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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Balloon Chase Mystery Solved; Innocent Man Executed?; President Obama in New Orleans; Cheating Death - Frozen Alive
Aired October 15, 2009 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It was breathtaking and terrifying at the same time: a homemade balloon on a family science project thousands of feet above Colorado. A 6-year-old child believed to be on board, yet when the balloon landed, no child anywhere.
Tonight, we now know what happened to the boy. But what really happened? Was it a publicity stunt or just as an accident as the family says. You're going to hear directly from Falcon Heene, his dad and the whole family.
"Keeping them Honest" tonight: is Texas Governor Rick Perry covering up the execution of an innocent man? Is he trying to impede an investigation; he calls the man a monster. Tonight, two shockers, the defense attorney agrees his client was a monster and a juror who voted to convict Cameron Todd Willingham has doubts. And worries God may punish her for what she did.
And later President Obama visits New Orleans. He made a lot of promises during the campaign. We wanted to know is he keeping them, "Raw Politics" tonight.
First up, you couldn't have dreamed it up if you tried. This afternoon, millions of American and people around the world, frankly, tuned in and saw this. Looking like a love child of a flying saucer and jiffy pop, it was in fact a homemade helium balloon.
We watched news helicopters chase it as thermal winds from nearby mountains swept it from takeoff in Fort Collins, Colorado all around the outskirts of Denver.
Watching was growing hard because we first thought a child was on board, 6-year-old Falcon Heene. Then came word he might have fallen from it. Then finally, a word that he'd never been on board, that he'd been hiding all along.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD HEENE, FALCON HEENE'S DAD: He said he was hiding in the attic and -- because I yelled at him. And I'm really sorry I yelled at him. You know, you scared the heck out us?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Falcon's dad Richard, who built that balloon. He's a storm chaser, backyard inventor, musician, adventurer and performer, for want of a better word, on the reality show "Wife Swap."
As you'll see it's not your typical family which may explain why this is not your typical story. Erica Hill starts from the beginning.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Across the country, people captivated, watching with fear and wonder as live pictures chronicle the flight of a homemade helium balloon possibly with a 6-year-old boy on board alone; the aircraft soaring as high as 7,000 feet.
The drama began around 11:30 a.m. local time in Ft. Collins, Colorado, when the sheriff's office got word the craft was airborne. For the next two hours, it was tough to look away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we have just been told this thing is now down to 300 feet. Now it's at 100 feet. Let's just all take a deep breath.
HILL: Just after 1:30 local time, the giant helium balloon landed gently, about 60 miles southeast of the Heene family home. Once on the ground, confirmation, 6-year-old Falcon Heene was not inside.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "SITUATION ROOM": Authorities are searching for a box that was attached to the bottom of an experimental aircraft.
HILL: But those initial reports weren't true. Nothing was attached to the 20 foot craft while it was airborne. So where was the boy? Had he fallen into the balloon? Or had he never been on board? As search and rescue teams turned out across the area, we learned more about the Heenes.
You may recognize them from ABC show "Wife Swap." The family appeared on the show twice. Dad Richard describes himself as a storm chaser who loves to investigate the mysteries of science often with his wife Mayumi and their three sons: 10-year-old Bradford, 8-year-old Rio and Falcon getting in on the action.
Richard Heene is also an avid CNN iReporter.
BRADFORD HEENE, SON OF RICHARD HEENE: We're the storm chase family, this is my brother Rio, Falcon and my mom is on camera. And we're in the middle of hurricane Gustav.
R. HEENE: Look at that, we're right in the middle of the eye right now.
HILL: In the middle of the eye, indeed.
And just after 4:00 p.m. local time this news...
SHERIFF JIM ALDERDEN, LARIMER COUNTY, COLORADO: He's been hiding in a box, cardboard box in the attic above the garage. So that's the good news is that he is fine. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But his parents didn't know where he was this whole time?
ALDERDEN: No, they were besides themselves with worry. And it was real obvious from their demeanor early on that they thought he was in the balloon.
R. HEENE: Oh I thank God -- I couldn't even walk (INAUDIBLE)...
HILL: Falcon said he hid because dad yelled at him for climbing the balloon earlier and was afraid he'd get in trouble. So why did he eventually come out of hiding? Falcon says he got bored.
Erica Hill, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: What a day. "Digging Deeper" now on the balloon and the family that launched it, they are, safe to say, colorful. While this is all playing out a video they made surfaced including some rough language from the kids, slamming traditional families who play it safe.
We can't actually repeat it on the air. The word they used to describe the men in such families.
Anyway, joining us now is Marc Friedland, the neighbor; also a balloonist and ballooning expert, Garry Haruska.
Marc, you live next door to the Heene family. Did you see the balloon takeoff today? Or did you see it before it took off?
MARC FRIEDLAND, HEENE FAMILY NEIGHBOR: No, we saw it before it took off. My wife and I -- we saw it, you know, maybe just five or ten minutes before it took off.
The entire family was out there working together and seemed like they were having a good time and just trying to -- they were putting -- they had canisters, I guess helium or something that they were, you know, pumping up the -- this aircraft with.
COOPER: And what's your understanding of what it was for?
FRIEDLAND: My understanding was that it was sort of like an experimental -- experimental aircraft. I don't believe that it was ever intended for, you know, as a manned flight. It was intended as, you know, as mentioned, he's a scientists and inventor and this is sort of part of his usual routine of he invents things and experiments.
And that maybe it was a weather craft or something he was experimenting with to, you know, be able to fly without needing, you know, the typical...
COOPER: Well, let me ask -- let me ask -- Garry, let me ask you what purpose could a balloon like this possibly serve? GARRY HARUSKA, BALLOONING EXPERT: Well this type of balloon could be used for several different things. It could be used to put scientific instruments into the air. It could be used as centerpiece for a party. It's basically a small Mylar kit that you can get off from the Internet.
Some of the closer shots of the balloon in the air from the helicopter you could actually see the decals on the side of the balloon that instruct the user to not inflate it near power lines because it's conductive.
So this is basically a kit that can you get and fill up with helium. You can launch it at parties. You can launch scientific instruments into the atmosphere with it. You can do several different things with it.
COOPER: Guys, we're going to take a quick break. I want you to stay there because we're going to talk to you right after the break is done. We're going to continue this conversation.
Let us know what you think. Join the live chat now at AC360.com. What do you think of this whole thing?
And we'll also hear from the Heene family shortly.
Also, what was involved in the chase, the recovery and search for Falcon? And who actually pays the bill?
Later, Texas Governor Rick Perry calls Todd Willingham a monster and defends the trial that led to his execution. He said talk to the people involved in the case. That's what we're doing.
"Keeping them Honest" tonight: two people involved in the case and what they say will surprise you.
COOPER: We're talking - excuse me - talking tonight about the story everyone seems to be talking about, the runaway balloon, the 6- year-old boy, Falcon Heene, who wasn't on it and the dad Richard who takes the family risk taking with them.
They appeared on the reality show "Wife Swap," Richard and the kid trading Mom Mayumi for a wife and mom more concerned about safety. Richard apparently, not responding calmly. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go get this. Go get that. Go do that. Go do this. Go do that.
R. HEENE: Mayumi doesn't jack on me, she doesn't go...
Now, I really, really don't want to hear that. Because I'm hearing it on shoes, OK, here you go. Here's how I handle it. Hey baby. Come on in and get my jackhammer. You know what I'm going to do? (INAUDIBLE) I've got a broken jackhammer here all over here. I think the switch is broken. How do you turn the jackhammer off?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You know what is really sad is I just realized I actually saw that edition of "Wife Swap."
Anyway back now with neighbor Marc Friedland and a balloonist Garry Haruska. Marc, I want to play you some sound from the Heene's appearance on "Larry King Live" just a little bit ago. Because we're getting a lot of e-mails from viewers who say they kind of don't buy this whole thing.
And I mean, the police said there is no evidence that this is a some sort of a publicity stunt. But what a lot of the viewers are pointing to is what Falcon actually said when asked about why he stayed inside. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. HEENE: Did you hear us calling your name at any time?
F. HEENE: You did?
R. HEENE: Well, why didn't you come out?
F. HEENE: You had said we did this for a show.
R. HEENE: Yeah --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What do you make of that? I mean, do you believe this was some sort of publicity stunt?
FRIEDLAND: No, I don't believe that at all. I -- you know, my experience with them is that they're a, you know, a conscientious loving mom and dad. And the kids are, you know, fun-loving, you know, pretty well adjusted happy kids.
And, no, I don't buy that for a second that this was not a true, you know, it is what it appears to be. And that's exactly what happened. You know, just a terrible accident that, you know, could have been a lot worse and ended up having a happy ending.
COOPER: Yes, certainly - I mean, it could have gotten those and it could have ended a lot worse. And everyone is overjoyed that it did have the ending that it did.
COOPER: In terms of neighbors, what are they like? I mean, are you used to them building flying machines in the backyard?
FRIEDLAND: Yes. Actually that's sort of become -- I guess we have gotten used to that to some degree. You know, I mean they, like I say, they're unusual.
But, you know, they're -- we find them to be good neighbors. They've been very helpful to us and they've helped us out in situations. And, you know, I mean it's different like, you know was said before. But it's also entertaining and, you know, they're...
COOPER: Yes, I mean, nothing wrong with different.
FRIEDLAND: We're glad they're our neighbors.
COOPER: Yes, it's got to be interesting.
COOPER: Garry, I want to play you what Richard Heene had to say about the balloon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. HEENE: Well, we calculated roughly, you know, how much it could possibly hold and so when the reality had -- that part of it had set in, it's like oh, my gosh. He could really be in this thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Isn't it even possible for a balloon this size to carry a 6-year-old boy?
HARUSKA: Well, today as the events were happening, just rough calculations in my head here in Albuquerque, Craig Kennedy one of our local personalities was doing some stuff for CNN. And as he was doing that, I was calculating stuff in my head and trying to feed him stuff in the background.
And I came up with about 2,000 cubic feet on the balloon which would lift roughly about 100 pounds at sea level. Figuring the weight of the craft and child starting out at 5,000 feet, the only plausible possibility that we could come up with was that if he were attached to something on the bottom, it may have had enough lift to be skimming the trees. And if it knocked that off, then it would have gone to the higher altitude.
But there was no way that we could figure out that that craft would be at that altitude with a 50 or 40 pound boy in it.
COOPER: We've got to leave it there. Garry Haruska, I appreciate your expertise, and Marc Friedland as well. Thanks so much for being on the program.
HARUSKA: Thank you. Coming up next, the Heene family on "LARRY KING LIVE" in their own words including a question about what you just heard Falcon say about doing it for the show. Wolf then asked father about that and well, you'll see the response he got.
Later, "Keeping them Honest" on the execution of this man, the man the governor of Texas calls a monster. He was convicted of burning his kids to death. And now a half of dozen arson investigators say the evidence was wrong. Is the governor blocking an investigation that might have found that Texas executed an innocent man? The new exclusive revelations, when 360 continues.
COOPER: Well, they're calling him balloon boy, 6-year-old Falcon Heene, who was hiding in the attic thankfully not on board when a homemade helium balloon took off from its Fort Collins, Colorado backyard.
People around the world followed the chase on television and the search for Falcon. Several balloon boy fan pages sprang up on Facebook.
The whole family appeared tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE." Wolf Blitzer interviewing them for a whole hour.
Here they are in their own words, some of them emotional, including a reaction to Wolf's question about what Falcon said about "doing it for the show."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. HEENE: Immediately Bradford was trying to get my attention. And I didn't quite take it all in at that moment. But finally he said, you know, I kind of took to heart what he was saying. He said Falcon was inside the flying saucer. Falcon, did you hear us calling your name at any time? You did?
F. HEENE: You did?
R. HEENE: Well, why didn't you come out?
F. HEENE: He said that we did this for the show.
R. HEENE: Yes, no.
R. HEENE: You didn't come out?
F. HEENE: No.
BLITZER: He said "we did this for the show" in explaining why he didn't come out of the attic.
R. HEENE: I'm kind of appalled after all of the feelings that I went through, up and down, that you guys are trying to suggest something else. Once I was informed that it had touched down, they told us -- they say -- I shouldn't be talking like this.
But they said he wasn't in there. And, you know, I just kind of lost it at that point.
BLITZER: What did you think?
R. HEENE: I thought maybe he had fallen out. And I'm just so glad he's here, you know?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Tom Foreman has been working on the story all day. Tom, it's fascinating, we're looking at the live chat happening right now on AC360.com. Almost - I mean, I'm guessing 90/95 percent of the people think this is some sort of a hoax, especially playing not only what the little boy said but then the reaction of the father to Wolf's question.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Really?
FOREMAN: That's quite high. I don't know, Anderson. In my experience, we followed this all afternoon here. And we watched the whole thing. And who knows? I guess they'll investigate to some degree and see if there is anything to find out about it.
But boy what an astonishing story today. Wasn't it?
COOPER: Bizarre. This is obviously costing a lot of money.
FOREMAN: Yes, it is. Yes and you know one of the other questions that comes up immediately Anderson, when something like this happens is what about responsibility here? Because this was a lot of money.
And I was looking at this, this afternoon. And it's kind of amazing when you add it all up. We've been estimating here, the cost to taxpayers. And look at these numbers here because it's pretty impressive.
We start off with the police over here. Two counties were involved in the chase, we're told in both counties more than 100 people involved, mostly firemen and police officers.
The man who finally caught this balloon, for example, you remember seeing this video right here? This was a plainclothes deputy police officer. At about $24 an hour, which is the rate up there, for four hours that's almost $19,000 in salary. You add in some folks who joined over here from the FAA and from local airports. You're going to bump it up for another $5,000 or so.
Then you bring in some helicopters here from the military. That's going to go even at a good rate of say $500 an hour. You're now approaching about $28,000 for what happened today, Anderson. That's quite a trip, isn't it? COOPER: Considering this was a guy who was keeping a balloon in the backyard, every time something like this happens, some people say - you know it was negligent, the family ought to help pay. What do rescuers actually say?
FOREMAN: Well, you know by and large, Anderson, they say absolutely no way. Why? Because they really don't want people waiting any time when they think they're going to have trouble. They want to get out there and get on the search right away. Because if you wait, it makes the job harder, it reduces their chances of success.
Look at what happened today. Every 20 minutes that this balloon flew, the potential search area got bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger so that in the end it was more than 100 square miles. That's true with a lost hiker, a boater, a mountain climber.
But there's also this, and this is the surprise, the National Association for Search and Rescue says the vast majority of rescues unlike this one are done by volunteers who willingly helped their community. They want nothing to do with payments.
They know that taxpayers get upset. But listen to Howard Paul with that group out in Colorado.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD PAUL, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR SEARCH & RESCUE: What they don't understand is that in 90 percent of those cases the manpower costs nothing. And, in fact, is the largest portion of the value of a search and rescue mission. So in that regard, it really becomes a bargain to the taxpayers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: As a result, Anderson, only four states right now currently have any provision for charging people who have been rescued to help pay for the costs later on when they're safe and sound -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Tom, I appreciate that. Thanks very much.
Erica, you've been reading the blog and the live chat. I mean, there's no evidence that this was any kind of...
COOPER: ... of hoax at this point? And the investigators so far say, look, there's no evidence of that. Family clearly gets upset at the very notion of that.
But it's interesting a lot of our viewers simply don't believe it. Although, arguing in favor of the family, is the idea that the kids - I mean, just -- you can't base something based on what a little boy who's had a very rough day. HILL: You can't -- he's 6 years old. It's important to remember that. And there were some other things that were discussed both by the family when they came out and talked to reporters earlier today. And it came up a little bit with Wolf when he was in for Larry tonight.
One of the things that stuck out to me is the father said, when they first came out and talked to the press, well yes, we have videotape of him crawling into this box and then apparently he got out. But they didn't see him do that initially because we tape everything. We tape all of our experiments.
So in one respect you think ok, well, if they tape everything, sure. Maybe they do plan to use it later for something. But it was interesting how agitated the father got...
HILL: ... especially at the very end as Wolf tried to clarify one final time, he really seemed to just be...
HILL: ... angry.
COOPER: Well, to argue the flip side, it's been a rough day for them and who knows, you know how people react.
HILL: Yes, an emotional day, absolutely.
COOPER: No doubt. So anyway, no doubt there will be more of this tomorrow.
Next, tonight, Texas governor under fire, is he is trying to block the investigation into the execution of a man convicted of killing his kids? Tonight one of the jurors has a shocking admission. We're "Keeping them Honest."
And President Obama made his first trip to New Orleans since taking office but is the speed of recovery keeping up with promises that were made? Candy Crowley has tonight's "Raw Politics."
COOPER: Later in the program, the extraordinary story of a woman who was clinically dead for three hours, she was as cold as ice after being trapped in the mountain streams. But doctors brought her back to life. Amazing example of "CHEATING DEATH" from our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta's new book.
First, Erica Hill joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.
HILL: Anderson, as the U.S. pledges millions to help Pakistan fight extremists, militants today launching another string of attacks this time, leaving at least 37 people dead. President Obama, of course, today, signing that legislation which gives the Pakistani government an extra $7.5 billion. Money aimed in part at combating extremism.
A "360 Follow" tonight, the deaths of two people during a recent sweat lodge ceremony now being investigated as homicide, not an accident. Self-help expert James Arthur Ray who organized the retreat is the primary focus of this probe. Investigators are apparently looking at how the sweat lodge was built and also at the fact that people have fallen ill at previous sweat ceremonies led by Ray.
The first hard data from the government today on how the president's $787 billion stimulus program is working: businesses reported creating or saving more than 30,000 jobs in the first month of the program. Those jobs, though, are linked to less than $16 billion in federal contracts. The construction industry shows the strongest number. States in the south and southwest saw the biggest boost.
In eastern Louisiana, civil rights advocates calling for a justice of the peace to resign after he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple. Keith Bardwell, the justice here, told a local paper he was concerned for the children who may be born of the relationship and that in his experience most interracial marriages don't last.
Up next tonight, a Texas juror who sent a man to his death now has doubts over her decision. Was this man, Cameron Todd Willingham innocent? Our exclusive interview is with the juror and Willingham's defense attorney who says something you might be surprised about. That's next.
And later, President Obama's trip to New Orleans, pledging progress and coming under fire for not doing enough to help the city recover. The response when "360" continues.
COOPER: Tonight, we have two exclusive interviews in the death penalty case that is attracting worldwide attention. It also has the governor of Texas denying charges his state executed an innocent man.
But more than half a dozen forensic experts believe the fire that killed his three girls was not, in fact, arson. We've been reporting on this explosive story for months, looking for answers and trying to keep them honest.
Now we have two people who played central roles in the Willingham trial, his defense attorney and one of the jurors that convicted him. And as you'll see, the juror is coming forward with a stunning admission.
Randi Kaye joins us with the latest in this developing story.
You spoke with one of the jurors from the trial today. What did she say?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, as you know it has been 17 years since Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted of arson/homicide. And to this day, juror Dorinda Brokofsky told me by phone she still wonders if he was really guilty and she said something that quite frankly floored many of us here at 360.
Listen to this. She said her family was, quote, "good friends with Douglass Fog. Fog was one of the lead investigators on the case, a key witness for the prosecution. He determined the fire that killed Willingham's three little girls was arson and that Willingham had set it. That helped send Willingham to death row.
So if the juror knew this lead investigator, should she have been seated on that jury? She told me, I told them -- meaning the prosecution and the defense -- I knew Mr. Fog but they didn't care. Too late for Todd Willingham now but today lawyers told us, Anderson, that certainly it would have been grounds for a mistrial.
COOPER: Did she talk about whether or not she is having second thoughts over the years?
KAYE: It's been really hard for her, very difficult time for her all these years. She told me, quote, "I don't sleep at night because of a lot of this. I have gone back and forth in my mind trying to think of anything that we missed." She went on to say, quote, "I have to stand in front of my God one day and explain what I did."
When I told her that arson science has changed over the years and that at least half a dozen forensic experts now say the fire was not intentionally set, she said, quote, "I don't like the fact that years later someone is saying maybe we made a mistake."
Then she got so upset. She got off the phone. She told me she needed some time to process all this.
COOPER: You know, there was also a lot of claims that this man made a death row confession to another prisoner, another prisoner came forward with that story.
KAYE: Right. Actually, we got this affidavit today. This is the first time we've actually seen this. Willingham's ex-wife told her family that during her visit on death row, just days before the execution, Willingham confessed to killing his kids. The affidavit says he told her, quote, "He had set the fire because he knew that she was going to leave him. He figured if he did this, she would stay with him and she could get her tubes untied and they could start another family."
I do want to point out here that Willingham said just before he was executed, "I'm an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit." And that's a direct quote.
COOPER: And we've asked Governor Perry to come on this program. He's defended his decision again today to replace four members of the panel which was looking into the allegations that this was a botched execution.
KAYE: Right. This is a state panel trying to get to the bottom of what really happened here. And Governor Perry spoke with reporters at a Texas high school today and once again blasted a report about the state's hand picked expert that found arson in this case was, quote, "inconclusive."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: If you look at the bulk of Mr. Byler's remarks over the last days and weeks, you will see a very politically-driven agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Governor Perry suggested the report is propaganda for the anti-death penalty movement. When I asked that expert, Dr. Craig Byler, who the governor was talking about the governor's comments, he called them, quote, "strange and clueless."
Yesterday Dr. Byler had called on the commissioner's appointed by the governor to resign and insist those he removed be reinstated. The governor did not address that today but he did say the commission's work will go on.
But I will tell you Anderson, I checked. There is no date yet set on the calendar for this commission to continue its work and meet again on this case.
COOPER: A juror has doubts, as you just heard from Randi. More than half a dozen experts say the arson evidence Willingham was convicted on was not accurate. Still there are a lot of people who believe he was guilty and justice was served when he was executed.
Joining me now is David Martin, who was Willingham's defense attorney at trial. He says Willingham was a man without a conscience; also with us, Steve Mills, an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune who has been following this case since 2004. He's focused a lot of attention on it when a lot of other folks hadn't.
David, you always believed that your client was guilty. Now over half a dozen experts have come forward to say that there is it no way the fire was arson. You still say he was guilty. Why?
DAVID MARTIN, CAMERON TODD WILLINGHAM'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Anderson, excuse my informal attire. We've been out checking cows. But it is nice to be with you. And tell me your question again.
COOPER: Well, you know, about half dozen fire experts around the country have looked at this case now and say that, you know, the evidence that was used, the arson evidence that was used simply is not accurate. That at the time people thought it was accurate. But there was already growing evidence that, you know, arson investigations, they evolve, they learned a lot. And what they knew then wasn't the case, wasn't accurate. MARTIN: No. That's not what I glean from these reports here, Anderson. I've got Craig Byler's report hear that I've read thoroughly and I dog-eared several pages and this is one of the least objective reports I've ever read.
COOPER: You think he's biased...
MARTIN: Let me give you an example.
MARTIN: Look, look, here, page 49, Emmanuel Vasques (ph) is one of the most competent experts I ever cross-examination. He was a straight shooter and an honest guy. Look at what Byler says.
This is supposed to be a scientific report. I've been a trial lawyer 25 years, and for the last 20 doing nothing but complex business litigation. I have hired hundreds of experts.
If a guy told me this, look, returning to his mysticism he states -- referring to Mr. Vazquez, this is absurd, I wouldn't hire a guy like this. Here is another page. Remarkably he gleaned human intent from the physical evidence. Of course, and a criminal investigation and arson investigation you glean intent from the physical evidence.
COOPER: Well, let me interrupt you there. Because what a lot of people are saying is that the way evidence was interpreted back then...
MARTIN: A lot of people...
COOPER: Six different investigators...
MARTIN: Let me tell you...
COOPER: Let me bring you into something -- Steve let me bring you into this case. You've been investigating this case. Do you believe Willingham was given a fair trial? And his defense team did all they could and that the evidence was accurate?
STEVE MILLS, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Well, I think the key issue here is the forensic evidence. And what we found when we investigated this in 2004 was that scientific advances in fire investigations has shown that indicators that they used back then no longer were valid. That they knew better in, you know, shortly after the fire, in fact.
Those advances were in place and were being distributed around the country to fire investigators. They used old wives tales and folklore rather than the real science that was at hand at the time.
COOPER: David, what about that?
MARTIN: That is absurd. Let me tell you something... COOPER: You say you couldn't find an expert to refute the testimony of the expert you have at the prosecution...
MARTIN: Hey, let me tell what you we did. Rob Dunn and I who tried this case with me, we went and bought carpet. We went and bought lighter fluid. We poured the lighter fluid on the carpet. We set it on fire. And when it finished burning, it looked just exactly like the carpet did in Todd Willingham's house.
COOPER: But I mean you were his defense attorney. Did you go out seeking people who believed him? Did you go out seeking experts who would argue or disagree with the prosecution?
MARTIN: No. Here's a gross misconception about defense -- criminal defense trial lawyers. When a client tells you his story, you don't just stupidly accept everything he says. The role of the defense attorney is to test the state's evidence. Vigorously cross examine their witnesses and can they prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt? If they cannot, even if the person is guilty, he is found not guilty. That's the role of the defense attorney.
MILLS: Anderson, if I can interrupt for a second?
COOPER: David, let me ask you this, if there are six -- if there are six experts who have come forward saying the evidence was faulty, why couldn't you have put one of them on the stand?
MARTIN: That is not the case. That is not has what happened at all. I've read this report. I've looked at all of the evidence. Not one single person that you cite has ever said this is what caused the fire.
I was in the house. I talked to the cops. I talked to the firemen who were there very first on the scene. I looked at the pictures. When you walk through that house, the children's bedroom was set aflame, obviously, by an accelerant.
COOPER: David, I have to tell you, you sound like the sheriff you once were and not a defense attorney.
MARTIN: No, I don't. I wasn't a sheriff. I was a defense attorney. I represented hundreds of criminal defendants. I won lots of criminal cases. I've been a trial lawyer for 25 years.
COOPER: Steve, let me bring you in.
MILLS: Sure. In fact, Mr. Martin and Mr. Dunn did contact a fire expert up in Dallas. And that expert thought that Mr. Vazquez and Mr. Fog were correct. We tracked him down when we did our investigation. He had great regret that he had done that. He understood now that the science had changed, had advanced and he made a big mistake.
MARTIN: Am I still on?
COOPER: Yes. Go ahead, Steve. MARTIN: This is ridiculous.
COOPER: Go ahead, David.
MARTIN: This is absurd. Look, let me tell you something, you take lighter fluid, anybody in the audience, you pour it on a carpet and set it on fire, it looks just like those pictures. There was no question whatsoever that he was guilty.
But, look, the defense lawyer doesn't have to believe the client. You test the state's evidence. You read the record. We tried that case vigorously. Was it nine appellate courts that looked at it?
COOPER: All right.
MARTIN: This is an absurdity and Mr. Byler's report, I've read it in its entirety and this is not a clear-eyed objective report.
COOPER: What do you make, Steve, what do you think of these arson investigators who have come forward of Byler and the others?
MILLS: I think it's close to eight or nine investigators have looked at this, fire scientists have looked at this since. And all of them have come to the same conclusion.
MARTIN: Dude, name them. Name them. Besides Byler, name them.
MILLS: Gerald Hearst (ph), John Latini (ph); John Dehann (ph)...
MARTIN: Did anybody ever say here's what caused the fire? The kids' room was set on fire. The front hallway was set on fire. There is a refrigerator in front of the back door.
Look, the night after these kids died, he's down at the mud hole, which the mustang club. He brought all the people who contributed to him I don't know how much money because his kids died, he is buying a new dart board. He's buying a new pair of boots. He's buying rounds for the house.
That's what we're faced with in the trial of this case. That's the evidence that the jury hears. And that is indicia of guilt. That's why they found him guilty in less than 30 minutes.
MARTIN: But what?
MILLS: I don't think anybody is nominating him for husband of the year. But that's not what he was executed for.
MARTIN: Well, you're way off topic. You're way off topic. We're talking about the evidence presented.
(CROSSTALK) COOPER: David, you said he was buying drinks for somebody. He could be a jerk and respond badly to something. That doesn't make him guilty.
MARTIN: You wait just a minute. Wait a minute, he told four different stories. Now, look you represent -- I was appointed to represent him.
MARTIN: And when I try a case, criminal case or civil case, I test the state's evidence. I thoroughly, vigorously cross examine.
COOPER: David, what do you make of the fact of what Steve mentioned that he's talked to the investigator you talked who at the time supported the evidence and now says, "You know what? I was wrong."
MARTIN: Well, I haven't seen that.
COOPER: You what?
MARTIN: Give me the guy's phone number and let me call him.
MILLS: Officials from the fire marshal's office also agree that the science has changed. Nearly every reputable fire scientists around the country agrees with this.
Now they don't say what caused the fire. They can't tell at this point. It's too late. The evidence has been destroyed. But what they point out is that the indicators that the investigators used at the time, Vazquez and Fog no longer meant anything.
MARTIN: The indicator? Look, you pour lighter fluid on a carpet and you set it on fire, it looks just like --
COOPER: David, you're not an investigator. You're not an arson expert. So the idea that you had poured the accelerant and came to an opinion...
MARTIN: No, I am an investigator. I'm the trial lawyer. I'm the trial lawyer. I put on the evidence. I investigate. I talk to the witnesses. I examine the evidence. I dig the thing to the very bottom of the case and I present...
COOPER: Why did your client then try to get you off the case and try to get another attorney?
MARTIN: That's absurd. When did he ever try to get me off the case? That is ridiculous.
COOPER: Didn't he also get another attorney?
MARTIN: No. If he wanted another attorney, the county of Novaro (ph), Texas, would have paid for another lawyer.
COOPER: Steve, he did get another lawyer, didn't he?
MILLS: He had another lawyer on appeal.
COOPER: On appeal.
MILLS: On his final appeal.
MARTIN: Well, yes, he had another lawyer on appeal. I'm not the appellate lawyer, I'm the trial lawyer. I tried the case.
COOPER: All right. We're -- we went over time. It was a great discussion. I appreciate both of you guys coming on; David Martin and Steve Mills. We'll continue to follow it. We do appreciate both your expertise. Thank you.
MILLS: Thank you.
COOPER: What do you think about this new information? What do you think about the discussion you just heard? Join the live chat right now at ac360.com. We'd love to hear from you.
COOPER: Still ahead, President Obama visiting New Orleans to see how progress is going. He also takes on his critics who say he's not doing enough to help rebuild the city. Did he send the right message? Was four hours enough to spend on the ground? We'll be right back.
COOPER: Tonight, a "360 Follow" of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. President Obama visited New Orleans today for the first time since taking office. He was there to discuss the recovery effort. He pledged to make it a priority when he took office. Some say he's not acting fast enough and addressed his critics today at a town hall.
President Obama spent less than four hours in New Orleans before heading to San Francisco for a Democratic national fund raiser. He took some heat from that.
Candy Crowley joins us now.
Candy, a lot of folks in New Orleans criticized the president for spending such a short amount of time there. Has he ignored New Orleans?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly there are those down there who say he has, and not so much substantively but symbolically. And it's interesting to me because this is a president who totally understands the power of his presence.
And what they're saying, I talked to a lot of people in Louisiana and those who have been in and out, I said, listen, here's the problem. This is a president who said he would make the Gulf Coast region that was hit by Katrina a priority. He comes for four hours and sees a couple of places and doesn't see sort of the breadth. He doesn't go to Mississippi; he doesn't see other coastal towns that were hurt. He doesn't see the breadth of what's going on.
But more than that, they say it isn't just that he spent four hours but it's his first time. Because what did they need most when I asked them. They say we need people who might invest in the region, who might move down to the region, who might open a business in the region to believe that the region will come back and be better. That all of the problems which made Katrina so much worse than it had to be, levees and the like, will be resolved.
So when a president comes down, he sort of increases that confidence. You can say the president is committed to this, he's behind it. That's why they're disappointed.
Senator Mary Landrieu, who's a Democrat from Louisiana, said that she wished he had spent more time on the ground, she said this prior to his arriving. But she said she didn't think people were angry with him; that mostly she thought they were frustrated. And certainly we heard a little bit of that at a town hall meeting down there.
COOPER: Hurricane Katrina happened obviously a little bit more than four years ago. There obviously have been a lot of improvements. In many ways the city is back in terms of tourism, more restaurants are open than before the storm.
In terms of attention from this administration, though, they've been sending a lot of folks down there. Have they made significant improvements in the last eight months or so?
CROWLEY: I think significant goes a bit far for at least how it's viewed down there. But I will say that again, it wasn't the substance of what the president was doing. It was more just the need to come down there and say, listen, I'm behind you.
One of the things they do hear complaints about still is the amount of red tape. The president did set up a special panel to try to cut through some of the red tape when people want funds. But it's still not -- it still goes quite slowly as you heard today at a town hall meeting.
COOPER: All right. Candy Crowley, appreciate it. Thanks, Candy.
Coming up next: cheating death, a ski accident. A woman trapped under ice, no heartbeat for three hours. Yet she escaped death. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has her remarkable story.
COOPER: So is there life after death? For a new breed of doctors, the answer is yes. They're making it happen with an extraordinary advance in science and medicine.
Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta writes about it in his electrifying new book, "Cheating Death: The doctors and medical miracles that are saving lives against all odds." The book is filled with really remarkable stories about how people have beaten the odds and literally escaped death.
He takes us north of the Arctic Circle for a look at the remarkable case of the coldest patient ever to live.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anna Bagenholm, a medical doctor, was skiing. She arrived by helicopter at the university hospital of north Norway after a ski accident. She was clinically dead.
You see Bagenholm's heart had stopped. She hadn't taken a breath in more than two hours and she was cold; her core body temperature just 56 degrees.
DR. MADS GILBERT, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL OF NORTH NORWAY: She has completely dilated pupils. She is ashey, waxy white, she's wet, she's ice cold when I touch her skin. And she looks absolutely dead. No signs of life whatsoever.
The decision was made; we will not declare her dead until she's warm.
GUPTA: Warm and dead. Why? Because cold drastically lowers the brain and the body's need for oxygen.
Is too much cold bad?
GILBERT: Too much cold say double-edge sword. It can kill you and it can save you.
GUPTA: It's amazing.
GILBERT: It's amazing. It will kill you if your heart stops from cold before your brain is cold, to put it very simply. It will protect you if you get cold enough before you have a cardiac arrest so that your organs do not need oxygen.
GUPTA: She had been trapped under ice, in a mountain stream for 80 minutes. Doctors began to re-warm her blood but take a look at this. What you're looking at is Anna's heart.
GILBERT: Just saw some shivering and suddenly, suddenly, it contracted. And there was a pulse and a second contraction. Everybody goes like that. We had really tearful eyes, all of us, because it was a moment of victory.
GUPTA: She would be paralyzed for months after the accident. The cold it turns out is very devastating to her nerves. Her full recovery would take years. But now, Dr. Anna Bagenholm is a doctor, a radiologist at the very same hospital where doctors refused to accept she was dead.
How close did you come to dying? ANNA BAGENHOLM, HYPOTHERMIC SURVIVOR: I was dead.
GUPTA: You died.
BAGENHOLM: Not in the manner of law, I wasn't dead because my brain still was working. But my heart stopped.
But if you ask a child, they would say I was dead for three hours. And if you ask a doctor, they have to say I was not dead because I wasn't brain dead.
GUPTA: But you were clinically dead.
BAGENHOLM: I was clinically dead.
GUPTA: But you're here. I feel you.
COOPER: That does it for 360. Thanks for watching. I'll see you tomorrow night at 10:00.
"LARRY KING" starts now.