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Dolphins Owner Speaks; Montana Newlywed Murder Case; International Custody Battle; Many Upset Over Kimmel Remarks

Aired November 12, 2013 - 08:30   ET


JOE CARTER, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: The Dolphins, the team's owner made it very clear that change is coming.

STEPHEN ROSS, OWNER, MIAMI DOLPHINS: There will not be any racial slurs or harassing or bullying in my - in that workplace, in that locker room and outside the locker room.


CARTER: Now, part of that change, Kate, is that Ross says he's going to form two leadership committees, one internally and one externally. He says that he's going to institute a, quote, code of conduct that suits the 21st century so that he has more checks and balances in place so something like this never happens again. Except we don't know exactly what happened in that locker room and, obviously, more details will continue to come out as this story progresses.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Joe, thank you for that. Thanks for the update.

Time now for a disturbing update on a murder case that we've been following really closely. A 22-year-old Montana newlywed accused of killing her husband by pushing him off a cliff just days after their wedding. Well, new court documents suggest that she may have blindfolded him first. And now she's firing back at prosecutors. CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Los Angeles.

What is going on?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the blindfold piece of this is just a small piece of what the defense is now claiming. They are making some very serious claims about this investigation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jordan, did you kill Cody? Did you mean to push your husband off a cliff, Jordan?

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Jordan Linn Graham, accused of murdering her husband a week after their wedding day, now fiercely fighting to have the charges dismissed even before the trial begins. Her lawyers filing a motion to throw out a first-degree murder charge claiming prosecutorial misconduct. Among other things, the defense claims investigators used interrogation techniques meant to confuse Graham and distorted her words to make it appear as if she pushed her husband, Cody Johnson, to his death in Glacier National Park.

Also in the just released court documents, claims the investigators touched Graham inappropriately during polygraph testing and failed to record the entire interview.

Jordan Graham's public defender, Michael Donahoe, earlier won the right for Graham to stay out of jail pending trial.


MARQUEZ: Donahoe now says prosecutors poisoned the jury pool by releasing sensitive documents and publicly calling Graham a sociopath. Prosecutors are now telling Graham's attorney they have a new possible theory for the case, claiming Jordan may have blindfolded Cody before pushing him off the cliff. The defense argues the prosecution is overreaching and wants the trial date pushed back and some charges dismissed. Friends say the marriage didn't seem right from the start.

CAMERON FREDRICKSON, CODY JOHNSON'S FRIEND: When they were exchanging vows, Jordan was looking down and wasn't looking at Cody.

MARQUEZ: Jordan Graham says she doubted the wedding, but didn't kill her husband. Big questions now on when and how this case moves forward.


MARQUEZ: Now, this is a federal case because the alleged crime happened on federal property. It would be extraordinary if some of those charges were thrown out. Both sides now asking for this trial to be pushed back a bit so they can prepare their cases.

Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: All right, Miguel, thanks so much.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're going to take a break on NEW DAY. When we come back, boy, this is just one of the worst custody battles. This father in Colorado, they're in a custody fight over their kids. His ex-wife takes them and leaves. He knows where they are, but he can't get them back. We'll talk to you about it. A CNN exclusive.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, protests over comments made by late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. What was said that sparked the outrage?


BOLDUAN: Imagine knowing where your children are, but not being able to bring them home. Dennis Burns knows that too well. His two daughters were taken to Argentina by his ex-wife and that was more than three years ago. The Colorado man has battled to get them back ever since. He sat down with CNN's Ana Cabrera for an exclusive interview about his ordeal. She's joining us live from Denver this morning.

Good morning, Ana.


This really is a heart wrenching situation. If you are a parent, you can relate to the pain Dennis Burns has endured, able to hug and to hold his daughters only a handful of times in the past three years.

Now, he was given primary custody of his daughters here in the U.S., but he finds himself fighting an international legal battle to bring them home. It's a fight that he believes could set a precedent for hundreds of other American parents in a similar situation.


CABRERA (voice-over): For Dennis Burns, the faces of his daughters bring him both joy and heartbreak.

DENNIS BURNS, FIGHTING INTERNATIONAL CUSTODY BATTLE: And this is Sophia's first trip to Ocean Beach ever.

CABRERA: He spent the last three years missing out on the everyday activities that most parents take for granted. Three years of no Christmases or special occasions with Sophia now four and Victoria, who just turned seven.

BURNS: Yeah!

There's times when I want to think about them, but it hurts too much to think about them. And there's things that I need to do to survive in this marathon of a situation that I'm in.

CABRERA: Burns was once happily married to the girls' mother, Ana Alianelli, who is originally from Argentina. But after five years, the relationship soured. They went through a contentious divorce and a 13- month custody battle. Alianelli alleged abuse. She wanted to move to Argentina with the children. Those allegations were unfounded and a Colorado judge declared Burns the primary residential parent, ordering the children to live here in Colorado.

CABRERA (on camera): It must have felt victorious for you to get that judge's ruling.

BURNS: It was one of the happiest days in my life. And I was like - I'm going to be able to spend time with my daughters finally and live with them and be able to teach them things and show them things and raise my kids here in Colorado. That's all I ever wanted.

Sophia, hi. Here's Victoria.

CABRERA (voice-over): But just three weeks later, in September 2010, his girls were gone, taken by their mom to Buenos Aires. They've been there ever sense. There are currently thousands of similar, unresolved international custody cases where a parent has abducted their own children. The State Department receives about 1,200 new cases each year. Children from the U.S. taken to countries all around the world.

Now, to see his daughters, Burns must travel to Buenos Aires at his own expense. When the girls were first taken, it was 17 months before his ex-wife allowed him to visit.

CABRERA (on camera): So describe for me what it was like to see your daughters after that 17 months of separation.

BURNS: That was a beautiful day. I saw -- first saw Victoria get out of the car and she saw me and she just screamed, pa, pa and she came running across the parking lot and jumped into my arms. It was just -- it was wonderful, you know. And I just hugged her so much and it was - it was a beautiful moment.

CABRERA (voice-over): Argentina is one of more than 80 countries to sign The Hague Abduction Treaty meant to resolve these cases in as little as six weeks, but that rarely happens.

CAROLINE LANGLEY, DENNIS BURNS' ATTORNEY: When a child is ripped from their home environment, their friends, their families, they begin to identify with their abductor. So now the psychological trauma to the children starts on that slippery slope where it's very, very difficult now to pull them back from being so aligned with the abductor.

CABRERA: Burns invited CNN to go with him on a recent visit with his daughters but asked that we stay in the car. Here you can see Victoria and Sophia excitedly opening the gifts he brought them. A few minutes later, Alianelli and several lawyers interrupt, serving Burns and his attorney with charges of violence against women and children without providing specifics. It's a known tactic in cases like this to create more legal barriers. The result? The visit cut short. And when they saw our crew --




CABRERA: Alianelli's lawyers swatted away our camera. We left quickly, catching a glimpse of Victoria and Sophia in tears.

BURNS: My visit with my girls now was a total of about maybe five minutes, 10 minutes. And all of a sudden the ambush came out.

CABRERA: CNN reached out to Alianelli and her attorney to hear their side of the story. They didn't want to talk. Instead we got a state in Spanish that translates to, "Ms. Alianelli does not wish to make a comment with respect to the case."

Now Burns remains in legal limbo. There's no question the children were abducted. Courts in the U.S. and Argentina have confirmed that. But the girl's mother has appealed the latest ruling in Argentina and now the supreme court in Buenos Aires has to weigh in.

BURNS: No, I haven't been able to see my daughters again in over a month. You know it's just - it's cruel. It's just cruel and just not fair. It's not fair to them or my family. It's just not fair at all.

CABRERA: The financial strain forced him into bankruptcy. His home, foreclosed. Now living in a small one-bedroom apartment where every corner provides priceless memories of Burns' daughters to help fuel his fight. Even their tiny coats left hanging by the door.

BURNS: It just makes me feel their presence.

CABRERA: Burns does have support. He's working with David Goldman, who's been in Burns' shoes. You may remember Goldman's story that drew international attention. It took him five and a half years to get his son, Sean, return from Brazil. He has since started a foundation and made it his mission to help other parents going through this. His life with Sean today gives Burns hope.

DAVID GOLDMAN: He's thriving. He's playing lacrosse. He's playing basketball on a travel team. And he's 5'9". He just turned 13, and he's 5'9".

CABRERA: For now, there are still no school pictures or days of being a soccer dad for Burns. Until the Buenos Aires supreme court hears his case, all he can do is wait.

BURNS: I don't have the opportunity with them to get them out of bed in the morning, make them breakfast, take them to school, help them with their homework, help them tie their shoes, help them brush their teeth. I just want to be able to know that they're there every day and to be able to just hug them and love them.


CABRERA: So a big issue in cases like this is there is a huge disconnect, a gap in the different country's legal systems. U.S. law doesn't apply in Argentina, so a U.S. judge, for example, can't order the girls to be returned. Really, all Burns can do is wait out the appellate process, Kate.

BOLDUAN: It's a heartbreaking story to be sure, Ana. Is there any timetable when the Buenos Aires supreme court is going to hear his case, is going to decide and what that means?

CABRERA: Unfortunately, no, there is no timetable. You know, one of the reasons that this is taking so long, we believe, is because there's a huge backlog of cases. And so, really, Burns has to wait his turn. But David Goldman, he is trying to get a bill passed in Congress right now to apply more pressure on countries like Argentina that are part of this Hague Abduction Treaty to really follow through on their end of the deal in a timely fashion.


BOLDUAN: All right, Ana, thank you for your report in bringing us this story. We'll definitely be following it as it continues. Ana Cabrera, thank you so much.

I mean it seems obvious, but there's got to be a better way to deal with something like this when there are young kids involved.

CUOMO: Every time one of these stories comes up, it renews the passion for -- it just seems so wrong and yet it really is how it is. The big issue is sovereignty, that these foreign countries, once someone is there who's a national - you've got to remember, they're almost always a citizen of that country as well, they want them there and they'll say, well, the child can stay here. We have our own laws. We don't listen to the U.S. and it gets very complicated. That was Goldman's problem.

I've cover this story in Egypt. I've covered this story in Italy. I mean their - you know, they're both ongoing. It's very hard to get them back. Now this man here is the hope. He's got rulings in both countries in his favor. She's just appealing a ruling in her country. That's very unusual. So there is some hope for him, especially with the help of someone like David Goldman.

BOLDUAN: Yes, with the help of them. That's right.

CUOMO: All right, we'll take a little break here. When we come back on NEW DAY, Jimmy Kimmel, he's in a rough situation. He made a joke that many people don't find funny. In fact, they find it so dangerous a joke, so offensive, they think he should be fired. We'll tell you what he said and let you decide.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

More than a thousand people gathered to protest outside of ABC's Burbank Studios over the weekend. Their target: Jimmy Kimmel. They were protesting comments made in a skit on the comedian's late night show last month.


JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: America owes China a lot of money, $1.3 trillion. How should we pay them back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) and kill everyone in China.

KIMMEL: Kill everyone in China?


KIMMEL: That's an interesting idea. Should we allow the Chinese to live?



(END VIDEO CLIP) PEREIRA: Well, since then, both Kimmel and ABC have apologized for the skit but calls for Kimmel to be fired continue.

Here with more, our CNN entertainment correspondent, our Nischelle Turner; and we also have Chunyan Li. She's a professor at Pace University. She attended rallies in New York over the weekend. Good to have you here, Professor.

Nischelle let's start with you. We understand there's been massive protests, there are some people even likening Kimmel to Hitler, calling for him to be fired. But the apologies have come, too. Yet there's still sentiment, very strong sentiment here.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well like you mentioned, this happened, actually, on October 16th -- so almost a month ago and the protests have still continued. Some people are asking what can he do? I mean he has apologized. ABC has apologized. He actually apologized even in person to protesters that were outside of his studio as well as apologizing on the air. What his show also did was make sure that the clips were not available online, no longer and they also said they will never be rebroadcast.

Jimmy also came out and said "You know at the time it was said I didn't think it was funny but what was I supposed to do?" I think one of the issues that a lot of the protesters have is that that follow-up question came with --

PEREIRA: Right, reiterating it --

TURNER: -- does everyone want the Chinese -- they thought that was really disrespectful.

PEREIRA: So Professor Li, let's bring you into this. We know that you are at some of the protests.


PEREIRA: And you have a strong reaction to this?

LI: I am, as an educator, I'm more concerned than offended, because I'm concerned about the impact of this discussed on open air especially after Mr. Kimmel's second sentence, "Should we allow the Chinese to live?" ABC has never acknowledged that part. In the open air apology, the so-called apology that Mr. Kimmel said, he said on the 28th, the night of the first rally, he said "Today is a weird day. I said something. If I offended anyone, I apologize. I'm sorry if I offended you." We do not think that is a true apology. I have since asked many people. So that is how our anger has been escalating.

BOLDUAN: How do you think the -- how do you think -- what do you think should happen now? What are -- what are Asian-Americans saying should be the next step forward? Because he made the statement, it aired. There was an apology. It was deemed inadequate by some. What do you think should happen now?

LI: I think first we want to let the public know -- not we. I am only a mother and a teacher. I want to let people know that our anger is not toward the six-year-old. So and then the next step would be to establish a communication channel like what we are having now. I really appreciate this opportunity to express our concern as a minority group.

Whenever we hear about these racial comments, we are starting to feel fearful because we come from the background of racial discrimination, the Chinese Exclusion Act, hate crime against Vincent Chin in the 80s and to be honest, the Japanese interment has come up during our conversation. So we are really, really concerned.

Anytime something this like happen that people think oh, this is blown out of proportion, but if you are in our shoes, we are really concerned. But aside of the race issue as an educator, we are saying, what are the messages we are sending our kids? Is --


CUOMO: You get a lot of this, though, Professor. There's a lot of racial discrimination in the country. There's a lot of picking on groups. The Chinese -- this is not new.

LI: Yes that's not new.

CUOMO: As an ethnic group, many ethnic groups deal with it, you know whether you're Italian or Irish or whatever you are.

LI: That's right.

CUOMO: What is it about what Jimmy Kimmel did with these kids that was obviously planned as satire hitting such a button?

LI: I would think a lot of our discussion would be, why is he picking on the Chinese? So there is so much reflection on our part, I thought maybe we're too nice. My friend's son said he wanted to put on a poster, "Do not take advantage of us." I didn't understand what he meant and then I asked. He said I want to say do not take advantage of us because we are nice. So we just thought that broke our heart.

So that's what we truly felt. We thought maybe because we are too nice. If he had picked on other credit holders, would it have been so funny -- if he had aired it.

TURNER: One of the things -- Disney, too, Disney is really taking this serious. And that's because there is such an interest in China, in Hollywood and movies and it's the fast fastest-growing movie market in America. The last thing Disney wants to do is alienate that market -- $2.5 billion market right now.

PEREIRA: We want to thank you Professor Chunyan Li for joining us. Nischelle, thanks for bringing this topic -- a discussion that needs to be had -- certainly.

LI: Nice to meet you, thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much. CUOMO: A guy in Connecticut buys a desk on Craigslist, another story we're going to tell you about here. It's a very interesting accessory. Do you know why? It came with $98,000 in cash. This is a tease, people. What did he do with the money? You need to stick around and find out.

PEREIRA: I'm going to look in my desk.


CUOMO: Pennies from heaven, dollars in a desk -- time for "The Good Stuff". A rabbi in Newhaven, Connecticut recently purchased a desk on Craigslist for $150. The desk wouldn't fit through his the door. Can you believe it?

So he and his wife had to take it apart. That's terrible, right? Wrong. There was $98,000 inside. So what do they do? Do they keep the money? Of course not -- this is a man of God, after all. The rabbi and his wife called the original owner and it turns out she had stuffed her entire inheritance in the desk. And then she forgot she put it there. What?

This is the weirdest part of the story. She gave the Rabbi and his family a thank you note with the money that he paid for the desk inside.

PEREIRA: Oh, how nice.


PEREIRA: What a great find. Bet she's relieved.

CUOMO: Right.

BOLDUAN: What a good man. That's a good rabbi.

All right, that's it for us today on NEW DAY. Time now for "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello -- hey Carol.

PEREIRA: Good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks so much.

"NEWSROOM" starts now.

Happening now in the "NEWSROOM", marines on the ground, a country in crisis --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even though we are not sure that it is clean and safe, we still drink for it, because we need to survive.


COSTELLO: CNN on the ground like no other network, with Americans providing critical, vital aid.

Also, booing the mayor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to invite to the podium, his worship, Mayor Rob Ford.


COSTELLO: Toronto's Rob Ford hearing from his city.

Plus, $3 a gallon for gas? It's coming to a station near you.