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Teens Convicted in Ohio Rape Case; Pope Delivers First Sunday Message

Aired March 17, 2013 - 16:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Two rising stars on an Ohio high school football team now convicted rapists. Today a judge in Steubenville found 17-year-old Trent Mayes and 16-year-old Malik Richmond guilty of raping a drunk 16-year-old girl. The teens broke down after the verdict was read. Richmond's mother openly wept.

Both boys apologized to the victim and her family but despite the emotional pleas from the boys and their family, the judge said the evidence against them was "profane and ugly" and sentenced them to a juvenile detention facility. A minimum of one year for Richmond, two years for Mayes.

Our Poppy Harlow was in the courtroom and she's joining us live now. So Poppy, the evidence the judge was referring to included cell phone pictures taken of the victim and lurid text messages from the defendants. How much did social media play a role in this crime and in the judge's verdict?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it played a big role. I mean the judge came in this morning when this verdict was handed down and said again last night and this morning he reviewed all of the evidence, re-read all of the text messages, social media was a big part of this because pictures of this victim, this rape victim were posted online on social media. They were joked about in vulgar long videos posted on YouTube, one video. It played a part.

But also eyewitness testimony played a huge part in this case. Three eyewitnesses said that they saw Mayes and Richmond sexually assault this girl and if - not consensual, it is considered rape in Ohio and that was the verdict, that this was rape and that this girl was drunk, too intoxicated to know what was happening when this happened to her. I want to take our viewers inside the courtroom so that they can listen to part of the judge's verdict that he rendered this morning.


JUDGE THOMAS LIPPS, FOUND DEFENDANTS GUILTY IN RAPE CASE: I closely examined all the evidence and I re-read all the text messages that were admitted in this case. Many of the things that we learned during this trial that our children were saying and doing were profane, were ugly, with alcohol consumption showing as a particular danger to our teenage youth.

Throughout a trial the court is able to view the demeanor of the witnesses, judge their credibility and weigh the evidence presented to the court. The court has done so in this case and it is the court's decision that both of the defendants are hereby adjudicated delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt on all three counts as charged.

For those of you who are not familiar with adjudications of delinquency in juvenile law, it is similar to finding of guilty in the adult court.


HARLOW: Guilty on all counts. That handed down. The two defendants in this case now the two convicted rapists broke down in court when they heard - when they heard the verdict come down. Trent Mayes crying, Malik Richmond just collapsing into the arms of his attorney sitting next to him and sobbing over and over again. I want you to listen to the two boys as they later stood up and apologized to the victim's family.


MALIK RICHMOND, CONVICTED DEFENDANT: I would like to apologize to you people. I had no intentions to do something like to. I'm sorry to put guys through this.

TRENT MAYES, CONVICTED DEFENDANT: I'd just like - I would just like to apologize to (INAUDIBLE), my family and the families in the community. Those pictures shouldn't have been sent around, let alone even taken. I just apologize.


HARLOW: Regret and remorse but the victim's attorney told me it came far too late in this case after the verdict was handed down, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And how did the victim's family react specifically? I mean what words were spoken?

HARLOW: So the victim herself was not in court today but her mother came in about half-way through after the verdict was read but before the sentencing and I was sitting behind her so I couldn't see her facial expressions but she did give a very impactful statement after she left court. I want you to take a listen to that statement in its entirety.


STEUBENVILLE RAPE VICTIM'S MOTHER:: It did not matter what school you went to, what city you lived in or what sports you've played. Human compassion is not taught by a teacher, a coach or a parent. It is a god given gift instilled in all of us. You displayed not only a lack of this compassion but a lack of any moral code. Your decisions that night affected countless lives including those most dear to you. You were your own accuser through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on. This does not define who my daughter is. She will persevere, grow and move on. I have pity for you both. I hope you fear the lord, repent for your actions and pray hard for his forgiveness.


HARLOW: And you can hear the pain of that mother in her voice at the end of that statement that she gave us. We also spoke today with the attorney, Bob Fitzsimmons. He represents the victim civilly. Here's what he told us.


BOB FITZSIMMONS, VICTIM'S LAWYER: She's doing well and I think she's really happy that this is over. Remember, she's a 16-year-old girl still and she's a high school student. She just wants to get back with her normal life as does the family. So it's a big relief to her at this point. I think the family is a very religious, caring family, very strong and I was told that as we went through this thing that that was probably one of the major things they were looking for, is what they heard today and maybe a little bit late but hopefully also some very redeeming qualities with the defendants actually.


HARLOW: Now we also heard from some of the parents of the two boys, Mayes and Richmond, in court today. As his son was sobbing, Richmond's father walked over to the bench and hugged his son and he then later addressed the court, apologizing. Listen to what he said.


NATHANIEL RICHMOND, MALIK'S FATHER: I'm sorry for what you all had to go through. I hope somewhere in your hearts that you can forgive Trent and Ma'lik for the pain they caused your daughter and put you through. And I know that god can fix this and give that you strength to forgive these two young men for a terrible mistake that they made. I apologize to the world, not only my community, for the bad light that has shined upon Steubenville and everybody else.


HARLOW: Fredricka, the two boys started serving their sentence today. They were taken away right after the verdict came down and they'll be serving that time in a juvenile detention facility.

HARLOW: And one year at a minimum for one and two years for the other and is it based on good behavior which will determine whether they will reach a maximum of up to 21 years of age in this facility?

HARLOW: That's a good question. The judge talked about that extensively today. He could have given them a longer sentence but after they serve their minimum term, then it is going to be up to the people that run the facility whether they need to stay or whether they are allowed to leave. They're going to go through treatment for sexual abuse, sexual assault treatment. They have to have another court hearing and have a court rule whether or not they are fit to be released when their sentence is heard.

I should also mention for our viewers that rape is such a serious crime that the two of these boys will have to register also, even when they're out of the juvenile detention facility, they'll have to register as sex offenders.

WHITFIELD: Poppy Harlow, thanks so much from Steubenville, Ohio.

And we're not done with this topic. We'll also hear from the judge on the rape case as to why the teens were tried in juvenile court and not in adult court. Our legal expert weighs in.

And Pope Francis is already being called the man of the people. We'll talk with one the American cardinals who helped elect him.


WHITFIELD: We've been bringing you details of the rape case that's rocked the town of Steubenville, Ohio and riveted the nation. Two teens have been found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl after a night of partying last summer. Malik Richmond will spend at least one year and Trent Mayes at least two years at a juvenile correctional facility. But both could be in detention until they are 21 years old pending behavior. The judge explained the difference between trying the teens in juvenile court versus adult court.


LIPPS: Of course we're in juvenile court and a judge in juvenile court understands that we're dealing with juveniles and we're dealing with people who might have emotions, particularly upon a finding that I made this morning. That might now dawn on them. When a judge and juvenile court choose a disposition the judge must weigh three things - the protection of society, accountability for one's actions, and the further rehabilitation of our youth.

When we first started out, both of these defendants could have been tried in the adult court. If they were convicted in the adult court of these charges, they would be spending many years in an adult prison. But the court made the decision to keep this matter in the juvenile court.


WHITFIELD: The judge told the court that if the teens show signs of rehabilitation quickly they could spend less time in detention.

Let's turn now to criminal defense attorney Anne Bremner in Seattle. Good to see you, Anne.


WHITFIELD: So one has to wonder if not for the use of social media, texting, photos, et cetera, would it have been tougher to convict in this case?

BREMNER: Absolutely. Most rape trials, whether they're juvenile court cases or adult court cases, are he said/she said types of cases without any kind of other types of evidence. I mean this is the first case that social media won and it won't be the last. I mean with texts and videos and photographs, et cetera, and e-mails. And then all of the attendant social media attention. This is a landmark case in a very small town in a very serious matter.

WHITFIELD: The Ohio attorney general, Mike Dewine, has already asked that a grand jury be convened on April 15th. Could it be that more charges are coming for those, at least 15 who may have witnessed this crime?

BREMNER: Absolutely. I mean it is just like a modern day "Witness," that movie. When you look at people that either egged this on, that said in some way they encouraged things at the time or part of an atmosphere, any kind of a fear, or tried to cover up after the fact, or before the fact, you have all kinds of conspiracy, potential charges, aiding and abetting, and things of that nature. The grand jury needs to be involved in this because people are cooperating. And the grand jury has certain subpoena and other powers that can be enforced.

WHITFIELD: You know, it was extraordinary watching this in juvenile court. Perhaps you can help us and maybe it happens all the time, but to see family members coming to the defense of the defendants in a very passionate, emotional way that we saw play out this morning, quite extraordinary. Is this fairly typical or was this a unique setting?

BREMNER: Yes, it is typical. I was a prosecutor in juvenile court for a long time. I even had a federal grant for violent and habitual juvenile offenders. And you know, parents, they love their kids but they may be part of the problem. But they want to support their kids. But what we saw in this case where kids that were not repentant that are now. And the parents will support them at any cost. It is not atypical to see this in a juvenile courtroom.

WHITFIELD: Might it have made a difference had if people - had the judge or even the victim or the victim's family had seen this kind of emotion much earlier on in the game?

BREMNER: Yes, I was just watching the clip before speaking with you, Fredricka, of the defendants before and you know, this was staged, the photo wasn't real, all these kinds of things. And then a complete about-face with the sentencing because part of what you look at in a sentencing is are they remorseful, can they be rehabilitated, are they sorry. And sure it would help her. I mean, her family - she's a victim of social media too. She's everywhere and she's only 16.

WHITFIELD: How do you see this case influencing other potential cases especially as it pertains to social media, the use texting, the use of photographs admitted into evidence. BREMNER: It's huge. You know, when I first started practicing as prosecutor, DNA came into the picture. I thought, you know, trials are over. You're not going to need any other evidence. Of course, look at today's day with what we have in social media and what can be used in courtrooms. It's huge. This is kind of a litmus test but we'll see it in all cases. And frankly as an ex-prosecutor I'm thrilled to see that we can have this kind of evidence come in, a judge can make his decision. He wasn't influenced obviously by outside pressures against this prosecution and it is important that these boys see some justice but that the victim herself and all victims see justice in these kinds of cases.

WHITFIELD: Anne Bremner, thanks so much, joining us from Seattle.

BREMNER: My pleasure. Thanks.

WHITFIELD: And a new pope giving his first Sunday message and more than 200,000 people come to hear Francis deliver it.

And could a trip to a freezing Toronto, Canada cool off the Miami Heat's winning street? We'll let you see.

And a reminder to watch CNN's new show "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 Eastern Time. You don't want to miss it.


WHITFIELD: The new pope delivered his first Sunday message from that famous papal apartment window this morning. More than 200,000 filled St. Peter's Square. And one of them watching it all was our Ben Wedeman.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, on his first Sunday as pope, Francis seems to be bent on breaking the papal mold.

After a special mass in the Vatican he greeted one by one worshippers like a simple priest at a simple church and then shocked his security by stepping out of the Vatican and into Italian territory to greet well wishers. He's clearly not a stickler for either protocol or predictability. Gone are Benedict's red shoes. Francis wears plain black. He's already taking on the air of the pope of the people.

During the Angelus prayers delivered from his papal offices overlooking a packed St. Peter's Square, he was equally informal. He ended his address with a simple wish - have a good Sunday and have a good lunch. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Ben Wedeman in Vatican City.

At the bottom of the hour we'll hear from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Chris Cuomo spoke to the cardinal about what it was like to take part in electing the pope. And some NBA history to share with you. The Miami Heat earlier today tied the Houston Rockets' 2008 record for second longest winning streak. 22 straight wins and the Heat picked up that win right where it started the winning streak in February - Toronto. The Heat beat the Raptors, 105-83.

NFL wide receiver Dante Stallworth is being treated for severe burns at a Miami hospital. He and a female companion were hurt after a hot air balloon they were riding in crashed into a power line yesterday. Stallworth's agent says the accident shouldn't hurt his ability to play football.

For more entertaining sports news, check out

So that March madness is spreading across the country, beginning with right here. Today is selection Sunday. In just a few hours we'll know which 68 teams will be competing in this year's NCAA tournament. Joining me from Kansas City to talk more about the so- called big dance is bleacherreport's C.J. Moore. C.J., good to see you!

C.J. MOORE, BLEACHERREPORT.COM: Thanks for having me on.

WHITFIELD: OK. So the Miami Hurricanes just won their first ACC basketball championship. They're known for football but now basketball. What does it mean to be selected, to be in this tournament?

MOORE: It's a pretty cool story. Jim Laranega, a lot of people know about him, a couple of years ago took George Mason, the final four and now he's turned around a program that has never really done anything in basketball. They got a point guard in Shane Larkin, who is the son of a pretty famous baseball player. They're a fun story.

WHITFIELD: Wow, that is a very fun story. I know Miami's going bananas. Who might, I guess, get that number one spot? Who is expected to be the number one seed?

MOORE: Well, the top overall seed right now is Louisville but the last couple number ones are still kind of up in the air.

WHITFIELD: And your pick to win it all - should we even go there, winning it all? We got a whole lot of break-downs before we get to that point.

MOORE: Yes. It helps to see the bracket. But I do - if you study the numbers, Indiana should be the favorite. But something's telling me that Louisville might go on a special run. Rick Pitino's team, the way they play defense, that's one of the best defensive teams we've ever seen in college basketball. They're really clicking at the right time.

WHITFIELD: OK. And so, you know, you're hoping that your favorites might be included but what about those that will be left out, the so-called bubble teams? MOORE: I think there's going to be some people in big blue nation who will be pretty upset and there's a lot of those people. That's one team to really watch for in a couple hours to see if Kentucky gets in or not.

WHITFIELD: All right. You're going to help us watch - maybe you can help me fill out my bracket. I may call upon you. C.J., always good to see you. Thanks so much.

MOORE: Thanks for having me on.

WHITFIELD: And of course we'll start building those brackets today, right? As soon as we find out later on who's in and who's out.

All right. This Tuesday, marking 10 years since the start of the Iraq war. Has our opinion of the conflict changed since then? We've got a new poll for you that shows time may not heal all wounds.

And the carnival legend is back in Tampa after technical difficulties. It is the latest in a series of problems for the beleaguered Carnival cruise line.


WHITFIELD: A deadly scene at a northern California racetrack last night. There was an accident during warm-up before the race began. A 68-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy were killed when a car lost control and slammed into the pit area at the Marysville Raceway. The race announcer described what he saw.


STEVEN BLAKESLEY, RACE ANNOUNCER: When I saw people running so rapidly towards that area I thought it was for the driver. And then I realized when I saw people performing CPR or whatever else on the injured that there were people on the ground. Then that's where your heart sinks.


WHITFIELD: Event organizers canceled that race.

In Pennsylvania, there will be a memorial tonight on the campus of Seton Hill University near Pittsburgh. They're remembering lacrosse coach Cristina Quicley (ph), the 30-year-old pregnant coach and her unborn son were killed when the team bus crashed on the way to a game yesterday. The driver of the bus was already killed. Two other members of the team are still being hospitalized.

President Obama heads to the Middle East this week. It's his first international trip of his second term. He'll make stops in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says the agenda is quite full.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He very much looks forward to his visits to Israel to the West Bank where he'll meet with Palestinian leaders and to Jordan where he'll meet with the king. In each case he'll be also engaging with Israelis and Palestinians and Jordanians because he needs to talk to the leaders about the issues that confront them and that includes regional issues like the challenge and threat posed by Iran and the situation in Syria. As well as the need for Palestinians and Israelis to take steps towards peace and steps that would hopefully lead to a reengagement of direct negotiations over the issues that divide them.

This is an important trip and it is true, there's no new peace proposal here because our position the president's position has been the sides need to come together in direct negotiation to resolve the differences that divide them and we're going to continue to press that case.


WHITFIELD: My conversation with White House press secretary Jay Carney. Stay with CNN for full coverage of the president's trip this week. Air Force one wheels up Tuesday.

All right. Losing last year's election was painful for Republicans and this week the party releases a review of what it could have done differently. CNN's political editor Paul Steinhauser says new polls show a reevaluation for the party may be just in time.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Hey, Fred, it is a top- to-bottom review by the Republican Party about what went wrong at last November's election and how to fix things. The Republican National Committee report comes out tomorrow.


REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I'll announce the specific actions that we're taking on Monday morning. It will be big and I promise you all it will be bold.


STEINHAUSER: And it seems the Republican Party may need a makeover. In a recent CBS News Poll, only 3 in 10 said they had a favorable view of the GOP. Sixteen points lower than that of the Democratic Party.

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" has the most recent numbers on the conflict. Nearly 6 out of 10 in that poll from January said the war wasn't worth it. President Barack Obama heads to the Mideast this week.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president will travel to the region and have very important meetings with leaders in Israel, with leaders in Jordan and with leaders in the West Bank.


STEINHAUSER: As he gets ready to go, it appears a majority of you give Mr. Obama a thumbs up when it comes to how he's handling foreign policy that according to our own CNN/ORC Poll from January.

Finally, the NCAA Basketball Tournament gets under way this week. Unfortunately, I don't have any March Madness poll numbers to offer you as you fill out your brackets.


WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Paul.

All right. Here's a look at what's trending online root now. The Carnival Cruise legend ship is finally back in port. It arrived in Tampa, Florida hours ahead of schedule this morning after propulsion problems. The company cancelled a scheduled stop on Grand Cayman. It is the latest in a series of beleaguered Carnival Cruises.

And the family of Michael Jackson is demanding billions in compensation from the concert promoter of what would have been his last concert tour. Jackson's mother and three children want $40 billion from AEG Live for future lost earnings and other unspecified damages.

And he was front and center for the election of the new pope. In a minute we'll hear from Cardinal Timothy Dolan on why he thinks changes are come being to the inner workings of the Vatican.


WHITFIELD: Pope Francis delivered his first Sunday prayer this morning. More than 200,000 people filled St. Peter's Square there. And breaking from tradition, he walked out from the Vatican grounds to greet cheering well wishers one on one.

New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan had a front row seat for the election of Pope Francis. CNN's Chris Cuomo spoke to Cardinal Dolan about what it was like to take part in the conclave and what direction he expects the church to take under this new pope.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do you think Pope Francis can do that will give a sense of renewal to the Catholic Church?

CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN, NEW YORK: You got it, Chris. Because the Catholic Church is ever ancient, ever new. It is a beautiful blend. You know sometimes we look to our church as a grandmother. Sometimes we look to her as a young bride. So there's got to be that combination of things immutable and things that are timely. He'll do it well.

All we can do is look at his track record. OK? An amazingly simple and sincere, transparent man. A man who deeply loves the poor. A man who is theologically well grounded in the timeless doctrine of the church. OK. And a man who knows how to govern. Now we're going to begin to see those kind of things. I think there may be a touch of simplicity, sincerity, openness. I think he's going to tend to the Roman Corealo which is the central government of the church universal. Which we've all said and reporting it well probably needs some tending to. Right? What government doesn't? Look as we look to D.C., we Americans are saying there needs to be some changes there. I think we'll see that stuff.

CUOMO: You think that is the prospect for him as a reformer more than on the social liberal agenda level of what's he going to do about women, what will he do about celibacy, what will he do about gay marriage? Do you think that he would move the church on any of those? Do you think that is not going to --

DOLAN: No, I don't think he'll do that. I mean he can't as you know, he can't really tamper with, what is called the deposit of faith which he gratefully inherits and now it is his job to pass on faithfully to the next generation. So he can't change any of the substance, the givens but boy can he ever change the way that's presented. I think he's shrewd enough because he's been a pastor in a huge diocese to say, you know what? I love the traditional teachings of the church, I'm as loyal to them as the day is long but I'm also recognizing that a lot of them aren't going over. Now I can't change them, I don't want to change them because they come to us from the Lord as part of revelation but we better work on a more tantalizing, attractive, compelling way to present and I think he will do that.

CUOMO: I understand its secret; I understand the key you locked away. What was it like in there for you? I took a picture of you when you put your hand to --

DOLAN: For the oath? I didn't have my fingers crossed.

CUOMO: You looked great. You were taking it seriously.

DOLAN: Who could not? All of a sudden you are looking around in the Sistine Chapel. Boy.

CUOMO: So what was it like? It's like the best known secret process in the world. You're in there as a Cardinal voting on the man who's going to be the head, the father. What's it like?

DOLAN: I can tell you what it's like. First it is not all fun and games. It is very intense and it is very emotionally draining. Because you think about it night and day. I mean this will be one of the most important things I will ever have to do, to vote for the new successor of Peter. So there's a lot of intensity.

But yet there is also Chis, balancing that, there's a remarkable -- I don't know how to explain this. I mean you know me I'm a pretty hard oiled guy, I don't think people would call me pious. I'm holy but I don't think they'd call me devotional or pious. There's a beautiful sense of the gentle movement of the Holy Spirit. No thunder and lightning, no sledge hammers, no people getting knocked off their horse but you gradually begin to sense a movement towards a man and you pray hard, you talk a lot to one another. And there's a gradual movement to it that and I found just generated a lot of joy and serenity.

CUOMO: Were you trying to look at anybody's ballots?

DOLAN: I may be Irish but I wouldn't stoop to that.

CUOMO: Walking out there with it in your hand how big a moment in your life --

DOLAN: You go up and make another oath, you know and then to put it on this beautiful -- you put it on the tray and then you take it so that it goes in, those are stunning moments. And there's silence. Most of the conclave is silent. See. It's not a caucus. It's not a convention. It is almost like a liturgy, there's a period of prayer. It's very quiet. It is almost like you're at a retreat where there is a lot of thought and prayer reflection going on.


WHITFIELD: Fascinating. On Tuesday Pope Francis will be formally installed during an inaugural mass at the Vatican.

All right. For years he has called her mom. Now the dream of this 32-year-old man is finally coming true. It is a story of undying love and you don't want to miss it. Next.


WHITFIELD: All right. Now to a story you don't hear about every day. It's a custody case not between husband and wife but a son and the woman who has been his mother in every way that you can imagine, except for on paper. That's why at 32 years old he is being adopted. CNN's Paul Vercammen has the story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations to you both.

MAURICE GRIFFIN, LISA'S SON: Thank you so much.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's official. Lisa Godbold adopted 32-year-old Maurice Griffin, the foster son she once lost.

GRIFFIN: All I can say is finally.

VERCAMMEN: They walked out mother and son as ruled by a judge in San Diego Juvenile Court.

LISA GODBOLD, MAURICE'S MOTHER: I'm so happy. But it's a little bit bittersweet. You know it's been a long time coming. It is a little bit bittersweet but I'm so over joyed.

GRIFFIN: For me, it is the best day of my life. I fought for ten years and finally the day came and I wouldn't say I ever lost hope but I don't know if it was ever going to happen.

VERCAMMEN: Maurice was 13 years old when he says the system destroyed his then-family, in part because after complex dispute over spanking. Authorities took Griffin from Lisa, her husband Charles Harris, and their two biological boys.

GRIFFIN: I just felt like I was abducted. Like I was just abducted and plopped somewhere else, then told to deal with it.

GODBOLD: It's probably one of the saddest days of my life. I mean we were heart broken.

VERCAMMEN: Maurice landed in boot camp for troubled teens, Charles died, Lisa eventually remarried, moved away, changed her last name, contact with Maurice was severed.

GODBOLD: I always thought about him but truthfully the odds were that he was going to finally end up in prison or he would die.

VERCAMMEN: But they still look for each other. Six years ago a key stroke of lady luck, Lisa found Maurice on My Space. They renewed the adoption quest. Lisa and Maurice say the adoption is an international symbol of hope for orphans.

GODBOLD: Anyone who has considered being a foster parent, it's the hardest job you will ever love and it pays off a thousand fold.

VERCAMMEN: Looking back on that road and what you know now --


GODBOLD: You do win.

GRIFFIN: I win. That's -- I mean I fought tooth and nail and it all meant something at this point. Only thing I want to say is I win.

VERCAMMEN: Paul Vercammen, CNN, San Diego.


WHITFIELD: That is a nice story.

Another long wait pays off for a gay couple in Michigan. Two navy veterans are able to marry after 30 years together but the state of Michigan says it won't recognize the marriage even though it was performed legally by a Native American tribe. The couple tells their story straight ahead.

TIM LACROIX, NEWLYWED: It feels good to have married the man I loved for the past 30 years. It feels really good.


WHITFIELD: Gene Barfield and his partner Tim LaCroix celebrated their 30th anniversary together by getting married.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With all my love and devotion this ring I pledge to you.


WHITFIELD: The two Navy veterans exchanged vows on Friday at the headquarters of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Ottawa Indians. LaCroix is a citizen of the tribe. The Michigan tribe recently voted to legalize gay marriage. The couple became the first same-sex couple to be married under that new law.

Even though this ceremony is legal, the state of Michigan says it will not recognize the marriage performed by the tribe. The reason -- Michigan is one of 37 states with laws or constitutional amendments that ban same-sex marriages and under the Federal Defense of Marriage Act or Doma, states do not have to recognize marriages performed by other states or by federally recognized tribes.

The spring court is expected to make a ruling during its current session of whether Doma is constitutional. In the meantime Barfield and LaCroix are hoping that their marriage and unions of other gay couples will be recognized in all 50 states. Newlyweds Gene Barfield and Tim LaCroix join me live now from Boyne City, Michigan. Gentlemen congratulations. Good see you.

LACROIX: Thank you.

GENE BARFIELD, NEWLYWED: Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: So you've been together for 30 years. Tim, why was it so important for you all to get married now?

LACROIX: Well, timing had a lot to do with it because of the Doma case. Then there is another case in the state of Michigan that's pending as well. That actually will not be heard until the Doma case is ruled by the Supreme Court. And Gene had a heart attack last year and so it was just time and I love him and it's just overdue. I mean 30 years. No one should have to wait that long to be happy.

WHITFIELD: Tim, was this your idea? You're the member of this tribe that's recognizing same-sex marriage. How important was it for you to be the first couple to do this under this new law?

BARFIELD: That part of it actually wasn't as important. But the timing itself was more important for us. Not because we're the first. There has to be a first with everything and fortunately, we were. But it's just something that need to be done right away. It just -- I can't say enough how happy I am about my tribe doing this. I think Dexter McNamara for doing this for us. I'm so proud of my tribe I can't tell you.

WHITFIELD: So Gene, give me an idea what this feels like for you. But at the same time knowing that the state of Michigan is not recognizing your marriage. BARFIELD: How it feels like. I'm married. Imagine living 60 years and for such a long time it was such a remote possibility that it wasn't even discussed. Then when it began to be discussed there was this whole line of people waiting to tell you you can't do that, you can't do that, you can't do that. Two weeks ago we can do that. I mean the process, it started rolling very quickly and it's just absolutely wonderful. One of the things that's wonderful about it is the normalcy. Equality is equality. Anything short of that is not equal.

That brings up the subject of Michigan. When the amendment is passed in 2004, people had attitudes, people did not see as much about the gay people that they knew. They just didn't know they know them. Things are a lot more open. People have seen a lot more. People have become used to. And I strongly suspect that if the same amendment were on the ballot today, the results might be very different. And it's wonderful to be this happy but we're really mindful that so far we're the only ones in the state of Michigan. That's not a good thing.

WHITFIELD: Well you know, I want to ask you about your thoughts of the revelation of Senator Portman last week. We saw a real dramatic reversal of opinion on gay marriage from the Republican. He talked about his son letting him know that he was gay and that was at the crux of why he changed his mind. Now he's supporting gay unions because he wants his son to enjoy marriage as well. So Gene, you personally experienced some initial family rejection when you came out. Do you think your marriage will change minds?

BARFIELD: I do. But what's more important and Senator Portman's situation with his son is the perfect example. When people are confronted with the fact that they know people who are LGBT, it is no longer an academic exercise. A father looking at his son or daughter, a mother looking at a son or daughter, how could they not want happiness for their kid? That's the importance of coming out.

And Senator Portman has to be congratulated for making the leap that he made. His son demonstrated a great deal of courage and he is the one who in my heart deserves our congratulations and our thanks even more. He's the one who took that critically important first step.

WHITFIELD: Gene Barfield, Jim LaCroix thanks so much gentleman and congratulations!

BARFIELD: Thank you very much.

LACROIX: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Still much more ahead here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Investigators want to know what caused a horrible crash at a spring car race. It killed two people. We will have a live report coming up.

And a reminder to watch CNN's new show "The Lead" with Jake Tapper, it starts tomorrow afternoon 4:00 Eastern Time. "The Lead."