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Andrea Yates is Found Guilty; Nation has New Terrorist Alert System

Aired March 12, 2002 - 19:30   ET


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Andrea Yates is found guilty. Should she now be sentenced to death? And...


TOM RIDGE, DIRECTOR, HOMELAND SECURITY: Presently, the nation currently stands in yellow condition, an elevated risk.


PRESS: Will the nation's new color coded terrorist alert system make you feel safer?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE, Patricia Ireland, former president of the National Organization for Women and attorney Ann Coulter. And later, Randy Larson, director of the Anser Institute for Homeland Security, and former CIA agent Bob Bayer, author of "See No Evil."

PRESS: Guilty, this afternoon in Houston. It took the jury only three and a half hours to find Andrea Yates guilty of murdering her children. In that emotional trial, both sides admitted she was insane. Insane enough, the defense argued, to be found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Insane, but sane enough to know right from wrong, and, therefore eligible for the death penalty, argued the prosecution. And today, the jury agreed. Tomorrow morning, that same jury will decide her fate. Question, should Andrea Yates be put to death for putting her five kids to death or should she be locked up for life in a mental institution?


TUCKER CARLSON-CO-HOST: Patricia Ireland, thanks for joining us. Did the jury make the right decision and should she die for it?

PATRICIA IRELAND, FMR. PRESIDENT NOW: I don't think she should die for it. I wasn't following the entire trial. But clearly, Andrea Yates was out of touch with reality. She thought she was saving her children from Satan. She thought she was saving their eternal, immortal souls from hell. How can you put a woman to death for that? CARLSON: Well, we'll answer that question in just a moment. Let me just very quickly get Ann Colter's response to that same question.

Ann, did the jury make the right decision and should she die for what she's done?

ANN COULTER, ATTORNEY: They absolutely made the right decision, which came as a total relief. Listening to all the feminist and criminal defense lawyers on TV, I was worried that the jury might be thinking the same thing. No, when you kill your five children and you know it's wrong, yes, that is evidence of a very serious crime. And the criminal justice system does allow for mercy. I'm not saying she absolutely must be put to death or even necessarily that that's the way I would rule, but that certainly ought be one of the penalties that she is eligible for.

CARLSON: Now Patricia Ireland, you said she was hearing voices. She thought she was under orders from Satan. All of that may be true, but it sounds like you're saying, essentially, she was hysterical. She didn't know what she was doing. You're making excuses for her, much in the same way I would add that 19th century doctors excused women's fainting spells, etcetera, etcetera. She's an adult. She's a woman. Why shouldn't she be held accountable for what she did?

IRELAND: She's an adult. She is clearly psychotic, was psychotic. She and her husband had been told that she should keep taking her medicine, that she should not have another child. She took herself off the medicine. She had another baby. If anybody should have not had a baby, if anyone points at the need for a better mental health system, this is the case.

How can you put her to death when she was hallucinating at the same time she was home schooling? She may have known that it was not legal to kill her children, but she thought she was doing the right thing.

PRESS: Yes, Ann Coulter, I want to come back. You know, we've debated many times. And I've never heard you try to weasel out of a direct answer like you just did to Tucker. So I want to come back to you and not let you get off the hook.

Look, both sides in this trial said she was insane. Both sides said that she killed her five kids. The question is, do you really turn around now and execute someone who is so clearly mentally ill? Yes or no? You're on the jury. You got a vote. Yes or no?

COULTER: Well, in fact, I'm not on the jury, which is all I'm saying. If I were sitting in the jury room, I might well vote to execute her. I mean, the fact that she's a woman or that her act is evidence of insanity isn't a reason not to execute on that theory. You know, you wouldn't execute anyone who was guilty -- who was eligible for the capital punishment.

I mean, it is only the most heinous crimes that are even eligible.

IRELAND: Ann, it's non-functional.

COULTER: Hang on.


COULTER: And it just seems to me, you know, these arguments about oh, mental health, mental health, I wish the mental health profession all the luck in the world. But when it doesn't work and a woman strikes out and commits mass murder against her children, that is murder.


COULTER: It is capital murder. It's eligible for the death penalty. I might vote for the death penalty. I might not. I'm not sitting in the jury room.

PRESS: Ann, even in the killing fields, even in the state of Texas, even the former governor of Texas, now president said we should not be executing the insane. If this woman doesn't fall under the definition of insane after what she did, who does?

COULTER: Oh, no, no, no.

PRESS: And then why shouldn't she be locked away for life in a mental institution? That's what it calls for.

COULTER: No, apparently she should have been locked away in a mental institution before she killed five of her children.

PRESS: I agree.

COULTER: Now that she's killed five children, it moves into a different realm. It now it moves into the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system is not...

IRELAND: That doesn't make her any more sane.

COULTER: Stop interrupting. The criminal justice system is not, you know, some vast mental healthcare system. To hear people talk about, you know, mental illness, this is like the new witch hunt. But instead of burning them at the stake, what we do is let them go free. The more heinous your crime...


COULTER: The more you have feminists saying, "Oh, she's crazy. She's crazy. You can't punish her."

PRESS: OK. All right, Patricia, go.

IRELAND: Well, I mean, I think it is more like a witch hunt. I think you are burning people at the stake if you're talking about a woman who was so nonfunctional, she couldn't take care of herself, much less take care of five kids. She was psychotic. Even the prosecution agrees in that. Now Texas has this very bizarre burden of proof that the defense has to prove she didn't know right from wrong, but everyone agrees she was crazy. How do you strap someone to a gurney and shoot them full of deadly chemicals if they're crazy?

CARLSON: Oh, wait a second. Now Patricia Ireland this sounds well, let me put it this way. I think moment NOW, National Organization for Women, your former organization, lost its final shred of credibility for most Americans was when the Texas chapter suggested that people give money to the Andrea Yates legal defense fund.

Now you didn't see men collecting money for Ted Bundy when she was on death row. because they had unpleasant dates. They could understand he did what he did. Of course, she killed five kids. Why would NOW suggest people give her money?

IRELAND: Come on.

CARLSON: No, no, you answer the question. It's unbelievable that that would happen.

IRELAND: It's not unbelieveable. And in fact, Katie Couric put it on the air in the morning. I'm sorry to mention another network. This was a woman who was psychotic. This was beyond post partum depression, but the much more rare post partum psychosis. She thought she was hearing that her children were going to hell if she let them continue to live.

CARLSON: I understand that. And we can debate. You know, of course, she called the police and her husband.

IRELAND: So of course she needed to...

CARLSON: Yes, let's get to the core question here.

IRELAND: They are already saying that they were going to trial her in a capital murder.

CARLSON: I understand, but let me just ask you this question. And you can help me by answering it. You see this on television. Texas woman kils her five children. So your first instinct is she's the victim?

IRELAND: No, not at all.

CARLSON: I feel sorry for her. That's an appalling instinct to have, I'd say.

IRELAND: Not at all. Well, I would be very glad to clear up that misunderstanding for you because that is not what went through my head, nor NOW's. What went through our head is that the prosecutor's saying I'm going for the death penalty, when the woman was clearly insane. And where was her husband, by the way? Where was his head and heart, getting her pregnant again?

CARLSON: It's her husband's fault. I like that. That's a novel...


PRESS: Ann, I want to ask that question. It is clearly not her husband's fault. But the question is, they were a couple. This guy knew his wife was sick. He said that. He knew she was suffering from post partum depression. He continued having babies with her, up to five. He continued leaving his kids alone with a woman he knew was really, really sick. Doesn't he bear some responsibility in what happened?

COULTER: No. I think it's crazy to say that this sort of thing can be anticipated. And I have to say listening to feminists like you, Bill...

PRESS: Well, thank you. I'm proud to be one.

COULTER: makes me -- this is worse than, you know, the most vicious male chauvinist pig, this idea that women can't be responsible for their actions...

PRESS: No, I didn't say that.

COULTER: ...because 1 in 10 women...

PRESS: No, no.

COULTER: ...according to the current head of NOW, suffers post partum depression. I mean, this is like the old -- can't have a woman president. Hormones, hormones.

PRESS: I did not...

COULTER: And now what you're saying is that her husband should have taken care of the little lady.

PRESS: I did not say she was not responsible. I said I think he bears some of the responsibility. Let me give you an analogy.

COULTER: Great, you're saying the man should have taken care of the little woman.

PRESS: Let me finish. Now you're interrupting. Out in Los Angeles, there's a trial right now for a couple who are on trial because their dogs killed a woman. The husband is on trial, as well as the wife. Look at this.

In this case, the woman kills her kids. The husband is sitting in the courtroom. Nobody is holding him responsible for anything. He had to know what was going on. He didn't know she was going to kill the kids, but he knew she was sick. He did nothing about it.

COULTER: No, if I could say, I was going to raise the dog mauling case myself. I mean, there does seem to be a tendency to punish everyone, except por the person who's responsible for a heinous crime or in the case of the dog mauling case, the dog who was responsible for the heinous crime.

I mean I'm not saying the owners shouldn't be responsible at all, but this idea of extending responsibility to anyone around the woman who kills five of her children or the owners of the dog...

PRESS: Not anyone.

COULTER: ...who commits the act.

PRESS: The father of the kids.

CARLSON: Now Ann Coulter, Bill...

COULTER: You can't anticipate something like that.

CARLSON: Should any penalty befall the husband?

IRELAND: There's no penalty in our criminal system for that, but I think he's clearly, morally responsible. This is a man who knew from the psychiatrists that was treating Andrea that she was not to go off of her medicine, who was told she would have another psychotic breakdown if she had another child. And there they are, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. She's got five kids in seven years, after she'd been treated for suicide attempts twice.

CARLSON: Kids are good, murder is bad. I think we can sum it up that way.

PRESS: I think we all agree to that.

CARLSON: Well, I'm not sure we all do agree on that.

PRESS: Oh, Tucker, come on.

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) consensus. Patricia Ireland, thank you very much.

IRELAND: Thank you.

CARLSON: Ann Coulter in New York, thank you. More coverage on the Yates verdict, tune in tonight to "THE POINT" at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time and on "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

When CROSSFIRE returns, feeling blue? Take heart. It's a lot better than seeing red. Tom Ridge breaks up the color wheel and ranks domestic security by hue. Feel safer? We'll debate it.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's a yellow day in America. That's the official word from Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge, who today announced a new security alert system that rates the risk of terrorism by color. Green means very little threat. Red means head for the hills. Yellow indicates a significant risk of terrorist attacks. And yellow is where we find ourselves today. So now you know. Feel safer? The administration is hoping you do. Critics scoff, saying the color wheel approach is a formula for hysteria, rather than vigilance.

Joining us, long time CIA officer and best selling author Bob Bayer and retired colonel Randy Larson, who was the director of the Anser Institute for Homeland Security. And here, Bill Press.

PRESS: Colonel, I think this whole color-coded thing is total nonsense. I mean, so a couple months ago, John Ashcroft says we're on the highest possible alert, which I guess under the system is red. And now as Tucker just said, Tom Ridge -- and by the way, that ended yesterday. And today, Tom Ridge says we have this whole new system. And now we're yellow.

I hadn't noticed, frankly, anything change overnight from red to yellow. But my question to you, so the next level down would be blue, which is guarded. So I'm an American citizen. What am I supposed to do differently when I'm told we go from yellow to blue?

RANDY LARSEN, ANSER INSTITUTE: Several things. First of all, yellow is a good place to be right now because you can't focus so much on the colors. And you know, you got 45 days to put your comments in, just like you did. And they're going to have a way to review it to go back.

Look what it says under yellow. Checking communication systems with other jurisdictions to make sure. Reviewing your plans if you're an emergency planning business. Those are things that I hope my emergency planners are doing out there. This is more aimed at those police officers that have been working too many 12-hour, seven-day shifts.

CARLSON: Now Bob Bayer, no offense or anything, but of course you're against this. You're a CIA guy. And CIA guys are experts. It's like the chef at the restaurant doesn't want anybody into the kitchen to see what he's doing. You don't think the public has a right to know, but the public does have a right to know, doesn't it?

BOB BAYER: No. There's nothing we can do about these vague threats. They are winning the battle. They are terrorizing us. We should be terrorizing them, not the other way around.

We're playing right into their hands. This is the problem I got with it. And they're going to be playing with this system. They're going to be sending false information, defectors other people so we go up to red. It weakens the government. It embarrasses the government. And then when we're down to blue, they're going to hit us. I know the way these guys think.

PRESS: I still want an answer. I'm not a law enforcement expert. I'm an American citizen. I'm being told by my government that it's no longer yellow. I can relax a little bit. I'm now blue. What do I do? I didn't do anything differently between yesterday and today when we went from red to yellow. This stuff is just kaka. LARSEN: It's because the system we had before wasn't sufficient. All we had was be on alert or nothing. And all we had was the high alert. We need a system, like we've had in the military, like we have for weather systems and tornados and hurricanes. We've got to be able to go up and we've got to be able come down. As a citizen, if you get a red alert you probably better not come to work that night.

PRESS: Can I ask a real dumb question.


PRESS: I mean, why isn't every terrorist alert a red alert? What is a green terrorist alert? When they throw water balloons or what?

LARSEN: Green is not. And believe me, we're not going to be green, I don't think, for several years. You can probably take that one right off of there. I hope we could get to guarded some day. Yellow means, we are at war today, Bill. We're at war against a vicious enemy. And the American people need to know yellow.

Now we start getting intelligence information, it's probably going to crank up to orange. My concern is if it goes up to red. I agree with you, red gets real tough on our economy. What are you going to do if the Super Bowl's coming up, and all of a sudden, they go to red?

PRESS: We've been in red for two months.

CARLSON: Now wait a second.

LARSEN: No, it wasn't red. It's why we didn't have a good system.

CARLSON: Now Bob Bayer, that's right. You heard Colonel -- we did have a good system. And I think the analogy with hurricanes is a good one. Look, we have a national system that predicts hurricanes and tells people when they're coming. Isn't this what you -- last time you were on, you said we need a national system. Here we have one.

BAYER: He asked you to meet with the police and the FBI and the CIA, who know how to do their job. But if they have something specific, if we have a license plate, a single person that we know, yes, fine. Put the alert out. Let the citizens go out and look. But this general alert gets everybody excited for a long time. Then they start to ignore it. And a year from now when they make an alert, everybody's going to ignore it.

CARLSON: You don't you think the government has the ability, and you would know, to discern between phony disinformation from abroad and real threats?

BAYER: No. This is the whole problem is right now, every crank and kook in the world is coming out of the woodwork, making threats. And the government doesn't know what to do about it. So what they do is put a blanket threat out there, in case something happens. CYA.

PRESS: Colonel.

LARSEN: No, you can't tell police officers that the condition is orange and not tell Bill, because the police officer's going to go home and tell his wife and kids. And that wife's going to call Bill's wife.

PRESS: All right.


PRESS: I want to take that one more step. You can't tell Bill without telling terrorist a, b, c. So you put out the word nationwide. We've gone up to red because we hear there's an attack on a nuclear plant. What are they going to do? These guys are not dumb.

LARSEN: Welcome to warfare in the information age, Bill. And second of all, that may act as a deterrent. They may think we've broken a code. We know where they're coming.

PRESS: Send them somewhere else.

BAYER: Look at this nuclear threat in New York a couple months ago, where there was this report of a bomb, a nuclear bomb. What if we had gone out in the press and said, and to the whole world, and said there's a nuclear bomb in New York. The city would have emptied. It was a false report. It was from a fabricator. He didn't do it.

CARLSON: And that is exactly right. And that's not at all what's being suggested by Tom Ridge. The idea is that the general threat will be characterized so that when people are on the subway and there is a package ticking in the corner, they don't think, well, perhaps someone left an alarm clock. They suspect maybe it's a bomb. And isn't that helpful that people would be vigilant and alert?

BAYER: No. Done this for 20 years. We had a threat every day in Beirut about a kidnapping. We knew there was a kidnapping.

CARLSON: But that's Beirut. I mean, that's little. I mean, it's by definition, right?

BAYER: Yes, but we're not getting far away with 9/11.

LARSEN: A system like this, we've used the military for years. It's been very effectiev. For not only military officers, but for their dependents.

PRESS: I want to tell you why I have so much confidence in our government today. Because you know, post 9/11, we've been on our toes. And our government agencies have been doing their job. But we learned that yesterday, because yesterday, in the mail, a flight school in Florida got from the INS two visas that were applied for by the two terrorist terrorists, Mohammed Atta and his cohort, both of whom flew those planes into the World Trade Center. They were mailed in their name by the INS one week ago, and arrived on the day, six months to the day after 9/11. We don't know what we're doing. The color system proves it. And the visa proves it, doesn't it?

LARSEN: The color system has nothing to do with that story.

PRESS: It does indeed.

LARSEN: It does have to do with something...

CARLSON: Of course, it doesn't.

LARSEN: We got to get better at sharing information. We got a long way to go in sharing information between intelligence and law enforcement. But I tell you, there's another debate that you and I can have about that firewall between intelligence and law enforcement, because I don't know how far we want to lower that. We start talking about civil liberties, but we need to lower the problem.

CARLSON: Bob Bayer, quickly.

BAYER: It's a sign of weakness. It's a sign of weakness if we go to this color coded system and the terrorists know it. They look at us as being weak. What we have to do is turn the tables onthem and move against them, and show that we're not weak. This thing is -- it's just...

CARLSON: And we can't do both. At least, we can acknowledge there's a threat and take action against terrorists.

BAYER: Well, what action have you taken today, now that you know we're in a yellow threat?

CARLSON: Well, we're having a show on the very subject. I'd say Bill Press and I are doing our part to fight...


CARLSON: You didn't do anything.

PRESS: I tell you, I'm only having one glass of wine with dinner tonight, because we're in a yellow threat. So there.

BAYER: Good plan.

PRESS: And red, just a glass of water.

BAYER: Just wine.

PRESS: All right, thank you, gentlemen. Randy Larsen, thanks for coming. Bob Bayer, good to have you back again. Be alert.

Now when we come back, you've heard him speak. You've heard him laugh. But you're not going to believe what your president did today. When we come back, we'll go to the videotape and sing along with George in our picture of the day. Can't miss that.


CARLSON: Welcome back. Ready for a couple thousand words? Perfect, because it's time for our pictures of the day.

First up, Alec Baldwin wants to know what you think, but not really. The actor turned political activist, turned sometimes occasional actor has closed the guest book section of his website, Baldwin says he was forced to shut off access after the public attacked him. Political extremists posted messages on his website, he said.

Turns out some of these wild-eyed radical extremist were upset about his recent comments comparing the election of George W. Bush to the terrorist attacks of September 11. So Baldwin, a noted First Amendment absolutist, tuned them out. Another victory for the forces of progress.

PRESS: You know, it's not a bad idea. I'm thinking maybe I should shut down my website.

CARLSON: Come on.

PRESS: E-mail, hateful e-mail...

CARLSON: Free debate and open exchange of ideas? He doesn't like what they say, so he closes it down.


CARLSON: And to call people who are offended by that extremists.

PRESS: No, I'm just kidding. He should certainly open to criticism. And I don't think, actually, he's right. I think there's a big difference between 9/11 and the election of November 2000. One was was an outrage committed by terrorists. The other was an outrage committed by members of the Supreme Court. I mean, I think those...

CARLSON: It's actually, I would say it's offensive even to imply that they're related, except without the first, we would have been in much deeper trouble.

PRESS: OK, Alec Baldwin. Now, on to the important news of the day. What do you do when you're the leader of the free world and you need an escape? Well, you go back to your childhood. That's just what President Bush did today. Visiting a shelter for homeless toddlers in Philadelphia, he proved he hasn't forgotten the words or gestures of his favorite childhood song. Look at this.


GROUP: The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout down came the rain and washed the spider out. Out came the sun and dried up all the rain and the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again.


PRESS: The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout. You ready, Tucker?

CARLSON: You know, I can do it, but I'm not going to. But my question to you is, and I want you to answer this honestly. Yes, I do it with my kids. Could Al Gore have done that?

PRESS: Oh, I think so.

CARLSON: I don't think he could have. He's not an itsy bitsy spider kind of guy, which is why he lost.

PRESS: But you know what, Tucker, you know what the important news is? We're back to code red, Tucker. It's time for a Bombay Sapphire Martini.

CARLSON: Is that code red.

PRESS: Code red.

CARLSON: I think code red is tequila. I'm glad you're rating it in terms of alcohol. Good for you, Bill.

PRESS: From the left, that's it for tonight. You know we're headed next time. Bill Press. Good-night for CROSSFIRE. See you tomorrow night.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night for another edition of CROSSFIRE. We'll be here. See you then.


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