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Second Texas Prosecutor Gunned Down; No Plea Deal In Movie Massacre; CNN Crew Caught in the Crossfire; ADHD on Rise

Aired April 1, 2013 - 14:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this hour in the NEWSROOM, going after the death penalty. Lawyers for the Aurora movie theater shooting suspect offered a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for life. But today, prosecutors rejected the offer saying, quote, "in this case, justice is death."

And new figures released for ADHD in children show the diagnosis is skyrocketing. We're asking why so many more kids are getting drugs for the condition and what the long term effects are.

And do women have a, quote, "shelf life"? A letter published in a university newspaper suggests women find a husband on campus to beat their time clock.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get your world class education. Make your life-long friends. And if you can find a life partner, good for you.


WHITFIELD: Is she right? We put the question to our panel. The NEWSROOM starts right now.

Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Brooke Baldwin.

The chief prosecutor in Houston is under 24 hour protection. And law enforcement officials across the state of Texas are treading with caution today after the second recent murder of one of their own. Tough talking prosecutor Mike McClelland was found dead Sunday morning. McLelland's wife was slain as well. Their bodies were found at their home in Kaufman County. It's the same Texas county where Assistant D.A. Mark Hasse was shot dead back in January. Hasse's murder in broad daylight prompted this challenge to the killers by the now dead McLelland.


MIKE MCLELLAND, KAUFMAN COUNTY, TEXAS, D.A.: I hope that the people that did this are watching because we're very confident that we're going to find you, we're going to pull you out of whatever hole you're in, we're going to bring you back and let the people of Kaufman County prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Law enforcement officials, including the FBI, want to know if the killings were linked and whether white supremacists may have been involved here. Recent indictments of dozens of members of the Texas Aryan Brotherhood prompted fears of retaliation. CNN's George Howell is joining us now from Kaufman, Texas.

So what are authorities saying today about these two murder cases and whether there is, indeed, a link?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, yes, they're not saying that there's any link at this point. They're very tight lipped about the investigation. But when you talk to people, when you talk to public officials here in Kaufman, they say that, you know, these are two prosecutors who handled very similar cases and they believe that these hits may have been the result of retaliation. Revenge hits.

You even talk to people on the streets and one person, Fredricka, that I spoke to said, look, she's lived here for many years, and one and one just seem to add to two. People believe that there is some sort of a connection. But when you talk to investigators, they are not making that indication.

WHITFIELD: And, George, we're talking about two prosecutors dead. A third prosecutor now in Texas that is under police protection. We talk about that jurisdiction being Houston. What about police? What about elected officials as a whole, public servants? Are they fearing for their safety? Are new precautions being taken as a result of these murders?

HOWELL: Fredricka, you get the sense when you see these officers walking about, they are aware, they are concerned, they're paying close attention. And that's really what we're seeing right now. Also with public officials, we're finding that many are taking those protections. For instance, Mike Anderson in Harris County, the D.A. there in Houston, Texas, he elected to take on security, to take on security, 24-hour security to protect him and his family. Just a sense of how people feel about the possibility of prosecutors, of public officials being targeted out here.

WHITFIELD: All right, George Howell, thanks so much, from Kaufman County, Texas.

And a major development today in the case against accused Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooter James Holmes. Prosecutors today rejected a proposed guilty plea from the defense and said they will seek the death penalty instead. Holmes faces 166 counts of murder and attempted murder in a killing rampage last July in which 12 people died and nearly 60 were wounded. Peter Burns was close to Jessica Ghawi, who died in that massacre.

You were best friends. Did prosecutors consult you at all? Do you agree with this decision?

PETER BURNS, FRIEND OF AURORA VICTIM JESSICA GHAWI: They did not consult me. They did consult her mother and her brother, which I'm very close with and talked to many times. And they did. And I think that for the families they feel like they want to be part of the team effort.

For me, personally, and even talking to her brother Jordan, I'm not the biggest fan of the death penalty. And not necessarily because the death penalty, you know, right or wrong, it's really, I don't know if there's justice that truly serves the punishment that deserves. I mean if there is a death penalty, does it make it harder? You know, I think the families and at least friends and myself, we want justice. But at the same time, we want closure. Do we ever really get closure 17 years down the road?

WHITFIELD: And so what are your thoughts knowing that a trial could take a very long time, and if there is indeed an appeal, even that much longer?

BURNS: That's the big concern for me is that it continues to be a scab that continues to open up time and time again. I mean this coward did something and take the lives of amazing people, yet for now on that -- we have to take a look at what is that justice? Is it the trial that's not going to be done for another year and a half because of this? Or is that -- if there truly is justice, does it come 15, 20 years down the road? I mean there is no punishment that this kid deserves more so than being in excruciating pain every single day the rest of his life. But, sadly, that's not the way that we can work in the judicial system right now. So, to me, whatever we can do to have this justice quick and to provide closure for friends and family is the most important thing.

WHITFIELD: And what if James Holmes' attorneys are successful with an insanity defense? What are your feelings on that or perhaps even Jessica Ghawi's family?

BURNS: I mean, at least for me, I don't want to speak for -- side of the family on that, but -- you know, even her brother. I think that this is an act. I think this coward that shows up every single day in court with this aloof look in his eyes, that he just spaced out, well, I can't imagine somebody pulling off something like this to be in that case. I think as soon as he knows he goes into the courtroom, he knows exactly what's going on. That's my biggest issue with it.

WHITFIELD: You think he's putting on an act? Is that what you're saying?

BURNS: Absolutely. Without a doubt. From day one I thought that was -- the first day that that coward walked into the courtroom, I knew that he was putting on an act. Everyone know that he's putting on an act. You can't -- you can't -- everyone at that -- at that circumstance is insane to a certain extent. Whether or not now we've got to take that long to kind of prove it, I think that, you know, there's no punishment right now that can be served that truly gives the justice that he should receive.

WHITFIELD: Peter Burns, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Thanks for being with us.

BURNS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Police in New York say what looked like a kidnapping caught on camera was actually a hoax. Investigators say the people involved in this surveillance video, two men chasing someone, have now come forward saying it was all part of a birthday party prank. Police say there will be no charges against the pranksters.

And CNN has learned a key ambassadorship may be going to a Kennedy. A Democratic source says Caroline Kennedy has been asked to serve as United States ambassador to Japan. The source says she is being vetted. Back in 2008, her early endorsement of Barack Obama was a major boon to his first campaign for president. She delivered it jointly with her Uncle Ted. That announcement, that big endorsement. We'll have more on this story, whether she becomes the U.S. ambassador to Japan, that's later on.

All right, check out this new picture of Kevin Ware walking. Just a day after he broke his leg at a very horrible injury. And it happened on live television. If you didn't see him get hurt, you're actually really lucky. It was one in which to cringe. It's very tough to watch. The reserve guard came down hard on his leg, snapping his shin bone. The bone broke through the skin and actually stuck out for all to see. It was so awful. Of course, he screamed in pain. You're not going to see it in graphic detail. You can see the blurred image there. But just watching it, Louisville coaches and players were reduced to tears. All you had to see was the reaction of those on the bench. Everyone around him. Ware underwent successful two-hour surgery after that. He is up and about. And his team, the Cardinals, well, they won the game, earning a spot in this week's Final Four. Next hour, I'll speak to a surgeon about Ware's future and when, if ever, he will play again.

All right, coming up, 22 homes evacuated after an Exxon Mobil pipeline burst.


JOE WALLACE BRADLEY, EVACUATED FROM HOME:: It was a threat of fire and air pollution. So that they were evacuating the neighborhood.



WHITFIELD: Some of the hottest stories in a flash. "Rapid Fire." Roll it.

In central Arkansas, Exxon Mobil's cleanup continues after a crude oil pipeline burst Friday. So far, more than 12,000 barrels of oil have been recovered and 22 homes have been evacuated. Joe Bradley was one of the evacuated and described what he could see of the spill from his home.


JOE WALLACE BRADLEY, EVACUATED FROM HOME: We could see oil running down the road like a river. All along that side there, it's just black crude oil and the smell was terrible.


WHITFIELD: Exxon Mobil says they don't yet know the cause of the spill and told CNN, quote, "we regret that this incident has occurred and apologize for any disruption and inconvenience that it has caused," end quote. Federal, state and local authorities are also on the site investigating the cause.

Chaos and terror inside a San Jose Wal-Mart on Easter Sunday. Police say a man crashed his red sedan right through the front of the store and started attacking customers with a blunt object. Four people were hurt, one seriously. Police don't know what the motive was, but think alcohol or drugs may have been involved.

And the first person to get a full face transplant in the U.S. took a huge step this weekend. Down the aisle at a Texas church. Dallas Wens (ph) got married to a woman that he met in a hospital burn support group. He lost his eyes, nose and lips in a 2008 electrical accident. His bride, Jamie (ph), who was badly burned in a car crash, says "I'm his eyes while he has my heart."

And President Obama and the first family welcomed a celebrity guest to the White House this morning. Of course, I was talking about the Easter bunny. It was the star of the show as the 135th annual White House Easter Egg Roll kicked off on the South Lawn. More than 35,000 people from across the country were at this year's egg roll. Among them, families of the school shooting victims in Newtown, Connecticut.

All right, now to the best kind of lost and found story. A missing hiker turns up alive after six days on a snowy Oregon mountain. Mary Owen told our affiliate KEGW that it was, quote, "not a good idea," when she went hiking on Mount Hood by herself two Sundays ago. She got lost, then fell 40 feet, injuring her leg and ankle. She says she survived by eating chia seeds and granola bars and burning the wrappers to keep warm.


MARY OWEN, RESCUED HIKER: I was so worried they wouldn't see me, though. I was just like screaming, "come back for me, please."


WHITFIELD: Owen also suffered frostbite. But, she says, despite the ordeal, she'll get back out into the wilderness soon. Maybe next time not alone.

All right, coming up, it's known as a playground for the Taliban. We're talking about Afghanistan. CNN has an exclusive look at U.S. special forces behind enemy lines.


WHITFIELD: The U.S. is stepping up its military mite on the Korean peninsula, sending in two stealth bombers as part of joint military exercises with South Korea. This is seen as a warning to North Korea, a country which has already declared a state of war. Today, North Korea's parliament passed a measure to expand its nuclear weapons program. This as Kim Jong-un says its nukes are a national treasure. One U.S. congressman says an attack on South Korea may be the only way for the young leader to save face.


REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: It's not an empty threat. I wouldn't be that concerned about them hitting the mainland U.S. right now, or even any U.S. territory. I think the real threat is to what North Korea might be boxing itself into. Kim Jong-un is trying to establish himself. He's trying to be the tough guy. He's 28, 29 years old. And he keeps going further and further out. And I don't if he can get himself back in. So I -- my concern would be that he may feel to save face he has to launch some sort of attack on South Korea, or some base in the Pacific.


WHITFIELD: Meantime, South Korea is warning the North that any provocative moves would be met with a strong response.

As the war in Afghanistan rages on, one CNN crew found themselves caught in the crossfire. In this exclusive report, our Anna Coren gives us a rare glimpse into their deadly world and shows us what it's like to be in the middle of a firefight on Taliban turf.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As rounds of gunfire ring out in the distance, U.S. special forces run straight into the thick of it. They're the military's elite, and this is what they're trained to do. They don't just fight back, they hunt down the enemy.

We come under heavy machine gunfire less than 400 meters away. And incoming round flies close overhead. We take cover behind a mud brick wall.


COREN: With the attack coming from three different directions, special forces spread out across open farmland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Around the back side. Right on the back side.

COREN: Their only cover in this fertile (ph) valley, low lying ditches and sparse undergrowth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. This is what we're going to do. We're going to keep -- continuing up this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) riverbed until we get to the left side. We want (INAUDIBLE) to flank it with us, OK? (INAUDIBLE) straight there. Let's roll.

COREN: For a brief moment, they pause. A special forces operator targets the enemy firing position with a 40 millimeter grenade launcher. But the firefight wages on.

COREN (on camera): We got intelligence that there was an IED maker in this area with a number of associates. We've come into these open field. The soldiers are taking fire. We don't know where the enemy is, but we do know that there's a Taliban stronghold about a kilometer from here at the base of these mountains.

COREN (voice-over): With enemy fire getting closer, special forces are exposed as they move along the banks of the river. A soldier reloads, preparing for another assault.


COREN: We run towards the compound where insurgents staged one of their attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, we're pushing down this way, all right? Let's go.

COREN: They quickly secure the area, not knowing what's behind these walls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody looking back that way?


COREN: Movement inside has everyone on high alert.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody just ran across the door.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And back again.

COREN: Soldiers locate the enemy firing point with spent cartridge cases littering the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're Taliban, which we're getting reports that they probably are. And then they may not necessarily live in these areas, which means that when they go into other people's compounds, they may get some intel relayed back to us. So that's what we're hoping on.

COREN: Apache helicopter gunships circle the valley, searching for the enemy who've made their escape. But they've already vanished, blending back into the community and the landscape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I admire their resiliency and their conviction for sure. There's a degree of mutual respect. But, you know, that doesn't mean we want to kill them any less.

COREN: While America's war may be finishing up soon, these brave soldiers know it's yet to be won.

Anna Coren, CNN, Nadrab (ph), eastern Afghanistan.


WHITFIELD: Some dangerous, close calls there.

All right, ADHD. A new research indicates nearly one in five high school boys has it. Why more kids are being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.


WHITFIELD: In China, two men are dead after being infected with a strain of bird flu never before seen in humans. It's called the H7N9 strain. And now China's national health commission is reporting a third person, a woman, has also been infected. She is in critical condition. While each live in and around Shanghai, the World Health Organization says there's no sign they actually contracted the disease from each other.

ADHD could be an even bigger problem than doctors and parents actually think it is. Analyzing data from the Centers for Disease Control, "The New York Times" found nearly 20 percent of high school aged boys and 11 percent of school kids overall have gotten the medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. So is ADHD on the rise or are doctors getting better at recognizing it? For some insight, I'm going to turn to Dr. William Graf, a professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine.

Dr. Graf, good to see you. So what's your reaction when you hear these numbers, nearly one out of five high school boys with ADHD?

DR. WILLIAM GRAF, YALE PROFESSOR OF PEDIATRICS: Well, Fredericka, these are pretty impressive numbers. I think the rates are real. But they may be artificial at the same time. They're rising in a rate of doubling or tripling. And I think the question we should be asking is not whether ADHD is a problem for some people, but rather why are the rates rising so rapidly.

WHITFIELD: So, what's the explanation as to the definition of ADHD? Are you so certain that the symptoms or the characteristics that are being, I guess, measured in young kids are they accurately being defined as that of ADHD?

GRAF: OK. So ADHD is a very complicated disorder. It's a combination of three major symptoms or signs. And it's an interpretation of what those signs really are by parents, teachers, and physicians. So those three signs are hyperactivity, inattentiveness and impulsivity. And kids can have any combination of those three. And parents can interpret those symptoms differently.

There's probably also a mild, moderate and severe form of this. So part of the rise could be that milder cases are either being picked up or being diagnosed more rapidly.

WHITFIELD: So when do you know that any of these things, hyperactivity, inattentiveness, impulsivity, are actually problems, or are things that need to be treated as symptomatic of ADHD? GRAF: That's exactly right. This is the most important aspect of this diagnosis is that it actually interferes with your ability to perform neurologically. For children that means getting through their day. We call it a medicine functional impairment. It's an impairment. It's a neurological disorder. And I think many kids have traits of ADHD. They can be distractible, they can be a little bit agitated at times, but that doesn't necessarily make the diagnosis. So one of the big question is whether milder cases are contributing to these increased rises in diagnostic rates.

WHITFIELD: So, is there a rise in cases, or is it that there are more diagnoses taking place?

GRAF: There are more diagnoses being made. And then the question is, what accounts for it? Are kids changing? Is it lack of sleep or inattentiveness or too much computer time or not enough exercise? What is the cause there? Are we recognizing it better? Are they just milder cases? And I think most people agree that some proportion of the rate in rise is due to something called pediatric neuroenhancement, which means the drugs are being prescribed for the purposes of study drugs. And since that's not exactly legal, we don't have good data on that because people won't own up to how many prescriptions are actually being written for school purposes.