDEPENDENT NATION": I think that was a powerful moment and this was a powerful speech. It was cathartic not just for the last eight years, but for so much of American history, where we have struggled complexly with race.

And I don`t think it was just an idealistic speech. It was also a deeply realistic speech. This was not an inspirational, Obama perfect speech like Iowa and New Hampshire. This was "we are in tough times, America. We must confront these challenges."

He took the risk of talking policy with the American people in an inaugural, because he set a direction with this speech, a direction for his administration, and he advanced the American idea. That`s what a great inaugural is supposed to do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: James Canon (ph) Boyce, we forget because the economy has overshadowed everything else, that his campaign was jump-started by his opposition to the war in Iraq. He was essentially a peace candidate. Did he bring it full circle and how is he going to implement those words with the situations in Gaza, Guantanamo, the war in Iraq, on and on and on?

JAMES BOYCE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Jane, I think you`re right. He was the peace candidate, but he was also the candidate of the people. He was the candidate that said, "Yes, we can." We can change this country.

And I completely agree with you that the concept of unclenching the fist. We`ll reach our hand and we`ll work with people. And to me it was just an amazing day. It was a great speech.

And I agree with John. I saw -- I saw Barack`s speech in Iowa after he won the caucuses, and it was very, very different. It was -- this today was more sober. It was more realistic. It was more with what we have to do. And presidential addresses, inaugural addresses are often like, "This is what I want to do. This is what I want to do. This is what I want to do."

I thought President Obama stood up, and I love saying that. I liked saying "President-elect Obama." I like saying President Obama. Then Obama stood up and said, you know, "Together, this is what we must do," and that`s very different for inaugural address, and I thought it worked very well for him today.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It was absolutely amazing in every respect. We`re going to get more of the speech in a second, but you`ve got to listen to the reaction of the crowds when President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama -- I like saying that, too -- walked down Pennsylvania Avenue.




VELEZ-MITCHELL: That screaming went on for several minutes, because they were out there for several minutes, which a lot of people said was very courageous, given that, with the enormous crowds that they had there, you cannot be absolutely 100 percent sure that security is going to be 100 percent perfect.

The response, as you can see, absolutely electric. The stats on this inaugural are astounding. More than a million people crammed into the National Mall. Many more along the parade route. This is one of the largest gatherings in the nation`s capital ever.

John Avlon, the global TV viewership is expected to break records. It`s already broken Internet records. In fact, CNN`s live streaming got almost 19 million online viewers. Is this the most ecstatic public response to an inaugural in U.S. history, John?

AVLON: I think so. And I think it is probably the most viewed political event in world history.

And what`s significant is Obama didn`t just speak to the American people, which all presidents do at an inaugural. He really spoke to the citizens of the world. That is a mark of how globalization has changed the American presidency. He didn`t just talk about other countries in terms of realpolitik, balance of power. He talked to citizens in different countries around the world. That`s one of the transformative and innovative things about the speech today.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Princella Smith. They say they spent about $150 million on this inaugural and some have said, wow, they shouldn`t spend that kind of money, because we`re in an economic crisis.

But by the tame token, doesn`t a day like this for America change the national mood? Remember when Jimmy Carter back in the late `70s talked about a national malaise, well, we`re in one now, a funk. And doesn`t this help us snap out of it?

PRINCELLA SMITH, AMERICAN SOLUTIONS: Yes, you know, I`m going to have to agree with you. I am a fiscal conservative, so I do agree with people about, you know, excessive spending and all that.

But in this particular instance, I think it was a good thing. I mean, we made history around the world. We showed people what America is really about. And if you just look at the scenes of the crowds and if you can just hear those people chanting, if you can just hear the renewed faith that they have in their government, I`d say it`s well worth the expenses paid. You know, let him have his day and let America have their day and then let`s get to business tomorrow. But, look, I think America`s happy today.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and absolutely. We need this.

SMITH: Yes, we do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We need something to change the momentum. You just don`t change the momentum without some kind of spark.

SMITH: That`s right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And this, look at those crowds! This is unlike anything we have ever seen before. The moment was historic, as an African- American man became the president of a country where segregation was once the norm. Listen to President Obama speak about equality.


OBAMA: The time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit, to choose our better history, to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea passed on from generation to generation, that God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served in a local restaurant, can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was so emotional. I juts -- I get choked up listening to that again. You know, it strikes me as this is obviously hugely important for African-Americans and, to widen the circle, all people of color. I say that as a Latina myself. This is the first minority of any sort to become president, in a nation where minorities are expected to become the majority by 2042, James Boyce, 2042.

BOYCE: Well, Jane, I think what`s interesting about that, I think not only that. He`s the first African-American or minority to be head of a country that is right now, as you point out, still majority Caucasian. So it was an amazing event.

And that moment, if you rally think about the change that has topped our country in the 50 years since President Obama mentioned that his father would not have been served in a local restaurant. That moment took my breath away as well. And I think that`s wonderful.

I think there`s one other thing about that crowd out there. I think this is the culmination of a change in American politics in terms of the Internet, with the numbers of 19 million people on CNN watching this.

And this is five years going back to the Howard Dean campaign, because those million people on the Mall today, a lot of those people on Barack Obama`s e-mail list. A lot of those people felt that he spoke to them during this campaign. A lot of those people are invested in this administration, and I think that`s going to make a big difference as President Obama addresses the issues.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And John Avlon, let`s not forget this is a global event. One of my producers, Darren Foster, is Irish. He talked to his mom in Ireland. She`s in her 70s. She`s having a party with women who are 70 and 80 watching this. This is being replicated all around the world.

So I was trying to think what does this equal in terms of my life experience? The only thing I could think of was the moon landing when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon and said, "One small step for man, one giant leap for -- leap for all mankind." It reminds me of -- that happened when I was a little kid, but it`s the same level of intensity as that.

AVLON: I think that is a good parallel, because it`s all too rare that positive events galvanize a country or a world. Usually, it`s tragedy that causes us to remember that what unites us far outweighs what divides us.

But the important thing, as you said, is what this represents about America to the rest of the world, and as Obama says, this could only happen in America. This is not a great day just for African-Americans. This is a great day for all Americans. It`s a great day for the future of our country.

And it`s a great day for people living in tyranny around the world, because they are forced to see, and their governments are going to be forced to recognize that, in America, opportunity is possible and that their way, they are on the wrong side of history. America is on the right side of history.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So many tears today, but tears of joy. What an amazing day.

James, Princella, Stay right there for more analysis of President Obama`s speech in just a bit.

One of President Obama`s first priorities is to rebuild America`s international standing, as John just said. Listen to his stirring message to the world.


OBAMA: And so to all the other peoples in governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born, know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now to our daily check on the latest bombshell developments in the Caylee Anthony murder investigation.

Tonight, shocking allegations that attorney Jose Baez was making a secret entertainment deal are being slammed by all sides. This suggestion first reported by WFTV is that Baez was selling Casey`s story to offset the cost of her defense.

A Baez spokesman says, quote, "That is unequivocally not true." And just hours ago the prosecutor`s office issued a statement, blasting the reports that they were investigating complaints about Baez.

And I have more of that shocking video from the lost jailhouse visit with Casey and her parents. It`s Casey Anthony like you`ve never seen her before.

I am, of course, taking your calls tonight. So give me a shout out: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297.

First to my fantastic expert panel. Pam Bondi, Florida state prosecutor; Drew Findling, Atlanta criminal defense attorney; and the always-enterprising Rozzie Franco, reporter with WFLA, 540 AM.

Rozzie, what is the very latest?

ROZZIE FRANCO, REPORTER, WFLA: Well, Jane, I just spoke with P.R. person Todd Black, who`s representing attorney Jose Baez`s firm. And he says that Jose Baez, just a short time ago, was sifting through about 300 documents, and this is the latest discovery that the state has given Jose Baez access to. That`s the very latest as far as what he`s doing now.

Yes, as far as the -- how he`s getting paid. That`s the biggest question that`s got everybody raising their eyebrows right now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but everybody is saying, and the prosecution`s office says, "We are not" -- the prosecutor`s office, "We`re not investigating Jose Baez," as people say. It`s not happening.

And Pam Bondi, it never made any sense to me anyway, the idea that somehow he would sell the story. The story`s out there. It`s in public domain, and we`re going to hear the rest of the story during the trial.

And as far as tweaking it, which was the other allegation, to make it more interesting, how could you get this any more twisted than it already is? It`s already ready for prime time, if you know what I mean.

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA STATE PROSECUTOR: Certainly it is, Jane, and I think he`s working very, very hard on his client`s behalf, as we can all see. You know, you`re always going to hear crazy allegations in a high- profile case like this.

But I can`t see any reason for him to be doing that at this point. And from everything we`ve seen about him, I -- just none of that makes sense to me. And I don`t think prosecutors would waste their time investigating it. I think everybody is focusing on prosecuting the case and defending it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think you`re absolutely right.

Drew Findling, criminal defense attorney, Jose Baez, has taken a lot of hits. I don`t know why. Perhaps it`s because his client is very unpopular. Is there sometimes a connection when you have a very, very despised client that it rubs off on the attorney?

DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I mean, sometimes that does happen. Hey, we just need to think of "To Kill a Mockingbird" and everything that happened there and that lives with us. But sometimes that does happen.

And also remember that the prosecution has to be very careful not to cultivate the image that they`re trying to pick and choose their opponent. That won`t farewell with them, both from an ethical standpoint and from a public standpoint.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`re going to get to the tapes in just a second, but the phone lines are lighting up.

Sherry in Illinois, your question or comment, ma`am.

CALLER: Hi, Jane. Thank you for taking my call.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thanks for calling.

CALLER: My question is about the psychic who claims she was on the phone with the P.I., Casey, and I was wondering if there was any further investigation yet and if that call was ever verified yet.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, very good question, Rozzie. What`s the update on that? Because she said that "I can`t find my phone records. They`re at my dad`s house" or something like that.

FRANCO: Right, that`s correct. As far as the Orange County sheriff`s office, they haven`t released any of Dominique Casey`s phone records at this point, but they`re investigating all three cell phones that he used during that time that he was in the area.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Meantime, we continue to analyze the lost tape from August just released. Watch closely as Casey Anthony gets really angry, I mean really angry during the conversation with her parents.


CASEY ANTHONY, CHARGED WITH MURDER OF DAUGHTER: Let me speak for a second, Dad. I let everybody talk. They`re not releasing it, well, I hope not. I`ll keep saying whatever I have to about the police. They don`t want to go. Can someone let me -- come on!

CINDY ANTHONY, MOTHER OF CASEY: Casey, hold on, sweetheart. Settle down, babe.

CASEY ANTHONY: Nobody`s letting me speak. You want me to talk then give me three seconds to say something.


CASEY ANTHONY: I`m not in control over any of this, because I don`t know what the hell`s going on. I don`t know what`s going on. My entire life has been taken from me. Everything has been taken from me. You don`t understand.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. We`ve all discussed ad nauseam how she`s self- obsessed, but what about this anger, Pam Bondi? Let`s say she takes the stand, which we haven`t heard whether she`s going to do that, but on cross- examination prosecutors push her buttons, and then she explodes like that.

BONDI: Well, I think it would be a dream for a prosecutor to get to cross-examine Casey Anthony. I think the defense attorneys are going to do everything they can to keep her off the stand, because the prosecutors are going to start crossing her by going through and asking her from the very beginning, "Was this true or was this a lie? Was this true or was this a lie?"

And I mean, they will destroy her on cross-examination. So I really would be shocked if she took the witness stand. But, sure, I think that -- I think that shows -- that video shows how dangerous she would be for the defense to put her on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree with you. It would be great to see, but I would be shocked, as well.

And Drew Findling, apparently, the defense just got 300 pages of discovery. We don`t know the nature of it yet, but when you consider all the videotapes and then hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages of discovery, it`s got to be overwhelming for an attorney when their goal was to make a tight, coherent story that`s going to make sense.

FINDLING: Absolutely. I mean, that people don`t understand, they see us in court. They see us trying cases. But it`s behind-the-scenes work that is really where we earn our money, and that is going through volumes and volumes of reports.

You know, we file these motions, and attorneys say, "Hey, Judge, give us these scientific reports," as Baez was doing. "Give us these police reports."

But then when they actually give them to you, Jane, you go, "Oh, now I have them, and now I`ve got to read through all of them." And you do have to read through all of them. And it`s an enormous amount of work, but it needs to be done, so you can come up with the cohesive theory that you were talking about.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Pam Bondi, they`re talking about a change of venue to Jacksonville or Miami, but then somebody else suggested today maybe they can take jurors from another area of Florida and bring them into Orlando and sequester them. Have you ever heard of that?

BONDI: I have. It`s rare, Jane, and you can import jurors. The problem with that is, if you bring the jurors in, and think how hard it`s going to be to find a jury anyway in this state.

Then you have to find these people who are willing to walk away from their lives, walk away from their homes, because if this case is tried in Orlando, they`ll be able to go home every night.


BONDI: Move it into a hotel as opposed to a change of venue. I still think they`re going to try to get a jury in.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Got to leave it right there. We`re going to come back with more stunning developments in this case in a moment.



CASEY ANTHONY: I haven`t watched it yet. I don`t really want to hear anything. The stuff that people are saying, you know what? Again, they`re ignorant and we have to look at it like that. I`m trying to look at things objectively and to stay as calm as I can about it, especially the things that I`m hearing.

I know the most negative stuff that`s being said. And it`s sickening and it`s disgusting, and people really need to get a life. And if they have nothing positive to say, they should shut up.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, really? That was a philosophical, but no less bitter Casey Anthony sending a message to her critics.

I am back with my fabulous expert panel with the lost jailhouse tapes and controversy around defense attorney Jose Baez making a deal. Both sides calling that a false report tonight.

Kathy, Illinois. Your question or comment, ma`am.

CALLER: Hi, thanks for taking my call. The first comment is like it`s just like watching a female version of Scott Peterson.

But my question is this. They originally searched an area near an airport where pings came off of her cell phone. Is it possible that, because of the flooding, are those areas close enough that she could have disposed of Caylee`s body near the airport and it floated down to the area where it was eventually found?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t think so, but Rozzie, you`re in the neighborhood. What do you say?

FRANCO: No, that`s not possible. The land is just too far apart.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, OK. That`s a simple question, and we like the comment, as well.

I get the feeling Casey thinks she`s going to incriminate herself if she opens her mouth. That`s not to say she hasn`t already damaged her own image. You`ve got to listen to this one.


CASEY ANTHONY: I`ve been praying every single day for insight into everybody`s thoughts and everybody`s feelings, so I`d know where you stand and where you`re coming from. And I know where you`re sitting right now and Mom and Lee and Joe Schmoe walking down the block seeing this every day on the media for the last month.

I can understand everybody else`s side of this. But the worst part is that nobody can see my side, and I have to keep my mouth shut. I have to keep my mouth shut about how I feel and with everything else, because all I need to do is give the media more stuff for the detectives and whoever else to throw back in my face when this goes to trial.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Drew Findling, I want to get both Drew and Pam`s reaction. She really does have to zip it. Let`s start with Drew. Defendants can be hung by their own words uttered in jail when another prisoner listening then becomes a snitch, right?

FINDLING: Absolutely. And first of all, just a little twist. You know, she went from Joe the plumber. We went now to Joe Schmoe. We have a new Joe out there. OK?

But you know, Jane, really important here. There`s a reason why attorneys don`t like their clients to make statements, and that is because every time you make a statement, it gives your opponent the opportunity to use that to cross-examine them.

Well, Baez is really boxed in here. With all these statements, she`s talked about every conceivable subject, horribly talked about every subject. There is no chance, no chance whatsoever that she can ever, ever testify. That issue is done, finite.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, absolutely. We`re going to give you ten seconds. The last word, Pam.

BONDI: I agree with what Drew just said. She can`t testify. Defense attorneys only have so much control over their clients, and it would be great for the prosecutors if she did.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`ll have to leave it there.

Pam, Rozzie, thank you. Drew, stick around. A quick reminder: Nancy Grace is up immediately following this program at 8 p.m. Eastern. She will have more bombshells from the Caylee Anthony case.

Coming up, 25-year-old Laura Garza missing since December, after she was seen leaving a nightclub with a convicted sex offender. I`ll tell you what one local man is doing to help find her. And I`ll take your calls on this very tragic story: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. Give me a holler.



BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words: with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children`s children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God`s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HN ANCHOR: Today, celebration; tomorrow, hard work. President Barack Obama. I like the sound of that.

Just a range (ph) today from George W. Bush who in his wake left the country with an unemployment rate double that of eight years ago, an economy in a historic meltdown, two unfinished wars and a worldwide reputation at an all-time low.

That`s quite an inheritance and Americans have placed enormous expectations on President Obama. A new Gallup poll shows 72 percent of us expect better times in four years.

So what lies ahead for the 44th President of the United States? What is his agenda going to be for the first crucial 100 days and what can he realistically fix?

I am back with my fantastic panel: James Boyce, Democratic strategist; Princella Smith, Chief Advocate at American Solutions; and John Avlon, a former Giuliani adviser and columnist for the Daily Beast, plus Ali Velshi, CNN`s chief business correspondent and anchor and author of "Give my Money Back."

Ali, a lot of people are saying what our economy is going through right now is approaching what America has suffer during the Great Depression --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: President Roosevelt in his first 100 days pushed through 15 pieces of legislation --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- that transformed financial regulations and create a safety net. What is President Obama going to do for the economy in his first 100 days?

VELSHI: I think you`re going to see activity in the first ten days. You are going to see -- the only question remains whether his activities are going to be extreme or extremely extreme, Jane.

He`s got the road set out for him. He`s got to come up with a stimulus package. He`s got to deal with these $350 billion from the last bailout that hasn`t been dealt with. He`s got to give banks some instructions that if they`re going get money from the government they have got to start lending it to small businesses and to consumers.

He`s got to deal with unemployment and he`s got to deal with the mortgage crisis. He`s got to figure out how he`s going to stimulate the economy and whether three months ago he said his dream was that the next 15 or 20 years was going to be about alternative energy is that dealt with.

And then Jane, there are all the concerns that were there before the credit crisis, the Social Security crisis and the fact that Medicare will be under-funded over the long-term. We have a massive deficit and a debt.

But he`s got a lot of work to do. The question is will he tackle it all under the cover that he has right now because he has so much support or does he spread it out over a little bit of time? But I don`t think there`s any question and you`re going see some massive, massive changes and legislation coming out of this administration within the next couple of weeks.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Princella Smith, what worries me is that the bailout so far hasn`t worked.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So if the $825 billion or whatever it ends up being, bailout or stimulus plan or whatever you want to call it, doesn`t work, what is plan B?

SMITH: Well Jane, I think you`re absolutely right. The bailout plans have not seemed to work and what we`ve got to do is call for more accountability in the corporate world. We`ve got to find out what exactly was at the root of the problem with these people who did not display creativity and productivity.

And I`ll tell you what else, there`s an underlying current that`s going to come up and you`ll see in recent months and that is that we have a serious problem with the infrastructure in America.

Our airline system is based on something, a radar-based system from the 1950s. We`ve got to regulate --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s scary, very scary.

SMITH: Yes, that`s why we have so many flight delays.

Not only that, he`s got to deal with our education system. It is in shambles. We`ve got to bring more teacher accountability and we`ve got to prepare teachers more.

And lastly, we have a serious energy crisis and we need to find out how to use our nation`s resources as well as move to renewable resources, clean coal, solar power, wind power, so he has his hands full.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely, and he addressed all of this in a manner of speaking. President Obama again, I like the sound of that didn`t waste much time to get to the severe economic problems today but he also laid out a solution in general terms.

Let`s listen.


OBAMA: The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.

We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology`s wonders to raise healthcare`s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools, and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

All this we can do. All this we will do.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Before I get to my other panelists, I want to go back to Ali Velshi. My concern is that`s going take a while to implement --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- and right now this crisis is worsening.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: One in every 54 households is in foreclosure and the unemployment rate is rising. So the problem is getting worse, but it`s going to take time --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- to implement these solutions.

VELSHI: Well, ultimately, you have to think of this as a two-year program starting with things right now that are ready to go, projects that have been tendered out and they`ve been cost -checked but they`re just waiting for money. So you can start rolling that now.

At the back end of the program has to be the alternative energy stuff because you know, Jane, the oil prices have come down dramatically, but the minute the world economy turns around and these things can turn around inside of two or three months when they start going, we`re back into an energy crisis again.

You know because you`re passionate about this but the fact is, energy has got to be the long-term solution. So they`ve got to -- the issue that the White House has right now is they`ve got to stagger the roll out of -- if it`s an $800 billion program and how much money gets written and how much money gets written in two weeks and every month over the next two years until the last one is about changing buildings over and changing car factories and things like that so that they`re more energy efficient.

What we`ve got to do is -- it`s a matter of timing. It`s not the money, it`s how you spend it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The one thing I wish is that the presidential vehicle could have been an electric vehicle.

VELSHI: I agree.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I understand why he couldn`t because they`ve got to get those fast getaways --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I guess there are technological reasons. But that would be the only thing. One day I think we`ll have a --

VELSHI: I agree.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A presidential vehicle be an electric vehicle.

President Obama always speaks about inclusiveness. Take a listen.


OBAMA: For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture drawn from every end of this earth.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: John Avlon, it was a fantastic speech. I was moved to tears.

One thing I didn`t hear in the inclusiveness was a reference to sexual orientation and gays which is interesting because the biggest controversy surrounding this whole inauguration was the inclusion of Pastor Rick Warren doing the invocation because he has spoken out and lashed out against homosexuality.

JOHN AVLON, AUTHOR, "INDEPENDENT NATION": Sure. But I think it`s important not to take a checklist approach to his inaugural address like this, it`s very clear from his personal beliefs that Barack Obama not only understands, but embodies our nation`s fundamental diversity and he believes in the fundamental unity in diversity.

So I think if we start analyzing inaugural addresses from -- does this box get checked off or not -- that`s where things start to fall apart. The important thing is to focus on what unites us as Americans and not what divides us and we know we have a President who is passionate about advancing that idea.

That is a sea change in and upon itself. So I think that`s a positive of what to look for rather than trying to look for where things might not have met every group`s individual aspirations.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: James Boyce, what I found a little puzzling or disturbing is that I expected some kind of confidence bump in the stock market and the stock market went down today, quite significantly, the last time I checked anyway.

What`s that about? Is it because he was scolding greed on Wall Street?

JAMES BOYCE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don`t think so. I think that`s President Bush`s final gift to us. Half the day today was President Bush`s day and I`m going to give him the stock market. Just as -- when you were going through the litany of problems that President Obama inherits.

What a tragedy it is for America that when President Bush took the oath of office in 2000, we had a surplus and we were at peace back then, Jane. And I think that 300-plus decline today was -- actually I had a moment behind the Capitol when I saw the helicopter take off and Bush leave, and that was his final gift that 300 point decline.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right. It sure is. Ali Velshi, final thoughts on the stock market drop today.

VELSHI: Yes, the markets were closed yesterday for MLK and as a result we know European markets are way down because of some banking issues. We knew we`d see this today. There`s still a lot of doubt about the banking sector, but all in all, I think the financial community is relieved as everyone else that we have an administration that`s not shackled by ideology now.

And I think you`re going to see people getting to that stock market and buying it. Don`t worry about today.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, I hope you`re right, Ali and you usually are so that`s good news. James, John, Princella, Ali, thanks so much for your insights. Come back soon.

President Obama ran for office on what he characterized as a post partisan platform. Here he is describing the way forward in this new political era.


OBAMA: Our capacity remains undiminished. Our time of standing pat and protecting narrow interest and putting off unpleasant decisions, that time has surely passed. Starting today we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Laura Garza went missing last month after leaving a night club with a convicted sex offender. I`ll have an update on the search in moments.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight: stunning news in the murder of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson`s family. William Balfour was hauled into court today and pleaded not guilty to the murders of Hudson`s mother, brother and nephew. Balfour, the estranged husband of Hudson`s sister, was formally indicted in the October murders of Darnell Donerson, Jason Hudson and seven-year-old Julian King.

The defense requested to transfer Balfour from state prison to a county jail so that he would have more access to his attorney, but today the judge postponed that ruling. Balfour being held without bail scheduled to appear in court again next week.

Here on "ISSUES" I will be sure to give you the latest update on that despicable crime.

Another heartbreaking story of loss tonight: beautiful Texas native Laura Garza last seen December 3rd leaving a Manhattan nightclub with convicted sex offender Michael Mele. While the search for her continues, Laura`s family has temporarily relocated to New York City, their hopes and finances dwindling fast. They`re treading water, but the local community is rallying to their aid.

The local community right here in New York and that includes an upstate New York jeweler who is offering $10,000 in reward money.

I will be taking your calls on this case in moments, but first I want to talk to that generous member of the community, Barry Fixler, owner of Barry`s estate jewelry. He is offering $10,000 of his own money to anyone who provides a tip that leads to finding Laura Garza.

Barry, great to have you on the show. Kudos for your generosity and your concern for this family who you don`t know personally, or you didn`t until you read about it, you truly are a good Samaritan. What made you get involved?

BARRY FIXLER, DONATED REWARD MONE: When I first heard about it the reward to find her was only $4,200. $4,200 didn`t sit well with me, and I just couldn`t let it pass. I woke up one morning and went to the phone and I just said I just have to put up another $10,000 for the awareness of her; for people to come out and look for her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You have a daughter so I understand that you identify with the grief and the horror that this family is experiencing, and they really do need your help. You`ve also pitched in $1,000 apparently to allow them to print up flyers and t-shirts? Tell us about that.

FIXLER: The printing up t-shirts and flyers and the $1,000 is for that. I have a daughter. My daughter is a little older than Laura. My daughter -- my biggest fear that I have is the word missing. I just couldn`t live with a loved one missing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, he had been picked up, this suspect in the case at the Palisades Mall in Rockland County which is in the area in which you live. That`s your neck of the woods basically, and I hate to be gross, but this is the truth. He was arrested for masturbating toward women that were in this in this mall or the parking lot. This guy was a level one sex offender.

Does it outrage you that he was walking the streets?

FIXLER: Totally outrages me. That`s another main reason why I`m doing this. He has to stay in jail for the rest of his life. He can`t be with the public

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Barry, I want to thank you for what you`re doing to help the Garza family. And I wish there were more people like you out there, and I hope other people join you. And I understand one of your fellow merchants is now helping with coupons.

Way to go, Barry, and let`s hope that this family gets some relief and closure. Thank you so much.

FIXLER: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Police say after Laura Garza disappeared, suspect Michael Mele`s SUV was cleaned. He had bite and scratch marks indicating a possible struggle and also a section of carpeting missing from his apartment, reportedly big enough to wrap a body in; carpeting also found off a roadway close to Mele`s home. It`s believed to be significant, but the forensic test on that piece of carpet not back, six weeks later. Why so long?

Let me bring in my terrific panel: Drew Findling, Atlanta criminal defense attorney and Lisa Bloom, anchor of "In Session."

Lisa, with the family treading water as we`ve mentioned; struggling financially to stay in New York, they`re from Texas, could they speed up these tests so that they might get answers sooner. Six weeks to test a carpet?

LISA BLOOM, ANCHOR, "IN SESSION": Yes, the problem is dwindling resources in crime labs and it`s a problem across the country. In the Crystal Worthington case in Massachusetts, it took more than six months for some forensic tests to be done while a rapist and a murderer was out on the loose and ultimately he was tried for that crime.

Unfortunately, we need to devote more resources to these crime labs. Even though he`s not talking, Jane, the forensics should nail him, if indeed he is the killer. There should be blood; there should be other kinds of bodily fluids. There should be hair. There should be samples connected not only to the carpet, to his car, to his body that would link him to this crime.

It just seems like there`s too much out there and once those results come back, we should say something.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: As reports point out he has not been charged in connection with this crime. He is considered a suspect that`s been upgraded from person of interest.

Phone lines lighting up. Jo in New York, your question or thought?

JO, CALLER FROM NEW YORK: Hi, Jane. I work in Newberg where Mele lived and he went to school and where he was last seen with Garza. Newberg has a lot of wooded area. How well was it checked by authorities?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I can tell you and you could see some of the video, Drew Findling, of the authorities searching this area. They did a grid; hundreds and hundreds of officers on horseback with dogs, going into lakes. I hand it to the authorities. They have really, really put a lot of resources into the search.

But it`s hard to find what they`re looking for, sadly although she is considered a missing person, they fear she is dead.

DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely. This is a painstaking process and they`re going to approach it and try to cover every area in an organized fashion as long as it takes.

From a forensic standpoint, Jane, I will tell you as a defense attorney, what you always are concerned with is when prosecutors and law enforcement take their time and really look at every category of forensic evidence and really focus in on it and don`t rush. When they rush there are gaping holes to attack during the course of the case. I would imagine law enforcement and prosecutors here are thinking long-term -- that maybe economically difficult -- but long-term is going to ensure a better and more accurate and strong prosecution.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lisa Bloom, very briefly, we`ll get into it more, easy pass being sought. Remember the Melanie Maguire case where she was convicted of killing her husband and the easy pass helped nail her?

BLOOM: Yes, absolutely. And also a case out of New Hampshire called Fitzpatrick that we covered on "In Session;" same thing. People don`t realize that if you have easy pass on your car, even if you pay cash and you don`t go through the easy pass lane, it still pings and it still indicates when you have gone through that toll. So easy pass is a terrific law enforcement tool that can really indicate where people have been.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold that thought. Thank you so much. We have more bombshells to discuss in the search for Laura Garza.

I`m going to be taking more of your questions; 1-877-JVM-SAYS. Talk to my expert panel.

But first, here`s Laura Garza`s mother pleading for her daughter.


ELIZABETH ESQUIVEL, LAURA GARZA`S MOTHER (through translator): Please, help your son, ask him. She is a mother like I am. So please ask him where`s my Laura.




NICOLAS GARZA, LAURA GARZA`S BROTHER: We are getting tired already for this person to be -- he is silenced. They don`t want him to speak. One way or another he needs to speak out.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That is the brother of Laura Garza, outside the Orange County courthouse last week calling on suspect Michael Mele to end his silence on Garza. Mele, the last person seen with Garza December 3rd.

Back with my fantastic panel. The phone lines lighting up.

Diane, Pennsylvania, question or thought, ma`am?

DIANE, CALLER FROM PENNSYLVANIA: Hi, Jane. I`d like to know if Laura left with or was followed by this creature. And also, was she with a group of friends and did they see her leave?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: My understanding, Lisa Bloom, is that she had been at the Marquee with some friends or a friend and that somehow got separated from them. The family believes she was drugged and that`s the only reason she would leave with this guy because she was not known to be a drinker. She was an aspiring dancer. And the only reason she was at the club is that she likes to dance. She was really kind of a goody two shoes.

BLOOM: I always say to young women, we have to stick together. You have to look out for the girlfriends. Do not leave that club without her. Do not let her leave with a guy that she doesn`t know even if she wants to; even if she`s under the influence of alcohol or under the influence of lust -- don`t let her do it. Don`t let your girlfriend go off alone.

Unfortunately, that seems to be what happened here. I don`t think we know enough, Jane based on the security video. We know that she was leaving with him. Doesn`t -- we don`t know if that means he was following her, she was leaving voluntarily or if she was drugged.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The probation system, Drew Findling, appears to be somewhat broken. He had three probation violations at least. He didn`t go to mandatory counseling. He left his parent`s home. Moved into another place which was a violation and he also went to that club and was drinking. Why wasn`t he caught before?

FINDLING: Well, let`s break it down. The failure -- the most important thing was the failure to report the address change and the reason that was important is because he was a registered sex offender. And it is a felony not to give your probation officer your change of address because you are tracked. That was the big one and he was indicted for that felony offense.

The other offenses, you know, they just normally get picked up on your average probation because you don`t go report, you don`t give information, you skip. It takes some time for that person to be apprehended. Usually it happens. It just so happens that there`s a huge focus on this man because of what he`s suspected of doing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we will have too --

BLOOM: But Jane, Jane -- he should not have been out on probation in the first place for his so-called minor sex crimes. That`s ridiculous.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ll leave it right there. That`s it.

Thank you so much, both. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell and you`re watching "ISSUES" on HLN.