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Michael Jackson Death Trial; Death by Mail; Cancer Comedy

Aired October 1, 2011 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Hey there and thanks for with being with us. I'm on location in Los Angeles.

You know, it's been 10 years since anthrax by mail killed five people, terrified millions, and almost shut down the Postal Service. We still have lots of questions about this case and also the prime suspect.

Also, a surprise from Hollywood, a comedy about cancer. I talked with Seth Rogan and Will Reiser, who's the writer.

But, first, I'm outside the courthouse right here in Los Angeles where two years after the stunning death of Michael Jackson his doctor is now on trial for involuntary manslaughter.

Conrad Murray, he was hired as Jackson's private physician to get him ready for this big comeback tour. Within weeks, though, the singer was dead.

Now, prosecutors say the cause was an overdose of a drug called Propofol administered by Murray. Defense lawyers insist the doctor isn't to blame and say that Jackson gave himself the fatal dose.


DAVID WALGREN, PROSECUTOR: It was Dr. Murray's repeated competent and unskilled acts that led to Mr. Jackson's death on June 25th, 2009.

ED CHERNOFF, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Michael Jackson swallowed up to eight pills on his own without telling his doctor, without the permission from his doctor. And when Dr. Murray gave him the 25 milligrams and Dr. Murray left the room, Michael Jackson self-administered this dose, an additional dose of Propofol, and it killed him.


GUPTA: Now, watching the beginning of this trial, you realize that this whole thing may boil down to Propofol and how Michael Jackson and Conrad Murray were using it.

Now, when I first heard this -- the whole thing sort of, frankly, struck me as bizarre. This is a drug used almost exclusively in the hospital to essentially induce general anesthesia for an operation.

You know, I decided a picture is worth a thousand words. Take a look.


GUPTA: So we are here inside the operating room with Dr. Gershon. He's the chief of anesthesiology here. Propofol is a medication he uses all the time.

So, is this it right over here?


GUPTA: It looks like milk of amnesia, they call it.

GERSHON: Milk of Amnesia. Vincent, are you OK?

We have to monitor his EKG. We have to monitor his end-tidal CO2. We have to make sure that he's breathing. We got to see his saturation. We have to make sure he's ventilating.

GUPTA: So these are all -- that's all typical stuff.

GERSHON: Standard of care. Yes.

GUPTA: OK. So the Propofol --

GERSHON: We're going to start infusing this.\

You're going to get a little sleepy, Vincent. OK? Give me some good, deep breaths.

GUPTA: We just go and take a look at his eyes, how quickly he's --

GERSHON: Deep breaths, Vincent. Doing great. May feel a little burning, OK?

GUPTA: Ten, nine --


GUPTA: -- eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

GERSHON: There's a reason for his heart rate increasing.


GUPTA: So, what's --

GERSHON: As you see, his eyes just closed.

GUPTA: His eyes closed. And what else are you going to perform?

GERSHON: He stopped breathing. So, this is watching his end- tidal CO2. And he's not breathing anymore. And my wonderful (INAUDIBLE) is going to help him breathe.

GUPTA: We'll take a look over here. All the breathing right now is taking place with this bag and this mask. For that medication, he wouldn't be able to breathe on his own without those things.

And there you can see part of the problem. Just with that much Propofol there, he stopped breathing and he's going to need a breathing tube.



GUPTA: What's so attractive about this medication?

GERSHON: Well, people have really been in the advent in the last 10 years or so, even more, 15 years. And it's just basically a quick- on/quick-off. That may answer why people may think that this is something they could do at home, because if it gets out of hand, it goes away quickly.

But the problem is it gets out of hand and there's nobody there to resuscitate you, then nobody can bring you back.

GUPTA: That was -- that was pretty quick. You just made some of the medication, you're going to --


GERSHON: Five, 10 minutes.

GUPTA: Five, 10 minutes, he's gone from being completely awake to completely asleep.

GERSHON: He's not breathing. I'm breathing for him.

GUPTA: One thing that's worth pointing out, this is a hospital that uses the medication, thousands and thousands of times a year but they do use the medication in nonhospital settings like outpatient clinics. The doctors here will tell you they've never heard of it being used in a home.


GUPTA: A little bit after sneak peek inside the operating room. Lots of things to pay attention to.

Also prosecutors say Murray failed to call 911 right away. And, get this, a witness who is Jackson's head of security described this -- Murray was doing CPR with just one hand with Jackson still lying on the bed.

Now, to me, some important things jumped out. These are basic, basic mistakes. For example, to do CPR correctly, you need to use both hands, to squat down over the person whose heart has stopped, get your arms straight and press hard and fast, straight down on the chest until help arrives. You call 911 first.

To make it work, you have to do this on a hard surface, not something soft like a bed. In any case, the trial of Dr. Murray does continue on next week.

Another court case we've been following for quite some time as well, a federal judge ordered Jared Loughner to undergo four more months of mental health treatment, to try and make him fit to stand trial for shooting Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and more than a dozen.

Now, as you may remember Loughner has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. But the judge said his condition has improved with treatment so far.

Also this week, health insurance costs are on the rise yet again, except even faster than usual and three times faster than inflation. The average annual premium for coverage to an employer is up to $15,073. That's an increase of 9 percent over last year.

Also marking ten years since the anthrax attacks. Remember these? Five hundred interviews, 1,700 subpoenas and one very controversial suspect. We're going to take you inside the investigation. That's next.


GUPTA: You know, it was 10 years ago when Americans were in the grip of terror, not just from the September 11th attacks but also from a series of anthrax letters mailed to news organizations and Capitol Hill. Remember this? It ended up killing five people.

Well, after years of twists and turns, in 2008, investigators had their sights set on this government scientist named Bruce Ivins. Now, he was never charged because he killed himself as this case heated up. And that left this whole taste of controversy, something CNN takes a look at in a special "CNN Presents" which premieres this weekend -- Joe.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, one of the things we take a look at is how federal investigators came up with the name of a suspect in the anthrax attacks. It was not easy. In the first few months of the attacks, they really didn't have much to go on at all and they were casting a very wide net.

But what we do is zero in on one very important lead that they got in the early days of the investigation which, frankly, took them years to fully track down. Check this out.

(voice-over): When the anthrax letters hit in October 2001, Nancy Haigwood is an up and coming scientist in Seattle specializing in HIV. A few months after the attack, January, 2002, the FBI e-mails the American Society of Microbiologists' members, "FBI profilers believe it is very likely that one or more of you know this individual."

NANCY HAIGWOOD, SCIENTIST: In my mind, it was as though something clicked. JOHNS (on camera): Who did you think of?

HAIGWOOD: Bruce Ivins.

JOHNS (voice-over): Bruce Ivins, a scientist at the USAMRIID, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, Ft. Detrick, Maryland. This is the Pentagon's main lab for studying biological weapons, to develop protective vaccines. Ivins is expert on anthrax. In fact, he is supposedly helping federal agents.

DAVID WILLMAN, AUTHOR, "THE MIRAGE MAN": In January of 2002, Bruce Ivins was in the thick of it.

JOHNS: What the feds do not see is the hidden side of Bruce Ivins, e- mails where he says, "I'm being eaten alive by paranoid delusional thoughts."

WILLMAN: Bruce Ivins has led a double life.

JOHNS: Psychiatrists will later describe Ivins as a secretive, paranoid, resentful, and rage-filled man.

WILLMAN: It was a guy who had a definite dark side to him that no one else knew about.

HAIGWOOD: I met Bruce in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

JOHNS: It was the mid-70s. Nancy Haigwood was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina. Bruce Ivins was there, too. Ivins asked incessantly about Haigwood's sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. He seemed obsessed.

HAIGWOOD: Every time I talked to him, he would mention it. And finally I said, Bruce, that's enough.

JOHNS: As their careers took shape over the years, Ivins kept in touch. Shortly after the anthrax attacks, he e-mails these photos of himself with what he calls the now infamous strain of anthrax.

HAIGWOOD: He wanted his former colleagues to know that he was doing important work.

JOHNS: One detail stands out.

HAIGWOOD: He said he was working in the containment lab, and he wasn't wearing gloves. And that is a bio safety hazard. You just don't ever do that. And what that is to me a sign -- "I'm immune."

JOHNS (voice-over): Turns out there were a lot of things that didn't look right but it took federal authorities a long time to put together all the pieces and, to this day, some people say they're still not sure the investigators got the right man -- Sanjay.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA: Fascinating report, Joe Johns. I'll tell you, one of the people who still isn't convinced is Laurie Garrett. Now, he's Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who writes about infection diseases and took a close look at this particular case.


GUPTA: Do you believe what the final investigation showed?

LAURIE GARRETT, SENIOR FELLOW GLOBAL HEALTH, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think that the case against Bruce Ivins is essentially circumstantial. I'm not sure any of it would have held up in a court of law if, for no other reason, then the FBI never had chain of custody of the actual anthrax evidence and Bruce Ivins had possession of the evidence for quite a bit of the time. Any lawyer could get that tossed right out of court.


GUPTA: It's called "Death by Mail: The Anthrax Letters" fascinating "CNN Presents," airs this Sunday night at 8:00 and 11:00 Eastern, right here on this week.

And also this week, Diana Nyad, the third time was not a charm for her as she attempted once again to swim from Cuba to Key West without a shark cage. Now, in the end, her nemesis proved to be much smaller. There's no way to counter toxic jelly fish that brought intense pain and partial paralysis. Nyad was forced to once again abandon her record attempt 92 miles into the swim.

Nyad says she will not attempt the swim again. She said that before, though.

All of this got me thinking, what kind of fuel does it take to power the body for such an extreme feat -- extreme nutrition in this week's "Food for Life."


GUPTA (voice-over): As one expert puts it, Diana is in a race against her own body, to finish the swim before she physically can't move at all.

In the water, she burns about 700 calories an hour and her swim lasted more than 40 hours. She refuels once every hour with sports drinks, gels, powders, energy bars, and her favorite, peanut butter.

She also drinks about 40 ounces of water per hour to stay hydrated. But even that doesn't quite keep up with her energy needs. Eventually Diana's body turns to burning fat and finally protein, the very building blocks of the muscles that keep her swimming.

During her last swim, she lost almost 16 pounds.



GUPTA: Let's take some time now for a look at a truly extraordinary individual. Eight years ago, Sheila May Advento's hands and feet were amputated, after a bout with meningitis. And she lived with prosthetics until a year ago when, suddenly, she had a chance to undergo a hand transplant which changed her life.


SANJAY (voice-over): Imagine having to learn how to use someone else's hands as your own.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How about this guy? Pinch. Pinch.

GUPTA: That's the reality for Sheila May Advento, the first woman in the United States to undergo a double hand transplant.

SHEILA MAY ADVENTO, DOUBLE HAND TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT: I just remember being rushed to the hospital, in the ER and that's it. I was out.

GUPTA: Advento's her hands and feet were amputated eight years ago after she contracted a bacterial infection.

ADVENTO: They were so lifeless, you know, and so black.

GUPTA: She got prosthetics for her hands and her feet, but the idea of a possible future hand transplant was always on her mind. When the opportunity came from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, she went for it.

ADVENTO: I'm amazed by my own progress. I had no expectations.

GUPTA: It's been a year since she got her new hands, and already she has hit several milestones. She can feel temperature, pain. She can feel various textures. It's the result of a lot of hard work. She undergoes six hours of physical therapy five days a week.

ADVENTO: For me to finally feel these things again, my hair, my face or even my jeans, that's something big for me.

GUPTA: Advento says her ultimate goal is to live as independent a life as possible.

ADVENTO: This is actually my very first painting.

GUPTA: She draws, she paints, she drives, she puts on makeup. Finds her way around her kitchen, even clips her nails.

ADVENTO: I'm not able to pinch the nail clipper that well yet. So, I was able to figure out how to do it for myself. That was my way of figuring out how to be independent.

GUPTA: The last eight years have been difficult, but Advento says she's overcome so much by believing it all happened for a reason. No matter how painful, she tries to always be positive.

ADVENTO: I don't give myself much of a choice but to keep going, despite whatever obstacles I encounter in my life.


GUPTA: Amazing to see her use though hands that way, and what she's able to do.

You know, one note about her. In addition to her physical therapy, she continues to work and hopes to be able to display her artwork at a local gallery soon. Wish you all the best, Sheila.

Now, still ahead, it's true what they say. Laughter really is the best medicine. Seth Rogen, Will Reiser, they're going to join me to talk about their new movie. It's called "50/50" -- right after the break.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of cancer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some rare kind of cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's it called?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's schwannoma?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That means tumor basically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are your odds?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I mean, I looked it up. It's like 50/50. But that's, like the Internet. So --


GUPTA: You're watching a clip from the movie "50/50" that's a new movie opening nationwide this weekend about a guy in his 20s who is diagnosed with this rare form of cancer.

Now, it's hard to believe, but it's a funny movie as a seriously devastating topic and all of it was inspired by real life.

Now, I recently sat down with Seth Rogen who produced and stars in "50/50," and his good friend, Will Reiser, who is inspired to write the movie after fighting his own battle with a rare sarcoma.


GUPTA: Let me start with you. How are you doing?

WILL REISER, SCREENWRITER, "50/50": I'm great. Six years in remission. SETH ROGEN, ACTOR/PRODUCER, "50/50": Maybe you can help us answer this question: how long does remission last? Does it just last until you die of something else?


GUPTA: Well, there's -- it's all based on studies. And they say that the chance of something coming back after a certain point is so statistically insignificant.

ROGEN: Remission, oh, they call it -- so you're always in remission?

GUPTA: Well, certain cancers they'll say, with seven years, your chance of occurrence is --

REISER: I think for me, it's ten years. So, maybe I got four more years and then I'm out of remission.

ROGEN: Then you're out of remission. You should be out of remission.

GUPTA: You should.

You produced the movie. But you will to pitch it. I mean, people say, look, how do you do comedy with cancer?

ROGEN: No, I mean, we knew that it wasn't an easy pitch. So, Will wrote the script before we even attempted to make it. So, we had a completed script of pretty much the movie we wanted to make.

I think you know, we're not making fun of cancer. We're making fun of how people behave in that situation, and that's something that I think we're good at -- is taking, you know, situations and showing the funny side of how people might realistically act in those situations.

REISER: And our favorite movie, the ones that deal with really dramatic situations but find the comedy in them. When I was sick, actually, people would come up to me and their impression of what having cancer was like was based off of movies they had seen which are really overdramatic and really sad, in which the person always has some great epiphany and the next day die, and that just wasn't what our experience was like.

GUPTA: And a lot of it is about your friendship as well, your relationship. I mean, had you known somebody who had cancer? Had you dealt with this ever in your life before?

ROGEN: No. I had never dealt with anything remotely serious -- really, honestly. It's when I realized everything I knew about this kind of thing was from movies, and it was instantly so different from any movie I'd seen, and I think that's honestly one of the reasons we wanted to do it, is that it was the first time I'd ever experience something like this and it was so different than how I'd seen artistically portrayed.

GUPTA: I mean, the idea of changing people's attitudes toward cancer. I don't know, when you're writing this, was that part of your goal? I mean, did you have a goal for this besides telling the story?

REISER: I think, yes. I mean, my goal is really to show what it's like and to -- I mean, I'd just had so much I had to say, you know, so much of the experience of what it was like to go through it, you know? Through friends and through family and doctors and hospitals and all of them, and I just sort of felt like no one had any clue what it was like. And I felt like if I could show a bit of the lighter side of it, it would allow people to not be so afraid to talk about it.

ROGEN: And then we give them to think about something they probably wouldn't want to normally think about, but if it's funny, it's a lot easier to think about that kind of thing.

REISER: Right before I went in for my surgery -- I mean, this is a really ridiculous story. I was in the hospital like on the gurney, about to be put under for my surgery to remove the tumor for my spine. The nurse came in with all these papers for me to sign, I mean, literally like seconds before I'm about to go under and she said, you know, organ donor, hospital liability. And in case we need to like fuse your spine or remove vertebrae and it was really intense.

And I said, are you really going to do all these things? And she said, well, you have to talk to the doctor. And I said, where? Can I talk to him? And she said, we'll he's gone in the surgery.

And I said, well, can he come back? She said, no, no. If you want to talk to him, we'll have to cancel the surgery. I mean, this is like a minute before I was supposed to go under to remove this tumor.

And I said, well, you trust him, right? And he's a really great surgeon. And she went, well --

GUPTA: Come on.

REISER: And then she said, not very nice.


REISER: And I thought, I mean, oh, my God. Like I'm in the episode of "Grey's Anatomy" or something.

GUPTA: So, lesson for all surgeons out there. You got to be nice to be considered good.


ROGEN: When I was in the (INAUDIBLE) at one point, we were like, oh, this is insane. He's like, that actually happened.

GUPTA: I always wonder how, you know, the loved ones, the friends, all that, should behave. And they have a certain amount of guilt. They don't actually talk about this, not talk about it. And I don't know if there's a right answer to that.

But what's your answer? REISER: Yes, there is no right answer. I mean, I think, along the way, you're going to say the wrong thing. You're going to do the wrong thing. You're going to make a mistake.

I mean, we're all human and I think it's important for people on both sides, you know, whether you're sick or you're the loved one of someone who's sick, to just realize that and to know that it's a lot easier on everyone if you can just take a step back and just sort of admit to yourself, like I really have no clue like how to appropriate handle this.

GUPTA: I can't tell how young you guys. I feel very old.

REISER: Oh, you're very youthful.


GUPTA: But thank you, you know? And I think, you know, again, as someone who cares a lot about cancer, I think this does a lot. Whether that was the intent or not, it does change it from the very stigmatized, I think, disease -- to something that we can talk about.


ROGEN: I hope so.


GUPTA: It's not an easy thing to do, to do a comedy about cancer. They seem to have gotten it. Thanks a lot, guys. That was a lot of fun. They even got some questions in for me.

That's going to wrap it for SGMD this morning.

Time now to get you back in the "CNN NEWSROOM" for a check of your top stories with Mr. T.J. Holmes.