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Maximum Security Prison for Parody; Storm Forecast; Race to Save Whales; An Unreal Dream; The Fast and the Generous

Aired December 5, 2013 - 08:30   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Than ever that when you're abroad you are subject to local law and local customs. Does your brother say anything - does your brother believe he has done anything wrong?

SHERVON CASSIM, BROTHER OF SHEZANNE CASSIM: No. He -- there was no indication in local law that making a comedy video, making fun of teenagers in the suburbs, was a threat to the UAE's national security.

BOLDUAN: And, Shalali, what are you hearing from U.S. officials? In the piece setting up this interview, we heard from Senator Amy Klobuchar, who said we need to raise awareness to this and kind of keep his name in the headlines to draw attention to this. Are you getting enough help? Do you need more help from U.S. officials?

SHALALI CASSIM, SISTER OF SHEZANNE CASSIM: The more help the better, obviously. It's been eight months and he's still in there, so any help that we can get at this point, any support that we can get to help raise awareness at this point would be very, very helpful.

BOLDUAN: And, Shervon, I mean if you could talk to officials here in the United States and especially over in the UAE, what would you say to them? What do you want them to know?

SHERVON CASSIM: That this is such a silly situation. We just don't understand why it has gotten to this point. You know, a young man makes a stupid comedy video, gets thrown in jail for eight months. Surely, you know, this -- it shouldn't have gotten to this point. So please, you know, let's do what we need to do to get this over with.

BOLDUAN: When you call this a silly situation and your mother has said that she wants her son home for Christmas, I know you share that same sentiment for your brother. Is there anything giving you hope at this point, because from everything I've read, it is one delay after another in an already unbelievable situation.

SHERVON CASSIM: We - we heave - we have very little hope at this point, Kate. We - you know, it's been like this for eight months. It - we -- for the past eight months, we've hoped that the next day is the day that Shez gets out.

BOLDUAN: And Shalali, how is the family doing? I mean you all are very strong and you clearly are trying to be strong for your brother, but how are you doing after all these months? SHALALI CASSIM: Yes, absolutely. We are exhausted, frustrated, just mentally and physically tired. We don't really sleep very much. We're, you know, we're constantly waiting by our phones just in case he gets a chance to call us. But we just want him home.

BOLDUAN: Yes, to say the very least. December 16th is his next court date. Another chance for your brother and for your family. And we can hope with you that he'll be back with you by Christmas. But keep us updated, please.


SHERVON CASSIM: Absolutely. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for your time.

All right, Chris, back to you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Wow, eight months.

All right, let's take a break here on "NEW DAY". When we come back, dozens of pilot whales fighting to stay alive after beaching themselves. They are back swimming, but will they make it to deeper water? We'll talk with environmentalists and CNN special correspondent Philippe Cousteau.


CUOMO: Nice song, but bad weather.

Welcome back to "NEW DAY".

Let's head over Indra Petersons in the Weather Center. A big storm. We know where it is. The question is, where is it going?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, here's what's crazy. It's these temperatures that we're looking at right now. And this isn't even the big story. I mean notice right now with the wind-chill, Denver feels like negative 31 degrees right now. And that cold arctic air is spreading farther down to the south, yet the danger is not really those temperatures, it's where we actually have a little bit of in-between temperatures, and that's where currently we're starting to see some freezing rain. St. Louis now reporting freezing rain.

So what is going on? What you want to look at is that temperature threshold. Notice ahead of the system. Look at these 70s. Look how warm it is. And then behind the system, where we have the threat for cold air and snow, you see temperatures below freezing. But it's that middle line right there where we have that wintry mix right in between as we transition from rain over to snow, where you have that threat for freezing rain.

And that's exactly what we're starting to see ramp up this morning. Looks like anywhere from Illinois back even in through Dallas, this is where that threat is this morning. It will extend even as we go through the evening hours today. Notice all the way even into the Ohio Valley. And then overnight, even through tomorrow, we still have this system in place, finally exiting offshore by Saturday morning.

But here's the big concern. We keep talking about this. Where would we have the best chances of over half an inch of freezing rain? That looks like it's from Paducah, Kentucky, all the way back to just east of Dallas. So with that, that is the concern. The power outage threats. Also those icy, slick roads out there. If you get that much weight right on a tree branches, you're talking about those branches just kind of breaking off, falling on the power lines and cause even more power outages. So that's the concern there.

Going to show you again one more time. Here's where that threat is as we go through the first wave of this system. The second system, right behind it, this looks like Saturday in through Sunday, almost the exact same place. So cold, arctic air, power outages, never a good situation.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks for that look at the weather, Indra.

Let's talk about a situation that's happening in Florida right now. This morning, rescuers are trying to save 41 pilot whales who are stranded by the Florida Everglades. So far 10 of those whales have died. And as the group spends more time in that shallow water, experts are fearing the worst. Joining us now is Philippe Cousteau. He is a CNN special correspondent and environmentalist and the host of CNNI's "Going Green."

Philippe, thanks so much for joining us.


PEREIRA: First of all, I want to ask you about this new update that we know. We know that last evening NOAA announced they want to sort of set these expectations really low and they're not thinking that these whales could be saved. Yet this morning we learned more vessels are aiding in the effort. What is making this operation so difficult for them?

COUSTEAU: Well, there's a couple factors that are contributing to the difficulty down here. It's a very, very remote area down in the Everglades. I've spent a lot of time down there and it gets very, very hot. The tide differences are providing a problem. At low tide there's only a few feet of water.

And, of course, the pilot whales are several miles, as much as 20 miles away from any deep water, which is their traditional habitat. So, all of those factors are coming together. Believe it or not, even though they're in the water, whales can become dehydrated. And, of course, scientists and researchers still don't even know how long they've been there, so it's possible that some of them are beginning to suffer from malnutrition and malnourishment.

PEREIRA: Can you talk to us about why they could even be there in the first place? Is there any indication that this could be an environmental factor or perhaps illness or disease that led them there?

COUSTEAU: Well, unfortunately, Michaela, at this point it's pretty speculative. We don't know exactly what brought them there. Again, we don't even know how long they've been there. But, of course, pilot whales are very, very social animals and this is unfortunately not an uncommon occurrence. Pilot whales occur all over the world in these kinds of mass strandings.

Usually when the leader of the group gets in distress or goes in a certain direction, the rest of them, no matter what, will follow them. And often times even they've found when pilot whales beach themselves, if they call -- they make a distress call, the other beaches will - the other whales will come up onto the beach with them at their - at their own peril. So it's very much a social unit, pilot whales, closely connected and no doubt that one of them lost their way and the rest followed.

And, you know, at least 10 of them have died now. There are still several dozen left. But, unfortunately, the -- it's not looking good. These are very large animals. The boats that are down there right now are trying to herd them out. But it's difficult to do with multi - you know, several dozen ton plus creatures.

PEREIRA: Yes, and up to 13 feet long. We understand some of the efforts involve trying to herd them or nudge them back out to sea. Explain the complexity of doing that. Again, they're so large.

COUSTEAU: Well, they are very, very large. Males can get up to 16 feet long and you're talking about an animal, as you said, that's at least a ton in size. There's dozens of them. And so a few small vessels trying to herd them out, you know, it's a 3-D environment. The whales, at least at high tide, can submerge to a certain degree. They can move around and probably try and stay in a small unit. So even a few small boats trying to herd dozens of very large whales, it's a very, very complicated effort. Usually when this happens in the north - in New England or other places, they bring in flatbed trucks.


COUSTEAU: They even sometimes bring helicopters. None of that's available in this remote area and that's compounding the challenges.

PEREIRA: Well, and further, even if they do get them out, they still face some hurdles. I understand there's some sand bars and things that don't make it sort of a clear shot to deeper water, correct?

COUSTEAU: That's the other problem. It's not a clear avenue straight into the ocean. It is a very windy route and there are sand bars. And as the tide goes up and goes down, the whales can get stranded on those sand bars and that can compound and make the problem even worse for them. So it's unfortunately not looking good.

PEREIRA: Philippe Cousteau, thank you so much, a CNN special correspondent, environmentalist and CNNI host "Going Green." Thank you so much for your expertise on this issue. I know it's been moving a lot of people. COUSTEAU: Thank you, Michaela.

PEREIRA: They've been watching this scene unfold and it's sort of heartbreaking to watch. Thanks for your comments on this.

COUSTEAU: Well, we never give up hope. A pleasure being here this morning. Thanks.

PEREIRA: No, we never do. We never do.

Kate. Chris.

CUOMO: Coming up on "NEW DAY", part two of our blockbuster interview with Michael Morton. You met him yesterday. In prison for 25 years for a crime he didn't commit. How did he make it? What happened to get him out? And how the tables turned on the people he says stole his life.


CUOMO: Welcome back to "NEW DAY".

Yesterday we introduced you to Michael Morton, OK. He spent 25 years behind bars for the brutal murder of his wife. The problem is he didn't commit that murder. During that time, Morton lost nearly everything, even his will to go on was tested. But hear how the tables turned and what he says we all need to know -- his incredible story the topic of an upcoming CNN film. So here is part two of our conversation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A Texas Supreme Court justice has cleared the way for Michael Morton to find out why evidence that could have set him free was not turned over to his lawyers.

CUOMO (voice over): Nearly 25 years, that's how long Michael Morton had been behind bars, waiting for this chance. His last shot at freedom. He knew he was innocent, but time had worn away his resolve.

(on camera): Was there any moment or a period during your incarceration where you doubted yourself, where you doubted maybe even reality?

MICHAEL MORTON, WRONGFULLY CONVICTED FOR WIFE'S DEATH: I wondered, I started to doubt a little bit or question and you start thinking, well, I might die here of old age.

CUOMO (voice over): Morton's attorneys fought for years to have DNA testing done on a blue bandanna found near the Morton's home where his wife, Christine, was murdered. The prosecution called the bandanna insignificant.

JOHN RALEY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I told the court and I'm quoting, "This bandanna may contain the blood of the victim, Christine Morton, plus perhaps mingled with the blood of the murderer". CUOMO: It did, the DNA was a match, not with Morton but with this man, Mark Alan Norwood. Norwood was eventually found to have murdered Christine Morton and afterwards another woman, Deborah Baker, a life that could have been saved.

Morton was finally cleared, but there was another twist. Ken Anderson, the former prosecutor, who helped put him behind bars, allegations that he withheld key evidence during the trial that could have helped Morton's case. He said he didn't remember.

KEN ANDERSON, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I don't remember a lot of that. I have no recollection.

CUOMO: Anderson who'd become a Texas judge, was disbarred and charged. He pleaded no contest and was sent to jail, but only for ten days.

(on camera): Do you blame him?

MORTON: Yes. But at the same time that I blame him, I also forgive him.


MORTON: If you want to be forgiven, you have to forgive. I am not going to spend the rest of my life pointing my finger at him and wanting his head on a stick and going after him.

CUOMO: In order to be forgiven, you must forgive. For most of us, that is on a prayer card somewhere, pressed into a book or on a refrigerator and we say it to others. What is it to live it?

MORTON: The difference between just saying forgiveness or giving forgiveness is all the difference in the world. It's like saying I can fly, or actually flying.

CUOMO (voice over): Morton was released in October, 2011. He had entered prison at 32, left at 57 -- but more had changed than just his appearance. He was out of prison, but not entirely free. That would come only when he reconnected with his son, Eric, just a toddler, when Morton was locked up.

ERIC OLSON, MICHAEL MORTON'S SON: I was raised by my aunt. I like to think that my family kind of set a standard that we're not going to act differently because of what happened to my mother.

CUOMO: Eric visited his father in prison at first but eventually shut him out and even changed his name.

MORTON: When I got out of prison, that meant that the underpinnings of everything that my son believed, the motivation for all that he had done and others around him had been shown to be false.

CUOMO (on camera): Where does that leave the two of you?

MORTON: In the middle of our process. It was slow going because he had so much to change in his head and in his heart.

CUOMO (voice over): Eric married and eventually started his own family. Recently he had a daughter named Christine, after his late mother.

(on camera): What does that mean to you, that your granddaughter has your late wife's name?

MORTON: I was pleased by it. It made me smile, and I have to admit it brought a little bit of a tear to my eye. But I like it most of all because what it says about my son and my myself, the way we're reconnecting.

CUOMO (voice over): Perhaps one of the most shocking parts of this story is that Morton says losing a quarter century of his life because the system failed him changed him.

(on camera): How different are you now than you were in 1986?

MORTON: I'm different not just because of maturation and incarceration, but I'm different because I can really appreciate colors and association with good people. I love people's pets, small children, good food, clothes that fit or comfortable, a nice bed means a lot. Things that you take for granted, I get all that.


CUOMO: Changed him for the better he believes. 25 years in prison, changed for the better. Why did he do this film? He believes his story is instructive for one simple reason, that he is just like us. He had a regular life, he was in the suburbs, he had the family, he had the fence. He could have been anybody.

BOLDUAN: Could have happened to anyone.

CUOMO: And he wants you to know that. That you have to be aware.

PEREIRA: I keep thinking about that son and the relationship. You have to now shift completely going from believing that your father was responsible for your mother's death to understanding that he wasn't, forgiveness has to take a whole new urgency, right?

BOLDUAN: The damage to that relationship is like a true tragedy in this whole thing, not only did they lose their mother and their wife, but then they really lost each other.

PEREIRA: And neither of their faults, too -- right. Not because they did something wrong.

CUOMO: That's exactly right.

BOLDUAN: An amazing story.

CUOMO: That's exactly right. And that's what pained him the most. But now they're coming back together --



CUOMO: -- and that's the beautiful part of this story. It's one of the things that makes it so special.

You can see Michael Morton's full story "AN UNREAL DREAM" -- great title, "THE MICHAEL MORTON STORY" tonight on CNN at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY a beautiful secret finally revealed. Who bought this $9,000 engagement ring for an Iraq vet and his fiancee? A hint for you, it is another reason to miss actor Paul Walker. The inspiring story and the bittersweet good stuff -- coming up.


CUOMO: Welcome back. Time for "The Good Stuff". Actor Paul Walker has been mourned by millions of fans but one California couple, they're fans for a special reason.

Kyle and Kristen Upham, here's their story. They were just engaged back in 2004, Kyle was just back from a tour in Iraq and about to head back for another one, when they decided to go ring shopping. Kyle wanted to do it up right but the money just wasn't there.


KRISTEN UPHAM, RECEIVED ENGAGEMENT RING FROM PAUL WALKER: We started looking at rings, and whatnot, and he kept wanting me to go bigger and I kept saying no, look at the prices.


CUOMO: Well, there was another shopper in the store with them and they struck up a conversation.


UPHAM: When he found out Kyle just came back from Iraq just I remember seeing the look in his face. It kind of transformed.


CUOMO: The mystery man of course, Paul Walker. Kyle and Kristen had to leave the store -- the jewelry store empty-handed but before they got too far a clerk called them back.


UPHAM: One of the ladies came up holding a bag and just simply said, "Here is your ring." And I -- I think both of our mouths dropped. It's still to this day the most generous thing anyone's ever done for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: The ring, $9,000. The clerk kept Walker's secret all these years, although the Uphams obviously suspected he bought it, only revealing the truth after his death. Paul Walker bought them their engagement ring, didn't want anything for it.

BOLDUAN: Didn't want any recognition.

PEREIRA: How about that? How about that? What a treasure.

CUOMO: It is and especially now when you're figuring out how to remember somebody like this --

PEREIRA: That's the way to remember.

CUOMO: You get distracted by the movies but you want to know who the man was. I think this is about as good a story as any you'll hear about the truth of a person.

BOLDUAN: Good way to remember him as a person. That's right.

PEREIRA: His parents would be very proud.

CUOMO: Right. And certainly the good stuff, his daughter as well. He's got a daughter out there.

Well, a lot of news this morning. So let's head you right to the "NEWSROOM", Ms. Carol Costello holding it down for us.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of news. A lot of news about the weather and some good news about the economy you'll want to hear.

"NEWSROOM" starts now.

Happening now in the "NEWSROOM" -- epic ice storm.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The thermometer in my truck says seven degrees.


COSTELLO: Millions could lose power as storms stretching from New Mexico to New England. Frigid polar air plunging south, a third of the country this morning shivering with wind chills below zero.

Also, tale of the tape.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think you can't be shocked anymore.


COSTELLO: Brand new allegations against Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of the evidence that was gathered in that case has been reviewed by the investigators.


COSTELLO: Wire taps that apparently have Ford offering $5,000 and a car for a video of him smoking crack.

Plus wage strike, thousands from coast to coast protest their paycheck. Should the minimum wage be raised to $15?

You're live in the "CNN NEWSROOM".

And good morning.