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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Texas Shootout May Be Linked to Colorado Murder; Biden Digs in on Assault Weapons Ban; Freed After 22 Years In Prison
Aired March 21, 2013 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news in the case of a Colorado prison chief who was gunned down on his own doorstep. Investigators racing to Texas tonight to determine if a high speed chase with police is connecting to the murder.
Plus, assault weapons bans standoff. Joe Biden versus Harry Reid, Democrat versus Democrat.
OUTFRONT tonight, North Korea says it can hit American bases in Japan and Guam right now with its missiles. Would Kim Jong-Un do it? Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT, tonight, we have breaking news with major developments in the search for the gunman who killed Colorado's prison chief. At this hour, investigators from Colorado are headed to Wise County, Texas. It's about 45 miles from Fort Worth.
They're going there to see whether a man who led police today on a high speed car chase is the same person who killed Tom Clements on Tuesday night. The chase ended with the suspect crashed into a semi, left his car and opened fire on police, injuring a deputy.
Ed Lavandera is in Wise County, Texas, tonight. Ed, why do police think this suspect might be related to Tom Clements' horrific murder?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the car that the suspect in this particular case was driving was a black boxy Cadillac. What's interesting is that this car had two different Colorado license plates as well. So obviously that raised suspicion.
But what is not clear is whether or not that the initial deputies that approaches this car about 35 miles to the northwest of where we are in another county, in Monte County, had called upon that car because it matched the description of the car that authorities are around in several states have been alerted to be on the lookout for.
But regardless, high speed chase ensued. It ended just a short distance from where I'm standing here in the suspect authorities here in Decatur, Texas, say the suspect along the way was shooting out of his car window, reaching speeds of more than 100 miles per hour. One deputy was wounded, shot in the chest.
But that deputy, we're told, is -- will be OK, nonlife threatening injuries there. There was a civilian car that was hit by a bullet as well. But authorities here in Decatur, Texas, say they do not know the name of the person who was driving this car. That person was shot by authorities after he got into that accident.
He continued firing, got out of the car, and kept firing at authorities who were surrounding him and then authorities hit him. The suspect was -- has been flown to a hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, not too far away from here where essentially we're told that the suspect is on life support.
And they're waiting to see if they will harvest his organs, but they're still trying to identify him at this point. And we're also told, Erin, at this hour that investigators from Colorado are on their way down here to Texas to meet with investigators here at this scene.
BURNETT: All right, Ed Lavandera, thank you very much. It sounds like they didn't get much of the information they need. We're going to be joined by the police in just a moment. But authorities have all but ruled out that Tom Clements murder was a random act of violence. They're looking into whether his job had something to do with his murder.
And Casey Wian is out on that in Monument, Colorado, just outside Colorado Springs tonight.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Investigators confirm one theory they are pursuing in the shooting death of Colorado prison system director Tom Clements, is a possible link to refusal to allow an incarcerated Saudi Arabian national convicted of sex crimes and false imprisonment to be transferred to a prison in his home country.
Homaidan Al-Turki was sentenced in 2006 to 20 years to life for abusing his Indonesian house keeper. In 2011, the sentence was reduced making Al-Turki immediately eligible for parole. But Clemens declined to support Al-Turki's request to be transferred to Saudi Arabia because Al-Turki refused to enter a mandatory evaluation program for sex offenders.
Eight days before Clemens was gunned down on his doorstep, he wrote this letter to Al-Turki. To date you have declined these opportunities to be assessed for potential placement in treatment. You have reportedly declined based upon religious reasons/conflict with your Islamic faith. I have decided not to support your request for transfer to Saudi Arabia at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a lead amongst many others. As I mentioned, we're still in a very broad look here, a broad perspective here on all the possible options being considered. That simply is one of many at this point.
WIAN: Al-Turki's attorneys did not return calls seeking comment on the case, which has been politically sensitive in Saudi Arabia. Colorado's attorney general even traveled there to meet with King Abdullah and other officials to explain how the U.S. judicial system was used in the case.
Another of more than 100 tips and leads investigators are pursuing, this Craigslist ad for the sale of a $1,200 bicycle with Clements' phone number posted the day of the killing. They're still seeking information about a dark boxy car seen idling near Clements' home around the time of the killing Tuesday night.
At the office where Clements worked, flags fly at half-staff and there's extra security in place.
BURNETT: All right, Casey, so that story about the prisoners is bizarre. Where is that person right now?
WIAN: Erin, he remains in the Lineman Correctional Facility in Colorado. He has been placed though in protective custody because his name has been raised in this case. I do want to stress that this is only one avenue that investigators have been pursuing.
But because Tom Clements did not receive any threats that investigators are aware of and because he had no known enemies and was widely respected, they're pursuing every lead including this one -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, well, thank you very much, Casey Wian.
I want to bring in the El Paso County Undersheriff Paula Presley on the phone right now. Paula, I mean this is -- the story only seems to get more confusing and more bizarre the more that we learn.
Let me start with what happened in Texas today. Do you think that the man involved in that high speed car chase today was connected with Clements murder at this time?
PAULA PRESLEY, EL PASO COUNTY UNDERSHERIFF (via telephone): Well, certainly that is something that we're looking into. We currently have investigators who should be on the ground in Texas here within the hour.
Based upon the vehicle description that we were given, the fact that the plates are out of Colorado, we certainly have reason to believe that it's something that we need to investigate. Again, exploring all leads, all tips that we possibly can.
This could potentially be a break for us. But it will be very difficult to tell until we can get down there and see exactly what happened and analyze any evidence that may be there at that scene.
BURNETT: And Sheriff, one of the questions is you heard our Ed Lavandera from Wise County, Texas, was reporting, look, the person here who the police engaged in this shoot-off within Texas is not going to make it. They're harvesting organs.
I mean, are you worried you are not going to be able to get all the information you need or are you confident that you'll be able to get enough information even if he's dead to know whether he was responsible or not?
PRESLEY: Well, again, you know, that certainly -- you know, it's difficult for me to tell you that until we get investigators on the ground there and they're able to look and see what evidence is there. Obviously, it sounds like there were numerous rounds fired based upon what we're hearing in this shootout that ended after the pursuit.
And so there is evidence obviously there at the scene. That's what our investigators are there for is to talk to all of the authorities from the various agency that's were involved in this pursuit, examine that vehicle.
Look at any evidence that is on the scene to say that we certainly may, you know, lose some information because the suspect is not going to survive. That's difficult, you know, to say one way or the other at this point because we really don't know.
BURNETT: Well, what about the story about the Saudi Arabian prisoner that we were just hearing about? The Al-Turki case, now Clemens made a decision not to allow that man, the Saudi Arabian national convicted of sex crimes to be transferred back to Saudi Arabian prison. Have you been able to identify any connection or are you looking at a connection between Clements' murder and that particular case?
PRESLEY: We are looking at that particular case. Again, looking at all possibilities and we have to look at, were there any motives? Were there any threats against Mr. Clements? And so certainly, you know, would anybody have a reason or a vendetta?
So we're looking at that case. Again, haven't received any specific information at this point in time that would cause us to solely focus our efforts on that case. But it certainly is a possibility and we have to, again, look at all avenues.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Undersheriff Paula Presley for joining us to night. We continue to follow that story until there are answers.
OUTFRONT, next, Vice President Joe Biden came out big time in support of an assault weapons ban. Harry Reid killed the bill, Democrat V Democrat next.
Plus, a man who served 22 years in prison for the murder of a New York rabbi is released. Authorities say that now they know he was innocent all along. We have a special report on that.
And a mysterious death in Singapore, officials there say this man committed suicide. But his family here in America in Montana is convinced it was murder.
BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT, Biden's all out assault. So today, Vice President Joe Biden stood firm in favor of an assault weapons ban just hours before Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced a new gun control measure without an assault weapons ban.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: For all those who say we shouldn't and can't ban assault weapons, for all those who say the politics is too hard, how can they say that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, here's someone who does. He should probably ask Harry Reid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: And I'm not going to try to put something on the floor that won't succeed. I want something that will succeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: David Frum joins me now, former speech writer for President George W. Bush and Van Jones, former White House official for President Obama. All right, David, let me start with you. Joe Biden has long supported an assault weapons ban to be fair.
But in January, when his gun task force, when he started talking about what their ideas were, he didn't even mention his remarks or anything about assault weapons ban. So he also down played it. Is he trying to play both sides of the coin on this?
DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is very hard to understand what the vice president is playing. First, it's been evident for a long time in the Democratic majority Senate. The votes aren't there for an assault weapons ban.
And second, an even more relevant, I think few experts in the issue think that an assault weapons ban is anything like a top priority item in the field of gun safety. I mean, a spectacular and horrible as the crimes committed with assault weapons are, the day in and day out toll on Americans comes from handguns, not assault weapons.
And we're concerned about background checks and people domestic violence convictions or court orders. So why not do the thing that is easier to pass and has more political support and the answer may have to do with internal Democratic fundraising priorities much more than the need to pass an actual bill.
BURNETT: Van, let me ask you a question about this. So Harry Reid says I'm not going to have an assault weapons ban because I can't get the votes. By the way, yes, those votes are Republican, but some of them are Democrats too that's why you can't get enough numbers.
But then he says, I'm going to go ahead and put amendments out. My amendments will include background checks and they will include -- I'm sorry, they will include limits to magazines and they will include an assault weapons ban. So if he couldn't pass the bill, how is he going to pass the amendment?
VAN JONES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, a couple things. You know, Joe Biden has been a rock on this issue. I mean, for 20 years, he has been 100 percent on the right side in terms of the assault weapons ban
And also, let's not forget, it was last week he said if you want an assault weapon, you should join the military. So the idea that he somehow been missing in action is now sort of popping back up, I don't think that's exactly right.
But what you're seeing happening right now is that yesterday when it became clear that what Senator Reid was going to move forward was going to be a very, very stripped down bill, there was an explosion from the gross roots.
You had moveon.org and a bunch of organization that's came out of the wood work and said this is not acceptable. We're three months away from the children being murdered. We're not going to have the Democratic Party putting some watered down bill on the floor.
And what you're seeing now is a fight inside the Democratic Party and the NRA has a lot of power. But they're now being met with the grassroots fight back. Biden is a factor in that. The idea he's been missing in action on this is not right.
BURNETT: All right, well, Van, what about the fact though about the votes here? It's not just Republicans who wouldn't vote for the assault weapons ban. It's Democrats. You know, David Frum raises a fair point.
The numbers out there are less than 6 percent of the gun deaths. Fewer than 6 percent in this country are assault weapons related. But when it happens, they are horrific. If we can't get something passed on that then what else can we do? But you're not able to get the Democrat votes. How come?
JONES: Well, I think rather than looking at the White House and imagining that Joe Biden had given, you know, two more speeches we would have a different outcome, you have to look at the NRA. We have a mega lobby that people still think represents gun owners.
The majority of gun owners actually support an assault weapons ban. They support the background check. This lobby now represents gun manufacturers and they have tremendous power.
And they have gotten a lot of Democrats scared. I think Democrats are making a mistake. This is the year to stand up to the NRA, not to cower. I think you're making a big mistake by cowering.
BURNETT: David, let me ask you about the issue with Newtown. Everyone said after Newtown, at the least we can get an assault weapons ban and to your point, maybe the wrong way to focus but at the least we could get that. Joe Biden touched on that today, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: For all those who say we shouldn't or couldn't ban high capacity magazines, I just ask them one question -- think about Newtown. Think about Newtown.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And people do think about Newtown, David, right? I mean, Neil gave this testimony. I just want to play it really quickly because it will make you want to cry. Here he is talking about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL HESLIN, FATHER OF NEWTOWN VICTIM, JESSE LEWIS: I'm Jesse Lewis' dad. Jesse was brutally murdered, Sandy Hook School, December 14th, 20 minutes after I dropped him off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: David, I don't get it. I understand it's not that many deaths in the scheme of the country, but I don't get why we can't pass an assault weapons ban.
FRUM: Well, you know, we are seeing -- change is coming on this issue. We are seeing it. We're seeing fewer and fewer Americans choosing to keep a gun in the home. That is a tremendous breakthrough because all the science and all the statistics show that a gun in the home won't protect you against intruders, which there aren't very many.
But does hugely is crease increase accident or suicide by a member in the family. Americans are changing and as Americans recognize that the country is becoming safer in the face of crime, Americans are choosing to arm themselves less.
Change is going to come not from the political system to the country, but from the country to the political system. And as more and more Americans make a decision, I don't want one for myself because I recognize how dangerous it is inside my home. You will see maybe more space for political change.
Start with things like background checks. Start with things like keeping guns away from the most dangerous people, people with court orders for domestic violence rather than trying to change these appalling, but very rare terrible multiple murders.
BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to both of you.
Still to come, a man who served 22 years in prison for the murder of a rabbi in New York is free tonight. His conviction has been tossed out. CNN was there the minute he walked out a free man.
Plus, the country's most influential pediatrics group says that same-sex marriage is good for kids. A man who says that study doesn't add up comes OUTFRONT.
And "The New York Times" reports Jay Leno is about to be replaced by Jimmy Fallon. But is this Jimmy the reason why?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it's a direct -- it has to be a direct response to you coming and --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God, I hope so. I really hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Our third story, OUTFRONT, set free. So for the past 22 years, a New York man has sat in prison and he was in prison because he was convicted of murdering a rabbi in New York. But it is a crime that prosecutors now say David Ranta did not commit.
Mary Snow was there today to see it when he walked out a free man and she's OUTFRONT tonight.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For David Ranta, it was a moment more than two decades in the making. In handcuffs, he again faced a judge, but this time the conviction for a murder he insists he didn't commit was thrown out.
JUDGE MIRIAM CYRULNIK: Mr. Ranta, to say that I'm sorry for what you have endured would be an understatement and grossly inadequate, but I say it to you anyway.
SNOW: Ranta mouthed thank you to the judge, overcome with emotion, his family cheered, some cried. His handcuffs were taken off and the judge made it official.
CYRULNIK: The defendant's motion to vacate the conviction is granted.
SNOW: The judge wiped away tears as Ranta embraced his family that included a daughter who was a baby when he was convicted. With a bag his belongings slung over his shoulder, he walked out and faced cameras.
DAVID RANTA, RELEASED FROM PRISON: I'm overwhelmed. It's interesting. I would just like to say thank you to everybody. Thank you for those who supported me today on this. As I said from the beginning, I had nothing to do with this case. If you are interested, there will be as much paperwork as you would like to read on this case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any one thing you want to do?
RANTA: Yes. Get the hell out of here maybe.
SNOW: Ranta had always maintained he did not kill the rabbi, a prominent rabbi in Brooklyn's community who was the victim of a botched robbery in February of 1990. A diamond courier was the original target. He managed to get away and the robber shot him and took off with his car. Ranta was arrested six months later and his lawyer at that time says the conviction has haunted him.
MICHAEL BAUM, DAVID RANTA'S FORMER ATTORNEY: The day that David was convicted I made a promise to him I would never forget that I will do whatever I could in my power to set aside this verdict, to fight this injustice.
SNOW: Michael Baum tried to get the conviction overturned, but a phone call in 2011 raised hopes. A witness who was 13 at the time of the murder called him to say he had been coached by police to pick Ranta. Lieberman said a police detective told me to pick the guy with the big nose.
Michael Baum relayed the information to the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office. Their investigation found two other witnesses who admitted lying. It raised questions about the police handling of the case and ultimately led the DA to as the conviction be overturned.
The lead detective in the case was Louis Scarcella. He is now retired. We reached him at his home. He claims that Ranta confessed, but it was never recorded. Ranta denies he never made a conviction.
LOUIS SCARCELLA, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I didn't do anything wrong. I stand by my investigation and I don't know what else to tell you.
SNOW: As Ranta walked out a free man, a family friend of rabbi said the rabbi's family was in shock.
ISAAC ABRAHAM, FRIEND OF VICTIM: He is not coming back. The family still feels the loss. They're now reminded again by having David Ranta released in a botch up of justice and a botch up prosecution.
SNOW: Prosecutors did not go as far as saying Ranta was framed. They say they are not saying that. But Ranta's current attorney says he intends to file a lawsuit and he calls the police work shoddy at best and criminal at worst -- Erin.
BURNETT: Thanks very much to you Mary.
The North Korean military is warning that American bases in Guam and Japan are within striking range of its missiles. But would North Korea actually target America in the pacific?
And an American man found dead in Singapore under suspicious circumstances. Authorities say it's suicide. His parents say it's murder. An OUTFRONT special report next.
BURNETT: Breaking news and our top story tonight: the suspect who led police on a high speed car chase in Texas and who may be connected with the murder of the Colorado prison chief is now dead.
Ed Lavandera is in Wise County, Texas.
And, Ed, what can you tell us?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, well, after the accident here in the town of Decatur, Texas, where the suspect had been driving that car and had been hit broadsided by a semi truck and then got into a shootout, a continued shootout with authorities here earlier today, authorities shot him. He was flown to a hospital in Ft. Worth, Texas, not too far away from here. He had been put essentially on life support. They were waiting to determine whether they could harvest his organs. I'm told by the Wise County sheriff here in Decatur, Texas, that suspect has been taken off life support and has passed away.
What is interesting, however, is that they so far do not know his identity. But they have already fingerprinted him and they're in the process of trying to figure out exactly who he is. In the meantime, investigators from Colorado have jumped on planes and scrambled and are scrambling their way down here and expected to be here within the next couple of hours where they will begin the process of going through the suspect's car where we're told by investigators here in Texas that there is evidence that these investigators from Colorado will definitely want to see.
What exactly all that means specifically, we do not know. But investigators will be working very closely and getting into that car and see what kind of evidence they can find and see if it's connected to the murder of that director of the Colorado prison system -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Ed Lavandera, thank you very much.
And now our fourth story OUTFRONT: new threats today from North Korea. The North Korean military warns the United States that American bases in Guam and Japan are within, quote-unquote, "striking range of Korean missiles."
Now, could they -- would they actually hit American targets?
OUTFRONT tonight, Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Victor, you know as much about this as anyone in the world. So, what about these targets? They say Guam. They say Japan. What about Hawaii? What about American Samoa? What about the Mariana Islands?
VICTOR CHA, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Erin, they have medium range ballistic missile force that is deployed right now, meaning it's operational, that has a range of about 1,000 miles. And so they can hit anything within 1,000 miles.
We don't know about their targeting capability. But they certainly have the range to do that.
Beyond that, they're developing other missiles, some of which we've seen them test that can go much farther, 4,000 to 6,000 miles, perhaps even farther. So they're clearly building towards the capability where they can try to threaten every part of the United States where we may have forces or where our allies are around the world.
BURNETT: So, Victor, when we think about this we've been talking about West Coast of the U.S. You know, when you think about Hawaii, it brings back memories of Pearl Harbor, you know, another time where it was the easiest place to strike in the Pacific, was closer to Asia, Hawaii.
Should we be taking the North Korean threat more seriously? I mean, it seems we have a missile defense program the president is rebooting. But are we taking it seriously enough?
CHA: Well, I certainly think that the recent set of tests, the missile tests in December and then the nuclear test in February in which they appeared to have advanced their programs has created enough of a concern that I think we are taking it more seriously. Last week there was an announcement of our intent to move to put 14 new interceptors, missile defense interceptors, up which is a sign that we're taking this quite seriously now. But I think we should.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Victor. We appreciate you taking the time tonight.
And now to a story we've been OUTFRONT on, the mysterious hanging death of 31-year-old Shane Todd. He is from Montana. But he was found dead in his apartment in Singapore. And the FBI is now investigating the case. Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Eric Holder asking questions of the Singapore government.
Singapore police say Todd committed suicide. Todd's parents say it was murder. Now, Shane Todd was found dead in his apartment in June just hours after his last day working for a prestigious government research firm.
But did his work make him a target?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shane Todd, 31 years old, had a PhD in electrical engineering and by all accounts a very bright future. He was working for the Institute of Microelectronics or IME, a prominent Singapore research facility. His project involved creating faster, more powerful semiconductors using the compound gallium nitride.
His parents say that in his last few months he was stressed, even expressing fear for his life. He had told them he didn't feel right about his work. That it might be illegal, even a risk to U.S. national security.
With little faith in the Singapore police and the FBI unable to help in a foreign country, the Todds had little choice but to launch their own investigation. Rick Todd had pictures of Shane Todd's body taken when it returned to the U.S. They gave them and the Singaporean coroner's report to a forensic pathologist in Missouri.
His conclusion, Shane was murdered, most likely strangled by a wire. The evidence: bruises on his hands and a lump on his forehead indicating a fight. The back of Shane's neck was front. Hanging only causes damage to the front of the neck. There were bruises on Shane's fingers and neck, indicating he was trying to squeeze his hands under the wire, again, struggling to live.
RICK TODD, FATHER OF SHANE TODD: It's very hard to go through the pictures. But we will go to the ends of the Earth, to see justice is done.
MARQUEZ: Shane Todd's parents, Mary and Rick, are OUTFRONT tonight.
And thanks so much to both of you.
Rick, I know the Secretary of State John Kerry is involved. The FBI is now involved in investigating the death of your son.
Have they learned anything?
RICK TODD: Well, we know -- we received some word from Singapore that they're cooperating. But we're insistent they need to get access to both of Shane's computers, his diary and his --
MARY TODD, MOTHER OF SHANE TODD: Cell phone.
RICK TODD: Cell phone, yes.
BURNETT: Mary, I want to ask you about -- I know this is an awful memory that lives with you. But the suicide note that was allegedly Shane's. I know that you didn't think that that was real. What was it about that note that made you think this is not something Shane wrote?
MARY TODD: Well, first, he started off the very first paragraph is thanking IME for allowing him to succeed. That is completely incongruent, number one, with somebody who was going to take their life, but number two, who hates the company, who working for and felt they were asking him to compromise U.S. security.
And then the note just continued on to get more ridiculous. The memories didn't match our memories. The two paragraphs and sentences that he gave to his brothers which are his best friends were incongruent with our son.
BURNETT: When you talk about IME, that, of course, is the Singapore technology company that Shane was working for. You say that he hated his job. Did he talk to you about his work? MARY TODD: Every week, we talked about his work not in specifics but, you know, him planning to quit, giving his 60-day notice. I didn't understand his work. He's a doctor. You know, he is way beyond me.
But we did talk about how dissatisfied he was, and then, we started talking about how his life was being threatened. And that was towards after January. And he really felt he was in danger.
BURNETT: Did he talk about why he felt threatened? When he told you that, did he give you any detail about what he was working on or what threats he might have felt he was receiving?
RICK TODD: He's told actually both Mary and I that he was dealing with some Chinese engineers that would come into the room with him and here he was the lead of the team and then they would speak to him in English but then they would speak around him in Mandarin. And it concerned him so much that he actually started taking Mandarin. He had C.D.s in his room. He told his girlfriend that he was going to take it. He told us he was going to take Mandarin.
BURNETT: I know you said that the company that Shane says he was working with, it's a very powerful Chinese company with a big presence in this country called Huawei. And that he was working with them on -- again, you use all the acronyms I don't understand what all of them mean.
But, basically, something that could eventually have a use in some sort of military radar fashion, right?
RICK TODD: Yes. That's correct. Actually, MOC (INAUDIBLE) is actually -- it has civilian applications as well. But it has tremendous military applications.
BURNETT: So you think your son may have found out too much or may have indicated that he was going to -- when he talks about national security concerns, go to talk to someone in the U.S. government or something like that might have happened and that's when you think they decided to kill him?
RICK TODD: I think Shane actually had the recipes, very technical recipes for gallium nitride that were very sensitive. And they were asking him for it. He realized who he was dealing with which was Huawei, and realizing -- and that's when he was saying I'm so naive. You know, he thought he was involved in a civilian, you know, program and he realized that now it's getting out into people that really shouldn't have access to this.
BURNETT: When Huawei says to the United States, as they have, there was a congressional investigation into them in 2012. This story is done on television about Huawei, talking about whether they pose a security risk to this country, whether they're engaged in spying. Huawei, of course, denies that.
When they were asked about the relationship with IME, they said, I want to quote Huawei, "We do not do military equipment or technology, nor do we discuss it with partners."
Do you think they're just blatantly lying?
RICK TODD: The thing is, you have to have a complete understanding of what GaN is. It could be -- they can use words to disguise it about military technology. It's the technology and GaN and the recipes themselves that are so sensitive that can actually be used in applications for military.
BURNETT: Is there anything that would convince you, and I know it would be a horrible thing, but that this was not murder?
MARY TODD: Well, at this point, nothing could convince us because there's not one shred of evidence that points to suicide. Everything points to murder including the pathologist's report, Shane's external hard drive, the bathroom, the evidence in the bathroom. If we could go back to June and redo it all, we never had -- we wouldn't -- we're not parents that couldn't accept something like this.
Do you think we would go to all this trouble to just say our son didn't commit suicide? This is taken over our life. We're fighting for justice. We're fighting for our country.
No. There's nothing that could be said that would convince us otherwise.
RICK TODD: We don't want to minimize anybody that ever lost a son or a daughter due to suicide. That is a horrendous tragedy.
But I would say that would be a lot easier to deal with. I mean, we can't put this to bed. We know Shane was living it. We lived with his statements every week.
MARY TODD: Yes.
RICK TODD: I've seen the marks on his necks. I've seen his hands that are brutally bruised. I see the bruise on his head. This is something that we live with. We have lived with every day for the past eight months.
BURNETT: All right. Thanks so much for Rick and Mary.
Well, it is important to know that both IME, the company Shane Todd worked for, and the Chinese company Huawei insist they weren't working on a project together and they deny that there is a relationship between them.
Well, America's most respected pediatrics group says children of same sex couples would be happier and healthier if their parents were married. The man who disagrees, OUTFRONT.
Plus, a Canadian health agency has an unusual way to combat smoking. This is probably the best ad you've ever seen. And, yes, we will share it with you.
BURNETT: Our fifth story OUTFRONT: is gay marriage good for kids? According to a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents' sexual orientation has no effect on the children's development.
In the report released today, the nation's most influential pediatricians group says gay couples should be allowed to marry in order to ensure the best health and well-being of a child.
OUTFRONT tonight, Peter Sprigg with the Family Research Council, Keli Goff is a correspondent with TheRoot.com, and Reihan Salam, a contributor for us and a writer for "The National Review."
All right. Great to have all of you with us.
And, Peter, let me start with you.
American Academy of Pediatrics is backing gay marriage. Benjamin Siegel in the academy statement said, "Children thrive in families that are stable and that provide permanent security and the way we do that is through marriage." Regardless of whether it's a man and a man, and a woman and a woman, or a woman and a man. Is that wrong?
PETER SPRIGG, SENIOR FELLOW FOR POLICY STUDIES, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: I disagree with their statement. There's -- there have been decades of social science research showing that children do best when raised by their own biological mother and father who are committed to one another in a life-long marriage. Children in that setting are happier, healthier and more prosperous than children in any other setting.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is relying on a much smaller and much more limited body of research on homosexual parents which really cannot bear the weight that they're putting on it.
BURNETT: Keli, is that true? You heard Peter saying the best situation for a child is married woman and man?
KELI GOFF, THEROOT.COM: Well, look, common sense dictates that being born straight doesn't miraculously make you a great parent. I just read the horrific story about that woman who is heterosexual and was trying to sell her daughter to a pedophile.
So, I think we can all agree that simply being born with one sexual orientation doesn't make you a better or worse parent.
That being said, I actually wasn't that shocked by this finding. I think a lot of Americans won't be, because one of the things I have written about before, Erin, is actually same sex adoption has long had far more support than same sex marriage, because there are plenty of people who see gay, LGBT families and see them being great parents.
The issue for a lot of Americans who are religious is the M-word, marriage itself. It's not that they actually oppose certain rights or that they don't think gay Americans can make great parents. It's the issue of marriage and the religious connotation they see with it.
BURNETT: Reihan, all in, the study says there are about 2 million children in this country right now being raised by gay parents. Is there a scenario as you look at it under which being raised by gay parents would be bad for a child?
REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the truth is that we're not going to know for a very long time because we don't actually have a large number of families and large number of children have been raised in these families, you know, over a long enough period of time. Let's say people who grew up in zero to 18.
SALAM: I think Peter's point is a reasonable one that family stability is the most important thing and that actually being raised by your biological parents does happen to be very, very valuable.
The trouble is that we're dealing with kids who are already not being raised by their biological parents. That's why they're in the foster system, why they're up for adoption.
And so the question is, are these families --
BURNETT: Some of these kids, you could have a sperm donor and the woman's egg and it could be a lesbian relationship so it is biologically at least one of --
SALAM: That's true. That raises a lot of interesting, important questions about anonymous fatherhood. I think there are a lot of folks who are looking at whether or not anonymous fatherhood is a potentially risk for the wellbeing of children. But that's a bit of a separate issue from whether or not same sex couples can adopt and raise children successfully.
GOFF: Oh, let's not forget that sperm donation is not a federally regulated industry in this country, so we have no idea, no way of tracking what happens when someone who has an anonymous father turns out to be a girl, turns out to be boy, and they end finding each other in college, we have no way of regulating that. I don't mean to freak people out. But --
BURNETT: Well, that does freak people out.
GOFF: But that's a whole separate --
BURNETT: But that's a serious issue.
GOFF: It's a serious issue, that it's unregulated, and that's a whole separate conversation.
But I think that we're kind of convoluting things here, Erin, because I think the conversation turned to one that everyone who opposes same sex marriage is a bigot. I happen to not agree with all those people, but I don't think that's the case. With those people who say I oppose marriage but support seeing kids raised by a loving family even if that's two gay couples, that really is becoming a mainstream perspective in this country.
BURNETT: And, Peter, on that front, for a mainstream perspective, I mean, Keli has a point. And when you look at the support of gay marriage in this country, that is where the pendulum is swinging, 53 percent of Americans in our latest poll support it. Now, there are splits by party, but that seems to be inevitable.
So, why focus on trying to prevent it and maybe instead focus on well, if you're going to be a man and man married, focus on being as stable as possible?
SPRIGG: The polls depend a lot on what question is asked, how the question is framed. If the poll is framed in terms of not equality or rights or things, bias in favor of the same sex marriage position but asked in terms of the real issue at hand under the law, which is the definition of marriage, around 60 percent of Americans will still answer that they believe marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman.
As for gay parenting -- I mean, there's no question there are gay parents and so forth. They are able to love children. But no amount of love can turn a mother into a father or father into a mother.
In any case, the issue of parenting is not identical with the issue of marriage. It's not necessary to change the definition of marriage in order to deal with the issue of parents.
BURNETT: Interesting point. Well, thanks very much to all three of you. A lot to be continued on this. I hope you all three will come back.
And now, let's check in with Anderson with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360."
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. We've got breaking news on the program tonight in the murder of the chief of Colorado's prisons, a possible break in the case. We'll tell you what's happening.
Also families who lost kids in Newtown are adding their voices to the gun control debate. The parents of 7-year-old Grace McDonnell murdered in Sandy Hook tell me if members of Congress felt their pain for just one day, they'd be moved to make a change.
And they are calling it an unprecedented wildlife crisis in California. Sea lions by the dozens washing up onshore. Many are dead, more dangerously malnourished. We'll try to figure out what's going on.
All that and the "RidicuList" and a lot more at the top of the hour, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Anderson, we're looking forward to seeing you in a few moments.
And in tonight's essay, the war on smoking, Mayor Bloomberg and passing gas, in the best ad you'll ever see.
BURNETT: The ministry of health in Ontario, Canada, has released what might be the best public service announcement you'll ever see. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I use partying as an excuse to meet a guy.
You want to go outside for a fart?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We talk. We fart.
Just because I fart at parties it doesn't make me a farter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It's worth watching the whole thing, by the way.
That's right. The Canadians are using it to combat smoking. And yet, Canada's plan doesn't stink as much as the one in New York.
On Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he was moving forward with a law to forbid stores from publicly displaying cigarettes and other tobacco products because, quote, "such displays suggest that smoking is a normal activity and invite young people to experiment with tobacco."
Well, smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, but is hiding merchandise the best way to combat the problem or is there another way the states are avoiding?
According to the CDC, between 1998 and 2010, states in this country collected nearly $244 billion in cigarette taxes and settlement money from the case against big tobacco. Yes, that is nearly one quarter of a trillion dollars. This year alone, the states will get nearly $26 billion.
So that money is supposed to go to ending smoking, funding tobacco prevention programs, but it doesn't. Of the $26 billion this year, about 1.8 percent is actually going to go towards prevention. The states use the rest for, well, a whole lot of other stuff. They obviously need the cash desperately.
New York City will receive $625 million this year and has set aside $7.9 million for programs in its 2013 budget, that's even less than the national average. And the truth is, that states and cities in America say they want smoking to end, but they rely on people's smoking to make ends meet. That's an inconvenient truth. Is Mayor Bloomberg really serious about stopping smoking? He should ban that and fight that battle. Not the silly soda stuff.
"A.C. 360" starts right now.