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PAULA ZAHN NOW
U.S. Military Up in Arms Over Political Cartoon; Three Men Wounded in Attack on Massachusetts Gay Bar; Two Men Involved in Near Fatal Face-Off Speak Out
Aired February 2, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. And thank you all for joining us.
Tonight, a story that may provoke outrage, if you think the little guy doesn't stand a chance.
ZAHN (voice-over): The "Eye Opener" -- burned twice. Why would this woman turn down tens of thousands of dollars?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: What was the point of this lawsuit? To help you, the victims, to...
MARGARET-ANN GALASSO, CANCER PATIENT: Supposedly.
ZAHN: After battling a life-threatening disease and years of legal wrangling, she says her lawyer got millions, and she got leftovers.
A near fatal face-off. You have seen this amazing video, a dramatic moment caught on tape. Why did this man try to kill a California lawyer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, it is my body, but it is my -- not my mind.
ZAHN: Tonight, after more than two years, the gunman breaks his silence.
Mysteries of the mind -- the magical gift. In the entire world, there are only 100 people like Brittany Maier.
(on camera): How do audiences respond to Brittany?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seen everything from crying and sobbing, a lot of people who see the power of God.
ZAHN: An incredible story of unexpected genius.
ZAHN: We start tonight with one woman's battle against both the huge corporation she says gave her cancer and her own lawyer. She says she has been a victim twice, a victim of pollution, and a victim of her attorney, who will walk away with millions, while she stands to get just a small fraction of that.
Here is investigative correspondent Drew Griffin with tonight's "Eye Opener."
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was supposed to be the trial where Margaret-Ann Galasso and 132 of her co-defendants would finally learn the truth, finally learn whether this once super-secret rocket testing site run by the government and several defense contractors polluted water and air so much that hundreds of people got cancer.
Galasso remembers the day she signed up to joint lawsuit against the testing site's operator, Boeing. It was the same time she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. The single 51-year-old, who now lives with her mother in Florida, says she signed up for the lawsuit not knowing if she would ever receive a penny.
MARGARET-ANN GALASSO, CANCER PATIENT: I says, if it doesn't cost me any money, and I -- and I -- and I am -- I will be happy to, you know, participate in this whole thing. But I -- right now, I don't even know if I'm living or dying.
GRIFFIN: An operation and extensive treatment got rid of the cancer within a year. But, for seven years, the legal cases dragged on. For Galasso, all of it painstakingly documented in a steady stream of legal papers, most of which she says she couldn't understand.
GALASSO: All I kept getting were papers, papers, papers. Sign this, sign that, sign this, sign that. It got to the point where, sign this, sign that, I kept saying, I kept taking the papers and throwing them in a box.
GRIFFIN: That was until September, when this letter arrived. It notified Galasso that her attorney, Barry Cappello, and the defense contractor, Boeing, had reached a settlement. According to the letter, her attorney would not tell her how much money was involved until she signed a confidential agreement, promising never to disclose anything about the deal.
GALASSO: This whole nonsense.
GRIFFIN: She signed the agreement, learned how much she would get, and is now so appalled that she is literally throwing it away in order to expose what she calls a dirty deal.
Her attorney, Barry Cappello, is not commenting. But her portion of the settlement, according to this letter sent on December 6, would be $87,500. But then you start the subtractions, $23,129 for the costs of the lawsuit, and a $29,371 attorney bill. Galasso says nearly two-thirds of her settlement is going to attorney Cappello.
GALASSO: Leaving me with $35,000. And then he took another 10 percent out of that for arbitration purposes, leaving $31,000. But... GRIFFIN (on camera): Is that what you expected for a person who suffered through so much?
GALASSO: No. No. No, I didn't. I -- because I really thought I was -- you know, I really thought I was going to die.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): According to the confidential settlement agreement given to us by Galasso, Boeing ended this eight-year-long legal battle against more than 100 cancer victims and their families by paying $30 million.
The biggest single payment, $650,000, went to a person who is dying -- the smallest, $5,000 to a grandchild of someone who is already dead. But what upset Galasso the most is how much attorney Barry Cappello walked away with. Although his 33 percent bill for fees and expenses is not out of line with other class-action lawsuits, Galasso says $12 million to the law firm and, in her case, only $31,000 to a cancer victim is insulting.
GRIFFIN (on camera): What was the point of this lawsuit, to help you, the victims, to..
GRIFFIN: ... tell the company it needs to clean up its act?
GALASSO: That's -- supposedly.
GRIFFIN: ... or to make somebody rich?
GALASSO: Well, I think, to my mind, it is to make Mr. Cappello rich.
GRIFFIN: Santa Barbara attorney Barry Cappello was once looked to as a possible savior to hundreds of people suffering and dying from rare cancers in the West San Fernando Valley and Simi Valley, California.
Up in the hills that divide those two valleys sits Boeing's Santa Susana field test laboratory. Documented evidence has shown, for the past 50 years, the government and its contractors dumped and released potentially toxic chemicals here.
The worst pollution came from an incident the federal government tried to keep secret. Here in 1959, a sodium nuclear reactor experienced a meltdown. The government wouldn't admit it that even happened until 30 years later.
Elizabeth Crawford is a specialist with the environmental watchdog group Physicians For Social Responsibility. She says that, for 50 years, the U.S. government and its contractors have used Santa Susana as a toxic dump.
ELIZABETH CRAWFORD, PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: It is ghastly. It is a nightmare.
GRIFFIN: Crawford thought it would finally be exposed through the class-action lawsuit filed by attorney Cappello.
(on camera): And that, say environmentalists, is the real disappointment. They say Barry Cappello's case, armed with internal documents, expert testimony, and public reports, would finally prove the pollution up on this hill did cause cancer down in the valley below. For a mere $30 million, they say, Boeing was able to make sure that never happened.
CRAWFORD: The idea that Boeing, at last, would be in court, and those people who had acknowledged that they had sent their own people to their death, those people would be on the bench once and for all, once and for all. And then the feeling that I got when I got that phone call the very next morning, it is gone. It is all gone.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The phone call telling her the settlement was reached came the day before the trial.
CRAWFORD: My first thought was, good. I hope they got a bunch. I was sure they got a huge amount that would once and for all sting Boeing at least. Maybe we would never get the truth, but they would get stung so badly that perhaps it would change their arrogance.
GRIFFIN: Crawford says, for Boeing, $30 million is next to nothing.
The attorney, Barry Cappello, will not talk to CNN. Neither will Boeing. Both say the settlement has a confidentiality clause preventing them from commenting. In fact, under the terms of the agreement, Margaret-Ann Galasso shouldn't be telling us anything either.
GALASSO: And that -- and that -- and that, if you -- if you guys -- if you guys call, I'm to read this statement to you.
GALASSO: I think it is ludicrous. The whole thing is ludicrous. I have never heard anything like that in my entire life.
GRIFFIN: The statement she is supposed to read says all parties are satisfied with the settlement. It also says Boeing denies all claims it caused any harm to anyone.
Because Margaret-Ann Galasso exposed the secret settlement, under the terms of the agreement she signed, she will not get her $31,000 share of the $30 million settlement. In an interview with "The L.A. Times," Barry Cappello has called her a disgruntled client and has since has sent a letter telling her she needs to find another attorney.
Galasso says she just might need another lawyer, this time to fight the one she thought was fighting for her.
Drew Griffin, CNN, Los Angeles.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: We happened to talk with several other plaintiffs in this case, who, like Galasso, were disappointed in the settlement, but they have decided to say nothing publicly, fearing they, too, would lose their portion of the money.
Since the settlement, Boeing has announced it is cooperating with a federal grand jury, investigating the handling of groundwater runoff at the site.
Coming up, a Massachusetts bartender thought he had a shady customer on his hands last night. Little did he know what was about to happen. Three people in the hospital, one with hatchet wounds -- is this an isolated incident? Or is someone targeting gay bars?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ted Rowlands in Los Angeles.
You may remember this amazing video of a courthouse shooting caught on tape. Tonight, we will talk to not only the lawyer who was shot five times, but also the man that shot him.
It is coming up -- as PAULA ZAHN NOW continues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: But before we get to all of that, our countdown of the top 10 most popular stories on CNN.com. More than 20 million of you logged on to our site today.
In at number 10, a car bombing in Iraq that killed at least 16 people. And the military says five U.S. troops were killed Wednesday in two separate attacks.
Number nine, the growing crisis over Iran's nuclear program -- the country threatening to retaliate against the West, if it is reported to the U.N. Security Council. Iran insists, its program is not aimed at making nuclear weapons.
Stay with us -- number seven and eight straight ahead.
ZAHN: Tonight, we take you inside a huge controversy brewing over a political cartoon that has the country's top military brass up in arms.
The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff thinks the drawing about the U.S. military is way out of bounds. So, we're asking the cartoonist, what was he thinking?
The cartoon ran in Sunday's "Washington Post." It shows a bandaged soldier with both arms and legs amputated. The doctor, who is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, says, "I'm listing your condition as battle-hardened." The cartoon is a response to something Rumsfeld said last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It's not that this armed force is broken, but that this armed force is enormously capable.
In addition, it is battle-hardened. It is not a peacetime force that has been in barracks or garrisons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: The cartoon provoked a rare letter to "The Post"'s editor signed by every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling it reprehensible and beyond tasteless. They deplored what they called a callous depiction of those who volunteered to defend this nation and, as a result, suffered traumatic and life-altering wounds."
Today, Secretary Rumsfeld ducked the issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: I'm not going comment on their letter, except -- except to say that, in my view, they have the right to do that. As to the cartoon...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Well, he thought long and hard before pointing out that, throughout U.S. history, political cartoonists and critics have been, in his words, vicious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: That's -- that's the way it is here. It comes with the territory, I guess, is all I can say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And joining me now from "The Washington Post" newsroom to tell us what he was thinking when he drew the cartoon, Pulitzer Prize- winning editorial cartoonist Tom Toles.
Thanks so much for joining us, Tom.
TOM TOLES, EDITORIAL CARTOONIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: So, you have heard what the Joint Chiefs of Staff said about your cartoon, that it was a callous depiction of soldiers who have suffered life-altering wounds.
How do you justify using war casualties to make a political point?
TOLES: The way I look at it is this. Secretary Rumsfeld dismissed two serious reports about the damage that has been done to the U.S. Army and -- with the expression that it was battle-hardened. My feeling was that, in light of the damage that has been done to the Army, and the catastrophic suffering that has happened to a lot of American soldiers, that that expression did not appropriately cover the situation. And the cartoon was about my response to his -- his comment.
ZAHN: But you were accused of also making light of some of the life-threatening injuries these soldiers have sustained. What specifically were you trying to provoke, basically, by showing a depiction of a quadruple amputee?
TOLES: I have heard a lot about this cartoon in the last day.
And I think it was best put by a disabled woman who called me today from California. And she said that she looked at the cartoon, and she found it very painful. On the other hand, she also said that she support -- understood the point of the cartoon, supported the cartoon, and said, yes, it is a painful cartoon, but it is a painful reality.
And a depiction of a situation, a reality, a set of facts, is not the same thing as making fun of them. There was no intention to make light of the situation. I was trying to point out -- and I felt I did point out -- the seriousness of the situation.
ZAHN: When you drew this, though, you had to understand you were going to be criticized for it, right? That was -- that had to be in -- in your thinking.
TOLES: It was in my thinking.
It is also my thinking almost every day that I draw a cartoon. And the days that it is not in my thinking, I -- I stop and think, if no one -- no one could possibly take offense or issue with this cartoon, is it a cartoon that really makes its point effectively or with -- with enough strength?
ZAHN: Well, Tom Toles, we appreciate your helping us understand your side of the story. Thank you for joining us.
TOLES: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: And here is one more thing.
The deputy communications director for the Disabled American Veterans says he was certainly not offended by the cartoon and adds that it has raised awareness of critically ill patients who need our attention.
Coming up now, at about 18 minutes after the hour, time to check in with Erica Hill at Headline News to update this hour's other top stories. Hi, Erica.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Paula.
We begin in Washington, where sparks were flying today between Senate skeptics and the nation's top spy chief. John Negroponte went before a Senate hearing on terrorism and defended the administration's domestic surveillance program, without giving any details. He said al Qaeda still tops the terror list, followed by Iran and North Korea.
A political surprise, as House Republicans choose Ohio's John Boehner as their new majority leader. Boehner, who says he wants to reform Congress, defeated Missouri's Roy Blunt, who was seen as close to indicted former leader Tom DeLay.
And updating you now on a story you saw on PAULA ZAHN NOW, three Florida teens are charged with murder and attempted murder in the beatings of three homeless men last month. One of the victims died. Prosecutors have not decided whether to ask for the death penalty.
And Coretta Scott King will lie in repose in the Georgia Capitol on Sunday, with a memorial celebration on Monday and funeral services on Tuesday. Mrs. King passed on Monday at age 78.
And, Paula, that's the latest at this hour -- back over to you in New York.
ZAHN: Thanks so much, Erica. Appreciate it.
Coming up, we change our focus quite a bit. Remember these pictures? Outside a courthouse, a gunman chasing a lawyer. What happened to both of these men? They will tell us a little bit later on.
First, our countdown.
At number then at CNN.com site, today's deadly bombings in Iraq. At number nine, the looming crisis over Iran's nuclear program.
At number eight, the attack in a gay bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Three men were wounded. We are going to have more on that story in just a moment.
And, number seven, Andrea Yates is out of jail tonight and is now at a mental hospital, awaiting retrial for the drowning deaths of her children.
Find out what numbers five and six are right after the break. You all voted, 20 million of you.
ZAHN: In our "Outside the Law" segment tonight, there is an urgent search for a man police describe as dangerous and irrational. He is the suspect in a bizarre rampage in a gay bar in Massachusetts, a possible hate crime. A bartender says the man came in last night, ordered a drink, asked if it was a gay bar, then started attacking people with a hatchet and a pistol. It happened in New Bedford, south of Boston.
And Deborah Feyerick has been working the story all day long. She joins us now with the very latest.
Deborah, what have you found out?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, we can tell you that, a little over an hour ago, there was a vigil here outside the Puzzles Lounge.
More than 100 people came to pray for the three victims. One of them has actually been released. But two do remain in critical condition. Now, it has been 20 hours since the man police identify as Jacob Robida walked into this bar, the Puzzle Lounge.
We are going to show you exclusive pictures to CNN. We were given exclusive access. And this is the story we are told, not only by a bartender, but also by the bar owner. Apparently, the man, the suspect, walked into the bar and asked the bartender, was this a gay bar?
Well, something in the tone and the demeanor made the bartender a little bit suspicious. And the bartender says the man had a stone- cold face and that he was completely emotionless. Well, the suspect ordered two drinks. Then, he sat on a stool towards the back of the bar, watching two men play pool.
After a few minutes, something happened. We don't know whether there was an altercation, but one of the men turned his back to shoot pool. And that's when, according to police and the bartender, the man, the suspect, pulled out a hatchet. After he started swiping that, a customer tackled him. Once he lost control of the hatchet, he then pulled out a gun.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILIP, PUZZLES LOUNGE BARTENDER: Once I cleared about 10 to 12 people from out of the bar, he then turns and points a gun to my face about two for three feet away from me and pulls the trigger. And he pulled the trigger. It clicked. It didn't fire or anything. But I thought, for sure, when the gun was in my face -- he didn't hesitate on anybody.
And when I heard that click, it just like putting a TV on mute. Everything was just -- everything was just blank.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FEYERICK: Now, the bar owner says one of the reasons police were able to identify the suspect so quickly is that, actually, a woman who was there identified him, because they had gone to high school together. This woman is an EMT. And the bar owner says that she jumped into action after the shooting. And he credits her for saving the life of some of those patrons. Now, Robida does have a picture on a personal Web site. And, on this Web site, he's seen holding a gun with swastikas.
It also says, "Pass me something sharp and wicked, and I will pass it back. Click on the axe. Grab it. Get your hands bloody, baby."
There is an all-out manhunt for this person across the state of Massachusetts. He is described as a male. He is white. He is 210 pounds, hazel eyes, and a hearty, a -- a heavy build -- excuse me. They are looking for him. Again, it has been more than 20 hours since this guy has been on the run. And he is wanted for three counts of attempted murder -- Paula.
ZAHN: I know you're going to be staying with this story, bringing us any details as they happen.
And, just ahead, a remarkable story with breathtaking pictures -- an attorney chased down by a gunman, shot five times, but, miraculously, survived. What was each man thinking at that very moment? Well, for the first time, the gunman tells his story on camera.
Also, a young woman's incredible gift -- if she hears a piece of music, she can play it almost immediately, despite some unbelievable challenges. How does her mind work?
Plus, what kind of animals would use puppies to smuggle drugs? We will try and answer that question a little bit later on.
But, right now, number six in our countdown -- tornadoes tore through some New Orleans neighborhoods that have been hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. Fortunately, no serious injuries were reported.
At number five, still no suspect in the murder of Rachel Entwistle and her baby daughter, Lillian, in Massachusetts. They were buried yesterday. Rachel's husband, Neil, is in England. Police call him a person of interest.
Don't go away. Number four is coming straight ahead.
ZAHN: I want to warn you now that you're about to see some graphic and disturbing video. If you saw it when it happened, you would probably never forget it. It was about two years ago, just outside a courthouse in California, where a lawyer was shot repeatedly at close range. And T.V. cameras caught it all. The lawyer miraculously survived. And tonight you're going to hear from him and for first time from the gunman as he awaits sentencing. Here is Ted Rowlands. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The target in this unforgettable video is Jerry Curry. It was Halloween, 2003. Curry, an attorney, says he was outside a Los Angeles area courthouse when a gunman walked up to him, asked him his name and shot him in the neck.
JERRY CURRY, WOUNDED IN SHOOTING: I knew something bad had happened. And I just instinctively turned and went to the ground.
ROWLANDS: There were photographers at the courthouse that day. Their cameras were rolling as Curry used a tree to protect himself.
J. CURRY: I was using a tree, trying to use a tree to keep the tree between the gun and my head and my torso. I was entirely focused on the gun, just watching the gun. I knew that the guy could kill me. I knew my life could end there and I was scared. I was no doubt about it, for about five or 10 seconds.
ROWLANDS: As Curry moved from side to side, the man kept shooting.
J. CURRY: I could feel the bullets hitting me. I was hit in the left shoulder three times and the right forearm. And I could feel the impact. I didn't feel any pain at that time.
ROWLANDS: Eventually the man ran out of bullets, Curry was still on his feet.
RO CURRY, WIFE: Raising his hands up in the air, saying "Someone help me. And no one was helping him."
ROWLANDS: Curry's wife Ro, who's talking for this first time about the video of her husband, says she first saw it when she got home from the hospital on the night of the shooting.
R. CURRY: It was pretty devastating. I started to cry. It was -- even when I see it now I still get very emotional.
ROWLANDS: Curry was shot five times. One bullet just missed an artery in his neck.
R. CURRY: He could have easily died that day. And he was saved, a miracle happened. He was saved.
J. CURRY: I remember hearing a click, click, click, and I was relieved, because I thought, "My God, he's out of bullets and I survived." Then he just kind of calmly put the gun in his pocket and then calmly walked away, didn't say a word.
ROWLANDS: That man calmly walking away is William Strier, who after years of public silence, has agreed to talk about the shooting. Why did he do it?
WILLIAM STRIER, SHOOTER: I really can't explain that. The psychiatrist said that it was a psychotic breakdown. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the guy.
ROWLANDS: Strier, who's in jail now, says he was so drugged with painkillers for a bad back that he doesn't remember the shooting. But he has seen the video.
STRIER: It's me, it's my body, but it's not my mind really.
ROWLANDS: Strier claims the shooting was the result of months of growing frustration over a $100,000 trust that was for his medical treatment. Jerry Curry was the lawyer handling the trust.
(on camera): Strier says on the day of the shooting, he was already drugged up and frustrated when he left the courthouse following the latest hearing on his case.
STRIER: I went out, took more pills, and I became pretty weak at that point.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): He also took two handguns out of the trunk of his car.
STRIER: It was like a dream, opening up the trunk. Something happened to me and I can't explain it.
ROWLANDS: Strier and his lawyers say he's innocent of attempted murder and the video proves it. They maintain that no sane person would shoot someone in such a public place with T.V. cameras rolling.
ARNA ZLOTNIK, STRIER'S ATTORNEY: It supports the defense position that he was in a psychotic state, completely and thoroughly. He was totally oblivious to everything around him. He was acting totally irrationally. Nobody in their right mind would have make such a plan.
STRIER: That's not something I would do, you know shooting somebody and cameras, never would I do something like that.
ROWLANDS: The defense brought up that theory at Strier's trial. The prosecution didn't buy it.
JIM FALCO, PROSECUTOR: It was nonsense. He was not stumbling. He had no problem handling the gun, putting it away.
ROWLANDS: The jury found Strier guilty. He's to be sentenced later this month, and at the age of 66, he'll most likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
STRIER: Somebody should have stopped me because evidentially I wasn't able to stop myself. And somebody -- I just wish somebody would have stopped me in some way. I had no reason to shoot the man.
ROWLANDS: Jerry and Ro Curry, who have three daughters and two grandchildren say they forgive Strier, but they'd like to see him locked up.
R. CURRY: I don't want him to be let out, no, I don't, because I don't know what he would do. He would probably still come after us.
ROWLANDS: Curry, who has made a full recovery, says the attack and the video have changed his life.
J. CURRY: You appreciate your life a lot more. You appreciate the small things in your life that you kind of take for granted. And you really appreciate every day, you know, because you realize after something like this happens, how fragile life is and how quickly it can be taken away from you.
ROWLANDS: Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.
ZAHN: And there is this. William Strier is scheduled to be sentenced on February 24th. Jerry Curry says he doesn't plan to be there.
Coming up next, a teenager who barely talks. But listen to what she can do. The question is, how can she do this? Next, an amazing mystery of the mind.
And a little bit later on, what's going to happen to some wet- nosed drug smugglers? Or the monster who hid heroin inside of them?
Before that, we first brought you number four on our countdown last night, hard-core backyard wrestling. No trainers, no adults around, but plenty of violence and blood. It you missed it, catch it at CNN.com and click on watch video. Stick around, number three is straight ahead.
ZAHN: From time to time, we hear about stories that you almost have to see for yourself to believe and this certainly is one of them. I heard about an amazingly gifted musician named Brittany Maier, who can compose music, but can't even see. She can play anything from Barry Manilow to Bach, brilliantly. But she doesn't speak.
There are so many things about her that amaze me, so I headed out to a suburb of New York City to meet Brittany Maier. I could hardly believe it when she sat at the piano and played beautifully, using just three fingers on each hand.
How any of this is possible is one of the "Mysteries of the Mind."
ZAHN (voice-over): It was a happy time for Tammy and Chuck Maier, newly married and expecting their first child. It all changed on April 9th, 1989. Tammy was rushed to the hospital for a potentially deadly liver disorder and gave birth to her daughter, four months early.
TAMMY MAIER, MOTHER: She was very, very tiny. So little you could just hold her in your hand. She was a pound, five ounces. They told us that there was really only a five percent chance that she was going to live.
ZAHN: For three months, little Brittany Maier was hooked up to oxygen and other life support machines. Somehow, she survived.
(on camera): Then you were confronted with some really bad news. Confirmation that she in fact was blind. How did you handle that news on top of everything you had dealt with up until that point?
T. MAIER: It was a surprise. But, you know, she was just this beautiful little baby that we loved. It was something that we accepted within minutes. And we said, we'll just be the best parents that we can be, and she'll grow up as wonderfully as possible.
ZAHN (voice-over): When Brittany came home from the hospital, she developed more slowly than other children.
(on camera): The doctors finally then gave you a more definitive description of these developmental delays. And they told you she was autistic. How did you handle that news?
T. MAIER: The autism was a little bit harder, because it was something that dealt with the mind and what she understood.
ZAHN (voice-over): Brittany's parents had already accepted that Brittany would never see their faces. Now they had to come to grips with the idea that she might never be able to carry on a conversation.
But then, incredible as it seems, at the age of 5, the girl who didn't speak started to sing. Brittany started reciting the lyrics of a Barbra Streisand song, even mimicking the singer's gestures.
Suspecting Brittany might be able to communicate through music, her parents bought her a keyboard.
T. MAIER: It had a demonstration button, and she would press this button constantly over and over again. And then eventually she learned the notes to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."
ZAHN: Just three days later, Brittany heard "Ave Maria" in the car. A few hours after that, she astounded everyone by playing the song on her keyboard.
T. MAIER: Of all songs that she could have aspired to on her own, no one showed her how to play "Ave Maria." She just felt this song's impact.
ZAHN: Before long, Brittany could hear any song -- classical, jazz or rock 'n' roll, and play it right back.
At the age of 8, she graduated to a piano and was playing everything from Beethoven and Bach to Bon Jovi.
(on camera): At what point did someone tell you that she was a prodigious savant? T. MAIER: I had heard people refer to her as a prodigy, as a child prodigy. And I didn't know what savant meant, so I went and looked it up in the dictionary.
DR. DAROLD TREFFERT, UNIV. OF WISCONSIN MEDICAL SCHOOL: Savant syndrome is a condition in which somebody with a developmental disability, including but not limited to autism, has some spectacular island of genius that stands in contrast overall the disability. ZAHN: Psychiatrist Dr. Darold Treffert studied more than 30 savants.
TREFFERT: Brittany falls within what I call the prodigious category of savants, which means her skill would be spectacular even if it were to be seen in a nondisabled person, and there are fewer than 100 such people living worldwide at the present time.
ZAHN: Still, how is it that a girl who can't read music, can't do simple addition or even write her own name, play thousands of songs from memory?
TREFFERT: Music is her language. Alphabet is not her language. This is how she communicates to us. When she's playing her songs, she is speaking, in her way, through music instead of through words.
ZAHN: The few words Brittany does speak are at the piano when she introduces a song.
BRITTANY MAIER: "Thinking of You" by Brittany Maier.
ZAHN: Tammy is always by her daughter's side.
T. MAIER: Sit up. Good posture. Chin up. Good.
ZAHN: Not just as a mother, but as a coach, keeping Brittany focused on the song she'll play next. Tammy understood that this gift could enrich the lives of other people. Brittany began performing in public.
T. MAIER: Brittany was able to show us that this is what she wanted to do. And she was so happy, and she applauded herself, and this personality of Brittany that we didn't know existed just came out naturally.
T. MAIER: Tammy says she could tell how excited Brittany is about the song she's playing. The more she rocks, the more she likes it.
(on camera): How do audiences respond to Brittany when they hear her play?
T. MAIER: I've seen everything from crying and sobbing, to people who have to leave the room because they're so overwhelmed. A lot of people who see the power of God and feel like there are angels in the room with Brittany. And it's wonderful as a mother. It's wonderful.
ZAHN: Well, it's got to be.
T. MAIER: I'm so glad that she's able to bring people so much joy.
ZAHN (voice-over): At 16, Brittany is improving every day. She's even started composing her own music, and just released a CD with 14 of her original songs.
(on camera): The music that flows out of Brittany is very soulful.
T. MAIER: It is.
ZAHN: And very mature.
T. MAIER: I hear that a lot, I do. I hear that. She really feels the music on a different level, something that's deep down within her.
ZAHN: How has Brittany changed your life?
T. MAIER: She's made my life. I don't see a change. I just see that that was life. That's what was intended. That's what's supposed to be. It has been a -- it has been a fabulous life.
ZAHN: An inspiring mother and daughter. Brittany Maier already has a CD out. You can find it online. And she happens to to be working on three new recordings this year. What an amazing young woman.
Just about 14 minutes before the hour, time to check in with Larry King to see what he has coming up for us tonight. Did you get to see that story?
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Amazing.
ZAHN: Isn't it? Just like...
KING: The human spirit.
ZAHN: Yes, an island of genius in that wonderful soul.
KING: Well, we're following that extraordinary case in Massachusetts. Eleven days now since the 27-year-old Rachel Entwistle and her 9-month-old daughter Lillian were found murdered in their suburban Boston home. The husband fled to London. Nobody's questioned him in London and he hasn't been charged with anything. We have got a whole panel to discuss it. Should be -- that's quite a story. Have you followed it?
ZAHN: We're following it from here, and there are so many unanswered questions at this hour. So will you try to answer some of them for us tonight, Larry?
KING: If they don't, I will.
ZAHN: OK. We'll be looking.
KING: All right. Count on it.
ZAHN: All right, have a good show. Thanks, Larry.
Coming up in just a minute, what kind of people use puppies to hide drugs, and how often does that actually happen? We're going to hear the latest on that story after Erica Hill and the "Headline News Business Break."
ZAHN: Thank you very much, Erica. Appreciate it.
It is fair to say most people want drug smugglers locked up, keys thrown way. What about these smugglers? They were carrying heroin. What has happened to them and to the people who did such an unspeakable thing?
ZAHN: Tonight we're just beginning to learn some of the new details about a story everybody is talking about. In fact, it is No. 3 on our CNN.com countdown. It truly is a heartless crime. Drug traffickers surgically implanting packages of heroin in puppies to try to smuggle the drugs across the border.
Just take a look at some of the headlines today, "Plight of Drug Pups." The other one reading "Drug Lab." Now some of the dogs have died, but fortunately some have a brand new chance for life, as we hear from Mary Snow.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a story that has sparked outrage. Puppies being used to smuggle drugs. A top law enforcement official is giving new details on how the scheme was uncovered that led police to find six pure-bred puppies with three kilos of liquid heroin packets inserted in their stomachs. That's more than a pound of the drug in each small dog. He says the plot unraveled when a tip to Colombian police led officers to a farm in Medellin.
JOHN GILBRIDE, DEA SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: At the farm, they found a veterinary clinic, a make-shift veterinary clinic. And they observed the 10 dogs. Upon inspecting the dogs, they found that the dogs had incisions in their bellies. And upon further inspection, they found that the dogs had in fact heroin packets implanted in their bellies.
SNOW: Of the six puppies with heroin inside of them, three later died from infections. In Colombia, 22 people were arrested following a two-year investigation. The dogs were part of that plot and were discovered a year ago, but officers say they couldn't go public until the probe was complete.
Details and media coverage have sparked outrage, even among hardened veterans who've seen a lot in their careers.
GILBRIDE: The use of puppies is just repulsive, it's outrageous, they're small, they're innocent, and they are being smuggled with heroin inside of their bodies.
SNOW: Law enforcement officials say they have heard of dogs being used in the past as drug couriers but not so many at one time.
SNOW: The dogs never left Colombia. Those that survived were adopted. The DEA's office says they were taken in of families of police officers in Colombia. Mary Snow, CNN, New York.
ZAHN: And it is an international mystery. A U.S. woman and her baby are found dead. Why did her husband disappear only to resurface in England? That's ahead on "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight at 9:00, straight up.
But first, No. 2 on top 10 list on CNN.com. Three Massachusetts women are suing Wal-Mart for not selling emergency contraception at its pharmacies. No. 1 is coming up. You'll never guess what that is.
ZAHN: I'm pretty sure that every now and then you feel fed up with your work and dreams of a new career. But some people actually act on that dream. And we're going to bring you their stories from time to time. Our first one comes from New Jersey and Jennifer Westhoven has tonight's "Life after Work."
PETER BORGHESI, TEACHER: My thought was that I would probably work with Verizon until around age 55. Still sounds kind of young for retiree but that was my plan. But then my plans changed.
JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Life after work caught Peter Borghesi by surprise, when Verizon offered him early retirement at age 51. He took the buyout but...
BORGHESI: ... I wasn't ready for the hammock in the backyard or anything with the golf course yet. And I knew I had to do something.
WESTHOVEN: Borghesi had considered a teaching career when he was in college. Now about 30 years later, he's finally where he wanted to be -- in the classroom.
BORGHESI: A couple of my teacher friends said, "Don't do it. You don't know what you're getting into." Summers off sound great to somebody who was in another industry. But it's not that easy.
WESTHOVEN: Borghesi felt he'd found his calling and entered an accelerated program to get certified. Now he teaches full time at an inner city school.
BORGHESI: I ended up here in Jersey City, P.S. 39, Charles DeFuccio School. I teach science and math in sixth grade. And if a kid, for example, comes into class and can't write very well, and that's in September, and by the end of the school year, that same kid is now writing coherent paragraphs, sentences, then you know you got to the kid. You know you had an effect on that kid's life, and that I think is the reward. It's not a monetary reward. It is not a reward where I get something that I can hang on my wall and say, "Gee, look what I did." It's just something that comes from the heart that you just feel good about it.
WESTHOVEN: Jennifer Westhoven, CNN, New York.
ZAHN: Now on to the segment on the T-shirt controversy during the State of the Union address. Activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested for wearing an anti-war shirt and Beverly Young, wife of a Republican congressman, was removed for wearing a shirt supporting the troops.
Here's what you had to say. Quote, "I'm all for freedom of expression and certainly believe Mrs. Sheehan has that right. But there is a time and place for exhibiting such speech. The State of the Union is not that stage, nor do I believe the congressman's wife T-shirt should have permitted.
Call or e-mail us with your thoughts on our story. We appreciate you dropping by tonight. Thanks so much for joining us. We will be back same time, same place, tomorrow night.
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