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Satellite Impact Area Unknown at This Hour; Congress Takes Weekend Off as Government Shutdown Nears; President Obama to Address Congressional Black Caucus; U.S. Likely to Veto Pakistan's Pitch For Statehood Recognition From U.N.; The Debate Over Capital Punishment

Aired September 24, 2011 - 09:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we are at the top of the hour on this CNN SATURDAY MORNING. Hello to you all.

And jury selection now complete in the manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray. Murray -- of course, the late Michael Jackson's personal physician is accused of playing a part in Jackson's fatal overdose in June of 2009. Murray is facing four years in prison if convicted.

Also, in Germany, the Pope conducted mass today. The police were arresting one person for allegedly firing an air gun at two security guards. Neither guard hit. German government officials say the Pope was never in any danger.

Here at home, the FBI is writing checks just over $2 million in reward money. They have now sent out to the people who helped capture long time fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger, in the Boston area, an alleged mobster and his long time companion were caught in California in June after 16 years on the run. Bulger is wanted in connection with more than a dozen murders.

But again, here we are at the top of the hour on this Saturday morning. We were telling you to watch out for the past several days or at least NASA was telling us all to watch out because that dead satellite was going to come crashing back to Earth. Well, we're told now that it did come crashing back. You're seeing some video possibly of it, maybe, maybe not. A couple of dots in the air there. Not exactly sure what it is, but this was over Texas.

Let me bring in our Reynolds Wolf as well as our John Zarrella who was telling us for the past several days to duck. We didn't know where this stuff is coming down.

So, John, help us understand here. They know it came but don't know the exactly where it crashed. Is that right?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, sometime between 11:23 p.m. Eastern time last night and 1:09 Eastern time, NASA says that the satellite did reenter the Earth's atmosphere. They're saying the joint space center in Vandenberg Air Force base out in California said that it actually reentered over the Pacific Ocean at - between those times, but they don't know exactly when or where it -- those parts that were expected to reach Earth actually landed. So, that video over Texas a long way from the Pacific Ocean, T.J., I mean, that may be a stretch.

HOLMES: OK. Well, we have people, and I can bring Reynolds in on this. We have people all over the country and really all over the world are claiming to have seen something, Reynolds. But that's come to be expected. Everybody was kind of watching the skies. You don't know where it's going to come. So you look up and see anything and think that's it.

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. I agree with John. I mean, the film from Texas looks like it might be say a kid up in a tree with a flashlight. Seriously. But you're right we do have some interesting I-report, you'll see these, taken from Minnesota where we definitely see something in the skies above. Could this be part of the satellite? It could be.

But you have to remember when it comes to things from out in space making contact with the planet Earth, actually making their way through the atmosphere happens about 20,000 times per year. There's a variety of stuff that it could possibly be. Is it possible? Certainly, by all means. But is there a way that NASA can tell without any question that this thing specifically is connected with that satellite? It's impossible to say.

HOLMES: OK. And last thing, John, quickly, will they want it back? Are they even going to try to recover any of this stuff?

ZARRELLA: Not if it's in the ocean. If someone finds a piece of it, yes, they definitely want it back. It's NASA property, T.J., whether it's junk or not.

HOLMES: All right. And that's important to note. We did mention it earlier. People might think they have a little souvenir. It is not yours. It belongs to NASA. You cannot sell it unless they tell you it's OK to keep it. So John, always good to see you. Reynolds, we'll check in with you plenty throughout the morning.

Three minutes past the hour here now. We'll turn to some politics, shall we?

A week from today your government, the U.S. government will run out of money if Congress doesn't do something. So what are they doing this weekend? Taking the weekend off.

The shutdown could come, again could, if no spending deal is reached before the end of the month. Right now Congress at an impasse. They're fighting right now over how much money to set aside for disaster relief.

The Republican-controlled House approved a bill with less funding than Democrats wanted. So when the Senate, the Democrat-controlled Senate, they got a hold of that bill, and they decided to set it aside for now.

But the Senate Majority leader Harry Reid says both sides taking the weekend off because they needed some time to cool off, maybe can come to a compromise next week. He has scheduled a new vote for Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, politicians there taking the weekend off. The Republican presidential candidates are not. They are busy in Florida, a lot of them are there spending time. And today we had a straw poll we'll be keeping an eye on. It's coming up at what's called the Presidency Five Event. It's in Orlando.

This comes a day after the candidates spoke to the conservative voters at the CPAC conference there.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a nominee who's not ashamed of the Tea Party, who's willing to stand up for our Tea Party and Tea Party values, who believe we are taxed enough already.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's time to recognize cheaters for what they are. On my first day in office, I will issue an executive order identifying China as a currency manipulator and allowing us to apply tariffs on their goods where they're cheating and killing American jobs.

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've also been governor of a state that under my leadership led the nation in job creation and whose economy grew at triple the national rate, even faster than Texas.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we want to get America working again, we need Washington to get out of the way! And with your help and people like you all across this great country, that is exactly what we will do. We will get America working again and take this country back to the great values and the principles that have made America wonderful.


HOLMES: So Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, who you were seeing there, headed to Michigan today for another major Republican conference.

Well, six minutes past the hour. And no child left behind is maybe getting left behind a little bit. The Obama administration says it will immediately start reviewing applications from states that want to opt out of parts of the education plan. President Obama talked about the reasons for the change during his weekly web address.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While the goals behind no child left behind were admirable, experience has taught us that the law had some serious flaws that are hurting our children instead of helping them. Teachers are being forced to teach to the test while subjects like history and science are being squeezed out. In an order to avoid having their schools labeled as failures, some states lowered their standards in a race to the bottom.


HOLMES: President Obama has an important night ahead of him. He has a speech for the Congressional Black Caucus, the caucus has been critical of the White House for the way the president has handled the jobs issue. Unemployment among African-Americans was nearly 17 percent last month.

We saw history at the United Nations, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally requesting the world community admit Palestine into its ranks. This move very likely to be vetoed by the U.S.

Here now is CNN's senior United Nations correspondent, Richard Roth.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Like two heavyweight boxers, the Palestinian and Israeli leaders took their best shots at each other inside the General Assembly hall. Mahmoud Abbas entered to thunderous ovation, making his case for statehood, while brandishing his formal application to the Security Council. Abbas denounced Israeli occupation and settlement activity while asking the 193 countries for acceptance in their ranks.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PRESIDENT, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (through translator): Here, I declare that the PLO is ready to return immediately to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference based on international legitimacy and a complete cessation of settlement activity.

ROTH (voice-over): Netanyahu didn't fare as well on the applause meter. But he gave as good as he got. Having served Israel here as its ambassador, he made an impassioned plea for Israel to defend itself. He said it was fine if the Palestinians wanted a state, but not created through the United Nations.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I cannot risk the future of the Jewish state on wishful thinking. Leaders must see reality as it is, not as it ought to be. We must do our best to shape the future, but we cannot wish away the dangers of the present.

ROTH: International peace negotiators for the Middle East quickly met after the speeches and pressed both sides to return to dialogue, while making concrete proposals and commitments. The Security Council meets Monday afternoon, New York time, to quickly consider the Palestinian bid, though no votes are expected -- T.J.


HOLMES: Thanks as always to our Richard Roth. We certainly will be keeping an eye on the security council meeting coming up on Monday.

Well, nine minutes past the hour now and you may have noticed national debate that was sparked this week over the death penalty. The execution of Troy Davis opened another chapter in this debate. The debate continues this morning.

Stay with us on this CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


HOLMES: About 13 minutes past the hour on this CNN SATURDAY MORNING, and a close encounter for swimmer Diana Nyad.

There she is on her third attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. The marathon swimmer got tangled up with jellyfish. She was stung on her arms, body and face after treading water for a while, she then resumed the 100 plus mile swim that could put her in Florida sometime on Monday.

Casey Anthony, well, she has to come up with another $120,000 to reimburse Florida investigators. Anthony was found not guilty in her daughter's murder but was convicted of lying to investigators. Her attorneys admitted she knew her daughter was dead before the search even started. She is now being charged a total of $217,000 for the costs to certainly for her missing daughter, Caylee.

In Massachusetts, a 14-year-old boy, well he simply ordered a new barrel for his paintball gun. Well, when the delivery arrived, he did not have the that piece of equipment for his paintball gun. Instead, he got a boxful of Viagra and performance enhancing oils.


CONNOR WHELIHAN, RECEIVED INCORRECT PACKAGE: I guess it was embarrassing because I was opening it up in front of my mom, you know, and my brother was also standing right next to me.


HOLMES: Well, you can imagine, parents not too excited about this delivery. Everybody kind of scratching their heads here that the paintball website, they did apologize for the mix-up. Gave the boy his money back but a lot of people still asking, how do you mix those two things up in the first place.

Well, 14 minutes past the hour, and up next, debating the death penalty. The execution of Troy Davis this week opened another chapter and we'll examine both sides of a long-running argument. Stay with us.


HOLMES: Well, 18 minutes past the hour now.

The execution of convicted cop killer Troy Davis this week reignited the debate over the death penalty. Davis' execution was one of three this week. The others were in Texas and Alabama but Davis' case got the most attention because of doubt about his guilt and the evidence used to convict him.

Got voices on both sides of the issue this morning. Richard Dieter is the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center and Kent Scheidegger is the legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

Gentlemen, thank you both for being here. And Mr. Dieter, let me start with you then.

Why didn't - or let's say Troy Davis wasn't one of the three executed in this country this week, do you think I would have you two on talking about the death penalty? RICHARD DIETER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DEATH PENALTY INFORMATION CENTER: No, there was an amazing outpouring on the night of his execution. Demonstrations in front of the White House, the Supreme Court, in Paris and in London, in Georgia, students pouring out of the universities here. This was quite an amazing wake-up call I think that the death penalty is not universally embraced here in America.

HOLMES: But I guess we knew that already, didn't we, Mr. Scheidegger? That it wasn't universally embraced but from the polls we see, Americans have been in favor of the death penalty for some time.

KENT SCHEIDEGGER, LEGAL DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL JUSTICE LEGAL FOUNDATION: Well, I didn't hear Mr. Dieter's answer but yes, Americans have been in favor between two-thirds and three-quarts depending on how the polling question is worded. As far as your original question goes, there has been continuing debate on the death penalty but there has been a much more intense debate in the last week or so.

HOLMES: Well, that debate, we hope we can get this thing worked out so you'll be able to hear Mr. Dieter. We certainly want you to be able to. But Mr. Scheidegger, I'll stick with you here, you talked about the outpouring and the reaction to Troy Davis. This was about not necessarily in your opinion the moral objections of the death penalty, rather one man and one case where a lot of people had doubt?

SCHEIDEGGER: Well, yes. And what we had in this case was there was a sufficient issue in this case for the U.S. Supreme Court to send the case to the U.S. District Court for an extraordinary hearing and that court did hold a very extensive hearing, write a detailed 172-page opinion in which he found that Troy Davis' case dissolved as soon as the witnesses came on the stand.

Unfortunately, that hearing didn't get most of the attention. And Davis was the beneficiary of a very extensive PR campaign that really distorted the public reception as to the real facts of the case.

HOLMES: Mr. Dieter, let me bring you back in and then hopefully you were able to hear that. I've heard that several times that this was really about the public not understanding the testimony and the years of in and out of court and the judges who have heard this case and at every turn, Troy Davis lost. So do you think that public outpouring was the result really of a PR campaign that worked?

DIETER: No, you know, I do agree with Mr. Scheidegger that this is not a moral revolution against the death penalty but it was an awareness that there was doubt about his case at every level that this case has been reviewed, including that hearing, including the Supreme Court, including the parole board that reviewed it.

There has been doubt and that's what people were concerned about that we - as a country would execute someone when there were so many reasonable doubts about his conviction. I don't know whether he's guilty or innocent I do know there was doubts about it and everyone else knew that, as well.

HOLMES: But to that same point, Mr. Dieter, do you know there are doubts because of what you read and certainly what was in the press just like a lot of people? I'm not sure how extensively you researched the case. But for a lot of people, they turn on the TV and they hear and they see people walking down the streets saying this man, there are doubts about his innocence. So do you think that's what happened? Again, the doubts people have didn't come from their own research necessarily. It came from a PR campaign.

DIETER: Sure. Some of the people hadn't researched all the briefs. But I have as much as I could about this case. And this is a case based on eyewitness identification almost exclusively. And there are reports out just this week how unreliable that kind of evidence is especially when the eyewitnesses start contradicting one another.

I think if this case were tried again today fairly, that this would not be a death penalty case. You certainly would not get the death sentence. So the people were following you know, summaries of the case but the basic issue of doubt, that's what everybody was correct on.

HOLMES: But Mr. Scheidegger, will this change anything? Should this Troy Davis case change anything? And should it change something if there is a hint of doubt about someone's guilt? Shouldn't we just press paws or stop and not execute someone?

SCHEIDEGGER: Well, going forward into the future, I think it is correct that we should focus a lot more than we have on the questions of guilt and innocence. I think we have a 20-year review process where probably 95 percent of the issues litigated have nothing whatever to do with guilt. In a typical capital case, there's no doubt of guilt.

So we need to take our review process and adjust it some so we pay more attention on issues related to guilt and spend a lot less time on a lot less resources litigating those issues that have nothing whatever to do with (INAUDIBLE).

HOLMES: That's a great point. And that's certainly one that everybody focused on. The reviews and legal process was so much to do with legalese and not necessarily someone's guilt or innocence. Mr. Scheidegger, Mr. Dieter, I appreciate you both taking the time with us. You enjoy the rest of your Saturday.


DIETER: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right. We're about 24 minutes past the hour now.

And we have heard it before. Heard it twice already just this year alone. The government could possibly shut down. We'll tell you what the partisan sticking point is the this time around. Stay with me on this "CNN Saturday Morning". I'm back in 90 seconds.


HOLMES: As we get close to the bottom of the hour now, some of the stories making headlines.

Casey Anthony needs to come up with another $10,000 to reimburse Florida investigators, as you know, she was cleared in her daughter's murder but convicted of lying to investigators. Her attorneys admit she knew her daughter Caylee was dead before they started searching for her. So she's being charged now a total of $217,000 for the costs related to the search.

Also there's another threat of another government shutdown. They need to reach a deal by the end of the month. The end of the month comes a week from today. Right now the battle is over how much money should be budgeted for disaster relief. Lawmakers though are off this weekend. Need time to cool their heads. Expected back on Capitol Hill on Monday.

And from southern Texas to Hawaii, we're getting reports of possible sightings of NASA's dead satellite, this one coming to us from an i-reporter in Hawaii, I believe this one was. The agency says parts of that satellite enters the atmosphere over the Pacific, somewhere around 11:30 Eastern time last night. But right now they don't exactly know where the stuff is.

Let's say good morning once again to our Reynolds Wolf keeping an eye on the skies, the airports.


HOLMES: All right. Reynolds, thank you, kind sir.

As we get close to the bottom of the hour, there's been years cliffhangers, cheating husbands, wives who lied, the dead coming back to life. Sounds like a soap, doesn't? Well, it is a soap opera. "All My Children" now is off the air.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's me, Tad. Open the door. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leave me alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know this is a shock, but it's me. I swear I'm alive. Look, I promise, everything is going to be OK.


HOLMES: He's alive. How many times has he been killed and came back to life? Well, he's been on the show for 30 years. You are going to see that man, Michael Knight, who played Tad Martin, a guest of ours in the 10:00 Eastern hour.

After we have said good-bye to "All My Children" off the air, but still you might be able to catch new episodes. We'll tell you where. But the guy who played Tad joining me in the next hour. So I'll be back with you at the top of the hour.

Right now I need to hand it over to Christine Romans and "YOUR BOTTOM LINE."