ad info

Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback  





Bush signs order opening 'faith-based' charity office for business

Rescues continue 4 days after devastating India earthquake

DaimlerChrysler employees join rapidly swelling ranks of laid-off U.S. workers

Disney's is a goner


4:30pm ET, 4/16









CNN Websites
Networks image

CNN NewsStand

Are Cell Phones and Driving a Deadly Combination?; European Allies Wary of U.S. Missile Defense Plan; Ramsey Parents Look to Clear Their Name

Aired May 31, 2000 - 10:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: It's Wednesday, May 31, 2000.

Tonight on CNN NEWSSTAND: we all see them, and if we are lucky we dodge them.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got on the phone with my girlfriend the other day and she got in an accident talking to me on the phone.

KERRY ALLANDER (ph), VIRGINIA STATE TROOPER: Sometimes we wonder if they're under the influence of alcohol. We stop them and, you know, find out that they're on their cell phone.


ANNOUNCER: Drunk driving is against the law -- meet a woman who says cell phone driving should be too.


PATTI PENA, VICTIM'S MOTHER: I'll never forget when the doctors walked in the room and at that moment when they tell you your child is not going to survive her injuries.


ANNOUNCER: A crusade to make us hang up and drive.


PENA: Do not use a hand-held phone while driving. Park the vehicle first.


ANNOUNCER: He may be a lame duck at home, but Europe is still listening.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Is there a threat which is new and different? The answer to that, it seems to me, is plainly yes, there is and there will be one.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, a look at what's so urgent about this presidential trip.

Plus, some advice for one of the men hoping to move in when the Clintons move out.

The mystery of who killed JonBenet.


PATSY RAMSEY, JONBENET'S MOTHER: I want you to look at me and tell me what you think happened.

STEVE THOMAS, AUTHOR, "JONBENET: INSIDE THE MURDER INVESTIGATION": Patsy, I'll look you right in the eye. I think you're good for this. I think that's what the evidence suggests.


ANNOUNCER: We just heard from the Ramseys on "LARRY KING," now it's your turn. CNN legal analyst Greta Van Susteren will be taking your phone calls and e-mails, and discussing the case with attorney Johnnie Cochran.

CNN NEWSSTAND with anchors Judd Rose in New York and Judy Woodruff in Atlanta.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSSTAND. Judd is off tonight.

We begin with a story happening in state after state. The latest headlines are from Wisconsin. The widow of a man killed in a weekend traffic accident is calling on lawmakers to ban the use of cellular phones while driving. Her husband's car was struck head on by a driver distracted while trying to make a call.

CNN technology correspondent Rick Lockridge has been looking into the issue of cell phones and highway safety, and he discovered the woman in Wisconsin is not alone.


PENA: She was every joy in our lives.

RICK LOCKRIDGE, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Morgan her mother remembers was a happy, exuberant 2-year-old.

PENA: Morgan loved singing and loved her dogs and new room. She had a big girl bed and her brand new room, loved her daddy.

LOCKRIDGE: But the day her mother Patti can never forget is the day of the accident. PENA: Crash. Just started spinning around and ended up in a ditch and turned around to look at my child, and she was in her car seat, and she was bleeding from her head.

LOCKRIDGE: Two days later, Morgan Lee Pena died.

PENA: I'll never forget when the doctors walked in the room and at that moment when they tell you your child is not going to survive her injuries. Come on, you've got to be kidding me. That's my baby. I can't leave this hospital and go home without my child. How do you do that?

LOCKRIDGE: It was November 2 last year when a driver ran this stop sign in Hilltown township, Pennsylvania, and smashed broadside into Patti Pena's Jeep Grand Cherokee at 40 miles an hour. The driver later told police he was dialing a cellular phone and never even saw the stop sign.

PENA: The pain, it's just so overwhelming, and I never ever want you to feel this. I'll take it, you know, it's happened to me already, but if I can do anything to avoid you ever feeling this, I'll do it.

LOCKRIDGE: It is that conviction which has changed Patti Pena's life.

PENA: Do not use a hand-held phone while driving. Park the vehicle first.

LOCKRIDGE: Morgan's death turned Patti Pena from Perkasie, Pennsylvania, into an activist urging lawmakers and the public to think of cell phone use by drivers as a public safety crisis.

PENA: In today's society, we must legislate, because there are people out there who do not take personal responsibility seriously.

LOCKRIDGE: In the U.S., there are no state or federal laws banning cell phone use behind the wheel, only a handful of local ordinances. The driver involved in the accident that killed Morgan Lee Pena received two traffic tickets for careless driving and a $50 fine.

Look around you next time you're in traffic, there are more than 90 million cell phone users in the United States and 9 out of 10 of them say they routinely use their cell phones while driving. Some admit it's risky.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was on the phone with my girlfriend the other day and she got into an accident talking to me on the phone.

LOCKRIDGE: To date, 14 industrialized nations have banned driver cell phone use, including Great Britain and Japan. The U.S. does not keep count of deadly cell phone-related accidents.

But a study in "The New England Journal of Medicine" found that drivers who use their cell phones are four times as likely to cause an accident as drivers who aren't using a phone. That's the statistical equivalent of driving drunk.

ALLANDER: You know, sometimes they may appear that -- you know, sometimes we wonder if they are under the influence of alcohol. We stop them and, you know, find out that they are on the cell phone.

LOCKRIDGE: Virginia state trooper Kerry Allander patrols Washington, D.C.'s busy Beltway highway.

ALLANDER: They will pass me, I'm in a fully marked state police vehicle, and they will pass right on the lane beside me, and when I stop them, they say that they never even noticed me.

LOCKRIDGE: From the movie "Hanging Up," in which a chatty, distracted Meg Ryan slams into an unsuspecting fellow driver...


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Send them whatever you want, but just send it to them, yes.


LOCKRIDGE: ... to the multi-tasking motorist scene in the latest Lexus ad, we are seeing the proliferation of auto gadgetry on-screen and on the nation's highways.

(on camera): What if phones were not only phones, but also wireless Web browsers, pocket organizers, music players, even tiny televisions? What if they had larger, flashier screens, that tempted you to look as well as listen? Well, we won't have to wait long to find out, because phones like this one are already on the market.

(voice-over): These are the next-generation cell phones. They come with Internet access and e-mail, stock quotes and text messaging.

So what will happen as these devices start getting into the hands of these people? Do you want the person behind you, the guy who is six inches off your back bumper, buying books or checking his e-mail when you're in rush hour traffic?

TOM WHEELER (ph), PRESIDENT, CTIA: I think it is as stupid to read an e-mail while driving as it is to read the newspaper.

LOCKRIDGE: Tom Wheeler, president of the CTIA, the Cellular Telephone Industry Association, says manufacturers will spend well over $10 million this year educating consumers to use their phones wisely.

WHEELER: There are laws on the books to deal with irresponsible drivers, that if you want to really have an impact, what you need to have is an education program.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you use a wireless phone on the road, put safety first. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LOCKRIDGE: Just months before the death of Adam Petty, in an accident unrelated to this story, the Petty family made this public service announcement for the wireless industry. In it, no cell phone is used, nor does the association advise motorists to simply hang up and drive.


NARRATOR: The National Safety Council and the wireless industry remind to you use your phone safely when driving.


LOCKRIDGE: Patti Pena says the cellular industry has done a poor job warning drivers.

PENA: If you are going to inundate society with your product, I think you should do a good job at educating the public as the safe use of that product. In the spring of 1999, they were asked at that time to start an educational campaign, and they refused, and meeting after meeting they refused. I mean, that is something that could have saved my daughter's life.

LOCKRIDGE: The CTIA wouldn't tell us exactly what it spends each year lobbying against anti-talk and drive bills nationwide; it would only confirm the amount is "in the millions." How effective are those millions? Since 1995, 34 states have proposed hang up and drive measure, all have been defeated. The push of new technology, and the power of the cell phone lobbyists, might stop a less determined woman.

PENA: I will never give up. I don't care how huge and powerful that lobby is. They won't stop me, ever.

BURT KOLTER (ph), SECURITY SYSTEM SALESMAN: On occasion, I could have two incoming calls at the same time, or an incoming and outgoing.

LOCKRIDGE: Patti Pena is up against more than a powerful lobby. Security system salesman Burt Kolter is one of tens of thousands of Americans whose cars literally become their offices...

KOLTER: Hi, this is Burt Kolter.

LOCKRIDGE: ... and whose work depends upon being able to carry a cell phone, or several, in transit.

KOLTER: Having a phone with me all the time means that they can get me, and I don't have to play telephone tag. Sometimes in my business, playing telephone tag loses.

LOCKRIDGE: Kolter says he's had a mobile phone of one sort or another in his car for 25 years. He believes he is living proof it's possible to talk and drive safely at the same time.

KOLTER: Listening to the radio and driving down the road, or talking on a cell phone and driving down the road: I personally find not much difference.

LOCKRIDGE: Is there a difference? Should cell phones be singled out from the other distractions in the car? Patti Pena says yes.

PENA: There are three demands placed on the driver, and that is the cognitive, visual and motor demand, and there is no cognitive demand placed on a hamburger-eating driver.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe it's the lawyer in me, but letters to the editor and that type of information does not constitute evidence to me.

PENA: We have got evidence that this is a problem. We don't have statistical data that this is a problem, not because it doesn't exist, but because we don't collect it.

LOCKRIDGE: Pena is right about that. Of the 50 states, only two, Oklahoma and Minnesota, give police a checkbox so they can note whether cell phone use contributed to an accident. Next year, thanks in part to Patti Pena's state senator Joe Conti (ph), Pennsylvania will become the third.

JOE CONTI, PENNSYLVANIA STATE SENATOR: Here is the statistic of Morgan Pena. We do not need any more statistics.

LOCKRIDGE: Saddened and inspired by the death of Morgan Pena, Conti renewed his one-man effort to get Pennsylvania to start collecting cell phone accident data.

CONTI: I pledged to them that I would work with them on this issue and try to bring this to the attention of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania.

LOCKRIDGE: Below the state level, Patti Pena convinced her town council to pass a new law prohibiting cell phone use by drivers, and persuaded city officials in nearby Lebanon, Pennsylvania, to do the same. She started a Web site, is increasingly in the media spotlight, and is seeing more and more people join her crusade every day.

PENA: I tell people I have a new job now, and it is one that I will never quit. I don't have an angry heart. I just know what -- I realize what I can do, and what I should do for Morgan, and that is to raise public awareness. I can share this story, and let you do with it what you choose. If it hits you, and you change your life or -- and your cell phone habits, and you are more careful behind the wheel as a whole, then I have been successful.


WOODRUFF: This summer, a national conference of state lawmakers will consider the issues of high-tech driving hazards. Patti Pena will be there.

And tonight, beginning at 11:00 Eastern, you can participate in an online chat about cell phones and highway safety. A representative of the cell phone industry and a New York state lawmaker who wants to ban cell phone driving will take your questions at

Some late developments now in the Elian Gonzalez case. Sources familiar with the case tell CNN they expect a major ruling tomorrow. They are awaiting a decision from the federal appeals court in Atlanta, which has been considering whether to grant the 6-year-old Cuban an asylum hearing. CNN will bring you more on this story tomorrow with live reports from Atlanta, Miami, Washington, and Havana.

ANNOUNCER: Up next on NEWSSTAND, pomp, circumstance, and world- changing issues.

And later, Johnnie Cochran weighs in on the JonBenet Ramsey case. You can, too. Send e-mail to, or call 404- 221-1855.

NEWSSTAND is coming right back.


WOODRUFF: Trade issues and fears that the United States may announce an anti-missile system kept President Clinton busy today trying to ease the concerns of European allies. Mr. Clinton was in Lisbon, Portugal, on the second day of his week-long overseas trip.

That's where CNN senior White House correspondent John King opens his "Reporter's Notebook."


JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Mostly they agreed to continue to disagree. They did not resolve any of the major trade disputes. They did not resolve and indeed perhaps exacerbated their number-one security dispute. They did reach a new agreement in which both sides of the Atlantic, the United States and the Europeans promised to do more to fight the spread of AIDS and other infectious diseases mostly in Africa, but even there they made no specific financial pledge to implement the program.

The Europeans were hoping the president would come here and say, "Look, you're right, I'll reconsider, we will take our missile defense program off the table at least until the next administration," but he did quite the opposite. He made his strongest public statement today that he believes there is a threat from rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea, and that he believes the United States must develop this technology. He made very clear today that if he had to make that decision today he would say yes.

Now, the Europeans object, they think it's a bad idea, they think it leaves them unprotected, they think it will escalate nuclear tensions, China, India, Pakistan, maybe even Russia. And the president tried to placate them by saying, "Look, if we develop this technology we will share it with you." But the -- most of the European nations responded by saying, "We couldn't afford it even if you made it available." CLINTON: I would be surprised if we resolve all of our differences on the question of missile defense, although we might make more headway than people would expect. I'm just not sure yet. However, I do expect that there will be two or three other areas where we will have truly meaningful announcements that I think will make a real difference, and one of them in particular we're working on, if we get it done it will be very, very important. So I'm -- I think the trip is well worth it and even in the areas where we may not have an agreement.

KING: He was viewed quite skeptically in Europe when he took office almost eight years ago. President Clinton would like to be remembered as the U.S. president who led the coalition in Kosovo. He would like to be remembered as the U.S. president who helped encourage the new democracies in Europe. He would like to be remembered as the man who brought U.S. style capitalism to the emerging new Europe.


WOODRUFF: For more on the president's trip, you can visit us online at You can share your opinions on Mr. Clinton's policies and read what others have to say on the message board.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, with the president away, and the presidential campaign heating up, it's time to talk strategy.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Advice to Gore: make this the defining speech of your career.


ANNOUNCER: Up next: CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider on what it will take to keep a Democrat in the White House.


WOODRUFF: Two months from today, politics in the United States really gets boiling. The Republican National Convention opens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Two weeks later, Democrats convene in Los Angeles. Conventions have on occasion been the site of political reversals.

CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider says that given recent polls, Al Gore may need to find the same comeback magic discovered 12 years ago by another vice president -- George with-no- "W" Bush.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): When was it exactly in 1988 that Bush turned things around? In May and June, Democrat Michael Dukakis had a solid lead over Bush. After the Democratic convention, Dukakis widened his lead to 17 points. Then in August, the Republicans held their convention in New Orleans. Remember this moment? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988)

GEORGE BUSH, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My choice for the vice presidency is Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana.



SCHNEIDER: At the time, the convention was widely regarded as a disaster for Bush and the GOP. The Quayle frenzy had stepped on the party's message.

But guess what? The press missed the story. It was during that so-called "disastrous convention" that Bush started to pull ahead for the first time, and he stayed ahead for the rest of the campaign. What exactly did the Republicans do at that convention to change the dynamic of the campaign?


AUDIENCE: Bush! Bush! Bush!


SCHNEIDER: The voters wanted two things in 1988: continuity of policy and change of leadership, the same two things they want this year. In 1988, Republicans brought President Reagan in on the first night of the convention to make a call for continuity.


RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But, George, just one personal request: Go out there and "win one for the Gipper."



SCHNEIDER: And quickly got him off the stage. Clinton, too, is a damaged president. Advice to Gore: Get him in and out fast.

In 1988, Dukakis pretended to offer continuity.


GOV. MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because this election is not about ideology; it's about competence.


SCHNEIDER: The Republicans made short work of that.


GEORGE H. BUSH: There are those who say there isn't much of a difference this year, but America, don't let 'em fool you.


SCHNEIDER: They used the convention to accelerate a relentless attack on Dukakis' ideology.


GEORGE H. BUSH: Should public school teachers be required to lead our children in "The Pledge of Allegiance"? My opponent says no, and I say yes.


Should society be allowed to impose the death penalty on those who commit crimes of extraordinary cruelty and violence? My opponent says no, but I say yes.


SCHNEIDER: Advice to Gore: Expose the ideological agenda behind "compassionate conservatism."

In 1988, Bush used his convention speech to send a message: I'm my own man.


GEORGE H. BUSH: And I don't hate government. I want a kinder, gentler nation -- like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.


SCHNEIDER: Advice to Gore: Make this the defining speech of your career where you show you're your own man.

In 1988, voters had trouble seeing the vice president as a strong leader. Bush turned that perception around at the convention. He stood by his man.


GEORGE H. BUSH: ... listened to his peers and the accolades from the senators with whom he serves speak eloquently of Dan Quayle's standing to be one heartbeat away from the presidency.



SCHNEIDER: And he sounded like a leader.


GEORGE H. BUSH: ... the Congress will push me to raise taxes, and I'll say no. And they'll push, and I'll say no. And they'll push again, and I'll say to them, "Read my lips, no new taxes!"



SCHNEIDER (on camera): Advice to Gore: The convention is your best, perhaps your only opportunity to show you're a leader. Don't wimp out like you did on Elian Gonzalez. Show the voters who the real son of a Bush is in this campaign.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And if Governor Bush slips back in the polls, I'm sure Bill Schneider will have some advice for him as well.

Still to come, a wildfire grows exponentially, feeding on the wind and heat it created. New Mexico firefighters double their numbers to fight it.

And later, our interactive discussion of the JonBenet Ramsey case. E-mail or call in your questions now.


WOODRUFF: Other top stories tonight, in New Mexico, firefighters have to double their crews to deal with a fire that tripled in size in one day. They are trying to turn the 22,000-acre fire away from a watershed that supplies Las Vegas, New Mexico. In Arizona, high wind is whipping 9,500 acres of flames near Flagstaff. This one is 40 percent contained. And in Florida, crews are battling dozens of fires, which have consumed tens of thousands of acres. They are keeping an eye on about a hundred more fires.

In Luxembourg, negotiators are talking with a man who is holding 29 children and three teachers hostage at a preschool. He is said to be armed and has a history of mental problems.

A move today by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission may mean savings for people who dial long distance. The FCC slashed access charges. Long distance phone companies say that they will pass on that savings to their customers.

Wall Street followed up one of its best days ever with a case of the blahs. Part of the reason, investor nervousness about the future of Microsoft.

Tony Guida has details in our "MONEYLINE Update" from New York.

TONY GUIDA, CNN ANCHOR: Judy, it's up to the judge now in the Microsoft case. The software giant filed its answer to the government's proposal to split the company. Microsoft called that plan -- quote -- "defective, vague and ambiguous." The company also criticized the judge for holding only one day of hearings on remedies. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson could rule in the case as early as tomorrow. Microsoft stock ended the day down a little less than a dollar, in the midst of a pullback in tech shares that also held down the Dow.

Investors turned skittish again today, not wanting to buy ahead of the numbers from Friday's report on jobs and wage inflation. They know the Fed will be watching closely, too.

The Dow industrials finished the day just about where they started, at 10,522. Retail and financial shares did well, but techs drove the blue chips down. The Nasdaq dropped 58 points, after its record performance on Tuesday. The big-name techs and the Internet shares retreated.

Bonds had a dazzling day on two reports showing some slowing in the economy. The 10-year note gained nearly 3/4 of a point. The 30- year bond jumped more than 1 1/4.

Tomorrow, numbers are expected from the National Association of Purchasing Managers Index, and they're expected to show continued strength in the manufacturing sector, and we'll also get the latest figures on construction spending. Both of those might move the markets. That's tonight's "MONEYLINE Update."

NEWSSTAND will be back in just 30 seconds.


WOODRUFF: If you've been trying to get on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" or "Jeopardy" to no avail and you're a music trivia buff, have we got a Web site for you. It promises to get you in the game without leaving your home.

In tonight's "Nothin' But Net," NEWSSTAND's Perri Peltz checks out the MTV creation causing a bit of a Web riot.


PERRI PELTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Get ready for Web Riot. Tune in, log onto, and play games. It's more an just a music trivia game show; it's the convergence of television an the Internet, in an attempt to redefine multimedia entertainment for the MTV generation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the world's first interactive online television game. Our studio contestants are putting their video knowledge to the test, and you, too, can play along with your own computer.

PELTZ: Instead of just shouting answers at your TV, log on at Web riot at, and actually compete against four television contestants and more than 20,000 Web-heads in realtime for real prizes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because this is the future, a future where rock 'n' roll is the new religion and the masses gather daily. BRIAN GARDEN, PRESIDENT OF PROGRAMMING, MTV: If you're a game show watcher and you're just watching in your living and you think that you're smarter than those contestants on television, all you kind of do is kind of scream about it and tell your friends you could win the $25,000, if you could only get on "Jeopardy." We wanted to appeal to all of those frustrated would-be-winners. Now they can actually play against the players, plus against 25,000 of their peers. And if they win, they know that they got a better score than the people on the television, and they'll also their scores back on television.

PELTZ: MTV teamed up with Spiderdance Inc. to create the technology that syncs live Internet shows to TV broadcasts. There's no special hardware required, and downloading the game is simple. All you need to play is a PC and a TV in the same room. The online game is synchronized to the TV show, allowing at-home users to answer questions, along with the in-studio players.

At the end of each game, the names of the highest scoring cyberplayers appear on TV. Online, you'll find the hall of fame of high scores. You can ask the host, Ahmet Zappa, questions, and chat with fellow online contestants between rounds. And each show features an online player whose day whose face is splashed across the television screen.

KIM ZETTER, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "PC WORLD": This is definitely eye candy for the attention deficit crowd. It's the MTV audience, and the kinds of questions that they're asking are very kind of rap heavy, hip-hop heavy, you know, the rounds of MTV videos. It's the whole idea of offering a community for MTV viewers, and they can feel like they're a part of what's happening on screen.

PELTZ: Still want to yell at the TV? Well, go ahead. But to fulfill your fantasy of playing along and actually win prizes, log on to Web riot, at for a truly interactive, music-oriented game show experience.

And that's this week's "Nothin' But Net".


ANNOUNCER: Up next: an unsolved murder, lie detectors and the latest from John and Patsy Ramsey.


P. RAMSEY: What I want to hear is, how is it exactly that you think that I killed my daughter?

THOMAS: Instead of making a right turn, she made a left turn, and covered this up.


ANNOUNCER: Hear what Johnnie Cochran has to say, and share your thoughts on the Ramsey case. E-mail us. The address is, or call 404-221-1855. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The parents of JonBenet Ramsey say they have passed an independent lie detector test, and that authorities should stop accusing them of killing their 6-year-old daughter.

Our legal analyst Greta Van Susteren is here now with more on tonight's confrontation between the Ramseys and a former police detective, who thinks they know more than they are admitting -- Greta.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Judy, it's been almost three-and-a-half years since John Ramsey brought his daughter's body up from a basement room of the family's Colorado home.


VAN SUSTEREN (voice-over): The body was found eight hours after her mother, Patsy Ramsey, says she discovered a ransom note demanding $118,000. A hunt for the killer proved fruitless, and eventually, the district attorney told reporters John and Patsy were under what he called an umbrella of suspicion. In many people's mind, they still are, even though last year a grand jury declined to indict anyone.

In an effort they hoped would settle things once and for all, the Ramseys recently announced they'd taken and passed a lie detector test, and on "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight, they challenged all the doubters, including Steve Thomas, the former lead detective of the investigation.

THOMAS: But I think there was a toiletting issue that night that has been dismissed and underplayed.

KING: OK, toiletting -- explain.

THOMAS: A bed-wetting or a toiletting issue.

KING: That caused Patsy to get mad at her daughter.

THOMAS: Absolutely.

KING: And say slap her, or hit her, or punish her?

THOMAS: I don't know. I'm suggesting that there was an explosive encounter, because at one point put the child in clothes, a red turtleneck, for example, not the same clothing she was found in deceased, the following day. I think something happened in that bathroom.

KING: All right. Why would it lead then to garroting and hitting on the head: What would lead to that?

THOMAS: I don't know. What can you imagine would led to garroting or hitting on the head.

P. RAMSEY: What can you imagine? I can't imagine. I want to you look at me and tell me what you think happened. THOMAS: Actually, I'll look you right in the eye. I think you're good for this. I think that's what the evidence suggests.

P. RAMSEY: Steve Thomas, you are so...

JOHN RAMSEY, FATHER OF JONBENET RAMSEY: This man, as a police officer, has caused irreparable harm to my family. He has called my wife a murderer. He has called me a complicity to murder. He has called me a liar. He has slandered my relationship with my daughter, Patsy's relationship with JonBenet.


VAN SUSTEREN: In a few minutes, I'll take your calls about the Ramsey case. You can also e-mail your questions and comments to this address:, or you can call 404-221-1855.

But first, I'm joined from our Los Angeles bureau by defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, who's had plenty of experience with controversial, high-profile cases that play out in the media, as well as in the courts. Johnnie, thank you for joining us tonight.


VAN SUSTEREN: Johnnie, why do you think that Steve Thomas did this? And why do you think the Ramseys agreed to debate him on LARRY KING LIVE?

COCHRAN: Well, I think Mr. Thomas is trying to make money, clearly. He's written a book, and I think that's the real reason. I think the Ramseys have the hope that they can put this behind them, but they're going to find it's very, very difficult to do that, because no matter what they do, there will be a substantial part of the population that believes they're involved in this murder.

Now keep in mind, Greta, they've not been indicted by the grand jury, that they now claim they've passed the polygraph test, and there are not going to be any charges filed against them. Short of somebody coming forward and confessing this crime, there will not be anybody charged with the crime, I think.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think, Johnnie, that in some ways, that the Ramseys feel the burden of proof has shifted because they have come out, they have written a book, they've taken the polygraph exam, they've made it public, and now they go on LARRY KING LIVE with Steve Thomas?

COCHRAN: Oh, clearly. I think they believe that they are guilty until proven innocent, and they have the resources to try to fight this, but it's very, very difficult to do that. We should keep in mind in America, that you are innocent until proven guilty, or until charged, at any rate, and a prosecutor proves your guilty. These charges by this detective, those are theories, those are his theories, and they do not have enough evidence to bring the matter to trial, and as such, I think it's very unfortunate.

VAN SUSTEREN: Would you ever have advised them to go so public?

COCHRAN: No, I would not, because they can't -- this is a no-win situation for them. You know, they're asked to prove that they're not guilty, and basically have not been charged with anything. People have talked about this from the very beginning.

This case, remember, Greta, was bungled by the police department from the very beginning, and so that's why they can't really make out a case, whomever perpetrated this dastardly crime, but you know, so now we're left with speculation as to what took place.

I would advise at this point to keep a low profile. I mean, they're not going to prove anything to anyone at this point.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, we're going to take a break, and I'll be right back to take your phone calls and your comments. Send e-mail to, or call 404-221-1855.


VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back to our discussion of the JonBenet Ramsey case. And my guest in Los Angeles is attorney Johnnie Cochran.

Johnnie, I'm going to go to an e-mail from a viewer and the e- mail reads as follows, it says: "I have practiced law for 37 years and have never seen a more despicable demonstration of police misconduct. Thomas' attitude is convict first and collect the (supporting) evidence later -- make the suspects prove that they are not guilty."

Do you agree or disagree, Johnnie?

COCHRAN: I agree 100 percent. I practiced law 37 years also, perhaps he should come to Los Angeles, there may be more despicable conduct out here in the last 37 years. But I'd have to agree with that totally, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

COCHRAN: This police officer is totally out of line, he's trying to make money on this situation, on a terrible, terrible situation. Imagine if you will, Greta, that they are in fact innocent, to be accused of killing your child, and there's a killer out there, only based upon his own speculation and his own department messed up this case. They can't really make a case at this point.

VAN SUSTEREN: Johnnie, is the media up to their eyeballs in it as well if that's true, should someone step forward and say, I did it, and it's someone other than the Ramseys?

COCHRAN: Well, you know, you'd like to think that, but that doesn't happen in the real world. I don't see anybody coming forward. They can't make a case -- and as I said before, without a confession it's going to be a problem. But the media has taken hold of this case and we are all guilty of it, Greta. This is a case that has really, really peaked the interest of Americans and the media will not let it go. VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, let's go to the phones. We have a caller from the state of Georgia. Go ahead, caller.

CALLER: Yes, Greta, hi.


CALLER: The Ramseys mentioned in their polygraph the ransom note and then in I believe Detective Thomas' book he mentions that he received a letter written by Patsy where her handwriting is changed. If this letter is in actual evidence and does exist, what would this do to their polygraph examination and, well, how would it affect the court case?

VAN SUSTEREN: Johnnie, that's really sort of two questions, number one is that Patsy Ramsey was asked in the polygraph examination whether or not she wrote the note, she said no, and the polygrapher said she was telling the truth. And then you have the second issue whether someone can disguise or learn how to change his handwriting. What is your response to that?

COCHRAN: Well, I think the whole thing is much ado about nothing. As you know, Greta, the polygraph is not admissible in criminal court, so that this was just an attempt I think to buttress their position, of course, and they have their own polygrapher also, which doesn't really help out very much.

So I think that it just adds more questions, because people will say immediately, well, let us give you the polygraph, submit to the FBI polygrapher, and they're not going to do that. Their lawyers can't let them do that in the first place.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

COCHRAN: It's not admissible, it doesn't add anything, it gives them a talking point, though, because somebody challenged them to do it, and I would have not done this from the very beginning, quite frankly.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, we have another e-mail from another viewer, an e-mail reads as follow: "If they didn't do it, whey weren't they at the police station from minute one on day one and why aren't they still there?"

Is there a blueprint, Johnnie, of conduct when you have a -- when your child has been murdered and you are a suspect in murder?

COCHRAN: No, there really is no blueprint. We would like to think that everybody acts in a certain way, but you know, everybody acts different given the circumstances. Certainly you'd like to show -- we want parents to show concern, parents who, you know, will -- are relentless in their pursuit of finding the person who killed their child.

But, you know, there is no blueprint and you cannot infer, it seems to me, from their conduct, or their actions or lack thereof, that they're more likely guilty than not. I mean, I don't think that really helps us at all.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I think we've also got the problem, Johnnie, is that from day one is that the police focused on them, and so of course their lawyers would advise them to stay away from the police.

COCHRAN: That's true.

VAN SUSTEREN: But we have a call on the phone from the state of New York. Go ahead, caller.

CALLER: Yes, hello. I have actually a statement rather than a question. I live in New York, but as you can hear I'm British, and my background in medical research including things like fine-tuning DNA sampling and monitoring antibodies -- but anyway, I'm a science writer and I've been a foreign correspondent, I've lived in eight different countries.

And I think I'm fairly objective, and I've been watching through this case and I have to say that these police officers have combined what looks rather openly to be ignorance and arrogance in equal measure and haven't looked at any of the scientific evidence when they should have done.

And it was very fashionable at the time to always turn and look at the parents and try and blame the parents, and this sort of pack instinct of not having an independent thought -- and it may even be in -- politically incorrect for me to say this in America, but it really does look like that lynch mob mentality. Bring in some independent researchers and let's start again.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, thank you, caller, for your comment.

Johnnie, let me put you on the other side of the aisle, if you were the police chief or the prosecutor on this case what steps would you be taking today, tomorrow to try to solve this murder?

COCHRAN: I'd continue to work quietly to see if we could come up with any evidence. Now, they've had some great experts, you know, Henry Lee, Barry Scheck, and some of the greatest experts in this country have been out there to help them.

They cannot solve this crime because it was messed up in the first hours, the evidence was tainted and messed up at the beginning, so they have a real tough problem, and they need to be honest and admit this to the American people rather than go around now writing books and accusing people where they cannot prove it. It's unfortunate, but those are the facts.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Johnnie Cochran, thank you very much for joining us this evening from Los Angeles.

COCHRAN: God bless you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Be sure to stay with CNN tomorrow for coverage of the Elian Gonzalez decision that is expected from the federal appeals court on whether to grant Elian Gonzalez an asylum hearing. That's the topic on "BURDEN OF PROOF" tomorrow, join Roger Cossack and me at 12:30 p.m. Eastern.

And now back to Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Greta.

And NEWSSTAND will return Monday. Tomorrow and Friday, join Larry King for "Twenty Years of Stories: This is CNN." Larry and CNN journalists, including Bernard Shaw, will remember some of the most compelling stories we've aired.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated.

Profundity was not necessary. Simply report what you know. And I said what I knew at the time, something is happening, and something was happening. A war was beginning.

We are seeing bright flashes going off all over the sky.


WOODRUFF: Join Larry King at 9 p.m. Eastern for "Twenty Years of Stories: This is CNN." Our first decade on Thursday, the second on Friday.

I'm Judy Woodruff, "SPORTS TONIGHT" is next. Good night from the NEWSSTAND.



Back to the top  © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.