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The Road Ahead; Obama Taps Johnson for DHS Post; Convicted Killers Set Free; Opening Statements In Utah Wife Murder Trial

Aired October 18, 2013 - 08:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. It's Friday, October 18th, 8:00 in the East.

Coming up in the show, Washington just went through a bruising and embarrassing battle over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling. But another one could be right on the way, just what you wanted to hear to start your weekend. The president is about to nominate a new homeland security secretary. So, will Congress let his nominee go through?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And what a story. This Utah doctor on trial right now, accused of murdering his wife with an overdose of drugs. The motive? To be with his mistress. That's the prosecution theory.

We're going to look at the twisted details with HLN's Nancy Grace. The trial is just getting started. She's live at the courthouse this morning.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And a city on alert, the desperate search for a 14-year-old boy with autism has gripped New York City. Now, police are using a unique way to try and track him down, using his mother's voice. We have details coming up.

BOLDUAN: We have a follow-up on that.

But, first this hour, with the government reopened, talk on Capitol Hill now turns to a new budget, the hope of a new budget. The House and Senate conferees getting to work on trying to avoid another government shutdown in just a few months.

Jim Acosta live at the White House with more on this.

Another day, another battle on Capitol Hill, Jim.


You know, everybody in Washington was sort of anticipating that the president would strike a bipartisan tone in the hours after the shutdown ending. But instead, he gave Republicans a stern lecture. That is an indication that while the shutdown is over, this White House is anticipating many more battles to come.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Listening to President Obama chatting with the Italian prime minister, it sounded as if he was ready for a vacation in Tuscany.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He will not have to twist my arm to come to try to get me to come to Tuscany again sometime in the near future.

ACOSTA: But the president has no room on his plate for pasta, not when he set his sight on passing a budget for immigration and, even a farm bill in less than 90 days.

OBAMA: We could get them done by the end of the year if our focus is on what's good for the American people.

ACOSTA: A task the president may have made more difficult for himself after railing against Republicans over the shutdown.

OBAMA: You don't like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election.

ACOSTA: But he may get help from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who told "The Hill" newspaper, "There will not be a government shutdown. I think we have fully now acquainted new members with what a losing strategy is."

Former GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan called for bipartisanship in upcoming negotiations.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We want to look for ways to find common ground, to get a budget agreement.

ACOSTA: Tell that to Texas Senator Ted Cruz whose office told CNN he is not ruling out another shutdown.

The president could also have a fight on his hands over his next pick for secretary of homeland security, Jeh Johnson, a former military lawyer and Obama campaign fund-raiser said at a conference earlier this year, the day will come when the U.S. must declare the war against Al Qaida over.

JEH JOHNSON, PROSPECTIVE HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY NOMINEE: We must no longer consider ourselves against Al Qaida and affiliated groups, and I think Benghazi is what I'm talking about, because you can't label the Benghazi attack as something conducted by Al Qaida and associated forces. It was more of a mixed bag.


ACOSTA: Now, the president is scheduled to nominate Jeh Johnson for the position of secretary of homeland security later on this afternoon. But already, a key Republican senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeff Sessions, has said he is concerned about Johnson's nomination. Said that Johnson basically may not be ready for the job, and referred to the Department of Homeland Security as perhaps the most mismanaged in the entire federal government -- Chris.

CUOMO: Well, Jim, thank you for that. And thank you for teeing up what may be a window into the next set of controversy. So, as Jim Acosta was reporting oh, President Obama is set to nominate jay Johnson to replace Janet Napolitano as secretary of Homeland Security. It may not scream as controversy to you, but already, there are rumbles of opposition. Why?

Barbara Star joins us live from the Pentagon.

Good morning, Barbara. What do we know?


We know Jeh Johnson oh very well over here at the Pentagon, he served as general counsel, overseeing a staff of 10,000 attorneys around the world. No question about his legal capabilities, very experienced in counterterrorism, in the legal use of drones and targeted killings overseas.

And as you saw in Jim's piece, he's been making the case that the war on terrorism needs to shift from thinking about military operations more into intelligence and law enforcement. That's in line with President Obama's thinking, of course. So that's where Jeh Johnson comes from, with his pentagon background, his work as a federal prosecutor, also an Obama loyalist. Make no mistake about it.

But what is he walking into? Well, the Department of Homeland Security often criticized for its massive bureaucracy, he will be walking into the huge political firestorm, of course, about immigration reform, about border security, issues that people may decide to criticize him on for not having a lot of experience in.

But also, as DHS secretary, he will be very important to Americans if there is another natural disaster, earthquakes, floods, perhaps a domestic terrorism incident, because, of course, it is the Department of Homeland Security that monitors and brings that federal assistance to people when it's most needed -- Chris.

CUOMO: Thank you very much, Barbara, appreciate the reporting on that. I guess we'll have to watch it and just see how the intrigue goes. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: You're absolutely right.

Thanks so much, Barbara.

So, let's go to Florida now. Now, a manhunt in Florida for two convicted killers mistakenly set free. Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker were both serving life sentences for murder. How did they escape? By simply walking through the prison guards.

CNN's John Zarrella is live in Orlando with more on the story.

Unbelievable, John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. You and I and all the viewers know the great spy movies where someone walks into the back room of a neighborhood bookstore and gets a phony passport, phony identification. Well, they kind of did that. They literally duped the Department of Corrections with forged documents into an early release.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): Nine years old. He was just nine when Roscoe Pugh III saw his father gunned down during a home invasion robbery.

ROSCOE PUGH, III, MURDER VICTIM'S SON: Our lives would be totally different. I've said that since I was 9 years old, since I was 9 years old, I said my life would have been different if I wouldn't have saw it. I saw it.

ZARRELLA: Now, 15 years later, Roscoe is reliving the nightmare.

On September 27th, this man, Joseph Jenkins, serving life for the murder of Roscoe's dad, was mistakenly released from a prison in Franklin County in the Florida Panhandle.

For Roscoe's mom, it is impossible to comprehend.

CRYSTAL PUGH, MURDER VICTIM'S WIDOW: It seems like my whole world came down on me. I thought I would not have to see them ever again in life because they had life sentence plus 100 years.

ZARRELLA: If one convicted murderer set free by accident isn't enough, there's more. A week and a half after Jenkins went free, so did Charles Walker, convicted of second degree murder in from the same Florida prison.

How is it possible?

Forged document sent to the prison ordered the releases. And on both of them, the fake signature of Orange County Judge Belvin Perry.


ZARRELLA: Because he's a high profile court, Perry says he sees how it's possible no one would question it. And he is not entirely surprised.

PERRY: People, particularly people with criminal minds, come up with ingenious ways to beat the system. They have nothing but time on their hands.

ZARRELLA: The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was only notified of the mistake a couple days ago. Corrections officials say they followed department policy and procedures. MISTY CASH, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS SPOKESWOMAN: Those inmates were released based on those court orders that we received. The orders were later determined to be fraudulent.

ZARRELLA: It's a snafu that has residents of the area and the Pugh family living in fear.

C. PUGH: And now to have to know that he's free on the streets, it's frightening, it's terrifying.


ZARRELLA: So how did law enforcement find out these guys were out? Well, they found out from the family of one of the victims. The family called the state attorney's office here in Orlando and said, hey, how come this guy is out? The state attorney's office then calls the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Department of Corrections to tell them, and that's how this all unfolded.

But they had already been on the lam for two or three weeks before the word comes down they're out. We don't know how the family found out that the guy that had killed their father was out. But that's how the state found out -- Chris, Kate.

BOLDUAN: They have got a whole mess on their hands they need to figure out. And as you heard from the family, John, they're scared. These men are dangerous. And now they're out there.

John Zarrella, thank you so much.

It was a week and a half between these two guys. They should have figured it out in a week.

CUOMO: And John raises the interesting question. How did the family find out? Luckily they communicated the information. There's more to figure out there.

Thanks to John Zarrella.

A lot of other news as well. So, let's get over to Mick.

PEREIRA: Yes, let's take a look at the headlines this morning. Good morning to all of you.

NSA leaker Edward Snowden breaking his silence. Snowden telling "The New York Times" there's zero chance his top secret national security agency files fell into the hands of the Russians or Chinese. Snowden is wanted in the U.S. for passing classified documents on to journalists. He has been granted temporary asylum in Russian.

Fear of a possible terror attack has the U.S. embassy in Kampala, Uganda, issuing an alert this morning. Officials say they are concerned about an attack similar to the Kenyan mall massacre. U.S. official telling CNN the threat is still being vetted to determine its authenticity.

Meanwhile, Kenyan counter terror sources are investigating a Norwegian citizen as a possible suspect in those Nairobi mall shootings.

The baggage handler accused of exploding bottles of dry ice at Los Angeles International Airport pleads not guilty. Twenty-eight-year- old Dicarlo Bennett charged with two counts of possessing a destructive device in a public place. Police say he set off the blast for his own amusement in areas off limits to the public. He could face up to six years, if convicted.

And here's a question. How far is too far when it comes to a Halloween scare? Well, I wonder if this might be it. An Oklahoma family going all out this year, decorating their yard with ghosts, tombstones and two fake dead bodies in the driveway. One was positioned to look like it had its head crushed by the garage door. The other was placed under a car as if it had been run over.

Apparently neighbors so frightened, one of them called 911.

CUOMO: And captain sensitivity, this bothers you, because --

PEREIRA: I don't do you think it bothers me?

CUOMO: No question it bothers you.

PEREIRA: Captain sensitivity. I will wear that!

BOLDUAN: Yes, exactly --

PEREIRA: I will own it and buy a cape, with an "S" on it.

CUOMO: Still wondering why -- it's Halloween!

PEREIRA: It is. It would scare the -- out of me.

BOLDUAN: It is scary. Definitely agree on that.

CUOMO: Indra Petersons, what do you have for us?


It looks good. We have to show this again. Come on. Beautiful.

This is literally live right now. You're looking at flurries falling just in time for the season. Exactly the time of year they see it. They're only expecting an inch or two, if that. So just a couple flurries. We'll show what it actually looks like on the map. You can see, yes, it's falling, expected to dry out as it makes its way east.

But either way, we're going to show, the whole country will zoom out here, you can see it doesn't look like that much going on, maybe showers around the Great Lakes in that system we just showed you, but there is still a weather story and it's going to be a series of cold fronts, just very moisture-starved so what you're seeing in Denver is moisture getting out of this.

First one we saw just a couple sprinkles in Northeast last night, that's making its way offshore, so cold front number one. The second guy, if you're in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, look for pretty much the same story Saturday night through Sunday, maybe extra clouds, a few more sprinkles, but not really much in the way of rain.

And notice the third one, way up here. And that is key. It is way up here by Canada. Well, all of this cold air is going to be diving down, and we are going to finally see that big change you expect to see in fall and switch up our weather pattern, at least for the end of this weekend in through next week, as all of that Arctic Air makes its way through.

Here's what it looked like yesterday. Notice some upper 70s around D.C. yesterday, 77 degrees. Notice Minneapolis, 59. By the time we get to next week, we're talking about some 40s. That cool air spreads into the Northeast by the end of the week. Not in the 40s, but still 50.

So either way, the change for fall is finally here. Celebrate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Indra.

CUOMO: Autumnal.


CUOMO: Autumnal.

PEREIRA: I like that.

CUOMO: Thank you, you taught it to me.

PEREIRA: No, I didn't.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, did the wife of a Utah doctor die of heart disease or was she murdered? Her doctor is going to be taking the stand and Nancy Grace is joining us live to talk about this riveting case.

CUOMO: And can a mother's voice help police in New York City find an autistic teen who vanished more than two weeks ago? The high-tech new technique being tried by the NYPD when we come back.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. The trial of a prominent Utah doctor is underway. Martin MacNeill charged with murdering his own wife during opening statements Thursday. Prosecutors painted him as a liar who ruthlessly gave his wife a lethal cocktail of drugs. Why? So, he could be with his mistress.

We're going to talk with HLN's Nancy Grace about the case in a moment. She is out there watching it. But first, CNN's Jean Casarez has the story.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A 911 operator is expected to be on the stand today in the murder trial of Dr. Martin MacNeill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She has drowned in the bathtub!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who's in the bathtub?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Is she conscience?


CASAREZ: Neighbors who saw MacNeill's wife, Michele, that day, are also expected to testify. Prosecutors want to bring a bathtub into the courtroom so they can explain exactly how she was found. MacNeill is charged with murder and obstruction of justice in the April 2007 death of his wife, Michelle, who was found unresponsive in her bathtub eight days after a facelift. Prosecutor, Sam Pead, imitated MacNeill's words on that day.

SAM PEAD, PROSECUTOR: Why did she have the surgery? Why did she take all those medications? I told her not to do it. I'm a doctor, she's dead. I've been a bishop, I pay tithing. and this is the way you repay me.

CASAREZ: In opening statements, Pead also told jurors that Dr. Martin MacNeill had the medical knowledge and the motive to kill his wife. MacNeill, he said, was so determined to move forward with his murder plot that he forced his wife, Michelle, to have a facelift and consume too much medication.

Prosecutors say he poisoned his wife with an overdose of pills and made it look like an accident. Also, he could carry on an affair with his mistress who quickly moved into the home as the children's nanny.

PEAD: He explained to a final witness that he can get away with things and stated that one of the things he had gotten away with was killing his wife, that he was glad the bitch was dead.

CASAREZ: Defense attorney, Susanne Gastin, told the jury a very different story. She says the real cause of Michele's death was heart disease. She urged the jury not to believe anything MacNeill's daughter, Alexis, may say on the witness stand.

SUSANNE GASTIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: What Alexis does is she'll take something with a morsel of truth, and she'll exaggerate it.

CASAREZ: MacNeill, she concedes, may have made some poor choices in his life, but he is not a murderer.

Jean Casarez, CNN, Provo, Utah.


CUOMO: Our thanks to Jean Casarez. And let's bring in HLNs Nancy Grace. She is in Provo, Utah at the courthouse. Nice coat, Nancy Grace. Now, let me ask you something. As you sat there and listening yesterday to --

NANCY GRACE, HOST, HLN'S NANCY GRACE: Yes, easy for you to say, in your nice, warm studio in New York. Provo is cold.

CUOMO: I appreciate it. Thank you for doing it for us, Nancy. I appreciate it. Gift to follow. But let me ask you. As you watch the opening statements and heard the case get laid out, what jumps out at you as we begin this trial?

GRACE: Wow. Let me tell you something. I learned so much sitting in the opening statements yesterday. And in the -- they actually started with witnesses. This has been a long time coming. This case -- this is a problem for the state. I know you already know this. The case was first ruled natural causes. All right? But, that medical examiner was not privy to the facts and information that we know now.

Sadly, that doctor passed away with breast cancer. She never got a chance to review her case in light of all the new evidence. But this woman's daughters never gave up. They've got eight children, four natural, four adopted. And just as an aside, the doctor -- Dr. MacNeill tried to give back some of his adopted children from the Ukraine after his wife died.

But that's neither here nor there. I'm just telling you, FYI. So, here's what happened. She did not want a facelift. She's a beauty queen, a legitimate beauty queen, Ms. Concord. He insisted after he started this most recent affair with Gypsy Willis that she get a facelift. They went for a consult. The doctor said, "Your blood pressure is too high. You can't have the facelift."

She wanted to put it off. Her husband, Dr. MacNeill said, "No, I've already paid for it. We're going forward as planned. Come on, please." So they have the facelift. She became so afraid of what he was giving her, that she was trying to feel the pills -- she had bandages over her eyes to find out what he was giving her. Fast forward to the morning she died. Chris, they've got one of those -- I call them a deep dish bathtubs, those you have to straddle and climb into.

They had one of those. She was fully clothed, according to her six- year-old daughter who found mommy dead, fully clothed in a bathtub, face up, hair going down the drain. Dr. Joshua Perper says, "Cause of death: drowning." What was she doing pumped full of all those meds? There was Ambien, Valium, Phenergan, a host -- Percocet.

What was she doing fully dressed in the bathtub top full of all those meds? That's not a heart attack. That's like me pushing you off the top of this parking garage and going, yes, he had hardening of the arteries. That was a contributing factor. Uh-uh.

CUOMO: And yet, Nancy Grace, you would in your demonstration -- your hypothetical there, you would have had to be there at the parking garage with me. A big factor in this case is going to be as unsavory as you may find the doctor. The defense is, alibi. The Latin adverb meaning in another place. They're going to argue he wasn't there the morning that she died. GRACE: You're throwing some Latin on me this morning.

CUOMO: Sounds good.

GRACE: All right.

CUOMO: Sounds compelling. But what did you do with that as the prosecution?

GRACE: I can take it. Well, let me just punch a little hole in that really quickly and I don't even know all the facts yet, because they're coming out in the courtroom.

CUOMO: But that won't stop you.

GRACE: His office was two minutes from his home. His health fair that he went to, where he insisted everybody take his picture there, was three minutes from the home, and the child's daycare -- and the child's school was about four minutes from the home. So, another thing on the alibi is that his own defense places him at the home, finding the body with his daughter within the window of the time of death, 11:24 to 11:44.

And he was on the phone with 911 at 11:46. He was there at the time they give at the time of death. That's not helping. And remember, quit talking to me about his unsavory character. I don't care if he's a nun or a priest or a virgin. All I care about is, is this murder?

CUOMO: Absolutely. The right question. And I have to tell you, Nancy Grace, this sets up as one of the most confounding stories of a trial that we've seen in some time, because of all the factors of what was going on in the life and how his fingerprints are, you know, figuratively all over her life in the decisions she was making, and yet, and yet, it comes down to this central question and whether they can prove it.

Now, interestingly, you just said that you don't care, you know, who he is or a priest or whatever, but if the prosecutor's opening statement, he did, he. He was -- seemed to paraphrase some Mormon theology there in setting out this idea of the case to the jury. What was that about?

GRACE: Well, you know, everyone I've spoken to, because I'm extremely interested in the Mormon religion. Everyone that I've spoken to here, be it the taxi driver, the guy at the front desk of the hotel, the screener in the courthouse, everybody is Mormon here. And I think that he was really focusing to his jury. That means he's a good lawyer. You know who your jury is, and you speak to them.

And I think he did speak to them. And I just want to mention one more thing that I caught in the 911, and I haven't heard anybody point it out yet. He says -- he's a doctor. He says, "My wife is under the water, she's in the water! I'm doing CPR." You can't do CPR in a deep-dish bathtub while you're on the outside.

He also pretended and told people he had cancer and M.S.. And he was too frail to lift her out. Turns out, those cancer treatments were actually him going to Tucson to meet up and sleep with his girlfriend. There was no cancer.

CUOMO: Nancy grace, this is really -- this is really some storyline. This is going to be some trial. Thank you --

GRACE: Come out here, Cuomo!

CUOMO: I would love to.

GRACE: Come out there. You come out here and you sit with me in the 18-degree weather, OK? Get out of that toasty studio.

CUOMO: I will keep you warm. I am 220 pounds of blanket. Thank you very much for laying out the facts this morning. This case is one to watch. I look forward to the coverage on this one, Nancy Grace.

So much going on with this between, you know, the aspect of faith here and how it plays with that jury. The -- all of this intrigue about their marriage and how the drugs were there and administered. This is really going to be some prosecution to watch unfold. Nancy Grace will be covering it in depth weeknights on HLN at 8:00 p.m. eastern time. Kate, over to you.

BOLDUAN: All right, Chris, thanks so much.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, the desperate search for a missing boy with autism in New York City. Police hope his mother's voice -- her voice -- will help them locate her missing son.

Also ahead, mysterious sea creatures from the deep are showing up on our shores. What is going on? We are going to explore the possibilities.