Return to Transcripts main page


Militants Threaten to March Toward Baghdad; Obama Won't Send Combat Troops to Iraq; Ukraine: 49 Dead as Rebels Down Military Plane; Veterans Frustrated by Turmoil in Iraq; One Priest Dead, Another Wounded in Attack

Aired June 14, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we have to start the next hour.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Thanks for spending your morning with us, starting now.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iraqi security forces have proven unable to defend the number of cities, which allowed them to overrun Iraq's territory.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Intelligence is never perfect. It's not a perfect science. It never has been. It never will be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Overall, we are pleased with his physical state. He was able to ambulate and walk into the hospital and seemed to do so in a functional manner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think about everybody else, all right?

OJ SIMPSON: I just can't do it here on the freeway. I couldn't do it in the field. I want to do it at her grave. I want to do it at my house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not going to do anything.


PAUL: I know you remember that last piece of video we showed you. We're going to be talking about that. But we do want to wish you a good morning. Go have your breakfast. Sit back and relax. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Seven o'clock here on the East Coast. And this is NEW DAY SATURDAY.

We're starting this morning with Iraq and understandably the growing fears that fighting there could erupt into all-out civil war.

PAUL: Right now, militants belonging to the extremist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS, are threatening to march to Baghdad. Now, Iraqi state television says airstrikes have killed dozens of militants in the latest battleground Tikrit.

There are reports of bomb blasts in Baghdad and north of the capital there as well. ISIS has already grabbed control of key territories in northern Iraq and neighboring. In fact, I want to put this map up for so you can get a gauge here. Those areas in red, that's where they are in control, including Iraq's second largest city of Mosul.

BLACKWELL: So, the president is in Palm Springs this weekend. And while he's there, he's weighing options to stop the militants in their tracks. That could include airstrikes.

PAUL: But the president insists, no American combat troops are going to go back into Iraq. We are covering this story from multiple angles. CNN's Athena Jones is in Washington with us and senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in Baghdad.

BLACKWELL: Nic, we want to start with you. There in Baghdad, Iraq's capital. Is security being ramped up? What's the situation? How are they going to prevent these ISIS fighters from taking over the capital?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Victor, straight answer is, you bet they are ramping up security here. There have been appeals that came from the most senior of religious leaders in this country on Friday, and the main Friday prayers. This is a man who's never gotten into politics before over the past several decades, never once gotten into politics. Now, he has said young men should help stop this advancement of Sunni terrorists, as they see it.

And certainly that has been answered. I was talking to somebody who was driving south of Baghdad a few hours ago and he saw bus loads of young men filling up buses to be driven to the battle north of Baghdad.

These volunteers are coming forward from the Shia community. They're fighting under the guidance of the Army and they're responding to their religious leaders. There is a deep concern here that if you don't do that, then these ISIS fighters could bring the fight to the capital here in Baghdad.

PAUL: Nic, we have reports that 500 revolutionary guard troops from Iran are there to assist Iraqi security forces, although the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted out and actually in a speech earlier this morning, said that there are no fighting forces in Iraq.

Can you clarify for us? Are there any Iranian troops there in Iraq to help? If so, do we know what they are going to be doing?

ROBERTSON: Sure. With the Iranian president, Iraq is asked for the support, then we'll give it to them. It's impossible for us to know from where we stand, is the bottom line here, Christi. The situation is this, for us to travel to the areas needs a lot of permission from the government. And they are not ready to give that to us right now. So, we're not getting independent witness eyes on the battlefield to see who is there and who isn't. But I can tell you one thing, right now, rumors, absolutely abound.

There is an absolute certain belief on the other side of the front line here, if you will with the Sunnis. I was talking to a Sunni tribal shake and he told me he was sure these Iranian troops were in Iraq. He thought it was a negative thing. He was concerned this would escalate the fighting.

But if you talk to the government here, they are essentially denying it. Whatever is being said, the other side believes, yes, sure, the worst thing that could happen is happening. We just don't have that right now.

BLACKWELL: All right. Nic Robertson for us there in Baghdad -- Nic, thank you very much.

Although ISIS militants are threatening to attack Baghdad, President Obama says he will not send U.S. combat troops back to Iraq.

PAUL: He will be reviewing several military options, though.

White House correspondent Athena Jones has details for us.


OBAMA: Iraqi security forces have proven unable to defend a number of cities, which has allowed the terrorists to overrun a part of Iraq's territory.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three years after President Obama pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq, he says the growing sectarian crisis there now threatens America's national security. The president and his advisers are discussing a range of options, including airstrikes to help Iraq to fight the Sunni militant group that has captured its second largest city, Mosul.

He says Iraq's government won't get any U.S. military help unless Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, makes big changes.

OBAMA: This should be a wake-up call. Iraq's leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions.

JONES: Maliki has long resisted calls to strike power sharing deals with the Sunni Muslim and Kurdish rivals, deals that could help bring stability to the oil rich country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, what we have seen from the prime minister over the eight, nine years he's been in office is that this is a man who is very reluctant to bargain with his rivals.

JONES: Shiite Iran has an interest in preventing Iraq from falling to Sunni militants and could help the U.S. push Maliki to bargain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iraq is one of those places in the Middle East where the United States and Iran actually have something of a confluence of interest.

JONES: Meanwhile, Republicans are criticizing the president's Iraq policy, saying it was a mistake not to leave some U.S. forces behind.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I predicted this would happen when they decided not to have a residual force. And anybody tells you they couldn't isn't telling the truth.

JONES: A president under pressure at home, pressing Iraqis to do more to help themselves.

OBAMA: Our troops and the American people and American taxpayers made huge investments and sacrifices in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better course, a better destiny. But, ultimately, they're going to have to seize it.


BLACKWELL: Our Athena Jones joins us now from the White House.

Athena, if ISIS carries out this threat of marching to Baghdad, what will the U.S. strategy be then? Any indication?

JONES: Well, Victor, that's what's being discussed right now by the national security team. Many works in this building behind us all week and w know the president is going to be in close contact with them from Palm Springs, California, where he's spending Father's Day weekend. But that's being discussed. Obviously, it would be very, very serious if these ISIS militants make it all the way to Baghdad.

The president said he's going to be discussing these options and reviewing these options in the coming days when the team provides them to him. But he warned, this is not happening overnight. Any action the U.S. takes is going to take several days to plan.

And so, we will be watching this closely, of course. We know the White House is closely monitoring the situation there in Iraq as they discuss what to do -- Victor, Christi.

PAUL: I'm sure, Athena, that the president, too, is watching Iran and what they're saying is we were just talking to Nic Robertson about how there are reports that there are 500 revolutionary guard troops there to assist Iraq.

Has the president said anything about Iran and how the U.S. would react to that?

JONES: We don't have indication of how the U.S. would react to Iran getting involved. Among the people I talked to, former official experts on the region, they say this is one of those interesting areas in the Middle East where the U.S. and Iran have similar interests. Of course, the U.S. and Iran are in conflict over all toward other issues case and point being the nuclear program in Iran.

But the fact is that Iran has a stake in making sure that Iraq doesn't fall to the Sunni militants. So, they need to get involved. This is part of the diplomacy the U.S. has in the region.

Now, what they would like to see happen is have Iran pressure Maliki, who is a Shiite, much like Iran, as Shiite country, and to see him make some of those political accommodations he's resisted making in the past. Now, of course, on this armed side, that's where things get more complicated if Iran is going to be helping with arms and helping battle on the ground.

But it's a very complicated issue. It's a regional issue and going to take awhile coming to a long term solution -- Christi, Victor.

PAUL: The president did say that yesterday.

Athena Jones, thank you very much.

BLACKWELL: This could be the single deadliest incident since the fighting in Ukraine started earlier this year, 49 people dead in what you are looking at here, a fiery plane crash near the Russian border. We'll go live to Moscow for details on this.

And after nearly five years in Taliban captivity, after Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl recovering on American soil this morning. We'll talk to a military psychiatrist about his recovery and ask her a question that a lot of people want to know. Why hasn't Bergdahl spoken to his family yet?


BLACKWELL: This morning, 49 people are dead in Ukraine. The plane they were on was shot down by pro-Russian insurgents using anti- aircraft machine guns, happened near the city of Luhansk.

Videos posted to YouTube -- look at these -- see the bright light there in the distance? That's an explosion as the plane is allegedly shot down. In addition to those 49 people on board, the plane was carrying military supplies. This may be the single deadliest incident since the country erupted into chaos earlier this year. There is some more of that video.

CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is in Moscow.

Matthew, what have you learned about this explosion?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, it's taking place in the Ukrainian defense ministry coming out and condemning it obviously, blaming pro-Russian separatist rebels in the eastern of the country for carrying it out. And, you're right, it is the single biggest loss of life since hostilities broke out in Ukraine, since the Ukrainian crisis really flared up.

So, it's a significant moment I think. And it's going to be interesting to see what the response of the Ukrainian government will be because it's such a high death toll, 49 people. That's nine crew members and 40 members of the parachute regiment who are being deployed to that area of eastern Ukraine, to take part in the government's anti-terrorist operations as they style it there.

It's obviously going to increase pressure on the government to bring to an end the conflict in some way, whether they'll do that by coming to the negotiating table and trying to sit down with the rebels and hammering out a cease-fire or perhaps escalate the fighting I think is a pivotal decision the Ukrainian government will have to decide on.

BLACKWELL: Matthew, we are hearing about arrests that have been made, terrorists, according to Ukrainian officials. What do you know about those?

CHANCE: They call them terrorists, but, of course, we normally refer to them as pro-Russian separatists. There have been fighting against the government in Kiev, in the eastern south of Ukraine, right?

This whole situation, this plane downing today and the other incidents that are taking place are all taking place within the context of an up surge in the violence in the east and the south of Ukraine, the Ukrainian government says is an anti-terrorist operation, where they are trying to wrestle back control of various tanks (ph) and buildings from rebel control back into the hands of the government.

Yesterday, in the port city of Mariupol, which is in the southeast of Ukraine. The whole city was surrounded. There was fierce fighting in the streets. Eventually, the government forces prevailed, managed to raise the Ukrainian flag above the city hold there, also killing a number of rebels, also detaining a number of people, at least 30 people being detained for their militant activities.

BLACKWELL: All right. Matthew Chance in Moscow for us -- thank you, Matthew.

PAUL: Meanwhile, he is back on American soil. The challenges, though, for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl are just beginning. We are asking the question, why hasn't he, as far as we know, even spoken to his family, let alone seen them?


BLACKWELL: Twenty minutes after the hour.

This morning, American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl who was held in captivity by the Taliban short of five years, he's recovering on American soil.

PAUL: We know right now the 28-year-old is being treated at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. And yesterday, Army officials described his arrival for us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Overall, we are pleased with his physical state. He was able to angulate and walk into the hospital and seemed to do so in a functional manner. We allowed him to get settled into the hospital and into his room and his environment. And we're going to be planning more comprehensive testing and consultation, stuff that was not done during phase two.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: So, Bergdahl's treatment will focus on four key areas. His medical care, psychological support, the debriefings, of course, and family support. The goal, of course, is to help him reintegrate into society and return to a normal life.

PAUL: So, let's dig a little deeper here, with military psychiatrist, Dr. Elspeth Ritchie.

Than you so much for being with us. I know that you work as psychologist with the military Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape program. So, you know this process so well.

Sources are telling CNN and I think this is one of the things that stands out to most people, that he has declined to speak with his parents. What do you make of that? Is that unusual?

DR. ELSPETH RITCHIE, MILITARY PSYCHIATRIST: It is unusual. Although, to put things in context, we know a lot about reintegration of prisoner from World War II and Korea and Vietnam. Fortunately, we have had less hostage or POW taking in the last 20 years. So, we don't have a lot of experience.

But in general, people are eager to be reunited with their families. In general, what we have to do is limit that reunification to shorter periods of time until people are ready.

BLACKWELL: You know, we've learned over the last week the details about the captivity. "New York Times" reporting that Bergdahl told medical staff that the box he was kept in for weeks at a time was pitch black and it was like a shark cage.

How does someone survive that mentally?

RITCHIE: That's a good question, and it's certainly not easy. One of the things the military does do is teach people who are likely to be taken prisoner of war, such as aviators, they teach them survival techniques. This is called SERE, survival, evasion, resistance and escape.

But to the best of my knowledge, Sergeant Bergdahl did not go through that training. So, it must have been just horrendous.

PAUL: You know, I was wondering. I think a lot of people are wondering, too. There's been all this information coming out, this debate about whether he was a deserter, even in the days following his release. A number of soldiers who served with Bergdahl and said -- they blame him for lives lost looking for him.

How do you keep him from learning about this information too early and how does it affect his recovery?

RITCHIE: Well, it's certainly going to complicate the recovery and it will be something that the army personnel who are working with him will have to figure out when to let him know. But, again, there's precedent for this. Often when people are taken captive and they're held for long periods

of time, there are questions about the circumstances under which they were captured and whether they collaborated with the people that took care or that held him hostage. It's something called a Stockholm syndrome.

And, often there are questions looking back at the prisoners of war from the Korean conflict in the '50s. They were suspected of being brainwashed by the Chinese communists.

So, ideally, a homecoming is all about welcome home. But in reality, there's often a lot of unanswered questions.

BLACKWELL: So, we know that Sergeant Bergdahl is at the Brook facility. How long do you think the process will take, weeks, months, years?

RITCHIE: Another good question without clear answers. This case has more twists and turns than anyone I have seen and, obviously, he was held longer in Landstuhl, in Germany, than a typical POW is held.

But the short answer is it's going to be years. He was five years in captivity. He's coming back under difficult circumstances. This is something that's going to be with him and his family and the town he came from for decades.

PAUL: You know, Bergdahl's experience likely redefined his sense of normalcy, being gone that long. And I'm wondering, is there anything in him that might be untreatable from this experience?

RITCHIE: Well, I certainly hope not. One of the things that we, who have been in the military have learned to do is redefine normal.

When I was stationed in Somalia with a combat stress control team, we had t-shirts that said we decide what's normal. So, no, he will probably never come back to the normal of somebody who hasn't been taken captive. But, you know, when you look at the POWs from Vietnam, some tortured and kept in captivity for many years, some of them went on to have very, very functional and productive lives, some of them, it was harder. So, it's going to be very important to give him the support down the long term.

One final thing I'd like to say is I know there's been a lot of rush to judgment with him. We still don't know what happened. It seems like he was struggling psychiatrically. There's a possibility he was on the anti-malarial drug which causes neuropsychiatric reactions. So, I think it's really too early to make statements about what actually happened, and that we ought to let the investigation unfold.

PAUL: Very good point.

Dr. Elspeth Ritchie, we appreciate your insight today. Thanks for being here.

RITCHIIE: Thank you. BLACKWELL: We are getting so much video. It's pouring in, of the

Islamist extremists capturing Iraqi cities. Some families of Iraqi veterans are asking, what was the war for then? I mean, if this is the result, what did all the men and woman who served in Iraq for so long, what did they do it for? We'll talk to one soldier and a war widow.

PAUL: Also, remember this?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think about everybody else, all right?

OJ SIMPSON: I just can't do it here on the freeway. I couldn't do it in the field. I want to do it at her grave. I want to do it at my house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not going to do anything.


PAUL: That's right, the famous chase, 20 years ago, that give rise to the trial of the century. It also created something else that we see every day. We are going to talk about it.


PAUL: I hope a little R&R is on the menu for you today. Thank you for being with us here.

Bottom of the hour now. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell.

Five things you need to know for your NEW DAY now.

PAUL: And number one, feared Islamist militants are threatening to march toward Iraq's capital, Baghdad. Iraq's military is taking the fight to them, though. Iraqi state television reports airstrikes that killed dozens of militants and former leader Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, President Obama is weighing options that would include airstrikes but he said he will not send combat troops.

BLACKWELL: Number two, 49 people are dead. Insurgents shot down a military plane in Ukraine. Officials in the country state pro-Russian rebels used anti-aircraft machine guns to bring down the transport plane. What you are looking at is the explosion once that plane hit the ground. It's likely the deadliest incident yet, as government forces faced off against pro-Russian rebels.

PAUL: Number three, more than 60,000 central American children are expected to illegally cross the border this year and the U.S. is scrambling to slow the rush because they are coming alone. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says he's working with Latin American ambassadors to come up with a plan to get them back to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. BLACKWELL: Number four embattled L.A. Clippers owner, Donald

Sterling, hired private investigators to dig up dirt on NBA team owners. That's according to a CNN source.

Sterling, apparently, has paid each firm $50,000 to find examples of the alleged race and gender discrimination. The NBA is trying to get him to sell the Clippers after he was recorded making racist remarks.

Five now, celebration, I was going to the Kool and the Gang right there, but I saved you this morning.

PAUL: Oh, come on. You could have.

BLACKWELL: I saved you. L.A., the Kings there, are the Stanley Cup champions after thrilling double overtime victory before a raucous home crowd in game five. Alec Martinez slapped in the game winner. New York Rangers just headed home. The Kings may be a new NHL dynasty, though, in the making. This is their second championship in three years.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over.


BLACKWELL: That was President Obama back in 2011 announcing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

PAUL: Today, as militants threaten to push toward Baghdad, we are reminded about the devastating cost of the Iraq war. In all, think about this, 4500 Americans were killed. More than 32,000 were wounded and while the last troops crossed the border in 2011, those who lost the people they love, that pain is lifelong.

We're going to bring in Salina Jimenez and her husband was a combat medic in the army killed by an IED during a 2006 deployment in Iraq. Thank you for being here.

BLACKWELL: We are also joined by a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Joe Repya, who served in Iraq and lost a close friend as well.

Lieutenant Colonel, I want to start with you. When you see the images of what's going on in Iraq today, what kind of feelings does that bring for you?

LT. COL. JOE REPYA, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, it makes me mad as hell, frankly. We have committed quite a treasure of our young men and women and suffered a lot of blood in trying to build Iraq and now we seem to have turned our back on the people of Iraq and now, we seem to have turned our back on the people of Iraq, and we're letting them be overrun by a bunch of murderous thugs who, for all purposes are worse than al Qaeda was. They are going to be, unfortunately, a situation where heads are rolling right now. We are getting all kinds of reports of atrocities that these people are committing and we are standing by and twiddling our thumbs for nothing.

PAUL: Salina, I want to get to you real quickly here. Thank you, first of all, to your husband, David, for his service and we are sorry for your loss.

I'm wondering, did David ever talk to you about his feelings when he was on the U.S. mission in Iraq while he was deployed?

SALINA JIMENEZ, HUSBAND KILLED IN IRAQ IN 2006: He did, several times. And, you know, first and foremost, it's the most difficult part is saying good-bye. You don't want to say it. You say see you later.

You know, his perspective then, he was a combat medic. So to serve and to treat was mission first, but there were several times in the back of his head where he said let's get in, let's get out and coming home. This last time, this last and final time, you know, to remember the last and final phone call that I had with him that said, it's a lot different out here, babe. You know, it's fast paced. It's crazy and I may not make it home.

BLACKWELL: Colonel, I want to go back to something you ended your answer with, and you said that the U.S. is standing back twiddling its thumbs, doing nothing. The question is, what do you think the U.S. should be doing?

REPYA: Let me say to this young lady, your sacrifice, David, was hopefully not in vain. He was a brave young man and he should receive all that honor that goes with it.

What I said twiddling our thumbs, we'd had an opportunity to put up armed drones, opportunity to put tactical air in to stop this insurgency that is literally coming down one highway from Mosul. And we haven't done it.

We have contractors, U.S. contractors that are besieged in Balad right now. We have many Americans as well as friends, our friends -- I have Iraqi friends that are in panic because they don't know what to do. And we should be taking some action instead of, as I said, twiddling like birds (ph).

PAUL: Well, we'll see what the president decides to take. I mean, he said he is looking at options -

REPYA: No, I'm not saying --

PAUL: Go ahead.

REPYA: I'm not saying put boots on the ground. I'm not saying put boots on the ground. But we have aviation assets that could do a lot of damage to those insurgents and help the Iraqi government. We are just not doing it right now.

PAUL: OK, good to show.

Salina, I know you are active in the military survivor community. I'm wondering, what are the conversations that you have of other military families about what's happening in Iraq now?

JIMENEZ: You know, it's definitely been very -- a very heavy subject in the past couple days to be able to turn on the TV and see, you know, where our loved ones were killed and died and where their remains may be, and to see everything occurring. It's difficult because our sole purpose is to remember and honor and not have their death in vain.

It's a discouraging feeling among the community to be able to sit next to another widow and say, what now? What more do you have to do? Because it took three years of battling and we have our soldiers and our marines coming home and now, you know, experiencing death by suicide and dealing with death every single day live and to be able to see it again, it's just heartbreaking.

You wonder, you know, our husbands, our wives, our brothers, our sisters died for the values of our country and the freedom. And, what now? What do we do now? It's working twice as hard within our own community to say, you know, this is David's face.

These are his memories. This is the life we anticipated. Now what?

PAUL: Well, Salina Jimenez, again, we thank David for his service. We thank you because we know when somebody goes off to war to serve, there's a family that's left behind that is going through things that we can't imagine.

So, thank you for sharing your heart with us this morning.

Lieutenant Colonel Joe Repya, thank you for your service and your insight as well. We appreciate both of you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you both.

JIMENEZ: Thank you.

REPYA: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: The faithful in Phoenix, they are now just praying for strength and answers after one priest is killed, a second one is so brutally injured he was left with critical injuries. We'll get you caught up on the investigation and you'll hear about one stunning act of service by one priest.


PAUL: We have mortgage rates grow this week. Take a look.


BLACKWELL: Police in Phoenix are still searching for clues in an attack at a church that left one priest dead and another fighting for his life. This happened Wednesday night. But, we are now learning about a stunning, final act of service, as a community is left grieving one priest and praying for another.


UNIDENTIIFIED MALE: How can a person break into a church? How can a person assault a man of the cloth?

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Questions Phoenix City leaders and members of Mother of Mercy Mission Catholic Church desperately want answered, as 56-year-old Father Joseph Terra struggles with injuries. His assistant pastor, Father Kenneth Walker, in his 20s, is dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For what reason, I can't understand what is going on. It's amazing that people would do this kind of thing.

BLACKWELL: Just after 9:00 Wednesday night, Father Terra dialed 911 to report a burglary at the church. When officers arrived, they found the two priests in the church's living quarters. Father Walker had been shot. Father Terra assaulted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Father is a priest, strong man. He's not afraid. If someone came and asked for something, he would give it to them the shirt off his back, that's the type of priest he is.

BLACKWELL: Investigators won't say if anything was taken, and they do not believe the priests were targeted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most I can tell you is that we have some strong, physical evidence, and we are going to follow up on.

BLACKWELL: As evidence teams scour this SUV that was stolen from the scene for clues, we are learning more about Father Terra's stunning, final act of service for his assistant priest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Able to absolve him and to offer him the last rights. So, obviously, a great deal of comfort to us as Catholics. He was able to extend that in his own suffering.

BLACKWELL: In the route to the hospital, Father Terra gave investigators a few details about the attack. Thousands of miles from Phoenix, hundreds prayed with Walker's stepsister in Kansas.

UNIDENTIFIEDF FEMALE: While I'm praying for him and secretly hoping that maybe he went as far as sainthood. I mean, I can hope. I don't know. In my own eyes, he was perfect.

BLACKWELL: And as the faithful in Phoenix pray for Father Terra's his recovery, a promise from police chief, Daniel Garcia.

DANIEL GARCIA, POLICE CHIEF: The police department will exhaust our resources into bringing to justice individuals who committed this crime.


BLACKWELL: And, of course, they are still searching for that killer.

PAUL: We'll keep you posted on what they find.

But can you believe 20 years?

BLACKWELL: Twenty years since this.

PAUL: That this iconic scene. I know you remember it. Millions of us were glued to our TVs, right?

BLACKWELL: I was there. We are looking back on O.J. Simpson's wild courtroom drama.



TOM LANGE: You think about everybody else.

O.J. SIMPSON: I just can't do it here on the freeway. I couldn't do it in the field. I want to do it at her grave. I want to do it at my house.

LANGE: You're not going to not going to do it. Too many people love you. Your kids, your mother, your friends, A.C. You've got the whole world. Don't throw it away. Don't throw it away, man. Come on.



PAUL: It's still just as compelling now, isn't it?

BLACKWELL: Yes, it is.

PAUL: We don't know what happened, but it's been 20 years -- I hope that doesn't make you feel old -- since O.J. Simpson was charged with the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.

BLACKWELL: You know, the cameras started rolling for this chase. This day, June 17th, 1994. They didn't stop more than a year when, of course, O.J. was acquitted.

PAUL: In fact, some consider that televised trial to be America's first true reality show. You know the cast of unforgettable characters.

Well, Paul Thaler joins us now. He is actually a professor at Adelphi University and the author of "The Spectacle: Media and the Making of the O.J. Simpson Story."

So, thank you so much, professor, for being with us. We appreciate it.

How do you think the O.J. trial influenced cameras in the courtroom for us?

PAUL THALER, AUTHOR, "THE SPECTACLE": Well, it was the ultimate television trial. You know, up until Simpson, there were spades of celebrated cases and then Simpson struck and we had never seen anything like that before or since, actually. It was a year-long event that captivated the nation and 20 years later, we do celebrate that trial in certain ways. We remember that trial. It showed the Bronco chase.

There were about 95 million Americans actually watching that chase which were more Americans than watched actually the first landing of the moon. So, it truly was an iconic event, a cultural event that stays with us today.

BLACKWELL: It's amazing because there are trials that have come up since. You know, I think of Casey Anthony. I think of George Zimmerman and people use this term trial of the century. Well, the O.J. Simpson trial, that was indeed truly the trial of the century.

How do you think the coverage of that really changed media?

THALER: Well, it was a media-created event. I mean, a trial that was supposed to last perhaps a month, month and a half, really extended into most of the year. In fact, it was the longest sequestered jury in the history of California. Jury members actually sat for about 265 days in sequester quarters.

So, it was a remarkable event from a trial perspective. From a media event, of course, it captured the attention of all media. In fact, not to cover O.J. during that period of time seemed to be out of the cultural loop.

So, it was certainly that trial of the century, perhaps even replacing the Lindbergh trial of 1935 which had the designation up until Simpson.


PAUL: Yes, and in fact, something like dog magazines apparently were covering O.J. Simpson back in the day.

But I wanted to ask you, because I used to work at "In Session", which, of course, covered trials, and people asked us all the time, why can't there be cameras in every courtroom? Do you think that are there cons to having trials covered and televised?

THALER: Yes, I think it's an interesting fallacy (INAUDIBLE) that exists with cameras in the courtroom. And I think it does change not only the dynamic of the courtroom itself, I think a trial participants do behave differently as a result of being in a televised trial.

And the Simpson case was a case in point of that -- a trial that was elongated to a better part of a year. It also affects other aspects. It affects the media itself. I think all media were kind of sucked into the vortex of media.

You mentioned the "Dog World" magazine, covering the case. I actually interviewed the editor of that magazine. She told me the reason she was in the courtroom is because it was the Akita who discovered the bodies of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman and thought that her readership would be interested in the trial. So, even a magazine would be involved in that case.

I also think it affects the relationship between the jury and the public. We have a contract with the jury that they will represent the public at large. And what we find in these televised trials is that we have two juries that work -- we have the jury inside the courtroom and then we have the public jury. Sometimes those verdicts are very different.


THALER: And it could lead to consequences.

PAUL: Interesting. Paul Thaler, boy, thank you so much for sharing with us this morning. Good to talk to you.

THALER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: In just a few minutes, we'll have the latest on the violence spiraling across Iraq. Armed militants have set their sights on Baghdad. Will the U.S. step up to stop them and in what form? We'll take you live to the White House and to Baghdad at the top of the hour.