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Mississippi Still Burning?; Twisted Justice?; Prescription for Cheating
Aired August 11, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Tonight om CNN PRESENTS: Is Mississippi still burning? A shocking crime. Accusations of a sinister motive.
ROBERT SHULER SMITH, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: There's no doubt they were looking for a black victim to assault and even kill in this instance.
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ANNOUNCER: Twisted justice?
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RICHARD DIGUGLIELMO, JR., FORMER NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT POLICE OFFICER: I just saw him up with the bat and he started to swing. And that's why I reached for the gun.
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ANNOUNCER: This New York City cop says he fired to save his father's life.
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DIGUGLIELMO: I was convicted of second-degree murder.
ANNOUNCER: But he would walk free after that conviction was overturned. So how did he end up back in prison?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN PRESENTS CORRESPONDENT: You must have been crushed, crushed when they told you you had to go back.
ANNOUNCER: Prescription for cheating. They read our X-rays but a CNN investigation reveals a disturbing question over the certification of many radiologists.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN PRESENTS HOST: Isn't it cheating?
ANNOUNCER: Revealing investigations. Fascinating characters. Stories with impact. This is CNN PRESENTS, with tonight's hosts, Randi Kaye and Drew Griffin.
RANDI KAYE, CNN PRESENTS HOST: Tonight, hard-hitting investigations involving racism, cheating and injustice. We begin with a murder in Mississippi, a brutal killing fueled by race and rage. We broke the shocking story here on CNN of a young white teenager accused of killing a black man just because of the color of his skin.
GRIFFIN: Over our four-month investigation we found even more disturbing details uncovering how the teenager and some of his friends had a history of violent and racist incidents, and raising questioning of whether authorities turned a blind eye. I've been following this story from the very beginning.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): June 26th in Mississippi would bring temperatures and humidity into the 90s. A breeze out of the southwest would barely move the state flag enough to see that Confederate Battle symbol still displayed in its upper left corner.
At 4:00 a.m. on this Sunday morning, most of Mississippi was still asleep. But for a group of teenagers, white teenagers, barreling west on Interstate 20, a mission was already under way. They were headed to Jackson, because in their segregated world, Jackson is where the black people live.
SMITH: They were looking for black people. They were looking for a black person to assault.
GRIFFIN: Mississippi's Heinz County District Attorney, Robert Shuler Smith, says evidence shows those white Mississippi teens had just one thing in mind.
(On camera): They discussed, let's go get -- let's be honest, let's go get a nigger, right?
SMITH: That's exactly what -- what it will show.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): It was still dark when James Craig Anderson walked out of a motel towards his car in a parking lot off Jackson's Ellis Avenue. Smith says that's when the white teenager saw him, James, a black man, alone.
It is hard to imagine what happened next without using the term "hate." The teenagers were mostly white Rankin County were being led by an 18-year-old, Deryl Dedmon, according to police. Dedmon had a history of harassing teens at his high school. By several accounts from parents and students who knew him, he hated blacks, hated white people who had black friends, he hated anyone he thought was gay.
And on this Sunday morning, after a night of drinking, he and his friends, witnesses have told police, were out to act on that hate. Some of the teens there that night would tell police the teenagers attacked that lone black man without any provocation, repeatedly beating Anderson, yelling white power. Then, one of the vehicles drives off.
(On camera): Deryl Dedmon apparently wasn't through. He had two girls in his truck as he was leaving this parking lot, a big F-250 pickup truck. James Craig Anderson, the man who was beaten almost to a pulp was stumbling down this curb. That's when police say Deryl Dedmon hit the gas, jumped the curb and ran right over his victim. Smashing him.
What he didn't know was the entire episode was being caught on a surveillance camera on the corner of this hotel.
(Voice-over): This is what was caught on that tape obtained exclusively by CNN. And we warn you, it is disturbing. James Craig Anderson first comes into view in the lower right corner of the screen after he was beaten, according to police. He staggers into the headlights of Mr. Dedmon's truck. His white shirt easily visible.
Then the truck backs up, surges forward. The headlights glowing brightly on Anderson's shirt before he and that shirt disappear underneath it. The truck runs right over the defenseless man.
(On camera): After he does that, he drives to a McDonald's. He picks up the phone. Apparently calls a buddy and says what?
SMITH: According to the testimony, "I ran that nigger over."
GRIFFIN: That witnesses say he almost was bragging about it. That he was laughing about it, really.
SMITH: That's what we plan to present.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Deryl Dedmon pleaded not guilty at first. His attorney has refused to answer CNN's many calls for comment, though during one court appearance, that attorney said he did not see any evidence racism was involved. The district attorney says nothing else was involved. He classified this as capital murder and a hate crime.
You would think it would be a wake-up call for any town where that kind of hate could fester. But this is Brandon, Mississippi. Think again.
CHRIS BUTTS, BRANDON POLICE: It's just an unfortunate incident. It happened, but -- you know, once it happened, we haven't gone into, you know, code red, you know, my god, we've got a, you know, major problem. Let's stop traffic and everybody needs to go home and lock their doors and, you know, we just kind of just keep going, doing what we do.
GRIFFIN: Here, where a Confederate War Memorial stands at the center of town, the police say there were no warning signs. But we found the police were wrong. CNN learned investigators were looking into allegations Deryl Dedmon and his friends had a pattern of racism and violence.
(On camera): How did they get away with this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just never got in trouble like they would be told on and the cops wouldn't do anything to them. They'd let them go.
GRIFFIN: School officials ever intervene? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Let them go.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Coming up, did a town's indifference help lead to murder?
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The death of James Craig Anderson was like the dark Mississippi past come back to life. Prosecutor Robert Smith had only heard the tales of racial hatred from his grandfather who helped and even housed civil rights leaders like Medger Evers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was before Smith was even born, back in the '60s, when both men were shot down in a terrible wave of racial violence.
On June 26th, that ugly past was suddenly present.
(On camera): When you first saw the video, the surveillance video, what was your reaction?
SMITH: Certainly breathtaking. Unbelievable. I thought about the fact that that could have been anyone, including myself.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The district attorney has charged Deryl Dedmon, the teen driving the truck that killed Anderson, with capital murder. A second teen, John Rice, was charged with simple assault. Five other white teenagers who were there were not charged.
Anderson's family has kept their grief and their frustration mostly private. But after a court hearing, Anderson's sister could not contain her emotions.
BARBARA ANDERSON YOUNG, SISTER OF VICTIM: Go to Brandon, Mississippi. Go to Brandon, Mississippi, and get those other five murderers who committed such an horrendous, violent act against my beloved brother, James Craig Anderson.
GRIFFIN: You have to drive east to get to Brandon. Across the Pearl River. The invisible line that seems to separate black Mississippi from white. And while in Jackson, Anderson's killing prompted marches and a call for healing, in Brandon the reaction was mostly silent. Brandon Police wouldn't even return CNN's phone calls.
(On camera): Is the chief in?
(Voice-over): It was an assistant police chief who finally came out to say there was no story here.
(On camera): Are you concerned that a lot of these kids are from Rankin County? Not just one or two, but there were seven of them who drove over there and took part in this.
BUTTS: You're right. And I can't -- you know, you're going to have a couple of bad seeds. One guy ran over the individual. Not all six. So, you know, I can't -- I hate that it happened and I wish to God it didn't happen here or anywhere. But as far as it being -- you know, we have a national problem, we don't have any more problem than any other city. It's just an isolated incident. And you can quote me on that.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): But it didn't take us long to find out it wasn't an isolated incident. Deryl Dedmon has a criminal history. Arrested and convicted of harassment earlier last year. Two years ago this local pastor says he had to call police when his son was being harassed.
BRIAN RICHARDSON, PASTOR: And I had told Jordan for a year and a half that Deryl Dedmon will kill you.
JORDAN RICHARDSON, STUDENT: He had a look of no conscience. He was blank stare. Deryl always, I think, just carried around this backpack of hatred.
GRIFFIN: Other students also told us they were bullied or beaten by Dedmon and his friends, who called people nigger lovers if they befriended blacks. We were told school administrators mostly looked the other way as bullying and racial hatred festered.
School officials declined our interview requests, but a spokesperson told CNN they take bullying seriously and that they had no record of any trouble from Deryl Dedmon. Students told us Dedmon and his friends were a problem. Using racial slurs. Calling blacks and even President Obama the "N" word.
Ken Johnston used to manage a gas station where Dedmon and his friends used to hang out.
KEN JOHNSTON, DEVELOPER: It seemed like that every word that came out of their mouth was the "N" word. And that they're taking over. As if it was some kind of war.
GRIFFIN: Dedmon's family refused to talk to CNN. So did Dedmon's attorney. This man did. Once close to Dedmon and his friends, he now fears them.
UNIDENTIFIED FORMER DEDMON FRIEND: I believe that every one of these kids that are in the incident are dangerous and they're capable of many things. And I just don't want my image to be seen because I'm really worried about it.
GRIFFIN: This man told us there were other violent and racial incidents with Dedmon and other friends of his.
(On camera): Did they ever go looking for black people, hunting, literally?
UNIDENTIFIED FORMER DEDMON FRIEND: Yes. They're known as the -- like I said, the Brandon boys. But they're also known as the racist kids. The white group.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): CNN has learned federal investigators from the Department of Justice have uncovered two other possible incidents where groups of white Rankin County teens, including Dedmon, have sought out and attacked a black person.
(On camera): Have you guys been concerned about --
GRIFFIN: -- these guys? Not at all?
GRIFFIN (voice-over): This man says racism is behind Brandon, Mississippi's, silence.
(On camera): Do you believe there's a lot of people in Brandon, Mississippi, that may feel the same way about the killing of a black man?
UNIDENTIFIED FORMER DEDMON FRIEND: Yes. Yes. I've even heard it out of some of the police officers' mouths. That -- that this is their statement, or Deryl was a good kid. He just made one bad mistake.
GRIFFIN: After initially pleading not guilty to murder, Deryl Dedmon just this past March changed his plea to guilty in a state court. The next day, Dedmon and two others there that night pleaded guilty to committing federal hate crimes and admitted to a month's long pattern of brutal harassment against blacks. Dedmon was given two life sentences for his murder plea. The others have yet to be sentenced.
Up next, was it murder or a miscarriage of justice? The story of two families torn apart by a deadly shooting.
KAYE: Our criminal justice system is based on the promise of a fair trial. But what if a trial isn't fair? What if the prosecution has stacked the deck against you unfairly?
Deborah Feyerick brings us the story of a man who is sitting in prison, maybe for life, even after the trial that put him there was found by a judge to be full of holes.
DIGUGLIELMO: I was convicted of second-degree murder with depraved indifference in 1997 and I was sentenced to 20 years to life.
FEYERICK (voice-over): New York City Police Officer Richard DiGuglielmo served 11 years in prison before a judge tossed out his conviction and he was sent home. His friends and family celebrating his release.
(On camera): When you walked out --
DIGUGLIELMO: It was surreal. I couldn't believe it. My ankles weren't shackled and I'm like, wow, this is real.
FEYERICK (voice-over): A free man, DiGuglielmo spent two years rebuilding his life. He got a job, an apartment, a wife, then just as suddenly, in a twist of the criminal justice system, it was all taken away.
DIGUGLIELMO: I still cannot adjust being back here. It is difficult. It is difficult.
FEYERICK: Richard DiGuglielmo's bizarre journey began here, Dobb's Ferry, a charming village 30 minutes outside New York City. On October 3rd, 1996, the small community was rocked by a deadly shooting, triggered over this parking space. The shooter was off-duty New York City Transit Officer Richard DiGuglielmo, Jr. or Richie for short. The victim was Charles Campbell, an amateur boxer who worked with under-privilege kids. His older brother called him Chaz.
REV. WILLIAM CAMPBELL, CHARLES CAMPBELL'S BROTHER: He was a wonderful athlete, a wonderful person. He was a Christian. He loved kids. Loved people. All people.
FEYERICK: It started around 5:00 on a clear autumn day. Richie DiGuglielmo was working behind the counter of his family-owned deli. He'd stopped by to help his brother-in-law and father, Richard Sr., who was recovering from a heart attack.
(On camera): Parking was a major problem along this busy street. The DiGuglielmos owned the building and say tenants has been withholding rent to protest the lack of open spaces. Well, Charles Campbell didn't know about the ongoing tensions when he pulled his new Corvette into this reserved spot and then went across the street to get a piece of pizza.
(Voice-over): Richie's father remembers that day.
RICHARD DIGUGLIELMO, SR., OWNER, VENICE DELI: I asked him if he could please move to the other lot and then he refused to do it.
FEYERICK: So the deli owner did what Dobb's Ferry Police had told him to do, plaster a sticker on the window. Here's what father and son say happened when Campbell saw the sticker on his new car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, listen, I need a cop over here at Venice Deli in Dobb's Ferry. A fight just broke out outside.
DIGUGLIELMO, SR.: Richie was in the store and he saw him running across the street. He came and I was like this, and he came behind me and he stepped like this, and he put his hands up like this, and he said, there's no need for this.
FEYERICK: And then --
DIGUGLIELMO, SR.: He hit Richie in the face.
DIGUGLIELMO: It sounds like getting hit with a hammer. They were hammer blows. He just was out of control. He was somebody who didn't want to listen to reason or anything like that at the time.
FEYERICK: The fight spilled into the middle of the parking lot as father, son, and brother-in-law wrestled Campbell to the ground.
DIGUGLIELMO, SR.: When I went to put my hand underneath his head, he said, that's it, I've had enough. So I said to Richie, that's it, it's over. We let him up, now whenever I had a fight, when I was a kid, it was over, it was over.
FEYERICK: But the fight wasn't over. And what happened next changed everything. Charles Campbell, outnumbered three to one, went to his car. But rather than leave, he pulled out a bat.
(On camera): This man with a bat in his hands, how much more of a threat did that make him to your father?
DIGUGLIELMO: It made him a deadly threat.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Back in the store, Rich DiGuglielmo says he saw Campbell strike his father not once, but twice with the metal bat.
DIGUGLIELMO: I just saw him up with the bat and he started to swing and that's when I reached for the gun.
FEYERICK: The off-duty officer grabbed the gun from under the cash register and raced outside, firing three times, hitting Charles Campbell in the middle of his chest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody was shot.
DIGUGLIELMO: From the time that bat came out until the time the incident was over, it was a matter of four seconds, five seconds, and my training just kicked in.
FEYERICK: DiGuglielmo doesn't remember the moments immediately after the shooting, only that one of the responding officers handed him the gun and asked for help removing the bullet clip. Then he, his father and brother-in-law were taken to the police station.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When do we want it?
FEYERICK: Rumors spread like wildfire that the shooting was racially motivated, confirmed in part by the district attorney, Jeanine Pirro.
JEANINE PIRRO, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: There were racial epithets that the victim was cursed at, at the time, just prior to the shooting. That information has been confirmed.
FEYERICK (on camera): Did you ever use any racial slurs?
DIGUGLIELMO, SR.: We never used a curse word and we never used a racial -- any racial words at all. None.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Campbell's brother, William, was not there, but describes events as he came to understand them.
CAMPBELL: He's going to probably try to work around to get to his car, and that's when Richie came out the deli, and I think he came out from behind the truck, and he said die, die, and then shot him three times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Witness Michael Dylan says the --
FEYERICK: Eyewitness Michael Dylan less than 30 feet away did not hear any racial slurs, instead telling a WNBC News crew he saw the bat aimed at the elder man.
MICHAEL DYLAN, WITNESS: Full force swings hitting him at least in the legs and almost the head. That's pretty much what I saw. You could hear the smacks, like, block away. That's how hard he hit him. You see your father getting beat with a bat, you're going to do something about it. So it was self-defense, is what I saw.
ROSEMARIE DIGUGLIELMO, RICHIE'S MOTHER: I remember at one point watching Dylan on television saying, you know, if you see your father getting beat, you got to do something. It was strictly self-defense. And I remember saying, oh, thank god for this witness.
PIRRO: We brought murder charges --
FEYERICK: But that same night, District Attorney Pirro charged Richie DiGuglielmo with both intentional murder and murder with depraved indifference.
DIGUGLIELMO: I was like, how is this murder? I don't understand it.
FEYERICK (on camera): So this is the first time you killed a man? How heavily does that weigh on you?
DIGUGLIELMO: Not a day I don't think about it. I believe I saved my father's life that day.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Coming up, the trial that outraged a judge.
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FEYERICK (On camera): Was this a miscarriage of justice?
RORY BELLANTONI, FORMER JUDGE: I believe it was a miscarriage of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FEYERICK (voice-over): Richard DiGuglielmo, Sr. is consumed by the shooting that sent his son to prison to serve 20 to life. DIGUGLIELMO, SR.: I wish my son was never there. Whether I got killed or not doesn't make any difference to me. What do I have now? My family is torn apart. Literally, torn apart. Where's my son?
FEYERICK: We wanted to talk about the shooting to both the Dobb's Ferry Police Department and the then Westchester County district attorney, Jeanine Pirro. Repeated interview requests were denied. In her book, Pirro says no question the shooting was racially motivated.
Race dominated the headlines, but never came up at trial. Instead, prosecutors claimed DiGuglielmo shot Charles Campbell in a murderous rage. Assistant district attorney, Patricia Murphy, telling the the jury, quote, "This is a case about revenge. This is a case about retribution. This is a case about payback."
Prosecutors argued the father, son, and son-in-law ganged up on Campbell so that Campbell had no choice but to grab a bat from his car.
CAMPBELL: I know Chaz. When he grabbed that bat, the idea of getting that bat was to just show, all right, y'all, back on up. You know, I'm not trying to start nothing here, but I will finish it. They kept charging him. So he swung, I think, once at the father.
FEYERICK (on camera): Do you think Charles Campbell could have killed your father had that third hit struck him?
DIGUGLIELMO: Sure. Absolutely. It was a metal baseball bat.
FEYERICK: Everyone's saying it's over a parking space but --
R. DIGUGLIELMO: But it was about a baseball bat.
DIGUGLIELMO, SR.: If there wasn't a baseball bat, there wouldn't have been a gun.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Prosecutors, supported by eyewitness testimony, convinced the jury that Campbell, despite holding the bat, was backing away. The jury acquitted the DiGuglielmos of assault, but Richie was convicted of murder with depraved indifference.
DIGUGLIELMO: I never denied shooting Charles Campbell. I said I shot Charles Campbell to stop him from beating my father with a bat. Is that an act of intent, yes. You could say so. Definitely not depraved indifference murder.
FEYERICK: The DA insisted justice was served.
PIRRO: We brought murder charges, he was convicted of murder. That's what this case is about.
CAMPBELL: I'm happy that the jury came back, I'm happy when it came back in the light that I wanted them to come back in. But I can't feel victory. Two families were totally destroyed.
FEYERICK (on camera): But there was something wrong about the case against Richie DiGuglielmo. Two eyewitnesses came forward saying they told police DiGuglielmo was acting in self-defense. They say police pressured them to change their story. A new hearing was ordered and in 2006 Rory Bellantoni got the case.
(Voice-over): Bellantoni was an appeals court judge.
BELLANTONI: What I dealt with was whether or not certain witnesses were coerced, and if so, whether the jury was made aware of this coercion.
FEYERICK: Although some witnesses from the original trial supported the prosecution's version of the shooting, two who were closest to the shooting did not. One of those witnesses was Michael Dylan.
DYLAN: I saw about four guys --
BELLANTONI: After giving his original statement on the night of the shooting, he was picked up by police officers, night and day, until he changed his statement.
DYLAN: The Dobb's Ferry detectives just kept asking me to -- the same questions over and over again, night after night. It was like an interrogation.
FEYERICK: Here's what Dylan originally told police.
DYLAN: To my best recollection, the black guy was swinging the bat at the older male when the shots were fired.
FEYERICK: But the jury never heard that. Instead, Dylan testified at trial that Campbell wasn't swinging the bat.
Another key witness, who refused to change his story and was not called to testify, was James White.
JAMES WHITE, WITNESS: They were telling me that other people said this and other people said that, and I said, but I'm not interested in what other people said. I'm telling you what I saw and this is the truth.
FEYERICK: White was standing inside the deli, and he saw Charles Campbell, not as victim, but as aggressor.
WHITE: They held him down, only as long as it took for him to cease attacking. And once he did that, they would let him up.
FEYERICK: White says that's when Campbell got the bat, swinging at the elder DiGuglielmo.
WHITE: I'm looking at him saying, my god, he's going to kill him.
FEYERICK: The jury never heard that version either. Bellantoni found the autopsy report supported White's story.
BELLANTONI: One of the things the District Attorney's Office couldn't get around at the hearing was that the bat was being held upright. The only way you get five wounds with three bullets is this bullet went in the forearm, out the forearm, into the chest.
FEYERICK: In a scathing 69-page report, Judge Bellantoni called the district attorney's case a wholesale assault on the justice system, and criticized prosecutors for a "win-at-all costs" mind-set. He overturned the conviction and set Richie DiGuglielmo free.
(On camera): You had started working, you had moved into your own apartment. Tell me what else.
DIGUGLIELMO: Met a woman, fell in love, got married. And then had to come back here.
FEYERICK (voice-over): The prosecutors appealed, arguing Bellantoni had overstepped his authority, and in a stunning reversal, a four- judge panel on New York's highest court ruled, even had the jury known witnesses changed their stories, it likely would have changed the verdict.
BELLANTONI: I don't know how they can say that. If 12 people heard that he stuck by his story and finally changed it because he just didn't want to be harassed by the police department any longer, and might the verdict have been different? The answer for me was yes.
FEYERICK (on camera): Was this a miscarriage of justice?
BELLANTONI: I believe it was a miscarriage of justice.
DIGUGLIELMO: Today I'm here of my own free will to surrender to this court, and I will continue to fight this fight.
FEYERICK (voice-over): On June 3rd, 2010, Richie returned to prison to finish his sentence of 20 to life.
CAMPBELL: I feel for Richie, because irregardless of what he was thinking, I forgive him, not his action.
DIGUGLIELMO: It's been a tragedy from day one, and I won't belittle that in any way, but how does a judge send you home and another judge says, oh, no, well, we don't agree with you, so we're going to send you back?
FEYERICK (on camera): Would you have rather stayed in prison, knowing what you know now?
DIGUGLIELMO: There was a time where I would have said yes, but then I would have never met my wife. That's the sunshine in this dreary world.
FEYERICK: So there's hope?
DIGUGLIELMO: There's always hope.
KAYE: After refusing CNN's interview requests, former D.A. Janine Pirro did finally send us a statement. In it she described Charles Campbell as an unarmed man and pointed out that, quote, "Richard DiGuglielmo's guilt has repeatedly been affirmed by three appellate courts."
However, she failed to answer our questions about why race never surfaced at the trial or why original witnesses' statements were withheld. Richard DiGuglielmo isn't up for parole until 2019.
Up next, a stunning CNN investigation reveals doctors cheating on medical exams. Why has this gone on for so long and is the public at risk?
GRIFFIN: It's a critical specialty in medicine. Radiology, the doctors who examine x-rays and other imaging to diagnose if you have a serious disease. To get board certified radiologists must pass a series of tests. But CNN Investigation has found many of those doctors have taken shortcuts along the way by getting exam questions from doctors who'd taken the test before them.
It's been going on for a long time, there's even a name for it. "Recalls" because the doctors memorize the questions then write them down. Now a national crackdown is underway by the group that certifies the radiologists that calls the practice down right cheating.
Here's our investigation.
DR. MATTHEW WEBB, U.S. ARMY: This is absolute definitive cheating.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Dr. Matthew Webb is a 32-year-old Army doctor, accepted into one of the military's largest medical residency programs, a San Antonio, Texas- based complex that includes the renowned Brook Army Medical Center where Webb trained as a resident.
But it wasn't long before he was stunned to learn an open secret about most of his fellow doctors. They were, he says, cheating to pass medical exams.
WEBB: It wasn't until I took my physics exam that I found out that the way the residents were studying for the exam was to actually study from verbatim recalled back tests that had been performed by prior residents.
GRIFFIN: To become certified by the American Board of Radiology or ABR, doctors must pass two written exams and an oral exam. Webb says he took that first exam in the fall of 2008. And to his surprise, he failed the first test, which focuses on physics. He says he went to the director of the radiology program at the time.
WEBB: He told me that, if you want to pass the ABR physics exam, you absolutely have to use the recalls. And I told him, "Sir, I believe that's cheating. I don't believe in doing that. I can do it on my own." He then went on to tell me, you have to use the recalls, almost as if it was a direct order.
GRIFFIN: And an order easily fulfilled. Webb found the recalls, the tests, almost verbatim, on the Military's Web site for the radiology residents. CNN has obtained all of these tests, at least 15 years of recalls stored on a shared military computer server. The test questions, the answers, even presented as a PowerPoint, cultivated from years of residents taking tests, recalling the questions, and adding them to what appears to be an ever-growing database of glorified cheat sheet.
WEBB: Residents knew about the recalls. The program directors knew about the recalls. A large portion of people were using them and it was just accepted.
GRIFFIN: That bothered Webb. Not only was this cheating, this was the Army. But he says his supervisors in uniform didn't seem to care. So Webb took his complaint of cheating to the very board that certifies radiologists.
Dr. Gary Becker is the American Board of Radiology's executive director.
(On camera): We heard about this, you know, recall, memories come out of the test, write down 20 questions here, you take the next 20 questions. They almost sound like well-organized thieves to skirt the very certification you're trying to ensure.
DR. GARY BECKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN BOARD OF RADIOLOGY: I don't think we know how well organized they are. I mean, we have inferential evidence.
GRIFFIN: Isn't it cheating?
BECKER: We would call it cheating. And our exam security policy would call it cheating, yes.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): And now for the first time in more than 10 years, the board is revamping its entire testing procedures. At the same time cracking down because so many certified radiologists may have gained their certification at least partially because it was so easy to cheat. About half of the questions are the annual radiology exam had been recycled from a large pool of old test questions.
BECKER: We take it seriously because when we put the stamp of certification on an individual, that means that the public has trusted us to do so.
GRIFFIN (on camera): And from any of the investigations or inquiries you've done, you don't really have a sense of how long it's been going on?
BECKER: No. It's been going on a long time, I know. I can't give you a date.
GRIFFIN: Because this goes right to the heart of the value of the certification. BECKER: That's exactly what it's all about.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): We showed Becker copies of the recall exams from the military's San Antonio program.
BECKER: We're outraged by this, and we took this case to our professionalism committee. The result of the deliberations there and the decision of the board was to go directly back to the training director, the dean of the institution, and we've had those discussions.
GRIFFIN: He acknowledged the recalls were very close to the actual test.
(On camera): In fact, I think you even have them sign a statement that they know that this material is copyrighted.
BECKER: That's correct.
GRIFFIN: And that any --
BECKER: That's where the illegal comes in.
BECKER: Exactly right.
GRIFFIN: So it would be a crime.
BECKER: It would be a crime.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Despite repeated requests, the military refused to answer our questions on camera. It did send us a statement acknowledging residents shared exam questions in the past and it does not encourage or condone cheating of any kind. The military also admitted some faculty members and program directors were aware of the use of recalled examination questions by residents.
In fact, the military admits a smaller number of faculty in a past program leader encouraged the use of recall questions as one of several tools to improve medical knowledge and prepare for the exam.
The military now says the recall exams have been removed from its computers and residents must sign this statement that they won't use them. But has the damage already been done?
GRIFFIN (on camera): Dr. Webb, the complainant, he told us that, to find out that some of these physicians don't have the knowledge but are able to still get through by cheating, it's despicable. Do you agree with that?
BECKER: I agree. I agree. Now I can say we don't have any -- more information on other programs. We haven't heard similar reports from other residents. But if and when we ever hear of any, we're going to track them down. GRIFFIN: We wanted to find out just how widespread the use of recalls really is, so we figured we'd come here to Chicago, to the largest medical convention in the United States, the Radiological Society of North America, which draws 60,000 radiologists from around the world.
(Voice-over): It wasn't long before we started getting answers.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): If you want to find out just how widespread the cheating is on radiology exams, there is no better place than Chicago's McCormack Place in late November. For most of the last 36 years, radiologists from across the world have been gathering here for the largest medical convention in the United States.
Sixty thousand strong, the Radiological Society of North America is the place to show off new technology, new techniques and to find out that an old bad and perhaps even illegal practice has been going on for years.
Dr. Kay Lozano, a practicing radiologist for seven years, says she never used recalls but admits they were easy to find.
DR. KAY LOZANO, RADIOLOGIST: I didn't know a person who didn't have access to those, but it was -- I think part of it is how you use it.
GRIFFIN: Residents here told us off camera recall use is widespread, not just at the army program in San Antonio but at programs across the country, including prestigious ones like Harvard's teaching hospital, Massachusetts General. The chief of radiology there says he didn't know personally of anyone using recalls, but also says, "We did not officially sanction or organize the recalls."
(On camera): Was using recalls cheating?
LOZANO: I think when something's so widespread, it feels less like it's cheating.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): How it works is simple and a longstanding practice. Residents take the American Board of Radiology's Certification Test and immediately upon finishing write down a portion of the test they are responsible to recall.
DR. JOHN YOO, RADIOLOGIST: People decide beforehand what sections will I focus on in terms of trying to recall those questions and answers. And then after -- immediately after the question -- after the examination, the residents get together and try to put these down onto paper or on word processor to be able to, you know, share it with the classes coming behind you.
GRIFFIN: Dr. John Yoo says residency programs even shared their recalls, helping each other build as close to a copied test as possible. Yoo says it's not exactly cheating, especially when passing the test, getting certified could mean the difference between getting a job and being unemployed.
YOO: It's sort of out of necessity to pass these examinations that you have to rely on the recalls.
GRIFFIN: Yoo, Lozano and Dr. Joseph Dieber all say residents have used the recalls primarily as guides to help narrow down topics most likely to be covered on the exam. And Dieber says the radiology test is almost impossible to pass without the recall exams because many of the questions are obscure, irrelevant facts.
DR. JOSEPH DIEBER, RADIOLOGIST: We've known people who have tried to study just out of the books and -- the people don't pass that way.
GRIFFIN: Nonsense says Dr. Gary Decker, executive director of the American Board of Radiology or ABR.
DECKER: There are people who say that because they say well, they ABR writes arcane questions or random medical facts. Well, obviously we don't believe that.
GRIFFIN: Board officials insist there's no reason to believe the widespread use of the recalls has led to unqualified doctors since they still must pass a rigorous oral exam.
(On camera): But these are doctors, medical doctors, and it seems like there should be and is a higher standard.
DR. JAMES BORGSTEDE, PRESIDENT-ELECT, AMERICAN BOARD OF RADIOLOGY: And I agree with you. And that's why the ABR does not want to tolerate this behavior.
GRIFFIN: Do you think it's a big deal?
BORGSTEDE: Yes, I think it's a big deal. I think recalls are cheating, and it's inappropriate, and the ABR isn't going to tolerate it.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): That may be so but residency program directors like Dr. King Li who doesn't endorse the use of recalls says it's been going on for so long it's difficult to stop and any resident who speaks out may find few friends come test day.
DR. KING LI, THE METHODIST HOSPITAL: So if a particular trainee is not willing to actually use recall to help them to pass the exam and the culture of that particular training program is that everyone does it, then that particular person can be singled out as a social outcast.
GRIFFIN: Which brings us back to Dr. Matthew Webb who tells us that's exactly what happened to him. He says he's been shunned by fellow residents. And he was fired from the radiology program after something unrelated to the recalls.
He was reprimanded by the Army for making sexual comments to another doctor and for other conduct unbecoming an officer. Webb calls it a personality dispute that escalated.
Now the army has other plans for Dr. Webb. As this story was being prepared, he says the Army called him in and grilled him on why he spoke to CNN. While he remains an army doctor, he does fear his military career is in jeopardy.
GRIFFIN: The Army denies it retaliated against Dr. Webb for speaking out. In the documents we obtained, the army actually calls Dr. Webb, quote, "a remarkably talented resident but it also says he demonstrated conduct unbecoming an officer and physician.
As for the new radiology exam, which rolls out next year, there will be all computer based and there won't be an oral test anymore. It's designed to eliminate the use of recalls because it will contain a lot of images. But residents say it will only be a matter of time before there will be questions and answers on the new tests, even with all the warnings not to use them.
That's it for tonight's show. I'm Randi Kaye.
GRIFFIN: And I'm Drew Griffin. Thanks for joining us.