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Myriad of Obamacare Issues;70 Million Americans on Statins?; Free After A Decade In Prison; Courtroom Showdown

Aired November 13, 2013 - 08:00   ET


RYAN FERGUSON, RELEASED FROM PRISON: To get arrested and to get charged for a crime you didn't commit, it's incredibly easy, and you can lose your life very fast. But, to get out of prison, it takes an army.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And it takes time. In Ferguson's case, almost a full decade of appeals.

The Missouri attorney general surprised Ferguson supporters Tuesday saying the state will not retry or pursue further action against Ryan Ferguson. This, after an appeals court threw out Ferguson's guilty verdict because prosecutors withheld evidence.

FERGUSON: This is not an anomaly. I think we need to look at other cases and be aware that this is part of our justice system.

MATTINGLY: Ferguson was sentenced to 40 years for the 2001 murder of "Columbia Tribune" sports editor, Kent Heitholt. He was implicated by a former acquaintance, Charles Erickson, who claimed he had dream-like memories of committing the crime.

Last year, Erickson told the court he lied and Ferguson believes it's time for him to be freed as well.

FERGUSON: The guy's a lot of things, but the thing is, more so than anything else is innocent.

MATTINGLY: Ferguson emerges from prison surprisingly poised. He's writing a book. He has a girlfriend and friends already say go into politics.


FERGUSON: Mayor of Columbia, indeed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next attorney general.




MATTINGLY: Ferguson said he felt even happier for his parents than he did for himself last night. That couple work tirelessly over the last decade to secure his son's release. And last night, Chris and Kate, that work finally, finally paid off.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And now, there's so much to be done for this young man in his wife.

David, thank you very much.

Ryan Ferguson will be coming up live as soon as we can get him.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Let's take a look at the headlines of this hour, shall we?

Making news this morning:

Critical supplies like food, water, medicine slowly beginning to reach the hardest hit parts of the Philippines, six days after the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. Thousands of desperate stranded Filipinos facing sickness and starvation as they wait for help to arrive. The official death toll now stands at over 2,200 souls lost.

Secretary of State John Kerry meeting behind closed doors today to try to head off new sanctions against Iran. The White House saying new sanctions could derail talks in Geneva over stopping Iran's nuclear program. The U.S. and five other countries are pressing for a deal. But as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pro-Israeli lobbyists has said the deal taking shape would be a big mistake.

James "Whitey" Bulger, the convicted Boston mobster, facing a judge today at a sentencing hearing. Victims' families will share their stories at the hearing, which is expected to last two days. He was convicted in August on various counts. And a federal jury also linked him to 11 murders. Prosecutors were asking for two life consecutive sentences for the 84-year-old who spent 16 years on the run.

The battle over whether it's safe to allow killer whales and their trainers to perform together is now in the hands of a federal appeals panel. SeaWorld wants to overturn the ban, telling the court Tuesday, it is key to the show. The occupational safety and health board imposed the ban after an orca drowned SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, which was documented in a CNN film "Blackfish."

An update for you now about the alligator that was found abandoned at the Chicago O'Hare airport. Officials have released images of the prison last seen with the gator. The images show a woman boarding a train with the gator in her hand, and showing it to other passengers. The same woman was seen later in the terminal where it would have been found. If you have any information about the woman in the photograph, you are urged to contact authorities.

(INAUDIBLE) around the airport with the gator.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Definitely falls under the category of, see something, say something. PEREIRA: See a gator, say something.

BOLDUAN: And run.


BOLDUAN: All right. Back to politics, speaking of crazy things, the president is hearing from all sides on Obamacare, it appears. The House Oversight Committee is set to grill the White House's chief technology officer today.

Democrats in the House are putting the president really on the clock. They want problems fixed with the Obamacare Web site this week, or who knows what? And now, further complicating matters -- comments from former President Bill Clinton.

Jim Acosta is at the White House for us once again this morning.

Jim, a whole lot going on as I laid out. So what are you hearing at the White House this morning?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is, and I'll try to run through them very quickly, Kate. Good morning.

Yes, I just talked to a top administration official in the last few moments who says that the Obamacare enrollment numbers, those numbers that everybody in Washington has been waiting for, that those numbers could come out as soon as today, but be prepared for those numbers to come out just about every day for the rest of the week. So they're still working on producing those numbers.

You mentioned Todd Park, the chief technology officer over here at the White House. The White House had been resisting, allowing him to appear before a congressional committee later this morning. But late last night, what we do understand is that the White House did decide to go ahead and not defy that subpoena and allow Park to testify.

One of the big questions that Park would be asked about is the nonfunctioning or non-fully functioning Obamacare Web site. So expect the chair of that committee, Darrell Issa, to ask Todd Park about that.

And it is interesting, Kate, if you go back and look at what the White House has been saying in the last several days, from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney to Jeffrey Zients, the official who's in charge of fixing that website, that that website will not be fully functional by the end of November. They're saying it will only work for the vast majority of the consumers who try to log on and enroll for insurance.

Meanwhile, all of this comes as Democrats are starting to defect from this White House and look for ways to fix this law, fix this program in the weeks and months. First among them, Bill Clinton, as you know, Kate and Chris, said yesterday that the president ought to keep his pledge. If the Americans like their plans they ought to be able to keep them.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And Democrats in the House kind of put him on the clock, as I said.

The question is, what is the fix? What can they do in the matter of time they're going to have before the people's plans are canceled?

Jim, you'll --

ACOSTA: And the White House just won't say. That's right.

BOLDUAN: Exactly, exactly. All right. Jim, great to see you. Thank you so much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BOLDUAN: All right. Let's turn to Indra now for a look at the forecast.

Equally probably confusing at this moment, Indra. Any chance of more snow?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, exactly, because we had that snow yesterday. It almost seems like a distance memory all these flurries you had in Central Park. Keep in mind, Central Park, they actually tied the record for (INAUDIBLE). So, pretty early that we were talking about this snow, JFK actually set the record for a whole whopping 0.2 inches of it.

Yes, everyone is asking if there are going to be more snow? No. That cold front is way offshore. Everywhere else behind it, we are talking about that just chilly cold air. That is in place.

I mean, currently, we're talking about temperatures, once you add in the wind, 12 degrees in Chicago. Kansas City, 11. New York feels like 23 as you're getting up and heading out the door. And, Boston, yes, feels good, 15, right?

You're wondering, are we going to warm up as we go to the afternoon? Yes, a little bit. New York City will get to 39. Boston, you'll get to 38. But even in the south, we're talking about temperatures 20 degrees below normal, much better than here. You'll actually have the 50s as you get to the afternoon.

So keep in mind, it is chilly, we do start to warm up. But we're also going to see the winds picking up. That will add a little wind chill in the afternoon as well, gusting to maybe 30, almost near 40 about up towards Minneapolis and Chicago today.

So, keep in mind, definitely bundling up. But here is the good news -- this dome of high pressure. The position of it changes everything. It's the basics in weather. Winds go clockwise around a high. Why do you care? Because when it's here, you're talking about wind coming down from Canada and that is why it's cold today.

But tomorrow, this guy goes all the way offshore and we get the winds coming around the backside of it. So, completely changes your weather pattern. We actually get the winds coming off the warm water in the Gulf and you warm up. So, with that, by tomorrow, temperatures rebound. Looking at the 50s which is really good news for me, because I haven't figure this out.

This is like Indra's children's book, right? Indra going through the seasons her first time ever. Running for the car in the morning for me, I haven't figured -- don't shake your head, this is a new thing I didn't think about?

PEREIRA: You've got to let go of the flip-flops first of all.

CUOMO: This is a scientist who covers extreme weather who is this perplexed.

PETERSONS: What to wear in the morning when you run to work.

PEREIRA: Kate and I need you to take you an outing.

BOLDUAN: I love you, Indra.

PETERSONS: I love you too, guys.


BOLDUAN: All right. Thank you.

CUOMO: Coming up on "NEW DAY": startling health news. Why millions more Americans may end up taking cholesterol lowering drugs after their next checkup. We'll tell you what you need to know, ahead.


BOLDUAN: Major medical news for you this morning.

New guidelines out to prevent heart attacks and strokes will be changing the way you look at your health. And it means the number much Americans taking cholesterol lowing drugs could double. The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association are now calling for a bigger focus on risk factors like your history of heart disease and diabetes. So what does all of this mean for you?

We've got an expert, cardiologist, Dr. Tara Narula is here to walk us through all of us. She is, of course, with Lenox Hill Hospital here in New York.

There's a lot that goes into this. I mean, this was a four-year review between these two major organizations.


BOLDUAN: What's the big take away that people should be listening to this morning?

NARULA: Right. This is a definite shift in terms of treating patients. The changes are instead of focusing on the numbers, now we're focusing on people's risk category. And we're saying, let's not pay attention necessarily to whether you have a LDL, which is the one we usually focused, the low (INAUDIBLE) of 160, 130, 100. Let's instead break people down into four major categories. And if you fall into one of these four major categories, then you should be on a cholesterol medicine. The other change is that the cholesterol medicine that's recommended by the guidelines is the statin class of medications, and the doses are at high to moderate to high doses of those statins. So, there are other medicines in the past that we used to treat cholesterol and the guidelines are saying, let's not use those as our first line agents.

So the four risk categories that we talk about are: one, patients who have a history of atherosclerotic vascular disease. Whether that's a heart attack, stroke, coronary disease, peripheral arterial disease. Second category, patients who have an LDL of greater than 190. The third, patients who are ages 40 to 75 with diabetes who have an LDL that falls between 70 and 190.

And the last category, which is probably the one where we may see the most change, are patients who are ages 40 to 75 with an LDL between 70 and 189 who have a calculated ten-year risk of having an event of about 7.5 percent or higher.

BOLDUAN: And that's where we're going to see a lot more people coming into this category of needing to take these drugs.

PEREIRA: Now, the concerns some people are going to say, it just sounds like they want to throw pills at me. I know a lot of folks are weary of taking things. We know the statins have a lot of side effects.

Do the side effects outweigh the benefits?

NARULA: Statins definitely have side effects, as do every medication. Overall, the risk of side effects in general is very low. The certain side effects that we are concerned with would be mild muscle aches or pains or more damage to the muscles that could be more serious, liver damage, confusion, or mental status changes.

And the one that is the most fear that people have sort of focused on is the predominance or the development of diabetes if you're on a statin. However, as in general, the overall side effects is low and the benefits of these medications is extremely high in terms of preventing heart attack stroke and even death.

CUOMO: You know, it's interesting we're using the term side effects. You know, the pharmaceutical industry doesn't like that word. They like unintended consequences. So, use their own phrase against them, one of them may be I'm taking this pill now, I'm good.


CUOMO: My lifestyle doesn't matter as much --

BOLDUAN: Forget diet, forget exercise.

CUOMO: Little false (ph) if you're already there?

NARULA: Well, so, the American Heart Association or ACC absolutely recommend a heart healthy lifestyle as being important as taking the medications. In fact, in addition to these guidelines that they just published, they also came out with guidelines on heart healthy diet and also weight management.

BOLDUAN: So do you think -- I mean, Sanjay Gupta just earlier said that he thinks -- he's concerned that this is raising the white flag a little bit, though. You can beat the drum of, you know, good diet and good exercise, but is this going to counteract --

NARULA: I think the important message is that, you know, you can lower your risk with taking statin medications, but you're not lowering it to zero. I mean, this isn't a cure on medication. So, you still -- yes. you still need to take care of all the other risk factors for cardiovascular disease like blood pressure and smoking and diabetes.

CUOMO: And at least two out of your four groups, the risks you're reducing with medications are ones you're creating with your lifestyle. So you know, that's something to bear in mind also when you say that these two go hand in hand together. That's important news to know this morning.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Thanks for walking us through. Dr. Tara Narula, great to see you, Tara.

NARULA: Nice to see you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

All right. Coming up next on "NEW DAY", we're going to be talking live with Ryan Ferguson, the man who was just released after spending ten years behind bars for a murder that he says he did not commit. His story, his future coming up next.

CUOMO: We also have another crazy courtroom story for you. Alec Baldwin and his alleged stalker. The judge almost threw her out for harassing Baldwin during the trial brought him to tears. We'll tell you the story.


CUOMO: Welcome back. As promised, here on "NEW DAY", we have Ryan Ferguson, whose ten-year nightmare finally over. The 29-year-old was released from prison last night after prosecutors decided not to seek a new trial in the 2001 murder of a sports editor. Ferguson spent a decade behind bars starting at 19 years of age. Thanks largely to the dream-like memories of a former classmate.

Joining us now from Columbia, Missouri is Ryan Ferguson. How do you feel today, Mr. Ferguson?

RYAN FERGUSON, RELEASED AFTER 10 YEARS IN PRISON: I feel pretty incredible. It's been nonstop since I got out. So, I'm trying to let my feelings catch up to me and figure out exactly how -- how they're going to, you know, sink in. But, it's been pretty amazing ride, thus far. And, you know, I look forward to what comes next. CUOMO: I've been following your story for many years. The appeals were dogged. There was always anticipation this might be corrected, but what was the moment that you allowed yourself to believe, because it's dangerous belief to have on some level, that you were going to get out?

FERGUSON: I did not believe it until they took the shackles off me in Boone County Jail and I was able to hug my mother. And, that was an incredible feeling, because up until that moment, I had no idea what was going to happen. I didn't know what was coming next. I didn't know anything.

And, it was incredibly scary and it was very stressful, you know, for the last two hours before that. So, you know, it was -- it was amazing whenever that moment finally arrived.

CUOMO: How did you cope in prison with the knowledge that you had not done something but the world of prosecutors, at least, believed you did? How did you deal with your own mind not convincing you that you must have it wrong?

FERGUSON: You know, that is not even a question. I believed in myself. I know what I've done in my life. I know what's right and wrong. And I've always believed that I would prove my innocence. I have an amazing family. And later on, we got some amazing attorneys, Kathleen Zellner and associates.

And, you know, I knew that someday, I would prove my innocence, but it would take some time. It took a decade, you know? And I just every day woke up and did what I could to survive, to grow as a human being and to improve my life and get ready for this day to be a free man. So I just kept moving forward.

CUOMO: You were just 19 years old when this happened.


CUOMO: What did it mean for you to have to grow up, big years, 19 to 29, inside?

FERGUSON: You know, you can't even put that into words because they've taken my 20s. And I'll never have that back. You know, nothing in this world can give that back to me. And those are amazing years, obviously. I mean, that's when you're an adult. So, thus far, I'm 29, but I've literally never really lived as an adult in the free world.

So it's going to take some time to adjust to it and to grow into it, but I've been preparing for this past decade, you know, mentally and physically. And like I said, with an amazing support group, amazing family, amazing attorneys, I feel like the transition is definitely doable. And I look forward to the future and even just, you know, whatever comes later on today.

CUOMO: There are two basic reasons that you wound up being put behind bars. One was a classmate. And even though you obviously never agreed with his account of his dream-like memories, you say that you want him out of prison as well. Explain that because most wouldn't feel that way.

FERGUSON: Yes. I can see why a lot of people would hold grudges. You know, I function purely off facts, you know? We've always put the facts out for the public to see. And, these are documented facts and we let them decide what they believed based off of those facts. No theory. No hunches. Nothing. And when you look at the facts, it shows that Erickson is innocent.

He is not a murderer. He's been taken advantage of by those in the justice system. And, you know, he deserves justice. He deserves to be a free man. Now, anything beyond that, you know, obviously, I don't know. It's just -- hard feelings due to the fact that my life has been taken. But, I feel like he was victimized as well.

CUOMO: Now, when you say victimized, when you talk about the prosecution, obviously they were cited for not having turned over evidence that was found material, what have been useful to the defense, but do you feel that this was -- that they knew what they were doing was wrong? Do you believe that?

FERGUSON: That's difficult to determine. We're going to be looking into that for sure. But, you know, I can't really speculate on that right now. We will certainly be looking into that in the future.

CUOMO: How fascinated have you become with who committed this murder? Somebody did it back in 2001.

FERGUSON: Absolutely. I believe we know who did it. I think it's a matter of proving it and a matter of getting help from the authorities at this point.

CUOMO: Is that important to you?

FERGUSON: All of the -- it is. It's incredibly important to me. Absolutely to myself, my family, to the Heitholt family. Everyone needs closure. And, really the best way, the only way to do that is to find out who really committed this crime. You can only hope that the Boone County police, the county police department would be helpful in finding out who really committed this crime.

CUOMO: Who do you think did it?

FERGUSON: I think the facts show clearly who did it. You know, I'm not going to throw names out there. But anyone who takes the time to look at the evidence, I think it will become obvious to them who that individual is.

CUOMO: How are you able to be this way? Explain something to me, Ryan. You're still so young, not even 30 years old yet. You don't want to express very hard feelings about the man whose testimony put you in prison. You're a little circumspect about what may have led prosecutors to be so wrong. You don't want to give the name of who you think really did it.

Where does this virtue come from somebody who has every right to feel that you should be angry and bitter?

FERGUSON: I -- I appreciate that, I guess, it's a great compliment. I don't know. I've have a lot of support from my family and I think they've raised me incredibly well and they've been with me for, you know, this past decade every day. And I think they've helped me educate myself and grow to hopefully be a better person, both while I was in prison and especially now that I'm out.

So you know, I will continue to attempt to make myself better on a daily basis, to learn more things, and to grow as an individual. So you know, you've got to look at the whole picture. And -- and really, it's all about finding the facts, finding justice, and really just, you know, making the system better.

Making sure that other people don't have to go through what I've gone through. And the only way to do that is to, you know, humble yourself and look at the reality of what's taking place.

CUOMO: We know you're writing a book. We look forward to reading it. I know it could not have been easy for you inside, especially once you started to get the celebrity. It never goes over well with the (INAUDIBLE). But thank you very much for telling your story. It's great to get to see you this way after following the story for so many years. And we all look forward to the next chapter.

FERGUSON: All right. Thank you so much. It was great talking to you.

CUOMO: Pleasure, Ryan Ferguson.

FERGUSON: Have a good morning.

CUOMO: You, too. Mich, over to you.

PEREIRA: All right. Chris, thanks so much. Great conversation there. We have the five things for you to know for your "NEW DAY".


PEREIRA (voice-over): At number one, a House hearing on the fumbled Obamacare roll-out gets under way on Capitol Hill in just about an hour. Scheduled to testify, Todd Park, the chief technology officer for the White House, which now says enrollment numbers for Obamacare could be released as soon as today.

Blocked roads and debris are complicating delivery efforts for arriving aid in the Philippines. Additional American military support left this morning from Japan. The death toll from Haiyan has been revised from 10,000 to about 2,500.

Victims' families will share their stories with the court today at the sentencing for Boston mob boss, James "Whitey" Bulger, who's convicted in August on numerous counts.

The number of Americans taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs could double. New guidelines unveiled by the American College of Cardiology have dramatically changed who will be prescribed those statins.

Hawaii is at number five. It is poised to become the 15 state to legalize same-sex marriage. Lawmakers passed the bill Tuesday. The governor is expected to sign it today. The I dos can then start next month.

We always update those five things to know, so stay on top of the freshest


PEREIRA (on-camera): Kate, over to you. Chris, over to you, both of you.

BOLDUAN: We're here.


BOLDUAN: A dramatic courtroom show down involving Alec Baldwin. The 55-year-old actor tearing up as he took the stand against an alleged stalker. The Canadian actress who's accused of relentless harassment was in court Tuesday heckling Baldwin as he testified. CNN's Pamela Brown joins us more with the story. And you were in the court room.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I was in the court room. And I have to tell you the fact that she was yelling out during the testimony certainly did not help her case that she hasn't been harassing Alec Baldwin. The testimony played out like a scene out of a movie except this time for Alec Baldwin, it was real life. An emotional Baldwin talked about the toll he says his alleged stalker, Genevieve Sabourin, has taken on his life.

His wife, Hilaria, testified that she is terrified of her. But outside the court room, Sabourin eagerly toll the press her side of the story.


BROWN (voice-over): Alec Baldwin was greeted by a swarm of cameras as he arrived at a court house in Lower Manhattan Tuesday, only making this snide remark to a photographer.