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White House Considering Health Care Nuclear Option?; Michael Jackson's Doctor Breaks Silence

Aired August 18, 2009 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: breaking news that could change everything in the White House battle for health care reform. Call it the nuclear option.

After negotiating with the Republicans, conservative Democrats and, seemingly, themselves over parts of a plan, CNN has learned that the administration could be getting closer to a very big change, namely, crafting a health care bill, then trying to ram it through the Senate, even if it passes by only a single vote.

Now, this comes, of course, after taking it on the chin at town halls, sometimes over things not even part of any plan. This weekend, the White House seemed to back away from the so-called public option, a government-provided insurance alternative.

Today, the White House says nothing has changed; they still want that public option. But now it seems they may be considering some tough moves to make that happen.

Ed Henry has got solid sourcing in the White House and Capitol Hill. So does Dana Bash.

First, Ed with what his sources are telling him.

Ed, what have you learned?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the key is that there's no final decision, but top Democrats close to the White House are saying they are now actively considering the possibility of sort of doing a go-it-alone strategy.

It's a budget maneuver, very obscure, known as reconciliation, where they would only need a simple majority, get 51 votes, instead of 60 votes, to push through health reform. Republicans would scream that this is a power grab, it's an underhanded move.

But -- but White House officials are already laying the groundwork by saying, look, we have been working with Republicans for months. If they don't get something done in the next few weeks, we are have to take drastic measures.

And, in fact, as one top adviser to the president put it to me, if we have to push it through this way, no one is going to remember how messy it is. What they will remember at the end of the day is that we got health care done. As this adviser said -- quote -- "A win is a win." And that is what people are going to remember. It will be messy, but, if they have to do it -- they are not ready to pull the trigger yet, but, if they have to do it, they think people will forget about the process and they will remember the substance -- Anderson.

COOPER: Do you know what that means for, for instance, the public option? Is this a way of guaranteeing that?

HENRY: This makes it more likely that there would be a public option, but not guarantee it, because if -- obviously, if the Democrats don't need to win over as many conservative Democrats in the Senate, for example, and didn't need to win over any moderate Republicans, let alone conservative Republicans, it would definitely mean it's more likely there would be a public option.

But everything is on the table and potentially off the table right now. There is a lot of horse-trading going on and nothing is guaranteed -- Anderson.

COOPER: Dana Bash joins us also on the phone.

Dana, what are you hearing from your sources about moving forward without Republicans?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what I'm hearing and what I have been hearing for the past couple of days certainly jibes with what Ed is saying.

And that is that, from administration and Hill sources on the Democratic side, that they are saying that they believe more and more that Republicans, the lead Republicans negotiating who have been negotiating for months are not serious and are not as serious as they were about really having a robust bipartisan deal.

That is because of comments, they say, that Chuck Grassley, the lead Republican, has made over the past couple of days suggesting that he is not really in -- in negotiations, he is just in talks, and comments saying that, if he can't get more than four Republicans, it is going to be tough, that plus comments from another Senate Republican just today, Anderson, Jon Kyl, the number-two Republican, ripping the idea of any kind of health care reform at all.

So, all those taken together, Democrats say, they -- is a signal that they are probably going to have to do this with Democrats alone. Now, Republicans are saying, you know, that Democrats are using that -- that as an excuse, but maybe Republicans are giving them one to try to push forward on this without them.

COOPER: You know, Ed Henry, if -- if this is true, and this is seriously under consideration, it seems a far cry from just what we were hearing over the weekend from the White House, from Kathleen Sebelius, from from -- the president himself, from Robert Gibbs, where they were talking about, you know, the public option just being one of several things, and the key thing is competition and -- and choice.

To go from that to suddenly moving forward, just ramming this thing through, it seems like all day today they have been saying nothing is changing, nothing has changed.


COOPER: It seems like a lot has changed.

HENRY: Well, you are right. And here is the reason why they're not -- that is the exact why they are not pulling the trigger tonight on this, is because, over the weekend, it was all about trying to -- the president showing flexibility on Saturday night at that town hall by saying, maybe there won't be a public option, Kathleen Sebelius on John King's "STATE OF THE UNION" on Sunday also leaving the door open to no public option, although she didn't close the door either.

She -- she left that door open. That was all about trying to bring in a Kent Conrad, bringing in a conservative Democrat like Ben Nelson in the Senate, show some flexibility. And that's why -- you're right -- if they ram this through with this procedural motion, that will -- will close that door, and conservative Democrats will be -- will be potentially angry.

So, what this is all about this weekend was showing flexibility, giving conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans a couple more weeks, until the end of the recess. The key time frame will be mid- September,when Congress comes back. They are going to let it go until then. But if there is no movement, that's then they would pull the trigger -- Anderson.

BASH: And, Anderson, it really is curious, because, I mean, it was very interesting. Just today, Senator Chuck Grassley -- again, he's the lead Republican who has been trying to -- who has been in that room trying to negotiate something -- he revealed that, in a private meeting with the president, he's the one who suggested that -- that the president should make public that, you know, he could go for a bill that doesn't have that government-run health care option.

So, you have so much of this maneuvering going on. And -- and it would seem, on the one hand, as if somebody like -- like Chuck Grassley, that Republican, could -- could stay on board because of what the president said.

But, just like Ed is saying, I mean, the key here that we have to remember is that it is not just about Republicans. It is the question about what you do to these conservative Democrats. There are many of them, many more than I think people realize, members of the president's own party, who don't necessarily agree with the core approach of that public option.

And those are the -- that is the -- the tough part for the White House right now.

COOPER: It could get rough.

Dana Bash, Ed Henry, appreciate the reporting. Thanks.

More now on the "Raw Politics" with political contributor and GOP consultant Alex Castellanos, who, we should mention, has been a key figure to the White House reform effort, also Roy Sekoff, founding editor of "The Huffington Post."

Roy, what do you make of this? Is this wise for the White House to choose this -- this option?

ROY SEKOFF, FOUNDING EDITOR, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": Well, it's actually very good news, Anderson, because the only thing that they have been consistent with their inconsistency.

As they were reporting, right, it's Sebelius. She's walking back the things she said this weekend. And this has -- this has been going on for months. Remember, back in July, when Obama was in Russia, Rahm Emanuel first floated the trial balloon of no public option, and then Obama had to walk it back all the way from Russia, which is -- which is pretty far.

You know, Sarah Palin could see it from her porch. So, this is actually, I think, very good news, because this is what people have been waiting for, at least progressives have been waiting for, is the -- the president to make a strong move and say: This is what I'm for. I'm drawing a line in the sand, and there will not be, you know, a legislation that I will sign if it doesn't have a public option, the right to negotiate, prevention, you know, a really clear signal.

And I think this is what we're finally seeing.

COOPER: Alex, this is something President Bush did on several -- several things. Is this wise for President Obama to do?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it still doesn't solve his political problem. He may have drawn a line in the sand, but sand shifts.

They misplayed their hand politically here. You don't give up your biggest negotiating chip before you get to the negotiating table. And that is what Secretary Sebelius did this week, saying they might be willing to give up the public plan.

The left wing of the Democratic Party went up in flames. And, you know, the worst thing that a -- an incumbent president can have running for reelection is a primary from the wing, a loss of support of enthusiasm.

So, you know, Barack Obama here, I think, is trying to recoup his political chips. We will have to wait and see if this really means he is not willing to throw the public plan, the government-run plan, under the bus.

Remember, the problem here is not Republicans. He has 60 votes in the Senate. And now he's saying that the government-run plan is so unpopular that, hey, I will take 50 votes, and I will give some Democrats cover. A lot of Democrats are going to to -- to have tough political races in 2010. They -- Barack Obama won't be on the ballot, but this health plan will be.

COOPER: Roy, for...

SEKOFF: Anderson...

COOPER: ... for progressives, is the public option clearly not something that can be negotiated away?

SEKOFF: Yes. I mean, this is -- there -- there is no real reform without the public option.

And I think what the Democrats are seeing is that Alex is right. This could be a losing issue in 2010, if they let it get whittled down to the point when it's reform only in name, right? And, at that point, the -- it won't work, because it won't work without real reform. And then the Republicans will turn around it and use it as a cudgel in 2010 and 2012, and saying -- say, see, government can't do anything right.

So, I think this is -- I think this is a real key issue. And Alex is right t. The base is in danger. There was a story in "The New York Times," if you saw, that the grassroots people are not rising up, Obama's vaunted grassroots effort is not rising up on this issue. And it's because they have been so unclear about it.

I mean, people are not going to leave their houses to go knock on the door to pitch something that they are not clear what it is. And I think that's been their problem.

CASTELLANOS: Anderson, this is -- this is a very different Obama than we saw in the campaign.

Obama of the campaign is, the -- there is no red America, no blue America, no Republican, no Democrat. There is one America.

Tonight, if -- if what we are hearing is correct, if he does say we are going to cling to the public plan, government-run plan, no matter what, he is saying, look, blue America wins. That's -- I'm the president of that America.

This government-run plan doesn't have the support in the middle. That's why he is losing Democrats' support in the Senate and is thinking of trying to jam this through quickly with 50 votes.

COOPER: Yes, Alex -- Roy, do you think this is really something that they would go ahead with, or do you think they're maybe just trying to float this idea to put pressure on everyone to come to some sort of agreement?

SEKOFF: Yes, I think that has to be part of it.

If you remember, just -- just today, Gibbs said that they hadn't decided whether they were going to stop negotiating with the Republicans. This is after, as Dana was saying, all of the signals were sent. We had Kyl saying that he wasn't going to whip up any votes, and Grassley saying that he might not even be able to support the thing that he was negotiating for.

So, all -- all the signals were there. And, yet, they were saying they were not -- were not sure yet. So, my question would be, when would they be sure? When the support of the American people dropped to 29 percent? You know, I think this is something that they are putting out there maybe as a threat that they could pull back. And I think it is a smart move.

COOPER: We're going to leave it there.


COOPER: Alex, go ahead.

CASTELLANOS: Anderson, a lot of Democrats, I think, around town were saying if we are not going to get a government-run plan, the Holy Grail of the Democratic Party, then why did Barack Obama burn up 20 points of political capital? Why did he spend six months? Why did he see his favorable and job ratings drop from the 70s to the 50s? We could have done this six months ago.

So, I think, you know, he's got to get those chips back on his side of the table. And, if he needs them at the end, then we will see. I think it is still in play.

COOPER: All right, in play. We will see.

Roy Sekoff, appreciate it, Alex Castellanos as well.

SEKOFF: Good to see you.

COOPER: A lot more happening tonight on health care and more, including Michael Jackson's doctor speaking out for the first time.

Randi Kaye joins us with a quick preview.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot going on, on this front, Anderson.

It has been nearly two months since Michael Jackson died, and, for the first time tonight, his personal physician who was at his house when he suffered cardiac arrest is talking. It was not an interview, but a taped video statement released on the Internet. We will play that video for you in just a few minutes.

And you can judge for yourself what you think of Dr. Murray's statements that he -- quote -- "told the truth." Remember, now, he is a central figure in an investigation that is focused on manslaughter and a killer cocktail of drugs.

Also new tonight, Michael Jackson will finally be laid to rest. We will give you the details on when and where.

COOPER: All right, Randi, thanks.

As always, there is more online at You can join the live chat, talk to other viewers around the world and the United States, right now under way.

Up next, back to health care -- 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta taking the questions that you have been sending in to our site.

And, later, new evidence concerning who may have ordered these ninja-clad assassins to kill Byrd and Melanie Billings. Or were they just robbers? What one of their 13 children saw that terrible evening -- we will talk to the local sheriff, who has got plenty to say.

We will be right back.


COOPER: We began the hour with the breaking news on health care reform, word the White House could be getting ready to stop trying to win Republican support, or even some conservative Democrats, and instead push it through the Senate with 51 votes.

So, let's turn now to 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta, who has been gathering your questions about health care reform at

It has been a busy day, no doubt.

Sanjay, our first question is from Shatika, who asks, what would the potential public option actually cover?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it would -- you know, it would cover your -- your primary care, your emergency care. There would be several levels of care, Shatika, as well.

You would have a basic plan, an enhanced plan, a premium plan, a premium-plus plan, all of these at different rates, different premiums.

I think what is also important -- and this might be to your point, Shatika, not everyone would be eligible to be covered under the public option. So, imagine situations like this. You are uninsured. You go to thing called an exchange, a health exchange, and you look at the different options overall, including a public option.

Unless you -- if you don't have access to private insurance or Medicare or Medicaid, you might qualify for the public option. But you also can't have premiums that are -- that are less than 11 percent of your total income as well. That is a lot of numbers to throw at you. Just keep in mind that not everyone is going to qualify for the public option.

COOPER: So, the next question is from Janice.

She wants to know, how does the plan focus on prevention?

GUPTA: Well, yes, that is a great question. And it's something we have been hearing almost since the beginnings of these discussions about health care reform.

And some of the specifics are, there's a Senate Finance Committee, which says it's going to give some funding to the states to try and come up with some innovative programs for -- for health and wellness. The House committee says they are going to come up with some national strategies to make us a healthier country overall.

Now, you know, a lot of people say, look, it makes a lot of sense to keep someone from getting sick in the first place. So, it might mean, for a woman out there who has diabetes, she might be able to get blood sugar checks in her home, as opposed to coming to the E.R. with blood sugars that are out of control.

Other people will say, look, it is very hard to legislate good behavior. There are people who have fantastic insurance, access to everything in the world, and they are still not very good at taking care of themselves. So, how exactly it will play out, a little bit harder to tell.

COOPER: Yes, very hard, indeed.

A question from Dottie. She writes in asking, how will reform affect those on Medicare and Medicaid?

GUPTA: These are -- these are great questions, I have got to say.

Dottie -- Dottie, first of all, what we're hearing from the White House, from the president specifically, is that there should be no -- no impact on the overall services provided by Medicare or Medicaid. Having said that, you also hear that hundreds of billions of dollars of wasteful spending of Medicare will be eliminated.

Now, what people are worried about, what a lot of the noise is about, sort of cutting through that, is that, if you're cutting money for Medicare at the same time that our population is getting older, how is that all going to work out? Are you going to be able to still be able to cover everyone on Medicare, the way that it's covered now?

And, Anderson, you and I have talked about this, but fewer than 10 percent of people on Medicare say that they -- they have had a bad experience with Medicare. Most of the people are generally satisfied with the way things are now.

Two more points. It's likely that under the health care reform that we are hearing about, Medicare and Medicaid would likely get bigger. Medicare may allow people between the ages of 55 and 64 to buy in at full cost. And Medicaid may raise the income level at which you qualify for Medicaid -- so, possibly expansion of both those governmental programs as well.

COOPER: All right, Sanjay, appreciate it. Thanks.

A lot more ahead, including the local sheriff on new evidence on the murder of Byrd and Melanie Billings.

Later, more on the Jackson case, details on the burial, a new lawsuit, and his doctor speaking out for the first time.


DR. CONRAD MURRAY, PERSONAL PHYSICIAN OF MICHAEL JACKSON: Please, don't worry. As long as I keep God in my heart and you in my life, I will be fine.



COOPER: Tonight, we are hearing a new voice in the Michael Jackson story. For the first time, the singer's doctor, Conrad Murray, is speaking out in a YouTube video. We're going to tell you what he is saying coming up.

First, Erica Hill has a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, conservative columnist and former CNN "CROSSFIRE" co-host Robert Novak is being remembered tonight as a Washington institution and a staunch ideologue who embraced the nickname "The Prince of Darkness." He died today after a yearlong battle with brain cancer. Bob Novak was 78.

A new U.S. intelligence report describes how Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is moving to silence his critics by shutting down privately-owned media outlets. Now, the report points to the recent closure of nearly three dozen privately-owned radio stations and a proposed law to punish so-called media crimes. Venezuela's government says the radio station shutdowns and the media crimes law are not related.

For the first time ever, the U.S. Army planning to require its more than one million soldiers to take intensive training in emotional resiliency. Translation here, they're getting help dealing with stress. According to news report, the program is meant to improve combat performance and also stem the mental health problems plaguing about a fifth of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The first hurricane of the 2009 Atlantic season, Bill, is now a major Category 3 storm packing sustained winds near 125 miles per hour. The good news here, though, forecasters say that storm, Anderson, poses no danger to the United States.

COOPER: That is good news, indeed. The season has begun.

All right, ahead on 360, junk science, is it putting innocent people in prison and letting criminals go free? Tonight, a "CSI" reality check.

And more from Dr. Conrad Murray, the Jackson physician telling his side of the story in a videotaped message and insisting the truth will prevail.


COOPER: We are fast approaching perhaps the most dangerous moment in Afghanistan since American forces first went in, more than 60,000 American forces in harm's way two days from a presidential election, with the Taliban going all-out to try to make it a bloodbath. They hit a Western convoy on the main road out of the capital, Kabul, killing at least eight, wounding more than 50, among the dead, one soldier, two Afghans working for the U.N.

Also today, a rocket attack on Kabul's presidential palace -- no injuries reported in that. But two American troops were killed in eastern Afghanistan, three Afghans blown up a checkpoint.

And remember those purple fingers that Iraqi voters got? Well, in Afghanistan, they are planning to do the same. And the Taliban, they're now threatening to chop those fingers off.

High stakes all around.

Joining us, national security analyst Peter Bergen, who spent a lot of time in the region, and Michael Ware as well, two veterans of the conflict.

Peter, these latest attacks, Taliban has already made it clear they are going to interview with the election. Have effective have they been, do you think can they be?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, unfortunately they are somewhat effective. I mean, up to around 10 percent of the polling places probably are not going to open because of Taliban intimidation.

And I think these kinds of attacks -- I was just in Afghanistan talking to folks there, and a lot of people advising their families, particularly if they live outside Kabul, not to vote, because they are concerned that, either on the way to the polling station or coming out of there, that they will be subject to attacks by the Taliban.

COOPER: Michael, the fact they did a rocket attack on the presidential palace, what does that say?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it is symbolic, more than anything. It wasn't effective. We have seen attacks in the capital, Kabul, before.

In fact, on that same Jalalabad road, I have witnessed a suicide attack on an ISAF convoy. So, to some degree, it is not new. But it is timely. It is a reminder. The Taliban is using the -- the power of perception to intimidate voters.

I don't believe their power to effectively stop the elections exists. But can they disrupt? Can they spoil in certain areas? Can they cast a pall over it? That is possible.

COOPER: How does the -- Peter, how does the battle where -- where Marines are now fighting, how is that going?

BERGEN: Well, I think, you know, according to spokesmen for the Marines in the -- in the south, the battle is -- you know, they haven't necessarily encountered large numbers of the Taliban. I mean, the Taliban have plenty of notice to leave. There have been spots where there has been pretty intense fighting.

But we have seen the Taliban mounting attacks in the north. So, clearly, the Taliban have a strategy. If they know that there's going to be large attacks by U.S. forces in the south, they are going to try to mount other attacks, both in the north and now, as we have seen, in the capital.

COOPER: From your perspective, Michael, how do you see the battle?

WARE: Well, I think the battle has only just begun.

If you look the map of the Marines and the Brits are targeting, that is Helmand Province. That is part of the heartland, but only part of the heartland.

COOPER: So, basically, the Taliban has faded away in a lot of those areas, right?

WARE: As they did against the Russians, as any guerrilla force does. It is classic insurgent tactics. If you face overwhelming forces, you pull back to fight to wait for another day.

COOPER: And the fact the border in Pakistan is so porous makes that all the easier?

WARE: Absolutely.

I mean, their lines of communication, their supply lines in and out of Pakistan remain intact. And just in that one province alone, Helmand, 4,000 Marines have gone in. But they are not even halfway through the province yet, certainly in terms of Taliban concentration.

There is a long way to go, if anyone thinks that we can take Helmand Province.

COOPER: Peter, do we know -- I mean, is Karzai expected to win this election?

BERGEN: Well, yes, because he may lose the first round. He has to get 50 percent, in which case it goes to the runoff. And he will almost certainly win the second round.

But he could even win the first round, Anderson. I would predict that that is quite possible. In the most recent poll, he was getting 44 percent. He needs 50 percent. He has allowed the return of a warlord by they name of Dostum, an Uzbek warlord who controls about 10 percent of the vote. And he's cast in his lot with Karzai. And that might well put him over the 50 percent mark, in which case, you know, it is only one round.

COOPER: And -- and, Michael, what does a Karzai victory mean for America?

WARE: Well, for America, this is a very complicated election. Obviously, Karzai has been an ally of America. He's relied on America. But he has failed to deliver for America. I mean, his government, by definition of any Afghan government, is a hodgepodge of warlords, with an administration riddled with corruption.

The fact that he needs Dostum to push him over the line, Dostum is currently being investigated by the Obama administration for potential crimes against humanity.

COOPER: Right. There's allegations that they took part in mass executions of Taliban prisoners.

WARE: Of the Taliban during the U.S. invasion.

But that is the nature of Afghan politics. But I would say that this is an election where U.S. strategic interests have very little to gain, but are risking a lot or could have a lot to lose.

COOPER: Peter, how -- I mean, can one put a timetable on -- on this war in Afghanistan?

BERGEN: Well, Anderson, I think there's a political timetable in the United States and other NATO countries, which is probably about a year, which is, if there isn't sort of progress been made -- already, 54 percent of Americans think the war was a mistake, according to a recent poll with -- by CNN. That number -- number went up from 42 percent a few months ago, and was only 9 percent in 2002.

So, you know, American -- the American public is getting increasingly skeptical. Fifty-one House Democrats voted against funding for the war back in May. You know, the Republicans are certainly going to make an issue of this if progress isn't happening in the -- as the midterm elections in 2010 gear up.

So, I think the political timeline is about a year. You know, to get Afghanistan on the track to stability and relative prosperity, that is going to take longer than a year.

COOPER: Well, long, indeed.

Peter Bergen, appreciate it.

Michael Ware, thanks very much, as always.

A lot more to learn at, including Peter Bergen's dispatch on the Taliban titled "Hardly Winning."

New information raises so many new questions. Join the live chat right now at We will have the latest in the Michael Jackson story -- his doctor, Conrad Murray, speaking out for the first time. Why now? And why on YouTube? Well, you can guess that.

Also, junk science in court convicting innocent people. "CSI" is the fantasy. Reality is, a lot of these things are not precise and downright phony. Tonight, mean a man who spent half his life in prison because of shoddy crime scene practices. And it could happen to you.

We will be right back.


COOPER: Tonight the doctor at the center of Michael Jackson's death investigation is speaking out on camera for the first time, telling, he says, the truth about what happened. Well, telling very little about it.

Dr. Conrad Murray was Jackson's primary physician. He's now the subject of a possible manslaughter case and allegedly gave Jackson a powerful anesthetic in the last 24 hours of his life.

Now, Murray's obviously kept a very low profile since Jackson's death. Today that changed. Randi Kaye has an up close.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It may be just 60 seconds long, but that's long enough for Michael Jackson's doctor to say he told the truth.

DR. CONRAD MURRAY, MICHAEL JACKSON'S PERSONAL PHYSICIAN: I have done all I could do. I told the truth, and I have faith the truth will prevail.

KAYE: Dr. Murray has been interviewed twice by investigators. But this is the first time since his star patient died back in June that he's speaking out publicly. The doctor was at Jackson's Beverly Hills mansion when he stopped breathing. And he's at the center of the investigation into the star's death.

His lawyer's office says he's, quote, "under siege with threats and has a bodyguard 24/7."

MURRAY: Because of all that is going on, I'm afraid to return phone calls or use my e-mail. Therefore, I recorded this video to let all of you know that I have been receiving your messages.

KAYE: A source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN that Dr. Murray gave Jackson the powerful sedative Diprivan, also known as Propofol, within 24 hours of his death. That anesthetic, which investigators believe killed him is not supposed to be used outside a hospital setting.

There is no mention of Michael Jackson or his treatment on the video.

(on camera) A spokeswoman for Dr. Murray's lawyer told me the video was recorded last night inside a Houston home. Dr. Murray did not write it, but it was his idea to record it. She told me that Doctor Murray's lawyer gets 20 to 30 calls every day from patients, even strangers, asking them to tell Dr. Murray they love him and are praying for him. (voice-over) Dr. Murray's clinics in both Houston and Las Vegas have been searched by federal drug agents. His Vegas home was also searched.

MURRAY: Your messages give me strength and courage and keep me going. They mean the world to me. Please, don't worry. As long as I keep God in my heart and you in my life, I will be fine.

KAYE: But there's more. Dr. Murray may also be the target of a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the Jackson family. The family's lawyer said the idea has been, quote, "floated" and that Dr. Murray and even Jackson's tour promoter, AEG, could be named.

Dr. Murray's lawyer's spokeswoman said, "We're just asking people to reserve their judgment until we have some definite ruling on what killed Michael Jackson."

At AEG, a spokesman told me he was not aware of any lawsuit.

Dr. Murray was not an AEG employee but was hand-picked by Jackson to treat him on tour. He was to be paid $150,000 a month, money from the tour's budget that had been advanced to Jackson. The singer died before Dr. Murray ever saw a penny.


COOPER: Randi joins us now.

I guess him going on YouTube is a way to get his voice out there without actually being asked any questions.

KAYE: Right. And this is really for his supporters and his -- and his former patients, because now his clinics are at least temporarily closed. But there really -- his team -- his lawyer and the team behind him right now -- is trying to show his softer side.

They've told me over the months since Jackson's death that they've been trying to find a way to get him out there and show another side of him, instead of it being painted as -- as this monster.

COOPER: But without anyone asking him tough questions.

KAYE: Absolutely.

COOPER: So he can get his side across without saying anything.

KAYE: Right. Clearly, he's using a teleprompter. But what's interesting here is he didn't apologize. He certainly didn't admit to any wrongdoing. In fact, he said he told the truth, probably to investigators, although he didn't really finish that sentence.

But you know, we've seen this before. His star patient, Michael Jackson, came out at the height of the child molestation trial, and used the Internet and put out this video. We've seen it with other celebrities. This is one way of reaching people. COOPER: I'm not sure how many favors he did for himself, though. It wasn't -- I'm not sure how effective his communication was.

KAYE: I'm not sure either. We'll find that out, I guess, in the days and weeks...

COOPER: Burial plans. I was stunned. I thought Michael Jackson had been buried somewhere. He -- what -- he has not been buried.

KAYE: You and a lot of other people. Turns out that the family has now confirmed he hasn't been buried yet. The plan is to bury him a week from Saturday, August 29. That actually would have been his 51st birthday. It will be a very private ceremony, just the family and very close friends. It will be at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

COOPER: And 100 helicopters.

KAYE: Exactly. And media trucks.

It's about -- this cemetery is about 15 minutes from the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills, where he's been until now. And there are a lot of celebrities there. And that's one reason why he may be buried there, because the cemetery is very used to media and used to having a lot of celebrities there, including Humphrey Bogart, Sammy Davis Jr., Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart. Walt Disney is buried there. It's really a bit of a Hollywood tourist trap. Pope John Paul II visited there when he was in Las Angeles years ago.

Ronald Reagan got married there. Sixty thousand people got married there. So it's quite an attraction. So I'm sure people will be looking to try and find where Michael Jackson is buried.

COOPER: All right. Randi, appreciate it. Thanks for staying on top of it.

Coming up next on 360, the danger of DNA. Forensic science put this guy behind bars, even though he was apparently innocent. How could it happen? We'll show you.

Also, we're live with Dr. Sanjay Gupta as he takes us inside a crime lab for a behind-the-scenes look at the reality of "CSI."


COOPER: Tonight a stunning new development in forensic science, and it could be a major setback for prosecutors and police. Researchers in Israel today said they were able to engineer DNA, basically fabricating the building blocks of a person's genetic code, and placing the fake sample at a crime scene. Now if true, it could be a remarkable development. It's also a troubling one.

DNA has been used to exonerate hundreds of people who were wrongly convicted. Tonight, as we begin a series of reports on forensic science. Junk science, often. We have a story of how it put an apparently innocent man behind bars for decades and how a crime lab in Texas was allegedly responsible. Gary Tuchman has more in tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): this is Ernest Sonnier's first day of freedom after spending half his life as a prisoner.

(on camera) How old are you, Ernest?


TUCHMAN: How old were you when you went to prison?

SONNIER: Twenty-three.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Behind bars since 1986 for a kidnapping and rape.

(on camera) Are you angry, Ernest?

SONNIER: I'm angry, but I'm not -- you know, I forgive, though. I forgive, but I won't forget.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Sonnier is angry because he's always said he was innocent. And once DNA testing became possible, he wanted authorities to examine the genetic evidence.

Now, all this time later, they agree. The DNA evidence indicates Sonnier did not commit this crime. You've heard this type of story before. But here's a twist. Sonnier is now the sixth prisoner freed following accusations of shoddy work from the same laboratory run by the Houston police.

BARRY SCHECK, INNOCENCE PROJECT: This police-department crime lab is ground zero for everything that has gone wrong with crime labs in the criminal justice system.

TUCHMAN: Barry Scheck is the co-director of the Innocence Project, which works to exonerate wrongly convicted people. The group took on Sonnier's case.

SCHECK: There were numerous balances where crime-lab analysts misreported their results or hid exculpatory results. And the whole laboratory was willfully mismanaged.

TUCHMAN: Add to that a leaky laboratory roof and a tropical storm that flooded the lab in 2002, and you see why some of the work that comes from this lab earned the label junk science.

PATRICIA LYKOS, HARRIS COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The past problems that they had, I think, were unconscionable.

TUCHMAN: Patricia Lykos is the local district attorney, just taking office this past January. She wants a physician-operated county lab to take over duties of the troubled city police lab. LYKOS: It is absolutely vital that we have an independent crime lab.

TUCHMAN: The victim in this case was kidnapped at an old gas station, which used to operate on this Houston corner. The victim identified Sonnier, and jurors were told his hair was found in the vehicle.

And now the DNA shows it definitely was not his hair. Incredibly, the DNA indicates two other men committed the crime. And authorities know who they are: felons who are no longer behind bars.

(on camera) Junk science not only wrecks the life of someone like Ernest Sonnier, but it harms us, the public. That's because the person or persons who kidnapped the victim from this lot nearly a quarter century ago have never been held accountable.

So will authorities reopen the case and prosecute? The answer is no, because the statute of limitations has expired.

How does it make you feel that the two people who the DNA implicates in this particular case can't be prosecuted?

LYKOS: Because of the statute of limitations. It makes me sick.

TUCHMAN: What is that?

SONNIER: It's a monitor.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): For now, Sonnier wears that monitor so his whereabouts can be tracked. He still hasn't officially been exonerated. Because he had a criminal record prior to this arrest, the D.A. says more investigation is necessary before he's officially cleared. But...

LYKOS: If what exists now had existed when Mr. Sonnier was tried, he never would have been indicted for that offense.

TUCHMAN: But the same DNA evidence that has led to his release has been available for a long time. Why was it never looked at over the years?

LYKOS: Because there was no mechanism for it.

TUCHMAN: But now there is a mechanism. Every conviction reached using DNA evidence is now being reviewed in Houston's Harris County. Hundreds of cases. The wrongly convicted will go free. The correctly convicted will stay where they belong.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Houston.


COOPER: So scary. So how does this happen? And do juries and the criminal justice system put too much faith in forensic science? Let's get some CSI facts from 360 MD Sanjay Gupta. He joins us now. How accurate is DNA testing? We had Jeffrey Toobin on, who said it's basically the gold standard.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. And if you have a complete DNA sample, the chance of it being inaccurate is about one in 10 trillion. And so there's almost six billion people on the planet, so it is the gold standard.

There are problems, though. If it is improperly collected, if it is old, if it's somehow been contaminated at any point along the process, it really throws everything into question. So there are lots of different steps to make it accurate. So if you can dot all those "I's," cross all those "T's," it would be a good -- very good sample.

COOPER: But I mean, this person we're talking about was convicted in part because of hairs found on the victim. It turns out they weren't his -- his hairs, and that was proven by later DNA testing.

GUPTA: Yes. That's pretty remarkable. You know, I was at a lab like this today, looking specifically at hair samples. In fact, as part of this, Anderson, I had my own hair tested, trying to figure out if they -- they could make a correlation between hair from different parts of my head. And in fact, it was actually more difficult for them than I would have thought. They needed lots of hair, for example, to do it, first of all.

And second of all, hair can be different in different parts of your head, and they can have different amounts of pigment. So it's really hardly ever used in isolation. And it sounds like from Gary's piece, maybe it was in this case, but it really shouldn't be. It should be used as part of a broader investigation, so used in other evidence at the scene. And obviously, if you have DNA to try to use that.

COOPER: I mean, it seems like some of these labs are under tremendous pressure and frankly just aren't up to the job. They don't have enough resources or shoddy equipment or shoddy facilities.

GUPTA: You know, so I was talking to some of the investigators today. About 100 investigators. They handle, each about 600 cases a year. And each case is day and days of work. So you know, I can just tell from a sort of macro standpoint there is a lot of work for any particular investigator.

But what I did sense, talking to these investigators was that there are specific pieces of data, whether it be hair or fiber analysis, looking at ballistics or gunpowder or even DNA, that unless they're positive, at least in the lab that I visited, they're not going to put that forward. So it's hard to get irrefutable evidence. Again, Anderson, besides the first question you asked, with the complete DNA sample.

COOPER: And we're learning ballistics testing is not as accurate as a lot of people have been led to believe over the years. Bite mark testing, the same kind of time. You're putting together this piece for tomorrow night on crime labs. You're going to show us how they work, what they're up against.

GUPTA: Yes, you know, and it was really interesting for me, because I haven't seen some of this before, Anderson. You mentioned ballistics, so how does that work exactly? We had someone actually fire the gun for us, look at the bullets, trying to figure out, what are those fingerprints, if you will, inside the barrel of a gun. How does that work?

We looked at hair and fiber analysis under the microscope. I'm going to show you exactly how they figure out what's known and what's unknown and try and correlate those things. But again, finally, as you mentioned, DNA analysis. It is the gold standard, but where can it go wrong? We go in the lab and really see that firsthand.

COOPER: All right. Cool. We look forward to it. Sanjay Gupta, doctor. Thanks. Tomorrow.

Excuse me. Goodness. If you want a "360" alert on stories we're covering -- and well, frankly, who doesn't -- we can help you out. It's easy. Just text "alert" to 22360. And remember standard messaging rates apply.

Up next, speaking out, the Bollywood star who's upset with how he was treated here in the U.S. What he went through sparked massive protests in India, his fans taking to the streets, outraged at America. What this is all about, coming up.

And having trouble parallel parking? Wait until you see what this kid can do. It's tonight's "Shot." We'll be right back.


COOPER: Coming up, kids behind the wheel driving with gusto. Well, until in one case the police intervened. That's tonight's Shot."

But first, Erica Hill joins us with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, some good news for a change from Detroit. We'll stick with cars for a minute. GM bringing back hundreds of assembly line workers to make some 60,000 more vehicles. Most of these are fuel-efficient cars. Demand there driven by the cash for clunkers program. That and other news helping to fuel a rally today on Wall Street.

A "360" follow for you. There are new details tonight in the Florida murders of Melanie and Byrd Billings. New court documents reveal the alleged mastermind said he was hired by car dealers to, quote, "whack" Byrd Billings.

And one of the couple's 13 children, a 10-year-old with special needs, actually saw his father murdered. Now, we did have the local sheriff booked for a live interview on this tonight. Unfortunately, technical difficulties got in the way. But we will continue to follow the story for you.

The University of Pittsburgh saying no thanks to a gunman's blood money. George Sodini is the fitness club killer, you may recall. Well, he left his alma mater nearly a quarter million dollars. The university, though, today releasing a statement saying the money should benefit his 12 victims and their families instead.

And an Indian movie star stopped at Newark Airport today, he'll be making fewer visits to this country because of it. Officials say they stopped Shah Rukh Khan for routine questioning. That incident happened last Friday. It kicked off protests and a political uproar back in India.

He has since asked people to sort of, you know, lay low and calm down, because it really wasn't that bad. The questioning was a little humiliating, but wants people to back off. But again, may make fewer trips here...

COOPER: The irony is he was here to promote a movie he's made about racial profiling of Muslims after -- in the wake of 9/11.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: And he gets detained for, like, more than an hour, I think, at the airport.

HILL: It was that, yes.

COOPER: All right. Time for our "Beat 360" winners, our daily challenge to viewers, a chance to come up with a caption better than the one we can come up with for a photo that we put on the blog every day.

So tonight's picture -- oops, dropped something. Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton listen as President Obama meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Oval Office.

Our staff winner tonight, Rick. His caption: "I would have put the desk over there, the lamp over there, the mini bar here."


COOPER: Not sure which one of those was thinking that. Probably both.

HILL: Maybe both.

COOPER: Our viewer is Billy from West Virginia. His caption: "Hello, Awkward, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Uncomfortable."



COOPER: Bill, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way. By the way, someone stopped me today and asked me how they can get a "Beat 360" T-shirt.

HILL: And you told them all they have to do is win.


HILL: "Beat 360."

COOPER: They're like, "No really, how do I get one?" I was like, you really have to win. It's the only way to do it.

HILL: What did they think, just because you're Anderson Cooper and it's your show, you can pull strings?

COOPER: And then I said, "I don't even have one." And they said, "Right." And it's true. I don't. Anyway...

HILL: That's because you don't want one.

COOPER: No, I'd love to have one. I'm just not...

HILL: There's going to be one on your desk when you get here tomorrow morning. You mark my words, Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Just ahead on 360, Michael Jackson's doctor speaking out for the first time since the death, posting a video on YouTube so he can get his side of the story across without actually answering any tough questions. We'll show you some of that video.

Plus, a pint-sized driver who can parallel park a car like no one's business. Tonight's "Shot" just might put your parking skills to shame. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Erica, for "The Shot" we found another kid in a car, this time on the Web site We don't know exactly how old he is or where he's from. The video pretty much tells the story. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice parking, Bud.


HILL: I love it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you take a picture of it?



COOPER: I know. I like that.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: I wish I could do that well.

HILL: You know, that reminds me of -- remember the kid, oh, maybe a month ago...


HILL: ... who went for a joyride, 7 years old?

COOPER: Oh, yes, yes, yes.

HILL: Yes. This little guy, I think, is him.

COOPER: I never saw this, actually.

HILL: Maybe you were away.

So a little kid in Utah led police on a car chase. It turned out he just didn't want to go to church, so he took the car and hit the road.

COOPER: Wait. Someone was videotaping him while he was driving?

HILL: I think this is a different one. I don't think this is the one that we were actually...

COOPER: Yes, this is not...

HILL: ... planning to play.


HILL: This is a totally different kid.

COOPER: That is not the kid who was fleeing by police.

HILL: That looks like this child is being encouraged by some older members of his family to drive.


HILL: And we don't endorse that here on AC 360.

COOPER: We certainly don't. We don't approve of that.

HILL: If you're taking the car to get away from Sunday school, that's a totally different story. But if your mom is in the car...

COOPER: I have no idea what that video is about, but enjoy. You can interpret it as you will. I like also how everybody was digitized in that video.

HILL: Just in case no one would be incriminated.

COOPER: Why show it at all? Let's show this one again, shall we?

HILL: Yes. Show us how it's done.

COOPER: There you go. My favorite is still the kid coming home from the dentist, high as a kite. Remember that one?

HILL: Oh, yes. His poor dad took some flak for that.

COOPER: I know he did. But, you know, the kid -- anyway, you can see...

HILL: Apparently the kid is fine.

COOPER: Yes, he's fine. And the dentist lost his license.

No, he didn't. Coming up at the top of the hour -- stop me before I get in trouble. Breaking news in health-care reform. Is the White House actually getting ready to go nuclear on health-care reform and adopt a no-compromise strategy, just ramming it through? The latest from our Washington correspondents, coming up.


COOPER: Tonight, breaking news that could change everything in the White House battle for health-care reform. Call it the nuclear option.

After negotiating with the Republicans, conservative Democrats and seemingly themselves over parts of a plan, CNN has learned that the administration could be getting closer to a very big change, namely crafting a health-care bill and trying to ram it through the Senate, even if it passes by only a single vote.