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Accused Murderer Escapes in Texas; Armed Security For Officials In Texas; Michael Jackson Death Trial

Aired April 2, 2013 - 14:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the CNN NEWSROOM. Happening right now, a frantic manhunt for these two Texas inmates. They scaled a barbed wire fence today, forcing 15 nearby schools to lock down. Now a massive search is on for the suspects police are calling extremely dangerous.

And six people arrested included in this, this state senator. They are accused of trying to fix New York City's mayoral election.

Plus this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Incredible. And that is oil.


WHITFIELD: And what a mess that is. Oil gushing from the ground. Some homeowners in Arkansas left with a big mess and a big headache. We're talking live to a family forced out of their home. The CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Brooke Baldwin.

We have a developing story out of north Texas. These two prisoners are on the loose this hour. The one on the right is being held on a charge of capital murder. His name is Brian Allen Tucker. John Marlin King, on the left, was being held for allegedly evading a theft charge. They escaped from the Hopkins County Jail just northeast of Kaufman County, which is reeling from the murders of two prosecutors. Sergeant Brad Cummings is with the Hopkins County Sheriff's Office.

Sergeant Cummings, how and when did the men escape?

SGT. BRAD CUMMINGS, HOPKINS COUNTY, TEXAS, SHERIFF'S OFFICE (via telephone): Officers were advised this morning about 8:20 that we did have two white males, later identified as Tucker and King, that apparently they were on the recreation yard and they were able to manipulate the fencing area and slip through a part of the fence. And they took off east of the sheriff's office.

WHITFIELD: Well, you know, that's quite detailed in how you believe it happened. But one has to wonder, how could something like that happen in a place that is known to have high security?

CUMMINGS: That's correct. You know, and that's one thing that goes through all our minds. And I'm sure there will be some sort of internal investigation to figure out where -- what happened and what kind of security breach might have occurred.

WHITFIELD: And we mentioned that one of the men, Brian Tucker, was being held for capital murder. What level of risk is it believed that he and the other inmate pose?

CUMMINGS: They are both to be considered extremely dangerous. Matter of fact, Tucker is looking at the death penalty in reference to his indictment in 2011 for the capital murder of Bobby Riley, a citizen here in Hopkins County. John King just received 40 years on his charge of evading and, I believe, burglary charges.

WHITFIELD: And Mr. Cummings, your area is already reeling following the murders of two prosecutors over the last two months in a nearby county.


WHITFIELD: You know, one has to wonder, you know, whether there was increased security at your facility just as there had been at many other state and local government buildings and heightened security of civil servants as a whole.

CUMMINGS: Yes. You know, in regards to that, I've been asked about that also. This is right now being considered a coincidence and no relation to that at this time.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sergeant Brad Cummings, thanks so much for your time.


WHITFIELD: All right, the widow of a murder victim is seething after learning the convict who allegedly gunned down her husband was let out of prison in Colorado four years early. Colorado court officials apologized for the clerical error that led to Evan Ebel's premature release. Police believe Ebel killed Nathan Leon, a father who worked at IBM and then delivered pizza on the off hours to earn some extra money for the family. Investigators found a pizza box and delivery uniform in Ebel's car. The same car, they say, was used in the murder of Colorado prison's chief Tom Clements.


KATHERINE ANN LEON, VICTIM'S WIDOW: A simple sorry ain't going to suffice in my book. I'm a 30-year-old widow with two little four-year- olds that I have to go on the rest of my life explaining what happened to their dad. That this could have all been prevented. And it makes me sick and it angers me something fierce. To sit there and think this all could have been prevented.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Corrections officials say Ebel was given a four-year sentence for an assault charge term that Ebel should have served after his original sentence. But the paperwork didn't reflect that, leading to his mistaken release.

All right, on to New York now. The FBI has busted State Senator Malcolm Smith, who allegedly plotted to fix New York City's 2013 mayoral election. The U.S. attorney's office says Smith, who was a Democrat, offered bribes to Republican leaders in order to get on to the GOP ballot in the upcoming mayoral race. Well, five other people have also been charged in that case.

And it's the controversial directive the NRA pushed in the days after the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. Stop a school shooter by putting guns in schools. Now three and a half months after the killings, a task force the NRA set up announced the details on how exactly to do that. The group, National School Shield, offered eight recommendations. Among them, a model training program to teach school resource officers how to handle a weapon on campus. Also recommended, an online self-assessment tool for schools to figure out their vulnerabilities.


ASA HUTCHINSON, LEADER, NATIONAL SCHOOL SHIELD PROGRAM: They'll be asked questions on access control. Are classroom doors kept locked during instructional times? Does the school enforce its visitors sign in and access control? Has the school staff been trained to question or challenge a visitor that's not properly badged.


WHITFIELD: The group also proposed a pilot program that would not only determine if a student's likely to become a shooter, it would provide mental health services for the troubled student.

The father of James Mattioli, a six-year-old killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, showed support for what National School Shield hopes to do.


MARK MATTIOLI, FATHER OF SANDY HOOK SHOOTING VICTIM: I think politics needs to sort of be set aside here and I hope this doesn't, you know, lead to name calling, but rather this is recommendations for solutions, real solutions that will make our kids safer.


WHITFIELD: Today's proposals are just recommendations. The National Rifle Association still needs to consider whether to endorse them.

All right, Kaufman County, Texas. No new leads in the hunt for the killer or killers of Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse -- that's Hasse on the right -- and his boss, Mike McLelland. McLelland and his wife were killed at home over the weekend, multiple shots, that's what we're hearing today. A county judge says extra security now is in place across Kaufman County.


BRUCE WOOD, KAUFMAN COUNTY JUDGE: I can promise you that all of the people in this courthouse, all of the elected officials, all of the other people that are involved in this investigation, are being -- are being very well protected. I have no question about our safety.


WHITFIELD: All right, there's lots of suspicion, but nary a shred of evidence, pointing to the Texas Aryan Brotherhood. Why the suspicion? Because Kaufman County is one of four Texas counties whose law enforcement officials threw weight behind a massive investigation that led to indictments last year of 34 people connected to that group. The Texas Aryan Brotherhood is known as a violent white supremacist group. They operate out of prisons and jails and on the outside as well. Richard Ely is a Houston based attorney who has dealt with the group and once defended one of its members.

Richard Ely, listen, if you would, you know, to a former white supremacist, a man who was up on this group. He believes that the Texas Aryan Brotherhood is indeed behind these murders. Listen in.


FRANK MEEINK, FORMER SKINHEAD: The Aryan Brotherhood is trying to relay a message that they are not only going to get you if you are behind the wall, but they are going to get their enemies outside the walls. The indictment that happened a year ago to this group really hurt the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. They -- when the indictment happened, it didn't just -- this isn't an ideology battle here. This was financial. They took away some of their drug mules. They took away people on the outside who were supplying them.


WHITFIELD: Richard Ely, so what's your response to that? What do you think about what you just heard?

RICHARD ELY, DEFENDED TEXAS ARYAN BROTHERHOOD: Well, I think, Stephanie (ph), that what's going on here is that maybe part of it, but I would be skeptical at this point of saying that one particular group was responsible for these terrible, terrible shootings. It's horrible what happened to the district attorney and his wife. But there are some things that could have been what -- any number of investigations that were going through that office.

My experience with the Aryan Brotherhood is I'm currently representing a member in the indictment down here in Houston that you referenced. While they have violent tendencies and commit violent acts, something about the indiscriminate shooting just doesn't seem quite right to me. The -- WHITFIELD: What do you mean indiscriminate? I mean this is -- it appears, even though we're still waiting for more details, it looks like these were targets. These were targeted killings involving the prosecutor and the assistant D.A.

ELY: I understand -- yes, I understand. But I understand that there were -- there was an awful lot of 223 ammunition used. Lots of shots. My experience with retaliatory or disciplinary actions by the Aryan Brotherhood would have been that they might have dragged the prosecutor out on the lawn, beaten him up, maybe shot him and left. I'm surprised that the wife was killed. That -- that would have -- that wouldn't have surprised me coming from some other prison gangs. The Aryan Brotherhood, not known for being particularly nonviolent, they have a very -- they have a violent record, but they do draw the line at some areas. For example, I point out that the Aryan brotherhood will punish members who use children in drug deals. Certainly don't see that with other prison gangs.

WHITFIELD: OK. And, again, no correlation -- and no definitive correlation has been made between the brotherhood and the killings, but the question is being asked because of the many indictments of some of the members and as it relates to the involvement of the prosecutor and the assistant D.A.

And real quick before I let you go, if you would. When we talk about and try to understand this brotherhood group, in large part they were involved -- they are involved in drug trafficking, is that right?

ELY: Yes. Yes, there's a lot of drug trafficking. That's the main financial source for all of the prison gangs.

WHITFIELD: All right.

ELY: They arise out of some sort of mutual defense desire while in custody, but the moneymaker for them is drug trafficking.

WHITFIELD: All right, Richard Ely, thanks so much for helping us understand. I appreciate your time.

All right, today is the day. Dozens of Atlanta teachers and administrators are expected to turn themselves in. They're accused of cheating on test scores to help pad the paychecks. Their paychecks.

And the wrongful death trial in Michael Jackson's death is underway. At the center of this case, one key question. We're live in Los Angeles with today's developments, next.


WHITFIELD: Child molestation, drug addiction and manslaughter. Some of the ugly topics that could be fair game in Michael Jackson's wrongful death trial, which just began in Los Angeles. At stake, billions of dollars for AEG Live. Jackson's mother and kids claim the pop star's last concert promoter is responsible for his passing. The family alleges AEG hired and supervised his former doctor, Conrad Murray, who gave Jackson those powerful drugs to induce sleep and prepare him for a series of concerts. Murray is serving a four-year sentence for manslaughter, but AEG Live says Michael Jackson himself is the only one to blame. Here's lawyer Marvin Putnam.


MARVIN PUTNAM, ATTORNEY FOR AEG: I think that there's no way you can't look at Mr. Jackson's responsibility here. Mr. Jackson's a person that was known to doctor shop. He was known to be someone who would tell one doctor one thing and another doctor something else.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Miguel Marquez is outside the courthouse in Los Angeles, and our legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, is joining us from New York.

All right, good to see both of you.

All right, Miguel, you first. You know, the case, you know, is building up to be yet another big one involving the Jackson name. Set the scene for us. What's happening outside that courthouse? And then what about jury selection, how complicated is that going to be?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, very complicated I could tell you. This is the jury questionnaire here. It is 25 pages long and it's very clear from the questions in this, there's about 110 questions related to Jackson himself in this questionnaire. And many of them deal with prescription drugs and whether or not one believes that celebrities have greater access to prescription drugs? Do they know if Michael Jackson -- had they heard about him having access to prescription drugs? Do they think that somebody having an addiction to prescription drugs is going to be a problem? A lot of questions along those lines. A lot of questions clearly meant to weed out those jurors that they are concerned about.

The process is just getting underway now. The way it will work, 35 jurors at a time come in. They're time testing them. Seeing who can sit in there for the next two or three months and do this -- this jury selection process. The lawyers will have some questions for them once they've filled out this very long questionnaire. And then they -- it sounds like next Wednesday the jurors come -- will come back to actually be questioned by the lawyers more thoroughly. And it's believed, according to the discussion today in court, it can take as long as three weeks, maybe longer, in order to get the 12 jurors and five alternates for this case, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Well, Sunny, you know, this seems like this is going to be very complicated because all of those perspective jurors, it wasn't that long ago the Dr. Conrad Murray case was unfolding. People learned so much about the drugs. They learned so much about Michael Jackson and Dr. Conrad Murray. How complicated is this going to be to actually seat a jury that doesn't have a -- you know, individual jurors that already don't have preconceived notions about this case?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you're not going to find jurors that don't have preconceived notions about this case, quite frankly. I mean, you certainly don't want a juror who's never heard of Michael Jackson. You don't want a juror who's never heard of Conrad Murray, because that would be a juror that's lived under a rock. You want someone --

WHITFIELD: So then what are the questions that these attorneys are going to ask to kind of narrow the field?

HOSTIN: Sure. And, you know, and I think Miguel pointed out that a lot of these questions are about prescription drugs because that is going to be front and center. But the question that's going to be most important for this jury is, knowing everything that you know, can you put that aside and decide fairly on the evidence and just the evidence? And I firmly believe in the jury system. I'm certain that they'll be able to find 12 jurors that feel that they can decide this fairly, honorably and honestly.

WHITFIELD: Is it fair to say, or can you kind of look at what AEG would be laying out, or what the Jacksons will be laying out, who you believe, Sunny, might have the stronger case here?

HOSTIN: Yes, you know, it's interesting, because I've been looking at this case for quite some time and you have AEG whose saying, listen, this is Michael Jackson's fault. He hired Dr. Conrad Murray. Conrad Murray was the villain here. He's serving time for involuntary manslaughter, four years. We had nothing to do with it.

Then you have the Jackson family, Katherine, his children, they're saying, no, you hired Dr. Conrad Murray and you were supposed to make sure that this doctor was appropriate. I've got to tell you, I mean I think it's going to come down to who did Conrad Murray work for? And we know that there's sort of this smoking gun e-mail that AEG says, hey, Conrad Murray, remember that we paid you.

WHITFIELD: In fact -- yes. Let's look at it. It articulates this. It says, "we want to remind Murray that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary. We want to remind him what is expected of him."

So, there you have it right there where it says AEG hired Jackson. But, Miguel, we know the, you know, AEG will say, but it was Michael Jackson who recommended Dr. Conrad Murray. It is Michael Jackson who said, I can't go on unless it is Dr. Murray.

MARQUEZ: I mean that's exactly what they are arguing in there today. And it will be -- I mean that's the huge question before both sides. What's very clear from what happened this morning, though, is it's going to get very, very nasty in there very quickly. We haven't even gotten to the basics of the trial and they are arguing now about whether to allow cameras in this courtroom. And I can tell you, the judge sounds disposed to it. That it might actually happen that we get a camera in this -- in the court proceedings here.

But the lawyers really going forward -- Michael Jackson really going after AEG and doing this interview with CNN where Mr. Putnam, the lawyer for AEG, said things like, you know, Michael Jackson wears pajamas in public, he dances on cars, he did all these things and, you know, we don't want to add that to this trial. Lawyers for Michael Jackson coming back and saying, well, wait, you can say all of that publicly on CNN and then say, oh, no cameras in the courtroom? No way. We want cameras. We want the world to see all of this. We want to keep, you know, hold your feet to the fire, basically.


WHITFIELD: Wow. Lots of moving parts on this one. All right, thanks so much, Miguel Marquez and Sunny Hostin. Keep us posted on that.

Meantime, there is much more especially right from the horse's mouth. Conrad Murray telling his side of the story in his first television interview from jail. This Anderson Cooper exclusive airs tonight at 8:00 Eastern Time right here on CNN.

All right, the deadline has passed for dozens of former Atlanta schoolteachers, principals and administrators caught up in a cheating scandal to turn themselves in. So far, only five of the 35 defendants have surrendered to police. The defendants include former Atlanta public school superintendent Beverly Hall. Among other things, they're accused of racketeering and making false statements. Prosecutors say they changed test scores or helped students cheat. Performance bonuses were based on improved scores. There's no word yet what will happen to the defendants who have actually surrendered thus far.

And believe it or not, injured Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware has been released from the hospital. We have new pictures to share with you, next.

Plus, it's a bird, it's a plane. No, that's the supermodel known as Heidi Klum. And she was to the rescue, helping to save her son and two others. The story on that.


WHITFIELD: All right, some of the hottest stories in a flash. "Rapid Fire." Roll it.

All right, believe it or not, injured Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware has been released from the hospital. Check out these pictures of him leaving right there Ware posted on Twitter. Amazing. Remember, it was just Sunday night when he brutally broke his leg in the NCAA Midwest regional final. His team went on to beat Duke. But he's out for at least the next six months. But surely he'll be watching and cheering on his buddies here in Atlanta.

All right, new video into CNN from inside that sinkhole near Tampa, Florida, that killed a man back in February. A contractor shot the video with a camera on a pole before the home was demolished. It peers down 60 feet through the gaping hole in the bedroom floor where 37-year-old Jeff Bush died. His body could not be recovered and the hole was filled in.

And he's already backed solar power and wind power. Well, today, President Obama announced that he is investing millions of dollars in brain power. The president unveiled a $100 million initiative to fund research of the human brain. The hope is to not only discover new technologies, but new treatments for Alzheimer and epilepsy.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, as humans, we can identify galaxies light years away, we can study particles smaller than an atom, but we still haven't unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears.


WHITFIELD: The project will involve both government and private scientists.

And supermodel Heidi Klum was channeling Wonder Woman, Superwoman, when she dove into a dangerous riptide in Hawaii to rescue her seven-year-old son. Klum and her boyfriend also helped two of their nannies who were also swept out in the tide. And she told CNN, quote, "we were pulled into the ocean by a big wave. Like any mother, I was very scared for my child and everyone else in the water," end quote. And everyone made it out of the water safely.

All right, streets, yards, driveways, all covered in oil. Dozens of homes have been evacuated after a pipeline leak gets out of control. We'll hear from one of the homeowners, next.