Return to Transcripts main page


Infant Boy Shot and Killed in Georgia; Washington State to Set Up Regulated Marijuana Market; Boy Burned in Iraq Leads Normal Life in U.S.

Aired March 23, 2013 - 14:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I am Fredricka Whitfield. Welcome to the CNN Newsroom. Here is what we're watching.

Two teen boys are accused of shooting this baby in cold blood. The mother of the child is talking to CNN.

And this is interstate 70 in Colorado, 154 miles of it closed. It may be spring but a significant winter storm is moving from the plains to the Midwest.

And it's the first job of its kind. Meet the man who is helping the state of Washington sort out the complexities of legalizing marijuana.

Our top story now, the Brunswick, Georgia, mother that says a teenaged boy shot and killed her 13 month old baby and just spoke to CNN's Nick Valencia. Nick joins me now from Brunswick. So Nick, two teens have been charged with first degree murder in this case and then 911 recordings have been released, all at a time when you had a sit-down conversation with the mother.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just sat down with Sherry West for a very emotional interview, and, Fred, she didn't mince words.


SHERRY WEST, MOTHER: I hate you and I don't forgive you. You killed an innocent human life, and that I hope you die for it. That's how I feel.

VALENCIA: No one would blame you to feel like that.

WEST: No, because this is the second child that people have taken from me in a tragic way. And that I am so afraid to have any more babies now. I tried to raise really good kids in a wicked world, so I hope he dies for what he did.


VALENCIA: Sherry West says she can't live here anymore. When we visited her apartment she was packing up. She says she is moving by the end of April 1,000 miles away back to New Jersey. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Nick, did she explain? She said this is the second child she has lost in a tragic way. Did she reveal anything more about the first child she lost and the circumstances?

VALENCIA: She did. In 2008 her 18-year-old son was stabbed to death in an altercation. She said he tried to break up a fight. She lost her son then. She said it took years for her to be able to have kids again. And once she did, this was the little child she just lost and tony Angelou Santiago and she lost him, too.

I also want to share with you a 911 tape exclusively released to CNN. We obtained that from the Brunswick police department. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is 911. Where is your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emergency, a woman says her baby apparently has been hit in the head or shot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her baby has been hit in the head or shot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shot. I can't tell. She's screaming now. A lot of other people are going to the area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Stay on the line. Is the baby bleeding?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How close are you to them? Are you close to the situation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I am not. I am about 50 yards away. The woman is screaming and there are other people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How old does the baby look?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is in a stroller. I would say he's not walking age. He's got to be a toddler.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is pushing --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The baby is on the ground now. The woman, the mother is over the baby. Send the police please.


VALENCIA: Up until today police had been reluctant to release that 911 tape. They had a change of heart and did release the tape to CNN. They say they are still looking for a clear motive why the two suspects allegedly did this. They have been charged officially with first degree murder and still looking for the handgun.

WHITFIELD: If they are reluctant to release the 911 tapes and now they have, what are the reasons why?

VALENCIA: They said they just need to -- it was an open investigation. I asked that. I interviewed officer Todd Rhodes earlier this afternoon and he said it was their decision and they just had a change of heart and decided to let the public know what happened that day. They didn't want to damage any part of the investigation initially, but decided this morning I got a call from the Brunswick police officer, Todd Rhodes, who said he would be releasing the 911 tape and releasing it to CNN, so this is the first we're hearing of those calls. Again, Fred, there were no eyewitnesses.

The account of what happened came initially from the mother but as you see from the calls there were several people that heard those gunshots and did call 911. Emergency vehicles responded, and between 100 and 125 officers were on the scene after the initial report.

WHITFIELD: And Nick, you just underscored there were no eyewitnesses that have been revealed to us or investigators, but then what led investigators to these two young people as suspects?

VALENCIA: That's a great question. I asked the police department after the press conference yesterday. I said how can you be so sure? How can you be positive that these are the two right suspects? They said they arrested the suspects. The arrest came with the help of a physical description from the mother. They also cross referenced attendance records from area schools to find out who was missing that day.

This is a very small town, only about 15,000 people. It is the type of town where and a community where everyone knows everyone, Fred. This is really shaking it to its very core. It devastated so many people we have spoken to and can't imagine something like this could happen here or anywhere for that matter.

WHITFIELD: It is shocking. Nick, thanks so much in Brunswick, Georgia.

Meantime, look at the calendar. It says spring officially started on Wednesday. Where is it? Winter didn't get the message. Take a look at this, a huge snowstorm is blasting Colorado and Kansas and closed more than 150 miles of interstate 70 from Denver to the Kansas line. And the world cup qualifying game between the U.S. and Costa Rica taking place in Denver, well, it did still take place, very hard to kick the ball when there is snow all over the ground. They did it. The U.S. won the game. Many more people from the Midwest to the mid- Atlantic could see this storm before it is all over. Kara Maginnis is watching all of this for us. Karen, what a mess.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is a complete mess and a good portion of Kansas and Nebraska sandwiched between interstate 70 and 80 where the bulk of the snow is going to lie. This storm system is trekking towards the east. Let's back up a little bit from Denver. It is right in this area along interstate 70 around Aurora and right to the Kansas border. This is where we have seen interstate 70 shut down in both directions, one, because the road conditions are so bad and visibility is terrible as well.

Where you see the pink, that's where the winter storm warnings are and we have watches and advisory that go on towards the Ohio river valley and incompetent some of those advisories may be upgraded. And then here is our second weather headline. Two severe thunderstorm watches, but that's not it. It is the tornado warning that goes until 2:45 local time. That is the pink shaded area. Here is Jacksonville, Florida, Lake City, here is Stark. The storm cell is moving towards the east at about 45 miles an hour, and they are saying that some of the trees are reported down as the thunderstorms have fired up across north central and northeastern Florida.

Getting back to our storm system that moves across the Ohio River Valley. And guess what -- just in time for the work week on Monday, Fred, it looks like by Washington, D.C. and New York could see a little bit of snow.

WHITFIELD: Figures, just in time for the work week. Like you said, thanks so much, Karen. Appreciate that.

President Obama, well, he should be back in Washington late tonight. He spent the last day of the Middle East trip in Jordan as a tourist. He took a walking tour of Petra and its Red Rock formations.

An historic day for the Catholic Church. Newly installed Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict meeting for lunch where Benedict XVI is now living. The two also prayed together. The Vatican says this is the first such meeting in the history of the Catholic Church.

He knows the ins and outs of drug policy. That's why Washington state picked Mark Kleiman to help in the historic task of creating a legal way to buy pot.


WHITFIELD: Washington state, which legalized recreational marijuana last year, has hired its first pot adviser. Our Casey Wian has the details.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So who got the job, Cheech and Chong? Spicoli from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, bud, let's party.

WIAN: The former leader of the free world?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn't like it and didn't inhale.

WIAN: Instead the Washington state liquor board went corporate, choosing Botec, an east coast consulting firm to help implement the new law legal rising marijuana for the purpose of getting stoned.

STEVE DAVENPORT, BOTEC ANALYST CORPORATION: We look forward to working with the board to address the unprecedented challenge of organizing a taxed and regulated cannabis market in ways that protect public health and public safety.

WIAN: Why did Botec win?

RANDY SIMMONS, WASHINGTON DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES: They were the highest individual scores in each of the four categories.

WIAN: Some have called the position the state's drug czar.

SIMMONS: I don't believe that's our official title.

WIAN: The competition for the contract was fierce.

SIMMONS: We ended up getting a ton of responses, actually 112 submissions received by the agency, and 95 of those were actual proposals. Out of that we had 43 proposals deemed non-responsive.

WIAN: Wonder why. The pot head consultant Botec's CEO Mark Kleiman is already controversial among activists because he expressed concern about state legalization efforts conflicting with federal law.

SIMMONS: We have no idea what the federal government is going to do. If they step in with an injunction, we won't implement based on the dates in 502, but I don't see that will stop us in putting together the framework.

WIAN: Financial terms of the deal still are being negotiated, but it is budgeted at $100,000 a year. There was one final question for the weed wardens

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many of you currently consume cannabis.

DAVENPORT: Clearly I don't think that's relevant to the project. All of our consultants are law abiding citizens.



WHITFIELD: That was Casey Wian reporting. Trying to make sure the pot industry stays within legal limits isn't going to be an easy job. You just heard that. Let's bring in the Botec Analysis Corporation chief and UCLA professor Mark Kleiman joining us. He is the author of "Marijuana Legalization, What Everyone Needs to Know." So your company has a huge task ahead. How does the industry get built from scratch so to speak? What do you advise? How do you advise as to what is going to unfold since it is kind of uncharted territory?

MARK KLEIMAN, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, UCLA: It is indeed uncharted territory, and the voters wrote a fairly specific law which the liquor control board is now in charge of implementing, and they asked us for advice, so we're going to try to layout the likely consequences, good and bad, of different choices they can make and help them make choices in accord with their values.

WHITFIELD: So choices like what? What do you mean when you say good and bad choices and advising them? For example?

KLEIMAN: Well, for example, they're going to decide how many growers to license. They can license five. They can license 500. If they license a small number it will be easy to regulate them. Then will you have an industry that looks less like the current beer industry with a small number of firms dominating it.

If they license 500, it makes the regulatory task harder. If one is selling stuff out the back door and not paying tax it will be harder to find. But you will not have the same kind of concentrated political power.

If they set up regulations that impose a lot of costs on the industry, that will drive up the price. Higher prices will mean less drug abuse, less risk of export from Washington to other states, but a greater risk they will still be an elicit market within Washington.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh, there is a lot to sort out. What's the time frame in which you try to sort these things out or help the state sort out whether they will be five company that is grow marijuana so that there is universal I guess appeal or whether it is 500 companies as you put it?

KLEIMAN: The deadlines are in the law, December 1st the board has to have regulations on the street and start taking applications for grower licenses. Now, that's not going to mean there is going to be retailing soon, because it takes a couple of months to issue the licenses, and then the licensees will take several months to be able to grow the pot. My guess is won't be anything for sale in Washington retail stores until sometime late next spring or early summer.

WHITFIELD: And then how much will the public play a role, the feedback of the public? Will it at all?

KLEIMAN: The board has already had town hall meetings across the state, and we're going to be transcribing those and looking at what those folks -- they're heavily dominated by people that want to be in the industry, but, yes, the public has a big role and I am sure that the board will want to take further comment from the public as to regulations develop.

WHITFIELD: In Casey Wian's report, perhaps you heard real complicated crossroads where the federal law meets state law. What do you anticipate when you do come to that crossroads. Even you in the piece admitted that's going to be a rather complicated thing.

KLEIMAN: It is going to be very complicated, and the federal government has not yet indicated what its stance is going to be. One thing that Washington has to think about is how to make sure what starts in Washington stays in Washington. Washington got to be a major exporting state that would attract a lot of unwanted attention from the feds.

So the question is can something -- what the president said when he was asked a couple months ago, question is how to accommodate the difference between the controlled substance act at the federal level which makes growing marijuana and selling it strictly illegal, and the state law that proposes to tax and regulate it. It is not going to be an easy needle to threat. WHITFIELD: We're leaving it there. Mark Kleiman, thanks so much for your time and can all the best.

KLEIMAN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: His story is inspiring as a small child in Iraq, Yousiff was doused with gasoline and set on fire. He was brought to the U.S. by the kindness of strangers. Now five years later we visit the young boy that has beaten so many odds.


WHITFIELD: You might remember the story of Yousiff, the Iraqi boy badly burned by attackers when he was just five-years-old. Now he is a fifth grader living in California. Dr. Sanjay Gupta catches up with him and the amazing progress he has made on today's human factor.


YOUSIFF, BURN VICTIM: So this is like our classroom. I sit in that seat over there.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's amazing to me with what a typical American 10-year-old kid Yousiff has become.

YOUSIFF: It moves faster.

GUPTA: This was Yousiff just five years old at the time. He was attacked by masked men in front of his home in Baghdad. They poured gasoline on his face and set him on fire.

What's the first thing you remember about all of that?

YOUSIFF: I just remember a doctor getting a sponge.

GUPTA: In Iraq, and they had a sponge?

YOUSIFF: I think they like scratching on me or something.

GUPTA: Trying to take off some of the burned skin.


GUPTA: Yousiff's parents were desperate to see their boy smile again, so just months after the attack they came to the United States with a single suitcase, their living expenses and their medical expenses. All of it was paid for by the kindness of strangers, and we have followed their journey since 2007. Yousiff has had 19 operations, a total of 61 procedures to help correct the burn damage.

Yousiff's father still doesn't want to show his face for fear of retaliation.

Do you tell people what happened to him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to tell them when they ask. I mean, sometimes it bothers me when they don't ask and they keep just looking. It really bothers me.

YOUSIFF: But it doesn't bother Yousiff. He is a happy kid. He is smart, confident. His parents say he never complains. He never asks about the scars on his face.

YOUSIFF: This one I could see that there is like three spaces.

GUPTA: Yousiff's parents say all of this still feels like a dream.

Have you had a hard time making friends at all?

YOUSIFF: No. It is like whenever a new kid comes like the next day we're just friends.

GUPTA: Is that right?


GUPTA: Anybody ever mean to you?


GUPTA: Once victims, now a family, full of strength.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta CNN, Canoga Park, California.



WHITFIELD: Money, this record made a lot of it. Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" is one of the bestselling albums of all time. And this may make you feel a little old. Tomorrow is the album's 40th anniversary. To mark the occasion the group's official Web site will be streaming the album in its entirety, and you can catch that just after midnight London time or just after 7:00 p.m. eastern time tonight.

And stay with CNN at the top of the hour. We'll bring you more on the developing story out of Brunswick, Georgia. We're learning more about the fatal shooting of a one-year-old baby.